First on the agenda was building a board that would lead the foundation structurally and financially to achieve in this lifetime what its founders set out to do.
CDRF’s history, while rich, had created a somewhat divided board in that some people came from the original Stifel Foundation, some came from the American Paralysis Association and some from Reeve’s original foundation.
CDRF created a vice chair position and began to really look at board recruitment. Then board chair — who now is vice chair — Peter Kiernan, who spent most of his career in investment banking at Goldman Sachs, approached board recruitment from a business perspective. A past chair of the Robin Hood Foundation — an organization known for its fundraising rigor — Kiernan wanted a board that would reflect the foundation’s rich history but be able to contribute significantly.
Henry Stifel became the vice chair, representing the history and mission of the organization, and the foundation set to work recruiting people who could serve as financial pillars. One recruit came from the world of hedge funds and another, whose actual business is in personnel recruitment for Fortune 500 companies, took the helm of the nominating leadership committee.
The foundation also created a leadership board where people who want to help support it can prove themselves by getting involved with raising money for programs that match their interests. Those who do well in that group then feed into the board. It also is in the process of creating what it calls its Committee of Champions, which will involve and engage younger people.
Wilderotter himself was recruited by the foundation shortly after Christopher Reeve’s death to be the first vice president of development, his main task being to put together a fundraising and rebranding plan that would sustain the foundation for years to come. Dana Reeve died in the midst of that process, and Wilderotter was asked to become president shortly afterwards. He says his background in development has enabled him to take on his leadership role seamlessly.