Council Award Programs


Every day, Council members stand at the forefront of innovation, exploring creative ways to advance the common good and finding solutions for complex issues. The Council on Foundations Awards Program was established to recognize excellence in philanthropy and to honor exemplary leaders for their dedication to uplift the sector.

The Council continued this legacy in 2017 with the presentation of the Distinguished Service Award and the Wilmer Shields Rich Award for Excellence in Communications at the 2017 Annual Conference in Dallas, Texas. The Robert Scrivner Award for Creative Grantmaking will be given out later this year.

Distinguished Service Award

The Distinguished Service Award, philanthropy’s highest honor, celebrates a visionary leader who inspires and embodies the qualities that define excellence in philanthropy, including commitment, courage, entrepreneurship, and impact.

Ronald Richard2017 Honoree — Ronald Richard

The 2017 Distinguished Service Award recipient is Ronald B. Richard, President and CEO of The Cleveland Foundation. Throughout his time at The Cleveland Foundation, his efforts have mobilized and unified people and institutions within the community to produce tangible results to improve people’s lives and raise the capacity of others to advance the common good.

Learn more about Ronn Richard and the Award

Wilmer Shields Rich Award

The Wilmer Shields Rich Award for Excellence in Communications spotlights the communications strategies of foundations and corporate giving programs. Created in 1984 and named in honor of the first executive director of the National Council on Community Foundations (now the Council on Foundations), the award is bestowed on an organization that has creatively and effectively implemented strategic communications to further its mission and goals and has provided models of excellence to the field of philanthropy.

Citi Foundation Logo2017 Honoree — Citi Foundation

The 2017 Wilmer Shields Rich Award for Excellence in Communications recipient is Citi Foundation, which implemented an integrated, multi-channel communications campaign to launch a new initiative in 2015 called Accelerating Pathways–a research effort to understand city-level policies and factors in 35 cities across the globe that create a strong and supportive environment for youth.

Learn more about Citi Foundation and the Award

Robert Scrivner Award for Creative Grantmaking

The Robert Scrivner Award for Creative Grantmaking will be given out later this year.

The Scrivner Award, established in honor of the late Robert Winston Scrivner, honors an innovative grantmaker who, with a combination of vision, principle, and personal commitment, is making a critical difference in a creative way. The award recognizes an individual who demonstrates collaboration, risk, and innovation in the sector.


Judges will evaluate entries based on the following criteria:

  • Creativity: Does the highlighted achievement of the nominee represent a creative departure from past grantmaking practices? Did the nominee take an innovative and inspirational approach to grantmaking that is responsive to a critical need?
  • Risks and Commitment: Has the nominee demonstrated the ability and willingness to take risks by being flexible, nimble, courageous, and enterprising? Was the nominee committed to overcoming challenges and learning from inevitable setbacks/missteps that come with innovation and experimentation?
  • Impact/Outcomes: Has the nominee made a notable difference in the communities or causes served by his/her grantmaking? Has the nominee analyzed the results of her/his efforts and shared the outcomes so that future work can build upon these accomplishments?
  • Leadership: Has the nominee's work influenced or shaped the way that their institution or the field approaches or conceptualizes grantmaking in a particular area? Has the nominee built new networks or contributed to existing networks to help move the needle on critical issues?