November 18, 2021
The Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation (AAACF) Board of Trustees has selected Shannon E. Polk, J.D., D. Min., as its next President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Polk is an accomplished nonprofit leader with demonstrated success as an executive director, trainer, consultant, and board member as well as comprehensive experience in philanthropy including grantmaking, estate planning, and fundraising. She has most recently led The Witness Foundation and consulted with the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area to facilitate staff competency in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
“Shannon Polk has the knowledge, experience, commitment, and passion for leading community-based organizations to greater impact and enhanced engagement,” shares Elizabeth (Betsy) Petoskey, AAACF Board Chair. “Trustees unanimously agreed Shannon’s experience in leadership, management, grantmaking, and philanthropy will help guide the continued growth and evolution of the Community Foundation.”
Polk’s appointment comes as AAACF continues to build on successful completion of a five-year strategic framework that resulted in more than doubling assets to $200 million for measurable impact across Washtenaw County and emerging as the largest grantmaker for older adults among Michigan community foundations. Polk’s career aligns with AAACF’s commitment to empowering others and building effective partnerships and collaborations to enhance community.
After graduating from Michigan State University, Polk gained both political and teaching experience that spurred a desire to address systemic change through community engagement and advocacy. Building upon her law degree from Western Michigan University and successful collaborations and partnership-building as Director of Leadership Program for Resource Genesee, Polk served several years on the place-based grantmaking team at the C.S. Mott Foundation, overseeing a $6 million grant budget focused in the areas of education, race relations, economic development, children and families, arts, and workforce development. As executive director of the Michigan Breastfeeding Network, she led a statewide advocacy effort that resulted in the passage of anti-discriminatory legislation.
Polk’s understanding of communities enabled her to consult with Bank of America’s Neighborhood Builders Program to facilitate equitable grantmaking in major markets across the country. On a statewide level, Polk created and led numerous programs for the Council of Michigan Foundations, including mentoring, leadership development, and equity initiatives.
Throughout her career, Polk has maintained a deep commitment to community service at the local level. Her Doctor of Ministry from the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary at Evangel University exemplifies her passion for serving others. Through The Witness Foundation, she has worked to develop the next generation of civil rights leaders committed to criminal justice reform, disability advocacy, entrepreneurship, arts, food access, and mental health.
“I was drawn to lead the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation because its Core Values of Prioritizing Community, Pursuing Equity, Earning Trust, Leveraging Knowledge, and Embracing Collaboration represent the way I have approached every aspect of my professional career and my personal principles,” Polk explains. “I look forward to building upon the foundation’s commitment to permanent endowment as a way to effect positive change across the entire County.”
Polk and her family—a husband who is also an attorney and a school-aged daughter—look forward to relocating to Washtenaw County and immersing themselves in all aspects of the community. She hopes to continue her engagement with The Links, Inc., and Junior League locally. Polk will begin her role at AAACF on January 10, 2022.