Debbie McKeon


Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Nora Petznik, Executive Assistant to the Executive VP and COO

Debbie is Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for the Council of Michigan Foundations where she leads the team that provides CMF members with its core suite of services and special initiatives. As a member of the Leadership Team, she also plays a vital role in the development, coordination and implementation of both the Board of Trustees’ strategic vision for CMF and the annual Plan of Work. 

Prior to joining the CMF staff in December 2012, Debbie was with a CMF member foundation, Rotary Charities of Traverse City, for six years.   Her primary role was to lead the design and development of the capacity building arm of the foundation, NorthSky Nonprofit Network, as a sustainable model integrated into what became the foundation’s new strategic framework. As NorthSky’s executive director, she led the development of services to Northern Michigan nonprofit organizations and government including professional development, consulting, convening, backbone support, project management, strategic partnership and network formation, and connection to resources.  Prior positions ranged from co-founding board member, managing director & CEO of the Youth Orchestra of the Americas, an organization working in twenty countries of the Americas, to executive director of the Elgin Symphony (IL) to Assistant Manager of the New York Philharmonic to President of McKeon & Associates Inc, where much work focused on developing public-private partnerships and new arts-related initiatives on six continents.

Debbie has a deep appreciation for the work of membership associations as she credits the League of American Orchestras’ one-year Orchestra Management Fellowship Program with development of her skills and leadership that launched her career in arts management.  She holds a Bachelor of Music and Interdisciplinary Business Administration minor from Central Michigan University and certification from the Small Business Consultant Academy at Grand Valley State University and has completed advanced coursework with the Indiana University School of Philanthropy and Harvard University, Executive Education. Her commitment to continued professional development also includes completion of coursework including BoardSource Advanced Consulting, LaPiana Associates Strategic Restructuring for Consultants and Compass Point Nonprofit Services Executive Leadership Transitions for Consultants.

Debbie’s publications include:

  • “What’s in your toolbox to partner with social entrepreneurs?” MNA Links, Spring 2011
  • “With everything going on, is now the time to plan and evaluate?” MNA Links, Spring 2009
  • Technical Editor, Michigan Nonprofit Management Manual, Planning
  • “The Role of Nonprofits in the Economy” TC Area Chamber of Commerce 2011 Economic Forecast
  • “The Nonprofit Sector: Diverse and Growing” TCACC 2009 Economic Forecast

Her current volunteerism includes serving on the board of the Michigan Humanities Council and City Opera House and Advisory Council for Michigan Land Use Institute. One of her most interesting volunteer activities that she completed in 2013 arose through her extended work in Latin America that led to her involvement in the first condominium project in Nicaragua, a small eco-development, where she served as treasurer of the board of directors of the nonprofit corporation as it went through start up. Debbie has received the Paul Harris Award from the Rotary Club of Traverse City, Arts Leadership Award of the Americas, Venezuelan Youth Orchestra Arts Award and Child & Family Services of NW MI Outstanding Volunteer Award.

Here's what I can help you with:

  • Helping you think about any existing service or future services or needs you may have.
  • Listening to any concerns members may have.
  • Learning about any aspect of how CMF member services or its new fee-for-service programs are designed or operating.
  • Brainstorming ideas!
  • Sharing ideas regarding best practices in governance, strategic thinking or strategic partnerships.
  • Connecting members for networking and resourcing.
  • As a part of the CMF leadership team, I can facilitate in areas that relate to organization-wide activities.
  • Connecting you with the special initiatives that CMF undertakes.

Get to know Debbie:

What do you do all day long? 
Listen and share ideas with members, staff, partners, colleagues, etc. to help us work towards meeting our mission—many times while driving around our beautiful state!

What’s the best part of your job? 
The people that I get to be involved with as they care about the things that are important to me as well.   Philanthropy has such an important role-I feel privileged to be able to help support its work.

Favorite flavor of ice cream? 
It’s been lemon sorbet, though the more meetings I have with Rob at his favorite ice cream shops, the more I’m growing very fond of chocolate/toffee milk shakes. . . .

Favorite book? 
I have favorites for different reasons/subject areas-a recent one is Simon Sinek’s Start with Why as it is so relevant and brilliantly practical in guiding thinking on inspiring leadership.

Favorite book from childhood?
Any of the Dr. Suess series-love them all!

What music are you streaming?
Tchaikovsky's "Fifth Symphony" and any Earth, Wind and Fire or Chicago songs.

Why do you love where you live? 
Elk Rapids/Traverse City has a sense of community that is very strong and we take great pride in working together to nurture its strengths and improve where needed.  It has a great balance between natural beauty and built environment, especially in the arts and culture area that is very important to me.   Though it is a rural region with many generations of tradition embedded there are also many people that have moved here that bring new perspectives so the conversations are very interesting.  Having just gotten settled with our apartment in Grand Rapids, I love the urban experience as we are right downtown-it’s very fun to explore the city.  It feels vibrant and being in the heart of ArtPrize was phenomenal!

If you could choose a super power, what would it be?
Make people healthy.

Dream vacation? 
Extended photo safari—I’ve been twice and yet there is so much more to experience!

Playing flute and saxophone for community  theater, playing in a flute choir, playing on a tennis team.