Debbie McKeon


Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Nora Petznik, Executive Assistant to the Executive VP and COO

At a glance:

Here's what I can help you with:

  • Listening, learning and sharing ideas to support your work and the field.
  • Connecting you to people and other resources of value.
  • Engaging with you through our suite of services and the special initiatives that CMF undertakes.

Leadership roles:
Debbie serves as a board member for the Michigan Association of United Ways, a captain delegate for Foundations on the Hill, a co-chair of the philanthropy practice work group for United Philanthropy Forum and an advisory council member for the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities.

Recognized nationally as an expert in philanthropy, Debbie has presented at national conferences and convenings for organizations including the Census Funders’ Initiative, Mission Investors Exchange, United Philanthropy Forum and its PolicyWorks Institute, Exponent Philanthropy and the National Conference for Growing Community Foundations.

Debbie authored the article “What’s in Your Toolbox to Partner with Social Entrepreneurs?” published in the Michigan Nonprofit's Association's Links magazine. In addition, she served as technical editor for the Michigan Nonprofit Association's Michigan Nonprofit Management Manual, 5th Edition.

Debbie is executive VP and COO for the Council of Michigan Foundations, where she leads the team in design, coordination and implementation of the organization’s strategic vision and framework, suite of services, special initiatives and embedded diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Current leadership initiatives include Census 2020, Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation, Great Lakes One Water Partnership, Launch Michigan (education) and the Impact Investing HUB. Debbie brings her previous experience supporting collective impact models, especially utilizing network and systems change practices, to CMF’s leadership initiatives.

Prior to joining CMF, Debbie spent six years with CMF member Rotary Charities of Traverse City, where she led design and development of their capacity building arm, NorthSky Nonprofit Network of which she was executive director. Her 25+ years of experience in leadership and public-private partnerships also includes serving as co-founding board member, managing director and CEO of the Youth Orchestra of the Americas, assistant manager of the New York Philharmonic, president of McKeon & Associates Inc., and executive director of the Elgin Symphony. A global citizen and civic leader, Debbie has worked in 40 countries across six continents and is an active member of several nonprofit boards, including the Michigan Association of United Ways, Michigan Humanities Council and Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities.

Debbie has a bachelor degree from Central Michigan University and Small Business Administration Business Development Counselor certification from Grand Valley State University in addition to credentialing in governance, succession planning, resource development and strategic restructuring.

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 chocolate is trending up for me as I get a lot of it at CMF!

Favorite book? 
I am listening to books constantly and was honored to serve on the board of the Michigan Humanities Council (MHC). Here are a few from my Audible library-MHC Great Michigan Reads: Ilyasah Shabass and Kekla Magoon’s X: A Novel and A. J. Baime’s The Arsenal of Democracy, Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton, Simon Sinek’s Start with Why, Mikal Gilmore’s The Queen: Aretha Franklin and Bernard P. Achampong and Geoff White’s The Dark Web.

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

What music are you streaming?
It’s pretty diverse and I’m always looking for new listening-some of my play lists include funk, indie, rock, gospel, R&B, and classical.

Why do you love where you live? 
Michigan is an amazing state! Born in the U.P. with family there and in metro Detroit, a home near Elk Rapids, CMF offices across the state along with daily travel, I get to experience the rich diversity of its people, communities, natural areas and vibrant arts and culture scene that make it my home

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 on tennis teams and traveling.