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The Skillman Foundation Announces Inaugural Vice President of Learning & Impact and Vice President of Communications

The Skillman Foundation has elevated the roles of learning and communications, acknowledging the importance and impact of these functions in advancing systems and social change strategies. The foundation promoted Natalie Fotias, previously director of communications, to Vice President of Communications. The foundation also welcomed Laila Bell, who will serve as its Inaugural Vice President of Learning & Impact. CMF is excited to welcome Laila to our community of philanthropy!

Image courtesy of The Skillman Foundation.

Content excerpted and adapted from The Skillman Foundation press release.

The Skillman Foundation has elevated the roles of learning and communications, acknowledging the importance and impact of these functions in advancing systems and social change strategies. To fill these roles, one new staff member was hired and one internal promotion was made. 

Laila Bell joined The Skillman Foundation on March 1 as its inaugural vice president of learning & impact. Bell will design the Foundation’s approach to using data, evidence and experience to inform investments in the power of Detroit youth to create and influence education systems change.

She will also foster a learning culture within the Foundation in which the voices of youth, grant partners and Detroit residents will inform ongoing work and drive grantmaking efforts to achieve greater impact.  

Bell previously held positions at The Duke Endowment and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, where she advanced equitable evaluation practices and promoted mindsets, practices and infrastructure to support the continuous improvement of grantmaking and strategy.

She has led evaluations of complex philanthropic initiatives in early literacy, K-12 education and postsecondary success. Bell also served as the director of research and data at NC Child, a nonprofit that advances public policies to improve the well-being of North Carolina children and youth. There she led the North Carolina KIDS COUNT project and collaborated with partners to design and launch several policy and systems change initiatives, including the North Carolina Health Equity Impact Assessment and NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading. 

Bell succeeds Andrea Anderson who served as The Skillman Foundation’s director of Evaluation, Learning and Impact from 2018 through 2021. External consultants Tom Kelly and Sonia Caus Gleason supported this function in 2022 while the foundation launched a community-informed strategic reset, and subsequent staffing reorganization, led by new Angelique Power, president and CEO of The Skillman Foundation.

Natalie Fotias, previously director of communications, was promoted to vice president of communications in the fall of 2022. Fotias leads the foundation’s internal and external communications, brand development, and narrative and media strategies. Her work raises the profile of Detroit youth as visionaries and leaders, influences narrative change and helps young people advance social change. 

Prior to joining the foundation in 2015, Fotias worked in communications and fundraising in the nonprofit sector for Gleaners Community Food Bank and Muscular Dystrophy Association, leading telethons, radiothons, publications, signature events and multi-channel marketing campaigns. Before entering the nonprofit sector, Fotias led lululemon athletica’s branding and community outreach efforts in Michigan.  

Fotias is a leader of ComNetwork Detroit, a local chapter of the Communications Network, which brings together social sector communicators to learn together and solve complex social issues. She is also engaged in a global group of storytellers who are focused on creating systems change stories in ways that are more reflective of how social change actually happens, lifting a plurality of voices through a variety of mediums.   

In a blog for CMF Community Voices, a series of conversations and insights from leaders across our community of philanthropy, Fotias discussed the importance of diversity in social change coalitions—supporting people to represent an issue and a collective vision through a range of different identities and perspectives. Read her full blog, A Case for Unity, Not Uniformity.

Want more?

Read the full press release.