Why GreenLight Fund ED Omar Woodard is no stranger to philanthropy - Generocity Philly

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May 2, 2016 2:37 pm

Why GreenLight Fund ED Omar Woodard is no stranger to philanthropy

At a recent welcome reception packed with local social impact leaders, Woodard recalls his roots and makes his purpose public.

Omar Woodard addresses reception attendees.

(Photo by Tony Abraham)

With his new role as executive director of GreenLight Fund Philadelphia, Omar Woodard‘s life has come full circle.

Woodard announced his new gig heading up the venture philanthropy organization earlier this year after pulling the plug on his state senate campaign.

At his welcome reception, held at venture capital firm First Round Capital (partner Josh Kopelman sits on the GreenLight board), Woodard recalled growing up in poverty in North Philly.

“It was going to the corner store with food stamps. It was knowing that when you go to the store with stamps, it’s different than having actual dollars — the feeling that came along with that,” Woodard said to a room packed full of social impact leaders.

Woodard, a Girard College alum, credited philanthropy with granting him — literally — access to opportunity.

“I got a scholarship that paid for 90 percent of my tuition. Luckily enough for me, my senior year of college, I had another fellowship that paid for my master’s degree,” he said. “How lucky.”

It was the support of philanthropists he “may never meet” that gave him a winning chance, Woodard said. And, after stints in the public and private sectors, he’s getting back to his roots — returning to a space that invested in him.

The move to GreenLight Fund, Woodard said, makes sense because it’s exactly where he started.

“Having the opportunity now to invest in leaders who care deeply about communities that need support — not help,” he said. “Our communities don’t need help. They need advocates. They need people who understand the challenges they face and try to find the best organizations and leaders who can address those challenges.”

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Woodard’s statement on purpose was met to heavy applause from attendees — which, by the way, was almost a who’s-who of social impact in Philadelphia. Here are just a few of the folks we ran into at the reception:

  • Maari Porter. The Philanthropy Network director gave a speech welcoming Woodard to the local social impact community before the GreenLight ED took the stage.
  • Stacy Holland. We recently chatted with the Lenfest Foundation president about her work with local entrepreneur and philanthropist Keith Leaphart.
  • Tayyib Smith. The entrepreneur recently landed a Knight Cities Challenge grant to launch the Institute of Hip-Hop Entrepreneurship.
  • Beth Dahle. The ever-cheerful Compass Philly executive director, who recently told us about a pro bono consulting initiative underway at her organization, was in attendance.
  • Dermot Murphy. The Halloran Philanthropies associate was making the rounds at the reception, along with a handful of other local philanthropy leaders.
  • Stephanie Kim. Wharton Social Impact Initiative‘s director of community strategy told us about a class she recently taught on activism, grassroots organizing and social entrepreneurship.

Social impact community members across all sectors were present — and all were captivated by Woodard’s address.

“The reason I chose GreenLight was because it gave me the opportunity to address the poverty I came from,” Woodard said. “It gives me the opportunity to wake up every morning very, very excited about the work I’m doing.”

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