Forbes Funds president has history of defeating adversity

| Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012, 11:59 p.m.

As a young social worker, Kate Dewey talked a shotgun-toting father out of harming her during a four-hour standoff in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. She had gone there to check on his son.

Later, when she was a parole officer, a female prisoner in Clinton, N.J., tried to stab her. The knife missed her and stuck in a door frame.

So as the president of Forbes Funds, Dewey does not expect to flinch while helping nonprofit groups navigate troubled waters.

“I would hope my legacy will be to help prepare and position nonprofits to be as relevant as they are now ... in 10 years and operate from a position of strength,” said Dewey, 66, of Rosslyn Farms.

The Pittsburgh Foundation named Dewey to head Forbes Funds, starting Jan. 1. She'll be paid $120,000 annually. Founded 30 years ago, Forbes awards grants of $10,000 to $50,000 to help nonprofits strengthen management. Forbes helps them work together or merge, and it produces studies on the nonprofit sector.

The fund has a five-member board of directors, 21-member advisory committee and four staff members. Dewey succeeds Diana Bucco, who will become vice president of The Buhl Foundation.

“She brings this refreshing blend of deep experience and knowledge, combined with fresh thinking and a bedrock commitment to the nonprofit community in Pittsburgh,” said Grant Oliphant, president and CEO of The Pittsburgh Foundation.

The parent organization gave Forbes about $350,000 a year for the past several years, making it the group's biggest financial supporter. The nonprofits share offices in PPG Place, Downtown.

Dewey founded a consulting company for nonprofits, Dewey & Kaye, in 1990. It merged with ParenteBeard, Downtown, and will close shop on Dec. 31, except for its job search component. That will continue through Vantagen, an affiliate of ParenteBeard.

Dewey is consulting with Brother's Brother Foundation to develop ways to enhance its medical assistance in Africa. Brother's Brother sends medical supplies and equipment to 100 hospitals in about a dozen African countries.

“She's sensitive to the ideas that different groups bring together. She has the ability to see the bigger picture,” said Luke Hingson, president of Brother's Brother.

Dewey grew up in Yardley, Bucks County. Her father owned Canada Dry Bottling for the East Coast, and her mother was a community volunteer.

When she was in fifth grade, she said, union members burned down her father's nonunion bottling plant. Her father plunged into a deep depression and was unemployed for three years. The inhumanity of the fire stuck with Dewey.

“I consciously wanted to see how I could make a difference,” she recalled.

She earned a bachelor's degree from Rider College and a master's degree in social work from Rutgers University, both in New Jersey. She held numerous jobs in social work and the nonprofit sector before moving to Pittsburgh.

Here she was founding executive director of Grantmakers of Western Pennsylvania and founding director of the Allegheny Child Sex Abuse Task Force.

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or

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