Knowledge Center

Banking on KC - Jan Kreamer

Listen Now, or read the transcript below:


Kelly Scanlon: [00:00:00] Welcome to Banking on KC. I'm your host Kelly Scanlon. Thank you for joining us with us. On this episode is Jan Kramer a long time, Kansas City business civic, and philanthropic leader. She's currently the board chair of Casey scholars. Welcome Jan.

Jan Kreamer: Thank you. Good to be with you.

Kelly Scanlon: You have been so involved in Kansas City over the last many years, and it's a pleasure to be able to talk with you and to get your perspective on how far we've come and where we can go.

But first, I want to start this way. You are known, you know, as a former chair of the Kauffman foundation, board of trustees, or some people might know you as the former president and CEO of the greater Kansas city community foundation, or even through your work with the Kauffman center for the performing arts.

But I think one of the most fascinating things that I've learned about you is that you were the creator of exchange.

Jan Kreamer: Yes. Hi Hiwatt and I love the fact that we're starting with that, because that was actually the [00:01:00] very first thing back in 1978 that I worked on in the community. I was at that time executive director of the learning exchange.

And we had an opportunity as an organization to take on an objective. The business community had, which was to help our students be better connected to the world of business and economics. And so we got our very talented team of teachers together that we worked with at the learning exchange. And actually that group came up with the idea that said, look, the concepts of supply and demand opportunity costs, scarcity are rather vague.

And at times boring concepts for our students. What if we could create an experience? Exchange city was the result that would really let these students live and [00:02:00] breathe those concepts, and hopefully begin to ignite an interest for them in business. So we set about building it. We had great support from bill hall and Jean Bates that hallmark and their artists, which created just the most magnificent prototype of the city.

To LA oh, the students were talking about 20,000 a year when it got rolling to really role-play and put into action, their ideas on how they would run a business, how they might be a me or how they would be a police officer, how would they would function? In a community and leadership role. So it was pretty exciting to watch that all unfold.

Kelly Scanlon: I remember as a parent going as a chaperone to my daughters field trips to exchange city, and it was, it was, it just came to life. And that experiential, that immersion really brought the concepts home to the kids. So thank you for [00:03:00] doing that. You know,

Jan Kreamer: we built this. And it is amazing how wherever I would go after that experience, like you, I was introduced as this person doing this or this person, you know, doing that.

All people once they heard, I bet so stated what their shaved city, all of a sudden, the other things didn't matter. I had real credibility with everybody in the audience, and I quickly learned a way to engage the audience and connect with them is for me to ask them about their experience. Now, mind you, some of these were 20, 25 years later, and Kelly.

So much fun seeing the animation on their face, the excitement, and they could tell you chapter and verse what they did that day and how successful they were in their role at exchange city. So obviously it certainly made an [00:04:00] impression on the students and all of us who are privileged to watch and work with that product.

Kelly Scanlon: Yes. Very much so. And despite what you just said, the work that you went on to do is extremely important. You've played an instrumental role in shaping many of Kansas city's most well-known institutions. And then, you know, by extension shaping Kansas city itself, and we could easily spend an entire podcast talking about.

Any one of those endeavors. So what I'd like to do is with each of the things that I just mentioned to find out what you think was the most important achievement that occurred as a result of your work and why? So let's start with the community foundation. You've become nationally known among community foundation leaders for your pioneering work, which focused on.

Donor intent. Now that seems pretty a well-known concept these days, but it really wasn't at one point. So talk with us about why that concept was a game changer. I'm

Jan Kreamer: glad you [00:05:00] phrased it that way, because it was a game changer. I don't think we knew at the time how much of a game changer was, but very simply put community foundations had been operating long before Kansas City came onto the scene.

We were as a set of Johnny come lately to the whole movement. And we noticed all of them, except two had what you would call an endowment model, or we paraphrased it to people wanting to participate, give it to us, we know best, and this board will direct your money. Now we'll give you good tax advantages and good services, but we'll direct it.

Well, as we began to present the opportunity of our community foundation, you should see the blank looks on their faces. I mean, people are going well, why would I want to do that? And I hate to harken back to exchange city because it was in a sense and accidentally [00:06:00] strategic insight for me that I ran across they, but that immersion watching those kids participate.

Also came to play, as we said, you know, we need a model, the donor advice model that doesn't say, give it to us. We know best, but rather it says, we want you to be involved. We want to connect you to the issue. And the organizations you care about. And when we do that, we'll make giving easy, flexible, and effective for you, but we want you involved.

And I think if I could give you all of the statistics and they're stunning, what the generosity of this community has accomplished. I mean, in 20 years we took it from 10 million. To a billion and now it has over 4 billion in assets. When I left, we had 2000 funds. Now they have 5,600 funds. We were making a [00:07:00] hundred million in grants, and now they're making close to 687 million per year in grants in the community.

But even as stunning Kelly, as those numbers are. The real secret sauce here has been in the level of engagement and involvement. These donors not only make grants, but they become aware of what's important in our community. What are our opportunities? How can I get involved? And I think it's. Igniting of that fabric of our community and getting people again, if you will experience really involved is been, I would say the thing, all of us who got behind the donor advised fund movement when we started that we're proud of them.

Kelly Scanlon: Yeah. It is experienced phenomenal growth, as you say. And I'm always amazed to see the stats that come out nationally and Kansas City for a small part. [00:08:00] Always ranks very, very high in terms of

Jan Kreamer: giving or top 1% in assets. In number of funds in grants made that's phenomenal for a community, our size,

Kelly Scanlon: given what you said and given other observations that you have experienced firsthand, what is your view on the role?

Philanthropy has played in the vibrancy of the Kansas City community. Take it beyond the philanthropic sphere. Talk about the community as a whole. And why is it important to continue to encourage and support this kind of giving now

Jan Kreamer: the giving the numbers in it itself? I think in its history, we've given away something like 5 billion.

So I mean, think of what that has done to help us build institutions of all sizes and to support them. So the sheer capital, if you will. We have to support things, Santa, it allows us to weather those big sea changes [00:09:00] as corporations come and go from our community or as their balance sheets experience travel.

We have, if you will, I'd like to think of it as a community savings account, helping us to weather those. COVID was a great example of that, where the community foundation and the generosity of donors and corporations put together a several million dollar fund and were extremely important with keeping agencies running, helping to assist.

Those people in need. That kind of thing is important. But I think as much as anything, the fact that we went from 10 million now to what Debbie Wilkerson and the great team at the community foundation to 4 billion, there is an aspirational sense. Confidence in Kansas City when we want to build [00:10:00] something, whether it is, you know, world-class children's house, bill world-class art museum, the performing arts center, beginning to build world-class bikes and trails throughout the city, working on issues.

I really believe they know we can do that. We have demonstrated not aspirationally, but factually. That we have the giving ethic to make anything happen that we want to put our minds to.

Kelly Scanlon: You were talking about some of the other foundation work here in Kansas city. And of course, everybody globally knows the Kauffman foundation.

And you helmed that at one point. What, as you recall, when you think back about your time there, what do you think was accomplished that really set the stage for, uh, taking that to the next level?

Jan Kreamer: We were able. My chairman's ship a long with a terrific board, really put in place a world-class [00:11:00] staff. When you think of the job that Wendy Gellis has done the last eight years, how she has led not only building just a terrific team of smart people, but also people with the kind of humility.

And values that very much mirror Mr. Kaufman. So we are able with this staff, I think to have donor alignment again, where we are operating very much in a hundred percent in what he intended to have happen and not only the subject matter, but how we go about it. And the result has been, I think if you ask most people, they feel connected.

Back to the Kauffman foundation and they feel confident that they are now a community partner and collaborator. It also goes with, I think we put together a great board of directors, a great [00:12:00] group of people. Uh, that are really committed in a strong partnership with the staff to carry out Mr. Kaufman sentential.

So then I think maybe the proudest thing, you, you started out with donor intent and you said, well, that should be obvious. Well, it isn't always obvious. And I think. Getting that right. Is the real secret in philanthropy. Let's stay

Kelly Scanlon: with the Kauffman foundation and it's mission major. When being entrepreneurship, do you see entrepreneurship being key to the economic growth of Kansas City?

And how does Kansas City compare globally when it comes to

Jan Kreamer: entrepreneurship? Well, I think it. Certainly a key to Kansas City, but I be so bold as to say it is really a key to the economic vibrancy across the country. When you look at really the number of small businesses and startups and the percentage of what they contribute back [00:13:00] to certainly in Kansas city, but around the country, it is a key thing.

And. Community, certainly Kansas City look to retool their corporate base and businesses. Entrepreneurship is I think real important strategy. I think what Kauffman is doing, and again, inspired by Mr. Kaufman is smart. First of all, you know, he started off with the idea. Everyone has a fundamental role. To turn an idea into an economic reality.

And so the strategies that our team has put in place is to put those tools that will help emerging budding entrepreneurs be successful. And they're tackling, I think what is the most challenging, and that is access to capital. And so Kaufman is working to open up those gates, if you will, to provide.

Access for women [00:14:00] and entrepreneurs of color, to be able to take the great ideas and talents that they have and to help them flourish. And I think we're having success in that. And I also want to compliment the banking community here. They're opening up to this. They're trying to understand what the issues are.

So it's again, another good story. Of Kansas City listening and learning and trying to make things better

Kelly Scanlon: earlier when you were talking about the fact that when people come up with an idea in Kansas City, that they know that there's a really good chance that that's going to happen in terms of building something.

And one of those that you mentioned is the coffin center for the performing arts. You played a role in that you played a role in fundraising for it. Talk to us about your involvement with the Kauffman center. For the performing arts and how it's led to a stronger focus on the arts, not just in Kansas city, but in bringing national recognition to Kansas city.

As a leader in the performing [00:15:00] arts, it's been written up in the New York times and in major publications globally

Jan Kreamer: of all the things I worked on. Was my most favorite. And I'll try to explain why when I heard of Mrs. Kaufman Muriel Kaufman's vision and her daughter, Julia's willingness to carry it out. I was blown away.

Not it wasn't about, I, I knew they were going to build a great building, something stunning that we would all be proud of, but this was their vision. And having worked in philanthropy and nonprofits for 20 or 30 years, it was so magnanimous what they were trying to pull off. She said the following basically.

And I'm paraphrasing, I'm sorry, Mrs. Kaufman, if I muffed this a bit, but it really impressed me. And that was, she wanted to build a performing arts center that would ignite the vibrancy of the performing [00:16:00] arts, primarily the symphony. The ballet, the opera and the Herrmann William Juul series, so that they could attract the best talent because people would want to perform and play in that facility in not only it, where she going to build that with the help of the community, of course.

But she said, we will find a way. Through our board and our savvy, basically to really underwrite a portion of the fees they pay to perform and rent our house. So all of the arts groups, symphony ballet lyric. Hiraman William Juul pay. Now get this below market value to be in the facility. Those organizations take up 80%.

Of [00:17:00] the available dates, which we use 20% for moneymaking. And basically she said, we will not only give you a great venue, but we're going to make it affordable for you and board and staff of the performing arts center. You're going to have to economically make the rest of this work. And it has, and that to me was one of the.

Profound strategic insights, because if you been there that old acts am, I guess we just saw in the baseball, you build it and they will come. The plate sold out and the symphony is soaring. The ballet is soaring, but lyric is doing very well. And her dream and her vision to give this kind of a feel and success to the arts in Kansas city.

It's one of the best philanthropic visions I was ever around. And I'm just proud to have [00:18:00] watched her heard about it. And, and really I did it. A little bit of fundraising. I wasn't as key as some, but I did get to watch. And now I'm on the board and it's,

Kelly Scanlon: I remember when it was being, the concept was being discussed and you'd read about it in the paper.

And one of the things I was most impressed with during all of those discussions was the desire to make the performing arts assessable. All not just to an elite group, but to all. And the way that the groups of school children are able to come in will, you know, before COVID, we're able to come in and experience this and everybody, and even before it opened the tours that were given, I mean, they snaked around the sidewalk all around downtown people trying to get in that impressed me a lot.

Jan Kreamer:

That impressed me too. And I, and I should enjoy it. Just tell some delightful stories about. Just what you said, that she expects the staff to make it accessible to the [00:19:00] school children and you know, the building's meticulous. And I remember somebody, I, I might've been this smart. I just said, well, what about the gum under the seat?

Get a knife out, Jan and scrape. I don't care if they sleep fall asleep during the performance, but they're going to feel the building. They're going to experience the building. And then when they're adults trust me, they'll come back or just getting something. Wonderful supportive comments from the Latino, Hispanic African-American communities who have input into the programming, and they will tell you, they find a place in the Kansas City presents series, which is what we control.

And it's, it's very satisfying

Kelly Scanlon: talking about the school children. That is a great segue into this next area that I know that. Incredibly passionate about, and that is education. What are some of the [00:20:00] investments that Kansas City is making or should be making in this area?

Jan Kreamer: We are making some very good progress in creating access to training for all groups, but especially the.

Populations in need Kansas City scholars has just an enormous track record after five years and has set a goal of think of this 20,000 students in adults by 2027. We'll either be involved in a two year four year credentialing skill-building pathway that will lead to a job that we as an organization with our business community has been terrific.

We'll connect them to that is a really big breakthrough. I think some of the programs that Kauffman is leading around real-world learning, which is helping school districts, recalibrate their curriculums to be [00:21:00] able to have the students. Work not only on information, but on life skills and then set a man, a pathway where they can have shadowing experience internships, so that we think is really valuable.

I think the last program that is. Starting to emerge that I think is one of the most promising and most important programs I've seen. It's called Recode Casey, where they're targeting 10,000 students and adults over the next three years. To again, with training and skill building, giving them a pathway into technology skills.

They are also then giving them internships in businesses. Which I think will be invaluable, not only in the training, but giving them that network, they need to be hired in these jobs. As you know, those are some of the most high paying jobs in the [00:22:00] city and to begin to build that talent pipeline and we need the workers.

So that's exciting. So I think. Kind of what I would call recalibration of how we're working with our students are invaluable, but maybe the most important thing I hope the community will embrace. And that is this teacher shortage. We just touched it here in Kansas City, but it'll be like a tsunami if we don't get on it, I'd encourage you all.

Look at what Minnesota and Wisconsin are doing as states to aggressively go after. And I would say as aggressive as we would go after building a stadium for the cheese. So the Royals, they understand if we don't have teachers. We don't have a way to create a talent pipeline. We're not going to be a vibrant community.

So those are some of the things I hope we start paying attention to

Kelly Scanlon: given all that you've been involved [00:23:00] with. What does the future of Kansas City look like to you? Where do you see us? Several

Jan Kreamer: years down the road? I would say it is bright because we have. The answers before us, whether it's the Kansas City scholars, what we're doing with the educational reforms in the school district, what we're doing, uh, quite aggressively with the civic council chamber of commerce, the civil rights organizations around diversity and inclusion, those particular projects.

That they are working on are certainly important from a value standpoint, who we want to be as a diverse, inclusive community, but pragmatically, we need every worker that's living in the region to be trained and able to step up for the job. [00:24:00] There was a recent report that came on, I think last week saying that Kansas City did experience growth for the first time in a while.

And the majority of the growth were from diverse populations. Again, opportunity here. People are moving here. They are part of our community. Now we match up and why in these training opportunities? Skill-building and a real commitment to get people connected to high paying jobs. That's how we'll keep the vibrancy and the future alive.

Kelly Scanlon: Well, Jan, with people like you on board and working to make it a reality, I'm sure it will be. Thank you so much for all your contributions to Kansas city and for taking the time to talk with us today, really appreciate it.

Joe Close: This is Joe close president of Country Club Bank. Thank you to Jan Kramer for being our guest. On this episode of Banking on KC, Jan has played [00:25:00] an instrumental role in shaping many of Kansas city's most well-known institutions, the Kansas City community foundation, that Ewing Marion Kauffman foundation, the Kauffman center for the performing arts and many others, including our current role as a board member for Casey scholars by extension Jan has shaped Kansas City.

A major strategic insight Jan gained early on is that if people can become actively engaged in and connected to the projects, organizations and causes, they care about the more successful each of those projects, organizations and causes will be whether it's deciding for themselves how their charitable dollars will be spent having input into programming for the arts or playing an active role in building hiking and biking trails.

Jan is right when people are included. When they feel like their ideas matter and their voices are heard when their education and training connect them to jobs, where they earn a fair wage, their individual [00:26:00] confidence swells, and we become an entire community brimming with confidence. And that's when we can make anything happen.

Let's do it Kansas City. Thanks for tuning in this week. We're Banking on you, Kansas City Country Club, Bank member FDIC.