The Ladis family on a vacation at the beach

Strengthening the community through hands-on philanthropy

Johanna Ladis’ exposure to service and giving started at an early age. Growing up in Boulder, her parents taught English as a second language to students and helped newly arrived immigrants navigate community resources. “I was always impressed by the time they gave to others,” says Johanna. “There was a need, and they did what they could to meet it.”

Johanna and her husband Manny have made philanthropy a family affair, each bringing their own professional backgrounds and personal experiences to inform their giving decisions. “We always find overlap between the causes we want to support,” said Johanna. “We work in partnership.” 

Johanna works as a marketing and public relations consultant for nonprofit organizations helping them to craft compelling stories and expand their reach and visibility. Through her hands-on experience with nonprofits, Johanna was moved to support organizations that are addressing basic needs such as We Don’t Waste, Showers for All and SafeHouse Denver. Manny’s background in technology has made him passionate about supporting the Blind Institute of Technology which works to advance professional opportunities for people with disabilities. Manny’s technology firm, Dizzion, established the Dizzion Cares Fund at Rose Community Foundation which provides grants and matching gifts to support and strengthen the communities in which their employees work and live.  

Johanna was initially introduced to Rose Community Foundation through Rose Women’s Organization, a collaborative giving circle that traces its origins to the women’s auxiliary at Rose Medical Center. As a member of RWO, Johanna was “impressed with how the giving circle model is able to help so many nonprofits at a grassroots level. And beyond just talking about it, we had the opportunity to meet the individuals and organizations doing the work.”  

Johanna and Manny reconnected with the Foundation when they opened their donor-advised fund in 2020. Johanna is now a member of the Foundation’s philanthropic services committee and both she and Manny are involved as donors and participants in the Conductor Circle. The Conductor Circle, a partnership between the Foundation and Righteous Rage Institute, brings together donors and BIPOC community leaders from Greater Denver to listen, learn, connect and ultimately make grants focused on uplifting Denver’s Black community. Rooted in a healing justice approach and a participatory grantmaking model, the Conductor Circle centers on Black community members deciding how resources will be spent to uplift their own communities. Donor members build relationships, engage in conversation, ask questions and reflect on how to put what they learn into practice in their personal giving. 

“I am honored to be included in the Conductor Circle,” said Johanna. “When I first got involved in philanthropy, there wasn’t as much conversation around racial equity. It’s at the forefront now and something I want to learn more about from those who are well-versed. I’m hopeful that the discussions we’ve had can lead to actionable next steps.” 

The longstanding inequities that were exacerbated by the COVID pandemic have only increased the Ladis’ commitment to supporting community. “The pandemic has created so much need, but it’s also opened a dialogue and made us more understanding of one another. And hopefully, more compassionate.” 

When thinking about the values that guide their family’s philanthropy, Johanna notes that “I give by what pulls at my heart. In the last few years, the basic needs of our residents have been so prevalent.” A desire to be responsive to community is something that Johanna and Manny hope to pass to their children. The Ladis’ have volunteered as a family, distributing food for We Don’t Waste and delivering meals for Project Angel Heart. Says Johanna, “when we were in lockdown at the beginning of the pandemic, our family decorated paper bags and delivered meals for Project Angel Heart. Even though we were masked and doing contactless deliveries, it was rewarding to see people and brighten their day.” 

Beyond financial support, Johanna and Manny also encourage their daughters to give their time to organizations and causes they are personally passionate about. The Ladis’ youngest daughter volunteers with Colorado Puppy Rescue, assisting with their adoption events, and their older daughter volunteered with We Don’t Waste mobile food markets before leaving for college last fall. Says Johanna, “I hope as they grow, they discover their passions and find ways to be strong members of their communities.”  

To learn more about the Conductor Circle, or how the Foundation supports families in their philanthropy, please contact Rose Community Foundation’s Philanthropic Services team

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