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Empower By Example

How many times have you wanted to volunteer or reach out to a disenfranchised community, but your stopped yourself? Why are you hesitating? Fear? Maybe shame or guilt? Those emotions are coming from your ego, and your ego is not a good enough reason to hide your light.

Today is the day you take that step to empower others. Today you will recognize what you have in common with those living unstable lives.

You have discovered Empower by Example with Laura Rock where we are redefining traditional philanthropy and we need your help. Listen here for new ideas – programs that are pushing boundaries, moving the needle and creating real change. We will be giving you action steps and we want to hear your takeaways!


Empower By Example, Episode 10: Michael Yonas, Director of Research and Special Initiatives for The Pittsburgh Foundation

Michael strives to cultivate culturally sensitive opportunities for informing interventions that reflect the priorities of communities, organizations and other stakeholders. His most recent efforts have focused on examining the influence of stress on health, systems for serving the homeless, and strategies for promoting community and school safety. He is influenced by years of community-based practice, service and research, focusing primarily on the role of neighborhood and systems-level factors impacting disparities in health.

In this episode, we discuss Michael’s role at the Pittsburgh Foundation. His grant making portfolio is broad and varied, and his interpersonal relationships with funders bring many engaged and creative outcome-driven solutions. His work with Michelle McMurray ( has been instrumental to The Rock Family Foundation and how we partner with other organizations.

As we heard about in EBE Episode 9 with Tammy Thompson, Michael is working on national RFP’s around the benefits cliff, or The Cliff Effect. We discuss the programs at Circles of Greater Pittsburgh and how they are helping to mediate tough situations for those individuals and families who are up against The Cliff Effect.

Michael is a “data guy”, and you can hear his expertise throughout in this episode. His knowledge of the problems that surround families in poverty and the numerous meaningful statistics he is able to communicate make him an invaluable partner in the Pittsburgh philanthropy circles. His recent work is well-known throughout the city from grassroots organizations, to large county-run systems, to city policy meetings. He focuses on amplifying the voices of youth and organizations that are doing youth-led work.

You can read The Pittsburgh Foundation’s report A Qualitative Study of Youth and the Juvenile Justice System here:–%20Youth%20and%20Juvenile%20Justice%20Report.pdf

More information about the Juvenile Justice Dashboard can be found here:

When Michael began telling his personal story of volunteering, I was so inspired. His explanation of what his community service has meant in his life, and how he has pushed through the uncomfortable parts of volunteering is a shining example of how to live a life of service, professionally and personally.

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Music by Buscrates (

Laura Rock

Laura Rock In 2017 Laura founded The Rock Family Foundation to serve young women of color who are exiting foster care and other county run services. Going from for-profit sales to non-profit management was a huge switch, and Laura found ways to pull in the strategies and benchmarks from her past career into the private foundation.

Empower By Example, Episode 12: Jake Goodman, Executive Director of The Opportunity Fund Part 2

In our second episode with Jake Goodman from The Opportunity Fund, Jake and I talk openly about our personal struggle with imposter syndrome. As Jake states, in almost everything that we fund, people are going to do even if they don’t have access to the funds. We realize that ...

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Empower By Example, Episode 11: Jake Goodman, Executive Director of The Opportunity Fund Part 1

We have touched on the dark side of philanthropy on this podcast before, but Jake and I take a deep dive here. How did we get here and how do we do these jobs with the knowledge that our daily lives are surrounded by privilege? And what does it look ...

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