The Song Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for all in southeastern Michigan founded by Dug and Linh Song, has hired Khalilah Burt Gaston as its first executive director.
The Song Foundation, based in Ann Arbor, began operating in 2020, and to date has awarded 10 grants, totaling nearly $2 million, that are representative of foundation’s mission to invest in innovative people and organizations that are improving quality of life, and helping to build a more just and equitable world.
Gaston’s career in philanthropy and non-profit administration includes her tenure as a program officer at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, leading their early childhood education efforts in Detroit and managing a statewide grant portfolio and investments of $80 million. She has also served as executive director of Vanguard Community Development Corp., and a development specialist at the State of Michigan Land Bank Authority. Most recently, Gaston led her own strategic consulting practice, Glidepath Strategies, supporting clients in Detroit and nationally.
“Taking on the leadership of this foundation is a rare opportunity to bring together everything I’ve learned along my professional journey, and to apply those lessons learned to establish a framework and best practices that are rooted in our shared passion to serve communities in need,” says Gaston.
“What convinced me to commit to this incredible responsibility was meeting Linh and Dug, and to hear their heart and their core convictions, to hear about the culture they want to create as they embark on taking a very young family foundation to the next level. It’s very empowering when, as an executive director, I don’t have to retrofit strategies and practices to accommodate an existing institution, I really have the opportunity to work hand-in-hand and shoulder-to-shoulder with the founders to create something new together.”
Dug Song, chief strategy officer of Cisco Security and co-founder of Ann Arbor’s Duo Security, says: “We are a start-up foundation, and we approach our internal growth knowing that we’re joining an already vibrant ecosystem of philanthropic organizations in the region. We don’t intend to behave like a start-up tech firm that exists to disrupt the market.”