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Karen McNeil-Miller

President and CEO

The Colorado Health Foundation

Location: Denver, CO

Founded: 1995

Industry: Private Foundation

When the pandemic hit, the Colorado Health Foundation sprung to action, led by President and CEO Karen McNeil-Miller.

The Colorado Health Foundation (CHF) increased its investment in communities by 25% or more, over initial budget, to address the pandemic, providing $41.9 million toward food security, homelessness, mental health and other initiatives.

“We conducted the first publicly available statewide poll to learn about the needs and experiences of disproportionately affected Coloradans, and shared findings with key decision-makers at the federal, state and local levels to ensure they had critical information to support a full recovery,” the organization said.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis selected CHF as the 2020 recipient of the Governor’s Citizenship Medal for COVID-19 Hero Award. The award recognized CHF’s work to provide funding to organizations across the state in response to the pandemic.

The pandemic struck at the core of CHF’s mission, and the organization responded to the challenge.

“Our vision is that across Colorado, each of us can say: We have all we need to live healthy lives. We’re getting there by working to achieve our mission of improving the health of Coloradans,” McNeil-Miller said.

CHF said it operates on three pillars: 1) To serve Coloradans who have less power, privilege and income and to prioritize Coloradans of color, 2) Do everything with the intent of creating health equity, 3) Be informed by the community and those CHF serves.

“Working in partnership with Coloradans who need the most, with these cornerstones, coupled with our strategies to strengthen bodies, minds and communities, we are pursuing racial justice as a key pathway to achieve health equity — fighting unfair, avoidable differences in health,” the organization said.

McNeil-Miller joined CHF after more than 10 years as president of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, one of North Carolina’s largest private foundations. Under her leadership, the trust became a foundation with a national presence on issues ranging from rural health to access to care. Previously, she spent 16 years with the Center for Creative Leadership, an international leadership development and research organization, where McNeil-Miller developed expertise in individual and organizational leadership, succession planning, strategic thinking, team building, diversity, executive coaching, and leading change and transitions. Early in her career, she was a special education teacher and head of the Piedmont School in North Carolina.

“She’s been recognized as a champion for innovation and inclusion throughout her career — characteristics that made her the sought-after choice to lead CHF into a new era and new way of approaching philanthropy,” her team said. “Prior to Karen’s arrival, CHF was little known outside of its narrow focus areas, its circle of long-term legacy grantees and the Denver Metro Area. But after Karen became president and chief executive officer, things changed quickly as she intentionally shifted the organization to be known nationally, not just as a health-related grantmaker but a changemaker in the field of philanthropy.”

McNeil-MIller was selected among Denver Business Journal’s 2020 Most Admired CEOs. She is also on the boards of Campbell University, Center for Creative Leadership, Denver Academy and Healthier Generation. Her previous board service includes, but is not limited to: College Track; Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce; Denver Women’s Forum; Strong, Prosperous, And Resilient Communities Challenge; Winston-Salem State University.

“Karen has driven social impact at the local, state and national levels for nearly four decades,” her staff said. “She passionately demonstrates her convictions, and makes it look easy. Her will to stand by these values is noticeable to many. She promotes open and direct, sometimes disruptive, discourse about why society is where it is today.”

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Karen Says

“Our vision is that across Colorado, each of us can say: We have all we need to live healthy lives.”


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