50 Charity Executives Selected As the Most Influential

by August 7, 2009

The 2009 NPT Power & Influence Top 50MORRIS PLAINS, N.J. — Service is the new black. It’s so fashionable that those leading the national service movement have packed the catwalk of The 2009 NPT Power & Influence Top 50, the 12th annual listing of the nonprofit sector’s most influential executives.

This year’s honorees were unveiled in the April 1 issue of The NonProfit Times, the leading national business publication of the charitable sector. The complete story is posted at www.nptimes.com

Whether it’s military conscription, stipended service or traditional volunteering, community building is the core of the sector these days. Of course, a trashed stock market and worldwide recession have much to do with how the charitable sector operates, making those volunteers all the more valuable.

Executives who mobilize the masses for good and who manage their resources while blazing a path for others to follow make up the Power & Influence honorees this year. Executive turnover in the sector is evident in the list. There are 18 executives making their P&I debut this year and one executive returning after a few years, the largest turnover during the 12-year history of The NPT Power & Influence Top 50.

Making selections to The NPT Power & Influence Top 50 is not scientific. It’s based on nominations from editorial staff of The NonProfit Times, its contributing editors, suggestions from former nominees and a few selected, plugged-in people. It’s also intended to ensure that most disciplines within the sector have a representative. For example, this year the selections were weighted toward public service but the vital technology segment of the sector is also represented. There were more than 250 nominees this year, which is routinely the case.

The P&I honorees will be feted for their work at The NPT Power & Influence Top 50 Gala next month at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. It will be a night of high-level exchange between executives who can move a nation.

Here are the honorees:

Fred J. Ali

President & CEO

Weingart Foundation

Los Angeles, Calif.

Ali transformed the foundation’s funding to be more responsive to economic needs. He boosted and promoted grants for operating expenses even in the face of his own organization’s endowment dropping. That’s leadership.

Diana Aviv

President & CEO

Independent Sector

Washington, D.C.

There is no longer any doubt that Independent Sector is back as the key go-to policy shop on charitable issues in Washington, D.C., and it’s because of Aviv.

Elizabeth Boris


Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy, Urban Institute

Washington, D.C.

The work of Boris and her team during the past decade has led the way in making the nuts and bolts of nonprofits more transparent to civilians. The data has highlighted patterns of operation and governance, pushing managers to be more efficient and transparent. It’s hard to deny the numbers.

Paul Brest


William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

Menlo Park, Calif.

He’s become a leading outcomes thinker — both for the charity and the donor. He wrote in his blog: “A philanthropist has every reason to ask whether it (a charity) has a sound strategy and a good track record as well as good leadership. The alternative is to sow hundreds of seeds without ever finding out which take root and flourish.”

John M. Bridgeland

President & CEO

Civic Enterprises

Washington, D.C.

Bridgeland lives and breathes public service. He was at the center of the national service movement before it was cool. He’s smart, strategic, has worked at the highest levels of government and the charitable sector and has the ears of those who can help him make the most difference.

Michael Brown

CEO & Co-Founder

City Year, Inc.

Boston, Mass.

City Year was the blueprint for the federal AmeriCorps program. It has put more than 10,000 members into communities and the Boston concept has been replicated in 18 cities across the nation. Brown was a key leader in the ServiceNation event that pushed both major presidential candidates to add national service as a priority.

Kelly Browning

Executive Vice President

American Institute For Cancer Research

Washington, D.C.

As chairman of the Direct Marketing Association, and having gone up the ranks through the nonprofit side of the organization, he is a key policy influencer when it comes to fundraising and regulation of it.

Sharon Burns

Chief Information Officer

John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Chicago, Ill.

Information technology is now driving charities and funders and Burns is one of the leaders when it comes to integration. She maintains and develops business information technology strategies that align with program and foundation goals on the efficiency and effectiveness of internal business process.

Geoffrey Canada

President & CEO

Harlem Children’s Zone

New York, N.Y.

In a 97-square-block area of what was once the toughest neighborhood of New York City, Canada has created a national model of catching kids at birth and nurturing them through obtaining a college degree. He understands rate of return on investment on social outreach and devised a pipeline of services that are envied.

Emmett Carson

President & CEO

Silicon Valley Community Foundation

Mountain View, Calif.

He could sit on his more than $1 billion in assets but he chooses to challenge conventional thinking. Carson sees this economy as an opportunity to redefine the social contract between philanthropy and the communities they serve. “This is our moment,” he said in a recent interview. He’s right.

Jean Case

Chief Executive Officer

The Case Foundation

Washington, D.C.

Case realizes that measurement tools change as you move across the sector and the foundation’s funding shows that she means it. One of a growing number of CEOs who regularly Tweet on Twitter, she uses instant technology to point to ideas for lasting solutions that are too often overlooked when having to deal with the here and now.

Kathy Cloninger

Chief Executive Officer

Girl Scouts of the USA

New York, N.Y.

Being open to ideas isn’t a cliche with Cloninger’s Girl Scouts, who not only asked members, but also boys and men, about how the organization could be better. Cloninger is leading both an organizational rebranding and in an era of online social networking, a tech revolution for girls, while not forgetting that leadership is also face-to-face.

Robert Egger


D.C. Central Kitchen

Washington, D.C.

He’s looking for ways to re-engage the vital and often forgotten middle managers who are stuck between an organization’s need for process/outcome measurements and the energy, idealism and impatience of the newest team members. And, he’s involved in just about every civic engagement movement.

Israel L. Gaither

National Commander

Salvation Army

Alexandria, Va.

Gaither defines leadership as “serving others with integrity.” He believes that 21st century leadership is not telling people what to do, but working in partnership with them. The SA under his leadership has done more outreach to secular organizations to get the job done.

Brian Gallagher

President & CEO

United Way of America

Alexandria, Va.

It is not possible to transform an organization more than Gallagher has done at the United Way of America. It is once again a force for change on a national and local level. The fundraising behemoth has an agenda for change that is flexible by community and the national office has proved to be nimble at getting it done.

Bill Gates


Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Seattle, Wash.

The kid who has the ball generally gets to pitch and set the pace of the game. Gates is the philanthropic community’s leading funder whose organization makes grants to what is immediately needed but has always thought about the future and building the charitable infrastructure. And, he’s not afraid to play Big Foot.

Peter Goldberg

President & CEO

Families International

Milwaukee, Wisc.

A collaborative dealmaker, Goldberg oversees six different entities, four of which are under a unique corporate structure that allows for one parent company, allowing financial independence of each organization while creating an environment that encourages collaboration. The groups involve more than 360 child- and family-serving organizations.

Charles Gould


Volunteers of America

Alexandria, Va.

Gould is a partner that other nonprofit CEOs trust. It’s a prime reason affordable housing is getting built in the Gulf region. VoA’s “Coming Back Home” is creating more than 1,000 units of affordable rental housing and has partnered with other nonprofits through Katrina Aid Today to touch the lives of nearly 200,000 people.

John H. Graham IV

President & CEO

ASAE & The Center For Association Leadership

Washington, D.C.

Graham could spend all of his time advocating on Capitol Hill for his members. Sure he opens doors, but his mantra is good governance via accountability and transparency. His leadership has led many organizations to scrutinize their governance practices in an effort to protect the public’s trust in the sector.

Robert Greenstein

Founder & Executive Director

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Washington, D.C.

Respected on both sides of the political aisle, he is widely viewed as an unbiased, authoritative expert on a range of fiscal policy and poverty issues, and his work has helped improve the economic outlook of millions of America’s poorer citizens. With the massive federal debt, his analysis is more vital than ever.

Steve Gunderson

President & CEO

Council on Foundations

Arlington, Va.

Gunderson is standing up for the diversity of organizations as regulators and some in the sector attempt to devise mandates that just don’t work for all groups. He has called a single set of measures to strengthen philanthropy and the nonprofit sector unrealistic.

Stephen B. Heintz


Rockefeller Brothers Fund

New York, N.Y.

Heintz has toiled in the social and economic reform field his entire life and is one of the few who really understands that, in his words, increasing global interdependence explains why U.S. philanthropy is a “primary source of risk capital for social change.” He understands that philanthropy, i.e., funders, also has an obligation to take risks.

Belinda Johns

Senior Assistant Attorney General

State of California

San Francisco, Calif.

Johns doesn’t see charity fraud behind every rock. She believes that both donors and state charity regulators have roles in controlling abuses in the solicitation of charitable contributions and in the operation of the charities themselves. She should be a role model for AGs who are more aggressive and get less done.

Irv Katz


National Human Services Assembly

Washington, D.C.

Katz was talking and writing about whether the government would be able to support investments in individuals, families and community development at sufficient levels in the near future and beyond before the economic crash. Because of his vision, he leads a group that was as ready as one could be given the circumstances.

Alan Khazei

Founder & CEO

Be the Change, Inc.

Cambridge, Mass.

Few believed he and his merry band would be able to pull of the ServiceNation summit, let alone have the impact that it did. He’s a primary reason (along with a massive federal budget deficit) that national service is front and center in the Obama administration.

Marguerite Kondracke

President & CEO

America’s Promise Alliance

Washington, D.C.

Kondracke uses bold language to make a point. She explains that one year of high school dropouts equates to $319 billion in lost wages over their lifetimes. She has put an ROI on educating and helping kids without forgetting they are flesh and blood. She has moved the group from a political rest stop to one getting into communities across the country.

Wendy Kopp

Teach For America

Chief Executive Officer & Founder

New York, N.Y.

A 2005 study showed that 75 percent of school principals consider Teach for America educators more effective than their peers. Koop’s work is also a model of how to take an incredible idea to national scale. She’s just might be the education and service sector’s answer to Jack Welch.

Gara LaMarche

President & CEO

The Atlantic Philanthropies

New York, N.Y.

LaMarche is proving that the pen is mightier than the sword. He uses that pen to sign checks that fund some of the nation’s most important progressive ideas while also writing columns that sometimes characterize others in the movement as “profiles-in-no-courage.”

Sr. Georgette Lehmuth

President & CEO

National Catholic Development Conference

Hempstead, N.Y.

When a large vendor went bankrupt earlier this year, Lehmuth knew many of her members were going to be in trouble. She spearheaded conversations that gave her members alternatives and saved many a program. She’s also pushing educational collaboration between her organizations and others.

Paulette V. Maehara

President & CEO

Association of Fundraising Professionals

Arlington, Va.

She has said that simply raising money is not enough and that ethical treatment of donors and funds is critical to an effective fundraising process. The funny thing is that she actually means it. Maehara has long led the call for stewardship that is beyond reproach.

William C. McGinly

President & CEO

Association for Healthcare Philanthropy

Falls Church, Va.

McGinly barked for more than a decade that patients might be unable to meet deductibles and co-payments and that philanthropy will be vital to American healthcare. As more people file bankruptcy because of medical bills, there are undoubtedly thousands more who were rescued because of his vision in pushing systemic healthcare philanthropy.

Clara Miller

President & CEO

Nonprofit Finance Fund

New York City, N.Y.

Miller’s views go in the opposite direction of conventional wisdom and she’s generally correct. While many see mergers and consolidations as the answer to the current financial crisis, Miller says that’s too simplistic. Economies of scale are subject to the laws of diminishing returns, she believes.

William L. (Larry) Minnix, Jr.

President & CEO

American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging

Washington, D.C.

Minnix clearly knows the science and the art of understanding and responding to basic human needs and he’s been an effective communicator when it comes to leading the troops on long-term care and aging. He has a voting block and let’s legislators know it. That’s not a threat, of course, but . . .

Michelle Nunn

Chief Executive Officer

Points of Light Institute

Atlanta, Ga.

What good is curative medicine if the drug doesn’t have a delivery system? As the nation gets serious about citizen service once again, Nunn operates the mechanism that in 2008 delivered through its HandOn business unit 30 million hours of volunteer service valued at $615 million covering some 83 percent of the United States.

Wayne Pacelle

President & CEO

Humane Society of the United States

Washington, D.C.

He was leading HSUS into Web 2.0 and blogging long before other organizations had any idea of the Internet’s power. Never at a loss for words, Pacelle connects with donors with an informal urgency other CEOs should consider. It’s all about transparent operations and ideas.

Lisa Paulsen

President & CEO

Entertainment Industry Foundation

Los Angeles, Calif.

Paulsen brings star power to fundraising. She has forged relationships with stars, television networks and entertainment’s elite to funnel potentially hundreds of millions of dollars to causes such as cancer research and national service. She knows how to get the spotlights turned on and into donors’ pockets. (And, she knows Jennifer Aniston.)

Karen Pittman

Chief Executive Officer

The Forum for Youth Investment

Washington, D.C.

Pittman has been at the center of many of the more important initiatives when it comes to youth development as part of the nonprofit sector and the federal government. The organization’s Ready by 21 programs has provoked both admiration and ire and that’s how conversations that change the world get started.

A. Barry Rand

Chief Executive Officer


Washington, D.C.

Forget his legion of Baby Boomers. Rand is lending AARP’s numbers and checkbook to just about every aspect of the nonprofit sector, particularly public service. As his membership became more active, so did AARP and that has provided muscle that Congress and state legislators can’t ignore.

Holly Ross

Executive Director


Portland, Ore.

Technology is the key to expanding operations and engaging donors. Ross is ringmaster of perhaps the most undisciplined circus of geeks with great ideas on building constituencies. There is absolutely no doubt the big tent at which she checks tickets will bring the next generation of nonprofit technology.

David Saltzman

Executive Director

Robin Hood Foundation

New York, N.Y.

It appears he has the best job in the sector, a well-heeled board and the ability to impact New York City at a micro level. But what’s really going on is a laboratory for measuring outcomes and which organizations merit funding in the first place.

Jill Schumann

President & CEO

Lutheran Services in America

Baltimore, Md.

Forget that she’s a great manager who runs an organization with tentacles in every community in this nation. Sometimes a leader makes the list simply for inspirational purposes. Schumann was the original social networker, sans computer, when she wrote about “Making The Circle Wider, Building A Culture Of Belonging.” She lives it every day.

John R. Seffrin

Chief Executive Officer

American Cancer Society

Atlanta, Ga.

Seffrin is a leading thinker on management, organizational design and the integration of marketing the message. The ACS’s marketing campaigns and how one initiative ties into another is a model to behold. They might as well rip down all the walls at headquarters. There’s no need for them at ACS.

Lorie A. Slutsky


New York Community Trust

New York, N.Y.

In her own words: “We do need to make a compelling case that strong, effective, and cutting edge nonprofits are essential to the tasks we are asked to take on.” She puts the trust’s money into play to do just that and is working to find and fund the next generation of sector leadership.

Rev. Larry Snyder

President & CEO

Catholic Charities USA

Alexandra, Va.

He believes poverty in the U.S. can be cut in half by 2020. Wagering against him just might be a sucker’s bet. He has the worldwide resources as part of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, a council that manages the church’s charitable activities around the world, and has infiltrated the U.S. federal government’s working groups on the sector.

Sterling Speirn

President & CEO

W.K. Kellogg Foundation

Battle Creek, Mich.

Speirn knows that the philanthropic sector needs to invest not only in people and their ideas but also the aspirations of the communities those leaders serve. He has called the nonprofit sector society’s R&D and funds those investments. While looking for models to replicate, Speirn has turned Kellogg into one.

Blair H. Taylor

President & CEO

Los Angeles Urban League

Los Angeles, Calif.

Establishing models to replicate is all Taylor does. He and his organization raised $13 million and involved businesses in a 70-block area, sort of a safe zone, around embattled Crenshaw High. You can’t learn if you’re not safe. And, with the state’s budget in shambles, he led a business delegation to China to try to jumpstart L.A.’s economy.

H. Art Taylor

President & CEO

BBB Wise Giving Alliance

Arlington, Va.

Donors want to know if a charity is legitimate. All of a sudden there are many self-appointed watchdogs, some of whom have their own transparency issues. Taylor calmly locks horns with the fundraising establishment on reasonableness of costs and the need for independent boards. The BBB’s seal of approval is sought after by charities.

Thomas J. Tierney

Chairman & Co-founder


Boston, Mass.

Tierney has been absolutely brutal in his assessment of the management at nonprofits and the future leadership deficit. It’s taken more than a decade but many in the sector have woken up and discovered: “Hey, there’s a shortfall.” He’s one of the few laying out ideas for discussion and action.

Doug Ulman

President & CEO

Lance Armstrong Foundation

Austin, Texas

Sure, he Tweets (and has 300,000+ followers), but who doesn’t these days? Barely into his 30s, he started the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. Now he leads a foundation with one of the most visible brands in the world, which prioritizes advocacy to ensure nonprofits are involved in policy discussions, and is engaging the next generation of donors and advocates.

Jane Wales

President & Co-Founder

Global Philanthropy Forum

San Francisco, Calif.

Roughly 750 of the world’s richest and most affluent philanthropists believe she has something to say and listen to her. Wales believes nonprofits are vital to a healthy democracy, providing the space for compromise because we have a lot of work to do as a society to regain the respect for the process of coming to solutions together.

SOURCE The NonProfit Times

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