Organization: Nathan Cummings Foundation

Location: New York, NY

Express Interest

About Nathan Cummings Foundation:

Rooted in the Jewish tradition of social justice, the Nathan Cummings Foundation (‘NCF’ or the ‘Foundation’) is a multigenerational family foundation that is committed to creating a more just, vibrant, sustainable and democratic society. Located in New York City, NCF has assets of approximately $466 million and an annual budget of about $24 million. NCF has given away more than $425 million in the past 25 years and has earned a strong track record as a leader and innovator in the philanthropic community.

NCF focuses on finding solutions to the two most challenging problems of our time – the climate crisis and growing inequality – and aims to transform the systems and mindsets that hinder progress toward a more sustainable and equitable future for all people, particularly women and people of color. The Foundation invests in four focus areas that together advance its vision of a healthy planet and a healthy democracy: (i) Inclusive Clean Economy, (ii) Racial and Economic Justice, (iii) Voice, Creativity & Culture and (iv) Corporate and Political Accountability.

Known for tackling difficult issues that require moving hearts and minds, NCF takes risks on the unexpected, such as its fellowship that grants visionaries up to $150,000 to pursue a social justice objective over one year. NCF gives them boundless space to turn an inspired and potentially disruptive idea into a world-changing reality. NCF has a long history of aligning investments with values through shareholder activism and is exploring how it expands the tools it uses to direct NCF’s investment dollars for greater impact. While NCF’s work is primarily concentrated in the United States, it supports efforts addressing inequality in Israel and looks globally to make a strategic difference.

The Foundation owes its existence and inspiration to Nathan Cummings, who rose from impoverished beginnings to become the founder and guiding force of the Sara Lee Corporation. He inherited a spirit of sharing and a sense of community from his immigrant parents and transmitted these values to his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who now contribute their time and energy to the Foundation. The active and deeply committed Board is comprised of 3rd and 4th generation members of the Cummings family as well as four Independent Trustees. Board members bring a deep commitment to social justice and diversity. The Board and staff actively work to create a cohesive, family-like organizational culture that helps to retain employees, promote loyalty, and create a diverse workplace that is challenging, inclusive and rewarding. Staff and Board members bring an ethic of openness, support and professional nurturing.

Sharon Alpert joined the Foundation as its fourth president and first female leader in late 2015. With an inclusive leadership style, Alpert is currently building the team for NCF’s next successful chapter. Loren Harris, Vice President of Programs, joined NCF in mid-2016. With a commitment to integrative leadership and collaboration both internally and externally, the Foundation is actively seeking to recruit three new leaders to join its creative, dedicated and diverse staff.

The Focus of the Nathan Cummings Foundation:

During this exciting moment of change for NCF, the Foundation is unveiling an evolution of its longstanding work into four focus areas, which are outlined below.

Inclusive Clean Economy

Accelerate a just transition to a more inclusive clean economy where communities on the frontlines are creating solutions to the climate crisis and where prosperity for all people is not at odds with a healthy environment.

Racial and Economic Justice

Advance racial and economic justice by unlocking markets that have excluded generations from economic opportunity, reforming systems that criminalize too many and lifting up new models of democratic inclusion.

Voice, Creativity & Culture

Amplify voice, creativity and culture to build empathy, nurture compassion, and shift narratives about race, class, gender and ethnicity, who has power and how people value the planet.

Corporate and Political Accountability

Leverage NCF’s influence as an investor and grantmaker to increase corporate and political accountability, spurring greater transparency and more democratic systems and structures.

With a firm commitment to finding solutions, NCF works to address the root causes behind these challenges. NCF is proud of its spirit of innovation and believes it is strongest when it collaborates with allies, grantees and peer funders.

NCF believes it can make significant progress in repairing the world by directing time, energy and resources towards creative problem solving, new models of thinking and lifting up innovators with disruptive ideas rooted in, and representative of, diverse communities.

The Opportunity:

This newly created role will enable the Foundation to work in an integrated fashion across program areas, with leadership and the Board, as well as with programmatic partners to effectively enhance the work of the Foundation, its grantees and to develop strategies to advance its program goals.

NCF is establishing this position and others during an exciting year, as it builds out the four focus areas listed above. Incoming staff will actively work with colleagues to help shape the direction and growth for the Foundation’s next chapter, building on a track record of success. Plans and priorities are being determined with a focus on building internal capacity and advancing the ability of the Foundation to be a learning organization. Parallel to the search for a Director, Inclusive Clean Economy, there are also searches for a Director, Voice, Creativity & Culture, as well as a Director of Communications. These three roles will work in close partnership with the full staff to advance the Foundation’s goals.

Reporting to the Vice President of Programs and working in partnership with the President, this leader will help guide execution of the integrated framework, develop strategies based on clear theories of change, provide day-to-day management of staff and shepherd the responsible use of financial resources. NCF maintains deep respect of grantees as field experts, allowing the Director, Inclusive Clean Economy to develop relationships with grantees through regular communication and site visits. Also, in collaboration with peer directors, the Director, Inclusive Clean Economy will work to integrate strategies across NCF’s four focus areas.

The four programmatic areas intentionally overlap and Directors will be charged with developing cross-cutting change strategies. The programmatic framework will continue NCF’s past successes of high-touch, innovative grantmaking of varied types and sizes and structure the work of the directors as a cohort. Program Directors will develop budgets that build on an integrated approach to the four intersecting focus areas.

Staff and Board work especially closely and interact often, given the commitment to inclusivity tied to NCF’s values as a family foundation. Directors have a strong relationship with Board members, in particular, working with Chairs of Program Committees. Board members also join conferences and site visits in the field to maintain their firsthand engagement with the work. Collaboration with the Board is core to NCF’s work and staff brings a dedicated approach to partnership with the Board.

As an organization deeply committed to diversity of experience, NCF values the wide range of personal and professional backgrounds that are represented in its staff. NCF welcomes candidates coming from a variety of professional backgrounds, including community-based organizations, policy organizations, government, higher education, national nonprofits or the private sector.

Candidate Profile:

NCF supports accelerating a just transition to an inclusive clean economy, which reduces carbon emissions and mitigates the adverse effects of the climate crisis on future generations while addressing the needs of people most impacted by the effects of climate change today. NCF seeks to support creative leadership in communities on the frontlines and investments and cross-sector collaborations to spur more equitable resource distribution, sustainable development and job creation.

The Director, Inclusive Clean Economy will develop grantmaking and social change strategies, collaborate with colleagues and partners to lead execution of NCF’s activities in this area.

Specifically, NCF will focus on innovative ideas and initiatives that:

  • Make communities – particularly those most often left behind – safer and more resilient against the growing threat of climate change;
  • Improve access to clean energy alternatives and spur the development of more distributed and localized clean energy opportunities, domestically and in parts of the world that currently lack it;
  • Develop a range of policy solutions that will reduce emissions and promote equitable and sustainable economic growth in the U.S.;
  • Use grants and impact investing to develop local economies and sustainable climate solutions that can spread nationally or globally;
  • Support and amplify religious, cultural and community leaders working to change the narrative and revitalize community spirit in the face of a changing climate;
  • Hold corporate leaders and policymakers responsible for their roles in advancing innovative solutions to climate change; and
  • Support the Foundation’s current and growing interest in impact investing.

The ideal candidate for the Director, Inclusive Clean Economy will have the following professional and personal qualities and characteristics:

Issue Area Expertise

The Director, Inclusive Clean Economy will have credible experience as a leader and expert in the areas of climate change mitigation, energy access, community resiliency and sustainable development. Bringing a deep network in this space and firm understanding of the issue and its trends, s/he will be excited to build strategic partnerships that capitalize on innovative thinking. S/he will be comfortable serving as an external and internal thought-leader. Significant work experience (8-10 years) in the issue space and strong skills in program strategy development, evaluation, finance and budget management and networking will be core requirements. S/he will be enthusiastic to maintain accurate and current knowledge about trends, movements and developing policy to inform emerging opportunities. Experience with impact investing is a plus.

Strategic and Emotionally Astute Leadership

With a demonstrated commitment to being a team player, s/he will bring enthusiasm to the Foundation’s evolution and will embody humility, wisdom and strength of character. S/he will have strong experience in turning complex strategy into action. Strong candidates will be able and willing to collaborate closely with peer directors and other stakeholders to ensure integration and alignment of program efforts, strategic grantmaking that advances the Foundation’s priorities and sharing lessons learned. S/he must have the ability to develop and implement innovative approaches, taking well-calculated risks in support of the Foundation’s mission. S/he must be organized and able to exercise good judgment. Competitive candidates will possess the ability to be facilitators of strategy and systems change dialogues and work. S/he will also bring a thoughtful approach to managing staff and working with grantees and Board members. S/he must be capable of effectively addressing sensitive issues such as power dynamics, gender and racial inequities.

Collaboration, Partnership Building and Leading Through Influence

To best adhere to the culture and norms of NCF, the Director, Inclusive Clean Economy will be committed to a mission-first approach. Strong candidates will be excited to work as part of a multidisciplinary team and with persons from diverse cultural, social and ethnic backgrounds. S/he will have an ability to listen intently, think clearly and respond effectively to a variety of inquiries and challenges, synthesize input, make decisions and share information broadly in order to build consensus and support for action with a clearly articulated vision. S/he will have a track record of sophisticated, value-added collaboration and will inspire trust and confidence through meaningful teamwork with the Foundation’s President, Board members, staff, grantees, partners and a range of other stakeholders. The ability to be flexible, energetic, positive, creative, fun and ambitious will be critical in establishing strong working relationships in furtherance of the Foundation’s mission.

Passion for the Mission

The Director, Inclusive Clean Economy will be a fierce believer in social justice and will be energized by the mission and values of NCF. S/he will approach the work with strong values of open-mindedness and service. As a bold thinker, s/he will lean toward disruptive ideas that challenge the status quo and creative problem solving. S/he will take advantage of NCF as a Foundation dedicated to learning and will actively seek opportunities to increase knowledge from partners and colleagues. S/he will understand, communicate and represent the Foundation’s mission, vision, core values and strategic framework to internal and external groups, including key stakeholders and intermediaries, while also highlighting the accomplishments of grantees.

Travel: This role requires business-related travel; time spent traveling varies with work assignments.


Alison P. Ranney, Melissa Madzel and Eboni S. Gates of Koya Leadership Partners have been exclusively retained for this search. To express your interest in this role please email the Koya Team directly at All inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.

About Koya Leadership Partners:

Koya Leadership Partners is a national retained executive search and human capital consulting firm that works exclusively with nonprofits and social enterprises. We deliver measurable results, finding exceptionally talented people who truly fit the unique culture of our client organizations and ensuring that organizations have the resources and strategies to support them. For more information about Koya Leadership Partners, visit