Organization: Nathan Cummings Foundation

Location: New York, NY

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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 program that grants visionaries up to $150,000 to pursue a social justice objective. NCF gives them boundless space to turn an inspired and potentially disruptive idea into a world-changing reality. While NCF’s work is primarily concentrated in the United States, it supports efforts addressing inequality in Israel and is increasingly looking globally to make a strategic difference.

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.

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 currently comprised of fourteen 3rd and 4th generation Trustees and one 2nd generation Trustee Emeritus who are members of the Cummings family as well as three Independent Trustees and the President & CEO and also involves the participation of the 6 Associates drawn from the Cummings family.

The presence and participation of the Associates is one unique feature of the Foundation’s governance structure.  Associates provide an important pipeline for leadership development and allow inclusion for a broader group of family members, enabling them to become actively involved with the Foundation and the work of the Board.  Board meetings generally include a group of 21 made up of all 15 Trustees and the 6 Associates, each bringing 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, the Foundation’s fourth President & CEO and first female leader, assumed leadership in late 2015. Alpert is building internal capacity with key hires and advancing the Foundation’s work in climate crisis and inequality.

The Foundation is seeking to fill its 4th Independent Trustee seat with a passionate and talented executive to join the Board of Directors during this important and exciting time.

The Focus of the Nathan Cummings Foundation:

During this exciting moment of change for NCF, the Foundation recently unveiled 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:

The Independent Trustee will understand the full potential, power and impact of a foundation to use its leadership, grantmaking and endowment to address the Foundation’s focus areas.

NCF is deeply committed to inclusive leadership across the board and staff. As a family foundation, the Board, leadership team and staff interact often and collaborate to advance the Foundation’s goals. Board members have strong relationships with the staff members and join conferences and site visits in the field to maintain firsthand engagement with the work. Collaboration with the Board is core to NCF’s work. The NCF leadership team and staff bring a dedicated approach to partnership with the Board.

With a commitment to philanthropy as a vehicle for advancing social good and a passion for the mission of the Foundation, the Independent Trustee will complement and broaden the skill, experience and expertise currently reflected on the Board. S/he will prioritize service to NCF as one of his/her top priorities, fully participate in the work of the Board and serve as a representative of the Foundation.

Specific Information on Independent Trusteeship

  • Being an active, engaged Trustee of NCF requires a time commitment of at least 12-15 days annually.
  • Independent Trustees attend and participate in all NCF Board meetings, Education Days and Board Retreats.
  • The NCF Board meets three times annually (one meeting alternates yearly as a retreat). Meetings involve     2-day blocs of time and advance preparation.
  • Trustees serve on Board Committees, Foundation Committees and one or more Programmatic Committees as appointed. Independent Trustees chair the Governance and Nominating Committees and may chair other committees during their term. Committees meet regularly by conference call and occasionally in person.
  • Trustees make site visits and/or participate in conferences, forums, conference calls and other activities that deepen their knowledge of the Foundation’s grantmaking priorities and opportunities and where they may engage as informed representatives of the Foundation.
  • These learning experiences are in addition to Foundation-organized activities such as annual retreats, annual education days or site visits made in the company of a program director or other member of the Foundation staff.
  • The majority of travel related travel is domestic, however board meetings or trips can take place in Israel or other international locations.
  • NCF Trustees may participate in the Board Recommended Grants Program through which they can allocate up to $50,000 in grants that fall within the Foundation’s guidelines.
  • Foundation-related expenses are reimbursed to Trustees. There is no direct compensation for serving on the NCF Board.

Candidate Profile:

As an organization deeply committed to diversity of experience and ideas, NCF values the wide range of personal and professional backgrounds and perspectives that are represented on its Board.

NCF welcomes Independent Trustee candidates who have a knowledge of, and passion for, social and economic justice and addressing climate change. Experience with the non-profit sector of foundations, and the dynamics of family foundations or family businesses, would be welcomed.

The ideal candidate for the Independent Trustee will have the following professional and personal qualities and characteristics:

Passion for the Mission of the Nathan Cummings Foundation

The Independent Trustee 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. A bold thinker, s/he will embrace ideas that challenge the status quo and creative problem solving, pursuing the Board and staff in a constructive, collaborative fashion. S/he will find inspiration in NCF’s dedication to learning and will actively seek opportunities to increase his or her knowledge. Fully committed to serving NCF, s/he will be an active Trustee and engage fully in Board meetings, Board Retreats, Education Days and other site visits and conferences.


As an active contributor to the Board and NCF staff, the Independent Trustee will bring a diversity of expertise, experience and ideas to conversations. S/he will demonstrate a deep appreciation of, and respect for, the privilege of serving as a steward of resources for the greater good. The Independent Trustee may bring experience as a leader and expert in one or more areas of the Foundation’s focus. Areas of expertise that would be attractive include financial acumen and impact investing, community and economic development, philanthropy and criminal justice.

Emotionally Astute Leadership

The Independent Trustee will embody humility, wisdom and good judgment. An effective listener, s/he will bring high intellect, a good sense of humor and a wide ranging curiosity to his or her work as a Trustee. S/he will embrace NCF’s family-like organizational culture and philosophy as a learning organization. S/he will demonstrate sensitivity to the dynamics of a multigenerational family philanthropy and have the ability to partner effectively with other Trustees and staff. S/he will enjoy the prospect of mentoring family members as they become increasingly engaged in the Foundation’s activities.

Leading Through Influence

Collaborative in nature, the Independent Trustee will exhibit a thoughtful approach to working with fellow Trustees and NCF staff. S/he will develop strong relationships and partner with Board members and staff and enjoy serving and working with persons from diverse cultural, social and ethnic backgrounds in furtherance of the Foundation’s mission. S/he will respectfully push the boundaries of NCF’s work and challenge the perspective of others to encourage mindful risk taking, innovation and proactivity in NCF’s grantmaking and shareholder activism. The Independent Trustee will have a comfort level with the Jewish heritage of NCF and an appreciation for the importance of these issues to the Foundation and the family.


Alison P. Ranney, Katie Bouton and Anny K. Chou of Koya Leadership Partners have been exclusively retained for this search. To express your interest in this role please email them 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