The New York Civil Liberties Union has made great strides under Donna Lieberman’s leadership over the past 18 years. From fighting stop-and-frisk to taking the Trump administration to court over its immigration policies, Lieberman and her team have been at the forefront of many of New York’s biggest civil rights issues. A founder of the nonprofit’s Reproductive Rights Project, Lieberman has also overseen advocacy on solitary confinement, racial discrimination and the school-to-prison pipeline.
The 2019 Nonprofit Power 100; 6 - 50
The 2019 Nonprofit Power 100; 6 - 50
A longtime local political powerhouse – as New York City Council speaker and later as a mayoral candidate – Christine Quinn now makes her mark as a leader on homelessness issues. She heads the city’s largest provider of family shelter and supportive housing, accommodating 4,600 New Yorkers every day. Quinn’s name has been floated as a possible mayoral contender in 2021, reports the New York Post. For now, Quinn has reaffirmed her commitment to Win.
Most organizations need not fear James Sheehan, who handles the oversight of nonprofits at the attorney general’s office. But he can be a powerful ally to organizations that are misled or taken advantage of. Sheehan is currently leading a lawsuit against a fundraising website accused of swindling hundreds of thousands of dollars from New York charities. And that’s to say nothing of the high-profile lawsuit he’s worked on against the Trump Foundation, which dissolved in response to the investigations and was fined $2 million.
Janet Sabel took the reins at New York City’s largest social justice-oriented law firm last year. She wasn’t new to the Legal Aid Society, having held several top positions there over the course of 25 years. Before taking on her position, she worked at the New York Attorney General’s Office, and played a key role in cases related to health care funding and the Trump administration’s immigration policies.
As head of the New York state Office of Children and Family Services, Sheila Poole is in charge of ensuring New York’s youth are in good hands. Her agency is responsible for foster care, adoption and juvenile justice programs as well as operating a database for child abuse and neglect. She joined the office in 2007 after serving as commissioner of the Albany County Department for Children, Youth and Families.
Correction: An earlier version of this profile incorrectly stated Sheila Poole's title.
Brenda Rosen has led New York City’s largest supportive housing provider since 2011. Breaking Ground operates nearly 4,000 housing units in the city – not including its residences in Rochester and Connecticut – and contracts with the city’s Department of Homeless Services to provide around-the-clock street outreach in three boroughs. The organization’s main guiding principle is “housing first” – meaning it believes in providing clients initial housing with no strings attached.
David Hansell leads an agency that has come under fire in the past, but he’s been trying to highlight the efforts ACS has been making to improve the state of child welfare in New York. Under his leadership, the foster care system’s population has dropped and children are leaving it faster. It’s work that’s made possible by the numerous nonprofits the agency contracts with, doling out millions of dollars every year.
Fran Barrett is the go-to person for nonprofits looking to get the ear of the governor. Her role involves helping nonprofits – particularly those contracting with the state – navigate the various layers of New York government. Barrett is a veteran of the nonprofit sector, having founded the nonprofit consulting firm Community Resource Exchange in 1979. She has served on the boards of the Nonprofit Coordinating Committee and the Community Service Society, among other organizations.
Kevin Sullivan has plenty of service experience to draw from as he oversees more than 90 human services agencies throughout 10 New York counties. Before taking over as head of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York in 2001, he co-founded two neighborhood development organizations. He is co-chair of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Human Services Transition Committee and is often called upon as an expert on issues ranging from homelessness to creating economic opportunity.
JoAnne Page is among the most knowledgeable criminal justice advocates out there, especially when it comes to re-entry for formerly incarcerated individuals. The Fortune Society has a wide reach, last year helping more than 7,000 people access employment services, mental health treatment, housing and other services. Many of these programs were built up under Page’s leadership over the course of 30 years and implemented by a staff that includes many formerly incarcerated people.
Now in his 33rd year leading the Community Service Society of New York, David Jones is well attuned to the needs of low-income New Yorkers. Last year, the nonprofit co-led the successful campaign for Fair Fares in New York City and supported the state’s recently passed rent laws. Jones, who has considerable experience in both city and state government, also serves on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board and previously headed the city Youth Bureau and served as special adviser to Mayor Ed Koch.
The cast of Broadway’s “Hamilton” are fans of Graham Windham – and have been helping tell the story of New York City’s first private orphanage, founded in the 1800s. Under Jess Dannhauser’s leadership, the foster care organization oversees more than 600 staff that help thousands of children every year. Dannhauser was also a co-founding member of the Fair Futures campaign, which recently secured city funding for a program to serve youth aging out of foster care.
A lot rests on Sharon Greenberger’s shoulders as she heads the historic nonprofit that serves half a million New Yorkers. But Greenberger has been up to the challenge, spearheading a seven-year strategic plan and leading the development of two new YMCA branches in the Bronx. She brings with her a diverse background in the private and public sectors, having worked for New York-Presbyterian Hospital and the New York City Department of Education.
The more than 1,000 New York City nonprofits that rely on local government funds should keep an eye on New York City Councilman Ben Kallos. He’s rallied alongside community-based organizations, calling for better-funded city contracts, and has started to use his relatively new position heading the City Council Contracts Committee to address those concerns. The Upper East Side councilman recently announced his run for Manhattan borough president in 2021.
Anne Williams-Isom has held various leadership roles at Harlem Children's Zone over the last few decades, overseeing all the programs in the organization’s “cradle-through-college” pipeline. The former deputy commissioner at New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services is regarded as an expert in child welfare and community development, and has been featured in media outlets like the New York Times, Barron’s, Crain’s New York, The Chronicle of Philanthropy and Essence.
In seven years, Nathaniel Fields has nearly tripled the Urban Resource Institute’s budget. His efforts – culminating in a 2017 merger with the Center Against Domestic Violence – have made the organization the largest provider of domestic violence shelter services nationwide. But the organization mostly keeps its work local. The nonprofit runs New York City’s first and only program that allows domestic violence survivors to bring their pets to shelters.
Homelessness is at the top of Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi’s agenda. His biggest goal: the $450 million Home Stability Support program, a state-funded rental subsidy for New Yorkers facing eviction or homelessness. Though the bill – which he worked on alongside nonprofit organizations – has yet to pass, Hevesi managed to secure funding for a similar pilot program last year. And in the meantime, he hasn’t shied away from criticizing the governor’s approach to homelessness.
Human services organizations have long faced financial hardships from delayed payments on New York City contracts. Daniel Symon is leading the city’s efforts to improve the procurement process within the Mayor's Office of Contract Services, which plays a key role in coordinating the Nonprofit Resiliency Committee. The committee serves as a bridge between government officials and nonprofits. Symon’s office has made progress so far, helping human services nonprofits streamline their contract registrations.
New York City’s universal pre-K program relies on community-based organizations and their underpaid educators. So Jennifer March has been fighting to boost pay for early education teachers employed by nonprofits – to early success. Overseeing Citizens’ Committee for Children’s advocacy and research efforts since 2007, she has also helped create the city’s earned income tax credit, the first local child care tax credit, and the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy.
New York City’s latest efforts to improve contracting for nonprofits – which have been seeing early success – can be attributed in part to pressure from the Human Services Council of New York. Allison Sesso oversees the interests of the council’s 170 members, which deliver 90% of human services in the city. Aside from its advocacy, the council also keeps an eye on how well city and state agencies work with nonprofits.
Dianne Morales made a bold statement this year when she launched her longshot bid to become mayor of New York City. But Morales is a powerful leader in her own right. As head of Phipps Neighborhoods since 2010, she has overseen the youth and educational programs the nonprofit operates throughout the Bronx. She also serves on the board of the Human Services Council and is a member of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Nonprofit Resiliency Committee.
VOCAL-NY organizers are known for making their voices heard as fierce advocates for New Yorkers facing drug addiction or homelessness. Jeremy Saunders is credited with overseeing the nonprofit’s organizing and campaign work. Meanwhile, Alyssa Aguilera manages its advocacy, development and communications efforts. The group’s lobbying efforts and direct services – distributing more than 50,000 clean syringes annually and providing overdose prevention training – are also under her purview.
Many of the issues Nonprofit New York has advocated for aren’t widely reported, but they have a big impact on those in the sector. Sharon Stapel successfully led efforts to reduce the tax burden on nonprofits offering commuter benefits. More than 1,600 members throughout the New York metro area turn to Stapel and her team for guidance on the latest policies and happenings for area nonprofits. She’ll be stepping down from her post at the end of the year.
George McDonald and Harriet Karr-McDonald met at the funeral of a homeless teenager. George had already been involved in advocating for the homeless while Harriet was an actress working on a screenplay about the teen’s life. Inspired to action, the couple has built up a major nonprofit that – despite recent complaints about the work environment – has employed thousands of formerly incarcerated and homeless New Yorkers and operates affordable and transitional housing throughout New York City.
Oxiris Barbot remembers being denied health care as a child, an experience that made her appointment to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene all the more meaningful. As head of one of the world’s largest public health agencies, Barbot has overseen the implementation of the department’s data-oriented initiative focused on addressing the social determinants of health, as well as programs and partnerships that aim to promote health equity throughout the city.
New York state relies on nonprofits and their nearly 100,000 direct support professionals to help people with developmental disabilities. And many of those nonprofits and workers mobilized this year to call for better government funding – with success. Michael Seereiter is a prominent figure in #bFair2DirectCare coalition, which includes the Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York State, the Developmental Disabilities Alliance of Western New York and the Interagency Council of Developmental Disabilities Agencies, among others.
Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez has been overseeing efforts to support New York City’s growing elderly population through partnerships with hundreds of nonprofits throughout the city. The department’s reach will likely extend soon thanks to a 13% boost in its budget. Cortés-Vázquez is well-versed in the challenges seniors face, having previously served as the executive vice president of AARP. She’s also served as president and CEO of the Hispanic Federation and as New York’s secretary of state.
Alan van Capelle oversees the Educational Alliance’s programs helping people in downtown Manhattan, including programs incorporating education, health, arts and civic engagement. Before joining the nonprofit, he served as executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, where he led a major campaign for marriage equality in New York and tripled the organization’s budget. He has been involved in transition teams for former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, then-state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and current state Attorney General Letitia James.
With addiction affecting an estimated 2.5 million New Yorkers, Arlene González-Sánchez is trying to transform the state’s health care system by making services more cohesive and accessible. She oversees 1,600 programs providing prevention, treatment and recovery services, often provided through local community-based organizations across the state. González-Sánchez is a member of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Medicaid Redesign Team and the New York State Behavioral Health Services Advisory Council, among other commissions.
His name may be Keith Little, but this nonprofit leader has certainly made a big impact on the social services field. Since 2018, he’s headed SCO Family of Services, a Long Island-based organization that manages $250 million in operating expenses. Its 84 programs in education, foster care, health and workforce development serve 60,000 New Yorkers annually. Little brings more than 30 years of experience in local government and nonprofits to his position.
Mitchell Netburn brought with him more than 30 years of public and nonprofit sector experience when he took the reins at Samaritan Daytop Village last year. The nonprofit, which reaches more than 30,000 clients per year, has expanded its substance abuse recovery efforts, partnering with Healthfirst to increase access to services and opening a new addiction recovery center in the Bronx. Netburn previously headed Project Renewal, where he grew the organization’s budget by 92%.
When New York nonprofits are in financial trouble, they often turn to John MacIntosh. His role at the nonprofit merchant bank, where he leads grant-making, credit and advisory services, makes him a well-connected resource for organizations looking for loans or grants. SeaChange Capital Partners has recently spearheaded research critically examining New York City’s late contract payments to nonprofits this year. MacIntosh frequently pens op-eds about the state of the sector.
Make the Road New York has grown into one of the state’s most prominent community organizing ventures fighting for immigrants and working-class New Yorkers. This year, it led successful advocacy efforts for major initiatives helping undocumented immigrants access tuition assistance and driver’s licenses. Javier Valdés is responsible for the nonprofit’s organizing efforts and supervises its youth program. Meanwhile, Deborah Axt manages a 50-person legal department, as well as its education and survival services.
Nonprofits throughout the five boroughs turn to the New York City Employment and Training Coalition for guidance on workforce development – and Jose Ortiz Jr. is well-versed on the issues. Before joining the coalition in 2018 he spearheaded the development of partnerships with government, nonprofits and businesses for Pursuit, a nonprofit preparing people without college degrees for software development jobs. Ortiz is a member of the Fund for Public Housing’s advisory council, among other roles.
Beth Finkel can be found everywhere, from the steps of New York City Hall to the halls of the state Legislature and even Washington, D.C. As an advocate for elderly New Yorkers for more than 20 years, Finkel has overseen several successful campaigns, including last year’s passage of New York’s Paid Family Leave Program. The organization’s next efforts include passing a universal retirement program in New York City and reducing the cost of prescription drugs.
Nicholas Turner is leading the Vera Institute of Justice into a new era, recently overseeing its relocation from its old home near New York City Hall to its new Brooklyn headquarters. The nonprofit has continued to shift to a more national focus but it remains an influential voice on criminal justice in New York, taking a stand in favor of the state’s bail reform efforts. Turner previously served at Vera from 1998 to 2007.
Dave Giffen has been a longtime fixture at the Coalition for the Homeless, one of the leading advocates fighting on behalf of homeless New Yorkers. After joining the organization as a volunteer in 1988, Giffen worked his way up through staff and board positions. After working at the Mercator Corporation, he returned to head the nonprofit, which helps more than 3,500 people access food, housing and job training programs – among other services – every day.
Phoebe Boyer took the reins at the 166-year-old nonprofit in 2014. Her background was primarily in philanthropy, having served for more than a decade as executive director at the Robertson Foundation and the Tiger Foundation. Now she manages a social services organization with operating expenses exceeding $130 million. Under her direction, Children’s Aid is set to expand its space for youth and foster programs as well as its administrative offices.
Ronald Richter had more than two decades’ worth of experience in child welfare before he took the reins at JCCA four years ago. Among other roles, he served as a family court judge and as commissioner of New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services, where he was instrumental in the creation of a program for juvenile offenders. The experience certainly prepared him for his role at JCCA, which reaches 16,000 children and families annually.
Since 2015, George Contos has restructured YAI’s senior leadership team, streamlined its administrative structure and reallocated its resources to better reach its goal of serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. During his tenure YAI received tens of millions of dollars from state and local governments, allowing the nonprofit to expand its services. Contos manages an annual budget of more than $170 million to support educational, medical and recreational programs helping more than 20,000 people.
Heading New York City’s largest public health nonprofit is no small task. But with more than 30 years of health care experience, Lisa David is up to the challenge. Public Health Solutions plays a critical role partnering with government agencies to support more than 200 local community-based organizations offering everything from nutritional counseling to health insurance enrollment help. The nonprofit leader also doesn’t shy away from advocacy, recently calling for a ban on menthol cigarettes.
When it comes to fighting for the needs of nonprofits, Rep. Carolyn Maloney has become a powerful ally in Congress. As vice chair of the Congressional Joint Economic Committee, she oversaw research showing the negative effects the 2017 Tax Act has had on the nonprofit sector – including increases in administrative costs. In response, this year she sponsored a major nonprofit relief bill designed to counter these negative consequences.
Wayne Ho leads the country’s largest Asian-American social services organization, managing 33 sites in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. Overseeing programs in early childhood education, senior services and workforce development, Ho advocates for the needs of immigrants and low-income New Yorkers. He’s played a particularly active role in New York’s efforts to get a fair count in the 2020 Census. Ho previously led policy advocacy and organizing efforts for the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies.
Raun Rasmussen has been with Legal Services NYC for more than three decades. He started as a housing attorney at the organization’s South Brooklyn Legal Services program, where he later led projects to combat predatory lending and support child care providers. After eight years as chief of litigation and advocacy, he became executive director in 2011. Rasmussen now oversees the legal firm, which supports more than 110,000 low-income New Yorkers per year.
Correction: An earlier version of this profile incorrectly described Raun Rasmussen's job responsibilities.
Early childhood education was a top policy priority for Susan Stamler this year. Advocating on behalf of 42 settlement houses, she spearheaded United Neighborhood Houses’ efforts to raise the salaries of pre-K teachers employed by New York City nonprofits. And she’s ensured settlement houses have a say in policies affecting neighborhood affordability, senior citizens and youth development. She took on this role in 2015, after leading a national campaign on juvenile justice reform.