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26 Inspiring Nonprofit Leaders Who Will Impact the World in 2023

26 Inspiring Nonprofit Leaders Who Will Impact the World in 2023

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Inspiring Nonprofit Leaders Who Will Impact the World in 2023

Nonprofit leaders within the nonprofit sector play a huge role in the economy, providing essential services that boost economic activity and generate economic growth.

In the fourth quarter of 2021, nonprofits contributed $1.4 trillion to the U.S. economy!

In 2022, the nonprofit sector is continuing to adapt to the ever-changing global environment. According to the latest statistics released by Blackbaud, total charitable giving in the United States increased 5.6% in the past 12 months ending in September 2022 compared to the previous 12 months ending September 2021.

Leadership in the nonprofit sector is key when scaling essential services and budgeting correctly to ensure the best ROI(Return on Investment Impact) as possible.

Nonprofit leaders must possess a wide range of skills that allow them to effectively manage their organizations.

In the fourth quarter of 2021, nonprofits contributed $1.4 trillion to the U.S. economy!

The ability to be flexible and adaptable, strong communication skills, and the capacity to see a task through to completion are essential qualities in any leader.

Creativity and innovation are also necessary for nonprofit leaders as they must come up with creative solutions to complex issues.

Most of the year, the Causeartist focus is showcasing startups and for-profit businesses solving social issues, but each year I use this time to highlight and showcase nonprofit leaders dedicating their lives – everyday to their missions and respective causes.

Private business and nonprofits will always have a huge responsibility to work together on partnerships, ideas, and strategies to solve the issues of our world.

These nonprofit leaders profiled below exhibit the essential attributes of an impactful nonprofit leader, and their organizations will undoubtedly impact the world in 2023.

If you are interested in seeing the nonprofit leaders from the previous years, check them out here 2019 // 2020 // 2021 // 2022.

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Tjada D’Oyen McKenna // MercyCorps

Tjada D’Oyen McKenna // MercyCorps - Inspiring Nonprofit Leaders Who Will Impact the World in 2023

Tjada D’Oyen McKenna, Chief Executive Officer of Mercy Corps, leads a talented team of over 5400 humanitarians across 40+ countries. At CARE and Habitat for Humanity she served as COO with an emphasis on programming & global operations that now benefits 37 million people in need all around the world.

For over a decade, Tjada fought tirelessly to tackle the global problem of hunger. Working with high profile organizations including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and in roles within U.S government agencies during President Obama’s time in office, she committed her career towards ending world hunger by spearheading initiatives such as Feed The Future and assisting USAID’s Bureau for Food Security at their Washington D.C headquarters.

George McGraw // DigDeep

George McGraw // DigDeep - Inspiring Nonprofit Leaders Who Will Impact the World in 2023

George McGraw is a leading expert on water and sanitation in the United States and around the world, and is often featured in global media including Forbes, CNN, NBC, and more.

He currently serves as the Founder & CEO of DigDeep, the only WaSH (water, sanitation and hygiene) organization solely focused on the USA.

In 2019, he co-authored the ‘Closing the Water Access Gap in the United States’ Report, an explosive study that revealed over 2.2 million Americans currently live without a tap or toilet at home, with race being the #1 predictor of water insecurity.

In 2022, he was the lead author on Draining: The Economic Impact of America’s Hidden Water Crisis which illustrated that the water access gap causes a loss of $8.58 billion per year in the US economy.

The report also found that there is hope: for every dollar invested in closing the water gap, the US economy would see a nearly 5:1 return.

Sergio Panday // Roots Inspire

Despite humble beginnings, Sergio defied the odds and attained a career in global banking. From his experience navigating between different cultures, he is passionate about helping to unlock potential from all diverse backgrounds – it’s beneficial for everyone!

Throughout his career, I have consistently sought to develop and implement groundbreaking solutions.

From establishing the first institutional Dutch SME Fund to introducing cutting-edge banking products for different client segments – now he has plans to disrupt the corporate world by taking an actionable yet holistic approach towards encouraging sustainable investing in senior positions of power.

At Roots Inspire, Sergio and the team strive to make a difference in the corporate world through the mission of helping companies foster and invest successfully in their ethnically diverse talent.

To do so, they provide practical solutions that guide talented individuals towards leadership positions by inspiring them with success stories from role models who share similar backgrounds; providing knowledgeable resources on unspoken rules within organizations; and aiding soft skill growth for long-term career progression.

Asha Curran // Giving Tuesday

Asha Curran // Giving Tuesday

Asha Curran is CEO of GivingTuesday. She serves as Chair of the Board of Guardian.org and is a Fellow at Stanford University’s Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society and a Marla and Barry Beck Visiting Social Innovator at the Social Innovation and Change Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School.

She was a Tällberg-SNF-Eliasson Global Leadership Finalist in 2021 and was named to the Nonprofit Times’ Top Fifty Power and Influence list in 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022.

Elisha Chan // Impactful Missions

Elisha Chan // Impactful Missions - Inspiring Nonprofit Leaders Who Will Impact the World in 2023

Elisha Chan is the founder of Impactful Missions, a nonprofit dedicated to ending poverty through job creation, education, and empowerment.

She is also the Executive Director of Fair Trade LA, a nonprofit that officially made Los Angeles the largest Fair Trade City in North America and the fourth largest in the world.

She found her passion while traveling on many Haiti trips as a student at UCLA and started her social enterprise, Impactful Market, six months after she graduated.

She currently works with many artisans and producers throughout Haiti, while giving back to a small village called Fond Doux, Haiti.

She has established a Scholarship Program that has given over 345 scholarships, sending underprivileged youth to school, from preschool to university.

Now, she is building a Leadership Academy and Trade School in Haiti from the grounds up. A passionate advocator of establishing long-term solutions to break the cycle of poverty.

Kristina McKean // The Elephant Project

Kristina McKean // The Elephant Project - Inspiring Nonprofit Leaders Who Will Impact the World in 2023

Kristina McKean has had an unbreakable connection with animals since she was a child. During her travels in Thailand, the sight of young elephants cruelly abused for monetary gain left Kristina brokenhearted and determined to take action against animal exploitation.

After years of petitions, demonstrations, and digital awareness campaigns fighting against elephant mistreatment in circuses here in the U.S., she wanted more than ever before to make a lasting difference – so The Elephant Project was born!

Now able to commit her life’s purpose towards saving these majestic creatures from harm around the globe.

100% of net proceeds from your purchase of Kiki and Tembo stuffed animals go to organizations that help aid in fighting the poaching crisis and also provide care to injured, abandoned, orphaned, and abused elephants.

Maria Kim // REDF

Maria Kim // REDF - Inspiring Nonprofit Leaders Who Will Impact the World in 2023

Maria serves as the President and CEO of REDF, a venture philanthropy that invests in and drives demand for businesses that break down barriers to employment.

Maria and her team partner with social entrepreneurs to provide capital, capacity, and community.

Prior to REDF, Maria served as CEO of Cara Collective, a nationally recognized social enterprise helping people experiencing homelessness and poverty get back to hope, jobs, and opportunity.

Maria serves on the 2022 Entrepreneurship & Economic Mobility Task Force for the state of California, and on the advisory boards of Procure Impact, First Women’s Bank, the Leadership Society Initiative, and the University of Chicago Inclusive Economy Lab.

She is a 2008 Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow, a 2012 American Marshall Memorial Fellow, a 2018 Vital Voices Global Ambassador, a former co-chair within Mayor Lightfoot’s 2019 transition team, a 2020 Presidential Leadership Scholar, and a 2022 Distinguished Alumni in Public Service from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, from which she received her MBA.

Charles Owubah // Action Against Hunger

Charles Owubah // Action Against Hunger

Dr. Charles E. Owubah is the CEO of Action Against Hunger and providing leadership and strategic direction to more than 1,600 staff across eight countries. Globally, Action Against Hunger served more than 24 million people across more than 50 countries in 2021.

Dr. Owubah is a passionate champion for sustainability and humanitarian causes, drawing upon his expertise in program design, monitoring & evaluation to help local communities flourish through water security initiatives, emergency relief operations and promoting child survival around the globe.

Dr. Owubah has had a fascinating career spanning continents, beginning with his studies at Purdue University in the United States and then taking him to World Vision for nearly two decades.

After earning his Master of Science and Ph.D., he went on to become an expert consultant in food aid management before ascending through progressively more responsible roles within East Africa – including Regional Vice President from 2009-2014 and Vice President & Partnership Leader until 2018 – all tracing back to humble origins as a native of Ghana.

From 2002 to 2007, Dr. Owubah was a member of the Board of Directors of the Pinchot Institute for Conservation, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank on forest conservation.

From 2016 to 2018, he served on the Board of Directors for the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities in Washington, D.C. Dr. Owubah was honored with Purdue University’s Distinguished Agriculture Alumnus Award in 2013.

Jessica Schreiber // FABSCRAP

Jessica Schreiber // FABSCRAP

Jessica Schreiber has achieved remarkable success in her field at a young age. As Founder of FABSCRAP, an organization that promotes the reuse and recycling of fabric scraps from businesses throughout New York City, she is making meaningful contributions to sustainability efforts.

She holds a Master’s degree in Climate and Society from Columbia University’s Earth Institute, as well as several years’ experience overseeing textile and e-waste contracts for the Department of Sanitation!

Apparel Magazine recently recognized Jessica by honoring her amongst their Top Elite Under 30 list -a testament to her dedication towards environmental conservation solutions.

Nora Sun // Talaria Summer Institute

Nora Sun is a young nonprofit leader dedicated to increasing cognitive diversity in scientific research through initiatives such as Talaria Summer Institute, a prestigious international scientific research program for female high school students which has collaborated with institutions such as MIT, Yale, NASA, NIH, University of Toronto, and University of Edinburgh.

She is also Founder and Executive Director of ENVISION Research Competition and ATHENA By Women In STEM.

She was named a Global Teen Leader by Nile Rodgers’s We Are Family Foundation and a Daily Point of Light by George H.W. Bush’s Points of Light for her work, and she spoke at the 77th United Nations General Assembly’s Science Summit.

Nora is also a first-generation immigrant and a student at Walter Payton College Preparatory High School in Chicago, Illinois.

Talaria Summer Institute is a free scientific research summer mentorship program for underserved and underrepresented high school students. Talaria has over 50 chapters around the world and also supports an online cohort of participants.

All Talaria mentors are professors, postdoctoral researchers, or Ph.D. candidates who are familiar with the area of research the student is interested in.

Mentorship is one-on-one to allow us to provide each student with the attention they need for an immersive, exciting experience.

During the program, participants complete a research project under the guidance of their mentor and write a formal scientific research paper.

At the end of the program, participants will present their research at the Talaria Conference and receive a Talaria Scholar certificate.

Their papers are reviewed and may be published in the annual edition of the appropriate Talaria journal.

With the help of Talaria Summer Institute’s training, mentees pursue further research opportunities and ultimately become new perspectives in the scientific community who provide unique ideas and unique solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.

Verta Maloney // Civics Unplugged & the*gameHERs

Verta Maloney // Civics Unplugged & the*gameHERs

Verta began her 25 year career in education as a teacher in Prince George’s County Public Schools and then as a literacy specialist for the New York City Department of Education.

After getting her master’s degree in politics and education at Columbia’s Teachers College, she became the founding principal of Bronx Arts and then served for several years as a leadership coach for principals and aspiring principals at New Leaders.

Verta is a founding team member at Civics Unplugged because she knows #TheKidsWillLead and is Chief Innovation Officer & Co-Founder at the*gameHERs because all gamers who identify as women and/or are femme identifying across the spectra of gender identity and expression are dope.

Verta also co-founded 45 Lemons to help individuals and organizations share their racial autobiographies and stories in order to act on and undo racism in this lifetime.

Dr. Vicky Bond // Humane League

Dr. Vicky Bond is an experienced veterinarian with a background in animal science, corporate engagement, and welfare campaigns—working as a vet tech from the time she was fourteen.

For the past five years, Vicky led The Humane League as Managing Director during a time of impressive growth and impact. Under Bond’s leadership, cage-free egg commitments were secured by every major food company in the United Kingdom and a bid for cage-free legislation was read by the European Parliament.

More than 100 food companies in the UK and the European Union, including Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), agreed to improve their treatment of chickens raised for meat in line with the Better Chicken Commitment.

Vicky also helped The Humane League emerge as a pioneer in fish welfare, running the first ever Aquatic Animal Welfare Conference.

In early 2022, Vicky became the organizations first female president.

Farahnaz Karim // Insaan Group

Farahnaz Karim // Insaan Group

Farahnaz is a powerful force for good in the world, as demonstrated by her incredible accomplishments. As founder and CEO of Insaan Group, she leverages her expertise in social entrepreneurship, political science and humanism to create positive change through various organizations like the OSCE, United Nations World Bank and non-profits across Bosnia-Herzegovina, Afghanistan, Palestine, India, Kenya, and Tanzania.

Farahnaz has pursued an academic path in political science as a teaching fellow at Harvard University for the late Professor Stanley Hoffmann and, more recently, as a faculty member at Zayed University in Dubai, lecturing on global history and humanities.

Farahnaz holds a Master in Public Administration from Harvard University (USA), a Diplôme d’Etudes Supérieures from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (Switzerland) and a Bachelor of Arts from McGill University (Canada). She is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Exeter (UK).

Erin Mote // InnovateEDU

At InnovateEDU, Erin Mote provides inspired leadership as Executive Director and Co-Founder. Her vision of creating systems change in education leads the organization’s projects on data interoperability, urban educational Fellowships for new educators, and two signature products:

Cortex – a personalized learning platform that revolutionizes instruction – and Landing Zone – an infrastructure as a service product with cutting-edge technology.

With her team by her side she is directly influencing modernizing practices to benefit students around the world!

Alongside her husband Dr. Eric Tucker, Erin is also the driving force behind Brooklyn Laboratory Charter School and has become widely renowned in the tech industry for her efforts to increase technology access both at home and abroad.

She’s been involved with some of the biggest names in government work – from Obama White House initiatives such as US Ignite and Global Development Innovation Policy, all way up to providing intra-agency support during Rio 2.0/Rio+20 meetings!

Shannon Farley & Kevin Barenblat // ffwd

Shannon Farley & Kevin Barenblat // ffwd

Shannan and Kevin are the Co-founders of ffwd, an organization that mobilizes the resources tech nonprofits need to create positive impact at scale.

Shannon is an experienced social entrepreneur. She was the founding Executive Director of Spark, the world’s largest network of Millennial philanthropists.

Prior to joining Spark, Shannon co-founded The W. Haywood Burns Institute, a MacArthur Award-winning juvenile justice reform organization.

Shannon holds a BA in American Studies from Georgetown University and an MS in Gender and Social Policy from the London School of Economics.

Kevin is a seasoned tech entrepreneur who believes nonprofits can leverage technology to accelerate their social impact.

Prior to Fast Forward, Kevin founded Context Optional, a social marketing software company, and served as CEO through the company’s acquisition by Efficient Frontier, and later, Adobe.

Kevin holds a Bachelor’s degree in engineering from Stanford and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Yolanda Fields // Breakthrough

Yolanda Fields // Breakthrough

Yolanda Fields is the Executive Director of Breakthrough and a passionate nonprofit leader. She started her 20-year career with the East Garfield Park-based organization as a volunteer in 2001, after seeking to make a positive impact following the events of September 11, 2001.

Prior to joining Breakthrough, Yolanda spent 10 years leading teams at a major telecommunications company.

During her tenure at Breakthrough, Yolanda has led all of Breakthrough’s adult programs, which includes housing, homeless services, violence prevention, workforce development, behavioral health, and food access programs.

Yolanda has walked alongside those experiencing homelessness and crisis, and her compassionate leadership has created a culture of dignity and respect for all.

Maggie Kane // A Place at the Table

Maggie Kane // A Place at the Table

With compassion and resilience, Maggie turned a dream into reality in 2015 – founding A Place at the Table. Raleigh’s first pay-what-you-can nonprofit cafe opened its doors three years later to provide nutritious meals with dignity for those facing food insecurity.

A Place at the Table is a nonprofit cafe where everyone is invited to join for a wonderful dining experience — regardless of means. They are confident your breakfast, brunch or lunch experience will exceed your tastebud’s expectations and add a go-giving smile to your day.

Their hope is that you will leave this special cafe with a full belly and open heart. And that you will tell others about the cafe and how they can also “vote with their dollars” to be a part of building a strong community.

Mandela Schumacher-Hodge Dixon // All Raise

Mandela Schumacher-Hodge Dixon // All Raise

Mandela is the CEO of All Raise, a nonprofit on a mission to accelerate the success of female and nonbinary investors, founders, and operators in tech.

Born out of a grassroots movement in 2018, All Raise’s programs equip women and non-binary leaders with opportunities to advance their professional growth and work together to create a more equitable future.

Mandela’s career has given her an unparalleled perspective from all vantages within tech. At the age of 25, she dropped out of her PhD program to start her first company and became one of the first Black women to raise venture capital from Silicon Valley investors.

Prior to joining All Raise, Mandela was the Founder and CEO of Founder Gym, the #1 training program teaching underrepresented founders how to raise venture capital.

Mandela leveraged her powerful network to recruit some of the best investors and funded-founders in the world to teach underrepresented entrepreneurs how to raise capital to scale their tech startups.

Betsy Fore, Danielle Forward, Hannah Cirelli // Natives Rising

Betsy Fore, Danielle Forward, Hannah Cirelli // Natives Rising

Betsy, Danielle, and Hannah, are the Co-founders of Natives Rising, a nonprofit career accelerator for indigenous founders and indigenous in tech.

Betsy is the first Native woman in history to raise a Series A, having raised over $20M to date. Currently the Co-Founder & Co-CEO of Tiny Organics, she previously founded WonderWoof, the first dog activity monitor and app.

Betsy has been been named Entrepreneurs’ 100 Women of Impact for 2021 driving real change in business and culture, she has been honored with Forbes 30 under 30 in Manufacturing & Industry.

She has also been chosen by BBC’s 100 Most inspiring women. She serves on Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Shaping Early Palates Board and she is a member of and Entrepreneurial Advisor to the Tufts School of Nutrition and Policy Food Innovation Council.

Danielle worked at Facebook (Meta) for over 5 years as a Product Designer, designing software, services and systems for millions of users globally and developing strategy for teams like Facebook Connectivity, Messenger, Marketplace and Social Impact.

After founding Natives Rising in 2017, Danielle has been invited to speak on diversity by Meta, Netflix, Nike, United Airlines, AIGA, Women of Silicon Valley, and was featured in the ACT Report in collaboration with Snapchat.

She is a consultant to startup CEOs in Silicon Valley and a Board Member for MuralNet, a non-profit that improves internet access for Native American tribes in rural areas, where she redesigned the spectrum application process to help over 40 tribes reclaim their right to spectrum over their lands.

While in graduate school, Hannah worked full time for the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) connecting LGBT-owned businesses to federal and corporate procurement opportunities.

Most recently, Hannah helped lead the American Indigenous Business Leaders (AIBL) as their Associate Executive Director.

While there, she helped several Fortune 50 companies improve their diversity & inclusion initiatives by creating a direct pipeline to top Indigenous talent.

She had the distinct privilege to work with many blossoming Indigenous entrepreneurs that will one day help lead our collective future.

Hannah looks forward to helping Native Ventures lead the way to create equitable access for our Indigenous, Black, and Latinx-owned businesses across the world.

Tulaine Montgomery // New Profit

Tulaine is an entrepreneur, educator, writer, and organizer. She has excelled in leadership roles launching and expanding social enterprises across the U.S., the Caribbean, East Africa, Indonesia, and South Africa. 

As Co-CEO of New Profit, Tulaine leads initiatives focused on strengthening education-to-employment pathways for underserved youth, driving resources and support to entrepreneurs who have been directly impacted by the American legal system, and building a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization and philanthropic sector.

Outside of New Profit, Tulaine is a trusted advisor to other nonprofit organizations and socially responsible companies and serves as the Board Chair for GirlTrek, the largest public health nonprofit for African-American women and girls in the nation.

Her other board positions include Beyond 12, YouthBuild, College for Social Innovation, and Jitegemee (a youth-serving organization in Kenya).

Nicole Armstrong // TechBridge

Nicole Armstrong // TechBridge

Nicole is the President and CEO of TechBridge, a nonprofit providing enterprise-grade software for every size of nonprofit in 4 pillars for over two decades.

Nonprofits working within hunger relief, homeless support, and social justice have access to their customized solutions at substantially below-market cost.

Nicole is a revolutionary figure in the K-12 education sector, having pioneered innovative products and services with her company Noodle Markets. Her mission? To build an efficient and transparent network of procurement for schools across America.

Before that venture, Nicole acted as President at CORE Education Consulting & Solutions, where she managed state-of-the art formative assessments designed to support PreK through Higher Ed students alike.

Having overseen projects from both top public companies down to independent startups, there’s nothing this edtech expert can’t handle.

Elana Aquino // Peace Direct

Elana Aquino // Peace Direct

Elana serves as Peace Direct’s US Executive Director, bringing over 15 years of experience in international development and peacebuilding to the role.

She worked on South Sudanese IDP return issues and as a Peace Building Program Officer.

She focused on supporting locally driven women’s empowerment initiatives, recognizing women as a crucial factor in solidifying peace gains. In Kenya, she was rapidly promoted from researcher to Head of the key coordination secretariat between the government of Kenya and 17 international development agencies.

She led the production of the national joint assistance strategy for Kenya, targeting her strengths: facilitation, communication strategies, supervising teams of experts, website development, research, data and risk analysis, benchmarking global best practices and nurturing partnerships.

She organized the first National Development Partnership Forum in Kenya co-chaired by the Prime Minister and the regional Head of the World Bank, with key participation from UN Agencies in the region.

She is a former Fellow of the International Peace and Security Institute and currently the Chair of the Board of Women of Color Advancing Peace, Security, and Conflict Transformation. 

Maria Russo // Humanity Unified

Maria Russo // Humanity Unified

Over the last 20 years, Maria has traveled the world exploring vibrant cultures, and our human impact on the environment. It was through these incredible experiences that I began partnering with brands to tell stories of CSR as it relates to community-led development, climate resilience initiatives and gender responsive economic development.

Maria also serves as co-founder and executive director of Humanity Unified International, a nonprofit that works in Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

Humanity Unified is dedicated to empowering communities to rise above poverty through education, food security projects and economic opportunities.

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