Marguerite Casey Foundation Announces Addition of Seven New Board Members

Leading Community Organizers, Culture Makers, and System Changers, Including Stacey Abrams, Join New Marguerite Casey Foundation Board

Today, Marguerite Casey Foundation is excited to announce the addition of seven new board members. Each new board member will bring a fresh perspective on fulfilling the core mission of the foundation — creating greater freedom for leaders who can increase community power and help bring about a truly representative economy. The slate of new board members also represents the Foundation’s commitment to racial justice, both in its work and in its leadership.

New members include:

Stacey Abrams, Nonprofit and Political Leader
Ellis Carr, President and CEO of Capital Impact Partners/CDC Small Business Finance
Janeen Comenote, Executive Director of the National Urban Indian Family Coalition
Marisa Franco, Executive Director of Mijente
Ian Fuller, Co-Founder and Partner of WestFuller Advisors
Rashad Robinson, President of Color Of Change
Zeke Smith, President of Empire Health Foundation

“Philanthropy has received a once in a generation mandate to support leaders who are building a multiracial democracy and representative economy,” says Marguerite Casey Foundation President and CEO, Dr. Carmen Rojas. “Rebuilding the Marguerite Casey Foundation board is an emphatic response to that mandate. We are following the lead of those who know how to hold corporations accountable for their impact on society, make our government more democratic and effective, and create a culture of equity and justice in society at large.”

“As the nation prepares for the next phase of survival and recovery, it is essential to invest in organizations with local footprints, civic competence and the trust of the communities they work in,” says new board member and Founder of Fair Fight Action, Stacey Abrams. “From vaccine distribution to economic recovery, how the philanthropic network targets its contributions will determine how many are left behind or included, and what kind of leadership will emerge in the years ahead. ”

“Marguerite Casey Foundation has both a deep commitment to racial justice as well as a demonstrated commitment to building organizing capacity within the movement,” says Color Of Change President, Rashad Robinson. “MCF understands that racial justice is a transformative force in society, mobilizing people at every level of society to bring about the policy and culture changes that will create a more just society for everyone.”

These seven individuals are filling board vacancies due to board term-limit expiration and will be joining existing board members Rami Nashashibi, Angela Diaz, Melody Barnes, Jack Thomas, and Chad Boettcher.

“I’m excited to serve on Marguerite Casey Foundation’s board. The institution’s powerful mission compels us to support visionary leaders and organizations that strengthen communities and breathe life into our democracy,” says board member and co-director for policy and public affairs of the Democracy Initiative at the University of Virginia, Melody Barnes.

As organizers continue to tackle the clear threats and challenges facing communities across the country, Marguerite Casey Foundation’s new board is positioned to take bold action and think creatively about the role foundations can and should play as we collectively work to advance racial justice and build a representative democracy and economy.

Marguerite Casey Foundation’s new board will take bold action and think creatively about the role foundations can play to advance racial justice and build a representative democracy and economy.

Stacey Abrams Ellis Carr Janeen Comenote
Marisa Franco Ian Fuller Rashad Robinson
Zeke Smith
Stacey Abrams, Nonprofit and Political Leader

Stacey Abrams

Nonprofit and Political Leader

As the nation prepares to respond to COVID-19 in the next phase of both survival and recovery, investment in smaller organizations with local footprints and the civic competence and trust of community will be essential. From vaccine distribution to economic recovery, how the philanthropic network targets its contributions will determine how many are left behind, particularly in states with recalcitrant state leadership. Moreover, I see a clear opportunity to shape public conversations led by a multi-racial, multi-ethnic coalition newly emboldened by electoral successes driven by their involvement.

Stacey Abrams is the New York Times bestselling author of both Our Time is Now and Lead from the Outside, and is an entrepreneur, nonprofit executive and political leader. After serving as Minority Leader in the Georgia House of Representatives, Abrams became the 2018 Democratic nominee for governor of Georgia. Dedicated to civic engagement, her most recent endeavors include: launching Fair Fight to ensure every American has a voice in our election system, Fair Count to ensure accuracy in the Census and greater participation in civic engagement, and the Southern Economic Advancement Project, a public policy initiative to broaden economic power and build equity in the South. 

She serves on the Board of Advisors for Climate Power 2020, the Center for American Progress,  and the Women’s National Basketball Players Association, and is a lifetime member of the  Council on Foreign Relations. Abrams received degrees from Spelman College, the LBJ School of  Public Affairs at the University of Texas, and Yale Law School. Born in Madison, Wisconsin, she and her five siblings grew up in Gulfport, Mississippi and were raised in Georgia.

Ellis Carr, President and CEO of Capital Impact Partners/CDC Small Business Finance

Ellis Carr

President and CEO of Capital Impact Partners/CDC Small Business Finance

MCF’s focus on empowering leaders has the promise to transform communities from the inside out, but we know that structures that have been in place for hundreds of years will not be reversed overnight; particularly as the nation’s democracy is at risk. Meaningful progress can be made if MCF plays a leadership role in disrupting philanthropy by challenging other institutions to leave behind past practices that have precipitated inequitable outcomes for so many. Through collaboration and collective action with institutions, MCF can play a leadership role supporting communities to build power and wealth and increase self-determination.

Ellis Carr has more than 20 years of experience in the financial services and mortgage industries. He has served as Capital Impact Partners’ President and Chief Executive Officer since 2016. Capital Impact Partners merged with CDC Small Business Finance in April 2021, and Mr. Carr is now the CEO of both Capital Impact Partners/CDC Small Business Finance.

Mr. Carr originally joined Capital Impact in 2012 as the Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer. Prior to joining Capital Impact, he held various positions in the investments, capital markets, strategy, and corporate finance areas within Freddie Mac, and in fixed-income fund management both domestically and abroad at Deutsche Bank.

Mr. Carr is an Aspen Institute Finance Leader Fellow; serves on Morgan Stanley’s Community Development Advisory Board; is the Board Chair for Martha’s Table; and Board Treasurer for HPN (the Housing Partnership Network). In 2018, he was recognized on Washington Business Journal’s list of “Top Minority Business Leaders,” as well as being named among their “Top 40 under 40” business executives in 2015. Mr. Carr graduated from Towson University with a bachelor’s degree in Accounting, and from Georgetown University with a master’s degree in Real Estate with a concentration in Finance.

Janeen Comenote, Executive Director of National Urban Indian Family Coalition

Janeen Comenote

Executive Director of National Urban Indian Family Coalition

In the wake of a deeply harmful administration, rising overt white supremacy movements & hate groups and a deeply divided nation, I believe there is a very real opportunity for philanthropy to assume a mantle of leadership in working shoulder to shoulder with those communities most impacted by racial and economic violence. MCF can both lead by example and fund by example on the ground in these communities.

Janeen Comenote lives in Seattle, Washington and is an enrolled member of the Quinault Indian Nation. She is Quinault and Oglala on her father’s side and Hesquiaht and Kwakiutl First Nations on her mother’s side. Comenote is the founding Executive Director of the National Urban Indian Family Coalition (NUIFC), a national coalition representing 45 urban Indian centers in 32 cities and more than two million Native Americans living away from their traditional land base. 

Janeen is a graduate of Leadership Tomorrow, is an alumni of the prestigious American’s for Indian Opportunity Ambassador program and was highlighted in O (Oprah) Magazine for her participation in Women Rule: 80 Women Who Could Change America. She is a recipient of the Potlatch Fund Fran James Cultural Preservation award and the prestigious Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership award for her work with urban Indians. She has presented urban Indian issues at the White House, United Nations and as a keynote speaker at numerous conferences.

Additionally, she has been a Human Rights Commissioner for the City of Seattle and is currently a board member for Praxis, the Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity and sits on the External Diversity and Inclusion Council for Charter Communications. She worked for 16 years at the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation in child welfare, juvenile justice, poverty reduction and as a development officer.

Marisa Franco, Executive Director of Mijente

Marisa Franco

Executive Director of Mijente

Marguerite Casey has the opportunity to seed the next iteration of social movement and organizing ecosystems. The foundation can model for and lead the philanthropic sector both on how to understand and meaningfully support these emerging groups and how to internally structure in order to operate with the same nimbleness and strategy manifesting in social movements. This requires an entrepreneurial eye, risk tolerance and relationships built on trust and respect….It is a natural evolution of the mantra of Ask, Listen, Act that guided the Marguerite Casey Foundation’s strategy and success over the last decade.

Marisa Franco is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of Mijente and Mijente Support Committee, a digital and grassroots organizing hub for Latinx and Chicanx people. Founded in 2015, Mijente has become the leading organization for Latinx organizing demonstrated through its electoral victories ousting Sheriff Arpaio in Arizona and mobilizing Latinx voters in Georgia and emerging battleground states to its advocacy uncovering the role that technology and data companies play within policing and immigration enforcement. 

In her almost 20 years of work as an organizer and movement builder, Marisa has helped lead key grassroots organizing campaigns rooted in low-income and communities of color, characterized by their innovation and effectiveness. She is a trusted leader across sectors and on issues of campaigns, movement building and political analysis. Marisa was named a New York Times Visionary in 2018 and has been featured on CNN, Washington Post, New York Times, MSNBC, Univision, Politico, and Democracy Now. When not organizing, Marisa enjoys cooking, DIY projects, a good game of pool and old fashioned debate.

Ian Fuller, Co-Founder and Partner of WestFuller Advisors

Ian Fuller

Co-Founder and Partner of WestFuller Advisors

The inherent nature of unilateral funding crystallizes power dynamics the Foundation pledges to dismantle through its mission, theory of change, and grantee investments. However quixotic sounding, we are working towards a goal that should render the Foundation obsolete. Continuing to navigate these tensions while upholding necessary fiduciary duties and simultaneously empowering grantees to lead, shape and build the world working families need will likely continue to be one of the Foundation’s greatest challenges. At once a thoughtful and agile institution, I am excited by the Foundation’s trajectory as a beacon for a new face and approach to funding social movements - one committed to social justice leaders, working families, and social movements with impacted communities at the helm of social change

Ian is a co-founder and partner of WestFuller Advisors, a SEC-registered wealth advisory and investment management firm that provides advisory, strategy, and financial services for values-aligned individuals, families and institutions in the US and Europe seeking impact. He is the board chair of Common Justice and serves as the treasurer for many leading social justice organizations, including: Color of Change, The Workers Lab, Proteus Action League, and the Amalgamated Charitable Foundation.

He received both a B.S. in Business and Political Economy and a M.S. in Global Finance from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and New York University, Stern School of Business. He holds the Chartered Financial Consultant and the Chartered Socially Responsible Investment Counselor accreditations; and the Series 7, 66, 24 securities licenses. He lives in New York City with his partner and daughter where he can often be found with a glass of red, a good book or training for the next Ironman.

Rashad Robinson

President of Color Of Change

Developing strategies in a world where there are never enough dollars is always going to be a challenge. But building the right strategy combined with narrative and execution has the proven benefit of increasing impact. At the end of the day philanthropic institutions need to fund and support the leaders and institutions driving the work and taking the risks necessary to build a true democracy.

Rashad Robinson is the President of Color Of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization.  Under Rashad’s leadership, Color Of Change continues to seize opportunities for advancing the power, freedom and wellbeing of Black workers, students, families, farmers, immigrants and others, wherever their freedom is limited or threatened.

Since joining Color Of Change in 2011, Rashad has opened three new offices (in New York, Hollywood and Washington, D.C.). He grew the membership of Black people and allies invested in moving society forward, and increased opportunities for members to participate in making real change.

Rashad has also emerged as a game-changing new voice in the national fight over net neutrality as a major civil rights issue. Rashad has appeared on ABC, CNN, MSNBC, BET, NPR, The Root, The New York Times, the LA Times and Huffington Post. He was recently selected as one of EBONY Magazine’s Power 100 honorees for 2015, and has been named  on “The Root 100” list of influential African Americans under 45. 

Rashad is also the proud recipient of awards from several organizations, including ADCOLOR, Center for Community Change, Demos, Americans for Democratic Action, and an honorary degree from St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

He has served as Senior Director of Media Programs at GLAAD, where he led the organization’s programmatic and advocacy work to transform the representation of LGBT people in news and entertainment media. Before GLAAD, Rashad worked on racial justice and voting rights at the Right to Vote Campaign and FairVote.

Rashad currently serves on the boards of Demos, the National LGBTQ Task Force and the Hazen Foundation. He lives in New York City.

Zeke Smith

President of Empire Health Foundation

I will bring a commitment to the radical imagination required to shape the actions of each of our organizations, moving us away from January 6, 2020, and towards a bold vision in which our diverse communities work in partnership reshaping systems required to truly embrace a thriving, just future.

Zeke Smith started as the President of the Empire Health Foundation in Spokane, Washington in October 2020.   

He has built a career focused on strategic planning,  community engagement, and social justice, supported by a strong commitment to equity. This includes tenure as Vice President of Programs for FoodCorps, Chief Impact Officer of the United Way of the Columbia Willamette, and serving as Chief of Staff of Portland Public Schools Additionally, Zeke was on the governor-appointed Oregon Health  Policy Board for 7 years (5 as Chair) an oversight body for the Oregon Health Authority and  the entire healthcare system in the state. Across each of these experiences, as well as years  of working with local community-based nonprofits, Zeke has been focused on improving the  systems that support individuals, families, and communities, particularly focusing on the needs of those whom these systems least often address.  

Zeke earned his bachelor’s degree in international affairs from Lewis & Clark College in  Portland, Oregon. He is proud of his Dutch, Indonesian, Oneida, and Osage heritage and lives  with his partner, Mari, with whom he has two college-going daughters.