“I came to Breaking Out to learn from people who are doing cutting-edge work - I got that from the diversity and range of people I haven't heard from before - it's evolving.“



“We’re strongest when funders who share the same goals combine forces. Social change doesn’t happen because of one group’s success; it takes changing public opinion and systemic problem solving.”


"NEO is a catalyst in making philanthropy more nimble, responsive, and inclusive of grassroots, emerging organizations such as ours."


“I came to Breaking Out to learn from people who are doing cutting-edge work - I got that from the diversity and range of people I haven't heard from before - it's evolving.“


Breaking Out 2014
Time & Life Building 1271 Avenue of the Americas, 8th Floor New York, NY

About NEO

Inspired, creative and forward thinking. That’s how we practice philanthropy, and that’s the inspiration behind our new name. Welcome to NEO.

Launched in 1983 as Public Interest Projects, NEO is a national leader in creating and unleashing innovative philanthropic strategies that marshal the collective resources and experience of people passionate about driving positive social change.

We believe this is the most powerful impact philanthropy can have. And we have the expertise, networks, tenacity, insight and vision to achieve that impact. Our experience gives us the foresight to anticipate what’s next and the ability to hit the ground running when issues pop.

NEO’s track record in moving solutions to some of the most complex issues of our time—from immigration to school reform—is testament to the effectiveness of our holistic approach. We don’t just make grants. We’re a unique one-stop giving platform that offers collaborative funding networks, donor-advised funds, cutting-edge policy and issue analysis, advocacy and networking opportunities. We also provide technical assistance and fiscal sponsorship for nonprofit grantees.

This unique combination of comprehensive services quadruples donors’ impact and gets the results they—and their grantees—want to see. In the past five years, we’ve provided more than $120 million to organizations engaged in cutting-edge work on the front lines of social change.

The hundreds of donors and grantees who’ve worked with us agree: No one offers the breadth and depth that NEO does when it comes to designing transformative giving solutions that are shaping the philanthropic landscape in the 21st century.

Are you looking to do more with your philanthropy? Look to NEO.

Creative. Inspired. Philanthropy

The NEO Difference

What NEO does—and how we do it—is unique in the philanthropic world. And it’s what makes us effective.

NEO uses a cutting-edge approach based on our belief that the most effective social change is driven by collaboration between investors and nonprofits. That’s why we bridge both groups, aligning their resources to kindle collaboration and multiply impact.

It’s a high touch, 360 degree form of philanthropy grounded in rigorous attention to detail, due diligence and integrity but infused with a nimble responsiveness. We help donors zero in on the issues they care most about and then work side-by-side with them to create bold, satisfying philanthropic strategies and solutions.

We provide their grantees with hands-on assistance in everything from fundraising to management to make sure they reach their highest potential.

An important part of our holistic model is the skill — along with experience and insight — NEO and its expert staff bring to the table. We offer unparalleled policy and program expertise on important issues, as well as the connections with other experts and curated links to research and other useful resources. We hold dynamic conferences to spotlight new ideas and thinkers. We convene and build alliances with organizations that span entire fields and cut across issues. We brainstorm, fund and design strategic communications and advocacy campaigns.

Investor. Strategist. Movement builder. Connector. Curator. Advocate.

That’s the NEO difference.






What About the “O”?

Our new  logo, NEO, has a meme that  means a lot to us,  the  “O.”   It represents NEO as a connector  — a circle that connects and links things together in a ring of common purpose.   The “O” can also be viewed as NEO’s unique 360 degree approach and perspective to philanthropy. It reminds us of the circle of life and how helping people always comes back  —  a Zen circle of giving and benefiting. The “O” in NEO also represents our lens on how we see things, our portal to a vision of a better and more  compassionate world.

We are passionate…

about changing the world and helping philanthropic institutions, nonprofits, and people who are committed to ensuring justice, dignity and opportunity for all.

We work…

creatively, using an approach that reflects a new, networked mindset. We embrace transparency and collaboration among diverse groups of people with shared passions—researchers, communicators, thought leaders and advocates—because we know that solving the complex challenges we face today can’t be done by one person alone.

We support…

alliance-building and intersectional approaches that are the bedrock of larger movements for social change that have a strong infrastructure behind them. Our strategies and initiatives build in intensity and impact over time, moving toward enduring solutions.

We provide…

much more than money. We provide the assistance, leadership development, advocacy, and information needed to achieve long-term impact. Combined, these are powerful building blocks for developing and executing strategic ventures that get results.

We innovate…

by convening all kinds of philanthropy—foundations, corporations, social entrepreneurs and others—to surface cutting-edge ideas, new approaches and “what works” in driving the most effective social change. And then we transform that co-created knowledge into action.


On March 1, 2011, the Board of Directors of NEO Philanthropy announced a leadership change at NEO, effective January 1, 2011.  Michele Lord, former NEO Executive Director, and Berta Colón, former NEO Deputy Director, both transitioned to hold the title of President of NEO Philanthropy.  This change formalized the existing partnership between the two and acknowledged the commitment and contributions each has made to the growth and development of the organization.

Under this new leadership model, which is rare in the nonprofit sector, Lord focuses primarily on external activities such as donor relationship development and management, and communications.  Colón is responsible primarily for internal activities such as fund oversight, financial management and operations.  Lord and Colón share responsibility for the growth and strategic direction of the organization, and provide oversight for NEO staff, particularly the NEO Directors’ Team.

The dual president leadership model at NEO allows the organization to play to the strengths and cumulative knowledge of its two leaders and ensures it capitalizes on the body of expertise it has developed as an organization and the role it plays as a philanthropic intermediary.  Most important, the model ensures that the two leaders have the focus and resources necessary to meet upcoming demands and continue to grow.  Lord and Colón have collaborated on the evolution of NEO Philanthropy since 2002.

Neo Leaders

BertaBerta Colón


Berta has 20 years of experience working in the philanthropic sector with an expertise in organization management and operations.  In 2002, Berta joined NEO Philanthropy as the Program Officer for the Racial Justice Collaborative, which was the organization’s first collaborative fund.  She went on to work on the launch of NEO Philanthropy’s next two funds which focused on immigrant rights and affirmative action respectively.  In 2006, Berta was promoted to Deputy Director and helped to grow the organization from a staff of four and a budget of $10 million into the current 36 plus staff, $40 million operation it is to date.  In January 2011, Berta transitioned into a co-leadership model with NEO Philanthropy’s Executive Director – both becoming President of the organization.  From 1997 to 2002, Berta worked at the Ms. Foundation for Women, a national public charity that supports efforts designed to improve the lives of women and girls.  Berta served as the Economic Security Program officer, working on the Economic Justice and Rapid Response Policy grants and coordinating the work of the Institute for Women’s Economic EmPOWERment. Prior to her work in the philanthropic sector, Berta worked at several nonprofit organizations focusing primarily on women’s issues and childcare including Sanctuary for Families which provides advocacy and direct service support to survivors of domestic violence and Child Care, Inc. which ensures safe and affordable child care services to parents in NYC. Berta served as the Board Chair of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, an organization that works to ensure the fundamental human right to reproductive health and justice for Latinas.  She holds an undergraduate degree from Barnard College and a master’s in public administration from Columbia University.

Michele LordMichele Lord


Michele Lord has worked in the philanthropic sector since 1993. During the past 13 years, she has led NEO Philanthropy through a period of dramatic growth in its program offerings and reach in the philanthropic sector. Today, there are 36 staff and it’s operating budget exceeds $40 million. She has helped create and manage NEO Philanthropy’s ten signature collaborative and partner funds that together have raised more than $100 million in new money and engaged more than 130 national, state and local foundations, family foundations and individual donors. In January 2011, Michele transitioned into a co-leadership model – with the organization’s Deputy Director – both becoming President of the organization.  She has deep experience in managing and advising family foundations. She currently serves as the Director of the Ottinger Foundation, a small New York-based family foundation that supports work in the areas of economic justice, civic participation and environmental justice. Prior to joining NEO Philanthropy, Michele served as Director of the Norman Foundation from 1993 to 1999 and has served as chair of the Funders’ Committee on Civic Participation. She is sought out as a consultant by national funders and has also overseen program evaluations on behalf of the Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation and the Open Society Institute. Before shifting to the philanthropic sector Michele worked in city and national government. From 1990 to 1993 she was Deputy Director of Health and Human Services in the New York City Mayor’s Office of Operations under Mayor David Dinkins. She served in the U.S. Congress from 1984 to 1988 as Director of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues. Michele began her career as a legal services lawyer in Houston specializing in immigration and welfare law. She holds an undergraduate degree from Brown University and a law degree from the University of Florida.

Laurie-Alemian-DerianLaurie Alemian-Derian

Chief Financial Officer

Laurie’s career spans almost three decades in not-for-profit financial administration and includes such organizations as the Whitney Museum of American Art, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Baruch College School of Public Affairs.  Laurie was at NRDC for more than 22 years where she held senior level financial positions.  In 2007 she joined Baruch College School of Public Affairs as Director of Finance and Administration.  Most recently, she was a financial management consultant in the not-for-profit field.  Originally from Massachusetts, Laurie is a graduate of Bridgewater State University.

RobertBrayRobert Bray

Director, Communications

Robert’s career spans more than two decades in the field of strategic communications and social justice. As director of NEO Philanthropy’s Four Freedoms Fund Strategic Communications Initiative, Robert helps create and fund strategies designed to shape the immigration debate locally and nationally. Prior to joining NEO Philanthropy, he was director of communications for the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund in San Francisco. In 1997 Robert founded the SPIN Project, a media training, coaching and strategizing nonprofit for social change organizations. In the late 80′s and 90′s he played a central role in increasing the media visibility of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, serving as the first director of communications for the Human Rights Campaign Fund, and later as director of communications for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Robert is the author of several publications on communications including “SPIN Works” and “Winning Wages: A Guide to Living Wage Communications Campaigns.” Prior to his social justice career he was a public relations executive for the IBM Corporation. Robert is a graduate in journalism and public relations from the University of Florida.

Don CiprianiDon-Cipriani

Director, Just and Fair Schools Fund

Don’s background spans immigration legal aid, classroom teaching, state education and juvenile justice policy reform, and international research, evaluation, advocacy, and technical assistance on children’s rights. As a teacher, Don has taught from pre-K through high school, bilingual classes, Special Education classes, and classes inside high-security juvenile detention and correction centers. He worked as a consultant for 10 years with international organizations on a wide range of child protection issues in Asia, the Pacific, Central and Eastern Europe, and the United States, including as UNICEF’s interim global focal point on justice for children. Don is the author of “Children’s Rights and the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility: A Global Perspective” (Ashgate, 2009). He holds a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, and earned a Ph.D. in Law from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

MelMelinda-Fineinda Fine, Ed.D.

Director of Education and Director of Communities for Public Education Reform

Dr. Melinda Fine’s career in education, civic engagement, and social justice spans three decades. As Director of Education at NEO Philanthropy, Melinda directs Communities for Public Education Reform (CPER), a national funders collaborative that supports grassroots community-driven efforts working to guarantee educational excellence, equity and opportunity for every child in low-income communities of color.  Before joining NEO Philanthropy, Melinda led Fine Consulting, where she provided strategic planning, program development, and strategic learning and evaluation services to private foundations, national nonprofits, and government agencies in the fields of education, youth development, and civic engagement.  Prior to founding Fine Consulting, Melinda was Assistant Research Director at Sesame Workshop, where she led studies that informed the development of Ghostwriter, a television series to promote children’s literacy skills. In the 1980s, Melinda founded and led the International Program of the National Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign, where she coordinated peace movement activism between US-based organizations and NGOs internationally.  Melinda is a Senior Fellow at the NYU Wagner School of Public Service’s Research Center for Leadership and Action and on the Scholars Board of Facing History and Ourselves.  A former NYC Community Education Council member, her publications include two books, scholarly articles, and white papers. Melinda holds a doctorate in education from Harvard University and a bachelors degree from Dartmouth College.

Maritza GuzmanMarizta-Guzman-

Director, Fiscal Sponsorship and Project Management

Maritza has more than 20 years of experience in the nonprofit and public sector and a track record of designing strategic responses to unmet community needs. She brings more than 12 years of experience in providing technical assistance to nonprofits to improve outcomes and enhance programmatic and organizational capacity. Maritza spent nine years working in philanthropy, where she oversaw the design and implementation of several initiatives addressing unequal access in areas such as community and economic development, education, youth services and housing. At the Wallace Funds she managed a $20 million grantmaking portfolio focused on education and youth development. Maritza earned a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and a master’s in public administration from the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs.

Kung LiKung-Li-

Director, Sunrise Initiative

Prior to joining the Sunrise Initiative, Kung Li litigated class actions challenging conditions of confinement in prisons and jails, institutionalized police abuses, and deficiencies in public defender systems; investigated community resilience as an Open Society Fellow; was a staff attorney at the Law Center for the Homeless; served as the Southern Center for Human Rights’ executive director in Atlanta; and consulted with various organizations regarding immigration enforcement and criminal justice. Kung Li is a graduate of Emory College and New York University School of Law, and the recipient of a Rockefeller Brothers Fund Fellowship, the Soros Justice Fellowship in criminal justice, and an American Lawyer Top 50 Litigators under 40 award. Kung Li is an enthusiastic cook and reader, and an aspiring writer of fiction. Raised in an immigrant family in Tallahassee, Florida, Kung Li speaks Mandarin Chinese and Southern American English.

Deb Ross

Executive Director, Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation

Prior to joining the Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation in 2006, a sponsored project of NEO Philanthropy, Deb worked for six years as National Field Director for Public Campaign, an organization dedicated to advancing the public financing of elections. In the 1990s she did regional social- and economic-justice work with the Western States Center, where she developed its signature leadership training programs and provided strategic support, training and technical assistance to community organizations. Deb founded and directed one of Oregon’s early battered women’s shelters in the 1980s and was co-director of the McKenzie River Gathering Foundation. She also chaired the board of the Funding Exchange and served as interim director of the Women’s Foundation of Oregon.

Lisa Versaci

Consultant, State Infrastructure Fund

Lisa Versaci has 20 years of experience in the civic engagement field. Prior to her new position at NEO Philanthropy, Lisa served as the Managing Director of Committee on States, an association of state-based progressive investors and institutional partners who are committed to the creation and success of state-based networks working to advance progressive causes and produce progressive change within individual states. Through her consulting firm, FLX Communications, she specializes in organizational planning, program design and fundraising for nonprofit organizations and foundations.  Recent clients include the Florida Alliance, the Tides Election Administration Fund, Nonprofit Finance Fund, Anaphiel Foundation, and the Democracy Alliance. From 2001-5, she served as Director of the National Venture Fund at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and was responsible for developing investment strategies in the areas of community and economic development, civic engagement and the arts. Previously, Ms. Versaci served as Vice President and Florida Director for People For the American Way Foundation and the Florida Development Coordinator for EMILY’s List.

Board of Directors

John Gilroy (President)

Program Director, Campaign for America’s Wilderness

John Gilroy is the Program Director of the Campaign for America’s Wilderness, at the Pew Environment Group. John has also been a consultant to various national foundations and organizations over the years.  His work has focused on developing and promoting regional and national campaigns to protect wilderness on federal public lands, old growth forests, critical habitat, and roadless areas on National Forests. John also spent a year at the Rockefeller Family Fund as a program associate. From 1988 until 1992 he was the executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. Prior experience was with the Center for Study of Responsive Law, US Public Interest Research Group, and the New York Public Interest Research Group.

He is a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center (JD) and New York University (BA). He serves on the serves on the boards of the Alaska Wilderness League, NEO Philanthropy and the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation.  He lives in Pittsford, New York.


Mark Colón (Vice President)

Deputy Counsel, New York State’s Division of Housing & Community Renewal

Mark Colón is the Deputy Counsel of New York State’s Division of Housing & Community Renewal (“DHCR”), where he provides legal advice to the State’s housing commissioner and assists DHCR’s executive staff in the formulation and enforcement of agency policy. Previously, Mark spent several years as an associate in the Real Estate & Finance practices of two major international law firms.

Mark is an active member of the Puerto Rican and New York City Bar Associations. He graduated magna cum laude from Hunter College (CUNY) and received his J.D. from Yale Law School, where he was the Managing Editor of the Yale Law & Policy Review. Upon graduating from law school, he clerked for the Honorable Julio M. Fuentes, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Prior to attending law school, he worked for the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), focusing on issues of environmental justice and public health.


Gina Kim


Gina Kim is an Emmy-nominated producer for the news and public affairs television show, Moyers & Company hosted by the legendary journalist, Bill Moyers.

During her career in television she has produced breaking news stories and interviews for NBC, CBS, MTV, Bravo and PBS.  She’s covered topics ranging from money and politics, economics and inequality, the world’s endangered environment, citizen participation in democracy to the voices of poets, artists and writers.

Gina was the supervising producer of a daily, political news show, GRITtv with Laura Flanders, producer for NOW with Bill Moyers, Donahue on MSNBC, and The Awful Truth with filmmaker Michael Moore. She worked with NBC’s Tom Brokaw in the run up to the 2003 Iraq War and produced videos for the rock band, Rage Against the Machine.

Prior to her career in television, Gina directed campaigns on climate change and tort reform for the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) and worked for the White House Office of Advance for Bill Clinton. In addition to serving on the board of NEO Philanthropy, she serves on the boards of Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) and GRITtv with Laura Flanders.

Gina lives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn with her husband and son.


Patricia Bauman

President, Bauman Foundation

Patricia Bauman has directed the Bauman Foundation since its inception. She has shaped its activities at the intersection of human health and environment and has been a leader in fostering right-to-know and open government initiatives. She is a Vice-Chair of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Co-Chair of the Brennan Center for Justice, a Trustee of Montefiore Medical Center and a Manager of Catalist LLC. Patricia is a graduate of Radcliffe/Harvard College, Columbia University School of Public Health, and Georgetown University Law Center.


Mallika Dutt

President and CEO, Breakthrough

As the President of Breakthrough, Mallika has spearheaded the use of art and culture as an essential strategy for mainstreaming the global dialogue on human rights. She has conceived and led Breakthrough’s award-winning campaigns on violence against women and immigration reform that have reached millions. She has amplified the project of bringing human rights home through groundbreaking and unlikely partnerships ranging from grass-roots community organizations to the entertainment industry. Mallika has overseen Breakthrough’s evolution from a single campaign to a global leader in advancing human rights through cutting edge multimedia and pop culture tools.

Prior to founding Breakthrough, Mallika served as Program Officer for Human Rights at the Ford Foundation’s New Delhi Office where she initiated the Foundation’s work in police reform and forged unique partnerships between police, NGOs, and civil society groups. Mallika also acted as the Associate Director of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University, and was at the forefront of the global movement for gaining recognition for women’s rights as human rights.

Mallika is a co-founder of SAKHI for South Asian Women and has served on several boards and committees, including the Human Rights Watch Women’s Rights Project and Asia Watch, The Sister Fund, Asian American Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy, and the US NGO Coordinating Committee for the UN World Conference Against Racism. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and currently serves on Boards of WITNESS, the Open Society Institute US Programs, and Games for Change, and on the Rights Working Group Steering Committee.

The recipient of several awards, Mallika began her career as an Associate at Debevoise & Plimpton. She graduated from NYU Law School in 1989, received a Masters in International Affairs and South Asian Studies from Columbia University in 1996, and an A.B. in International Affairs from Mt. Holyoke College in 1983.


Madeline Janis, Esq.

National Policy Director, LAANE

Under her stewardship, LAANE has become an influential leader in the effort to build a new economy based on good jobs, thriving communities and a healthy environment. Combining dynamic research, innovative public policy and the organizing of broad alliances, LAANE has helped lift tens of thousands of working people out of poverty and has won major health and environmental victories for communities throughout Los Angeles County.

In 2002, Ms. Janis was appointed by the mayor as a volunteer commissioner to the board of the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency, the country’s largest such agency, and then reappointed to that position by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in 2006. She is also a Senior Fellow at the UCLA School of Public Affairs.

Ms. Janis led the historic campaign to pass L.A.’s living wage ordinance, which has since become a national model. Over the past decade, she has provided training and assistance to community organizations and unions in dozens of cities across the country, and is widely regarded as an innovator in devising strategies to create good jobs and healthy communities. She serves on the boards of directors of Good Jobs First, the Partnership for Working Families, Brave New Foundation and the Phoenix Fund for Workers and People for the American Way.

LAANE and Ms. Janis have received many honors, including the UCLA Law School’s Antonia Hernandez Public Interest Award and the Los Angeles Roman Catholic Archdiocese’s Empowerment Award, awards from the Liberty Hill Foundation and Office of the Americas, and numerous commendations from the Los Angeles City Council and the California Assembly and Senate.

Prior to founding LAANE, Ms. Janis served as executive director of the Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) from 1989 to 1993, where she helped lead a successful campaign.


Christopher Meyer

Vice President, External Affairs & Info Services, Consumers Union

Chris Meyer is responsible for management and oversight of multi-state campaigns, community building and grassroots initiatives and activism. In addition, he explores new initiatives in consumer education. Mr. Meyer supervises campaign staff in Consumers Union’s Yonkers, New York headquarters and its regional offices in Austin, Texas and San Francisco, California.

Prior to his promotion to Vice President for External Affairs and Information Services in 2006, Mr. Meyer was Senior Director, Public Policy and Advocacy for Consumers Union.

Before joining Consumers Union in October 2004, Mr. Meyer worked for two decades as an organizer, lobbyist and, from 1997 to 2004, as executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), New York State’s largest consumer, environmental and government reform organization. Mr. Meyer developed an expertise on public health issues, including lead poisoning prevention, drinking water quality and tobacco control. He oversaw statewide campaigns on increased higher education funding and the successful 1996 environmental bond initiative, and was lead lobbyist on efforts to defeat construction of garbage-burning incinerators in New York City in the early 1990′s. Mr. Meyer was named “Best Lobbyist” by New York Magazine in 1993 and was quoted regularly in The New York Times and other New York City and State electronic and print media on good government issues.

Mr. Meyer is a graduate of Haverford College and the New York University School of Law.


Christina Schatz

Senior Portfolio Manager, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney

Christina manages the financial lives of wealthy families and small businesses as a Financial Advisor at Morgan Stanley. More confidante than Financial Advisor, she enjoys wearing many hats and is often involved in her clients’ personal as well as fiscal matters. As the wife of an FDNY Lieutenant and mother of five, she has mastered the art of multi-tasking under pressure.

An activist at heart, Christina derives her strength and passion from a desire to tackle complicated issues. During an acceptance speech for a volunteer award she received, Christina stated that she does not believe you have the right to complain about a problem unless you are willing to be part of the solution. The seed of activism was planted while at the University of Maryland when she worked for Citizen Action, a grassroots lobbying organization. Upon returning to New York after graduation, she volunteered at Women Helping Women, a shelter for battered women and their children. Christina later joined the Board and continued to advise the organization for ten years.

As a personal advisor at a large firm for more than 18 years, Christina is in the unique position to understand the entrepreneur mindset and the constraints of a regulatory corporate structure. Her experience and balanced approach come together to offer objective, macro analysis.


Amara James Aja

Program Assistant, Fiscal Sponsorship

Amara brings a background in arts education and administration to NEO Philanthropy. Before joining NEO, Amara worked as an arts instructor and administrator in programs serving New York public schools and correctional facilities, most recently with New York City’s Community-Word Project. He is also an alumnus of Prep for Prep, a highly selective leadership development program that prepares students from historically disadvantaged backgrounds for placement in leading independent schools. In 2013, he graduated from Cornell University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Government with a minor in Africana Studies.

Melissa-Bernard-Melissa Bernard

Program Assistant, Sunrise Initiative & Communities for Public Education Reform

Prior to joining NEO Philanthropy, Melissa worked as a Girls’ Education and Empowerment Volunteer with the Peace Corps in Togo. There, she promoted the importance of educating girls and women, trained local education leaders on gender issues in schools, and partnered with the non-profit Pathways Togo to administer a girls’ scholarship program. In addition to her commitment to volunteerism and social justice, Melissa brings nearly two years of administrative and fundraising experience to her role. She is a graduate of Saint Louis University, where she studied Communication and Women’s Studies.

JJulie Callahanulie Callahan

Program Associate, Special Projects

Julie brings a background in sales, marketing and travel writing to NEO Philanthropy. She most recently served as a Development Associate at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Aside from her work in support of women’s reproductive rights, her volunteer activities with New York Cares have included work on child and adult literacy programs for non-native English speakers and feeding the hungry. In 2006 she graduated from Fordham University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in English.

Rini Chakraborty

Senior Program Officer, Four Freedoms Fund

Rini was previously the Western Regional Director for Amnesty International USA. Prior to joining Amnesty International, Rini was the Executive Director of Sweatshop Watch, a US-based organization at the forefront of eliminating sweatshops in the global apparel industry. Previously, she served as the principal legislative advocate and director of the California Immigrant Welfare Collaborative (a former project of the National Immigration Law Center); senior policy analyst with the ACLU of Southern California; policy associate with the Northern California Coalition for Immigrant Rights; and ballot initiatives coordinator with the ACLU of Northern California. An expert in policy advocacy, grassroots campaigning, media, and coalition building, Rini has spearheaded a number of highly visible, groundbreaking campaigns in California, from restoring health and welfare benefits for immigrants and gaining in-state tuition rates for students regardless of their immigration status (AB 540); to passing resolutions condemning the USA PATRIOT Act and vigorously enforcing “sweat-free” procurement laws. Throughout her career, she has worked on the panoply of immigration enforcement tactics – from worksite enforcement policies and immigrant verification screens in public benefits, to post-9.11 profiling and local law enforcement collaboration with ICE. She currently serves on the board of directors for Health Access, International Labor Rights Forum, and SweatFree Communities.

Nanci Champlin

Operations and Communications Director, Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation

Nanci Champlin joined the FCCP team in September 2009. Throughout the last 15 years Nanci has provided outreach, administrative, development, communications and program support to some of Oregon’s most effective nonprofits. In her seven years at the Fund for the Public Interest/OSPIRG, Nanci participated in the successful Campaign Finance Reform and Bottle Bill ballot initiatives. She helped broaden the cultural dialogue about environmental issues through street-level arts programming at Orlo, and developed a sustainability plan for a local green design and architecture firm. In March 2009, Nanci celebrated passage of new Wilderness protections for some of Oregon’s iconic wild places – the culmination of her nearly eight years at Oregon Wild.

HenryDerHenry Der

Senior Program Officer, Four Freedoms Fund

Henry Der is the son of immigrant parents, and has been associated with Four Freedoms Fund since 2006. For more than 22 years, he was the executive director of the San Francisco-based, membership-supported Chinese for Affirmative Action, working to promote the civil rights of Asian American and other racial minority groups in employment, education, voting and access to public services. A former Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya, Henry has also served as Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction at the California Department of Education, with oversight responsibilities for programs that address the needs of adult immigrant, at-risk and special needs students. He was appointed by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to be the State Administrator to bring Emery Unified School District out of fiscal bankruptcy. Active in community and education affairs, Henry has led coalition efforts to promote equal educational opportunities and access for immigrant students at the City College of San Francisco, including the recently-completed construction of the Chinatown/North Beach campus facility serving more than 6,500 adult immigrant students, as well as raising private donations to support education programs at this campus facility. He also currently serves on the University of California President’s Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture and Inclusion, as well as the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation Board of Directors.

Michael Jung

Program Assistant, Four Freedoms Fund

Michael brings a background in policy reform and social justice advocacy.  Michael started out his career in nonprofits as a graduate of the DART Organizers Institute where he gained tools to create systemic change through community organizing. From there he went on to spend three years in Florida at the FAST organization working on behalf of low income communities and marginalized populations. Prior to coming to NEO Michael worked in campaign consulting and coalition building with several nonprofits in the Pacific Northwest in order to pass legislation and budgets. In addition to his work at NEO Michael is currently completing a masters degree at the NYU Wagner school of Public Service.

AAngela-Kahresngela Kahres

Program Associate, State Infrastructure Fund

Angela comes to NEO Philanthropy by way of the Picower Foundation, where she served as a grants assistant. She graduated magna cum laude with departmental honors in English from Wagner College, where her activities included founding a club focused on encouraging interfaith dialogue on campus and collaboratively developing a course involving travel to Israel for students to gain hands-on understanding about the conflicts in the area. She has also traveled to Bangladesh, where she worked with classmates to collect water samples from rural villages affected by arsenic contamination of drinking wells.

ChannaphaChannapha Khamvongsa

Founder and Director, Legacies of War

Prior to joining NEO Philanthropy, Channapha worked in the Peace and Social Justice Unit of the Ford Foundation, the Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership at Georgetown University, the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, the Bill and Melinda Gates Millennium Scholars Program and the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging in Seattle. In 2004 she founded Legacies of War, a special initiative of NEO Philanthropy. She received her master’s degree in public policy from Georgetown University. Channapha was six years old when her family fled Laos to the U.S. in 1980.

AApril-Lindsaypril Lindsay

Executive Assistant

April has been an Executive/Administrative Assistant for many years.  She has come to NEO Philanthropy via The New York Academy of Medicine and the World Health Organization HQ in Geneva, Switzerland.  She moved to NYC in December 2011, having already worked in Australia, United Kingdom, Ireland (where she is originally from), as well as Switzerland.  April has a BSc in Healing Arts and although she loves creating order, structure and systems in the workplace, her art is expressive, free flowing and sometimes very messy.

Sarah Motola

Program Associate, Fiscal Sponsorship

Prior to joining NEO Philanthropy, Sarah served as Program Administrator for a youth advocacy nonprofit providing an alternative to incarceration program for juveniles. She began her juvenile justice work conducting assessments in detention centers around NYC, advocating for clients in Family and Supreme Court, and building relationships with judges and attorneys. Her work required a high level of planning, organizational, multi-tasking, and communication skills, all while managing and meeting competing deadlines.  Prior to that, Sarah traveled throughout Latin America volunteering and researching the intersection between national identity building and the preservation of indigenous cultures. Sarah graduated magna cum laude from Skidmore College, where she earned departmental honors in Government and Latin American Studies.

Neeraj Nagpal

Senior Controller

Neeraj brings an outstanding financial management background of over 17 years experience in the real estate, not-for-profit and insurance fields. Neeraj’s experience in the not-for-profit field is wide-ranging and diverse; he has held senior financial positions at the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health, Habitat for Humanity New York City, and Friends House in Rose Hill. His areas of expertise include Internal Controls, Budgeting, Financial Reporting & Analysis and Cash Management. Neeraj has earned both an MBA in Finance and a Masters in Economics from the University of Delaware. Neeraj also holds Certification in Cost and Management Accounting.

Ly-Nguyen-Ly Nguyen

Program Officer, Communities for Public Education Reform

Prior to joining NEO Philanthropy in 2008, Ly completed a one-year internship with the William Penn Foundation’s Children, Youth, and Families program area. Ly is a member of the Fellowship for Emerging Leaders in Public Service, a development program of the Research Center for Leadership in Action at NYU Wagner that brings together emerging leaders working in public service positions throughout New York City. Ly graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania, where she majored in sociology and Asian American studies.

Wanda-Phipps-Wanda Phipps


Wanda has a background in creative writing, freelance journalism and performance.  She studied theater and English literature at Barnard College of Columbia University in New York City, acting at American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and poetry at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. Her prior nonprofit experience is in the arts world. For three years at The Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church, she played a variety of roles such as program assistant, writing workshop leader, community outreach coordinator, advertising salesperson and curator of  two reading and performance series.  Most recently, she worked for two years in the Archiving Services Department of DC Comics.  Currently, she also serves as a  freelance dramaturg and text consultant for the nonprofit experimental theater company: Yara Arts Group, a resident theater group of La MaMa, E.T.C.  She is the author of six books of poetry and has received awards from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Meet the Composer/International Creative Collaborations Program, Agni Journal, the National Theater Translation Fund, and the New York State Council on the Arts. Her poetry has been translated into Ukrainian, Hungarian, Arabic, Bangla and Galician.

Lori RoseLori-Rose

Director, Operations and Human Resources

“The drive I have for the important work we do, stems from my own life experience, when I met a man from Mexico and wanted to marry him here in New York, where I was working as a fertility nurse. The struggle he endured from an immigration and human rights standpoint was heartbreaking, but he fought the system, only to go on to learn English, succeed, and now own his thriving business. His story is rare, but the work we do could help others in the same situation.”

Prior to joining NEO Philanthropy in January 2008, Lori was a licensed fertility nurse in uptown NYC, where she also served as executive assistant, managed the medical office and provided one on one patient care. Lori, a native New Yorker, graduated from Queens College and Mandel Medical School. She currently volunteers with children with cancer at an Uptown NYC hospital, and with children who can’t read.

Justin-RussoJustin Russo

Communications Manager

Prior to joining NEO Philanthropy, Justin worked at AHRC New York City, a 65-year-old organization dedicated to enhancing the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities. His background includes more than 12 years of experience in web development, project management for marketing and communications, and workforce training in the non-profit sector. He is an advocate of sustainable systems and emerging communications technologies, particularly concerning freedom of expression and net neutrality. A lifelong resident of the Hudson Valley, Justin has served as a volunteer for several regional nonprofits, including Sustainable Hudson Valley, the O+Festival, and the Winnakee Land Trust. He is currently pursuing an MBA in Computer Information Systems and Sustainable Business Management from the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College.

Jill-SavittJill Savitt

Human Rights Expert

In her role with NEO Philanthropy, Jill advises a range of NGOs on human rights advocacy and strategy.  In 2007, when Jill founded and directed the Dream for Darfur campaign, she based it at NEO Philanthropy.  The campaign was designed to urge the Chinese government to take specific actions regarding the Darfur crisis in the lead up to the 2008 Beijing Games.  After the campaign ended, Jill remained at NEO and now advises a range of human rights groups, including the Center for Civil and Human Rights, where she is the inaugural curator of the human rights exhibit and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, where she is a senior advisor to the Center for the Prevention of Genocide.  She is also a consultant to Human Rights First and Human Rights Watch.  Jill has taught courses on human rights advocacy at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA).  She began her career as a reporter for WAMU, the NPR affiliate in Washington, DC. She graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa from Yale University.  Jill is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Lacy Serros

Program Officer, Just and Fair Schools Fund

Lacy has 13 years of experience in the nonprofit and public sector with a background in program development, strategic grantmaking, policy analysis, and community advocacy. Before joining NEO Philanthropy, Lacy worked for Hispanics in Philanthropy as the Northeast Program Manager where she oversaw a regional and issue-specific portfolio, and gained expertise in capacity building to improve outcomes for Latino aging, LGBTQ and men and boys populations. Lacy gained regulatory advocacy experience during the implementation of the Affordable Care Act while a National Urban Fellow at Trust for America’s Health. She also completed a Community Activist Fellowship at the Tides Foundation working on a cross-set of issues including civic engagement, voter participation and reproductive justice.  Lacy gained community organizing and policy advocacy experience working at Latino Issues Forum, Dolores Huerta Foundation, and the United Farm Workers of America.  She holds a master’s degree in public administration from CUNY – Baruch College.

Tashie_SloleyTashie Sloley

Grants Manager

Tashie has over five years experience working in the non-profit sector in an administrative capacity. Prior to joining NEO Philanthropy in 2011, she worked as an Administrative Assistant with NYC Parks & Recreation, Urban Park Rangers division where she assisted with organizing and facilitating events, activities for the public, and managing the Jr. Rangers summer camp program.

Irene B. Schwoeffermann

Program Director, Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation

Irene comes to the FCCP team from the Coalition for a Livable Future (CLF), a non-profit organization seeking to bring together community partners to address issues of livability, equity and sustainability in the Portland-Vancouver Region. Prior to working at CLF she spent nearly a decade in Washington, DC where she graduated from Howard University and began her career at the national level. Her professional experience includes serving as the Director of the Student of Color Campus Diversity Project for the U.S. Student Association, Program Associate for the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, and Coalitions Director for the Congressional Black Caucus under Chairwomen Carolyn C. Kilpatrick (D-MI) and Barbara Lee (D-CA). Irene is also active in a number of local community organizations and networks, including the Portland African American Leadership Forum, the Portland Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and the Oregon Environmental Council’s Emerging Leaders Board. Irene will serve as lead coordinator of FCCP’s signature programs, including the National Convenings and First Monday Calls.

Bonnie-VelezBonnie Velez

Program Assistant, Four Freedoms Fund & Just and Fair Schools Fund

A native New Yorker, Bonnie has deep roots in the Washington Heights community. She attended Vassar College where she earned a BA in Latin American and Latino/a Studies. Before joining NEO Philanthropy, Bonnie was a Paralegal at the New York Legal Assistance Group where she represented clients at fair hearings to restore their wrongfully terminated public benefits. Afterwards, she was a Program Coordinator at iMentor where she worked with high school students and young professional volunteers facilitating impactful mentoring relationships. Bonnie is excited to transition from the realm of direct services to philanthropy and is very happy to be doing so at NEO Philanthropy.


NEO Philanthropy, Inc., (formerly Public Interest Projects, Inc.) is a not-for-profit, tax-exempt organization incorporated under the laws of the State of New York in 1983.

Since 2003, NEO Philanthropy has awarded more than $151 million in grants to organizations engaged in cutting edge work on the front lines of social change.

More than 91 percent of NEO Philanthropy revenue comes from foundations and donors dedicated to effecting social change through the collaboration between investors and nonprofits.

In 2012, NEO Philanthropy concentrated more than 90 percent of its expenditures towards programmatic initiatives that effectively supported both grantees and fiscal sponsorships advancing the cause of social justice and human rights.

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A copy of our IRS Form 990 is available below & on the Guidestar website.

Click to download the NEO Philanthropy 990 financial report for 2012

Click to download the NEO Philanthropy 990 financial report for 2011


Your contributions to NEO Philanthropy support our work on the some of the most pressing issues facing our nation. NEO Philanthropy has more than 25 years experience in philanthropy. We offer an unequaled level of expertise and experience in grant making and grant management, fiscal oversight, strategic planning and facilitating alliances across social movements.

Your donation will be wisely invested and leveraged with other gifts in a smart, thoughtful and strategic way to maximize your contribution. Thank you for sharing with us a vision of a society that ensures justice, dignity and opportunity for all people.

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NEO Philanthropy is a 501(c)(3) public charity that operates grant making and  technical assistance programs for foundations and individual donors interested in social justice and human rights issues. By developing sustainable partnerships among donors, grantees and allied groups, NEO Philanthropy seeks to foster positive social change that results in equality, fairness and a stronger participatory democracy.

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