People

“Don’t settle for anything other than your passion – if you’re lucky enough to find it.”~ Warren Buffett

We are thankful to the people who shepherd NoVo’s work and inspired daily by their dedication, passion and spirit.

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    Sangeeta Budhiraja

    Director, Local Communities Initiative

    Sangeeta serves as Director for the Supporting Thriving Local Communities initiative, based in Kingston.

    Sangeeta has been a passionate advocate for racial, gender, and economic justice for the past 20 years as a community activist, and specifically in feminist philanthropy for the past decade.  Prior to NoVo, Sangeeta was both the the Director of Programs and Director of Institutional Partnerships at the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, where she led efforts to increase resources and forge partnerships to strengthen movements for LGBTQI justice globally. She was also the first Program Officer for Movement Building and Economic Justice at the Ms. Foundation for Women, where she built a portfolio of grantees working at the intersections of women’s and worker’s rights locally, nationally and particularly in the US South. She most enjoys creating and implementing strategies dedicated to centering the voices of communities directly impacted by systems of oppression, and to engaging a holistic vision of how change happens over time. 

    Sangeeta earned her JD from CUNY School of Law, and has spoken on various panels and been a guest lecturer on human rights law and its practical application to gender and sexual rights, and has served on several boards, including the New World Foundation. She is most grateful for her first Women’s Studies class at Hamilton College for setting her on her path. In her spare time you can find her in her garden or kitchen, or in the midst of a DIY home project. She is a country girl at heart, and lives in Woodstock with her partner, their daughter, dog, cat and fish.

    “We must use what we have to invent what we desire.” — Adrienne Rich

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    Jennifer Buffett

    Co-President

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    Jennifer Buffett is co-president of NoVo Foundation with her husband, Peter. She is responsible for creation and oversight of the Foundation’s vision, strategy, and program development. In addition, Jennifer is co-chair of the Foundation’s Board of Directors.

    Jennifer works passionately advocating for girls and women worldwide and to end violence and exploitation against them, promoting “whole-child” education practices, and supporting balanced, sustainable communities.

    Jennifer currently serves on the Board of V-Day. She began her work in philanthropy in 1997 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, primarily as a funder of social service organizations, with a focus on early childhood education for at-risk children and families.

    Jennifer and Peter were named in Barron’s list of top 25 most effective philanthropists in 2009 and 2010.

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    Peter Buffett

    Co-President

    photo: Peter Buffett

    Peter Buffett is the co-president of NoVo Foundation and co-chair of its Board of Directors.

    In partnership with his wife, Jennifer, he helps to guide NoVo’s vision, strategic mission, and program development. Peter is a well-established musician, composer, and producer.

    Born in Omaha, Nebraska, Buffett began his career in San Francisco writing music for commercials. After recording four albums for Narada Records, Peter signed with Epic and then Hollywood Records resulting in four additional releases. His Emmy-winning album, titled Ojibwe, was released on his own label, BisonHead.

    Highlights of his film and television work include the fire dance scene in the Oscar-winning film Dances With Wolves and the entire score for 500 Nations, the 8-hour miniseries produced by Kevin Costner for CBS. Peter is the author of Life Is What You Make It, which debuted at No. 4 on the New York Times Best Seller Hardcover Advice list and is a companion to his live “Concert & Conversation” performances.

    Buffett’s theatrical production, Spirit—The Seventh Fire, was performed on the National Mall for the Smithsonian’s opening of the National Museum of the American Indian. Spirit—The Seventh Fire combined Imax scale film and imagery, native dancers and a live band to tell the story of one man’s journey toward reconnection through his heritage and the land we live on.

    Peter and Jennifer were named in Barron’s list of top 25 most effective philanthropists in 2009 and 2010.

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    Trude Chandler

    Associate, Local Communities Initiative

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    Trude currently serves as Associate for the Supporting Thriving Local Communities initiative.

    Prior to joining NoVo, Trude ran her own personal organizing business, helping her New York City-based clients make the most of their tiny residential and/or commercial spaces. Her desire to spur socially conscious relations to the things we own and the assemblages we participate in inspired her to complete a B.A. in Sustainability Studies at CUNY Hunter College.  Garnering internships at The Department of Environmental Conservation and the NYC Parks Department as a Public Service Scholar, Trude also participated in numerous on-campus environmental campaigns and events. Namely, for her work as President of Hunter’s Sustainability Project, which empowered fellow students and faculty to reduce their environmental impacts, she received the CUNY Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Leadership.

    In her free time Trude enjoys traveling, baking, dancing, thrifting, as well as singing songs of empowerment and love with her local LGBTQ and allied a cappella group.

    “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

    –Richard Buckminster Fuller

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    Wendy Cheung

    Grants Manager

    Wendy Cheung, smiling, at NoVos headquarters.Wendy, a native New Yorker, hails from Chinatown and the Lower East Side. She serves in the role of Grants Manager at the NoVo Foundation. Wendy supports the management of the foundation’s grant processes, database, and budgets to ensure accurate and efficient administration of NoVo’s grantmaking. 

    Wendy brings a rich background in non-profit and organizing work across immigrant, people of color, and queer youth communities. For many years, she was a staff organizer at Chinese Staff and Workers Association, a leading workers’ rights organization fighting for improvement of workers living and working conditions. Her work concentrated on the People First Campaign which created a community-led rezoning plan for Chinatown and the Lower East Side, an unprecedented effort which gained significant grassroots support. Prior to joining Novo Wendy was a Client Specialist at Tides, where she honed her skills in grant reporting, payment processing, and compliance and gained further experience in philanthropy. She also provided administrative support to NoVo’s Donor Advised Fund’s at Tides. 

    Wendy holds a B.A. in Education and Sociology/Anthropology from Swarthmore College. 

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    Jennifer Dhanraj

    Systems Administrator

    A woman with tanned skin and black long hair in a black shirt smiling, standing in front of a green background.Jennifer currently serves as the Systems Administrator at the NoVo Foundation. Prior to joining NoVo, Jennifer worked at the United Federation of Teachers where she was responsible for the development and maintenance of UFT’s Salesforce instance, focusing on analyzing their organizational processes to develop workflows and adapting applications for operational improvements. Jennifer also spent over 2.5 years working at Crisis Action, a small international organization, that works with individuals and organizations from global civil society to protect civilians from armed conflict.  She was instrumental in the implementation of their organization’s Salesforce instance, which provided data transparency and accuracy that transformed the way the organization worked on campaigns.

    Jennifer has found that she is capable of her best work when surrounded by inspiring and thoughtful people working together, hopelessly optimistic of the power we possess to advocate for fundamental social change. She has followed a career path to reflect this quest to do her small and humble part to effect change. Her previous and current roles have allowed Jennifer to develop an understanding of the interdependencies between business processes, programs, and systems in order to plan, develop, and implement customized solutions and change to deliver strategically for the organizations she works for.

    Jennifer holds a B.A. in Sociology and History from CUNY Hunter college. In her spare time, Jennifer enjoys traveling around the world to complete her ever-growing bucket list, hiking, reading, and seeking out the best bagels her beloved New York has to offer.

    When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” — Audre Lorde

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    Leia Fish

    Program Associate, Indigenous Communities

    Leia currently serves as the Program Associate for the Indigenous Communities Initiative.

    Leia is a member of the Amskapipikuni (Blackfeet) Nation and was born and raised in Browning, Montana, on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. She is a tribal college graduate of Blackfeet Community College in Browning, Montana, and also attended the University of Montana in Missoula, Montana; wherein she received a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. She recently joins the NoVo Foundation from the American Indian College Fund where she served as a Tribal College Transfer Program Coordinator. Leia brings years of experience working in Indian Country and is dedicated to advocating on behalf of Native people and assisting communities to develop capacity and become self-sufficient.

    She resides in Denver, Colorado, with her family. In her spare time, she can be found with her family exploring the Colorado outdoors, attending music concerts and sporting events, and beading gifts for friends and family. Her education and experiences have taught her the importance of staying true to personal values.  Leia states, “I am honored for the opportunities I’ve been given; namely advocating for Native people and working collaboratively to help our Native communities become self-sufficient.”

    “Everything on the earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it, and every person a mission.”  –Mourning Dove

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    Brian Graham

    Manager of Finance and Accounting

    Brian serves as the Manager of Finance and Accounting for the NoVo Foundation. In this role, he works across the organization to develop and administer NoVo’s finance, payroll, and employee benefit systems.

    Brian brings a diverse background in nonprofit accounting and operations to the team. After receiving a B.A. in Communications and Music Management in 2004, Brian began his career with PBS affiliate WNET in New York. During his time with WNET, Brian transitioned his focus to nonprofit accounting. Over a twelve-year period, he managed the fiscal and operational business functions for public media and veteran service organizations.

    A native of New Jersey, Brian enjoys writing music, traveling, biking, and experimenting with new grilled cheese recipes.

    “All you need is love.” – John Lennon

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    Antoinette Harris

    Grants Manager

    Antoinette_6_4638Antoinette serves as the NoVo Foundation’s grants manager. In this role, she helps to manage the foundation’s grants processes, database and budgets, working to ensure that the administration of NoVo’s grantmaking is marked by efficiency and integrity from the start of a project to its completion.

    Antoinette brings extensive experience in philanthropy and grant management. After earning her B.A. in French from SUNY-Geneseo, Antoinette joined Trinity Wall Street’s grant program, where she helped manage the domestic portfolio and provided coordination and translation services for the foundation’s Francophone consultation in Burundi.

    She further honed her grantmaking skills at the Michael J. Fox Foundation as Grants Administrator and at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center as Grants Management Specialist.

    “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”
    –Mother Teresa

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    Stephanie Hartka

    Program Officer, Initiatives

    Stephanie Hartka, smiling, standing in front of a wooden bookcase and a egg blue colored wall.Stephanie Hartka serves as program officer for Initiatives. She holds a range of grantmaking and emergent projects, primarily supporting the Senior Director and Co-Presidents. Since joining NoVo in 2014, Stephanie has co-created grantmaking programs and gatherings across the Foundation’s work, most closely collaborating and weaving between the Indigenous Communities, Local Communities, and SEL/education Initiatives.

    Prior to NoVo, Stephanie served at the Tides Foundation as a philanthropic advisor supporting the Indigenous People’s Fund grantmaking, along with an array of fiscal sponsorship administration for social justice organizations. Additionally, Stephanie served as the program manager for the Colin Higgins Foundation’s annual Youth Courage Awards program, which awards LGBTQ+ teens for their activism and courage.

    Stephanie graduated from Goddard College with a BA in Individualized Studies, focusing on nonfiction creative writing, cultural anthropology, and visual art. Ever an experiential learner and artist, she spent her college years learning through service opportunities, art projects, and place-based social justice studies in Latin America. In 2010, she supported a community-led education and ecology initiative in an off-grid Achuar community in Amazonian Ecuador, where she lived as a volunteer educator for six months.

    Stephanie spends her spare time pursuing her ongoing study and practice of various holistic healing modalities including herbal and folk medicine and reiki. She can otherwise be found in women’s circles, exploring creeks and woodlands in the Hudson Valley, cooking meals with her large extended family, and traveling with her husband.

    “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one, I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one”. –John Lennon

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    Kerri Kleven

    Director, Grants Administration

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    Kerri has been with the NoVo Foundation for over ten years. She directs all aspects of the foundation’s grants administration and oversees NoVo’s grants administration team.  

    Prior to joining NoVo, Kerri was Manager of Philanthropic Services at RSF Social Finance, where she oversaw domestic and international grantmaking in areas focused on food and agriculture, education and the arts, and ecological stewardship. She has also worked on a variety of socio-economic rights-related projects, including with the Global Development Initiative in Cacha, Ecuador, where she focused on a micro-credit project to revitalize investment within local indigenous communities.

    In other previous roles, she served as an Americorps VISTA Volunteer with the Human Rights Documentation Exchange in Austin, Texas, and later went on to serve as an employee. She also served as an Upper Midwest International Human Rights Fellow with the MN Advocates for Human Rights Child Survival Project in Mexico and the U.S.

    Kerri holds a B.A. from Northern Arizona University, and a MPA from the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota, with a concentration in Women & Public Policy & International Relations.

    Kerri lives with her family in the Hudson Valley where they are pursuing a quieter life more deeply connected to the land.

    “Raise your words, not your voice, it is rain that grows flowers, not the thunder.” – Rumi

     

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    Ebony Lawson

    Office Manager

    Ebony serves as Office Manager at NoVo, where she is responsible for the daily hands-on management of the New York City office, including the oversight and supervision of front desk receptionists and providing supervision and guidance to the Administrative Coordinators across the foundation.

    From 2010-2017, she was operations manager for the Working Women Re-Entry program at Hour Children, an innovative nonprofit organization that provides comprehensive services to incarcerated and formerly-incarcerated women and their families. From planning job training programs, to managing evaluation efforts, to developing operational protocols and information management systems, Ebony played a central role in all aspects of the program’s operations and growth.

    Ebony also brings years of experience from the private sector, where she worked in various capacities as a client services professional.

    Her passion for the rights of girls and women is coupled with a passion for technology, and Ebony can often be found testing out the latest tech tools, applications and programs. Through it all, she loves spending time with her daughter and exploring the city together.

    “… it is the most militant, most radical intervention anyone can make to not only speak of love, but to engage in the practice of love. Anytime we do the work of love we are doing the work of ending domination.” — bell hooks

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    Kimberly McLain

    interim CFO

    Kimberly McLain is the Interim CFO with the NoVo Foundation. Kimberly, who brings a wealth of both nonprofit and private sector experience, currently oversees grants management, finance, IT, facilities, and administration, and supports programs and strategic planning at NoVo.

    Kimberly has spent well over a decade pursuing educational, racial and socioeconomic equity and inclusion for marginalized populations, championing families and communities by securing workplace access, facilitating equitable economic development and reducing educational disparities. Kimberly was previously President and CEO of Newark Alliance, a cross-sector business roundtable that represents major corporations, anchor institutions and community stakeholders in the Newark region committed to workforce development and economic growth for residents and businesses alike.  Prior to the Alliance, Kimberly was President and CEO of Foundation for Newark’s Future, a $200 million philanthropic initiative to improve educational access and outcomes for Newark students.

    Previously, Kimberly served as Vice President of Finance and Operations with Newark Charter School Fund and Managing Director of Planning with Teach For America. Prior to transitioning to the nonprofit space, Kimberly had a successful career in the corporate sector as an Investment Banker with Credit Suisse and a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with KPMG LLP.

    Kimberly’s civic engagement includes board service as Finance Committee Chair of BRICK Education Network, Chair of the Audit Committee to the board of Dwight-Englewood Independent Day School and Treasurer of Metropolitan Baptist Church. Kimberly, a former NJBiz Top Forty Under 40 honoree, served as a Co-Chair of the Urban and Regional Growth Committee of New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s transition team.

    Kimberly, a native of Salley, South Carolina, holds a CPA license, a BS in Accounting from the University of South Carolina and an MBA from Columbia University. She and her husband have two daughters, and reside in Bergen County, New Jersey.  Kimberly enjoys church, the gym, reading, Broadway theater and spending time with family and friends.

    “When people show you who they are, believe them.”  ⁠—Dr. Maya Angelou

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    Gary D. Schwartz

    Senior Director

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    Gary D. Schwartz joins NoVo after fifteen years of service at Tides.  He was the founder of the Tides’ New York office and served in many different capacities during his tenure there including Interim CEO before departing in 2014.

    Previous to Tides, Gary was the Co-Director of the Fund of the Four Directions based in NYC.  The donor-advised Fund granted in the areas of Environmental & Economic Justice, Native American Communities, and the Leadership of Women and Girls.  He was also previously employed at the Houston Area Women’s Center Rape Crisis Program in Texas and Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York.  Gary has spent his entire work life in the progressive non-profit arena.

    Gary is a Midwesterner whose roots go back to many generations of farming in northeastern Nebraska.  He graduated from Southern Illinois University and attended the New School of Social Research in NYC majoring in Non-Profit Management.

    Gary has served on numerous boards of directors including the Texas Abortion Rights Action League, Children of War, Artists for a New South Africa, the Highlander Center and the North Star Fund.  He continues to serve on the Board of the New Field Foundation, based in San Francisco.

    Gary oversees a NoVo office in Kingston, NY and the foundation’s work in the areas of Indigenous Communities, Social & Emotional Learning (SEL) and Local Living Economies (LLE).

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    Victoria Sweet

    Program Officer, Indigenous Communities

    A woman with long, rectangular silver earrings smiling, in front an area with rainbow flags.Victoria Sweet serves as a program officer for Indigenous Communities.

    Victoria has been actively engaged in advocacy on behalf of Indigenous communities for the past fifteen years. Originally from Minnesota, Victoria is a descendant of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe. Her community efforts to address violence against Native women and girls led her to attend law school at Michigan State University College of Law where she earned a certificate in Indigenous Law and Policy. Victoria researched the links between climate change, extractive industry development, and human security risks for Indigenous women and girls in the circumpolar Arctic and has been invited to speak on these topics in Finland, Iceland, Canada and around the U.S. She has published articles raising awareness about these connections in both domestic and international journals.

    Prior to joining NoVo she worked with The Whitener Group, traveling to rural Alaska Native villages providing tribal court assessments and assisting with justice system development. She also served for four years as a Senior Program Attorney at the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges where she created technical assistance materials and trained both state and tribal court judges on a variety of issues including domestic child sex trafficking, violence against Native women and girls, and Indian Child Welfare Act compliance. Victoria is a member of the Minnesota State Bar and serves on a number of advisory boards and initiatives for organizations working to create systemic changes to improve the lives of Native children, families, and survivors of violence and exploitation. In her free time, she loves to hike, kayak, rock climb, listen to live music, travel, and have adventures.

    “When you know who you are; when your mission is clear, and you burn with the inner fire of unbreakable will; no cold can touch your heart; no deluge can dampen your purpose. You know that you are alive.” — Chief Seattle

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    Matthew H. Tye

    Director, Organizational Development and Leadership

    Matthew is the Director of Organizational Development and Leadership. In this role, he oversees efforts to optimize NoVo’s organizational health and ensure that our culture, people, and practices are deeply grounded in our values of racial equity, feminism, inclusion, risk-taking, innovation and learning.

    As a psychologist and organizational change practitioner, Matthew has spent his career addressing the complex and dynamic systems that can interfere with individual, group, and organizational effectiveness.  Blending social science research and theory with real world solutions, he has helped hundreds of leaders more fully understand their organization, their role, and solutions for greater social impact.

    Prior to joining NoVo, Matthew spent over 15 years as a social sector consultant, which included the design, delivery and oversight of large scale OD engagements, customized leadership programs, team development interventions, and executive coaching.  During this time, Matthew also served as a faculty member in the Department of Organization and Leadership at Teachers College, Columbia University, and as a Visiting Professor of Leadership at IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland.

    Prior to becoming a consultant and academic, Matthew was the Managing Director of Programs at Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), where he oversaw all HIV prevention, Mental Health, and Research activities, and served as a member of GMHC’s executive team.

    A native of Nebraska and true Midwesterner at heart, Matthew holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Nebraska and a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University.

    Matthew lives in Brooklyn with his husband, their daughter, and two very active dogs.  In his free time, he enjoys cooking comfort food (and then hiking with his two active dogs to work off the comfort food).

    “Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.” – James Baldwin

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    Mona Williams

    Director of Finance and Accounting

    Mona Williams, in a striped black, white and turquoise blouse, wearing glasses and smiling in front of shelves with artifacts.Mona Williams serves as NoVo Foundation’s Director of Finance and Accounting. She joined NoVo foundation in August 2017. She brings to NoVo over 25 years of experience working in the nonprofit field. She has worked for both national and international organizations.

    Mona grew up in Queens, New York where she still resides. She received her Bachelors of Arts in Accounting in 1981 from Queens College, City University of New York.  In April 2014, she obtained her graduate degree in Public Health from Argosy University.

    Mona began her accounting career working for Brooklyn & Queens’ Catholic Charities as a grant accountant. In 1984, Mona accepted a staff accounting position at Covenant House (corporate office). She worked at Covenant House for 20 years and during the last 15 years at this organization she served as the Vice President of Finance. She also held finance management roles at the Catholic Medical Mission Board, EngenderHealth, Brooklyn Public library and Episcopal Health Services.

    Mona is passionate about by helping others, whether it is working with her church’s outreach programs or helping a person in need. She believes strongly that everyone deserves to be treated with love, respect and kindness. The greatest part about living, she believes, is being able to give of yourself freely.

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    Allan Zuniga

    Technology Associate

    Allan, standing before the NoVo photo gallery in a hallway.Allan serves as the Technology Associate for the NoVo Foundation’s Information Technology team and brings a lifelong passion in using technology to develop and engineer innovative, creative solutions for social change. In his role, he works with the Director of Technology in the day-to-day management of all aspects of IT, including network administration, audio/visual management, end-user support, user-training, and systems design.

    Allan’s extensive background in project management and support is guided by a core value of sharing information with others and its reciprocity, a principle he learned in his early youth that continues to guide him in his work. Prior to NoVo, Allan served as Systems Engineer for an IT consulting group based out of New York City, where he successfully oversaw network migrations, deployed disaster recovery sites and collaborated with teams to manage and troubleshoot various systems. While working directly with International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) as one of his primary clients, Allan’s technical expertise aligned with his inner passion for helping youth, women and other marginalized groups, expanding his desire to become more connected with movement work and organizations focused on social justice.

    A native and resident of Hoboken, NJ, Allan is also active in his community through a web platform he developed, which connects those in the area with local journalists and writers on various neighborhood issues.

    “When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.” – Elon Musk