The Foundation Center in New York City has reached halfway around the world for its new president.
Bradford K. Smith will succeed Sara L. Engelhardt, who is retiring after 17 years as president. Smith is currently president of the Oak Foundation in Geneva, Switzerland, a family foundation with programs and grant activities in 41 countries in North America, Europe, Africa, Latin America, and South Asia. His start date is October 1.
“Brad is a respected leader with an outstanding record of achievement in connecting people and organizations to critical resources that strengthen their capacity to serve the public good,” said M. Christine DeVita, chairman of the Foundation Center’s board of trustees and president of the Wallace Foundation. “His deep knowledge of both philanthropy and the nonprofit sector and of the complex issues that drive the field today are powerful assets that will serve the Center well as the central knowledge hub for the field.”
Prior to joining the Oak Foundation, Smith developed and led the Ford Foundation’s Peace and Social Justice Program, the foundation’s largest program area, providing hundreds of millions of dollars during his ten-year tenure as vice president to organizations working on issues of human rights, international cooperation, governance, and civil society in the U.S. and around the world.
“With unprecedented levels of private wealth being devoted to philanthropy and the nonprofit sector,” Smith said, “the public increasingly wants to know how these resources are being applied to the diverse challenges facing society … Building a better world is imperative, and I am honored to take the reins of an organization that is contributing the ideas, information, and services needed by grantmakers and nonprofits striving to do just that.”
According to his biography, Smith has devoted his entire career to the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors. He first joined the Ford Foundation as a program officer in its Brazil office. Prior to that, he directed the Brazil program of the Inter-American Foundation. At the start of his career, he worked for the YMCA of the USA, both in Costa Rica and New York, where he became manager for world development at its Center for International Management Studies
He holds an M.A. in economics from the New School for Social Research in New York and a B.A. in anthropology and ethnomusicology from the University of Michigan.
Smith’s boss at the Ford Foundation was Susan Berresford, the organization’s now retired president. “He’s going to be wonderful in the job,” said Berresford. She called him a creative person with good management skills. And, he knows how to raise money, a skill he’ll need at the Foundation Center, which relies on foundation support.
Smith’s international background was appealing to the Foundation Center’s board. “He’s had a really broad background and brings international experience as well as experience in this country to the job, which will be, I think, an opportunity for the Foundation Center,” said Nancy Roberts, president of the Connecticut Council for Philanthropy based in Hartford and Foundation Center board of trustees member. “He knows philanthropy, he knows nonprofits and has a global perspective. The Foundation Center is an important institution in the philanthropy field, and I really commend Sara Engelhardt for her 17 years of service there and how far she’s brought it over these years. I’m sure Brad will be able to continue that growth and change.”