News and analysis
January 14, 2015

6 People to Watch in 2015

Courtesy of USO

Gary Sinise

Gary Sinise

The longtime veterans advocate has stepped back from his full-time acting career and established a small foundation to support active and retired military personnel who suffer from what he calls "the residual effects of 13 years of war." The group has recently focused on the shortfall in care for the severely wounded, noting the struggles of the Department of Veterans Affairs. "Is it up to government to do everything? No," he says. One new project: building "smart" homes so that triple and quadruple amputees can live independently.

Sister Donna Markham

She will succeed a prominent antipoverty warrior, the Rev. Larry Snyder, when she becomes the first woman to head Catholic Charities USA on June 1. An Adrian Dominican sister who heads the Behavioral Health Institute at Mercy Health, she wants Catholic health and social-service organizations to collaborate more to help people in need.

Jane Leu

Recognizing the fundraising struggles of small social-service nonprofits, Jane Leu, an Ashoka Fellow, has started Smarter Good, which helps groups outsource routine fundraising work to the Philippines, home to "a hot and emerging social-enterprise sector," she says. Among those working for Smarter Good in Manila: a former corporate-responsibility officer, a former report writer for the International Committee of the Red Cross, and a Filipino fiction award winner. By 2016, Ms. Leu hopes to have at least 60 small charities using Smarter Good to build a fundraising infrastructure they couldn’t create on their own.

Ernie Iseminger

The Claremont McKenna College development chief—who in 2013 completed a $635-million campaign, believed to be a record for a liberal-arts institution—is now speeding through a $100-million drive for student financial aid, with more than half of the cash raised. One element of this success: Claremont is creating scholarships that match donor interests or passions, where appropriate. "A lot of the newer-wealth donors want to know in a more intimate way what their money is helping to leverage," Mr. Iseminger says.

Carl Malamud

The open-records gadfly is optimistic he can win a court battle against his nemesis: the Internal Revenue Service. If so, the tax agency would have to release Form 990 tax documents in a format that can be read by computers, making it easier to see how charities are spending money and organizing operations.

Debra Lee

The CEO of BET Networks takes over as president of the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation this year, at a ripe time. The departure of longtime foundation Chairwoman Joan Weill prompted an outpouring of more than $40-million in her honor.

—Drew Lindsay and Suzanne Perry


Send an e-mail to Drew Lindsay and Suzanne Perry.