News and analysis
February 23, 2016

Independent Sector Names Education-Charity Leader as CEO

Communities In Schools

Dan Cardinali, new head of Independent Sector

Independent Sector, a coalition of charities and foundations, today named Dan Cardinali, president of Communities in Schools, as its new chief executive.

Mr. Cardinali, whose group focuses on curbing the number of school dropouts, serves on the board of Independent Sector. He replaces Diana Aviv, who led the nonprofit-advocacy association for 12 years before leaving in October for the top job at the nonprofit Feeding America.

Mr. Cardinali, 50, takes over at Independent Sector in July. He has extensive experience leading a complex organization. During his 12 years at the helm of Communities in Schools, Mr. Cardinali helped promote the spread of services to students that were based on solid research about what works. He also launched the nonprofit’s push to improve public education.

"Dan’s extensive background and expertise in the charitable community will allow him to move expeditiously to address pressing priorities for the sector," Neil Nicoll, chairman of the Independent Sector board of directors, said in a statement. "He has the skills to build upon Independent Sector’s legacy of helping a diverse sector advance the common good, and he will strengthen our organization, and the sector at large, for a rapidly changing future."

In addition to serving on the Independent Sector board, Mr. Cardinali is a trustee of America’s Promise Alliance, a coalition that works to help young people, and a board member at Child Trends. He was appointed to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics in 2011 and was an Annie E. Casey Children and Family Fellow in 2007. Mr. Cardinali trained as a community organizer in Guadalajara, Mexico, where he helped a community of more than 100,000 people push for land rights, running water, and public education.

Proposal for a Merger

Independent Sector is an influential — if at times controversial — advocate for nonprofits, representing more than 500 charities and foundations.

The organization had total revenue of $8.7 million in 2014, according to its 2014 Form 990, the most recent available. In 2014, Ms. Aviv earned $521,076 for her work at Independent Sector, as well as $156,311 in other compensation, according to the tax filings.

Speculation about who would replace Ms. Aviv and what the future priorities of Independent Sector would be drew interest from some big names in philanthropy.

Emmett Carson, chief executive of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, called for the organization to merge with the Council on Foundations.

Pablo Eisenberg, senior fellow at the Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy, called for Independent Sector to stop promoting the policy of self-regulation for nonprofits and instead push for better government regulation. He also said the group should no longer try to represent grant makers, just charities.

Other nonprofit leaders expressed hope that the new leader would be comfortable working with data, crafting public-policy proposals, and collaborating with big Silicon Valley donors. They hoped the new leader would be able to unite the diverse interests of the nonprofit world.

Before she left, Ms. Aviv called for nonprofits to do more to adapt to the demographic and technological changes shaping the United States.

Praise for Selection

Mr. Cardinali was selected with guidance from a search committee led by Steve McCormick, former president of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and former chief executive of the Nature Conservancy.

Steve Taylor, senior vice president at United Way Worldwide, who said in June 2015 that Independent Sector had "big shoes" to fill replacing Ms. Aviv, applauded the appointment of Mr. Cardinali.

"That sounds like a really great pick to me," he said. "The nonprofit sector is really at sort of a turning point. There is no shortage of issues that we are facing, from regulation and oversight and tax policies that can really dramatically influence our ability to do our work. Independent Sector has been a leader on that, and I think Dan can take Independent Sector to the next level in protecting the interests of the sector."

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated incorrectly that Mr. Cardinali is 49 years old. He is 50. 

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