Sep 7 2023

Unlocking Grantee Potential Through Capacity Building

Grantmakers for Education


September 7, 1:00 pm ET


As funders, what do we see as the purpose of capacity building, and how do we leverage capacity-building support to foster effective, sustainable and equitable organizations? How do we honor grantees' perspectives and preferences, while also ensuring they have the support needed to reach their full potential? How do we effectively support grantees that have very different needs and contexts? Join our funder panel for a candid and reflective conversation as we discuss our experiences and insights in shaping our capacity-building efforts to be effective, grantee-driven and equity-centered.

This event is intended for members and other education grantmakers.

There is no cost to attend this Grantmakers for Education program. Registration closes 15 minutes prior to the program time. Thank you for your patience; we review each registration in advance.

About the Speakers

Lucy Brainard

Lucy Brainard
Manager, Portfolio Success & Operations
Overdeck Family Foundation

Lucy Brainard, Manager, Portfolio Success & Operations, leads and manages the vision, goals, strategy, and execution of the Overdeck Family Foundation’s Portfolio Success team, equipping grantees with the capacity-building supports they need to achieve sustainable, cost-effective impact at scale through a tiered support model. Previously, Lucy worked at TripAdvisor as the Social Impact Program and Events Coordinator, where she provided coordination for employee giving and volunteer initiatives, including communicating with and developing new tools and resources for employees and nonprofit partners. Lucy also oversaw the planning and execution of Global Volunteer Month for 3,500 employees in 34 international offices, including the TripGives Ambassador program. In 2012, she founded Orkeeswa’s Angels, a social enterprise that employs 150 local Maasai women in Tanzania to make beaded angels, jewelry, and ornaments, with all proceeds covering school fees for students at Orkeeswa Secondary School.

Leona Christy

Leona Christy
CEO and Founder

Leona Christy is an impact entrepreneur who excels at finding innovative and elegant solutions to vast, complex, and often hidden challenges. She founded Catalyst:Ed to improve outcomes for America’s children and youth by strengthening the schools and nonprofits that serve them, and transforming the capacity of the nation’s education ecosystem. Under her leadership, Catalyst:Ed has pioneered a unique model to rapidly and effectively match education organizations to the expertise, resources, and hands-on support they need to become more effective, innovative, and equitable. It is also investing in strengthening the capacity of grassroots organizations that work in close proximity to historically marginalized communities through capacity building grants.

Leona is a Malayali, who grew up in India and emigrated to the United States as an adult. With no access to networks of power and wealth, she overcame multiple challenges and constraints as she sought to launch and grow Catalyst:Ed to its national presence. Her experiences have fueled her drive to remove barriers to access, knowledge, and opportunity for all. As the Founder and CEO of Catalyst:Ed, Leona is responsible for defining Catalyst:Ed’s vision and strategy and for shepherding its ongoing impact, growth, health, and sustainability. She also writes and speaks about topics at the intersection of education, innovation, entrepreneurship, and equity. Leona has previously built thriving teams and organizations across the world throughout her professional career in both the corporate and social sectors. Leona has an MPP from Duke University and an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management.

Jennifer Husbands

Jennifer Husbands
Senior Program Officer
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Jennifer L. Husbands, PhD, is a Senior Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation where she leads the Community of Practice for the Networks for School Improvement. Throughout her career, her focus has been on adult learning, including roles such as Executive Director of Schools That Can Chicago, where she convened a cross-sector network of schools to share best practices; Director of the AUSL Institute, where she built a consulting practice that delivered advisory services to organizations interested in AUSL’s approach to turning around low-performing schools; and Director of School Incubation at Chicago Public Schools, where she provided resources and training to charter schools during their start-up phase. She also led the nation’s first charter school-based, state-approved teacher certification program at High Tech High, a network of high-performing, project-based learning-focused charter schools in San Diego. She earned her PhD in Administration and Policy Analysis from Stanford University’s School of Education and her BA with Highest Honors from the University of Virginia.  She currently serves on the advisory boards of the Chicago Children’s Museum and the Chicago Public Education Foundation and is an active member of Education Leaders of Color (EdLoC).

Dhivya Venkataraman

Dhivya Venkataraman
Senior Manager, Grantee Capacity
Schusterman Family Philanthropies

Dhivya Venkataraman is a Senior Manager of Grantee Capacity Support at Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies. She supports Schusterman’s work to provide beyond-the-grant support to grantees in pursuit of thriving resilient organizations. In this role, Dhivya partners with portfolio teams to determine the best strategy and approach to ensure equitable access to and distribution of non-monetary supports such as convenings, TA support, cohort experiences, and other opportunities. Dhivya has over fifteen years of experience in supporting education and social impact organizations to address their most pressing strategy and talent challenges. Before joining Schusterman, Dhivya worked as an independent education consultant for two years and was an Associate Partner on Bellwether Education Partners’ Strategic and Talent Advising teams for five years. Dhivya worked with a range of organizations including nonprofit organizations, school districts, charter management organizations networks, and foundations, strengthening efforts to improve outcomes for underserved populations in the United States. Prior to working in the social sector, Dhivya worked at IBM Global Business Solutions in its public sector division. Dhivya advised federal clients, such as the Navy and EPA, on improving their core operations and financial management systems. In addition, Dhivya worked in international development, assisting governments with initiatives in economic development, health care, and education. Dhivya holds Master’s degrees in Public Policy and Business Administration from Georgetown University and a Bachelor’s degree from The George Washington University. She is an alumna of the Education Pioneers Graduate School Fellowship.

Sherman Whites

Sherman Whites
Philanthropic Advisor
Prosperity Labs

Sherman Whites is a senior leader with deep experience in catalyzing people, ideas, and capital to drive towards innovative and equitable outcomes in society. He specializes in the areas of program strategy, stakeholder engagement, and non-profit capacity building.Most recently, Whites was a director of education for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, where he managed philanthropic investments related to community ownership and equity in K-12 education.

Prior to joining the Kauffman Foundation, Sherman was a program officer for the K-12 Education and Special Interest teams at the Walton Family Foundation. He was responsible for managing investments to improve education outcomes through empowering parents to choose among high-performing schools.

Sherman began his career in philanthropy in 2011 after working with public charter schools in New Orleans as part of the Broad Foundation’s Residency in Urban Education. Prior to his career in education, Sherman acquired experience in operations and brand management from several market-leading organizations including Ford Motor Company, PepsiCo, Campbell Soup Company, and Target Corporation. He also served as an adjunct instructor at North Carolina Central University.

Whites earned his Master of Business Administration from the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina and Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from Florida A&M University.


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