By Maria Saporta
The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta has named nonprofit leader Frank Fernandez as its new president and CEO beginning in August.
Fernandez has been in Atlanta since 2014 when he moved here to head up the Westside redevelopment efforts for the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation. Currently, he has been serving as a senior vice president of the Blank Foundation.
Alicia Philipp, who is retiring as the Community Foundation’s CEO after 43 years, was delighted with the choice.
“His fingerprints are all over some of our region’s most exciting initiatives, and I fully expect his impact – and the Foundation’s – will only grow in the new role,” Philipp said in a statement. “I applaud the search committee’s work and the Board’s choice.”
The Community Foundation is a major philanthropic force in the Atlanta region with an endowment of $1.2 billion.
Fernandez was selected after an extensive national search that encompassed more that 350 sources and prospects in 31 states. He will assume the role at a critical time for the Foundation and the Atlanta community because of the coronavirus.
The Foundation partnered with the United Way of Greater Atlanta to establish the COVID-19 Rescue and Recovery Fund, which has raised more than $22 million and provided grants to more than 320 nonprofits.
Bill Bolling, a longtime nonprofit community leader in Atlanta who is on the board of the Blank Foundation, has worked with Fernandez on the Westside, HouseATL, and most recently, with his leadership to respond to equity issues related to the coronavirus.
“Frank is an excellent convenor, facilitator, team leader, and he has the ability to move an agenda forward,” Bolling wrote in a text. “He has great listening and reasoning abilities as well as the gift to work with all types of people.”
Fernandez, who is on vacation this week with his family, was not available for comment on Thursday afternoon.
But in a release, Fernandez spoke about his priorities as president and CEO of the Community Foundation.
“Equity of opportunity is one of the primary social and racial challenges facing our region, and pursuit of greater equity for all has been my personal North Star for the past 20 years,” Fernandez said. “I am humbled and excited to be invited to lead one of the nation’s premier community foundations at such a compelling time in the evolution of the South’s most dynamic metropolis and my adopted home.”
Fernandez is a Florida native who was born to Cuban immigrants. He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, magna cum laude, from Harvard University. After three years in New York with Salomon Smith Barney, he moved to Austin to pursue a Master of Arts degree at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas.
From 2001-2006, Fernandez was deputy director of Austin’s PeopleFund, providing loans and business advisory services to small businesses and nonprofits, lower-income communities and minority-owned businesses. He then spent nearly eight years (2006-2014) as executive director of Green Doors, an Austin-based housing nonprofit that connects lower-income communities to greater socio-economic opportunity by providing affordable housing, supportive services and advocacy on issues of poverty and homelessness.
Since he’s been in Atlanta, Fernandez has joined the board of the Latino Community Fund, and he serves on the finance committee of KIPP. He also is a Civil Society Fellow of the Aspen Institute, and he was a German Marshall Fund Fellow in 2011. While in Austin, he was named Ernst & Young’s Social Entrepreneur of the Year.
“We are thrilled to get a leader of Frank’s caliber to lead the Community Foundation into the future. In every interview and conversation, Frank demonstrated his experience, wisdom and depth to take the reins of the Community Foundation. Frank has the vision, passion and energy to unite and inspire the citizens and leaders of our metro community. He understands the challenges in our community and will be a transformational leader.”
“We are thrilled to get a leader of Frank’s caliber to lead the Community Foundation into the future,” said Bert Clark, chair of the Foundation’s CEO search committee, in a statement. “In every interview and conversation, Frank demonstrated his experience, wisdom and depth to take the reins of the Community Foundation. Frank has the vision, passion and energy to unite and inspire the citizens and leaders of our metro community. He understands the challenges in our community and will be a transformational leader.”
Fernandez also complimented the work Philipp has done in guiding the Foundation over the past four decades.
“Alicia and her colleagues have built an amazing platform for donor service and community engagement over the years, and the Foundation is an essential anchor for the community,” Fernandez said. “As a nonprofit practitioner, foundation officer and Atlanta resident, I have enormous respect for the reputation, momentum and commitment to excellence already in place.”
He also said COVID-19 has exposed “the longstanding and urgent need for racial justice in our region.” He added that he looks forward to collaborating with the board, his colleagues, donors and program partners in “capitalizing on the opportunities uniquely available to the Community Foundation and our region at this critical moment,”
Community Foundation Board Chair Susan Grant, who was an ex-officio member of the search committee, also praised the selection.
“Frank’s got it – deep respect for all the citizens of our region, unwavering commitment to address systemic racism with innovative and collaborative solutions, profound humility and a compassionate approach to leadership.”
Doug Hooker, executive director of the Atlanta Regional Commission and a search committee member, echoed that sentiment.
“The power of the mission and the board’s commitment to tackle equity of opportunity head-on has only been strengthened by the effects of the pandemic,” Hooker said. “The path of our selection decision traveled through many zip codes. In the end, we are thrilled our search landed on Frank Fernandez, a leader who has already demonstrated a commitment to Atlanta, with a depth of experience ranging from Wall Street to neighborhood streets.”
The other members of the search committee were:
- Patrice Brown Greer, a strategist, entrepreneur and community volunteer;
- Jeff Muir of Fulcrum Equity Partners;
- John Reid, the immediate past chair of the board and a community volunteer;
- Dave Stockert of the Sweetwater Opportunity Fund; and
- Studie Young of Harry Norman Realtors
The search committee was advised throughout by BoardWalk Consulting, an Atlanta-based firm focused exclusively on the leadership of foundations and nonprofits. BoardWalk team members Sam Pettway, Kathy Bremer, Crystal Stephens and Patti Kish were involved with the engagement.
On Thursday evening, Pettway said he and his team are “excited for what Frank’s leadership will represent for the community.”
Founded in 1951, the Community Foundation serves the 23-county Atlanta region. It is among the top 20 of the 750 community foundations around the country.