Insights into nonprofit leadership & governance

Frank Fernandez, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

July 7, 2020  

Atlanta, Georgia

Frank Fernandez succeeds Alicia Philipp at Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, marking the $1.2-billion foundation’s first CEO transition in 43 years.

Read more on the announcement from Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta below.

The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, the $1.2 billion community foundation inspiring philanthropy to increase the vitality of the region and the well-being of all residents, announces Frank Fernandez as its new president and CEO effective August 2020. Fernandez will follow Alicia Philipp, who led the Foundation for 43 years and announced her retirement earlier this year. His appointment by the Board of Directors concludes an extensive national search that encompassed over 350 sources and prospects in 31 states.

Fernandez will assume the role at a critical time, following the organization’s recent COVID-19 Rescue and Recovery Fund in partnership with the United Way. This Fund has raised more than $22 million, and provided grants to 320+ nonprofits.

Bert Clark, chair of the Foundation’s CEO search committee and a member of its Board, applauded the choice. “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.”

Fernandez is currently Senior Vice President, Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, for which he launched and leads place-based community revitalization efforts in Atlanta’s historic Westside. He also directs that foundation’s efforts in global giving, youth development and social justice, among other responsibilities.

Reflecting on his new mandate, Fernandez said, “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. 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.”

Continued Fernandez, “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. As a nonprofit practitioner, foundation officer and Atlanta resident, I have enormous respect for the reputation, momentum and commitment to excellence already in place. COVID-19 and the longstanding and urgent need for racial justice in our region highlight what a special time this is for all of us. With the Board’s support and the collaborative efforts of my colleagues, our donors and our program partners, I look forward to capitalizing on the opportunities uniquely available to the Community Foundation and our region at this critical moment.”

A Florida native born to Cuban immigrants, Frank Fernandez holds 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, 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.

In Atlanta, Fernandez is a member of the board of the Latino Community Fund and on the finance committee of KIPP. He has been on Atlanta Magazine’s Atlanta 500 list the past two years. He is a Civil Society Fellow of the Aspen Institute and was a German Marshall Fund Fellow in 2011. While in Austin he was named Ernst & Young’s Social Entrepreneur of the Year.

Community Foundation Board Chair Susan Grant, 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.” Atlanta Regional Commission Executive Director, search committee and fellow Board member, Doug Hooker, dovetailed by adding, “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. 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.”

In addition to Clark and Grant, the CEO search committee was composed of the following Foundation Board members:

The committee was advised throughout by BoardWalk Consulting, a national executive search firm focused exclusively on the leadership of foundations and nonprofits. The engagement was led by BoardWalk’s Sam Pettway, Kathy Bremer, Crystal Stephens and Patti Kish.

Outgoing Community Foundation CEO Alicia Philipp spoke highly of her successor. “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. I applaud the search committee’s work and the Board’s choice.”

Plans to honor Alicia Philipp’s tenure will be announced at a later date.

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