Nicky Goren named new president of Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation

The Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation, a major nonprofit funder in the Washington region, has appointed Nicky Goren as its new president and chief executive.

This completes a near year-long, nationwide search after philanthropy veteran Julie L. Rogers announced that she would step down from the foundation after 28 years.

Goren, 47, comes to the foundation after a career in government and grantmaking, where she led groups including the Corporation for National and Community Service and, most recently, the Washington Area Women’s Foundation.

“We were looking for someone that brought big-picture, strategic thinking but also someone who had a sensitivity for the Washington community and in particular nonprofit leaders,” said Joshua Bernstein, chairman of the Meyer Foundation’s board of directors. “Nicky brought a wonderful combination of all those skills and qualities.”

Goren will be the Meyer Foundation’s fourth chief executive since it was created in 1944 by Eugene Meyer, then publisher of The Washington Post, and his wife, Agnes, a journalist. The foundation has given more than $184 million to local charity groups. Last year, it gave $6 million to 200 organizations that focus on areas including education, health and economic stability.

Along with the departure of its established leader, well known in philanthropy circles, the foundation faces a changing philanthropic landscape in the D.C. region.

The area’s two largest contributors, Fannie Mae and the Freddie Mac Foundation, have all but ended their philanthropy, putting pressure on grantmakers, including the Meyer Foundation, to make up for the loss. Last year, federal budget cuts and the government shutdown reduced donations for many local charities, prompting foundations to step in.

Being a grantmaker in this philanthropic environment demands a rare set of skills, officials with the Meyer Foundation said.

“It’s a combination of rigor and compassion,” said Rogers, 63, who will officially step down in June. “You have to be smart about how the groups you support can produce results. But you have to be compassionate about how hard these nonprofit leaders are working, how thin the resources are and do everything you can to bring more resources to their work.”

Goren, after finishing law school at Cornell University, started as an assistant general counsel at the Congressional Budget Office in 1992, where she soon was selected to help create the Office of Compliance on Capitol Hill, an agency that handles government staff employment rights.

Looking for a more “exciting” role, she soon moved to the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal government agency that provides grants to support service and volunteerism.

“I had several cases where I would have challenges” with communication between people in different offices, recalled David Eisner, then chief executive of the agency and Goren’s boss. “I got really adept at making sure they had a conversation with Nicky before it got to me, because there was a greater likelihood that they would agree on a way forward.”

Building a reputation as a “subtle diplomat,” as Eisner referred to her, she quickly moved up to become chief executive, with a staff of 600 and a budget of $1.1 billion.

In 2010, she became head of the Washington Area Women’s Foundation, where she was a vocal advocate for women and girls living under financial stress.

During her four-year tenure, the organization gave $6 million to nonprofits and created three additional programs, including one that helps organizations serving disadvantaged girls of middle-school age and their mothers.

“I am passionate about this region and believe that, while we have great strengths as a region, we have enormous challenges to overcome if we want to ensure that our residents across the region have the opportunities to thrive and succeed,” said Goren, who lives in the District with her husband and two young sons. “I have long admired the reach and influence of Julie Rogers and the Meyer Foundation and saw this position as an opportunity to make a difference more broadly in our community.”

Goren is to begin July 1.

Vanessa Small covers philanthropy and nonprofits for Capital Business. She also spotlights newly appointed executives in the New at the Top column, which chronicles their journeys to the top. Small was raised in Orange County, Ca. and graduated from Howard University.
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