Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation Appoints Neel Hajra Next President/CEO

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Ann Arbor, Michigan – After a five month national search, the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation’s Board of Trustees announced the appointment of Neel Hajra as its next President & CEO effective January 1, 2015 immediately following Cheryl Elliott’s retirement.  

Hajra’s resumé and list of accomplishments in the nonprofit sector and field of philanthropy are extensive.  He joined the Community Foundation in 2011 and currently serves as AAACF’s Chief Operating Officer and Vice President for Community Investment serving as a key ambassador for the Community Foundation throughout Washtenaw County.  As  COO, Hajra oversees AAACF’s operations which include the distribution of more than 500 grants per year totaling $3.4 million,  the professional investment management of a portfolio of more than 475 charitable funds and $77 million in total assets, and a number of innovative community initiatives.  In particular, Hajra has been instrumental in developing and leading two recent strategic community initiatives: 

  • Coordinated Funding:  a public-private partnership of six local funders who work with local health & human service agencies to strengthen the social safety net in Washtenaw County, and
  • Cultural Economic Development:  a major effort to spur community prosperity by advancing local arts & culture initiatives.

Prior to joining the Community Foundation, Hajra spent ten years at Nonprofit Enterprise at Work (NEW), where  as  President &  CEO for two years, he led all aspects of NEW’s development efforts and operations  including providing governance, technology and facility support to more than 400 nonprofits per year.  Before NEW, Hajra served as a corporate attorney at Ford Motor Company.  Born and raised in Ann Arbor, Hajra holds a BS with honors in Physics from the University of Michigan and a JD from the University of Michigan Law School.  Hajra is also a lecturer at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School for Public Policy.

Recognized statewide and nationally as a thought leader in the nonprofit and philanthropic sector, Hajra has received the Aspen Institute Fellowship for Emerging Nonprofit Leaders and the American Express Next Gen Fellowship, both of which recognize 12 individuals nationally for emerging and visionary leadership.

Bhushan Kulkarni, Chair of AAACF’s Board of Trustees, and Vice Chair Michelle Crumm guided a ten-member search committee who worked with Kittleman & Associates, LLC, a national executive search firm in Chicago dedicated exclusively to recruiting leaders for nonprofit organizations.  Kulkarni, a successful entrepreneur and Chairman and CEO of GDI Infotech, notes the importance of the thorough and wide search.  He shares, “When hiring the Community Foundation’s next President & CEO, we looked for a leader who could take the Community Foundation to the next level – an important decision not just for AAACF’s future, but also for our community.”  Hajra was vetted among a wide pool of candidates and six finalists.  Kulkarni notes, “Neel stood out. His passion for this community, from the inside-out, is unparalleled.  He has a clear understanding of all the moving parts of a complex organization and the role he will assume.  And he has great clarity on where he wants to lead AAACF to excel in its role of advancing philanthropy and strengthening our community.

Hajra shared, “The search process gave me the opportunity to step back and think about the organization, our community, and what I hope to achieve for both.  I have appreciated the opportunity I’ve had over the last 3 ½ years and I’m honored and humbled to continue serving the community that I love so much.”

Hajra will work closely with AAACF’s President & CEO Cheryl Elliott over the next four months to ensure a smooth transition including the search for a new Chief Operating Officer to assume Hajra’s current responsibilities.

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The Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation is dedicated to enriching the quality of life in our region through its engaged grantmaking, knowledgeable leadership, and creative partnerships with donors – to make philanthropic investments and build endowment. Founded in 1963, AAACF manages more than $77 million in total assets and some 475 charitable funds on our community’s behalf.  Since 1963, AAACF has awarded more than $33 million in grants and scholarships, most recently awarding $3.4 million in 2013.

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