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Event: Why Is Nonprofit Leadership So White?


Who holds the top executive positions in NYC’s nonprofit organizations? Why?

An enduring reality in New York City’s nonprofit human services sector is that the top executive positions at the majority of human services organizations are held by people who identify as white. However, in most cases, these agencies predominantly serve people and communities of color.

The visibility of leaders of color within nonprofit organizations is significant to those organizations’ client communities, staff members, and for aspiring social work leaders. And while people of color have steadily risen to positions of responsibility within these organizations, CEO/President/Executive Director titles seem to elude BIPOC professionals.

In this panel discussion, a diverse group of current nonprofit leaders will explore the factors impacting who holds these positions, and identify ways in which agencies must adapt in order to address racial disparities in leadership. Additionally, the discussion will provide the information and next steps needed by schools of social work to inform educational curriculum, and will prepare students to advocate and organize around diversity and representation in nonprofit leadership.

Register here. 



  Cristina Contreras

Cristina Contreras, M.S.W., M.P.A., Executive Director, NYC Health & Hospitals/North Central Bronx.

Cristina Contreras is a passionate and resounding New Yorker who has spent her life serving her community and its residents. Born in the Dominican Republic, Cristina arrived to the United States with the intent of realizing the American Dream and helping her fellows. She earned a B.A. in Social Work from Herbert H. Lehman College in 1995. That same year, in pursuing her dedication for public service, Cristina began her career within NYC Health + Hospitals/Coney Island as a Caseworker. She successfully assumed positions of progressive leadership and responsibility, leading to her present senior executive role of both Chief Strategy Officer of NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi/North Central Bronx and Executive Director of NYC Health + Hospitals/North Central Bronx.

In her impressive 25-year tenure in public health, she expanded the hospital’s presence in the community to help engage patients in their own health. She embraced diversity by engaging and working together with different community leaders and elected officials in order to provide the public with opportunities for health education to improve health outcomes. In recognition for her astounding leadership, Cristina has received numerous awards.

As she worked to better herself in order to better help others, Cristina earned her M.S.W. from Fordham University in 2001 and a second master’s degree in public administration from Baruch College in 2008. She is a sitting member of Bronx Community Board 7, the Dominican Day Parade Board, the American College of Healthcare Executives, the Association of Hispanic Health Executives (AHHE), and other professional and community organizations. Cristina is married and a dedicated mother of four residing in the Bronx.


Jess Dannhauser


Jess Dannhauser, M.S.W., President & CEO, Graham Windham

Jess Dannhauser is the President & CEO of Graham Windham, a mission-driven organization and a leader in the fields of child welfare and juvenile justice in New York City.  

In addition, Dannhauser is the President of the Board of Education for Greenburgh Graham Special Act School District, which serves 300 students and is accredited by Middle States Commission of Elementary and Secondary schools. This K-12 campus is known for its holistic student-centered unified approach, both social and educational, which is delivered in an environment focused on student success. 

Before joining Graham Windham in 2009, Dannhauser served as Associate Commissioner for Performance Measurement, Monitoring and Improvement for NYC’s Administration for Children’s Services having already served as Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Agency Program Assistance and Chief of Staff to the ACS Commissioner. 

Prior to joining ACS, Dannhauser was Special Assistant to Linda Gibbs when she was Commissioner at the Department of Homeless Services. As a graduate assistant, Dannhauser conducted research on the implementation of the Adoption and safe Families Act at Cal/Berkeley’s Center for Social Services Research. His graduate internship was with U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein’s Office.

Dannhauser earned his M.S.W. at University of California, Berkeley School of Social Welfare and his B.A. at Duke University.


Damyn Kelly


Damyn Kelly, J.D., Ph.D., President & CEO, Lutheran Social Services of NY (LSSNY)

Dr. Damyn Kelly serves as the President and CEO of Lutheran Social Services of NY, a nonprofit human services organization that has an operating budget of more than $68 million and employs more than 642 human service professionals at over 39 sites in the city of New York. Key programs of LSSNY include early childhood education, foster care, immigrant services, supportive housing, immigration legal services and a school for special needs children.

Kelly has also served as a frequent speaker, presenter, and lecturer on issues pertaining to diversity, equity, and inclusion with a special emphasis on the lack of executives of color in the nonprofit sector. He also emphasizes the lack of Black males in leadership positions. He is also frequently sought out by other nonprofit organizations who seek training and assistance in insuring that their organizations are addressing issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

Kelly has also worked as a Bronx Assistant District Attorney and a senior staffer for a Member of Congress. Presently, he serves as a member of the Board and Chair of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee of the Coalition of Family and Child Caring Agencies (COFCCA) and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Human Services Council, the Collaborative for Children and Families, and Black Agency Executives. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of GallopNYC, a program that introduces urban youth to the joys of horseback riding as well as providing therapeutic care to children via horses. He has taught several graduate courses in public policy at the Hunter College School of Public Health and in the Social Work Program at Adelphi University. 

Kelly has a bachelor’s degree from Adelphi University; a law degree from the Antioch School of Law, and a Ph.D. from the Adelphi University School of Social Work.


Maria Lizardo


Maria Lizardo, L.M.S.W., Executive Director, Northern Manhattan Improvement Corp (NMIC)

Lizardo joined NMIC as the Director of Social Services in 1998. In 2004, she was promoted to Deputy Director of Client Services. Before joining NMIC, Ms. Lizardo worked at PROMESA, Inc., a multi-service agency in the Bronx. During the eight years she worked there, she advanced from being a social worker in the substance abuse program to the Director of Community Development. In this role, she had the responsibility of implementation and oversight of numerous tenant, youth, open space, and safety programs. In 2014, Lizardo served initially as the Interim Executive Director and was then promoted to Executive Director of NMIC.

She earned her Master of Social Work degree from the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. She is bilingual in English and Spanish.



Jolisa Beavers, GSS M.S.W. Student
Shadequa Hampton, GSS M.S.W. Student

Sponsored by

GSS Activism Committee
GSS Action Committee for Racial and Social Justice


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