Here's Who You Need to Know at the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation

If you work on reproductive health and women's rights, you know that the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation is the 900-pound gorilla in this space. This funder not only backs a wide spectrum of organizations, it also gives out some very large grants; it goes wide, but also deep, as the best funders do.

Related: Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation: Grants for Global Health

Already in the door with STBF? Then good for you. But if you're not in that door, chances are that you've banged your head against it in frustration.

This outfit is a case study in non-transparency, and it's super hard to even figure out who's doing the grantmaking. Which is crazy, because putting aside medical foundations that assist patients, STBF ranked number five in total giving in 2012, shelling out $367.1 million in 2012. That total put it well ahead of such brand name biggies as Robert Wood Johnson, Kellogg, Open Society Foundations, Mellon, and Packard. 

For most grantseekers, trying to penetrate this place is like being a tourist asking around for the Mafia in Little Italy. The website is a laughable dead end, focusing only STBF's education giving and having nothing to do with huge key funding areas. STBF's 990s lag maddeningly behind by a few years. As a result, it's hard to even identify who to pitch at the foundation, or how to reach them. 

Until now. 

I've already written a big picture post on STBF. Here I focus just on the international program staff, who aren't listed on any website or in any directory. 

The person directing the international program is Türkiz Gökgöl. Gökgöl is incredibly low-profile given how much money STBF gives out internationally. No media interviews, no long bio on LinkedIn, no ubiquity on the conference circuit.

Gökgöl is originally from Turkey, and earned her doctorate from Harvard University in 1979. She then became a professor before joining Pathfinder International in 1983 as its representative in Turkey. She stayed with that organization into the 1990s, becoming its vice president for Asia and Near East, and expanding the group's work on family planning and reproductive health into several new countries. She also did a stint at the UNFPA in the late 1990s running its operations in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. 

Coming back to Turkey, she started a reproductive rights organization called the Willows Foundation in late 1990s, and was involved in other Turkish groups as well, working in tough terrain to empower women. Presumably, this is how she hooked up with STBF, where she started working in 2005. 

As I said, you won't find info on Gökgöl on the foundation's website, but here's her email: tgokgol@stbfoundation.org.

Turning to other international program staff, we find Lindsey Barari, a program officer who's been with the foundation for eight years. Barari is in her thirties with a Master's in Middle East Politics and Gender from Durham University. Not much more to say about Barari, whose email is presumably lbarari@stbfoundation.org

Katy Mitchell is another international program officer at SBTF, one who's relatively new at the foundation. Mitchell is a doctor by training, with a Master's in Public Health from Johns Hopkins, and before coming to SBTF, she spent years working on health issues in the developing world—first in Guatamala, and then for eight years in Africa, and Uganda in particular, where she focused on maternal and reproductive health. Her email should be kmitchell@stbfoundation.org.

That's what I've got so far in terms of staff on SBTF's international side. If you know other people there, and what they do, please chime in below in the comments section.