Deborah Burke, Rockefeller Brothers Fund

TITLE: Program Associate, Sustainable Development

FUNDING AREAS: Climate change, clean energy, energy conservation

CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)

PROFILE: Deborah Burker is a program associate for the Rockefeller Brothers Fund in their Sustainable Development program. Here's additional information from the fund's own website:

Before joining the RBF, Ms. Burke worked as a research assistant at New York University’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy. From 2008 to 2011 she served as the senior policy advisor to Oregon State Representative Jules Bailey (D-Portland). In this role, she managed the representative’s portfolio, including assisting on several successful bills to promote sustainable economic development programs, energy efficiency, and alternative energy incentives. Last summer, Ms. Burke had the opportunity to work in the United Kingdom’s House of Commons as a parliamentary researcher for the West Lancashire Member of Parliament Rosie Cooper. Ms. Burke holds a B.A. in political science from Portland State University’s School of Urban Affairs, as well as her M.P.A. in nonprofit and public management and policy from New York University’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service.

Michael Northrop, Rockefeller Brothers Fund

TITLE: Program Director, Sustainable Development

FUNDING AREAS: Climate change, clean energy, energy conservation

CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)

PROFILE: Northrop is the program director of sustainable development at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. His foundation bio shares: 

Michael Northrop is the program director for the Sustainable Development grantmaking program at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund where he focuses on climate change and energy. Northrop has been a lecturer at Yale University’s Forestry and Environmental Studies School for the last 14 years, where he has taught a course on environmental policy campaigns. Previously he was executive director of Ashoka, an international development organization that supports “public sector entrepreneurs” and an analyst at First Boston, an investment bank in New York City. Northrop serves on New York City’s Sustainability Advisory Board, on the city’s Waterfront Advisory Board, and on the boards of the Rainforest Action Network, Inside Climate News, and Princeton-in-Asia. Northrop has a Master of Public Administration from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton, where he was an English major as an undergraduate.

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Ben Rodriguez-Cubenas, Rockefeller Brothers Fund

TITLE: Program Director, Culpeper Arts & Culture

FUNDING AREAS: Arts & culture

CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)

IP TAKE: Rodriguez-Cubenas used to be the director of the New York City program, but today he focuses on arts and culture. This has been the case since the foundation moved away from New York City specific funding as a pivotal place.

PROFILE: What do the Western Balkans, Southern China, and New York City have in common? The Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF), that's what, a foundation that describes all three as "pivotal places" at a crossroads in their very different and unique histories.

The fund's Pivotal Place: New York City program served an important function, allowing it to make an impact locally in New York City. The program accounts for the majority of its local grantmaking efforts, and each year the foundation pours roughly $4 million into NYC organizations in three areas: democracy building and sustainable development, both of which are overall RBF program areas, and arts & culture, which is a unique focus of the NYC program. This program ceased to exist in 2015.

The NYC program has a wide-reaching goal as well: to provide funding that helps establish the city as "a beacon of excellence and a force for positive change both within and well beyond its boundaries." Sounds like quite the task, right?

Ben Rodriguez-Cubenas, RBF's former NYC program director, certainly had the experience needed to lead the foundation's local giving. He has been with RBF since 1996, and prior to arriving he was a program officer at the William Randolph Hearst Foundations, working in education, health, human services, and arts and culture. Rodriguez-Cubenas also serves on the board of numerous local organizations, including the Cuban Artists Fund, which he founded in 1998. Back in the day, Rodriguez-Cubenas received his bachelor's degree in political science from Seton Hall University and a master's degree in international affairs from Drew University.

Read more about his background in his professional bio.

From the program's funding guidelines and past grants, you can get a sense of the organizations its funds. Online there is plenty of information for interested local applicants. You can find all the contact information for RBF staff members on the website. Below, Rodriguez-Cubenas talks about his involvement as a representative of the Cuban Artists Fund.



Stephanie Bencivenga, Rockefeller Brothers Fund

TITLE: Program Associate, Sustainable Development

FUNDING AREAS: Climate change, clean energy, energy conservation

CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)

PROFILE: Stephanie Bencivenga is a program associate for the Rockefeller Fund’s Sustainable Development program. Her official bio on the fund's website shares:

Prior to joining the RBF, Ms. Bencivenga worked in sustainability communications, where she helped develop environmental messaging campaigns for nonprofits and governmental agencies, and promoted local and national releases of environmental documentaries. She also co-founded and served as the executive director of the urban agriculture nonprofit Get Dirty NYC. Ms. Bencivenga is a graduate of Boston College, where she studied finance. She holds a Master of Public Administration, with a public policy concentration from Baruch College, where she graduated with the highest honors of Phi Alpha Alpha.

Bencivenga also puts her previous professional experience and education into context on her Linkedin page:

My master's program at Baruch College provided me with an understanding of the political, administrative and economic factors that help shape public policies, which have helped me become a more effective advocate for environmental issues. In addition to my research, urban sustainability and policy analysis courses, my program evaluation class has prepared me to evaluate the needs of organizations and their capacity to implement their missions.

Prior to graduate school, the focus of my career was on environmental communications and advocacy. At Futerra, an environmental public relations firm, my work included serving as lead researcher for the industry white paper "The Greenwash Guide" and helping to draft press releases and create key messaging for environmental non-profit and governmental campaigns such as 1Sky’s green job campaign and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. As an account executive at Fenton Communications, I served on the marketing team for the newly established clean energy department. My work primarily consisted of identifying and cultivating relationships with a strategic list of clean energy companies.

As a complement to my work in environmental communications, I have been an avid advocate for local and national environmental issues. I have worked with several community-based organizations to plan lectures and events to educate the public on topics such as energy efficiency and green urban planning. I have also organized rallies to advocate for stronger national and international environmental policies. Most recently, I founded an urban agriculture nonprofit that seeks to connect volunteers with urban farms and gardens in need of assistance in an effort to forge stronger community bonds and create a more sustainable city. I see my work within the community to be a rewarding and important step towards building a more sustainable New York City.