Bill Dempsey, Nathan Cummings Foundation

TITLE: Senior Vice President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer

FUNDING AREAS: Inequality and climate change

CONTACT: bill.dempsey@nathancummings.org, 212-787-7300

IP TAKE: With abiding interests in investment and civil rights, Dempsey directs grant money to organizations that give healthcare to people who don't have it. He appreciates projects that have a social justice angle.

PROFILE: Bill Dempsey likes investments with social purpose. He's the cofounder of the CtW, a union pension investment firm. As a funder of Restaurant Opportunities Center United, a restaurant workers advocacy group, Dempsey showed up at shareholder meetings for chain-restaurant powerhouse Darden Restaurants (think Olive Garden, Red Lobster) to encourage investors to listen more to employee workplace concerns. And in response to recent apparel manufacturing disasters in Bangladesh, where unsafe conditions led to workers' deaths, Dempsey was part of a group of investors who, in the New York Times, urged U.S. companies to use their money responsibly, to avoid prioritizing profits over unsafe or exploitive factory environments, and to make public their supply chains as a gesture of transparency.

So with his financial savvy and his thirst for social justice, Dempsey is well-suited to being both Senior Vice President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer who also oversees the health program grants at the Nathan Cummings Foundation. He directs the investment of millions of dollars annually into projects that promote health and wellness, especially for vulnerable people, in the United States.

The Nathan Cummings Foundation is sizable, with assets of more than $402.8 million, and its mission is larger still. Its goal: a socially just society. The foundation seeks to achieve its vision by investing money in health, the environment, the arts, and Jewish causes in the United States and Israel, and other causes that intersect with social justice issues. In 2012, Nathan Cummings spent more than $2.3 million on 28 grants specifically focused on health—Dempsey's portfolio. The grants ranged in amount from $25,000 to $225,000.

Dempsey and his health team have a broad definition of their program area. A review of recent grants shows that donations go less to groups focused on medical services themselves and more to organizations with a health policy concentration. A sampling of Nathan Cummings' health grants:

Bottom line: Dempsey likes health-focused projects with a social justice angle. This combination is not surprising, given his career in civil rights and advocacy. A few highlights from Dempsey's past: directing the Capital Stewardship Program for the United Food and Commercial Workers union and cofounding of the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center. 

While the Nathan Cummings Foundation was not accepting unsolicited grant proposals when this post was written, it encourages potential grantees to check back on its grant info webpage every so often for application timing updates.