Deborah Thompson Velazquez, Altman Foundation

TITLE: Associate Director

FUNDING AREAS: Strengthening communities and youth development in New York City

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

PROFILE: The Altman Foundation's Deborah Thompson Velazquez has made a name for herself giving advice about philanthropy just about as much as working in philanthropy. In recent years, this senior program officer has spoken at many conferences, participated in targeted panel discussions, and offered a gold mine of advice to grantseeking non-profit organizations. An announcement about her promotion in Philanthropy New York shared: 

The Altman Foundation is pleased to announce that Deborah T. Velazquez has been appointed Associate Director of the Foundation.  Ms. Velazquez joined the Foundation in 2008 as Senior Program Officer.  

Ms. Velazquez’s core responsibilities include oversight of the Strengthening Communities area—which includes economic self-sufficiency, affordable housing, and parks and open space—and a number of investments that link youth development and the arts.  She also advances critical capacity building and systems change grants across multiple program areas and provides leadership in donor collaborative funds, including the NYC Workforce Development Fund; the Change Capital Fund; the New York Merger, Acquisition, and Collaborative Fund; and the New York Pooled PRI (program-related investment) Fund.  In her cross-cutting role as Senior Program Officer and now Associate Director, she also helps to facilitate the efforts of other program staff working in areas of the Arts, Education, and Health, and fosters the development of internal systems that improve the experience of Altman grantees and staff.  Executive Director Karen Rosa noted, “Deborah Velazquez is a strong leader whose calm and steady style is undergirded by a brilliant and dynamic mind that is also creative, warm, and completely committed to the issues at the heart of the Foundation.  We celebrate this well-deserved promotion.”

Prior to joining Altman, Ms. Velazquez served as a philanthropic consultant and held management roles within the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, MDRC, and Bridge Street Development Corporation. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the State University of New York at New Paltz and a Master of Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.   

Michael Laracy, Annie E. Casey Foundation

TITLE: Director, Policy Reform and Advocacy

FUNDING AREAS: Child poverty, Community Development, Public Policy

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

PROFILE: Michael Laracy is the director for policy reform and advocacy at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a national philanthropy dedicated to helping build better futures for disadvantaged children. Laracy is also responsible for the foundation's initiatives and grant-making agenda in income security and child advocacy. His foundation bio shares: 

As director of policy reform and advocacy, Michael Laracy advances the philanthropy’s efforts to inform, guide and influence public policy at the state and federal levels. He is also responsible for the Foundation’s KIDS COUNT network and State Fiscal Analysis Initiatives and grant-making portfolios in poverty reduction and in budget and fiscal issues.   

Before joining the Foundation in August 1994, Laracy was assistant commissioner for policy, planning and program evaluation in the New Jersey Department of Human Services, where he served for 17 years. He did his undergraduate and graduate work at Rutgers University, majoring in urban planning and public policy.


Patricia Swann, The New York Community Trust

TITLE: Senior Program Officer for Thriving Communities, Community Development & Technical Assistance

FUNDING AREAS: Community development, civic affairs, technical assistance

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

IP TAKE: The success of the Community Development program's first year allowed it to continue funding for the project in 2013 and beyond, so it seems that Swann brings about successful and quantifiable results.

PROFILE: It's been said before, but diversity is boundless in New York City. Communities of different sizes, ethnicities, and income levels are held together by geographic boundaries, with each facing a unique set of challenges and hot-button issues. That's a challenge that Patricia (Pat) Swann faces.

As The New York Community Trust's senior program officer for community development, civic affairs, and technical assistance, Swann was responsible for understanding these unique community challenges and finding organizations that address them with innovative approaches. Today Swann serves as NYCT's Senior Program Officer for Thriving Communities, Community Development & Technical Assistance. The trust's goal: "to build and sustain strong communities and create economic opportunities for residents of low-income neighborhoods."

It's a tall order, and there's a large scope to the grants Swann makes. But in looking at her past grants— and in a broader perspective those of the entire trust—addressing issues in innovative ways plays a strong role in her grantmaking decisions.

For instance, an $80,000 grant from the trust went to Feet in Two Worlds, "a program started in 2005 at The New School Center for New York City Affairs to bring the marginalized voices of immigrants to their fellow New Yorkers." The program makes the work of immigrant journalists available on public radio and the web, and also provides them with training opportunities. In many ways, it's a truly 21st century project, embracing technology and social media to connect immigrants in New York and across the country.

"As a city of immigrants, we have prided ourselves for our ability to embrace newcomers from all over the world and the unique contributions they make to New York’s cultural, social, and economic life," Swann said in a statement in 2010. "We think that this project will contribute to increased conversations among the City’s residents and better understanding."

Swann also oversees civic affairs grants and technical assistance grants for nonprofits. One grant made recently to Community Voices Heard helped it to organize communities around participatory budget projects. Four City Council members gave a percentage of their capital funds to these participatory budget projects, and communities voted on how to allocate the funds. New York City is just the second city in the country trying it.

Recently, East Harlem residents decided how to spend nearly $2 million in their neighborhood, and in 2012 residents in participating districts decided how to spend $5.6 million. It's no surprise that these "revolutionary civics," as the trust has called them, are leading to increased interest and participation from residents, but it also highlights Swann's approach to grantmaking: innovation, innovation, innovation.

"This is what it's about: It’s about giving people the power," Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito told the New York Daily News about the most recent East Harlem funding round. "It's the community's needs. It's what people are saying they want. You can't say no to that, right?"

Swann also spoke to the Foundation Center in 2011 about funder collaboratives. Collaboration between funders and nonprofits has guided grantmaking in the past, and some grants are made this way now. Although there isn't a set number of collaboratives the trust makes, it's certainly something fundraisers might consider. "The best collaboratives that I've been a part of are those where grantees and funders alike become a community learners about an issue or problem," Swann said in the interview.

In addition her role at the trust, Swann also has also served on the advisory board of Brooklyn Workforce Innovations and the local office of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation. The trust's website also shares this about Swann's professional background:

Prior to The Trust, Pat directed economic development programs in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and worked for the Office of then-Manhattan Borough President David Dinkins. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Pratt Institute’s Graduate School of Architecture and Planning. She is also a recipient of a Revson fellowship at Columbia University.   


Shawn McCaney, William Penn Foundation

TITLE: Executive Director 

FUNDING AREAS: Community development, parks, and transportation in Philadelphia

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

IP TAKE: This urban planner has worked his way through the ranks to become Penn's man in charge. From the start, he's had big plans for moving Philly out of its gritty past to become a more livable place that draws creative class types.

PROFILE: Effective March 1, 2017, Shawn McCaney is the executive director of the William Penn Foundation. He's been part of the foundation since 2003 and served as the director of national initiatives and the Foundation’s Creative Communities grant program before this. In this prior role, Shawn oversaw the development of strategic partnerships with national funders to share innovative approaches developed in Philadelphia and to attract non-local support.

In the past, Shawn McCaney is the front man for urban development at Philadelphia's William Penn Foundation. Since the recession, he has seen waterfront development in Philadelphia as absolutely crucial to the city's long-term financial well-being. "If we don't do this," he told, "we'll be less competitive in the future and will fall behind."

Penn's Creative Communities initiative is the heading under which the majority of McCaney's work falls. The idea here is to make Philadelphia more of a destination for visitors, employers, and workers. The website describes a key component of the effort as:

...access to great public spaces that function as the stage for healthy civic life and community engagement and provide high-quality opportunities for outdoor recreation and play. More than ever, high-quality public amenities, such as parks, trails, and open spaces are key assets that cities need to effectively retain existing residents and compete for highly mobile, knowledge economy workers and businesses.

Delaware River Waterfront Corporation makes a sterling example of what McCaney and Penn like to see. After a successful $6.5 million renovation of the formally abandoned Race Street Pier into an outdoor concert venue, next on the corporation's hit list is an "8-acre park it envisions will cover I-95 and Columbus Boulevard between Walnut and Chestnut streets. The new park, which will slope to the water, will reconnect Old City with the waterfront," according to

Penn dropped $400,000 on the idea before the company even publicly announce an estimate of its total cost.

Outside of the waterfront, McCaney has also had an interest in those looking to build public parks, trails, and other outdoor recreational spaces or improve old ones. Anything goes here, from research and data collection on the viability of new projects, match and challenge grants from other funders, and even the nitty-gritty of "project planning, design, and pre-development, including community outreach." In some instances, McCaney can also capsize his foundation's wallet for one-shot experimental projects, such as new technologies for managing and monitoring public space and general operations support for companies working in this field.

Turnoffs for McCaney and the Creative Communities initiative have included proposals that will place an undue financial burden on the city in the long run, high-maintenance projects, and anything outside of Center City Philly and the adjoining riverside sections of Camden.

Ultimately, McCaney brings a strong urban planning and design background to the William Penn Foundation. Before starting there in 2003, he logged more than 15 years with various Philly-area design and architectural companies. In the government sector, McCaney has played a significant role in the recent development planning of Philadelphia's Chinatown and of the PATCO Hi-Speed Line, which connects with Philadelphia's SEPTA system and proceeds east over the Ben Franklin Bridge, across South Jersey, ultimately terminating in Lindenwold, New Jersey. He also received his education locally, finishing an undergraduate degree at Temple and master's at UPenn.

Alexander von Furstenberg, The Diller-von Furstenberg Foundation

TITLE: Director 

FUNDING AREAS: Education, community reform, environmental advocacy, disease research, child care, arts and humanities, and human rights

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

PROFILE: Alexander von Furstenberg serves as a Director of the Diller-von Furstenberg Foundation. His foundation shares:

Alexander von Furstenberg is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Ranger Global Advisors. He previously served as Co-Managing Member and Chief Investment Officer of Arrow Capital Management, LLC, a private investment firm focused on global public equities which he established in 2003. Since 2001, Mr. von Furstenberg has acted as Chief Investment Officer of Arrow Investments, Inc., the private investment office which serves his family. Mr. von Furstenberg is also a Partner of Diane von Furstenberg Studio, LP. 

Mr. von Furstenberg serves on the board of directors of IAC, a U.S.-based internet conglomerate, and is on the board of W.P. Stewart & Co., Ltd., a Bermuda-based asset management firm.  In addition to the philanthropic work accomplished through his position as a Director of The Diller – von Furstenberg Family Foundation, Mr. von Furstenberg also serves on the board of directors of Friends of the High Line.  He is a graduate of Brown University.