2015 Leadership Institute Mentors


Karl AndroesKarl Androes

Karl is the Executive Director and co-founder of Reading In Motion (founded as Whirlwind) in 1983. Karl has guided Reading In Motion to become one of the most effective literacy organizations to raise Kindergarten and 1st grade students’ reading scores to grade level benchmarks or above. Under Karl’s leadership, Reading In Motion has become known for a disciplined approach to results, utilizing rigorous outside studies of program effectiveness. Trained as a classical musician, Karl served for 11 years as a board member for the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, which is the training orchestra of the Chicago Symphony. Karl was the 2003 recipient of the Benjamin Gingiss Service Award from the Illinois Humane Society.


Frank BaiocchiFrank Baiocchi

Frank is a Senior Program Officer at the Polk Bros. Foundation, which last year granted more than $22 million to nonprofit organizations in Chicago in the areas of social service, education, health care and the arts. At the Foundation, Frank develops and leads grant-making strategies for capacity-building efforts, arts programs, and youth and family services. Prior to his time with the Foundation, Frank worked in various capacities in the performing arts including acting on Broadway , off-Broadway and at numerous theaters around the country and serving as an arts educator and administrator. He earned his B.A. from New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study and received an M.A. in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago.

Frank is a founding board member of Ingenuity, Inc. and the Stephen M. Hoenig Memorial Actors Fund and also serves on the board of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. He is co-chair of the Chicago Arts Education Collaborative and the Arts Work Fund for Organizational Development. He is on the advisory council for a community-academic collaboration to end violence at Lurie Children’s Hospital and a founding member of Chicago Area Donors to End Domestic Violence. He taught “Philanthropy, Public Policy and Community Change” at Loyola University and has been a guest speaker on philanthropy on numerous occations.


Andreason BrownAndreason Brown

Andreason is the Chief Financial Officer at Donors Forum, an association of grantmaking, operating nonprofits, and advisor members. He joined Donors Forum as Vice President, Finance and Administration in September 2010 and was promoted to his current role in July 2013. Andreason has worked across a broad spectrum of organizations including membership, social service, architecture/design, and performing arts. Prior to joining Donors Forum, he served as Vice President of Finance for the Executive Service Corps of Chicago, and Operations Director at the DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference, a council of municipal governments.

Andreason is deeply committed to the sector and currently serves on the boards of several nonprofits including Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities, African American Legacy Fund at The Chicago Community Trust, Chicago Dance Crash, and LINKS. He earned a Bachelor’s in Economics from Central Michigan University, and a Master’s in Nonprofit Management from DePaul University.


Kathy ChanKathy Chan

Kathy is the Director of Policy for Cook County Health & Hospital System where she provides leadership on policy activities and initiatives for the nation’s third largest public hospital system, which includes two hospitals, 16 community health centers, an HIV/AIDS specialty clinic, correctional health services at the county jail and juvenile detention center, and the Cook County Department of Public Health. Previously, she was the Associate Director and Director of Policy and Advocacy for EverThrive Illinois (formerly the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition), where she worked for over ten years.
Kathy led advocacy and government relations strategies for the organization and also served as the lead staff person on issues related to the Affordable Care Act. She has also worked at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services.

Kathy is an appointed member and elected Chair of the Illinois Medicaid Advisory Committee and serves on the boards of Chicago Volunteer Doulas and the Midwest Access Project. Kathy formerly served as the board chair of IFLOSS, and an executive co-chair of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Chicago.Kathy graduated with a BA in English from Northwestern University and began her career as an organizer with Green Corps.


Ira Chasnoff

Ira J. Chasnoff, M.D.

Ira is an award-winning author, researcher and lecturer, is President of NTI Upstream and a Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago. He is one of the nation’s leading researchers in the field of child development and the effects of maternal alcohol and drug use on the newborn infant and child. Ira led the development and operation of a laboratory preschool classroom to develop specific interventions for children prenatally exposed to alcohol and other drugs and developed a model Head Start Family Service Center for children and their families at risk from drugs and the drug-seeking environment. In addition, Ira directed one of five national sites conducting research into the integration of behavioral health interventions into primary health care services for high-risk children and their families. Since 2002, he has been working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, leading one of four national centers for research into innovative treatment for children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

In addition, Ira has served as the Chair of the National Medical Task Force on Methamphetamine, Children, and Families for the Congressionally authorized National Alliance on Model State Drug Laws and served as the Chair of the State Task Force on FASD for the State of Illinois. In 2008, he was appointed to a subcommittee of the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Interagency Coordinating Council on FASD.

Ira has been active in establishing comprehensive family intervention programs for children across the United States and around the world. He is the author of numerous articles, has authored seven books, and has been recognized internationally for his impact on his field. Ira received his medical degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, which awarded him its first Distinguished Alumnus Award.


Greg DiDomenico 2Greg Didomenico

Greg is President and CEO at Community Memorial Foundation (CMF). Greg joined the CMF team as Vice President in January 2009 after serving as Executive Director for a number of years at local nonprofits, the Rich Port YMCA (now the Greater La Grange YMCA) and Hinsdale Center for the Arts. Greg’s resume also includes management positions at Little City Foundation and leadership roles in Pennsylvania, where he coordinated community mental health services and directed “down-sizing” efforts for state institutions in Montgomery County.

Greg serves on a number of community boards and advisory committees, including the Illinois Gift of Adoption Board, Illinois Arts Alliance Board, the Illinois Attorney General’s Charitable Advisory Council and a Past Board President of the West Suburban Chamber of Commerce and Industry. In 2012, the Young Nonprofit Professional Network of Chicago honored Greg as its inaugural Nonprofit Mentor of the Year.


Marissa Filippo

Marissa has 12 years of experience with associations and nonprofit organizations in Chicago. She currently serves as the Executive and Strategic Projects Manager at the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) and its affiliate, the DALE Foundation. Prior to DANB, Marissa was the Nonprofit Programs Manager at Donors Forum. From 2010 – 2013, she was a member of the volunteer executive board at the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN) of Chicago. While on the board at YNPN, Marissa helped raise the average number of programs per year from 18 to 33, increased the annual budget from $10,000 to $30,000 and serve close to 4,000 young nonprofit professional members in the Chicago area.

Marissa earned a B.A. in English from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and a M.A. in Interdisciplinary Humanities from Arizona State University. She is focused on a career working for organizations that are mission-driven, and believes it is important that nonprofits and associations exist for people to organize around and within, find common values, give those values a voice and then amplify that voice for the greater good.


Elizabeth HigginsElizabeth Frey Higgins, MPH

Elizabeth is currently the Senior Director of Programs at People’s Resource Center bringing neighbors together to respond to poverty in DuPage County. She has spent 18 years in the nonprofit and philanthropic communities leading programs for youth and families. She earned her Master’s in Public Health at the University of Michigan with an emphasis on health behavior and health education and holds a B.A. with highest honors from Drake University. Prior to joining People’s Resource Center she was Chief Program Officer for Chicago Youth Programs. In that role and those following, she has managed large volunteer staffs, built strategic plans as well as logic models, successfully grown organizations through all development facets, handled human resources including organizational development and HR as well as operations for up to an 18.4 Million dollar facility and vehicle fleet.

Her teaching experience extends from the Dominican Republic to inner-city Detroit to Chicagoland most often presenting on nonprofit management, strengths based management, community based participatory research, and program evaluation. A Girl Scout Gold Recipient, she was recently awarded the Outstanding Youth Mentor award by the Etiquette Foundation of Chicago, and was a founding board member of the Alliance for Research in Chicagoland Communities. Elizabeth is past president of the Drake University Regional Advisory Board as well as a two term National Alumni Board member. An active IRB reviewer for Cadence Health/Northwestern DuPage and Kane campuses, she also currently serves on the Girl Scouts of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana, Council of 100.


Mae Hong 2Mae Hong

Mae is the Vice President of the Midwest regional office of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA). In this role she is responsible for building RPA’s presence in serving individual donors, families, foundations and corporations throughout the Midwest. Prior to entering the nonprofit sector, Mae worked in the publishing industry for several years following her graduation from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Her 15 years of experience in nonprofit and philanthropy include serving as the Program Director at the Field Foundation of Illinois, where she oversaw grant making and internal operations. Her funding expertise includes children, youth and families; poverty alleviation; women and girls’ issues; and advocacy. She has also been actively involved in RPA’s leadership on the issue of diversity in philanthropy.

Mae actively participates in local and national philanthropic associations and networks, serving in leadership roles on boards and committees, engaging in public speaking opportunities, and facilitating planning and execution of philanthropic initiatives. She is a past chair of the board of Chicago Foundation for Women. Her current board service includes Grantmakers for Effective Organizations and the Illinois Humanities Council. Mae completed her graduate degree in social service administration at The University of Chicago.


Marianne PhilbinMarianne Philbin

Marianne is Executive Director of the Pierce Family Foundation, and continues to serve on occasion as a consultant to other foundations and nonprofit organizations. She has more than 25 years of experience working with foundations and nonprofit organizations on issues related to grantmaking, evaluation and strategic planning. She is co-author with Marcia Festen of the book Level Best: How Grassroots Organizations Can Tackle Evaluation and Talk Results and also co-author of How Effective Nonprofits Work: A Guide for Donors, Board Members and Foundation Officers. In addition to her work with foundation and nonprofit clients, she is an instructor and curriculum developer for Donors Forum, where she developed and annually leads the Institute for New Grantmakers.

In the past, Marianne served as Development Director for the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, which was part of Walter Annenberg’s legacy to improve public education; Executive Director of the Chicago Foundation for Women; and Executive Director of The Peace Museum. She has served on nonprofit boards including Amnesty International USA, Chicago Women in Philanthropy, the Chicago Global Donors Network, and Project Exploration. She has also served for many years as a member of the Governance Committee for the Center for Victims of Torture.


Jerry Pinney PicJerry Pinney

For the last twenty-five years Jerry Pinney has been President of his own consulting firm, Jerry Pinney and Associates. Currently he focuses his efforts on consulting for small to mid-sized companies, nonprofits, and providing executive and personal coaching to persons who are interested in improving their quality of life. He is a facilitator for peer advisory groups with The Alternative Board and is a Certified One Page Planning Consultant. Beyond that Jerry has over three decades of experience in the food industry, and possesses a unique perspective of customer service and marketing. In addition to overall general management qualifications, Jerry has proven expertise in planning and business development. His food industry career started at Jewel Food Stores and developed with a long career with IGA, with their retailers, wholesalers and ten years as Vice President of Marketing. In addition Jerry has served as Vice President of Membership for the National Grocers Association, Senior Vice President of Procurement for Shurfine International and Executive Manager of The Zenon Hansen Foundation.

Jerry has also served on a number of nonprofit boards including the Volunteer Center of Northwest Suburban Chicago. He is currently a Project Manager for the Executive Service Corps (ESC) of Chicago. Jerry’s ESC assignments have included coaching for several Executive Directors, and consulting on various Board Development projects and on a number of strategic planning projects.


Susan SiejaSusan Sieja
Susan attended St. Norbert College in DePere, WI, where she earned a B.A. in International Business and Spanish. After graduation, Susan held positions with the Embassy of Argentina in Chicago, United Airlines and later worked in a family business. In 1997, Susan began her career in the non-profit sector, as a Regional Representative for ALSAC / St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in the Chicago Regional Office. Her responsibilities were special event fundraising and volunteer development throughout the Midwest. She quickly moved into management roles, managing teams of special event fundraisers in several offices throughout Illinois and Minnesota that met multi-million dollar yearly budgets.

In 2008, Susan was promoted to Senior Regional Director of Field Operations, working with regional special event field staff, managing regional offices throughout the United States and driving national fundraising programs. In 2011, Susan accepted a position within the ALSAC/St. Jude Gift Planning Department, as a Regional Director on the Bequest Team. In this role, Susan and her team focus on the stewardship of donors who have included St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in their estate plans or hold other planned gifts with the organization. Susan currently manages a team of Philanthropic Advisors located throughout the United States and is a strategic leader on the second largest Bequest program in the country.


Nikki SteinNikki Will Stein
From 1989 to 2012, Nikki was the Executive Director of the Polk Bros. Foundation. She was the first staff person hired after the Foundation separated from the Polk Bros. stores. Nikki worked with the Board to design and implement the Foundation’s giving program and hire its staff. At her retirement, the Foundation’s assets were over $400 million and its grant distributions had grown from $2.5 to more than $20 million a year. Prior to working at the Foundation, Nikki was the studio manager of her husband’s commercial photography studio and also worked as an administrator at the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs. Since retiring, Nikki has served as a consultant to the Polk Bros. Foundation and an informal advisor to staff at numerous Chicago nonprofits.

Nikki is the past chair of the board of Donors Forum and has participated on the steering committees of many funding collaborations, including the 2016 Fund for Chicago Neighborhoods, Arts Work Fund, Fund for Educational Reform, Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education and the Partnership for Quality Child Care. She is the past board president of KAM Isaiah Israel Congregation and the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs. Nikki is the board member of the Public Interest Law Initiative, St. Leonard’s Ministries and the JCUA. She has also received numerous awards and been honored at several events.

Nikki is married to Fred Stein, mother of Max Stein and Benjamin Stein and grandmother of Sophie, Zoe, Molly and Madelyn Stein; life-long resident of Chicago.


Sharmila ThakkarSharmila Thakkar, MPH, MPA

Sharmila has been working and volunteering in the nonprofit sector for nearly 20 years. As Executive Director of the Siragusa Foundation she is responsible for providing expertise on operational, programmatic and administrative functions of the organization. She guides the board’s funding decisions, engages the next generations in their leadership development, and provides strategic direction on grantmaking and other grantee outreach and community partnership initiatives. Sharmila represents The Siragusa Foundation on several committees and at conferences/seminars, where she shares the foundation’s experiences and lessons learned in its growth and development as a multi-generation family foundation.

She co-chairs the National Center for Family Philanthropy’s Non-Family Peer Network and participates as a mentor in Exponent Philanthropy’s Next Gen Training Program. Sharmila also serves on the boards of Allowance for Good, the South Asian Philanthropy Project and the Women’s Funding Network, and serves as a troop leader and on the Advisory Council for the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana. She recently concluded her 6-year term on the board of the Chicago Foundation for Women, where she chaired the Asian American Giving Council and the board programs/grantmaking committee. Sharmila holds a MPA from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, a MPH from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and a B.A. in International Relations from Brown University.