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Harriet Sanford

President and CEO of the NEA Foundation


Harriet Sanford

Harriet Sanford is the former President and CEO of the NEA Foundation. She led the work of the Foundation from 2005 until 2019. The NEA Foundation’s mission is to advance student achievement by investing in public education. Its programs raise the voice, experience, and expertise of educators in a variety of settings: as individuals, as collaborative teams, and as union leaders. Sanford began her career as a public school classroom teacher, which led to a senior executive career that spans more than 35 years, with 30 years as the President and Chief Executive Officer of nonprofit/public organizations including the Arts and Science Council in Charlotte, NC, and the Fulton County Arts Council in GA. Her career is bound together by an unwavering commitment to strengthening community by building on the skills, talents, and aspirations of each of its members.

During her 14 year tenure at the NEA Foundation, Sanford transformed the depth and breadth of its programs by investing in educators to improve their instructional practice so they are better equipped to meet the needs of changing student populations.

Sanford has managed annual budgets of more than $18 million and capital funds of $200 million. A recognized specialist in the field of charitable fundraising, Sanford has led several initiatives that have raised more than $80 million to support the mission of various nonprofit organizations. She has also served as a member of the Board of Directors of some 25 nonprofit organizations, having contributed her vision and managerial expertise to institutions including a merger of The National Association of Local Arts Agencies and The American Council for the Arts that created the major arts advocacy organization, Americans for The Arts.

Sanford holds a BA in Education from New England College, a MPA from the University of Connecticut, and was awarded the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education in 2015.


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