Mertz Gilmore Foundation Welcomes Aditi Vaidya as its New President
After an extensive national search led by Walker and Associates Consulting, Aditi Vaidya has been selected to take the helm of the Mertz Gilmore Foundation as president.
Throughout her distinguished 25-year career, Ms. Vaidya has led efforts in the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors to advance racial, economic, and environmental justice and health equity using community organizing, policy advocacy, and research. She will be the seventh person in the foundation’s 63-year history to hold this position, becoming the first person of color and woman of color to lead Mertz Gilmore.
“This is a new day for the Mertz Gilmore Foundation,” shared Mertz Gilmore Foundation Board Chair Andrea Sholler. “Aditi brings a deep wealth of experience supporting community-led work, and absolute clarity about the role that funders can have in the ecosystem of strategies needed for transformative change alongside nonprofits and communities.”
Founded in 1959, the Mertz Gilmore Foundation has supported emerging community-driven work, ideas, and movements, often responding to concerns before the wider field of philanthropy recognized the urgency behind them. In the 1980s, for example, the Foundation acted to support climate change solutions, address the AIDS crisis, and resource the LGBT and immigrant rights movements. In 2018, Mertz Gilmore began to publicly talk about its values-driven work in terms of justice and equity, recognizing that advancing racial, economic, environmental, and gender justice are crucial components to maintaining vibrant communities and a sustainable environment.
“It is an honor to be selected to lead the Mertz Gilmore Foundation, an incredible organization with a smart and committed team and board, and a long track record of advancing equity, climate justice, and democracy through community-centered grantmaking,” shared incoming President Aditi Vaidya. “The crises of our time call for new philanthropic practices, ones that are rooted in strong relationships with grantees and bold strategies grounded in an understanding of power, the incredibly important role of grassroots communities to demand systemic change, and a commitment to cross-sector learning toward collective action. I’m eager to learn from and support our team, grantee partners, and colleagues who share these same values and commitments.”
Since 2017, Aditi has served as senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the country’s largest philanthropy dedicated solely to health. At RWJF, Aditi’s work focused on addressing structural barriers to health through a range of strategies, including community power building and philanthropic partnerships, to transform systems and build equitable communities. Previously, Aditi was senior program officer for Solidago Foundation, See Forward Fund, and Frances Fund, leading economic justice programs through grantmaking and pooled funds. She held staff and Board positions at Jennifer Altman Foundation, Solidaire, and the Saguaro Fund at the Funding Exchange. In addition to her work in philanthropy, Aditi has roots in social movements as an advocate and organizer. Earlier in her career, she held positions with the East Bay Alliance for Sustainable Economy; Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice; the Center for Environmental Citizenship; and the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund. Aditi received her Master’s in Public Health from Emory University and her Bachelors of Science in environmental science and policy management from Bates College.
Aditi is a highly respected leader and bridge builder whose skills and commitment have already impacted the philanthropic sector and social movements.
“Aditi has played a critical role in our journey and work to advance racial and health equity,” said Robert Wood Johnson Foundation President Dr. Rich Besser. “Aditi has made an indelible mark on our organization, helping us center community power building and the leadership of grassroots communities as a core approach to tackling structural racism and other inequities. I’m thrilled for the Mertz Gilmore Foundation, and for the philanthropic sector to have her leadership in this position.”
“I’m pausing to deeply celebrate this moment,” shared Ai-jen Poo, President of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. “Aditi’s leadership has always been oriented to equity and justice. I’ve seen her do this work close up, with humility, expertise, and a belief that the only way we can create systemic change is by bringing together broad networks of people across communities, sectors, and experiences. I’m looking forward to seeing the impact of her leadership in action in this new role.”
“On behalf of the rest of the board of directors,” said Board Chair Andrea Sholler, “I have complete confidence in Aditi’s vision and ability to lead the foundation, building on Mertz Gilmore’s longstanding commitment to supporting democracy, the environment, New York City communities and dance. We could not be more thrilled for her to lead the Foundation and our critical work ahead.”
Ms. Vaidya succeeds Jay Beckner, who is stepping down after 21 years as president and 35 years at the Foundation. Aditi’s first day as President of Mertz Gilmore Foundation is December 1st.