Let our experience drive your impact.
As a women-founded and -led Certified B Corporation® based in California’s Bay Area, we support a more inclusive and sustainable world through the impact of our 100+ client engagements to date and our internal practices.
The way we work with clients sets us apart.
We draw from a broad range of experiences with a team composed of seasoned executives and strategic advisors at the peak of their careers.
We tap our extensive networks of sector leaders and experts to bring the best insights forward.
We act as one team with our clients, drawing on our collective strengths to identify and co-create solutions. As a result, the work is fully owned by the client team.
We design and facilitate opportunities to learn and reflect together, surface bold and creative ideas, and build consensus around your vision for impact.
We are a team of strategists and operators.
Drawing from a deep pool of client engagements and our team’s breadth of experience give us unique insights into the challenges and opportunities of impactful philanthropy.
Alexa Cortés Culwell has decades of experience building, managing, and advising philanthropic initiatives, as both a foundation CEO and a partner to donors shaping their strategy, implementation, learning, and legacy. As Co-founder and CEO of Open Impact, she leads an innovative team with a distinctive and holistic approach to working alongside clients at every step in their giving journey.
Alexa’s prior leadership roles include serving as the founding CEO of the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, a position she held for 13 years, and as CEO of the Stupski Foundation. Alexa served as a visiting practitioner at Stanford University’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society and as an Instructor for Stanford Continuing Studies’ highly rated course on nonprofit governance. She is a contributor to Stanford Social Innovation Review and co-authored the groundbreaking report, The Giving Code: Silicon Valley Nonprofits and Philanthropy.
Alexa is active in key organizations that are shaping the national ecosystem of philanthropy-serving organizations, including serving as a board member of the Center for Effective Philanthropy during its formative years, chairing one of the first national conferences for Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, and advising organizations such as the National Center for Family Philanthropy and Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund (SV2). She is also a Senior Fellow of the American Leadership Forum Silicon Valley and a member of the Leap Ambassadors Community, a national leadership network focused on promoting high performance in the nonprofit sector.
Heather McLeod Grant is the Co-Founder of Open Impact and a thought leader and senior advisor with more than 30 years experience in the social sector. She brings creativity, strategic insight, compelling storytelling, and a racial justice lens to all her work. For the past two decades, she has advised top nonprofits, foundations, and donors on scaling their impact–with an emphasis on strategy formation, capacity building, leadership development, and networks for social change. She is co-author of the bestselling book Forces for Good, and numerous other publications and reports, including The Giving Code, The Giving Journey, Pioneers in Justice, The New Normal, and Leading Systems Change. Her work has been cited widely in the mainstream press, and she has delivered more than 100 keynote speeches or workshops at industry conferences. Heather began her career as an Echoing Green Fellow and co-founder of Who Cares magazine in the 1990s. She then worked at McKinsey & Co., Monitor Institute, and launched the Irvine New Leadership Network in California. She has been a Venture Partner with Draper Richards Kaplan; has served on numerous local, national, and global nonprofit boards; and was recently named among the 25 most influential Bay Area leaders in San Francisco magazine. Heather holds an MBA from Stanford University and an AB from Harvard.
Kate is a Partner at Open Impact, leading a portfolio of family and individual donors seeking to envision ambitious ideas, design plans to achieve them, and ensure operational excellence. Her work encompasses governance and trustee engagement, strategic visioning and planning, facilitation, and organizational design and capacity building. The co-author of multiple industry reports, Kate is committed to learning about and sharing the insights of sector leaders in order to advance our collective philanthropic practice. Her most recent publications include: Get It Right, Building Capacity for Sustained Collaboration, The Giving Journey, and The New Normal. Prior to Open Impact, Kate was the founding Executive Director of a family foundation. Her philanthropic experience also includes leading external partnerships for the Skoll Global Threats Fund and supporting members of the Climate and Energy community at the Clinton Global Initiative. Kate is a board member of Chikumbuso Women and Orphans project, a community-based organization in Ng’ombe, Zambia and an active volunteer in her Mission, San Francisco community. She holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from Columbia University.
Gretchen is a Partner at Open Impact focused on helping new philanthropies design all aspects of their operations, including finance functions (often integrated within family offices), staffing plans, and grantmaking. She also has overseen development and deployment of grant portfolios on behalf of clients. Bringing a holistic view, she partners with clients to drive alignment from vision and strategy to operations and finance. A trained conflict mediator, she works to facilitate client conversations that engage tensions in order to align stakeholders around clear priorities. Throughout her career, she has led and scaled organizations at all stages of their development, serving as an executive, board member, consultant, and volunteer. With 16 years of experience in the tech sector, Gretchen led finance and operations for a large corporate division with operations worldwide. Subsequently she brought her depth of experience to projects in international relief, where she managed programs to bring health care education and medicine to underserved populations in post-conflict countries in West and Central Africa. Gretchen holds an MBA from the University of San Francisco.
Kat is an Engagement Manager at Open Impact and brings rigorous research, systemic analysis, community engagement and social justice concepts and frameworks to philanthropic strategy projects. She also leads Open Impact’s research, co-authors industry reports, and develops Board and trustee learning materials. She has an extensive research background in community-based and grounded theory methodologies, spanning from sustainable agriculture to community wealth building. Previously, she was a fellow with the Congressional Hunger Center focusing on anti-hunger and anti-poverty policy and research and has also worked in social enterprises, food start-ups, impact investing, public policy, and community based organizations. Additionally, Kat is a community organizer focusing on food justice and community power building. She advises on culturally-competent grant projects and programming for the University of California Cooperative Extension, holds a bachelor’s degree in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems from UC Davis, and is a Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellowship alum.
Misha is a Consultant at Open Impact, where she partners with clients to define their strategy, test and implement strategic initiatives, and capacitate grantees in service of audacious impact aspirations. Her work includes strategic facilitation, coaching, and program design leveraging her expertise in Scale and Lean Innovation. In addition to 10 years of social sector experience, Misha also brings her lived experience as a first-generation woman of color, committed to catalyzing equitable impact capable of sustainable and systemic change.
Prior to this, Misha spent five years working at Spring Impact (formerly the International Centre for Social Franchising) as a management consultant, supporting non-profits, social enterprises, and foundations to define and validate their strategies and operational models for impact at scale. She has worked with a large range of clients across sectors and geographies including the Groundwater Institute, the Foundation for Ecological Security, Help Me Grow, OECD, and others.
Misha’s global experience includes living in Bangalore, India where she worked for the social enterprise Shenomics, while completing the IDEX Professional Fellowship Program for social ‘intraprenuership’. Misha also consults with the Better Good Collective and holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations, with a minor in Business Administration & Management from Boston University.
Hannah is an Associate Consultant/Analyst at Open Impact who translates rigorous research into actionable guidance for client projects. Trained in social work, she also elevates community narrative and frameworks grounded in social justice in order to deepen research efforts for client grantmaking strategies. Her prior background includes implementing, coordinating, and evaluating community-centered programs for immigrants, refugees, and foster youth. Previously, Hannah contributed to projects at the Center for High Impact Philanthropy where she used applied research to guide philanthropic giving in the wake of the pandemic and co-created an interactive online tool for donors on how to staff their philanthropic efforts. Hannah holds a master's of Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania and bachelor's in International Studies and Spanish from Texas A&M University.
Sam is an Operations Manager at Open Impact, focused on providing strong operational and project management support, and ensuring a consistent organizational culture. Sam has particular expertise in developing strong, user-friendly, and scalable systems to help optimize Open Impact’s efficiency and effectiveness as a team. Her background includes customer service, social media marketing, database management, and fundraising. She previously worked for Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco, a youth development organization that inspires and enables all young people to realize their full potential, and joined IPSY in its start-up phase, a company that inspires individuals around the world to express their unique beauty. In her spare time, she volunteers for a gun violence prevention organization–Brady, San Francisco Chapter–managing social media accounts. Sam holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Management with a focus in Marketing from Menlo College, and a Masters in Nonprofit Administration from the University of San Francisco.
Lisa is an executive coach and network facilitator, focusing on leadership, strategy, and transformation. Her global, multi-sector experiences have helped shape her skills and perspectives. She has a background as a strategy and organizational development consultant, corporate HR professional, and leader in the philanthropic sector. Lisa brings experience in designing and developing networks, leadership programs, and creating large-scale system change. Lisa also serves as faculty at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where she teaches leadership to MBAs, MSx (masters level students), coaches executives, and facilitates Design Your Life through Stanford’s d.life Lab. She was honored to serve as a Fellow with the Aspen Institute, Goldman Sachs, and Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. Lisa is on the advisory council for Stanford University’s Centro Chicano/a y Latino/a, the Latinx community center. She is an alumnus of the Latino Board Leadership Academy through the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley. Lisa is a certified professional coach and holds an MBA/MS from the University of Michigan.
Ana is a strategy and finance advisor. A thoughtful and versatile leader, she brings over twenty-five years of experience leading and advising entrepreneurial organizations and philanthropies dedicated to solving complex social and health problems. Previously, Ana served as the CFO, and later the Executive Director, of the private family foundation of Charles and Helen Schwab, where she supported the launch of a new strategy focused primarily on K-12 education reform and developed a pilot to use both advocacy and direct services to help returning veterans find employment. Later, she was the founding Executive Director of a nonprofit startup dedicated to stopping Lyme disease, guiding the strategy focused on multi-disciplinary research and spurring several groundbreaking collaborations. Most recently, Ana served as EVP and CFO of Opportunity Fund, the nation’s leading nonprofit microfinance fund. In 2018, she served on the Kresge Foundation’s Community Investment Guarantee Fund (CIGF) workgroup to explore the use of guarantees to accelerate impact investing in jobs, housing, and environmental initiatives. She holds an MBA from Stanford University and a BA from Harvard University.
Kelly is a researcher, writer, and project manager whose work informs strategic planning, communications, and program development. She believes that the most effective plans for impact are built on a rigorous fact base, drive sensible actions, and are communicated with vivid clarity. Throughout her tenure with Open Impact, Kelly has conducted regional-, sector-, program-, and peer-comparator research to deepen strategy development, and provided internal and external communications support for leading foundations and family offices. She carried out all quantitative research and local giving data analysis for Open Impact’s seminal 2016 report The Giving Code: Silicon Valley Nonprofits and Philanthropy. And since 2018, she has worked with The Libra Foundation producing a host of board-focused, public-facing, and Democracy Frontlines Fund communications. Kelly holds a bachelor’s in Graphic Communications from Cal Poly SLO, and a master’s in Geography and Human-Environmental Studies from San Francisco State University.
A group of respected leaders broadens our perspective.
Our Advisory Board is composed of accomplished colleagues whose diverse perspectives and cross-sector experience push us to do our best work.
April serves as a trusted advisor and executive coach to clients working in philanthropy, economic mobility, and education. She is currently the Chief Strategic Growth Officer of OneTen, focusing on the organization’s powerful mission of family-sustaining careers for Black talent. April has built and led high-performing teams in both the social sector and philanthropy. Previously, she served as Vice President and the Interim Head of Education for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, where she led the education program and its philanthropic investments. April was the Chief Growth and Operating Officer of KIPP Northern California Public Schools, where she partnered with educators, families, and local communities to create and support high-quality schools. She was also a Partner at NewSchools Venture Fund, focused on investing in education entrepreneurs to address opportunity gaps for students. April currently serves on the boards of Promise54 and Behavioral Insights US. She is a moderator for the Aspen Institute and the Pahara Institute. She is a Pahara-Aspen Fellow and an alumna of Leadership San Francisco. April received her bachelor’s degree from Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs and holds an MBA and master's in Education from Stanford University.
Katherine has been a leading strategic advisor to foundations, high-net-worth donors, and major nonprofits for the past 25 years. She spent a decade building Monitor Institute into one of the nation’s leading social sector consulting firms, and has published and spoken widely on the future of philanthropy, impact investing, and social change. Previously she was a journalist and entrepreneur, co-founding an award-winning, progressive newspaper in the American South. Her conviction in the early 1990s that the internet would transform journalism led her to California, where she worked with the world’s leading scenario planners as a senior leader at Global Business Network. Currently Katherine continues to work with private clients and serves as a volunteer in several domains. She co-chairs the Long Now Foundation and recently founded a local philanthropic fund to respond to the pandemic emergency.
Nelson advises leaders in private and public sector institutions to design and implement strategies that leverage capital and technology for sustainable social impact at scale. He is currently the Head Global Impact Computing at Amazon Web Services. His work focuses on organizational and network strategy, business and partnership development, facilitation, writing, and public speaking. Nelson co-founded Declara, a Silicon Valley venture-backed social learning company that develops technologies being used globally for professional development and innovation. Prior to this, he was Chief Strategy Officer of the Stupski Foundation, where he helped create a national innovation initiative to scale personalized learning through public education. He was also the Founder/CEO of Advent Strategy, a global strategy firm, where he led dozens of engagements with global corporate, media, international development, education, and philanthropic institutions. Nelson has served on the Boards of Directors of Grantmakers for Education; Boundless, a social impact innovation platform; Growth Sector, a workforce development organization; and StartOut, a national organization that fosters LGBT entrepreneurs. Nelson graduated from Amherst College with high honors. He has been a Fellow at Columbia, NYU, and Leuven.
Lisa serves as an advisor, bringing her deep experience in philanthropy and the private sector. In addition to numerous community volunteer engagements and raising a family, Lisa’s background includes being part of the founding team of a college prep company, owning a small business which served school districts, senior management positions in Silicon Valley and management consulting. As a board member for SV2, she co-leads Impact Investing. Her interests are in identifying and developing effective strategies that empower under-resourced communities. Lisa holds an MBA from Stanford University and MS and BS degrees in Mechanical Engineering from MIT.
Nancy is an executive/leadership coach and consultant, bringing over 25 years of corporate and nonprofit management experience to her work with senior executives, management teams, and Boards. Prior to her move into coaching, she held executive roles in the healthcare and health technology sectors, and led multiple engagements in the government, education, healthcare and energy sectors as a management consultant. For the past two decades, Nancy has also been an active volunteer with Social Venture Partners. For 6 years, she served on the SVP International Board and worked domestically and internationally to promote impact investing and social entrepreneurship. Closer to home, Nancy is deeply committed to supporting systemic change for vulnerable groups. For several years, she chaired the board of Foster Youth in Action, a national organization dedicated to durable reform in the foster care system; and, served on the board, chairing the Evaluation subcommittee, of the San Diego Regional Task Force on Homelessness. Nancy received her doctorate in Public Policy and Economics from Brandeis University. Over the past 15 years, she served as an adjunct faculty member at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and University of San Diego, School of Leadership and Education Sciences.
Efraín Gutiérrez is a Senior Fellow with the Center for Evaluation Innovation. His research at CEI focuses on reimagining strategy, evaluation, and research practices so that philanthropy is in service of racial equity and justice. He is also a Visiting Fellow with the Evans Policy & Innovation Center at the University of Washington. Efraín has dedicated his career to advancing belonging, dignity, and justice in the social sector. He came to CEI after serving as inaugural Head of Impact and Evaluation at the Obama Foundation. During his tenure he oversaw equity-centered evaluation practices that significantly increased access to high-quality, multicultural, valid data to inform decision-making, improve strategy, and measure impact. Prior to the foundation, Efraín was Associate Director for Equity Partnerships at FSG, a global consulting firm that focuses on social impact. There he advised over 25 foundations, corporations, governments, and nonprofits on the development of strategic plans, evaluation systems, and program evaluations. He also co-led efforts to embed racial equity into FSG’s culture and consulting practices. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Universidad Panamericana in Guadalajara Mexico and a master’s from the Evans School of Public Policy & Governance at the University of Washington. He is a proud queer immigrant from Capilla de Guadalupe, a small town in Jalisco Mexico.