Harriet Sanford is the President and CEO of the NEA Foundation. She has led the work of the Foundation since 2005. 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 34 years, with 28 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 11 year tenure at the NEA Foundation, Sanford has 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 the changing student populations.
Prior to joining the NEA Foundation, Sanford served as the conceptual lead and manager of "South by South Africa: Crafting Cultural Understanding," a project that built economic links and cultural understanding between South Africa and U.S. partner cities.
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 $64 million to support the mission of various nonprofit organizations. She has also served as a member of the Board of Directors of some 13 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 resulted in the major arts advocacy organization Americans for The Arts.
Sanford's contributions to the advancement of arts education, culture, and cultural understanding have been recognized by numerous nonprofit organizations including the North Carolina Arts Education Association, Americans for the Arts, National Black Arts Festival, the National Association of Counties, and The Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. Through the generous support of grants from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation, Sanford also served as a United States Information Agency (USIA) fellow to South Africa in the late 1990s. She currently serves on the Board of The Hispanic College Fund, Caversham Centre (South Africa), the DC Jazz Festival, Editorial Projects in Education; she is an advisor to First Book, and a member of the International Women’s Forum of Washington, DC.
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.