NEW BEDFORD, MA — Today, the SouthCoast Community Foundation Board of Directors announced the appointment of Dr. Melanie Edwards-Tavares as the organization’s next President and CEO. She comes to the organization from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, which manages over $1 billion in assets and is one of the country’s longest-running community foundations. There, she serves as the Director of Capacity Building and Nonprofit Support. Edwards-Tavares is a New Bedford native and will be the fifth president to hold the position since the Foundation’s inception in 1995. She will take the helm on September 8, 2023, which is also the date of the Community Foundation’s annual celebration, “Summer’s Last Blast.”
The executive search was extensive and robust, focused on finding a candidate with community foundation experience, strong South Coast roots, and the skills to lead and grow the organization’s grantmaking. The recruitment and interview process included the entire Community Foundation staff and Board, who unanimously elected Edwards-Tavares to the role.
“Melanie is uniquely equipped to lead the SouthCoast Community Foundation – she has extensive experience in building a philanthropic program, exhibits deep dedication to racial justice, and is passionate about advancing the South Coast. I could not imagine a better person to lead the organization in its next phase of growth,” said Board Chair Gail Fortes.
During her distinguished 30-year career, Edwards-Tavares has held leadership positions at nonprofits that include the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts, Child and Family Services, PACE YouthBuild New Bedford, and the Massachusetts Service Alliance. In 2019, she earned her Doctorate from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education with a focus on system-level leadership, strategic partnerships, and nonprofit sustainability.
“The Community Foundation is poised for exceptional growth under Melanie’s leadership. She demonstrates innovative thinking around philanthropy as well as a commitment to improving opportunities on the South Coast. Her lived experiences add further richness to her already deep resume. I am so excited to see where she takes the Foundation,” said former SouthCoast Community Foundation President John Vasconcellos.
Edwards-Tavares’ work in the nonprofit sector traces back to her earliest career experiences. As a teenager growing up in the United Front Housing Development in New Bedford, she and her mother founded a grassroots organization, Positive Influence Peer Leadership Program, to teach young adults about social and civic responsibility. The idea was born out of a conversation with young teens in her family’s living room discussing women’s health and grew into an organized peer leadership prevention program for youth in New Bedford’s West Central neighborhood.
Today, Edwards-Tavares volunteers as Vice Chair of the Board of Big Picture Learning, an international nonprofit that supports student-centered education, and she is an Advisory Council Member at Education Reimagined, a national nonprofit transforming the public education system into a learner-centered education system. She was a Dean’s Fellow at Harvard University (2016-19) and a Gordon M. Ambach Public Service Fellow (2017). In 2009, she received the Distinguished African-American Alumnus Award from Bristol Community College, and in 2001 was recognized with the New Bedford Heritage Award.
“I look forward to building on the Foundation’s past successes and creating a shared strategic vision with our community partners that will translate into meaningful impact for many years to come,” said Edwards-Tavares. “It is a powerful time to lead in philanthropy as the sector grapples with its origins, holding itself accountable to a role that transcends funding by leveraging influence and serving as a partner, collaborator, and advocate. I am excited about leading the organization at such a pivotal point in the Foundation’s history.”
The SouthCoast Community Foundation is a nonprofit serving the communities of Southeastern Massachusetts through philanthropy. The Community Foundation’s mission is to mobilize philanthropy by matching donors and resources with community needs for the benefit of our region. Since 1995, the organization has distributed over $50 million from nearly 200 funds to humanitarian, educational, and cultural organizations in the region.
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