Third Wave Foundation’s Executive Director Mia Herndon Steps Down

June 18, 2012

Mia Hernton, Executive Director, Third Wave FoundationAfter more than a decade of extraordinary leadership, commitment, and service, Mia Herndon will step down as the Third Wave Foundation’s Executive Director at the end of the summer.

Under Mia’s direction, Third Wave has driven the philanthropic community in funding reproductive justice and work led by youth of color as a powerful tool for social change. She has overseen the creation of the Reproductive Health and Justice Initiative, ushered in a technical assistance and movement building program for grant partners, launched a national network of youth-led and -focused groups and, most recently, shepherded a new initiative to advance a gender justice framework within philanthropy and social movements.

From its founding 15 years ago, Third Wave today remains the only national feminist fund dedicated to supporting the social justice work of young women and transgender youth. Since 1996, more than 180 grantee partner organizations and individuals have successfully changed critical policies at local and state levels, shifting the terms of national debates on issues like reproductive rights, education, and health. In Mia’s four years as Executive Director, Third Wave supported 35 organizations through technical assistance, national convenings, and more than $1.4 million in grants; more than doubling funding for the field, despite the economic crisis and lasting recession.

“We will miss Mia’s incredible vision, grace and tremendous generosity as a leader,” said Mia Kim Sullivan, board co-chair. “As we celebrate our 15th anniversary, we honor the sustained impact of groups Mia has nurtured over a decade at Third Wave, first as Outreach Coordinator, Program Officer and Director, and then as the Foundation’s Executive Director.” For many of these groups, Third Wave was the first and lead funder whose support opened critical paths to new philanthropic resources. “Working with Mia was a definitive moment for me and so many of us in this movement,” said Paris Hatcher, Executive Director of SPARK Reproductive Justice Now. “She represents what reproductive justice means – the politics and the heart, and it is a fierce heart. She took risks on our work, leadership, and bringing us together. She is simply golden.”

Mia’s leadership in the field has extended the reach of Third Wave. She served on numerous boards, including: Women’s Funding Network; Funders Network for Population, Reproductive Health and Rights; and Funders’ Collaborative on Youth Organizing. She shared the importance of supporting feminist youth work in low-income communities and communities of color through trainings and national conferences, including Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy, National Council for Research on Women and the Women Donors Network, and as an Affiliate Scholar and Practitioner of the Women of Color Policy Network. Mia is a Progressive Women’s Voices fellow and She Source expert, and has been featured on television ranging from Grit TV, CNN, CSPAN, and an upcoming spot on “MAKERS: Women Who Make America.” In 2011, Mia was named a “Power Woman of the Year” by NY Moves Magazine.

This executive director transition has been planned for more than two years. In the year ahead, the Foundation’s board will embark on an ambitious campaign to secure continued support for effective youth-led, multi-issue and multi-strategy work. “The transformative struggle for justice, equity and sustained joy in our world requires the innovation and leadership of Third Wave grant partners,” Mia said. “The threats posed by the economic downturn, the Right and our movements’ own challenges in taking the lead from the most impacted and standing up for each other’s dignity is too great to defeat without their voice.”

The disproportionate toll levied on our communities by recent economic hardship comes at a time when Third Wave, like other publicly supported foundations across the country, is facing one of the most challenging fundraising environments of the past 40 years. Over the past year the board made the prudent decision to streamline staff and programming, reducing yet maintaining financial reserves. Despite these challenges, Third Wave will pursue its grantmaking and continue to champion young people’s leadership and organizing as critical sites for innovation, building power, and working across divisions to build a road map to freedom.

Over the next several months, the Foundation’s board will partner with current staff, founders, and community stakeholders to ensure programmatic activities are maintained during the transition, and to plan for the long-term stability and sustainability of Third Wave. An interim director will be engaged to work with staff while the Board conducts a national search for a new Executive Director.

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