President and CEO, Northwest Area Foundation
Kevin Walker spearheads the Northwest Area Foundation’s efforts to shape a future in which all people and communities in its region can thrive on their own terms and live free of poverty. Under his leadership, the Foundation has sharpened its focus on asset building in a set of priority communities: Native Americans, communities of color, immigrants, refugees, and people in rural areas. At the heart of this approach is NWAF’s commitment, honored every year since 2012, to target 40 percent of its giving to Native-led organizations. Other signature aspects of the Foundation’s work during his tenure include an expanded commitment to mission investing and an organization-wide drive to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Prior to joining the Foundation, Kevin spent 13 years with the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation in Flint, MI, including nine years as director of Mott’s national Pathways Out of Poverty program. His career in the nonprofit sector began in the early 1990s as associate director of Food Gatherers, a community-based anti-hunger organization in Ann Arbor, MI, whose mascot is a giant carrot.
Kevin is board chair of Philanthropy Northwest and a past board chair of the Minnesota Council on Foundations. He also serves on the boards of BoardSource, the national organization dedicated to excellence in nonprofit governance; and Akiptan, a Native community development financial institution affiliated with the Intertribal Agriculture Council. Kevin holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and an MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan. He lives in St. Paul, MN, with his wife, Lisa, a teacher in the Minneapolis Public Schools. They have two sons: Theo and Max.
Foundation governance is uniquely challenging. How can foundation CEOs develop and manage a dynamic Board of Directors that contributes to greater impact? How can foundation boards support their CEOs and challenge them to achieve results? What does research show are the characteristics of high-performing board members? What can CEOs and board members do, specifically, to improve governance?