GIVE GOOD:  Brown Alumni Nonprofits

Illustrations of a hand holding up a heart by RAYMOND BIESINGER



So many Brown alums (and students) start nonprofits that it’s hard to keep up with the opportunities for giving. We’re highlighting a sampling here and update when we can.

Nonprofit Giving Options: 2022

One of the founders of National Voter Registration Day, Andy Bernstein ’94 cofounded HeadCount, which since 2004 has registered over 1,000,000 voters. “Participation Row,” an activism village where concert attendees have taken over 100,000 socially-conscious actions, has raised nearly $1.5 million for various music-industry charities.

As a peer educator at Brown, Francesca Raoelison ’22 learned that verbal abuse is real abuse—and often increases to physical violence. Back in her native Madagascar, she founded  an anti-abuse nonprofit that trains adults and teaches schoolchildren (age 6-12) about emotional awareness and healthy relationships in hopes of preventing and reducing abuse and domestic violence.

It’s one of the country’s most important civil rights landmarks, but Selma is also one of Alabama’s poorest cities, with 41% of residents living in poverty. Foot Soldiers Park and Education Center—Becca Schulman Havemeyer ’99 is board chair; JoAnne Bland, who survived Bloody Sunday as a young girl, is founder—seeks to preserve the city’s civil rights history while sparking economic revitalization and preparing the next generation of activists. Nikole Hannah-Jones, Tarana Burke, and LaTosha Brown are some of the luminaries involved.

“Have you ever felt uncomfortable coming away from a horse expo?” asks Best Horse Practices Summit. “We have, too. So we created a conference of substance.” Maddy Butcher ’88 directs this nonprofit, which has held conferences in Colorado, Maine, and Kentucky that bring equine researchers into horsemanship circles to highlight practical and academic strategies for improving horses’ lives.


Nonprofit Giving Options: 2021

“Outdoor recreation is still predominantly a white and privileged space in our society, and it should not be so—nature is for everyone,” says David Taus ’01, executive director of Big City Mountaineers, which provides youth with fully outfitted and professionally-led backcountry trips. A week on the trail, says Taus, can do more to support social development, values, health, resilience, and sense of self-worth than years in the classroom.

In 2014, only 7 percent of the top 250 grossing films were directed by women. Film Fatales, founded by Leah Meyerhoff  ’01, aims to change this, partnering with Sundance, SXSW, Netflix and others to support  film directors of marginalized genders, including trans and nonbinary.

Edwell, cofounded by   Nicola Fleischer ’12, aims to address the national educator shortage by providing individual and group-based wellbeing coaching to K-12 schools and districts. While there’s plenty of individual support, Edwell also provides support around things like dismantling systemic racial oppression and inequality, empowering educators to “thrive in their wholeness.”

Constitutional lawyer John Bonifaz ’87 founded Free Speech for People in response to the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC. It’s  a “transpartisan movement” that seeks to “reclaim our democracy” and defend the Constitution by challenging corporate influence in politics, fighting corruption in government, advocating for free and fair elections, and advancing new jurisprudence on big-money spending.

33% of women under 35 say they have been sexually harassed online, according to a Pew survey. Joan Miller ’15 cofounded Uplift to provide an integrated framework for education and advocacy around  online sexual violence. Its programs, directed  by Christine Chapman ’14, emphasize the importance of consent, respect for victims of sexual and emotional abuse, and fostering healthier online community interactions.

As many as one in five low-income people who menstruate can’t afford period products, and they can’t be bought with food stamps or Medicaid. Carla Ferrari ’82 founded PVDPeriod to help those in Providence, R.I., who suffer the most for the lack of these essentials. Ferrari works with her daughter and her son’s girlfriend, using 100% of donations to buy and distribute 3,000 products a month.


Nonprofit Giving Options: 2019

The majority of reporters covering war zones are freelancers, and freelance reporters also make up the majority of combat-zone reporters who are wounded and killed on the job. “Surviving a gunshot or shrapnel wound is often a matter of doing the right thing in the first few minutes,” says Chrissy Heckart ’03, deputy director of Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues (RISC), which provides freelancers with four days of free training in battlefield first aid, water disinfection, heat- and cold-related dangers, and more. Graduates receive a first aid kit like those used by medics. Reporters working for media companies get this kind of training from their employers, but freelancers are faced with either paying thousands of dollars for a course—or skipping the crucial training.

Back in 1993, the New England Journal of Medicine published a CDC-funded study that showed that guns in the home were a strong risk factor for homicide in the home. In apparent response, in 1996, NRA-supported legislation reappropriated the 2.6 million that the CDC had invested in gun violence research and stipulated that federal funds could not be used to “advocate or promote gun control.” Enter the American Foundation for Firearm Injury Research in Medicine (AFFIRM), for which Dr. Megan Ranney ’10 MPH, an associate professor at Brown’s Alpert Medical School, serves as chief research officer. AFFIRM, a coalition that includes all major U.S. medical organizations, is dedicated to a nonpartisan search for evidence-based solutions to the nation’s gun violence epidemic.

If you look at clean energy and transportation policy initiatives in the Northeast, there’s often a dotted line to Acadia Center and its president Daniel Sosland ’80.  Originally launched in Maine, it researches, develops, and advocates for innovative policies that tackle environmental challenges in Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island, while “promoting sustainable economies.” For example, in 2018, Sosland and Acadia were behind a “Memo to the Next Governor of Connecticut,” a ten page policy-analysis report on what the governor-elect could do: “modernizing transportation only,” the report said, “could produce over $6.9 billion in new economic benefits, add 14,900 new jobs, and create $3.7 billion in public health and other benefits.”

Instead of a 2,000 mile long wall between the U.S. and Mexico, how about envisioning the same length in 40” x 40” handmade throw blankets, intended to welcome new immigrants with something cozy? The Welcome Blanket Project is the latest initiative from Jayna Zweiman ’01, founder of the Pussyhat Project that turned Washington, D.C., into a sea of pink, hand-knit hats during the Women’s March. Zweiman did the math on the border wall and figures that to cover the entire border requires about 3,200 blankets in all. The project blew right past its goal, and now has morphed to “Welcome Blanket On Call,” where crafters can create blankets as needed by various refugee resettlement organizations.

“The ocean is our planet’s life support system,” according to the Marine Conservation Institute: “the oxygen for every second breath we take comes from it.” So to save life in the ocean and human life on earth, the organization has launched an initiative called “Blue Parks” aimed at helping us all by establishing more Marine Protected Areas. The goal is to have 30 percent of the ocean protected by 2030. Director and senior scientist Sarah Olverson Hameed ’01, ’03 MAT—who grew up “exploring the tide pools and coral reefs of Maui,” concentrated in public policy at Brown, holds a PhD in marine ecology from UC Davis, and self-identifies on Twitter as “Marine ecologist, surfer, mom”—joined the Seattle-based institute in 2016 to help launch the Global Ocean Refuge System.

Megan Golden ’87 had a career as a leader in innovative, outcome-based financing to solve social problems in the U.S. So five years after her brother, investment banker Eric Golden ’90, began his struggle with chronic pancreatitis in 2012,  the two siblings decided to direct their expertise toward finding a cure for the condition, in which the inflammation of the pancreas gets progressively worse, causing pain, weight loss, and other debilitating symptoms. There were no treatments, not even a drug in the pipeline, and the disease was poorly understood. Their nonprofit, Mission: Cure, works with donors, scientists, and “impact investors” who want their money to make a difference in people’s health while potentially making a return based on positive patient outcomes.

The year he graduated from Brown, Sebastian Ruth ’97 started a music education and mentoring program in Providence, with startup funding from the Swearer Center. Twenty-two years later, Community Music Works has 13 resident musicians and more than 125 students, who live predominantly in Providence’s South Side neighborhoods. Students receive lessons in violin, viola, and cello. They are given instruments free of charge and participate in a variety of activities, including studio classes and workshops. In 2010, First Lady Michelle Obama presented Ruth with the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award. That same year, Ruth won a MacArthur “genius” grant for his work building CMW. And in 2012, Ruth received an honorary doctorate from Brown.

“What do you want most in the world?” Adam Braun ’06 asked a young boy who was begging in the street in India. “A pencil,” Braun says the boy replied. Braun gave him a pencil and “watched as a wave of possibility washed over him.” For the next five years, Braun backpacked through more than 50 countries, handing out thousands of pens and pencils and talking to parents and children, and, in 2008, founded Pencils of Promise, an education organization that has built 514 schools currently serving 106,862 students. The organization focuses on rural areas of Ghana, Guatemala, and Laos. Pencils of Promise prioritizes local leadership, forging partnerships with communities, providing innovative materials and training to teachers, and teaching kids about potable water, sanitation, and hygiene.

“Most men aren’t rapists,” says Sarah Pierson Beaulieu ’99. Her 2016 TEDx talk on sexual violence starts with the story of her weeping at Brown from the trauma of being molested and raped, and her friend Russ Hammonds ’99 sitting with her, with no idea what to say. Most men, Beaulieu says, are partners and friends wanting to support survivors, and “we are failing to give them the skills, language, and support they need to become instruments of healing and change.” Hammonds stuck with his friend, and  Beaulieu founded The Uncomfortable
Conversation, dedicated to normalizing conversations about sexual violence. The nonprofit has produced more than 50 short-form videos illustrating these conversations in educational, engaging, and often humorous ways.

Most high school seniors are eligible to register or preregister to vote before they graduate, and eighteen states and the District of Columbia allow eligible students to pre-register to vote beginning as early as age 16 or 17. But many high schoolers don’t know this or don’t do it, and many schools don’t help students take advantage of these laws. Enter Laura Brill ’87, founding partner in the L.A. law firm Kendall Brill & Kelley and a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Brill founded the national nonprofit The Civics Center to support peer-to-peer high school voter registration and civics education. Resources include online voter registration trainings and “Democracy in a Box” supplies (clipboards, stickers, and more) for a  voter registration event. 


For a full list click here.




Nonprofits We Should Know About
If you’re behind an alumni nonprofit or know of one we haven’t yet heard of, let us know so we can add it to the list! Write us at


Please Note: This list is updated and fact-checked each fall for the holiday gift guide. Please let us know of any changes or inaccuracies. Last update: 11/2/2022.