Tucsonan Lindsey Baker tapped as first COO for JFSA, JCF

Lindsey Baker

Lindsey Baker returns to her hometown on May 1 to accept the inaugural chief operating officer position for the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona and the Jewish Community Foundation. “Creating a sustainable, single-chief executive model is what we have been working toward,” says Graham Hoffman, JCF president and CEO, in announcing Baker’s appointment. Hoffman transitions to the dual role of president and CEO of the Federation and Foundation next month as 25-year veteran Federation leader Stuart Mellan retires.

Baker attended Tucson Hebrew Academy and The Gregory School. She grew up going to the Tucson Jewish Community Center, volunteering at Handmaker Jewish Services for Aging, embracing and being embraced by the community. “It’s definitely a full circle,” she says. “Tucson raised me and I am committed to the community. I am a proud product of the agencies supported by the Federation and Foundation, and personally know the important role they play. I’m honored to be coming home.”

For the past two years, Baker was director of programs at Hands On Atlanta, overseeing the organization’s impact programs and stewarding 100+ nonprofit and school partnerships. Previously she worked as director of program development for the third-largest U.S. nonprofit and the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief organization, Feeding America, overseeing strategic initiatives related to child and senior hunger, and SNAP outreach. She designed and implemented Feeding America’s Child Hunger Corps, a nationwide service program developing food banks’ capacity to execute programs to alleviate child hunger.

As a 2007-8 fellow in the Congressional Hunger Center’s Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellowship program, Baker worked on food insecurity among individuals with life-threatening illnesses.

“With the Federation and Foundation moving to a single CEO for both organizations, it is essential that we have a COO of the highest caliber,” says Deborah Oseran, JFSA board chair. “In terms of commitment to our community, experience, and the ability to work with our professionals, volunteers, and donors in creating and implementing our shared vision for a vibrant Southern Arizona Jewish community, in Lindsey, we have found the perfect combination of talents. Growing up in Tucson, she knows us and appreciates all that we have to offer. Having had experiences in much larger communities, Lindsey brings us best practices in all aspects of our mission. On a personal note, I feel tremendous pride that our THA graduate has chosen to return to Tucson and devote herself to our mission of helping the most vulnerable among us and enhancing Jewish life.”

Baker, the daughter of Shelley Pozez and the late Don Baker, “brings considerable professional assets to the table and has long-time, first-hand experience, and a myriad of relationships, investment, and affinity, not to mention her family’s legacy of deep commitment to our community,” says Hoffman.

“I am thrilled that Lindsey is moving back to Tucson and very proud of her for being hired as the COO of the Federation and Foundation,” says Pozez. “Lindsey’s leadership started in Tucson through her roles as president of USY and overseeing community service efforts at St. Gregory (now The Gregory School). What she learned in Tucson, at many of the organizations the Federation supports, provided her a foundation to go to college, graduate school, and the professional world with values of tikkun olam (repairing the world). Watching her grow personally and professionally into a strong and poised leader has made me, and her entire family, very proud. Her family welcomes her home with open arms. I know many of her THA and St. Gregory friends are excited as well. I am so proud of her and know her late father and grandparents are kvelling as well.”

Baker cites her family’s example. “Commitment to community and service was interwoven into my childhood and is part of my DNA. From my grandparents to my parents, to my large, extended family, exemplary models of community leaders have carved a path before me and have inspired me to follow in their footsteps while determining my own journey.”

“Even without a connection to this city, she would have been a superior candidate, and were lucky to sign her,” says incoming Foundation Chair Anne Hameroff. “But add to that her personal commitment to our community, her deep family roots and a lifetime of modeling from some of the most generous, humble, and thoughtful leaders of our Jewish community over the last 35 years, and it is obvious that she will be an invaluable addition to our professional leadership.”

“It is such a great reflection on our Federation and Foundation that we were able to attract Lindsey to this key position,” says Shelly Silverman, immediate past chair of the Federation. “She brings so much to us. I believe she will be an amazing partner for Graham and a terrific asset for our community.”

Baker was selected after a national search that included a number of candidates locally and around the country. “Lindsey stood out early as a top contender,” Hoffman says. “After meeting with key stakeholders, it was clear to us and to her that she was the ideal candidate for what we need in the community.”

“I am so thrilled that Lindsey is joining the Federation professional team in this key role,” says Mellan. “I have been a big fan of Lindsey’s through all these years — witnessing her grow into a remarkable young leader. What good fortune for us that she has chosen to direct her talents, and the values that she’s drawn from her family, back to her home community. Lindsey’s presence and future partnership with Graham and the outstanding staff leadership team at the Federation and Foundation reinforce my sense that we will surely go from strength to strength.”

“I had the opportunity to meet with Lindsey during the interview process,” says Jeff Katz, Foundation board chair. “Although I certainly was impressed with the wealth of experience she brings, I was even more impressed with the passion she shows for nonprofit work. With her knowledge of our community, I’m confident she will be a perfect fit. “

“Lindsey has positioned herself as a nonprofit leader, as a volunteer, a donor, and a professional,” says Hoffman. “She brings experience from all three perspectives, which is critical to the work we do at the Foundation and Federation.” As the organizations pivot toward data-driven construction of a strategic plan for the future and continue to grow and enhance the donor-intent outreach approach to philanthropic endeavors, Baker will collaborate with Hoffman in day-to-day management and oversight of the organizations.

“My breadth of experience at local and national nonprofits, collective skills, and deep personal commitment to Southern Arizona make me uniquely suited for the role,” says Baker, who has spent the past 15 years working in the nonprofit sector. “This is a pivotal time for the organizations given the structural changes and global COVID-19 crisis. The community has to pull through this together.”

Baker graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Emory University with a BA in psychology and sociology in 2007. She completed her MBA at Northwestern Kellogg School of Management in 2015 with a focus on strategy and organizations and public-private initiatives.

She serves on the board of the University of Arizona Hillel Foundation and is serving a second term on the Emory College Alumni Board executive committee. She received Emory University’s Humanitarian Award (2007), Feeding America’s Key Contributor Award (2011), and the Congressional Hunger Center’s Alumni Leadership Award (2012).

Baker’s arrival during these unusual times won’t hamper her hitting the ground running. “She will do community work via Zoom meetings with colleagues, volunteers, other professionals, and key stakeholders,” says Hoffman. “She has the benefit of pre-existing relationships with agencies, synagogues, and people, so she is not starting from scratch. She will be leveraging technology to operate for the Federation and Foundation without being in the same room, and already began some of those conversations as she wrapped up in Atlanta so she will be up to speed when she arrives.”