A Message from Robin Heller:

Philanthropy and charities serve many communities, including communities of color. In my experience, the top ranks of nonprofit organizations are predominantly white, as are nonprofit boards of directors. Indeed, recent research show that 25% of current U.S. boards are entirely white. When a nonprofit includes C-Suite professionals of color, the conversation changes. The hiring choices change. The programming changes. Excellence requires talent from many more communities.
I see a small way that RHI can play a part in diversifying the top ranks of fundraising in nonprofits. To that end, I have created the Racing Upwards fellowship, a three- to six-month paid part-time work experience in our consultancy. Racing Upwards offers professionals of color the chance to add skills in preparation for advancement. The fellowship is for professionals at any stage of career, including people who have always wanted to add fundraising to their portfolio. Candidates identify their learning needs and professional plans. 

Interested in being our next Racing Upwards Fellow?


Racing Upwards Fellow 2020

Karla Brollier is of the Yidateni Na’ Tribe of the Ahtna Athabaskan peoples, she was born and raised in Alaska where she obtained her undergraduate degree as well as an MBA.

Karla is the Founder and Director of The Climate Justice Initiative, which focuses on Indigenous Peoples, Human Rights and Climate Change. The Climate Justice Initiative is the first and only Indigenous led and focused climate change organization in the United States that protects both environmental and human rights, and the only Indigenous women-led and focused climate change organization in the US.

She began her career researching environmental toxicology and organizing environmentally focused campaigns, which developed into her dynamic background in climate change expertise as well as organizational strategy, building initiatives, policy and advocacy work. She has dedicated over

15 years advocating for human rights and indigenous rights on a local, national and international level. Karla is a mainstay in the climate and human rights movement in both the public and private sectors; she has spent much of her career consulting and working in emergent issues such as policy, economic models, environmental justice and has worked with the Climate Reality Project, the UN & directly with several US administrations and a multitude of international and nationally based climate change related programs and groups such as for the former VP Al Gore and the World Economic Forum. Karla has given plenary presentations at the international level including the WEF, presented at the United Nations, lectured at multiple universities, as well as facilitates and teaches workshops and classes around the globe.

She has won multiple awards including the Female Founders Alliance 2020 Champion Awards and the 2020 Women of Color Collective in Sustainability Award. She is a current fellow as a Women’s Earth Alliance Fellowship with TNC and Earth Island Institute. She serves as a Board Director for The Alaska Native Professional Association, the Chambers of Commerce Young Professionals and serves on the Executive Committee of the Institute of the North’s Lead:North and the Governor appointee for the Natural Resources Conservation and Development Board.

Racing Upwards Fellow 2019

Carmen Bitar graduated cum laude from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York, with a BA in Law and Society and a minor in Law.  She is the Community Associate (Parent Coordinator) in a New York City Department of Education high school, the High School of Economics and Finance. In this role, she connects with the guidance team, families and students to support academic excellence. She is the Big Brothers Big Sisters of NYC workplace mentoring program coordinator at the school, currently overseeing 60 students matched with volunteer mentors from the corporate world. She has worked for the New York City Department of Education since 2000. She has volunteered with the New York City Bar Association for a Diversity and Inclusion event. Carmen writes, “Once I discovered the work that Robin Heller International provides, I wanted to be part of an organization that believes in expanding globally and empowers diversity. The fellowship will allow me to streamline and dedicate myself to assist with promoting equity. Being a part of RHI allows me to expand my professional goals.” She enjoys walking over the Brooklyn Bridge, taking her daughter to drum lessons and visits to museums such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, National Museum of the American Indian and the Museum of Jewish Heritage. She loves watching movies from the 80’s, listening to music and dancing to her own tune. She is fluent in Spanish.

Racing Upwards Fellow 2018

Michelle Kannan is the Major Gifts Officer for the Eastern Region at Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence. In her role, she oversees the fundraising for the Eastern States, focusing primarily on high dollar contributions. Prior to joining the team at Giffords, Michelle was the Director of Development at Year Up National Capital Region. Michelle is passionate about work that centers around empowering communities of color through a variety of means including education, workforce development and voting. Michelle is a graduate of Furman University and received her Masters in Public Administration from the University of South Florida. In her spare time, Michelle enjoys vocal performance, theater and spending time with her dog, Otis.

Inaugural Racing Upwards Fellow 2018

Natalie joined the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation as the Director of Engineering Initiatives in 2018. In this role, she manages the Foundation’s signature academic program, the A. James Clark Scholars Program, which has now been established at 11 campuses nationwide. Through an investment of over $200 million the Clark Scholars Program supports first-generation and underrepresented students with financial need who exhibit strong academic and leadership potential at some of the nation’s top engineering schools. Natalie also manages the Foundation’s multi-year investment of nearly $220 million to the University of Maryland.

Natalie previously served as the Director of External Relations in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Maryland College Park, where she focused on development, corporate and public relations, external outreach, and communications. Prior to that, Natalie worked in development at George Washington University, City Year Washington, DC, and New York University.

Natalie served as President of the Board of Directors for the Congressional Chorus from 2018 – 2020, where she is also a singer and dancer. Natalie holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Business and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from New York University. She currently lives in Washington, DC with her husband.

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