Meet the Team

Ben Starrett

President & CEO and Founder

ben@fundersnetwork.org, (305) 667-6350 ext. 206

Ben Starrett is the founding executive director and President & CEO of the Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities, created in late-1999. A magna cum laude graduate of Princeton University with a degree in politics and economics, he is a member of Leadership Florida Class XIX, was a Knight Fellow in Community Building, and serves on the board of Rail~Volution. Active in numerous national and local organizations, he lives in South Florida with his wife Regina, where they cultivate butterflies and enjoy most other aspects of outdoor life. Download full bio

Ben Starrett

Jennifer Cummings

Director of Finance and Operations

jennifer@fundersnetwork.org, (305) 667-6350 ext. 200

Jennifer works both in programmatic and administrative areas including operations, board relations, human resources, finance and budgeting, logistical planning, annual conference, and the GREEN working group. Before joining the Network in 2005, she was the executive director of the Kidney Foundation of South Florida, responsible for all areas of nonprofit management including special events, operations, board development, educational programming, community outreach, and communications. Jennifer graduated magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University with a degree in English and Russian. The daughter of a Peruvian mother and American father who flew for Pan Am, she has traveled extensively and lived abroad. Jennifer enjoys her extended family, reading too much, making things with her hands, well-planned trips to interesting locales, and swimming in open water as long as it’s 84 degrees or somewhere foreign.

Jennifer Cummings

Maureen Lawless

Vice President and Director of Member Services

maureen@fundersnetwork.org, (305) 667-6350 ext. 205

Maureen joined the Network in 2002 and currently serves as Vice President and Director of Member Services, organizing membership development and communications, and supervising the member services team and agenda, including program evaluation. Maureen also manages the Philanthropic Preparedness, Resiliency and Emergency Partnership (PPREP), a community foundation disaster preparedness and response learning cohort in a ten-state Midwestern region. Prior to joining the Network, she spent her early career managing membership and publications at the Georgia Center for Nonprofits. A magna cum laude graduate of Villanova University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, Maureen later received a master’s degree from the Georgetown University Public Policy Institute (now the McCourt School of Public Policy). While there, she was a Jessie Ball duPont Fund Emerging Nonprofit Scholar at the Institute’s Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership. An avid sports fan, Maureen often bores her colleagues with tales from her beloved Villanova Wildcats, New York Giants, and Boston Red Sox and other useless sports trivia.

Maureen Lawless

Ann Fowler Wallace

Director of Programs

ann@fundersnetwork.org, (617) 524-9239

Based in Boston, Ann heads up the Network’s responsive service work in the Northeast, and staffs the GREEN! Working Group and Partners for Places grant program in partnership with GREEN! team members Jennifer Cummings and Ashley Quintana. She also works with Diane Schrauth on the Stormwater Funders' Group and manages the Network’s team of field consultants. Before coming to the Network, Ann facilitated the planning and design of smart growth collaboratives in Vermont and Massachusetts.  She has worked as a program consultant to the John Merck Fund, principally on JMF’s environmental health grants program, and consulted with other foundations and funder networks focusing on environmental, sustainable agriculture, and smart growth issues.  She is a former partner at GMA Foundations, a philanthropic consulting firm serving charitable foundations and individual donors, where for fifteen years she headed up GMA’s environmental grantmaking and consulting practice.  Among her past environmental clients, Ann worked for the Jessie B. Cox Charitable Trust, the Conservation, Food & Health Foundation, the Dolphin Trust, and The Elizabeth Ordway Dunn Foundation. She is currently a trustee of the Environmental League of Massachusetts. Ann has a B.A. from Duke University and an M.A. with concentration in environmental policy from Tufts University.

Ann Fowler Wallace

Tere Figueras Negrete

Director of Communications

tere@fundersnetwork.org, (305) 667-6350 ext. 212

Tere is responsible for developing and implementing strategic communications for TFN and working closely with our staff and members to support and amplify our mission. She spent nearly 15 years as an award-winning writer and editor with the Miami Herald, where she covered everything from national politics to the local police beat. She also worked as senior editor for the Herald’s custom publishing division, developing print and digital products for commercial, philanthropic and nonprofit institutions. Most recently, she was marketing manager in charge of outreach and special projects for Jackson Health System, the largest taxpayer funded health system in South Florida and which serves as the safety net hospital for much of the region. Tere currently lives in South Miami and spends her free time writing, traveling and trying to discourage the neighborhood peacocks from roosting on her lawn.

Tere Figueras Negrete

Dion Cartwright

Director of Equitable Initiatives and Leadership Development

dion@fundersnetwork.org, (305) 667-6350

Dion joined the Network in October 2016 as Director of Equitable Initiatives and Leadership Development, directing the PLACES fellowship program and leading the organization’s work to address equity, inclusion and structural racism. She is a 2010 graduate of PLACES and chaired the PLACES Advisory Board for four years before joining the staff. Previously, she served as a member of the Baltimore Community Foundation (BCF) Community Investment team for 15 years. With a strong focus on intergenerational community engagement, she was responsible for the implementation of BCF’s Neighborhood Improvement Strategies that focused on creating safe, clean, green and vibrant neighborhoods, increased leadership development in communities and the development of community advocates. Dion helped to shape BCF’s commitment to racial equity and inclusion and worked with a committee of board and staff to implement an internal and external equity strategy for the Foundation. She participates on the Neighborhoods and Community Development Affinity Group of the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers, the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance (BNIA) Jacob France Institute’s Steering Committee, and is a member of Grassroots Grantmakers. Dion received her education at Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina where she studied Computer Science and Business Administration. In 2015, Dion was recognized as one of Maryland’s Leading Women by the Daily Record. She currently resides in Baltimore, Md., and spends her free time traveling, mentoring and coaching youth basketball.

Dion Cartwright

Lesmarie Nicholson

Senior Program Associate

lesmarie@fundersnetwork.org, (305) 667-6350 ext. 210

Lesmarie works with Network members and staff to plan the annual conference and facilitate learning opportunities. Before joining the Network, she was the program manager at Dream in Green where she managed the organization’s Green Schools Challenge program and worked in partnership with the Miami-Dade County Office of Sustainability to coordinate and deliver a series of Home Energy Savings Workshops. Lesmarie graduated from the George Washington University with a master’s in Public Policy and has a bachelor’s in Zoology from the University of the West Indies. Lesmarie is also a LEED Green Associate. Outside of work, she enjoys church, reading, and watching football.

Lesmarie Nicholson

Marci Ovadia

Senior Program Associate for Equity Programs and Communications

marci@fundersnetwork.org, (305) 667-6350 ext. 202

Marci is primarily responsible for working with the PLACES Fellowship and alumni and the Older Industrial Cities and Smaller Legacy Cities working groups. Marci also manages the Network's social media platforms, email campaigns and equity newsletters. She works closely with Ben Starrett, President and CEO, assisting in operations and providing communications/marketing support for staff and programs. Prior to joining the Network, Marci worked as the marketing assistant for social science journals at SAGE Publications in Thousand Oaks, Calif. and was also the graduate assistant to the Arts and Culture/ Economic Development team of the City of West Hollywood. Marci is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Claremont Graduate University, working on completing an interdisciplinary doctorate in Religion, Ehtics, and Culture (focusing on gender and race relations) and English Literature (focusing on intersectional activisim in literature). She has a Masters in Religion, Ethics, and Culture from Claremont Graduate University and a Bachelors in Religious Studies and Art History from Florida State University. When not working at our office in Coral Gables, Marci enjoys traveling with her family and friends, working with rescue animals, reading on a comfy chair, thrifting, netflixing, and writing.

Marci Ovadia

Navita Persaud

Program Manager for Member Services

navita@fundersnetwork.org, (305) 667-6350 ext. 211

Navita is primarily responsible for working with Maureen Lawless, Director of Member Services, to respond to the needs of the Network’s membership and design and implement membership strategies. Navita also provides program and logistics support to other Network efforts, including PPREP and Smart Growth California. Before joining the Network, Navita worked as a senior research associate at the Center for Disaster and Extreme Event Preparedness at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and as a program associate for community health at the National Association of County and City Health Officials. Navita holds a master’s of public health degree from the George Washington University and a bachelor’s of science degree in health science education from the University of Florida. When not working, Navita enjoys spending time with her family and friends, playing tennis, and reading.

Navita Persaud

Ashley Quintana

Senior Program Associate for Sustainability and Environmental Programs

ashley@fundersnetwork.org, (305) 667-6350 ext. 201

Ashley is primarily responsible for helping manage programming for the GREEN!, Partners for Places, Northeast Funders Network, Stormwater, and Intermountain West Funders Network programs. Prior to joining the Network, Ashley worked as the Corporate Relations Assistant at the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado and as the Litter Prevention Project Coordinator at the Environmental Coalition of Miami and the Beaches. Ashley holds a master’s in Environmental Policy and Management from the University of Denver and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Central Florida. Outside of work, Ashley enjoys spending her time backpacking through foreign countries, taking road trips, visiting National Parks, and pursuing her passion for photography.

Ashley Quintana

Justin Seara

Program Associate

justin@fundersnetwork.org, (305) 667-6350 ext. 204

Justin is responsible for the Network’s IT needs. From database and website management to hardware and software configuration, he sees to it that TFN staff have the support and tools they need to get things done. Before joining the Network, he was living and New York City working in the tech industry. He graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in Operations Engineering Technology and worked as a Mac Genius within an Apple Store, as a Sales Engineer at an electronics manufacturer, and within customer retention at a startup company. Outside of the office, Justin enjoys practicing his photography, traveling, surfing, biking and enjoying the outdoors.

Justin Seara