Darren Isom

Partner, San Francisco

Darren Isom is a partner in the San Francisco office, where he advises mission-driven organizations and philanthropic foundations in support of equity and justice and supports the firm’s work with arts and cultural organizations. He co-leads the firm’s commitment to advance racial equity in philanthropy and is also the host of the podcast Dreaming in Color: Creating New Narratives in Leadership, which offers leaders of color space to share how they have leveraged their unique assets and abilities to embrace excellence, drive impact, and more fully define what success looks like.

Darren also speaks and writes on racial equity in philanthropy. His recent publications include: “Lessons on Leadership and Community from 25 Leaders of Color” (Harvard Business Review, 2022), “What Everyone Can Learn From Leaders of Color” (Stanford Social Innovation Review, 2022), “Endow Black-Led Nonprofits” (Stanford Social Innovation Review, 2021),  “Race and Place-based Philanthropy: Learnings from Funders Focused on Equitable Impact” (Bridgespan.org, 2021).

Darren was the founder and executive director of the Memphis Music Initiative (MMI), an ambitious five-year, $20 million grantmaking and community arts development initiative. There, he led efforts to use targeted investments and programmatic offerings to strengthen youth and community music engagement activities for low-income, Black, and Latino youth and communities.

Earlier in his career, he worked as the art, design, and public programming director for Times Square Alliance, planning and implementing programming for public art and performance initiatives throughout the Times Square District. Prior to working at Times Square Alliance, Darren served as VP of Programs for Groundwork, a start-up youth services organization in East New York, Brooklyn, helping young people in underserved communities develop their strengths and skills through experiential learning and enrichment programs.

A seventh generation New Orleans native, Darren is a graduate of Howard University, Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris, and Columbia Business School’s Institute for Nonprofit Management. An activist for disconnected youth and LGBT communities of color, he serves as an advisor to the leaders of several Bay Area, Southeast US, and national foundations. He currently serves on the board of Beloved Community of New Orleans, Collage Dance Collective of Memphis, Springboard to Opportunities in Jackson, MS, Kingmakers of Oakland, Alice James Books in New Gloucester, Maine, The Mondavi Center for the Performing arts in Davis, California, and The Sciences Po American Foundation.

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