Nonprofit Advocate and Journalist, Rick Cohen, Dies Suddenly at Age 64


One of the great voices in nonprofit advocacy and philanthropy, Rick Cohen, has died after collapsing suddenly this week. Cohen was a national correspondent for Nonprofit Quarterly and a widely admired advocate for low-income communities and philanthropic accountability. 

Jonathan Spack, CEO at TSNE MissionWorks, had this to say about Cohen’s passing: “Rick was an amazing reporter and a passionate, tireless advocate for justice. I thought of him as a latter-day I.F. Stone, a comparison he always laughed off with his usual self-deprecating humor. To me though, he was more a friend than a professional colleague. Whenever we saw each other, we spent most of our time talking about the kinds of things friends connect over – family, food, sports, gossip - rather than the latest outrage perpetrated against the cause of social justice. We shared roots as Jewish boys from Boston – although his experience was quite different from mine - he grew up in what was then heavily Italian East Boston as pretty much the only Jewish kid in the neighborhood. I will miss Rick so much. His shocking death is a huge loss for our sector.”

Reported by Suzanne Perry at The Chronicle of Philanthropy, 'Cohen, who began his career working for nonprofits and government, led the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, a foundation watchdog, before joining Nonprofit Quarterly in 2006. He devoted the final years of his life to writing a steady stream of articles — some dubbed the Cohen Report — prodding nonprofits and foundations to do more to help society’s least wealthy and least powerful people.'

The Nonprofit Quarterly’s editors expressed their sadness and acknowledged Cohen's death as an 'inestimable' loss. The publication has set up a memorial webpage where readers, colleagues and friends can pay tribute to Cohen.

Cohen spent eight years as the executive director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. Cohen continued his investigative and analytical work he led at NCRP at the Nonprofit Quarterly, advocating for increased philanthropic giving and access for disadvantaged and disenfranchised constituencies and promoting increased philanthropic and overall nonprofit accountability.

His career includes many achievements and professional accomplishments, prior to joining NCRP, he was vice president of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) in charge of strategic planning. He also served as vice president of the Enterprise Foundation, directing Enterprise’s field programs.

Rick has also served in the public sector as Director of Jersey City’s Department of Housing and Economic Development and in the private sector as a consultant to nonprofits, foundations, and government agencies. He has also worked for the Trust for Public Land in New York City and began his professional career as a planner with Action for Boston Community Development, one of the nation’s original anti-poverty agencies. Rick has also authored or co-authored three books and numerous articles and op-eds for professional journals and newspapers, testified at Congressional committees and roundtables, and appeared on radio and Rick was named to the NPT Power & Influence Top 50 list by The Nonprofit Times.