First presented in 1984, the award honors a visionary leader who embodies the commitment, courage, entrepreneurship, and impact that define excellence in philanthropy. Since 2001, Heintz has served as president of the New York City-based fund, where he coined the term "acupuncture philanthropy" to describe its efforts to strategically leverage its reputation and modest financial assets to create outsized global impact and drive larger systemic change.
Heintz began his professional life in the public sector, spending fifteen years working for the state of Connecticut, before joining the nonprofit sector, where he has devoted his career to democratic citizen engagement and making institutions work for people. In 2002, as president of the fund, he led an initiative in partnership with the UN Association to host a back-channel dialogue between senior American and Iranian policy makers — an effort that laid the groundwork for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreed to by the two countries in 2015. After Donald Trump prevailed in the 2016 presidential election, Heintz urged the RBF board of trustees to establish an Urgent Opportunities Fund, a two-year initiative to address pressing concerns in the U.S., including an increasingly polarized political climate driven by divisive rhetoric, discriminatory hurdles to voting, and increasingly strident attacks on the free press.
Building on the Rockefeller family's long engagement with China, RBF joined a small cohort of international organizations in 2017 to register under China's NGO Management Law, enabling it to continue its commitment to fostering sustainable development in the world's most populous country. That same year, Heintz was appointed to the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development, a high-level international advisory body established with the approval of the Chinese government.
"Stephen Heintz's deep commitment to the principles of philanthropy has led to him being one of the most respected leaders in the field in the United States and globally," said Council on Foundations interim president and CEO Gene Cochrane. "Under his leadership, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund has been both a trusted grantmaker and convener. He has led discussions on some of the more challenging issues of our time, including climate change, U.S.-Iran relations, the European integration of the Balkans, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as concerns right here in the United States surrounding the erosion of democracy. The council staff is extremely pleased that he will share his views on the state of the sector and the state of our nation in what will likely be a thoughtful and provocative call to the field."