’s 5 in 3 Non-Profit Leadership Series: Cornelia Carey, Executive Director of CERF+
3 min readJan 22, 2021


CERF+ provided more than $1.2 million in emergency assistance to 780 artists in 2020

Welcome to’s 5 in 3 non-profit leadership series. We ask non-profit leaders all over the world to answer 5 question about their non-profit experience to create this 3-minute piece.’s mission is to empower organizations to thrive, inspire, and serve the world. Though we primarily do this through technology, providing a platform to share the stories and experiences of leaders in the non-profit space is also an important part of executing on that mission.

I am pleased to introduce Cornelia Carey. Cornelia is the executive director at CERF+, the artists safety net, and a co-founder of the National Coalition for Arts Preparedness and Emergency Response. Cornelia believes that artists are the lifeblood of society and has dedicated her entire career to supporting them, particularly in times of need. As Carey notes:

“Artists are all around us and contribute to our lives every day — they make our salad bowls, write our books, and perform for us on streets and in theaters to lift our spirits. Artists spark conversation with their talent and, in the wake of disasters, are often called upon to offer solace, comfort, and connection to help our communities heal. They can help us express our deepest emotions — just think of a sentimental ballad or the feeling of warm, heavy clay in your hands. Yet artists are a vulnerable population that have often low or episodic income, and lack the benefits provided by safety nets like employee-sponsored health insurance. Too often, temporary setbacks in an artist’s life turn into permanent silence and loss of a career, which in turn is a loss for everyone.”

How did you get your start in the non-profit space?

My first job out of college in 1980 was being a program assistant for an organization called Consumer Action Now (C.A.N.), which was focused on educating women about energy conservation.

What is one challenge you’ve encountered that you didn’t expect while working for a non-profit?

There are so many details to attend to when running a non-profit these days. These include all aspects of administration, fundraising and program development and implementation. These details can pull leaders into “the weeds” all too often. A challenge for me is keeping that big picture vision in clear focus, which is so essential to progress and meeting our mission.

What is one opportunity you’ve identified because of the changes due to COVID-19?

I have been amazed by how seamlessly we’ve been able to work remotely. This presents a few opportunities for us, including reducing our carbon footprint and having the opportunity to hire the most qualified staff regardless of where they live.

What is your most effective fundraising medium?

Personal and direct communication

What is one fundraising rule you live by?

If you do good work and you build strong relationships, the money will follow.

Thank you for sharing your story Cornelia.

You can learn more about Cerf+ and Cornelia below.


Cornelia on LinkedIn:



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