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Sarah Cotton Nelson is CFT’s Chief Philanthropy Officer. She is deeply committed to creating a bridge from best practices identified in the research world to the nonprofit practitioners who often face a scarcity of time to source what is shown to be most effective in their fields of practice.

Prior to joining CFT in 2008, Sarah spent 12 years as a survey research methodologist with the RAND Corporation. Her other professional roles throughout her career inform her current work: managing a youth intervention program in inner city Los Angeles; directing grants and research for a regional women’s foundation; and uncovering policy changes needed within El Salvador’s legalization process for nonprofit organizations following the end of that country’s civil war.

Sarah was named to the Dallas Innovates list of "2018 Movers and Shakers: North Texas Social Innovators You Should Know." Sarah was a 2017 Presidential Leadership Scholar, a 2016 GEO Change Leaders in Philanthropy fellow, a 2003 American Marshall Memorial Fellow and a 1997 graduate fellow in public policy and economics at Pontifícia Universidad Católica in Chile

She holds a bachelor’s degree in international development and Spanish from the University of California at Berkeley.


Community Leadership / Board Service

Sarah was selected to participate in the 2018-19 Thoreau class of the Stagen Integral Leadership Program.

Joined CFT


Favorite Aspect of CFT

"I'm hooked on being a part of social change. At CFT, I get to work with amazing, talented and passionate people who are hooked on positively impacting the community too!"

Favorite Quote

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."

— Theodore Roosevelt