Meet the President

Pamela Shifman

Pamela Shifman has served as president of the Democracy Alliance since September 2021. Guided by a lifelong commitment to social justice, she is a proven and powerful bridge builder—uniting funders, movement leaders, policymakers, and allies in common purpose, collective momentum, and transformative vision. As the Democracy Alliance president, Pamela is bringing this unique lens to the biggest challenge of our time: the fight to ensure that our democracy not only survives, but thrives to serve everyone. 

Pamela has an extensive track record of building organizations, teams, and strategies that advance justice, strengthen democracy, build power, and unleash potential. Whether as an executive director, lawyer, educator, strategic advisor, or social justice funder, her work has common roots: a deep commitment to racial, gender, and economic justice and an unshakable belief that those most impacted by injustice are the experts of their lives. 

Beginning in 2008, Pamela spent 12 years shaping the work of the NoVo Foundation, one of the country’s largest progressive foundations, where she served as Director of NoVo’s Initiatives for Girls and Women before becoming the organization’s Executive Director. As the Executive Director, she oversaw a grantmaking budget of up to $200 million annually, grew the infrastructure of the organization, and cultivated a supportive and creative culture based in anti-racist and feminist principals.

Throughout her tenure at NoVo, Pamela challenged traditional practices of philanthropy and influenced funders across the sector to become more accountable to grantee partners and more responsive to rising threats against equality and justice. From Grantmakers for Girls of Color, a landmark effort to increase funding for girls of color; to the Collective Future Fund, an unprecedented collaboration to end gender-based violence; to Radical Hope, a bold initiative to resource responses to rising authoritarianism after the 2016 U.S. election, Pamela’s tenure at NoVo was marked by new partnerships that shifted lasting resources—and power—to transformative movements on the frontlines of change.

Pamela joined the NoVo Foundation from the UNICEF headquarters, where she led the organization’s efforts to end gender-based violence, especially in conflict-affected settings. Prior to joining the United Nations, Pamela served as Co-Executive Director of the international women’s rights organization Equality Now, and as a Program Coordinator for the Open Society Institute Network Women’s Program.  

Early in her career, Pamela was a Legal Advisor to the ANC Parliamentary Women’s Caucus during South Africa’s first democratic elections—an experience that solidified her passionate belief in the power of movements, civil society, and progressive governments to collaborate and win transformative change. 

In 2020, Pamela founded Shake the Table, an initiative on progressive philanthropy, transformational leadership, and movement building housed at Panorama Global. She serves on multiple boards, including The Young Women’s Freedom Center, The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, The Ms. Foundation, and Tools and Tiaras. 

Born and raised in Michigan, Pamela holds a B.A. from the University of Michigan and a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School. She is based in Brooklyn, NY.