Strengthening financial literacy in an evolving nonprofit ecosystem

By Daniella Fernandes, MA SID'19

The New York City Police Foundation has a mission as diverse as the city it serves. From supporting counter-terrorism initiatives in 14 international cities to strengthening partnerships between the police and the local community, the foundation is a tremendous asset to the NYPD and the city of New York. In 2017, Heller alumnus Isaac Rothbart, MBA’09, joined its team as the director of finance and administration. Rothbart’s journey from Heller to New York City began in the classrooms of the dual Heller MBA and Hornstein MA in Jewish Professional Leadership program.

“One of my colleagues in the financial management course noticed I was doing things differently and encouraged me to explore finance,” shares Rothbart, who initially wanted to specialize in spearheading residential Jewish summer camps. “That’s when I decided to change my trajectory a bit and focus on financial management.” Crediting this decision to be a key driver to his success, Rothbart finds immense value from the finance classes he attended at Heller and believes students could benefit from the same. He says, “The nonprofit world changed from a generation ago. Now, many non-profits are large organizations with multi-million-dollar budgets and projects. So financial acumen has become essential for professionals in the field, and Heller provided that training for me.”

For current and future students, Rothbart believes Heller provides the perfect opportunity to learn and enhance similar practical skills. He says, “Although Heller’s primary focus is not on finance, people should go to Heller to understand the relationship between doing good and good financial management.”

Heller is where Rothbart says he made a great network of friends whom he works and connects with to this day. It’s also where he met his wife, Jessica Levine Rothbart, MBA/MA’10, currently the associate director of operations at the Jewish Education Project. “I was her campus tour guide and when she joined us the following year, we reconnected,” he says with a warm smile.

When Rothbart finished his MBA, the road ahead was uncertain. “I graduated at the height of the recession and was the last person in my cohort to get a job. I didn’t get the jobs that felt the most comfortable but instead had the opportunity to be the chief financial officer for a smaller, million-dollar entity straight out of graduate school, but in Georgia,” he says. “Don’t always look for the most well know or biggest agencies but instead for projects that can provide the opportunity to help you hone your skills.”

Today at the NYC Police Foundation, he feels at home. “I grew up in NYC and came of age during some of its worst moments,” he says. “I’ve seen the city and this department evolve – and I’m happy and excited to have the opportunity to contribute to this change.”