Taj Haider, Senior Development Director at Civic Hall
“There is a large prison near my town—the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility—which is a big employer in the community. To this day, it still carries out the Death Penalty. When I was nine years old, I heard on the news that someone was being put to death that very day. I remember begging my mother to take me to protest it. Looking back, that was one of my first sparks for advocacy and civic engagement.”
Meet Taj Haider. Taj is Civic Hall’s recently appointed Senior Director of Development and is charged with leading its fundraising efforts. She comes to Civic Hall with extensive experience raising millions of dollars in public and private funds for a number of organizations, including The Legal Aid Society, Civic Hall org member Educational Alliance, and The Fund for Public Health.
“I have secured funding across a number of programmatic areas, including youth development, substance abuse disorder treatment and prevention, healthy promotion and education, geriatric mental health services, civil legal services, public health and medical initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa, programs for individuals with special needs, and the performing arts.”
While Taj has extensive experience in development, she also holds an MPH and continues to co-publish with her mentor, Prof. Manoj Sharma. As an avid researcher, Taj has published over 20 peer-reviewed publications — everything from the benefits of Tai Chi and yoga to the emotional intelligence of a social service workforce.
Taj is a former Board Member of the New York Abortion Access Fund (NYAAF) and is a member of the inaugural cohort of Cause Effective’s Fellows Program: Advancing Leaders of Color in Fundraising.
What Does She Do?
As Civic Hall’s Senior Director of Development Taj is focused on fundraising, donor cultivation, prospect research. She adds, “I also supervise a Development Assistant, Haji, who started the same day as me — October 1st!”
“Right now, I am focusing on really getting to know Civic Hall and its programs. Beyond that, I am helping to launch SalesForce to manage our grants/funders; writing grant proposals/reports; and cultivating relationships with new prospects. The piece that I would most enjoy to participate in — building a foundation for the systems and processes that would enable us to have a really great development team. Civic Hall has the opportunity to create systems and process around fundraising. That means a CRM and creating a pathway for how we cultivate donors. In most places I’ve worked the challenge is to create a culture of philanthropy. That’s not necessary here because it already exists. We already have leadership who are incredibly involved and are successful in fundraising. While I’m doing that – I’m reaching out to my low-lying fruit – orgs and foundations – with which I have a relationship, and seeing if I think that there is a good connection to Civic Hall to build internal capacity — for anything we need whether it’s something as small as branding or letterhead. I’d also like to help out with Board Development. I think that if we can get a great cycle and grant calendar going, that will help in sustainability.”
How Did She Get Into This Work?
“There is a large prison near my town – Southern Ohio Correctional Facility – which is a big employer in the community. To this day, it still carries out the Death Penalty.
When I was nine years old, I heard on the news that someone was being put to death that day. I remember begging my mother to take me to protest it. Looking back, that was one of my first sparks for advocacy and civic engagement.”
Taj grew up in Southern Ohio to parents who were first generation immigrants. Her father – now over eighty years old – is Pakistani – but he was born Indian – as he predated the Partition. Every summer Taj’s father traveled to Haiti, the Philippines, and back to Pakistan to give back as a surgeon. “From his experiences,” effuses Taj, “he’s passed on his progressive/social activism down to me.”
For a time, it appeared that Taj would follow in her father’s footsteps. As an undergraduate, she was a biology major and was considering a career as a scientist. As a public health student, to her shock, the case studies and interventions on the burgeoning opioid epidemic focused on Taj’s home county in Ohio. (Sadly, recent articles in the New York Times continue to do so.) As a result, Taj pursued her Master’s in Public Health. It was during her internship at Planned Parenthood – while she was a student – where she was given the opportunity to work on two grants related to reproductive health access for low-resourced communities in Cincinnati, OH: “I was hooked — and both grants were awarded!”
“I just really fell in love with the [grantmaking] process – both sides of development – institutional giving – on two state level grants – and also I got to learn the social media work – took datasets together and integrated them– and determined the need by neighborhood for reproductive healthcare. I got to work on research as well as what’s typical for development: individual giving, marketing, and the government funding piece.”
Following graduation, Taj moved from Cincinnati to NYC where she first worked for Amref Health Africa, and then, returning to what first animated her advocacy as a pre-adolescent – she joined Legal Aid Society. This was followed by work for the Fund for Public Health, and most recently, Educational Alliance.
How Did She Come to Civic Hall?
Up until two months ago, Taj was working at Educational Alliance as its Director of Institutional Giving. In fact, she was on the same team as Britney Spatz, then EA’s Director of Strategic Projects. Britney’s enthusiasm for Civic Hall – she is a staunch supporter, frequently speaking at our ULURP hearings before the Committee Board and then the City Council to approve the Union Square project – was echoed by EA’s Director of Communications, who had attended professional development workshops at Civic Hall; as well as its Director of Research & Evaluation who participated in our delta.NYC program.
“That was motivation for exploring this position. Those three people are highly motivated and mission-driven. If they had incredible things to say about Civic Hall -– that meant a lot.”
What is She Reading?
Taj is currently engrossed in Tommy Orange’s debut novel, There, There.
“Back in college I took a class on Native American literature and loved the authors I discovered. This novel follows several Native people who have varying degrees of connection to their culture/heritage — searching for identity. I think this is particularly relevant as our country is in a time of deep contemplation of its own identity — related to our place in the world, our history and its impact, and the changing demographics, belief systems, and cultures that comprise us.”
What Is Her Ask of Civic Hall?
“Be patient with me – I am new to the Civic Tech sector and still learning!”
“I’d be happy to do a thirty or sixty-minute Fundraising 101 on how I go after grants. What’s worked for me and what hasn’t.”
Taj is open to scheduling a Lunch & Learn after the New Year. One that might work best if members brought examples of their fundraising challenges, including grants that they hope to receive. Stay tuned!