Independent Sector to Honor Native Americans in Philanthropy’s Sarah Eagle Heart with American Express NGen Leadership Award

Sarah Eagle Heart recognized as an emerging leader age 40 or under who has demonstrated significant impact in addressing society’s critical needs

(WASHINGTON, July 25, 2017) – Independent Sector will honor Sarah Eagle Heart, Oglala Lakota, CEO of Native Americans in Philanthropy, with the 2017 American Express NGen Leadership Award.

Eagle Heart is receiving the award as an emerging leader under age 40 who has already demonstrated significant impact in addressing society’s critical needs. She has a diverse set of experiences crossing corporate, faith, and nonprofit organizations, but is also known for her focused advocacy for tribal communities and the role philanthropy plays in solving the biggest issues facing indigenous peoples.

“Sarah Eagle Heart is a powerful voice and advocate on behalf of the charitable sector at large and the Native American community in particular,” said Daniel J. Cardinali, president and CEO of Independent Sector. “Her focus on storytelling and reaching people across cultures and experiences has helped her lead organizations and people toward success.”

Since becoming the chief executive of Native Americans in Philanthropy in 2015, she has strengthened the organization’s mission and elevated its position in the sector. Native Americans in Philanthropy is a membership-based organization that promotes reciprocity and investment in, with, and for Native peoples to build healthy and sustainable communities for all. Eagle Heart’s passion for healing and advocacy started early as a teen activist raised on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Prior to her current role, Eagle Heart served in the leadership of The Episcopal Church in New York and led the effort making the church the first major denomination to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery focusing instead of education and advocacy on accurate history education, cultural teachings, healing, and asset based community development. The Doctrine of Discovery can be traced by to the 1400s but became part of U.S. law in 1823 by the Supreme Court, which ruled that Christian Europeans had the right to seize lands from Native American populations.

She holds two bachelor’s degrees from Black Hills State University in mass communications/media studies and American Indian/Native American studies, and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Phoenix.

“Sarah Eagle Heart’s visionary leadership is an example for anyone aiming to solve our society’s most challenging social problems,” said Michael McAfee, president of PolicyLink and chair of the American Express NGen Leadership Award Selection Committee. “Her strong communication skills, effective advocacy and impressive track record of getting results, are assets to her organization and our entire sector.”

“We are thrilled to continue celebrating social purpose leaders like Sarah Eagle Heart through the American Express NGen Leadership Award,” said Timothy J. McClimon, president of the American Express Foundation and IS Board member. “Through her passion and advocacy, Eagle Heart has had a powerful impact on the growth of her community. We congratulate all of the finalists on their remarkable achievements.”

Eagle Heart was selected from a panel of five distinguished finalists that also included:

  • Blair Glencorse, executive director of Accountability Lab
  • Cesar Gonzalez, CEO of StartingBloc
  • Laura Weidman Powers, co-founder and CEO of Code2040
  • Ginger Zielinskie, president and CEO of Benefits Data Trust

Created in 2010, the American Express NGen Leadership Award raises the national profile and visibility of diverse leaders across the nonprofit and philanthropic community. Applications for the award were evaluated by a selection committee of nonprofit and philanthropic leaders. The finalists submitted answers to essay questions and participated in a Twitter Town Hall to share their views on leadership, impact, and the opportunities and challenges within the sector. American Express is also the lead sponsor of the American Express NGen Fellows Program, which contributes to the development of emerging nonprofit leaders through their foundation’s philanthropic giving initiative committed to leadership.

Eagle Heart will receive the award during Our Common Future, a joint conference of Independent Sector, Council of Michigan Foundation, and Michigan Nonprofit Association taking place October 25-27 in Detroit.


About Independent Sector
Independent Sector is the only national membership organization that brings together a diverse set of nonprofits, foundations, and corporations to advance the common good. Learn more at

About American Express: Developing New Leaders for Tomorrow
One of American Express’ three philanthropic platforms is Developing New Leaders for Tomorrow. Under this giving initiative, which recognizes the significance of strong leadership in the nonprofit and social purpose sectors, American Express makes grants focused on training high potential emerging leaders to tackle important issues in the 21st century. More than 30,000 emerging nonprofit and social sector leaders worldwide have benefited from American Express leadership programs, including the American Express Leadership Academy among others. Launched in 2008, the American Express Leadership Academy addresses the growing deficit of leadership talent in the nonprofit sector by bringing together emerging leaders from a diverse set of nonprofit, social sector and non-governmental organizations. For leadership journey stories and additional resources, visit
Kristina Gawrgy Campbell

Types: Press Release
Global Topics: Leadership Development