Laura Sparks is Executive Director of the William Penn Foundation, a $2.4 billion private foundation dedicated to improving the quality of Philadelphia, our nation’s 5th largest city, and the region that surrounds it. Under her guidance, the Foundation launched and refined its new strategic priorities, focusing its $115 million grant budget on improvements in urban education for economically disadvantaged children, protection of the water resources serving 15 million people across four states, development of world-class urban parks and trails in underserved communities, and cultivation of a vibrant cultural sector.
Prior to joining the William Penn Foundation, Laura served as the Director of Development Finance Initiatives at Citi, where she created and implemented community development strategies at local and national levels. In this role, Laura worked with businesses, government and nonprofits to revitalize neighborhoods through increasing access to capital and housing for those who need it most. Before joining Citi, Laura was the Senior Vice President for Financial Services at Opportunity Finance Network (OFN)—a national nonprofit serving local Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) across the country—where she helped create alternative loan options for individuals vulnerable to predatory lenders.
She has served on a variety of boards and advisory committees, including the Credit Committee and the Capital Formation Committee for Living Cities, a philanthropic collaborative of 22 of the world’s largest foundations and financial institutions, focused on improving the lives of low-income people and the urban areas where they live. Laura also sat on the Advisory Board for the innovative “Investing in What Works” initiative and currently sits on the board of Aeris, a nonprofit information service for community investors who champion economic justice in underserved markets.
Laura earned her J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, her M.B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and her B.A. in philosophy from Wellesley College. Laura is an avid runner, loves to cook and enjoys spending time with her husband and two children.