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July 9, 2020
Eastern Mass. Big Brothers Big Sisters Names President & CEO
Mark O’Donnell
Mark O’Donnell

May 28, 2020 — Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Massachusetts, a Boston-based nonprofit that provides adult mentors to help youth reach their full potential, recently announced the appointment of Mark O’Donnell as its next president and CEO.

O’Donnell, who currently serves as Senior Vice President and Chief Development of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Massachusetts (BBBSEM), will take over July 1, succeeding Wendy Foster, who served in the post for the last 11 years.

BBBSEM said the transition, which has been in process since last fall, comes at what is now an uncertain time, as the organization, along with all nonprofits, navigates the coronavirus crisis.

"O’Donnell’s nine-year tenure with the organization and strategic fundraising prowess will help to ensure stability as the organization navigates the COVID-19 crisis and positions itself for continued impact in the recovery and beyond," BBBSEM noted.

Foster said, “That our new leader is a long-term member of our leadership team is a sign of our strength. The transition is coming at a pivotal point in time in which the organization along with every other business, will need to develop a new plan to move forward beyond the coronavirus pandemic.

“Now more than ever, we see the importance of relationships and connection in all of our lives and how much the most vulnerable children in our society need caring adult mentors. We wouldn’t be where we are today without Mark and I can think of no better person to take the reins at this time, a strategic leader and innovator who knows and is deeply committed to our community of donors, partners and Bigs and Littles.”

O’Donnell brings more than 20 years of management and fundraising experience to the position. For the past nine years at BBBSEM, he oversaw the functions of major gifts, annual fund, special events, advancement services and corporate and foundation relations.

Before joining BBBSEM, O’Donnell held numerous senior positions at area universities, including as an associate dean for the College of Engineering at Northeastern University, executive director of development at Bentley University, and as associate director of leadership giving and senior leadership giving officer at Babson College.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit in early March, O’Donnell helped the organization raise millions of dollars in bridge funding to ensure the nonprofit could weather the downturn in operational revenue from special event fundraisers forced to be postponed and other revenues directly tied to their ability to make additional matches.

BBBSEM is currently in year three of a five-year strategic plan.

“Right now, the focus must be on understanding our environment and capacity to move forward and build programs and solutions to continue our work,” said O’Donnell, a former two-time Big Brother. “We are working with philanthropists, business and nonprofit leaders as well as our board and community of Bigs and families to determine what that looks like over the next several months and ultimately the next three to five years.”

Among her accomplishments, Foster helped diversify the nonprofit’s delivery models with the launch of its Mentor 2.0 program, Bigs in Blue program, and partnership with Uber; building a new board of advisors and Young Professionals Group, and moving its headquarters.

BBBSEM was founded in 1949 as an organization serving fatherless boys in Boston. In 2006, it merged with Cape & Islands Big Brothers Big Sisters and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Attleboro, and changed its name to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay. In recent years it expanded to serve the Greater New Bedford and Merrimack Valley regions.

BBBSEM, an affiliate of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, is distinct from Big Sister Association of Greater Boston, a nonprofit that provides girls with mentoring relationships with women.

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