In Memory of Rick Cohen

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Rick-Cohen

Image Credit: Eleanor Cohen

It is with deep sadness that we let our readers know our beloved Rick Cohen passed away this morning. His loss will be inestimable to many of you, as it is to us. Rick will be remembered for his integrity, his powerful and nimble intellect, his unyielding courage in pursuit of truth, his commitment to social justice, and his humor. Of all the things and people that he loved, the most important was his cherished daughter Ellie—and to her we say, thank you for sharing him with us. The world is immeasurably poorer for our loss of him. We will let you know what will be done as memorial. In the meantime, we welcome you to write your own thoughts and memories of Rick here.

  • Tricia Baker

    What an enormous vacuum he leaves behind. Will miss his wisdom.

  • CAReinvestCoalition

    This is a huge loss for the nonprofit community and beyond- Rick was an outstanding writer who never shied away from asking hard questions, especially of powerful entities like foundations, funders, and the nonprofit community as a whole.

  • Karen Kohn Bradley

    I knew Rick at BU. We shared some excellent discussions about radicalism, nuance, and action. I’ve enjoyed being a fan and learning from him again and am so so sad to hear this news.

  • Paul Castro

    I am saddened to hear of Rick Cohen’s passing. This is a great loss to our sector. Rick was a substantial voice of progressive thinking and a tireless advocate for social justice. I got to know Rick when I was chair of the board of NCRP and also had the privilege of meeting Ellie one evening when meeting at Rick’s home. My thoughts and sympathies are with Ellie and Rick’s family. A social justice warrior has fallen but the fight goes on . . .

  • Angel Braestrup

    Our thoughts and prayers are with all of you, his closest colleagues, and of course his daughter. As has already been said– his clear-eyed perspective will be sorely missed.

  • Sandra Mikush

    What a shock and a huge loss to the field. I valued Rick as a truth-teller who always cut to the root of issues in philanthropy, the nonprofit sector, and the broader field of social change. We will miss your wise words and good humor, Rick.

  • Kevin Murphy

    Rick was the conscience of our sector. His departure leaves a terrible void.

  • Susan Misra

    I am so sad to hear of Rick’s departure. I never had the pleasure of meeting him. But I have come to count on his perspective, his ability to write concisely and provide multiple perspectives, and his willingness to share transparently his opinion. He was a great speaker of the Truth and Justice. This is a great loss to our community.

  • Lisa Picciurro Fujimoto

    This is a huge loss for our community. I have know Rick for 15 years and Change a LIfe Foundation grieves for his family, and his UCP Family. He was smart, funny, successful and passionate about the work he did. We will miss him. Lisa Fujimoto, Executive Vice President/Executive Director, Change a Life Foundation

  • Rick did what so many writers and journalists fail to do these days — ask smart questions, dig beneath the surface, and press those in power. I can’t remember an encounter with him in which he didn’t make me laugh — and didn’t make me think about something differently. The philanthropy world is already a worse place without him.

  • Lindsay Jo Keller Nichols

    I’m so sorry about Rick – he was a great man, a great writer, a great friend. It’s an end of an era at NPQ – and the sector overall. I will miss his laugh, his spirit – and his deep understanding of nonprofits. What a loss.

  • Mark Blumberg

    This is so sad and shocking. I had the privilege of meeting Rick about a month ago in Toronto. An amazing presenter and writer who was so candid in dealing with issues that so many avoided. His honesty was refreshing. This is a tremendous loss for the non-profit sector in the US and elsewhere. My thoughts are with his family.

  • margaretegan

    This is a tremendous loss for many, in particular a sector where he committed his intelligence and compassion. A true power of example to service, social justice and integrity, such a loss. Peace to you dear Rick.

  • Jan Williams

    What an absolute loss to the sector! I looked forward to his articles and Twitter posts. A rational, logical voice in a sometimes very confused world.

  • Pat Libby

    I knew Rick for more than 25 years. He was smart, committed and passionate about doing good in the world. So many will miss him. May his memory be for a blessing.

  • Julie Rodda

    I only met Rick through his writing, yet feel indelibly connected. Surely a sign of his considerable intellect and powerful prose which he shared with all. He will be greatly missed. Dear Emily, be encouraged. Your father was, and will always be, remembered as a truly great man.

  • Nancy McGee

    Rick Cohen was one of the most brilliant, intuitive and passionate leaders we’ve ever had in the nonprofit sector. His articles and speeches were shining examples of his overwhelming commitment to social justice and advocacy for disenfranchised communities. Rick is irreplaceable and will be truly missed–the sector has lost a faithful and devoted leader.

  • Brian Mittendorf

    I am terribly saddened by this news. I never met Rick in person, but was constantly amazed by his insightful and prolific writing. He always brought a fresh perspective and had a deep knowledge about an amazingly wide array of issues. The quality of his work cannot be overstated. My condolences to his family and friends at NPQ and elsewhere.

  • leoniehaimson

    Terribly sad. I was about to email him; he had the most telling and trenchant critiques of the non-profit community. How can this be?

  • Ron Phillips

    I had the great pleasure of meeting Rick many years ago as part of the Rural LISC network, and connecting periodically over time. He helped us understand the lack of foundation funding not just to the community development field, but also, to groups in rural America trying to create economic opportunity for those at the margins. Rick had a sharp mind, a sharp wit, and a sharp and analytic way of communicating his points and reminding us that we were on the brighter side of building sustainable communities. You could count on Rick’s unwavering and steadfast commitment to social and economic justice. Our sympathies and prayers are with his family. We’ll miss him. Ron Phillips, CEI Maine

  • Laura Stokes-Gray

    Huge loss. I will miss his keen intellect and his always wise perspective. To have lost both Woods Bowman and now Rick Cohen leaves a gaping hole in the nonprofit community.

  • Brian Dpew

    What sad and unfortunate news. I knew I could always count on Rick to ask tough questions and report without fear. In a sector with too little of that, he filled an out-sized and important role. As a voice for rural philanthropy, he will be even more missed. He leaves big shoes to be filled. May we have the courage to follow his fearless lead.

  • Paul Harkess

    I only “knew” Rick the last couple of years through reading his insightful, challenging reports and stories in NPQ. I looked forward to seeing his byline on everything he wrote. This is certainly a loss to all of philanthropy and he will be truly missed.

  • Bob Van Meter

    Rick was fearless but fair. As everyone on this thread has said, he did not hesitate to take on sacred cows and speak truth to power. This is a great loss for all non profits and particularly for community development.

  • Kevin Johnson

    He will be missed. I am thankful for his many contributions to the social sector. He encouraged me to speak up more than once and I am grateful for it. It’s now up to all the rest of us.

  • Pat Read

    I am stunned and so sad by this news. Rick was a good friend, a great thinker, a powerful advocate, and most of all, a very loving dad. He and his voice will be sorely missed. My deepest sympathies to Ellie and his family.

  • Strategy + Action

    I first met Rick Cohen when he was at NCRP. Loved his attitude, approach and wisdom. It was great to see him continue sharing so much via NPQ. The sector has lost a great mind and supporter.

  • WildLandLover

    I so agree. I shared this article on my Facebook feed just last night. I am completely shocked and saddened by this news. I looked forward to reading his works and whenever I saw his byline, I made sure to take time to read. His was an honest and open voice of reason in this insane world. My thoughts are with his family.

  • Bill Schambra

    Rick and I came at issues from different points on the political spectrum, but nothing Rick ever said had the hollow cant of ideology. His writing was invariably rooted in exhaustively researched fact, reflecting deep insight from years of experience in government, philanthropy and advocacy, glowing with passion for the rights of the marginalized, and undaunted by the looming disapproval of the powers that be. He was the one person I could always seek out and talk to honestly at nonprofit gatherings. And Ellie would always come up in conversation, because he could not have been prouder of her. Our loss is immense, but he touched and inspired so many of us, especially in his unstinting devotion to truth in the face of so much self-congratulatory mendacity. May we summon the courage to live up to his example.

  • Third Sector Radio USA

    Others’ posts say it all. Rick was a true champion of the sector, even caring enough to take us to task when necessary. Although I never met him, his writing inspired me to start Third Sector Radio USA and my academic career. He was courageous and authentic. He will be immeasurably missed by our sector.
    Terry Fernsler

  • Kenneth

    Just want to thank you for sharing, challenging, and encouraging us to be in this field.

  • stacy palmer

    Let me add my deep sense of loss, both for the nonprofit world and for the far smaller world of journalists who cover this incredibly important beat. Rick never wavered from asking the toughest questions and doing all the research needed to fairly weigh controversial issues — and he always did so with a great sense of humor and a big heart. We will miss his voice and his presence for years to come. To all of you at Nonprofit Quarterly, please know how devastated we feel at The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Stacy Palmer

  • Linda Czipo

    Ruth and friends, I am stunned and deeply saddened by this news. Rick was an unwavering champion of social justice and all that is good about the non-profit community, while never shying away from the hard truths that needed to be said. I also felt a special kinship given his New Jersey roots. I didn’t have the chance to work with him nearly as much as I would have liked. Our community is so much better for his service, and so much poorer with his passing. Profound sympathies to his family, colleagues and friends.

  • We are so very sad to hear of Rick’s passing. He was an amazing man with a keen intellect. He challenged all of us to do better. Our deepest sympathies to his family.

  • Karen Topakian

    I’m so so sorry to hear of Rick’s passing. Though I had not seen him in years, I so valued his voice and perspective. We met several years ago, when I served as the director of the Agape Foundation. We hit it off immediately, quickly finding scores of thoughts, feelings and perspectives held in common. I will remember him for his intelligence, honesty and quick sense of humor. I’m so so sorry he’s gone. Karen Topakian

  • April Carter

    What a devastating loss for so many people for so many reasons! Rick was an all around genuine man. I always called him my buddy when he came to town. Rick treated everyone in our office with dignity and respect, from the office assistant up to the CEO. Very few people could quickly transition from a deeply intellectual conversation about social justice to telling a hilarious joke about the nonprofit sector like Rick could! He was such a great guy and will be deeply missed. There wasn’t a time that we’d call that he didn’t answer and lend his brilliant mind to our work. I’m truly saddened! Peace to his daughter and all who loved him!

  • Debbie Duncan

    Stunned! So sad to lose such a dedicated educator in the non-profit world. A “straight shooter”, he did not back down, but did his “homework”, was circumspect and cut through a lot of the rhetoric and peripheral noise to the core of issues, inviting discussion and debate. His courage and wit will be sorely missed.

  • I long admired Rick for his writing, and I always appreciated his thoughtful, direct, and insightful commentary on a sector that badly needed his critical attention. I met him once, only three weeks ago in DC, where he moderated a panel where I was speaking. His line opening the session, as I remember it, was, “I’m moderating, which means that for once I have to be moderate. Most of you can’t believe that I’m capable of that.” Such a lovely sense of humor. Rick certainly never held back from taking on big and powerful forces, and he was not only brave: he usually was right. The world of nonprofits is much, much poorer for his death. My deepest sympathies to his family. Know how much Rick meant to so many.

  • David Marzahl

    We have truly lost a wise sage who spoke truth to power, raised uncomfortable truths and who could always be counted on to push the envelope. We are better because of him but mourn his loss all the more.

  • Maggie Potapchuk

    I can’t believe this is true . . . I am very sad learning
    this news today. I can’t imagine the
    world of philanthropy and social justice without Rick. Rick taught me a lot
    over the years and I will forever be grateful for his patience and generosity. He was one of the voices of truth in
    philanthropy and I think he would be expecting many more people to join him in
    that circle . . .

  • Jon

    Our world will not be the same – brilliant,
    original, courageous, one of a kind – so glad we got to be with you
    for a while, Rick. You influenced a lot of people — great to see that here — and your words and perspective will not be forgotten.

  • Darin McKeever

    On nonprofit and philanthropy matters, Rick was probing & prolific like no other. His words will resonate and ripple for years to come, but I’m sad his voice has been taken from this world far too soon.

  • Carol Glazer

    There can be no replacement for his charm, wisdom, intellect, grace, generosity of spirit. No one was as eloquent. Nor as kind. This is a sad day indeed

  • KellyNFP

    I’m completely shocked–just yesterday I sent him an e-mail about his most recent column: “Just a note to tell you that I was midway through today’s posting about anti-Syrian hysteria
    when I thought, “This is a brilliant piece–is this Rick?” and of course
    it was. Just as George S. Kaufman said Moss Hart’s house was ‘what God
    would have done if he’d had the money,’ your work is always what I
    would have done if I’d had the discipline and reportorial skill.
    Today’s work was particularly great–calm, clear and timely. Bravo!
    Best, Kelly”

    Rick and I had lunch last year and I was always counting on seeing him again soon–we’re all poorer for the loss of his voice and person.

  • Ruth Provost

    Sadly I never met Rick in person, but I feel as if I know him through his writing and frequent visits to my email inbox. I am going to miss that.

  • Gary D. Bass

    It is wonderful reading the many comments about Rick, being reminded of his amazing contributions and how he touched each of us whether we knew him directly or only through his writings. It is hard to find the words when I’m still trying to wipe away the shock and sadness of losing an important leader and wonderful person. Rick always spoke truth to power and he always let the facts lead the way. You could always count on Rick to be fair, accurate, and insightful. I will always think of Rick as not only a passionate man, but also a compassionate one. I just saw Rick at Starbucks the other week…part of his roaming office! As always he was researching some injustice and our conversation drifted to various nonprofit sector issues and ways he would fix them. He was a powerful social justice advocate and a champion in making our nonprofit sector stronger and more vibrant. I’ll miss you, Rick.

    • SIRC

      Agreed. Rick was an amazing writer and thought leader. I didn’t always agree with everything he said, but I knew if I disagreed I had better do my homework! What a loss. I will miss him too. –Patrick Lester, SIRC

    • Barbara Western

      He was so wonderfully honest and just. What a great loss for the community. He will most certainly be greatly missed.

  • Susan Burket

    Please tell me this is a mistake. I read everything he writes and applaud his intelligence and his ability to communicate ideas clearly. The world needs more people like him.

  • Jesse Salazar

    Rick always had the best questions because he knew our field. He knew philanthropy’s history. He knew its characters. He knew its potential. He knew its conceipts and foibles.

    He drove change out of a sincere belief in the value of our work. He cared and respected us enough to tell us when we were falling short.

    Until the very end, Rick kept pushing to ensure that our words match our deeds and that our practice meets its promise.

  • Heidi Most

    Rick was my boss many years ago at the Enterprise Foundation. I remember him as brilliant, insightful, compassionate, honest and very, very funny. I am so sorry to here this sad news.

  • Yvonne Harrison

    I am shocked and saddened by this devastating news. I always enjoyed and looked forward to conversations with Rick about nonprofits, governing boards, and regulatory reform. I will miss Rick and his reporting dearly. My thoughts and prayers are with Rick’s daughter (whom he spoke so lovingly) and Ruth and Joel and the NPQ family (whom he spoke so highly). The world has lost another talented and honest person today.

  • My condolences to Rick’s family and friends. For me, he really was the voice and conscience of the sector and a very good guy (a high compliment). I learned immensely from his writings and was encouraged by his generous words about my work. Such a sad day, but we’re all so lucky to have the privilege of being able to continually learn from his words. Thank you Rick.

  • Julia Rubin

    This is really horrible news. A devastating loss! Rick is irreplaceable.

  • Pat Canavan

    Rick was a breath of fresh air and I loved just listening to his smart, witty analysis of the hot issue of the day, many years ago at the Enterprise Foundation. My thoughts are with his family.

  • Tom7Oaks

    I share the feelings of many that this is a HUGE loss for the nonprofit sector. Rick was the leading “truth to power” voice for us all. He asked pertinent questions that challenged our beliefs in a constructive manner. NP Quarterly should see if John Stewart is available. He might begin to replace Rick. My condolences to Rick’s family and to Ruth and the NP Quarterly family as well. Tom Scott, San Diego

  • Vikki Spruill

    Rick cared deeply about the field of philanthropy and valued the role it plays in advancing the common good. He pushed us to be our very best selves and will be sorely missed.

  • Denise Harlow

    I am heartbroken at this news. Rick was mentor and friend, a voice that resonated and always grounded me. May his work and dedication continue through all who speak truth to power.

  • Shocked and saddened to hear the news of Rick’s passing. What a light he shone to support our work to make the world better. You could always count on him to be incisive, thoughtful and to remind us of our higher good.

  • Les Salamon

    This has been a terrible year of loss for the nonprofit field. Several giants have fallen–Peter Hall, Bob Smucker, Woods Bowman–and now comes this terrible news about Rick Cohen, another icon of our field. Rick was indefatigable in his passion for shining a withering light of truth on our field. He wrote with force and clarity and never fell victim to the romanticism that too often clouds clear vision in this field. He will be sorely missed.
    Les Salamon

  • Sushma Raman

    Shocked and saddened to hear this tragic news. I have known Rick for the past 20 years or so and very much valued his commitment to social justice, equity, and transparency. He will be deeply missed. Sushma Raman

  • Rick set an inspiring example in terms of speaking truth to power. I will miss his voice greatly.

  • Michael Johnson

    What a terrible, sad shock. Rick and I exchanged emails just
    yesterday. He was working on a story about the Blue Shield of California
    Foundation. I got to know Rick over the last eight months as I waged a lonely whistleblower
    campaign against Blue Shield of California, the nonprofit health plan. Rick’s
    writing about the issues I raised, which many found mind numbingly complex, was
    brilliant—and a huge inspiration to me. Thank you, Rick.

  • Joe McNeely

    Rick pushed harder than anybody I know for brutal honesty in
    the issues of poverty and race, intellectual rigor in all arguments, robust
    debate and justice in our policies, but he did it without an ounce of
    mean-spiritedness, with a warm acceptance of everyone as a person and with
    encouragement to all of us who struggled to keep up with him — without a shred
    of arrogance for his prestigious insight, intellectual capability and
    principled decision-making. There was never a topic he was not interested in
    nor was he ever shy about peeling the onion down to the core. And could he ever
    write! As much as he cared about the principles and the topics, he cared about
    the people more. I can’t begin to count the number of times in my life that he
    encouraged me to go father, that he challenged me to think more deeply, that he
    sounded the clarion call about issues to which I should’ve been paying more
    attention. And always with a pat on the back for the things that I was accomplishing.
    And that wry smile and sense of humor! I am still in shock at the news of his
    quick and unexpected demise. I hope there’s someone in the next generation who
    can step into his shoes. He was always looking for that new talent and willing
    to step aside to make room. Rick, this was no way to create a vacuum for
    leadership to rise up!

  • Colin Cumming

    Like many have expressed below, I did not know Rick, but felt deeply connected to his passionate and engaging writing about the nonprofit sector and social justice. He will be missed!

  • MarcyMurninghan

    This is just so damn sad. Like an eagle struck down in mid-flight. Really, it’s unfathomable, the loss of that voice, that intellect, that influence. There are few who command such attention, a sense of moral authority forged in the crucible of experience. Like Paul Ylvisaker and Pablo Eisenberg, Rick Cohen viewed the landscape of good works and didn’t always like what he saw. That’s an important insight: halos are fallible. May we honor him by keeping not only his memory alive, but his perspectives — in the name of the good.

  • Glen O’Gilvie

    I am deeply moved by Rick’s passing. I will remember him as an amazing individual that gave attention to the smallest details. From the unplanned coffee shop encounter to the formal interview, he was a solid gentleman.

    I am adding my prayers for him and his family.

    -With gratitude for his incredible contributions

  • Nan Langen Steketee

    I first met Rick when he arrived to take the helm at NCRP. He handled himself with grace and humor at a difficult time period. His voice, compassion, and intellect will be sorely missed. I am sad sad sad to hear this news.

  • We talked via email last week, he held wise counsel for me. I shall miss his presence.

  • I did not know the man beyond his work, but from his work I am confident that he was a person of integrity who did not shy away from a difficult topic. I would have loved to have had the opportunity to talk with him about recent developments in the world of employment for people with disabilities, as some of what he had written about in columns of years gone by is coming to fruition.

  • Paul Vandeventer

    My relationship with Rick, especially after we took opposite sides of an issue in an onstage conference debate, had a merry, teasing aspect that made every new encounter a joy. I will remember his good humor and miss his wry wit and smile. I hope Ellie reads these tributes and appreciates, as her grief heals with the passage of time, what a fine and honorable man her father was and that she loves him all the more in discovering how he touched and enriched the lives of so many others.

  • Wendy Levine

    We are so sorry for this loss. Our heart goes out to Rick’s colleagues and family. I did not know Rick at all, but always looked forward to seeing his name in my inbox with insightful commentary. The nonprofit world will miss you.

  • Stephanie Forbes

    I am so shocked and saddened to hear of Rick’s passing. We lose a warm, wonderful, brilliant, passionate, and incisive advocate. I considered him a friend as well as a voice I could always turn to for great insight and great fight.

  • Marcia Stepanek

    So very sorry to lose Rick; a terrific journalist of unwavering integrity and a love fir the nonprofit sector and its ideals. A deeply important voice, now muted. He shall be vastly missed.

  • Kathi Jaworski

    Heartbreaking. After many starstruck years of following Rick’s brave and true advocacy from a distance, I had the privilege to work with him in person when I joined the nascent NPQ newswire team in 2011. He was amazingly hard-working, surprisingly humble given his massive impact on the field, and generously supportive of me as I learned the ropes. What an honor to have crossed paths with him. So many people will miss you, Rick. Sympathy and peace to your family.

  • Beth Rosales

    I am so heartbroken about Rick’s passing. Some of you may remember that it was Rick who broke the story of Vanguard Public Foundation’s demise due to the fraud, scam, and theft that its former President, Hari Dillon and con artist Mouli Cohen brought onto the foundation’s donor and grantee circles in Northern California.. Rick spent countless hours poring through thousands of pages of court documents, depositions,and interviews ultimately exposing the banality and greed of all who got involved. For those of us in philanthropy, Rick leaves a legacy of forthrightness and accountability to community, Hats off to you, Rick. Salamat!

  • Bruce Trachtenberg

    Such a shock and an even bigger loss. RIP old friend.

  • Steve Glaude

    Rick and I strategized behind the scenes to ensure that large stakeholders were held accountable in their dealings. A relationship I never expected but cherished and profited from immeasurably

  • Carlo Cuesta

    An amazing mind that helped the sector look at itself unyieldingly; Rick fought for honesty and integrity in our work. The absence of his voice is a terrible loss to the field. Rest in peace.

  • Angela C. Johnson

    Oh my goodness! Sending prayers for all that loved him. What a loss for the nonprofit community.

  • Eleanor Campbell; E.A.S.E. NYC

    I’m deeply saddened by the passing of Rick. He gave fully of himself to so many of us; so today, please accept my arms of comfort. We will always be grateful for the invaluable advice, information and the insightful ideas he gave throughout the years.
    We thank you, his love ones, for sharing him with us. His commitment and his authenticity have ignited so many NPO’s and we were blessed from all that he shared.
    Rick, you will be missed. Your advocacy will continue to shine through our work.
    Rest well Rick. Be at peace.

  • Tom Robbins

    Rick Cohen — big, generous and brilliant — strode into City Limits magazine in the early ’80s with a steady stream of stories about how poor people were being pushed out of Jersey City with the help of federal money and power-abusing officials. No one understood their wily schemes better than Rick, and no one did a better job of quietly smoking them out, a knack he never lost. He is gone unfairly soon.

  • Rebecca J. Davis

    I am so sorry to read this. I met Rick about three years ago at a National Rural Assembly event in DC. We followed up on his interest in rural healthcare. November has not been a good month. My sister passed away on the 5th; another friend and colleague passed away on the 13th and now Rick. I am so sorry for his daughter and the loss to all of us that read and appreciated his work.

  • Rick was a MENSCH and the world was a better place because of him. I met Rick through the Lansdown group, and we instantly became friends. We continued to correspond via email about poverty, disability, middle east and faith issues. We spoke together at a conference, and he invited me to write a piece in your publication which I appreciated greatly.

    Rick was fun and brilliant, hard working, and thought provoking. He had extremely high integrity. I loved how annoyed he was about the fat-cat salaries of some non-profit and foundation CEOs, and the lack of performance of some of the work that is done supposedly in the name of good — but isn’t moving the needle. He moved the entire field forward with his focus on how to really and truly create good in the world. May all who knew and/or were inspired by him all be blessed. Please let me know about a funeral or memorial service. – Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi Jenniferm@RespectAbilityUSA.org

  • Karen Green

    During Rick’s career, philanthropy was notable for pompous people – both practitioners and their equally bombastic critics. Rick’s sense of perspective and self-awareness were always a refreshing contrast. Years ago, at a training we did, he introduced NCRP as “the watchpuppy of philanthropy,” too small to have a huge impact, and thereby immediately endeared himself to the crowd. How fortunate when he joined NPQ and could share his reasoned and researched views so widely. While it is abundantly clear how much we’ll miss Rick, here’s hoping that all of us whom he touched and mentored will carry his spirit forward.

  • Robin Daviet

    Rick spoke to us on all levels. He gave us the full story, backed up by facts we could research. Plus, he punctuated it with humor to help us not take ourselves too seriously. His wisdom and the ways in which he shared it will be greatly missed. Many of us in the nonprofit field learned much from his expertise. May those closest to him be comforted by knowing his life changed millions of others through those whom he touched and taught.

  • Jeff Mosley

    As I’m typing this I see that Rick posted an article on the Syrian refugee crisis 23 hours ago. He spoke truth to power until his untimely passing. I credit Rick as part of my mentors in community development. His passion and critical analysis on the nonprofit sector will be surely missed; he was a giant. We will miss Rick!!!

  • Karen FitzGerald

    Like so many others, I am shocked and saddened by this news. Even as Rick built a national reputation for incisive and insightful writing on the nonprofit world, he remained a good friend to the local community development world in Washington DC, his home. He was a wise giver of advice, sometimes as a consultant to local nonprofits and foundations and sometimes as the deeply knowledgeable and deeply caring DC resident he was.

  • Mia Joiner-Moore

    I am so sad to hear this news. Rick will be so missed in the nonprofit, community development and affordable housing community. Rick told what was happening as “it is”. I will miss his candor and honest reporting of news that impacted us. My thoughts go out to his family and friends and colleagues at NPQ.

  • Jacob Harold

    All of us at GuideStar are mourning Rick’s passing. He was indeed the conscience of the sector. I didn’t always agree with him. And, indeed, I bet he would have said that was the point. He pushed all of us–gently, firmly–to strive for only the best for those we serve. His memory will live on in the work and the beliefs and the consciousness of so many. May you rest in peace, Rick — and may your words continue to echo in our field and our community.

  • Deb Putnam

    I am so saddened by Rick’s death. I knew of him but never met him, though avidly read his articles and opinions whenever I could. He articulated the analysis and beacon of conscience that I need, that many of need as we trudge forth pursuing social justice for all.

  • bradford smith

    Rick never sought to endear himself to foundations and that was one of his strongest virtues. He clearly represented a point of view about how foundations and the broader nonprofit sector should serve the public good and carved out a difficult, independent path for himself that allowed him to express it. The social sector has few feedback loops and Rick’s thoughtful, value-based critiques will be sorely missed. He was also a really good guy, which counts for a lot.

  • quincysam333

    I knew Rick for more than 30 years. We first met when I was a reporter at a daily paper and he was director of economic development for the City of Jersey City. It was the emergence of the Gold Coast and developers would do anything to be green-lighted. All he had to do was leave his car unlocked and he’d be rich beyond his wildest dreams. He wouldn’t do it. He stood up. He had a backbone of steel. May his memory be a blessing – Paul Clolery

  • Terry Knowles

    Rick was a valued colleague and a true champion of the nonprofit sector. As a state regulator, I appreciated Rick’s willingness to discuss his perspective on any number of difficult or complex issues involving nonprofit governance and management. I will miss his wise counsel and wonderful sense of humor.
    Terry Knowles

  • Tammy Zonker

    Rick was a journalist’s journalist – always telling the deeper story, connecting it to the big picture, a Papa Bear for the sector. He will be sorely missed and irreplaceable. I had the privilege of bantering with him online over the topic of Detroit philanthropy, and meeting him during my time on the Nonprofit Quarterly Editorial Advisory Board a few years ago. A great, gritty, smart man.

  • Rick’s powerful, rigorous, and steadfast ideas and values predated current thinking about social problems, and they will endure. One of my few heroes. Why does Paul Wellstone come to mind? Maybe they were both just frumpy.

  • Lee Barrios

    So sorry to hear of Rick’s passing.

  • Maryann Dillon

    Rick hired me back in 1992 at Enterprise Community Partners. I never laughed so hard during a job interview. We clicked right away and I immediately could appreciate his humor, wisdom and thoughtfulness. Those of you who knew Rick can well imagine that he was a fantastic boss… always reassuring and pushing us to a higher standard. I learned so much from him and have followed his prolific writing over the years. He was a marvelous human being and a terrific mind who never pandered to what was popular but used his candor and insight to speak a higher truth. He will be missed so much.

  • Bob Ottenhoff

    He had passion for his work and a deep sense of social justice coupled with a reporter’s nose for stories and dogged determination. It was a unique combination of skills that made the nonprofit sector better and he will be sorely missed.

  • Hildie Lipson

    I met Rick a couple of times but avidly read his postings. I was always amazed at his brilliance on complicated subjects allowing me to understand our sector better. He was an early and hearty supporter of the progressive workplace giving movement. As many others have noted, this is a huge loss for the nonprofit community. May his memory be a blessing.

  • Mathieu Despard

    Tremendous loss for the sector. I will greatly miss Rick’s insights and detailed and provocative analyses of key issues confronting nonprofits, particularly related to social and economic justice.

  • Diane Nance

    How sad to lose such a creative, important thinker. Please convey my deep sympathies to his family. His articles and point of view will be missed.

  • Katina Leodas

    Such a loss! I first met Rick in Massachusetts in the early-70’s. He was a tough customer: smart, demanding, dedicated, funny and charming. Our paths crossed again in DC in the late ’70’s and in Jersey City in the ’80’s, but then we lost touch. About 2 months ago, after reading countless articles, I reached out via email to say how terrific they were. He wrote back and we agreed to have a beer together the next time he was in Boston or I was in DC. Sadly, I wish that chance had come sooner.

  • Susan Daily

    I will certainly miss him, we met many years ago, and once he knew what I was all about, we had a lot to share. He spoke for me, and almost always I loved what he chose to focus on. The latest article on Paris was pure, crisp, timely and helpful. The hole he leaves cannot be left – we need inspired voices to carry on his legacy of inconvenient truth!

  • Jacki Presnal

    The Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits is saddened to hear the news of Rick’s passing. Throughout his career, his body of work has been of immense value to us. His thought-provoking style brought insight and guidance to us in the work that we do. He will be sorely missed and leaves a legacy of professionalism that will remain a force within the nonprofit sector for years to come. Our thoughts and prayers are with his co-workers and his family during this difficult time.

  • Susanna Hegner

    At the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, we could always count on Rick to place a megaphone in front of good work in the rural South — underserved areas that need more urgent, unflinching voices like his. We are stunned and saddened by his loss.

  • Michal Nortness

    so, so sorry to read of Rick’s death. He was indeed, the conscience of our sector and a hero. It is an incredible loss – and the NPQ family has had 2 huge losses in a very short time. Good thoughts and care to all of you.

  • Irene Packer-Halsey

    I am forever grateful for Rick’s encouragement and generosity of spirit in sharing information with networks of community builders…mentor and friend – his memory will always be honored…my deepest condolences to his loved ones….

  • Cecelia Aiken

    I too am sorry to hear about the loss of Mr. Cohen, he was a very intellectual and friendly person with a great heart. God bless and keep the family in this time of grief.

  • Ann Skeet

    It has been a joy to read Rick’s work and learn from him about the nonprofit sector and beyond. His family and colleagues are in my thoughts and prayers.

  • Tony Pipa

    Rick stayed ruthlessly true to his mission: making lives better, especially for people and communities who had access to the least resources and had the least voice. Yet he never let it compromise his approach – his analysis was also ruthlessly based on facts and solid investigation, fairness, and a grounded dose of practicality. I know his analysis was often a source of provocation and challenge to my own thinking, invariably for the better, and I especially appreciated his willingness to be straight with foundations and influential leaders pursuing social change. May we all strive to hold ourselves to his standards as we go forward without his voice and the light that he shone on our actions and intentions. Thank you, Rick.

  • Lori Villarosa

    Feeling the shock and loss for the field, for his writing on racial justice and philanthropy that he was SUCH an integral part of at the Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity in his role as our frequent senior editor/writer and strategist, and mostly on profound personal level as a close friend. I’ve been reading others comments and was sharing elsewhere more personally, but feeling a desire to join in grieving with this NPQ community too.

    We have lost too many other giants in philanthropy and racial justice recently, and too many too soon – but there really is no one who fills as unique a gap as Rick did through his work. Who else brings the mix of his willingness to challenge all sacred cows, to ask ALL the hard questions, to have the incredible range AND history and research discipline/skills on countless topics, and to be even a fraction as prolific? For everything Rick brough to our work and lives DAILY — from his depth to his timeliness, his integrity to his snarkiness, his loss is painful and huge.

  • Mark Rosenman

    What a profound loss to those who work for the common good. Rick was a wonderful colleague, someone who rarely said no to a request if he agreed with the purposes being served — no matter how busy he was, always willing to offer insight, support and cooperation. Rick was consistently careful, thorough and brilliant in what he offered. And modest — always trying to give credit to others and to denigrate his own critical, sometimes massive, contributions. I will miss him terribly.

  • Ann Rosenfield CFRE

    Extremely sad to hear this news. Rick was a true thought leader in our sector. I particularly appreciated his detailed analysis of the sector in all parts of the world. He was truly unique and while we never met, I feel like I have lost a friend

  • Elan David Garonzik

    I am shocked and saddened to learn of Rick’s passing. What a loss to the sector, but also, for all of us, the loss of a close colleague and friend. My sincere condolences to his family.

  • Edward Skloot

    Our gyroscope is gone; balanced, upright, steady. Rick was a curious, restless outsider who could suck a great story out of a fence post. Every year he got wiser and sweeter. He played (and dressed) the role of our Columbo and he was exceptionally kind, funny and self-aware. I’ll miss his smarts but, even more, his great spirit. We’ve no one to take his place now but we can follow his lead to build a better, more effective, more humane social sector.

  • Spence Limbocker

    Rick’s voice will be missed.

  • Doug Bauer

    Simply put, Rick was our field’s truth teller. And God knows, we don’t have nearly enough of them. I always enjoyed my conversations with Rick. And when he replied or wanted to comment, his opening line usually was, “well, here is what I am learning.” Rick’s words and voice will be sorely missed.

  • Amanuel Melles

    This is devastating news. I’ve always read with great interest Rick’s articles which were insightful and informative. I’ve always considered him a friendly challenger to sector leaders…helping us think differently and see our value-add from a point of strength. An intelligent sector advocate is gone. He will be greatly missed. RIP Rick. Sincere condolences to his family.

  • Jimmy D.

    Even though I did not know him personally, his articles did inspire me very much and were thought-provoking. I will surely miss him and his sharing of concepts.

  • Michael Moody

    This is such a loss – to those of us in this community of practice, but most importantly to Rick’s family. My condolences to them. I think the two best things I can say to honor Rick are: 1) he leaves a hole that will be very difficult to fill with a similar voice, and 2) his body of work (deeply felt, sharply argued, yet closely researched – which is a rare combo) will continue to be useful long after this too-soon departure.

  • Maggie Osborn

    The conversation will certainly be a bit duller and missing his dogged passion for his point of view. I appreciated his consistent prodding to all of us to hold ourselves accountable and always question everything. His strong voice will be missed.

  • Jennifer Astone

    I always looked for Rick Cohen’s byline, I knew it was one I could trust to ask hard questions of the sector. He will be sorely missed. He is a hero to those of us committed to social justice and struggling within the constraints of philanthropy to make a difference.

  • Amy Sausser

    I always read Rick Cohen’s columns to understand issues more deeply and to have my first reactions challenged. A huge loss. My condolences to his family and colleagues.

  • Suzanne Hoban

    I always looked forward to reading Rick’s thoughts. He truly was, as another commenter noted, and incredibly fast writer who somehow managed to dissect the news and get it out to the rest of us. He had his finger on the pulse of so much, and was so eloquent and forthright. He had wonderful analytical skills, and asked the questions we all longed to ask. His loss leaves a void, and my deepest condolences go out to his family.

  • Rusty M. Stahl

    It is incredible reading through all these testimonials from people who knew Rick well and those who knew him only through this words. I literally shouted “What?!” this morning when my wife mentioned that she’d seen the news posted by mutual colleagues on facebook. I couldn’t believe it. It is just unfortunate that all of us couldn’t share our admiration for Rick sooner. I met Rick 15 years ago or so when he was doggedly working to re-enliven NCRP. And he has never stopped. Someone mentioned that he played “Columbo” for the nonprofit sector. The thing that comes to mind that has not been mentioned by others is the twinkle in Rick’s eye, not unlike Peter Falk himself. That light was a window into both his rye humor, warmth, critical perspective, dogged perseverance and pure intelligence. I will miss snarky side conversations with you, good sir.

  • Linda Ocasio

    I am so sorry to hear this. I’ll miss reading his perspective on the issues, his fresh perspective. His kindness came through.

  • I too am devastated. I got to know him when we both worked at LISC. He helped me hone my strategic planning skills, taught me by example how to facilitate, and most importantly, showed me how there really do exist people who are truly top-level national expert with extraordinary critical thinking skills and yet are still humble. He never treated any question of mine as stupid, was always accessible despite the levels of hierarchy between us, and never said anything or acted in any way that opened a gap between brown and white. I will miss him dearly. God bless Ellie and all his loved ones.

  • Jon Van Til

    As we gather tonight in Chicago at ARNOVA to mark the passing of Woods Bowman, now our sorrow is compounded by this devastating news. Rick was our colleague and friend and conscience. He outworked everyone in the field. How can something like this happen?

  • Buzz Schmidt

    Rick was a tireless, unfathomably productive protector of integrity and reason in civil society. He exposed malfeasance, spoke truth to power, and revealed, in lucid prose, the workings, inconsistencies and implications of complex proposals and policies. At the same time, he was an eternal American optimist; driven by fundamental values of fairness, transparency and truth. His note on America’s reaction to Syrian refugees, published the morning of his death, is typical of his incisive analyses of the issues and inevitable appeals to our better angels. Skeptical and selfless always, cynical and replaceable never. Rick and his body of work are truly national treasures.

  • Chris

    This is such sad news! I can’t believe Rick is gone. His was a powerful voice that will be missed.

  • Dwayne Marshall

    I’m truly saddened by this great loss. I will miss reading Rick’s writings but I’m also grateful for having had the opportunity to be both educated and inspired by his storytelling. May he rest in peace and my thoughts and prayers are with his family.

  • Eileen Cunniffe

    Those of us who were fortunate enough to work with Rick through NPQ and learn from him–as readers and as writers–can only hope to emulate his level of commitment, his passion and his fearlessness.

  • alexgcampbell

    Rick was one of the very first people I worked for in journalism. He was incredibly kind, patient, and helpful despite my incredible cluelessness. What a huge loss.

  • Sarah M. Greenberg

    A terrible loss for the nonprofit community. Deepest condolences to his family.

  • Miyoko

    How can this be…we are heartbroken for his family, our nonprofit sector, the world. Thank you Rick for your life, your writing, your guidance. We are all better people because of your perspectives.

  • Andy Robinson

    What a loss. No one can take his place, but we can all try to emulate his courage, clear-eyed thinking, and pursuit of social justice. Rick Cohen, presente!

  • this is a big loss. We never met Rick, but were in touch repeatedly over email and phone, on non-profit accountability, and he was great to interact with. He “got” the big picture, in a way that few do. He will be really missed, but also very grateful for all the great work he has done for an important cause.

  • HeatherIliff

    I first met Rick Cohen when he was the head of the Committee for Responsive Philanthropy in DC. I was new to the U.S. nonprofit sector after spending the first 9 years of my career overseas and I learned a great deal from Rick and from Ruth McCambridge who must be suffering terribly from this loss.

    Rick had such a sharp analysis, coupled with a great sense of humor, a twinkle in his eye, often with irony and a gentle hint of sarcasm. He did the difficult job of calling out the foundation world on their overwhelming investment in wealthy institutions at the expense of organizations serving the poor, and their lack of transparency. At NPQ, his reporting was fearless and took on the largest issues imaginable.

    Personally, Rick had a real impact on me. When people were still calling me “young” in a way that was not always a compliment, Rick Cohen saw value in my contributions and lifted me up in numerous ways. He was a treasure of a person, always showing caring and thoughtfulness.

    Rick was really one of a kind and he will have a lasting legacy for so many people and for the nonprofit sector.

  • John Brothers

    His voice was so important and think the best legacy to him would be that not 1 or 2 folks fill the void but that a movement of folks do. Was proud that he helped me with perspectives for my doctorate and was able to connect with him in my writing with the Quarterly. Just saw him just last month and we agreed to get together. Sad we will not be able to do that. Simply put, he was prolific and an amazing, powerful voice and I will miss his perspective every day.

  • John

    You couldn’t ask for a more genuine and dedicated person than Rick. I didn’t have as much time to work with him as I’d have liked, but still I consider him a friend. His loss will be felt for a very long time to come by all of us who knew him.

  • Jesse Salazar

    Here are some additional reflections from staff of the Council on Foundations regarding the passing of Rick Cohen: http://www.cof.org/blogs/re-philanthropy/2015-11-19/reflections-council-foundations-about-passing-rick-cohen

  • Rip Rapson

    Rick’s death is indescribably tragic and sad. He was a peerless advocate for the nonprofit sector and a profound friend of Detroit and Kresge – even when he was calling us to task, which he did regularly, but fairly. He was a wonderful human being and a terrific professional – irascible but idealistic . . . insightful and principled . . . uncompromising, but open-minded . . . indefatigable and tough, but decent, humble, and kind. His passing leaves a gigantic hole in our sector.

    Our thoughts and prayers are with Ellie and with his colleagues at NPQ.

    Rip Rapson

  • andrea

    Rick Cohen’s death is a loss to all of us. He took on issues that were important. We are grateful for his courage in doing so.

    Helen Vinton
    Former Board Member of NCRP

    Sr. Executive Officer
    Southern Mutual Help Association, Inc.

  • I always felt he could take the veneer off the important issues… especially when they weren’t being talked about more broadly. I can’t quite figure out how to replace him as the guiding north star on what is important in the nonprofit sector.

  • Rikki Abzug

    This is such a tragic loss. I was a fan of Rick’s from his National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy days and I was utterly delighted to, more recently, have the opportunity to read all of his posts for NPQ. I often shared/re-posted his good sense and always felt that I was helping to make the world a better place by doing so. He was a true shining light and will be greatly missed.

  • Michael Weekes

    Rick was an amazingly gifted and talented guru in our sector. In every conversation we’ve had I was left with a pearl of wisdom that was precious and unforgettable.

  • Chavispower

    I just found out of Rick’s passing. I am in shock and need to share the loss of one of my heroes , a great human being and a relentlessly loving warrior. We have crossed paths since he worked in Jersey City and all points since then. He was a wise counsel as so many people know, smart as they come. Yes, he was a funny guy too. What impressed me and inspired me the most was he would get knocked down, but always got up again. He would not comprise his commitment to justice and showed us what courage, fortitude, brains, and love of family can do. I learned two things from Rick: Never give up, just come back at it a better way and family come first. Rick was not just a leader, a fighter, a great thinker, and friend. He was a “mensch” (human being -with honor and integrity). We need to fill the void, not wait for another hero. I am going to miss him.
    Please keep us posted on any memorial service.

  • Alyssa Katz

    Devastated to hear about Rick. Among all else he did, he was an indispensable source of insight for journalists trying to get behind the sunny facade of philanthropy and nonprofits. Necessarily, in recent years that also meant delving into the ugly world of anonymous political spending disguised as nonprofit activity, where Rick did important work ferreting out abuses. Generous, passionate, masterful on policy details and never distracted from the goal of philanthropy as a medium for social change — he was one of a kind and the rest of us lesser for his absence.

  • Alice O’Connor

    I did not know Rick Cohen personally but I have long relied on his trenchant writing, clear-eyed insights, and incredible range and depth of knowledge about philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. His reporting has been fantastic and will continue to be an invaluable resource to scholars and practitioners. I will miss his regular updates and the constancy of his voice, but the relevance of his writing endures.

  • Ann Bown. South Africa

    Sad news, a great loss to the global NPO sector – he made us think again and look beyond..

  • Janine Lee

    I was stunned to hear of Rick’s passing. My deepest condolences to his lovely wife and the beautiful daughter who made his eyes sparkle! I have known Rick for nearly 20 years; first meeting him during my tenure at the Kauffman Foundation. Each time we would see each other at conferences, which were like family reunions; I could expect an enthusiastic smile, a warm embrace and a friendly kiss that always made me smile. His passion for fairness and justice was unquestionable. His history, perspective and ability to capture the essence of stories that needed to be told in philanthropy and our
    sector…incomparable. I am so thankful to have known Rick. The last time we saw each other, just a few months ago, we both acknowledged that we needed to connect more often. We all get so busy and assume we will see each other again. I appreciate the gift of knowing him, and join many other leaders across the country who celebrate his life and contributions…his legacy! Thank you Rick for all the moments, the smiles, laughter and friendship. I miss you. On behalf of the Trustees, Members and Staff of the Southeastern Council of Foundations, we extend our love, thoughts and prayers to Rick’s family and friends. We extend our condolences from the American South. Peace and light, Janine

  • Paul Fate

    Rick always spoke truth to power. He was a gift to the NP sector and his voice will be sorely missed. He was irascible, brilliant, well-researched, one hell of a writer, and uncompromising in the pursuit of social justice. Rick was also one of the kindest, warmest, funniest and most approachable people I have known. He was a beloved friend and colleague.

  • Rick was a NPQ contributor whose pieces I enjoyed and respected hugely. It was a privilege to have had interaction with him as a fellow Newswire writer. It was an horrible shock to learn that he is gone. The comments on this page speak loud and clear of his loss to the nonprofit community and to civil society.

  • Lauren Anderson

    Rick was my mentor and friend going back to our days in Jersey City. I am stunned and saddened by this news. Rick was so smart and so incisive. The nonprofit sector has lost an important voice.

  • Ana Perez Camayd

    A profound loss to nonprofits and especially community development organizations. We will miss his exceptional smarts, kindness and humor.

  • Catherine Faughnan

    When I was a young person just out of college, I moved to Jersey City, NJ from Colorado in 1987 and was in total shock about my new surroundings. However, Rick Cohen and his college Richard Bass were the best two bosses any young person could ever hope to have. Rick worked tirelessly to advocate for the homeless and build real permanent housing for them. I remember him battling for good at every planning board and city council meeting. I think he more than any other person shaped my view of the world and led me to pursue a career helping others through non profits. Perhaps as a memorial, we can all strive to emulate his tireless and giving spirit. Cathy Faughnan (Cardinal)