Photo: Claudine Williams Photography
Buff Kavelman founded The Kavelman Group Philanthropic Advisors (TKG) in 1997 to serve individual donors, foundations and nonprofit leaders in strategic planning, board development, philanthropic initiatives, and external affairs. Ms. Kavelman is recognized for increasing organizational capacity, launching new initiatives, building effective partnerships, and raising institutional profiles.
Ms. Kavelman began her career as a National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, followed by senior positions at the American Academy in Rome, the Smithsonian and Columbia University. With over 25 years of experience in the philanthropic world, as a funder, board member and a nonprofit executive, she has a uniquely balanced perspective on organizational development.
Prior to establishing TKG full-time in 2007, Ms. Kavelman was Executive Director of University Programs and Events in the President’s office at Columbia, where she was also a member of the senior management team in University Development and Alumni Relations during the $4 billion campaign. Under her direction, Columbia’s World Leaders Forum was cited by The New Yorker as a leading center for international exchange of ideas on global challenges. She also created the Kraft Series for Interfaith and Intercultural Awareness that encouraged open debate on issues of religion in the public sphere.
Before joining Columbia, Ms. Kavelman launched and directed the Smithsonian’s National Design Awards at Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, called one of the most prestigious awards in the United States by The Wall Street Journal. She secured the active participation of First Ladies Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush, who hosted annual White House receptions in honor of the Award recipients. (Michelle Obama continued the tradition.) Under Ms. Kavelman’s leadership, the annual New York awards gala became the largest source of operating support for the Museum. She led all staff in total funds raised for centennial exhibitions and programs.
Ms. Kavelman served as Director of Program Development at the American Academy in Rome at the height of its centennial campaign, where she oversaw the Rome Prize Fellowship competition and all other public programs. She funded and fostered hundreds of projects benefitting communities across the country as Regional Representative to the Design Arts Program of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and as Program Associate at the New York State Council on the Arts. At the NEA, she was on the founding team for the Mayor’s Institute on Design, celebrated in its 25th year as one of the NEA’s outstanding initiatives that achieved lasting national impact.
Ms. Kavelman has served on a number of nonprofit boards and advisory committees, including the Authors Guild Foundation, Free Speech for People, the New York Philanthropic Advisors Network, Storefront for Art and Architecture, the Women’s Media Center and the World Trade Organization at 10 Conference on Governance, Dispute Settlement and Developing Countries. In 2011 she was invited to lead the Council on Foundations’ national Family Philanthropy Conference session on “How, When and Why to Work with Consultants?” From 2008 to 2018 she served on Philanthropy New York’s (PNY) Membership Committee. Currently she serves as Co-Chair of PNY’s International Grantmaking Network.
She has participated on many grantmaking panels, including the J. M. Kaplan Fund’s Innovation Prize, the Architectural League of New York, the Utah State Council on the Arts, the Pew Trust’s Philadelphia Cultural Management Initiative, and the New York State Council on the Arts, where she chaired two 2012 panels. From 2016 to 2018 she served on the expert selection panel for the New York Community Trust’s Nonprofit Excellence Awards. In 2019 she was certified in Nonprofit Board Consulting by BoardSource.
An active community volunteer, Ms. Kavelman tutored public school children for over 16 years, worked as a Red Cross family service caseworker after September 11th, and was on the Race Committee for the Manhattan Sailing Club in New York Harbor.
She holds an M.S. from Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Historic Preservation, where she also studied in the Graduate School of Business, and was appointed Humanities Fellow at International House. She received a B.A. in History of Art with high distinction and honors from the University of Michigan, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and Mortar Board.