Knight names Lisa Versaci director of new National Venture Fund

MIAMI – Lisa Versaci, a South Florida community leader, nonprofit executive and advocate, has been hired to direct the new National Venture Fund for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Versaci most recently served as vice president and Florida director of the People for the American Way Foundation from 1996 to 2001. She was responsible for statewide programs for the nonpartisan civil liberties advocacy organization, which has 300,000 members nationwide.

Versaci also served as a donor development coordinator for EMILY’s List, and has been a strategic planning and communications consultant for a range of women’s, political and grass-roots organizations.

Her involvement in community service includes We Will Rebuild Foundation, SAVE Dade, the Miami Light Project and the Women’s Business Development Center at Florida International University.

“Lisa Versaci brings to Knight Foundation the truest sense of how citizens and organizations across the spectrum can work together for stronger communities,” said Penelope McPhee, Knight’s vice president and chief program officer.

Knight trustees created the Venture Fund to support innovative national opportunities that relate directly or indirectly to the foundation’s work in its 26 communities. The fund welcomes proposals from U.S.-based organizations committed to high standards of planning, evaluation and communication.

In 2001, the foundation awarded 39 grants from the Venture Fund totaling $23,854,000 to organizations engaged in such diverse ventures as introducing New Profit Inc.’s venture philanthropy model to Knight communities, helping Kids Voting USA develop its Latino Outreach Initiative for the 2002 elections, and continuing Knight’s support for the National Community Development Initiative.

Versaci earned a bachelor’s degree in art history from Brown University. She and her husband Alan Farago and three children live in Coral Gables, Fla.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of 26 U.S. communities.