Not-for-profit work is in Carola Bracco’s blood. And it’s no wonder. Her parents emigrated from Bolivia 53 years ago when her father came to the US to set up the DC office of the Inter-American Development Bank, teaching his children the importance of helping the community. “My parents always talked to us and instilled in us the importance of working in the public sector,” Bracco says. The message was certainly received, as five of the nine children went on to work for different not-for-profit organizations.
Today, Bracco is executive director of Neighbors Link, a Mount Kisco-based not-for-profit that provides education and employment opportunities to 4,000 immigrant families and individuals. But Bracco didn’t start in the not-for-profit realm. She spent 12 years in the financial world, holding positions at GE, Ford Motor Company, and Time, Inc., “always with the idea and hope that I would be able to apply the experiences to work more consistent with what I really wanted to do,” says Bracco.
That chance came in 2003 when she first walked through Neighbors Link’s doors as a volunteer to help stuff envelopes. “From that day, I knew this was a place I wanted to commit my energies,” she says. She soon joined the Board of Directors, and was named executive director in May 2004, taking the fledgling organization with revenues of $300,000 to an organization taking in $1.4 million this year. “I think the experience I had in the private sector has helped me significantly,” she says.
Such savvy helped her, too, as she spearheaded the creation of family-oriented services, including Learning Links, an after-school program currently serving 75 elementary-school-aged students, and Summer Links, a five-week summer program serving 90 students. For those programs, Neighbors Link partners with local principals and superintendents, something Bracco is especially proud of. “I think those partnerships are so important because it gives us all the opportunity to better serve and integrate,” she says.
Bracco is quick to credit her family for all the success she’s seen in her career. “I wouldn’t be able to do the work that I do without my husband and two children,” she says. “That’s such a critical part to this, because it’s very hard to raise children and work full-time—it’s a commitment that’s required by the whole family.”