Shanti Project transitioning to new CEO

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday May 17, 2023
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Incoming Shanti CEO Kimberly Scrafano. Photo: Courtesy Shanti Project
Incoming Shanti CEO Kimberly Scrafano. Photo: Courtesy Shanti Project

The Shanti Project is in the midst of transitioning to a new CEO.

Kimberly Scrafano, of Alameda, told the Bay Area Reporter May 15 that she will be starting full time over the next two weeks, but is already acting head of the nonprofit.

"I'm very excited about Shanti," Scrafano said. "I've heard of Shanti many times, was familiar with their mission, and I felt like this focus of reducing isolation and the importance of human connection and well-being spoke really strongly to my personal and professional beliefs."

Scrafano, 50, replaces Charlie Meade, who has served as interim executive director since August 2022 and will be stepping back into the role of chief development officer. The most recent permanent executive director was Kaushik Roy, a straight ally who stepped down that same month after 14 years in the role.

The Shanti Project, founded in San Francisco in 1974, is a nonprofit that provides services to people with life-threatening conditions such as cancer and HIV/AIDS. It offers case management, client advocacy, and practical support, among other services. According to its website, Shanti "reduces isolation and improves lives by providing compassionate care, community, and connection to San Franciscans in great need of support."

It also runs Pets Are Wonderful Support, which is designed to keep people and their animal companions together and merged with Shanti in 2015.

When asked about how she identifies under the LGBTQ umbrella, Scrafano said, "I've used different sorts of descriptors — I was in New York when the Lesbian Avengers were being created. I've used the word queer, I have a wife and kids and have done work around queer families, so it's a big part of our lives."

The Lesbian Avengers was a direct action group of lesbians founded in the Big Apple in 1992, known for its heterodox tactics. Some of the co-founders had been involved in ACT-UP, the AIDS direct action group active around the same time, and felt queer women's issues weren't being properly addressed in other community groups. There were several chapters of the Avengers over the years, including in the Bay Area.

Shanti won't be Scrafano's first time working with the LGBTQ community in a professional capacity, either. She also worked with the San Francisco AIDS Foundation as a state and local policy manager from 2001-2002, and with Gay Men's Health Crisis when she lived in New York City.

"I've done HIV work," she said. "I worked at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and Gay Men's Health Crisis in New York, so I've had experience in those areas. I'm also a licensed acupuncturist and have treated people as a health care provider."

The AIDS foundation did not return a request for comment as of press time. A GMHC spokesperson said the organization wasn't ready to comment for the online version, but would by the B.A.R.'s print deadline.

Most recently, Scrafano had been CEO of the Mechanics' Institute since 2019. The institute is a private club, library, chess club, and cultural events center at 57 Post Street in San Francisco. However, the vast majority of her time between her stint at the AIDS foundation and now had been spent with Goodwill Industries of the Greater East Bay, where she did "programming and leadership work as well," she said.

Dr. Micki Klearman, Shanti's board chair, announced Scrafano's appointment April 24.

"Kimberly will be a strong steward of Shanti's values and mission. She has proven depth as an authentic and inclusive leader, serving most recently as the CEO of the Mechanics Institute," Klearman stated.

"Her professional and personal experience aligns with Shanti's breadth of work in our community," Klearman added. "She has worked as a consultant for youth services at one of the country's oldest and largest HIV/AIDS organizations (Gay Men's Health Crisis in New York City) and as a state and local policy manager at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation."

Scrafano said that Shanti's mission of reducing isolation and connecting the vulnerable is particularly important in light of recent years, with the COVID-19 pandemic leading to increased social isolation and particularly impacting those with pre-existing conditions.

"Shanti, I think, really did a lot during COVID," Scrafano said. "Given their mission and their work, reducing that isolation and keeping connection in that lockdown was instrumental. Even though the lockdown is over, there is an impact and it'll take us a while to figure out what that impact is."

Scrafano said that she felt the impacts within her own family.

"I have two young children — their social development was really disrupted, as everyone's was — and I was also visiting older family members trying to be careful taking care of them," Scrafano said. "Someone in my family passed away and the person left was alone, trying to grieve in this lockdown era, so Shanti's mission is even, in a lot of ways, more sort of vital in the community right now because we are collectively recovering from what that meant. I go back and think 'did we really stay inside our house for two years? It seems unreal to me.'"

Scrafano is using the current transition time to learn what she can improve at Shanti.

"I'm not sure," she said when asked what is the biggest challenge Shanti faces at the moment.

"Honestly, I'm in this learning process of trying to connect and do outreach to understand what are the biggest sorts of challenges," Scrafano said. "In general, looking at it as a nonprofit leader, the economy is going to be a challenge as we have a significant downturn. ... Shanti has really generous, wonderful donors, and as the economy is down, it impacts the donations an organization receives."

According to the most recent IRS Form 990 that's publicly available, covering Fiscal Year 2021, Shanti had $8.8 million in revenue and spent $7.9 million, with $936,019 left over.

Scrafano declined to state her salary. Roy's total compensation that fiscal year was $261,767.

"Again, I feel really excited about this opportunity. I feel it brings together a lot of professional and personal interests and experience," she said. "I've been so impressed with the staff, the board and everyone else and am so excited to come to this incredible organization that has such a legacy and history in San Francisco."

For more information about Shanti, go to

Updated 5/18/23: This article has been updated to indicate GMHC will respond soon with a comment.

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