Terra Conservation Initiative

Ellen O’Connell is the President and Founder of Sankhara, LLC, a consulting firm specializing in strategy, fundraising and compliance for non-profits in the conservation and humanitarian aid sectors.  She is passionate about conservation, climate change, human rights and the environment and has spent over three decades in the non-profit arena pursuing her conviction that philanthropy plays a transformative role in the world. Ellen also serves as the President of Ngaren, Inc., an ambitious project spearheaded by world renowned conservationist, paleontologist and politician Richard E. Leakey to build a museum in the Rift Valley of Kenya that will tell the story of the origins of humankind through the lens of climate change and adaption. Ellen was previously the Executive Vice President of Space for Giants, where she continues to play and advisory role, and from 2014 to 2018, Ellen was the Executive Director of Tusk USA where she oversaw a grant portfolio of 80 conservation projects in 20 countries in Africa.  From 1999 to 2014, Ellen served as Vice President at the humanitarian aid organization, the International Rescue Committee (IRC). As part of a senior leadership team, who grew the budget from $100M to $650M, she oversaw board relations, governance, operations and supply chain in 40 countries and 22 cities in the USA for a staff of over 14,000 employees. Previously, Ellen was the Associate Executive Director at Covenant House New York from 1991 to 1999 and the Director of Fundraising at Covenant House International from 1989-1991. In 1997, she designed and opened a social entrepreneur for-profit restaurant in Greenwich Village in NYC, that provided job training to at-risk and homeless youth.  Ms. O’Connell graduated in 1987 from Georgetown University with a BA in English and received a Masters Degree in Public Administration from the Wagner School of Public Service, NYU in 1991 and a Masters Degree in Anthropology at the New School for Social Research in 1995. She completed coursework for her PHD in Anthropology at CUNY and has a certificate in Executive Non-profit management from Columbia University.