New CHCA executive director, Anne McNiff (Photo by Janet Gala)

by Brendan Sample

After officially starting her new position late last year, Anne McNiff, the newly appointed executive director of the Chestnut Hill Community Association, is looking forward to getting fully acclimated in the new year. Though she has only been leading the CHCA for a few weeks, her experience with both nonprofit and corporate organizations, as well as her familiarity with the neighborhood, has given her the experience needed to hit the ground running.

Having spent nearly 30 years in leadership positions across three different organizations, McNiff has brought a variety of experiences into her new job. Her longest stint came with Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health, a national nonprofit dedicated to treating mental health. During her 18 years at Devereux, McNiff was director of marketing and admissions, family services and life management services.

After Devereux, McNiff went on to become a development officer at Eisenhower Fellowships, which seeks to strengthen the capabilities of emerging leaders around the world. Her most recent position before joining the CHCA was as the foundation manager for the Chubb Charitable Foundation, which is both a private, corporate foundation and a nonprofit based in Philadelphia.

“I’ve been on both sides of the fence, so to speak, as both a funder and a person seeking funds,” McNiff said. “That gives me a unique perspective around a couple different aspects of the work I will be doing here, but certainly around fundraising, grant writing and especially working with boards.”

While her family is originally from Scranton, McNiff has lived in Philadelphia for much of her life, though she has also lived on the opposite side of the country as well. McNiff lived in the Manayunk area of Philadelphia during the late 1980s, but later moved to Santa Barbara, Calif., for family reasons. She has spent the past 13 years living in Mt. Airy, as she was drawn to the region’s unique sense of closeness and belonging.

“I was interested in making a move, and because I had always loved Philadelphia, it seemed like a good location where I could live in a city that I liked and also be closer to family,” McNiff explained. “I could’ve lived in a lot of different east coast cities, and I chose to live here because of the sense of community that Philadelphia has as a city of neighborhoods.”

Throughout 2018, the community association will be celebrating its 70th anniversary, and McNiff is very much anticipating being part of such a historical year. Although she acknowledged that trying to get more done with less funding will be a perpetual challenge of her position, she realizes that finding ways to continue engaging the community will also be one of the most rewarding aspects.

“I’m really looking forward to working with the board to develop some special community activities around this,” McNiff said. “It’s quite an accomplishment for a small community association, so we’re very excited to celebrate that achievement with the entire community.”

Coming into a new leadership position at the end of the year may have come with its own set of challenges, McNiff looks to be embracing her future as CHCA executive director with great enthusiasm. Among many different aspects of the job, she is perhaps most anticipating getting to know Chestnut Hill and its institutions on an individual level.

“I’m looking forward to a lot of things, but they all sort of intersect with meeting and working with the volunteers that are involved with the community association,” McNiff said. “Certainly the scope of activities that happen – everything from the advocacy work to the more social things – have been so successful because of this great cadre of volunteers, so I’m really looking forward to getting to know these folks.”