Claas Ehlers

Claas Ehlers has more than two decades of experience in nonprofit leadership. Prior to working in the nonprofit sector, he held director roles in the corporate sector and taught as an adjunct professor at colleges in New York and New Jersey.

In 2002, Claas joined Family Promise, a national federated nonprofit serving children and families at risk of homelessness. He began his tenure at Family Promise working on a Ford Foundation initiative to increase engagement with the Muslim community. From there he moved into affiliate creation and then affiliate management before becoming the organization’s second CEO, succeeding the founder. (That transition was cited by Bridgespan as an example of best practices in internal succession.)

As CEO, Claas guided the organization through rapid and expansive growth and during his tenure Family Promise tripled the number of people served, its budget, and the number of staff. He guided the network of 200 independent affiliates through a collective transition from site-based shelter to homelessness diversion and prevention during the pandemic.

Claas has spoken widely on issues including housing, poverty, engaging the faith community, and nonprofit governance. He has served on advisory boards for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Sesame Street in Communities, and Charity Navigator, among others. He also has advised the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the US Interagency Council on Homelessness.

As CEO, his focal points have included the engagement of corporate partners in flexible, mission-driven programs, centering DEIA and creating long-term plans to make organizations more equitable, and empowering those with lived expperience to take leadership at all levels. At Family Promise, he achieved a perfect score with Charity Navigator as well as a staff retention rate above 90%. He has extensive expertise in federated organizations and has spearheaded best practice sharing among other national chapter organizations.

Claas’ leadership style is transparent, positive, collaborative, and mission-focused. Having been CEO in times of great success and significant adversity as well as having advised hundreds of 501c3s as Director of Affiliate Services, he is invested in being outcome-focused, data-informed, and reality-based.

Claas received his undergraduate degree from New York University and has done coursework at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, as well as with best practice providers, including the Support Center for Nonprofit’s Interim Directors program.

He is a founding board member of Eleven+, which provides students from disenfranchised communities with paid internships with nonprofits. This arose out of another volunteer activity of his, serving as a facilitator for dialogue circles on race and racism. A conversation in one of those sessions turned a discussion about racism into a solution. Claas believes such serendipity is the product of openness, intention, and the belief that change is always possible.

LinkedIn: Claas Ehlers