Jordan Kessler Named Director of Development at Vera Institute of Justice

NEW YORK – The Vera Institute of Justice has named Jordan Kessler as director of development. Kessler most recently served as the New York director of major gifts for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). At Vera, Kessler will work with Vera’s president, board of trustees, and senior leadership to strengthen current fundraising strategies and develop new ones, primarily amongst individual donors and other funding sources.

The appointment comes at a time of growing national interest in criminal justice reform at the federal, state, and local level, which presents new opportunities to support reform efforts. Vera is leveraging this focus to prioritize its work on reducing over-incarceration and eliminating racial disparities in the justice system. Among other things, Vera is working with jurisdictions across the country to reduce the use of jails—the “front door” to mass incarceration—and improve conditions of confinement, particularly by reducing reliance on solitary confinement and improving educational opportunities for incarcerated people. Both of these are tied to reduced recidivism and improved public safety.

“Jordan’s history of fundraising success and his passion for social responsibility fits perfectly with Vera’s pursuit of a fairer and more effective justice system,” said Vera President Nicholas Turner. “The growing attention being paid to criminal justice issues presents a number of opportunities to enhance Vera’s impact, and I strongly believe that Jordan will be an incredible asset moving forward.”

“For more than 50 years, Vera has been at the forefront of criminal justice reform, and its continued success means remaining competitive and adaptable in today’s rapidly changing environment,” said Karen Seymour, member and Development Committee Chair of Vera’s Board of Trustees. “Jordan’s drive to seek out new partnerships and funding streams will greatly serve Vera’s mission and bolster its reputation for bold thinking and ambitious solutions.”

Kessler brings more than 11 years of fundraising experience to his new position, having played a key role in raising tens of millions of dollars for NRDC, a national environmental nonprofit organization. Since assuming the role of New York director of major gifts in 2012, his team exceeded fundraising goals each year.

Prior to his time at NRDC, Kessler helped launch the Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis and served as director of internet monitoring for the Anti-Defamation League.

“At this time of great promise for justice system reform, it's a privilege to be joining Vera, a true pioneer and leading voice in that field,” Kessler said. “I'm excited to help Vera expand its important work to advance a justice system rooted in human dignity for all.”

Kessler earned a bachelor’s degree in U.S. history from Columbia University. A Chicago native, he lives with his wife in New York City.