In the spring of 1998, two not-for-profit executives, Sue Costa and Julio Vazquez, called together 12 of their peers to discuss starting an organization for not-for-profit human service agency executives. The goals of the new organization would be these:
- Give voice to the human service agency management issues
- Serve as a forum for sharing best practices
- Lend support to the chief executives of human service agencies
The 14 initial planners called a meeting in the fall of 1998 for all not-for-profit human service agency heads. A group of 25-30 gathered and agreed there should be an organization to facilitate regular meetings of agency leaders. It was decided that the initial 14 would serve as a steering committee until bylaws could be developed. The following spring, the bylaws were approved by the membership and the first Executive Committee was elected.
From that point on it was the Executive Committee that governed the Council, planned programs, and recruited new members. In 2004, with 76 members, a proposal was approved by the membership to hire a part-time administrator to help move the Council projects forward. It called for an increase in membership dues along with grants to underwrite the staffing for the first few years. Start-up grants of $24,000 each were requested and received from the United Way of Greater Rochester and The Community Foundation. A search process was conducted and the Council's first Administrator started in March, 2005
Now committee work could be expedited, and recruitment of new members could be coordinated. Membership rose, and Council-sponsored activities grew.
In the fall of 2008, the executive Committee approved COAE becoming an Association Member of the New York Council of Nonprofits (NYCON). This automatically makes each COAE member a member of NYCON, and eligible for its many cost-saving programs and partnerships.
The Council continues to grow, and its leadership remains grateful to the initial steering committee that provided leadership during its first year. They are listed below, with the agency they headed in 1998:
- Jean Carroll (YWCA)
- William Clark (Urban League)
- Sue Costa † (The Health Association)
- Jean Howard (Wilson Commencement Park)
- Deb Long (Girl Scouts of Genesee Valley)
- Bill McDonald (Medical Motor Service)
- James Norman (Action for a Better Community)
- Nancy Padilla (Puerto Rican Youth Development)
- Carolyn Portanova (Catholic Family Center)
- James Sorrentino (East House)
- Barry Stein (Jewish Family Services)
- Julio Vazquez (Ibero American Action League)
- Sherry Walker (Eastside Community Center)
- Fran Weisberg (Lifespan)
Interestingly, 17 years later:
- 6 of the above are still members of the Council, and 4 of those 6 remain at the same agency;
- 4 of the agencies on the above list merged with larger organizations;
- 7 of the agencies mentioned above are now led by different individuals who are members of the Council.