Booz Allen Foundation Innovation Fund — Project Team

Kyle Zimmer
President, CEO and Co-founder

In the late 1980s, Kyle Zimmer, then a practicing attorney, was volunteering at a soup kitchen in Washington, D.C. Realizing that the kids she was working with had no books in their lives, she set out with two friends to build a market-driven solution to ensure all children have access to critical books and resources.

Since then, First Book, the nonprofit social enterprise she co-founded in 1992, has become a leader in furthering equal access to quality education.  First Book’s work is driven by educators in the First Book Network of more than 475,000 educators – the largest and fastest growing network of schools and programs serving children in need – across the United States and Canada. 

Under her leadership, First Book has grown into a family of social enterprises that addresses a spectrum of educational barriers faced by children in need. Kyle pioneered the organization’s sustainable, market-driven ecommerce model that provides educators with free and affordable, high-quality new books, educational resources, and basic needs items. She also expanded First Book’s capacity to provide original research, educator access to leading experts, and targeted funding solutions.  Over its 28-year history, First Book has distributed more than 200 million books and educational resources, with a value of more than $2.0 billion.

Kyle’s commitment to innovation and collaboration has earned her a reputation as a social sector leader. She currently serves as a member of the board of directors for Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P., which is responsible for protecting and overseeing the integrity of Dr. Seuss books, properties, licensing and related products; and of the board of directors for Ashoka, which works to support the finest social entrepreneurs in more than 70 countries. She also serves on the Youth Venture board of directors and as a member of the board for James Patterson’s ReadKiddoRead. Kyle is a passionate advocate for social entrepreneurship, educational equity, and the importance of literacy to further economic competitiveness and global understanding.

Kyle was featured in the opening plenary on stage at the 2015 Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) America and was also featured onstage by President Bill Clinton at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative. She was a presenter at the University of Oxford’s “Power Shift: Forum for Women in the World Economy” at the Saïd Business School at Oxford, participated in a panel at Fordham University, and she also is a regular lecturer at the Wharton School of Business and Columbia Business School. She has been a presenter and/or participant at the World Economic Forum in Davos (2019 and 2010), in Dubai (2014) and in Beijing (2012).  She served as a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Values (2013-2016), and as a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Social Entrepreneurship (2010). She was named the first-ever American Marketing Association Nonprofit Marketer of the Year in 2008 and Outstanding Social Entrepreneur of the Year in the United States in 2007 by the Geneva-based Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. 

Kyle has also been honored as a DC Alpha Alumna Initiate of the Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women (2019), the Texas AFT’s Child Advocate Award (2019) and EY Entrepreneur of the Year® 2017 Award-Mid-Atlantic Region. Other awards include the Jefferson Award for Outstanding Public Service Benefitting the Disadvantaged (2016), Peggy Charren/Free to Be You and Me Award from the Ms. Foundation for Women (2016), the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Pacesetter Honors (2016), the Library of Congress David M. Rubenstein Prize (2015), the National Book Foundation’s Literarian Award (2014) and the National Education Association Foundation’s Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education (2013), the Carle Honors Angel Award (2009) and the Authors Guild Award for Distinguished Service to the Literary Community (2005). From 2004 – 2008, Fast Company named Kyle one of 45 Social Entrepreneurs Who Are Changing the World.

An attorney, Kyle received her juris doctor from The George Washington University Law School, and a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Iowa.

 

Becki Last
Executive Vice President, Network Engagement

Becki Last is Executive Vice President, Network Engagement for First Book. Becki leads the effort to grow, engage and support the First Book Network of educators and practitioners serving children in need.  Under Becki’s leadership, the First Book Network has grown from 18,000 members to more than 475,000 members and has evolved into a true community of child advocates.  In 2015, Becki founded First Book’s Research & Insights practice to aggregate and amplify the voice of the Network’s members. She launched First Book’s Accelerator in 2019 an initiative that repackages expert research and best practices into digestible, actionable resources, and uses the First Book megaphone to speed the time it takes for these resources to reach educators and practitioners on the front line.  In addition to First Book’s Network analytics, resource creation and program management, Becki also oversees First Book’s individual and enterprise-level eCommerce sales, including Network-facing marketing and user experience, as well as outreach to First Book’s non-profit partners.  She and her team have managed to grow the distribution of resources on the First Book Marketplace by 23% annually since 2011.  As a result, Becki is heavily involved in First Book’s organizational strategy and new enterprise implementation.  Becki comes to First Book from a successful career in strategic marketing and market research for companies like USA TODAY, Time Warner Cable, Sprint Nextel, and MCI.  While at those organizations, Becki was often responsible for researching, designing and prototyping, and marketing new products and services to bring to market.  Becki holds a bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University and an MBA from the University of Maryland.

 

Kisha Dimbo
Senior Vice President, Strategic Alliances

Kisha Dimbo joined First Book in April of 2020 as Senior Vice President, Strategic Alliances. In her role, Kisha leads the Strategic Alliances team in establishing, developing, and managing relationships with corporate and philanthropic partners, in collaboration with First Book’s Senior Team. She has more than 20 years’ experience in business development, corporate strategy, operations leadership, and program management. Kisha holds a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the Pennsylvania State University, an MBA in Strategy and Marketing from the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill and is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP®).

 

Jenna Greenspan
Director of User Experience

Jenna Greenspan is the Director of User Experience at First Book. She leads development of strategy, content, and creative for the organization’s multi-channel communication initiatives. These digital initiatives drive engagement and eCommerce activity for a diverse and fast-growing member base of more than 475,000 educators serving kids in need in a wide variety of capacities nationwide.

Jenna designs and implements prospecting campaigns that increase awareness about First Book’s strong eCommerce value proposition and the variety of relevant, high-quality products and resources available. She also maintains a feedback loop with current members of the First Book community through surveys and focus groups to ensure those resources meet the needs of those serving children from low-income families.

Additionally, the User Experience team is highly involved in structuring programmatic campaigns and funding opportunities for educators, as well as ensuring that all member touch points are user friendly, intuitive, and fit together in a clear way. These initiatives directly increase both engagement within the First Book community and revenue-driving activations on the First Book Marketplace, fueling First Book’s success as a social enterprise.

Jenna has been part of the First Book team for almost 8 years. She holds a master’s degree in Public Policy from George Mason University with a concentration in nonprofit management and education policy, building on her undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia.

 

Shalonda Jenkins
Partner Development Coordinator, Non-Profit Partner Team

Shalonda Jenkins is the Partner Development Coordinator on First Book’s Non-Profit Partner Team. Shalonda supports the growth and ongoing partnership activity of one of First Book’s largest, most collaborative partners, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Starting in 2019 Shalonda has worked to expand communication and unique partnerships with AFT local and state affiliates and most recently has supported new partnership models. Some examples include a collaborative partnership with AFT and WIN, the largest provider of family shelter and supportive housing in New York City, to provide books and create libraries in WIN’s ten family shelters throughout NYC, and the Jefferson County Books Not Bullets Program in partnership with Jefferson County AFT and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department to provide deputies with books in their squad cars to distribute to kids in the community. Shalonda came to First Book from a career in supporting and managing after school youth programs focused on positive youth development and mentorship. Shalonda holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Spelman College in Atlanta, GA and a M.Ed in Community Development and Action from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN.