Our Team

Meet The PENN Creative Strategy Team

Molly Penn

Molly Penn

Strategy & Planning
Organizational Development
Change Management
IDEA Services


About Molly Penn

As a consultant to mission-based organizations for two decades, Molly has deep experience with organizations and foundations of all sizes and a broad range of missions. She has worked with more than one hundred organizations to help them become stronger and have a greater impact. She is particularly interested in how effective strategy helps organizations disrupt and rebalance systems of power, privilege and access – whether through cultural reflection, direct service, philanthropy or advocacy.

Molly began her professional life as the Assistant Director of Development and Government Relations for Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, followed by senior Development roles at smaller organizations. She has an MBA in Management from Fordham University, a Masters in Arts Management from Columbia University and a BA in dance from Bard College. She is certified in Lean Process and Hogan Personality Inventory, and trained in Appreciative Inquiry and as a professional coach. Molly serves on the board of the Alliance for Nonprofit Management and Nonprofit New York’s selection committee for the Nonprofit Excellence Awards.


Marissa Lewis

Board Development


About Marissa Lewis

Marissa is experienced in non-profit management as both grantmaker and grantseeker, including fundraising, strategy, grant/grantee management, and board development in staff, consultant, and volunteer/Board capacities. She is a strong administrator with a talent for building and strengthening organizational culture, along with the necessary systems and frameworks.  Her 20-year career has been anchored in ensuring individuals, communities, and organizations have access to all the tools they need to succeed. Marissa is a graduate of Binghamton University in New York and did graduate work at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.


Janice L. Shapiro

Leadership Coaching
Strategic/Scenario Planning


About Janice Shapiro

Janice believes that people thrive when they are empowered and engaged.  Those of us drawn to work with nonprofit organizations are drawn to missions but retained by healthy cultures.  With this grounding principle in mind, she  has served as Executive Director of Doug Varone and Dancers and Moving for Life, Managing Director for the Brooklyn Arts Council, Director of Development and Planning for La MaMa, Director of Development for the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, Program Associate in Culture for The Pew Charitable Trusts, and Managing Officer of Awards and Creative Development for the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA).  As a planning and fundraising consultant and coach, her clients have included the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone,  Creative Capital, Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation, Association of Hispanic Arts, Foundation for Jewish Culture, Support Center for Nonprofit Management, and the Harlem School of the Arts.

Janice is a recent graduate of the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching and a graduate of the James P. Shannon Leadership Institute for Nonprofit Executives.  She is a certified Program Developer and Facilitator in Peer Coaching Groups through Authenticity Consulting  and certified in Principles and Practices of Organizational Development from Teachers College at Columbia University.  She earned a BA in Dance from Grand Valley State University in Michigan.  Janice is a volunteer for Companion Animal Placement in Hoboken and recently served as a  Lifeline Counselor for The Trevor Project.


Marita Phelps

Planning (Strategic, Program)
Policy & Procedure Development
IDEA Services


About Marita Phelps

Marita Phelps is a Consultant and Arts Manager based in New York City that has worked with a wide variety of small businesses, nonprofits and individual artists over the past 10 years. Marita held leadership positions at several nonprofits in the past including her role as General Manager at The People’s Forum, Director of Operations at The Umbrella Project, and Operations Director at viBe Theater where she facilitated business transitions from conception to start-up, improved and implemented operating procedures and supported with setting strategic direction for the business. In 2019, Marita began freelance consulting and joined CJAM Consulting team as an Associate Consultant where she supported the development of the firm’s internal operations and marketing initiatives. Marita has managed constituent data for up to 2.2K, managed budgets up to $3 million, coordinated up to 8 events a month as well as lead teams of up to 10 people. Her areas of expertise include organizational management, strategic planning, program design & evaluation and business scaling strategy at major moments of transition like start-up and dissolution.

Marita currently serves as Vice President of the Howard University Club of Greater New York City (2019-Present) and previously served as an Advisory Board Member for the Young Playwrights Program of ACT Theatre (2014-2015) in Seattle, WA. Marita graduated magna cum laude from Howard University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Theatre Arts and received a Master of Fine Arts degree from Seattle University in Arts Leadership.


Sofiya Cheyenne

Disability Inclusion
IDEA Services
Organizational Culture
Policy & Practices


About Sofiya Cheyenne

Sofiya Cheyenne is an associate consultant with a focus on inclusion and equity at Penn Creative Strategy. With over 20 years of personal advocacy experience, Sofiya has been a facilitator, public speaker and panelist at many schools, venues and conferences across the country to speak on issues of access and inclusion. As an actor and disability advocate, Sofiya invests herself and creates initiatives to open the minds of our society and see that people with disabilities should have an active seat at the table. Sofiya is a leader of the PENN Creative Strategy IDEA practice and has designed and led trainings in this area for arts organization staff and volunteers. She is a part of National Network of Consultants to Grant makers (NNCG)'s Disability Working Group as well as Inclusion Director of Little People of America and ARTY NY's Access Council. She received her BFA & BA in Psychology from CUNY Brooklyn College.

sheilamae reyes ablay

Sheilamae Reyes Ablay

Data Analysis
Data Synthesis


About Sheilamae Reyes Ablay

Sheilamae Reyes Ablay is passionate about the representation and access of racial minority and immigrant communities into American civic and political life. As a research consultant, Sheilamae has helped businesses and researchers all over the world to clean, analyze, and interpret data effectively using various statistical tools. Among her diverse research experiences include developing market research for a tech startup and collaborating with a multinational and interdisciplinary team on a Covid-19 data collection project that addresses marginalized communities' experiences during the pandemic. She advises on research for a public health initiative in Gaza and conducts survey design and analytics for WeAllCount, a data equity project focused on addressing racial and social inequity biases in the research process. Sheilamae holds a PhD in sociology from The Ohio State University.


Eleanor Webster Shakin

Campaign Feasibility Studies
Strategic Fundraising Plans
Major Gifts
Institutional Grants
Program Development


About Eleanor Webster Shakin

Eleanor brings 40 years of fund-raising experience to her work with not-for-profit arts, human service, public interest, and educational organizations. Whether providing strategic advice to board and executive staff, engaging in campaign feasibility and planning assignments, coaching staff and boards to be confident ambassadors for their organization, or guiding the day-to-day work of the development team, Eleanor’s consulting practice focuses on building organizational capacity and producing results. Clients have included diverse organizations such as Roundabout Theatre Company, The Brooklyn Children’s Museum, Henry Street Settlement, the National Dance Institute, ArtsConnection, the Flea Theater, the Museum of the Moving Image, Irondale Ensemble, Bronx Legal Services, and the Florence Academy of Art.


Ayesha M. Acquah

Theory of change
Client relations
Project Management


About Ayesha Acquah

Ayesha M. Acquah joined Penn Creative Strategy in 2019 after holding various positions in marketing and managing large teams of staff and volunteers in the music industry. Her career included working on intellectual property issues, as well as applying her writing and editing skills to various marketing and strategic communications projects.  She also managed external relationships on behalf of the organizations she worked with. For the past several years, Ayesha served as a Volunteer Writing Coach for Behind the Book in Harlem, NY. As part of the PCS team, Ayesha has contributed to a training on managing bias, as well as staffed several strategic planning engagements and contributed to firm marketing. Ayesha graduated Cum Laude with a BS in Communications Studies with a focus in Public Relations from Mercy College.

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Our services partner BRAIT Studio provides visual storytelling and graphic design services for both print and digital environments.

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From The Blog

How to Embed Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access into Grantmaking and Grantseeking

By Molly Penn Grantmaking has a built-in power imbalance. Foundations have money, and nonprofit agencies want it. Today there are increasing discussions around these power dynamics in fundraising, accelerated by the social justice movement of 2020. This article will explore how approaching grantmaking through a lens of diversity, equity, inclusion, and access (DEI&A) helps to …

How to Embed Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access into Grantmaking and Grantseeking Read More »

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