Social Innovator of the Year Award

The Social Innovator of the Year Award recognizes a New England leader with a demonstrated commitment to social innovation.  Social innovators combine the passion and purpose of a social or environmental mission, with the rigor and accountability of a financially sustainable, scalable model for change.


Image of ClaraNew Hampshire native Clara Milller ’72 is president of the F.B. Heron Foundation, which helps people and communities help themselves out of poverty. A graduate of UNH’s College of Liberal Arts with a degree in studio art, Miller has dedicated her career to helping address economic inequity in America by supporting in innovative ways the many nonprofits that are dedicated to addressing poverty.  

She is widely recognized as one of the most innovative and influential people in the social change field, and has received many awards including being named investor of the year by Institutional Investor Magazine in the “small foundations” category in 2015. Miller joined the Heron Foundation in 2011. Just a few years after the financial collapse and major recession, Miller concluded that America was still many decades away from addressing poverty, but in many cases, the recession had made the situation worse for Americans in poverty tangibly worse. She led a major restructuring that broadened the foundation’s impact as a major influencer in the economy. Under her leadership, Heron pioneered the idea of breaking down the traditional divisions in philanthropic foundations between program officers (who oversee grant making) and investment officers (who oversee investment portfolios). Heron recently completed an ambitious goal of going “all in to move the entire $270 million endowment into impact investments that fit with the organization’s mission of ‘helping people and communities help themselves out of poverty.’”

Blazing a pioneering trail is not new for Miller. Just a decade into her professional career she founded the Nonprofit Finance Fund, an organization focused on helping nonprofits and their supporters be financially stable and nimble in order to explore opportunities, weather storms, and make use of data and ideas. Miller served as the president and CEO from 1984-2010.

NHCLF LogoThe New Hampshire Community Loan Fund has partnered with UNH’s Center for Social Innovation & Enterprise to provide support for the 2017 Social Innovator of the Year program. Established in 1983, it was one of the first Community Development Financial Institutions in the U.S. The fund turns investments into loans and education to create opportunity and transform lives statewide.