Honoree Headshot

Trooper Sanders

Chief Executive Officer
Benefits Data Trust

Location: Philadelphia, PA
Founded: 2005
Industry: Nonprofit

Billions of dollars in benefits go unclaimed each year in programs such as SNAP, WIC, Pell Grants and Medicaid. In 2005, Warren Kantor founded Benefits Data Trust to help low-income individuals access the state and federal aid programs for which they are eligible. In 2019, Trooper Sanders was hired as BDT’s second CEO.

Benefits Data Trust (BDT) is a nonprofit that improves health and financial security by harnessing the power of data, technology and policy to provide equitable access to assistance. Together with a national network of government agencies and partners, BDT connects people to programs that pay for food, healthcare, and more, by informing them of their eligibility and often submitting applications on their behalf.

Shortly after Sanders was hired, the pandemic hit and it forced the organization to pivot its strategy to meet the moment as thousands of people applied for benefits for the first time — people who thought they would never need help or financial assistance.

“The COVID-19 pandemic was a cataclysmic event that challenged us all,” Sanders said. “Leading and supporting my colleagues at Benefits Data Trust as we met the moment and connected people to critical assistance left me with three key lessons: get in shape to be ready for life’s events before they strike; face reality head on and get on with it; and be kind and forgiving to yourself and your organization to weather the ups and downs.”

The organization is testing several paths to scaling dignified, equitable access to benefits across the country to help close the gap in benefits enrollment. That work includes helping the government to modernize its delivery of benefits services, integrating benefits access in key sectors such as healthcare and higher education, and elevating participant voices, especially those from historically marginalized communities.

BDT recently received a $20 million gift from MacKenzie Scott. The organization is using the money to scale its work and innovations to make the challenge of accessing benefits a thing of the past over the next 10 years.

Before joining BDT, Sanders was a Rockefeller Foundation fellow. For eight years, Sanders ran Wise Whisper, a strategic advisory practice to financial technology startups, philanthropic initiatives and business leaders. He held White House policy staff positions during two administrations, serving as an advisor on mental health and military family initiatives.

As the Clinton Foundation’s domestic policy advisor, Sanders developed economic opportunity programs and helped create the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a joint venture with the American Heart Association that was co-chaired by former President Clinton and former Govs. Mike Huckabee and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

He currently serves on the National Artificial Intelligence Advisory Committee, the national board of Girl Scouts of USA and the Military Family Research Institute’s advisory board. Sanders is a graduate of the University of Michigan and holds a Master of Science degree from the London School of Economics and a Master of Laws from the University of London.

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Honoree fun fact

While attending the London School of Economics, where he earned a Master of Science in Regulation, Trooper also worked nearly full time creating a social development program in Egypt for a charity created by the Prince of Wales.

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