Ellen Morris Palermo

Program Strategist


Ellen serves as the Program Strategist at the Civic Federation. She joined the organization in June 2024 and works closely with staff to evaluate and strengthen the organization's programming and operations.

Ellen is a specialist in nonprofit operations and development and passionate about serving Chicago communities. She has years of experience as a grant writer and fundraising expert, most recently with the Artistic Fundraising Group where she worked with dozens of Chicago arts, media, and community-based organizations and raised millions of philanthropic dollars for her clients. Ellen also served for three years as the Finance Coordinator at GlobeMed, a health equity and education organization, and led the organization through an ethical winddown process. During her graduate studies in Philadelphia, she worked at CCATE, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering the Latinx community in Norristown, PA. 

In her former life as a professional pianist and theater musician, Ellen frequently music directed, conducted, and performed at Writers Theatre, Drury Lane Theatre, Marriott Theatre, and BoHo Theatre, among others. She also taught and coached hundreds of young musicians and actors at Northwestern University, the Wilmette Park District, Music Institute of Chicago, Actors Training Center, and the Chicago Academy for the Arts. This background as a professional musician and educator gives her a unique perspective and ability to collaborate deeply across teams and sectors. 

Ellen holds her M.S. in Nonprofit Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania and her B.Mus. from Northwestern University, with majors in Piano Studies and English Literature. During her free time, she likes to garden, read epic fantasy novels, ride her motorcycle, and plan her next scuba diving trip.

Ellen Morris Palermo