Philanthropist and Environmental Activist Jessy Tolkan Appointed as HeadCount’s Chairperson of the Board

Philanthropist and Environmental Activist Jessy Tolkan Appointed as HeadCount’s Chairperson of the Board

Today, the nonpartisan, nonprofit voter registration organization, HeadCount, shared that philanthropist and environmental activist Jessy Tolkan has been appointed as the new chairperson of its Board of Directors. Tolkan will support HeadCount in its ongoing mission to register voters and inspire civic engagement by working with musicians to promote participation in democracy in the United States. She succeeds music industry veteran, impresario and Relix publisher Peter Shapiro, who completed his four-year term as board chair and will maintain a seat on the board.

“I’ve spent the last two decades as a fighter for democracy and I couldn’t be more inspired and revved up to join HeadCount as their Board Chair during this critical moment in America,” said Tolkan in a statement. “HeadCount has been a trailblazer from the very beginning, and I look forward to supporting this organization in its next era of innovation and citizen engagement. ” 

Tolkan is currently President & CEO of Drive Agency, a vehicle for decision-makers to influence their stakeholders to unlock transformative social change in the world, which was founded in 2021. Before founding Drive Agency, she served as Partner at PURPOSE and Co-Founder of Purpose Labs, which advanced innovative approaches to campaigning and collaborating with philanthropy to propel change. She remains a senior advisor and collaborator at The Purpose Climate Lab, which has raised and invested over $40 million dollars in six years for climate campaigning infrastructure.

Over Shapiro’s four years as chairperson, HeadCount saw unprecedented growth: The nonprofit’s annual operating budget quadrupled, and the organization registered over 600,000 voters – more than half the 1.2 million it has recorded since its inception in 2004. During the 2022 midterm election cycle, the organization registered a record-breaking 207,000 voters. Shapiro also produced several benefit concerts in support of HeadCount with shows featuring the likes of Questlove, Jackson Browne, Bobby Weir, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, and Phil Lesh. Through their work, Shapiro and HeadCount’s Executive Director, Andy Bernstein, were jointly recognized as “Changemakers” by Billboard.

“Being the Chair of HeadCount has been a life highlight for me, and I look forward to continuing as a Board Member to support voter participation from as many people as possible in our elections,” Shapiro said. “I am super excited that Jessy, who has been a rock star in the broader activism space for many years, will be HeadCount’s next Chair. America is a stronger country when everybody votes, and we are going to keep fighting to achieve that goal!” 

Bernstein added to Shapiro’s elation over Tolkan’s appointment, saying, “There’s no one better than Jessy Tolkan to take over the role of HeadCount Board Chair this year. She is a true activist, and has shown a lifetime of commitment to fighting for democracy. We’re extremely grateful to Peter and the game-changing dedication he brought to the position.”He went on to add, “With Peter still being an active member of the Board and Jessy as our new Board Chair, we are incredibly well positioned for the future.” 

Tolkan is also highly regarded and respected for her work as Executive Director of the Energy Action Coalition, which saw a generation-wide movement of millennials towards the frontlines of a national and international debate on climate change while under her leadership–along with her work as the Co-Executive Director of the Citizen Engagement Laboratory and Senior Advisor to the Working Families Party.

Notably, Tolkan has served as a board member of HeadCount for over a decade while working with other leading social change organizations across the United States, including The Women’s Forum for the Economy & Society, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, GetEqual, 1sky,, Groundswell, Web of Change, Wellstone Action and Global Witness.

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