Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Alumna Sanders transforming Milwaukee nonprofit Safe & Sound

Former FBI Director James Comey and Safe & Sound Executive Director Katie Sanders (MIPA '05) Former FBI Director James Comey and Safe & Sound Executive Director Katie Sanders (MIPA '05)

Led by Katie Sanders (MIPA ’05), the nonprofit organization Safe & Sound has increased its profile in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and beyond.

Most recently, numerous prominent Milwaukeeans lent their support during Safe & Sound’s Award Gala, which raised $200,000 in a single night. A few months earlier, Safe & Sound received the 2016 FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award for its proven record of improving safety and building safe and empowered neighborhoods.

“Too often, we look to law enforcement to solve problems and overlook the incredible importance of residents and community members in public safety,” she said. “It’s an honor to serve my community, my city, and my colleagues at this special organization.”

During her first year as executive director of Safe & Sound, Sanders led the implementation of a new strategic plan for Safe & Sound, transforming the organization from a focus on after-school programming for at-risk youth to a community-safety team model that emphasizes improving relationships between law enforcement and the community.

Sanders also changed Safe & Sound’s revenue model to one that is less reliant on government sources, which has resulted in a 300 percent increase in private support. Each year, Safe & Sound serves more than 20,000 Milwaukee residents and 7,000 youth through 3,000 front-door conversations and over 1,000 community events and activities in high-need neighborhoods.

Currently, Sanders is working with a group of La Follette School students in the Evidence-Based Policy Making course on a case study for Safe & Sound.

“Katie’s collaborative, data-driven work to improve community safety exemplifies our alumni’s role in realizing the mission of the La Follette School — using policy analysis skills and tools to make the world a better place,” said Associate Director Hilary Shager (MPA ’05, PhD ’12), who teaches Evidence-Based Policy Making.

A Milwaukee native, Sanders joined Safe & Sound in 2013 as its development director. Six months later, the Board named her interim executive director; and in 2014, it hired her into the permanent position after a national search.

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, a member of Safe & Sound’s Board of Directors, has been a strong advocate. “Safe & Sound is essential to preventing crime and violence through collaborative problem-solving for safe neighborhoods,” Chisholm said.

Safe & Sound was established in 1998 as a pilot initiative to reduce violent crime in Milwaukee through strong public-private partnerships, which was the topic of Sanders’ capstone project at the La Follette School. Safe & Sound is unique to Milwaukee, but recently launched a technical assistance program to help other cities building community-based public safety programs.

“Public servants have the opportunity and responsibility to improve the community,” said Sanders, who also received a bachelor’s degree in international relations from UW–Madison. “Safe & Sound operates at the intersection of policy and practice, and it’s an exciting opportunity to see how the research plays out in community work on a daily basis.”