Gara is a longtime advocate for human rights and social justice. He is a Leader in Residence at the Colin Powell School of Civic and Global Leadership at City College of the City University of New York, and Senior Adviser to The Raben Group, as well as a consultant to a number of human rights and social justice organizations and leaders.
From 2013 to 2021 he served as President of The Democracy Alliance, a group of donors and movement leaders who provide millions of dollars to strengthen progressive organizations, causes and campaigns. During his tenure, the membership of the Alliance has grown and the group has played a critical role in aligning donors to focus on economic inclusion, democracy reform, climate change and equity, and established funding collaboratives to advance civic engagement in states by communities of color and grassroots campaigns for economic fairness and a healthy environment.
From 2007 to 2011, Gara was President and Chief Executive Officer of The Atlantic Philanthropies, an international foundation focused on aging, children and youth, health, and human rights operating in Australia, Bermuda, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, South Africa, the United States, and Viet Nam. During his tenure at Atlantic, the foundation made the largest grant ever made by a foundation for an advocacy campaign – over $25 million – to press for comprehensive health care reform in the U.S., embraced a social justice framework for grantmaking, and worked closely with governments in several of its geographies to take advantage of opportunities to achieve changes in HIV/AIDS and nursing policies in South Africa, civic engagement and democratic reform in Ireland, a more secure peace in Northern Ireland, and many other areas.
Before joining Atlantic in April 2007, Gara served as Vice President and Director of U.S. Programs for the Open Society Institute (OSI), a foundation established by philanthropist George Soros. He joined OSI in 1996 to launch its U.S. Programs, which focus on challenges to social justice and democracy. During his tenure there, OSI (since renamed the Open Society Foundations) became the leading funder of criminal justice reform, launched and supported a number of fellowship programs in justice, law, medicine and community engagement, established an office critical in the revitalization of Baltimore, and helped create and foster a network of urban high school debate leagues.