01 Aug August is Here. What are Non-Profit Leaders Thinking About in Summer?
If you live on the planet Earth, you probably know that Olaf the snowman from Frozen longs for summer – and is desperate to find out “what happens to solid water when it gets warm” too. Non-profit leaders certainly won’t melt, but the pressures they are under are quite real and the question of what to do “in summer” is a big one, I asked some prominent non-profit leaders what they are using August for as a way of getting some ideas we can all put to use – but also as a way of trying to shed a little light on these significant colleagues and their voices at a critical moment. Take the opportunity to get inspired and maybe reflect a bit on how you are using this precious time.
When Robert Lewis, Jr. became the Nicholas President & CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston in 2022 an era of big ideas and high impact was certain. A year and a half later, with summer at hand, here is this community icon’s response about how he is using his August time. “I’m using and leveraging my August to launch our 5 year Strategic Plan and building the capacity to ensure its success. Evaluating the infrastructure and needs moving forward while hiring and building a strong leadership team. Also, I’ve committed to spend my Mondays with my family particularly my granddaughters.”
Likely readers of this piece will surely agree that earth is suffering from human choices that are driving climate change; and that business and finance are at the center of any viable solution. Enter Mindy Lubber who lives in that precise space as CEO and President of Ceres, the influential non profit advancing equitable and market-based policy solutions. “Working with a bit of vacation from Cape Cod — biggest challenge is staying off of all major media — is it possible? Can one relax and restore while living the civil divide of our country? Can we let ourselves wind down while democracy and climate burn? Let’s see if I can bury myself in summer beach book reading? Not likely…”
When Eneida Róman talks about the social and economic impact of the diverse talent in the Latin community – she exudes confidence and seriousness of purpose. Amplify Latinx, which she co-created and leads as President & CEO has come a long way from the cafecitos, or “little coffees” that were its gathering model in 2012. Amplify now cuts a prominent profile as a civic and business leadership platform. “We are using August to prep for Hispanic Heritage Month” says Eneida, “which runs from September 15 to October 15 every year. September 14 we launch our inaugural ALX100 festivities to celebrate 100 Latinx change-makers across Massachusetts. We’re also curating an exhibition to travel across the state highlighting the contributions of the 100 honorees.”
As a leader, a founder and a transformationally oriented thinker who backs up her point of view with consequential and intentional choices, Maria Jobin-Leeds is also reputed to be a prolific grower of both food and flowers. “I enjoy August for getting to that folder of thought requiring emails, to give them some attention, reflections and perhaps institute new ideas. At the Partnership for Democracy and Education, we’re putting some deliberate focus on Collaborative Partnerships, defining them, describing them and making a point to connect. Lots of coffee, iced tea and morning walks with the people we create change with.” Maria is Chair of the Partnership for Democracy and Education, Board Chair and Investment Chair of Access Strategies Fund and Founder of Maria’s List.
Imari K. Paris Jeffries is Executive Director of a fairly new institute focused on racial justice called Embrace Boston which, in January, unveiled a new landmark statue on the Boston Common (“The Embrace”) commemorating the contributions and local ties of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, and Coretta Scott King. Then Imari led the Embrace Ideas Festival in June and was awarded his PhD in Higher Education Administration from UMass Boston. “Recreation has recreate in it. As a new tradition, I will use the month of August for recreation so that I have the psychic and physical energy to recreate in my work!”
For Pamela Donaldson the bottom line on summer is simple: “I love this time of year,” she says. Pamela is Director of the Office of Equity and Inclusion at Facing History and Ourselves. “August is a time for me to reset from summer professional learning we’ve done for educators. I’ve been reviewing some of their feedback and some interactions with educators in this current political climate. It’s provided me time to reflect on how to engage adult learners online. It has me thinking about meeting folks were they are in their identity development. It’s also a time to gather our teams to begin the thinking and strategy for new products.”
Dan Cohen is President of Cause Partners which he created to bring national non-profits together with corporate partners to support their work and collaborate on increasing impact. “I’ve often found it productive to zig when others are zagging. So, when I hear that August is a “slow month” and not a good time to do outreach, I step up my efforts to connect with companies to talk about potential partnerships with nonprofit clients with whom they’re well aligned. Right now I am seeing real urgency around health equity and food insecurity and that motivates me to get the job done whatever month it is.””
The urgency Deb Kardon brings to her role as Executive Director of Action for Post-Soviet Jewry is quite real. A large part of the constituency she serves is in Ukraine. “As the executive director of a Jewish nonprofit in August, I find myself in a balancing act. I long to savor the idyllic and long summer days, but the reality of a hectic fall season of Jewish holidays demands my attention. I spend my time on strategic plans and taking care of all the logistics required for a successful year ahead. The never-ending and unpredictable war in Ukraine adds an additional layer of complexity. I strive for a blend of the sweetness of summer while dealing with the work and planning for the future.”
When the Builders of Color Coalition got the resources to bring its ambitious agenda to new heights you could feel the impact in the Boston commercial real estate and construction community.. As Executive Director, Colleen Fonseca has focused that energy and the talent with impressive results. “This August we are taking the time to evaluate our programs in depth – reconnecting with our network – and making adjustments as necessary to our annual goals and work plan. August is typically a slower month, so we like to use the time to touch base with partners and prepare for the Fall.”
Leads is a learning and action network of movers and shakers from the so-called “Gateway Cities” in eastern Massachusetts. Led by President Derek Mitchell, participating leaders are immersing themselves in a serious developmental process designed to drive positive economic and social impact, Mitchell brings community based leadership and rigorous principles of entrepreneurship together with the goal of strengthening civic infrastructure. For him, “August is a time when we transition from one program year to another (and shift cohorts we are running along the way), while also delivering alumni programming. With warm weather and many people out of the office, some projects inevitably get put on hold while others come into focus as the day to day routine is thrown out the window and the mind can plan and map for the future.”
Greg Stoller opened the door to get me a chance to teach at the college level. Not enough of us remember how significant a simple act like that can be and I am forever grateful. As for Greg – he opens the door to learning and success for his students like nobody else – and nobody is as great a champion of the students at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business as he is. Here’s what is on Master Lecturer & Director of Case Competitions Stoller’s plate in August: “I am spending my August working on two very large case competitions, one domestically and one internationally. I’m also finalizing case studies that I’m writing, booking guest speakers for my classes and finalizing the syllabi I’ll use with my students.”
Valerie Frias is a veteran non-profit leader, presently the Executive Director of Ethos, which is “dedicated to promoting independence, dignity and well-being among the elderly and disabled through quality, affordable and culturally-appropriate home and community-based care.” Having led important organizations like Greater Boston PFLAG and played leadership roles in the Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights among other great organizations, she is a professional who knows something about focus. Her answer? “Preparing for our 50th anniversary gala on 9/28 at Fenway Park!”
“For the Groundwork USA network, August is when our community gardens begin to explode with fresh produce, newly planted trees make it more comfortable to play outside or wait for the bus, and neighbors come together to design new parks and trails. We can keep cool while admiring our historic buildings from new vantage points, and our youth travel to places like Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park to explore and build new skills in conservation. With the release this month of our 2022 Network Impact Report, I am focused on telling the story of how we restore the urban environment and create healthier, more just, places to live, work, and play.” Heather McMann, CEO, Groundwork USA.
Andy Tarsy is on a mission to empower leading organizations to increase their impact. In the non-profit sector, he is a former lawyer and chief executive – and is presently a Trustee of the Benjamin Franklin Cummings Institute of Technology where he chairs the Governance and Strategy Committee. Day to day Andy is a coach, advisor and consultant to business and non-profit leaders. He is a principal in two strategy firms focused on increasing social impact Emblem Strategic and Conscious Customers and he teaches at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business.