Every member of a nonprofit’s team has an important role in advocacy, even if it’s not included in their assigned responsibilities. If you work or volunteer for a nonprofit, then you are most likely passionate about its cause and in a prime position to advocate on its behalf. Whether you’re a regular at legislative hearings, or you just want to tell your friends why your nonprofit’s services are so valuable, having the right tools will help you deliver your message successfully.

Five key skills for excellence in advocacy:

Show your passion – How often have you been in a situation where someone is trying to pitch you on a product or idea and it’s obvious they don’t really believe in it themselves? The first thing you do is question their real motive. Next, you tune them out. As an advocate for your organization’s mission you’ll be effective when you let your passion for the cause shine through. This is one time when it’s great to wear your heart on your sleeve!

Know your subject – You need to make a case for your issue or cause, and you need to be able to respond to questions and objections. Know everything about what your nonprofit does, who it serves, how it makes an impact, so you can speak with authority. Not only will you be more effective, you’ll position yourself as an expert that your audience can rely on for the future.

Practice diplomacy – This one can sometimes be the hardest. When you are trying to win someone over, avoid getting angry and steer away from insults. As an advocate you want to build support for your cause. Skilled advocates understand the difference between stating a case and starting an argument. You’ll make more progress by practicing the art of patience and showing respect for differing opinions.

Be persistent – If diplomacy is the art of patience, persistence is the art of stamina. It doesn’t always come naturally – most of us are uncomfortable with confrontation. As an effective advocate, you’ll want to demonstrate an ability to overcome obstacles, avoid showing frustration, don’t be discouraged when success does not come easily and don’t give up.

Communicate well – Advocates often need to make their case around complex issues that may stir up strong reactions. Perhaps the most critical skill for excellence in advocacy is to be an effective communicator. Here is where practice is most important. If you need to speak in public, try stating your case in front of a friendly audience first and ask for constructive feedback. With written communications, get started early, organize your thoughts and make sure a fresh set of eyes reads what you’ve written before it goes out. Typos are not an advocate’s friend!

These key skills are ones we can all develop with a bit of practice. The more tools in your toolbox and the more you use them, the better you’ll be at doing a great job. Keep at it and you can help change the world!

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Two new positions are now open!

As we head into our 40th year, the Center plans to deepen our commitment and support of nonprofits in our region. To expand our outreach and advance our member services to the next level, the Center is adding two new staff members to our internal team.

Membership Associate
Communications Associate*


To apply: Send cover letter (REQUIRED) and resume to Taylor Strange.
*Communications Associate application also REQUIRES three (3) writing samples.

Application DEADLINE: 5:00pm on Monday, February 11, 2019.

Please help us spread the word. We encourage all qualified individuals to apply!

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In December 2018, the Center hosted a panel discussion in Prince William County entitled An Insider’s Perspective: Advocacy Efforts That Work!” The panelists included three individuals with extensive experience as staff to legislators. They shared some of their insider tips about how to make the most effective use of your time meeting with legislators to advocate for your mission and issues important to your organization.

The panelists were:

  • Philip Scranage, current Legislative Aide to Virginia State Senator Scott Surovell
  • Devon Cabot, current Vice President at Two Capitols Consulting, former Legislative Aide to Virginia State Senator Jeremy McPike and former Chief of Staff to Woodbridge District Supervisor Frank Principi (Prince William County Board of Supervisors)
  • Ross Snare, current Director of Government Affairs, Prince William Chamber of Commerce and former Legislative Aide to Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart, former Legislative Aide to Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity and former Session Aide to Majority Caucus Chairman Delegate Tim Hugo.

Strategically timed to take place in advance of the Virginia legislative session convening in January, the event drew nonprofits from the Prince William County area. However, the information shared is relevant for all nonprofits looking to advocate with elected officials. So we wanted to share some of these key tips and advice from legislative “insiders”.

8 tips to strengthen your impact when meeting with elected officials:

  1. Most important – Come Informed! Before meeting with your legislator know where he/she stands on the issue you want to discuss. If it’s a specific bill, know the status of that bill and whether your legislator agrees or disagrees with your position. Know what committees the legislator sits on and whether or not the committee has already voted on that bill. (Don’t waste the legislator’s time or yours by advocating for a bill that has already died in committee!)
  2. Be a constituent of that legislator or have a constituent with you. Legislators want most of all to hear from constituents in their own district.
  3. Build coalitions: If your organization does not have constituents in a particular legislator’s district, consider partnering with another organization that does. Note: the panelists agreed this is an effective tactic that nonprofits often fail to utilize.
  4. Quantify the impact. Effective advocates will be able to combine personal stories with quantifiable evidence of how the issue they are discussing will impact lives.
  5. Bring a “one-pager” about your organization—what you do, who you serve and why it matters. Be sure the legislator’s staff knows how to follow up with you with any questions. Offer to provide testimony if relevant.
  6. Bring an appropriate number of people. Among topics discussed was whether or not it is effective to bring large groups of people served to an advocacy meeting. Since time is so limited (and offices are so small), large groups were seen as less effective in educating a legislator about the specifics of an issue. The panelists viewed this tactic as most effective in a) relationship building with the legislator and b) engaging the people you serve. They suggested that town halls are a great opportunity to bring a large group. Panelists also felt that calls and emails stating your position on an issue are more effective than petitions.
  7. Make sure you get the Legislative Aide’s business card before you leave!
  8. Build a relationship. Most of all, our insiders emphasized the importance of building a relationship with your legislator over time. Invite them to visit your organization. Show up at their town halls, follow them on social media and send them your announcements. As one panelist put it, “If the first time you’re talking to your legislator is in Richmond, you’re doing it wrong”.

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The Center is pleased to announce the creation of South Dakota Avenue/Riggs Road Main Street.


Funded through a grant awarded by the District Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD), this new Main Street organization will utilize public-private partnerships and community volunteers to build on neighborhood assets and implement strategies to support and improve the business corridors in this area.

Targeted Riggs Park and Manor Park neighborhoods include:

  • South Dakota Avenue NE between Galloway Street and Riggs Road NE
  • Riggs Road NE between Chillum Place NE and the Metro tracks
  • 5600 Block 3rd Street NE and 5700 Block 2nd Street NE between Riggs Road and New Hampshire Avenue NE
  • 3rd Street NW between Rittenhouse Street and Sheridan Street NW

The founding Main Street Board of Directors includes leadership from the Lamond-Riggs and Manor Park communities:

Board Chair: Barbara Rogers, 2nd Vice President, Lamond-Riggs Citizens Association
Treasurer: Alison Brooks, Acting President, South Manor Neighborhood Association
Secretary: Rhonda Henderson, President, Manor Park Citizens Association

The Center will provide fiscal and organizational management, leadership and technical assistance for South Dakota Avenue/Riggs Road Main Street.

The DC Main Streets Program is administered by DSLBD and the South Dakota Avenue/Riggs Road Main Street is proud to be located in Wards 4 and 5. The Main Street Leaders, Board of Directors and all at the Center are especially grateful to District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser, Ward 5 Council member Kenyan McDuffie and DSLBD Director Kristi Whitfield for the opportunity.

For more information, please email Glen O’Gilvie, CEO, Center for Nonprofit Advancement or call 202.457.0540


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A citywide campaign to promote volunteerism and mentoring among men of color


The Center for Nonprofit Advancement and Serve DC will partner again to implement Volunteer Generation Fund 2019 and build on the success of last year's VGF 2018. The program supports the initiative My Brother's Keeper DC—Strengthening Our Community, with the goal of increasing the number of volunteer men of color working with nonprofit organizations in the District.

Through a transparent and competitive process, five (5) Washington, DC nonprofit organizations that work with boys and young men of color will be selected to participate in the Volunteer Generation Fund. Selected organizations will receive three forms of assistance:

  • One-on-one technical assistance to improve the organization's volunteer management capacity, ultimately resulting in the creation of a project plan
  • Volunteer management training for staff and their lead volunteers
  • One-time grants of $10,000 to each selected organization for planning, building and launching unique volunteer recruitment campaigns for individuals that meet their predetermined organization short and long-term needs

The application is open to any 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization­—regardless of budget size or scope of programming—based in Washington, DC. (See eligibility details below.)

Participation in the VGF program is an eight (8) month commitment (see Program Session Dates below). Selected organizations will participate in ongoing consulting, training sessions and evaluations. By the end of the fiscal year, they will be responsible for • development of volunteer descriptions • assessment of the number of volunteers hours needed • tracking how many volunteers they are able to recruit and retain • tracking the number of hours of the volunteers and • evaluating the effectiveness of their recruitment campaign.

**Application Deadline has been EXTENDED to
5pm on Wednesday, January 16, 2019**

Apply online or download the Application and submit in person or by mail.

Notifications of awards will be January 31, 2019.

For more information, see below. Or download the Full Application Packet.

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Those who attended this year’s sold out event were especially impressed with our featured guest, Soledad O’Brien.


Soledad sat down with Glen O’Gilvie, Center CEO, to talk about diversity, equity and inclusion, sharing insights from her professional experiences as a journalist, anchor and producer. She also took questions from the audience and graciously mingled with participants during the break.

Attendees heard from Phyllis Campbell Newsome Award winners, met EXCEL Award winners, caught up with colleagues and made new connections—all while dining on a delicious lunch in a bright, sunny setting with wall-to-wall windows.

Many shared favorable feedback, including one longtime Annual Celebration veteran, who claimed this year’s event to “be the best one yet.”

If you missed the event, check out the highlights and watch the video of Soledad on our Facebook!



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As President and CEO of National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA), Jo-Ann shares her perspective on leadership

Before becoming head of NLADA, Jo-Ann was the organization’s senior vice president for programs, responsible for oversight of both the civil legal aid and public defense program agendas. From 1994 to 2000, she served as director of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, widely regarded as the nation’s model defender agency.

Jo-Ann is a founder of the American Council of Chief Defenders, a leadership council of the top defender executives from across the United States, and the District of Columbia Appellate Practice Institute. Her extensive experience lecturing includes serving as a member of the visiting faculty for the Trial Advocacy Workshop at Harvard Law School. Jo-Ann received recognition from the White House as a “Champion of Change.”

Tell us about your leadership style and how this contributes to your organization’s success.

Because the quality of justice should not depend on how much money a person has, the mission of the National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) is to promote excellence in the delivery of legal services for people who cannot afford counsel.

My personal experiences stoked the flames of my passion for justice and deeply held belief in respecting the dignity of every person, regardless of their circumstances. As a young child, I learned about my father’s experiences among those who participated in desegregating the U.S. Navy during World War II. My family was raised in rural Connecticut because that is the only place in the state that would hire a young black male (my father) as a public school teacher at that time. Growing up in the first African American family in the town, I was no stranger to biting words or unfair treatment.

At bottom, justice is about treating people fairly and respectfully. As I often say to NLADA staff, it is about “treating people right”. As a standard bearer for equal justice, it is incumbent upon us to model the way, which begins with how we treat each other and extends to our members and the clients and communities that they represent. These principles ground my leadership, and are effectuated on a daily basis through listening, guiding, mentoring and encouraging creative and transformational activities that can substantially expand access to justice.

NLADA embraces leadership development as a key, cost-effective strategy for achieving our mission. We like to say that “leadership is everybody’s business”, and that it entails values, knowledge and skills that can be taught and learned. The civil legal aid initiative has increased federal grant funding for legal services by more than $30 million dollars by helping legal aid leaders expand their funding through training, information and other resources. As a strategic ally of the MacArthur Foundation’s “big bet” to reduce unnecessary incarceration by changing how America uses jails, NLADA works to support chief defenders’ ability to be transformational leaders who are playing key roles in making criminal justice systems more fair and effective.

While we rely upon the expertise of established leadership professionals and the plethora of materials that exist on “leadership”, as we work to support the development of leadership skills among staff and our member community one resource in particular, the Leadership Practices Inventory (“LPI”), continues to resonate with our organization’s core values and is a staple among the resources that we utilize to train social justice leaders.

The LPI helped to shape my early understanding of leadership as a discipline and formed the foundation of an analytical framework that continues to guide me daily. Focusing on the “Five Exemplary Leadership Practices”, inspiring a shared vision, encouraging the heart, enabling others to act and modeling the way, while continually challenging injustice and the status quo, has also served NLADA well. It has helped us to be a high performing, impactful organization as we work to ensure that low income and other vulnerable individuals have access to legal assistance to help them with basic human needs. Creating the first national Vista program for public defense programs; garnering the support of more than 250 corporate leaders to defend the Legal Services Corporation against the threat of elimination; and partnering with established organizations like the American Bar Association or a novel technology startup to increase access to justice are just a few of the many ways in which NLADA’s small but mighty staff team and dedicated national community of leaders are able to get us closer to making real the promise of justice upon which this country was founded. Believing in people, encouraging and supporting our staff, members and partners and providing opportunities for them to be their best selves – to be impactful, transformative leaders – have been essential components of our successful endeavors in expanding access to justice.

What advice would you offer for other nonprofit leaders?

Teaching and enabling others are critical components of leadership, and to be life-long teachers, we must commit to being life-long learners who embrace change. There are three aspects of this that are particularly important in our current environment.

First, in this technologically driven information age, it is more important than ever to look beyond our own communities and areas of expertise to embrace a broader, multi-disciplinary approach to our work. Technology has exponentially expanded our ability to access information and acquire knowledge. With it has come increased expectations regarding areas of mastery in defining nonprofit success, and often increased complexity in the substantive arenas upon which our missions focus. “Evidence-based” and “research-informed” practices are becoming the rule, and often the evidence or research on a particular issue of relevance will be generated in governmental or for-profit, i.e., outside of the nonprofit context. Learning and leading from a perspective that values these practices and that includes seeking knowledge and expertise that may fall outside of the nonprofit sector is becoming more critical.

Second, focusing individually and organizationally on cultural competence and skills that foster equity and inclusiveness, have always been the right things to do. In the increasingly globally-connected world, they are now becoming a business imperative, as well as a moral one.

Finally, ensuring that our efforts are carried out in organizations that effectively support a multi-generational workforce and that proactively work to develop the next generation of social justice leaders will go a long way to addressing items one and two, above. Moreover, the nonprofit sector has a key role to play in creating the peaceful, prosperous world to which we all aspire. Our outcomes will depend upon our ability to coach and train a new generation of leaders, providing them with access to knowledge gained from seasoned leaders and past history, while encouraging them to forge new and different paths to a better future.

What does this award mean for you and your organization?

The EXCEL award would support NLADA’s commitment to leadership development in the equal justice community. It would permit NLADA to more readily access the Center for Nonprofit Advancement’s (“the Center”) wealth of information and tools as a member organization, which in turn would provide new resources to pass on as we train and convene more than 3000 equal justice leaders annually. It would help NLADA encourage leaders to explore and locate leadership coaches as one way of strengthening their effectiveness. Importantly, the NLADA Board of Directors passed a resolution calling on legal aid and public defense leaders to encourage staff to take the Harvard Implicit Bias test, and to provide training that promotes diversity, equity and inclusion. The resources accompanying the award would support our continuing efforts to identify professional trainers and provide additional experience with them as we “model the way” in this challenging, but important area.

The EXCEL Award would also introduce NLADA to the Center’s extensive membership and help us expand cross-disciplinary partnerships. Society does not always look favorably upon lawyers. When people understand what the NLADA community of lawyers does, and their role in providing representation to the most vulnerable among us, they have a very different, positive reaction.

At NLADA, part of our collective vision is for everyone to understand how civil legal aid and public defense make society better. We are working to build bridges across sectors including educating nonprofit leaders to understand that advocates in the legal community who are on the frontline of justice every day share many of their social objectives, and that partnering with NLADA can maximize and leverage scarce resources. For example, it can be helpful for nonprofits that focus on homelessness to know that civil legal aid advocates often have the ability to leverage the law to keep people in their homes. If healthy communities or access to medical treatment is a nonprofit’s focus then it is worth knowing that Medical Legal Partnerships (MLPs), which are collaborations between attorneys and physicians and other healthcare professionals, are demonstrating that sometimes, the right prescription for a medical condition is a legal one. In other words, it often takes legal skills to get a landlord or employer, for example, to address issues that may have created or exacerbated a health problem. For those focused on issues of racial, gender or ethnic equality, it can be useful to know how public defense leaders and practitioners are addressing inequity in juvenile and criminal justice systems or how they are working to dismantle what is often called the “school to prison pipeline”.

Thus, in addition to supporting our work through organizational and professional development, the ability to reach the Center’s broad nonprofit constituency would provide new, invaluable opportunities to introduce NLADA’s national community of advocates to nonprofit leaders in many different disciplines. Indeed, the selection process itself already is opening up dialogues that have the potential to lead to more expansive collaborations as we work to expand justice, opportunity and equality. If that happens, we have all already won!

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As President of the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), Sarah Kambou shares her perspective on leadership

For nearly 15 years, Sarah has been at the helm of this global research institute that focuses on realizing women’s empowerment and gender equality to alleviate poverty worldwide. Under her leadership, ICRW has developed its presence in Asia and East Africa and expanded its footprint around the globe.

Sarah has served as an advisor to multilaterals, leading corporations and governments seeking to integrate gender into policies, programs and services that will advance the status of women and girls worldwide. In December 2012, President Barack Obama appointed Sarah to the President’s Global Development Council, where she served as an advisor to the Administration until January 2017. Also, in 2012, President Bill Clinton tapped Sarah to serve as an Advisor to the Clinton Global Initiative. In 2010, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appointed Sarah to represent ICRW on the U.S. Commission to UNESCO.

Tell us about your leadership style and how this contributes to your organization’s success.

ICRW is a global research institute, with a staff of about 100 people and maintaining offices in Washington DC, India, Kenya and Uganda. When times are good, my dominant leadership style tends to be participatory. I work with a very talented team of researchers, advocates and operational experts. Everyone brings capabilities, experiences and competencies to the table. Through a participatory leadership style, I am able to acknowledge the caliber of staff working at ICRW, engage them as co-creators and leverage our human capital to the greatest extent possible.

With my senior thought leaders, I seek to create an enabling environment that allows them to be their most creative and productive. I’m pretty much along for the ride — because they are awesome. My most common question to them is how can I be of help to you?

Given the size and global nature of our organization, I have less direct interaction with the mid-level and entry level bench. When I travel to our regional offices, I offer lots of one-on-one time – kind of an open mic for staff to come in and talk about things on their mind. I realized recently that because DC is my home office, I don’t create that same opportunity for staff based here. I started up Salads with Sarah, an informal chat over lunch, and that has been well received. I enjoy hearing their take on issues, getting a bead on the institutional pulse, answering questions, and talking about issues like career pathways.

With the Board, I seek to inspire excitement and commitment by communicating to Board members the unique value of the work of ICRW and the enormous impact we achieve together as a team. Yet another leadership style given who they are and their role at ICRW.

When there is an emergency or turbulence in the operating environment, I find that I assess the situation and deploy the leadership style that best suits that situation and the team I’m working with. In an emergency, it’s vital to form and coordinate an experienced team to analyze information, outline critical pathways, mobilize resources and act once a decision has been taken. Respectful tone, but participatory leadership is out of place in this kind of situation. Once fully briefed, I move into ‘telling’ mode – outline the plan, roles and responsibilities, let’s go.

So you can see, I don’t believe I have just one leadership style. While participatory leadership is my dominant style, I am actually very comfortable with several styles that I can draw upon to best address situations facing staff and the organization.

What advice would you offer for other nonprofit leaders?

  • Find what works best for you to center yourself every day. I get up early and, over my first cup of tea, I’ll quiet my mind for half an hour. It helps prepare me for the day.
  • If you haven’t yet, seek out other non-profit leaders who have levels of responsibility similar to your own, and create a safe space for you all to informally share experiences, successes and challenges, words of wisdom, whatever. You’ll find that you’ll garner the support you need to stay fresh, energized, focused and productive.
  • Take in some daily inspiration. I happen to like HBR’s Management Tips of the Day. There are days when the tip is a complete non-sequitur and of little direct help – and then there are days when the tip is so on point I wonder if the folks at HBR are clairvoyant.
  • Work/life balance is vitally important. We all know that, but we may not actually practice that principle for ourselves. I wish I had sage advice to offer – I know I’m doing better at work/life balance when I manage to get to the gym two times a week. Mind you, my goal is three times a week but that seems a bridge too far most weeks.

What does this award mean for you and your organization?

Like so many non-profits, ICRW is weathering tumultuous times. We believe deeply in the organization’s mission, and are passionate about the research we do to improve the well-being of women, girls and marginalized people living in the US and around the world. We work hard to deliver excellence. Naturally, there are moments when we must take a deep breath to deal with challenges in fundraising and policy arenas, when we are juggling external factors common in non-profit operations.

The EXCEL Award, an award bestowed by peers in the non-profit sector, is a mark of distinction. Such public recognition acknowledges our efforts as an institution and assures us – as well as our donors and partners — that we are on the right path, doing good work. We are honored to be among the finalists, and will celebrate each of the Awardees.

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As Executive Director for DC SCORES, Bethany Henderson shares her perspective on leadership

A nationally recognized social entrepreneur, Bethany assumed her leadership role with DC SCORES in 2014. An Echoing Green Fellow and a White House Fellow, Bethany’s career has spanned the social, for-profit and government sectors. While in the White House, Bethany coordinated the 2013 Youth Jobs+ initiative and participated in developing My Brother’s Keeper, a public-private partnership focused on helping boys and young men of color get and stay on track, cradle to career.

In 2008, Bethany founded City Hall Fellows, an award-winning, nonpartisan, post-college, local government service corps, raising more than $4M to launch and build the organization during the recession. City Hall Fellows uses service-learning principles to prepare young people to take active civic leadership roles in their own hometowns.

Tell us about your leadership style and how this contributes to your organization’s success.

I believe in the wisdom of a well-known African proverb: “if you want to go far, go together.” My leadership style is shared leadership. To me, shared leadership means empowering all members of a team by giving each an opportunity to assume leadership and ownership over their area(s) of expertise. It does not mean I abdicate responsibility for setting a clear organizational direction or strategy or for making difficult decisions. Nor does it mean that I have created a work environment of a bunch of individuals running around doing their own thing.

Rather, my style involves intentionally empowering both our organizational departments as a whole and every member of our team to operate to their maximum potential and capacity, both individually and together.

Shared leadership is not something I simply talk about, or even just model, it is an ethos baked into the way we operate. For example, our team (staff and Board) together developed, and now utilize, a structured strategic decision making tool to inform significant decisions. That tool expressly requires input from all staff with specific, relevant knowledge, regardless of that staffer’s job title, tenure or “level.”

Likewise, we’ve built a teamwork culture that not only values all people speaking up and managing up, down and across, but also that empowers them too. I’ve instituted the practice that all new staff members go to “managing up and across” training and new supervisors go to “managing staff” training (we’re partial to The Management Center’s trainings).

All staff members are trained in the leadership compass, which creates a common language for communication that makes it easier for them to both express their needs in the workplace and meet others’ needs in ways that keep any feeling of personal attacks or affronts out of it. In fact, we all (me included!) display our compass points on our office doors or desk nameplates.

Another example is that we have an open calendar policy – every single person who works at DC SCORES, from the intern to me, can see everyone else’s calendars. We aggressively and consistently document notes from team meetings, Board committee meetings, project meetings, and more in a Google Drive structure that allows all relevant staff and Board members 24/7 access to materials and institutional knowledge they need, while still allowing senior management to control access to specific documents or document collections for privacy reasons.

Another example is that staff is invited (and actively encouraged) to attend the first half hour of every Board meeting and have dinner with the Board. At each Board meeting, different staff members stay to share their work directly with the Board.

Finally, while I often sit in on various department and event planning meetings, my public role in those environments (and at our major events) is as team member not project leader. The project or event leaders publicly lead the department meetings or events.

I could go on, but these examples at least give you a flavor of how I operationalize shared leadership. This contributes to DC SCORES’ success in myriad ways. First, it keeps me out of micro-managing situations where other staff have far more expertise than I do, while ensuring that staff come to me when issues that impact our organizational, financial, or governance strategy arise. This ensures organizational activities move forward efficiently without bureaucratic bottlenecks, while at the same time ensuring we keep our strategic focus.

Second, it allows us to do much more with fewer people than would be possible if staff felt compelled to go through laborious hierarchical decision-making processes for routine activities.

Third, it has empowered staff to experiment within their areas of expertise – resulting in important new initiatives for us like the “Our Words Our City” poetry series (featuring our most talented spoken-word artists), and far more efficient and effective site-management protocols that leverage technology and data (instead of just informal “boots on the ground” observations) to improve program quality.

Finally, it has allowed staff to be comfortable speaking with Board members directly, and vice-versa, without me in the middle. This has resulted in Board members feeling more connected to the organization, staff feeling more valued, and a greater comprehension by both Board and staff of what the other group does on behalf of DC SCORES.

What advice would you offer for other nonprofit leaders?

Effective, efficient, usable infrastructure really matters. Solid infrastructure coupled with clear north stars for which staff are held accountable keeps the team mission-focused, provides early warning signals about potential challenges, increases efficiency, facilitates being a learning organization, and smoothes personnel transitions by retaining institutional knowledge. However, at the end of the day, it’s all about the people. Without passionate, dedicated, curious, committed people at all levels of a nonprofit – people who wholeheartedly buy into the cause, who feel part of the team, who feel ownership over the impact – even the best systems will fail.

I urge nonprofit leaders to spend as much time on your people as on systems and fundraising. To me, spending time on people means being very intentional about building the right team when hiring; empowering staff to be successful leaders in their own specialties/functions; supporting staff when they stumble; keeping abreast of individual staffer’s strengths, growth opportunities, and career goals; openly taking responsibility for your own mistakes or missteps and setting a public example for how to handle them; and meaningfully engaging staff in constructively tackling organizational challenges.

What does this award mean for you and your organization?

As DC SCORES approaches our 25th anniversary next year, this award would be incredible public validation and affirmation (not just for me, but for our entire team) of years of hard work to turn around an organization that means so much to many, and to set it up for success for the next 25 years.

Six weeks into my tenure, at the beginning of a new fiscal year, DC SCORES experienced the unanticipated loss of a significant funder (due to the funder’s unannounced shift in focus away from children). This was not a problem I created, nor was a turnaround that I had been hired to do. After much deliberation, I decided to take a chance on leading DC SCORES through that crisis and, after much deliberation, the Board decided to take a chance on me doing so successfully.

Four years — and countless difficult decisions and long days later — I’m very proud that DC SCORES not only survived, but is thriving with stronger infrastructure, better financial controls, a highly-engaged governing and fundraising Board, much-improved fundraising capacity and success, and as high-quality programming as ever. In that time we’ve also grown substantially and, as importantly, sustainably – serving nearly 70% more children/year (nearly 3,000 total) at 40% more sites (65 total), and launching multiple new program streams (including Jr. SCORES for K-2 students; a rec center soccer league co-run with DPR; and enhanced spoken word and soccer programming for uniquely talented children).

It also would be meaningful external affirmation of DC SCORES’ commitment to be not just an impactful, but a sustainable, trustworthy long-term presence in the neighborhoods we serve and in kids’ lives. Our waitlist continues to grow, even as we add new sites to our roster. This award will validate for prospective funders that DC SCORES is an investment worthy of their resources – which we hope will ultimately allow us to serve more kids who need us.

Finally, but no less importantly, this award will be a morale boost to our 200+ community-based coaches. Approximately 80% of our coaches are schoolteachers or school administrative or support staff doing second shift with us. While we do pay and train our coaches, they don’t coach for the money. They coach because they care about kids, because they care about their school community, and because they believe DC SCORES’ unique model significantly improves both individual child outcomes and, at the same time, significantly strengthens the entire school community. As I publicly tell coaches at every opportunity, they are the real heroes, they are the real change-makers here, not me, and my job is to make sure our coaches have all the tools, infrastructure and resources they need to focus on the kids without distraction. Knowing that the Center and other “outsiders” recognize the intentional efforts we make at DC SCORES to put coaches and kids first will feel uplifting to our coaches, reinforcing that “outsiders” value my commitment to them and their commitment to DC’s most vulnerable kids.

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As Executive Director of The Veterans Consortium (TVC), Edmund “Ed” Glabus shares his perspective on leadership

During Ed’s tenure, TVC has been inducted into the Catalogue for Philanthropy as “One of the Best” charities, has been recognized as “Best in America” with the annual Seal of Approval by America’s Most Cost-Effective Charities, and has been awarded an Equal Justice Works grant to fund a two-year project meeting the legal needs of veterans impacted by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries (TBI).

Bringing over two decades of senior leadership experience to his role, Ed works with TVC’s Board of Directors, mission partners, headquarters staff and a nationwide volunteer corps of more than 2,500 attorneys and related pro bono professionals, building the capacity and capabilities of TVC to meet the needs of veterans and their families, caregivers, and survivors.

Tell us about your leadership style and how this contributes to your organization’s success.

As a veteran, I can sum up my leadership style as “leadership by example.” To me, this means

  • don’t ask your team to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself
  • always model the behavior you’d like to see in others, and
  • find out what the team really needs to be successful in their jobs

I think that this leadership style, plus providing professional development opportunities for our team, empowers our staff to provide more clients quality pro bono legal services—the best way for us to succeed.

What advice would you offer for other nonprofit leaders?

I would recommend that nonprofit leaders not be afraid to ask for advice and help. Although it’s not efficient to do everything by committee, “none of us is as smart as all of us,” and the solution to some very difficult challenges can come from the most surprising sources in our professional and personal networks.

What does this award mean for you and your organization?

Being selected as a finalist for the Center for Nonprofit Advancement’s EXCEL award provides an excellent opportunity to sing the praises of our stakeholders, our board, our staff, and especially our volunteer attorneys, paralegals, and related pro bono professionals. In addition to recognizing our team’s successes, winning the EXCEL award would provide even more validation of our operations and results. I believe it would be a mark of our program’s quality as we conduct outreach to veterans and their loved ones, mission partners and new volunteers.

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