Koube Ngaaje

Executive Director
District Alliance for Safe Housing, Inc (DASH)

Koube is leading a new phase of growth and innovation marked by increased revenue, expanded programming, a focus on monitoring and evaluation, and several awards and honors. Under Koube’s leadership, DASH has grown from a $3.1M organization in 2017 to a $8M organization in FY2022, growing individual contributions by 7.5x and corporation support by 2.8x in just four years. Previously, Koube was the Chief Operating Officer at the Arlington Food Assistance Center. There, she oversaw a dramatic expansion in staff and services, successfully providing more than 900,000 pounds of groceries each week to more than 6,000 people in need at 18 different distribution centers. Koube was appointed to and serves on the DC Access to Justice Commission and the DC Interagency Council on Homelessness; and serves on the Board of the Alliance for Housing Solutions, a non-profit organization working to increase affordable housing in Arlington County and Northern Virginia. She is a member of the Leadership Center for Advancement (Class of 2015) and Leadership Greater Washington (Class of 2020).

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

My leadership style is very much like my personality – transparent, open, quietly loud, playful, and firmly anchored in ensuring we sustainably achieve excellence in our mission and margin. It is mostly influenced by our people – board, staff, clients, family, and community. And by an unwavering commitment to integrity and using our collective power to create systems-level change that chip away at the “starvation cycle” that is so common in the nonprofit sector.

On any given day as DASH’s chief executive, I am called to be an emotional container for dismantling trauma, a business owner, a student, a fundraiser, an advocate, a change agent, a financial strategist, a system disrupter, a coach, a mentor, and most of all, a servant leader. To do so, I am intentional in surrounding myself professionally and personally with people from all walks of life who aren’t afraid to challenge conventional practices, extend a hand when needed, and lean into discomfort.

This curated community of collective leadership has made it possible for me to lead DASH through an incredible period of transformation financially, strategically, and operationally. Effectively, growing DASH from a $3.1M organization in 2017 to a $6M+ organization in 2021 with expanded programming to seven services that operate together as a true continuum to better meet the needs of over 3,000+ survivors and children annually.

What advice would you offer for other nonprofit leaders?

As many nonprofit leaders working in direct social and human services will tell you, this work is hard, and it takes a toll. Especially when layered with the COVID-19 pandemic and the systemic barriers and inequities inherent in our societal constructs. To this end, I would offer some of the advice that I am trying to follow myself.

Hit the pause button long enough to ask what YOU need as a leader to be the best version of yourself, for you and the organization. And then ask for it – no apologies.

Take that 3-week vacation you’ve been putting off; ask for help when you need it; have that honest conversation with funders about the true cost of holistic services and what trauma-informed funding looks like; intentionally interrupt patterns that no longer serve you well; pause to assess what priorities can be shifted – and shift them; calendar time to laugh until you have tears in your eyes; build and lift up your tribe; and thank yourself (honestly).

You are terrific, and if no one has told you today, you are enough.

What does this award mean for you and your organization?

August 2021 marked my fourth anniversary as DASH’s Chief Executive. As I reflected on this incredible milestone, the journey, remarkable successes, and failures (yes, we had several failures along the way), I have been filled with gratitude and pride. Each year saw big wins, and we somehow managed to fit in 10+ years’ worth of effort and impact into this seemingly impossible window of time.

Personally, and for DASH, this award is recognition of all that it took to get here. The very nature and pace of direct service non-profits mean that we rarely get a chance to celebrate the wins and the journey truly. This award allows me to do just that, and as such, is a gift I’ll forever cherish.

It also provides an opportunity to amplify DASH’s impact and visibility through targeted professional development resources to lead DASH in its next growth evolution as we consider opportunities that would see DASH grow to become a 10-15M organization by 2025.