NLC Nonprofit Leadership Conference | October 13, 2021

Announcing the 2021 NLC Leadership Conference

Team NLC News

During the past year, nonprofit leaders have risen to the challenges of our time — adjusting, reimagining and leading courageously to strengthen our communities. Now, it’s time to celebrate and chart how we’ll continue moving forward together.

Please join the Nonprofit Leadership Center on October 13, 2021, for our 11th Annual Leadership Conference, presented by Bank of America. This highly anticipated event returns in its dynamic virtual format with new features and surprises, allowing leaders to participate from anywhere in the world.

Building from our 2020 mantra to lead courageously, the 2021 conference theme is Lead Bravely. Act Boldly. — exactly what we as nonprofit leaders must do to meet the growing needs of our communities and make the impact we exist to achieve.

In the coming weeks, we’ll reveal the impressive line-up of speakers, breakout sessions and activities, all focused on how nonprofit leaders can think differently, challenge the status quo, drive innovation and lead for the future. You’ll walk away with ideas, tools and strategies that you and your team can immediately implement across the most critical topics facing our sector and society.

In the meantime, get excited for not one, but TWO, phenomenal keynote speakers who will energize and inspire you to lead bravely and act boldly.

Meet the 2021 Keynote Speakers

NLC 2021 Leadership Conference Keynote Speaker Dr. Shirley Davis

Dr. Shirley Davis

Dr. Shirley Davis is a seasoned HR and diversity and inclusion global thought leader, senior executive, certified leadership coach, and former chief diversity and inclusion officer for several Fortune 100 companies. Dr. Davis is the author of the best-selling books, Reinvent Yourself: Strategies for Achieving Success in Every Area of Your Life” and The Seat: How to Get Invited to the Table When You’re Over-Performing and Undervalued. She has been a featured expert on NBC’s The Today Show, USA Today, National Public Radio, The Wall Street Journal, Essence Magazine, Black Enterprise Magazine, The Washington Post, and Inclusion Magazine

As president and CEO of SDS Global Enterprises, Inc., a woman and minority-owned C-Corporation headquartered in Tampa Bay, she works with leaders to create more inclusive and high-performing workplaces where all talent can thrive.

NLC 2021 Leadership Conference Keynote Speaker Jon Acuff

Jon Acuff

Jon Acuff is the New York Times bestselling author of seven books, including his newest release, Soundtracks: The Surprising Solution to Overthinking. He’s an INC Magazine Top 100 Leadership Speaker and has spoken to hundreds of thousands of people at conferences and companies around the world, including FedEx, Nissan, Microsoft, Lockheed Martin, Chick-fil-A, Nokia, and Comedy Central. His large and highly engaged social media following of 600,000 across channels look to him for his unique blend of humor, honesty and hope.  

Secure Your Spot

The NLC Leadership Conference is the premier event for anyone who works for a nonprofit, wants to work for a nonprofit, serves as a nonprofit board leader or partners with nonprofits. Join hundreds of nonprofit and business leaders to learn from and connect with each other as we work to strengthen our skills, our organizations and our communities.

Ticket options are available for individuals and teams.

Register for the NLC 2020 Leadership Conference Now

Thank You to Our Sponsors

NLC’s Leadership Conference would not be possible without the generous support of our passionate partners that believe in the importance and impact of our nonprofit community. We’d like to extend a special thank-you to our presenting sponsor Bank of America, our lead conference supporter every year since the conference began in 2011.

If you’re interested in learning more about sponsorship opportunities, contact Tess Plotkin.

Be the first to hear about 2021 Leadership Conference announcements and other upcoming events for nonprofit leaders by signing up for our email list. Be sure to also follow the Nonprofit Leadership Center on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter.

Introducing the Certificate in Nonprofit Management Class of 2022

Meet the 27 Nonprofit Leaders in the 2021 Certificate in Leadership Program

Team NLC News

Nonprofit leadership has never been more important — or more challenging — than it is in the present moment. As needs increase along with mounting uncertainty, leadership is the key for stronger organizations and communities. To prepare the next generation of nonprofit professionals to lead our ever-changing sector forward, the Nonprofit Leadership Center created the Certificate in Leadership program. This unique, 10-week learning experience brings together nonprofit leaders who are new to managing people or programs in an inclusive, collaborative environment to develop the qualities and skills necessary to lead with authenticity and impact. The program is made possible with generous support from Florida Blue.

As the second Certificate in Leadership class kicks off today, we’re thrilled to introduce you to the 27 outstanding nonprofit leaders who will be part of the 2021 program. Participants were nominated to apply by leaders in their organization or community, and then their applications were reviewed as part of a rigorous selection process.

Meet the Certificate in Leadership Class of 2021

Meet the 2021 Certificate in Leadership Class

  • Kari Allen, Program Manager, Champions for Children
  • Brittany Armstrong, Project Manager, MacDonald Training Center
  • Delacy Boudreaux, Rapid Rehousing Program Manager, The Spring of Tampa Bay
  • Erica Braham, Equity Operations Manager, Tampa Bay Healthcare Collaborative  
  • Monica Brimm, Program Director, St. Petersburg Free Clinic
  • Morgan Brochetti, Vice President of Marketing & Communications, Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties
  • Olivia Chopra, Director of Operations/Head Start Manager, Redlands Christian Migrant Association
  • Ashly Delaney, Director of Shelter Services, Sunrise of Pasco County, Inc.
  • Antoinette Hagley, Chief Clinical Officer, DACCO Behavioral Health, Inc.
  • Delicia Hargrove, Director, Boys & Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay  
  • Allison Hedrick, Executive Director, Outreach Free Clinic and Resource Center
  • Ricardo Henriquez, Vice President Neighborhood Initiatives, United Way Suncoast
  • Cindy Horwitz, Endorsement Coordinator, Florida Association for Infant Mental Health
  • Patrick Jackson, Adult Education Associate & Corporate Manager, American Stage Theatre Company
  • Kristina Lawler, Board Member/Volunteer, Tampa Bay Abortion Fund
  • Jennifer Malin, Senior Director, Strategic Communications, Community Foundation of Tampa Bay
  • Keara McGraw, Program Manager, Social Venture Partners Tampa Bay
  • Heather McMillan, Senior Operations Manager, Tampa Bay Wave
  • Chris Noble, Programs Director, Seniors in Service
  • Kelly Obarski, Ed.D, Director of Program Services, Boys & Girls Club of the Suncoast
  • Darla Otey, Executive Director, Girls, Inc. of Pinellas
  • Nora Paine, President, New Tampa Players
  • Reunika “Marie” Parham, Volunteer Manager, Hope Villages of America  
  • Katie Roders Turner, Director of Operations, The Family Healthcare Foundation
  • Brian Rothey, Associate Vice President of Adult Community Programs, PARC, Inc.
  • Dallas Ruffin, Big Futures Supervisor, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay
  • Nicole Tegge, Inventory Manager, Feeding Tampa Bay

See the first Certificate in Leadership Class of 2020 here.

Powered Through Partnership

NLC’s Certificate in Leadership program is possible thanks to generous support from Florida Blue.

NLC and Florida Blue logos: A partnership to develop emerging nonprofit leaders in Tampa Bay

Learn More about the Impact of the Certificate in Leadership

Graduates from the 2020 Certificate in Leadership report measurable increases in skills that are critical for long-term success and impact:

  • After the program, 100% of participants agreed they could respond authentically to the changes and challenges facing today’s nonprofit leaders, up from 59% before the program began.
  • Participants’ ability to understand themselves and manage their organizational responsibilities increased from 88% to 100% from the beginning to the end of the program.
  • 100% of participants agreed they understood their leadership style and could develop a plan to enhance their skills after the program, up from 77% before the program began.

Learn more about NLC’s Certificate in Leadership program here. For questions and more information about the new Certificate in Leadership, contact us at or 813-287-8779.

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7 Traits of Emotionally Intelligent Leaders

7 Traits of Emotionally Intelligent Leaders

John Loblack, Ed.D. Tips

What does it mean to be an emotionally intelligent leader?

Emotionally intelligent leaders possess seven important qualities that spell out the word LEADERS.

L is for listening. Emotionally intelligent leaders place a higher value on listening than they do talking.

E is for equipping. Emotionally intelligent leaders equip their employees with the tools and resources necessary to fulfill their positions’ requirements effectively.

A is for appreciation. Emotionally intelligent leaders appreciate the people they work with and invest time, effort and money to show their gratitude.

D is for developing. Emotionally intelligent leaders know their employees are their most important asset. They consistently create development opportunities to help their people grow and advance.

E is for enlisting. Emotionally intelligent leaders enlist support from others because they know that their employees and team members are critical to implementing change effectively and efficiently.

R is for relationships. Emotionally intelligent leaders understand that their success or failure rests on the quality of their relationships with others. They invest heavily in building and deepening those professional relationships.

S is for service. Emotionally intelligent leaders realize that they must first give the most to their employees to get the most from employees. They constantly seek ways to serve their employees instead of waiting on employees to serve them.

Now that you know some of the qualities of emotionally intelligent LEADERS, are you in this category? What steps might you take to increase your emotional intelligence?

READ NEXT: Three Things Emotionally Intelligent Leaders Say

Become a More Emotionally Intelligent Leader

Emotional intelligence isn’t something you’re born with; it can be learned. Join the Nonprofit Leadership Center and Dr. John Loblack for his upcoming training class Navigating Change with a Growth Mindset. You’ll learn how to become better at interacting with, motivating and collaborating with others. Explore how a growth mindset approach empowers teams to collaborate, innovate and take risks and use it to create/sustain a positive workplace culture.

John Loblack

John Loblack, an accomplished, change-oriented human development expert who motivates nonprofit leaders to drastically increase their individual and organizational value. Read more about John.

Sign up to receive info about upcoming classes and the latest news exclusively for nonprofit leaders.

Silencing the Stories in Our Heads | NLC

When It’s Not Good to Be a Great Storyteller — How to Reject the False Stories in Your Head

Ellen Nastir, M.Ed., PCC, BCC, CPCC Tips

One of the best gifts I received during 2020 was reconnecting with a long-lost friend on the final day of that challenging year. Time melted away as we spoke on the phone for more than an hour, catching up on nearly two decades as if no time had passed at all.

While the reason we lost touch doesn’t matter, what does matter is the story I told myself about it.

After losing contact with my friend for many years, I found her on Facebook. I sent her several messages but did not receive a response. I told myself she didn’t want to communicate with me and wasn’t interested in being my friend. In my desperate desire to have a reason for her unresponsiveness, I concocted a story in my head that put me at fault — she must be sick of hearing about the current challenges in my life and need a break.

At the time, it never dawned on me that she had a lot going on in her personal life that took her attention away from social media and being responsive. I was so focused on myself that I didn’t stop to consider the other reasons for her silence. When we don’t have an answer for an issue that’s nagging us, we tend to make up stories in our heads — often fraught with incorrect assumptions or reflecting insecurities buried deep within ourselves.

Silencing the false stories in your head

This time, my friend reached out to me, I replied, she responded, and the rest is history.

Creating internal stories about interactions or situations, especially those at work, can be detrimental to our emotional health, team morale and productivity. You might tell yourself that the curtness of the email from your supervisor means she doesn’t value your work when in reality, she is struggling to balance responsiveness while juggling two kids at home who need help with virtual school.

Have you ever made up a story because you wanted to assign a reason to something that’s actually far from the truth? Even as a life coach and positive psychology expert, I can still fall back into taking things personally. It’s called being human.

The next time you find yourself beginning to hatch your interpretation of why someone responded the way they did, reach out to that person to check in on them. Ask them how they are doing and gauge if there is anything you can do to help or support them. That might just be the opening to a renewed or deeper relationship.

READ NEXT: 4 Ways to Strengthen Your Mental Muscles

Boost Your Mental Fitness to Lead Bravely & Act Boldly on October 13

Join us at our 11th Annual Leadership Conference to learn how to lead bravely and act boldly. With world-renowned keynote speakers and inspiring breakout sessions, you’re sure to walk away with new tips and tools to help strengthen your organization and communities. Learn more and register now!

Register Now

About Ellen Nastir

Working hand-in-hand with nonprofits and small businesses, Ellen Nastir, M.Ed., PCC, BCC, CPCC, helps clients create more positive, appreciative and cohesive work environments. Her company, Innovative Team Solutions, works to develop employees’ people-skills to complement their technical skills and abilities. With more than 14 years of experience in training, development and entrepreneurial sales, Ellen brings a unique perspective to resolving challenges and maximizing the potential of any team. She is a certified professional co-active coach, PeopleMap trainer, virtual trainer from the International Institute for Virtual Facilitation and is certified in Positive Psychology, Change and Tension Management and Conflict Dynamics. Finding the opportunity during quarantine, Ellen is most recently obtaining certification in Positive Intelligence. 

Be the first to hear about the latest nonprofit tips, resources and training classes at NLC. Sign up to receive our weekly NLC e-newsletter to help you thrive personally and professionally. 

Welcome Meriel Martínez

Experienced Trainer and Facilitator Joins NLC as New Program Director

Team NLC News

Today, we’re pleased to announce that Meriel Martínez has joined the Nonprofit Leadership Center as our new program director, effective March 30, 2021. In this role, she will help develop and implement NLC learning experiences and programs, with an emphasis on small-group leadership circles that bring leaders together who share similar roles or goals to learn, problem-solve and succeed collaboratively. She will also oversee NLC’s efforts to advance diversity, equity and inclusion across all program areas. This new role and Meriel’s leadership reflect NLC’s continued commitment to support the evolving needs of the nonprofit sector and our communities.

Meriel learned the value and importance of community as a child. Of Puerto Rican descent, she was immersed in an affirming, culturally vibrant world during her early years. Those experiences inspired her to become a trainer and facilitator, with a specialization in diversity, equity and inclusion.

Meriel began her professional journey as an editor for a major educational publisher. Years later, a family move to Virginia presented her with the opportunity to convert her long-standing passion for equity and justice into a career. Meriel was the logistics coordinator for the Virginia Latino Higher Education Network’s 2014 Hispanic College Institute and served on their board. She joined the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities in 2015 as a trainer and facilitator, designing and facilitating educational programs on diversity, equity and inclusion for schools, workplaces and communities across the state. In 2017, Meriel moved to Tampa, where she has continued her work in community building.

Meriel earned her master’s degree in speech and interpersonal communication from New York University. She studied at both Chestnut Hill College and William Paterson University, where she completed her bachelor’s degree in communication.

“As a lifelong learner, I know we are all a work in progress. We must show grace to others and ourselves while continually seeking to learn and understand. I look forward to advancing inclusive practices and personal development with and alongside our nonprofit community.”

Meriel Martínez

When Meriel is not in the office, she’s spending time with the people she loves, most often hanging out at home, hiking or at the beach. She also loves to dance.

Please join us in welcoming Meriel Martínez to Team NLC.

Get nonprofit resources delivered to your inbox. Sign up to receive our weekly NLC e-newsletter, chock-full of valuable tips and tools to help you and your organization thrive. 

How to recruit nonprofit board members

How to Recruit Nonprofit Board Members

Emily h. Benham, CFRE, FAHP | CEO, NLC Tips

The Nonprofit Leadership Center recently asked our community of nonprofit leaders to share the most significant challenges they face related to board governance. How to recruit nonprofit board members is a resounding pain point we hear. As someone who has the great pleasure and privilege of working with nonprofit board members and CEOs to navigate the often turbulent waters of board governance, I can assure you that you’re not alone. Let’s tackle two of the most common questions we receive regarding how to recruit nonprofit board talent.

Overcoming Top Challenges to Recruit Nonprofit Board Members

Challenge #1: “People are interested in learning more but aren’t willing to commit long-term as a board member.”

Service to a nonprofit through board membership is the ultimate commitment to an organization and should not be taken lightly. In fact, it’s a good sign if someone is anticipating and taking seriously the responsibilities that come with the title. Simultaneously, this mindset can be a significant barrier to onboarding much-needed talent.

Here are a few tips to overcome this obstacle to recruiting nonprofit board members:

  • Don’t propose on your first date! Offer a few options for people to get to know your nonprofit and engage more deeply with your mission before asking them to commit to serving as a board member.
  • Ask them to serve on a board committee.
  • Invite them to attend a non-fundraising event, such as a tour, class, etc.
  • Invite them to attend a board meeting as a guest.
  • Have members of your nominating committee invite them to a virtual coffee or lunch.

It’s a win-win to spend time bringing someone interested in your nonprofit closer to your organization. Even if they ultimately don’t choose to join your board, you will have expanded your fan base and maybe even created a new major donor.

READ NEXT: Finding Your Nonprofit Fit: 10 Questions to Ask Before Serving on a Nonprofit Board 

In addition to carefully paced engagement, review your by-laws for board term length and term limits. Many nonprofits adopt the 1-2-3-year term sequence, which can be a gentler entry point for many and allows both the board member and the organization to get to know each other even better. In this scenario, a new board member is first eligible for a one-year term, then two, then three. After a total of six years, they must leave the board for a least one year. Be sure to check in with that new board member during the first year to see how things are going and if they have any questions you can resolve.

Challenge #2: “Almost all our current board members have been on the board for a long time, and we haven’t done much to look for and recruit new board members. It feels like a lot of catch-up needs to happen.”

The best place to begin in this scenario is with term limits to embed the continual process of searching for and engaging potential new board talent into your organization’s culture.

Be sure you are adhering to your term limits. Nonprofits are often reluctant to “let good board members go.” While that is understandable, just because a superstar board member has rotated off your board for one year doesn’t mean you can’t engage them differently in your organization’s important work. Many nonprofits use an “emeritus status” to recognize long-term trustees who served with distinction.

Additionally, by adhering to term limits, you are creating space for new talent to join your board and cultivating a culture of inclusion — where everyone’s voice is heard, and everyone’s opinion is valued.

Let’s say you’re ready to recruit new board members. The next steps involve being clear on who/what you need. When it comes to seeking new talent, here are some tips for recruiting nonprofit board members.

  • Identify the key qualities you’re looking for in each board member. Ask your governance/nominating committee chair to lead a conversation with the committee, then with the board, about key qualities you want in your board members. For example, our NLC board determined new board members must 1) have a passion for what we do and a strong commitment to moving NLC forward, 2) possess connections and resources and 3) demonstrate strategic leadership, thought leadership and/or be a visible community leader.
  • Use a tool. Ask each board member to complete a confidential Attribute Matrix to create an inventory of your current board’s assets and areas you may have gaps. Roll this up into a master list to assess the board as a whole. This is also a great tool to intentionally build diversity on your board. Opportunities may exist in age, race, skill set, gender, location, etc.
  • Once you have an idea of who/what you need, launch a mini-campaign. Use your resources to look both within your organization (current donors or committed volunteers) and outside your organization to identify strong prospects. Be intentional with your outreach. We often look only into our existing networks and recruit people who look and think like us. Read news outlets, connect via social media, talk with local business networks and contacts. Expand your network, and don’t settle!
  • Court and cultivate. Now that you have identified a potential board member and are in your “dating phase,” consider different pathways to join your board. Some individuals may know your organization well and already participate/give. Some may need a bit more time and more engagement before being willing to say yes. It may take time, but it will pay off in the end.

READ NEXT: 10 Ways to Engage Your Board in Fundraising 

Become a Board Rock Star

For nonprofit executives looking to enhance your organization’s board and strengthen your board governance, the Nonprofit Leadership Center offers many opportunities to support you and your volunteer leaders.

Get Your Certificate in Board Governance

In our two-part interactive Board Governance Rock Star Certificate series, you’ll learn everything you need to strengthen your board governance. Specifically, you’ll understand how to:

  • Identify, recruit, orient and even release board members
  • Define board roles and responsibilities
  • Motivate board members and keep them accountable
  • Avoid conflicts of interest
  • Define an effective board-staff partnership
  • Determine the board’s role in financial oversight and fundraising
  • Plan and run a successful board meeting
  • Develop your nonprofit’s financial statements
  • Budget and manage cash flow
  • Complete audits and IRS filings

Register for October/November 2021 Series

Explore Custom Training for Your Board

Need a custom solution designed specifically for your nonprofit organization and board? From two-hour refresher sessions to full-day retreats, we work with you to understand your needs and master board leadership within your organization. To learn more and explore opportunities, email us at

See More Board Governance Resources

Check out our board governance resource page for a listing of resources, templates and worksheets to help you and your board. You can also find a listing of open board positions here.

Join the nonprofit leadership community to strengthen your skills, organization and community by signing up for our weekly e-newsletter. You’ll receive the latest tips, tools and leadership training events designed exclusively for nonprofit leaders.

Leading Through Pandemic Fatigue

Pandemic Fatigue: Leading Yourself and Others Through Challenging Times

Charlie Imbergamo | Director of Strategic Programs Resources

More than one year into the pandemic, individuals and teams have experienced prolonged periods of stress that can wreak havoc on personal health, relationships and work performance. In this video, explore how excessive stress and worry can affect you and your organization, learn how to prioritize self-care and receive practical strategies to immediately begin implementing to manage stress in every aspect of your life.

After watching this webinar, you will:

  • Understand what causes pandemic fatigue
  • Identify how pandemic fatigue affects you
  • Know how to recognize pandemic fatigue in the workplace
  • Have strategies to cope with pandemic fatigue to support yourself and your team

Here are the resources referenced during this free webinar:

More Resources

Self-Care Tips for Nonprofit Leaders

Managing Mental and Emotional Exhaustion

How to Cope with COVID-19 Anxiety

See all our free webinar replays here.

For more information and assistance specific to nonprofits, check out our COVID-19 Nonprofit Resource Hub. To learn about all events and resources from the Nonprofit Leadership Center, sign up to receive our weekly NLC e-newsletter, and follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram

Welcome Tess Plotkin to NLC

Tess Plotkin Joins Team NLC

Team NLC News

What do art and the nonprofit sector have in common? As an avid advocate for the arts, Tess Plotkin believes they both have the capacity to heal, build community and solve problems even when there aren’t obvious solutions.

Today, we’re pleased to announce that Tess Plotkin has joined the Nonprofit Leadership Center as our new resource development fellow. This one-year fellowship allows emerging nonprofit leaders to immerse themselves in every aspect of fund development while providing key customer service and marketing support. In this role, Tess will assist NLC with resource development operations, solicitation, recognition and stewardship, while attending many of NLC’s nonprofit training classes

Tess is an educator, musician and communications professional who is passionate about building collaborative and artful communities. New to Tampa Bay from Boston, Tess worked as the director of El Sistema at Conservatory Lab where she oversaw the music program’s artistic and academic excellence. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Boston University and an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from the University of Massachusetts Boston. She is also a graduate of the Perrone-Sizer Institute for Creative Leadership. 

“My favorite class at the Nonprofit Leadership Center is Elevate Your Nonprofit’s Reputation & Community Impact. This class helped me think differently about reporting and telling an organization’s story. As part of my fellowship, I have the opportunity to attend classes at NLC. I’m looking forward to taking many classes in nonprofit management and fund development. ”

Tess Plotkin

When Tess is not in the virtual office, she’s taking lots of walks with her new puppy Jaco, making and listening to music, exploring the many beautiful beaches in Tampa Bay, and practicing her chef skills by making anything from J. Kenji López-Alt’s cookbook, The Food Lab

Please join us in welcoming Tess Plotkin to Team NLC.

Get nonprofit resources delivered to your inbox. Sign up to receive our weekly NLC e-newsletter, chock-full of valuable tips and tools to help you and your organization thrive. 

Chris Johnson discusses inclusive leadership on the Nonprofit Leadership Center blog

Leaders Who Authentically Embrace Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Believe These 8 Things

Christopher Johnson, NLC Board Member Tips

Everywhere you turn, organizations are posting diversity statements on their websites and hiring leaders to oversee diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. But “diversity, equity and inclusion” (DE&I) is not a corporate buzz phrase or leadership trend; it represents the non-negotiable pillars on which strong cultures must be built. How do you know if you and your organization truly embody inclusive leadership? Here are eight things that leaders who authentically embrace diversity, equity and inclusion believe.

1. Diversity, equity and inclusion are everyone’s responsibility.

In recent years, organizations have started hiring chief diversity officers and building DE&I departments. While organizations must create greater accountability for and focus on this work, a single department or position is not a substitute for building and cultivating an authentic culture of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Studies have shown that establishing a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion must start from the top down. DE&I champions know this and never lose sight of embedding these values in the fabric of their organization’s culture. For example, if you hold a board retreat that focuses on DE&I, everyone may leave feeling passionate and committed to action. But is that energy present the rest of the year? When there’s a culture of DE&I, leaders don’t have to worry about those moments being fleeting.

To advance a culture of DE&I, establish organizational values that tie to your mission and performance objectives. When appropriately used, organizations can develop resources and tools built upon those values to help staff further their understanding and self-awareness and guide hiring decisions and employee expectations.

2. No marginalized population is more important than another.

Leaders who authentically embrace DE&I understand that there are many marginalized populations in our society and the workplace. DE&I issues go beyond race, including sexual orientation, gender, disabilities and more. Inclusive leaders advocate for all marginalized populations and understand the intersectionality of these issues. For instance, being Black can also intersect with having a disability or identifying as LGBTQ. These issues are all-encompassing, and inclusive leaders get that.

Likewise, the loudest voice in the moment or the most prevalent topic in the media often gets heard or focused on most. DE&I champions know that the issues that matter most are not only those at the forefront of social consciousness. These issues and values are 24/7/365. Inclusive leaders seek opportunities to capture the perspectives of marginalized populations and give them an authentic and genuine voice.

3. One person’s life experience doesn’t discredit another’s.

Perception isn’t reality. The lens through which we see the world shapes our reality. Truly inclusive leaders understand that everyone has different life experiences, even if we come from similar populations. They can listen to those experiences and acknowledge that they are genuine and authentic without judgment or defensiveness. As a Black man, nothing is more frustrating than sharing a personal experience of racism or discrimination and people saying that there is no way that could have happened. Leaders who are authentically committed to diversity, equity and inclusion know they have a responsibility to listen and hear people — to understand others’ experiences and not question their validity because they can’t relate to that experience or problem.

Chris Johnson discusses inclusive leadership on the Nonprofit Leadership Center blog

4. Words do matter.

Many people mistake words like “diversity,” “equity,” “equality,” and “inclusion” as being interchangeable. They are not. Leaders who authentically embrace DE&I know this and seek to broaden their understanding — for themselves and in support of others.

Here are some simple ways to think about these terms.

When it comes to diversity and inclusion, imagine being at a high school dance. Diversity is making sure everyone is invited to the event, while inclusion is asking the people there who are different from them to actually dance. In the workplace, we often see people of color, women or those with disabilities invited to the planning table (that’s diversity). But they don’t always have a voice. Inclusion is inviting those voices in, valuing them and ensuring they shape a strategy or plan.

When it comes to equality and equity, think about a middle school basketball team. If you gave every player size seven shoes, that would be equal — they’d all have a pair of shoes. But, of course, everyone’s feet aren’t a size seven, and one size does NOT fit all when it comes to shoes (or most things in life!). Equity is making sure everyone gets a pair of shoes that fit so they can participate on a level playing field.

5. Actions mean more than words.

In talking with many people about diversity, equity and inclusion, I often hear concerns about saying or doing something wrong. Many individuals share vulnerable moments about realizing they’ve done something wrong in the past that may have contributed to institutional marginalization or racism. Recognizing that mistake isn’t what’s wrong; it’s not doing anything about it moving forward once you’re aware of it that’s a problem. Inclusive leaders can reflect on their actions and behaviors and identify how to take action to mitigate them.

I have a friend from church who was in an accident 15 years ago that left him paralyzed from the waist down. One day, we went to a restaurant for dinner that didn’t have a ramp to enter the building in his wheelchair. Identifying that the restaurant needs to be accessible to people with physical disabilities was only the first step. Asking the owner why the establishment doesn’t have a ramp and taking action to make it more equitable is action. Be the leader that doesn’t just identify problems but also takes steps to overcome them.

6. Embracing allies is essential.

A true champion of diversity, equity and inclusion doesn’t push someone away who genuinely wants to advance change because they look different than them. Questions are better than assumptions. If someone genuinely comes to you to understand and learn, give them the opportunity to learn. Change only happens when we can capture the minds, hearts and actions of those who don’t look like us or have the same life experiences.

7. Change starts by meeting people where they are.

Think about a 5K race. Some people can go out and run 3.1 miles any day of the week with ease. Others may be unable to run for 30 seconds without stopping. Inclusive leaders understand that different people are at various places along the continuum in their journey. Introducing enhancements to an organization’s culture takes time and conversations. Authentically committed leaders identify where people are and create safe spaces for dialogue and engagement. They have the courage to have uncomfortable conversations with their staff, board and partners about these issues and aren’t afraid to raise challenging questions.

8. There is no finish line.

Each of us is continuously learning, no matter who we are or where we come from. This work is complex and multi-faceted. There is no way to address everything overnight, and certainly not without making mistakes along the way. Inclusive leaders are consistently trying to improve and be better when it comes to embracing diversity, equity and inclusion — working on it, prioritizing their focus on it, and ultimately building and strengthening a long-term culture of DE&I to change the future.

Chris Johnson discusses inclusive leadership on the Nonprofit Leadership Center blog

Christopher Johnson is a senior social responsibility specialist at Mosaic and a member of the Nonprofit Leadership Center’s board of directors. He also co-leads NLC’s diversity committee.

Overcome Unconscious Bias

The attitudes and biases we carry that we’re not even aware of can dictate our perceptions of ourselves and others. This influences our behavior, both at work and in life.

Join the Nonprofit Leadership Center for a virtual workshop on April 28 to overcome unconscious bias. In this interactive class, you will:

  • Learn how unconscious bias impacts beliefs, values and actions and contributes to organizational cultures that either foster or stifle diversity and inclusion
  • Better understand your personal unconscious biases to foster more genuine interactions
  • Consciously choose to create a workplace that encourages authenticity and inclusion
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Hopes & Expectations for Nonprofit Sector

7 Hopes & Expectations That Nonprofit CEOs Have for the Nonprofit Sector in 2021

Team NLC Tips, Uncategorized

We recently asked nonprofit leaders to share their hopes and expectations for the nonprofit sector in 2021. Their wise perspective encourages all nonprofit leaders to think more strategically and collaboratively to strengthen our sector and communities.

“2021 is and will be a time of great challenge but also great opportunity in the nonprofit sector. To meet the challenges of COVID-19, rising unemployment and overall general uncertainty, nonprofits can play a unique role in uplifting our communities economically and socially. We need to charge forward and dare big — develop affordable housing, create social entrepreneurship vehicles for sustainability, and most importantly, serve those in our community who need help in food security, housing, employment, training, mental health services, and any other treatment or case management needs.”

Michael Jalazo, CEO,
People Empowering and Restoring Communities (PERC)  

“I hope nonprofit organizations impacted by the pandemic take a serious look at what they need to focus on as we move closer to a new normal. This includes embracing technology, greater emphasis on crisis management, working more closely with other organizations to fulfill our missions, and developing diverse funding streams to ensure our organizations remain viable. This hard work will allow nonprofits to be even stronger in 2021 and beyond.”

Gary Willoughby, President & CEO                   
SPCA Serving Erie County   


“My greatest hope for the nonprofit sector in 2021 is to continue showing resilience and innovation to overcome difficult times and secure our missions.”

Debra Golinski, President & CEO                      
Sertoma Speech & Hearing Foundation of FL Inc.

“My greatest hope for the nonprofit sector is that we collectively begin to view our organizations with a for-profit mindset and lean on each other to innovate how we enhance our sustainability. While grants are extremely important and appreciated, I’d like to see nonprofits balance our reliance on grants and adopt a social entrepreneur mindset within our respective work.”

Dr. Sheron Brown, CEO     
Tampa Bay Healthcare Collaborative

“I hope more nonprofits can collaborate instead of compete with each other to better support those who depend upon nonprofits.”

Starr Friesen, Executive Director of Internal and External Affairs                
WarHawk PTSD Service Dogs

“My greatest hope for the nonprofit sector is that it will continue to raise awareness of the inequities in our society as we work together to make sure the right services are shared with those in need.”

Stephen King, Executive Director                      
Meals On Wheels of Tampa 

“As our nonprofit sector has shown remarkable resilience in 2020, my greatest hope is to continue stabilizing and supporting our communities — to carry on our hard work to support those who need us most and to come together as leaders to ensure we have sustainable resources to fully fund services for all. Our nonprofit sector is present every day in every area of our lives. We have been a strategic and innovative player of our past and will continue to be as powerful in our future.”

Karen Higgins, President & CEO                      
PARC, Inc.

 Join the nonprofit leadership community to strengthen your skills, organization and community by signing up for our free weekly e-newsletter. You’ll receive the latest tips, tools and leadership training events designed exclusively for nonprofit leaders.