Nonprofit Sector

Where We Go From Here Video Series

August 13, 2021

Leadership to help you lead. This occasional video series seeks to answer the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s enduring question: “Where do we go from here?” NFFers sit down with leaders of nonprofits and philanthropy to discover what keeps them up at night, what brings them hope, and how they are responding to the biggest crises we face today. We've packed their responses into videos that inform, inspire, and point the way forward.

Their Strength is their Humanity: Janet Kelly, Executive Director & Founder, Sanctuary of Hope (SOH)
Los Angeles is a large, vibrant city that has just about everything. However, Los Angeles also has the highest concentration of people experiencing homelessness and foster care youth and young adults in the United States. Born in South Los Angeles in 2010, Sanctuary of Hope (SOH) has been combatting homelessness by working to eliminate poverty, dismantle racial and social injustices, and promote the value of education and stabilization for its community. “If we understand how young people are integrally a part of our community and we create space for them to participate, to integrate, to contribute, we make a better society for everyone,” says Janet Kelly, Executive Director and Founder of SOH.
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It Doesn't Happen On It's Own: Andrea Baker, CEO & Founder, En2Action
Since 2019, En2Action has been serving BIPOC entrepreneurs in the San Fransisco Bay area through programs and workshops designed to help formalize, market, and promote their small and micro-businesses. “I have been an entrepreneur for forty years, and so I understand how lonely that can be sometimes,” says Andrea Baker, CEO and Founder of En2Action. Due to racist historical barriers, many Black entrepreneurs start businesses with less capital and business expertise than their white counterparts. So, for En2Action, empowering BIPOC entrepreneurs is a means to promote equitable growth and achieve transformative social good.
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The Need for Humanness is Greater Than Ever: Lundy
Around 30 percent of the US is considered a “therapy desert,” where affordable mental healthcare providers aren’t available or accessible to the people who need them. Khesed Wellness attempts to fill this gap by providing services to people who seek care but have historically faced barriers to accessing it, including people of color, residents of low-income and rural communities, and people identifying as LGBTQIA+. For Lundy (they/them), the CEO and founder of Khesed Wellness, this work is personal, "The need for humanness is greater than ever, and therapy is a place that invites more humanness in our world and reminds humans that they're not alone.”
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More Than Just Food: Dr. Melony Samuels
When Dr. Melony Samuels first dipped into her own pocket to help a single mother struggling to make ends meet, she had no intention of leaving her career to found a nonprofit. “It is just a natural thing for any human being to know someone is in need to do something about it,” says Melony. As she followed this instinct to help families, she then discovered a great need in her community. And thus The Campaign Against Hunger (TCAH) was born, with Melony as founder and CEO. Twenty-five years later, TCAH’s programming now goes far beyond tackling food insecurity to provide nutrition education, urban farming, youth work readiness workshops, financial and healthcare training services, and more.
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The Backbone of Just About Everything: Sheena Wright
New York City nonprofits are an essential part of the NYC economy: 1 in 5 workers in the city is employed by a nonprofit, providing healthcare, housing, and early childhood education among other services. Accounting for a huge share of the city’s procurement, NYC nonprofits shouldn’t be seen as vendors providing a service for city government; they’re partners in building a stronger, more equitable city. “Nonprofits are on the front lines, and they are the backbone of just about everything,” says New York City First Deputy Mayor Sheena Wright. She brings two decades of nonprofit leadership to her work in the Mayor Eric Adams administration, insight that has the potential to shape New York City’s nonprofit landscape – and the city – for the better.
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Flexible Funding Beyond the Crisis: Myron Dean Quon
Pacific Asian Counseling Services (PACS) delivers ongoing mental health services while also responding to crises like the 2023 Monterey Park shooting and the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, government contracts and grant funding aren’t often structured to support this crisis response. “In order to be more effective during a crisis, we need funders to allow much greater leeway and flexibility for how we spend our funds,” says Myron Dean Quon, Esq., CEO, PACS.
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Completing the Historical Narrative: Sandra Phoenix & Tina Rollins
Since 2002 the HBCU Library Alliance has been dedicated to strengthening HBCU library professionals through internship programs, leadership development, and collaborations with other universities. They also work to preserve the history housed in HBCUs though digital humanities – collecting, preserving, and making accessible archival collections for broader scholarship. In this conversation Sandra and Tina share their experience in preserving historical documents and developing future digital humanities leaders and offer advice to other leaders of digital humanities projects.
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Healing Communities, Bridging Systems: Magdalena Sunshine Serrano and Edwin Weaver
PEACE (Positive, Equitable, and Affirming Childhood Experiences) Network brings together Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley and Community Health Centers of the Central Coast (CHCCC), two organizations that treasure and care for their community deeply, bridging systems (school, healthcare, etc.) that support youth to offer holistic care and services. In this conversation, Magdalena Sunshine Serrano, Director of Behavioral and Psychiatry Services, CHCCC and Edwin Weaver, Executive Director, Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley walk us through how PEACE Network works, listens, and grows alongside its community to support the wellbeing of all its residents.
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David Villarino-Gonzalez: Sí Se Puede
When labor leader Cesar Chavez founded The Farmworkers Institute of Education and Leadership Development (FIELD) in 1978, his goal was to inspire California’s rural workforce to gain self-sufficiency through employee-owned enterprises. Today, FIELD continues this core mission to improve the economic prospects of rural immigrant communities all over California. In this conversation, David shares what he’s learned working with his community, what capacity building means for FIELD, and the importance of listening to the people you serve.
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Ciara Segura and Maureen Silva: Food Apartheid
Mandela Partners started in West Oakland to address the effects of deeply rooted inequities, like redlining and economic disinvestment, on food access and local entrepreneurship opportunities. In this conversation, Ciara Segura, Food Equity Programs Director, and Maureen Silva, Fund Development Director, describe Mandela’s mission and work, bust myths about food apartheid, share advice on gathering community input, and talk about the importance of unrestricted funding.
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Janie Hodge: Executive Director, Paving the Way Foundation. Episode: Love Everybody
Paving the Way Foundation provides training courses, subsidized housing assistance, practical life skills, and more to their community in California's Antelope Valley. In this conversation Janie shares how her lived experience shapes her organization's services and offers advice on staying motivated through illness and how to adapt organizational efforts in a changing world.
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Alejandro Martinez: The Art of Affordable Housing
In this conversation, Alejandro Martinez, President of CRCD’S real estate arm, CRCD Partners LLC, walks us through CRCD’s mission and work. Here, Martinez debunks misconceptions about homelessness, shares the innovative construction techniques CRCD is implementing, and highlights the power of unrestricted funding.
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Aisha Benson: Lived Experience, Nonprofit Expertise
This special edition of Where We Go From Here welcomes Aisha Benson as Nonprofit Finance Fund’s new president and CEO. In a candid conversation with NFF Board Chair Henry A. J. Ramos, Aisha describes her journey from growing up in Harlem to leading a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) and shares what she’s learned along the way. Aisha shares her vision for crucial issues in the social sector, from supporting community-centered organizations by channeling capital and transferring power, to capitalizing on advances in philanthropic support for nonprofits, to bringing belonging into diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
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Ash-Lee Henderson & Rev. Allyn Maxfield-Steele: Love Is a Doing Thing
Highlander Research and Education Center started nearly a century ago, working together with people in the South and Appalachia to create just and sustainable solutions to the challenges their communities faced. They have been critical in historic organizing movements, including the labor movements of the 1930s and ‘40s, the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and ‘60s, and most recently the Black Lives Matter movement. Ash-Lee Henderson and Rev. Allyn Maxfield-Steele share how they came to lead Highlander, how love is at the heart of their practice, and how their strength and success lies in focusing on what we all have in common, not on our differences.
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Rev. Dr. Demetrius Carolina: Let There Be Light
The Central Family Life Center (CFLC) provides direct services through twenty-two different programs designed to empower and improve the health and well-being of the Staten Island community. In this conversation Rev. Dr. Demetrius Carolina, Executive Director of the CFLC, shares his unique experience balancing faith and community, dealing with trauma, and being an effective leader.
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Gina Dessources Benjamin: Next Level
An extension of the Mount of Olives Evangelical Baptist Church, Mount Olives Community Center (MOCC) launched in September 2019, opening their doors and hearts to address the needs of the Haitian community around Boston. Gina Dessources Benjamin, Social Services Director, MOCC, walks us through the importance of funding to meet community needs, the power of the Haitian community, and the value of love and representation in community-centered organizations.
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Dr. Rahsaan Harris: Good Folks, Amazing Things
Dr. Rahsaan Harris walks us through his first year of leadership at Citizens Committee for New York City as its first Black CEO, and explains how CitizensNYC is supporting communities and democratizing access to philanthropy through microgrants. Harris shares the forces that shaped him into the leader he is today: embracing vulnerability, expressing authenticity, and a sense of duty to his ancestors.
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Veronika Scott and Erika George: Jackets and Jobs
Empowerment Plan started as a small design project: coats that become sleeping bags for people who don’t have a place to sleep. But its mission quickly shifted from keeping people warm to breaking the generational cycle of poverty through employment. Now those coats provide jobs and so much more. Veronika Scott, CEO and Erika George, Chief Development Officer, describe their unique business model, bust myths about homelessness, and share lessons learned over Empowerment Plan’s first 10 years.
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Meena Natarajan and Dipankar Mukherjee: Acting with Intention
Standing at the intersection of art and social justice, Pangea World Theater is built on collaborative and democratic practices that center the stories of immigrants, Indigenous people, and people of color. Spiritually driven by a sense of interconnectedness, Meena Natarajan, Executive and Artistic Director, and Dipankar Mukherjee, Artistic Director, bring people from diverse life experiences into community to connect, share, and heal through art.
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Marion Kendall: Credible Messengers
Learning, listening, and trusting people who share their stories about human trafficking is one of the first steps in fostering change and healing, Kendall says. Kendall believes in the power of empathy and reminds us that one of the greatest indicators of success for organizations like LifeWay Network is seeing the people they serve thrive in their own lives.
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Marcus Walton: Generational Impact
Marcus Walton, President and CEO, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO), brings us into a space of trust and healing to show how philanthropy can contribute to ending white supremacy and achieving racial equity. Building relationships, creating brave spaces, and centering communities will lead us – Walton hopes – on a path toward truth and reconciliation.
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Chris Iglesias: Act Boldly
To create real change, philanthropic donors and investors have to trust and believe in the organizations that are serving communities across the United States, Iglesias says. “They need not to be afraid to act boldly ... because that's kind of what a lot of these organizations need.” Iglesias leaves us with this final call to action: It is time to address the economic disparities that are rampant in our social sector; now is the time to act.
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Rodney Foxworth: Lovingly Critiquing Philanthropy
Philanthropy has the ability to make huge lasting changes in communities, but too often the focus is on accumulating wealth and power through their endowments rather than investing in communities’ potential to change themselves, argues Rodney Foxworth, CEO, Common Future and NFF board member. “Many communities do in fact have the capacity to own their own development power,” Foxworth says. “Philanthropy has an opportunity to invest in that capacity or maintain its own power.” He hopes for a future where philanthropy shifts wealth and power to communities and the institutions within them, and where American society places more trust in people of color to lead and develop their communities.
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Ellis Carr: Centering Communities
To see the results they want, CDFIs need to change their relationship with communities, says Ellis Carr, President and CEO, Capital Impact Partners and CEO, CDC Small Business Finance. This means working closely with communities to determine their needs and partnering with other organizations to develop local solutions. Capital Impact Partners did just that when they teamed up with CDC Small Business Finance to provide holistic community and economic development in Washington, D.C., Detroit, and Los Angeles. “All three of those markets are vastly different, and the ways that we’re going to support communities in those three efforts might look very different,” Carr says. “And we need to be prepared for that, because, again, successes ultimately should be defined by the community and not by us.” Carr explains how Capital Impact Partners is navigating the work of centering communities and the organizational mindset shifts these changes require.
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Dalila Wilson-Scott: Unusual Suspects
As Executive Vice President & Chief Diversity Officer, Comcast Corporation and President, Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation, Dalila Wilson-Scott bridges the for-profit/nonprofit divide in her daily work. She believes both can come together to find and fund new solutions for the big challenges we face today. Neither corporations nor philanthropy can – or should – be the sole source we look to for addressing social challenges, says Wilson-Scott. “But I do think what private sector can bring to the table is innovation, a little bit of creativity, and a different type of risk capital and pace that will help drive what those larger, government-funded, public sector-funded initiatives can be so that we get to the impact that we’re all trying to see.”
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Cheryl L. Dorsey: A Moment Made for Social Innovators
To make change we must value the lived experiences of people closest to pressing issues, investing in leaders that have the trust of their communities, says Cheryl L. Dorsey, President, Echoing Green. Even best-in-class leaders of color that come out of Echoing Green’s rigorous fellow selection process face staggering funding disparities when compared to their white counterparts. To fix this, Dorsey says, we must fund these leaders of color, provide support beyond dollars, create unapologetically Black and BIPOC spaces where folks can be in community with one another, and recognize the role of equitable intermediaries.
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Crystal Hayling: Shoulder to Shoulder
Power and privilege should not define the grantee-funder relationship, says Crystal Hayling, Executive Director, The Libra Foundation. For instance, the Democracy Frontlines Fund turned to community organizers to find and fund the Black-led groups at the forefront of social change and defending our democracy. By focusing on relationships, changing the way they reach out, reducing paperwork, and working shoulder to shoulder with people directly affected by the issues they are fighting, The Libra Foundation is modeling a new way for philanthropy to drive social change.
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Zach Norris: Defund Fear
Police and prisons don’t make us feel safe, argues Zach Norris, Executive Director, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. Rather, what matters are relationships and community. Norris believes in the power of communities to fight the forces of patriarchy and racism that are driving us apart so we can begin to heal. The people closest to the challenges are those best suited to solve them, and we should listen to what they have to say, Norris says.
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Ryan Haygood: This Particular Moment
Where are we putting our attention and our money? New Jersey Institute for Social Justice CEO Ryan Haygood believes we must seize this moment in history to fix the cracks in society’s foundation – cracks created by structural racism and worsened by the coronavirus pandemic. Haygood offers recommendations for moving away from incarceration and over-policing toward a world with safer communities that works to repair the harms injustice has wrought on people of color.
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Darren Walker: The Business of Hope
When the Ford Foundation announced in June 2020 that it would increase its payout by $1 billion, President Darren Walker was praised by many but criticized by some for using bond financing rather than spending down Ford’s endowment. An avowed capitalist and firm believer in institutions, Walker nevertheless fears modern capitalism is benefiting too few and widening a wealth gap that leaves many behind. The solution, he argues, is to support resilient, enduring institutions that can respond to our democracy’s ongoing challenges.
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Taneshia Nash Laird: We're Gonna Keep Making That Soup
When the coronavirus hit New Jersey, Newark Symphony Hall had to adapt its programs to serve its community, even as staff were losing family members to COVID-19. CEO Taneshia Nash Laird explains how she’s looking out for her staff and the community, how new initiatives like Embrace Newark and Symphony of Survival are bringing material and emotional support to Newark residents, and how an increased consciousness of race in nonprofit-funder relationships is changing how she and her work are seen and treated.
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