Giving Compass' Take:

• In this Stanford Social Innovation Review piece, CEO of LIFT Michelle Rhone-Collins discusses the challenges leaders of colors face when succeeding a white founder. She also explores the benefits leaders of colors bring to the table.

• How have you shifted your giving to support more leaders of color in the nonprofit world?

• Learn about racial bias in philanthropic funding. 

To say the least, it’s been a historic time to take on a new leadership role in the social sector. Eighteen months ago, I was honored to be selected as the CEO of LIFT, a nonprofit that aims to disrupt generational cycles of poverty and build family prosperity. Our offices in New York; Chicago; Washington, DC; and Los Angeles provide integrated financial, educational, and career coaching, as well as direct cash payments, to support parent’s goals for themselves and their children. I succeeded LIFT’s founder, Kirsten Lodal, who had devoted 20 years to building the organization and developing its unique approach, which places import on financial, social, and personal well-being. Since then, we have grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic and unprecedented racial uprising, and continue to reckon with the deadly racial injustice that impacts the communities LIFT partners with the most.

In many ways, we executed the succession skillfully, starting with the board’s enthusiasm for creating space for a leader of color to take the helm. I was an internal candidate, and while Kirsten cultivated and championed my leadership, I earned the position after going through an intensive search process led by the board and an executive search firm. There was also ample lead time; the organization spent more than two years planning and implementing the transition in order to set itself up for success. This process included developing a strategy to increase programmatic impact; engaging in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work; garnering major donor investments; diversifying the board; and strengthening board practices. In addition, careful planning around the transfer of trust and confidence in donor relationships resulted in some funders actually investing in the transition. Finally, rather than taking a seat on the board and thus hard-wiring deference in strategic decision-making, Kirsten took an advisory role, providing me with counsel and support.

Read the full article about navigating race and new leadership during these times by Michelle Rhone-Collins at Stanford Social Innovation Review.