Leaders fascinate us.
We want to adore them,
emulate them and learn from them. In the United States, corporate leaders
particularly enthrall us. Visit any bookstore—retail or online—and you will find scores of
books about becoming the next Steve Jobs or Sheryl Sandberg. We want to believe
their advice can help us achieve the American dream of success and prosperity,
through hard work, ingenuity, and regardless of gender, race, religion or the
socioeconomic circumstances of birth.
Leaders in the U.S.
nonprofit sector are committed to improving the quality of life on this planet,
to making available more widely the possibility of achieving the American
dream, undergirded by the values of a democratic society: liberty, equality and
justice. And while the definition of the American Dream will continue to evolve
as it is compared to reality, it serves as a beacon for those who seek to
create a “more just, verdant and peaceful world”
(from the MacArthur Foundation website).
by the wise, compassionate and innovative leaders we have met during decades
working in and with nonprofit organizations, we set out to write a book about
We interviewed nearly 50
leaders of foundations such as Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Annie E. Casey, Ford,
B. Altman, Sy Syms, Skoll, San Francisco Community, Robin Hood, Jim Joseph,
William & Flora Hewlett, Newman’s Own, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, United
Nations, and the Ms. Foundation for Women. We have also talked with leaders of
organizations such as PBS, WNET, WNYC, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Independent
Sector, Goodwill Industries International, 92Y, YMCA of the USA, Girl Scouts,
United Way Worldwide, Share Our Strength, Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence,
NYU, Bard College, Nature Conservancy, Wave Hill, Bethel Woods Center for the
Arts, NYC Opera, Freedom to Marry, KaBoom! and Do Something.
What we found was that many
of these leaders are effecting positive social change, often without a lot of
fanfare or publicity. We decided to pay tribute to what they have learned in
their lives and careers and how they and their organizations are making change.
Our hope is that this information will be useful to you, the reader, as you
strive to make positive changes in your own organizations and communities.
As experts in the global
nonprofit and fund-raising community, we help organizations build on their
strengths and improve their results. We partner with nonprofits and with
businesses working with nonprofits and start-ups that, like nonprofits, need
access to funding. For us, hearing the personal, and often profoundly moving,
reflections of the nearly 50 leaders we interviewed was affirming and powerful.