As we begin a new year, I wanted to let you know about a new beginning for the Independent Sector community. I have decided and informed the IS Board that this will be my last year as president and CEO of Independent Sector. Sharing this news is surely bittersweet as I have been honored to serve as this community’s leader for the last six years. But I know I am making this decision after Independent Sector has reinforced a solid foundation that is ready to take organizations and changemakers that comprise this incredible sector of ours to new heights.
Our IS Board and leadership are more confident than ever that the larger IS community fully embraces our shared aim that the sector itself is a force for good, striving for healthy and equitable communities in the U.S. When I joined the organization as a Board member in 2015 and then as president and CEO in 2016, I did so with the collective conviction that the organization was ready for a re-founding. The 2015 effort, known as Threads, took IS leadership on the road where we heard directly from nonprofit and philanthropic leaders from around the country about what they were looking for in sector leadership. Their insights helped us gain a foothold into a new strategy that emphasized a shift from a transactional organization to a relationship-focused organization. Through important strategy development work, we landed on a new shared result statement: All people in the U.S. thrive. And it became clearer to us that a data-driven, racial equity-focused strategic plan was the only way we’d get there.
Over the course of these last few years, we have had an incredible amount of innovation. Within our sector impact strategy, we were grounded in solid legacy work of the Principles for Good Governance and Ethical Practice and launched into new projects with the same amount of cross-sector significance, such as the Health of the U.S. Nonprofit Sector report and the Trust in Civil Society report. In our community building work, we have transformed our strategies away from one single annual gathering of the most powerful in our sector to a series of Upswell events, focused on the wisdom and lived experience of community-led organizations and communities and leaders of color. In our public policy work, we continue to balance our federal public policy agenda to support a strong and equitable nonprofit sector, while working in coalition with partners around community investments that are imperative to our shared recovery out of this pandemic. We are also incredibly encouraged by the movement with our A Seat at the Table campaign, which aims to put a permanent office for the nonprofit sector right in the heart of the Executive Branch.
In 2022, we are committed to not only doubling down on the strategies that have been working over the last several years, but also reinforcing investments being made in our organizational infrastructure. With the generous support of our funding partners – MacKenzie Scott, the Fetzer Institute, Walmart, and the Ford, William & Flora Hewlett, David and Lucile Packard, Bill & Melinda Gates, Robert Wood Johnson, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur, W.K. Kellogg, Charles Stewart Mott, Annie E. Casey, and American Express foundations – we continue our commitment to being a healthy and equitable organization advocating for the same for the sector and nation.
So what’s next for me? After a 35-year career in the sector, I am going to take a sabbatical to focus on interrogating a number of philosophical and theological questions that have guided my life and work. Specifically, I have set up a course of study around common good, justice, and individual/collective flourishing with theologian James Alison. I imagine it won’t be too long before I’m back working with colleagues in civil society around this framing, which I know guides many of our missions. But for now, I am incredibly excited to focus on this passion at my own pace.
The Independent Sector Board, chaired by Fred Blackwell, president and CEO of The San Francisco Foundation, is ready to get to the vital work of searching for a new president and CEO. Work is underway and the full search process will be announced in early February, so please look for that information to be shared soon. I remain committed to leading this organization until a new CEO is named and a transition process is identified that works in the best interest of the IS community, the Board, and the new leader.
And while you’ll continue to hear from me throughout this year, I want to take a moment to thank each and every one of you reading this for being an important part of the Independent Sector community. No matter how you have found yourself a part of it, we are stronger because you have joined us, and we will continue to do the necessary work of building a healthy and equitable sector and nation until the job is done.