I am excited to share some key takeaways from my first year as President and CEO of Campaign for Working Families (CWF). My reflection starts with gratitude for the opportunity to make a meaningful impact on the lives of individuals and families.
First, the cornerstone of any successful non-profit is its team. The notion that one can single-handedly steer the ship is a fallacy. The work is too expansive, and the challenges too intricate. Therefore, recruiting a team that resonates with the organization’s vision and mission is not just advisable; it’s imperative. These are the individuals who will breathe life into your programs, who will scour the landscape for grants, and who will be the scaffolding upon which your organization is built. Their skills and commitment are the lifeblood that nourishes the organization, making it robust and impactful.
However, the journey is not without its crucibles. There are moments when the heart and the head are at odds, each pulling in a different direction. In such instances, I’ve learned to lean towards my head. The reason is simple: we are stewards of public trust and resources. Our primary allegiance is to the service of the people we aim to help and build. Emotional decisions, while well-intentioned, can sometimes lead us astray from this cardinal principle.
Operational efficiency is another lesson that came into sharp focus. A non-profit is as effective as its structures and processes. Without these, even the most passionate team and the most altruistic intentions can flounder in a quagmire of inefficiency. Therefore, a significant portion of my time was invested in creating systems that streamline operations, making them more transparent and accountable.
Last, the importance of having a strong financial and legal framework cannot be overstated. A bank that knows you by name is not just a financial institution; it’s a partner in your journey. Similarly, a lawyer who guides your activities is your sentinel, guarding you against potential pitfalls and ensuring your actions comply with the law. These relationships are not mere formalities but strategic alliances that I leveraged to fortify CWF.