FCCF Hosting the Susan M. Ross Leadership Institute in January 2022

Oct 19, 2021

Fairfield County’s Community Foundation will be hosting the Susan M. Ross Leadership Institute in January 2022. In partnership with Support Center, the Institute will bring together teams of 2-4 leaders (board and staff) from organizations based in Fairfield County and will include sessions focused on equity in the workplace and community-centric leadership. The goals of the program, which will be held virtually across three Friday afternoons (dates and times below), are to help leaders understand the role of equity in their organizations and communities, explore how their organizations can make positive changes internally and externally, and envision ways to better include and ground their organizations in the communities they serve.

 Primary topics to be covered include:

Recruitment, retention and succession planning with a DEI lens
Organizational alternatives to traditional hierarchies
Community-centric fundraising

Program Dates & Times:

Friday, January 14, 2022: Noon – 4 pm

Friday, January 21, 2022: 1 pm – 4 pm

Friday, January 28, 2022: 1 pm – 4 pm

Applications to participate in the 2022 Susan M. Ross Leadership Institute are now closed.

Session Descriptions

Alternative Leadership Models – January 14, 2022

Traditional leadership hierarchies, which are typically pyramidal and led by a single CEO, have long played an exclusionary role in shaping the nonprofit sector’s leadership ranks and by necessity have constricted the number of senior-level leadership positions available to aspiring nonprofit professionals. Increasingly organizations are re-assessing their current leadership structure and considering various alternatives, including flat structures, co-leader partnerships, and broader distributed leadership/shared accountability models. Often the opening to explore a pivot of this type is created by the planned departure of a singular organizational leader, and robust succession planning can be an avenue for discussing structural changes and prioritizing inclusive, internal leadership development. For many organizations, changes to the leadership structure are key to advancing larger goals focused on race equity and social justice. Led by Xander Subashi, who manages Support Center’s executive transition consulting practice, this session will use case studies to discuss alternative leadership models and the types of conditions and circumstances that enable organizations to make successful, significant shifts. This session will also feature a panel of leaders who have been part of transforming their organization’s leadership model.

Presenter: Xander Subashi
Xander is the Director of Programs at Support Center, where he oversees the executive transition portfolio of consulting work and a suite of executive leadership programs. Within the executive transition portfolio, the projects he manages include full executive searches, placement of interim leaders, and succession planning. On the training side, he runs Support Center’s specialized Interim Executive Director Training and several leadership programs focused on supporting both established and emerging nonprofit executives in their professional growth. He has also managed Support Center’s impact economy initiatives, which connect and advance the work of social enterprises, revenue-generating nonprofits, and impact investors and funders.

Xander has worked at Support Center in several capacities since the fall of 2015, when he joined the organization as a Board Fellow while in graduate school. There his studies centered on leadership and nonprofit management, philanthropy, impact investing, and social enterprise development. Prior to graduate school and joining Support Center, Xander was an educator focusing on experiential and service learning, as well as a middle and high school Latin teacher, college counselor, and varsity soccer coach. He holds an MBA from Columbia Business School, an MA in independent school leadership from the Klingenstein Center at Teachers College, Columbia, and a BA in Latin and Greek from Haverford College.

Community-Centric Fundraising – January 21, 2022

In recent years the concept of community-centric fundraising (CCF) has emerged and gained traction in the nonprofit sector as organizations have sought to apply diversity, equity, and inclusion principles to specific functional areas. The larger movement behind the CCF concept considers itself “grounded in equity and social justice” and is focused on centering community needs in fundraising, the importance of putting those needs ahead of donor-driven priorities, and the value of creating partnerships and relationships that are transformational, rather than transactional. This session, led by Sonya Shields of Cause Effective, will explore the broad concept of CCF and drill down to implementable strategies through which organizations can begin to shift their fundraising operations and center the community and people they serve.

Presenter: Sonya Shields
Sonya Shields joined the Cause Effective team in 2019 with over 25 years of experience as a fundraising, marketing and communications nonprofit executive. Sonya’s career as a Director of Development began at the National LGBTQ Task Force in Washington, D.C. where she doubled the organization’s budget from $2.5 to $5 million in three years. She has held the position of Director of Development for the NYC LGBT Anti-Violence Project, Astraea Foundation, Keep a Child Alive and the National Advocates for Pregnant Women. Most recently, Sonya held the position of Chief Officer for External Relations and Advancement at Brooklyn Community Services (BCS) for seven years. Sonya brought vision and energy into the position and took the organization to another level of visibility – engaging celebrities, influencers, corporate executives, younger donors, and building its volunteer base – and her leadership in development and communications played a key role in the organization receiving the 2017 NY Nonprofit Excellence Award.

Sonya has also worked extensively as a consultant, providing services to more than a dozen nonprofits including: Children of Promise, NYC, Partners for Dignity and Rights, Rainbow Railroad, Washington, D.C. Tennis and Education Association, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, National Black Justice Coalition, Citizens Committee of New York, and many more. She has served as the Development Chair on numerous Boards of Directors and is currently on the Advisory Council of Gender & Family Project, Board of Directors for the American LGBTQ Museum, Lead the Way Faculty with the Center for Research and Policy in the Public Interest at the New York Women’s Foundation, and serves on the Nonprofit Excellence Awards Selection Committee. Sonya received a B.A. in Public Relations at Howard University.

Inclusive Talent Management – January 29, 2022

Many organizations have recently been engaging in self-reflective work around diversity, equity, and inclusion principles, from standalone trainings for staff and board to long-term, consultant-led projects designed to effect major organizational change. In this session, Tai Dixon Darden will focus on the human side of these issues, and in particular, how board and staff leaders can use their vision and practices to create an inclusive team culture that supports and nurtures talent. Specific areas to be covered include recruitment and hiring, onboarding, professional development, and performance management.

Presenter: Tai Dixon Darden
Tai Dixon Darden’s work focuses on the areas of executive coaching, diversity, equity, and inclusion, talent management strategy. Tai brings over 18 years of experience to this work centered on leading in a variety of sectors.

Most recently, Tai was the Chief Talent and Equity Officer at E.L. Haynes Public Charter School Network. Prior to joining E.L. Haynes, Tai was National Director of State Offices and Field Operations for the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF). In this capacity she led an 80+ person team and directly managed CDF’s state office Executive Directors and national program leads and community organizing staff.

Tai has dedicated her career to advocacy, social justice and developing others to become ever stronger leaders and agents of change. She’s held prior roles leading fundraising for Teach For America- Baltimore and leading National Talent Acquisition for Teach For America. She’s also practiced law as a civil litigator at Goodell DeVries, LLP, and she taught 7th and 8th Grade English and ESL in Houston Texas.

For the past 14 years, Tai has worked as the Moot Court Coach and now adjunct Professor at her alma mater, Howard University School of Law. In addition to her Juris Doctorate from the Howard University School of Law, Tai holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Spelman College and a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of St. Thomas. She is a certified coach through the Center for Coaching Certification and holds a Certificate in Strategic Human Resources Leadership from Cornell University.

Click here to apply now for the 2022 Susan M. Ross Leadership Institute.