Strategies to Create Social Change

From actress and theater major to change-maker for lasting social impact, Linda Hartley’s path proves that life’s winding road will lead to your passion and purpose, if you listen and follow your heart. In fact, that is the key to successful leadership and finding fulfillment in your life’s work. Linda’s love for arts and culture lead her to acquire an MBA and work in the non-profit sector (social-profit) in several institutions, including establishing the first professional development department for Bard College, whose annual giving leapt from $375,000 to $1.2 million in the first 20 months.  Now, she has partnered with Vivien Hoexter to found H2Growth Strategies, LLC, and help mission-driven organizations—“social-profits,” foundations and corporations—develop strategies to improve performance, increase revenues and create lasting social impact for a more enlightened world.
With their combined track record, Linda and Vivien have helped more than 100 organizations raise over $1.5 billion to date. Now, they have gone one step further and written a book to help everyone put the strategies of great leaders to work on their own missions. BIG IMPACT: Insights & Stories from America’s Non-Profit Leaders shares ideas from nearly 50 leaders to help you cultivate and grow a plan for whatever change you’d like to make. Linda said that they looked for “common threads” among the advice, starting with getting to know you questions, like “What was the best and worst thing that ever happened to you?” to “What is the role of the non-profits of bridging the urban-rural divide in this country?” From these broad-based questions, they found 17 principles that provided common ground.

The Unintended Gift

One of the most outstanding qualities Linda and Vivien found in the leaders was a high level of emotional intelligence. Linda related the personal story of Leon Botstein, who had served as a staffer, and then long-time President of Bard College. His eight-year-old daughter ran across the street on campus and was killed by a car early in his career. He told Linda, “Rather than turning disappointment into tragedy and into an excuse for feeling like a powerless victim, I tried to recognize the unintended gift that comes from tragedy and failure.” Linda likened it to a prize fight, where you must have the ability to get back up after being knocked down. One common thread through the interviews were stories of personal tragedy and how those were used to propel their work and lives going forward.

Common Threads—Advice from Top Leaders

One common thread through this interview was how different it is to work for a mission-driven organization. Dr. Nancy said, the people are different because they care about what their organization does. They feel invested in its outcome. That was also one of the key points of advice from the leaders, whether it’s on staff or as a board member, they stressed working in direct service for non-profit organizations. Other key points were

  • Sharpen your leadership skills
  • Honor Your emotional intelligence and self-awareness
  • Look at work-life balance
  • Seek out and cultivate mentors
  • Plan for the inevitable.

That final point was very important to every leader. They advised to put a successor in place, so what you had built wouldn’t stop if something should happen to you. Even if that successor wasn’t picked by the organization, providing a system for longevity past your own service on a board or as the leader of an organization is very important.

Building a Movement

Movements are built by individual organizations partnering together. Linda reviewed the qualities that made organizations successful and how they achieved what they set out to do. One that she used as an example was the successful campaign for “Freedom to Marry.” In fact, that campaign was so successful, the legislation it promoted was passed and has dissolved since there is no longer a need for that social change.
Of course many missions to solve the world’s problems are more complicated and require many different strategies, one of which is development of the board of directors. Linda says that it’s important to have many different levels of expertise among the board members. Organizations seeking social change include social scientists; many include attorneys, marketing professionals, accountants, and others who can provide services the organization can’t afford to pay for.
For that next step—to build a movement—organizations need to come together. When they meet one another and find their common ground, they can plan actions to expand their goals. Board development, convening to leverage their power and funds, and planning were the three key strategies that Linda said they guide organizations to use.

Self-Expression Important for Fundraising

Linda began her journey with her love for the theater, which linked her with art and culture. She said that people give their time and treasures according to what they care about. It provides meaning to their lives and that’s how H2Growth Strategies helps their clients grow their missions. Listen to this interview for more stories and advice. And check out the H2Growth Strategies website for more enlightening information and details about the book, Big Impact.

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