Philanthropy

How My Friend Helen Makes the World a Better Place

After her fourth cancer diagnosis in March of 2020, Helen Knost examined her life and decided to create her own consulting business, My Friend Helen, with a mission to leverage her diverse experience to support dynamic teams and inspiring innovators to help them achieve success and create enduring social impact. How she got to that point begins with her parents who opened the world for their children showing them that there was a lot out there beyond their own little corner of it. They also instilled in Helen a need and responsibility to give back and support family and community. So instead of caving into any of the cancer diagnoses, she fought back, and so far, is winning.

Helen was working as a wilderness ranger at the age of 24 when she noticed a lump in her throat. With no health insurance through her job, she moved to Santa Barbara where her family was living and got a job that provided insurance benefits. It took three months to get insured, then another two months to get the diagnosis and her first treatment for thyroid cancer. She was told that she was cured, but in six months there was another tumor, and another surgery, and in another six months a third one. This time, they paralyzed her left vocal cord, and she was told she might not talk again. She said she doesn’t sing, but obviously she did talk again.

The biggest hurdle during this time was that in 1995 there was no support system for people with cancer. She knew no one her age until she heard from some triathlete friends that they knew a young man in his 20’s that was “kicking cancer’s ass.” It was Lance Armstrong, and she was inspired by his fight and survival, and wanted to give back to the cancer community. She moved to Austin, Texas, to volunteer for the Livestrong Foundation, where a number of things happened: she met her husband, and was hired to work for the foundation. The skills she acquired in her 14 years there are just a few of the diverse experiences that Helen plans to use in giving back with her new business, My Friend Helen.

Cancer Warrior Told She Couldn’t Run Again

Dr. Nancy calls Helen “a cancer warrior,” observing that Helen had to learn what qualities she had that could help her be resilient and live past the cancer. One of the doctors’ predictions for Helen was that she would never run again. Helen said that she really wasn’t much of a runner, but when they told her she couldn’t, she decided to run a marathon—even though she had never done that before. When she crossed the finish line of the New York Marathon, she looked at the man who crossed on her right and he had a prosthetic leg; then she looked left and there was “a man about 5,000 years old.” Helen says, “Anyone can run a marathon. If I can and these two guys can, it’s what you put in your head. Don’t tell me you can’t run a marathon because I’ve seen the people finishing.” She promptly wrote a postcard to her surgeon from the finish line.

Services of My Friend Helen

When Helen considered what she wanted to do with the rest of her life, using her talent, gifts and experiences to give back were at the top of the list. She also wants to do about “a bazillion different jobs.” But she has boiled it down to three buckets. One is philanthropy.  She’s helping foundations design major gift programs by identifying their top donors, teaching them how they can make a major impact with their gift and how they can improve their relationships by showing donors how their gifts impact the mission of the organization. A second bucket is the chief of staff role. Helen likes working behind the scenes in support of people who want to make a social impact. Her third bucket is project management. Helen says that if it doesn’t require an advanced degree, she can probably do it.

She traveled widely with the Livestrong Foundation, and did all of these things with them and elsewhere. She has worked as a nanny, a kindergarten teacher, and landscape designer. But most of all, her strongest skill is being a friend, which is defined as “someone that supports and gives assistance; is authentic and trustworthy; a person that is dependable, loyal and has your best interest at heart.”

Listen to this conversation to hear more about her friendship with Dr. Nancy and her courageous story. Then check out her website www.myfriendhelen.com to see a list of services and to contact her directly at helen@myfriendhelen.com.

Convoy of Hope Women’s Empowerment Program Is Changing Lives

Convoy of HopeEvery woman deserves to be empowered. To have strength and dignity. To know she is valuable. – Doree Donaldson, Vice President – Convoy:Women

Every morning, Matilda opens her shop in Tanzania, and confidently looks forward to a successful day of business. But things haven’t always been easy for Matilda and her son, Junior. In fact, it wasn’t too long ago that the two of them were going to sleep hungry. That all changed when Convoy of Hope started a feeding program at Junior’s school and enrolled Matilda into the Women’s Empowerment program.

“The Women’s Empowerment program taught me how to run a business,” Matilda said. “When I think about the hardships I’ve been through, I don’t want to see anyone else cry about their life. Because of the way Convoy empowered me, I was able to help another woman in need.”

Matilda’s story is one of many. Offering hope for every woman, in just 10 years Convoy of Hope’s Women’s Empowerment program has reached and empowered 19,400 women and girls in 10 countries, with 9,043 impacted in 2019 alone! Through each participant’s success stories, supporters of the program are witnessing firsthand how together, we can change the world.

Empowering Women and Girls

A report by UN Women shows how drastically this help is needed:

The majority of the 1.5 billion people living on 1 dollar a day or less are women. In addition, the gap between women and men caught in the cycle of poverty has continued to widen in the past decade, a phenomenon commonly referred to as ’the feminization of poverty’. Women living in poverty are often denied access to critical resources such as credit, land and inheritance. Their labour goes unrewarded and unrecognized. Their health care and nutritional needs are not given priority, they lack sufficient access to education and support services, and their participation in decision-making at home and in the community are minimal. Caught in the cycle of poverty, women lack access to resources and services to change their situation.

Convoy:WomenThe Women’s Empowerment program realizes that when we help a woman, we help  their families, and that communities of women reinvest up to 90% of their earnings back into their households and apply it toward nutrition, food, healthcare, school, and income-generating activities. This helps break the cycle of intergenerational poverty.

Their Approach

To empower women and girls, the Women’s Empowerment program takes a three-pronged approach. Convoy’s Economic Empowerment program equips women with financial education, vocational training, cooperative saving groups, and even start-up capital. After receiving training and the distribution of capital for small business start-ups, women participate in income-generating activities as they launch their own small business. Those activities are coupled with self-esteem building activities and education in basic literacy and numeracy, family health and nutrition, family planning, and the prevention of communicable disease.

The Family Health Empowerment program provides women with educational sessions where they are trained in nutrition, health and hygiene, literacy, small-scale community agriculture, and craftsmanship/cooking. Participants who display consistent attendance receive a month’s worth of food to help supplement their diet at home. This provides additional incentive for women to come and learn, and helps Convoy address the nutritional deficiencies of children who are not enrolled in school. Caretakers, especially those who are pregnant, are provided with vitamins for both themselves and their children.

Convoy’s Girls’ Empowerment program rounds out their offerings for women and girls and brings educational programs to schools and communities. Sessions include contextually appropriate topics such as self-esteem, gender-based violence, and harmful cultural beliefs and practices.

“Convoy of Hope equips women with financial education, vocational training, cooperative saving groups and even start-up capital. Women can then participate in income generating activities as they launch their own small businesses,” Dr. Nancy said. “With these tools, and with micro-loans, these women can start their own businesses and give better lives to their children.”

Convoy of Hope is changing the lives of women and children, lifting women up out of poverty and providing them the tools they need to support their families, their communities and the world. To learn more about Convoy of Hope’s Women’s Empowerment program, and how you can join Convoy:Women and help them #LiftWomenUp, go to www.convoyofhope.org/we.

 

Women Connect4Good Challenges Young Women to Succeed

Women Connect4Good Challenges Young Women to SucceedEach year young women around the world take their first college classes and build the foundation for their careers and future earnings. According to the Department of Education since 1982 women have earned more bachelor’s degrees than men, more master’s degrees since 1987, and more doctoral degrees since 2006. That’s why Dr. Nancy O’Reilly has put her foundation, Women Connect4Good, Inc., to work to help these young women move forward and succeed.

A college education has become increasingly important for a woman’s success (45% of all jobs currently require a degree) but increasing costs and inadequate financial aid can present significant barriers for many. At Drury University, a private liberal arts university located in Springfield, Missouri, Dr. Nancy O’Reilly and other female leaders are working to change that and make a difference for a number of women who otherwise may not be able to attend the private college.

Dr. Nancy O'Reilly and Judy Thompson

Dr. Nancy O’Reilly and Judy Thompson

In the Fall of 2019 Judy Thompson, Drury’s Executive Vice President of Development and Campaign Director, approached Dr. Nancy, a Drury alumnus, and asked her for a donation of $25,000 to challenge women in leadership to provide a new or increased gift for scholarships for women. Those who were challenged stepped up.

“We sent the challenge to Drury alumnae who were in leadership roles, and raised over $27,000 from women in leadership positions, including an international scientist and an Ambassador.” Judy said. “We now have over $52,000 in financial aid to support women students at Drury.”

Drury University breaks the mold of single majors and rigid formulas most often associated with traditional education. Students receive a blend of life and career credentials, which allows them to pursue their intellectual passions while giving them the tools they need to be technically proficient and career-ready. Through this combination of professional and non-professional studies, and with the generosity of Dr. Nancy and other alumnae, a number of young women will learn to be flexible, innovative and creative problem solvers with their equally innovative degree program at Drury. They will go beyond traditional education and thinking by blending career, calling, life, community, self and service.

“Dr. Nancy O’Reilly has once again provided an avenue to bring women together to support young women and provide an opportunity for many to choose to study at Drury who might otherwise not have had that choice,” Judy concluded. “It is exciting to think what these women might accomplish in their lives. Thank you, Dr. Nancy, for providing this wonderful challenge!”

Girl Up Initiative Uganda is Changing Lives

Black Woman SmilingMany young girls living in the urban slums of Kampala, Uganda, struggle with a lack of educational and economic opportunities. In a culture where a male’s education is prioritized, a disproportionate number of girls do not complete school, are often forced marry early, feel like they don’t matter, and lack the skills needed to contribute to their families, which lowers their self-esteem and self-confidence.

Monica Nyiraguhabwa was one of those young women struggling to complete her education until a chance encounter with Kimberly Wolf, a young American woman passionate about girls’ rights and leadership, changed everything. While their backgrounds and circumstances were different, they both related to the challenges that come with growing up as a girl in today’s world and the power of having someone believe in them.

Together, they dreamed up the idea of Girl Up Initiative Uganda (GUIU) after visiting Monica’s community and identifying the need to advance educational and economic opportunities for young women and adolescent girls in these slum areas. They named it “Girl Up” because they wanted the name of the organization to reflect their commitment to lifting girls out of a life of poverty and gender inequality. Just as boys are taught to “man up,” the two wanted girls to be taught to “girl up” and realize their power and strength as girls.

What started out as an idea with $100 seed money has grown into a movement in just eight short years. Each year, the number of girls and young women that GUIU helps increases as the organization grows. This year, Girl Up intends to directly help 15,000 girls and young women and equip them with the skills, knowledge, tools, and provide mentorship and support to develop their self-confidence and voice to thrive as leaders in their schools and communities.

“We aim to contribute to systematic change in the community by ensuring that girls are recognized as active agents of change,” Monica said. “By empowering girls, both individually and collectively, to challenge the patriarchal social order, they become spokespersons for girls’ rights and become drivers of systemic gendered change in the community.”

Girl Up Initiative Uganda is changing livesGirl Up has directly helped over 70,000 girls and young women through various programs since 2012 and encourages the girls and young women to share their learnings and acquired knowledge with others who do not benefit from the programs. The girls are also eager to use the leadership skills and confidence they have gained through the program to mentor other girls. Girl Up estimates that each girl will reach an additional five girls, creating positive ripple effects throughout their schools and communities.

Its mission is to create a gender equal world by equipping girls and young women with the confidence, mentorship, skills, and knowledge to reach their full potential. The organization currently has Coaches (facilitators) who not only train girls, but act as positive role models for at-risk girls. Programs include:

The Adolescent Girls ProgramGirl Up Initiative Uganda is changing lives

GUIU has run the Adolescent Girls Program (AGP) as its flagship program to advance the educational opportunities for adolescent girls aged 9-15 living in urban slum areas in Kampala since 2013. An in-school program, AGP focuses on building adolescent girls’ capacities for individual empowerment and social survival, especially in patriarchal environments that do not value and respect the rights of girls and women. It consists of a cluster of synergistic activities to ensure that girls receive the skills, knowledge, tools, mentorship, and support to develop their self-confidence and voice to thrive as leaders in their schools and communities.

The Big Sister Network

In 2016, GUIU launched The Big Sisters Network, as they recognized that graduates of the AGP needed continued support and opportunities to grow their leadership and influencing capacities. It now ensures that AGP alumni continue to access female- focused education and stay involved and engaged with GUIU and their fellow graduates. In 2019, GUIU realized one of its biggest organizational dreams – the Big Sister Camp – where 210 girls converged for a residential camp full of learning, laughing, and playing. It was a magical four days to honor and further develop the leadership potentials of our Big Sisters. In 2020, they plan to have another Big Sister Camp for 260 promising girl leaders.

Mazuri-trainees-in-their-clothesMazuri Designs Hub

Mazuri Designs Hub was first launched in 2015 in recognition of the limited economic opportunities for out-of-school young women in the communities GUIU works with. Uganda’s  70% youth unemployment rate leaves them financially dependent on men and struggling to support themselves and their families. Therefore, Girl Up launched a social enterprise to offer young women skills training that could provide them with a sustainable income. Today, the Mazuri Designs Hub training program offers a one-year vocational training course in fashion, design, and tailoring that is combined with entrepreneurial and personal skills training for young women, ages 16-35 years. The young women are trained by experienced tailors and given the opportunity to showcase their products at the fashion show graduation at the end of the course.  The project advances economic opportunities for the young women and has had a positive impact on their incomes. In GUIU’s 2019 post-project survey, 67% young women reported that their average weekly income had increased after participating in the program, all due to selling products they sewed.

Ni-yetu-drama-performanceNi-Yetu Youth Program

GUIU has partnered with Plan International Uganda since 2015 to implement the Ni-Yetu Youth Project in all five divisions of Kampala. The aim of the project is to empower young people, ages 13-24 years, with correct knowledge, attitude and skills for reducing gender-based violence and improving their sexual and reproductive health and rights outcomes. The Ni-Yetu Youth Project is a gender transformative project that looks at challenging negative social norms and practices that affect SRHR outcomes amongst young people. It uses youth innovative approaches such as street theatre performances, youth-friendly health camps, peer-to-peer education, music campaigns, and sports outreaches. While the project reaches out to both genders, it benefits young women specifically by changing attitudes towards gender inequality in the communities they live in. Even though girls and women constitute GUIU’s focus group, the organization understands that boys and men must also be engaged in the fight for gender equality given that they are the other half of the equation when it comes to advancing girls’ rights and ending gender-based violence.

Girl-sewing-padAs Girl Up’s programs have grown over the years, their staff has too. “We are proud of the growth of our young, female-led, Ugandan team. Girl Up now employs 20 full time Ugandan staff, 76% of which are female and 85% under the age of 30 years. Providing employment and volunteer opportunities to aspiring and dedicated young Ugandans is an essential part of our mission and the way we work,” Monica said. “These vibrant young people make up the GUIU Dream Team – we dream together, create ideas together, and make change happen together! Each team member brings their own unique skills, talents, and ideas to enable the organization to grow and transform more lives.”

“We have achieved many exciting milestones, and I have been blessed to work in a job I am extremely passionate about. My biggest highlight is seeing the growth and development of our girls as they become powerful and confident young women in my community. Many of them are now in university and secondary school, and stay in touch with me. I love to see how GUIU has impacted their lives in positive ways,” Monica said. “Because I work in the same community that has seen me grow up, they are now seeing me in this position as a woman and a leader. I love going into the community to engage with the adolescent girls and tell them my story to inspire them to re-write their stories so they can achieve their dreams.”

Monica and Kimberly have garnered some international attention for their efforts too and have appeared on NBC’s The Today Show with Michelle Obama in 2018 (see here) and were invited to meet Oprah Winfrey at her home last year. Monica has also had the opportunity to speak up for girls through the Obama Africa Fellowship, Cordes Fellowship, iLEAP Fellowship, and African Visionary Fellowship with the Segal Family Foundation.

People can help Girl Up Initiative Uganda by following and sharing updates through social media platforms (@girlupuganda on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) and by subscribing to their newsletter at www.girlupuganda.org. You can also support GUIU’s work to change the lives of young women and girls and donate to their cause at www.girlupuganda.org/donate.

$1 Billion to Expand Women’s Power and Influence to Reach Gender Equality

Women helping womenLast week Melinda Gates took a giant step forward in her work to accelerate gender equality in the U.S. and pledged $1 billion to expand women’s power and influence over the next decade. “Equality can’t wait, and no one in a position to act should either,” Gates wrote in an op-ed for Time magazine, while announcing her commitment to help women claim their power.

She will do the work through Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company working to drive social progress for women and families that she founded in 2015. “This announcement is not a departure for Melinda—it’s the latest chapter in her long-standing commitment to gender equality,” a spokesperson at Pivotal Ventures told Penta.

Gates, like many of us, feels like the time to act is now. A window of opportunity has opened, or as she writes, “More accurately, it was painstakingly pried open by the hundreds of thousands of people who have joined marches across the country, the millions of women who summoned the courage to tell their #MeToo stories, the record number of women who ran for office in 2018 and won.”

History shows that we are all in a position to act. As we wrote in In This Together, “for more than 200 years, women have organized, fought, campaigned, sacrificed, and supported each other to gain the rights to inherit property, to keep their children, get an education, pursue a career, vote, hold office, and the list goes on. Although they often received no credit, women whose intersecting identities left them marginalized with less privilege have nonetheless continued to lead the movements for women’s equality. It’s time to follow their lead. It’s time to exercise all those hard-won rights to achieve true equality now.”

As Gates recently wrote in Harvard Business Review, “The unprecedented energy and attention around gender equality makes this a moment when extraordinary progress is possible — and bold, ambitious goals are appropriate. We shortchange women if we set our sights too low.”

On post-inauguration Saturday in 2017, 4.6 million women and their male allies took to the streets in 642 cities on every continent on the globe and demonstrated for women’s rights. Hundreds of thousands of women continue to march and make their voices heard. Women are speaking out against their abusers and changing the dynamics of the workplace. And record numbers of women are running for – and winning – elected offices at every level.

We are making progress, albeit slowly at times. It’s important to keep in mind that every  act to support another woman counts, and together we can accelerate the pace.  Gates advises, “In order to seize this opportunity, we have to define our goals thoughtfully.”

Her goal is, “to expand women’spower and influence in society.” She added that she thinks of power and influence “as the ability to make decisions, control resources, and shape perspectives. It is something women exercise in their homes, in their workplaces, and in their communities.” Recognizing that “power and influence” are not words historically associated with women, nor that most women associate with themselves, overcoming gender bias to claim this power and influence is a step we must all make to create change now.

While we need philanthropists, like Melinda Gates, venture capitalists, businesses, and policy makers willing to invest in gender-focused intervention, we also need women on the ground working every day to lift one another up. We can all set our personal goal to accelerate gender equality within our own center of power and influence.

We each need to stand by the woman sharing her story, to support the woman running for office, help our neighbor who is struggling, and mentor the new woman in the workplace. As Gates says, it isn’t just grand gestures that got us to this point, it was daily acts of courage, too. And it still is. We all win when we lift others up as we go.

So ask yourself — how can you make your voice be heard? What thoughtful goal can you set to help women get their fair and equal share? How can you be courageous today and use your personal power and influence to support another woman?

Women Drive Change

Women Drive ChangeWomen in the U.S. have always been agents of change, even when they had few officially recognized rights. In Colonial times, women tackled a host of issues, and showed themselves to be tireless workers.  They built upon that in the 1800’s to become skilled fundraisers, passionate advocates, powerful leaders, dedicated volunteers, and irresistible forces for social change. Women of every ethnicity joined voluntary associations to raise money and especially to care for women, widows, and girls.

While times may have changed, women’s desire to make the world a better place has not, and today many women are putting their money behind their motivations. The Women’s Philanthropy Institute reports that, “In order to tackle challenges large and small, our world needs more strategic philanthropy. Women can lead this charge, harnessing their growing wealth and influence to create a more just, equitable, and healthy society.”

It’s easy to understand how women can be a powerful force driving change when you remember that women are responsible for 86% of household’s consumer purchasing decisions, now control 51% ($14 trillion) of personal wealth in the U.S., and are expected to control $22 trillion by 2020.  As Fidelity Charitable points out, “Women today play a central role in philanthropy, leading charitable giving within their families, using their time and skills to advance causes within their communities, and embodying the purpose and heart that underpin philanthropic goals.”

Representing a new era of resources by and for women, Women Moving Millions (WMM) is accelerating progress toward a gender equal world by sharply focusing those investment goals with a gender lens. This community of 320 women is committed to organizations and initiatives benefiting women and girls, and using the power of our voice and influence to inspire and show how women can support women with their philanthropic influence. . Activities in today’s world shows us how leveraging collective strength, networks, and voices can illuminate issues we need to change to make our world a better home for us all.

The recent 2019 WMM Annual Summit in New York, themed “The Power of You,” explored the unique values and vision that each individual philanthropist can bring to the field and how together, we can create an opportunity for unparalleled systemic change. With the opportunity to critically hear from diverse changemakers and reflect on individual values and philanthropy with the needs of the greater movement, we looked at everything from “Building a Supermajority to Organize for Gender Equality” to “Supporting Women’s Movements for Peace, Justice, and Equality.” The topics were engaging, and the speakers diverse. It was an exciting gathering of women dedicated to equality and making change.

However, a summit isn’t the only way we can all come together and drive change. We’re perfectly positioned to become today’s and tomorrow’s leaders in philanthropy, in the workplace, and in the communities we call home. We can donate our time, treasure or talent to support women running for office. We can sponsor, mentor, or help a woman get her foot in the door at work. We can work together to close the pay gap, and to raise women and girls out of poverty. We can join forces to train, position, and elevate women to leadership positions. We can engage our male allies to work with us to build an environment where every person – regardless of gender – is valued, respected, and equally compensated. We can do all of this and more when we remember that we’re in this together.

World Change Begins in Your Heart

Author, Speaker, Humanitarian

Dr. Paula Fellingham

Humanitarian and global women’s movement leader, Dr. Paula Fellingham continues to point her light toward spreading world peace and women’s empowerment for every woman on the planet. As an author of seven books, a teacher, musician, grandmother and winner of both the “Outstanding Leadership and Service” award from President Obama and the “Points of Light” award from President George W. Bush, Paula is propelling her social profit foundation, The Global Prosperity and Peace Initiative, to reach more people than any such endeavor ever has in the history of the world. Paula says each individual must see and accept peace within themselves before we can change the world. Therefore, her peace lessons begin within the heart, and she then shows how to share them in the home, and finally expand into humanity.

Target Date: International Women’s Day, March 3, 2019

Building on the landmark celebration in the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day in 2011, Paula is collaborating with organizations all over the world to launch a program developed by women for women celebrating all we have done, and providing a platform for women to help one another around the world. Using the video conference technology of Zoom, Paula is working to  produce a program that will reach 400 Million people 36,000 live events in every nation on the planet. This massive collaboration will also be available for download on Hulu.

Become a National Peace Ambassador

Paula invites everyone listening to become a National Peace Ambassador. You can sign up on PeaceandProsperityInitiative.org. It’s free and completely volunteer. You can participate as much as you want, but she has made it easy through the peace lessons, called “Peace Is Possible” which she developed for people to give in their own home. The lessons are adaptable to every age group and address problems people have every day.
Originally developed as a program for Rotary International, Paula’s “Peace is Possible” lessons teach participants how to be kind and loving to themselves, their children, brothers, sisters, classmates. She advises how to resolve conflicts in concrete practical ways, how to combat bullying and many more daily life issues. Her focus is on prevention and letting each human being know how precious they are, focusing on the fact that everyone matters and needs to believe that about themselves and everyone they meet.
Listen to more words of wisdom and inspiring projects from these two dedicated humanitarians, Dr. Nancy and Dr. Paula. Hear true stories about how women working together are making the world a far better place to live in. Check out Paula’s website, PaulaFellingham.com, and learn more about her women’s organizations that are founded on the same principles of women helping women as WomenConnect4Good, Inc.

Guiding Women from College to Career

Susan_KelloggSusan Kellogg points out that when she began her career in fashion 30 years ago, only 15 percent of the CEO positions at Fortune 500 companies were filled by women. When she left her job as group president of VF Corporation, the needle hadn’t moved—still only 15 percent. In spite of the fact that women are over half the population and are earning more college degrees than men, they still lag behind in positions of top corporate leadership. So Susan decided to help by filling in the mentoring gap between college and career.
As a graduate of UCLA, Susan joined that university’s board for the sociology department and also serves on board for the Cal Poly Pomona Apparel Merchandising & Management and Agriculture Departments. She notes that we’re doing a great job of educating women to prepare them for leadership careers, but there is little follow-through after that. Now, as a consultant pursuing her mission to give back, Susan guides women in their senior year to make choices that puts them on the path toward successful leadership careers.

Choosing That First Job after School

Susan says that people get paralyzed by that first job, but it doesn’t have to be the perfect job. It doesn’t even have to be the right job and it certainly doesn’t have to be what you’re going to do for the rest of your life. She urges women to ask themselves:

  • Is it interesting?
  • Is this something I can dedicate myself to?
  • Do I find it inspiring?
  • Do I have talent in this area?

If in the first year, it’s not right for you, move on. She says to treat every job experience as adding to your tool box. Even if you realize that you made a mistake, sign up for a year, then figure out your next step and redirect your path.
She also advises that you don’t have to move up every time or even make more money. She moved sideways, accepted a less prestigious title, even less money if it would take her to a company she wanted to work for and where she wanted to live. She always had to feel that she was learning something new and there was opportunity to advance.

“Women Can Have It All, Just Not All at the Same Time.”

Susan reflects that people often ask her if she has any regrets and she answers “no.” She did miss a lot of weddings and funerals, but while on her corporate path, she did all she wanted to do. And she helped other women along the way. A point of pride is that she prioritized racial and gender diversity in her new hires, although qualified women weren’t always available in the technical areas of production and finance.
Also, she notes how sad she would feel if she never had her daughter and believes women need more than a career to feel fulfilled. However, because women’s partners often do not do an equal share of domestic chores, they fall behind in networking and other activities that would advance them into senior positions at work.
Listen to this interview for more insights from a woman who has been in the top ranks of the corporate world, been the only woman in the board room, and continues to work toward helping women achieve a greater percentage of top leadership positions. Learn about what women need to do to achieve their fair and equal share of CEO positions. Whether you’re just starting out, making a transition or looking for a way to give back yourself, this conversation will help inspire your next move.

Telling Our Stories Heals Us

Author, Speaker, Media Producer, Social EntrepeneurTess Cacciatore is a storyteller who has won awards for her productions that tell the stories of people around the world. But her most powerful story is her own, and she tells it in her new Amazon bestselling book, Homeless to the White House. In this conversation, Tess talked about the discoveries she made on her journey from escaping a bullet in the Congo to singing “We Are One” on the White House lawn, and how all of it confirmed her resolve to dedicate her life to telling powerful stories to liberate and empower people throughout the world.
Homeless to the White House“Writing is a wonderful tool,” Tess told Dr. Nancy. It will help you heal, whether you write your daily thoughts in a journal or a short story, book or film. Her book took eight years to write and the telling was possibly more emotional than the experiences themselves. She didn’t fully realize how close she had come to death, while making a documentary in the Congo. Telling that story, and many others, created a laser focus on how she lived her life. It led her to examine the choices she had made that were not just mistakes, but created unhealthy relationships, lead to domestic violence and actually almost got her killed. Ultimately, she began to see all of the adversity that she experienced as a blessing, and that allowed her to progress to the next—and infinitely better—chapter.

#Reveal2Heal Cultural Movement

Tess’s mission as a filmmaker, speaker, author and social entrepreneur is to drive change by inspiring women and men from around the world to join forces and have their voices heard. Her story taught her three important lessons:

  1. Every story has value. Besides the healing you experience in the telling and relieving regrets, guilt, self-recrimination, or hateful grudges against other people, it can help others who are going through similar experiences.
  2. Forgiveness of yourself is first and foremost. She related that the blueprints we all carry from our youth, whether we’re told that we’re fat, ugly, stupid, lazy or whatever, have to be erased. The only way to do that is to forgive yourself. You have to do that before you can forgive anyone else. Complete forgiveness must take place before you can progress to the third most important lesson.
  3. Self-love is the most transformative. Tess said that she always felt that she loved herself, but she didn’t understand what that truly meant until she forgave herself and everything she perceived as being bad. That was when she began to see the world through different eyes, developed empathy for others and opened to all of the generosity and abundance that is available when your heart is truly open.

The Birth of GWEN

Tess said that the end of her book is really only the beginning of her story. Although she has always been passionate about human rights, the value of every human being, and felt outrage at judgments against others for being different, she rose to new determination to help the world transform itself. She founded The Global Women’s Empowerment Network (GWEN), a 501c3 that works with and connects to other charities to benefit women and children around the world. She also founded the GWEN Studios, a production company that utilizes the power of media and technology to enable people to share their stories and transform their lives.  Launching this summer, GWEN Studios is working with others to create a network to reach 250 million households. Tess wants to encourage anyone wanting to find their voice to reach out to her and GWEN. She plans to broadcast all kinds of content from documentaries, features, short films and TV series to a whole music division.
Buy Homeless to the White House on Amazon. And listen to this conversation for more about Tess’s story. Then check out Tess’s website and the Global Women’s Empowerment Network to learn how you can connect in these exciting initiatives to share, heal and transform our stories.

Strategies to Create Social Change

Linda HartleyFrom 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.
Big Impact BookWith 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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