What it takes to be an “excellent” nonprofit

David Garza, executive director of Henry Street Settlement, speaks at conference.
David Garza, executive director of Henry Street Settlement, speaks at conference.
501SEE Photography
David Garza, executive director of Henry Street Settlement, speaks at the 2019 Best Nonprofit Conference.

What it takes to be an “excellent” nonprofit

Nonprofits honored for their best practices called for collaboration and innovative approaches to board engagement
December 11, 2019

The three finalists of Nonprofit New York’s 2019 Nonprofit Excellence awards took the stage on Dec. 10 at the Best Nonprofit Conference to share some of their best practices.

All three nonprofit leaders shared the same key component to their success: collaboration. David Garza, president and CEO of Henry Street Settlement, which won the overall management excellence award, partnered with neighboring organizations to form the Lower East Side Employment Network, which creates workforce development opportunities. 

“As a sector, we’re often pitted to compete against one another,” he said. “A new business comes to a neighborhood, it’s ‘who's going to have the sharpest elbows getting to the front door and then controlling that relationship.’ So we took that paradigm and flipped it on its head.” Shari Levine, executive director of award finalist Literacy Inc., similarly noted that she often sits down with the heads of other literacy organizations so they can learn from one another.

Board engagement also took the spotlight, as Jennifer Mitchell, executive director of the other finalist, The HOPE Program, noted that she always gives board members information packets a week before their meetings. “The meetings aren’t going over what people can just read but engaging in real, thoughtful discussions,” she said.

Levine, whose organization was honored for fundraising, said each of Literacy’s board meetings includes at least one community staff member who will share about their work and answer questions from board members. And after its December board meeting, the organization holds a holiday party for both staff and board members.

“The staff is eager to have a connection with the board members that support our work and the board really needs to have connections with the staff,” she said. “So that’s an area where governance and fundraising go hand-in-hand.”

NYN Media reporter Kay Dervesh
Kay Dervishi
is a staff reporter at NYN Media.