Did you read that headline? Are you hearing the chorus of the Boyz II Men song in your head? I sure am.
I must admit that I’ve procrastinated writing this post, which is completely out of character for me. The only time I put off doing something is when it’s hard — not hard in the sense that it’ll take time or effort, but hard in the sense that it’s emotional for me.
And it is hard to say goodbye.
I recently notified our CEO and board that I will be resigning from Health Forward in mid-November to launch a consulting practice advising nonprofits and foundations on policy, advocacy, and civic engagement strategies. It is bittersweet as I will miss so much about Health Forward but am excited to my core at the possibilities ahead.
So, in the spirit of Boyz II Men, I’d like to share “the good times that made us laugh,” “what we’ve been through,” and “where this road is going to lead.” Yes, these are all lyrics from the song, which is a coincidence too good not to use!
Gratitude: The Good Times that Made Us Laugh
I have loved so much about my 10 years at Health Forward and consider it one of my greatest professional privileges to be part of an organization whose people and mission I admire so much.
- I’m ever grateful to my colleagues at Health Forward for all the memories we’ve made. As inaugural Health Forward President/CEO Steve Roling used to say, “the work we do is serious, but we don’t always have to be.” The camaraderie inside this office has been my saving grace year in and year out, when ballot initiatives have failed or and bills haven’t passed. These people — my people — will be so dearly missed.
- Thank you to our many board members over the years for repeatedly embracing our policy work, along with the risk, uncertainty, messiness, and controversy that can come with it. I hope and believe that we have made good on this trust by delivering system-level changes that will positively impact those in need for years to come.
- Finally, I want to thank all our grantees and partners from the deepest wells of my heart. You’re juggling so many things between fundraising, servicing clients, managing teams, building strategic plans, and responding to funders. And then, Health Forward throws one more ball into your juggling act by asking you to join us in advocating for policy and system-level changes. I have strived to maintain open lines of dialogue to learn from you and offer even better ways to support you in achieving the bold goals you aspire to achieve.
Learning: What We’ve Been Through
Geesh, I have learned so much in my time at Health Forward. Here are a few of the most important lessons I’ll be taking with me:
- There’s no magical equation or foolproof strategy that will drive a successful policy change. Pretending we have the right answers and best strategies does a disservice to our missions. It’s okay to acknowledge and accept the uncertainties in this field.
- Nonprofits work in support of broad, sweeping goals: health equity, educational attainment, comprehensive immigration reform. But policy change is inherently incremental. We must enhance our ability to identify the specific and incremental steps that it will take to make progress toward the broad goals we have identified.
- Fear of engaging in policy and civic strategies remains rampant in the nonprofit community. I understand this fear. Being too bold or controversial could alienate donors, make it harder to attract quality board members, or lose staff. Engaging in policy work is risky. You can do everything right only to be thwarted, oftentimes by circumstances outside your control. Still, silence in the face of injustice does nothing but protect the status quo. The risks are high, but I still think they are worth it.
Up Next: Where This Road is Going to Lead
- My time at Health Forward has solidified for me that nonprofits and philanthropies have not just an opportunity but an obligation to engage in policy and civic engagement. I am eager to help push this conversation in my new role consulting with nonprofits and philanthropy to develop civic strategies. I’ll be doing this work as Platform Civic Strategies, which will be online at www.platformcivic.com.
- Policy advocacy can be intimidating: no two issues, organizations, or contexts are the same. I am crafting this work to address these issues so that advocacy is approachable and customized. It is one of my great goals to make policy advocacy and civic engagement accessible enough that more nonprofits see themselves as necessary participants in these important system-level conversations that are profoundly affecting our nation’s neediest citizens.
I am working hard to provide Health Forward and our important work the smoothest transition possible. I will stay engaged with Health Forward as a consultant on some key projects. I look forward to continuing to cross paths with so many of you in the coming years.