Carolyn Sauvage Mar

Affiliate Consultant, Community Resource Exchange

How old is your organization? 40 years
What sector do you work in? Nonprofit social sector
How long have you been working in this sector? 35 years
How long have you been with your current organization? Since 1998

If you have worked with CRE in some capacity, what impact did it have?
I think CRE is a place of solidarity for ideas. People come around. They’ve got ideas. Maybe problems. Sometimes choices. We are on their side, believe in them, help shape the ways they’re going to do their work. A lot of good things can and have happened. I am so proud to have worked as part of the fierce tribe who grew CRE in depth, scale, and heart.

What has been the most significant development in your sector over the last 40 years?
Nonprofits have become nearly synonymous with the social sector. We are no longer seen as working at the margins. We are everywhere.

What has been the greatest challenge during this same period?
Funding. Some things never change. Nonprofits have gotten a share of the wealth generated in the past generation, for sure. A part of the sector has become the social service arm of the government, another pathway for growth. Now, some of us can compete in a competitive marketplace for ideas and programs; but, the unending quest for resources is what makes the work challenging.

Describe a key event that has impacted your sector in the last 40 years?

What leadership qualities are necessary to succeed as a nonprofit executive today?
All of us and especially our leaders need to remember why we do what we do. The what and how aspects will come along, but we will be lost if we ever forget the why.

How do you see shifting views on race, gender, sexuality, age, immigration status, educational achievement, wealth, poverty, and health affecting your organization in the future?
This is a moment when many grapple with what underlies our attitudes towards and the determinants of what is fair and achievable. Meanwhile, the nonprofit/social sector itself has grown ever more “sophisticated” as an industry. This is an intersection that merits talking about; taking on these big questions is a way to honestly address barriers to entry and who will succeed in all aspects of a nonprofit’s mission and operations.

What will nonprofits need to do to remain relevant and necessary to their clients over the next 40 years?
I feel freed by the insight that political power must be won for justice to be had. Caring for our democracy has to start to be more important to the sector if we are really going to make a difference.

Where would you like to see your sector in 40 years?
Led by people from communities that bear the brunt of inequality and invisibility.

What are your sector’s biggest challenges in the future, and what must be done to address them?
We’re always going to have lots to work on, but there are so many talented and dedicated people who can do the work. Let’s make sure our people emerge, stay whole, and valued.

What was your breakthrough moment in becoming a leader?
Realizing that my curiosity was probably more important than knowing things, and having generous colleagues and wise people to help me all along the way.

What do you want your work culture to be like?
Humble. Proud of true accomplishment. Fair. Generous. Hard-working.

Find out more
New American Leaders
New American Leaders Action Fund

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