Eileen Newman

Executive Director, Center for Bronx Nonprofits

How old is your organization? Six years old
What sector do you work in? I work with nonprofits across all sectors
How long have you been working in this sector? 25+ years
How long have you been with your current organization? I was hired to create the Center six years ago

What has been the most significant development in your sector over the last 40 years?
There have been many more nonprofits which have been created over the last 40 years.

What has been the greatest challenge during this same period?
The development of so many nonprofits has led to challenges in funding, sustainability, and training of nonprofit professionals.

Describe a key event that has impacted your sector in the last 40 years?
The nonprofit sector is always impacted by political events. Right now, the administration in Washington threatens the constituents of many nonprofits, especially immigrants, which impacts the need in that area.

How has communication—with staff, clients, and/or donors—changed over the course of the last 40 years?
I believe there is more of an effort for honest communication about challenges in the field.

How has risk-management changed over this period?
In larger organizations, I believe there is an emphasis on risk-management and in creating programs to analyze and confront risks. For smaller organizations, I do not believe this has happened to the same degree.

How have your sector’s needs changed (or those of your clients) in the last 40 years?
I think social justice organizations are working with clients who are unfortunately facing some of the same challenges they have been facing for 40 years—poverty and institutional racism being two of the biggest problems.

How have nonprofits’ priorities shifted in the last 40 years?
From my vantage point, in one of the poorest congressional districts in the country, I believe many of the priorities the nonprofits are responding to are the same, providing a variety of resources to improve the lives of their clients.

What is the single greatest challenge you face today in your sector?
I think the nonprofit sector is facing the challenge of succession planning on all levels of organizations, from middle management to executive directors, which leads to issues of sustainability of organizations.

What leadership qualities are necessary to succeed as a nonprofit executive today?
Nonprofit leaders have to be flexible and committed to creating relationships leading to partnerships. They also have to have tremendous energy, not be afraid of change, and to be unafraid of making decisions when confronted with challenges.

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?
Being in the Bronx, we are seeing many changes. We are undergoing gentrification, and yet many of the organizations in the community are still meeting the needs of people living below the poverty level. How to navigate and maintain a sense of community when the demographics of the area significantly change is a real challenge.

What will nonprofits need to do to remain relevant and necessary to their clients over the next 40 years?
They need to adapt to the changing needs of the clients, they also need to think about partnerships and mergers as possibilities to strengthen the abilities of organizations to continue the work.

What skills do you believe are necessary for people to succeed as managers over the next few decades?
Managers will have to be well versed in changing technologies and ways of using technologies to meet the needs of their staffs and clients, but ultimately I think the characteristics which make a good manager will still be the ability to work well with people and to be sensitive to the needs of their staff as well as their clients.

Where would you like to see your sector in 40 years?
I would like to see the need for many nonprofits to go away because we will have become a society which really puts caring about their citizens first.

Why did you join this sector?
I joined the nonprofit sector first as an educator, then went into arts management and now I have added my social justice commitment to create a job which allows me to work with nonprofits across all sectors.

In what ways would others say you are a trailblazer?
I think people think of me as a trailblazer because I have been unafraid to make changes in my career. I have accepted positions because they interested me even if I was uncertain about the sustainability. My current position is an example, at a point when I could have remained in a field where I was known, I accepted a position to start a brand new initiative because it was work I cared about and I thought I could make a difference in people’s lives.

Why did you want to become Executive Director of the Center for Bronx Nonprofits at Hostos?
I loved the challenge of creating something new, working with people doing amazing work, and being in an environment which had a history of social justice commitment.

What was your breakthrough moment in becoming a leader?
I left a secure job in education, to take a job as the ED of a film organization that was deeply challenged in many ways. I learned everything about how to be a leader in those years, it was scary but exhilarating.

What do you want your work culture to be like?
I need to be in a culture or create a culture where people feel excited about coming to work, good about the work they do, and where they feel they can be honest about the challenges they face. It may sound simplistic, but I believe in work environments where people are sensitive to each other, are supportive, and have fun even when the work is hard.

Name three qualities that are inherent in being a strong leader.
Vision, tenacity, and compassion.

Based on your experience, offer one piece of advice to a person hoping to break through as a leader in your sector.
Do the work you have a passion for, take chances even if you aren’t sure of the outcome, and be strong but fair in your relationships with others.

Find out more
Center for Bronx Nonprofits

En Español »