11/08/2012
Behind the Scenes
Education Nonprofits and the Changing Leadership Landscape

NID Hosts Fall Forum

On Thursday, November 8th, Need in Deed brought together a diverse group that included educators, funders, and representatives from both the business and nonprofit sectors for a conversation highlighting issues related to shifting educational priorities, strategies and needs in the context of leadership transitions, whether generational or structural.

In order to delve deeper into what this “changing leadership landscape” may mean for education in Philadelphia, Need in Deed convened a panel of four local leaders:

  • Debra Kahn, Executive Director, Delaware Valley Grantmakers
  • Kimberly Kirn, Executive Director, Need in Deed
  • Darren Spielman, Executive Director, Philadelphia Education Fund
  • Stanford Thompson, CEO, Play On, Philly!


As someone who has experienced all three paths to a leadership role, Debra Kahn succinctly described the ways the panelists had landed in their current positions when she suggested “you can either step in, move up or start up.”

The conversation among the panelists and audience members ranged from what it means to be a leader, to the ways in which education nonprofits can work in conjunction with schools to help support teachers, create opportunities for students in school and out, and how philanthropy is changing the ways in which we think and talk about (not to mention fund) public education. Kim Kirn pointed out that not only do leaders have a responsibility to articulate their vision within their own organizations, but also to “build the team outside your staff, to collaborate, to be in communication, and to make sure that we have a common vision.”

Following the panel, audience members broke into small groups to debate, discuss and report back on what they see as opportunities arising from the challenges facing education. Eden Kratchman, executive director of the ACE Foundation, shared that her group had concluded, “We need to not be afraid to get involved because we worry about starting too small and not having enough of an impact.” This sentiment was echoed by Stanford Thompson, who urged everyone – especially school districts and funders – to think of quality programs as an investment that will be repaid through the future successes of the young people they serve. “We have to do a much better job of helping folks to realize that things could be different,” he said.

NID Board member David Montgomery remarked, “transition creates opportunity – hopefully all the silos of good work will form a collaborative effort going forward.” Given the excitement, energy and tweets that filled the room, it seems the conversation will continue well beyond this event.