A Conversation with Wendy Gladney Dean
As the founder of Forgiving for Living, Inc., a board member of the UCLA Black Alumni Association and through her company, Personal Services Plus, Wendy Gladney Dean works with non-profits to help them find the space in which they can excel. Forgiving for Living, Inc., officially began in 1999. However, Wendy Gladney Dean’s own process of forgiveness began many years before. Living through tumultuous personal experiences as a child, Wendy has emerged victorious, moving from victim to champion—a champion for all who have had negative experiences in their lives. As such, she has been an inspiration to many in the philanthropic field. Now she serves as the President of Forgiving for Living, the non-profit she founded to support and provide solutions to people who want to begin, or who are struggling with their own path to forgiveness.
At the core of Wendy’s work is teaching and sharing: she connects, she brands, and she strategizes. She believes that individuals and organizations have the capacity to grow and develop with greater reflection and with an understanding of their purposes and resources.
When one’s work centers on teaching and sharing, gratitude and empathy are obviously core values. It’s these values and strengths that are the foundation of Wendy’s work.
Wendy also brings this compassion and strength to her for-profit business, Personal Services Plus, which primarily works with non-profit organizations. Non-profit work, according to Wendy, should be “a calling.” She encourages her clients to “energize and restore; to learn, live, and share their mission.” Otherwise, “it can become weary.” It’s hard work helping others, watching out for others, and caring for others. “When making a difference in someone else’s life—it motivates you; it restores you.”
But make no mistake: Wendy understands that non-profits are a business. There need to be “business plans, goals, metrics.” Through her work, she inspires her colleagues and clients to identify “their mission, their niche.” The result: these organizations have a better understanding of their calling and are better able to stay focused on their goals.
“We don’t have enough money.” Although this may be true for some non-profits, Wendy wonders if some organizations have misaligned resources. Sometimes, she says, organizations need to “reevaluate, to reorganize, to reassess—are you using your resources the best way possible in order to make a difference?” Non-profits need to be set up to “allow people to help them.”
Understanding the business element of the organization, supporting its staff, and understanding the financial commitments of running an organization is imperative. Wendy’s suggestion: reach out for assistance and guidance. Running the business is just as important as implementing the mission.
Wendy speaks about the importance of soliciting broad involvement from supporters—money, time, connections, and volunteers—and how this is especially true for smaller non-profits. If there is clarity about the mission, there is minimal ambiguity about the assistance required. Every non-profit organization needs to “help people understand how to give.”
Wendy has seen the corporate giving bucket shrink, requiring much more creative fundraising efforts and the need to be mindful of resources that are available. “If you don’t take your business seriously, you won’t have a non-profit.”
Personally, Wendy stays busy, with both her non-profit and for-profit companies. She writes a newspaper column every week, has authored multiple books, and appears weekly on KJLH Radio’s Front Page. She is excited to have recently instituted a succession plan for Forgiving for Living. What will Forgiving for Living look like in the future? Wendy isn’t sure. She’s open and flexible to whether it remains a stand-alone organization or partners with an organization with similar goals. According to Wendy, “there is no founder syndrome here.”