Your Life. Your Legacy. Conversations with Philanthropic Leaders.
As a part of our series on philanthropic leaders, Diane Manuel talks with Eleanor Beasley. Eleanor worked for many years in the banking industry while volunteering in the community, serving on more than ten nonprofit boards, with budgets ranging from $1000 to $10MM. She transitioned from corporate management to nonprofit management. Currently, she is the Executive Director of two nonprofits located in Pasadena, California: Bloom Again and Rose City Counseling Center. In addition, she continues to volunteer her time and talent on two boards: as Board Chairperson of Crystal Stairs, Inc. and as a board member and past Chairperson of the YWCA of Greater Los Angeles.
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TOUCH AND FEEL.
A bulging contact list. Access to C-suite executives. A couple of bucket list trips. Demonstrating her capacity as an effective board member, Eleanor Beasley leveraged her passion for supporting Southern California nonprofits into an exciting career that managed to incorporate her volunteerism and her work as a banking professional.
Eleanor’s first occasion to serve as board chairperson was for MOSTe, a nonprofit whose mission is to empower girls in underserved communities in Southern California. The organization depended on volunteers and donations from corporate Los Angeles. Unfortunately for Eleanor, she was board chair during the 1990s recession. MOSTe was losing donors and volunteers. She swore that the organization would not go under during her watch and engaged board members, volunteers, and anyone who would listen. Her passion was infectious. They made it. The organization continues to this day and celebrates its 35th anniversary in April.
While Board Chairperson for the YWCA of Greater Los Angeles, Eleanor was told that she chaired the most engaged board ever. How did she do it? “Touch and feel.” Eleanor spent her tenure learning about the needs, wants, and desires of her fellow board members. The key question she put to her colleagues was, “What do you want from this experience?” She never forgets that board members are volunteers: that they are doing this for a reason. [Tweet this!] It’s important to know the experiences and expectations her board members want. Most importantly, she wants to have individual relationships with each board member to facilitate the achievement of their individual passions. An added plus: national board meetings were held in Kauai and Washington, D.C.—two places Eleanor had always wanted to visit.
Passion and career coalesced while Eleanor worked at City National Bank, where she won the 2007 Volunteer of the Year Award from the Los Angeles Business Journal Women's Summit. At the celebration, the presenter of the award, from a rival bank, met Eleanor and recruited her. The result: a new employer, a new position, and a promotion.
Currently, as Chairperson of Crystal Stairs, an organization focused on early childhood education, Eleanor has again rallied her colleagues with her passionate desire for relationship-building among board members and staff. She recently organized a field trip with board members and executive staff to see in person the educational and play spaces where the children learned and played. “I want everyone to touch and feel the programs and people we serve. They need to know why a sandbox is important and why the sandbox needs an umbrella.” [Tweet this!] As you can see, this work is deeply personal. And when she involves her colleagues in this deeply personal experience, their work is suddenly alive: “It’s not a contract that needs a signature.”
What does Eleanor expect from philanthropy in the near future? First, like others, she thinks that technology will play a key role. However, she acknowledges that this is a “steep hill to climb” for many organizations. Regardless, she feels that there is power in the ability to “tap a button” and be part of community with similar interests.
Personally, she believes that technology can help create a portal—a “one-stop shop” for those wishing to work or create opportunities to serve. In an ideal world, Eleanor believes there’s no need to recreate the wheel. A portal would serve as an opportunity to know what others are already doing and what funders are actually funding.
Secondly, as demonstrated by her past volunteer work, Eleanor believes in the power of women. She believes that “Women will solve the issues related to race and inequality.” Ideally, she’d like to see a forum for discussions around these issues. For people to understand each other. To touch and feel. From this experience, professional women in positions of authority will advocate for fair and equal treatment in the workplace which will improve living conditions in the community.