An engaged and supportive governing board. By ensuring that the board is passionate and continuously looking at the governance piece of the nonprofit such as policies and procedures, funding and budget. Having a supportive group that has the nonprofit’s best interests in mind is very important and the board plays a huge role in the overall success of the organization.

For someone who wants to set aside money to establish a Philanthropic Foundation or Fund, what does it take to make sure your resources are being impactful and truly effective? In this interview series, called “How To Create Philanthropy That Leaves a Lasting Legacy” we are visiting with founders of Philanthropic Foundations, Charitable Organizations, and Non Profit Organizations, to talk about the steps they took to create sustainable success.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Charly Weldon.

In 2016, Charly Weldon joined the Family Houston team as the President & CEO with over 20 years of nonprofit leadership. Previously, she served at The Beacon Homeless Shelter, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. Charly received her Bachelor of Business Administration in Business Management from the University of Houston and her Master of Business Administration from Texas A&M Commerce.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about a ‘top of mind’ topic. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today?

I grew up with a resource that gave me a good start in life: devoted parents who looked out for me and who did everything they could to prepare me for a stable future. My father especially sought to instill a strong work ethic in my brothers and me. I got a job as soon as I turned 16 and on the day that I received my first paycheck, my dad, who was a CPA, took me straight to his bank to open an account in my own name. He taught me about debt, credit, and interest rates, equipping me to make savvy financial decisions at a young age. I know that not everyone has someone to teach them life skills like these, and I’ve always recognized how fortunate I was to have a father who did. Whether you are sixteen or forty-six, financial literacy offers people the power to build a stable future. At Family Houston, we believe that financial literacy is so essential to building a thriving life, that it’s one of our core services. Our Financial Literacy classes and our Financial Coaching services offer people the knowledge needed to eliminate debt, save money, and even build wealth through homeownership.

The other experience that shaped me deeply is the professional mentoring I received from my boss when I worked for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. He was an advocate for my work, for female leadership, and for me personally as well. Not only was he a supportive manager, but he lifted me up every chance he got and made sure that I received recognition for the work I did. His example has helped me realize that human capital is any organization’s greatest asset. I know what it’s like to work for a boss who inspires the best in people; who truly cares about the people they manage, and that’s the kind of leader I strive to be.

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? We would love to hear a few stories or examples.

Three characteristics that I believe are instrumental to successful leadership are humility, approachability, and servant leadership. For me, humility means understanding that everyone is working hard, and not everyone is going to get things right the first time — myself included! It’s possible to have high standards of excellence and also to understand that making mistakes is part of learning, growing, and moving an organization forward as we try new things. I don’t want my team to be terrified of their mistakes; I hope to cultivate a culture where we learn just as much when things don’t go the way we had planned as when they do.

Being approachable is essential to cultivating a strong and connected Leadership Team. I know my team personally; I know their stories and who they are as people outside of work. It is possible to maintain professional boundaries and at the same time, appreciate the unique backgrounds and identities on my team. I believe that employees who feel known and part of a larger community (not just like a cog in a big machine) are going to be happier, going to make the organization stronger, and are going to stay in their positions longer.

Finally, servant leadership is what integrity looks like in action. I would never ask anyone on my team to do something I wouldn’t do myself. We’re a smaller organization, and there are times when we roll up our sleeves and all get the job done together. Leading by example was particularly important during the Covid 19 pandemic. As a leader, I knew that I needed to display the same flexibility and creativity that I wanted from my team. It was essential to model self-care; showing vulnerability and recognizing our own humanity in the midst of that crisis. In addition to serving our clients, I wanted to create a space where we could offer support to one another, and so we began gathering virtually on Friday afternoons to discuss topics that mattered most to us; mental health was always a topic of conversation.

What’s the most interesting discovery you’ve made since you started leading your organization?

We are currently in the process of moving out of our office and will be sharing a space with another nonprofit. We are boxing up over 40 years of history, but a few boxes in particular have caught my attention. There are a few boxes with meeting minutes from the 1950s and 1960s that I can’t wait to go through during some downtime. I also found our proclamation from 1904 that reminded me of why Family Houston was founded and who we are as an organization. Finding that history is inspiring and invigorating!

Can you please tell our readers more about how you or your organization intends to make a significant social impact?

Family Houston is dedicated to creating a stronger community for tomorrow by helping individuals and families meet the challenges they face today. Through three core competencies– basic needs, financial stability and mental health– Family Houston works to stabilize, equip and empower Houstonians regardless of their ability to pay. We are intentional about our mission and work to make communities accepting and welcoming places for all to live and thrive. Family Houston responds to the community’s needs by identifying gaps in support and stepping in with care and resources.

What makes you feel passionate about this cause more than any other?

During my senior year of high school, I lost my mother to cancer. Later that year, my father suffered a debilitating stroke, and at the age of seventeen, I became his caregiver along with my brothers. It was my aunt who soon noticed that I was struggling. I was withdrawing and depression was beginning to set in. She approached me and offered to help me find mental health support. Not long after, I began therapy. This was in the mid-80s; counseling was not openly talked about and not as accessible as it is today. I was fortunate to have a family member with the insight to get me the help I needed to process the devastating events of that year. Her advocacy for mental health and the counseling I received made me the incredibly strong person that I am today. Now, it is my turn to be an advocate for people who are hurting. One crisis or life event doesn’t have to keep anyone from being successful. Life is hard — sometimes we need support and I love getting to pay forward the care that I received when I needed it.

Without naming names, could you share a story about an individual who benefitted from your initiatives?

At the beginning of the pandemic, many people lost their jobs and one client, in particular, has a great story. He is around 50 years old and came in for counseling because he needed help getting back on his feet after being laid off from his job. He wanted to start processing what happened to him and start applying for jobs. He realizes that memories from the last job were holding him back. Family Houston’s counselors helped stabilize the crisis and through therapy, the client was able to process the event. Before therapy, the client would usually bike to keep his mind off of what happened and help cope with it. He also began suffering from panic attacks and would avoid applying to jobs. Now, he has been practicing meditations and other coping mechanisms to help relieve his anxiety. He has noticed a significant difference in his mental health, including a decrease in panic attacks and less time ruminating about being laid off. After employment coaching, the client has started applying to jobs in the last few weeks and began reading the self-help articles he used to avoid. Today, he continues to improve and prepare for job interviews– finally facing his fears of failure. Stress is relative. What one person can handle, can be triggering for another. It’s important to recognize that losing a job can be a life-altering experience. He was brave to ask for help and he was emotionally aware to address the crisis from a mental health perspective. It’s stories like this that showcase how our services are impacting lives and communities.

We all want to help and to live a life of purpose. What are three actions anyone could take to help address the root cause of the problem you’re trying to solve?

The first thing is to expand your awareness through a lens of empathy and understanding. Not everyone wears their pain outwardly, but if we practice offering others the same benefit of the doubt that we give ourselves, we will avoid making assumptions. I try to create a habit of imagining people as complex and complicated creatures — even though it’s much easier to think that the person who just cut us off in traffic is a one-dimensional villain — it’s almost never true! That’s just one way that I cultivate empathy every day. The next thing you can do is become an advocate. Being an advocate for an issue like mental health can continue to chip away at the stigma surrounding the issue. Next, find out what work is already being done in your community. What organization has been tackling the issue for years already? Volunteer there; you’ll often find that getting involved in a hands-on way will give you new insight into the problem.

Based on your experience, what are the “5 Things You Need To Create A Successful & Effective Nonprofit That Leaves A Lasting Legacy?” Please share a story or example for each.

Address a need that isn’t already being met. Family Houston started in 1904 when there wasn’t a lot of organized support in the community. For over 118 years we have had to consistently hit pause and reconsider what we are doing to see if there is still a need for our services in the community and we are constantly pivoting to make sure we are answering the needs of Houstonians. We are addressing and defining the services we provide by reevaluating

A diversified stream of funds. Having a diversified income to support the work you do is important. The state of the economy is ever-changing and having a consistent funding stream is needed to support nonprofit programs. By diversifying you can make sure that you will have financial support even when something happens to other revenue streams or changes. By using both foundation grants and individual giving, you can ensure you will have a couple of avenues for funding.

An engaged and supportive governing board. By ensuring that the board is passionate and continuously looking at the governance piece of the nonprofit such as policies and procedures, funding and budget. Having a supportive group that has the nonprofit’s best interests in mind is very important and the board plays a huge role in the overall success of the organization.

Great people. An organization’s biggest asset is its people. Recognizing the strength of the team is important and investing in them by making sure they have the training necessary and listening to their needs helps build an organization of teamwork. After starting my position at Family Houston, I wanted to get true feedback from each employee, so we were fortunate enough to have a consulting firm offer pro bono services to analyze the organization’s benefits and employees’ wants. Getting honest opinions about the paid time off, work-life balance and benefits helped me see what it would take to make Family Houston a long-term commitment for them. I gained great insight from this and created a few internal initiatives to further engage our team and tailor teambuilding.

Listen to those you serve. Having a direct relationship and line of communication with the people you are serving is important to make sure you are meeting their needs. We have implemented a quality council that meets regularly to ensure the team is meeting those standards and the clients are receiving the services in a way they appreciate. We are in this line of work to provide services to our clients and they are at the heart of everything we do.

How has the pandemic changed your definition of success?

Before the pandemic, there were a lot of things we wanted to accomplish and we did not get the opportunity to accomplish them. We looked at things differently back then. Now, success is a lot more self-supportive. We recognize that we come together on a regular basis and we can be successful in a virtual setting as well. We’ve learned to redefine and calibrate the meaning of success in a new atmosphere and context. Getting through the pandemic together in a world of constant change was a challenge, but we went through it together and came out stronger on the other side. That is a success in and of itself.

How do you get inspired after an inevitable setback?

I’ve heard it said, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,” and I have never seen that truer than in moments of discouragement. It’s the team that you bring along who can inspire you to keep trying when the obstacles are huge, and the outcomes are small. My leadership team is by far the best I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with. They are dedicated, gracious, and in tune with one another. Recognizing when someone needs encouragement or support may not be the first quality we think of in a great teammate, but it’s actually invaluable. Surround yourself with people who inspire you — with their work ethic, their resilience or their dedication, and you’ll go so much further than you could have imagined.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world who you would like to talk to, to share the idea behind your non-profit? He, she, or they might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would love to meet the families that founded Family Houston and talk to them about the impact they have had over the past 118 years. I would want to ask them if they thought they would still be making an impact on the community after all these years. I would also thank them for the great organization they started and share how they have changed lives and the Houston community as a result.

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Thank you for a meaningful conversation. We wish you continued success with your mission.