A clear vision and mission. One of the things my dear friend Kevin Starr at the Mulago Foundation taught me was to practice the eight-word mission statement. We should be able to explain what our non-profit does in eight words or less. Verb, target, outcome.
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 Jane Finette.
A former executive with eBay, Mozilla, and Sotheby’s, Jane Finette is a certified CPCC, ACC, executive coach, author, and leadership expert, and a passionate advocate for women and girls whom she supports as CEO of her nonprofit The Coaching Fellowship (TCF), an organization that helps advance the work of young female social-change leaders throughout the world. TCFS has grown from helping a handful of women to serving more than 300 young female leaders of impact per year, and is able to help and catalyze so many leaders because of the tireless support of its 190+ volunteer coach community. Jane is also the author of Unlocked: How Empowered Women Empower Women, which launched in 2021 and the profits from which are funneled back into her nonprofit TCF; see more about Jane on LinkedIn.https://community.thriveglobal.com/media/6be35c4f4e392feb093629fce12a57c4
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?
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.
- Courageous vulnerability: Speaking my truth and using my voice to show others it’s OK to share and bring their full selves. I have an innate talent for creating natural spaces where people can bring all their capabilities, wisdom, and passion. With that safe and brave space, untold possibilities can happen! People will surprise you with their greatness again and again.
- Not afraid to ship: You’ll hear us say at The Coaching Fellowship that “good is good enough.” We are absolutely here to create the best quality service and experience for our fellows and volunteers — and we are also not here to die in beauty! We trial, test, and re-release very often. We want to know how something works by doing it. I’m drawn to take action in small ways to get us: (1) moving and (2) to achieve the best possible outcome.
- Optimism: I’m definitely always looking for the learning, the potential in other humans, projects, situations. I’m a firm believer that we create the future we want, and so I’ll always put grace, love, peace, and potential out there, regardless of the circumstance. Positivity isn’t fake; it has always allowed me to see the best in others and not get bogged down in negativity and scarcity.
What’s the most interesting discovery you’ve made since you started leading your organization?
I’ve been leading The Coaching Fellowship for almost eight years, and we’ve supported more than 1,300 young women social-change leaders from more than 70 countries. The one thing that made me weep for a long time was that the core element each fellow applicant wanted to work on with their coach was their confidence. It quite literally broke my heart that here were these incredible and accomplished young women doing extraordinary things to make the world better, and the one thing they needed to overcome was a lack of confidence.
However, it wasn’t long before I realized that confidence was actually something we could help them with! It wasn’t a million-dollar check for their non-profit, nor the answers to a big organizational strategy question; it was something our coaches were expertly trained to help support. And if that was the only thing standing in the way of success and deepening impact — well, that was incredible! We’ve been changing hundreds of lives for many years now, and it’s been tremendous to witness our fellows continuing growth and influence standing in their full power and presence.
Each time we open applications for our fellowship program the same requests to work on confidence come up again, and each time I am humbled by our fellows’ ability to self-reflect, and their willingness to work on removing one of the few things standing in their way of creating even more impact and change in the world.
Can you please tell our readers more about how you or your organization intends to make a significant social impact?
We empower young women leaders of impact to build the new world. In these difficult times where the pandemic continues to affect millions of lives, where we are struggling to find unity and collective action in tackling the climate crisis, and where millions of people face hardship, repression, and injustices — we must work to build a new world for everyone.
We support young women leaders already tackling our global grand challenges, from the climate crisis to poverty, hunger, and human rights, and much more. We believe that helping them step more deeply into their leadership and capacity is the best way to accelerate change.
We know that when we support a young woman to increase her confidence, help her develop, amplify her leadership, and provide her with a community of other powerful women-impact leaders, we have an enormous opportunity to create lasting change.
What makes you feel passionate about this cause more than any other?
I received access to leadership development and coaching when I had already made it into the executive team at Mozilla; it was something that I wished I had had access to much earlier in my career. I made it my mission to get this kind of leadership experience to young women between the ages of 25 and 35 working in the social impact and development sector. I held the belief that the younger a woman is when she gets access to her full self and abilities, the more impact she can create for herself and the world.
A longitudinal study we did with the University of Southern California has now proven that getting access to coaching and community early in a young woman leader’s career in the social sector is a massive differentiator for advancement, accelerated impact, and — equally as important — a reduction in burnout.
Without naming names, could you share a story about an individual who benefitted from your initiatives?
There are so many stories to share! One which moved me recently was the story of a young woman leader based in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. We worked with her several years ago, when she worked for a solar-energy project. Some months ago we reconnected, and I was delighted to see that she was now the executive director of the organization. She shared that she had taken the role of acting executive director, a role that she once never thought would be for her. With the help of her coach and fellow co-colleagues, she decided to apply for the role, and told the organization why she was the right person for the position.
She shared with me that without the support of her coach and The Coaching Fellowship community, she never would have applied, believing she wasn’t good enough to fill the role. She was able to finally see for herself that she was more than capable, and in fact was the right person for the job! She now runs a team of 26 people and is increasing their footprint in the field by leaps and bounds.
So much of what we do is help fellows get out of their own way, and find the courage to take one small, brave step toward their dreams and goals.
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?
My top three actions for helping young women leaders rise and thrive, beyond getting access to coaching and leadership development, are:
- Open your network.
Women tend to build different networks than men do: We cultivate long-lasting and deeply personal connections. We do not feel as comfortable developing what are called “weak ties.” However, these less-strong connections are the ones that will often bring forward new and surprising opportunities.
Over time, a network becomes more and more valuable, and so does its potential. Therefore, we must encourage young women to see and know the value of starting a good network, and to spend time working on developing one earlier in their careers.
A great way to do this is to proactively offer to make an introduction and follow-up to see if she is meeting new people on a regular basis.
2. Actually talk about money.
Helping women feel confident with money is critical. The gender pay gap is real and closing at a glacial pace. White women are still decades away from equal pay, Black women are one hundred-plus years away, and Latina women two hundred-plus years away.
One of the biggest hurdles we can help women overcome is supporting them in asking for what they are worth. When we share our own salaries and discuss strategies for asking for a raise, we increase the likelihood of her claiming what she is owed.
By talking about money often, whether that be about investing, financial news, and tips, or your own level of discomfort, you create an ease that leads to more familiarity and action.
3. Just say “Yes.”
One of the simplest ways we can help another young woman is just to say “Yes!” Yes to an introduction. Yes to a thirty-minute call. Yes to giving some advice. Yes to any request within the realm of possibility.
It might surprise you to know that your small Yes could be the pathway to a big new job for her and a wage rise to boot. It could be the difference between a strategic project succeeding and failing. It could be the momentum she needed to not check out of the workforce and instead keep going. When we say Yes, we never truly know the full implication of what will follow. But one thing is true: By saying Yes, you will create a shift in the universe for something good to happen.
By bringing more awareness to saying Yes, you will help more women more often.
The small actions we help a woman take earlier in her life and career add up significantly as the years go by. That’s why it’s key to empower women into their full potential as early as possible.
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.
- A clear vision and mission. One of the things my dear friend Kevin Starr at the Mulago Foundation taught me was to practice the eight-word mission statement. We should be able to explain what our non-profit does in eight words or less. Verb, target, outcome.
For example, the mission statement of The Coaching Fellowship is, “We empower young women to build the new world.” With a clear mission, you can decide what is most important to focus on, and people will know if that’s what they want to volunteer for or donate to. A clear mission will help you cultivate the vital relationships you need to succeed.
2. Be a practical futurist. The world is changing so quickly, and we, too, must learn to adapt our services, the ways we communicate with our customers, and engage our volunteers. Nonprofit business models tend to be slow moving, unable to start a new project or program without a grant being given — but the future’s not going to wait for us.
In order to stay relevant and ensure that our services and support is reaching our recipients in the best way possible, we must adopt more of a start-up approach. Building small pilots, testing and measuring frequently, learning and being willing to change our programs and services often means we will truly be at the edge of creating deep-rooted impact.
The COVID-19 pandemic has called upon us all to be present to fast-moving change and uncertainty. For nonprofits to not only survive but also to continue to thrive, we must be flexible, learning-forward organizations, and always have our eyes on the horizon.
3. Distribute leadership. Allow participants the opportunity to lead and feel ownership of their efforts, be that as staff members or volunteers. For long-lasting relationships, it’s critical to give your community autonomy and a way to create their own impact within the nonprofit’s framework. Permit them to bring their own expression of what the organization’s work means to them.
In our work at The Coaching Fellowship, we set the container for the six-month coaching program, and let our volunteer coaches coach in the way they have been trained to, and how they coach best. Top-down leadership means only so much can get done, but when everyone is empowered to lead and contribute in their own way, the impact can spread far and wide.
I was at Mozilla with the folks behind the Firefox web browser for almost a decade. We empowered our open-source community of thousands to build and manage Firefox in more than 90 different languages. If we want to create change, we need more people to join the cause — and they have to be able to lead from where and who they are.
4. Tell your story. Storytelling is absolutely critical to get people involved and caring about your cause. People also need to share your story in a way that’s right for them. For us, coaching is a highly personal and confidential experience. Often, people do not want to record a video sharing the personal challenges that coaching helped them overcome. However, in small groups, they are more than willing to be vulnerable and share how their life was changed. We set up open-enrollment calls where new fellows might be in small groups and better understand what their experience as a Coaching Fellow would be. More than 30% of our new fellows are referrals from previous cohorts, which is a testament to the influence of sharing their intimate journey with another. Allow your stories to be told in their most authentic way, so your audience can best hear them.
5. Take care of your people. The impact sector is filled with people who give, give, give, and who at the same time have trouble accepting support from others. Whilst so many things require their attention, their own health, families, and wellbeing can take a back seat, until one day burnout forces them to often give up working in the sector completely.
Given the type of work we do, it is hard to find time to rest and take a break; that’s why taking steps at the organizational level is key. We implemented small actions on our team that have made a big difference. Each week, we have Zoom-free Fridays with no calls, giving us a day to truly focus. We take the last Friday of every month off (Fri-YAY) for a day to rest or have fun; whatever is needed to be restorative.
Our industry must work to encourage and protect our passionate and committed people. Legacy isn’t possible at all if we don’t have the people to carry on our mission and create the lasting change we want.
How has the pandemic changed your definition of success?
I wouldn’t say the pandemic changed my success metrics or definition — creating the most impact as possible has always been the benchmark for me.
What has changed is what I like to call “dancing in the moment.” It’s harder to plan too far ahead these days, so being ready to adapt to what the world needs of you is a skill we are honing. We are also excited about further leaning into supporting women at the edges of crisis; the pandemic has helped us better understand where our services can best support more women.
How do you get inspired after an inevitable setback?
Two ways: (1) My team is incredible — we debrief, figure out what we can learn, and move forward. We have a unique style of working together — deeply connected, honest, heartforward, with a strong desire to execute and make things happen. We always reflect, then point our gaze back to the horizon and the future we want to create for ourselves, our community, and the world.
Personally, being out in nature, especially with my horses, grounds me. It helps to get me away from the computer and the internet scrolling! Finding my breath and internal peace again is restorative. There’s something about being outside and witnessing the rhythm of the day that reminds us that when the sun goes down, we have another chance again tomorrow.
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 have been so impressed with the activist work of MacKenzie Scott and Melinda French Gates and their mission to empower other women. I’d love them to consider helping the helpers, as I like to say. The causes they are supporting are tremendous, and I passionately believe that we need to invest in the women running and leading organizations that are creating the social change that is necessary for their growth and continued impact in the world.
You’re doing important work. How can our readers follow your progress online?
Thank you for the opportunity to share! For more information on The Coaching Fellowship, one can visit https://tcfs.org—we have a newsletter that’s great to keep up with all our news and ways to get involved.
For me personally, do visit my website — https://janefinette.com to learn more about me and my book Unlocked — How Empowered Women Empower Women, and sign up for my newsletter for new ideas and news about women and leadership. You can also follow me on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.
Thank you for a meaningful conversation. We wish you continued success with your mission.