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Hello BoardSource Community,

Thank you for welcoming me into this community with such warmth and support. It is a joy to join the BoardSource team and embark on this journey with all of you.

I am a social justice advocate. This has driven my career prior to joining BoardSource and continues in this role. I joined BoardSource grounded in a vision for what I hope the nonprofit ecosystem will be one day – a place our society will look to for innovation, creativity, compassion, equity, inclusivity, and justice. I envision the communities that nonprofits partner with driving the strategies most needed to achieve their social change goals. Who serves on boards and how they govern are critical to making this a reality. I am here to work with all of you – and many who are not yet part of our BoardSource community – to reach that vision.

Since joining, I am particularly conscious of the change happening across our sector. Like me, many new chief executives have walked into nonprofits as the first BIPOC leader. We assume these positions with trepidation, knowing that the “Glass Cliff” is real. We see this occurring with BIPOC leaders who follow outgoing white leaders and are often asked to immediately solve entrenched diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) problems in their organizations, have funders who treat them differently than their predecessors, and face other seen and unseen challenges that can impact their ability to succeed in these roles. (To learn more about the Glass Cliff, please see reports by our friends at the Building Movement Project).

I have experienced the weight of the responsibility of being the “first” and have imagined the possibility. However, in my 20 years of leading human and civil rights organizations, this is the first time I have experienced a transition that intentionally focused on avoiding the Glass Cliff. The board and staff at BoardSource began its racial equity work a few years before the organization started its executive transition. Every part of the transition process had been thought through, including hiring a search firm focused on equity, and group coaching for the senior leadership team to support and be supported through this transition. The board created a dedicated transition committee focused on hiring a new CEO in its first year and supporting my role as the CEO, with a focus on avoiding the Glass Cliff, in its second year.  

I recognize that we are the anomaly, not the rule. Too many of my fellow BIPOC nonprofit executive friends have yet to receive this kind of intention in transition from their organizations. That’s what inspired me to openly share my own transition at BoardSource with all of you, so that we can learn together. 

At BoardSource, we understand that transition is a multiyear process — starting when an outgoing CEO announces their departure through the new executive's first year (and often longer.) We know that change and transition can be messy. Given their complex nature, they are supposed to be. We are committed to learning and growing together through the challenging moments to help hone our skills and find the most helpful tools for the sector. Through webinars, written pieces, and conversations, we will be sharing resources and guidance for boards, current and future nonprofit executives, and foundations to better support these transitions. My commitment to you is to be as open and candid as I can be. Whether I am speaking of the ghosts of previous board members that I bring into my new board relationships or sharing the emotional burden of being the only or primary voice on racial equity in different spaces, I aim to share openly about these challenges and share the joy and healing that comes with it. 

I spend a lot of time worrying about the waves of new BIPOC executives who are in the middle of leadership transitions – often for the first time. I am also in awe of the moment - organizations are being led by leaders who have been affected by the problems and systems we are seeking to transform. I would love to hear from you whether you are currently facing a leadership transition, or have experienced a transition and can share tips on how to avoid the Glass Cliff. Change is never easy, but if we support and learn from one another, I believe we will begin to transform our sector.  Please write to me here and share your story with us.



Monika Varma Signature

Monika Kalra Varma
President & CEO


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