Generating ideas, connections, and action

LLC Member Spotlight: Donna Stark

This month’s Member Spotlight has many points of light that shine on a woman who was a founding board member (and current LLC Board Co-Chair) and who has been resolute in her support and commitment to the Leadership Learning Community. Donna Stark has our deepest appreciation for her rich and significant contributions to the vision and mission of LLC. Donna walks her talk, as Vice President for Talent Management and Leadership Development at the Annie E. Casey Foundation she works to effect large scale change in the lives of vulnerable children, families and communities. Committed to knowing that her work is making a concrete difference in the lives of people, Donna has been a model in the field, asking tough questions about the impact of our work, inspiring us to scale our leadership work and reach more people. She has catalyzed an interesting conversation about whether we can increase the rigor of our learning about supporting large scale change by adopting elements of an Evidence Based Practice.

Three years ago, Donna saw the need for LLC to move from our role as host of learning exchanges to one of leadership, providing direction to the field drawing on our years of learning with 400 some leadership programs. She was the first to invest in the Leadership for A New Era Initiative (LNE), a collaborative research initiative that is promoting leadership approaches that are inclusive, networked and collective leadership. Donna was also the impetus for the Leadership and Race work of LLC commissioning LLC’s early work in 2005 to understand why more people of color were not represented in leadership of the non-profit sector. Since that time she has supported the production and publication of the recently released report, Leadership and Race: Developing Leadership that Contributes to Racial Justice, which is the first of a series of reports produced by LNE.

Donna is a masterful facilitator and has led the board in the development of our vision, mission and strategic directions work. We are honored to have her as a member of the Leadership Learning Community and as Board Co-chair where she brings deep thinking, a generous spirit of collaboration and an unwavering commitment to the field of leadership development – and she manages to accomplish all that with a warm sense of humor.

Identifying, developing and deploying leadership and talent is a critical component of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s ability to achieve results for vulnerable children, families, and communities. To realize these results, the social sector requires that a greater volume of developed and diverse talent be properly deployed within the sector. Under Donna Stark’s leadership, the Annie E. Casey Foundation has integrated its former Leadership Development and Human Resources functions into a cohesive initiative that will not only focus on the development of a strong talent pipeline for the Foundation but also for social sector organizations–including nonprofits, philanthropy, public systems, and social ventures–serving children, families, and communities. Through this approach Talent Management and Leadership Development approach, the Foundation hopes to achieve greater impact, simultaneously strengthening Foundation staff and building the field, while also aligning its internal and external leadership and talent development efforts–all in the service of improving outcomes for the populations of critical importance to Casey.

As the social sector faces diminishing resources despite growing community needs, it will increasingly rely on leadership talent to develop innovative and effective solutions to serve the most vulnerable populations. A 2006 Bridgespan Group study found that “over the next decade, nonprofits need to hire 640,000 new executives, nearly two and a half times the number currently employed.” (Tierney, Thomas J. “The Nonprofit Sector's Leadership Deficit.” Report. Bridgespan Group, 2006.) The demand for talent across sectors will likely continue to escalate into the near future. Donna Stark, as the Foundation’s Vice President for Talent Management and Leadership Development stated, “We must make the investments now to ensure that we have a sustainable pipeline of qualified talent to lead the Foundation and the social sector at large in the decades to come.”