Crystal Sprague of Global GLOW: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Lead A Nonprofit Organ

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Crystal Sprague of Global G.L.O.W.: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Lead A Nonprofit Organization

Your successes are never your own. Every success you gain is one that is possible because of a team of people behind you, holding up the work from every angle. Share those successes with your team and share them loudly. Call out every person who had even the smallest part to play in those successes. People need to know and believe that they are vital to the organization. If they aren’t vital to the organization, the organization won’t live past you.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Crystal Sprague.

Crystal is a fierce advocate for girls and women around the world who routinely lack access and opportunities. As the executive director of Global G.L.O.W. she is responsible for leading the strategic direction of the organization to realize its vision of one day achieving “a world where girls thrive.” Her strength as a leader comes from extensive experience in non-profit & for-profit companies, her direct work with youth in the U.S. and internationally and her unwavering desire to move the needle on gender equality.

Thank you so much for doing this with us. Before we begin our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”?

As a teenager, I had an informal mentor. They changed the trajectory of my life by believing in me, instilling confidence in me and encouraging me to take opportunities to volunteer within and outside of my community. At 19 years old, I moved to Cambodia for five months and taught English to young women who wanted career opportunities but came from families who were dealing with the devastation of a civil war. In college and grad school, I worked with fostered youth in Texas who exhibited behavioral challenges due to trauma. I studied counseling and, in grad school, I made a slight pivot to social work, the strength-based approaches of which have served as a foundation I’m incredibly grateful for. Later, I worked with girls who’d been sexually exploited in the Philippines — partnering with local social workers to create effective trauma-informed counseling programs and structure care facilities for healing, education and eventual reunification with families.

All of my experiences have proven that people everywhere, no matter what they are experiencing, have so much capability inside of them. It’s a privilege to find the best ways to support and strengthen individuals, especially girls, and then get out of the way so they can live lives of their own design. My mentor did just that for me — my voice is strong today because of the investment my mentor made in my life.

Can you tell us the story behind why you decided to start or join your nonprofit?

I met the founder of Global G.L.O.W., Kylie Schuyler, about ten years ago when I was directing another non-profit. Kylie heard me speak at a fundraising event, and we had coffee shortly after. She had just started Global G.L.O.W. and was figuring out the best ways forward. I took a break from the nonprofit world to work on diversifying my skills, but eventually, I started to crave doing the work I knew was making a direct impact in girls’ lives. It drives me in a way that nothing else quite does.

I then had the opportunity to reconnect with Kylie Schuyler a few years ago when Global G.L.O.W. was looking for an executive director. The mission was the perfect combination of what I believe in and am passionate about — lifting up girls’ voices, mentorship, self-advocacy, health and access to opportunities. I immediately expressed my interest in the role and have been grateful every day that my skills were as good a fit for the organization as its mission was for me.

Can you describe how you or your organization aims to make a significant social impact?

We believe in girls. Investing in girls is one of the smartest and most important investments that anyone can make. We know that when girls thrive, they start a rising ripple effect that transforms the world! When girls are respected and have agency, their communities become better places.

Without saying any names, can you share a story about an individual who was helped by your idea so far?

In 2022, we will have over 15,000 girls in 27 countries in our after-school clubs around the world and in the United States. I try to talk to mentors from those clubs whenever I can, and I always ask them to “tell me about a girl who has inspired you lately.” More often than not, the story follows this pattern:

“There was a girl, and when she first started coming to club, she was so shy she hardly said a word. If you didn’t know her, you may have not even known she was there. Over time, she grew more and more confident, and today she is inspiring other girls and even adults with her goals and her hope for our community. Now, if she misses club, everyone notices — they feel she has left behind a void in the room.”

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

One thing — listen to girls. Girls are deeply affected by most decisions that are made by the community, society and politicians. They often have unique perspectives, deep empathy for others and a brilliant, untainted hope for the world. When we don’t listen to girls, we lose out on a vital piece of every puzzle and end up with solutions that are lacking.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

At the end of the day, I think being a good leader means owning up to your mistakes, rectifying your mistakes when you can, communicating a path forward that is as clear as possible and making the best decisions you can until you have more information to make better ones (shout out to Maya Angelou for this important mandate). I’m an imperfect leader, as most people are, and if you can own up to that, you’re already many steps ahead.

Based on your experience, what are the “5 things a person should know before they decide to start a nonprofit”. Please share a story or example for each.

1 . If you stop learning, you’ll fail. There will always be someone doing things better than you somewhere, and you can learn from them. The moment you stop learning, you stop growing, and you seriously impair your organization’s ability to pursue the most effective path forward to achieve your mission. If you get complacent about what you know, your impact will start to wane.

When I was directing another non-profit, I knew it was time to leave when I was no longer able to keep pursuing new information that could guide our programming. I was doing myself and the organization a disservice by relying on my past learnings and experience to lead. I knew it was true, and that the organization deserved better than that. I recognized it was time to move on. I’ve never regretted knowing when it was in the organization’s (and my own) best interest to leave. If you are no longer interested in solving the problem your organization is investing in solving, it’s time to reassess.

2. The weight of keeping an organization funded is heavy. Fundraising is hard. It can seem like there are limited resources, especially when there are other organizations that seem similar to yours. When you have a team depending on you and, in our case, girls who are actively benefiting from your programs, funding opportunities (or lack thereof) can keep you awake at night. The responsibility of an entire organization relying on you to continue on is a big responsibility.

3. There will always be many other issues you want to solve, but you can’t veer from your mission. Choose your mission carefully. You may be tempted to choose a non-specific mission, but that would be a mistake. Use your mission (and vision) as the boundaries for making decisions and for holding yourself, your team, your board and your donors accountable.

Often you will be faced with needs and challenges. Many of those challenges will come from the community or communities where you work. If you and your team are not clear about the problem you are trying to solve and your unique ability to do so, you’ll spread yourself too thin and ultimately become ineffective.

The beauty of having a specific mission is that you can partner with others to meet the gaps that you aren’t filling. You cannot fill them all yourself. The sooner you come to terms with that, the more impact you and your organization will have.

4. If you don’t believe in yourself, your organization’s work and your mission enough to ask for funding from people, you’ll never grow, and you may not even sustain. The first non-profit I ran was small, and we didn’t have a dedicated fundraiser. All the fundraising fell to me. As someone without previous experience fundraising, this was a big task. I was willing to do it because I was so intricately involved with the organization for so long that I knew it inside and out — I knew that if we didn’t grow to meet the need, it would be devastating. But I hated asking for money. I’m sure I wasn’t the first ED to hate it, nor will I be the last.

I attended a lot of parties in those days — people ask about your job when you first meet them, and building networks and relationships is key. I often found myself talking about how much I disliked fundraising, and most people seemed to understand that and to empathize with me. However, one day when I told someone about disliking fundraising, without skipping a beat he said, “You must not believe in your organization.”

I was appalled. Outraged. Taken aback. How dare this stranger assume he knows what I do or don’t believe in. I said something along the lines of “Of course not — I’ve never believed in anything more.” And his response was simple: “Then it shouldn’t be hard to give people the opportunity to support it.”

I thought about that for a long time — I still think about it. And as I dissected it over the years, I realized something — I hated fundraising because it felt personal. I was asking people to believe in me. I needed to remove myself personally from those requests, even if that was just in my own head. I had to give people the ability to be a part of the successful work we were doing.

5. Your successes are never your own. Every success you gain is one that is possible because of a team of people behind you, holding up the work from every angle. Share those successes with your team and share them loudly. Call out every person who had even the smallest part to play in those successes. People need to know and believe that they are vital to the organization. If they aren’t vital to the organization, the organization won’t live past you.

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 nonprofit? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

There are so many girls and women I would love to meet who are courageously showing the world a different way of being.

Darnella Frazier is at the top of my list — the 17-year-old who is ultimately responsible for convicting George Floyd’s murderers because she filmed his death whilst cops harassed her. Her bravery is something we all wish we would live up to, given the situation.

Also, Rupi Kaur. I am absolutely blown away by her ability to express some of the most challenging feelings and experiences through poetry. She gives voice to things in a way that makes the world stop and listen, and it’s absolutely magical.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson” Quote? How is that relevant to you in your life?

Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.

– Maya Angelou

How can our readers follow you online?

For more information, visit or follow Global G.L.O.W. on Facebook:, Twitter: and Instagram:

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success in your mission.

Crystal Sprague of Global GLOW: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Lead A Nonprofit Organ was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.