Shari Krull of StreetWise Partners: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Lead A Nonprofit Organization
Make sure your mission is in demand and competitive. Do you have proof that your nonprofit will fill an unmet need in your community? Are there other nonprofits with similar missions? If so, how will yours stand out, add value and ensure impact? If two nonprofits have exactly the same mission, they can end up competing against each other for grants and donor support.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shari Krull — Streetwise Partners — CEO.
Shari Krull is an impact leader at the nexus of mentoring, workforce development, and driving economic equity nationally. Shari currently serves as CEO of StreetWise Partners, a non-profit organization with a mission to close the employment opportunity gap within disadvantaged communities of New York City, Washington D.C. and Michigan.
After earning her BA in Social Work and Psychology from Miami University, and her Master’s Degree in Social Work from Columbia University, Shari dedicated her early career to tackling issues related to mental illness, domestic violence and foster care. She went on to spend 10 years building and leading Catholic Big Sisters and Big Brothers in New York City. She then took on the role as Executive Director at The Grace Institute, spearheading the transformation of a century-old organization into a market leader in workforce development.
Shari serves on the Board of New York City’s Employment and Training Coalition and the Advisory Board of The Ready Foundation. She has previously served on the Advisory Board for New York Public Radio’s Diversity and Inclusion Initiative, and as an Adjunct Professor at New York University, where she shared her expertise and worked to inspire others to join the non-profit space. A lifelong gender equality advocate, Shari currently lives on Long Island where she is outnumbered by her husband and two sons.
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”?
Since I was little, I wanted to help people. Whatever the form, it didn’t matter. I truly felt joy when I made someone’s life better. As I got older, I began to understand that the world was incredibly unjust, and that I was privileged simply because of the color of my skin and the community I was born into. I was determined to level the playing field and ensure that everyone had equal access to resources and opportunities.
I started out with a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Columbia University and worked with youth in foster care, seniors in a state mental hospital and survivors of domestic violence. I marveled at their resiliency and fought to make their lives better.
For the next 15 years I worked primarily for small nonprofits which allowed me to roll up my sleeves and test out every facet of organizational work; program development, fundraising, operations and talent development. I shifted from client work to management, helping non-profits strengthen and scale.
Can you tell us the story behind why you decided to start or join your non nonprofit?
When StreetWise Partners needed a new CEO, I quickly raised my hand. I knew the power and importance of mentorship and was frustrated with the lack of mentoring programs for adults. I was excited by their mission to advance economic equity, and I knew that I could help the organization deepen its impact by providing job seekers with access to skills “know-how” and social capital “know-who”.
Can you describe how you or your organization aims to make a significant social impact?
StreetWise was founded on the premise that networks matter a lot, but access to connections are not distributed equitably. Where you grow up, go to school and whether your parents are college educated make a big difference. These opportunity gaps shape young people’s career plans and prospects.
In today’s labor market, estimates suggest that up to 70% of all jobs are not published on publicly available job search sites. Research shows that anywhere from half to upwards of 80% of jobs are filled through networking. This means that underrepresented talent from historically underserved communities is at a serious disadvantage.
Every day, I meet countless young adults, immigrants and refugees who are smart, motivated and capable but have been completely locked out of professional careers because of their lack of networks and access to social capital. These inequities are just unacceptable.
For over 25 years, StreetWise Partners has driven career success and advanced economic mobility for underrepresented talent from historically underserved communities. Our one-year mentoring program provides customized, individualized mentorship for internship and job seekers while helping them establish an expansive professional network made up of hundreds of advocates who open doors and support long term career success. We launched our first program in New York City in 1997, expanded to Washington D.C. in 2006 and to Michigan in 2019. Since inception, StreetWise Partners has served 8,000 mentees through the support of 15,000 mentors.
Can you share a story about an individual who was helped by your idea so far? (Please ask if we can link this video it is amazing and the people featured have signed releases with our organization)
Please watch Kerly’s story and see StreetWise Partners impact in action!
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
– Ensure equal access to quality jobs
– Ensure that mentorship, soft skill development and career navigation are mandatory services at local public colleges to ensure that graduates are prepared to effectively connect education to work.
– Fund mentoring programs outside of youth, college access and college completion. Understand that we all need mentors at every stage of our careers.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leaders must practice what they preach. I run a mentoring organization, so I need to make sure that we foster a culture of mentorship across the organization that includes allocating my time to coach and support the team. Leadership is mission and impact driven, service-oriented and leads staff through mentorship across all levels of the organization. Everyone on my team has direct access to me, I am always available to brainstorm ideas, problem solve challenges and mentor.
Based on your experience, what are the “5 things a person should know before they decide to start a non-profit”. Please share a story or example for each.
When starting a nonprofit, I recommend the following:
– Make sure your mission is clear and measurable. Narrowly define your target population and the services you are going to provide. Outline the impact you want to make, and how you are going to measure that impact through hard data and analysis. For example, at StreetWise, our impact is measured through graduation rates, job acquisition rates and salary increases. If our graduates cannot secure employment, then our mission has failed.
– Make sure your mission is in demand and competitive. Do you have proof that your nonprofit will fill an unmet need in your community? Are there other nonprofits with similar missions? If so, how will yours stand out, add value and ensure impact? If two nonprofits have exactly the same mission, they can end up competing against each other for grants and donor support.
– Make sure to balance program and fundraising. An organization needs to demonstrate programmatic impact AND be attractive to funders, and this can be challenging to achieve. For example, if the program is highly impactful, but it is difficult to engage donors, then the organization will fail. Similarly, if there are donors but the program lacks impact, then the mission is no longer purposeful. Make sure to invest equally in program and fundraising.
– Make sure to create a vision statement and core values. A vision statement is a description of your end-goal — what do you want your community or the world to look like after your work is done? It should act as a motivator and a driving force behind your day-to-day operations. Your values are a set of principles that everyone at your organization — staff, volunteers, board members, and supporters — will follow. They’ll be used to guide every single decision and action at every level and in every corner of your organization.
– Make sure to build a strong board. Focus on 1) members who are comfortable asking for donations within their own networks; 2) members who have expertise in finances, marketing, and legal matters; 3) members who are connected at the community level and have expertise in your service field.
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 or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would be honored to meet McKenzie Scott. She has changed the way donors support nonprofits. She provides large, unrestricted gifts and trusts the leadership to make decisions on how to deploy the capital. She asks for little in return, including donor recognition.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson” Quote? How is that relevant to you in your life?
“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken” by Oscar Wilde. I love this quote as it reminds me that we all have unique talents, and we should celebrate our individuality.
How can our readers follow you online?
Please connect and follow me on LinkedIn:
Thank you for your time, and your excellent insights! We wish you continued success.
Shari Krull of StreetWise Partners: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Lead A Nonprofit… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.