Aaron Lupuloff’s Guide to Effective Leadership on a Non-Profit Board

A main challenge in charity management is to keep the cash flow coming in steadily.  That’s why many charities look to business to improve their revenue streams so that funding lines don’t dry up.  Companies are happy to work with nonprofit charity organizations if they can benefit in some way – typically by boosting perception of their organization.

The key to obtaining funding as a charity – a foundational principle in charity management — is to have effective leadership on board at your nonprofit organization.  Aaron Lupuloff knows firsthand the importance of good leadership to obtain continued funding lines for nonprofits.  With over 20 years of experience in the financial services industry, Lupuloff brings this acumen to the nonprofit world as a founder and current board member at the Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) Foundation in Georgia.

Lupuloff earned a degree in business administration from the University of Alabama, and, since 1982, has worked for some big-name banks, including Bear Stearns/JP Morgan, Raymond James, and Fifth Third Bank.  He brings this experience to GCPS Foundation, a district with over 180,000 students – 100,000 of whom live below the poverty line.

Therefore, Aaron Lupuloff’s work is essential to ensuring that GCPS students have access to financial resources to attend college or trade school. Besides his work on the GCPS Foundation, Aaron Lupuloff is also a founding and past board member of the Georgia Tech Parents Advisory Board, and founding member of the Norcross High School Foundation in Norcross, Georgia.  As such, Lupuloff has some insights on what it takes to run a successful nonprofit board.

Run your charity like it’s a business.  Aaron Lupuloff knows that, in the current day and age, the most successful charity is one that is run as a business.  Charities, in recent years, have sought to recruit board members from diverse backgrounds, especially members with experience in finance, accounting, and fundraising.

Relationships, relationships, relationships.  As Jane E. Dutton, an organizational psychologist and author of Energize Your Workplace: How to Create and Sustain High-Quality Connections at Work, discusses the importance of connections in the workplace.  This includes relationships both between people in an organization, as well as connections between organizational members and people outside the company with whom they may interact and do business. Dutton defines two kinds of connections: high-quality and low-quality connections.

High-quality interactions can be described as having bidirectional active engagement, while low-quality interactions can be characterized as containing distrust and disregard on one or both sides.  Charity management requires the formation of high-quality connections, for example, to obtain new donors to ensure the success of the nonprofit organization.  With high-quality connections, resources such as advice, support, money, and development opportunities can help charities thrive.

How can you create high-quality interactions for your nonprofit?  Dutton has found that four values can help foster high-quality connections.  Teamwork, development of people, valuing the whole person, and valuing respect and the dignity of others are the four qualities tied to high-quality connections.  Dutton also notes that establishing such connections may require recognition and rewards which could be based on individual or organizational performance. Great organizations can establish high-quality connections that can last for a lifetime.

Focus on equity.  In the educational nonprofit world, it’s essential to remember that, despite several decades worth of effort to desegregate and improve the quality of school education for all students, there is still a long way to go to achieve total equity in the classroom.  This applies not only to racial disparities but also economic disparities.

In GCPS, for example, the vast majority of the district lives under the poverty line.  Therefore, nonprofit work is necessary to ensure that the students in this district can have access to resources that they may not be able to pay for themselves not only in high school, but beyond.  While segregation has long been abandoned in the United States school system, public policy decisions can re-open old scars and reinforce the racial divides created by this unfair practice.

It’s important to remember that inequity stems from systemic problems.  While nonprofits such as Lupuloff’s GCPS Foundation can help ameliorate racial injustice by providing opportunities to racial and ethnic minorities and lower income students, they may not always describe their work using words like “equity” or “justice.”  It may therefore be useful for nonprofits to focus specifically on framing their work in this way to more intuitively describe their efforts.

Develop leadership qualities and behaviors that signal commitment to values.  Dutton has, through her research, identified four qualities in leaders that demonstrate their willingness to develop high-quality connections in an organization. It’s important to be open and vulnerable, use unifying language and stories, to be able to create contexts that can support and foster high-quality connections, and be able to come up with positive images of the future.

In order to make meaningful change, nonprofits must be carefully attuned to the needs of the people they serve, as well as interact with companies which can offer the financial support to help the nonprofit reach its collective goals.

Aaron Lupuloff is a pro in the nonprofit management domain: the GCPS Foundation received nearly $2 million in donations this year, supporting over 180,000 students, 141 schools, and 140 scholarships.  The incredible amount of funding received by the nonprofit helps advance the organization’s mission to “sustain the world-class standards of Gwinnett County Public Schools by strengthening internal and external community relationships providing resources and support to improve the educational future of all students.”  By taking Lupuloff’s advice, charity managers can work to fundraise effectively and maintain good relationships with potential donors.

Written by Eric

37-year-old who enjoys ferret racing, binge-watching boxed sets and praying. He is exciting and entertaining, but can also be very boring and a bit grumpy.

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