Network node: feminist leadership

Those who have embraced the network mindset see themselves as part of a larger web of activity — as one of many nodes in the system, not the central hub. –David Ehrlichman[1]


Ever since starting Leaves of Change VT, I’ve been grappling with this exact concept – how does one create an organization that is the node in a network? How does a collaborative leadership approach nurture an unorthodox organization that is a budding collaborative of passionate professionals? As a self-professed feminist and social change maker, I’ve always been fascinated and driven by collective work, of collaboration, of promoting and celebrating one another, and creating space for everyone to be successful. Three years into the Leaves of Change VT journey, I’m starting to see the budding collective that is emerging…..a node where expert facilitators partner with nonprofits to build inclusive and prosperous communities and a learning node providing young professionals a platform to test new knowledge and skills.


Over the past year, I’ve started partnering with other independent professionals who bring passion and complementary expertise. These partnerships provide nonprofit clients a broader experience and knowledge base for strategic planning, for trainings, and for program design. As we grow, I look forward to bringing in more facilitators and collaborators to our budding collective, while deepening the relationships and collaboration with current partners.


I’ve learned it’s good practice to refer clients my schedule or skills can’t accommodate. Referrals build Leaves of Change VT’s network, while deepening relationships. Nonprofits who reach out to Leaves of Change VT find that I rarely say no and when I do, I try to match the need of the nonprofit with someone in our network who will provide excellent support and services. If I know no one with the specific expertise needed, I now have relationships with other collectives of expert consultants, from Common Good VT to Rooted Impact and Bid Boss.


Learning is a life-long journey and Leaves of Change VT embraces this journey by providing young nonprofit professionals hands-on opportunities to learn. Recently, Leaves of Change VT onboarded our first summer intern to support three different strategic planning clients. I am excited to learn from her, while providing opportunities for her to have practical experience working directly with clients. We’ve been mentoring a young grants writer through direct work with one of Leaves of Change VT’s oldest clients. This experience has provided her valuable experience searching for and writing winning grants. As part of the Leaves of Change VT network, our intern and young professional have access to our network of experts, in addition to practical experience that adds to their CVs and professional growth.


By not seeing Leaves of Change VT as a singular or leading organization, but rather a node within the larger network of consultants, experts, professionals, and emerging leaders, I’ve been able to enrich the work for each client. I feel true to my feminist roots working in collaboration and promoting learning in the next generation. My life is richer for the relationships I’ve gained, both with clients and collaborators. Over the coming years, Leaves of Change VT will continue our journey towards a feminist collective, embracing our place as a nod in the broader network of nonprofit professionals. We are nothing if we work alone.



Call to Donors: Local and unrestricted

Now that vaccines are rolling out, spring is in the air, and the next stimulus bill has passed, many nonprofits are looking back at what they learned during 2020 (and if you aren’t, now would be a good time to do so). In discussions with my clients, two themes (that might seem familiar) have surfaced: the need for sustained unrestricted funding and keeping service provision local. For me, these two go hand-in-hand.

The recently released Blackbaud Institute Charitable Giving Report pointed out that while philanthropic giving was on the rise overall in 2020, the smallest nonprofits (with annual revenue under $1million) experienced a 7.2% decrease in fundraising revenue. I won’t get into all of the reasons (though I would encourage you to listen to the report:


I will point out, these same nonprofits are ones that are more challenged to put together competitive grants – time, capacity, experience barriers. Typically, nonprofits with under $1 million revenue don’t have development directors, grant writers, or boards with fundraising expertise. Yet, in many communities, these are the nonprofits that have the trust of the community, the ones that are meet people where they are and provide services that make a difference. Finding creative ways to continue to fund these small nonprofits is critical for community recovery.


Funding with few to no restrictions allows nonprofits to put funding to where the real need is, to pivot quickly and fund pilots or new activities to address emerging needs. During COVID-19, many donors and family foundations eliminated restrictions, allowing nonprofits to do what they needed to stay open and continue work. As donor agencies, philanthropy, and individuals continue to fund nonprofits in a “post COVID” world, please consider:


  • prioritizing small, grassroots nonprofits who know their communities and have proven their ability to make big impacts with small funding, especially during COVID, and


  • to the extent possible, reducing the restrictions on funding to allow nonprofits to be creative and find locally appropriate solutions.

Nonprofits in the time of 2020

Leaves of Change VT supports nonprofits


As COVID-19 forced lockdowns and unemployment rose in the county where we are located, we were invited to provide organizational development support to a new coalition of local health & human services nonprofits. After initial discussions and meetings, it became clear we would become much more involved with the evolving coalition of health and human professionals of the Lamoille Health and Human Service Regional Command Center (LAH2S-RCC). Since March, Leaves of Change VT has provided over 100 hours of pro-bono professional expertise to the group, which led to funding and execution of business reopening kits, business PPE grants, distribution of food cards, and the design of a local coalition to follow up this ad-hoc command center. Additionally, Leaves of Change VT donated $25,000 of technical assistance to local nonprofits outside the LAH2S-RCC coalition that were severely impacted by COVID-19.

We greatly appreciate the trust organizations have put in our abilities and experiences and look forward to continuing to refine services to address evolving needs of nonprofits.

Continuing and Growing Services of Leaves of Change VT


Leaves of Change has been fortunate to gain three new clients, while continuing with three core clients. Services listed on our newly updated website ( reflect growing and changing services nonprofits have been requesting, including:

  • Identifying new funding sources as individual donors are no longer able to be as generous or foundations’ priorities switched to COVID-19 response activities.
  • Exploring their organization’s contribution or part in systemic racism and how to be more inclusive, respectful, and not contribute to oppressive systems.
  • Pivoting services to reflect the new realities of a virtual world.
  • Facilitating challenging conversations with their boards about the future of the organization.
  • Starting or continue a strategic planning process amidst the pivot to virtual meetings.

Reflections on 2020

As I stand back and reflect on 2020, I’ve learned quite a bit, including:

  • I’m humbled and grateful for all of the incredible people I’ve met and worked since starting Leaves of Change VT. Their support and trust in my work is deeply appreciated.
  • I’m struck daily on how much I thought I knew and how much I really don’t know or understand about the world. In response, I’ve been taking classes and participating in alliance groups to better understand my place as a white woman, living in a 99% white state, and how I am contributing to systemic racism. Anyone interested in joining me in this journey, please reach out.
  • I’m excited by my work every day. The issues, challenges, people, and creativity keep me going….even through the dark moments of 2020.