Name: Kim Richards
Number of years as a CEO or Executive Director: 16 years
Current Title: Chief Executive Officer, Boys & Girls Clubs of Carson
Kim Richards has worked in the nonprofit sector for over 30 years, 16 of them serving as the CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Carson. Prior to her career in Boys & Girls Clubs, she worked for several national nonprofits including the American Red Cross, YMCA, and American Cancer Society. Kim has extensive knowledge of fiscal management, staff development, fundraising, and collaborative partnerships. She is recognized as a thought leader and for her passion to provide equitable learning opportunities for youth in need. Kim credits the Club’s success to empowering staff and leveraging their unique strengths to solve organization challenges to yield transformational impact on youth. She serves on a number of local, state, and national committees, advisory councils, and boards in the areas of expanded learning, STEM and teen programming, social and emotional wellness, and community engagement. Kim holds a BA in Psychology and an MBA, both from Western Washington University. Her favorite Club activity is Torch Club, which provides leadership development opportunities for middle school youth including giving tours of the Clubhouse to the community.
1. What advice would you give to professionals who have taken on a CEO or executive role for the first time?
Most important lesson: you WILL make mistakes and even fail at times. What is most important is resiliency, resourcefulness, and learning from your mistakes. Understand that perfection is an illusion and learn to identify when it’s “good enough” and move on. Your job is to be a generalist and know a little about a lot- not the other way around. You cannot accomplish anything on your own and therefore surround yourself with people who know more than you.
2. What is your best advice to navigate the first 90 days?
Work with your executive committee to establish clear priorities for the organization and create benchmarks from which to measure the success of the organization. Communicate the goals regularly so everyone is on the same page and understands that circumstances may require you to reprioritize- which is fine but communicate the detour. Begin to create a culture that is driven by the ‘why’ so that every decision is value-based and mission-driven.
3. What is your best advice on how to work with the board?
Transparency is key to a successful working relationship with the board- give it to them straight, no matter how ugly the truth, AND don’t be afraid to ask for help. Vulnerability builds trust and they don’t expect you to know everything. Champion the board and they’ll champion you. Work with the executive or governance committee to establish clear expectations for board members, provide tools/resources for them to succeed and celebrate members’ successes often. Meet with each board member in your first 60–90 days and at least annually to learn about their why what is important to them and how they prefer to be utilized.
4. What is your best advice on leading a team?
It starts with one good hire. Hire people who embody the organization’s (& your) values- in fact, do behavioral-based interviews to ensure that they will make decisions based on the organization’s values and priorities. Create a culture that embraces evolution in a way that celebrates continuous quality improvement. Look for opportunities to reinforce the performance you desire rather than waiting for failures. Look at missed steps as opportunities for learning and a way to inform future decisions. Invest in your people’s professional development, learn how they prefer to be recognized, and compensate at the market rate. Build the infrastructure before you grow. Trust your team. I believe that we can mitigate any mistake unless it’s illegal, immoral, or unethical. It’s amazing how many people accept that you made a decision/choice based on the information you had available to you at the time. When new information becomes available you have a new opportunity to course correct or stay the course.
5. What is your best fundraising advice?
If you don’t A-S-K, you don’t G-E-T. It’s not our role to make a decision for a donor by not asking. If you do it correctly, you rarely have to ask for funding. Donors ask you how they can help. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate your vision with donors, ask for their opinion/perspective. Always be transparent with donors and if you made a mistake, own it. Think of potential remedies and then ask what their preference is. Finally, lead with good news. People want to support winning organizations, not those continually struggling. Avoid the doom and gloom appeals.
6. Share your greatest failure as a CEO and executive and the lesson learned. We often learn the most from our failures.
I failed to trust my instincts about HR issues more than once due to a fear of failure. Fail early and fail fast.
7. Recommended reading. What book helped you on your journey?
Anything by Patrick Lencioni or Brene Brown.
I hope this helps. Let me know. Sharing is caring.
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Thank you to those nonprofit CEO and Executive Directors who’ve generously done the 7 questions!
I hope reading 7 Questions with Kim Richards helps you in your nonprofit journey.
Your mission matters,
Sabrina Walker Hernandez,
Supporting World Hope