Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management
Participate in three eye-opening days of professional growth led by accomplished experts to enhance your skills, network with colleagues, develop your “personal board of directors” and create a 90-day action plan.

Join us for More than a Grant: Cultivating Relationships with Foundations on Wednesday, December 13, 9 a.m. – noon.

Mary Morten, a frequent presenter at Axelson Center programs, shares this tip for succession planning:
Mary Morten
Mary Morten
The best way to prepare for your organization’s leadership succession is to imagine both the best and worst that could happen to your organization after you are no longer at the helm. Instead of waiting for the “right” moment to develop your succession plan, take a proactive approach and begin planning now so that the transition for new leadership is thoughtful and productive. Contact Mary here.
Shaking Up Board & Staff Meetings, Driving Results
One Executive Director’s BootCamp Takeaways

An “aha” moment led Lauren Sivak to an executive-level career in the nonprofit sector. After working in arts education for several years, Lauren grew tired of seeing social service organizations and theaters shut their doors because of poor management decisions and indecisive leadership. She realized she was interested in growing organizations and making sustainable decisions for longevity.


Lauren, the managing director of 2nd Story, a performing arts nonprofit focused on first-person true narrative storytelling, has addressed challenge after challenge head-on since taking a leadership role at the organization in 2014. She’s grown 2nd Story’s fundraising event income by 300% and implemented a recurring donor campaign to increase individual giving. In addition, she’s helped move 2nd Story to a new home and managed the organization’s transition to salaried employees. “I’m a firm believer in getting in over your head and figuring it out,” Lauren says. “…Payroll taxes, unemployment insurance, withholding taxes – those things are not in my wheelhouse. What is in my wheelhouse is negotiating the right price with a payroll service to manage those things for us.”

BootCamp “changed the way we put things into action. Many times, there are a lot of great ideas, but nobody thinks about the execution and who is going to implement those great ideas.”


With a desire to lead her organization to greater success, Lauren participated in the Axelson Center’s BootCamp for New Nonprofit CEOs. At BootCamp, she learned strategies she could immediately put into place at 2nd Story.

“We are in an exciting place right now. There are so many things I’ve taken from the Axelson Center BootCamp that I’ve implemented into my work with 2nd Story.” For example, at the end of the three-day BootCamp, participants make a 90-day plan and look for ways to accomplish early wins. Lauren and 2nd Story artistic director Amanda Delheimer found that incorporating the early wins and the 90-day plan into board and staff committee meetings helped move from big-picture thinking to incremental steps that can be achieved by staff. “This has changed the way we put things into action. Many times, there are a lot of great ideas, but nobody thinks about the execution and who is going to implement those great ideas.” 

  Lauren Sivak’s work at 2nd Story is strengthening the organization’s Human Resources – one of Axelson’s Hallmarks of Nonprofit Managerial ExcellenceSM.

Moving from contract to salaried employees shows 2nd Story’s commitment to staff which makes implementation of those great ideas more realistic and more sustainable. In addition, when an organization starts to pay staff a salary there is greater stability. After permanent staff are hired, it’s important to focus on creating systems and processes to ensure that the way things are done are not totally reliant on a single individual, but becomes part of the fabric of the organization. (See the left column for related suggestions from Mary Morten.)

The Axelson Center is proud of our work with leaders like Lauren. We are dedicated to helping nonprofit leaders excel…and bragging about their wins is good too. Want to be part of our spotlight series? Reach out and share your good news – we’re happy to celebrate and share goals and successes.

We want to live in a world driven by empathy.
We believe that stories are what bind us to each other.
Therefore, we create spaces where people can share and deeply listen to one another’s stories.