About Joan Garry

The Quick Version

(This short section is here to help those introducing me at a conference or event. By the way, if you want to have me speak at your event, click here.)

For nearly a decade, Joan Garry served as the Executive Director of GLAAD, one of the largest gay rights organizations in the country, where she launched several successful media campaigns, including GLAAD’s successful campaign to lobby the New York Times to include same sex wedding announcements in its Style section. She later acted as the co-chair of Barack Obama’s LGBT Finance Committee during his 2008 presidential campaign.

Joan now works with nonprofit leaders, assisting with crisis management, executive coaching and the building of strong management teams to support the work of the CEO. She also teaches nonprofit media strategy as a professor at the Annenberg School for Communications at the University of Pennsylvania, and is a blogger for The Huffington Post.

Joan’s nonprofit work began after 14 years in executive positions in corporate entertainment, including her role as a member of the management team that launched MTV in 1981.

Now, if you were introducing me at a speaking gig, you could stop here.

But it’s more fun if you keep reading.

Don King was responsible for my move into gay rights.

(Yes, THAT Don King – like the boxing guy with the big hair) 

So, when I first began my career, it had nothing to do with the nonprofit world at all. I was part of the management team that launched MTV Networks in 1981 and spent the next 15 years in executive positions in the entertainment industry.

Ultimately, meeting the boxing promoter Don King was the catalyst that drove me to nonprofit.

We met in the 1990s when I was building a pay per view business for Showtime. The profits were all in boxing and so my primary role was managing the joint venture between Showtime and Don King.  I went to big fights in Las Vegas and sat close enough to see and feel the sweat fly.

OK, I hate boxing.  But I learned to be fearless and learned to advocate for Showtime Networks.   One of my roles was to ensure that Don King paid us for our share of the profits after each fight.  It was kind of like fundraising.

After a few years of this, I had this “aha moment” (which by the way is officially a word in the dictionary as of 2012).  My skills and attributes could be put to better use.  And maybe I could make a difference.  And so I set my sights on nonprofit leadership.

Leading GLAAD

In 1997 I was named executive director of GLAAD.  At age 39, I figured I was either having a midlife crisis or desperately trying to avoid one.  Regardless, the experience was transformative.   For me and for GLAAD.

I was a successful nonprofit CEO and I loved it.  I brought my for-profit business and management skills with me and they added real value to a then-floundering organization.  But it was what I learned that was the greatest gift – what it means to manage and motivate people not drawn to work by their year end bonuses, how to engage people, how to build consensus and how to raise money.

During my tenure, I was a national spokesperson for gay rights in print and on television. I spoke with every conservative talk show host. Jerry Falwell and I went at it on more than a few occasions.  My favorite encounter was a debate over the sexual orientation of a purple stuffed animal named Tinky Winky.

Our team at GLAAD created campaigns that had impact.  When you open the Sunday New York Times and see the same sex wedding announcements in the Style Section, know that this did not just happen.  We made it happen.

When Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s television show was cancelled in 2000, when every major advertiser pulled away from her show, when Billy Crystal poked fun at her homophobic remarks during an Oscar telecast, this did not just happen.  This was the work of a smart, strategic team of media advocates who built an award winning campaign (PR Week, Non Profit Team of the Year, 2000).

I Have Been My Clients

Today I bring all of this knowledge and expertise about nonprofit leadership (both board and staff) to my consulting practice.  I focus on untangling the knots that stand between non profit organizations and the fulfillment of their missions.

My areas of expertise include crisis management, executive coaching and the building of strong management teams to support the work of the CEO.  And because I have been my clients, I offer a unique perspective.   My clients will tell you that I am smart, that I ask very good questions and that my advice is both clear and practical.  They will also tell you that my sense of humor comes in very handy.

If you’d like to talk with me about how we might work together, click here.