12 Nonprofit Leaders Who Are Changing The World

by Joan Garry

Ready to take your leadership to the next level? Join me in the presentation replay of the 5 Practices Of Outstanding Nonprofit Leaders.

This was an emotional gathering.

It was a momentous occasion for the organization we threw our hearts and souls into twenty years ago. GLAAD, an LGBTQ advocacy organization focused on the power of the media to change hearts and minds about our community, was awarded the highly prestigious Governor’s Award by the Television Academy at this year’s Emmy Awards.

Wow. Just wow.

I’d like to tell you that back in 1997 we actually had set this achievement as what business guru Jim Collins calls a BHAG, a big, hairy, audacious goal. Nope. Maybe we should have but even my wildest aspirations for GLAAD did not include a standing ovation at the Emmys for challenging the industry to tell the stories of the lives of LGBTQ people fairly and accurately.

We did imagine a day in which producers and journalists would offer us the opportunity to advocate for LGBT characters and stories during ideation and production instead of mobilizing our community to collectively wag fingers and make our concerns known very publicly only after the problematic stories were seen or read by millions.

So I spread the word about this occasion far and wide and then gathered for an Emmy Zoom watch party hoping we’d have a handful of folks.

We had many, many folks on hand with insufficient time to catch up. There was a true sense of camaraderie, all of us bound by the notion that we had all played a significant role in the organization at a critical time in our journey toward equality. It was not just lovely to see these folks; the gathering was quite emotional.

And I learned a very important lesson that I believe that you, as a nonprofit leader, need to place and keep solidly on your radar screen.


The key lesson is not about LGBT rights or the media. Nor is it about the Emmys or the power of reunions.

This lesson is about where these staff and board alums traveled after GLAAD. It’s about how working with a thriving nonprofit organization not only ignites you about that particular organization but also builds your appetite for leadership in the larger movement: the nonprofit movement. The work our sector does to make the world more equitable, more just, and more beautiful.

When you hire a staff member or recruit a board member, you identify the strengths they bring to your organization. BUT THAT IS NOT ALL! You have the opportunity to strengthen the sector by investing in these folks and growing their appetite to do more.


  1. The last hire I made at GLAAD was a young man named Rashad Robinson. Today, Rashad is the President of one of the most effective civil rights organizations in the country, Color Of Change. Stanford Social Innovation Review said that Color Of Change is “pursuing the fight for racial justice at Internet speed.”
  2. Board member Michael B. Keegan, part of GLAAD’s L.A. chapter from the beginning, went on to become the CEO of People for the American Way.
  3. Senior staffer Glennda Testone honed her leadership skills at GLAAD and moved on to lead the NYC LGBT Center for fourteen years. In February 2024, she became the first-ever CEO of the Nonprofit Leadership Lab, supporting board and staff leaders of small to mid-sized nonprofits with resources, training, and community.
  4. The leaders of our special events team, Jason Burlingame and Margaret Crisostomo took their show on the road and began a special events company, Stamp. Their long list of nonprofit clients includes the Ms. Foundation for Women, the ACL, and The Trevor Project.
  5. Lesli Klainberg was part of the inaugural board of the newly formed national board in 1994. Today, Lesli is the President of Film at Lincoln Center.
  6. David Huebner was my first board chair and then became GLAAD’s pro bono general counsel. He was appointed by President Obama to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Australia and New Zealand, the first openly gay ambassador of his administration.
  7. Board member Ann Mei Chang puts her leadership chops to work as the CEO of Candid, the organization that merged Charity Navigator and the Foundation Center.
  8. Ruben Gonzales has had quite the journey after he left GLAAD where, in his role as Director of Volunteer Management, played an essential role in diversifying our team. Ruben’s journey has included leadership roles at The National Council of LA Raza, United Cerebral Palsy, the LGBT Victory Fund, and today he is the Associate Director of External Affairs for the Peace Corps. Back in the volunteer sandbox!
  9. Judy Gluckstern, GLAAD’s first straight board member went on to board leadership with another GLAAD alum Gene Falk who was the CEO of a startup organization,  mothers2mothers, an international nonprofit dedicated to preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV by providing education and support for pregnant women and new mothers living with HIV.
  10. Board member Dan Osheyack went on to run the Time Warner Foundation and consults with The Clinton Foundation. He is also one of our experts (on branding) in the Nonprofit Leadership Lab.
  11. Dean Hansell served on the board of the L.A. Public Library and chaired the USC School of Public Health.
  12. Cathy Renna has consulted with dozens of nonprofits through the years, helping them to garner the media visibility they need and deserve to grow in scope and impact.

I’ve still left many folks out (sorry about that!) but I believe I have made my point.


Recruit staff and board with care. Nurture them while they are on your “bus.” Invest in their leadership skills. Build a real team. 

They may stay right there with you for years such as dear friend Nick Adams, Director of Trans Media at GLAAD, who stood on that stage on Emmy night. He was one of our very first hires in 1998.

More likely, their tenure with your organization will be a leg of their journey. Do what you can to make it count so that when they leave, they will take all those skills, competencies, and experience along with a fierce commitment to strengthen the nonprofit sector with them.

Consider that you have the opportunity (and responsibility) to provide five-star human resources to the nonprofit sector.

You thought you had a big job already? You do. But investing in your team benefits your organization today and fuels our global efforts to repair the world which is a very big and powerful win-win.