“To repair the world we must share positivity, nurture the best in others, raise people up, keep a strong sense of humor, and build leadership so we can all do our best possible work.“
About Joan Garry
(Need an intro for me for a speaking event? My headshot? My press kit? You can download any and all of them here.)
Joan Garry began her career in 1981 as part of the management team that launched MTV. She followed this successful eight-year tenure with another successful run as a senior executive at Showtime Networks. Then, in 1997 while either having a midlife crisis or avoiding one, Garry made a move to the nonprofit sector and was named the executive director of GLAAD, one of the largest LGBTQ rights organizations in the U.S.
Amazon.Com Best Selling Author
Internationally Recognized Nonprofit Leadership Expert
Founder of the Nonprofit Leadership Lab
She joined GLAAD to find an organization in deep financial crisis ($360 in the bank), led it out of the depths to a place of prominence and impact. From the accurate coverage of the murder of Matthew Shepard to the successful lobbying of The New York Times to include gay and lesbian couples on its wedding pages, Garry’s strategy was clear: keep GLAAD focused on the media because the road to acceptance begins with visibility and understanding.
After her eight-year run at GLAAD, Garry built on this expertise and became a successful political fundraiser, co-chairing the LGBTQ Finance Committee for the Obama 2008 Presidential campaign. In addition, she served in a leadership position on a large national board, rounding out her experience of playing every position on the nonprofit field.
She brings all of this experience to her work as the Principal of Joan Garry Consulting. Joan is called upon by some of the nation’s largest organizations as an executive coach and strategic advisor. Her sweet spot is coaching new CEOs following “long and strong” leaders, navigating leadership transitions with staff and boards and working with executive leadership teams to strengthen the ability of the team to lead with the CEO. The Legal Aid Society, the Ms. Foundation for Women, The Union for Reform Judaism, and The Trevor Project are among the many organizations Garry is proud to call clients.
Her blog for board and staff leaders of nonprofits reaches 100,000 unique leaders monthly from over 150 countries and her highly popular podcast Nonprofits Are Messy has had over 2 million listens from 207 countries.
Lastly, she is the founder of the Nonprofit Leadership Lab, the best online resource offering content and community to board and staff leaders of small nonprofits who can afford neither coaching nor consulting. Now in its 5th year, The Lab has supported over 13,000 leaders from North America and around the world.
Joan is an educator at heart and spent five years as an Adjunct Instructor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania where she taught Nonprofit Communications Strategy and Media and Social Change to undergraduate seniors.
Speaking of education, Joan is a graduate of Fordham University and serves on the Executive Committee of its President’s Council.
The 2nd edition of her book, Joan Garry’s Guide To Nonprofit Leadership (John Wiley and Sons) was published in 2020.
Joan lives in NJ with her wife of nearly 40 years. Joan and Eileen were plaintiffs in a 1993 landmark NJ court case granting a lesbian couple a second parent adoption. Their three grown children all legally have two mothers, whether they like it or not.
If you are introducing me at an event, please use the bio at this link.
What My Bio Doesn’t Tell You
Don King was responsible for my move into LGBTQ 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. Maybe I could make a difference. And so I set my sights on nonprofit leadership.
In 1997 at the age of 39 I was named executive director of GLAAD and I can say without hesitation – 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
I do believe that this is part of my secret sauce. I have been a CEO, a corporate sponsor, a donor and a board leader. As a result, I anticipate well and am a compassionate truth teller. I am a fierce advocate for my clients but most importantly, their missions.
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.
I feel an enormous sense of joy and privilege about the work that I do and am proud through my work as a strategic advisor, as a keynote speaker and columnist for The Chronicle of Philanthropy and through my Nonprofit Leadership Lab, I offer actionable advice and good counsel to organizations of all sizes and at every stage of their journeys.
For leaders of smaller nonprofits
With nearly 5,000 active members, the Nonprofit Leadership Lab is the world’s most effective and supportive online membership community for board and staff leaders of smaller nonprofits.
Because the World is Counting on Us
Joan was instrumental in assisting with managing through a crisis and then providing consultation to the senior leadership on communication and messaging. Her involvement in the organization was invaluable.
Fred Davie, EVP, Union Theological Seminary
Intelligent. Strategic. Joan adds incredible value to our work. She helped us promote effective change with a big sense of confidence and guided us through day-to-day management challenges and systemic change in complex settings. And did I mention that Joan is fun to work with too?
Janet Sabel, SEO, Legal Aid Society
As a founder of a new and rapidly growing organization, having a thought partner was invaluable. Joan helped us make tough decisions starting with the structure of our organization and strengthening our board. Joan is wise but lighthearted – clear and her advice is immediately actionable.
Maria Teresa Kumar, President, Voto Latino
Joan teaches, mentors, instructs, strategizes and diagnoses how I can be the best that I can be. She not only gets it from the CEO’s perspective, but also the Board chair’s side. I’m far clearer about what my strategic priorities are.
Daryl Messinger, Chair, North American Board of Trustees, URJ
She was phenomenal. We set out difficult goals including working with staff and board more efficiently, finding a better work life balance and making me an external voice for the organization.
Nina Meehan, Exec Art Director and Founder, The Bay Area Children’s Theater
I first met Joan when she was the keynote at CASE Summit in New York. I was blown away. She was an amazing speaker: hard hitting, insightful, and very funny. Later, I referred her to keynote a friend’s conference and the standing ovation Joan got sure made me look good!
Susan Ball, Senior Director, The Fordham Fund
About Joan Garry Consulting
Our firm provides executive coaching and strategic counsel to staff and board leaders of nonprofits. We are fierce advocates working to strengthen the leadership of the sector as we recognize that thriving nonprofits are essential to a truly civil society.
“I believe that each and every nonprofit leader is not only an ambassador of the work of your organization, but also a champion and an advocate for the communities you serve.”