Q&A with Board Chair, Ashley Thompson

Mission Capital staff and board are proud to welcome our recently appointed Board Chair, Ashley Thompson, who will be leading board governance, strategy, financial oversight and community ambassadorship for Mission Capital over the next year.

Ashley Thompson is the managing director for the Blackbaud Institute. She is responsible for driving Blackbaud’s extensive research, thought leadership, and best practice content. Through this role, she builds thoughtful strategies and solutions for the philanthropic sector utilizing the most comprehensive data set in the social good community. She also manages internal and external relationships for the Institute, including the convening of the Blackbaud Institute Advisory Board. Ashley is active in the Austin community and participates in numerous groups as a volunteer, active board member, and collaborative partner. She is a regular contributor to sgENGAGE, serves on the Giving USA Editorial Review Board, and is a member of the Nonprofit PRO Editorial Advisory Board. Follow Ashley on Twitter at @AshlyThmpsn.

We sat down with Ashley to ask her about her experience in board leadership, the current state of the social sector in Central Texas, and the role of Mission Capital to “equip and connect mission-driven leaders, organizations & networks as we advance equity & opportunity in Central Texas.

What about Mission Capital’s mission attracted you to join our board and what keeps you engaged?

I have been a long-time fan of Mission Capital. My journey started with me being an active member of the Social Venture Partners (SVP) program, then joining the board three years ago, to being named Board Chair this August.

What keeps me engaged is that being on the board allows me to be a part of a dynamic solution-oriented approach to the biggest issues plaguing the nonprofit sector.

Through my work at the Blackbaud Institute, continually uncover the source causes of some of these issues, such as leadership, change management, and governance. Mission Capital is a proactive partner in the community, working hand in hand with leaders, organizations, and networks to address the issues and provide solutions that move the sector forward.

How are current times (COVID-19, the BLM movement) shaping the way you will approach your role as Board Chair?

We’re living in a time of significant disruption. While it is an honor to serve at such a critical time, it also brings its own unique challenge and opportunities. Not only is it important for organizations to get really clear on their priorities and how they organize themselves for impact, they must also respond to the call for change.

I’m very proud of the work Mission Capital and its board has been doing over the last couple of years. In 2018, we realized that to achieve our mission to build a stronger Central Texas, we had to address the need for equity in Central Texas.

So, for the last two years, the team has been focusing on how to take an equity lens to EVERYTHING we do. We had envisioned a continued need for education around why this is so vital, so when the Black Lives Matter movement picked up steam this summer, we were ready to dive in. Our role is to continue moving full steam ahead towards progress.

It is a challenging time, but an exciting time to be an integral part of the Mission Capital Board.

What lived experiences inform your professional and civic leadership?

When I started working in the nonprofit sector when I was 15, I was doing a job that was typically held by a 30-year-old with a college degree. It was a quick lesson in the ability to combine my passion for communication and information with the ability to do good in the world.

I have worked at various organizations, but most recently, before coming to Blackbaud, I worked at Unidos US (formerly NCLR), a national civil rights & advocacy organization for Hispanics based in DC. That was an eye-opening experience to the need for programs centered in human rights and dignity. I love the idea of protecting the human rights and dignity of all in America, not just those advantaged.

Now, I run the Blackbaud Institute, which leverages data and our network of experts to dive best practices and adoption in the social sector. I feel that I can affect great change in helping organizations focus on the most important practices. I believe that Mission Capital is a part of that ecosystem of thought leadership, striving for change.

What have you learned from board service?

I have learned so much! I have amplified my leadership skills, had some lessons in humility, and expanded my skills to areas of the organization outside my direct experience. I have also learned the value that continued stewardship of your volunteers provides.

I’m honored to work with a phenomenal board and Executive Committee to support Mission Capital during this important moment. Executive Committee members are: Thomas Miranda, CEO of Sparkovation, Anna Robinson, CEO of CERESA, Diana Garcia Mil, CPA at Mawxell Locke & Ritter, Jenny DuFresne, CEO at DuFresne Solutions Group, Denise Davis, Founding Partner at Davis Kaufman, PLLC, and John Thornborrow, CEO at Austin Impact Capital.

What advice would you give someone aspiring to join a nonprofit board?

There are a ton of nonprofit organizations in need of great Board Members. But, if you do decide to join a board, know that it is a significant commitment. Make sure you pick an organization with a mission you are passionate about to avoid burn out and ensure you remain dedicated to the work.

An important thing to keep in mind is that your priority is the health of the organization’s mission, not your ego. Along those same lines, understand that your words will have power and impact what the staff spends their time and resources on, so choose them wisely!

We thank Ashley for taking a moment to give us insight into her role as Board Chair. If you’re interested in pursuing nonprofit board service, we encourage you to attend one of our monthly Board Essentials sessions.

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