The following is a conversation between Stacey D. Stewart, CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), and Denver Frederick, the Host of The Business of Giving.
Denver: Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD, seeks to stop drunk driving, prevent underage drinking, and strive for stricter impaired driving policy, whether that impairment is caused by alcohol or any other drug. They also serve as a lifeline for thousands of victims and survivors.
Stacey: Well, thank you. Thank you for having me. It’s great to be here.
“…to the extent that we still have 11,000 people drunk driving on the roads, and to the extent that every 45 minutes, someone is killed in a drunk driving crash, it does mean to us that we have a lot more work to go, and that is the work that MADD is involved in today.”
Denver: So, the organization was founded back in 1980. Share with listeners a little bit of its history and some of the key milestones along the way.
Stacey: Yeah, absolutely. You know, Mothers Against Drunk Driving is an organization that was founded in 1980. And at that time, there were about 25,000 people who died each year due to preventable drunk driving crashes.
And, I think, for a lot of us, I can speak for myself, because I wasn’t involved in the founding of MADD, and just really got more deeply involved obviously when I became the Chief Executive Officer of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, but I was familiar with the organization. I think a lot of people are very surprised to realize that the work that Mothers Against Drunk Driving has been doing is still relevant today.
In 1980, when there were 25,000 people that died as a result of the drunk driving crashes, that number has improved, but it has not been eliminated. The issue is still here. In 2020, almost 12,000 people were still killed in vehicle crashes due to alcohol-impaired driving in 2020 alone.
And we’ve actually seen an increase in the number of fatalities due to vehicle crashes, due to impaired driving through the pandemic. So, even though, we’ve seen a decline since the early days of MADD, we still have a significant number of people who are dying every year. We still have a significant number of people who are survivors with life-changing injuries.
And, you know, some of the progress that was made since 1980 was due to a lot of leadership by MADD in 1983. Because of the leadership of MADD and others in community engagement and policy and advocacy work, President Ronald Reagan signed into law… the minimum drinking age law of 21, and we had MADD to thank for that back in 1983.
By 1988, all 50 states had adopted that minimum 21 age of minimum drinking law. And we do know that that law has saved nearly 32,000 lives, and that’s according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Fast forward to 2004, all 50 states adopted a 0.08 blood alcohol concentration threshold for driving.
That, again, was due to some of the leadership of MADD and others, leading to stricter laws and enforcement around a threshold for drinking and driving. So, those are some of the things that MADD has accomplished over many, many years.
But, again, to the extent that we still have 11,000 people drunk driving on the roads, and to the extent that every 45 minutes, someone is killed in a drunk driving crash, it does mean to us that we have a lot more work to go, and that is the work that MADD is involved in today.
Denver: Yeah. Well, you have some remarkable achievements. Let’s dig a little bit deeper into some of those facts and figures that you really helped uplift right there to get some context. I mean, what is the age group that is most involved in drunk driving? What’s going on with teens? Just a few of the data points that might help us sort of get grounded in terms of this crime.
Stacey: Well, I think, it’s a really good question. I mean, what we know about drunk driving is that, again, it’s a hundred percent preventable crime, you know. There are about, on average, 28 people who die every single day as a result of drunk driving.
Again, this is a crime that is preventable. Alcohol-impaired drivers got behind the wheel of a car about 147 million times, and that’s data that goes back to 2018, but that’s according to the CDC. So, you know, when we do arrests and stops for drunk driving, we know that a lot of times the offenders have been drinking and driving probably 88 times before they even get pulled over for a drunk driving incident.
And so, a lot of what we know is that if we do have people that drink and drive, if they just simply make alternative plans, have a designated driver, call an Uber or a Lyft, and make sure that they have alternative plans to make it home that night safely, they can save themselves and prevent themselves from injury or save someone else’s life.
A lot of our offenders though are younger drivers, usually in their 20s. And most often, young adult men, who are most often the offenders, not solely, but most often the offenders. We do know that, and MADD has had a long history in trying to educate younger audiences, young teenage drivers before the age of 21, on the dangers of underage drinking and how even underage drinking can lead to drinking and substance abuse problems down the road.
And that has always been a part of MADD’s work as well. So, a lot of our work is not only in working with law enforcement; I’m actually with a group of law enforcement officials today, helping to train them on the effective ways to conduct stops that can prevent drunk and drug driving on the roads.
But our work is also around educating and informing young people and parents on what they can do to actually prevent young people from getting into dangerous drinking behaviors that can lead to hazardous driving behaviors down the road.
We’ve conducted thousands and thousands of workshops and have distributed many thousands of materials to parents and the teens helping them to understand the dangers of underage drinking and drinking and driving and the drug behavior and driving.
That’s the work that we’ll continue to do to change behavior, while also working with law enforcement officials to make sure that we’re stopping drunk and drug driving on the roads.
“We, you know, believe very strongly that parents and young people have a very powerful impact on how to make sure that there are more and more people who feel like they have choices. If they can choose to avoid dangerous and risky behavior, they can keep themselves safe and keep others safe as well.”
Denver: Absolutely. As a matter of fact, Stacey, you just completed a survey about the importance of communications between parents and teens, correct?
Stacey: Yes, we did in fact. And, a lot of our work, again, has to do with parents, and we have just launched recently, and soon we’ll be launching our 12th Annual Power Talk 21 Campaign, which is a partnership that we’ve had with Nationwide.
Nationwide is our National Presenting Sponsor for this campaign. And it really is a campaign to remind parents that they have the power to protect teens from underage drinking and remind them of the consequences of underage drinking and drug use.
It’s really timed with a lot of activities that young people are going through with prom and graduation activities. This year’s theme is really around: Life-saving conversations start with you. It highlights the critical role that parents have in influencing their teens not to consume alcohol before 21.
And this campaign was really started in partnership with a Penn State professor, Dr. Robert Turrisi, and he was the one who helped us to write this Power Parents Handbook. It really gives us a lot of understanding of how parents and their behavior… and how they address and talk to their teens… can have a very powerful impact on how to communicate effectively with teens to make sure that teens understand how to stay safe.
We, again, have conducted workshops and have educated a lot of attendees, a lot of parents, over many, many years on the ways in which to stay safe. We, you know, believe very strongly that parents and young people have a very powerful impact on how to make sure that there are more and more people who feel like they have choices. If they can choose to avoid dangerous and risky behavior, they can keep themselves safe and keep others safe as well.
Denver: Nothing better than empowering parents. You know, we always assume that parents know how to talk to their kids about this, and often they don’t. So, a little bit of guidance can go an awful, awful long way.
Denver: What’s the latest happening with technology that is integrated into a car’s electronics to prevent drunk driving? And do Americans support this?
Stacey: Yeah, well, you know, technology, up until this point, has been playing a pretty significant role in helping to prevent drunk and drug driving– ignition interlock technology, which is the kind of technology that can be implemented in cars, where if people are drinking and if their blood alcohol concentration levels are above 0.08, it will disable the car.
That is a kind of technology that’s been used for a number of years to help prevent recurring cases of DUI on the roads. And, just recently in 2021, technology again has the prospect of playing an even more important role in terms of preventing drunk and drug driving.
MADD in 2021 was helpful and helped to provide some leadership in passing the HALT Act, which makes life-saving technology… it would make it standard equipment in all new cars, just like we have seat belts and we have airbags, and back-up cameras. This kind of technology, which would be a massive undertaking for sure, is the kind of technology that can include driver monitoring systems, which can detect distracted or impaired or fatigued driving.
There are also alcohol detection systems, which can use sensors to determine whether or not a driver is under the influence of alcohol. This law that was passed in 2021 gave the US Department of Transportation three years to evaluate all the technologies that are out there. And there are a good number of them that are evidence-based, that are proven actually, if implemented and if included as standard equipment in cars, can be used to provide additional safety measures.
You know, I think, a lot of consumers have gotten accustomed to, when they buy cars, having all kinds of new safety standards included– from airbags to seat belts to back-up cameras. And, I think, right now, people just accept and understand that, you know, these safety standards are meant to keep us all safe.
I think there’s a high degree of acceptance that these additional safety standards are ones that really help us and are not intended to interfere with our ability to drive, but are intended to make sure that ourselves and our families and others are safe on the roads.
And, I think, working with a lot of partners in the automotive industry and in the highway safety industry as well, we believe these drunk driving prevention technologies, when they’re implemented in all new vehicles, will save thousands of lives. In fact, there are estimates that say 9,400 lives can be saved a year, and that’s according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
So, we are excited about this opportunity. We need to continue to push forward to make sure that this technology can be implemented, but we know that the technology that is already proven to be effective, if implemented, can absolutely save thousands and thousands of lives, and then we want to, you know, try to get this implemented as expeditiously as possible.
Denver: Yeah, I could imagine there’s a lot of support for it, because I think the numbers are pretty staggering about the number of people who will be involved in a drunk driving crash sometime in their lifetime. It’s over half, right?
Stacey: Yes, it is. It’s significant. And so, you know, I think that to the extent that we can use technology in really responsible ways and use technology in ways where we’ve already proven that it can be effective, there’s no reason not to do it.
And so, there’s every reason to make sure that if we’ve got tools that can be used, we ought to be using them and not wait one more day, one more year, because every day and every year that we wait means more people will lose their lives, and more lives will be in danger.
Denver: You have a lot of very smart initiatives going, and none perhaps more smart than Coalition 45. Tell us about it.
Stacey: Well, we’re excited about this. I mean, just as I said that we have a lot of people that are my age… I’m in my late 50s… that know MADD because of when MADD got started in the early 80s… there’s a lot of work we have to do at MADD to make sure the younger people and new generations are engaged and involved in our work.
We’re excited that we have a new national president, Tess Rowland, who herself is a victim, is a survivor of a drunk driving. She is our new national president and is telling her story of how she was affected by a drunk driving incident as a young reporter in Florida. She is now our national president and is helping to educate and inform younger audiences and everyone about the dangers of drunk and drug driving.
She also, because she is a young person herself, is leading this effort of Coalition 45. For decades, we’ve always invested in educating and saving the lives of young people. But with Coalition 45, she’s really taking our efforts of youth engagement to the next level. Coalition 45 is an effort to really, you know, really engage youth representatives around the country.
It’s an effort created by Gen Z for Gen Z to educate, prevent, and save lives. Tess is traveling the country to meet with younger individuals and nonprofit organizations that serve young people, and looking to recruit 45 representatives overall to serve as our organizing coalition of Coalition 45.
Forty-five representatives, a number of 45 was selected because as I’ve mentioned earlier, every 45 minutes someone dies in a drunk driving crash; 25 to 34- year-old individuals have both the highest driver deaths and the highest percentage among age groups of deaths. And so, this is a really critical age group to engage.
We hope that Coalition 45 will spark urgency around this issue. And we hope that the voices of all the young people that we engage through Coalition 45 will help to educate and inform younger drivers about the risks of DUI-related crashes and keep drunk and drug drivers off the road. And so, we’re excited about Coalition 45 as our new way of engaging Gen Z and younger audiences and, again, taking this youth engagement to the next level.
“These Victim Impact Panels are very powerful outlets for the offenders to be able to empathize with the stories of these victims or survivors so that they never engage in impaired driving again. It’s also really a powerful outlet for victims to share their stories in ways that really call for actionable change.”
Denver: You know, you mentioned a second ago that Tess was a victim, and I think when most people think of MADD, boy, they think of public awareness, and you think about advocating for legislation and working with law enforcement, but victim services is not something that we normally associate with MADD, but we really should. Tell us about that program.
Stacey: Yeah. Well, you know, I think it’s one of the things that is really a gem of the kinds of programs that we provide at MADD, because once, say, crime happens, a lot of people forget about the victim or their survivor.
Denver: Yeah, you’re right.
Stacey: We move on; we see the new story and then we move on with our lives the next day. But unfortunately, those victims sometimes are not able to move on with their lives because their life has been ended. Sometimes the survivors are facing life-changing injuries, surgeries and ongoing issues that prevent them from living their fullest potential in their own lives.
And so, the work we provide to victims and survivors is really important. We do a number of different things to provide support to those victims and survivors over time, things like Victim Impact Panels, where an offender has to listen to the first-person account of a survivor or a loved one, people that were affected by that offender’s drunk driving behavior.
These Victim Impact Panels are very powerful outlets for the offenders to be able to empathize with the stories of these victims or survivors, so that they never engage in impaired driving again. It’s also really a powerful outlet for victims to share their stories in ways that really call for actionable change.
We also provide a lot of other services in terms of court monitoring services. We provide a lot of emotional support to victims and survivors as well. A great deal of our support is really dedicated to making sure that the victims of drunk driving and drug driving and underage drinking consequences really have the support.
We obviously have a 24/7 victim help line. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, someone can call 877-MADD-HELP, and be connected with trained victim advocates. You can go to our website at madd.org\help to also be connected with trained supporters as well.
So, we have lots of volunteers. We have lots of victims and survivors who volunteer with us every single year to be of service and help to make sure that we can ultimately achieve a world in which there are zero deaths and injuries due to drunk and drug driving.
Denver: You do so much more than most of us ever knew and realized. Stacey, you’re new to this role, maybe better to say you’re brand new to this role, but you had an array of leadership positions at different organizations– Fannie Mae, United Way, most recently as the CEO of the March of Dimes; how will those experiences inform your leadership at Mothers Against Drunk Driving?
Stacey: Well, I think, my experience over, as you just mentioned, has been varied, right? I’ve been involved in nonprofit organizations that have focused on everything from affordable housing and homelessness to public education in our schools, to health-related issues, including maternal and infant health just recently at March of Dimes, to financial stability for families facing income instability, and now to looking at the issues of impaired driving and drunk and drug driving.
So, I’ve looked at the world in a variety of different issues, social issues that are affecting us in so many different ways. And so, I think, some people look at my career and wonder, “How have you been able to work on so many different issues in so many different organizations?” And what I would say is that, you know, my career really started in the private sector. I went to business school. I majored in finance and economics in undergrad and graduate school. I worked on Wall Street for a little while.
The expertise I bring to any organization I’ve led has really been to look at an organization, understand its strategy, understand how an organization can be better positioned to drive greater impact, to be able to analyze the organization in terms of its mission… in terms of looking at how it’s achieving its mission and how it can work differently to have a greater impact, but also leads to more sustainable revenue and to stronger opportunities and greater opportunities for future revenue growth; looking at the brand and brand positioning of an organization to determine how it can achieve more relevance to actually grow the impact and the revenue that the organization needs to be more impactful.
Those are the kinds of things that I have learned in my career over time. I have also worked in organizations that are looking to turn around from where they’ve been, organizations that have been seeing some decline for a while and really want to be on an upward trajectory.
And so, that is some of the work and some of the experience and expertise that I hope to bring to MADD, and apply some of those lessons that I’ve learned in my past, to bringing MADD into the next generation of the kind of impact it needs to for the communities that it intends to serve.
And I’ve been super excited to be at MADD, to be dealing with a new set of challenges, to be dealing with a new set of constituents and stakeholders, learning a new set of issues that I’ve never been introduced to in the past. You know, it’s interesting because when I came to MADD, I wasn’t sure that I really had a personal story to share, and I certainly don’t think that I’ve had a family member, nor have I been a victim or survivor of a drunk and drug driving incident.
However, you know, my sister is a quadriplegic today and was injured in a car accident due to an impaired driver, who was impaired due to lack of sleep. And so, what’s interesting about the work at MADD today is the fact that we may have started as a result of alcohol-impaired driving. But when we look at the issue today, we see that there are a number of different issues that are impacting our safety on the roads.
You know, we have the issue of drug driving, marijuana use, opioid use. There wasn’t nearly as much of a factor as it is today as it was back in maybe 1980. We have the issue of cell phone and distracted driving due to cell phone use. And so, there are a number of different things that have changed in the world that impact the mission of MADD today.
And, I think, the opportunities we have today are to look at the broad set of issues that are impacting drunk and drug and impaired driving, and determine where MADD is, where things are today versus where we were in 1980, and determine how we move forward to address those issues. What are the choices that we need to make, and how do we have the greatest impact to make our roads safer?
And those are some of the interesting challenges and, in fact, the opportunities that I think we’ll be working on over the coming months and years.
Denver: Yeah, that’s well said. You know, I think we always had the sense that mission was a fixed thing, but the smartest organizations realize you have to morph your mission. It’s not mission drift, it’s mission-morphing, and you need to evolve it to stay relevant in the world as it’s being lived, and that’s exactly what you’ve done.
In the leadership realm, Stacey, what would you say is your superpower? And what’s your kryptonite?
Stacey: Well, you know, I’ve told people before that I think one of the things that I have really been able to do well at is looking at an organization and determining the essence of what makes that organization special and unique from a corporate strategy standpoint.
I was laughing to say when I was in business school, I concentrated in finance, and I really think my concentration should have been in corporate strategy because that is ultimately what my whole career at MADD has been about. And that’s been around looking at the core essence of a strategy and how to redirect that strategy.
You know, as a leader though, I’ve always been the kind of person to listen to my staff, listen to constituents. I try to do a lot more listening than talking, especially early on, especially in a role where you’ve got to learn a lot and where a lot of my expertise from a subject matter expert, you know, is not necessarily in the area that I’m in today.
So, a lot of coming into a role is being, you know, fairly humble to make sure that people understand that I’m the kind of leader that’s willing to learn and the kind of leader that isn’t afraid to say what they don’t know, and then ultimately use my experience and my expertise to apply to new business solutions.
You know, coming into a new organization is not unlike being in business school and doing a case study. I compare this role and every role I’ve taken on as: This is just a major league case study that we used to do at business school all the time.
And your job is to use all of your skill sets and everything that you know to work through solutions and come up with the best solutions that will help that organization thrive. And that’s essentially what I’ve learned to do over my career and what I’m also doing here at MADD as well.
Denver: Yeah. What about the Kryptonite part?
Stacey: Well, I guess, you know, if there’s like a superpower or a super weakness, I think I look at them both ways. I think, part of it is, I think on the superpower side of it, being able to harness so much of the energy of others, right?
Stacey: That one leader alone can’t do this work, but it’s really harnessing the power and the great thinking of staff and volunteers to bring together all of the resources to make things happen. You know, I think, obviously, one of the things that as a leader we have to be concerned about are those blind spots, right?
Where are those blind spots that can get us into trouble, and/or how do we navigate around unforeseen challenges and difficulties? So, you know, one of the things that none of us could have predicted in 2020 was the kind of impact that the pandemic would have on nonprofit organizations from a fundraising perspective, from having to shift and morph ourselves into new ways of behaving and thinking about our work.
And then, none of us could have predicted some of the economic challenges, inflation, and other things that are still impacting us, even though we’re on the tail end of a pandemic. These are just things that, as a leader, we have to just learn to roll with the punches.
There are always going to be major challenges, major roadblocks thrown in our path, and I think a lot of us have to wake up every day learning how to be nimble and flexible. And that’s certainly something I’ve had to learn to do over a number of years.
You know, I led an organization through 9/11 and the impact that had in Washington, DC. And I’ve also now led an organization through a global pandemic. So, I’m not sure there’s anything more that could be thrown my way.
Denver: But there will be.
Stacey: You know what? That’s exactly right. I think there will be something that I can’t even imagine at this point, and we’ll learn to deal with it when that time comes as well.
Denver: You know, talking about some of those shifts, Stacey, do you think that they have the potential to create a fundamental change in the philanthropic landscape going forward?
Stacey: I think there are a lot of things about the pandemic and about the current economic environment with inflation that are teaching us how to change the way we do business forever. So, for example, a lot of how we learn to work and operate virtually, a good part of that will never go away, whether that’s around how we recruit employees and younger employees who refuse to not have some parts of their work week as virtual.
And, frankly, I think, we’ve learned to see that there’s some value in that. There’s value in being together, and then there’s also value in having a flexible work week where we can work virtually and from home as well.
I think also, a lot of what we are trying to do is trying to make sure that there are things that we can do from a financial standpoint that will help us diversify our revenue streams. We may have learned to rely on certain revenue streams for certain sources of revenue.
And now, we have to learn how to be nimble and identify other sources of revenue that are going to be able to sustain our organization. Unfortunately, a lot of older-legacy organizations relied way too heavily, for way too long, on things like direct mail, as an example. And, during the pandemic, that was sort of advantageous.
We got a chance to see how direct mail, when people were at home, was sort of beneficial to us. But I do think that now, we are all learning, obviously, having a digital footprint and having digital fundraising is something that’s really valuable to us.
And I think one of the things that all of us are trying to learn is how to identify additional sources of revenue that will sustain us over time, and utilizing all of what’s available to us from technology… new ways to communicate our messaging and all of that to reach new audiences and raise more revenue over time.
And that is something that I think we all learned how to be much more nimble in that way during the pandemic and even now.
Denver: Yeah. You know, it’s such a good point about diversifying revenue because on the other side of the equation… I was speaking to an organization that had become completely sustainable from earned revenue and ticket sales. And then the pandemic comes along, and they shut down, and they’re out of business.
Denver: You think that just once you’ve figured it out, but you can’t; you have to have plan B, plan C, and plan D. Talk a little bit about your partners, because I know how important they are to you, and also generating that kind of awareness and revenue that the organization needs.
Stacey: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we’ve been really fortunate to have a number of really great corporate partners who have stepped up in incredible ways for us, whether that’s Nationwide or Uber, and so many others that are connected to our work. You know, MADD has been incredibly benefited to have a number of companies that sponsor our education and awareness programs.
Those partners have been incredibly important to us, and we’re really, really grateful for that. You know, I’d also say that our partnerships extend beyond just funding partnerships. We have a number of partners who are involved in highway safety and transportation safety, a number of partners who add value on the research and data side.
And so, I think, it’s really important as an organization… there’s no one organization that can accomplish its mission alone. And it’s really only through partnerships, whether those partners are providing expertise or technical assistance, or support, or whether it’s funding support or volunteers, we’re looking forward to expanding partnerships.
As I mentioned earlier, one of our priorities is around younger audiences. So, we’re looking at how we expand partnerships on college campuses or with fraternities and sororities, or with other college-age or youth-age organizations to help us reach newer audiences in new and innovative ways. So, those kinds of things are going to be really critical to us as we move forward.
Denver: If you allow me, Stacey, let me digress for a moment. You are the founder of the SportsMom Foundation. Tell us about it.
Stacey: Well, that’s really funny. Yes, my family and I have a very, very small foundation that was really started pre-pandemic out of my love for girls in sports. You know, there was a recent survey that showed that 92%… I think they’re in the low 90’s for sure… of CEOs, corporate CEOs were student athletes at one point.
And my daughters were both student athletes as they progressed through elementary school, middle school, and high school. And I saw the value early in their lives over many, many years of how sports had the opportunity to shape them, to build their self-esteem, build their confidence, and as young women, build their leadership capabilities.
Beyond just the value of being in sports and staying healthy and active and all those kinds of things, there are just so many other benefits all young people gain through sports, but especially true for young girls.
And out of that, my husband and I decided to start a foundation. We’ve had basically just friends and family contributing to it. But today, we’re supporting about 13 girls who we’re helping to get college recruit-ready.
We hope to support them so that they can actually earn a college scholarship– girls coming from more under-resourced communities, whose families may not have all the resources to help them with additional support for training and athletic training, academic support, and all the things that student athletes need to really be competitive in this very competitive world of college athletics.
But the hope is not just that we can help girls to achieve their dreams in terms of sports, but get into college and then prepare themselves for a life of success, of leadership, and really being our leaders of the future, using sports as a platform. So, that’s really the SportsMom Foundation.
It really is a personal passion, a family passion that we’ve had. And, you know, it’s sort of a spare-time activity that I do, but it’s also just coming out of a hobby of sports photography actually many, many years ago. So, yeah, yeah. So, it’s actually been just a fun thing for my family.
Denver: Ah, it’s got to be rewarding, you know, I’m a big fan of the UConn Women’s team, so I’ve been watching them.
Stacey: Oh, yes.
Denver: And, you know, you can see the leadership and the bonding and all the things that it’s doing, just coming through your TV screen, you know.
Denver: Way beyond the basketball court, and how it’s going to carry them forward in life in a very, very good way.
“…the value of the company would come from prioritizing, doing what’s best for people…
…at the end of the day, my decisions are always going to be based on what’s in the best interest of the people we’re serving…”
Denver: Finally, Stacey, in the short time you’ve been in the job and the time leading up to it, has there been a moment that has particularly resonated with you?
Stacey: Yeah, well, I think, boy, I think a lot of moments, but I would say one of the things that I think really impacted me a great deal was actually back earlier in my career in looking at the issues, especially when I was at the Fannie Mae Foundation. I worked at the Fannie Mae Foundation and at Fannie Mae prior to and even during the housing crisis.
And, one of the things I observed, and of course that was during a time when a lot of people lost their homes due to foreclosure. My work at the company, as well as my work at the foundation, had been around getting people into homes through responsible home ownership… really helping them with the support needed to understand how to establish good credit, how to maintain good credit over time, how to maintain responsible home ownership in ways that would help the industry reduce foreclosures, reduce mortgage delinquencies.
And, you know, due to some unfortunate behavior in the mortgage industry overall, we saw a lot of irresponsible lending, and we saw a lot of people lose their homes because they were not being taught some of the things that we had invested so many millions of dollars and so much time and effort into helping to address.
And I think one of the things that really has stuck with me since then is that values-driven leadership is really important, that one of the things that cannot be sacrificed is the kind of leadership that’s based on values, that’s based on making the smart, responsible choices. And when we put people first in our decision-making, it pays off for everyone.
You know, I ended up joining a corporate board just a year or two after the housing crisis. And it was a board whose CEO said to me, “We believe that the value of mortgages is in keeping people in homes.”
And this is a man who had spent his career in the mortgage industry; he’d never worked in a nonprofit, but his value-based decision-making is value-based leadership, that he saw that the value of the company would come from prioritizing. Doing what’s best for people was something that resonated with me.
It was the kind of value-based leadership that I think I’ve brought to every single job that I’ve been in. And in my life and in my career, I’ve always tried to carry that as a way that I behave and move through the world.
That, at the end of the day, my decisions are always going to be based on what’s in the best interest of the people we’re serving, the communities that we’re serving. And that, if those decisions are not centered around that, that those decisions probably are not the right decisions, not only for those individuals, but not the best decisions for the organization that I’m leading as well.
And that has been something that has been a message and a lesson that I’ve tried to carry with me throughout my career. And I think I’ll continue to do that throughout the rest of my career, however long it lasts.
Denver: Well, that’s a good message to end on. And it does seem like as the world is getting more and more complex, when you have values and people right up front, it can help simplify a lot of those decisions for us.
Denver: Stacey, for those who want to learn more about MADD or make a financial contribution to support this life-saving work that you do, tell us about your website and how they can get involved.
Stacey: Yeah, absolutely. We would love for everyone to support the work we’re doing. I hope everyone understands that this work is not over, that MADD started in 1980, but our work has to continue today, and we would love for anyone who wants to support our work to get involved.
If you’ve been a victim or a survivor, or you’ve had a family member affected by drunk and drug driving or impaired driving, we’d love to get you involved. Just go to our website, which is madd.org. You can donate; you can find out more about our programs, get more information about what we’re doing, and just get involved in our work locally, in the community in which you live.
So, we would love to hear from you and really appreciate this opportunity to get the word out and share more about the great work that we’re doing at MADD.
Denver: Well, fantastic. Thanks, Stacey, for being here today. It was a real delight to have you on the show.
Stacey: Absolutely. So great to be with you.
Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving serves as a Trusted Advisor and Executive Coach to Nonprofit Leaders. His Book, The Business of Giving: New Best Practices for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Leaders in an Uncertain World, is available now on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.