Recent events have compelled nonprofit organizations to change the way they get work done, how they deliver their services, and what they do to achieve a more just and equitable society. So, The Business of Giving has connected with those organizations that are doing this exceptionally well in a segment we call: The Paths Forward. Because there is more than just one way.

Denver: Today we’ll be hearing from team members at Komen Susan G. Komen is the only organization that addresses breast cancer on multiple fronts such as research, community health, global outreach, and public policy initiatives in order to make the biggest impact against this disease. They’ve been doing this for over 40 years.

Will begin with their President & CEO, Paula Schneider

Paula:  And we will continue to be nimble because I will say that my management team, there’s seven of us that sit together three days a week, and we talk about all the things that we’re doing, and we are very much in lockstep with making decisions. And there’s a lot of people in there that are way smarter than I am on many levels in different, different things that they are doing. And my goal is to bring the smartest and brightest people together to work on the biggest problem that we have in our work, in our world of breast cancer, and figure out ways to make a difference. And that’s where we live.

At Komen mission is front and center every day and each employee can see how they contribute to that mission. Natasha and Kelsey explain.

Natasha: But when I think of culture here at Komen, it is about the mission. And I’ve been a part of other organizations, but I really, in coming here, I really wanted to find a place that truly lives out the mission every single day. There are some organizations who have a mission, have a vision, and they put that on a shelf. But I think here, it guides all the work that we do, all the ways we show up in community, all the things that we do. And I don’t think a day, honestly, goes by without going back to the mission and making sure that what we’re doing is in alignment with that mission and making sure that we’re pushing that out.

It’s also that it feels very special that everyone here understands how their work directly feeds into our mission and how we’re going to get there. Everyone understands exactly how their piece of the puzzle works directly towards achieving the mission. And that just feels like something really special to be a part of. Everyone’s in their boats rowing in the same direction, and we all understand that we need everyone else to be able to get where we’re going. All of our different mission approaches, all of the policy, the research, the patient care, all of the work that we do is all feeding into one another. It’s a
part of one really seamless ecosystem and everyone understands how all of the different elements from accounting to legal, to communications, to mission, it’s all necessary and it’s all a piece of the ecosystem.

Cody and Kelsey speak to the thoughtful and intentional hiring process at the organization.

Cody: And what I see in the hiring process is that we don’t necessarily only look for aptitude. We look for attitude as well. We want to make sure that the people who we bring to our team have the same chemistry that we have within our team. And I think that just really makes things stronger.

KELSEY: And I feel like we have that mentality for everyone when we are in the hiring process. And it’s a very strategic and intentional process. We’re not just encouraged to find the first warm body with a nice degree and we’re encouraged to find people who fit our team, who believe in our mission and our vision, people who talk about like wanting to make a difference for patients as they’re interviewing. And I feel that resonating every day in the work that I do with these great people.

There are many organizations that are so thoughtful with the hiring process, but then drop the ball when onboarding new employees. Natasha and Brady tell us that is not be the case at Komen.

Natasha: I also think it’s onboarding, the way we’re onboarded here at Komen is it’s pretty spectacular. We all get the same types of information, but it is very intentional. Every meeting that we have, every touch point, every presentation, it is very intentional. And so I don’t take that for granted that each new person comes in, the reason why they come into this ecosystem and really understand their part that they play and how it interconnects, is really us sharing all of that goodness with them in their first 30 days that they come here at Komen.

BRADY: But this is the first place I’ve ever worked where I’ve been remote enrolled on, and that’s where I think Komen really blows things out of the water because they’ve taken into account that when a brand-new person starts in an organization, they don’t have the visual cues as when you’re in an office. To go over and just meander to the HR department and see if somebody can help you, you just turn off your Teams and then you’re sitting in your house.

And so they make a good strong point of having a very long, not a long, but a very strong week of full-on onboarding and understanding where to go and who to go and how to get things done.

Identifying an individual’s strengths is one of the keys to a successful workplace culture as Meghan and Natasha tell us.

MEGHAN: One of the first things that you do when you get hired is you take a strength test. And I think about my own strengths like once a day, because I just feel like, okay, I have identified what I’m really, really good at and I’m not afraid to talk to my supervisor and be like, I’m not so great at this, I need your help. I’m not afraid to ask for help like I have been in previous roles and other organizations that I’ve worked at because I want to seem like I can do it all. And I feel like here, you really embrace your strength. You embrace other people’s strength. We kind of all like to share it with one another. So I think it’s made me trust myself more.

Natasha: Yeah, I think the strengths finder that we were just talking about, I think that the fact that that works at our organization is that is kind of from the top down, where we all tap into us being unique individuals and us knowing about ourselves. And if you don’t know where you stand with some of that, that we have the bandwidth to be able to do that. It makes me think of our continuing education that’s available for us through Komen.

According to Brady and Megan, a key to the culture at Komen is strategic planning, both allowing the time to plan as well as staying committed to the plan.

BRADY: But then… and then lastly, just to add to that, we set goals and we don’t have leadership, going back to leadership, that set strategy and then runs around and chases squirrels all year round. They stick to what our strategic goals are and that rolls back into what our goals are. We do a RACI, a full-on organizational RACI around what our activities are going to be. And that levels down to exactly what my goals are for the year. So that’s how and why we can see how everything ladders up. And everybody does an organizational structure, but the difference is Komen sticks to it. And not in a blind, like, plug your ears and no, no, no, no, we’ve already done this kind of way, it’s just like I said, they really worked on a solid strategy to begin with. So it holds up to a lot of weather.

Megan: I think really carving out the time to plan. I can speak from my department. We create very detailed plans for a year, month by month of what it is that we’re going to do, how we’re going to get it done. And then we use those to go back to as we move through the year, how are we tracking to that, setting within those the tactics. What are our KPIs to know that we’re on track? And then, as Brady was talking about, we have systems and tools to help us not only track them for ourselves but that there’s visibility into progress, regardless of where you sit in the organization. And so it’s incredibly essential because we have to always… who else needs to know this information, who else is impacted by what we do or what we don’t do. And so, for me, that’s the rigor and the intentionality that’s applied to the
work on a daily basis.

A sound strategy is vital but so too is operational excellence. Kelsey and Brady speak to that.

Kelsey: I was reflecting on the accountability line, and that’s been a really big organizational push for us. And I see it embodied in a lot of the work that we do. We’ve become very intentional about everything that we do having really… instead of just diving in and just hair on fire trying to get things done as fast as you can, we’ve worked really hard to build out processes and standard operating procedures so that there is anticipated and approved sort of way that things are supposed to go, who’s supposed to see what, so people aren’t blindsided and a really good way of just making sure that everyone’s on the same page. We also do a lot of project kickoffs and RACIs, which helps to really eliminate a lot of the confusion and the chaos when we’re starting in.

Brady: So I will second that. This is the only organization I’ve ever worked at that’s actually invested significant time and energy into operational excellence as well as strategic excellence. A lot of times, I’ve just seen strategy and then that’s it, and then yabber yabber about operations. But nobody wants to take the time to stop and fix it, I guess. And I do agree like I said before, those are little tiny things that just add up after a while and I think they wear people down.

Having a culture that is production based and goal oriented actually promotes well being. Natasha and Cody will walk us through that.

Natasha: So because we are production-based and we get things where we’re big on outputs, we know that the work’s getting done. And as a result, our leadership team knows that the work’s getting done. And so we get two full weeks off, like where everyone’s closed, no one’s at a computer, which is amazing because you never feel like, oh, crap, when I get back, I’m going to have 5,000 emails.

Cody: And he asked, he said, I work like 70, 80 hours a week sometimes in our busiest season, what do you work? Like that’s not necessarily how we do things as… and Brady alluded to this earlier, we do things goal-based. We do things production-based. Everything that we do is to better the mission, better the goal, better the KPIs, and it doesn’t matter necessarily that you’re spending so, so much time doing it as long as you are communicating, moving forward, and working with your team properly.

A key to Engagement in the workplace is the belief that you’re making a difference. Senita and Kelsey know that they are.

SENITA: So I’m really excited to be a part of the organization. I have only been here for a year and I’ve like been able to accomplish so much within that year time frame. So I think that Komen does give you that opportunity to really take charge of your career. And I’ve just been so excited just to see the growth that I’ve accomplished over this short time frame.

KELSEY: I like working here, the work that I do matters. And not everyone gets to say that at the end of the day when they log off. The work that I do makes a difference for people and I think that’s part of the secret sauce. And our leadership makes us feel that.

In Closing, a final thought from each of our participants: Meghan discusses Storytelling, Cody on Decision Making, Natasha about Learning, Kelsey and Senita on Leadership, Brady on their Secret Sauce And Meghan speaks to Change.

Meghan: One thing that I really think about all the time when I think about my role here at Komen is how amazing we are storytelling. Everyone in the organization, regardless of what kind of role they’re in, helps us tell our story.

CODY: So when they have that data at their disposal, they’re able to make decisions quickly and keep that accountability held for everybody in the organization. So it really does feel like when a decision is made up top, everybody kind of buys in because the leadership has good reasoning on why and they give you that why. It’s not just blindly follow. It’s here’s what we’re doing and here’s why it matters, here’s why we’re going this route.

Natasha: There’s so much great assets that we have available for training that’s just ready at our fingertips. There are things that maybe assigned to us, but then there’s also things that you can kind of take in, look, we have something called Komen University where you can go in and explore.

Kelsey: And I would say that Paula doesn’t just say things for the sake of saying things. If she says we’re going to do something, we do it and it happens. She is not about the nonsense and she is very level with us and it’s greatly appreciated.

Senita: I would say that she’s approachable. No matter what level that you’re at at Komen, like you can walk up to her and have a conversation. And that’s what I love about her.

Brady: So Denver, the future is female. Our secret sauce is that we are women-led and I’m going to be the one to say that’s what I think our secret sauce is. Leave your E-G-O at the door and let’s get some work done. That’s our secret sauce.

Megan: When you think about like the stages that an organization goes through, the storming, the norming, we were storming for 2 years. But at the center of that, what I think always kept us and we like to say it, come in our North star, were the people that we serve. And not only did we… we didn’t lose sight of that, I believe that our mission programs are infinitely stronger today than they were in the old structure.

I want to thank all those who participated in this piece: Cody Mains, Megan Klink, Natasha Mmeje, Kelsey Hampton, Brady Kazar, Se’Nita Harris and Meghan Coppinger.
To learn more about Komen simply go to or visit and listen to my earlier interview with Paula Schneider, the CEO of Komen.

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 Ever-Changing World, will be released later this year.Listen to more The Business of Giving episodes here. Subscribe to our podcast channel on Spotify to get notified of new episodes. You can also follow us on TwitterInstagram, and on Facebook. 

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