September 21, 2022

nonprofit executive director

In this episode, you'll get a rare glimpse into the inside story of two people who have, together, gone through the unique crucible that is an executive transition.

Jane McDonnell is the former Executive Director of the Online News Association and is now an independent consultant. Irving Washington is the current Executive Director of the Online News Association, and a longtime association professional in the journalism field. Jane and Irving went through an executive transition in a thoughtful, proactive, ethical, and effective fashion, with respect for one another, for their colleagues, for their funders, and their organization. We all know that executive transitions are critical inflection points for organizations, and too many funders are not yet proactively investing in healthy transitions, and not supporting outgoing and incoming executive directors to succeed in the transition.

This episode is Part II of our mini-series on supporting new executive directors. It’s the companion to Episode 2, the previous episode, which was a conversation with Bipasha Ray and Joey Lee, former and current staff at Open Society Foundations. In that episode, we discussed OSF’s New Executives Fund, a program that supports new executive directors in nonprofits around the world, especially “historic firsts” in their organizations. (Irving participated in the OSF New Executives Fund. A few months after we recorded this interview, Irving announced that 2022 would be his last year with ONA.)

Here we explore Talent-Investing Principle #4: Talent justice is essential. This principle says that racism, sexism, classism, and other inequities are baked into the deficit of investment in the nonprofit workforce. Thus, the solution must advance intersectional racial equity.

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Jane McDonnell Biography 

Jane is a digital media leader and innovator, with a long history of creating and supporting journalism in the commercial, independent and nonprofit worlds. She is CEO of free range media LLC, advising nonprofit media organizations on building leadership through cultural inclusion, equity and diversity hiring and board development, starting up and strengthening organizational structure, and navigating the changing landscape of fundraising and revenue generation. 

From 2008-2017, she served as Executive Director of the Online News Association (ONA), the world’s largest membership organization of digital journalists, home of the Online Journalism Awards and host of the annual Online News Association Conference. Jane oversaw ONA’s daily operations, staff, financial and program strategy, working closely with the Board of Directors and staff, and launched ONA Local, the Women’s Leadership Accelerator, and diversity and leadership development fellowships. She is the recipient of ONA’s 2018 Rich Jaroslovsky Award for excellence in digital journalism. 

Jane was consulting senior editor for the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s 2008 State of the News Media Report. In 2006-2007, she oversaw the communications, marketing and digital efforts at the Center for Public Integrity and was part of a CPI team that won online awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors, the National Press Foundation, the Society of Environmental Journalists, the Association of Healthcare Journalists and Harvard’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. In 2001, she started up Public Access Journalism, the first independent editorial company funded by foundations, to examine social issues in print, broadcast and themed websites. 

As a Managing Editor at Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services, Jane helped lead efforts on Knight Ridder’s nascent digital projects. She received the company’s Excellence Award for her work as president of Partners in Journalism, a volunteer group that helped Washington D.C. public high schools produce newspapers. 

Jane currently serves as Board Chair of the national Student Press Law Center and as a Board member of New Hope Midcoast in Maine, where she lives with her husband and pup.

Irving Washington Biography

Irving Washington is the Executive Director/CEO for the Online News Association (ONA), the world’s largest membership organization of digital journalists. As a media diversity advocate, Irving has led programming and fundraising initiatives for journalists, media professionals, and students worldwide. Before joining ONA, he worked for the National Association of Black Journalists and the Radio-Television Digital News Association. He earned the designation of Certified Association Executive (CAE) by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE). He’s an ASAE Fellow, Columbia University Punch Sulzberger Executive Leadership Fellow, and ASAE Diversity Executive Leadership Program (DELP) Scholar. He serves on the board of directors of the American Journalism Project, News Revenue Hub, and the Journalism Alumni Society of his alma mater, Ball State University, from which he received a degree in Journalism. Irving has also been recognized as a 40 under 40 honoree by the Washington Business Journal and USAE/Association Forum.

Resources from this episode:

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