[NPFX Ep. 56] The Intersection of Organizational Wellness and Impact (with Shaun Leonardo and Melissa Cowley Wolf)

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Welcome to The Nonprofit Fundraising Exchange, a podcast from IPM Advancement. Our mission is to empower nonprofits to succeed so they can make the world a better place.

Today’s topic: The Intersection of Organizational Wellness and Impact (with Shaun Leonardo and Melissa Cowley Wolf)

A workforce shortage in the nonprofit industry is forcing many organizations to do more with less, resulting in stress and burnout that only worsens staff turnover. How can we expect nonprofits to go out and make the world a better place if the organizations themselves are not well? In today's episode, we take a deep dive into the topic of organizational wellness to help nonprofits improve their internal health and increase their impact.

Time-Stamped Episode Shortcuts

  • Topic and guest introductions [1:01]
  • What is "organizational wellness" and why should it matter to nonprofits? [6:59]
  • How to identify an "unwell" organization [14:13]
  • Wellness perks are not policy or practice [16:34]
  • The difference between wellness policy and wellness practice [20:26]
  • How organization hierarchy and proximity affect the health of a nonprofit [24:32]
  • Advice for improving wellness at a nonprofit [28:18]
  • Leveraging consultants and somatic practitioners for positive change [31:50]
  • Coregulation of the nervous system makes individuals and organizations more creative [35:24]

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Shaun Leonardo, a Brooklyn-based artist and Co-Director of the arts nonprofit Recess, specializes in multidisciplinary work that negotiates societal expectations of manhood, namely definitions surrounding black and brown masculinities, along with its notions of achievement, collective identity, and experience of failure. His performance practice, anchored by his work in Assembly — a diversion program for system-impacted youth at Recess — is participatory and invested in a process of embodiment. Shaun received his MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and is a recipient of support from Creative Capital, Guggenheim Social Practice, Art for Justice and A Blade of Grass. His work has been featured at The Guggenheim Museum, the High Line, and New Museum, and profiled in the New York Times and CNN. His solo exhibition, The Breath of Empty Space, was presented at MICA, MASS MoCA and The Bronx Museum. And his first major public art commission, Between Four Freedoms, premiered at Four Freedoms Park Conservancy, in the fall of 2021.

Melissa Cowley Wolf has 20 years of experience in philanthropy, strategic planning, and programming for art museums and higher education institutions across the United States. A philanthropy consultant for nonprofit organizations, an advisor to next generation philanthropists, and arts advocate working across industries, she was named to the Artnet 2020 Innovators List as one of 51 global innovators transforming the art industry. Melissa founded advising firm MCW Projects LLC in 2017 to expand the next generation of cultural philanthropists, advocates, and audiences. She is also the founding director of the Arts Funders Forum (AFF) an advocacy, media, convening, and research platform designed to develop new models of impact-driven financial support for the cultural sector.


Russ Phaneuf, a co-founder of IPM Advancement, has a background in higher education development, with positions at the University of Hartford, Northern Arizona University, and Thunderbird School of Global Management. As IPM's managing director & chief strategist, Russ serves as lead fundraising strategist, award-winning content creator, and program analyst specializing in applied system dynamics.

Rich Frazier has worked in the nonprofit sector for over 30 years. In his role as senior consultant with IPM Advancement, Rich offers extensive understanding and knowledge in major gifts program management, fund development, strategic planning, and board of directors development.


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