Courtesy. Heidi Brown, middle, recently attended he Harvard Business School Executive Management program. The program is part of Harvard 100.

Area philanthropists to send 100 nonprofit executives to Harvard

Week long program focuses on new ideas to help run organizations.
By: 
Jul. 13, 2018

Johanna Gustafsson and Chris Pinckney, leaders of a wife-husband wealth management team, have been part of a lot of giving back in the Sarasota community in the last two decades.

Some charitable donations come from their own pockets, others from their high-net-worth clients. But like many who donate to a host of causes, Gustafsson has long had one overarching worry: do her donations do the most good?

“After being involved in the community for many years,” says Gustafsson, “we saw a void in how nonprofits invest in their people.”

So, instead of simply giving money to a particular group, the couple recently created Harvard 100 — something they believe can deliver tangible results. The couple intends to pay for 100 Sarasota area nonprofit leaders to attend the Harvard Business School Executive Management program, with a focus on nonprofits. It costs about $5,000 a person to send someone to the intensive program, which runs from Tuesday through Friday at the Boston campus.     

Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School faculty oversee the program and teach the classes. Gustafsson heard about the program through a friend and philanthropist in North Carolina who attended it. One of the reasons she liked it is it takes leaders away from their comfort zone to push and promote new ideas. “We wanted to think big and different,” Gustafsson tells Coffee Talk.

The logistics behind Harvard 100 is to send at least one nonprofit executive every semester, and the board chairman or chairwoman the next semester, and add people each term over the next decade. Angie Stringer, executive director of Girls Inc. in Sarasota was one of the first attendees, as was Kay Mathers, president of the Girls Inc. board’s executive committee.

Another recent attendee was Heidi Brown, president and CEO of JFCS of the Suncoast. Brown says the course used case studies and an active and engaged discussion process to confirm best practices and brainstorm new ideas. A key part, she adds, was the global component, to get a broad perspective of nonprofit leadership outside the United States. “I’m not overstating this,” says Brown, “but this program was transformational for me.”

Gustafsson, with the Gustafsson Pinckney Group at Merrill Lynch, says the program isn’t for everyone, and they’ve rejected a few applicants where the board and leadership weren’t aligned on goals. Gustafsson also hopes as the program grows, graduates like Brown and Mathers will become ambassadors, and help recruit more attendees.

“We are very excited and committed to this program,” says Gustafsson. “We are in this for the long haul. We want to move the needle on change in this community.”