Running a nonprofit organization certainly comes with unique challenges. It involves fundraising, community outreach, building a team that often counts thousands of volunteers and efficiently using funds to help others. It’s not an easy undertaking in general, so add being a working mother to the mix and the workload is heightened. How did we choose workingmother.com’s Most Powerful Moms in Nonprofits? There are an enormous number of women around the country running grass roots organizations and helping their communities, but the women on this list are at the helm of organizations with major budgets (some in the billions) with either a national or a global reach. We also included leaders in a range of categories—including education, environmental protection and cancer research—to highlight a broad spectrum of women in the nonprofit world. The women on this list also have at least one child who is 18 years old or younger at home and are therefore facing the daily demands of work life balance.
The philanthropic reach of the women on this list is uncanny. Melinda Gates, who co-chairs the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gives around $800 million annually to global health, a figure comparable to the annual budget of the United Nation’s World Health Organization. Caryl Stern the CEO of the US Fund for UNICEF, runs an organization with revenue that exceeds $500 million annually. And Gail McGovern, who leads the American Red Cross, sits at the helm of a $3.3 billion organization.
There are also philanthropic pioneers on this list, including Wendy Kopp, who founded Teach for America in 1990. Kopp wanted to reform education in the U.S. and thought, Why not use some of the brightest recent college graduates to teach at underperforming schools around the country? Today there are mroe than 8,200 Teach for America corps members actively bringing Kopp’s vision to life.
Not surprisingly, since this is a list of working mothers, several women are fighting for the rights, health and success of women. Cecile Richards, who heads Planned Parenthood, has dedicated her career to advocating for women and their right to access safe health care. Joi Gordon, who runs Dress for Success, helps provide disadvantaged women with mentoring and training to ensure that they can flourish in their careers. And Audra Moran, the CEO of the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, is tirelessly raising money to fight ovarian cancer, the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths for women in the U.S.
Another one of the women on our list, Frances Beinecke, the president of the National Resources Defense Council and mom of three, is thinking about the future and fighting against climate change and for clean energy now. "To be in this business, you have to be an optimist,” says Beinecke. “You have to believe that change is possible and that you're part of the solution to getting that change in place." The same could be true for each and every one of the women on this list.
One thing they all have in common: They're doing an awful lot of good in the world while balancing the challenging demands of motherhood. For that and so much more, we applaud them.