It was after the 8th time she was sought out to lead the local YWCA Dayton, when Executive Director, Shannon Isom considered taking on the opportunity. After being in the private sector for several years, presiding over the influential women’s organization seemed herculean and new. Yet she was humbled by the innumerable support of her peers, and the people of the Dayton community who believed she could drive the initiative forward. In a Lean In Dayton interview, she discusses how the opportunity transpired.
Lean In Dayton: Tell me a bit about your background and what led to your role with the YWCA Dayton?
Shannon Isom: Prior to being Executive Director at YWCA Dayton, I volunteered on the board for approximately three years. I think overall the agency was challenged with refreshing based on the downturn that occurred in the community when the manufacturing industry dissipated. The
lack of employment and industry demand made the nonprofit sector agile within that space. Ultimately, it led to me moving up into leadership. Prior to that, I was in the business sector at Premium Health Partners at Miami Valley Hospital and Caresource. I spent eight years in business development for the healthcare industry. While volunteering on the board, the presiding CEO was retiring which led to me taking on the position with the encouragement of others who were not only on the board but a part of the community. I left the healthcare industry to take on something new within the nonprofit sector. However, I worked for the YWCA in Columbus as program manager after my undergraduate studies. I had a history of being familiar with the organization and its mission and it always resonated with me.
Lean In Dayton: The YWCA promotes diversity and inclusion and works to empower women and their families. How do you feel your leadership and guidance has impacted these initiatives?
Shannon Isom: Like any other nonprofit leader, I believe the leadership is really based upon three things: 1. Having a passion and upholding the mission. 2. Providing a framework for strategic planning and action items to uphold the organization for sustainability. 3. Continuing to move the organization forward through human resource which allows the organization to stay relevant for viability in the market. As a leader, I try to stay focused on those three things: 1. how do I stay passionate and encourage others regarding this mission? 2. How do I sustain this organization so it continues 20 years beyond me? 3. How does it remain viable for today? Viability is dependent on a lot of things. It's dependent on the stakeholders, funders, donors- people who are usually passionate about this mission as well as the organization. Also, viability is highly predicated on human resources, the capital within, the people that drive the work that you do which is also more of a physical- visual effect of the mission itself.
Lean In Dayton: The YWCA is raising millions of dollars for a new infrastructure. You’ve enlisted journalist Marsha Bonhart to aid you with your fundraising campaign. How is the project going?
Shannon Isom: Overall, it's gone pretty well. There are some starts and stops just because of the existing occupation of the building. There are people who are living in and sheltered within the building. However, our community support has been tremendous. I think Marsha Bonhart connected to anything, makes it a success. She’s such a great community supporter as well as an advocate for women. We are moving along and doing quite nicely with the campaign. We are hoping that just as those women in 1913 who erected this building, that we will have a building that will provide another 107 years.
Interviewed by Julene Allen