Committed to Transparency, APCH Pulls Back the Curtain on Leadership Transition in the Nonprofit Sector through this Limited Blog Series
If you’re reading this you’re likely already a member of our APCH extended family and you are aware of the upcoming transition of our beloved CEO Jonathan Zeichner. What you may not know is that Jonathan’s departure from APCH is one of a number of important leadership transitions that will impact the Los Angeles nonprofit sector over the next 3-5 years.
True to APCH’s commitment to transparency as a core value, Jonathan announced early, and the Board and senior staff have spent nearly 20 months openly planning and preparing for a graceful leadership transition. It has been a wholehearted effort that will culminate with the appointment of a new CEO…and then the work of APCH’s next era begins! As part of this open process, Jonathan’s blog series is sharing the journey, with all its twists and turns.
Executive Transition Part 5. August 30, 2022
…in which the other shoe drops. (you didn’t think I would leave you hanging, did you?)
by Jonathan Zeichner, CEO of A Place Called Home
Stardate: 2022.8.30 Days to Transition: 26 New CEO Search Concluded!
In Part One of this five-part series I covered my reasons for leaving A Place Called Home and the job I love. In Part Two I wrote about why leadership change is healthy, and addressed sector dysfunctions around leadership transition. In Part Three we got into logistics and internal change dynamics. In Part Four we examined pros and cons of “the long goodbye” and the rigor of the CEO search process.
And now…drumroll, please…I am extremely pleased to share that our CEO search has concluded and we have found someone quite wonderful to lead APCH into its 4th decade. We’ll get to that, I promise, but first, since this is my final CEO log, allow me to share some reflections on the journey so far… and drop a few easter eggs in the process.
Most nonprofit leaders I know are addicts. And, like most addictions, this one strongly influences their priorities, how well they take care of themselves, their availability to the ones they love, and what they are thinking about and dogging for nearly every waking moment. The tradeoffs can be enormous and decades can go by in thrall to this addiction above all else…but, I can’t really say it’s a bad thing.
I got hooked more than 30 years ago. It was 1990, and I was just getting by as an actor. I’d sold a screenplay that was opening doors for me as a writer and a director, and for bread and butter I was working as a contractor leading theater workshops for nonprofit programs in psychiatric hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, mostly serving adults with PTSD, mental illness, and substance abuse issues, many of whom were deeply wounded and couldn’t function in “the real world.” But, miraculously, when they were playing a character or painting a picture or writing a poem, they became present, focused, and able to produce brilliant art, while escaping their demons and reawakening a love for life.
When I realized that I had a capacity to make a direct positive difference in the lives of human beings who were struggling, and in the process perhaps make the world a better place – not just my world, but the big wide world, I started on a high that has lasted three decades with no crash. I started turning down showbiz work and focusing on living a life of service. An addiction that I have no plans of giving up.
APCH is the third organization I’ve led, and by far the most challenging and fulfilling. Less than a month away from passing the torch, I am immensely grateful for every moment, experience, colleague, partner, and opportunity to serve the youth and families that depend on APCH. I am deeply appreciative of the amazing grace that my colleagues, APCH board members and our donors bring to the equation. After 30 years of leading nonprofits, I am feeling fulfilled, knowing that I have given 100% and that, together, we have been able to accomplish so much for so many, including thousands of young people who are authoring their own lives and making the world a better place using skills, tools and values they developed at APCH.
What a wonderful experience this middle chapter of my life has been. I will cherish every memory, life lesson and relationship that has grown out of it.
By the way, that farewell shindig in June that I was feeling a little uncomfortable about turned out to be a blast! Thank you to the APCH board, staff, alums, my family and dear friends that came together to create the event, and to sister Saundra Bryant for your beautiful introduction. And, we raised $1,000,000 for the APCH / JZ Bridge to the Future APCH Technology Transformation Fund!!! Thank you if you were one of the 200 people that showed up and if you made a donation. It is an evening I will never forget. Please stay involved with APCH after I leave–it’s not about me, it’s about the mission!
But, wait, Jonathan… what about the new CEO????!!!!
Of course–the whole point of this series was to bring you along, dear reader, as we paddled through the rapids of this transition – the prep, the search, the delay, and now…the culmination!
You may recall that I announced in early 2021, and the official search for my successor began a year later in January of 2022, with a projected end date of July 1. After six months and two rounds of wonderful candidates that just weren’t quite right for us, our very determined Board Chair, Gareth Schweitzer, along with our hardworking search committee, told Envision Consulting (the excellent search firm we worked with) that we were going back to the drawing board – and, to their credit, Envision stepped up again. Round Three.
All in all, the search has been a bit of a ride, and a great reminder that you must not compromise when it comes to certain things… and also a reminder that timing is everything. Round Three was high stakes and everyone knew it. We were serious and dialed in and so were the candidates. After more than a dozen screenings that led to half a dozen interviews, we narrowed the pool to two incredibly interesting, seasoned, passionate finalists, both amazing, and very different from each other; our board interviewed and hung out with them, our staff leadership interviewed them, and I got to have quality 1:1 time with each of them. Wonderful people. Truly, I could have seen either in the role – it was like one of those story point crossroads in a video game where your choice will send the story on totally different trajectories. In the end, there was a solid consensus around one candidate, and I agreed:
So now, dear friends, it is my great pleasure to invite you to meet Norayma Cabot, who will be starting as the new CEO of A Place Called Home on 9/26/22.
Norayma has over 18 years of experience driving successful organizations with expertise in leading strategic initiatives, achieving organizational growth, working with vulnerable communities, and diversifying funding sources. As the daughter of immigrants, Norayma is passionate about supporting underserved communities and protecting families’ rights regardless of socioeconomic status.
As one of a handful of non-attorney Executive Directors of a legal services organization, she led the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice through the pandemic resulting in a more financially robust and innovative organization. Her extensive career also includes leading the South Los Angeles program for the Community Development Institute and the Plaza de La Raza Child Development Services. Norayma was also appointed by the Governor to the State Interagency Coordinating Council on Early Intervention and has testified to the California State Assembly on behalf of Los Angeles County families.
Norayma earned her BA degree in Urban Learning and a Masters in Education from California State University, Los Angeles. She currently teaches at East Los Angeles College as an adjunct professor and is pursuing a Certificate from Harvard University.
Welcome Norayma! I have so enjoyed getting to know you, and it is an honor to pass you the torch and to give you my blessings. You have an amazing adventure ahead of you, and so does APCH!
Dear reader, please, check your inbox over the days and weeks ahead for more official announcements regarding Norayma’s arrival. It’s a great ending/beginning to this story, as APCH enters its 4th decade with a dynamic, wise and wonderful new leader. Please reach out to Norayma, welcome her, support her, get to know her and let her know why you believe in and support APCH. She can’t wait to meet you!
As I head out to nonprofit CEO pasture (also known as consulting and advising), I hope to hear from you, my beloved colleagues, friends, partners, supporters and stakeholders, in the not too distant future and for any reason at all – and if I may be of service so much the better! After 10/1/22, please be in touch via my new website jonathanzeichner.com or via email at [email protected]
A final quote to share – this one has been a touchstone for a long time:
Cesar Chavez said: If we are truly honest with ourselves, we must admit that the only thing we really own is our lives, and it is what we do with those lives that determines the kind of people we are.
And, a book recommendation (I’ve given this book away at least 500 times): The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
The good work will never be done, and we must never abandon it.
Peace and love,