Alumni spotlight – Charlane Oliver (The Equity Alliance)

Alumni spotlight – Charlane Oliver (The Equity Alliance)

Charlane OliverMany of the young individuals who have participated in the Young Leaders Council training program over the years have gone on to make a tremendous impact as nonprofit board leaders in the Middle Tennessee community.  A select few have taken that knowledge, identified a specific need to address in our community, and used the training as a catalyst to build their own nonprofit organizations.  As a graduate of the YLC Nashville Class 59, Charlane Oliver felt an urgent pull to create a more inclusive, informed, and stronger democracy for communities of color. Together with fellow activist and friend, Tequila Johnson, Charlane set on a path to create The Equity Alliance, an organization advocating for equitable opportunities and systems to improve the quality of life for Black people.  YLC is proud of the impact and contributions that Charlane and The Equity Alliance have made to advance the cause of equity and social justice for the marginalized.

How are things at The Equity Alliance? 

Things are going great!  It’s always changing. Working in TN can be challenging in terms of getting people civically engaged especially in this political climate.  People tend to push everything towards race, and you’re trying to find ways to fight back when all the tools in the toolbox seem to be ineffective.  We’re trying to find new opportunities to engage people in new and innovative ways, and with that thing are going great. 

When we started, we didn’t have any staff and it felt like we were doing a passion project.  Now we have a staff of 12 and we’re doing well.  Over the years we have built a brand that is unapologetic in how we represent ourselves.  We show up as our full selves in the office and in the community.  Our culture is supportive and inclusive, and our team enjoys working in an environment where they don’t have to hide who they are at work.  At The Equity Alliance we champion their authenticity.  If we are going to fight for equity, we also have to care for ourselves and show self-love in order to fully be able to do the same for the community.  We work to create a better environment than some of the ones we experienced in previous positions. 

As one of the founders of The Equity Alliance, would you say that there was one pivotal moment in your life where you knew for certain that you wanted to build this hugely successful organization? 

It’s hard to pinpoint one specific situation, but the catalyst really was when Trayvon Martin was murdered. I was moved to get off the sidelines and take action. It impacted me because I saw my son in Trayvon.  He’s now 10 and was born a few days before Trayvon was killed.  I realized I’m raising my black son in a society that can sometimes see him as a threat. I started to think of opportunities for us to navigate these challenges and do something to change things.

You’ve held several significant professional positions throughout your career.  Of those roles, which one(s) would you say uniquely prepared you for the work that you do both in the community and as a leader for The Equity Alliance?

When I look at the trajectory of my life and my career, it truly was God ordering my steps.  My entire career has centered within nonprofit and/or government.  From the start of my career, I’ve always seen people in crisis and worked to help them at their worse. All of the jobs I’ve held as a culmination and seeing how society tends to treat the symptoms instead of providing solutions to the internal challenges that cause the struggles. I wanted to use social justice to push toward solutions.  From my own personal background being raised by a single mom and seeing how I had to really help myself succeed.

As African Americans, we are often shut out of politics. When you drill down to how change is created, every significant decision made comes down to who is placed in those positions of power.

You’re a graduate of the Young Leaders Council Nashville Class 59 Cohort.  How did your YLC training influence or support your community advocacy and engagement work? 

I started in the nonprofit space and had that unique perspective, but I believe the training provided by YLC and the level of engagement it provided with instructors like Attorney Trace Blankenship (Spencer Fane Bone McAllester) set a foundation that gave me the tools and confidence to start a nonprofit organization. YLC prepares individuals to successfully serve on a nonprofit board, which was invaluable as we worked to set the foundation that helped to create The Equity Alliance.  

We are so proud of the work you’re doing as a YLC alumna, and I am specifically excited to see you thrive as an African American woman and executive leader in the Nashville nonprofit community.  What advice would you give to other future leaders looking to elevate their impact in a similar fashion?

Don’t overthink the level of impact that you as an individual can have on the world.  We can’t solve every specific problem.  Don’t overthink it to where you never stop.  If I had never sent that text to my friends and thought too much about it, I would have never done it.  Find a cause that you are really passionate about – that you wouldn’t mind doing it for free.  If you could wake up every day and would do that work for free, then that’s your path.

Alumni Spotlight: Jonny Woo

Alumni Spotlight: Jonny Woo

Jonny Woo is a 2020 graduate of the Young Leaders Council Belmont – Massey Cohort and currently serves as a Human Resources Business Partner for Change Healthcare here in Nashville. Jonny currently serves on the Board of Directors for Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center and is the President of the Associate Board for The Nashville Ronald McDonald House. Recently, YLC caught up with Jonny to see what he’s up to and to talk about how his educational journey at Belmont and training from YLC helped to shape his success as a nonprofit board leader.

How did the YLC program help you leverage your learning experience at Belmont to make you a more effective nonprofit leader?

One of the biggest takeaways from my time at Belmont was the power of effective & genuine networking. Networking is one of those terms that is constantly thrown around (which is good) but the key is to have a purpose behind that networking. YLC allowed me to practice that skill by providing plenty of outlets through the different instructors and opportunities to network with alumni. I specifically remember the topic of Fundraising being taught by Kim Carpenter Drake and all of the new strategies I learned about effective ways to align your networking and fundraising skills. This, for me, was a wonderful example of how YLC helps individuals build specific board leadership skills on top of the educational foundation I received at Belmont. Both experiences helped me to become a more effective nonprofit leader.

What did you enjoy most about your YLC experience?

I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the participants within my specific Belmont – Massey Cohort. It was fun to be around such incredible leaders who not only had the shared experience of graduating from Belmont’s Jack C. Massey College of Business but also have a passion for serving the many nonprofits around Nashville. Additionally, I enjoyed the specific content that was taught by the instructors in each class, which focused on the specific guidelines on how nonprofit boards should operate. Two classes that stood out to me were “Nonprofit Financials” with Becky Harrell and “Legal Responsibilities of Board Members” with Trace Blankenship. I remember diving deep into some P&L statements and documents, which is an important thing for a nonprofit board member to understand.

What advice would you share with other young professionals who would like to become nonprofit board leaders?  How can YLC help them make that step?

The best advice I can give is to lean into what you are passionate about and utilize your network. Long story short I had no idea that Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center (MWCHC), the nonprofit organization on which I served as a board intern and was eventually voted in as a full member of the board, existed prior to my YLC experience. I was able to leverage the mentor relationships that I have in the Nashville Healthcare industry to connect with MWCHC as a YLC intern and support a mission that aligned with my professional passion of improving healthcare for everyone.  YLC provides invaluable networking opportunities and helps match participants with organizations where they can help build awareness and make a lasting impact.

Young Leaders Council Announces Fall 2021 Participants

Young Leaders Council Announces Fall 2021 Participants


Young Leaders Council is proud to announce the fall participants in the Nashville Class 77 and Williamson County Cohorts, two of five cohorts hosted this year. YLC also facilitates board leadership training in the spring through the Nashville, Junior League of Nashville, and the Jack C. Massey College of Business at Belmont University Cohorts. Seventy-nine young professionals from diverse professional and ethnic backgrounds are represented in the program this fall, which kicked-off officially on September 8 with a celebratory opening session and inspirational keynote address from Derek Young, YLC alumnus and president/CEO of Young Motivation Group.

Meet The

2021  Fall Cohorts

Alumni Spotlight: Catching up with Abby Bass

Alumni Spotlight: Catching up with Abby Bass

Abby-Bass-HeadshotYoung Leaders Council is honored to have trained over 2700 dynamic community leaders since 1985. Our remarkable alumni have taken the knowledge gained through the program and used their skills to make a lasting impact for the Middle Tennessee community. This month we are spotlighting Abby Bass, graduate of the YLC 2016 Williamson County Cohort. We recently caught up with Abby and asked her to share what she’s currently up to and reflect on her YLC experience.

What is your current role with Williamson, Inc. and what do you enjoy most about your work?

As Vice President of Events and Communications, I love creating meaningful events for the business community and finding business professionals with incredible leadership lessons to share. I am most energized when I get to create and collaborate on brand-new events like developing Williamson Forward, Leadership YP, Outlook Williamson and coming soon Leadership DEI to name a few.

As a 2016 graduate of the YLC Williamson County Cohort, how have you used the knowledge and connections gained through that experience to further your community leadership goals?

I understand and appreciate the important role that non-profits and volunteerism has in the community. I continue to serve Williamson County, outside of work, through Friends of Franklin Parks, 100 Women Who Care, Center Stage Society of TPAC, and PTO at Winstead Elementary.

What did you enjoy most about your time in the YLC program?

I thoroughly enjoyed my internship on the board of the Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC). As a board intern, I was able to see the inner workings of a large operation non-profit that serves the entire region through the visual arts. The experience was priceless! TPAC is a community asset that will have my continued support for all they do for middle Tennessee. Also, I attended the TPAC Gala 2018 as their silent auction chair, and that event is 10 out of 10 if you ever have a chance to attend. I highly recommend it!

What advice would you share with young professionals interested in participating in the YLC training program?

Be sure to select a non-profit that you are passionate about. That passion will allow you to leave board meetings energized. Also, get to know your classmates. Several of my classmates and I stay connected even now – five years later! It is an experience you won’t regret.

YLC and Williamson, Inc. have partnered since 2013 to host the Williamson County Cohort. Through this partnership, YLC has effectively trained over 180 young professionals that reside or work in the Williamson County area since its inception.  Matt Largen (President & CEO) and Cortni Beardsley (Communications & Events Manager) of Williamson, Inc. are also YLC alumni. Click here to learn more about the YLC training program or to apply for the Fall Williamson County Cohort.

Young Leader Spotlight: Erica Rivero

Young Leader Spotlight: Erica Rivero

Erica Rivero, Director of Inventory and Systems Management at Thistle Farms, is a member of the Young Leaders Council Nashville Class 76. In a recent discussion, Erica shares how participating in the YLC program, where she received training on how to be an impactful board member at a non-profit, enhances her capabilities as a professional in the non-profit sector.

Kate: Thank you for sitting down to share your experience with the YLC, Erica! How did you first learn about the Young Leaders Council?

Erica: Glad to be here! I first heard about the YLC because Thistle Farms, my employer, hosted a YLC intern. I am someone who is passionate about leadership and the non-profit sector, so the program sparked my interest.

Kate: We are glad that you got involved! What has been the most valuable part of the YLC program to you?

Erica: Many of my class members are new to learning about non-profits and the types of community-based organizations that we have here locally. I have worked in this space since my time as a student at Belmont so I came to the program with a different lens.

The best thing about the YLC program for us all is that the YLC instructors all have deep experience in non-profit management. They have all worked in the space for a long time. They understand the problems that non-profits face; for instance, the challenges associated with growth. We are learning from experts in the YLC program.

Through the YLC, I have gained a better understanding of how my own organization functions, which strengthens my leadership capacity as an employee. For instance, Noah Spiegel’s session on board member responsibilities included a discussion of the life cycles of non-profits. This session provided context that situated my understanding of the growth of the non-profit social enterprise where I work within the broader non-profit sector.

Kate: Thank you for sharing – and congratulations on recently completing the program! What are your hopes for what’s next, now that you’re a YLC alum?

Erica: On a practical level, I love that this program allowed me to learn about other non-profits in our community. The community response to the COVID-19 pandemic illustrated the importance of partnerships between non-profit to meet community needs. No one organization could do everything alone. I will take the knowledge and relationships gained through YLC to continue to connect with other non-profits for partnerships moving forward.

I love how Nashville welcomes immigrants, and I will serve as a board intern at Conexión Americas starting this fall. I am excited to play a larger role in connecting immigrants to resources right here in Nashville. I am passionate about leadership and social justice and I will find ways to continue contributing in this space.

A Resource for Nonprofit Boards During This Time

A Resource for Nonprofit Boards During This Time

We find ourselves in uncharted waters – as businesses, individuals, families, and nonprofit organizations. As we navigate the coming weeks, it is crucial to create a strategic plan for your organization to weather the storm. The resource below is not produced by YLC, but we want to share it with any nonprofit friends who might be looking for wisdom during this time.

Article from Board Source Blog:

“What Nonprofit Board Members Should Be Doing Right Now to Address the COVID-19 Situation”