Highlighting Our Community of Leaders: Grace Atkinson : Successful Nonprofits

Highlighting Our Community of Leaders

Grace Atkinson, Executive Director of Jusoor

by Ro

Highlighting Our Community of Leaders

Grace Atkinson, Executive Director of Jusoor

by Ro

by Ro

Describe your morning routine and how it prepares you for the day.

The first thing I usually do is walk the dog, which is nice because I start my day with fresh air. Depending on how I’m feeling, I use that time listen to a podcast (like Successful Nonprofits® Podcast!) or plan my day — whatever gets me into the right headspace. Then I throw together a quick breakfast and take it up to my office where I start going through my emails. We work internationally, so this gives me time to see anything that came in overnight. I also review my calendar to make sure I’m clear on the day and that my agenda aligns with my top priorities; I rearrange any meetings that don’t need me or don’t progress my goals.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Horrible Netflix reality show, like Selling Sunset, that are just chewing gum for the brain. I also love a good murder mystery book.

What is the best place you’ve ever traveled to?

I’m going to have to say Zanzibar. I just went there for my honeymoon this year. They have crystal blue waters and great snorkeling. And the people are really friendly.  It just feels like a little bit of paradise. I highly recommend it

What motto or maxim do you live by?

I have two. The first is, “It’s better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission.” The second is, “It’s not necessarily what you’re saying to somebody, rather it’s how you’re saying it.” I think a lot of workplace mistakes are made because people haven’t really thought through their tone or how they are presenting something. You can get away with saying pretty much anything to anybody if you say it in the right way.

How do you manage your time?

I think the first step is to know your priorities. I constantly re-evaluate my priorities and work with the Board to make sure we are aligned on where I should be spending my time. Then I try to be purposeful in how I spend my day. I do a lot of calendar blocking to accomplish this. I also encourage my team to do the same thing, especially team leads. 

A lot of my role is team management and thinking about what is coming down the pipeline. For example, if I know we need the final budget approved at the next Board meeting, then I need to give my staff realistic timelines to get their departmental budget drafts done and myself time to review everything. So I block time on my calendar to make sure those high priority tasks get done on time.

What difficult situation was most important to your development and why?

I worked in a restaurant when I was 17. I was young and in school and didn’t really depend on my job. Without going into the details, the manager was very rude to me. Something inside me just snapped and I quit my job and walked out. At the time I didn’t think I had a line that people could cross. It took that manager crossing the line for me to realize it was there. And that was a good thing for me to know. It’s also good to know that life goes on after quitting (or losing) a job.

If you could have everyone in the nonprofit sector read just one book, what would it be?

Unicorns Unite.  It looks at the relationship between nonprofits and foundations — and how to strengthen it. It’s a really interesting read, it’s short and to the point, and it’s fun and unique.

What app do you find the most useful for work?

It’s not very exciting, but definitely Google Drive and the whole suite of Google services. It’s great to have everything in one place and everyone able to access it. We work on documents together and share calendars so everyone is on the same page.

What have you learned about hiring staff?

Always go with your gut instinct. While it’s a good idea to ask a second opinion, you usually know if hiring someone is the right call. And if you ignore your gut and hire them anyway, it usually backfires and is more painful in the long run.

What are you excited about that’s happening at Jusoor?

Right now we’re setting our 2023 goals and budget — it’s always really exciting to look into the next year and bring new things into fruition. There are two things I’m really looking forward to. The first is focusing on Board recruitment, including revamping our onboarding process. The second is clarifying our decision-making process by revisiting our guiding values and creating a decision-making matrix.

Mission: Maximizing the potential of Syrian youth through education.

Vision: A world where every Syrian youth fulfills their potential

Learn More: https://jusoor.ngo/

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