Changing the Lives of People Changing the World: O2 Initiatives

Changing the Lives of People Changing the World: O2 Initiatives

Recharge Nonprofit Leaders, Strengthen Organizations

The San Francisco Bay Area’s extraordinary nonprofit organizations influence communities, change local and national policies, and create innovative solutions to our toughest challenges. This rewarding work comes at a price — growing community needs, an ever-increasing demand for services, overstretched budgets, understaffed teams, and near-constant overwork and stress test even the most stable organizations and leaders. Despite a passion for social change, nonprofit executives risk burnout, exhaustion and turnover, often with no succession plan in place.

Philanthropists Lynn Feintech and Sakurako Fisher have a deep history of engagement in the nonprofit sector. Lynn and Sakurako share a passion for partnership—both in their own philanthropy and in working to weave together networks of nonprofit leaders. To further that effort, they collaborated with Hirsch Philanthropy Partners to co-initiate the O2 Initiatives Sabbatical Award for nonprofit leaders.

O2 Initiatives believes that when nonprofit leaders have time to recharge and refocus, they are better prepared to ignite positive change. Modeled on the Durfee Foundation’s highly successful sabbatical program, O2 Initiatives rewards high-performing executive directors with the rare resource of time, while helping others in the organization grow their leadership capacity during the absence. The result is stronger leaders, smarter teams, and more resilient organizations.

Hirsch Philanthropy Partners Senior Director Emily Cohen Raskin serves as the founding-Executive Director of O2 Initiatives, partnering with Lynn and Sakurako to fulfill the program’s vision and potential. Emily’s sabbatical expertise is featured in the New York Times article, When Being Unproductive Saves a Career.

“We were so inspired by the transformative impact of the Durfee Foundation’s sabbatical program on the professional and personal lives of nonprofit leaders in Los Angeles. We began dreaming of bringing a similar program to the Bay Area and were thrilled to launch the O2 Sabbatical Award in 2014 with Hirsch Philanthropy Partners.” — Lynn Feintech and Sakurako Fisher

The Transformative Power of Sabbaticals

The O2 Sabbatical Award honors the commitment and accomplishments of exceptional nonprofit leaders in San Francisco, Alameda, and Contra Costa Counties. Each O2 Sabbatical Award includes the cost of a three-month sabbatical, plus financial and professional development support for interim leaders in recognition of additional responsibilities assumed in the executive director’s absence. O2 Initiatives also offers coaching to help organizations prepare in advance, assist interim teams during the sabbatical, and support executive directors upon re-entry, while facilitating lasting connections to an influential peer network.

Sabbaticals offer nonprofit executives the opportunity to refuel and reconnect with their passion, creating a perspective shift away from the constant juggle of management and stress toward more expansive thinking around sustainability or growth. The impact extends throughout organizations, teams and ultimately the nonprofit sector — building the next level of leadership, reimagining organizational structure, and developing succession plans for eventual transitions.

“My life was creatively disrupted and I will never be the same.” — O2 Awardee Regina Jackson, President & CEO, East Oakland Youth Development Center
Regina Jackson, President & CEO of the East Oakland Youth Development Center, 2018 ©Oakland Magazine
In Focus: Regina Jackson
Regina spent every minute of the past 22 years helping youth achieve their full potential. While meeting with other nonprofit CEOs to promote President Barack Obama’s nationwide initiative for boys of color, she received the good news about her sabbatical award and experienced “an overwhelming wave of excitement, joy and relief.” She used her three-month sabbatical for a long-dreamed of international adventure across continents and countries, absorbing new sights and sounds, and expanding her worldview. She returned to her role with fresh reserves, a newfound confidence that her team could maintain operations allowing her to focus on big picture needs, and a greater commitment to self-care to sustain the team for life-changing work over the long term.

Changing Communities

O2 Initiatives enables changemakers to return to their now more-resilient organizations energized and ready to take community impact to the next level — addressing chronic homelessness, protecting immigrant rights, healing racism and trauma, and reducing global pollution, among many other areas.

O2 Initiatives has infused oxygen into the lives of powerful leaders such as Emily Arnold-Fernández, Founder and Executive Director of Asylum Access, the groundbreaking human rights organization advancing the rights of global refugees; Saru Jayaraman, Co-Founder of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, an organization dedicated to improving wages and working conditions for our country’s 12 million restaurant workers; José Quiñonez, Chief Executive Officer of the Mission Asset Fund and MacArthur “genius” award winner for creating financial services innovations for low-income communities; and Robyn Thomas, Executive Director of Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the nation’s foremost gun safety public interest law center.

By creating a powerful ripple effect on lives around the world, O2 is changing the lives of people changing the world.

O2 Initiatives: 2019 Recipients Retreat

Header photo at top: O2 Initiatives recipient and BAYCAT Founder & CEO Villy Wang with BAYCAT Academy students ©Gentry Magazine