Ep 15. – Sustaining Mission Impact: How Do Great Organizations Stay Great?

In this Lead. Learn. Thrive. Podcast episode, Karen Schuler, Managing Director of Search, Transition & Planning, discusses sustaining mission impact with President and CEO of Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind, Tony Cancelosi. To delve into the topic, they reference key aspects such as origin, leadership, culture, and board.

Tony Cancelosi and Karen Schuler

To begin the podcast, Schuler and Cancelosi discuss how sustainability has roots in the environment and ecology. In order to veer away from this definition of definition, Cancelosi references to:

  • start focusing on organizational sustainability
  • dig deeper into mission sustainability
  • dive into mission impact sustainability

Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind was established 117 years ago and Cancelosi believes that the organization’s ability to “hire good people,” listen to employees wants and needs, and effectively deal with change has led to the organization’s success in sustaining mission impact. “Leaders who do not listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say,” says Cancelosi.

As the conversation continues, Cancelosi discusses that in order to have any kind of sustainability an organization, key items are necessary. He references taking the following into consideration:

  • internal controls
  • operational efficiency
  • risk management
  • viability and reporting process

Throughout this episode, Schuler and Cancelosi dive into the importance of maintaining relevance, providing strong culture, and understanding the human aspect of change in reference to sustaining mission impact. An important takeaway is that sustainability will not happen without really working for it.

“Do the thing even when no one is watching. It’s called integrity,” noted Cancelosi.

If you enjoyed this podcast, listen to the prequel “So, What Makes Great Organizations “Great” Anyway?


The Lead. Learn. Thrive podcast series grew out of our Raffa Learning Community effort and features interviews with interesting nonprofit and private sector leaders and those who help them Do More. If you would like to suggest a topic or a guest for an upcoming episode, please email jimena@raffa.com and include “podcast” in the email subject line.

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