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Celebrating 10 Years of Community, Joy, Leadership, and Growth

To the NCG Community, 

March 31st will be my final day at NCG. It has been a remarkable 10 years filled with endless stories, laughter, joy, some tears and enormous growth. Later this spring, I will be joining NPAG, a national talent search firm focused on leadership in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors.    

It has been a true gift to be a part of this community and to have the opportunity to work with all of you. As I reflect back on my time, I’ve considered some key life and career lessons I’ve learned along the way.   

So, I leave you with the top 10 things I learned in my 10 years at NCG....  

10. Change is constant  

During my time at NCG, there have been 3 CEOs, 1 interim CEO and 2 Acting Co-CEOs (myself and Steve Barton). Members move around all the time, new members join, some members leave. Some leave and come back in a new role. It’s just a part of the work. It’s important to be comfortable with change.     

9. More cowbells  

Cowbells were one of the most memorable annual conference swag. A theater room filled with funders ringing their cowbells is a visual that I will never forget. The lesson here is to have fun.  We need to pause every now and again and just ring some bells.  

8. Food brings people together 

We sure do eat a lot at NCG. Food was the thing that always brought the staff together. And, more and more, it became a critical part of our meetings, programs and events, and a daily topic of conversation. Pro tip: bring Tupperware in case there are leftovers to take home. Your family will be grateful.  

7. Take the risk  

I tried some pretty crazy ideas at NCG. Some were silly, like my “Fashion with a Funder” blog and “Fro-Yo with a CEO” interview series. Some were nerve-wracking and fell completely flat and some were surprisingly successful. If it feels a bit risky, go for it. It’s an opportunity to grow and learn. Sticking to the status quo brings the risk of not growing at all.  

6. Relationships. Relationships. Relationships.  

Anyone who has spent any bit of time in philanthropy will say it’s all about relationships. It is so true. We’re in the business of people. And, at the end of the day, it’s the people around us and the connections we make that matter most.   

5. Start the day with, “Good Morning, Sunshine!” 

These are the peppy three words we would hear in a high pitch voice in the morning as we entered the office and moved towards the coffee or made our way to our desks.  Jenny Chinn, you are a ray of sunshine.  Thank you for offering your many life lessons.  I miss you dearly, my friend.    

4. Take a wine-o-clock break 

When everyone is working endless hours and the mood feels intense. What time is it? It’s wine-o-clock time! Take a break, open a bottle of wine (or whatever your beverage of choice is) and remind each other that breaks and rest are productive too.  

3. We can do better 

The pandemic demonstrated that philanthropy can behave differently. Grants can be made in 24 hours. We can put full trust in our communities. We can stay out of the way. We can eliminate lengthy grant proposals. And we can do this all virtually. Let’s keep pushing for what’s possible and eliminate the extra noise.   

2. Find your mentors and be a mentor  

There are people out there who will recognize your genius (even if you don’t) and will support you. Stick with them. And there is the next generation of smart, talented, optimistic emerging leaders that need to find their place in this strange sector. Help them navigate their way.   

1. And, last, but not least - Be grateful  

Like Ke Huy Quan, my journey also started on a boat and in a refugee camp. Although I didn’t win an Academy award as he did I feel like I won. I get to live a life of great privilege and opportunities because of the sacrifices and struggles of generations before me. I am forever grateful to have had this time with all of you part of the NCG ecosystem – to be in community, to contribute meaningfully, and to continue to work towards a better world.  It has been my honor.   

Thank you.   

Phuong Quach

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