Suits, Jobs, and Training

Joi Gordon is grooming thousands of women for career success

she supports women and her staff. In addition to good people skills, today’s nonprofit executive must possess strong business acumen, explains David J. Maurrasse Ph.D., president and CEO of Magna Inc., a global consulting firm on philanthropy and strategic partnership. “The environment in which nonprofits are situated right now is one that is far more professionalized than it was 20 years ago,” he says. “All the things you’re seeing in the for — profit sector — around transparency and financial management — are also affecting the nonprofit sector.”

Gordon will tell you that she inherited her determination, integrity, and values from her hard — working single mother. “My mom worked for a global airline, [but for the right opportunity,] she would pick up, move, train, and land a new job.”

One of those moves took the family from Brooklyn, New York, to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where Gordon went on to attend the University of Oklahoma with dreams of becoming an anchorwoman. Motivated by the philosophy that journalism could be a tool for justice, she eventually turned her academic interests toward law after completing an undergraduate degree in radio and television broadcasting.

Her first legal job was with the district attorney’s office in Bronx, New York, but law didn’t serve as a deep source of personal fulfillment for Gordon. “I didn’t feel that I was doing true justice,” she says. “[But] I learned about selling ideas, and it made me love the art of public speaking.”

In 1996, Gordon found a far more interesting opportunity directing a victim’s assistance unit for a New York City nonprofit organization.

This move would prove to be pivotal in Gordon’s career. “I realized that women’s issues were my true passion. I loved being the voice for a population of people who had become silent.” It was a cause that led Gordon to DFS, which was founded in New York City in 1997 by Nancy Lublin, a student, with a small inheritance. Gordon discovered DFS in its sixth month of operation, contacted Lublin, and the two women hit it off immediately. Recalls Gordon: “Nancy said she needed someone with a legal background on her board, so I joined the Dress for Success board of directors.” Gordon volunteered for a year and then accepted the position of executive director of DFS New York. “At the time, it was separate from DFS Worldwide. When I came on board, there were probably 10 DFS offices in the country. Nancy was running the Worldwide office, separate and apart for about three years until she retired and I became the CEO for DFS Worldwide. That was in 2002. I had my hands full but I loved it.”

In fact, her passion is infectious and contributes to Gordon’s charismatic charm. That charm, and her marketing savvy, ultimately fuels the love affair businesses and clients have with the organization.

“We have a saying in the funding community,” asserts Maurrasse. “‘Funders fund people, not organizations.’”

Maurrasse does note that today’s private donors, corporate sponsors, and foundations, more than liking a fundraising executive, have to feel confident

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