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Nonprofit Coffee Break: Qiana Thomason

Nonprofit Coffee Break: Qiana Thomason

In the Nonprofit Coffee Break video series, Nonprofit Connect President & CEO Luann Feehan sits down with a different nonprofit leader each month to chat about leadership, learning, and life over a cup of coffee. Tune in to each episode to learn from these leaders' experiences and challenges and help us highlight our sector as an important and vibrant part of our city.

Nonprofit Coffee Break is presented by FROST Media Group.

This month, we sit down with Qiana Thomason, President & CEO at Health Forward Foundation.

In your first year of this job, what did you learn? Were there any surprises?
It was affirming. It really underscored my experience in the first year how philanthropic our community is in Kansas City. I have seen our community come together like never before. That was a refreshing welcome, albeit under adverse circumstances to philanthropy. Outside of that, it's been rigorous, it's been eventful, it's been energizing, and it's only been 11 months. It's a total dog year. It feels like seven years since I joined in January. It's been a fun ride thus far.

What trends do you see that the nonprofit community will experience in the coming months or year?
I think a short term trend that I’m seeing is a windfall of resources that people are experiencing from different funders; where we are beginning to see funders give more or give more unrestricted dollars. We're seeing funders pool their dollars more in the in the area of aid. I would like to see that continue as long as we can.

The other thing, and this is coming from the payer side, was really focusing on social care payment and integration into the health care ecosystem. Today, health and human services are compensated for the value that they deliver to health care. We're beginning to see both the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services identify the social sector as part of the health care value chain. I would love to see that trend continue with commercial payers and Medicaid programs that also begin to innovate with the nonprofit sector, specifically the social sector around social needs: transportation, food as medicine, food as a benefit, focusing on housing and all those types of factors that we know influence health the most. It's just beginning to take root. It needs to be codified in payment so that it can gel even more.

Do you have a mentor, or someone, that has offered you some sage advice along your career?
I don't want to get into calling their names because I have several and I will leave out somebody. I have a handful of very dear and trusted local mentors and even a few mentors on the national scene that have been my sponsors throughout my journey, that have been my coaches, even when I didn't like them or what they had to say, which is often the case with a couple in particular. I am very committed to submitting myself to being a constant learner and really being okay with sitting at the feet of people and learning from them. I think we can find that in everyone, not just those who have the designated role as mentors. I also enjoy mentoring. I'm currently mentoring seven women right now and I love to do that in my spare time. It's very gratifying. I always tell them they will be hiring my daughters and mentoring them in about 10 to 15 years. Which I’m looking forward to.

What was some of the advice that you've received that you think really helped you in your career development?
One of the things that I often hear, the ladies that I mentor say is that they don't necessarily feel connected to their purpose or their why. I had a mentor share with me years ago when I was voicing the same thing, was that everything that I was spending my time on at every step along my journey was a building block in the DNA of my purpose and in my story. And not to be so focused on the future that you're not seizing the now and gleaning everything there is to learn from the now so that it can be applied when you move forward and take that next step. I can say, looking back, I can see how every step of mine was ordered and every step built on the other. It's something that I really appreciate and offer to others who are grappling with that same place in their careers.

While you’ve been in Kansas City, what do you value about the work that Nonprofit Connect provides?
So at different points in my career I have valued different things that Nonprofit Connect provides.It used to be your job search tool. I think now it's more of your development of boards. You have some great programing around governance and development there. I also recently spent some time on your resource page for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging and was really impressed with that body of resources and shared it with my team because we're focusing on the same thing.

Connect with Qiana

Nonprofit Coffee Break is presented by:
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