We had the good fortune of connecting with Dia DuVernet and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dia, what’s the most important lesson your business/career has taught you?
People don’t care what you know until they know that you care. This concept has been stated in many different ways, such as, “You can’t lead if others don’t want to follow.” Over the years I’ve learned to lead more from my heart, and not just from my head.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’ve worked in the nonprofit sector my entire career. I love being a part of mission-driven organizations and knowing my work makes a difference in the lives of others. With a Master’s Degree in Social Work, I spent most of my career working for family service organizations. I made the switch to animal welfare six years ago. Whether working to help abused children or abused animals, the fundamentals of nonprofit leadership are the same. I’ve had a commitment to ongoing learning throughout my career….some of the milestones have been becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, earning a Certificate in Fundraising Management, and more recently becoming a Certified Animal Welfare Administrator. Most of my education has been on-the-job. When I was growing up, masters programs in nonprofit business administration did not exist. I began my career on the front lines working to help find permanent homes for children living in foster care. After witnessing the devastating impact when children are separated from their families, I moved into program development. I established a home based intensive family therapy program for at-risk children to help keep them in their homes. With a desire to move even more towards prevention of problems, I worked to establish programs focused on early childhood home visiting and elementary school family support. Developing grantwriting skills was critical to obtaining funding for these programs. Grantwriting let me into fundraising, and fundraising led me deeper into administration. When you lead a nonprofit, you have a double bottom line….mission and margin. And those lines are usually inversely related. The more mission you deliver, the worse your margin. What drives nonprofits in the United States is our hugely philanthropic culture. The ability to establish relationships, collaborate, and raise funds to support the mission are critical in nonprofit leadership. Having an entrepreneurial spirit also helps. It’s important to develop new programs, innovate and grow to meet the changing needs of the community. Developing mission-related programs that generate excess revenue to support underfunded programs has been an important element to success. For example, our shelter store at Pasadena Humane not only helps to send adopters home with all the supplies they need for new pets, it also generates revenue to support care for the animals in the shelter. The challenges in nonprofit leadership are many…financial struggles, navigating Board versus CEO roles and responsibilities, and compassion fatigue, to name a few. But the challenges are offset by the rewards. I’ve never worked with a more talented, dedicated and energetic team of staff and volunteers than at Pasadena Humane. It’s a privilege to be surrounded by wonderful people working their hearts out to save lives and make our community a better place for animals and the people who love them.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Day 1: Breakfast at Russel’s in Pasadena. Spend the day at Huntington Museum and Gardens. Dinner at Gale’s. Day 2: Grab breakfast to go at Little Flower in Eagle Rock. Drive up towards Mount Wilson in the Angeles National Forest and do some hiking. It’s really special up there when it snows! Castaways in Burbank for sunset and drinks. Dinner at home. Day 3: Take a brunch picnic and snacks to Point Dume for a day of beach, views, and hiking (don’t miss the sea lions on the rocks below the point). Dinner at Sunset Restaurant Malibu after the beach. Day 4: Cindy’s in Eagle Rock for great breakfast and retro vibe (check out the series Dead to Me for a scene filmed there recently. I love the two-tone orange vinyl booths). Shopping along Colorado Blvd in Pasadena, with lots of time for browsing in Vroman’s bookstore. Late lunch at Ramen Tatsunoya. Movie at Laemmle’s Theater, with popcorn, of course. Day 5: Breakfast at Lincoln. Walk or bike along the Arroyo in Pasadena to the Rose Bowl. Hopefully catch an open house or student show at the ArtCenter College of Design. Tour the Gamble House museum and walk the neighborhood to see other arts and crafts masterpieces. Wine tasting at Everson Royce. Dinner at Bone Kettle Day 6: (Saturday) Start the Day at Jones Coffee down the street from Pasadena Humane. Stop by to see the animals, then hit the Pasadena Farmers Market at Pasadena High School. Head up Lake Ave. in Altadena and hike the Echo Mountain Trail. Massage at Happy Feet in South Pasadena before getting take out from Triple Beam Pizza in Highland Park for dinner. Day 7 (Tourist Day): Early lunch at Yang Chow in Chinatown. Hike around Lake Hollywood (take a photo under the sign, of course). Stop by the tiny Westwood Cemetery to wander among and remember some great celebrities. Griffith Park for a walk around the observatory and views! Gourmet picnic at the Hollywood Bowl.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My mother-in-law, Prish Pierce, just celebrated her 80th birthday. If it weren’t for her and other women like her who led the way for women in leadership roles in the workforce, I would not be President & CEO of a company today. She has been a great role model as a strong, smart and bold working woman. I grew up in the Deep South in a patriarchal society. My own mother, who was a generation older than my mother-in-law, was a housewife who did not work outside of the home. In the late 1980’s when I was joining the workforce, it was becoming much more common for women to aim for professional careers. But there was still a glass ceiling, even more so than today. Prish has helped in ways small and large in my professional growth. From her great sense of style and fashion advice…”always dress for the job you want, not the job you have”… to her help in navigating challenging work situations, she has always been a sage advisor and a huge emotional support.
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Sorrell Scrutton for headshot