Women Who Mean (nonprofit) Business

Pictured above from left: Melanie Schmid, Stephanie Lucas, Rachel Ingram, Sasha Squibb, Jackie Oney, Becky Susman Gaible, & Melissa Newman

Photography by Gary Baker


Working at a nonprofit isn’t for the faint of heart. The hours are long, the pay isn’t as good as you’ll find in the for-profit world, and the mission can become all-consuming. As a result, staff burnout and turnover are usually high. Melissa Newman, Executive Director of JDRF Southwest Ohio, faces an ongoing battle to keep her staff team engaged and motivated, but in spite of these challenges the chapter has realized significantly better staff satisfaction and retention rates than the industry norms.

“We run our nonprofit like a for-profit business,” says Newman. “We are data-driven and team-oriented.”

Wowing corporate sponsors is critical, since their support is instrumental to the fundraising efforts for the variety of events that the all-female staff each year plans and executes. The Cincinnatian of the Year Gala, Bourbon & BowTie Bash, TypeOneNation Summit, Ride to Cure Diabetes and JDRF One Walk Kings Island are the chapter’s biggest annual events.

One of the ways that Newman fights employee burnout is through culture. “We have such a fun, mutually supportive culture. We’re always doing things together that help us gel as a team.” Newman also provides her team with flexibility, which allows them to find a work-life balance. “Nonprofit hours are brutal, and even in non-event season you’re working nonstop…be it answering email, responding to social media posts and inquiries, or networking in the community. You end up living the mission 24/7, and that can be absolutely exhausting.” By allowing her team opportunities to flex their hours and occasionally work from home, they are able to recharge and maintain high levels of productivity. “We’re
fortunate to have such a well-educated, enormously competent, and high performing team who are all 100% committed to the mission.”

Volunteers are another component that make the chapter successful. “Even though our small chapter staff team is very efficient and productive, there’s no way we could accomplish what we do without our army of volunteers,” says Newman. Each year, the chapter engages hundreds of volunteers in carrying out its work, which this year included a new national record for JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes recruitment of cyclists and record chapter fundraising for the Cincinnatian of the Year Gala, Bourbon & BowTie Bash and JDRF One Walk Kings Island, the latter of which achieved $1M in fundraising for the first time ever. “We’re all about the volunteer/staff partnership at JDRF, and that’s what makes us
a family.”


The mission of JDRF is to cure, treat and prevent type 1 diabetes (T1D), which is an autoimmune disease that can impact anyone at any age and at any time. T1D is not associated with diet or lifestyle choices. Learn more at www.jdrf.org.