Toni Pergolin Press Release (click to download)
Q & A with Toni
Questions and Answers with Toni Pergolin (click to download)
High resolution book cover
Too Important to Fail book cover (click to download)
Q & A with Toni
How did you get involved with Bancroft?
A colleague asked me to come on as the CFO of Bancroft, informing me that it was undergoing a huge financial crisis at the time. My charge was to turn it around or get it ready to merge or shut down – a finance mission really. But soon, I realized this was not some facility or institution but an organization that was responsible for the daily lives of so many individuals. Once I got to know the essence of Bancroft, a turnaround was the only option – it was, in fact, too important to fail. From there, I had to build the trust of the team and earn a level of respect from the board members to bring it all together.
What misconceptions exist when it comes to nonprofits?
That they don’t need to make money. That they don’t need to be financially stable and are, in essence, vanity projects. To the contrary. The healthier we are as an organization means we can serve more people, invest in our staff and secure the organization for future generations.
What are the main qualities that you believe a strong business leader should have?
I think you definitely need to appreciate the power in the people and the ability to communicate your vision to others. What you don’t need necessarily is to be an expert in the field. We had plenty of program operators and clinical staff, but what the organization didn’t have was business leadership at the top. I’ll also say that a strong sense of ambition is necessary for a leader – I was determined to get Bancroft back to a functioning organization to better provide the help our, despite all of the obstacles standing in my way.
What leadership skills would you say someone trying to venture into the nonprofit industry should obtain, and which do you think is the most effective?
There are three leadership skills that I believe are imperative to succeed in running a nonprofit.
Servant Leadership, in which the leader’s main goal is to serve the organization, evolved for me as I got to know the organization beyond the balance sheet. As I met more and more of the people and families who depended on Bancroft and the staff who supported them with such generous hearts, a deep sense of responsibility blossomed inside me and has never wavered to this day. Throughout it all, I have been committed to doing the best for all of them.
Transformational Leadership is an approach in which a leader creates and manages significant change by motivating and inspiring followers, directing their behavior toward a shared vision and driving positive change for both the organization and the people themselves. It’s about empowerment above all, giving people the information and tools they need to get on board and take action in line with the vision. I believe this leadership style is necessary for both leading through a turnaround and fostering growth. No one person alone could have accomplished the change that occurred at Bancroft. It took the entire team on deck, and my job was to blend the talents of each person on the roster to create change at a level beyond my own.
Through Transactional Leadership, the leader focuses on order and structure to set clear objectives. As CEO, I spend most of my time overseeing the organization from, as I describe it, “the top of the trees.” This view allows me to see a bigger, broader picture and the effect of how one decision might impact another. However, leaders also need to move through the organization and see its operation at the ground level. I frequently sit in on committee meetings to evaluate how effective the group is in driving change. I attend financial review meetings to stay abreast of variance trends and actions taken to address them or capitalize on them. I often meet with leaders from throughout the organization to solicit their observations on what’s working well and where process change needs to be implemented.
Lastly, tell us about the yellow ruler.
My yellow ruler has been my trusted partner and friend for literally decades! It has accompanied me throughout my entire career, across thousands of pages of financial spreadsheets, helping me to unlock their hidden little secrets! It’s the one tool I highly recommend.