Public Service Spotlight
President and Chief Executive Officer, Women In Need
Bonnie Stone is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Women In Need (WIN). She has had a long career serving New Yorkers, having worked in both city and state government in addition to the nonprofit sector. In her current role at WIN she oversees a staff of nearly 400 people that serves 8,500 homeless and disadvantaged women and children in New York City each year through the organization's shelters, transitional housing, substance abuse clinics, and other programs. Her day-to-day responsibilities vary from supervising programs and services to fundraising, and overseeing finances to managing governmental relations. In the health and social services industry, Stone points out, everything is closely associated with the government; and the city is WIN's most important partner. With a fluctuating metropolis, nothing is ever stagnant. "There are days, I read the paper and my life changes," says Stone.
After receiving her master's degree in urban planning from Wagner, Stone worked for eighteen years in city and state government. She has served as Deputy Assistant Commissioner at the New York City Department of Health, as Deputy Administrator of the Human Resources Administration, and later as Vice President at the MTA's Long Island Rail Road (LIRR). In the early eighties Stone worked on the city's emergency response to homelessness opening more than 10,000 beds across the city in armories, old schools, and vacant buildings within a period of three years. She explains that it was not until the early nineties that the city started turning to nonprofits to provide services to the homeless.
When Stone began working at the LIRR she noticed a huge difference in the relationship her new organization had with its clients. These were home-owning taxpayers and they had a strong sense of enfranchisement. "People on Long Island who pay taxes [feel ownership of] the government," says Stone. "Poor people don't see that." Stone would later have an opportunity to bridge these segments of society in her post at WIN. Before moving on from the MTA though, she created a division for government and community affairs, marketing, media relations, and public information.
Stone loved working in government but she points out that once you get beyond a certain level in your career, it becomes hard to stay. "You almost have to leave when there are transitions [in the administration,]" she says. After four years at the LIRR, Stone returned to health and human services - this time in the nonprofit realm - becoming the Chief Operating Officer of Selfhelp Community Services. After ten years in that role she joined WIN as President and CEO in 2000.
Because WIN operates very much within the public sphere, it is closely related with the government, which is a factor Stone appreciates about her job. Nevertheless, at a private organization, there is a whole different set of responsibilities. The biggest difference from working in government, Stone says, "is having to meet a payroll, which is no simple matter." While the actual basic programs are very similar, the focus is no longer only on operations, theory, and policy. Because cash doesn't come in directly the way it does in government, fundraising is a key part of the job. At a nonprofit organization, Stone explains, "no matter how large you are, you're not the total master of your own fate." Trying to maintain the focus of the mission and vision in the face of changing government policy, variable donor policies, and shifting social conditions is a serious challenge. But "in social services you have an opportunity to put wealthy people and poor people together in an effort to make things better," Stone says, "and that's an interesting partnership." It's important to stay on mission, she affirms, but one needs to be very aware of changes happening in the city and able to make decisions about how to marry the organization's ongoing efforts with those changes. At WIN, "every day is different," Stone says. She notes that her field frequently "goes through re-engineering" to meet the needs of a transforming social landscape. It's an ongoing endeavor, but with Stone's breadth and depth of experience, she is a leader who is certainly capable of keeping with the times.