Q&A with sgLEADERS: Barbara Newhouse, The Children's Heart Foundation | npENGAGE

Q&A with sgLEADERS: Barbara Newhouse, The Children’s Heart Foundation

By on Jan 23, 2020


nonprofit leadership, philanthropic leadership, professional development, sgLEADERS

The “Q&A with sgLEADERS” series on sgENGAGE aims to provide readers, including the next generation of social good leaders, with valuable insights from executives across the social good community.

Today’s Q&A is with Barbara Newhouse, CEO of The Children’s Heart Foundation, where she is using her experience and lessons learned to create strengths from organizational challenges and rebuild a brand that staff, board, supporters, and volunteers can trust. With more than 38 years of success in leading strategic initiatives resulting in operation growth and market strength, her specialties are aligning the needs of a varied group of constituents with the overall mission and working with a grassroots chapter and volunteer network while maintaining a strategic business operations focus.


Q: What led you to working in the nonprofit sector?

A: I grew up in a very socially economically poor family where I experienced because of a car accident a family member with a severe head injury. Because of that as a very young girl, I experienced hearing that my family made 99 cents too much to receive help with medications. From that point on, I decided to commit my life to helping others to the best of my ability. It didn’t take long, after that, to realize that rather than through social work, I could make the biggest difference through my organizational development and change management skills along with fundraising.


Q: What do people think you during a typical day… and what do you actually do in a typical day?

A: This makes me laugh. I think people believe that I am in either in meetings, traveling, and never in the office. What I actually do is talk with donors, angry constituents, volunteers, staff, conduct phone meetings, constantly answer emails, and deal with governance and financial issues. I work with partners and form relationships that will assist in acting upon our research mission.


Q: You became CEO of The Children’s Health Foundation in February 2019 – what accomplishment are you most proud of so far?

A: Wow, this is a tough one. I am proud of so much that we have done. I am proudest of how professional the organization has become and of the big culture shift. Also, we have created new partnerships and new donor relationships.


Q: What role does technology play in your organization, and how do you see it continuing to have an impact in the future?

A: Technology plays a huge role in our organization. It will have huge impact on the future. We are in the process of integrating all our technology to Blackbaud solutions so that we can follow a dollar all the way through the system. This also provides additional internal controls that serves to hold the integrity of the organization.


Q: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received that has guided the way you lead?

A: Follow the Trust Triangle, which is have straight talk, listen to learn, commit to act. Follow through (over and over) leads to trust and ultimately to respect as a leader. Another one that I work at is “slow is smooth, smooth is fast.”


Q: What’s the most surprising place you draw inspiration from for your work?

A:  Not sure that it is a surprise…I draw my inspiration from everyday life and most often from children.


Q: What are you reading right now and/or what podcast are you listening to?

A: I have gone back to re-read a book called, “People’s Styles at Work.”


More about Barbara:

Barbara Newhouse is the CEO of The Children’s Heart Foundation, the leading organization solely dedicated to funding congenital heart defect (CHD) research in the U.S.. As CEO, Barbara is using her more than 38 years of experience and lessons learned to create strengths from organizational challenges and rebuild a brand that staff, board, supporters, and volunteers can trust.

Prior to joining The Children’s Heart Foundation in early 2019, Barbara served as CEO of The ALS Association, assuming that role just six weeks prior to the beginning of the Ice Bucket Challenge. She has also held leadership roles at the American Cancer Society, Alzheimer’s Association, Autism Society of America and the Arthritis Foundation.

Barbara holds a bachelor’s degree in social work and a master’s degree in health care administration. She is a member of the Board of Trustees of Briar Cliff University, and a past member of the boards of directors of the International Alliance of ALS/MND Associations and the National Health Council.


As the principal content strategy manager at Blackbaud, Christine combines her passions for communications and social good, managing sgENGAGE and ensuring that the company is providing content that advances the thinking of the social good community. Christine believes that effective communication is an essential aspect to achieving social impact, whether an organization is a funder, nonprofit or technology company.

Prior to joining Blackbaud, Christine worked for nearly a decade in the corporate philanthropy, where she managed global health grant programs, product donations, disaster response and program communications. She was also a UNA-USA Blogger Fellow to the 2015 Social Good Summit. You can find her on Twitter at @newman_ca.

Comments (5)

  • Chris F says:

    I’m glad to see that listed as an accomplishment is “I am proudest of how professional the organization has become and of the big culture shift.”
    These are HUGE and accomplishments and take years to accomplish so sometimes people can overlook this sort of change.

  • Carlene Johnson says:

    “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast” is one of my mantras. Glad to see others who embrace it.

  • Mary Sommer says:

    I appreciate the “typical” variable day!

  • Dawn Schumacher says:

    I get my inspiration for my children, as well. Barbara and Christine- you are both inspirational women! Great article… I’m going to look for the book “People’s Styles at Work” that Barbara mentioned. I’m also going to follow Christine’s blogs on npengage.com. Thank you!

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