Future Foundation Atlanta

Archives: September 2019


We’re excited to announce that Carla C. Smith will serve as Interim CEO as I start my upcoming sabbatical beginning October 1, 2019. The sabbatical is an opportunity for me to recharge, renew, and grow as a person. But, more importantly, it’s a chance for The Future Foundation to do the same as an organization.

Research shows that for both the executive and his or her organization, a sabbatical is a chance to reboot and re-emerge stronger and sharper. A 2009 study entitled “Creative Disruption” surveyed 61 nonprofit foundations that have executive sabbatical programs. The results showed that when an executive steps away from an organization temporarily, handing the reins to an interim leader, the “creative disruption” that results increases the organizational capacity of the second tier of leadership, makes the organization stronger and more nimble, and allows it to benefit from a fresh perspective. The report ended by recommending sabbaticals “as a best practice in philanthropy for leadership development, succession planning, and organizational capacity building.”

I am so excited for The Future Foundation to reap all those benefits during my sabbatical—especially now that, after a thoughtful and thorough search, we have found the right leader to act as Interim CEO. With a background in the worlds of strategy, nonprofit services, business, government, and education, Carla C. Smith brings a breadth of experience that will test our assumptions and broaden our perspectives. She will also guide our aspiring leaders as they take on expanded duties to grow their skills. 

A licensed social worker, Carla started up operations in Atlanta for Youth Villages – a Tennessee based non-profit organization, served as a research and policy analyst for former State Senator and current Mayor of Augusta, Georgia Hardie Davis, and as the Deputy Director of the Georgia Senate Democratic Caucus, before becoming HR/Policy Director at Signature HealthCARE and Operations Manager for the Avondale Education Association. I recently spoke with Carla about her background, her goals for her tenure as Interim CEO, as well as her hopes for the organization’s future. Read on, and I’m sure you’ll become as excited as I am to have her with us. 

You’ve worked in several related fields—have they all been with an eye towards empowering young people?

Before I started a real career, a real job, I began volunteering with the Boys’ and Girls’ Club as an undergraduate at Paine college. I stayed on that path of working with children and adolescents throughout my career—it shifted more to the policy side in some instances and women’s issues, but still focusing on the same target populations. I always think about long-term sustainability and that the best place to set that foundation is with our children and youth, being able to provide them with opportunities and outlets to see more than what their current situation may be, to meet people that may have come from a similar background, or to see something completely new with fresh eyes. There’s something very inspiring about seeing the world through a child’s eyes as their horizons broaden. 

What motivates you to work with young people? 

I’ve had the opportunity to work with so many children and there’s just something inspiring and special about their resiliency that motivates me. As you progress as a professional, I think your perspective evolves from working with children to working for them. I moved quickly from providing direct service to working with legislators to create and change policies. Your mind shifts. It’s very passionate work. 

That’s a passion we share here at the Future Foundation! If you had to describe the Future Foundation in one word, what would that be?

Impact! The Future Foundation is committed to, and focused on, making a long-term, effective, and positive impact in the lives of the children they serve by ensuring they have the tools to become successful contributing citizens within the communities in which they live. After learning more about the Future Foundation, I was instantly drawn to the organization and its mission-centered objectives.

What are your goals and priorities for your time as Interim CEO?

Continued growth/stability, maintaining and strengthening our relationships with grantors, donors, partners, and those we serve, and, finally, preparing for our annual Keep it 100% Fundraiser so we can serve more children in this community!

And after your time as Interim CEO is up, where will you go from here?

I’ll continue to be of service to women, children, and families in the Metro Atlanta community. There’s so much work to be done to continue to move the needle for our children. But I always leave the absolutes of things in God’s hands—I don’t want to make God laugh by making my own plans!  

I’m about to do something I’ve never done—something I’ve committed to doing for personal, professional, and philosophical reasons. Next month, after 16 nonstop years at the helm of the Future Foundation, I embark on a three-month sabbatical.

What am I going to do during this time away? Relax, Reflect, and Recharge. Recharge so I can work as hard as I have, and as smart as I can, for the Future Foundation.

Why am I doing it?

On the personal side, of the 16 years, I’ve spent at the Future Foundation, the last three have been the most intense. We launched an aggressive strategy, along with a research study designed to transform our organization, our schools, and our community. I’m gratified by the results. I am proud of the shared commitment our board of directors, partners, and the entire Future Foundation team have co-created in the spirit of executing a collaborative strategy. Yet, our goals are big and the race as a leader is a commitment I want to sustain. Also, after being so deeply entrenched in the organization, I need to step back so I can come back and see it in a new light, to assess how effective we’re being, what’s working, and what can be improved.

Professionally, my sabbatical is an innovative opportunity for another leader with experience in the worlds of business, government, nonprofit and education, to come in, review our strategy from a different point of view, work with our senior team to assess key areas such as succession readiness, and provide insights on updating our strategic plan. The Future Foundation will benefit from the perspective of a different leader for a short period of time while becoming more agile and sustainable.

Finally, on a philosophical level, I firmly believe that as leaders look toward solving big world problems, they need to be confident enough to step away, and come back rejuvenated, with a new vision to tackle those issues. As a grass-roots activist and a leader of color, I have felt the temptation to work nonstop, twice as hard and as long as others. But that is a recipe for burn out and not being your best.

I remain thankful for my incredible Board and Advisory Board members who have fully supported this sabbatical and in turn, my leadership at the Future Foundation. Planned opportunities to recharge are the human equivalent of turning off your laptop, then turning it back on—a reboot that enables an upgraded operating system. And I am ready for my upgrade!

Until I return on January 6, 2020, I am leaving the Future Foundation in good hands with our wonderful and dedicated staff members. Stay tuned for more information on our interim Chief Executive Officer and what we’ve learned during this process! I’m looking forward to my time off. But I’m even more excited to return to see this incredible organization with fresh eyes and guide it with new ideas.