From Corporate to Non-Profit Leadership: Mona Sinha ‘88 Investor in Social Change

unnamed-3.jpg

S. Mona Sinha ‘88

Founder of Raising Change, Board Member and Philantropist

S. Mona Sinha ‘88 is the money-making force behind some incredibly impactful non-profit organizations around the world. As co-founder and Chief Engagement Officer of Raising Change – an organization founded only a year ago, that helps non-profit companies and social ventures shape and improve their fundraising efforts, Mona knows that fundraising is one of the biggest pain-points for non-profit companies today.

For many people, fundraising is challenging because it lies outside of their comfort zone. “People run away from it, because they don’t like asking for money,” Mona says, “but I think it’s a really fascinating exercise in human psychology.” For Mona, fundraising is ultimately not about asking people for money, but about getting people to believe in the mission and purpose of an organization.

Mona ‘88 with Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the "She Opened the Door conference" at Columbia University in 2018, the first women's conference, where both were speakers.

Mona ‘88 with Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the "She Opened the Door conference" at Columbia University in 2018, the first women's conference, where both were speakers.

“It’s about really understanding what a person’s story and passion is. You must understand that you are actually helping someone create a legacy for themselves and not be afraid of asking, because you are unleashing potential in a donor that they don’t even know they have. And that to me is very powerful,” she explains.

In her role at Raising Change, Mona focuses on bringing the perspective of the donor to the table. She is a resource for non-profit organizations and social ventures who want to deeply connect with their donors and, together with her co-founder Kathy LeMay, Mona has trained several social change organizations, both large and small, local and global. Since working with Raising Change, many of these organization have raised gifts in excess of one million dollars that help them create a positive change in the world.

 Although her work at Raising Change keeps her busy, Mona spends most of her time fulfilling her duties as a board member and board chair for various social change organizations. Through her education at Smith, she has come to care deeply about gender equality and the empowerment of women, which has been the focus of her own philanthropic work. As the Board Chair of Women Moving Millions – a group of 310 donors who commit to million dollar gifts to address women and girls social justice issues – Mona helps the organization make sound governing decisions and creates opportunities for members to learn from each other and make the largest impact with their investments in gender equity. Whether it is through her advocacy work at Apne Aap, a global anti-sex trafficking organization, or in her role as Advisory Board member at the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise at her alma mater Columbia Business School, Mona is deeply invested in uplifting women around the world.  “Change,“ she says “happens first from within, and then is best shared with those around you.”

Mona ‘88 (middle), with Ruchira Gupta (left), founder Apne Aap and Gloria Steinem ‘56 , Board Chair receiving the Last Girl award in 2017 for her work supporting the most vulnerable girls.

Mona ‘88 (middle), with Ruchira Gupta (left), founder Apne Aap and Gloria Steinem ‘56 , Board Chair receiving the Last Girl award in 2017 for her work supporting the most vulnerable girls.

Between her work with non-profit companies around the globe, Mona frequently returns to Smith to pursue her own philanthropic work.  As a trustee (2010-2018) she was on campus 5-6 times a year and continues to mentor hundreds of Smithies.  “For myself, the biggest entrepreneurship venture I have been involved with has been with Smith,” Mona explains. “We worked together to establish a women’s leadership organization called the Asian Women’s Leadership University and Smith was the academic planning partner from 2011-2013.” The goal of this project was to bring liberal arts education to women in Asia by developing a business plan and fundraising financial support for introducing liberal arts pedagogy to Malaysia for Asian students. As an avid supporter and founding cohort of the Draper Competition for Collegiate Women Entrepreneurs, Mona returns to campus every year as a judge for the business plan competition. She also serves on the Visiting committee of the Smith Museum of Art.

When Mona first started her career at Morgan Stanley after graduating from Smith as an economics and art history major/minor, she had no idea her path in the corporate world would ultimately lead her to where she is now. As an M&A banker on Wall Street and finally a restructuring professional at Unilever, Mona gained important financial skills, understanding the intricacies of financial statements, mergers and acquisitions, innovation and strategic planning, that ultimately allowed her to have an intentional and meaningful impact as a changemaker.  She defines her work today as restructuring non-profits to be sustainable, allowing visionary founders to focus on their missions.

Mona ‘88 in the lower Zambezi doing an art project at a school in Mfuwe, holding a portrait of Tricia (right). Mona helped to fund girls' toilets and a kitchen so they would be able to stay in school post menstruation age, when most girls drop out.

Mona ‘88 in the lower Zambezi doing an art project at a school in Mfuwe, holding a portrait of Tricia (right). Mona helped to fund girls' toilets and a kitchen so they would be able to stay in school post menstruation age, when most girls drop out.

Women being taught skills at Barefoot College, India - here making switches and panels. Mona visited them as part of the Columbia Global Health program to understand how economic empowerment enables women to be independent and resilient, less likely to suffer anxiety and depression.

Women being taught skills at Barefoot College, India - here making switches and panels. Mona visited them as part of the Columbia Global Health program to understand how economic empowerment enables women to be independent and resilient, less likely to suffer anxiety and depression.

“It’s so essential for young women to have solid financial skills to progress in any career,” Mona reflects. “Whether you are going into corporate or entrepreneurial – these are basic and important skills to have. Whether you are running a for-profit or a non-profit company, the same rules still apply – you are still running a business and it needs to be both viable and sustainable.”

Mona’s suggestion for current Smithies is to take advantage of the resources that are available, such as the Draper Competition and Conway’s Learn and Lunch financial education series. Ultimately, Mona’s biggest advice is to do work that you enjoy. “In the end of the day if you are not happy with your work, it becomes a chore. You have to enjoy it.”

Mona ‘88 with Malala Yousufzai in January 2019, having dinner with women who support women, pledging to support Malala’s efforts to make education available to all young people around the world, especially in remote parts of South Asia and Africa.

Mona ‘88 with Malala Yousufzai in January 2019, having dinner with women who support women, pledging to support Malala’s efforts to make education available to all young people around the world, especially in remote parts of South Asia and Africa.


 

S. Mona Sinha ‘88

S. Mona Sinha is a passionate advocate for the rights of women and girls.  She has parlayed a career in finance, marketing and restructuring to work at the intersection of social change and women’s leadership.  Mona works with organizations to develop capacities to uplift women and girls across different sectors.  

She is co-founder of Raising Change, which coaches mission-driven organizations to raise resources for social change. She is currently the Board Chair of Women Moving Millions.  She also serves on the boards of the ERA Coalition (working to ratify the constitutional amendment on Equal Rights), Apne Aap International (works to end sex trafficking), Breakthrough (shifts culture norms to end violence against women), Direct Impact Africa (empowers women to be leaders in the lower Zambezi) and CHIP (Center for High Impact Philanthropy at UPenn). 

Mona is an active financial investor in women led businesses. She has a BA in Economics and Art History (magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) from Smith College and an MBA in Finance and Marketing (Beta Gamma Sigma) from Columbia University.  In 2018, Smith College honored Mona with the Exemplary Leadership in Development award.  In 2017, Mona was awarded The Last Girl Champion award by Gloria Steinem on behalf of Apne Aap. In 2015, she received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

Connect with Mona on LinkedIn

Katharina GeppertComment