- Veronda Durden
- President and CEO
- Any Baby Can
- Years as Executive Director
- What does your organization do?
- With a focus on child development and family health, Any Baby Can partner with parents to identify tools and resources so children reach their full potential. Our team of social workers, therapists, nurses, parent educators and case managers guide families in building confidence, nurturing healthy relationships, and planning for the future. Our strength is our ability to meet clients where they are – at home, work, or school – and to help them address challenges; including navigating medical, educational and financial obstacles. We envision a community in which all parents feel supported, valued and empowered to ensure their children have the best chance at a bright future.
- How did you become interested in this work?
- I’ve always enjoyed work that allowed me to provide quality services and resources to vulnerable populations. During my first interaction with Any Baby Can 20 years ago, I was impressed with their advocacy for keeping children and families together while ensuring that every child had the resources to reach their highest potential. Their focus on strengthening families was evident in their commitment to those they served. After I retired from the State of Texas as Commissioner of the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, I heard about the leadership opportunity at Any Baby Can. I was invigorated by the idea of being on the front line of providing services to families and children in Central Texas.
- What drives your passion?
- The opportunity and privilege to play a role in providing programs and services to families and their children that impact their ability to reach their goals and highest potential. I enjoy building strong, resilient high-performing teams and watching them excel.
- Did you have a mentor or role model?
- I’ve been told that I never meet a stranger and therefore I’ve had numerous mentors and role models throughout the course of my career. I learn something every day from the people that I interact with. Many of the former leaders that I served under led by example. I observed their commitment to quality services, a focus on ensuring their teams had the resources they needed to be successful and the ability to hold their teams accountable to doing their best work every day. They believed that each person in an organization matters and it takes all of us doing our best for the organization to achieve its goals. This left an impression on me and I have tried to mirror that in every leadership opportunity I’ve had. I remain in contact with teams that I led 20 years ago. The impact we made together lasted because we truly worked together as a team.
- What's the biggest challenge in your work?
- Identifying and securing the resources that we need to provide our critical programs and services, while ensuring that we also have the resources to attract, recruit and retain our greatest asset – our staff.
- What's the best advice that you have ever received?
- I’ve received lots of great advice over the years. Just a few are…
Always have a circle of 2-3 people around who will give you honest and critical feedback because this helps you to improve and grow.
Make each day count and leave work at the end of each day knowing that you made an impact.
Always leave an organization or job better than you found it.
Model the behavior you want to see in your organization.
Be thoughtful and courageous as you make changes.
- What are your top tips for new Executive Directors?
- 1. Be visible and approachable. Get to know your staff – that includes those closest to you on the organization chart as well as those throughout the organization.
2. Get to know your peers and colleagues outside of the organization. I’ve always believed that “iron sharpens iron.” During my first year with Any Baby Can, I reached out to two dozen nonprofit leaders in Austin – to introduce myself as the newest leader of the organization and to learn about their work and mission. One specific question I always asked, “What lessons have you learned as an Executive Director of a nonprofit?”
3. Be curious – get to know the people, programs, and processes in and connected to your organization.