Lauren B. Simonds, M.S.W.

NAMI Washington Executive Director
Member, NAMI Seattle (WA)
Nominated by Sue Abderholden, Executive Director of NAMI Minnesota, seconded by Kate Farinholt, Executive Director of NAMI Maryland
Listen to Lauren's Candidate Speech

Specific Strengths and Attributes:

  • Diversity of age, race, ethnicity, language, experience and national geography
  • Knowledge of the philanthropic community and track record with donor cultivation
  • Experience with a variety of revenue models and financial oversight and management
  • Human capital management including professional experience in human resources and personnel development & management
  • Legal and risk management
  • Criminal Justice experience, professional and/or lived

Job Title or Position:

  • NAMI Washington, Executive Director/CEO

NAMI Leadership Experience:

  • NAMI Washington, Executive Director/CEO (2014-present)

Additional NAMI Involvement:

  • NAMI Provider Education, NAMI Advocacy, NAMI Speakers Bureau, NAMIWalks

Other Board Service:

  • Board Member, Allyship (current)
  • President, The Babes Network (2 years)
  • Treasurer, Kol HaNeshamah (1 year)
  • Public Policy Chair, American Association of University Women WA (1 year)

Relationship to Mental Health:

  • Individual with first-person experience of mental health condition; Family member or direct/front-line support of someone with a mental health condition; Provider/mental health practitioner/employee in the field

Candidate Strengths Assessment

The candidate indicated they have experience in the following areas that will help NAMI achieve its mission and strategic goals:

  • Adult Education, Business/Nonprofit Leadership, Advocacy, Banking/Trusts/Investments, Mental Health Service/Support, Financial Management/Accounting, Business/Nonprofit Administration, Philanthropy/Donor Cultivation

Estimated years of experience in the above areas:

  • Adult Education - 28 years
  • Advocacy - 37 years
  • Banking/Trusts/Investments - 18 years
  • Business/Nonprofit Administration - 18 years
  • Business/Nonprofit Leadership - 33 years
  • Financial Management/Accounting - 18 years
  • Mental Health Service/Support - 33 years
  • Philanthropy/Donor Cultivation - 33 years

The candidate indicated they have connections and networks in the following areas:

  • Criminal Justice, Philanthropy, Lobbying, Politics/Elected Officials

Additional information about the connections and networks:

  • Criminal Justice - connections within Washington State with legislators and public service first responders and CIT programs.
  • Lobbying/Politics/Elected Officials – experience lobbying and teaching lobbying skills; long term relationships with local (cities and counties), state, and federal elected officials.
  • Philanthropy - connections with a variety of fund development professionals, and philanthropic organizations in Washington.

Candidate Leadership Style

The candidate indicated the following descriptors represent their leadership style:

  • Action-Oriented, Consensus Builder, Data Driven, Decisive, Linear Thinker, Outcome-Oriented, Process Thinker, Risk Taker, Innovator, Team Player

As a representative to the NAMI Board, and as a representative from the ED Council, I will use my experience to advance the NAMI mission by bringing more cohesion in communication between these two leadership groups; highlighting non-profit best practices; potential organizational development models; issues related to NSO and NA relationships and communications, while holding the NAMI mission front and center – always through a Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion lens. As the Executive Director of a NAMI State Organization, with the Standards of Excellence as a guide, I improved relationships and trust both with – and amongst – the NAMI Washington Alliance Affiliates. We live the “Better Together” motto in WA, where NAMIWA provides additional revenue sharing beyond the NAMIWalk, collaborative funding opportunities, and provides Zoom for all NAMIWA Affiliate programming. These successes were recognized In 2019, just 5 years after professionalizing, when we received the NAMI State Organization of the Year Award.

As a candidate from the Executive Directors Council, I would bring unique focus and experience as a master’s level, nonprofit professional with over 35 years of experience working in nonprofits, 18 years as an Executive Director, and 6.5 years as the Executive Director of the NAMI Washington Alliance. Spending my entire career working with nonprofits has allowed me to gain and utilize valuable knowledge related to our ever-changing “Third Sector,” the Nonprofit Sector. Being from the Pacific NW (PNW) will allow me to highlight regional differences in service needs – as well as cultural differences particular to the PNW.

I have personally helped advance the NAMI mission on the council by participating in the ED council meetings, being a presenter for EDLE 2019, and a planner and presenter for Virtual EDLE 2020, working in partnership with NAMI staff. I created Zoom NAMI ED Happy Hour, which started in April 2020 during the pandemic. While this is optional, and not an official ED council activity – it has helped NSO and NA EDs create stronger connections with each other and provided a more personal 1-on-1 problem solving and discussion forum. Ensuring that our NSO and NA leaders are supported and able to take care of their health, promotes a stronger NAMI Alliance overall.

I work well in coordination with other leaders to accomplish goals as evidenced by recruitment and coordination of volunteers for NAMICon 2019, NAMIWA growing our budget by 807% from 2014 to the present, and increasing NAMI Signature Program trainings from 6 in 2014 to over 20 in 2021. We revenue share with Affiliates beyond NAMIWalks, including percentage of individual donations and conference sponsorships, and ensured continued provision of Signature Programs by hosting 11 Zoom licenses for use by the NAMIWA Alliance. NAMIWA has participated with NAMI in collaborative grant opportunities – also shared with our NAs - for the Alignment Project, NAMI In Our Own Voice Study, the PSJ Project, the BMS relaunch of NAMI Sharing Hope/NAMI Compartiendo Esperanza.

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