MBEF is very pleased to announce the hiring of our new Executive Director, Farnaz Golshani Flechner. Ms. Flechner joins the foundation as our third Executive Director, bringing her 17 years of nonprofit leadership experience to this critical role in MBEF. Ms. Flechner is the past Executive Director of the Los Feliz School of the Arts, a premier LAUSD charter school serving over 500 students. In addition, she contributed significantly to such diverse institutions as Chrysalis, a workforce development organization for homeless people, and Tides, a San Francisco-based management service organization for over five hundred nonprofits and philanthropists. She holds an undergraduate degree from UCLA and a Masters in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. We recently caught up with Farnaz about her future with MBEF.
1. What drew you to consider this role in MBEF as our Executive Director?
About two years ago, I moved back to Los Angeles from San Francisco and was immediately drawn to Manhattan Beach for its vibrant community and its stellar school district. I knew immediately Manhattan Beach is where I wanted to raise my children (Note: Farnaz has a kindergartener at Pacific Elementary School and a preschooler). Quickly, I learned that MBEF plays a significant role in making this school district so successful.
MBEF has a committed and engaged population that prioritizes the quality of their children’s educational opportunities. Parents are willing to invest both their time and their dollars to ensure that these public schools will continue to be excellent. As a result, MBUSD and MBEF, are already considered a “best practice” in the world of education and education foundations, respectively. Maintaining and advancing the school district with the third highest API scores in the state (above PV, many schools within Silicon Valley) is an amazing opportunity and challenge.
2. Which accomplishments in your 17-year career in nonprofits best epitomizes how you contribute to the nonprofits you serve?
For almost two decades, I’ve been in nonprofit leadership roles in a variety of functions. In one organization, I helped to increase funding by 18% in two years. In another nonprofit, facing an economic downturn, I led a team to significantly reduce their expenditures while increasing funding; financial results improved from a $420,000 deficit one year to a $120,000 surplus the following year. Working in organizations with funding challenges allowed me to hone my financial management and fundraising skills – two critical skills needed for any nonprofit.
As the Vice President of Programs at Chysalis, I learned what it takes to run a high impact organization. During the years I was there, 93% of our homeless clients secured jobs, and over 90% of funding was allocated directly to programs and services. My goal is always to reduce overhead and increase organizational efficiency in the nonprofits I serve.
That said, I am most proud of the fact that in each organization that I’ve worked in, I have effectively engaged the staff and board in developing robust strategic plans and the strong systems for implementing/tracking progress. In addition, I have had the privilege of leading strong teams of brilliant, experienced and inspired people whom have all brought great strengths to the table.
3. How do you see MBEF’s vision coinciding with MBUSD’s vision?
Today our district’s vision is “to prepare our students to become good citizens, parents, workers and leaders [with] self-discipline, inter-personal skills, personal values, social and civic responsibilities and respect for nature and for others. They will be able to move beyond us, each prepared to earn a living, cultivate a dream and make a difference.”
As a community we need to decide what is next needed for our schools and our kids. Do we want to expand our investment in STEM? Do we want to invest in character development? Do we want to build more competencies in creativity or collaboration? I am extremely excited about making our shared vision a reality and building on our school district’s already wonderful foundation investing in the development of the next generation of young leaders.
4. Looking ahead, where do you see MBEF growing, expanding and changing?
I’m very excited about bringing the Foundation and Endowment Boards, the School District, our teachers and the Board together to create a single shared mission, vision and strategic plan. I believe that organizations are most effective when they engage in robust strategic planning processes that involve a broad range of stakeholders, and arrive to a clear, shared mission and vision.
My goal will be to implement that strategic plan, creating measurable benchmarks and results to our key constituents so we all know we are making progress towards our goals. I’m very excited about taking MBEF to the next level, not only increasing the annual investment in our schools but investing more strategically in innovative programs that will nurture young leaders who will go on to have a significant impact on their communities and the world.
My door is always open to our parents, donors, teachers, and administrators and I look forward to engaging our community more in MBEF and its mission.