What Makes A Nonprofit Stand Out? Its Leader Sets The Right Tone

Investor’s Business Daily | Morey Stettner

Jennifer Gremmert sought to convince a roomful of utility executives to approve subsidies for low-income consumers in 1996. It didn’t go well.

They rejected her argument. “How dare you ask me for this money,” one of them said. “People should pay their energy bill themselves.”

“It was shocking to me,” recalled Gremmert, now chief executive of Energy Outreach Colorado, a Denver-based nonprofit organization that provides households with affordable access to energy. “I cried when they said those things. I was young and emotional.”

As she left the meeting, she remembers thinking, “I just set us back three steps.”

The incident became a teachable moment for Gremmert. She came to accept that different people hold different views — and it’s important to speak their language and build a case that anticipates and addresses their concerns.

"Early on, I'd think, 'Wait, how can they criticize me. I'm doing all this great work,'" she said. "Now I realize, 'Oh, they just understand things differently and face their own issues.'"

Jennifer Gremmert, Executive Director and CEO of Energy Outreach Colorado