Educating people, connecting worlds: CEO shares how work in nonprofits can forge global relationships.

Author:Hazelwood, Janell P.
Position:THE WORK I DO - Chief executive officer - Interview
 
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WHEN IT COMES TO INNOVATION, COURAGE, AND authoritative leadership, many could take a few pages from the book of Amini Kajunju. As president and CEO of the Africa-America Institute, a U.S.-based organization committed to strengthening the human capacity of Africans through higher education, skills training, and research, Kajunju is the first African to hold the post in the nonprofit's 60-year history.

Global travel, diversity of experience, and a passion for the continent have driven Kajunju, who has lived in five different countries since the age of 18 and is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo. She has more than 20 years of experience in economic development, and has served as CEO of Workshop in Business Opportunities, a New York-based, nonprofit small business development service provider.

Often one of the few women at the global business table, she is tasked with driving the strategic vision and direction for AAI's programming and strengthening its engagement with 23,000 alumni and partners. The organization has expanded relationships with top publicly traded companies to drive its mission including Chevron, General Electric, Barclays, IBM, and many more.

Passion That Transcends Borders

"We're talking about a very big continent with about 1 billion people, and as a professional running the Africa-America Institute, I'm just trying to make a small contribution toward increasing the capacity of African nationals and institutions, and helping people understand that we can work together to solve the challenges the continent is facing," Kajunju says. "That's what motivates me every day to come to work."

Competitive Edge Wins Even for Nonprofits

"First, I have a great team that goes the extra mile, that is confident and committed to the mission of AAI," she adds. "I also have a development and strategic officer that helps me really think broadly about what's possible in terms of fundraising for AAI."

"Second, I think one has to be very clear about what it is that you're offering the market, so to speak," she adds. "You have to ask yourself what the comparable advantage of your particular institution is, and what it is that you have to offer to both the...

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