Classy Welcomes Ford Foundation COO Depelsha McGruder to Its Board of Directors

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By Classy
Published April 20, 2021
Reading Time: 4 minutes

As Classy steps into our next chapter with our recent Series D funding and new CEO Christopher Himes, we are also thrilled to announce the appointment of Depelsha McGruder to Classy’s Board of Directors.

McGruder, the Ford Foundation’s Chief Operating Officer and Treasurer, oversees Ford’s global operations and finances for its offices in New York, Africa, Asia, and Latin America. For the past 85 years, the Ford Foundation has invested in innovative ideas, visionary individuals, and frontline institutions advancing human dignity around the world. 

Before joining the Ford Foundation, McGruder served as COO of New York Public Radio (NYPR), where she led daily operations and strategic planning for WNYC Radio, WNYC Studios, WQXR, Gothamist.com, and The Greene Space. During her tenure, she played a critical role charting NYPR’s path forward in the midst of an evolving media landscape, setting the course for the organization’s digital content and local news, talk, and cultural programming.

Prior to her role at NYPR, McGruder spent 17 years at Viacom in senior leadership positions at both MTV and BET Networks, including as SVP of programming at BET and SVP of business operations and strategy at MTV. During her tenure at Viacom, she launched mobile, broadband, and video-on-demand businesses for MTV, as well as two new cable television networks to serve underrepresented LatinX, African American, and youth audiences.

McGruder is also the founder and president of Moms of Black Boys United and M.O.B.B. United for Social Change, sister organizations working to positively influence how black boys and men are perceived and treated by law enforcement and in society. 

She holds a BA from Howard University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

The Vision to Supporting Impact at Scale 

McGruder has spent her career, in both the for-profit and social sector, with organizations that have had a higher purpose for society. That’s why she was immediately drawn to Classy’s mission of mobilizing and empowering the world for good and helping nonprofits raise more money online. 

As a leader who’s served at a large nonprofit, founded her own nonprofit, and leads critical functions at the Ford Foundation, she views working with Classy as an exciting opportunity to not just move one organization’s mission forward, but to become a resource to thousands of nonprofits of different sizes and cause categories—similar to the Ford Foundation, which distributes funds to organizations around the world. 

“For me, serving on the board of Classy is an opportunity to have impact at scale,” says McGruder. “I view it as an extension of my work at the Ford Foundation. In addition, Classy has a really impressive platform and business model with a lot of potential for growth given the broader societal shift to online giving.”

McGruder’s varied experience across the for-profit and social sectors enables her to understand the deep interconnections between both, and she identifies Classy as an example of how a for-profit model can positively impact the nonprofit model. As she has experienced, the separation of the nonprofit space from the for-profit space can have more to do with regulations than any difference of a higher mission, purpose, or people within the organization. It is this recognition which drew her to Classy, a certified B Corporation dedicated to building great technology to support the most important causes in the world.

“Classy is a for-profit business that helps nonprofits grow and thrive, and the business is only successful when its nonprofit customers are successful. I believe it’s possible to do well while doing good,” says McGruder.

A Cross-Sector Leader Who Has Built and Pushed Nonprofits Forward

McGruder’s unique set of experiences gives her a broad perspective on a wide range of issues that will positively influence Classy’s direction. 

Her 17-year tenure at Viacom has made her an expert on branding, market segmentation, digital, sales, business development, strategic partnerships, mergers and acquisition, and overall business operations and strategy. Couple that with her multiple and ongoing experiences as a nonprofit leader, and her journey and wealth of knowledge makes her a remarkable guide and asset to help ensure Classy is the best partner possible for social impact organizations.

“While serving as COO of New York Public Radio, I lived the experience of a large nonprofit needing to constantly attract donors, retain, and grow their contributions over time. With M.O.B.B. United, I’ve been in the driver’s seat of building a nonprofit from the ground up and trying to create a path to funding. And at Ford, I get to understand the opportunities and challenges of a wide range of nonprofit organizations who are working in some way to root out inequality across the globe. I’ve had quite a journey and I look forward to applying what I’ve learned from all of these experiences to help take Classy to the next level.”

When asked about what she feels is next for Classy, McGruder believes in Classy’s brand and place to be a household name for anyone in the social sector—and that Classy should be the first place nonprofits go when they think about increasing online and recurring giving. She also sees the opportunity to extend Classy’s impact to serve the wider public and help connect those who are looking to give with the right opportunities and causes. We’re proud that our B Corp Certification and current process to become a Public Benefit Corporation have helped us make headway on our expanded impact with the larger community and world, and we’re excited for what else is to come. 

Overall, McGruder says her approach to board service is to learn first, then assess and provide recommendations. In her view, one has to first and foremost understand internal opportunities and challenges from the management team’s point of view based on their deep knowledge and extensive experience, then figure out how to help accelerate their vision.

A Personal Spark

Perhaps what makes this partnership so meaningful is the deep personal excitement and connection that McGruder feels toward Classy. 

One thing that really drew her to the company was how it started, with Classy co-founder Scot Chisholm’s personal drive to raise money for cancer because of his mother’s successful battle with the disease. 

“I believe the best ideas are born from a personal connection and a need to solve a problem that really matters to someone,” says McGruder. “I am amazed at how Classy evolved from a personal desire to donate to cancer research in San Diego into a multi-million dollar SaaS platform, and I can’t wait to see what happens next!”

But McGruder’s strong passion for Classy extends beyond its origin story. The opportunity to join Classy’s board of directors came about during the most personally challenging time of her life, when she wasn’t looking to take on additional responsibilities. Her husband of 16 years passed away unexpectedly at age 49 just a few months ago on Christmas Day.

Learning about Classy created a spark and excitement through those darkest moments, which compelled her to accept this role. 

And the feeling is entirely mutual. We cannot be more humbled and thrilled to have McGruder join our board of directors and help push Classy to the next stage of its growth. Please join us in welcoming her to the Classy family.

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