Leading ACTor: Lisa Guernsey

Meet ACT Board Member Lisa Guernsey, pictured here with her two daughters, Gillian and Janelle!

In conversation with Lisa, her passion for many causes is evident: early childhood policy and educational equity, capacity building, her community, and her two daughters.

Lisa has been a resident of Alexandria for over 25 years, dedicating at least 10 of those to serving the community through ACT for Alexandria. Throughout her tenure, she has held a number of roles, all with a remarkable sense of humility. “I have learned so much from my time with ACT,” Lisa reflects. “Rather than assuming what organizations need, ACT values and prioritizes community input: identifying challenges, crafting effective solutions, and advocating for critical issues.”

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic prompted Lisa to ask herself what was most important, directing her focus towards supporting nonprofit organizations that were most affected in the community. Leveraging her professional experience with education and social-science research, and drawing from her experiences on ACT’s Community Investment Committee, she worked with ACT leadership and staff to develop a rapid-response qualitative research project featuring in-depth virtual interviews (as well as a few in person). The goal was to gain insights into the real-time challenges faced by nonprofit leaders, parents, seniors, and individuals experiencing homelessness – recognizing the critical need for capacity building within these organizations.

Lisa and ACT found that many organizations were doing heroes work but also overwhelmed by the immediate needs in the community, and that they required extra support to avoid burnout. These results helped ACT to develop resilience grant programs to support nonprofit leaders in building resilience and tackling mental health challenges. “A big piece of capacity-building is recognizing our leaders and how much they matter. They need the emotional and mental capacity to navigate challenges, creatively pivot, and keep going.”

As ACT marks its 20th anniversary, Lisa is enthusiastic about the future of Alexandria. “I’m honored to serve with ACT as we address systemic issues leading to poverty and suffering,” she says. “I deeply admire ACT’s achievements, and seeing this thoughtful group work across various intersections to tackle community issues fills me with immense pride in our city.”

Lisa Guernsey is an ACT board member, chair of the Community Investment Committee, and a donor advised fund holder with her two daughters.


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