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DRiWaterstone Client Stories: Sacramento LGBT Community Center

As an executive search firm specializing in the nonprofit and social impact sectors, our recruitment experts have the opportunity to work with a diverse roster of purpose and mission-driven clients to fill roles integral to delivering on their organization’s purpose and strategic goals.

One such client is the Sacramento LGBT Community Center. We recently sat down with their CEO, David Heitstuman,to talk about how the organization is growing, his experience working with DRiWaterstone and advice to other leaders looking to fill a unique role, and more.

DRiWaterstone (DRiW): Talk about the Sacramento LGBTQ Community Center and your role there.

David Heitstuman (DH): I’m the CEO of the Sacramento LGBT Community Center, and I’ve been with the Center for 13 years in total. I was on a volunteer and Board member and then was asked to become the CEO in 2016.

At the Center, we work to create a region where all LGBTQ people thrive. We do that by supporting the health and wellness of the most marginalized, advocating for equity and justice, and uplifting a diverse and culturally rich LGBTQ community.

DRiW:  Can you share some recent projects, success stories or milestones from the organization that you’re particularly proud of?

DH: Even though we’re a 45-year-old organization, the vast majority of programs and services that we offer, and our activities, have been created or completely reimagined over the last decade.

We created new housing programs for youth experiencing homelessness, new gender and sexual health services, mental health counseling for individuals and families. We have an elevated youth advocacy program. We do a lot of public policy work in the community both locally and at the statewide level. We have an economic justice program that helps LGBTQ folks be matched with affirming employers and helps create safer, more affirming workplaces for folks in the healthcare environment and in schools and any kind of employer really that folks encounter in the world – social service providers, government agencies and more.

And we’ve really expanded Sacramento Pride to become the largest and most diverse and inclusive LGBTQ festival and event, community engagement event on Capitol Mall right here in the state’s capitol.

Most of our work is here locally in the Sacramento region, a lot of it is focused in Sacramento County, but we do have clients that travel from up to 100 miles away just to access services, or who access services online, call us, or send us email for assistance. And we are about to launch a new program where we will be expanding direct access to youth drop-in services in three of the surrounding counties.

DRiW:  Share a little bit about the role that you were looking to fill when you first reached out to DRiWaterstone and the impact of that role on your ability to achieve your mission.

DH: The role that we reached out to DRiWaterstone for was for our Chief Development and External Affairs Officer.

So, the role is both fundraising and external affairs. It’s fundraising, event management, volunteer and community engagement, communications, and marketing, and all the things that help support the organization’s programs and services and ensure that we’re able to deliver on our mission. It’s very cross departmental in terms of its reach in the within the agency.

It is a big role [on] a very rapidly expanding team. When I joined the Center as its CEO in 2016, we had just nine employees and about a $1million budget, a little less than that. Today we have 56 staff positions, and we operate across four different facilities on a 24-hour schedule with our shelter, seven days a week, and things like Sacramento Pride have expanded from just around 9,000 people to around 22,000 people and it’s an entirely different enterprise.

DRiW: So why did you choose to work with an executive search firm on this role and what, ultimately, made you select DRiWaterstone?

DH: We wanted to work with the search firm because I’d had a couple attempts at filling this position with a highly qualified individual to lead a team and to build the development program and was unsuccessful in the first hire for the for the role. And then we had a really difficult time attracting top talent into the Sacramento region that both had the skills and experience to do the work and also the understanding of LGBTQ cultural issues … and really being able to lean into the mission, not just the functional kind of day-to-day work of the organization.

I ultimately chose DRiWaterstone because of the experience I had had in talking with BJ [Davis, Senior Consultant at DRiWaterstone] and a search that they were conducting for another agency and them sharing their own personal identity and their personal experience –  in the development fundraising space, in working with LGBT organizations, and in understanding the issues that we face – which gave me the confidence to move forward with DRiWaterstone.

DRiW: What was your experience like working with the team?

DH: The experience was good. They’re very thorough and it was explained well from beginning to end. I think that they were really attentive and intent on finding us a high-quality person for the role, and they really managed the process from start to finish. And BJ was always commutative and open and flexible in in helping support the search, which was great.

DRiW: What advice would you have for other organizations looking to hire for a senior role, or a senior development role specifically, in today’s market?

DH: The thing I would suggest is just being honest, open, and transparent with the search firm and your search principal – just being frank about what it is that you want from this role. What it looks like day-to-day, what the team is like, what it’s like to work with you as the person who’s going to be the supervisor or maybe what it’s like to work with the Board of Directors. [Also, talk] about things that have been really successful with folks who have been in the role previously or in other senior leadership roles and where there have been challenges or things that you that didn’t go well and where you’re hoping to find a better fit in the next person that’s filling the role.

DRiW: What’s next for the Sacramento LGBT Community Center?

DH: Try as we might to stay the same size and to not grow as quickly as we as we have been over these last two years, what’s next for the Center is that we are going to continue to grow. So, we’re trying to build the infrastructure to support that.

We’re expanding into three different counties, and we have a big vision for the expansion of Pride and related programming. And there’s the reality that we are facing a lot of attacks on LGBT populations through public policy across the country and even here locally, so we intend to invest in in our advocacy work and continue that fight as it’s essential to our very existence and ability to thrive.



At DRiWaterstonewe have the pleasure to work with some of the best purpose and mission-driven clients and candidates in the nonprofit and social impact space – including several clients that serve LGBTQ communities across the U.S. To learn more about how we can help you build your high-performance teams and drive growth, email us – we’d love to talk! 

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DRiWaterstone has been recognized as one of the top 10 healthcare executive search providers in Medhealth Outlook magazine's 2024 Healthcare Executive Search edition!

Jennifer Dunlap, President and CEO, and Julio Suárez, Managing Director, sat down with the team at Medhealth Outlook to talk about DRiWaterstone's work in the healthcare space, as well as how the organization is supporting purpose and mission-driven organizations across all industries. Read their interview here.


If you're a purpose and mission-driven organization in the healthcare space, we'd love to talk about how DRiWaterstone can help achieve your recruitment goals. Contact us today.

About the Healthcare Executive Search edition

This edition features the Top 10 Executive Search firms in 2024 that are making a significant impact in the healthcare space. These firms are distinguished by their deep industry expertise, extensive networks, and a commitment to excellence in matching organizations with leaders who possess the strategic insight and operational acumen needed to thrive. Learn more at www.medhealthoutlook.com

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