For almost three decades, True Colors has offered unique resources to address the risks associated with sexual and gender minority status for youth. In its work with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual and Transgender Youth, True Colors provides young people and their families and those who serve them with critical mentoring, education, social and emotional support.
Founded by executive director Robin McHaelen, True Colors evolved from a concept she developed in 1992. As a graduate student in Social Work at the University of Connecticut, she proposed holding a conference called “Children from the Shadows,” as part of her field work. Once it was approved by her department, the conference attracted widespread interest and support.
As a highly valued and uniquely targeted event, the conference quickly gained the support of the Connecticut State Department of Children and Families, The Department of Education, the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, both Connecticut Teachers’ Unions, and more than 30 grassroots community organizations. At its initial gathering in 1994, the conference attracted widespread interest and a modest audience. Since then, it has become an annual event that in 2018, drew 3500 attendees from across the nation. It is the largest youth conference of its kind in the country.
True Colors has become nationally known not only for its groundbreaking conference, but for the expertise of its staff members in training, outreach, partnership cultivation and program design. Training modules offered by True Colors reach a wide range of professionals across many disciplines and have won recognition across the country.
Over the past 15 years, True Colors programs expanded to include youth leadership development; foster parent recruitment; group and individual mentoring; advocacy activities; and year-round recreational activities for LGBTQ+ youth.
True Colors stands for full equality for LGBTQ+ youth, adults, and families, and is committed to the work of social justice as an anti-racist organization. Today, True Colors works with schools; families; communities of faith; municipal, state, and federal agencies; and policy makers across the state of Connecticut. With a budget of almost $700,000, True Colors is supported by a volunteer board of directors, four full time staff, numerous student interns, scores of volunteers, donors, and private as well as corporate funders. The organization trains more than 6,000 people each year building capacity for those who work with and serve LGBTQ+ youth.
True Colors is fiscally well-managed and occupies a unique niche and a central position among LGBTQ+- related organizations. In addition to its tremendous growth over its 26-year history, the organization has a strong record of building the capacity of its partner organizations.
Today, True Colors offers six programs in pursuit of its mission.
True Colors provides Connecticut’s only lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTQ+) youth mentoring program and one of only two in the nation. The program provides one-on-one mentoring in addition to weekly group activities that provide an opportunity for healthy peer interactions and social development.
The True Colors annual conference attracts young people, educators, social workers, clinicians, family members and clergy, who are drawn to the 250 workshops, films, and activities that take place over two days. School groups from more than half of Connecticut’s communities attend, as well as individuals from across the country.
Youth Leadership Development
GSAs (Gay/Straight Alliances) are found primarily in the United States and Canada. These organizations are student-led or community-based and are intended to provide a safe and supportive environment for LGBTQ+ children and youth as well as their cisgender heterosexual allies. True Colors has directly or indirectly, assisted in developing most of them. Over the organization’s 20+ years of existence, staff have conducted dozens of summits, forums and trainings for youth, helping them to launch and maintain programs in their schools
Safe Harbors Task Force/Foster Parent Recruitment
Supported through a Personal Service Agreement with the State Department of Children and Families, this program involves a state-wide task force managed by True Colors, whose members focus on the needs of LGBTQ+ youth in out-of-home care (foster care, congregate care and juvenile justice). Foster parents are recruited for teens of all orientations and genders, and the program locates homes for those in need.
Cultural Competency Training
True Colors has developed nationally recognized values clarification and cultural competency training curricula used in its work with some 6,500 youth-serving professionals annually.
Launched in 2009, this program focuses on the spiritual needs of LGBTQ+ youth, with a primary mission of providing safe and affirming spaces for youth to explore these interests.
The staff and board of True Colors have developed a superior organization that meets the needs of young LGBTQ+ individuals at risk and the professionals who work with them nationwide. The organization has developed dynamic partnerships that ensure the organization’s impact now and in the future. With programs and training that continue to influence educators and social workers, health care providers, and agencies serving young people, True Colors has gained the respect of professionals in New England and beyond, and has a unique opportunity to build upon its current reputation and stature in the years ahead.
With its national recognition, True Colors presents a new leader with the opportunity to build upon its reputation, expand its reach, continue its consistent program growth and incorporate new ways of sharing its strengths. Under the next leader’s guidance, the organization will further develop its assets and programs, and increase its public visibility. The incoming Executive Director of True Colors will join an organization with an active, engaged board, and highly skilled staff and volunteers.
True Colors has attracted the attention and support of funders, individual donors and corporate sponsors over the years. The support and engagement of individual donors has been a critical component of the organization’s funding. In future years, there will be a greater focus on maintaining a diverse funding stream and creating new partnerships.
Over the next three years, True Colors expects to:
Create new revenue streams to ensure its sustainability:
Expanding individual and corporate giving, foundation support and other income streams will be explored.
Initiate new partnerships in geographic areas nationwide:
Building on its national reputation, True Colors has the potential to develop partnerships across the country that replicate its regional connections.
Become an explicitly anti-racist organization:
Board and staff members will devote attention to recognizing and confronting racism and oppressive systems, raising their own and others’ awareness of practices or programs that may be discriminatory or exhibit implicit bias.
Broaden its outreach and support of the multicultural LGBTQ+ community:
Attention will be focused on reaching LGBTQ+ communities of color, ethnic diversity and geographic areas not yet targeted by outreach efforts.
Develop and promote web-based trainings:
To create greater access to its highly successful trainings, True Colors will explore online resources to increase both visibility and revenue generation.
Develop the board’s areas of expertise and its diversity:
Board development is ongoing and will include increased engagement in fundraising, event planning and program support.
Enhance Organizational Visibility:
To publicly elevate the impact of its work, broaden its reach and share its history of
success, True Colors will enhance efforts to promote and market its programs.
The Ideal Candidate
This position requires a skilled team-builder and communicator; a leader who is passionately committed to social justice, and who is an enthusiastic and energetic advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. The successful candidate will be a strategic thinker who shares True Colors’ vision of a world in which LGBTQ+ youth can thrive.
The organization seeks a leader who is skilled at managing a professional staff and an energetic group of interns, and committed volunteers. The ideal candidate will also be highly skilled in partnership building and fundraising, and will serve as the face of the organization to diverse public audiences.
True Colors’ ideal candidate will demonstrate these skills and attributes:
Strategic Thinking and Program Oversight
The ideal candidate will be a seasoned strategic thinker who brings significant experience in managing programs, budgets and staff.
Excellent Communication Skills
True Colors seeks a leader with skills in written and oral communications as well as public presentations, and an individual who is an articulate and thoughtful speaker. The successful candidate will be adept at representing the organization effectively to public audiences, donors, foundations and potential partners.
Fundraising and Revenue Generation
The ideal candidate will be adept at cultivating new donors and retaining established donors, experienced in institutional donor development and grant writing. He, she, or they will be experienced in identifying and cultivating new partnerships and maintaining positive relationships with partners and funders.
Collaborative and Community Relations Experience
The next executive director will bring significant skills in outreach, community relations and partnership and collaboration development. The ideal candidate will represent True Colors’ mission and vision to its constituents.
Resource Management and Administration Experience
The ideal candidate will be comfortable with financial and operational management in a public or nonprofit agency or program, will have a knowledge of state contracts and will possess excellent staff management skills. He, she, or they will understand workplace compliance and employment laws and possess the ability to ensure adequate control and accounting of all funds, including maintaining sound financial practices.
Facility in Working with a Skilled Staff and Volunteer Population
The next executive director will be adept at motivating and leading a complement of talented staff and a dedicated group of volunteers, valuing their work and respecting their contributions.
True Colors seeks a new leader with significant experience working effectively in partnership with a board of directors or advisory group to carry out the mission of the organization. The successful candidate will enjoy and be successful at working closely with True Colors’ active, engaged board.
Education and Leadership Experience
A Master’s degree in Social Work (or considerable progress towards the degree) is required. Five or more years of increasing leadership responsibility is preferred.
Submission of Candidacy
Transition Consultant Cathy Cohen with TSNE MissionWorks has been exclusively retained for this search. Only online applications will be accepted.
Candidates should include a resume and a cover letter that describes how their qualifications and experience match the needs of True Colors along with salary requirements, how they learned of the position and any other relevant information (such as published articles). All applications will be acknowledged. Applications will be accepted until the position has been filled.
This is a full-time position offering a competitive salary and benefits commensurate with skill and experience.
True Colors is an equal-opportunity employer and actively seeks a diverse pool of candidates. People of color, women, and transgender people are encouraged to apply.