Donna Butts, a NASI member since 2008, was recently named one of the Top 50 leaders on The Nonprofit Times Power & Influence List. As the Executive Director of Generations United (GU) since 1997, Butts’s inclusion on the list distinguishes her as one of the nonprofit sector's top executives, who according to The Nonprofit Times “are forging creative and innovative paths to solving the country's pressing humanitarian issues." For Butts and Generations United, highlighting the intergenerational importance of social insurance programs, particularly Social Security, is a priority.
Prior to taking the helm of GU, Butts cultivated her nonprofit leadership skills as Executive Director of the National Organization on Adolescent Pregnancy, Parenting and Prevention, and held leadership positions at the National 4-H Council, and Covenant House, a New York-based international youth serving organization. At GU, she applied her leadership experience and strategic skills to connect the dots between younger and older Americans, emphasizing the impact of Social Security and other public policies across generations. Butts was recognized for her efforts by the National Council on Aging in 2004 with the Jack Ossofsky Award for Leadership, Creativity, and Innovation in Programs and Services for Older Persons. In 2005, she served as a delegate to the White House Conference on Aging.
“Strong public support for our social insurance programs requires a degree of generational cohesion, where each generation recognizes the contributions and needs of others, and where all support the programs that protect families from financial ruin,” said NASI member John Rother, President and CEO of the National Coalition on Healthcare, and a member of the Generations United Board of Directors. “Through her inspiring leadership of Generations United, Donna has personified this perspective. GU brings advocates for children, families, persons with disabilities, and older persons together to share perspectives and to develop a common agenda. Donna's leadership is the magic ingredient that makes GU an effective, fun, and worthwhile coalition in the service of all generations.”
Under Butts’s leadership, Generations United participated in NASI’s Improving the Lives of Vulnerable Americans through Social Security education project. GU, dedicated to bridging the gap between older and younger Americans, worked to educate and engage two constituent groups—grandfamilies and advocates for children and youth—that previously have had little direct involvement in discussions about strengthening Social Security. GU’s project tapped into the power of storytelling to capture to intergenerational importance of Social Security. A product of this effort was the profile publication, Social Security: What’s at Stake for Children, Youth, and Grandfamilies, which includes 13 compelling stories of the impact Social Security has had in protecting families. Stories from Senators Al Franken and Lindsey Graham and Representatives Paul Ryan and Jan Schakowsky appeared in the publication. Larry Minnix, CEO of LeadingAge, described the publication as "an outstanding template for storytelling."
Generations United hosts its annual programming around Grandparents Day in early September. This year, the day will be celebrated with a week of activities that encourage people of all ages to “Do Something Grand.”
Butts is a huge music fan and has only missed two New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festivals in the last 24 years. She was married in Burkina Faso, West Africa in a traditional Mossi ceremony. Her dowry was a goat, a chicken, kola nuts, cloth and some coins, and her husband claims to this day that he paid too much.