HomeArticleBlog  →  Build stronger communities: Sharonda Glover’s Inspiring Journey at YWCA Metropolitan Chicago and Collaboration with Common Impact and The Allstate Foundation 

Build stronger communities: Sharonda Glover’s Inspiring Journey at YWCA Metropolitan Chicago and Collaboration with Common Impact and The Allstate Foundation 

By Silvia Chilel Martin | March 18, 2024

At the heart of YWCA Metropolitan Chicago‘s mission is to eliminate racism, empower women, and advocate for peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. Sharonda Glover, an integral figure in the organization’s marketing endeavors, amplifies this mission through storytelling, community engagement, events, and brand management. In her role as the VP of marketing and communications at the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago, she embodies the spirit and vision of the organization, striving for an inclusive marketplace where everyone can thrive. 

As part of Common Impact and The Allstate Foundation‘s Flash Consulting Day of Service, Allstate volunteers leveraged their skills to help nonprofits with operational challenges spanning marketing, technology, finance, and human resources. Sharonda proposed a project on her organization’s behalf that aimed to assess the viability of the YShop platform, a proprietary e-commerce platform, and develop a strategic plan for profitability and increased engagement.   

We spoke with Sharonda about her remarkable career journey, from her entrepreneurial venture of launching Bonaco Candles to her current leadership position. Additionally, Sharonda shared how the skills-based volunteering program, facilitated by The Allstate Foundation and Common Impact, significantly contributed to her organization’s success. This program provided her invaluable resources and expertise, enabling her team to refine the organization’s YShop profitability and community engagement strategy.  

No matter the role, company, organization, or team, the common thread in my career has been to bring love, light, and leadership to my marketing and communications work. 

Can you share insights into your professional journey, starting with your passion project, Bonaco Candles, and your current VP of Marketing and Communications role? What common thread connects your diverse roles? 

My professional journey has been a blessed adventure. Over 15 years, I’ve connected to diverse people, traveled the country, learned about different cultures, and grown as a brand strategist. No matter the role, company, organization, or team, the common thread in my career has been to bring love, light, and leadership to my marketing communications work.    

My original career dream was to be a psychiatrist, but I fell in love with the media and decided I wanted to be the next Oprah. Moving to Chicago for grad school to study integrated marketing communications was one of my best decisions. My career started in public relations and grew to explore brand strategy, fundraising, and online community building. I worked in corporate, education (high school and university), nonprofit, tech, and agency sectors, which taught me valuable business skills such as listening, planning, and building a strong strategy for anything I want. I took those lessons and launched my candle company, Bonaco Candles. Each candle represents various locations I’ve visited in hopes of inspiring people to travel and explore the world.  

Now, as vice president of marketing and communications at YWCA Metropolitan Chicago, I can connect my professional experience to supporting a community and city I love. Being part of an organization whose mission is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all makes me feel a part of something bigger.  The YWCA Metropolitan Chicago’s leaders meet monthly to discuss, learn, and develop our leadership skills. This type of intentional team building and development truly adds to my happiness at work and fuels me to work towards our mission! 

What challenges do you face in your role as a marketing and communications expert, and how do you overcome them? 

In my field, I am constantly discerning the right conversations and platforms to engage with and leveraging them to meet the goals of the brands I work with effectively. While I thoroughly plan and strategize before executing a particular project, I’ve learned that I don’t need to plan every step in advance to take action confidently. I have faith in my intuition and experience to help me make the best decisions for my work. I also rely on my incredible network. If I don’t have an answer, I know I can find it in the women and men who have been part of my career and life for the past 20 years. 

You recently participated in a skills-based volunteering program with The Allstate Foundation and Common Impact. Could you share details about the project you brought to the volunteer team? What concrete steps or outcomes emerged from this collaboration that you find particularly exciting? 

YWCA Metropolitan Chicago launched a proprietary e-commerce platform, YShop, in 2015 as part of a larger digital engagement strategy. The goal is to ignite excitement, spread awareness about our cause, and drive increased membership and investment in the organization, ultimately propelling revenue growth. Since its launch, YShop has become a hub for showcasing and selling our retail items alongside those of our strategic partners, primarily independent brands affiliated with our organization. We operate on a collaborative revenue model, where featured businesses generously contribute 10% of their sales back to the YWCA as a donation. 

The project we brought to the Allstate volunteers was to help us assess the viability of the YShop platform, specifically as an earned revenue strategy. We also wanted to explore how to find more synergies or alignment between the e-commerce platform and our existing, mission-centered programs – for example, our Breedlove Entrepreneurship Center. The ultimate goal was to determine its current return on investment and develop a strategic plan for enhanced profitability and deeper community engagement. 

The volunteers’ guidance proved invaluable as they offered tangible solutions across various facets of our Yshop operations. Their ideas were refreshing, from devising a new pricing model to implementing strategies to enhance user experience and retention. They also helped us strengthen our customer journey and refine our value proposition.  

The volunteers shared free or low-cost resources, allowing us to implement the proposed strategies promptly. Thanks to the skills-based volunteering program facilitated by the Common Impact team, volunteers gained a deep understanding of our project needs. They addressed our feedback and concerns with finesse and eagerness, making the collaboration seamless and rewarding. 

What were the specific skills or expertise from the Allstate volunteers that stood out to you and proved particularly beneficial for the project? 

I was particularly excited to witness the depth of financial expertise the Allstate volunteers brought! Their passion for understanding the numbers and crafting strategic approaches to boost our shop revenue was inspiring. They equipped us with a strategy to ensure the long-term sustainability of the YShop, which will help us ensure long-term sustainability for the platform. When we started this project with them, we wanted to know whether to invest more effort into the platform, sunset it, or find ways to revive it, and they helped us see the opportunities for growth and spreading the word about the platform, such as speaking engagements, content creation, testimonials, and more. They provided us with clear, actionable steps and tactics. These insights will serve as our roadmap for reviving YShop and driving forward our marketing efforts to enhance awareness and drive traffic to the site. It was exactly the insight we needed! 

Given the diverse roles you’ve held, from marketing to candle creation, what unexpected skill or talent have you discovered about yourself that brings joy to your professional life?  

I have discovered how to surrender to the process, whether work or life stuff; it is far more powerful to ride the wave instead of trying to control the outcome. Nothing will ever be perfect or exactly how I imagine. Life comes with twists and turns. I’ve learned to accept what is and trust that I’m moving towards what I want it to be. Because of this, I’m always progressing, growing, and elevating professionally and personally. 

Our conversation with Sharonda exemplifies the transformative power of skill, dedication to a mission, and the profound impact individuals can make within their communities. We are reminded that every skill, every talent, has the potential to spark positive change. 

Consider supporting the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago by donating, getting involved, or purchasing from the YShop.  

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