Sonya Ulibarri: Leading Authentically, Embracing Growth, and Making a Lasting Impact

Nov 1, 2022

Sonya Ulibarri, LLI Graduate, is the Chief Impact Officer at the Latino Community Foundation of Colorado (LCFC). She is a seasoned nonprofit leader with 20+ years of executive experience, previously serving as President and CEO at Girls Inc. of Metro Denver, and Executive Director at YouthBiz and the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training.

Below, Sonya shares about leading with purpose.

What does leading authentically mean to you?

To me, leading authentically is two-fold. It begins with a deep alignment of purpose and includes utilizing the unique leadership strengths, professional experience, and lived experience we bring to our work. Authentic leadership allows us to show up as our whole selves.

As a seasoned executive leader, what inspired you to make the most recent change in your career?

Sonya with the LCFC team at their 15th anniversary celebration

When I entered the nonprofit sector over 20 years ago, it was with a profound desire to address injustice and advocate for social change. I was eager to learn, grow, and be challenged in new ways. As a ‘seasoned’ leader, it’s easy to fall into a place of comfort in our own perceived expertise, which can be stagnating. I’m not at a place in my life where I value comfort over learning and growth. In my new role at the LCFC, I have opportunities to deepen my understanding of community-based philanthropy and partner with communities in new ways.

As leaders, we often think about the impact we will make. As you’ve entered this next chapter of your career, what kind of impact do you want to have?

I want to create a positive impact for causes, issues, and organizations deeply rooted in communities of color that utilize an intersectional lens in their approach to equity. This has been a common thread throughout my career and continues in my new role. LCFC is one of just six Latino Community Foundations in the United States, and we are disrupting the traditional, top-down way that philanthropy has operated. Not only does our work impact community partners across Colorado, but has the potential to shift philanthropic practices across the U.S.

How has your network supported you both personally and professionally during your transition?

Sonya with the Girls Inc.’s new CEO Kayla Garcia and alumna Anya Dickson Arguello.

Work in the nonprofit sector can be a grueling and isolating experience, especially for women of color. The people around me – family, friends, mentors, peers – are the only reason I have been able to do this work for so long. More specifically, relationships and bonds with other women of color have protected, nurtured, and guided me through the years. They have also been my biggest supports through this professional transition.

How has the LLI helped you grow as a leader?

LLI has allowed me to develop a strong network of Latino leaders who continue to invest in each other today and explore the unique ways that our Latinidad contributes to and strengthens our leadership lens. It has been an important part of my leadership journey.