Panoramic View: Team Insight – Nat Sutton

Take a closer glimpse into the people at Saxton Bampfylde and our global partners in panorama, with our regular team insight feature.

Nat Sutton is our Partner in New York City. He is Head of Buffkin/Baker’s Non-Profit Practice, part of out global partnership, Panorama.

Past, present and future – your role in Buffkin/Baker
It is a dream job that lets me build a practice serving organisations that enrich lives, advance education and well-being of people at all levels of society.

Rainy day dreams
I love Paris, Geneva, London, but as Dorothy said in “The Wizard of OZ,” there’s no place like home. I’ve lived in New York for decades and there is no city like it. It teams with art, music, theater, and fascinating people from diverse cultures. My day would be relaxing at home, reading my newest favorite book with MacIntosh snoozing beside me, good music in the background and the ingredients for a great meal awaiting me in the kitchen. After dinner Mac and I would walk to Lincoln Center, have ice cream, I’d wipe away the evidence on both our faces, and we’d take a leisurely stroll home.

True passion
Music—making it, hearing it, sharing it. I studied piano as a child and I play classical music. A great disappointment of my life is that I am not a good jazz pianist. I love jazz because it is so accessible and its musical idioms reflect so many aspects of American life.

Who – dead or alive – do you view as a particularly inspiring leader, and why?
One might expect me to say Ghandi, Martin Luther King, or Nelson Mandela. But honestly, my father is my inspiration. Over the years I’ve come to appreciate his approach to leadership and decision making. His first thought was always how his decision impacted people. His first question was always, “How does this situation make you feel?” My father married in his late teens, finished college at 30, raised a family and built a successful transportation business. His focus was broad. He looked outside his world to see possibilities and seek opportunities. And always considered the advice and opinions of others, especially my mother.

Sum up your sector in three words:

What does the competitive landscape look like for talent in the social impact sector in the US?
There are two aspects to the competitive landscape for talent in the non-profit/education/philanthropy sector. Some established leaders come from the corporate sector—people who decided to join mission-driven organisations that impact people and society directly. They may be financially comfortable, have grown children and decide to channel their talents into giving back. The other—and a rapidly growing talent sector—is the millennials, young leaders building careers in this arena. They are committed, well-educated and dedicated to the betterment of humankind through the arts, philanthropies of all kinds, conservation or education.

How open minded are your clients to appointing talent from outside the sector and region?
As much or more than other business sectors, non-profit/education/philanthropy sector clients are very open to people outside their geographic boundaries and from other business sectors. Success in either the corporate or non-profit sectors requires many of the same skills—creativity, sound business judgement and a passion for the work and the organisation. One reason I’m so delighted to be working with Craig Buffkin and our partners and associates as well as the Panorama network is that it gives us the opportunity to partner with exceptional professionals who have a global view and who see no boundaries in matching talented, creative people with exceptional opportunities.

How much emphasis is there on diversity at board and senior executive level across the social impact sector in the US?
There is a significant emphasis on diversity at both the board and executive level in my sector and that emphasis is growing. Increasingly non-profits understand that diversity of culture, gender and ethnicity that reflects the populations they serve must inform their vision and their decision making. I have always been and remain a very active, passionate advocate for diversity. In every search I present diversity candidates and my clients expect that. My hope is that one day diversity candidates will be assumed and expected and every slate presented to clients will include highly qualified diversity candidates!

What is the greatest challenge facing social impact organisations in the US at the moment?
Certainly, the current political environment makes for great uncertainty, particularly for organisations dealing with reproductive, LGBTQ and civil rights and other volatile social issues. How or if last year’s tax reform bill may impact individual donors, also remains unknown, since taxpayers won’t see that impact until they file early next year. The Giving USA Foundation reported that in 2016, the last year for which data is available, Americans contributed $390B, a 2.7 percent increase over the previous year. Individual donors gave nearly 4 percent more. The new tax law contains provisions some see as discouraging individual philanthropy. How, or whether that will impact non-profit revenues is, at this point, anyone’s guess.

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