HER Award recipient Tiffany D. Thomas personifies the definition of a Gutsy Gal. She has taken a position on an idea and, by pursuing her belief, influenced others to the betterment of her community.
Thomas, development officer at Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston, was presented with Houston Woman Magazine’s 2011 Gutsy Gal Award on May 24 at the publication’s Fifth Annual Nominate HER Awards Luncheon, held this year at the La Colombe d’Or Mansion. She was nominated for this recognition by Licia Green-Ellis, a member of the Urban League’s Board of Trustees.
As the president of the Young Professionals group in the Houston Area Urban League, Thomas demonstrated her leadership in two successful, city-wide voter registration drives that covered more than 13 locations, as well as voter deputizations and training to inspire the 21- to 40-year-old demographic of the membership to get more involved in the civic process.
She also helped increase the group’s membership by 120 percent, generated greater media visibility, developed corporate sponsorships and increased philanthropic involvement from other young professionals. These were needs that had to be tackled in order to keep the organization current and in the public eye, Thomas said.
The Urban League, founded in New York in 1910, was first dedicated to empowering African Americans to enter the economic and social mainstream. Since its inception in 1968, the Houston Area Urban League has been dedicated to serving disadvantaged people of all races.
“The Urban League has been around for 100 years, but individuals under the age of 40 don’t necessarily know what the Urban League is about; they may never have received those direct services, such as housing or child education,” Thomas said. “So, we get to reintroduce the message of the Urban League to a new generation.
“In 2008, the economy fell, and we had to adjust our programming and our outreach to make sure our programs were relevant to the needs of the community.”
She continued, “In fundraising, it’s all about the message and delivering the message that we are champions. Increasing our community, our visibility, our philanthropic support and aiding advo- cates in the community were big accomplishments.”
“Someone once told me that if you’re in business and not involved in politics, then you need to get out of business,” she said. “That really stuck with me because, no matter what industry or sector we’re in, that civic piece impacts us all — from the legislative sector, the policy, to the individuals we elect. We have to take ownership and understand how our power and our votes will impact our families 10 years from now and our community 20 years from now.”
Thomas’ passion for civic engagement began when she was an eighth grader elected to Alief Middle School’s Student Council. Her parents were both middle class workers in corporate America, and they supported every aspiration she had. As Thomas continued to take on different leadership roles in high school and college, her passion for community service grew.
At Sam Houston State University, Thomas earned a bachelor of arts and humanities degree in public relations. Later, she earned a master’s degree in community development from Prairie View A&M University.
Not content with those accomplishments, Thomas continued to seek educational opportunities that supported her passion. At Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis, she became certified at the Center for Philanthropy.
And, in the summer of 2010, she studied at the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University, a program for women interested in the political process from the campaign side. Still, she doesn’t see a future for herself in public office.
“I will not be ‘The Honorable,’ but I will support other women who are interested in doing that. That program really allowed me to understand what’s needed on the support side,” said Thomas.
“One day I’d like to work in the White House in the Office of Public Engagement,” she said.
And for that accomplishment, Oprah may have to come back to television to interview her.
In the meantime, she is content to be an entrepreneur, offering consulting on fundraising and nonprofit management through her company, The Maven Group. And, she is happy to mentor her seven-year-old niece who wants to follow her into community service.
“There’s so much opportunity, and there’s space for women to be heard, because there are issues that only we can speak to,” Thomas said. “In order to effect change and offer opportunities for other women, we have to be [sitting] at the table.”
Does Thomas consider herself a Gutsy Gal?
She laughs and acknowledges that the title fits her very well. “I’m a risk taker; I’m independent, and I definitely thrive when I’m told something can’t be done,” Thomas said.
2011 HER Award Sponsors
Fashion Design Department of Houston Community College
Houston Community College
Marnoble Computer Sales & Service
Shea Writing & Training Solutions
The Vicki Milazzo Institute
Unity Church of North Houston
Wright Pawn & Jewelry Co.
Thanks also to these Friends of the 2011 Nominate HER Awards Program for their support and generous contributions.
Flowers by Nino
Minuteman Press Post Oak
The Perfect Touch Linens