Leaders We Follow: Phillinnova

“George Floyd’s death was a catalyst for me to absolutely not be silent anymore.”

Recent acts of racial injustice have sparked change in many of us. For Julianna Nelson, Founder of Phillinnova, she’s shifting things in the nonprofit sector.

Phillinnova Founder Julianna Nelson offers nonprofit consulting that goes far beyond traditional fundraising and development strategies. She approaches nonprofits via their mindset, asking them to dig deep in order to shift from a focus on scarcity to a focus on collaboration and possibility. When she does her job right (which she does about 105% of the time), an organization will walk away from their partnership with Phillinnova healthier, more impactful, and set up for sustainable success.

And not just that—they’ll walk away feeling like real change is possible. The entire environment surrounding their work is lifted.

To get to that reward, Julianna’s clients have to be willing to get uncomfortable.

Internalized Oppression in Nonprofits

Julianna is personally engaged in anti-racist and DEI education, learning to abandon her right to comfort and confront her white fragility. Even before her formal training, she’s noticed oppressive forces operating in the nonprofit world. Her education gave her the language and tools to confront them.

Because of systemic racism, many of the recipients of nonprofit resources are people of color. And also because of systemic racism, many of the donors are white. This opens the door for a great deal of white saviorism.

To get to the heart of this issue, Julianna doesn’t mince words. She’s been asking herself and her clients, “How is your organization supporting or dismantling internalized oppression?”

When something has been internalized, it is so ingrained in our culture that it can be difficult to see clearly or even notice. An example of internalized oppression Julianna comes across frequently is utilizing a “power over” model rather than a “power sharing” model.

In the nonprofit world, operating in a power over model means limiting the agency of a community, often by restricting how money is spent. For example, say there’s a nonprofit supporting after school programs in a low-income neighborhood. In a power over model, a board and staff disconnected from the recipients might dictate how resources are spent.

In a power sharing model, on the other hand, the board and staff might work closely with the community to figure out the best way to spend resources. Better yet, they might hire people in the community itself to make these decisions, people who understand the intricacies of the situation firsthand.

Read the full feature on Phillinnova and learn how Julianna is fighting oppression in the nonprofit sector by subscribing to our Patreon channel. Subscriptions start at just $3 a month and will give you access to guides and ebooks about writing authentically in order to create change.


Ali Weeks - Copywriter + Editor


Denver, Colorado

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