As I am quickly learning through my nonprofit management fellowship, the month of October is a busy month for anyone a part of the political realm. Through my fellowship, I am working directly with She Holds the Key, a nonprofit organization in Michigan that works to support and train center-right women who are interested in getting involved or running for office at all levels in the state.
After almost two months of working with She Holds the Key (SHTK), I can confidently say that the women running the organization are not only leaders in their community, but they are inspirational role models for women all over Michigan. I have been fortunate enough to personally get to know the founder and CEO Dawn Crandall, and her dedication and passion for what she does is something that I wanted to share. I sat down with Dawn to ask her some questions about her background, She Holds the Key and more. The following is our conversation, please enjoy!
Q: Where are you from and where do you live now?
A: I grew up in Livonia, Michigan and I currently live in Holt, Michigan.
Q: What is your educational background?
A: I graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in Communications.
Q: Besides being the CEO and founder of She Holds the Key, what are your other
A: My career is as the EVP of Government Relations for the Home Builders Association of Michigan. In that capacity, I lobby on issues impacting residential construction, run their PAC (the Friends of Housing Political Action Committee) and serve as the Executive Director for their nonprofit organization, Skilled to Build Michigan Foundation.
Q: What was your main reason for starting She Holds the Key in 2020?
A: As we were going into the presidential election, I believed that the outcome was going to be based on women and their vote. In my opinion, women were the key in that election - at least in Michigan.
Q: In your words, what is the main goal of She Holds the Key?
A: To make sure center/center-right women have a voice and the training to be leaders, whether they run for political office, or are leaders in their community or professional life.
Q: What was your background working in the nonprofit sector before starting
A: I had just started leaning into the nonprofit world with my work for Skilled to Build Michigan Foundation.
Q: How can women who are interested in getting involved in politics receive help from
She Holds the Key? Where’s the best place to start?
A: I invite women to join us in our Zoom training opportunities. They are free to attend, and the curriculum focuses on building different skills. In 2023, we will add candidate trainings, should women want to run for office in their area.
Q: What are your current goals for She Holds the Key?
A: Our current goal is to build our network out so we can have a broader reach to help women grow their skills and have an impact in their communities. All voices need to be heard and have a seat at the table.
Q: Where do you see She Holds the Key five years from now?
A: I would love to have the organization at a point where we have full-time paid staff that continues to have trainings on Zoom, but also has in-person trainings around the state of Michigan.
Q: Have you had any moments where you sit back and think “This is why I do what I do” or “This is why I started She Holds the Key”?
A: I have those moments in today's political environment. To be able to create a space for center and center-right women to come together and build their network of support, and gain the skills they need to be leaders in their communities and have an impact in policy decisions is why I do what I do!
Q: Was there ever a pivotal moment in your life that changed the way you look at women
A: I have been very blessed to have women role models in my personal and professional career. I became involved in a training program for Republican women in 2007 when I became frustrated with the way women were being treated in the legislature. There have always been amazing women who ran, and won. I am pleased to see they are becoming leaders in their caucus, by either serving in a leadership position, or as a chair of a legislative committee.
Q: What inspires you to do the work that you do with women in politics?
A: As I mentioned, I have had amazing role models as I began my career. I believe women bring a different point of view when solving issues - they tend to collaborate and find a solution that works. When I worked for a State Representative, we did a major code rewrite where several stakeholders were impacted. My boss said she knew she got it right when everyone walked away getting a little bit of what they wanted.
Q: Who would you consider a mentor or inspirational person in your life and why?
A: This is a tough question to answer. I have been blessed to have created a network of so many supportive people. When I think of those individuals, each of them have characteristics and skill sets I have been able to learn from, which has made me a better person.
Q: In what ways would you consider yourself a leader in your community?
A: I think that depends on which community I focus on. For the women's training programs, I have been a leader in being able to connect people and bring trainers in based on the relationships I have been able to build. In the legislative arena, I feel I am a leader based on the years of experience I have working in the legislature. With term limits, it is helpful to know the history of ideas that have worked, or not worked, and the stakeholders who have been involved in those issues in the past.
Q: How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
A: Persistent, Bridge-Builder, Life-Learner
Q: What is your favorite book of all time?
A: I don't know that I have a favorite book. But I have favorite authors - Nicholas Sparks, John Grisham, and I am sure there are more. I need to find more time to read.
Q: What are your favorite and least favorite seasons?
A: My favorite seasons are spring and fall. I don't really have a least favorite season, each one brings a different feeling - depending on its intensity. And by that I mean extreme cold or heat.
Q: What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?
A: So many things. Life is short, I think based on that, there are things even today I need to put in check. For example, it's ok to not get everything done on your to-do list. It's ok to take a day for yourself. Make sure you take time to nurture your friendships and relationships. Get to know people who aren't like you.
I hope that you enjoyed this Q&A with Dawn, CEO and Founder of She Holds the Key MI as much as I did. Thank you to Dawn for giving her time and thought-provoking words. If you would like to contact Dawn for more information, you can do so by emailing email@example.com. You can also find her on social media as @dawncrandall. Be sure to also check out @SheHoldsTheKeyMI on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook as well.
Thanks for reading today!
She Holds the Key Michigan / Women’s Public Leadership Network