News and analysis
April 15, 2015

Nancy Lublin, CEO of Moves to Crisis Charity She Founded

Hiroko Masuike, The New York Times, Redux
Nancy Lublin announced Tuesday that she is stepping down from to take the helm at Crisis Text Line, the nonprofit she founded in 2013.

After 12 years as chief executive of the youth volunteerism charity, Nancy Lublin announced Tuesday that she is stepping down to take the helm at Crisis Text Line, a nonprofit she founded in 2013 to provide counseling through text messages.

"I’m a social entrepreneur: I like figuring out puzzles. I like building things," Ms. Lublin said. "We’re in great shape, so it’s time for me to go. I’m not one of the CEOs who wants to hang out and coast and take lots of vacations and enjoy the view from the top of the mountain. I really like the climb."

Aria Finger appointed Aria Finger to take over as chief executive at the end of October 2015. Ms. Finger currently serves as the organization’s chief operating officer and president of TMI, a strategy agency created that offers consulting services to companies and nonprofits trying to reach young people.

"I have worked at for the past 10 years, working directly with Nancy, and it has been such an incredible experience," Ms. Finger said. "People talk about Nancy’s brilliance, but really her best quality is her thoughtfulness and her generosity of spirit."

When Ms. Lublin joined in 2003 after founding and building Dress for Success, the nonprofit was in bad shape. It was $250,000 in debt and had recently laid off most of its employees. Now it has 3.6 million members and 200 campaigns, and its 2014 revenue was $24 million.

"I can’t think of another not-for-profit that’s had such a strong second life," she said.

Ms. Lublin said she’s sad to leave, describing the organization as "full of amazingly wonderful weirdos" who do "such great, edgy work and have a great impact."

"I stayed longer than I thought I would because it’s so darn fun," said Ms. Lublin, who often calls herself the charity’s chief old person. (She is 43.) "Now a 32-year-old CEO will be at the helm of the largest youth organization in America — it’s bigger than the Boy Scouts. That’s exactly how it should be. It’s one of the reasons I’m leaving."

She has big plans for Crisis Text Line, which she founded in 2013 after realizing that was getting text messages from young people who were suicidal or facing other emotional and social struggles and which has received much media attention, including a feature in The New Yorker and a front-page story in The New York Times. Those plans include increasing the number of text messages the organization currently processes daily, 16,000, to 100,000 per day by the end of the year.

"My hope is that there will be one number, 741-741, that will be able to help you with anything you need," Ms. Lublin said. "It should be as big as 911."

Also on her agenda: collecting, analyzing, and publishing the data collected from all those text messages. The organization maintains a real-time interactive map showing the times of day, days of the week, and regions of the country where people are facing mental-health and interpersonal challenges in America, modeled on Google’s flu trends map.

"This is a ‘big data for good’ play," Ms. Lublin said. "It’s not just about me making another great organization, it’s about me trying to change the entire counseling space and the crisis space."

Send an e-mail to Rebecca Koenig.