Lena Ballantine gives back and honors the community that allows her to be her authentic self.
By Monica Godinez, Photos by Parke Ballantine
If this past year has taught us anything, it is the value of surrounding oneself with people who uplift you and allow you to always be your authentic self. (Fully vaccinated, of course.) Lena Ballantine believes her place of work should be a reflection of the values she upholds. She is a prime example of someone who gives back to their own community at every corner. Ballantine currently works as the chief operating officer (COO) and chief financial officer (CFO) of The Trevor Project.
Her Journey to The Trevor Project
Lena began working at The Trevor Project nearly two years ago. Prior to this role, she mostly worked in for-profit/corporate roles that were “successful” in the traditional sense; however, she reveals, “I was unhappy in the sense that the organizations I was working for were not as value aligned or impactful in the work as I wanted them to be.”
After much contemplation, Ballantine made the decision to enter a space she felt she truly belonged in. The world of nonprofits. “Based on the learnings I had coming from corporate finance—the supply chain, operations and technology—I felt I had a really great skill set to offer and was curious about exploring the nonprofit world.”
After 15 years of working for a German company, Ballantine joined a West Coast-based consulting firm that worked exclusively with nonprofits. Through this she discovered she thoroughly enjoyed working in the nonprofit space. She decided to search for more job opportunities during her move to New York. Cue: The Trevor Project.
“Being part of the LGBTQ+ community, I really wanted to work for an organization that aligns with my personal values and supports my community,” she shares. “At the same time The Trevor Project was looking for a chief operating officer. My skill set aligned well with what they were looking for. They were looking for someone who had done finance, technology and operations. I felt like my hodgepodge of things that I had done had never really met a more particular job description.”
Now Ballantine finds herself “waking up everyday knowing that we do good to save the lives of young people. Working in LGBTQ+ suicide prevention and making sure we reach more young people every single day.”
Lena Ballantine’s COO/Technical Role
“I am the COO/CFO at The Trevor Project. Which means that I lead and direct the business functions encompassing technology, finance, legal and operations. Overseeing the processes that enable the organization to provide suicide prevention and crisis intervention services for LGBTQ+ youth.”
One of Ballantine’s largest responsibilities is ensuring The Trevor Project is fully transparent about their finances. This includes being open about their investments and usage of the contributions they receive from their donors and partners. This transparency allows people to fully understand what their money is going toward. Whether that be fundraising, programs or events, and the impact of those donations.
Aside from her fundamental role within operations and finance, Ballantine has played a vital role in advancing technology at The Trevor Project. Through her leadership, the organization was able to expand their work through various “innovative technology projects.”
One of those projects involved two subsequent Google fellowships they received. These included 10 to 20 people from Google working with the Trevor Project’s technology team “to help automate their training environment and to eliminate a lot of the bias in potential models. [This project] was a huge accelerator [for the number]of young people we can serve.”
In addition to that project, she worked on a $6 million collaboration with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), an international network of partnered firms, to create a new volunteer-management platform. This was especially important given their volunteers play a very fundamental role. To execute this project, Ballantine worked closely with the VP of technology. She reveals she is a “huge people person. Someone who is celebrated among the executive team for successfully leading teams through changes.”
Supporting Our Youth
In their most recent mental health study, The Trevor Project estimates that 1.8 million LGBTQ+ youths contemplate suicide. “This is a huge number,” Ballantine discloses. “This is something we exist to end, suicide in the LGBTQ+ community. While it is unrealistic to assume we can reach every single young person during a moment of crisis, something [we can do]is always be a supportive adult or person to a young LGBTQ+ person. This can reduce their suicide risk by 40%.”
If those reading this piece engage with, show up and support the LGBTQ+ community, they can greatly impact the lives of these youths. Ballantine encourages people to also show their support by “respecting pronouns and honoring each individual person’s identities. Aside from donations these are all great ways of helping and supporting the Trevor Project and our mission.”
About The Trevor Project
Founded in 1998 by Hollywood filmmakers, The Trevor Project was named after the short film Trevor. When the film was set to air they wanted to include a hotline number for young kids to call if they felt similar emotions to those of the character in the film. However, they discovered that a hotline for LGBTQ+ people did not exist. To date, some of the original filmmakers and founders are on the Trevor Project board. View a shortened version of the film Trevor.
“[At The Trevor Project] we always appreciate every volunteer. You can choose to become a digital or lifeline volunteer. We provide an amazing training curriculum to people. And there is always an amazing training team on the back end there to work with you.”
Visit their website to become a volunteer.