Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Nonprofit Executive

I'm frequently asked what it took to create and build a successful nonprofit organization. "Blood, sweat, and tears," I half-jokingly answer them. Half jokingly, I say, because in truth, that is what it has felt like over the last four years. It has been my life and my passion to create Heroes for Children and grow it along with the help of Larissa, my staff, our incredible event volunteers, and our Board of Directors. It has taken countless hours and many sleepless nights to pour over the details of the organization. Five Heroes and Handbags events later, I'm still not an expert on society fundraising events, but I've learned so much along the way.

I've poured over books and attended classes. I've researched online and asked local experts. I've given my heart to this organization. I work evenings and I work weekends. While I set the goal every year to leave work at home on a more frequent basis, I've only just this month accomplished it with any more frequency than one time in a month. Lately, I've taken it down to once a week that I'm actually working in the evenings, besides the normal email checking I usually do.

When I started doing this, I didn't consider myself a Nonprofit Executive. I was a teacher that didn't have a classroom, choosing to start this nonprofit. I didn't actually think I would love it as much as I do, and I anticipated starting back to a classroom position shortly. Even after my first year as an employee of Heroes for Children, I still considered myself an educator doing this job for the time being. Now? I'm a Nonprofit Executive that used to teach. It's been a complete shift in my identity.

This summer, I went through a fairly decent amount of burnout. By the end of our Spring fundraising season, I felt spent. And so I took some time off to evaulate. I worked less hours, took every days off to visit with family, and evaluated my future. I never thought I would leave HFC, but I wanted to be sure I was on the right path. I needed to know that my heart was in it 100% as it was before because otherwise, I knew it would be harder and harder to keep up with the work.

I'm very pleased that I came to the conclusion that I am EXACTLY where I need to be. I just need to find balance. In the past four years, Heroes for Children has been one of the biggest driving forces of my life. It remains a large part of me, but I am working my hardest at finding that balance. To be mom AND the Executive Director of Heroes for Children. It's a fine balance, and I can't tell you I've perfected that balance yet.

I average about sixty to sixty-five hours a week working. Most days, I drop Maggie off and I am the one picking up. I do at least 75% of our weeks drop-offs/pick-ups. I am involved in the school and with her teacher. It's hard, for sure. Being a working mom is tough. Being an executive for a growing nonprofit is challenging, especially when trying to remain mom at home. There are times when family dinner happens in my conference room before a board meeting. I don't have lunch out for leisure, only for business. Otherwise, it's a quick bite to eat at my desk while working.

I love the challenge of running a nonprofit. I love the ever changing climate and the constant work. There are so many facets to the organization--both internal and external. On any given day, I might be working on marketing, donor relations, event planning, program services such as working with the social workers, PR, and even HR. I wear so many hats most days! Seeing the tangible difference we make in the lives of cancer families inspires me each day. The mission drives me, and Allie's legacy propels me forward each day. It is my hope that Heroes for Children will be helping families for many years to come. I don't know what all our future will entail, but I look forward to being a part of the organization. I know this is where I am supposed to be. I'm no longer the educator I once was.

I'm a Nonprofit Executive, and I'm very proud of it.


Anonymous said...

You're still educating, you're just doing it on a different stage. I think the most important part of being an activist (because, make no mistake, you ARE also an activist) is educating people to your cause. Keeping a classroom full of middle school kids engaged and interested is GREAT training for the public speaking part of your job.

As for the balance part, I absolutely suck at it. I've worked 60-70 hour workweeks for 7 weeks now, and the 3 kids are none too pleased. The worst part? When people, trying to be helpful, tell me that I just need to work on prioritizing and "remembering what is most important".

Uh, it's not like I forget. But when you're on deadline and when you NEED to show up every day and have 90 minute lessons ready and administrators are demanding that you must have an impossible amount done...what is the solution?

Kimberly said...

I can so relate! I have 3 children at home (5, 3, and 2) plus I have my own company. It's a lot of work to be a working mom. Especially when I too can bring the work home with me. I work at my office only 2-3 times a week and most of my hours are clocked at home. It's a juggling act but I like being my own boss.

You should be very proud of everything you do! I'm proud of you!!!!

HollyH said...

you've made a HUGE difference in my life, as well! You inspire me to want to be a better person, and I'm guessing there are thousands of people out there that agree with me!
You are a wonderful leader, and such a motivational speaker. I do wish we had crossed paths under different circumstances, but, am very thankful for what you do--and how successful you guys have made HFC!

Anonymous said...

A big ole YEA THAT to everything Holly says! :) I am always in awe of everything you accomplish! :)

Adrianne said...

You should be proud of your accomplishments. We never know where the road will take us and you continued driving down the road regardless and that takes guts!