Three years ago, I was “the new kid in the cube” at the Community Foundation. Today marks my last day and with that a time for thoughtful reflection as I would ask of any grantee.
When I first was asked about the executive director position at the J. J. Keller Foundation, I was cautious, simply saying, “I’m comfortable at the Community Foundation.” I had found a niche in working through the grant processes, built great relationships with colleagues, committee members and nonprofits.
During my time at the Community Foundation, I had a boss who supported me, challenged me and allowed me to have spontaneous, thoughtful conversations and learn together. I became an honorary member of the finance department. I had colleagues who saw the potential and would stand beside me and help figure out how to “solve the world’s problems,” you know, for when we rule the world. And I saw the community through a different lens. I learned the inner workings of many nonprofits and began to see trends in characteristics of what an “effective nonprofit” looks like and saw “leadership development” in action. I also saw opportunities and learned the many gaps standing between nonprofit reality and dreams.
A quote by Steve Jobs has been posted on my cube just above my phone reads, “A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader ones understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”
I love that man. Given my teaching/public health/research/IT background, I often bring very different experiences to the table. My theory in life has been the there are always things we can improve on, and we should celebrate the things we do well along the way.
The launch of Nonprofit Next was one of those early successes that began the birth of the Nonprofit Leadership Initiative. In my three years, I went through the “norming, forming and storming” stages. My first year was the norming stage of learning the traditions, the relationships and understanding the lay of the land. My second year was my forming year to begin to add my ideas and personality to the flavor of what is available through the Community Foundation. This past year has been the storming year to help put ideas into action.
The changes that happened at the Community Foundation through our technology were exciting to me and helped ignite my desire to come to work each day. On a personal note, I also had a pretty traumatic year suffering a severe car accident six weeks before giving birth to my third child, and later having my son diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder.
It’s a humbling experience to know things are completely out of your control and you need to rely on others. Many of my colleagues rallied around to help out and offer support. Some showed up at the hospital, others sent cards. People were kind to me when my heart was heavy and my brain was fried. It was clear then I was working in a “good neighborhood” with some great people.
And now, it’s time for the next challenge, the next opportunity. My cube walls are bare. There is a little less chatter and laughter in the office. It’s been a good ride, Community Foundation, and now it’s your opportunity to upgrade. To engage the next person who can bring forth new ideas and expand on the opportunities in our community, to see the gaps, trust that there are good people doing amazing work, and help put the puzzle pieces together to make a difference.
I’ll just be sitting at a different seat at the table.