At my core I have always considered myself an educator. Whether working as a speech pathologist or a camp director, working with individuals with special needs and their families has always been my passion.
I was excited and terrified when, after serving as Camp Director for 9 years, FACT offered me a full-time position as their Executive Director. I felt I had the enthusiasm, creativity, and people skills required, but I had reservations about my ability to oversee fundraising, budgeting, and grant writing. As the E.D., could I rise to meet the responsibility of managing a public trust? Obviously, I let my passion conquer my doubt and took the position in 2006 (mostly because I didn’t know what I didn’t know). Fortunately, I discovered the Academy for Non-Profit Excellence at TCC. This incredible, high-quality program (offered by the Tidewater Community College Workforce Development Program) was made possible by a grant from the Hampton Roads Community Foundation- a remarkable organization that works specifically for local charities.
During my first four years as the E.D., I had no year-round staff at all. What I did have was determination and a goal. The classes and networking offered by the Academy were truly a lifeline for me. From board development and employment law- to branding, marketing, and data analysis- the Academy was there teaching me the skills I needed in order to be successful with my career endeavor. They reassured me that as long as I had the dedication and a willingness to learn, our organization and the families we serve would be in good hands.
The Academy offers a Certification in Non-Profit Management once course completion is satisfied, but obtaining this was never my primary goal. At the time, my only goal was to survive and to be an asset to FACT. Oftentimes, I took more classes than were required, simply because they were that effective for me. In fact, these courses were so effective, that I chose to repeat a few of them as the needs of FACT evolved. With my mind being so focused on my goals for FACT, I was pleasantly surprised yesterday when Lisa Peterson presented me with my framed Certification of Non-Profit Management. She even added a little “Pomp and Circumstance”- nice touch.
I will continue to take classes at the Academy, despite having earned my certificate. In fact, I am registered for two more classes this semester. I urge my staff (yes, I have two staff now!) and board members to attend as well. I encourage anyone who is interested or involved in the non-profit world to at least check out the amazing array of courses offered; there truly is something for everyone. Regardless of your organization’s size or budget, national organizations and grass roots start-ups will benefit immeasurably. You will feel empowered to go out and do the important work of helping others.
Driving home from class today, I was reflecting on FACT’s growth, my own professional growth, and how the academy is directly responsible for so much of both. I want to thank all of my supportive classmates over the years, and especially Lisa Peterson and Mark Block from TCC, their predecessors Lillian Bailey and Vicki Parker, and the generous forward thinking folks at Hampton Roads Community Foundation (HRCF)-including Deborah DiCroce, Sally Hartman, Debbi Steiger, and Kay Stine. They lift us up so we can lift others.
To find out more about the HRCF, please visit: http://www.hamptonroadscf.org/