Written by Jena Mrochek
“Your head plus your heart equals your hustle.” This quote from Lexi Heller, a representative of Teach For America, is emblematic of the passion of those who work in the nonprofit sector. Ms. Heller was one of the seven nonprofits professionals who served on the panel for HBA’s Nonprofit Speed Dating event on March 2. At this event, about 15 BHP students were able to meet and talk with a panel of seven nonprofit professionals from the Austin Area. These professionals included:
- Amber Fogarty – Director of Learning and Leadership at Mission Capital
- Lila Igram – founder of Connectorg
- Lexi Heller – representative of Teach for America
- Karen Landolt – Professor of Business Law, Behavioral Ethics, and Entrepreneurship at the McCombs School of Business
- Ashley Haustein (Plan II/Econ ’11) – Developing and Marketing manager at the Miracle Foundation
- Isha Paul (BHP ’12)- Strategic Planning Manager at KIPP Austin Public Schools and Austin Chapter President of Pratham
- Aaron Yeats (BHP ’01) – member of the Board of Directors of the Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival
Three groups of 2 or 3 panelists rotated among groups of students so that each student was able to hear from each panelist. The discussion flowed freely throughout each rotation as the panelists shared their insightful experiences. For those of you who were not able to attend the event, here are some of the valuable takeaways from the discussions:
- Don’t be afraid to question how things how are run. Teach for America representative Lexi Heller emphasized that a large part of her success as a teacher operating in a low-income school is that she does not follow the traditional teaching strategy at her school. Rather, she uses her creativity to develop daring projects that both challenge her students and show them the relevancy of what they are learning. Isha Paul agreed with this, noting that her organization is considering changing the name of her position from “Strategic” planning manager to “Disruption” manager precisely because her task is to question why things are being done the way they are and to strive to change them for the better.
- Prepare to wear many hats. Although Ashley Haustein’s title at the Miracle Foundation is “Developing and Marketing Manager,” she explained that she actually plays many different roles within the organization, and that these roles change every day. Although she admitted that sometimes she wishes her job were more structured, she also appreciates that she is able to do so much for her organization and for her cause.
- Realize the importance of building relationships. Lila Igram of Connecther and Aaron Yeats of the Austin Gay & Lesbian Film Festival noted that in order to build and sustain a strong nonprofit organization, it is essential to nurture relationships with donors. At the same time, however, both emphasized the importance or realizing that some donors may drop out for financial reasons or, as Mr. Yeats noted, may no longer support the organization because of its ideological changes over the years.
- Reconsider the idea of “work-life balance.” Karen Landolt, who worked in law for six years before realizing that she needed a change and becoming involved in nonprofits and academics, noted the importance of being passionate about what you do. She explained that while she was working in law, she was continually thinking about how much she was working. Now, although she works a comparable number of hours, she does not even think about it as much because she enjoys her work. This implies a good work-life balance lies not in a forty hour work week, but rather a week spent on work that one loves.
- Know that meaningful work is not limited to the nonprofit sector. Amber Fogarty of Mission Capital agreed with Dr. Landolt, noting her shift from the corporate marketing world to the nonprofit sector and the difference it made in her career. However, Ms. Fogarty also noted that many people believe that they can only find truly meaningful work in the nonprofit sector. She emphasized that this is not true; passion and meaningful work can be found in both the nonprofit and the for-profit sectors. What’s really important, she said, is that you find what you personally are good at and what you feel strongly about. That could be in either the for-profit or the nonprofit sector.
If you would like to learn more about any of the nonprofit organizations that the panelists were involved in, please click on one of their links below.
Mission Capital: https://missioncapital.org/
Teach For America: https://www.teachforamerica.org/
Miracle Foundation: http://www.miraclefoundation.org/
Kipp Austin Public Schools: http://www.kippaustin.org/
Austin Gay and Lesbian Film Festival: http://agliff.org/