I have been fortunate in my career to have worked in a variety or organizations with a lot of opportunities. Life changes led to most of my career movements. Marriage, graduate school, motherhood, moving... these events all led to job changes that brought new opportunities and experiences. So did an unethical organization, career advancement, and a nonprofit horror story. Just like any good mentor, I share my stories and lessons so you can learn from me and save yourself some heartbreak.
I will jump in and spare some details to say that two great jobs early in my career led to two of my founder stories. My first two positions out of college both positioned me to gain significant experience in the field of teen pregnancy and teen pregnancy prevention. After my daughter was born, I was hired to be the founding director for a teen pregnancy prevention organization just eight years after starting my career. This came right after getting my Master's of Social Work degree with an emphasis in Nonprofit planning and management. My coursework was very helpful in getting me started in nonprofit management. This was a great start getting me initiated into the world of nonprofit start-ups.
After a few years, we moved back to our hometown and I decided to replicate the program in a manner of speaking. Unfortunately I was the wrong person at the wrong time to bring that program to the small community where I had never felt comfortable as a teenager growing up. Starting this program represents my most profound failure and lesson in the importance of doing a true assessment of our strengths, weaknesses, and deal breakers. After receiving a couple of grants and doing some small fundraisers, I could not ask anyone outside the board for funds. I quickly found a job in the nearby metro area and the organization closed.
I was quickly hired in an organization that had just received their 501c3 and was just building their organizational foundation. my previous experience came in handy and I kept the organization from receiving several citations and fines. On two occasions I brought up regulations to follow that the director argued against, saying that their accountant or treasurer said was not necessary. But those professionals did not live and breathe nonprofit management. Nonprofit management has different rules. After these close calls, they learned to listen about questions of nonprofit compliance.
I found myself "on call" as the resident "start-up volunteer." I answered questions on and off, but helped a local founder start a charity in my hometown by helping create the program, mission, and organizational structure. Together with the founder, we developed and trained the board and I served as an advisor for about the first six months. I was official bitten by the start-up bug.
I worked in larger organizations for about a decade and picked up some amazing skills in project management, federal grants, and management of larger organizations and teams. I matured in several ways, some of which I will detail in other areas. And two years ago I began consulting, determined to help new founders increase their ability to make a difference.
My first client was a year-long engagement that began with start-up coordination. A charity had been serving as the fiscal agent for a program that was ready to spin off and become independent. The ED of the new spin-off would continue providing programs but also needed management training and support. Working with this amazing organization (and revisiting my interest in teen pregnancy prevention) kicked off my full-time career in nonprofit consulting and gave me new insight into even more aspects of a business start-up.
So, that's how I came to be a part of five start-up organizations- and I will go into detail of my successes and failures at a later time. In a nutshell, one crashed and burned. One enjoyed a decade of success and then was absorbed into a sister program. One tripled in size in the three years I was there, and has tripled again since I left. I lost track of the one I volunteered with, and my first consulting client is doing amazing and going strong, despite COVID and a wild 2nd year in 2020.
I have several new start-up clients as I look at the last quarter of 2020, and I am looking for a few more. Next time, I'll tell you what we ACCOMPLISHED at some of these organizations. I am proud of where I have been, but I am even more excited about where I am headed and the impact that you are headed toward.