*Blog written by Pat Wachtel
As I complete my time as CEO of Girls Inc. Of Greater Indianapolis, I leave you with my top 10 lessons learned from the past 11 years:
- In the non-profit world, there is no substitute for loving the mission!
- Never underestimate the power of girls. Ten-year-old campers Courtney and Jordan attended numerous friend-raiser events during our 2007 summer camp. The things they said to our guests were incredibly profound and I was every bit as impressed as our guests. We could never have written a script that would be better than their candid thoughts. These young women are now in their twenties and preparing to graduate from college. They represent all the girls we serve in that I am always impressed with how strong, smart, and bold they truly are.
- Board leadership is the backbone of every non-profit. I have been fortunate to work with Marnie Maxwell, Jill Hagan, Peter Lacy, Jenny Banner, and Linda Hicks as Board Chairs during my tenure. They have all challenged and inspired me to think bigger and work harder. Ellen Humphrey is now stepping into that role, and I am sure she will also excel. I am grateful to our Board for the privilege of leading this great organization.
- Two heads are better than one. I have had the privilege of working with two Chief Operating Officers at Girls Inc.: Bevin Prater and Joi Smith. These exceptional women are cherished colleagues and thought partners who each played pivotal roles in the operational transformation at Girls Inc. Joi and I have worked side-by-side for more than eight years, and her work in creating replicable processes took a good strategic plan and turned it into a highly organized operation that serves more than 4,000 girls every year.
- Teams are a powerful force. At Girls Inc., we have operated as a team of managers who each lead departmental teams to keep the organization on track and moving forward. Over the years, this organization has been blessed by the efforts of truly gifted managers and staff who have functioned as a very cohesive team for the benefit of our girls.
- Vision beats strategy, and culture beats everything. An organization that has a strong, shared culture is one that is more likely to function at a high level in both good times and bad because the shared commitment to the mission pulls people together in moving forward. I am quite proud of the strong sense of loyalty and collaboration among our staff.
- Everyone has a gift to give. Girls Inc. cannot survive and thrive without the amazing gifts of talent and time that the volunteers bring to the girls. In the past 11 years, thousands of women and men have volunteered to help us in countless ways like facilitating programs, assembling toolkits, advising on technology and marketing, and assisting our girls in various ways. This generosity of spirit has made a real difference in the lives of thousands of girls. There is no word powerful enough to express the gratitude I feel.
- The generous spirit of Indianapolis is a unique and precious asset for this community. My former corporate travels took me all over the country in support of community development activities. There is no city that compares with Indy in the ability of our leadership to join hands across all kinds of different lines to ensure that this is a great place to live. I am thrilled that our girls have the benefit of a childhood in a city that cares so much for its children.
- There are angels among us. Many people have helped us in this journey to re-invent Girls Inc., but a few truly went above and beyond. Though she lives in Europe, Kate Jarvey has visited us three times and has supported this organization as a rare angel donor. Kate’s heart for global girl empowerment is an inspiration to all of us, and I will never forget her kindness. Barb Fleming, a.k.a. Wonder Woman, is a former Board Chair and the woman we turn to for guidance about our building and lots of other things. Barb performed the miracle of getting our two-ton Peace Wall moved twice so that we retain a key piece of our club history. Not many people can perform multiple miracles like Barb! Bev Middaugh, a.k.a. Fairy Godmother, became a Girls Inc. family member when she wanted to start an organization to help girls…and was relieved to learn that we already exist. Bev, like Barb, has been there as a friend and advisor to help us reach our goals. There are many more angels like these. I am truly grateful to them all!
- The benefits of our work are seen long after childhood. While some element of poverty may always exist in our community, our programs are a powerful way to lift up girls of all backgrounds and to show them that making healthy decisions and exploring their talents will help them reach their goals.
It has been a privilege, along with our staff and volunteers, to accompany so many girls on their journey these past eleven years. I leave with feelings of gratitude and joy…and hope for the future of girls!