“If you had told me about this three years ago, I would never have believed it.”
That’s a phrase that springs to my mind this week, as I mark my third anniversary as executive director of the Eden Prairie Community Foundation.
So, what have I learned in that time? A lot, especially when you consider that I had no nonprofit management experience when I was hired in October 2013 by the Foundation’s board of directors.
Pivoting to nonprofit work after having spent 36 years in community journalism was perhaps the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The learning curve was so steep and hazardous that at times I felt I was walking blindfolded, in slippers, on the Zion National Park trail to Angel’s Landing – a narrow, uneven, and at times slippery rock trail that offers spectacular views of Zion Canyon but has also sent at least five people spiraling to their deaths.
Sleepless nights? I’ve had a few.
But it’s been a rewarding experience, not without its revelations. Here are three:
Eden Prairie folks are extremely generous. The time, talent, and “treasure” that residents and businesses share with others via local nonprofits isn’t just impressive, it’s flat-out astounding. People who volunteer on boards and committees … people who help fill critical needs with their financial support … people who are working hard to solve Eden Prairie’s biggest problems – I witness this daily. Lucky me.
Local nonprofit leaders give their all. “Long hours on low pay” or “Do more with less” may as well be inserted in every job description for local nonprofit staffers, from executive directors on down, because the work is insane. That’s not a complaint, but a fact of life.
Eden Prairie’s no utopia. This is a great city in which to live and work – witness the Money magazine plaudits – but Eden Prairie is not immune to tragedy, poverty, and other issues faced elsewhere. Usually they’re just more hidden here. There’s no shortage of local needs, but you can be assured that community leaders are tackling them.
So, a big thank-you to all the people who opened my eyes and taught me lessons over the past three years. I appreciate it. I’ll try to live up to your trust and good will. Above all, I’m still learning.