Sherri Gideon is the Executive Director of CASA here in Denton. She graduated from TWU with a double major in Accounting and Management. Her start in the nonprofit sector wasn’t intentional, but started after she had worked for TWU and spent 2-3 years coordinating their United Way campaign. She wanted to do something different, and enjoyed that so much that she went to work for United Way for about a year. After some time at Friends of the Family, she was hired on as Executive Director at CASA about 15 years ago. Read on to find out what a typical day looks like for her, what she thinks is the most important trend in the nonprofit sector today, and so much more.
I didn’t choose nonprofit because of nonprofit. I chose it because of the mission and the work. I started in fundraising, but was interested in more than that, such as people management.
What does a typical day look like for you?
There is no typical day. The majority of my days are spent meeting with people and then trying to find a day or a half day to come into the office and wrap all of that up. It’s organizing people and convening people, whether it’s volunteers, board members, donors, etc.
As you’ve gone through your career, what particular skills have transcended through every position and every organization?
People skills. There are lots of different types of people. So not just people skills, but respect for differences. I have found that a lot of what I learned through the business department- the marketing, how to sell – is what we do all the time. Whether it’s selling the need for volunteers, the need for money, or selling our services. Those marketing and public relations skill has been invaluable.
What do you think is the most important trend happening in the nonprofit sector today?
The proliferation of nonprofits and the trend that we’re seeing of young people wanting to go into nonprofit work. I think that’s huge. I think a lot of people fell into it before either by accident, or they were social workers or people who worked in the service side and moved to the management side. It’s a great trend to see people who are interested in the management side from the get go.
What would an entry level position look like at organization such as this?
On the administrative side, we’re so small that we don’t really have entry level positions. We have 13 staff and only 3 of them administrative. We put as much into direct service as we can. However, if your goal is to be ED, then fundraising is a good place to start, or program director. Which isn’t really entry level.
I get that a lot. Where there aren’t a lot of entry level administrative positions, especially at smaller organizations. So then, how do people get into then?
Volunteer is one way. Or you get in on the program side and then move over later.
What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first started your career?
I wish I had known a little more about how to balance the time for all the demands for people who work at a small organization. Not that it isn’t difficult for people at a large organization, but at a smaller one, one person may do what 5 people at a larger organization do. In any one day I might be dealing with personnel issues, I might be doing fundraising, I might be worrying about hiring/firing a volunteer, I might be worried about direct service, or I might be covering for someone in court. It’s not that I don’t do a good job at that, but teaching everyone else how to so that we’re all doing a good job and that all the balls we’re juggling in the air don’t fall.
Do you have any additional words of wisdom, advice, or warning based on your experience?
Work for an organization that you are passionate about. Whether it’s nonprofit or corporate or volunteer, make sure it’s something you are passionate about. Otherwise it’s just work. If it’s something you’re passionate about, then it is part of your life.