Forbes Nonprofit Council members come from a wide range of backgrounds. And with their wide range of experiences, they have a lot to share with fellow members of the community. To help them share with an even greater audience, we’re profiling Forbes Nonprofit Council members here on the blog. This week: Pamela Hawley.
Pamela Hawley is the Founder and CEO of UniversalGiving, an award-winning nonprofit that connects volunteers and donors with quality service opportunities. She is a winner of the Jefferson Award (the Nobel Prize in Community Service) and has been invited to three Social Innovation events at the White House. She also writes Living and Giving, a blog with the mission of “Inspiring Leaders to Live with Excellence and Love.”®
How did your career as a nonprofit executive take off, and what do you attribute your success to most?
My motivation for changing the world began on a childhood trip to Central America at the age of 12. My father and I were in a marketplace and looked down a side cul-de-sac to see a whole line of half-clothed, begging, unwashed and starving children. I was beyond shocked. I just remember looking at my dad in absolute awe. And the word “UNACCEPTABLE” became imprinted across my mind. This image stuck with me into adulthood and, with it, the inspiration to become a force for good. It led me to volunteer all over the world. Some of my volunteer experiences include working in microfinance in rural India, sustainable farming in Guatemala, earthquake relief work in El Salvador, and computer training in Cambodia. I wanted to make these opportunities for international engagement in lesser known parts of the world accessible to everyone, fueling my passion to start UniversalGiving. I attribute UniversalGiving’s success to perseverance in challenging times, my dedicated team, and the support of my family.
How do you keep yourself passionate and driven regardless of how busy you are day to day?
Combating fraud and creating trust in international giving became a mission with huge challenges. However, regardless of how busy I am day to day, I always find a way to step back and remember why I’m doing what I’m doing. I enjoy spreading the word about the significance and joy of philanthropy, as well as sharing what it means to be a social entrepreneur — being passionate about a worthy cause and about leading a business. I am guided by love and principle with everyone I meet. In all that I do, I am guided by excellence. I love working on strategy and helping young people develop in their professional life. The challenges of running my own business keep me on my toes and keeps me excited about the work that I do every day.
What do you see as the future of nonprofits?
As a social entrepreneur, I believe in a nonprofit model that is primarily mission-focused but also financially sustainable. You can’t get that when you rely solely on fundraising to meet financial goals. With UniversalGiving, I persevered with the model I knew would succeed financially and further UniversalGiving’s mission. Persevering through internal challenges and the difficulties associated with designing a model where giving can generate revenue, I developed a fresh perspective that has allowed UniversalGiving to innovate and sustain. We supplement our revenue through partnerships with Fortune 500 companies, helping them grow and scale their corporate philanthropy programs worldwide.
In this way, we came up with a way to instill trust so people could give and make an impact, even if they were unable to have my same opportunities to be on the ground with international projects as I had. UniversalGiving has a rich vision for the future of philanthropy and, through this, we mobilize people to give their time and money. We turn donors into volunteers and vice versa, and work to “Create a World Where Giving and Volunteering Are a Natural Part of Everyday Life.”®
What is your best nonprofit leadership or strategy tip for businesses?
Being a nonprofit leader (and for me, a social entrepreneur) is not a position — it’s a life calling. It’s not a job requirement; it’s in your heart. You have something burn inside until it becomes a reality, and you have the drive to make the world better faster. You have to want to build upon your passion, and I’d advise any leader to build your advisor teams immediately. Allow your passion to shine through the criticisms that you will inevitably face. Above all, do what makes you happy. It will motivate you through the hard times ultimately allow you to achieve your business goals.