Being an effective executive director of a nonprofit is a challenging enterprise, requiring the ability to raise money, manage staff and boards, guide an organization to meet its mission and be the face of the organization to the community. (And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.)
So, in the course of my almost 15 years of writing Neighbors (I know, crazy isn’t it?), I have seen many executive directors of our 300-plus nonprofits come and go, sometimes quickly, when a job was too much, others after a few years and sometimes after a long career.
But they all have one thing in common: They came in to give their best to a cause that matters to them.
That was certainly the case for Tracy Cornutt, the executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Colorado. She will be stepping down at the end of February but will continue with the organization part time to help with the transition until the end of April.
It’s a big change and a new chapter in her life. After beginning her career in international business, she shifted over to the nonprofit world when she realized she wanted to make a difference. And now after a long career in the nonprofit world, she’s headed back into business, this time as an entrepreneur with her husband, Don.
They purchased Mountain Mechanical Auto Care and Car Wash last summer. Cornutt has tried to balance both, handling the bookkeeping, marketing and so on for their business in her off hours while still running BBBS. As anyone who’s ever owned their own business knows, it needs all your care and attention, certainly in the early days.
I first interviewed her when she entered the Durango nonprofit scene in 2009, when she took over as executive director of Habitat for Humanity of La Plata County after having been head of a regional office for Special Olympics in central California and Partners Mentoring Youth, an organization similar to Big Brothers Big Sisters, in Fort Collins.
Under her tenure with Big Brothers Big Sisters, the organization celebrated its 30th anniversary and, more importantly, added a whole new program where high school students mentor elementary school students.
The program was created with significant support from El Pomar Foundation in Colorado Springs. Strengthening the relationship with El Pomar will have long-term benefits for Big Brothers, Big Sisters, because one of the foundation’s thrusts is to improve opportunities for children at-risk.
And speaking of kids at-risk, it’s gear up time for one of Big Brothers Big Sisters’ largest fundraisers of the year, Bowl For Kids Sake, which will be held March 14 at Rolling Thunder Lanes in Ignacio. Last year, the event brought in $58,000, and, of course, the goal is always to raise more.
It’s a fun day, with folks dressing in costumes – I heard something about grass skirts and leis this year – and having side bets and challenges to raise more (bank vs. bank or Realtor vs. Realtor, for example). But the work begins now to gather pledges.
To learn more, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 247-3720.
At the first fundraiser I attended for BBBS under Cornutt’s leadership, there were packets of M&Ms on every table. It was a reminder, she said, that the organization needs two things to thrive: mentors and money.
The mentor part is obvious, of course, but the money is equally critical. It costs about $1,200 per year per match for background checks, ongoing match monitoring and special outings for Bigs and Littles.
Best wishes to Cornutt on her new venture.
As for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Colorado, there’s only one guarantee about the next executive director – it will be someone who is passionate about helping young people.
Used to celebrating their birthdays in a winter wonderland, these birthday celebrants don’t know what to do with balmy days – Loretta Helms, Lon Erwin, Ricci Dawson, Marilyn Farley, Karen Keller, Claudia Dea, Harald Jordan, Bailey Carlson, Jane Carman, Dave Schank, Dianne Milner, Peggy Hoffman, Maggie Gardner, Kelly Winter, Billye Dunkerly and Joseph Grinnan.
Belated greetings go to Randy Puskas, Karen Overington, Iris Chambers, Seren Krischke and Maggie Pomeroy.
Normally I would be writing about how I know it’s winter, but summer isn’t all that far away. But with this weather, it feels like summer is but a blink away.
And the highlight of the summer for me is Music in the Mountains, three weeks of splendid music taking place all over town and at Durango Mountain Resort. This will be the 29th year for the event, which starts July 12.
The festival staff works all year long preparing for the main event, and right now, the focus is on arranging housing for the more than 75 musicians who come from across the country and more than a few other countries as well.
The festival also runs on a shoestring budget, so donated housing is a key component for keeping it sustainable. Megan Ferenz, the administrative assistant, is looking for condos, hotels and guest houses in the area.
Remember those American Express ads where the spokesman would intone “Membership has its privileges”? Well, hosting has its privileges, too.
Donors receive a custom benefit package that includes complimentary tickets, invitations to donor-only events and acknowledgement in the program.
This is not an onerous donation. I know many people who have hosted the same musicians for many years. Not only have they become great friends, they get the bonus of mini-live concerts when their guests are practicing.
Call Ferenz at 385-6820 or email her at email@example.com to learn more.
Here’s how to reach me: firstname.lastname@example.org; phone 375-4584; mail items to the Herald; or drop them off at the front desk. Please include contact names and phone numbers for all items. Follow me on Twitter @Ann_Neighbors.
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