Nonprofit Newcomers

Local philanthropies welcome fresh faces

In the nonprofit world you’ve got your movers and your shakers. The movers are those who have been working in the field for decades. They’ve got the institutional knowledge and the longtime connections to get things done, and quickly.

The shakers, on the other hand, are the new kids on the block. Coming either from private industry or another part of the country, their fresh ideas shake up the scene. Adding a few shakers is like taking our already flush deck and reshuffling it with just a few more aces added in.

And then you have that very lucky instance when a mover transitions into a new role and suddenly becomes a shaker. Armed with institutional knowledge and years of experience, and free to fly in a brand new position, these leaders often usher in a great new era for local nonprofit agencies.

This year in Naples, we’ve got some fresh-faced shakers and some longtime movers in new positions. Here are some of the key players to watch this year — whether they’re entering the scene for the first time or entering into a new role.

Kim Minarich

Executive Director, Naples Equestrian Challenge

You came out of retirement for this job, is that correct?

That’s right. I spent more than 30 years in public relations; I even had my own firm. But, I started working for the Naples Equestrian Challenge in December of 2011 as the barn manager. It was supposed to be my retirement job. In May, when the board let the existing executive director go and asked me if I’d step in, I said I would but that I didn’t want the job. I told them they should keep their search going. A few months later I realized that it had been a great decision and I loved the job. I told them I wanted it if they’d have me.

What originally attracted you to the group?

A very good friend of mine asked me to be on the board a few years ago, and I’d been on other boards, like for the YMCA and the David Lawrence Center. But I have horses, so I really joined for the love of horses.

Did you have any prior experience working with special needs populations?

No, but working for the Naples Equestrian Challenge has really given me tremendous respect and love for these kids — and I should say adults too, there are adults in our programs — and their families. Their commitment and love is really amazing.

What are some of the things you hope to accomplish in this position?

We applied and received a Collier Development Block Grant, which allowed us to purchase an adjacent lot, expanding our campus to seven acres. We’ll be announcing a new capital campaign to build a small barn with a research room and a round riding arena on that land. I also want to make sure we’re leveraging what this great herd of therapy horses can really do. From equine-facilitated learning to equine-facilitated psychotherapy to Operation Strides, which is therapeutic horsemanship for veterans, I want to make sure we’re maximizing our resources.

Robyn Quataert

Program Specialist, United Way of Collier County

This is your first job out of college; Did you specifically want to get into nonprofit work?

Actually, it’s funny, no. I majored in communications and I always saw myself going into the corporate world, I never saw myself going into nonprofits. But I like that this job lets me help the community while using my PR and communication skills. And there are a lot of opportunities to learn new things; in a nonprofit you have to be able to work on a lot of things, so I’m getting a chance to do more than I might do at a corporate office.

Did you have any prior experience volunteering with United Way?

I did, actually. I did some volunteering in college and growing up I did a lot of volunteering through my church. There were a few years where I was home-schooled and I did a lot of volunteer work during those years as well. So, I’ve always really liked helping people.

You were specifically brought on to help with the launch of the 211 helpline, what challenges have there been with that?

Raising awareness for the program and getting our call volume up, that’s been a challenge; but also getting the program to run as efficiently as possible. We work with 31 different partner agencies, so making sure everything runs smoothly is really important. I don’t mind the challenges though; I was hired to be an innovator.

Deborah Johnson

Program Director, The Women’s Fund of Southwest Florida

The Women's Fund of Southwest Florida is a new organization, isn't it?

That’s right. It was actually chartered in 2011, but I’m the first paid, full-time employee. Brenda Tate, who is our founder and president and is really the driving force behind the group, is an uncompensated president. I started in January of 2014.

What's the goal behind this new group?

We took a look around the community and realized that there wasn’t really an organization that was specifically targeting issues relevant to women and girls in the community. Groups that exist in other parts of the country, like Women Moving Millions, aren’t active here. We want to empower women and girls and we want to engage the community with issues that are important to women and girls.

What are some of the first projects you want to tackle?

First, we’re trying to build a $5 million endowment by 2020, which will sustain the organization for years to come. But one of the other areas we’re really focused on is human trafficking. Before we launched the organization we wanted to figure out how our efforts could best help the community, and we wanted our efforts to be data-driven. We worked with the Research Institute at FGCU to figure out what the needs of the community were. We noticed that there’s a real lack of data on human trafficking. Empirically, we know that Florida is the third highest state for human trafficking, but we have very little data locally on what’s happening. We’re hoping to launch a resource center in partnership with FGCU that can help with data collection, networking and training to help combat trafficking. We’re also hoping to launch a microloan program as well as a financial literacy program.

Why did you want to be a part of the Women's Fund of Southwest Florida?

I’m a single mom with a 17-and-a-half-year-old daughter, so women’s issues are important to me. And supporting women in our community is important to me. I really hope that this position will allow me to model the type of citizen I’d like any women in the community to be and I’d like my daughter to see that. I hope that I can demonstrate the importance of treating all people kindly and demonstrate that we can be nice, kind people and still move things forward in a community.

Brandon Dowdy

Vice President of Development, The Guadalupe Center of Immokalee

People may recognize your name from being the CEO of the Naples YMCA; What made you consider the job at The Guadalupe Center?

I’ve been in nonprofit management for over 20 years and the mission of the organization your with is so important to the work you do. The Guadalupe Center just has such a compelling mission — to break the cycle of poverty though education. I saw this job as an opportunity to get involved with that very important mission.

What are you most proud of accomplishing in your first year with The Guadalupe Center?

We just had our signature event for the year and we had record attendance. We had 430 guests and we grossed $700,000 in revenue, so it was a real success.

What are some of your goals for this position?

We want to begin to implement a community-driven development strategy that gets more people in the community exposed to the Guadalupe Center, our mission and our vision. We also want to expand our grants into the national market. Our hope is always to be able to get more funding so that we can serve more folks, but we also want to bring some of our programming that’s replicable to other places in the country.

What's the biggest challenge you are facing?

Honestly, the biggest challenge is getting everything done that we want to get done. With so many great programs we’re always trying to streamline our resources and make sure we’re not duplicating services. We try to be the best stewards of funds that we can be.

Carol Shaw

Executive Director, Opera Naples

You're not new to the nonprofit scene, right?

That’s right. I was with the David Lawrence Center for 11 years and then Youth Haven. But this is such a departure from those two organizations. This is the arts, it’s upbeat and positive; it’s really fun. But it’s also been really humbling because it’s been a huge learning curve for me.

This has been a tough year for opera companies across the country. How are things at Opera Naples?

Finance is always a challenge and producing operas is expensive. But we’re really lucky; there are so many wonderful people that are so philanthropic in this community. The people here really support the arts, and that’s allowed us to continue to grow. However, my goal is to continue to diversify our revenue sources, so we’re getting support beyond just philanthropic individuals.

What are you most excited for this season?

Two things. I can’t reveal our full season but we’re doing “I Pagliacci” in a tent at Tiburon with Circus Sarasota performing during the opera, and I think that’s going to be really neat. It’s part of our gala event, so the gala is on the 19th and then the opera is on the 21st and 22nd.The other thing I’m really excited about is our new building. It’s on Linwood Street in the Davis Triangle/East Naples area, and we’re in the process of renovating it. When it’s done, we’ll have rehearsal space that we can even use for small performances, new office space and a space to store our 3,500 costumes.

Does it surprise you that Naples is able to sustain its own opera company?

Not at all. The people that come here are so sophisticated. They’re from New York or Chicago of Philadelphia and they’re used to having opera available to them. They expect it and they want it. A few years ago we were doing our productions in high school gyms and they accommodated us. That was fine to begin with but now we’ve grown up from that and we want to keep growing up and producing better and better productions.

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