By: Maria Clark
The question raced through my mind on loop when I learned my position had been eliminated in January 2021, ending 33 years of leadership at a major nonprofit organization.
At the time, I had no idea it was the best thing to ever happen to me.
After three decades at the American Cancer Society, I became a Covid statistic. My identity had been wrapped up in an organization that was important to me and had afforded me a path into the upper echelons of nonprofit leadership. I was where I wanted to be — until I wasn’t.
When the news came, I felt deep loss for the friendships, the status, the recognition, and the cause. The ACS had provided years of comfort, security, and accomplishment, and I was highly skeptical that any path would provide the same level of challenge and self-fulfillment.
Then I became the Executive Vice President of Partnerships and Chief Evangelist for GoodUnited.
My head was pushing me to pursue a traditional path to a similar job with a different cause. But my heart was not aligned, and I wasn’t sure I could find meaning in just repeating past roles. There had to be something different.
So, I leaned on my relationships and reached out far and wide to share the news, seek advice, and take counsel from peers and friends. In the course of that journey, I spoke with Nick Black, Founder of GoodUnited and a partner with the ACS, with whom I’d spent an hour every Wednesday for the past five months. He invited me to join the team.
My first day at GoodUnited was February 23, 2021!
“Who knew?” became my next internal mantra. Who knew I had a place in the for-profit world, at a tech start-up no less, where my skill set was a perfect match for the company’s growth and I had value and potential that lay dormant in my previous role?
After years of security and confidence in my place, change was daunting and uncomfortable. Going from a nationwide nonprofit to a small but growing for-profit tech company was exciting but disquieting. I had to quickly adapt to a new culture, learn contemporary systems, assimilate into a much younger workforce, and adopt a complete shift in philosophy to business development.
It revealed the complacency that had set in the past 12 months that was now unacceptable, with a constant stream of learning opportunities and reminders of what I don’t know. But now I spend my days empowering nonprofits to plan for the next waves of giving and unlock the power of their causes to engage new supporters. We are changing the world!
Just six months ago my life was in upheaval and the future was questionable. But now, “What’s next?” runs through my mind daily as I discover new talents, work through unique challenges, and embrace opportunities that keep me exhilarated and joyful in my Second Act.