Friends in Deed, one of Pasadena’s truly historic nonprofits, began back in 1894. Their goal is to help alleviate the effects of poverty in the Pasadena community by providing clients with food, shelter in inclement weather, and a safe place for women.
In 2014, Rev. Dr. Donna Byrns, a minister at one of the churches that helped support Friends in Deed, was planning to retire soon. The other ministers asked Donna if she could step in and manage the nonprofit for a few months, until they could find a full-time Executive Director. While Donna had never been involved in managing an organization, particularly one in transition, she agreed to take it on. Suddenly, she was responsible for writing grants, managing the finances, and overseeing the staff at Friends in Deed.
Donna quickly realized that her experience as a minister did not prepare her to run a nonprofit. Donna reached out to Melanie Goodyear, the Director of Jericho Road Pasadena, for help. Melanie knew that Donna needed an experienced mentor, someone she could talk to about overall priorities and how to manage an organization like Friends in Deed. Melanie had just the right person in mind to help.
Jim Hilvert, a pro bono consultant at JRP, had worked in a senior HR role at a management consultant firm, and later, as an Executive Director at a nonprofit. Melanie arranged a meeting between the two and Jim and Donna immediately hit it off. They decided to meet every other week for the next 6 months.
Jim created what he called a ‘thought partnership’ with Donna to help make her role more manageable. They would have long talks about the challenges she was facing and Jim would help steer Donna in the right direction. For example, they created a ‘To Don’t List’, which is just as important as a To Do list. This helped Donna decide what can realistically happen given the available resources, and what needed to be moved back or taken off the list. Jim also provided the guidance and strength Donna needed to make a few staffing changes at the organization.
“I would have lost my mind if it hadn’t been for Jim and all his wonderful guidance and coaching,” said Donna. She soon had the confidence to embrace her role and is now the full-time Executive Director at Friends in Deed. Jim Hilvert is now working on a second Jericho Road project with Friends in Deed, this time providing guidance in Board Development. The entire team at Friends in Deed is incredibly grateful to Jim and to JRP for all their assistance.
Many thanks to volunteer Mark Rice for writing this article! Mark is a nonprofit marketing consultant, grant writer and website content manager.