Below is the transcript of our podcast, "Sector Switcher: Krista Kelley, a Leader in Nonprofit Development." Huge thanks to new media intern Sarah Royal for work in creating the transcript. Listen to the show here.
Welcome to the Idealist podcast. I'm Amy Potthast and this is the Nonprofit Career Month podcast. October is Nonprofit Career Month, a month of activities to promote the diversity of career opportunities in our nation's nonprofit sector. Learn more at nonprofitcareermonth.org.
Today's guest is Krista Kelley, Vice President of Development at Adelante Development Center in Albuquerque, one of the largest nonprofits in New Mexico. Adelante offers community-based services for people who are physically or mentally disabled, who have chronic neuromuscular diseases, and who are disabled simply due to the aging process. Krista has designed and led Adelante's development department. Prior to working for Adelante, Krista worked in both domestic and international business development and marketing, and in business operations analysis.
Amy: Krista, welcome to the show.
Krista: Thank you! Glad to be here.
Amy: Thank you so much for allowing us to interview you. So I first thought you could introduce yourself and your role, and also your organization Adelante.
Krista: Sure! I'm Krista Kelley, and I'm the Vice President of Development for Adelante Development Center. Adelante is a nonprofit located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It's considered one of the largest human services nonprofits within New Mexico. We serve over 800 individuals with disabilities, including providing vocational support, placement and jobs for people with disabilities, and those are the primary things that we do.
We do that through businesses that we own and operate, and some of those are document shredding, document imaging, a couple of thrift stores, assembly services and packaging, a bulk mailing business, and a number of different contracts that we provide services for throughout central New Mexico – and then some of the other things that we do is independent living, residential living, and then day programs that support a number of individuals within a supportive environment during the day.
Those are really launching points for people with disabilities to get into the community and to be able to achieve the goals that they wish to achieve on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.
Amy: That's great. I love that model – when nonprofits are running businesses and the profits are going back into the nonprofit.
Krista: It's wonderful. We consider ourselves lucky right now because there are so many organizations who struggle on a daily basis without being diversified in their sources of funding, and you know, we work hard on a daily basis to ensure that we are trying to support the stability of the organization through diversification of our revenue stream. That's one of the ways in which we do that, so we're not solely dependent on Medicaid waver funding.
Amy: I talked to one or two other development people, and they were pretty unified in deciding that the skill sets that they call on mostly would include communication, organization, and building relationships – you know, knowing how to network and how to build strong relationships based on trust and that kind of thing. Would you agree with that, and also would you add anything?
Krista: I would definitely agree with that. I think the most important aspect of my job is the relationship-building, and then I would also add to that – I have an analytical background. I use that every day to determine, "What's going to be the quickest way to get to the end result that we need?" and that's come in extremely handy. And then a background in finance, as well, because we're working with so many dollars coming in, and being able to understand how those dollars are going to make a difference to a program, to the agency as a whole, and to our future – that's huge.
Amy: Am I right, you got your analytical and financial backgrounds first through your undergraduate education, but also in your initial career you were in the business sector, right?
Krista: Correct. I worked for a for-profit to begin with and started out in the for-profit sector as a Business Operations and Financial Analyst. That's really where I got the structured experience within an organization to, you know, help me. It's one thing to get the education, it's another one to apply it within the business world, and I consider myself very lucky to have that broad of an experience to bring into development.
Amy: What is it that inspired you to transition to the nonprofit sector?
Krista: Oh goodness, it's a long story, but I was in a really bad accident about 10 years ago. I broke seven ribs, my hip and my shoulder. Around the same time my mom was diagnosed with cancer, and I was in a wheelchair for a couple months, and I was really – it really caused me to kind of think about what my goals were in life, about what was going to make me contribute to this beautiful world that we're living in today, and how I could do that best.
I think prior to that I was really focused on my career and being successful in my career and I always have been, but it wasn't directed at, "How am I going to contribute at the same time?" Around that same time I was reconsidering what my goals were in life, and I went to work for the for-profit sector and realized that it didn't make me feel good when I came home. It wasn't that I was working for a bad company or anything, it was just that I didn't get that feeling within my soul that gave me that comfort-level thing of doing something good when I came home.
And so I started looking for a job in the nonprofit sector and I've been there since. So it's been a wonderful experience, and I can't say enough about being able to work in the nonprofit sector after the for-profit sector. The rewards that you reap are so much larger.
Amy: So I have a couple questions about that. One is, I'm just curious to know what the adjustment was like, and also you have a family and you have a kid, and I'm just curious to know what it's been like working in a nonprofit setting as a family person, when you have family priorities outside of the workplace.
Krista: Sure. Well, the first nonprofit that I worked for, I didn't have a family yet, and I took some time off, actually – I quit working so that I could have my son, and shortly after that was recruited to work, well about two years after that was recruited to come and work for Adelante. And I was so lucky that they worked with me on my schedule – in fact, I started out working two days a week. I think that's one of the thing that's unique with nonprofits is the ability to work with your schedule. Not with every nonprofit, but with a lot of them. It's much more family-focused, much more of a team environment – at least in the ones that I've worked in, I can't say that for every nonprofit – but Adelante has been phenomenal.
So I started out working two days a week, then three days a week, then when my son started school I was able to go to full-time, and as a mom that just meant so much to me to be there during those years of development for him and then to have that balance. To be able to come to work and socialize and feel like I was accomplishing something in a work environment – it was a perfect balance for me. I know a lot of women who are out there and starting their careers, and you know, that's very important when you're also starting your family at the same time.
Amy: Yeah, I never would have realized it until I had my son that in this day and age there's still so much emotional conflict about what you're supposed to be as a career woman. There's pressure on both sides, to stay at home full-time and also to work full time.
Krista: I think that's tough. It's very tough, and it's a tough balance no matter what, even when your child starts school. It's very tough to balance the home and work life environment, and, you know, when you've got an organization that will work with you, that understands that family is first -- when you have a sick child and you've got an organization that says, "That's the most important thing, that you be there for your child," that is huge. A lot of nonprofits are very much like that – they're about supporting the family, they're about supporting you, and they're about supporting you as a whole. I think we still have a long ways to go, but I think nonprofits are much further ahead than for-profits in that formation of, you know, the whole work life environment.
Amy: Yeah, nonprofits clearly have a different bottom line.
Krista: They do, they do.
Amy: So, for Nonprofit Career Month, we had a hard time coming up with a single tagline for our logo and for our marketing, so we just ended up coming up with five or six different taglines that we kind of rotate through the logo, depending on when you refresh our homepage. Some of them are, "Nonprofit work is work that makes a difference," "… is work that pays," "… is work that challenges," "… is work that takes skill," and I'm wondering if any of those taglines particularly resonate with you or if you'd come up with your own tagline to describe your nonprofit career.
Krista: I think it's definitely rewarding – I don't know if that's one of the ones you mentioned, but it's so rewarding – and you can't deny that. No one can deny the fact that they feel good, no matter whether you're working in the office or you're working hand-on-hand with a client, one-on-one. It's rewarding no matter what, because when you go home at night, you know whatever you've done had made a difference in not just one life but in many lives.
Amy: That's great. Is there anything that you'd want to add to, I don't know, maybe a job seeker out there who's coming from the business perspective thinking about the nonprofit sector, anything like that?
Krista: You know, I think if you are considering moving from the for-profit to the nonprofit sector, really consider the organization that you're going to work for, and consider whether that's something that you feel strongly about. I personally connect very well with Adelante because of the accident that I was in, and I think I can do my job better because of that.
You have to have that connection with the organization that you're working for in order to be able to stay there long-term and to feel good about what you're doing. And the other thing is just making sure that it's a good nonprofit, making sure that it's run properly and that you feel good about what you're doing for that organization and that you know that when you contribute that you're contributing to a nonprofit that's going to utilize that money well.
Amy: We did an online chat October 8 with the Chronicle of Philanthropy and there was someone coming from the business sector who listed all of her skill sets and said, "What do I do? I want to work in the nonprofit sector." And our question to her was, "What do you want to do?" It's not just about what you have to offer and how you can turn your skill set into a paycheck – it's really about what issues you're passionate about, what you see yourself doing and contributing.
Krista: I completely agree. I feel so lucky when I came into development at Adelante, the department was not real structured at the time, and I was really able to really create what the department is today. It's not your typical development department – we do government relations, we do board development, we do lobbying, a number of different things that aren't your typical description of what a development department does, and I absolutely love the fact that we were able to create that.
We also manage all the volunteers for the agency, and I think being able – it's absolutely true – being able to come in and say, "This is what I want to contribute – how can that work best for you? And how can I make it work for me?" And I think you can. That's one of the other things about nonprofits, is you really can create something around what you feel passionate about.
Amy: Adelante sounds like a really great organization, with some really good working philosophies. Thank you so much, Krista. I can't tell you how grateful I am for your time.
Krista: Thanks again!
Learn more about Adelante at GoAdelante.org. Find more information about Nonprofit Career Month at Nonprofitcareermonth.org.
Special thanks today to Margaret Ambler Salamon. This show was produced with the help of Sarah Royal and Douglas Coulter. I'm Amy Potthast. Thanks for listening. To find more good things to do, go to Idealist.org.
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