Sometimes it’s a long and winding road that takes you to the place you were always meant to be and the work you were always meant to do. That’s not a bad thing – a scenic route often means you pick up skills along the way that will be a huge asset when you find your mission.
Ask Amanda Kristinat; her journey has taken her from sea to shining sea, and included learning architectural design, raising a family, retail work, a stint in the public sector, discovering she loved business and returning to college for a degree in that, and starting her own consulting firm.
Elements from each of those experiences are part of what make her such an amazing Woman on a Mission as the CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Flagstaff.
Nationally, the Boys & Girls Club has a rich history – it started in antebellum times in Connecticut by women who wanted to create a positive alternative for young boys who were roaming the streets. By 1906, several of these “Boys Clubs” decided to affiliate and the organization was founded. In 1990, recognizing that girls had been part of the programs for years, the name expanded to “Boys & Girls Club.”
Its purpose is to inspire and enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible, and caring citizens. It’s a mission Amanda is very passionate about.
“Every child’s life is one caring adult away from being a success,” she said. “These children are our next generation of workforce members and community leaders, and many of them, regardless of social and economic background, are neglected, hungry, abused, or disadvantaged.”
Often the most crucial time for these children are the afternoons, those hours between school letting out and parents coming home from work. It can be a time when kids are on their own, and it’s when they can be most vulnerable. Boredom can lead to reckless behavior, experimenting with drugs and alcohol, and even crime (statistics show there’s a spike in juvenile crime rates between 2 and 8 pm).
That’s where Boys and Girls Clubs come in, offering afterschool activities and programs that promote academic success, healthy lifestyles and good character and citizenship.
Amanda’s interest in nonprofits was sparked when she was a business manager for the parks and recreation department in the Big Bear area of California, which ran a nonprofit before- and after-school care program, a nonprofit rehabilitation animal park, a swim and recreation area, and youth sports. She started as the finance director, but soon found herself coaching tennis and pee-wee basketball, helping with the aftercare program field trips, and volunteering at the zoo.
“A fire was lit, and I realized how much I loved working with youth and working on the nonprofit side of things,” she said. “This resulted in me returning to school for business and sociology.”
Amanda tested her nonprofit skills when she headed up a nonprofit sustainable farm outside of Anchorage, Alaska, not far from where she grew up. But the seasons were a little too cold for her husband and after five years, they decided to relocate to Flagstaff, Arizona, where there were still four seasons, but the winters were a bit milder.
After stints as a business manager for a few nonprofits in town (which allowed her to build up her database of local movers and shakers), Amanda was offered the chance to be CEO of the Boys and Girls Club.
In the time she has been there, Amanda is most proud of the organization’s increased partnerships and new workforce development programs. Amanda has leveraged relationships she built with local leaders and organizations to create a cheerleading crew that is spreading the news about all the good the Boys and Girls Club is doing in the community.
That includes promoting its new workforce development program for middle- and high-school students that provides career exploration sessions, hands-on experience, field trips to meet with community professionals, college visits and access to college and trade school scholarships.
The biggest tip Amanda would share with fellow nonprofit leaders comes from her experience in the business world – learn to run your organization the way you would a for-profit enterprise.
“Most people in the nonprofit sector – including me - are initially motivated by their passion to make a difference,” she said. “Passion is the start, but grit and continued learning is needed to stay in the industry for the long haul. It doesn’t mean that you have to be cold-hearted. It just means you have to apply the same business practices and principles to the organization that help foster success, like a good marketing plan, thanking your donors, strategic planning, knowing when to seek assistance, and growing with the times.”
All you have to do is fill out this form and share with me your vision, your mission, your journey and the impact you're making through the work of your small nonprofit. I'd love to feature you as a Woman on a Mission AND bring a little more attention to your good work with a little marketing love!