Welcome to KGA Nonprofit Consulting, LLC’s blog. As the founder and principal consultant of this organization, I am writing this initial blog post first and foremost to say hello, to share a bit about myself, and to connect with you, my future audience. If there’s one important thing I took away from this past year is that we are all connected; sometimes more than we realize, or even care to admit. What affects one of us, in reality, affects all of us. And, if we are honest with ourselves, there is value in our connections; for our connections sustain us and give our life meaning. Author and educator, Stephen Covey emphasized this point when he stated, “The person who is truly effective has the humility and reverence to recognize his own perceptual limitations and to appreciate the rich resources available through interaction with the hearts and minds of other human beings.” 
I am this person. And here is my success story:
Decades ago, I had an enriching career as a nurse at a prominent, local hospital. When my husband and I married, and we began to have children, I quickly felt the tug at my heartstrings to let go of my career aspirations, to be an at-home mom. For me, this was a familiar and respected role, for my own mother was a stay-at-home mom as well. While I truly loved being that constant in my children’s lives, I also felt a calling to return to work as soon as possible. I was not alone. During the late 90’s, the rate of women entering the work force continued to increase, therefore women’s participation became so much a part of the fabric of what our society valued. During this time, with woman’s labor participation nearing 60% of the total workforce, being a full-time mom, I felt as if I was a true dinosaur in the modern age.  Yet, regardless of the realities around me, for decades I remained home. In hindsight, I would not have had it any other way. Indeed, it is a gift to be able to help teach and shape the lives of our loved ones, tomorrow’s leaders.
While engaged in full-time parenting, I remained connected and involved with community groups. Much of my community participation was devoted to nonprofit work. When our first child went off to college, I accepted a leadership role in helping to develop a local nonprofit. I didn’t know it then, but this position would change my life for good. As with nursing, I learned that nonprofit work, was another vehicle to help others. I used my sweat equity and drew on prior life experiences, to help make the nonprofit endeavor work. Though the organization was a nonprofit, I understood the sentiments of world renown philanthropy expert, Peter Brinckerhoff, who noted that nonprofit organizations were responsible to provide quality programs . Because of this, I admit, I struggled with what researcher, social psychologist, and motivational speaker, Amy Cuddy, has referred to as “Imposter Syndrome.”  I worried that people might find out that I didn’t know everything there was to know about successfully running a nonprofit. These fears eventually wore me down me so much that I decided to enroll in several educational programs. First, a grant writer’s certification course. Next, I applied to graduate school to learn about strategic fundraising and philanthropy. When applying to each of these programs I remember being fearful and thinking, “What if I don’t get in?” While taking my grant certification test, I was paralyzed with fear. My lack of focus caused me to fail the first proposal writing portion of the test. I met the second test with equal trepidation. I vividly remember standing in a hotel room in Dallas TX trying to fix my body into what Amy Cuddy dubbed the “Wonder Woman Power Pose.”  All the while, I talked to myself, and tried to harness confidence to take the second written test. With my new confidence building strategies in hand, I aced the written proposal test the second time around. Having passed the grueling written grant certification test should have provided me with greater confidence. Yet, when after quite a long academic gap I later applied to graduate school, again I worried that I might not have what it would take. I stressed so much about even the potential of being denied academic admission, I almost didn’t even take the first step to apply.
Today, I am successful certified grant writer and business entrepreneur, who has excelled in graduate school, earning an MS in Strategic Fundraising and Philanthropy, with a 4.0 GPA. Reflecting, and yes, chuckling a bit about these examples now, I realized that I overcame my encore career challenges using three distinct strategies:
- I faced my fears head on and drew upon my personal strengths and prior life experiences to help myself overcome that which challenged me.
- I adopted a “One-task”, “One-day-at-a-time” mentality, while always keeping my end goal in sight. Compartmentalizing my tasks helped me to make them manageable and afforded me the herculean strength I needed to persevere. I have been a student of International Kyokushinkai Karate Union (IKU) for eleven years. Throughout my years of training, I have learned about focus, and the importance of channeling my energy to focus on the lesson (or opponent) standing in front of me.  This lesson transcends time and is useful in life beyond the mat. Cuddy also shared that when we are truly present in the moment, we are our best and authentic selves . I have lived the essence of the phrase “ Carpe Diem” or “Seize the day.” Every day, I put in a valiant effort, doing my best to not only keep up, but to get ahead, in case something unexpected came up. When I received my MS diploma from Bay Path University last October, to my pleasant surprise, I noticed that imprinted within the school’s emblem was the motto, “Carpe Diem.”  Upon Seeing this familiar saying, I smiled. Unknowingly I had gravitated towards an institution of higher learning that indeed reflected my life’s strategy.
- I harnessed strength from the environment, one that I had purposefully created around me to promote personal achievement. I created personal balance and addressed self-care needs through regular exercise. I took short walks outdoors to connect with nature, which provided me with opportunities to recharge. My personal tribe became my lifeline, and I drew strength from their wisdom and yes, their humor. Each of my personal support persons helped me to remind myself of all my other prior successes.
Life is always filled with uncertainties. There is no question that during our lifetimes, we will experience challenges of some sort. The question remains, if we fall, will we get up? Without a doubt, I will always get up! While I have succeeded in earning my MS degree, and dare I say I have experienced what Maslow termed “Self-Actualization,” I do recognize that I am not alone in achieving success  . This past month, it is estimated that 833, 000 individuals in the U.S. earned their MS degree [11, 12]. In 2019 alone, 53% of those who earned their MS degree were women, and 42% of all U.S. businesses are now owned by a woman . The fastest growing sub-sector in philanthropy is woman entrepreneurs, who every day, are changing the face of philanthropy.  And yet, while I am part of a growing force for good, I am still a woman, who understands the sentiments of Martin Luther King, Jr., that while I may not do “Great things” in my life, I can make a difference for others by doing “Small things in a great way.”  Having had the honor and blessing to first serve my family, please know that I would be honored to serve the nonprofit community by helping you and your organization become a force for good too!
I warmly welcome you to join me as I continue to post, sharing my professional training and life experiences as I connect with and help small to mid-sized nonprofits build their leadership, financial, management, systems , and adaptive capacities and resources. I welcome both reader comments, and guest presenters as we journey forward together. “Carpe Diem!”
 Covey, S. (1994). “Daily reflections for highly effective people: Living the seven habits of highly successful people every day”. Retrieved from: https://www.azquotes.com/quote/587878
 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2017). Women in the workforce before, during and after the great recession. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/spotlight/2017/women-in-the-workforce-before-during-and-after-the-great-recession/pdf/women-in-the-workforce-before-during-and-after-the-great-recession.pdf
 Brinckerhoff, P. (2004). Nonprofit stewardship. A better way to lead your mission-based organization. Fieldstone Alliance: Nashville, TN.
Cuddy, A. (2015). Presence. Bringing your boldest self to your biggest challenges. New York: Little Brown and Company.
Cuddy, A. (2012). Your body language may shape who you are. [TEDGlobal]. Retrieved June 2021 from: https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_may_shape_who_you_are?language=en
 International Kyokushinkai Union (2021). About us. Retrieved from: https://ikudojo.com/about-us/
 Cuddy, A. (2015). Presence. Bringing your boldest self to your biggest challenges. New York: Little Brown and Company.
 Britannica (2021, May 7). Carpe Diem. Retrieved from: https://www.britannica.com/topic/carpe-diem
 Bay Path University (2021). Bay path quick facts. Retrieved from: https://www.baypath.edu/about/quick-facts/
 Kremer, W. & Hammond, C. (2013, September 1). Abraham Malow and the pyramid that beguiled business. Retrieved from: https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-23902918
 Hanson, M. (2021). Education Attainment Statistics. Retrieved from: https://educationdata.org/education-attainment-statistics
 Think Impact (2021). College graduate statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.thinkimpact.com/college-graduates-statistics/
 Elliot, J. , https://www.fool.com/the-blueprint/women-in-small-business-statistics-in-the-us/
 Chiu, B. (2018, July 25). The rise of female philanthropists- and the three big bets they make. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/bonniechiu/2018/07/25/the-rise-of-female-philanthropists-and-three-big-bets-they-make/?sh=539ebfa5f893
 Yale University (2015, January 19). Small things in a great way. Retrieved from: https://president.yale.edu/president/notes-woodbridge-hall-2013-2019/small-things-great-wa
About the Author
Kristin A. Garrison, Founder & Principal, KGA Nonprofit Consulting, LLC, is a woman who genuinely believes in the goodness of others, and the passion and power of people to address societal needs through nonprofit initiatives. Throughout her life Kristin has committed herself to helping others as a dedicated nonprofit volunteer, serving a myriad of social initiatives. Through her work via KGA Nonprofit Consulting, LLC, Kristin shares her experience and knowledge of capacity building and fund development to help community initiatives to take root and succeed.
Tags: Encore Career, Nonprofit Consultant, Success
That is terrific Kristin! I have always believed you would accomplish what you wanted in life!
Let me share something from my life that helped me and may help you!
After college and the service, I was hired by a Fortune 100 company where in different capacities I worked for 16 years. Luckily for me I had a very good mentor and boss. There were many ups and downs in that timeframe. At one of the big downs, he and I sat down and he said to me, “Norm, life is full of good times and problems. We all have them. However, every big problem has an opportunity if you look for it!” He was right 100% of the time! It was extremely good advice. It takes something bad and makes you creative to find that opportunity. It also reenergizes you and allows you to focus on the positive. That is what I have tried to do and it allowed me to start my own business when the landscape was changing so dramatically where I was. And even though by then I had a wife and two children, I took that step into the unknown! Thank you Nels for your words of wisdom! For the next 30 years that is what I did. Two others joined me and we had a great partnership for 30 years until I retired.
I shared this advice with my daughter Jennifer, and although she was trained very well as a journalist, she always wanted to be an artist! COVID became a fact for all of up and the pandemic gave her the opportunity to plunge into that more on a close to full time basis. Her family is very supportive and she has built a network of people who are helpful and established a website. She is now very happy that she has found her passion and had the nerve to plunge into it!
Sorry this was a bit long winded but that was the best advice I had ever been given, so I wanted to share it with you!
Someone on TV was giving advice to someone who was extremely nervous in singing. His advice the difference in a good life and a great life is just moving a few steps out of your comfort zone! That is really good advice too!
You have always been a special person and I am glad life is going well for you! Bravo!!!!
Thank you very much for reading my introductory blog post, and for making time to share your reply and wisdom. I really appreciate your interest, and I am humbled by your faith in me and my abilities to succeed. Yes, after a long time, so much is falling in place right now and it feels very good. Yet, no matter how things unfold, please know that I am indebted to you for sharing your time and perspectives with me over the past few years, especially, your insights on donor motivation. You’ve helped me to realize so very much. Given that so much of fund development and nonprofit management is talking with supporters, when I realized that I really enjoyed our conversations, I knew that had chosen a field that spoke to my strengths and passion.
I agree with your mentor Nels, that life unfolds. There will always be challenges, and times of triumph. That Nels taught you to look for opportunities within problems was indeed sound advice. I am so happy that you succeeded in stepping outside your comfort zone, to take a professional risk. It sure paid off as you have been a wonderful provider for your lovely family. Taking risks is indeed something I have been trying to do as well. I hadn’t planned to do consulting full-time. It was really my “Plan B”. A slow coast into retirement. For a number of reasons, my “Plan A” after grad school, to work within a larger nonprofit company, became a goal, I decided really wasn’t the best personal fit for me at this time. So, just as you did and your talented daughter Jen is doing now through her beautiful art, I have decided to make the most of the opportunities I do have: To reach out to small to midsized nonprofits to help them to succeed through capacity building and fund development. I truly believe that life is full of possibilities. The only thing that constrains us in making the most of life lies in either our ability to conceptualize these opportunities or our courage to put them in motion. Somehow I know that you will always be a dear champion, encouraging me to make the most of all that lies ahead. I promise that I will challenge you as well my friend. For when we are comfortable, we exist, but we do not grow. As an avid gardener, I believe that just as plants, we people need to bloom boldly where we are planted. Thanks, Norm!