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More Than Management

Kim Likins, First Nonprofit Grantee and Director of The Boys & Girls Club of Hilton Head Island, discusses the key elements of Leadership in the nonprofit sector.

A Background in Business

After graduating from the University of North Carolina, Kim Likins seized upon an opportunity to move to Atlanta to work for McKesson Corporation – an IT company in the Healthcare services industry. She wore many hats in the business arena: working in everything from executive sales to senior management.

What’s really interesting though, is that Kim herself points to her time in big business as the root of her success in the nonprofit sector.

For the latter part of her career at McKesson, Kim telecommuted from Hilton Head Island – where she eventually elected to retire, devoting herself instead to her family and community.

Her first major project was to raise funds for a new Children’s Museum slated to be built on Hilton Head Island. “My sales skills made me the best person for the job,” she noted. In a short time she’d become a key member and decision-maker of the whole project: the board discovered, once it was time for the Museum’s doors to open, that they had not been able to find an Executive Director.

Kim took the job.

A Tremendous Responsibility

“I felt a tremendous sense of responsibility,” she said, recounting a conversation with a local bank President, “I was meeting with him requesting financial support for start-up funds for the Museum. After I made my request, he reminded me that his philanthropic decisions were never easy – because each time he provided financial support to one organization, he was effectively saying ‘no’ to others. He further explained that if he did support our organization, and somehow we didn’t get our doors opened , or failed to develop a sustainable business plan, not only was the money he gave me wasted, but other viable organizations who could have received it lost out on the opportunity to further their own missions.

“I realized then the deeply important responsibility we have, as community members and nonprofit leaders, to make sure we use every dollar donated to us in the most financially responsible way possible.

“I walked away from that meeting feeling like Atlas,” Likens continued, “…like I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. And I still feel that way today, every time we receive donated funds. It’s an indescribable feeling to be able to help a donor fulfill their passion – to in some unique way make an impact on our world – but it’s also a daunting responsibility because failure means we’re not the only ones who lose. Our donors and other deserving organizations lose as well.”

So Kim elected to serve as Executive Director of the Children’s Museum for one year, in order to make good her promise.

But she stayed for three and-a-half, only stepping down when the right candidate finally arrived – someone devoted to the mission, the talent, and the community.

The Museum just celebrated its 10-year anniversary.

Passion Isn’t the Only Factor

“I think the story behind that success was my twenty years in business,” Kim remarked.

In her view, it’s a blend of mission-critical passion, coupled with a working sense of organizational leadership, sustainability, and talent management that spells the formula for true viability in the nonprofit sector.

“Unfortunately,” she concluded, “there are a lot of people in nonprofit organizations with tremendous passion for their mission, but without the skill-set necessary to actually sustain operations.”

It’s About Opportunity

Kim has been at the Boys & Girls Club now for four years. And as Unit Director, she still feels that same sense of responsibility.

“A goal for us is to give kids a chance to see a world beyond the world they see every day.”

The general opinion of Hilton Head Island is that it’s an affluent area – and “Certainly,” comments Likins, “there are pockets on the island of considerable wealth. But originally, we were a barrier island with a substantial level of poverty. And there’s still poverty.”

“Our vision is to provide a safe, enriching environment. An environment that’s accessible and inviting. If I could choose one word to describe our objective, it’s opportunity.”

“We want to be an organization that inspires youth.”

The Club and the Community

Situated on eleven acres of land and boasting twenty-nine thousand square feet of building space, the club serves an average of 850 kids per year.

The core of the Club’s activities is it’s Club Programs – initiatives and workshops that focus on Character, Leadership, Education, Career Development, Health and Life-Skills, and Recreation and the Arts.

Kim spoke fervently about the variety of club programs and resources, the quality of the grounds and buildings, and the ever-growing vision of influence that her work – helped by the grant for an Art’s Enrichment Program – is producing.

The recent grant provides for artists to come and work with the kids at the club, covering everything from dance lessons and jewelry making, to recycled and sustainable art, to graphic design.

And they’re just getting started.