Working in the Not-for-Profit World

For me 2005 was a year packed with drama. The Ad agency where I was VP closed its doors; my long-term marriage, according to my partner had run its course; and I reached that magical milestone and celebrated my 65th birthday alone, as a single guy for the first time in 40 years. My confidence, both professionally & personally took a beating. I knew I was being challenged on all fronts. Somehow, I was able to accept that I needed help; I found the courage to reach out, beyond the anti-depressants. 

Which brings me to – The Human Awareness Institute, aka HAI. .... .

HAI was started by Stan Dale in 1968 as a non-profit and was running week-end workshops designed to help people live their lives more openly and authentically. In my situation it helped me come to terms with what was happening in my life; a welcome bonus was being introduced into a new community of like-minded people. Sadly, Stan Dale died in 2007 before I had a chance to meet him.

As I was working my way through the HAI workshops, I started to realize that HAI's marketing was some years out of touch with current thinking. It really hadn't embraced the digital age of social marketing. The year was 2010, it seemed to me that the HAI brand was still stuck in the late 1990's.

Being concerned, I decided to approach HAI Global. They are based in the San Francisco Bay area. I let it be known that I had a career in marketing and wondered if my experience might be helpful. I volunteered my time, but would need expenses covered. Some e-mail exchanges plus a one hour Skype interview and HAI Global had a new Business Adviser based in Toronto, Canada.

I have found that my working part-time with a non-profit has been a wonderful experience. The benefits go both ways. HAI has, in roughly 18 months accomplished many of the tasks that had been put aside due to the change in leadership. There is now a new and refreshed brand positioning that better reflects the expanding Global presence of HAI – in the UK, Germany, Australia, Ontario Canada, and 3x US locations. The old, but revered logo, was updated (a big 'political' task!); the all new HAI web presence now incorporates Facebook, Twitter, etc. We still have ways to go .....

My benefits? It has done wonders to help me re-gain my professional confidence. My business card proudly states, in small print, that I am Business Adviser to a Global organization. I have been able to visit and get to know San Francisco and I have made connections world-wide.

There was a distinct possibility a couple of years ago that HAI might not survive. Knowing how much I had gained personally through attending their workshops, I saw an opportunity to step up and offer a level of professional 'help' that at the time they could not afford. As a team player I am happy, and yes, proud to know that HAI workshops will continue to be available, globally, to others who, like myself, need help at some point in their lives. Today I am a much better communicator in all my relationships, be they business, family or personal.

Whether the time that you choose to put into a Not-for-Profit is compensated in fees or volunteered, I believe that the satisfaction that can be gained from knowing that you have been able to contribute tangibly to an organization that needs professional help is invaluable.

There are so many areas where help is needed and welcomed. It doesn't have to be full time. Choose a subject matter that you can believe in, and then reach out, be pro-active and ask if your professional experience could be helpful in their organization. When you connect with the right organization, I believe you will find it very fulfilling!

Michael Ford can be reached by email at  Just enter "Question for Michael Ford" in the subject line.


Go back

Add a comment

Please add 5 and 2.*