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Nonprofit Coffee Break: Valerie Nicholson Watson

Nonprofit Coffee Break: Valerie Nicholson Watson

In the Nonprofit Coffee Break video series, Nonprofit Connect CEO Luann Feehan sits down with a different nonprofit leader each month to chat about leadership, learning, and life over a cup of coffee. Tune in to each episode to learn from these leaders' experiences and challenges and help us highlight our sector as an important and vibrant part of our city.

Nonprofit Coffee Break is presented by FROST Media Group.

This month, we sit down with Valerie Nicholson-Watson, President & CEO of Harvesters- The Community Food Network.

In one sentence, please describe who you are what you do.
I am Valerie Nicholson-Watson and I lead a great team of compassionate professionals working with more than 700 agencies to provide food assistance to more than 340,000 people in northwest Missouri and northeast Kansas.

How did you get started working in the nonprofit sector?
I started working at Harvesters in 1999 after realizing working for a living could be impactful to the community and gratifying for me if I worked for a human service nonprofit. I saw the ad for an open position that perfectly matched my skills and experience and I went for it.

On what day did you feel proudest of your work?
I don't believe there is one day during which I feel proudest. I'm proud of the community's response to Harvesters' mission, and the time, talent, voice and financial support we receive. I'm proud that people care enough to help make a difference in the lives of others.

What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?
There are so many moving parts. Leading the organization requires devoting the appropriate time and effort to the right things. Creating an environment in which people are happy to come to work, poised for success and recognized for their contributions is challenging because the workforce is so diverse. Ensuring the we have the resources to meet our strategic goals and objectives is never ending. Those are the two greatest challenges and each impacts the other.

What is a trend you see in the nonprofit community that excites you, or worries you, and why?
I'm excited by the tremendous talent and compassion of the young professionals entering the field, and the educational and development resources available to them.

The nonprofit sector is vital to the health of the community as an economic driver and in terms of meeting the needs of people served. It is a worthy calling that is attracting the best and the brightest.

What is your advice for a new nonprofit professional?
I think maintaining balance is key. The nature of much of the work and the make-up of the people, who always just want to do more or make more happen, can lead to being consumed by the work. The CEO of Feeding America made a comment recently that I think hits the mark, "Self-care is care for the mission."

What is your go-to drink after a board meeting?
A cup of coffee or a glass of wine, but coffee that late tends to keep me up.

What is your favorite Nonprofit Connect resource?
My favorite thing about the resources is that they address needs for people in all stages of their careers.

What is your call to action?
My call to action for the viewers is to get better acquainted with the nonprofit sector, find a cause in which you believe and devote some time, talent, voice and financial resources to it.

Connect with Valerie
Nonprofit Coffee Break is presented by:
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