Q&A: Dr. Lisa Hurst, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club

By Nonprofit Marketing ArizonaDecember 22, 2016
Charles Wendt
Lisa Hurst

Q: Please describe the impact of the Club you attended (what you did), including its impact on you.  

A: My mom did not know how to swim, so it was important to her that l knew how to swim. She knew if I was ever in danger of drowning, she could not save me. I began swim lessons at age 3 at the Boys Club. It was the only affordable place that taught swim lessons in the Knoxville, Tennessee area. I swam on the swim team from age 5 through my senior year of high school. Swimming became a great outlet for me growing up. Being the fourth of six children, swimming was a great way for me to set myself apart from my other siblings. My Boys & Girls Club swim team coach insisted on a strong work ethic and always motivated me to be the best I could be. His encouragement taught me to believe in myself and made me feel that there was nothing that I could not accomplish as long as I worked hard.

Q: Did you know at an early age you would like to work for the Club system or the nonprofit community?  

A: My first job out of college was Aquatic Director for the Boys Clubs of Greater Knoxville (in 1990, they changed their name to the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley). Within the first few months of employment, I had the opportunity to attend a Boys & Girls Clubs of America training. The first day, we went around the room introducing ourselves by saying who we were and what we did at the Club. I said, “I am the Aquatics Director and teach boys how to swim.” The facilitator immediately corrected me and explained that I did not teach boys to swim and moved on to the next person. I was annoyed but thought better than to argue. At the end of the week, we went around the room and again had to tell what we did at the club. I proudly said that I teach self-esteem, self-confidence, and empower young people to maximize their own personal potential. I had learned I was far more than a swim instructor. At that point in my life, I knew this job was a mission in which I felt passionate. I also learned that this nonprofit work could be a career. When I returned to Knoxville, I had a serious discussion with my supervisor (and mentor to this day), Gary Cain. I asked him what I needed to do to be successful in our organization. He gave me the best advice of my professional career. He said, “Be the best staff in the position you are currently in, your supervisor will notice, and you will continually be provided with opportunity for advancement.” In every position I have had working for the Boys & Girls Clubs, I have strived to be the best in my current position. I have worked for the Boys & Girls Clubs a total of 31 years. 

Q: What are the most important attributes needed to be a leader?  

A: I think the most important attributes of a leader are integrity and the ability to be a role model. I think the real key to success as a leader is the ability to focus on strengths of employees and find a way to empower them. I also believe a leader should be goal oriented. Finally — especially in the nonprofit sector — it is critical for the leader to be tenacious. A leader must be persistent and relentless every day to drive our mission forward. 

Q: When marketing your Scottsdale Club, what are your biggest strengths? What are the best tactics to extend your brand (e.g., social media, PR, direct mail, ads, etc.)? 

A: Our biggest strength in anything related to marketing, PR, social media, etc. is to put our amazing kids front and center. At the end of the day, this is about kids with amazing potential and our unique ability to help shape their futures through terrific programs and mentorship. As it relates to tactics in extending our brand, we are best shaped through consistent communication (we use several different mediums – social media, direct mail, email campaigns, special events, etc.) with our stakeholders to demonstrate how we continually meet our outcome goals with the kids we serve. Our community, “Greater Scottsdale,” has such a deep need in many different areas and we serve a wide variety of kids. As such, it is important that we communicate how we are continually doing innovative and imaginative endeavors to launch our kids to success. 

Q: What goals would you like to accomplish in next three years? 

A: We have an opportunity to serve more kids! People may not realize the need that exists for kids in our communities, but there is a big need to serve even more kids than the 18,000 we are reaching each year. I believe our opportunities will lie in the innovation and strategic implementation of life-changing programs and advanced mentorship. Our staff and board are committed to being on the leading edge of kid-endeavors going forward the next three years.   

Q: What are the challenges faced when competing for donor dollars with two other clubs? 

A: I don’t see it as competition with the other two Boys & Girls Clubs organizations in the valley. We are all doing great things in serving kids, so I don’t believe our competition is with each other for donor dollars. I believe our challenge is getting people who don’t know Boys & Girls Clubs to understand the breadth of what we do. For many, the Club is known as a “gym and swim” place. While we do lots in the areas of sports and fitness, we do so much more. I truly believe when people understand that breadth and depth of how much we do for the kids we serve, they are excited to be a part of things and support our efforts.  

Q: The Clubs are well known. How much of your local funding goes to pay for national ads and or creating PSAs? 

A:  Aside from our dues to Boys & Girls Clubs of America, we do not send funding to pay for national ads or PSAs. Boys & Girls Clubs of America does a great job reaching out and finding funding partners for those initiatives. We partner when BGCA asks us to generate potential partnerships, and we do our best to represent our organization by serving in national events and conferences that are important in advocacy efforts for America’s children.   

Q: What three marketing programs or events have had the biggest impact on garnering funds/donors? Why? 

A: Being relatively new to the organization, I haven’t seen anything I would like to forget quite yet. I trust our board and staff – especially those who have been here through the years – know what has worked and what hasn’t. I am tremendously excited about our plans moving forward, though, as we put a renewed emphasis on investors who want strategic outcomes with kids in our community. I love that we are doubling-down on our focus on the kids – that is what this is all about. 

Q: What else should our readers know about you or your operation? 

A: We are the premier youth development organization around. There are lots of great service providers that make a huge difference in our communities, but I can’t think of a better organization with a greater impact than the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale. We are completely dedicated to our kids and giving them everything they need to become caring, responsible and productive citizens. Like our mission says, we enable the young people who need us most to reach their full potential. I can’t think of a better investment for me – or anyone else – than giving to our kids and their future.