Habitat for Humanity CEO Headlines Wake Forest University Charlotte Center Nonprofit Symposium

3.29.2012 Article, General, School News

Habitat leader speaks at Wake symposium
Reposted from The Charlotte Observer | By Celeste Smith

Change can be hard at nonprofits – and feel as drastic as, say, a music change at your church, the leader of one of the country’s most successful charities said Wednesday.

But responding to major tragedies has a way of helping nonprofits redefine their mission and change the way they do things, according to Jonathan Reckford of Habitat for Humanity International, which builds homes for the poor.

"A disaster gives you permission to break cultural norms," said Reckford, named CEO in August 2005.

Reckford was in Charlotte on Wednesday for "Navigating for the Future," a symposium for nonprofit organizations presented by Wake Forest University Charlotte Center.

Reckford is a former Best Buy and Circuit City executive and pastor of a Minnesota church. His opening remarks led to an informal chat involving Steve Reinemund, dean of business at Wake Forest University and retired chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Inc., and Dr. Leighton Ford, former vice president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Ford is now president of a faith-based ministry focusing on younger leaders.

Reckford said large-scale struggles can help "rally people toward a bigger challenge and a bigger mission. … Sometimes change when you don’t have a crisis is the hardest type of change."

Reckford, who grew up in North Carolina and is a UNC Chapel Hill graduate, spoke from personal perspective. Early in his tenure, Reckford led Habitat's rebuilding efforts in the aftermath of two natural disasters: the tsunami in Asia and Hurricane Katrina on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

He also came in to lead the organization after turmoil over the firing of its founder.

During the chat portion, Ford asked the two former businessmen what corporate-world traits are good for nonprofits.

"Being able to allow every volunteer and every person who touches that nonprofit to own what they do," said Reinemund, who served on the Salvation Army’s national advisory board from 1990 to 1999.