We had the good fortune of connecting with Mindy Collins and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mindy, how do you think about risk?
Taking risks have played a critical role in my life. I strongly believe that it’s important to take risks, big or small. Risks help us strive to be the best person, leader and person that we can be. Taking risks has helped shape my current life and I have no doubt will continue to be my driving force.
I have always been a “calculated” risk taker, asking myself, what will the outcome be? Will I succeed? Will I fail?, What will be the consequence of taking this risk? It’s important to have this discussion with yourself every time you take a risk. I have three examples of critical risks that changed the path of my life for the better.
I believe it’s important to always question what you think. Question the good ideas and the bad. Question what you believe and question what you don’t believe. The answers and your “gut feeling” will lead you to your chosen path.
In high school, I had dreams of being a Division 1 Volleyball player. I was a 5’5 setter from a town of 1200 in Northern Michigan. I was told that I would never play Division 1 volleyball based on these factors. I chose not to listen and took the risk to move forward. The hard work paid off and I received a Division 1 scholarship at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, PA. I will admit, it was terrifying to think about leaving “home” and moving 10 hours away and knowing, no one. I took the risk. Fast forward to the end of my first semester. I was homesick, college volleyball wasn’t what I anticipated and I wanted to quit and come home. I took the risk to stay and it paid off! At the time, the school was looking to start a Women’s Crew Team. I decided to join and was able to transfer my scholarship, enjoying an incredible college career as a Division 1 Rowing Athlete. Sometimes the risks we take lead us in an unknown direction for the better.
The summer I graduated college, my husband and I quit our jobs, packed up and moved West to San Diego. We had no jobs, had found a place to live off the internet that we didn’t see until we literally drove up with the moving van. Luckily, persistence and risk taking paid off because I found my first job within a week working for a financial planner in need of a marketing and event planning associate.
A little over a decade later, I was working as a Director in fundraising at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego and was now a mother of two small children. At the 11 year mark, the demand of the job did not align with my vision of being a present and available mother for my children. It was very important to me to set the example of being a full-time career Mom for my children and I immensely enjoyed my career and impact I was making. However, I needed to make a change that would allow me to “have my cake and eat it too”. I weighed the risks, and asked myself many questions such as “Would anyone hire me after 11 years at the same job?” or “I have been at this job so long and I love it, but my family is being sacrificed, can I truly walk away or find a way to do both?”. I decided to take the risk and moved on to an incredible opportunity at San Diego’s Ronald McDonald House that has allowed me to be a full-time successful Fundraising Director, volunteer with my kids in school and after school activities and be more physically and mentally present in both my job and for my family. To this point in life, it was the best risk I have taken.
Professionally, I take risks every day in my job and encourage my team and co-workers to do the same. I believe that you must weigh out the consequences and determine if the risk is worth it or what portion of the risk is worth taking. Lack of proper vetting of the risk option, can lead to detrimental business decisions. It’s important to consider every aspect of the risk, positive or negative, ask for feedback from others and make the best educated decision based on research, feedback and “Gut Feeling”. If my “Gut” doesn’t feel right about the risk, it’s a big indicator that it’s not worth taking or needs some revisions.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
In my professional career, I have succeeded by building strong, lifetime relationships. My strong ability to create long-lasting trusting relationships, to think and adapt quickly and creatively to every situation, to strategically analyze situations and always ask the “what if” questions before making a final decision sets me apart from others.
I believe it’s important to never burn a bridge with an employer, but to make the best of each job opportunity, learn what you can to apply to the next endeavor and always strive for improvement. Early in my career, I found it important to find mentors that could help me navigate my industry, introduce me to industry leaders and help guide me with career advice. Every job I have had in my career was not only attributed to my hard work ethic, creativity, and ability to always be flexible and willing to change, but also my ability to connect with people. Each job opportunity has resulted in a connection with a strong relationship. For instance, I was the young “over achiever” college grad starting my first career job at the Easter Seals Society of Western Pennsylvania in Pittsburgh selling DayMax calendars and planners to government agencies. This job played a critical role in teaching me the art of cold-calling, sales, trade show promotions and how to strategically position an initial decline into a sale.
After working for Easter Seals, my husband and I moved to California. I was given the opportunity to interview for my first job in San Diego because of Easter Seals. The financial planner I was working for had a daughter who had used Easter Seal’s services. He was expanding his business and was in need of a Marketing Coordinator to plan financial events, coordinate his direct mail program, serve as the graphic designer, promotions coordinator and book call “warm leads” to schedule appointments. This was such a valuable job to teach me many aspects of marketing, communications, public relations and sales. I also learned so much about relationship building and the value of using a targeted marketing vs. gorilla marketing approach to build long-lasting relationships with clients.
This financial planner also partnered with a local credit union and through my professional relationship with them, I was able to take the opportunity to apply for a new Community Relations/Business Development position the credit union was creating. I was accepted for the drop and not only learned how to build a department independently from scratch, but also continued to find the value in strong relationship building. This job opened my eyes to the world of non-profits different from my experiences at Easter Seals. I was tasked with becoming a member of the 5 communities in which we had branches. As part of my strategy, I served on more than 30 boards and committees developing strategic partnerships with local organizations in these communities. I also was able to use my sales and marketing skill-sets to fulfill business develop quota’s and build relationships with companies by offering the credit union as an employee benefit.
This was an incredible opportunity to meet and learn from many business leaders that helped introduce me to influential members of the San Diego community. They took me under their wings, would take me to networking and fundraising events and offered helpful career advice. During my 4 years at the credit union, one of the non-profits I served was the local children’s hospital. I recall being the only non-Vice President and by far the youngest on the committee, but after 2 years, I had proved my worth on the committee and was unanimously elected chair of the Credit Unions for Kids Children’s Hospital Fundraising Committee. This was my first opportunity to begin to understand strategic corporate fundraising and the partnerships between non-profits and business partners and how they help and serve each other.
After 4 years at the credit union, the fundraising coordinator assigned to Credit Unions for Kids informed the committee of a Corporate & Community Development Coordinator position opening up at Children’s Hospital. I quickly scheduled a meeting to learn more and was excited to learn that my skill-sets of sales, marketing, relationship building and public relations would be a fit. I interviewed and earned the job that solidified by career in fundraising. In 11 years, I climbed from a Coordinator to Director overseeing a department that raised nearly $10M each year and helped to plan nearly 700 events and campaigns annually. Success in this fundraising job was based on my availability to have strong relationships with businesses and community partners and motivate them to raise funds for the hospital. It was also important to develop individualized plans for each donor and never to assume that there was a “one size fits all plan”. I met with donors regularly, attended events, meetings, etc. and always asked what was important to them, how the donation would fit into their strategies and how I could help them to achieve their goals with the donation and relationship.
During this time, I also embarked on a personal journey of becoming a mother to two wonderful children. It was an adjustment to be a full-time working mother and attended more events than I can count. It was my job to be accountable to the sick and injured children at the hospital and my own. I was also able to do both by having a supportive husband. We collaborate as a team and work together to help each other grow in our careers, marriage and raising our children. As the years progressed and the children grew, it became increasingly difficult to feel that I was giving the emotional and physical presence that my young children needed. I still loved my job, but knew I needed a change that would allow me to keep my career moving forward and to be the mother I needed to be.
As with all of the jobs in my career, around the time that I chose to make this decision, I was given information that San Diego’s Ronald McDonald House was creating a new Corporate & Community Philanthropy Director position. This was a turning point in my life in which it was important for me to not only negotiate a position in which I could be successful and passionate about, but also accomplish my goal of being more available to my children. I was able to express this in my interview and developed a plan that would allow me to effectively run a successful department and allow me more time at home with my children. I will admit, leaving the hospital after 11 years was scary, but now, almost 5 years at the Ronald McDonald House, has given me the work/home life balance I was seeking and was able to successfully more than double the donations of the Corporate & Community Philanthropy Department.
Throughout this journey, I have learned that it’s important to always work on self-improvement, to strive for meaningful work/life balance and always treasure relationships because you never know which relationship will lead you to your next endeavor.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I love adventure and travel! It’s important to share the beauty of our City with friends and family. I’m known as the person to cram a week into a day! If my best friend were visiting, there would be no time to rest! Our days would be filled with bike rides along Mission Bay, lunch to enjoy the breath-taking coastal views and a kayak excursion along La Jolla Shores. We would take surf lessons, find a rock climbing gym and relax with strolls along Harbor Island or the Mission Beach board walk. People watching and any of the delicious restaurants downtown would be a must later in the evening. Other activities would include visits to the San Diego Zoo, strolls through Balboa park, enjoying a beach volleyball game or laying in the sun at Mission Beach followed by a paddle board ride on Mission Bay. I love living in such an incredible and beautiful city with so much to explore!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are three people that have made an incredible impact on my life through support, mentorship, love and encouragement. Hands down, my parents receive the most credit. They taught my sisters and I to be strong and independent women, to always follow our dreams, keep fighting for our beliefs, but to be kind, caring and considerate individuals who give back to others. They pushed me to take risks, even when I was afraid of the outcome. They taught me the value of consequences and how it can impact my life and the lives of others. They pushed me to always be the hardest working person on the team, in the classroom and at work and that it would someday pay off. But most important, they taught me the value of using my successes, failures and lessons learned to help others in need.
The second person to have the most impact was my college crew coach. She helped to guide me through difficult times. She taught us to push through adversity, to push my body and mind to new physical and mental limits and the importance of celebrating the wins and improving from the loses.
Jenna Carlisi Bob Ross Carly Harty Legoland California