Philanthropic Profile: Willie Iles, Jr.
Name: Willie Iles, Jr.
Willie Iles, Jr. has a great story to share that will help everyone understand his passion for the Boy Scouts of America and the unfortunate economic times in the world. But he remains positive, confident and he has shared his vision about funding, volunteering, staffing, and building endowments. Read below to learn more about Willie Iles, Jr.
Why do you work in the nonprofit sector?
As a youth growing up in the heart of downtown Houston, Texas, I was given an opportunity to work for the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club at the age of 14. I grew up in a family that instilled in me very early in life that it was better to give than to receive, so it was part of my DNA.
At the age of 18, I was offered a chance to work for the Sam Houston Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America. I was attracted to the national organization’s very bold vision at that time to reach a representative one-third of all Scouting-age youth and to get them and their families involved in Scouting.
Today, I still have that same passion as the Boy Scouts of America embarks on its 100th Anniversary in 2010.
What is your organization’s story or message? How do you keep this story in the public view?
We have been so blessed throughout our history as one of the largest youth organizations in America, but our success lies in the fact that we have been true to our mission to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.
Our 52 million living alumni day in and day out help us articulate Scouting and its brand. When I meet a stranger on the street and say I work for the Boy Scouts of America, they reply “Hey, I was a Scout,” “I’m an Eagle Scout,” “I was a Scout leader,” or “You know, I support Scouting because it’s an organization with a proven history of developing leaders.”
The other message that resonates is in our vision statement that we will prepare every eligible youth in America to become a responsible, participating citizen and leader who is guided by the Scout Oath and Law.
In the eyes of the general public, we position our organization under the leadership of Chief Scout Executive Bob Mazzuca, President John Gottschalk, and key volunteers across America to join us in reconnecting Scouting in over 90,000 communities. We get involved in national service projects created in collaboration with some of the most respected nonprofits; major companies; and federal, state, and city governments to address critical needs to support food drives, healthy living, workforce preparedness, environmental awareness initiatives, and education outreach programs.
I believe it is essential for our organization to capitalize on and take advantage of the technology being used today to identify and bring into play social networking communities, especially with over 104,000 Scouting units.
The Boy Scouts of America, as we prepare for the next 100 years, understands the importance of having an active national strategic plan with a national marketing plan to complement how it is activated, executed, and measured.
With over 1.2 million registered adult volunteers to deliver the program at all levels, the 302 local Boy Scout councils have active volunteer marketing committees that assist in driving home what we do and keep our message in front of the public. Don’t forget the Scout uniform and Boys’ Life magazine.
What is the biggest opportunity or challenge you see in the nonprofit community now? In the next five years?
When you look at over 10 million nonprofits in America today, without a doubt, funding is the key issue. Second, volunteerism is changing, and in the nonprofit world we must reevaluate how much time we expect an individual to volunteer, especially with unemployment numbers that could reach as high as 10 percent. We must address staffing issues to provide the support and infrastructure to deliver what we promise. We must be able to recruit quality volunteer board members and have them attend board meetings while trying to run their companies and businesses.
Endowments must be built to support operating budgets. In the next five years, the perfect storm I call a hurricane will go away after leaving some damage, but if you put it in perspective, it could have been a tornado with no warning, so over the next five years we are forced to build a much better nonprofit space than we have today. It will require a new way of thinking, especially from our CEOs, as we embark on unprecedented challenges that will require unprecedented leadership actions. I believe America is asset rich but execution poor in many aspects. For every unfunded mandate there’s someone out there receiving funding to get it done. We just need to do our research and find them. There is a tremendous amount of duplication in terms of how we can share the technology available to us.
Nonprofit communities will have to revisit their strategic and business models along with evaluating whether their visions and missions tie into a national agenda of services needed, all while acknowledging increased competition for fewer resources. Without a doubt, I foresee a merger of nonprofits on the rise, so it is essential to ensure organizational infrastructure is appropriate to support strategic results. Also be willing to think anew by helping out when things are tough. Example: Instead of 20 food drives in your community, why not collaborate and co-brand around one drive? Instead of trying to have 10 career or job fairs, why not build around having one?
As we gauge and forecast the next five years, let’s take a page from President Obama’s “Renew America Together” national service initiative launched on January 19, when our nation as one rallied the nonprofit community, labor, corporate America, faith-based organizations, and many others to co-brand together for the greater good in service. He demonstrated that collectively rendering community service and volunteerism is important. No one organization can lead this transformation, but we rally behind a national call to service. The project each volunteer decided on was what they personally wanted to be involved with and contribute back to their neighborhoods.
Finally, never lose sight of identifying your alumni base of support, even in challenging times. You have a customer base that believes in the great works we do. They will continue to support your organization. And remember, your cup is never half empty or half full; your cup runneth over, and with that mindset, the nonprofit community will soar like an eagle.
Five years from today, you want the world to remember you as a visionary leader, a servant leader, who looked beyond Plan A, B, or C for your organization because there are still 23 more letters in the alphabet. Ask 23 more times.
How do you keep sane with all the demands of leading a nonprofit organization?
Throughout my professional career, what I have observed and learned from many of our successful leaders is to recruit the best volunteer leadership available to serve on your board, and second, make strategic hires.
Learn to share and sell your vision. Create an environment where volunteers, staff, and the community stakeholders are willing to sell the organization’s strategic message with an understanding of how it helps to build healthy communities and sustain them as well. Have a missionary spirit about life and what you do so the people around you can feel your energy and passion.
I keep my sanity at the end of the day by putting what I do in perspective and drawing three boxes in my mind: (1) personal life, (2) professional career, (3) other, without forgetting that great leaders have inspired me to believe charity starts at home.