The Favorites Game: From Vendor to Visionary

By: Kristine Clarke

Consultant-turned-nonprofit-entrepreneur Jeanne Allert on her favorite leadership trait, inspirational kid, and more.

Jeanne Allert, known for her work with associations as founder and CEO of the tech-strategy firm Ellipsis Partners, has done what many professionals dream: applied skills honed during one career to a dramatically different second career.

Allert shifted from association vendor to nonprofit entrepreneur in 2007 when she launched the Samaritan Women, a transitional residence for female veterans and exploited women in recovery near Baltimore.

She transitioned to her new role "one step at a time," because "it's not economically compelling what I'm doing. The movement was one of listening to the heart and not as much listening to the head. But there is so much power in feeling a sense of purpose."

Her biggest challenges? The learning curve and application of her skills in a new context. "With 20 years [at Ellipsis], I'd developed some expertise," she says. "This has taken me completely out of my comfort zone. … All the systems thinking I'd do for [clients] I now need to apply here. Having to do my own web strategy, for instance, has been harder than I thought." In those cases she relies on her favorite leadership trait: a sense of humor. Here are other faves:

Favorite lesson from working with associations: Learning that people really do care.

Favorite part of starting a nonprofit: Unfettered possibilities, and no one can tell you youre wrong.

Favorite work-related application: GPS on my phone. I get lost a whole lot less now.

Favorite personal app: Places app on the Droid.

Favorite next goal: Id like to go to Capri to finish my doctorate in divinity.

Favorite inspiring entrepreneur: Someone like the inner-city kid who wants to start a bicycle business. I'm more inspired by a person who doesnt have all the resources but still believes in their own potential.

Favorite holiday TV special: It's a Wonderful Life.

Contributed by Kristin Clarke, a business journalist and writer and researcher for ASAE. Email: [email protected]