for more than seven years, first as a program assistant and most recently as communications manager.
Nonprofits couldn’t be in better hands because Qualls has absolutely no qualms about her skills, talents, and abilities: A healthy dose of confidence and success is deeply rooted in her spirit.
“I’m pretty super independent,” says Qualls. “I’ve always wanted to do something meaningful related to social justice and civil rights. I’ve always believed in helping each individual through his or her life journey.”
During her tenure at the Johnson Center, Qualls recognized that organizations have common challenges; they often require the help of an outsider to keep them on track and aligned with their mission, and they need to learn how to adapt to changes within and outside the organizational environment.
“Organizations need help assessing their situations and resources, and they need to utilize their people more effectively,” says Qualls. “It doesn’t matter if your company is a nonprofit, a church, or other organization. Every company needs to determine and implement a strategy, and we’re here to help them think differently about shifting resources to leverage their human and financial assets, eliminate waste, evaluate progress regularly, and keep following their mission statement.”
Co-author of The Talent Development Platform: Putting People First in Social Change Organizations
(due out in March 2015
), Qualls shares the tools essential to help nonprofits plot their course and utilize their people more effectively. Her five-step process helps an organization determine and follow its vision; develop a plan for implementing strategic goals; set measures for pivoting or persevering throughout implementation; and adapt in several areas – including people, revenue, systems, and programs – where necessary.
All across the country, nonprofits are finding it increasingly difficult to manage and train their people, run the organization, and also seek funding. Time constraints and lack of funds can quickly sap a nonprofit’s energy and resources.
“Social change organizations make the most of limited resources, but often overlook developing the talent they already have,” Qualls says. “Successful strategic planning puts an emphasis on all five components of the process: visioning, planning, implementation, measurement, and adaptation. Allowing time for measurement and adaptation is the key to successful implementation.”
If Qualls’s name sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because the 30-year-old mover and shaker has been active in the community since she graduated in 2006 from Grand Valley State University with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Public and Nonprofit Administration. Fresh out of college, her first job was as Major Gifts Assistant at the Heart of West Michigan United Way
Her resume simply explodes from there. In 2007, she founded the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Greater Grand Rapids (YNPN.GR), and served as co-chair of the board for four years. Qualls also served on other boards and committees, and was Vice President of the League of Women Voters Grand Rapids.
In 2011, she received her Masters of Public Administration from GVSU while she was nine months pregnant. Her husband, Rob, is a stay-at-home dad for their son, Eli.
Additionally, she was selected as the Young Nonprofit Professional of the Year in 2013, and that same year, Grand Rapids Business Journal
selected her as one of the “40 Under Forty” Business Leaders.
But nothing about her initial career track gave a hint of any interest in working in the nonprofit sphere. Qualls began studying illustration and design at Kendall College of Art and Design
, fully intending to go into a creative field. A design class project for a local nonprofit, Super Kidz, changed all that and inspired her to explore the nonprofit realm, where her creativity energy is now focused.
“I wasn’t drawn into the sector by any one cause or organization,” says Qualls. “I just fell in love with nonprofits and the work they do in the community. I wanted to help them work well internally. I became passionate about helping the sector improve as a whole.”
- Learn more about nonprofits and philanthropy at the Johnson Center
- Volunteer for your favorite nonprofit.
- Donate to your favorite nonprofit.
- Contact Tera Qualls here
Victoria Mullen is the Do Good editor for Rapid Growth Media.
Photography by Adam Bird.