We talk with Forrest Myane, Chief Strategy and Development Officer at Meals on Wheels San Antonio with a 14-year career in nonprofit fundraising.
Do you have a favorite quote?
I have a sign at my desk, right next to my computer monitor, that says “Change nothing, nothing changes.” It’s a reminder to me that nothing gets better on its own. We can always do things better, but not without examining them and making changes. I think about that a lot in my work. Just because we’ve always done something a certain way doesn’t mean it’s the best way. Change can be scary, but it’s also an opportunity.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
Professionally, the work we’ve done at Meals on Wheels San Antonio during the COVID-19 pandemic is my proudest accomplishment. My organization feeds seniors who are disabled and/or incredibly isolated and alone. Our clients are in the population who were most at risk for the worst outcomes of COVID-19. Our entire staff mobilized in the early days of the pandemic to ensure we were able to get as much food into client’s homes, as safely as we possibly could. We raised millions of dollars, worked long hours and we never missed a day of service. During all of that, we also raised another $23 million dollars and built a new, state-of-the-art headquarters to serve the senior and disabled adult population for decades to come. It has been a total whirlwind and it is in no way my accomplishment alone, but I’m so proud of the work we did and where we ended up. Seeing our staff commit to taking care of the thousands of clients who depend on us, adding new clients who now needed help -- all while also taking care of their own families and living in the surreal and scary world we all lived in for the past three years was something I’ll never forget.
What is the most meaningful part of your job?
The work we do to serve seniors is incredibly meaningful. We often say around the office that even if it was a bad day, we fed thousands of people who might not have eaten otherwise. That’s a huge responsibility and a huge privilege. But just as meaningful to me is the opportunity to lead the incredible team that I work with. I’m so lucky to work with such smart, creative and energized people who care so much about the clients we serve. Giving them the space and the encouragement to share their ideas and execute them is one of my favorite parts of my job. We’ve all had bad bosses and bad jobs and because we spend so much time at work it can really be a drain on your life when you do. I know that I have a lot of power in how happy or miserable people’s work lives are and I try really hard to create a supportive environment where people enjoy their time at the office and feel like they have work/life balance. I’m by no means a perfect leader but I find that part of my job to be very meaningful.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
A mentor once told me that for everything you choose to do, you’re choosing not to do something else, so you need to be thoughtful with what you say yes to. My personality is such that I say yes to everything! I would love to tell my younger self, particularly when it comes to my career, to be thoughtful about what I choose to do and to really invest my time in those choices, rather than saying yes to lots of things and not doing any of them really well. Honestly, I could probably still use this advice! Also, I would tell myself to pay more attention in my college accounting classes! Good fundraisers have to know a lot more than you would think about accounting!
What is one industry book that a newcomer must read?
I’m a big fan of Penelope Burk’s books, “Donor-Centered Fundraising” and “Donor-Centered Leadership.” She uses great data to frame her arguments and really thinks about ways to be innovative in fundraising, which I find inspiring. Also, Dan Pallotta’s books have really changed the way the nonprofit world thinks about the value of staff and infrastructure. I think its empowering, particularly for women, to realize that your work and experience should be valued monetarily when you’re working for a nonprofit. We shouldn’t devalue people because they choose to center their careers around making the world a better place.
1000 Spotlights: Why We Give reflects our mission of giving back, to mentor and to inspire those around us.
Through a series of interview questions, we explore intrinsic motivations behind why we give, and talk with those inclined to make a difference in the lives of others. If you are involved in charitable activities, volunteer and paid academic engagements or in community service, we want to talk to you.
Write to us to nominate yourself or someone else who fits the bill.