Many companies have CEOs and CFOs, but only one has the COP, otherwise known as the “Chief Old Person.” For DoSomething.org, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to giving young people the resources to begin campaigns for social change, Nancy Lublin serves as the CEO and COP. Now 41-years-old, Nancy isn’t exactly what you'd call an “old person;” rather, her title reflects the experience and insight that she's gained over the course of a dynamic career.
Taking a small start-up or a dwindling giant and making it thrive again is no easy feat; Nancy has done both. First, she parlayed a $5,000 inheritance into Dress for Success, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping women transition from welfare to the work world (to date they’ve served more than 700,000 women). In 2003, after ensuring the sustainability of Dress for Success, Nancy left to turnaround and radically reshape a slumping not-for-profit called DoSomething.org. The organization had recently laid-off nearly every employee and it was $250,000 in debt. Nancy closed its brick and mortar offices and moved the entire operation to the Interweb, utilizing online marketing and social campaigns to the organization’s advantage. Her plan worked. Within six months, DoSomething.org was back on its feet and better than ever. In 2012 alone, over two million people took action through the organization.
Although very different situations (a start-up and a turnaround), the common thread in both of these experiences was that Nancy built something big, beginning with very little. She wrote about this core leadership strength in her first book, Zilch: The Power of Zero in Business (Portfolio Hardcover, 2010). Within its pages, Nancy explains how to get more done with less – an art that she has clearly mastered. Watch Nancy explain how she secured office space for her first non-profit in the attached video. You'll see what she's talking about. More with less.
At the risk of over-hyphenating, Nancy Lublin is a tenacious, tell-it-like-it-is, won't-take-no-for-an-answer, get-the-job-done, leader. I admire those characteristics tremendously and firmly stand behind her "do something" approach to work and living. And as a fellow 41-year-old, I want to say how awesome it is that she has accomplished so much at SUCH A YOUNG AGE! Thanks for answering these questions Nancy.
PHOTO© 2012 Paul Mobley. Used with permission from Everyday Heroes: 50 Americans Changing the World One Nonprofit at a Time by Katrina Fried and Paul Mobley.
The 10 questions
IN JUST ONE SENTENCE, WHAT IS YOUR PURPOSE IN LIFE?
To help other people make good shit happen.
HOW HAS THIS WORK CHANGED YOU?
It’s made me fat and happy. Literally.
WHAT DO YOU GET FROM GIVING?
The cliché - “you get by giving" - is true...and not true. Actually, some people you invest in can really disappoint. Sometimes people aren't ready, or aren't interested, or aren't grateful. I don't give to people because I expect a reaction. I lean into people because I think it’s the right thing to do, regardless.
WHO IS A LIVING HERO AND WHAT WOULD YOU ASK THEM IF GIVEN THE CHANCE?
Nelson Mandela. He went to prison for three decades, came out, and forgave his captors--not because of religious conviction, but because it was what was best for his country. He could have been king or president for life, but he stepped down at the end of his term to give way to the democratic process in South Africa.
WHAT EVERYDAY RESOURCES COULD HELP YOU ACHIEVE YOUR PHILANTHROPIC GOALS?
It would be super awesome to be rich. I think I'd be a really good billionaire.
WHAT IS A BURNING QUESTION THAT YOU HAVE FOR THIS COMMUNITY?
When is the last time you laughed so hard that you cried?
WHAT WOULD THE TITLE OF YOUR BOOK BE?
I'm working on my next book now. It’s called "Things Old People Should Know About Young People."
TELL US SOMETHING YOU RARELY SHARE IN PUBLIC?
I'm a sharer. Can't imagine anything I've kept private.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHERS WHO ASPIRE TO BE CITIZEN PHILANTHROPISTS?
Are you creating a new term here? Philanthropist means MONEY, not action. So, I guess my advice is marry rich, buy low and sell high, and play the lottery. And, if you want to be a great citizen, ask questions, often.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE INSPIRATIONAL SAYING?
Never be too proud or too busy to stop and pick up a penny in the rain. (I made that one up; it’s my personal motto.)