By Rich Polt
Published June 21, 2012
From a San Francisco head shop (in the 1960′s) to “head” of Resource Development at Baltimore’s oldest non-profit housing provider, Karen Griffin is a veteran of the nonprofit space and a strong advocate for equal rights. Since 2006, Karen has served as Director of Resource Development at Baltimore City’s St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center, where, to date, she has raised more than $6.2 million, and aggressively built an engaged donor base. Earlier in her career, Karen worked at the Maryland Historical Society, Children’s Home Society of Florida, and Broward Partnership for the Homeless in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
Just a few weeks ago, St. Ambrose brought on its first new Executive Director in 43 years, replacing the organization’s founder. In addition, the nonprofit is working closely with the Attorney General’s office to communicate the Homeowner Relief available through a recent settlement with major mortgage services. Sounds like Karen has her hands full! Thanks for carving out some time to answer these questions.
The 10 questions
IN JUST ONE SENTENCE, WHAT IS YOUR PURPOSE IN LIFE?
To live my life with an appreciation for all its wonders and strive to be a productive and honorable member of society.
WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH BEFORE YOU “EXPIRE?”
I would love to see the Clifton Park Valve House on St. Lo Drive be restored [check it out on Google Maps Street view here]. It is a beautiful piece of architectural history in a distressed neighborhood. It is a physical representation of neglect and the selective application of historic preservation principles.
WHAT WOULD THE TITLE OF YOUR BOOK BE?
No Matter Where You Go, There YOU Are
WHAT IS A BELIEF THAT IS CORE TO YOUR BEING?
I grew up reading the Desiderata. It was always over the sink and we read it as we washed dishes. We are all children of the universe. Each of us has equal value, and we should all be respected for that core essence.
WHO ARE YOUR HEROES?
1) Muhammad Yunus – I heard him speak at University of Baltimore and was captivated by his simple message; make the solution to the problem your business motivation and you can not fail. 2) Warren Buffet and Ted Turner – Men of wealth who steadily have spoken out about alternative ways of looking at our country’s economic and social systems. 3) Ralph Nader – He has always spoken truth to power.
IF YOU WEREN’T DOING THIS, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING?
I stumbled onto ‘nonprofits’ a little over 12 years ago when I was completing my undergraduate degree. My first reaction was ‘what is a nonprofit and why would anyone want to do that?’ I discovered a fascinating business model and the perfect profession for me because, really, no organization can function for long with out profit. So if I wasn’t fundraising, it would be some small business, probably micro enterprise to empower young entrepreneurs. I would eventually like to teach at community college or a university.
TELL US SOMETHING SURPRISING ABOUT YOURSELF.
I made clothes and jewelry for a head shop in California in the late 60′s. Janis Joplin wore one of the outfits I made on stage.
WHAT QUESTION DO YOU WISH I HAD ASKED?
QUESTION: What social phenomenon do you think has had the most impact on our day to day lives in the recent decade? ANSWER: Population growth. The population of the US has doubled since 1950 from ~150 million to 308+ million. Our governments — state, local, and Federal — are structured based on a smaller demographic. Infrastructure is an issue but more importantly, adherence to the social contract becomes critical to living in a civil society. Without sounding too tree-huggy, the idea of living in smaller communities like Baltimore’s many and diverse neighborhoods is more manageable and more ecologically sustainable when you consider the alternatives of auto travel to work long distances. Live Locally.