Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Rich's Legacy: Former staff share touching memories

 In honor of our executive director Rich Cowles' retirement on June 28, the Charities Review Council is excited to kick-off the “Make it a Rich Legacy” campaign, taking place now through June 27. As part of this campaign, the Council will feature insights and reflections about Rich's tenure from key Council supporters.

Here's what two former staff had to say about Rich's legacy:

Elizabeth Petran

When did you work at the Council? What did you do?
I worked at the Charities Review Council for a short time during the beginning development of the Accountability Wizard.

Describe your current job, volunteer activities, etc.
I went from being a frenzied social worker, to working at the council to raising sheep and chickens on a farm in Cannon Falls.

What are some of your favorite memories of working with Rich?
2005 was an exciting time for Rich, but also quite scary. He was leading an old nonprofit into new times. Change is hard and though he was committed and facing it head on, I believe he was quite concerned about the end result. He took his responsibility to the board, the nonprofits and most importantly, the givers, very seriously. I guess that’s what makes him so excellent. He takes his work and his interactions with all around him personally. People matter. Relationships matter. The Council’s mission matters.

One morning I called Rich from the veterinarian’s office to tell him I was going to be late. My pooch, Leon, was very ill and it was time to let him go. He had been getting progressively sicker over the last few months with cancer. Rich asked me where I was, and said not to worry, if I needed the day off, it was absolutely fine. About 10 minutes later, just as I was visiting with the veterinarian and getting ready to say good-bye I heard a familiar voice in the lobby. Rich poked his head in and joined me at Leon’s side. I can’t express what having him there meant to me. I was so accustomed to carrying on alone that it hadn’t occurred to me to ask for company during this difficult time. We both wiped away tears as Leon quietly passed away. It was an excellent send off for a dear old friend. Thank you, Rich.

Rich and I meet occasionally for breakfast to catch up. As we were sitting in Maria’s Cafe eating breakfast, Rich asked me, “Did you know I tweet?” It took me a split second to realize he wasn’t talking about some kind of digestive problem. I smiled hugely when he told me about his tweeting and blogging. He’s on Facebook. Friend him if you haven’t already. When I first met him he was very concerned about the Council’s move to computer use for the review process and where it would lead. Technology wasn’t something he was entirely comfortable with at that point. Now he’s all about the tweet. Richard N. Cowles is a very cool guy, and I’m so pleased to know him.

What's your favorite "Rich-ism"? (e.g. “noodling”)
“Richnerd." Rich met with me a several times to try to help me become more detail oriented and a better planner. It turns out that I am not particularly well suited for Project Management. He and I noodled a lot over strategies that would help me stay on track. He had lots of ideas and I did my best to get him off the topic and onto more interesting things like literature and philosophy. We had good conversations and some of the strategies helped for short bits of time. Anyway, at the conclusion of one meeting we decided we were both nerds. The next day I got an email and it was signed by Richnerd Cowles, Executive Director.

If Rich were an animal, what would he be?
To me he is most like a Golden Retriever. Very smart, always friendly, and extremely loyal.

Matt Karl
I am currently a Consulting Team Member at Bromelkamp, a company that fosters the work of grant makers nationwide by providing database technologies and services.

When did you work at the Council? What did you do?
I worked at the Charities Review Council as the Senior Research Associate from 2001 to 2004.

What impact did Rich have on your work (volunteer OR paid) in the nonprofit sector?
Working with Rich helped me realize how important it is for a nonprofit to have a well-articulated mission and to make sure all programs connect strongly to that mission. Working at the Council reaffirmed to me that, when organizational change is afoot, valuing input from all stakeholders is absolutely critical to success.

Any favorite “Rich-isms”? (e.g. “noodling”)
I think Rich’s palate has expanded since working at the Council. But I do remember that whenever staff had lunch together and wanted any sort of ethnic food, Rich preferred to go to either a buffet or a place with pictures of the dishes on the menu. That way, he could be certain exactly what he was getting.

If Rich were an animal, what would he be?
He’d be an impala who has hung up his running shoes and taken up African drumming.

Help us "Make It A Rich Legacy" and support our goal to raise $10,000 in honor of Rich Cowles by Wednesday, June 27. Donations made in recognition of Rich’s leadership will go to the Campaign for Growth – a $600,000 effort to build the Council’s infrastructure to be able to reach more nonprofits and donors.

Please go to GiveMN.org today to “Make it a Rich Legacy”, and finally, join us next Wednesday June 27 at Mai Village from 3-6pm for an informal farewell celebration.

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