|Jim Fischer , Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter Florida Inc.|
|Visit Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter Florida Inc.'s website|
Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter Florida Inc.
Jim Fischer retired in 2000 at age 59 after three decades as CEO of a youth services profit in Minnesota and moved to central Florida. But soon he began volunteering for an organization that builds homes for the poor, Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter Florida Inc. It wasn’t long before Habitat representatives asked him to serve on the fundraising committee, then the board and, two years later, in the top job.
“That magic carrot out there – early retirement – didn’t fit for me,” Jim says, “I really like to work. I really like to contribute.”
While he found that his management skills easily transferred to his new role, the construction industry was new to him. “I probably worked harder the first couple of years that I was here than I had in the last several years in my previous position,” he recalls. “The learning curve of understanding all the technical parts of what we do was a bit challenging. But it was fun – really revitalizing.”
Since becoming CEO, he has tripled Habitat’s staff to nearly 30 employees, half of whom are over age 50, and the organization has grown from building two houses per year to 15. Jim believes the multigenerational environment contributes to Habitat’s success. “Experience is a good teacher,” he notes. The organization received an Encore Opportunity Award in 2009.
Before he came to Habitat, Jim ran a public agency called The Sheriff’s Youth Programs of Minnesota that served 600 to 700 children a year in 13 different locations, connecting youngsters with foster homes, group homes, residential treatment centers and other family care and child care services.
He has found that the managing a nonprofit calls for very similar skills. “You need to know how to work with personnel, long-term goal setting, conflict resolution – all the same issues,” he says.
He believes many other nonprofits could be helped by individuals who have completed careers in the private sector. “There are a huge amount of nonprofits in this country, but there is also a real need for good management. Don’t be scared of it. Do it! You’d be surprised at how well your skills will carry over.”