Since being exposed to the nonprofit world through Goodwill Manasota when he was in college, Peter Crowley has made it a point to stay involved and connected with the organization.
Occupation: Broker and co-owner of REMAX Alliance
Organization currently involved in: Goodwill Manasota
How many years: 12
I volunteered as a Goodwill intern here back in the summer of 1993. At that time, I knew nothing about Goodwill, and that was my eye-opener into Goodwill and the entire nonprofit sector in general. A friend of mine was participating in the program at the time, and he introduced me to the (then) CEO, Don Roberts. I had always assumed that nonprofits were poorly managed, more fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type of organizations, but Goodwill totally upended that perception.
It was a pretty unique internship. I experienced every facet of Goodwill and nonprofits in general. We did everything: processing donations when they came through the door, store design and floor layout, the retail side of things, sitting in with the executive team on board meetings to see how that side of things worked, and we traveled on trucks and picked up things from people’s homes.
I graduated law school and business school from UF, and I came back here to practice law for a couple of years. When I came back, I stayed in contact with Don Roberts and Goodwill and basically let him know that if there was ever an opportunity, I would get involved. I didn’t want to get involved in a bunch of organizations; I wanted to commit myself and my time to just one. Soon after that, there was an opportunity to serve on the board. I did that for several years, and I chaired the board later.
I think one of the main things that not just me, but anyone who gets behind the scenes of Goodwill is blown away by, is the efficiency of the organization — from processing donations, to the HR department, to how things are handled from an executive level. From that standpoint, it was motivating for me to be a part of something like that, because I know that my time and financial resources are going to be put to good use. I felt good about going all-in with my commitment to Goodwill because I felt like it would have some impact.
One of the great things about Goodwill is that it has these mission moments at the beginning of each board meeting. That is an opportunity for us to see firsthand what Goodwill is doing. You get to hear about someone who was down on their luck — maybe they couldn’t find a job; maybe in some instances, people were destitute or on the street — and you hear the story about how Goodwill gave them the opportunity to pick themselves up. The dignity of a paycheck is very powerful, and those are the things that have resonated for me.
One of the neatest things I’ve done has been visiting other Goodwills. Goodwill Manasota is a model across the country, and I got to go visit another Goodwill that we helped take from bankruptcy to being a thriving organization. Seeing the impact that made in that community was pretty substantial, but also I was able to recognize and understand how that translates into dollars coming back into our community.
I’ve learned to not take things for granted. When you’re raised in a supportive family, you take for granted simple things like coming to work on time and dressing appropriately for work. We assume that those things are things you are supposed to know, and they are not depending on your life situation. Goodwill gives that opportunity to those people who didn’t have the support and someone to instill not just work ethic, but the basics of how to keep or attain a job. Those are life skills that are pretty invaluable.
As a board member, I think our purpose is to help guide the organization and make sure it’s fulfilling its mission and adhering to its mission — changing lives through the power of work. For me, it’s probably a cliché, but leaving the world a better place than when you came into it was instilled in me as a kid, and that’s what I’m trying to do, while leading by example.