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It’s About the Journey

Bob Ottenhoff Bob Ottenhoff

Pardon me if I get a little more personal than usual in this blog.

As some of you may have heard already, I’ve decided to step down as president and CEO of GuideStar at the end of this year, once my successor is in place. This coming September will mark my 10th anniversary at the helm of GuideStar.

It has been an exciting journey – full of challenges, successes and occasional defeats – but ultimately very rewarding. I’m reminded of a quote from Jorn Utzon who was asked what it was like to design and build the Sydney Opera House: “It is like when you climb Everest. You get a glimpse of Everest, and then it disappears. For a long time, all you see are the rows of hills in your way, and you can’t imagine that you will ever get there. And then, suddenly, you see Everest again, sparkling in the sunshine.” For me I leave with the satisfaction that much has been accomplished over my tenure, but with the recognition that there are still many challenges – and huge opportunities – left undone.

Any success I have had has been possible because of those who preceded me at GuideStar and my colleagues I worked with over the last decade. It was the creative insight of Buzz Schmidt, the founder of GuideStar, who generated the initial spark and development. He was helped by board members, funders and staff who worked hard to make the vision of publically accessible data a reality. During my time at GuideStar I also benefitted from generous funders and an extraordinary staff that have helped to build GuideStar into a strong institution – bigger than any one person. Each generation at GuideStar has its own unique challenges, opportunities and accomplishments. I’m confident that the next generations of leaders at GuideStar will bring the organization to a new, even higher level of success and accomplishment

I’ve decided to leave now because I know that I am leaving GuideStar in good hands, with first-rate services, a superb senior team and a stellar staff. During this ten year journey together, we have performed with excellence. And we did much to meet our mission to “revolutionize philanthropy and nonprofit practice.” We successfully created a national model for nonprofit sustainability, generating sufficient earned revenues to cover our operating costs while still providing most of our services at no charge. We became the nation’s experts in collecting and managing nonprofit data. We developed new products and services that help turn data into information and knowledge and encourage transparency and charitable giving. Along the way we acquired two exciting nonprofit organizations, launched GuideStar Labs as a source of innovation for the entire nonprofit sector, and created the next generation of DonorEdge for community foundations. We did it and we did it well: our validation is that this year we’ll have nearly ten million users visiting our website.

GuideStar’s board of directors has established a search committee and hired a national search firm, SpencerStuart, to help them find the next president. For the remainder of the year, my goals are to make sure we have a smooth transition that keeps GuideStar strong. I will do all I can to make this the most successful year in our history. Although it’s never easy to leave a work in progress, GuideStar is in the best shape it has ever been in and I feel privileged and humbled to have worked with such an extraordinary group of people.

Peter Drucker wrote about the need for occasional personal re-positioning, a time in a career to look for new opportunities. I personally have been inspired by the New York Times reporter Bruce Weber who explained he was taking a cross country bike trip “because I felt my resume for adventure wasn’t keeping pace with my age.”

Now it’s time for my next adventure.

Topics: Just Because