Editor’s note: For our fall Nonprofit issue, we invited local nonprofit leaders to reflect on the successes and challenges of operating a 501(c)(3) in Western North Carolina.
Sam Ruark is the executive director of Green Built Alliance. The nonprofit is dedicated to advancing sustainable living, green building and climate justice through community education, inspired action and collaborative partnerships.
Xpress: What about this year’s volunteer/staff work gives you hope about your nonprofit’s mission and its overall impact on the community?
Ruark: We are fortunate to have a bright, passionate and dedicated staff at Green Built Alliance, which is also supported by our powerful board of directors and caring crew of volunteers. Each person on our team has a personal and professional commitment to sustainability and strives each day to make our community and world a better place. Our efforts to serve the community include weatherizing and repairing vulnerable homes through Energy Savers Network; facilitating the installation of solar energy systems on low-income homes through Neighbor to Neighbor Solar; charting the course for our region’s clean energy future through Blue Horizons Project; certifying high-performance residential construction through Green Built Homes; and funding solar energy systems on local schools and nonprofits through Appalachian Offsets. These combined efforts give me hope in fulfilling our mission for the community.
What has been the most challenging aspect of operating your nonprofit this year?
The most challenging aspect of running Green Built Alliance this year has been navigating staffing changes we experienced in the spring. Four staff departed, and we hired five in the course of two months. That dynamic transition led to creating better systems for managing and growing our staff. Fortunately, we have hired, trained and integrated a fantastic team that I am proud to work with each day in serving this community.
How have the last 2 1/2 years reshaped the way your nonprofit operates, and do you see these changes as permanent?
Going from working full time in the office together to all remote for most of 2020 and 2021, to hybrid work this year, elevated our need to adapt while navigating uncertainty. During this time, our team grew, took on new projects and programs, moved offices, navigated multiple cases of COVID, let go of all in-person events for an extended period and sought to diversify our funding with more support from private donors. These times have tested our resilience, and I am happy to say that we have navigated these times well despite the various challenges. While we are back to hosting and tabling at in-person events, many meetings are still being held virtually, which probably will continue.