I know that she won’t disappear from our sight, but just the same, I will miss her in her NTEN role. A lot. It’s not just that she’s smart, collaborative, creative, ethical, well-informed, and committed to making the world a better place. It’s that she is the only person I know who can actually quiet a ballroom full of thousands of conference attendees in order to make some mundane housekeeping announcements. She is that compelling, that likable as a leader.
I first met Holly in 2001, at the Circuit Rider Roundup in Denver, CO. The circuit rider movement was the precursor to NTEN, and the roundup was the precursor to the huge annual conference that NTEN now coordinates. Holly was then working for (the now-defunct) TechRocks. I was a second or third wave circuit rider, attending a roundup for the first time. There was definitely an inner circle of cool kids, and the TechRocks team was part of it. Holly was one of them, and she was also a friendly face to newcomers. Later on, she made the transition to the newly-formed NTEN staff, and in 2008, she became the E.D.
Through the years, I’ve had plenty opportunities to collaborate with Holly to advance the field of nonprofit technology, in order to serve the organizations that are fulfilling important social missions. No one who knows me will be at all surprised if I point out that this “collaboration” has often consisted of Holly listening while I explained to her why NTEN was doing something wrong and what NTEN should do instead! Likewise, no one who knows Holly will be surprised to learn that she has in turn always been gracious, responsive, and helpful. Good heavens, she has even thanked me for my guidance and feedback! And then she has gone on lead NTEN brilliantly, regardless of whether my suggestions turned out to be worth the time it took to listen to them. I don’t know how many other longtime NTEN supporters would say the same, but I suspect that the overwhelming majority would.
Happy trails to Holly! I wish her the best, and I hope that we’ll be seeing her at NTEN conferences in the future as a relaxed attendee who is not responsible for running the show, but who is allowed to enjoy the fruits of a profession and a movement that she was so crucial in creating.