Ann Felton doesn't let lack of experience hold her back from trying something new. In fact, the nonprofit leader has added salmon fishing and rafting — two things she had never done until recently — to her list of hobbies.
It's that no-fear attitude that landed Felton in her current position as chairman and chief executive officer of Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity. Building a home takes hammering, framing and other construction Felton knew nothing about, but she decided to join the board anyway in 1990. Felton said although her house building skills are still limited — "I know just enough to be dangerous out there” — she has no regrets about stepping into unknown territory 17 years ago. "This has been the hardest thing because I didn't really know much about construction,” Felton said. "But it's also been the most satisfying thing.” Felton recently sat down with The Oklahoman to discuss her journey in the nonprofit world. Q: What did you know about Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity when you first joined the organization? A: I didn't know anything about it. In 1990, a friend of mine recruited me to the board. At that time I really didn't think I had time. But he kept visiting me about it so I finally agreed to come on for a year and help with fundraising and finance. That was 17 years ago and I've been here ever since. Q: What made you stay with Habitat for 16 years longer than you originally planned? A: When I started meeting the families, I was just absolutely hooked on this program. It's such a wonderful ministry and it is a ministry, it really is. I have the opportunity to meet the homeowner and work side-by-side the homeowner, which is wonderful. Q: Why do you think more people are looking at nonprofits as a career choice? A: I feel that more people are interested in working in the nonprofit world because they see they can really make a difference. Compensation and benefits, too, have been rising to more competitive levels, giving more people options for meaningful nonprofit work. Q: How does a career in a nonprofit compare to one in a traditional business? A: The major difference between the two is really, I think, the bottom line. Typically, making a profit is among the highest priorities of a for-profit concern. There are, of course, a lot of for-profits with missions that are good for people. But, generally speaking, the ultimate goal of the nonprofit world is not to make a profit but to make life better in some way for people.