Ivey Johnson Hall
The Executive Director | 40 Under 40 Class of 2020
“Remember…our next generation is watching.”
GET TO KNOW IVEY
Ivey Johnson Hall’s desire to work for a greater cause is what led her to the world of nonprofits. She’s backed by nearly 14 years in nonprofit management and is currently the executive director of Habitat for Humanity in Macon, Georgia. Learn more about Ivey in her extended interview.
What inspired you to go into this line of work?
I have always loved the idea of working for a greater cause. The more work I did with nonprofit organizations the more I realized that a small local organization where I could be involved in all aspects of the mission was what I really wanted to do. My work has also allowed me to be involved on a larger scale in our local community and across the state, which I love. I feel so fortunate to work with such a variety of people that all care about seeing the world change for good.
What challenge did you overcome to get where you are today?
As I moved from a large nonprofit with human resources, finance, purchasing and IT departments to a team of 10, I quickly learned that these were all now my responsibility. Since joining Habitat, I have been challenged to learn not only the construction, retail, neighborhood revitalization and homeownership components of the organization, but also how to handle HR, finance, purchasing, IT and so many other components of running a business. I have learned to ask a lot of questions, utilize the expertise of my board and engage other nonprofit and small business leaders for help. It has been an incredible opportunity and I am so grateful to have the additional skills.
Did someone help you get to where you are today, like a mentor?
I am fortunate to have many mentors in my life. My parents are a wonderful influence. My dad loved giving back to the community, our schools and his profession. My mom showed me that you can have a family and a career that you love. I have had several professional mentors that always seem to be the right person when I need them. A colleague who pushed just hard enough for me to think bigger early in my career. Friends who challenged me to take a leap of faith into my current position. Board chairs who always seem to have the skill set that I (and the organization) need at the time. The faithful colleagues who have become more like family and always seem to know when I need an extra boost. I have learned that some mentors are for life and some come into your life briefly at just the right moment.
What do you love most about your job?
No two days are the same, but it is all working toward a vision that everyone deserves a decent place to live. One day I may be in a meeting with city officials, the next with local foundations. Days may be spent on the job site with a volunteer group or getting ready for a fundraising event. Other days we celebrate home dedications or paying off a mortgage with a homeowner. Some days I change the air filters and treat our building for bugs. Not every day is perfect, but I really do love them all.
Early Bird or Night Owl
Mountains or Beach
Stripes or Polka Dots
Physical Book or Audiobook
Left Brain or Right Brain
Boss Lady Icon
Can't Live Without
My leather Madewell bag that holds everything
Describe yourself in three words.
Faithful, persistent and organized.
Your life philosophy is…
One step at a time.
What is the best piece of advice you received?
Make the best decision with the information that you have and then make it work.
If someone handed you an airline ticket to a place of your choosing, where would you go and why?
I would escape to an island with my husband for a couple of days. For our 15th anniversary, we traveled to Barbados and spent several days at a resort. We didn’t book anything other than meals and one snorkeling trip. I was reminded how important it was for us to make time to be together without the crazy schedules of our day to day life. We came back refreshed and ready to take on life together.
What’s something you cannot live without?
I have a big leather bag from Madewell that I have used for over three years. When I started my job, I wanted a bag that would look professional, hold everything I needed in one bag and last a long time. It is a simple brown leather bag with my initials embossed in small gold letters on one side. There is just one small zipper pocket on the inside. I have used it for work, as a beach bag, as a “mom” bag, snack bag for trips and so much more. It is such a simple thing but is my go-to every day.
Name a book you read that positively shaped you.
While I love reading books for work and for pleasure and have read many that have impacted my life, I have really enjoyed reading The Rotarian magazine lately. I joined Rotary about two years ago and started reading The Rotarian when it showed up in my mailbox. It is an incredible global perspective on the work that can be accomplished by people who care. I am consistently amazed to read about clubs in small countries that you usually only hear about in a negative light in the news and the life-changing work they are doing within their borders. Month after month, I look forward to reading about the work that people are doing around the world inspired by a desire for service above self.
If you weren’t working in the industry that you are, what would you be doing instead?
I have always said that if I could not work in a nonprofit that I would want to give away money for a large company. It would be wonderful to be able to get to know the people and organizations that are making changes happen and then be able to give them the money they need to do their work.
How do you unwind or relax after a long day?
I love to pick up my kids, hear about their days and then have dinner as a family. A glass of wine helps, too. On the flip side, I like to start my day with a run. It is a chance to let go of all that happened the day before and get my mind ready for the day to come.
The most rewarding aspect of your job is…
I love walking through a new house with a family when the walls have just gone up. It is the first time that a homeowner can really see the layout of their new home. I get to watch them as they start to imagine who will get each bedroom, where furniture will go and to see the look on their face when they realize that it is their own home.
If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it – metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions – what would it say and why?
“Remember…our next generation is watching.” Life moves at such a fast pace these days and technology allows us to access more than we ever imagined. I think it is easy for us to forget that the next generation is watching what we do, how we interact with others, how we take care of ourselves and how we spend our time. We are setting examples for how they will act and expect others to interact with them as they grow up. How do we ensure that the next generation learns the best from us and not our worst?
In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
Several years ago, I set a goal to run a half marathon…I wanted the medal! I trained off and on, then had babies and didn’t run as much, and then was determined to get the medal before I turned 40. I signed up for my first race, set my training schedule, then created a new one when the first one didn’t work, and then actually did it. I trained on my own and ran the race on my own. My husband and kids went with me and cheered me on. The feeling of crossing the finish line was amazing. I vowed to never run another one and have since run two more half marathons. I have trained on my own and trained with friends. Ran another race on my own and ran the most recent one with a friend from high school. Running is always there and is something I can control and do for me.
When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do?
I take deep breaths, turn back to my list and remember to do one thing at a time. When I really need to refocus, I turn up the music in my headphones and go for a run.
What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be money, time, energy, etc.)
Last year, I pledged to make it a year of “yes.” My kids are old enough to really go and do things (we are past naps and diapers), our dogs (who we loved) had passed away, so there was no longer the guilt of leaving them behind and there were so many opportunities on the horizon. We said yes to trips with family, to weddings out of town for friends, dinners out with friends, sleepovers and trying new things. We learned that our kids travel well and love to go on adventures together. I find it hard to believe that I already have a 10-year-old (we made that birthday into an adventure to Washington, D.C.) and time just seems to fly by so fast. Laundry can sit in the basket a couple more days and dishes will be fine in the sink until tomorrow. My wisest investment has been in spending more time saying “yes” to the adventures that come along and just being together.
Name a confident woman of character who you look up to? Why her?
I recently read Michelle Obama’s book “Becoming.” Politics aside, I was struck with the way she has approached her life. Michelle is a strong, well-educated woman who was thrust into the spotlight as not only a first lady of the United States, but the first African American first lady. She attempted to handle situations with grace and the expected protocol while still standing up for her beliefs and the way she wanted to raise her children. She balanced being a political figure, mom and wife while still trying to be herself.