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Carol Hardison: Skills honed in corporate world

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Carol Hardison

Carol Hardison

Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After Duke Power recruited her right out of college in 1982, Carol Hardison found her 40-hour week left her 10 hours a week to volunteer, a passion she had enjoyed since childhood.

But during her rise over 18 years to the job of information-technology senior consultant, Hardison found herself working 60 to 70 hours a week, leaving no time for community service.

So in 1999, nearing age 40, Hardison enrolled in a 10-week class designed to help people align their careers with their skills and passions.

“I concluded I could transfer my skills and experience from the corporate sector to the nonprofit sector, serving people in poverty,” says Hardison, who since July 2000 has served as executive director of Crisis Assistance Ministry.

Crisis Assistance provides assistance and advocacy for people in financial crisis, and works to help them achieve self-sufficiency.

With an annual budget of over $13 million, 66 employees and over 5,000 volunteers, the agency serves over 80,000 people a year.

Since Hardison joined Crisis Assistance, it has grown rapidly: The staff, for example, has grown 40 percent, while private fundraising has doubled to $3.5 million a year.

Hardison says her years at Duke Energy helped her acquire the skills she has needed to help manage growth at Crisis Assistance Ministry.

Those skills, she says, include setting a vision, strategic planning, good hiring practices, developing and maintaining a budget, measuring performance and providing customer service.

“The things I needed to learn to prepare me for this job, I learned at Duke Energy,” she says.

Key skills she developed at Duke Energy involved team-building and collaboration, she says.

For most of her career at the utility company, her job was to roll out new software and hardware to employees, and prepare them to use the new technology and integrate it into their operations.

Because people often can be resistant to change, she says, her job required a lot of patience and the ability to get people to work together in adapting to new ways of doing business.

“Year after year, I worked to get people from different departments in the company to come together and agree on solutions to problems,” she says.

She says she has made frequent use of those skills at Crisis Assistance Ministry, which works on a regular basis with nonprofit, for-profit and government partners

After Hurricane Katrina, for example, Hardison played a key role in building a community-wide collaborative effort to address the needs of hundreds of families that relocated to Charlotte from the Gulf Coast.

Roughly 10 local agencies and faith organizations “came together and we created a seamless approach to getting these families back on their feet,” she says. “Duke taught me a lot about collaboration and teamwork.”

While businesses and nonprofits both are “mission-driven,” she says, a big difference involves their respective stakeholders.

“In for-profits, the stakeholders are getting a financial or material gain as a result of their dollar,” she says. “In nonprofits, they’re creating a better society with their dollar.”

Hardison still works 50 to 60 hours a week but says nonprofit work is where she belongs.

“It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life,” she says. “I wake up ever day looking forward to going to Crisis Assistance Ministry to see people who are like family.”

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