By Carol Damaso, Class 21
I had my leadership epiphany with Scottsdale Leadership on the day of our last class. Former Scottsdale mayor Sam Campana relayed her story of having raised massive funding in her position as Executive Director of Audubon Arizona. Over the years Sam had been a leader in many ways, but bringing in big money was a first for her. She had been an important arts advocate for Scottsdale, served on City Council and later became the City’s mayor. In meeting her new challenge, she spoke with such enthusiasm and energy that I wanted to emulate her. Could I do it? I had never sought corporate funding before. Was I not a “leader” too?
When applying for Scottsdale Leadership Class 21 in 2006, I had been working in the Scottsdale Public Library for fourteen years. Having been exposed to a friendly top notch city staff, exemplary city programs and a first-class public library, I yearned to learn more about Scottsdale. I figured Scottsdale Leadership would provide that path. It did – and it imparted so much more.
By the time of graduation nine months later, I had experienced the saving of a burning building; the simulated capture of multiple criminals; the beauty of art I did not know existed; and the many hidden treasures of lesser known Scottsdale. Most importantly, I was part of the conversation with upcoming leaders: light rail or not, more charter schools or fewer, economic development via innovation or tourism, and numerous other topics.
I learned of sectors in need of volunteers, especially volunteers in a leadership capacity, and I was made aware of the many opportunities where I could contribute leadership skills in our community. In the end, however, it was Sam’s tale that seized my attention.
Soon after graduation, I began work on bringing in corporate funds for Scottsdale Leadership. I had witnessed what the organization produced in leaders over the years and realized what a profound impact its program had on the community. Scottsdale Leadership needed capital to operate and grow. My “giving back” turned into a first year of getting my feet wet with the corporate “ask.” I learned how to establish corporate relationships, lay out the monetary needs of Scottsdale Leadership, and go for the proverbial “close” at the right time. That was followed by seven years on the Board of Directors and now Advisory Council service for the next two years. I have wanted to make a difference in strengthening the infrastructure of Scottsdale Leadership as a successful non-profit.
I believe that in an organization like Scottsdale Leadership, leaders beget leaders. Certainly knowledge about the community and how it can be applied in volunteerism is crucial. Improving basic leadership skills is also critical. Combining knowledge with leadership is the strength of the Scottsdale Leadership core program.
In the nine years since my Class 21 graduation, Scottsdale Leadership has not only survived; it has thrived. Now in its thirtieth year, Scottsdale Leadership boasts of over 1,000 graduates. The experience of going through the Scottsdale Leadership program and following with volunteerism has been gratifying. I highly recommend the opportunity for Scottsdale leaders of the future.