Executive Director, Florida Nonprofit Alliance
Conversation with and photograph by Tiffany Manning
You are originally from Pakistan, and since moving to Jacksonville you’ve become an outspoken advocate for the local immigrant community. Immigrants all around the country face daily challenges. Would you like to shine a light on the challenges that they face here in Jacksonville and how we as a community can do better at supporting our neighbors?
Jacksonville is an extremely diverse community; we have dozens of nationalities present here. The average resident probably does not know that though. The current political rhetoric has made immigrants afraid and we can all do something about that. In Jacksonville, because of our size, communities are often isolated. Whether it be something as simple as a smile or knowing about and learning the various holidays and traditions, we can all do our part to make sure people are seen and made to feel like they belong here.
You’ve been the executive producer of TEDxJacksonville for eight years now. What it is about the TED organization that drives you to dedicate so much time volunteering?
I firmly believe that ideas and different perspectives are the only way to get people out of their silos, whether they be within sectors, people, religious beliefs or politics. We shouldn’t only talk to or listen to people who agree with us. In my view, TED provides a global platform to speakers with ideas and I am happy to play a small part in that. Our team of volunteers believes in our mission: that Jacksonville is an informed, inspired and engaged city and that is why we all choose to invest our time.
The nonprofit arena is where you have focused your career, and in your current role as executive director of the Florida Nonprofit Alliance, you advocate on behalf of the state’s nonprofit sector. What lessons have you learned that would benefit from a spotlight being shone on them?
I love being a cheerleader for our sector, it is such an honor and privilege. Nonprofits are businesses too. They are expected to operate out of the goodness of their hearts and that is not enough. I am a strong proponent of a healthy overhead cost. Nonprofits and their donors need to look at overhead costs not as an expense but as core mission support. Otherwise, organizations can’t operate in a sustainable fashion. Secondly, nonprofits should be able to demonstrate their impact or ROI. I saw that ask early on by elected officials and the business sector and one of my greatest accomplishments is showcasing the economic impact of our state’s nonprofit sector. Anyone can access it for free on flnonprofits.org. Finally, we are a resilient and trusted sector. According to an Independent Sector poll, a strong majority of voters (seventy-eight percent), when provided background information on the sector, support a bigger role for the charitable sector in working with the federal government to produce more effective and efficient solutions to problems.
Your love of adventure and travel is well documented in your blog, restlesswanderlust.com. When did your love of travel begin and why is it essential to your life?
My love of travel began early on. My dad is an engineer and sailed the world on large cargo ships. My brother and I were lucky enough to accompany him over our summer breaks. I loved meeting all of his colleagues from various countries. It made me realize that there were people all over the world who look differently from me and yet were the same. Travel is the best way to learn about people and it allows you to see that, ultimately, everyone wants the same things: health, happiness and the well-being of their family. All of my trips involve meeting locals from that country. Travel wallops ethnocentricity.