I have known Kelly Anne Harris since high school and although we didn’t know each other very well back then, I am lucky that our paths crossed later in life because she has become a mentor to me as I build my nonprofit.

Kelly is 35, a single mom, a Realtor, associate broker and franchise owner. After she lost her first job out of college at 25, she found herself at rock bottom with a 6-month-old son. It was that rock bottom where she faced her hardest decision — a career change and investing in herself to achieve her ultimate dreams. She became a Realtor, and found success in her small hometown despite Owensboro having a significant population of Realtors. At 31, she took another leap of faith. She left her real estate company, and ventured out on her own under a different brand. Not surprisingly, Kelly found greater success and now has her own real estate team, The Harris Jarboe Group, owns three Keller Williams franchises and a property management and rental property company. 

Despite operating organizations in two different sectors of the economy — Kelly owning a business and me running a nonprofit — b=we both found that we started because of the same purpose. We saw something that was lacking in our community. For me, I knew we needed some place for those with intellectual disabilities to find a sense of belonging and community. For Kelly, she knew there was an 80 percent failure rate among Realtors and she wanted to start a company that helped grow the next generation for the real estate community.

But there are obvious differences in what Kelly and I do, also. While we both believe that a nonprofit should run as a business and a major part of running either is selling yourself and your heart — nonprofits have to do that in a different way. A business investor expects to put money into a company and own a share of that company or receive financial gain from their investment. As a nonprofit, I have to sell the Puzzle Pieces’ mission and the return on investment for those that support us is them feeling good. 

Kelly, who is a co-chair of the Puzzle Pieces board, and I have collaborated on many things. She organizes one of Puzzle Pieces’ largest annual fundraisers and offers daily advice on how I can grow and become better for my clients and staff. What we have learned is that nonprofit and business leaders can be pretty powerful when they collaborate. 

Kelly said her success shed new light on her purpose, which is giving back and leading with a servant’s heart. 

“I struggled in my hometown when I became successful,” she said. “ It was lonely at the top. I felt like I had to hide my success because of the comments or negativity I received.”

But at a conference, Kelly heard a speaker who said, “Money is only as good as the good it can do,” and it changed her perspective on her success.

“The bigger I get, the more I can give back,” she said. “We should all want to make more so that we can help fund places like Puzzle Pieces. My goal is to give back $100,000 per year and I know what I need to make to be able to give that.” 

Sometimes a business will donate money just for name recognition or for others to see their good deed. 

I would much rather have a relationship with that business. I want to know your “why.” Kelly’s employees tour Puzzle Pieces. She is involved in our events and supports our mission. That kind of partnership does more for her staff, my staff, Puzzle Pieces’ clients and the community than just writing a check.

Interested in learning more? Kelly joins me on me on my podcast “Pieces of Me” (all podcast platform links are below) where we dive deeper into this topic. Want a Free Download of the tips of starting a Business and/or Non-profit? Join my email list to send an email to receive the Free Download Tip sheet on Business vs. Non-Profit!

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