Fulfillment in Non-Profits

Jasbina Ahluwalia asks Deepa Iyer, former Executive Director of South Asian Americans Leading Together, SAALT: You bring up a lot of great points in terms of taking risks and building meaningful relationships.

Of all of those, what were the greatest rewards? Looking back now on that whole experience, what were the greatest rewards of leading the non-profit?

What do you look back on now and say, “Wow?”



Deepa Iyer

Fulfillment in Non-Profits: Lessons Learned

I always say that, being an executive director of a non-profit, there is no degree that you can get in it.

  • There are no courses in it.
  • There is no roadmap.
  • There aren’t as many non-profit executive directors of our generation or our background and ethnicity.


A lot of what I figured out as I went along was to really build the bridge while you walked down the bridge and try to learn from others as much as possible.

I learned a lot on the job. There were some things I was good at. I needed to learn the rest.


Fulfillment in Non-Profits: Building a Team

I needed to hire and bring on people who could help me to make sure that we were moving in the right direction.

Outside of that, even though there wasn’t a roadmap or set way of doing things, I found that my years working at SAALT were some of the most rewarding years I’ve ever had.


Fulfillment in Non-Profits: Personal Person

I think that’s because of a couple of reasons. I felt like I was aligned with my own personal purpose, or my calling.

In the post-9-11 moment, I felt that it was a moment where I knew I had to use the privilege that I had in terms of my education and background in order to step in and try to lead in a community that was really being devastated in a lot of ways.

The work was very personal to me. It was fulfilling.


Fulfillment in Non-Profits: Building Community

A second reason was the community.

For those in the audience who might be interested in working at a non-profit, I think that non-profit work is very community centered and people centered.

I met different types of people that I met along the way, like community members.


Fulfillment in Non-Profits: Unique Opportunities

I remember working with a group of workers who were walking all the way from New Orleans to Washington, DC in order to press for changes because they had been exploited in the workplace.

I remember working with a number of undocumented students who were trying to get their education.

These were the people, along with the people that I worked with day to day, who really made an impression on me.

The connection to purpose, people and issues that are important to me are what stand out in terms of the work that I did over the last nine years at SAALT.


Tell Us:

Have you found fulfillment in non-profits? Share your experiences with us below in the comments section.


The above is an excerpt from Jasbina’s interview with Deepa Iyer

The entire interview transcript is at: Deepa Iyer NetIP (Network of Indian Professionals) Interview – Leading & Working at Non-Profits

Listen to the entire interview on: Intersections Match Talk Radio – Jasbina’s Lifestyle Show

Listen to the entire interview on Blog Talk Radio: NetIP Spotlight- Live Your Potential: Leading & Working at Nonprofits

Listen to the entire interview on iTunes