“What any CEO does, I do,” says Alisa Kesten, executive director of The Volunteer Center of United Way in Tarrytown. Arguably, though, she does more than her private-sector counterparts.
“Since our paychecks aren’t as big as they may be in other industries,” she says, she has to make sure The Volunteer Center is “a place where people feel like what they’re doing matters, and that they’re being respected professionally.”
After serving on the board of directors for five years, Kesten became CEO in 2010, bringing to the Center a contagious enthusiasm. Jeanette Gisbert, senior director for volunteer and corporate engagement, says Kesten “has an unbridled passion for The Volunteer Center’s mission” and that her “passion and focus are infectious and inspire her staff to work tirelessly to make a difference in the lives of volunteers and the nonprofits they help.”
Kesten, who has held more positions in more organizations than she can count offhand (she previously worked in early childhood education, political campaigns, and communications, to name a few), knows well that in order to reap the benefits of a passionate staff, they must be fully engaged. “There must be work that has to be done in order to have a job,” says Kesten. “I was actually hired once for a job that didn’t exist anywhere except on paper.”
So to ensure everyone is toiling happily towards The Volunteer Center’s objectives, Kesten stays in touch, keeping her door—and her ears—open. “I believe in open lines of communication, making sure that I can communicate down to everyone, as well as up to my board and out to my community, as quickly as possible.”