Woman on a mission

When faced with a new opportunity, Nancy VanReece asks herself, "Does this fulfill my mission?"

If the answer is yes, she'll entertain the idea. If the answer is no, she'll respectfully decline.

It's a tool she learned during the past 15 years while working for various non-profit organizations, the last being the Nashville Shakespeare Festival. Now that her position at the festival has been eliminated due to budgetary concerns, VanReece is back in the job market and asking herself that familiar question nearly every day.

"Once you've been in non-profit management for a while, you see the beauty of relying on a mission statement," VanReece said.

Denice Hicks, artistic director of the Nashville Shakespeare Festival, said VanReece's marketing skills were unmatched and lauded VanReece’s efforts in securing 1,000 Twitter followers for the festival.

"Full of new ideas and fearless about pursuing them, she's a wonderful conductor, story teller and salesperson," Hicks said of VanReece. "Her avidity for social networking is boundless, and her enthusiasm connects her with hundreds of people through that network."

But the festival faced a budget crisis during its 22nd season despite record-breaking attendance. To ensure its survival into its 23rd year, sacrifices had to be made.

After working tirelessly as executive director of the Nashville Shakespeare Festival for three seasons on eight shows since 2007, VanReece found herself with a bit of metaphorical whiplash when the director's position was dissolved in September during the last weekend of Shakespeare in the Park.

The festival’s board did away with VanReece's position and delegated the responsibilities to volunteer board members in order to save money.

"It will be extremely difficult for any volunteer board of directors to absorb the duties of the executive director, but they are up for that challenge and I wish them well," VanReece said.

No longer fitting into the festival's mission, VanReece developed her own as she set out to find a job that would meet her criteria.

"Now, I'm looking for a full-time gig that meets my own mission statement which is focused on advocating creative opportunities for my community to achieve its potential," she said.

She's regrouping and borrowing learned knowledge from her past endeavors in order to forge a new, unbeaten path.

While at the festival, VanReece became well versed in social media development and strategy using tools such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogging. This type of viral marketing provided a cheap and easy way to promote the festival on a tight budget - and with record-breaking attendance numbers, it proved effective.

Although, still unemployed and looking for work, VanReece has parlayed her social media experience into collaborations with FOUR28 COLLECTIVE and coolpeoplecare.org where she's able to offer her social media knowledge to businesses and non-profit groups.

She is also looking back to her skills and her background in copyright administration and intellectual property licensing to offer independent consultant assistance for music publishers and trademark owners.
"I'm discovering ways to take what I’ve learned and what I’m passionate about and use it to help several organizations," she said.  "As I look for full time work, anything that I do I line up next to my personal mission statement to help know if it something I should be doing." 

She also continues painting and blogging.  As employment opportunities come her way, VanReece compares them to her goals. If they don't measure to her mission, she moves on.

"At this point I have to analyze what’s best for my family and make sure that what I do everyday is something I’m truly passionate about."

Now, VanReece is considering switching her focus from saving the arts to helping people better themselves through humanities or service.

"It's like that old adage," VanReece said. "You teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for life. You teach a woman to fish and she’ll feed a village."

More information can be found at nancyvanreece.com.

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