Cowboy Code

Posted By: Danielle Dunbar

I recently made a trip to Oklahoma City to meet with fellow state nonprofit association leaders. There is wisdom from that trip that I'd like to share (in the form of a numbered list, my favorite!). While there, I was able to spend time with other leaders thanks to the National Council of Nonprofits and Fidelity Charitable Catalyst Fund. It was better than I could have imagined.

Not only was OK City different than expected (Hello, southern charm) but I learned so much from the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits. She’s a petite leader, seasoned, strong, and smart as a whip, and, from my perspective, she’s built an empire. (Alabama’s next y’all!)

Having completed an $8M+ capital campaign and renovated a state-of-the-art building for her 1,000+ nonprofit members, Marnie Taylor had a lot to teach me and my colleagues. First, she reminded us to pay attention and listen to those around us, especially our members and our donors. Second, she reminded us to accept where we are as an organization but strive to do more. Finally, she reminded us that seconds matter, as with the Oklahoma City bombing. Life is short and nonprofits have the power to change our lives.

These lessons happened throughout structured and informal conversations, as well as our behind-the-scenes tour of the National Cowboy Museum. We also learned that the iconic Western cowboy traces its roots to north and west Africa, up through Spain, and then over to the New World. That changed some of my notions of the American cowboy in a good way and reminded me to always keep learning.

The Code of the West, below, challenged me to think of these ideals in terms of my professional life. I hope it will inspire you in your work as it has inspired me to do more for nonprofits in Alabama.

Code of the West:

  1. Live each day with courage.
  2. Take pride in your work.
  3. Always finish what you start.
  4. Do what has to be done.
  5. Be tough, but fair.
  6. When you make a promise, keep it.
  7. Ride for the brand.
  8. Talk less and say more.
  9. Remember that some things aren’t for sale.
  10. Know where to draw the line.

As always, AAN appreciates our friends, members, donors, and community. Thank you for helping me make AAN the best version of itself so we can improve the quality of life across Alabama.