Meet Erin Risner!

Meet Erin Risner!

// By Jacqueline Brennan

From a young age, Erin Risner knew she was attracted to a broad range of issues—enough to have a constant fear of missing out. Heeding the wise advice of a parent though, she found a way to beat the restlessness by following a professional route that has taken her through nonprofits, tech, and social entrepreneurship. Currently, she serves as director of marketing and communications for Camp Fire, a Missouri-based nonprofit that has been in the youth development space for 108 years! Erin is also one of our earliest registrants for Upswell. Here’s a little about her and why she’s looking forward to traveling to LA this November to meet with changemakers like you!

Q: Who are you, what are you working on, and why are you inspired to make the world a better place?
ER: I’m a proud Midwesterner, mom to a vivacious three-year-old boy, partner to someone who thinks I’m funny, a sleep connoisseur, CASA volunteer, musician, list-maker, lover of spontaneous adventures, and an ambitious marketing professional! If you’re into Strengths Finder, mine are: Strategic, Includer, Maximizer, Positivity, and Futuristic. I’m also an Enneagram Seven.

At Camp Fire, I’ve been working on taking its rich 108-year legacy, talented network in 53 councils, track record of leadership in youth development, and solid groundwork that was laid before I came in May 2017 to elevate the brand through good design, customer experience best practices, simple messaging, and helpful marketing tools and training.

I’m inspired to make the world a better place because growth, empowerment, and transformation – for others, for myself – is what I find motivating. I feel like it’s in our control on a micro scale every day, in how we treat and respond to others, consume goods, use our resources, deal with or react to our circumstances, etc. At a macro level, stats like this point to how the actual work of making the world a better place can save lives and change the course of history.

I’ve always loved the Gandhi quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Q: What’s your favorite way to relax?
ER: An hour and a half massage and then a nap afterwards. I’ve recently been trying to do this once a month so everyone in my life likes me more! 😊 Otherwise, the more often and attainable relaxation is hot yoga 2-3 times a week, getting outside as much as possible (fresh air! sun! move!), and laying in my magical bed to watch a good show.

Q: If there were one social issue you could solve today, what would it be – and why?
ER: I think about this question a lot. When I was in college, my dad told me that I’m the kind of person who will be attracted to all different kinds of opportunities, and there might not be a “right” or “better” choice, so I should decide to pick one and put my heart there. Today we call that FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)! He was right – I have so many big ideas and problems I want to solve. So, I’ve tried to pursue something I believe in and put my whole self into it—in the spirit of the adage, “the grass is always greener where you water it.”

I’ve loved my career path in nonprofit, social entrepreneurship, and tech, and feel so fortunate to have been a part of such amazing organizations over the past ten years. What I keep thinking about is the vast disconnect between the innovation that for-profit companies get to do, and how behind most nonprofits are, as well as the trends in tech or marketing, or in philanthropy (like impact investing); and the potential to blend what’s working from different sectors into something more powerful for everyone. I wonder what kind of models could be created, adopted, or expanded to accelerate impact in the social sector and not just rely so heavily on grants and charitable giving. For example, in college I loved studying microfinance and one of the fathers of the microcredit movement, Muhammad Yunus.

So, if I could solve an issue, it would be figuring out a new impact model that could help more people faster, across a variety of organizations or sectors. I also love forging strategic partnerships where everyone wins, so I think that would play a key role.

Q: Upswell is about breaking the mold. What’s one thing you’d like to see in the conversation that doesn’t get enough national attention?
ER: Three things come to mind:

  1. It’s growing in attention, but I’d say the conversation around diversity, equity, and inclusion; the business case, its importance in every organization’s future and opportunity for growth.
  2. Kids and teens in state custody, in the foster system, or in group homes, and how that impacts our communities and state governments whether we see it or not.
  3. Social Emotional Learning (SEL) for kids – the research shows that SEL and life skills (like grit, resilience, self-confidence, empathy, kindness, respect, conflict resolution, etc.) are key to a kid’s success now and in the future, not just their reading and math scores. This probably doesn’t surprise you! But since this will impact each of our workplaces and communities in the future whether you have kids or not, it’s something we should all be concerned and talking about.
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