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A Conversation With … Katie Davis

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Your first introduction to the Great Game came when you were leading Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ozarks. How did it help that nonprofit?
I was promoted to executive director only after being there for three years. I was very green and very open to trying different things. Right at that time, Tim Stack, who was one of the (general managers) at one of the SRC [Holdings Corp.] subsidiaries, joined our board and he worked with me for the next six years. He helped me adapt the principles of the Great Game to a nonprofit, because there are some pretty big differences – like we don’t care about profitability as our only success factor. We kind of came up with this hashtag: #NoMoneyNoMission. We really focused on two critical numbers and one needs to be money, but the other one has to be mission. After six years, we had huge success. We ended up having a 22% increase in our revenue and a 17% increase in our program numbers.

Why did you join Great Game?
One of the things about the Great Game is it kind of spreads the knowledge, but also the burden, of the day-to-day activities of the organization. So, I feel like this place will be successful without me. I had two really small kids at the time, and I decided to stay at home with them. I approached the Great Game and I said, “I have all of these Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies from other cities wanting me to help them. I have all these nonprofits in Springfield wanting me to help them. Do you want me to just send all these people to you or do you want me to work with them?” That’s when we created this partnership. We created what we call now the Great Game for Social Sectors.

A main tenet of Great Game is open-book management. How does that way of leadership affect the business and its employees?
A lot of people think if you show your financials, then you’re open book. We take it a step further in helping every employee understand what they’re looking at. Where engagement comes in is helping them understand what they can do to affect those numbers. The employees understand them so much that they can then make different decisions every day in their day-to-day job to have a positive impact on the business or the organization. It’s about that education.

Tell me about how you’re working with retirees enrolled in the Give 5 program.
We created a partnership with the United Way and with Give 5, where we’re taking the Give 5 retirees and helping them become coaches for the social sector. When I’m doing my succession planning, I want this to be bigger than me, and I want it to be bigger than the number of clients that I could take on. I’m kind of transitioning to helping coach the coaches. (On Aug. 15) the YMCA will launch and they will be the fifth organization to launch. The Victim Center launched last week. It’s just been an amazing experience to watch them and to watch the coaches come in and see their transformation. It’s really about creating those small miracles. The people delivering the services, they typically never see their spot as being in the financials. (It’s) finding those little moments where they’re connecting the dots and seeing that if I just did this, it would have an impact on the financials. This is more than just making money. For the nonprofits, we want to grow your mission. But the way we need to do that is for you to understand how your decisions, when you’re delivering the mission, affect the financials so that we can be sustainable. We want you to become greater stewards of your donors’ dollars.

Katie Davis can be reached at


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