Meet Nina Miller – Development Executive for the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation

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On the day of the last Women’s Mentor Dinner, I received an email requesting a few minutes of the group’s time to share a fundraising initiative.  I agreed, not fully understanding the request’s intention or the passion behind it.

That email came from Nina Miller.  Talk about a REAL woman doing EXTRAORDINARY work…that is Nina! Turns out her impromptu introduction to STEPtember, an employee engagement and wellness initiative, was some of the most moving words spoken at the event.

Nina’s story and message were powerful because they were spoken from the heart, a mother’s heart. Nina Miller is truly a “Mother Who Wants More For Her Daughter”.  In fact, she has devoted her entire life to that mission.

Nina explained that her move to non-profit and the recent position with the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation were very personal.  Her daughter was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy.  From the first moment of her daughter’s life, Nina’s father encouraged her to understand the research, know the experts, and get involved with the work that impacts those with Cerebral Palsy.

Nina’s pitch that evening moved me.  After the event, I caught up with Nina to learn more about her career and fundraising efforts.

How did you get your start in the non-profit industry?

Shortly after graduating from college and moving to Charlotte, I met my former boss. He was an intensive caseworker working with transitionally homeless families and had a vision to leverage the power of the Web to facilitate quick and stable housing placements for populations facing housing barriers. He and I spent the next 15 years bringing this vision to life. It was a challenging and fun journey from small nonprofit/basement beginnings to serving most of the Country, which enabled me to develop and hone a broad nonprofit business development and operations skillset.

What is your advice for someone thinking about getting into non-profit work?

Nonprofit doesn’t mean non-business. Just like private sector/corporate entities, nonprofits need strong infrastructure, smart and savvy business minds, creative souls and passionate hearts. Listen to your heart and see where it leads you. Try different settings to experience which light you up and empower your authentic self. If you’re cause-driven, nonprofits can leverage your skill set, whatever it consists of. If you’re looking to apply your particular expertise to an organization with a powerful mission, start researching nonprofit organizations in your community that serve the needs that hit your radar and spark your heart. Volunteer, visit, read, attend events.

You describe your career as “Opportunistic” because you accepted roles understanding they were stepping stones into something greater. What is your best piece of advice on recognizing these opportunities? How do women, who may not be happy in their current roles, prepare themselves for the next one?

First, do your best to shift discouraging, energy sucking thoughts to those more aligned with a growth mindset.

If you’re feeling unhappy, GOOD! You’re feeling a powerful emotion that can disrupt your default and propel you forward.

My advice is to identify your dream job and create a stretch goal. Then, start taking micro steps in that direction. That could look like revising your resume, taking a class, finding a mentor or investing in a coaching session or 3. And most of all, try new things! Nothing awakens new parts of your being more than stepping into the unfamiliar, the scary, the things you’ve framed as “I don’t do that”.”

That’s some of the best advice I’ve ever heard.  Wow, Nina. Who helped you get so wise?  Tell me about your best boss.  What did you learn from him or her?  How did he/she shape your career?  How do you pass it on?

My most influential boss would always say to me, “Nina, if I could give you anything, it would be confidence in your abilities.”

From this constant reminder, I would make more clear decisions, be assertive and believe in myself. And that’s when I would feel a powerful flow forward in my career. He gave me opportunities that were well beyond my training and believed in the “lead with I can” mantra. Then, he would work with me to identify lessons learned and assist me in re-calibrating my strategies.

That’s beautiful, Nina.  Many women can completely relate to this advice.  Myself included.  Thank you for sharing it.  Are there any other wise words you would like to share?

When life knocks your down, stand up, ground yourself in what’s working and connect to your support network. Cultivate gratitude and forge ahead doing the work that needs to be done.

When my daughter was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, it knocked me down and took me out. Something intrinsic propelled me through the thickness of the challenges and obstacles. The experience has ultimately has lead me to the passion-filled work I’m doing today to advance and bring visibility to CP research.

Nina, you are truly living a passion-fueled, purpose-filled life.  Tell us more about the passion & purpose that drive your work at CPARF.

The day my daughter Josephine was born (5 years ago) I learned that life can change on a dime and thrust you into worlds you never considered exploring or even knew existed. We knew within a short time of her birth that she had experienced a trauma that would likely result in some form of brain injury or Cerebral Palsy.

Luckily, I was raised in a household where science, research and exploration were the pillars of our value system and regarded as a means to live the best life today and shape a better tomorrow. For that reason, on the day Josephine’s birth my father was already pointing me to the leaders in innovative research around Cerebral Palsy. I quickly became immersed in the most fascinating studies and fueled by a hope for Josephine’s future that was grounded in empirical evidence, brought forth by brilliant minds.

Reading these studies lit a fire in my belly I’d never before felt, and I knew that if I could find a way to work in this field I would have realized my ultimate dream, to align my purest passion with my daily work. Working for the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation not only puts me in direct contact with amazing science and top professionals in this field, but it also gives me the opportunity and responsibility to bring visibility to this groundbreaking work that is improving treatments for CP while reducing the prevalence. Moreover, this critical research and has broad application across many conditions affecting our loved ones today. Knowing that my work efforts will touch my daughter’s life and millions of people living with CP today is a fuel that will carry me a great distance with joy and purpose.

So, how can we help you?  How do we get involved?  Please tell us more about STEPtember and CPARF. 

Steptember

STEPtember, run by the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation (CPARF), is a global, innovative employee engagement and fitness challenge that has been serving corporate entities as a turnkey wellness solution for 7 years in 8 different countries. The program has a proven track record of increasing employee connection, improving overall health and increasing productivity. Not only is STEPtember fun, it’s scalable and can run stand-alone or compliment other internal wellness initiatives. Perfect for companies looking to instill healthy habits and jumpstart or bolster their wellness culture. Employees can engage at all levels, locations and fitness abilities.

How it works: From September 4th-October 1st (28-days), employees compete to take 10,000 steps a day (or the equivalent in 40+ different activities such as yoga, weight lifting, cycling and swimming). Within the STEPtember platform, teams can be arranged in a variety of ways to create the most energizing and engaging experience (i.e., departments, teams, divisions, locations, regions, etc.).  All individual, team and company progress is tracked through an easy-to-use dashboard via the STEPtember website and smartphone app. STEPtember is perfectly timed to reengage employees after summertime and jumpstart wellness goals. The CPARF team makes the implementation simple and the STEPtember program keeps participants actively engaged.  Employees have fun and get fit, all while supporting an important cause, Cerebral Palsy research. 17 million people are living with Cerebral Palsy today.

Here’s our recently released STEPtember ad.  Or visit the website at Steptember.us

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On a night where a group of women met to discuss “Finding Life’s Work at Any Age”, we found a woman who embodies that phrase.  Nina Miller is a not only an executive on a fundraising mission, she is also a mother on a life-changing mission.  Contact Nina at nmiller@cparf.org to become part of both missions.

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