City: Little Rock
Category: Nonprofit Executive of the Year
Talk about the best and brightest: Georgia Miller Mjartan was the most-honored graduate of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock when she received her dual bachelor's degrees there in 2002. She was a Rhodes Scholarship finalist, got a Mitchell Scholarship to earn her master's degree in Ireland and received the Fannie Mae Foundation Fellowship to study at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
And now, still in her 20s, she's a repeat finalist for Nonprofit Executive of the Year.
Mjartan has spent almost four years as executive director of Our House, a shelter for homeless individuals and families — and much more. Our House provides job training and placement, child care and summer camps, serving more than 1,000 people every year. It has a $1 million annual budget and a staff of 37.
This was not the organization that Mjartan inherited in 2005, when she stepped off the board of directors and into the job of director. It was, she said, an uncharacteristically risky leap for a business communications consultant who had previously succeeded mainly by staying firmly in her comfort zone.
She took a nonprofit that hadn't even paid its utility bills and quickly set its finances in order. She finished the construction of a new emergency shelter, which had ground to a halt because contractors hadn't been paid. She started raising money — for operations, for construction, for new programs — and lined up other resources, including some $400,000 worth of professional services and in-kind giving.
"I thought I would be there to sort of fill a gap and then move on," Mjartan said.
"But what's happened is the longer I've been here, the more my vision has grown." She's currently neck deep in a $400,000 capital campaign for a family housing program.
But what she's most proud of is her ability to attract "really incredible people" despite not being able to pay them the salaries they could command elsewhere.
"What I'm building here is something that is sustainable. It's not all about me."