I’m able to grow my not-for-profit thanks to my workstyle

Life is about plugging into work that makes you happy.

Hueytown, Alabama is a small town in the heart of the Bible Belt of the southeastern United States. You probably imagine a lot of things when you hear “small-town Alabama” and many of those things are probably true. For me, Hueytown was an incredible place to be a kid, and at the same time, it was the reason I repressed my true identity for the better part of my life. In Hueytown, there’s a church on every corner and everyone votes for the conservative party (namely, Republican). The people there are incomparably kind, but the societal pressures to conform are oppressively high.

I’m telling you about Hueytown because it’s a critical part of my journey as a founder, executive director, and freelancer.

The first two roles can be summed up in few sentences. LGBTQ people do not live easy lives in Hueytown, Alabama. It was so hard for me, in fact, I didn’t know if I was going to survive. I cried myself to sleep at night, and it wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I found hope. In short, a coming-out story saved my life. That’s why I founded VideoOut, a nonprofit with a mission to amplify the voices of LGBTQ people. I serve as the Executive Director, leading the effort to build the largest library of coming-out stories anywhere on the planet.

Photo by EricJenkinsSahlin.com

As with most small organizations in the nonprofit sector, available funding barely covers expenses, so I have worked multiple jobs to support the mission. It’s always a balancing act of when and where I am available to work for VideoOut, and when I have to be at my desk freelancing for another company or organization. Over the past few years, I’ve mastered the juggling act of schedules and priorities that come with multiple jobs and roles.

I’ve also specialized in being a generalist. I know how to do many things, from online community building to editorial strategy to project management to creative direction on print ad campaigns. Since I left my full-time job in 2014, I’ve worked as the Head of People for a national education nonprofit, the Director of Community and Customer Support for a fledgling sports beverage company, the Director of Operations for a reimagined adventure magazine, and a receptionist for an advertising company.

To me, life is about making a difference. It’s about plugging into work that makes you happy.

That’s ultimately what makes the world a better place, but that doesn’t always fit the traditional 9 to 5 working model. So what do we do? We piece together jobs that allow us to pursue happiness. As a matter of fact, by 2021, half of the working population in the US and the UK will be freelancers (aka, people that understand what it means to put the multiple-jobs-puzzle together). We understand the need to work in a way that compliments our lives, and we’re increasingly unwilling to settle for jobs that dictate our lives.

That’s why I’m glad I found The Hoxby Collective, a social enterprise that is changing the way we work in order to create a #happierworld and a more fulfilled society. Hoxby is made up of over 400 people across 29 countries who embody the #lovewhatyoudo mantra. It’s a structure built on trust and autonomy, not presence and hierarchy. Hoxby allows me to invest in work with clients I admire, while also allowing me to maintain the flexibility I need to run VideoOut. It’s truly a win-win situation.

Hoxby characterises this new working world as a movement, one that I am so happy to be a part of. I think we can all agree that our lives are unpredictable, and that’s the beauty of the #workstyle movement.

I’m currently working as a part of Hoxby’s core team, researching potential partnerships and crafting strategies we’ll use in our initial conversations with other organisations interested in changing the way we work. It feels important. I love it!

I’ve come a long way since Hueytown, but my heart is still there with all the people who are like me – the ones struggling to live as their truest selves and the ones who are giving back after finding their voice. My experience as a child and young adult living in the closet catalyzed my desire to run an LGBTQ nonprofit. I’ve tried to make it work, doing whatever it takes, like leaving home to live in New York City. The workstyle movement finally makes it possible: I can do work that makes me happy in a way that enables me to help those that live in their own versions of Hueytown.

If there’s one thing I want to recommend to other people living to make a difference, it is to join The Hoxby Collective and be a part of The Workstyle Movement.

 

Jordan Reeves is a former science educator from Hueytown, Alabama who’s passionate about several things: veganism, the environment, Dolly Parton, and the LGBTQ community. He helped start TED’s education initiative, TED-Ed, where he worked to grow the content library and build a community around lessons that can change the world. Today, there are hundreds of TED-Ed videos that have been viewed about a billion times. After TED, Reeves helped launch Understood.org, an award-winning platform for families with learning and attention issues. In 2016, Reeves started VideoOut, a nonprofit that amplifies the voices of LGBTQ people. VideoOut travels the world collecting coming-out stories that are shared via an online library, and wielded as tools for education, awareness, and advocacy. In two years, VideoOut has reached over a million people and recorded over 200 gorgeous stories.

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