Lynn Fuhler Studio Photo

Lynn Fuhler

What led you to work with nonprofits and quasi-government agencies?
The stepping stones were laid early on, but I didn’t realize where they led.

Growing up, I’d read the morning newspaper while eating breakfast. In particular, I enjoyed the advice columns Dear Abby or Ann Landers and learning how each solved people’s problems.

As a child, my siblings and I were taught service above self. We were encouraged to make things with limited resources. My brothers and I loved to build go-carts from wooden orange crates discarded by the local grocery store and race them on the dirt in our back yard. My mom made beautiful patchwork quilts from fabric scraps from clothes and Halloween costumes she sewed for us. My dad built a homemade camping trailer from scratch as an inexpensive way for our family to vacation and explore. Later after he started our family business, we camped closer to home. My organizing skills were honed, getting everyone and everything to the lake each weekend in an orderly fashion.

As co-editor of our high school yearbook and in college as an organizer of two out-of-state student-run tours, I discovered how much I enjoyed building things from the ground up, the sales, deployment and delivery.

When not working at my dad’s business and going to school, I volunteered at the Hobie Cat rental at the lake so that I could sail. I enjoyed teaching people the fundamentals of sailing – how to harness the wind and tack and jibe. That lightbulb moment when students grasped the concept was gratifying.

After an internship at the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Bureau and my bachelor’s degree in Transportation, Travel and Tourism in hand from St. Louis University’s Parks College, I headed to the West Coast of Florida. My first job was in destination marketing. I served as the Tourism and Conventions Director of internationally known Clearwater and Clearwater Beach.

Early on, I learned to raise my hand to volunteer and, over the years, I served on community boards and coordinated community projects. With every organization I’ve led or been involved in, I soaked in as much knowledge as possible and positively impacted each well beyond my assigned role. Nonprofits, government and established and startup businesses are woven into the fabric of every community. By helping each, the quality of life is uplifted for all.

What brought you to organizational leadership?
Throughout my career, I’ve worked for and with chambers of commerce in multiple states and with convention and visitors bureaus. Some also functioned as the area’s visitor center while promoting their destinations.

I helped an innovative government authority and was fortunate to know and work with the executive director, who was later appointed by the President of the United States to the highest agency staff position, reporting to a cabinet secretary.

I’ve served as the Executive Director of a worthy nonprofit organization – a well-established leadership program and a travel and tourism research association and as a consultant to a regional literacy organization.

As an invited board member to a county-wide social services agency, we helped families. Board service continued as a board member of a prominent leadership program, another social services agency and a homeowner’s association. Additionally, I’ve worked with a community college and its foundation.

I’ve attended tourism agency board meetings and worked with other tourist development authorities in numerous states for many years. In the festival and events world, involvement ranged from working with arts foundations to grassroots community events. I’ve enjoyed creating events from nothing. In the festival and events world, involvement ranged from working with arts foundations to grassroots community events. I’ve enjoyed creating events from nothing.

The common denominator – each was governed by a volunteer board of directors.

You’re a big believer in servant leadership. Why?
Robert K. Greenleaf, who coined the term, believed real leaders don’t seek power. They earn power through the trust of those that surround them. True servant leaders don’t stand out among their peers because they don’t flaunt their power.

My parents raised me with a service-above-self philosophy. I’ve discovered that the more successful volunteer organizations or boards are based on servant leadership.

I’m currently writing a book on board leadership. Its working title is: “Secrets to Success Board Leadership:  How Organizational Leadership Can Successfully Guide Nonprofit Management Forward.”

The bottom line: an effective board member is an individual who truly understands his or her fiduciary responsibilities, how boards function, why they succeed and why they fail. This publication will be a culmination of many of my experiences and observations and those shared with me by other community leaders.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
We explore, hike, take photos and zip-lining, visit museums, waterfalls, historic sites, state and national parks, cities, and small downtowns. My husband and I enjoy the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, N.C., because it offers many adventure opportunities. We’re streamers, so I thrive on TV series and movie marathons. I love to read biographies, too.

What did you do during the pandemic?
I learned how to cook, practiced conversational French, wrote a series of short stories about my parents and began writing my book on board leadership. I don’t think I’ve made a dent in the to-do list I created in March 2020.

What are your pet peeves?
People who drive slowly in the left lane (while talking on a cell phone) top the list.

Tell us about your family.
I was born and raised in Highland, Ill., just outside of St. Louis, and am the oldest of five. I had 60 cousins at one time, so it was easy to get lost amid the noise when my side had a gathering. My family is spread out across the eastern half of the U.S. We visit and go on vacations together as schedules permit. Our immediate household is home to two furry four-legged brothers adopted from a local shelter. As any parent would claim, they are very smart and find ways to make us laugh and smile every day.

Tell us about your two tourism-related books:
Secrets to Successful Events:  How to Organize, Promote and Manage Exceptional Events and Festivals
Secrets to Successful Events Resource Guide:  42+ Easy-to-Use Forms and Tools to Save You Time and Money

One of the most searched phrases for any destination is “What’s Happening.” Travelers want to know what activities will be occurring during their visit. As a marketer, I know that festivals and events draw overnight visitors. Helping event organizers see how all the pieces fit together is win-win for the community and the tourism industry. Most importantly, the event-goers experience needs to be optimum. The decision to write these books just made sense when you consider all those who will benefit.

A solid footing – organizational development and leadership – is key to running any successful business. Festivals and events are businesses.

My books are available through major booksellers. I’m very proud that the first book was named the #1 New Release on Amazon. It was also selected as a textbook for an Event Marketing course at one of the “Top 15 Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report,” among other colleges and coursesLearn more about me at lynnfuhler.com.

What are some of the things hardly anyone else knows?
I’m not a fan of playing board games or cards. 

Little things I’m working on improving about myself.
I strive to take a 20-minute walk each day, meditate or do yoga, take uninterrupted time off for lunch and leave the office before the sun goes down.

What are some of your favorite places in the world?
Key West, Fla., Washington D.C. and London.

What are some of the places you’d like to visit or revisit?
I want to visit the national parks out west, Alaska, Bar Harbor and Portland, ME, Chicago, Custer State Park, Custer, S.D., Salt Lake City, San Diego and Seattle.

Internationally I would like to travel to Cuba, Lake Cuomo, Italy and Vancouver, British Columbia, in Canada. I’d love to take the train from Halifax in eastern Canada west to Vancouver, stopping along the way to enjoy Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Edmonton.

What are some of the strongest convictions that you hold?
With the advent of social media, people cluster with those sharing a common point of view or interest. As a society ruled by time constraints, we don’t allow ourselves the opportunity to do things with others who have different perspectives. As such, people have become more polarized. Spending time with those of varying interests and perspectives provides insights into the other side. Compromise gains support from both sides; winning at all cost means “the other guy” doesn’t.

Showing up does not warrant a trophy. Being present and engaged will often win you the game.

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