At NPQ, respect for our readers’ work, intelligence, and insight is core to all we do. And, indeed, research says that the nonprofit workforce is motivated differently than the other two sectors. So, we thought we would go out and ask them. The result is this special online series that will run every workday for the next month, illuminating what motivates each of twenty profiled workers.

 We think much of what they say will resonate with you, but this is also who NPQ serves each day. They are why our work is so important, and NPQ can’t exist without your contributions.

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Pete Conerly is the CEO of Synergy Treatment Centers in Memphis 

Why NPQ serves Pete proudly…

I’ve been at Synergy for going on 23 years. My passion has always been helping people, and I’ve taken, I think one would say, a sort of a substance abuse and mental health focus after growing up in areas that felt the impact of substance abuse and similar issues over many years.

Substance abuse, in my mind, has always been an area that didn’t receive the kind of attention it deserves. Society often looks at substance abusers as people who made their own free-willed choice. It’s not like children who have cancer, or some unfortunate calamity that befalls someone. Substance abuse is something that people actually seek out. The world has a lot of misconceptions about how it develops. At one point in our society, there was a campaign to “Just Say No.” Well, “just say no” is not as simple as it sounds. People sort of evolve into addiction; it’s a progressive illness.

I always have believed that substance abuse is a healthcare issue, that people have a right to treatment, and that that treatment should be of the highest possible quality. I’ve always believed that people, no matter who they are, no matter where they come from, no matter what their social status, have that right. If they decide to change their lives, we must make sure that that possibility is there for them.

Synergy in specific is a very effective program. We do very well, and I think that substance abuse is something that we know a whole lot about and that we can treat effectively.

Part of why I work at Synergy is because I believe there’s a blessing in serving others, in serving people and helping them be all that they can be and fulfill some of their desires. It’s sort of what my purpose is, if you will. And there’s a lot of satisfaction in that—a lot of personal satisfaction, but also a lot of satisfaction when you meet people just where they are and help them tap into their own skillsets and strengths to elevate themselves after having fallen. It could be in any walk of life, to get housing, to access certain resources that they need. Truth be told, I believe each of us is vulnerable to something. It may not be substance abuse per se, but there’s something. I sometimes think, in many ways, that we or the providers are maybe one episode away from being clients ourselves.

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What Pete values about NPQ

Nonprofit Quarterly has helped me tremendously. I think one of the things that I need to know as I’m doing this kind of work day-to-day is, “What are other nonprofits experiencing?” They may have some different experiences, but we do share some similarities with other nonprofits. How do we challenge nonprofits to be all that they can be, to improve themselves? How do we prove our measurement of outcomes and implement evidence-based practices? How do we develop our boards? How do we increase our financial and program sustainability? How do we enhance our operating environments? Those are, for example, some of the things the Nonprofit Quarterly does to enhance what we do. For me, it’s shaped quite a bit of my thinking and my practice. I think we all are indebted to the Quarterly for the work that it’s done. It’s been transparent. It’s been provocative. And, I think it’s been an invaluable resource to me as a professional, and it has helped my agency tremendously.