Energy Corps

Energy Corps member Dan Certo offers advice about working in the world of non-profits:

I’d imagine many of you, like myself, will end up in the non-profit world after your Energy Corps term is over.  I’d imagine that your time as an EC member has allowed you some pretty awesome networking opportunities. I’d also imagine you’ve met people who seem like game changers, difference makers, go getters, and innovators over the past year. Here’s my advice to you.

Don’t forget about them.


The program I serve with, ReFuel Pgh, was approached and interviewed by a reporter for the local Beaver County Times. They were investigating the used vegetable oil market in Pittsburgh and exposing the biofuels industry for those who’ve never heard about it before. The questions she asked were well-thought out and targeted. Her write up was superb (other than a typo in spelling Energy Corps that I informed her about – she changed it 25 minutes after publishing it). And her attitude was fantastic. I was seriously impressed with her. We became friends via facebook, talked about what she was writing about and what she wanted out of her writing career. Though the Beaver Times were good to her and it was a great place for her to get started, she said she wanted to move on to something different. Not necessarily bigger, just different.

It just so happens that my mom was retiring from her position as Editor-In-Chief of a local e-magazine called Pop City. On the horizon, however, is her new e-zine, NEXT Pittsburgh.  Knowing that my mom would need help in finding new blood for her new pub, I got the writer’s contact info and sent it to my mom. The writer got the interview, a writing assignment, and a shiny new job with a fresh-start-up company where her input will help to guide and develop the magazine into maturity.

The day of the interview and good news, the writer sent me a message via facebook explaining how the interview had gone and how ecstatic she was about her new position. She offered to run a story on anything I ask of her in the future for the inaugural issue in March– a favor I’m planning on leveraging for my company’s benefit.

And that’s why you never stop helping.

By staying in touch with this writer and sending her contact info to the right person, I netted myself a pretty awesome favor. If you’re the type of person who leverages favors like this to help others, you’re going to have a mass of “I.O.U.’s” on your lap in no time flat.

This isn’t the only example I can give of connections like this that led to favors later on – a public affairs coordinator for Waste Management has agreed to give tours of a recycling center at my request for student groups and others after I toured the facility myself and took the time to talk to her afterwards. A permaculture educator is going to share her knowledge with me after I helped to connect her to 4 different educational institutions for her biofuel + aquaponics workshop.

Moral of the story: even if it’s something that doesn’t seem like it has ANY connection to your job description, if you believe in the person who’s asking for your help, just do it. You may get a favor in return – but the awesome feeling you get from knowing you just made that person’s life better should be all the motivation you need.

dan certo profile picDan Certo graduated from Allegheny College in December of 2013. He engaged kids about systems thinking using aquaponics. Highlights included building an aquaponics system from scrap materials, and improving recycling rates on campus. Dan serves with Gtech Strategies on their Refuel Initiative. His duties include collecting waste vegetable oil (WVO), identifying additional sources of WVO, increase public participation through education and outreach, and contributing to the planning and development of the Refuel PGH program.

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