VOL. 115 | NO. 162 | Friday, September 28, 2001
By JENNIFER MURLEY
A helping hand raising housing standards
By JENNIFER MURLEY
The Daily News
Five weeks into his new position as executive director of
Habitat for Humanity for Greater Memphis, Dwayne Spencer is ready to get his
You have to be a hands-on person in the non-profit
world, Spencer said. You have to be willing to stuff the envelopes yourself,
then lick them and mail them.
Spencer, 34, who literally began his professional career
stuffing envelopes over a decade ago, now brings to the non-profit housing
group a clear vision of a financially strong organization geared toward
heightening public awareness of Habitats overall goal - to eradicate
sub-standard housing. The importance
of marketing, public awareness and fund raising really needs to come from the
top down, he said, referring to his commitment to become involved at every
level of the organization.
It needs to be a broad spectrum of the whole
His first official goal as executive director is to hire a
director of development, with whom he will directly work to devise a
comprehensive strategic development plan. By establishing a solid fundraising
infrastructure through capital campaigns and annual charity events, Spencer
said the organization can move toward reaching its financial potential. Increasing revenue will in turn, further
Spencers long term goal, which he said is to build more houses - simply
Since 1983, the local Habitat for Humanity has built
roughly 200 houses in the area, with 15 going up last year, and 20 more by the
end of this year, he said. But, ultimately Spencer would like to double the
number of new homes built to as many as 30 or 40 a year.
While his goals may sound lofty, Spencer is no stranger to
working hard to get what he wants.
Originally from Somerville, Tenn., Spencer was accepted by
the University of Memphis (then Memphis State University) right out of high
school. But, college wasnt for him.
Instead, the ambitious 18-year-old took a job as a mail
clerk at John Malmo Advertising. He soon convinced management to give him a
chance as a media assistant, where he learned the ropes of media and print
buying, negotiating rates for television and print ads.
After about 5 years with Malmo, Spencer moved around to a
couple of different marketing and fund raising positions at other agencies, a
local radio station and at the Pink Palace Museum. Then in 1999, he eventually
settled into his first non-profit job, with, of all places, Habitat for
Humanity - only this time with the international office in Americus,
Georgia. But, his first experience with
the housing organization was unfulfilling, and he left after just five months.
My heart was in non-profits, he said.
But, the problem was, this organization was so big I just kind of got
However, he bounced back, and immediately landed a fund
raising position with the local non-profit, Hope House, which operates a
daycare for children who are affected or infected by HIV or AIDS. While there,
Spencer implemented a $1 million capital campaign that will eventually enable
the group to double the number of children they serve from 35 to 70. After two
years with the childrens organization, he left this summer to accept his
Since then, Spencers life has admittedly been a whirlwind
as he defines the future of local Habit housing initiatives. But, for all his
talk of money, marketing and development, Spencer is quick to point out that he
is committed to the organizations bigger picture.
Every goal, objective and action plan thats put into
place all reflect back our goal of eradicating substandard housing, he
said. In those rare moments of spare
time, Spencer said he often unwinds by cooking a good dinner. But, his favorite
pastime, he sheepishly admits is playing old card games like Bid Whist and
Skip-Bo with friends and family.
Its such a nice break from work, because I could easily
go sit in front of the television or read a book, but that interaction with
people does me good.