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Social Capitalists

Gary Mulhair

Gary Mulhair can say without hesitation what first drew him to social entrepreneurship: In 1968, when the nation was reeling from the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, the business community in Seattle, where he was a graduate student at the University of Washington, decided it was time to take action and "saw the opportunity to meld business activities with social activities." Since then, Mulhair has worked successfully in businesses and nonprofits. He is currently managing partner at Global Partnerships, a Seattle-based nongovernmental organization assisting Central American microfinance programs, where he directs Global's investments in its partner programs. Most recently, he served as president and CEO of Wealth Ventures Inc., a Washington, DC-based firm that consults to nonprofits. Mulhair believes the biggest challenge facing the nonprofit sector today is "being able to answer the question, Are you efficient and effective at what you do, are you doing it better than it was done yesterday? It's a battle for resources."

Mulhair says the community spirit in America "is more vibrant than ever" since September 11, but "we don't know quite what to do about it." However, citing the fact that there are 50 million microcredit borrowers today whereas 25 years ago there were none, he's certainly not discouraged.

Along with the greater interest in supporting NGO activity, Mulhair says there is "a greater expectation, a requirement even, that the accountability issues be addressed, the value-added questions be answered, so people know the money is well spent." Mulhair has had many years of experience in the human-services sector. He spent 14 years as the president and CEO of Pioneer Human Services, developing growth strategies and implementing new programs. He says the hardest lesson he has had to learn is "we can do more together than we can individually. It took me a long time to learn the value of networking, a lesson the NGO community could learn from the private sector." Looking back, he says, "I spent too much time doing it all myself."

Mulhair helps other nonprofits benefit from his experience through independent consulting in management, development, and marketing, working with clients such as the Corporate Council for the Arts and Seattle Pacific University. Mulhair is also a cofounder of the First National Gathering for Social Entrepreneurship and is on the Advisory Council of the Social Enterprise Alliance. An active community member, Mulhair has served on many local boards of directors and advisory committees, including the Governors Task Force on Food Banks, Pioneer Cooperative Affiliation, Vashon-Maury Health Services Center, Washington Community Corrections Association, and South Seattle Community College.

He attributes much of his inspiration to his mother who he says "had a heart that was bigger than all of the outdoors and was forever tryng to take care of people less fortunate. She inspired me from very early years to care about my neighbors." Mulhair is married with four children and two granchildren. For fun, he reads voraciously, travels to visit his family, is an avid gardener, and likes to "ski aggressively with people younger than [him]." He holds a BA and has completed coursework toward an MBA, both at the University of Washington. Finally, Mulhair says that anyone starting out in social entrepreneurship should "answer for themselves the question, What are they doing this for?" He suggests first finding a mentor or volunteering and then asking, What is it that you can add to this organization? What do you bring to the table?

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