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Non-profit CEO plans to build on experience

Rochester Business Journal
December 20, 2013

Matthew Flanigan knows a bit about seeing a construction project through to completion, and now he has the position to put that skill to use.
Flanigan was named CEO and executive director this month for Flower City Habitat for Humanity Inc. He takes over for Arthur Woodward, who announced his retirement in August after serving as CEO for 19 years.
As executive director of Camp Stella Maris, Flanigan oversaw major expansion. Outside of his job, he led a committee that located a site for a new church in his parish in Livonia. He also has worked continually to improve his own turn-of-the-century home.
Flower City Habitat for Humanity chairman Lisa Critchley said Flanigan's background made him the perfect candidate, and his dedication to the mission stood out among the candidates.
He spent eight years with the American Cancer Society, including the last four as regional vice president of the organization's eastern division in Rochester. Before that he spent eight years as executive director of Camp Stella Maris in Livonia.
"He is a fantastic fit and a very focused individual," Critchley said. "The mission really resonates with him and his family."
The organization has an annual budget of $2.3 million. It has 16 full-time employees and one part-time, including the Habitat ReStore staff.
Flanigan's background in fundraising was one of his strongest qualities, Critchley noted.
As chairman of the oversight committee that selected and designed a new facility for St. Matthew Church in Livonia, Flanigan helped to raise more than $2 million. He also led fundraising efforts for another non-profit group he has worked with, Journeys to Solutions.
Through that group, Flanigan became acquainted with the mission at the core of Flower City Habitat for Humanity. Journeys to Solutions helps individuals organize and facilitate trips to developing countries to help with mission projects. The work largely deals with building safe and reliable housing.
"I've been in these Third World countries, and the major need for people there besides food and water is housing," Flanigan said. "That experience and the visits turned me on to the need for housing.
"Then when I came home I said to myself, 'Wait a minute; why do I need to leave my community to do the same good work?' I saw that there (are) so many people right here in my community who needed a house."
Flanigan said he has spent much of his first few days as Flower City Habitat for Humanity's new leader getting acquainted with the workings of the organization. He wants the information gathering to help him find areas where he might be able to improve efficiencies.
He also is getting immersed in the mission of the organization, Flanigan said. During his first weekend he attended a home dedication, a special event held before the keys to a new home are turned over to the homeowners.
"This is done a month or two before the person moves in, when we don't have carpeting down yet so they can walk in with dirty shoes," Flanigan said. "It was really powerful to see the family who is going to be moving into that house.
"We were fortunate because we build houses relatively closely to one another, which creates a community of people, so some of the other homeowners came over and one gentleman brought us all back to his home afterward."
This commitment of the eventual homeowners is one of the greatest strengths of Flower City Habitat for Humanity, Flanigan said. The organization requires 450 hours of sweat equity from each prospective owner, with the first 200 hours working on homes for others and the final 250 hours working to build their own home.
This ensures that homeowners are committed and being given a "hand up, not a handout," he said.
Flanigan said there has been a theme in his interactions with people both inside and outside the organization: a pervasive sense of dedication to the mission of helping people and building up communities.
"Ours is a mission that people really embrace," he said. "Even as I'm telling folks that I took on this role, they tell me how they've always wanted to volunteer or how they did it before and have been wanting to get back."
There is also a strong commitment among donors, Flanigan noted, something he plans to harness as the organization goes forward.
"There is so much enthusiasm surrounding the organization," he said. "It has me thinking that we really have some good days coming."

12/20/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

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