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NSLS Member Spotlight, NSLS Success Stories, Make a Better World

CEO of Nonprofit Talks About the Importance of Teamwork

Raven Hilden of the University of Phoenix chapter was featured in our September Members in the News and again in our Year in Review for her incredible nonprofit work and entrepreneurial spirit.

She was awarded the $5,000 Fannie Griffin-McClendon Scholarship for her dedication to volunteer work with veterans and active military, and she most recently earned the 2021 Nonprofit of the Year by the Murrieta/Wildomar Chamber of Commerce. 

Raven started MilVet in 2016, a nonprofit organization that helps veterans, active-duty members, and their families by delivering boxes of food, hygiene products, and more, including specific requests like a favorite Mexican candy for an airman from Tucson.

As a military spouse, she came up with her nonprofit idea at The University of Phoenix and has since made it a reality. She continues to help active military and veterans by sending out packages every month with letters of thanks attached to every single one.

Like many great leaders before her, she is modest in all she has accomplished. “Great accomplishments are often done in collaboration with others.”

How Servant Leadership Drives Her Success

The strength of an organization relies on teamwork. Raven understands how much this truth has shaped the success of her nonprofit. 

“MilVet is successful because of the volunteers that give their time and talent to make the world a better place for others. As the CEO, I work daily to help my team learn, grow, and access tools to become leaders themselves. This makes our organization much stronger.”

It's rare for CEOs to own this kind of selflessness, but the best ones always do. 

Raven makes sure to develop leaders in her organization and attributes her own success to how she is helping others grow. It's more than just selflessness; it's servant leadership, which has proven to be an effective leadership strategy known to grow businesses like MilVet

To further this point, Raven says that many of the key skills needed to succeed equate to serving others.

“Active listening skills, the ability to communicate our mission and goals, locate and train volunteers, and lead by working alongside my team were all necessary skills to succeed.” 

She also emphasizes the importance of leadership development programs to continue growing as a leader and sustain success.

“Mentors, networking groups, and educational groups such as the NSLS help identify and strengthen skills needed to become an effective leader.”

Raven embodies our mission at the NSLS—to build leaders who make a better world. She does this every day as she inspires others to become leaders themselves, all while making a positive impact on our active military and veterans. 

She ultimately defines leadership in the same way we do; one is not a leader unless they are making an impact for the greater good. 

“Leadership means motivating and encouraging others to take meaningful action to achieve goals while supporting their professional goals. It also means facing challenges and influencing others to find ways to make a positive impact in the world.”

Raven's Advice for Future Leaders

Raven puts a lot of importance on mentorship, so it's no surprise that she has a mentor of her own. That's how she learned how to truly serve others and scale an organization. 

“My mentor, Robbie Motter, is a leader that I look up to. She’s dedicated to supporting others professionally and personally, and encourages growth by stepping out of your comfort zone and asking for what you need professionally. She’s turning 86 this year and still inspires thousands globally.”

As for advice Raven likes to give, she talks about seeing the fun in a challenge instead of the obstacle. 

“A piece of advice that inspires me is, ‘just because it hasn’t been done, doesn’t mean it can’t be done.’ I was told by a few people in the beginning that what I wanted to do could not be done because it had failed in the past. Instead of letting it limit me, I let the challenge drive me.”

Every leader faces obstacles, and some obstacles really do seem insurmountable. A theme that always comes up with our Speaker Broadcast and Motivational Mondays guests is how they had to react and push forward when a difficult obstacle stood in their way. 

There are so many different ways to push through. Step one is being driven and inspired by the challenge instead of being discouraged, like Raven. Leaning on others for help doesn't hurt either.

“I encourage people to reach out to leaders in their community that they admire and learn from them. Find a mentor and be a mentor. We can achieve incredible results when working with others.”

As for what's next, Raven plans on facing any new challenges and continuing to grow as a leader and as an organization. 

“My goal is to continue to expand MilVet and provide even more services. We’re currently supporting hundreds of veterans in our community and thousands of active-duty troops around the world. I plan to achieve this by working with exceptional individuals and organizations, and continuing my education to further hone my skills.”

This last point is key: Always be curious and constantly pursue knowledge, no matter how successful you are. As any leader knows, honing one's skills is an ever-changing and evolving process.

Want to lead by positively leading others? Read more about how Servant Leadership plants a pathway for success in What Is Servant Leadership and How to Apply It.