goBeyondProfit CEO Interviews: Heather Fortner, CEO of SignatureFD


Friday, November 11th, 2022

Facing Challenges and Shaping Your Legacy

In part 2 of our conversation with goBeyondProfit Champion, SignatureFD CEO, Heather Fortner spoke about the challenges of selling a vision. In candid detail, Fortner outlines the courage required to translate an idea and bring it to fruition, and tackles the question of ‘what do you want to be known for?’

Leading Through the Pain Points

I think there’s always short term pain points and for a new CEO, one of those very short term, scary pain points was going to your board and saying, “I want to plug the bottom line with a hundred thousand dollars donation, and I would actually like to ask for 5% of revenue above our budget.” Making those types of asks is not easy. It’s probably easier to make the ask than it is to be sure that you can actually sell the vision. There’s a weight there as a leader of being able to translate the idea that you have and that you believe in and that you think others will buy into and then actually bringing it to fruition. There’s some courage that’s required there and sometimes that’s a little scary. I don’t know that other CEOs would sit there and use the word scary, but that’s how it felt.

And I think that the more, we as leaders, can simply strip away what we want the perception to be and to face reality with courage and with hope, but actually look at, this is where we are and this is where our teams are, and this is what’s needed for us to move forward in a way that is honoring, not only of the organization, but of every single human in our organizations. That’s when leaders can actually move organizations forward. 


What Do You Want to Be Known For?

And back to our original conversation around what I wanted to be known for. Generosity is more than just your money. It is how are you being generous with your time? Are you being generous with your wisdom? Are you being generous with your experiences. Because guess what, the experiences that I’ve had, good and bad, the ability to share those with others, the authenticity, the courage, the transparency to say, “Hey, guess what? Let me tell you about all the times I failed. They’re not pretty, but guess what? They’re big. And here’s what I learned in that process.”

The generosity with self. The generosity to say, “I don’t know it all, but I am willing to get up from this side of the table and go sit beside you. I am willing to be in that uncomfortable space with you, to walk this journey with you, to not know the answers, but be committed to helping figure out the best solution moving forward together.” That’s generosity. All of those things are generosity.

And so many times it is so easy for us to say, “Well, I wrote the check,” or “I did the volunteer hours.” Did you give of yourself? Did you give of your experience? Did you give of your time? Did you give of the wisdom and the emotional intelligence and capacity that you have? Did you just sit with someone and share in their world and their journey? Because I guarantee you that’s what’s missing today. What do people need? They need each other. They need community. And that requires us. It requires us to stand and say, “This matters. It’s important. It’s important for all of us. It’s important for our future.” And take a stand and be generous of ourselves first.

My personal motto is love and lead well and quite honestly, I don’t think you can do one without the other. And so you have to be bold. You have to actually take the time to get yourself educated on what the issues are that our community is facing, because the reality is that your job as a leader is to leave this community better than when you got here. And if you aren’t doing that, if you’re just living by status quo, I would offer that, that’s not leadership.

I am proud to lead this organization. I am proud of what we stand for. I am proud of what we do for our clients, and I am proud of the way that we hold our community in esteem enough to lean in with the resources that we have been blessed with, to hopefully make an impact in the lives of the people that we serve.