Rich Male, 75, has followed a lifelong drive to uplift, coach, and advocate for those who are underrepresented and disadvantaged in their communities. He has influenced thousands of people and hundreds of policies and platforms over three-quarters of a century, not by doing “for” others, but by teaching others to do for themselves. “For the past 50+ years, my life has been building and fostering social justice with the impoverished and helping to build the capacity of indigenous nonprofit organizations throughout the United States and internationally,” describes Male. “I have also been active in helping pass national legislation such as the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), the Community Reinvestment Act (to make it illegal to redline neighborhoods), and many local and statewide issues,” he continues.
Rich Male’s work is so vast that it falls under many titles, such as coaching, consulting, organizing, and teaching, to name a few. Rich has helped launch the Community Resource Center, Colorado Nonprofit Association, Community Shares, and Montbello Organizing Community, among dozens of other organizations that range from grassroots to large nonprofits.
Many of Colorado’s current nonprofit executives learned from Male. He’s taught nonprofit management and social justice at the graduate level at Regis University, Metropolitan State University, Hawaii Pacific University, New York University at Albany, and the University of Colorado-Denver. In recent years, he has gotten more involved in addressing food insecurity. “Last year, I began helping to build a new coalition of about 12 urban farms that will raise 80,000 pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables for impoverished folks in 2021,” Male says. “I am a Colorado Master Gardener and have been growing dozens of heirloom tomatoes and peppers that I give to the less fortunate,” he adds.
What’s he most proud of? “When I look back at my career, I am most proud of the work done passing the ADA; teaching on the graduate school level; and counseling, mentoring, and coaching hundreds of ex-students and friends and others that are starting and growing their careers working with nonprofit organizations.”
Male attributes his continuous impact to passing along knowledge to others. He says, “I continue to grow my career through mobilizing people in the US and internationally to understand better how democracy and engaging their constituencies can impact legislation, policy, and their lives.” Helping provide people with understanding, not just technical skills, is a vital element of sustainable success and keeps him working beyond the traditional retirement age. “The biggest motivator for me is when I see growth and development in people I work with—when folks “gain their voice” and begin to express their true selves. This is a real high for me,” he says.
Among all of the tenets he subscribes to, Rich Male says that diversity is of the highest value. “I have been involved with multiethnic communities all my career, working to ensure that boards of directors and staff are composed of diverse folks with regard to age, ethnicity, income level, and gender. I believe that we are living in a truly diverse world, and better decisions are made when you have people with a wide range of experiences, opinions, and backgrounds making decisions,” he exclaims. “Decisions that benefit everyone truly require have representatives from all corners of their community.”
Male says that he does not respond to as many RFPs these days for consulting. “Because of my age, I have been turned down and asked if I plan to retire soon,” Male says. “There was a time where I would be the one knocking on dozens of doors. I am no longer at that stage in my career. What I bring to the table is vast knowledge, networks, and ability to help organizations strategize.”
For any individual or organization that is inspired by Male’s work and experiences, he suggests, “Follow your dreams and gain enough experience to begin to offer real value to others. Organizations are made up of individuals, so the development of transformational leaders and servant leaders is key to developing transformational organizations.”
Angelle Fouther and Daryn Fouther