Q&A with sgLEADERS: Rod Arnold, Soles4Souls

The “Q&A with sgLEADERS” series on sgENGAGE aims to provide readers, including the next generation of social good leaders, with valuable insights from executives across the social good community.

Today’s Q&A is with Rod Arnold, chief marketing officer at Soles4Souls. As CMO, Rod is leveraging his 20+ years of experience building nonprofits and socially responsible brands to advance the organization’s marketing and fundraising efforts and increase their impact on those they serve.

Q: What led you to working in the nonprofit sector?

A: To be honest, it caught me completely off guard. I was in college studying pre-med, and I decided to spend a summer volunteering in Central America. That experience had a profound impact on me and ultimately led me to focusing my career on nonprofit work. There have definitely been moments along the way where I thought to myself, “What was I thinking?” But I love doing work that impacts so many people in such meaningful ways.

Q: What do people think you during a typical day… and what do you actually do in a typical day?

A: I think a lot of people assume working for a nonprofit means one of two things: either you’re on the front lines directly helping people, or you’re out with your hand out asking for money. But the reality is that a nonprofit needs to be run like a business. A typical day includes strategy and planning meetings, managing my team, calls with partners, reviewing marketing campaigns. That doesn’t mean I don’t spend time on the field or meet with potential donors, but those things aren’t part of my typical day.

Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of as chief marketing officer at Soles4Souls?

A: I joined Soles4Souls just over a year ago, and I’m proud of what we as a team have been able to accomplish in that time: New branding, new website, new major donor giving community, new monthly giving community. But what I’m most proud of is the team we have in place. We have a great group of people who are smart, hard-working and humble. I love going to work with them every day.

Q: What role does technology play in your organization, and how do you see it continuing to have an impact in the future?

A: Technology has become just as important (perhaps more?) as running water. It has woven its way into almost every aspect of our organization. Communication, project management, data analysis—even coordinating our team’s annual, quarterly and daily priorities.

Q: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received that has guided the way you lead?

A: “Set aside your ego.” Most of us leaders are very competitive people, and I am no exception. When I was younger, I was driven to produce results, often to help bolster my ego. The problem with that is it can create division, negativity and lack of transparency. If our focus is on self-preservation, it’s hard to admit when we’ve made mistakes or need help. I’m not saying I’m immune to ego, but hopefully I’m gaining a little more self-awareness with more life experience!

Q: What’s the most surprising place you draw inspiration from for your work?

A: I suppose the most surprising place that I draw inspiration from would be my kids. For example, my 16 year-old daughter is passionate about issues like climate change. In fact, I learned about Greta Thunberg from her long before she was a blip on the radar of news outlets. Seeing my daughter and her friends so engaged at such a young age gives me hope and inspires me to be even more dedicated to my work.

Q: What are you reading right now and/or what podcast are you listening to?

A: I’m currently reading “Secondhand” by Adam Minter, which is particularly relevant to the work we do at Soles4Souls with repurposing unwanted shoes and clothing. My podcast playlist genres range from marketing to self-improvement to hockey (I’m a fanatic). Lately I’ve really enjoyed HBR IdeaCast, because they pack a good punch in short episodes, perfect for my commute.

More about Rod:

Rod Arnold is the Chief Marketing Officer of Soles4Souls, a nonprofit social enterprise that turns shoes and clothing into opportunity for people in need. Prior to joining Soles4Souls, Rod founded and led Leading Good, an agency dedicated to helping nonprofits and social enterprises innovate and grow. Rod has a 20+ year track record of successfully building purpose-driven brands. He served as COO of charity: water, a nonprofit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. He was also President of the Nonprofit/Cause-Related Group at Media Ventures Group, where he helped drive strategic growth for brands, sports and entertainment properties, and nonprofit organizations. Rod’s work has included Ronald McDonald House Charities, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Save the Children, Compassion International, and World Relief, as well as partnerships with the NFL, NASCAR, celebrities and brands.