Without the efforts of hundreds of volunteers, the Yellowstone Art Museum probably wouldn’t be able to put on Summerfair, the Yellowstone Art Auction and other signature events, says Amanda Lechner, the museum’s special events and volunteer coordinator.
In fact, the National Council of Nonprofits says that most nonprofit organizations would not be able to fulfill their missions without volunteers.
Lechner has first-hand knowledge about the essential role that YAM’s volunteers play because she volunteered at the museum before she began working there.
Lechner works to make sure all of the events at the YAM run smoothly. Most volunteers, especially those who have been doing it for a number of years, always make sure things go off without a hitch, she said.
“They have their specific jobs they do, and they know what they’re doing. A lot of them have been there longer than I have, and if they don’t show up, there’s a piece of the puzzle missing.”
Describe how you got where you are in your work today.
The Yellowstone Art Museum was in need of volunteers for several of their events, and I have always been a big supporter of the arts, so I jumped at the opportunity. I wasn't in a position where I could donate money, but I had plenty of time to donate. I started out as a volunteer for Summerfair and that led to Oktoberfest and then the Art Auction. Soon after Art Auction, I learned that the museum was looking for an events coordinator and now here I am. I also have a background in art from the Art Institute of Seattle, and I have a business management degree from Rocky Mountain College. I have been waiting for the day that I could put both of these to use at the same time.
What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business?
Every day can be a challenge working for a nonprofit. I am always looking for new ways to cut expenses and to make a profit on my events, and I have learned to budget. It has been a huge change for me because I have never worked for a nonprofit before. I have a great respect for other nonprofits in Billings. It is tough in this economy to keep our heads above water. Billings is a great community. Without the financial support of the individuals and businesses we have in Billings and the surrounding areas, we would not be here today.
If you could make one positive change in Billings, what would it be?
It has been my goal since I started working at the museum to get new faces in the door and to let everyone in Billings know what a privilege it is to have such a great museum. We have started to do various cultivation events to get people in the museum that wouldn’t normally visit an art museum. We have seen a large increase in attendance.
Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job?
I always feel like an event has been a success when everyone is excited to be there, whether it is their first visit to the museum, or if they have been there several times. We had a couple attend a recent event and they had never been to the museum before. While touring the galleries, the gentleman discovered a photo of his grandmother in our collection. He was ecstatic. He called his mother from the gallery and then brought her back for a visit later.
Which living person do you most admire?
My mom. She is the hardest working person I know, and she is always pushing me to go farther and work harder.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
I have always wanted to open my own store and sell repurposed and recycled furniture. I finally rented a space at Marketplace 3301 this year to start my dream. Since I don’t have the funding or time to have my own store, this was the next best thing.
I’m happiest when I’m…
Painting furniture or working on my house.