ASU Lodestar Center


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After completing certificate programs, alumna Rochell Planty reaps the benefits of continuing her nonprofit education

A portrait photo of Rochell Planty outside and smiling. They are wearing a black shirt and turquoise necklace.

Rochell Planty has completed almost every certificate program offered by the Nonprofit Management Institute.

by Jessica Snyder, ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation

December 30, 2020

Rochell Planty’s passion for agriculture started in high school in Deer Valley, where she began her studies in agricultural education and joined FFA (Future Farmers of America). Through that formative experience, she developed a passion for the industry that eventually brought her back to FFA as the executive director of Arizona Agricultural Education/FFA Foundation, expanding educational and leadership opportunities for agricultural education programs across the state of Arizona. After completing her full-circle journey to a top role in the nonprofit sector, she turned to the Nonprofit Management Institute (NMI) at the ASU Lodestar Center to continue growing as a nonprofit professional and leader. She has since earned nearly every professional development certificate offered by NMI.

Her passion about the value of education led Planty to offer words of advice for other nonprofit leaders:

“Never stop learning. In any career path you take it is very important to always keep learning and expanding your skills. We often have to switch gears, implement new programs, or even learn to function during a pandemic. Being able to be adaptable and open-minded is very important. You will work with many different leadership styles throughout your journey and it is important to understand your style and personality to be effective with others.”

Read more about the exciting journey of Rochell Planty, CMP, CFE, in the full Q&A below:

Has nonprofit work always been your goal? What drives and/or inspires you? Can you tell us about your background and journey and how you ended up at Arizona Agricultural Education/FFA Foundation?

My passion throughout high school was to pursue a career in the agriculture industry through communications and event planning. I was enrolled in agriculture education at Deer Valley High School and an active member of the Deer Valley FFA Chapter in Glendale, Arizona. Through my experience in high school, I developed a passion for the industry and how I could combine that with my passion for event planning and communications.

While attending Texas Tech University, I had the opportunity to participate in a few different internship programs which provided great experience both in the industry and my career path. Directly out of college I worked in the green industry until a position opened not long after with a nonprofit in the agriculture industry serving as the Director of Public Relations which also encompassed a lot of special event planning.

I have worked in the nonprofit sector for more than 29 years. I have provided public relations, media buying, special event planning, and donor development. Fifteen years ago, I ventured out on my own after obtaining my Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) credentials to start my own event planning business, Rockin R Meetings & Events, LLC. For the next 15 years I provided event planning services to several nonprofits in the agriculture industry, coordinated medical meetings, and special events for corporations. Three years ago, I was assisting a client with their annual gala. They approached me to expand my contract and become their Operations and Event Manager. This brings me to where I am today serving as their Executive Director for the Arizona Agricultural Education/FFA Foundation. It is full circle for me since I was a student in an Arizona agriculture education program during high school and active in FFA. I competed back in high school on the livestock judging team, job interview contest, showed horses and sheep at the local fairs and became incredibly involved in the leadership opportunities FFA offered. I am familiar with these programs which helps me in my current position. One of my roles as the Executive Director is donor development. I can share this amazing organization with others and the impact it can make on the lives of students.

Through the years most of my work with nonprofits has made an impact on youth. I am passionate about the agriculture industry and youth in agriculture. I also have a love for planning events and seeing others enjoy the events. What drives me is being able to provide opportunities for others and sharing the agriculture industry. I have been inspired by the stories from students which FFA has made a difference in their lives. It has also been inspiring to hear the stories of generations of farming families.

What would you like people to know about Arizona Agricultural Education/FFA Foundation? Tell us about the work they do, what makes them unique?

The Arizona Agricultural Education/FFA Foundation is dedicated to providing expanded educational and leadership opportunities for youth in agricultural education programs across the state of Arizona. FFA is a National Organization which provides leadership, personal growth and career success training through agricultural education. We have the opportunity through the Foundation to help provide these opportunities for students and support the agricultural educators in Arizona by providing programs and resources. The Foundation holds a couple of fundraising events throughout the year with the annual Blue & Gold Gala, The Biggest Night in Arizona Agriculture. We have the unique opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of youth which can make a significant impact on their life.

Can you explain your position and direct work with Arizona Agricultural Education/FFA Foundation?

I serve as the Executive Director of the Foundation. In my role I wear many hats from operations, fund development, public relations, bookkeeping, event planning, and much more. I have the pleasure of connecting with corporations, individuals and others to share FFA and agriculture education with them and how they can be a part of making an impact on the lives of students and educators in Arizona.

What inspired you to seek out NMI to further your education and career goals?

I learned about the Nonprofit Management Institute program probably over 10 years ago. I have had the opportunity to be a part of the Project CENTRL Rural Leadership Program with Class XIV and the Institute of Fair Management Program which helped me achieve my Certified Fair Management Certification. I have always been an individual who is passionate about continued education. I feel it is important to continue learning and expanding your knowledge, skills, and leadership capabilities. Each program or course I have taken over the past 30 years has always led me to develop my skills and being able to apply what I have learned.

You are obviously fully vested in the work you do, what motivated you to take it to the next level?

Just over two years ago I took on this new position and felt it was important to really expand my skills and knowledge to effectively lead the Foundation. I have always felt that it is extremely important for individuals to become very well- rounded whether it is in a job or volunteer position. It helps you become a better leader to understand how one area may affect another area. Because I wear so many hats in this position, I wanted to continue to develop my skills and expand my leadership to be able to effectively serve in this position. It has also allowed me to connect with others in the nonprofit industry and learn about new tools and tips which have been effective for others to implement.

Speaking directly to other nonprofit leaders, what would you tell them about your personal journey in career growth and NMI education?

Never stop learning. In any career path, you take it is very important to always keep learning and expanding your skills. We often have to switch gears, implement new programs, or even learn to function during a pandemic. Being able to be adaptable and open-minded is very important. You will work with many different leadership styles throughout your journey and it is important to understand your style and personality to be effective with others.

How have the NMI courses impacted your career and your nonprofit?

The courses I have taken have provided new tools and expanded my knowledge in areas I may have not been as familiar with. I have been able to share some of the tools and resources I have learned about and adapted those to the Foundation to continue to help us advance.

How has your organization been impacted by the pandemic? And how has your NMI coursework helped you?

We were very fortunate to have already completed our annual program renewals and largest fundraiser just weeks before the pandemic hit. It did impact the student events we help support significantly through the cancellation of events, but the student events through the Arizona Association FFA which we help support were able to embrace the situation and change direction to provide virtual opportunities. We have seen a little decline in annual donor support. The biggest area it is affecting right now is with our upcoming Blue & Gold Gala. We can still hold the private event but have been reduced down from 600 attendees to 400 which will make an impact on our overall fundraising goal.

What advice would you offer to others looking to further their nonprofit education or career in the nonprofit sector?

Evaluate what areas you need to strengthen and the programs available which will provide you the additional education. Become diverse in your skills and never continue to stop learning.

What would you tell anyone else who was considering whether or not to seek NMI certification?

Evaluate what area you would like to complete and then cross-check what additional courses you need that may complete other certificates. There are several courses which apply to many certificates. If you are in a position where you need to be very diverse and expand your knowledge, then you should consider all areas of the program.