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Image: Amber Fouts

One minute, Courtney Sheehan will explain how, as a teenager, she was a moderator for the internet’s largest Lord of the Rings message board. The next she’ll put on what she calls her “admin hat,” and say things like “the inefficiency of the allocation of resources in the nonprofit sector.”

In her first year as executive director of Northwest Film Forum, the 29-year-old focused on all the systems and operations that running a nonprofit requires: new database and website, remodeled lobby and concession stand. In September 2017, NWFF concluded its strongest fiscal year in its 23-year history.

As for that “inefficiency in the allocation of resources,” Sheehan believes nonprofits can do a better job coordinating instead of competing for funding. “Classically,” she says, “funders like funding programs, not operations and overhead” like rent and internet bills. If two organizations can work together on sharing a phone bill, they might be more inclined to collaborate creatively. For this reason, the NWFF building houses offices for three other local nonprofits. “It’s the basis for building trust,” she says. “Which is needed to address a lot of the racial and social inequity in this city.”