Scott Appel

Who are you, and what do you do?

I am the Executive Director of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Missoula. We recruit, train and supervise volunteer advocates who represent the best interest of children within the judicial system who are at risk of or have experienced abuse or neglect. We provide long-term, consistent advocacy until every child resides in a safe and permanent home.

What has been one insight or lesson that has been most helpful in your career?

Surround yourself with smart, motivated people and then get out of their way unless they ask for help.

What has been your favorite mistake? A mistake that in retrospect led to a great lesson and progress.

Earlier in my career I accepted a job with a big title but at a company that was not well run. The title was good for my ego but I wasn’t mature enough at the time to recognize that my ability to grow and be successful would be hampered by the company’s ownership, management and culture. Fortunately, I was fired, which led me to reflect on what I should really be looking for in my next job. This led me to the insight discussed above. I found an opportunity with a company filled with smart, motivated people and together we grew and became successful.

Project forward ten years. How will your industry or field be fundamentally different then? What opportunities do you see?

I am hopeful that society will recognize the benefit of investing early in the children and families we serve. I believe that if we invest in the issues of poverty, substance abuse, lack of access to quality education for these families, it will eliminate (or at least greatly reduce) the need for programs such as CASA as well as many aspects of the criminal justice system.

What are some bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

There is a tendency for funders of non-profits to force non-profits to manage to some fixed percentage of overhead cost without truly evaluating the effectiveness of a given program.

In the last two years, what have you become better at saying no to?

Saying no to fundraising “opportunities” that lead to little net contribution to CASA due to excessive need for staff time or use of other resources.

What is the one book you recommend most often and why?

Trust in the Balance” The first time I read it, I was involved in a training class with most of the other middle management of the firm I was with. Reading the book together led us to a discussion about the culture of the firm and what aspects of it were holding us back. We insisted on sharing our discussion with the partners of the firm. They agreed to make a number of changes which led to significantly higher growth over the following years. Also, 90% of that group eventually became partners as a result of the growth.

What advice would you give a smart and ambitious recent college graduate? What advice should they ignore?

I would refer you back to my one insight and my one mistake.

What is your favorite quote, one you aim to live by?

I don’t know if there is a quote related to it, but I have always judged people by how they treat waiters. I really don’t want to have much to do with them if they aren’t kind and respectful. I feel like I should be viewed in the same way.