Interview with Susanne Orton, Chief Development & Engagement Officer at NW Outward Bound School
Not many career paths follow a straight line between swimsuit model and nonprofit developer, but Susanne Orton’s can. Born of parents who immigrated to the U.S. after World War II, Orton traveled and moved around a lot during childhood, developing a keen appreciation for the great outdoors along the way. A modeling career that began when she was recruited by Surfer magazine to appear in a series of swimsuit ads later gave way to an intense urge to become a photojournalist. It was then that Orton discovered inside herself a deep empathy and desire to help others, which led to a career in political advocacy and cause marketing.
In PDX Executive Podcast #40 Orton talks about her new role as Chief Development and Engagement Officer at Northwest Outward Bound School, and the path she took to arrive there. Here are some highlights of the podcast.
On starting a digital agency: “Early on I discovered inspirational, game changing opportunities through branding, marketing and connectivity. I was trying to figure out how to work with nonprofits in a way where we can provide a marketing service to them without cost, through sponsorship [by] for-profits. And that was my real career shift.”
On her new role at Northwest Outward Bound School: “I was at the point in my career where I wanted to do something that could change lives. I’m passionate about the outdoors. I love being outside. And I was able to see, through the Outward Bound training how powerful this organization is, and what they can do.”
On making the leap from the corporate to nonprofit world: I feel like I can bring the skill set necessary to move an organization in a way that’s positive and inspirational to others. I’ve always wanted to focus on supporting women and girls in technology and business, because when I was young I didn’t have any mentors. So with the me-too movement coming on, and all of the excitement around equality and equity, diversity, inclusion, and all the things that are really important to me, I saw Northwest Outward Bound School doing those things. And I’d been helping out other nonprofits pro bono, but I saw something in the way that this organization was involved in leadership training, and I’m passionate about it. The big takeaway is, make the jump if you feel like you need to because life is short. Find your passion, and remember that giving back is the most phenomenal feeling you can possibly have.”
Listen and subscribe to the PDX Executive Podcast series to hear the full podcast.