The historic venue, Wow Hall, a cherished cultural anchor in Eugene, Oregon, stands as a testament to community resilience and collaboration. Executive Director of the nonprofit, Deb Maher, shared their story, which embodies a vision-driven approach, emphasizing the power of positivity and collective action in transforming communities.

Wow Hall, originally established in 1932 as a fraternity for woodworkers, faced near-demolition in 1975. However, a swift community effort saved the building, transforming it into a nonprofit performing arts center. Deb takes us through Wow Hall’s rich history, emphasizing its evolution into a vibrant hub for cultural expression and community engagement.

Central to Wow Hall’s success is its unique membership-driven model. Deb points to the significance of community ownership, where members elect the board, fostering a sense of belonging and accountability. With over 600 volunteers, Wow Hall thrives on collective passion, offering diverse programs and events to enrich the community.

Deb Maher’s leadership philosophy centers on ‘appreciative inquiry’, a strength-based model that ignites creativity and collaboration. She describes it as, “What are our strengths? The compelling vision is based on our passion. What do we love? What do we care about? And we create where we want to go and we call it forth in present tense we are.” By focusing on shared passion and envisioning a compelling future, Wow Hall cultivates a culture of possibility and abundance.

Deb adds, “You create change by creating the new. You carve out a place to create the new and have success. You create with the new, and in doing that, you do two things. You create the new while at the same time you negate the old.” Maher also emphasizes keys of aligning individual strengths with organizational goals, fostering a dynamic, inclusive environment.

You’ll love this nonprofit story! Wow Hall’s transformation transcends internal dynamics, extending to broader community impact, and Deb Maher champions strategic partnerships and proactive outreach, positioning Wow Hall as a catalyst for economic and cultural revitalization. Through storytelling and authentic engagement, she amplifies Wow Hall’s narrative, attracting support from funders and volunteers alike.