Tennessee Nonprofit Network

Getting to Know Our Community Action Council Members: Lisa Tillman of West Tennessee

Tennessee Nonprofit Network launched three Community Action Councils (CACs) in 2024 to serve as ambassadors for our organization and be our “ears to the ground” in their local communities to unearth community needs and challenges. You can learn more about the full roster of CAC members here.

Lisa Tillman has been the Executive Director of Regional Inter-Faith Association (RIFA) in Jackson, TN since January 2009. RIFA is a faith-based nonprofit organization with a mission to reach out with the love of Christ to help people in need by providing physical and spiritual nourishment. Working at RIFA has allowed Lisa to use her spiritual gifts of leadership and administration to execute RIFA’s vision to lead and engage our community in the fight against hunger. In 2023 alone, RIFA distributed over 600,000 meals through the soup kitchen, food bank, food pantry, food co-ops, snack backpack program, Bus Stop Cafe and senior staples ministry. Lisa was born and raised in Miami, Florida and is a graduate of the University of Florida with a degree in Business Administration. Lisa has been a part of the Jackson community for over 30 years and is a member of Love and Truth Church. Lisa is a 2009 graduate of Leadership Jackson. Under her direction, RIFA received the Leadership Jackson Performing Star Award in 2011 and was selected as the Non-Profit of the Year by the Jackson Chamber in 2014. Lisa was selected by the Jackson Area Business and Professional Women as one of the 20 Most Influential Women in West Tennessee in 2016 and was a Sterling Award recipient. Lisa was selected by Mayor Conger as one of 2021’s Influential Women for demonstrating leadership and a significant commitment to improve the City of Jackson. Most recently, RIFA was selected for the VIP Reader’s Choice Award for Best Charity/Nonprofit in 2023.

Lisa and her family

What excites you about the work that Tennessee Nonprofit Network is doing?
RIFA has been affiliated with Tennessee Nonprofit Network since 2009 (when it was the Alliance for Nonprofit Excellence and then Momentum Nonprofit Partners). What I have always appreciated about this organization is that their primary purpose has been to help nonprofits be better at what they do so that they can do better and more effective work in their community.

What do you think the biggest challenges are for nonprofits right now?
Not enough hours in the day to accomplish the mission.
Not enough financial resources to meet the need.
Not enough human resources to do the work.

What do you love about the nonprofits in your area?
I like that Jackson has a lot of amenities that many big cities have but still has a small town feel, so most of the nonprofit leaders know one another and do a pretty good job of collaborating well with one another.

Describe your role at your company/organization.
I have been the Executive Director of RIFA since 2009 and every day is different. There is not really a typical day. Lots of meetings, lots of projects, lots of planning and executing ideas and events, lots of conversations with people…employees, donors, volunteers, patrons, board members. Lots of “putting out fires”.

What do you like to do for fun?
Travel, movies, estate sales, thrifting, spending time with friends and family.

Name a nonprofit leader that inspires you.
Pam Nash is the CEO of the Carl Perkins Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse and was my mentor for several years when I first started working at RIFA. I admire Pam because she has been doing this work for well over 30 years and has done so with integrity and no drama or scandal. She has also expanded the work of this organization over the years and they now have a presence in many counties in West TN. I also have a vision for RIFA to expand into other counties that could benefit from the services that we offer.

If someone were to visit you, where would you take them to eat?
That’s a hard one…my current favorite is Flat Iron for dinner, love drinks and dinner on the patio at the Blacksmith or Picasso’s, brunch at Skillet Junction (excellent veggie omelette), breakfast or lunch at Jackson’s Kitchen and Catering. Mostly local places…but I do love Taziki’s too!

What’s your favorite movie and why?
Another hard one… Can’t name an absolute favorite but here is a short list –
The Big Chill
The Favourite
The Help
Secret Life of Bees
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Legends of the Fall
Family Man

Any book recommendations?
*The Daily Stoic: 365 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance and the Art of Living by Ryan Holiday & Stephen Hanselman
*Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
*Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall & Denver Moore
*Be Here Now by Ram Dass

What change do you most want to see in the nonprofit sector?
What a wonderful world this would be if we no longer needed the programs and services that so many nonprofits offer the community, so maybe what change I would most like to see is just that…no need for many of the nonprofits that currently exist. A very tall order I know.

How can nonprofits in your area benefit from becoming a member of Tennessee Nonprofit Network?
The list is long…Nonprofit Day on the Hill, the TN Nonprofit Conference, the workshops, the online courses, the templates, the job board, the consultants, the podcast, the blog, the advocacy and public policy work, the relationships, the partnership and collaboration possibilities.

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