Inspiring Leaders and Non-profits: An interview with Erik Steinke

This is the fourth in a series of articles focused on local non-profit leaders. Last month, I spoke with Jill Munger, the new President of the South Salem Rotary Club. This week, I visit with Erik Steinke, president of the Willamette Valley Association of Health Underwriters (WVAHU). This is a 501 (c) 6 trade association made up of health insurance agents and carrier reps. Erik is an insurance agent at Olson Insurance Group.

Tell us about your non-profit

Willamette Valley Association of Health Underwriters (WVAHU) is a local chapter of the National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU). Our goal is to provide educational opportunities to members of our organization in an effort to better prepare them to assist consumers and employers with their insurance needs. We also conduct advocacy at the state and federal levels of government to advance the interests of health insurance professionals and to promote affordable and responsible private health insurance market solutions.

How did you get into the role? How did you find yourself in leadership in the organization?

I’ve been a member of WVAHU for eight years and was invited to participate on the WVAHU board in 2015 as the Membership Chairperson. In that role, I’ve worked with Portland’s local chapter to retain and grow the overall membership numbers in Oregon. I’ve recently been asked to step into the WVAHU President’s role.

What experiences best prepared you for this role?

My past participation with the WVAHU board has helped me understand the various board roles and prepared me for my position as President. It’s also helpful that there are really great people on the WVAHU Board, many of whom have previously held the president’s position.

What is difficult about your nonprofit leadership role? What is easy?

There isn’t a lot regarding the health insurance industry that is “easy” and in general can be quite difficult at times with so much change and uncertainty. WVAHU’s overall role is to support our members — keeping them informed regarding anything that affects the industry, their jobs, and their clients.

I’d have to say that having a great community, where everyone supports one another certainly makes the president’s role easier.

What are you looking for in future leaders in your group?

WVAHU is always looking for members of our industry who are interested in participating and getting involved at both the local and national levels. Each year WVAHU sends a group of representatives to Washington DC to participate in the lobbying efforts of our national organization. Taking part in shaping the future of the Nation’s health policy is an honor and a great experience!

What others say about Erik:

“WVAHU is fortunate to have Erik lead us this coming year. Erik has taken his board positions seriously and has been impactful in his roles. His experience on the board has prepared him to lead our organization to improved prosperity and success.”

– Jamie Sewell PacificSource Regional Sales Director

As you can see, there are many different ways to be involved in non-profit organizations. WVAHU is a great example of how people with a common profession and a common purpose can support each other in their careers.

To learn more about WVAHU you can visit www.wvahu.org.

Are you a volunteer leader of a nonprofit or association?  If you or someone you know would like to be featured in my column, email me at [email protected]

  1. Harvey Gail is President of Spire Management, an association management, event planning and consulting firm located in Salem, Oregon. www.SpireManagement.com, @HarvGail