Tracy Nielsen l HandsOn Twin Cities

Tracy Nielsen

HandsOn Twin Cities

Tracy Nielsen



Tracy Nielsen focuses on nonprofits and making a difference by connecting volunteers with organizations in need of help. She truly embodies LAB’s mission to connect, create, and collaborate. Read on to find out about her endeavors as a business woman, making a positive impact!


Can you tell us a bit about your business and background?

I have the pleasure of serving as the Executive Director of HandsOn Twin Cities, your source for doing good. We connect people with their passions, by working as a connector between individuals and groups who want to volunteer and nonprofits in our community that need volunteers to better achieve their mission.

I’ve spent my whole career in nonprofit, starting as an Americorps VISTA after college and then working the last 15 years helping connect college students to engagement opportunities and with community organizations such as United Way in Southeast Wisconsin and Northern California. I started my current role a little more than two and a half years ago.

How do you think living in the Twin Cities has shaped your business?

The Twin Cities is one of the most amazing places to do this work. We are the number one metro nationwide for volunteerism, we have a sophisticated and outstanding network of nonprofits, and we have many large and small companies that are on the cutting edge of engagement.

If you had one piece of advice for someone starting a business, what would it be?

I don’t own my own business, but feel the same sense of responsibility that many business owners likely feel. I have the pressure of making sure that everyone on my team gets paid, that we’re adhering to the stringent rules and regulations of nonprofits, that we are well governed, and I answer to 17 bosses on a board of directors – many of whom have never done a job like mine.

I would say that anyone in either role has to have a passion that pulls so forcefully and fiercely that it will bring you through the really tough days and make you feel like you are changing the world on the best days.

LAB is founded on three key values: connect, create and collaborate. What are your three key values?

Connect. Happiness. Purpose.

What is the favorite thing about your workspace?

It’s always messy and moving. On any given day there are hundreds of boxes, shovels, wheelbarrows, hygiene items, puppy toothbrushes, bags of cement, piles of lumber – you name it – moving about our office. While we try to keep it clean and presentable, it feels good to see so many things moving from our office out into the community. Music sometimes blasting, volunteers coming and going. It’s great!

What is your no-fail, go-to when you need inspiration or to get out of a creative rut?

Quality time with friends and family. Trying to get back to the really important things and having people around me who ground me.

What are some of your everyday essentials that you can’t live without?

NPR, Carmex these days.

If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?

Working as a server on a tropical island and spending time on the beach on my days off.

Dream collaboration.

When I see it, I pursue it! Working with I AM SARAH EDWARDS is a pretty amazing collaboration!

Favorite place to meet/collaborate in the Twin Cities.

Local breweries (Surly, Lakes & Legends, BlackStack to name a very few),

What’s currently binge watching or listening to?

Chef’s Table, Broad City, Black Mirror, always Parks and Rec. Listening to Terrible, Thanks for Asking, The Dropout, all of the NPR.

What item in your closet do you wear the most?

Black pants, black shirts.

Fantasy Dinner Party Guest List

Michelle and Barack Obama, Amy Schumer, Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph, Jennifer Lawrence, Chrissy Teigen, and Nicki Minaj – it would be funny, sassy, smart and woman-dominated.

Three Instagram accounts you love to see in your feed.





Last Adventure: St. John Virgin Islands

Next Adventure: New Orleans

Voted Most Likely To: Ensure all people at a wedding are on the dance floor

Secret Skill: Mail Merge  

Yes Please: Kindness and Empathy

Spirit Animal: Otter