The Business of Non-Profits
Non-profits are businesses at their core and have the same challenges and successes as other businesses, especially during the pandemic. Join Stacey Lund from TGR Management consulting as she hosts monthly candid discussions with organizations from a variety of non-profit verticals about how they rose to the challenge and scaled, pivoted, and transformed in the past two years. If you are looking for ideas or just plain transformation inspiration, this show is for you.
Tuesday May 09, 2023
Season One Wrap up with Tiffany Rosik
Tuesday May 09, 2023
Tuesday May 09, 2023
The final episode of season one! Join special guest and sponsor Tiffany Rosik and host Stacey Lund as we recap season one and look back on what themes resonated most. Thank you so much for tuning in. We appreciate all our guests and listeners!
If you are a non-profit with a big dream and are interested in being one of our guests for season two, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday Apr 04, 2023
Tuesday Apr 04, 2023
In this episode of The Business of Non-Profits we spoke with Tony Teravainen CEO and Co-Founder of Support the Enlisted Project (STEP) about strategic hiring. Join us as we learn how this great organization decided to delay hiring during the pandemic in order to protect their culture and core mission. With all of the news lately about how tech companies grew during the pandemic and are now suffering from that, this one has some lessons for all of us.
Support the Enlisted Project: https://www.teamstepusa.org/
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Tuesday Mar 07, 2023
ProduceGood, Alexandra White - Pivoting Strategy and Logistics
Tuesday Mar 07, 2023
Tuesday Mar 07, 2023
In this episode of The Business of Non-Profits, we speak with Alexandra White, co-founder of ProduceGood about pivoting strategy and logistics during COVID and the post-COVID adjustments they’ve made.
CropSwap is our program name for different types of backyard and small farm harvesting. With 75% of our bounty rescued through CropSwap activities, we have many different ways to get involved.
Market Share is our Farmers Market food recovery program, with operations at three Sunday Farmers Markets, each week. Market Share is an incredible community platform to see food-rescue in action at Hillcrest, Solana Beach and Leucadia markets. There are many ways to get involved.
Community Orchard is the engine that drives all we do to ProduceGood. It takes a lot to keep this engine growing and strong. Our ability to rescue food each week and to maintain our fresh-only food supply network is directly attributable to the 900+ individuals throughout the county who volunteer to rescue excess produce, from field or market to feeding agencies, and who inform and educate others about the necessity of this process. ProduceGood brings the community together to address the community related challenges of waste and hunger in one sweet step. Our volunteer service engine is at the heart of our practice. Come and join us!
Tuesday Feb 07, 2023
Tuesday Feb 07, 2023
Check out this episode where we speak with Dr. Michael Remson from San Diego Youth Symphony as he recounts how SDYS is redefining their organizational identity to meet the needs of a changing community.
Dr. Michael K. Remson is the President and CEO at San Diego Youth Symphony, the most comprehensive provider of ‘cradle to college’ music programs and a national leader in outreach programming, serving thousands of K-12 musicians and infants/families across Southern California every year.
For more information about San Diego Youth Symphony visit www.sdys.org.
Consider making a donation today
ChIMES(Childhood Introduction to Music Education, with Smiles) highlights one of the most integral phases of early childhood development: the period of growth from birth to age 5.
The OPUS Project establishes and/or strengthens instrumental music education programs in the Chula Vista school district, California’s largest elementary school district. SDYS has refocused energy and impact by developing new programs, advocating for quality music education, and transferring ownership of programs to district-hired music teachers and school sites.
#nonprofit #podcast #businesstransformation #community #musiceducation
Tuesday Jan 03, 2023
Tuesday Jan 03, 2023
In this episode of The Business of Non-Profits, we speak with Rhiannon Menn, Founder and CEO of Lasagna Love about founding a non-profit during a pandemic and what it means to apply business skills to build the Kindness Movement. We’re excited to see what’s up next for this organization, and we know you will be, too!
Lasagnalove.org. I'm telling you, you should request one!https://www.lasagnalove.org/
Become a volunteer:https://www.lasagnalove.org/volunteer/
Tuesday Dec 06, 2022
Tuesday Dec 06, 2022
In this episode of The Business of Non-Profits, we speak with Stephanie Ortega of Promises2Kids about implementing technology (Salesforce) to further their program reach during the challenging time of COVID.
Stephanie Ortega is the COO of Promises2Kids, who aim to create a brighter future for foster children in San Diego County. From the moment they come into foster care and through to adulthood, Promises2Kids provides the hope, support and opportunities these special individuals need to change their lives for the better…now and for years to come.
The A.B. and Jessie Polinsky Children’s Center: An emergency shelter for children who are removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect; this facility protects and cares for more than 1,000 children each year.
Camp Connect: Reunites sisters and brothers who are separated in the foster care system through a four-day, residential summer camp and 10 additional day events throughout the year.
Guardian Scholars: Supports current and former foster youth with mentoring, case management and a financial scholarship to pursue their educational dreams, determine a career path and advance to complete their vocational training, community college or university education.
Foster Funds: Foster children often feel alone and isolated and may go without simple pleasures of childhood such as birthday gifts, a sports uniform, a musical instrument or extracurricular activities. Promises2Kids has special funds set up to support these needs not met through typical funding.
Tuesday Nov 15, 2022
Tuesday Nov 15, 2022
In this episode of The Business of Non-Profits, we speak with Cheryl Hsu, founder of 92130 Cares about their journey from identifying the needs in her area to creating a non-profit and beyond.
92130 Cares, Donate a Thanksgiving meal for a family in need
92130 Cares Facebook
Hi, everyone. You're listening to the business of nonprofits. We're talking to 92130 Cares, an organization serving the needs of the 92130 community by sharing resources, making meaningful connections, and spreading neighborly love. With me today is founder Cheryl Sue. Cheryl, thanks so much for joining us today.
Thanks for having me.
Why don't you take a couple of minutes and introduce yourself, the organization and mission and your role at 92130 Cares.
Great. I never thought that I would ever start a nonprofit organization. At the beginning of the pandemic, it became pretty clear to me that there were a lot of people who were hit harder by the pandemic, either the economic effects or the social effects. And I just felt compelled to do something. So it really started in September of 2020 when my family and I, we try to do some kind of volunteer work relating to Thanksgiving dinner. I had called all the usual organizations, and no one was offering anything because of the pandemic. So I went out on next door, made a post, and asked, hey, if anyone knows of a place where I can volunteer or sponsor a family, let me know. I'd love to do something with my family this year. A woman reached out to me privately and said, hey, I live in the community. We are really struggling right now, and we can't find a place to have Thanksgiving dinner. Would you consider sponsoring us? I responded and said, definitely, I would love to sponsor you. And, do you know of others who are struggling right now? She wrote back and said, I know many families in the community who are struggling. So that initial conversation with her really created this huge effort. She started connecting me and sending me names of 20 families that she knew of who either lived-in low-income housing or just lost a job or a parent was required to stay home to help with kids. And it started with me texting my book club group first and saying, listen, I've got a bunch of families. Would you like to sponsor a family, a local family for Thanksgiving? So everyone said yes. And that's when I started doing a bit of more research, and I found that there are actually over a thousand units in Carmel Valley that are considered low income rent units. And to get into those units you have to prove that your income is, around half of what the median income is. It was a real effort to sort of get out there, learn more about my community. I had, at the time, lived in this community for eight years, and I never knew the economic diversity that was here. I created a Facebook group, and it quickly grew to a thousand members. I reached out to see if anyone wanted to come door-knocking with me to sign up more people for Thanksgiving. And that first Thanksgiving in 2020, we had 150 families signed up. And on the other side, we were able to find private sponsors. So my neighbors, my friends, anyone in our Facebook group signed up to sponsor these families directly. And it was by whichever the recipient sort of felt would be most helpful. So it was either a grocery store gift card, a groceries, a precooked meal, or a restaurant gift card. During the height of the pandemic, when people were required to stay home and give up all of their regular social activities or going out or being in the community, that was a time when we were creating this thing where people were reaching out to each other in a way that we had never done before in our community. So it was cross cultures, cross economic differences. It was just really, really cool. So that's sort of the genesis. The very first project that we took on as 92130 Cares, we’re rolling it out again right now for 2022, so it will be our third annual sponsorship. We've done other projects with December holiday dinner sponsorship. We've done one for kids backpacks and school supplies where we have any family who needed help with a school backpack could sign up. And then we had sponsor families sign up to deliver sort of some school supplies to a family directly. And then our ongoing project right now is a farmers’ market. This has really taken on a life of its own. We run a free farmers market every single Sunday for the last year and a half. And we have partnerships with Whole Foods, Jimbo’s, Trader Joe's, where they donate their slightly cosmetically damaged foods or any food that they can't sell. So often it'll be a ripped packaging or crumpled box or produce with some bruised eggs. If there's a dozen eggs, one is cracked. They actually are not allowed to remove the cracked eggs, so the entire carton gets tossed. So we're happy to take those eggs and then put it out for a free farmer's market and invite the community to come shop for fresh produce for free. So we've had over 80 consecutive weeks of this farmers market, and it's become a real source of food for a lot of people in our community, especially since there is no public transportation, no food banks, no food pantries in our entire zip code. So, yeah, it's just been a great way to engage the community, make connections, and also rescue food.
I love everything about that story, but let's unpack it a little. First of all, you have a full-time job.
Yes, I'm a consultant, so I do have some control over my hours, but I do work.
92130 Cares, for the listeners who don’t know what that is, that’s Carmel Valley San Diego. It’s an upscale community. Higher-income than median. And I would say everyone is very busy. But, I want to point that out because, those of us are in the pandemic who were, neighbors, helping neighbors, on your local buy nothing, donating to a food pantry, or you're actually getting food from a food pantry. The idea that you were like, let me help a family, let me help 150 families. So, making the decision to actually. Start the business steps, did a friend say to you, “You know what? I think this is bigger than both of us. You need to be a 501”. Because I know, I mean, you're a lawyer, so you were just like, I need some protection here. Let me do this. Or was it more like 150 families. That's a lot. Let's do some more good. Take the next step.
Well, we were actually finding that there were some hurdles. If you're not a 501 (c)(3), it's harder for grocery stores to partner with you. People donating often want a tax receipt. So that was a very sort of logical step for us once we sort of completed our first project. And, I mean, I know nothing about nonprofits, and so I give so much credit to the seven other women who are helping me, and they've been the source of knowledge and drawing from their own experiences. Many of them are also working women. They're all moms, and they found time to help me in all of this in really big way. So I can't say that I've done this alone for sure. We've had a lot of help along the way.
So talk to me a little bit about let's fast forward, right? You had this sort of organic growth, including this tremendous farmers market, which helps I think you had said in a previous conversation, like, 80 to 100 families every weekend.
It's for around 40 to 50 families every weekend, but we do it every single week. And we have lots of different families. We rotate among four low-income communities in the zip code. So we kind of go in a big geographical circle and we rotate every Sunday. And then we need around 30 to 40 volunteers to come in and help run the market every week.
I think you would say that you would consider that your core program now because it's helping so many people and it's been so consistent that you don't want that to drop off. So talk to me now about post COVID. Right. So how has that been? Are you seeing the same level of engagement from your neighbors?
Yeah, everyone coming out of the pandemic has actually been a bit of a challenge for all of us, myself included. My kids went from zero activities during the pandemic and being home all the time to now activities every day with dance and running and hockey. So, I think everyone's capacity for sort of giving of their time has really shifted. Our core group of volunteers are this incredible group of women, and we're all just trying to do our best, and we all just also understand that life is just getting very busy again, but the need is still there. So, the way, you know, the way I'm approaching this is very realistic. I mean, people have approached us and said, you need to franchise this and grow into other zip codes and create this model in other places in the city and kind of grow and expand. And first of all, that's not our mandate. Our mandate is a group of neighbors supporting neighbors in our zip code. But instead of expanding and doing more programs, I just want to make sure that we do our programs that we currently have, that we run them really well. And, you know, I don't drop the ball by not having enough volunteers on a Sunday and then not being able to deliver the food and set it up and distribute it on a Sunday when there are 40 to 50 families sort of relying on that food for their week. So, you know, that's sort of what keeps me up at night, is just ensuring that with our more limited resources that we can still run our programs. Which is why, like, right now, we're in the middle of sort of launching this Thanksgiving sponsorship for this Thanksgiving. And so we're focusing on that and focusing on our every week farmers market.
Are you using any business apps? And you don't have to be specific about which ones if you don't want to, right. We're not here to plug tech, but ultimately, in order to get that feeling of, oh, I'm awake every 03:00 AM. How are you counteracting that? What are you using to combat that?
So you will laugh because the very first Thanksgiving when we were signing up families, I was using paper forms.. We had it translated into Farsi, Spanish and Russian because that's the languages of our community. And I would take these paper forms, have people fill out their name, tick off their dietary preferences, provide their contact information on a paper form, and I would take them. And at night, I would manually input these into a spreadsheet so that we could connect people. I can't even tell you how many hours I spent doing like 150 of these forms. So, this is where I leaned a lot on sort of our core members. There's this woman, Alia, who is our tech guru. She kind of likes to stay behind the scenes, but she's the one and I always tell her this every day, that she's the one who makes our programs possible in terms of the breadth and scope. So after that first year, she immediately took us over, and she's like, no, no, we're not doing these paper handouts anymore. We have a database of previous recipients. Let's email them out. And it was as simple as a Google form. But having someone already put in their information, having the Google form then spit out the data into a nice excel spreadsheet, that changes a lot for us. It gives me more time to make sure other parts of our programs are working. At this point, I would say we probably had 1000 volunteers because of all the groups that have come in. We have Girl Scout groups, youth volunteer groups, there's a group TVIA, there's another one called NCL. Lots of different groups come in and volunteer on Sundays. So just managing that workforce and making sure I have enough volunteers has been important. So, we initially used sign-up Genius. But quickly we found that just didn't have enough of the functions that we needed to manage our volunteers and message them with volunteer information where they have to go. So, then we finally went to a different platform that has more functionalities, and we actually had to pay for it now. And then Alia has signed up for a bunch of Google suite things that are specifically I think she was able to get us things that once you're a 501(c)(3), you kind of get access to a lot more, I don't know, technology. I mean, this is just to show how little I know about technology and why I rely on people who are much smarter than me to help us run these things. But yes, we definitely rely on a lot of technology and apps. And, the other thing that we rely a lot on is social media, and that is so people know what we're doing. It helps us engage the community to volunteer or donate or sponsor. It also helps us reach out to those who might need to know where our farmers market is or would like to sign up for our Thanksgiving program. So, honestly, without technology and social media, I just don't think that we would exist, to be honest.
That's awesome. And I know we've heard this is kind of a theme, ask for help, which you certainly have. You have your board of directors look for the technology or efficiency junkies amongst us to try to make life better and faster and stronger. But I really can't say enough how more and more we just keep hearing digital transformation isn't about digital at all. It's about the people at the end of it, right? The bigger the reach. If it's 150 who have Thanksgiving dinner next year, hopefully, it's 300. If it helps you to justify an additional program or get better backpacks filled earlier or get a grant or something, these are ways that we can continue to further the reach. And I think that's tremendous. Just from took what was a moment for you, just a moment of wanting to help, and it's blossomed into this beautiful thing if you were going to give advice, right? So all those people who want you to franchise, because clearly, you're not if one of the neighbors listening is a neighbor like you, what's the piece of advice or negative wisdom you would share?
I think that one thing that I've learned through this whole process is to ask questions. And it was from the very beginning where I just asked the question, where can I help during Thanksgiving? And in response to that, I got another question, “Can you help me”? This one woman, a fellow Carmel Valley mom, reached out and said, “Can you help me”? And all of the great things that have come out of 92130 Cares, it started with someone asking a question. So, even the food market started because one of our volunteers, Miriam, was sort of thinking, wow, 150 families couldn't really afford Thanksgiving dinner in our community. What does that look like for their day-to-day? They probably are struggling with their groceries and there is no access to any food banks. So she asked a question. She called up Whole Foods and asked them, “Hey, what do you do with your food that you can't sell, and would you donate it to us”? And they said, “Yes”. So that question led to this farmers market and every single one of our board members or our core members got involved because they asked a question, “Can I help? Or is there anything you need? Or can I help drop off flyers?
I don't want to minimize how powerful a question is and just like putting yourself out there and asking if someone needs help or asking how you can help. There's so many beautiful stories that come out of our farmers market, but one of them is, there's a nurse practitioner in our community. And one day she reached out to me and she said, hey, do you think that there would be a need for feminine hygiene packs in the community? And I said, yeah, definitely. So, she made dozens and dozens of these little she called them, like period packs. She collected little cosmetic bags from friends and samples that you might get from Clinique or whatever cosmetic companies, and she filled them with feminine hygiene products, and she would drop them off for me before a Sunday event and she had it labeled and everything. And we would put them out and people would take one. That whole project was on her. And she just asked if there was a need. So yeah, I mean, sorry, that's a long-winded answer, but the advice I would give is just like to ask the question. Even if you think it's obvious or you're afraid to ask it, just ask it.
I really like that. And I don't think it's long-winded because you have such a great feel for your own community, right? And two years ago, I think you thought you knew your community, but maybe you didn't as well as you do now. And that comes back to in business, you would do focus groups, you would do customer surveys. Right. In so many ways, you're doing those things. You're looking at the needs of your customer base, which is your community, and you're saying, what are the needs? Maybe that I'm not filling or are gaps that no one is filling, and you're coming up with solutions for them. So that, I think is huge.
And the other thing I think that you really harnessed is this kind of micro marketing, right? You relied on your network, which is so clear that you're a connector, and it's so clear that you know connectors. And I am so not a connector. But I think it just keeps coming back to whoever came up with the idea of let's do a Facebook group, grassroots it, and at least tell people where we're going to be and not have it just be word of mouth. Like, you really harnessed this power of micro-marketing to get that word out. Right. If that first person who responded to you and said, how about my family? Had not taken it to the next level with you, maybe it would have gone nowhere. So, it's super important. And I can't stress enough that not only asking the questions, listening to the answers, and then taking that data or that information and doing something with it, it's tremendous. And you've certainly moved the needle in your community. And obviously, clearly, people want to do it in their areas as well, or they would not be asking you to, like, here's my area code, go make your magic happen, which I love. And I guess it's a compliment, right? So, I worked for a boss who used to talk about protecting the core, but the strategy for him was always in a time of economic downturn, which I feel like we're in. And clearly, you have a need in your community for your services, focusing on the core, which is your farmer’s market. What's next for you there?
Well, I gotta tell you, our farmers market is pretty amazing. We actually get flowers donated from Trader Joe's. So, I mean, it's really legit with our fresh flowers. Whole Foods will give us their artisanal bread, so they are whole loaves of sourdough and really grainy European loaves.
I guess just as I mentioned before, just finding ways to improve what we already have instead of spreading ourselves too thin and just staying aware of our limited capacity, especially these days. Last Sunday, we decided instead of showcasing the flowers at the front of the line when people start their shopping, we have to now put it in the back because the flowers are getting crushed, or people were putting it off to the side and then they'd go missing. Just little improvements like that.
But also, having more awareness of our group and letting people know that we are a resource for them if they've fallen on hard times, that there is a place that they can go to get their weekly groceries. And even just developing our relationships with our grocery store partners as well. I'm on a text message basis with my contact at Jimbo’s today. She donated 17 gigantic pumpkins. They are organic 15-pound pumpkins. And one of our lovely volunteers volunteered to pick them up just a few hours ago and drop them off at my house. And we posted that there are beautiful organic pumpkins from Jimbo’s. Message me if you would like one. So, these relationships that we have with the grocery stores allow us to bring some joy into the community and provide these nice extras for families. So improving our core programs and continuing to develop relationships in the community.
It's so remarkable. I think you should franchise, but that's just me.
Well, I'll recruit you to help.
Absolutely. I want to make every listener go check out your webpage, because the thing I find so remarkable about it is your about section, literally is a group of women. You're all coolly decked out in your gear, but it's a board of advisors. There's literally no hierarchy. And I think that is super cool. It's very grassroots, right? It feels very organic, much like your programs do. So absolutely check out 92130 cares.org. I highly recommend it. It's actually a really nice website. Anyway, where can we go on Facebook to find you?
Yeah, so our Facebook name is just 92130 Cares. I think we're pretty easy to find. And then our website is 92130 cares.org and we are currently fundraising for a turkey fund. And this is part of the shift in post-pandemic life and us realizing that there's not there's many people who will be away for Thanksgiving this year as opposed to two years ago or people who are just way too busy to actually sit down and sponsor another family. So, we have opened up a fund where you can donate, and our volunteers will purchase gift cards or groceries and drop it off for a family in the community. So that makes it so much easier for people to get involved.
Absolutely. Cheryl, thank you so much for joining us. And thank you for the tremendous work you're doing in your community. For those of you listening, we really hope you enjoyed listening and hearing about 92130 Cares. Be sure to subscribe or leave us a review. And if you have a suggestion or would like to be a guest, or if you'd like to reach out to Cheryl, she’d love to get some advice and or get some additional help or partners. So please, if you know someone, feel free to get your information to us please contact us at email@example.com. And on behalf of my producer Samm and I, we will see you next time.
Tuesday Nov 15, 2022
Tuesday Nov 15, 2022
In this episode of The Business of Non-Profits, we speak with Holly Smithson, CEO of Athena, about approaching a non-profit as a business endeavor. She’ll speak candidly about what works for her and what sharing proven philosophies to lead a successful business entity.
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Hello and welcome back to the Business of nonprofits. With me today is Holly Smithson, the CEO of Athena. Athena is an organization with a mission to advance women in STEM leadership to 1 million strong by 2030. Holly is a voracious supporter of strong business skills within nonprofits, and we are so happy to speak with her today. Holly, thanks for joining us.
Well, thank you, Stacey. I'm excited to be here. And congratulations on the launch of your new podcast.
Thank you. Holly, you've had leadership roles like Athena is not your first rodeo, so talk to us a little bit about your leadership at other nonprofits and kind of the journey that you think nonprofit leadership takes. You've had an evolution, so talk a little bit about that.
Yeah, I've been really fortunate here in the great state of California, where there's a high volume of advocacy groups and sort of community groups that bond together in pursuit of a common agenda. And I have been fortunate enough to lead a couple of those in the space of life sciences, clean technology, and now women's leadership, specifically in the fields of STEM. And each of those organizations have a pretty successful track record. We know that on average, 90% of nonprofits will fail within their first few years, in large part because there's not a strategic plan or there's just some leadership deficiencies. So been really blessed and really fortunate to have these opportunities and these platforms to support these industry clusters.
That's amazing. So would you say and I mean, you're in an organization now that really is teaching leadership in a lot of ways, right? Harnessing your inner leadership skills is your evolution, or do you feel like nonprofit leadership and the focus on strategy and business skills, do you feel like that's kind of a tandem path to teaching women in STEM how to be better leaders? Is it the same trajectory that nonprofit leaders just don't really realize kind of what skills they need? Or what do you think the deficiency is?
I like your question, and here's why. Because we in the nonprofit industry for a long time had this false narrative that we want to show that we have spent very little of your donor money on overhead when all that does is perpetuate this race to the bottom mentality. And they know that it takes money to make money. So, the idea that you are going to communicate a business philosophy that you can spend the very least amount of money to drive an impact. When in fact, what you actually need to do is take some of the donor’s money and put it back into the mission. Into the organization. Into technology. Into talent development. Professional development. And so that's why you see these really nasty numbers where 90% of these nonprofits fail in the first few years. What donors really want is what is the impact based on your budget.
Talk a little bit more about that where you mentioned tools and technology. You're going to take your donor dollars and you're going to bolster your infrastructure. about the strategy behind that, and then about data, because I know you love data, and the way to show results is through measurement. And I think it's hard when you have a mission, and you love the mission to even kind of put KPIs in place for success.
For my mindset and because I professionally grew up working on Capitol Hill, working in public policy where accountability is scammed. And so, when I came out to California 15 years ago, my goal and my desire were to do the exact opposite of what they do in the federal government, I wanted to be a part of an organization that had an impact, that actually had outcomes that were measurable, and where everybody was on the same page, and everybody was rowing in the same direction. And we're guided by a set of data that informs us whether we're going in the right direction, whether we're going with the right people, and have the right tools in place to achieve success. And what I found was, obviously, the big data movement occurred within the last 20 years. So, if you in effect don't become a technology company, you will disappear. And the faster you understand and the faster that you're able to respond to those market dynamics, the more valuable you'll be. And that's something that's really been critical to my success, I believe, is being able to understand and see those market dynamics. You've got to have that constant excuse me, connectivity with your clients, right? Let me just give you an example. So, Athena, we've been around. We're celebrating our 25th anniversary next year. We now offer our 50 leadership development programs without boundaries. We were able to become a virtual organization. We need to understand being able to deploy a lot of the new technologies that would allow us to serve our community. We needed to hire in our very small and nimble team, those who have this new technology, proficiencies, and competencies so that we, in effect, can become a data company. I need to see the data so that we can understand where our investment in our female leaders is leading us. And so being able to understand that that's where companies are today. If they're not investing in their female leaders, if they're not demonstrating that investment in material ways, then guess what? Those managers are going to be hit because of their performance evaluation, which is structured on how we are developing our talent. And so that's a cool opportunity for us to be able to generate the data, not just speak at it anecdotally, but come at it from a very clear dashboard that shows, here are the 50 women in your C suite or your management or your board that have come through our leadership programs. And then the conversation is just data-driven. The vision to be able to communicate using technology in a way that makes all the values and the impact so abundantly clear is where I believe Athena has been successful certainly in the last five years.
So, give me a little more on that. Athena, I know when you came in, right? You really focused. I'm going to call it on the customer success. The product, the data around it, and to show value. How did you do that?
What we did when we first when it first came on five years ago, the year was 2017, and that was the launch of the #metoo campaign. And so suddenly the board of directors at Athena is looking around and we're seeing this uprising and all these stories and all of these anecdotes of discrimination and harassment and biases that suddenly were not just one off. Because of, social media, we have this forever platform where these stories are compounded and become so pervasive that businesses everywhere it was hard to ignore.
And so, we saw as an opportunity, as the voice of women in STEM, to not just join the echo chamber, but actually drive the conversation with data and really level set the conversation in a way that could address what we found to be the perception gap. So, if we don't think that women should only have 20% of STEM jobs, then that's not how we see things. Until we bring data to say, hey, if you're okay with 80% of some of the highest wage salary positions in the STEM world going to men, then that's a different conversation.
And so, in that shift back in 2017, we started to have this Titanic shift at Athena. Where we wanted to get away from this sort of portfolio of programming on leadership, development, mentoring, networking, sort of the critical recipes for career advancement. When you come at the conversation with data, you're able to have a different conversation and you're able to arrive at more meaningful outcomes.
How much data did you gather yourself versus using studies that were already out? There was a combination. And did you have to bring in a data analyst or walk through that?
Well, so, at our 20th anniversary in 2018, we had our big annual STEM event of the year. And so we partnered with UC San Diego, which birthed Athena 25 years ago, and said, hey, we want to go in and produce an index. We want to have a women and STEM workforce index. We'd like to see how we are doing as a global STEM hub here in Southern California, and then how do we stack against the rest of the nation. And so we basically worked with them. They curated the data. We did it across all STEM fields. And then we broke it down by women in life sciences, women in technology, women in engineering, and then women in leadership positions. So that enabled us to kind of get a handle on where we stood and then how far we needed to go. And with that index, we did that product launch.
And at that time we had also launched a partnership with the United Nations Global Compact. And the UN Global Compact is the world's largest corporate social responsibility initiative. And in that initiative, it has 17 global goals, and one of them is to achieve gender equality. And so throughout those two initiatives, that was part of our biggest strategic outreach, to become more of an advocate to elevate Athena and obviously our corporate partners in ways that said, we don't have all the answers. We do have shared values. We have the data that tells us we have a ways to go, but we actually want to make this world sustainable. And we understand that the role of gender equality will play in that endeavor. And so now you suddenly have this movement, you have a set of people that are humble, that are informed, and, quite frankly, care more about the outcomes, the long-term outcomes, than just looking at their short-term gain. Some data-driven methodologies that would enable them to modernize their workforce. To recruit more women. To retain more women. To invest in their leadership growth. And then to ultimately drive. You know. The bottom line and their customers and their customer base and their customer loyalty. And so that whole process was, I would say, that was going on from 2018 to 2020 until the Pandemic hit. And so that was a huge evolution for Athena. And now we're this global entity that is widely respected and regarded as somebody that's on the ground, on the boots ground, in a global hub that wants to drive action. And if you're going to drive action and you're going to be bold enough to say, we want to advance a million women in STEM by 2030, you better be able to tell the story to keep the industry accountable.
So let's use that same chutzpah and put it towards diversifying women in STEM. That's so interesting because you really took it on almost like a for-profit product launch, right? You did your market research, you looked at other things that were happening, like the UN Council and what you could grab and pull and sort of cross-checked it with your mission, and then you sort of repackaged it. It's been an evolution, but you really did apply product principles to almost like transforming your mission or bolstering your mission to take it the next step. How's that sort of post-pandemic? So, that was before, and during and now after. How does that feel? What kind of resonance is there? What do you see next?
Well, that's interesting. So for us, for most of our history, we are focusing on the individual women that make up our membership portfolio. And obviously, the companies would be investing in those high performers, in those high potentials. And that was really our go-to market approach. But that shift, as I mentioned through our collaboration with the United Nations, was why don't we spend our efforts and our resources and reallocate them to support our companies? Because our 50 corporate partners employ over a million people worldwide. So I'm a nonprofit organization. I don't have a budget to get the emails of all women in STEM. But what I do have is I have onramp with my 50 corporate partners who have satellite locations worldwide and we know their total employee population. So by us focusing on how we can encourage and support those efforts by our corporate partners, we're able to lift the entire employee population far exceeding our individual support groups. And so everything that we do and the success that we've had is largely in part because of our corporate partners. And so we also have to come at it and recognize that there's a high degree of humility on the ones that do. This is Pfizer. It's Oracle. It's Qualcomm. It's Marauder Therapeutics. It's aTyr Pharmaceuticals. And so we know that we've got to partner with people that have been at it for a while to make sure to keep us accountable and to make sure that we're doing this in a way that's data-driven and reduce a lot of the trial and error time and get more actionable strategies that we can deploy today and start reaping the rewards. Understanding where the pain points are and where there's cracks in the foundation of the corporate cultures, helps us design products, as you would say in the private sector, helps us come up with these customized curriculums and content to help offset the challenges. And just to kind of give you an example the soft skills is where a lot of these women were falling short on. And had they been able to actually articulate their value proposition, to be able to recruit and activate male allies on their part, to offer them up to lead a special project, to be able to really build their social capital, these are obviously the social skills they're not teaching you at Berkeley or Stanford or MIT or any university or community college, for all I know. And so we saw that as a gap, a skills gap that we could fill and that would help them retain the women so that they could advance their careers.
Awesome. So if you were going to say, I'm going to summarize for a minute, it sounds like really from a recipe point of view for a successful nonprofit, understand your mission. And so many leaders do they feel it right? They wear it on their sleeve, and they really are champions of their mission. But they have to be able to distill it down to such a value prop that it's crisp and it's alive, but it's also quantifiable. And then you've got to be able to have data that supports wherever you came from that led you there and then wherever you're going. And you have to adjust that, right? And that can be tech. It could be Google Sheets. I don't care what you use, right? You could find some great kids at UCSD, whatever works for you.
If you don't embrace and leverage technology and don't have your finger on the market forces, that's a recipe for swift failure. 1.5 million nonprofits operate in this country today and very few of them operate under the million-dollar mark. We're talking the most highly funded are YMCA, Red Cross, United Way, and those are mission driven organizations that are bringing value to people and families and communities. And they obviously have a very rich history. They are very well funded. And when they are well managed, they're able to bring a lot of impact to the communities they serve. And when they are mismanaged, everybody knows. When you are trying to weather all of these different events, like, obviously we were mismanaged in our 20-year history. We were about to go under because we had a lot of volunteers who had really good intentions, but nobody had a line of sight on the budget, nobody had accountability, nobody ran a PNL. And so, you had a bunch of well-intended people trying to put together this big, huge turkey feast for Thanksgiving. And it was unfortunate. And so, I came in to do a turnaround, which is what I love to do and be able to reassess all of the disorganization, to reestablish the products, the value, the mission, reestablish the trust of our corporate partners, and then really to put a really bright spotlight on how important it is and how far we have to go and how far we come on our mission. And then we got the belt taken over a hiney by the Pandemic and all of that great work and the reestablishing and productizing and cleaning up our portfolio, cleaning up our database, really elevating our brand equity across through the UN collaboration. And then BAM. That was very sad and frustrating for everybody. But had we not reinforced our business model and reinforced the necessities to get this organization get back up and continue in its march, then we would have been taken out for good.
I had a CEO I worked for a million years ago named Alex Sun. He's phenomenal. He's with Enlight, and he used to talk about protecting the core. The first order of business is protect the core. And the first rule of that is you have to know what your core is, right? So it sounds like when the Pandemic hit, it could have crippled you, it could have killed you, and it didn't, because you were already taking your value proposition and streamlining it to the point where you could protect that core. Right, those volunteers, as well meaning as they were, and I've worked in lots of organizations where I'm one of them, right, where it's we're making Thanksgiving dinner, but we're really heavy on the turkey, and there's no mashed potatoes. You don't want to do that. You want a good balance, and you can't be out of balance, but you have to protect that core. And you've already taken that on, and now you're just taking that to the next level of what you know, now that we're out of it, and I don't need to be quite so pedantic about protection, what can I do now that we're out of it to get to the next level? Do you know what your stats are? Can you share those with us? Where are we in 2022?
So now that our program portfolio reaches, I think we have almost 99 different countries represented in our virtual programs. So now we have to double down on our investment in our technology and our capabilities to be able to track that data, upload it, and then be able to design it in a way that shows in real time to be able to bifurcate and extract the data insight, really get a normalization of our data, a cleansing of our data. Right now, we don't have that mastered. And we're on the precipice of being able to communicate the impact we're having in a much more compelling fashion than we are today. I would say we are halfway there to our mission, but our ability to do that in a much more disciplined manner is gonna require us to become a data analytics company.
Which makes total sense, right?
I love the ability and the opportunity to actually bring all of the impact into a nice package that empowers our partners and positions our partners to demonstrate to their shareholders, to their customers, to their employees and all their stakeholders, their commitment by numbers. And so as we move into that, we obviously just recovered our financial from the Pandemic, and then we've got enough to support us. Now we're adjusting ourselves and we're going into hopefully clear skies. Now we got to double down into this data analytics phase that I want to take us into. And again, everybody is grappling with this. If you look at Accenture or PwC or HBR, everybody's talking about the need for companies to everywhere to upskill, right. Remote collaboration, technology, all of this. Everybody's turning this corner, like it or not. And so you've got to find the resources. I've got to find the resources to do this. It's not an option.
But it's there. And you know where to go. You know what you want the end result to sort of look like. And you know that it's possible. And I think that's important because, yes, it's a blue-sky exercise, but there's no need to be afraid. And I think 25 years, hey, a lot of orgs don't last that long, let alone nonprofits. Right? You've had a few transitions under your belt, so I'm sure you will get there, actually. And I can't wait to see it. It's going to be phenomenal.
Alright Holly if we want to find out more about your mission and about the results, where do we go? How do we find out?
Yes, you can find us on Athenastemwomen.org.
Thank you, thank you so much for joining us. I really appreciated it on behalf of Samm and I. Samm is my editor and my producer. So thank you so much for joining us. It's been a pleasure. And thank you all for listening. I really appreciate it. If you like what you heard, please subscribe or leave a review we'd love to hear from you. Or if you would like to be a guest, please hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll see you next time.
Tuesday Nov 15, 2022
Clearity, Rachel Freeman - Scaling a non-profit to further their program reach
Tuesday Nov 15, 2022
Tuesday Nov 15, 2022
In this episode of The Business of Non-Profits, we speak with Rachel Freeman from The Clearity Foundation about scaling a Non-Profit to further their program reach. We’ll learn about the challenges they’ve surmounted along the way, how change has transformed the team, and where they are going next!
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Steps Through OC
Hello. You're listening to the business of nonprofits.
With me today is Rachel Freeman from the Clearity foundation. Rachel is a seasoned human resources and operations professional. Today we're going to learn how Clearity scales to increase its program reach. We'll learn about the challenges they've surrounded along the way, how change has transformed the team and where they're going next.
Rachel, thanks so much for joining us. Why don't you take a few minutes and introduce yourself, your role at Clearity, and the impactful work the Clearity Foundation does?
Hi, everyone. I'm Rachel Freeman.
I'm the director of HR and operations for the Clearity Foundation. I started working with Clearity in 2020, right at the beginning stages of the pandemic. I left the corporate scene just a few years before that and was consulting in human resources and project management. After helping the Clearity team for a few months, I was struck by the compassion and the passion that was displayed by each of the people that I worked with. To a person, concern, and thoughtfulness for the women they supported were at the core of every decision and conversation they had, and I just knew I had to be part of the team.
Clearity works to improve the survival and quality of life of women with ovarian cancer. It's one of the most difficult diagnoses to receive, especially since it's typically diagnosed in the late stages. We meet these women and their loved ones where they're at and walk through this journey with them on their terms. That might mean helping them understand the science behind their disease and treatment options, locating an appropriate clinical trial, or managing the stress and anxiety that can be overwhelming in their situation. All our services are free of charge. Our individual personalized support is driven by the needs of each of the teal women that come to us.
It's such an amazing mission and in some cases, heartbreaking. So, I can't even imagine working in that environment and literally impacting lives. Every single participant you touch truly, truly has a change that you can see and measure just from your involvement in their lives. And that's so huge. So, thank you so much for the work you do.
Clearly, the Pandemic was a busy time. It was a busy time for everyone. But Clearity had some non-pandemic-related work that happened. You had a lot of things occur all at the same time while the Pandemic was happening. Tell us a little bit about that, about the landscape, kind of how you came in, the assessments you did, taking on another assimilating, another small startup like. How did that work? Tell me about that.
Most of the Clearity team was already working remotely and virtually prior to the pandemic, and so part of what I did was help them get set up to be as efficient virtually as they were in the office.
The biggest challenge that they were having at that point is they had reached the point in the growth of the organization where they weren't really a startup anymore, but they weren't big and stabilized. They were right at the beginning of a steep growth trajectory and the Pandemic just adds a layer of complexity to that for sure. But what we were looking at doing at that point was not only getting the team virtual for safety reasons but also looking for ways to find efficiencies and scalability in our processes and procedures so that we could handle the influx of participants that we were really expecting to see.
Okay, so during the Pandemic you also it sounds like scaling was an issue and you had recognized that, but you were also acquiring and assimilating this another program. So, you had additional tech, you were also taking on board. Talk a little bit about that.
Just prior to the Pandemic, we had been working with a pilot program called Steps Through OC, which provided psychosocial support to women with ovarian cancer. And just before the Pandemic started, we brought them in as a full program of Clearity. And so, they had been operating on completely different technology platforms, and organizational structures, everything was separate because they had been operating as a separate organization prior to that point. And so quite a bit of the scalability that we needed to do was also finding the efficiencies and consistency in the way people are doing their work at Clearity.
Absolutely. You're looking at the scale and you're looking at what you do internally and how they work, trying to come up with a happy medium. So how did you know? What was the trigger for you that something had to change? Was it something from the board? What happened?
It was a little bit of both. So, the acquisition brought in a number of new participants that have been looking for something different than our core services at that time were scientific support and education around the treatment decisions that women were focusing on. What we found was that adding this new service allowed us to give more holistic support to the women and their families, but it also increased the number of people that were being referred to our scientific program and vice versa. We knew that we needed to scale, and we needed to find these efficiencies because we were looking at such a steep growth in our projections for the participants that we were bringing in.
Excellent. A lot of people will say getting started is the hardest part. So how did you start, what did you take on, and how did you parse the work? How did you approach this?
The biggest and most important pieces of these transitions is the change management and actually doing that prep work before you get started.
Because there were these distinct teams that had been operating independently from each other, it was really important to have the buy in of the leadership team and to make sure that not only was everyone accepting what needed to come up, but they really understood the benefits to it and they wanted this to happen. Because it's one thing to say, theoretically I'm on board, I want to grow this program by 500% in the next year. But when that means that now you've got to have a request that you put in for something that you just did quickly yourself, that gets hard very quickly. So it was really important that we had the why really established before we got started.
Absolutely. And I think the more competent you are in your field, at your work, the harder it is to feel uncomfortable and sort of incompetent and make that shift. Nobody likes to feel like they're not good at what they do and this just compounded it over time, right?
Let's talk specifics about one of the improvements that you made and you did it fairly quickly, was centralizing sort of operational support. Talk about that specifically in terms of how did you get the buy in on that and how did you announce it, what did you do there?
So that was actually one of the simpler but most foundational pieces of what we did for the scalability and efficiency analysis was establishing this centralized operational support for the organization They were all operating independently. There wasn't any efficiencies between them. If two different departments were looking for similar support, they would have to be two different skill sets or two different people, or at least one person trained in two different processes. And so the buy-in was actually fairly simple. We're going to take some stuff off your plate. You guys are going to get to focus on the things that got you into this business to begin with.
It was the implementation of that that saw the challenges.
Absolutely. I think that's a good segue into what were the challenges you saw and how did you work them out? Or maybe you didn't.
I think the biggest challenge is just that people have a different environment that they work in when they're working independently of each other. One department calls the women that we support participants and we have another one that might call them patients or that might call them teal women, or just the terminology all of the normal things that are just part of everyday work. And the challenge was really that they were all functioning well. There were no issues. And so we were really going in specifically to fix something that wasn't broken.
And so it's really important to bring it back to that big picture to remind of the why and just because you have to send in this request that you could do yourself in 30 minutes. If you send in a request and it takes somebody else 15 minutes and it saves somebody in a different department an hour, it's still worth it. And so really just kind of putting it into perspective and getting everybody to take a step back and look at that bigger picture and the benefits that will come out of it.
I know data was a huge impetus both for some of your changes but also some of the discomfort. But in your case, every group knew their data like cold. You could ask someone specifically how many participants were at a certain stage or how many participants enrolled in. So, talk a little bit about the data challenge and the specifics of feeling of the loss of control of data. How did you try to partner with them to let them know it would be okay? And how did you work that?
The data is actually still in process. This is a transition that we're going through right now and it's a loss of control for the data. But I don't think that that's the motivation behind it. It's the lack of personalization that causes the frustration. So, you're right. We have a scientific team that's working with some medical records and then we have our psychosocial team that's working with people's mental health even though they're not providing therapy. They were always keeping their data very separate and private as they should as well. And then our development team has financial information from people and that's different but equal level of privacy. And so all three of them were very separate in their databases but had such a high touch and a connection to the people that they were working with that they didn't need a database. They could tell you each and every one. And so as wonderful as that is and as much as that contributes to the environment and to the level of support and connection we have with the people that we support, the scalability factor of that is a little tough because there's only a certain number of people that you can connect that deeply with.
The ability to let technology support the scalability of the data and the storage of the data and the efficiency of the data management, it's difficult because it feels like it's less personal. There's a lot of it that we're looking for ways to have that technology help and augment the personal connection so that it's not something that's taking away that control, it's something that's giving more control.
I love that, right? Because the whole point of a business, any business, but especially a nonprofit, should be connection, it should be a really good customer experience. That's frictionless, right? It's all about the people we serve. So I love that it came from that heart of service, right. It's not just cost savings or even fundraising. It's truly, it's truly from a place of service. Talk a little bit about your successes. What were they and how did you communicate them to the team to get more support and get buy in that it's working?
in the last two years, we've increased the capacity for our emotional support sessions by 44% with the same counseling team. But being able to be that much more focused on supporting the women at the way that only they can and taking the things off of their plate that they don't need to be doing.
And then we've also cut our operating expenses by 28% in the last year. And that's even with the investment in technology that we've been making.
Rachel, that's huge.
And I think one of the other interesting things, because I know a little bit about the inside of this organization, it's not just the numbers, right? You have that and I know the counselors feel it. They feel that they're doing more and they're reaching more people, which is so gratifying for them. And your C suite and your board probably love the cut and operational expenses in addition to that.
So if you had one nugget of advice, one little pearl of wisdom for somebody who was looking at I'm not even talking the same redesign that you've done, but just maybe a digital transformation or a tech project, what would your piece of advice be?
Start the change management early and spend more time on that than you do on the implementation. So make sure that you've got the buy in, the leadership all the way down, and that you have a very clearly articulated why behind the change. So that when it does get tough and frustrating, you have something to point back to, to say, this is why this is worth it.
You had talked in our prep meeting about the team transformation. That along the way, as you do a digital transformation or a big change project, the team itself reacts differently. Talk to us a little bit about that because I think that's important.
At different stages of an organization's growth, there are different environments that you're working in, and people gravitate towards those environments. So some people really like to work with a startup organization. They're very entrepreneurial. They like the fast pace, the immediate impact. And some people like to work in a more fully grown, stable organization. They like the consistency. They like the structure, and there's pros and cons to both ways. And so when you start with the role, you are drawn to where that environment is when you're looking at the organization and you're looking at the job, and as the organization grows, the team may or may not transform along with it. So as we move into a growth phase and we're looking at building that structure and the stability, you have to have the right people in the right positions at the right time. And that, at the right time, is the piece that a lot of people forget.
Yeah. And it isn't personal on either side. Right. It truly is. It is a personality fit, and some people just recognize it right away. That's the remarkable thing. And I think that is big because I think a lot of organizations assume everyone is going to be along for the ride, right. And everyone is not. They're not
And the best thing that the organization can do for themselves and for their team is to acknowledge that and assist people in finding the role or the niche that's right for them
Okay. So I want to give you a minute to talk about Teal Woman because you have these exciting once a year events for your participants and their families and to recognize people. So talk a little bit about that and then tell us how we can learn more.
Absolutely. So September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and we have a number of different activities. We're out there. The Clearity team is out there. Our ambassadors are out there just making sure to raise awareness around ovarian cancer in our communities. And we've had a number of government buildings that have been light up in teal for us, which is just wonderful. We also have our flagship Gala in September, which is called Teal Woman. And we have just a wonderful program lined up. There's an in person local event at the Fairmont Grand del Mar that will allow for people to bid on live auctions. We have a speed painter who is always very popular. I just love watching her do her work. And then we also have a live broadcast on the 22nd that is nationwide. And there's an auction in there as well and a lot of just really wonderful speakers and just getting the community together to celebrate the successes and comfort each other's losses and really look towards the future of ovarian cancer support.
Excellent. So for the rest of you listening, Clearity is at www.Clearity.org if you'd like to donate. And I can't stress again what an amazing organization this is that's Clearityfoundation.org/donate. Even if you don't know someone who's an ovarian cancer survivor, I really recommend if you know anyone who's been touched by cancer, check out Clearity's website. My mom had about a horrible bout with lung cancer and I really wish that I had found this discussion. There's a podcast that Clearity puts out that talks about all sorts of psychosocial things and as a caregiver, it would have been so gratifying and just so grounding to have some of those resources. So please, even if you're not ovarian cancer survivor or you don't know someone who is, but you've been touched by cancer, it's a great place to start. And I know if you're interested in ovarian cancer support, Clearity is a great resource. So please check them out.
Rachel, I can't say enough how awesome it is to work with you. Rachel is ferocious. So if you'd like to talk to her, you can also reach her through the Clearity.org website and find out more about their efforts.
Thank you so much. I can't say enough what a pleasure it is to work with you. And for the rest of you listening, please subscribe. If you like what you heard, review us. And if you'd like to be a guest, please go ahead and send us an email at podcast@TGRmanagementconsulting.com. We'll see you next time.
Thursday Sep 15, 2022
The Business of Non-Profits Trailer
Thursday Sep 15, 2022
Thursday Sep 15, 2022
Trailer for The Business of Non-Profits Podcast
In each episode, we will discuss how Non-profits are businesses at their core and have the same challenges and successes as other businesses, especially during the pandemic. Join Stacey Lund as she hosts monthly candid discussions with organizations from a variety of non-profit verticals about how they rose to the challenge and scaled, pivoted, and transformed in the past two years.
If you are looking for ideas or just plain transformation inspiration, this show is for you.
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