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Podcast

Making the Case for General Support Funding with A. Nicole Campbell (Part I & II)

Over the next two weeks on the Nonprofit Build Up, we are making the case for general support funding. This two-part series was originally recorded as a webinar with Angelyn Frazer-Giles, Executive Director of the National Network for Justice. Angelyn was previously featured on the Nonprofit Build Up Episode 9- Increasing Access for Grassroots Organizations.

You will hear us talk a lot about general support funding or flexible funding on the Nonprofit Build Up podcast, including last week’s episode introducing the importance of general support grants. Many leaders in the nonprofit sector are speaking out about how crucial general support funding is for creating sustainable and effective organizations. And we agree. This series goes a little deeper into discussing why the majority of funding is not general support and what the delays are that slow down general support grants from becoming the default grants of the sector.

Additionally, Nic gets technical and discusses how to request general support grants and how to structure these awards to nonprofits and social-impact entities. Angelyn and Nic also address how to build relationships and trust and redefine risk to effectively transition to general support.

Listen to the podcast here:

Part One


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Part Two

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General Support Funding with A. Nicole Campbell

This week on the Nonprofit Build Up, we are discussing general support funding. This episode was recorded as the very first episode from our Fast Build Friday series, a web-series where we quickly build what you know about infrastructure design in the nonprofit sector.  

You may hear us talk a lot about general support funding or flexible funding on the Nonprofit Build Up podcast. Many leaders in the nonprofit sector, some of whom we have had as guests, are speaking out about how crucial general support funding is for creating sustainable and effective organizations. Nic made our first Fast Build Friday video about this topic as a 2020 trend for the nonprofit sector. But we did not want general support funding to simply be a trend, and this episode explains why. 

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Read the podcast transcription below:

-Upbeat Intro Music-

Nic Campbell: 

You’re listening to the Nonprofit Build Up Podcast and I’m your host, Nic Campbell. I want to support movements that can interrupt cycles of injustice and inequity, and shift power towards vulnerable and marginalized communities. I’ve spent years working in and with nonprofits and philanthropies, and I know how important infrastructure is to outcomes. On this show, we’ll talk about how to build capacity to transform the way you and your organization work.

Katy Thompson:

Hi, everyone. It’s Katy T, BU’s PC. This week on the Nonprofit Build Up, we are discussing general support funding. This episode was recorded as the very first episode from our Fast Build Friday series, a web-series where we quickly build what you know about infrastructure design in the nonprofit sector.  

You may hear us talk a lot about general support funding or flexible funding on the Nonprofit Build Up podcast. Many leaders in the nonprofit sector, some of whom we have had as guests, are speaking out about how crucial general support funding is for creating sustainable and effective organizations. Nic made our first Fast Build Friday video about this topic as a 2020 trend for the nonprofit sector. But we did not want general support funding to simply be a trend, and this episode explains why. 

And with that, here is Fast Build Friday- Episode 1.  

Nicole Campbell:

Hi, everyone. It’s Nic with Build Up Advisory Group and welcome to Fast Build Fridays, a web series where we will build what you know about infrastructure design in the nonprofit sector. Now, I have some notes so you might see me looking down during this video, but it’s just to make sure that I stay on target and I don’t ramble on because this topic is near and dear to my heart. Today’s Fast Build topic is about the infrastructure trends that we’re seeing for the sector in 2020 and I wrote an article about these trends but I wanted to pull out one trend in particular and that’s the trend around general support funding. By now, I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of the articles and heard a lot of buzz around grants being moved from project support to general support. And the thinking here is that the general support funding, unlike project support funding, which is restricted usually to a project or to a program, this general support funding instead will allow organizations and leaders to determine how to spend that funding to make sure that the organization, their work, and the communities that they’re serving are sustainable.

Nicole Campbell:

Now in my opinion, this should have always been the case. This crisis, this COVID-19 pandemic, this crisis, did not create the need for flexible funding. The need was always there. The crisis just magnified that need. Now, as most of you know, I am a big proponent of general support funding, flexible funding, and I write about these topics a lot and I think that we are in a moment now where we have to ask ourselves, why wasn’t this grant a general support grant to begin with? And we should also be asking why can’t we continue to provide general support funding? Part of the reason I wanted to pull out this trend and talk about it was I wanted to share some of the interesting things that I’ve been noticing about this trend. The first is that the conversations that have been happening about general support I am finding are much more sophisticated than the conversations that have been happening in the past.

Nicole Campbell:

For example, there’s a real conversation around what are the true costs of running an organization and how can funding support those costs. The second thing that I wanted to flag is that these conversations are being mutually pushed or pursued by both grantees and funders, which is extremely important because I do think that this conversation should not be unilateral. It should be a dialogue, and so it’s really important that grantees and funders are both pushing to have this conversation. The third thing that I’m noticing are the public commitments from funders, and I really like to see these commitments. Why? Because they talk about general support and I think they’re just reinforcing the point that flexible funding is the way to make sure that an organization is sustainable. But with this observation, it’s also raising some questions for me about this trend, particularly around traction. Specifically, when are we going to move these conversations to action so that we could have a sector-wide shift to general support funding? And what does a successful shift look like for funders?

Nicole Campbell:

How do they transition to that? How do grantees transition to that? I know that these are big questions to wrestle with, but I do think we need to wrestle with them in order to make sure that this trend keeps tracking in the right direction. And that’s our Fast Build. If you have any comments or you want to share any of the infrastructure trends that you’re noticing in the sector, please just comment below. I’d love to hear from you.

Katy Thompson:

And that concludes this week’s episode. Nic posed many big questions for us to ponder in this episode. We are curious to know how you are thinking about the transition to more general support funding? What trends are you seeing in 2021? Send us your answers and infrastructure comments and questions to hello@buildupadvisory.com 

-Upbeat Outro Music-

Nic Campbell:

Thank you for listening to this episode of Nonprofit Build Up. To access the show notes, additional resources, and information on how you can work with us, please visit our website at buildupadvisory.com. We invite you to listen again next week as we share another episode about scaling impact by building infrastructure and capacity in the nonprofit sector. Keep building bravely.

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Amplifying the Voices of Impacted Communities with Sarah Shanley Hope

This week on the Nonprofit Build Up, Nic is talking with Sarah Shanley Hope. Sarah is the VP of Brand + Partnerships at The Solutions Project following seven years as the organization’s first Executive Director. Under Sarah’s leadership, the organization transformed its mission and culture to center racial and gender equity, launched the field’s first and only award-winning intermediary climate and equity fund, and grew a celebratory, collaborative and inclusive movement for 100 percent clean energy.

Sarah has held executive or leadership roles at the Alliance for Climate Education, Green For All, Cargill and Best Buy over her 15+ years of experience in brand strategy and social change.

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About Sarah Shanley Hope:

Sarah Shanley Hope is the VP of Brand + Partnerships at The Solutions Project following seven years as the organization’s first Executive Director. Under Sarah’s leadership, the organization transformed its mission and culture to center racial and gender equity, launched the field’s first and only award-winning intermediary climate and equity fund, and grew a celebratory, collaborative and inclusive movement for 100% clean energy. Sarah has held executive or leadership roles at the Alliance for Climate Education, Green For All, Cargill and Best Buy over her 15+ years of experience in brand strategy and social change. She has raised and helped deploy more than $50 million in support of a racial equity and climate solutions agenda over her tenure in the field.

Sarah graduated with an MBA from the University of Minnesota and a BA in political science from Vassar College. She grew up in Buffalo, NY and lives with her husband, daughters and dog in Oakland, CA, where she also sits on the Board of Native Renewables. Sarah’s work has been featured in a range of outlets including the NY Times, People Magazine, and the Daily Show. She has spoken about the vision, strategies and stories of change at the intersection of climate solutions and racial justice as part of TEDxMidAtlantic, Climate One, the Social Venture Network and Bioneers.

Read the podcast transcription below:

-Upbeat Intro Music-

Nic Campbell: 

You’re listening to the Nonprofit Build Up Podcast and I’m your host, Nic Campbell. I want to support movements that can interrupt cycles of injustice and inequity, and shift power towards vulnerable and marginalized communities. I’ve spent years working in and with nonprofits and philanthropies, and I know how important infrastructure is to outcomes. On this show, we’ll talk about how to build capacity to transform the way you and your organization work.

Katy Thompson:

Hi, everyone. It’s Katy T., BU’s PC. This week on the Nonprofit Build Up, Nic is talking with Sarah Shanley Hope. Sarah is the VP of Brand + Partnerships at The Solutions Project following seven years as the organization’s first Executive Director. Under Sarah’s leadership, the organization transformed its mission and culture to center racial and gender equity, launched the field’s first and only award-winning intermediary climate and equity fund, and grew a celebratory, collaborative and inclusive movement for 100 percent clean energy.

Katy Thompson:

Sarah has held executive or leadership roles at the Alliance for Climate Education, Green For All, Cargill and Best Buy over her 15+ years of experience in brand strategy and social change. She has raised and helped deploy more than $50 million in support of a racial equity and climate solutions agenda over her tenure in the field.

Katy Thompson:

Sarah’s work has been featured in a range of outlets including the NY Times, People Magazine, and the Daily Show. She has spoken about the vision, strategies and stories of change at the intersection of climate solutions and racial justice as part of TEDxMidAtlantic, Climate One, the Social Venture Network and Bioneers.

And with that, here is Sarah Shanley Hope.

-Upbeat Outro Music-

Nic Campbell:

Thank you for listening to this episode of Nonprofit Build Up. To access the show notes, additional resources, and information on how you can work with us, please visit our website at buildupadvisory.com. We invite you to listen again next week as we share another episode about scaling impact by building infrastructure and capacity in the nonprofit sector. Keep building bravely.

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Defining Infrastructure with A. Nicole Campbell

This week on the Nonprofit Build Up, we are defining infrastructure. This episode was recorded as an episode from our Fast Build Friday series, a web-series where we quickly build what you know about infrastructure design in the nonprofit sector.

There are so many definitions of infrastructure floating around. And since we use the term ‘infrastructure’ frequently throughout this podcast, we wanted to take a moment and provide insight on how we define it. Once we have defined infrastructure, we need to build it stronger and faster because communities are counting on us.

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Read the podcast transcription below:

-Upbeat Intro Music-

Nic Campbell: 

You’re listening to the Nonprofit Build Up Podcast and I’m your host, Nic Campbell. I want to support movements that can interrupt cycles of injustice and inequity, and shift power towards vulnerable and marginalized communities. I’ve spent years working in and with nonprofits and philanthropies, and I know how important infrastructure is to outcomes. On this show, we’ll talk about how to build capacity to transform the way you and your organization work.

Katy Thompson:

Hi, everyone. It’s Katy T, BU’s PC. This week on the Nonprofit Build Up, we’re defining infrastructure. This episode was recorded as an episode from our Fast Build Friday series, a web-series where we quickly build what you know about infrastructure design in the nonprofit sector.

During the next couple of months, we will be sharing different episodes of our Fast Build Friday series. We hope you’ll enjoy them. You can also watch our Fast Build Friday episodes on YouTube or sign up to our weekly newsletter to receive the latest Fast Build Fridays.

Katy Thompson:

There are so many definitions of infrastructure floating around the sector. And since we use the term ‘infrastructure’ frequently throughout this podcast, we wanted to take a moment and provide insight on how we define it. Once we have defined infrastructure, we need to build it stronger and faster because communities are counting on us.

And with that, here is Fast Build Friday Episode 5.

Nicole Campbell:

Hi, everyone. It’s Nic with Build Up Advisory Group and it’s Fast Build Fridays, a web series where we will quickly build what you know about infrastructure design in the nonprofit sector. Today’s Fast Build topic is defining and level-setting on the word, infrastructure.

Nicole Campbell:

When you hear the word, infrastructure, it can mean so many things. Google it and it can produce images of bridges and tunnels, and when we’re talking about nonprofits and philanthropies, it could be leadership infrastructure, development infrastructure, and the list goes on and on. So, let’s level set. When I say infrastructure, I mean the framework of an organization, the skeleton, the thing that holds the organization up; holds up its mission, goals, programmatic strategy. It’s the foundation of what makes any organization move. I come at this with an operations, legal, and programmatic lens, having been in all of those roles before. And that combination of experience has given me such a unique perspective on how we define and design infrastructure. Specifically, what makes up infrastructure?

Nicole Campbell:

For us at Build Up, it’s governance – So, the people and the papers; structuring, both externally, like what entity are you using to do your work? And internally, what does internal capacity look like to support your work? What do your teams look like, for example; and if we’re talking about grant-making organizations, we’re also talking about the frame that supports the grant-making process. And one more thing that’s included here that can be missing from these definitions is people. An organization will collapse on itself, it will be hollow without the right people in the right places in the organization.

Nicole Campbell:

So, governance, external and internal structuring, grant making, and people. And that is what I mean when I say infrastructure. Let’s get this definition trending. And that’s our Fast Build. I want to hear how you’re thinking about your infrastructure. Are you calling it infrastructure or something else? I’d love to hear from you and about your experience in the comments below. Thanks so much for watching. Have a wonderful weekend and keep building bravely.

Katy Thompson:

And that concludes this week’s episode. We’re curious to know if you’ve defined infrastructure this way? We’re also curious about just how strong you think your infrastructure is? Send us your answers, comments, and questions to hello@buildupadvisory.com.

-Upbeat Outro Music-

Nic Campbell:

Thank you for listening to this episode of Nonprofit Build Up. To access the show notes, additional resources, and information on how you can work with us, please visit our website at buildupadvisory.com. We invite you to listen again next week as we share another episode about scaling impact by building infrastructure and capacity in the nonprofit sector. Keep building bravely.

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The Call for Nonprofit Leadership with Shawn Dove (Part I & II)

This week on the Nonprofit Build Up, Nic is talking with Shawn Dove. Shawn was the founding Chief Executive Officer of the Campaign for Black Male Achievement or CBMA, a national membership organization committed to improving the life outcomes for Black men and boys. Under Shawn’s leadership, CBMA leveraged more than $212 million in national and local funds for Black Male Achievement, and has grown to include nearly 6,000 individual and 3,000 organizational members across the U.S.

Shawn shared so many rich insights during this conversation and we wanted everyone to receive those insights so we broke this conversation into two parts. Stay tuned for part two next week.

Listen to the podcast here:

Part One


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Part Two


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About Shawn Dove

Shawn Dove is the Chief Executive Officer of the Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA), a national membership organization committed to improving the life outcomes for Black men and boys. Under Dove’s leadership, CBMA has leveraged more than $212 million in national and local funds for Black Male Achievement, and has grown to include nearly 6,000 individual and 3,000 organizational members across the U.S.

Since 2008, Dove’s stellar leadership has propelled CBMA from being an initiative of the Open Society Foundations (OSF) into an independent entity that has established an emerging field of Black Male Achievement. Among Dove’s key accomplishments are helping seed the launch of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative; brokering a partnership between OSF, Bloomberg Philanthropies and the City of New York to launch the Young Men’s Initiative; and serving as a lead organizer of the Executives’ Alliance to Expand Opportunities for Boys & Young Men of Color.

Prior to CBMA, Dove held more than two decades’ experience as a youth development professional, community-builder and advocate for children and families. For 10 years, Dove served as Program Director of the Harlem Children Zone-operated Countee Cullen Community Center, where he helped spearhead the launch of HCZ’s Fitness & Nutrition Center. His additional leadership roles include Executive Director of The DOME Project; Director of Youth Ministries for First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, NJ; Creative Communities Director for the National Guild for Community Schools of the Arts; and New York Vice President of MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership.

As evidenced by CBMA’s commitment to narrative change, Dove has continuously created platforms to amplify voices and stories by marginalized people and communities. While at HCZ, he became the founding Editor-In-Chief of Harlem Overheard, an award-winning youth-produced newspaper.

For his catalytic leadership, Dove has been recognized with numerous awards. In 2018 he was awarded the key to the City of Louisville by Mayor Greg Fischer, and was named Black Enterprise’s 2017 “BE Modern Man of the Year.” Dove is also a recipient of the Charles H. Revson Fellowship at Columbia University, and was named one of Ebony Magazine’s Power 100 in 2016.

Dove earned a BA in English from Wesleyan University and is a graduate of Columbia University Business School’s Institute for Not-for-Profit Management. He currently lives in New Jersey with
his wonderful wife and four amazing children.

Read the podcast transcription below:

-Upbeat Intro Music-

Nic Campbell: 

You’re listening to the Nonprofit Build Up Podcast and I’m your host, Nic Campbell. I want to support movements that can interrupt cycles of injustice and inequity, and shift power towards vulnerable and marginalized communities. I’ve spent years working in and with nonprofits and philanthropies, and I know how important infrastructure is to outcomes. On this show, we’ll talk about how to build capacity to transform the way you and your organization work.

Katy Thompson:

Hi, everyone. I’m Katy Thompson, BU’s PC and I am doing this week’s guest introduction. This week on the Nonprofit Build Up, Nic is talking with Shawn Dove. Shawn was the founding Chief Executive Officer of the Campaign for Black Male Achievement or CBMA, a national membership organization committed to improving the life outcomes for Black men and boys. Under Shawn’s leadership, CBMA leveraged more than $212 million in national and local funds for Black Male Achievement, and has grown to include nearly 6,000 individual and 3,000 organizational members across the U.S.

Katy Thompson:

Since 2008, Shawn’s leadership propelled CBMA from being an initiative of the Open Society Foundations (OSF) into an independent entity that established an emerging field of Black Male Achievement. Among Shawn’s key accomplishments are helping seed the launch of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative; brokering a partnership between OSF, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and the City of New York to launch the Young Men’s Initiative; and serving as a lead organizer of the Executives’ Alliance to Expand Opportunities for Boys & Young Men of Color.

Katy Thompson:

As evidenced by CBMA’s commitment to narrative change, Shawn has continuously created platforms to amplify voices and stories by marginalized people and communities. While he was the Program Director of the Harlem Children’s Zone, he became the founding Editor-In-Chief of Harlem Overheard, an award-winning youth-produced newspaper.

Katy Thompson:

For his catalytic leadership, Shawn has been recognized with numerous awards. In 2018, he was awarded the key to the City of Louisville by Mayor Greg Fischer, and was named Black Enterprise’s 2017 “BE Modern Man of the Year.” He is also a recipient of the Charles H. Revson Fellowship at Columbia University, and was named one of Ebony Magazine’s Power 100.

Katy Thompson:

Shawn shared so many rich insights during this conversation and we wanted everyone to receive those insights so we broke this conversation into two parts. And with that, here is the first part of Nic’s conversation with Shawn Dove.

Nicole Campbell:

Hi, Shawn. I am really excited to have you joining us for our Fast Build Leader Series.

Shawn Dove:

Hi, Nicole. Thanks so much for inviting me. I’m excited about what you’re doing and just being a part of the Build Up great infrastructure design.

Nicole Campbell:

Yeah, I’m really looking forward to this conversation. To get us started, can you tell us about the Campaign for Black Male Achievement, your role, and the Campaign for Black Male Achievement’s immediate priority?

Shawn Dove:

Sure. So I know we only have about 15 minutes or so. And so I’m going to try my best to give you the microwave answer, you should know better than asking me that question with such a short limited amount of time. The Campaign for Black Male Achievement is a national membership organization that focuses on working with leaders and organizations committed to improving the life outcomes of black men and boys. These are men and women across the country that are committed to this movement. As you know, we were launched 12 years ago at the Open Society Foundations and we were supposed to be a three-year cross fund campaign and with partnership, with commitment, with urgency and momentum, we were able to extend those three year term limits…taken off those term limits and being scaled up. And we spun off into an independent entity in 2015.

Shawn Dove:

And our focus is really about ensuring that the work of this movement in this field, that it grows, it sustains, and that it has an impact. I like to say that CBMA focuses on pouring into the hometown heroes and local leaders across the country, not just black men, you know leaders and cross sector men, women, all races, and genders. And as you know, we just recently announced after 12 years that we are sunsetting the organization in 2020, kind of a sad announcement for sure, but you know, one of my mantras and just lead in organizations is that, you know, if you can reframe what seems like failure, if you can reframe your future. So we’re focusing on so much that CBMA has built and ignited and seeded over the last 12 years, but priorities ensuring that there’s a connectivity that leaders and organizations not within our network that are committed to this word, that they are connected to other leaders in organizations in the field to continue the work and really also to celebrate the legacy of a campaign for black male achievement, right? We’ve, in 12 years, helped to catalyze a field that really did not exist. And I’m really proud of that.

Nicole Campbell:

No, I’ve had the good fortune to do work with CBMA both when it was with Open Society Foundations and then spinning off into its own entity and, you know, serving on the board of CBMA. So I’ve witnessed firsthand the great work that CBMA and the CBMA team is doing. I would love it, Shawn, if you could talk a little bit about just what that transition was like from being a campaign, like talk about what it is, what it means to be a campaign within a large philanthropy to then go into that spinoff where you become an independent entity and how do you maintain some of those campaign elements that made the work super exciting and had so much momentum around, but now you’re building a sustainable organization and you became that independent entity.

Shawn Dove:

I think that’s a really a great question that I’ve been reflecting on a lot these days, as I think about the journey over the last dozen years. And I think one of the things I’ve learned you know, everything dissolves revolves around and resolve around leadership, right? And, you know, the proverbial adage of getting the right people on the right seats on the bus. And I think when I think of when we launched in 2008, I think there are three things that are really important about this whole notion of a campaign. One, Open Society Foundations was taking a risk, right, of creating a fund explicitly focused around black men and boys unapologetically. Two, this whole sense of urgency that originally it was a three year campaign and like, wow. You know, typically the down side of philanthropy and there are, you know, sometimes I started to have a love, hate relationship with philanthropy, has been very catalytic and has ignited a lot of change.

Shawn Dove:

But on the other side, I think that philanthropy sometimes looks at generational and even centuries long issues and systemic issues in this nation and around the world. They believe that they’re going to tap a three-year or five-year grant making cycle. And I think that I am both a social entrepreneur and being able to work with in large institutions, like Open Society Foundations and social entrepreneur, and had the ability to transition from social intrapreneur to social entrepreneur over the last 12 years. But when I think of the launch, I think of three things, I mentioned one risk taker that is important first of the institution, but me as a leader, right. And pushing boundaries out within the organization, acting with urgency. I remember [inaudible] and I always approach in our grant dockets or our next event, or gathering that saying, you never know this might be our last, right, and treating that work and mission with a sense of urgency. And the other is a momentum, risk, urgency, and momentum, and find out where there is momentum. It is clear when we are looking at structural racism and oppression in this nation that no one entity, one note, one leader is not going to create a shift or a change that it requires strategic partnership. It requires where is there momentum. And I think those three things, this whole campaign mindset, risk, urgency, and building momentum.

Nicole Campbell:

And you also talked about that shift of moving from a campaign and a philanthropy to becoming an independent entity. And now you’re talking about sunsetting and you mentioned that during this period, you’re really focused on how do you maintain that connectivity among leaders like the home grown, home town, leaders and making sure that happens. And so in your role as CEO of CBMA, how are you ensuring that that connectivity is happening long after CBMA sunsets?

Shawn Dove:

One thing I will say is that, so while CBMA is a sunset, the work and the need for the work of the black male achievement movement certainly is not sunset at all. I would say that, you know, through our membership network of 8,000 leaders and 3000, our organization, CBMA, I think has done a really phenomenal job through just community building, connecting leaders, to give folks a sense of belonging and a sense of that they are part of something larger than themselves. And so, you know, out of convenience like rumble, young men, rumble promise of place have been opportunities for our leaders and organizations to not just identify with the campaign for black male achievement, but to identify with other leaders both in their own cities and across the nation. And I think that that will certainly continue, you know, when we announced the sunset and I was clear that CBMA had done groundbreaking work over the last 12 years, but a wave of emails, texts, phone calls, where folks said, if it were not for CBMA, they would not be doing this work.

Shawn Dove:

They would not have continued this work. And, you know I think that mission field that CBMA has provided is not necessarily within an organization. It is in, I would say more of this organism, this movement and this connectivity that we’ve helped to engender. And so there are plenty of partners in the field of many of whom that CBMA helped to seed and fund to get started groups like Cities United, Kohl’s Bach, the Coalition of Schools, Educating Boys of Color, Be Me Community, Echoing Green at BMA, a fellowship. And that’s just a small sample of the many organizations and efforts both locally and nationally as CPMA has seeded. I think more importantly behind those organizations are leaders that we have poured into that we have, in some cases validated their work. Where the field is, is fragile. It’s a, wow, this has been a 400 year, I think, battle and fight for racial or social justice.

Shawn Dove:

Still, the black male achievement is relatively a nascent field. And I think we are dealing with many issues of inequity when it comes to funding when it comes to who gets supported and who doesn’t get supported. And so I do think that moving forward that there will certainly be more of a need of deeper collaborations. In some cases, consolidations of organizations, a merging look, some organizations are not going to survive this COVID-19 season. I think CBMA is an example of that. I think that we had some underlying conditions before the pandemic and were placed on a organizational while respirator, once COVID-19 really began to create some shifts with just relationships and with funding. And I just see there’s, I guess, two ways to look at it, right. You know, what’s the opportunity. And I do think the opportunity is all right, here’s an opportunity to start something new in something and begin a new, but I think that we need to see the infrastructure and sustainability of organizations focused on, you know, one of the things that has struck me during the pandemic that, you know, some folks have seen surprised about racial disparities and inequities that COVID-19 as a lifted up, has amplified.

Shawn Dove:

Look, if you’ve been doing this work it’s not a surprise, these inequities and disparities existed for COVID-19. And I do think that you have to be very careful. I look back at Katrina. I look back in 2015 when Baltimore as a city dealt with the uprisings around Freddie Gray and there was a great deal of talk in some cases, actions about change and resources coming in, and the ability to build the infrastructure and with organizations and leaders that are closest to the issues and closest to the solutions are going to be important. And when you talk about philanthropy and we look at our mutual history in the field of philanthropy, I think we have to be really careful to ensure that we don’t make the same mistakes. I have seen where some foundations are creating positions around culture and racial equity, and that we have to be mindful that we cannot put a racial equity icing on a cake that has ingredients of white privilege and white supremacy and disparities because when you cut that cake and you bite into it and you get past the racial equity icing, the ingredients will remain the same, right.

Shawn Dove:

So we got to start all over and we have to build a new infrastructures and systems and get everybody in the kitchen, right. And to contribute. And I think that that’s what I am most excited about what the work that’s happening. And the other thing I will say is that finding the right place for right leadership and right organizations, I think one of the challenges that CBMA face was organizational identity, whether or not we were going to do direct service or be an intermediary organization. And I think since the spin off, we went through at least two strategic planning processes and engagements, trying to figure that out. And I would advise any CEO or leader of an organization that’s listening to this as to number one, get really clear on what you want and what type of organization that you want to lead. I had a mentor that said to me, be clear on what you want, and I need that clarity of all results. And what you’re trying to achieve is going to be like really important in this next phase. And I will say that black people in this nation, we have a history of transforming adverse conditions and challenges into assets. And this COVID-19 pandemic moment is an opportunity to gain deeper purpose, deeper power, but it’s going to certainly have to come with deeper collaborations and connections. And in some cases consolidate, I don’t remember what the question was.

Nicole Campbell:

No, it was really powerful. And you said, you said a lot of things that really resonated with me and talked about validating other organizations and leaders, and I’m really focusing on connectivity and collaboration, looking at how organizations are set up and making sure that infrastructures are strong and sustainable, because those are things that all resonate with me and make me really think about how we’re building organizations and how philanthropies are funding these organizations. And so coordinating them. And so a question I would have for you based on all of what you just explained and the work that CBMA is doing, that you were focused on, what would be your advice to funders beyond the advice of give more money, but what would you say to them so that they could support nonprofits sustainability, both within the crisis that we’re currently in and also beyond?

Shawn Dove:

Yeah, so I think the number one thing, Nicole, I would say to a philanthropy and funders is to trust the leadership of the organizations that you are. That’s number one, I would say trust that you don’t have all the answers, right trust even the leaders that you’re investing in is, does not have all the answers and they may have the vision, but the importance of investing in building a team and building the infrastructure of the organizations. And there has been so much talk about projects, support versus general operating support. And I think the best way to demonstrate trust is to give general operating support long-term. I would also say infuse a spirit of entrepreneurship in your grant making, and then your relationships that comes with the trust that allow and leaders and organizations to be transparent or creating a space to be transparent about mistakes and accountability, and that everything is not going to work right.

Shawn Dove:

And where there is a space where this is a learning environment, there is a partnership and kind of dismantling the power dynamic of the funder here. And the grantee here creates I think, a space where there is more of an exchange or a learning. I would also ask funders to help grantees, to diversify their revenue streams. If we are dependent upon a social justice and racial justice leaders and change agents and social entrepreneurs, we’re dependent upon philanthropy as our sole source of revenue. We are in trouble and the ability to partner with leaders and organizations to create other revenue streams, whether it is you know, fee for service or other ways to generate ironically, at the time CBMA made their decision to sunset. We had laid the groundwork for a membership, the paid membership fee structure, but that kind of collided with the a pandemic. And I think philanthropy can be really helpful with let’s look at ways to create alternative revenue streams for for leaders. And I mean, that, that would be an advice and to be a partner more so than just a funder.

Nicole Campbell:

I really liked that. When you’re talking about trust, I think it’s so true that that transition from project support, certain deliverables, or for limited periods of time versus general support over long periods of time, multiple years, for example, it really does depend on, do you trust this organization to do what they say they’re going to do, right. And having a relationship that is built on trust. But I want to push that answer a little bit more to find out how does a philanthropy take that first step? Because I hear a lot particularly now that everyone’s talking more about, yes, you need to trust the organization and trust the leaders that you’re funding or supporting. But how does the philanthropy who has been giving project support for years upon years has only provided general support to large organizations that, you know, they have been working with for a very long time. How do they make that transition to provide general support of multiple years to some of these organizations that you were talking about earlier, the grassroots organizations that are closest to the communities in need, but also closest to the solution, how do you help them take that first step? What does that look like?

Shawn Dove:

Wow. So that’s a powerful question, Nicole. And it’s almost hard to infuse within the funder, the permission for them to fail. Right? I do think that as grant makers, we have to be comfortable with, you know, what this may not work out right. And giving ourselves permission to fail. I think that that’s one thing, right? I think the other thing is also incumbent upon leaders of the organization and their teams, right. That I still think that you have to state the case that this is, or your organization is a sound investment, right. And that there is one track history, two, there is a vision and there is a plan, three. There is a team…’cause look, you know, at the end of the day, folks are investing in leadership as opposed to programs and projects. And I think just, I would go back to the ability that, you know, this is a learning experience and what are we learning together?

Shawn Dove:

And one of the things that the Campaign for Black Male Achievement had, it still does, a number of mission mantras. And one of them is that together, we are a thinking, doing, learning, growing teaching enterprise. And I think it’s really important that funders allow a organization and leaders space not just be doing, doing, doing, doing because the first date, well, the first thing is together. The second thing is thinking the opportunity to have space for a plan in, right. And I would say room to think about the path forward, particularly when we’re living in a society where the stuff is just changing rapidly. Right here we are on May 25th and on February 25th, the world for us was totally different. And then after the doing, number two, what are we learning here? What do we learn and what are we even learning from our mistakes and failures?

Shawn Dove:

And then the growing piece and understanding that everything does not have to be like scale is not the alter that we all need to go to and throw our resources and our vision. So some stuff certainly needs scale, right? And for some organizations, a scale is not necessarily the end all that impacts where they are, right. And the ability to teach and help others learn what they’re growing. So I think that those factors are truly important in the funder, the donor, you know, grantee leader, organization, you know, investment and understanding that shift, you know happens on, you know, there are going to be changes and the ability to be flexible and adaptable. I think one of the things that we have seen in this pandemic is our ability to as leaders to be adaptable and creative, right? And sometimes that requires making tough decisions saying no to the status quo.

Nicole Campbell:

No, I liked that response a lot, Shawn, because I think what, in addition to scaling, I hear a lot about innovation and what we don’t hear as the book for innovation, which is exactly what you’re talking about, which is permission to fail the learning, the growing experimenting with things that may not work out when you’re all working towards a particular goal. So I really liked that on the other side of that conversation, we talked about the advice that you provide to funders, but what’s your advice to nonprofits that fundraise as a significant part of their budget. In other words, what do you think should be top of mind for them particularly now during this time of uncertainty?

Shawn Dove:

Okay. So I was just sending a text to my executive assistant extraordinaire, Valerie, I’m letting her know that we’re going over.

Nicole Campbell:

What time do you need the…what time do you need to jump off?

Shawn Dove:

You know, I want to give you all the time that you need since….

Nicole Campbell:

Because you know, the guilt, right?

Shawn Dove:

I’m often accused of not giving adequate time. So this is the advice that I would give not-for-profits. And most specifically leaders of non-for-profits one work harder on yourself than you do on your job. And one of the primary epiphanies for us over the 12 years with the Campaign for Black Male Achievement is that kind of reaffirming…and less of an epiphany, but an affirmation when you’re doing race work. So to speak, there’s a psychology around it. It is draining. It is hard. It is emotional. It is historical. We are blessed to do this work, but we are also burdened to do this word. And so when I say, you know, work harder on yourself than you do on your job, I would tell leaders that you are way more than your resume.

Shawn Dove:

You are a way more than your organizational charts. If you do not have and are not using mentors, executive coaches, and a therapist, you will be hard pressed to be sustained and doing this work right. And one of the books that I would recommend, no, not the only book, this is not my book question, is this book by Scott Belsky called ‘The Messy Middle.’ Right. And I think I may have sent you that book that really dives into you know, we hear about the launches and we hear about the finishes, but the messy middle is a, every boat adventure deals with this, with organizational challenges and leadership champ challenges. And one of the things that Belsky says in this book is that the only sustainable competitive advantage in business and social entrepreneurship is self-awareness, right? I have on my wall, a bubble to dine on self, be true, and it must follow as the night, the day pants not then be false to any man.

Shawn Dove:

Right? So be truly yourself. So beyond that, which is a lot about work and carving out time for that, I would imagine that at least 20% of your listeners right now are feeling burnt out, feeling pressured, feeling that they are at their wits in trying to stand up an organization, sustain organization and not giving enough attention and focus to sustain and, and standing up themselves as human beings. The other thing I would provide leaders and organization not-for-profits right. And tempted not to say not-for-profits because what we’re really talking about is people and the people make up the organizations. And I think and you’ve heard me talk about these five building blocks, right? And one is, you know, focusing on building your team, you are only as good as your team and the folks around you. And that team includes not only your staff but also on your board.

Shawn Dove:

Right? So that’s the, you know, first thing, you know, building the enterprise, the other thing is building capital. We know that cashflow is king, right. And being able to build and manage capital. The third building block, I would ask folks to focus on is a building community. And what I mean by that is building your tribe, building your network, building your strategic partners that no one organization, you know, it’s a cliche that dream work takes teamwork is a cliche, but it’s true, right? That your ability to build community and folks that are believers in you and your work is really important. The fourth building block is around building the brand and build the strategic communications and the voice and the stories that you want to tell. An organization that does a good job of that is BMe Community and their leader and founder Trabian Shorters often says that, you know, we lead the lies around the stories that we tell to ourselves, right.

Shawn Dove:

And being really clear about a story that the organization, and then you want to tell, you know, for example, CBMA’s chief mission mantra, and story that we convey is that, you know, there’s no Calvary coming to save the day and black communities, right. That we are iconic leaders that we’ve been waiting for, the curators of the change that we’re seeking to see. Right. And so a grant is not necessarily going to save the day in my time open society foundations the most empowering interactions for me have been when leaders have said, you know what? It would be nice to get a grant for Open Society Foundations for the Campaign for Black Male Achievement. But I don’t care if I get a grant or not being part of this movement is an important thing. And because there’s always more demand than supply.

Shawn Dove:

And the building block is building value, right. And being really clear on the value proposition and the unique change that your organization and that you bring as a leader. Right? And so in summary, those five building blocks of building an enterprise slash a team, building capital, building community, building the brand, and building value. Right. And your challenge is, if you are a CEO of an organization, is one understanding that you can’t do all of those and that making the right hires at the right time and being able to manage your time and energy on where you’re going to focus and your time and energy on those five building blocks is, I think, the big challenge that leaders of organizations have.

Katy Thompson:

And that concludes part one of our conversation with Shawn. [Shawn provided so many leadership gems and wisdom that we could not fit it all in one episode.] Stay tuned for part two next week.

-Upbeat Outro Music-

Nic Campbell:

Thank you for listening to this episode of Nonprofit Build Up. To access the show notes, additional resources, and information on how you can work with us, please visit our website at buildupadvisory.com. We invite you to listen again next week as we share another episode about scaling impact by building infrastructure and capacity in the nonprofit sector. Keep building bravely.

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