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Podcast

Increasing Access for Grassroots Organizations with Angelyn Frazer-Giles (RECAST)

Angelyn Frazer-Giles is honest and compelling in how she speaks about the work of NNJ and how they’re staying true to their mission. She talks about how to support grassroots organizations, leanly-staffed organizations, and organizations engaged in direct services work in the criminal justice space.

This episode is a recast that was originally published April 22, 2021. In this episode, Angelyn shares her advice for nonprofits to remain true to their mission and goals to continue to show up for the communities they’re serving instead of pivoting for short-term returns. And she discusses the role of philanthropy in increasing access for grassroots organizations that have been traditionally excluded from conversations. This conversation encourages us all to reimagine what the sector and society could become if we placed big-bets on grassroots organizations.

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About Angelyn Frazer-Giles

Angelyn C. Frazer-Giles is the Executive Director of the National Network for Justice (NNJ). She has over 25 years’ experience in community organizing, policy analysis and advocacy on civil and human rights issues and criminal justice. Previously she was the Director of State Legislative Affairs and Special Projects for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) where she was responsible for the development, articulation, and strategic vision of NACDL’s agenda on the state level.

Angelyn is a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York with a degree in Fashion Buying and Merchandising, has a B.A. in Latin American Studies from the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington, studied Spanish at the Universidad De Guadalajara in Jalisco, México and received her Paralegal certificate from Delaware State University. Angelyn has traveled to Italy, Portugal, Cuba, Greece, the Caribbean and Honduras the homeland of her parents. She is also a licensed instructor of Zumba®, Zumba Gold®, Zumba Sentao™ and Aqua Zumba®. Currently she is studying to be an end of life doula.

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.

Nicole Campbell: Hi everyone, this week on the Nonprofit Build Up, we’re talking with Angelyn Frazer-Giles. Angelyn is the Executive Director of the National Network for Justice, a membership-led organization established to support and strengthen the work of state-based organizations, including crime survivors, formerly incarcerated leaders, youth immigration, public health, and re-entry service organizations seeking to reduce jail, prison, and detention population safely and permanently. Angelyn has over 25 years of experience in community organizing policy analysis and advocacy on civil and human rights issues and criminal justice. Previously, she was the Director of State Legislative Affairs and Special Projects for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, where she was responsible for the development, articulation, and strategic vision of its agenda on the state level. We recorded this conversation last year amiss the growing social justice and racial justice movement, and the height of an international health crisis. Angelyn is honest and compelling in how she speaks about the work of an NNJ and how they’re staying true to their mission.

Nicole Campbell: She talks about how to support grassroots organizations, leanly staffed organizations, and organizations engaged in the direct services work in the criminal justice space. She also talks about the power of being responsive to community need and how she’s doing exactly that in her role at NNJ. Angelyn also shares her advice for nonprofits to remain true to their mission and goals, to continue to show up for the communities they’re serving instead of pivoting for short-term returns. And she discusses the role of philanthropy in increasing access for grassroots organizations that have been traditionally excluded from conversations. This conversation encourages us all to re-imagine what the sector and society could become if we place big bets on grassroots organizations. And with that here is Angelyn Frazer-Giles.

Nicole Campbell: Hi Angelyn, I am so happy to have you joining us for our Fast Build Leader Series.

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: I’m really excited to, first of all, be asked, and second of all, to join you. Thank you very much.

Nicole Campbell: To get us started, can you tell us about National Network for Justice, your role, and NNJ’s immediate priorities?

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: So, the National Network for Justice is a national organization providing a Big Ten approach in assisting state-based organizations who are seeking to decarcerate jails, prisons, and detention facilities. And I was hired in 2018 as their Executive Director. And what we do is we have four main objectives. We provide training and webinars to help strengthen the field of state-based groups. We are trying to expand the peer-to-peer mentoring so that a lot of these groups who are up-and-coming are communicating with groups that have been around for a while and they can help offer them some level of Intel and support. And we’re looking at intersectional approaches in the criminal justice field. So for example, immigration issues, there’s a huge intersectionality with that particular line of defense, so to speak, because immigrants and there’s a criminal justice system and they’re emerging. So we’re always examining intersectional approaches to criminal justice reform. And then the final objective is promoting funder familiarity with some of these groups that are otherwise not afforded the opportunity to have either one-on-ones or communicate with funders who are funding organizations around the country dealing with criminal justice reform.

Nicole Campbell: And so, if I were to think of what your member profile looks like for an organization that wants to join NNJ, what does that organization look like?

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: So, we have members that are members of state-based organizations. We have individual members and we have members that belong to national organizations. Our focus is primarily state-based organizations, and they’re not necessarily…there’s no, like, size determination. They don’t have to be, you know…have a certain number of staff or they don’t have to be in any one jurisdiction, or anything like that. We are just focused on organizations in states who are doing this work, who are trying to educate their community, decarcerate these jails, decarcerate prisons and, more and more, dealing with decarceration of detention facilities. So the objective is to make sure that we have a lot of these groups that are doing this work as part of our network, we find that there’s a lot of state-based organizations, particularly smaller ones, that don’t get the recognition of all of the work that they’re doing, right.

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: They’re working out of their cars. They’re just hustling out there, just trying to make it happen and do whatever needs to be done in terms of having people really focused on the criminal justice system. So our members abroad. We have, like I said, individuals, city-based organizations, and national organizations. Our bylaws call for anyone who wants to be on a committee, with the exception of our financial committees, can be on a committee. Anyone that belongs to a state-based organization can be nominated to be part of the board, but we don’t have that international organizations on our board. We want it to really, really focus on state-based groups.

Nicole Campbell: Okay. And I really like how you’re focusing on the smaller organizations to make sure that they’re included in the conversation and have the support and resources that they need to participate and support the communities that they’re working with. I want to talk about this current environment and what NNJ is doing right now for the communities that it works with or its membership,

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: Right. So we’ve had probably in the past month and a half, maybe two months, we’ve had two calls where we’ve just been focused on members who are actively doing direct action in terms of trying to get people out, right? Because we know that the prisons and the jails are just powder kegs for the COVID virus to spread, and for people to get sick, and unfortunately, people to perish. And so we’ve been working with a lot of our groups. We don’t specifically…NNJ doesn’t do the direct service, but we’re working with a lot of our organizations who are trying to do some of that direct service, whatever it is that they might need. They may need help with getting a sign-on letter out to other members and to other organizations, they need assistance with putting together care packages. And so to the extent that we can assist them with other resources that may be out there to help them get care packages together. We are going to probably be doing some father’s day cards just to get some of those cards out to members in a lot of the facilities around the country. Particularly in Mississippi, we have a member who’s working really diligently trying to put together not only care packages for members of the community who are suffering from COVID, but also trying to help some of the young people who have family members incarcerated that are about to graduate and don’t have the support systems.

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: And so, we’re trying to get the word out about that and really just provide an opportunity for a lot of our members to talk to each other. Everyone tends to be in silos this particular crisis, because of the fact that we cannot move around the way that organizers tend to move around. It has caused folks to have to organize online, organize via the phone, organize via these types of Zoom calls or Google calls or whatever, to get information out, and newsletters. And so we’ve tried to just be a conduit for the conversations, and I’ve been sending out information about different funding sources that I see that come up that don’t necessarily pertain to NNJ specifically, but may pertain to some of our organizations out there that are doing specific work around either young girls or young boys, or you know, some specific issue area that we don’t necessarily cover. So there’s a lot of different that we’re doing. Every day, I know there’s several calls of people that are just really trying to get the information out and trying to let other people know what their actions are in their jurisdictions, so that maybe they could utilize some of those same types of tactics in their jurisdictions, you know, letters to the governors and caravans in front of jails. So that type of thing. So we’re there to help support to the extent that we can.

Nicole Campbell: I’ve been seeing that a lot as well, this need to communicate with each other a lot more, learn from each other and collaborate. So I think it’s really critical that NNJ is providing the space for people to do that. And speaking of talking with other people, other organizations, I was wondering if you could talk about nonprofits that are fundraising as a significant part of their budgets. I know that NNJ also fundraises as part of its operations and to support its operations. So I would love to know what advice would you give to nonprofits that have to fundraise during this time? What should be top of mind for them, particularly during the crisis and as they look beyond it?

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: So, we are fundraising. We’re trying to fundraise in this COVID environment. I think the biggest piece of advice that I could give to anyone out there that is seeking funding is to stay true to your objectives, your mission, and your goals, to the extent feasible and possible in this environment. What I mean by that is, I’ve seen a lot of philanthropic ventures shift their focus to COVID-19 related funding. So if there’s an organization that maybe wasn’t doing specific direct service related to health or related to any type of issue dealing with mental health or specific PPE or anything like that, supporting folks on the frontline, that because a lot of philanthropic ventures have shifted their funding focus to providing funds for COVID relief, I’ve seen organizations try to fit that mold. And I think that, if that is not what you do, I think it’s hard to try to shift yourself and try to manage a way to fit that square peg, round hole, or vice versa.

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: And I think that because of the fact that we are in this crisis and now this funding is coming from a variety of different sources and organizations need the funding, to not stick to your mission and your goals is going to take you off track. And then you’re going to have to try to pivot and come back when we’re not in this crisis or we’re in some other type of crisis. Right? And so my advice would be to just really be clear on what your mission, your goals, and your objectives are. And if there is money out there that’s COVID related that you see a funder is offering, and you can find a way within your mission to apply for that money, except the money, and work with that money to influence what you’re trying to do, then I say go for it. But if it requires you to totally shift what you’re doing, then I think that you really need to reevaluate and determine if that’s really where you want to go. Because I know how it is when you need the funding, because everyone’s always looking for funding, we’re looking for funding. But I’m also see a lot of things that I think are interesting that NNJ might be able to apply for.

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: But then I have to all say, “Okay, is this going to lead us to what we’re trying to do?” Which is assist state-based organizations in their work and their efforts. If I don’t see that, but I see maybe a funding source that one of our network members might benefit from because it’s specifically what they’re doing, then I’m passing that on to them. I’m not going to try to apply for something and it’s really not an NNJ, but it might be one of our member organizations. So that would be probably the biggest piece of advice. It was probably a long-winded response, but my biggest piece of advice to entities who are looking for funding, because I know how it is if someone’s giving you a $5,000, $10,000, $20,000 grant, you know, they want you to do some type of COVID relief and it’s not part of your mission, and it’s hard not to take it. But you really have to focus and say, “No, I really don’t want to do that.”

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: And I think some of the funders will respect organizations for not just jumping on the bandwagon in terms of COVID relief efforts, when that’s not what they were designed to do, even though this is something that is new to all of us. And unfortunately it’s been something we’ve all had to try to maneuver and get used to and try to be valuate our whole life existence around. I think that a lot of funders would be willing to look at someone again, knowing the future, when this crisis, I won’t say passes, but subsides enough where people are like, okay, we can go back to our work, what we were put here to do, what our mandate is.

Nicole Campbell: Right. And so being consistent to organizations’ missions. And so you’ve mentioned that funder comes to an organization, says, “We are offering COVID relief.” And that organization thinks about it and says, “You know, we really can’t take that funding right now or participate in this particular effort because we’re doing this other piece of work that’s requiring all of our attention.” And so I know you about some funders or the majority of funders understanding that. And then maybe that organization revisiting the conversation and saying, “Hey, can we have a conversation?”, later on, once that organization’s work is underway. But I wondered if you could give some advice around how do you pick that conversation back up? So you’ve stayed strategically on target and on focus, and you just determined that, you know, maybe the funding that’s being offered is not strategically aligned with your mission. How do you then pick that conversation back up with a funder? Just say, “Okay, now I’m back. And I’d love to revisit the conversation around funding.”

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: And I think you set that up when you have the initial conversation about this money being offered and maybe a situation where the funder doesn’t come to you and says, “You know, I have this money and we’d love for you to apply for it.” It may be something that you just see and you could send a note, a letter, to that funder and say, you know, “This is a great opportunity. I will definitely pass along this opportunity to maybe someone who is working specifically on these efforts. We are not right now. We’re really trying to stay focused on our mission at hand, but we’d love to have an opportunity when we are out of this specific crisis to come back to you for funding, either general support funding, or particular project, we’d love to be able to come back to you and have a conversation.”

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: And I think that funders are willing to do that. If you put yourself out there and say, “This organization is not going to apply for funds that really don’t fit us.” I think funders are like willing to say, “Wow, they’re really trying to stick with what they’re doing.” We’re all trying to manage and maneuver in this. So I think that there’ll be more open to that. And I think seeing a note from someone saying, you know, “This is a really great opportunity. We’ll definitely pass it on to one of my colleagues, but we’d love to be able to talk to you about other funding.” We think that they would be open to that.

Nicole Campbell: So, we’ve been talking a lot about funders and I’d love to hear the advice that you would give to them beyond, you know, give more money; for funders to support nonprofit sustainability, both within and beyond this crisis.

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: Right. So I think that because of the fact that there are these mid and large size organizations out there, they’re doing great work and they’re getting funding so that it allows them to have infrastructure in place. And it allows them to have their financial elements of their organization to be sound, and that they have people in place to do their programming and to do their marketing. Like they’ve got enough funds where they’re able to do all of these things. I think that it’s a beautiful thing, that there are organizations being funded. But at the same time, there’s a lot of organizations that are starting up that are smaller, that are also doing great work, right, grass roots, organizing work, or direct service work. And it would be great for those organizations to get their piece of the pie. And I think funders who do fund this work, criminal justice work have a great network of other people who may not fund criminal justice.

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: Right? And so to be able to access some of those philanthropic entities that may not fund criminal justice work, but that funders can actually talk to some of these other organizations about, I think would be helpful for smaller organizations. Because they could say, you know, “Hey, we’re not funding this particular group, but it may be a group that you might look at if you’re trying to get your feet wet in terms of criminal justice reform efforts.” If you’re trying to get your feet wet in terms of social justice or voting justice or whatever the issue is. And I think that they have these networks and they have the ability to move around and talk to different people. And I just think that that is just one way for them to maybe take some of the pressure off them just trying to do it all. But give some of these smaller organizations, give some of the other organizations different ideas of who else to reach out to. Because I think we get stuck in this: okay, we’ve got to go to the funders who normally fund us, right?

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: Who normally fund criminal justice because that’s what I’m in, criminal justice. And there’s like all these other entities out there, philanthropic entities that could potentially fund you, but we tend to stay focused on, you know, these big names. I think that funders also have a great opportunity to help provide, or find entities that are going to provide some of the capacity building and infrastructure development like you, Nic, for example, just helping organizations do some of this work. It’s one thing to fund an organization that is on solid footing that knows what they are doing, that has all their ducks in order, that has their financial capabilities solid. It’s another thing to work with a group that doesn’t know what the 1099 is, that doesn’t know what they need to do financially to stay sound, right, that there are reporting requirements to the IRS and becoming a 501(C)(3). There’s even reporting requirements if you’re not a 501(C)(3) but you’re under a fiscal agent.

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: There’s all of these things that I think a lot of small organizations and 501(c)(3)s that they just don’t understand, what comes with the territory and putting together an organization, right? The board development and ensuring that whatever it is your mission and your goals are, that you have someone to implement all of those things, that you’re working on capacity building. And I think that some funders have the capability to put together some of this support and it’s not necessarily them. They consult it out or contract it out or however they do it, and say, “Okay, we have this team that can work with groups on capacity. We have this team that could work on groups with fundraising.” And I think that if funders did that, people would be set up for success and they would strive, right, in their organizations, as opposed to the way a lot of organizations function now.

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: Just kind of…they’re looking for funding before some of the infrastructure stuff. And I think if funders wanted to really get involved with that piece of it, that would probably help a lot of these other small organizations. And talking to some organizations, some organizations don’t need to be a 501(C)(3). You need to be a project under a 501(C)(3). And having those honest conversations with people about that. I think a lot of people want to be a 501(C)(3) because they want to be in control and do what they want to do without recognizing all of the logistical issues that come along with being a 501(C)(3). So that would be my advice, because I think small organizations are kind of the lifeblood of this. They’re doing this work and I’m here as someone that they could call if they’re experiencing something that they need some help getting information out or they’re trying to get into this prison and they need a letter done, like I’m here to provide that support. But there are those groups that are out there day in, day out, hitting the pavement, talking to people, protesting, doing whatever. They’re the lifeblood of this movement. And we shouldn’t take that for granted, funders shouldn’t take it for granted. We shouldn’t.

Nicole Campbell: I agree with that. And you are definitely speaking my love language when you start talking about infrastructure and building capacity. And I do think that NNJ really does play a capacity building role, for the reasons that you’ve already described. And I think that when you echo on your points, when you build infrastructure, what you do is we create access for different organizations that otherwise may not have had it. And we give them options. So like you said, you don’t necessarily have to be created, definitely have to become a C3 for example, which it could be a project, you could be an initiative. But you don’t know these things, unless you start to build your capacity and build your infrastructure knowledge. Right? So I think that having that kind of support from funders, from the sector as a whole, would be extremely critical. And so that leads me into my next question for you, which is, we have your advice for funders, we have your advice that you’d give to fundraising nonprofits. With all of that in mind, what do you wish we did less of as a sector and what do you think we should do more of?

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: I think, and I’ve thought this for a very long time, that we tend to latch onto influence and celebrity in a way that leaves people out. And I’ll say this, I remember when the Rockefeller drug laws were like one of the worst types of drug laws in the country. And there were so many people working on the Rockefeller drug laws, long before I even became involved in criminal justice efforts. There were so many people involved in Rockefeller drug law reform and trying to change these laws. I mean, tons of people, and I’m not going to mention any names on any level, because I don’t want anyone to feel like I’m leaving them out. I also remember there was a celebrity who was having conversations with the mayor and the governor. And I remember I was in D.C. At the time, and there were all these protests that were happening and they were happening in downtown New York, like by the mayor’s office.

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: And I was thinking, okay, you folks, you gotta go to Albany, you gotta go to the Capitol, you gotta go and see your legislators. Cause that’s what I come from. I come from that type of organizing where I worked with a legislator, I campaigned. And so I know that that is how things are happening. You know, I’ve worked with legislators then and we got letters, we got calls, people came to our office, and there were protests. And that is how they made changes to laws. Right. I remember being in Seattle and the Mariners wanted a new baseball stadium and the legislature was like, “No, no way. We’re not building them a stadium.” What did they do? They had him Kenneth Griffey Jr. come to the state house, like, really? He came to the state house to lobby the legislators to build this new stadium. Right. And it was just this big thing, a celebrity.

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: And I see things on Capitol Hill where, when there’s a celebrity, you’ll see all these congressmen in the committee hearing because it’s a celebrity there. And I’m like, what about the regular people? And so I digress. I’m going back to Rockefeller drug laws; conversations that were going on behind the scenes with the governor and this person and the talks fell apart. And I remember thinking if this had not fallen apart, if this person was able to go in and speak to the governor, and have reform and have change done, what does that say for all of the people that have been working on this for all these years; all the hard work, all the tears, all the money, all of the heartache, and trying to get anyone to listen to their issues and their concerns about how they’re incarcerating Black and Brown people in this state.

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: What does that say to their efforts? And I mean, that happened years ago, right? And now we’re seeing similar things happen where people…and I think it’s great, please don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great when people are able to come home. But I think that there are a lot more people that could come home if there wasn’t a celebrity pushing one particular person, like if the celebrity was pushing legislation that would get a lot of people home, that’s one thing. You know, not going behind the scenes and having conversations with legislators and governors, but really working with the activists and the advocates who are trying to change these laws. If they were really, really doing that and not just because someone did a video and then they got some notoriety, I think we could really change things. People could come home. And I think that that is one thing that I would change in our sector, in our world, in our environment.

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: That is one thing I wish that we were less concerned, with celebrity. There are celebrities that have had issues with bail reform and then it becomes a big thing. Well, bail reform has been big forever. There’s a lot of people still in jails right now. People are trying to get these folks out because of COVID, they’re in jail for these little offenses and they should be able to come home. You shouldn’t have to pay thousands and thousands of dollars to a bail-bondsman to come home. And if you’re known, if you have notoriety, it seems to be easier for you to have access and get your story told, and I think it shouldn’t be like that. I think everyone should have the same options and justice should prevail across the board.

Nicole Campbell: I liked that idea of, we’re talking about celebrities, right? Or basically just some influencer who’s able to come in and make all of this sweeping change and in parallel, we have tons of activists who’ve been doing work for years, organizations who have been in the trenches and just at the forefront of the issue, and have not made as much progress. Now we need those two forces. And so I’m going to put this on you, Angelyn, to answer that, like, if you had your way, how do you marry that? How do you take advantage of the influencers as you know many businesses, right? But also take all of that expertise and all of the learning and the knowledge that comes with the activist organizations, the leaders who’ve been doing the work.

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: I wish I had the answer to how to do that. I think it’s being done a little bit on certain levels, but I also know that there are a lot of tensions in the community with that celebrity/advocacy that’s going on now. And I don’t know what the full answer is to that other than a full powwow, where everyone is just…got a couple of moderators in there just to get it all out. And everyone come together and say, “We are going to be a force to be reckoned with.” And that takes a lot of tenacity. It takes probably a few strong people to come in and just say, “Hey, we need to stop all of the tensions and the bickering and ego, all of that, just lay it all out on line.” What we all should be working towards is the liberation of people, right?

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: And so if we’re not all working towards that, then we’re only going to get but so far in little increments. And I think having this celebrity and having the advocates come together in a way that could show unity, that this group has been around for a long time, they’ve been doing great work. And I don’t think that that necessarily happens. I don’t think that celebrity comes in and says, you know, they’ve been doing great work and we have to make sure that they are able to sustain themselves and continue this work. And we’re going to work with them to try to get legislators in their jurisdictions on board with criminal justice reform. And we’re not going to take the credit. We’re going to step back and let the advocates, but we’ll be the voice when they need us to be the voice. And I don’t think that’s what happens now.

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: I think celebrity comes forward and becomes the voice. And then the groups, the people who are doing the work are kind of like peripheral, on the periphery. And then we are stuck with this situation where we’re just at this tension stand still where we could do so much more if we could all come together. And not to sound cliche, if we could all get along, we could do so much. I don’t know that that’s feasible. I don’t know it’s possible, but it’s something to strive towards. I try to do that in the work that I do, because I’m someone who has not been directly affected by the criminal justice system, though I had a family member incarcerated. I, myself haven’t been. So I have to really step back when I’m talking to people who have had that experience, because they’ve had an experience that I haven’t had.

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: And so being able to step back when I need to step back, right. Even though people might know a little bit of who I am, and I might have more credibility than this person who’s formerly incarcerated because they don’t know who that person is. I still have to step back and say, look, this is the expert. I’m not the expert. This person is the expert and push them forward. And I step back. And I think that’s the same thing that could happen for celebrity: you step back and push this person forward. Not in a way that trivializes them or puts them on display, but just know this person should be stepped forward.

Nicole Campbell: Right. Again, just using your platform to raise that person visibility. Right. Similar to what you said earlier. And so I know you talked about collaboration or increasing collaboration, increasing communication. What do you think you should do more of as a sector? In addition to those things.

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: One thing we should do, as I say, pushing people forward is that we have to prepare people to be put forward. I think what happens now is someone comes home from being in a system that demeans them, demoralizes them, treats them as less than human. They’ve served however many years, whether it be three years or whether it be 40 years, you have people who have been through so much. And doing this work over the years that I’ve been doing this work, I’ve seen so many people come home and that’s what we do, that’s the first thing we do. We put them on a stage and we ask them to tell their story. And we put them in front of the media and we take them all around the country and we have the media talking to them and we put them in a movie and we write a book. It’s like we as a community, because we so desperately want reform, that we do sometimes whatever it takes, whatever we think it’s going to take to get that reform right.

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: Because the story always resonates with people. I think the story always resonates with people. And when I say people, I mean, lawmakers. Taking someone in to tell their story, it’s going to resonate. Me going in, just talking about it, not so much, but I think we have to prepare people for that. I don’t think we just throw them into the lion’s den and just expect them to just come out okay. Because they didn’t come out of the system of incarceration okay. And I don’t care what we think, what we say, folks who have been inside do not come out okay. Unless they had some work done while they’re inside, which is not necessarily the case. Or they come home to something that they can work towards that, towards a mental health, physical health. I’ve spoken to people that say, it doesn’t matter what happened when you went inside, and you could have been fine, when you come out, you’re not.

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: When we come out of this COVID, we are not going to be the same. We may not even be okay. Some of us are not okay now. Right. And we’re masking it and we’re just moving on. We’re moving forward, and we’re on calls, and we’re Zooming, and we’re in these meetings and these settings where we’re not communicating in person, and we’re not doing the things that we normally did. And so I don’t think that we’re going to necessarily be okay. So why would we think that people who’ve been behind bars being demoralized, being told what to do every waking moment? Why do we think that those folks will be okay? And that immediately they can come forth and just be these great speakers and leaders. And some people can, some people can, but there’s a lot that can’t, but with that guidance and that support, they can be, they can be your spokespeople. They can be the ones that go to legislators and talk about the issues or go to, you know, some of the civic organizations, the League of Women Voters, or whatever, to talk about the issues. But I think we tend to want the immediate and we see like, okay, this person’s story has been in the news. This is great. We can put them out there and then we burn them out. We absolutely burn them out. So that’s what I think we should do better.

Nicole Campbell: I like how you put it, preparing people to be put forward and just talking about doing more preparation, more building, more supporting. And it leads me into my questions that I would love to get your thoughts on, because we’ve been talking about infrastructure in pockets throughout this conversation. And I wanted to know if NNJ’s thinking about building infrastructure during this time. And if it is, how is it thinking about building infrastructure during this pandemic? And what does that building look like beyond this pandemic?

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: Well, it just so happens that we had our fiscal agent since 2017. We received our designation, 501(C)(3) designation from the IRS in December of 2019. And so we are in the process of transitioning to an independent entity. So talk about infrastructure. That is a huge piece of the infrastructure for us, because it is finding an accountant/bookkeeper. It is ensuring that all of t,he financials that the fiscal agent has are transferred over it is finding someone to do our payroll and all the deductions that have to be done. It is looking for medical for the staff persons for NNJ. And that is probably our biggest priority right now, is that infrastructure, of just building from basically the ground up our infrastructure. Ensuring that we have a booklet, a packet of information, for new staff. We want to make sure that we have a employee handbook that lays out all of the issues that we had under our fiscal agent, because we had a handbook under our fiscal agent.

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: And so now we’re making sure all of those things in place. And so that’s our biggest piece, is just in terms of infrastructure, our biggest priority, significant priority, is putting those things in place for us right now. Because we really know that we need to build capacity. And we can’t until we have some of these things in place to ensure that when we reach out to funders, we can say, “Look, this is our accounting. This is a bookkeeper. This is how much money we’ve raised. This is our structure. This is what we have been doing. And this is what we want to continue to do for our network members.” And so we need certain things in place. We need staff in place to have that capacity to do this work. So I would say that in terms of our infrastructure, that’s where we are now, in a COVID crisis, we’re trying to do that. Trying to open a bank account during COVID was a challenge because you can’t go into the bank. So that was a challenge. And having people…our board members are around the country. And so trying to manage that was a little challenging, but we got that in place. So I feel really good about that too. That’s a huge infrastructure piece, is having a bank account.

Nicole Campbell: Yeah, agreed.

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: You get it. If someone says, “Hey, I got some money for you. You have a bank account?” Yes, I do.

Nicole Campbell: I would completely agree and congratulations on building all of those building blocks, because like you said, you need to have that infrastructure in place, and you’re doing it in the midst of a pandemic because you’re thinking about sustainability and longevity of the organization. So huge congratulations again on that.

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: Thank you. Thank you. You know, I look at COVID funding and I’m still of the mindset that if it’s not fitting for us, if it doesn’t work, we’re just not going to apply for it. Because it doesn’t make sense to apply for a grant and then you’ve got to fit yourself into that grant. Just…I have enough to do with helping the network members that I don’t need to try to recreate something for me to do that’s not necessarily going to affect them and be impactful for them and their work. So I’m good with saying no to it, unless it fits.

Nicole Campbell: I’ve been reading a ton of business books lately and you know, they keep saying, and I’m sure you’ve heard this as well: when you say no, is actually how you move forward. Knowing what you actually can say no to and not do, that’s actually how you start to progress in a really good way and do things consistently and actually be successful because you’re not saying yes to everything, and your resources are diverted, and yes, you have additional funding, but now you’re doing things that take you off your mission, and actually end up impacting negatively the community that you actually are serving. So I hear you, and it’s not like you’re saying, don’t take any COVID funding. You’re just saying you need to strategically look at the funding and say, “Does this align with what I’m proposing to do?” I being part of the organization. And if not, then again, back to your other point, maybe talk about another organization or share that with another organization and say, “Hey, I think this is really appropriate for you. You should apply for this” Right. Or do that connection.

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: Really, like you said, thinking very critically and very strategically about who you are, what you’re trying to do, who you’re trying to serve, and go from there. And if it doesn’t meet some of those basic parameters then you shouldn’t bother. Initially, we thought about applying for the government funds because they were giving a grant for the payroll protection, but then you also had to apply for the loan. And I’m like, well, we’re not trying to apply for a loan to protect the salary. We’re just trying to ensure that we have that cushion on the salary. So that’s one less thing to worry about. Like, you’re going to need a salary. That’s a given, but to apply for a loan, that’s going to take us away from…okay, the loan is for what purpose? The loan is to protect the salary, but we don’t need a loan protect the salary.

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: We can use a grant to help protect the salary. And outside of that, we will look for funding from elsewhere. So it’s really being very deliberate and intentional in that, looking at that pot of money. And you saw that with some of the companies that were getting funding, and then they realize, and I don’t know why they realize this after the fact, that there were all of these small businesses that weren’t getting any money because big folks have all the resources to come in and take the money. You’ve got the bank institution. You got your banker telling you, “Well, yeah, if you do this, if you do this, if you do this, we’ll make sure you get it.” So all of the little businesses don’t get any money. And then they’ve got to wait for you to put the money back in the pot. And then another build has to come through so that you can apply for funds to sustain your staff, you know, to make sure that you can pay your staff at least what they were making, or a little of what they were making, and keep your doors open. It’s insane. So that’s how I look at it.

Nicole Campbell: Angelyn, your responses have been so thoughtful, so insightful, and above all, practical. It makes me try to reimagine the sector. So thank you so much for the conversation. I want to ask you a question to help us continue to build knowledge through books and people we should learn from or about to close us out. What books do you think we should read next? Or what artists do you think you should be paying attention to?

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: I actually have two. My family says…I mean, I stay in criminal justice, I like live it and breathe it. And I don’t necessarily, but I do in certain respects. But there’s a book called ‘An American Marriage’ by Tayari Jones. And it was an Oprah Book Club selection. And Oprah is actually, I think, bought the rights to make it into a film. And it’s a great book. It’s a good read. I’m not a fast reader. I read a lot of books, but I’m not a fast reader, but I was able to get through this pretty quickly. And then I actually started reading it again, because there are nuances, you know, you’re reading, and just like, I need to go back to that book. I’m rereading that book. And the other book is ‘Small, Great Things’ by Jodi Picoult. And I like her writing, but this particular book is also going to be made into a movie.

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: And I believe, I’m going to say, Alfre Woodard is going to play the main character, I think. This is also a good book and it wasn’t based on a true story, but I think she got the idea from a true story about a black nurse that ends up having to take care of a white baby. And the parents are white supremacists and they didn’t want the nurse to touch the baby. And so the book is based on that, but it also talks about the woman who’s telling the story, a white woman and all of the biases that she has, that she doesn’t even realize she has. So I would suggest both of those books.

Nicole Campbell: And so, ‘An American Marriage’, can you talk a little bit about that and why you recommend it?

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: That book, I think I saw it maybe in Essence, they have all their books selections, and I’m like, oh, that sounds interesting. And then I heard about Oprah. I think I heard about Oprah though after the fact, after I started reading it. And basically it’s set in Atlanta, and it’s this young couple who get married, and they’re just up and coming. She’s an artist, and I can’t remember specifically what he does. But they are, you know, just your average black couple from the timeframe that is during the Atlanta murders. So it’s like in 1980s, something like that. And basically they go to visit his parents and a woman is in despair and he goes to help the woman in later on, she claims that he rapes her. And this story is about their marriage and his parents’ marriage and her parents’.

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: But it really focuses around their marriage and how their marriage was a good marriage. They had their ups and downs. That’s what I liked about it is that it wasn’t perfect. They had arguments, there were jealousies, and all of that, but they were together and they were trying to build something and they were trying to support each other. And then he gets accused of this crime. And so it takes them through his years of being incarcerated and what happens to them in their relationship and how she becomes this different person. And he becomes a different person from the experience. And so that’s ‘An American Marriage’. It just tells this story about them just trying to manage, and her still be a wife to him when he’s incarcerated, and him still trying to be a husband. And what you go through as a couple, I’m trying to do that.

Nicole Campbell: Wow, so both books sound really powerful. And again, it’s ‘An American Marriage’ by Tayari Jones and ‘Small, Great Things’ by Jodi Picoult.

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: Yes.

Nicole Campbell: Okay, perfect. You have shared, like I said, just tremendous insights and knowledge and things that I think leaders, again, will be able to practice and use in their organizations. And that’s really important to me because going back to something you said during our conversation, which was, there’s two pieces of this, the infrastructure, but there’s also the implementation. And so just being able to get that knowledge, but then to be able to practically implement these things is extremely important. And I think that they can use all of them to build bravery. So I want to thank you so much again for joining us today

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: So much for having me. I totally enjoyed it. It’s interesting to be able to think about these things in that respect, because it’s not something you think about every day, you just do the work. So it’s been my pleasure to speak to you.

-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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Incorporating DEI Into Infrastructure with A. Nicole Campbell  (RECAST)

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is a critical component in building a robust infrastructure, especially one that both reflects and aims to support various communities throughout the world. This week we’re recasting a very fascinating conversation Nic had with a nonprofit President & CEO about diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Throughout their conversation they talked about indicators that show when nonprofits and philanthropies are serious and intentional about DEI. In fact, those lingering thoughts are what inspired this episode! Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is a critical component in building a robust infrastructure, especially one that both reflects and aims to support various communities throughout the world.
Have you tried incorporating DEI throughout your organizational infrastructure? If not, why?

Listen to the podcasts here:

Episode 39:

Resources:

 

 

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Receiving and Managing Significant Grants With Organizational Integrity with A. Nicole Campbell (RECAST)

Do you think your nonprofit infrastructure allows you to seamlessly receive and manage significant grants? We spend a lot of time talking about good grant making, but not as much time talking about good grant “receiving.”

This week we are recasting one of our past episodes discussing how to receive and manage significant grants with organizational integrity.

Having built infrastructure for nonprofits all over the world to receive and manage significant grants, Nic shares her 3 recommendations to design an infrastructure that allows an organization’s values to confidently guide how that organization accepts funding.

How are you managing and receiving grants?

Listen to the podcasts here:

Episode 42:

Resources:

 

 

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Defining Culturally Competent Leadership with A. Nicole Campbell (RECAST)

This week on the Nonprofit Build Up® is part two of a two-part series led by Build Up’s CEO and managing attorney, Nic Campbell, and moderated by Shelli Warren of Biz Chicks, Team and Leadership Coach, and Stacking Your Team podcast host.

You can jump back to part one of the conversation to learn more about defining culturally competent leadership where Nic is talking about all things cultural competence, leadership and effective teams. Originally published on October 4th, 2022, Nic continues to explore what cultural competence means, its competitive edge in business and its significance when embodied not only across teams but in leadership positions as well.

Listen to Part One here:

 

Listen to Part Two here:

Read podcast transcription below:

Part One

[Upbeat 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.

 

STEF WONG: Hi, everyone. It’s Stef, Build Up’s Executive Portfolio Liaison. This week on the Nonprofit Build Up is part one of a two-part series led by Build Up’s CEO and Managing Attorney, Nic Campbell, and moderated by Shelli Warren, Team and Leadership Coach of BizChix and Stacking Your Team Podcast host. 

 

Over the next two weeks on the Nonprofit Build Up, Nic is talking all things cultural competence, leadership, and effective teams. Originally published on October 4, 2022, Nic deep dives into what cultural competence means, its competitive edge in business, and its significance when embodied, not only across teams but in leadership positions as well. With that, here’s defining culturally competent leadership with Nic Campbell.

 

[INTERVIEW]

 

SHELLI WARREN: Let me introduce you to our guest today. Nic Campbell is a wife, a mom of two girls and two cats. She was born in the Barbados and now lives in Connecticut. She’s also a member of the Leadership Lab. As an attorney and a CEO of three companies in one, she leads a virtual team of 10 that’s growing quickly. She’s on a mission at Build Up Advisory Group, which is one of three companies with a vision to strengthen brave nonprofits and philanthropies, transforming outcomes for historically marginalized communities through the creation of 100 big battable grassroots organizations by 2025. 

 

Nic and her team provide fiscal, legal, and infrastructure leadership insight for organizations that are focused on capacity building and breaking glass ceilings in a really big way. Together, they intentionally support organizations that are no longer satisfied with doing business as usual. Come and meet Nic. 

 

Welcome to the Stacking Your Team Podcast, Nic Campbell. I am so happy to have you here. You are one of those intriguing members of the Leadership Lab, who is so dynamic, so brilliant. Then I also feel like there’s a little of this air of mystery about you. There’s this essence about you that like when you’re on a call and you’re talking to us, you own the space. Like you really know how to show up and be present and always add value into whatever you’re sharing. Yet at the same point, I’m always just so intrigued to learn more about you. So I am so thrilled to be here. Not only am I going to learn more about you but so are our listeners and, of course, so are your peers in the Leadership Lab that tune in every single week.

 

NIC CAMPBELL: I really appreciate the kind words, and I’m really looking forward to talking more with you about what we do and how we actually show up in our sector.

 

SHELLI WARREN: Well, tell me all about it. Now, I know you were born and raised in the Barbados. But where are you now? How has your life evolved? Tell us about the family. I know you’ve got some kiddos.

 

NIC CAMPBELL: Yes. So born and raised in the Caribbean. So I’ve lived in Barbados and the Cayman Islands, and I then came to the United States when I was about 12 and lived in the Bronx, in New York. I went to college and law school in Massachusetts. So I’ve really been on the northeast, for all of those listening, in the US. Now, I am in Newtown, Connecticut and really loving where I am. It’s very, very different from New York City. But this is the base of our operations for the Build Up Companies. 

 

I’m married. My husband, his name is Kevin, and I have two little girls Kayden and Nova. So we have a lot going on in our home. We have a lot of space here in Newtown. So that’s really great for the girls so that they can play with each other, with their friends, and just have that space to do that. That’s a little bit about me and where we are. 

 

SHELLI WARREN: You have built up this stellar reputation and a deep network into this incredible niche that I don’t think the majority of people are even aware of. So tell a little bit more about the clientele that you serve and how you help them with their transformation.

 

NIC CAMPBELL: Yeah, definitely. So I am the CEO and Managing Attorney for the Build Up Companies, and the Build Up Companies is really comprised of three entities. It’s Build Up Advisory Group, which is our management consulting firm. There’s the Campbell Law Firm, which is our law firm. Then there’s Build Up, Inc., which is our nonprofit fiscal sponsor or capacity builder. So each of these companies has its own separate goals, but they’re all working together to interrupt cycles of injustice and inequity throughout the globe. We do this by focusing exclusively on organizational infrastructure. 

 

So when we look at Build Up Advisory Group, we are working within three main areas. So it’s governance, how is your board set up, and do you have the right governance within the organization to put the right amount of oversight and accountability over your work? If there’s grantmaking, do you have the right processes in place? Are they reflective of your organizational values? So when you say, for example, as a funder, that you’d like to get money very quickly to those who need it around the globe, is it taking you four months to get a very simple grant out of the door, and if so, why? So we’re really working very closely on all kinds of questions that come up within that process. 

 

Then the third area is around structuring. How are you set up, both internally and externally, as an organization? Do you have the right structure in place, the right vehicle to do your work? When you look at your team, are they positioned and set up to do their best work? Do they have the capacity and the training that’s needed? So that’s really the focus within Build Up Advisory Group. We’re working with organizations that have questions around infrastructure, around their capacity to do their best work. They want to understand how is our organization doing and what is that gap and what recommendations do you have for us to kind of close that gap. 

 

Within the law firm, we’re working with, again, brave nonprofits and philanthropies, but also social impact entrepreneurs who are thinking about ways to change the world and have a positive impact on the world, really around social justice efforts. So we focus on nonprofit formation and exemption. So when someone comes to us and says, “We have a great idea. We’d love to turn it into a public charity or a private foundation, which is a charitable organization here in the United States, or maybe a social welfare organization, an organization that really focuses on advocacy of these different social justice issues.” 

 

So we work with them as a thought partner alongside them to help form these entities and help them understand this is what it means to be a public charity, and this is what it means to be a social welfare organization. We also serve as outsourced in-house general counsel, and this is a really unique way for us to show up as a firm. If you look across many firms, they’re not necessarily showing up in this way, and it’s really a hallmark service of ours because the way we look at it is, yes, we’re outside counsel at the end of the day, but we don’t want to be transactional with our clients, like purely transactional. We want it to be built on a relationship. 

 

What that means is when you come to us with a transactional question, “Hey, can you take a look at this agreement,” we’re not asking you questions about the way your program is operating, the way your organization is operating because we get it. We are in team meetings, we are part of these calls, we understand your strategy, and we are looking around corners so that when you bring that transactional question to us, you told us about this. We’re aware of this other thing. So it’s a really important way of the way we work within the law firm. 

 

Then the third entity, Build Up, Inc., we are working with women-led and BIPOC-led projects and initiatives that are focused on marginalized and vulnerable communities to make sure that they have the capacity to do their best work. Our thinking is that when these projects and initiatives come to us for support, we want to make sure that we are helping them understand and learn about what it takes to build out a solid governance structure, what it takes to manage a board. How do you manage your finances? What does your fundraising and development strategy look like? What should it look like? How do you manage a team? So that when they leave Build Up, Inc., and they go off and become these independent public charities, for example, that they can say, “We know how to run an organization,” and they are much stronger afterward than when they first showed up. 

 

I’ve worked with fiscal sponsors for many years within them, with them, alongside them, and as a funder within a funder, examining those relationships. One thing that really struck me and stood out to me was the relationship that really exists between the project and the fiscal sponsor or the kind of capacity building support that was being provided by that fiscal sponsor to the project, and I thought that there could be so much more that could be done. I also was interested in the connections being made between the projects. There wasn’t a lot of conversation happening between projects that we’re doing very similar or complementary work. So we want to make sure that at Build Up Inc., we’re serving as that connector for projects. But we’re also serving as a convener within the sector to kind of talk about fiscal sponsorship, what it means, and a new way to look at it as really capacity building at the end of the day. So that’s the overview of the companies, how we work, and who we work with.

 

SHELLI WARREN: Well, Nic, it’s incredible what you’re doing, and I have to ask. How do you fit in to these three different companies? Like what role do you play, and how do you divide your time in order to really honor the work that you’re wanting to do? Because as your coach here in the Leadership Lab, when I hear the complexity of these three different companies, and I know you are such the face of the brand, and it’s really you’re intrinsically on a mission to help these clients that you’re working with, my fear for you is that you’re overcapacity with everything that you’re doing. 

 

Then the next fear is that you’re going to start to beat yourself up because you’re not going to be able to provide that same stellar high level of services to every single client within these three companies. So tell me, how have you designed your business and your team to make sure that those three different sections or sectors of your overarching company works well? What are you working through? Because I feel like you’re continuing to evolve. You’re just continuing to grow and continuing to evolve.

 

NIC CAMPBELL: No. I think it’s a great question, and I definitely think it’s a work in progress. It also comes about through doing the thing. So when – Build Up Companies are about three years old. So we’re very, very young, and we currently work with really amazing organizations and leaders, which is just a testament to the team that we build and the kind of work that we do. 

 

When I started first year, even first year and a half, it was just me, and so really having to realize very early on that these things have to be faced. So although the three entities were in the vision and really some were – The law firm, for example, was a latter part of that vision. You had to realize that you have to focus on one first and go to the other. To your point, when you understand that the vision is about the three entities and how they could be working together, and we’ll say working together and doing this amazing work, everything would sort of fall into place. 

 

But then being at a place where you’re focusing on just one entity and really within that one entity trying to understand what will be the service that you will be providing, what kind of thought partnership can you provide to leaders to make them say, “Wow, this is such added value,” and to make the work really interesting. So just through working through all of that, understanding that, one, you have to face it and being very clear on what do the next six months look like. What does the next year look like? Setting goals and then making sure that you’re constantly evaluating. 

 

What I realized, again, very early on is you can set goals. But if you’re just setting annual goals and just kind of saying, “Okay. Well, I’ll check in at the end of the year to see how it’s gone,” you don’t have that ability to do any sort of course correction right away. So what I found works really well was every single week at the end of each week doing an evaluation of how that week went against all of those goals and objectives that I had put together. So it took some time. At some moments, you would say, “Well, why am I focusing on goals and objective? I need to go get clients. I need to start building up the other entities.” But it’s like you need to have the fundamentals in place. You need to have that infrastructure in place to then say, “Okay, how am I going to continue to build on that?” 

 

So definitely about phasing, definitely focused on goal setting. Then I would also say realizing that you cannot do it by yourself. I think in the very beginning, that starts out with consultants and partners that you might work with where you say, “Hey, that partner can do this part of the work. That consultant, I can engage them to maybe handle this particular deliverable.” Then that grows into staff, a team of folks of employees that are working with you on a day-to-day basis and are engaged in the work and focused on the vision of the companies. 

 

I would say that not being afraid to delegate and to allow folks to run with their ideas, understanding the larger vision is what has really been helpful. Because without a team of people, and that’s of consultants, of partners, of advice advisors, of staff members, you’re not able to really build out the kind of vision that I described, right? Like I have a vision that I think is very big, and it cannot be carried just by one person. 

 

So if I thought in my mind, okay, I can do every single thing that I’ve described, I think I would still be where I was three years ago. Instead, we’re at a place where we have very high client retention. We work on very interesting projects. We’re really trying to push the needle in the space in which we’re working, and we’re excited about the projects that come on board. That really couldn’t be done without this idea of like how do you pace yourself to make sure that you continue to progress and move forward, but that you’re giving yourself that grace to correct, to evaluate, and to realize that some things could be done better. But you’re not spending that entire time beating yourself up and not allowing yourself that grace. 

 

One of our core principles and core values is really that we stay ever learning, right? So just that concept in and of itself is that you are constantly going to find ways to improve, and that’s a good thing, right? You’re going to constantly find ways to learn, and that’s a great thing. You’re going to constantly find ways in which you could have done that better, and that’s an amazing thing. So just reframing that to think about it, that has been immensely helpful in our growth.

 

SHELLI WARREN: Well, it makes everything exciting as well. Like you’re feeling your own personal growth, you’re seeing the growth of the business, and then also seeing the growth of professional personal development right across your whole team. Now, I love how you describe this as introducing these new entities within the business in phases and that you were really diligent to make sure that the foundations were solid before you look to bring on more clients into that new entity or to even expand onto the other ones. I know you also were intentional in your hiring because your team has grown so much. So tell us a little bit more about the people that make up your team and some of the roles that you have and how you’ve put together that structure.

 

NIC CAMPBELL: So I am very focused on hiring because I think, again, the people are really the core of infrastructure. So when we talk about infrastructure and building capacity within organizations, we think about systems. We think about operations and SOPs. Those things are critical. They’re very, very important. But without the right people on your team, all of that is useless. 

 

So I am very focused on do we have the right team member in the right position on the team at the right time? So really focused on how do we create hiring processes that reflect the kind of work that we do, the kind of environment in which we work. We are a startup, and we’re a startup that has a lot of interest. We have, again, as I mentioned, high client retention. So that means clients are coming back and saying, “Hey, what about this other project, and could you continue to help us do this thing, and we’d love to extend our time together.” 

 

So when you have that kind of volume and pace, things are moving very, very quickly. It takes a certain kind of person that’s going to not only just survive in that environment because I think a lot of folks can kind of get in and tread water and survive. But you really – What I’m looking for is I want those individuals that are thriving, that are saying, “I understand that, yes, we’re laying that foundation, but we are building as we go.” So how do you hold the foundation in one hand and then still try to build in the other and realizing that you’re going to make mistakes along the way? Everything’s not going to be perfect. We don’t have this structure of the – 

 

We’ve been around for 20 years at this point. So we can say, “Hey, remember 15 years ago when this happened? We were three years old, right, or two years old at that point when I started hiring.” So to think about the kind of individual that will thrive in that kind of environment, you’ve got to get like really some unique individuals that, one, they are going to appreciate that level of autonomy, but they’re also going to be able to work collaboratively in a work environment. 

 

I think that that’s the tension that we usually find. You can find folks who are like, “I’m willing to do this all on my own.” Then you’re going to find folks that are saying, “I really need a ton of hand holding and guidance.” So that’s ultimately at the core what I’m looking for in terms of someone who can step into the environment. That’s going to change, right? Because sooner or later, we’ll be five years old. We’ll be seven years old. At that point, our infrastructure is going to change, our processes. The way that we’re constantly building is going to slow down a bit. We’re always going to be building, forever learning, but we’re not going to be building at this pace. So you start to think about different types of folks that you might want on the team at that point. 

 

But that’s how I hold it. I also think about subject matter experts, particularly based on the kinds of clients that are coming to us. We have a lot of folks who are leading grantmaking organizations. So we want someone who can understand grantmaking. Again, we only work with nonprofits and philanthropies. So having experience with nonprofits and philanthropies is really critical because there’s a language to this. When clients come to us, we ask them, “Why did you choose us? Why are you working with us?” They’ll just share why they’re doing that. What we hear nearly I would say 100% of the time is, “You get us. You understand what it’s like to be in-house, what it’s like to work within a nonprofit organization.” 

 

So when you come up with these ideas, they’re practical, right? They’re based on experience, and you know what has worked and what hasn’t, and you can talk with us in that way. So I’m looking for individuals that at least at the advisor level, when I’m thinking of counsel for the law firm, I’m thinking of vice presidents for Build Up Advisory Group, I want folks who can very easily talk with stakeholders within the nonprofit sector, who can say to executive directors and presidents, “Here’s what I think, and it’s based on no 10 years, 15 years of experience in doing this.” 

 

We also have really important project managers on our team. For those roles, I want to see someone who is very organized, who is inquisitive, who is, again, as fast as continuous improvement. Another one of our core values is excellence, right? So in addition to the ever learning, we’re also thinking about how can we do this in an excellent way. Again, you can see that tension where you’re in a startup environment. Let’s not conflate excellence with perfection, right? So what is excellent for our client at this time, given the resources that we have based on what it is that we know they need?

 

So I want to have strategic thinkers in those roles that are able to take a look at a variety of pieces to a puzzle, essentially, and say, “I’m going to put this all together in a good way, and I’m excited about doing that, and I’m going to bring in the right people to help put in additional pieces.” So you want somebody who’s thinking about project management in that way and is excited about it. I want people who are very organized, who appreciate asking questions about things they don’t understand. Because I think in those questions come a lot of the innovation that really helps to improve our services.

 

Then last thing I’ll say is we have folks that are not necessarily client-facing. They’re more internal-facing, and they’re helping to build out our infrastructure and our operations. That is really critical because those roles really are the connecting fibers, so to speak, of the three entities, and they’re the folks that are looking across all those entities and really taking a step back and being able to say, “I see this process coming up in Build Up Advisory Group. I think we need something similar in TCLF.” Or, “I see this question coming up in Build Up, Inc. I think this is something that might actually benefit the other entity.” 

 

So for those roles, I’m really looking for folks who are analytical, who are, again, strategic thinkers, and who have the ability to explain or communicate complex pieces of information in a way that folks can understand and digest and take it forward. Because we’re talking sometimes about IT, such a property, topics that people might think, “Oh, what’s the big deal? How does this impact my work?” But then to be able to translate that to them I think is a real skill. So that’s really how the team is built out at this point, and those are the kinds of attributes that I look for in team members.

 

SHELLI WARREN: Well, no wonder you have such high retention rates, Nic, because you’ve created this high level of leadership within every single role that you have. If I was to look at your org chart, I would see all these roles, and there’s a big component of leadership within every single one of those roles, regardless whether it’s an admin role, a project management role, a VP role, or like a senior advisor role. You have this expectation that we are going to serve our clientele with this sense of world class excellence. 

 

What comes with that is a lot about attitude, follow through, integrity, character, all of those things because you’re also role modeling for your own team what it’s like to work within an incredible, tactical, and vibrant, and diverse team. You then go out and showcase to your clients how they can do that as well. 

 

[OUTRO]

 

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. 

 

[END]

 

________________

 

Part Two:

 

[INTRODUCTION]

 

[00:00:08] 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. 

 

[00:00:40] Stef Wong: Hi, everyone. It’s Stef, Build Up’s Executive Portfolio Liaison. This week on the Nonprofit Build Up is part two of a two-part series led by Build Up’s CEO and managing attorney, Nic Campbell, and moderated by Shelli Warren of Biz Chicks, Team and Leadership Coach, and Stacking Your Team podcast host.

 

You can jump back to part one of the conversation to learn more about defining culturally competent leadership where Nic is talking about all things cultural competence, leadership and effective teams. Originally published on October 4th, 2022, Nic continues to explore what cultural competence means, its competitive edge in business and its significance when embodied not only across teams but in leadership positions as well. 

 

And here’s defining culturally competent leadership with Nic Campbell. 

 

[00:01:30] Nic Campbell: She’s not simply dreaming about doing it differently. No, no. She’s actually doing it along the way. She’s guiding organizations to do it too. If you’ve always wanted to specialize your consulting services and boldly position yourself out front while doing work that aligns beautifully to your own core values, my guest today is going to inspire you. You’re going to hear how she structured her companies, her team and how culturally competent leadership is a thread that runs through everything she does. 

 

[00:02:11] Shelli Warren: Welcome to the Stacking Your Team podcast. If you are a service-based business owner who’s wanting to elevate your capabilities to lead your team, you’re in the right place. Running a business, casting your vision and shifting from practitioner to CEO takes courage, structure and the support of a team. But not just any team. So, if you’re thinking that because you own a successful business and you’ve hired people to come and join you, then you really should know how to lead them, stop beating yourself up. And instead, stick with me and stay open to learning how you can improve your leadership skills here every single week. 

 

The Stacking Your Team podcast was launched over four years ago as a companion resource to the award-winning Biz Chicks podcast hosted by Natalie Eckdahl, our CEO and founder, who’s been sharing her incredible free podcast resource for women entrepreneurs since 2014. 

 

Natalie and I both have a big heart for service-based business owners who are juggling life at home, in their community, their industry and, of course, in their business. I’m your host, Shelli Warren, your Team and Leadership Coach here at Biz Chicks Inc. where I lean on my 25-plus years of experience leading people at a Fortune 50 Corporation. 

 

I’m here to help you build a diverse and agile team of high performing people who have a passion for winning and a deep desire to transform the lives of the clientele that you serve. Let’s get to it with this reminder that our long-standing listeners will certainly recognize.

 

The team that got you here may not be the team that will get you there. 

 

[00:03:53] Shelli Warren: Let me introduce you to our guest today. Nic Campbell is a wife, a mom of two girls and two cats. She was born in the Barbados and now lives in Connecticut. She’s also a member of the Leadership Lab. And as an attorney and a CEO of three companies in one, she leads a virtual team of 10 that’s growing quickly. 

 

She’s on a mission at Build Up Advisory Group, which is one of three companies with a vision to strengthen brave nonprofits and philanthropies, transforming outcomes for historically marginalized communities through the creation of 100 big bettable grassroots organizations by 2025. 

 

Nic and her team provide fiscal, legal and infrastructure leadership insight for organizations that are focused on capacity building and breaking glass ceilings in a really big way. Together, they intentionally support organizations that are no longer satisfied with doing business as usual. 

 

Come and meet Nic. 

 

[INTERVIEW]

 

[00:05:05] Shelli Warren: Welcome to the Stacking Your Team podcast, Nic Campbell. I am so happy to have you here. You are one of those intriguing members of the Leadership Lab who is so dynamic, so brilliant. And then, I also feel like there’s a little bit of this air of mystery about you. There’s this essence about you that, really, when you’re on a call and you’re talking to us, you own the space. You really know how to show up and be present and always add value into whatever you’re sharing. And yet at the same point, I’m always just so intrigued to learn more about you. 

 

I am so thrilled to be here. Not only am I going to learn more about you, but so are our listeners. And of course, so are your peers in the Leadership Lab that tune in every single week.

 

[00:05:51] Nic Campbell: I really appreciate the kind words. And I’m really looking forward to talking more with you about what we do and how we actually show up in our sector. 

 

[00:06:01] Shelli Warren: Well, tell me all about it. Now, I know you were born and raised in the Barbados. But where are you now? How has your life evolved? Tell us about the family. I know you’ve got some kiddos.

 

[00:06:13] Nic Campbell: Yeah. Born and raised in the Caribbean. I’ve lived in Barbados and the Cayman Islands, and then came to the United States when I was about 12 and lived in the Bronx in New York. Went to college and law school in Massachusetts. And so, I’ve really been on the Northeast for all of those listening off in the US. 

 

And now I am in Newtown, Connecticut and really loving where I am. it’s very, very different from New York City. But this is the base of our operations for the Build Up companies. 

 

I’m married. My husband, his name is Kevin. And I have two little girls, Kaden and Nova. We have like a lot going on in our home. We have a lot of space here in Newtown. So that’s really great for the girls so that they can play with each other, with their friends, and just have that space to do that. So, yeah, that’s a little bit about me and where we are.

 

[00:07:14] Shelli Warren: And you have built up this stellar reputation and a deep network into this incredible niche that I don’t think people, the majority of people, are even aware of. Tell us a little bit more about the clientele that you serve and how you help them with their transformation.

 

[00:07:34] Nic Campbell: Yeah, definitely. I am the CEO and managing attorney for the Build Up companies. And the Build Up companies is really comprised of three entities. It’s Build Up Advisory Group, which is our management consulting firm. There’s the Campbell Law Firm, which is our law firm. And then there’s Build Up Inc., which is our nonprofit a fiscal sponsor or capacity holder. 

 

And so, each of these companies has its own separate goals, but they’re all working together to interrupt cycles of injustice and inequity throughout the globe. And we do this by focusing exclusively on organizational infrastructure. 

 

When we look at Build Up Advisory Group, we are working within three main areas. It’s governance. How is your board set up? Do you have the right governance within your organization? Do you have right amount of oversight and accountability over your work? There’s grant making. Do you have the right processes in place? Are they reflective of your organizational values? 

 

When you say, for example, as a funder that you’d like to get money very quickly to those who need it around the globe, is it taking you four months to get a very simple grant out of the door? And if so, why? We’re really working very closely on all kinds of questions that come up within that process. 

 

And then the third area is around structuring. How are you set up both internally and externally as an organization? Do you have right structure in place? The right vehicle to do your work? And when you look at your team, are they positioned and set up to do their best work? Do they have the capacity and the training that’s needed? And so, that’s really the focus within Build Up Advisory Group. We’re working with organizations that have questions around infrastructure, around their capacity to do their best work. And they want to understand how is our organization doing? And what is that gap? And what recommendations do you have for us to kind of close that gap? 

 

Within the law firm, we’re working with, again, brave nonprofits and philanthropies, but also social impact entrepreneurs who are thinking about ways to change the world and have a positive impact in the world really around social justice efforts. We focus on nonprofit formation and exemption. When someone comes to us and says, “We have a great idea. We’d love it to become – Love to turn it into a public charity or a private foundation,” which is a charitable organization here in the United States. Or maybe a social welfare organization. An organization that really focuses on advocacy of these different social justice. 

 

We work with them and really show up as a thought partner alongside them to help form these entities and help them understand this is what it means to be a public charity. And this is what it means to be a social welfare organization. 

 

We also serve as outsourced in-house general counsel. And this is a really unique way for us to show up as a firm. If you look across many firms, they’re not necessarily showing up in this way. And it’s really a hallmark service of ours, because the way we look at it is, yes, we’re outside counsel at the end of the day. But we don’t want to be transactional with our clients. Like, purely transactional. We want it to be built on a relationship. 

 

And so, what that means is when you come to us with a transactional question, “Hey, can you take a look at this agreement?” We’re not asking you questions about the way your program is operating, the way your organization is operating, because we get it. We’re in team meetings. We are part of these calls. We understand your strategy. And we are looking around corners so that when you bring that transactional question to us, you told us about this, we’re aware of this other thing. It’s a really important way of the way we work within the law firm. 

 

And then the third entity, Build Up Inc., we are working with women-led and BIPOC-led projects and initiatives that are focused on marginalized and vulnerable communities make sure that they have the capacity to do their best work. Our thinking is that when these projects and initiatives come to us for support, we want to make sure that we are helping them understand and learn about what it takes to build out a solid government structure? What it takes to manage a board? How do you manage your finances? What does your fundraising and development strategy look like? What should it look like? How do you manage a team? So that when they leave Build Up Inc. and they go off and become these independent public charities, for example, that they can say we know how to run an organization, and they are much stronger afterward than when they first showed up. 

 

I’ve work with fiscal sponsors for many years within them, with them, alongside them, and as a funder within a funder examining those relationships. And one thing that’s really struck me and stood out to me was the relationship that really exists between the project and the fiscal sponsor, the kind of capacity building support that was being provided by that fiscal sponsor through the project. And I thought that there could be so much more that could be done. 

 

I also was interested in the connections being made between the projects. There wasn’t a lot of conversation happening between projects that were doing very similar or a complimentary work. And so, we want to make sure that at Build Up Inc., we’re serving as that connector for projects, but we’re also serving as a convener within the sector to kind of talk about fiscal sponsorship, what it means, and a new way to look at it as really capacity building at the end of the day. 

 

That’s the overview of the companies. How we work and who we work with. 

 

[00:12:54] Shelli Warren: Well, Nic, it’s incredible what you’re doing. And I have to ask, how do you fit in to these three different companies? What role do you play? And how do you divide your time in order to really honor the work that you’re wanting to do? Because as your coach here in the Leadership Lab, when I hear the complexity of these three different companies, and I know you are such the face of the brand. And it’s, really, you’re intrinsically on a mission to help these clients that you’re working with. My fear for you is that you’re overcapacity with everything you’re doing. 

 

And then next fear is that you’re going to start to beat yourself up because you’re not going to be able to provide that same stellar, high-level of services to every single client within these three companies. Tell me, how have you designed your business and your team to make sure that those three different sections or sectors of your overarching company works well? And what are you working through? Because I feel like you’re continuing to evolve. You’re just continuing to grow and continuing to evolve.

 

[00:14:09] Nic Campbell: No. I think it’s a great question. And I definitely think it’s a work in progress. And it also comes about through doing the thing. Build Up companies are about three years old. So, we’re very, very young. And we currently work with really amazing organizations and leaders, which is just a testament to the team that we built and the kind of work that we do. 

 

And when I started first year, even first year and a half, it was just me. And so, really having to realize very early on that these things have to be faced. Although the three entities were in the vision, and really some were – The law firm, for example, was a latter part of that vision, we had to realize that you have to focus on one first [inaudible 00:14:55] of the other. And to your point, when you under understand that the vision is about the three entities and how they could be working together, and once they’re working together and doing this amazing work, everything would sort of fall into place. But then being at a place where you’re focusing on just one entity and, really, within that one entity, trying to understand what will be the service that you will be providing? What kind of thought partnership can you provide to leaders to make them say, “Wow! This is such added value.” And to make the work really interesting? 

 

Just through working through all of that, understanding that, one, you have to phase it and being very clear on what do the next six months look like? What does the next year look like? Setting goals and then making sure that you’re constantly evaluating. 

 

What I realized, again, very early on is you can set goals. But if you’re just setting annual goals and just kind of saying, “Okay, well, I’ll check in at the end of the year to see how it’s gone,” you don’t have that ability to do any sort of course correction. 

 

And so, really what I found worked really well was, every single week, at the end of each week, doing an evaluation of how that week went against all of those goals and objectives that I put together. It took some time. And in some moments you would say, “Well, why am I focusing on goals and objectives? I need to go get clients. I need to start building out the other entities.” But it’s like you need to have the fundamentals in place. You need to have that infrastructure in place to then say, “Okay, how am I going to continue to build on that?” Definitely about phasing. Definitely focused on goal setting. 

 

And then I would also say realizing that you cannot do it by yourself. And I think in the very beginning, that starts out with consultants and partners that you might work with where you say, “Okay, that partner can do this part of the work. That consultant, I can engage them to maybe handle this particular deliverable.” And then that grows into staff, right? A team of folks of employees that are working with you on a day-to-day basis and are engaged in the work and focus on the vision of the companies. 

 

And I would say that you know not being afraid to delegate and to allow folks to run with their ideas, understanding the larger vision, is what has really been helpful. Because without a team of people, and that’s of consultants, of partners, of advisors, of staff members, you’re not able to really build out the kind of vision that I described, right? I have a vision that I think is very big and it cannot be carried just by one person. 

 

If I thought in my mind, “Okay, I can do every single thing that I’ve described,” I think I would still be where I was three years ago. And instead, we’re at a place where we have very high client retention. We work on very interesting projects. We’re really trying to push the needle in the space in which you’re working. And we’re excited about the projects that come on board. And I really couldn’t be done without this idea of like how do you pace yourself to make sure that you continue to progress and move forward? But that you’re giving yourself that grace to correct, to evaluate and to realize that some things could be done better. But you’re not spending that entire time beating yourself up and not allowing yourself that grace. 

 

One of our core principles and core values is really that we stay ever learning, right? And so, just that concept in and of itself is that you are constantly going to find ways to improve, and that’s a good thing, right? You’re going to constantly find ways to learn, and that’s a great thing. And you’re going to constantly find ways in which you could have done that better, and that’s an amazing thing. And so, just reframing that to think about it that way has been immensely helpful in our growth.

 

[00:18:42] Shelli Warren: Well, it makes everything exciting as well. Where you’re feeling your own personal growth, you’re seeing the growth of the business and then also seeing the growth of professional and personal development right across your whole team. 

 

Now, I love how you describe this as introducing these new entities within the business in phases. And that you were really diligent to make sure that the foundations were solid before you look to bring on more clients into that new entity or to even expand onto the other ones. 

 

And I know you also were intentional in your hiring because your team has grown so much. Tell us a little bit more about the people that make up your team and some of the roles that you have, and how you’ve put together that structure.

 

[00:19:26] Nic Campbell: I am very focused on hiring because I think, again, the people are really the core of infrastructure. When we talk about infrastructure and building capacity within organizations, we think about systems, we think about operations and SOPs. Those things are critical. They’re very, very important. But without the right people on your team, all of that is useless. I am very focused on do we have the right team member in the right position on the team at the right time? 

 

Really focus on how do we create hiring processes that reflect the kind of work that we do? The kind of environment in which we work? We are a startup. And we’re a startup that has a lot of interest. We have, again, as I mentioned, high client retention. That means clients are coming back and saying, “Hey, what about this other project? And could you continue to help us do this thing? And we’d love to extend our time together.” 

 

And so, when you have that kind of volume and pace, things are moving very, very quickly. And it takes a certain kind of person that’s going to not only just survive in that environment, because I think a lot of folks can kind of get in and tread water and survive. What I’m looking for is I want those individuals that are thriving. That are singing, “I understand that, yes, we’re leading that foundation. But we are building as we go.” And so, how do you hold the foundation in one hand and then still try to build in the other and realizing that you’re going to make mistakes along the way? Everything’s not going to be perfect. We don’t have this structure of the, “We’ve been around for 20 years at this point. So, we can say, “Great. Remember 15 years ago when this happened?” We’re three-years-old, right? Or two-years-old at that point when I started hiring. 

 

The thing about the kind of individual that will thrive in that kind of environment, you’ve got to get like really some unique individuals that, one, they are going to appreciate that level of autonomy. But they’re also going to be able to work collaboratively in a work environment. And I think that that’s the tension that we usually find. If you can find folks who are like, “I’m willing to do this all on my own.” And then you’re going to find folks that are saying, “I really need a ton of hand-holding and guidance.” 

 

That’s ultimately at the core what I’m looking for in terms of someone who can step into the environment. And that’s going to change, right? Because soon we’ll be five-years-old, we’ll be seven-years-old. And at that point, our infrastructure is going to change, our processes. And the way that we’re constantly building is going to slow down a bit. We’re always going to be building wherever learning. But we’re not going to be building at this pace. And so, you start to think about different types of folks that you might want on the team at that point. But that’s how I hold it. 

 

I also think about subject matter experts particularly based on the kinds of clients that are coming to us. We have a lot of folks who are leading grant-making organizations. We want someone who can understand grant making. Also, again, we only work with nonprofits and philanthropies. Having experience with nonprofits and philanthropies is really critical because there’s a language to this. 

 

And when clients come to us, we ask them, “Why did you choose us? Why are you working with us?” Or they’ll just share why they’re doing that. And what we here nearly, I would say 100% of the time, is, “You get us. You understand what it’s like to be in-house, what it’s like to work within a non-profit organization.” When you come up with these ideas, they’re practical, right? They’re based on experience. And you know what has worked and what hasn’t. And you can talk with us in that way. 

 

And so, I’m looking for individuals at least at the advisor level. When I’m thinking of counsel for the law firm, I’m thinking of vice presidents for Build Up Advisory Group. I want folks who can very easily talk with stakeholders within the nonprofit sector who can say to executive directors and presidents, “Here’s what I think. And it’s based on 10 years, 15 years of experience in doing this.” 

 

We also have really important project managers on our team. And for those roles, I want to see someone who is very organized, who is inquisitive, who, again, is back to this continuous improvement. Another one of our core values is excellence, right? In addition to the ever learning, we’re also thinking about how can we do this in an excellent way? And again, you can see that tension where you’re in a startup environment. Let’s not conflate excellence with perfection, right? What is excellent for a client at this time given the resources that we have based on what it is that we know they need? 

 

And so, I want to have strategic thinkers in those roles that are able to take a look at a variety of pieces to a puzzle, essentially, and say, “I’m going to put this all together in a good way. And I’m excited about doing that. And I’m going to bring in the right people to help put in additional pieces.” 

 

You want somebody who’s thinking about project management in that way that’s excited about it and want people who are very organized, who appreciate asking questions about things they don’t understand. Because I think in those questions come a lot of the innovation that really helps to improve our services. 

 

And then the last thing I’ll say is we have folks that are not necessarily client-facing. They’re more internal-facing. And they’re helping to build out our infrastructure and our operations. And that is really critical. Because those roles really are the connecting fibers, so to speak, of the three entities. And they’re the folks that are looking across all those entities and really taking a step back and being able to say, “I see this process coming up in Build Up Advisory Group. I think we need something similar in TCLF.” Or, “I see this question coming up in Build Up Inc. I think this is something that might actually benefit the other entities.” 

 

For those roles, I’m really looking for folks who are analytical, who are, again, strategic thinkers and who have the ability to explain or communicate complex pieces of information in a way that folks can understand and digest and take it forward. Because we’re talking sometimes about IT, such a property, topics that people might think, “Oh, what’s the big deal? How does this impact my work?” But then to be able to translate that to them I think is a real skill. That’s really how the team is built out at this point. And those are the kinds of attributes that I look for in team members. 

 

[00:25:59] Shelli Warren: Well, no wonder you have such high retention rates, Nic, because you’ve created this high level of leadership within every single role that you have. If I was to look at your org chart, I would see all these roles. And there’s a big component of leadership within every single one of those roles, regardless whether it’s an admin role, a project management role, a VP role or, a senior advisor role. You have this expectation that we are going to serve our clientele with this sense of world-class excellence. 

 

And what comes with that is a lot about attitude, follow through, integrity, character, right? All of those things. Because you’re also role modeling for your own team what it’s like to work within an incredible, tactical, and vibrant, and diverse team. And then you then go out and showcase to your clients how they can do that as well. 

 

And I know one of the things that you are very well versed in, and you talk a lot about this, and there’s a part of you, that helper person, that educational person, that really wants to help people become more fluent in understanding what’s happening in the world these days because it’s so important. Tell us, what’s Nic Campbell’s definition of culturally competent leadership? And why do we need this now? 

 

[00:27:26] Nic Campbell: I think it’s really interesting that you pulled out that thread of leadership from all of the roles that I described, because that’s really how I do envision it. And there’s that tension of just how do you make sure that leadership is coming through and it’s being nurtured and cultivated? When maybe before having this role, folks who had had similar roles were like, “I really wasn’t having that thread pulled, right? And so, I didn’t have as much autonomy. And I had much more structure. And so, do I like it? Do I not?” Even if you thought that you might like it, now you’re actually in a position where you’re kind of forced to step into that position. And how do we sort of balance that out in a good way? And that’s something that we’re thinking through as an organization. Something that I’m thinking through group as the CEO of the company and as a leader of Build Up Companies. 

 

But I think I’m pulling that out as leadership, because when we talk about culturally competent, or someone being culturally competent particularly around like leadership, I do think that cultural competence is a combination of a few things, right? It’s a combination of having adaptive leadership or flexible leadership skills where you’re able to understand who’s in the room? Who your stakeholders are? And then tailoring your own leadership behaviors to make sure that those stakeholders are able to share everything that they wanted to as a result of that leadership. I think that’s a really critical component. 

 

I think the second really big part of being culturally competent is really deep listening skills. And this is said all the time, but I think listening is such a strength. And when you are a good listener and you are actively listening, I think that it can reveal so much of what has been said, but so much of what has not been said. And if you’re going to strive to be culturally competent, you have to become a deep listener. Because now you’re listening for things that’s your own biases might not have otherwise allowed you to hear. 

 

And so, now you’re listening to what has been said? How it’s being said? What’s not been said? And you’re trying to actively ask questions and trying to understand at the end of the day. I think that without this second component, you can’t show up as a culturally competent leader because you don’t have those deep listening skills. And I think that they can be developed. But they have to be in order for cultural competence to come through. 

 

I think I would say the third piece of this is that you have to be focused on collaborative problem solving. You have to come at every situation with the idea that you are going to collaborate with others to address that issue to problem solving. When I say problem solve, not necessarily that there’s this huge problem that’s looming out there. But if there’s an issue, if there’s a question matter that’s in play, you are able to collaboratively work with others to address that issue in an effective way. 

 

And so, those three components, the adaptive leadership, deep listening and collaborative problem solving are what I think create cultural competence. And that’s the way you can become a culturally competent leader. 

 

And I think we’re at the point now where just based on everything that’s happened, particularly here in the United States and around the globe really, we’re recalling it out and saying, “It’s cultural competence.” And I appreciate that because I do think that it is very important. 

 

But the way I’m seeing it is that’s just competence, right? In order to be a good, effective leader, you need those components, right? You can’t show up and say, “I’m going to be tone deaf. I don’t know who’s in the room. I’m barely listening. I’m only going to problem solve the way that I want a problem solve.” No. You have to do it collaboratively. You have to listen. And you have to adapt. 

 

And so, we can lift it up and call it cultural competence. Because, again, I do think that it should have a carved-out space to appreciate that there is something too realizing who’s in the room and that your stakeholders maybe people who have been rendered voiceless. And so, you have a responsibility to show up and ask questions, and try to learn, and be this culturally competent leader. But at the end of the day, I really do just see it as just being competent.

 

[00:31:53] Shelli Warren: Well, I love how you describe that, because it reminds me about how different the expectations are of leaders now than what they used to be. And I mean, for years, people would just simply skate through a career with collateral damage all around them. And they would continue to be promoted. They would continue to receive all these accolades about the outcomes that they were providing with not a lot of attention put towards how the work was delivered and how did we get that result? Whereas now, people have higher expectations within their leaders. And people are making very big bold decisions about who they want to work for, or with, or alongside, and who they don’t. 

 

It’s to all of our benefit to get more education on what it is that you’re doing that is not meeting those three expectations for your stakeholders, for your team, for your partners, for your pipeline, for your local community, for the industry that you serve. It’s really up to us to decide that we want to do things differently. As a leader who is coaching and role modeling other leaders, what are some of the things that we can do as leaders practically that we can check-in on ourselves to bump up the self-awareness? And then what are some things that we can do to help coach our department leaders, our team leaders, our VPs, those people that are responsible to others on the extended team, how can we help them show up better in these three ways as well? 

 

[00:33:36] Nic Campbell: Yeah, I think that it’s definitely ongoing. It’s not like you do these things and now you’re culturally competent and you never have to work on these things again. And so, I think that just even understanding that there is these components and there’s this framework and you’re trying to always, like you said, ask questions around, “Am I living out each of these components in a good way? And where am I falling short? What’s that Delta?” is really the first step. 

 

And I think one of the pieces of advice that I would provide is when you’re thinking about cultural competence, think about the leadership you have been exposed to. Because the tension that exists right now, right? We can talk about these components. Like, you have to be a deep listener. You’re constantly asking questions. But sometimes, because people are used to the leadership that you described, they appreciate it, right? The aspects of that leadership that you actually appreciate, which is I am being told exactly what to do. There’s structure all the time. Because, again, I don’t really we have that space to decide, “Will I do this? Should I do that?” 

 

And so, there is that tension that we do have to think about and say, “Okay. Well, what is the leadership style that I am used to?” And you list that all out. How does this show up in terms of hiring? How does that show up in terms of general management within the organization? And you list all of the really key aspects of the way we work in your organization out, let’s say on a piece of paper. And then you go through piece by piece and say, “What do I like about this? What do I not like?” And then line it back up against how does that require or involve deep listening? How does that help or facilitate collaborative problem solving? And how is it forcing me to understand who is in the room and appreciate who’s in the room? 

 

And I think if you do that – And it’s a long exercise. And as I mentioned, it’s continuous, right? It’s never like you did it one time and now you have the solution and that’s it. But if you force yourself to do it, one, you’re challenging yourself and your own biases, right? Because we talk about the old-style leadership, and no one likes that. And now we’re stepping into this new culturally competent phase. But there are aspects of that old style that a lot of us still appreciate even if we don’t say it out loud or we don’t even recognize that we actually appreciate it. 

 

If you get very didactic and really articulate, like, “Here’s what I like from this what I’ve known so far in each of these parts of the work in your organization. And how does that line up with this culturally competent leadership?” I think then you’ll start to identify the areas in which there are gaps, there are deltas. And how do you step into that? And then you can talk about resources, and support, and additional leverage that you might need to make sure that you’re plugging those gaps and getting you closer to that culturally competent leadership.

 

[00:36:32] Shelli Warren: Yeah, I love this. One of my most favorite telltale moments for me or teachable moments for me is I love to hear someone else who’s totally different from me explain a certain circumstance. Because they will choose different language to describe the circumstance and how it’s impacting the business and then what they believe would be the rationale for their next best steps. But they’ll tell it in such a way that always blows my mind because they’re using different language, terms, experiences based on their conditioning that is different from my conditioning. 

 

And so, I literally feel my head explode, right? Because, like, “Wow! I’ve never heard that explained that way. I’ve never even thought about looking at that problem in that way.” But now that you’ve described it with your terms, your terminology, and how you’re looking at this problem, and what you see are the gaps, I see it’s bigger than what I originally thought it was. Let’s compound our efforts here. Let’s really double down on how to get out there and get solved it. 

 

Because I think sometimes we can brush over problems and gaps and constraints because we don’t think it’s that much of a big deal. But when you hear a different person’s perspective, it can really shed the light on, “Yeah, this is affecting a lot more people than I thought it would. And part of our roles as leaders is to make people’s jobs easier, not more difficult. Tell me your experience with working with that broken system every day. And now when you tell me how complex that is, let’s get the help for you too. Let’s fix it, and repair it and move on from there. 

 

I always find it interesting to hear other people explain things, because I know I’m going to learn something different and I’m going to have a whole different viewpoint on it because I listened to how they’re seeing it. 

 

[00:38:27] Nic Campbell: Agreed. And I think that that’s one of the indicators of being culturally competent, right? You’re stepping into situations. Not like, “Oh, I know what’s best. I know the solution.” But you’re fighting for a place of, “Let me listen. Let me ask questions. Let me hear from the folks who are closest to the problem because they likely have all of the information or most of the information that we need to craft a really efficient and effective solution.” 

 

And so, when you start off by asking questions, stepping in with this sort of position of, “I don’t know everything. I want to learn.” That thing is when I start to say, “Wow! We are really on that path of cultural competence.” Because I think sometimes people think, “Well, who would step into a situation thinking they know everything.” But you’ll realize, you start off with a lot of assumptions when you step into any sort of problem-solving type of situation and you’ll see folks jump right to the solution like, “Oh, I heard you okay.” But then you base it on your own experience, right? Which requires bias sometimes. And so, you’re bringing that all to bear to say, “Okay, now here’s the solution that is top-down, is driven by the leader of the organization. I haven’t listened to the stakeholders who are impacted by the problem that we’re trying to solve. But I’m going to now share it with them and say this is the solution that we’ve come up with.” 

 

And so, again, because of that style of leadership, the stakeholders are like banks, but then they go off to use it and it doesn’t work. And those aren’t speaking up. And so it becomes that cycle. I think all of this does start with taking that position of I don’t know what’s best, right? Someone else likely who’s experiencing this may know what’s better. And I want to hear from them. I want to ask questions. And I want to understand so that we can collaboratively problem solve. 

 

[00:40:18] Shelli Warren: And that’s really the kind of workplace culture that we all want, right? We all want to feel like we’re part of the solution. Not being dictated to how and what we’re going to do next and within our role. I love that. What are you doing Nic, yourself personally, to stay abreast of just what’s happening out there in the world? And specifically, people are coming to you. They look to you for your leadership capability, your insight, your fresh ideas. And you have this natural ability to build a relationship with someone. That’s just natural for you. But for a lot of people, it’s not. What are you doing to stay abreast of what’s happening so that you can continue to be ready to go in and look like help to help solve all these various problems that are out there? 

 

[00:41:05] Nic Campbell: I think I’ve in such a unique and awesome position given the work that we do, because we are working from – We’re working from a capacity building perspective. So, we are within lots of different areas. So, we are in environmental justice. We’re in social justice. We’re in reproductive rights issues. We are really running all across the sector because everyone needs infrastructure, that organizational support and leverage. 

 

I also get the chance to talk with not only executive management teams and executive leaders, but also board members, and chairs, and founders of organizations. I also get the opportunity to talk with team members, team leads really across the organization. When I talk about a problem or I raise a question, I can hear it from the chair of the board, from the founder, all the way through to the executive director, the president, the administrative assistant who is also affected or impacted by this issue. 

 

I get to receive or get to hear range of responses on this particular issue or question that I’ve raised. And that’s just one organization. And I’m doing this over and over again in multiple entities, in different perspectives, different ways. And so, I’m getting so much information. And as you mentioned, we are relational. And so, it’s not just asking the question and moving on, but trying to understand why they’re responding the way they are. Why they have the insight that they have? And again, we’re doing that across the organization. 

 

If you imagine that just multiplied day after day, year after year, we have so much information that informs the way we work as a team and as a company. That’s how we stay abreast of everything, right? We’re talking to people. We’re talking to the people that are being impacted by the kinds of questions that are coming up for us, the issues that we are facing. And we’re asking what kind of support do you need? What kind of resources? How is it challenging for you? How is it showing up? 

 

And again, hearing from the founder, hearing from the executive director, hearing from the administrative team is extremely helpful. We’re also then taking that information not only informing the way we work, but then the way we show up with our partners. When we engage with other organizations who might be consulting in this space and they’re thinking of a way or asking about, “How do we approach these kinds of organizations with this kind of issue?” We’re sharing as well and saying, “Here is what we have been learning about. Here’s what we’ve been hearing. Here’s how we’ve been approaching it.” And we are then listening to them to see how they’ll adapt their approach. What kind of approach has worked for them? What has not worked? And we’re doing that again in different organizations with multiple partners that we have, but also within this membership organizations as well. 

 

We really stay abreast by, first and foremost, talking with people, being a part of membership organizations within the space. We read a ton within the sector. And we put out a lot of thought leadership as well. 

 

[00:44:20] Shelli Warren: You have an incredible repertoire, I would say, or body of work between your podcast, your blogs, your LinkedIn articles. You’re doing an exceptional job, you, Nic, and the team, to be able to really position yourself as that person that is there to help people move their goals forward. 

 

And as I’m listening to you today, the biggest takeaway I have here about you and your team and the work that you do is that you have a lot to share. And you’re also very open to hear others. There’s this wonderful sense of there’s this reciprocal relationship that’s built between all of your clients, including your team members, like your internal team. I think there’s that give and take. You’re here to give there to also receive from each other. It’s just a wonderful synergy that you’re creating. 

 

[00:45:09] Nic Campbell: I appreciate you saying that. And it’s really the way that we strive to work, right? That, again, being ever learning. But also, being brave enough to say, “This is my vision. This is how I’m thinking about it. And I want to hear from. How is it going? What’s the feedback?” And then being able to, again, step into that leadership role and say, “Okay, how do I do this in a culturally competent way? Who’s impacted? What are the questions I can ask?” And that’s really where we are trying to be so that we can come up with this collaborative problem-solving approach. That’s the way we want to work. I’m really happy that it’s coming through and what we’re sharing outside or externally.

 

[00:45:53] Shelli Warren: Well, it really is. How did the Leadership Lab fit into all of this vision? 

 

[00:45:56] Nic Campbell: Yeah. When it was just me, there was no team to manage. I didn’t have to write anything down. I just kind of put things in my mind. And it went very smoothly. But as you start to grow a team, particularly a team of employees, and then you have that mix of employees and consultants, which we call engagement advisors, you want to make sure that you are creating a team culture. You’re creating an organizational culture. You have – I spoke about our organizational values. But how do you make sure that those things show up in your hiring as you’re bringing other folks on the team? And I also talked about delegation. Now you’re delegating things. How do you make sure that things are still operating the way they should or the way you envision the culture is being built out? Again, the way you envision? And that it’s being maintained. Because now it has to be maintained by the team. And so, you want them to call you out on things. Like, “Hey, our culture is supposed to be this, this and this. And I’m seeing these things that I don’t think align with that. And I want that.” 

 

And so, when you think about all of those things and then also realizing you’re running a business and you still have to go out and get clients, and there’s sales, and marketing and all those other things, very quickly, or I very quickly realize that I need help, right? Again, I am stepping into a situation and saying, “I’m not the person that knows everything about this thing. There may be others, or there are others that know much more than I do.” And how can I show up and listen so that I can create this really effective solution for my company and my team? 

 

And so, I listen to Stacking Your Team podcast. So, I knew of you, and knew Biz Chicks, with Natalie. And I wanted to hear more about Leadership Lab and what kind of support and resources I could receive so that I could help build out my team, which was growing really rapidly. Manage that team in a good way while still also balancing client work. And even if I could identify that delta between where I am and where I ultimately want to be, but at least I knew, “Okay, this is where I want to go.” And I have that delta, and I have some support, and resources, and leverage to get me there. 

 

And so, working with you and the Leadership Lab team and the folks in the Leadership Lab, it’s just amazing, because sometimes you think you’re out there by yourself. That no one really gets it because you’re running a company, and you’re building out a team, and you want to – Again, you have this big vision and you’re trying to balance all these things. And so, to hear from other women who are doing the same thing and they’re also balancing their personal lives with families or whatever is happening within their personal lives, it’s just really helpful from that perspective to hear from others the questions that are being raised by Leadership Lab members. They’re also very helpful, right? 

 

To just say, “Right, I have that question. I hadn’t yet formulated it. But that’s a question I do have.” And to hear the responses from you and from others has been very, very helpful to me as I plan for next steps. 

 

And I think another thing that has been really useful is that there are lots of different folks in the Leadership Lab. They’re at different stages of their development. I get a chance to look ahead to say, “Oh, wow! That’s what it could look like in five years. That’s what it can look like in seven years, right? Or year seven.” And so, just to see like, “Oh, these are the kinds of questions that are coming up for them. This is how they’re thinking about building out their team, or the struggles, or challenges they have had.” And that helps me to think about how can I kind of safeguard against that, or plan for that, or learn from what they’ve just shared? To me, it’s just been extremely valuable to spend the time learning and sharing with the other women within Leadership Lab. 

 

[00:50:03] Shelli Warren: Well, we adore having you there in the group. And I know that your Insight that you’re bringing just in terms of your law background, your not-for-profit background, this high level of client care that comes with you as well that’s part of the package within Nic, I’m also really excited to see you help guide us through this culturally competent leadership style and really be that guide that will be able to say, “Have you thought about this?” Or I have a client that have similar situation, and here’s how we helped guide her through that. 

 

I mean, all of that type of high-level insight is just so darn valuable when you’re in a small group like that. It really feels comforting to know that there’s experts within the group that really are way ahead of you in certain aspects of the business. And then there’s also things that you’re way ahead of them so that you can help them again. And it’s that whole idea of reciprocity, of just really being able to give and get from that group and that experience. We’re so happy to have you there. 

 

And thank you so much for helping us understand culturally competent leadership. What that really means for us? And please tell us how can others stay connected with you, Nic? People who are looking to join your team. People who are looking to hire you or one of your team members. Or people who are wanting to really get more Nic time through the podcast or through the YouTube channel. Tell us how can people stay connected to you? 

 

[00:51:32] Nic Campbell: Yeah. First, thank you so much, Shelli, for having me on and for the really insightful conversation. I mean, just getting the opportunity to talk more about the way we work, and our work, and just how we’re trying to make sure that we’re showing up with a high level of cultural competence. 

 

If folks would love to be in touch with us, we have a podcast. It’s called the Nonprofit Build Up. We talk about a lot of the topics that we talked about here, really focusing in on how do we build out the infrastructure for brave nonprofits and philanthropies? And questions that are coming up within the capacity building in the nonprofit sector. And we are hiring. And so, I invite you to visit our website, which is buildupadvisory.com. And once you go to buildupadvisory.com, you’ll see the opportunities there. I really encourage you to apply and reach out with any questions that you might have. 

 

And similarly, for organizations, if you are a leader of a non-profit or a philanthropy, one, I want to make sure that you are leading a brave non-profit or philanthropy that’s really important to us, and that you are pushing that status quo and really trying to affect change, right? We’re seriously trying to interrupt cycles of inequity and injustice. And so, if that’s the case, please visit our website and reach out to us. You can shoot us an email as well, which is at hello@buildupadvisory.com. And I look forward to hearing from you.

 

[00:53:02] Shelli Warren: Well, we’re going to have all those links in the show notes. And thank you so much for coming and spending some and quality time with me here, Nic. And I will see you in our next call. 

 

[00:53:11] Nic Campbell: Yes, of course. Thanks so much, Shelli. 

 

[00:53:14] Shelli Warren: Thank you.

 

[OUTRO]

 

[00:53:14] Stef Wong: And that completes part two of this two-part series on defining culturally competent leadership with Nic Campbell. 

 

As we wrap up, if you’re interested in partnering with a law firm that leverages a global network of experienced attorneys with decades of legal training and practical experience and focuses on social impact organizations to serve as an outsourced general counsel and thought partner, then schedule discovery call with the Campbell Law Firm today. 

 

The Campbell Law Firm works with brave nonprofits, philanthropies, philanthropists, ultra-high-net-worth individuals and movements offering high-touch counsel to social impact entrepreneurs and organizations around the world. We would love to hear more about your brave mission to change the world. 

 

[00:53:58] 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. 

 

[END]

 

Read more

The Integral Role of Cultural Competence in Movements with DeAnna Hoskins (RECAST)

Over the next two weeks on the Nonprofit Build Up®, Nic is talking with DeAnna Hoskins, President and CEO of JustLeadership USA also known as JLUSA. DeAnna Hoskins has been at the helm of JLUSA since 2018. A nationally recognized leader and dynamic public speaker, she has been committed to the movement for racial and social justice, working alongside those most impacted by marginalization for over two decades. DeAnna leads from the perspective that collective leadership, advocacy for justice with reinvestment, and bold systems change are only possible when those who are most harmed are provided the tools and resources to demand change. You will not want to miss these episodes.

 

Listen to Part One here:

 

Listen to Part Two here:

Resources:

About DeAnna Hoskins:

DeAnna Hoskins has been at the helm of JLUSA as the President and CEO of JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA) since 2018. A nationally recognized leader and dynamic public speaker, Ms. Hoskins has been committed to the movement for racial and social justice, working alongside those most impacted by marginalization for over two decades. Ms. Hoskins leads from the perspective that collective leadership, advocacy for justice with reinvestment, and bold systems change are only possible when those who are most harmed are provided the tools and resources to demand change. Her own life experience has been this driving force, having been directly impacted by the system of incarceration and the war on drugs, and with her professional experience, from working on grassroots campaigns to state and federal government. She is inspired to make the world more just with communities across the country, and for her three children – two that have experienced the criminal justice system.

Ms. Hoskins has been a part of JLUSA’s national alumni network since 2016, as a Leading with Conviction Fellow. Prior to taking the helm at JLUSA, Ms. Hoskins was at the Department of Justice where she joined under the Obama Administration. There, she served as a Senior Policy Advisor (Corrections/Reentry) providing national leadership on criminal justice policy, training, and technical assistance and information on best and promising practices. She oversaw the Second Chance Act portfolio and managed cooperative agreements between federal agencies – the Department of Labor’s Clean Slate Clearinghouse, supporting formerly incarcerated people with expunging their records; the National Reentry Resource Center; the National Inventory of Collateral Consequences and Convictions; the National Institute of Corrections Children of Incarcerated Parents initiative; and more. She also served as the Deputy Director of the Federal Interagency Reentry Council. DeAnna is also the 2021 recipient of the 400 Years of African American History Commission Award.

Throughout her career she has been committed to reducing stigma and harm in communities impacted by mass criminalization. Prior to joining the DOJ, Ms. Hoskins was the founding Director of Reentry for Ohio’s Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners where she worked to reduce recidivism by addressing individual and family needs; increased countywide public safety for under-resourced communities of color; reduced correctional spending; and coordinated social services to serve populations at risk that were impacted by decades of generational disinvestment and deprived of first chances. She has worked in local neighborhoods in Cincinnati and at the Indiana Department of Corrections on improving conditions and treatment of incarcerated people.

Ms. Hoskins is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio and holds a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Cincinnati and a Bachelors of Social Work from the College of Mount St. Joseph. She is a Licensed Clinical Addictions Counselor, a certified Workforce Development Specialist trainer for formerly incarcerated people, a Peer Recovery Coach, and is trained as a Community Health Worker.

 

Read podcast transcription below:

Part One

-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 Katie, Build Up’s Manager of Global Operations. This week on the Nonprofit Build Up, Nic is talking with DeAnna Hoskins, President and CEO of JustLeadershipUSA, also known as JLUSA. JLUSA’s vision is to be a national platform, a go-to resource for people directly impacted by systemic racism and oppression to use as they hone and grow leadership skills needed to affect policy reforms that dismantle systemic oppression and build thriving, sustainable, and healthy communities. 

Katy Thompson: DeAnna Hoskins has been at the helm of JLUSA since 2018. A nationally recognized leader and dynamic public speaker, DeAnna has been committed to the movement for racial and social justice, working alongside those impacted by marginalization for over two decades. DeAnna leads from the perspective that collective leadership, advocacy for justice with reinvestment, and bold systems change are only possible when those who are most harmed are provided the tools and resources to demand change. 

Katy Thompson: Her own life experience has been this driving force, having been directly impacted by the system of incarceration and the war on drugs and with her professional experience from working on grassroots campaigns to state and federal government. She is inspired to make the world more just with communities across the country and for her three children, two that have experienced the criminal justice system. We could go on forever about her accomplishments, leadership, and awards. But with that, here is Nic’s conversation with DeAnna Hoskins.

Nic Campbell: Hi, DeAnna. Welcome to the Nonprofit Build Up.

DeAnna Hoskins: Thank you, Nic. I’m excited to be here.

Nic Campbell: Me too. I think it’s going to be an amazing conversation. And to get us started, can you tell us about JustLeadership USA, your role there, and what is JLUSA’s immediate priority?

DeAnna Hoskins: Yes. So my position with JustLeadershipUSA as president CEO, JustLeadership was founded in 2014, at the absence of the voices of directly impacted people in the policy conversation around issues impacting them in their communities. So JustLeadership’s mission and focus is to decarcerate the US abut also utilizing those voices and investing in the leadership of formerly incarcerated directly impacted individuals from oppressed and marginalized communities, to educate them on policies that are creating a hindrance, but also to elevate their voice and empower them to utilize those voice in those spaces that they have actually been marginalized and kept out of.

Nic Campbell: When you say decarcerate the US, talk to me about what that looks like. What does your vision look like, and how do you go about doing that?

DeAnna Hoskins: Thank you. So we know that the majority of the over sentencing has come through mandatory minimum policies. We also know – Let’s not be blind to the fact that racial disparities even exist in some of those spaces, and a lot of those policies were created during the war on drugs for communities that were definitely impacted those excessive sentence. 

DeAnna Hoskins: So empowering people to understand the policies that are leading up to the mass incarceration, underutilization of community alternatives and alternatives to incarceration and also bail reform of people should have their constitutional right to actually have bail set at their ability to pay, and we should not be criminalizing people who are poor or who live in poverty, which again we know, when we look at the number of individuals, we can’t get past the racial disparities that we see. 

DeAnna Hoskins: So when we talk about decarceration, there’s a magnitude of things. But also, Nic, I think it’s important that if we had more investment in our community resources, that gives people access to services that become the foundation of some of the things. What I like to say is our racist policies and hindrance into things such as education, health care, mental health, substance abuse, becomes the filter down into the catch basin of the criminal justice system. So while you were talking about decarceration, our focus may not always be on the criminal justice system. It may be on those other systems that have policies and barriers that filter into the criminal justice system.

Nic Campbell: That, to me, resonates so much because we talk a lot about systemic change. When you’re talking about decarcerating the US, I think a lot of people might think, “Okay. Well, what does that look like in terms of prisons and decarceration?” But what you’re seeing is, actually, it starting way before then. It’s about the policies, the lack of investment in certain communities, and the resources that are allocated to those communities. So that resonates so much to me, and I appreciate the framing. You also talked about investing in leadership. So I want to hear a little bit more about how you are taking that vision that you just articulated and now saying, “Okay. As part of our mission, we are going to invest in the leadership of formerly incarcerated people.”

DeAnna Hoskins: One of the things that we have to be aware of is that in all other sectors, whether it’s mental health, education, substance abuse, the system has utilized people with lived experience to help drive policies and what the needs are but has been very reluctant when it comes to the criminal justice system of actually engaging those with lived experience as the experts in the field to actually strategize and look at how policies impact. 

DeAnna Hoskins: A good example of that is the ‘94 Crime Bill. The ‘94 Crime Bill was a good policy on paper. It was the solution to a problem. Crack epidemic was that as high. Violence was coming out of that. So on paper, it looks like the perfect solution. But in implementation, nobody realized how it was going to devastate black communities, how it was going to over incarcerate people, how it was going to cause so much trauma, so many empty households, and families torn apart. That now, we’re trying to piecemeal it back together to say, “Hey, we made a mistake.” But that’s because who voice was at the table to talk about how that was going to play out in our communities. 

DeAnna Hoskins: Another good example is when we talk about risk assessment tools, anything around criminal justice reform, investing in leadership, that missing voice. You don’t know how risk assessments are going to play out in communities because black communities are over policed. I always like to use the example my child could steal my car. Somebody phones the same police department but a higher economic community, their child steals their car. Both of us call the police. Both of our children are caught with the car. My colleague’s child, they parked her car. They take her child to the police station and call her to come get them.

DeAnna Hoskins: My car is impounded. My child goes to juvenile hall, has a court date. Both of them then commit an adult crime at the same age, same crime. This risk assessment tool is going to ask, how many interactions have you had with police? How many probation violations? How many missed court hearings did you have without taking into consideration? Simply because black communities are over policed and over surveillanced, my child’s interaction with the juvenile system at that time is going to count as a point against him when he gets to prison, which now puts him in another higher class of at risk when people look at him around returning to court.

DeAnna Hoskins: Actually, what is his benefit to the community to stay – his stabilization in the community? Did he complete high school? Or does he have a GED? All of those things go against them. But nobody was sitting at the table to say, “Hey, you guys are relying on these risk assessments,” which now 20 years later, even the scientists who created them are coming back saying, “These risk assessments have racial bias built into them, simply how things play out in the community.” 

DeAnna Hoskins: That missing voice is actually led to the situation we’re in, whereas someone who was impacted by the system, who’s been a product being impacted by risk assessment tools, different things can utilize that voice of how things play out in our community. Typically, policy makers are not from our community. They’ve never lived in our community, and they actually don’t have the privilege of having been impacted by some things. So in criminal justice, that missing voice of formerly incarcerated, directly impacted has led to the misrepresentation of what policies can do and how they impact our community. So it’s very important to not only have that voice at the table. We’re starting to see the need for those voices to leave those conversations.

Nic Campbell: I see so many analogies to what you describe to what is happening quite frequently in the sector. So when you’re talking about policies that are being put together by decision makers who look nothing alike or not from the communities that will be impacted by the same policies, and there’s no one from the community that’s sitting in that room at that table and definitely not in that decision making space, right? 

Nic Campbell: So when you’re talking about leaving that conversation so that, again, you can talk about what decisions get made, what policies come out of it, and how that impact will then sort of reverberate throughout that community, it all makes sense to me, and it makes me think about grantmaking and the sorts of decisions that are happening in rooms with folks that maybe they’re well-intentioned, but they are not from the communities that they’re serving, but they think they know what’s best. 

Nic Campbell: No one from that community is in the room. Their voices are not being heard. They’re definitely not leading the conversation. So when I think about that analogy, and I know that you are doing good work at JustLeadership, I’d love to hear how you are thinking about that grantmaking space. Based on exactly what you described, how are you making sure that the voices of formerly incarcerated people are at that table, leading the conversation, part of the decision making? What are you seeing now, and how do we make that shift so that we can make sure that that’s happening in the grantmaking space as well?

DeAnna Hoskins: So it’s kind of twofolds. So there’s a fold of JustLeadership being intentional in our investment in people. Part of the saying of JustLeadership was built on the premises that are found or use this cliché of those closest to the problem are closest to the solution, but typically furthest from resource and power to do anything about it, right? How does JustLeadership in some of its privileged spaces that it sits, makes those introductions between our leaders and philanthropists. 

DeAnna Hoskins:But also not only that, ensuring that people see formerly incarcerated and directly impacted people for the experts. They are we have people with PhDs. We have people who are attorneys. We have individuals who have been impacted by the system and actually call a philanthropy out. Yet you’re supporting and funding projects of where the employer should hire more, or other people should be placing us in leadership. But you have failed to do so yourself, right? 

DeAnna Hoskins: I think there’s one philanthropist that’s making a very intentional role at putting directly impacted people in position of grantmaking. But we’re still not sitting on our foundation boards that actually vote on it, right? Also, ensuring that your program managers are culturally aware and culturally competent because, let’s be honest, as the President CEO who has to fundraise, I run into racial disparities and oppression, even in philanthropy. If I’m not willing to tap dance or allow people to talk to me in a certain way, I’ve been denied funding, and I’ve actually outright refused some funding from certain funders because you can’t talk to me a certain kind of way. 

DeAnna Hoskins: Does that hinder my operations? Sure, it does. It forces me to have to think of fundraising in a different strategy. It forces me to sometimes really evaluate what I’m walking away from because it’s not just about me and the organization. I have a staff, a team of 25. That’s 25 families that are going to be impacted by my inability to raise the funds. So for me, it was becoming very aware of how to diversify my funding, that I’m not the majority reliant on foundations and philanthropy. 

DeAnna Hoskins: That I am tapping into corporate America, but that I am really building out a robust individual donor base because that is the most sustainable element, where people believe in your mission. You don’t have to tap dance. You don’t have to sing a song to them. It doesn’t matter who’s in their boardroom because it’s the individual making the decision. But philanthropy, we’re seeing some slight movement of hiring people, but yet seeing the mega bold move to put people in positions of power to be the decision makers.

Nic Campbell: What you’re saying is making me think about accountability, and I have a set of questions that I want to raise with you about how do we hold folks accountable. What does that look like? But before I get to those, you talked about cultural competence, and I want to hear how you are thinking about cultural competence in this space, in the work that we’re doing. What does it look like to have a culturally competent program officer, for example, or a program person within a grantmaker that is then engaging with an organization? What does it look like? What doesn’t it look like? I just love to hear that. I hear that term thrown out a lot, and I think just level setting and saying, “This is what it looks like, and this is how it doesn’t look,” would be really helpful.

DeAnna Hoskins: When you talk about it in a level of philanthropy, is the person knowing where they have an understanding, right? What’s impacting communities and who they need to utilize and not creating barriers for the individuals that are trying to impact that community. But when I talk about cultural competence, it’s a true understanding of, one, for self, where my limitations lie, or where I don’t have an understanding, but also respecting the fact that the individual has experienced that, and that my questioning, my drive, or my thoughts of where it should go, possibly, as a white woman, plays no role in this conversation around funding. 

DeAnna Hoskins: How do I give space and respect to what communities are experiencing by actually understanding the strategy that is coming from this grantee that is asking me for this money, but also understanding where my [inaudible 00:15:53] abilities are, and I’m not going to inflict any more harm on this person? One, because we are formerly incarcerated, we still have the trauma of our past we’re trying to deal with. But then we walk into this space, where we’re challenged, especially as a black woman, where we’re challenged all the times and can’t nearly get away with showing up half in our work or being put through the wringer by certain funders, simply because of what their belief of what should happen, because of what possibly a black male had done later. 

DeAnna Hoskins: Just understanding all of those dynamics and the power that they bring as a program manager, and what we’re starting to see is they’re leveraging that power like slave masters. You will tap dance to get this funding, and it’s like you have to make a conscious decision. Do I tap dance to get it to pay for these 25 families that are on my team? Or do I try to walk away and go seek out a new funding source, but also exposing it and taking the chances? I think, for me, it has been a ladder. I expose it, and I know I’m chancy, never getting funding. There are some other funders who are not going to appreciate me calling other funders out, are going to walk away from us. But when do we get through change, and when do we as black women really get true respect?

Nic Campbell: I love that so much. It makes me think about approaching this as a systemic issue and actually not seeing it as a one off, right? So when we talk about, yes, this is “bad behavior,” like it’s systemic. So what do you do? In that instance, you call it out. As you mentioned, you say that’s actually not okay, and it shouldn’t be on a grantee to have to say that or do that. It should be on other funders saying that’s not okay. 

Nic Campbell: Because the way that we’re setting up this system of funding of support, of resource provision is this way. We want it to be equitable. We want it to be fair. We want it to be just, as opposed to seeing the behavior, not calling it out, and letting it stand. I think like when you talk about cultural competence, what resonates with me a lot is what I’m hearing you say is you can’t be culturally competent and be in a vacuum, right? You have to be engaged with a community that you’re working with and problem solving alongside of. You can think to yourself, “Well, I have the solution to this thing, and so you have to listen to me.” It’s like, “No, we’re working on this together, and I’m providing resources so that we can get to the same goal.” 

Nic Campbell: The last piece is just being self-aware and stepping in and saying with a lot of humility, “I don’t know everything, and I’m here to learn as well.” So I think like just looking at it, like you said, just taking a step back and saying what does this system look like? How can I step into it in a good way?

DeAnna Hoskins: You said something very important too, Nic. How do I, as part of the ecosystem of philanthropy, call it out and have true conversation amongst my other funding colleagues of, we should not be showing up like this because we are actually entrenching more harm than our money can ever do good.

Nic Campbell: While we’re talking about that, how do you hold grantmakers accountable, and what does that look like? So we just talked. We have a web series that we do call Fast Build Fridays, and we raise that question. How do you hold a grantmaker accountable and why you should hold them accountable? So I’d love to hear your thoughts on accountability and grantmaking.

DeAnna Hoskins: I’ll just speak from my perspective. I think I have a reputation and a history of just being direct and to the point. After a few encounters with philanthropists that I called out, and I shared it with their colleagues who are like, “Oh, wait a minute. So you have this reputation,” which it kind of puts people off, but it also demands a level of respect. So funders approach you different, but I think we have to start calling it out without the fear of not getting funded and as organizational grantees supporting chatter. 

DeAnna Hoskins: Let’s be honest. The money they’re given us is crumbs. Let’s just be honest. It’s not like people are giving – It’s a lot of money to us who have never had a lot of funding in our organizations. But to the families and the philanthropists, what they give out to us as directly impacted people, nonprofits, and grassroots is some bare minimum, right? Enough to write off that they gave it away, right? So that’s what I talked about, using that power almost as a slave master of this funding, because we have this so limited to the pool of philanthropy. We don’t know, and I’m just learning that there’s this whole world of philanthropy that has not been touched. When you’re about a single issue, what I realized we’re all swimming in the same pool with the same funders. So we’re in competition with each other. 

DeAnna Hoskins: So if you say, “Hey, this philanthropist really disrespected me in their conversation, and I don’t want to take any funding,” it’s real hard to tell other people don’t take funding as well, so we can demonstrate and show because they haven’t received funding before. Then the philanthropy or the program manager definitely wants to double what they give other people, so they don’t join your cause, and it appears that you’re out there by yourself. But you have to remain vigilant. You have to remain in that space and demand it. But I think we, as black organizations led by directly impacted people, smaller nonprofits, have been so underfunded, underinvested in, and unknowledgeable about the real pool of funding that is out there and open to us. 

DeAnna Hoskins: That comes with partnering with seasoned vets who understand the philanthropy world, who understands the corporate America world, how to build up individual donors. We were late to the game where Goodwill, Salvation Army’s ACOUs have been around for years. Guess what? They built that up. They built that individual membership base up because they understood the knowledge, and they had a team to actually focus on it. We’re just getting into that playground, and we’ve never been given that blueprint, and they damn sure ain’t going to share it with us.

Nic Campbell: Mic drop, right? I think that’s what happens at that point. I completely hear you, and I think that what’s interesting is that a lot of this has been perpetuated by grantmakers, right? So when we think about the inability to say I can’t raise my hand and call out behavior because I’ve actually been building my organization according to this grantmaker’s vision, and now I do have another 15, 20 people to support. Whereas before, maybe I wouldn’t have grown as quickly or have that same vision. 

Nic Campbell: But now, I’m tethered to it, and they’re also my largest funder. So how can I raise my hand and say I need to call you out? I think it’s a difficult position to be in, and it’s actually created by the very system that we know as philanthropy. So just even like acknowledging that piece and then, like you said, taking that stand I think is really brave to do, right. But that’s really about accountability. So while we’re on the topic, though, DeAnna, what do you think that philanthropies, funders could be doing better or they should be doing less of, and what do you think that they’re doing well?

DeAnna Hoskins: Thank you. So I want to start with less of, and I think less of trying to drive our mission or our movement. They’re in the driver’s seat of what should occur to the point where you’re even seeing what I call new money philanthropy create the programs that grassroot organizations are doing it in house in order not to support certain organizations that are led by. 

DeAnna Hoskins: I’ll give an example. We do a training. We invest in the leadership of formerly incarcerated. We’ve created a C-suite of curriculum as well. What we’re starting to see as funders are creating leadership training for formerly incarcerated, like within their house. People always say, “Well, what’s so special about JustLeadership?” We’re the only organization founded by and operated by formerly incarcerated people with lived experience. 

DeAnna Hoskins: What we’re seeing in philanthropy is the traditional. We see this as the carrot of the day. We see this as the moment, and part of our charity is we want to lead this initiative. You guys shouldn’t have this bright idea. I tell people, it’s a compliment that they’re copying it because it shows we had a bright idea. But what happens is they come in, and they exploit the movement when they see organizations led by black people, organizations led by people from oppressed communities having movement, having a probability to be a premier organization around what they do. 

DeAnna Hoskins: Instead of funding and supporting that organizations to grow its capacity, we’re going to replicate it and pull all our money into here. So that’s what they have to start doing less of, trying to control the movement, telling the movement what to do, and coopting the movement as well, which is what white people have done to black people over the years. What they have to do more of is getting okay with funding the movement and getting out away. Funding the movement and getting out the way. More of general operating support, I think, because a lot of funders also restrict their funding to certain activities. 

DeAnna Hoskins: When you start talking about organizing an advocacy, campaigns change. You might fund me for two years, And six months into the campaign, there’s been a drastic change. We saw that with COVID, right? Because funds were restricted to campaigns, and you can no longer be in those activities, funders had to switch and approve those funds to go to general operating. Supporting general operating of smaller organizations allow for sustainability. 

DeAnna Hoskins: I’m going to be honest, and I know I shouldn’t be sharing. But I think who really does this really well, who invest in sustainability of the organization, who allows for the organization to invest in future building, to invest in capacity building is the Ford Foundation. They’ve been very open about that, very transparent, and basically asking you as the grantee, how do you want to split the money. We want to give you this grant. What are some of your needs? So not telling us what to do with the funding but asking us so that it can be approved through their process of I need funds for future investment, right? I need funds to move towards sustainability and investment and capacity building, and then being very open to utilizing their funds around stabilizing the nonprofit because they believe in the mission, and they believe you should exist. 

DeAnna Hoskins: So if they can help you stabilize, to actually grow, that is how they’re investing because they believe in a mission. I think that’s where philanthropy has to go. Stop believing in the activities and believe in the mission of the organization. That’s what you invest in of whatever the mission and the goal. I was reading yesterday. I’ve been doing trainings around board development. Just when you read the definition of why nonprofits are actually built, they’re built for a purpose. People create nonprofits for purpose, and the purpose is usually to change the trajectory of something that’s happening to a certain population or certain communities, right? So if you believe in my purpose and my mission, that’s what you should be funding, not saying what are the activities you’re doing within that because the activities are going to change, because my ultimate goal is to get in service on my mission. 

DeAnna Hoskins: I think stop focusing on activities and focus on the mission and the drive of the organization, and provide the general support this needed to stabilize that so that they can grow and continue on that mission.

Nic Campbell: That makes a lot of sense. Like you said, fund and get out of the way and then just share an example of this is how it’s done. When you were talking about that process, it just, again, made me think about cultural competence. The exact same conversation we’re having around like having that cultural competence, stepping in, and saying, “You’re the expert here. I just want to make sure that we’re problem solving alongside each other, and we’re learning from each other.” So when you were describing it, I just thought like this is exactly the kind of environment that we want to find ourselves in as grantees.

Katy Thompson: That concludes part one of DeAnna and Nic’s conversation. Stay tuned for next week for part two.

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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.

Part Two

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Nic Campbell: You’re listening to the Nonprofit Build Up Podcast. 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 non-profits 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 Kat, Build Up’s manager of global operations. This week on the Nonprofit Build Up, Nic is continuing the conversation with DeAnna Hoskins, President and CEO of JustLeadershipUSA, also known as JLUSA. You can jump back to part one of our conversation to learn more about DeAnna’s expertise, passion, and major accomplishments and JLUSA’s work. But with that, let’s dive into the second part of Nic’s conversation with DeAnna.

Nic Campbell: Then we want to find ourselves in as grantees. I really liked when you were saying, stop focusing on activities and start focusing on the mission, like you’re investing in this organization. You use that word invest. I think it’s really important, because that’s what it is like. Are you investing in this organization’s vision and mission? Because if so, you show up a very different way.

DeAnna Hoskins: Different way.

Nic Campbell: Right. It’s about this partnership that you have, this relationship that you’re building. That’s when you’re investing. When you’re funding something, you show up that way. What is the deliverable? Did you get it done? No. Then you better get it done.

DeAnna Hoskins: How many people did you serve?

Nic Campbell: Exactly.

DeAnna Hoskins: There’s this one practice that I’m starting to see and I’ve been really sharing with organization leaders who are family organizations where – I don’t even want to call them philanthropy, billionaires are wanting to invest, dropping a million dollars, which is nothing to this billionaire. It’s a B. He’s dropping an M, right? But I’m going to invest this $1 million a year for the next five years in your organization. Well, you’re a grassroots. You barely been able to operate off of $100,000. Here’s this person committing a million for the next five, but there’s one caveat. I’m going to put somebody for my organization on your board. I’ve been sharing, I was like, capitalist wash their money. People who want to make a profit wash their money. That is not a donation. That is how do I benefit from this contribution into this organization that I can build off of. An example is a housing program where it happened.

DeAnna Hoskins: Now, what we’re seeing is that billionaire is now convinced them, you should expand across the country. Matter of fact, when you expand across the country. I know about houses that you got to live in, and you’ll just pay my company rent. He got his million dollars back and more, he ain’t gave you nothing. He just got his million, because it’s a real estate investment for him now. That was the plan to see what is the strategy, what is the concept, how can I capitalize and multiply also this million-dollar investment that I’m calling it, but I’m going to watch my money, because I need to see where the opportunity lies for me not the opportunity for the organization. I’m watching them build brand new constructive housing, calling them safe housing, but the landlord is the billionaire’s company that the organization has to pay rent to.

Nic Campbell: Yeah. It’s bringing up for me, and I see it a lot just inappropriate tool. People create tools and saying, “But we’re giving it in the sort of space of philanthropy, but we’re trying a different approach.” So you’ll hear different things. “This is an innovative approach. This is a different approach.” It’s not the status quo. Whatever it is, but acknowledging like this is a completely different tool. Then, just not also acknowledging, it’s also the wrong tool, or it may be the wrong tool to actually get at where we’re going. I think just flagging it is just so – it’s critical.

DeAnna Hoskins: Yeah, because I always say, with the donation, would I have preferred the million dollars or would I have preferred you say, “I would like to ask somebody on your board to help look at your concept, so that we can help you grow, and we’ll build the houses and donate them to you.” Now, that’s the real investment in our mission and belief in our system. Not, “I’m going to build the houses so that I can benefit as the developer and the owner of that property to multiply my portfolio.”

Nic Campbell: Right. Because I think you can be innovative in this space, and we’re not saying that you can. You can bring in a different tool, and I definitely encourage that because I think the way that we’re working, it can be concerning and it’s clunky. We’re not saying you shouldn’t be innovative. It’s about, again, stepping in with that cultural competence, the ability to listen, understand where you’re stepping into, what you’re actually trying to do, and having that dialogue and saying, “This is what we’re trying to get to where you trying to go, seeing great matches, and then finding a way to implement that tool.” DeAnna, if we look at it the other way, talked a lot about grant makers and funders, and what they should be doing more of less of. What about grantees? What about nonprofit organizations that are recipients of the funding? What should they be doing less of and what should they be doing more of?

DeAnna Hoskins: I think as grantees, we should be doing more education to ourselves of how this process works. We should be doing more research around prior movements. I always say, if you don’t know your history, you’re subject to repeat the history. One of the things that we’re seeing in the movement around formerly incarcerated, the movement around liberation is, if you make too much noise – I always say, if somebody’s making noise, and they go quiet, just look at, did they get large donations. Typically, in the past movements, but understanding that the donations come with something. How do we stand in that era that we’re still going to keep our voice? You’re not buying my voice; you’re not buying my silence.

DeAnna Hoskins: Same things are still going on like Black Lives Matter, but I’m like, nothing has changed, but I haven’t heard from you all. Nothing has changed, but I haven’t heard from you in this moment. I do believe they are doing some work. I believe they’re strategizing. But also, we as a country haven’t heard from you. You got everybody excited, and now, you kind of went radio silence on us. But how do we keep that momentum of – when we raise it, we get raised to a conscious level, we get investments. How do we keep going? I say, “Oh, I’m well financed right now” or different things. How do we keep that momentum going? Stand vigilant, and stand true, and staying authentic to why we were even created, and why we did it. We have to stand in that and being bold about it. 

DeAnna Hoskins: What I would love to see grantees do is understand the process of growing, and not just get comfortable with whatever they get. That if you truly believe in your mission of your organization, and it’s going to impact people. How do we continue to grow? The worst thing I hate is when grassroots organizations come up doing really good work, connecting with the community, changing people’s lives in the community. Then all of a sudden, they disappear, or they get swallowed up by the big nonprofits who see, “Oh, this work is going really well. We want to take it over or we want to exploit it. Then funders stop funding the grassroots because they don’t have the capacity to serve more and the larger nonprofits do. Then what traditionally happens, the larger nonprofit doesn’t have the real touch to proximity in the community that the grassroots have.

DeAnna Hoskins: Allowing funders are allowing our organizations to be controlled by the dollar. I know we need them to operate, but it can’t be controlled. We have to be able to get the courage to say, “We’re not going to do that” or “We’re not going to take that.” You don’t get to treat us this way. You don’t get to co-opt us. Sticking together. What I wish they would do more of is collaboration. Everyone, there’s enough funds out here for everyone. There are enough people to serve, enough communities to address. But we have to be collaborative and not in competition. I actually think funders keep us in competition with unlimited funds, but that’s also being limited to the pool of funding that’s funding your topic. Understanding collaboration allows for knowledge sharing of where other funds are. I always like to use the analogy. It’s a shame to go to an amusement park and only ride the roller coaster, because that’s all you know. You miss the true enjoyment of the whole amusement park and that’s how the funding world is.

DeAnna Hoskins: We get on one roller coaster, everybody’s in line to get on that roller coaster. We’re in competition to get on the roller coaster, when there’s a myriad of other funding. But because we’ve limited ourselves to say, I’m criminal justice reform and not understanding that criminal justice is a symptom of the racial disparities. So no, I’m not focused on criminal justice reform. I’m focused on racial disparities and eradicating racism within a system that are filtering into the criminal justice system. I just opened up my pool of funding to much more of the amusement park than everybody else who stand on the roller coaster.

Nic Campbell: Yeah, I really liked it, you’re focusing in on collaboration. Because I would say from where I sit, that’s needed a lot more. I do agree that it’s hard sometimes to collaborate in a system that is not set up to be collaborative, even though we say that it is. I understand the challenges, but I agree, I think that collaboration would – it would magnify so much impact within communities that actually really need it.

DeAnna Hoskins: I think it goes back to that old saying, there’s power in numbers. If you built the power through the collaboration, and understanding that we’re really not in competition. I always try to tell people collaborating, brightens the pot. It may seem like we’re in competition for the funding, but in a collaborative mode, we have access to more, and we can demand more. Because right now, even the policy changes, the fundings we’re asking for are crumbs. It’s just so bare minimum. It is so bare minimum, Nic. That I sit back some days, and I’m like – I used to work at the post office years ago, and I’m like, “You know, processing mail was not that bad.” When I think about my great, great, great grandkids probably are still going to be fighting this fight, because we’re asking for crumbs. One, because we don’t know our history, so everybody’s recreating the wheel. It’s like, “Dude, we’re so past that.” How do we take what has already been done by our forefathers, the people’s shoulders we stand on, when people – we talk about standing on the shoulders of other advocates, they did some work. How do we take the work they’ve done and build upon it, instead of trying to always start from scratch. We’re always building a new wheel and I’m like, there was some pieces of that wheel we could have brought it with us that would have had us way ahead of the game.

Nic Campbell: I’m going to ask a big follow-up question, DeAnna. Because when you started to explain that point, it made me think about how, “Huh? Okay.” Let’s say I am a leader of a grassroots organization. I’m sitting. I’m part of a group of other nonprofit leaders. We just talked about collaboration, we just talked about – look, we’re getting just small amounts of money compared to the kind of change that we want to have and want to make sure that we’re supporting. What do we do next? What does that next step look like? If we are we’re operating the way we are, we just describe that. But we know where we want to go, we know the kind of change you want to see within the sector as well. What do we do next?

DeAnna Hoskins: Thank you for that, because this is a conversation that I’m having with some real communities right now and it’s around the entry employment. The conversation is, organizations are doing great work around this. We get minimum dollars, and that’s because a lot of the organizations, the smaller ones don’t know how to advocate for the Federal allocations that are coming into their state of how it should be dispersed in their communities. But the larger nonprofits know, that’s why they’re getting all the money, and they know how to advocate. Bringing that collaborative effort together, one, gives us the opportunity to be educated and build power, that we now become a force that actually can advocate on our state level of how those federal dollars are coming into our state and how they’re allocated amongst our community, and how the larger nonprofits that’s been swallowing it up don’t really have access and proximity to the people you’re trying to serve. But as a collaborative, we do, right? How does the collaborative put in that grant application? But also, when you build those collaboratives, you build power. You now become a voice in that community that can talk to your elected officials that are speaking for your community, you’re advocating for the people most marginalized, to actually bring them to the forefront to speak again, which is why it goes back to the original question. Have the people who are directly impacted to be a part of that conversation of how money comes into our communities.

DeAnna Hoskins: You now have become a force up against that one nonprofit who’s this – and typically, is one to two nonprofits in every jurisdiction that has money. Monopolize the funding, federal funding that comes into the state, it is so much money that comes into states from federal government around workforce, labor force, workforce, investment boards, job trainings, housing. People haven’t even tapped into the DLT, but the huge nonprofits that do reentry employment, they know DLT. If they’re building infrastructure, new roads, new sewer in your area, those are federal DLT dollars. Actually, your section three in your area with hood states that any federal dollars that come into your jurisdiction has to have a 35% workforce from the most marginalized communities. But because we don’t know that or we haven’t built the collaborative to even hold the county government accountable, and how these contracts come out, our people are missing the boat on opportunities of economic mobility.

Nic Campbell: That’s really powerful, because it makes me think of this sort of cooperative model that could exist within the nonprofit sector. Formalizing that collaboration, and being really clear about – these are the organizations that we are formally collaborating with. When you think about the ecosystem, it’s like, you know all the different players, but how do we actually collaborate together? What does that look like, and just being – stepping forward with a more cooperative type of bend. That’s what it makes me think about.

DeAnna Hoskins: I’ve been thinking, it’s funny because I use analogies for everything. I had created this concept of checkers, backgammon, and chess. Checkers is the real quick game. Is the real – you move your pieces really quick. Backgammon, you have to line everything up. The chess is a strategy move. You move on strategy, you do it. If you’re thinking about building collaborations and coalitions, what is the checkers game that gets everybody into the room, and that’s the education about the funding, that’s the education about opportunities that lie within their jurisdiction. Using the funding opportunity and education as the character to get them in a room. Now, once they’re in the room, and you’re talking about this funding, you’re moving to backgammon to, how do we align to advocate at our state level that this funding needs to come in, but we advocate and align as a collective that we show power. 

DeAnna Hoskins: Then within that, are there federal legislation rules around the authorization definitions that need to change so that our communities are more inclusive, and intentionally defined as recipients of this funding. I’ll use an example, dislocated worker. Jurisdictions classify dislocated worker the way they want to. My argument, every person in prison is actually working at the prison. You work, most people, especially if you served a long amount of time, you might work in a brake shop, you may work on the yard, you may work in the kitchen, you may work in [inaudible 00:17:10]. When you get discharged from prison, you no longer have that income coming in. You have to find new income. You are really a dislocated worker, that could utilize the training and opportunities through the Workforce Investment Act funds that come into your state. But strategically, those localities do not define that or define those individuals as qualifying.

DeAnna Hoskins: You have to have been laid off from your job in the public sector some type of way. Department of Corrections are public sectors. They released me, I was laid off. I need to be able to have access. Same thing with housing. Obama administration defined the definition of homelessness as leaving an overcrowded facility, jail, and prison all day. Jurisdictions have the discretion. They say, “No. That just means shelters. That doesn’t mean prison, which means a person doesn’t qualify for those houses subsidies.” Who’s more in need of those houses’ subsidies for sustainability and self-sufficiency than a person being recently released from incarceration?

Nic Campbell: Yeah. That kind of information sharing, knowledge sharing that unless you were in this kind of collaborative structure likely wouldn’t have access to it because you’re in your own vacuum doing your own thing. Just a reminder to have those conversations, and be deliberate about it. Because you’re all working towards this common goal. Lots of folks in that ecosystem know lots more than you do. Back to this point, right? This space is being culturally competent, understanding that you’re not, don’t go in there thinking you’re the smartest person in the room, because the possibilities that come back from that.

DeAnna Hoskins: I think it’s very important to just – we throw this word around in community together. I’d be like, we are not in the community, because we don’t even know what’s growing in the community. We don’t even know what’s all accessible in the community. Being in a community is totally different than being in collaboration with each other.

Nic Campbell: Yeah. I think that just when we think about – somebody might say, “Well, what comes next? What could I do? We’ve said it, right? If you’re listening to this, the next thing you should think about is, who do I work closely with, what organizations are in our space or our area that we’re working, and who’s working alongside the same communities that we’re working alongside. It may not be in the same area, but again, shared goals. Taking that approach and saying, “Let’s have a conversation. What does collaboration look like? What does this cooperative model look like?” I think is a really good start for folks.

DeAnna Hoskins: It’s just having that collaboration to build the power. But then like you said, Nic, the various sectors, those become subcommittees all for the collaboration. There’s a Housing Committee, there’s a Substance Abuse Committee. There’s a direct service provider. Everybody has a subcommittee. Even when funding opportunities come, the collaboration say, “Who is the best person that actually go after this funding? Is it the Housing Committee because it’s around housing?” Then, “Who’s the most stable organization that can actually be the main grantor, but everybody else in the committee is a sub grantor on a grant?” Now, the money has been expanded, because the huge nonprofit who has the capabilities of a federal grant, and the mechanism can make you a sub grantee to access funds you never had access to.

Nic Campbell: In that same structure, you are building on your strengths, your safe gardening for your challenge areas within your organization. Because now, there’s a group of organizations working together.

DeAnna Hoskins: You’re growing in your knowledge base of how to expand or sustain your organization.

Nic Campbell: You’re learning. We’re talking about that kind of structure and that kind of collaboration. It makes me think about infrastructure. How do you think about infrastructure at JustLeadership when we’re talking about this kind of cooperative structure as well? When I say infrastructure, I mean, the boards, governance. How are we building out that structure? How are we looking at receiving grant award? What does that entire process look like? If you’re making grants, then how are you making sure that that grant making is reflective of your organizational values? Just how you are set up in terms of your team as well? Do they understand their roles and responsibilities? I’d love to hear how you all are thinking about infrastructure, that kind of emphasis that you put on it, if at all? What would be required when we’re talking about this collaborative approach with nonprofits?

DeAnna Hoskins: Thank you for that. I want to start with the board because I think people think, “Okay. This is the board that I started. It’s the founding board.” But I think boards have to be adjusted based on the growth of the organization and the stage where the organization is. I just literally created a document around how I think about a board of, how do you reset a board, how do you renew a board and then how do you reinvigorate a board? Coming into the organization, I came on the foot, the foundation of a founder, which was a founding board. A founding board has very different purposes than an actual operational board. Typically, your founding board is really helping you get the prestige and acknowledgement you need, introducing you to people, helping you get some funding, secure funding. It’s less about governance at that time.

DeAnna Hoskins: Well then, you move into this growth spurt. You got the funding, you got these protocols, you now – you’re hiring staff. You went from this one person with a vision, now you have staff, you got benefits, you got HR roles. How do I keep accountable of the actual funding that I’m getting? What are the finances of the organization? So it’s time to revisit the board structure, because, does that founding board have the expertise that I need for this growth spurt? Do I need to change my bylaws to expand my board? Because at the time, I just thought I needed three members to get me incorporated, right? Do I need to expand my board? When I expand my board, am I being deliberate around diversity, equity, and inclusion of who’s on my board, who’s represented, what sectors are represented, what expertise is needed on my board to help me? 

DeAnna Hoskins: But then, that also goes down into the capacity of my organization and my team. What you’ll see, what I’ve seen in my experience is all I can share. The team I needed that when it was a founding organization, and the founder or the president is out doing all the speaking, doing all the fundraising. I’ve now grown. I need a development chief development officer. Now, we’re bringing in this funding, I need the CFO to handle that. Who’s my third-party financial management? Who’s handling HR to make sure I’m in compliance. Now, I’m relying on not only the expertise in-house, but some contracting with experts outside who do this as well, but it’s being cognizant of my growth spurt and being deliberate. I’m no longer able to function on a QuickBooks spreadsheet. We have grown. But understanding, and knowing when I’ve reached that capacity, but also, “Is my board accountable for their responsibility of fiscal health and governance of this organization?” Making sure I’m being deliberate around board development, so some of my board members who may not be really versed in that actually have access to the board development to understand it, but also putting some seasoned people on my board who understands it as well so that it actually can mature and you’re having a fully functioning board.

DeAnna Hoskins: I think people look at one part of their organization and not realizing you have to look at it, especially as the president CEO, you have to look at it as a collective coal. If I my organization is going, “Is my board growing in their ability? Because as the president CEO, I can’t do it all. I rely on my chair, my finance committee from my board to sit in on those meetings with staff and the third-party fiscal management in times when I can’t. I check in with my board, I check in with my financial chair, but that they have a clear understanding.” You can’t be all things to all people, so how do you empower? Make sure you have the staff that understands it, but also that you have the board members who are sitting on those subcommittees understand it. So that when it comes to the board meeting, it’s not DeAnna moving the organization. Your board is reporting out, your staff is reporting out, because everybody is committed and invigorated around the mission of this organization, so everyone has taken on the ownership of that organization to ensure this mission moves forward.

Nic Campbell: I really like how you’re thinking about governance, but also how you’re talking about it, right? Because I think people say, “Well, look. We’ve got great passionate folks on the board, they’re really smart or they’re really steeped in an area and my board is good.” But what you’re really highlighting is your board can and should change based on the stage of development that your organization is in. We say this all the time, and to just hear you articulate that as a leader of an organization that’s like, “This is how I’m looking at governance.” To me, it’s just really refreshing. Because when you start to think about your governance structure as something that is really critical to your organization’s development, you can’t then say, “Well, it can never be changed.” This is how it is and that there’s no way. Particularly when you’re saying, “We want to be brave, we want to be innovative, we want to do things that may not have been done previously.” How do you do that when you just said, “This one part of my organization is never ever going to be changed.” I really just liked how you framed it.

DeAnna Hoskins: I think there’s – I’ll add to that too, and I shared this earlier with someone. It also comes down to the leader self-evaluating, have they stayed past their expiration date, right? That’s just being honest. Because you hear the term sometimes, when people step down and say, “It’s time for new thoughts, and new blood, because I’m drained.” If I can no longer bring innovation, I no longer can be moved around new ideas. My expiration date may have just exhausted with this organization. As a professional, I need to step out of the way because if I don’t, I’m now going to hinder this organization, and I’m going to stunt this growth and this impact. If I believe in the mission of the organization to help liberate people, it’s okay for me to say, “You know what, my time has come. It’s really okay” and being okay with that.

Nic Campbell: That takes self-awareness. DeAnna, we talked about that earlier. That takes –

DeAnna Hoskins: I’m telling to quit their jobs, right?

Nic Campbell: How do you know? I mean, you pointed out, when you’re not being innovative, how can you be that self-aware where you’re saying, “Oh! Well, I’m clearly not innovating anymore. I should step out.” What are some indicators that folks would use to say it’s time?

DeAnna Hoskins: I think this is one of the things that we talked about with just leadership. Our leadership training is very different than any other training. Most leadership trainings, focus on principles of leadership, or leadership characteristic styles, right? Our training really focuses on the principles of the internal awareness of how you show up. I think for me, and I only could use myself. It’s the self-evaluation when ideas or the job no longer excites me, or I don’t have these thoughts that truly – not only inside me, but when I share them with my team. If I’m no longer bringing ideas to my team, or if I’m not embracing my team’s ideas, right? Because part of leadership is creating a culture where everyone feels valued and heard. Everyone from my operations director has ideas around how operations should work or how programs – when I started to find myself closing off those ideas of possibility, or I don’t bring any, it’s really time for me to move out the way. I’ve over exhausted and I’m more of a hindrance to the organization. I don’t take jobs I don’t believe in. I just don’t accept assignments I don’t believe in.

DeAnna Hoskins: When I no longer feel I have anything to give, and maybe that’s just part of the work I’ve done on myself. I just don’t believe a stamp pass my expiration date nowhere, right? All right. Okay. I’m good. You may not feel good, but I’m going to go ahead and transition. Because what’s to come will be greater, but if I stay here, I’m going to make myself miserable, and I’m going to make everyone else around me miserable.

Nic Campbell: Yeah. I think it’s such an important point. We talk about leadership, and I think that’s part of leadership, right? Being able to say, I need to create space for other things to happen, for innovation to come into play, for us to really move at a more accelerated pace towards our goal, and to be self-aware enough to say, “I’m not that person. I’m not the person that can or should be doing that.” I think that’s actually part of leadership. Thank you so much for raising it. DeAnna, I could literally talk to you for hours, as you know, but I just want to say that this conversation has been just really refreshing. It reminds me why we need to have leaders in spaces where they are afraid to speak truth to power, and they are bravely leading organizations. This conversation is just really a reminder of that. I want to thank you for sharing everything you have.

DeAnna Hoskins: Oh, thank you.

Nic Campbell: I want to ask you a question that I asked all of our guest to help us continue to build knowledge through books and people you should learn from or about to close this out. What book do you think we should read next or what artist do you think we should be paying attention to?

DeAnna Hoskins: There’s two. I think everyone should read 1619. The reason I say that is because anything that’s controversial shows you there’s a reason people don’t want us to have access to and they don’t want to keep it out of our schools. It’s still the systemic oppression. But what I value at the 1619 is the historical aspect of understanding how almost a lot of things that we have just inherited as generational habits, how it may have originated for us. I don’t think we ever had access to that. But also, the fact that it’s part of our history as black African Americans, black people, is part of our history that we were never been taught, and that people are still fighting from us to understand it. I think if we know the fight of our ancestors, if we know the history, the perseverance, the resilience, we can step more boldly into a space. It’s not only about the book educating us. I think the book gives an empowerment. This fight has already been fought for me, why am I willing to cater or fall down and not just standing my truth, my authenticity.

DeAnna Hoskins: It shows me what has truly been put into people’s or our culture’s DNA of what we survived. There’s a picture – you can tell I like to do stories, but there’s a picture and I never thought about it. But you see these pictures of slave ships, and people bumped up in chain three, four deeps. Somebody sent it to me and said, “To think your ancestors survived this, somewhere down your lineage survived this trip of living a thesis under this, being deported from their country. And today, you want to give up in your trials and your struggles. But someone in your lineage survived that. They already survived the most terrifying trump traumatic part. How dare us give up today, because we got to sit and call philanthropy out. How dare us give up simply because we want to call out the wrongs that are going on when we have a history of people in our ancestral line that has survived the most traumatic experience a human can go through?

DeAnna Hoskins: That’s how I kind of speak today. I’ll always be like, “Well, you already took my freedom. You’ve taken the freedom of some of my children. Yeah, we did some actions that needed to be accountable. You’ve inflicted trauma into that incarceration on my son. What can you take from me at this point? How dare I not speak about the inhumanity and the conditions of confinement that we as a people are experiencing when we’re held accountable? How incarceration is a replication of that journey that our ancestors took is just all of the racial disparities and the collateral consequences. It’s just a new way to still say what you can’t have or what you can’t do in my country. We’ve used your criminal record, but there again, in the book, there again, understanding the criminal justice system was built off the abolishment of slavery as a way to still exploit free labor. It’s only a continuation and how dare us not fighting when our people fought against slavery. I know, we’re still in the middle of this fight, so we can’t give up.

Nic Campbell: Well, I’m going to put all about 1619 in the show notes so that people can experience exactly what you’re describing, because it just sounds incredibly powerful. I’m sure that people are going to want to devour it more. Thank you so much for sharing that. Seriously, DeAnna, this conversation has been so powerful. I think, again, we talked about cultural competence and just really breaking down what that means. I think throughout the conversation, talking about self-awareness, the power that it provides when you are self-aware, and you step into conversations to learn, and that then leads to collaboration. Then, thinking about investment and how that shows up in communities, but also in organizations when we’re talking about the nonprofit sector. At the end of the day, being brave enough to tell your story. So I want to thank you again so much for your time. I think everything that you’ve shared will allow leaders to build their own organizations bravely.

DeAnna Hoskins: Thank you. Thank you for the invite. It’s been a great conversation. I appreciate it.

-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 non-profit sector. Keep building bravely.

 

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