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Making the Case for General Support Funding with A. Nicole Campbell

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

You will hear us talk a lot about general support funding or flexible funding on the Nonprofit Build Up podcast, including Episode 22 – General Support Funding with A. Nicole Campbell. Many leaders in the nonprofit sector are speaking out about how crucial general support funding is for creating sustainable and effective organizations. And we agree. This series goes a little deeper into discussing why the majority of funding is not general support and what the delays are that slow down general support grants from becoming the default grants of the sector.

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

Listen to Part 1:

Listen to Part 2:

Resources:

Read the 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 Katy T., Build Up’s Program Coordinator. This week on the Nonprofit Build Up, we are making the case for general support funding. This episode was originally recorded as a webinar with Angelyn Frazer-Giles, Executive Director of the National Network for Justice. 

Katy Thompson: Angelyn was previously featured on the Nonprofit Build Up on episode 9, Increasing Access for Grassroots Organizations. You will hear us talk a lot about general support funding or flexible funding on the Nonprofit Build Up podcast, including last week’s episode introducing the importance of general support grants. 

Katy Thompson: Many leaders in the nonprofit sector are speaking out about how crucial general support funding is for creating sustainable and effective organizations. And we agree. This episode goes a little deeper into discussing why the majority of funding is not general support, and what the delays are that slow down general support grants from becoming the default grants of the sector. 

Katy Thompson: And with that, here is Nic’s discussion about general support funding with Angelyn Frazer-Giles. 

Nic Campbell: Thanks so much, Angelyn. It’s my pleasure to be here. And I really love the work that NNJ does. And so, I’m very happy to be having this conversation. When we started to talk about what this conversation would look like and what we would be able to cover, we started to talk about funding, right? And we started this conversation around why can’t we have more flexible funding throughout the sector? What is it that’s preventing funders from just making this a default position? And so, that’s always been my question about why can’t we make the default position within the sector to be general support funding? 

Nic Campbell: And I’ve heard some arguments against doing that. And I think in some instances it just might not work if you’re working with a particular organization and you’re trying to – A university is a great example. If you’re trying to support a school, for example, within the university. Giving general support to the entire university is not what’s intended. But I do think what is intended is flexibility and how that school or the intended grantee uses the funding. And so, this idea around general support is really about flexibility in funding and giving the ability of how to use that funding over to the grantee, right? And what are our steps to get there? 

Nic Campbell: And so, what I want to talk about today is what is general support? I think we use that term a lot. I want to explain what I mean by it. What do we mean when we say project support or project grants? Talk about two concepts; expenditure responsibility and equivalency determination. We’ll talk about when those things come into play. But I do think that we need to talk about them in order to have a real conversation around general support. 

Nic Campbell: Again, I do believe that in the majority of cases, general support is the most effective form of support that funders can provide to nonprofits to support their projects, programs and overall sustainability. This is how we build organizational capacity. You do it with flexible funding, unrestricted funding, and the general support. Yes, of course, you can build an organization that is sustainable through project support funding or project grants. But you want to make sure that the funding you’re providing is as flexible and unrestricted as possible. And I’ll walk through why. 

Nic Campbell: Why aren’t we there, right? This sounds really logical, right? Like, “Okay. Well, Nic, you’ve explained that you want to give flexibility to organizations. You want to get funding.” Why aren’t we there? And in my opinion, I think we’re not there because we have not built trusting relationships, right? And when I say we, I mean, funders and grantees. I think at the base of it, there is a lack of trust and there’s a lack of relationship that’s happening, which is influencing whether or not general support grants are then being made. 

Nic Campbell: And I think that that’s a big statement. And I think people will say, “Well, of course, I trust this organization. Of course, we have a relationship.” But I would actually challenge that and say, “Is it the kind of relationship where you say here is a set of unrestricted funds. Use it as you would like.” And I assured, and I trust that you understand my goals and we understand your goals, and we’re working towards the same aims, right? I think having that conversation and clarifying that relationship is at the core of all of this. And so, we can talk about all these tools. We can talk about giving general support grants, and project support grants, and expenditure responsibility, and how to do that with equivalency determinations and things like that. But to me, those things are tools. And at the core of it, it’s do you have this trusting relationship that will be able to support the use of all of those tools? When we say general operating support, what are we actually talking about? We’re talking about supporting a nonprofit’s mission, right? As opposed to saying, “I’m going to support this line item of a specific project or a program.” 

Nic Campbell: Again, we’ve talked about why funders, grantors should be providing general operating support. One, because it does build strong sustainable infrastructure. You’re not wedded to spending funds on a particular line item or a particular project. You can actually spend it to build capacity. You can help to build out the infrastructure of your organization, build out your governance, build out the way that you’re making grants if you are a grant-making nonprofit. It frees up the time that people are spending on fundraising, because now they don’t say, “Okay. Well, there’s 10 line items in our project. We’ve got two of them funded. Let’s go out and fundraise for the other eight.” Right? 

Nic Campbell: You are now thinking holistically, and it changes the way you start to tell your organization’s story and how you’re trying to say, “Here’s how you can support us.” And the reporting changes as well. Because now you’re giving reports on programs and initiatives throughout the organization and not doing it piecemeal, right? Project by project. I think it does reduce that power imbalance between grant maker and grantee that might exist. Because, again, you’re basing it on a trusting relationship. And this is where it comes from, right? This is where the flexibility comes from. The ability to say you’re going to use the funds the way you determine that you should use them. I think it allows an organization to be innovative and to actually take risks, right? 

Nic Campbell: Like, think of what you would do if you had a safety net, right? Think of what you would do if you had the ability to build your sustainability and your capacity. I think that’s a much different way of looking at things compared to, “Well, we’ve got a line item here. We still have to raise the other seven. How will we do that?” And you’re constantly worrying about how you’re raising funds against line items as opposed to how you’re building an organization. And at the core of all of this, it’s really about how are you giving your non-profit leaders space to lead? How are you giving them space to problem solve? And how are you giving them space to build an organization? I don’t think that once you give the funds, that’s it. 

Nic Campbell: I also think that what a company’s general support should be technical assistance support. You know, a lot of questions have been raised, “Well, if I give a general support award, it’s like writing a blank check. Essentially, how will I be able to find out what’s happened? How will I you know be able to monitor?” And I think, again, once you have that underlying trusting relationship, you can continue to work alongside the organization because of that really strong relationship. And you’re helping to say, “I have networks that I can introduce you to. I have other tools that I can have you use.” Because you’re providing technical assistance along with the money. 

Nic Campbell: I do not think that just providing general support funding is all it takes. I also think you need that additional capacity building support, the technical assistance that comes with it. And what do we mean when we say project or program support? We talk about supporting a specific project, or a specific program, or initiative of the organization. What can it help you do? You can actually respond directly to new and innovative projects. You could help to build out programs focus explicitly on that work that the project grant is funding. You have more control as a funder, right? You’re able to say, “Show me how this particular project has performed, a program has performed, a metric that you have articulated you would be following is doing. And you get into this idea of like not having this heavy reliance on one funding source. 

Nic Campbell: If you’ve got 10-line items and a funder is funding each of those line items, now you’re diversifying funding as a default, as opposed to having one funder giving you general support funding that you’re using any way you’d like. What are some of the limitations? Why do I constantly push for for general support? I really do believe that grantee organizations are the ones doing the work and they’re the ones that actually know the community that they’re serving best. Why not give them the ability to determine how then they want to use those funds, again, along with that technical assistance that’s being provided? 

Nic Campbell: I’ve also found this in my practice over seeing lots of different nonprofit organizations and leaders over the past 16 years, that what happens is you start to write to the grant, right? You start to write and create projects and programs to meet the funding ask, right? You might have an idea in your head where you’re like, “I think this is innovative. And I think this is the way to go.” But instead, what you do is, “Well, I know that there’s a pot of money that is living there for this particular kind of work. Now, let me write to that grant, right? Now, let me make this program fit that mold.” And so, I think that that does happen. 

Nic Campbell: And I think if you’re given piecemeal, you have to think about this, right? You’re giving piecemeal kinds of support and saying, “Okay, well I’m supporting this project or that program.” When you stop supporting a line item or you stop supporting that project, how is it being sustained over time? Because all of the things that you’re putting limits on, like, “Oh, we’re only giving 20% of this. We’re only giving 30% for overhead,” let’s say. Well, people still need desks to do their work, right? You still need electricity to do your work. You need all of those things that constitute infrastructure that we put limits on and we say, “We’re not going to – Our grant is only going to support this percentage of it.” What’s going to happen to the other 70%, the other 80%, that no other funder wants the fund because everyone wants to fund the program, the project, the work so to speak? 

Nic Campbell: What happens then is these projects may not be sustained over time. The project that you’re so interested in, that one might succeed. But what about the others that are not being supported or somebody drops out? Now you have projects being started not being sustained. And the overall effectiveness of the organization is decreasing, right? Just because one program is “succeeding”. If it’s succeeding in an environment that’s not sustainable, it is not succeeding, right? And so, those are some of the limitations that I’ve seen over the years and that I think that project support awards tend to facilitate. 

Nic Campbell: I’m not saying that project support is bad and never ever receive it. I just think that the default, the place we start from should be how do we award unrestricted flexible funding to this organization in order for them to be sustainable and build their capacity while doing the work that we’re interested in supporting. Now, the reason I wanted to talk about expenditure responsibility is because now that we’ve talked through general support and project support, some people might say, “Well, that only works when you’re making a grant to a public charity. When you make a grant to an organization that’s not a public charity, you have to deal with expenditure responsibility.” And this is only if the grant maker is a private foundation. If you’re a public charity and you’re making grants, you don’t have to worry about expenditure responsibility. But private foundations do. 

Nic Campbell: And private foundations then have to comply with all the ER requirements that say you have to do lots of different things. You have to have an agreement. You have to put certain language in the agreement. You have to conduct certain diligence. And you really can’t give a general support grant to an organization that’s not charitable, right? If you think about the example of giving a grant to a for-profit, and the for-profit would say has a really great charitable program, and you say, “Well, Nic said we should always give general support grants. I’m going to give it to this organization.” When you’re giving this general support grant to this for-profit that does for-profit things, you can’t do that as a private foundation because now you’re supporting things that are not charitable. You haven’t really supported that carve out project. That’s the concern when it gets to expenditure responsibility where people will say, “Well, we can’t obviously do general support in that context.” So, it has to be a project support grant, right? 

Nic Campbell: And I agree that you can’t just give the sort of blanket type of support to organizations that are not charitable when you’re dealing with expenditure responsibility. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t build in flexibility, right? It doesn’t mean that when you make that project award, you can build in the maximum amount of flexibility that is allowed under the law. And I don’t see that push to get us to that maximum level of flexibility under the law as much as I would like. 

Nic Campbell: I would love it if the place that we’re starting from is unrestricted flexible funding. And however it shows up, we meet those different situations. If we’re dealing with a for-profit with a charitable program that is carved out, then we give a project support grant that has the maximum amount of flexibility that is allowed in that instance. That’s what I’m saying when I talk about how we should approach funding. I’m not saying in every single instance, general support is appropriate or even legal. But I am saying that there are ways to have it happen. 

Nic Campbell: And so, when someone brings up expenditure responsibility, the thinking here is there’s still ways to do it. And I just want to see us try to get there. Because there’s lots of grassroots organizations that they’re not public charities for whatever reason, right? When we think about innovation, when we think about ways to show up and have social impact, it’s not just the public charity that can have social impact, right? There’s lots of different organizations that are not forprofits, but there are other kinds of entities that would fall under expenditure responsibility. And I don’t think that it’s logical or reasonable to say, “Well, because you’re not a public charity, we can’t possibly give you additional flexibility in this award. And we have to change the way we work or operate.” 

Nic Campbell: The other one I wanted to talk through is equivalency determination, because the question determination is essentially a process that you go through where you determine that a foreign grantee, a non-US entity, is the equivalent of a US public charity, right? You basically say, “Look, if you were formed in the United States, you would basically be a US public charity. But because you weren’t, we’re going to have to go through a process that makes sure that you’re the equivalent of a US public charity.” Once you go through that process, what it essentially does is it allows you to treat that organization as a US public charity. Otherwise, you’re in expenditure responsibility, right? Because you’re making a grant to an organization that is not a public charity. That’s when expenditure responsibility comes into play in the US and outside the US. 

Nic Campbell: Equivalency determination only comes into play when you’re dealing with organizations that are outside of the US. And so, here, it’s another tool to say, “How do we make sure that we can get you flexible funding?” Right? How do we make sure that we can put you under the general support rubric and give you the amount of funding that you need and have you use it in the way that you see best, again, providing technical assistance along the way? And equivalency determination is a process. So, you want to make sure that you’re supporting the grantee through that, because you’re asking for operations information and finances to essentially get to that point where you’re making that determination about equivalency. 

Nic Campbell: And so, that’s really what I wanted to talk through so that we could set ourselves up for our conversation. And again, like just to start us off or have us think about why is the majority of funding not general support, right? After everything that I’ve talked through, why do we think that we’re still in this space where the majority of the funding that’s awarded is actually not general support? And in fact, when COVID hit last year and started particularly within the United States, we had a lot of conversions, right? We had a lot of grants being converted from project support to general support. Why? Why did it take a pandemic for us to get to that point? And there’s some organizations, there’s some foundations, even after they’ve made that conversion, they’re still gone back to providing project support, right? It’s just like we think this is a crisis. And so, we think you need the flexibility. But in a non-crisis situation, you actually don’t need flexibility, and you’re fine with the project support grant. 

Nic Campbell: I would push us and challenge us to ask ourselves why is that the case? And then what’s slowing us down? What’s making us say why can’t general support grants or that approach of unrestricted flexible funding be the default approach for the sector? Like, what’s slowing us down there? 

Katy Thompson: We are going to pause the conversation here. There’s a lot we have to say about general support funding. Nic raised so many important points and questions to ponder that we wanted to space this discussion out over two episodes. Stay tuned for part two next week.

-Upbeat Outro Music-

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

 

Part Two

-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, its Katy T., Build Up’s Program Coordinator. This week on the Nonprofit Build Up, we’re continuing our conversation about general support funding. This episode was originally recorded as a webinar with Angelyn Frazer-Giles, Executive Director at the National Network for Justice. 

Katy Thompson: In this episode, Nic gets technical, and discusses how to request general support grants and how to structure these awards to nonprofits and social impact entities. Angelyn and Nic also addressed how to build relationships, and trust and redefine risks to effectively transition to general support. At Build Up, we believe that in the majority of cases. General support is the most effective form of support that funders can provide to nonprofit organizations to support their programs, projects and overall sustainability, which is why we’re dedicating a significant amount of time on the podcast to discuss it. And with that, here is the second and final part of Nic discussion about general support funding with Angelyn Frazer-Giles.

Nic Campbell: And then I also want to turn it on to the nonprofits as well, who are requesting grants. Because, yes, it’s funders that are talking about awarding project support grants. But I also find that as grantees are just asking for project support grants, I think it’s just because this is what we’ve been conditioned to do. So, how do you actually request them? How do you put yourself in a position where you’ve been receiving project grants for years and now you want to say, “No, I actually want to receive general support grants. And I want that technical assistance support so that I can continue to build out the capacity of my organization and become more sustainable.” How do you structure these grants to these innovative entities, right? Entities that are not public charities. They’re just other nonprofits, or they just might be social impact entities? How do we structure those grants to do those things? 

Nic Campbell: And I think most importantly, how do you build relationships and trust and redefine risk? How you’re thinking about risk to effectively transition to general support? Because I do think that without answering that final question, everything else is going to be sort of fits and starts, right? So, you’re going to see a wave of, “Hey, let’s all do general support.” And then you’re going to see it sort of stall. And you’re going to see it start up again. And we’ve seen that already, right? We’ve seen the largest foundation say, “We’re going to focus on general support and providing more flexible awards.” And then there’s kind of been a stop, right? Encouraging other foundations to do the same. But there’s going to stop. 

Nic Campbell: COVID then surfaces. And it’s, “Okay, well, let’s convert to general support. This is great. Let’s give all this generous support so we can provide flexibility to these organizations.” And now there’s sort of a lull. So why do we keep having those lulls? I really think it’s because at the core of it, we need to build those relationships and trust and think about and talk about how we’re defining risk. But I’ve said a lot. And so, I will stop there, Angelyn, and turn it back over to you. 

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: No. Great, great information. I’m going to ask, if anyone does have any questions, they could feel free to put it in the Q&A. But I have a couple of questions. And one of them has to do with the slide that talked about equivalency determination? And if you could just go over that a little bit, because I think I missed the first part of the concept in terms of foreign entities and how that relates to the nonprofit that is a US-based nonprofit. Could you just explain that one a little bit more?

Nic Campbell: So, when we talk about general support, and this idea that we’re giving flexible funding, unrestricted funding to organizations, some of the pushback or challenges might be, “Well, you can only do that with a US public charity.” You can only do that with an organization that is designated by the IRS as a public charity. And so, when you start to deal with organizations that are not US public charities, both within the United States and outside the United States, right, because it’s grassroots organizations around the world working within communities, you can’t then make those grants. So, they have to be project support grants. Let’s not even talk about flexibility when it comes to those organizations. 

Nic Campbell: And so, equivalency determination comes in, because it’s a way of saying we find that this organization that is based outside the United States is the equivalent of a US public charity. Once you go through that process to make that determination, now, that organization essentially can be treated just like a US public charity. So, that means that this organization, that before this equivalency determination process was not eligible for this broad general support client where you could support all aspects of the organization’s work necessarily, now they can, because they have been seen and deemed to be the equivalent of a US public charity. 

Nic Campbell: And so, as a result, you’re able to give broad support just like you would give to a US public charity. You can give them a lot of the flexibility and the options that you provide to US public charities. So, there’s another tool to do that. And sometimes it just requires that you’re going line by line through budgets when you’re in expenditure responsibility. So, now you’re making a grant to an organization that’s not a US public charity. It’s also based outside the US. And let’s say you don’t go through the clemency determination process, because for whatever reason, it just doesn’t qualify. And it doesn’t have to be for charitable reasons, but it just doesn’t qualify, you can still award funding in a flexible way to that organization, right? You literally just have to go through budget line by budget line to ensure that its charitable and what you’re supporting would be charitable. But you don’t have to designate it to a particular line item. I think there’s ways to do it. Equivalency determination is one. But also, being creative and how you’re thinking about supporting organizations that are not US public charities both within and outside the United States is another.

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: Okay. Thank you. Thank you for that clarification. We have a question. And I’m going to allow this person to talk if they want to say the question. I’ll just open up your mic. And if you want to say your question, you’re more than welcome to do so. And if not, I can also just read it. So, whichever you prefer. 

Nic Campbell: Cool. Thank you, Angelyn. Can you hear me okay?

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: Yes, we can hear you.

Nic Campbell: Thank you so much. This is really fantastic info. And really appreciate that this is a rare conversation in a lot of these spaces. Thank you, Nic, so much for presenting all of this. My question was around the challenge that I think a lot of smaller nonprofit organizations run into in general, which is, if you’re kind of a small fish, it’s hard to get the attention of foundations at all to fund your work. And so, then asking for general support seems like it’s just out of the question. So, I’m wondering if you find that there is a scale issue or a size issue that goes along with this? And if you have any suggestions for how to navigate that?

Nic Campbell: So, I appreciate the question. And I think what I’ve found – I’m not going to discount the fact that there is a size difference between a lot of the grassroots organizations that I work with and some of the largest funders, some of whom I work with as well. But I will say that scale, I think, is actually perception, right? Because if you were clear about your value add, if you were clear about this is what my organization does. This is our unique value proposition. This is what we’re adding to this ecosystem. This is the kind of impact that we’re having and the problem solving that we’re doing with the community. It doesn’t matter how “small” you are. It’s about your impact. And it’s about how you’re showing up. 

Nic Campbell: And so, when you come to that conversation with a funder to say, Essentially, we’re having this conversation because you’re interested in supporting us. If you’re interested in supporting us, then you’re interested in supporting that impact.” And so, finding a way to, one, be clear about your impact and your unique value prop and what you’re adding. But also, being clear that general support, I don’t think it’s like, “Well, you should start with project and then you get general.” It’s that this is how you invest in this organization. This is how you invest in the people and the capacity in the building of this organization. And this is the way to do it, is through general support grants, is through capacity building grants. It’s not through line item grants. 

Nic Campbell: And I think having that conversation. And again, if you have that relationship, that trusting relationship between whoever you’re talking to at the foundation or the funder, and they have whoever’s talking to them from your organization, that conversation goes a lot easier, right? I think it’s harder when people don’t have the relationship. They also don’t understand the risk. Because at the end of the day, the funder is just thinking in terms of risk, right? You’re thinking, “Is this risky? Will this actually pan out?” And no one really has a shared understanding of what risk means. Risk to them can mean you’re small, right? So, you’re risky. And if that’s the case, then we need to be clear about why that is a risk, as opposed to just being different. Why is it a risk as opposed to being an actual advantage? Because you can now engage with the community in a way that a large organization might not. 

Nic Campbell: I think a lot of these points really just go around how can you establish your impact? How can you make that clear to the funder? You also need a trusting relationship. I know, that’s the hard thing to build. But I think you need a trusting relationship. Because to be honest, even if you get a project support grant and that trusting relationship is not there, you’re going to see it in the monitoring. You’re going to see it in the reporting. You’re going to see it in the way that you’re engaging with each other anyway. So, you need to build that trusting relationship in order for all of those things to come together and see general support as an investment in this organization and getting them closer to the impact that they’re saying that they want. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be having the conversation with you. 

Nic Campbell: And so, that’s how I advise and counsel my clients to approach the conversation. We can talk about ways to be a little more creative. If for some reason the organization might not want to provide general support because sometimes that is the policy of the funder, and if that’s the case, then we think about how do we do this in a creative way as opposed to just saying, “Okay. Well, let’s just default to project support grants.” 

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: Yeah, it really was. Thank you. In that same vein, I have a question regarding – You talked about when the pandemic hit last year, when everything shut down, and folks were trying to do some of that basic support to communities, right? And after George Floyd, it was the conversation about race. And there was this reckoning for people who, I guess, didn’t feel racism existed in this world. There were all of these shifts, right? Where we saw some of the organizations that we support, they then have to like shift their mission and focus because the funders were then shifting their focus and various guidelines on funding. 

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: And you just talked about it slowing down. Like, it opened up. There was some general support. And then it’s starting to slow down a little bit more where they’re now fully re-evaluating, “Okay, where were we a year ago? And how do we continue down that path? Or do we need to structurally change things?” And I’m just curious as to how you’ve been able to talk to folks about not changing their mission to fit that mold that you discussed about the funding that exists and trying to find that one key word that’s in your mission that might be – The one key word that’s in the funding application and really get people to really step back and maybe say, “Well, maybe that’s not a good fit for me. Because if I have to change my mission and my goals, then I’m not being true to what my organization is about.” 

Nic Campbell: It’s a really good question, right? Because I think what it puts into play for me is that a few things. The first is if you’re in an emergency situation as an organization and you have payroll or you have just needs that need to be met immediately, I think, yes, go – If you can pivot easily, pivot easily and get the funding. Because it’s about staying alive at this point. 

I think if you’re in that kind of dire situation, I wouldn’t then say, “Well, no, I’m just going to hold off. And I’m not going to change because of all of these other things,” which are all valid if you’re in that emergency kind of situation. I would say pivot if you can and accept the funds, right? Because you want that lifeline. 

Nic Campbell: If you’re not in that dire of a situation and you’re just saying, “Look, we do need the funds. We need the revenue. How will we do that? Do we need to pivot?” I think you are in a position that is saying a ton about your infrastructure, right? It’s telling me that you are not diversified. It’s telling me that something is missing in that compelling story that you’re telling in order to fundraise, right? It says to me that you might be telling a great story around impact, for example. How you’re working with communities? But you’re not necessarily telling a very good story about your infrastructure, and all of the infrastructure that it takes to get to that impact. 

Nic Campbell: I think that once you get to the point where you’re thinking, “Should I pivot? I need this money. I need the revenue.” It’s actually a time to think about what in your infrastructure is not in place that have put you into this position? I think, one, very easily, could be diversification of revenue. Because there’s a series that I do on Fridays. It’s called fastball Fridays. Just like a few minutes of video, and we talk about infrastructure in each of those episodes. One of them that I put out is can you say no to a grant? Like, are you in the position to say no to a grant because it does not align with the way you want to problem solve alongside the community that you’re serving? And if your answer is, “No, Nic. Actually, I can’t say no to a grant at this point.” Then to me, it’s a signal that we need to work on governance. We need to work on your capacity. We need to work on how you’re doing your fundraising in terms of diversification of funding. Who you are actually reaching out to? 

Nic Campbell: There’s a lot of infrastructure pieces that I think that we should delve into that will actually strengthen your organization and put you in a much better place than you having to think about should I have to take this money or not? I think if you are at that stage and you have some space to at least say, “Look, it’d be nice to have, of course. But we actually don’t need it right now.” I would spend some time thinking about my infrastructure. I’m thinking about your board’s engagement and involvement oversight and accountability within the organization. How your capacity looks within your team, within your systems, your processes? Because something has gotten you to the point where you are now thinking of pivoting, changing your mission. You’re not talking about kind of a tweak. We’re talking about you changing your mission the way you work. I would say that you are almost at that stage of being really in dire condition. It’s a signal to me to start to focus on the infrastructure a lot more. 

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: Wow! Thank you. Thank you so much for. That’s really telling. Because I think we’re all in the position of having to look at our organizations and determine whether or not what we’re doing for the infrastructure is working. And is it sustainable over time? And asking yourself that question, can you turn down a grant? Because I think a lot of folks are also looking at situations where someone may be a great – Willing to offer you some money. But maybe it doesn’t fit in with your heart strength. So, it may be what their mission is, is really not necessarily what you want to align yourself with. Especially being able to step back and look at that situation and say, “Well, maybe that is what we shouldn’t do. Maybe we keep looking.” Do you have any advice for looking at foundational grants versus more uh corporate type grants? And that goes along with what I was just talking about. Making sure that whatever the mission is of that corporation fits in with your model or your vision. Do you have any suggestions or ideas on how to look at those? 

Nic Campbell: Yeah, I think when it comes to fundraising and development, the work that I do around infrastructure necessarily touches on it, right? Because you want to make sure that you’re strong enough to actually take funds, to actually go out and ask for funds. And so, when I hear – When I ask organizations about donors. Who are they receiving money from? Who’s in their donor base? And when it comes to fundraising and development, the work that I do around infrastructure necessarily touches on it, right? Because you want to make sure that you’re strong enough to actually take funds. To actually go out and ask for funds. 

Nic Campbell: And so, when I ask um organizations about donors. Who are they receiving money from? Who’s in their donor base? And when I hear it’s just all foundations. All private foundations. I like the fact that it’s diversified and it’s not like two foundations or one foundation. But I always want to ask about what about corporations? What about individuals? What about high-net-worth individuals? How about individuals that want to do sort of crowd sourcing, crowd funding types of contributions? 

Nic Campbell: And if they have a strategic response to that to say, “Oh, actually, here’s why corporations are not necessarily interested. Or here’s why they’re making up 2% of our donor um base.” I think that’s fine. But I want to make sure that we’ve had the conversation and I’ve asked the question. Because you need to know who your ideal donor is. And you make sure you’re as diversified as possible. I also think that we need to consider and explore earned income options and models as well. And again, it’s not to say that it is for everyone. But again, I want to make sure that you ask the question and you have a conversation as to why it’s not. 

Nic Campbell: And what I find a lot is that we start off from a place of we are just going after foundation grants. And I think that there’s a lot of other types of donors out there that might be interested in the work that you’re doing and the impact that you’re having that are not foundations. And so, it’s a matter of having that strategic conversation around does it make sense to have a campaign around corporations? Around individuals? Around different types of social impact entities that might be interested in the work that we’re doing? And again, you may not come out saying yes to all of those things. But at least you have the conversation and you’ve raised the question. 

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: Okay. Thank you. Thank you very much for that. I have one other – It’s really not a question. It’s just a statement for you to, first of all, say thank you so much for you being a partner with National Network for Justice. You have helped a couple of our members in their infrastructure and their strategic planning. And everybody loves you and thinks that you just are able to just put your thumb on the issue and really help aboard and help the staff work through whatever the issues are that they’re dealing with. So, I want to thank you for that. And please tell people how they can get in touch with you. Any type of service that you want to say that you are here for, that you are doing for folks. I know you are very, very busy. And so, you taking the time out to do this for us is really, really appreciated. And just want to give you the opportunity to talk about – 

Nic Campbell: I really appreciate that, Angelyn. And as I mentioned at the the top of our conversation, I do enjoy the work that we’re doing together and all that NNJ is doing for its members and for the community generally. If people want to be in touch, I would love it if you would be. We have a podcast. It’s called the Nonprofit Build Up. And so, it’d be great if you could take a listen to our episodes and also subscribe, because we would love to have you share all of the new episodes that are coming out. We have conversations with leaders and problem solvers within the sector about how to build infrastructure, fundraising and development. The same kinds of questions that we’ve talked through around do we pivot if we need the money? What does that say about our message and about our organization and sustainability? That’s definitely one way. 

Nic Campbell: Another is to please sign up for our newsletter. We send it out weekly. And we share lots of tips and resources within it. And you can just do that at our website, which is buildupadvisory.com. And you can sign up right there on the website. And right before you sign up, it’d be great if you could take a governance assessment, right? And so, we offer a free governance assessment where you can go on to the assessment and you go through it, answer questions about your board. You can have your colleagues take it as well if there’s more people on staff within your organization. And what we do is we take the information and then we come back with a governance assessment for you to give you an idea of where your organization is in terms of its governance and in terms of its development. Please pop on over to buildupadvisory.com. Take the assessment and also sign up for our newsletter. 

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: Sounds great. I get the newsletter. NNJ was featured in the newsletter a couple times. So, thank you. 

Nic Campbell: That’s right. 

Angelyn Frazer-Giles: So, we appreciate that. But – 

Katy Thompson: And that concludes this week’s episode. As you heard, general support allows nonprofits to have long-term vision while flexibly and easily addressing their immediate needs, which is particularly relevant in crises as we saw when many funders quickly converted their project support grants to general support grants in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are curious to know how you are thinking about general support funding as either a nonprofit or a funder. Send us your answers and infrastructure comments and questions to hello@buildupadvisory.com.

-Upbeat Outro Music-

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

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Rewriting the Narrative for Community Investment with Susan Burton (RECAST)

Over the next two weeks, we are recasting one of our very first episodes of the Nonprofit Build Up as a two-part series. In this series, you will hear Nic’s conversation with Susan Burton, a leader in the criminal justice reform movement, founder of A New Way of Life Reentry Project, and outspoken voice to end mass incarceration. Susan shares why she founded A New Way of Lifeshines a light on the policies and practices that encourage mass incarceration, and offers advice for leaders and organizations for building infrastructure and investing in their communities. 

Listen to Part One Here:

Listen to Part Two Here:

Resources:

About Susan Burton

Susan Burton is a leader in the criminal justice reform movement, founder of A New Way of Life, and outspoken voice to end mass incarceration. Following the tragic accidental death of her five-year-old son, Susan’s world collapsed. Her loss snapped the final tether of resilience burdened by a past of pain and trauma. She descended into an emotional abyss of darkness and despair, but living in South Los Angeles, Susan didn’t have access to the resources she needed to heal. Without support, she turned to drugs and alcohol, which led to nearly 20 years revolving in and out of prison.

Drawing on her personal experiences, she founded A New Way of Life Reentry Project (ANWOL) in 1998, dedicating her life to helping other women break the cycle of incarceration. ANWOL provides resources such as housing, case management, employment, legal services, leadership development and community organizing on behalf of, and with, people who struggle to rebuild their lives after incarceration.

Susan has earned numerous awards and honors for her work. In 2010, she was named a CNN Top Ten Hero and received the prestigious Citizen Activist Award from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She is a recipient of both the Encore Purpose Prize (2012) and the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award (2014).

In 2015, on the 50th Anniversary of Selma and the Voting Rights Act, Susan Burton was named by the Los Angeles Times as one of 18 New Civil Rights Leaders in the nation. Released in 2017, her memoir, Becoming Ms. Burton, received a 2018 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in the category of Biography/Autobiography. Becoming Ms. Burton is also the recipient of the inaugural Goddard Riverside Stephan Russo Book Prize for Social Justice. She holds an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from California State University, Northridge.

Read the 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 Katy, Build Up’s Manager of Global Operations. This week on theNonprofit Build Up, we have a special surprise. We are recasting one of our very first episodes of the Nonprofit Build Up as a two-part series. Over the next two weeks, you will hear Nic’s conversation with Susan Burton, a leader in the criminal justice reform movement, founder of A New Way of Life Reentry Project, and outspoken voice to end mass incarceration.

Katy Thompson: Susan’s life story is incredibly powerful. And in this episode, she shares why she founded A New Way of Life, shines a light on the policies and practices that encourage mass incarceration, and offers advice for leaders and organizations for building infrastructure and investing in their communities.

Katy Thompson: This interview was recorded a little over a year ago, and we are still deeply moved by this conversation. It encourages us to rethink what it means to have vision, how to invest in marginalized communities, and how to build sustainably. Susan’s advice is so incredibly transparent, honest, and powerful. We encourage you to listen and absorb all of the information Susan shares about how we can each write and appreciate a new narrative. And with that, here is Susan Burton.

Nicole Campbell: Hi Susan, I am so very excited to have you join us today and for our conversation. To get us started, can you tell us about A New Way of Life Reentry Project, your role there, and A New Way of Life immediate priority?

Susan Burton: So, A New Way of Life is a growing organization located…it’s based in South Los Angeles. It is an emerging, what I would call, an emerging model for this nation to create, what I would call, sustainable passages and openings for people who are coming back from incarceration, but it’s also a way to divert people from incarceration to positive lifestyles and influences within the community. So when I think of what a new way of life stands for, it stands for the ability for communities to go from being oppressed, to surviving, to thriving in a way that we, as I can say, black people, have always struggled to, and for, you know, thriving in this country. And some might make it out to a place that they feel like they’re thriving, but so many more are left behind to deal with oppression, suppression, and just surviving the racism of this nation.

Nicole Campbell: I think that is all so needed. And I know we were talking right before we started recording about your work and I wanted to dig into the model, the immersion model, that you talked about, and the work that you’re doing. Can you talk about, first, your role there and your connection to A New Way of Life?

Susan Burton: Yeah, so I am Founder and President of A New Way of Life Reentry Project. And I founded A New Way of Life based on my own experience of being re-incarcerated and re-incarcerated and re-incarcerated. Of being a person that this nation or its justice system did not want to make a positive investment in. They would invest in chaining, caging, incarcerating, and exploiting my labor as a prisoner, but they wouldn’t invest in the possibilities of me getting the opportunity to correct my behavior. And my behavior was in response to a LAPD detective killing my five-year-old son. After his accidental death – the policemen ran him over – and after his death, I began to drink and I drank alcoholically. I drank to drown the grief and that escalated to drug use. It was during the war on drugs and people were being demonized.

Susan Burton: Wow. You know, people would be demonized by this nation’s leaders. Wow. The same leaders were saturating our communities with crack cocaine, and I became a victim and the prey to the systems…to our nation decimating us black folks, brown folks, in our communities with this substance. You know, and I think of that period as chemical warfare on black poor communities, brown poor communities. And I think of the attack on us as a continual way of oppressing us, a continual way of criminalizing and demonizing us. What it also did, Nicole, was it drove women into prisons in huge numbers and it left our communities so crippled. And that’s why I feel like my work at A New Way of Life is so important to rebuilding and stabilizing our communities, the mothers of our communities, the women, the workers, the caretakers, the caregivers in our community.

Susan Burton: So, the work of A New Way of Life to house women, bring them back to our community, give them the ability to heal from all that’s been done to them, including the torture of incarceration, allow them the ability to build leadership skills, to get their kids back, to become, you know, forces within our community. That’s why the work of A New Way of Life is so important. And you know, I see it, I see it and I dream it, and I have a vision for it. You know, and I invest all that I have that women who people see or don’t see, you know, women who are invisible in this nation, women that have the ability to come and make changes in their community; I see them. They’re not invisible to me. They’re very, very important. And so that’s why, you know, I’ve dedicated my life to supporting the rebuilding of our communities through the services at A New Way of Life – the advocacy at A New Way of Life and the leadership development at a New Way of Life.

Nicole Campbell: I just think that is so incredibly powerful, Susan, and, you know, thank you so much for sharing your story. And the way that you described A New Way of Life, it sounds as though it is just such a necessity for society generally, but particularly for those who have been made invisible within society. To say, you know, as you mentioned earlier, to come from being oppressed and demonized, to step into thriving and being able to say, “I am a positive investment.” Right? Like, “You can invest in me.” And that’s exactly what A New Way of Life does. And so I would love to hear more about…and you started to talk through this with when you mentioned your services – advocacy and leadership – through A New Way of Life. Can you talk a little bit more about the kinds of services that A New Way of Life provides; the advocacy that you’re doing and the leadership skills that you are helping others to build? And why you think that that combination – the services, advocacy, and leadership is so important?

Susan Burton: So, the services that we provide consists of supporting women to have housing when they are released from incarceration, a place to heal, and it’s not just housing, it’s also a place to belong. So creating a community where people feel like…that the women that come here feel like they belong and it’s a place to root themselves. And in that house, we provide family reunification services, of course food, clothing, housing, social work services, therapy. And we also do some services around education and job support to get back to work; support for jobs. And we also engage in advocacy through, you know, testified…we allow people the space to understand that their voice and their life experience is important. And we create platforms for them to speak, just like I’m speaking to you today, to inform and tell people what their experiences are, but also what the possibilities are for their lives and how they’d like to work toward those possibilities.

Susan Burton: So, we go to the board of supervisors meeting, we go to Sacramento, they become a part of All of Us or None. And All of Us or None is the voices of formerly incarcerated people advocating and speaking on behalf of themselves. We also have a leadership development called women organizing for justice and opportunity, and they can participate in WOJO, which meets monthly. And we run that every year. WOJO came out of Soros Justice Fellowship. Over 10 years ago, I got a fellowship when Susan Tucker was running the fellowship program and we’ve built on and built on into that leadership development program. And we do it every year. And we create the space for people to understand what role do they have in the movement and letting them know that no role is too small, no role is too big. All of us are working together to build a movement for change and we’re bringing other people, especially women, along with us.

Susan Burton: And then we have legal services at A New Way of Life. We have six attorneys on staff. Two of them work with women who are struggling to get their children back because a part of mass incarceration is, again, a continuation of ripping our babies apart, ripping us apart from our children, taking our babies, literally selling them off, you know, creating needs where they call Child Protective Services and Department of Children and Family Services. It’s a continuation from slavery when they sold our children. That’s how we see it. Because I got incarcerated, doesn’t mean I’m a bad mom. And if you wanted to keep me with my children, it would have been much cheaper to roll out services for me and my children than to separate us and incarcerate me while placing them in the foster care system that fast tracks them into the criminal justice system. So we have four attorneys that do post-conviction relief and two attorney that do family reunification. And then we also added to there some policy work. So we want to stop the fast track adoption system that that incentivizes these places, like Department and Children and Family Services or Child Protective Services that incentivizes them to adopt our children.

Susan Burton: These agencies get paid for the $6,000 in bonus for every child that they adopt out. And that was a part of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1996 or ’94, but we’re working on dismantling that as a practice in this nation, as an incentive in this nation. And, you know, I hope the new administration looks at the harms that they’ve done, that their legislation has done, and their practices has done. And you know, puts forward what I call penance for the bad public policy that they pushed and implemented. And this is not to try to whoop them and beat them, but they have an opportunity now. I think they’ve said that maybe their approach and their thinking about how they created legislation was harmful, and so they can repair the harms now. I hope they do it aggressively. We’ll see.

Nicole Campbell: Mhm. And so it sounds like A New Way of Life is doing a ton of different direct services work, but also focusing on policy change. And I have a question actually around having children being pulled away from the moms who end up being incarcerated. Is that something that’s temporary or is it something that’s permanent? So do you just lose your rights as soon as you’re incarcerated? Is that usually what happens? I’d love to hear more about that piece. And then also about the leadership support that A New Way of Life provides.

Katy Thompson: And that concludes part one of the series. Next week, Susan will answer Nic’s question about A New Way of Life’s direct services and policy work. Additionally, if you are interested in partnering with a team to determine how your organization can build sustainably, assess your vision and mission, and how to invest in marginalized communities, then schedule a Discovery Call with the Build Up team today. We will link the button in the show notes!

-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.

Part Two

-Upbeat Intro Music-

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

Katy Thompson: Hi, everyone! It’s Katy, Build Up’s Manager of Global Operations. This week on theNonprofit Build Up, we are continuing with the recast of one of our very first episodes of the Nonprofit Build Up. This week, you will hear the second part of Nic’s conversation with Susan Burton, a leader in the criminal justice reform movement, founder of A New Way of Life Reentry Project, and outspoken voice to end mass incarceration.

Katy Thompson: You can jump back to part one of the conversation to learn more about Susan’s story, major accomplishments, and the transformational work of A New Way of Life Reentry Project. But with that, let’s dive into the second part of Nic’s conversation with Susan Burton, where they discuss A New Way of Life’s direct services and policy work and so much more.

Susan Burton: So, you have 18 months to get your children back, or they can be adopted out and that is permanent. You lose all parental rights to your children. And the thing of it is, is that there’s no recourse for mothers to…after the adoption happens it’s final. So I have women come home from prison, Nicole, and they go to try to find their children and they find out that their children are gone. And you know, I mean, I saw women who had came over prison and did everything that the judge said to do in order to get reunification services. I mean, in order to get a reunited with their child.

Susan Burton: And at the end of the day, the judge will say, “Reunification denied. Child is put in placement.” And I’m like, “What is this?” And that mother has no recourse to object to that judge’s decision. And I mean, I watched a movie, I think it was ’12 Years a Slave’, and there was a scene in there where the woman was begging the master not to sell their child. And it feels like, fast forward today, women are pleading with the judge to give them their child back, to reinstate their parental rights. And he says, “no”, and they have no recourse. So I see it as a, like Michelle Alexander writes, “the new Jim Crow,” the transference of those practices and policies embedded in our judicial system and our legal systems and threaded with the practices of slavery.

Nicole Campbell: Yeah. It just renders me speechless, but it also in the same breath, I know that there’s so much that we have to say about it because it just feels wrong and it is wrong. And just even from having this conversation, this is a really, you know, heavy topic. And so you’re doing this day in and day out, and so is your team. How are you all able to stay positive? Keep hope, keep fighting on behalf of these women when you’ve seen, you know as you mentioned, like different stories where just, you know, you can do everything right and you still are not reunited with your child. Like, how were you able to keep pushing forward and how do you encourage your team to keep doing that so that they can continue to work with the women in these situations?

Susan Burton: I mean, we don’t just have the struggles. We have wins through the struggles that are very, very encouraging and, you know, wins are important; small and large. We made progress. Nicole, I started A New Way of Life from my savings from a minimum wage job over 20 years ago. So there’s been so much progress from then ’till now, but not keep fighting is to say that I’m going to surrender to what it is. And surrender would be like, you know, like death. Like an emotional death. And I guess probably depression would set in and, you know, what have you, so you keep fighting. And I’m fighting for my life, my community’s life, my grandchildren’s life, for the future that I want to see. So that just keeps you fighting. And again, we have wins…one place I walk into, one of our homes, and these little brothers that are five and three, they run to me every time and say, “Hey, Ms. Burton. Hi, Ms. Burden.” And, you know, they’re the light and the life. And those little boys have a chance, the mother’s going to school to become a healthcare worker, and she’s going to have a chance to learn, to earn a salary that will sustain her and her two boys. So it’s, you know, inter-generational change that I see it. So, I mean, that’s enough to keep me going.

Nicole Campbell: Yeah, definitely, just looking at future generations and creating that space so that they can have inter-generational prosperity, right. That they could actually be thriving for generations. Like what does that look like? So I appreciate that and appreciate the work that you’re doing. And you mentioned leadership, and I’d love to hear about what you’re doing in that space and working with people to make sure that they have the leadership skills and how they’re then employing those skills and showing up in different spaces.

Susan Burton: Yeah. So locally, we have women organizing for justice and opportunity, but nationally, we have the SAFE Project And SAFE stands for Sisterhood Alliance for Freedom and Equality. And Nicole, over the last 10 years, more than 20 years, I’ve gained a real expertise and skillset on developing, you know, reentry homes and creating leadership development, and organizing strategies that go within those homes. And so what I’ve done is I’ve created a training program for people to replicate our model. And, you know, I have a vision of a safe housing network throughout this nation that other people in their respective communities are welcoming people back into their community, and implementing leadership, and building a place for people to heal. And to walk, and stand, and work with us to change every day.

Susan Burton: And, you know, I might be way off dreaming, but, you know, I have a dream and I have steps toward that dream and a plan. And one of them is to have places for people to go all across this nation; to return from their communities, to safety, to a place of leadership, a place to belong, a place like a springboard to recreate their lives. If we don’t do it…we can’t look at, you know, this is not the work of a government. It’s the work of community, you know. I mean, I hope to build into that support from our government, but these are our community members, our people, our children, our nieces, our nephews, and they belong with us and to us. And so that’s a part of, I feel like, our responsibility during the war on drugs we’ve got. I mean our folks got brainwashed into pushing our people away.

Susan Burton: And demonizing them and finding them unworthy of investment. You know, we got straight brainwashed as a nation. You know, that tough on crime, that crack mama’s stuff, crack babies stuff, that super predator stuff. All of that, you know. And I say that there’s penance for the nation, you know, penance for our leaders, our folks at the top. There’s also penance for us to be a part of the rebuilding and re-humanizing, and we rebuilding of our communities, people…a lot of our community. What I want to say is that we kind of threw away our…I guess…In the class packing system, there was a upper class black folks that threw the lower class black folks away. Did not demand investment and matter of fact, they demanded demonizing, criminalizing and incarcerating a whole generation of people. We need to pay penance to and invest in rebuilding those people, and those children’s people, and recreating, you know, our nations communities.

Nicole Campbell: And when you talk about brainwashing, that concept, it resonates with me. And I think it’s just such an appropriate way to describe what has happened within our communities and I think just generally within society. And what I’m hearing and what I’ve seen about A New Way of Life is that it’s a deliberate model to attack that brainwashing, right? That brainwashing that has caused divestment in, in certain people, in certain communities and have said like, “You are lesser than and so we’re going to ignore, we’re going to invisibilize you.” And instead, A New Way of Life is stepping in and saying, “Actually, we are deliberately going to fight against that narrative and against that messaging.” And talking through again, the different ways in which you all work. And I know you mentioned that you all are working in an emerging model, and I would love to hear about that model in particular, why is it emerging?

Nicole Campbell: And then, just hear more about your infrastructure and the way you think about infrastructure. Because you’re doing a lot of really important, critical work, and you’ve been doing it sustainably for a very long time. You mentioned, you know, starting A New Way of Life based on your savings from a minimum wage job. And now A New Way of Life is a multi-million dollar nonprofit organization, right. It’s been around for decades. So I would love to hear more about your emerging model, how you all are set up to do this work. How do you think about governance? How are you thinking about the structure of your organization to support all of the good work you’re doing?

Susan Burton: So, when I think about combating the narrative that has been set forth is that I don’t nearly have the level of ability to communicate like they communicate and just directly attack that narrative. But what I do have is the ability to not let that narrative resonate with me as true. And what I can do is invest where I can invest to create a different narrative. And the outcomes of itself will negate that narrative when there is an investment made. So maybe that’s the way that I’ve been able to combat that narrative. And then just personally, you know, standing up and showing something different; what can be when there’s an investment made. You know, what I want to say is that, you know, I don’t believe there are throwaway people. And this nation, the way it works, throws away so many.

Susan Burton: And the cost is so high, not only in dollars, but in other ways that…we could just do better as a nation. So we have the nonprofit, you know, infrastructure of a board of directors. And then we have, you know, the officers on the board. We do strategic planning. What I can say is that strategic planning, every time we do one, we exceed it tremendously. Along with the strategic planning, we develop work plans and, you know, everybody exceeds the work plan. I guess when you have such dry ground, you know, when you water it, everything comes up blooming. Even though the ground is dry, the ground is fertile – if someone would just water it. And then we have departments, we have the advocacy department, we have the housing department.

Susan Burton: We have our fiscal management department, we’re about to build a human resources department. We have, you know, different departments across the organization. Organizing the leadership department goes within the art organizing advocacy department, the legal department, and the reunification services are within the legal department. We have our development department and we have a few development people on staff, and we have our communications department, and then our administration. And you know, five years ago, did I think this was what it would be? I did not, but I did know that I deserved a chance and other women deserve a chance. I got a chance out in a white community next to the beach that didn’t throw their people away, that did invest in their people when, you know, there was a mistake made. And I took that model, and I brought it back to South Carolina and then, you know, day by day, the beat goes on.

Susan Burton: And then we have the safe housing leadership program, well I don’t call it a leadership program, I call it a replication program. And now we are in 14 States and we have replicated the model in 14 States. And what I did is I developed a training program with the support from UCLA and my communications department. We’ve trained three different cohorts, over a hundred people, with the model and out of those people, I’ve selected – I think it’s 18 people – 18 people to replicate the program. And you know, I’ve supported them, I’ve raised dollars to help them get started. And we have training modules; every month we get on call and every month we’re together sharing and taking different trainings. And what have you to support them.

Susan Burton: You know, it’s kinda like, A New Way of Life was the support I wish I’d have had when I got released those six times for prison, and it was never there. I created it. And the training program that we have for our replicators is the training that I wish somebody would have gave me when you know, when I started out. You know, I had to learn like any way that I could, how to start, grow, and sustain an organization. And I think that if we’re gonna change this, we just had to get proactive and change it.

Nicole Campbell: And I, you know, I think as you describe how A New Way of Life is set up internally, and how that structure then supports your work, the theme that just keeps coming to mind for me is deliberateness, right? You’re just deliberately building, deliberately saying, “This is the change we want to see, and this is what we’re going after.” And you’re creating an infrastructure to support it. So I hope everyone that’s listening can see that the programmatic vision is always supported with that really strong infrastructure as well, because you can’t scale the way that you have without being able to say, “We have the infrastructure to know that each and every time we show up in a different state, we can ensure it’s going to be consistent. The way we’re working is consistent, and we’re going to engage the way that we have done in previous states.”

Nicole Campbell: So, I just think, again, it just shows, and it’s a testament to how deliberate A New Way of Life is being in both its building, as well as the work. And, you know, your responses, Susan, this entire conversation has been so transparent, and so honest and powerful. And I want to ask you a question that I ask all of our guests to help us continue to build knowledge through books and people we 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?

Susan Burton: So, I hope all of the listeners today have read ‘Becoming Ms. Burton’. ‘Becoming Ms. Burton’ is my memoir from prison to recovery, to leading the fight for incarcerated women. But I just won’t promote me. What has been such an eye opener for this nation is Michelle Alexander’s book, ‘The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration’…what is it? ‘Mass incarceration In a Time of’…oh, well ‘The New Jim Crow’ and Monique Morris, so I just, can’t say one, there’s so many great books out there. But Monique Morris has a book called ‘Pushout’, and it’s the story of how this happened so early in black girls’ lives, young black girls’ lives, that their potential begins to be smothered and distorted just because of who they are and what color they are.

Susan Burton: I think that book really describes what happens early on and how we need to intervene. And each one of us – that’s the other thing, is that every day, every one of us can be a part of the change that we want to see. If we would act courageously on our instinct to make a better world, to give somebody an opportunity to invest somewhere and not be scared, not be frightened of the disappointment or the work that has to go into it. It’s like, we can’t afford not to.

Nicole Campbell: Mhm. We are the ones that we’ve been waiting for.

Susan Burton: Exactly.

Nicole Campbell: Yeah, I completely agree, and thank you so much for sharing these books. We will put them in the show notes so that people can start to read them and put them on their bookshelves as well. So thank you for that. And, you know, again, Susan, you have shared such knowledge, your own personal story, and just incredible insights that I think that leaders will be able to use going forward. Because we talked about…we did a lot of storytelling for people whose stories have not been heard as much as they should have. And I appreciate that you brought all of that to bear during this conversation. And I think that leaders will be able to hear that and take your messages away, and inform how they then build their own organizations and encourage them to build bravely. So again, thank you so much for your time and for joining us today!

Susan Burton: You are so welcome, Nicole.

Katy Thompson: As we wrap up this two-part series, we invite you to review your organization’s infrastructure and ponder how you are currently structured for sustainability and community investment. Let us know your reflections and questions on our LinkedIn @/buildupadvisorygroup or on Twitter @/NicIsBuildingUp.

Katy Thompson: Additionally, if you are interested in partnering with a team to determine how your organization can build sustainably, assess your vision and mission, and how to invest in marginalized communities, then schedule a Discovery Call with the Build Up team today. We will link the button in the show notes!

-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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Over the next two weeks on the Nonprofit Build Up, we are discussing infrastructure considerations for nonprofit or social-impact start-ups. These episodes were recorded as part of our Fast Build Friday® series, a web-series where we quickly build what you know about infrastructure design in the nonprofit sector.

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