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Neurodiverse Individuals: Inclusive Camping Experiences at Camp Encourage

KELLY LEE | CO-FOUNDER

In her interview with KC Cares, Kelly Lee, co-founder of Camp Encourage, unveils the camp’s commitment to providing enriching experiences for individuals on the autism spectrum. Established in 2008, the camp offers a range of activities, from horseback riding to STEM projects, tailored to meet the individual needs of each camper. Camp Encourage places a strong emphasis on community involvement and inclusivity, with a significant volunteer base that includes neurodiverse individuals. Kelly discusses the camp’s mindful approach to growth, ensuring that services remain accessible and equitable. The camp’s vision extends to fostering a diverse community, reflecting the camp’s core values of empowerment, inclusivity, and support.

visit them here: Camp for Autistic Youth – Camp Encourage

 

What Nonprofit Questions are Answered?

  1. What makes Camp Encourage unique for individuals on the autism spectrum?
  2. How does Camp Encourage ensure inclusivity and diversity among its campers and volunteers?
  3. What range of activities does Camp Encourage offer, and how are they tailored to individual needs?
  4. How does Camp Encourage engage the community and foster volunteer involvement?
  5. What are Camp Encourage’s future goals for growth and expansion?

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Transcript:

00:00:08:29 – 00:00:31:28
RUTH BAUM BIGUS
Welcome to KC Cares, Kansas City’s nonprofit voice. We’re telling the stories of Kansas City nonprofits and the people behind them. KC Cares is the intersection of the nonprofit and profit communities making Kansas City a better place to live, work and play? This KC Cares segment is brought to you by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation www.kauffman.org.

00:00:31:33 – 00:00:57:45
RUTH BAUM BIGUS
I’m Ruth Baum Bigus. We’re parents of youth who are on the autism spectrum. Finding meaningful summer activities can be challenging, but no challenge was too high for the founders of Camp Encourage. Cathy Otten and Kelly Lee, who both have degrees in special education. With its mission to provide youth on the autism spectrum meaningful experiences in which they build knowledge, courage and skills.

00:00:57:50 – 00:01:21:37
RUTH BAUM BIGUS
Camp and Courage has been offering overnight camp experiences since 2007 as demand increased to attend the camp. I believe embrace the hurdles of a growing organization. Well, today, co-founder Kelly Lee joins us today to talk about this remarkable organization, as well as what they are doing to keep the momentum growing Kelly. Thank you so much for being with us.

00:01:21:39 – 00:01:23:42
RUTH BAUM BIGUS
We’re so happy to have you.

00:01:23:47 – 00:01:27:02
KELLY LEE
Thank you so much for the opportunity.

00:01:27:07 – 00:01:39:36
RUTH BAUM BIGUS
So let’s start off. Tell us a little bit about your story and how camp encouraged, you know, started came to be the concept, everything. Sure.

00:01:39:41 – 00:02:02:46
KELLY LEE
So Kay Orton and I met I was in grad school, she was in Doc School. And at the time there was a nonprofit that was providing services to youth on the autism spectrum. And they were doing a number of different things. And one of the things in which they were doing was providing an overnight camp for individuals on the spectrum.

00:02:02:51 – 00:02:30:43
KELLY LEE
And Kay and I got involved as students and volunteers, and then both had directed the camp for a number of years and then had stepped away for a number of reasons. Me starting a family in her, you know, career and the nonprofit itself closed and we were contacted by a number of different parents. And prior campers have said, you know, you cannot let this leave the Kansas City area.

00:02:30:48 – 00:02:56:48
KELLY LEE
Again, I was a new wife and then shortly after a new mom and my gig in a local school district was super sweet and all my cards seemed to align perfectly right. So we kind of resisted all of these nudges and then put it after a while because, you know, as they were saying, like, nobody can just take the reins and do this without prior experience.

00:02:56:52 – 00:03:34:26
KELLY LEE
And so we just couldn’t ignore the nudges anymore. Took it on, I think kind of thinking it would just be this cute little, you know, summer side gig as we continued our careers in the field of education. And so we started with a super small group of campers in 2008 was the very first year after getting our nonprofit status in 227, an interest group just like mad with very little marketing, very little social media presence, that it was clear very quickly that there was a need for the service specifically in our area.

00:03:34:26 – 00:03:49:19
KELLY LEE
So it grew and has grown immensely since then. This is our 17th year and we have already grown by about four times the amount since then and continue to grow. So it’s it’s beautiful.

00:03:49:24 – 00:04:11:31
RUTH BAUM BIGUS
How brave of you to take that on, though. It is no easy gig when you have this passion in this idea and then you say, okay, we’re really going to make it happen. And you were working right as well as your colleague. So share with us. Give us that inside look of how you made that happen with all these other balls you were juggling already.

00:04:11:36 – 00:04:31:10
KELLY LEE
Yeah, I think we both just felt so passionately that it had to happen that, like, we didn’t like I will joke that if I knew all of the details and the ins and outs that need to be in place, like you know that I know now, it would have totally intimidated me. And I. I don’t know that I would have thought that I could have done it.

00:04:31:15 – 00:05:00:34
KELLY LEE
But because of all the amazing people that I swear, our campers are just magnets to these amazing supporters and volunteers like with them, you know, joining us along the way and standing beside us. And, you know, it’s it’s happened. It’s all unfolded. But again, like had we known, it would have definitely been overwhelming. But I think just fueled by love, right?

00:05:00:34 – 00:05:09:11
KELLY LEE
You just figure it out. You just take one foot in front of the other and just it just it all just fell into place.

00:05:09:16 – 00:05:31:41
RUTH BAUM BIGUS
So as you all took the reins of this amazing camp, what were the steps to really make it happen? You already had a group of campers that that you know, you knew and I’m sure were chomping at the bit to come back. How would or those first few years in moving forward.

00:05:31:46 – 00:06:04:48
KELLY LEE
Finding the right people that had a heart for what we were doing right was immense. I think one of our biggest reasons that we have been so grounded and stable was due to the support of nonprofit Connect as having that resource locally to nonprofits. It’s been a huge source of education and resources and connections, so that that was a, you know, a huge a huge help that not very many cities, cities can speak of having in their community.

00:06:04:48 – 00:06:23:22
KELLY LEE
So we’re so lucky to have that. Also, you and Casey is a fantastic resource. So just finding, you know, people that that saw that we really had this passion, but also I think the skills. Yeah, definitely like early years.

00:06:23:22 – 00:06:48:08
RUTH BAUM BIGUS
To to make those connections. Before we talk about the journey that, you know, continue on that journey, I want to find out and share with our audience exactly what Camp encourage is, what you do with the kiddos and even the kids that are involved. We talk autism spectrum, and I think that’s a huge array. So the floor is yours, madam.

00:06:48:08 – 00:06:48:36
RUTH BAUM BIGUS
Okay.

00:06:48:50 – 00:07:18:21
KELLY LEE
All right. So first I will I’ll just share like what our what our services are, what our program rate programing currently is. The heart of what we do is provide overnight camps for individuals on the spectrum ages ten through 18. And then we also have alumni camps for those that are now 19 and older. And those camps are what you think of when you think of a summer camp, because we believe they deserve to be treated like any other child and have the same experiences as any other child.

00:07:18:21 – 00:07:56:11
KELLY LEE
So there’s horseback riding, ziplining, lots of STEM activities, outdoor education, science based, music based, art based activities. So it’s very much like a typical camp. But what makes it so very special and unique is that it’s really individualized and catered to their specific needs, right? There’s lots of professionals involved that really care about and understand this population. And then something else that makes it, I think, pretty unique is that we really value autistic adults, adults that are living on the autism spectrum.

00:07:56:11 – 00:08:19:45
KELLY LEE
So we find ways to include them to have their voice heard, to make sure that as we are changing things, it is, you know, you know, very much thinking of their needs and their perspective. And so that, you know, we bring them in as volunteers and as leaders as well. And and our nonprofit is important to us, always saving two seats on our board for individuals with autism.

00:08:19:49 – 00:08:45:34
KELLY LEE
So I think that has helped us, you know, just shape really quality programing as including them as well. So outside of our for over five overnight camps, we also will get the campers, whether it’s current campers or potential campers, as well as supporters and volunteers. We have free camp family events throughout the year. So it might be a swimming party or canoeing and fishing.

00:08:45:39 – 00:09:07:39
KELLY LEE
We have a holiday winter party in the winter months and then we’re getting ready to host a panel of autistics that kind of reflect and share on, you know, their lives and their experiences to, you know, open the eyes to others as well. So again, the heart of what we do are those those overnight camps.

00:09:07:44 – 00:09:16:59
RUTH BAUM BIGUS
How do you individual well, let’s assess how many kids are in a session and and talk about go ahead, please.

00:09:17:04 – 00:09:25:12
KELLY LEE
There are about 55 individuals in each of the camp sessions. The alumni sessions are about half their size.

00:09:25:17 – 00:09:32:21
RUTH BAUM BIGUS
And so how do you individual eyes that tell us a little bit about staffing and what the camp day even looks like?

00:09:32:25 – 00:09:54:36
KELLY LEE
Parents and caregivers first, like just share so many details about what keeps their child alert, what calms them, what could trigger, you know, certain things. And so our staff, you know, really appreciates all that input and that helps us prepare. And what was the second question again?

00:09:54:40 – 00:09:59:39
RUTH BAUM BIGUS
How do you how do you step there? You have 55 campers in a, what, 3 to 4 day session?

00:09:59:43 – 00:10:00:46
KELLY LEE
We do. We do.

00:10:00:46 – 00:10:02:33
RUTH BAUM BIGUS
And so how does that happen?

00:10:02:45 – 00:10:31:41
KELLY LEE
Yes, that’s a great question. Remember how I mentioned just all the beautiful people that like magnets, come to support these campers? I am our only full time employee. We have seven other employees right now that are all either part time or very, very seasonal. And so those seven people are usually at all the camp sessions. And then in addition to that, they’re like for our summer camp sessions, there are about 150 individuals that are there volunteering.

00:10:31:46 – 00:10:54:40
KELLY LEE
Probably about less than half of those are there full time. So they commit to all four days and then the others are there just for small bits to help at a carnival to kick off the week, to stand on the side of the the drive as their entry as campers are entering, holding signs that say you are enough, you are welcome, you are loved, you are valuable.

00:10:54:45 – 00:11:00:52
KELLY LEE
And then for our weekend sessions, they are probably closer to 100 volunteers involved in each of those.

00:11:00:57 – 00:11:08:00
RUTH BAUM BIGUS
Volunteers are really important to you. Is this an opportunity for the community to help? Absolutely, yes. There are lots.

00:11:08:00 – 00:11:39:18
KELLY LEE
Of different roles from high schoolers that might be thinking that that working with individuals who are neurodiverse that might interest them. This is a great hands on opportunity that’s really like no other. As a prior special education teacher, it was so eye opening for me when I started getting involved in something like this. As a young professional because, you know, we think we know so much of what these, you know, the youth need, but we often forget what the families are also going through.

00:11:39:18 – 00:12:12:42
KELLY LEE
24 seven. And so it’s a great opportunity to open your eyes to, you know, really residing and staying overnight and loving on, you know, those kids and all times of day and not just focused on education. So it’s eye opening for young professionals or young potential professionals. So anyone in undergrad or grad school, we get a lot of those students, anyone currently in the profession or really just anybody that has a big heart for creating a space where people just want to feel loved and welcomed for exactly, you know, who they are and where they are.

00:12:12:46 – 00:12:26:44
KELLY LEE
So we’ve got lots of different types of volunteers and lots of different needs from it just being a couple hours to, you know, the duration of the camp itself. And then also outside of camp, we have volunteer opportunities in our office.

00:12:26:49 – 00:12:31:27
RUTH BAUM BIGUS
What’s the best way for people to connect with you if they want to volunteer? How can you?

00:12:31:31 – 00:12:48:06
KELLY LEE
Yes, they can visit our website at KIPP, encourage dot org, or they can simply send an email at info at Camp Anchorage Dawg, and we’ll send them, you know, help tailor whatever it is that they might be interested in and let them know what the opportunities would be.

00:12:48:10 – 00:12:55:25
RUTH BAUM BIGUS
Now, do you put your volunteers through training so they’re not just coming in cold saying, Hi, I’m here, You know, you have my time.

00:12:55:30 – 00:13:02:42
KELLY LEE
For sure, especially those that are there for the duration of camp. Yes, they go through they go through a good amount of training.

00:13:02:47 – 00:13:06:04
RUTH BAUM BIGUS
Whereas camp, we failed to say where campus.

00:13:06:09 – 00:13:15:13
KELLY LEE
We are overnight. Camps are currently at Hartland, the Hartland Retreat Center in Parkville, Missouri.

00:13:15:18 – 00:13:27:24
RUTH BAUM BIGUS
Let’s talk about the campus specifically. How does that work? Do they put in an application? Is there any kind of screening process? Because as we mentioned a few minutes ago, the spectrum is wide.

00:13:27:28 – 00:13:58:45
KELLY LEE
It is. It is. And when I first year that when we started with that tiny group of campers in that first year in 08k and I said, hey, let’s start with this, you know, a certain population of the spectrum, not all individuals and let’s do that because at the time and still now there are a number of great camps in Missouri and nearby that work that support individuals that need one on one or more intense support constantly throughout camp.

00:13:58:50 – 00:14:39:45
KELLY LEE
And so what was occurring back then was those that maybe that wasn’t a great fit for may have gone and it just wasn’t great programing for them. It wasn’t wasn’t quite the right fit because like you said, the spectrum, they’re all such unique individuals and no one model fits all of them. So they were either going to camps like that and it just didn’t feel like the right fit or they were trying to go to typical camps because maybe they’re like amazing at chess or they really loved music, but that setting just wasn’t staffed or set up to meet their emotional or their sensory needs or to really understand just, you know, their needs in

00:14:39:45 – 00:15:04:46
KELLY LEE
general. And so when we started, we said, then let’s focus on those that don’t need a one on one ratio. Our current staff ratio is like two campers for one. So it’s still a pretty high ratio, two or three campers for two, but we are not providing 1 to 1 support. And when we started we thought, let’s start with this and then we’ll expand to also provide services for one on one support.

00:15:04:46 – 00:15:24:09
KELLY LEE
But what we found when our third year and again, like we were not doing marketing, I’m not even sure we had much of a social media presence those first few years. We had a waiting list of 100 kids after doubling our services by the third year. And so we knew that, gosh, I mean, we’ve still never had a formal marketing plan.

00:15:24:09 – 00:15:55:09
KELLY LEE
We’re just kind of initiating some of those efforts. So we know that the need is there. And and so so we have continued to stick with that. So the campers that we’re serving are okay with a ratio of one adult for every two. Many of them need support like one on one support for specific things, and that is totally okay as long as it is not for the whole duration of of camp, because there are other camps that provide that that our campers are between the age of ten and 18.

00:15:55:14 – 00:16:27:18
KELLY LEE
They’re fairly independent with self-care skills able to tolerate the outdoors right? Like if that is an intense fear of somebody, that might not be the best setting. Again, no one program is a great fit for every individual on the spectrum. And another big thing is that we like to let families know that they will not have electronic devices unless it’s used as a communication device or something and set up for that.

00:16:27:18 – 00:16:39:50
KELLY LEE
They’re they have to know that going in that that will, you know, be something they’ll be without. And it is surprised us how beautiful that spent not have devices and phones with them for the duration of camp so.

00:16:39:50 – 00:16:43:12
RUTH BAUM BIGUS
That’s it for and good for you yeah.

00:16:43:19 – 00:16:49:09
KELLY LEE
Yeah it’s it’s nice it’s a beautiful thing going old school.

00:16:49:14 – 00:17:14:20
RUTH BAUM BIGUS
We’re talking with Kelly Lee. She is co-founder of Camp Encourage. So you got camps set up, you’re chugging along and your growing and you’re growing and you’re growing. Let’s talk about how you all are managing growth. As you said, you’re the only full time employee, heavy, heavy preponderance of your programing in the summer, but you’re doing year round.

00:17:14:21 – 00:17:21:35
RUTH BAUM BIGUS
So so how are you managing growth? What are those things that your organization is doing to figure this out?

00:17:21:39 – 00:17:48:04
KELLY LEE
Yeah, well, first I should say, like I’m immensely grateful for our board of just such strong leaders that have continued to shape really beautiful strategic plans that have been our flashlight and our guide as we as we grow. I think one thing that I’ll share that’s been really important for us that we value is that camp. It should be available to all.

00:17:48:09 – 00:18:11:10
KELLY LEE
And so we haven’t grown in there. Really, really. I mean, we’ve grown a lot, but we haven’t grown in what could be a really rapid way because we want to make sure that families are able to come, that it’s equitable, that we have scholarship funding available for them. Each year, about 60 to 75% of our families request and receive scholarships, either partial or full.

00:18:11:15 – 00:18:32:22
KELLY LEE
And so that’s always been really important to us that as we grow, that percentage stays the same. Again, for equity and to make sure that it is something that is is there for for everyone. So that’s something that’s, you know, as we grow, we had to make sure that we are financially stable and that we have that scholarship funding available and that that’s not limited.

00:18:32:31 – 00:18:58:15
KELLY LEE
And then the other huge thing, so there’s probably three things that have been a little challenging that could be a challenge that we continue to thankfully meet. Another one is volunteers, right? As we grow because we rely so heavily on those volunteers. That’s been something that we’ve had to be really mindful of in just continuing to secure sufficient volunteers as we grow.

00:18:58:17 – 00:19:22:12
KELLY LEE
We’re hoping to add another camp session by 2026. So that’s something we’re working really hard to continue to establish good relationships with our current pool of volunteers, but also find new volunteers to help us grow. And then the last challenge is that we rent our campgrounds right from an amazing place, and they’re crazy accommodating and so welcoming. But they may not always have space for us as we continue to grow.

00:19:22:17 – 00:19:42:29
KELLY LEE
And so another challenge is looking at other possible locations. As for that growth still here in Missouri, in Kansas, or seeing how we can squeeze in and convince our current camp to allow us to grow, there. So those are those are kind of our three, the three challenges that we’ve that we’re addressing as we grow.

00:19:42:34 – 00:19:54:20
RUTH BAUM BIGUS
So goodness, I would think running a camp has extent on its own and you rely a lot on volunteers. You know, what does it cost to like run a camp session.

00:19:54:25 – 00:20:17:37
KELLY LEE
To run our five camp sessions? Our budget is a little over a half a million dollars. So the biggest expenses are, you know, reserving the camp, the lodging, the meals, especially when we have that many volunteers and everything, the quality activities and supplies and a lack goes into it.

00:20:17:42 – 00:20:28:25
RUTH BAUM BIGUS
And do kids that. So they apply, I assume, to come to camp. Is there a screening process that goes on?

00:20:28:30 – 00:20:49:10
KELLY LEE
Yeah, there is. I was kind of listing these are the kind of kids that we serve. There’s, you know, checklists. The parents go through just to confirm it’s going to be a good fit, that they’re going to like the activities that, you know, that are offered. And so, yes, there’s a lengthy application process. Very rarely does a parent get through that where we may call up for more information.

00:20:49:10 – 00:20:59:40
KELLY LEE
Right. That we may be concerned about something that that could occur. We’re often pretty able to meet their needs with, you know, detailed plans and such.

00:20:59:40 – 00:21:11:01
RUTH BAUM BIGUS
So what does a session cost? I assume, campers, you said that up to 75% get some kind of scholarship. But what what’s a session? So our audience has an idea.

00:21:11:06 – 00:21:35:12
KELLY LEE
Yeah, for the four day session it’s it’s 1295 and then for the week in session it’s 595. But again, with every application, we encourage every parent to consider applying and some don’t somehow have outside funding also that they use. But we really greatly encourage families to go ahead and apply for consideration.

00:21:35:17 – 00:21:58:11
RUTH BAUM BIGUS
Yeah, I’m sorry to be so heavy on the money, but I you know, it is for you because it’s such an intense experience in terms of, you know, 2 to 1 and what you offer and what that. All right. So let’s let’s talk about the big bad guy in the room. Right. Many budget fundraising. So where does your where do you get your funds to support this wonderful program?

00:21:58:15 – 00:21:58:59
RUTH BAUM BIGUS
Yeah, we.

00:21:58:59 – 00:22:26:49
KELLY LEE
We have a beautiful, diverse pool of funds for it, whether it’s individuals that have been supporting us for years. Camps for Kids is a local nonprofit that supports camps and helps provide scholarship funding. They’ve been a beautiful supporter of ours for years. Lots of local foundations, some corporate support through sponsorships of our signature event. And then our event also will generate some support as well.

00:22:26:49 – 00:22:34:38
KELLY LEE
And that’s called S’mores and Pours. And it takes place in October and it is a really fun event.

00:22:34:42 – 00:22:40:01
RUTH BAUM BIGUS
So when you put out and how do you put out information about this, this s’mores and more sounds fantastic.

00:22:40:01 – 00:23:02:20
KELLY LEE
What fun It is so fun. It’s kind of like a typical garland that there’s an auction, right? A live auction, an online auction and a fund. Need a dinner. But it’s so not like any other gala just in that it’s camp themed. So there’s roasting s’mores by the campfire. There’s everybody in camp gear. So people are in plaid.

00:23:02:20 – 00:23:27:51
KELLY LEE
And, you know, it’s just this super comfortable, almost sort of family reunion like affair videos are showcased created typically by someone local named Tyler work in where he comes and spends time at camp and collects stories on our campers. And so those are always shared at s’mores and poor. So it’s just a really heartwarming night.

00:23:27:56 – 00:23:53:31
RUTH BAUM BIGUS
That sounds so great. How fun. All right. I got a mark that on my calendar. Sounds like a fun thing to go and do. You’ve been in this field for a long time as a professional teacher. I imagine maybe doing a little administrative stuff over time. What is it about working with these kiddos that inspires you? What? What keeps you going?

00:23:53:31 – 00:24:07:35
RUTH BAUM BIGUS
It’s it’s not easy to run a nonprofit, let alone the nonprofit that then is working with people who are neurodiverse and that they’re all such individuals.

00:24:07:35 – 00:24:23:53
KELLY LEE
Right? Like, that’s so fascinating to me too, just to get to know each person that that many of them are very misunderstood. Like what is what appears is really not who they are. And how capable they are. And so I just.

00:24:23:53 – 00:24:24:54
RUTH BAUM BIGUS
Have this.

00:24:24:59 – 00:24:47:19
KELLY LEE
This passion to help pull that out and let those that those things shine. And I think that’s what, you know, drives me and all of our board members and my staff and volunteers just in that they see that this is such a unique setting where these campers can grow in amazing ways in such a short window of time.

00:24:47:24 – 00:25:04:11
KELLY LEE
I mean, it’s just really like, no, no other setting hard to describe until you’re really there. So it’s just that it’s that wholehearted belief in what we do and in seeing the impact done on them when they’re there.

00:25:04:15 – 00:25:20:17
RUTH BAUM BIGUS
Now, you mentioned you actually rent the space where you are in the summer. So how do you bring in those elements like horseback riding and other things? Are they already part of this retreat center or do you have to bring it all in? they are part they are telling us a little bit about that.

00:25:20:22 – 00:25:41:40
KELLY LEE
Yeah, they have horseback riding that’s available there. They have wranglers that are there to oversee it and they’re, you know, really wonderful with our campers and meeting their needs and being patient with them. And same thing with like the zip lining that is also available there on the campgrounds. So those are all things that they will provide for us swimming.

00:25:41:40 – 00:25:55:00
KELLY LEE
They have some other things too that we can rent, like inflatables, like slides, things like that. So those things are already there. Other things we do on occasion bring in just to mix up some of the activities.

00:25:55:05 – 00:26:06:20
RUTH BAUM BIGUS
And when you talk about the volunteer pool and you talk about you try to engage folks who may be gone through Camp four and are now young adults, do you have any of them back volunteering during camp?

00:26:06:25 – 00:26:31:41
KELLY LEE
Yeah, at any camp session we usually have somewhere between ten and 20 to 25% of our volunteers are on the spectrum. So maybe somebody loves astronomy, so he leads in astronomy activity. A couple help as counselors because they’re really loving and insightful and are great at really hearing the campers out and understanding their perspective. And then we have others that come and help behind the scenes and with activities as well.

00:26:31:41 – 00:26:43:23
KELLY LEE
So it just it really depends on what their interests are and what their abilities are, that we can try to find ways that their abilities can shine.

00:26:43:28 – 00:26:56:48
RUTH BAUM BIGUS
You strike me as a bit of a dreamer, someone who’s inspired you doing a few minutes we have left. Let’s talk a little bit. Where do you see camp encouraged, let’s say, in the next ten years or so?

00:26:56:53 – 00:27:27:30
KELLY LEE
Yeah, well, we are in the early stages of initiating helping out another camp in Southern California to start a very similar camp. And so the dreamer in me wants to continue doing that. You know, planting other seeds so that other there are more and more opportunities like this for campers across the nation. I also really want to see more and a more diverse set of campers and leaders come to Camp Encourage.

00:27:27:30 – 00:28:14:42
KELLY LEE
We’ve been working really hard to to reach out to and build relationships and trust with with all of our community members in Kansas City. So that’s been something that our board and I are very passionate about, is being really intentional about being equitable. And so that’s a big dream of mine, is I hope to see more and more diversity and just a better representation of Jackson County, for example, coming to each of our camp sessions and continuing to grow, whether it be at the at the current campgrounds, at another campgrounds, or if, you know, in some dreamy fashion, perhaps creating our own campgrounds where it’s all very designate, you know, designed, intentionally laid out for

00:28:14:42 – 00:28:18:31
KELLY LEE
our campers and their needs.

00:28:18:36 – 00:28:24:24
RUTH BAUM BIGUS
What would you like our audience to do? How can we help? Tell us.

00:28:24:29 – 00:28:47:46
KELLY LEE
Yeah, there’s just so many ways to get engaged in camp, encourage as a volunteer, as a supporter, as a as a board member. And I think what’s so special about it and why we have such a great retention rate is that you see the impact of your input, you see the impact of your time directly. It’s all local.

00:28:47:46 – 00:29:24:35
KELLY LEE
All of our campers are from Missouri and Kansas. 75 to 80% are from Kansas City. You see your scholarship funding going to a specific camper like I think that’s what’s so great about it, right? Is, you know, those that have been with us since the beginning, they know that it’s because of them that we continue to grow. So there’s just I just say that if this touches anyone’s heart, whether you know, somebody that lives, you know, that has autism or do not, but this touches your heart, reach out and, you know, will it will help plug you in in a meaningful way.

00:29:24:40 – 00:29:51:04
RUTH BAUM BIGUS
Kelly Lee, Camp in Courage, thank you so much for sharing about this incredible organization. If you want to know more, it’s Camp encourage dot org. Google it. Go find them. They’re doing great work. Thank you so much. Thank you, Ruth. Thank you for joining us for KC Care’s Kansas City’s nonprofit Voice, we’re produced by Charitable Communications, also a nonprofit.

00:29:51:09 – 00:30:13:08
RUTH BAUM BIGUS
This Casey Care segment was brought to you by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation W WW dot Coffman dot org. If you’d like to be a guest on KC Cares or underwriting opportunities for the support that we give the community, visit our Web site. KC cares online that or and spread the love. Find us on Facebook and Twitter at KC Cares Radio and on Instagram at KC Cares online.

00:30:13:08 – 00:30:23:42
RUTH BAUM BIGUS
And don’t forget to catch us on Saturday mornings at 8 a.m. on ESPN 15:10 a.m. and 94.5 FM. Thank you for joining us on KC Cares.

Previous Episodes!

Empowerment and Community Impact: A New Era at the Kauffman Foundation

DeAngela Burns-Wallace | CEO

Dive into the heart of strategic philanthropy with the Kauffman Foundation’s new vision under Dr. DeAngela Burns-Wallace. Balancing a rich legacy with forward-thinking strategies, the Foundation is entering a pivotal phase of strategic planning, prioritizing community involvement and needs. Focusing on education and entrepreneurship, Dr. Burns-Wallace aims to dismantle systemic barriers and foster equitable opportunities, particularly for underrepresented communities. This new chapter signifies a commitment to innovation and impactful philanthropy, aimed at driving sustainable economic growth and empowering communities.

visit them here: kcstarlight.com

 

What Nonprofit Questions are Answered?

  1. What is the current focus of the Kauffman Foundation under Dr. Burns-Wallace’s leadership?
  2. How is the Kauffman Foundation involving communities in its strategic planning process?
  3. What legacy does the Kauffman Foundation carry, and how is it shaping its future strategies?
  4. In what ways does the Kauffman Foundation aim to create equitable opportunities for underrepresented communities?
  5. How is Dr. Burns-Wallace’s diverse background influencing her approach to leadership at the Kauffman Foundation?

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KC Cares, Kansas City’s nonprofit voice, tells the stories of Kansas City nonprofits and connects them with the community.  

Produced by Charitable Communications 

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In partnership with: 

Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

Take risks. Own success. Be Uncommon.

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Transcript:

Welcome to KC Cares. We’re Kansas City’s nonprofit voice, and we’re telling the stories of Kansas City nonprofits and the people behind them. KC Cares is the intersection of the nonprofit and profit communities making Kansas City about a place to live, work and play.

00:00:35:04 – 00:01:11:21
Ruth Baum Bigus
This KC Care segment is brought to you by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. www dot Kauffman dot org. My name is Ruth Baum Bigus. he Kauffman Foundation is a shining star in the philanthropic constellation across the country and probably around the world. Founded in 1966 by Ewing, Marion Kauffman, noted entrepreneur and humanitarian today, the foundation is focused on preparing people for success in their jobs so that everyone has the opportunity to achieve, prosper and do well.

00:01:11:23 – 00:01:45:15
Ruth Baum Bigus
While the foundation is grounded in principles of racial equality, diversity and inclusion, all aspirations of its founder, the Kauffman Foundation, is more than 2.5 billion in assets that invest in the most important projects and organizations focused on people and building practical and workable solutions to today’s challenges. Today, the foundation has a new leader at the helm. It’s Angela Burns Wallace, whose resume is packed with incredible experiences and accomplishments, including stints in state government, the Foreign Service and higher education.

00:01:45:17 – 00:02:14:09
Ruth Baum Bigus
She’s won numerous prestigious awards as well as served and serves on various boards. A lifelong student and a higher education advocate, Dr. Burns Wallace holds degrees from Stanford, Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania, as well as a faculty appointment at the University of Southern California. Dr. Burns Wallace is more than her resumé. She’s a Kansas City native, a working mom and a daughter of older adult parents.

00:02:14:11 – 00:02:22:13
Ruth Baum Bigus
For this ask the Expert episode, we’re so delighted to welcome Dr. Burns. WALLACE Thank you so much for being here.

00:02:22:15 – 00:02:28:10
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
Thank you so much for having me. I am excited to be a part of this conversation today.

00:02:28:12 – 00:02:46:03
Ruth Baum Bigus
Well, we would think that everybody knows what the Kauffman Foundation is all about and what somebody in charge does. But I thought it’d be a good place to start to talk a little bit about what your responsibilities are for, you know, helming this auspicious organization.

00:02:46:05 – 00:03:23:08
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
So like any other president and CEO, you spend your time handling meetings and meetings and meetings, but in a good way. The work of this foundation and the Kauffman Foundation is really about empowering communities, about being in places, in spaces where we are working to break down systemic barriers, where we are working to help communities with solutions so that they have the power to control their economic stability, their economic prosperity and growth.

00:03:23:10 – 00:03:49:13
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
And so our investments over time, particularly over the last few years in education and entrepreneurship in this region and also around the world has really been about how do we help ensure that more people have access to opportunities that allowed them to have that control over their own economic future through that sitting at the helm of the organization?

00:03:49:18 – 00:04:42:17
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
It means that particularly right now, that it’s about us being in line with the communities that we serve, that we’re able to understand and match those needs of that community with the investments that we have with the research and the learning that we do with the convenings that we host and that we bring into various conversations. So my role on a day to day is to listen, is to learn, is to ensure that we are in collaboration, in partnership, in community, to be able to help those that need that access, need to be able to access those opportunities that historically there have been barriers to equitable access.

00:04:42:19 – 00:05:19:16
Ruth Baum Bigus
Gosh, I think back, you know, 1966 when Mr. Kay started this journey, and you would think by now we would made these great strides and great leaps, which we have to some extent, but still so much work to be done. What can you share at this point? What is the state of the Kauffman Foundation and under your leadership, what kind of priorities focus points are out there for you?

00:05:19:18 – 00:05:49:03
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
So I would say that we but also around the nation, in conversations around access and opportunity and economic prosperity, I don’t see that going away for us. I think it is part of the priorities. If we think back to Mr. Kay and the work that he wanted to happen around the country, he said in some of his remarks that we would find solutions to tough issues here in Kansas City and to be a model for the nation.

00:05:49:05 – 00:06:18:24
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
And we continue to work with our community partners, whether it is peers, funders, nonprofit organizations, those on the, you know, the civic side, our our public sector partners, educational partners to understand the circumstances and issues in our community and then again, to solution around them. Right now, that’s a part of the work that we’re doing. We are in as many organizations go through when you change leadership, a strategic planning phase.

00:06:19:01 – 00:06:39:09
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
And so like any other leadership change, when you have that, it actually creates an opportunity for you to refine the work. And for us, we have a beautiful legacy of the investment in the work that we’ve done in and around the community and around the nation. And in this moment, it allows us to better understand that legacy and its impact.

00:06:39:11 – 00:07:05:08
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
It allows us to kind of stand on that legacy. But the beauty of, you know, doing strategic planning for your organization is that you don’t have to be constrained by that legacy. It informs it helps you think about. But our work and thinking about what does this work need to evolve into in the next 5 to 7 years to continue to meet the needs of the communities that we serve?

00:07:05:10 – 00:07:16:02
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
That for us in this moment is what strategic planning is all about, and it allows us to refine our funding priorities coming out of this work.

00:07:16:04 – 00:07:19:15
Ruth Baum Bigus
Where are you in that process?

00:07:19:17 – 00:07:41:24
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
So we are kind of chugging along. What I will say is, is that we are close. Our hope is that as we move through our strategic planning, that we are able in the near future to talk about what those priorities are. And again, we are grounded in education and entrepreneurship in the work that we have invested in over the last few years.

00:07:42:03 – 00:08:06:13
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
And we know that that will continue to be a part of that of the work that we do going forward. But the question is, what does that work look like from a future lens, not kind of a backwards lens. So we are just kind of thinking about our own horizon of in that this spring we’re in a place in space where we will be able to talk about what those strategic priorities are going forward.

00:08:06:15 – 00:08:17:05
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
Looking to set a 2030 vision for the work that helps to drive our direction, and we’ll be excited to share that coming soon.

00:08:17:07 – 00:08:38:00
Ruth Baum Bigus
Well, we we can’t wait to share what you do as well. That’s kind of be invigorating to come into an organization, as you say, is is built on a legacy of a man who has become was larger than life in life. And I think is even larger. You know, after that, anybody who met Mr. Kay, I think, would agree with that.

00:08:38:02 – 00:08:55:03
Ruth Baum Bigus
But how fun to get in there And like, dabble Dream kind of, you know. And so are you bringing lots of folks to the table? Is this an exercise of board and staff? How does it work?

00:08:55:05 – 00:09:23:23
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
It is an exercise with an in partnership community. So we have over the last few months, spent time in various communities with partners, bringing them to the table, asking them in different ways. And so we as I started in this role, we did an open house where we opened the doors of the foundation and welcomed over 300 partners to an evening of just celebration.

00:09:24:03 – 00:09:45:07
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
And that night, even we launched a survey asking them, as we start to think about our strategic planning, what are some of the priorities? Where do we need to align, where do we need to be careful? But then we built on that and we then pulled together key stakeholders in the community at various levels all throughout the Greater Kansas City region and a few of our national partners.

00:09:45:10 – 00:10:07:21
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
And we asked them similar questions, going a little bit deeper. Right? We started to talk about, you know, where is this work? Where’s our work been? Where does it need to go, How does that fit with the work that you’re doing and your strategic priorities and alignment and how can we support and how does it along? So those voices have all been a part of shaping the work as we go forward, but also our team.

00:10:07:23 – 00:10:32:24
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
And so we have an amazing, dedicated group of associates that work at the foundation, and they have also been integral in this work. Sometimes when you do strategic planning and as someone who was a strategic planner would come into other organizations and do this work with them. A lot of times you start at the leadership team, right? You take that CEO and their executive team and you put them in the room and they’re like, All right, what are your priorities and how do we want to structure it?

00:10:33:03 – 00:10:56:20
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
Then you roll it down to the team and say, okay, here’s the priorities. Like what do you all think and how do we tweak them? We didn’t do that. We put all 80 plus. We are around about 84 associates in a room together. And we kicked off our strategic planning process together with all of us starting to design and to think about what should be these headlines that we’re working toward.

00:10:56:24 – 00:11:16:18
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
What what, who are the communities that we want to ensure that we are serving? What are the outcomes and impacts that we want to see in this work as we move forward? And every single member of our foundation staff was in the room as we started that conversation. Then we did the same thing with the board, took them through the similar exercises, right?

00:11:16:18 – 00:11:37:21
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
So it has been a wonderful journey to see the evolution of this work and to hear and to work with people who have said to me, as we are getting further along and starting to test some of our ideas and and make sure we’re going back to those and say, okay, do you hear yourself in the work that that’s coming out of this?

00:11:38:00 – 00:11:56:11
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
You know, as we starting to shape some of our goals and levers, are you hearing what you put in? And to hear people tell us internally and externally, I see myself and I see what what I gave as something that was taken into consideration. It means that we’re on the right path. We still have a ways to go, right?

00:11:56:13 – 00:12:30:14
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
But that idea that we’ve built a process where people have felt that they have been able to give really good feedback and insight and that we are truly echoing that back and how we are crafting. Again, still testing some things, still making sure that we have that alignment. But it is good to hear along the way from various stakeholders, internal and external, that they believe that our process even has ensured that that various voices are being taken into consideration.

00:12:30:16 – 00:12:56:04
Ruth Baum Bigus
I’m so excited now to hear all about this and how how validating for your associates to know that they are not just sitting there waiting for things to come trickling down, but a percolate percolate up. I want to switch for a minute and and take you and our our audience to what I was able to learn. We’re talking with Angela Burns Wallace.

00:12:56:04 – 00:13:30:12
Ruth Baum Bigus
She is the CEO, the woman in charge at the Kauffman Foundation. And from personal observation, very vivacious and exciting. And I want you to know that I have my sparkly tennis shoes on. This lady has got style. At any rate, I want to talk about leadership. You did a presentation for the Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership, and there were four areas that you spoke about about that I thought were just really enlightening for those people in the room.

00:13:30:12 – 00:13:44:14
Ruth Baum Bigus
And I wondered if you might you might share those for and I could go and give everybody a sneak peek. It was be kind, be ready, be great, be intentional. Yeah. And how that became your your package of leadership.

00:13:44:16 – 00:14:04:08
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
Yeah. So for me, you know, when we do this work and when I do this work, you know, my career has always been in public service. So I am a public servant from day one, and I bring that with me as I move into this space. So, you know, this philanthropic space, because I believe that our work is in service as well.

00:14:04:13 – 00:14:39:11
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
Right. And but irrespective, there is something about for me, leaders that we really can shape how our organizations move, how we are motivated or unmotivated, the impact that we have. And I love being able to join, you know, the Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership’s event, because I love when we take the time to be one of my BS, be intentional about thinking about our own leadership, Right?

00:14:39:13 – 00:15:01:12
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
I see that it’s really important that we have to create capacity and space to be intentional. I start with the end and work my way back because we are our best selves when we give ourselves that grace and space to be creative, right? We are our best selves when we have the time to think deeply and thoughtfully about the work that we do.

00:15:01:18 – 00:15:17:15
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
And if we get caught up in the day to day operations of just moving things over and over and over, we are not bringing our best selves to our leadership. And that means we’re not our best selves for our teams, which then our teams can’t be the best selves for those that they serve and what they are trying to deliver, Right?

00:15:17:17 – 00:15:43:19
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
So when we talk about be intentional, particularly as a leader, being intentional about your time, your space, how you move, how you show up, what you share can be a true game changer because you never know who is looking at you, watching you as a motto, listening to you, being inspired by you.

00:15:43:21 – 00:16:19:03
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
Leaders that I have worked under and I’ve learned so well from are those who didn’t do it well, because you learn what you don’t want to do right and who you don’t want to be in those moments. Right. So be intentional with something that is really, really near and dear to me being kind. Going back to that beginning of that list, the way that we show up and being kind, being human, being authentic, being real in our spaces is really, really important.

00:16:19:05 – 00:16:48:10
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
As leaders, we set the tone of how we move to and three spaces how our teams feel about the work that they do, those that we serve. And so it does not take much to be kind, but it is one of the most powerful things a leader can be in terms of how they show up and how they engage both with peers, with their teams and with those that they serve.

00:16:48:12 – 00:17:20:06
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
And it really has tremendous impact to the work. Right. Be ready is is something that I love because I do believe as we do this work, being ready just means that we are positioning ourselves always to be ready for the opportunity that we’ve done, the work that we challenge ourselves, that we have invested in team members, and that next level of leadership so that they’re ready to take advantage of the opportunities that are available.

00:17:20:07 – 00:17:43:14
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
Right. And so this concept of being ready is something that really is a way that as leaders, we should walk ready for the opportunity, ready for the partnership, ready for the challenges, ready to engage. But to do that, you got to prepare, right? You you have to make sure that you are putting yourself in places and spaces where you’re learning, where you’re being challenged, where you’re growing.

00:17:43:19 – 00:18:08:21
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
You can’t just be ready overnight. You have to put in the work. And as a leader, that can sometimes be a challenge for us because we have to create space, begin to invest even in ourselves, and be intentional investing in that next level of leader so that when I talk about be ready, it’s about us as an individual, but also our organizations, right?

00:18:08:23 – 00:18:42:07
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
And if we’re not ready, our organizations can’t be ready. And if we haven’t done the work, our organizations can’t be ready and then that be great. It can be be great. It could be be bold, right? Like showing up in the work with a manner of just excellence. Right? This idea that we are going to do good work and that we take up space because we are ready to lead and engage in lean in and that we can sometimes be bigger than our dreams.

00:18:42:09 – 00:19:11:15
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
And the important piece of that is not about us, but when we are bigger than the dreams, because we are in service, it means we are dreaming big for the communities that we serve. It means that we are calling new and innovative ideas and creative ways to deliver, to serve, to create space and solutions for those who we are trying to serve, and that those that our work has the most impact on.

00:19:11:17 – 00:19:32:11
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
So we have to be great because when we are great, it means that we are having a deeper level of impact. The greatness is not about us as individuals. It’s about how we do the work, how we show up. So I hearkened it that morning to the Beatitudes, right? So that these are ways in which you live your life.

00:19:32:11 – 00:19:51:13
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
These are ways in which you show up. And people, lenders stand how you move to and through. And as a leader, we need to take time to make sure that we are thinking about how we lead because it truly impacts what we do and those that we serve.

00:19:51:15 – 00:19:53:01
Ruth Baum Bigus
I’m ready.

00:19:53:03 – 00:19:54:07
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
Let’s go.

00:19:54:09 – 00:20:21:16
Ruth Baum Bigus
I’m ready. I I’m so grateful that you shared that because I think it’s something that can translate to any nonprofit, any organization of any size. And I and I love how earlier you used the word grace and allowing ourselves some grace, you know, to not be necessarily great every day all the time, but finding some space to be able to kind of sit and live in that.

00:20:21:16 – 00:20:25:03
Ruth Baum Bigus
So thank you so much for that.

00:20:25:05 – 00:20:49:20
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
You know, I’m is one of those things, Grace is my word. And people know intentional and grace like those are things that like, just sit with me. But Grace is necessary. It’s necessary for us as leaders. It’s necessary that we give it. It’s also necessary that we receive it in the work that we do. And it is something that I think that we don’t have enough of right now in our society.

00:20:49:23 – 00:20:54:00
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
But it makes boy, that it really, really does.

00:20:54:02 – 00:21:06:14
Ruth Baum Bigus
That is that is for sure. Yeah. The foundation’s website, I think, has a lot of language that talks about opportunity, equity, community.

00:21:06:16 – 00:21:07:24
DeAngela Burns-Wallace

00:21:08:01 – 00:21:14:14
Ruth Baum Bigus
Can you share with us a little bit of the importance of those and and how they intersect?

00:21:14:16 – 00:21:38:13
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
So what I will say is that part of that harkens back to Mr. K, right? When he talked about the work on the foundation, he specifically talked about the work being that we were looking for solutions, that we were working to take down systemic barriers for those that traditionally that those barriers blocked their access, blocked their opportunities, or that their ability.

00:21:38:17 – 00:22:26:06
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
So when we use that language, it’s an important piece of kind of a nod and a recognition that our work is not just about kind of overall economic prosperity in the greater good, but it is about gap closing. It is about, you know, creating equitable spaces. It is about looking at systemic, you know, structures and policies and, you know, conversations and ensuring that we are working to invest and to find solutions and to convene conversations that help us better understand and and to dismantle, you know, some of those pieces that systemically have created barriers or created siloed lanes where, you know, okay, this group of individuals can access this set of resources, but not this

00:22:26:06 – 00:22:57:15
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
set of resources, right? So those words I think we use them opportunity, equity, community in different types of ways. But it’s the idea of the concept that the work that we are doing is about how do you increase these amplified, newly identified opportunities for communities that you know from an equitable lens over time have not had an equitable access to those types of opportunities.

00:22:57:17 – 00:23:41:04
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
And then that means those communities are ones in which we serve, that a lot of our work is targeted on that we are looking for partners that do that work, that impact those communities so that we are, again being a part of the solutions to break down those barriers. It’s not necessarily like us doing the work always in community, but it’s it’s and I say that because our work, a lot of our work is us investing right in it’s investing in other entities because those other entities are the ones who are in those communities that are removing barriers on a day to day basis right there in those communities that are working and standing alongside

00:23:41:08 – 00:24:21:15
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
those that know what that community needs and are that again, we play a role sometimes of amplify, right? Of right. Doubling down into an entity that we know is going to have a certain type of deep impact in a particular community, in a particular space, a particular group of individuals or a sector like a lot of the work that we’ve done in the entrepreneurship sector, like knowing that business ownership creation, profitability, sustainability and having that in the hands of the communities that traditionally haven’t had access to capital or the starting of entrepreneur, you know that those business spaces and places, right?

00:24:21:19 – 00:24:32:09
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
That is that through line of when you talk about opportunity and equity and community, that’s when it comes together in a beautiful way.

00:24:32:11 – 00:24:53:15
Ruth Baum Bigus
I have so many questions and so little time. We’re going to have to have you back. This is a tremendous job. You have a tremendous resumé. How do you how are you pulling from past experience to inform current and future experience.

00:24:53:17 – 00:25:29:10
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
Every day and three times a day? Right. You know, I I’ve had a career where I have been in federal government, state government, higher education. I’ve served on numerous boards and commissions and with organizations and still do in various capacities. What I will say is and and let’s not forget, I am born and raised from this community, grew up on 67.

00:25:29:12 – 00:25:52:11
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
That is also a piece of what helps inform the work that I do. It’s all of my lived experiences, but every day what I try to do is I think about the lessons I’ve learned, whether it’s in making the connections and understanding those connections and how I leverage them into the work and how we framework to understanding communities.

00:25:52:13 – 00:26:40:02
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
I have lived and worked all over the world and being a diplomat for a part of my career. You live and work in other countries and you sit in different places in your life, right? So every every day I work to make sure that I’m pushing myself to say, Am I bringing my own or am I ensuring that I am listening to my perspectives as we think about the work, but also my work in the public sector across my career has been about tackling issues and looking at how you allocate resources and whether those are dollars.

00:26:40:02 – 00:26:59:23
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
It might be policy, it might be technical assistance, it might be capacity building like that’s the type of work I’ve done in various different environments. And it is a synergy to the work that we do in different ways in that we fund into. So when I say I tap into my past work, like every day, I mean it.

00:27:00:01 – 00:27:27:24
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
And then sometimes I literally tap into it in that I will pick up my phone and text someone and say, Hey, we are thinking about such and such. You know anybody who’s doing that? Is there some research we need to look into? There’s somebody I should call and that that text can span from that colleague who is sitting at the, you know, Department of Defense right now as an assistant secretary and say bring work to a really close friend who has been my best friend since seventh grade.

00:27:28:02 – 00:27:49:20
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
But she is a senior leader in health care here in Kansas City right now today, and transforming work over at St Luke’s Hospital. Right. So but it runs the gamut of of all of those lived experiences that I try to leverage into the work that we want to get done for the betterment of the community.

00:27:49:22 – 00:28:12:16
Ruth Baum Bigus
Well, I say Kansas City is so lucky, first of all, to have you as a native daughter. Second of all, to have you at the helm of the Kauffman Foundation and I think is a real transitory time in society in general. So we are so grateful and grateful that there’s a listener there which is just wonderful. So thank you for spending time with us.

00:28:12:18 – 00:28:49:18
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
Thank you for having me and welcome the opportunity to come back. I will say, particularly for your population, I just if I can do one quick kind of shout out in there that people may not realize, but this is the 25th anniversary of our building and the opening of the conference center. And so I am trying to take every opportunity that we can to remind, particularly the nonprofit community, if you are a501 C3, you know that our conference center is free for you to hold meetings.

00:28:49:20 – 00:29:18:13
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
And if you have, you know, of course your food and beverage is something that we cover covered and cost, but that is also something we try to keep at a reasonable level so that that is not a barrier. But I want to highlight it. After 25 years when that facility was created, it was specifically and very intentionally as a tool for the convening of our nonprofit community so that they had a space that they thought was their own to do their work where they didn’t have to pay for it.

00:29:18:19 – 00:29:43:23
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
And so we want to continue to that celebration of what that tool is into the work. So I say to those who are listening of the KC nonprofit community, just remember that the Conference Center, the Kauffman Conference Center is your home and a place that, you know, we hope that you will use to convene to me small meetings, big meetings.

00:29:43:23 – 00:30:13:15
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
I mean, we have multiple rooms. You can do a very small group of like your board or a small conversation or you can, you know, book out the very large room where you can have 250, 300 individuals as part of a conversation. But just please know, check us out because it is a tool that we we are we are finally getting close to our pre pandemic levels, but we’re still not there, which lets us know there is still more need in the community for that utilization of space.

00:30:13:20 – 00:30:19:02
DeAngela Burns-Wallace
So please think of us as a home and a tool for the community.

00:30:19:04 – 00:30:43:10
Ruth Baum Bigus
We’re happy to let you plug away on that. Thank you to the Kauffman Foundation and to check out information on it. It’s W WW dot Coffman dot org and you can spread the love and find us on Facebook and Twitter at KC Cares Radio and on Instagram at KC Cares online. Don’t forget Saturday mornings you can catch us at 8 a.m. on ESPN, 15:10 a.m. and 94.5 FM.

00:30:43:16 – 00:30:46:17
Ruth Baum Bigus
Thank you for joining us on KC Cares.

Previous Episodes!

Exploring Followership with Elizabeth Ireland: Insights for Nonprofit Success

Elizabeth Ireland | Assoc Director of Training

Elizabeth Ireland, Director of Training at the Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership, discusses the crucial yet often overlooked concept of followership in nonprofit organizations in her interview with KC Cares. She explains the evolution of followership, distinguishing between role-based and social process perspectives. Ireland highlights key traits of effective followers, including autonomy, high standards, and a purpose-driven approach, which are vital for nonprofit success. She also delves into the interplay between leadership and followership, emphasizing how effective followership contributes to positive organizational dynamics. This interview provides valuable insights for nonprofits looking to strengthen their team dynamics and achieve greater mission impact by recognizing and nurturing effective followership.

visit them here: https://info.umkc.edu/centers/mcnl/

 

What Nonprofit Questions Are Answered?

1. What is followership and why is it important in nonprofits?
Ans:- The interview answers this by defining followership and its significance in shaping organizational success, particularly in the nonprofit sector.

2. How has the concept of followership evolved over time?
Ans:- Elizabeth Ireland explains the historical context and evolution of followership in leadership studies.

3. What are the characteristics of an effective follower in a nonprofit organization?
Ans:- The discussion focuses on key traits such as autonomy, high standards, and purpose-driven nature.

4. How does followership impact leadership and organizational dynamics?
Ans:- The interview explores the relationship between leadership and followership, highlighting its impact on organizational outcomes.

5. Can understanding followership improve nonprofit management and team dynamics?
Ans:- Insights from the interview suggest how embracing followership can enhance management and team dynamics in nonprofits.

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KC Cares, Kansas City’s nonprofit voice, tells the stories of Kansas City nonprofits and connects them with the community.  

Produced by Charitable Communications 

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In partnership with: 

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Take risks. Own success. Be Uncommon.

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Transcript:

00:00:02:21 – 00:00:17:15
Ruth
Welcome to KC Cares, Kansas City’s nonprofit voice. We’re telling the stories of Kansas City nonprofits and the people behind them. Casey Cares is that intersection of the nonprofit and profit communities making Kansas City a better place to live, work and play?

00:00:17:18 – 00:00:44:12
Ruth
This KC Cares segment is brought to you by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. www dot Kauffman dot org. I’m Ruth Baum Bigus leadership is the ability of an individual or a group of people to influence and guide followers or members of an organization, society or team. Well, that sounds so simple. Yet there are so many things involved with leadership on this.

00:00:44:12 – 00:01:06:01
Ruth
Ask the expert episode. We’re exploring the concept involving leadership that may be new to some of us. It’s called followership. Here to explore followership is someone who has been studying it for some time. We welcome Elizabeth Ireland, who is the director of training at the Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership at the Henry Bloch School of Business at the University of Missouri, Kansas City.

00:01:06:03 – 00:01:15:06
Ruth
Elizabeth recently presented a session on this topic as part of the center’s Leadership Conference. Well, welcome, Elizabeth. I feel we’re ready to dive into followership.

00:01:15:08 – 00:01:18:15
Elizabeth
Thank you for having me. I’m very excited.

00:01:18:17 – 00:01:28:19
Ruth
All right. We got to start at a base, right? So what is followership? And when did this term arise?

00:01:28:22 – 00:01:50:03
Elizabeth
Yeah. So I think it’s really a good spot to start at, like defining how we generally think about followership or how it’s been relayed to us in the literature. And so there tend to be two different camps that followership falls into. And the first is a role based, and that one emerged first. And then the second one is this social process.

00:01:50:03 – 00:02:20:17
Elizabeth
Camp And so role based really is this idea that individuals enact their followership based on having a formal or even an informal role or position. In this case, we talk about organizations, but it could really be in various different aspects of their social life. The other side is a social process camp and that says that it’s socially constructed and that it’s more relational between leaders and followers.

00:02:20:19 – 00:02:33:12
Elizabeth
And there tends to be a little bit more flexibility in who is considered the leader and who is considered the follower. And they’re able to kind of switch back and forth based on the context.

00:02:33:15 – 00:02:45:25
Ruth
How did this a science, this this new area of thought under the umbrella of leadership even come into being? How did folks just kind of dive into this?

00:02:46:02 – 00:03:15:29
Elizabeth
Yeah, because we’re so heavily focused on leadership all the time. That’s a really great question. So as you know, for much of our leadership studies, it’s really been focused on the leader themselves, right? Their traits, their behaviors, their characteristics. Are they charismatic? Are they intelligent? Are they tall? Believe it or not, that was one. But then as it shifted forward, there was always some conversation of followers inside the literature.

00:03:16:02 – 00:03:53:07
Elizabeth
So they were regarded differently depending on the perspective. So somewhere around the mid eighties, towards the end of the eighties, Robert Kelley put out a article called In Praise of Followers in the Harvard Business Review. And that really sparked this emergence of followership and talking about what it means to be a follower, what it means to be an effective follower inside organization, and really began to say, Hey, we have been thinking about followers for weight or leaders for way too long, and it’s time that we actually start giving some attention to followers and giving them the credit that they deserve.

00:03:53:07 – 00:04:17:03
Elizabeth
Because more often than not, we’re going to serve and a follower role rather than in a leadership role. And so we really do need to focus on followers. It’s also a role based approach. His approach is model and then moving forward into the mid-nineties, Eric, Caleb said, Hey, this is a really great idea. And he kind of built that out a little further, though he looks at it slightly different.

00:04:17:05 – 00:04:44:05
Elizabeth
He looks at whether or not followers are supportive of leaders and of their organizations, but also this idea that they need to be really courageous, which means they need to stand up for their leaders, but they also need to be able to stand up to their leaders. We move a little bit forward. We have Barbara Kellerman in 2008 and she actually kind of says, hey, let’s pare this way back and just look at one dimension of being a follower.

00:04:44:05 – 00:05:09:08
Elizabeth
And so she looks at just that engagement piece, and she says that followers really are individuals that don’t necessarily have power or influence. So they may have some degree of authority. Beyond that, we start shifting into those more social process perspectives, which says, you know, this really is a process where leaders and followers are agreeing to be that identity, right?

00:05:09:08 – 00:05:29:20
Elizabeth
In some instances, I’m a leader and in some instances I’m a follower. And if I choose to be a follower, then that means I’m granting you the ability to be the leader. And we have this more code constructed or co-produced. Look at what it means to be a leader and what it means to be a follower.

00:05:29:22 – 00:05:31:17
Ruth
That’s a lot to unpack.

00:05:31:19 – 00:05:32:29
Elizabeth
If you know, where.

00:05:32:29 – 00:06:03:10
Ruth
Do we start? So I like that you had mentioned, I think sometimes people feel if I’m a follower, you know, the Chiefs, the Indians and the Indians are just slogging through the mud. You know, Carrie hitting the packages while the leader is upfront. Charismatic. Yeah, but as you describe this, the father really has a very important role to play in organizations.

00:06:03:16 – 00:06:13:23
Ruth
Let’s talk about that a little bit. What are those characteristics or what are those commonality that followers should have to be? Good followers, I guess.

00:06:13:25 – 00:06:34:22
Elizabeth
That’s a really great place to start. So I tend to, when I’m explaining this or I’m talking to individuals for the first time, because first off, most people are like, what is followership and why are we talking about followers? I tend to have them start with those role based approaches, and Robert Kelly’s is usually the first one I introduce just because it is familiar.

00:06:34:22 – 00:06:55:15
Elizabeth
Whether or not we realize it, we understand what these follower types are because we’ve seen them in organizations, we’ve seen them in our social lives, we’ve seen them on movies and TV, right? So they are kind of familiar to us. And so he looks at followership in terms of whether or not there is engagement and whether or not there’s critical thinking.

00:06:55:22 – 00:07:23:05
Elizabeth
And so to Robert Kelly, he says that, you know, really effective followers, which is what we should all strive to be, are individuals who are able to manage themselves well so they’re able to do their work with a high degree of autonomy. And in fact, they absolutely need that in order to do their best work. They’re also individuals that have really high standards, and so they’re not necessarily looking to get the job done quickly with a lower quality product.

00:07:23:05 – 00:07:47:16
Elizabeth
So they’re going to really have those high standards and strive to do the absolute best for the organization. They’re also individuals who are purpose driven, and so they have this strong need to have to support someone other than themselves, which makes it a really natural fit for the nonprofit context. Because, you know, we all seem to be purpose driven in this work.

00:07:47:16 – 00:08:09:15
Elizabeth
And so it’s just a really good connector because we’re already kind of bought into that piece. Initially, individuals who are effective followers also really work on building their confidence. So they’re going to be those lifetime learners. If they don’t know something, they’re going to go out and be self-motivated and want to learn it, because again, they have really high standards and they want to do what’s best for the organization.

00:08:09:17 – 00:08:30:24
Elizabeth
And they’re also going to focus their efforts for maximum impact, which means that they know what their strengths are and they play to their strengths. Although there are certainly opportunities to grow in the areas that we’re less strong in, they know how to make the most impact inside their organization. And then finally, they are individuals that are courageous, right?

00:08:30:24 – 00:08:54:22
Elizabeth
So they’re willing to stand up to their leader when they need to. And we use leader loosely there. Right. So it could be all kinds of different individuals, especially in the nonprofit context. They’re also really honest. Right. So they’re going to be authentic and they’re going to kind of tell you like it is, although they’re definitely tactful and because they are honest and because they are authentic, they are viewed as being more credible.

00:08:54:24 – 00:09:01:06
Elizabeth
And so they tend to be experts inside their organizations or inside their field.

00:09:01:08 – 00:09:04:22
Ruth
And you be a bad follower. Yeah. Yeah.

00:09:04:23 – 00:09:29:10
Elizabeth
You can definitely be a bad follower. And that kind of brings us into this idea of, you know, how do we think about ourselves as a follower? How do we think of others as followers and these ideas and sort of conceptions of what it means to be a follower are things that we started early in our life, and we’ve kind of just built them as we got it, and now we’re bringing them into our organizations.

00:09:29:10 – 00:09:49:07
Elizabeth
So for some, you know, being a bad follower means that they’re really passive, so they’re not engaged in the work. They just come in, they do the bare minimum and, you know, they get their paycheck and they’re just really not looking to make any waves. But they’re also not making any great impact because, you know, again, they’re very passive.

00:09:49:09 – 00:10:10:05
Elizabeth
Others might be alienated followers. And so the interesting piece there is that you could actually be a really effective follower. But if there’s a miss or a misalignment between leaders and followers, and that could also include how leaders think individuals should follow, because for some leaders, they have this more hierarchical view. And so they think that you should be passive, right?

00:10:10:05 – 00:10:32:10
Elizabeth
You should be obedient. And we definitely don’t want that inside organizations because that’s not how we grow and thrive. So if you were an effective follower, there’s that miss that you might actually slip into being alienated, which just means that you’re really critical of the leader, but it also means that you’re more likely to look at looking for another job.

00:10:32:10 – 00:11:06:20
Elizabeth
And so that turnover and tension grows within you. But there are also just individuals that refuse to follow, and that’s just kind of their conception of it. And they they just want to be a leader and so they will not follow anyone. So yes, there are bad followers, but I hope with more education and more intentionality behind strengthening who we are as followers, but also as leaders strengthening who others are as followers and letting them have more leadership opportunities, We can kind of help resolve some of that.

00:11:06:23 – 00:11:36:05
Ruth
I remember sitting in your presentation, which was so interesting and such a diverse group of people in the room. So when we did group work, it was interesting. You could kind of tell what kinds of organizations and what role people played and if it was working well in terms of leaders and followers. At any rate, how much does personality and who you are playing to, what kind of a follower you may be?

00:11:36:07 – 00:11:39:00
Ruth
Yeah, that’s absolutely fair.

00:11:39:02 – 00:12:03:23
Elizabeth
So it’s kind of a multi pronged approach, right? So we need to understand what is our quote unquote native follower style, although it’s a spectrum and we shift in that. But we also have to compare that with, you know, are we an introvert or are we an extrovert also? How do you what are those implicit feelings that we have towards leadership and who leaders should be and what makes a good leader?

00:12:03:25 – 00:12:24:08
Elizabeth
All of that, our willingness to speak up, but also providing opportunities for people to speak up. It all plays a part in to creating a more effective followers, but personality is definitely an aspect to it, just as it is with leadership.

00:12:24:10 – 00:12:48:17
Ruth
Okay, you get that that Debbie Downer or David Downer in there, Is there is there a way to ask the leader, let’s say work with those followers to raise up and try to mitigate that, maybe how they learn to be a follower?

00:12:48:19 – 00:13:26:09
Elizabeth
Yes. And they need a lot of support from you as a leader. They also need a lot of peer modeling. And so for person, they may have that perspective because they’ve had other leaders in the past that have said, you need to be obedient and you need to be passive because that’s the conception that they had. And so you may actually just need to show them a different way, but it does take a lot of time because you’re going to have to build that trust first, to create that safe space for them to be able to challenge or to even get them engaged enough to the point where they’re wanting to take on more challenging

00:13:26:09 – 00:13:48:16
Elizabeth
task and kind of grow that sense of autonomy. So yes, you can improve them. It just takes a lot of work. But there are also other perspectives that look at it that are kind of more from that engagement piece. And they say, you know, this is how you more strategically move individuals along that follower spectrum. And a lot of that means you have to get important to the purpose of the organization.

00:13:48:18 – 00:14:08:15
Elizabeth
You had to build those relationships among peers and then also with the leaders and just model the way for them so that they know that they can kind of grow in this way. And hopefully it improves, although again, there are some of those individuals that are just never going to follow. And so we don’t always need people to challenge.

00:14:08:15 – 00:14:29:25
Elizabeth
Sometimes we just have people to come in and do the work. And so that’s fine when they get more disruptive or they’re constantly challenging a leader or they’re really confrontational, that’s where you kind of have to start working those more performance management pieces to either help them get them on board or get them to a different opportunity, if you will.

00:14:29:28 – 00:14:59:29
Ruth
You mentioned a big five letter word, I think trust. Yeah. Sounds like that is absolutely key in in being a follower and being the leader in being a follower, is trust something that can be challenged or inspired, perhaps so that you play the game, as it were?

00:15:00:01 – 00:15:25:10
Elizabeth
Yeah, I think you could definitely look at it from your perspective. So first off, trust underpins everything that we do in that organization. So individuals have followers, if you will, who trust their leader, are going to have higher performance, they’re going to have less turnover and hence they’re going to have greater satisfaction and commitment to the organization. So there’s all of these really great benefits that come from building trust.

00:15:25:13 – 00:15:51:29
Elizabeth
But if you are an effective follower and you’re willing to challenge a leader and you have a leader who maybe is less than ethical or maybe you see that the organization is going in a direction that they shouldn’t go in and the follower in the leader shut you down on that. That is going to erode your sense of trust that might actually propel you from going from effectiveness, like being an effective follower to being an alienated follower.

00:15:52:02 – 00:16:08:04
Elizabeth
And then you’re going to start again looking at that turnover intent or having a higher sense of burnout, whereas you have that drive to kind of push through. Now things are kind of you’re feeling the effects of it more because the relationship between the leader and you is strained.

00:16:08:06 – 00:16:19:10
Ruth
You’ve been studying this a while and when you look at leadership, do leaders need to have been followers?

00:16:19:13 – 00:16:22:15
Elizabeth
Yes, Yes, absolutely. Be the.

00:16:22:15 – 00:16:22:26
Ruth
Best.

00:16:22:26 – 00:16:43:09
Elizabeth
Leaders are individuals who are really effective followers. And it’s funny because if you look at the different traits and characteristics and behaviors of followers, they mirror that of leadership. It’s just that you look at it from more of a partnership perspective or like we’re working together. And in this instance, I’m the leader. And in that instance I’m the follower.

00:16:43:12 – 00:16:59:29
Elizabeth
Instead of this like command and control style that says I’m always the leader, you need to be passive and obedient and just be a yes person and do your job. And so, yes, the really great leaders are also really great followers.

00:17:00:01 – 00:17:22:13
Ruth
We had a colleague of yours on the show a few months ago, Tom Van Saki, talking about Founder’s Syndrome. So I’m wondering, you know, in that founder’s syndrome, do they have a missing gap of followership where maybe they you know, they’ve never been the follower? You know, they’ve always been the leader.

00:17:22:15 – 00:17:42:16
Elizabeth
Yeah. And then, you know, it’s a very complicated issue there. There’s a lot of emotions and feelings around that. But if they are the type of leader that doesn’t like, again, to be challenged, right, that sort of wants to have everything rubber stamped by the board or rubber stamped by the staff, they’re going to be really used to that.

00:17:42:16 – 00:18:02:04
Elizabeth
And that’s going to be hard to let go and to kind of look at leadership from a different perspective and kind of say, hey, I’m going to bring this person on in order to have a succession plan. But we’re really we’re going to be partners letting go of that leadership piece, if that’s a really strong piece of their identity, is going to be really hard for them.

00:18:02:06 – 00:18:16:25
Ruth
You mentioned a few moments ago to another word that kind of stuck out with me is that’s partnership is is that key to be a good follower in the whole dynamic, you know, of an organization?

00:18:16:27 – 00:18:42:06
Elizabeth
Yeah, I would say that there’s a time and place, right? There’s a context and situation for both leading and following, but that the most effective forms tend to be those that are more of a partnership where they’re treated more not necessarily as equals, right? Their supervisors and their subordinates, even though we don’t love that word, followers. So there is a hierarchy there.

00:18:42:06 – 00:18:59:00
Elizabeth
But from that social process angle, they’re partners, right? They’re creating leadership and followership together because it’s what’s in the best interest of the organization, and it helps them achieve their mission in a more effective way.

00:18:59:02 – 00:19:23:01
Ruth
We’re talking with Elizabeth Ireland. She’s the associate director of training at the Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership, and she is the guru on followership. Our organization’s talking about this. Is this something now that nonprofits, when they, you know, take time to to look at how they’re run? Are folks talking about this and are they embracing it?

00:19:23:03 – 00:19:45:13
Elizabeth
I think that they are talking about issues related to followership and followers. So they may not be looking at it from an academic followership lens. Right. They may not actually know that’s what they’re doing, but they’re certainly talking about the issues at hand. One of the things that we need to do a little bit better as an academic community is include followership.

00:19:45:13 – 00:20:13:03
Elizabeth
And with our leadership coursework, I have been through or leadership classes than I can count. And I think I only heard the word followership once in all of that time, although I certainly use for all of my projects and every speech I did in class. But within organizations, we just need to start talking about it a little bit more, in particular with the nonprofit organization and nonprofit sector.

00:20:13:05 – 00:20:46:09
Elizabeth
So in general, Followership Lags Leadership studies, right? We go to Barnes and Noble or another bookstore. We’re going to see far more books on leadership than we are on followership. And if we look even, we kind of select out even more and look at just the nonprofit sector. We’re going to find far less information out there about what it means to be an effective follower inside nonprofit organizations, which is the reason why I’m specifically looking at that with my dissertation, because there’s a need to have a sense of what it means to be a follower.

00:20:46:09 – 00:20:57:26
Elizabeth
And followership looks like, and all of those behaviors, expressions and characteristics. But that’s grounded inside the unique context of nonprofit organizations.

00:20:57:28 – 00:21:23:12
Ruth
It would seem to me if you don’t have followers, then you’re not going to move the needle forward towards your mission and I know that sounds very basic, but and I think there’s something unique I’d love to hear you address as a nonprofit. Hopefully has staff or whatever followers that are part of it. But then you have volunteers and you’re driven by boards.

00:21:23:12 – 00:21:33:13
Ruth
So how does followership play into that and how do you infiltrate in a good sense to get those folks on board?

00:21:33:16 – 00:22:02:05
Elizabeth
Yeah, So it’s not actually that basic a place to start because while we tend to think that we fix some of those issues with, you know, command and control and authoritative leadership, right? They pop up in organizations of all types and of all sizes because we’re just humans and we bring with us what we think of leadership should look like in terms of looking at specifically like segmenting out what it looks like with your staff.

00:22:02:08 – 00:22:18:09
Elizabeth
Again, you would start with Robert Kelly, Eric Taylor and just kind of look through and assess what kinds of followers you have amongst your staff. How do they naturally lean? What do they think of being a follower? You can just ask them, what does it mean to be a leader and what does it mean to be a follower?

00:22:18:11 – 00:22:39:12
Elizabeth
And that gives you a really good idea at how they approach leadership and how they approach followership. But when we look at how we have relationships with board members, there really is a need to have that sense of shared leadership. And so for that, we really need to lean and heavily towards those social process approaches that says, you know, we’re in this together.

00:22:39:15 – 00:23:05:01
Elizabeth
And again, we’re claiming the role of or the identity of leader or we’re claiming the role of our identity a follower and we’re, you know, working together towards that common purpose or that common goal. If we look at volunteer management, we are we may not need our volunteers to do a ton of critical thinking. We may not need them to challenge the leadership or, you know, challenge others inside the organization.

00:23:05:01 – 00:23:26:16
Elizabeth
We may just need them to show up and be engaged in the work that we do and be, you know, a supportive element inside our organizations. And so for that, I tend to recommend individuals look towards Barbara Kellerman’s model of followership so that they can just look at that engagement piece, right? How do we move people from that very beginning?

00:23:26:16 – 00:23:53:05
Elizabeth
Like I’m not even necessarily familiar with the organization to where they’re an activist or a diehard for the organization, although diehards can go either way, right? They could be resolved through organization or they could just you know, they could be yes. People because they’re so bought into it that they they can’t necessarily see the impact of what they’re doing if it’s not necessarily ethical or beneficial to the organization.

00:23:53:08 – 00:24:16:18
Ruth
How do you keep followers from that tipping point, as you mentioned, of being so gung ho that they think they can run it all that and I guess sabotage leadership? That’s a pretty hard word. But how do you navigate it? What is what does it say in the literature and academic circles?

00:24:16:21 – 00:24:35:18
Elizabeth
I think it’s more like the gut level of what you do there. And it’s it’s you got to look at them as a human being and just say, you know what? What are the quality of interactions that I’m having with this person? Right? Do I have positive interactions? Are they always or mostly negative interactions? How do I build the relationship again?

00:24:35:18 – 00:25:02:11
Elizabeth
So they have to be really mindful and intentional of how they respond to you as a leader and how supportive they are of you. But it also means that you may need to think about what your own conceptualization of followers are, because if you’re having a lot of individuals that are, you know, pushing back constantly, it may be that you have a different view of what follower should be than what they do.

00:25:02:19 – 00:25:27:04
Elizabeth
And so the more we can educate individuals on, first off, what followership is and all of the different types and models and ways in which you can use that to your benefit, the more we’re able to say have those tools and resources that we need when we have individuals that we may need to move, you know, advance them in that followership spectrum so that they’re more effective for the organization.

00:25:27:07 – 00:25:47:01
Elizabeth
But it’s also knowing that if we’ve gotten to the point where we’ve tried all of these things and we’ve tried to build that relationship and it’s just not working, how do we leverage those performance management tools or how do we encourage them to maybe find something that’s more fulfilling for them so that they’re less likely to be alienated.

00:25:47:03 – 00:26:01:24
Ruth
Or be a roadblock or any number of things that can cause trouble? In your studies, have you seen is corporate America embracing this versus nonprofit? Is it about the same that everybody’s getting to the this is worth looking at?

00:26:01:26 – 00:26:30:25
Elizabeth
Yeah, I would say that they’ve probably been using followership and just the different models more heavily in corporate America just because they tend to also embrace those leadership model quicker. Right? With there’s more literature about them. If you go and look at the academic literature, there’s far more out there about corporate leadership in corporate leadership, although I will say that followership in general has been looked at, you know, within military because of that position and rank.

00:26:30:25 – 00:26:55:20
Elizabeth
And everyone kind of knows what that looks like. But there’s also that need to be somewhat obedient because you need to follow orders. But then also having the ability to know, hey, we’re going in the wrong direction and I need to speak up now. It also tends to be look at followership does in areas where there are a higher percentage of female staff members or female workers.

00:26:55:22 – 00:27:29:25
Elizabeth
And so you’ll see a lot of research out there about nurses, which also kind of speaks to this. You know, there are leaders, right? Or there are those that consider themselves leaders in that environment. But really the work is done by nurses and they are actually enacting both leadership and followership in their work. And then it’s also looked at a lot in academic institutions, in particular in higher education, although we’re starting to see it kind of trickle down into K through 12 and also pre-K, there’s a strong need for it to be there.

00:27:29:28 – 00:27:52:11
Elizabeth
But again, there’s a definite need for it to be explored more inside nonprofit organizations because we have so much a greater need for shared leadership. And so we really do need to look at how do we embrace followers and how do we strengthen them so that we can leverage the most from our individuals. So we can achieve our missions?

00:27:52:13 – 00:28:11:11
Ruth
Elizabeth, this has been fascinating followership. She’s provided us with some great resources. So dig into this. It’s something that’s really important for organizations and let’s let the nonprofit sector be the leader, right? And then follow the great things that you can do as a follower. So thank you again.

00:28:11:13 – 00:28:15:18
Elizabeth
And thank you so much for having me. I have enjoyed this.

00:28:15:20 – 00:28:37:14
Ruth
Thank you for joining us for KC Cares. We’re Kansas City’s nonprofit voice, and we’re produced by Charitable communications, also a nonprofit. This KC Cares segment was brought to you by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. WW W Kauffman talk if you’d like to be a guest on KC Cares or underwriting opportunities, go to our Web site, KC Cares online dot org and spread the love.

00:28:37:14 – 00:28:54:17
Ruth
You’ll find us on Facebook and Twitter at KC Cares Radio and on Instagram at KC Cares online. And don’t forget, you can catch us Saturday mornings at 8 a.m. on ESPN, 15:10 a.m. and 94.5 FM. Thanks for joining us on KC Cares.

00:36:15:01 – 00:36:25:02

Previous Episodes!

Empowering Communities through Strategic Philanthropy

Empowering Communities through Strategic Philanthropy: Lessons from the Kauffman Foundation

Imagine a world where every community thrives, where opportunities are equitable, and where every individual has the chance to succeed. This isn’t just a dream; it’s the vision being realized at the Kauffman Foundation under the leadership of Dr. DeAngela Burns-Wallace. 

In the realm of philanthropy, the focus has traditionally been on monetary donations. But today, the Kauffman Foundation is redefining this concept. It’s no longer just about writing checks; it’s about strategic philanthropy – a method that combines generous giving with a tactical approach to solve societal issues effectively.

Empowerment and Impact

At the heart of the Foundation’s work is empowerment. This isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a commitment to enabling communities to flourish on their own terms. How? By focusing on education and entrepreneurship – the two pillars that Dr. Burns-Wallace believes can propel communities towards sustainable prosperity.

But empowerment isn’t just about providing resources; it’s about breaking down barriers. Many communities face systemic challenges that hinder their progress. The Kauffman Foundation is actively working to dismantle these barriers, ensuring that opportunities are not just available, but also accessible to everyone.

Involving Communities in Strategic Planning

The Kauffman Foundation understands that real change cannot occur in a vacuum. That’s why they’re deeply involving communities in their strategic planning process. This approach ensures that the solutions devised are not only practical but also resonate with the actual needs of the people they’re meant to serve. By bringing diverse voices to the table, the Foundation is ensuring that their strategies are inclusive and effective.

The Legacy and the Future

Ewing Marion Kauffman, the founder, left behind a legacy of innovation and community focus. Dr. Burns-Wallace is building on this legacy, steering the Foundation towards a future where their impact can be even more profound. The strategic planning phase, while rooted in the Foundation’s history, is a stepping stone towards a future where the Foundation’s work is more aligned with the evolving needs of communities.

Equitable Opportunities for Underrepresented Communities

A significant aspect of the Kauffman Foundation’s work under Dr. Burns-Wallace is creating equitable opportunities for underrepresented communities. Recognizing that certain groups have historically been marginalized, the Foundation is investing in these communities to level the playing field. This means not just providing resources but also ensuring that these groups have the support and tools they need to succeed.

The Influence of a Diverse Background

Dr. Burns-Wallace’s diverse background in public service, education, and diplomacy brings a unique perspective to the Foundation’s work. Her experience helps her understand the complex tapestry of societal issues and the multifaceted solutions they require. This experience is invaluable in guiding the Foundation’s strategies and ensuring that their work is not just impactful but also culturally sensitive and globally informed.

Conclusion

As we explore the journey of the Kauffman Foundation, we see a powerful example of how philanthropy can evolve to meet the challenges of the modern world. Under Dr. Burns-Wallace’s leadership, the Foundation is not just a benefactor but a beacon of hope and a catalyst for change. It’s a testament to the power of strategic philanthropy – a blend of generosity, vision, and tactical acumen – in creating a world where every community has the power to thrive.

By focusing on empowerment, community involvement, and equitable opportunities, the Kauffman Foundation is not just changing lives; it’s changing the very fabric of how we approach philanthropy. And that, dear reader, is a journey worth following.

Engaging Donors Effectively: Strategies for Nonprofits in a Changing Landscape

Engaging Donors Effectively: Strategies for Nonprofits in a Changing Landscape

Listen up, folks! If you’re in the nonprofit world, you know that engaging donors isn’t just about asking for money. It’s about building relationships, creating trust, and telling a story that resonates. And let me tell you, in this ever-changing landscape, your old playbook might not cut it anymore.

The Giving USA report, the philanthropic bible, has just dropped some truth bombs. Corporate and foundation giving? Up. Individual giving? Not so much. The donor base is diversifying, and the economy is doing the cha-cha. So, what’s a nonprofit to do?

First off, don’t panic. Change is not a disaster; it’s an opportunity. It’s a chance to shake things up, to innovate, and to connect with your donors in ways you haven’t before.

Meet Donors Where They Are

Your donors aren’t just ATMs. They’re people, with passions, interests, and values that align with your mission. So, engage them on that level. Understand their motivations, their preferred communication channels, and their giving capacity. Personalize your approach. A one-size-fits-all strategy? That’s so last decade.

Tell Authentic Stories

People don’t give to organizations; they give to people and causes. So, tell your story. And not just any story, but an authentic one. Show the impact of their donations. Highlight the lives changed, the communities transformed. Make your donors the heroes of your story.

Adapt and Innovate

The world is changing, and so should your strategies. Explore digital fundraising. Leverage social media. Host virtual events. The pandemic has shown us that physical distance doesn’t have to mean disconnection.

Build Long-term Relationships

Donor engagement isn’t a one-and-done deal. It’s a long-term commitment. So, nurture those relationships. Show appreciation. Communicate regularly. And remember, it’s not always about the ask. Sometimes, it’s just about saying thank you.

In the end, engaging donors effectively is about more than just surviving; it’s about thriving. It’s about building a community of supporters who are as passionate about your cause as you are. And let me tell you, there’s no better foundation for success than that.

So, go ahead. Embrace the change. Innovate. Engage. And watch as your nonprofit reaches new heights. Because, my friends, the future of philanthropy is here. And it’s looking brighter than ever.

Topics Discussed: Philanthropic Trends, Nonprofit Strategy