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Scraps KC Brenda Mott

Brenda Mott | Founder

Join us on KC Cares Online as we interview Brenda Mott, the heart and soul behind Scraps KC. This Kansas City-based nonprofit is making waves in the community by creatively repurposing waste materials and providing meaningful opportunities for the homeless. Since its inception in 2016, Scraps KC has diverted 400 tons from landfills and has brought a new concept of homeless renewal. Brenda shares her journey, from her childhood inspirations to the establishment of Scraps KC, and how it’s making Kansas City a better place to live, work, and play. Discover how Scraps KC is transforming the unwanted into something of value, be it people or things.

visit them here: scrapskc.org

 

What Nonprofit Questions are Answered?

  1. What is the mission of Scraps KC? Scraps KC is a nonprofit organization focused on diverting items from landfills and giving them renewed life. They also provide opportunities for the homeless to be purposeful and contribute to the community.

  2. How does Scraps KC contribute to sustainability? Scraps KC has diverted 400 tons from landfills since its beginning in 2016. They creatively repurpose waste materials and give them a new life, contributing to a more sustainable environment.

  3. How does Scraps KC support the homeless community? Scraps KC provides opportunities for the homeless to volunteer, giving them a sense of purpose. They also assist them with their needs, such as finding housing, food stamps, and medical needs.

  4. What kind of items does Scraps KC accept for donation? Scraps KC primarily accepts craft supplies, art supplies, and textiles. They encourage people to check their website for a detailed list of items they are currently accepting.

  5. How can one volunteer or support Scraps KC? Scraps KC welcomes volunteers of all ages. Interested individuals can fill out a form on their website. They also accept donations and have a store where people can shop for repurposed items.

  6.  

 

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Transcript:

(00:00) the people behind them KC cares is the intersection of the non-profit and the profit communities making Kansas City a better place to live work and play this KC care segment is brought to you by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation www.kauffman.org I’m Ruth bomb biggest since she was a child Brenda Mott has always created things for materials others have tossed aside while her motivation back then was the magic of Art today Brenda’s efforts to reuse recycle and repurpose are the heart and soul of

(00:35) scraps KC a non-profit focused on diverting items from landfills and giving them renewed life since its beginning in 2016 scraps KC has diverted 400 tons from landfills and has brought a new concept of homeless renewal Brenda joins us to share her journey leading this colorful non-profit Brenda thanks so much for being with us thanks so much for having me Ruth and I can’t wait to hear about you are creating all kinds of things at a kitten how this transition okay I’m gonna have a non-profit and we’re gonna do this

(01:10) kind of work tell us a little bit about your journey to this point sure so I grew up with parents who were Depression era children and um also lived through World War II as young adults and were very poor and everything was reused and everything was respected it was handed down from brother to sister and so on and so forth and um so I grew up in a family that had um just reused a lot whether we needed to or not everything was mended fixed repaired found new life for in another way so um that’s how I grew up and then as a

(01:53) teacher of course I had to figure out ways to use items to support the education process without spending a lot of money and so I started shopping at my first creative reuse center about 35 years ago maybe a little more um and so that’s when I found out you know about Industrial Waste and how they could have new life and things that businesses made and probably didn’t use or didn’t need any more or kind of passed their Prime and so I found that very intriguing I’d like to find new ways to integrate those tools into my

(02:31) classroom for use and then um fast forward many many years about 10 years ago my husband and I started serving the homeless on the streets and uh one of the homeless gentlemen asked us for a job and so or something to do during the day so he could be purposeful and so we provided the space um we opened scrubs KC and um that was about six and a half almost seven years ago that we opened it and it has just been a whirlwind of fun ever since then so we and the gentleman who asked us for something to do is still with us

(03:13) um and he is not on the streets anymore but he comes in he sweeps a couple times a week and helps us sort things and so it’s wonderful to see how the progression of the homeless has also improved their lives well I liked that term homeless renewal yes what a what a great phrase to talk about you know incorporating that I want to get back to how you really started it you made it sound very easy and many in the non-profit community no it’s not always that easy but let’s talk about this concept of bringing the homeless

(03:51) into or the unhomed I know that’s kind of a change in terminology that’s being used today but you know how really you’ve been able to pull that and incorporate that in a very positive way so if you think about it the homeless are actually which is a term that they use they call themselves homeless so that’s the term that we use and they actually are some of the most creative individuals that I know um with other people’s trash you know they will create these amazing living situations for themselves that really

(04:27) um are incredibly uh interesting um they know they actually have a lot of information on they build culverts to divert water flow into their camp or they create some kind of uh kitchen space where they have rebar over the top and pots and pans hanging from it so they can use those on their campfire the way they make a portable toilet for themselves I mean they’re just so creative and inventive we actually had a gentleman here who worked with us volunteered with us for a while and he took an old car generator and he lived

(05:06) at the Missouri River put the generator into the river hook some wire up to a car battery car battery and wire up to his camp and he with the current of the water created electricity that actually put a light in his camp and a coffee pot maker that would work it’s ingenious I mean I don’t know many other people who can think of those things so you know what we see as potential in the homeless um it just takes trust and care and love to bring that out in them and we see them grow in their self-esteem and our

(05:45) vision here is to transform The Unwanted into something of value and that could be people or things and so um it’s really important to us to really spend that time creating value in their lives for them and to see that they are of value so how do you go about that how do you connect uh in a way that is respectful of the human person you’re dealing with as opposed to you know that’s somebody that you know I I don’t know I don’t want to deal with whatever sure well it’s been a long time that we’ve been out on the streets we go

(06:27) out every single Saturday and have for the last oh eight or nine years um to the same place to the same location so they know that we’re coming um and they expect us to be there and we always show up first of all that’s the first and most important thing is to show up and to show up when you say so um and then we build that trust with them I mean we spend it doesn’t sound like very long but 30 minutes every Saturday 35 maybe um at the most but you know we build that trust with them with visiting bringing out coffee bringing supplies

(07:02) that they need um and I hate to say it but my name is really well known on the streets um so you know they know um somebody will ask somebody else whose home was where can I get or how can I find and they’ll say go see brand and she’ll make you work if you need something but she will give it to you if you if you put in your time to work and so um you know it’s those kinds of things just primarily the trust building and by being down there every Saturday that’s our platform to invite them to come and

(07:39) volunteer with us and um we don’t work with a lot at one time we don’t have 15 or 20 homeless people in here we dive very deep into individuals and so although we do have several homeless that come in throughout the year usually 100 150 come in and out we really those that stay with us for long periods of time those are the ones that we see you know such growth and possibilities for them and provide them with things that they need whether it’s help finding housing or food stamps or whatever medical needs they have we help

(08:20) them navigate those systems now was this part of your mission in the beginning it was um it was actually really why we did start it um I’ve always wanted to have a creative reuse center because I love seeing what can be made out of other people’s byproducts you know and um but it was really the homeless that kind of spurred me on to start it um we were really passionate about serving on the streets and for them to ask for something to do and to be purposeful I opened scraps KC almost seven years ago and it was just me and for homeless

(09:05) guys volunteering with me you know and and they would help me paint and they would help me lift boxes and sort things and you know hang lights and all different kinds of things that they were skilled at and they were also there with me you know and that was a big deal for both of us um me being the only person in the store um it was nice to have the company and then also they enjoyed the opportunity to be able to give back because they felt that they wanted to do something for the times that they had seen us out

(09:41) on the streets but guess too there was a point of seeing value in what others didn’t see value in here you are collecting things that people decided they didn’t need anymore and perhaps people feel those that are homeless you know they don’t have value humans absolutely I’m making a big judgment and I don’t mean to do that but I think it kudos to you that’s an interesting mix and a way to work so I applaud applaud you I don’t want to get too far asunder on that but I I just thought it was such an interesting

(10:18) component of scraps KC so tell us yeah how you work where you’re at and how does this operation help in the community sure so we are located in Midtown um right off Southwest Boulevard and 31st Street um in a light industrial area we have about 13 and a half thousand square feet of space which is wonderful but it’s never enough space um it’s always wonderful new donations coming in from our community members um businesses that are primarily remote have found that they have a lot of things in their closets that are just

(10:55) sitting there and so they donate them to us and we’re able to donate them for free to teachers um and so there’s community members oh byproducts from manufacturers and off Cuts we get some really crazy unusual things and you know we have artists and homeless or artists and teachers and families and do-it-yourselfers that come in looking for some kind of treasure that they can include on whatever they’re making and so um people donate every day that we’re open and um we get about two to five thousand

(11:31) pounds a day some or a week and sometimes a day so it’s pretty amazing we brought in 4 000 pounds the other day from clearing out six floors of an office building um it was a lot of stuff but it’s all brand new primarily and we have some wonderful things that we can provide to teachers like white boards and projectors and all kinds of amazing things so um so everything’s donated within the store and then it is hand sorted and packaged and priced and then put out on the floor for anybody to come in and Shop

(12:08) we have an amazing amount of volunteer energy here we have 65 recurring volunteers every single month and we get about 300 visits a month from volunteers so whether it’s a large group coming in or whether it is you know mom a child and a grandparents um we love generational volunteering all those kinds of things help us move these things faster from the diversion point to actually getting them on the floor and into other people’s hands how do you bring in your volunteers by that in recruitment is there something

(12:51) you look for in your volunteers and then I’d love for you to tell us how people who are interested can volunteer sure we always love new volunteers so we take children as young as three years old to be volunteers we believe that it’s really important for children to learn to give back at an early age that their Community is important and that there are people who have needs and so we want them to learn how to be a good volunteer and really that starts with coming in as a family and volunteering together

(13:23) so um and then you can be as old as you want to be young at heart but as old as you want to be to volunteer and really um most of our volunteers have come through us either by shopping here or by Word of Mouth and that’s a really special thing for us that people value US enough that they want to send their friends here to volunteer and we have you know people who just measure and roll fabric we got 50 000 pounds of um textile materials last year and all they do is measure roll fabric get it out on the floor for us so people can

(13:59) use it um we have people who just kind of sort through stuff and make sure that it’s in the right category that we house it in people who price we have um you know students finishing volunteer service hours or college students if they’re in a special program that they need hours so we have a variety of people that come in it’s super easy to volunteer we have a form right there on our website under volunteers and you just fill it out and we have a wonderful volunteer coordinator named me make and she’ll

(14:34) come and give you a call or email you and let you know when a good time to come in and volunteer is and that’s scrapskc.org yes that is correct so there’s your commercial everybody now you know where to go if you want to volunteer if you want to donate I’m sure so you had mentioned earlier I thought that teachers can come in and they get supplies for free yes they do so in the last six years we actually have done a summer program where we ask schools to donate their unwanted supplies there are so many

(15:08) supplies that go in the trash honestly that have never been used um and we asked the schools to collect them and then bring them to us and then we have volunteers who come all summer long and clean and repurpose those and we’d give them for free to teachers in July for two days in July well we are piloting a new program this year and we’re super excited about that our program is going to serve teachers year round and so great yes and so we already have approximately 25 000 pounds of supplies that are ready to go and we

(15:43) haven’t even received the school supplies that are unwanted so we’re looking forward to getting about another 20 000 pounds of those and we will have volunteers cleaning and repurposing them all summer long and then in July we will open our new program up at this point we are able to serve approximately 150 teachers for the year and then um we will be going out and talking to corporations about helping us fund this and sponsor this for teachers so that we can actually continue this year after year where teachers can get those

(16:20) supplies that they need all year rather than just at the beginning of the year we’re talking to Brenda Mach she is founder and executive director of scraps KC I mean I years ago when I was you know student teaching I remember there’s always been a scramble I think for school supplies so what a wonderful resource in the community and I hope there are corporations listening so more teachers will get that opportunity can you share with us though how the store works for just anybody else who wants to come in absolutely well sometimes uh

(16:54) some of our artists call it the playground um because they walk in the door and really it’s just an open warehouse space and it’s just filled with a variety of items anything from arts and crafts supplies textiles a few school and office supplies and then miscellaneous supplies and so we have people who will come in and spend a few minutes because they know exactly what they want where it’s located and they’ll go pick it out but we have others who come weekly and we’ll spend a couple hours in there

(17:25) um just kind of perusing everything and finding what they need so it’s very simple um just to come in we have a wonderful staff who’s ready to greet you and help you in any way that’s needed we have a donation space within our warehouse we also have an education space which is right near the front door and it’s a wonderful opportunity for your kids to play and learn about the environment while they’re in there playing we also have our Plastics recycling in that area where we take Chateau milkweeds dis

(18:02) assembled uh markers that we actually shred up and make new things out of so we make bowls and we make letter key rings and we make weaving looms and paint palettes and all different kinds of things out of recycled Plastics and then we also have a brand new machine called a Felton machine and that actually takes scraps of fabric and puts them back together to create a new piece of fabric which is textiles are one of the greatest landfillers at this point due to fast fashion and so we’re trying to find alternative ways to educate people about

(18:39) that issue and demonstrate ways that this fabric can be put back together and created new piece of fabric that’s more sustainable because it’s scraps that we’ve already had around so it’s a really exciting machine we do have it for rent we have classes for it so it’s a wonderful opportunity for people not only to just learn about the environment and the problems that we have in it but also learn new ways that they can reuse things and also see how Machinery is engaged in the process of keeping our Earth more

(19:17) sustainable now can I just come and Shop for things and my question then too is how do you price sure because you’re taking quote you stuff or repurpose stuff we should say so it’s basically a thrift store model um is what it is anybody is welcome to shop and we like I said before have so many different kinds of people that come in and it’s wonderful all different ages um and then the way that it’s priced is it either has a price on it um or it is priced by weight or it is priced by filling a bag so for instance

(19:58) we have seashells and that is 10 cents an ounce for however many seashells you want to get and then we have scraps of quilting fabric and that’s you can fill a bag for four dollars of quilting fabric so you know different ways depending upon what the items are but more often than not it has a price tag on it now do you want stuff just from my house I mean what are the kinds of things you want donated I you know I want to make sure the audience is clear I don’t want somebody to show up with a dump truck of

(20:32) stuff maybe you can’t use well we are very clear on our website about what we can and cannot take um we have recognized over the years that we need to keep things moving it can’t sound the floor too long because we have so much coming in every single week so um first is checking the website to see what we’re accepting and what we’re not accepting and that changes quarterly um and then you can bring things from your home we don’t take just from manufacturers or businesses people have lots of craft supplies at Home the

(21:05) things we do take regularly would be craft supplies art supplies and textiles those are our primary um items of interest to our our customers I like that items of Interest that’s a nice way of saying we don’t want just your junk junk we have that stuff that could we could really use I I do we did take a truckload of paper clips we had four Gaylords and a gaylord is a four by four by four foot box um and we took four of those from a federal government agency that I’m not allowed to say who it is and they had

(21:46) collected 20 years worth of paper clips and it was for Gaylord’s worth of paper clips and about six months ago we finally got rid of them all we had them for about three years but those are the kinds of things that shouldn’t go in the landfill they should be used and they were perfectly fine now we found a penny or two and some rubber bands and other goodies inside they’re like jelly packets but um it was it was a wonderful donation that was really useful to a lot of people you’re up and running now

(22:20) six seven years I mean you’re really into this you are established what are what keeps you up at night in running a non-profit oh everything uh I’m sure that’s what most most non-profit people would say um and no you know what really keeps us up at night is taking care of the homeless that we serve um we have a lot of issues especially lately um housing um lack of housing um medical problems um we have several getting different types of medical procedures done um that we have to take them to the appointments

(23:01) um to the surgeries to you know making sure that they don’t eat beforehand making sure that we’re in constant contact while they’re recovering um at their home and making sure they’re taking their medicine appropriately and these are these are bigger issues you know yes our world and our environment is really important but these are people who are here right now that we also care a lot about and we want to make sure that they’re feeling safe and cared for and that they’re getting their needs met

(23:32) that will keep them safe and healthy so your model to to quote stay in business is a mixture of what in terms of financial support um our store is a primary source of income for us um we do have a few grants um that we’ve applied for and have received over the years and then obviously we will be looking for significant donations for our school supply um pilot program and so you know so far we’ve been really fortunate the community has embraced us not only with donations but with support and what we do and supporting us by

(24:15) coming and shopping here um so that has been tremendous but you know like every non-profit you know finances are always important um we want to make sure that we hire quality people to work here who can speak the many languages that we need to speak whether it’s love or grief or um you know the environment whatever it is we often get people bringing in their mother’s sewing materials and Mom’s either passed away or moved to a nursing home or assisted living and our staff’s purpose is to be there to listen to

(24:54) those stories so we want to make sure that we have a staff that is has a heart and a passion for other people as well and so you know you can’t do that if you don’t have the finances to go along with it so I mean it’s just continually working to Build a Better Community create this as a safe space for all members of our community to be a part of I really like how you used when you started to say different languages I thought oh Spanish Portuguese Somali and you didn’t you talked about emotional

(25:26) language which I just think is really cool I don’t know that maybe a lot of people do think that way I that was just eye-opening for me so thank you for sharing it that way maybe more more of us should think that way right right right well it was a it was a story we often heard from my grandfather who is an immigrant and had a small store and he would actually speak the foreign languages and I never understood of the people who would come in and I never quite understood it until we opened this and our languages are always

(25:59) something that meets the needs of our people where they are oh that’s wonderful all right I I know we’re getting near our comfort the end of our conversation but I have to ask you’re this creative crafty person how do you run things day by day you have all this stuff all around you and not sit down and want to make something well I don’t anymore because I’m sure most people walk in here and say oh this looks like my craft room and it did it does look like what my craft room used to be but when I live with it every day

(26:30) I have wonderful staff members who now are much craftier and more creative than I am but it’s a real joy for me to be able to go around and visit with our customers and ask how they’re going to use the items and to talk with the children and give them more creative ideas rather than you bought a trophy to set on your shelf well did you know you can use tools to take that trophy apart and nail polish to paint it in your favorite team’s colors so just giving those ideas brings me such Joy that’s wonderful well I’m glad you don’t

(27:04) get too stuck there but you do offer classes we do offer classes primarily for adults we do have some parent in Me classes or caregiver and Me classes and we do obviously a lot of felt Loom but we also do invisible sewing so people can learn new stitching we do weaving we also have a lot of professional development for teachers so we’re looking for those schools to come and visit our educational experiences and see what we can offer teachers at their District levels well kudos to you and scraps KC what a

(27:41) wonderful way to just repurpose and and help and support people’s creativity keep things out of landfills and help human beings what could be better than that Brenda thank you so much we’re so glad you created this well thank you thanks for having me on the show you bet thank you for joining us for KC cares Kansas City’s nonprofit voice produced by charitable Communications this KC care segment was brought to you by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation www.kauffman.

(28:13) org to be a guest on KC cares or underwriting opportunities please visit our website kckersonline.org we’re a non-profit too spread the love and find us on Facebook and Twitter at kckers radio and Instagram at KC cares online and catch us Saturday mornings at 8 A.M on ESPN 15 10 a.m and 94.5 FM thank you for joining us on KC cares [Music]

Previous Episodes!

Chris Rosson CEO United Way Discusses 2023 Initiatives

Chris Rosson | CEO & President

The United Ways mission has always been to mobilize our city’s collective generosity, because we know there’s strength in numbers. They work together with hundreds of nonprofits across our six-county region and help 1 in 3 Kansas Citians gain access to health, education and financial resources. United Way connects those who want to be catalysts for change with causes that change our community for the better. The Waymakers make this possible.

visit them here: https://www.unitedwaygkc.org/

 

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[Transcript]

00:00:00:19 – 00:00:22:18
Ruth Baum Bigus
Welcome to KC Cares. Kansas City’s nonprofit voice were telling the stories of Kansas City nonprofits and the people behind them. KC Cares is the intersection of a profit and nonprofit communities making Kansas City a better place to live, work and play. The segment is brought to you by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. W.W. Kauffman dot org. I’m responding as well.

00:00:23:05 – 00:00:50:19
Ruth Baum Bigus
It was pre-pandemic when we first encountered our dynamic guest today. He was leading Teach for America here in Kansas City, being innovative, bringing equity across the educational environment in the in the entire metro. Then an opportunity came and Chris Ross couldn’t resist. It was come to United Way and we got to talk to Chris. And it was pandemic and it was crazy.

00:00:50:19 – 00:01:07:21
Ruth Baum Bigus
And we were on Zoom and it was just amazing. We could even get connected. But here we are. You’ve been here a little bit of the way for a while. Let’s talk about the Mr. Changemaker and Mr. Innovator. Bring us up to speed on all things United Way.

00:01:08:12 – 00:01:35:14
Chris Rossen
Well, first off, thanks for having me, Ruth. I always love getting the opportunity to talk with you and talk about all things change and possibility in our community. We have been busy. You know, you’re right that I arrived at, I think, a very opportune time as what I would say. You know, I think collectively, the pandemic and the racial reckoning and everything that we saw happening over the last 24 months plus really sort of called upon all of us to recognize that we needed to think about things differently.

00:01:35:14 – 00:01:57:20
Chris Rossen
We need to do things differently, and we need to be more responsive and agile to what we’re now. Community needs that could change on a dime. And I think one thing that became very clear to us was that we needed to find a way to galvanize around community needs issues in a more collaborative way, but also to make resources available and more and more reactive to how community need is changing in real time.

00:01:58:05 – 00:02:20:21
Chris Rossen
And so we’ve done a few things. We have launched our new primary grantmaking channel, which is Impact 100. And so it is a collection of organizations where every year we identify 100 organizations in our community, nonprofit organizations that we believe are driving the highest impact against where community need lives today, right now in real time. And we know that’s ever changing.

00:02:21:03 – 00:02:48:10
Chris Rossen
And so that’s an annual cycle. We publish an annual list, and we take it very seriously. It’s a very rigorous effort on our part, and we believe it’s a really reflective list of of organizations that are driving impact. The second thing is, of course, in two in one, we just during the pandemic, we really found two and one to be that almost like the canary in the coal mine where we were able to see community needs spike in certain areas in particular around housing insecurity and food insecurity.

00:02:48:14 – 00:03:13:18
Chris Rossen
I think the last time we talked, which I shared, that while there were lots of resources and efforts being put into the here and now pandemic response, that I had a real concern and we were monitoring sort of the long tail implication of COVID and what that would do in our community. And that’s certainly something that we’ve been able to leverage two and one to mine for data, to see how those trends are emerging, to see how they change, and to make sure that we’re getting out in front as much as possible in our community.

00:03:14:09 – 00:03:34:08
Chris Rossen
And then with that, you know, we’ve taken on and continued on with a few strategic initiatives, including a very large one around eviction. And so eviction prevention initiative that’s been going on for for for nearly two years now. And again, tied to sort of pandemic related effects that we continue to monitor and make sure that we’re addressing holistically as a community.

00:03:34:23 – 00:03:43:23
Ruth Baum Bigus
Impact 100. Talk about the nuts and bolts of that and how those different nonprofits were chosen and why they were chosen.

00:03:44:12 – 00:04:21:07
Chris Rossen
Well, so we have for quite a while continue to focus on the issues of health, education and income, financial stability, really as key drivers and transforming lives throughout our community. And that has been the case for some time. However, from a grantmaking standpoint, we intended to go toward longer term grants. And I think, again, just looking at the pandemic and looking at how quickly community need changed and shifted overnight, I just felt it was very important for us as an organization to be agile in our response and to be nimble when it came to addressing those needs and to really take a stance of rigor and really in some ways be a bellwether to the

00:04:21:07 – 00:04:40:23
Chris Rossen
community about organizations that are driving impact. It is a big, difficult task. You know, I think we talked before and I had shared that over the last ten years we’ve grown in our region from 500 registered nonprofits to over 10,000 that is a monumental amount of huge continues to to increase. People are finding all sorts of ways to get connected to causes.

00:04:40:23 – 00:05:04:01
Chris Rossen
And people are starting new organizations all the time and I think, you know, for us as an organization became very important to make sure that we were still being that bellwether in our community of organizations that were really high, high, high impact, really rigorous about outcomes and really driving a meaningful, measurable difference against those those those points of data that we look at in those areas of health, education and income.

00:05:04:01 – 00:05:21:21
Chris Rossen
And so it is a it’s a it’s a rigorous process. We accept applications widely. We encourage organizations to apply. If you’re if there’s somebody listening in their organization that would consider applying, they should do so. We we’re about to launch or announce our latest list here in in the spring summer timeframe. And so be on the lookout for that.

00:05:21:21 – 00:05:41:15
Chris Rossen
But it is, I think for us, an ability to not only drive dollars to those organizations, but to draw eyeballs, attention, volunteerism, awareness of some of these organizations. And again, when you look at that list, you will find organizations on that list that are household names that people would know. And you’ll find a whole host of organizations that you never heard of and you had no idea existed.

00:05:41:15 – 00:05:45:01
Chris Rossen
But are really driving incredible outcomes are in our community.

00:05:45:03 – 00:05:50:11
Ruth Baum Bigus
So if you made the impact 100 the first time around, you are not precluded from reapplying.

00:05:50:17 – 00:06:06:13
Chris Rossen
No, not at all. You’re not you’re not you’re not precluded from from applying. You can you can certainly apply again. But but there’s no guarantee that you’ll make it back on that list. Right. It is it is a dynamic list and it is really rooted in and where community need lives at this moment in time.

00:06:07:05 – 00:06:25:13
Ruth Baum Bigus
I know one thing we talked about the first time we had a conversation when you started at the very beginning of United Way, I said to you, there are some organizations that say, Oh, my United Way, Grant, it’s so long. It takes me forever. How have you addressed that? Is have things changed there?

00:06:25:22 – 00:06:54:23
Chris Rossen
Yeah, they have. You know, we really streamlined the application process for funds like Impact 100. We’ve taken a we’ve committed as far as I’m aware, we’re the largest and the first major philanthropic entity here in Kansas City. And a big funder to completely adopt the trust based philanthropy principles. And so, you know, when we part of that is ensuring that we have a low barrier to entry in terms of access, that we’re not making that process extra cumbersome on folks that are already doing great, meaningful work.

00:06:54:23 – 00:07:14:13
Chris Rossen
We want I want I want organizations that are applying for funding and applying to partner with us to spend as much effort as possible driving mission and as little effort as, as as required doing administrative tasks like applying for these sorts of things. And so we do try to make it streamlined and easy, but we do take a high bar in terms of the types of quality of inputs that we get from from that process.

00:07:14:13 – 00:07:25:07
Chris Rossen
But that was definitely a point of feedback that I heard that I wanted to address and something that, you know, as somebody who ran an organization that would have been eligible for funding like that in the past, it was important for me to make sure that that was a streamlined process as well.

00:07:25:19 – 00:07:30:21
Ruth Baum Bigus
Trust based philanthropy. I’m not sure I’ve heard that buzzing out there. How would you define that?

00:07:31:06 – 00:07:58:08
Chris Rossen
Well, I think trust based philanthropy really puts the ownership on the grant maker to take a rigorous stance in looking into what makes an organization tick, what’s driving their mission, and to really be relational, I think more than anything, it is it is acknowledging that there’s an inherent power dynamic at play when there’s somebody holding on to funding and somebody who’s requesting funding, and it’s acknowledging both the complexities and the dynamics of that while simultaneously saying, we’re partners in this.

00:07:58:08 – 00:08:27:02
Chris Rossen
You know, and and the expectations not that the organization’s perfect, the expectations that the organization’s making progress on an ongoing basis, and that we’re really partners in that we’re coaches in that provide feedback, we provide connection, and we provide opportunities to get funding, but not in a way that is punitive or or overly rigorous. It is it’s intended to make the funding accessible and the partnership really a true comprehensive partnership.

00:08:27:07 – 00:08:52:18
Ruth Baum Bigus
That’s see change. That’s really see change. I think for folks who maybe have been in this community and used to the old way of doing things that United Way versus the New Way, collaboration is huge. You’re a collaborator, you’ve got lots of energy. That’s kind of your vision. So how have you been able as your leading United Way, to bring that in and move things forward?

00:08:53:10 – 00:09:10:02
Chris Rossen
Well, you know, it’s in our name, United Way, right? You know, I think about I was at the Chiefs game. You know, we got the we got the the the a lot of excitement around here around the Chiefs. And, you know, I think about the fact that how powerful we are as a as a as a crowd and how involved we get into the game.

00:09:10:02 – 00:09:27:13
Chris Rossen
And we all elevate our voices together. And so collaboration is absolutely critical if you’re trying to move something at scale and with the types of challenges where we’re taking on and really transforming the community by transforming individual lives and the lives of families in our community that that are facing hardship, that takes it that takes a community effort.

00:09:27:13 – 00:09:44:04
Chris Rossen
It really takes a village. And so a lot of our efforts are rooted in not the transactional, just sort of here’s here’s some funding go do with it, but really getting grounded together in the in the challenges, getting grounded together in the solutions and and bringing all perspectives and voices to the table to try to address those.

00:09:44:18 – 00:10:10:11
Ruth Baum Bigus
What you mentioned, the issue of housing, unhoused people who face temporary housing, etc.. How do you how do you do that? It’s such a big challenge and it’s across ages, too. I think that sometimes people don’t realize it’s just, you know, families with children or a single. I’ve now been hearing about terrible issues with older adults who can’t find affordable housing.

00:10:10:21 – 00:10:14:03
Ruth Baum Bigus
So how do you tackle that huge issue?

00:10:14:10 – 00:10:44:10
Chris Rossen
Yeah, it is a huge issue. And it’s and it’s one of those things we talked about the long tail implication of of COVID. It’s one of those things that we were early on just sort of aware of. We were getting an influx of calls and two and one that were and we still today today right now, today, we get over 100 calls a day from families who are facing facing housing insecurity, families who are somewhere in either the eviction process or recognize that they can’t pay their bills and and are in a situation where they really need some support and some help.

00:10:45:16 – 00:11:12:11
Chris Rossen
To this point about collaboration, we’ve taken a collaborative approach to addressing that and a proactive approach addressing that. We worked with a variety of legal aid partners, both at U-M KC Law School, as well as the Heartland Center and as well as of about 30 or so social service agencies throughout the community. And collectively, we’ve been able to advocate for around $25 million in both federal resources, as well as pooling private resources together and taking on what we call the Eviction Prevention Initiative.

00:11:13:04 – 00:11:33:10
Chris Rossen
And it’s really trying to address the issue of homelessness and housing insecurity before a family is facing eviction, before a family being kicked out of their homes and and having to, you know, look to a shelter which are already already facing really constraints. And I’m pleased to say that through that effort, in some cases, we’re paying back rent.

00:11:33:10 – 00:11:57:13
Chris Rossen
In some cases, we’re helping people get up to up to a current on their utility payments. In other cases, we’re really standing with them in the courts process and we’re representing them through legal aid in the in the eviction courts process itself. And I’m proud to say that over that last 24 months, we’ve supported 75,000 people, kept them out of homelessness, 25,000 families, 75,000 individuals in our community.

00:11:57:16 – 00:12:19:13
Chris Rossen
I think, as you said, I think there’s a misnomer and a misperception that folks that are facing that these are folks that are maybe unemployed or or facing other sorts of situations, but know what we’re seeing. But with with with inflation and with other things, we’re seeing that actually about half of the folks that are coming to us from court making those calls, these are folks, working people who are employed, who are really doing the best they can.

00:12:19:13 – 00:12:30:13
Chris Rossen
They’re resilient and they just need some support from their neighbors. And I’m just really glad that, you know, that way we get to be able to provide that support and be that that friendly, helping face whenever that whenever they face that moment of hardship.

00:12:31:11 – 00:12:33:11
Ruth Baum Bigus
How do the municipalities play with you?

00:12:34:05 – 00:12:51:09
Chris Rossen
We work we coordinate with them often both in terms of social service delivery, but also in terms of making sure that funding is getting used and put in the most optimal places. So they are strong partners with us and all that, and that’s really region wide. County by county, the cities, I mean, it’s really a it’s really is a collective effort.

00:12:52:12 – 00:13:02:20
Ruth Baum Bigus
Let’s flip to two, one, one. Been there for a while. Bring us up to speed on what it’s doing and how that really makes a difference in the community to have that.

00:13:03:05 – 00:13:21:14
Chris Rossen
Yeah. So you know two and one for those who aren’t aware, it’s our community’s resource and referral network. It’s, it is really the connective tissue of our nonprofit space is the connective tissue of our social service space really in some ways the connective tissue of our community. We have community resource navigators who stand by the ready on the phones.

00:13:22:02 – 00:13:38:13
Chris Rossen
24 seven 365 over 150 languages spoken. And these are and they really deserve a shout out. Our community resource navigators really deserve a shout out. I’m really grateful to to the support that they provide our community. And these are folks who are answering calls. When somebody in our community falls upon hard times, they don’t know where to turn.

00:13:38:13 – 00:13:57:23
Chris Rossen
They’ve got an unexpected medical bill that they can’t afford. They’ve got they’re facing housing insecurity. They can’t put food on the table and they’re not really sure where to turn in that sea of 10,000 plus nonprofits, two and one becomes that place that they can call, they can speak to a friendly friend, friend who who will walk through, learn about their situation and connect them.

00:13:58:09 – 00:14:17:01
Chris Rossen
We have an over 90% success rate in connecting people with resources they need in the community, and then again, we also now are really doubling down on using it as a way to measure and sort of track emerging community needs. And so that sort of canary in the coal mine kind of approach, we certainly use it as an input to assessing and understanding community need and how it evolves.

00:14:17:17 – 00:14:33:00
Chris Rossen
And I think that it’s one of those resource in our community that needs to be talked about, more needs to be understood. More and more people need to be aware of it. And I will say, when we talk about community and measuring it, you know, since 2018, we’ve seen it over 20% increase in call volume two, two, two, two, one, one.

00:14:33:05 – 00:14:39:14
Chris Rossen
And that’s a real indicator of the fact that we have real significant challenges that we’re facing and need to address in our community.

00:14:40:04 – 00:14:47:08
Ruth Baum Bigus
They’ve got to be nice people with lots of patience. I would imagine, to sit there and, you know, listen to somebody else’s woes, albeit very legitimate.

00:14:48:04 – 00:14:50:17
Chris Rossen
But can I just say that can be any of our woes. And I think.

00:14:50:19 – 00:14:53:09
Ruth Baum Bigus
Absolutely. Absolutely. And you’ve been there?

00:14:53:10 – 00:14:54:22
Chris Rossen
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.

00:14:55:07 – 00:15:06:11
Ruth Baum Bigus
How does that how does your own background weigh into what you do here every day? And if you want to give a little recap in case someone missed the last time we talked.

00:15:06:11 – 00:15:28:01
Chris Rossen
Yeah, well, so so by way of background, I grew up here in Kansas City. I grew up in a low income household. I grew up in one of our city’s high violent crime rate neighborhoods. I was the first person in my family graduate high school, first person to go on to graduate college. And that is that that lived experience is something that is a very present thing with me.

00:15:28:01 – 00:15:47:09
Chris Rossen
It’s something that goes with me every and every room and every conversation. And it really does inform every decision that I make here. When we’re making decisions about programs to support, we’re making decisions about resource allocation or we’re making decisions about Asian initiatives to take on. You know, I’m often we talk that we talk about these things that scale.

00:15:47:09 – 00:16:02:13
Chris Rossen
I mean, we’re working I mean, we touch one in three people in the community every year. And so when when that’s the sort of scale that you’re working with, sometimes it can be easy to fall into the fray of just looking at these in terms of numbers. But for me, what I know is that I was that kid on the other side of that equation.

00:16:02:13 – 00:16:19:14
Chris Rossen
I was the person who was receiving those sorts of benefits. I’ve benefited so directly from those things. And so that is a part of of every conversation. And I think one thing that’s important to note, I hear a lot of talk sort of in the community as I go out and about about, you know, which which which sort of solutions better than the others.

00:16:19:14 – 00:16:45:14
Chris Rossen
And when I look at my own life story, you know, I didn’t just need food pantry assistance. I didn’t just needs afterschool programs. I didn’t just need mentoring programs or free health clinics. Of course, I needed all of those things and at different points along my journey. And one of the things I love about the approach we take care at United Way is that it is a comprehensive, holistic approach, community based approach, and a really a collective action approach to addressing to transforming lives.

00:16:45:19 – 00:16:59:22
Chris Rossen
I feel like given my background and given the transformation that I’ve experienced firsthand, I’ve got the best job in the world I get we get to change the world every day, one life at a time. And and that and that is very meaningful and very personal work to me.

00:17:00:22 – 00:17:16:05
Ruth Baum Bigus
You have employees, obviously, teammates, associates, whatever the term is. You want to use that work here with you every day. Let’s talk about lay leadership and the role of the rest of the community. How do they play into what United Way is doing?

00:17:16:13 – 00:17:35:04
Chris Rossen
Well, so that’s really at the core. I think of another role we play, which is to stoke that philanthropic flame. In fact, we often talk about our work now in terms of inspiring and enabling a local movement of change agents, or, as we call them, way makers. Because when I think about my that path that I talked about, those opportunities were made possible.

00:17:35:04 – 00:17:54:05
Chris Rossen
Those other teams made all the difference in the world to me. And they were made possible by strangers who chipped in a dollar where they could, who made an investment when they could, who volunteered their time, who gave of their expertize. And in order to sort of I really believe that the business of changing the world, the business of transforming the community is not any one organization or one individuals responsibility.

00:17:54:05 – 00:18:06:02
Chris Rossen
It’s all of our responsibilities. And so we more and more view our role as helping enable that and helping educate and helping help give people proximity to both the challenges and also the promising solutions that exist here in our community.

00:18:07:04 – 00:18:20:11
Ruth Baum Bigus
So what role is there for a volunteer? If they say, I’m all behind this, I’m all behind what Chris is saying, rah, rah, let’s go. How do they get in, get connected, help make some of those decisions or carry the mission?

00:18:21:01 – 00:18:42:22
Chris Rossen
Yeah. So you can I would say go to our website and follow us on social media. We post volunteer opportunities regularly. We also bank a a resource bank where any nonprofit organization in the community can post volunteer opportunities post needs. And that’s a great place. You know, I would say start anywhere, anywhere, start anywhere is that is the thing to do.

00:18:43:03 – 00:18:58:17
Chris Rossen
And I think it also can be intimidating if you’re new to the space, you don’t and you’re not really sure where to start it. It can be intimidating. We’ve tried to sort of ease that as well. We have a whole host of what we call immersion experiences, bus tours and educational opportunities where folks can go and visit organizations.

00:18:58:17 – 00:19:23:11
Chris Rossen
They can learn about an issue, for instance, you know, homelessness or education or early childhood education. They can learn about what are the issues related to that? They get proximate to some of the organizations making a difference in those spaces. And my hope is that they find their love and they find their passion. But whatever they do, I would just encourage folks to get involved, be an advocate, be educated and and do what you can because we all can do something.

00:19:25:09 – 00:19:42:01
Ruth Baum Bigus
What have you found to be the greatest challenge? Maybe challenges would go with more than one. If there is one, as you’ve you’ve settled in now, you you’ve kind of gotten your team, although we know people go in and out. What’s that challenge and how have you tried to meet it?

00:19:43:00 – 00:20:10:18
Chris Rossen
You know, the, the, the, the best the worst part about this job is that you’re you’re confronted every day with the challenges. You know, we really have significant, significant challenges in our community. And I think that one thing that I find is that increasingly as a society, we feel divided. You know, politics, economics, technology, you know, increasingly puts us further and further in our silos, further and further tucked away from each other.

00:20:11:00 – 00:20:26:18
Chris Rossen
And I yet at the same time, I get so inspired at the best part of the job is I get so inspired. We, we, we see individuals and organizations throughout the community who are stepping up to to address needs, stepping up to make a difference. And, and every day when those folks step up, they support a neighbor in need.

00:20:26:18 – 00:20:41:04
Chris Rossen
They volunteer with an organization who’s looking for help, that they mentor somebody, a young person in their community. Every time those things happen, those are folks who are choosing a brighter future for all of us, choosing a collective future of their choosing, whether they work with us or not. They’re choosing a united way forward for all of us.

00:20:41:11 – 00:20:57:18
Chris Rossen
And those really are the way makers in our community. And so from a from a challenge standpoint, I would just say that that’s keeping people’s attention on these issues. And when it’s not facing you every day, when you’re not growing up in that environment, when you’re not sort of confronted with some of those real challenges, it can be.

00:20:57:18 – 00:21:06:21
Chris Rossen
It can be it can be a challenge to grab people’s attention in such a cluttered world. But what I also see every day is that that’s a challenge is being met, particularly here in Kansas City by our community.

00:21:07:11 – 00:21:14:03
Ruth Baum Bigus
You’ve got some new things, share intel. You’ve got the Food Pantry initiative, talk a little bit about that. Yeah.

00:21:14:03 – 00:21:37:13
Chris Rossen
So I’m pleased to share that we just recently we know we’re just really again closely monitoring community need with what we know about inflation is that that’s putting a pinch on everybody and particularly organizations like women’s shelters and and organizations, Head Start centers and organizations who are supporting youth. The new American populations, particularly vulnerable populations accessing certain needs and supports.

00:21:38:20 – 00:21:59:19
Chris Rossen
And so in order to address that, we’ve partnered together with a few of our philanthropic partners. We pooled community resources that have been donated to United Way. And I’m and I’m grateful to say that we’ve just recently awarded nearly $400,000 in additional food pantry assistance to about 30 organizations here in town who are providing food pantry assistance to folks in order to bolster up what they have.

00:21:59:19 – 00:22:15:03
Chris Rossen
And what we’ve seen and heard from them is that they’re seeing a 20% increase just because of inflation, a 20% increase in demand. And those are again, many of them are working families. These are folks who are doing everything they can. They’re pinching pennies. They’re living paycheck to paycheck. And they just need a little extra support from our community.

00:22:15:12 – 00:22:21:17
Ruth Baum Bigus
Right. And in the bio arena, you’ve got another new initiative here, this catalyst program. You were telling.

00:22:21:17 – 00:22:38:18
Chris Rossen
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Yeah. I’m also, you know, really excited to share that we’ve we’ve partnered with the Kauffman Foundation and we’ve created, in addition to the impact, 100 and other sort of grant initiatives that we have, we have an opportunity for a catalyst fund that is about about two and a half to $3 million over the next three years.

00:22:38:18 – 00:23:06:14
Chris Rossen
That collectively United Way and the Coffin Foundation have committed to creating a catalyst fund to support Bipoc, Black, Indigenous and people of color led or primarily serving organizations in our community. In particular, we’re looking at small nonprofits, organizations that may not have the the the time history or have had the access to capital or have had the access to networks that have been able to reach a certain degree of impact scale to be competitive for something like Impact 100.

00:23:06:14 – 00:23:18:13
Chris Rossen
But we want to make sure that they have access to funds and resources that are fully dedicated and set aside to, again, catalyze the next generation of important nonprofits and community rooted nonprofits in our community.

00:23:19:07 – 00:23:34:21
Ruth Baum Bigus
Probably the elephant in the room. How are contributions going? What have you seen? I mean, we were in the heat of the pandemic. We’re now in what, pandemic? Two or whatever you want to call this new phase. How have you watched that happen and how are you addressing it?

00:23:35:15 – 00:24:01:09
Chris Rossen
Well, our community continues to be incredibly generous with time, talent and treasure. They continue to be generous. And we’ve certainly seen that, you know, companies are facing, as you said, through pandemic and other things, all sorts of disruptions in terms of workforce, workforce. And and yet at the same time, I am just emboldened by the fact that our largest companies, individuals throughout our community, step up again year after year and understand that there are these real needs in our community that need be addressed.

00:24:01:09 – 00:24:24:15
Chris Rossen
And they continue to trust United Way with that. And so fundraising efforts have been strong, you know, as as is as you know, it can always be stronger. We can always, always use more. But what I what what I what I see though is that a real resiliency in the funding community as well, even in spaces where the same challenges that we talk about food insecurity, inflation, some of these sorts of things, they affect all of us.

00:24:24:22 – 00:24:32:21
Chris Rossen
And yet we still find folks who continue year after year to make giving and investing back in the community. And a big part of what they a big part of.

00:24:33:01 – 00:24:45:21
Ruth Baum Bigus
And stepping is stepping up when when it’s needed. All right. So let’s take Chris’s crystal ball now. Where do you envision United Way, let’s say, in five years from now? What do you see.

00:24:46:01 – 00:25:06:12
Chris Rossen
One five years from now? I hope that we continue to just be really resilient and agile in terms of how we’re addressing community need. I, I hope that that as a community we continue to build smarter and more sustainable solutions to addressing these challenges. You know, I one of the things that that gets asked of me often in public forums is, well, you guys have been in operation for 100 years.

00:25:06:12 – 00:25:24:13
Chris Rossen
You know, how, you know, why have we solved homelessness or why have we solved educational inequity? And I often sort of think about the weather, right? We still have hurricanes. We still have earthquakes. We still have these sorts of things. I can’t think of any point in time in our history that we’ve not had issues of inequity, issues of haves and have nots.

00:25:24:13 – 00:25:40:05
Chris Rossen
We’ve not had issues of isms and tribal isms and all these sorts of things that happen. And yet we have to be smarter and more sophisticated in the solutions set that we that we address those with and some of the evolutions that we’ve talked about even today, are our efforts to make sure that we are continuing to stay relevant.

00:25:40:05 – 00:26:01:00
Chris Rossen
We’re continuing to stay ahead of the curve in terms of addressing those things and in the same way with the weather. Right. We’ve got more sophisticated technology. We’re not just ducking under a wall. We’re sort of doing all sorts of things and it’s the same sort of thing in this space. And so I really view in many ways what we do at United Way, where we’re sort of a a crowdfunded solutions engine for the community.

00:26:01:00 – 00:26:08:18
Chris Rossen
Right. And we need to be constantly sort of in the aggregate, working together to build smarter and more sustainable solutions to these these really pressing issues.

00:26:09:11 – 00:26:12:02
Ruth Baum Bigus
You’ve got five girls, pretty young.

00:26:12:04 – 00:26:12:14
Chris Rossen
Yes.

00:26:13:23 – 00:26:31:04
Ruth Baum Bigus
How do you bring in the next generation? I’m not saying the 5 to 10 year olds, little young, but the millennial, the Gen Z, the whatever you want to call it, seems like that’s always a challenge for nonprofits. So how are you all going about trying to get that buy in and their involvement?

00:26:31:16 – 00:26:40:21
Chris Rossen
Well, we you know, we have a well, I’ve just one thing I will say on that, though, is that the younger generation of which I still like to think I’m.

00:26:41:10 – 00:26:45:17
Ruth Baum Bigus
You’re there some of us are in a little more mature generation.

00:26:45:17 – 00:27:05:14
Chris Rossen
The younger generation are incredibly idea focused. They’re incredibly issue focused. We are we are the issues that we take on and we get involved with. We’re very serious about. And I think they really lead with their heart in a lot of ways. And so we see that they are actively engaged and they want to continue to be engaged.

00:27:05:20 – 00:27:22:09
Chris Rossen
We, of course, try to provide opportunities through those those immersive experience that I talked about to make sure it’s accessible to folks and also fun, you know, I’m a big believer that you should have fun doing serious work. And I think that that is part of what we see that we continue to try to infuse. And we get together for volunteer gatherings.

00:27:22:09 – 00:27:42:01
Chris Rossen
We get together for donor gatherings, and when we go on service experiences that we try to ensure that it’s also a fun experience. And I haven’t met somebody, a younger person anywhere that’s not interested in having a good time. I wanted to tell. Yeah. And I would just say that they’re also very, you know, there there are a million ways that folks can get over a million ways to be united, million ways to to get involved.

00:27:42:01 – 00:27:58:15
Chris Rossen
And and that that that young people are really creative in terms of how they find ways to get involved. And a lot of the growth that we talked about, the nonprofit sector is being driven by young people who are saying, you know what, I think I have a I think I have a different solution set that we can bring to the table, a different way of looking at that problem.

00:27:59:04 – 00:28:02:22
Chris Rossen
And I think that’s what gets me really excited and optimistic about the future.

00:28:02:22 – 00:28:10:03
Ruth Baum Bigus
Do you ever get any pushback from those folks that, well, this is the way we’ve always done it, or I have the wisdom because I’ve been here longer than you.

00:28:10:11 – 00:28:11:01
Chris Rossen
Of course.

00:28:11:11 – 00:28:14:17
Ruth Baum Bigus
Of course. So how do you do that? You tap dance right now.

00:28:14:17 – 00:28:37:08
Chris Rossen
We say, hey, tell us what you think and let’s talk about it. Right. And I also think that, you know, I heard the other day that everyone’s called everyone collectively smarter than anyone individually. And I think that any we want all ideas, all ideas at the table. I’m aware when we’re doing that. You just you did mention something that I want to I want to bring up, which was that we talked about my little kiddos.

00:28:37:10 – 00:28:54:12
Chris Rossen
Right. And ensuring that they’re getting involved. That’s something that I think it’s never too young to get involved. And actually, we see we see young kids, you know, go to go to a go to an elementary school and check out their food drive. Go to an elementary school and talk about and really the things that young people do.

00:28:54:12 – 00:29:02:05
Chris Rossen
They’re thinking creatively. They have a different perspective to bring to the table. And I don’t think it’s ever too young to get folks involved in and in shaping the community for the better.

00:29:02:19 – 00:29:06:20
Ruth Baum Bigus
Plus, they can learn the right way to do things instead of all the mistakes that we go through, right?

00:29:06:20 – 00:29:10:07
Chris Rossen
That’s right. Build up, build, build and iterate off of the mistakes of the past for sure.

00:29:10:08 – 00:29:21:22
Ruth Baum Bigus
Chris, it’s been great to sit down with you. Thank you for bringing us up to speed. We expect great things moving forward and fun things moving forward. Right. And everybody should check out United Way. Go ahead and give the plug on your website. If you want.

00:29:21:23 – 00:29:28:09
Chris Rossen
To check out United Way’s our website, follow us on social. That’s the best way to get to get in touch with us and stay up to date on all things in our community.

00:29:29:06 – 00:29:48:03
Ruth Baum Bigus
Thank you for tuning in to KC Cares, Kansas City’s nonprofit voice. We are glad to be sponsored by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Don’t forget, you can catch us Saturday mornings on ESPN 1510 and 94.5 FM. Thanks for joining us on KC CARES.

 

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Benilde Hall Provides Services for Homeless and Veterans

Ken Vick | Executive Director

To provide services for treating substance use, mental health, and homelessness for homeless men and veterans so that individuals may return to the community as responsible, employed, and permanently housed contributing members of society.

visit them here: https://www.benildehall.org

 

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[Transcript]

00:00:00:09 – 00:00:22:03
RUTH
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 other 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. WW W.K. Kauffman dot org.

00:00:22:15 – 00:00:53:20
RUTH
I’m Ruth Bomb Vegas Soccer. It’s all the buzz around the world. And in Kansas City. Our town is blessed with two professional soccer teams, Men’s Sporting KC and our new kid on the block, the KC Current, the incredible women’s team that has had an amazing trajectory in the brief two years they’ve been on the scene. While the players are amazing and providing fans with some great bragging rights, the team is making its mark off the pitch as well through its philanthropic efforts.

00:00:54:03 – 00:01:12:01
RUTH
Here to bring us the very latest and greatest is Ben Akin. He is vice president of community relations. And we may have a surprise visit from another big deal with the current, but we’ll wait to see if she hops on with us. Ben, it’s so great to have you on the show.

00:01:12:19 – 00:01:13:27
BEN
Thank you so much for having me.

00:01:15:13 – 00:01:22:24
RUTH
So for you, it’s just been fast and furious. I mean, this is like you guys are like, wow, pow.

00:01:24:07 – 00:01:35:27
BEN
Well, it’s hard to believe. We just celebrated our second anniversary. So the current’s only two years old. And it’s really been amazing what our ownership is, is put together in that short amount of time.

00:01:37:05 – 00:02:00:19
RUTH
I don’t want to tell tales on you, and I want to put you in an awkward position. But you were with another sports franchise in our city. We don’t have to name it if you don’t want to. But I’m just wondering, because you’ve had experience with an established franchise to a newer franchise, why don’t you? What do you see as the differences in how things are moving forward?

00:02:01:24 – 00:02:35:17
BEN
Well, I do I really enjoy enjoyed my time. I was with the Kansas City Royals for a little over 20 seasons and I so enjoyed my time there and just had a great experience coming into a pretty well known organization. In the time I joined, we had won the World Series in 85 and had this established brand and this established like commitment of being a part of Kansas City and then to have the opportunity to come in to the current and really kind of help build something from the beginning has been really a lot of fun.

00:02:36:25 – 00:03:03:04
BEN
I think one thing that I’ve really enjoyed about my time with The Current is just working with these incredible women on the field. You know, these players are a diverse group of players from all over the world really, and they’re really the best of their game. So we have several players that appear in the U.S. Women’s National Team, Canadian national team, and a Jamaican player last year and other countries represented as well.

00:03:03:16 – 00:03:12:08
BEN
And so it’s neat for us here in Kansas City to have had the opportunity to work with these players and to see them and really excel on the field.

00:03:14:00 – 00:03:22:19
RUTH
It seems like everything is very organic. Can you elaborate on that?

00:03:23:12 – 00:03:50:07
BEN
I think that’s fair. I think that’s fair to say. Our really it goes back to our our owner. So Angie and Chris Long, a along with Brittney Mahomes are three owners and they are Kansas City at their core. So any of any of our our outreach or events is really based back in Kansas City and they’re involved in a lot of our decisions.

00:03:51:00 – 00:04:17:06
BEN
You, you know, whether to add like our different pillars and our outreach efforts. They’ve been involved in making those decisions all along. So I think their base of being from Kansas City and Chris and Angie Long are at the front. Their parents are for kids. And so I tell people this a lot, but a lot of times we’ll have meetings or discussions and the kids kids conversation will come up all the time.

00:04:17:06 – 00:04:43:04
BEN
And there’s been several times where we’ve been in meetings and it’ll hit like 330. And even if we’re nowhere near our point of discussion, they’re like, We’ve met. We’ve had everything that we want to talk about during our meeting. Angie will say, Well, I have kids pick up, so I need to leave. And that’s really just set up for for all of us as we’re building these things out and our community outreach just at the core, it’s back to families, it’s back to Kansas City.

00:04:43:10 – 00:04:59:20
BEN
And really just we can get into a little bit later. But at the core, it’s important to do what’s right for these players. And so it really is organic because everything is there’s no like history to build upon. It’s all like what’s best moving forward.

00:04:59:20 – 00:05:01:00
RUTH
You’re creating history.

00:05:02:07 – 00:05:29:18
BEN
We really are literally with the development of the the building of the New stadium down by the riverfront will be the first stadium built specifically for a women’s sport in North America. There’s some debate there whether it’s like how worldwide that is. But it’s really a first. It’s not only the first in the league, but it’s, you know, it’s going to be their first downtown stadium and we’re going to be the first in the league.

00:05:29:25 – 00:05:38:13
BEN
And then just really providing the first class opportunities for these players to play in front of fans in a stadium built specifically for that.

00:05:39:09 – 00:05:40:14
RUTH
You’re leading the way.

00:05:42:00 – 00:06:07:23
BEN
Yeah. You know it’s you know I Angie long some sometimes says that yes we’re the first but we won’t be the last. So I think the Longs really believe, along with Brittney, that this is just the standard moving forward. So other teams and we’ve heard from other teams that are going to do something similar hopefully down the road, they may be a little jealous that we’re moving as as fast as we are.

00:06:08:00 – 00:06:13:24
BEN
But I think in this league this will become a standard and we’re just going to be one of the first, which is great.

00:06:14:21 – 00:06:39:18
RUTH
Well, as a soccer mom, always back. I love a female soccer mom. What a great example for young women and for boys, too. I don’t mean to do that, but especially for young women to really be able to have this kind of team here in the heartland of the country instead of, you know, ending up on either side of the coast.

00:06:40:01 – 00:06:50:27
RUTH
You had mentioned a few minutes ago something about four pillars or four values. Can you share a little bit about that? I think our audience would be interested to know that.

00:06:51:23 – 00:07:16:02
BEN
Definitely. So we have we have three and then we have kind of a new initiative that we’ll be working on in the future as well. But so there are our first pillars and these were established towards the beginning of this of the formation of the club. So it’s the power of sports for all. So we really just believe that all children should have the same opportunity to dream big and aspire to big achievements like our players.

00:07:16:23 – 00:07:44:27
BEN
And so we do that through several, you know, providing opportunity for kids to play sports. Our second our second pillar is inspiring, bold ambition. And that’s really just providing young people access to visibility of women in roles, women in roles that are traditionally filled by women. So kind of the basis of what who Angie Long is and she she made her mark in the finance world, which there weren’t a lot of women in the room when she was doing that.

00:07:45:19 – 00:08:09:11
BEN
And so we’re trying to create opportunity that provides financial literacy, leadership development opportunities and with some STEM outreach. And it is really just giving the opportunity for girls to play sports. And then finally, diversity, equity, inclusion. And really, we just want to be a conduit to support those that are working in that space. So it’s it’s so important to our players.

00:08:09:11 – 00:08:24:29
BEN
We have a diverse group of players. And so as we move into our our new neighborhood and and where the stadium is going and just work with different communities, we want to make sure that we’re we’re representing those communities and just provide voice to those that sometimes don’t have a voice.

00:08:25:23 – 00:08:47:21
RUTH
So how interesting to start with an organization where you really have all that laid out in the beginning. It seems as though from the outside that this was very thoughtful. It wasn’t just we’ll just have a women’s soccer team. Let’s go do this. Let’s have Brittney Mahomes. Who everybody can recognize that name. Can you give us a little peek, a little sneak?

00:08:47:21 – 00:08:52:16
RUTH
Is that really how it came from those values and move it forward?

00:08:53:11 – 00:09:14:11
BEN
It really does. I mean, you know, even in meetings, well, the first thing that comes up in a meeting is where we’re evaluating different opportunities because, as you know, Ruth, and as your show represents, there’s so many different nonprofits and opportunities for people to get involved. And that’s one thing they love about Kansas City. But there are so many opportunities.

00:09:14:11 – 00:09:32:19
BEN
So you have to be selective to kind of where you want to make your mark. So we always talk about is this good for the players? That always comes up. Like every day we talk about, well, is this good for the players? And so that’s everything, like thinking about timing. So, you know, we get a request from a school to go visit.

00:09:33:21 – 00:09:55:29
BEN
Okay, well, we need to think about the timing. So the players train till about two, so probably don’t want to do anything to till four after, you know, those types of questions that come up. And then really does this go back to our brand pillars? So, you know, there’s plenty of things. And coming from the royals, you know, one great thing about that experience is that I got to know a lot of different people in town and different organizations.

00:09:56:09 – 00:10:12:10
BEN
So when I started, you know, this plate is full of, you know, where I have friends in all these different organizations as well. But you really had to go back. I really forced me to go back to our brand pillars and say, hey, is this increasing access for sports? Is this, you know, is there a way to inspire bold ambition?

00:10:13:01 – 00:10:18:04
BEN
And then really, what are the DEI efforts? What’s the community that’s going to be affected by this?

00:10:18:04 – 00:10:21:14
RUTH
So you alluded to there’s a fourth one.

00:10:22:21 – 00:10:53:27
BEN
That’s right. Well, as we so we’re obviously we’re building a new stadium downtown near the river. And so it’s important to us to make sure that we’re being good neighbors in that surrounding area. So, you know, we’re we’re getting to know that neighborhood and working with some local businesses down there to potentially do some some projects. And, you know, there’s a garrison community centers down there that we we’ve visited a few times and, you know, so we really just want to be good neighbors.

00:10:53:27 – 00:11:11:05
BEN
So that’s really what it comes down to is just how can we as moving in this new stadium, how can we be part of the neighborhood and just really, you know, not be coming in and have, you know, for certain our way through? We really run involve the neighborhood and what’s what we’re doing.

00:11:12:29 – 00:11:37:24
RUTH
That’s great. So I alluded to it in my intro about the ladies are or the women are more than just the player you see on the pitch. And of course, we focus on that nonprofit or that communal aspect. Talk with us a little bit about that coming from the KC Current and why is that part of your whole brand?

00:11:38:20 – 00:12:09:09
BEN
You know, one example, we partner with YMCA of Greater Kansas City. So all soccer programing that the YMCA does in the Kansas City area is now branded KC current YMCA youth soccer. So we have we have involved players. They’ve been to soccer practices. The kids wear jerseys that have the KC current logo on it. And it’s not just the girls that are playing soccer, it’s the boys as well.

00:12:10:14 – 00:12:21:20
BEN
So this year we had over 900 kids that participated in the program and the YMCA tells us that’s about a 50% increase from where they were a year ago before the current were involved.

00:12:23:03 – 00:12:24:18
RUTH
So congratulations.

00:12:24:18 – 00:12:51:28
BEN
So awesome. Yeah, it’s so great. And talking to our players that stemmed a lot of them got their soccer outreach or their careers, I guess their their love of soccer by playing in the YMCA soccer programs. So even 84 inches our goalkeeper, she got her start. She said that she was a YMCA kid through and through. Like she would go and just spend all day there with no school.

00:12:51:29 – 00:13:10:24
BEN
She would hang out at the YMCA and she had the opportunity to to learn soccer there. And, you know, thinking about her playing as a little kid, she ended up being on the U.S. women’s national team that won the World Cup. And so she was on the cover of a Wheaties box, and now she’s a goalkeeper for the Kansas City Courier.

00:13:11:12 – 00:13:12:12
BEN
It’s pretty amazing.

00:13:13:13 – 00:13:24:19
RUTH
That’s very exciting. So tell us a little bit about what the Current is doing in and around our community, partnering with nonprofits.

00:13:26:13 – 00:13:56:05
BEN
Yeah, so we’re lucky to have some some great partners here in town. One is Wind for Casey, which is, as you know, part of the Greater Kansas City Sports Commission. So we’ve had we had our all of our players attend their their luncheon last year where they where went for Casey honors amazing women athletes. We’ve had we have a beer through Boulevard Brewery called Teal Rising where they’re part of the proceeds benefit went for Casey.

00:13:57:02 – 00:14:25:04
BEN
So win for Casey is one that we support strongly. You know, another example of that is our partnership with United We and United We is a development fair is an organization focused on just empowering women both in civic and government, civic and leadership opportunities. So throughout the season we did a few activities with them, including our Inspiring Women Night, where we had where we honored some amazing women leaders on the field.

00:14:25:12 – 00:14:50:23
BEN
We had World Cup champion Briana Scurry in town who met some of the participants and did all kinds of fun stuff with them, with them. And then we also had a partnership with the Girl Scouts. So this season we had a Girl Scout Day at one of our matches. And it wasn’t just a, Hey, how many tickets can the Girl Scouts sell and come out to the game?

00:14:51:11 – 00:15:18:20
BEN
There was a couple different elements beyond that, so we helped working with the Girl Scouts and American Century Investments, put together a program called My Money Plan, where both the junior Girl Scouts and their caregiver caregivers learned about earning and saving and investing from some of the female financial experts at American Century. And so it was really unique program that the Girl Scouts learned before the game.

00:15:18:20 – 00:15:45:05
BEN
They had a little session and then their parents went to a different session where they could learn as well. And then we honored Girl Scouts throughout the game. They got to meet some players after the game and did some fun things like that. But those are a couple examples that it’s been it’s been a it’s been a fun opportunity to work with these nonprofits and really develop something and not so much such a cookie cutter type event like we just want you at the match.

00:15:45:12 – 00:15:54:18
BEN
You know, there’s that element of it because we really want to have people there to be able to support this team. But really just think about be intentional and what can we do from this partnership together?

00:15:55:17 – 00:16:24:09
RUTH
We’re talking with Ben again. He’s vice president of community relations, a veteran in sports franchises here in Kansas City. And being a connector in the community, you mentioned, you know, bringing over your skill set. I can’t believe you were with the girls for 20 years. You must have been ten years old when you started and now has you and mentioned that the networking that so important you all are that new team razzle dazzle in town.

00:16:24:10 – 00:16:29:01
RUTH
So how do you balance that? As you say, there are a lot of nonprofits in the community.

00:16:30:26 – 00:16:47:12
BEN
I, I think, yeah, I mean, that’s been a little bit of a challenge in some ways, and it’s also been a big advantage, just kind of being able to step in and kind of have some of these relationships. But really you just have for me, I challenge myself and we have a great team that that works with us.

00:16:48:06 – 00:17:07:11
BEN
You go back to your pillars. So, A, is this going to be good for the players? Again, we talk about that all the time. And then where does this fit in with their pillars? So we want to be intentional, you know, just to make sure that we’re making the right moves and the right partnerships to really make a difference.

00:17:08:08 – 00:17:36:04
BEN
So but it’s also been fun, you know, being part of this group and learning about organizations I didn’t know about. And in organizations that are that are newer to the marketplace, one that comes to mind is Girls Preparatory Academy. That’s the only single gender public school in Kansas City area. So it is a it’s just a few years old, but it’s a middle school basically for four girls.

00:17:36:18 – 00:17:57:17
BEN
And so we did a couple fun things with them this year. One, we sponsored their Girls on the Run program at the school, two girls from that school. But it was could participate in girls on their own. And then we sponsored their sports programing. So the last couple of years, they haven’t offered sports. They’re pretty new charter school.

00:17:58:00 – 00:18:24:07
BEN
And but this year, together with the 15 and Mahomes Foundation. So Brittany Mahomes went with us when we were able to tell the students about sports that were coming to their school. So thanks to the current and 15 them, Mommy’s Girls Prep offered volleyball this year and they’re getting basketball started right now, so we can’t be. I’m looking forward to being there this winter and maybe take in a basketball game.

00:18:25:13 – 00:18:37:01
RUTH
Well, I don’t know if people realize or remember. Well, refresh their memory. I believe Brittany was a soccer player herself and played in college, I believe.

00:18:37:24 – 00:19:06:12
BEN
Yeah. Yeah. So Brittney, she played in college and then she also played professionally. And so that experience, I wasn’t here in the very beginning, but what I’ve been told has really has the the organization organization was setting their foundation, Brittany’s voice was in her experience as we were selecting players and going back to that player first mentality, bringing was a big part of making that happen.

00:19:06:12 – 00:19:20:02
BEN
And Brennan’s experience helped the teal and our crests and our amazing logos that have come out for the team. And Brittany was part of all of that and even was on the committee to help select the name The Current.

00:19:20:16 – 00:19:37:12
RUTH
So I was going to ask how much involvement is there from the three owners? Obviously, Brittany is very busy now with two kids and the Longs have children, etc. So are they really in there with fingers day to day? You mentioned a meeting where Angie had to excuse herself to go pick up kids.

00:19:37:29 – 00:20:06:18
BEN
Yes, they are. So Chris and Angie also run the organization they founded our school square capital management. And so for the first probably six months of my tenure, we were office two with Palmer Square. So we saw firsthand and both Chris and Angie run two companies simultaneously. So that was pretty amazing to watch them go back and forth between the two.

00:20:07:20 – 00:20:30:27
BEN
Now that we’re at our at our training facility in Riverside, Missouri, they are still very involved in emails. And we’ll get texts and sometimes we’ll take calls from Angie while she’s watching a kids soccer game either in the city or a different city. So they’re still very involved in activities. And then Brittany, she came to our groundbreaking on the new stadium.

00:20:30:27 – 00:20:57:09
BEN
That was the first part of October. And she was she was amazing. She was very pregnant and also moving her daughter. But she was there for all the pictures and hung out and talked to the players and several fans. And it was neat to see her, her dedication, where, you know, rightfully she could have bowed out of that because she was so close, but she was there and hanging out.

00:20:57:09 – 00:21:00:22
BEN
And we really appreciate her being involved.

00:21:00:26 – 00:21:40:08
RUTH
You talked about the importance of bringing on the right players, you know, for the mix of this all to work, you know, a team that can play well, but a new team and a new ownership group and all of that. So how how do you all work with the players and the is participating in activities quote required. And the reason I mentioned that and then I want you to answer is that I know at a point in time for the Kansas City Chiefs, I think when Lamar Hunt was alive, he required his players to be at so many community events.

00:21:40:08 – 00:21:46:10
RUTH
He wanted them in the community. So how does the current handle that?

00:21:46:18 – 00:22:26:09
BEN
Well, I will tell you that we have a 100% participation from our players on community events. So looking back over the year, every single player participated in one or more community event. Most were at the, you know, five, six, seven events. So they want to be out there. In fact, there’s been a few times where we’ll have opportunities, you know, like going to visit the kids at the YMCA, where we have maybe a two spots, you know, two or three spots, and we’ll get more players that want to participate then we have we’re able to accommodate.

00:22:26:10 – 00:22:57:27
BEN
So a lot of times we can add them or we’ll be like, okay, well we have this other event next week that will get you involved in and so the players want to be involved. And so we really work for ways to to work with them and having events. You know, another cool thing about this organization is really taking the player’s input and direction and some of our community activities and earlier, right before the season started, the NWSL hosted the Challenge Cup.

00:22:58:21 – 00:23:21:29
BEN
And so it’s a kind of an in-season tournament and that we host that is hosted across the league. So during the challenge last year, it took place in March and April for those jerseys we went to the players and we asked them, Hey, we’d love to do something with your jerseys, your game worn jerseys. Let’s, let’s auction them off for for a nonprofit.

00:23:21:29 – 00:23:50:26
BEN
And we let the players choose the nonprofit that would benefit. So I developed a list of like several nonprofits that they could choose from, and we overwhelmed and we chose the players chose zero reasons why. Which is an organization that’s on benefit to reduce teen suicide. And so just taking their input. And then there’s constant feedback. You know, we do a survey beginning of the season and then talk to them throughout.

00:23:50:26 – 00:24:01:28
BEN
Like just getting to know them and their their interest and really just trying to align them with a different area of Kansas City or different nonprofit that benefits, you know, their area of focus.

00:24:02:29 – 00:24:11:04
RUTH
Now, are most of the players living here or do they come and go as as season ends and then starts up again?

00:24:11:29 – 00:24:38:01
BEN
Well, another you know, it’s interesting, a lot of these players grew up in warmer weather, so they have an opportunity to be other places. But with the addition of our new training facility, which is state of the art, you know, players have access to a really nice weight room, locker room. All of our technical staff, massage therapists, you know, physical therapists, all of that.

00:24:38:01 – 00:25:03:27
BEN
Our coaches are based here in Kansas City and Riverside. And so you would think at the end of the season, you know, you would go home to California or we have a player from Hawaii would go to Hawaii to spend your offseason. I mean, who wouldn’t want to spend December in Hawaii? But I started daycare and came back to work in Kansas City, along with several other players just because of this facility.

00:25:04:08 – 00:25:15:11
BEN
So, you know, I would think that we wouldn’t have access to a lot of players here in the offseason, but we have several players that are living with us living in Kansas City this winter.

00:25:16:11 – 00:25:35:04
RUTH
So if you’re out and about for the holidays or something, you may want to go look. And if you aren’t familiar with the players, they can go to the Web site at KC, current icon. That’s right. Remind us all when season starts, when we can start looking for the heat up and the excitement of KC Current.

00:25:36:11 – 00:26:05:25
BEN
And so this season, our our schedule isn’t quite set yet, but it’ll be announced probably February-March time and then we’ll start playing in March and then our season goes through October. So it’s we have 14 home games throughout the year and then 14 on the road and we play, you know, as, as you know, we play at Children’s Mercy Park and we played last year and Mercy Park next year will play at Challenge Mercy Park and then our new stadium will open in 24.

00:26:06:26 – 00:26:16:07
RUTH
So that’s really exciting and I know you guys will be very busy planning all kinds of cool stuff when that happens. Your seasons. Almost as long as baseball.

00:26:16:25 – 00:26:41:28
BEN
It is. We have a lot less games, though. So as a as someone working for the front office, I do appreciate 14 home games as opposed to 81 in that regard. But yeah, but it’s a it’s great that it’s, you know, 14 it’s we have a great crowd that came out to Children’s Mercy Park. You know, we have a really strong group of dedicated fans.

00:26:42:13 – 00:26:59:13
BEN
We’ve a great supporter section. You know, the people in the in the end zone that are playing the drums and making a lot of noise throughout the game. So we have a great crowd and we’re really looking forward to having, you know, one more season at Children’s Mercy Park and then be at the new stadium following that.

00:27:00:00 – 00:27:05:11
RUTH
And folks can go check out the renderings and everything for the new stadium. I think they’re on your website, is that right?

00:27:06:00 – 00:27:29:04
BEN
That’s right. Yeah. So and that’s one really cool thing, too. Right now, people have the opportunity to place a deposit to secure their their spot at the new stadium. So the new stadium will host 11,500. And so down by the riverfront, it’s not you know, that’s not a huge stadium. But I think it’s going to be right sized for our team where we are right now.

00:27:30:08 – 00:27:59:07
BEN
But we’re receiving a lot of deposits. So a lot of those seats are, you know, have deposits place for them. But for as little as $25, you can place a deposit and then you’ll have your place in line. When those tickets go on sale for the new stadium, you’ll be first in line to be able to call so and so we encourage everyone to go to KC current stadium dot com that’s where you can check out the new renderings and also place your deposit.

00:28:00:10 – 00:28:09:08
RUTH
What one little secret would you like to leave with us that’s special about the current in the community?

00:28:13:23 – 00:28:14:28
RUTH
I stumped the band.

00:28:15:10 – 00:28:35:10
BEN
I know. Well, there are so many cool things, you know, I. I think it’s just the heart of these players. It really is. It comes down to that, you know, these players, you know, having a background with the Royals and you know, we had some great we’ve had we’ve been lucky with the royals to have some some outstanding players.

00:28:35:19 – 00:29:10:15
BEN
But these players of the Kansas City Current, you know, are the best for their field. You know, they’ve been playing since they were little kids. Their passion for soccer and for spreading the love of soccer to, you know, on to the next generation is just been so amazing. You can see it every day. You know, when we take players out to to meet kids or even just at the at the training facility, you know, interaction with the front office staff, like they’re so appreciative of the opportunity and we’re so thankful to them just to be able to work with them and so Kansas City is really lucky to have the Kansas City current.

00:29:10:15 – 00:29:23:11
BEN
So I just I really just encourage people to get to know these players. And there’s some an amazing athletes on the street on this team and we’re just happy to have them part of our part of our community.

00:29:24:14 – 00:29:35:23
RUTH
Well, connect with the KC Current. Ben, thank you so much for sharing kind of the inside site about all the things that you all are doing, both on the pitch and off. And Kansas City is very lucky.

00:29:37:02 – 00:29:50:14
BEN
Definitely happy to be at work. We appreciate you. I appreciate what you do, Ruth. And shining a spotlight on all these nonprofits and some of the work that we’re doing and some of the other sports teams in town. So thank you for what you do.

00:29:51:06 – 00:30:17:21
RUTH
Thank you and thank you for joining us for KC Cares if you’d like to be a guest on the show or underwriting opportunities, visit our Web site. We’re at KC Cares online talk and Spread the Love. You’ll find us on Facebook and Twitter at KC Cares Radio and Instagram. It’s KC Cares online. Don’t forget, you can catch us on Saturday mornings at 8 a.m. on SD and 15:10 a.m. and 94.5 FM that Saturday mornings.

00:30:17:21 – 00:30:22:01
RUTH
Thank you for joining us on KC CARES.

 

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Tyreek Hill Family Foundation Kansas City Nonprofit

THE TYREEK HILL FAMILY FOUNDATION

Tyreek Hill|Founder

Through the Cheetah Scholarship Fund, free football camps, fundraising events and more, the Tyreek Hill Family Foundation helps at-risk youth reach their goals. The foundation focuses on two areas that are key to building a brighter future—education and wellness.

visit them here: https://www.tyreekhillfamilyfoundation.org/

 

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[Transcript]

Welcome to KC Cares, Kansas city’s non-profit voice. We’re telling the stories of Kansas city nonprofits and the people behind them. KC Cares is the intersection of the profit and the nonprofit community, making Kansas city a better place to live, work and play. This case he cares segment is brought to you by the Ewing Marion Kauffman foundation.

Find them at www.kaufman.org. I’m Ruth Baum Bigus. Nonprofit organizations have so many things to grapple with on a day-to-day basis. And among them is the important tool of their staff. Well, the pandemic sure. Created a curve curve ball in the workplace and non-profits were no different. The prediction is.

36.2 million Americans will continue to be remotely working through 2025. So what happened in the pandemic sounds like it’s going to stay for a lot of us while not most nonprofits have their employees working remotely. A good share of nonprofits we’re on the front lines, helping many of us manage the limitations that were placed upon us for the pantries have to deliver hospitals, had to treat patients.

It’s cetera, why we have not finished with the big P some workers are returning to the workplace and things do look different. How do nonprofits find that perfect balance? How do we show value to our workers and keep them motivated and staying with us? Those are some of the big questions that we’ll explore in our ask the expert series with our special guests today.

Brent never. Who’s the director of the Midwest center for non-profit leadership. It’s so great to have you with.

Thanks, Ruth, really excited to talk to you. Well, let’s, let’s start with what you can tell us. What is that today? Picture of the word. You know, it’s funny. I’m glad on the intro. You, you mentioned the fact that it’s hard to draw that distinction between what’s happening in the workplace, in for-profit organizations and non-profit organizations in so many ways we’re grappling with what does work mean today?

You know, people are working via zoom. They’re virtual. Also, we have people who have to be in the office, have to intersect with the public. And so we’re being pushed and pulled in new ways to think about how we should organize ourselves to have some equity also between. Those who, who must be there delivering the childcare, the education, the healthcare, and then those who can have the flexibility of working virtually.

And so there’s a really good interesting discussion that I, I look forward to having. Well, since you are the kind of the brainchild and the research arm of looking at the nonprofit, can you paint a, a little bit of a picture for us? Pre pandemic remote work was not very present. Absolutely. And I think we can all put our thinking caps on if we can remember a few years back before the idea of zooming in or Google meeting or whatever it might be was a pretty rare experience.

In fact, the dialogue at that point in time was how important it was to have people in the workplace for that ability to intersect with each other, to, to have those hallway conversations that were so important at that point in time. And, and now we’ve, we’ve almost come 180 degrees in one sense, which is we, we still value that connection, but we don’t.

Necessarily value in the same way, the physical connection that we used to have at the very least we’re having good productive discussions. I would say in our workplaces about where, where should we intersect? Is that physical being in the office really key to what we do or can we have very productive Poppins on Microsoft teams and zoom that makes it so much easier in a lot of ways.

And, and lastly, I do want to say it’s just so important again, to think about. People who often are on the frontlines of what nonprofits do. Those folks do not have the option of zooming in to the daycare classroom or zooming into provide, you know healthcare at the community health center. So yeah.

Always talk with, with our non-profits with our students about this dichotomy that is becoming a more and more pronounced. And I think savvy, nonprofit executives have to really think about this dynamic and what it means for their cohesiveness, the culture of, of their organizations. Are there things that the center is.

Offering in terms of support and education of how to do that balance. I mean, I happen to work with a nonprofit that really, I mean, I can’t, we’ve been zooming for two years. But yet there are people within that organization because it’s a social service organization. Are in the office so that they can get done the things that, you know, have to be done for clients what’s out there to help us.

Yeah, no, I absolutely an end. So one resource that I want to point towards on our website and we, we. The links and whatnot, but at the Midwest center we’ll have had our annual conference and we’re going to put those videos online and we have a national Thinker in this space, genie bell.

So do you need bell is in San Francisco, but she is thought a lot about the non-profit workforce. In fact, that’s the theme of our conference for 2022. And. You know what she is talking about in something that, that I’m trying to talk about also is thinking of your workforce as a resource in your preeminent resource.

In, in nonprofits. I’m not saying anything new for, for executives out there in this sector. They know that their, their people are the, the driver of what they do. You look at their budgets, you know, and in the lion chair of nonprofits, you know, over 90% of expenses are related to personnel and one word one way or the other, but to start having that discussion of our employees as a resource that needs to be regenerated over and over what that means.

Every person needs to be invested in needs to be nurtured and, and help to grow in, in what they do with the understanding Ruth that we are not going to keep our workforce forever. This idea of, of the organization, man, from the 1950s, you go work for GM or IBM and you work there forever. That is not a concept that that is going to ruin.

Work anymore in our sector. So how do we bring people in, grow them in their roles and be happy when they, they move on to another role? We’re very, you know, tight-knit sector in, in, you always know that that person coming in your door and then leaving your door in, in a few years. It’s going to be out there and going to be a voice for you.

So how do you grow them? With this idea that we’re in a healthy ecosystem and, and Jeanie talks a lot about how you grow people within your organization, so that you have this healthy sort of transition in and out of your. And those resources will be available on your website for those won’t have made it for some reason.

And what is the best URL? I’ll let you make that plug. Yeah. So we’re the Midwest center for non-profit leadership, M and C N l.org. And that will bring you right there. We have our own YouTube channel. You’ll be able to find her Speaking about these issues and also our breakout sessions. We have a breakout session where we’ll have videos for you about development professions and the workforce issues going on in development.

We have a breakout session where you’ll have the videos on. Boards and governance and how we wrap our heads around the more strategic discussions of, of how we, we grow people. And then we’re going to have a breakout session with, with Jeannie, and she’s also going to be able to work with people in, in talk about their specific situations in their organizations.

And it’s all free, absolutely free. So log on. We, we love people using the resources. There are going to be nice chopped up in, in bite size pieces also. So if you’re over your lunch one day and you have 20 minutes, it’s, it’s a great thing to log in. Well, you know, us non-profits we love free. No, keep those resources, you know, going where we need.

I, I have so many questions. One that came to mind when you’re talking about nobody’s a quote lifer anymore at any one particular organization, they may stay in the sector. There seems to be a little bit of a. Dichotomy from the, the newbies, the younger kids versus somebody who’s maybe made their career in it and, and what’s going forward and you’re saying nobody stays anywhere.

So are we, am I perceiving that? And, and so how do you deal with that? If you’re the CEO of an organization with a good mix, you know, inexperience age, et cetera. Yeah, I think these conversations are so important right now to sort of think about, as you said, Ruth, this diverging sort of opinions about how people should commit to an organization.

So it, and I would want to wrap in boards also into his discussion because they too are key voices in, in what happens in this life cycle. You know, we are going to have to, to start to not think of it as a negative, you know, why are these millennials, why are they coming in demanding that they do important work and then up and leave to, to frame it more in a positive way of how do we bring these, these new voices in use their labor in a, not in an ex.

Sort of fashion, but use their labor and their energy. When we have them grow that labor and then be really happy when they move on to another role where they can, they can use their, their voice to have this churn be not disruptive, but be a positive, innovative churn that can happen in organizations.

Partly executive directors, CEOs then have to wrap their head around the HR function. And how do we create HR systems that are a little more flexible that, you know, serve allows people to come in the door more quickly and leave in a less disruptive fashion instead of these hard sort of. Entrances and exits that we’ve, you know, we’ve grown up in I’ve I’ve been in, in the sector for 16 years.

So I’ve even seen in 16 years, this, this sort of evolution, it doesn’t have to be this. You send these onboard, you know, this is, this is when she stops and Cindy is resigning and this is when she leaves. How do we think of softening those edges so that we can have this more productive moving Cindy into the mix, bringing her her.

You know, interest in, in skills in, and then how at the other end, how do we soften that, that exit to be this positive sort of exit that Sandy is, is moving out to her next role. But, but this, instead of this, she’s on our team, she’s off. You know, change that sort of idea because it’s very disruptive and it’s only going to be more disruptive.

So how do we change the narrative around these, these transitions? You were mentioning earlier development directors, and I keep hearing the word out there of churn. Already a function. I think with non-profits that there’s movement. It seems like there’s exponential movement going on right now. Can you give us a snapshot of what’s going on?

Why? And is there any way to settle it down? Yeah. So we just did a snap salary survey development professionals. So we did it in January. We had an organization that was willing to underwrite it for for development professionals, because we heard the exact same thing, Ruth, that this is very disruptive to sort of go on my prior theme and In the development profession where relationships matter, where communication in a.

A way that, that connects over time matters. Having a development professional dropping in drop out is, is very disruptive. Our, our data is showing that salaries are going up quite rapidly in this space. You know, somebody trained as an economist, such as myself, I say in some ways. You know, people are claiming their value and, and that’s a wonderful thing, what I will say.

And, and also understanding executives in the nonprofit sector is one of the real challenges is we are locked into funding cycles that do not allow. Flex that’s happening in those salaries. You may get a contract once a year and therefore, you know, you can’t adjust salaries 2, 3, 4 times in a year.

If, if that contract only gets re-upped once a year, so there’s, there’s a lot of angst, absolutely understand what’s going on. You know what, one thing again, and there’s no, short-term answer to this. Absolutely rude to settle it down, as you say. What I, I would say is starting to develop more development professionals in the field.

It’s a skill that takes many years to develop as, as we know. But to, to think about taking people in programs, Roles program managers and start to skill them up in some of those development skills so that you have sort of a bench strength of, of people who at least can speak in the development world.

Now they, they may not be your chief development officer. They may be someday. But to sort of soften these, these transitions also. And I guess that’s a theme that I’m talking a lot about with, with nonprofits. We’re talking with bread, never with the Midwest center for non-profit leadership and we’re talking workforce.

And we could go on for ever. The other thing I heard you say earlier is, you know, we’ve had this big P word and supposedly it’s mitigating, et cetera. I think it may forever be with us in some fashion, but how do we manage a workforce that may be really, really burnt out? Yes. And I think we’re all living.

It is as Americans to be absolutely honest professionals and, and people, frontline professionals also are living it in a particularly acute way. I think we need to, again, really. I understand the life of somebody who’s in the daycare classroom, in the frontline of, of your community health center in, in how they’re juggling the life at home, their.

Trying to go to school. I have a daughter who you know, any time they have to close down a classroom, you have to drop everything as a, as a family and be home with, with your, your kiddo for five days, 10 days, whatever that period is. So there is burnout. You know, one thing is so many great nonprofit professionals have been doing this is, is really accepting it and communicating it understanding what your, your folks are feeling being in communication with them.

And I think this is something that’s been going on for a good couple of years now. And we’ve. Really, you know, done a good job with that. I think the next layer though, some organizations have done it and others, I would hope and mark on it, which has start to codify some, some policies that are going to be in writing.

So as, as you say, The maybe emergency of the big P the, the pandemic is, is over. And so now we can’t just lay on or, or rely on emergency sort of rules that we sort of had going on in the office. Let’s codify those policies. What’s going to happen. If somebody has two. Take care of a kiddo, a loved one.

And, and what if it’s a five day thing, a 10 day thing? What do we do as an organization? It’s, it’s not going to be appropriate anymore to just do one. It’s going to be important to have a policy of, of how this works in flexibility is, is the byword, how do we create that flex in our organizations so that people really can cycle out when they have these needs?

If we can’t adjust, people’s pay rapidly. What we can adjust is their work lifestyle. And You know, people are in non-profits because they care about mission. And, and they, they really do this amazing work. How do we make their lifestyle in the workplace work for them in a way that that is not possible.

If they’re working for, for a major corporation. And last thing, Ruth, I know I’m rattling on, but we also have to get around to the idea that our workforce has a lot of choices. These days. We love to think about they work for, you know, wonderful organizations because they care and they certainly do. But in particular, frontline staff, Have a lot of good choices now.

And as an economist, I’m very happy for them that they can now start claiming their value, but working for a wage of 12, $13 an hour at the front desk or with the kiddos, you know, they do it because they love it, but loving it, doesn’t pay them. So we have to understand that they do have needs and they can go out there and they can work in other organizations where maybe the mission doesn’t speak to them, but it does pay their rent.

And therefore we have to communicate with our boards and with our funders about the fact that we cannot Nene on our frontline staff the way maybe in previous generations. We have to start crafting that narrative with, with our governance process, where we have to invest, we have to forget overhead ratios a little bit.

We have to start saying, we’re going to communicate out this investment right now. So we’re going to invest in our staff. We’re going to create this, this environment. That’s going to work for our staff. It will cost more. It may push up that, that overhead ratio, but we are willing to communicate that out and, and believe me, you have Brent never, and you have so many other leaders in this, this world who are willing to communicate out that value also, and to stand by you and say, this is a new.

Generation for us. We have got to start thinking about investment framework, not a starvation framework. And when we’re talking about overhead, what does the center have again, to support or provide some guidance to nonprofit leaders in that, that frame of mind, or like you talked about policies and codifying things.

What can you all do to help in that way? Yeah, absolutely. So one of the best resources I would say is we have office hours. So every Thursday we have office hours with Monica re-ACL, she’s our community research director. She’s she’s the person who will help you on data question. Evaluation questions you have, you know, we collect all this data, we hoard it and yet we don’t really know what to do with it.

She, you drop in, you pitch an idea. She helps you out on Fridays at noon. I have office hours and those are questions. Just like we said, questions about. Policy questions about strategy, about board governance. I work with several organizations every Friday, just drop on in pitch a question at me and say, Hey, where do I get this?

Where do I get that? And the last resource is mark Culver. I, you know, for, for a lot of folks in the nonprofit sector, they’ve interacted with mark through email, he sends out our great newsletter every week and dropping mark a line he’s he’s our connector. And he’ll, he’ll connect you with the right people for those specific questions.

So it’s a role we love, we do it all the time and would absolutely value people dropping. And we zoom in. Absolutely. That’s a zoom. So if you go to our website, M and l.org, we have the office hour links right in there and you just drop on it. One thing I do have to say about the zoom sphere and that gives a plug to zoom, but teams, Google, whatever he has, it’s made it.

Very convenient. I think for people you don’t have the time lost in driving or the frustration of getting stuck in traffic or not finding where you’re going. But you do have that, gee, we’re not sitting and having the energy of being in the same room since we’ve been living with this. Do you all have any guidance as the best way to use some of those tools and make them as effective as possible in communicating?

You know that it’s such a great question because we to live the zoom lifestyle for all of its great things and all of its bad things. So the one aspect that I would say, and this goes for in-person meetings also I kinda joke meetings are like a gas. They expand to whatever time period you give to them.

So if you want to give a meeting 15 minutes, it will take 15 minutes. If you want to give it two hours, it will take two hours. And so what I think a lot of us have found through these couple of years of, of a pandemic lifestyle or work at home lifestyle is to think about. What do I want to accomplish in this meeting?

Can this meeting be incompetent accomplishes skull in 10 minutes? If so. Great. It’s a, it’s a, a one-off 10 minute standing meeting, meaning standing. Literally we have standing meetings. You stand there. 10 minutes works because after 10 minutes people started wanting to sit down. You do that via zoom. If it’s we really want to dig into this challenge that we’re having in this program, it’s a two hour meeting.

Excellent. But I think one of the. Problems with zoom is people default to a length of time that zoom gives you whether that’s an hour or half an hour, no need to do that. Think about creating these, these different structures that would mimic what we do in our hallways at work. You know, there’s a 10 minute hallway conversation you have in the, in the office, or maybe it’s an hour sit down conversation and all that.

I love that standing meeting idea and you’ll burn more calories. Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I want watches. That’s a standup. You’ve been sitting too long. Oh. You know, and that’s the other problem with zoom is when you stack them on one after another, and you don’t build in that 15 minutes to walk around and take the dog for a walk that’s, that’s what you need.

And more dogs and cats have been at meetings than ever before. Absolutely true. Yes. What would you say would be the top, maybe three pieces of advice she would give folks now, as we look at the workforce in the nonprofit sector, three things that maybe they can look at doing or should focus on. Yeah, absolutely.

So first thing I think if we’re talking about at, at sort of a top more strategic level, communicating with your board about these, these discussions about how we invest in a, in a workforce and not get frightened. Bye bye. Some of those financial issues how we need to start communicating out to our funders about we are making this investment.

This is a positive investment. This should not be something that, that worries you. So those level of discussions need to be teed up with your board chair and your board more generally. Within the organization thinking about equity again, thinking about how different individuals in the organizations are able to intersect in the workplace.

In, in, I know I’ve brought it up several times, but think about how the person working the front desk can not just. B a, a virtual person. So how do we make their lifestyle work-style better? So is it investing in their education so that they can cycle through that role? Because there’s going to be more churn in those sorts of roles now because people have choices.

Is it thinking about more flexibility in they are able to cycle out of that front role and, and work from home and we’re going to have to cycle more people into this role over time. That’s that’s really important. And lastly, I’ve, I’ve talked about equity, but I want to talk about it in a more systematic way, which is the idea of who are the faces, who are filling various roles in organizations.

And we, as, as Kansas city region need to start thinking about what we’re going to do about that. Who’s in the frontline role who is not having the flexibility. Of zooming in from home and taking that serious and thinking about how we grow people through our ranks and not sticking people in roles that they never are able to grow out of.

Those are great suggestions. Brent, it’s been a great conversation. We look forward to having you back. Thank you for taking the time to talk about workforce. And thank you for joining us on KC Cares, Kansas city’s non-profit voice we’re produced by charitable communications. The segment was brought to you by the Ewing Marion Kauffman foundation.

If you want to be a guest on KC Cares or underwriting opportunities, go to our website. KC Cares online.org and spread the love. Find us on Facebook and Twitter at KC Cares. Radio and Instagram at KC Cares. Online Saturday mornings. Catch us on ESPN 15, 10:00 AM and 94.5. 8:00 AM. Thank you for joining us on KC Cares.

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Project 1020 Adult Homelessness in Kansas City Community

PROJECT 1020

Barb McEver| Executive Director

Project 10❤️20 provides shelter, support, and compassion to all adults experiencing homelessness while helping them utilize community resources to achieve their goals.

visit them here: project1020.org

 

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KC Cares Nonprofit Podcast EP 361 | Veterans Community Project

Kansas City’s Nonprofit Voice!

Sharing the stories of local nonprofits and connecting them with the community! We talk with philanthropists, volunteers, community activists, executive directors, and nonprofit lovers from the Kansas City nonprofit community. Be seen, be heard with KC Cares! Kansas City’s Nonprofit Nonprofit Voice!

This week talk about Homeless Veterans. Listen now!

_________________________

Veterans Community Project

Brandon Mixon, Co-Founder

Veterans Community Project is dedicated to supporting every man and woman who took the oath for our country. We are determined to make a difference in the lives of homeless Veterans, a task accomplished by the community for the community.Founded in 2015 by Combat Veterans, the Veterans Community Project (VCP), headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, is dedicated to ending Veteran homelessness.

https://www.veteranscommunityproject.org

__________________________________________________

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_________________________

Also available on

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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 

In partnership with the Kauffman Foundation

Think. Do. Be Uncommon.

_________________________

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Philanthropic Trends Giving USA Report

Philanthropic Trends Giving USA Report

Dr. Una Olisi | Assoc. Dean of Research In this insightful discussion, Dr. Una Osili, Associate Dean at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, unpacks the findings of the Giving USA report. Despite economic headwinds, American generosity stands firm, with corporate...