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Neurodiverse Individuals: Inclusive Camping Experiences at Camp Encourage

KELLY LEE | CO-FOUNDER

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

visit them here: Camp for Autistic Youth – Camp Encourage

 

What Nonprofit Questions are Answered?

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

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Transcript:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previous Episodes!

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

DeAngela Burns-Wallace | CEO

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

visit them here: kcstarlight.com

 

What Nonprofit Questions are Answered?

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

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

Produced by Charitable Communications 

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In partnership with: 

Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

Take risks. Own success. Be Uncommon.

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Transcript:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previous Episodes!

Exploring Followership with Elizabeth Ireland: Insights for Nonprofit Success

Elizabeth Ireland | Assoc Director of Training

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

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

 

What Nonprofit Questions Are Answered?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Produced by Charitable Communications 

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In partnership with: 

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Take risks. Own success. Be Uncommon.

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Transcript:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

00:16:22:15 – 00:16:22:26
Ruth
Best.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

00:36:15:01 – 00:36:25:02

Previous Episodes!

Starlight Theatre Kansas City Intereview

Lindsey Rood-Clifford | Executive Director

KC Cares presents an in-depth interview with Starlight Theater, Kansas City’s oldest performing arts organization. Learn about Starlight’s evolution from an outdoor amphitheater to a year-round venue for Broadway shows and live music. Hear from Lindsay Rood-Clifford, the first female CEO in Starlight’s 75-year history, about her vision for making the theater more accessible and relevant. Discover how Starlight survived financial hardship through community support and innovation, and how it continues to engage the community through diverse programming and educational initiatives. This interview is a must-watch for anyone interested in the performing arts, nonprofit management, and community engagement.

visit them here: kcstarlight.com

 

What Nonprofit Questions are Answered?

  1. What is the history of Starlight Theater in Kansas City?
  2. How does Starlight Theater contribute to the Kansas City community?
  3. What challenges has Starlight Theater faced and how did it overcome them?
  4. What is the vision of Lindsay Rood-Clifford, the first female CEO of Starlight Theater?
  5. What community engagement and educational programs does Starlight Theater offer?

Find us on

Facebook:@ Kccaresradio

Twitter: @kccaresradio

Instagram: @Kccaresonline

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Also available on

Itunes || Spotify || Stitcher || Soundcloud || Youtube 

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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: 

Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

Take risks. Own success. Be Uncommon.

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Transcript:

00:00:15:43 – 00:00:37:30
Ruth Baum Bigus
Welcome to KC Cares. We’re Kansas City’s nonprofit voice. We’re telling the stories of Kansas City nonprofits and the people behind them. KC Cares is the intersection of the nonprofit and profit communities in making Kansas City a better place to live, work and play. This KC Cares segment is brought to you by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, www.kauffman.org.

00:00:37:35 – 00:01:04:01
Ruth Baum Bigus
I’m Ruth Baum Bigus. It’s one of Kansas City’s most iconic places and the largest and oldest performing arts organization in the Metro. This place has been a favorite for generations who have come to enjoy live entertainment under the stars and make wonderful memories. It’s Starlight Theater, where audiences have enjoyed everything from Broadway musicals to concerts featuring pop, classical, rock and roll alternative and much more.

00:01:04:06 – 00:01:30:48
Ruth Baum Bigus
Located in beautiful Swope Park, Starlight has expanded its offerings to year round now, and it has been doing that for quite some time. And for the first time in the venue’s more than 70 year history. Starlight has a woman at its helm. It’s Lindsay Rood-Clifford, who was named president and CEO in May. And while this year of this role, Lindsay is no stranger to starlight but will let her share that story as we welcome her to KC Cares.

00:01:30:50 – 00:01:32:24
Ruth Baum Bigus
Good morning.

00:01:32:29 – 00:01:35:03
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
Good morning. Happy to be here with you.

00:01:35:07 – 00:01:45:47
Ruth Baum Bigus
It’s so great to have you. I don’t know that we’ve ever had Starlight on KC Cares, which is remiss on our part. So it’s about time. So it’s so great to have you.

00:01:45:52 – 00:01:49:14
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
Well, it’s a year of firsts. So happy for this to be one of them.

00:01:49:19 – 00:01:58:37
Ruth Baum Bigus
Oh, great, great, great. All right. Well, so if there’s somebody who might have had their head in the sand. Share with us what starlight is.

00:01:58:42 – 00:02:28:48
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
Well, starlight is an almost 75 year old 8000 seat outdoor amphitheater. The neat history of it is, is that when Starlight was built, it was actually built as Kansas City’s centennial birthday present to itself. So it is modeled actually after an amphitheater in Saint Louis called the Muni, which is 100 years old now. But when they built it, it was built to do live productions and musicals, which is what it did for most of its first 50 years.

00:02:28:48 – 00:02:56:06
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
And in the last better part of 30 years, we’ve also added the live music component, which has really grown for us to where now half of what we do is Broadway musical theater, and half of what we do is some pretty incredible live music as well. So we welcome folks out in the summertime, or really busy then. But as you mentioned, in the winter, about ten years ago now, we also started leveraging our really large indoor stage house to use as a theater space as well.

00:02:56:07 – 00:03:08:19
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
So now we do smaller 500 seats, approximately 500 hundred seat winter theatrical programing as well, in addition to events and other sort of set rentals and community space opportunities.

00:03:08:24 – 00:03:21:38
Ruth Baum Bigus
What I want to make sure our audience knows is Starlight is now a nonprofit. Can you share with us a little bit the journey of of the theater organizationally? I mean, it’s had quite its steps on the way.

00:03:21:43 – 00:03:44:25
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
So Starlight actually has always been a nonprofit. It was it’s owned. The theater itself is owned by the city of Kansas City or city owned assets. But the Starlight Theater Association itself, the Fiber one C3, was established in 1951, so operated by a nonprofit for all of its history and certainly some ups and downs in that history as sort of the theater industry and music changed.

00:03:44:25 – 00:04:07:55
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
And we’re a really big place for live theater. I often remind people that when you’re thinking about Broadway theaters in New York, we are four times as big as the largest Broadway theater. And we were actually twice as big as any other regional house that presents Broadway theaters that were. We’re really big, which is a great thing. I often say that’s sort of one of our competitive advantages.

00:04:07:55 – 00:04:39:37
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
And also how we’re able to create access to the arts. But in the eighties, Starlight actually almost closed. We went through a real period of financial hardship. Those that have lived in the city for a long time remember that there were periods where what was happening on our stage was either happening through partnership with other arts organizations, but there were some real financial challenges and it was really due to some big names in the city, like Anita Forman and Jack Steadman and Shirley Helzberg and Bob Bernstein that we were able to kind of turn the business model around.

00:04:39:50 – 00:05:06:16
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
And part of that was by expanding what we offered on our stage. So that’s really where live music came in, where we ended up in closing the stage house. It was an open air theater to start much like the Muni in St Louis. And so we enclosed that stage house so that we could present nationally touring Broadway. So that sort of innovation I think has been one of the biggest stories of Starlite history to say this is how we continue to stay relevant and welcome new people to a really important Kansas City tradition.

00:05:06:21 – 00:05:31:13
Ruth Baum Bigus
Well, I remember I’ve been fortunate enough to be on that stage and old stage, but I can remember the big back opening back stage, which if you’ve never had the opportunity to tour, I guess you wouldn’t you wouldn’t have been aware of that and how that changed with the theater. I believe it was millions of dollars put into that big stage house that’s now air conditioned for performers.

00:05:31:15 – 00:05:32:10
Ruth Baum Bigus
That’s great.

00:05:32:15 – 00:05:51:36
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
I was going to say, for most of our history, with a lot harder to work out here in the summer because we didn’t have enclosed rehearsals. You know, artists used to rehearse big musical theater numbers in an open air pavilion behind the open air stage. And then when it rained, too, it meant the show stopped. So it was a it was a huge advantage for us to have that enclosed.

00:05:51:41 – 00:06:01:00
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
So now we get a little bit of rain while the audience might get a little wet for a short amount of time, the show can always go on, which is sort of forward to what it is to do to be in the theater business.

00:06:01:04 – 00:06:17:28
Ruth Baum Bigus
Absolutely. You had alluded a couple of minutes ago about how the 1980s were this time of financial struggle. What was it that some of these leaders brought to the table that turned it around, if it was pretty serious, whether it was starlight was going to make it?

00:06:17:33 – 00:06:41:52
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
It was. And I think a lot of what they brought was a spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation and saying even though the the Starlight tradition had been one thing for much of its history, that there was an openness to changing how we operated and not saying, hey, just because we’re a nonprofit, that we can’t think like a business and we can’t figure out how to how to add new revenue streams and expand programing.

00:06:41:52 – 00:07:03:55
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
And I think it was really that that spirit of business leaders that cared a lot about what starlight meant to this city, that created some opportunities and some new ideas and some new models that really led to things like closing the stage house to go, Hey, is open air theater going to be what works? At one time, there were as many as 40 outdoor theaters that were presenting Broadway series, and now there’s just two in the whole country.

00:07:03:55 – 00:07:12:04
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
So Starlight wasn’t alone in that financial hardship. But we are now closer to a loan and are successful sort of continuing.

00:07:12:09 – 00:07:26:08
Ruth Baum Bigus
You mentioned that there’s the Muni in Saint Louis, that that is the other producing outdoor big partner. Is there collaboration between Starlight and Muni in what’s presented? Do you do any sharing of productions?

00:07:26:13 – 00:07:43:46
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
So there certainly has been over the years and actually through the pandemic, as we all came out of that period, there was a lot more collaboration as we were all trying to get back on our feet. And so we did do a co-production with the Muni in 2021. They did On your feet there and then on your feet came here.

00:07:43:51 – 00:07:56:46
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
So I think there’s a lot more openness to that, just as everyone in the theater industry is still kind of in a recovery period of going, how do we all make sure that we’re putting the shows on the stage that are going to get as many people into the seats as possible.

00:07:56:51 – 00:07:58:55
Ruth Baum Bigus
As they say, butts in seats, right?

00:07:59:00 – 00:08:02:28
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
Button seats. That’s the name of the game.

00:08:02:33 – 00:08:09:36
Ruth Baum Bigus
I alluded in the introduction, you’ve been connected with Starlight for quite a while. Share with us your journey with that starlight.

00:08:09:41 – 00:08:30:07
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
Well, I feel like my whole life has had a little bit of starlight in it. I often refer to myself as a recovering theater kid because I grew up doing theater and music, but I also grew up coming to Starlight and many of my childhood memories are with my family coming out here to shows. My first show coming out here was in 1989 to a production of Annie.

00:08:30:12 – 00:08:49:57
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
As you might imagine, if you’re a little red headed kid, you do a lot of productions of any kind of music. So I vividly remember coming out for that. And then as I got older, when we started to establish and expand what our community engagement programs were, one of those programs, which is a high school musical theater recognition program.

00:08:50:02 – 00:09:22:39
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
I was actually in high school at the time that that program was founded. So our Blue Star Awards, which now sees almost 54. There are 54 high schools that participated in that program this year. The very first year, when it was a much smaller program, my school was one of the early participants in the Blue Star Awards. And then I also like to share that we have a very robust third longest running education program is actually a paid arts administration internship program where you get to work 40 hours a week out here and all the various positions that make a theater run.

00:09:22:51 – 00:09:45:06
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
That started in the eighties, but I started here as a paid summer intern. I was working in event management my very first summer before being hired on full time. So not quite 20 years later. It’s it’s been quite the journey and a little bit of a pinch me. Sometimes I feel like I’m living a dream to now be in this role and to be able to restore the Starlight legacy forward.

00:09:45:10 – 00:09:58:37
Ruth Baum Bigus
And it’s so interesting that Starlight finally has a woman at the helm. Now, you would have thought theater was that progressive entity, and you’re the first. How does it feel? What’s it like?

00:09:58:42 – 00:10:21:36
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
You know, I. I will say that there is there is certainly a little bit of pressure and honor to being the first of anything. I also think in the theater industry across the country, there’s a lot of firsts right now. So there’s just a lot of change happening with the sort of traditional leadership of a theater’s were and what they are now.

00:10:21:36 – 00:10:56:08
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
And I think part of that is when you think about who the primary demographic for a theater audience is at Starlight, it’s it’s middle aged women. So having someone, I think at the helm that understands sort of that core audience, but also for me is very interested in how we extend the Starlight traditions and new audiences. It’s been it’s been an honor and I feel very lucky that I had a board of directors and frankly, a staff that has been nothing but supportive and confident to where I would say being a woman is clearly not the most important qualifier for the job.

00:10:56:13 – 00:11:05:46
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
But I certainly think about what it means for future women to think about what it is to be in leadership. So I carry that responsibility pretty seriously.

00:11:05:51 – 00:11:19:25
Ruth Baum Bigus
Your predecessor had been there nine years. I think in that position, and the person before that had been an even longer tenured individual, if I’m remembering correct, I know Barbara was there for a long time.

00:11:19:30 – 00:11:27:40
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
Barbara was there was though Bob was the CEO when I started, and he’d been there for almost 30 years. Right. And we actually had a CEO between him and my.

00:11:27:45 – 00:11:29:03
Ruth Baum Bigus
Okay.

00:11:29:07 – 00:11:52:14
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
But that but Bob was here and he’s actually who I remember as being a lot of the inspiration for how I look to to run the theater today. And he also was with the theater through that period of hardship in the eighties and really was a turnaround leader who really believed and could tell the story of Starlight in a way that resonated and brought the community together.

00:11:52:19 – 00:12:16:34
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
And that’s what I think for me is the biggest priority is to say, you know, when you say someone who hasn’t been on this program before from Starlight, I think that’s one of the things I want to make sure we’re doing at Starlight is that we’re a really active part of this community so that we’re not just waiting for people to come to us, but we’re out there inviting people and telling them why it’s so important for them to come out to experience theater and music here.

00:12:16:39 – 00:12:38:32
Ruth Baum Bigus
Transition. It was a time of leadership transition. I guess my point I was driving is you had somebody driving the bus, so to speak, for nine years at least, you had been on board. Can you share with us a little bit what that transition was like and maybe some tips for other organizations that go through a leadership change?

00:12:38:33 – 00:12:41:19
Ruth Baum Bigus
It’s not always so smooth and easy.

00:12:41:24 – 00:13:01:55
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
It’s not. And I feel fortunate that I knew a year and a half, almost before our official transition, our board had met to decide that this was kind of the path we were on. So we had a good amount of time and I was fortunate that my predecessor was supportive in both understanding that we were not the same people.

00:13:01:55 – 00:13:15:27
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
So that didn’t mean that I was going to do things the same way that he did things. But and he would often say not how I would do it, but he would disagree and say, but it’s going to be it’s going to be your call and your organization. And I support whatever you decide. I’m just here to counsel you.

00:13:15:27 – 00:13:34:51
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
So I think for leadership transition, that’s maybe the most important part, is that you have a supportive person off ramping who can respect that, that the new person is not going to be a clone of them. And so I think that’s part of what made things very effective for us. And he actually so he came from Saint Louis before.

00:13:34:51 – 00:13:59:47
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
So he ran Fox Theater in Saint Louis for almost 15 years and was there almost 30 years. So he brought a lot of expertise in presenting Broadway and touring Broadway. And so he’s actually stayed on as a consultant for us in that space as we need him over the next couple of years. So that’s also been really helpful to know you got a phone call away if you’ve got questions or want to understand the history before.

00:13:59:47 – 00:14:02:28
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
So you’re making a really informed decision.

00:14:02:33 – 00:14:28:37
Ruth Baum Bigus
That’s great that it’s been a positive rather than in some organizations someone is leaving not maybe of their own volition or just is uncomfortable. It’s great that you’ve got that kind of organizational support to move things forward. We’re talking with Lindsay Rood Clifford. She is the president CEO, Starlight Theater, continuing on with our conversation. I think people would like to know a peek behind the curtain.

00:14:28:37 – 00:14:41:28
Ruth Baum Bigus
How does Starlight decide what’s going to be on that stage? Sure, the people that helped make that decision And what do you look at when you’re choosing your 12 month season?

00:14:41:33 – 00:15:03:56
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
So that’s a great question because it’s changing right now. So I would say historically, really what has gone on the stage has been chosen by the person in my seat. And so especially where Broadway is concerned, we also, as we’ve added live music, we have a someone that oversees the concert programing. So he really works with our concert promoter partner on the concert side of things.

00:15:04:01 – 00:15:24:54
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
But as we look ahead, I’m a much more collaborative leader. So I we’ve started sort of been talking about how do we change up how we make those decisions so that we’re really thinking about it. And the term that I use over and over that my team could probably repeat is I’m really interested in how we broadly accessible content on this stage.

00:15:24:59 – 00:15:44:12
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
So that still means diverse, but it means we’ve got a lot of seats. So how are we doing our part in the sort of arts ecosystem to say, what is the kind of content that is going to reach the most people? Knowing that I believe there is a place for all theater, but not all theater is for everybody.

00:15:44:17 – 00:16:04:39
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
But when you have almost 8000 seats, I think our our place in the world is as they happen, we get as many people out here. So we now are talking about it. I’ve got both our folks that oversee Broadway and our folks that oversee concerts and our community engagement. Vice president and that I’d say as a change to say, how are we also thinking about all content through that lens as well?

00:16:04:51 – 00:16:28:21
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
Where can we engage partners? How can we have impact on student population? How can we have value added educational programing? And so those are a big piece of how we’re going to be making the decisions moving forward. Ultimately, my call, but I think a much bigger team effort now to hopefully make the right decisions in a in a very different landscape for theater and music than it was a few years ago.

00:16:28:26 – 00:16:46:00
Ruth Baum Bigus
The Starlight look to the community in any way for input. I know years ago when we used to go see a show, it almost immediately after or at the theater when it was only on paper, you know, there’d be a survey. What do you want to see? What did you like, what didn’t you like, etc..

00:16:46:05 – 00:17:05:49
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
So we still have a very strong survey culture here. So we are often after almost every single show, surveys still go out. So we’re always asking the people that are here what their experience is, how we can improve it. And those that have been coming a long time are also well conditioned to send direct emails to our to know what they see.

00:17:05:50 – 00:17:36:38
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
And I often say the difference in that is those emails and that input comes with so much care for this organization, even when it is critical. It comes from a place of deep care and investment. So I would take that any day of the week over. Nothing more silence. I think one of the things that we’re trying to figure out now is how are we again out in community to ask those that maybe haven’t been here yet what they want to see and what would get them to come through these gates and feel like they belong?

00:17:36:43 – 00:17:49:30
Ruth Baum Bigus
I would be remiss if I didn’t let you do a deep dive into, you know, your community engagement, your education, your your youth initiatives. When you share with us a little bit all the robust things you’re doing.

00:17:49:35 – 00:18:08:03
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
I would be so happy to, because I think it is one of the most important things we do that really sets us apart from a lot of places that you see theater music as. It is certainly about the amazing things that happen on our stage. But these programs are what give Starlight its heart. They are really centered around a couple of things, which is access to the arts.

00:18:08:08 – 00:18:32:35
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
So programs like our Community Ticket program, we give away 364 tickets to every single Broadway show we do. So that could be upwards of 12 to 15000 tickets each summer that go out to this year, over 150 nonprofit partners. And so that’s a huge access initiative for us that does exactly what I was saying is one of our priorities, which gets people that otherwise wouldn’t come out here, out here to experience theater.

00:18:32:40 – 00:18:53:06
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
And in the future, we’re looking to expand on that so that everything we do has sort of that free component for access. We also have some great education programs, and I always caveat that our education is not necessarily just about training artists, although we certainly have programs that are training singers and dancers, but really that are focused on on the business of theater and music.

00:18:53:06 – 00:19:22:14
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
So that’s where that internship program comes into play. We have a wonderful scholarship program that was founded and dedicated to funding performing arts training for Bipoc Middle School students. So a very specific demographic. The founders felt like middle school is one of the toughest time in your life. So that is the perfect time. If someone has an interest in the arts to give them that vote of confidence and the resources to pursue that.

00:19:22:19 – 00:19:43:23
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
So those are all around access and then sort of workforce development, which I think is a little bit of a differentiator as we look to the future. We’re looking to expand those programs to really looking at access from an audience development standpoint, how do we reach more young people to get them into theater and music? We have amazing theaters like The Coterie in the City where you can sit cross-legged for the first time.

00:19:43:23 – 00:20:02:14
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
But how can we help make their next step up to what theater is? Because this environment is very accessible for a lot of people, because you’re not in that black box theater environment, you’re outside. It’s a little more casual. So it’s really a great first experience for young people and young families to come out for theater and music.

00:20:02:18 – 00:20:26:15
Ruth Baum Bigus
Well, kudos to you all for doing that. I mean, of course I’m biased because I’m a theater goer, a theater performer, theater supporter and interested in it. But I think it becomes for a lot of people, kind of a level playing field when you have that experience of art that you may have seen a bazillion times or maybe it’s your first time and to be out under the stars is really kind of a cool thing.

00:20:26:20 – 00:20:47:31
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
Very memorable. We talk a lot about there’s research that supports that when you’re outside because you’re in nature. What that combination of nature and music and storytelling, it creates these very visceral memories for people. And often they’re the funny ones were what they remember is the show they got rained on or that it was so hot they were sliding out of their seats.

00:20:47:45 – 00:21:05:27
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
But they remember those shows, those days, those memories with such clarity that it’s really remarkable. And a lot of people have that memory of, Oh, that was the first place I saw a concert, or that was the first place I saw theater. I remember exactly what I saw and where I was sitting. I mean, the memories are pretty remarkable in that regard.

00:21:05:27 – 00:21:08:05
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
And I think that’s what makes it special.

00:21:08:09 – 00:21:23:32
Ruth Baum Bigus
Give us another sneak peek. How many people are working with you? Added starlight and let’s talk all told. Let’s talk everybody from painting the set, moving the trash cans, working in concessions to sitting in executive meetings with you.

00:21:23:36 – 00:21:48:16
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
But we have a full time year round staff of 52, and that expands in the summer time to include another 250 seasonal employees. And so seasonal employees that are working in concessions and parking and security artists on our stage when we produce the show. So 250 and then another 200 to 200 plus volunteers that also are sort of critical to our operation as well.

00:21:48:16 – 00:21:52:12
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
So I include them as part of the team because we couldn’t do without them.

00:21:52:17 – 00:21:57:11
Ruth Baum Bigus
That’s a huge team in the summer particularly. Wow, that’s a lot of people to wrangle.

00:21:57:16 – 00:22:04:14
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
Yeah, it is. It’s a it’s a big growth of sort of expanding and contracting every year.

00:22:04:19 – 00:22:32:44
Ruth Baum Bigus
And I know this summer went back to something that was really a core tradition, I think of Starlight probably in its mid history. More that I remember is local casting using local talent. So. So what’s the current philosophy and things moving forward? Will we see more of that? Is that part of now the mix of starlight to see our friends who are professional or just so incredibly talented?

00:22:32:49 – 00:22:55:12
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
So I’m glad you bring that up because it is actually one of the key differentiators about Starlight at this point for a theater of our size to not only present nationally, touring Broadway to presents live music, you know, tours and concerts from national headliners, but then also we’re a producer. And you’re right, that is the cornerstone to our history.

00:22:55:17 – 00:23:15:18
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
And we’ve continued to do it through the years where we are the the organization that is casting and making sure their sets and hiring local musicians for the orchestra. And and we often feel that our secret weapon for the very reason that that’s part of how we are part of the community and part of the artistic community even though they’re big shows in a big house.

00:23:15:18 – 00:23:44:03
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
But this that this past summer we did a production of Legally Blond, which is the biggest show that we’ve done since before the pandemic. So big cast. And it combines Broadway stars and nationally touring artists with local talent. And that cast is actually it was 60% local and included a team chorus, which we’re able to do through a very special clause in our union agreement that allows us to have a community chorus.

00:23:44:08 – 00:24:11:06
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
As long as those students are connected with those community engagement programs I mentioned. So that’s a really neat thing where, you know, upwards of 20 students each year get to be a part of an ensemble working with Broadway stars on the Starlight Stage. So I think no matter what, that will be something that we are committed to doing, whether we’re producing it or whether we’re co-producing it with other regional theaters like the Muni, for example, or we work often with Pittsburgh, Cee-Lo and stuff like that, at least once a summer.

00:24:11:11 – 00:24:31:44
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
I think as we look ahead, it’s more about our how does the season come together to have those broadly accessible titles that I talked about? What’s out there from a touring standpoint? If a touring touring shows can help fulfill in great, but if not, then I’m personally very open to producing more because I know what it does for this community and I enjoyed it legally.

00:24:31:44 – 00:24:47:01
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
Blond This summer, the laughter of the audiences and the parents of students and parents of now artists that travel and are on Broadway but are from Kansas City and all of their families getting to see them back home on our stage. So it’s a really important thing that we do.

00:24:47:06 – 00:25:04:52
Ruth Baum Bigus
Well, kudos to you for for loving it. And hopefully, maybe we’ll see more of it. Got a few minutes left. I would love to hear kind of your thoughts. Starlight moving forward, where do you see Starlight headed, though?

00:25:04:57 – 00:25:17:54
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
Where starlight is headed in the short term is we’re going to be seeing some pretty big physical improvements to the venue in the next handful of years, and we’ll be sharing more about that publicly this fall.

00:25:17:54 – 00:25:20:06
Ruth Baum Bigus
So I’ll just say.

00:25:20:11 – 00:25:48:57
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
To say that the face of starlight is going to change, pretty significant in the next 3 to 4 years. You’re also going to see some programing expansions. I mentioned a lot of what we’re doing now with our programs, but as we look ahead, I would say our biggest focus is really between audience development. Are we getting new people to come out to Starlight, whether that’s in the summertime or whether that’s through other programing at our winter setup, and then also what their experiences?

00:25:48:57 – 00:26:11:01
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
Because I think one of our biggest differentiators out here, as I’ve said, is it’s not just about what’s on the stage that’s important, that’s why people come. But it is about that end to end experience of being at this place. We experience every summer. I’ve experienced this summer, people that come up that have never been here before, and they’re blown away by this little Castle theater in the park.

00:26:11:06 – 00:26:28:37
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
It’s a really unique asset that I think sometimes we take for granted. So I think a real focus on how we get it, get new people out here and how we continue to improve what that experience is and how we expand the programs that sort of support both of those through access and through and through that workforce development piece too.

00:26:28:39 – 00:26:34:50
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
How are we getting people interested in being a part of this wonderful, crazy business?

00:26:34:55 – 00:26:48:09
Ruth Baum Bigus
All right. You have a lot of stuff out in the summer. This summer has been hot, Summer has been cold. It’s been all over the place. Let’s deal with heat, because that’s a normal thing. How does starlight kind of help people in that regard?

00:26:48:14 – 00:27:10:39
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
Well, about six years ago now, we put in some new big bands that are out here that if you haven’t been out in the last decade, I highly encourage coming out to see the impact that they have. They really they create a breeze out here. So on the hot nights where normally you’d feel that hot summer air sort of sitting upon you, they’re moving the air and keeping you cool.

00:27:10:39 – 00:27:26:00
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
And I think that has been a huge help on the heat side of things. As we know, the world is only getting hotter, so we know that that’s something we have to contend with. So I think those have really helped. And I think some of the physical improvements that I mentioned for the future are also going to be a huge help for that concern, too.

00:27:26:00 – 00:27:46:14
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
We know that what people want from Starlight is certainly to preserve that open air environment, but anything we can do to make them a little more comfortable is always welcome. So we’re always trying to balance those two things so that you can experience the magic of theater under the stars and outside, while also not being so sticky that you’re sliding off your seat.

00:27:46:19 – 00:28:03:58
Ruth Baum Bigus
Now. Lindsay, Thank you. We want to send everybody to KC Starlight dot com. You can learn about the history. You can learn about shows to see. You can learn about opportunities for youth all over the place. Just check it out. And we’re so grateful for you to take time and finally get to sit in that hot seat, as we call it.

00:28:03:58 – 00:28:07:02
Ruth Baum Bigus
That is, of course, we’re so glad you joined us.

00:28:07:07 – 00:28:10:29
Lindsey Rood-Clifford
Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate the opportunity.

00:28:10:34 – 00:28:34:52
Ruth Baum Bigus
Thank you for joining us for KC Cares, Kansas City’s nonprofit Voice. We’re produced by Charitable communications, also a nonprofit. This KC Care segment was brought to you by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, www.kauffman.org. If you’d like to be a guest on KC Cares, visit our Web site. KC Cares Online talk and spread the love. You’ll find us on Facebook and Twitter at KC Cares Radio and on Instagram.

00:28:34:57 – 00:28:46:01
Ruth Baum Bigus
KC Cares Online. Don’t forget, you can catch us on Saturday mornings at 8 a.m. on ESPN, 15, ten and 94.5 FM. Thank you for joining us on KC Cares.

 

 

Previous Episodes!

Black Community Fund Kansas City

NaTika Rowles | Executive Director

In this interview, Ruth Baum Bigus of KC Cares talks with NaTika Rowles, the executive director of the Black Community Fund (BCF). The BCF is a philanthropic organization that has been investing in the African-American community of Kansas City for over 40 years. The fund has provided more than $4.5 million to over 200 nonprofit organizations, focusing on areas such as education, human services, arts, culture, humanities, and faith organizations. NaTika discusses the fund’s shift in focus during the pandemic, its innovative grant-making strategies, and its commitment to supporting black-led, black-serving nonprofits.

visit them here: blackcommunityfund.org

 

What Nonprofit Questions are Answered?

  1. What is the Black Community Fund’s mission?
  2. How has the Black Community Fund adapted its strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic?
  3. What types of organizations does the Black Community Fund support?
  4. How does the Black Community Fund’s grant-making process work?
  5. How can individuals or organizations contribute to the Black Community Fund?

Find us on

Facebook:@ Kccaresradio

Twitter: @kccaresradio

Instagram: @Kccaresonline

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Also available on

Itunes || Spotify || Stitcher || Soundcloud || Youtube 

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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: 

Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

Take risks. Own success. Be Uncommon.

TW: @kauffmanfdn FB: @kauffmanfdn IG: @kauffmanfdn

Transcript:

00:00:01:06 – 00:00:23:01
Ruth Baum Bigus
Welcome to KC Cares. We’re Kansas City’s nonprofit voice, and we’re telling the stories of Kansas City nonprofits and the people behind them. KC Cares is the intersection of the nonprofit and profit communities making Kansas City a better place to live, work and play.

00:00:54:16 – 00:01:22:11
Ruth Baum Bigus
This KC Care segment is brought to you by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. www.Kauffman dot org. I’m Ruth Baum Bigus with the insight of philanthropic leaders in our community, the black community Fund was established as a fund of the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation by the Hall Family Foundation. Its purpose was to invest in the African-American community of Kansas City to meet critical needs.

00:01:22:21 – 00:01:49:28
Ruth Baum Bigus
Now, 40 years later, the Black Community Fund lifts others, providing more than 4.5 million to over 200 nonprofit organizations. During that time, organizations focused on education, human services, arts, culture, humanities and faith organizations. Now, Teeka Royals is executive director of the Black Community Fund, and we welcome her as we dig into the work of this organization that’s making change in our community.

00:01:50:08 – 00:01:52:10
Ruth Baum Bigus
The ticket, so great to have you.

00:01:52:12 – 00:01:54:13
NaTika Rowles
Thank you, Ruth. Thanks for having me.

00:01:55:05 – 00:02:23:21
Ruth Baum Bigus
Well, in full disclosure to our audience, we last had someone from the Black Community Fund pre-pandemic, and I would bet by a year or two, maybe before then. So it’s been some time and we’ve been watching around her social media and everything. You all are active, vibrant, doing all kinds of things. Bring us up to speed, though. Give us an overview of the fund and your focus.

00:02:24:22 – 00:03:03:03
NaTika Rowles
Yeah. So I’ve been with the fund. You said the last time you spoke to someone was pre-pandemic. So I think I came along during the pandemic in 2020. And up until then, our fund was focused on grant making scholarships to black students, convening around critical issues that concern the black community. We also did a little bit of convening around the arts and cultural events as well, and I’ve added a little thing that we do, which is mobilizing black philanthropy and communities of color.

00:03:03:03 – 00:03:48:22
NaTika Rowles
So that’s pretty much what our focus has been. We honed in on targeting grassroots, black led black serving non-profits and supporting them, and the need for that has always been around and we’ve always done that. But after during 2020 and all of the racial unrest and social injustices that were going on and living through a pandemic, our board decided that the disparities were this so blatant in the black community and what the needs were that we we just drove into that and started supporting smaller, grassroot and nonprofits.

00:03:48:23 – 00:04:09:27
Ruth Baum Bigus
Well, that’s an interesting pivot and very insightful of a board. So, so much to dove into here. I want to go back to what the board did, but I want to let the audience know. And you came on board in the pandemic?

00:04:10:02 – 00:04:11:00
NaTika Rowles
Yeah.

00:04:11:00 – 00:04:19:05
Ruth Baum Bigus
And you share a little bit what that was like and how you weathered that. Oh, my gosh. Huge storm.

00:04:20:00 – 00:04:53:25
NaTika Rowles
Yeah. So transition is hard. So not only were we transitioning with a new executive director, we were transition, transitioning the needs of the black community as well. So it was difficult, but it was a thing that needed to happen. So for me, we just kind of I just kind of took it as a way to renew, reimagine, just kind of rethink.

00:04:54:03 – 00:05:20:15
NaTika Rowles
But DCF is and what it was and how to stay relevant and those things. So we were literally just trying things. We wanted to do philanthropy different. We knew that we had they had been talking about this. As I said, I came on in 2020. They’ve been doing this for they’ve been supporting, you know, black led, black serving nonprofits.

00:05:20:29 – 00:05:43:23
NaTika Rowles
So we started to rethink what what we could do, how we can take the burden off of the nonprofit, how can we show up in a more trust based philanthropy space? You know, that term was thrown around a lot. How can we focus more on equity? How can we not just allow people to jump through hoops for money?

00:05:44:13 – 00:06:11:15
NaTika Rowles
Because we really just wanted to help in a way that during 2020 it wasn’t happening there. These are the nonprofits that we were serving, didn’t have access. They didn’t have the banking relationships. They didn’t have the social networking to access funds. So in 2020 and yeah, it was difficult because the world was on fire, right? So yeah, we were working from home, you know, that was introduced to the board.

00:06:12:07 – 00:06:36:19
NaTika Rowles
We had to build relationships and you know, we still had a job to do. So even the scholarships that we were giving out that year, that was difficult because they weren’t on campus. There. There, the the things that they had planned to do were shifting. So we had to be, you know, pretty flexible in all of our giving in that way.

00:06:36:29 – 00:07:03:17
NaTika Rowles
But I think the thing that that just kind of turned everything around for us was that the board knew all of this stuff was going on in the world. Right. And so statements were going out. Everybody focused on the equity statement, on diversity, justice. So we put a statement out. But the board was adamant about what are we going to do beyond this statement?

00:07:03:18 – 00:07:39:16
NaTika Rowles
We need to put some money to this statement. So we literally just wrote checks to nonprofits that were serving the black community and voting, registration, housing and food insecurity as well. And we granted out $100,000 that summer, no grant competition, no cycle, no application, literally. Here’s a check for the work that you’ve been doing and the work that we need you to continue to do during this pandemic, during this time, you know, of of racial and social unrest in our country.

00:07:39:17 – 00:08:13:17
Ruth Baum Bigus
So so the board really drove this change with you, with the leadership on land, living on Zoom or Microsoft teams or whatever. We all lived on and lived through. Now that we’ve kind of come out of it, like come out of the pandemic, let’s say that I, I don’t know that the rest of the world has changed tremendously, but how are you now moving forward with that kind of sea change that started during the pandemic?

00:08:14:18 – 00:08:42:08
NaTika Rowles
Yeah. So I mean, we had to shift a little bit, you know, for a couple of years we had to do our events online that was new and different. Nothing that, you know, no anybody else had to do. Everybody was doing this. But our focus is still there. We are committed to serving nonprofits that are serving the black community in a way that in a in a way that’s, I would say, more innovative.

00:08:43:10 – 00:09:05:27
NaTika Rowles
We’re open to how we’re making grants now. It’s not just an application. Last year we held a workshop where we paid nonprofits to come to the workshop. We did a pitch competition. So what it did was and it may be a new because I don’t know any better, I’m like, Yeah, we can do that. Let’s do it. Let’s try it, you know?

00:09:06:18 – 00:09:30:18
NaTika Rowles
Okay, you did that last. Okay, let’s do something different. And they were willing to to allow me to be flexible with with ideas as well. So we literally just created this think tank and we said, what? What don’t we like about philanthropy right now? Let’s just not do that. So what does that look like? Oh, let’s try this.

00:09:31:17 – 00:09:55:24
NaTika Rowles
At the end of the day, we helped fund a lot of smaller nonprofits that would not have gotten funding if we hadn’t stepped in. At the end of the day, those nonprofits went on to bigger, larger relationships with foundations and secured larger dollars over multiple years. And that’s what we wanted to do. Right. So we’re continuing in that.

00:09:55:24 – 00:10:02:04
NaTika Rowles
We have some amazing things coming up in order to continue that work in the black community.

00:10:02:25 – 00:10:04:06
Ruth Baum Bigus
You’ve created a bridge.

00:10:05:12 – 00:10:05:23
NaTika Rowles
Okay.

00:10:06:26 – 00:10:35:06
Ruth Baum Bigus
That’s what that’s what it sounds like. So part of KC cares focus, too. We love all nonprofits, but it’s it’s an extra warm feeling when we can bring a smaller nonprofit that maybe doesn’t have that footprint. And it sounds like you are kind of focused on some of those folks that sometimes are that small voice that doesn’t get heard or there’s so much other talking in the world that that they miss out.

00:10:35:06 – 00:10:45:25
Ruth Baum Bigus
So congratulations to you all. All right. You mentioned all these new insightful things. Share with our audience a little bit about your areas of focus and the kind of new things that you are doing.

00:10:46:12 – 00:11:16:24
NaTika Rowles
Yeah. So I’ll talk about the grant making syntax kind of of what people now they know us for before it was scholarships and we really wanted to shift that. Now we’re like we do a lot of things and sounding the alarm on those things. So with our grant making. I think last year we would probably grind it out over $200,000 to grassroots nonprofits, black led, black serving, right.

00:11:18:06 – 00:11:54:07
NaTika Rowles
The cool thing about that was we revamped our application. It’s pretty simple. It’s pretty straightforward. And as I said earlier, we don’t want people to have to jump through hoops to obtain our dollars. Right. We looked at that. We also looked at different ways that we can engage grantees, especially those that don’t have the social networks and don’t know may not have funds to invest in professional development or resource development.

00:11:54:21 – 00:12:32:24
NaTika Rowles
So as I mentioned before, we created what we call the Vision Workshop. We invited 40 nonprofits to come to this workshop to receive training on storytelling, marketing and social media outcome measurement. Right. And it was got them in a room. The feedback that we received was that you see us Black Community Fund, we’re not alone. We’re out here doing this work and you haven’t forgotten about us because we understand that most of these nonprofits are not paying themselves.

00:12:33:01 – 00:13:00:16
NaTika Rowles
They don’t have the budgets to invest in salaries. Most of them are volunteer. We decided that we were going to give them money to come. So every nonprofit that came received a $500 check at the end. And then we were like, Well, how can we give them some, you know, some more money? It’d be great. So at the end of that workshop, they were invited to pitch our enter a pitch pitch competition.

00:13:01:06 – 00:13:25:02
NaTika Rowles
And it was just like you and I are talking, Ruth They just talked to two people about their nonprofit. And then we decided right then and there who was going to get some money. There wasn’t an application process. So the next day, that evening, we invited these nonprofits to our vision gala. It was a gala to just celebrate Black philanthropy.

00:13:25:11 – 00:14:00:25
NaTika Rowles
It was held during Black Philanthropy Month, which is the national recognized time during August. Every August. So we invited them to come to this gala. And at the gala we made the announcement, the winners of the pitch competition, and we granted eight nonprofits $64,000. And so that was pretty exciting. I love to give away money. One of the one of the nonprofits that I don’t know anybody who’s as excited as Attica about giving money away.

00:14:00:25 – 00:14:34:14
NaTika Rowles
So that’s what we’re doing with grant making. If I can talk a little bit about the scholarships this year, our 40th year, our anniversary year, we did grant 40 scholarships to black students to continue their education. And this is like adult learners, graduate school of high school. Yes, community college, what have you. So 40 of those kiddos are young black students.

00:14:34:24 – 00:15:04:07
NaTika Rowles
I call them kiddos and in a sum of $176,000. Now, that may not seem like a lot of money. And we are a small fund. We’re relatively small, a small funder. But that’s that scholarship. Most of those scholarships were in the sum of $5,000. So that’s that’s a game changer for most of these students, right? Yeah. So and we were pretty adamant about you know, that that amount.

00:15:04:15 – 00:15:41:00
NaTika Rowles
Now we do have some scholarships that were around $1,000 for a student. But overall, so the $176,000 in education for black students. So I’d say we’re trying to chip at that. But financial burden gap there and then convening around critical issues. So we’re in conversations with some community leaders about what we want to talk about, what we want to bring people around issues facing the black community.

00:15:41:10 – 00:16:03:18
NaTika Rowles
Where do you on that? In a very sensitive way because we’re not doing this work. We’re not programing. So we’re talking to these organizations that are boots on the ground. They are in proximity with what’s going on in the black community and to see what do we need to talk about right. Or what what do we need to lift that?

00:16:03:18 – 00:16:38:06
NaTika Rowles
What do we need to give a voice like KC cares? What platform do we need to create for you? So we did create a podcast last year, kind of been talking about it throughout the pandemic because why not? Everybody’s on line, right? That was one of my great ideas. So the podcast drop is this year, during our 40th year, and we just talked to leaders of nonprofits and some volunteers about, you know, volunteerism in the black community, affordable housing in the black community, community development, things like that.

00:16:39:00 – 00:16:50:12
NaTika Rowles
So I urge everyone to listen to that. Yeah. So and then now we’re inching up on our big event that’s coming up in a in the next month. Oh my God.

00:16:50:12 – 00:16:53:27
Ruth Baum Bigus
Is here is the panic.

00:16:55:23 – 00:17:17:20
NaTika Rowles
Yes. And we will be celebrating 40 years of giving. It’s our legacy gala. And here’s the thing, Ruth. We’ve been doing this for 40 years, right and right. Kind of been under the radar. So this gap, this this gala is to tell people week, this is what we’ve been doing and this is what we’re going to continue to do for the next 40 years.

00:17:17:20 – 00:17:39:27
NaTika Rowles
And we’re celebrating that. And then we want to invite people along for to mobilize their giving, to mobilize their philanthropy. Right. And we want to we want everybody to look at themselves as a philanthropist, especially black, because this is what we do. Right. So I’m excited. What’s going on?

00:17:39:27 – 00:17:49:27
Ruth Baum Bigus
Where is the best place for folks to go to find out what everything that you’re doing, find out about your event, look at your grant making opportunities, etc..

00:17:50:19 – 00:18:17:24
NaTika Rowles
Yeah. So we do have a website in that black community find out or so you can definitely visit our website. We’re on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Our offices are out of the Greater Payne City Community Foundation on Broadway. You can pop in. Give me a call. Yeah. So there’s tons of ways to get in touch with us, but I would say our website is probably the easiest.

00:18:18:05 – 00:18:19:09
NaTika Rowles
And the social media.

00:18:21:04 – 00:18:41:28
Ruth Baum Bigus
And again, for full transparency, just disclosure. Folks that are not black or African-American, could they apply for grants if they’re serving the black community or really focused on, you know, black leadership, black, etc.? I think.

00:18:43:05 – 00:19:06:27
NaTika Rowles
Yeah, they can they can definitely apply and we prioritize black lives black survey. So what that means is that we may look at them more. We, we focus on that, right. But if there is a program that just happens to have a white area that’s serving the black community and serving them well, then they could definitely be funded.

00:19:06:27 – 00:19:31:09
NaTika Rowles
And if you look at some of our past grants, you would see that now that we have. So the focus is on serving the black community. What we found during 2020 and leading up to that was that a lot of black leaders, a lot of black professionals did not have access. And not only not only did they not have access.

00:19:31:09 – 00:19:52:10
NaTika Rowles
So there’s something real about when black people are being murdered in the street around you. Right. It’s hard to come to work that day. It’s it’s hard it’s hard to do the work that you know, that you love to do. It comes heavy. It becomes a wait. Sometimes. So our focus on black leaders is to care for them.

00:19:52:17 – 00:20:23:03
NaTika Rowles
Right. Is to let them know that we see you, that we’re here to support you, not only the work that you’re doing, but you as a person that you that they are valuable. Right. It’s not just it’s not just the work. It’s not just the programs. We know that the black community was hit hard during during that time and still really trying to process some of these things.

00:20:23:03 – 00:20:50:10
NaTika Rowles
I mean, the ebbs and flows of the social unrest, the racial unrest in our community affects black bodies. It just does. Right. So when we create a space for them to talk about capacity building, we’re also building camaraderie. I mean, most of those nonprofits are still in touch with each other. They meet I don’t even know they’re meeting.

00:20:50:10 – 00:21:10:00
NaTika Rowles
And they’re like, yeah, they built a mentorship. They built a group of people that that they can process with that are that they’re that’s in the trenches with them. So I think that’s great. That’s the focus on the black leaders.

00:21:11:17 – 00:21:24:23
Ruth Baum Bigus
Where today does the preponderance of your funds come from? You’re handing out you’re handing out money. So somewhere money’s got to be coming in, right? Somewhere.

00:21:27:25 – 00:22:01:04
NaTika Rowles
That’s a great question. I would say, um, for a while we’ve had a pretty substantial grant through the Kellogg Foundation that allowed us to do some pretty innovative work that Grant has now centered. So last year I will say that we received our largest gift from the Sanderlin Foundation a half a million dollar gift. And so but that’s the largest in 40 years.

00:22:01:04 – 00:22:41:08
NaTika Rowles
So, yeah, there’s some some private donations. We do we eat events and fundraising is not part of our resource development plan. And, and and I don’t know that that is a way that we will effectively raise funds. We have a philosophy of investing in the black community. And when we decided to do that in a radical way, like we did and we gave people started giving, well, yeah.

00:22:41:08 – 00:23:11:03
NaTika Rowles
So I don’t know. I mean, most people say you got to spend money to make money. I mean, that’s an entrepreneurship in business, but we have a mindset of whether we are supported or not. This is what the needed. So this is what we don’t do right. And having that mindset, that confidence that we are investing in the black community, people are on board with that.

00:23:11:14 – 00:23:23:28
NaTika Rowles
People want to be a part of that. It’s almost a sense of empowerment to be able to do that. So we have granted a lot of money in the past. Yeah.

00:23:24:17 – 00:23:25:02
Ruth Baum Bigus
Right.

00:23:25:22 – 00:23:55:02
NaTika Rowles
Right. A lot, almost as much as we’ve done in the past ten years. But we’ve also raised a lot of money in the past three years, more so than we’ve done in the past ten years of this fund. And that was by talking to folks like you, this platform that you have, inviting people to join us in philanthropy in a way that is relational, all alone, not transactional.

00:23:56:19 – 00:24:20:03
NaTika Rowles
And people are giving and have donors that are black leaders that are supporting us now. And that that says a lot to me. So, yeah, not an influx of funds. You know, we’re are still a funder that would welcome any donations, right? I have to say that.

00:24:20:27 – 00:24:23:23
Ruth Baum Bigus
Oh, absolutely. Of course. And go to your website. Oh.

00:24:24:09 – 00:24:25:06
NaTika Rowles
No, to my website.

00:24:26:08 – 00:24:27:07
Ruth Baum Bigus
Absolutely.

00:24:27:08 – 00:24:27:25
NaTika Rowles
Like to donate.

00:24:27:25 – 00:24:50:11
Ruth Baum Bigus
But you have such enthusiasm for this work. Give us a peek of where in the tech it came from and landed here. We feel like. Yeah, yeah. Well, here’s because you’re the you’re leading the charge. So I want, you know, the man and woman behind the curtain we want to see. Yeah.

00:24:50:11 – 00:25:23:04
NaTika Rowles
So I have a background in nonprofit on the Ely side of of running a nonprofit. So I was there with the nonprofit that we’re serving, and I think that’s where my passion comes in. I’ve been, you know, one of the leading the grassroots nonprofit writing grant up and I know. And so that’s my background. I have a husband, I have five children.

00:25:23:04 – 00:26:00:02
NaTika Rowles
And I think we we’ve been in Kansas City for about seven or eight years. My husband is from Kansas City. He’s been trying to get me here for the past 25 years of our work. And it finally happened. And it’s the best place ever. So, yeah, I just have a heart for community. I have a heart for community development in a way that citizens should be empowered right to to to change, to be the change makers in their community.

00:26:00:02 – 00:26:35:28
NaTika Rowles
So I try to interject that in any and everything I do and with the black community Fund, and I really can’t take that. You know, I really can’t sit here say, oh, yes, we’ve done all this work. But my board of directors, our board chair, I will name namedrop. Is that okay? Absolutely. Okay. So our board chair, Emmett Pearson Jr, who’s been on the board for years, is quite instrumental in the direction that Bishop has taken Desmond Bryant, who’s also been on the board as long if not as long as Emmett.

00:26:35:28 – 00:27:03:26
NaTika Rowles
He’s getting there. Huge influence on the direction of the fund and story. Shannon Barry and Dan Haley, that’s it is the Mighty Five, right? And with them, I’d say they allow me to kind of float around the city and see what we can put our hands into and find. Right. May not be a lot. I mean, we don’t have millions of dollars or hundreds of millions of dollars.

00:27:03:26 – 00:27:09:06
Ruth Baum Bigus
But don’t tell anyone that you will. You will as.

00:27:09:09 – 00:27:14:26
NaTika Rowles
Well. And we’ll look back on this podcast and go, yep, we spoke that, but you heard it.

00:27:14:26 – 00:27:36:01
Ruth Baum Bigus
Here first on KC Kurzweil. It’s it’s your 40th anniversary, which is monumental, if you think about it and what’s happened in that 40 years. Oh, my gosh. So much change. Probably you weren’t even born yet, but you’re leading that. And I can’t believe you have five kids and you’re doing this. Oh, my gosh. Kudos to you, Mama. You work.

00:27:36:03 – 00:27:54:18
Ruth Baum Bigus
And Mama, we are so grateful for your time. I want to remind everybody to go check out the Black Community Fund doing great work. So it’s black community fund dot org. And I’m sure Nautica would answer any question that you have. Thank you so much for your time.

00:27:55:01 – 00:27:57:00
NaTika Rowles
Thanks for having me, Ruth. It was fun.

00:27:57:25 – 00:28:20:03
Ruth Baum Bigus
Yeah. Thank you for joining us. For KC Care’s Kansas City’s nonprofit voice were produced by Charitable Communications, also a nonprofit. This KC Care segment was brought to you by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, www.kauffman.org. If you’d like to be a guest on KC Cares, please visit our Web site. kccaresonline.org and spread the love.

00:28:20:03 – 00:36:22:01
Ruth Baum Bigus
You can find us on Facebook and Twitter at KC Cares Radio and on Instagram at KC Cares online. Don’t forget, you can catch us on Saturday mornings at 8 p.m. on ESPN 15:10 a.m. and 94.5 FM. Thank you for joining us on KC CARES.

 

Previous Episodes!

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 and foundation giving witnessing an uptick. However, individual giving, traditionally the backbone of American philanthropy, is seeing a reduced share. Dr. Osili underscores the need for nonprofits to adapt their engagement strategies to meet donors where they are, given the economic shifts and increasing donor diversity. She also emphasizes the power of authentic storytelling in fostering donor relationships. This conversation offers valuable insights for nonprofits seeking to navigate the evolving philanthropic landscape.

visit them here: givingusa.org

 

What Nonprofit Questions are Answered?

  1. What are the key findings of the Giving USA report?
  2. How has the pandemic affected philanthropic trends in the US?
  3. What strategies can nonprofits adopt to engage donors effectively?
  4. How important is storytelling in building relationships with donors?
  5. What future trends can we anticipate in philanthropy?

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

Produced by Charitable Communications 

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In partnership with: 

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Transcript:

(00:00) were telling the stories of Kansas City nonprofits and the people behind them cares is the intersection of the non-profit Community making Kansas City a better place to live work and play this KC care segment is brought to you by the Ewing Marion Kaufman Foundation www.kauffman.

(00:21) org I’m Ruth Baum Bigus. it’s that season again when the giving USA report comes out providing National philanthropic Trends the giving USA annual report is the longest running and most comprehensive look at philanthropy and provides an in-depth analysis rather of charitable giving where it comes from how funds are used and more insights from the report are a great tool for those of us in the world of non-profit fundraising and their programming Partners well for the last several years KC cares has highlighted the significant report that’s produced by

(00:56) the team at the Lilly Family School of philanthropy at Indiana University we are delighted to welcome a new guest to chat about the report and what it means it’s Dr Una Olisi, the associate dean of research and international programs and the euphrymanson share of economics and philanthropy at the Lilly school it has been her job to oversee this massive project and welcome we’re so happy to have you with us well hello everyone I’m thrilled to be here thanks for hosting me it’s really a pleasure

(01:30) well I have to tell our audience we are honored my gosh you have quite the resume a scientist and economics person everything maybe a good base would be to start how did you get into this kind of world to begin with it’s a great question I grew up with parents who are very deeply involved in generosity and family and taught us very early how to get involved how to give back how to serve others and it was no surprise that in college I actually started working in a neighborhood right close to where I went to college in

(02:10) Boston tutoring kids raising money for the non-profit and spending summers in Boston so that got me interested in the more formal side of the philanthropic sector fast forward the tape when I started my research as an economic student and a doctoral student I picked a dissertation topic that was very closely aligned to these issues around how people give and make decisions about their philanthropy how much they save but how much they give to others and I was very fortunate to start my career here at Indiana University and we have

(02:45) here the world’s first school on philanthropy it’s quite an exciting place if you’re interested in generosity what drives people to give but also how to serve and how to lead and how to collaborate with others so this is really a wonderful place and if you haven’t visited the lily family school either virtually in person or on the web please feel free to do so we have academic programs we have students here we have online programs but we also have lots of research so the data is there and it’s available so I feel like I was

(03:19) very blessed to merge my academic interests with my own passions and get to do that every day here at the Lilly Family School well how lucky for the school to have you and it’s so interesting how long has the school been in existence now so the school was formally inaugurated in 2013 it became the school but before that it was the center on philanthropy at Indiana University and also the world’s first academic center that started in 1985 and many people may know we have the fundraising school and that’s quite

(03:55) unique because you can take classes non-degree certificate programs Executive Education programs on all sorts of topics from fundraising to leadership to board engagement um all topics are covered ethics and fundraising so I I do encourage all of your listeners to if you don’t know much about this school please feel free to reach out to us we’re always happy to talk to our non-profit colleagues we’ll give you that those two seconds to do a commercial where is the best place for folks to go find out information

(04:29) about all the things that you do at the Lilly school well visit the school’s website I think that’s really the best place to do that and I will share that website at the end maybe the link we can include that terrific all right well let’s get back to what we introduced everybody to and that’s the annual giving USA report before we do the big reveal of numbers and trends I wanted our audience to understand what goes into putting together a report like this give us that Peak behind the curtain how this all

(05:04) comes together well I’m excited to do that because this year more than ever I have felt the enormous responsibility that we have here to provide these numbers giving USA is the longest running report in the charitable sector it dates back to 1985 and if you look behind my desk I have many uh many of those initial editions right here on my shelf but I wanted to even better understand this report so for this year’s report I went to our library we have a philanthropic studies library and looked at all the early editions from

(05:38) the 50s 60s and even 70s back then philanthropy was not as complex and sophisticated as it is today we have more than 1.3 million non-profits maybe 1.8 million non-profits in the US and we cover all of the giving that goes to those charitable organizations in addition America has changed since the 50s we have many of course more people it’s a more diverse economy and we also have many more tools on vehicles associated with giving which means tracking giving is not so simple as tracking down those large organizations

(06:17) there are smaller organizations they’re medium-sized organizations of all different types so we track the giving from the donor side so who gives individuals foundations corporations but also charitable because so all of that has to be understood and estimated and we use for some of those estimates we use very sophisticated models reflecting just how complex philanthropy is and then turning to the other side where does all the giving go and that has also changed since the 50s because we have new sub-sectors that

(06:52) have emerged environment giving to environmental causes has grown in the 50s and 60s that was a timing tiny tiny and wasn’t even tracked as a standalone sub-sector similarly giving to International causes something we take for granted with the war in Ukraine and disasters and crises around the world that also didn’t exist in the 50s and 60s so a lot has has happened since then and we have to do the uh I’d say the challenging but exciting work of keeping track of all those changes but at the same time what has stayed consistent and

(07:28) that’s what the inspiring message for today’s conversation is the generosity of Americans is one thing that has stayed the same we’ve seen that during good times we’ve also seen that during very challenging times how even during the past crises how Americans really stepped up to help their neighbors their their friends but even strangers that needed assistance and that’s been the Common Thread through our tracking of giving USA what really binds all this together is the generosity the expressions of caring for others that we

(08:02) see and then we get the fun but challenging tasks of keeping track of the numbers so it’s not enough to just say we know that giving went to this organization we have to know how much and ultimately how that giving is changing and it is changing so how many people touch the things that go into this report and you know I I just imagine somebody churning now nobody uses adding machines that’s really dated but sitting at computers with formulas and everything else how many folks and for how long this is a year-round project I’m glad

(08:41) you asked that question most people don’t don’t recognize that from the day giving USA launches to the next year we start working on it it’s almost right away so it’s a year-round project we have a research team of about 10 to 12 full-time staff that work on the report but we also have a team of graduate students that are involved with the report in one form or another and a team of volunteers from the giving USC Foundation remember this is a collaboration between the lily family school and our colleague yes giving

(09:16) Institute and so many other colleagues volunteer to read chapters to provide comments and so it is truly a year-round project but your kind of image is correct we have um very dedicated staff members but a lead statistician who works on this project John Bergdahl and then the leader on the writing side and the Productions side is my colleague Dr Anna Pruitt who works on all things related to the giving USA chapters and numbers so when we say it is a true collaboration it really is and we feel this tremendous of course responsibility

(09:55) to tell the story of American philanthropy because the report has been published continuously since the 50s so through all the upheavals that we’ve had and even more recently through the covet crisis where we had to um like many other non-profits around the country truly wrap our mind around how giving was changing and what that meant for American non-profits and households all over the country and in Kansas City as well there must be a big cheer though that goes up once that’s sent to the printer or the final thing I would imagine

(10:29) there’s a big woohoo it’s a lot of work absolutely and in fact the celebration usually starts um I’d say once we announce the results so on June 20th is the launch dates as you already know and throughout that period we are interfacing with non-profits with the media with many others but the launch date signals the essentially the completion of the project so that’s the time when all of us can actually just get excited and celebrate the contribution that all of us make to this work I wanted to go back and ask one more

(11:05) little technical question and then we’ll get into the big reveal of what’s happening and where we’re going you had said there’s about 1.8 million non-profits give or take I know in the Kansas City area alone we have about 8 000 non-profits kind of what role do the non-profits play in that where do you get these numbers from is it from the taxes is it from websites how do you find it you are asking some excellent questions and you are exactly right all non-profits are required to file a form 990 and that’s

(11:39) true for most organizations there are some small organizations that Grassroots may not file non-filers those exist but the majority are required to file a form 990 so we have access to all that data on the nonprofit side on the donor side it’s more complex because as you know although Americans all submit their taxes generally speaking of all income levels with tax reform we have only a small slice of that pie because only about 10 percent of Americans now itemize on their taxes which means for 90 we have to rely on other data sources

(12:16) fortunately for those of you who are data people in the audience since we have a tremendous resource here at the lily family school called the philanthropy panel study it tracks the same Americans over time about 10 000 families and that gives us what we call the non-itemizer estimate for charitable giving but on the foundation side on the corporate side and charitable because we also have some government data so a simple answer to your wonderful and thoughtful question is we have both government tax-based data sources for

(12:49) giving USA but we also lean on other data sources to fill in the gaps and that’s especially important for studying household giving where we know that not all households actually itemize their charitable contributions but many are still giving even when they don’t itemize because they take the standard deduction so this is uh inside baseball for those of you necessarily data people but for those who are there is a lot of complexity to charitable giving as I try to remind people this is not uh what it

(13:23) looked like in the 50s and 60s but it’s also fashionable yes it’s exciting to see how much the sector has grown and how complex but also very sophisticated and it also requires all of us to keep learning and keep growing because if the field is dynamic it’s not static at all okay so the big reveal how much and this is reporting for 2022 correct correct I’m glad you noticed that so the big reveal is that in 2022 giving reached a new level of 499 billion dollars that’s a big deal because this is uh really the first time

(14:07) uh during the pandemic that we saw giving cross the half a trillion dollar Mark so there’s a lot to celebrate in this year’s report but there’s also a lot to to be concerned about um what we also saw is that the economic environment in 2022 led to a decline in giving and this is after having several consecutive years of growth where giving actually fell so while we had this new record in terms of crossing the half a trillion dollar Mark when we look at what has happened during the pandemic it does look like giving

(14:43) has declined slightly and in that is mostly due to the effect of the economy inflation many of you know that we have a 40-year record Being set in terms of inflationary pressures as well as the stock market declining at the year end so when you put all these economic factors together giving actually overall giving fell however during the pandemic we set new records in terms of generosity so there’s both good news there to celebrate but also some challenges ahead as we navigate a lot of volatility and uncertainty not just here

(15:21) in the U.S in terms of our economy but in the global context so I want to make sure I understand it we raised more money than ever but giving in terms of across the board was down yes we did not keep it’s one way to think about it is we did not replace with inflation is a very simple way to put it I think most people know that uh our uh inflationary pressures have meant that when we go to the grocery store we’ve seen higher prices across the board so the economist to me would just say uh giving did not keep Pace with

(15:59) inflation and so that’s why we’re seeing uh that uh decline for 2022 however during those pandemic years we did set new records in terms of generosity so the numbers in 2022 have to be interpreted with all of that context that we had some record growth taking place during the pandemic and also that inflation and the stock market did have um an impact on the results for 2022 and for those who’ve been following the economy and listening to those uh caters I’m paying attention to all of those um

(16:37) both the good news and the bad news I think these numbers will resonate they won’t be that surprising okay so we know we have more money but less giving who are the winners where did we see okay we stayed the course or we even got a bump up then we’ll talk about the folks that weren’t so lucky okay so in general what we see is when we look at the cumulative picture and that’s important between 20 uh 2020 and 2022 in general total giving did go up but as as I mentioned when we adjust for inflation it didn’t keep Pace however uh

(17:15) where we actually saw the brightest spots are around corporate giving corporate giving um many of you know this corporations across the board did see overall increase in corporate profits on Aggregates of course not all companies are going to have this result but generally speaking we saw many companies step up in their generosity during the pandemic and even when we adjust for inflation this is looking over that two-year period 2020 to 2022.

(17:46) yes how did we do how did we uh how does the uh giving environment reflect all of the changes that we’ve seen so corporations really stand out as a White Spot because even after we adjust for inflation they’re still coming out ahead much of this is due to the increase in corporate pre-tax profits and the fact that many corporations leaned in to helping others during the community not just um health related but other types of racial and social justice giving and many other causes foundations are also a very bright spot in this year’s report even

(18:23) after we adjust for inflation looking over that two-year period Foundation giving also is still in the positive and the big uh reveal there is also that many foundations saw their um endowments increased right yes with the stock market growth and many of them increased their giving during the pandemic um relaxing payout rates in order to meet needs we saw not just large foundations but also small Family Foundation step up so for the non-profits and fundraisers who are paying attention we’ve emphasized that

(19:00) this is the time to really understand that full map of giving individual giving is still the Lion’s Share but foundations and corporations are an important part of the of the pie of the puzzle to figure out Okay so we’ve heard the bright spots who didn’t do so well as we look forward what what sectors really you know took a dip not even stay flat okay so that’s a good time to kind of turn our attention to changes in giving by destination this is where the giving goes and during the pandemic we know

(19:36) that a lot of non-profits found uh some success actually they saw that donors were giving more in response to the pandemic so 2022 if we look at those results once again over that two-year period the areas that seem to come out ahead in general when we look at that two-year period we’re really giving to International causes is one and here I will highlight that the warn Ukraine is a big factor there because many Americans have given to support the humanitarian efforts in Ukraine and keep in mind that is not just a one-year

(20:15) effort it has sort of unfortunately continued but we’ve also seen donors persist in their giving be consistent in their giving and similarly International Organization innovate in other words find new ways to motivate and Inspire donors including subscription-based giving Which has found some resonance in that sector similarly when we look over that two-year period uh giving to foundations in other words people giving to their own foundations has also grown during this time responding to the stock market

(20:50) and many of the other economic factors throughout the pandemic I will also stress that um giving to Human Services increased during the pandemic years and while we’ve seen some tapering off of that with the abatement and also not being front and center in the news Human Services as kind of a you know relatively maintained during this period so I will just mention that in general one other area that we’ve seen um some persistence over time in terms of the last few years is giving to religion where religious congregations

(21:32) as you know did have a harder time during the pandemic simply because people weren’t attending services but as um Services have resumed in-person events have resumed we’ve seen as some return of giving to religious congregation so the growth rate over the two-year period which is kind of the way of looking at who’s lost ground who’s gained ground right see it it’s a at least um not not such a pessimistic picture when we look at religious congregations what had what surprised you as you looked at this year you know this

(22:12) 2022 I guess is the tail end of quote-unquote pandemic before now we get post pandemic anything that jumped out to you and your team of wow that’s a surprise yes um here the biggest finding I think that has we’ve spent a lot of time on is the pie chart in the past individual giving has always been the largest slice and it still is however we’ve seen it shrink as a share of overall giving uh when giving USA started in the 50s 60s even the 70s individual giving was over 80 percent of all giving today that’s down to more

(22:57) like 64 percent um so what has changed is that foundations are now a bigger slice of the pie in fact 20 of all giving comes from foundations now I want to put this in context because as I mentioned individual giving is still the Lion’s Share of American philanthropy and if we were to add individuals half of family foundations and charitable because we still have that individual’s control something like 88 of all giving however it’s important for non-profits to understand that how individuals give is

(23:36) changing they have many more options many more vehicles to make those contributions and for the non-profit sector it’s important to understand that changing landscape and also the role that foundations play whether those are foundations that are managed by professional staff or foundations that are organized by families which means it’s important to build relationships with those two types and understand those differences as well and I believe last year was the first year that you had included was a Donor

(24:11) advised funds yes so this year we have a standalone chapter again on Donor advised funds and that is a place where we’re seeing more America there’s been a tremendous amount of growth in doing advice funds more Americans are using them we’re also seeing shifts on the institutional side where it used to be that only wealthy households could open up dafts well today we have no minimum dapps at banks at other types of Institutions that allow the donor to set those up and use them to fund their charitable interests causes and

(24:48) organizations once again I think the shift means that uh non-profits have to engage donors understanding that they can give from many different sources we’ve got it’s a huge package of stuff I would like for you to take kind of your crystal ball now knowing all this past knowing what came in this year what does this say to those of us toiling in the field of non-profits what do we take away and try to put into our friend and fundraising efforts yes there’s so much to digest in this year’s report I think the biggest

(25:29) takeaway is to understand that generosity is a core value for many Americans and that we’ve seen in tough times in uh good times but also in very difficult times Americans give as we navigate what happens in a world that’s so different from the one we knew even before covid I think it’s the takeaway here is that nonprofits are also going to have to adapt their methods their tools of Engagement to meet donors where they are and embedded in this report is the understanding that we’re dealing with significant shifts in the economy

(26:06) certainly but also in the American uh in American communities where we have a much more diverse donor Base by age by Race by ethnicity but also uh the causes that donors care about and so one takeaway from me as we look ahead 2023 I’m even looking ahead to 2024 we’re hearing a lot more about the risk of a downturn recession recessionary risks but also even with the inflation continues to be high even with the tapering off so for fundraisers and non-profits I think the main thing is while you can’t control the macro

(26:43) economy you are not the one setting policy around interest rates are inflationary uh policies however what you can control is your relationships with your donors yes and more importantly than ever technology is playing such an important role in how donors learn about non-profits how they engage with causes and how they get involved and during the last few months we released a report of the lily family school called what Americans think about philanthropy and non-profits the surprise there is that most households

(27:18) don’t know very much about non-profits and they don’t know very much about how they work so what that tells me me is in this era of information and so much available at our fingertips we’re going to have to work really hard to tell our story storytelling is very important this is coming from someone who’s a data person data is part of that data is part of telling the story but authentic communication and engagement is going to be really key with donors having of course more economic concerns

(27:50) to think about but also wanting those opportunities to engage with their Community we know that um during covet we saw an uptick in pro-social behavior and some of that is really still very much evident in our communities where people of all different backgrounds are looking for ways to get involved so the challenge and opportunity for non-profits in Kansas City and throughout the country is to tell their story to get their message out and also to find ways to authentic quickly build relationships with donors of all

(28:27) different backgrounds because the Common Thread what really unites us As Americans is this commitment to generosity and and this giving us a report emphasizes that point all right this is your couple of seconds to plug where we can go what website to learn more about the Lily School okay well first of all let me just say if you want to learn more about the Lilly Family School uh you can go to www.

(28:59) iupui dots lfsop.edu that’s certainly one place to go um the other place to go is the givingusa.org website because that giving USC Foundation is our partner in all these things and uh specifically if you’re interested in research we have a standalone website called generosityforlife.org that has all of the data about generosity everything you could possibly want to know at your fingertips so feel free to search that website as well we’re excited to share all of this information as you can see Dr osely thank you so much this has been

(29:36) a great conversation I know our audience has learned a whole lot about how this comes together and how they can use it so thank you for joining us it was my pleasure and honor and thank you and please uh feel free to reach out with any other questions you have thank you for joining us for KC cares Kansas City’s non-profit voice this KC care segment was brought to you by the Ewing Marion Kaufman Foundation www.kauffman.org.

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