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KC Current Provides Access To Sports For All in Kansas City

Ben Aken| Vice President

KC Cares interviews Ben Aken, Vice President of the KC Current, Kansas City’s newest sports team. They have three pillars that focus on community involvment. 1) Access to Sports for All: They believe that all children should have the opportunity to dream big and aspire to the same achievements as their players. 2) Inspiring Bold Ambition: They want girls and young women to have visibility to roles where women have traditionally been underrepresented, and in fields they may not have previously considered. 3) Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion – In elevating the community and all those within it, they believe it is essential that they use their platform and the power of sports to support diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

visit them here: https://www.kccurrentstadium.com/our-story#commitment-to-community

 

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[Transcript]

00:00:00:09 – 00:00:22:03
RUTH
Welcome to KC Cares, Kansas City’s nonprofit voice. We’re telling the stories of Kansas City nonprofits and the people behind them. KC Cares is the intersection of the nonprofit and other communities making Kansas City a better place to live, work and play. This KC Cares segment is brought to you by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. WW W.K. Kauffman dot org.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Elevate Metro KC Building Relationships with Urban Youth

ELEVATE METRO KC

Chris Jehle | Executive Director

Building long-term, life-changing relationships with urban youth, equipping them to thrive and contribute to their community.

visit them here: www.elevatemetrokc.org

 

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Bridge Leadership Academy Nonprofit Youth Leadership Development

BRIDGE LEADERSHIP ACADEMY

Kisha Briggs|Founder & CEO

The mission of the Bridge Leadership Academy is to foster forward-thinking progressive leaders through character-based development, educational, personal and professional discovery and a commitment to serve the community.

visit them here: https://www.bridgeleadershipacademy.com/

 

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Tyreek Hill Family Foundation Kansas City Nonprofit

THE TYREEK HILL FAMILY FOUNDATION

Tyreek Hill|Founder

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kansas City Nonprofit aSTEAM Village Community Based Project Learning

aSTEAM Village

William Wells| Executive Director

Inspire students and families to pursue education and career pathways in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM), through community-based project learning and innovative programs.

visit them here: asteamvillage.org

 

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Xseed in Life Kansas City Nonprofit visits KC Cares

Xseed in Life

Anthony Dedmon| Board Member

Xseed in Life™ aims to plant seeds of education, motivation, and training into the urban community. By redefining identity, establishing jobs, developing environmental changes, enhancing social skills, and work ethic we will mentor and nurture these seeds, assisting in the growth the economy in the Greater Metropolitan Area of Kansas City. XSeed in Life™ is a community based organization of professionals, educators, and business owners, who came together for the purpose of evolving the urban population. They strive to provide early intervention and prevention services through the mentoring relationship to youth and young adults who are at risk of educational failure, teen pregnancy, truancy and juvenile delinquency.

xseedinlife.org

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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.

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

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