THRIVERS is taking a short break during the summer and we're looking forward to releasing more episodes soon!

EP 13: Capacity Building 2.0 – Part 1: Building a Collaborative Learning Environment

January 12, 2023

Show Notes

“Capacity Building” is a phrase that gets tossed around quite a bit in the nonprofit world, but what does it really mean, and how do you know if it’s even working? 

Many capacity building models struggle with: 

  • Overvaluing the expertise of experts vs. the wisdom of nonprofit leaders 
  • Being one-off or transactional, rarely leading to real change within the whole organization
  • Often supporting or upholding traditional power structures and dynamics
  • Building the social capital of the nonprofit leaders across the community
  • Being too expensive – think one consultant for every nonprofit and each of their problems

We must find a more scalable, more efficient way to create real learning and build real capacity for nonprofit leaders. 

Enter Capacity Building 2.0… The next normal of capacity building. 

In the first episode of our new Capacity Building 2.0 series, Tucker and Sarah are joined by Mina Liebert, Kirk Woundy, and Rob Stennett to discuss a 360 degree view of the journey that THRIVE IMPACT has been on with Pikes Peak Community Foundation (PPCF) through our THRIVERS Collaborative Learning Community and Leadership Development program –  A co-funded project of the Resiliency Through Innovation Initiative.

This episode’s guests:

Mina Liebert – Director of Community Impact at the Pikes Peak Community Foundation

Kirk Woundy – Director of Strategy and Operations at NAMI Colorado Springs (National Alliance on Mental Illness)

Rob Stennett – Founder of Storyize

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Tucker: Welcome to Thrivers, nonprofit Leadership for the Next Normal. I am your host, Tucker Wannamaker, the CEO of THRIVE IMPACT. Our mission is to solve nonprofit leader burnout. Burnout is the enemy of creating positive change, and we want to connect you with impactful mission-driven leaders and ideas so that you can learn to thrive in today’s nonprofit.
I am joined today, as usual by my co-host, Sarah Fanslau, our Chief of Impact at THRIVE IMPACT. Sarah, always a delight to be with you.
Sarah: So excited for this conversation.
Tucker: Well, and we’re kicking off a series, I think that’s really close and near and dear to our own hearts, which is called Capacity Building 2.0, and really exploring what is this next normal of supporting nonprofit leaders.
What does this really mean to have capacity building? And it’s a series of what we’re learning through our journey with the Pikes Peak Community Foundation, the Resiliency through Innovation Fund, and our THRIVERS Collaborative Learning Community and Leadership Development program. And so today we’re gonna give you a 360 degree view of the process that we’re in, really what we’re learning, what we’re going through and from multiple different angles here.
This has been a collaborative effort. I hope so, because collaboration was in the title there. And so today I’m excited to introduce some of our guests here today. We have one voice, a very important voice, from the community foundation side, from the Pikes Peak Community Foundation.
We have Mina Liebert. She is the Director of Community Impact at the Pikes Peak Community Foundation. Mina, it is so great to have you on the podcast today.
Mina Liebert: Thank you. I’m excited to share our work.
Tucker: Well, and I’m so grateful for the work that you’re doing. You know I love… On your website you have this phrase, which is, community is in our middle name, and you’re putting community back into the community foundation.
And not that it hasn’t been there, but this is really core to the work that we do at the community foundation, and you’ve been doing that through really cool innovations, like building a space to bring the funding community and nonprofit leaders together through something called the Philanthropy Collective. Is that right? That’s what it’s called?
Mina: Yes. We’ve just been there almost a year, and it’s exciting. It’s a space for our funding community and our nonprofit partners to be able to come together and identify opportunities to collaborate funding wise and otherwise.
Tucker:. I love it. That’s great. Mina. We also have a voice from the nonprofit leader side in Kirk Woundy. I’m so excited to have you. You’re the director of Strategy and Operations at NAMI in Colorado Springs, which NAMI , for those of you who don’t know, is the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Kirk, it is such a joy to have you on this podcast today.
Kirk Woundy: Yeah, thanks for having me, Tucker. I’m happy to be here.
Tucker: I know you’ve been in the trenches really deeply in the trenches of responding to the deeper mental health needs, especially in this post COVID world. And how do you make mental health less stigmatized, more accessible to all, especially in the Colorado Springs region. So thank you for your work and really great to have your wisdom and your voice here on this podcast.

Kirk: Appreciate the opportunity.

Tucker: Yeah, it’s great to have you. And also from the building of this program side, the THRIVERS side, from the community and workshop building side, we have Rob Stennett. He is the founder of Storyize. As well as we also have, of course, as I mentioned, my co-host, Sarah Fanslau.
Rob, I know that you are a master storyteller, first of all, and I so appreciate that you even helped us launch this podcast back in the day and figuring out how the heck do we put all this together? Rob, I love the work that you do and you have such a storied career—not, I guess maybe that was a pun intended—storied career around telling stories and videos and productions for National Geographic.
You and I and our team have done a documentary before on early childhood education in D.C. that was such a fun project. Rob. I’m so grateful to have you here as a part of the podcast.
Rob Stennett: I had to double check that I was in the right place because there’s so many amazing thought leaders on this episode. I was like, am I, am I really supposed to be here? This is like the who’s who. And so if you’re listening right now, buckle up. You’re in for a treat.
Tucker: Oh, that’s great. Well let’s kick this off. Mina, I want to go to you first and talk about this phrase that we use, it gets tossed around a lot in the nonprofit world, “capacity building”. And I’m really curious from your perspective, what do you even think is the next normal of capacity building from your perspective as this work that you’ve been doing as a part of the community foundation? Maybe we can define this a little bit and help people understand what do we even mean by this? Love to hear your thoughts on that

Mina: Yeah, so I think interpretation wise, capacity is really how we’re helping organizations to be at their best. And if we’re thinking about what that means, it’s interpretive. It means so many different things to so many different people, so many different organizations and what their needs are. So the word capacity from the Pikes Peak Community Foundation and through the work that we are doing through resiliency, through innovation, it’s really about meeting organizations where they’re at, identifying and trying to understand what common themes we have heard. We started with this process of assessing and, and providing some report type information, a point in time response. And we saw that there were some themes that came about, and the themes related to what that means in capacity is how we build strong leaders morale. And over the last two plus years has been very much an up and down space and how do we continue to motivate the people, the teams that are part of our organizations, so that they do their best work, they come at their work with their best selves, with their whole selves.

So identifying capacity could be along the lines of, we need board member support and we need to figure out how to re-engage our boards. It could be we just have some technological needs in order to balance this whole remote working hybrid space. It could be that you’re trying to figure out your personnel. You had to make some shifts and changes, and how do we maximize the needs of what our organization needs at this point in time in order to be the most impactful for the community that we’re serving.
So capacity has really been an evolving space, evolving word. And at the community foundation, we’ve really tried to listen to our nonprofit partners and figure out how we can best support them. And it’s not a cookie cutter, everybody fits in the same box or as the same space.

Tucker: Well, and your work at the community foundation, what Pikes Peak Community Foundation has done is you—again, similar, the philanthropy collective—you brought together a collective of funders through a fund called The Resiliency Through Innovation. And I know that you had started that at the beginning of COVID of like, we need to be able to figure out how do we help build the capacity of the nonprofits and meet them where they’re at. That seemed to be exactly what you were trying to do. So this fund has been there for two and a half years now or so. What’s been the overview and evolution of this over the last few years that you’ve been doing this?
Mina: Yeah, it’s been an interesting, somewhat reactionary, somewhat proactively responding, a number of different approaches that we’ve tried to take. And it all started when our March 20 shut down of the world essentially occurred. Our funding philanthropic community had to figure out how to quickly respond to the needs of our nonprofit sector, especially those that were in direct service. So we were able to build out a very quick process to be able to get nonprofit partners to apply for direct service dollars and get those dollars into organizations on the ground quickly. We responded within less than a week after our initial shutdown on that Friday in March.

Tucker: Wow.

Mina: But what happened is we saw that we were not able to address a lot of the other needs. We were trying to figure out what are organizations… where are organizations at? If they’re serving the public, what are they gonna need? Are they gonna need personal protective equipment? Are they going to need, again, technological needs because they’re working remotely, they’re working offsite not within their building. So how are we accommodating and figuring out how to manage that? So over time, this Resiliency Through Innovation initiative was what was evolving as a result of identifying different types of needs. Not only how we’re serving the communities that are target populations, but how we’re actually helping our organizations be sustainable for the long term. And we saw this as a trajectory of how we’re getting to really this point in time, now. At the time we didn’t see a lot of the funding world coming together from a federal perspective.
So things like the loan processes for idle or the PPP paycheck protection programs, they weren’t launching until later that year. So we were trying to figure out how we could assess and hypothesize, taking a hypothesis of where organizations are gonna be, they had to shut down fundraisers, they had to shut down, in-person events, things that might be their needs to be able to address their revenue and generation and everything. So resiliency was really just that first step into figuring out where organizations are at. And from there we then took this opportunity to say, how can we then provide very hands-on technical assistance, for lack of better terminology, for our organizations to be able to get them to a place where they feel like they can be more sustainable. That they feel supported beyond just their programmatic needs. I think programs are what people see on the outside, but the infrastructure and that capacity that happens within organizations, that’s what’s really critical for the day-to-day operations to continue to occur. And if that’s cracking at the seams, if your foundation essentially is cracking at the seams, then there’s no way that you can do this long-term without negative or long-term ramifications. So that was a lot of the evolution. So trying to be somewhat responsive and reactive, but then also thinking about that long term.
How do we keep our organizations that are in the business of doing whatever it is they’re doing to continue to do that, if that makes sense. But also giving the space to evolve and do—or narrow—do the focus that makes sense for their organization and also see where there’s partnerships and collaboration opportunities. Because that was another element of resiliency. Collaboration is one of those things that we always encourage and say is really necessary. But it is so, so difficult without all these other factors like mission creep or egos that come into play.
Tucker: Well, and that’s where, before I go over to you, Kirk, I want to explore that with you in terms of your experience so far in this.
But Mina, in the evolution of over the last couple years of the Resiliency Through Innovation fund, you ultimately made a little bit of a pivot perhaps into working with us and building a collaborative learning community. And I’m just curious, why was that important to you? Why did you choose, and why did the community foundation choose to go down this path of building a collaborative learning community instead of, maybe I could say, a traditional consultant based approach? Why was that the case for you and why was this important.
Mina: Yeah, I think we tried that in the 1.0 version of resiliency. We tried to do some very hands-on tailored technical assistance, whatever the organization needs. And that’s still something that’s really important and relevant. But as we were digging into the data—Sarah’s graciously helping me do that—and hearing themes, we saw that things like leadership development and revenue generation, if you go into that fundraising space, those were things that were consistently over and over those same areas of need from a capacity building standpoint. So thinking about it from a perspective of as a funder and a co-funding model, bringing together maybe its individual funders, smaller family foundations, in addition to our private foundations and our community foundation, we were trying to figure out how we could best leverage our philanthropic dollars to be able to support as many organizations as possible. So building out this 2.0 version with THRIVE IMPACT, it’s been more of how we build a network of partners, individuals, organizations that are participating in this through a, basically a peer learning model with the intention to say that if we were to remove the funding element, if we were to remove the THRIVE IMPACT element, there’s still a network of peers that know each other. Feel comfortable with one another. And can connect with one another even after we are stepping away from this particular Resiliency Through Innovation effort. So that peer learning element has been so critical for growth and for just connections that are maybe not sector-based. Because a lot of our organizations, they may have heard of one another, they have maybe seen each other’s organizations, but they’ve never actually connected on a human level. So this has built that opportunity in addition to then also being able to engage other individuals in the organization, but not necessarily the leader—the CEO or the executive director—but still professional development needs to span across the entire organization. And sometimes financially that’s not feasible for a small to mid-size organization. So this is another tool or resource that helps actually build a lot of that connection and then helps those that are in more of the maybe day-to-day operations role versus the leadership roles, the ability to still engage and learn and grow.
Sarah: I love this piece around building social capital. If the rest of us went away, the maintenance of relationships that could be supported regardless, I think is really important. And to your point, folks may be in the same sector in the same place and not know each other. We ask that question directly of the participants in our pre-assessment and we found just that. The level of knowledge around the organizations was high. But the level of knowledge around the individuals was low. And so I really loved this piece of being able to say, you may know of NAMI, but did you know Kirk? Did you know Lori? Did you know, Patience at Food to Power and really creating the opportunities for those one-to-one and individual connections to occur.
Mina: Yeah. And it builds maybe those non-traditional collaborations, right? Like how can a food justice organization actually support how to connect with mental health resources. It’s maybe not a first thought, but it could be that secondary tertiary that still is just as critical.
Tucker: And I’m also appreciating too, Mina, you’re sharing about going beyond just the heads of the organization. While EDs of course need support and leadership… I remember the first time—and I think we were talking with Scott over the Colorado Springs Conservatory—and when we talked to him about this is open to your whole staff, like the whole staff can get leadership development and skills training. I mean, it was like the light went on. He was like, “Oh, yes. Yes, please.” And it seemed like there was a clear need there around going beyond just the ED.
Mina: Yeah, I mean, at the end of the day, from, again, just a funder perspective, we’re creating some efficiencies that help to still bring the same resources to more individuals, to more organizations and, and potentially create a model that helps to think about capacity building just differently.We think about how we’re sustaining our organizations, but are we investing in the people that actually keep the organizations running?
Tucker: Yeah. Well I love this, but Kirk, I wanna come to you because you’re actually in it and we can have all these fun hypotheses and we definitely have data and we we’re doing a lot of listening. You’re a nonprofit leader. You’re the Director of Strategy and Operations at NAMI in Colorado Springs. And I wanna hear just directly from you, why was this important for you in the first place and for NAMI to be a part of this type of program? But then I wanna dig in a little bit. What has been your lived experience around the Impact into Story Energizer as an example, but in some of the things that you’ve learned and grown in so far.
But why was this important for you, Kirk, in the first place as you reflect back ahead of time before we even started this why was this something that you were all like, “Yeah, we gotta do this. This is important.”
Kirk: Well, I think for us, this whole RTI journey as Mina mentioned, started in the throes of the first real wave of COVID and we like everybody else were just freaked out. Just like, what does this mean? What does it mean programmatically? What does it mean from a fundraising standpoint? What does it mean for what our organization’s going to look like or focus on, for the next year, two years, five years. So the opportunity to connect with an organization, like Pikes Peak Community Foundation, which said, “Hey, come with us. Let’s solve this stuff together. Let’s work on this together. Let’s find out more about what you might need together.” Was just really reassuring, I think. And then, as the pandemic went on and we started to get a sense that we would be, eventually, okay. You know, that we were gonna make it through with the help of some of what Mina mentioned, those PPP funds, some ARPA funding. You know, it was like, okay, maybe what we can do now is to figure out what we should do with these resources, like how to position ourselves in a way that we’re able to meet some mental health needs that we didn’t necessarily expect to be tackling so soon or in this way.
And so, we have actually been in the really fortunate position to add some positions and make some hires and, think about a 2.0 or 3.0, 5.0, for our 40 year old organization. See what NAMI could and should be for the next few years. And and for us, I think it’s been wanting to be able to show up for the people that—as leaders—to be able to show up for the people we’re working with, for the people we’ve brought on, the people who’ve, trusted in us to have a good and rewarding work opportunity and to make a difference in the community. So that I think was the last piece for us and with this most recent RTI initiative was really just making sure we felt like we could fill our cup so that we could be there for our employees and then also for the community.
Tucker: So it sounds like… I love what you just said there at the end too. We like to say create impact from the inside out. How do we fill our cup? And it sounds like why this newest edition of the RTI program, which is our THRIVER program at THRIVE IMPACT, that was a piece of how do we… It sounds like that was a piece of we need to fill our own cup, really grow individually within ourselves within our team. That was the piece that sounded like the most compelling component of this.
Kirk: Yeah. And it’s been cool because, as was mentioned earlier, we have been able to bring people in from other parts of the organization. So we added someone as a communications coordinator this summer to have her be able to come alongside me and have the two of us go through the Story To Impact initiative with THRIVE IMPACT has been great. It’s been something we’ve been able to tackle together and talk about outside of the sessions that we’ve had with everybody else. And that’s been, I think, a really invaluable opportunity, especially because things get really busy. You don’t often take that time to think big picture within your organization. I know for us, we had a big fundraising walk event in October and then, that was over and we looked up and it was end of year fundraising season
And so it’s like, okay, we’ve gotta put together this campaign and send out a postcard and work on the mailer. And so, to have time that’s dedicated to sort of thinking more holistically about what we want to do and who we want to be. And to do it together has been a real gift.
Tucker: Well I wanna dig into that. So just for the sake of the listeners, as a part of this series, the big piece that has finished so far in this program has been a three-part workshop process called The Impact Into Story Energizer. And I’m gonna have Rob and Sarah share a little bit cause they were the real key factors involved in putting together that workshop series. But Kirk, to what you were just sharing, what was it that you loved about that part of this THRIVER process? You already started talking about that with you and your communications person. As you reflect back to that workshop series, from a skills perspective, from a community building perspective, what were some of the things that you loved and you really took away from that? And also what, if anything, what was challenging, what was a little different than you were used to, or maybe what’s something that surprised you about it?
Kirk: Well, I think probably the most challenging piece honestly was being in there with peers. People that I really think extremely highly of in the local nonprofit community and being vulnerable with them. Being put on the spot and saying, okay, come up with a few ideas for what you might do for a storytelling initiative or approach in just a few minutes and feeling like, okay, I know these people are gonna come up with great ideas, can I hang? But that was also one of the best parts of it was being in that space, that dedicated space with these people who we operate in the same circles, but we don’t often get a chance to really like talk with and learn from on a deep level. And then, as far as like what we really took from it, having Rob there to sort of talk through the stakes intervention transformation model.
Tucker: Nailed it. That was great.
Rob: I’m so proud. I’m so proud you got that.

Kirk: To see someone break it down that way. These are things that you understand, at least coming from a journalism background, that’s not an arc that I’m unfamiliar with, but having it be emphasized and also broken down in a really understandable way to where you can sort of identify the specific components and say, “Okay, here’s what that would look like for us.” And having the opportunity within those sessions to, to actually try it out. You know, it was really just really helpful. It was, I think, refreshing for us to have other folks look at what we do and say, “Here’s where I think the impact might be”, or, “Here’s what I think of your potential for talking about transformation.”
We’ve taken that into our end of year campaign that we’re in the throes of right now. It’s a lens through which I’m looking at most everything that we put out there. And Kelly, our communications coordinator too. So the timing was great. The community was great and the experience overall was just what we needed at this time of year.
Sarah: I love, Kirk, that I got to participate in a few of our breakout spaces, or what we call wisdom circles, with your new staff member on communication. And she, one of the things for the listener that we had folks do as part of this three-part series is first folks put together a logic model to say, how do all the pieces fit together? And then translated that into story and created actual decks. And so I was in the wisdom circle with your staff member, and at first she was like, “I’m so new, I don’t think I know what the story is.” And then she brought up her deck and I was like, “Well, you just nailed it.” Being able to see her walk in feeling a little like, I don’t know if I know what I’m doing. And then with a peer and me in that room, she really shared and upgraded her story and was able to provide some fantastic advice to another community member who was feeling similarly.
Like, I don’t know if I’ve got this. And so one of the things I feel like I saw, at least in that staff member was some increase in confidence and self-efficacy around, “Hey, you know what? I can do this. Maybe I do know more than I think. Maybe I’ve got something to say here.” And so I wanted to ask, did you see that as well from your side, that increase in confidence or self-efficacy around the ability to tell the story and understand what it is?
Kirk: For sure, yeah. Our organization’s pretty small. And so, we have good conversations where people are encouraged to share their thoughts, even if it’s outside of their bail week, so to speak. But sometimes it can feel like… Okay, so Kelly and I are the communications team. And then Laurie, our Executive Director, has a lot of experience in marketing. So the three of us for the most part can feel pretty competent with these things, but there are sometimes when you can’t help but think, “Are we just an echo chamber? Saying yeah, of course that’s a great idea, you come up with great ideas all the time. Let’s go with it.” So to have outside validation, and again, within a community that is as sort of accomplished and intelligent as the one that Mina and her team put together and that you guys brought around the table. It just doesn’t happen very often and I do think that it can provide a real reassurance that, okay, we really do know what we’re doing. Even if sometimes we feel like maybe we didn’t sort of execute perfectly or we should have thought of X, Y, and Z. It’s like, no, we’re where we should be.
Mina: Yeah. But you know what though, just from the other side of things and seeing what’s happening, especially. NAMI is a great example of an organization that’s embracing and taking the opportunities that are shared and actually bringing your team and therefore the organization into a different space. You’re thinking about things differently. You’re using these tools and resources that we’re trying to provide and maximizing that in order to engage and continue to keep your board excited to expand the programs that you have and to really think thoughtfully. I mean even your role Kirk has evolved over the last two years because you’ve identified the things that you really, really need in order to be successful as an organization. And also then what that looks like for succession planning long term.
Kirk: Sure, yeah. We’ve gotten a lot out of the entire RTI process and certainly our board has been a part of that as well. And I think for them, knowing that we’re in constant communication with thought leaders in this space, in the nonprofit space is also reassuring because a lot of these folks, they’re coming to a mental health organization from somewhere totally different, from business or finance or even a large healthcare organization in some ways, is really different from a grassroots nonprofit like NAMI that works in mental health. So, I think it’s also been really good for them to understand that we’ve got this community of, again, really intelligent, driven, motivated people, helping to inspire and guide us.
Rob: Mm. Kirk your answer is so encouraging because there are two primary problems that I see with nonprofit storytelling over and over again.
One is it’s a small team that does it. It’s like one person that’s like, “Hey, you’re the story guy. Go do it all.” Versus like, different people sharing it and carrying it together. Like the strongest stories have more voices coming in, more people thinking about it. And so I love that you come to this workshop, not just with you, but with someone else. And I think anyone who’s listening, I would encourage you, don’t outsource story to one person. Own it together. Carry it together. That’s really powerful. And then two, the thing that happens is, that echo chamber factor where it’s like, okay, one or two people, and you say the same thing and you slap a new font on and you, put a new background color on it and you’re like, okay, we’ve got a new compelling story. And it’s like, ah, that’s not it. Let’s break it down and let’s tell it. And yeah, it’s intimidating to share it with a group of people who are like, “Okay, these people don’t know me, they don’t know if I’m any good”, but wow, what a gift. It’s better to have that gift with a group of small people than roll out a whole campaign that flops that didn’t work, that didn’t hit.
And so to me, I’d much rather a bad October than a bad December, you know? And so that’s part of what this is, and that’s part of what I love about the THRIVE model, is this idea of okay, well let’s iterate on this and let’s go and sharpen it.
Tucker: I love that. Thank you Rob. Well let’s unpack this a little bit. Just for sake of time, Sarah, real quick, high level, cause this is a series, there’s so much to get into around capacity Building 2.0. But at a real high level, when we’re talking about building a collaborative learning community in a leadership development type program, what are we really talking about here? What are some of the factors underneath the hood and why do they matter for the next normal of capacity building?
Sarah: Yeah, I’m just gonna hit one piece here, which is that really at the base of our work, and particularly this work around capacity building, is experiential learning models. This was Kolb, who is a social scientist and education pioneer, really is at the base of the experiential learning model. And that model has four core components that we see come to life in our work. It includes concrete experiences, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation. And we put all of those things into our work as part of the Impact Into Story Energizer and the other pieces that are part of THRIVERS, because what the data shows around the experiential learning model is that it does two things. One, it increases participant satisfaction, and two, it increases learning gains. And so as we think about the why of this approach, you see a lot of education going here. The sit and get is out, y’all. It’s dead. If you’re still sitting and getting, change it up. And so we are leveraging the techniques that are at the forefront of how people are reimagining education in general. And they’re doing it because ultimately our goal is to support better learning and improved satisfaction. And that is really at the heart of the experiential learning model.
Tucker: Ooh, I can’t wait to unpack that even more in the next episode on this series. Sarah, thank you for bringing that in. And Rob, to you, you’ve been teaching storytelling for so long. You’ve worked with us in our work as well. How have you seen this content come alive in a different way through this experiential learning type of model?
Rob: I think what I love is with nonprofits, so many of them don’t realize that they have such a powerful gift in story. I’ve done work with shoe companies, I’ve done work with coffee companies, I’ve done work with soda companies, and they’re like, okay, we’ve got a powerful story about soda. And I’m like, you’re a nonprofit who’s on the front lines of changing humanity, of dealing with mental health, of dealing with the marginalized. You have real stories. And so Nike and Pepsi come out and feel like they have the great stories and I’m like, stop it. They don’t, you Nonprofit leaders are on the front lines of great stories. And when I see that click and people… For whatever reason I’ve seen story be intimidating, but when it goes from intimidating to empowering, that’s my favorite thing, where it’s like, “Oh, we actually do have something amazing happening and we have something amazing to say.”
Tucker: I love that, Rob. And it’s true, there’s so much there. There’s so much gold. And it’s sometimes still in the mine, right? We need to actually mine it out. And you know what? What have you noticed in—you and Sarah collaborated a lot on this particular workshop series—what did you notice how this content was able to really get extracted from the mine? And also what was challenging about putting together a workshop process like this versus ones you’ve done before.
Rob: Well, I think Sarah and I would encourage you to go listen to other podcasts that she’s done about impact. Your story starts with your impact of really making a difference. And so that was a little different. Even the ones that I’ve been a part of in the past. It’s like, what is the difference that you’re trying to make? What’s your logic model? How are you trying to do it? And so, basing in that you’re not just telling stories of nice, happy things. You’re like, no, you’re telling a story of significant change. And so you have to understand what that change is that you’re making, how you make it, how you quantify it. And then story is just a way that you emotionally make it make sense. And so to me that’s what was powerful about it.
Tucker: Hmm. Like grounding it in the impact. Yeah, we like to say, a dear mentor of mine, Bill Millikin, who’s the founder of Communities In Schools used to say, “We’ve got to move from charity into change.” And how many of us are telling program stories and not impact stories, as an example. And it sounds like having that impact first into story like really was a shift and a really positive shift around how to create this type of impact for the workshop.
Rob: Yeah. So many people at the end of the year, it’s like, oh, we need stories. Where’s our stories? Where’s our stories? Which is the wrong question. The question is, “Where’s our impact? What impact are we making? And then how do we tell a story about that?” And I think the challenge is just like this stuff is simple and it’s complicated, and so just helping people wade through that complexity. And again, a finite amount of time, just, okay, we’re gonna teach you about it. And you know, Kirk said it, all right, we’re gonna teach you about it now go do it. And it’s like, whoa, wait. You want me to actually create something? Like I just met these people in a zoom room a half hour ago and now I’m having to build something up and share it.
And so that feels intimidating sometimes. That feels challenging. And as a facilitator, you can see the looks on people’s faces where they’re like, “Wait, you want me to do what?” And it’s like, okay. Take a deep breath, you can do this. And then on the other side of the challenge, to me, that’s where the gold is. When people go and step out and create something, it’s, and then they’re like, oh wow, there is something here. That’s what I love.
Sarah: Hmm. I have to share two of my favorite moments that go a little bit to, Rob, what you’re talking about. One is, when we think about the logic model, the point is what? What is both the short-term or the intermediate change? And then what’s a long-term change? What happens in the community as a result of this work in the long game. That’s the transformation. But a lot of times we tell stories about our program instead of, to your point, the people who are transformed by them and what is made possible for them. So one of the things, Rob, I love that you did, he took that stakes intervention transformation framework and may ask people to do it about one person that had gone through their program. And another participant said, reminding us that we’re not the hero, the organization is not the hero of the story, was transformational. And I love that because it gets back to the impact. The impact is not on the organization. It’s on the individuals that the organization is able to transform. And then the second moment I loved was—Kirk, you were up there as part of this—you all went into rapid breakout rooms.
You shared that individual story and then you came out and shared somebody else’s story, and I think you were sharing, maybe it was Christie’s or Sarah from Kono. I forget which one, but the sharing of somebody else’s story I thought was so powerful because it was made possible by somebody being able to condense their story into literally 30 seconds or less, share it with somebody and then have that person share it in a compelling manner, and be able to see and learn from the transformation of somebody else’s story is what I really saw happen as a result.
Rob: Well, as nonprofit leaders, that’s the most powerful thing we can do is equip other people to share our story. It’s not just us, it’s not just our staff, but the people who are impacted are like, oh, I can tell you a story. Here’s what it is.
Sarah: And I can walk away and say, I can tell the story of, of NAMI or Christie or Cono in one sentence after that literal 20 minutes in that workshop, through the eyes of one person.
Kirk: Yeah. And when it sounds good, when your story sounds good coming out of somebody else’s mouth and you’re like, okay, we do have something here.
Sarah: Totally!
Tucker: Pure learning model right there. That’s awesome. All right, well, hey, I wanna wrap up this episode. Again, we have so many things that we could get into, but we went a little high level around capacity building when we went down deeper altitude wise down into the workshop. Part of the process that we’ve been doing… We have a lot of other components, of course, of this whole THRIVER model that we’re gonna unpack with, with Mina and what we’ve been learning. But from your perspective I want to end with this. What are one to two practical steps you would give or advice maybe that you’ve already learned by going through this whole process? So, Mina, if you’re talking to other community foundation leaders, for example, what would you tell them. Kirk, other nonprofit leaders like yourself, what would you tell them? And advice you would give them, maybe that would be advice you would’ve given yourself as you when you started this process. And Rob and Sarah, same for you that you would give to nonprofit community foundation leaders wanting to invest in this type of an approach.
Mina: I’ll say that it’s, it’s really important to think about how nonprofits are going to come together, and we have different opportunities. Now, I know virtual is not always ideal, but it’s a way in which we can still connect and it makes it a lot easier. It reduces the burden of travel time. It reduces so that from a budgetary perspective, it makes it more accessible. And I think that’s the biggest thing is if you’re creating opportunities for accessible learning. And in a peer environment, you’re actually going to be able to engage more people. I know it’s difficult to also say at the same time, no, I’m just not gonna turn it on today. We get that. We get that, but it’s an opportunity to say, if you are committed to this work, if you are committed to building a stronger organization, increasing the morale of your team, or you know, trying to learn something new, why not step into a space like this? And from an efficiency standpoint, going back to that, it makes the investment financially much more appealing because you’re reaching so many more audiences, whether it be against staff, people, and organizations. And that just builds a stronger, pure learning network overall.
Tucker: That’s great. Thank you. Mina. Who else? Kirk, you wanna go?
Kirk: Yeah, I think what I would say is the knee-jerk reaction that a lot of folks are probably gonna have upon getting an opportunity like this is, “Yeah, it’s great, but I don’t know if I can fit it in.” And it’s something that even once you sort of take the plunge and say, “Okay, we’re gonna do it”, you can still feel in a given day like, “Oh man, I wish I had these two hours back. I wish I wasn’t in this meeting this morning.” But it’s so important to spend that time. I think this whole series that we’ve been talking about, the workshop of the energizer that we did with you guys and with Rob, took six hours. We’ve probably spent collectively a good 20 hours so far putting together our end of the year fundraising campaign. And the six hours that we spent with you has influenced, I think, positively everything we’ve done within those 20 hours. And it should also positively influence the return on that investment of time in, when we look at the donations that we’re able to attract for this end of year campaign. So I guess I would just encourage as much as it’s possible, non-profit leaders to think about the long game and to realize that a smaller investment of time now can make a big difference later. Plus, it’s just always good to be in a space, again, with really intelligent people. You never know what you’re gonna come out with. So, as difficult as it might seem in the moment, trust the process. Trust the people you’re with, and I think good things will follow.

Tucker: Hmm, that’s great, Kirk, thanks.

Rob: Yeah, I wanna piggyback off what Kirk said and say I started doing CrossFit about three months ago, and when I started doing it, every time I would drive to the gym, I’d be like, “Oh, I don’t feel like going. Like, there’s so many other things I can do. I know this is gonna be hard. This is out of my comfort zone.” And then every time I drive home, I’m like, “That was such time well spent.” And I think that’s what we’re talking about, these capacity building exercises. It’s things that are like, “Okay, this is hard. This is out of my comfort zone. I’m not used to it.” But then when it’s over, you’re like, “That was so much better than I thought it would be, and I’m stronger and better now.” And so I just love what Kirk said because it is worth that investment. It is worth that investment in yourself and in relationships outside of your network. And we’re nonprofit and we’re people people. We care about other human beings and what a thing to be able to come with different people and learn from them, and that’s going to grow, that’s gonna make you feel less stagnant. That’s gonna make you feel more passionate about what you do.
Sarah: Yeah. And I think for me, one of the big things I feel like I’ve learned goes back to the beginning when we were doing the pre-research before we even started and talked to some of the folks about what they had found useful previously and what they had struggled with. And one of the things I was struck with is that a lot of folks in part because of Kirk’s comment, may get some information and not know what to do with it until they’re able to digest it and really think about what it means and what and what to do with it. And so, we try to leverage data and teaching techniques and support digestion in the room so that people then aren’t left with the, “You’ve just given me the information. I don’t know what to do with it.” And so I think combining the information and the teaching with the time to figure out what to do with it is really important. And I think we’re seeing some of that be born out positively in the work we’re doing.
Tucker: I love that. Yeah. An efficiency of learning. Somebody called it sticky. It’s sticky. Well, hey y’all, thank you so much for just being so engaged in this podcast conversation. We’re gonna have show notes below some more information about what we’re even doing collectively with the Pikes Peak Community Foundation, our THRIVER model, their Resiliency Through Innovation Fund, and just what we’re learning.
So hopefully you tune into more of the episodes around this particular series around Capacity Building 2.0. Kirk, Mina, Rob, Sarah, thank you for being here today and look forward to the next episode. Have a wonderful day, y’all. Thank you.
Kirk: Thanks, Tucker. Thanks, Sarah.
Mina: Thank you so much.