EP 16: Capacity Building 2.0 – Part 2: Go Beyond One-Off Trainings to Create Systemic Change

February 23, 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 systemic 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 second episode of our new Capacity Building 2.0 series, Tucker and Sarah are joined by Mina Liebert and Scott Marble to discuss “tent-pole” workshops and how utilizing them has the power to introduce systemic shifts within the organization more easily than the traditional one-off, transactional capacity building model.

It’s time to think beyond individual, one-off trainings as the best way to affect change within your organization. Instead, consider bringing members of the organization and board together to create a “tent-pole” workshop that enables your team to co-create organizational strategies alongside each other. As a nonprofit leader, involving team members in this way takes the burden of figuring out how to communicate learnings back to the organization off of your shoulders and drastically increases team buy-in. 

This episode’s guests:

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

Scott Marble – Chief Operating Officer – Colorado Springs Conservatory

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Transcript

Tucker: Welcome to THRIVERS, nonprofit Leadership for the Next Normal. I am your host, Tucker Wanamaker, the CEO of THRIVE IMPACT. Our mission is to solve nonprofit leader burnout. We believe that 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.
Today, as usual, I’m joined by our Chief of Impact, the one and only Sarah Fanslau. Where’s the drummer? Roll drummer.

Sarah: Hey, Tucker. Great to be here.

Tucker: It’s, you know, this is a series Sarah, that we’ve been learning into, with the Pikes Peak Community Foundation. And I’ll introduce Mina here in just a minute, as well as our other guest, Scott. But, you know, I’ve, it’s been such a fascinating journey of really trying to unpack what is capacity building really. And, you know, I keep thinking about this phrase that has come up multiple times in conversations we’ve had, which is the old Hippocratic Oath of “do no harm.” And, sometimes I’ve been curious about when these capacity-building efforts sometimes do harm, when yet it was still trying to do good work, but yet actually didn’t necessarily create the right conditions. The space of how, you know, really reflecting on how can capacity building make sure and not do harm and actually build the capacity of the organizations. And so, you know, this has been a really fascinating conversation. Any reflections for you, Sarah, just right off the bat before we hop into our conversation with our guests on this work around capacity building?
Sarah: Yeah, capacity building is definitely a hot topic right now. I think in the nonprofit and the philanthropic sectors. A lot of the newsletters and journal articles coming into my inbox right now are around this topic and this subject. I think in part because, you know, at the root of some of the older approaches are pieces like there’s an expert that knows better than the people that are getting the knowledge, right? There’s some with knowledge and some without, and it’s exacerbated in some places by existing power dynamics, as well as I think in many places, just putting the nonprofit as the other who needs the help, rather than positioning them as the experts that they are and engaging folks in continued conversation about growth and change as part of a larger community. And so, I think, you know, that’s what’s exciting about the work that we’re doing with Pikes Peak Community Foundation, and with organizations like Scott, is that it’s a guide from the side and it’s an opening of the space that we’re trying to do here in support of not setting up that dynamic of experts and non-experts, but really creating the conditions for everyone to learn from each other. So, that’s what I’m loving. Or, that’s what we’re trying to do.
Tucker: Yeah. Love that, Sarah. Well, I wanted to introduce our guests today. Mina, you have been with us throughout this whole journey. We’ve been hand in hand with you throughout this whole journey of this program that we’re calling THRIVERS, that is a co-funded project of the Resiliency through Innovation fund that you all have at the Pikes Peak Community Foundation. But Mina, you are the director of Community Impact. I like to say, or actually you all like to say, we’re putting community back into community foundation, which I so appreciate the work that you’re doing, Mina, and the heart that you bring. But Mina, thank you for being on the podcast again around the series around capacity building. It is such a joy to be with you again.
Mina Liebert: Thanks for inviting me to be on with you again. I just, it’s a great opportunity to connect with our nonprofit partners as well as the THRIVE team.
Tucker: Love it. And we also have really the guest of this podcast today, which is Scott Marble. Scott, you are the Chief Operating Officer of the Colorado Springs Conservatory. You’ve been there for about two and a half years, but this is your third career. And nonprofits are, you know, over these last two and a half years have been new for you, but you’ve come from 25 years’ worth of being in hospitality.
You also were a ballet dancer before that in your first career, then maybe even your first, first career, your waiting tables in college and things like that as you were sharing. But those are a little bit of the things about you. But Scott, I just want to, you have been such a delight and joy to have as a part of this THRIVER program.
You have been a super participant. You have been somebody who has brought your very honest and thoughtful energy and feedback and insights and wisdom, and to kind of hit on what Sarah just said, you have an immense amount of wisdom, even though nonprofits are quote-unquote new to you. Your lens has just been really refreshing in this community that we’ve been building. So, Scott, I just wanted to say thank you for being a part, for being so engaging, and for being a guest on our podcast here today about capacity building.
Scott Marble: Wow, thank you. It’s been a complete pleasure. It’s been a gift. I will just open with that, that this opportunity, when Mina reached out, I had to grab it. I mean, there was no way to say, “oh, I don’t have to”. This is something that we all knew and I personally knew we needed to make time for, and it’s met all the expectations, I will tell you.
And it’s had its own uniqueness. I was coming in at a time when a legendary organization was shifting from a founder who did so much in our community and continues to do that, but as I got deeper into the operations, I was realizing, particularly when it came to fundraising, not only was she building the programming, she was the one doing the fundraising.
And at age 28, the organization needed to build some structure for sustainability because founders are one of a kind and they’re driven in ways that most other people aren’t or that can’t sustain it. So it really became incumbent to find ways to ensure sustainability and, you know, to tap into the community foundation’s line to build the resiliency.
As things shifted, and not to mention, this particular opportunity with a revenue generator, was that we’re coming off of two years of Covid and what major fundraisers did any of us have? And so there was a new normal, there was a way to look at things, particularly we started, you know, we weren’t sure what the environments would or wouldn’t be, and how could we come into this?
So it again, just a thank you to all of you and the opportunity to work with you. And Sarah has just been, you know, on top of everything else, has just been great fun. For such difficult topics when, you know, we talk money, that’s people’s livelihoods when you’re at my level. Yeah, and that’s keeping the doors open.
And I think with all of the peers in the energizer, you know, we could say this, this became also just a great support system for us because you don’t get to share that in the office. You know, there’s maybe like one other person or your board chair, and then I have a great board, but you know, many boards are like, “well, go figure it out”.
So this has just been, I’ll repeat myself, it’s just, it’s a gift and unwrapping it has been a joy as well.
Tucker: So, well, thank you for that, Scott. And you know, I wanna unpack something you just shared, which was, you know, a little bit around you were presented with this potential to be part of this community and, you know, nonprofit leaders struggle a lot of times. We all do, around taking the time to learn, right? Creating spaces of learning.
This is something we’re wrestling through in a very real and tangible way inside of THRIVE IMPACT right now, where from a process perspective, we literally carved out a day. It’s literally on Valentine’s Day. It is literally our day of learning. We’re like, we are not creating enough space for learning. And so we, like, we carved a day, it is on the calendar. Nobody can schedule anything on it for anything. But you know, I was appreciating what you were sharing around what were the conditions that said that made you think, oh, I am busy, I have a lot on my plate, and yet I need to make time for this. Like, what was underneath that, of sorts for you? Or what insight are you bringing into that, of realizing the importance of this type of work?
Scott: Well, part of it was, I’m new to the sector, and so the fact that your mission is to support those creative nonprofit leaders really just brought that home for me. That I needed to understand it from a different perspective. I’m used to people buying things and money coming in every day, and the timing in a nonprofit world is not that. You are definitely in a sales capacity in the fundraising world. So I recognize that from the hospitality world, but at the same point, it’s in fits and starts or it’s in chunks or dribbles.
And so that part of it, for me personally, was very uncomfortable and continues to be uncomfortable. I’ll be perfectly honest. You know, you get those grant letters and say, “We really love your organization, but this year, I’m so sorry.” And we’ve just come through a series of those, which we understand. It’s all market conditions and other things, or we’re just hitting those cycles. You, I’m preaching to the choir here.
One of the great things, I’m gonna interject, about the program, was the practical in real life experiences and scenarios that both you and Sarah could share. You know, this wasn’t just, “Oh, here’s what you do and good luck.” It’s like, “No, when I was in your position”, or “I found this worked.” And I think that was incredibly invaluable. So to see those opportunities arise at a time when I also knew, to be quite honest, the community was looking at the organization. What does happen to an organization when the key person leaves? You know, when any personality of such magnitude, be it the founder or a really successful CEO, there are doubts.
And so it was, again, incumbent upon me to say, “It’s my responsibility to make sure that the organization continues in its mission and that it shifts into this new chapter.” And I need every tool that I can have in my wheelhouse to be successful and to lead the team.
Tucker: Yeah. That’s great, Scott.
Well, I wanted to unpack a particular part of the THRIVER program. There’s been many factors involved. One’s been a leadership collaborative, which is an ongoing individual personalized leadership type of journey. Some have been some coaching that I know that one of your colleagues has been taking advantage, but this particular one is one of what we called our Organization Aligning Energizers, and this particular one was called a revenue energizer, which is, just for those who are listening, It was a four workshop series. Each workshop was two hours a piece and pretty much every other week is what we would do for the four workshops to where people would be able to come out with a revenue strategy that they were able to double down on, focus on over this next year. And so, so Scott, that’s what I wanted to unpack with you a little bit here. Is, describe your experience in the revenue energizer. What was it like to be part, maybe, you know, there’s a couple questions here that I know I’ve asked you, ahead of time of, what did you love and what did you learn? Like what really resonated for you? And connected, but also too on the other side, like what was challenging? What was like, ooh, maybe if we could have shifted this or done this a little differently or whatever it might be, Scott, so would love to unpack a little bit of your experience of what was it like to be a part of, of the revenue energizer.
Scott: You know, I have been lucky enough, and again, thanks to Mina and the Community Foundation and their sponsors too, I think I was overly enthusiastic, although rightfully so, to pop into a number of things with THRIVE IMPACT. So I had the benefit of being very comfortable when we got into some of the more media conversations, but throughout anything that you and Sarah do, there’s a great sense of building that community and building. Building a space that people could be honest, as honest as they wanted to be or be as open as they needed to be in that moment. So I think that that foundation alone created the environment for learning.
The breakout pieces that we did with our peers also made it a little more familiar, brought it down to a level that we were going, okay, you’re doing the same thing I’m doing. Or in my case, particularly with revenue, I’m not a development director. I mean, I have skills in other areas. So that was invaluable to talk to some people within the group that that was their key role to understand their perspective. I would say the way the course is structured, there’s a great balance of here’s the theory, here’s the research, and here’s the practicality of how this all comes together. I still cite the skateboard analogy of let’s not build the car, let’s start with those little wheels that get the skateboard down the road. I mean, especially when you’re staring at so much, it is refreshing to have people with such expertise go step way back and let’s find that. And I think again, those real-world experiences that you brought to the table, the experts you brought, especially in this particular one, as we identified what sector we wanted to pursue or could see in our organization, chose the corporate part piece, and that was great.
I’ll circle back. I was lucky enough to sit in on the Impact of Story Energizer, which fit perfectly with this, and I keep looking at that little impact cycle because that particular piece that you all shared, again, for me being new, but I think for anybody in the nonprofit sector, it was a great reminder of okay, how does the story affect the impact and the impact affect the revenue and all of that? Because I was sort of like, well, which is the chicken and which is the egg and I don’t want to break the egg because it’s just that tricky and seeing how it all comes together and trying to continue to apply has been great and it’s still a challenge. I mean, the world doesn’t stop.
I think challenging wise, it’s always time. You mentioned that earlier. I think it’s always, it’s the time and I would say part of the challenge too was a bit of me going, I don’t have this, and I know it’s so important. And I also, if we’re going to tap into capacity, knew no one was focused on it because we had so many spinning wheels and because, in all honesty, it was just the way that the organization had been structured, and it had been successful, but it was also eye-opening. And that was a challenge to go, oh, this isn’t right and to admit that it’s not right, or to admit that we’re going, oh, it’ll happen because it always did, but you’re like, it always did because somebody else was, you know? And so that’s been a big learning piece for us, even as we continue with the new CEO and we’re having those tough conversations about okay, we’ve got to get this together. So, I think that’s just the pain of recognizing the system’s not working when you thought maybe it would just continue to go was a real vulnerable moment.
And so again, I would say, walking away with those tools that you gave us, and also taking the time in the session to walk through them. Cuz a lot of times, you know, Tucker, one of your questions was, you know, how is this different? And I think two things stood out to me: the fact that we did it over four weeks and did it every other week helped with that challenge of time. There wasn’t this crunch of, “Oh gosh, tomorrow,” it wasn’t a four-day workshop. You know, it was, “You’re gonna have time to think about this. You have time to process and take a look at it,” and it doesn’t mean that you now have to just put away the next daily task that you didn’t do for the last two hours that I had your time, you know? So I thought that was brilliant in terms of how it’s spaced out because I didn’t get to all of it right away, but the worksheet sat right over here on my desk as a little reminder that the bridge work forms or what it was, and so as we got closer, it would be like, “Oh, I need to think about that,” but not really realizing as when I said that, “Oh, I am thinking about this.” And I let it happen a little more organically than under pressure of, “Okay, so tomorrow when we meet, you need this, this, this, this, this,” realizing that I also knew my inbox was doing this. And so, I appreciate, I didn’t recognize it at the time, but as I was reflecting on your question, I was going, “Oh, this really did help make the work feel more genuine and more thoughtful so that it wasn’t just, ‘Oh, yeah, I owed them an answer, so here’s my answer,’ and I’m not sure it’s the right one to pursue.”
Tucker: Yeah.
Sarah: Well, and Scott, one of the things that I loved that you did constantly was really, and you know, we try to open up choice for folks ’cause we all just are in different experiences and organizations, but the bridge work is partially intended for folks to bring back into their organizations and generate conversation around so that it goes from being one person conversation to an org conversation.
And I know you did that. You are one of the folks who really took that seriously and went back and did that repeatedly. And, you know, would just love any reflections for you from you on, you know, how or whether that was helpful to have those conversations with folks in your org about the work you were doing in the workshop or what that made possible.
Scott: I think what it made possible was, it helped take some of the burden off me personally. I didn’t feel like it was my sole responsibility, so the opportunity to invite board members into that final session. You know, I’ve gotten to know the board members well enough to know these people will be truly engaged or will want to know, and then everybody else in the organization was great with going, “oh, well that’s an interesting thought.”
I’ll go back to the impact of story energizer. That was a great one because we kind of recognized we’ve got too many words in too many places. You know, that was really a thing when we looked at how we’re presenting things. Even how we’re asking what are the, you know, that particular one, Sarah, was I loved um, the in-between your impact piece was just like, okay, make those quick. Like, this is what you do. That’s not really what it is. What’s the transformation? I’m sorry, the acronym is skipping in my brain at the moment, but it was fantastic with, “okay, what’s at stake?” You know, what are you doing? What is your impact? What was it? SIT? What was at stake? What was the impact, and what’s the transformation? And so we’re still trying to work through that. And you know, believe it or not, with everything else, we’re gonna start doing a website transformation in the next, before we get to the next piece of our semester in the new school year.
So having all of those little pieces and being able to share really, really makes a difference. And I think also being encouraged to do that from your group as well as saying, “Hey, bring them to class,” is, you know, bring mom and dad to class and they can see what you’re doing as well as… not that anyone questioned the time I was spending, but it was a bit of confirmation and it was also great to be able to say, you know, to bring the community back into all of this, to say, “well, this is being made possible by the Community Foundation.” All of my board members know so many people at the Community Foundation, and they just recognize that this is how it’s all circling together and what’s really happening. So, yeah. It was great to be able to do that.
Tucker: I love what you’re sharing. You know, and you said a little bit earlier of it took the burden off of you. Like how many trainings are out there from a capacity building perspective? That are individualized, not that they’re right or wrong, but I just wanted to reflect on that particular piece, right, of, of, you know, we go to these trainings or we are part of these year-long cohorts of, in, you know, of an individual community that I’m just solely on. And I learned things, and I think this is something that we learned.
We’ve done THRIVERS, we kind of have a 1.0 model, and this has been our 2.0 model, right, of realizing that the self-work is good and individualized cohorts can be fine, and it doesn’t quite affect the change that’s needing to be affected when it comes to solving nonprofit leader burnout because so much of the burnout comes from the organization and the system in which we exist in.
Right. And, and so just to hear you say, taking some of that burden off of you, you were able to bring board members to class and Chantel was a, you know, one of the people who was a part of this workshop with you, that you were able to bring that learning back to the organization. It sounds like much more quickly and you didn’t have a burden to try to figure out, how do I communicate this? How do I translate this? You had a team that helped you to do that.
Scott: And it was good to, again, involve more people. I’ll go back to how the organization was founded and how it was maintained. It was one pillar, and that’s just, again, that’s a superhuman effort. And those people come once in a generation, so you have to be prepared or find a way to move it forward. And this just brought it to light, brought it to light in a way that also, you know, I know that I’m not gonna be here for 30 years. Yeah. So it’s my responsibility to build it so that it isn’t the same challenge. There’ll be different challenges when, you know, a next generation of leaders takes it on.

Tucker: Yeah.
Mina, I wanna come over to you for a moment too, and partly just get your reflections. Like you just heard a little bit about Scott’s experience and you’re the director of Community Impact, so you’re constantly thinking about impact, which I love. And I’m just kind of curious from you, like any reflections on what Scott literally just shared about both the challenges and the things that he loved, some of the work, and really maybe that can tie into what have you been learning through this journey as well, around not just the revenue energizer, but the whole sort of THRIVER program with the resiliency through innovation. What have you been learning and what kind of lessons are coming up for you?
Mina:Thanks for the question, Tucker. I think when we set out on this journey of identifying the fact that resiliency was going to be a factor for our nonprofit sector, and trying to figure out what that looked like, how that would really help best support with philanthropic dollars, it’s been an evolution. It’s one of those like, you gotta try something out to see if it works. We had the space, meaning there were a number of organizations that had to pause what they were doing in 2020 and really take a step back and say, what are we gonna continue to do? And this was before any supplemental federal dollars or state dollars were coming down, so we had no idea what was going to happen. We thought that we were going to be in a short shutdown that was a couple of weeks to then a couple of months, and then we evolved to where we are.
So thinking about even Scott’s role and coming in the middle of a pandemic, stepping into some big shoes truly with the previous founder and CEO of the organization, and really trying to figure out what’s going to be the best way to steward and direct the organization to a place where they stay sustainable in the long term. And capacity building was really like that. The what of that, right? So in some education, learning opportunity sense, it was great timing for him and his team to be able to embark and be a part of something like this.
I think the encouragement that happened from our funding partners as well as board members and that support, all of that aligns in the bigger sense of you need a strong team and you need to be able to engage with one another in order to really be supportive of what the capacity and the learning within capacity building really is. Just kind of thinking and reflecting on what the definition of capacity is, I think that’s something that we always want to talk about. And if you’re framing it in a nonprofit sense, and I kinda looked it up just to see if I was reflecting on it the same way, it was thinking about the investment in the effectiveness and future sustainability of a nonprofit. And that is the intention of how our philanthropic community was really looking at our resiliency to innovation initiative.
So going back to all things, even from Sarah’s intro opening of talking about why the way in which the THRIVERS community has come together and how everything is really connected in the bigger sense of things, and then how more than just the decision-makers or leaders of the organizations have been able to engage and actually be a part of this process is really shifting an organization into a better, hopefully more ideal state for future resilience and sustainability. So you create tools and we bring these resources, and it’s really up to the organization to take advantage of it. And the fact that the Colorado Springs Conservatory is one of those organizations that took it by the horns but really embraced the opportunity and then engaged more than just one person into this fold, into this mix, but spread the leadership, the growth, the professional development opportunity to so many different aspects of the organization is just a testament to why work like resiliency is truly needed and needs to continue for our nonprofit sector.
Sarah: You just made me think about something as you were speaking that you just, I was like, “Oh, yes, she’s so right,” is this piece around the role of lifelong learner in leadership, and, you know, all of that research from the Leadership Circle assessment they have done tens of thousands of these surveys of leadership. And the most important thing in a highly effective leader is self-awareness, and lifelong learning is one of the key parts of that. And so as you were talking, I was like, “100% right.” As we think about Scott saying, “I was really busy, and I knew I needed to do this,” it’s the awareness of the need to learn and then the willingness to make space for it that I think is at the foundation of a lot of the organizations now that are really poised to thrive or are already thriving and will continue to thrive. So I just wanted to appreciate that piece of that lifelong learning piece and the central role that that plays in both capacity building and resilience.
Mina:Yeah, that’s right, and again, just thinking about the mechanism or the method in which we’re delivering this learning opportunity, right? So we’re thinking about it as flexibility. Scott emphasized the fact that it was spread over a period of time, and yes, I mean, it’s up to you, and at the end of the day, for you to engage in the opportunity, and be a part of it, and life happens, things happen. But if there is more than just you, sometimes it makes the opportunity that much richer because you hear different things. And then to do that peer-to-peer element or aspect of the learning is the reflective piece that then, what did you hear from that? Or if you’re in this space together, what were your nuggets?
We can’t retain every single part of what we’re listening to or what we’re learning, but we can pull the nuggets, and then collectively, the collective trust brain trust comes in, and you say, oh, what if we did this? How could we implement that? And that’s how I think the growth through learning and discovery for something like this resource can just continually benefit in the long run.
Tucker: That’s fantastic, Mina. Scott, I’m gonna pull an audible here real quick on you. Just out of curiosity, I was reflecting on thinking about a nonprofit leader who’s like, you know, all that learning sounds great, but how did this, like really practically, and you’ve hit on some of this a little bit, but like, how is this, you know, literally from the corporate strategy, revenue strategy, to shifting of your meetings, like in a real granular level, as much as you’re able to go, how has the revenue energizer shifted your planning for the year? How has it shifted your, and you kind of hit on this a little bit from a capacity issue and like, you know, we’re we, it unearthed a little bit of a, we need to figure out how we, you know, say no to some things potentially in order to say yes to some of these. But just curious, like real on the ground level, week in, week out, what are there things that have shifted or changed because of the revenue energizer that have changed?
Scott: Well, I’ll tell you, I keep thinking we’re on camera because we can see each other. I keep pointing to something that no one’s gonna see, but I guess that Smartsheet is off to my left. And I will tell you, some of the timing has been kind of neat because we’re going into a big fundraiser. The wine festival is about to come, so I’ve reached out to, you know, these will become introductions for me in terms of “okay, you’re sponsoring” or “these are some of our regular sponsors,” and then there are opportunities to start identifying.
And I think I will quote you, “there’s not enough orange on my calendar,” Tucker, in terms of, I will take two things away, well, more than that, but some of those nuggets that stuck were “okay, you’ve gotta make time for the uncomfortable.” That probably comes back to one of the capacity pieces because it’s not my wheelhouse.
And those of us that are in operations tend to get pulled back into operation. And how do you start delegating some of that out? Which we are able to do, but then being able to go forward and say “We sat down, Chantel, who is in the conversations with us, as well as Nathan, who’s our new CEO, and last Friday we spent two hours going, okay, what’s this new org chart look like? And where are the people for the capacity that we need to have?” Because the three of us are carrying either too much or it’s not the right skillset. And you know, it’s one of those, like Mina said, you throw it up in the air and let’s see what happens.
So it’s up in the air right now, but we’ve been pondering it, it’s been percolating. So that really has come into our fore given the conversations that we’ve had, particularly in the revenue energizer as well as going “Okay, and what is the financial model of the organization?” Yeah, here’s the deeper dive that really was, “Does this work?” You know, great to go back with the high, high impact, low effort quadrant that was just like “Oh yeah, let’s-” you know, so that’s that was sort of there.
That’s becoming more a part of “Yeah, no, that’s not worth-” yeah, it’s great, but by the time we do all of that, will it have the effect that we need it to have without diminishing our capacity? Because that’s the other thing we’re trying to make sure we’re not doing. You know, we talked about capacity building and you alluded to it earlier, but that capacity building should not then turn into the fact that you have no capacity for anything more because you’re just done and then the wheels stop. So it’s how to stay in perpetual motion with everything else that’s going on.
But for me personally, it’s brought it way forward now how much action I’m doing on it, but it’s much more in the front of my mind that this needs to be happening and different things as I timing of grants and foundational gifts or personal gifts affect you in ways you need to be ready to react to. And that’s just part of the reality of being in this particular, it’s no, you know, in some cases, it’s no different than someone’s not coming through the door in my retail store. How do I get more? You know, it’s, I do love the fact that those parts of my experience are relatable cause and again, I’ll, I’ll, here’s another one.
I love sharing from you, Tucker, was like nonprofit is just your tax status, people. Yeah, right, because that was a great expression that you shared. That is very true. If you’re going to continue to invest, if you want to be that organization, it’s investing. If you’re fortunate enough to have a physical structure like I am, or if you want to then be able to take that profit and invest in your people, because that’s really what makes the organization going.
Especially something that mine that is so personal with musical and theater training, that is a person, you know so many people and you want, like anyone else, you want to attract the best and you attract the best with salaries and benefits. And you don’t just want to be that adage of, “oh, it’s a nonprofit, and they’re messy and they don’t do that.” It’s like, no, that’s not who we are and that’s not who we want to be. And that we can’t be sustainable. Yeah, we need some structures. And so yeah, all those things just kind of ruminated and turned into this, “Okay, we’ve got to focus on so many things, but this one, we can’t have big dreams if we don’t have the revenues.”
And that’s sort of an oxymoron sometimes in this business of, you know, if you have the big dream, everything else will come. It’s like, yes and no. There’s moderation to that phrase, yes, too. And you know, now I’m quoting my CEO, he is like, “well, we can only have dreams, or we can plan dreams around what we have and still be successful.” And I think that was a great framework. That’s great. You know, just because we’re saying we don’t, and you know, we all like to say we don’t have, but at the moment, you have to have that reality check. And I think that’s where sometimes the lofty images or the “here’s the mission we’re doing,” it’s like, that’s great, but you know what, if this keeps going, that mission’s gonna stop, right?
And what good did that do for our community? So yeah, it’s kept the brain, it’s kept the wheels turning for sure.
Sarah: Well, and I just want to reflect, Scott, what I heard you share. One of the ways we’re kind of measuring the impact of this program is looking at, did organizations increase in their skill as learning organizations? And there are a few key pieces underneath being a learning organization, including creating a supportive learning environment, but also generating learnings that then turn into action. It’s the agile cycle. And I’m hearing you talk a lot about recognizing challenges and then bringing those conversations into your team for that agile method of learning in support of more quickly shifting and changing.
And then the third piece of the learning organization is about leadership that supports learning, which is about bringing conversations out of the C-suite and into the organization for co-creation and discussion. And I also raise up the gift you have clearly around that and how you’ve done that throughout this process. So I’m hearing a lot of these pieces about what it looks like to be a learning organization come out in some of what you were sharing and just wanted to mention that.
Scott: Well, thank you. That’s all, a lot of that’s thanks to you and, what THRIVE has done, and the opportunities that the foundation have given us, and we’re, we are certainly very, very grateful. Because we recognize that a program like this was not within anything we could do. No, really, Mina, it’s been a, it’s been incredible. It was… I can’t say it enough and I’ve said it too much, so thank you.
Tucker: Fantastic. Well, I wanted to close this conversation. I actually don’t want to, but I know that we’re a little bit at time, just in our own time constraints. But I wanted to open up a space of reflection of, you know, how is this conversation, even what’s something that was meaningful or valuable for you, Scott, and Mina, and Sarah too, for that matter? What was something meaningful or valuable that would, you know, maybe it was an “aha” or maybe it was like a “Oh yeah” or maybe it was a “that’s why we’re doing this work” or something like that, and just something that was meaningful or valuable about this conversation for you that helped you to reflect, maybe shift your thinking around the approach to this work, or helped you to double down on your approach and why we’re doing this work. I just wanted to open up that last final reflection.
Scott: I would say the conversation was just another reminder. It was just another reminder and anytime there are voices that are saying, you know, it’s going to take time, it is a process. It’s just a reassurance that you’re on the right track because sometimes when we’re not taking action, we feel like we’re not paying attention to it. And I think that was sort of a realization for me. It’s here in the front of my mind, but it’s always, and it’s always there to come back to, so it’s always oscillating like, okay, it’s there, it’s back. It has to go back for a minute because now I’ve gotta deal with this. But as soon as I’m done with that, I have to come back to that.
And so, I’ll say it again, Tucker, I do the whole, you know, there’s no orange on my calendar. I mean, so those, but those are the little reminders of, we, because it has to be so intentional and it’s still trying to find the place to carve the time out. And I’ll, not to make an excuse for myself, but I am kind of going, okay, I’ve got this sixth event thing going that’s going to raise money for, so it is a fundraiser, but I need to keep looking at how that is going to become the next thing that we talked about within the organization or in the energizer that, you know, it’s just, okay, that’s done in March and then let’s be smart about how that can catapult something forward.
Yeah, and then how we do that in concert with as we look at the team because, you know, time flies and we’re gonna be in a new fiscal year in July, and we’d like to have something really set up to work towards, to go, okay, here’s another motivator for creating more revenue so that we can get more revenue from having that person or that capacity when that structure is in place. I think is really what we keep saying on so many levels in the organization, that we need to just shore it all up so that we can work within the framework and then we can bring more people into it. Because we know what we’re doing with it. We’re not just saying, oh, come on in. We’re like, and do what? We’re like, well, we’re still talking about that. You know, we’re kind of at that point where we want to go, we see X, Y, and Z and you’re gonna be great at Y. So let’s go do that.
Tucker: Yeah. Real quick for the listeners, the context of the orange on the calendar comes from, I just wanna honor where that came from, which is you, Serena Bruzgo, one of the most amazing fundraisers. She’s up here in Denver as the president of the Craig Hospital Foundation, but that was about, If you don’t have orange on your calendar, which are time with your donors, literally, if you do not have time on your calendar, which is the orange that she color codes, if you don’t have the time, the orange on the calendar, then it’s not, you’re not doing it right. So, Scott, thanks for bringing that in and I just wanted to make sure listeners knew exactly what that was. Cause it’s such a poignant, important point, Scott. So thank you. Mina, how about you?
Mina: Yeah, to kind of expand on some of the things that Scott was saying, I mean the whole impetus of a lot of this is building connection. So it’s building connection among nonprofit leaders that may not have been in the same circles. They are in different sectors. They are connected or they know each other’s names peripherally, but don’t really know them or don’t have an opportunity to engage with them otherwise because they don’t run in the same nonprofit circles. So I think that was one of the opportunities, right? And when you think about cross-collaboration, cross-sector, non-traditional types of relationships, you totally expand the ways in which you’re thinking, the ways in which you’re creatively trying to, if it’s fundraise, think about how you engage your teams and keep them motivated. Morale is another element. I think that’s a maybe not a direct element of what you’re working through, but you build that camaraderie and that morale when you have some shared learning experiences and can build off of it from one another. So as I kind of reflect on, again, peer-to-peer learning is critical with this work, and I can’t emphasize it enough because at the end of the day, the THRIVE IMPACT team removes themselves from the equation, but the nonprofit leadership stays in some capacity or form. And if you build that relationship with that individual or that organization, you can continue to nurture and foster connection. So connecting the organizations is a big thing. I would say that also really elevating this to taking the art of listening, and this is even with us as THRIVE IMPACT and the Community Foundation coming together and saying, ‘How can we co-create?’ You guys talk about co-creating all the time, and you continually listen to try and figure out developing these frameworks of storytelling, revenue, energizing leadership, those big topics. It came out of listening to a number of conversations with a number of nonprofits that were working in this first phase of resiliency through renovation. And then from there, it’s like, how can we create the best experience, create some maybe tailored learnings that are broader and have more? It’s not a let’s do a one-direction training experience. Let’s create a bidirectional, engaging opportunity that then leads to more than just here’s a one point in time type of situation. So I think I appreciate that so much more and the fact that, again, as a trainer, facilitator, coordinator, all of those things that those are such key, important elements in bringing together people, regardless of where they sit in the space. So welcoming, creating the space and the conditions for everybody to continue to learn and not have it lean on just, you are, quote-unquote, leadership by title or otherwise. So I think that’s the biggest part about some of this work is that the resiliency of an organization is based on more than just one person. And you need to engage totally that entire group to really be successful.
Tucker: Thank you so much, Mina. Great thoughts at the end. Sarah, you wanna close this?
Sarah: Sure. I was just gonna say, you know, I think one of the big reflections from this conversation is that beyond the specific skills that folks may have learned, I think what Scott has really highlighted today is that part of it is just having the time and the space to identify gaps in the organization via the conversation and work that happened in the workshops, and then provision and getting tools and resources to support conversations and forward movement around those gaps.
So I really heard that, Scott, from you a few times today, as you were able to circle these areas in the organization where the work helped you highlight as needing capacity, and then that provoked a series of conversations about what it meant to move from where you are to maybe where you want to get to go.
So that’s one of the things I’m gonna take away from today.
Tucker: Yeah. And Sarah, to build off you, my final reflection, and being able to circle that not in a way that adds more guilt, or that says, “Oh, we’ve sucked at this,” but in a way that’s more generative. It sounds because you’re, you, I don’t hear from you Scott, feeling, I mean, you’re noticing the gaps, but not in a way of like, “Wow, I’ve really screwed it up,” or “I’ve sucked,” or “we’re really weak here.”
But you’ve done it in a way of looking at building on your strength in a just a different way that doesn’t seem like you have guilt heaped on you or your team, but more you’re looking at it in just a more refresher, strength-based way. So that was cool to hear. Well, hey, Mina, Scott, Sarah, great to be on this conversation with you.
It was so delightful to hear, what were the gifts, what were the challenges? What does this really look like? What does capacity building really mean? And Mina, I’m so grateful for even the bringing in the definition of the effectiveness and the future sustainability, and really thinking about how do we not do more harm?
But you know, and we have that Hippocratic Oath to us and looking at, that’s why we measure our impact. Scott, I know that you’re measuring your impact, Mina, you’re measuring your impact and looking at how do we make sure that we use data and story and lived experience to be able to inform, and make sure that we’re not doing more harm even when we think we’re doing something good, but we’re, in fact, actually creating more effectiveness and more future sustainability.
So thank you for being a part of this, for those listening who made it here to the end. We’re gonna have some notes in our show notes about a little more about Scott’s organization and the Colorado Springs Conservatory, also about the Pikes Peak Community Foundation, their great work. So look for some links down the show notes, but otherwise, thank you all for being here today and can’t wait for our next episode on capacity building. Have a wonderful day, y’all!