EP 19: Capacity Building 2.0 – Part 3: The Power of Pause, Connection, and Belonging

April 6, 2023

Show Notes

In the third episode of our Capacity Building 2.0 podcast series, Tucker and Sarah are joined by three thoughtful nonprofit leaders from Food to Power, a Colorado Springs organization whose mission is to cultivate a healthy, equitable food system in the greater Colorado Springs community.  

Hear from these leaders as they share their experience with belonging in our THRIVERS community and how that amplified learning and growth in a way that straight training couldn’t have done.

They get deep on why capacity building MUST incorporate the power of pause, connection, and belonging otherwise we’re doing it wrong. It’s not a ‘nice to have’, it’s a ‘must have’. 

This episode’s guests:

  • Patience Kabwasa – Executive Director, Food to Power
  • Jessi Bustamante – Director of Communications, Food to Power
  • Slade Custer – Director of Development, Food to Power

Overview of this CAPACITY BUILDING 2.0 series 

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. 

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Tucker: Welcome to THRIVERS, nonprofit Leadership for the Next Normal. I am your host, Tucker want tomaker. The CEO of THRIVE IMPACT and 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 landscape.
I am joined as usual by my delightful co-host, Sarah Fanslau, our Chief of Impact at THRIVE IMPACT. Sarah. Hello. Good to see you this morning.

Sarah: Hey, Tucker. Great to be here.

Tucker: And, you know, this series is one that we’ve been going through around Capacity Building 2.0 and what is really the next normal of capacity building.
It’s been a great journey that we’ve been doing with the Pikes Peak Community Foundation, their resiliency through innovation fund and our program, our THRIVERS Collaborative Learning Community and Leadership Development Program. I’m really excited about this particular episode, but Sarah, curious, any reflections so far that you’ve had about this series that we’ve had before we hop on in and invite and, and introduce our guests?

Sarah: I love this series because I think what it does is help us unpack the lived experience of folks who have gone through the THRIVERS program. You know, we’ve collected data throughout, and are excited to do some post measurement now that the work is over.
But there’s no substitute for the voices of lived experience. And so I’m so excited to have done a few of those podcasts in support of getting those. We’ve talked with the folks at NAMI, with the folks at the conservatory and now really excited to be here with the folks from Food to Power to hear about what it looked like and how it felt for them.
Tucker: So great. And Sarah, thanks for bringing that in too. There’s no substitution for the voice of lived experience and particularly the voice of the nonprofit leaders themselves. And so, I’m so glad and so happy to introduce three, amazing nonprofit leaders and just delightful souls who are thoughtful, who are kind, and who really care about the work that they’re doing and are doing really impactful work as well. So, hey, I want to just welcome everybody, Patience. It is great to have you here. Let me see if I get your last name right. Patience Kabwasa. Did I get that right?

Patience Kabwasa: Kabwasa, Yep. Awesome.

Tucker: Awesome. Patience is the Executive Director of Food to Power. We also have Jessi Bustamante. Did I get that right, Jessi?

Jessi Bustamante: You sure did.
Tucker: Yes. I love this. She is the Director of Communications at Food to Power, and then we also have Slade Custer. I think I got that one right.

Slade Custer: Hard to mess up.

Tucker: Hard to mess up. We have Slade Custer. He is the Director of Development at Food to Power. Patience. I want to start with you just to give a little brief intro of yourself, and then we’ll do just brief intros around for everybody.
And then, I’ll hop into that first question that we have for you. Patience.
Patience: Sure. Well, as you mentioned, executive Director of Food to Power. I’ve been with the organization going on seven years now. Also the founding columnist of diversity, of which is now, Sixty35 media. And have really just spent the last, probably 15 years of my life and experience around food systems work, in the Pikes Peak region.
And so, just really excited to be here and kind of talk a little bit about our experience with not only THRIVERS, but just kind of post 2020, and mitigating burnout.
Tucker: Yeah, that’s great. Thank you, Patience. So, Jessi, how about you tell us a little bit about you?
Jessi: Sure.Thank you, Tucker. I actually just moved to Colorado Springs in 2018 and I was fortunate enough within a few months to be working in local government at City Hall.
I worked directly in support of City Council member Yolanda Avila, who oversaw the southeast part of Colorado Springs, which it turns out is an overlap of a lot of the areas that Food to Power focuses its efforts in, because it’s a majority minority community. There’s a lot of intersecting elements there that lead to lower food access.
And then over time I was like, you know, I like working in government and seeing what’s going on, but I want to be involved in making a difference. And also I just love food. It’s really important. It connects everyone. And so luckily this is around the time that Food to Power was looking for a Director of Communications and thankfully they were willing to give me a chance and I started here in June last year.
Tucker: Oh, that’s awesome.

Jessi: So I’m excited to be here.
Tucker: That’s awesome. Love it. Thank you so much, Jessi. I love food too, so I appreciate that. We have that in common too. That’s great.
Jessi: Food connects everyone. It’s really important.
Tucker: Totally, totally. I love that. Slade. How about you my friend?
Slade: Yeah, I’m from Colorado Springs. I’ve spent my whole life here, done a little bit of traveling, spent summers growing up in Kansas, where my whole family’s from. But yeah, it’s kind of interesting being at the Hillside Hub. You know, there’s a hill and I can literally stand on it and then point out my childhood house where my high school is at, everything like that.
And so, I guess so the reason why I actually originally got drawn to Food to Power is more so of just the community standpoint of just being able to overhaul the like assets for the community. And I think one of the things I appreciated most was essentially how much Food to Power really centered the community’s voices.
You know, I used to work at another non-profit where they made a lot of assumptions on what the community needed and that didn’t really sit too right with me. I thought if we’re building stuff out for the community, why don’t you engage them? Why don’t you center their voice and co-create? And so when I saw a job opening—and fundraising, which my skillset was in—at Food to Power and saw how much they centered the voice of the community, I was just immediately drawn to it.
And I’m just so grateful to be at Food to Power, because literally having a once in a lifetime opportunity to be able to make a tangible impact and kind of leave my mark on the city as seen in like the hillside hub that city’s first neighborhood food center we developed. But I guess personally, I don’t know, really, really like riding bikes. Have a little dog. I love her to death. But yeah, that’s about me.
Tucker: Oh, love it. That’s great, Slade. Well, hey, let’s hop in. Patience, I want to, you know, everybody has shared a little bit about Food to Power, but tell us. Your work Patience, at Food to Power. And what is your work like as Slade mentioned, the Hillside hub as an example, and, and, and food scarcity, things like that.
What is your work and really why is it so deeply important in the community of Colorado Springs?

Patience: So our work is really centered around removing barriers to food access and working in the vein of improving health equity. In our city, there are areas of town, and it’s, you know, no coincidence when you look at the historic implications of de facto segregation, redlining, you know, just neglect. It’s no coincidence that those neighborhoods that experience different life expectancy are primarily BIPOC. So our work really centers around how can we, you know, emergency food assistance is important and there’s a lot of heavy lifting done in that area.
But really to think about health equity encompasses different pillars, right? It encompasses not just food access, but if you’ve never seen, say, for instance, kohlrabi before, and you have the opportunity to get that even for free, you might skip over it because you really don’t know what to do with it, right? Yeah. And so how do we build community utilizing food as a vehicle? It’s the great equalizer. Yeah. And I think we are able to kind of do that through our education efforts, our access efforts. And since last year, it’s our first year urban farming and production.
And so really just having a space where all three of those things are happening at the same time is the work of Food to Power while building community, while, you know, focusing on the access barriers, whether that be transportation, education, income, or, you know, even intersectional with housing, right? Because like often folks choose what they eat after they kind of meet some of those primary needs, and then your health then suffers for that. So we’re really working to, you know, change the food system by making it more equitable for folks to access food on a regular basis.
Tucker: Wow. That’s so important. I appreciate what you’re sharing. How to leverage food as that, as that great equalizer. And if people don’t understand what like kohlrabi is, as an example, and maybe by the way, Jessi, I was thinking maybe that’s the logo or the mascot.
I don’t know. We were having a fun joke the other day around like, what’s the mascot of Food to Power? We were thinking of funny, ideas around different types of vegetables, but I thought it was great.
Jessi: I’m currently still charmed by the rutabaga, but we’ll see.
Tucker: The rutabaga, haha!
Patience: I think we have like, collard greens are the forerunner for, yeah, our, logo.
Tucker: Love it. Well, Patience, Food to Power has been a part of, I believe, quite a bit of different types of capacity building “types of programs” before. And I’m curious, as you all are doing a lot of work, right? You just opened up that Hillside Hub, which is a significant lift. You know, you’re doing a lot of work around health equity and food equity. Why was it important for Food to Power and for you and your team to be a part of this THRIVER program? What were the conditions that existed for you that you said, “We gotta do this. This is important right now,” and for you to choose to say yes?
Patience:Absolutely. So one of the things I think that stood out to us about the THRIVERS program was really just the focus on burnout. 2020 was a call for Food to Power. We, you know, converted. I mean, I think prior to that, we predominantly operated as maybe air traffic control, and we kind of navigated different grocery programs in different communities through a network of community partners, volunteers, and systems. We did have, you know, a grocery program that happened two times a week in the Hillside neighborhood, or excuse me, one time a week at the Helen Hunt campus. However, when Covid hit, we had to convert our 1100 square foot office into a food distribution center, and really in that moment, it was obviously important as a food systems organization to show up and meet the need of the community. But we really got to see, I think for the first time in a lot of folks, not just us, got to see what it looks like when you go to the grocery store, and there’s not, there’s nothing on the shelf or, you know, the produce that you are just so accustomed to, to getting or even shelf-stable items you just can’t get anymore, which literally put a demand on us. At that time, we had about eight staff members, and, you know, we did our best to mitigate spreading Covid internally so that we could continue to serve our community in that way. So that said, that in and of itself would’ve been challenging for any organization, but we were also navigating a leadership transition, rebranding of our organization, a construction project, finishing up a capital campaign. So all of those things together really affected, you know, I mean, we were churning and burning, and we have a dedicated team of like passionate folks who really care about making more food or making food more equitable in our city. But, you know, we also had to mitigate burnout. And I think when this opportunity came along, just kind of after it came along, after, you know, a lot of that heavy lifting was done, I think it gave us a chance just to pause. And, you know, I think in Jessi’s instance, being newer to the role, Slade also a newer development director really just wanted to offer the opportunity to kind of create self-care and frame that right off the bat in the start of their nonprofit career. So that, you know, thinking about what it means to care for yourself in the midst of working through some really stressful and challenging things, because that’s not going to go away, right? You have to build out systems in order to be able to mitigate those challenges when they come. So that’s what I appreciated about THRIVERS really, particularly I think for my staff to just be able to have an opportunity that just kind of helps them think about their own self-care in the process.
Tucker: I so appreciate that, Patience. You know, it was interesting what you said that, you know, COVID as a community-based nonprofit put a lot of demand, like all that happened, and we’ve seen that a lot with smaller community-based nonprofits that the demand has definitely gone up, especially those who are involved in human services, food-based work, like anything that’s especially revolved around humans. The demand has gone up, and I’m just appreciating what you’re sharing around how might we create the conditions for particularly some newer staff, but also like you’ve, you’ve had a lot of demand, which means you’ve been doing a lot of work and you’ve done a lot of pre-work. Yet at the same time, like the work’s not stopping, but you chose to create a line in the sand of saying we need to prioritize self-care.
And so I just want to acknowledge that because that’s a significant psychological lift for an ED to be able to say we have to prioritize this, otherwise it doesn’t happen, right? As you were saying, like things, things are just the stress of the work is not going to go down. The demand is not going to go down. So I’m just, I just want to appreciate you putting a line in the sand almost there as an ED. Thank you.
Patience: I think it’s really important to, you know, not everything has to go fast, and sometimes that’s driven by anxiety. And I have really been intentional. I’m not going to let that get into me because if I don’t lead in that, then I think it doesn’t necessarily translate to the culture of Food to Power. And that’s one thing that I can say, Food to Power has ever since I’ve been here. I think one of our strong points is we have a culture of care, and we really do care about the folks that are working. You know, and as we continue to grow and think about community ownership in a way that centers those voices, but also internally in our organization, keeping that central because people bring their whole lives to work, right? They show up as whole people and we want them to. And so how do we balance that with getting the work done, but not at the cost of the individual doing the work? Is very important to us.
Tucker: That’s great. Patience. In what ways, from your perspective, and then we’ll hop over to Slade and Jessi too with some questions. And really want this to be as honest of answers as possible. Like this is really meant to be a learning podcast, around what did we learn, but I’m curious from your perspective, in what ways was this program, from your experience different, good, bad, ugly, you know? What were the pluses? What were the deltas, as we like to say? What were things you would change for next time, from other capacity building, support and programs you’ve received before? In what ways was this different and, in the good or the bad or anything in between?
Patience: You know, I think just being like the, the, having it on the calendar every, every two weeks is really important of just like you’re taking this two hours on a Friday, to kind of be in community with other nonprofits in the Pikes Peak region and really hear their stories around their challenges, what they’re experiencing, and just being connected in that way.
So it’s, you don’t feel isolated in your experience, I think was really, really helpful. Gather as a collective? I think, I think, the value could increase if that were in person, right? Like, I think just being able to connect and, and learn folks, sometimes that’s hard to do. I, I know we’re like masters of this now because we’ve, you know, this is our third year, post 2020 where we’ve had to be, you know, a lot on Zoom.
But I think, you know, being able to have some kind of connectivity outside of the Zoom screen might have been just helpful in building relationships with other organizations. And also, I would say the same is the challenge is like, you know, sometimes you have to be forced to kind of like have that two-hour time mark on your calendar in order to be committed to it and discipline yourself in order to take that time.
And so I think sometimes it was just like, well, you know, I got this going on or that going on, but I always felt like I’m really glad that I did show up when I did and would love to hear from Jessi and Slade what their experience was as well. But always happy, like after the meetings to really just have that time of connection and really hear from other nonprofit folks, you know, just what their experiences were, and how they’re also thinking about mitigating burnout in a different way.
Tucker: Thank you. Patience. Well, yeah, to, to your point, let’s, let’s hop over to Slade and to Jessi and whoever wants to go first is fine, but as, as directors in the organization and just for people’s. of, not to use hierarchy here, but just for people having a sense of…
Sarah: To ask you to describe your experience. What was it like to be part of the community and what was most challenging and maybe most engaging? Would love to invite your voices in.
Slade: All right, I’ll go first. It’s kind of interesting. I don’t know where all of the potential listeners live at, but for those of you who are unfamiliar with Colorado Springs, it often gets thrown around that the term like Colorado Springs, you know, it’s like one of the smallest big cities you’ll ever be a part of.
Once you really start hopping into engaging with the community, once you really start getting out and going to community events and going to different events and engaging with your neighbors and engaging with individuals, especially in this nonprofit and philanthropic sector, you know, you kind of see a lot of the same faces everywhere. And it is hard to be involved in this work without just developing a huge network of people that you can talk to, lean on, go to for support, develop potential mentorship, things like that. And so I think that was like honestly one of my favorite parts about being a part of this community.
You know, like the first time I hopped in, it’s like, oh, look at all these familiar faces. It was hard, honestly, to pay attention to the podcast cause I was so busy sending those direct messages of just like, oh my gosh, it’s good to see you. How are you? It’s been two years. Covid land. Haven’t seen you in a little bit.
But then also the chance just to be able to really develop those relationships with individuals that I had never had exposure to. You know, I mean, I’m not going to name drop, but there are three people in particular where we were always showing up to a lot of those same meetings and got to know a lot of the individual factors affecting them, going through troubled divorces, going through leadership changes, things like that. And just being able to have that chance to build those relationships and go beyond that surface level, Hey, how is your weekend? How’s the dog? Things like that. And actually being able to dive into just like the really meaningful deep check-ins and build those relationships. And even though it was all, a lot of it over Zoom, it was even incredible just to be able to be at like a local nonprofit kids on bikes and shopping around and running into someone I’d only seen through the Zoom screen. It was just like, oh my gosh, you’re, you’re, it’s like, oh, you’re shorter than I expected.
And so it was just, yeah, it was just kind of fun to be able to, I think that was like one of the most valuable things for me about just being a part of this community of learning together was literally that community side of it was just being able to develop that community, develop new connections, interact with organizations I normally hadn’t before, and then also have the opportunity to learn from them. I’ll save off on the second question though for now, and I definitely want to hear what Jessi has to say about being a part of the community of learning.
Jessi: Perfect. I don’t even remember what the second question was at this point because I’m so charmed by the answers to the first part. But no, it totally plus one everything about like the building community aspect of being on the workshops routinely.
And it’s interesting because like a lot of the people that I saw were people I was familiar with from my previous role. So I was getting to know them in a totally different way. Like before, I was just like this person in the background in the government meetings with the council member or whatever. Maybe we met at some community events but didn’t really talk much. And then now I was getting to know them in a whole new way. Hearing more behind the scenes of like, “Okay, so this is what nonprofit leaders deal with all the time.” This isn’t just like a thing that I’m struggling with alone. That’s so reassuring. So it was really fun to like get to know everyone in these new ways.
And also just like the culture creating this space where it was fine for me to just be like, “Hey, I’m, you’re going to see me turning my camera off periodically because I am so stressed and tired today. I just need to put my head down sometimes.” Or like, “I know we’re running through this slide deck right now, but I just can’t, so I am not going to right now.” And like that was totally a fine thing to say. And like it got understanding because we’ve all been there at different points. So really appreciated the community building aspects in the various ways that that played.

Tucker: I want to dig into the community-building piece because, you know, I’m thinking with the mind of a critic here, which is, “Yeah, that’s nice. That’s nice that you built some nice relationships with nice people.” But I think that we don’t fully understand what that is. I want to unpack that a little bit more. Like, why was that important? Why was it important for you to connect with other nonprofit leaders? Why was it important to go underneath the surface of what’s really going on? And how did that translate into some of the things that we’re held accountable to around our work, whether it is fundraising, as an example, or the skills that we need or whatever? What was made possible for you because of that, and why was that so important?
Jessi: Yeah, like from one aspect, it’s just a security net in some ways, right? Because people are wired to be very network oriented. We weren’t really meant to work in isolation. So when you’ve got that community and that network to support each other, offer advice, give each other support and things like that, it’s just like you can get so much more done. Like there would’ve been times when I probably just signed out and gone to sleep for the rest of the afternoon if it weren’t for those moments of feeling energized and rejuvenated, and like I wasn’t just some boat drifting off in the sea, that kind of thing. So, Slade, do you have more you want to add on that?
Slade: Yeah, I mean, for example, I’ll give two answers. One I already kind of touched on, you know, community. It’s great to be able to go places and have recognition with people that you randomly run into. I mentioned that example of running into an individual at a local nonprofit and just being able to have that initial rapport and excitement of seeing them in person.
But the second part of my answer, honestly, Jessi, kind of hit on as well, was the sum of individuals could be greater than like the individual inputs. You know, one plus one can equal three if you utilize Skillshare, if you utilize and share different things. And that was one where I even remember there was a nonprofit that was there, like, “Hey, we’re having a lot of turnover and we’re starting to look at our internal hiring practices and how that goes about.”
And so, just being able to have that chance to talk to that nonprofit about our internal hiring practices and how little turnover that we as an organization have and sharing our job description and sharing our consensus-based voting and all of the processes that we use for our onboarding and our hiring. Just even something like that and being able to share resources like Jessi mentioned and just being able to help uplift one another. I’d say that could be another really, really huge part to building community because, in my opinion, community should go a lot deeper than just running into each other at a local bar and being able to say like, “Oh, hey, it’s good to see you once again. How is your weekend? How’s your dog?”
If community is built right, it should be able to enhance trust between the organizations and open a method of communication, a line of communication where you can share resources, you can lean on one another, like Jessi said, that safety net. So, yeah, definitely just want to say that like community, it’s not just about being able to recognize people where you go, but it’s actually building that network where you can skill share and talk to one another, be vulnerable, help each other through life circumstances that come up, things like that. And it’s really, yeah.
Jessi: Does that kind of- Sorry, I just wanted to add to that because you reminded me of a couple of things I didn’t say. Also, it’s just really valuable to have like that potential pool of mentors and people who are working in the same place that you can reach out to for advice.
Like I’ll, I will name drop. Lori Jarvis was fantastic on the workshops that we were on together. She had amazing advice and I would love to at some point reach out to her for coffee. Just be like, how are things going here? Going on in our world, do you have any advice that you can give me and like those kind of connections are so much faster, more impactful, more specific than just trying to do research on your own and like trying to see if Mr. Google has the answer or things like that. So, Mr. Google does his best, but he’s not that good.
Sarah: I love that you brought that up, Jessi, because I saw that relationship develop over the weeks that you were together, and it looked so impactful. So it was, it’s great to hear that it felt that way for you. I’d love to ask the two of you, you were both engaged in so much. Slade, I think you were in our impact and story energizer, you were in the revenue energizer, you were in the first half of the leadership collaborative, and then Jessi. You are in learning organization culture. And what else? What am I… I think those are the two, right? Learning organization and culture.
Jessi: I also got looped in towards the end of the impact to storytelling energizer, since that’s our crossover point in our work.
Sarah: Yes. Perfect. Well, I’d love, so you all have spoken beautifully about the relationships you’ve nurtured, the social capital that that’s built, how that’s translating into resource sharing and to mentoring.
I’d love to ask about the skills, if any, that you built in the workshops that you attended, and what, if anything, that you’ve literally brought back into your practice, either as a leader, you know, at more of a meta level or really into the day-to-day at the tactical space. So I’d love to ask what that’s looked like.
Slade: You know, if I’m going to be completely vulnerable and honest with all of you, last year was pretty difficult, even though I’ve been at Food to Power a little over three years. I became development director last year and just due to timing of hiring people, onboarding, having to do a lot of fundraising planning events last year, ended up working a lot more hours than I wanted to openly say on this podcast. So taking that into consideration, last year was one of my worst years ever for mental health throughout my entire life. And in addition to that, there were challenges that I had from work last year, which have gotten better this year due to what I’ll get to, so don’t worry about me on that end.
But then it’s also interesting too because something that I personally have always really, really struggled with was essentially just like if someone criticizes me or if there’s a conflict or anything like that, I’d always kind of dug myself further into a trench and just overanalyzed it, and just kind of gotten into essentially kind of like destructive thought patterns, and I had really struggled to break out of that. And so that was kind of honestly one of the most beneficial things that I seriously give a lot of love and gratitude to this cohort for, was because as much therapy as I was going through to try to get better on all of this, literally the peer-to-peer support groups and the peer-to-peer interactions and hearing like the big box breathing tucker that you always do, just certain things like that, it’s really worth mentioning that a lot of that really, really helped me.
Because I think one thing when you look at like non-profit burnout, for example, you might just look at the stressors involved with work and how maybe a capacity building session, capacity building dollars, something like that, it’ll enhance your ability to become more resilient for work.
But I think it is really, really important to mention that work is only part of our lives, and there are factors that influence us outside of work that affect our ability to do our work in a good and healthy manner. And so, just being able to talk to – literally name dropping Lori again – was talking to Lori a lot, was talking to some other individuals, implementing in these things.
You know, being able to just look at focusing on the positive. One of the things that Lori actually mentioned to me with the thing she was going through in her personal life was just like, it can be difficult, but as soon as you see yourself starting to have those thoughts, just break out of it.
Look at the first thing around you that you’re seeing as positive and try to focus on that. I’m lucky to have an incredible dog, and so that’s like, I lean on Rammy a lot. It’s one run I get in self-depreciating thoughts on hikes or on bike rides or just even at home while I’m working. I can just be like, “Wow, look how soft Rammy is. Look at her velvet ears.” So much love and gratitude for her. And I think that was one of the biggest things was not only learning from the THRIVERS leadership group, but also learning from the other nonprofit leaders of just how to really break out of those self-destructive thoughts. To be able to try to get that paradigm shift almost of not having to dig yourself further into the trenches.
You can have the power to. It’s still ongoing work. It is still ongoing work. You don’t go from the bottom to the top of the ladder in one jump. It is a series of small steps, and I’m still working at it every day, but literally this year has widely been a lot better because like I said, as much as I’ve gone to a lot of therapy to try to get better at that, oddly enough, it was part of the THRIVERS group that really helped me because when I was being vulnerable and honest with the different individuals in the cohort and telling them what I was struggling with, and then two weeks later they’re checking in with me of like, “Okay, how’s that going? Are you getting any better?” It created a little bit of that safety net that had an element of accountability to it where I didn’t want to show up to those meetings and say, “Oh, I’m still struggling. I spent the last two days in a low rut” because I didn’t have the personal accountability. I didn’t have the power to break out of that. I wanted to improve so that I could go back and give good results to all the new friends that I was developing. And so I would say that would be like one of the biggest things that I learned. I mean, there are several different tips that people taught me, but just as it all lumps in together, just being able to get that paradigm shift and break out of those self-destructive thoughts so that I could be a whole and more productive person in my personal life, which greatly influences my energy and my ability to show up to work as a whole and complete individual.
Jessi: Wow, that is so powerful.Slade.
Sarah: Thank you so much for sharing that. I’m hearing in particular that the leadership collaborative and the presence and practices, the breathing, some of the work we did around reframing questions, right? From a deficit based question or a deficit based thought. To an appreciative thought, or an appreciative question, and then being in that with your peers really helped, to shift some things for you. Wow. Thank you for being vulnerable and for sharing that experience with us.
Slade: Thank you for everything.

Sarah: Absolutely. Jessi, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Jessi: Yeah, totally. I’m like, wow, how do I follow that up? But it’s really interesting ’cause I did start these sessions at a time when I was new to, like, well, new to the nonprofit world, but also just new to leadership in general in a lot of ways, because in my previous role, it was a much more low-key assistant kind of role. And so moving here, I’m like, wow, I’m a director now. People are actually looking to me for guidance and advice on stuff. So that was a really interesting shift, and I think the THRIVER workshops couldn’t have happened at a better time in terms of prepping me to do that.
Well, when I started here, I was in a space where I was like, cool, I was told to be quiet for so long, and now I’m going to be assertive and say my peace and do my thing. And some of the skills that I took away from the cyber workshop were like, actually, it would be good if you took a step back and let other people talk first and consider why you want to chime in on something. And that’s definitely still a work in progress. Patience can attest, but it’s just good to develop that.
And because we’re in a stage of so much growth, and I’m part of that growth, we’ve got a lot of cultural considerations that are coming together and melting together. And like the resources that came out of the culture Energizer are going to be for bringing all those different perspectives together in a way that feels regenerative, things that we’re comfortable with. And then the learning collaborative was also really amazing. We did a training session not too long ago, and I used a lot of the tools from that learning collaborative to structure it, to lead in with an appreciative question, give people exercise times, and things like that. And that was mentioned as one of the most helpful all-staff things we’ve had in a while, a really good example. And I’m like, yes, my skills are working. The skills I learned are paying off.
So yeah, there have just been a lot of things coming together. Oh, and I forgot to mention the impact storytelling, which is really funny since that’s such a big piece of my work. But like, I did a mini teach-back in leading for some story idea generation, and the immediate feedback was like, that is so interesting and helpful, and can you do a longer version of that because I want to learn more. So it’s all coming together, it’s all paying off, and all of those skills, in addition to the community building and the various elements. So super appreciate. Much love.
Tucker: That’s great. I love that. I love how you… and just appreciating you taking things that you learned and applying them very quickly, which is really where learning, like really, really happens, right? And testing it out and trying and giving it a go.
Jessi: I have a memory like a goldfish. If I don’t apply it real fast, I’m going to lose it
Tucker: Me too. Me too.
Sarah: Was there any, I was going to say, you seemed like a sponge though, Jessie, because every time you’d be like, I’m soaking this all in, and we could see you soaking it, and then you’d come back next time and be like, guess what? I just tried this thing and here’s what was great about it.
So I loved to see you each week just soaking it in and taking it in and then bringing it back and then coming back with your reflections on it. That was really beautiful to see
Jessi: Thanks, Sarah.
Tucker: Yeah. Curious on, you know, to be devil’s advocate here again, a little bit here. What was challenging? What were some deltas of sorts and Patience, you offered some of those. What were some deltas, like if we were to do this, this type of a program, a six month type of program again, what would be some things that you’d like to shift or adjust or change for next time? What’s kind of emerging for you around that?
Jessi: I’m only going to chime in right away because only one thing really emerges for me, and that was, I signed up for both the culture energizer and the learning organization collaborative, which were every other week, but like such that they slotted in together. So it turned into every week, and that might have been a little much in hindsight, like I really enjoyed what I learned from both those. It just might have been a little intense to have it as an every week thing. So that is it for me.
Tucker: That’s great. Thanks Jessi.
Slade: I’m just going to echo Jessi. It was the time. You know, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in your day to day, your week to week, and you start planning out your week and you’re like, “oh crap, two hours Friday, I need to use that to write a grant or to do donor engagement or whatever.” And I think leading up to it, I was always just thinking a consistent thought of just, “oh, this is a lot of time, I should be using this time elsewhere.” But I think getting out of those two-hour sessions and actually feeling more rejuvenated, it was kind of like two sides of the same coin.
One side, you’re heading into the meeting thinking it’s a lot of time, you need to use the time elsewhere. But then you get out of the meeting and you’re like, “oh, that was actually really worthwhile and I feel more engaged and I have more energy to do my work.” So it’s just interesting looking at the different approaches to capacity building. You know, some of ’em will just throw dollars your way and say, “Hey, whatever’s mental health. Go ahead and use that for mental health.” Oh, here’s a four-month sabbatical program for nonprofit leaders. And then here’s like, or even your approach of just, “here are a lot of engaging webinars and sessions, co-working sessions,” essentially to be able to develop skills.
And so it’s really interesting seeing the different approaches. And this was the first approach that I’ve ever seen to capacity building personally that took this much time. But at the end of the day, like I said, learned so much and it helped me personally. So I think the time very much so was worth it.
Tucker: Yeah, that’s…
Jessi: Yes. And I just want to be totally clear, like the time was worth it and I did really enjoy what I learned. I didn’t mean it sound like that was too much. I hated that I did that because I loved that I did that just Yeah. As well. There was the factor of like, this being every week is kind of intense. That was all I meant.
Tucker: Yeah. Well, and that’s exactly what we’re exploring, which is, and you know, Patience, you kind of hit on this earlier as well, which is how do we draw lines in the sand around our wellbeing, around our care? And what does it take for us to do that? And the time is part of that, right? Like, it’s kinda like talking about going to the gym. It doesn’t really count. It only counts if you actually go to the gym, right? Or eating healthy, it doesn’t count to talk about it. It counts if you actually do it. And doing takes time. And so, that’s the thing that we’re frankly wrestling through ourselves around how do we help nonprofit leaders and support them in the time that it takes to take care of oneself, and the language around that and what does that mean? So yeah, thank you for bringing that up because it’s a really…
Patience: So interesting that you say that, Tucker, because also, I will also name drop, I was able to connect more deeply with Christie Milligan than I had before. And you know, we have some intersections in common. We both, as women, lead nonprofits in direct service. And we had concluded collectively together that self-care looked like being able to be in the mountains for a weekend and just unplug. And, you know, maybe we’ll be accountability partners for that in the future.
But I think that’s just being intentional about what your self-care looks like, even if it’s in two-hour sessions on Friday. But yeah, really, I mean, marking that on your calendar, I think, is important. The only other delta that I would think is important to lift up here is, you know, there is a specific intersection of being a woman of color in leadership. And I think that there, I would love to see there be more focus around or just a person of color in leadership. I would love to see there be more focus around what that looks like, particularly in a community like Colorado Springs or the Pikes Peak region because there, it is a definite experience, and Mina’s shaking her head.
Sarah: Absolutely.
Tucker: Yeah. Yeah go ahead, Sarah.
Sarah: I was just going to say, I mean, I think the ability to have – one of the things I would like to see, that you’re touching on Patience – is a larger and more diverse cohort, right? I think many of you spoke throughout the podcast today about the benefit you got from others, and the more others and the more different types of others, the more benefit there’s going to be. And so, I love that reflection because I think the more people there are of different experiences, certainly races and genders, the more that we can learn from and with each other. So I really appreciate that reflection and echo it as well. You know, the bigger the learning community, the more opportunities for learning, really.
Patience: Right. And like leadership is diverse and looks different. And I think, you know, to break up the homogeny, we have to, we have to model it in, in all of our cohorts.
Tucker: Love that. Well, hey, I wanted to welcome Mina Liebert. We didn’t introduce her at the beginning, but she was able to hop on. So, Mina Liebert, you’ve been, of course, a part of all these podcasts around Capacity Building 2.0. You’re the Director of Community Impact at the Pikes Peak Community Foundation and have been a partner with us throughout this entire journey for the last six months around this particular program. And so, first of all, Mina, nice to see you. Just wanted to say welcome. Good to have you here.
Mina Liebert: Hi. Good to see everyone, even though this is a podcast.
Tucker: And I want to hop into Mina with you, and Patience with you as well, around this next normal of capacity building, just to get your reflections. And I know Mina, we’ve talked about this a little bit on previous podcasts, but I also noticed that there’s always continued learning. And sometimes it’s a reflection of doubling down on what we learned before, and sometimes it’s like a “No, I think I changed my mind a little bit,” and we never know.
We never know what’s going on, so I wanted to invite us, both you, Mina, as well as you, Patience, around what does this next normal of capacity building look like from your perspective? And Mina, we’ll start with you. You know, this has been a co-funded project of the Resiliency through Innovation Initiative.
You’re managing and working with a variety of funders who are a part of this, and for all those who are part of funding this, what would you want to tell them about this work, and in terms of what is the next normal around what we need to do when it comes to capacity building in Colorado Springs?
Mina: Yeah, it’s a good question. And, you know, when we started this process, we as philanthropy, we have the opportunity to step into some innovation, to maybe do some risk-taking if you want to use that kind of terminology and really think about how we can expand on what we currently do. Think about how we can do things differently, do things better.
And in this particular opportunity with Resiliency Through Innovation, it was a way to step back. You know, we started this journey in 2020 when we reflected on the fact that there were organizations that were not doing direct service, but still needed support, still needed a way to get funding to be engaged. And so we, as our funding cohort community, really thought about how we could engage different audiences. We’re not only in the direct service space. It was more of, we’re stepping in and saying, how can we help you take a step back, be reflective, and think about the very basic things of what your organization does.

Are we still mission-aligned? Are we still mission-driven? Are we doing the things that we really need to make sure that our organization is truly at the center of all of our work? Or maybe the opposite, it’s like that the work is really centered and we’re not reaching so far that we are burning the candle at both ends. You know, there’s so much need, right? This is why the nonprofit community exists.
So when we’re really thinking about that, it was kind of the building the relationship piece, starting from there and creating an opportunity to reflect. So that’s where it started. And, you know, just listening to the three of the Food to Power team, Slade, Patience, and Jessi, we’re in this space of my goodness. Like, I’m so grateful that your team is willing to take the time because we know you are busy doing the things that help so many people throughout the Pikes Peak region, throughout our very specific spaces.
So, to take that time and to then grow from it, I think that’s the other thing that just, it just, I’m sure if you guys saw my face, you would see that I have welling tears in my eyes because the vulnerability and the ability to do this over a virtual platform truly is usually so difficult.
Right. And you’re creating meaningful connections without necessarily having to be in a room together, and that’s really hard. So that’s where I believe the THRIVE IMPACT team has stepped into a space where they’re really truly wanting to reduce that nonprofit leader burnout. They’re doing it through mechanisms that are so engaging and take time, but the end result becomes something that creates meaningful connection. And our role within the funding space was just to create the access to the opportunity. That’s where we stepped in and said, can we try this? Are we willing to look at capacity building, which is, in a broad term, a broad definition?
Yeah, it is, and really build something that is reflective of the individuals that are in this learning space. So, taking this learning space concept into a place of how can we make programming or how can we make funding opportunities really based on input of our nonprofit partners? How can we really listen and actively listen so that we can do things that are actually meaningful to those that we are trying to fund? It’s really, you know, the job of philanthropy is easy in the sense of, we give money to our nonprofit partners, but the hard part is coming together to say that we all believe in a certain cause or a certain intention. And so this co-funding opportunity was a risk and there have been hurdles and there have been really positive things, and there have been a lot of things that have been challenging. So we’re trying to step into a space where we can say, these are the great things that have happened. And so these podcasts are a great output. And it’s also then an opportunity to say, this is how we can continue to do this work, so that we are listening to our nonprofit partners and stepping into the spaces where they need to be at. If we’re charged with meeting community where they’re at, why can we not meet our nonprofit sector and partners where they’re at?
Tucker: Come on. Come on. I love that. Mina, thank you so much for that share. And Patience, curious your reflections on that. You know, reflections on what Mina shared, but also, what would you want a foundation or a donor or a funder who is investing in nonprofits broadly and also who are investing in capacity building, what would you want to tell them about what the next normal of capacity building needs to look like from your perspective as an ED?
Patience: Absolutely. So I, Mina, I think, laid out so beautifully just kind of the work of nonprofit and some of the relationship between philanthropy and trying to create innovative ways of making sure that, you know, we are resilient, right? Because if resilience has to be, then rest is absolutely necessary. And I think that what I would also challenge is, you know, operational costs and funds, right? Like giving nonprofits ability to create these systems within their own organizations and be able to organize and collective work can happen if that relationship of trust is continued to be built with philanthropy where it’s like we trust you to do with this money what your community needs you to do and also to do internally the work that you need to do and be able to develop cultures of capacity building that aren’t necessarily programs in capacity building, I think could be the next step in really just changing, just shaking things up.
Tucker: That’s great. Thank you, Patience, for that reflection because I think this is where we need to go, right? What is nonprofit leadership for the next normal? You’ve used the word rest a couple of times. I remember Patience, you had a quote a little while back at the very beginning, which was really encouraging to see that this leadership training is focused on rest. It’s revolutionary in that some of capacity building is both rest and trust, and particularly I think about co-creating. And Slade, you kind of mentioned this earlier around engaging in the community voices. Same idea, like let’s co-create and trust the nonprofit leaders with what it is that they believe. And that’s kind of where you were going, Mina, as well, was what is it that they believe that they need and let’s trust them with that in particular. I really appreciate that.
Well, hey, one final question I just want to do, if we can just to close this out, to all the nonprofit leaders that are out there that are listening to this podcast, some are in Colorado Springs, somewhere around the country, we have a variety of listeners from. And so much of this conversation has been about taking the time to take care of oneself in many respects, and what that does. I’m just curious, what are some practical steps that you all would suggest based upon whether it’s what you learned through the THRIVERS program, what you learned from other nonprofit leaders, what you’ve learned about yourself, what is one practical step that you would tell a nonprofit leader to do, to be able to carve that time, to be able to put that line in the sand, whatever it is. I would love to do a real quick, rapid round with all three of you and with Mina as well. What would you say is a practical step for nonprofit leaders to take around this?
Patience: I think, I mean as we were talking about earlier, just making that, commitment to, I think your your internal culture around, around just, you know, what it looks like to care for the whole person, I think is, incredibly important and, really building out systems and cultures that are inclusive of that.

Tucker: That’s great, Patience. Jessi how about you?
Jessi: I’ve got two extremely practical things that I’ve been trying to do lately that have been helping out. Number one is just like literally blocking off time on the calendar. No, you can’t compromise that for something else. That’s your time. Do not give that away, even if that’s like, I just need time to have focused worker, things like that. And then number two, if somebody comes to you and is like, Hey, can you do X, Y, z? Really practicing. I can’t, or if I can’t, feels too uncomfortable and combative. Let me think on that and get back to you. So, those are the two things I’m trying to do right now.
Tucker: Love it, Jessi. Thank you.
Slade: I think my answer would just be to openly communicate. Communicate what care is to you, and kind of like Jessi was saying, set up those boundaries. Be able to say no if someone schedules a meeting when you’re going to go on a bike ride, for example, just be like, “Hey, I can’t make that.” At the end of the day, it’s hard to know what self-care looks like for you if you don’t even communicate that to them in the first place.
And I think that directly ties into the culture like Patience was talking about. And if an organization has that culture where everyone feels comfortable communicating and being honest about what their self-care needs are, their ability to say no and not get kind of lashed out at for saying no to something can’t communicate to start with. So build that culture, communicate what your needs are.
Tucker: Love that. Thank you so much. Slade. That’s great. Mina, last thoughts.
Mina: Yeah, I’m closing it. I just keep reflecting. I mean, I think Food to Power is not only a truly powerful organization in what they do, but the fact that the leadership chooses to really step into what it means to build a strong culture of people and really be able to integrate what, you know, the terminology of self-care can be so soft when you’re thinking about it from, you know, the funding lens. Like what does that really mean? And to be able to articulate that and to value that and to continue to tell that message, I think that’s going to be really important as you really consider how a traditional funder, how philanthropy really can help in that to keep morale high, to keep, you know, retention of staff. You know, how much time it takes to train a new staff person and why people leave to begin with. So if we look at it from that perspective and really can take the lessons that we’ve heard from our Food to Power team as a great primary example, we can actually show up to really honor what is important within organizations in order to continue to do great work in the long term.
Tucker: Awesome. Thank you so much, Mina. Thank you, Slade. Thank you, Jessi. Thank you, Patience. Sarah. Thanks for co-hosting with me today. What a rich conversation. I really appreciate you all bringing your full selves and some of your vulnerability around what you’re learning and growing in and some of the deltas and the challenges.
And this is perfect. This is exactly the kind of conversation we wanted to have. So hey, for all of you who are listening we’ll put links to some of these nonprofit leaders’ LinkedIn profiles, so you can connect with them if you’d like, if y’all are open to that. And also, if this was valuable to you or supportive for you, we invite you to leave a review and leave something that helps us to understand a little bit about the impact that this had for you.
So thank you for being a part of THRIVERS. Thanks for listening in, and we’ll see you next time.