EP 34: Going Behind the Scenes with Kathy Jamil from The United Way of Buffalo

November 2, 2023

Show Notes

What happens when nonprofit leaders come together to connect, learn, and grow?

Tucker and Sarah break the mold with this episode, giving you a behind the scenes look into a 3-hour leadership workshop they recently facilitated with the United Way of Buffalo. Joined by Kathy Jamil, the Chief Program Officer of the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County, they dive into the essence of leadership in today’s world.

Kathy’s insights provide a fresh perspective on the importance of creating spaces for nonprofit leaders to connect and share. Her experiences with the United Way underscore the transformative potential of leadership workshops in the nonprofit sector.

Their discussion centers around:

  • The transition from the information age to the connection age.
  • The need for more community and genuine learning in leadership.
  • The power of internal reflection and mindfulness.
  • Challenges faced by nonprofit leaders in a world that often overlooks them.

Reflecting on their time with the United Way, Tucker and Sarah discuss the transformative experiences that occur when nonprofit leaders are given the space to connect, share, and grow. They dive into the pivotal role organizations like the United Way play in fostering these connections, emphasizing their lasting impact on the broader nonprofit landscape.

Join them as they take a closer look at the heart of leadership workshops by exploring the power of connection, the importance of community, and the transformative potential of leadership workshops in the nonprofit world.

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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, and our mission is to solve nonprofit leader burnout and right some of the injustices happening against nonprofit leaders. 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. Joined by Sarah Fanslau, our chief of impact. Sarah, hey, what’s going on? How are you today?

Sarah:
Hey, Tucker. I’m good. How are you?

Tucker:
It’s a beautiful day here in Denver, and it’s about to not be a beautiful week here in a little bit, but hey, you at least got the 80s still going here in October, which is awesome.

Sarah:
Crazy.

Tucker:
I know. Well, we’re going to be doing something a little bit different with this particular episode. We recently had the privilege to do an in-person workshop with the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County, up in Buffalo, New York. And I did want to say one thing that was kind of fun, which was Sarah, it was the first time, you’ve been working with us for about two years now, and it was the first time you and I had ever been in person together in those two years. How fun was that?

Sarah:
It was. It was.

Tucker:
Now, we’ve known each other for a long time, so I’ve seen you in person before, but it was like, I don’t know, four or five years ago. I think it was in New York City when you used to live in New York City. Yeah, it was before Covid, yeah. And so first of all, that was exciting and awesome just to be… I mean, we facilitated, how many workshops Sarah have you and I facilitated? It’s got to be-

Sarah:
Who knows?

Tucker:
Hundreds, maybe thousands. So many all on Zoom. And this was our first one facilitating in person together. I’ve facilitated some by myself, but this was our first one together. So anyway, that was great.
But we wanted to paint the picture for all of you. We have a couple clips from a pre-conversation we had with Kathy Jamil, who is their chief program officer at the United Way, and then we wanted to give some context about the workshop that we did around what we believe is nonprofit leadership for the next normal and some of the components of that. And then we had a little bit of a post in the room debrief with Kathy as well around that. So we just want to walk you through that. But Sarah, real quick, just from a context perspective, why were we even out there in the first place? What’s been our work with United Way and wanted to let you give some context to our work there and why we even went out there in the first place?

Sarah:
Yeah. So we’ve actually been working with them for a year and a half, which is crazy. And I had also never seen them in person. And so our original piece of work was to help the community impact department at the United Way of Buffalo really kind of co-create their measurable goals, the things that they all wanted to work on achieving together over the next three years. Now, the organization has a strategic plan. So the goal of this wasn’t to replicate that, but really to say what does the community impact team specifically want to do? And so we engaged over about a year and a half with some pieces of time in between to really help them do that, to say what is the vision for our program department that’s maybe different from the vision of the organization as a whole? And then what do we want to achieve collectively, together?
And part of that one of what we call impact pillars, which is just really one of their overarching goals from that work was around impactful nonprofits. So as a United Way, most United Ways are convening organizations that fund other nonprofits to do work. And the United Way funds a lot of nonprofits in Buffalo and Erie County to do a wide variety of work. And one of the things that really came out of our exploration with them, and particularly the community including the nonprofits, was that they were hungry for more opportunities to connect, to de-silo, to identify where they could share resources and really just to feel less alone. And so this workshop was really part of helping them implement their goals that we helped them to co-create and was with CEOs from area nonprofits, really focused around what does the next normal of nonprofit leadership look like?

Tucker:
Yeah. So it was an exciting workshop. It was facilitating really, I think it’s capacity building of the individual. I remember, I think to a recent podcast we did of capacity building is about helping people understand what they’re capable of, which I loved some of that framing. And that’s what it really felt like was a workshop around, as you said, nonprofit leadership for the next normal. Well, here’s a short clip of our conversation on the way to the workshop. It’s pretty quick. It just gives you a little bit of what we were processing through and what Kathy was processing through as we were literally driving to the workshop. So here’s a short clip and we’ll be right back.
We are headed to the United Way of Buffalo. Sarah’s in the backseat there, and we’re with Kathy. She is the chief program officer of the United Way, and we’re about to be doing a workshop with your nonprofit leaders. Right, Kathy?

Kathy Jamil:
Super excited. Yes, been looking forward to this. My eyes are on the road, but I’m also with you here at the podcast as well.

Tucker:
We’re at a red light, don’t worry. We are staying safe. So curious, Kathy, and stay safe, of course, what’s going through your mind right now is you have 30 nonprofit CEOs about to come in and be with us today?

Kathy:
How exciting it is to really engage them in such a way that United Ways have always tried to engage our community by convening thought leadership and moving towards a common goal of community impact. So yeah, we’re excited that we’re going to bring our CEO leadership to our building and have THRIVE IMPACT, really kind of lift the bar for us and really be thinking about conscious leadership and seeing how that can impact our collective work with community impact.

Tucker:
What are you most nervous about?

Kathy:
To be really raw?

Tucker:
Yeah. What kept you up last night?

Kathy:
So I got these little vases to put on the tables because we wanted to have flowers, and I want to make sure the flowers fit in the vases really right because I want the room to look really welcoming.

Tucker:
Okay. Well, I love that, if that’s the biggest thing that’s keeping you up. That’s pretty good. That’s pretty good.

Kathy:
I want our guests to feel really welcome and I want them to really enjoy the experience. I know on your end, you’ve got it. I just want to make sure the United Way end, we got it as well.

Tucker:
That’s great. That’s great. Sarah, any thoughts from you on this workshop that we’re about to do?

Sarah:
Yeah, well, I’m super excited because I think, well, one, Tucker, you and I were just talking earlier about the difference doing something in person makes, which we don’t always realize we love Zoom actually. But being in person enables you to really see what happens to people when we go deeper on this stuff around conscious leadership and what the cost of reactivity is for us. And so I’m just really excited to be able to hear and see in person what goes on for folks in this workshop.

Tucker:
Awesome. Well, more to come after the workshop. We’ll see how it goes. Hopefully we don’t totally flop. Just kidding, we should be fine. But more to come see you soon.
I just love Kathy so much. She is so much fun. I love that The main thing that was keeping her up was actually around hospitality. She wanted to create a warm space for the nonprofit leaders that they serve the United Way. I love that. She was just such a delightful and deep nonprofit leader.

Sarah:
She is.

Tucker:
Well, Sarah, let’s go a little bit into the workshop because that’ll help give context to our post clip that we had around processing through what we call pluses and deltas. And pluses are things that we loved and appreciated, were proud of. Deltas are things that we’d probably shift for next time or things that we had curiosities about that we are not sure and wanted to dive a little bit deeper into. But before we do that clip, I wanted to chat through a little bit of what’s really going on here and why was this workshop even important in the first place?
And one of the mainframes that we have, we’ve been using for quite a while now, and I learned it originally from Jon Berghoff over at the XCHANGE Approach, and that community that we’ve been a part of for almost like four years now. But they got this particular frame from Astro Teller, who is the former head of Google X, and it was later brought forward in Thomas Friedman’s book, Thank You for Being Late. But basically his premise was, we live in a time where the speed and the complexity of change has been happening at an exponential rate. And I know we probably shared about this on our podcast, but just want to give a little context that… it’s always funny to me too whenever we say that in a workshop because we say, “How many of you, before I even move on, know exactly what I’m talking about because you felt that speed and that complexity happening so exponentially?” And I mean pretty much everybody raises their hand.
But what he’s also sharing is that our ability to adapt to that change has tended to be more linear. And we asked the question, “How many of you have found yourself in the conditions right now? And have you found yourself in your leadership where you’re looking back at this change and you’re thinking, ‘Hmm, I’m not sure. How do I adapt to this?'” The ways that I’ve done things before as a nonprofit leader don’t seem to be working. And in fact, maybe they even seem to be hurting.
And usually when we share this, we get a lot of head nods. And maybe some of you who are even listening to this are like, “Oh yeah.” And I raise my hand too, like yeah, there are definitely areas where I have not understood how to adapt to this change. And so that’s the context that we’re setting the stage for, which is what is leadership really, what’s really going on? And to the extent that what we just talked about is true around the rate of change and speed and the complexity of it, that perhaps there are leadership approaches that maybe once have worked, maybe when the speed of change was not so fast and not so complex, but perhaps aren’t working and as I mentioned a second ago, also might be hurting us moving forward in our work. So that’s a little bit of the premise that we set the stage for of our day and age, literally right now, that perhaps we need to look differently at our whole entire approach to leadership and what that is.
And so what we do at the very beginning of this workshop is we invite people into a activity to be teachers of one another. Now, in this case, this is all CEOs of an organization, we also do the same activity where with everybody inside of an organization, we’ve done it before. It’s really a leveling of the playing field, but it actually creates the conditions to allow everybody, instead of us being just like the experts up on the stage, we really, some of you may have heard this before, we try not to be the sage on the stage. We try to be the guide on the side. And the goal of this type of content and this type of workshop that we do is to help set the stage for others to be teachers of one another.
Now, we do have content. Obviously, there’s some things that we are teaching on. But the teaching is mostly built around helping people to reflect on their own leadership, reflect on what’s going on within them, and we’ll see that. And Sarah, I’d love to invite you in to share about internal and external here in just a minute. But this first activity that we do, I love it so much because it’s basically asking people to reflect on what qualities or characteristics do you display when you’re a least effective leader, and what qualities or characteristics do you display when you’re a most effective leader?
And what’s so fun about this is, guess what, everybody has both of those. And everybody can think of their own. Even if they’re like a 20-year old who hasn’t had a whole lot of leadership experience, even they have been able to think about these different components. Or somebody who’s fresh and new in this space, or somebody who’s been around for a long time, everybody has something to share and something to offer by being able to reflect on themselves and then actually sharing with one another. And that’s a activity all of you, by the way, can do with your own teams. And it can help to really level the playing field a little bit around talking about leadership and how perhaps we all have struggles. Perhaps we all have least effective leadership traits. I know that I do. But Sarah, take us into a little bit of the framing now. So we talked about speed of change, we talked about most and least effective leadership. But then what does this next normal look like, from your perspective?

Sarah:
Yeah. Well, so before I do that, I think what was so cool about the workshop in part because they were all CEOs is that folks just had a great time. They had a great time with that activity around least. And most effective people drew kind of what it looked like for them. And one person said, when I’m the least effective leader, I’m blowing things up, right? It was funny, right? A lot of it was funny. We had a good time. And so I think when we can bring humor into these conversations about ourselves, it helps to take away some of the seriousness, which can be easy to sink into. So it was a really playful group and I loved that about them.
But yeah, so then the point is that to be a nonprofit leader or otherwise in today’s world, there’s two pieces of that. And one is about how can a nonprofit leader thrive through change? What does it look like for nonprofit individual leaders to thrive through change? What are the tools and resources that they need in order to do so? Which really tees up our work around conscious leadership, leveraging the work of Dr. Daniel Friedman, who we’ve talked about many times. And then the external side, which is what allows a nonprofit team or organization to thrive through change. And those are some of the tools and approaches, which we’ve also talked about frequently on this podcast, but around generative questions around co-creation. And really the point is that leaders don’t need to have all the answers anymore. And in fact, pretending we do it doesn’t serve us. And so providing nonprofit leaders with the tools to, one, recognize that, and two, do something about it is that external side. And those two pieces kind of going internal and the external really comprised the majority of the workshop.

Tucker:
And I love this dual interest that I’ve noticed that sometimes, in fact, we even speak to this in the debrief, that sometimes we focus so much on the external that we completely forget what’s going on within ourselves. And that’s what I love about Dr. Danny’s work is his quote that we use all the time, “If we want to lead well in the world, the first place we need to lead well is within ourselves.” And what’s literally happening within our bodies, within our brains. And so we went through some of the neuroscience around when demands are exceeding resources available to us, it sends our brains downward into spirals of reactivity.
We hit on when we’re in reactivity and we’re in fight, flight, freeze or fun, we start to create reactivity in others. And it becomes now a trigger react, trigger react, and that the state that we are in starts to affect the state that everybody else might be in as well. And we see that there’s a lot of data that speaks to this, particularly around things like social contagion theory as an example, but that it really starts with ourselves, like, what’s going on within. And as we share in the debrief, we kind of took people into the deep end by asking them a question around what’s an area in your life where reactivity, stress or self-doubt is causing more harm than good? Because part of the issue that Danny was talking about is not all reactivity is bad.

Sarah:
Right.

Tucker:
But many times it might be causing more harm than good. Reactivity has created safety for us, literally physical safety. It’s where we’ve needed to fight or we needed to flight, as an example, to literally stay safe physically especially. But a lot of us aren’t in necessarily those types of situations, but we have a lot of psychological things going on within us. And when is the reactivity that we might be in actually causing us more harm than it might be good?
And we invited people to reflect on, what is it costing you? What might it be costing you and your team and your family and your workplace? And what was really interesting for me is when we can invite people into these questions, and especially with that first step around, this is why I love that most effective and least effective leadership activity is it sort of leveled the playing field and normalized the struggle. So that way, when we all start going into this deep end, and this was really the second activity that we did, people were able to go there. People were able to go into that space of some of that vulnerability of what’s really happening within me.
But then we asked the second question around that, which is imagining a year from now, what would you want to be celebrating about your transformation, as a conscious leader, which is the phrase that we use. And so we invited them into both of those questions, gave them space to reflect, a good chunk of space to really just go in there and I played some reflection music and just let them go into that space of what’s really happening within yourself right now.
And then invited them to share with one another. Again, going back to what I was sharing earlier of them being teachers of one another and helping them to really learn from one another and give each other a gift of sharing some of that vulnerability. And again, based on our debrief and what we were learning, I feel like people really were able to go there. People were really able to go there in this workshop.

Sarah:
Yeah, I agree. The good news about this group was that it wasn’t a bunch of total strangers. Many of these folks were in another kind of group called the CEO Forum, which I think allowed us to bring them into a deeper spot because they already had some connection and really share with each other what’s going on. Somebody said kind of jokingly, but true, “I didn’t realize I was coming to a support group when I signed up for this workshop.” But I think that’s what in many places it felt like it felt like getting support, from folks who understand what you’re going through and who care about you.

Tucker:
Well, Sarah, I love what you’re saying with that because we don’t live in the information age, in many ways, anymore. There’s already plenty of information. If we need content, we have billions and billions and billions of hours on YouTube. How many workshops are actually just people talking at us all the time?
That’s what we really continue to learn, both in Zoom but also in person, is that when we’re together, and this is why convening organizations are so important and so are going to grow in their significance of their role and the need for them in terms of what value they bring, like the United Way is being, is the ability to facilitate space for people to connect, to grow, and to learn with one another is way more important than content. We overestimate and overemphasize the importance of content when how much content has gone in and out of our brains over the last, I don’t know, week that we don’t even remember anymore? How many times have we scrolled through whatever and like, “Oh, that’s a cool reel,” but now I don’t even remember what it is? We don’t need more content. Now, it’s helpful to frame conversations up, but we don’t need more content, we need more connection and more community for us to be able to truly learn into some of these concepts.

Sarah:
For sure, for sure. And I think what Maya Angelou’s famous quote, “Nobody will remember what you did, but how you made them feel.” And I think that we’ve known this as a species for a long time, but I think we got away from it and now folks are coming back to this realization that it doesn’t have to be this way and we don’t have to do it alone. And if that’s true, so then what?

Tucker:
Well, and so the last thing we did under the internal piece, and again, this is just for context. And if any of you by the way who are listening, want to bring this type of a workshop into your team, organization, community of nonprofit or impact driven leaders, this is core to our work. And so if you’re interested or curious about that, let us know. We’ll have a link down in the show notes for you to be able to check us out and see what that might look like.
But the second part we did around internal was the pathway to get out of reactivity and into what Danny calls creativity is, pause, notice and choose. And it’s really mindfulness practices as one of the core tools to get out. And so we did a mindfulness practice, some breath work, one that they were able to run with and take and just get into a different space within their literal physical bodies. And it was really interesting to hear, I remember when we asked what some people noticed, I love the word notice. Notice is this really non-judgmental word. It’s just like observation. What do you notice?
And some people noticed they were about wanting to take a nap. Some people noticed they were feeling really calm. There was one woman I remember who said she noticed how impatient she was getting. And it was just really interesting to see all these different human experiences in this one mindfulness practice that we led them through and facilitated, of where a lot of people come at some of this work from totally different spaces.

Sarah:
Absolutely. Yeah.

Tucker:
The second part… sorry Sarah, I just interrupted you.

Sarah:
No, I was just going to say, I think, yeah, it’s always interesting to see, one woman also noticed how her body was feeling and some pain she was in. And I think we just rarely stop to pause and not only notice what’s going on inside, but literally how our bodies are feeling, which is just, it’s crazy that we’ve become so busy that we don’t even know how we’re feeling.

Tucker:
Yeah, yeah, totally. And the second part that we took people through, and Sarah you alluded to it earlier, was this external part, co-creative leadership. So we have conscious leadership for internal, and we have co-creative leadership for external, which I think is probably one of the biggest shifts that all of us need to make. And so important is, as you said earlier, we come from a world where leadership has been about the few who have the answers. But that space of being the few who have the answers is such a lonely, such an isolating and actually growing more and more, such an irrelevant form of leadership because the speed of change is happening so fast. How are we able to be one of the few who have the answers? We need to, instead, unlock the mini and in the power of great and generative questions and co-create our futures.
So that’s a lot of what we went into. We talk about another, a quote from Jon Berghoff, “People have energy towards what they get to create,” which I love that quote. We talked about the reframing power of questions, and Kathy speaks to this in the debrief, how to go instead of thinking about what’s wrong, what’s broken, what’s missing all the time. Perhaps, what is it that we even want? What’s the best of us? What is actually working? What does excellence even look like? And really shifting the type of questions that we ask ourselves and each other that allow us to go into different spaces. As Peter Drucker says, strength is all we have to build on. So why focus on our weaknesses when strengths are what we have to build on? That’s the only thing we have to build on. And so it’s a whole different approach to how we actually create change within an organization.
Sarah, anything you want to hit on around the external side before we go to this final clip around the debrief that we had with Kathy at the end?

Sarah:
I think we’re always just struck by how the things that folks want to co-create around are consistently the same around staff, around revenue and around board. And those I think are some of the areas that make the job of being a nonprofit, CEO or ED, so lonely. And yet they’re all shared. And so it’s just a funny paradox that exists right now. And I think you’ll see in the clip with Kathy how some of these pieces start to unlock those silos we’ve created.

Tucker:
I love that. Well, here we’re going to go over to our clip with Kathy here, which is us debriefing at the end. Again, we did our pluses and deltas and went through a variety of things. We’ll let the whole part play and then we’ll come back and close out the podcast.
All right, we are here with Kathy. Sarah and I are here and this is Kathy. As we had the pre-workshop driving in the car. Thank you for staying safe, very important. And now we want to do some pluses and deltas around the workshop. It was three hours around the next normal of nonprofit leadership, and this is for all of us, really. For all of us, what did we learn? What did we learn as we went through that process? What were the pluses, the things we loved, appreciated, thought went well, and what were the deltas, the things we’d shift for next time as we are a learning organization ourselves, thinking into it?

Kathy:
Well, I think for us it was the connectivity that everyone felt in the room. Those CEOs feel really lonely at the top, and I think this is a space for them to feel safe, relieved, and to connect with each other in a way that they all kind of can relate. This conscious leadership and thinking about how they can now take this and take it into their organizations to uplift everyone. I think that they’ll be able to walk away with a lot of new learning. And for myself, particularly, just starting off with the resources and that need to start with what we have and then build from there as opposed to thinking about the problem. The problems [inaudible 00:27:48].

Tucker:
That’s great. Yeah, that shift from deficit, what’s wrong, what’s broken, what’s missing, into what do we even want? What’s possible? That’s a big shift.

Kathy:
Absolutely.

Tucker:
That’s great. Sarah, any thoughts from you?

Sarah:
I think what’s so interesting, so there’s two parts of this workshop. The first part is about the internal work and the second part is about external, co-creation and the questions. And I think one thing that comes up for me, most times when we ask folks what did they learn, the questions come. Because I think it’s so tangible. But what I’m interested in is does that mean folks are bypassing the importance of the internal work? Is the external easier to… I’m just, I don’t know. I don’t know the answer. But I’m curious because that happens a lot, right? It’s like the questions part, because we get it, fundamentally. So it’s not a plus or a delta, I’m just curious about that.

Tucker:
Yeah, a curiosity.

Kathy:
I think the space that was provided today allows someone to stop and think. We’re in the running back and forth, nonstop in our organizations. And giving the opportunity for them to have a space, felt safe, and the time without feeling rushed allows us to dig internally a little bit more. So I think that emerged a lot today, which was nice because we’re always focused on the external. It’s just an easier go to.

Sarah:
100%.

Kathy:
We’re having that quiet time, just deeply think and be very mindful about how we’re doing our work. And including others in that process, I think makes all the difference.

Tucker:
Yeah. Yeah. I feel like it was intriguing for me to go internal first because it’s like we’re come into the deep end with us right now. We’re not even in the shallow end. We’re just jumping off the deep end diving board and here we go. And some people wrestle with that and it seemed like people were able to go in, into that. When is reactivity causing you more harm than good? That question can bring up a lot. And so my plus is the space that we gave to that to let it feel spacious. Because if it’s rushed, then it almost leads to more reactivity.
But it also led to, we didn’t get quite as much space for the external as much as I think I would’ve liked. My delta is like, okay, how do we get a little bit more space for that external around, thinking into some of the questions that we need to ask and a little more space for the wisdom circles that we did and things like that. So that’s what I was processing through is, it’s like a plus and a delta, the wrestling of these types of workshops.

Kathy:
It is. I think the opportunity for them to connect after they leave is going to be really important for that external piece. Anytime we’re doing internal work, it just needs time. It just needs time and it needs to sit. And it was almost hard for us to kind of make that shift when you’re asking us to think internally and be really reflective. We all kind of paused. No one was writing down immediately when you said that. It really requires some deep thinking. And so I think it was okay that we had that space.
And I guess the goal right now for us right here at the United Way is to make sure that they have an additional space to reconnect during that new learning and have a space to talk about the external in terms of how they can support each other.

Tucker:
Yeah.

Sarah:
100%. I think a lot of folks came up afterwards and they’re all struggling with such similar things, which is what we know from our work. And the question is how can we get out of scarcity and connect the dots between, and that’s what you all do so well here at the United Way. So excited to see them continue to do that.

Tucker:
Well, and I wanted to appreciate too, you Kathy, and the United way of the work of a convening organization is real work. So many times, we were talking about this earlier, that the space of bringing people together is a real skill and it takes real energy and intention and effort and sometimes it’s kind of been put on the side like, no, that is actually a very clear fundamental role that some organizations need to play.
And so I just loved seeing you in action and Trina and some of the others around how we’re bringing people together and the importance of these spaces because scarcity is pervasive in our nonprofit space, which means that I look at my colleagues by default as sometimes a threat. It’s a zero-sum game. They might steal funding from me, these types of approach. So it takes a convening organization like yours to really bring these together and it just takes real skill and grace to hold space. So I just want to appreciate you.

Kathy:
Thank you. Yeah, I think we realize at the end of the day, it’s our nonprofits that are doing that work. They’re the ones that are in the thick of it, really supporting families and children. If we can lift them, if we can support them so they do the work even better, then we’ve done a little something thing.

Tucker:
Yeah. Any last thoughts about today? Anything that comes up? Anything else, question on the end of the survey that sometimes like thanks, and sometimes like, oh, that’s where the real meat came, is the anything else question.

Sarah:
One woman said to me, she’s like, “I’m really interested in burnout.” And she said, “How come it’s the fact that teachers and doctors, they have hard jobs, but everyone’s like, they have such a hard job and they get celebrated, and nonprofit, it’s like we’re invisible.” We don’t get celebrated. Nobody’s like, “Those poor nonprofit workers” or “Those awesome nonprofit workers.” And what can we do to celebrate and raise them up? And I was like, “Gosh, you’re right.” That’s nuts. These other caring professions in our society, people know they’re tough, but they’re praised and they’re uplifted and they’re recognized. And why isn’t that not true for nonprofits?

Tucker:
It’s so true. It’s true.

Sarah:
So it’s like convening. It’s the training and the connecting, but it also made me think about the recognition part of it.

Tucker:
Yeah.

Kathy:
Yeah. Absolutely.

Sarah:
Just the celebrating. She’s like, “I know there’s a nonprofit day, but it’s only nonprofits that celebrate it.”

Tucker:
We all should celebrate.

Sarah:
So that was an aha for me. I was like, yes.

Kathy:
Absolutely. And it doesn’t have to mean that… every member in our community uses a nonprofit. They may not necessarily look at an agency or an organization, think it’s a nonprofit because they’re benefiting in some way, shape, or form. But most of us, if not all of us, benefit in one way or another with a nonprofit. And we’re not really thinking about those struggles, day-to-day struggles and what they contribute that make all the difference in the life of this person.

Sarah:
100%.

Kathy:
Absolutely.

Tucker:
Yeah, yeah. Awesome. Well, hey, thanks for tuning into our pre and post assessment on our workshop at the United Way of Buffalo. Bye, everyone.

Sarah:
Thanks, y’all.

Kathy:
Bye.

Tucker:
Well, I hope you enjoyed our debrief of the podcast. Sarah, your aha at the end, man, that just, it hit me too. It hit me too that, that nonprofit leader came up and said, “Are we really invisible?”

Sarah:
Yeah. Why don’t we matter? How come everybody else matters except for us? And especially, she was talking a little bit about Covid, where everyone was banging on the pans outside of the hospitals and everybody was like, “Oh, teachers,” teaching in the pandemic. And nobody was ever talking about nonprofit workers. And I think it just really raised up for her this huge disparity, which has always existed in the fact that we have these caring professions that are really at the root of our society in the United States. And some of them are really venerated and some of them are completely ignored, and the nonprofit leader is one of those.

Tucker:
Well, and Sarah, I noticed this too when I went through a leadership program here in Denver a couple years ago, and it was through leadership foundation, it was through the city, basically. It was called Leadership Denver. A lot of cities have these types of things. And I remember being struck by the fact that mostly everything that we had and talked about, and we met once a month every Friday, mostly everything had to do with work that nonprofit leaders were working on, right? Hunger and homelessness, environmental challenges and issues, equity problems and issues in our city. It was so fascinating to see all these nonprofit leaders come in, share their wisdom, and we all would get excited and interested in the issue. But not one point did anybody really engage the nonprofit leader in their own leadership like, “How are you? Tell me about you.”
I think it was a really striking experience for me of exactly what you just shared in your aha, which is so many times we, as a society, overlook the nonprofit leader because we focus on the issue. But then of course, we’ve talked a lot about different injustices, everything from a significant lack of investment in leadership development and scrutiny on the 990 around their overhead expenses. And I’m like, but no, these are people who actually need support in order to do the work. Why do for-profit organizations spend four times more on leadership development than nonprofits do? Because it makes sense, because it works, because we need to invest in people in order to get the job done. But for some reason, it’s like this total missing spot of, yeah, nonprofit leaders are invisible. We get so excited and focus so much on the issue, and we forget about the very people who are directly in the trenches and the deep proximity of this work. So I just want to appreciate what you were sharing there, Sarah.

Sarah:
Yeah. I think it’s hurtful for the nonprofit leaders, I think is what I really felt from her. It’s hurtful to feel ignored and invisible.

Tucker:
Yeah. Well, which makes me go back to double down on what Kathy shared, and I shared a little bit earlier of if you’re a convening organization, it is an important role. It is not a nice to have. For some reason, being a convener, and that may even be the wrong word, convening. It feels maybe too fluffy or something. But people who are able to gather nonprofit leaders, like the United Way was doing with us and being able to organize and to help people move forward and connect with each other and build community, that is one of the most important roles in the whole nonprofit sector right now. And so if you’re out there and you are a convening organization, know that your work is important. Learn how to be better facilitators and community builders, but nonprofit leaders need to connect with one another, and that’s one of the best ways that we know to help build through the capacity in them.

Sarah:
Absolutely. Yeah. Less about skills and more about connection.

Tucker:
Awesome. Well, thanks all for listening into, this is our first version of doing this type of a podcast, so we’ll see how it goes. But if this was valuable to you, we’d love to hear. Maybe put up a review up in iTunes or in Apple Podcasts and let us know. Ping us on our Facebook page or on LinkedIn, we’d love to know what value you’re getting from this, if any. That would be great. Otherwise, we’ll see you on the next podcast. Bye everyone.

Sarah:
Thanks y’all.