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Nonprofit Mastermind Podcast
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Nonprofit Mastermind Podcast

Author: Brooke Richie-Babbage

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This podcast offers nonprofit founders and leaders a deep-dive into the mindset and key strategies behind launching, scaling, and leading a high-impact nonprofit organization.
38 Episodes
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In this week’s episode, I’m talking with Don Waisanen. Don is a Professor of public communication in the Baruch College, CUNY Marxe School of Public and International Affairs, as well as an adjunct lecturer at Columbia University and New York University. He teaches seminars, courses, and workshops on topics ranging from communication strategy and leadership to storytelling and improvisation.  I’ve known Don for close to a decade, when he joined the board of the organization that I had founded and of which I was ED. I was super excited when I saw his new book - Improv For Democracy, and wanted to talk with him about this unique - and actually really powerful - idea about how to find common ground and move to action with people whose beliefs and values we might think are different from our own. Then I learned about his second new book - both came out this year! - Leadership Standpoints, and we just knew we would have a great discussion about something that has felt increasingly urgent to both of us in recent years: how to work across differences to actually bring about change. We're in a time of such division and polarization, and the social change and social justice work that nonprofits are doing feel even more immediate - if that’s possible - than when I got into the work twenty years ago. At the same time, teams are changing - how we work with the people INSIDE our organizations: our staff, our board -- how we need to think about communication and partnership is shifting in subtle but powerful ways. This conversation with Don is exactly what I had hoped for -- a frank, engaging discussion about actual communication and leadership strategies that leaders can use to meet people where they are, open up possibilities for partnership and collective movement towards action - on their teams, board, and in their broader work.. 
Starting this month I’m doing something new!  It’s something I’ve been super excited about, and heading into the final stretch of the year felt like a great time to start. Each month, one show/ month will be a solo show where I take a look at some topic, specific to growth stage nonprofits, exploring some aspect of mindset or strategy. This Month's Topic: Nonprofit Life Cycle Assessment As A Tool To Guide Growth As we head into the end of the year and we all begin to explore possibilities for the next, I find that many of the EDs and board members I work with are reflecting on the “state of their organization.” I was recently asked by a student in my Impact Accelerator about the best way to determine where to focus energies in the new year. The nonprofit lifecycle is one of my favorite tools to accomplish this task.So this month, my solo show is about the life cycles of a nonprofit, and how to assess - and respond to - your organization’s stage of growth.
This is the fourth and final installment of my short series revisiting some of the incredible conversations I’ve had with folks as part of my Next Normal series at the beginning of this year. I’ve been struck, as we head into yet another phase of this pandemic, by just how different so much feels different, and yet oddly familiar. It’s like my favorite book from growing up - 100 years of solitude. The idea of time turning in a circle - returning to the same place that is somehow fundamentally and forever altered. So much of our work in the social justice space - so much of our leadership - our goals, challenges, and questions - are familiar, yet fundamentally changed from before COVID.That is the next normal. So I’ve wanted to revisit some of the core themes that come up in one's leadership of a nonprofit through a few different lenses: leadership itself, working with funders, sustainability, and now, building teams. This week, I’m revisiting two of my most enjoyable conversations - one with my very dear Sister, Darcy Richie, and the other with a dear friend and colleague, Toya Lillard. They share their insights and deep perspectives on how to build and hold high-impact teams that are rooted in - and field by - trust and respect. 
This is the third installment of my short series revisiting some of the incredible conversations I’ve had with folks as part of my Next Normal series at the beginning of this year. As so many of us continue to grapple with the implications of COVID for how we work and how we lead,  I wanted to revisit the idea of leadership in this next normal that’s being created. I call it the next normal because what counts as normal is always changing and evolving, the work of social impact and social justice and leadership and even the structure of nonprofits is evolving and we’re creating the next version of “normal” - hopefully, one with deeper equity and more honesty about what is broken and still left to be fixed in our world. This week, I’m revisiting some of the most thought-provoking and inspiring conversations I had about leading in a sustainable way - what does it mean and look like to lead in a way that both fuels us and centers and honors our whole selves? These conversations are with Kishishana Palmer, Chitra Aiyar, and Reverand Dr. Emma Jordan Simpson.  We talk about the weight of leadership, the spectre of mental health, and how we can and should think about sustainability as a value rather than an outcome in our lives and in our organizations.  
This is the second installment of my short series revisiting some of the incredible conversations I’ve had with folks as part of my Next Normal series at the beginning of this year. As so many of us continue to grapple ith the implications of COVID for how we work and how we lead,  I wanted to revisit the idea of leadership in this next normal that’s being created. I call it the next normal because what counts as normal is always changing and evolving, the work of social impact and social justice and leadership and even the structure of nonprofits is evolving and we’re creating a next version of “normal” - hopefully one with deeper equity and more honesty about what is broken and still left to be fixed in our world. This week, I’m looking at a theme that came up a bunch in the conversations: what it looks and feels like to have an equitable relationship with funders. How has that been changed by COVID, and what are the hallmarks of a true partnership. These conversations are with Marcella Tillett, VP of Programs and Partnerships at the Brooklyn Community Foundation, Terri Davis-Marchant,Program Director of Housing and Homelessness  at Trinity Church Philanthropies, and Robyne Walker-Murphy, EDF of the Goundswell Mural Project. The themes that came up in all of the wonderful conversations were: 1 - power - what it looks like in a healthy funder/ grantee relationship and in a not so healthy one; 2- how to build true partnership, and a bit of behind the scenes of funder’s perspectives; and 3 - some best practices, from the perspective of both a grantee and two very different funders. So this week, and for the coming weeks, I’ll be revisiting and curating a few collections of fund conversations, all around themes of leadership. My hope is that the conversations will give you some food for thought for your own leadership. 
In reflecting on some of the incredible conversations I’ve had with folks, I wanted to revisit the idea of leadership in the next normal; to dissect it and pull apart some of the themes that my guests have unearthed about what it will mean to be an effective and whole-self leader in the world that is being rebuilt in real time, as we head out of COVID.This week, I’m looking at one question that I found myself sitting with is about the ways in which our traditional models of leadership can fail us as actual leaders.First, in my conversation with Tene Howard and Zareta Ricks, we talk about how leadership should reflect—at its best—who we are. What moves  us. How we are fueled.  In my conversation with Jill Eisenhard we explore how this so often isn’t the lived experiences of EDs, particularly founders, as they grow their organizations.  If this is true - if leadership should be an expression of your values/what moves you, then why as executive directors do we find ourselves working to keep the “doors open” without actually being engaged in what made us want to start or run the organization in the first place?My conversation with Katy Rubin explores another, perhaps more pernicious, failure of traditional leadership: the myth of singular, solitary leader out in front innovating and pulling the organization along by the sheer power of will or personality.  If funding, and program success, and strategic partnerships rise and fall on the shoulders of an individual, it’s easier not to see the very real impact of race and gender and systemic, generational power imbalances and inequities on things like access to networks and how space is taken up in a board room. So this week, and for the coming weeks, I’ll be revisiting and curating a few collections of fund conversations, all around themes of leadership. My hope is that the conversations will give you some food for thought for your own leadership. I’m also including a short download with this episode: You can get it at richiebabbage.com/nextnormalleadershiplessons  
In this week’s episode, I get to have a conversation with someone I’ve wanted to talk with for this podcast for some time: ​​Heather Vickery. Heather is a celebrated public speaker and success coach that inspires audiences and supports others with the tools they need to live empowered, bold, joy-filled, and successful lives. She’s a published author and the host of The Brave Files Podcast. I’ve wanted to talk with Heather because the core theme of her coaching and work is one that is so central to the conversations about leadership and social impact that I have with the leaders I work with: bravery. Heather and I have a really wonderful conversation. We talk about the universality of fear, especially in leadership, and how to take power back from our fears, and more importantly, what it means and looks like in practice to choose bravery in response to the myriad challenges that arise in our leadership, and in social change work more broadly. 
This week, I’m joined by Rhea Wong, my long-time friend, and multi-time guest on the podcast. Rhea and I talk all the time about the work that we each do supporting and coaching small nonprofits in the areas of fundraising and strategy, and occasionally we hit on a topic that gets us really excited. This is one of those topics: the messy and complicated relationship between fundraising and founders. We found ourselves talking about the oh-so-common situation that many EDs who take over from founders find themselves in in the early months of their new tenure -- the “robust” funding base of donors and supporters that they believed they were receiving,  are not there. I work with a lot of founders, and so I was really excited to talk with Rhea about how a leader can avoid this situation - what someone can do LONG before it’s a problem - to be intentional about their fundraising base and build a strong infrastructure that won’t collapse when they leave. The process of intentional fundraising begins years before a founder leaves, and Rhea and I have a blast discussing, debating, and even sometimes commiserating in our memory of our ED days. 
This week I'm talking with Emily May, the co-founder and Executive Director of Hollaback,  a global, people-powered movement to end harassment. Emily is an incredibly thoughtful steward of the Hollaback mission, as well as one of the most incredible strategic minds I’ve known.  In this conversation, Emily pulls back the curtain on her strategic prowess. She talks about her growth as a leader against the backdrop of the astounding growth that Hollaback has experienced in the past year: How, as a leader,  to continue to set intentions that allow you to navigate organizational growth, and how to balance vision with responsiveness to a movement or constituency. She also shares her story of personal growth. She talks about how so much of preparing to scale is about how we as leaders move through the world, about how a readiness to “play bigger” and lead bigger is often so much more about mindset and our own growth edges than we think. Finally, Emily and I vibe about the deep stuff about leadership. We talk about our shared belief in abundance as a guiding principle, about the power of the law of attraction in leadership, and about our understanding of the special kind of resilience that it takes to lead an institution. 
This week, I'm talking with two incredible and inspirational women - Donnie Belcher and Lauren Burke -  CEO and COO respectively,  of Camp Equity. These women have, multiple times in their lives, seen a deep social problem and jumped into action - as a teacher and lawyer, as a Skadden Fellow, as Echoing Green fellows, and now together, through Camp Equity. In this conversation, we talk about what it means and looks like to be both intentional and responsive to a critical moment. I loved this conversation, in large part because Donnie and Lauren have rooted their organization in the values and working principles of equity. We talk about how from the beginning of Camp Equity, as they mapped out everything from their working relationship to how they would hire to how they would structure funding partnerships, equity in practice has been at the core; Not an add-on, but THE frame for decision making.  We talk about what it actually looks like for a nonprofit to try to grow that way.  Finally, we blend the big-picture, strategic and tactical. We talk about deep issues like racial equity and systemic change and mindset gremlins, and Donnie and Lauren share highly practical, concrete strategies and lessons about fundraising, early hiring, program design, and launching a nonprofit more generally. Ultimately, I just deeply admire these two women. This conversation sheds light on their world-changing organization, their amazing partnership, and some of the realities of launching, doing, and living social change work. 
In this episode, I have a wonderful conversation with Charlie Vazquez.  Charlie Vazquez is a storytelling consultant, workshop facilitator, and Buddhist meditation instructor. He’s designed and facilitated multi-sensory storytelling and wellness programs for the NYC Department of Health, New York Public Library, Bronx Council on the Arts, and PEN America, serving LGBTQI youth-of-color, undocumented immigrants, low-income communities, and senior citizens. He uses story to create transformation and lives in The Bronx.One of the things that I have wanted to talk with Charlie Vazquez about is the relationship between storytelling, social justice, and spirituality. In his work as an artist, and meditation practitioner, as well as as an organizational consultant, he blends these seemingly disparate elements into a single practice. Charlie and I talk about both the why - why storytelling as a tool for advancing social justice; why the linkage between storytelling and meditation - and the how - how can an organization that is doing high-impact work improve its own storytelling? The throughline in the conversation is Charlie’s focus on doing work - and helping others do work - that centers our humanity in the work. His storytelling is about centering the humanity of the people impacted by - and stewarding - the work; his multisensory practice is about helping us each connect to our own humanity as a way to move through often trauma and chaos of social justice work. Find Charlie at CharlieVazquez.com
I'm joined this week by one of my oldest and dearest friends, Terri Davis-Merchant. Terri works at the intersection of affordable housing development, homelessness, policy & philanthropy as a Program Officer at Trinity Church Wall Street Philanthropies. This is one of the most open and frank conversations I’ve had, and about a topic that is so often opaque: Philanthropy and the inner workings of foundations.   Terri brings to her role as a grantmaker, both a unique depth of content expertise and the critical eye of a newcomer to the field of philanthropy.  We talk about it all: What could foundations do better? What is their proper role vis a vis the work of their grantees? What does partnership actually mean in practice?  There’s a lot of talk these days about the responsibility of philanthropic institutions to make their grants and then get out of the way of the groups doing work on the ground, but what does that mean in practice? And how do you start and build a relationship with a foundation that leads to that type of trust?This is a juicy episode filled with honest insights, behind-the-scenes strategy tips, and a lot of laughter. 
This week's guest, Rachel Mills,  is the Founder and CEO of Harmony Consulting, and has been on a mission since she was 16-years-old to help others, help others - a personal and professional mission that just really resonates with me. For over a decade now, Rachel's been working with and creating award-winning campaigns for world-changing nonprofits such as Big Brothers Big Sisters and the United Way, helping them harmonize their fundraising and marketing strategies to create content that really propels their missions forward. I was excited to talk with Rachel about the nuts and bolts of content strategy for small and emerging organizations - why it’s so important, how to think expansively about the kinds of content your organization can create, the relationship between content and thought leadership and fundraising…. The big picture and the strategy!  And we definitely talked about all of that! Rachel is a master at blending the why with the how - actionable tips grounded in solid context about the reason any of this even matters. But one reason I love these podcast conversations is that there are multiple layers to most things we do in the social impact world - and what we actually wound up talking about was a deeper conversation about the underlying mindset shifts that come before a leader can really begin thinking about content strategy… we had a generative discussion about how everything that we do with nonprofits, at its core, is about relationships, and about the power of storytelling to build and strengthen meaningful relationships with the people with whom we’re working to create real change in the world.
This week, I'm sharing a recording from a really great panel discussion that I facilitated with four inspiring nonprofit leaders who each grew their organizations to $1M and beyond: Jill Eisenhard, founder and former ED of the Redhook Initiative Kemi Ilesanmi, ED of The Laundromat Project Steve Choi, former ED of the Min Kwon Center and the NY Immigration Coalition Suzy Myers-Jackson, former ED of Opening ActThis conversation goes behind the scenes of what it actually looks and feels like to grow an organization to $1M and beyond.  They each share some of the key lessons they learned - often surprising -  on their journey to both grow as leaders and grow their organizations.  
Today I’m talking with Alexa Kasdan, Director of Policy and Research at Demos, here in NYC. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Alexa for almost two decades. We met in the early 2000s when she was working at an incredible organization called Community Voices Heard in NYC, and I joined the board as an Ally Member. It was through Alexa, and her policy work alongside the members of CVH, that I first came to understand what participatory research and policy worked looked like in practice. And I fell in love with the model. So often, we talk about impact in the nonprofit sector as being on behalf of people and communities. What I love about what Alexa and I talk about today is that it offers an important reframe - how do you practice social change work in a way that engages and centers impacted people as partners in the work, rather than as subjects of the work? This is a great and very actionable episode about how to do social change work in a way that is more truly inclusive and equitable - whether you’re doing policy work, organizing work, or provide critical community programs or social services, there’s real gold in here for you.Resources MentionedCommunity Voices Heard:  www.cvhaction.org Register for my free training, Turn Your Social Change Vision Into A Nonprofit at richiebabbage.com/visiontolaunch
Very rarely have I met someone as naturally gifted at resource generation as Suzy Myers-Jackson. I say resource generation, rather than fundraising, because what Suzy has spent the past 18 years doing - first as the ED of Opening Act, and more recently as a strategic consultant and coach, has been more expansive than just raising money. Did she grow her organization from $25K to a multi-million dollar organization? Yes, Did she perfect her Power of 10 campaign strategy to raise over $175K in 10 days through micro-donations, yes?  And I’m excited that she shares strategies for how to do this. But at the core of her fundraising prowess is a true gift for thinking expansively about how to define resources - she understands that the relationships that she builds, and the community that she grows, is the resource, and that has translated into money, time, investments, volunteers, raving supporters, advisors, partners, and transformative impact for the youth that she was working on behalf of. In this conversation with Suzy, she breaks down her approach to resource generation, and offers tactical advice and tools -  actionable steps you can take to improve your own resource generation. She also provides insight into the way that she thinks about fundraising more deeply, and how that is actually what made her so effective. Another great combo of strategy and mindset.
I’ve had the pleasure of working with Toya and her organization, viBe Theater Experience, for over a year now. I’ve loved watching Toya in action, as she’s taken her organization to the next level. The tremendous increases in her budget, staff & programming over the past year have been so exciting to see, as has watching her continue to carefully cultivate an internal culture that centers wellness and trust. That’s what I wanted to talk with Toya about - the nuts and bolts of driving for programmatic and organizational excellence while also truly centering the humanity and wellness of her team. So often we talk about performance evaluation as - at best, an annual ritual that we go through but don’t really use, or worse, a necessary evil that creates stress and feels like a burden to everyone involved. Toya and I talk about how reimagining what it actually means to evaluate performance - how we define excellence, who decides which metrics to measure and how, what we reward and how we think about incentives - How that can actually transform the whole experience of an evaluation into a vehicle for fueling growth and deepening team members’ understandings of one another. 
This week I’m having a really fun conversation with my good friend, Steve Choi. Steve is a lawyer, activist, organizer, political strategist, and nonprofit leader. Most recently, he was the ED of the NY Immigration Coalition here in NYC.  In the decades that Steve and I have been friends, I’ve come to understand him as a truly gifted advocate and political systems thinker & strategist. In this episode, we talk about how important it is for nonprofits - especially small and emerging organizations - to understand how they fit into the political landscape of their community, how their mission can be served by a deeper partnership with elected officials, and to bring real intentionality to deciding which levers to pull to explore and build relationships with elected officials.Ultimately, what is exciting to me about this conversation is that it reminded me that leading and building a nonprofit that has an incredible and transformative impact - whether you have a 5 million budget or a 50K budget - means looking at all of the impact levers available and strategically choosing which ones to pull and when. Steven offers insight into how to push through the fears that can come up around working with and fundraising from electeds, we talk about the inherent power that nonprofits have, and how to lean into that, and he provides a fabulous breakdown of how to get started building partnerships with government.
This is week two in my series on fundraising for early-stage organizations. During this brief series, I’m bringing back some of my favorite conversations from my Fundraising Virtual Summit last year  - these are interviews with incredible folks on topics ranging from how to think about building relationships with corporations to brandraising. As I’ve mentioned, when I started the podcast and called it the Mastermind, I had in mind the amazing group of women that I met with as my own mastermind for years when I was an ED. They were instrumental in my growth and success as a leader, and in the growth and success of my organization. This was largely because we talked about, workshopped, and shared information on everything from how to sustain ourselves in our work - which we’ve touched on in this podcast - to how to rethink benefits so that our financial decisions were reflective of our core organizational values.  I got information that fed my mind and information that was concrete and actionable - and that combination was powerful. So that’s what I’m excited to do here.  This short series is heavy on the concrete and actionable!In today’s episode, I have a great conversation with George Suttles, one of the most gifted relationship-builders I’ve ever met. This conversation about how to build relationships that translate into in-kind organizational support is a fantastic one.  
In today’s episode, I have a great conversation Sarah Durham,  the CEO and founder of Big Duck.  She founded Big Duck in 1994 to help nonprofits increase their visibility, raise money, and communicate more effectively. She is also the CEO of Advomatic, which builds and supports websites for nonprofits. Sarah and I do a deep dive into branding - what it means and the nuts and bolts of how small and early stage nonprofits can get on the radar of donors and funders, and how they can find and use their voice to create raving fans and ambassadors for their organizations.  
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