Hello and welcome to the final day in this year's a virtual On Board conference or nonprofit board service hosted by the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation.
I'm Rob Gertner, the Joel F. Gemunder Professor of Strategy and Finance at Chicago Booth and the John Edwardson Faculty Director for the Rustandy Center.
Now in its eighth year the On Board conference remains an integral part of the Rustandy Center suite of program that aim to tackle society's most pressing challenges. Over the years, On Board's format and offerings have changed but its mission has remained the same-- to help develop people and practices with the potential to change the world.
This year in particular, highlighted the important role that innovation and creativity play in driving forward meaningful change. Today is On Board session we'll tap into the potential for innovation in the social sector by exploring how nonprofits and their boards of directors might leverage learnings from this past year to pivot and propel their work forward.
First we'll kick things off with our keynote featuring nonprofit leaders who will provide insights on the future of giving innovation, leadership impact driven strategies, and more. Then we'll transition into our workshop session crisis and risk management for nonprofits led by Booth professor Guy Rolnik. If you didn't register for the workshop session but would like to join, you can do so on the Cvent Attendee Hub.
Before I introduce our speakers and we kick things off, I'd like to extend special thanks to our platinum sponsor William Blair for helping to bring this year's conference to life.
William Blair is a strong partner of the Rustandy Center supporting the On Board conference, our impact investing programs and community-based initiatives. Through the support, William Blair demonstrates a deep commitment to strengthening the social sector in our communities.
And one more plug if you're interested in innovation, you can check out UChicago's newest social entrepreneurs by tuning into the finals of the John Edwards in ‘72 social new venture challenge on Tuesday, June 1st. We'll be sending out more information about the SNBC finals after this event.
With that I'm, (coughs) excuse me, with that I'm delighted to introduce today's On Board's keynote speakers. Today's moderator is Dorri McWhorter. This week it was announced that Dorri will be leaving her current role as CEO of the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago to become the first woman and first African American to lead the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago. Congrats to Dorri on this exciting opportunity. Dorri is also non-profit engagement executive in residence at the Rustandy Center and is on the board of directors for Lifeway Foods, William Blair Funds and Skyway Concession Company.
Dorri will lead a conversation with Calvin Holmes. Calvin is the president of the Chicago Community Loan Fund. Previously, he was appointed by President Obama to serve as chairman of the Community Development Advisory Board CDFI fund. He's also a member of the Bank of America and U.S Bank National Community Advisory Council and the PNC Bank Advisory Board for Illinois and the Advisory Board of the Chase New Markets Corporation.
In addition, we'll be joined by David Simas who's currently the CEO of the Obama Foundation. Prior to this, he was deputy chief of staff to Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick in 2007 and deputy assistant to President Obama in the Obama administration in 2009 and director of opinion research for president Obama's reelection campaign in 2012. David also serves on the national board of directors of OneGoal.
I encourage you to check out their full and lengthy profiles on the speakers page of this Cvent Attendee Hub.
After our panels discuss a series of questions, we'll leave some time to take questions from all of you. Feel free to submit a question at any time using the Q and A feature on the right side of your web browser.
We'll try to get to as many questions as allows. With that, let's dive in, Dorri, please take over.
Great thank you for that warm introduction. We still appreciate the opportunity to be here and happy Friday, everyone. It's a beautiful day in Chicago and so I think it's a great day to talk about how we do propel nonprofits forward given the the time that we're in and all that's happening.
So I'll just jump right in and I should say froma format today as well while I am the moderator, I was also asked to share my opinions every now and then and I say that so I'm kind of going to be like a player coach today so I'll be a moderator slash panelists. So I wanted to make sure people knew that so they won't be like she is the most chatty moderator ever. So, but of course I want to really hear a lot from the great experience that we have from our fellow panelists here.
So why don't we jump right in gentlemen? So one of the topics that I know is going to be critical as Robert talked about what I'll be doing next, but this notion of leadership. So really want to talk about with our sort of how we're going to kick off today, let's talk about your experience leading your organization and the board through the pandemic and give us sort of an update of where things are now and what are some of the lessons learned. So let's dive into that a little bit.
Calvin, you look ready to go, so why don't we start with you?
Thanks Dorri. It's really a honor to be here with you all this morning and I want to thank all the participants for your commitment to confronting some of the greatest challenges in society and the environment.
And Dorri and David, it's always great to be in a conversation with the two of you and Dorri congratulations on your new post. YMCA sort of knew where to go for, right, for the best talent, right, so really excited about that.
So like every everyone else we've been protecting the public and protecting our families by working remotely over the past, what has it been 14 months now. We've been putting in, I'm sure this is the case for David and your staff as well Dorri, we've been putting in some pretty intense long hours to help our customers deal with the civil unrest last summer, to negotiate their way through the pandemic over the last 14 months and also to start planning for the future, how can they be better and stronger as they recover going forward?
So we had sort of three pretty swift reactions to the pandemic in mid-March and we were truly responding as a financial first responder. So we immediately started thinking about what can we do for our customers that's gonna give them practical financial relief in a way that, that we didn't do quite as well coming out of the great recession, right?
So the first thing we thought about and we've got about 180 customers or so on portfolio, right? Many of them are small neighborhood based non-profits and enterprises. So we said, ah, let's give them payment relief immediately, like almost automatically three months, six months, nine months, whatever they need.
And then we knew that because so many of our customers are nonprofits and small, that they couldn't afford for us to expect for them to pay back that deferred principal as soon as it was time for their loan payments to resume. So a lot of banks did that and we said, no way we are gonna take that principle and put it on the back end so that when they have to start paying that loan back it's going to be an easy resumption for them and that was a really smart move on our part.
And then it was all about technical assistance and development, advisory services and business advisory services. So we did lots of one-on-one consults with our customers, we got involved in as many relevant and timely webinars, I think as the two of you did, to push information out to our customers in the community. We even innovated a call center, a virtual call center, for the paycheck protection program because we knew that a number of our smaller non-profit and for-profit customers were not getting the love that they deserve from the larger financial institutions and we wanted to make sure that they did not get left behind.
So we over a four month period served about 110 clients. We're really proud of the fact that 80% of those clients were exactly those sort of small black and brown owned or led businesses or nonprofits. 63% of them were owned or led by women and we were happy that 26 of them succeeded in getting a paycheck protection program loans and that helped them preserve 120 precious jobs in our communities.
Then we went into the publishing business, the online publishing business, we created a 50 to 60 page regional community development resource guide that was just chock full of grants and loans and other resources to help nonprofits and for-profits find resources that can help them negotiate the pandemic. Over 7,000 folks have viewed that resource guide on our website over the past year, I encourage the participants to go ahead and check it out on CCLS website. So that was another team response.
And then we turned to what we could do aside from our customers, our clients and what we could do for the broader community. So we immediately joined a number of public private partnerships with the state of Illinois, with the Cook County government, with the city of Chicago, both administering and deploying loan and grant programs to help not only small businesses nonprofits but even gig workers have critical lifelines financing to persevere the pandemic and we're really proud that we provided $12 million in lifeline funding for those types of organizations.
And we stepped out of our comfort zone. Our bailiwick is community development, brick and mortar real estate but we recognized that our communities needed for us to also expand our capacity on the spot and also provide small business loans that help gig workers get financing as well.
So it's been quite an experience and we're going to be prepared for the next one.
Oh, well, thank you for all of that Calvin. I'm so glad that you all are really flexing at this time to provide resources in a completely different way that was needed at that time.
So David give us an update, where are you all from the pandemic and how was that experience and what did you learn during that time?
Well, first of all, Dorri, what a pleasure it is to see you in echoing what Calvin said, congratulations on the new journey and to be on a panel with Calvin is a real joy and Calvin thank you for what you do and have been doing and how you've been doing it. Deeply grateful.
Once the pandemic hit, understanding that the central focus of the Obama Foundation isn't about a specific set of issues, but it's about that idea that the president and Mrs. Obama have always espoused that every single person has a dignity and worth and value and has the capacity to lead.
Everybody has that, that is both an internal assessment first, that then goes external and so we took those first principles and said, okay, the world has now changed fundamentally, we have no preconception of what it's gonna look like, we have all of these plans that need to be completely reassessed with a high degree of uncertainty and so what does that mean internally first?
So employee decisions, going virtual, doing the things that needed to happen first. Convening the board and at that moment, the expertise around the table, not necessarily with a view to oh this is how you handle a pandemic, but essentially based upon our experiences in moments of turmoil and uncertainty, here is how we think you should think about it and we serve on for-profit boards, not-for-profit boards here are some best practices that we're seeing what is a value and what isn't a value and so it was probably a good two to three months period of once we're hunkering down essentially beginning to reassess all of the planning that we had been doing. Which forces you into as an organization for us four years into our work, what is our highest and best use?
Because over time you begin to add in a creep, in mission creep, inevitably begins to rear its head. And so the pandemic in an interesting way gave us the time to stop and say, okay, where do we add value to the world and where do we not? And so programmatically, even though it's not going to affect our Chicago footprint there are many programs that we were thinking of doing that we're just not going to do anymore. They a nice to have but not a critical to have, the pandemic essentially took us in that or accelerated where we would have ended up.And so that's the first kind of organizational principle.
Secondly, as you all know, or may know we're about to build a 20 acre campus on the south side of Chicago, the Obama Presidential Center. The best way to view it is as a global hub for individuals throughout the city of Chicago and throughout the world who want to make their communities better.
The way the president has described it is if you want to be a lawyer, you go to law school, if you want to be a doctor, you go to medical school, if you want to learn how to make the world better, you come to us.
And so, all right, how does a pandemic effect that? Do we know what a COVID world is gonna bring in three to four years? Does it change the design? How are other institutions affected reacting to it? So we did that level of planning.
But the thing that I am the most proud of and I'll be very quick about this is after the George Floyd murder, again focused on where do we provide the highest and best use given our platform? What can we uniquely do as an organization?
We stood up a pledge online as part of our my brother's keeper program and I'm happy to report that 383 United States mayors signed Obama Foundation's pledge on police reform. And 700,000 people went to obama.org and took their own individual pledge to engage in the community and so, again we weren't going to be doing work on the ground but we could provide a platform that brings mayors in and then in a more important way, drives people in communities to engage in a way that is responsive.
That was in the COVID environment. Final thing is essentially many of our Obama leaders from throughout the world. We have hundreds all over the planet right now doing good work. On their own once we provided the platform began to share best practices, began to pivot around how they could serve their communities from Malaysia to Oakland, to Kuala Lumpur.
I mean, it was pretty exciting and so essentially for us Dorri and Calvin, stop, make sure everyone is safe, understand the uncertainty that we're in, anchor around those things that we know we can provide value around right now and then iterates slowly based upon that--that's been the experience for us so far.
No, that's great and I'm always mindful on these particularly in the Zoom panels. I feel like a little bobblehead, so I'm like, yes, yes, yes, I need some other way of expressing my agreement, right, with what both of you have said.
So given that this is the On Board summit, how would you think the board was impacted? How do you think the board was impacted during this time? And how did that impact board construction and how the board participated in what you all described?
David, I'll throw it over for you to get us started on that process. And, I guess I'll say too, so not only how you think about the board construction but what do you think is needed from the board leadership now and how are you going to address that as well?
So if we could roll that all into a discussion about the board would be very helpful. Thank you.
Yeah, so with the President and Mrs. Obama, the initial board people fairly close to them, we have very specific expertise around things that we knew we would be doing over the course of the first three, four or five years. So trusted, experienced, that then provide value to the growing executive team and to the rest of the team and so it's like this wonderful handoff that's both personal, but also experienced around, for us, how do you do a real estate project in an urban area? So there are some board members who know that. Who are the people that know the founders so well that in those moments of uncertainty for us you can channel them but provide a little bit of a perspective?
And so it was a really interesting and smart way to begin to build a board. As we then grow and evolve, you begin to say, okay, in five to 10 years in addition to the fundraising requirements that we have which is an added layer that goes into it, can we project what are the experiences and skillsets that we are gonna need and begin to tap those individuals which in the midst of the pandemic, now going back to what we faced, Dorri and Calvin it's, okay, an unprecedented crisis with a tremendous amount of uncertainty and so who do you want at the table but people who have led organizations and have served on boards who have seen things that frankly I have never seen and my colleagues have never seen?
And so it wasn't just one or two or three meetings per week. You had board members who, okay we're about to begin a construction project, how do we think about pricing of contracts and bids over this period of time? How do we think about design in this note environment? Okay board member, who do you know who is best in class about thinking about that? Okay, from an employee perspective, how do you think about morale? How do you think about engagement? A board member who's known this and has done this for so long and so for me as the CEO, working in tandem with my colleague Wally Adeyemo who is the president of the foundation and now I'm so blessed that Valerie Jarrett has joined me as a colleague in that regard. We were able to tap the board as co executives at that moment of crisis and they were really wonderfully able to step in.
And so, you know, for board construction, at least for us Dorri, it is a projection of where we need to be and then working backwards, always making sure that that the individual you select and is willing to serve is completely aligned on values. Because especially for us, when you say the name Obama, it can not just mean a former president and the former first lady, it's something bigger than that and all of us, including your board, have to try to aspire to embody that in every way.
So hopefully that gives you a sense of the way we approached it.
No I appreciate that, David, thank you for that.
Calvin how about you? 'Cause I know that you've been thinking about this differently as well. First of all, I have to also say I love this financial first responder thinking of that. Thank you for not only saying that but doing that during that time, but how do you think about your board construction and what are you thinking about going forward as you're looking to the future and how you're addressing what you need?
That's a very relevant question, Dorri thank you very much.
And David, we had very similar experiences, right? We recognized pretty quickly, Dorri, that we actually had the right slots on our bus, there are 21 directors, we didn't have to change our constitution at all. Their level of engagement without necessarily a whole bunch of prompting from the management team increased pretty exponentially, maybe that has a little bit to do with Zoom, right as a technology but we had engagement levels that surpassed our wildest expectations. I think every single board meeting we have across the pandemic, we had a hundred percent participation. So it was great that those board members who were out of state for whatever reason could still join that way but it was a wonderful benefit to us.
And then the thing that really I don't know that it totally surprised me because I know who's co-principally in the company with me and my management team, but I was really humbled and affirmed by the priorities that the board set.
So we're a financial company, right? I thought that they were going to be really anxious about how the management team was going to protect our balance sheet across the pandemic. As it started, we had north of 170 loans on the books as I think I mentioned earlier and that's not where they went.
They wanted management to focus on first, how can we provide relief to our customers and to the community? How can we step up on the technical assistance? How can we engage with others to make sure that there was gonna be a broad recovery for everyone? And that was an amazing thing to participate in and to have every single director across the board to say to management and working with us, don't worry about the balance sheet, don't worry about our investors. This is a justice moment and we have to do the right thing. So that gave the management team the ability to focus on the most relevant programming for the time and we did exactly that as you heard me say a minute ago.
And then in terms of what the board needed to do and what it's doing going forward, I'm also really impressed with how we took what was an already pretty robust diversity and equity inclusion framework and we drilled down further.
So my board is pretty diverse already. We've got 52% of our directors are persons of color, 48% of our directors are women, 33% are leaders that we describe as community voices. That being that they run a nonprofit that provides direct services in the communities we serve or they're organized or they're an activist in the community. 86% of our management team members are persons of color and 86% of us, including myself live in a community that we invest in.
And then when it comes to the rest of our staff, 83% of us are actually persons of color and 70% of us live in the communities that we prop up with financing and technical assistance. So we were already pretty far down our journey on diversity equity and inclusion and the board was emphatic that in this moment of trying to reduce the racial wealth gap and set a new bar for, you know, ending racial inequities that we push ourselves.
So two major things developed as bit work products for last year. We went through an exercise to make sure that our corporate spend could be an additional benefit to the very neighborhoods that we live in and we invest in. So we created a new business enablement policy that is really targeted on investing in the companies that are located in our communities or hire directly in our communities and to do that very intentionally going forward.
The second thing was taking a look in the mirror. And even though we have great success rates with lending to historically disadvantaged developers, not developers, other marginalized community change agents could we expand our credit box further? Is there room for improvement? So are there other barriers in our own processes that we could strip out so that folks who haven't had family wealth, who don't own property that appraises as well could still negotiate our credit process which often has a gateway loan that gets them to larger financing. Let's take a deeper look at that.
So we did, and we created something that we call this is going to be a little a walkish but we have an equity boost risk rating protocol now that allows us to give historically disadvantaged developers and enterprises credit if you will, for being led by a representative team for intentionally hiring locally, for having strong community partnerships where what they're developing, what they're bringing online is informed by community need and we think that that's a risk mitigator, right? Because it's gonna be more successful because it's got that community buy-in.
And so we developed this new protocol so that if we've got a developer that is low on liquidity they have a substandard collateral, they haven't been in business very long, this equity boost still allows us to make that loan and we're looking forward to rolling that out this year.
And then the last thing I'll say, and I'm getting a bit in the weeds is that the board also wanted to raise the bar on its level of inclusion and equity accountability. So not only did we create a new structure where there's much more routine reporting on how the company overall is meeting DEI targets and metrics and objectives, but they then revised every single relevant committee charter so that at the committee level, there's accountability on all of the activities that we need to activate.
And I'm really impressed with my directors for the heavy lifting they did last year to make this that much more inclusive and that much more equitable internally and externally going forward.
No, that's great Calvin.
And so now not only do I have financial first responder I now have equity boost risk ratings, so you're giving me a whole new vocabulary this morning. So I--
I'll keep them coming Dorri.
And I'm taking notes, so I appreciate that as well. So one of the things that as we think about again sort of the future of nonprofits and where we're going, you know, the part of our main revenue source is the philanthropy that we receive. So I know that each of our organizations were fortunate to receive the MacKenzie Scott's gift but a portion of the $4.1 billion that she donated to over 380 organizations and so very proud that as a Chicago based organizations were able to participate in that, but give us a little perspective in terms of how this donation impacted your organization.
So let's start there and then I do want to talk a little bit more about how that has broadly impacted philanthropy as well.
So I feel like, you know, at least on my screen I have the two of you on either side of me, so I'm like in a tennis match, so I'm like David back to you.
So let's start with you on this question, David.
Yeah well, first of all, just an enormously generous gift and a complete surprise, I think as was the case for all of us, but a tremendous as I understand, rigor in analysis around we're in a focus the investment. And then once the investment is made and in the structure of the investment to basically take the approach that look you know where the money will be best allocated, go allocate it, do your work, do your job, that's why we'd have a confidence in you. And so it's not just the size of the gift but the broader signal I think that it sends to philanthropists at that level, but also at different levels of giving that I think is significant.
And, you know, it's really interesting that there has been a trend over a couple of decades now to take the notion of a business approach to funding not for profits that paradoxically end with the investor dictating what the actual entrepreneur who knows his or her book of business better on a day-to-day basis the investor understands because of the proximity to the community that she or he serves what the real measures of success can be tangibly and intangibly, but in pursuit of a generous gift you will find not just reporting requirements that accountability is essential and important.
But then as I mentioned before the notion of mission creep or shifts that at first are subtle and you can rationalize it, it fits in within the initial vision, but all of a sudden you look back after a year and you're like, okay, why are we doing this? And what relationship does it bear to the mission and why we do the work?
And so, you know, what is the happy balance? What is the right balance between the acknowledgement that it is the people in communities in the not-for-profit sector who have the closeness and the proximity to be responsive but also understand the accountability measures that are required, board governance, basics of management that sometimes, not all the ways, are lacking at that type of oversight can push and require and so I don't know that it's a course correction but it's an important signal that we have also seen play out with many of our other donors and so extraordinary generosity and vision, but also a wonderful approach that I think has lots of problems.
Dorri I think you're on mute.
You know, this is going to be my day that I didn't have to hear that statement. I was trying so hard--
It's okay Dorri. It happens every other zoom call. Don’t worry.
And out of the last year that has only happened one other time that I have not heard Dorri you're on mute, every single day I've heard that, so thank you, David.
But I was going to say this virtual format doesn't allow for that immediate feedback, but let me tell you I'm speaking for the crowd when I'm just like, amen, David, yes everything you said about how I hope that the changes that we saw with the process that MacKenzie Scott used continues to flow through the philanthropic community 'cause I agree with that a thousand percent.
So Calvin, how, what was the impact that the gift had, we call it the gift, the gift had for your organization as well?
So first let me just get it on the core. So yes, brother, amen David, when we agree, we hope that this Mackenzie's has got framework will percolate across the philanthropic field, but it also let me just say that to you and to Dorri congratulations on your gifts. I know that both of your organizations are going to do amazing things with it.
And then God, honestly, I'm still pinching myself. I actually received the call, I was sitting in exact seat where I am today and when my liaison explained to me what the strings weren't, I just really couldn't believe that the fact that it there'd be no and you both know for major gifts oftentimes you could spend weeks, if not months building a proposal just to recruit the largest.
There was no grant application, it was already done, we were already approved that. I couldn't believe that. That it would be unrestricted that we could use it for working capital, enterprise level activities, that we could use it just to shore up our balance sheet if we chose, if we had a whole lot of leverage, which we didn't, but if we did, we can use it for that, that unrestricted nature was just unfathomable.
And then last but not least to a point that you may David, that the compliance would be diminimous that we had already been sort of vetted as a strong and consistent and accountable organization therefore they weren't going to overlord us even with the size of this grant so I was just in shock.
So I thought, okay, I don't know who this is but this is a practical joke. Maybe my development officer's just trying to get his kicks, but I'm not happy about this. And then when she'd finally convinced me that it was real, I started to think, wow, Mackenzie Scott must live on a very large cannabis farm that she owns. And she's just sampling the product all day long every day because this is so fabulous, it's too good to be true.
I think at the end of the day for us it's kind of clearly shore up our balance sheet, it's gonna allow us to do more of that programming that I just described but it actually has an intangible benefit for us in a way that might not have had for your organizations given where you are and your organizational evolutions and the stakeholders that are engaged with both of your organizations but for my organization, it really did elevate our brand.
It placed us in the same league, if you will with other a much larger community development finance institutions in Illinois and across the country which is really important for us in terms of how we can gather resources. And it, it boosted our stature across a whole universe of funders and investors particularly at the national level so that was really effective for us and we're already seeing that the grant is paying dividends.
And then another intangible benefit and I think in some ways it's probably the most important one is that the Chicago Community Loans Fund is a hyper-local place-based community development financial institution. We serve exclusively the opportunity communities in metropolitan Chicago, but the trend across for a long time now, community development financial institutions has been growth happens when you become a statewide CDFI, a multi-state CDFI or a national CDFI, that's where all the action has been for decades now in terms of growth and being able to suggest that you're operating at scale.
And I think that by being lifted up by this gift from MacKenzie Scott, it validates that there is a way to be hyper-local and place-based to work deeper and more intrinsically and local markets that still says that you're having impact at scale. And this is a real imprimatur on that single place-based focus also being of fantastic and effective way to change lives in a local context.
So I think that she's sort of done that for us just based on that feedback that we're getting from national partners, local partners how much the public sector wanted to continue working with us across the pandemic so it's been enormously beneficial to our organization.
And to and to David's point about how we hope that the gift will percolate through the philanthropic world, I agree with you completely that this idea that very deep pocketed donor makes a build investment in an organization as opposed to a buy investment.
So many of them are grants and investments come with very strong restrictions on how to deploy them, when to deploy them, where to deployment, whether or not we know whether or not it aligns with exactly what the urgencies are of the moment as nonprofits we often capitulate to those, but this is saying we're going to invest in you to build your organization so that you can build communities in the activities that you know are the most pressing and urgent. And it also is a pivot towards thinking about investing in scale around solutions that people can execute today as opposed to sort of parsed out incremental grants that sometimes serve to work more as problem mitigation as opposed to problem solving. So the scale and the scope, the freedom and the flexibility allow nonprofits to get at the heart and approach the matter faster.
So I hope that more philanthropists will follow her lead.
Well, thank you, Calvin, I appreciate that. I was going to remind the audience that we will have an opportunity for questions and answers so to the degree that you can submit those, feel free to do that.
And I'm prompted because we already have our first question coming in so I have so many questions left for you, gentlemen but I did want to get some of our audience questions in as well.
And since we're on the MacKenzie Scott topic I just thought I would insert that question now. So the question is that funders such as MacKenzie Scott and the Ford Foundation are known for giving no strings donations for well-known or existing grantees.
But the question is, and something you spoke to a little bit Calvin, how can smaller less established orgs with limited results doing critical work access these types of funds. Any perspective on that from either Calvin, David, any perspective on that?
Yeah I do Dorri and I, you know, of course everyone I don't know this scientifically, right? We haven't done any real analysis on it, but my hunch is that, and as you probably can sense from what I've already said, you know, there's always a ecosystem of agencies in a particular sector and they're the ones who are the oldest often the most established, and then the largest and there's some middle range players and there are small and emerging change agents and we're all competing for resources often but some of the ways that we have tried to if you will, punch above our weight and I say that with all the deference and respect to my larger sister and brother signifies, we work together consistently and quite often, but my advice to a smaller organization that is trying to get this visibility would be to be as transparent as you can to make sure that your impact analysis is available on your website and that at any moment any prospective donor can do their own underwriting of your organization your efficacy. It's not so much about the number of units, it's just about how efficient you are. Sometimes a smaller organization might actually be serving more people per employee than a larger organization and you can reflect that in the impact analysis that you do and make available online.
Make sure that whatever collateral materials that you produce regulate, your newsletters, your annual reports if you have a stakeholders meeting, have all those documents available online. When I got the call from my liaison, I started to think, oh, they've been on our website for weeks and months, you know so they got all of this information about us just from what we were transparent about and was readily available.
As a financial institution even though we are smaller than many of the larger ones and there's quite a bit of controversy in our field about having a third-party rating agency and I don't know what the equivalent would be for direct service providers, for example, but in our field we benefit from having something like standard in cores or Moody's and many of the smaller funds in the CDFI landscape are very hesitant, they're very resistant to get rated.
And we said, we're going to go ahead and get rated, even if we don't have the best rating because that's going to say to any prospective partner that we believe in sound management, we believe in strong governance, we believe in really good fiscal management and we're willing to be examined, we're really to have other people inspect our efficiency.
We also make sure that our nine nineties are listed on GuideStar and that our industry provides a side-by-side analysis. Even if we don't show up as the biggest and strongest or have the best relations across every single line item we still make sure that that transparency is out there.
And then the last thing I would say is to do whatever you can as a smaller group to have your voice and your constituents needs heard. So we've allowed ourselves with any number of national public policy forums so that we are a voice in those efforts and where we can be a thought leader around an issue or an opportunity, we try to make sure that we add value in those conversations.
Great and David, and I'm not sure if you had anything to add to that, but there's another question that I would love to direct towards you that's come through our Q and A function as well.
So the question is I think we learned a ton about resilience and adaptability, what is the best advice you can give to nonprofit leaders, CEOs, EDS, and directors to help them intentionally set up resilient teams and organizations versus back to their normal habits.
Yeah. First offer this free consideration and so far as it may not apply very broadly but it's the way I think about it.
Take the time that you need and make sure that whoever you bring into the organization as a team member is as closely aligned on fundamental values first and not necessarily the efficacy of how they do the work. There may not be a disconnect between the two but we over index on the former because then in moments of turmoil and uncertainty where the actual work itself is thrown into question, what are you falling back on? You're falling back on, okay what are first principles and what are the reasons, the why around why I do the work to begin with? So that's the first and most important thing that I would offer for consideration.
The other thing that, and again, just by happenstance we took advantage of it because we are a fairly young organization but we always knew that we were going to do four or five-year assessment of what have we learned in based upon what we have learned, how should we pivot? What do we stop doing? And or what do we start doing? Or what do we double down on?
That discipline that feeds into a sense of adaptability that there are no sacred cows. And again, it brings you back to the mission because habit, routine, comfort, predictability, the phrase that kills any organization while we've always done it that way but no one can really remember why we always do it that way. And so there is the personnel aspect of it that needs to be adhered to but then also there is the process part of it.
There is a for-profit organization called Asana and they do workplace productivity. They break up the year not into quarters but they call them into periods. And there are three periods per year and I think they're in their 28th period. And if a new idea or a new concept pops up in between it's planted so that there is one week that leads into every period that is for the purpose of reflection back, what have we learned and how should we change, planning going forward so that you're not just doing a yearly plan.
And so that may not work for every nonprofit but building in the discipline, which is hard because there are so many problems to deal with on a daily basis. But if you, yourself, as a leader, aren't modeling for the organization that you need to step back and make sure that you're, you know, you're course correcting, you know, that that's essential, hopefully that is responsive Dorri to the question that was asked but that's what I think about.
No, the absolutely David, and I'll take my moderator-panelist's role now and I'll add a little more to that as well.
I think that I was just really wanting to agree with what you said, because part of what we've been able to do at the YWCA is stay true to the fact, you know, when I think of resiliency we always think about sort of that bounce back.
But one of the things that we have always focused on is to sort of treat the uncertainty, the unknown as a friendly world, and if the way that, so if you think about building an environment, that's resilient, if you're always sort of thinking about changes part of just who we are and I know it's that a million different ways there's all kinds of postcards that talk about changes or brand and all those good things, but at the end of the day for us, being able to say this is the new moment, what do we do in this moment to address the needs and remain agile? Like agile is constantly top of mind for us as an organization.
But having said that it's something that we have ingrained into who we are and so I think it's less about, you know, preparing for the response and more about, as you said, you know, staying true to that value that the world is always changing pretty fast and the one catalyst or the other can set you off in a different direction. So if you're a sort of building yourself to recognize that you know, uncertainty is just a reality and it's not a bad thing, it's just a reality. And so if you build your team, I would say as part of that we actually have it as a guiding principle that, you know, it is the friendly unknown, or the uncertainty is, or the friendly unknown space that we work in, then we can always be prepared for that.
And having said that, that has been the approach that we've been taken to some innovation, other things that we've been able to address during this time.
I did want to, 'cause we this time is going really fast and I have so many questions that I still want to ask you all, but I did want to touch on--
And Dorri you have two other bobble heads remember that, 'cause this is like I feel like I'm in charge right now.
Well, I appreciate all the feedback here because that's the one thing about Zoom, you can't look in the crowd and it's like, yeah, you know you're jamming with me, but please know that I'm doing that for both of you right now. So let's talk about before we get towards our end of our time together, I do want to take a little glimpse into some of the innovative things that I know both of you have been up to.
I'll say more broadly if there's something you want to speak to specifically but, please do so, but I will ask a question around you know, and sort of this innovative thinking around partnerships and how that has looked.
So Calvin, I’ll start that with you and then David follow up with any other thoughts that you have around innovation that you all have been able to deploy during this time as well.
Yeah, let me just talk about partnerships a little bit. Dorri, we have been incredibly aggressive over the last decade and expanding the number of partnerships and collaborations and multi-party initiatives that we're involved in, so I wouldn't say that we have a brand new net new bright idea on that other than knowing that it is something that does work in community development that this collaboration is immensely effective.
I just want to highlight that there are so many actors that you need to help revive a community. So you've got to have your local community quarterback, you have to have government, you have to have your banks in the mix, you have to have your CDFI, you have to have anchor institutions and some foundations and so many other stakeholders and that circle of committed and dedicated partners is what's sort of driving the change in a number of our neighborhoods.
So that hasn't changed in our framework but I would say that as we think about the questions around equity and inclusion and trying to make lasting change, we are trying to have more discipline around making sure that our collaborations are vertical in nature not just horizontal. You know, partners of like capacity organizations and players that vertical, so that the folks who are closest to the ground in the streets every day as well as the people who are further away and up in the ivory tower or the board room are allied together in cross ideations so that the best solutions are brought forward.
So philosophically that's how we're trying to approach it. We historically as a organization been more business to business, so as we challenge ourselves to reach out to partners that live in our buildings, in beneficiaries that shop in the stores that our tenants in the shopping centers that we finance, try to make sure that somehow we are learning from people who work in the social enterprises that we buttress that sort of vertical integration and collaboration is a new challenge for us and a new opportunity and that DEI framework that I talked about that my board has spent over hotline over the past year.
We actually gave ourselves an aspirational goal to learn from our actual end beneficiaries, learn from the retail level so that we can make sure that we were bringing the right products and services and now it's transferred to the community that will continue the transformation.
So Dorri you are on mute again?
They're going to be like amateur, get a new pet and get a new moderator. So David, you're going to take us home. I would actually invite you absolutely if you want to answer the question about innovation, but just to share any parting thoughts. I know we had talked about earlier too speaking about some of this ecosystem around nonprofits.
So I'll just invite you to close us out with some of your parting thoughts as we wrap up this wonderful discussion today.
I appreciate that Dorri and thank you Calvin for the insight and the opportunity to share with the two of you.
I started calling you Reverend Simas David.
I know I got that vibe too Calvin.
You get an amen from me.
Wait, wait until you hear what my daughters say.
You know, the greatest honor of my professional life was to work for the president in that building in Washington, and as the child of two immigrants to be able to serve in that way is something that I still can't believe.
But one of the things that was so searing when we left and you look at communities like Chicago but it's across the country and across the world sometimes it's described as polarization which is quaint or tribalism, which doesn't really get at it. There is a complete breakdown of social cohesion and trust across the country.
And so when you think about the three legs of a community stool and a fourth, when you include faith but let's just focus on not for profit, for profit and government. When you listen to people in communities and I don't care if it is an African community on the south side of Chicago or a predominantly white community in Appalachia, you bring the government into the discussion whatever level of government, there is a lack of trust and usually there's the comment is, oh they're just looking for a vote. When you bring up business into the discussion, oh, they're just looking for a profit.
The one element of society and I want everybody listening today who is on a board or in the not-for-profit sector, when you have proximity to communities and are providing services that either government isn't close to or the private sector isn't set up to, there was another piece of this that you're respectfully I would ask you to think about, you are the connective tissue of trust, not just as one organization, but as an entire ecosystem of organizations and frankly, the not-for-profit sector in the United States has a responsibility to view itself in that way.
And so I just want to offer in closing that again this is an honor to be part of this but as I think about the next 20 years in this country with technological change, environmental change, demographic change, economic change, this is a moment for the not-for-profit sector to step up so I can't wait to join with all of you.
Well, David and Calvin, first of all, thank you for it. We are all gonna be like Pastor Simas.
You’ve got that right, give my brother another amen.
It's gonna be like Pastor Simas so you'll know where that started for those on this call.
Well, thank you very much, David for that, for your words and your wisdom and Calvin for the insights and the information that you provided us today. I just know that we have definitely I hope given nonprofits and the leadership out there more things to think about as well. So having said that I'll call on my friends at Rustandy to help us wrap up with the little logistics here.
So I know that there are some folks that will be joining us for the next session at 12:30. So we'll take a quick break and then you can join the next session, which is crisis and risk management for nonprofits by navigating to the my schedule page and selecting join session.
And then lastly, we'd love to hear your feedback about today's session and you can take a survey for each session and for the conference overall by navigating to the my event tab and selecting take survey. We greatly appreciate it if you could take a few minutes to do so and we'll incorporate your feedback into our future events.
Again, thank you very much David and Calvin and the organizers of today's event and we'll hope to see you all again soon.