A Nicole Campbell Building Up Non Profit Organizations on Carry On Friends The Caribbean American Podcast

Ep. 123: Building Up Non Profit Organizations

Barbadian American, Nic Campbell is the founder of Build Up Advisory Group; a firm that specializes in improving governance, grant making, and organizational design for philanthropies, and nonprofit organizations. 

Prior to Build Up Advisory, Nic worked as a senior leader for several multi-million dollar philanthropies. Prior to that she was a tax associate associate attorney in private practice working with both non-profit and for profit clients.

In this episode, Nic talks about starting, maintaining and supporting non-profits. Some key points include: 

  • Things to consider before starting a non-profit.
  • What makes a non-profit a non-profit.
  • The difference between a non-profit and social entrepreneurship.
  • The importance of organizational structure and governance.

My vision is a non profit sector that is able to contribute meaningfully to change in the world alongside government and private sector…we just need to understand our organizational infrastructure so that we can continue to build in the right way.

Nic Campbell – Build Up Advisory Group

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Kerry-Ann:  Hello, everyone, welcome to another episode of Carry On Friends, the Caribbean American podcast; I’m your host Kerry-Ann. And today I’m very excited about the topic that we’ll be discussing. And with me today, I have A. Nicole Campbell. Welcome to the podcast. Nicole.

Nic Campbell:  

Thanks so much Kerry-Ann I’m so excited to be here and to be talking with you.

Kerry-Ann:  Awesome. All right, so tell the community a little bit about who you are Caribbean country represent the work you do and all that good stuff.

Nic Campbell: Sure. So I am Nic Campbell. I am from Christchurch, Barbados. So I am representing the blue, yellow blue. We also live for many years in Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands, before moving up to or over to the Bronx, New York to South Bronx. And so I’ve been there in New York or in the United States ever since.

What do I do? I most recently in February I started my own advisory firm Build Up Advisory Group. And it is an advisory firm that specializes in organizational infrastructure for nonprofits and philanthropies. And what that really means is that I spend a lot of time with executive teams and leaders of nonprofits and philanthropies, helping them strengthen the foundation from which they do their programmatic work. And at Build Up, we approach it in with a three-part lens. The first part of that is looking at governance. How is your board set up? How are your governance vehicles and structure set up to provide the necessary oversight over the organization?

The second part of that is looking at grant making. So if these organizations are making grants to organizations or individuals, we make sure that they show up with the same values that they’re putting out there as a nonprofit or As a philanthropy that those values come through in their grant making. So for example, they’re saying, well, we are really risk taking, and we’re innovative, but it’s actually taking them months upon months to get very simple funding out the door, those two things will line up. And so we work with them to say, okay, “where’s the disconnect?” And how can we make sure that it’s alive, then you just show up as the organization that you are saying that you are?

The third part of that is looking at organizational design? And this is really thinking through what is the structure of that organization look like? Is it set up to do or allow it to do its best work? Where are the people sitting in that organization? Do they do they have the capacity to do their work and are they best positioned to help the organization achieve its mission? And so I have been doing this work for about 15 years now really focused on what I call, you know, the work that really keeps the engines humming in the organization singing Right so that it can then go off and do all of the work that it needs to do to strengthen different communities around the world.

Kerry-Ann:  That is awesome. This is great. And this is great because I it’s been, as I said to you, it’s been over a year since I’ve been diligently trying to find the right person to have this conversation for this segment of my audience, because I know that there are people who are doing amazing work in the community, and we cover career culture and entrepreneurship, but not from a nonprofit or social entrepreneurship perspective. So before we go any further, let us debunk people’s understanding of a nonprofit because when you think nonprofit, nonprofit don’t make no money right. So let us let define or let the audience know what’s the real difference with a nonprofit and what does that mean? Because it doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t make money.

Nic Campbell: That’s right. So I’m going to get technical for just a second. And when someone says a nonprofit organization, it can mean so many different things. And I think people mean, oh, that’s an organization that’s doing something good. So let’s call it a nonprofit. And what that term nonprofit really means is, it is a recognized state creature, some in some state of the United States, for example, now, it carries across, you know, the entire globe right that term, but let’s focus on the United States. When that term is used. It’s really a creature that is formed under state law, meaning that you have filed articles of incorporation or you have file some sort of formation document to create an entity a state entity that is not for profit, right.

And so sometimes states say nonprofit other states Say not for profit, but the at the end of the day, it doesn’t mean that the organization cannot make a profit. In fact, you want the organization to make a profit or to make to generate revenue. But what it cannot do is it cannot be the purpose of that organization cannot be for profit. It also means that any sort of profit that is generated cannot be distributed to individuals or quote shareholders of the organization because nonprofit organizations don’t have shareholders like a for profit organization would, right so there’s no payment of dividends to individuals, for example, in a nonprofit structure. So when you hear the term nonprofit organization, it doesn’t mean Oh, they can’t make any money because they’re nonprofit, it just means that their primary purpose is not to be for profit, and they cannot distribute any sort of earnings or revenue to individuals of that organization.

Kerry-Ann:  Got it perfect and that also means nonprofit don’t go public. I mean, because by being a nonprofit, you are public by the state like, and I think also nonprofits get police a little differently because they are relying on the public good. For the most part. So a nonprofit doesn’t mean that it doesn’t generate revenue. It also doesn’t mean they generate a ton of revenue, which you’re going to get to. But it doesn’t mean that they can’t generate revenue and any revenue they generate doesn’t mean that it goes back into my pocket. It goes back into whatever programs or grants maybe as you mentioned, before, that the nonprofit might offer, it goes back into the things that make the nonprofit run or operational for lack of a better word. 

Nic Campbell: That’s exactly right. It has to be set up for the most part there’s, there’s different types of nonprofits, but essentially you’re set up to benefit the general public when we’re talking about nonprofits that are charities, or that are the main public charity in the United States, that means that that organization is set up to benefit a larger community or the general public and is not set up to benefit the directors of that organization, the board of the directors of that organization, for example, and that term nonprofit, it really does, you know, it’s used in different ways across the globe. But I’ve looked at many different organizations around the world, pretty much. And that term, pretty much means that you are not able to distribute funds that come out of that organization revenue that is generated by that organization, to the directors of that organization, or to individuals that are associated with the organization or just to individuals that are not part of the organization’s mission. So even though in the United States you have very technical language around defining what a nonprofit is, and what it does, That term really does mean at a base level of around the world, from what I’ve seen that you’re not able to do this sort of private distribution of revenue to individuals, and it really should be for a larger public good. The only time I have seen a nonprofit distribute funds to an individual in other regions of the world is when sometimes an individual has paid in capital to the organization to you know, sort of startup money or seed capital, and then the organization will repay or reimburse that individual to the extent of the donation or the contribution and that’s it. So, other than that, nonprofits cannot distribute money to really enrich the pockets of individuals outside the public good.

Kerry-Ann:  All right. And while we’re defining is there, I’m a ask a question, are all can a nonprofit be a form of social entrepreneurship, but it doesn’t mean all social entrepreneurship are nonprofits. 

Nic Campbell: That’s a…yes, that’s a perfect way to put it. So social entrepreneur is the way I define them. They’re essentially individuals who want to create an enterprise or a social enterprise. It could be a nonprofit that is essentially an organization that is not organized, where the primary purpose of it is to generate profit, right, or to enrich the shareholders or the owners of the organization. Instead, there’s a social purpose. You know, you hear a lot of like, Oh, we are a purpose driven organization. I mean, technically, every organization has a purpose. Right. But I think what they’re saying is we are a social purpose. We are somehow set up to benefit a particular community or to resolve or addressed a social issue that’s impacting a large part of the general public. And not just set up to generate lots of revenue for the individuals involved with the organization. 

Kerry-Ann:  Mm hmm. All right. So I’m glad we just did that level set, we got it out the way a nonprofit doesn’t mean that you can’t generate revenue or a profit. It just means that you that revenue or profit cannot go to individuals in the organization. And then we talk about social entrepreneurship, which is a term that’s really, I don’t want to say it’s a buzzword, but it’s really, I hear that more, or we’ve been hearing that a lot. And a nonprofit can be a form of social entrepreneurship, but not all social entrepreneurship are nonprofit, that so moving to the next thing, or I think, as a Caribbean community, and I think a lot of people in the diaspora African diaspora, we tend to gravitate to these enterprises that are really for the public good. And so what are some challenges that you feel like entrepreneurs, particularly in the Caribbean, or nonprofits or anyone considering starting a nonprofit? What are some of the challenges that they face going the nonprofit route? Or, and then we’ll go into, like, once they get there, what are some operational challenges?

Nic Campbell: Right? I think I think that what I’ve seen the number one thing is, you’re going into this because you want to do something good for a community that’s probably been left out of the conversation, or that has been marginalized or is vulnerable. And so when you have those feelings, you think, I just need to help. And you come up with an idea and say, Yeah, but I’m going to form an organization, I’m going to form a nonprofit that’s going to be set up to help these individuals or at this particular community or address this issue, and I think sometimes or a lot of times, what’s missing from That, that consideration in that thought process is, do I even need to be a nonprofit in the first place? Right? Like what, what, what is my goal? And once you set that goal and say, this is where I’m headed, I think the vehicle, which is the nonprofit organization, the LLC, the for profit, all those other different names, then can fit whatever your goal is, right? They are the vehicles that will get you to your goal. They are not the goal within themselves, if that makes sense.

So what I hear a lot is, Nic, I want to form a nonprofit organization because I want to do these things. And I always say, let’s back up, let’s talk about your goal where you want to get to and then we can make the vehicle fit that goal to get you there. But you don’t know if you want to start a nonprofit because you actually don’t know necessarily what a nonprofit does or ask if it would be the most perfect vehicle to get you to your goal. I think another thing that I see a ton, is I’ll then ask the question, Well, have you…who else is doing this work? Have you talked to anyone else who’s in this space? Yeah, I talked to someone who’s in the space, but they’re not doing what I do. And sometimes it’s a it’s a basic idea and basic in the sense of, it’s not so niche down that others probably haven’t done it or aren’t doing it. What, are other groups out there that are interested in the topic. And so I really push on that piece where it’s like, you don’t have to be someone who creates yet another organization and get another nonprofit organization to address these issues or to work with this community. Have you talked to others who are in this space? What are they doing well, what are they not doing so well? How can you contribute to something that is already in existence, there are over 220,000 nonprofit organizations in the United States alone and 10s of thousands of formed each year. And when you look at those organizations, you then think how many of them are still active? How many of them are duplicating their efforts? Because they could have talked to each other in the beginning and said, what are you doing? Here’s what we’re trying to do, how do we combine before I go off and start get another nonprofit organization?

So I would say that those are the challenges that I see where it’s one, let’s define or not being clear on what your goals are, and putting the vehicle before the goal as opposed to saying, This is my goal, and they want the vehicle to line up and get me there. And then the second piece is not talking to other people in the space and just rushing into forming an organization because again, this is something you’re probably super passionate about. This is something that you are very emotionally tied to. And you want to say I want to put my stamp on it. I want to do it my way. And I don’t think that a lot of people slow down at that point and say Wait, who else is in the space? Who can I talk to? Who could I possibly collaborate with to make this effort even stronger?

Kerry-Ann:  You know, I, I think, boy, I tell you, when you when you were saying that I was like, Yes, yes, I worked as I’ve worked in legal for a long time. Once a paralegal always a paralegal. So, you know, I understand, you know, the setup of organizations, and starting a nonprofit is not the easiest vehicle, or structure, there are so many limitations. There’s so many things you have to do, right? Because if you don’t do it, right, the hammer comes down to you worse than if you just you did a standard LLC or something else. And I think to your point, understanding, aligning, I love the way you said that. What are the goals and which vehicle whether it’s a S corp, LLC, whatever it is, will this will this get me to the goals that I’m trying to achieve? You listed that first. But I think the first thing really is someone else already doing this. And if someone’s already doing this, let me have that conversation, because that will help also maybe refine the goal, because maybe this person or this organization is trying to attack that problem. Maybe I can just work from this end of a problem. I don’t know. But you know, those are really two great starting points, because nonprofits are whole lotta work

Nic Campbell: they are. I think, again, it’s because of that emotional tie. Right? And so it’s that kind of, when you’re pointing out, like, you need to ask the question, who else is in the space? And you know, maybe that should be the first question. It’s like, it’s sort of that chicken egg thing, right? Because they need to state their goal and say, here’s what I’m thinking. And then you’re like, well, are you really thinking that, and you refine it? And then you ask the question, hey, is other are others doing it in this space? But it’s like, it’s the kind of conversation where it’s not static. Those two things are not broken apart. But they really are. It’s a fluid conversation where you’re really trying to determine Is this the best way forward, not only for you, but for the goal that you have the way that you’re thinking of approaching it. Is this the best way and at the end of the day? That’s the ultimate question that you’re asking, does this make the most sense, in order to provide the most relief to the communities that are in need? Is this the best way to do it? And collaboration comes in because maybe collaborating is the best way forward, actually, or it could be creating an organization.

As you mentioned, creating a nonprofit organization running a nonprofit organization, maintaining a nonprofit organization is a lot of work in the sense of it’s a business. And I know that a lot of people will say, you know, I just wouldn’t have spoken to a lot of people in the sector who will say, well, we’re not we’re not businesses, like but you are you are state creatures, many nonprofits are corporations. And that comes with it a lot of corporate formalities, you need to have board meetings every year, you need to take minutes of those board meetings, you need to have corporate housekeeping, you need to make sure you have you know, a corporate board book that keeps all of your resolutions. So all the decisions made by the board, determining what the board can actually decide upon. You need certain officers, you need different requirements under state law, you know, and when you start to populate a board, I see a lot of boards were you know, it’s a lot of well, these people are interested in my cause, because sometimes it is hard to get volunteers essentially who are going to devote a lot of their time to an organization without being paid. And so you end up with people who have are very passionate about it or maybe your friends and they want to support you, but that board is actually not the most appropriate board for that Organization and it takes work to build out a solid board and a solid governance structure because these people who sit as board members have fiduciary responsibilities to that organization and you have to educate them as to what that means what that duty of care means a duty of loyalty, that duty of obedience. And these are these are really serious things that if they breach them, they are in violation of the law. So it’s a lot of work. And there’s a lot of nuance there. And I say all that, just to say, it is a business and you have to run it as such, but I don’t say all of that to say don’t do it. Yeah, right. That’s not what I’m counseling. What I’m saying is it just has to be a very deliberate consideration when you’re moving forward to think okay, is this is this what I should be doing? Should I be forming a nonprofit organization? Should I be addressing this problem? This issue in this way? 

Kerry-Ann:  Mm hmm. That is something else running it as a business. That is something that has come up. A lot of times I’ve worked in companies, I’ve worked at law firms where, you know, I’ve had lawyers have come from organizations that are more nonprofit-based organizations. And when they come over to corporate organizations, they’re there. They’re blown away, because they’re like, there wasn’t this much structure where they came from. And I think it’s the disconnect between. This is really a business, whether it’s a nonprofit or not, it’s a business and running it as such. Is that mind frame or that mindset? That is, I think it’s essential to know that that this is a huge response. In addition to being a business, there’s a huge fiduciary duty and responsibility on top of that. So you tapped on a lot of things that I want to ask. All Right. So in terms of you, you talked a lot about what makes sense for a nonprofit, what would be a good example of Something that makes sense for it to be a nonprofit if you can’t answer that, that’s fine.

Nic Campbell: Something that makes sense for it to

Kerry-Ann:  for you to choose nonprofit as the vehicle,

Nic Campbell: right? It’s a really great question. When I look at a lot of there’s a lot of programs out there, where they’ll say you don’t need to talk with anyone when you’re forming your nonprofit, just come up with your idea and then go through our program. A lot of software as a service programs, entering the data, have a chat box down here on the left, and you can reach out to different representatives with your questions if you have any. But here’s what you do. I see a lot of within those programs or just generally a lot of Hey, the first five things you need to know about forming a nonprofit. I’ve seen top five top 10 you know list goes on. What is missing from the those programs where you’re not working with someone, a lawyer who is who’s trained in forming nonprofit organizations And as work with nonprofit organizations, and what’s missing from those lists, is this is that fundamental question of, is what you’re doing Charitable? That is the question that is missing from a lot of these things. It’s like, do you have your board? Do you think you can get money? Do you think you have a great idea? Those are all really solid questions or fundamental questions. But the question that I see missing from the list and from those programs where you leave that social entrepreneur to their own devices, and they’re forming it on their own with the help of a software, they’re not asking themselves or answering that fundamental critical question that has to be asked before you get to anything else, is what you are doing charitable, right, because we’re talking about charities, when we say nonprofit, we’re really you’re talking about the charities that the section 501 c three is in the United States. Those are the ones that are tax exempt. You give them donations, you can get a tax deduction. For your contribution, we’re talking about level, we start to ask the question is what you’re doing, defined by the tax code as charitable or and that’s the tax code across, you know, many nations, right? So it may not be the word charitable, but it might be how do you qualify to become a nonprofit organization in this particular jurisdiction? And if you’re not answering that question on the fundamental level in the United States, it’s a hard thing, right? Particularly when you’re you are stepping in to a space that might be a commercial space, right, or commercially dominated space.

If, for example, you want to do film, and you say, I want to do a lot of, I want to do media production. I want to do filmmaking. That’s an area where there’s a lot of money to be made in that space. And so how do you set up yourself where you’re saying, okay, actually, I’m charitable, and here’s how, and that’s a very nuanced conversation on the surface, though, you do have to Think about who is benefiting from your services? Is it the general public? Is it just the small group? And if the group is not large enough to be considered charitable, you’re not going to qualify. If what you’re doing is if you’re saying, well, it’s not a super large group, but it’s large enough, but my real purpose is to educate. I want to educate people about this particular issue, or spread awareness that way, then you can qualify as an, you know, under the under the statute, as an educational organization that falls under being like charitable right and, you can go down that nonprofit route. So you ask those fundamental questions of what is it that I’m doing, like does it actually meet the statutory requirements to be considered charitable? Is it broad enough? Am I doing educational work? Do I actually want to pocket a lot of the funds right now you start to get into private inurement, private benefit who do I want that money to go to? At? Do I want to really have dividends coming to me? Do I want all of the revenue or the money that’s being generated by this thing? Do I want it to go back into my pocket? And there might be a lot of different reasons for that. But I don’t think that you should then squeeze yourself into a vehicle. That isn’t part of your goal, right. And if your goal is, well, actually, I do want some of it to sit in my pocket more than just compensation. I want to have this structure that’s more appropriate for profit, then you should go down to for profit vehicle route, as opposed to the nonprofit route.

So I think that at a fundamental level, you do have to ask those really hard questions of are you actually set up to meet the statutory requirements of the thing that’s called You are a charitable entity and then and in the States, it’s one you know, how broad an audience are you reaching right and if Audience is more limited. Are you actually educating them? Some and there’s a fine line sometimes between education and entertainment. Right? Sometimes you’re thinking, Oh, this is educating the public and an actuality or the way that they would see it, they being you know, the Internal Revenue Service, the IRS tax agency here, they’re going to see it as well, that’s entertainment, and it doesn’t qualify. So if you can say that your educational or you can say that you are reaching a broad section of the general public, and you don’t want to receive any sort of distributions as a private individual outside of compensation. I think that that is really those are really good indicators that you’re on the path to saying, Okay, this should be a nonprofit organization. There are a lot more factors that go into that conversation. But at its core, you have to ask those questions. And I think that those questions are often missing. From a lot of the programs that I see the list that I see where they’re encouraging social entrepreneurs to do this on their own.

Kerry-Ann:  Nic, you’re saying a lot here. I don’t know if this one episode will cover all the questions because I’m like, in my head, I was like, I gotta introduce it to some people. But anyway, Alright, so let’s say that you know, and I’m going to go back a little bit here as a nonprofit, you’ve decided that you know, what, the nonprofit is the right vehicle because and you said charitable and I, you defined it, you not really defined it, but you gave a good idea. And you’re saying that what I’m doing is benefiting a large group of people and or educating a particular group of people. And that’s what makes what I’m doing charitable. So let’s just say we’ve decided that nonprofit is the right vehicle to do what I need to do. Now in terms of operations, governance, what are some of the things challenges or some of the mistakes that you see people make and how to maybe one or two things to address some of those challenges or, yeah, let’s start there. 

Nic Campbell: Mm hmm.

Kerry-Ann:  You touch on one more, you touched on a lot. One big one. And that’s the board, right? And having a board that understands their fiduciary duty, the responsibility of being a board, and what a board can and cannot do.

Nic Campbell: Right. So you’ve really pointed at, I think one large problem that appears in governance is that the people that are chosen don’t necessarily know those things, right. They’re just really passionate about what the organization is doing. Or they’re passionate about the executive director or the founder who’s come up with the amazing idea. And so there’s a large part of board training that I see that is really needed to make sure that you have the right people sitting on that board. What I see a lot is I see very smart people, very passionate people sitting as board members, but they’re not right for the organization at that particular stage of its development, you have an organization that is at a crossroads. We’re, it’s doing great programmatic work, for example. But it needs to, it really needs to build its capacity, it has realized that and on its board, you’ll have anyone who has that ability, right. So now you’re sitting here with, you know, five to, you know, whatever number of people, seven people, eight people who are advising you who lacked the expertise, for the things you need to do next with your organization. That’s a really hard place to be in as an organization as a board, and as an executive director running that organization. So I always say you want to make sure that the people are trained and are the right people to sit in those seats on the board.

The other half of that governance piece is the papers, right? So when I look at governance, I look at the people and the papers and the people are the board members. The papers are your Articles of Incorporation or formation, your bylaws and I always ask, have you when’s the last time you’ve reviewed your bylaws? Do your bylaws actually support the way you are showing up as an organization? What about your policies? You know, everyone usually has a conflict of interest policy, which addresses how you address conflicts that may occur potentially or actually in the organization and what the procedures are for addressing them and disclosing them. But when’s the last time that you review that policy? Is it still up to date? Are your directors or your officers are your key employees disclosing their conflicts in a good way? Are they calling Coming to you and having a conversation about what they think might be a conflict before you’re finding out about it after the fact and chasing them down to say, Hey, can you complete this paperwork? Or do you even have paperwork at all? There are lots of questions about this. When you’re filing a, you know, the annual return for the nonprofit organization, they will ask you, hey, has the board taken a look at this this particular filing? Do you have other policies in your organization? Does your board disclose its conflicts? Do they review their conflicts on an annual basis? So these questions, the IRS is very interested in your responses to them. So I always look at the people and the paper when it comes to governance and I find that there’s a lack of review for the papers. The papers aren’t actually up to date. Sometimes they haven’t been updated for five seven, you know, more than that years. And they nobody looks at them. Nobody will take them into consideration because they’re not reflective of the organization’s current activities. So that those are two issues I see there.

In terms of operations, I think, just because there’s a lot of capacity issues, particularly a lot of organizational infrastructure capacity issues, when you’re working within a nonprofit just because you know, when you think of what a nonprofit is, it’s an organization that really steps into a gap, a huge gap. It’s a space that the government says we don’t have enough resources to help with. And the private sector says is not attractive enough from a financial perspective for us to help with. And that’s what the nonprofit organization steps into that gap. So you can imagine how difficult it is to secure funding to raise revenue to ensure that you are recruiting and retaining amazing talent to working to work in that space to work in the organization. And so what happens is you are stretched right there lot if you talk to lots of different people in nonprofit organizations; they are doing lots of different things, many different hats on. And they, they don’t have the capacity to do the work in a great way, right? Because it’d be if they had their choice, they probably have, you know, five other people working with them, as opposed to them playing five different roles. And so what happens then is on an operational level, it suffers, right, you don’t have the organizational structure set up in that you don’t have roles necessarily clearly defined, things aren’t documented and put in writing. There. You don’t have processes that are not just practices, right or just tied up with one person. And you want you want at the end of the day, to have these things documented, written down, people understand them. They’re being reviewed. The structure is set up to make sure Wow, this foundation that we are giving the organization allows it to do its best work. And so what I see a lot in that operational space is that nothing is written down, things aren’t being reviewed, the organizational structure is just sort of reacting to the things that are coming at the organization as opposed to being set up for success. And I think is really just at the core, a capacity issue. And so really have to spend a lot of time building the organizational infrastructure and capacity of the organization.

Kerry-Ann:  Wow. So all right, so I before I switch gears, because this is what I mean that it’s so timely and relevant and on time. So nonprofits inherently are challenged because they have difficulty raising funds. And so even if they’ve been set up and they’re operating, there are some there Some, there’s some challenges that they can’t get around because of the nature of how business or for profit business, see the work that they’re doing and the funding that happens from that.

So a lot of what we’ve covered so far is more of what’s needed for a nonprofit to function successfully. And some of the challenges that might happen if things aren’t done the right way, a governance and organization structure, we’ve been looking at this or having this conversation so far from the end of that nonprofit. I want to switch focus a little bit to the group, the nonprofit services, or the charitable purpose of the organization. One of the you know, before we started record, recording, you know, one of the questions that I got was, how do we get or bill support, both from a cultural or community and philanthropic perspective especially in and how does that how to help the nonprofit, fulfill the mission while empowering the clients, the audience and community. Because it means that in addition to get funding, you are putting out programs for the public or the community. And if the community isn’t supporting, how do we how do founders of nonprofits get this segment of who they’re servicing to be involved or more engaged?

Nic Campbell: I think, though, the way that I always advise my clients around issues like this, is to find out what the needs are, right? Don’t assume the needs. Don’t say, well, I’ve observed this or I used to be a part of this community. So I know that the needs are this times change, things evolve. And so these are your stakeholders, key stakeholders. It takes a simple question. What do you need most right now? What how do you think it could be solved? Right? How do you want it to be addressed? What do what kinds of resources do you need? Those kinds of questions generate a conversation, right? So it’s not just the survey that goes out and you never talk to them again. But it’s the beginning of a conversation. It’s about being relational at the end of the day, right? Finding out from the community that you’re serving what they need. That’s how you structure your business plan. That’s how you structure your programs. That’s how you structure your own infrastructure, right to say, this is how I’m going to be set up. I need to meet the needs of this particular community because this is a community I’m serving, and this is what they’re saying that they need.

Another thing that I really talk with my clients who are philanthropies or The grant makers about working with the nonprofit organizations that are receiving the money to then work with this community directly, is let them own the conversation, right? Don’t step in just because you have the funding, because you might have influence. Don’t take over the conversation, definitely be a part of the conversation. We need you to be a part of a conversation. But we don’t need you to helm that conversation necessarily. Right. And I think that it is an amazing grant maker and is an amazing nonprofit organization that steps back and lets the community that it’s serving lead. And essentially what you end up doing is you are servicing them, right? And you’re letting them lead themselves towards their own solutions, right. You’re just here as a resource. You’re here as a help as an aid. You’re not here to spearhead and you know, go charging forward and say, Hey, come follow me. Because as you know, it’s very, it’s easier to have somebody get up and walk towards a particular goal or, you know, lead themselves towards that goal as opposed to you running ahead and pulling them behind you. So I think it’s very important to let them own and lead the conversation and make sure that they themselves are telling their stories, right, you can help amplify it right. Because you have the platforms you have the audience, maybe people who can listen, people who can provide additional resources and funding to this community. So you can help in that way. But the story is theirs to tell it’s not yours. And again, having those conversations with philanthropies with grant making organizations with a nonprofit organizations themselves that are working directly with those communities. I would just make sure that they are keeping those things in mind. I think once you do that, that community is empowered they are emboldened. And, and they are building themselves up which is what you want as opposed to be an organization comes into quote saved today.

Kerry-Ann:  That’s a good point and you said something that I want to make sure that we clarify for any member of the audience who’s not really familiar. So even in the nonprofit space, they’re like two levels of organization because you might have a nonprofit that grants money and then you have nonprofit to record writing, you know, requesting grant money. So even in the stepping back, the one granting money might need to step back in not be involved in how the nonprofit they granted money to is doing the work and then going down a deeper level the nonprofit that got the money needs to step back and let the community that’s what I heard you say anyway, all right, 

Nic Campbell: that’s, that’s exactly right. 

Kerry-Ann:  Perfect, perfect. Now in terms of you the thing now I want to kind of transition into the difficulty in raising funding. And I, we, again, that could this could be funding could also be an entire episode. But what are some of the common mistakes that nonprofits, founders might have in our you’ve seen occur when it comes to raising funding or, you know, trying to go for grants and stuff like that?

Nic Campbell: This is an entire area that, you know, that comes up so often right the fundraising development area, and I’ll say that, from my perspective, doing the work that I’ve done over the years, what I think is really helpful is to have an evaluation of the impact that you are creating with your work. I find that that is missing a lot when these conversations come up around fundraising. And I mean, when I say evaluation, I mean really meaningful evaluation of impact and I know that a lot of times in the nonprofit sector, we don’t want to use the word metrics because we, you know, we really want to step away from this idea that it’s all about numbers. And it’s more about this qualitative analysis and evaluation.

But I do think that coming up with metrics that are meaningful, that are qualitative, and are representative of the kind of work that you’re doing and the goals that you’re setting, and then evaluating yourself consistently against those metrics will help you tell a story. And at the end of the day evaluation, the way I see it, and development and fundraising is all about storytelling, and what story is most compelling, what story is most meaningful and touching? That then says, yes, this makes sense. It aligns with my strategy. If you’re an organization that’s giving funding, if you’re telling a story to an individual who used to be a part of the community you’re serving, and it’s touching them, or someone who had no idea that that community exists. You’re raising awareness. And there’s different aspects of the story that you want to tap into. But at the end of the day, it’s about storytelling. And I think a good story needs to be based on your the impact that you’re having. And you only understand your impact by being able to set metrics around it, and then evaluating your performance against those metrics.

I think that the second thing that is really important is that when you’re raising funds, you need to make sure that you’re not just raising it for the programmatic work that you’re doing. Right? The community, the actual direct service, to the communities that you’re serving, because it’s your organization itself that is providing that kind of assistance and help. And so when you request funding, it should really should, it should really be for general support for institutional support and not so much for project based support. So, you know, I work with a client now and we’re transitioning from asking for these very discreet project support grants like, Hey, I’m doing this thing, can you support me on this project? Here are the outcomes that I am projecting. That will happen to, you’re making an investment in this organization, we do projects, and we also do other work. We work with different people in the community; we do a lot of different things. And so we ask that you support us institutionally, that you invest in us generally. Right. And so making those asks to make sure that you are building out your infrastructure capacity and making multi year asks, right, so again, the project might have just been for a year and you’re making this like very discreet single year, project based ask and you should I think transitioning to I am now at requesting or asking for General support funding or institutional funding, which is much broader than any particular project, it will support the work of that of those projects. But it’s not just for those specific projects. And it is going to be over a period of time, right? Because that’s going to help with your, your planning and, you know, building up your own infrastructure capacity, which you need in order to be sustainable, and be around for a long period of time.

Kerry-Ann:  Wow. I love that. Because, you know, I can relate that I’ve heard a lot of the requests for donations are for the programs, whereas it’s really the underlying infrastructure that needs the support in order to even make the programs a reality anyway. So that’s a great way of reframing the ask of when it comes to funding. So I just feel like we need to have another conversation. So I want to kind of put a pin right here. Is there anything else you think that you want people to know about when it comes to nonprofit? Supporting nonprofits? Starting a nonprofit? Running a nonprofit? As any thoughts before we end this episode, because there’s so many things

Nic Campbell: I would say I would say this, our conversation today, I don’t want people to walk away saying, Oh, geez, I was going to do this. But that seems like a lot of work. And I’m not going to do it anymore. That’s not the point of the conversation. The point of the conversation, is really to make sure that you are informed about what you’re doing so that you can create the right vehicle or you can create the right strategic alliance before forming a standalone or independent nonprofit organization or just knowing what you’re getting into when you want to start a nonprofit organization so that you can be set up for success, my vision behind starting Build Up Advisory Group and just the work that I do. And the reason I’m so passionate about it is that my vision is a nonprofit sector that is able to contribute meaningfully to change in the world alongside government and private sector, right? We are creating a world where I want vulnerable and marginalized communities to be brought into the conversation and not only that, to lead the conversations, so that we are raising awareness that we are learning that we’re evolving as an entire world, right as a global community. And we can only do that with a strong nonprofit sector and a strong nonprofit sector is comprised of strong organization strong strategic alliances. And tremendous organizational infrastructure capacity, you know, we want to build a world where our children’s children can thrive and be happy.

You know, I’m a mom and a wife. And so I do this from a space of community, and to just make sure that we are contributing to the sector in a way that advances and then pushes it forward. So when you hear this conversation, I want you to hear it against this context of, we just need to understand our organizational infrastructure so that we can continue to build in the right way instead of I don’t want to build at all. I don’t want anyone to walk away from that. Walk away from this conversation with that in mind, I want them to walk away with now I know how to build.

Kerry-Ann:  Yeah, I love that. You said that because I said it at the beginning of the interview. And I just want to reiterate this. This request, this episode request on nonprofit came in June 25 2018. It’s taken me over a year to find the right guest to have this conversation. And that was intentional. One in the in the space of blogging or podcasting, there’s not a lot of people who cover nonprofits. That’s the first thing. And so even if it seems very jarring this conversation is because not enough people are covering it, the same level or frequency we cover for profit businesses.

And, you know, finding you Nic, I’m thankful that Stephen tagged you into it on Twitter, because this is exactly why the conversations are necessary because like you said, we want to build thriving organizations that are supporting marginalized communities that are doing work to carry on our cultural or you know, whatever work they’re doing to educate and preserve. So in order to do that we have to educate the audience, the people who support so they understand because a lot of times people feel like a nonprofit is a mom and pop shop. There’s a lot of work that goes in, you know, like everyone is stretched. So we really don’t want you to leave thinking, oh, nonprofits are not the right way to go. But we also want you to be educated.

And we also want you to understand that the nonprofit, the person who you know, that has a nonprofit, they’re doing a lot of work. And they’re really trying their best to keep the work that they’re there. They’ve started going and there and this is just a resource for them to say, Okay, great. Now I’ve listened to this episode, ooh I really should go and look at my conflict of interest. Ooh is my board the right board? I’ve had the same board for the past 15 years, should I should I reevaluate I need to put new people on the board and take people off. So like these are like little ticklers because like you said, they’re not a lot of checklists around there freely for nonprofits and then their time. So this episode is really about educating, making you aware of Nic, I searched long and hard to find the right person and she in, you know, I got a Twitter save. And so, you know, now there’s another resource for you as nonprofits to connect to and if you know, of nonprofits, what I tried to do is sometimes I know quite a few people who have nonprofits, I may not be able to go to whatever programming they have, because it’s a conflict. But a lot of times their, their fees are entry fees are so low that I’ll pay for the entry fee. So they are they’re still getting my support.

So also from a community standpoint, you know, find ways to make sure that you’re supporting your, you know, the nonprofit, especially within the Caribbean community, because it takes a lot for a nonprofit to run as Nic said, you know, it’s difficult not only for Caribbean organization, But for non Caribbean non black organizations to get funding much less us. So this is just really a starting conversation Nic will share her website, her social media I’m sure she could have some resources that you could find on her website. So Nic, tell everyone where they can find you.

Nic Campbell: Sure. My website is buildupadvisory.com and I’m on Twitter @ Nicisbuildingup. And if you want to shoot me an email, you can reach me at hello, at build up advisory calm.

Kerry-Ann:  Nic, thank you again for being on the podcast. I am definitely I have so many topics that I want to talk about. So we’ll figure out what we’re going to talk about for 2020. But thank you again for coming in for sharing. And as I like to say at the end of the show walk good.


Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown is Founder & host of Carry On Friends one of the first podcasts dedicated to the Caribbean American Experience. She is leading the way for Caribbean Podcast as the founder of Breadfruit Media, the first Caribbean podcast production company; and founder of the Caribbean Podcast Directory a place to discover podcasts by people of Caribbean Heritage.