Randall Russell, Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg
Randall Russell talks ingredients for transformative change, the importance of race and a life of social justice work
On this episode of SPx, Joe & Ashley welcome a lifetime agent of systemic change, Randall Russell. Russell is the President & CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg. In its third year, the Foundation is seeking to create a holistic picture of where Pinellas County is today - to catalyze collaboration with nonprofits, government entities and religious leaders that fosters transformative change. Russell shares insight from a lifelong career in social justice and the importance of leaning into tough conversations.
- Randy Russell spent much of his career working in HIV/AIDs work. Most recently, he was in Seattle, working with a large nonprofit that planned to capitalize on health care reform. Then came the landmark Supreme Court Decision on the Affordable Care Act. Long story short, some important provisions did not survive.
- "I heard of this new foundation that wanted to do something in health equity, and it was a blend of social justice and transformation that they were seeking with unfettered money that didn’t have any strings attached in a Southern community, and I’m a Southern boy. So put all that together and I was wowed with the potential of what that could mean."
- Russell's interview process was rigorous, " I was down here five times, there were four in-person interview. This was quite an extensive search. I wrote two ten-page papers. They really put you through the gauntlet. That was really interesting because this is a pretty significant opportunity. "
- St. Pete is in need of transformation. Russell pointed to systemic issues in need of fixing in St. Pete, and some of the reasons they exist.
- 1) Failure to look beyond what's been done, "Most American cities have fallen asleep in the sense of not thinking differently than the money they're given... So whose job is it to aspire and to think differently and to paint a picture that says, just because we’ve done it this way for 25 years doesn’t make it right."
- 2) Historically non-cooperative organizations built into geography, "St. Pete has all of these incredible bubbles of amazing activity and amazing effort, and it’s laid in a canvas of a place that’s got a government that's never quite matured. We have 24 cities in the county, how is that supposed to bring about symmetry?"
- 3) No precedent for the Foundation, "In this moment when you come to a place that’s never had a major holding of this size or scale, what is the best and highest use?"
- 4) "Woefully lacking philanthropy. We are way under funding our nonprofits in general, and that I think has a lot to do with the way we’re geographically structured."
- 5) Complex issues without clear resolutions. "We have the oldest housing stock in the state, it’s so old that lead-based paint is still a deep concern because the average age of our housing stock is older than that. And 40% of our home owners in the North part of the county live out of state. So are they members and taking care of their properties and they’re really investors, or they’re really using it for Airbnb and not community members?"
- The Foundation's greatest challenge? Building relationships, trust, and rapport. "It's been interesting to introduce a vision when nobody asked us to be here, and then how do we build relationships from rapport to have influence not because we think we’re right but because we think we’re a partner and partners should be equal."
- The Foundation pays nonprofit leaders to come together and discuss what they're seeing on the ground. They call these convenings, and they're an important part of the Foundation's methodology. "We don’t have the answers, but we have resources and we believe the knowledge for how to solve our own problems is in the community." "In this world we should openly talk about the exchange...We have money, you’ve got wisdom. I’m gonna exchange my money for your wisdom."
- During their listening tour, the Foundation uncovered four areas of health equity that the community asked them to focus on. Education, income equity, housing, food and nutrition.
- Unexpected challenges of digging into health equity, "We’re finding a really forceful status quo who is not interested in equity, right? So why didn’t I anticipate that? Nor did I anticipate that there wasn’t an existing movement that would be fascinated and interested in this."
- The Foundation leans in to the discussion of the role of race in disequity. Yet some even in the nonprofit community find themselves uncomfortable when confronted with issues of race. Randall says, "part of our ability to convene is to interrupt the thought to an individual that says, ‘I know the answer.'"
- "What does a united Pinellas County look like? I'm not sure that question can be answered," says Russell.
- Russell's advice for the 5000+ non-profits that are not at scale? Collaborate, merge, find a place to plug in your passion.
- As the Foundation finds its footing, it looks to change the way it does grant-making, "Responsive grant making means a competition. And what I’m suggesting is our grant making would shift to co-created solutions that these convenings lead to."
- A series of data analysis are necessary to survey the landscape of need and nonprofit service, but this is easier said than done, as no one has commissioned this sort of work before. According to Russell, "Every single thing we’re doing we have to rebuild the capacity because nobody has been here to fund that before."
- Fundraising arose as a challenge for most organizations, but Russell it is an aspect of nonprofit work he has enjoyed previously. " I love raising money because it makes me figure out how to tell a story 100 different ways, because each donor and each audience wants to hear it slightly differently and I find that fascinating work."
- Underutilization of boards: "Boards in general are highly underutilized because the power dynamic is confusing to staff." Fundraising from the board should fall on the chair of the board, says Russell. "Whoever that is, has to take sole responsibility for raising money from the board and galvanizing them."
"When a Foundation comes along and says something, innovative nonprofits will stretch, they will do their best, they will do everything they can because they need the money, and I’ve done that 100 times. And the truth is when we came here we didn’t want to do that, we didn’t want to create that atmosphere. But the reality is we’re having to because the nonprofit structure we found is one that hasn’t been supported as fully as it might’ve been for many years."
There are more than 6,000 registered nonprofits in Pinellas County, but only 1,004 have net assets of $10,000 or more.
The percentage of non-profits in Pinellas with annual budgets under $100,000 is disproportionately large (87.86 percent), nearly three times the national average (29.6 percent).
These revelations are just a few of many in a first-of-its-kind assessment released Thursday by the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg during its State of Nonprofits in Pinellas County event. The assessment is the beginning of the foundation’s deep-dive into the current picture of nonprofits in Pinellas – their financials and their functions.
The Foundation’s laser-focused mission is health equity. “To end differences in health due to social or structural disadvantages. To improve population health through inspiring and empowering people, ideas, organizations, and relationships.” As a private foundation still in its toddler years in Pinellas County, the Foundation is still grappling with how to listen and communicate with the nonprofits it funds.
Through their continued evaluation and support of the nonprofits in Pinellas County, the Foundation seeks to help nonprofits grow, provide services more efficiently, and transform communities to be “kinder places to live, work and play,” says President & CEO Randall Russell. “Kinder, because a community in which two children can live five minutes from one another and have access to dramatically different resources to help them thrive and grow is fundamentally not a healthy one.”
The Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg, established in 2013, spent its first two years in formation. It took its current name in 2015. The last three years have been spent finding a footing in St. Petersburg. Despite years of careful board leadership, thoughtful staff selection, listening tours and the study of best practices, on Thursday Russell acknowledged that they’re still learning how to listen.
This assessment is a first step in that process. In 2017, the Foundation embarked on an endeavor to dig into the broader picture of nonprofits in Pinellas. The foundation, in partnership with the Nonprofit Leadership Center, conducted a multi-phase assessment to gather the results of the assessment. A high level scan was conducted using organizational statistics, followed by an online survey sent to all registered nonprofits (with adequate contact information) that generated revenue of $10,000 or more since 2013 according to 990 filings. Thirty of the responding nonprofit CEOs/executives were selected for in-depth phone interviews, and quantitative and qualitative data from all phases was analyzed.
“We believe this data will help improve collaboration, strategic thinking, and smarter impact on the missions of nonprofits over time,” Russell says.
While nonprofits are certainly some of the most compassionate players in our society – filling the gaps and providing services where others cannot reach – we shouldn’t forget that they are “business-led enterprises that range in complexity from massive $100 million programs to $50,000 entities.” The findings of the assessment provide a picture of where nonprofits sit now, and provides a jumping-off point for further questions and study.
The data shows an abundance of nonprofit organizations. There are more than 6,000 registered nonprofits in Pinellas County, yet only 1,004 have assets of $10,000 or greater. These findings beg the question – are nonprofits duplicating efforts and perpetuating inefficiencies? “Is it time to seek mergers and combine forces?”
A majority of nonprofits in Pinellas have a small financial capacity. Most respondents to the survey reported having an annual budget of $100,000-$500,000. The second most common response was $10,000-$49,999. Therefore, the financial capacity of Pinellas County nonprofits is smaller than the national average. These findings ask “Are Pinellas nonprofits at the scale and size to deliver their services/make real impact?”
Competition for human capital is fierce. A majority of respondents reported having a staff of 10 or less, and most reported a staff retention rate between 0-5 years. According to the report, both noncompetitive wages and burnout contributed to high turnover. This illustrates that nonprofit organizations are likely competing for both funding and talent.
Fundraising presents a major challenge – for almost everyone. The report shows that while fundraising is one of the biggest challenges faced by nonprofits in Pinellas County, the organizations do not have the adequate space, time, or finance to train staff on fundraising and development. Only 50 percent of leaders believe their teams have the fundraising skills necessary to accomplish their goals. Only 39 percent Pinellas nonprofits report reaching annual fundraising goals in each of the last three years.
Pinellas organizations have not diversified their funding sources. Respondents most commonly chose state, local or national government funding as each of the Top three funding sources for their work. Only 39 percent of Pinellas County nonprofits report ample resources to meet annual needs, and 85 percent of respondents say they would reduce programs or staff if they lost one or two key funding sources. Nonprofits desperately need to diversify funding, especially in the face of political volatility and uncertainty.
The full report can be found here.
"So this construct of equity being interpreted as, ‘I have to lose something,’ is where most of this starts because we’re so afraid of losing what we have. Well, you know what? That’s the moment to lean in and say, ‘Why you? Why your privilege? And why not someone else’s?'"
Table of Contents
(0:00 – 0:43) Introduction
(0:43 – 3:05) Career Background
(3:05 – 5:57) A Transformative Foundation
(5:57 – 16:48) Organizing Groups of Experts for Social Change
(16:48 – 22:52) The Role of Communication in Social Change
(22:52 – 30:55) The Narrative Around Race
(30:55 – 38:54) The Nonprofit Landscape in St. Pete
(38:54 – 43:30) Areas of Focus for the Foundation of a Healthy St. Pete
(43:30 – 47:05) Networking and Relationships
(47:05 – 48:45) The Role of the Board
(48:45 – 53:13) The Pervasive Social Enterprise
(53:13 – 58:33) The Secrets to Sustainability
(58:33 – 60:57) Equity and Disequity Discrepancies
(60:57 – 61:33) Shout-outs
(61:33 – 62:13) Conclusion
Joe: Joining us today on SPX, Randall Russell, the president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg. Thank you for joining us.
Randy: Thank you for having me.
Ashley: So Randy, if I may call you that…
Ashley: You came to the St. Petersburg Community in 2015. And it was the genesis of public awareness of this brand new foundation. Tell us where you were coming from and what drove you to your current position.
Randy: So at that point in my career I was living in Seattle and I had made the conscious choice to reinvest in a fairly large nonprofit that had the potential to really take full advantage of the Affordable Care Act rollout, this was in 2010. And so the idea of a progressive state that was gonna take full advantage of reformation of our healthcare really fascinated me. The Supreme Court ruling came out slightly after that, which changed everything. So I may not have made the same decision if I’d known how the Supreme Court was going to rule. But it ruled the way it did and essentially curtailed some of the original plans, but we were able to do some fascinating things about the Affordable Care Act and care for people with chronic illness. Because my background has been in HIV for 30-some odd years, there is a tremendous amount of social justice that’s a part of it for me. And that’s really what attracted me in some ways to the entire movement for that long because there were so many different things HIV taught us, from faith to humanity to priorities to transactional events, like how Medicaid views disease – and all kinds of things that it taught us. And then I heard of this new foundation that wanted to do something in health equity, and it was a blend of social justice and transformation that they were seeking with unfettered money that didn’t have any strings attached in a Southern community, and I’m a Southern boy. So put all that together and I was wowed with the potential of what that could mean. So I decided to throw my hat into the ring and I think they had 200 applicants and things went the way they went. So they hired a change agent.
Joe: That’s great. So was there a standard, apply and interview and get the job kind of thing?
Randy: No, it was a search firm.
Joe: A search firm.
Randy: I was down here five times, there were four in-person interview. This was quite an extensive search. I wrote two ten-page papers. They really put you through the gauntlet. That was really interesting because this is a pretty significant opportunity.
Joe: It is, yeah. We had Jeff Hearn actually as our very first guest on the program.
Randy: Yeah, he was head of the search firm.
Joe: That’s right.
Randy: Search committee I mean, so he’s the one who ended up originally talking to me and then landing me.
Joe: And he is a huge fan of yours, he sings your praises all the time.
Randy: He’s a wonderful guy.
Ashley: We’ve had many guests over the course of the past year that are tremendous fans of the Foundation and it stands out to me, there are words you use, the words ‘transformative’. And your Foundation is very intentional with some of these words. Talk to us about why that’s so.
Randy: So aspiration in a desert, right? And then I don’t mean to make any negative comments about the ground, but in the sense of paying attention to what the services we’re delivered on a day to day basis and how it’s impacting people’s lives. Most American cities have fallen asleep in the sense of not thinking differently than the money they’re given. Right? So if this is the service we have then that’s what we can do. So whose job is it to aspire and to think differently and to paint a picture that says, just because we’ve done it this way for 25 years doesn’t make it right. So St. Pete has all of these incredible bubbles of amazing activity and amazing effort, and it’s laid in a canvas of a place that’s got a government that it’s never quite matured. We have 24 cities in the county, how is that supposed to bring about symmetry? There’s something like 30+ contracts to deliver water to a million people is one metaphor for how we’re just not collaborating or coordinated. So in this moment when you come to a place that’s never had a major holding of this size or scale, what is the best and highest use? And the board made the decision before they hired me that this is not a charity. Right? We are not gonna fuel symptoms. We are gonna look for causes. And that also fascinated me. Now, the discipline of that in a place that is woefully lacking in philanthropy – we are way under funding our nonprofits in general, and that I think has a lot to do with the way we’re geographically structured. We are a peninsula on a peninsula and the inward migration on a daily basis from Hillsborough and the outward migration on a daily basis from Pinellas to Hillsborough and all of that makes a sense of community really isolated and stove piped. So how do we have a vision that’s collective, that’s bigger, that’s us? So equity is clearly the backbone of how things – and I might even say fairness is the backbone of how things are really seen by the Foundation. And no one else will cause the potential lift of people who have been left out. And that really felt powerful and right. We can always mature if we have to into charity down the road but if we start with charity we’re never gonna get out of that and have the aspirational hope of change. So it’s been interesting to introduce a vision when nobody asked us to be here, and then how do we build relationships from rapport to have influence not because we think we’re right but because we think we’re a partner and partners should be equal. And so we have to earn the right to be equal in a place that wants to progress but doesn’t want to change. And that’s true of a lots of our cities in the U.S., it’s not unique to here.
Ashley: And early on in the Foundation’s journey you hosted groups inviting expertise from nonprofits all over the area. In fact, I believe you even paid individuals for their time to come and information-gather and share information with you if I’m not mistaken.
Randy: So that is connected to the way in which we are going to do our work, the wisdoms in the community. So we started a pretty straight forward place that – we don’t have the answers, but we have resources and we believe the knowledge for how to solve our own problems is in the community. What do I mean by that? Well, if you’re with a nonprofit organization you’re serving people every day, it doesn’t matter if you’re serving ten or 10,000. You have direct access to what someone’s human plight is, you can connect that immediately to an understanding and a theme that you know. Nobody else knows that because you’re sitting there. Let’s hear from those folks and let’s understand what’s presented as major problems. And let’s hear the wisdom of the people who are seeking those services and saying and explaining their conditions and causes that led them there. So we wouldn’t have to fight for equity if there wasn’t discrimination. So let’s also call that out and say that we’re standing on the ground of discriminatory practices and discriminatory laws, and white privilege and white supremacy has been written into laws that make it really hard for somebody of color to decide they’re gonna do something different on their own. So we have to build a structure and a way to do that. So our idea is that you harness wisdom by incubating people or taking this directly from for-profit business that… business incubation is about income and it’s certainly about creation of jobs, but it’s also about wealth creation. That’s not a conversation that communities in poverty play with. ‘Wealth creation? What are you talking about? I can barely sustain the place I’m living in if I am fortunate enough in some cases to have a place to live.’ Well, why shouldn’t somebody aspire to wealth wherever they are? So that really is a fundamental human heart question that has a lot of head involved because the reality is it’s gonna be a lot of choices that we have to make, some of which are hard – most of which are hard if we’re gonna change systems. So this idea of taking people’s knowledge, the nonprofit sector, the for-profit sector, the public sector – almost 80% of every dollar that helps somebody in our county is from a federal source. So if we’re not paying attention to the public sector we’re not paying attention to what really is transformative, because those dollars there have a lot of heft. So when you think about translating those dollars and understanding what the community needs are and you’re a bureaucrat inside a governmental system and ‘We’ve always done it this way and that way I don’t get into trouble,’ and we’re risk averse, and then you’re on the ground and you’re hearing what’s needed, and then you’re in the corporate sector and you’re trying to understand the best way to influence and support communities and you’re getting different information you feel like, ‘Well, they need our help because they’re confused.’ Which is really not the case, but that I understand how it seems. Where do people go and have that conversation? So we’re really incubating social change ideas through harnessing the wisdom. And so in some cases it means sitting with a group for a year and saying, ‘You know you know this. Help us learn what it is. Tell us this story. Tell us that story. Let us understand.’ And so it may not be that they have an assessment or a report ready to hand in, but it certainly means that we are listening deeply to the needs that people are experiencing on the ground and that will drive what we’re calling our convenings. And what you’re referencing is our convening process, which is our complete conviction to methodology. I’m not so sure responsive grant making as where we’ll stay long term because equity and the lift is gonna require multi-sector work and that’s just hard to fund in responsive grants.
Joe: So there’s a conversation that – when Dr. Jonathan Ellen was in that we had – and he has a similar history working on HIV/AIDS issues out in San Francisco for a while. And being in the marketing business and the communication business I started looking at it from that point of view. And we had a pretty long conversation about it, and he’ll probably get a chuckle if he hears us going back there again now. But that was on the heels or just before a meeting that was going to happen, which I believe you may have attended, that had the superintendent Dr. Grego and Dr. Ellen. And it’s great that these different functional areas in the city are coming together and they each have their own mission, right? But if you look at the community as a whole and map that over to a corporation – and he specifically, Dr. Allen was talking about his leadership style which was have these functional areas which all operate independently and are fantastic, with him as a leader, he has a certain culture or certain binding glue of culture that he puts out there, and that sort of thing that brings his organization together. So if you transpose that line of thinking onto the city, to me it seems like a lot of the things you’re talking about are solved by information, they’re solved by mindset shifts. Do I have the right to have this money or have this way out? And some people aren’t even thinking that. But presented with the right information and the right feedback loop in their life, they might think that. And that goes a great way to solving that. And I think that also fits with your operational collaboration, you tend to love – it seems like – efforts that involve collaboration between multiple groups working together. And so the benefit of that is the sharing of information. So when you talk about on one hand the logistical operational types of things that you’re funding, how much of that is countered with how you use information to achieve some of these same goals on a community-wide basis?
Randy: Yes [laughing]. So, this I want to put in the context of first a conceptual frame, but then I get really practical. So the conceptual frame is this: What are we doing? We are fueling social change. Who funds social change and how does that work? Well, there aren’t that many models, right? There aren’t that many models originating with a funder. They often originate in lots of other ways for passion on the ground and through people’s ideas, and certain leaders have certain access, sometimes it’s accidental. So in my life the reason I think that Dr. Allen and Donna Peterson, who is the dean of the School of Public Health at USF – also has HIV experience – the reason to that is also important is twofold. It was funded at 28.5 billion dollars a year as a separate stand alone system and we got to see every single thing about creating the perfect system to eradicate a disease and we’ve actually figured it out, right? The science community came and understood it, right? What we need to do is get a pill in everybody’s body. Well, that’s the hard part. But we have the answer now. So A) I’ve seen transformation, I’ve seen people dying in beds and then getting up and going back to work, I know that that can happen, I have faith that a community in poverty can often persuade those hearts and minds if that information and those stories get out. So that’s also true. So what stimulates social change and what do we need, what are the ingredients to move it forward and who says what change is needed, right? So those are all really cumbersome questions. Our approach is this, that the community’s wisdom is guiding us. So for all the ideas that people submitted to us – and the first thing we did was ask you to submit ideas, and so nonprofits can submit up to three ideas. And I know some people are dissatisfied with the other side of that, but it was a beginning for us as a community to learn. We codified all of those, we listened to the listening sessions, we listened to the nonprofit organizations in multiple sessions and collaborative labs. We’ve looked at standing data studies and that’s a range of listing, I’m not done yet. But there’s a lot of other ways we listen, and it led to four areas that the community wanted us to work on. So, education was one, income equity is another, housing is a third and food and nutrition is the fourth. Those are the areas that people really had as integral, so that’s where we’re gonna focus on. So we never step back and decide this is what we’re gonna invest in and why. We’re gonna listen and understand it. Now, let’s take mental health which we might decide is a huge problem in our community and nobody is addressing it. We have another approach for that, which is really to do an in-depth analysis of what’s going on in mental health and then hold that mirror up to the county and the community and say, ‘What do you guys wanna do about this?’ and point to real problem areas. So data can drive people moving into a process of social change, but it may not be the original originator that gets us going because the community itself is saying, ‘We wanna go work here.’ Data is also a critical part of that. So, let me take housing. It sounds simple, right? Housing is a simple thing. Well, so I happened to have spent 20 years in low income housing, mostly with people with chronic illness and it started with HIV housing but then grew to other housing programs. So we actually funded and built 250 units across the state of Alabama, so I know lots of HUD’s pockets. What’s fascinating when you think about this, there’s kind of Medicaid lots of federal programs have, if they have must do’s and can’t do’s and should do’s and you can go after the money or not, depending upon where you are. Well, HUD has 27 pockets. You can pick. We’ve done okay but not great. And with three housing authorities for a population that’s got 14% poverty rate – so we have 140,000 people living below the poverty line, which is woefully low to measure from… Wow, we have the oldest housing stock in the state, it’s so old that led base paint is still a deep concern because the average age of our housing stock is older than that. And 40% of our home owners in North part of the county live out of state. So are they members and taking care of their properties and they’re really investors, or they’re really using it for Airbnb and not community members? Well, housing then suddenly gets more complex. Well, now let’s add homelessness on top of it and understand that component, and then addiction, and then mental illness. And then suddenly housing gets really complicated, which is why it’s not been simply solved before. Well, we’re gonna start with a really decent scan of what’s going on in housing and what we’re missing in housing, and we’re gonna gather everybody together and say, ‘You all wanted to work on housing? We wanted to start with the same roadmap, here you are. Now what do you want to do with it?’ And then convenings will launch form that and we will pay everybody to sit at the table until they morph into an idea. The payment is about two things. In this world one should openly talk about the exchange. So scratch your back, I’ll scratch mine. That’s a lot of how – let me just put it this way, white people work. Yeah, that’s not of interest in an equity foundation. What is of interest is openly sharing. We have money, you’ve got wisdom. I’m gonna exchange my money for your wisdom. If I had something else to exchange I would do that too. But we’re gonna be open about this and you’re gonna sign this contract and if you’re not gonna do the work then we’re gonna fire you. And if you don’t really have the voice to speak for your organization then we got to find somebody else because this isn’t gonna work. So we get to insist on a process that leads somewhere, even if it leads to ‘this isn’t gonna work’, then we’ll know why, and we’ll have an answer, we won’t do that again. So much of social change is trial and error. What’s gonna catch right now, where are people ready for…? So all those pieces are a part of it and data is a center piece of all of the decisions we make.
Joe: And I think when we talk about social change that instructs what to focus on, but going back to your example of HIV, now there’s medically that is the wisdom. So if you have an HIV epidemic and you say the wisdom is we want a cure for that, just it’s not exactly a parallel. But you have that now and certainly I think Dr. Ellen also pointed this out, that in the black male community it’s still a pretty large problem. So the cure is there but it’s the activation and that – I’m calling it marketing but it’s communications, that X factor of the communication. And you started the answer to that question by talking about how is social change enacted? And a lot of times it’s ideas and leaders. And so coming back to that I feel like a lot of that doesn’t get the due importance that it has that you can work out things logistically, but then what, right? Are we grooming the leaders and the voices and the methods of the communication to really get the full solution out there?
Randy: So there’s two ways that I want to respond to you. One is about engagement. So this is pretty interesting to show up, have an asset that is there to help the community in its broadest level and everyone in the world has an idea about what that means, right? So we take a very specific idea that’s pretty targeted. So how do you engage around that? And it’s conceptual still because nobody’s seen it. So I think there’s two ways to respond, I’m gonna talk in practical terms about HIV because we’ve just concluded an HIV convening, so I can give you a direct example as to the frame that you have me about the cure. But conceptually this is also about working to engage people and spark their imaginations, their curiosity and also their desire.So how do you do that? Well, it’s actually something we are getting really implicit about. So here’s all the market segments we want to touch, we got a pyramid of who that is and why they’re there, how many times we engage with them, when it’s the last time we engaged with somebody, everybody at the Foundation should know everything about every interaction. So it’s like social networking. I actually think in a community like this I never would’ve thought but this is what we’d be doing. But as we continue to exist, the very things I’m pointing out and you’re pointing out about our community and the lack of coordination and all of these fantastic bubbles that are bubbling but maybe they’re not efficient because they’re all bubbling separately, and how do we think about that? We’re finding the exact same things when it comes to issues of equity and social change and we’re also finding a really forceful status quo who is not interested in equity, right? So why didn’t I anticipate that? Nor did I anticipate that there wasn’t an existing movement that would be fascinated and interested in this. But there are many, many who are, but I wouldn’t call it a movement yet. We gotta engage our community, we gotta engage folks who are the willing, the folks who are not yet aware but are curious, and then we have to make other people curious, right? So it’s this ripple effect of those groups but really targeted ways. So who is in charge of social change? Well, elected officials. How do I get to their hearts? Well, we’re doing something that we call beyond diversity, it’s a two-day workshop that’s run by the Pacific Education Group and a guy named Glen Singleton who has really modeled for the last 25 years in the U.S. how to have conversations about race. We just finished our second class of 100, we’re trying to get 5,000 people through in seven years, I would love everybody in the city council, county commission, every city council of all 24 cities, all the mayors, everybody to get through it. Because it basically forces you to stop and do your own racial autobiography and hear someone else’s who is vastly different. And it makes you sit in the understanding that you can’t just live your life and call yourself a community member if you’re not paying attention to who you’re causing harm to without intent, right? I don’t think anybody is intentionally doing anything, for the most part intentionally doing anything negatively, but it’s a lack of understanding and awareness. So to your point it’s not data so much as it is information that can get to your heart. We’ve done so much with our brains, it’s amazing. But boy, have we forgotten how to bring heart to the decision and you can drive around South side and pay attention and look and say, ‘Is this okay with me as a citizen of this community that this just happens, and I just pretend like it doesn’t exist?’ We’re saying, ‘No, it’s not. No, this is not okay. We want to engage with you and wherever you are on the spectrum to our mission and what we’re doing, we really want to find a way to connect.’ So that engage piece is gonna be huge part of our work. Again, not something I would’ve ever thought about, lots of philanthropists are thinking about it now because we have to get relationships in order to get people’s hearts and minds to decide that they’re willing to put their own social capital in to bring about change. The other piece about the HIV I’ll just quickly say that it taught us so many things, and while the cure is the pill to the body, there has been no cure for outreach to equity for HIV. It is the exact same problem. So you’re exactly right, the Tampa Bay area had the second highest infection rate in the country and still does, and predominantly because people of color are getting disproportionally infected. Well, why is that? Well, there’s lots of reasons and lots of ethnographies and ways to talk about this, but the bottom line is we’re not getting pills to them. So we have spent the last 16 months with a group of really smart HIV advocates and organizational leaders and they are submitting a grant that we’re gonna fund that I think will cut our HIV infections in half. And that took us coming to the table and saying, ‘This is the vision.’ Not to who got last year’s grant. That’s not what we’re here for. The mission is reduction of disease and you have the second highest rate. Look at the 15 other cities who are where you were, in five years later they’re not, they have reduced theirs – you can do this too, let’s figure this out. Fueled them at the table, they kicked us out of the room after about seven months and they finished it up on their own, which I love. That’s exactly how this should work. So they found their own solution, it’s across multiple sectors, they’re gonna have success if it goes like other cities and they are able to maintain it. That’s fascinating, right? So that is what we’re doing and that is a demonstration of what I mean by convening and the wisdoms in the community and we’re fueling at – well, yeah, smart people sitting around the table, we pay them to sit there, they came up with the right answers, we showed them the data, they took the data and said what we need to do, we said yes and off they go, right? So I hope the results play out in the ways that they should.
Ashley: I wanna talk about how you’re dealing with the discomfort that’s coming with the narrative around race. And maybe it’s not your own discomfort but my guess is that for the constituency and the audiences that you’re sharing this information with I would imagine it’s hard for us to come to terms with that obvious discrimination. And I think that the nonprofit community and even the for-profit community, we’ve done a lot of intrinsic mapping in trying to understand what our problems… where the root lies, whether it lies in quality education, whether it lies in access to high paying jobs, whether it lies into disparities around access to health services. And it seems as if you’ve identified, your Foundation has identified the overlay of race, which hasn’t really come to surface as a very overt refrain in some of the nonprofit communities’ work. And having attended a recent event that you hosted where you brought it to our collective consciousness and you walked us through an exercise in participating with our table and engaging if we check the box in terms of how we looked or our last names and then removing ourselves from the engagement and the opportunity if we did not have those qualities. And it wasn’t the most comfortable process. So you were coming into a community where you’ve got to earn the allegiance and support of your community and now you’re making us feel really uncomfortable rightly so. So walk us through what that experience has been like.
Randy: That’s a great setup. So I want to start at the individual level and just talk about my own experience with this first because I think – I hope – it is instructive so I’m offering it. There’s a wonderful human fallacy and tons of authors have written about this, it’s certainly not my idea, it’s just something that I have really understood in different ways with my dedicated work in communities of discrimination. So I would say we certainly talk a lot about race but I wanna broaden it because equity is about discriminatory practices anywhere, anyhow, so it could be an indigenous person, it could be an elderly female, right? It doesn’t matter where the discrimination or the disequity comes from, from the Foundation’s point of view. On a personal level, one of the things that I’m confronted with all the time is when I think I know I certainly don’t know. And every time I wanna be curious is just something I have to remember instead of a way of being, right? I have to remember to be curious instead of just know, or have an opinion, or my mother taught me to think that way. So how much coding do we all have as adults now, and in a world that is now with 700 channels of information and you can curate your own to your own way of thinking, you’re not really challenged. We’re not asking ourselves to ask, ‘Well, what’s different?’ That’s not space we have created for ourselves. So part of our ability to convene is to interrupt the thought to an individual that says, ‘I know the answer.’ And so when I talked to the Chamber Board one of the things I said was, I’ve been in the nonprofit sector a long, long time and I was never ever more surprised than 100% of the time that I was in the board room, where business folks were, the solutions that were crafted did not respect the nonprofit sector’s talent. And so it’s this interesting, and I would know nothing about a for-profit business but I’m sure I’d have opinions, so I’m not blaming them, right? But it’s just this interesting thing about pejorative rule and board member and business over nonprofit. These are three really healthy sectors: the public sector being a healthy sector ever since of government’s stability and what it can bring to a community, the corporate sector and what it brings, and the nonprofit sector. And actually it’s the third of a third in a third, right? It’s not in our economy yet but it is that nationally. So the nonprofit side has a critical role to play and I bring that up and answer your question to say that it’s not just about equity and race, it’s also about power and equity and money and communities. So I think the refrain for me when I think about equity is no one has to lose. Equity is about closing the gap by lifting up and then we can do inclusive prosperity and lift everybody up. But we’ve got to fix the equity in order for it to be fair and just and be a world we wanna live in. So this idea of confronting race is deeply uncomfortable and it’s uncomfortable because we’re afraid. And whatever the fear is that manifests around your personal experience in race is what the Foundation is hopeful we can invite you in to explore. Because it’s only changing hearts and minds of leaders to your point, and also the idea of social change movement that if it comes from a place that is heart and mind is gonna be a much healthier and much more long lasting fundamental change.
Ashley: What about the impact due to the fact that you are a Caucasian leader?
Ashley: And saying these things.
Randy: I had dinner with someone last night who this very question came up and happened to be an African-American female. As a first leader for this kind of an organization in a community that prioritizes economic development for all good reasons and I’m highly supportive of that, and for a community whose leaders have looked like me and are white it’s a real challenge to have me walk in the room and say, ‘So, do you know the history of white supremacy and white domination in our community?’ And that’s not a thing I’m afraid to say, because it’s truth. And so one of the things that HIV taught me is that regardless of your personal stance or your personal equipment, if you are a leader you will not be afraid of fulfilling a mission and you will step where you can make the most good. So there’s a few answers to that. So in leadership style for me, what do I think – I do not have all the answers at all, so who do I surround myself with is really important. So if you look at our trustees, one of the ways I control for that is to say to my board we are recruiting, and we are recruiting with equitable leadership. And that for us means race, it means age, it means gender and it means skillset. Diversity shows up on our board for mental health to hospital specialists to nonprofit specialists to a faith leader, right? We have this wonderful mix. And while I’m the president and CEO and can lead a lot of things and have a lot of control over what happens, I don’t do anything controversial or big without a courage question or a five to my board, ‘Is this where we are?’ Because they govern me to the community. That is important only in the sense that I then understand I have to link with communities of color in a multitude of ways. And one poor job we’re doing right now with is the Latino, Latina and the Hispanic community overall, we’re not doing a great job of outreach there. There are a couple of reasons for that. One is the community is not integrated yet. It’s sort of immigration is so dangerous these days that it’s really hard to think about galvanizing and celebrating a group of people arriving on our shores. And the other part is for the African-American community the trust piece is a big, big deal. So many people who look like me show up and say, ‘We’re here to help,’ and then they leave, right? So I’ve already heard people are disappointed, right? And that is a part of change, that it looks like. Man, this is a 20-year march, it’s not a three-year march. But we’re so ready to have this better that we’re disappointed it didn’t happen fast and I wish I had a magic pill, I wish I knew what that was. And if anybody’s got the answer I’d be glad to take it. And one of the courage questions I had with the board was, if we spent all 200 billion dollars on a problem that we knew it was gonna solve it, would you be willing? Yeah. So what is it? Right? So if we found that needle in the proverbial haystack that might be something we do. But the freedom around that is what I hope the community is fascinated by and helps steer us. And if I’m successful it won’t matter that I’m Caucasian because the leadership will come from the leaders in the community once we’ve established trust. That’s my hope. Now it does matter that there’s not a black leader saying these words in my job.
Ashley: You surrounded yourself with some great black leaders though.
Randy: I have. Yeah, we have. Then there’s a tremendous amount of talent here. It’s lifting that up and celebrating and saying it’s not – this is not mine, it’s ours, it’s we. There’s a we here.
Joe: So you mentioned that nationally it’s one third, one third, one third. And we’re not there, we’re heavier on the public and the corporate. And you had mentioned earlier that there’s a very entrenched status quo and coming from places where there isn’t whatever, a more thriving nonprofit sector, what are some of your observations as to why St. Pete has this peculiarity?
Randy: So it starts in a way because the topography again. We’re a peninsula in a peninsula, we’re this very narrow thing and people will go to Tampa before they go to Clearwater from St. Pete just because it feels closer and it seems easier, right? And it’s strange when you piece all that together and you first move here, and people start to worry at you and you begin to understand. So that’s a part of it. But we have assessed the nonprofit community with over 6,000 nonprofits and about 1,000 of them have some form of scale, so there’s 5,000 out there that don’t. And for a community of a million people that’s about three times more than most counties have on average. So when you think about that, how did we get here? Well, I think the 24 cities also tell you something. Pinellas county is – what does a united Pinellas look like? And I’m not sure that question can be answered because truthfully speaking plainly, Scientology in Clearwater owns 30% of downtown, 40% of the home owners in the North county are living out of state, the tourism industry which is huge, and we love and thank goodness because it makes Penny for Pinellas work for us, right? We have a lot of positive things that come out of that. The beaches are a huge attraction. But what of all the things that I just said feels like community or common understanding or common place? So this place is a destination, it’s less a community, that’s what my first new comer observation – and yet South county is very different, South county feels like home, feels like a place, right? So one county trying to weave those two very different worlds together, and they’re all the microcultures underneath. And South county has a lot more of them. So when that happens then you’re not connected, and you think, ‘I’ve got an idea, I can form a nonprofit,’ and off you go. And then that’s the down side.
Ashley: And I wanna ask you about that. So you would recently assessed the nonprofit landscape here and you identified about 6,200 total nonprofit organizations, only 1,000 of them with net assets of 10,000 or more, had the size and scale to actually deliver on their mission. So if you had the remaining 5,000 in front of you right now, what is your professional business advice for those entities? Is it collaborate, is it…?
Randy: Follow your passion and do not form another nonprofit…
Ashley: Don’t form another nonprofit?
Ashley: But what would…?
Randy: But first thing always is who is sharing something similar? What mission – what is it that you’re driving and is there anyone else you can collaborate with? So back to the communications problem and this idea about race, we don’t often think that way, right? I don’t think it’s arrogance as much as it is passion, but it comes off as a little arrogant to think, ‘I’ve got an idea and I’m gonna have to do it better than anybody else,’ right? So, wait a minute. You’ve got a passion, that’s fantastic. Where do you plug that in?
Ashley: Let’s walk through this. So you have 1,000 that can scale. Would you recommend…? This is not professional advice, but just…
Joe: …gobble them up like Pacman.
Ashley: …would gobble them up so they could…
Randy: So have an event at the Tropicana and literally figure out where your missions line and figure out if there’s 500 mergers we could do, right?
Ashley: But I wonder if that is a – even it’s not an overt message from the Foundation, if it’s a nice nudge in the right direction. And again, maybe another truth that we maybe don’t want to look at similar to the conversation around race is the… we’ve talked about the individual fiefdoms and the lack of collaboration, and we’ve had multiple guests comment on…
Randy: …talk about that.
Randy: So you asked a fundamental question which I didn’t get to which fits with the answer to your question or a comment on your question. So why do we get nonprofits who aren’t of scale and who are not leading change in the way we see it or end up with a very limited unrestricted budget to say it more plainly, which means there’s no space for me to go do the championing and the advocacy work that’s often a part of a nonprofit deliverables. Well the answer is several things, but one is we have an extremely low individual giving here, and individual giving for any contributions is 80% of the revenue that you get. This is outside of government grants. So 80% of the contributed revenue comes from individuals and it’s really low here. Secondly corporate support, which is often very low, is also low. And the final pieces – the foundation support. While there are many foundations in the county what they invest locally, particular in the social determinants, is really low. So we’re the first money that’s come along in a while that’s fueling that effort. And then you’ve got systems, like JWB. And so our state has set up welfare boards that amass tax money and then they give money out, and their job is transactional in many ways. How many slots of daycare do I get, how many…? So those all matter, they’re important, but what it does is shape vendor responses, not championing leadership of cause responses. So it just creates a different culture. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, it’s just something to understand that we now need to add contributed revenue to the fuel in major ways to be able to celebrate the mission and the passions and the talents of those people.
Ashley: Well, one additional complication, you talked earlier about individual contributions not keeping pace with presumably local, state and government funding for these nonprofits. Adding on to that, if you look to the grant making process a lot of the grant money does go to new innovative programs and not to existing operations, which is fundamentally what grants are about. So you’ve got a bunch of nonprofits constantly innovating not able to support existing operations, creating new operations, receiving funding for a limited period of time and they have to sustain those operations in addition to what they’re not currently funding.
Randy: Right. Well, I’ve run several, but I’ve run two fairly large nonprofits and in both cases over 35 incoming contracts all of which had different deliverables and in both cases over 100 outgoing contracts. Because it is the only way to sustain, keeping your operation going. So when you’re delivering or a provider of services to someone who is in need, whether it’s kidney disease and a meal or whether it’s case management and trying to coordinate physical and mental health care – those services, the way those transactions are fueled and paid for is traditionally government. So now the government is in our face to the point of saying, ‘You must document every five minutes you’re with a client in order for you to get paid $34 for that hour.’ And the $34 pays about 40% to the overall cost and now you’re taking away a good 20% of the face time with the client into documentation because somebody sued somebody somewhere else in the country. So it’s really hard, and when I say 35 incoming contracts each one of them has horrible rigor and really restricted. So when a Foundation comes along and says something innovative nonprofits will stretch, they will do their best, they will do everything they can because they need the money, and I’ve done that 100 times. And the truth is when we came here we didn’t want to do that, we didn’t want to create that atmosphere. But the reality is we’re having to because the nonprofit structure we found is one that hasn’t been supported as fully as it might’ve been for many years.
Ashley: So how many nonprofits right now are looking at you for areas of focus and trying to figure out how to stretch themselves into…
Randy: Don’t know.
Ashley: …into those realms and maybe creating a new nonprofit to add to the…
Randy: So what we know, and I don’t know the answer to that, but what we do know is that there’s roughly 350 nonprofits county-wide who are of scale, meaning they have more than $100,000 and they have… and expenditures are assets. And they are focused in some one of the social determinants of health. And we funded almost 260 unique organizations in a variety of ways. So the penetration we’re getting is pretty good and the grant rounds we’re getting seem pretty positive. So I think we’re in those conversations. I don’t think people are happy because anybody who doesn’t get funding is usually not happy. But I would say this, we’re two years in the grant making and this is a 20-year at least process to move our community forward. So the patience level is thin because the need is so high.
Ashley: And so if you take your foot off the gas of grant making, not to say that you’re going to completely stop, but you hinted earlier that you may actually divert resources into other focuses for the Foundation if I’m correct. Could you outline what those would be?
Randy: So all of them are grants, it’s just the way they’re done, so I shouldn’t have used inside speak, but responsive grant making means a competition. And what I’m suggesting is our grant making would shift to co-created solutions that these convenings lead to, like the HIV one, right? So they’re gonna be likely to go somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.5 to 2 million dollars and they go pay somewhere around the total $80,000 for their planning work to get this set up. And now they’re gonna go do something pretty transformative that’s gonna change the system so that we’re not gonna have that happen again, we’re not gonna have an outbreak of HIV because the system has been restructured. That’s the theory, right? That’s the approach. So what’s gonna happen in the housing is probably seven different projects get baked because you don’t know who is gonna be the likely partner. Is it a nonprofit developer in the county, and a private developer who wanted a partner to do something unusual? Well, maybe it is. And then that incubates out and we either fund it or we look for national resources from other foundations to fund it. The national foundations are all looking for local stories dealing with equity and they’re dying for us to bake it because it’s really hard. So I found seven foundations nationally who have health equity as their main mission who we are actually gonna host them in the fall and bring them all together because there’s this national conversation that’s happening, this is very much like this conversation. What is it? How are you doing it? How are you finding, how are you dealing with the status quo forces? What’s happening to you? You didn’t get tired, right? Those are the primal questions because this is really hard work.
Joe: One observation on the status quo is I think that when money is tight and you’re very fragmented, that people’s value systems change.
Randy: Of course.
Joe: I saw this early on when I first started in business, they had a group that met every – once a week with people who were starting businesses, and nobody had – any money, they were all in my position and they were all looking to grow their business. And so when you realize there is no money to go around amongst people in the group then this new form of currency took place and that was praise or recognition for their skill level. And so you started to feel like the richest people in the room were actually the ones who put out the most praise and they started to be – and this is true of all social groups in general. And I think that in St. Pete or in Pinellas county when you have so many disparate entities fighting for so little money their value systems can change, which is why I think it bakes in and this value of having this nonprofit and the story that they can tell and the way it integrates into their life, that actually it’s a negative experience for them to collaborate with other people because it detracts from that.
Randy: It’s so true. And yet what’s the alternative? If you keep doing what you’ve always done you get what you always got, right? We know that, so – and if where we are is satisfactory with a 14% poverty rate, with people who live a few miles from one another with a life expectancy that’s 10 years apart, if that’s okay with us then we’re fine.
Joe: It brings you back to the information problem, is I think that they know that intellectually, but I think emotionally they’re not attached to that outcome and so it’s harder for them to change.
Randy: Yeah, and I think this is an invitation, right? Ultimately the foundation can’t make change without a relationship with the community, so we are inviting folks to be curious and we’re inviting folks to look at the data we present. So we are rolling out a series of studies and I will tell you that it’s been hard to even do social science research just because there’s never been a private funder to fund it in the way we’re doing it. So who do I work with? Right? So that’s been an interesting challenge. Every single thing we’re doing we have to rebuild the capacity because nobody has been here to fund that before. We’d like to keep it local and most of the data that is local we’d like to amalgamate and look at. That’s really hard and it’s really a struggle to find the right team to pull that together. So even getting the data sometimes is not so simple, but it is mandatory and the housing report I think is the first one, because most of the housing data is reported federally. HIV is by state law required reporting, so we had access to data. When you get into Medicaid and some of these other sources that you can’t touch the data, you can’t get into it or since it’s track data that isn’t tracked that way, or nobody has ever thought about asking where are the zip codes of the lines of people in line for mental health services, where are they trying to come from, where is it…? Nobody has got that data because nobody has funded that before. So there’s all the challenges of even trying to get the data report out is the beginning place. So we are at the very beginning of this work, but conceptually I totally agree, this has got to be a data story and an information story.
Joe: So do you find that the acumen is there to meet the level of reporting and data analysis that you require even in the Foundation of a Healthy St. Pete?
Randy: It certainly exists in Tampa Bay.
Randy: Is it aligned in one shop? Not yet.
Ashley: I wanna talk about relationships for a second. So part of your nonprofit assessment was to talk about some of the issues that you have in keeping your executive leaders and nonprofits up at night. And low on that list was topics around HR and real estate and public policy, but very high on that list was fundraising and networks and relationships. And so – and fundraising is fundamentally about relationships. What insights can you glean from that response?
Randy: So I’ve raised a lot of money in my life and this is the strange part of this, I love raising money because it makes me figure out how to tell a story 100 different ways, because each donor and each audience wants to hear it slightly differently and I find that fascinating work just because it is a comms job in a way. But it’s also about meeting people where they are, which is a principle in social work. It’s just start where somebody is. So you ask a lot of questions, you figure out where they are, and you can figure out how to maybe get some dollars. The development world is well-developed in Tampa Bay and those fundraising professionals of which there are many are really quite capable. The challenge for organizations below a certain scale and I’m not gonna pick a number, but it’s several million dollars or below, just can’t simply afford a professional development person. So there’s this organizational development moment that is really pregnant and I’ve launched something like 12 nonprofits in my career and a few of them died but most of them survived, but only because of luck and fortune. Because the life cycle starts with this passionate idea, you get your IRS designation, you start raising money, you get your first government grant and then you realize, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to hire somebody that I can’t afford because I’ve got to fulfill this grant and I’ve got to raise money to get them and how do we raise money?’ Then suddenly there’s nothing but a chase for money from the get go. So there’s never a sustainable funding model, rarely a sustainable funding model that works because it pulls off mission. So I like the sustainability construct and even unrelated business income but every single one of those models that’s affiliated with social change fails. And social change requires a single point of focus and single purpose and the fundraising part of this is people give to people, not to causes. Right? So you can tell your story all day long, that matters at your special event, but it only matters because I knew this person and I’m the captain of this table and I got them there and they all know they’re there to write a check and they all know if they say to coming they’re gonna write a check, but it’s because they came with me, that’s why they’re giving. Now the heart-warming might add a zero to their check, the stories, the videos, all of that stuff, but it’s not gonna change whether or not that donor gives. So it’s a fascinating thing to learn that you have to be of scale, we don’t have many organizations that are of scale that can afford what is now commanding 150,000 and above for a salary for a professional development person. No skin off their nose, it’s hard work but that’s what it takes and there’s no grant that pays for that. So you have to raise the money for the person and then they have to continue to raise their own salary plus, and that’s where the problem comes in the community who is not used to being a donor community locally.
Ashley: And I think that was my first impression reading that part of the study when I saw the perceived lack of fundraising acumen on boards and with staffs. I thought well, maybe the foundation can sell for that with… you call it fractured acumen, essentially hosting workshops on how to fundraise.
Ashley: But then ultimately that’s not gonna solve your problem because I think the real problem around relationships is that gatekeeper to the individual that you’re bringing to the event or somebody who can stroke that six, seven figure check. And that group is probably a smaller pool, you can’t teach for that. So you could host a workshop with 60 development professionals, but if they don’t have the connection to the money…
Randy: So it’s a both/and, and I will say that boards in general are highly underutilized because the power dynamic is confusing to staff. Some would say that openly and some wouldn’t and let me explain. So I report to the board of directors, but I’m supposed to raise money and they’re supposed to help me raise money. How am I supposed to go to them and say, ‘Well, you did not pay your pledge, you didn’t introduce me to somebody that could give money,’ right?
Ashley: And please don’t fire me.
Randy: Yeah. ‘Please don’t fire me,’ right? So it’s a strange model that most people when they wrap their heads around it, and if I came at this from a business point of view you would be like, ‘Well, that’s silly. Change the way you do that.’ Well, how do you change the way you do that? Well, then you get somebody else off the board with, ‘Well, how does that work?’ So really what has to happen is the chair of the board, whoever that is, has to take sole responsibility for raising money from the board and galvanizing them. How many leaders of our organizations have had the training to understand how to get that person at the board level, and how many people at the board level are willing to go through what they have to go through to do that work? Because you almost have to not have a job to do it well, you have to volunteer all the time. That was the 1950’s model. Well, we haven’t left that. So the professional fundraising world we really had to lean into because the trustees stopped doing the work when everybody went back to work. Because when the IRS came along mostly women were not working, they were volunteering. So we haven’t changed those laws or those rules or that approach. So it’s been an interesting dance and those that have been the most successful are the biggest organizations with the biggest heft and it stays that way.
Joe: And I think that the lack of development acumen makes people throw quantity at it, so they’ll tend to staff their board with anybody who can bring a few dollars, and which then hurts the acumen diversity in the board as well, so you tend to lack the skills you need to have a successful operation.
Randy: Well said.
Ashley: What about the pervasive – social enterprise ranked incredibly low in terms of how nonprofits are currently funding their operating model? What are your thoughts on that? We’ve had the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay on that are huge advocates of teaching fishermen how to fish, essentially.
Randy: So what does social enterprise mean? I don’t know what it means.
Joe: Well, it’s – and I was gonna flip the question…
Ashley: Like an earned revenue model.
Joe: It’s a standard business that’s a for-profit but that has a socially valuable element to it.
Ashley: The YMCA would be one.
Randy: So the YMCA is a not-for-profit entity that’s franchised, so where is the for-profit side…?
Joe: No, so yeah, so technically it wouldn’t be a social enterprise because it’s a not-for-profit, but it may be an educational product, or it may be… something that brings water to a place that doesn’t have water and they’re making money doing it.
Ashley: You can earn revenue like that.
Randy: This is why I asked the question because I think there’s tremendous confusion around those two words, that’s my view of it.
Ashley: Educate us.
Randy: So – well, I don’t know if it’s education, it’s just how I learned it. And I’ve run two different for-profit entities wholly owned by a nonprofit, so I’ve seen that model. But when you say social enterprise and then we talk about a for-profit business that hires ex-prisoners I wouldn’t call that a sustainable model for a nonprofit, that’s not something that helps a nonprofit. So we got to this conversation by talking about sustainable models for nonprofits.
Randy: Right? So there are X number of people who leave prison every year and there are X number of those people who are eligible for employment right away and that’s great, what did we transform or whether we change, right? So there’s a new business, that’s good, and somebody uses that experience and does good with those folks, I think that’s fantastic. So I think that’s great.
Joe: I think it can be transformative, it doesn’t have to be a nonprofit to be transformative.
Randy: I was giving you the for-profit model.
Randy: That is the for-profit model. I think the for-profit is, can be, that. Right? Now it’s hard to get the for-profit model to scale when you’re talking about equity. That’s the frame I wanted to use, and this is – what do you say? So the examples I would point to I wouldn’t call social enterprise, that’s why I get confused by the language in my own head because I don’t know how you mean it versus how I’ve learned it. So it’s one of those buzzes that people have different views of. So let’s take for example the CRA in our own community, midtown St. Petersburg, South side. All the names we have for it, right? So what is the need, the number one need of a job that is fairly low trained from the largest employers? Let’s just take hospitals and say it’s certified nursing assistance. Well, that’s a 12-week program. Let’s retrofit a Winnebago, stick up the middle of the CRA, enroll classes of people, tie them to their jobs, get a case manager to go with them to their jobs for the first six month because if you’ve never had a job before you never seen a paycheck, you wonder what the heck FICA it is and how that works and… seriously, we all had to go through that and I remember my first paycheck thinking who stole my money, right? And so literally stories of people returning to work or coming out of poverty and going to work, these are the things that send them back to their communities because the sustainable model has been the thing they’ve understood all the time, and this is so new it’s scary and it doesn’t work because I’ve got more money staying at home. Well, if you put a case manager with somebody and you explain whatever it is, that individual needs to stay sustained and connected to their work, they’ll be great employees. The deal on the other side would be the hospitals who hire them for 32 hours, so they don’t have to pay benefits, have to agree to pay them 40 hours and benefits in order for us to be interested in that kind of a program. I’m making that up because I don’t know if that’s the data but to me that’s about equity and that’s about digging in, and you could call that social enterprise, you could call that anything you wanted, but it could be a for-profit business that goes and does the training, it could be a nonprofit, it doesn’t matter to me. But the directness of the equity matters. And the other model of a nonprofit trying to be self-sustaining and create a business that fuels it, that model has had some success and it’s usually with a leader who’s been there for 20 years and stays with it, because boy, it’s really hard. There’s 1,000 problems to solve to get through it, some of them not so complicated on the legal side although they exist, most of them problematically. It’s really hard to get the culture of a nonprofit to partner with a for-profit even if they’re unrelated to make it make sense. And boy, that’s just a difficult challenge, you might as well ask for triplets at the same time all of whom have very different needs. It’s just a really hard thing to parent through. So I don’t know that I would teach that that’s the right thing to do because the capacity of our current leaders aren’t raising enough money to sustain the nonprofit model, stretching them to run another private entity that’s supposed to fuel that. I don’t know that that capacity is so readily available.
Ashley: So what are the secrets to sustainability?
Ashley: That’s it?
Randy: Simple. Flat out collaboration. All the problems get solved when you decide you don’t have to do it alone.
Joe: So what are the top couple most scalable and valuable ways that you would recommend collaborating? If you were gonna collaborate on one or two things, where do you see the biggest opportunity?
Randy: I don’t mean to poke it out there like it’s simple. And I think it’s actually not done that often because it’s one of the harder things to do. It requires certain… if there was a checklist for collaboration on both sides of the equation I think it would start with willingness and the leader’s truth of “do I need to have an outcome in a specific way?” And if they need to have an outcome in a specific way they’re not ready to collaborate. Right? So the mission alignment is first what we’re trying to do and who we’re trying to help, and if that connects okay, now I need it to be this way. Well, if you’re going to be that person then you just sabotaged what could be a healthy relationship because your needs are no greater than anybody else’s. So this could be a deal breaker for me, help me through it, right? But for the most part it’s not that. The other ingredient that I find really interesting to your earlier point is the right data and the right evidence that this is gonna work, right? And so mergers are hard, collaboration is way easier. And I don’t mean an MOU, a memorandum of understanding that somebody says, ‘Yes, if you call me I’ll answer the phone.’ No, no. I’m talking about shared resources, there’s actual money is transferring between the two agencies. And I don’t think it should just be nonprofits, I think there’s ways to build with for-profit sector, there’s some amazing things that can be done for sustainability around topics that are of interest to everyone.
Joe: Is there an ideal – or are there variations in the power dynamics between two organizations? So you have two organizations of equal size trying to collaborate versus one that is maybe quite a bit larger and has two or three people under. And does one model working better than the other?
Randy: 100% of mergers and collaborations deal with personalities and relationships. Size is sometimes played and used as an excuse but it’s usually because leaders don’t get along. So it’s been a decade I’ve been a consultant trying to merge organizations in the HIV community, but also in the substance abuse community. And boy, was it hard! There’s turf stuff people take deeply, ‘I lost someone to HIV, I have to lead this organization, it’s my brother’s legacy for me to do this. My mother died of overdose, there’s no way I’m not gonna do this.’ So well then in those cases where passion has overtaken, the heart’s bigger than the brain, you understand it, you see it, you applied it, you celebrate it, you hold it and you appreciate it but it ain’t never gonna get to scale, right? It’s just not because you’re fulfilling a personal need through an organizational structure and that’s not gonna work.
Ashley: Do you have the acumen within the Foundation – I know you mentioned you were a consultant – where organizations can sit with you, can work on forecasting through a collaboration, see what that could presumably look like, how that could affect staff structures, board structures etc? Because I think some of the paralyzation around collaboration is really not knowing how it’s going to affect the bottom line and organization’s people.
Randy: And being willing, frankly. If there’s a willingness to learn and/or put yourself in that moment of fear. So does the Foundation deliver that directly? And the answer would be no. What we want to do is develop the capacity and the community of providers who can do that. So we have a Nonprofit Leadership Center here in town or in Tampa Bay I should say and they’re one example. The general frame, I hate this reference, but everybody uses it, capacity building, because it sounds so pejorative. C’mon, I’m running an organization, what do you mean? Well, there’s always stuff to learn and it’s back to this thing – if you’re leading a nonprofit it is one of the most freeing experiences if you let it be because you have more latitude than anybody else. The for-profit side, the public-sector side are locked in to all kinds of things. Their business model in the for-profit side which is hard to shift and change once you’ve launched, in the public-sector side rules and regulations and 100 years of history that dictate every single thing they do, including what kind of pencil they use. So the nonprofits have the most freedom, but we don’t feel it, we don’t feel free to do it because we’re locked into this contract and there’s a fear element to it. So how do you get someone who needs capacity building, to use that phrase, the most, who is the least willing to go? So that’s why I’m not crazy about it as a frame, so there’s something that we’re using, we’re trying, which is the new part of this – it’s called a CCAT and I don’t remember what it stand for but it’s a national test, it’s a national tool that nonprofits can use and it’s really rigorous and it lasts six months at the end of which you get a really robust report about your fundraising challenges and what might you do about them, your board’s knowledge, your staff’s knowledge and their pay scales and all kinds of stuff so that it’s just a way as a leader to get a mirror and – what is happening? Because I can’t see everything and feel everything. Most of our leaders are having to bill a grant to pay their salaries. So they’re not able to get up above and look. So the CCAT, we hope, will give individual organizations who are ready and interested a chance to get their own picture and then hopefully will share that with others and maybe more people will want to. Individual designs for changing the way a nonprofit functions to make it more efficient and impact its mission more are best done individually. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do fundraising classes for boards and you shouldn’t do CEO round tables, those are all important things. But in terms of sustainability and really taking a hard look, if I were a trustee or a board member of any nonprofit I’d want this done. I’d want to understand it.
Ashley: So we’re getting close to the end of the podcast and I know you talked about boards taking a hard look at themselves. And I want to shift the narrative to all of us naturally I think when people think about discrepancies in equity or disequity there’s a very territorial type of energy or response that you might get. Maybe the perception is if somebody else gains I essentially lose. And maybe with that frame you can identify ways for us to combat some of those impulses and ways that we can contribute to the equity that you’re encouraging.
Randy: So the national organization that focuses on equity a lot is an organization called Policy Link. And they have this way of assessing areas of the country and talking about this very thing. So for our area if we raised every black person’s income up to be equivalent to people who are caucasian or non-black, the economy will grow by 14.9 billion dollars. Nobody loses anything. Everybody gains. So this construct of equity being interpreted as, ‘I have to lose something,’ is where most of this starts because we’re so afraid of losing what we have. Well, you know what? That’s the moment to lean in and say, ‘Why you? Why your privilege? And why not someone else’s?’ So I think this invitation we’re putting in front of us all is uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable because it’s making us pay attention for those of us who had no problem getting access to schools or never understood that our skin color would block us from being a job applicant or being skipped over in line or being ignored or being picked up more frequently by criminal justice systems or any of the things that are experienced that aren’t anecdotal. These are not anecdotes, this is the way somebody of color has to live their lives. And that toxic stress we know leads to earlier death, it’s just so – are we okay that our privilege would really harms someone else? And I think that’s the fundamental personal question. And then to put it in the economic lens of nobody’s losing, everybody wins if we treat each other equally.
Joe: Wonderful. We very much enjoyed this conversation and appreciate your time.
Ashley: I don’t think we’ve ever… this is my first time certainly thanking a guest for making us really uncomfortable for all the right reasons, for all the right reasons. Great insights today.
Randy: Thank you.
Joe: We finish each show with a shout-out, so…
Joe: …someone you want to give some attention to?
Randy: So I really want to acknowledge the 100 folks who have come and put themselves in the middle of this idea that we have to understand our own experience with race to be able to listen to someone else’s experience with race. And we just had 100 people do that very thing right here in St. Petersburg and it was a very powerful event. We’re gonna continue those events over the next several years and it has proven to be very powerful. So I congratulate those 100 people for their courage in leaning in and deciding they’re gonna make themselves uncomfortable on purpose for two whole days.
Joe: Wonderful, thank you.
Ashley: Yeah. Thank you so much.
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About the host
Joe Hamilton is the CEO of Big Sea, publisher of the St. Pete Catalyst and a founding Insight Board member at the St. Petersburg Group. Joe brings a strong acumen for strategy and positioning businesses. He serves on several local boards, including TEDx Tampa Bay, which grew his desire to build a platform where the area’s thought leaders could share their valuable insight with the community at large.
Ashley Ryneska is the Vice President of Marketing for the YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg and a founding Insight Board member at the St. Petersburg Group. Ashley believes meaningful conversations can serve as the gateway to resolution, freedom, and advancement for our city. Her passion for storytelling has been internationally recognized with multiple media accolades.