Our Firm’s Next Stage

by Josh Jacobson

We are proud to announce that our firm is rebranding… err, sort of…

Going forward, we will be known simply as Next Stage, dropping the word Consulting. Our new(ish) logo is above.

In truth, I never thought I would become a consultant. When I moved to Charlotte from New York City a decade ago, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I grew up. I felt I had climbed the mountain of fundraising for the performing arts and was prepared to run an organization. And I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be a cultural nonprofit. I had (and have) so many passions.

In 2008, Charlotte was a very different place than it is now. This was Charlotte just before the onset of the Great Recession and being a new guy from out of town rendered me persona non grata. “But who do you know locally?” I knew very few people. What I did know was process and strategy – I had learned best practices from some of the strongest nonprofit executives I will ever meet. But without a local network, I was going to have a tough road ahead. Indeed, people who turned me down for positions then are now friends and colleagues.

I share this because working as a consultant was not in my mind when I arrived in Charlotte. Without other options, and honestly without a clear direction of what I wanted to be in the nonprofit sector anyway, I reluctantly took up the title. And during my 10,000 hours learning the profession, a seed was planted that germinated as Next Stage.

It took a while – in fact, it took years – but nonprofits in Charlotte finally did wake up to the need for stronger leadership and resource development regardless of local footprint. Now, a talented professional from out of town is a coveted executive in our nonprofit sector. I was asked recently to assist with a nonprofit search where the preference was for someone not from Charlotte. Let that sink in for a minute.

My firm started in January 2014 with the charge to change what consulting could be. We sought to partner deeply with the nonprofits we serve, doing the homework needed to earn the right to offer assistance. We recalibrated the high cost of local consulting purposefully, to make strategy help affordable for many more types of organizations. And we sought out innovators and big thinkers – people who would be willing to invest in the partnership as deeply as we do.

The result? Another 10,000 hours and more than 100 nonprofit engagements later, Next Stage is reborn. While we have always seen ourselves as a social entrepreneurship company serving as a tool of community leaders on both sides of the philanthropic divide, we now understand the true nature of work. We see real gaps in our community – gaps that we feel called to help fill. Following last year’s addition of Caylin Haldeman as Next Stage’s Project Development Manager, we are expanding our model to serve Charlotte’s nonprofit and philanthropic communities by building out capacities that allow us to explore local challenges to our sector.

We feel we have already redefined what consulting can be, but it is a word that will always conjure different things for different people. We remain deeply committed to consulting with nonprofits – what we now call client partnerships – but we see a new horizon for our work.

Going forward, we are committing to three distinct lines of business:

  • Client Partnerships – We are extraordinarily proud of our 100+ engagements with nonprofits across the Carolinas, with a concentration in our hometown of Charlotte, NC. We believe that area nonprofits benefit from our efforts to dive deeply into organizational strengthening and resource development. As we look to the future, our goal is to serve as Charlotte’s go-to firm for vision-centric planning and implementation, and we welcome your help connecting with organizations seeking stellar counsel.
  • CULTIVATE – Our incubator for emerging nonprofits launched as a pilot in 2018 with participants including Charlotte is Creative, Promising Pages and Learning Help Centers of Charlotte. Early returns have been extremely positive, with each of these organizations taking substantial steps toward deepening impact and increasing sustainability. Next Stage is planning to expand the program in 2019. The application will be available beginning in early September 2018, so please help us source amazing founder-led organizations.
  • Thought Leadership – In early 2019, Next Stage will be publishing a research-informed report examining the challenges and opportunities of talent recruitment and retention in Charlotte’s nonprofit sector. Helping improve the ability of local nonprofits to source and keep talent is emerging as a leading issue facing our community, and Next Stage sees a need for leadership on this topic. This research begins in summer 2018, and we hope you will help us by responding to our requests for survey participation and interviews.

It’s a new day at Next Stage. We look forward to serving you – all of you.

Position Opening: President & CEO, Charlotte Museum of History

Position Description: President & CEO

Client: Charlotte Museum of History
Location: 3500 Shamrock Drive, Charlotte, NC 28215
Founded: 1969
Reports To:  Board of Trustees

Charlotte Museum of History — Organizational Description

The Charlotte Museum of History interprets and preserves Charlotte’s unique history, enriching the community through shared understanding of the past and inspiring dialogue about the future.

The Charlotte Museum of History is a cultural institution in east Charlotte offering educational programming for thousands of children, teens and adults; tours; regular community activities, and a variety of permanent and traveling exhibits.

Today’s Charlotte Museum of History building opened in 1999 but the institution’s roots date to the 1940s. The museum and its grounds are home to Mecklenburg County’s oldest surviving structure, a 1774 stone house built by early settler Hezekiah Alexander, a local Revolutionary War leader who served on the committee that drafted North Carolina’s 1776 constitution and bill of rights. In 1949 the Daughters of the American Revolution worked to restore the house, and today the Hezekiah Alexander Home Site is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Recent Efforts
Last year, with the community’s help, Charlotte Museum of History added to its robust programming and completed critical preservation projects for the Hezekiah Alexander Home Site.  The organization also successfully merged with Historic Charlotte, which shares a passion for preserving our community’s built environment and unique history.

With solid revenues, a great staff and a strong and growing base of support, the museum is moving forward with its recent strategic plan, which calls for increased presence and engagement in the Charlotte region while enhancing the museum experience through partnerships and development efforts.

The Role
The CEO is more than the face of the organization – the role is the captain of the organization with a foot in two worlds, stewarding historical assets of the past while engaging the new museum constituents of the future. It is a role that requires an appreciation of history, of course, but also an entrepreneur’s spirit and a manager’s instincts.

Having navigated the challenging post-Recession years that impacted all nonprofits in the region, Charlotte Museum of History is primed to take the important next steps toward sustainability and increased impact.  The organization is seeking a dynamic leader who can get the most out of a team by using mentorship and coaching while continuing to add new roles and leveraging the involvement of volunteers.

Duties and Responsibilities

Management & Leadership

  • Provides daily oversight to the operations of the museum
  • Maintains a working knowledge of museum trends, professional standards, and best practices to be carried out when developing or improving operations, programs, exhibits, and collections care
  • Defines the organization’s long-term goals and strategic focus in partnership with the Board of Trustees, and implements strategic plans and annual operating plans
  • Works in partnership with the Board to set and accomplish the organization’s mission and vision

Human Resources

  • Responsible for recruiting, hiring, training, developing, supervising and evaluating museum personnel (both paid staff and volunteer)
  • Promotes a strong and intentional organizational culture that fosters loyalty, integrity, commitment and creative thinking – one in which staff are empowered, feel valued and are regularly recognized for their contributions
  • Provides overall management of the human resources function, including supervision and a performance appraisal system

Fiscal Management

  • Understands and supervises the business functions of the museum, including budgeting; monitoring and reporting income, expenses, investments, and cash flow; maintenance of appropriate records; and assisting the museum’s auditors
  • Ensures that fiscal management complies with all legal and grant requirements, and is in keeping with sound financial practices of the nonprofit community

External Relations

  • Provides overall leadership in external relations including partner development, public relations and fund development, engaging in consistent outreach efforts and managing a portfolio of relationships
  • Develops strong partnerships that serve the mission and vision of the museum
  • Serves as the museum’s spokesperson for media relations
  • Engages in public speaking and advocacy opportunities
  • Establishes and implements with a Development Director (yet to be hired) an annual fund development plan with fundraising goals, strategies, action items, timelines, and assigned responsibilities
  • Participates directly in fundraising activities, including identifying and meeting with donors and prospective donors to generate support
  • Provides direction and supports board member involvement in fund development

Program Oversight

  • Works with Education Specialists to develop, implement and coordinate yearlong museum programming and outreach efforts, conducting ongoing assessment with regard to the effectiveness of planned curriculum
  • Provides regularized and systematic staff development opportunities

Required Qualifications

The ideal candidate would have the following capabilities and qualities:

  • Bachelor’s Degree in History, Public History, Museum Studies, Nonprofit Administration/Management, or equivalent degree program; advanced degree preferred
  • A passion for history; enthusiasm and knowledge about historic preservation a plus
  • Management experience with proven ability to provide leadership and inspiration to staff and volunteers; experience in a museum or destination setting a plus
  • Experience in museum or nonprofit work for a minimum of 2 to 5 years
  • Demonstrated track record in financial management
  • Demonstrated excellence in communications and interpersonal skills
  • Experience in external relations (Charlotte market a plus)

Salary will be competitive and commensurate with experience.

To Apply
Charlotte Museum of History is an Equal Opportunity Employer committed to inclusive hiring and dedicated to diversity in its work and staff. Employment decisions are made without regard to race, color, religion, gender, sex, national origin, physical or mental disability, age, sexual orientation, veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by applicable state or federal law. Charlotte Museum of History encourages candidates of all groups and communities to apply for this position.

Beginning September 8, 2017, all inquiries, nominations and applications are to be directed via email to Next Stage Consulting: search@nextstage-consulting.com.  Applications must include a cover letter and CV.  Please indicate in the subject line of your email the position and organization to which you are applying and where you learned of the opportunity. NO PHONE CALLS PLEASE.

Please note that only those candidates invited for screening will be contacted.


Imported Organizations (The Community Social Impact Portfolio)

by Caylin Viales

“Importing” nonprofit organizations can be a tricky thing to talk about.

In fact, I don’t even really like using the word “importing” to describe nonprofit scale. It evokes a mental picture of a cargo ship stacked with hundreds of identical shipping containers full of indistinguishable goods and materials – which is not the imagery I want to be in your head when we are talking about the strategic, pointed replication of proven nonprofits. It’s too easy to assume defensive positions:

“We have organizations that could do that here.”

“That won’t work in our community.”

“Why are we creating even more competition for our already limited funding sources?”

“Weren’t you guys just talking about how there are too many nonprofits in Charlotte?”

Those are good questions, but they miss the point. When Charlotte lacks an effective solution to a pressing community need, we have a few options. Well-meaning residents could go out and start multiple new grassroots programs. An established organization could try to develop a new program that addresses the issue. A blue-ribbon panel could be formed to study the best practices in addressing this type of community need. Or, we could look at proven solutions cultivated in other communities, adapting and replicating either the organization or the program locally to achieve similar results.

I don’t see anything necessarily wrong with any of the four options. But I think the last one, when executed well, holds the most potential for success. The challenge is that, unlike commercial markets, there is no automatic growth mechanism to help successful nonprofit organizations scale, and current funding models are inefficient and ineffective at bubbling up top performers. Consequently, it can be extremely difficult to identify and scale the best social innovations and proven nonprofit programs.

Full disclosure: before I moved to Charlotte, I spent the majority of my early career working with the GreenLight Fund, a philanthropic organization that does exactly this. GreenLight selects national nonprofit organizations with proven solutions and helps them scale their programs to the cities that need them most. The model builds community demand for these proven programs, alleviating the many roadblocks national organizations face when trying to expand to new markets while building the local partnerships necessary for long-term success. (More full disclosure: GreenLight announced in May 2017 that it is launching a site in Charlotte.)

Because my role focused on researching and assessing organizations from across the country, I know for a fact that there are brilliant nonprofits implementing effective and entrepreneurial programs in other communities that could make a huge difference in Charlotte, if only they could find a way to get here.

But far too often, our time and resources are directed toward recreating the wheel instead of developing the capacity and growing the reach of organizations that have already proven their impact elsewhere, or conversely, local organizations that are prepared for and deserving of regional or national scale.

So, the question is: how do we, as a community, identify which nonprofits could address our most pressing needs, and how do we evaluate which of those organizations have the capacity and infrastructure needed for success in our city? Perhaps even more important: How do we ensure these organizations find long-term sustainability in our community – even when they are no longer the new, shiny penny that Charlotte loves to love?

The Imported Organization

As Josh and I have deepened our discussions about the Community Social Impact Portfolio, I have become somewhat of an advocate within our firm for the imported organization and its vital role in the community. By leveraging established national infrastructure, developing and implementing proven programs and (often) unlocking national philanthropic dollars, these organizations fill important gaps in a region’s nonprofit sector.

In my experience, I have found that imported nonprofits can actually strengthen the work of emerging, niche and blue-chip organizations through both formal and informal collaborations that encourage capacity building activities in leadership development, program fidelity, data collection and evaluation.

There are some great examples of imported organizations already operating in Charlotte, including: Nurse-Family Partnership (managed by Care Ring), Reach Out and Read (in partnership with Read Charlotte), and Reading Partners (launched in early 2016). Each of these programs have a robust evidence base demonstrating long-term impacts and strong partnerships with local nonprofits and/or Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, and they address known local needs in health and early literacy.

In addition to supporting imported models like the three cited above, though, we must begin think strategically about how we can help our most promising social entrepreneurs, emerging organizations and niche organizations create strong business models that can one day support scale beyond Charlotte. As we build infrastructure that embraces proven programs from other communities, we are also creating pathways for our own homegrown organizations to someday navigate those complex replication strategies and actualize their own ambitions for scale.

As Charlotte continues to grapple with increasingly complex social and economic issues through initiatives like Leading on Opportunity and Read Charlotte, there will be many opportunities to both embrace proven strategies from other communities and grow our own best-in-class organizations to strengthen our sector and move our city forward.

The Checklist: Imported Organizations

The nonprofit sector, nationally, is becoming more and more entrepreneurial and growth-focused. It is up to us, as stewards of our community’s nonprofits, to create the local infrastructure necessary to evaluate opportunities to import and sustain proven models, while avoiding potential program duplication and excessive competition for funding. It is also up to us to support our local organizations as they work toward achieving their own growth aspirations.

Next Stage believes that imported organizations (and local nonprofits that hope to scale to new communities) must build a strong organizational and programmatic foundation before exploring growth opportunities. Replication is challenging and requires financial stability, program fidelity, significant resources and deep commitment – and organizations should be carefully evaluated for capacity for long-term success. Donors seeking to support organizations that bring proven solutions from other communities can use the following criteria for evaluating the long-term sustainability and impact of an imported nonprofit: 

  • Differentiated Model that Meets a Local Need: Next Stage believes market research is a core component of any planning process, and is uniquely significant for organizations considering launching sites in new communities. Imported organizations must be engaged in consistent local landscape analyses and needs assessments, making sure their programs are aligned with community needs. Programs should also be clearly differentiated from anything in the local market, avoiding duplication or excessive competition with other established organizations.
  • Demonstrated Impact and Robust Evidence Base: Organizations should establish a base of evidence through constant data collection, longitudinal output and outcome tracking, and internal and external evaluations. This evidence should support a well-developed logic model that speaks to the intended impacts of the organization’s different programs. Ideally, an organization would report similar results across multiple sites, indicating fidelity to the model.
  • Locally-Informed Programming and Partnerships: Imported organizations cannot enter new communities and maintain long-term impact and sustainability in isolation. As shown in the examples referenced above, many imported organizations form partnerships with local nonprofits to quickly access target populations and benefit from positive brand association. Organizations should also be responsive to community needs and cultural differences in program implementation, ensuring that all programs are locally-informed.
  • Capacity and Infrastructure that Supports Scale: National organizations that are actively growing must develop a comprehensive plan that allows them to develop the systems and human and financial resources to continue to scale while maintaining financial stability. Policies and procedures should be standardized across sites, and there should be protocol in place for succession planning, new site development and scaling culture and decision-making practices. Data management infrastructure including collaboration, file management, program data collection and customer relationship management should be functional and actively used.
  • Sustainable Business Model with Diverse Revenue Streams: To ensure long-term financial sustainability, imported nonprofits should have a revenue model that utilizes earned revenue streams (e.g. fee-for-service programs), receives significant funding from private and/or public partners, and leverages new philanthropic dollars through national funding relationships.

When replicated thoughtfully, we believe that imported organizations can successfully fill gaps, address local needs and support the work of existing local organizations. These five criteria create a suggested framework for assessing imported organizations and evaluating their potential for long-term impact. Do you agree?

Next week, Josh will be back to explore the role of Blue-Chip Organizations in the Community Social Impact Portfolio. As always, please join the conversation with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Just starting this series? Read the other installments here:

Overview: The Community Social Impact Portfolio
Emerging Organizations
Niche Organizations
Imported Organizations
Blue Chip Organizations

Caylin Viales is Project Development Manager for Next Stage Consulting. Before relocating to Charlotte, Caylin worked as a Program Associate with the GreenLight Fund, a philanthropic organization with roots in the venture capital community. Over a three-year tenure, she supported the selection and launch of five high-performing national organizations in Philadelphia. Prior to GreenLight, Caylin spent six months as a fellow at the national consulting firm Frontline Solutions, working with the Philadelphia office in their efforts to enhance the impact of nonprofit and public sector programs.

Copyright: kenishirotie / 123RF Stock Photo

Niche Organizations (The Community Social Impact Portfolio)

by Josh Jacobson

The alternative title of this post could be “Sustainable Growth – Is It an Oxymoron?” (Answer: No, but it ain’t easy.)

A lesson learned early in my consulting career came in the form of a longtime board member for a stable, no-frills human services organization. As a part of a strategic planning process, board members posited a number of ideas for how the organization could leverage its position in the community to create positive impacts.  Some of the ideas were pretty out there, but most were rooted in the mission.  I felt at the time that my job was to encourage more risk-taking by a nonprofit that was somewhat risk-adverse.

The response of that board member: “That’s just not who we are.”

There is a lot of wisdom in those words.  Knowing when not to explore expansion is as important, or even more important, than the brainstorming that comes up with innovative solutions.  While Next Stage has social innovation as a tenet of its work, we know that the key is to right-size that for individual organizations.

The challenge is that it is difficult for nonprofits to stand still.  There is a built-in expectation of growth that has only become more pronounced in donor audiences over the last ten years.  Whereas the Greatest Generation was satisfied to see stability and “regular returns” as a case for support, each successive generation has tended to seek a dynamic vision of future impact.

And in reality, it’s a somewhat unfair expectation that is unique to nonprofits.

I love the bagels at a certain shop near my home.  We visit often and know the owners fairly well.  Their bagels are delicious and the homemade cream cheese is top-notch. I patronize this bagel shop because I love their product.  My willingness to shop there is not predicated on the bagel shop’s plan for growth and increased impact.  I have self-interest baked (literally) into my reason for visiting.

Nonprofits are different.  For many donors, it is not enough to have built a sustainable business model that serves a set number of people each year, or is focused on one specific outcome.  Constituents expect a dynamic vision that inspires them to be involved, and that vision almost always speaks to how the organization will have even more impact in the future.

Whether we like it or not, this trend is only becoming more pronounced.  And yet with growth comes the challenge of continued sustainability.  Foundations and savvy donors want to see diversified revenue streams that reflect a stability that can weather change.

Such is the challenge of nonprofits, to both grow in impact while also demonstrating sustainable operations.

The Niche Organization

I think often about that board member who educated me about his nonprofit’s identity based on a set of values that inform the creation of guiding principles.  Those principles help an organization’s leadership make decisions about how to move forward.

As I mentioned in the post introducing the Community Social Impact Portfolio, those guiding principles should result in a goal of “leading in our space” for the vast majority of nonprofits.  While there are many large agencies in the Charlotte region that have evolved over time to include a diversity of programming, there are simply too many nonprofit organizations in existence now for any organization to aspire to that level of institutional capacity.

Leading in your space means that no one would even think of creating another nonprofit in your city with a similar mission.  It means “owning” your mission in such a way that you are the go-to organization and considered a thought-leader.  It also typically means narrowing your organization’s focus to ensure that it can continue to claim that mantle as it scales.

An organization seeking niche status must start with evaluating its mission, which is often too expansive.  Missions are not meant to be locked forever in time, but instead should evolve to meet the needs of a community.  Next Stage suggests conducting a needs assessment married with competition analysis to better understand where a nonprofit fits.  Whereas an organization may have claimed a wider berth 20 years ago when there were fewer organizations, the changing environment likely requires making changes to mission to reflect today’s realities.

“What do you want to own?”

It is a question we will ask the leadership of an organization with a murky mix of programming or overly broad ambitions.  I have seen organizations clarifying their pursuit of a niche as the missing ingredient to their success.  That decision is clarifying and provides leadership with a vision platform that greatly informs decision-making.  It allows organizational leaders to have more productive dialogue and unleashes creativity in service to specific goals.

The Checklist: Niche Organizations

Niche organizations (and those that aspire to such a designation) must continually conduct internal and external analysis to stay on track – this is not a “set it and forget it” effort.  Donors and volunteers seeking an organization to engage with can use the following top-five evaluation areas when considering the health and worthiness of a niche nonprofit:

  • Logic Model – According to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, a program logic model is defined as “a picture of how your organization does its work – the theory and assumptions underlying the program.  A program logic model links outcomes (both short- and long-term) with program activities/processes and the theoretical assumptions/principles of the program.”  The Foundation has a very good development guide available, and it is a framework that not only results in optimization of operations and programming, but also makes for a great case for support.  For niche organizations, creating your own version of “how a bill becomes a law” is critical as the organization zeros in on (and narrows) its value proposition.  As a donor or volunteer, it should be clear how your time and support translates into impact.
  • Theory of Growth & Change – As discussed previously, X-Gens and Millennials crave an understanding of the underlying business model of a nonprofit to better understand its potential for future impact.  Sturdy niche organizations have developed a theory of growth and change that serves as an important messaging platform.  Next Stage champions the development of a ten-year vision with a clear three-year roadmap and optimized one-year action plan.  Ten years is a long time, and no one has a crystal ball.  Still, an organization should have some overarching time-limited “theory of growth and change” that outlines an idea of where it is going.  And that theory should note how the organization intends to lead in its space.
  • Ten-Year Pro Forma – Alongside that ten-year plan should be a pro forma budget that suggests the income and expenses need for that decade-long ambition.  This is the difference between lip service and having an articulated business plan in support of that overarching goal.  Some donors and most funders start their exploration of a nonprofit with the income and expense statement, long before they read a narrative or conduct a site visit.  How you express your current and future impact through the numbers is a differentiator, with strong organizations pursuing niche status able to express financial need not only as a function of today but tomorrow as well.
  • Strong Branding – A common refrain for each of these checklists will be marketing, which is badly needed to ensure any sort of sustainable growth.  This is particularly true for niche organizations (and those pursuing it), which must clearly articulate their reason for being.  Organizations like Crisis Assistance Ministry, Charlotte Toolbank, and Catawba Riverkeepers have strong, clearly-articulated brands that allow them to lead in their space.  That branding is about more than a great logo or informative website.  It is about creating consistency in the mind’s eye of Charlotteans, who understand why a nonprofit exists and what it does to strengthen the community.  If an organization’s brand is poorly formed, the chances of it ever truly owning its space are weak.
  • Pipeline of Individual Giving – Over-reliance on institutional support (government and foundations) is the primary challenge for niche organizations, particularly in Charlotte.  The city’s institutional philanthropy has a bit of a reputation of “shiny penny” funding – supporting new initiatives for several years and then cutting funding before the organization can achieve sustainable support in favor of the next new idea.  Organizations planning to grow programming with grant funding must develop a pipeline of individual giving from a variety of sources since that grant funding is likely to disappear.  That means getting smart about donor acquisition and retention – two terms that should be daily affirmations for the niche organization.

We love niche organizations at Next Stage – we believe strongly that a robust community of nonprofits that lead in their space has a much better opportunity of actually moving the needle than a hodge-podge of groups chasing funding.  Do you agree?  Please share your thoughts on Facebook: www.facebook.com/NextStageConsultingNC/

Next week, Caylin Viales will tackle Imported Nonprofits.  Stay tuned!

Just starting this series? Read the other installments here:

Overview: The Community Social Impact Portfolio
Emerging Organizations
Niche Organizations
Imported Organizations
Blue Chip Organizations

JoshJosh Jacobson is Managing Director of Next Stage Consulting, a Charlotte-based firm focused on organizational development and fund development for the nonprofit sector. Next Stage Consulting provides organizations access to affordable, high-quality consulting services to help them “get to the next level.” Josh is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) and is President Elect for the Charlotte Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

Image Copyright : Mike Nellums

Emerging Organizations (The Community Social Impact Portfolio)

by Josh Jacobson

Last year, I overheard a conversation at work.  A friend of mine was asked by someone I didn’t know to name some of the prominent social entrepreneurs working in Charlotte. Without hesitation, a list of names were rattled out.  The people mentioned were all stellar folks and worthy of inclusion.

But my name wasn’t mentioned.  Perplexed, I asked my friend why that was.

“Well, I guess I think that you work with social entrepreneurs, but that you’re a consultant. You’re just… different.”

I’ll admit, I was a bit wounded.  In my mind, the work of Next Stage has always had purpose and meaning with social benefit at its heart.  The firm was founded to be an alternative to “for hire” consulting that was more interested in collecting fees than ensuring client success. But as I settled down later, I realized that there was some real truth to what was said.  While Next Stage had a mission and a set of defined values, we were missing two elements that every social entrepreneurship company needs: long-term vision and an organizing philosophy. These must-have elements, which Next Stage had preached to its clients, were unexamined in our own business model.

Earlier this year, I made an important decision about the direction of Next Stage and set about making it happen. A critical piece was the hiring of Caylin Viales, who has brought her tremendous talent and passion for social impact to the redefinition of what Next Stage could be.  Last week, another important component was launched – the public announcement of our philosophy regarding the Community Social Impact Portfolio.  Located near the end of that post, Next Stage commits to “orienting all of its work toward these five classifications” and “reorganizing its service lines to align with this philosophy.”

We do this because we see the role Next Stage plays in the community differently now.  We are making a commitment to the overall health of Charlotte’s industry of social impact.  In working individually with 501c3 nonprofit organizations directly, our commitment is not only to the client that hires us but also to the broader community that has a vested interest in the success of all nonprofits.  We feel a big part of our role is about “playing the orchestra, and not just the instrument.”

Because Next Stage is a social entrepreneurship company, and we are just as committed to improving our community as the nonprofits that trust us to help them achieve success.  The difference is that our mission isn’t focused on one positive social outcome – it is focused on all of them.

The Emerging Organization

It is perhaps because of how we perceive our identity as social entrepreneurs that we have been so attracted to helping emerging nonprofits.  Organizations thrive or die in their first ten years of existence, and much of that is related to the existence of a passionate founder.

I am unabashed in my love of nonprofit founders. They are the “special sauce” in the emerging nonprofit business model, capable of defying odds to make the impossible possible.  Through their eyes, every mission is brought to life and is emotionally captivating.  They will their nonprofits into being, imbue it with their personal brand, and then… what?  What happens next? Happily ever after?

Unfortunately, no. Too often, exhaustion gives way to frustration, and before long someone who could have been a game-changer is not even involved anymore. The nonprofit that had so much promise just a few years before is a shell of its former self.  Or not even in business anymore.

It is a sad fact that many start-up nonprofits don’t see their tenth year. Statistics proving this are difficult to come by since nonprofits don’t have to tell the IRS when they’ve “gone belly up.”  But evidence abounds. While there are many great success stories, there are perhaps just as many examples of new nonprofits sputtering as the decade anniversary approaches.

My firm is typically contacted when an organization has begun to understand that it needs some help to achieve a degree of sustainability.  We are often very successful, and the organization is placed on a pathway to ensuring long-term success.  But sometimes the challenges are too great or the organization too resistant to change.

We believe passionately that emerging nonprofit are badly needed to challenge the status quo.  Start-ups are typically less risk adverse and are able to pilot new strategies that contribute positively to the industry.  As an organization matures, it can lose that “special sauce” of the nonprofit founder, who stays up late until the job is done and knows the background of every person served.  They are often very open to volunteer engagement and encourage the community to come alongside their programming to help ensure success.  There are lots of reasons start-up nonprofits should be a dynamic component of the Community Social Impact Portfolio.

At the same time, remember the statistics from the last post about the proliferation of nonprofits in Charlotte (e.g. 3,600 public charities)?  As a community, we need to be smart about how we encourage social entrepreneurs, and more mindful of what a successful start-up business model looks like.  As I heard a donor say once, “I’d rather give my money to an organization with somewhat less impact that I know will still be around ten years from now, than an organization with tremendous impact that flames out from a poor business model.” In this way, nonprofits should view their donors (especially Millennial and X-Gen donors) as less “buying services” than “stewarding long-term solutions.”

The Checklist: Emerging Organizations

As a part of this series, Caylin and I will be suggesting a five-point checklist for each of the five areas highlighted in the Community Social Impact Portfolio. This checklist will roll into a tool that will be made available at the end of this series for donors and funders, along with worksheets for organizations to use when considering organizational strengthening.  This week, we look at the top-five evaluation areas when considering the health and worthiness of an emerging nonprofit for support:

  • Differentiated Mission – An emerging organization with an expansive mission statement is very likely biting off more than it can chew.  Successful start-up organizations are razor sharp on what they do and how they fit in to the already-established network of community organizations. To know that a mission is differentiated, a needs assessment should be conducted that documents the problem as well as the other organizations and supports in the marketplace.  People interested in getting involved with a nonprofit should start with its mission, and if it is poorly formed or not well stated, the likelihood for success is greatly diminished.
  • Distributed Leadership – The potential for burnout in the nonprofit sector is a constant companion, and nowhere more so than with the nonprofit founder.  Many start-up organizations are setup with what is called “heroic leadership,” where a handful of people are doing all of the heavy lifting.  While that may be necessary in the very early stages, the organization needs to be shifting as soon as possible to a “distributed leadership” model, where volunteers (and later contractors and staff) are owning defined responsibilities. An organization that is overly dependent on a handful of individuals is at risk, and its leadership should at the very least have a long-term succession plan in place.
  • Documented Policies & Procedures – This may seem like a boring checklist item, but our experience suggests that an organization without documented policies and procedures is highly unlikely to “get to the next level.”  There are many reasons why this is missing, and most of them end with “…and who has the time to do any of that?”  A model of distributed leadership can never be fully implemented if the organization lacks a framework for how work gets done.  As consultants, we always ask to see the Organizational Handbook (or Board Handbook) at the start of an engagement.  It is one of the top predictors of future success.
  • Evidence/Documented Results – The fact is that anecdotal evidence doesn’t cut it in an increasingly competitive nonprofit marketplace.  Emerging organizations push back on the idea that they can have documented evidence “with so little budget,” and we would argue that this excuse is not sufficient. It means the programming was not designed with a way to measure the impact to begin with, and a start-up organization cannot afford to run programming that has no defined assessment criteria.  Program fidelity is a must.
  • Quality Marketing Efforts – A certain local marketing professional and I share the belief that one of the biggest reasons nonprofit organizations fail is that they spend so little on marketing.  No other business model could possibly expect to be successful spending as little as nonprofits do.  For the emerging nonprofit, we look more at the savviness in the marketing effort than the dollars spent on it. Does the nonprofit understand segmentation?  Is their messaging human-centered, and are they creative in how they tell their story?  An all-volunteer effort is fine in the early years, but it has to be done well otherwise future success is not a given.

We could come up with another dozen or so, but the goal here is to provide readers with a way to quickly assess start-ups, less as a way to evaluate the impact of their current efforts and more toward the long-term likelihood for sustainability and growth.

Next time, we’ll tackle Niche Organizations.  In the meantime, please share your thoughts on Facebook: www.facebook.com/NextStageConsultingNC/

Just starting this series? Read the other installments here:

Overview: The Community Social Impact Portfolio
Emerging Organizations
Niche Organizations
Imported Organizations
Blue Chip Organizations

JoshJosh Jacobson is Managing Director of Next Stage Consulting, a Charlotte-based firm focused on organizational development and fund development for the nonprofit sector. Next Stage Consulting provides organizations access to affordable, high-quality consulting services to help them “get to the next level.” Josh is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) and is President Elect for the Charlotte Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

Image Copyright : Thuansak Srilao

The Community Social Impact Portfolio

by Josh Jacobson

This post launches a weekly series through mid-September outlining a new way to think about stewarding nonprofits in the Charlotte region – the Community Social Impact Portfolio.

A couple years ago, I decided to try my hand at investing. My wife and I had been utilizing a financial advisor who was primarily passively managing a system of 401ks and IRAs. I thought, why pay someone to do what I could do for myself?

I’m glad I did it, but it required me to become far more knowledgeable about concepts with which I was only partially familiar. The majority of our holdings were in mutual funds, and with a little bit of research, I was able to better understand how best to create a balanced, diversified portfolio that was responsive to the market. And on a semi-annual basis, I do a bit more research to rebalance the portfolio. We’re long-term investors so I tend not to pay it daily or weekly attention. But I rest easy at night knowing that my investments are optimized.

That notion of a diversified portfolio got me thinking – could the same principles be applied to optimize the nonprofit sector?  How can donors have a similarly good feeling knowing that their social investments are producing positive returns for the community in which they live?

This concept has been a moment of inspiration for our consulting firm, which has taken a hard look at what makes a healthy social impact ecosystem, and as importantly, what we all can do to make it a reality.

The following blog post kicks off a six-part weekly series that will outline a way of thinking about the many nonprofits that serve our community and a call-to-action for all of us to get more strategic in how we foster what I like to call a “Community Social Impact Portfolio.”

Understanding the 501c3

To get started, we first have to all be on the same page with what it means to be a nonprofit organization. Believe it or not, board members for a large percentage of Next Stage’s client base have pretty profound misconceptions about the nonprofit they are charged with governing. The ah-ha moment typically comes when I share the following at the beginning of a board retreat:

This nonprofit is owned by me, it is owned by you, it is owned by everyone. A 501c3 charitable organization is a public entity that is charged with doing that which is in the best interest of the community it serves. Just like government. And you are its board members who have elected to take on its governance responsibility, ensuring that the organization serves the best interests of the broader public. And you don’t even get paid for it. What you have chosen to do on my behalf, on everyone’s behalf, is pretty exceptional. Thank you. Thank you for all you do and for being here this morning.

You can imagine the faces of these unsuspecting board members at this point, who are suddenly very present in the Saturday morning retreat they signed up for but did not fully understand. Excuse me, what?

It is generally not very well understood (particularly by nonprofit founders) that once an organization receives its 501c3 status, it has thus been given over to all people to “own.” In exchange, the US Internal Revenue Code allows for federal tax exemption for gifts to support its mission. It is a pretty decent trade off, but only if one truly understands what it means to give up control to the public.

Too Many Cooks

If we accept that nonprofits are owned by all of us as taxpayers, and are effectively doing the work government would do on our behalf if it had the interest in doing so, then surely we must have some form of control over how nonprofits are formed, right? I mean, if I encounter long lines at the DMV, it isn’t like I can just go down the road and set up my own DMV. There must be some form of checks and balances?

The answer is: nope. Technically, the IRS is the gatekeeper, but it isn’t a very discriminating arbiter. According the 2016 IRS Data Book, more than 86,000 new tax-exempt organizations came online in 2016 with just over 1,000 denied tax exempt-status. That means that more than 98% of organizations that apply for tax-exempt status receive it. And you and I don’t have very much control over that.

So what does that look like in practice?  Charlotte is a great example of the explosion of nonprofit sector over the last twenty years. There are nearly 5,000 registered charities in Mecklenburg County alone (including roughly 3,600 public charities). While Mecklenburg County’s population has nearly doubled in the past 20 years, the number of public charities has increased three-fold.

Needless to say, this is an unsustainable trend. It creates duplication of services and unneeded competition for donor dollars. It creates backlash for founders of new nonprofits with truly game-changing strategies. And it reinforces a nonprofit culture that avoids taking risks for fear of losing ground.

It simply isn’t all that strategic.

Strategy is My… Middle Name

As a consultant to nonprofits in the Charlotte area for almost a decade, I’ve had the opportunity to work with more than 160 organizations of all shapes and sizes. My firm focuses on leveraging internal assets to meet external need. It requires being a student of our community.

This work has informed a philosophy that a healthy city must feature a variety of nonprofit organizations working in concert to address community needs. And just as a healthy stock portfolio should be diversified, a region’s nonprofit sector should include a carefully curated portfolio of community resources.

In fact, I’d suggest that all nonprofit organizations in the Charlotte region should fall into one of five categories:

  • Emerging Startups – Not every new nonprofit contributes to the bloat described above. The nonprofit sector is ripe for disruption, and social entrepreneurs with new and different ways to achieve success are needed now more than ever.  Sometimes these individuals should be encouraged to align with already-developed nonprofits, but other times there are good reasons to launch a new 501c3 endeavor. Just as your investment portfolio should have some early-growth companies, a community should come together to champion dynamic new efforts.
  • Niche Organizations – The vast majority of nonprofits should be in pursuit of niche status – that is, “owning their space.”  This requires identifying an organization’s core value proposition and striving to lead in that space. That may mean getting narrower in focus to differentiate, or expanding operations to meet community need. A niche organization must have a plan for maintaining its role as a leader and adapting to a changing community. After all, companies only stay in your investment strategy if they demonstrate a capacity for adaptability.
  • Imported Nonprofits – Organizations that demonstrate fidelity and have built an evidence-base should be encouraged to scale.  Communities must be willing to embrace organizations with demonstrated impact that can scale to provide programming that is locally informed and delivered. Charlotte needn’t re-create the wheel if a program has proven successful in another comparable city. For our investment analogy, consider these organizations like investing in foreign markets. When our own community lacks bandwidth or successful strategies, other communities may hold the answer.
  • Blue-Chip Institutions – In Charlotte, the vast majority of financial resources are generated by the top 100 nonprofit organizations with budgets topping $4 million. These organizations should be encouraged to collaborate with organizations in the preceding three categories, leveraging their revenue and assets in service to increased community impact. Since these organizations control the majority of resources, they should also be expected to drive innovation through an R&D function.
  • Foundations – It can be easy to forget, but private foundations are nonprofits as well and they play an incredibly important role in providing resources to fuel social impact. Working with individual donors, foundations should strive to curate a community portfolio of nonprofit resources to ensure a healthy and vibrant community. This means working together and understanding community challenges at the ground level.

Going forward, Next Stage is orienting all of its work toward these five classifications of nonprofits, and is committing to work on behalf of the greater good to help organizations be the best representation of where they are in these categories. The firm is reorganizing its service lines to align with this philosophy, and will be stumping on this topic to actualize a community that is knowledgeable and bought-in to the road ahead.

In the weeks to come, this series will explore each of these five categories, making suggestions for how nonprofits, donors and volunteers can optimize their organizations to create a dynamic Community Social Impact Portfolio.  I will be joined in this effort by Next Stage’s Caylin Viales, who will collaborate on the series and is a big part of helping to create our firm’s response to this new way of seeing our charge.

As always, we hope you will digest this content (we know its wordy – these are big ideas!) and engage us on it.

Because these nonprofits belong to all of us. And it’s about time we acted like it.

Just starting this series? Read the other installments here:

Overview: The Community Social Impact Portfolio
Emerging Organizations
Niche Organizations
Imported Organizations
Blue Chip Organizations

JoshJosh Jacobson is Managing Director of Next Stage Consulting, a Charlotte-based firm focused on organizational development and fund development for the nonprofit sector. Next Stage Consulting provides organizations access to affordable, high-quality consulting services to help them “get to the next level.” Josh is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) and is President Elect for the Charlotte Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

How a broken system led to two Charlottes – and what we are going to do about it.

By Caylin Viales.

A big crowd braved the heat yesterday evening to attend Charlotte Magazine’s latest #DiscussCLT event, “How a Broken System Led to Two Charlottes” at Lenny Boy Brewing Co. Moderated by Adam Rhew, associate editor of Charlotte Magazine, the discussion was focused on exploring the underlying forces behind Charlotte’s segregated neighborhoods and the growing gap between rich and poor communities.

#DiscussCLT at Lenny Boy Brewing Co. on June 15, 2017. Photo by Caylin Viales.

The panel featured the following Charlotte leaders:

  • Ann Clark, Superintendent at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS)
  • Brian Collier, Executive Vice President at Foundation For the Carolinas
  • Lawanna Mayfield, District 3 Representative at Charlotte City Council
  • Toussaint Romain, Assistant Public Defender, Charlotte Mecklenburg Public Defender’s Office

Now, this was my only second #DiscussCLT event, and after just six months in Charlotte, I don’t pretend to be an expert on the city’s long and often challenging history. But by virtue of being a bit of an urban planning and history nerd, I have already learned a lot (insert plug for Tom Hanchett’s book Sorting Out the New South City here). Plus, I have seen these two Charlottes myself in the short time I’ve lived here. This event felt like an opportunity to begin to have the tough, uncomfortable conversations needed to move the city forward and build a more unified community.

The panel began with a discussion of how we got here. “Segregation didn’t happen organically,” said Brian Collier. “It was the result of deliberate policies – and it will take deliberate actions to undo it.” The practice of redlining in the late 1930s split Charlotte in two (roughly along the same crescent pattern that exists today) and urban renewal projects in the 1960s and 70s destroyed established black neighborhoods like Brooklyn, Biddleville and McCrorey Heights.

Lawana Mayfield explained that a recent boom in population growth has ushered in a new era in the tale of two Charlottes: the rapid gentrification of central low-income and working-class neighborhoods and a city-wide affordable housing crisis. According to a recent report from the Urban Institute, Mecklenburg County ranks 79th of the 100 largest counties in the nation in availability of affordable housing.

The deep divides between rich and poor in our community are demonstrated through the state of our schools. According to Ann Clark, 77 of CMS’s 170 schools are identified as Title I schools (with significant poverty-level student populations). We should all be outraged by this concentration of poverty. So often though, she said, “the expression I hear is ‘those kids.’ Who are ‘those kids’? They are all our kids.”

The conversation quickly turned to solutions. What do we do about this? How does Charlotte move forward?

It was immediately apparent that these challenges will not be easy to solve – and they will not be alleviated through the tactics and strategies published in the Leading on Opportunity report alone. Before we can successfully implement any of those recommendations, we, as a city, need to focus on building new relationships and normalize engaging with different communities.

As Toussaint Romain reminded us last night, we already have more than 4,000 nonprofits in Charlotte, and many of them work in silos, disconnected from each other and the larger community. “Imagine,” he said, “[what would happen] if we could connect them.”

This conversation is not over – it cannot be. If you want to see more from the event and keep the conversation going, check out Next Stage’s Twitter @NextStageCLT, where we created a Moment capturing tweets, photos and reactions from last night.


Caylin Viales joined Next Stage Consulting as Associate in January 2017. Before relocating to Charlotte, Caylin worked as a Program Associate with the GreenLight Fund, a philanthropic organization with roots in the venture capital community. Over a three-year tenure, she supported the selection and launch of five high-performing national organizations in Philadelphia. Prior to GreenLight, Caylin spent six months as a fellow at the national consulting firm Frontline Solutions, working with the Philadelphia office in their efforts to enhance the impact of nonprofit and public sector programs.

Charlotte nonprofits lead the way in increasing economic mobility

By Caylin VialesCaylin

Not only am I new to Next Stage Consulting, but I’m also brand new to Charlotte. Over the past two months, I’ve dedicated a lot of my free time to traditional newbie activities. Brewery hopping? Check – Free Range Brewing is my favorite so far. I’ve made a point to take the light rail uptown, explore different neighborhoods and go for walks along the Rail Trail and the Little Sugar Creek Greenway. But while some may stop there, I’m someone who also dives head first into local policy and social issues. Check out what I’m learning and follow along.

You’ve probably heard this by now, but Charlotte has an economic mobility problem. What you might not have heard yet is that local Charlotte nonprofits are leading the way in creating innovative solutions to address it.

Background: Groundbreaking research from Harvard University and University of California-Berkeley ranking Charlotte 50th of the country’s 50 largest cities for upward economic mobility for children living in large metropolitan areas.

According to the research, a child raised in the bottom quintile of the national income distribution in Charlotte has just a 4.4 percent chance of reaching the top quintile. By comparison, children raised in some of the top ranking cities like San Jose, Salt Lake City and Seattle were more than twice as likely to reach the top quintile.

Since that familiar study was published, the city has organized to address these economic mobility issues. In April 2014, cross-sector leaders launched the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Economic Opportunity Task Force, a group of 21 community volunteers from diverse backgrounds working to lower barriers to upward economic mobility in Charlotte.

The task force was convened to research and report on the underlying social issues that contribute to generational poverty – including affordable housing, employment and education – and create an action plan for the city to increase economic opportunities for low-income children. Using the same five metrics (segregation, income inequality, primary school quality, social capital and family structure) as defined in the original report on economic mobility, the task force’s first report confirms that Charlotte is challenged across all five major opportunity indictors.

According to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Quality of Life Explorer, there is a surprisingly consistent pattern showing that the majority of neighborhoods in South Charlotte perform highly against indicators such as income, education, employment and health outcomes, while a crescent of neighborhoods to the west, north and east of the city struggle. Maps showing the racial breakdown of Charlotte neighborhoods follow that same distinct pattern.

Income & raceThis stark racial and income segregation can be attributed to decades of housing policy such as redlining and urban renewal, and it has perpetuated what some are calling the re-segregation of Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s public schools. School district data, as presented by Amy Hawn Nelson of UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, shows that one in three schools is isolated by class – meaning at least 80% of students live in poverty. Half are isolated by race – meaning at least 80% of students identify as one race. One in five schools is “hyper-segregated” by race – a term defined as meaning at least 90% of students identify as one race. Research shows that isolated or high-poverty schools correlate positively with poor student achievement and negatively impact school quality, and diverse campuses improve educational outcomes such as test scores and graduation rates.

The task force’s final report will reveal important recommendations to address the five opportunity indicators that would move our city forward, but city and county government face a series of roadblocks when addressing intractable social issues such as economic mobility and education. Much like the launch of the task force itself, it will be a slow and meticulous process.

The Road Ahead

While real, long-term progress cannot be made without top-level success in addressing the structural barriers to upward economic mobility, we need to simultaneously invest in low-income neighborhoods by supporting the local programs and organizations that are actively building social capital and strengthening communities. Many community leaders are already doing important work to increase economic mobility and advocate for more equitable housing and school policies, and are doing so through grassroots programs and nonprofit organizations.

Nonprofits are unique in their ability to be nimble and highly responsive to community need – making them the ideal first responders in Charlotte to challenging social problems like upward economic mobility. In the month since I joined Next Stage Consulting, I have met and learned about many local leaders and programs focused on addressing economic mobility through art, education and advocacy:

  • Hip Hop Orchestrated, founded by Kia Moore, works to knock down social barriers and shatter cultural boundaries by blending different musical genres to connect people of different backgrounds and battle classism, racism, ageism and sexism. When I think about innovative programs addressing economic mobility through building social capital, Hip Hop Orchestrated is one of the first that comes to mind.
  • Gen-One Charlotte, led by Ian Joyce, gives talented low-income students a road map to and through college. The organization, which provides college counseling and intensive mentorship to cohorts of students, works to create opportunities for increased economic mobility by helping high-performing students in Title I schools prepare for, enroll in and complete college, setting them on a trajectory for career success.

I am also excited about the potential of a new community fund at United Way of Central Carolinas, Unite Charlotte, dedicated to supporting programs and organizations focused on building social capital, fostering racial equity and creating opportunities in Mecklenburg County. Established in response to the recent unrest in Charlotte, the fund prioritizes new and innovative solutions to community challenges that have been in operation for less than five years and have an operating budget of less than $250,000. This fund will provide important financial support to programs and organizations that might not have access to more traditional philanthropy. Shameless plug – applications are due on February 17, 2017.

All of us – life-long Charlotteans and brand new residents, government officials and community leaders alike – have a role to play in ensuring that Charlotte becomes a more equitable city for generations to come. What is yours?

Announcing Q1 2016 Illuminate Speakers

Next Stage Consulting is pleased to announce the first slate of 2016 speakers in the Illuminate series at Hygge.

Illuminate is a twice-monthly series facilitated by Josh Jacobson of Next Stage Consulting and hosted at Hygge, a coworking community near uptown, where participants gain a better understanding of how nonprofits in the Charlotte region are working on their behalf.  The series is notable for its focus on the business underpinnings of the nonprofit sector and a willingness to tackle challenging topics head-on.

Sessions take place on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month throughout 2016, and lunch is provided for participants.  To be added to the list for notification when RSVPs will be accepted for each session, or to suggest future speakers for the series, visit the Hygge website.

Emerging & Earning

DJessupDavid Jessup, CEO, Digi-Bridge
Tuesday, January 12, 11:45am-1:00pm

Digi-Bridge aims to equip shareholders with the means to foster optimal use of technology in the learning environment, ensuring that all 21st century learners have opportunities to succeed in the digital age.  Embarking on year two, Digi-Bridge leadership has developed a business model that considers both profitability and social mission impact. Over lunch, CEO David Jessup will discuss Digi-Bridge’s three-pronged approach and how his team is managing short-term financial challenges while maintaining long-term goals.

Leadership is Action, Not Position

JTurnerJeremy Turner, Chief Solutions Officer, JET Solutions
Tuesday, January 26, 11:45am-1:00pm

We can all agree that leadership will either make or break an organization, but sadly, many misconceptions exist as to what great leadership actually looks, sounds and feels like in today’s world. In this session, Jeremy Turner will share insights aimed at clearing up these misconceptions for good, while also offering tools designed to help leaders at all levels become more effective.  A DiSC-Certified Behavioral Consultant and Certified Behavioral Life Coach, Jeremy brings experience from his leadership roles for industry giants and grassroots startup ventures in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors.

Story Matters

DJohnsonDavid Johnson, Executive Director, Silent Images
Tuesday, February 9, 11:45am-1:00pm

David Johnson, Executive Director of Silent Images will share the power of storytelling.  Silent Images is a nonprofit organization that provides professional video and photography services to other charities around the world.  David and his team have done documentary work in 40 different countries for hundreds of charities. Whether it is documenting human trafficking in Cambodia, Ebola in Liberia, genocide in Sudan, or homelessness in Charlotte, David and his team seek to preserve the dignity of those impacted while telling their stories to inspire others to take action against injustice.

The Big Picture

TLansdellTerry Lansdell, Program Director, Clean Air Carolina
Tuesday, February 23, 11:45-1:00pm

Coming the uptown Charlotte in March, Particle Falls is a large-scale public artwork by artist Andrea Polli that provides a real time visualization of particulate pollution.  As Program Director for Clean Air Carolina, Terry Lansdell has worked collaboratively with a number of partners to make the project a reality.  From concept to implementation, Terry will walk through his plan for leveraging this highly visible art installation to “make the invisible visible” and address public engagement, civic education and political advocacy.

Keeping True

KFinleyKelly Finley, Founder & Director, Girls Rock Charlotte
Tuesday, March 8, 11:45am-1:00pm

As Senior Lecturer and Undergraduate Advisor of Women’s & Gender Studies at UNC Charlotte, Kelly Finley explores the ways that gender influences social structures and individual experience around the world.  Against the backdrop of Girls Rock Charlotte, the chapter-based youth arts organization she established in 2014, Kelly will speak about the many manifestations of feminism and how to be true to your cause as the founder of a nonprofit organization.

Generosity of Peers

JJacobsonJosh Jacobson, Managing Director, Next Stage Consulting
March 22, 11:45am-1:00pm

The success of #GivingTuesday 2015 cannot be denied, with online giving growing 52% compared to 2014.  Peer-to-peer on-line fundraising platforms are plentiful these days, and with word that Facebook is introducing new tools for nonprofits, there are more options than ever.  In this workshop session, Illuminate Host Josh Jacobson of Next Stage Consulting will walk through how to best utilize peer-to-peer giving within the context of a nonprofit development plan, outline best practices and potential pitfalls, and compare platforms.

About Next Stage Consulting
Next Stage is a strategy and implementation firm for nonprofits in the Carolinas. Based in Charlotte, North Carolina, Next Stage provides support for strategic planning, fund development, organizational strengthening and project management. The firm is led by Managing Director Josh Jacobson who has partnered with more than 100 nonprofit organizations since 2009.  nextstage-consulting.com

About Hygge
Hygge (pronounced Hoo-Ga) is a coworking community located at 809-C West Hill Street near Uptown Charlotte. Hygge is Danish for “creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people,” which is an apt description for this coworking community powered by Garrett Tichy and Kayla Dugger of Ready at 7. wearehygge.com

Sustaining Success: Meeting the Needs of Mecklenburg County’s Homeless Population

by Sam McClenney, Research & Special Projects

A recent study commissioned by the City of Charlotte reports that the number of homeless families in Charlotte decreased by 27 percent from September 1, 2013, to August 31, 2014.

While this trend is promising, there are still more than 150,000 people in Mecklenburg County living below the poverty line, 60,000 of which are children and seniors, as noted by Second Harvest’s CEO Kay Carter in the Charlotte Observer article. These individuals are often both food insecure and homeless – their success must continue if Charlotte’s homeless are to transition from the streets into permanent homes.

What changes in Charlotte have made it easier for the homeless to lift themselves out of poverty? And how can we continue this trend in the coming years?

Keys to Success: Coordination & Mobilization

20018847_sHelping the homeless is not easy. No one homeless person or family is the same, so creating a system that provides each the exact help needed is impossible. However, agencies in Mecklenburg County have taken note of what works (and perhaps more importantly, what doesn’t work), and are applying what they have learned.

According to Kelly Lynn, Director of Development at Supportive Housing Communities, the key to success has been a rigorous focus on best practices.

“Our community has been paying attention to practices that are most successful in other communities, along with learning new techniques at national conferences,” Lynn said. “One excellent initiative started in 2014 is Coordinated Assessment which connects individuals and families who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless, to the best available shelter or housing resource.”

Another reason for the decline may be the rise in the number of local leaders focusing their energies on the issue of homelessness.

Thomas Wheeler, Founder of Urban Outreach, sees a shift in moving attention to action.

“From my perspective it is because more people are getting personally involved with the poor and homeless,” Wheeler said. “And when we come together as a community, positive change is inevitable.”

Coming together means generating empathy for the plight of the homeless, understanding that it is often out of the individual’s control.

Wheeler says: “I also think people are understanding that they too could be homeless one day (given a poor set of uncontrollable circumstances) and so their level of judgment of the guy or gal they see on the street corner has changed.”

Keeping the Ball Rolling

Success like Charlotte has achieved often results in praise, but it also brings pressure for continued success. Agencies responsible for this development will need to stabilize funding if they hope to continue their progress. Will this positive news provide a message of hope that can keep funders around? Carson Dean, of the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte, believes so.

“We really believe funders, especially foundations, major donors and congregations, want to invest in solutions, not just continue to manage crises,” Dean said. “This message of success has resonated well and I believe will only become more important to secure sustainable resources.”

Wheeler and Lynn echoed this sentiment.

“On the positive side some will see it as their efforts being affirmed and they will be more encouraged to help even further,” Wheeler said.

“We track our outcomes and show our funders the proof that the people we serve have ‘a place to live again’ and are not returning to homelessness,” Lynn said.

2015 and Beyond

Agencies will have to ‘step up their game’ if they want to top this past year’s success. The community seems more then up to the task, as they shared their plans for the coming year.

“Men’s Shelter of Charlotte plans to move 500 men to more appropriate housing, launch a formal diversion program to begin working towards diverting 20% of homeless men from ever needing shelter, and continue to build a cadre of landlords and employers eager to assist men,” Dean said.

Supportive Housing Communities started a program this past spring called the Scattered Site Program, which targets families that have little to no income, but have nowhere to go.

“SHC is currently serving 24 families with this initiative. By early 2015, SHC anticipates serving 17 individuals and 39 families in our Scattered Site Program, and we anticipate this number growing through the year,” Lynn said.

Start-up ministry Urban Outreach has big plans in 2015.

“Urban Outreach, has been incorporated to help leaders who help the poor be more successful,” Wheeler said. “I am trying to keep leaders focused on what they do best, helping the poor get off the street, rather than having to become fundraisers, marketing experts or great speakers by providing those other things for them.”

While 2014 was a successful year for the agencies that tackle the needs of Charlotte’s homeless community as many clients found their way out of poverty and into housing, there is still much more to be done. Luckily, it sounds like 2015 might bring even more success.

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