Supporting Parents and Caregivers through the Arts

In this blog post, I’ll discuss the Opportunity Task Force’s Strategy E: Support parents and caregivers as a child’s first teacher in promoting positive early brain development, social emotional health and early literacy beginning at birth. There are connections to other, related strategies, such as mental health (Strategy R).

At a CMS magnet school fair when looking at options for my son, I had a memorable conversation with a teacher. She taught at an elementary school that was a part-magnet for learning immersion and talent development for “advanced learners” with a “rigorous curriculum” and part-neighborhood school. I asked why the school didn’t include the neighborhood kids in the magnet program, since they were all starting at kindergarten. With sadness, she said, “the kids from the neighborhood just wouldn’t be able to keep up.” I thought, they haven’t even started kindergarten and we know that they will do less well than their peers?

I shared her sadness. It wasn’t news to me that many kids from low income households arrive at kindergarten already behind – but it is rare that it is stated so plainly. I’m reminded of this story as I read the Opportunity Task Force report’s recommendations on early childhood.

Let me focus on the Task Force’s recommendation on parenting and caregivers in early childhood and ask the question:

How can the arts be used by parents and caregivers at home to ensure children are developing well during this crucial period of early childhood?

As I said in my earlier blog post, we are not starting from scratch. In fact, the arts are so well integrated into daycare and preschool classrooms as teaching tools, we don’t even think of them as something separate. That’s because the arts are a natural fit with the developmental needs of birth to age 5 that lead right into kindergarten readiness.

The Opportunity Task Force strategy focuses on the rapid brain development during this time of life. As they note, “sound ‘brain architecture’ lays the foundation for later emotional, physical, intellectual and social development.” [Side note: I recall hearing Task Force Co-Chair Ophelia Garmon-Brown saying at an event that the Task Force had read about how learning music helps young brains develop – fantastic to hear that was part of their learning.]

While a parent can’t see a brain actually developing, this development can be witnessed in real life in the developmental stages a child goes through, so these outer manifestations can be what a parent can focus on.

Here are some simple examples of how the arts are used to teach the most fundamental skills of early childhood:

Language and Literacy: How did you learn your ABC’s? By singing the Alphabet song! That’s music integration. What do you read before words? Pictures of course – that’s visual art: drawing, painting, collage, photography.*

Fine Motor Skills: Playdoh and clay, painting, drawing in all media, stringing beads, making crafts all practice fine motor skills that are used in writing, eating, and everyday life.

Gross Motor Skills: Dancing, of course! Dramatic play as well. When you’re pretending to be a firefighter (for example), you’re using your whole body to act out the story in a very precise way.

Writing: Drawing is a pre-writing skill. For example, coloring within the lines helps kids learn how to space letters when writing*. Holding a marker or crayon to draw is practice for holding a pencil to write.

Social skills: Dramatic play (which starts as early as when you play “peek a boo” at around 5 months old) helps kids figure out different ways of interacting and social norms and boundaries of different people.

Emotional development: The arts are a primary way that people (including children) express themselves and explore their thoughts, points of view, emotions and relationships. Preschool teachers know that each drawing has a story. It may look like scribbles, but if you stop and ask a child, it may be the stars and a rocket flying into space*. Or a child starts playing with the baby dolls when she never has before. Why? There’s a new baby coming soon to her home and she’s trying to process how her life will change.

Preschool teachers know how the arts help them accomplish their teaching goals. The preschool classroom may look like just play, but it’s a complex learning environment. Teachers develop curriculum and lesson plans to develop specific developmental skills both cognitive and social-emotional. Preschool teachers have expertise – many have associates, Bachelor’s or even Master’s degrees in Early Childhood Education – not to mention years and decades of teaching experience.

Keys to Dissemination

Let’s get more of this knowledge about using the arts out to parents and caregivers to use at home for their youngest children. But how?

  1. Get the knowledge and expertise about how to use the arts for early childhood development from the teachers to the parents. Three parts to this:
    a) Use the preschool teachers: develop ways for these knowledgeable preschool teachers to teach and support parents in how to use the arts at home to either reinforce what they’re learning at daycare or preschool, or (if they child is not attending a daycare or preschool) what skills are needed and how they can teach them.b) Use the arts teachers: connect the arts teachers in the K-12 CMS and private schools with ways to learn about the developmental needs of early childhood. Find ways and outlets for them to develop curriculum using their art forms in ways that can be used at home and in preschools and daycares. [Another idea: find rock star parents who are home schooling their children and want to share their creative ways of teaching with a broader audience.]

    c) Use the teaching artists: teaching artists in Charlotte working at arts organizations and community organizations (like the YMCA or JCC) are often familiar with K-12 curriculum because the organizations often need to or want to connect their curriculums to state education standards. Bring them into the early childhood sphere and the needs of infants/toddlers/preschoolers, expand their teaching knowledge and give them the means for creating teaching tools for parents and caregivers.

  2. Increase the number of arts programs for early childhood at community, faith and arts organizations so parents and caregivers can learn arts techniques for teaching and parenting in locations with which they’re already familiar. Arts and community organizations can combine forces with social services to bring, create or adapt programs for low income families that can grow from a developmental activity for the kids to also give parents ideas about how to use the arts at home. [This can also connect to Strategy L, increasing involvement of fathers in their child’s life, by creating opportunities for fathers or both parents to learn.] We don’t even need anything particularly new, probably. Already in Charlotte we have Music Together, Side-by-Side at Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, PlayPlay! Theatre, Art Exploration at Community School of the Arts, Creative Movement at Charlotte Ballet, and more. Use the existing arts infrastructure in expanded ways.
  3. Make sure programs are designed with the families in mind. It’s an understatement to say that these families are busy and stressed with fundamental needs. Connect with the families to listen deeply about what would work for them: short videos that are mobile friendly? A booklet? A class? What’s the best location, length and time? What kind of message is going to be most effective – should it focus on future school success, behavior improvements, or family connectedness? [The arts has a positive impact on all these areas, but we might not know which will resonate most with families to get them interested in participating.] How will all this be different for a homeless family, a family in a house with multiple generations under one roof, or a family with experiences of trauma? Don’t generalize, be sure that programs are responsive to any specific needs.
  4. Leverage existing communications channels to maximize effectiveness. Why reinvent the wheel? Use the communication channels of preschools and daycares for families who use them. Depending on what they already use, these might include texting, email, phone calls, websites, notes sent home from school. Use faith and community organizations and their existing programs and communications that reach families, such as the music or dance ministries. Use social services and nonprofits and their existing touchpoints with low income families such as parenting classes, visits or appointments to share these educational arts resources. Use innovative communications methods that have been tried in other settings. For example, text messaging has been used to encourage parents to utilize prenatal care. Why not use it for improving parenting skills? Periodic texts saying something like, “Singing to your baby helps build their vocabulary and brings you closer” could be just the nudge needed to get a parent to do something helpful.

The Impact of Toxic Stress

Another way the arts may meet a need the Opportunity Task Force identified is by addressing the “toxic stress” experienced by children in poverty mentioned in the early childhood strategy. [See also Strategy R on mental health.] Of course, the best way to relieve the toxic stress is by alleviating the ways in which families are finding themselves in poverty in the first place, with job, financial, housing and food insecurity and all the other instabilities they experience.

Even as these areas are being addressed systemically and at the individual family level, the arts may be able to help. A 2016 study by the Society for Research in Child Development showed that intensive arts programming in a Philadelphia preschool with low income children reduced their cortisol (stress hormone) levels.  Chronically high levels of cortisol impede brain development in children.

Can the arts help reduce (or reduce the impact of) toxic stress at home, for parents and children? I don’t have the expertise to say; this would require further study as an offshoot of existing research on interventions on toxic stress. Perhaps integrating the arts into support mechanisms for parents could be effective when used in everyday life. Could parents and children use the arts – any of them – to process and better understand the stressors? For example, would we find that a good 5-minute parent-child dance break or singing along to a favorite song in the car reduces cortisol levels and builds familial bonds? Do one-on-one conversations where a caregiver invites a child to describe their drawing shows the child that they are valued and important, and slows down a busy, stressed parent to connect with and understand their child? It might only be brief – 5 minutes here, 10 minutes there that could be sustained over the long term – but it could contribute to family stability and resiliency.

Access to Quality Care

Finally, it must be said that access to high quality daycare and preschools (who, as I said earlier, already integrate the arts into their curricula), must be increased. This would be a major way to support parents and caregivers in getting access to knowledge and resources about proven ways for how the arts can positively impact early childhood development. The Opportunity Task Force mentions this need many times, calling on the public sector and private businesses to “make the necessary investments to ensure all children in Mecklenburg County from birth to age five have access to quality early care and education” and call for a “comprehensive funding strategy” to do so.

Giving parents and caregivers the tools to use the arts with their children during their early childhood would support all other educational, community and family efforts. It could be an “x-factor” that brings it all together to make a real difference, or it could be a primary means to move the needle.

Don’t miss Josh’s next blog post on supporting the early childhood workforce to create high quality daycares and preschools for low income children.

Thanks for reading and please add your thoughts and comments below, or visit Next Stage Consulting on Facebook and leave your comments there.

*My deep thanks to Connie Smith, Assistant Director of Providence Baptist Church Weekday School for these examples and talking with me about how arts are used in daycares, preschools and family life in preparation for writing this post.

HannahHannah Grannemann is an arts administrator based in Charlotte, NC. She has worked in theatre and the arts for 17 years, including with Yale Repertory Theatre, the Guthrie Theater, PlayMakers Repertory Company, Children’s Theatre of Charlotte and as a fundraising and strategic planning consultant. She is a Board member of Arts NC, the statewide advocacy group and Theatre for Young Audiences/USA and serves on an advisory council for the Arts and Science Council of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. Hannah holds an MFA in Theater Management from Yale School of Drama and an MBA from Yale School of Management.

Second-Class Citizen No More

by Josh Jacobson

“The arts are critical to achieving the goals expressed in the Opportunity Task Force Report.”

Breakfast with the Reemprise Fund’s Charlie Elberson at the Original Pancake House in Midtown provides so much food for thought.  In the wake of the recent publication of Leading on Opportunity, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force Report, I asked him to give his candid assessment of where the arts fits in at a time of such specific focus on economic mobility.

“The arts are where we come together, all of us, from every part of the community,” Mr. Elberson said. “The arts can convene us and encourage us to have the sorts of conversations we need to have, to be inspired to tackle this challenge head on.”

Damn right.  Some may be surprised to learn that I spent my formative years stumping for the arts. I have fought battles time and again, with grantmakers and donors who see the arts as a “nice to have” rather than a “need to have.”  For too long, the arts has been treated as the second-class citizen of the nonprofit world, living apart from the health and human services charities that are said to be doing the serious work of our community.

This perspective must end. Forward progress on the issues in front of us will only be possible through creative strategies. Period.

It is hard to describe the experience of watching someone who has lost a child have the cathartic experience of watching David Lindsay-Abaire’s Rabbit Hole, a play which deals with that very subject.  Or to watch members of the Catholic Archdiocese of New York huddle in the lobby of City Center in Manhattan following their attendance of the world premiere of John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt, a play that deals with the taboo topic of child abuse in the church.

I’ve long said that contemporary theatre has the potential to evoke emotional response and inspire dialogue that can be cross-cultural and multi-generational, augmenting its entertainment value with a tangible educational component that can break down class and economic barriers.  In an age of disconnect and information overload, theatre remains an influential portal for individuals to make sense of the world around them through the power of storytelling.

Sure, that may be great copy, but what does arts engagement that achieves this at scale really look like? On the ground, where this sort of changed perspective is needed if we are ever going to motivate the Charlotte community to tackle the challenge of economic opportunity with gusto?

Changing Perspectives in Less Than Five Minutes

Look no further than About Face Charlotte.

Next Stage has had the great pleasure of working with About Face Charlotte, a “photographic and storytelling project that connects people to people in our community, elevates compassion and empathy, and encourages ongoing acts of love and altruism.”  The group is perhaps best known for its Blessing Box campaign, which has united people from all over the region in a group artmaking project that is, well, extraordinary.  Do yourself a favor and take five minutes to watch the video on the Blessing Box homepage:

Wow, right? When I first heard from About Face’s Creative Lead Scott Gardener, I will admit that I did not fully grasp their work.  But as I watched the five-minute videos on their website, I was overcome with emotion. Through videography, the organization humanizes the people who are too often expressed only in spreadsheets and community health assessments.  And with the Blessing Box campaign, About Face has created an amazingly tactile, hands-on artmaking experience that is engaging communities of every color and socio-economic level in the Charlotte region.  Check it out for yourself at the gallery crawl at Grace AME Zion Church on April 27 from 6-9pm.

If ever there was an effort that was laying the groundwork for the activities outlined in the Opportunity Task Force Report, it is this.

Engendering Empathy

Arts education has long been the equalizer for arts and culture organizations seeking grant funding. And even then, the outcomes measured tend to be pre- and post- quantitative statistics.  How much information did the student retain?  Can the student name three characters from the play?  What percentage of the class was present at the arts activity, and how does that compare to a regular school day?

And yet we know, via countless studies from institutions like the Wallace Foundation and the NASAA, it is the arts capacity for engendering empathy that is among its greatest strengths.  As outlined in the Opportunity Task Force, early care and education is vital to ensuring success later in life. But so too is building empathy in every child, to encourage them to see their role in a broader community that extends well beyond the walls of their home or their school.  To skip this step is to ensure that each successive generation will find itself back at square one, with distance both physical and virtual between members of their own community.

Or as Mr. Elberson states it: “The arts cross over the things that divide different kinds of people and suddenly we’re involved with each other like never before. We’re plagued these days with divisiveness and hate – I think arts may be the antidote.”

And so it is time for the arts and cultural organizations of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg community to claim that mantle that has been rightfully theirs all along, the role of change agent and grand convener.  And to do so, they must shrug off that feeling of second-class citizenship, at a time when our community is working to make sure no one feels like a second-class citizen anymore.

JoshJosh Jacobson is Managing Director of Next Stage Consulting, a Charlotte-based firm focused on organizational development and fund development for the nonprofit sector. Josh has worked with more than 150 nonprofit organizations throughout the Carolinas, including both human services and arts organiations. Before relocating to NC, Josh spent his formative years working in the cultural sector as a fundraiser for The Juilliard School and Manhattan Theatre Club. Josh is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) and is President Elect for the Charlotte Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

The Arts as Springboard & Galvanizing Force

by Hannah Grannemann

Now that the Opportunity Task Force has released its impressive and comprehensive report and named a new implementation team to take action on their recommendations, an “all hands on deck” approach is needed if Charlotte is truly going to make progress on the entrenched problem of the lack of social mobility in Charlotte and move up from our last place finish in the famous report that sparked this two-year process.

In this blog series, Josh and I are going to share some ideas about how arts and culture can be integral in these efforts, inspired by the work of the Opportunity Task Force and responding to their recommendations. We see many opportunities for the arts community to be a significant partner along with all the social service nonprofits and public and private sector players.

Charlotte has a robust arts and cultural sector filled with staff, volunteers and donors who are passionate about the transformative power of the arts. They hold a deep belief – they KNOW – that the arts improve lives, not only on a spiritual and community level, but on practical levels as well. We know that the arts can help to move people up the tangible ladder of socioeconomic status. We know it because the studies and statistics show it. We know it because we’ve seen it in our audiences, viewers and students.

If you really want to get someone who works in the arts worked up (in a good way), tell them that you believe that the arts are “nice,” and ask them to persuade you on why the arts are important. Along with impressive statistics about economic impact and educational achievement of kids who study the arts, they will be able to tell you at least a half-dozen stories off the top of their head about people they know whose lives have been positively impacted on the deepest levels by the arts. They will probably tell you their own story.

I’ll tell you mine. Theatre made the world come alive for me. Theatre taught me how to understand people better. Theatre taught me how political and social and cultural history fit together, and how an artist’s personal expression sprung out of that context. Theatre gave me confidence when I was a young person. That confidence was a foundation upon which all my personal and professional successes have been built. Theatre taught me resiliency for my many failures, too. Theatre is something that is infinite – you could explore it your whole life and just scratch the surface, because at its core, theatre is the human experience.

You could easily hear the same story from someone else – just exchange theatre for dance, music, painting, sculpture, or writing. The arts make the world alive for us.

Now, this is a “nice” story. I was not struggling with economic mobility in my middle class family. We have been middle class for generations. But for others, the arts are an important tool for economic mobility. The arts can be a career path or a key part of keeping students in school until graduation. The arts build pride, community and social capital. [We’ll be discussing all of these areas in the course of the series.]

The Charlotte arts and cultural community is already having a positive impact on economic mobility. But we all know that we can do more, be more impactful, and share the stories of impact more broadly. A drive for deeper impact gets us out of bed and into the office, studio, darkroom, classroom and rehearsal hall everyday.

As I begin to think about increasing the impact of the arts on the social mobility problem in Charlotte, a few key questions come to mind about current efforts. I think these are good questions to ask at the beginning of the inquiry that will be this blog series, because we are focused on effectiveness:

  • There is a tremendous amount of activity in the Charlotte arts and cultural sector attempting to impact social mobility. With each organization doing their own program, what benefits would there be if we coordinated our efforts?
  • Each existing program has developed its own measures of success. Are these measurements helpful? How can we create meaningful impact measurements around social mobility? We would need to break the sector’s decades-long habit of depending mostly on metrics measuring participation, not impact.
  • Some organizations work closely with social services organizations to get the word out about their programs or (even better) partner with social services organizations to design the programs in the first place to better ensure that the programs are meeting needs. Too often arts staff are determining what the needs are. We are wonderful people, but our expertise is not in social work. Great examples of thoughtful processes are Discovery Place’s Welcome Program and the Bechtler Museum of Art’s Jail Arts Program. Is there a way to share learnings from those partnerships to encourage more of them, and find other ways to ensure we are creating programs that meet real needs?
  • How are we doing at communicating the offerings we currently have to the folks for whom they are created? I am curious whether arts organizations are finding that the programs they have that are meant to provide accessibility to low income residents and families are getting enough use. Are we turning people away, or are opportunities going unused?

Working on economic mobility is not new to the arts. All around the world, people are working tirelessly in the arts to solve deep social problems. In our city, let’s use the Opportunity Task Force as a springboard and a galvanizing force in the arts for introspection, inspiration and accountability. The future of so many people depend on it.

In tomorrow’s post, Josh shares his call to action for moving the arts from “nice to have” to essential when considering social mobility. Thank you for reading our posts and we look forward to a conversation and sharing ideas along the way.

HannahHannah Grannemann is an arts administrator based in Charlotte, NC. She has worked in theatre and the arts for 17 years, including with Yale Repertory Theatre, the Guthrie Theater, PlayMakers Repertory Company, Children’s Theatre of Charlotte and as a fundraising and strategic planning consultant. She is a Board member of Arts NC, the statewide advocacy group and Theatre for Young Audiences/USA and serves on an advisory council for the Arts and Science Council of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. Hannah holds an MFA in Theater Management from Yale School of Drama and an MBA from Yale School of Management.

Announcing Blog Series: An Arts Response to ‘Leading on Opportunity’

On March 27, 2017, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force published its long-awaited report on addressing the barriers low-income members of our community face in trying to move out of poverty.  The report, entitled Leading on Opportunity, was nearly two-years in the making and was the result of a national study that found Charlotte Mecklenburg ranked dead last in upward mobility for children born into the lowest income category.

The report is impressive in its scope, and as many expected, it suggests that there are no magic bullets to fix this situation. Rather, the report outlines nearly 100 recommendations across three primary areas of focus: Early Care and Education, College and Career Readiness, and Child and Family Stability.

With such a monumental task ahead, it is a time for all of us to consider how to support the efforts outlined in the report, and that includes the cultural sector. And not as an after-thought, but as a leading force to affect change.

Throughout April and May, Next Stage’s Josh Jacobson welcomes arts advocate and creative thinker Hannah Grannemann as a guest author as the two further explore the role of the arts in achieving the goals of Leading on Opportunity.

We will try to “stay in our lane” in this series and not claim knowledge or expertise in areas we don’t have. However, we are also trying to make the argument for and share ideas about a more prominent place for arts and culture in making progress on social issues, which is stretching the field beyond its current position in our community

Check back tomorrow for Hannah’s first post on the subject – “The Arts as Springboard & Galvanizing Force.” We hope that you will participate in this series by commenting and asking questions about what we’ve written and adding your own ideas for how arts and culture can be a part of the solution to the lack of social mobility in Charlotte.

Series Links

About the Authors

HannahHannah Grannemann is an arts administrator based in Charlotte, NC. She has worked in theatre and the arts for 17 years, including with Yale Repertory Theatre, the Guthrie Theater, PlayMakers Repertory Company, Children’s Theatre of Charlotte and as a fundraising and strategic planning consultant. She is a Board member of Arts NC, the statewide advocacy group and Theatre for Young Audiences/USA and serves on an advisory council for the Arts and Science Council of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. Hannah holds an MFA in Theater Management from Yale School of Drama and an MBA from Yale School of Management.

JoshJosh Jacobson is Managing Director of Next Stage Consulting, a Charlotte-based firm focused on organizational development and fund development for the nonprofit sector. Josh has worked with more than 150 nonprofit organizations throughout the Carolinas, including both human services and arts organiations. Before relocating to NC, Josh spent his formative years working in the cultural sector as a fundraiser for The Juilliard School and Manhattan Theatre Club. Josh is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) and is President Elect for the Charlotte Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

Position Opening: President and CEO, Lupus Foundation of America, North Carolina Chapter

Next Stage Consulting is pleased to be managing the search for the President and CEO of the Lupus Foundation of America, North Carolina Chapter, which has its headquarters in Charlotte, NC.

Position Description: President & CEO

Client: The Lupus Foundation of America, North Carolina Chapter
Location: 4530 Park Rd Suite 302, Charlotte, NC 28209
Founded: 1988
Direct Reports: 2 full-time, 1 contractor
Reports To:  Board of Directors

The Lupus Foundation of America, North Carolina Chapter — Organizational Description

The LFANC is dedicated to improving the quality of life for all people affected by lupus through programs of research, education, support, and advocacy.

The LFANC is an independent 501(c)3 headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina from where it serves the entire state of North Carolina.  The LFANC is the center of excellence for those affected by lupus, bridging patients, their families, caregivers, and the medical community.

Lupus is an unpredictable and misunderstood chronic autoimmune disease that can ravage any organ of the body. It is difficult to diagnose, hard to live with, and a challenge to treat. Lupus is a cruel mystery because it is hidden from view and undefined, has a range of symptoms, comes out of nowhere, and has no known cause and no known cure. Lupus is debilitating and destructive, and can be fatal, yet research on lupus remains underfunded relative to its scope and devastation. The LFANC works to accelerate the pace of medical research on lupus and find new means for managing the disease. It is estimated that 1.5 million people in the United States live with lupus, with approximately 45,000 living in North Carolina alone.  The impact of lupus on our nation is profound; therefore, our efforts to mitigate its impact must be meaningful, ongoing and strategic.

Recent Milestones
Founded in 1988, the Lupus Foundation of America, Piedmont Chapter served Charlotte and the surrounding region for 25 years before merging with the Lupus Foundation of America, Winston-Triad Chapter to form the North Carolina Chapter.   The LFANC is the only statewide lupus organization in North Carolina.

In late 2015, the LFANC completed a strategic plan with the help of Lee Institute.  The chapter’s vision is to be a center of excellence for those affected by lupus, bridging patients, their families, caregivers and the medical community.  LFANC’s leadership has embraced the Chapter’s role as the leader in patient and caregiver support, services and education.  This commitment forms an exciting framework to guide the development of new programs and supports into the future.

The Role
The Lupus Foundation of America, North Carolina Chapter (LFANC) is seeking an energetic, experienced nonprofit professional to serve as its President & CEO.  The organization’s board of directors is seeking an entrepreneurial spirit with an established and successful track record as a senior member of an organization with similar scope, complexity and size.

Duties and Responsibilities:

Management & Leadership

  • Serves as the face of the Chapter, compellingly articulating the Chapter’s vision to various audiences
  • Provides leadership and internal direction to ensure effective Chapter management
  • Defines the organization’s long-term goals and strategic focus in partnership with the Board of Directors, 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 (Paid and Volunteer)

  • Creates an organizational environment of distributed leadership in which staff and volunteers are empowered, feel valued and are regularly recognized for their contributions
  • Provides overall management of the human resources (paid and volunteer) function, including supervision and a performance appraisal system
  • Incorporates volunteers in human resources and program planning

 Fiscal Management

  • Prepares a balanced annual budget, monitors revenue and expenses, and reports regularly to the Board of Directors
  • Ensures that fiscal management complies with all legal and grant requirements, and is in keeping with sound financial practices of the nonprofit community

Fund Development

  • Provides overall leadership in fund development and all categories of fundraising, including grants, individual contributions, foundation and corporate giving, special events, and in-kind donations
  • Establishes and implements 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

  • Assesses the needs of the organization, its clients and other constituencies, and develops new services, programs or projects that will meet those needs
  • Develops and implements methods for program evaluation, reporting on progress to key audiences

Community Relations

  • Provides leadership to build and maintain strong and positive relationships with community groups, government agencies, and other stakeholders
  • Is sensitive and responsive to the increasing cultural diversity of the state and the unique attributes of the patient population served

Marketing and Communications

  • Provides overall staff leadership in the areas of market research, market planning, program development, promotion, and public relations
  • Develops and maintains positive relationship with the media
  • Oversees preparation and creation of all collateral materials with input from the national office.

The ideal candidate would have the following capabilities and qualities:

  • Demonstrated experience in identifying, soliciting, and cultivating funding from individuals, corporations and foundations.
  • Significant fundraising experience and accomplishments (particularly in the areas of corporate giving and special events).
  • Knowledge and experience in program oversight.
  • Proven ability to provide leadership and inspiration to staff and volunteers.
  • Demonstrated excellence in communications and interpersonal skills.
  • Demonstrated track record in financial management.
  • Experience in a disease-related nonprofit and/ or knowledge of lupus is a significant asset but not a requirement.
  • Bachelor’s degree required (Certified Fund Raising Executive – CFRE preferred).

Salary will be competitive and commensurate with experience. Health and retirement benefits offered.

To Apply
The Lupus Foundation of America, North Carolina Chapter 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. The Lupus Foundation of America, North Carolina Chapter encourages candidates of all groups and communities to apply for this position.

Beginning March 21, 2017, all inquiries, nominations and applications are to be directed via email to Next Stage Consulting:  Applications should 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.

Mooresville Soup Kitchen Welcomes Lara Ingram as Executive Director

Next Stage Consulting is pleased to announced that Lara Ingram, MSW, LCSW has been hired by Mooresville Soup Kitchen as Executive Director.

Lara brings a strong nonprofit background in service organizations, having most recently served as Central Social Work Manager over a large multi-state team at Advanced Home Care, and previously as Executive Director of Quest Farm, a Kentucky residential facility serving adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“This is the second executive search Josh Jacobson has led for us and we couldn’t be happier,” Mooresville Soup Kitchen’s Board Chair Lisa Qualls said. “We are so pleased to add someone with Lara Ingram’s talent and expertise to lead our staff into the future.”

Lara holds a Masters in Social Work from the University of Cincinnati and a B.A. in Social Work from the University of Kentucky. She is a licensed clinical social worker in North Carolina.  She assumed her role at Mooresville Soup Kitchen on Monday, January 30, 2017.

Mooresville Soup Kitchen is a faith-based, Christian organization established in 1987 to provide nourishing meals, fellowship, and encouragement to those in need. Mooresville Soup Kitchen offers a free hot lunch, as well as Bible studies, computer training, ESL classes, health and well-being workshops, hot showers, and laundry facilities at 275 South Broad Street in Mooresville. Open every weekday from 8 AM to noon, everyone is welcome. To volunteer, donate, and learn more about Mooresville Soup Kitchen, visit

Next Stage Consulting is a strategy and implementation firm serving nonprofit organizations throughout the Carolinas. In addition to providing best-in-class  organizational development consulting, the firm also conducts executive and development searches.  To learn more about the firm’s search services, contact Josh Jacobson at 704-998-1767 or via e-mail at

Caylin Viales Joins Next Stage Consulting

cvheadshotNext Stage is pleased to announce that Caylin Viales has joined the firm as Associate.

In December 2016, Next Stage Consulting launched a search for an Associate to support the firm’s client services including strategic planning, resource development and organizational development. After a search process that yielded more than 80 applicant submissions, it was clear to Next Stage’s Managing Director Josh Jacobson that Caylin Viales was the right person for the job.

“Caylin brings to Next Stage an intellectual curiosity and understanding of nonprofit best practices that will serve the firm’s clients well,” said Jacobson. “She possesses a great combination of project management experience with a desire to strengthen the nonprofit sector.”

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.

Caylin received her BA in Urban Studies from Bryn Mawr College and spent her freshman year in Costa Rica, where she researched the role of gender in community development while working for the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring Charlotte with her husband, Jean, and their dog, Nacho.

Next Stage is Hiring!

EDIT: This position has been filled! Thanks to all who applied. Look for the announcement soon.

The Good News: Next Stage is seeking an exceptional individual to serve in a contracted Associate position. This 30-hour per week contract position will give someone with an interest in nonprofit organizational development an opportunity to work on behalf of dynamic, primarily founder-led organizations throughout the Carolinas (with a primary focus on the Charlotte region).

The Less Good News: This work is hard, and it requires someone with a unique disposition. It is a virtual position, meaning you must be comfortable (and capable) working from home. It is a project management role, meaning it is a good fit for someone who enjoys facilitating a process-focused effort. It also means taking initiative and feeling confident despite limited oversight.

Does this sound like you? I hope so!

Specific position requirements include:

— Coordinating stakeholder interviews, which includes scheduling and e-mail communication
— Participating in stakeholder interviews and compiling notes
— Conducting comparative and trend research, and compiling research into usable narrative
— Engaging in prospect research on behalf of clients
— Brainstorming solutions to nonprofit challenges
— Constructing new business proposals
— Publishing content for social media and the Next Stage blog
— Engaging in new business opportunities via networking and event participation

The ideal applicant will have some experience with nonprofit organizations (2+ year ideal) and a willingness to undertake a 30-hour position, with the following traits:

— Desire to take on administrative duties
— Strong (I mean it, STRONG) writing and editing capabilities (if this isn’t a big strength, please don’t apply)
— A flair for project management, which includes the ability to “manage up”
— A desire to make Charlotte nonprofits the best they can be

There are advancement opportunities for the right candidate. To apply, send a CV and a really special cover letter (or email cover) to

About Next Stage Consulting
Next Stage is a Charlotte, NC-based consultancy that works with nonprofits to set visions, establish goals and develop strategies for all aspects of operations, implementing organizational and fund development efforts with an eye toward efficiency and effectiveness.  The firm has partnered with 50+ nonprofits in the Carolinas since it was founded in 2014. Next Stage works with nonprofit organizations authentically interested in assessing current operations and desiring to “get to the next level.” This includes founder-led nonprofits in their first 10 years of existence, as well as established organizations interested in increasing impact and addressing sustainability.

The Hyper-Local Local

I attended a terrific gathering of new and less-new friends last night, cooking together and learning about the two-degree nature of our lives.  Charlotte is wonderful in that way – we are all just slightly apart by one or two degrees.

I’ve found myself ruminating (Cece!) on the phase “hyper-local” of late, a term that conjures up a series of seemingly disconnected concepts. It is certainly the energy powering #WeLoveCLT and the Charlotte Agenda. It can be found on a plate at Heirloom and in a glass at NoDa Brewing. It is the main attraction at the Charlotte Art League’s local artist booths and the discovery at any of the many pop-up retail events throughout the city.  It is revealed in a bike ride through Freedom Park, a hike at Latta Plantation Nature Preserve and in a canoe on the Catawba River. It is often accompanied by a sense of connection and an appreciation for our unique assets.

Shameless plug inserted here for the Queen City Brewers Festival, the proceeds of which supports Aceing Autism

Shameless plug here for the Queen City Brewers Festival, which supports ACEing Autism, and tickets are on sale now.

Charlotte is in the midst of a hyper-local movement that I’d argue is really just a new way of approaching the concept of community.  It is a movement often characterized by the Millennial generation, but in some ways is too easily dismissed as a tag for a sub-segment of the population.  If you see yourself in the activities listed above, congratulations, you are a part of it regardless of your age or whether you would self-identify yourself that way.

I perceive this movement as alive and vital to the future of Charlotte, and yet it is one where the nonprofit community is under-represented. This is disconcerting because there is nothing more hyper-local than the ambition of our region’s nonprofits, which are so often laser focused on improving the experience of living here.

There are certainly exceptions.  An organization like Sustain Charlotte exists to educate, engage and unite citizens to solve Charlotte’s sustainability challenges, and they are doing a very good job of it.  Participants can sign the 2030 Vision and then join the Community Corps to help make it a reality.  When I think of hyper-local, I often think of Sustain Charlotte as a model of community engagement.

Another nonprofit embracing the movement is The Red Boot Coalition, with its aim to provide safe places where people can engage in honest sharing and compassionate listening.  Frustrated by the us-versus-them rhetoric that dominates discourse these days, Founder and VisionGiver Molly Barker set about bringing together those who are polarized to find common ground. Just an utterly beautiful expression of hyper-localness – in our neighbors we can find our humanity.

But what of Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s other 3,500 tax-exempt charities?  How are they embracing an increasing focus on hyper-local that shows up in the many varied choices we make as residents on a daily basis?  Some are right in the white-hot center of the action while others are off to the side wondering how anyone finds the time to do any of it.

Increasingly, there are two Charlottes; one comprised of people who just exist here, and another of those who truly live here.  The former is highlighted by a well-worn path between a holy trinity of one’s workplace, children’s school and house of worship.  But as was mentioned last night, you can find that in any city in America.  What is the difference between Charlotte and Atlanta if those are the primary destinations in your weekly travels?  The traffic?  Is that all that separates us?

I’m of the opinion that real status as a local resident requires engagement in the hyper-local movement in some way – that you don’t really live here until you actually live here.  If we hold ourselves and those we meet to this standard, we engender a community of people who actually care about one another.  It is too easy to just exist in Charlotte and never fully embrace the opportunity, engage in the civic life and care about a fellow neighbor.  For nonprofits, it can be quite a hill to climb.

But back to last night – who knew that a grapefruit and gin cocktail could be so tasty? Or the company so varied? Or the conversation so meaningful.

Illuminate Session #1: An Introduction

For those in the know, Charlotte’s nonprofit community is tight knit and easy to navigate. But for many, the sector as a whole is murky and unclear – what are nonprofits, what do they do and how do we engage with them?

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 first session was held on Tuesday, October 20, 2015 with a group of 20-some participants including thought leaders, nonprofit managers and people eager to plug in. The goal of the first session was to provide an overview of a few trends that are impacting Charlotte’s nonprofit sector and encourage a conversation about how to use the series as a platform for discussion and problem-solving.

The following outlines Josh’s initial presentation:

Print“For too many, the basic nonprofit structure is not well understood. Having worked with many nonprofits, I’ve seen staff and volunteer leadership both misunderstand the underpinnings of their enterprises.

“In some form or another, the concept of charity has existed in America since colonial times. Dan Pallotta talks about the impact of guilt felt by Puritans in his game-changing TED Talk, with the success of capitalism also giving rise to penitence in the form of charitable contributions. But until the late 1800’s, the IRS did not recognize such generosity in the tax code.

“According author Peter Dobkin Hall, the modern 501c3 public charity classification traces its roots to westward expansion during the late 1800s, when the ambition to settle uncharted territory got ahead of governments ability to meet the needs of its citizenry. But even more influential was the desire by tycoons of the era – Rockefeller, Carnegie and Morgan – to unburden themselves of a small portion of their massive fortunes.

“For a long time, Americans were suspicious of charities because they were private enterprises with no accountability. Its citizens had fought two grueling wars (The Revolutionary War & The Civil War) to fight for democracy, and the notion of charities (popularized first in Europe) were viewed with suspicion. The creation of the tax-exempt charity tax status came with it the opportunity to regulate these entities for the first time. That included appropriating them as “owned by taxpayers,” with a governing board of directors drawn from that tax base to serve as ombudsman for “the people.”

“I find this fact is too often misunderstood by Executive Directors and Board Members alike, who confuse their charge. The Governing Board is empowered with providing oversight in the entire community’s best interest first and foremost, ahead of the more narrowly defined audience served by the charity, its staff or donors. This charge to “do what is best for the public benefit” is a very different way of thinking for anyone without a degree in public administration.”


“While the first nonprofits were created in the late 1890s, they were not immediately popular. In fact, even as late as 1940, there were just 12,500 registered nonprofits (excluding religious institutions which have always been treated differently). WWII and the New Deal dramatically transformed America. Though the income tax had long existed, the 1940s saw withholding tax skyrocket and with it a host of tax code loopholes designed to encourage charitable giving a part of their annual planning. And with that, the nonprofit sector dramatically expanded.

“As of 2012, there were more than 1.5 million registered 501c3 charities in the U.S., with more than 90% founded in just the last 65 years, and I’d argue the number is likely even higher now. Some estimates put the total number of nonprofits in the U.S. at 1.7 million. In 2014 alone, the IRS issued more than 100,000 new 501c3 tax determination letters (against just 500 declinations).

“The explosion in the number of nonprofits has had a big effect, and one not mentioned by Dan Pallotta in his famous talk when he discusses contributions to charities remaining at 2% of GDP since the late 1970s. While GDP has not quite tripled since 1980 ($6.5 trillion vs. $16.3 trillion), the nonprofit sector has quintupled during that same timeframe (320,000 nonprofits in 1980 vs. 1.7 million in 2015).

“The result? Increased competition, duplication of service and inefficiency.”


“This trend is mirrored in Mecklenburg County, where the population growth rate has not kept up with the expansion of the nonprofit sector. Over the last twenty years, Mecklenburg County’s population has roughly doubled while the nonprofit sector has tripled.

“In total, there are 4,930 registered charities in Mecklenburg County. Of those, 551 are private foundations and 789 are other types of nonprofits, including 501c6 organizations that serve as business associations and chambers of commerce. There are 3,590 public charities, which are traditionally what we think of when we hear ‘nonprofit organization.’ This includes very small organizations doing work in discrete sections of the city all the way up to universities, hospitals and massive nonprofit agencies with a multitude of programs.”


“This overview will end with this graphic, which shows that more than a third of public charities in Mecklenburg County have less than $50,000 in annual revenue. These include all-volunteer organizations, newer charities that have yet to expand operations as well as longstanding organizations that have hit a wall. On the other side? More than $1.2 billion in revenue to 2,280 public charities.

“While the instinct may be to see the smaller organizations as ‘cluttering up the landscape,’ the truth is far more complex. I encounter innovative new nonprofits every week that are disrupting the nonprofit sector, challenging the status quo and using evidence base to make an argument for increased contributions. But with competition at an all-time high, entrenchment by established nonprofits and a lack of commitment to true collaboration, the road ahead is not clear. The leaders of charities of all sizes are typically exhausted, fighting to be heard in a sea of messaging. Frustrated, they get discouraged, run out of steam and even abandon the dream. We are losing some of our brightest and most capable nonprofit leaders due to these factors. And if Mecklenburg County is set to grow to more than 1.5 million by 2030, how many public charities might there be by then?

“I’ve established Illuminate to provide a platform for discussion of these and other issues facing the nonprofit sector in our region. The solutions lie not in silos of programming but in collaborative discussions about the ‘public good,’ the charge every nonprofit has been created to carry as a torch for residents. I want to provide a platform for innovative nonprofits that deserve to break through and for dialogue on issues important to us all.”


While a heavy subject to begin what is meant to be a hopeful workshop series, Josh did outline four areas of excitement for the nonprofit sector:

  • Generational Changes – The current generational transfer of wealth from the Silent Generation to the Boomer generation is the largest in history, and it is leading to new perspectives from recent retirees who have a very different world view than their parents. The rise of the Millennial is also a positive trend, with a thoughtful commitment to problem-solving and social connection that promises an exciting paradigm shift for nonprofit engagement.
  • Technology – The advent of the Internet radically changed nonprofit management. Social media has made it possible to communicate more efficiently than ever, while ‘big data’ has made generating evidence of impact more accessible to charities of all sizes. If nonprofits are to be held to new standards of effectiveness in the future, it will be because data has led the way.
  • Growth – Mecklenburg County’s growth is fueled by transplants. These new residents are a blank slate for nonprofits, unencumbered by history or relational ties. For most nonprofits, their hope for expansion of services lies not with institutional funding from corporations and foundations but instead from philanthropy generated by new Charlotteans with a hunger for social cause.
  • Community – Charlotte is an amazing place for a multitude of reasons, but its community may be the most transformative factor for nonprofit organizations. The city is alive with energy and change agents who commit their lives to improving the world in which they live. Indeed, it is with community in mind that the Illuminate series at Hygge was established.

Liking the content? Want to be a part of a new nonprofit movement? Check out the Illuminate page on Hygge’s website and check out the events calendar for the next session. Know of an organization that is deserving of increased visibility and attention? Fill out the form at the bottom of the Illuminate page and let us know!

Special thanks to Eric Gorman from SlowThink for his help with the inforgraphics. Talented fellow, he is.