Social Good Instigators Podcast

Looking for inspiration and encouragement geared towards leaders of social good organizations? Join your host Kirsten Bullock on the Social Good Instigators Podcast to hear about what's working. You'll be learning from other leaders who will provide helpful tips related to social entrepreneurship, growing successful organizations and more. Leaders will be sharing about ways they helped their organizations excel (as well as things that didn't work out so well). Formerly known as the Nonprofit Leaders Network Podcast.
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Dec 14, 2015

In this episode of the Nonprofit Leaders Network Podcast series our guest is Dr Tuck Tinsley, President since 1989 of The American Printing House for the Blind (APHB) which is based in Louisville, Kentucky. The world's largest non-profit organization creating educational, workplace, independent living products and services for people who are visually impaired, it was founded back in 1858.

Funded by an annual budget allocation of $25 million a year from Congress they provide services to almost 62,000 register students, have 144 ex officio trustees covering those students in the fifty States and outlying areas, and an eleven strong Corporate Board. They also provide services to the Library of Congress and the IRS. In the interview we explore a number of the issues that managing such a very busy and complex nonprofit can present. Here are some of the highlights.

Being Open to Suggestions and Scaling Impact

As an historic and long established organization largely run by educators, but working in a fast paced and changing field, we were very fortunate in 1997 to have been introduced to Toyota to see if they could help us with the production side of the business. They ‘adopted’ us as an organization and and for six years we had their process engineers here. That helped us see that whilst for many years we had been doing good work we were not that efficient, or innovative. So we examined, listened, learned and applied that. Our product offering went from ten in 1996, to twenty-one new products in 1997 and we have averaged eight-five new products in the last five years, to better serve our customers.

Dividing Responsibilities to Manage Fast-Paced Change

Last year we did a study which showed that the biggest change in education is technology, so it was essential that we developed and keep up to date an efficient technology strategic plan across all our thirteen specialist project areas including early childhood, tactile graphics, braille, low vision etc.
We now have a team that works to develop android and iOS programs, and integrate other growing areas such as You Tube etc. into our offering. We have also added into that a seed technology endowment to see if we can get donors to match some of it, and use that to underwrite some of the products and the research. That will be very beneficial.

Don’t Create Everything Inside & The Importance of Listening

We also learnt from Toyota to really engage with and listen to our customers needs and ideas, just because we didn’t have the idea doesn’t mean to say we can develop and produce it. So we now go from a teacher saying “Hey it would be great if you could produce something that would do this” to identifying that need, developing a prototype to address that, pilot testing, field test and produce it. We schedule a review for five years to see if it’s still needed, or if it’s obsolete. These processes made a huge difference to how we operate.

It’s okay for nonprofits to use corporate methods and experience to help them be better nonprofits. The greatest feeling in the world is to hear the successes of those you've served through the things you're providing for them.

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Nov 30, 2015

In this episode of the Nonprofit Leaders Network Podcast series we welcome Ellen Rosenthal of Conner Prairie, close to Indianapolis, Indiana.

Conner Prairie has transformed from a very traditional outdoor history museum into a vibrant, busy family and educative destination, providing immersive learning about nature, technology, arts and crafts and the natural environment, all in a historical context. They are also the summer home of the Indianapolis Symphony. With visitations last year of just over 360,000 they are now one of the most visited outdoor history museums in the country.

Here are some of the highlights from our talk:


We believed at Conner Prairie that we were educating visitors by spewing information at them, but we were turning them off; they really didn’t want to take in reams of information when they were trying to have a fun day out. So we had to rethink what we were really trying to do, what was our mission and function in the community.

We used taped recordings of honest visitor experiences to show how they were confused and bored with our current offering, and how, when we changed that to encourage people to explore, be hands-on, and follow their interests, it resulted in much deeper engagement and satisfaction. It enabled us to move from what we thought we were doing into understanding what we really could accomplish, and that became the start point for our transformation.


As hard as we try as organizations to make assumptions about what our clients, customers or visitors think, until we really observe their behavior, stopping talking to ourselves, and honestly look at what is happening we will not get a true picture. We have to go beyond focus groups and traditional feedback forms, and find ways to look at how people are actually behaving, responding to our offerings. It is hard to do, but essential to bring about true transformational change.


At Conner Prairie we started this change in 2003. It probably took six or seven years for everyone to be really on board, including managing a significant governance dispute; when you start something like this you are in for the long-haul. Alongside the mission and offering change, there was a lot of other realignment and skills diversification happening at the same time. When you are working at capturing the hearts and minds of the employees and volunteers at a non-profit through periods of major change it can be a long and hard process. Their motive for being with you in the first place relates directly to their own identify and their belief in what you are doing. Being sensitive to that and making significant change to your organization takes time and sustained effort.

Visit for the transcript and additional show notes. for the transcript and additional show notes.

Nov 16, 2015

Our guest this episode of the Nonprofit Leaders Network Podcast series is Mark Clark, CEO of Generations for Peace, the leading global non-profit peace building organization, which he joined in 2011. Mark has been a corporate lawyer and served as a British Army Officer, and his diverse experience includes humanitarian and emergency relief work, sustainable development, youth leadership, post conflict transition and democratic governance.

Generations for Peace is dedicated to sustainable conflict transformation at the grassroots level, and empowers volunteer leaders of youth to promote active tolerance and responsible citizenship in communities experiencing different forms of conflict and violence across the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe.

Here are some of the highlights from our wide ranging discussion –

Permanent Change Requires Long-Term Commitment

Peace building is a long-term process. It needs long-term commitment by us to the volunteers we are supporting and to their communities. Over the last eight years we have trained just under 8,900 volunteers with an average age of between 25 and 35. We want to be working in communities with them for many years, and to really see a deep transformation of the conflict dynamics in any particular case, and be able to seize emergent opportunities for progress as they arise, year-by-year.

The Adaptive Change Process

We focus is on where we can start to build relationships via our youth leaders, knowing that their influence may be small at the beginning. Starting with a focus of just moving from A to B, then B to C and so on, adapting to change as we go. We use the adaptive process of gaining trust, gaining acceptance, and gradually rolling out different forms of activities to allow our volunteers to really gain access to people throughout the chain of influence in their locations.

Finding Funding for Non-Definite Processes Requires Education

Our adaptive, step-by-step approach means that we have to make a big effort to educate our donors. We have to have evidence of the impact our actions are having. Are they sustainable, are they cost effective? With those big questions in mind, we devote a lot of energy into our monitoring and evaluation; of the people running programs, direct participants and also the wider community who are touched or impacted by those directly involved. That depth and breadth of review gives much richer, more compelling data and evidence.

Being Adaptable Means No Mistakes (Just Learning Experiences)

We have an organizational culture where making mistakes is okay. To learn from those mistakes we include in our program cycles space for learning and reflection. If you can build that into your routines and the way your teams work, then you have the opportunity to turn what may seem to be mistakes into, probably, the most valuable learning that will drive your innovation and implementation.

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Nov 2, 2015

Davy Irby the founder of Surge International is our guest in this episode of the Nonprofit Leaders Network Podcast series. Dave has travelled the world as a soccer coach, or football coach as it would be called in other parts of the world. He is a missionary using the powerful platform of soccer to share a message of love and hope in over fifty countries. Holder of a USA Soccer A Coaching license and a Masters degree in Teaching, Dave founded Surge International in 1991. Surge currently works in eight countries, including Burundi, where Dave is headed next.
To access a transcript and links to resources mentioned in today’s interview visit

We covered a wide range of subjects in our discussion. Here are some of the highlights.

Often, vision is a process. The vision for me was God given. I was coaching soccer and I began praying for what God would want me to do, and one of my players said. “Why don’t you bring the soccer team down to Mexicali with our outreach group to play some games …a game in the men’s prison and the boy’s prison in the village?” So we did, and that first step of faith of a five-day trip led on the following year to a twenty-three-day jaunt to five or six countries. I felt called into youth soccer full time without knowing hardly He was doing it. I think the vision shapes over time and it changes and morphs as you stay with it.

We measure the impact that our work is having both through informal feedback that we receive by staying, for example, in the trenches looking into peoples eyes and seeing the how privileged we have been to bless them, and through some formal processes we have in place. We get written reports from, say, Burundi of things which are happening when we are not there and other forms of feedback. Mostly though we kind of have a feel after years of doing this what’s working and what’s not, and that combined with the feedback helps us decide whether to continue with a project or not.

I am what I’d call a random visionary. I am all over the place, and there are no set hours. When you run nonprofits I think you really need to manage your time. You need to ensure that you make time for your family, as well as everyone else you tend to want to help. Set aside time, make formal appointments in your diary, carve them out time; sit down face to face as a family communicating with no other distractions, which in this day and age is hard. These are things that I think have really helped.

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Oct 19, 2015

Our guest this episode of the Nonprofit Leaders Network Podcast series is Pamela Darnall, CEO with Family and Children’s Place, which she joined in 1994, becoming its CEO in January 2014. Pam helped lead the merger of 2 organizations in 2008 to create Family and Children’s Place and has held leadership positions with these organizations for more than 20 years. Family and Children’s Place works with children and their family members who have been exposed to, or are vulnerable to child abuse or family violence, serving between 5,000-6,000 people every year.

Here are some of the highlights from our discussion –

Reach Better Decisions by Providing Knowledge to Board Members

We can sometimes become a little challenged with our own board because we expect them to have the level of knowledge of our field that we have. We can forget that these are very busy people who have their own professions and skills but not, necessarily the same in-depth experience in our area. We take the route that it is our job to fully inform the board, not to assume knowledge, to help them understand the issues we are presenting and provide clear supporting information so that the board members can make very informed decisions.

Ways to Stay in Touch with Board Members

There are some very simple ways that can be done, for example, I try to have coffee or lunch with each board member individually at least once a year, as we have just over 30 board members that’s a lot, but it is important and makes a real difference.

I also try to keep in contact with them at board meetings, not just around the meeting table.

We have also started to work on getting the board members connected with each other so that they feel like a team, sharing why and how they are personally connected to the mission.

Board Members Calling Donors (Just to Say Thank You)

A really exciting thing happened when, at a recent board meeting, we gave each board member the name and phone number of two donors, and took 10 minutes out of the meeting for them to call those donors and say Thank You. Everyone did it and afterwards felt that it was a really great way for them to be better connected with those who support us. We are going to try and do that at each meeting, it really got them engaged and talking about what we do.

For the full transcript and show notes visit

Oct 5, 2015

Our guest today is Broc Rosser, Executive Director of the Florida Nonprofit Alliance to discuss advocacy, lobbying and collaboration.

Broc has held a wide variety of roles in nonprofit and government sectors in Florida. He is passionate about creating an informative, effective organization to support, promote and strengthen the extensive nonprofit sector there. With an exceptional record in public policy, advocacy, government relations and strategy he is excited to use those skills to help this young organization provide a united voice for nonprofits in Florida on legislative policy and advocacy.

Here are some discussion highlights:

Working together creates a stronger voice – When the state of Florida was passing a major bill relating to Solicitation and Contribution, it was clear this would have great impact on the nonprofit community through increased transparency and accountability. The Alliance, because of our partnerships, was able to be a go-to resource for the state charity regulators to make the bill be the best it could be for all parties and help the nonprofit industry gain trust and respect.

Nonprofits are an essential part of our community – The state of Florida has over 76,000 nonprofits with about 70 billion in revenue, that’s huge, and accounted for at least 5.5% of the state workforce. It’s essential that legislators understand the importance of this contribution to the economy. Government contracts extensively with nonprofits to deliver services and meet needs that they cannot, and cannot live without the nonprofit world serving clients across our communities.

Nonprofits CAN lobby – Lobbying has become a dirty word in some people’s minds but even a nonprofit 501c3 is allowed to lobby. Lobbying is effectively asking someone to take a certain position on a bill, as opposed to advocacy which is about raising awareness and educating on the impact of a bill. It can get a little in the weeds there, when it comes to lobbying there are some great state non-profit associations like mine to help with very specific examples a nonprofit might have with lobbying and understanding the various limitations.

Building Partnerships – Rather than just looking for partnerships focused on funding, also look for ones to help further your mission, perhaps a well-respected product or program could become a model for different working relationships and collaborations beyond the traditional ways. Partnering with a group that works with your target market that could use your services. Think of a new creative way to do that.

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Sep 21, 2015

In this episode Margot H. Knight, Executive Director of Djerassi Resident Artists Program, shares about collaboration, sabbaticals, and learning as you go.
Margot considers herself to be the luckiest woman in the arts world. After 35 years and six jobs in the arts and humanities, she now lives and works on a mountain south of San Francisco surrounded by artists and redwoods and earth and sky at one of the foremost artist residency programs in the world. Since 2011 she has served as the Executive Director of Djerassi Resident Artists Program.

Here are some highlights:

Focus on What You Have in Common - Let’s not look at what divides us, let’s look at the things that we share and what we are trying to do with our missions and work to expand those ways in which we can work together.

Collaboration: You Don’t Need Permission - If you do not feel like you are powerful enough that people will say yes to your invitation, do a smaller invitation at first and then expand the circle and expand the circle and expand the circle and take that all information as good approach.

Collaboration: Take Time to Build Consensus - I like to have a conversation that does not rush to a decision too quickly. I like to hear from anybody: what is the problem, what do you see as happening with you and your organization? So what, what does that mean? What impact that is having on your organization, good, bad, indifferent? How do you feel about it? Now what can we do? The biggest mistake we make is rushing to the decision part too quickly. Everybody has got to be able to talk. If you go through this process you are getting pushed up the hill backwards rather than trying to drag everyone along with you.

Whispers, If Not Attended To, Can Become Big Problems - Every problem you have is a whisper you ignored.

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Sep 7, 2015

This is the Nonprofit Leaders Network Podcast Episode 6. Today we’re talking with Andy Perkins, Executive Director of BestWA. BESTWA works in Liberia, West Africa providing food, medical care and education for children. Here are a few highlights:

WHAT IS YOUR WHY? My why was I would look after these kids, I'd go over there and I would look at these kids and I would think about the old George Bernard Shaw quote, some people look at these children and they would ask why? Why are they this way? And I would look at these children and see their future and say why not?

IDENTIFYING YOUR WHY PROVIDES FOCUS. I think really understanding why keeps me from just seeing the black hole of needs. You can drive yourself crazy trying to start a program to meet this need, a program to meet that need. We had things we were doing for adults and we backed off all of that because our focus is basically birth to early 20's and our focus is providing opportunity for these children because you can't do everything. It would be nice but you can't. It can really take up a lot of energy and funds doing work that's not focused on your goals and on your why.

MOTORBIKES CAN SAVE LIVES. Then we recognized that, on foot, you might be able to carry one and walk with two. But if he had six or seven kids needing the clinic, you'd take the worst ones and leave the rest of them. Well we get motor bikes for all of the feeding site supervisors and all of a sudden they could take all the kids to the clinic. They can make multiple trips, no big deal. Those little motorbikes are saving lives. We’ve gone 20 months without losing any children. That's really exceptional in a country where the mortality rate from one month to five years is 23.8%, almost one in four.

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Aug 25, 2015

This is the Nonprofit Leaders Network Podcast: Episode 5. Today we’re talking with Josh Brooks, Executive Director of Ensuring Charity Foundation. Here are a few highlights:

THE BOARD LEADS THE WAY IN GIVING: The first group of people that we went to was the board. Julie, my wife, and I established an endowment. Dave and Debbie also established an endowment and then Wayne and his wife, Lanie, established an endowment. So the board put their money where their mouth is. I also had a couple of close associates who were wanting to be philanthropic and I described this vision to them and they were interested as well.


Something I read recommended ten touches a year. So we make a phone call to each of our endowment founders quarterly, send happy holiday cards, Christmas cards, and 4th of July cards which no one else does. So, that kind of gets a little bit extra attention. We'll probably send Veterans Day cards out because a large part of our group so far is military folks.

We are doing a semi-annual newsletter and then we've got the end-of-the-year campaign which includes the thank you phone call, a thank you letter, an annual report on how the foundation is performing, and then, of course, toward the end of the holiday season, the annual solicitation. Last thing, we also do an annual gift. You know, paper weight or a key chain or something like that. So, if you're an endowment founder, you'll hear from the Enduring Charity Foundation at least ten times a year.

SET AND TRACK GOALS: The great success for the first year is that we achieved and then went beyond our initial goals. The way that I describe the first year to people is it happened in thirds. The first third was establishing the organization, getting the bank accounts and ensuring that we were following regulations and laws. The second third was getting our tax exempt status. The last third was setting up seven endowments totaling $25,000 which will generate a thousand dollars or so of support to those designated charities year in and year out forever. So, it was a pretty darn good first year.

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Aug 11, 2015

In this episode, Carol Gundersen with The Food Literacy Project shares about board transitions. The Food Literacy Project's mission is really about inspiring a new generation to build healthy relationships with food, farming, and the land. Here are a few highlights:

FINDING BOARD – STAFF PARTNERSHIP. It's certainly possible for a board member to do both roles, but it takes a lot of communication and even then it can be tough for board members to do both: to have the big picture perspective that a board member needs to govern effectively and also, to be involved in some of the minutia of day-to-day work.

DON’T ASSUME. One thing that's been a really key lesson for me is to not assume what goes without saying. And it can be really hard to anticipate what does and doesn't go without saying. It's just an ongoing journey for everyone to understand what their role is and what authority they have to make which decisions. Sometimes it can feel like over-communication to say the things that we perhaps thought might go without saying, just say them.

EMPHASIZE THE BIG PICTURE. As our board was shifting from a hands-on board to a more governance focused one, it was useful for me to emphasize the big picture whenever we were reviewing a financial statement or anything like that. And then we can get into some of the minutiae of specific line items or whatever. But starting with the big picture with any communication with them. Helping everybody understand that we’re there to look at, was the big picture.

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Jul 28, 2015

In this episode, Steve Schneeberger with the Youth Ministry Institute shares about Nonprofit Life Stages: the first 10 Years. Here are a few highlights:

FOUNDING. The first strategy for us was to talk to other people who had run organizations. Then we looked for a few people who could come alongside us help things get started. We approached potential board members with the idea that they would give us their time and give $3,000 a piece annually to our start-up. Amazingly a number of people came forward.

SETTING FEES FOR SERVICE. The first year we set the price point fairly low because we were establishing a price point in a market that didn’t exist. We then realized all these churches said yes too easily. So maybe the price point wasn’t high enough. When we looked at our bottom line budget, we knew it wasn’t a sustainable model. That’s why we upped it the second year. Ironically, we had twice as many churches sign on the second year and there wasn’t any pushback.

ADOLESCENCE. At about the five year mark or four year mark people were beginning to fall away. Our beginning board members, the venture capitalists, were ready to move on to something new. Then we began to reorganize how we invited people to be part of the board. We set term limits so we didn’t burn anybody out. We took out the $3,000 fee so we could ask people that didn’t have that kind of capacity. We asked ministers to be on our board...

YOUNG ADULTHOOD. We’re at the 10 year mark now. We feel like know who we are and our mission’s pretty clear. Now we just need to figure out who we want to be for the next ten years. So in the fall we’re entering into a strategic planning process. We’re involving our past and present board members, our donors, past students, current students and all of our employees and beginning to think about what we do next.

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Jul 14, 2015

In this episode, Christine Harbeson of Hope Southern Indiana shares about adding an assistant executive director, using a capital campaign to find new donors, recruiting board members and more. Here are a few highlights:

Adapting Programming. We we’re not the kind of organization that’s going to continue doing a program because we’ve done it for 30 years or 10 years or whatever. If there’s no need for it in the community or the needs have become much more obvious in another area our organization is such that, that we change and evolve according to those needs.

Capital Campaign. We had never done a capital campaign before and we did not have a wide enough donor base to accomplish that well. One of the things with running a capital campaign is that it also broadens your donor base. That was huge for us. At the same time we restructured our board which was the impetus to just really kick us off well...

Recruiting New Board Members. I’m always looking, always talking to people. I invite them to board meetings, I try and get them placed on one of the councils to let them get their sea legs so to speak and understand a little bit more about the organization... Most people that are with us, are with us heart and soul. Not a casual resume building type of activity, they really do care about what we doing and that makes it a lot easier to recruit.

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Jul 9, 2015

In this first podcast of The Nonprofit Leaders Network, Kirsten is joined by Arto Woodley, former executive director of Frontline Outreach in Orlando Florida.


Greatest Success: There is no doubt that the greatest success is tied into the outcomes for the children that we worked with. These young people originated in the inner city of Orlando and honed their crafts as leaders and took what they’ve learned at a small Christ centered ministry in Orlando and took it around the world. To me, that’s success.

When to Let Go: Every person has a gift and a plan for their lives, but when they’re not producing fruit for your organization then it’s time to transition. You have to balance the personal commitment to people to the commitment to making the organization grow.

What to Look for in a Board Member: One of the biggest myths that exists is that board members only come to bring their expertise. Every board member has to be committed financially. There is no way you would be able to encourage others to commit financially if the executive and the key leaders such as the board are not 100% committed. Now that may be different at the various levels of peoples’ capacity to give, but there should be 100% giving.

First Steps in Recruiting the Right Board: Don’t only look at people’s ability to give or the name of the company that they work with. That’s a huge mistake, because many times you can get people who happen to have resources or they work for a large company or a foundation and they’re not committed to your mission. Make engagement as a volunteer part of your recruitment process for board Members. This makes sure that your nominating process identifies people whose passion is connected to the work that you do and not just going after the resources and their affiliation with a particular company.

Measuring Board Effectiveness: Rather than just look at board effectiveness, it really should be a focus on institutional effectiveness – looking at the effectiveness of the executives, the effectiveness of the board, from a strategic standpoint, and looking at are we accomplishing from a strategic goal standpoint versus what we said we’d do. Start with two committees. One that evaluates the executives on a consistent regular basis with another that looks at the effectiveness of the board and the board members. Are we accomplishing what we said we were going to accomplish? Is every board member giving on an annual basis? Are board members Have they accomplished their personal goals?

Keeping the Board Engaged and Michael Jordan Syndrome: In the early days when Michael Jordan played for Chicago (before his support team improved and Chicago won the championship) most of the team sat around and watched him score. He scored 63 points in the playoffs, but nobody else on the team really did anything. But they still lost.

What happens with nonprofit directors and CEOs is they have the Michael Jordan perspective that the board sits back and watches the executive director, “Oh, look at this person. She’s doing a great job. Look at all the money she’s raised. Look at the buildings she built, look at all the program outcomes. Wow, great job!” They’re watching but they’re not engaged in it.

CEOs have to be very careful they don’t get caught in that trap because then it becomes your work and not our work. The board sits back, waits for the CEO to do it. They’ll say: “Well why didn’t she get that done? I don’t know why, she’s gotten it done in the past.” That’s the trap, so you have to very, very astutely make sure everyone is engaged in the outcomes and that everyone is held accountable for those outcomes.

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