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114: Making Change through Partnerships: The Role of CSR/Social Impact Practitioners in the Nonprofit Ecosystem with Kavell Brown

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“I want to see communities whole. I want to see people free. I want to see people healed.”

Kavell Brown
Episode #114

Overview

In this episode of What the Fundraising Podcast…

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Social Impact practitioners have a special role in not only their organization’s well-being, but their community’s well-being. How? They are catalysts who can use their organization’s resources to create meaningful change. 

That’s exactly what Kavell Brown has been doing for years. Kavell is the Social Impact Partnerships Manager at LinkedIn, where he manages non-profit and philanthropic partnerships across North America. Kavell seeks to deploy and leverage the company’s assets to help non-profits scale their impact and make economic opportunity, healing and wholeness available to all. 

In this episode, Kavell shines light on the role of CSR/Social Impact practitioners in the non-profit sector as well as his approach to philanthropy and life. He shares his candid thoughts on what non-profits, corporations, and CSR departments can do to create impactful volunteer engagement and implement change in our communities. We do not hold back as we authentically explore the role for each of us in building the world we want to see.

EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS

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Kavell Brown

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

  • A big shout out to our sponsor Instil, the holistic tool that reimagines nonprofit technology in ways that deepen community relationships and nonprofit processes to magnify impact. The platform’s advanced UX design and real-time analytics supercharge donors, increase volunteer engagement, and smooth donor management and operations across your entire organization.
  • America on Tech: https://www.americaontech.org
  • Listen to Episode 64 with Dominique Morgan: https://megaphone.link/NMS9286976135 
  • Listen to Episode 12 with Breauna Dorelus: https://malloryerickson.com/podcast/moving-from-transactional-to-transformational-how-to-re-imagine-volunteer-engagement-with-breauna-dorelus/
  • If you haven’t already, please visit our new What the Fundraising community forum. Check it out and join the conversation at this link.
  • If you’re looking to raise more from the right funders, then you’ll want to check out my Power Partners Formula, a step-by-step approach to identifying the optimal partners for your organization. This free masterclass offers a great starting point

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Get to know Kavell: 

Kavell is a New York City native who was raised by his single mother alongside his identical twin brother in the Pomonok public housing development in Queens. With the triumphant parenting of his Mother and the support of his mentors and village, Kavell was able to graduate from Syracuse University with a B.S in Information Management & Technology. After graduation, Kavell had the privilege of working in social impact at HBO, Paramount, and now LinkedIn! He has learned that it’s not how much you can take but rather how much you can give.

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I teach nonprofit fundraisers to bring in more gifts from the RIGHT donors… so they can stop hounding people for money. Fundraising doesn’t have to be uncomfortable.

MALLORY ERICKSON

episode transcript

00:01:26 Mallory Erickson

Welcome, everyone. I am so excited to be here today with Kavell Brown. Kavell. Welcome to What the Fundraising

00:01:34 Kavell Brown

Mallory, thank you for having me. It’s an honor and pleasure to be here. Super excited for this conversation. Just thankful for what you do for the space, social sector, nonprofit community. I’m excited for this.

00:01:47 Mallory Erickson

Thank you. I feel the same way about you. I can’t even remember how we first came into each other’s virtual worlds. But I just so appreciate everything that you put out into the ethos. And so why don’t we start with you just sharing a little bit about you and what brings you to the work that you’re doing today in our conversation?

00:02:05 Kavell Brown

Great question. And for a lot of people in the social sector, the work is personal. I think the political, the spiritual, the sociological all kind of come together and that is the same thing for me. I like to say I’m a Christian black man from Queens. Those are like my core identities that come up. And for me, I grew up in a single parent home, first generation college graduate. I grew up in public housing in New York City and I went to Syracuse University that studied information management technology. And at one point, I went to school with Michael Jordan’s daughter, just to give you context to Syracuse, which is like, insane, right? And then was blessed enough to go to a Catholic high school. And this all makes sense in a moment and through a student sponsorship program, which is a nonprofit that helps low income kids get into private school education. So I say that first and foremost because nonprofits have been a part of my life forever. I love that. A lot of times they become the extended family or they fill the gaps that your family can’t. And my mom raising me and my twin brother by herself with the help of my grandmother who lived down the block and stuff like that, that was the community foundation I went to that helped me get to private school. But how that relates to the work that I do now is I constantly had to ask myself, being in these kind of, like, white elite institutions, of why is Kavell able to show up in these spaces but my community and my family is not able to? And I had to sit with that, right? And from at one point, I was interning at JPMorgan and I was literally going from Wall Street to the projects. That was my reality. Hopping on the R train going to Water Street. For those who know from New York City And I had to say to myself at that time, am I going to just chase the bag that I never had? Or how do I leave a legacy of impact? Because I just can’t do this for the sake of doing this. And I don’t see my people, my community, the struggle that I see my people in, in my day to day, I felt those things were mutually exclusive from one another. But I found out about corporate social responsibility, which is what I do now and I’ve been blessed to do. And what brings me to it is it’s like, I want to see communities whole. I want to see people free. I want to see people healed and I want to see people suffer. And I know that this personal accountability and we can have that conversation and all those types of things, but I understand that people don’t ask to be in certain situations, like the child who grew up in foster care or the child who grew up in public housing like myself. They don’t have choice in that. And they have to navigate those barriers. They have to navigate being racialized. They have to navigate all these things that they never said, hey, yes, sign me up for a harder life. And my goal is like, how do we make that different? Through a mind frame of hope, love, and truth.

00:04:40 Mallory Erickson

I love hearing your story and thank you for sharing it. For folks, maybe who are coming to this conversation and have seen social impact positions at a lot of companies but don’t necessarily know what that means, can you break that down for us? What does that role embody?

 

00:04:57 Kavell Brown

The easiest way I can explain this is CSR Corporate Social Responsibility, which is what the acronym means. Socialimpact, Corporate Citizenshipcommunity, affairs, so many interchangeable things, purpose, whatever, is how a company does social good in the world. That’s simple terms. To give a great analogy, I’m a basketball fan. Brown James for those he’s on the Lakers, probably one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Brown does well in his job as a basketball player to win championships with the Lakers. They’re struggling right now, but that’s him doing well. Him doing good is opening the Dream School in Akron, Ohio, where he’s from. My job is doing good is akin to opening that school in Akron, Ohio on behalf of the corporation. Whether that’s and that looks like philanthropy. That looks like volunteerism. That looks like cause marketing. Meaning, like, how do you attach yourself to a good cause when you put marketing dollars behind that to attach your brand to that cause? Like, for instance, LinkedIn just partnered with Dove to help support the Crown Act and end hair discrimination, especially black women space. So much hair discrimination in the workplace that’s caused marketing, right? Or it’s disaster relief. So the war in Ukraine or the earthquake in Turkey or the crisis in Afghanistan, what’s our response to that? How do we show up? That’s what it looks like.

00:06:17 Mallory Erickson

And over the years, I’ve spoken to a lot of different people in CSR departments, and you share some of the reason why in terms of your own background and orientation seem to really have an appreciation for and a love for the nonprofit sector. I’m curious, do you feel like that is typical? Like, do folks inside CSR departments intimately understand what it’s like to run the day to day of a nonprofit?

00:06:47 Kavell Brown

1000% not everyone, but a vast majority. Like, I interned at a nonprofit called On Point for College in Syracuse, shout out to them where I was helping single moms, always Sudanese refugees get into college and traveling all throughout upstate New York. Interned with organizations called America on Tech, which is helping the digital pipeline to tech jobs. And a lot of my colleagues come from the nonprofit sector, whether they want the program, the development side. So shout outs to my colleague Pam Hacker, who used to run who works at Warner Brothers Discovery. She and I met at HBO. She used to work at do publicity for Sesame Street. Most people don’t know that Sesame Street is actually a nonprofit. My colleague Karina used to work at a college access organization. So many of my colleagues and even folks that I haven’t worked directly with have direct experience in a nonprofit space. And I think that’s a part of the job. I think you’re a good practitioner. If you’re critical and aware of the nonprofit industrial complex, you need to be aware of, hey, baseline. You have a board of directors, nonprofits funded by government, private plan to p corporate money, high net worth donors, understanding like advisory boards. GiveGet asks how the development team, if we’re going to be honest, sells what the programming team does. Then there’s HR and finance and how all that stuff shows up is something that you should be able to rattle off on just the way that I did.

00:08:10 Mallory Erickson

Yeah. So one of the things that I feel like is starting to shift in the relationship between CSR and nonprofits in healthier ways versus like ten or 15 years ago. Although we still see some historic platforms around, this is around volunteerism and sort of the expectation of volunteer opportunities without compensation to nonprofits for the time or energy or sometimes materials that go into that, because I think we’re very value aligned in a lot of ways. And I so appreciate that you led that with understanding the nonprofit industrial complex because there are a lot of things that are broken in that complex that have led to this assumption. But I’m curious how CSR departments or you even just individually are thinking about that element.

00:09:00 Kavell Brown

It’s hard. I’ll say that up front. I think the worst ways that it manifests is that it’s a revenue play, right? Plug and play. I have corporate opportunities, and it’s not no fault to the nonprofit, right? I blame the people with the money most of the time. I don’t blame it with I think we’re all trying to survive capitalism in some form or fashion, and I feel like I have these turnkey opportunities that I know is going to grab anywhere from five to ten grand. I can pump them out and do that, and that’s going to be a consistent revenue stream rather than me having to apply for a grant or do a corporate fundraiser or do a gala quote unquote. And then on the corporate end, the most critical part is like, hey, are we doing this to expose privileged people to poor, more diverse, more oppressed people in order to change their minds for the sake of them making feel good? Right. And maybe there’s some saviorism. In part, I think that’s the most critical version of that, both sides of that table, I think a more benevolent and ideal version on the corporate side is like, we’re filling the gap that you need and you’re getting an experience and access to institutional resources that you normally wouldn’t on the nonprofit end. And I think that’s the most ideal way that I could show up. But I think where the tension and the conflict come in is like the need for revenue partner nonprofit end and then also the need for the business case of why my job exists, which is employee retention, employee sentiment that is cited as the reason why Kavell or any social impact person has a job. It is not to say like, we want to be the butlers of service to the employee base, but it’s also like, especially with Gen Z, millennials want to care about their work. They want to feel like I’m not just making money for the man, and people need help and guidance on where that is, and we provide those opportunities for them of like, you don’t know about homelessness, but we know this in San Francisco that does this work. You want to know about foster care. Like first place for you, somebody who helps people get their first home coming up, aging out of the system. And that’s being that conduit is part of the job. So it’s a complex, it’s layered. I think it is on a spectrum of how it shows up.

00:11:05 Mallory Erickson

Yeah, I think you bring up a really good point too. I think on the nonprofit side, there’s a lot of reflection needed around what is the point of that type of engagement, both in terms of the impact of the volunteer opportunity for the same reasons that companies need to look at that, what are we doing this for? And I believe, like you, that there are ways to find collaboration that are not harmful and aren’t those quick old school ways of dropping in and dropping out or hitting some short term metric without being long term value aligned. And I think for organizations who are listening to this one pattern, I see a lot and I’d be curious if you feel like you see this too are organizations that try to offer things to companies for free, like volunteer opportunities. But the hope, the long term play is that maybe there will be like a grant down the line or funding down the line, but they’re not transparent about that upfront and it leads to this really uncomfortable dynamic.

00:12:13 Kavell Brown

I definitely see that and I think that if you’re on the other side of the table and you’re a funder or practitioner, you should be aware of that. And for me personally, my goal is I never want to do the dance. I don’t want to do the dance. If I’m asking for a volunteer opportunity, I’ll be honest, here’s my budget for that or here’s how I don’t have budget for that or here’s what I’m looking to do. Just being upfront and as honest as I can be. My job is I want to subvert the funder donor power dynamic as much as I can and be countercultural or be the antithesis to the nonprofit industrial complex as much as I can. If a practitioner is not critical about that, I think you need to rethink your seat, full stop. But I understand where the nonprofit space is and sometimes things it is what it is and I’m a big fan of candor and care and I’d rather let you know a door is closed. That way you can spend your energy in locking on another one rather than keep knocking on mine. And I know I can’t open it for you.

00:13:03 Mallory Erickson

Everything that you just said there I want to triple click on. I mean, I think a closed door is so loving, is so respectful. It is a gift to have someone give you clarity on where something stands. And I think this whole dynamic between nonprofits and practitioners and funders where there’s the conversation that we’re having and then the other conversation that we’re actually having.

00:13:29 Kavell Brown

But we’re not saying, we’re not being specific about it.

00:13:32 Mallory Erickson

It’s bad for everyone. It’s bad for everyone, and it wastes everyone’s time and resources. And I so appreciate what you said around the examination of practitioners for themselves, around how they are upholding potentially harmful power dynamics in those relationships, because I just think that’s so important. You talk really publicly about being an abolitionist on LinkedIn, and I’ve loved learning from you about that and reading. And so I’d love for you to first explain to people what that is for folks who might not know that term and then also talk about what does it look like to hold deep beliefs like that and then work in a big institution, whether it’s LinkedIn or any of your previous positions, and sort of holding those pieces of yourself.

00:14:22 Kavell Brown

Yeah, I’m going to try to do this justice. I am a baby abolitionist. Let me just put that out there first and foremost. And there are groups and mountains of people that I have benefited from just their political education work and their labor to put out, whether from like a public intellectual standpoint or just first and foremost, like people in my life. Big shout out to my attorney brother Corey Tillman, who’s a scholar and does abolitionist work and does work around the incarcerated state. A lot of this stuff is like just folk having conversation and doing that political love work of like, hey, let’s think about an idea. Let’s question our assumptions. Put that disclaimer out there first and foremost, because I’m not the leader of this by any means. Shout out to Angela Davis, who has been doing this work for decades. I think the way I define abolition, and usually abolition is in the context of the prison industrial system complex, if you want to say so. Usually, like when you say abolitionists, people are pic prison industrial complex abolitionists. However, you can be an abolitionist for anything. It’s really a framework of like, I want this thing to cease to exist as it stands. And I think what the abolitionist framework is and what I think people get caught up in is like, okay, like, for instance, like police or prisons. It’s like wave of magic wands, goodbye tomorrow. And people are like, wait a minute, I don’t know what to do about that. And that makes me scared and fearful. And it’s more of a say, like, how do we tear down or erase what is here and keyword and simultaneously build up a new reality? Because everything is part of study, is a part of someone’s imagination and someone thought about, hey, we should have a prison. Hey, we should have buildings. Hey, we should have a democracy, right? So it kind of removes the limitation that we cannot think of a new world that doesn’t have restriction incarceration the way that we have it now. And for me, that comes from a spiritual place I’ll take onus for my people, the Christians. We need to get our act together, we sit on different spectrums of theology and politics and all the things, however, the Jesus that I profess to love on a daily basis, there’s this idea of radical grace. Does it mean that no one is unredeemable? And I’ll say this boldly, and it’s hard truth for me to sit with of everyone is forgivable whether it’s the person who cheated on their wife or their partner all the way to the person who murdered three people, or Harvey Weinstein, which is hard truth to sit with. But that’s a spiritual conviction that I have, which leads me to a place of I want people to be whole and I don’t want them to be condemned to the place where their wrongs lead them to a spiritual and social death. That which now prison is today. And that’s abolition, I think holding it in these spaces is not an easy task. I think abolitionists or folks who subscribe to this ideology, it’s easier to do in theory than it is in practice 1000% but it is a progressive journey of incarceration, of like, hey, putting education in prisons is a decarcerating act. US having folks like a street team in San Francisco where people from the fire department show up for people who are unhoused, that’s a decarcel act, right? Like removing bail is a decarcel act. So it’s like there’s a spectrum of things that exist in an abolitionist framework, whether it’s an action or an outcome that people don’t even think of. Like, hey, we’re actually moving away from, I’m going to lock people up in cages, and there’s no means to say how I’m going to rehabilitate you to be a whole human being coming out of this process. And what does it mean to center atonement in that which is different from retributive things? So in these spaces, I have to hold on to the fact of when. I’m giving money to a nonprofit called Black and Pink, which is a national organization that’s based out of Omaha, and they are a prison abolitionist organization explicitly on their website. And they support queer and people living with HIV on how to get whole when they come out. I’m like me trying to advocate for the funding. It’s not to say Kavell is amazing, but it’s more so to say like, what’s my ethical and moral and spiritual responsibility? And part of me getting them funded and helping to lobby and advocate for that is a part of how I try to manifest abolition on a daily basis.

00:18:45 Mallory Erickson

I love everything that you shared and Dominique Morgan is a friend of mine and Small World yeah, was a guest on this podcast and we just had an instant connection and I love her and the work that she’s been doing. So we’ll link to that episode below. And something I hear so much in how you talk about everything from your abolitionist work to how you think about partnering with nonprofits. It just feels to me like, there’s so much space for curiosity and wonder and critical thinking for yourself, sort of like consistently challenging your own assumptions or inherent beliefs. Can you talk to me about that? And if you have daily practices that you feel like really help ground you in that part of you, I think.

00:19:43 Kavell Brown

It’s a commitment to learning. And that sounds like trite in some ways, but it’s knowing that I don’t know a lot. I have to have a commitment to understanding the world, whether it’s okay, like, what did I just read about New York Times? Or I don’t even read it yet, but it’s like maternal deserts. And I’m like, we had food deserts, now we got maternal deserts. And I’m like, it makes sense even just hearing the headline, I can make sense how that shows up, but I’m like, I have to care about that, even though what I do at LinkedIn doesn’t really relate to that. But I think it’s more so to saying, like, I want to know how the world shows up, why it shows up, and what is the pain and what is the healing that is happening around the world. And I think as a practitioner, I have to have a sociological imagination to the point where I understand how the tree relates to the forest and how the forest relates to the tree. And if I’m not doing that, then again, I have to rethink my job of if I can’t understand the complexities or even how bonsolaro was the trump of the Latin America all the way to at least a little bit of the conflict with Tagrai and Eritrea and Ethiopia. All the way to the Geopolitical chess game and proxy battle that’s happening between the US and Russia. All the way to the rise of state violence in the US. What am I doing also that I think more personally, my proximity has changed where I am a socially mobile person. I no longer because class is an experience, I’m no longer in that working poor environment which in which I grew up. And that’s like the explicit class experience that I grew up in and that my proximity has changed and that my assumptions cannot remain the same. And me and my colleagues talk about this too. Of like, what does it mean to be an upwardly mobile person in this space? As a black person, as a Latino person, as a person of color who, when every call that you have or every volunteer thing that you do. You see your family and your cousins on the other side of that zoom or in that room. But know that you are removed from that experience in some ways than you were before. And then also I think about radical love and hope. I think about how my faith is like, I’m like when I think about Jesus. And not to be an evangelist on this, but this is just how I show up. I think about the concept of there’s gold in the trash can. No one’s ever too far gone. Life is hard. People are going through a lot. How do I see things through the heart of God and say, will I hear my people’s tears? And how do I stay tender to that and know that people are just trying to make it? And the grace that I need is the same grace someone else needs. And I never want to get caught up in being hard on people, being hard on the process and understanding that I want my heart to break for the things that God’s heart breaks. That’s my prayer, and I try to keep my heart sensitive to those things.

00:22:34 Mallory Erickson

How do you manage your own pain and healing in order to hold so much space for that?

00:22:44 Kavell Brown

It’s hard. First and foremost, I go to therapy. I’ve been going to therapy for three years, privileged and fortunate enough to do that, because therapy is still not accessible, and the need is so great. That’s one way I mean, it’s been probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. It’s been transformative. It’s been healing. It’s been restorative in so many different ways. And it comes back to a spiritual practice of and I get less mincy about this because the collective trauma that I think black people face myself. When George Floyd died, we never knew how hard it would be for the curtain to finally be pulled back on America. And for me, it was the worst mental health moment of my life. One of and I came to a realization of, especially from a theological perspective, of like, I don’t believe in an outlook of humanity that we are inherently good. I believe in human depravity. But that helps me say to myself that I’m not living for this world. I’m living for a heavenly one. And that the liberation, love, and the justice that I want to see may not be in my lifetime. And I think I relate that back to regardless of what so many spiritual practice is. I relate that back to my ancestors who were enslaved. Some died out of protest and committed suicide or protest, but other people kept going. And I’m like, that’s inherently a spiritual existence of asking, why am I here? Where am I going? What is the purpose of life when my existence is hell on earth? And I’m politicized racialized traumatized, terrorized in a way that can leave someone in a state of despair and nihilism. How do I still persist in the midst of that? I think it allows me to say, hey, this responsibility is not on me completely. I can do my part, and I can’t show up in everything, but I know who can. And that allows me to sit in the tensions and the rationalization of, okay, there’s hope in the world. I’m complicit in some ways, I’m a work in progress and I know there’s good on the other side of everything.

00:24:38 Mallory Erickson

I think there are so many pieces in there that there are so many people who are going to be grateful for hearing that, who listen to this podcast, and I’m really grateful to have been able to hear that too. And I think however people find their healing path or their ability to take care of themselves or look for it or search for it, I think what you’re demonstrating is to be able to give yourself some space for that and the accessibility around therapy. There’s just no question that how it continues to disenfranchise and oppress and what your own healing journey allows you to do. That’s really inspiring to see is to see this web of interconnection that is both really supportive of your work and it sounds like also in some ways continues to support your mental health. To say, like, I see the threads that I’m pulling towards this ultimate goal of liberation and I’m not responsible for pulling all the strings that it sort of gives you this macro relationship to this macro and micro relationship and it’s really inspiring to witness and hear about.

00:25:57 Kavell Brown

Thank you. I receive that gratitude and I hope someone’s encouraged by what I’m saying. And I love what you said too. It’s just like however folks find it, it’s important. And I think I was talking about this today of like the system wants us to be defeated and that’s not just not to lean into toxic positivity because I do not subscribe to that so whatsoever, but we all have to find our ways to cope. Suffering is real at the end of the day.

00:26:24 Mallory Erickson

Yeah, I think that piece around I was just interviewing this doctor yesterday who was talking about how a regulated nervous system does not mean that we do not go into stress states. It’s that we’ve built the neuroplasticity to be able to come back from them and trauma wounds us in ways that require much deeper healing than an immediate sort of stimulation of our sympathetic nervous system. Because we’re stressed about a deadline, right? Like we’re talking about two different things. And I’m not talking about that sort of deep trauma necessarily, but even just recognizing that there are going to be a lot of different forms of suffering in the day to day, both in terms of our own and what we’re exposed to and knowing that going there and being there and sitting in that and looking at that or reading that article might be really uncomfortable. And if we’re looking to just avoid discomfort at all costs, if we are bypassing that exposure, then we are also not able to tap into, I think, the beautiful moments of tenderness and the healing and all of those pieces too.

00:27:41 Kavell Brown

I completely agree, as very well said. I appreciate it.

00:27:46 Mallory Erickson

Okay. I could talk to you forever, but I’m going to force myself to look at the. Time. So tell me, is there a question I haven’t asked you that I should be asking you?

 

00:28:01 Kavell Brown

Yeah. I remember when you messaged me, you talked about what can nonprofits do to continue movements. When you asked me, I was like, oh, this is an interesting one. And I’m like, do I even have license to peer into this? And I’m learning now that it’s harder for me to separate the institution or assets that I’m attached to, you know what I’m saying? But I think if someone were to give me permission to peer into that, I want to say, first and foremost, I think nonprofits are doing better than they think they are. First and foremost, I think it’s to give yourself grace that you are doing honestly. I say the lord’s work honestly, of day in and day out, the emotional, mental, physical, spiritual labor that you do on a day to day basis, especially if you’re doing doing that integrity, doing that with cultural competency, not doing that from perpetuating harm standpoint framework. You can lay your hat down at you like you had a servant’s heart, and you do if someone is saying that you’re not doing enough, let that roll off your back. And you don’t need to hear that from me. But I feel like I need to say that, and I want to. I think the second piece is I think that examination of how is my organization perpetuating a colonial neoliberal form of change. And if I’m not critical of that for the sake of handrometric outcomes, then I need to rethink my life because what people like me who were served by nonprofits, who filled those gaps for my family and my people or whatever have you, what we don’t need is further indoctrination into a system that continually harms us. I know it’s hard because there’s like, okay, for instance, the education space. Love education like it’s a virtue, a gift, a universal human right. If I’m not critical about, am I getting these poor black and brown people to go to college? And I love college assist organizations and near and dear in my heart for the sake of them finding a job, for the sake of them going up the socioeconomic ladder at the cost of their mental health elitism and self esteem at the sake of getting corporate dollars to say, hey, I’m getting these black and brown folks at higher education so they could become corporate people and they can raise their that’s a real stat line. That’s a real data point that gets people out of poverty. Like, I would not be here if that didn’t happen. But also being critical of the fact of, like, why does our education system stratify in the first place? And how is that off of a colonial period where the people, plantation owners who didn’t have to work, had to figure out, who do we teach to become a scholar, a theologian, right? And who do we say who works the farm? But now that’s come to say who goes to college and who does the internships and who gets the money versus who’s going to flip burgers at McDonald’s. And no shade to that thing. But we have to figure out who fails and who doesn’t, who eats, who doesn’t, who gets luxury and who doesn’t. And that’s baked into our educational system. So how am I culpable or challenging how people think about why do people have to be stratified in their journey of learning? And how do we steal the joy out of children as we go through that? That’s how you keep the movement going. There’s a book out there like, teaching is a form of liberation. I can’t cite the books off the top of my head, but you got to bring that into your space because otherwise we’re just creating the same thing over and over again. And then we’re like, oh, we’re solving the issue, but are we really getting to the root of problem? And I can riff on education, as you can see, forever, but we could plaum all the money in the world, like building skills, getting mentors, getting people to understand the fast process. At some point, we got to question why schools are funded by property taxes, which is based on white supremacist kind of policies and redlining. And if we’re never questioning that in the first place, how are we advancing the movement? Do we want people to be free or do we want people to continue the system?

00:31:39 Mallory Erickson

Yeah. And I think for folks who are just starting to think about the ways in which their organizations are baked in, like you said at the beginning, right, the nonprofit industrial complex. I’ve had so many organizations come to me and say, okay, well, for 20 years, our organization and all of our funders and all of these different things are rooted in oppressive and discriminatory practices. And now we realize it all of a sudden because of a lot of what’s happened over the last few years. And so just to know and like community centric fundraising, my friend Brianna Dorellis, who talks about community centric volunteerism, will drop a lot of resources in the notes for folks who are looking to start to expand their own education around pathways Forward to look critically at your organization and to have resources to support those changes.

00:32:34 Kavell Brown

Yeah, I mean, the resources are critical. And I kind of went a little harder than that. I was like, corporations have to ask themselves, too, like, how long are we going? You’re talking to an anti capitalist. In theory, it is hard to escape that system because all areas of life, it’s not just capitalism is a racialized capitalism. They are hand in hand with one another. So I’ll just throw that out there. But companies have to ask themselves why we keep asking nonprofits to solve the problems that we’re not willing to ameliorate ourselves because we don’t have a strong enough social safety net. We believe in stratification. We want people to have less than we also want the comfort that we have in the west or in the white dominated countries. That comes with the backs of the global south, that comes with the backs of other countries. And it’s like, at what point will we lay our knees down and say, am I willing to examine my soul really quick? You think about climate change, it’s like you could argue to your blue in the face about the energy needs, and you can argue to your blue in the face about retirement plans. I’m like, the snow don’t care about that. The sea levels don’t care about that. Wildfires don’t care about that. Ask the people in Turkey. Ask the Asia indigenous folks who had to move. They don’t care. They don’t give a damn about your 401 day plan. They don’t give a damn about your marketing plan. At what point do we care about life more? Do we care about profit? And that’s always the I know what the answer is because we see it.

00:33:53 Mallory Erickson

I love what you’re saying, and I actually do think it’s something that nonprofits need to look at, too. They wouldn’t use the word profit, but the reality is, what decisions do we make to keep our organizations going versus actually eradicating this issue? And what are the policies that we hold inside our organizations that are perpetuating the systemic issues that we also claim our organization is there to solve? So pay inequity happening inside of nonprofits or people not making living weight, right? I mean, we could have a whole other conversation, but I think at the end of the day, what you’re asking and what I’m asking is, like, who are we and what is the point of what we’re doing here? And can we be honest about those things to make sure that the practices and the ways in which we’re showing up are in alignment and in integrity with our deepest selves, with our truest selves, and with what we say and hopefully truly want? 1000% thank you so much for this conversation today. Where should people go if they want to follow your work, connect with you?

00:35:02 Kavell Brown

LinkedIn. I’m always going to try to say what God wants me to say, use my platform for just building, doing good in the world. I’m not on Instagram, not on TikTok. I’m not on Twitter. I mean, I have, like, accounts, but I don’t use them anymore because just for my mental health sake. But I think that’s where folks can stay connected to me. I try to be responsive as I can and connect with just the love in the community that comes through. Sometimes I’m like, is this worth doing this? And that encouraging message of saying, like, hey, I appreciate this. Always goes a long way and gives me energy to keep moving.

00:35:34 Mallory Erickson

Yeah, folks, you should go and follow him at least. And you’re always posting helpful things for nonprofits to LinkedIn for Profits. We’ll put links to all of those resources below. So thank you so much.

 

00:35:47 Kavell Brown

I’m grateful for this. It’s probably one of the best conversations I’ve had in a while.

 

00:35:56 Mallory Erickson

All right, there is so much inside this episode, but here are a few things I am double clicking on right now. Number one, in nonprofits, there is a lot of reflection needed around the point of volunteer engagement, especially in terms of impact. I do personally believe that nonprofits should be compensated for running volunteer programming for companies, and I also think nonprofits need to be honest about why they are doing those volunteer activities in the first place. Both sides need some reflection here, and you should check out the work of Brianna Dorellis for community centric volunteer practices. Number two, a no or a closed door is actually a gift of clarity. It is respectful of the nonprofit and funders time, and it should be respected. Number three, we need more clarity and transparency between donors and nonprofits and to work together to dismantle the harmful power dynamics between them. Number four, discomfort is a part of change work as fundraisers and social impactors therapy can be a tremendously helpful tool for managing your own pain and healing so that you have the capacity to do this work. I so appreciate Kavell’s openness about his own journey there. And number five, how is your organization perpetuating a colonial neoliberal form of change? If you’re not critical of that or looking at it, you might need to rethink your role and your mission. Okay, for additional takeaways and tips inside this episode, head on over to Mallory Erickson Coaching podcast to grab the full show notes and resources now. You’ll also find more information there about Kavell and our amazing sponsors, Instil. Thank you for spending this time with us today. If you enjoyed this episode, we would love it if you would give it a rating and review and share it with a friend. I am so grateful for all of my listeners and the good, hard work you’re doing to make our world a better place. And if you missed me between episodes, stop by and say hello on Instagram. @whatthefundraising_ have a great day and I’ll see you next week.

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