Jeremy Gregg

Changing the Way that Charity Changes the World.

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Nonprofit Dysfunction and the Beloved Community

“Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.”

~~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ~~

Yesterday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. As the nation reflected on the legacy of MLK, I was reminded of Dr. King’s belief in “the beloved community.”

That concept — which the King Center articulately differentiates from the idea of the Peaceable Kingdom — should be the ultimate Vision Statement for the nonprofit sector. Whether we are in the business of feeding the hungry, healing the sick, educating children, or creating art … the goal of the nonprofit sector is to build The Beloved Community.

And yet, I believe that we face a systemic dysfunction — a structural challenge in the very financial model of philanthropy — that prevents us from doing so. This morning, I am speaking to The Dallas Contributors Network on this very topic of nonprofit dysfunction.

My theory:
The nonprofit sector struggles from a disconnect between the source of capital (donors) and the use of capital (clients); this creates a scenario in which financial stability depends more on fundraising excellence than on programmatic excellence (i.e. the development of the beloved community). As a result, a nonprofit’s long-term goals become more focused on financial sustainability than on systemic change.

To solve this, I believe that nonprofits need to return to their original purpose: to build The Beloved Community. To do this, we need far more than funding for our missions; we need to build movements that shape culture.

More (much more) to come in the future.

UPDATE: After posting this, I found this TED talk from TEDxAtlanta in which Doug Shipman shares “The Secret to Creating the Beloved Community.”

Earlier tonight, I republished on StackStreet an old blog that I wrote a few years ago about the amazing organization “Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship.” As I was doing so, I dropped by NFTE’s Twiter feed . . . and was grateful to discover the list below.

A great list of videos worth watching (and “ideas worth spreading”) from the NFTE Blog | NFTE: “Nine  TED Talks Every Entrepreneur Should Watch”

  1. TEDxNewHaven – Steli Efti – Entrepreneurial Happiness
  2. Secrets of successful entrepreneurs: Prasad Kaipa at TEDxBayArea
  3. 3 pearls of entrepreneurial storytelling: Michael Margolis at TEDxMillRiver
  4. Let’s raise kids to be entrepreneurs: Cameron Herold
  5. Using the Entrepreneurial Mindset to Unlock Youth Potential — TEDxKids@BC – James Sun
  6. The Art Of Entrepreneurship — TEDxFullerton – Frank Peters
  7. The responsible entrepreneur — four game changing archetypes: Carol Sanford at TEDxBerkeley
  8. Challenges for young entrepreneurs: Max Gouchan at TEDxBergen
  9. How the entrepreneurial mindset can change you: Henrik Scheel at TEDxSacramento

I would also add one to the list … featured above, Simon Sinek‘s “How great leaders inspire action.”  If that doesn’t get you pumped up about the possibilities … you are definitely not an entrepreneur!

(Watching Simon’s talk is what inspired me in my own first TEDx talk)

Would You Pass Up Parole to Serve Others in Prison? This Man Did.

Today, my friend Mark L. was released from prison … 20 years, 1 month, and 13 days after he first entered in October of 1994.

I met Mark when he joined the Prison Entrepreneurship Program in 2013. He was a member of PEP’s Class “Tenacious” 20, and he graduated in December 2013. Through PEP, Mark earned a Certificate in Entrepreneurship from Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business.

As impressive as this certificate is (particularly for someone in prison), Mark learned something far more valuable than how to launch and grow a business. He learned how to live a life of purpose through service.

Servant Leadership

Mark Lewis in the Prison Entrepreneurship Program

Mark Lewis in the Prison Entrepreneurship Program

After he graduated, Mark could have spent the rest of his incarceration the way that typical inmates do … watching TV, exercising on the rec yard, etc. But instead, Mark asked to return to PEP as a “servant leader.”

In the prison where Mark lived at the time, there were 520 inmates. Over 300 of these were currently involved in PEP: either as participants in the current class, new recruits awaiting the start of their journey, or past graduates who were still incarcerated. Within the latter group were a few dozen remarkable men who, like Mark, were volunteering to guide the classes that came after them.

PEP only has two staff members inside of prison on a daily basis… creating a student:teacher ratio of more than 125:1 (and needless to say, these are not your typical students). Their work would be impossible without the support of these extraordinarily committed servant leaders. These generous volunteers are the true hands and feet of PEP’s daily operations inside of prison.

Fearlessness

Servant Leaders at the Prison Entrepreneurship Program's facility near Dallas, Texas.

Servant Leaders at the Prison Entrepreneurship Program’s facility near Dallas, Texas.

After guiding Class 21 from their Kickoff in January 2014 through their Graduation in June 2014, Mark was one of ten servant leaders who received a special invitation:

Transfer to another prison
on the other side of Texas
to bring PEP to other inmates.

Unlike their current facility, this new prison would have twice as many inmates… 1,040. And the men who accepted this challenge would be the only ones who were involved in PEP. The other 99% of the prison would be filled with members of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice‘s general inmate population.

Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to instill a new culture within this prison… a culture based on brotherhood, on love, on peace. You will be outnumbered 100-to-1. The other inmates will likely not share your values. But you will not be allowed to waver in your own.

These servant leaders knew that they would be subjected to harassment. They knew that physical, social, and emotional dangers would possibly confront them on a daily basis as they sought to transform the lives of the complete strangers around them.

And yet 10 of them accepted that call. And in August of 2014, they courageously joined PEP’s effort to expand into a new prison near Dallas, Texas.

Self-Sacrifice

Mark Lewis on the Day of His Release from Prison

Mark Lewis on the Day of His Release from Prison

Even among such servant leaders, Mark’s self-sacrifice stood out.

Shortly before he transferred, Mark was offered early release from prison. After more than two decades behind bars, he would finally be given his freedom.

And yet … he declined it and opted to stay in prison. Why?

With a level of sincerity and humility that I have found increasingly common among the men whom I have met in PEP, he told me:

I was chosen for a reason. My job is not yet done, and I am going to see it through to the end.

By sacrificing months of his own freedom, Mark equipped nearly 40 other inmates to complete this new program in PEP. He showed them a profound example of the transformation that would be possible in their own lives.

And today … after 7,349 days behind bars … Mark is free at last.

Welcome home, Mark!


ABOUT PEP

An independent evaluation from Baylor University determined that the Prison Entrepreneurship Program outperforms all nine other prison rehabilitation groups in Texas with a long-term success rate as high as 95%. This study determined that every $1 donated to PEP generates at least a 340% ROI. Learn at www.PEP.org.


 

This story was originally posted on November 14, 2014 on LinkedIn. It was later distributed via StackStreet.

Coleman Barks reads Rumi’s ‘I See My Beauty In You’

Stunning reading of a gorgeous poem … with the perfect musical accompaniment. Amazing.

(Click here if the video below is not working.)

Coleman Barks reads Rumi’s ‘I See My Beauty In You’ from BillMoyers.com on Vimeo.

Here is the text of the poem, taken partially from this site with some minor adjustments that I made:

“I see my beauty in you. I become
a mirror that cannot close its eyes

to your longing. My eyes wet with
yours in the early light. My mind

every moment giving birth, always
conceiving, always in the ninth

month, always the come-point. How
do I stand this? We become these

words we say, a wailing sound moving
out into the air. These thousands of

worlds that arise from nowhere, how
does your face contain them? I’m

a fly in your honey, then closer, a
moth caught in flame’s allure, then

empty sky stretched out in homage.

I see my beauty in you.

I see my beauty in you.”

prayer of the shards

shards of glass fit together

Via CC license

May the brokenness in me
fit the brokenness in you
so both are made whole.

homeless as octameter (#poem)

How shall I, whose tears now drench this steering wheel, share love with you
whose wheelchair sputters in the dirt, beside the road on which I drive
towards my home, so far away from this strange place in which we meet,
where I embrace your hand in mine, feel how your thumb enwraps my own,
feel how your hand has no more grasp, see where your other ends in stubs,
behold your legs that stop at the knee, that ache in the space no flesh has known?
who am I that passes cash, a fistful of a day’s earned wage,
towards your chest and speeds off tearing, tearing through the night towards home
where I will sleep within a bed while you lie somewhere on the street?

Forgive me, friend, whose name I asked and dropped beside the highway where
our paths entwined for one clear glimpse, where God himself saw through your eyes.

A New Model of Social Enterprise: Master Franchising

IMG_1745-0.JPGAt the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, we just announced one of the most significant milestones in our organization’s recent history … the acquisition of a master franchise for the entire state of Texas by our for-profit subsidiary, the Communitas Auto Group.

(Read more here)

Over the next twenty years, we will develop around 20-30 automotive repair shops under the brand of The Auto-Lab Complete Car Care Centers. These shops will provide hundreds of living wage jobs (many of which will be for graduates of PEP); by 2023, we anticipate they will also grow to provide around $1 million per year in revenue to support PEP’s mission.

Those facts alone are worth celebrating. But there are two aspects of this initiative that get me even more excited… because they are far larger than just PEP.

First, this effort represents a seismic shift in the franchising world. There are fewer than 100 franchise stores that are owned by nonprofits; most are in the food services arena, like Ben & Jerry’s, Nathan’s Famous, Annie’s Pretzels, etc. And in the majority of cases, nonprofits only own a single store.

Through our subsidiary, PEP owns the rights to the entire state of Texas for The Auto-Lab. Within a few years, we will likely own more franchise stores than any other nonprofit in the country.

This will be a game-changer for nonprofits, because we will prove the value that nonprofits can bring to the franchising community as BUSINESS PARTNERS. After all, here are some of the assets that PEP brought to the table that most typical franchisees lack:

  • A robust governing board and advisory board structure that includes 50+ experienced business leaders whose expertise we can tap to guide the venture’s growth;
  • Immediate access to a qualified and motivated workforce of strong potential employees and store managers (i.e. our graduates);
  • Thousands of active relationships with potential customers in multiple cities across Texas (i.e. our volunteers and donors, not to mention our graduates and their families).

The latter is particularly valuable for franchisors. Once we open a store in Houston or Dallas, we will have thousands of people in those markets who already know about PEP and who would be willing to give our store a try. And for a new entrant to the market, that is an invaluable asset to tap.

Further, within each of those three groups above, we have not only potential customers and employees … but potential investors. And more importantly — potential franchisees.

Yes, this venture will provide jobs for our graduates and revenue for PEP.
But the broader impact will be on how we can transform the way
that the franchising community looks at nonprofits.

Thankfully, the remarkable leaders at The Auto-Lab had the vision to see what we could offer. Yet throughout this process of securing a franchise, we encountered a high degree of skepticism from other franchisors about working with a nonprofit (let alone one that worked with felons!). The success of Communitas Auto Group will force other franchisors to take notice … and, we hope, become much more open — indeed, eager! — to engage nonprofits as franchisees.

That is the first reason why I am excited.

But the second makes me even more so.

To fund this initiative, we pioneered a new financial model that we believe could serve as a template for how to finance social enterprises and earned income initiatives owned by nonprofits. Thanks to the guidance of our board and some very wise counsel from one of the preeminent Houston corporate law firms, we have built a model that allows the Communitas Auto Group (“CAG”) to harness the power of private equity while maintaining PEP’s long-term ownership of the venture.

In brief, CAG is incorporated as a for-profit company. As explained in the link at the top, CAG was capitalized with an initial investment from Mike Humphrey of Houston, Texas. Mike is now the majority owner of the venture, but PEP was granted a sizable carried interest in CAG at essentially no cost. There is a mandatory distribution to PEP of $50,000 per year from CAG, and a scheduled buy-back of the equity from the initial investors through the profits generated by the business. This will allow PEP to fully own the company within approximately ten years, if CAG grows in line with our conservative financial models.

Once that occurs, we anticipate that CAG will be contributing approximately $1MM per year in unrestricted revenues back to PEP. That is the equivalent of building a $25-30MM endowment for the organization … only this is one that creates hundreds of jobs along the way for our graduates.

All without relying on philanthropy.

THAT is what is really sexy about all of this. We are blazing a new trail in how mission investors can complement their charitable giving with strategic investments that create both market returns AND social benefits.

And when we can do that … we exponentially multiply the amount of funding that we can access. After all, just look at the world of grant-making foundations. They distribute, on average, 5% of their assets in the form of grants. But the other 95% is held in investments.

By tapping into that 95% … we effectively multiply the base of support available by a factor of 19X.

That’s no different for major donors. However generous they are, the vast majority of major donors have more money in their investment budgets than in their charitable giving budget. By tapping into those far larger pools of capital, we dramatically expand the percentage of “wallet share” that can be tapped by the social sector.

And THAT is something that our team will be very proud to leave as part of our legacy.

Onward!

What if Walt Whitman could have watched the Earth breathe?

WHEN I heard the learn’d astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick; 5
Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.”

— Walt Whitman (1819–1892).  Leaves of Grass.  1900.

I thought of this poem when I saw the image below, a GIF made from a compilation of 12 of NASA’s Visible Earthimages, one taken each month in 2004. The GIF was posted by John Nelson, a user-experience expert for the software firm IDV Solutions. I learned of it through Upworthy‘s posting of the link here.

Walt, what would you have written if you could have seen this image?

earth breathing

The paths down which we walk within our dreams

self portrait as a shadow on a prison parking lot

self portrait as a shadow on a prison parking lot

The paths down which we walk within our dreams
have led us to this place we dare not sleep:
this place where waking is not what it seems.

Our words have traveled down the narrow streams
of halting conversation from the deep
chasms carved by weeping in our dreams.

What scribes have caught our thoughts within the reams
of parchment buried deep beneath the keep
that slumbers here where waking shows no seams

against the teaming cauldron of our schemes,
across the patchworked calculus we heap
to bind the paths down which we walk our dreams

like dogs that bark at every light that gleams
within the shadows cast around the sheep
whose dim-eyed waking is not what it seems?

None but these, who prowl upon the lams
to gauge the ripeness of the time to sweep
along the paths down which we walk in dreams
towards a waking state not what it seems.

prison ghazal (#poem)

creative commons prison

licensed via creative commons

A place from which you can’t escape is prison.
A place to which you must return is prison.

The space between the place where you were born
and everywhere you fear to go is prison.

Your shame has strapped a saddle on your back
and whipped your ass to ride you back to prison.

Their faces — all the ones you can’t forgive —
become the guards who lock you in your prison.

Pull back the shades; reveal the fragile glass
that forms the razor fence around your prison.

What taste now aches within your bitter palate?
What sweetness haunts your memory in this prison?

You see your lover standing at the gate.
You wave to her — but turn into your prison.

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