The Truth About Board Service

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From nonprofit CEO… to board member… to board chair… and now as co-owner of a consulting firm that focuses on issues related to organizational efficiency, growth, development, and change, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time in board rooms. Perhaps no experience has re-shaped my thinking about the role of boards – and specifically board chairs – as much as my two-year term as the board chair of Together SC.

As my term comes to a close, I’ve taken some time to reflect on lessons learned, which might be best summarized by Board Source’s assessment that “…the board has an impact on organizational performance, and that two particular board characteristics matter most: the board’s understanding of its roles and responsibilities, and the board’s ability to work as a collaborative team toward shared goals.” Leading With Intent, 2017 National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices 

Here are a few personal observations that are intended to add some real-life context to this idea. Whether you are a nonprofit executive, current board member, or someone considering serving on a nonprofit board, I hope it helps.

1. Setting Expectations and Measuring Performance Matters.

I’m guessing your organization has expectations for itself (strategic plan) and its leader (annual goals, job description, etc.). The board may even conduct an annual performance review of the CEO. Crazy, right? Yet, personal experience tells me that such deliberately stated expectations and performance evaluations rarely exist for the board. Far too often, training, capacity building, and communication about board member expectations begins and ends at board orientation. It’s equally rare to find an organization with a formal plan to expand learning, encourage growth, and improve the performance of board members. 

Together SC has developed a board dashboard to track board participation and engagement, and in my role as chair, I open every meeting with a quick review of where we are. It lists board attendance, participation in events, and individual giving. Keeping this information front-and-center helps hold us accountable. When there were gaps, I knew it was my responsibility as chair to pick up the phone and gently remind my fellow members of their commitments. 

2. Succession Planning and Leadership Development Are Not Just for CEOs.

The importance of the relationship between an organization’s executive and its board chair is well documented, as is the importance of board chairs in defining organizational culture. Why then are board chair transitions not consistently met with the same rigor and effort that is put into pending executive transitions? Your organization probably has a succession plan for executives. But what about for the much more frequent transition of board chairs? Organizations would do themselves a favor to spend equal energy planning for and executing this annual(ish) transition. 

Prior to beginning my term as Together SC’s board chair, I was fortunate to be able to spend time with, talk to, and learn from the outgoing chair. Those conversations expedited my learning curve. I also took the time to call each of my fellow board members personally to check in on their perceptions of the board and the future of the organization. Taking that time on the front end allowed me to be a better leader. 

3. Every Board is a Giving Board.

I’ve lost count of the number of executives who tell me “our board is not a giving board.” Yet, even those organizations who say such a thing are familiar with the tried and true board adages “Time, Talent, Treasure” or “Give, Get, Get-Off.” In one case, giving is defined broadly to include time and talent; in the other, the meaning of give is more direct. In either case, giving (of something) is essential, and over time, I have become convinced that every board must position themselves as a “giving board.” Saying otherwise sends the wrong message to current members, future members, and those the organization serves. 

Achieving 100% financial giving from board members is important, but I must admit it’s incredibly frustrating when giving financially is the ONLY criteria used to determine engagement. Beyond writing a check, board members also need to GIVE 100% of their time, energy, and positive representation they committed to when agreeing to serve. We have a term for those who write checks (thank you!) but contribute in no other substantive way. That term is donor, not board member. 

4. Create space for meaningful engagement. 

You are no doubt familiar with the governance functions a board is required to perform, but there is more to the story. Too often I see organization’s failing to create space for deeper, more meaningful dialogue and engagement. Rough calculations suggest that boards meet for 12-20 hours over the course of the year. Sometimes this is in monthly, one-hour meetings (12x1 = 12). Two of the boards I serve on meet only twice a year, but for the better part of a day each time (2x8 = 16). Many boards operate in the middle of these examples. 

I’ll take some heat for advocating for longer meetings, but in the end, how can we expect to tackle the really difficult issues AND perform the governance functions of the organization in an hour or two? It’s simply not realistic. Thus, boards default to things that “must” be done (finance update, program report, etc.) and pass on the responsibility of having difficult discussions. In this all-too-common scenario, neither the board members nor organizational leadership feels fulfilled in their service. 

At Together SC, one of my first acts as chair was to restructure our meetings to be four hours, four times a year (4x4 = 16). In the first two hours we focused on the traditional governance responsibilities while reserving the second half of the meeting to dive deep into an identified, single topic. This fundamentally changed the way our board approached meetings and significantly improved our level of engagement and thought on these identified key conversations. Trying to fly through a one hour monthly meeting short changes the deep thought required to actually lead… and it doesn’t do much for building relationships and rapport either. 

5. Organizations Grow and Change - So Should Your Board.

Our firm does a lot of strategic planning work for nonprofits, and every engagement starts with the organization telling us they are looking for new, innovative strategies and approaches to propel their work forward. I’m always struck that very rarely is such a process followed (or preceded) by corresponding adjustments to board membership. Periodic check-ins to ensure that board members still align with you and where you are headed can have great value – for you and for them. 

Organizational needs are constantly changing, and as a result, the type of board members you need is also changing. Many organizations allow board members to serve multiple terms of multiple years, and some don’t have term limits at all. I think about how much my personal journey has changed over the past decade – likely yours too. Some of my passions are the same, but other interests ebb and flow. A chance for all of us to check in and be sure our passions and visions are still aligned would benefit the organization and the board members sitting around the table. 

At the end of a seven year run serving on Together SC’s board, I’m proud to say that neither the organization nor Forrest are the same as they were when that service began. Frankly, if they were, I’d have lots of questions. 

6. Make a Commitment.

Now for some real talk, board member to board member. Counting Together SC, I currently serve on three boards. Sometimes I’m worried that it’s two too many. My time as Together SC’s board chair reaffirmed just how much organizations need us to be present. When board meetings and subcommittee meetings don’t have quorums and can’t act, the organization suffers. When big discussions are planned and half the board doesn’t show, the organization suffers. When board members are counted on to reach out to a donor and don’t follow through, the organization suffers.  

So, do us all a favor. Start saying “no.” If you can’t commit, that’s OK, we’d rather know on the front end. I have endless respect for my friends and colleagues over the years who have stepped up and said “you know what, I just don’t have the time to commit to this right now.” But, if you decide to serve on a board, then please, commit to that service 100%. Until I was the one taking the time required to plan agendas and lead board meetings, I short changed how important it is to own that truth! 

A note to the executives on this point: when someone is being truthful to you and suggests they are over committed, here’s the appropriate response sequence… shake hands, say thank you, and move on. Please stop trying to convince us to join/stay on the board or the committee by telling us we won’t have that much to do. It sends the wrong message to everyone involved (see #3 above). 

PS ~ I did a presentation last year at the Aspen Action Forum (Aspen, CO) that highlighted many of these same ideas. You can download the corresponding handout here. And, of course, I welcome your comments and feedback on anything I’ve shared here. Just email me at Forrest@1000feathers.com. 

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Achieving the Impossible 

The Path to Equitable Health Outcomes

Morgan Roberts, Intern

I recently joined the 1000 Feathers team and was given the opportunity to listen to 1000 Feathers president Forrest Alton talk about equity in the healthcare system. This is not something that I would have claimed to know much about, but after hearing his speech, I believe it is a conversation that we all should have. 

“Talking about equity and health equity and reducing health disparities, requires us to get our hands dirty and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” 

That was how Forrest dove into his talk at the Presbyterian College School of Pharmacy in January.  

Equity is a multi-faceted, messy issue that stems from generations of institutional, systemic barriers put in place to separate people by race, class, or gender. So how can we do a better job of addressing health equity? 

Here are four tips that Forrest gave during his speech:  

1. Acknowledge the Challenge 

“We have to acknowledge that health disparities and inequities are not the result of (s)he made good decisions, and (s)he didn’t.” 

It’s so much more complicated than that! To get a better understanding, we must dive deep into existing data, monitor history and trends, and explore as much as we can. This requires us to be life-long learners, questioning everything and understanding the journey that people have to go through. We need to recognize the role that we can, and should play in this journey. 

 

2. Get Proximate 

“If you are willing to get closer to people who are suffering, you will find the power to change the world”  –Bryan Stevenson (colleague and friend of Forrest)

Get close, get out of the classroom. Talk to people. Learn their stories, find out what the challenges are right from the source. This might mean holding community forums, interviews, focus groups, or town hall meetings. It might just mean getting out from behind your desk and talking with people. You have to be willing to get proximate and get your hands dirty to get the results you seek. It is important to invite the people who are suffering the most into the conversations about solutions. 

3, Keep Learning 

“I left Coastal Carolina with my undergraduate degree and my chest puffed out, confident that I knew everything. I left my first job in Georgetown, South Carolina three years later very sure that I knew nothing.” 

We are life-long learners–this has to be true. Over time we have learned that sometimes, something that seems like it’s helping can actually cause a bigger gap of disparity to grow. We cannot just put forth a solution and move on. We must always be learning–from the past, from our mistakes, from others. Learning how to do things better, how to fix the mistakes, and how to improve. We can always do better. 

4. Accelerate Diversification 

“Spend time with people who don’t think like you, look like you, and act like you–that is the only path forward to solving issues around equity and diversity.” 

You can’t solve every problem by yourself, but you can become a part of a community, part of a different group of people at the table who are having conversations about these issues. Tackling the real issues that people in communities are facing isn’t something that should be done alone. Reach out, partner, engage, build a bigger tent. 

To listen to the full speech and learn more about equity in healthcare, click here

1000 Feathers’ Newest Team Member

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Meet our new intern!

Morgan Roberts is a senior at the University of South Carolina majoring in public relations and minoring in Spanish. She is from Grand Rapids, Michigan, but decided to venture south for college to escape the cold Michigan winters. Morgan has previously interned for both the Palmetto Health Foundation and South Carolina Future Minds but is excited to step out of the nonprofit world and work for 1000 Feathers this semester. An involved member of her campus, Morgan is a member of Sigma Delta Pi Spanish honors fraternity, as well as the collegiate public relations society, PRSSA. She loves her community, volunteering for organizations like Palmetto Health Richland Children’s Hospital and EdVenture’s after-school children’s program. Morgan loves traveling and has been to 20 countries around the world, most recently during a semester-long study abroad in Ireland. She is expected to graduate in May and is looking for public relations jobs along the east coast.

Welcome to the team, Morgan!

3 Tips for Mastering the Media

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By: Cayci Banks, Director of Communications

While some people run from a camera, it’s always been in my nature to run towards them...just ask my friends and family. I will be the first person to find the videographer at a wedding, was interviewed by the Today Show team when in NYC on my senior trip (smacking gum in my cap and gown, of course), was the shining star of most of my older brother’s music videos in the 80s (let’s hope those tapes never make it to social media), and always enjoy the opportunity to talk about the nonprofits I have the privilege of working alongside.

This passion I developed at a young age has been a huge part of my career. I spend a great deal of time training nonprofit professionals, CEOs, and future coaches and athletic directors for their “close up.” We talk about the importance of media relations, how to prepare for media interviews, what NOT to do, and how to keep their brand in tact…before and after an on-camera appearance. 

 If you ever find yourself preparing for an on-camera interview, here are a few tips to keep in mind. 

  1. Preparation is Key. You should never go on camera without fully understanding the context of the interview, who the interviewer is, what the questions may be, and when the interview will air. Once you have a basic understanding of the interview itself, and 100% believe you are the best person for the interview, now you prepare what you will say. Write down (yes, write them down) 3-5 talking points that you want to get across during your interview. Practice these talking points, over and over again, until you are confident that you can relay these messages to the interviewer without getting flustered. Do you have a colleague or family member who can interview you? Even better. But if no one is around to help you out, just find the closest mirror and interview yourself. You will be surprised at how much you can learn from watching yourself in the mirror. 

  2. Calm Your Nerves. If you are like 99% of your peers, you are going to get nervous going on camera. It’s just human nature. You feel like the situation is out of your control, that the media personality is “out to get you,” and thus put up walls, and for whatever reason, lose all confidence in yourself and your ability to speak. Well, first of all, they aren’t “out to get you;” more often than not, they really just want to help us tell our stories and share important information with their viewers. Look at reporters as allies.

    So, what do we do about those nerves? One of my longtime colleagues gave me the best piece of advice years ago when I was going live on a local channel. He said, “You know more about the topic than anyone else in the room. You are the expert; now show them why you’re the person they called.” Profound, right? No, it’s such a simple thought, but so true! I did know more than anyone else in the room. Nine times out of 10, the reporter is going to love you more if you help guide the conversation. That’s why the talking points in #1 were so important. Know what you want to say, have confidence in yourself, and make the public believe in your expert status.

  3. Appearance Matters. It will be hard for someone to listen to your words if you have already lost credibility due to your appearance or body language. It’s important to dress the part; whatever that means for your industry. Some will need to wear a suit and tie, but that’s not the rule for all of us. The coaches I work with would look silly getting dressed up for an interview. The attire should match the tone of the interview and the topic you are addressing. 

    Along the same lines, the way you portray yourself on screen is close to, if not just as, important as the words you are saying. Sit or stand with confidence. Don’t slouch, don’t cross your arms, don’t turn away from the interviewer. All of these movements have unintentional meanings, such as disinterest and lack of respect. Make sure you aren’t taking anything away from the words you are speaking. Don’t distract the viewer with needless hand gestures, flashy jewelry, or negative body language so that it makes it hard for them to focus on anything else.

And as my mom told me after returning from New York City as a naïve, 17-year-old, NEVER CHEW GUM on camera! 

Could your C-suite or board room benefit from media training? If so, contact our team at 1000 Feathers to schedule an in-person or virtual meeting.  

Forrest Delivers Hometown Commencement Address

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Earlier this summer, I had one of the greatest honors of my life. I was invited to give the commencement address at my high school alma mater (shout out to the class of 1995!). As I told the graduating seniors that night, it was an experience that I will never forget. The benefit of time and distance has taught me that little LaFargeville Central High School, situated in a town with only one traffic light (one side blinks yellow, the other side blinks red) prepared me extraordinary well to compete in a global world. In addition to some personal reflections, I tried to leave the graduates with four things that can help them on their journey. I encouraged them to go out and: 

  1. Find your why;

  2. Find ways to continue learning;

  3. Find your voice (and be bold enough to use it once you find it);

  4. Find balance.

This is probably a list we could all benefit from revisiting every now and then. If you have any interest in listening, you can do so here. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

An Open Letter to Don Flowers

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“It’s good to be blessed. It’s better to be a blessing.” – anonymous

More than 20 years ago, in the early 1990s, conversations were taking place among a few committed citizens in South Carolina - all concerned with the high teen birth rate in the state. As the stories have been told to me, this was a small group. A very small group. Maybe six people at the most. Joy Campbell, who would ultimately become the founding executive director of the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy (SC Campaign), had called everyone together.

Notably, the group included a Baptist minister from Greenville...Don Flowers.

Somewhere along the way, Don – in a fit of weakness – agreed to become the first board chair of the SC Campaign, circa 1994. Data from the state health department reminds us that in that year, nearly 9,000 young women in South Carolina under the age of 20 became mothers.

Fast forward 20+ years to 2017 where the data shows there were 3,696 births to teen mothers in our state. A decline that exceeds 60%! Find me another public health issue that has seen such remarkable progress over the last two decades… there aren’t many! Don Flowers is truly one of a very few who can say he has been involved with the organization and the effort since day one. Literally, from the first meeting. As he and his wife pack a moving van today to head off to their next adventure north of the border (that's the US border, Nova Scotia to be exact), I hope he has time to read this note, because it wouldn’t be right to let him pull away without an appropriate THANK YOU!

Don will deflect any credit for this massive success story, but I’m not willing to let him.

Had the teen birth rate in our state not changed at all since 1994, think of the 10's of thousands of lives that would have lived out a different trajectory. It is not a stretch at all to say that Don’s willingness to say yes, his willingness to give his time and energy to this cause, resulted in improvements in the lives of thousands of young people – many of whom are now adults. After all, how often does one have the opportunity to reflect and know that the time and work you put in had such a direct and profound impact on thousands of other people?

Don will deflect any credit for this massive success story, but I’m not willing to let him.

There have been countless staff members, board members, and volunteers who have contributed notably to the work of the SC Campaign. They all deserve thanks and praise. But, none have exceeded Don’s tenure – as a board member, as a board chair (twice), a mentor, a thought leader, and a voice for change. None of them, none of us, have done as much as Don has done. Don likes to say that when he served as board chair the first time you could “put everyone in the state who was concerned about this issue in a phone booth.” By the time Don’s second term as board chair began in July 2007, just a few months after a young 20-something-year-old kid had taken over the role of executive director, the organization was hosting statewide conferences for 300+ people every year and reaching thousands more through training, education, and outreach. At some point in between his multiple stints as chair of the board, Don and his family moved to Charleston. That in and of itself opened many doors for me and the organization that wouldn’t have been opened otherwise – “…how bad can we be, our board chair is a Baptist minister from Charleston, SC!”

Don will deflect any credit for this massive success story, but I’m not willing to let him.

You’ve probably guessed who the 20-something-year-old kid was, and this is where the story takes a bit of a personal turn. The relationship that Don and I have formed over the last 10-plus years, beginning with that organizational transition in 2007 (even though we had met and interacted some several years before) is more special than words could ever explain. Don has been there for me personally and professionally, without hesitation, any time that I needed him to be – even times that I didn’t know I needed him to be. Don has been a friend, a mentor, a side-kick, a confidant, a voice of reason, a spiritual support, and so much more. He has been by my side, quite literally, through the highest of my highs and the lowest of my lows.

  • Need someone to talk through a big decision with… call Don.

  • Find out a family member or loved one is ill, or having surgery, or battling cancer… call Don.

  • Getting married… call Don and fly him to New York to officiate the ceremony.

  • Need a reality check, someone to put you in your place… “Forrest, Don is on line one.”

  • Need someone to lift you up in prayer… call Don.

  • Just want to vent a little bit… call Don.

  • Syracuse beats Wake Forest in (insert sport)… call Don.

There are times that people come into your life and when you take the time to look back and reflect, you know you wouldn’t be who you are today without them. That is true of Don’s involvement with the SC Campaign. More importantly, that is true of Don’s involvement with me. I honestly don’t know where I would be today without his guidance, wisdom, support, tough love, and occasional stubbornness.

Don will deflect credit for the role he has played in my personal success story too, but I’m not willing to let him.

I drove down to Charleston yesterday to say, “see you around.” I’m comforted knowing Don will still be no more than a phone call away (wait, they do have phones in Nova Scotia, right?), and I’m glad that I was able to give him a big hug yesterday before he left town. But, the blessings Don has given me, given the SC Campaign, and given to this entire state are just too incredible to keep to myself.

Godspeed, my friend. You are indeed a blessing! 

Midlands Anchor Features Upcoming Conference

Our President Forrest Alton recently sat down with Midlands Anchor to discuss the upcoming Taking the Non Out of Nonprofit conference scheduled for Sept. 13, 2017. Early bird registration is open through Aug. 9 so take advantage of the discount before it expires.

Taking the Non Out of Nonprofit

We are thrilled to partner with Venture Carolina and VentureSouth to bring a first-of-its-kind seminar to Columbia, SC on Wednesday, Sept. 13. Taking the Non Out of Nonprofit will bring together leaders from the nonprofit community alongside individual investors to discuss the importance of nonprofits operating more like businesses and less like charities. At the same time, we are excited that this will give us an opportunity to spotlight the amazing work currently being done by nonprofits across the state! 

The lineup of speakers and participants is nothing short of amazing. Check out the line-up and then register today because the early bird saves money. From now until August 9, registrants will enjoy a $30 discount. And while there is a lot of buzz around this event, space is limited, so we encourage those who are interested to register early!

Finally, what's really exciting about this event is the Innovation Challenge. Nonprofits from across the Southeast have the opportunity to have their good ideas not only heard, but funded. During the seminar on Sept. 13, Venture Carolina will give one lucky winner $5,000 to help bring a profitable idea to life.

Ready. Set. Register!

Be a Problem Solver...Not an Order Taker

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the IABC/SC Mini Conference. As someone who is a big believer in life-long learning and professional development, I was thrilled to step away from my computer for the day. In addition to winning a door prize (free registration to the fall conference - YAY!), the content was on point.

One presenter who really stood out to me was Tim Floyd from Palmetto Health who spoke to all of us “creatives” in the room. Here are some of the key take-a-ways:

·      There’s no such thing as boring projects, only boring people.

·      Are you an order taker OR a problem solver?

·      How can a client already know what they want when they can’t even really state the problem?

·      Don’t be afraid of bad ideas. They represent creativity in process.

·      Be the creative. Don’t wait for others to ask for it.

As communicators, especially those of you who may work within a nonprofit, we often get bogged down in our to-do lists and don’t take enough time to think creatively, to reframe a current project we are working on, or to simply get ourselves away from the computer and out into the community, which can oftentimes be the best creativity juice booster there is.

So next time someone asks for a simple flyer for an event, think bigger. Tim talked about the time a staff person came to him wanting to encourage people to take the stairs because he didn’t feel like other employees even knew where the stairs were located. The person wanted a flyer. After figuring out the employees did, in fact, know where the stairs were, they just needed some coaxing to use them, Tim gave them a complete marketing campaign centered around being healthy. He added funny quotes and fun facts to the actual stairs, made infomercials about the importance of taking the stairs, and created contests that gave employees monetary incentives if they were "caught in the act" of taking the stairs. Employees loved it! People were taking the stairs just to see the signs and read the quotes. If Tim had simply created the flyer as asked, would the same results have ensued? Absolutely not. So his message is an important one…

BE A PROBLEM SOLVER…NOT AN ORDER TAKER! 

By: Cayci Banks, Communications Specialist

Costa Rica Reflections

The following was a letter sent from Dr. Heather Brandt to students and colleagues at the University of South Carolina regarding her experience in Costa Rica for the Global USC in Costa Rica program.

Greetings! I have returned physically from Costa Rica back to South Carolina, but my mind and thoughts and heart continue to be in Costa Rica. I am processing my experience, and I am somewhat reluctant to write about it at this time because I know my thinking will evolve. However, I am equally excited to share with you some of the lessons I learned during my time in Costa Rica. 

I arrived in San José on May 14 for Global USC in Costa Rica (for those of you who have not had a chance to read my last chair’s email – this is the University of South Carolina), and I was in Costa Rica until June 6 for the program. This program provides students a unique opportunity to gain USC course credits while learning about health and culture in San José and across the country. Health-related courses are instructed by USC faculty (including me!). During this program, students have the chance to explore San José and immerse themselves in Costa Rican culture.

I had three USC undergraduate students, all public health majors, in my class – “Community Health Problems” (which I renamed, “Community Health Solutions” because communities are not a problem and solutions are in communities). Class went exceptionally well and was complemented by incredible service learning experiences. In fact, I said several times, “Community health class can be cancelled for the rest of the program because there is no way I can replicate what you are experiencing firsthand in the community in the classroom.” We experienced the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation in La Carpio, Hogar de Carlos Maria Ulloa (nursing home), Hogar de la Esperanza (a home for people living with HIV), and all three levels of the Costa Rican health care system and a private hospital as well. “Community” was all around us. Public health was evident throughout our entire program. Important community and public health lessons were learned in the community, not the classroom. We did a lot of listening while we learned. I am grateful for the generosity of these organizations and their willingness to host us.

I have attempted to summarize my experience around three salient points. 

First, community is defined in many ways. At Hogar de la Esperanza, we learned about a community for individuals who have HIV come to embrace life and live theirs. This is a diverse community in terms of country of origin, sexual orientation and preferences, and status, which is highly unique as there are only three such homes for people living with HIV in Costa Rica. Our idea of what constitutes “community” is not for us to determine, and often, a community of which you become a part happens organically. We witnessed similar communities of care in the local, area-level health care clinic in Cartago that is the first-level of care in the Costa Rican health care system, called EBAIS in Costa Rica. ETAPS who work within the EBAIS are tasked with improving the overall health of the community by working with people in the community. A strong sense of solidarity within the community, defined geographically by the organization of the EBAIS, was apparent. 

Second, when working with a community to improve health, meet them where they are. We have to ensure basic needs are met before we can focus on other needs. While in La Carpio, we heard from Gail “Giselle” Nystrom of the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation who shared with us their approach and how important it is to meet basic needs while always increasing self-esteem of those they serve. Our public health education and health promotion interventions must align with opportunities within a community and not focus on impractical approaches that are inconsistent with where they are. This was further evident in the EBAIS in Cartago. We witnessed a primary care physician committed to ensuring programming so that every child receiving care in the clinic had the chance to succeed. She implemented a play therapy program to aid children with development delays. The ETAPS ensure that these children are living in environments that will support their success. 

Third, solutions are truly found in the community. At La Carpio, Hogar Carlos Maria Ulloa, Hogar de la Esperanza, and across our visits to learn about the Costa Rican health care system, solutions were all around us in these communities. Solutions were initiated from within the community with minimal help from those outside – perhaps financial or other resources, expertise, etc. The resiliency and solidarity of Costa Ricans was inspiring, and solutions emerged from within the community. 

Mixed in with lifetime lessons, classroom time, and service learning experiences, we had a lot of fun too. We toured the city of San José, visited the National Museum of Costa Rica, travelled to Doka Coffee Estates and La Paz Waterfalls, ate “comida típica” (typical food) in Costa Rica, which is gallo pinto or rice and beans, visited Manuel Antonio National Park, and much more. Personally, I was captivated by the monkeys, sloths, and the vistas. 

In closing, as we face ongoing challenges to ensuring a strong public health system, focus on prevention, health equity, and access to health care in the U.S., I am struck by a common theme that emerged in our interactions with Costa Ricans. At Hospital Heredia (a regional hospital in the Costa Rican system), we had the chance to talk with hospital administrators and ask them questions. Someone asked if health care was viewed as a right or a privilege in Costa Rica. Without hesitation, the response was, "health care is a right, not a privilege, in Costa Rica." I believe this reflects the strong sense of solidarity I experienced in my interactions with Costa Ricans. Sure, the health care system is not perfect, but it is based on a fundamental belief that everyone is entitled to health care. “Pura vida” is more than a catchphrase or nuanced tourist lingo. Costa Ricans live pura vida. 

Heather Brandt
Chair, Public Health Education and Health Promotion Section
American Public Health Association

SC Community Loan Fund Needs Your Help

Our friends at the South Carolina Community Loan Fund (SCCLF) are conducting market research to gauge demand for their services throughout the state. If at any point you've considered obtaining financing for a community development project, have borrowed capital, or think you might consider it in the future, they want to hear from you!

Whether you represent a for-profit, nonprofit, or government entity, they want learn more about your experience in financing your community development project.  Perhaps you've considered creating affordable housing in your community, wanted to open a small business of your own, hoped to bring healthy foods to your neighborhood, or tried to secure financing for a school, clinic, or town hall. All of these (and more) are community development projects, and knowing what you need in order to make them a reality is important to SCCLF.

This survey should take you approximately 5 minutes to complete, and your answers will be kept strictly confidential. As a thank you for participating, you can be entered to win a $100 Office Depot gift card at the end of the survey.

Pura Vida

I’ve been very fortunate in my life that for one reason or another – business meetings, sporting events, pleasure – I’ve traveled a great deal. I’m also fortunate that I have a life partner who also enjoys traveling. Heather and I have seen an awful lot together, and no matter where we travel or what the reason for the travel is, we always try to learn something new. A language, a tradition, a piece of history, something – especially when traveling abroad.

This time it’s Heather’s work that has taken us out of the country. She is teaching a study abroad course in Costa Rica right now, officially “Global USC in Costa Rica.” Of course, I had to join her for a few days.

Among other things, we have learned that Costa Rica’s official national motto is “Pura Vida.” The phrase translates literally to pure life, with other common iterations like full of life, or this is living! But, Costa Rica’s motto is better translated in action than in words. The locals don’t seem to stress about anything. Life is laid back, carefree, and most importantly optimistic. Pura vida means being thankful for what you have and not dwelling on the negative.

Caught in a torrential downpour walking to dinner? Pura vida.

Locked yourself out of the apartment? Pura vida.

Stuck on a bus with no air conditioning for four hours? Pura vida.

Can’t get the Internet to work and missed an important work email? Pura vida.

At some point we’ll return back to the hustle, bustle, and high stress of our jobs in the United States. I can only hope we are able sneak a little Pura vida through customs! We certainly could use a little in our lives long past our time here in Costa Rica.

Most likely, so could you. 

Save the Date: 9.13.17

This September, we are partnering with Venture Carolina and VentureSouth to bring a unique, one-day seminar to Columbia, SC. Taking the Non Out of Nonprofit will bring together nonprofit executives, development directors and board members with industry leaders from across the state to help our social service community think less like a charity and more like a business. 

"Our hope is to help bridge the divide between nonprofits and entrepreneurship," said Charlie Banks, managing partner of VentureSouth. 

Registration will open in June along with the Innovation Challenge, where a select group of nonprofits will have the opportunity to present their profitable ideas to a panel of investors and funders, modeled after the popular show Shark Tank®. The pool of candidates will be culled down to three who will present during the conference on September 13. The winning proposal will receive a $5,000 award to fund the development and expansion of their effort.

For more information, visit www.VentureCarolina.org.  

South Carolina Rural Health Action Plan Released

In May, we were honored to stand alongside the South Carolina Office of Rural Health and the South Carolina Rural Health Action Plan Task Force to unveil the initial recommendations of the Rural Health Action Plan for our state. It was a pleasure and a privilege to lead this group of 50+ individuals over the past eight months.

Throughout the course of our eight meetings, the Task Force culled through a number of issues and concerns, heard from content experts, gathered feedback from community members, and were presented supporting literature and data. Ultimately, the group landed on five key areas of focus necessary to improve the health of rural communities in South Carolina: Access to Health Care; Community Assets, Leadership & Engagement; Economic Development; Education; and Housing.

The full report will be released on November 16 as part of National Rural Health Day, but be sure to review the initial recommendations and send us your feedback.

http://scorh.net/south-carolina-rural-health-action-plan/

Isaiah Nelson Joins Firm as Mobilization Strategist

The team at 1000 Feathers is pleased to announce the hire of Isaiah Nelson as Mobilization Strategist. Isaiah, a 2012 graduate of the College of Charleston Honors College and former student body president of the College, has been engaged on electoral and mobilization projects over the last four years. A former intern for the Office of Public Engagement in the White House and a veteran of multimillion dollar Congressional, Mayoral and Gubernatorial campaigns in multiple states, Isaiah will work with our clients as we look to make meaningful impacts in communities throughout the country.

"As our firm continues to grow, we're always on the lookout for top talent that can add to our service delivery," said Forrest Alton, President of 1000 Feathers. "Isaiah's understanding of policy work, community organizing and mobilization fit a need for us, and we are thrilled to welcome him to the team. He brings great value and experience to a number of existing projects and will add to our menu of services for new clients."

Look for the Helpers

We are barely three weeks into 2017 and what a year it has been already. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect when Heather and I launched our consulting firm late in 2016, but it has, so far, been a journey like no other I’ve ever been on.

In a short time, our work has taken us across South Carolina and across the country.

  • On one of our projects, we’ve spent time reading, listening to residents, asking questions of the experts, and trying to better understand the challenges and barriers that exist to health and well-being in rural South Carolina. The challenges are real, significant, and deep-rooted.

  • Our team is back and forth weekly to Charlotte, NC working with a group of funders and philanthropists to develop a system of change that presents greater opportunity for the citizens of Mecklenburg County. Certainly not rural America, but the metro has its own challenges.

  • We are preparing to lead a board/staff retreat next week for a statewide nonprofit who is poised and ready to tackle the significant challenge of affordable, reliable housing in South Carolina.

  • Our travels have also taken us to Waco, TX, Tulsa, OK, and Washington, DC. All unique communities with their own challenges centered around race, poverty, and access to health, education, and financial resources.

What’s striking to me is that despite differences in size, region of the country, and demographics, the challenges in these communities are all very similar. From rural South Carolina, to metro-Charlotte, to the “heart of Texas;” all different communities with familiar challenges.

What’s even more striking is the massive number of helpers we have come into contact with. Without exception, one of the first things I notice when visiting a new community is that the helpers are already in place! So many kind and caring souls giving their all, dedicating financial resources and human capital to the causes that matter.

It was Mr. Rogers who reminded us that “when (you) see scary things… look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Indeed.

Having recently celebrated a “day of service” in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it’s fitting to point out how many helpers there are among us. It’s also not lost on me that we are mere hours away from the Inauguration of the 45th President of the United States. To be sure, with so much uncertainty in front of us, those helpers will be more important than ever. So, my message to you today and in the days ahead is two-fold:

If you need help, whatever that means to you, please don’t be ashamed to reach out. If you are a helper, please don’t be afraid to stand up and make yourself available! 

A Look Back: Forrest Alton's 2014 TedTalk

In 2014 when Forrest Alton was serving as the CEO of the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, he gave an inspiring TedTalk in Columbia, SC where he encouraged the audience to be bold, be concerned, and be available to the young people in their lives. 

Forrest Alton Elected to My Carolina Board of Governors

My Carolina Alumni Association has elected Forrest L. Alton to its Board of Governors. Alton represents the second congressional district of Columbia, South Carolina.

The board of governors is the governing body of the University of South Carolina’s alumni association, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization established in 1846. The board promotes fellowship among the university’s graduates, establishes policies, provides strategic direction and holds fiduciary responsibility for the assets of My Carolina.

"Any success I have had in my career is due in large part to the education, networks, friends, and colleagues I gained during my time at the University of South Carolina,” Alton said. “I see this appointment to My Carolina’s Board of Governors as an opportunity to 'pay it forward' and give back to the University and its alumni that have done so much for me.”

Alton has been involved in public health and youth development efforts for more than 15 years. In 2007, he became the chief executive officer of the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, a position he held for nearly 10 years. Under Alton’s leadership the organization saw substantial growth. Forrest recently launched a consulting firm, 1000 Feathers, which works helps nonprofits, philanthropists and social service organizations have greater impact in the communities they serve.

In 2010, Alton was recognized by The State newspaper as one of South Carolina’s “20-under-40 emerging leaders.”  In 2014, he was recognized by The Free Times as one of the “50 Most Influential People in Columbia.”  He is a Riley Institute Diversity Fellow, a Liberty Fellow and part of the Aspen Global Leadership Network.

Alton earned his master of public health from the university’s Arnold School of Public Health. In 2011, the school named him its Alumnus of the Year. He earned his bachelor of science from Coastal Carolina University, where he also was named a Distinguished Alumnus.

About My Carolina
My Carolina Alumni Association’s mission is to build a thriving community of actively engaged and connected alumni, students, faculty and supporters who give themselves in service to the university while carrying the Carolina tradition and spirit worldwide. For more information about My Carolina Alumni Association, visit www.MyCarolina.org.

President Forrest Alton Featured in Tulsa World

During a recent visit to Tulsa, OK to work with the Tulsa Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, our President Forrest Alton had the opportunity to sit down with a reporter from Tulsa World to discuss progress made in South Carolina and what Tulsa can do to better address teen pregnancy. Several things he made very clear: 1) the solutions are in the community and 2) teen pregnancy prevention is not a moral issue; it's a public health issue. 

Read the full article here.

President Forrest Alton Appears on the Giving Connection

Our President Forrest Alton recently sat down with the Waco Foundation in Waco, Texas to give expert commentary on teen pregnancy prevention efforts across the country, specifically what he helped to accomplish in South Carolina through his role as CEO of the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. The full broadcast can be found below.