Month: August 2017

Maurice Jones, President and CEO of Local Initiatives Support Corporation Joins Denver Frederick

We have found a new home! Kindly visit this link in our new website here:

The following is a conversation between Maurice Jones, President and CEO of Local Initiatives Support Corporation, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.



Maurice Jones ©

Denver: LISC, or the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, has a well-earned reputation for having become an incubator for innovation in the community development field, effectively aligning the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, and catalyzing opportunities in both urban and rural communities. And with us this evening to tell us about that work and its impact is their President and CEO, Maurice Jones. Good evening, Maurice, and welcome to the Business of Giving.


Maurice Jones: Good evening. Thanks for having me.

Denver: Tell us about LISC, or Local Initiatives Support Corporation, and the mission and goals of the organization.

Maurice: Absolutely. So LISC is an almost 40-year-old enterprise. Our mission, basically, is to work with partners at the local level to forge opportunities. Communities of opportunity. That’s what we’re about. How we do it? We invest money in these communities; we bring other money and combine it with ours.  We serve as what I would call a backbone organization where we help get projects done; we work on public policy issues, and then we serve as an advisor to investors in these communities, as well as the communities and residents themselves who are trying to get work done. We’re doing work in the affordable housing space. We’re trying to get people prepared for jobs that make a living wage. We’re trying to attack food deserts. We’re trying to make sure that people have health facilities. Those are the problems that we’re trying to solve through the means that I just discussed.

Denver: An absolutely holistic approach. As you alluded to, you’re about 40 years old. You’re founded in 1980. What have you been able to achieve and accomplish in those nearly 40 years?

Maurice: In almost 40 years time, LISC itself has invested over $17 billion in these communities. I’ll tell you more about our offices. We have offices, about 31 offices or so, all across the country in urban areas. And then we work with another 80 or so partners in rural areas. So we serve the rural areas in 44 states, 2,000 counties. We’ve invested 17.5 billion. We have aggregated or leveraged with that 17.5 billion, $52 billion of investments in these communities, 366,000 units of affordable housing, and millions of square feet of facility space. When I talk about facility space, I mean child care centers, schools, fields for kids and adults to recreate on, theaters, all the kinds of infrastructure that a community needs to be a true community of opportunity. We’ve facilitated or done all of that in that almost 40 years.

Denver: A very nice track record indeed. I sometimes think that people have come to the conclusion that when it comes to addressing poverty, nothing really works– and that may be just as a result of this steady diet of bad news that we’re getting fed all the time. But you say that is essentially wrong. What is working and working well in tackling poverty?

Maurice: There are so many things that are working and working well. So I’ll give you an example. We have these enterprises around the country now called financial opportunity centers. The goal of a financial opportunity center is to basically help an individual in one of these underserved areas get onto a pathway of a career making a livable wage job. You come into these centers, and they’re based in the communities where people live. You get three kinds of services. You get one-on-one coaching on the financial side. The goal there is: get your credit score or increase your credit score, and get you to a point where you’re making a budget so that you know what it takes for you to be cash positive. That’s number one.

The second goal is: get you prepared for a job. Career readiness. Now, what that often means, 70% of the residents that come through, they may actually have a high school certification or diploma or a GED, but their reading and their numeracy skill sets are 6th to 8th grade. We’ve got to help them get to 10th grade levels or get into a training program to get the right credential for a job.

Denver: And also probably help them with the soft skills too. So when they are in an interview, they would know how to handle them. We’re never taught that in school.

Maurice: No question. It is really important. The third area that they receive help in is: we connect them with the kinds of assistance or investments that they need while they’re trying to increase their wages. Help with childcare, help with housing and food. That bundled group of services has helped thousands of individuals improve their net worth, improve their credit scores, get jobs, stay on jobs long enough where you are earning a livable wage. Job tenure is a big piece of it. It has helped transform people’s lives.

I talked to one individual who had been incarcerated for seven years. He had a drug offense. He was in his 20s. He went through one of these financial opportunity centers; he came out of it in 24 months, and this guy was in a job where he was making $42,000 a year. That in and of itself was impressive, but what was most impressive is when you talked to him and you heard him say, “I got something to lose now. I got a daughter and I can help my daughter achieve…” It transformed his life. It wasn’t just about the job. It was about this guy becoming a new being. That works, right? What our country has to do is invest more in that, and they also have to stick with it. The one thing I will say about this work is it’s patient work.

Denver: This is not a quick fix.

Maurice: This is not a quick fix. These are not quick fix challenges that we have. But boy, there are things like that working all over the place. Affordable housing, same sort of thing. So, yes, there are solutions out there, and we see them, and we’re a part of them. We’re trying to make sure that we can scale them across more communities.

Our belief is that the most important assets for opportunity are at the local level where people live. So we first and foremost try to find local partners. It includes both nonprofit and for-profit. It also includes non-government and government. We got to have all of them at the table.

Denver: Give us an example of one. As you said you’re in 31 urban centers around the country, not to mention the rural ones. But you’re in Buffalo and Flint, Duluth, and Chicago and Boston and Houston and Jacksonville and Indianapolis, and so on. Tell us how you go about this work as you’re entering into one of these communities… and where you invest… and the impact that you’ve been able to have.

Maurice: In general, the keys for us are fine, good, local partners. What I mean by local partners are developers who are interested in developing affordable housing in a community or workforce trainers who are interested in developing equipped talent in that particular community. So the first key is: you’ve got to build on the local assets, right? Our belief is that the most important assets for opportunity are at the local level where people live. So we first and foremost try to find local partners. It includes both nonprofit and for-profit. It also includes non-government and government. We’ve got to have all of them at the table. So that’s the first thing.

The second thing we do is we invest money and blood, sweat, tears, and time in building the capacity of those local partners. I mentioned those financial opportunity centers. What we do is find a local enterprise that’s already doing some elements of this and invest in their transforming into becoming a full-fledged financial opportunity center.

Denver: You do not recreate the wheel. You make the wheel better.

Maurice: We do not recreate. We make new stuff. We actually go in and help the assets that are there transform into becoming more effective, more impactful.

Denver: A very smart approach.

Maurice: The third thing we do is: we have to invest money. We are investing grants. We are investing loans. We are investing technical assistance. And we’re investing them in enterprises themselves, be it developers or businesses. We’re also investing in infrastructure. By infrastructure, I mean, it could be, if you’re talking about a commercial facility, building, helping people take buildings that have been offline, or dilapidated, and basically bringing them back to life, putting them back on the market, helping people restore streets. Rehabbing homes. So the infrastructure that you need.

In addition to that, what we end up doing is making sure we’re working to bring together on a high-functioning team.. all these players to get projects done. We are often herding cats, but it works. That sort of combination of investing, aggregating resources, being a backbone to help implement, investing in local capacity, it works. It’s a formula that works in urban areas, it’s a formula that works in rural areas.

You have to become a part of the place that you’re trying to be helpful to. You have to build relationships; you have to know the capacity; you have to know the weaknesses and the strengths; you have to own it. You have a stake in it.

Denver: The missing piece so often is that backbone function. Everybody wants to fund the program but nobody wants to fund the backbone, but the backbone’s what makes things work.


The Business of Giving Visits the Offices of ANDE

We have found a new home! Kindly visit this link in our new website here:

Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving examining the best places to work among social good businesses and nonprofit organizations. 

Denver: Tonight we’re going to go down to One DuPont Circle in Washington DC to the offices of the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs. Their global membership network of organizations that propel entrepreneurship in emerging markets. We’ll start with their Executive Director, Randall Kempner, and then hear from some other members of the team.


Susannah: I think that one of the ways that we build culture here is a little unusual. We have a Whatsapp group — where it’s a kind of an international texting app — where all the staff were on it all around the world. And because we do have staff in seven different countries around the world, sometimes timezones and things we’re working on can mean we’re not always talking to each other everyday. And so, by using this Whatsapp group, we’re kind of in constant communication.

Stephanie: I think the fact that we send professional shout-outs as well as share photos from vacations shows that we genuinely like each other and care about each other as well. I think that that represents our value; one of our values of working hard and having fun. We worked with a consultant to define some of our values and not just the ones that go on the website. What does the staff think of? What matters to us working here? And so that was actually one that came up sort of across the board because of the idea of working hard but having fun and also valuing diverse opinions.

IMG_2571Stephanie: I think that in terms of what our meetings say about us, I think we try to be really conscious of other people’s time. We’re really good about not having meetings just to have a meeting. It’s fine. It’s a kind of if someone sends you a meeting request to just feel like: Hey, is this something that maybe we can do quickly over email? Just not forcing to be there who don’t necessarily needs to be there. So I think that always an open discussion and dialogue and I appreciate that.

Brianna: What I would say is really the wow factor about ANDE is how much we do with so little. The organization isn’t even ten years old; it was founded in 2009. And it’s just been amazing to me to see the network that they’ve been able to build. The sort of tools that they’ve been able to put in place for members. It’s funny because we do have this goal of elevating countries out of poverty. It’s not just something we write. It’s something you can feel in the organization. There’s really a sense of urgency about it, but we don’t necessarily take ourselves very seriously. We have a lot of fun while we’re doing it. We take the work that we’re doing very seriously and you can really feel that. I think that’s one of the things that initially really surprised me coming on board, but it’s just how much we get done in so little time with so few resources. That’s something that continues to impress me that I’m really proud to be a part of.

IMG_2570Susanna: Speaking of silos, our physical office is moving and we are one of over 40 different programs at the Aspen Institute. It is kind of an umbrella organization but we’re a part of that culture in a sense that the Aspen Institute has many programs have different issue areas that they’re working on. But ultimately, often the goal is around bringing people together who should be talking to each other but aren’t and kind of providing these forums where people can have these non-partisan discussions where there is an equal playing field for everyone. ANDE does that in the context of small and growing businesses in developing countries. So our offices themselves are moving and in that move, we had the opportunity to kind of create a new space. And so, they engage everyone within the organization within the Aspen Institute to understand: Where are the silos? How can we help break them down? How a space plays a part in that? How does technology play a part in that?

IMG_2566Brianna: We also have weekly check-ins in which it’s basically like: Here’s what I’m working on. Here’s how it’s going. Here’s where I could use your feedback. I found this to be extremely helpful. But one thing that I love about Genevieve, my supervisor, is that she’s able to be very honest and say, “How was your workload?” And I feel like I can very honestly be like, “It’s not good right now” or “I’m actually feeling okay” That’s been one of my favorite thing — to feel that not only management cares about my work-life balance but be able to honestly talk about it. I think we are all very ambitious and try and do a lot with a little but not being burned out is in everyone’s best interest and I loved that. ANDE really tries to recognize that.

Randall: One is our sort of external focus, and that is very much of a kind of a customer service mentality. And the kinds of people that thrive in ANDE are people that recognize that we are in a member service organization and you got to like to ask the question: What can I do for you? People who like to ask that question and get a thrill out of actually accomplishing that are going to be a good fit here.

People make a company. People make an organization. And what makes people tick and creates an environment in which people can thrive or not is the culture in which they’re working.

IMG_2562Randall: Here’s a term which I like, which may be different. It didn’t make it to our official list of values, but it was close, and it’s “celebrate irreverence.” That is very much my perspective. I would like people to not necessarily take the status quo. I want people to challenge. But irreverence kind of in a soft way, right? It’s not disrespectful. It’s saying, “Well, you know what, we’re going to do things in a different way. Like we’re going to be informal, we’re going to try it. We’re not going to do it. We’re not going to wear tie because people have to wear tie.” I really want that to be the vibe. Again, it’s not about whatever every other NGO is doing. It’s not about the traditions of Washington DC and the formalities supposed to exist. It’s about being creative and celebrating that and not having to agree all the time.

Randall: The second thing I would say is that we have become a place where we recognize that if you want to treat people the same, then you treat them differently. What I mean by that is that the way I want to treat someone the same is to recognize that every individual is different and is going to have a different need. If we can let the person that wants to work from home more, work from home more, great. The person that wants to work in the morning instead of the night, great. The person that wants to have their vacation as three consecutive weeks versus a bunch of different weekends, great. The person that they want to move and work in a different community. We want to try to find those things that reflect the particular needs of people so that everyone feels like they’re getting a special deal, and the special deal becomes the quality across the numbers, or across the staff. We’re not perfect. The way I want to treat someone the same is to recognize that every individual is different and is going to have a different need.


Denver: I would like to thank those who participated: Randall Kempner, Stephanie Buck, Brianna Losoya-Evora and Susannah Eastham. You can listen to this again, read the transcript and see pictures of the participants and the offices of the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs just by going to

The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @bizofgive on Twitter, @bizofgive on Instagram and at

The Business of Giving Visits the Offices of HarvestPlus

We have found a new home! Kindly visit this link in our new website here:

Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving examining the best places to work among social good businesses and nonprofit organizations. 

Denver: One of the 8 semi-finalists in the MacArthur Foundation’s 100&Change competition is HarvestPlus and as you might suspect an exceptional organization like HarvestPlus also has an exceptional corporate culture. So I made my way down to Washington DC to check it out. We’ll start the segment with their CEO, Bev Postma, and then hear from some of the other members of the team. 


Beverley: Well, first of all, people have a work ethic off the scale. My challenge is telling people to go home in the evening because they’re so passionate about what they do. But we have a very good work-life balance. We celebrate—just yesterday, we had our regular “Celebrate the new babies day.” We’ve got five new arrivals in the last few months. What we do is we celebrate family. We celebrate our extended families. We know that our families are our support system in HarvestPlus, so we make sure that they’re welcomed into the organization. Whenever we have events, we invite extended members of our staffs’ families and we consider ourselves all really working towards the same goals.

Adewale: At HarvestPlus, as you can see, diversity is its key strength of HarvestPlus and biofortification is our language. Biofortification itself is diversity. [Begin] different crops to work together, to bring more nutrient and a diverse of nutrient, and that what’s you can see in the strength of talent at HarvestPlus as well. And I can remember the first time I was interviewed for this job. What I like the most is that everybody was involved in my interviewing process, so people ask me different questions. Everybody raised their concerns and I was able to openly address them. I could see that I am coming into a family and that’s what you can see at HarvestPlus. We have a lot of groups of small teams, so you can feel like you belong to a family or a group of friends. And that’s exactly how we work at HarvestPlus.

Jose: What I love in HarvestPlus is the fact that they provide you all the resources to tackle the specific problem. And you connect with your staff based in Colombia, based in Uganda through Whatsapp. We have Whatsapp groups. We post questions and people are over-passionate about the questions we pass. I feel like I have so many degrees of freedom when I come everyday to HarvestPlus to answer these specific questions.

Peg: Said to me that our founder and at the time CEO, she had never in her six years at HarvestPlus once heard him raise his voice. And I thought that that can’t be true; that’s superhuman. But it was true. His personality has really permeated our culture. He was someone who had an idea that people said was too good to be true and would never work. They said it wouldn’t be possible to include extra vitamins on plants. They said, “Even if you can do that, no farmer will grow them. Even if that happens, nobody will eat them because Vitamin A can turn the crops orange. Who’s going to eat orange food? Well yes, you can do that, but it won’t be cost effective.” It turns out, it is. He spent years and years just persisting in his humble way and now 26 million people are growing and eating the stuff. And last year, he won something called “The World Food Prize”. He inspired us. He talked about how it was we who had done it not him. His first reaction when he won was to say, “Oh gosh, they really should have also given it to the person who’s the head of our crop reading.” That was his first reaction. So that was something that is really unusual and has truly affected our corporate culture.


Brittany: Nearly every single one ask me: What are my opportunities for growth here? It’s generally for administration job, so people want their foot in the door at an organization that’s doing international development. I love when I get that question because I love being able to answer it by telling them that the great thing about HarvestPlus is how accessible everyone is and how multi-disciplinary we are. If you want to know more about agricultural economics, if you want to know more about advocacy, if you want to learn more about the gender work that we do, there’s opportunity to engage with and speak conversationally with someone about that.

Jamie: To speak a little bit about the hiring process, I initially thought: Wow, this is kind of intense! I went through several rounds of interviews with the team and with HR and various people I would be working with. But I think it actually really speaks to the level of dedication that the organization has for– a fit not just technically but also culturally, also personality wise. I see a lot of dedication to building that kind of family environment. Because we’re such a culturally and professionally diverse organization, there is the potential for that to be a great asset, but also an insurmountable hurdle. I think the hiring process and that level of dedication given to making sure the fit is there is really important to building that bridge and steering the diversity that we have in the right direction.

Benjamin: And one thing that has helped me track my progress and development as an employee throughout that process has been the review and feedback mechanisms that we have within this organization. There are standard protocols and processes for evaluations of employee work, setting of goals, and also staff development is a part of your annual work plan. Also in addition to these more standardized feedback mechanisms, I have found a lot of value in the fact that managers from all the way in the top of organization across a number of different countries and all the way to even our consultants who assists us on things we don’t know are always willing to provide candid honest feedback on an ad-hoc basis or in the moment. I found great value in people’s willingness to help me to grow as an employee as I have transitioned from an entry level employee throughout my career with this organization. It has really helped me both learned and also set a trajectory for my future in terms of how I envisioned myself developing with this organization in the future.

Adewale: Outside HarvestPlus, people think HarvestPlus is an organization with like 1000 employees. We do so much but we are very few. But one thing that is so unique about HarvestPlus in terms of our culture, is the fact that when there’s a task on the table, everybody come and put the hand on the deck and the job gets done. And that’s exactly what’s going on now with some of the high-priority level task that are ongoing on the organization. Everybody’s hands are on the deck right from those in the field and to those on the headquarters. And this is what you see in a confident leadership.


Denver: I want to thank all those who participated in this piece: Peg Willingham, Brittany Leoboldt, Benjamin Uchitelle-Pierce, Adewale Oparinde, Jose Funes and Jamie Leidelmeyer. If you want to hear this again, read the transcript or see pictures of the participants in the HarvestPlus offices, you can find them all at and while you’re there, check my full interview with Bev Postma, the CEO of HarvestPlus.  

The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @bizofgive on Twitter, @bizofgive on Instagram and at

Glenn E. Martin, the Founder and President of JustLeadership USA Joins Denver Frederick

We have found a new home! Kindly visit this link in our new website here:

The following is a conversation between Glenn E. Martin, the Founder and President of JustLeadership USA, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.



Glenn E. Martin © JustLeadership USA

Denver: My next guest identifies himself as a formerly incarcerated criminal justice reform advocate. He believes that those who are closest to the problem are also closest to the solution, which is why he helps develop the leadership skills of the formerly incarcerated to reform a criminal justice system that he says is failing in just about every conceivable way. He is Glenn E. Martin, the Founder and President of JustLeadership USA. Good evening, Glenn, and welcome to The Business of Giving.


Glenn E. Martin: I’m glad to be on the show. Thank you.

Denver: Give us a quick snapshot of JustLeadership USA and the mission of the organization.

Glenn: Sure. We have the goal of cutting the number of people on the correctional supervision in this country in half by 2030, and we do that by investing in the leadership of formerly incarcerated people all across America as part of the solution to mass incarceration.

Denver: Back in, let’s say, 1980, the prison population was about 500,000 people or so. Today, it’s 2.3 million, and there are millions more under correctional supervision of one kind or another. Flesh out that picture a little bit for our listeners, and tell us: What in the world happened?

Glenn: I’m glad you started with 1980 because a lot of people don’t realize that mass incarceration is a relatively recent phenomenon, although one might argue that this is a new iteration of some previous system of oppression in this country. But the fact that it’s so young means that we can actually put our finger pretty concretely on the policy levers that we used to get here – mandatory minimums, truth and sentencing, three-strikes laws, prison privatization, and a number of others – which gives me hope that we can find ways to roll back our decision to criminalize things like homelessness and poverty and addiction and mental health and so on.

If you take a look at where we’ve ended up… not just in the number of people that are in prison or jail on any given day, but with the fact that 100 million Americans now have a criminal record on file, you have to ask yourself:  How did we get here? and I would argue luckily, it’s such a recent phenomenon — as devastating as it has become– that the research it takes to figure out how we got here and how we get out is really at our fingertips.

Denver: Now there are 2.3 million in jail currently. How many are also under probation or control?

Glenn: An additional 5.6 million are under some other form of criminal justice supervision.

Denver: What does this cost us as a country?

Glenn: $80 billion dollars a year. That’s just the cost of prisons. That’s not even including the cost of police departments and courts and all the other ancillary parts of the criminal justice system.

Denver: Not to mention the opportunity cost of the people who are in prison and what that is costing society.

Glenn: Absolutely, yes. If you care about human capital, there’s a lot of it wasting away in prison. I’d love to tell a story, if we have the time, about someone I met in prison and what it means to have a person like that locked up, based on the sort of human capital he brings to the table.

Denver: Tell us now.

Glenn: I was in New York State. When you move from one prison to the other, sometimes it can take three days to move a person on a trip that might take 10 hours for someone who’s driving Upstate New York, and you stop off in different prisons, and I was held at Auburn Correctional Facility which is: I want the viewers to think of the most antiquated version of a prison they might be able to imagine, with dark walls and tall guard towers, and so on. I get into a cell, and we know we’re there for three days because I got there on a Friday, and the correction officers opened up the windows so that it would become really cold in the cells.  And it was the middle of winter in New York, so it ended up being about 45 degrees in that cell.

By the second day, I began to catch a cold, and he said to me, “Would you like me to make you a cup of tea?” Here we are trapped in this cell together, and I just sort of laughed. I said, “How? Sure. Go ahead, make me a cup of tea.” He grabs a plastic bottle and fills it with water and uses a string to tie the bottle to the light fixture in the cell… and then lights a small flame using the toilet tissue and a lead pencil in that cell, and the bottle began to spin and the water began to boil, and he ripped open the collar of his prison outfit and grabbed the tea bag and put it in that bottle and made me a cup of tea.

I hold on to that story because I think you don’t get to the point where you criminalize 100 million people until you’ve dehumanized them first. I think we forget because of the labels we use to refer to people in prison – convict, inmate, prisoner, and so on – that they are also fathers and mothers and uncles and sisters and brothers.

So when I think about trying to get to a tipping point on this issue, I think part of it is the policy which I just mentioned.  But another big part of it is Americans getting to the point where they say, “This is not how we treat other human beings.”

Denver: Yes. An incredibly resourceful guy, no question about that. You think what he could be doing on the outside. Well, picking up on that a little bit, you said that if we don’t get to the issues that undergird this criminal justice system, we’re never going to get to the bottom of this and create meaningful reform. We’ll be tinkering around the edges forever. What are those issues?  And do you think we’re getting to them?


Shamina Singh, President of the MasterCard Center for Inclusive Growth Join Denver Frederick

We have found a new home! Kindly visit this link in our new website here:

The following is a conversation between Shamina Singh, President of the MasterCard Center for Inclusive Growth, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.



Shamina Singh ©

Denver: Try to imagine your life if you are completely locked out of the financial system. No banking or checking account, no credit or debit card, no record of transactions or credit score, no access to loans or other financial instruments. And many of the records that help prove that you… are you…well, they would have never existed. There are 2 billion such people in that very predicament around the world. The MasterCard Center for Inclusive Growth didn’t think that was right, while also seeing them as potential customers. They decided to do something about it. And here to tell us what that was and is, is their President, Shamina Singh. Good evening, Shamina, and welcome to The Business of Giving.


Shamina Singh: Thank you. I’m so glad to be here.

Denver: What is the MasterCard Center for Inclusive Growth?  And what’s your main focus?

Shamina: The MasterCard Center for Inclusive Growth is a relatively new organization that was built to use the assets of MasterCard – technology, money, people, network, expertise – to really look at a very important problem of our time– and that’s income inequality– through the lens of financial inclusion.

Denver: What you’re doing here really plays into your theory of change, which is connecting people to networks. Explain that to us.

Shamina: It’s really interesting. It’s very simple if you start to think about it, but it’s not something I thought about every day. But the truth is that there are these informal and formal networks that drive the modern economy. They’re either social networks like Facebook, like SnapChat, things like that. There are physical networks like water, electricity, Internet.  And then there are these virtual networks like your banking account if you’re transacting online. You’re buying and selling online – commerce. Letters of recommendation and referral. These things that connect you up into possibility, and to what we call productivity, that allow you to maximize your own talents and resources. So if you think about these networks, there are a lot of barriers to these networks. There are a lot of enablers to these networks, and there are a lot of barriers.

So, what the Center is really trying to do is look at these networks in a very scientific way, but also a very real, methodical way to say, “How do we figure out how to break down the barriers to the various networks that stop people from reaching their economic potential?” Or more focused, “How do we help business and entrepreneurs, in particular, reach their full potential as business owners?”

Denver: Interesting. Before we get too deep into the work of the Center, MasterCard is a bit of an enigma to many people. Some people think it’s a credit card company; other people think it’s a bank. Perhaps it’s neither. What is MasterCard?

Shamina: I think it’s a great question to level set for everybody. It’s interesting because I’m somebody who comes out of the public sector. So I spent my whole life working for labor unions, for grassroots activist organizations, for the government. So if you would have told me…I don’t even know 10 or 15 years ago… that I’d be working for a company that basically connects buyers and sellers through technology. I wouldn’t have predicted it in a hundred years.

But again, if you think about the power of that technology, and that’s really what MasterCard is. It’s the rails that connect buyers and sellers who can’t see each other. So for example, if you shop online at any platform company… or Etsy… or whatever, and you swipe that card or you tap that phone or whatever, that information, usually, if you’re using a MasterCard, goes on that network, and they will transfer the information that says, “You’re Denver, I’m Shamina, you have money in your account, you want to get money from his account to purchase a product, let’s go ahead, make this transaction happen.” And it happens in less than a blink of an eye. So, that’s some serious technology, and it’s in 212 places around the world, connecting billions of people with millions of banks and opportunities to buy and sell.

Denver: Speaking of billions of people, as we said, there are 2 billion people who are currently locked out of any form of financial system. What are some of the barriers they face that prevent them from being included?

Shamina: I’ll give you a really personal example. And just to put perspective on 2 billion, by the way, so think about 7 billion people in the world, 2 billion completely cut off, but probably 4 billion who are off and on, inside the formal and the informal economy. That’s important because for me personally, I’m a first generation – my parents are from India.  And when my mother was born, she was born without formal identification. So it’s a little known fact that not every country in the world provides a piece of paper that says, “I’m Shamina Singh, this is where I’m born, this is who I say I am.”

When you don’t have that recognition from a government or from some sort of third party entity, it’s really hard to do things like go to college, go to school, get a bank account, get connected up into a network that gives you access beyond your own geographical space. So that’s what financial exclusion is really about. It’s about the inability and the problems that come when you’re confined geographically to where you live, and you can’t really transact beyond yourself or beyond the person next to you because all you have is a currency – a piece of paper, cash, whatever. So if you’re not included in a financial economy, you’re really living in a world that is very confined.

So that’s what financial exclusion is really about. It’s about the inability and the problems that come when you’re confined geographically to where you live, and you can’t really transact beyond yourself or beyond the person next to you because all you have is a currency – a piece of paper, cash, whatever. So if you’re not included in a financial economy, you’re really living in a world that is very confined.

Denver: Yes. I think in the case of your mom, they use a rope to keep track of her age.

Shamina: Yes. You’ve done your research. Oh, my gosh. Yes. So at that time, for girls in the village, they would tie a knot …around the time you’re born and every year… to try to keep track. But if you think about it– Think about my mother. Just staying with that example for a second.. and this idea for networks.

She was born in a village in India. Didn’t have a birth certificate. Grew up in the village and grew up in Delhi. Married my father. They had an arranged marriage… and which was also very productive because I have four sisters, so that was a good thing. But moving from the village to the city, moving from the city, my father moved to the United States to complete his education.  He moved from an area of, at the time, lower productivity, to an area of higher productivity to reach more maximum levels. He brought my mother over with the children and brought us to a place that allowed us to reach even more of our potential.

So it’s really a human example of how networks drive the modern economy. And the closer you are to networks that allow you to achieve your potential or your gifts or your talents, the more successful you’ll be.

The closer you are to networks that allow you to achieve your potential or your gifts or your talents, the more successful you’ll be.

Denver: Well, a good example of that. Does technology play a role in financial inclusion… getting more people included?  And if so, how?

Shamina: Technology is a massive enabler of financial inclusion. I mean, I’ll tell you, and you know this probably from all of your shows and everything you do that this is an enormous time of change. But it’s an enormous time for opportunity. So there is this enormous convergence of technology with things like data, with things like artificial intelligence, but also this enormous need, this enormous amount of human suffering that’s still happening around the world. We have all the tools at our disposal to solve these problems, or at least address the challenges. So what makes me very interested in this work, and to get back to your question about technology, is that we have an enormous enabler of human potential called technology that exists today, that’s constantly changing.

Technology is a massive enabler of financial inclusion…We have an enormous enabler of human potential called technology that exists today, that’s constantly changing.

Denver: Let’s say I’m illiterate. How can technology help me become part of the financial system?

Shamina: If you can’t read, and frankly, this is something we’ve come across in a lot of our work, you have voice recognition sometimes. In some of our projects, especially with government social subsidy programs, a lot of times, we will allow the registration for the program to include a voice recognition… so that if you want to draw down your benefit, or if you want to make a banking transaction, you can simply dial the number on your phone and say, “Hi, I’m Shamina Singh,” voice ID, and then the money comes straight into your account, and then you can start to transact using either your phone or a card or whatever it is that’s easy for you.

Denver: Very cool. A topic that I know interests you deeply is the cost of cash, which is a bit of an oxymoron. Took me awhile to get my arms around that. What is the cost of cash?

Shamina: I know. Did you ever think that there are costs to cash? Here’s what’s interesting about cash. Cash has no friends. Unless there’s some reason why you want to transact in a way that is without identification or without trace. So in that community, cash has a lot of friends.

Denver: In the sketchy community.

Shamina: Well, potentially. The cost of cash, if you think about it—And we’ve actually done studies to show that from a country perspective, it can cost a country anywhere from 0.05% of their GDP all the way to 2% of GDP, depending on how much time, energy, effort, is spent driving cash somewhere, having people guard the cash, transacting in cash in a way that means, depending on where you are, you have to have an enormous amount of security around that cash. Then you have to bundle up the cash at the end of the day, put it in a bag, or do whatever you’re going to do, and then hope that nobody sees you going to your bank to make that late-night deposit into the late-night deposit box. That’s just one example.

…we wanted to really focus on financial inclusion because at the end of the day, not only do we want to make sure people are connected up into the formal economy, but we want to make sure that MasterCard as a business entity isn’t so focused on the top 1% of the world and then they leave everybody else behind.

Denver: Sure. Standing online. All those things. A lot of time involved.

Shamina: A lot of time involved. If you think about maybe for countries who may get their benefits or may get their paychecks and things like that in more physical form, people spend days waiting in line to get their check or their voucher.  And especially with this refugee crisis, you can only imagine how much time people are spending… and how dangerous it is to get your refugee aid or your humanitarian aid in the form of money. Maybe you’re living in a camp and so you’re surrounded by people who are in a very tough predicament. So there are enormous physical costs to cash and economic costs of cash, and what we found is that 85% of transactions in the world today are still done in cash. Only 15% are actually digital. So if you think of a company like MasterCard, that’s an enormous amount of actual running room in terms of the business proposition, which is also the other reason why we wanted to really focus on financial inclusion because at the end of the day, not only do we want to make sure people are connected up into the formal economy, but we want to make sure that MasterCard as a business entity isn’t so focused on the top 1% of the world and then they leave everybody else behind.

Denver: So your competition really is not Visa, it’s cash.

Shamina: Well, I don’t know about that. But if you think about the enormous business opportunity, it’s a world where you really want people to go digital.

Denver: Well, at MasterCard Center, you set a goal to get 500 million more people included in the financial system by 2020. That is one ambitious goal. What exactly will you do to see that will happen?


Eric Kessler, the Founder and Senior Managing Director of Arabella Advisors Joins Denver Frederick

We have found a new home! Kindly visit this link in our new website here:


The following is a conversation between Eric Kessler, the Founder and Senior Managing Director of Arabella Advisors, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.


Eric Kesslet

Eric Kessler

Denver: There are not many harder decisions than to start an organization, see it grow and prosper, and then, while still remaining involved with it, decide to hire a CEO to run it so you can pursue something else that has captivated you. But that is more or less the story of my next guest. He is Eric Kessler, the Founder, and now Senior Managing Director of the Good Food Practice at Arabella Advisors. Good evening, Eric, and welcome to The Business of Giving!


Eric Kessler: Thank you so much.

Denver: Tell us about Arabella Advisors, how you got it started, and the mission and work of the organization.

Eric: I started Arabella Advisors out of a personal experience with philanthropy. I came from a very philanthropic family and recognized early on how hard it is to be good at giving money away. Through the frustrations that I faced as a young philanthropist, I decided to build a firm that provided a set of support services to some of the nation’s most significant philanthropists – families, individuals, big corporate foundations, and large institutional foundations. And we as a firm wake up every day to help philanthropists have the greatest impact possible with our resources.

I think that the next decade of philanthropy is going to be all about partnerships between donors.  It’s going to be about different vehicles for getting things done; it’s going to be about market-based solutions.  And thankfully, it’s going to be about a massive influx of resources into the social sector.

Denver: Looking at the future of philanthropy for a moment, are you observing anything now that might provide a window on where philanthropy is headed over the next 5 to 10 years?

Eric: Well, if we look at where it’s been, it’s pretty remarkable the transition that we’ve already made in the last 10 years. When I started Arabella 12 years ago, the words ‘impact investing’ didn’t exist. The Gates Foundation was a small family foundation. Warren Buffett hadn’t really entered the scene as a philanthropist. And the last decade has really seen a huge transformation in philanthropy.

Now what we’re seeing is younger generations getting involved, the blurring of the lines between for-profit and nonprofit, donors thinking about new and creative structures for their philanthropy. It’s not all about setting up a foundation. There are different finance vehicles and different ways to have impact. And so, I think that the next decade of philanthropy is going to be all about partnerships between donors. It’s going to be about different vehicles for getting things done; it’s going to be about market-based solutions. And thankfully, it’s going to be about a massive influx of resources into the social sector.

Denver: Sounds exciting. So as I mentioned, you stepped away from leading the organization and decided to look at Good Food. What inspired you to get involved in food and agriculture?

Eric: Well, I stepped away as part of the original plan with the firm, which was, I knew that after 10 years, having no prior experience as a consultant or running a business for that matter, I would have gotten it as far as I could. So I decided early on that at the 10-year mark, my partner and I should really relinquish day-to-day management to somebody who had a different skill set and different perspective and fresh ideas.

That coincided with my growing interest in the food sector, so I had the opportunity to move out of that chair and into a new one that I created, allowing me to work with our clients that care most about our food system. That, for me, came from several years of work with some of the biggest foundations focused in that area, and a real fascination with the notion that our food system is really at the root of so many problems in our society – from immigration issues to human rights issues, to economic development and jobs, to women’s health, to community development and economic development. So, yes, I care about food, but I also care about the impact that our food system has on all of these other deep-rooted challenges in our society.

I had the opportunity to work with a number of clients over the years. It came time for this transition, and I had asked myself:  Am I going to go sailing?  Or am I going to dive into food full time? and I—

Denver: Decided to do both.

Eric: I’m doing both as it turns out. But principally food.

Our food system is deeply broken in many ways. If you look at the entire good food supply chain, from how food is grown and produced, to how it’s picked and delivered and  purchased and consumed, there are serious issues at every step of the way.

Denver: Right. Well, there’s increasingly more and more talk, Eric, about systems change. How you can no longer optimize one part and then optimize another. You first must understand how they relate to one another and how the system works before you can make effective change. So let me ask you: Is our food system broken, and if so, how is it broken?


The Business of Giving Visits the Offices of Mental Health America

We have found a new home! Kindly visit this link in our new website here:

Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving examining the best places to work among social good businesses and nonprofit organizations. 

Denver: This evening, we’re going to take a trip down to 500 Montgomery Street in Alexandria, Virginia, and to the headquarters of Mental Health America. We’ll begin with their President and CEO, Paul Gionfriddo, followed by some of the members of the MHA staff.


Paul: Mental Health America’s more than 100 years old but we’ve been functioning for the last several years like a start-up. We value highly our employees. I believe that some of the most creative enterprise, they can emerge from nonprofit, emerge from the brains of young and interested individuals who are working toward the betterment of society. For us, that’s people with mental health concerns and as a result to the work we’re doing, we think we’ve changed the way people think about mental health. From a public safety issue to a public health issue where we need to engage not at times of crisis but far before stage 4 to promote prevention, early identification and intervention, integrated health behavioral help and other services with recovery as the goal.

Valerie Sterns: What is the “wow” at MHA for me is flexibility: work-life balance. MHA affords you growth opportunities, support, even support when the outcome is not the desired outcome. MHA cares about not only my talent, but me as a whole person. We have a flexible work schedule. We can work two days from home. And that was incentive for me because I have a husband and two sons and it’s really hard for me to get time for myself. Across from the office is a wellness room, so if I need to take a nap and relax, take some time out for myself, I am afforded that opportunity. So certainly flexibility is certainly a great incentive to work at MHA.

B94DE93F-8C8F-45CD-9670-88771094EECCKelly Davis: One of my favorite parts about working at MHA is really the open style of communication and lack of really enforced kind of power roles that exist. I think especially, traditionally in the nonprofit sector and in kind of government work. Because here, we are always making jokes with each other. We share a lot of memes online. We have a lot of inside jokes. Our CEO made his own meme. And we can shoot jokes back and forth. I mean when you work in nonprofit especially, a lot of the problems you’re working on are really serious and it can be hard to keep up with that stamina of working in such intense work. But when you have an environment that’s so open and can keep the playfulness, it’s easier for passion to stay alive. I would also say that the openness and the lack of intense structure mean that everybody’s ideas are important. So I’ve been here for two years and I can just walk into our CEO’s office and say, “Hey, this is a thing I think it’s important. And this is why I think it’s important. Can I do something like this?” And he gives me feedback. I’m 24 and when I talk to other people my age, that’s really, really rare. So I love MHA.

Siobhan Carpenter: I went in there the week before the conference and said, “You know, Paul, I think my service dog could use some extra trainings and things I’d like to work on with him to help him support me better. Can I use my personal development budget for that?” He said, “Make sense to me.” And we started training so we are now in our fourth week and he’s being promoted to level 2 this week. So just really, really great things that I’m really, really grateful for.

B4133A33-18BB-495D-A540-4AAE57233378Michael: Everyone that comes to our office is always wowed to its appearance and its openness. We have windows. We’re on the 8th floor and we can even see the Washington Monument and the dome on the Jackson Memorial. We see the airplanes flying in over the Potomac River. On the other side, we can look over one of our four balconies that are wi-fi capable and fully-furnished. We can look over and see United Way building and the MGM Casino and Hotel. It’s just a fabulous place. I think Sacha mentioned that it’s like being at home. And when we moved in, a lot of staff took the liberty to stay after hours and enjoy the snacks that we provide. It is always well-stocked. One of my responsibilities is to make sure that all staff had everything that they need to do their job effectively and efficiently.

Jennifer: So coming in, I get really wound up and worked up about things that… most of them are out of my control. And I think one of the most important things that a lot of the people who have been here for a while have told me is “It can wait.” That was a huge thing that really changed a lot of the ways that I worked around here.

We have an instant messaging system in the office called Slack, so there’s general threads where the entire staff is in or just individual threads and in the general threads, we also recognize people for the things that they’ve done well. So I think that’s been a really great way to keep people positive because when you’re facing such a colossal issue especially in the nonprofit world, it can get really tiring and very hard really fast. I think it’s called burnout. Well, a lot of people talk about burnout professionally where they just work 60 hours or 80 hours a week and you just get tired, but I think in the nonprofit world a lot of that burnout comes from being frustrated with things that you feel like you can’t fix and things that you care so much about. And that just little positive things bring you back up.


Sachin: One of the things I like about the way that we communicate now is that when we moved over to Slack, we were able to start looking at some of the statistics around how many fewer e-mail we ended up sending between each other and the office. I get a weekly rundown of how much we’re using Slack and it is frankly a little absurd how easy it’s made communication. Between the 24 of us, we send something around 3000 messages over Slack to each other every week. And on the other hand, our inter-office communication over e-mail has gone down by about 40% but what I really like about this is there are things that you just frankly send over a platform like that that you wouldn’t bother sending an email over.

Siobhan: There’s something about the culture of MHA and I’ve had a friend and we were doing lunch and she came by and I said, “Hold on, I need to finish up an email. You can just come walk around the office with me real quick. I’ll give you a quick tour before we go out to lunch.” She just walked around and she just was so amazed at how everything was just neat and organized, but open, inviting and modern. And the bell! She loved the bell — our Mental Health Bell — cast from the shackles of those who were in institutions, in psychiatric facilities years ago. And it just captures the essence I think of MHA and what we’re about. And the liberties that we have here.

Denver: I want to extend my thanks to those who participated in the segment – Valerie Sterns, Kelly Davis, Michael King, Jennifer Cheang, Sachin Doshi, and Siobhan Carpenter. If you want to hear this again, read the transcript, or see pictures of the participants and the offices of Mental Health America, all you need to do is go to


The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @bizofgive on Twitter, @bizofgive on Instagram and at

The Business of Giving Visits the Offices of GiveDirectly

We have found a new home! Kindly visit this link in our new website here:


Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving examining the best places to work among social good businesses and nonprofit organizations. 

Denver: This evening, we’re headed over to Irving Place of Manhattan to visit the New York offices of GiveDirectly. GiveDirectly aims to reshape international giving by sending money directly to people living in extreme poverty. And when Fast Company recently named their 10 most innovative nonprofits, GiveDirectly popped up as number two on that list. So, I thought we would go over there to find out what makes them tick.


Piali: At GiveDirectly, we are pretty ruthlessly focused on the execution and high-quality execution at that, and really creating clear accountability around the metrics that we think are going to shift the needle in terms of the changes that we want to affect in the sector. And so a lot of the times, what that really comes down to is  actual dollars put in the hands of poor households that we’re enrolling in our program and not KPIs that are incidental to that but really that core metric of getting money to very poor people.  We’re looking at ways to embed that more explicitly in terms of how we think about compensation and performance and bonuses for people so that we can really get everybody marching to that tune. I think that’s really a core part of how we think about success and good culture at GiveDirectly.

Max: Like in our world that prioritizes data, we have, for instance, internal dashboards via Segovia and Tableau and other software that basically shows how well we’re doing against various specific metrics and they’re like coded different colors and you can very clearly see how the team is performing against certain metrics. We also have this dashboard in our office, for instance, that shows how many recipients, how much money we’ve raised, what that converts to in terms of how many recipients we’ve served, and so these constant reminders of both performing against metrics and then also using data to determine whether or not we’re succeeding.

Matt: It’s been really interesting for me and my time here at GiveDirectly to employ a different set of values to my work and to think about a hypersensitivity to transparency and to complete respect for our recipients, so that really what I need to do here is just tell it like it is, tell the truth in as direct and simple of a way as possible at all times. There’s no spin, there’s no hyperbole, there’s no exaggeration of how exciting our programs are. We really have a deep cultural value of honesty and transparency and just telling people what the real story on the ground is.


Caroline: Working at GiveDirectly basically over the last nine months have been quite an experience for me. This is something that has been quite uplifting for me because when you come into an organization as a staff, one thing that you look for is not too [keen], but a challenge that is worth your time, something that challenges your brain, something that challenges your career path and pushes you to work harder each day. It is exactly what I’ve got here at GiveDirectly.

Piali: We’ve made it kind of an explicit value and principle to not be the kind of culture that gets bogged down in excessive e-mails and meetings. I think we view those as purely instrumental tools to getting to good decisions and moving things forward. So we’re pretty strict and default to asking the question of “Do we need to gather these five people together or can we throw something in the Google Doc or exchange an email in way that can get through a decision much more quickly?” I think folks that have joined the team from bigger companies or from different environments are often kind of heartened initially to see that because of that, decisions get made quite quickly and I think that’s been critical to our ability to grow fast and iterate on the product in a way that we have.

Matt: For me, the biggest driver of our culture is actually our hiring strategy and it’s something that we spend a lot of time thinking about and iterating on. We have a general policy here to kind of skew more towards people with more of a generalist background, people who are highly intelligent, have proven that they can produce really strong work in a variety of different context throughout their career but don’t necessarily come from the nonprofit sector and don’t necessarily have a 10- or 20- or 30 years of deep domain expertise in the specific functional realm that we’re looking to hire for. We tend to hire people who are a little more generalist, who we then trust that they kind of figure it out.

Joe: It’s a sort of technical, analytical process of taking in all the data we take on recipients and saying “who should we follow up with again to make sure we got it right?” This was a real PowerPoint deck we’ve seen in a call recently and I just started sending it to candidates and saying “I want to talk about this when we have a chance to talk.” We’d go there and I’d of give a little bit of an explanation and we talk through does it make sense, how would you approach this problem, where do you think Well (the person who made the presentation) is making a mistake or not. And I found both of those to give you a good sense of how they approach problems and how they think.

Max: I think the culture is intellectual and casual and very open. In the way that Matt was describing like here are the types of people that generally GiveDirectly hires and that stay at GiveDirectly, that naturally produces this sort of generalist…everyone is interested in what other people are doing in like a probing, sort of curious way. I think that’s really cool. I think it’s very friendly. People are very supportive of other people.

EF9F228C-06DB-4370-80FF-475A5ACF6792 (1)

Joe: The other thing I’d add on culture is there’s a sort of intensity to it. We care a lot about quality in basically every facet of what we’re doing and the bar for a good email to donors or a good interaction with recipients or even a sort of a good decision on just about anything I think is really high that we value a certain level of strong reasoning, a certain level of quality in how we write about GiveDirectly or quality in what our finances look like, and I think that pervades every different part of the organization.

Denver: I want to thank Paul Niehaus, the President of GiveDirectly, for allowing us to visit their offices, and to those who participated – Max Chapnick, Matt Johnson, Caroline Teti, Piali Mukhopadhyay, and Joe Houston. Come to to hear this again, and while you’re there, we’ll have a link to my full interview with the President of GiveDirectly, Paul Niehaus.

The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @bizofgive on Twitter, @bizofgive on Instagram and at

The Business of Giving Visits the Offices of Devex

We have found a new home! Kindly visit this link in our new website here:


Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving examining the best places to work among social businesses and nonprofit organizations. 

Denver: It was only a couple of months ago that Raj Kumar, the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Devex, came to the AM 970 Studios, so I thought I will return the favor and visit the offices of Devex, which I did on my last trip to Washington. We’ll start the segment with Raj telling us about Devex, and then we will hear from some of the members of the staff of what it is like to work there.


Raj: We’re a lot like the Bloomberg of the global development field… meaning we’re this media platform; we’ve got all different ways that journalists and analysts around the world could get information about what’s going on in global development to the people who are actually doing that work. So our audience are people who work at the World Bank or the Gates Foundation or the UN System or lots of NGOs, charities– small and big– all over the world.

devex logo

Carine: The staff is really young in comparison to other development organizations, or other media companies even, and I think this is a place where ideas are really valued both by the staff and also by the senior management. So if you have an idea for something, whether it’s like totally bananas and crazy or actually just something to improve the way that we’re doing things, you can take that idea to anyone in the team and people are willing to help even make that come to life.

Margaret: And so what we did was we implemented this thing called “Small Improvements,” and we do reviews every two months and it makes it a lot easier. And instead of calling them reviews and thinking of them as these big reviews, we talk about it as coaching. And I think that’s really integral to Devex’s culture. It’s this idea that we’re all coaching each other, and the teams are coaching their team leads and the team leads are coaching their teams. Everyone is allowed to give feedback to whomever they want and the teams are specifically guided to give feedback to each other in a coaching way. And I think a really good way to think about our culture and one thing that makes us unique is that we’re a high-performing team.

IMG_1978Colleen: One of the “Wow” moments for me working at Devex–and a lot of us here have come from other companies–is related to these reviews. And even at the time when we were doing them semi-annually, one of the questions that always gets asked is “What do you want to do within your profile that’s outside of what your job description is?” And I think that it’s a unique and special thing to be asked what more do you want to do, maybe not necessarily specifically within your role, but what are you interested in.


Nina: We don’t make a practice of extending office to people we’re not 100% confident in. So in summation, it is definitely at the core of our hiring process to consider if someone is going to add to the Devex culture, especially as we’re growing.

Carine: Every Friday at Devex, you will find “Frine,” which is Friday plus wine put together. We created our own word called Frine. And I think that’s one of the pillars of Devex culture and being able to every Friday afternoon–for some of the different offices, it’s a little bit later–but we take time to  just kind of put our computers away.


Allison: Another way we use Slack is by posting on our new business channel, so anytime someone has a new business win, you can share it with everyone and everyone reacts with emojis and it’s really exciting to sort of get that praise. And it also helps just with other teams so other teams can know what new business is going on across team. So I think that that’s another thing that I find really valuable because I’m a words-of-affirmation person. I need a lot of praise. It’s my love language. And so I think that I absolutely feel supported because I have that from my colleagues and I really value their opinion.


Colleen: Another perk that I think is pretty unique to Devex, and it’s relatively new, but it’s something called the YAY! days. So twice a year–and you’re meant to use them in the first half of the year, and then your second one in the second half–you have a day where it’s not a sick day, it’s not a vacation day, it’s just a day where you take off and you do something really fun, and the only requirement is that you take a picture of yourself doing it and you post to everybody in Slack.

Nina: So that’s a big part of it, the Devexplain. I explain how we operate as a flat organization, what that means, how that will kind of come to bear in their time at Devex and how they can navigate certain situations. A lot of people are coming from organizations that are more bureaucratic, so telling them, “This how it’s different. These are the words we use.” We don’t use the word manager, we use team lead. We sway away from even the word company because we serve a sector that is about social impact, so we like to think of ourselves more of an organization or a social enterprise. So really imparting to them the language that we use, our values, our culture, and really spelling it out so that there’s just no ambiguity. They understand that this is the culture, and we’re really setting them up to succeed here and what that looks like.

IMG_1979Margaret: I will say that all the things that we’ve mentioned are because our leadership across the board thinks that it’s important to be constantly changing and evolving. And while the focus is always helping the people who are doing good work do it even better, we are constantly looking at ourselves and evaluating the data that we’re—we collect data on ourselves, on how people connect to the mission, on how people are feeling. We’re data driven. We really are. And so, when leadership looks at the data, when anyone looks at the data and says, “What about this idea? What if we add wellness walks because people are feeling like they don’t have enough—they’re not pushing themselves to work out? So what if we just all get out of the office?” or “What if we really try to focus on getting diversity in this area?” Anytime that people look at the data and have ideas, they’re taken seriously.

Denver: I want to thank Margaret Richardson for organizing this and to all those who participated: Margaret Richardson, Allison Punch, Colleen Casey, Nina Takahashi, and Carine Umuhumuza. Podcast, transcript, and pictures of the participants and the Devex offices can all be found at


The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @bizofgive on Twitter, @bizofgive on Instagram and at

Dan Cardinali, President and CEO of Independent Sector, Joins Denver Frederick

We have found a new home! Kindly visit this link in our new website here:


The following is a conversation between Dan Cardinali, President and CEO of Independent Sector, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.


Dan Cardinali © Independent Sector

Denver: It is always so interesting to hear from the leaders of nonprofit organizations about the work they do around a particular issue and the lives that are being transformed as a result. But it is also essential to take a step back now and again to understand the dynamics of the sector in which this work is going on and the issues that impact all of these organizations. We cannot find a better person to do that with than my next guest. He is Dan Cardinali, the President and CEO of the Independent Sector. Good evening, Dan, and welcome to The Business of Giving.

Dan Cardinali: Denver, it’s a pleasure to be with you.

Denver: Give our listeners some of the history of the Independent Sector and of the organization’s mission and goals.

Dan: Independent Sector was founded 37 years ago by a social entrepreneur, John Gardner, who was really a public intellectual. He had been in the for-profit, nonprofit, academia, a chronic social entrepreneur who founded many organizations. He realized that there was this very important role for the founding of the Independent Sector to be an organization that brought philanthropy and nonprofits together into a vital meeting ground where it was non-transactional. It was about understanding where the world was and how civil society can come together and solve problems, build culture, preserve the natural environment, and then to translate that activity into good public policy… So the sector could be a real force for good, but partnering with government and with business in transforming the world.

Denver: Most people, I don’t think, fully appreciate the scope and breadth of this sector in the United States. Why don’t you describe it to us?

Dan: Sure. The name goes — you hear social sector, you hear charitable sector, you hear nonprofit, they’re all basically the same. There are about 1.6 million nonprofit and philanthropic organizations in the United States. They range from the zoos to museums, to the food banks, to churches, to synagogues, to all sorts of wonderful think tanks that produce incredibly important ideas. These 1.6 million organizations make up the nonprofit sector.

I don’t think most folks know that 1 in 10 Americans are actually employed by the social sector. If you think about the 63 million volunteers every year this country has, 1 in 4 Americans is actively involved in this sector. So we generate about $ ½  trillion dollars of economic activity, and if you look at that volunteer time alone, it’s worth almost $200 billion of value. So it is in a robust, dynamic part of American life and American economy.

Nonprofits, small as they may be, provide a really important opportunity for citizens to continually engage with each other, solve problems, and improve the community.

Denver: You just mentioned there are about 1.6 million nonprofits, and I think we have about 320 million people in the country right now – so doing some quick math, that’s about one nonprofit for every 200 people. Do you think the sector would benefit, be more efficient and effective, with a little bit of consolidation?

Dan: I think that is kind of a nonprofit-by-nonprofit reflective question. One thing that you can see is, efficiency does matter when you’re using and stewarding resources on behalf of community. So in so far as you can create efficiencies, and if consolidation enables you to do that, that’s terrific. An organization I used to work with– Communities in Schools– we saw some consolidation over the years when you had a number of very small rural affiliates unable to get the kind of critical mass that an economy of scale by consolidation promoted. And they were able to hire even better staff, build the kinds of technology systems that enabled them to be much more analytical, and then therefore, better services to kids.

However, there’s something in America that’s incredibly important. This notion of association– Individual citizens making decisions about coming together and solving problems or promoting culture or preserving the environment.

Nonprofits, small as they may be, provide a really important opportunity for citizens to continually engage with each other, solve problems, and improve the community. So you want to be careful with a blanket statement, like, “We need to consolidate!” as much as: “What are we trying to get accomplished?  And how do we get an organizational structure strong enough to help us really achieve that vision?”

Denver: So taking the entirety of this vast and multi-faceted and fascinating sector, what is the unique role that the Independent Sector plays and the distinct contribution that you make, Dan?