Learn how an abundance mindset can help reduce burnout, underinvestment, and high turnover within your nonprofit organization.
Brittny Wilson and Nia Wassink | The Nonprofit Reframe
Between them, Brittny and Nia have over 30 years of working in nonprofits. They’ve worked on the program side, the business side, fundraising, and even sat on Boards of Directors. Their vast experience, primarily with local and regional organizations, gives them an authentic voice on behalf of the sector.
Brittny and Nia are able to bring forward topics and discussions that are often hidden or not discussed within the sector.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Podcast: The Nonprofit Reframe
- Instagram: @nonprofitreframe
- Prismatic Consulting (Nia’s Firm): teamprismatic.com
- Brittny Wilson Consulting: brittnywilson.com
- Compass: Connect with other members of the philanthropic community at Community.foundant.com
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- Website: Foundant.com
Nia Wassink 00:00:00:00
The scarcity mindset affects everything. And the worst part is when it starts to turn internal. That's when it can get really bad into the burn out territory.
Tammy Tilzey 00:00:12:13
Hello and welcome to our Foundant Connected Philanthropy Podcast. Today we are privileged to have Brittny Wilson and Nia Wassink from the nonprofit Reframed podcast as our guests. Their podcast is about undervalued, under-resourced and unrelenting nonprofits and their staff. Brittny and Nia are experienced, nonprofit professionals, and they have seen the nonprofit world from so many roles and perspectives, including program business, arts, fundraising, even board members.
Tammy Tilzey 00:00:44:18
I am excited to be talking about your podcast, why you started it, and then also a little bit about going beyond scarcity with both of you today. So let's dive in. As I caught up on your podcast, I see you're on episode 103, just released on Monday. Talk about DEI training for effective change and not to check a box.
Tammy Tilzey 00:01:09:16
I love that. I just listened to it today and such a great listen. I love how you share stories on these important topics and you don't exclude the frustrating points or the reality. I appreciate that so much. Is that something you try to work into how you present?
Brittny Wilson 00:01:29:28
Yeah, absolutely. When we started this podcast, it really came about after a couple of years of venting to each other. We became each other's confidantes when with the struggles of nonprofit working in the nonprofit sector and over time built up a pretty long list of possible, possible podcast topics before we decided we really should do something about this great.
Tammy Tilzey 00:02:01:13
Let's flash back to the beginning and what you've done so far and what you're hoping to achieve through your podcast and how things have evolved.
Nia Wassink 00:02:11:12
Yeah, absolutely. Thanks so much again for having us, Tammy. Like Brittny said, it really was started as this friendship of support for each other and then we thought, gosh, there are probably other people in nonprofits who also need the support, right? So can we make this into a podcast or something that got to a wider audience? And we just in the infancy, started a spreadsheet with all of our ideas.
Nia Wassink 00:02:36:07
And when we got to about 50, we were like, okay, we can make this make this happen, and we want to tell the real stories. You know, I think so often nonprofit staff, they're used to telling the the rosy side of things, you know, everything's great. Our program's making this huge difference. We've changed lives. Let's not talk about the fact that our board's making our lives hell.
Nia Wassink 00:03:01:17
Let's not talk about the fact that our staff is so underpaid they can't even live in the same city they work in. Right. Like, those are the things we do want to talk about. And so Brittny and I said, Well, let's let's shift that. Let's flip the script and let's exclusively talk about those things on our podcast.
Tammy Tilzey 00:03:15:28
Have you seen how that resonates with your listeners and have you heard from them on? I, I just hear so much about burnout and how to prevent that or being able to express the concerns and bring it to a larger audience for change. How do you see your podcast doing that?
Brittny Wilson 00:03:38:05
Yeah, absolutely. We have people that write in to us or, you know, catch us at some nonprofit event that they see us at and tell us how much they feel seen. And I think that's a big part of it, right, is just naming kind of the hard parts of this work because this is hard work and we all do it because we want to make a difference.
Brittny Wilson 00:04:00:18
But sometimes there's a cost for that. And so being able to value both sides of that, I think makes it a little bit more bearable during the tough times for those of us that are in it. And ultimately what we're wanting to do is keep people in the sector. Right. We need people in this sector. And so how can we provide the perspective and the comfort there?
Brittny Wilson 00:04:25:26
Because maybe not everybody has an Nia or has a Brittny. And so that's why we wanted it to be as if you're sitting down and having a conversation with the two of us, which means it's very open, it's very genuine. It also sometimes includes choice words, which is why I believe we are the only explicitly rated podcast about nonprofits.
Brittny Wilson 00:04:49:25
But again, we that real factor was incredibly important to us when creating this.
Tammy Tilzey 00:04:55:18
Yeah, I really like how, as you said, you could feel seen and maybe if you're out there alone without a Nia or Brittny to, to bounce things off of, you may might not realize that it's something so many other nonprofits struggle with and it's not something you need to combat and achieve just solely on your own. It's it's something a dynamic that often comes into play.
Tammy Tilzey 00:05:23:06
So finding the community that you bring together on these topics and and talking through them and also providing ideas and thoughts of what not to do. Examples, stories, how I learn the best. So what are some of your most favorite or most listened to episodes on? Do you track that?
Nia Wassink 00:05:51:27
Oh yeah. As of right now, our most listened to episode is actually one of our early ones on White Savior ism. And I.
Tammy Tilzey 00:05:59:13
Nia Wassink 00:06:01:04
What I think is really interesting that that's the thing that people are looking for and it makes sense. Like the whole episode is about essentially how nonprofits, the entire sector and philanthropy were built by white women, and it was often built to uphold structures that gave them power and so even today, we are still battling up against those systems that were often not created for effective change.
Nia Wassink 00:06:32:17
They weren't created for many people to feel comfortable or safe in. And so when we have this white savior ism as like the overarching theme of why nonprofits came to be, that's a major systemic change that has to be deconstructed for us to actually be effective at our work.
Brittny Wilson 00:06:50:25
Absolutely. I would also say probably because we just recorded it so no one has even heard of it yet. But I am projecting into the future that this is going to be one of our most listened to episodes. So this is a little a little sneak peek of what's to come. I don't know when this podcast airs, but our next episode is on Sabbaticals, so within the nonprofit sector.
Brittny Wilson 00:07:18:28
So we talk a lot about sabbaticals, whether it's in faith communities or whether it's in university settings. But now it's really starting to gain traction in the nonprofit sector. And how can we as a sector use sabbaticals to help combat what you were just talking about, that burnout and fatigue and keep really amazing leaders in the in the sector, but give them time to find space and creativity and rest.
Tammy Tilzey 00:07:52:23
Yes. Ability to recharge. Yeah. There's there's just so much work that in itself. But then the emotional toll and everything else of the of the work too just lends itself to to having that be a a definitely good thing to do. As we talked about things that we could discuss on our podcast here, we as you know, Foundant does serve both funders as well as nonprofits.
Tammy Tilzey 00:08:29:10
We have products and services and and we have communities on on both sides. And that is something that we are seeing a lot more interest in recently with, with some of the social justice awareness that's coming through is trust based philanthropy and changes there. Have you seen any frustrations or successes on that side that you think would be helpful to both sides of our audience?
Nia Wassink 00:09:03:26
Yeah, I feel like trust based philanthropy is absolutely where we need to be going and it's no easy thing. You know, we're talking about again, in philanthropy, funders have held so much power and just by, you know, the institutions they represent, this is not a call out of any one individual, but you've got people with money funding nonprofits to do work, a lot of power there.
Nia Wassink 00:09:29:08
And so trust based philanthropy is basically saying, let's upend that. Let's have the power to the people. Let's stop asking for excessively long applicable missions and significant reporting requirements and site visits. Let's just trust that they're going to go do the work that we know they're already doing. And that's that's a process internally. We've worked with clients through my consulting firm of, you know, addressing the concerns at the board level, at the staff level, at the volunteer level, because it really is this entire organizational shift that has to happen.
Nia Wassink 00:10:05:02
And we know it works like that. That's the best thing to like, really hold on to is trust based philanthropy is truly how we can shift philanthropy in a place that makes the greatest impact, gets the dollars distributed as quickly as possible and can be the most agile when our communities need it.
Tammy Tilzey 00:10:27:06
Yeah, and and have a higher return on on that. I'm excited to listen in to some of our funder trainings and webinars when we have clients talking to other clients about what they've tried and, and I know one of them has been awarded and noticed by just giving the budget the money to it, The group of people that they typically fund and say you make the decisions and yeah, how that changes everything, you know.
Brittny Wilson 00:11:02:26
Tammy Tilzey 00:11:04:05
Oh well we're not fighting each other like how can we partner together and make more effective use of this and just really having the decision. They're the closest to the problems and, and really know how best to use that limited funding. Right.
Brittny Wilson 00:11:24:16
So yeah, absolutely. And you, you bring up such a great point to me with your position in Foundant of having access to both of those audiences. I think it's such a unique platform and and I'm really glad that you're doing stuff like this, like these podcasts and these trainings and trying to really spark these conversations that are needed because, you know, we can say all we want on one side of it, but you have both parties listening, and I think that can be really impactful.
Tammy Tilzey 00:11:58:18
Yeah, and all the different places you can have those conversations. So when we implement a new funder, oh, you know what, what does everybody else do? Well, what is the best practice? What should be, what should things you should consider, and really training our staff to help train the people who are open to those but haven't considered. Well, why?
Tammy Tilzey 00:12:23:20
Why do you want follow up reports? Where are you going to do with them? Are you even getting to right where? Why is that going to make any difference? Does that really help, you know, the process or, you know, character counts? It's it's funny, the stories that come up that technology touches that you can have somewhat of a difference.
Tammy Tilzey 00:12:46:06
You know, in implementing it with the thought of like give a lot of space, but just tell them what you expect the answers to right. You know, or things like that. And so we have checklists. We've made changes to our product as we've gotten that feedback and then continue to educate the funders on on what they can do to be more like that as well.
Tammy Tilzey 00:13:13:05
It's very collaborative and people sharing their successes and and even working together with their communities to align their application questions to make things easier. It's there's great examples, but it just needs to spread and continue to grow. Yes.
Nia Wassink 00:13:30:05
Well, and I think you can even think about technology as being one of those critical tools between where we currently are in philanthropy and where we want to go. I'll give a great example. Hearken back to April 2020. Like I know most of us don't want to remember the period of time, but there was a funder that was still requiring hard copy paper applications and we reached out to them on behalf of our clients and said, Hey, our clients aren't in office, right?
Nia Wassink 00:13:57:12
Everybody is working from home. We're in lockdown. Can we email these to you? Can we do something else? And they said, Absolutely not. You still need hard copy grants. And so my firm actually took it on and we we made copies for all of our clients and even for our clients and delivered them all to the funder on their behalf and then went back and again encouraged them to use technology.
Nia Wassink 00:14:21:07
You know, nobody should have to spend that kind of time and money, quite frankly, to put in the grant application also for a grant that's going to be really small. I think they give out like thousand dollar grants. So, you know, it's like we can also use technology to improve efficiency, which also then makes it much more accessible.
Tammy Tilzey 00:14:41:27
Yes. Yeah. And we have solutions for both audiences and we have a project that really helps nonprofits stay organized on when the deadlines are what they sent in last year when the reports are due in all this. And it's just interesting to to talk with them as they're deciding whether they could get a tool that's just real basic to them doing their jobs efficiently versus using something that's kind of free, just, you know, just spending any money whatsoever.
Tammy Tilzey 00:15:19:09
And that brings us to that that scarcity mindset. And really understanding the place of power that the nonprofits could and should be coming from. And it should be recognized from the other side as well. But by carrying that, by, you know, you consulting with your clients to help them see that in themselves, have you seen any good examples of, you know, really doubling down and coming at problems to combat that power dynamic?
Tammy Tilzey 00:16:00:22
I know it's really difficult. So there may not be, but I think it's, you know, just being confident in the the results that the nonprofits are able to provide and looking for partners that want to fund that and trust them.
Brittny Wilson 00:16:16:19
Yeah, we did an entire episode on technology in our podcast around that. Exactly what you're stating as you know, nonprofits who I mean, I can't remember how many times I've come into an organization and, you know, you're just kind of handed the tools that have been previously set up, right? And over time, it just becomes kind of that, well, that's how we do it.
Brittny Wilson 00:16:44:26
That's what we use. And a lot of times it can be really inefficient. You know, different systems don't talk to each other. You're having to do multiple entries in different databases, whatever it may be. And, you know, I remember one time somebody asking me for a report and I had to pull numbers out of three different softwares and then collate them and then dupe them and all this.
Brittny Wilson 00:17:12:16
And it wasn't just something as simple as creating a report and pushing a button. And so we do speak a lot to, you know, it is worth doing an audit of whatever systems that you're currently using and figuring out if even if it takes an investment to change any kind of anyone who's been through a data migration knows what a pain it is and nobody wants to opt to do that.
Brittny Wilson 00:17:38:15
However, if you're in a position that you can do the research and find something that is going to work better for your organization and and you put the front end work into cleaning up that data and moving that data, you're going to end up your return is going to be, you know, a thousand fold inefficiencies in confidence of being able to use that data to help with decision making and planning and all sorts of things that you otherwise don't do because it's just too clunky.
Brittny Wilson 00:18:13:14
It's not worth doing it yet.
Nia Wassink 00:18:15:28
And I feel like the scarcity stuff comes up so often in technology because that feels like the thing that can really be pushed to the bottom of the list. I mean, any of our nonprofit folks listening to this, you've all walked into an organization and opened up a computer where you literally had to blow dust off it, right?
Nia Wassink 00:18:34:06
Like we've all been there. It's awful. But scarcity goes to all levels. It's not hiring enough staff to get the job done. It's not investing in that. The time required to really get your board up to speed or train them. It's not hiring an outside AI facilitator, right? It's the scarcity mindset affects everything. And the worst part is when it starts to turn internal, that's when it can get really bad into the burnout territory.
Nia Wassink 00:19:06:27
You know, it's the scarcity mindset that pushes you to say, Well, if I just stay up 2 hours later to write this grant report, that's for more kids. We can help. If I just push a little bit harder, if I just skip this vacation, right. Like all of that is still based in scarcity. So as we work as a sector to shift to more of an abundance mindset and a place of valuing ourselves, our work, our clients, our organizations, it feels scary.
Nia Wassink 00:19:37:16
I guess It's a totally different place than we've ever lived, right? Yeah. And so that that's where, like, organizations need to have the conversations often and regularly and deeply at all levels, because it can't just be one person who walks in one day and says, we're shifting to an abundance mindset that is not going to.
Brittny Wilson 00:19:56:07
Work if only.
Tammy Tilzey 00:19:58:02
Nia Wassink 00:20:00:04
But it really does need to be like this cultural shift and how we think about the work we do.
Brittny Wilson 00:20:05:28
Yeah, and I really just to add on to that, because I believe so passionately in it that it really comes down to value, right? And like you just said, valuing ourselves and valuing our work. I don't know how many times I tell my clients that this is a business just because it's called a nonprofit does not mean that it's not a business and it operates like a business.
Brittny Wilson 00:20:30:09
And you need to be looking at the areas that you should invest in and when you you know, we all joke about the wearing ten different hats, you know, like at a nonprofit, Oh, I wear so many different hats because the minute you show an inclination towards any skill set, you then become the manager of that, right? I mean, it's laughable.
Brittny Wilson 00:20:51:27
But one of the places that I worked at, I ended up being the de facto i.t person and anybody who knows me like I am not an IT person by any means. I mean I, I probably just was like, let's turn it off and turn it back on and it magically worked. And then it's like, aha, you know about it.
Brittny Wilson 00:21:08:11
You are now in charge of all of it, right? But we joke and laugh but over time that was, you know, when all of a sudden you're hired with a job description and I get it, jobs evolve and change and whatnot, but when they become so vastly different and really what you're doing is just plugging holes instead of hiring, you're just taking on tasks to, quote unquote, save money.
Brittny Wilson 00:21:32:22
But really, you're burning out your staff and you're creating further turnover instead of saying, no, we need to make the investment to hire what we need.
Tammy Tilzey 00:21:42:14
So yeah, yeah, I could see that. And it's a slippery slope and really hard to draw a line on that slope of just a little bit. It just continues use to to go further and tell you you are hitting that personal about your time. That's a really good point. Thank you for bringing that up about how it's not only with the nonprofits resources but but then personal times and setting those boundaries.
Tammy Tilzey 00:22:11:19
I'm I'm pleased to see a lot of funders, at least that we work with from the whole pandemic and and changes that they made to address those situations, really looking at them and and understanding that they were the right decisions and way to set things up in a normal situation or investing in capacity. And there may be new tools that that nonprofits need to deliver their their missions more effectively or productively or to, you know, take it even further.
Tammy Tilzey 00:22:52:21
And so not limiting what the money can be used for also is a is a key thing that allows the nonprofit then to to have the freedom to use it where it's needed and and maybe their people. Right.
Nia Wassink 00:23:10:00
Yeah. We were lucky enough to see so many funders shift the way they did funding during the pandemic, you know, shifting entirely to general operating dollars to kind of rapid funding, not requiring, you know, 3 to 6 months from application to actually getting the checks. And many of those funders have maintained that, which is great. And exactly what needs to be happening.
Nia Wassink 00:23:33:29
We've also seen other funders, though, who have pulled back and said out the pandemic's done, we're going back to our old ways. We're only going to do programmatic funding in these ways. And not only does that get away from any kind of trusting relationship, right? It's kind of this paternalistic idea. As a funder, we know how best to use these dollars, but it also just it hampers the organization's ability to do the really important work.
Nia Wassink 00:24:00:17
Brittny and I are both outside of Boulder in Colorado, and our community has seen so many disasters. We had the grocery store shooting a couple of years ago. We had a massive wildfire that came in and it burned down over a thousand homes. And so our nonprofit community stepped up and all of the ways and what we saw was the ones who had access to general operating dollars were able to be really agile and meet the community's needs, the ones that were really hampered and and stuck with program dollars.
Nia Wassink 00:24:36:02
They couldn't make those adjustments. You know, all of a sudden your afterschool programs doesn't exist because your schools are closed, because all the homes around them burned. You're requiring your grantees to still make those same.
Tammy Tilzey 00:24:49:16
The funds to that point.
Nia Wassink 00:24:50:28
Yeah, exactly. So like, if that is the one thing people hear from this on the funding side, give general operating dollars. It's going to get the work done. It's going to get the work done faster, better, more efficiently and more adaptively.
Tammy Tilzey 00:25:05:08
Yes. Yep. And just the tracking of that again and the technology side, that that just adds so much more to the whole effort versus streamlining it and allowing the nonprofit to spend as much time, as much effort on their staff towards their the mission and getting the work done and thinking of new ideas, working on the strategy and and other other activities that have a bigger payoff than, you know, moving things around into different systems multiple times to save a buck.
Tammy Tilzey 00:25:38:08
Right? Yeah. In terms of having that moving from that scarcity mindset, have you thought of are there other resources or reports or tactics or anything that you've seen? I the nonprofits you work with or other communities look towards to get inspiration on those?
Brittny Wilson 00:26:07:01
I mean, I we have seen kind of tying back to what we were just talking about with funders. Yes. You know, I echo everything that Nia was just saying to funders about general operating. We have seen more funders opening up opportunities like staff wellness. So offering funding for that. We've also seen funders opening up opportunities like the sabbatical example I gave earlier.
Brittny Wilson 00:26:35:17
There's some funders that will fund that or capacity building. The problem is, is while that is starting to grow incrementally, it's still few and far between. And there's so many people that apply in so few that actually get it. But I think the fact that funders are even putting those opportunities out there allows organizations to start thinking about those like, Oh, it's like it makes it okay.
Brittny Wilson 00:27:07:11
It shouldn't have to take that, you know, like we shouldn't need a funder to be able to say like, Hey, this is worthy enough to fund a sabbatical for nonprofits to actually consider it. But unfortunately, that's where we're still at. And it's created those conversations now internally with organizations around how can we create our own assets for this?
Brittny Wilson 00:27:30:25
Right? How could we plan for this? How can we try to create capacity for staff wellness opportunities or, you know, sabbatical opportunities? And so I do think that those conversations are happening more consistently now.
Nia Wassink 00:27:48:28
I also feel like the whole conversation around scarcity is both like the personal internal work of identifying when that's coming up for somebody and then the larger organizational work, like I know when I'm at my most burnt out, is when I'm most likely to drop into scarcity mindset again. So for nonprofit leaders, board members like that, that's something that we all just need to work on constantly, especially those of us from dominant cultures right?
Nia Wassink 00:28:14:28
Like a lot of that scarcity is really based in white supremacy and this kind of zero sum game. And then we also need to in parallel and tandem, be working on the organizational level stuff. And there are so many great resources for that. I mean, we talk about Voulay, and nonprofit AF all the time. I mean, he was the one who's out there talking about the nonprofit Hunger Games, which is all based on scarcity and thinking that there's, you know, a finite amount of resources for us to all be fighting for.
Nia Wassink 00:28:43:14
So bringing in those other voices can help foster the conversations. But at the end of the day, it's just got to be a lot of conversations. You got to put it on your staff, me agenda, your board agenda. You got to be talking about where is scarcity showing up in our organization and how do we start addressing it.
Brittny Wilson 00:28:59:28
And it's really having those conversations from the top down, right? I mean, so much of it is controlled by that. And so being able to have a leader, a nonprofit leader in ED or CEO who can have honest conversations about that with their board, you know, so often they're are they're reticent to say, you know, what their staff needs or what they need.
Brittny Wilson 00:29:23:14
And to really educate board members on the realities of what it's like to work within the sector. And that because of there's these expectations, there becomes with the scarcity mindset, also this inclination to say yes to everything, right? So there's just boundaries. There's no such thing as out the window. And it's like, yes, we'll take advantage of that.
Brittny Wilson 00:29:44:20
Yes, we'll take advantage of that. And, you know, I'm the first one to say absolutely, look at every opportunity. But really trying to evaluate what is that return and what's the cost on your staff and morale.
Tammy Tilzey 00:29:59:17
Yeah, because stretching too thin will have much, much more costs than you anticipate in the short term. The long term cost could be quite significant. Oh my. I know there's so many things we can do. We are definitely going to have you back again on on other topics. But I really I do appreciate your your time on this.
Tammy Tilzey 00:30:25:07
And I'm seeing how the community that you've created with your podcast and supporting other AEDs and nonprofit staff to have that those thoughts and recognize that scarcity mindset in themselves, in their organizations. And they're not alone. How to talk that talk to get over the uncomfortable ness of doing it at the beginning and really then be able to share their stories of success with you, hopefully.
Tammy Tilzey 00:30:55:19
Right. You know, like you said, there's a lot of conversations and we're always asked how can you do this from the bottom up? But recognizing and having the leaders recognize that it doesn't need to come top down. And you'll be surprised at how much your staff will be on board, of course, of of supporting that effort. Well, thanks again for helping our community learn more about turning this scarcity mindset into an abundance mindset.
Tammy Tilzey 00:31:27:05
And I want to remind our listeners that we'll be including links to the nonprofit Reframe podcast as well as Brittny's and Nia's email. Right? Okay, We're sharing that
Nia Wassink 00:31:39:24
Tammy Tilzey 00:31:40:22
Stories you want to share with them or suggestions for their podcast. I do enjoy the little EIC with the friends you are talking does tell me that how it is.
Tammy Tilzey 00:31:54:13
There's no limitations on words you could use or not. And we appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedules to join us. I do want to offer you one more final chance to give any final thoughts or advice to our listeners of both funders and nonprofits.
Nia Wassink 00:32:12:02
I'll start on the funders side and say, keep, keep on this path, keep towards trust based philanthropy. Keep working to ensure that you're getting dollars out the door when your community needs them. Make sure you're listening to your community because we need you. We need you in this fight. Our social issues are not going away and ensuring that we've got great partnerships with our funders and nonprofit communities.
Nia Wassink 00:32:38:06
That's going to be the way we solve it.
Brittny Wilson 00:32:39:28
And my advice for all the nonprofit staff out there listening is very similar. I mean, we absolutely need you. So if you are starting to feel the effects of burnout and recognize those, be honest, have those conversations, start talking about them internally in your organization. And I'm sure you're not the only one. And I know it's so easy to just start thinking about other possibilities of, you know, maybe should I make that jump to the corporate sector?
Brittny Wilson 00:33:11:26
No, stay put. We need you. And how can you how can you be an example and effect real change within your own organization? And hopefully that just continues to permeate out.
Tammy Tilzey 00:33:25:10
Great. Thank you so much. And our listeners, if you learned something from today's Connected Philanthropy podcast, please share it with others who might also enjoy and learn from listening. We look forward to connecting in our future webinars, podcasts and community discussions, and we wish you all the best success. And again, thank you all for all you do.