Leadership, Integrity & Enrolling Others In Your Vision:
Food Pantry Lines to Volunteer to CEO & Vice Chairman of the Board with Joel Clelland
Joel Clelland is a serial entrepreneur and influencer who has had a number of successful businesses: special events, entertainment, and insurance.
Most recently, Joel Clelland served as Centric’s Chief Executive Officer. Centric is a dual token cryptocurrency system working to stabilize prices and provide a global borderless medium of exchange that only goes up in purchasing power. While CEO, Joel, and his team added a number of new exchanges and partnerships, as well as three cryptocurrency payment gateways. Centric users can pay with Centric tokens (spec. Centric Swap “CNS”) using the payment gateways and the merchants can get paid out in cryptocurrency or whatever their local currency happens to be. Learn more about the Centric Payment Network and connect with the team by visiting https://www.centric.com/cenpay/.
Joel also serves as the Vice Chairman of the Board for 501(c)(3) nonprofit Project Boon, a community organization based in Southern California that assists underserved children, individuals, and families with food security and connections to needed services. “As a former Board Chair, I have an affinity for the organization and where it is headed. Our catchphrases are, “empowering people next door and a world away” and “give without reservation.” Prior to the pandemic, Project Boon was involved in service in both the U.S. and Mexico. Hopefully, we can get back down to Tuxpan, Jalisco in Mexico soon.”
Leaders are always learning.
Listen more than you speak. Ask questions that encourage beneficial discourse. Create safety for all stakeholders. Find the areas that need improvement together. Then, make those better.
As the key person in your organization, have a solid vision in that you can enroll all stakeholders. Develop and deploy a call to action that engages your team on specific tasks to execute your vision. Review this weekly, monthly, and quarterly. Is your vision being realized? A group of people that is unclear on its vision cannot win (cannot execute the leader’s vision).
Remain grateful and practice gratitude. Things happen for us, not to us. Instead of asking, “Why,” ask, “What does this mean for me? What purpose does this serve for our team and me?” In what ways will our actions benefit the community (make an impact)?
Be humble and love your team and community.
Transcript: Hugh Ballou In conversation with Joel Clelland
Hugh Ballou: This is Hugh Ballou back for another episode of The Nonprofit Exchange. I am the Founder and President of SynerVision Leadership Foundation, where our work is transforming leaders, transforming organizations, and transforming lives. And there is somebody else here that does similar stuff, but in a very different way, but in a very significant way, and we are on opposite coasts from each other, got connected with mutual friend and have had some off and on conversations and I am proud to have Joel Clellan here today as my guest on The Nonprofit Exchange. Joel, tell people a little bit about who you are and your background.
Joel Clelland: Absolutely! Thanks, Hugh for having me on as well. We finally got around to doing this. I know we have wanted to do this for a while now. It is great to be here, especially going into the holidays.
A little background on me as a nonprofit leader and then, just as somebody who cares about others, I think that is probably a great place to start. It is one thing to say you care about others, and it is another thing actually to take action. I have been very action-oriented for over thirty years in community service, in different capacities.
My early years, my formative years, if you will, were growing up in church circles with my family, and doing basic service within the community, whether it was working with the homeless, getting them food, clothing, or blankets, things of that nature, or going on trips with my youth group to Mexico, did that probably two dozen times, both in high school and also in college, and just going and visiting with people I do not think that people can truly appreciate the different degrees to which people live and the circumstances people live in if you do not visit with them and break bread with them. And I would say that breaking bread is probably part of my own personal credo to truly understand where people are at, you have to meet them where they are at, and that has kind of been my focus since I can remember, probably middle school, and I just turned fifty, so you do the math.
Hugh Ballou: I am twenty-six years ahead of you. My goodness!
Joel Clelland: There you are! But you do not look it.
Hugh Ballou: Thank you! I did several trips to Mexico with mission groups. I did not see you there. It is a big place.
Joel Clelland: Yeah, I think we were in different parts.
Hugh Ballou: Yeah. It was in several parts. So, that is a lot, thirty years, that is significant. Your philosophy of giving is what I would term but under the umbrella of philanthropy. We think philanthropists are people with a big pocketbook and a big checkbook but really philanthropy is the love of humankind, literally, but it is time, talent, and money. It sounds like you put that. So, is that basically the umbrella for your philosophy of how you show up in the world
Joel Clelland: Definitely, I would say that is how I define it. And, a dear friend of mine, who is actually a co-founder of Project Boon, Chris Suchánek, who you have met. He and I have conversations about this regularly some people serve others very naturally and then some are more begrudgingly, and then others do not serve because they have just never been taught that this is part of what we do as humans. We care for one another.
Hugh Ballou: You have a business background. You have, what, 25 or so years in nonprofit leadership. So, why is it important to think with a business hat on as a nonprofit leader?
Joel Clelland: One of the things that I think we do really well at Project Boon is, we connect with the business community and strategic partners, and I want to talk about another nonprofit for a second if that is okay with you. I am sure you are familiar with Charity: Water, Scott Harrison’s organization.
Hugh Ballou: I am not.
Joel Clelland: No, but they do amazing work. I heard Scott speak for the first time in New Orleans, back in 2015, and one of the things that he explained because he is a business person who comes to service from the business side. Because a lot of nonprofits have a lot of overhead and not all of those donated dollars get right to the ground where they are needed, what he did was, he set up two different entities. There is a for-profit side and a not-for-profit side, and you can give directly to the for-profit side, which is keeping the lights on, and HR and all of that. But I think what happens a lot of times is there are people who have a big heart, but they do not approach nonprofit work as a business, and I think that is where a lot of nonprofit organizations get into trouble, and there is millions of nonprofit organizations out there. I do not think a lot of people realize the scale and the scope of how many nonprofit organizations are out there, and more are popping up all the time why do some do better than others? I would say that is probably a really good question to ask like how do they increase revenue? How do they keep consistent?
Hugh Ballou: That’s it. I like to hear your answer to both of those.
Joel Clelland: One of the questions that come up a lot is in the space, I would say, is very similar to anybody who is in the church world, and I know, you are, I grew up in the church world, where a lot of times it feels like leadership is asking for money and asking the congregation for money. One of the things I think we can do very easily in a lot of cases, especially in the digital age, is to create passive income for nonprofits.
One of the things that are really popular in traditional business or subscriptions, and why not have a subscription for giving? You are paying $5 a month or $20 a month for your TV service or something of that nature. You can actually put those things on autopilot with your local nonprofit and a lot of times the donor community, like I said at the beginning, if they do not know what to do, they just do not like they do not seek it out. And, if nonprofits could be better with the marketing and the educational piece, showing people, hey, it’s really easy to give, and you can do it from your position with the nonprofit you like.
One thing I think we do really well at Project Boon is the statistics because that is another piece that I think creates some ambivalence and some, we will call them, begrudging. People do not want to give because they are like I do not know if I can trust this organization. I kind of like what they are talking about, but I am not sure every dollar I send them is going where it is needed most. And I think when organizations can get that data out there in the public’s hands, they can make better decisions as givers. So, you have the givers, you have volunteers, which I think a lot of organizations do fairly well, but we could all do better at that and then you have sponsors or title sponsors and strategic partners, which is something that we really focus on a Project Boon. Actually, our entire board is made up predominantly of business owners. We do have a girl. She is a CEO of another nonprofit who also sits on our board. But those are the types of people we attract because we want to bring that acumen to the board. One of the things I think that is fascinating for a lot of people about Project Boon is that we are actually a part-time nonprofit, and have been for eleven years, and we do not have any full-time employees and we always have the funds that we need to do the work that we do. And so that is kind of an interesting question, how do organizations continue to replicate that and have strong reserves?
Hugh Ballou: Well, let us talk about Project Boon, you brought it up. Let us talk about Project Boon. Now, it is projectboon.org and if people go to that website, what do they find?
Joel Clelland: On the landing page, you will see basically a banner with a list of companies that support what we are doing. Project Boon itself is predominantly based in Southern California. And, I know, that sometimes when people give, they want to give locally, which I completely appreciate. But one of the things that we focused on since the beginning of Project Boon is providing an opportunity for people to volunteer because a lot of times they do not know where to give, and they do not know where to help. So one of the things that Project Boon does is we try to keep things very simple for people. You go to projectboon.org. You are going to get an education. If you click on the donor button you are going to see statistics about what we are doing. We are actually closing in on 200,000 meals pushed out into the community since the beginning of Project Boon, and this is again as a part-time nonprofit that does about four or five events a year.
Obviously, you will get kind of an understanding of what is happening there. Shameless plug, if you have completed all your holiday shopping, there is actually some swag in the Project Boon store. Basically, it just gives people an opportunity to see, Okay, what are these people about? And one of the things that I would like to kind of touch on you, just for a moment, is a campaign we started last year called “Give without reservation.”
Give without reservation is something that kind of was spawned during the pandemic from somebody who was not even a member of our team. He is a gentleman who did not sit on our board. He just heard about us during the pandemic, and we started kind of doing some brainstorming with this gentleman, and out of those brainstorms came to this concept of Give Without Reservation or #GiveWithoutReservation.
Kind of getting back to what I was saying earlier, a lot of times, people are not sure where to give because there is concern because there have been some unfortunate things happened in the nonprofit space where there has either been, embezzlement or just poor money management, whatever happens, to be, and a lot of times, people are not sure well, how do I know if I give to this organization if my money is going to get to the people that needed most. So, that is something that we really focus on at Project Boon. And this campaign Give Without Reservation is in tandem with that initial concern that some people have. Another concern is just giving money to people on the street, and this is another opportunity for people to not have to do that because either there is a concern for safety or again, I do not know where this wonderful human being, my brother, and sister, and the human race is going to take this money.
So, what project Boon does is, it allows people to give without reservation because people know where the money is going. They know that the people who are getting help could see it, and if they want to participate, they can, because we have those volunteer opportunities.
Hugh Ballou: That is your way of showing the accountabilities, and transparency of how the money is used? I notice you have companies listed. I guess they would be sponsors?
Joel Clelland: Some are sponsors to varying degrees, and some of these companies, I mean, you saw the Target logo on there. I am sure. A lot of local and regional stores actually encourage their workers to participate in community service and so we have actually had teams from Target come and volunteer at our events, in addition to their donations.
Hugh Ballou: So, let us clarify. Technically, a sponsorship is marketing dollars that you promote a company’s brand like a Target. All these companies also have a philanthropy budget to which they donate and that comes from their giving budget.
Joel Clelland: Correct.
Hugh Ballou: So, there is two different pockets you could take from both pockets actually.
Joel Clelland: Right. Actually, it is interesting you bring that up because it is a local grocery store, it is a regional grocery store. They got about 188 stores or something like that. But they are just out here, and they have a foundation that is separate from the grocery store. We will call them XYZ grocery store because they are not listed yet, as charities. So, a lot of these companies have, basically like you said, either different entities or, like you said, different pockets that can be accessed by organizations doing good work, and the thing is most of these organizations have to give the money away, anyway. They have to do the work. That is the whole reason that those entities are in place.
Hugh Ballou: Why not you?
Joel Clelland: Yeah, why not us?
Hugh Ballou: Yes. Making a good case for that because certainly, they are not looking for places to give money because there are plenty of people lined up. So, a competitor would be Walmart. Walmart, these individual stores give to projects, but also have a foundation. Walmart has a foundation. They give as well. There are two different entities, and I am sure that they coordinate that. American Express, you just name a company. They have got a foundation, and it is competitive.
Joel Clelland: It is, I agree, especially accessing those grants from the banks and some of these other larger companies, it is very competitive.
Hugh Ballou: A lot of it is relationship. So talk about your board. How many people are on your board?
Joel Clelland: I want to say we are at 9 right now. We have basically our executive director and treasurer, our two co-founders, Chris and Ana Karina Suchanek, and we have an amazing Development Coordinator, name is, Ellyse Martinez, and she has been with us almost two years. She is absolutely wonderful. The board chair who came in, his name is William Butler, and he actually has a background in payment services and finance for large-scale equipment, and I am not going to name everybody. But I want to talk about William just for a second. I could not be happier having him serve as our board chair because he really goes after it, and every single member of our board says that one lady who is a CEO of another nonprofit, our business owners have business relationships.
Hugh Ballou: Ah, Ah..there you go. That is how you get to these people, having relationships.
Joel Clelland: Correct! Yeah. They bring in the turkeys and the toys and the resources needed to have successful events, and really make an impact in the community.
Hugh Ballou: That is so important! You have engaged and powered your board to do different things. Let me repeat what I heard, this is totally volunteer, you have no paid staff, right?
Joel Clelland: Correct, correct, because even Ellyse, she actually works for…We will say that Chris and Karina have a couple of companies. They have several. But she is a full-time employee of one of the co-founders’ companies and she does this as well, but she facilitates a lot of the correspondence with the organization and also drums up support, also helps to coordinate volunteers, and everybody kind of pitches in. It has worked up to this point. Is there a point in the future where we believe, Project Boon is going to have warehouses of food and full-time staff and things of that nature, that are in the vision? But to make the kind of impact we have made just in the last decade, I think it is very impressive. Just looking in! A lot of times people look at what Project Boon is doing, and they think our organization is a lot larger than we actually are because of the impact.
Hugh Ballou: Well, you are large, that defines large to me. You have impact and that is the reason you have supporters. That is the reason people want to see a difference. It is the return on impact, ROI, or ROL return on life, and you get there with ROR, return on relationship. So you are doing a lot of things really well. You have been a board chair before. Any insights about how to talk to business leaders about…? I was recently a President of the Board of the Lynchburg Symphony Orchestra, and our treasurer rotated off the board, one of our officers, and I asked 28 people, I got turned down. You mentioned you need a treasurer or they start thinking about that. They just give all the excuses. What all, in fact, I like to do is to take the reports from the bookkeeper and share them with the board because we had systems in place and a really professional bookkeeper, and interpreting what the numbers are, was not heavy lifting. But still, you get these, I am on too many boards or my wife’s going to take a board to me if I join one more board. So, what is the secret of getting people on board with your board from the business community?
Joel Clelland: I would say initially offering volunteer opportunities. We have a local dental practice, and a local tax office. There is a couple of religious organizations, and we were nonpartisan. We are non-religious. We just want to help people. I think offering people the opportunity to volunteer is because a lot of times people do not know where to go. All I can go to the United Way or I can help out the Red Cross or over here I can do this thing with this local religious group if you will or I will help out of Soup Kitchen. But, one of the things that we do that really engages the business community is showing them, hey, you can get your people, your employees, your teams out to be a part of our team for an event. It makes an impact on them. It makes them better workers because they know, hey, we work for an amazing company that participates in community service, and they give us the opportunity to do so as well.
One of the things I think is great is, like you said, not every business wants to write those cheques, but a lot of times they either need to or they want to. And, having those connections, I think is invaluable. And I think, as a board chair, plus board chair of Project Boon. I have been a board chair of another organization as well. Being a good listener is really helpful. Finding out what these businesses want. What gets them excited? What animates them about the community? I was working with a local gym earlier this week, and last week, and the gym owner, he kind of said, you know, offhanded. Yeah, if I can get a couple of memberships from Foot Traffic because they are hosting one of our Project Boon donation bins, and I know he was joking but there was some truth in that where there is got to be fair exchange in the community, even when businesses are connecting with the not-for-profit. It is like what are they getting? Do they just get, like you said, the marketing piece where it is like, Okay, you know, this Casino supports Project Boon, or this restaurant supports Project Boon, or is there something else that is more altruistic in the background and I like to think that there is with some businesses? But I am also wise enough to know, hey, what is it that makes you guys tick? Do you guys want to participate in volunteerism? Do you want to offer that to your teams? Great! We have that for you. Do you want to make an impact for good in the community with regard to food insecurity and toys for families in need, going into holidays? Great! We have that opportunity for you as well. And the thing is we also know there is a lot of other nonprofit organizations that are doing similar work, and we are not trying to reinvent the wheel. We just want to do what we do and do it well, and allow businesses to participate because the more businesses that participate with us as strategic partners, the more work we can get done and I think, at the end of the day that is what it is about.
Hugh Ballou: Absolutely! Those are really good thoughts. Our audience is not private leaders and clergy, and we all suffer from the same. We get into a rut. How do I get out of this rut? What are some new ideas? So, I would like to point out that on your main website page you have the “Why” and we often talk about what we do? But it is “Why Project Boon?” So you have a clear understanding of why it is important? I think people need to know that before they are going to listen to your pitch and say, your pitch is based on relationship, but the pitch for money and the pitch for volunteerism is pretty much the same because it is a value. They are going to donate their time or they are going to donate their money. So, I think there is a big similarity, and you also have to Give Without Reservation, which is such a great philosophy. Do you have a reservation? And you hear stories where nonprofits have not been careful by having their process for signing cheques or approving expenditures, and some money disappears. So, I do not want that to happen to my money if I donate.
Joel Clelland: No, of course.
Hugh Ballou: That is really important. We are coming up to the end of our short interview. But you have got a lot of really helpful stuff in here, anything that we did not cover yet that you would like to share?
Joel Clelland: Well, you were touching right there at the end about the “why” and I want to hit on that just very briefly. I talked about Chris, who you have met, one of the co-founders, but I do not think you have ever met Ana Karina Suchanek, his wife, have you?
Hugh Ballou: No.
Joel Clelland: She is a delightful lady. Both Chris and I, agree that she is a much better mouthpiece for Project Boon than either of us. But we talked about Mexico earlier, and trips to Mexico, both you and I have visited Mexico on occasion. Ana Karina is actually from Tuxpan, which is in Jalisco. So, she is from Mexico, and when she came to the US and became a very successful entrepreneur in her own right, she wanted to start making an impact. She and Chris together that was their whole reason. That was their “why” for starting Project Boon. We want to give back. We are totally blessed, and we know that there are people who need help. And, so that was the starting point. Everything that is built off of that, both up to now and what is going to happen in the future kind of still continues to stem from that. That mission is never going to change. We are looking for people who we used to refer to as underserved. Underserved is a definition for us that is kind of a few steps above homeless. There are a lot of organizations, as you know Hugh, that focus on the homeless. Project Boon – Will we feed the homeless? Will we clothe the homeless? Absolutely! But our focus is really a couple of steps above that. The family going into the holidays that maybe the breadwinner lose his job or her job. We want to be there to kind of help a little bit, maybe get them a couple of weeks worth of groceries. Maybe provide those toys at Christmas that kind of thing.
That is what Project Boon has been up to this point. It is an organization that provides volunteering opportunities to give and that kind of help to fill in some of the gaps that we saw during the pandemic that was something that we were able to do, helped fill in some of those gaps. But that is our why, and I believe that people if they just visit, projectboon.org, visit our website, and learn a little bit about what we are doing, that do not want to participate from whatever position they are at, either as a donor, volunteer, or sponsor.
I will just end with this real briefly, if you are in Southern California on November 23rd, we welcome you to come bake bread with us. All are welcome! The food that we are cooking up and distributing is not just for people in need. There will be hot meals for everybody in attendance, and that is on the 23rd of November in the city of Fontana, California, and you can learn all about it on the website. If you want to volunteer there, you can. You can learn about it on the website, and then on December 17th, in the city of Rialto, California, there are also opportunities for volunteering, and I’ll end there.
Hugh Ballou: No matter where you are and no matter when you are listening to this, you might be listening to this year from when we recorded it.
Joel Clelland: That is true.
Hugh Ballou: Recorded it in November 2022 but you can always go to projectboon.org, and you could find out what is current. And, by the way, if you do not live in Southern California, you might know somebody, then you could say, Oh, why do not you go down here and would be worth your while to find out how you can contribute to Project Boon.
So, Joel, and I feel your passion and thank you for what you are doing for the good of humankind and for sharing your message with us today on The Nonprofit Exchange.
Joel Clelland: Thank you, Hugh. It is a pleasure.