Watch the Interview
The Emotional Rollercoaster that is Nonprofit Work
Interview with Rivly Breus
As a philanthropist, Rivly Breus has devoted her career to improving the human condition. As an advocate in healthcare she has worked alongside major developments toward the prevention and treatment of disease, and addressing poverty and inequity. She credits activism in her early adolescence as a turning point. She said, “One of the most difficult aspects of being an outlier is knowing you have a vision but not being able to effectively communicate your goals, in actuality I just wanted to do my part and make a contribution.” Today, as one of the founders of Erzule Paul Foundation, she leads the organization’s vision for Haitian and Dominican migrant families to have the opportunity to live a healthy, productive life. Drawing on her diverse experience in both nonprofits and community driven initiatives, and creates an environment for disenfranchised individuals to access basic necessities. As her primary focus is orphaned children, she facilitated the building blocks for their success as they transition into adulthood and independence. As a public health servant with an anthropology background, and focus on epidemiology, she has targeted numerous communities that are low-income or homeless. She has employed a strategic approach to getting the right intervention methods that would closely align with that particular communities needs all while being cognizant of individual goals and obstacles. As a recipient of select honors, she has a hand in various communities and organizations working towards the mental and literal emancipation from disenfranchisement as well as advocacy of once marginalized groups.
Her message: There are going to be several sleepless and emotional nights. These kinds of nights can be fueled by anything from a grant denial, a missed flight, supplies not being able to reach their intended destination in time and so much more. One day you’ll feel like you haven’t done enough and that you need to save the world, other days you want to give up and say I can’t be responsible for all these individuals. I say all this to illustrate the point that human nature is very complex. The core of who you are as it pertains to the work you do, defines who you are. It doesn’t matter how many sad or unsuccessful days that you have. Those things might leave you unmotivated for weeks on end. I’m here to say that that’s normal and it’s a part of going through the motions. The whole term blood, sweat, and tears is derived from that emotional roller coaster that you experience when you are trying to get something off the ground. I don’t advocate for doing something that completely wipes you out, I only support doing something you are confident will be worthwhile and fulfill you in the end.
Read the Interview
Hugh Ballou: This is Hugh Ballou, signing in for this episode of The Nonprofit Exchange. I am so happy to be here again. Every week, we have a fascinating guest. This week, we had a cancellation. I called her yesterday and said, “Could you be here today?” She graciously said yes! We have Rivly Breus. Rivly, tell us a little bit about yourself and what you’re doing and why did you choose to do this. Welcome to The Nonprofit Exchange.
Rivly Breus: Thank you. Hi, everyone. I am Rivly Breus. I am the founder of Erzule Paul. It’s a nonprofit that specializes in helping refugees, migrant workers, and those who are poverty-stricken. We are focusing on the Dominican Republic and Haiti, mainly Haitians who are living in the Dominican Republic. One of the reasons I got into this work is because of my extensive background in volunteering and nonprofit work. Some of the work that I have done has been directly related to those who are poverty-stricken or who find themselves in situations that are less than favorable. This was my calling. I felt that I needed to do something to impact the world.
Hugh: What difference does your work make in the lives of these people that you talk about?
Rivly: Well, school, for example. Although it may be taken for granted, for these people, school is everything. Just being able to get skills that they need in order to obtain some kind of employment, that helps to offset the cycle of poverty they find themselves in. For example, if you have a struggling family, one family member is able to go to school and learn a trade and skill, however that may be. They can utilize this skill and parlay it into meaningful, gainful employment and be able to take care of the family in that aspect.
Hugh: What are the circumstances that set up poverty?
Rivly: Poverty is unfortunately lack of government structure. Us, we’re fortunate. We live in a first-world country in America where we have an opportunity, but that is not the case for developing countries. Unfortunately, their primary focus is not the people. It’s moreso related to capitalism, tourism, other pursuits. Certain people get lost in the shuffle. Because of that, they have to struggle, and it’s a lifetime of struggling. For example, one of the many great things we have here is the benefits. If you lose your job, you can file for unemployment. But there, it doesn’t work that way. It’s much more difficult.
Hugh: Wow. A lot of us who live in America don’t have a clue about what happens outside of our walls. In your bio that you gave us, you talk about yourself as a philanthropist. You’ve devoted your career to improving the human condition. This is what you’re talking about. Before I go further, how did you get the name?
Rivly: Erzule Paul is the name of my grandmother. Because she is of both heritage and backgrounds. She is both Dominican and Haitian. It would make sense that I would be targeting both Dominicans and Haitians. On top of that, she dedicated her life to helping people. Whether it was financially or emotionally, however the case was, that’s something she did. I think I inherited that from her.
Hugh: You smiled when you said that.
Rivly: Yeah. I did.
Hugh: How often do you go to these- They’re together, aren’t they?
Rivly: Yeah. It ranges from one to three times a year. It really depends on our funders who are funding us and what they are funding us with. For example, when we get Christmas tree donations from Walmart super center, we go around the beginning of December to make it a good time for Christmas so we could give away those Christmas trees and have a jolly good time.
Hugh: They give away trees in Dominican Republic and Haiti?
Rivly: No. They give them to me here. I have to fly them or ship them out.
Hugh: Oh, wow. Wow. Can’t quite pack that in your bag, can you?
Hugh: We’ve been talking about the work of the foundation and the work of what you put as the topic for this: nonprofit work abroad and within the community. Explain that a little bit. Then let’s go back to the title you’ve given us, “The Emotional Rollercoaster that is Nonprofit Work.” That’s a fascinating title to me. It’s not a straight line every day that things work the same way, is it?
Rivly: No. Broadly defined, since we’re crossing international borders, that is the broad scope of this nonprofit. Community would be building- It’s a feeling. Having a sense of community, bringing these people together so that they can understand that together they’re stronger and they need each other in order to get out of this cycle. With the rollercoaster, the rollercoaster starts anywhere from emotions all the way to funding. It’s super difficult to go into these areas and not be affected. It really is. You see these people, and they’re getting by. We here in America say things like, “Just take it a day at a time.” For them, they have to take it an hour at a time because it’s just so difficult. Finding this water, finding this food, not being able to have three square meals a day. That’s emotionally daunting. Grants, applying and then the reality of it is that you’re going to get denied. You’re going to get rejected more times than you get approved. You have to keep going. Know that there is that fire in your heart, and you want to keep it ignited.
Hugh: Talk a little more about that. There’s lots of us. We apply for a grant, and we don’t get it. We’re bummed by that. People want to give up. That is an emotional setback. I remember reading the work of Napoleon Hill, and he talks with one of the leaders about a story about a guy who had a gold mine, but he never struck gold. So he decided to sell it. The guy who bought it dug three more feet, and he struck gold. His premise was most people give up just before they succeed. Greg Reid came along and was authorized by the Napoleon Hill Foundation to write a book called Three Feet from Gold. Just going that little extra is important.
Your whole premise is this is a rollercoaster. SynerVision Leadership Foundation is a nonprofit to support other nonprofits like yours with content, coaching, and other capacity building to enable the organization to do better work and attract more funding. Golly gee, there are some days where it’s very discouraging. Talk more about that topic and why it’s important for you to share.
Rivly: I have a few secrets I wanted to share. Because I have the scholarly background in public health, I was fortunate enough to take grant-writing classes. The way my professor explained it to us is that when it comes to grants, the grant funders have a database of people they already work with. People that they’ve built rapport with or have personal connections or relationships with. When you’re just getting started, when you’re just getting your feet wet, you don’t know anybody, and no one knows you. That in and of itself makes it incredibly difficult to get grant funding. You have to put yourself out there and get to know people. That is the first part of it.
The second part, I remember my cousin Greg. It relates to the story you’re talking about three feet from gold. What he told me was that before you start to see light, it gets really dark. I think he got that from the Bible; I’m not sure what verse it was. That’s so true. Things start to go haywire for a moment in time. After you weather that storm, boom, you get something. I was up to my wit’s end last year scrambling to find something to put together for these families. Then Walmart came through and saved the day. I am a true believer of that concept.
Hugh: Is that Walmart Foundation that gave you that?
Hugh: People don’t know you can generate some income if you join Walmart’s affinity program. You get a number and get registered. When people use that number in their purchase, they give part of their proceeds to your 501(c)3. It’s kind of like Amazon Smile. Here we have Kroger’s and Publix and other markets that do that. You have a card, and a percentage of the proceeds go to a charity that people support. That is the business side. They take some advertising money and give it back to people who have generated sales. Hopefully, the people that support the nonprofit.
Then there is the foundation side, which is a side that gives away money. In writing a grant for them, was it a grant? You wrote a proposal, and they looked at it. Was that the process?
Rivly: No. See, Walmart’s a lot easier when it comes to getting a grant. They have a database where you go online and register. After you register, the supervisor has a hand in picking who gets certain donations, whether it’s dollar amounts or in-kind donations. Now, they say that you should go into the store and personally speak to the supervisor, introduce him/her to your nonprofit so they could put a name to a face or a face to a name. It would make the process easier when it comes to getting funding. But there is no difficult process that includes writing a three- or four-page grant. There is nothing like that. Walmart is the easiest.
Hugh: Is that by store?
Hugh: I want to throw some questions about you and your journey, but you said there were particular pieces you wanted to share with people. Let’s go back. What was the first one? You were already talking about it, I believe. I forget what you called it.
Rivly: Oh, the secrets.
Hugh: It’s not secrets anymore if you tell them.
Rivly: We’ll call them tips. The first tip was from my professor. He is a professional grant writer. What he said was getting to know the people. You’re not just going to be this anonymous person writing a grant to family foundation. More than likely, you have to know them. So events. Any time there is some type of humanitarian event, charity event, nonprofit event, make your rounds. Get to know people. Make sure they see your face. Make sure they know you. Most importantly, make sure what you’re doing resonates with them so that they can keep you in mind because a lot of times, these families work from their own list, and they have that special list they give out to nonprofits every year. That’s the first thing.
The second thing is knowing that before you start to see light, it gets very dark. You’re going to be in a moment of frustration, emotional distress. You’re going to be feeling anxiety or some type of anxious feeling because you need to tie these loose ends. It’s usually around Christmastime when people want to do their giveaways. Or sometimes it’s back to school season. During that time, it’s going to be hot and scary. You need to know that it’s going to get really dark, but boom, somebody is going to come and rescue you. That’s what I believe. That’s how it’s happened for me.
Hugh: Amazing. What has been your biggest challenge in your professional journey?
Rivly: I think my biggest challenge is knowing there are people who will slip through the cracks. I have been trying to avoid that knowledge for a really long time. They tell you you can’t save everyone. For example, the communities we work with, we can only target a certain amount of people with a certain amount of money. That hurts me because I want to help everyone. I also have to realize the small impact I’m making still makes a difference.
Hugh: It’s like the story of the kid who is walking along the beach with an adult, and there is a starfish washed up on shore. He could see it was still alive, so he picked it up and threw it back into the water. The adult said to him, “You know, you can’t save all the starfish in the world. it doesn’t matter.” He said, “It mattered to that one.” That was a bit of wisdom from a child’s mouth. I know we all want to impact as many people as we can, but we don’t want to sacrifice the quality of what we can give. Your biggest obstacle is wanting to help everybody and worried about people who slip through the cracks.
Hugh: How do you manage that emotion?
Rivly: Being grounded in reality. I know that it’s like rationing. If I have a loaf of bread, and I can only give out pieces of bread to maybe 10 people so that they can feel full for the day, if I continue to break off pieces of pieces, sure, I’ll get to 20-25 people. But is it filling them? I’d rather 10 people feel full if that makes sense than to have 25 people still missing something and feeling that that didn’t do anything for them. That’s how I think about it.
Hugh: You’re the founder of Erzule Paul. That was your grandmother.
Hugh: You started this up- how long has it been in existence?
Rivly: Two years.
Hugh: Not everybody who has an idea knows how to run an organization. It looks like you do this pretty well. You know how to source funds; you know how to get the job done. What are the particular challenges of a founder/leader? Visionaries are not necessarily tactical. Is this all you do? Or do you do other business work as well?
Rivly: I do other business work.
Hugh: Taking your business hat and moving it over here. As you were setting this up, one of your challenges was not being able to care for the people who slip through the cracks. What are some other challenges that have been hard emotionally in launching and growing this foundation that you started?
Rivly: That relates to leadership. It’s not just me. I’m working with a group of people. As you know, not everybody is going to agree all the time. There have been times where I have not been able to come to one point with my vice president, and what he wants to do is completely different from what I want to do. Gor example if we have funds, he wants to target education and clothing. Maybe I want to target education and food. Small differences like those make it a little difficult because we all have the same vision, which is to assist. But then when you break it down into details, what should we target first? What’s more important? That’s very difficult for me.
Hugh: Hmm. Some other challenges. We have a lot of people who listen to this who are already in the chute, running a mid-tour 501(c)3. We do have people who are entrepreneurs and are thinking about launching one. From 32 years of working with nonprofit leaders and clergy, the first steps of how to get the people together to be your advisors, to be your board, to be the boots on your ground and help you do the heavy lifting. There is a real barrier to getting off the ground. You’ve gotten this airplane off the ground now. It looks like it’s flying. How did you address some of those situations? How did you gather these people around you? It’s nice to have someone to disagree with. You could be working all by yourself, and you could disagree with yourself.
Rivly: I see what you’re saying.
Hugh: People are stumped. I don’t know anybody. I don’t want to ask anybody. So how did you get this thing started?
Rivly: First and foremost, it fell into place. Divine timing, or just the divine placements of the world or however you want to call it. It fell into place. I had a group of friends or coworkers, colleagues, and classmates. It’s a mixed group we have here. We had already talked about it. We had similar interests. That’s the first thing. If you have somebody who has an interest in doing international work or nonprofit work, boom. If you have someone who has an interest in those two specific countries, boom.
Also, one area of practicality that I’d like to add is the odd numbers game. When we’re voting, it’s important to have an odd number of people. I don’t know if that’s a thing in the business world, but it’s important because there is now no tie in terms of what we’re going to do and what we’re not going to do.
It’s also important to have people from diverse backgrounds. I have someone with a background in education. I have someone with a background in clergy, anything that is related to Christianity, so a priest. I have someone who has a background in nonprofit work as it relates to developing countries, third world nations. That helps, too.
Hugh: Do you have old crotchety guys like me?
Rivly: I do.
Hugh: People don’t understand diversity. Furthermore, they don’t understand why it’s important. It’s not just checking off a list. We have to have someone who looks like this. It’s really about the richness of the conversation from different perspectives to me. If you want all your friends there, you are going to get into a rut and go down a pathway that nobody is saying, “Wait a minute. What about that?” We need people who will respectfully disagree.
I would offer you an alternative perspective on the uneven number for votes. I do a lot of board development all over the world. There are some myths we tell ourselves. One of them is we have to have an odd number to break a tie vote. I would much rather have everybody on the same page. That’s being realistic, but it’s hard to do sometimes. I really don’t think people understand the power of consensus. I find a lot of people mistake compromise and consensus when they are actually 180 degrees different. The compromise is lose-lose. Consensus is win-win.
One thing I have found is we don’t fully understand how to do consensus. Somebody makes a motion. Somebody seconds the motion. Then you talk about it. You realize the people are divided on the issue. Instead of just calling the vote and it passes 5-4, like in the Supreme Court, you leave and are divided. That one deciding vote is the person making the decision really. If that’s you, then why have a board because you are making the decision ultimately? You vote that way. You have A and B, up or down, left or right, good or bad. We think in dualistic terms. What if we instead looked at a C, D, or E, and we started exploring other options? In that conversation point, you might come up with here is something we might all get around, and then the person who made the motion, we could say we are using rubber tools for it, or would you accept this modification of your motion? Then you have something people say, “We are all aligned on that.” But it’s really working in conversation.
We are in an era in our churches and communities where people are divided. We are mostly talking about each other and not talking to each other. I think part of what the nonprofit world brings to communities is how we have meaningful conversations. We are not going to agree on everything. That’s a creative tool. Come on. We don’t need to shoot people. Maybe there is something in the middle. I would imagine that through that diversity, we will have difference of opinions. My thought for you is how we embrace all of those and take it down a pathway where we can create a richer solution than what we originally thought about, and it might be better. What do you think of that?
Rivly: Now I’m starting to see where it would be faulty thinking that odd numbers is the way to go. I’m not considering the people who had dissenting opinions. Instead of giving them a choice between A and B, we could further look into C, D, E, just like you said. We’ll be on a path of a general consensus versus people leaving feeling like their opinion didn’t matter anyway. I am open to that. That’s something I would like to implement.
Hugh: And it’s understanding what consensus means. People have a confusion about consensus and compromise. When everybody leaves on a compromise, everybody feels like they lost. They gave up something to make it work. With consensus, everyone feels like it’s better than they ever thought. Really, it’s the core of building the relationship inside the organization, and then you put their superpower hat on. They think, Okay, we can do this, even if it’s insurmountable. It’s a powerful tool.
We talked about your obstacles and starting your nonprofit and getting it to its second year is phenomenal. Half of the ones that are started each year will ultimately close. Sometimes, they are in a short time frame. What do you do in business that nobody else does the same way? What is your unique secret for how you function?
Rivly: I don’t know if it’s unique. I don’t know if it’s a secret. But keeping up to date with things. Whether it’s government forms, documents from the IRS, the state, the county, taxes, just keeping up to date with that. Saving receipts. I keep receipts in a shoebox. That is what is helping me stay afloat.
Hugh: You’re pretty good at the details.
Hugh: How many people are involved in running this? You have a board. How many people are on your board?
Rivly: Right now, my board has three members.
Hugh: That’s a good number. The bigger it is, the harder it is to make decisions. As you grow in programs, you will need more board members to shepherd those different functions. Do you have any paid staff who work with you?
Rivly: No, not at the moment.
Hugh: They’re all volunteers?
Hugh: A lot of organizations like you are out there. Technology. A lot of nonprofit leaders shy away from technology or don’t want to use it or are suspicious of it. Is there some technology or software that has helped you learn some things and accomplish some things in the organization?
Rivly: Sure. We could start with Canva, which is a tool I use to create blurbs or advertisements to let people know this is what we’re doing, or this is what we’re looking for. If we’re doing a toy drive or an event where we are collecting items. With that application, I am able to design these catchy, creative advertisements to get people’s attention.
Hugh: Canva, you create a meme with it and put text on it?
Hugh: It’s a tool in itself you can use to put on your Smartphone or your computer, correct?
Hugh: I guess the word is playing on canvas.
Hugh: I surmised that. That is an example of good branding to me.
Rivly: Yes, it is. And then I guess the technology for now, since we’re small, Excel works great. I use Excel so that I could keep track of the grants I applied to, got rejected from, or got approved for. That’s important because when you go to career workshops or job fairs, one thing they tell you is to always have an Excel spreadsheet. When you apply to the same employer twice or three times, it shows your lack of attention to detail. It shows that you’re unorganized and really all over the place. That’s why it’s important to have an Excel spreadsheet for that kind of thing.
Hugh: People have varying levels of competency. You’re using it as a record-keeping tool, correct?
Rivly: Correct. I also use the Excel spreadsheets in order to keep track of money that’s coming in. If this source gives me $5,000 or this source gives me $500, this is also something that needs to be parlayed into grant writing. A lot of the funders ask you how much money you’ve received and from whom and when. You have to be able to give them those exact figures in order to be deemed a quality nonprofit that they want to work with.
Besides Canva and Excel, I would say the third and final piece of technology that I use is mass emailing. Some people like Mailchimp. Some people like Neon. I like Neon. But it’s mass messaging. If we have something coming up, or not even something coming up, if we just want to share pictures. If I took a trip last year in December and did a Christmas spread and was giving out deodorants, soaps, shoes, those sorts of things, I want to have a database of people who are interested in this organization. Whether or not they’re donors, they’re going to donate, or they have donated, that’s not the point. The point is they have an active interest in the nonprofit that possibly could turn into donations one day. You want to be able to have that open line of communication so that you can share with them what’s going on and how it’s doing.
Hugh: Do you have a frequency that you connect with people that way?
Rivly: Yeah, I try to limit it to once a month because people don’t like to be bombarded or spammed. I respect that.
Hugh: What I know is that we want- Somebody gives you money, and you want to stay in touch with them and let them know what happened to that money. If we continue reporting on the accomplishments and the impact of our work, then that person is likely to continue donating. That is an important piece. Software is an important tool. You’ve learned to master those over time?
Hugh: You weren’t born with it; you had to learn it, right?
Hugh: I’m making a point because sometimes people think they are a born leader or they are born intuitive or they are born knowing how to do software. We need to teach ourselves. We need to learn from the best. We need to upgrade ourselves. I see one of your real leadership positions is that you influence people. You’re an influencer because you show up, you’re very clear, focused, and intentional. I sense you as being careful. You take receipts and put them away. We tend to attract people like us. When we are clear on our mission, people will support it.
When you are asking somebody to serve in your organization, what is the reason they should care about this? What is the reason they should serve?
Rivly: I want to be as transparent as possible. You have to have an interest. If you don’t have an interest and are just doing it for community service or to feel good about yourself, it probably won’t work. Unfortunately, you have to have some type of vested interest in this particular community, particular demographic, or particular plight. If you are a champion of education and you feel that education is the way to save anyone’s lives, then yes. If you are a champion of rising out of poverty through all the circumstances and obstacles, then yes. If you are someone who really likes Haitian or Dominican culture and you want to see it thrive, then yes. In terms of attracting people who are similar to yourselves, then that’s how I look at it.
Hugh: When you are launching this, did you have trouble telling people why you’re doing it and what is the purpose of this organization?
Rivly: Yes, there was one time where I applied for a grant, and I was being interviewed. I did have some difficulty explaining to them why this was important and why they should care, mainly because when you are dealing with foreign aid, you will get the question, “Why not help your own community? Why are you going outside your own community to help other people?” That’s one of the most difficult questions to answer because it makes sense that you’re asking me this. But then you also have to realize that depending on where you live, there are so many nonprofits on my community alone that specialize in education, poverty alleviation, civic engagement, that kind of thing. I would just get lost in the shuffle, so I try to flip it and say something positive and say, “My community has so many resources available that I feel as though I’m able to take the help that I can offer somewhere else because we’re good here, if that makes sense.”
Hugh: It really does. I had a couple of thoughts while you were saying that, but they just flew out of my mind. Go back and start what you were saying again. Let’s see what I can figure out what I was thinking.
Rivly: Getting that question in terms of why you are helping foreign people or people outside of your community versus helping people within your community. I have to let them know we have enough resources within their community. There are 10 people doing a back to school drive. There are 20 people doing a Thanksgiving or Christmas drive. You can never have too much help or too many resources, but I wanted to diversify myself.
Hugh: Absolutely. You live in South Florida?
Rivly: I do, in Miami.
Hugh: It’s a mixture, but there are a lot of affluent people who live there. I live in Lynchburg, Virginia. In the Commonwealth, this is the highest poverty rate of 25% of the population is below the poverty line. We do a lot of charitable work, feeding people and helping them get jobs. Here, people are in poverty if they are in a country where there are no resources, they have no choice. But in a country with lots of resources, part of that is a mindset. People think they’re poor, and they remain poor. James Allen wrote a book As the Man Thinketh a decade ago when things were using male-dominant language. We can make it generic. “People want to change their circumstances but are unwilling to change themselves; therefore, they remain bound.” Part of what I see all around me. I live in one zip code, which is the heavy concentration. 40% of that zip code are below the poverty line. A lot of our local community charities are doing good work to help people get a leg up. Rivly, sometimes people don’t want a leg up. They just want a meal. That’s a choice people make. Do you find that people are receptive? You go all the way to Haiti. You take them Christmas trees. How do people respond to the gifts that you bring to them?
Rivly: You know what? You’re right. Sometimes people just want a meal. I had initially said that us as Americans, we take things day by day, and for them, they take things hour by hour. You can imagine if I don’t know where I’m going to get dinner, and somebody brings a hot plate of food to me, I’m good. I’m not thinking about tomorrow. I’m not thinking about next week. I’m thinking about this meal I’m having. I would say that it just takes time. There are some people who just live for that meal. When I was working with the homeless a few years ago, I had clients tell me, “Look, if I could just get a sandwich or something hot, I’m good to go.” That may be it for some people. But at some point in time, they begin to question things. They begin to have an introspective look into themselves and say, “Hey, is this really all I’m living for? Am I living for this hot plate of food? Am I ever going to do something with my life or go somewhere different?” After a while, you keep going back into these communities in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. These people get familiar with you. They start to see your face, and based on prior experience of being turned away when offering services, it takes anywhere from three months to a year to convince someone after going there repeatedly to convince someone that they should get the services or get help.
Hugh: I guess it’s hard to put myself in other people’s shoes. I would think I would jump at the opportunity, but it might be different if I lived there or were in the circumstances they were in. It’s a whole different perspective. Two years, you probably don’t have lots of big stories, but do you have a story of someone who you’ve helped change their life?
Rivly: Wow. My belief system is that to change a life, it takes three to four years, sometimes even five years. Unfortunately, that’s how I see things. In terms of making strides to changing that person’s feeling of hopelessness or depression, that I’ve been able to do. Me giving a pair of sneakers. I remember when we were giving out sneakers to a community where the kids were walking around barefoot. The fact that this is the first brand new pair of shoes that these kids have seen in a while, if ever, I’d like to believe that that changed how they see things and that put a little hope in their heart. When I come back again and see them, it’ll start to build their confidence.
Hugh: I bet you’ve had a profound impact on some of those people’s lives. I’m sure you’ve started the journey. You haven’t seen it come to its fullness, but I’d be curious when you come back what you find out from people. You’ve helped them make a pivot really. I tend to be on the optimistic side. Once we give people a pivot point, some of them will take it right away, and some of them will take a while to dawn on them.
This is a lot of really interesting stuff that you’re talking about. Give me the short form. What do you hope someone will take away from this interview today? By the way, we will talk about this in a minute, but Rivly has submitted an article to the magazine that comes out in December 2019 about start-up practices for 501(c)3s. You’ll be able to read the article in Nonprofit Performance 360 Magazine. What are the things you want people to take away from today?
Rivly: I want them to know how to use their savviness or their sense of being a networker to their advantage. If you have a great aptitude for convincing people or just connecting with people, use that to your advantage. That’s how you end up in getting places where you never would have dreamed, and you get the kind of assistance that you hoped for. I would also say that you have to keep a healthy level of optimism as you mentioned in this industry because it’s very needed. Of course you have to be realistic and rational. But at the same time, optimism always works best. Finally, I would say do it with your heart. Be sincere. If it’s not coming from the bottom of your heart, then it might not be for you.
Hugh: You’re very convincing, you know.
Rivly: Thank you.
Hugh: You have some profound influence. You’re an influencer, which to me describes leadership. Leaders influence others. You have the Rivly force field and are making this happen, but you are doing it in a calm, systematic way. I’m impressed with that.
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Rivly, there are a lot of good sound bites and basic thinking that you bring to share with other people. Thank you for being here today. Do you have a challenge or closing thought you’d like to leave with people?
Rivly: Sure. I would like to urge people to whenever you feel like there is an issue or a disconnect within the community, I would urge them to try to seek a solution first on their own. Michael Jackson has a song about starting with the man in the mirror. I can’t complain about something that is going on within the community if I’m not doing something about it, like being present at city hall meetings and writing my politicians or even if it’s just starting a small nonprofit. I can’t complain unless I’ve exhausted all those steps. I encourage people to find their own unique solutions to whatever problems they are faced with in their community or wherever it may be.
Hugh: Thank you for that. Thank you for being here. This is Hugh Ballou signing off.