On-Demand: Working to Lead
November 16, 2020
We discussed the impact of the pandemic and social justice on the nonprofit sector.
Candice Meth:Throughout history, the nonprofit sector has shown resilience during tough times, but we are at a critical juncture with nonprofits having to pivot and come up with dynamic new revenue sources in difficult times and ways to fundraise.
But we're also at a moment when we need to hear the outcries of the public and think about how we treat one another and we have to do better. We need to build that into the fabric of our everyday interactions, the awful moments that occurred and never forget them and figure out how to work forward with our coworkers as well as our constituents.
We have reached a time where we need to have these critical conversations, and we're delighted that today's session coincides with Give Miami. It kicks off this week and it reminds everyone to take a moment ahead of the holiday season and give to your favorite charity. So we encourage you to do so.
At the conclusion of today's session, we'll be moving into a network room.
During the networking session, our speakers will take your questions and you'll be able to chat with them directly. Many of you were emailed the link already, but if you lost it, don't worry, it'll pop up on your screen.
And now without further ado, joining me are three diverse non-profits both in their programs as well as in their fundraising. I am delighted to introduce Lori-Ann Cox, the CEO of Breakthrough Miami.
Lori-Ann joined Breakthrough Miami in 2018 with more than 20 years in education management for a variety of roles. She previously served as the Executive Director of external affairs at Gulliver, one of South Florida's leading private non-profit independent day schools.
We are also joined today by Gale Nelson, who is the President and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters Miami. Since joining Big Brothers Big Sisters in July, 2006, Gale has played a significant role in the growth and development of the agency's mentoring and fund development programs.
Prior to joining Big Brothers Big Sisters, he served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at a moderate risk residential school for court adjudicated boys for 12 years.
Rounding out today's panel is, Franklin Sirmans, the Director at the Perez Art Museum Miami. Franklin Sirmans, has been the director at the PAMM since fall 2015. Since coming to the PAMM, he has overseen the acquisition of more than a thousand works of art by donation or by purchase.
And he's pursued a vision of making PAM the people's museum representing a Miami lens by strengthening existing affiliate groups, such as the PAMM fund for African American Art, Leading the International Women's Committee, American and LatinX Art Fund.
Thank you all so much for joining me today. I know all of our listeners would appreciate it if you could talk more about your respective organizations and their missions. And so Lori-Ann, I'd love to turn it over to you.
Lori-Ann Cox:Thank you, Candice. I am so happy to be here today and especially happy to share this time with my partners in service, Franklin, and Gale. We actually have the opportunity to work together throughout the year. And so it's nice to have another opportunity to speak about where we are today and how we see things moving forward.
Breakthrough Miami has served as an opportunity generator in our community for nearly 30 years. Next year, February, we will celebrate three decades of changing lives and creating leaders.
We started as a Summerbridge program at Ransom Everglades, and since then have moved on to serve as a un-parallel HR tuition free academic and social enrichment program that uses a unique student-teaching-students model to create a rigorous and vibrant learning community, where highly motivated, traditionally underrepresented fifth through 12th grade students are supported to achieve post-secondary success and emerging leaders are inspired to become the next generation of educators and advocates of education.
We serve 1,300 scholars each year, 130 teaching fellows, and our teaching fellowship has been ranked top 10 in the country. We're powered by 400 volunteers and we do it across eight sites. We're also very proud that Breakthrough was selected as the best summer learning program in the country by the National Summer Learning Association as well.
Candice Meth:Thank you so much, Lori-Ann. Gale, can we turn it over to you to talk a little bit more about Big Brothers Big Sisters?
Gale Nelson:Thank you, Candice, and good morning to everyone. Big Brothers Big Sisters, is the oldest and largest youth mentoring organization in the United States. Here in Miami, we've served this community for 62 years since 1958.
We build relationships based on mutual trust and respect. So we bring that big and that little together, regardless of background. And the power of mentoring is that these Bigs, these volunteers, these mentors sign up in efforts to help a child, but in essence, they're helped in return.
And so the synergy, when I hear Bigs talking about, "She is now my family. He is now a part of my family." The mentoring is not just nice, it's necessary. One of the things we're proud of is in the midst of these challenges our Bigs and Littles are now closer together than ever before in the midst of the pandemic, in the midst of the numerous challenges in 2020.
Big Brothers Big Sisters Miami, was one of only five agencies nationwide to receive the coveted Pinnacle Award from Big Brothers Big Sisters of America that rewards, if you will, not only the quality of our mentoring relationships, but also the fact that we're able to run a fiscally sound operation as well. So we are so fortunate to be a part of this distinguished panel today.
Candice Meth:So important, and we constantly say you're never alone. I know that Big Brothers Big Sisters has helped in that. Franklin, if you could talk a little bit more about the PAMM.
Franklin Sirmans:Sure. Thank you, Candice. So good to be here with you all, especially my dear colleagues. I mean, we don't get the chance to do this often enough and it's amazing how this new world brings us together this morning.
I've been at the Perez Art Museum Miami for five years now. The museum opened as the Center for Fine Arts in 1984. We opened as, I think, very much a civic gesture, which is part of what brings us here today. We're all concerned with our community. We're all concerned with the people within that community.
I feel fortunate in that the museum has this foundation that is based in a conversation. When we think about museums, we often think about a place to go to look at something. We don't always think about the dynamism, the people that make it go, and the programs that make it about community. And I think that's what we're trying to do here at the museum.
We began with this kind of history, which, ironically, we're here today in 2020, dealing with a lot going on in the world, and our museum was founded in a pivotal and difficult moment here in Miami.
Our first director came here in 1980, same time of the trial of Arthur McDuffie, trial of Arthur McDuffie killers who were police officers, the same time as the Mariel boatlift, at the same time as a lot of change, a lot of division, the need for people to come together. And the Center for Fine Arts was built with that idea in mind.
Now, we are the Perez Art Museum Miami. We've been in our signature building here on Biscayne Bay for the last almost seven years now. So we are a museum that looks at modern and contemporary art and an international scope.
But we're a museum that wants to lead that conversation from the point of view of Miami. And that means being the best at presenting the work of Latin America and the Caribbean, while looking toward the African Diaspora, looking toward the US Latino experience. That's what we try to do, and I'm happy to be here for that conversation. Thank you.
Candice Meth:Thank you so much. Franklin, I think that the cultural institutions are really what a lot of people are focused on because obviously with COVID, the ability to get the foot traffic isn't there. And so can you talk us through a little bit about what you've done to continue to have revenue streams and what the future looks like for the PAMM?
Franklin Sirmans:Sure. Well, March, I guess we are very lucky. Let me start there. Last spring, we held a major event called Art + Soul, which is a part of our fund for African-American art at the museum. That was in late February.
A few weeks later, March seven, we had our annual gala. So we got those two major events out of the way. Of course, as we know the following week all of us began talking about, what are we going to do in the face of COVID-19?
By the end of that week, we decided we would close as of March 16, which was a Monday. I think at the time we probably thought it would be two to three months. This is an opportunity, because we're trying to look at this as an opportunity in many different ways to do some things that we've already committed to, some things that we want to do.
So like everybody else, we pivoted immediately, we went online. We had our first all-staff meeting with about a hundred people on Monday, March 16. I know I hadn't been on Zoom until that moment. And so that was the beginning of what would become a weekly meeting. And not only that, but what becomes the basis of all of our schedules for many, many, many days since then.
In a way, what we wanted to do was think about digital experience and what that means to the museum experience. We received a large grant from the Knight Foundation two years ago to do exactly that.
So one silver lining is that I had a director of digital engagement begin her tenure with us on March 30. Ready, here we go. So we've tried to double down in that space and we'll see what that means in the long-term.
In the short term, it has really and simply meant providing a means of continuing to do what we do. That means we do programs online. We do museum visits online. We create art with students online, and all of these programs have continued to flourish. I'm amazed and I'm heartened by that experience.
Now, how do we evolve? Is as I think the next step. But one big way surely has been by taking advantage of technology and using the digital experience to continue to do what we do, which is bring people together. We try to bring people together to talk about difficult things sometimes, not always. But art is always the catalyst for any of these conversations.
Candice Meth:So true. The cultural institutions are part of the fabric of our society and help us remember our history. So I'm happy to hear that. Lori-Ann, I want to turn it over to you and just talk about how you've been able to look to new revenue streams and how you've had to pivot in these times.
Lori-Ann Cox:Thank you, Candice. Similar to Franklin, I will say that for us the past few months they've really given us an opportunity as an organization and as a team and as a Breakthrough village to really look at, what is our core function? Number one.
Number two, to really exercise that muscle that we have to be resilient, to think about all of the capabilities and the strengths that we have so that we can continue to do what we do, which is to impact the lives of our scholars and everyone that interacts with us.
Back in March, I will say that we also lost opportunities to do some of our fundraising events. One of our largest corporate donors who is a major player in the cruise industry, halted all of its grantmaking, and that had a real impact on us. And understandably as well, some of our other corporate partners shifted and really started focusing on food insecurity.
And so some of the revenues that we had planned for this year were shifted to other areas of need in the community. So it required us to really look at our budgets and really cut back on as much as we can, already being an organization that runs on a very lean budget.
For me, it was very important to retain all of our staff because we have a very lean full-time staff of 20 people servicing 1300 scholars, scholars who they and their families need us more than ever.
And so one of the things that we found ourselves doing in addition to continuing to support their educational advancement was looking at, how do we support them as families? One of the things about these times is that these are the times that you really see the impact and the importance and the reach of nonprofits like ours, the relationships that we have, and the access and the understanding of the communities and the needs that they'll have.
And quite frankly, the trust that exists between us, so that we're able to quickly understand how we can help families who very quickly started to lose jobs, to face housing insecurity.
And so I will say that we really looked at how we could start delivering a lot virtually on various virtual platforms. One of our core outcomes that we look for in our scholars is exactly that, that resilience, that ability to keep going in the face of challenges.
I will say that our scholars really rose to the occasion. And so we were able with the help of some of our stable multi-year major contracts from local and federal agencies to still retain about one third of our budget, and that was great.
I have to say to organizations like those who reached out very early on to say, "We know more than ever with schools closing, with many schools not having the same kind of engagement with students, that you need to be doing what you do more than ever."
So one, being able to support in that last quarter and to move to a virtual platform for signature six-week Summer Institute was integral. And so I really have to say that I am grateful to those agencies that showed up early and said, "You can count on our funding. We are going to give you more flexibility than you've ever had, get what you need."
I'll be honest with you, for us, that included just computers that wouldn't heat up and die, burn while we were on virtual hangouts. And so we were appreciative of that. We also, this year had applied for state funding and of course with the state of Florida closing down and not having those tourism dollars and all of that, there was a lot of cut backs that had to be made.
And so while we made it through the House and Senate and through eight rounds of cuts, we were ultimately competing against the expanding needs of the pandemic. And so we were on the governor's veto list, which also was about $500,000 of funding that we were counting on.
I will say that as a result of that, not only in our delivery did we change, but we also looked at creating something that we hadn't had before. That came from actually one of our volunteers at one of our high schools, at one of our independent whole school sites. She loves running, and so she approached us and said, "I want to help. What if we do a virtual run?"
And so this came from a high schooler and the support of her parents and our community. And as a result of that, we were able to bring in additional sources of revenue and also to reach over 70 new donors, which was great. At that time when people were losing donors, we were able to acquire some. And so I'm also very grateful for that.
The other areas that we also made sure that we were tapping into was mental health. We started providing mental health support through webinars and one-on-one counseling for our scholars and for their families.
There were some several students who, two, three weeks had not seen another student, had not spoken to a teacher, and the impact that it had on them and what it is for someone to go to school from home differs according to your household and what that setup is. And also ensuring that they have the equipment that they need, but also food.
I mean, I will tell you that our village really came together and we had groups of people delivering pantry bags and these cards. Gale, can speak to this too, because there was a lot of also that kind of assistance that continues to happen for the communities that we serve.
What I will say is that as a result of that, one of the things that happened as we moved into the new school year and students were faced with going back to school virtually, we had not only instructional coaches who are Miami-Dade County Public School certified teachers going back feeling confident, because we had introduced them to all of these platforms to be able to deliver education, but most importantly, our scholars and our volunteers felt the same.
And so when we had a series of snafus here in Miami-Dade County with the online platform that our district had invested in, we had text messages and phone calls from parents and scholars who said, "I was able to show my teacher today how to move my class over to using Zoom or Nearpod." Or all of these different platforms that we had introduced them to.
And so for that we felt really proud about that because here we are again, giving these scholars the tools to one, continue learning, but to also be leaders to those who are around them.
I would say that while we did face revenue shortfalls, we were quickly able to remain focused on what our purpose is, which is to ensure that these highly motivated students, which oftentimes people don't think about during these times, because you figure, "Well, they're fine. They're at, or above grade level."
They're highly motivated. They want to keep at that level. They're already feeling like they're competing and behind the ball of their more affluent peers who have access to so many more resources. And so they want to keep learning and we were able to do that and to also provide them with additional tools.
I will also say at the time when many college students were feeling also displaced, those college students, there were 17 to 24 year olds that had been teaching fellows with us from last year and previous years reached out on their own and said, "I want to do one-on-one virtual tutoring with scholars who are now just at home, logging into programs and not having that."
And so it just has been such a really inspiring, fulfilling time for us, and we feel really proud. And what I will also say is we can't wait to see those report cards too to see how they continue to thrive academically despite the setbacks.
Candice Meth:I love it. I love the ingenuity of your scholars. Gale, a lot of times when we think about Big Brothers Big Sisters, you are synonymous with some of the most fantastic special events. And so, obviously in a time of COVID, I'm curious to see how Big Brothers Big Sisters has pivoted to look for new revenue streams.
Gale Nelson:Well, you've heard it said, it's not personal it's business, but our business is personal at Big Brothers Big Sisters. Right down the street from Franklin, we had our gala on March 7th, literally the same night. So we just made the COVID cut. So we were very fortunate.
That morning, I will never forget waking up that Saturday morning, March 7th, then there was a first Broward case that was reported. And this is the reality, non-profit is attack status, but we're running businesses. We got real revenue, real expenses, and real people that are first responders in the relationship business.
When I saw that on the news, I'm thinking, I hope and pray that we can get through without any incident." And we were fortunate as Franklin mentioned as well. And then I remember on March 13th, having an all staff meeting. I said, "I've never been in the midst of a pandemic. I don't know what's going on, folks, but everybody, get your laptops and go home."
So we pivoted very quickly, and to have a board of directors that I work closely with that gave me the latitude and the flexibility to do whatever it takes to make sure we want to ensure our staff are safe. I immediately had to reduce expenses, just calling some vendors and saying, "I'm sorry, I got to cut the contract."
Because my number one priority was staff safety and then also making sure that we kept our staff whole. I'm fortunate and I'm happy to report that we did not lay off any staff. Because when I lay off a staff at Big Brothers Big Sisters, that next, that child, who's not getting that program specialist that support that's so desperately needed.
These kids immediately went to the virtual school, if you will, online, and there was technological challenges with some of our Littles. Otherwise we did a survey, food insecurity was at the top of the list. So before we could talk about connecting them and making sure they were doing okay academically, it's kind of hard to study when your stomach is growling and you're hungry.
And so we began back in March, a weekly food distribution that continues to this day. I got staff downstairs right now, literally putting food in bags to deliver for our families as we get into the Thanksgiving holiday season.
So the pivot is real, but with challenge comes opportunity. Our events, we part of our budget about 20 to 25% of our overall operating budget are special events. And so in this budget cycle, our fiscal year ended June 30th, and for the 2021 budget, we've reduced our net revenue for our events, 55%. That's real.
But the pivot also gave us the opportunity to be creative as, Lori-Ann, and Franklin said, online events. I didn't know anything about Zoom before the pandemic, and let's just say, we're pretty good friends now.
But at the end of the day, and much of this has already been stated, Big Brothers Big Sisters, we are the first responders in the relationship business. When we talk about domestic violence increasing, these kids aren't leaving the home. 85% of the kids we serve live at or below the poverty level, the federal poverty level.
So now more than ever the mission of bringing people together, addressing food insecurity. We did an online campaign in April called, Keeping Kids Connected. And we focused on the FACTS as an acronym, F-A-C-T-S. Food insecurity, access, connection, transportation, because some folks couldn't get to our building to get the food and support that only a mentor can provide.
So with the challenges come opportunities. I'm thankful to the board. I'm thankful to the donors who, as Lori-Ann said, who lifted the restrictions on some of the grants that we were provided so that we could have the flexibility to do what we need to do for our kids and families.
Candice Meth:Thank you so much. I want to stick with this theme, and Lori-Ann, you touched on it earlier, but I want to stick with this theme about how you're delivering your services in a different way, because so much of what you do is about mentorship and making that connection with the scholars and the students, and what I'll say is more peer-to-peer teaching, which is very impactful. And so how are you able to deliver the same quality, but in this new environment?
Lori-Ann Cox:We thought about this. We refer to what happens when our scholars converge on our host site campuses with our volunteers and teaching fellows, we refer to that magic that happens that energy as the Breakalicious spirit.
And so as we were planning our move to delivering virtually, that was one of the questions that just kept coming up, "But how are we still going to have that spirit? How is it still going to be that Breakalicious environment?"
What I will tell you is the strengths of the relationships that we had even with our incoming class, which are rising fifth graders every year, who we had spent a year recruiting and interviewing, that first six weeks Summer Institute is really where they get to know us and we get to know them and then they open up. And so there were so much thought as to, how are we going to achieve that?
And I will tell you that everything from the fact that our teaching fellows from previous years and the ones that were going to be serving this year started reaching out to our scholars as early as April.
We did virtual hangouts every Friday and most Saturdays. We did everything from virtual hangouts, where there were still learning, whether it was looking at a pantry bag that was delivered to you, and what were some of the creative ways that you could make different meals and using that as an educational opportunity with math and science and all of that, to online chess, to gaming, to we even did virtual dances.
I mean, we thought about everything to keep making sure that our eyes are seeing each other, that they're feeling that energy, that they know that we're here to support and that our hearts are with them.
We did of course, drop-offs as well, because similar to what Gale shared, we had several families that could not take advantage of some of the meal distribution events that required you to pull up in cars. Well, they don't have cars. And if they did have cars, they're out of jobs there's no gas to put into cars, to sit in lines for two hours.
And so we had volunteers who made drop-offs, and that meant leaving things at gates on front steps, but also saying, "I'm here at this time, I'm seeing several eyes peeping at you through windows. So happy to see you."
I would have team members who would call me and say, "I'm so grateful that we're able to do these drop-offs. I'm so happy to see the families. But as I'm driving away, I am in tears because as happy as I am to see them and to help them, there are homes that you thought you were going to one family, but because of displacement, regardless of moratoriums on evictions, there were families that were taking in other families."
So I had staff members who said, "We dropped off groceries and a gift card, but I saw at least 10 kids in that house. We need to be doing more. How can we be doing more?" That push and tug that you feel on your emotions, and so we had that happening as well.
One of the things that we've also been fortunate to do, and that is in the creativity of the team that we have, and the fact that the young people, the teaching fellows are always looking at, how can they deliver content and connect with students in the ways that they want to have their teachers connect with them?
And so they really explored all of these platforms that we had open to them. We had a policy of, come as you are. We'd like to see you with your cameras on, but if today wasn't on-camera day for you, that's fine. We just want you to know that you're there.
Not everyone will want to speak on camera, and so we had all these tools that allow them to express themselves using chats and images and all of these various platforms, which later on became very useful tools that we're now using with adults and introducing to other corporations to use as well to lead to more collaboration.
This was all something that came out of our students. And so we're so thrilled. We're so thrilled with that. And also spending more time investing in the adults in the lives of our scholars. And so we did weekly webinars helping them to understand what's going on with the school system, going through all of the new procedures that are like these long lengthy documents, complicated documents and spelling it out for them very simply, and letting them know that we're there, letting them know that we're there to help them with employment, with rental issues, with food insecurity, with health issues.
I mean, we became, it's all using all of these various technological platforms. And then of course the occasional drive by where we looked at each other's faces from afar with masks on, with eyes smiling.
I will tell you that this has been a time that has truly been impactful on all of us and where we have learned not just as a team, but just as an entire village, how connected we are, the value that we all serve in our lives. And how yes, there's lots of technological resources that we can use, but nothing replaces that human connection and that care and understanding and how much we have to learn from each other.
Because I will tell you our scholars more than ever, and the young people in our program really stepped up and were able to make that change, to make that pivot, to look for additional resources far more than many adults could or can.
It was just, and continues to be something where we know that moving forward, there was an article recently in the New York Times, as I shared with a team that said, the pension of the future is a commitment to lifelong learning.
We think about that with our scholars and the fact that they're in an environment that inspires them to always be looking for new things, new ways, new sources of learning and growing. And that has to be something that we take with us throughout our lives.
And so as you think about what COVID meant for us and means, it means that there isn't a point where we can say something is going to end and something else will begin, that we have to be constantly looking to be able to be adaptable to change.
For us, living this experience with them, working with them hand-in-hand and with their families and looking for tools and constantly learning how to do things better, was something that we as adults, as practitioners, as well as these students, we know that they'll take for a lifetime and truly is the skill of the future. There's no set amount of work that we can all do.
I mean, clearly there are certain basic reading, writing, and all of that, that we have to do, but that love and that desire to keep learning, I would say is what we stress the most, and what we saw, and that we know that the scholars and we, will start to take always in our lives.
Candice Meth:Absolutely. I want to pick up on one of those themes, you talked about human connection. Gale, that immediately makes me think of Big Brothers Big Sisters, because that's what that connection is all about, is having that mentor in your life.
And so, in this type of environment, how do you continue to deliver that human connection? And talk to me a little bit also about what you've done to look out for the Bigs. Because you, and I had had this conversation about how it's not just the Littles that we need to be looking out for, it it's the Bigs as well in this environment.
Gale Nelson:Some of our Bigs lost their jobs. And so you sign up to help a child and now you are a need. And so that food insecurity also related to our Bigs. And so you talk about family. A mentor by definition is a trusted friend and counsel.
And so our Bigs, we served last year, 3,100 youth in Miami-Dade County. We're not talking about a drop in the bucket. We're talking about a significant number of people who have committed to spending that quality time.
And so our core mission is to bring two people together for a minimum of one calendar year. And so during the pandemic, I'm so happy to share that we have not stopped making matches. Now, the matches are virtual. We do the interview, the invasive interview over the Bigs, the volunteers, your hobbies, your interests, likes, dislikes. Same thing with the children and the families.
And we make the most appropriate match based on those compatibility factors needs as well. And so matchmaking continues. And so as we talk about the pivot, we've also found efficiencies.
I mentioned earlier with challenge comes opportunity, and so it's been very interesting as we look at this leveraging technology, interviewing folks online. I've met with the team consistently to find out how we can do things better.
We mentioned events earlier as well. We had an event, a hybrid event. We have an annual Jazz at Joe's. Last year, we had 400 people, Bigs, Littles, our donors from throughout the County and throughout South Florida. We had a very scaled down event with no more than just a few socially distant tables, but everyone else joined us online. The match presentation instead of being in person was a video.
We shipped the meals, delivered meals. And so this pivot is so real, and as we talk about helping our Bigs and our Littles, the variance from last year's event was about $20,000. And so you think about all the fluff that goes on with an event, we scaled it down, streamlined it, leveraged technology, and just about met the same net revenue from last year.
So we are there for our Bigs. Our matchmaking goes on. I know we're going to get to social justice in a minute, but I'm so thankful for the corporate partners, the police departments that have partnered with us, the only historically black college university in South Florida, Florida Memorial University, that has partnered with us to make sure we keep these kids connected at such a critical time.
Candice Meth:Absolutely. We are definitely getting to social justice, but I do want to touch on something Franklin mentioned earlier. Franklin, you had talked about the ability to deliver the Perez Art Museum Miami experience in a digital way. Can you talk about how you're doing that and just give a little bit more color as to what that experience is like?
Franklin Sirmans:Sure. Thanks, Candice. What we do with programming, I think what I like to say is 80 to 85% of what we actually do as a museum, is education. It's such a huge part of everything that we do.
We began with just taking a program, literally the first one was a conversation between myself and Jerry Saltz, an art critic based in New York. It was supposed to be in our wonderful auditorium at the museum. We had planned for that and it occurred that, that was not going to happen.
So first we convinced him that it could still be an interesting and meaningful program done completely virtually. He was sitting in his house in Long Island actually, and I was here in Miami. It was the first, for me, it was the first real significant virtual talk. We had about, I don't know, a hundred, 200 people online that evening.
And since then I've had tens of thousands of views to the document on YouTube, on our YouTube channel. So it was heartful in that this can work, there is an audience for this. And in some instances it's an audience that we would not have been able to fit into our auditorium. We can see a couple hundred, but you get beyond that, like we've been able to do with certain programs and it's just impossible.
We have been able to, I think attract other people to the kinds of programs that we do deliver and that we have done in the past. In addition to a program like that, which is geared for an online audience, probably an adult online audience, we also have our night schools program, and that was immediate.
We have a deep relationship with Miami-Dade County Public School system. We have a program, where every student in the County school system, the nation's fourth largest, is eligible for free membership to the museum.
So in addition to that, we also do learning experiences where our teaching artists walk through different elements or themes within the museum's collection or even full exhibitions. That happened immediately and has continued to happen and in a much more robust way.
So it's a combination of, I think, entertainment and education that we've been able to continue to bring to people. One of the things I'm most proud about in our most recent pivot online is that we also did a program called Local Views, which was a wonderful intimate program where an artist from Miami South Florida walks you through the museum.
The last one I went to physically was with a wonderful woman, a photographer named Joanne Roman, who's here in Miami and she gave a great talk. There were about 20 of us in the gallery with her listening to her interpretation of our collection and what it means to her as an artist living here in Miami. It was wonderful. It was intimate and it was great.
And then you can do this online and we've had hundreds of more people come into that experience. So we really doubled down on that program because we believe that we are truly working through a Miami lens, so we are 100% local, but we are just as concerned with our global footprint and our global conversation as well.
We've had an artist from Miami online every single week throughout the entire summer, talking about their own work and talking about their own work in relationship to the things that we show.
So those are some of the elements of how the digital programming has become more and more robust, more and more representation of our museum out in the world. Sure, outdoors can be the new indoors for us. We have a good facility for that, and we are really happy to be welcoming people back into the physical space.
We've been reopened now for one week, but this experience and this platform is never going to go away and we'll continue to be a part of our programming, of our development, everything. It is a representation of us full on. So that's one part of it.
Candice Meth:You have a great facility for that, and you have the right weather for that as well. We're very jealous here on the East Coast.
I do want to stick with you, Franklin for the next question. With this wave of social justice, how has this caused you to re-examine your purpose, and how do you look towards the future fulfillment of your mission?
Franklin Sirmans:Yeah, thank you. As I tried to allude to, I think a lot of the conversations that we're having in the wake of May 25, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in the country, not only the country, but the world's recognition of the kind of systemic racism that we all know about and know so well over a long period of time, is that it does fit into where we come from.
So what we've tried to do is really just double down on this message that the idea of the museum playing a role in social justice is foundational for us. We're not like some museums in our country that have been around for a couple of hundred years and whose relationship to colonialism and imperialism is much different than ours.
So we're born in the mid '80s. We're born out of a Miami experience. We then become a collecting institution 10 years later in 1994. And at that point in time, there was a big conversation going around in contemporary art and modern art. That was about globalism. That was about community. That was about the interconnectedness of all of us.
Not surprisingly, that was the moment that really kind of spurred our relationship to digital technology and our usage of the worldwide web, at that time was becoming more and more a part of our lives. It was something that could bring us together.
In the ensuing years, I think there might be a little bit of failed promise in what that moment held, but I find that right now we have the opportunity to realize that promise and that we're trying to build upon that promise.
We've always said we're here for those kinds of difficult conversations and that we want to be a place that will at least bring people together in ways that there aren't necessarily other venues for.
Now, I had no idea, and I've been saying that for the last five years that I've been here, I had no idea until a month ago that we would then be the host of two very, very different town halls.
When I say that this is a place for difficult conversation, I truly, truly, truly mean that. And so that is the kind of museum that we have set ourselves up to be. I think now internally there are a lot of conversations that museums have been having, that they are now forced to reckon with.
I don't speak from the point of view of, I can only speak from the point of view of our institution, but the idea of diversity, the idea of equity, accessibility, inclusion is something that a lot of institutions have been talking about and grappling with for a long time. And they have to deal with it now.
Some of them are dealing with it in very, very public ways. We are not immune. We have an incredible staff of people and they come from many different walks of life, but we're all affected in different ways.
We have had some really constructive and sometimes difficult conversations internally in the last few months about who we want to be inside. What kind of equity are we trying to provide? What kind of accessibility are we providing? What kind of work experience can we give to people so that they may then move on and into bigger and better positions in their careers?
That's what we want to be. We want to be a place that also leads from within, with the kind of message that we have placed without. I think that's a staff-driven experience. It's a board experience as well.
One of the things that we started doing that was different for us when we did this, all staff every week, as opposed to something that was happening on a monthly basis, we began to bring in a board member to each one of those meetings to talk a little bit about their experience, so we could all get to know each other a little bit better.
I think that's one of the hopeful experiences that has come out of this thus far. There's so much to wrap our heads around in terms of the social justice elements of this conversation and to be here with colleagues like Lori-Ann, and Gale, is what we've been fighting for as well. We are here to do. We're not a cultural institution that stands alone by itself. We are a part of a much bigger civic conversation.
Candice Meth:Absolutely. And so much of what you say, I know goes to all of our speakers, which is the way to weave social justice into the mission, and that we're not the same going forward. We're different and we're part of solving the problem.
And so, I want to go to Gale, and talk a little bit about how Big Brothers Big Sisters is looking at this moment in time and how you see yourselves operating differently in the future.
Gale Nelson:Well, it's interesting and I would challenge every single board, every single company, when board of directors begin to ask the question, are we staying true to our mission? Well, the Big Brothers Big Sisters, this is not a reexamination. It has to be a reinforcement because I look back at the 62 years of service to Miami-Dade County, and I see people from all walks of life promoting humanity.
Now more than ever, we have to promote humanity. It hurts my heart, it breaks my heart when it's more about, well, if you support anything in terms of a black life that you must be anti-police. Who brought that up? Where did that come from?
And so I remember vividly before Juneteenth, June 19th, historic day. And when I sent a note to my entire board of directors on my experience in America as a black man, and for so many black professionals, we put on the mask, we put on the face, we don't touch race, we do our jobs.
My single, my mom raised two children on her own in intercity Toledo, Ohio. She always told me, "You have to be better. You have to be better." So many black households, you have to get to talk about what happens when a police officer pulls you over if you come into contact with a police officer.
And I shared all that with my board, I opened myself up. For 27 years of nonprofit leadership, I've never done that. But the moment had to be, I had to take advantage of it. I don't mean by taking advantage in terms of leverage, but let's have the open and honest conversation.
I could not be prouder of my board. Not only is Juneteenth a national holiday recognized here at Big Brothers Big Sisters, and that's one thing, but I had an all day conversation on June 19th from 8:30 until 5:30 online. Police chiefs, Bigs, Littles, corporate partners, and the focus was get comfortable being uncomfortable. Boardrooms underrepresented, leadership underrepresented.
And so when we all, because of a cell phone, now the world can see what folks that look like me, and Franklin, and Lori-Ann have been dealing with for centuries. And so here we are.
Social justice is not a program at Big Brothers Big Sisters. Social justice can not be a program in a corporate setting, it's about promoting humanity. So now more than ever, imagine a relationship based on mutual trust and respect in every aspect of life.
So again, it's a reinforcement, not a reexamination, and it's made some very uncomfortable. But my friends, my brothers and sisters, I will say this to everybody here, this can not be just a moment. This has to be a way of life moving forward to address the disparities, to make sure the investment is there.
Many non-profits, and we're not exempt from this, raise money in the same year we spend it. That is not a sustainable business model. And so when we begin to invest and really truly embrace humanity, all of us, all of us, not just black folks, we all will be better forward. And I'm just thankful to be a part of an organization that embraces and promote humanity.
Candice Meth:So beautifully said. I think it's important to note that the impact that your organization, that Lori-Ann's organization, Franklin's organization has on young people. And so this is a moment where there is a confusion, fear, and so many of our young children are looking to us for mentorship, for guidance.
Lori-Ann, I know that Breakthrough Miami provides that. And so I want to talk to you about how this has changed your programming and how you see the future going forward to make sure that the difficult conversations that Gale mentioned are happening.
Lori-Ann Cox:I will tell you this, the social justice movement and specifically Black Lives Matter, that was catapulted forward this year in response to the senseless killing of black people, and what is historic and persistent structural racism that plagues our country.
While it has taken on a new life this year, and there continues to be more sparks to ignite that movement, the issues are not new. And so for us at Breakthrough, our mission and work has always been defined by the structural inequities and systemic racism that persists in a myriad of both explicit and invisible ways.
We directly address and challenge these constructs. We always have. We've been leading this work for three decades and in two ways, in our position as an opportunity to generator because there are indeed opportunity gaps and disparities, and also as Bridgeville does.
I will say that our mission has only, and our impact has only been reinforced during this time. And so what we've done is so double down on our mission and to expand our services and to bring others into what we call our Breakthrough Miami village.
It's not that we're ignoring what's happening. It's just that our work this year has been critically relevant and important, and something that quite frankly, our scholars and teaching fellows have expressed for many years, and this year they've reflected more on the power and the impact of the work that they do together.
Is this a tipping point for us in this year of recognition that we must all do better? Yes, absolutely. We need more people to lean in into discomfort, as Gale said, and to take the steps to gain a better understanding of what privilege is, what bias is, what's institutionalized racism is.
I will tell you one of the core parts of the training that happens every year for our volunteers and teaching fellows for years has been around racism. What is white privilege? None of these terms and concepts are new to the students, the young people that volunteer who come from colleges across the United States and high schools across the County, private, independent schools, or our public school system, this is all work that we've been doing.
And so what we found this year is that those groups are saying, "Yes. Finally, more people are paying attention." There was a point where someone said to me, "Are you going to issue a statement? All these companies are issuing statements and are posting things on their Instagram. Are you going to issue a statement?" And I said, "I welcome more people to be issuing statements and to be joining us in true action, because we've been taking action around this for so many years."
We have a scholar that graduated. She started with us as a fourth grader. She graduated this year from high school. She's now at Harvard. She's a Gates Millennial Scholar. She traveled every day, almost two hours from Miami gardens to Beach High because she wanted to be in the IB program there.
She speaks to this day about the fact that as a fifth grader and sixth grader, the first time that she read a book in its entirety that was written by an African-American, was at Breakthrough Miami. And that, that book was introduced to her by a non-person of color who has remained in her life and has been a source of inspiration.
So when you think about that, and you think about the young people that come through our programs, who yes, we would like them to be representative of the scholars that we serve, but we also absolutely love that they're also non-people of color because this gives them an opportunity to really like shatter a lot of what they have been told, the stereotypes that they've seen and to step up and to also engage in learning and teaching more about the richness of all the cultures, ethnicities, and races that we have here.
And so I can say that who we are, and what we do is that we're going to remain a powerful force to counter ignorance, divisiveness, bias, isolation, even complacency, because some of us have just said, "Well, this is the way it is." So that's big too, complacency, and hate.
And so for us, what we know is as we look and we are so grateful to so many people that have said, "We have to do something, we're going to set some goals for our organization." We want to be a part of helping that.
And so, one of the things that we've been doing, and we're now on our fifth edition, we just had it on Friday again, and that's again with one of the partners that we three here all share with Miami Dolphins Football Unites, we have a program called Breakthroughs and Bridges, and it's precisely that.
It is about bringing together young people. So they're high schoolers from schools across the county. Kids who normally would not be interacting, which is what happens in the Breakthrough village, and they have discussions about issues.
And so, like last Friday, it was about, let's talk about black education. Let's talk about the American dream and what does that mean to different groups of people? And when you have 89 high schoolers being so passionate, eloquent, sharing what they feel, asking questions, and most importantly, listening to each other keenly with no judgment, just to gain an understanding.
And then saying, "Okay, well, let's talk about." Without our prompt. "Let's talk about solutions for moving forward." Let's talk about the conversation that when I get off this call on a Friday night that I spent two and a half hours on a Friday night talking about this, that I'm going to go have with my family, that I'm going to go have at school next week.
That's the kind of work that we've been engaging in, and that we'll continue to do, and that we want to help others to do. And so some of what we're doing as well with the help of two incredible young men who have also created out of this program that we did with Breakthroughs and Bridges, they're called Bridge Builders 305, we're going into a lot of the independent schools, who I don't know if you are aware of, but across the country a lot of the affluent independent schools have had a surge of students coming together to talk about what it was, what it is like to be a black student in those schools.
I will tell you that of the schools here in Miami-Dade County that are our partner schools, the students that have led these efforts are non-students of color who were Breakthrough volunteers and teaching fellows, and are now in college.
They're saying to their schools and their communities, "Let me tell you what I learned. Let me tell you what we can be doing here. Here are some programs, specific things with goals and outcomes, and here's a timeline of how we can accomplish that." And so we are just-
Candice Meth:Lori-Ann, I absolutely love it. I want to just say for everybody that's still on the call you should have gotten the link because we're going to move into our networking session. I cannot believe how quickly the hour flew by.
But we're going to pick this right back up when we move into the networking session, because I want to talk more about exactly this. I want to talk more about the collaboration amongst the organizations and the programs that you have going on.
And so I apologize, we're just going to move into the chat room so that we can keep the conversation going. Thank you so much to everyone that joined us. I hope that you will join us in the networking room so that you can have a dynamic conversation with these incredible guests that we have. We look forward to seeing you there. Thanks everybody.