Working for a grassroots nonprofit organization is no easy task. You need a broad range of unique skill sets. You have to wear many hats, whether it’s covering a gamut of administrative tasks to ultimately preserve precious budget dollars or diligently working with people and moving parts to establish your organization’s programmatic work. There are further challenges that arise when you work for or lead a nonprofit organization that serve communities of color.
While your vision may be focused on advocating for and uplifting disadvantaged communities, there are many hurdles to navigate and deal with. While experience and working through difficult tasks and situations is irreplaceable, getting support through personalized training can be a vital component to you and your organization’s success.
RVC supports grassroots organizations through capacity-building
“Before the training, I felt like I didn’t have enough of the necessary tools needed to communicate effectively with other team members, but after the training, I felt I gained some new skills. The portion that asked what kind of communicator we all were was most helpful because it allowed me to take a step back and reflect on what my strengths and growth areas were, while also seeing how other members communicated,” states Makaelah Smith, Programming Manager of Washington Building Leaders of Change (WA-BLOC).
Not too long ago, WA-BLOC underwent a week-long supervisor training through RVC’s Capacity Building program. Their partnership initially began through RVC’s Operations Support program, which provides back-office support for smaller, community-based organizations so that they can focus more of their resources on their mission.
This evolved into them working with RVC’s Capacity building team.
RVC’s Capacity-Building program supports partner organizations by providing ongoing, adaptive support so they can continue their important work of promoting and advocating for underserved communities. Whether it’s advising on planning for the future, board relations, fundraising, advocacy, leadership development, or evaluation, RVC supports these organizations in a culturally-responsive and dynamic manner, whether it’s short-term work plans or long-term strategic direction setting.
WA-BLOC uplifts youth of color by promoting leadership and collective action
WA-BLOC is an organization that empowers youth of color through academic, creative, and place-based leadership. They envision intergenerational leadership, restorative justice, racial equity, and youth and parent engagement to achieve transformative educational excellence for Black and Brown youth in South Seattle.
“WA-BLOC’s main goal is to Build Leaders of Change through revolutionary education and social action! We have four programs that are centered around this work: Our most renowned program, Freedom Schools, is a five- to six-week long literacy program for K-5th graders at Emerson and 9th and 10th graders at Rainier Beach,” says Makaelah.
The organization and its programmatic work, including Freedom Schools, is designed to build strong, literate, and empowered youth prepared to make a difference, not only for themselves and their families, but in their communities. The program is propelled by a curriculum that celebrates Black and Brown heroes and instruction centered on student voice and fostering collective social action.
“We read books by Black and Brown authors with Black and Brown protagonists so the young people can make connections to their own experiences. Our classrooms are facilitated by educated, college-aged Black and Brown folks from the community as well. We provide holistic enrichments, field trips on Fridays, and the scholars organize a Day of Social Action where they protest issues in their community,” Makaelah explains.
“The RVC supervisor training was very helpful and insightful. Six of our leadership staff who are in charge of our summer Freedom Schools programming and directly supervise staff or students participated in the workshop,” continues Makaelah. “It reiterated how much restorative conversations and circles are needed within our work, but also inspired me to realize when I need to be more ‘accomodating’ or something other than how I usually communicate in this space.”
RVC and WA-BLOC’s continued partnership to fulfill vision
“We are excited to be partners with RVC because it allows us to grow as an organization without compromising our values,” states Laura Wright, WA-BLOC’s Co-Founder and Programs Director.
Laura is constantly thinking about how their organization is preparing future leaders to eventually take their positions and continue the work. In regards to WA-BLOC’s programs and others like it, she understands that leadership grows and is cultivated through these programs and there is no limit. And venturing through the complexities of operating within the nonprofit sector is no easy task, which is why partnerships and supportive programs can be so important.
“We do not want to replicate dysfunction and inequities of the nonprofit industrial complex, yet want to be part of a collective, healthy ecosystem of thriving organizations embedded in our community. RVC understands that vision and provides support and relieves pain points we’ve experienced as an organization,” explains Laura.
While a lot of work, navigating challenges, and continual refining of skills are involved in working toward a better future, people like Makaelah and Laura remain energized and optimistic. They know that their work matters. And they know they have the support around them to get the job done.
Makaelah concludes, “WA-BLOC is important to me because it’s more than just a workplace, it’s home. Everyone on the team truly believes in our young people and we all work together tirelessly to reimagine a different world. I couldn’t ask for a better job.”
For more information about WA-BLOC, visit wa-bloc.org.