Recent events have compelled nonprofit organizations to change the way they get work done, how they deliver their services, and what they do to achieve a more just and equitable society. So, The Business of Giving has connected with those organizations that are doing this exceptionally well in a segment we call: The Paths Forward. Because there is more than just one way.
Denver: In this edition of The Paths Forward we’ll speak with team members at The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people.
We’ll start with their CEO, Amit Paley, who will share his thoughts about their corporate culture.
Amit Paley: Some of the things about our culture: We really want to make sure that we have a culture that is focused on impact; We’re a fast-paced culture; We’re a data-driven, evidence-informed culture. We’re also a culture that really cares a lot about making sure that our employees feel safe and supported, and they have the opportunity to grow.
Denver: Bringing in the right people is of the highest importance at the Trevor Project. Keygan, Korey and Chelsea each speak to a different aspect of this process.
Korey: Hiring, I will be honest in that our hiring process is a little lengthy, but it is an incredible process to go through as well.
In my journey through my hiring process, I met with, oh, goodness, what felt like the entire team of the growth team, which at the time was much smaller than it is now. But we had an assignment where they really do test our knowledge and our skill set, and how we will tackle, on my instance, a campaign. As I’m a campaign manager, we take a purchase on how would we facilitate a campaign and our project management.
So! really coming in, putting everything that we know at the forefront and putting it all on the table and being able to walk our leadership team through our thought process.
Keygan: There’s clearly a desire to work for Trevor. And I think that that comes from a couple of different spaces. One is our mission, right? There’s a lot of people who feel really tied to trying to save the lives of LGBTQ young people in whatever capacity they can do that, whether that’s working our crisis lines, working our advocacy, doing communications, making sure that we have money to fund all of that, whatever the case might be.
There are people who are passionate about that particular mission, so they want to come and work for us, which means that we get experts knocking on our door, which is a great place to be in. I also think that Trevor offers pretty good compensation, benefits, all of these different things. Someone mentioned earlier how many vacation days we get and our wellness week that we take and like, again, really valuing our employees.
Chelsea: And I think especially specifically for something I’ve seen, even within crisis services, now we’re able to hire folks within Hawaii for a change. And they’re able to actually do the lines on certain times that folks weren’t able to if we were just on the East and West Coast.
It just opens up our hours that we actually can work. And we weren’t always a 24/7 operation, but still having folks within the East and West Coast trying to reach those 24/7 operations was a challenge and very difficult. But now that we’re able to open ourselves up remotely, I think we could tap into all these different time zones in itself to fill in those gaps.
Denver: Despite the many challenges of working remotely, there have also been some real benefits as Rory, Chelsea and Sofi explain
Rory: There are obviously challenges working remotely in terms of work-life blend, but I think for myself, the flexibility is really wonderful. And Trevor also puts a lot of emphasis on creating those, like in prioritizing your mental health and creating those boundaries within work. So having reasonable work hours, having what we call wellness week which is a week that we all take off to rest and recharge, and a generous vacation policy which I think people are empowered to take advantage of.
Keygan: And I think Chelsea referred to how it’s helped expand our workforce as far as time is concerned. But I think also looking at regional backgrounds and having people who, in advocacy work particularly and also in, now I’m in public training, both of those spaces really require people who know the places they’re working in and who can connect to the people that they’re working with. If you have someone who is from Texas working with Texas representatives, you’re going to have a lot better time getting your work across the table.
Sofi: So what is my top piece of advice for an organization thinking about going fully remote? Be thoughtful about how your team is spending their time. I think when folks go remote, there’s a lot of time and energy that goes into both knowing what everyone is doing and trying to make your work visible.
So how can you make those things easier? What are quick, easy ways that folks can show what they’re doing to their team that we can celebrate each other and have that visibility without spending a lot of time being like, hey, I’m working, I promise, here’s all the things that I did this week. Similarly, I think there can be an inclination that we need to get more time together.
Denver: The Organization is very intentional about maintaining connection during these usual times as detailed by Keygan and Sofi
Keygan: And we come up with things like there’s a remote coffee date app on Slack or the advocacy team and now the community team as a whole has a thing called open office where people basically, it’s like an open Zoom account all day long, it’s Google Meets but whatever, open all day long where people can just pop in. You can pop in for five minutes, you can pop in for three hours. So sometimes it feels like you’re still in an office with people, if that’s the type of work environment you need. And for someone like myself who is a very social creature who lives by myself, it’s very important for me to be able to make those connections.
Sofi: So I think there’s a lot of thought that goes into how are we communicating with each other; how are we relating with each other; how are we using our time so that we’re still spending that quality time together and we’re still able to see what everyone else is doing to collaborate, to have that visibility to celebrate each other, while also making sure you’re not spending all of your time doing those two things and you still have time to actually work
Denver: Two of the most important aspects to creating a healthy workplace are Psychological Safety and a Sense of Purpose. Korey and Rory speak to each of those
Korey: I can say that for me and what I will always stand true is that we never just come out once for those who identify as queer. We never come out just one single time. Like I didn’t come out in high school and that was the end-all, be-all. It’s a journey. And I think it’s a journey for a lot of us where we were constantly coming out of the closet or coming out to folks, or letting people in to your life experiences.
And we hold space here for folks to navigate those identities or really explore their queer identities. I think it’s a beautiful thing. So I would absolutely say the holding space for celebrating one another and empowering one another, that’s how I think we uphold such a strong culture and relationships with one another.
Rory: And I think that is, for me at least, what makes the culture special is that a lot of people come to this work for reasons that are personal. Maybe it’s something about their personal identity that aligns with the work or a loved one, or simply a passion to do good in this world that I think brings us together and gives us some common ground when we’re building relationships with each other.
And it makes it easy to kind of think of that bigger cause when you get bogged down in the day-to-day struggles or conflicts, like if you have that North Star for your direction that is something that you’re all aligned on and that you all put first, I think that makes it easier to resolve some of those day-to-day things that can cause trouble
Denver: Finally, each of our participants discusses the Secret Sauce that makes the organization special. Korey suggests research, Rory says kindness, Sofi talks about compensation, Chelsea speaks to being cared for and Keygan on being Nonjudgmental.
Korey: I think our secret sauce is our research. It drives everything that we do. It helps us meet young people, LGBTQ young people, where they are in that moment wherever they are in that journey.
Being able to work with our corporate partnerships, to work with our comms team, to work closely with our digital marketing team to disseminate this research, to help combat whether it be anti-LGBTQ legislation, or really just to inform allies and/or parents of all the small things that they could be doing to support LGBTQ young people to help foster those safe and affirming spaces, it’s powerful. I think it’s what makes us a leader in the work that we do and a trusted expert, for sure
Rory: I think there are so many things that make Trevor special. But I remember when I began, and we had a few hundred thousand followers across platforms combined. In some platforms, it was only a few 10,000 followers, but I was struck by how nice our audience was.
Like working in social media, you’re used to a lot of trolls, a lot of conflict and negativity and pessimism, and all of our comments, our messages, they were just so sweet, and affirming, and empathetic, and compassionate. And people would really come to each other’s aid in the comments and talk through things. And I remember being like, wow, this is incredibly unique.
And now that we have millions of followers, that has changed slightly, but I think it still remains unusually sweet and supportive because I think that there’s something about our mission. Well, I mean, there is something about our mission that is completely life-affirming. We’re providing people hope in moments of hopelessness
Sofi: I think one of the things that makes Trevor really special is we have this incredible mission and it’s what brings people to our organization. But once you get here, you are not expected to stay and give your life to the mission. We recognize that people come because they want to save young LGBTQ lives. But if you’re going to work somewhere, you need to be paid. You need to be supported. You need to have benefits. You need to be able to take time off to rest and rejuvenate. You need community. I think so many nonprofits fall into this trap where people come because they love what the organization does, and then they are treated terribly because they are supposed to be there for love.
But we’re employees. We work here and we need other things in order for working here to be sustainable for us. And I think that Trevor gets that, whether it’s with our staff, whether it’s with our volunteers. I work with our corporate partners. We treat them and our donors the same way. We recognize that people come for our mission, but we are part of a community and the community needs much more in order to thrive
Chelsea: And then you all were just mentioning like leadership and support there. I felt with the uttermost support, I think that has been the aspect of the culture that has personally touched me the most, has just been, I just have felt supported in my career. I’ve been at Trevor here for two and a half years and still going.
And I came in originally as a recruitment associate and now I sit on the culture team. And I think about even from my first manager here at Trevor, they introduced me to radical candor, which is where you care personally and you challenge directly. And I personally have just felt so cared by all my managers, all simultaneously been supported and challenged into new directions.
Keygan: So you asked the secret sauce question and I think for me is that no matter what aspect of Trevor we’re talking about, we approach everything from a nonjudgmental lens. And what I mean by that is starting with our crisis services, which is the foundation of our work, when young people reach out to our crisis services, they’re met with someone who isn’t judging them for anything.
Even if the choices didn’t have the best results, even if they are making some choices that were a little like, hmm, I don’t know about that, they’re not met with that side-eye. They’re met with kindness and compassion and empathy, and they’re met right where they are.
Denver: I want to thank the Trevor Project team members who participated in this piece: Chelsea Parker, Rory Gory, Sofi Goode, Keygan Miller, and Korey Hernandez. And to learn more about The organization go visit their website at Trevorproject.org or visit denver-frederick.com and catch my earlier interview with Amit Paley, the CEO of The Trevor Project.
Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving serves as a Trusted Advisor and Executive Coach to Nonprofit Leaders. His Book, The Business of Giving: New Best Practices for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Leaders in an Ever-Changing World, will be released later this year.Listen to more The Business of Giving episodes here. Subscribe to our podcast channel on Spotify to get notified of new episodes. You can also follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and on Facebook.