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kendra penry

Non-Profit Leadership with Kendra Penry

[00:00:00] Miriam: Great. Today. I am so happy to have Kendra Penry with me, and I’m gonna let you introduce yourself. You have a really cool job description.

[00:00:11] Stokes Nature Center

[00:00:11] Kendra: Sure. So I, as Miriam said, my name’s Kendra Penry and I am the executive director at. Stokes Nature Center in Logan, Utah.

[00:00:21] Stokes Nature Center exists to make nature education an outdoor exploration possible for all people.

[00:00:27] Because we believe that through education we can all become better stewards of the natural world. My job takes on. Any number of facets depending on the day.

[00:00:39] But for instance, today I’m talking about open access to research with professors at Utah State University. But I also do our finances and our IT department and our benefits and our human resources and everything to keep the organization going.

[00:00:57] We know that nature is essential to our physical and our mental health, and we don’t care for that, which we don’t know. So we’re working to make sure everyone can know nature and therefore care for it better.

[00:01:10] Miriam: Oh, well spoken. So anybody who lives in northern Utah in the Logan area has been to the Stokes Nature Center, I would think.

[00:01:18] And I mean, my kids grew up going there. I loved that it was there. I love what you’re doing. What you were describing, you just described a whole bunch of skill sets and anybody, half of my audience are entrepreneurs and solopreneurs and any of those solopreneurs know exactly what you’re talking about.

[00:01:39] Non-Profits

[00:01:39] Miriam: They wear a bunch of hats. They do a ton of different things. Can you describe for me just a little bit of your history of how you got involved working with non-profits? And we’ll start there and then we’ll go from there.

[00:01:53] Kendra: I started with non-profits when I was a teenager. I have always felt that I wanted my job to be more about.

[00:02:01] Service than about profit. And I, that’s not the same for everyone. I completely understand that. But for me, that’s just where I fit. I attempted to work for the government for a while because I do have a masters in international affairs and that was not a good fit. And I’ve worked in international business for a large corporation and I also did not enjoy it.

[00:02:24] And nonprofits is just where I feel at home where I feel like I can. A difference in my community and that I have value in what I’m doing beyond just bringing home a paycheck. I got there by just piecemealing it together. I’ve slowly in my head, been working backwards, essentially in finding what I’m passionate about.

[00:02:48] I’ve done everything from managing volunteers at a nonprofit to creating programming to prevent human trafficking to fighting for food security. But in reality, I as an individual feel most fulfilled when I am creating solutions, not raising awareness. I get the value in that and I very much respect the people that do it.

[00:03:15] But for me, I need to know that what I’m doing is actually solving the issue.

Putting Skills to Work

[00:03:19] And everything right now in our world on, in our planet is coming back to this issue of climate change. It is driving food insecurity, it is driving immigration, It is driving all sorts of issues. And so if we want to address the bigger ones, we’ve gotta start at the beginning.

[00:03:35] And so that’s how I landed. Stokes Nature Center was that I had these skill sets where I had worked every facet of a non-profit from the ground up. And what they needed was an administrator, executive director. Sounds cool. But I don’t do the programming side, which is the fun side. I do the administrative work, and that is what I know and I’ve done it from every angle.

[00:03:59] And so it was a perfect fit to not only take these skills that I have, but to put it to work at an organization. Works to address the issue that is most at the heart of what I feel is important right now. And it was also a perfect timing fit in that I needed a job and it was available, but I have loved it.

[00:04:20] But it is one of those things where it’s, I know this may not be my final landing place either. It’s. And that’s a beautiful thing in the nonprofit world. You can slowly evolve as you find what you’re good at and what you’re passionate about.

[00:04:33] Values

[00:04:33] Miriam: Sure. So, because you did some work with some governmental agencies and some corporate agencies, and now this sort of space, can you compare and contrast some of the differences?

[00:04:44] Kendra: Sure. So your values are very different at each of them. In corporations, the value is profit, it is your shareholders, and that is the design of them. They are supposed to be doing that. They also tend to focus more on the, a managerial style that is top down, whereas non-profits have to be more collaborative and mainly because everybody’s doing multiple jobs.

[00:05:09] So we all kind of have to work together. And some people fit into one of those better than another. There’s no one right answer there. It’s just a different model of doing business.

[00:05:22] Government on the other hand, In similar ways to nonprofit built around service, it is intended to serve people. But of course there are constraints there that nonprofits don’t necessarily have in terms of your, your political climate changes depending on who’s in charge.

[00:05:39] Whereas a nonprofit has a dedicated mission that this is what we’re always doing no matter what’s happening around us. But for me, I feel like the non-profit is where. Kinda, it’s the boots on the ground of making all of that happen because we we’re still a business. Absolutely. We’re called a nonprofit, but I have to run it the same as any other business.

Finances in Non-Profits

[00:06:02] We still have to have staff and we have to prevent turnover, and we have to deal with. Filing 9 41 s. It’s the same as any other business. It’s just in the end, the money that I make is intended to go back into serving my community as opposed to purchasing stock or paying shareholders. So it’s that end goal is what shifts.

[00:06:24] But in reality we are very similar. But we just do the same thing with a lot less money .

[00:06:31] Miriam: Sure, sure. No, that makes sense. I remember the first time. I understood a little bit about how a nonprofit worked, and I was really surprised because they were making a profit. Yeah. And as you said, the profit is intended to go back into the workings of the organization and furthering the mission.

[00:06:49] It is an interesting perspective and it draws a little bit of a different kind of person. The kind of people who like to work for non-profits are a little bit different in their perspective than the kind of people who like to work for “for profit” type of organizations. Neither right or wrong, both just, you know, utilizing people’s unique gift giftings and skill sets.

[00:07:13] What is something that as you kind of watched yourself progressing from this to that, You had to hit some spaces, whether they, they might have been like something negative happened or something positive happened that sort of shuttled you into the next version of yourself. Can you tell a couple stories about those kind of transitions?

[00:07:37] Leadership Transition

[00:07:37] Kendra: Sure. So one of the primary transitions that stands out for me in the end was very positive, but at the time felt very negative.

[00:07:46] I had a situation at a nonprofit where, Did not have good leadership. And it framed who I am as a leader.

[00:07:55] I think a lot of us look at needing a mentor to shape us positively, but we also lose sight of the fact that negative experiences are equally valuable.

[00:08:03] And this one definitely was because I felt like the person leading the organization was making it more about themselves than about the. And a lot of us doing the actual work, were not getting credit for what we did. And we also didn’t understand things. There was not that sense of transparency within the organization that we needed to know.

[00:08:24] Even just, you know, are our finances okay? We don’t know. Like should I be finding more donors? I don’t know. There was too much of siloing and too much of one person.

[00:08:35] And it shaped me wanting to be a leader so that I could be the opposite. So that I could really help empower staff to do what they do well by making sure they don’t have to worry about things, that they know them, but they don’t have to worry about them.

Serve the Staff

[00:08:51] And also to know that I, as a leader, my first job is to serve my staff. Not the community. My staff’s job is to serve the community, but by supporting my staff, they are better able to do their job. And that is a hard lesson for a lot of leaders to learn, especially in the non-profit world, because we get into it because we’re passionate about it and we want to keep doing that.

[00:09:17] And when you transition into the leadership role, it shifts everything, because your goal is not to create a dynamic program. Your goal is to keep your staff happy, so they create a dynamic program. And that’s what I wanted. That’s what I learned was that there were so many people being lost. There was so much turnover in the nonprofit world, more so than in most other industries.

[00:09:40] And I wanted to do what I could to reduce that. So we stopped losing so much talent and so much passion for our work.

[00:09:49] But I only knew that once I saw the opposite and I actually left that job because of the leadership there. And I didn’t want someone else to, to feel that same way.

[00:10:00] And then at the same time, I’ve had a great experience with the very next job I went to.

Leadership for Staff

[00:10:06] I had so much freedom to do my job. They trusted me that I knew what to do, and I, as long as I did it well, they weren’t gonna micromanage me. And it just, it was a whole new world for me. Being an adult, essentially, but also being in charge of what happened within my territory and feeling like I could create things and be proud of them and help transform the community around me and that the leadership behind me.

[00:10:40] Supported me and they liked what I was doing and trusted me. And that I hope also translates to my staff now. And that I have tried to turn that into a piece of my leadership as well. That I trust them, that I let them know that as long as you’re doing your job and you’re doing it very well, that I trust you and you, if you are not hearing from me, then you are doing a great job

[00:11:06] Internal Motivation

[00:11:06] Miriam: It seems like, and you would have to correct me if I’m wrong Nonprofits need people who are internally motivated and kind of self-directed.

[00:11:17] Is that, is that what you would say?

[00:11:20] Kendra: Absolutely. You have to be internally motivated because nonprofits can’t necessarily give you the external motive motivation that other companies have and. It’s unfortunate that that’s what’s happened in the world, that a lot of people take for granted non-profit work and believe that we shouldn’t be paid well because we love what we do, , and, and it is part of my crusade to make sure that people understand that that is not in fact true, that we do deserve to be paid well.

[00:11:51] We have to run our organization the same as any other business. And to attract talent, I need to be able to pay well and to provide benefits. And we love what we do. It’s not an OR. And hopefully we can start shifting that. But for now, until that does shift, it requires internal motivation to be able to keep going when you see someone with your same degree ma making five times as much money because they win a different route.

[00:12:18] And it seems like their life is easier. Whether or not it really is would be. Story, but it seems that way and it can draw you into a different way of working. If you don’t have that internal motivation to be doing it. It does definitely require a passion for your community and for, for what you do.

Keep the Passion

[00:12:39] Because it’s, it’s hard. It’s really easy to get pessimistic in the nonprofit world because our, what is what we’re doing really making a difference. I, it’s hard to know. And it’s even harder to prove a negative if you’re in a nonprofit world that’s working to prevent something. You can’t prove whether you’re doing it or not, if you’re doing it well,

[00:13:01] Yeah. So you can really easily lose the passion for what you’re doing unless you are, you are internally motivated and also, Keeping yourself mentally and, and physically healthy along the way.

[00:13:14] Miriam: Yeah, I can see how there would be some spaces that were pretty unique to what you do that maybe the rest of the world doesn’t deal with.

[00:13:24] I was talking with someone the other day and we were talking about I, I think we were talking about some charities that are listed on Charity Navigator. We always check out charities just to make sure that, you know, the vast majority of the donation is going to serve the thing, not just going into, you know, whatever, fundraising or whatnot.

Other Salaries

[00:13:44] And in this particular one, this. CEO was making six figures and it started an interesting question of, is that okay or not okay? And the person I was talking with said, Well, I don’t think that’s good stewardship. I don’t think that’s okay. And the, And I was saying, Well, you know, if you look at this person’s salary in reference to anyone else at this level in business, they’re taking a pretty low salary.

[00:14:09] But I understand how the public. I understand where the confusion comes from because when people donate their a hundred dollars or their $200 and then they see someone getting a six figure salary, then they’re like, Ah, is this good use of my money or resources? Anyway? It is until you have walked in those shoes and understood.

[00:14:34] I think it’s easy to judge people for sure.

[00:14:37] Non-Profit Finances

[00:14:37] Kendra: Mm-hmm. , it’s a balance. Mm-hmm. and it is a, a very delicate balance. But we, if we want the programs that we’re offering to be high quality, then we have to have high quality staff and we have to be able to attract them away from so much other competition that pays well.

[00:14:55] And yes, we will always pay. Than a large corporation would. Absolutely. And there is some expectation there to that because we depend on donations and we want the money to go into programs too. Absolutely. But we need to pay our bills . Sure. In order to do the programs, we have to be able to have a place to live.

[00:15:17] So as there is this very fine line there. But I think there is a space for conversation to be sure that people providing services are paid fairly, not exorbitantly, but fairly for the work that they’re doing so that they can keep doing it.

[00:15:34] Miriam: Sure, absolutely. So you mentioned earlier in this list, Of nonprofits that you had spent time in.

[00:15:41] One of them was dealing with human trafficking. Do you mind if I ask a couple questions about that? Sure. Like what what was your role in that organization? What did you find rewarding? What caused you to switch to something else?

[00:15:58] Preventing Human Trafficking

[00:15:58] Kendra: Sure. So the organization works to raise awareness about human trafficking, and my job was as a program manager, and I developed programming that focused on preventing human trafficking among juveniles domestically.

[00:16:13] I also did research on trafficking in the area where I lived and I did a lot of our outreach to Faith Communi. And to schools to make sure people felt equipped to recognize the signs.

[00:16:27] I developed a training for the police department where I lived that was launched within their cadet Academy so that all up and coming police officers would be able to recognize it better and the differences between trafficking.

[00:16:41] Smuggling or trafficking and prostitution and various different things. And I loved the job because it is an issue that I feel we absolutely need to address. But the reason I left is because the driving motiva motivation for human trafficking is primarily poverty. If we are not addressing poverty, what I was doing was never gonna solve the problem.

Non-Profits Addressing Poverty

[00:17:07] I can raise awareness every single day for the next million years, and it doesn’t stop trafficking from happening. It still happens until we take a step back and focus on preventing victims and preventing perpetrators from happening in the first place. And that’s why I left is I wanted to get more onto the primary issue motivating the problem.

[00:17:28] And so I transitioned into an organization that works on addressing hunger and poverty because if we can solve those, we reduce the risk factors for people becoming victims of trafficking. So in many ways, I felt like I was just continuing the work. I was just going a step back to hopefully prevent the trauma from ever having to take place.

[00:17:49] Miriam: Sure makes so much sense. And boy, if you go down some of these rabbit holes, it gets pretty deep because poverty at some level can be caused by climate change and some of these other, I mean, you know, and so then you end up switching into that space. It’s all connected. We’re all part of one world and they, everything touches everything for sure.

[00:18:13] Recognizing Human Trafficking

[00:18:13] Miriam: Do you mind sharing a couple thoughts about How to recognize trafficking. I, I just think as long as we’ve got people listening, we might as well share, right? Yeah, sure.

[00:18:25] Kendra: So first of all, I will say that I will never forget, but the hotline to call if you recognize trafficking, is 8 8 8 37 37 8 8 8 , very easy number.

[00:18:34] But there are two primary types of trafficking. Sex trafficking and labor trafficking and sex trafficking tends to get a lot of attention, but labor trafficking is actually four times more common. And it appears in various ways between domestic servitude to Even magazine salespeople. Door to door was an interesting ar area of research that was happening while I was in the field.

[00:18:58] But then of course, sex trafficking. The primary definition is force fraud or coercion used to make someone work against their will. And signs that you look out for One of the trainings lately has been for flight attendants looking out for people not in possession of their own identification documents.

[00:19:17] That can be a very big sign or signal. The age of the person is very important. When we’re looking at sex trafficking, you’re looking at people under the age of 18. It does not matter what put them there. It doesn’t matter if they say they chose it. If they are under 18, then they are a victim of, of trafficking if they are being used for the purposes of sex or exploitation.

Review Your Purchases

[00:19:41] We also see within businesses here in the US there have been more than one case of large hotel or motel chains. Their cleaning crews are victims of human trafficking because they’re not being paid, and it is very common within our food systems. So migrant labor is very easily exploited in ways that.

[00:20:04] Pretty astounding giving that this is the year 2022.

[00:20:07] But what I like to tell people is what you can do is look at how you purchase things if it is an issue that is really important to you. Knowing how, to, knowing the company that you’re purchasing from and their ethical standards and treating their workers all the way down their supply chain, not just in their office.

[00:20:27] But including that they know who is picking your tomatoes and who is making your shirt, That is what you want to see. The Fair Trade Label, for instance, is certified trafficking and slave labor free. So that’s an easy, well, I won’t say easy, a simple way. To be able to fight trafficking is changing how you purchase, and that’s actually the number one impact that we as Americans can really have is changing how we purchase.

Keep Your Eyes Open

[00:20:54] Because that changes how companies do business. But you can just keep your eyes out when you’re traveling when you are in your own community, when you staying in a hotel, having conversations is one of the biggest things that you can do. Get to know the people that are cleaning your room or are serving you food or just knowing that it can be there, but also not seeing it everywhere.

[00:21:21] But if you do see the signs, then calling the number and reporting it it takes you to Polaris Project, which is a great nonprofit out of DC that runs the National Hotline for trafficking and they can report it to the local authorities to investigate it.

[00:21:35] Miriam: Thank you. I appreciate you talking about that.

[00:21:38] I think that these things go in waves as far as people’s awareness. and a lot of times people are saying, What can I do? This is such a big problem, whether it’s the trafficking thing or climate change, or whatever. The people are always saying, What can I do? So I appreciate that you gave some specific things.

[00:22:00] Effective Management

[00:22:00] Miriam: A couple other quick questions and then we’ll wrap it up. When, when you look at your development within the nonprofit sphere, what are some things you had to grow in, in terms of perspective?

[00:22:17] Kendra: So, well, one that I’ve already talked about is managing people, growing my perspective on what that means, like mm-hmm.

[00:22:24] how you manage people effectively. And in different ways cuz every person is very unique. And that required experiencing it. To be able to become the leader that I wanted to be, but also being li willing to listen when someone tells me something’s not working and not taking it personally. Being willing to change as necessary and really get to know the people I’m leading.

[00:22:54] But the other area I really had to grow in is the absolute basics, the things that I feel like we don’t learn enough of really in school such. QuickBooks, like, how do I manage my accounting books? How do I, you know, set up my webpage? Things that are very simple that I don’t have the money to call someone to come do for me.

[00:23:19] Mm-hmm. , sometimes that’s trial and error. , That is true, but it’s also a matter of my personal motivation to seek out the training and the education that I need to be better at it. Recognizing those things and not pretending like I know them, but being willing to admit that I don’t, and then take the steps to learn them.

Master Naturalist

[00:23:37] For instance, this year I’ve worked diligently to become what’s known as a master naturalist. Because while I don’t develop our programs, just my title in and of itself invites people to ask me questions, and I do not have a background in nature or the environment. And too many times my answer had to be, I don’t know, but I’ll figure it out.

[00:23:58] And so that was a piece that I felt was missing, and so I took it upon myself to find the classes that I need to be able to better serve my community. And that it’s a continuous process. Absolutely. I know there’s more that I need to learn and it will both be on the job, but also be a matter of recognizing where I feel inadequate and taking the steps to, to be better at it, and also ask for help as needed.

[00:24:27] Right. Something a lot of leaders don’t like to do, but being willing to do it and it doesn’t show weakness. It actually, in my opinion, is very much a strength to just say, I don’t know how to do this, but someone can teach me.

[00:24:40] Miriam: Yes. I would say right there, that is the basis of the high performing mindset.

[00:24:46] I don’t know, but I can figure it out. I don’t know, but I’m gonna ask someone. So good on you for like internalizing that space and saying, I don’t have to know everything I confident in my ability to learn. That’s what I heard you. Well done.

[00:25:03] Be More Respectful

[00:25:03] Miriam: Yes. What would you say, like if you could change anything about the public so far that from what you know, what , I wish I was the magic genie that could give you the wand, but what would you change?

[00:25:16] Yeah, what would you ask from people? Please do more of this or less of this.

[00:25:23] Kendra: I think I would ask people to please, please be more respectful in general. be, more respectful of, of each other, but also of the environment around us. And not because it’s pretty or we want it, but because it’s absolutely essential to us as human beings.

[00:25:44] Yeah. We need the planet, We need our environment. We are. As reliant on it as any other species on this planet, and respect is where it all comes from, and that also goes for each other and recognizing that. You know when I go off trail because I want a pretty picture, is that really beneficial to anyone or is it potentially causing harm so that the person coming after me doesn’t have the experience that I just had?

[00:26:15] Things like that, that are so simple, but I think we lose track of it because we’ve gotten into a mindset. of Just so much self focus and that is both, It’s a pendulum that has happened that we needed to be taking better care of ourselves. But now we’ve gone a bit too far and seen too much of focus on myself and not enough on other people.

Success for All

[00:26:38] So I think just asking for a bit more respect around us would, and, you know, for non-profits a bit more. Respect for each other that we are all working in this space. It’s not a zero sum game. I can succeed and so can someone else. And the same goes for the business world in respecting the choices that we make and other people around us to make sure that.

[00:27:03] You know, our, our supply chains are clean of, of slave labor. That’s a matter of respect too, of respecting all human beings wherever they find themselves in the world. Yeah, that’s what I would love to see more of. .

[00:27:16] What I would pro probably love to see less, less of is the pessimism that we’re seeing lately.

[00:27:23] A lot of us have gotten to this point. It feels like what I do is so small, so why bother doing it? And that is a really dangerous place to be. And yes, maybe my not watering my yard isn’t gonna save the great Salt Lake, but it doesn’t mean I stop doing it. It does mean that I do it and I do more. I advocate for the larger companies to start making the changes they need to make because that’s where real change happens.

[00:27:52] But it also doesn’t mean that I stop doing what I can.

[00:27:56] We Each Have an Influence

[00:27:56] Miriam: That feels like a mic drop moment. I don’t know that I can add too much more to that other than. Everybody has their pet thing that they feel good about. Like I know certain people are super good at picking up trash every time that they walk, but they have no problem flipping someone off who cuts ’em off at the, at the road, you know?

[00:28:18] Yes. And then you have other persons who would just bend over backwards to just help someone out, and they have no problem. Buying a hundred thousand bottles of bottled water. Like yes, we are these interesting mixes of I’m gonna make a positive difference in my world and I’m woefully unaware of the damage I’m causing in other areas.

[00:28:43] And so I love your focus on could we be a little less negative and also do what you can. And then take it one step further. So yes, go ahead and pick up the trash, and also please write this company and say, Thank you for putting your yogurt and glass jars because they can be recycled. And yes, stop watering your lawn in the middle of the day, in the middle of the summer, and also contact so and so and ask them to, you know, use fair trade with their clothing.

[00:29:15] Like there is more that we as individuals can do, but it takes a little bit of effort. It’s not Herculean, but it does take a little bit of effort


[00:29:25] There was a a time, I don’t know, it was probably in the spring where I was trying to write a company, at least one company each week, either thanking them for something they were doing or asking them to do something different.

[00:29:38] I have no idea if it makes any difference or not. But you get enough people doing that. Yeah, and it does. And somehow or other, we have to hold onto that space in US that says, Our individual effort does matter whether we can see it or not. Yes. That’s hard. I think that’s hard for people at times.

[00:29:59] It’s very hard, but I will also throw out there that one of the biggest things we can do is to vote.

[00:30:04] So it’s the right season right now, but it’s pretty much every year there’s an opportunity to vote on something and we have to keep letting our voice be heard, whether it is writing a letter. Voting for an elected official that believes the way you believe or calling up, you know, a company or, or a nonprofit and finding out how you can get involved.

[00:30:27] There is always something, and I know we all have different levels of time and, and energy to be able to do things but we can all find something that that makes a difference.

[00:30:37] Absolutely. What a great place to end. Kendra, thank you so much for your time today. And you know, I always end my podcast by saying, Now go be intentional.

[00:30:48] And I’m gonna just say it twice. You know, they’ll, it’ll come in the outro, but right now I’m gonna say to our audience, do something to make your world a better place today, intentionally.

End Credits

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Music by Tom Sherlock.

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