November 13, 2019
Drew Altman took a relatively small grantmaking foundation and transformed it into a media powerhouse. As the President and CEO of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, better known as KFF, Drew has turned his organization into one of the most influential and valuable non-partisan sources of health news in the country. What other foundation can say that about their field of interest?
Drew sat down with Eric to talk about how Kaiser has charted new territory in the field of news media at a time when in-depth coverage of a host of important issues is becoming much harder to come by. And don’t miss Drew’s full-throated endorsement of the role that communications plays in advancing the goals of foundations and the nonprofits they support. It’s practically a love letter to communications!
October 31, 2019
Villy Wang's mother wanted her to be a corporate lawyer. Raised by a single mother in public housing in New York, she was supposed to be a hard-charging, successful professional - a leader in her field. And she certainly is, but what she created is not quite what her mother had in mind.
Villy is the Founder, President, and CEO of BAYCAT, a non-profit organization that takes youth development and education, media production, marketing and advertising, social entrepreneurship, job training, economic and community development, arts, music and urban culture, and throws it in a blender.
What comes out of that extraordinary mix is one of the most interesting, exciting ways to work with young people who deserve a chance to soar, as well as a company that produces media for a wide range of organizations and institutions.
Oh, and Villy (who, we are proud to say, is an avid listener of our show) is a hoot – she and Eric sat down at BAYCAT’s studios in San Francisco for a lively whirlwind of a conversation. Don’t miss this one.
October 24, 2019
This is the third in our bonus series of keynote speeches from ComNet 2019.
Trabian Shorters is the CEO and Founder of BMe Community, which provides fellowships for Black leaders in the US, and which trains organizations in matters of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Trabian’s amazing talk explains his work to promote what he calls “asset framing” – describing people by their aspirations and talents rather than a perceived challenge or stereotype. If you are working in social justice in any way, shape, or form, you simply MUST listen to this incredibly valuable lesson in effective communications. This episode is long, but it’s worth it!
October 22, 2019
In 2018, Desmond Meade helped pull off the unthinkable. He united Florida voters by leading the campaign to pass Amendment 4, a grassroots citizen’s initiative that restored voting rights to over 1.4 million Floridians with past felony convictions. The initiative passed by nearly thirty percentage points – a rout in a state that is famous for being split down the middle.
The following year Desmond was named one of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people in the world. In October of 2019, Desmond received the Clarence B. Jones Impact Award from the Communications Network. The award is presented to a leader who has used strategic communications and data to demonstrably elevate and advance issues, influence attitudes and beliefs, and inspire action in pursuit of social change.
In this special edition of Let’s Hear It, we present Desmond’s acceptance speech, which co-host Eric Brown called one of the “most exciting and meaningful twenty-seven minutes I have ever experienced.” Desmond tells the story of his own struggles with addiction, incarceration, and redemption, and leaves us all with an extraordinary lesson about how to unite people across their differences. You absolutely, positively don’t want to miss this episode.
October 9, 2019
Stacey Abrams is one of the most exciting and inspiring leaders of our time. Last week, she came to the Communications Network conference and gave the kind of speech that reminds us why we're in this business. Then she sat down with Communications Network CEO Sean Gibbons and took questions from the audience of a thousand people who had listened with rapt attention punctuated by explosions of laughter, applause, and gratitude.
If you missed this amazing event, we've captured it here for you. If you heard it and were blown away like so many others, you might like to listen again. In either case, it was an extraordinary moment.
September 25, 2019
We couldn’t resist – ComNet 19 is next week and we’re so excited that we’re bringing you a bonus edition of Let’s Hear It!
Eric spoke with two of the staff from the Communications Network who are helping to make it all happen this year - Carrie Clyne, Deputy Director of Events and Community, and Tristan Mohabir, who is Director of Operations and Editorial.
Carrie and Tristan talk about how they are helping everyone make connections and make the most out of this year’s ComNet – from first-timers like Carrie to seventeenth-timers like Eric. If you’re coming this year, this show is a great primer on how to make the most out of the conference. If you were one of the many who waited too long only to see the conference sell out yet again, Tristan and Carrie will inspire you to make sure you don’t miss out next time!
September 18, 2019
If you worked in foundation communications in the past thirty years, chances are that David Morse helped you – directly or indirectly. At the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and then the Atlantic Philanthropies, David helped advance the field of strategic communications like few others. Many of the modern concepts of communications strategy were born in his office or through the work of his consultants.
David sits down with Eric to talk about the legacy of Frank Karel, his predecessor at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, how the field has developed over time, and he’ll give you a chuckle when discussing the freedom that working for a limited life foundation affords.
We recorded this conversation earlier in the year, so if you want to buy him a drink to ask him about the old days, you’ll have to go to Norway to do it – David has hung up his flak jacket and now sips aquavit on the fjords.
September 4, 2019
If you are interested in using communications for social change, the Communications Network Annual Conference is the single most exciting event of the year. From October 2-4, over a thousand foundation and nonprofit professionals will gather in Austin, Texas to learn from each other about how to use communications to make a difference.
Stefan Lanfer of the Barr Foundation and Jade Floyd of the Case Foundation are chair and co-chair, respectively, of ComNet, and they spoke to Eric about their lives, their work, barbeque, Lycra, Spiderman, Pose, and why they’re so excited about this year’s event.
August 14, 2019
Hunter Johansson could have easily traded on his twin sister Scarlett's fame for all kinds of rotten purposes. Instead, he co-founded a nonprofit to put solar panels on the roofs of first responder stations in Puerto Rico to save lives and protect the planet.
Hunter sat down with Eric to talk about why he co-founded Solar Responders, he speaks about the opportunities and challenges of having shared a womb with one of the planet's most recognizable people, and he explains the deep rewards that await people who are interested in dedicating themselves to the service of others.
Hunter is earnest, humble, and he’s a walking, talking cure for cynicism. Hear for yourself.
July 31, 2019
In five years as CEO of the San Francisco Foundation, Fred Blackwell has emerged as one of philanthropy’s foremost leaders dedicated to advancing racial and economic equity.
As a community foundation, the San Francisco Foundation is able to raise money, make grants, and do the kind of political advocacy that private foundations cannot. Fred and his colleagues have used these tools to focus on housing, jobs, protecting communities, and a host of related issues.
If all that responsibility seems intimidating, you’d never know it from talking with Fred, who never seems to break a sweat. With one of the easiest laughs in the business, Fred sits down with Eric to discuss his work, his hopes for the future, and how he has drawn upon generations of family wisdom to guide his decisions. It’s a terrific conversation in which Fred shares his optimism about how he thinks the country can emerge from these proverbial “challenging times” stronger and more connected.
July 17, 2019
Doniece Sandoval took a bit of time off from her career as a marketing and communications leader to take stock of her life and her future. Little did she know that she would be soon leading one of the most extraordinary social service organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area, and that she would use her many skills to find new ways to connect with that region’s unhoused population.
Doniece launched an organization called Lava Mae, which provides mobile showers for some of the Bay Area’s most marginalized residents. By giving people a chance to feel clean, she is restoring dignity and providing hope to thousands of people in the San Francisco Bay Area and now Los Angeles. Even more than that, she is providing essential lessons to all of us about how to make deep meaningful connections through the power of stories.
Keep a hankie handy - these stories are amazingly powerful and deeply moving.
July 2, 2019
By the time Alfred Ironside arrived at the Ford Foundation in 2006, he had already had a career that most of us could hardly imagine – from leading disaster communications at the Red Cross to media relations at UNICEF, with stints in advertising in Bulgaria to a newspaper in Jerusalem to boot – Alfred Ironside may be the James Bond of communications.
As the Vice President for Global Communications at the Ford Foundation, Alfred is rolling all those skills and experiences into one exciting, strategic bundle. Alfred and Eric sit down at Mollie’s Pub in New York’s Gramercy Park neighborhood (where Eric’s grandmother used to drink) to discuss his career, what he’s learned, and the joys and challenges of running communications for one of the biggest and most complex foundations in the country. We REALLY think you won’t want to miss this one.
June 19, 2019
In June of 2016, the MacArthur Foundation announced that it would award a single $100 million grant to a single organization that was making a difference on a specific solution. They opened up a competition to allow organizations to vie for the award in a campaign they called 100&Change. The winner was the Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee, which created a project to help refugee children living in conflict areas in the Middle East.
Now, MacArthur is back with its second competition. In this episode of Let’s Hear It! we speak with Kristen Mack, Senior Communications Officer at MacArthur, and Jaison Morgan, CEO of Common Pool, the company that helps to design and conduct the competition.
Kristen talks with Eric about how she came to this field and about how MacArthur integrates communications throughout its work and especially into such a visible campaign (and the drinking habits of journalists.) Jaison talks about how competitions need to focus on transparency and feedback, and about the significant benefits that clear communications can have (and how he uses competition strategies in his parenting).
Join us for another fun and illuminating episode of Let’s Hear It!
June 5, 2019
Beth Kanter became a nonprofit social media phenomenon because she used a new technology – blogging – to take and share notes about her work. She became an expert on what makes a healthy workplace because she wasn’t feeling 100% and decided to write a book about how feeling good contributes to better functioning organizations. She was scared by math, so she wrote a book about how to measure results to slay that dragon and help others learn. Some people play Angry Birds on their phone in their spare time, and some people write best-selling books.
Let’s face it, Beth puts most of the rest of us to shame. It is no wonder that she is one of the most sought-after speakers, trainers, and authors on non-profit effectiveness anywhere.
Beth talks with Kirk (yes, Kirk!) about the fascinating contours of her career, the important steps that organizations need to take in order to thrive, and the seven stages of grief in measuring effectiveness.
Join us for this terrific conversation with one of the most colorful and interesting leaders of our field.
May 22, 2019
It’s hard to talk about Jim Canales without getting a little gushy. He’s generous, funny, and way too modest for someone who has spent more than two decades as an amazing leader in our field. And as the president of the Irvine president from 2003-2014 and the Barr Foundation since then, Jim has established himself as one of philanthropy’s very best communicators. Oh, and he’s also just incredibly nice.
Jim sits down with Eric (in a very fancy studio, we might add) to discuss his journey from high school English teacher to foundation executive, how he uses communications to advance the goals of the Barr Foundation, and his theory on who robbed the Gardner Museum in the greatest art heist in history (okay, not so much on that last bit).
We really think you’ll enjoy this episode with Jim, one of the best and brightest minds in philanthropy.
May 8, 2019
Na’ilah Suad Nasir once wanted to be a first-grade teacher, and she ended up as President of the Spencer Foundation – the country’s largest foundation dedicated solely to education research.
Along the way, she served on the faculty in the Education Department at Stanford, she was chair of the African American Studies Department at UC Berkeley (go Bears!), and she went on to be Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion there. She still holds a faculty appointment in Education and African American Studies at Berkeley.
Na’ilah has been shaking up the academy for years, and as President of the Spencer Foundation, she is helping to make sure that education research serves the students who would benefit most.
With humor and candor and a true sense of delight, Na’ilah talks with Eric about her career path, how she’s using communications to advance the work of the Spencer Foundation, and how she’s trying to change the traditional structures in the academic world.
April 24, 2019
Phil Buchanan, the President of the Center for Effective Philanthropy, has been helping foundations do their work better for almost two decades. But given that philanthropy is one step removed from the action, does that mean that Phil is helping people to help people who help people? What role do foundations and the organizations that support them play in improving people’s lives? And maybe most important, how can donors of all kinds figure out how to make sure their funding is as effective as possible?
In this episode of Let’s Hear It, Phil talks with Eric about how philanthropy can make a difference, and they discuss Phil’s new book, Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count. Eric notes that Phil, a former door-to-door fundraiser, has gone from playing the kazoo in the subway to conducting at Carnegie Hall. In their conversation after, Kirk chides Eric for asking tough questions, and Eric is classically defensive. What do you think? You can hear it all here at Let’s Hear It.
April 10, 2019
For anyone who works in the field of nonprofit or foundation communications, the name Kristen Grimm looms large. She started as an intern at Fenton and within just a few years she was running the company, at age 28.
She launched Spitfire Strategies when she was in her early thirties, and in the intervening decade and a half she has built the organization into one of the most highly respected nonprofit communications firms in the country.
All the while, Kristen has managed to keep learning and she has maintained an infectious sense of humor. In this episode of Let’s Hear It, Kristen talks about how she inadvertently pranked Peter Jennings, why she travels around the country in a camper trailer every year, and she describes her plan for reducing “unforced errors” in communications strategy and planning. While’s she’s at it, she talks about how she keeps learning, how she thinks about management, who she turns to for advice, and so much more.
March 27, 2019
Jesse Salazar is one of the most thoughtful and intelligent people you will ever be lucky enough to meet. If Jesse sounds wise beyond his years, it’s not just his soothing baritone – it might also be a result of his incredibly interesting background.
Living in the only Hispanic household in his rural Pennsylvania community, he learned how different perspectives inform each other. As the youngest civil rights commissioner in Pennsylvania history, he was forced to address a dramatic surge of hate crimes against immigrants in the aftermath of 9/11. Since then, he has gone on to run a regional office for a US Senator, he ran communications for the Council on Foundations, he was chair of the Communications Network during a dynamic period of extraordinary growth, and now he’s a management consultant at an international firm.
All of this has given Jesse a really nuanced understanding of just about everything.
In this interview with co-host Eric Brown, Jesse Salazar talks about politics, nonprofits, foundations, how to use communications to advance ideas and causes, the strategic use of office candy, and much more in another lively episode of Let’s Hear It!
March 13, 2019
Minna Jung has had a varied and wonderful career in nonprofit and foundation communications. She has run communications at a large foundation (Packard), a national non-profit (Earth Justice), and she’s even a published author (a children’s book called William’s Ninth Life).
Minna talks about the pitfalls of professional ambition, the challenge of being creative while still getting the day-to-day work done, and even about how to facilitate a meeting.
This wide-ranging conversation between Minna and co-host Eric Brown takes place at the Lone Palm, a dive-ish bar in San Francisco’s Mission District, as Let’s Hear It moves out of the studio and into the streets.