Jessica Rogers, #20storiesfor20years

“I’m the Executive Director of Connections to Independence. We call ourselves C2i. We work with youth and young adults who are in and aging out of the foster care system. It’s a holistic approach to moving young people into thriving post-foster care, rather than just being in survival mode. In 2017, we applied for a grant and partnership with SVP Minnesota. We got through to the next round where you submit a full proposal and I was like, ‘We’re going to get this, this is so exciting.’ Then we didn’t. I was totally crushed. But SVP’s feedback was amazing. They were like, ‘Let’s meet about why you didn’t get it.’ We learned that we needed to tell our story more clearly and concisely. So we spent the next two years going through the process of getting it right. We applied again and made it to Pitch Night, which was terrifying [laughs]. But it was great. We had thirty minutes to really tell our story. We had to show our finances, our mission, what programs we ran, and our vision for growth. They call you with the results that night. My grant writer and I were sitting by the phone having a glass of wine, all stressed out. Then they called and told us that we got it. They said it was the quickest decision they had ever made and that it was unanimous. It was amazing. It’s been one of the best things that’s ever happened to our organization. And it’s not just the money, which is always great. It’s also being intentional about what we needed and how they could help. They found out what we wanted to do, and then they brought in people who fit those components of our work. We had an impact team of four SVP Partners who consulted with us pro bono. If we didn’t have a person on our team who could do something, they’d find someone else and have them help. The wealth of knowledge they have with their network of partners is amazing. I mean, ‘You need help with marketing? Let me make a phone call. Finance? Let me shoot an email.’ That is so invaluable. We just wrapped up our three-year SVP partnership. At the beginning it was a little rough because I wasn’t engaging them as much because I do everything myself, you know? A lot of people, especially women of color and nonprofits, are like, ‘Let me just do it and get it done.’ But I really learned how to lean on my team. And they opened my eyes to different types of growth for our organization. Now we have a housing program. We have a mentoring program. We did outreach across the river. We’re working on local and national advocacy initiatives that involve systems change work. And this is stuff that we weren’t doing before that we’re doing now because of the different lens I started looking through working with SVP.” Jessica Rogers SVP MN Board Member Executive Director Connections to Independence< Photo and Story Credit:  Humans of Minneapolis, Inc
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