Nonprofit on the Rocks - An Overabundance of Chutzpah

Season 4 | Episode 5

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“Community college foundations really are helping one of the most diverse populations in the country. They're making sure that  the poverty cycle is broken. They are changing, not just families, but generations of families because of the things that they are able to help students with.”

 


Matt talks to Bobbi Abram, CEO of the Pasadena City College Foundation.

The pair discuss everything from the college’s 30 million dollar grant from Mackenzie Scott to why Bobbi’s (and Ashley's) longtime home town, Kansas City, is located in two states. They debate the merits of getting a college degree at all, and they reveal how when they first met, Bobbi thought Matt had “an overabundance of chutzpah.” (She was not wrong!)


Matt:

So you're at Pasadena City College, and you've just got a humongous grant, a 30 million grant. That's huge. So, everybody hears about Jeff Bezos. Everybody hears about his ex-wife, Mackenzie Scott, she's giving out a ton of money around the country.

So tell us about that call when they were like, “Hey, you're getting 30 million.” That must have been amazing. 

Bobbi:

Well, I was actually in Kansas Ccity. I had taken a vacation. I was sitting with a friend of mine at a restaurant called Snooze in Westport, and I get a call from my boss and I thought, okay, she knows I'm on vacation.

California gets set on fire periodically. So, I thought, what is going on? So, “Hello? Everything okay?” And she said, “are you sitting down?” And I said, “yes.” And then there was total silence. And I said, ”are you okay?” And she goes, ”yes. I just got a phone call; an anonymous donor wants to give us 30 million.”

And I said, “holy F.” And I said, “well, can you tell me something about that?” Are they at an alum of, you know, I wanted to know, did my efforts, make this happen? Am I that good? No, not at all. She said, “okay, totally confidential. There's rules around who can know and you're in the need to know.”

So, she told me it was Mackenzie Scott, and  so I started looking into what kinds of places she gives to why she gives. And I will tell you how she gives is really setting philanthropy on its heels because she is doing her research. She obviously has a company, that works with her. They look up your organization and you need to be able to be found.

So do all the things that Guide Star and Charity Navigator tell you to do. You know, complete your 990s, get 'em out there for the public to see; be good at your job so that there are other things and other organizations who recognize your work. In our case, PCC had been named as one of the top 10 community colleges in the country by the Aspen Institute.

And I noticed when I looked at some of the other organizations that she had given to, they were also Aspen top 10 institutions. Do your work in diversity, equity and inclusion because the conversation included, “we like what you're doing here in this area. So, she's looking for people who are really moving the needle, who are doing it in a progressive way.

And the most amazing thing that she's doing is she's making her gifts unrestricted. And when it comes to her continued involvement in your organization, she wanted a three-page report for three years and that's it. , so she is doing it in a way that immediately shows trust in the leadership of the organization.

And so, in order for her to trust, she's doing her homework and they are really looking at organizations deeply. They will not tell you they're doing it. You won't find out until you get that phone call. And then of course, the first thing I did is I thought this is a prank, you know, really? And then I looked up all these and there are people out there pranking people.

Defrauding people into thinking, you know, they're gonna get this gift. They'll send us all your data. They know the data. They're not gonna ask you for a bunch of data. They already know it. They have it. They judged you by it already. And they determined that you were, you know, worthy organization.

So, and I will tell you, because you put so much trust in you from the very beginning, you immediately want to do an amazing job with this and do it right because you don't wanna breach that trust at all. And it was an exciting thing for us  to share with our foundation board, with our board of trustees at the college.


LINKS:

Bobbi makes her renowned Moscow Mules with Fever-Tree Ginger Beer, brewed in Africa!

College not for you? Skills USA is a nonprofit national education association serving middle-school, high-school and college/postsecondary students pre paring for careers in trade, technical and skilled service occupations.

 


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