CEO of Unsilenced Voices Talks About What It Takes To Build a Nonprofit

Michelle

Podcast speakers: Savannah McIntosh (Purplepass Marketing Director) and Michelle Jewsbury (CEO and Founder of Unsilenced Voices). Jump to the show notes below. 

 

The EventBuzz podcast: Michelle Jewsbury
presented by Purplepass

 

 

Show Notes

Topic markers:

04:25 - The benefits of organization collaborations
07:05 - How to create an effective fundraiser 
16:20 - Advice for starting a nonprofit 
20:25 - Growing your organization/sponsor relationships
 
 
Links: 
unsilencemyvoice.com
unsilencedvoices.org
https://www.linkedin.com/in/michelle-jewsbury/
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Podcast Transcript: Purplepass + Michelle Jewsbury


Savannah (Purplepass):

Welcome back to the show for event planners around the world. With me today is CEO and founder of Unsilenced Voices, a global nonprofit that empowers survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking to live safe and happy lives. Introducing today's guests Michelle Jewsbury Michelle's organization on silence voices provides a direct financial assistance to survivors and education to communities in the United States, Ghana, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone, leading the nonprofit sector with its integration of blockchain technology.

Michelle is also a world renowned author, playwright and motivational speaker. So let's welcome her to the show.

Hi, Michelle, welcome to the show. We are so excited to have you. How are you doing today?

 

Michelle Jewsbury:

Hey, I'm great. Savannah. Super excited to be here as well.

 

Savannah:

Yeah. So well, in the beginning, I kind of introduce you to the listeners. But as the founder of Unsilenced Voices, could you tell us a little bit about the organization and its overall mission?

 

Michelle:

Yeah, of course. So on silenced voices was founded in 2017. I am a survivor of domestic violence. And because of what I went through, it had propelled me to do something even more with my story. And when we started, I had connections in Ghana and Sierra Leone. So we actually began our programming with a partner organization called the Ark foundation in Ghana, and then expanded to Sierra Leone, where we have managers and, and supervisors on the ground. We do many different things, from sensitization programs, to vocational training, to educating girls to get off the streets, to even helping out with food and different villages and savings box programs.

And then in 2020, we expanded to Rwanda, we have two partner organizations in Rwanda. We do everything from education, to vocational training, to even helping with kids school supplies, primarily children who have been impacted due to domestic violence and sexual abuse issues. And then in 2022, this past year, we expanded to the US, we did a for city tour, called A Blanket of Hope. It was all about collaboration coalition's and working together community to create an even better world. So we partner with different organizations in the cities that we go to. We have everybody present, we invite survivors to come victims to come obtain services that they need. We've been partnered with Amazon workforce staffing, so they can provide job opportunities in the area.

And this year, we were able to gift over $30,000 to 26 survivors in the USA, for their transportation needs or food or housing costs. And then we are we have an advantageous program for the next couple of years, but we definitely are expanding in the US and then beyond.

 

Savannah:

Wow, yeah, I was looking at your guys's website, and you do are doing so many events. And it's it's amazing. And it's just really empowering to give survivors a voice essentially. And and the support they need. I'm sure. You know...

 

Michelle:

Yeah, you know, it's crazy. When you go through domestic violence or sexual abuse or trauma, even trafficking. Sometimes you you're unaware of what you're going through at the time. And then it's only until afterwards when you when you look back that I was like, wow, I wish I would have had these services or Wow, at this education. So that's why we're doing this is because it's so important to educate. You don't know what you don't know. So it's all about informing.

 

Savannah:

And even in trauma in general, I think it's really important to just have groups or someone that you can relate to and someone that's like I've, you're not alone. So again, yeah, that's amazing what you guys are doing.

Your organization allows individuals to get involved in a variety of ways such as through donations, events, sponsorships, what advice would you give other nonprofits when it comes to increasing the involvement of their followers that you find helpful.

 

Michelle:

Well, the the biggest advice that I would actually give to other organizations is that it's not the work of one organization that can do everything. I really really am an advocate of coalition's and collaboration. And by doing the Blanket of Hope events, it's really made me aware of how many organizations do not want to actually collaborate. And I believe a lot of that is because we all compete for the same grant money.

And unfortunately, some organizations don't realize that there are there is enough money to go around. And we need each other in order to serve the best that we can so things don't fall through the cracks. So with other organizations, it's let's collaborate, let's work together, let's do something jointly, so that we can serve an even greater populace. And I think that that is just extremely important and outside of that with other organizations, you know, be open, open your doors, do events, invite people to come out. I know that, especially in the Tampa area where we're looking to start a day center the next couple years, a lot of what is slipping through the cracks is, you know, like, feeding and activities for training and fun, and things like that.

I went to this community outreach event that had about 20 different other organizations involved. And I learned what was missing. So come in, and don't try to compete, but come in and, and supplement and, and make better the the area that you're serving by just filling the spaces that are needed.

 

Savannah:

Yeah, I that's a really good point. I feel like our brain, maybe not so much as nonprofits. As much as like businesses, we're so hardwired to compete, that people miss the collaboration part of it, and it can be so beneficial to get more people involved.

 

Michelle:

Yeah. 100%.

 

Savannah:

So would you say the same thing for like fundraising, events, collaboration, you know, to get the most out of your event?

 

Michelle:

So it would be a bit more difficult to have a fundraising event that is collaborative, however, you can, you would just have to split donations accordingly. We haven't done a collaboration fundraising event yet. But definitely, it's in our roster and we would be open to that.

But as far as fundraising, you know, what's really important is to provide your audience with a fun time, I remember one of our first fundraising events, and I decided that we should do education in the in the event and it it didn't have the big bang, like a lot of fundraisers do. And I realized that maybe not focusing on the greedy statistics and details of domestic violence, sexual abuse and trafficking, and focusing on the hope.

So focusing on inspire, and, and recovery, and what you can do with your story after you overcome trauma and after you obtain services, but really providing the people that come with a great time. So we have a fundraiser coming up in December, in Las Vegas, where we have a not so dueling piano player that's coming. And it's going to be you know, open bar and dancing and dinner and we'll have one or two speakers.

And that's all and just making it a fun event where there'll be silent and live auction items. And just a lot of great, great things.

 

Savannah:

Do you guys ever do like virtual fundraisers? Have you ever? Because I know, hybrid and virtual events are becoming really big now.

 

Michelle:

We haven't done a virtual fundraiser. I also run an LLC, where I help and coach people. I've done a lot of virtual events in regards to speaking and telling my story, or doing like corporate events, things like that. But we haven't done a virtual fundraiser. I have been to a couple and they they tend to work well. I just think that the in person events give it a a more of...

 

Savannah:

Oh, yeah.100%

 

Michelle:

Yeah, especially, you know, with COVID Everybody, you know, we got used to doing Zooms and got used to Zoom hopping, right?

 

Savannah:

Yeah, I hate it.

 

Michelle:

Ya know, exactly right. We all got sick of it, because we had to do it. So now there's a lot of people eager, and wanting to dress up and wanting to go out to a to a fun dinner and dancing. And just a fun time.

 

Savannah:

Yeah, and that's the thing, too. A lot of people work remote work on their computer. So it's like it's asking a lot of someone to go from working and then go into this event that's also on the computer. I don't know.

 

Michelle:

I mean, I agree with you. Yeah, I'm not a fan of that either. I actually think that in person is still better. You know, I was reading a book I'm trying to remember. It was called Societal Shift. And I forget the author's name right now. But it was all about human trafficking and social media and it's interesting and one of one of her lines and I'm paraphrasing here because I don't remember the exact quote, but she ended up saying that human beings need our senses like we need touch, smell, taste, we need those five senses. And when you're typing with your thumbs on your phone, hence, on social media, or hence just using zoom, we are missing those senses. And it's extremely important to be able to touch and taste and feel and laugh together. Because that's what human beings are.

We are meant for joint collaborations and participations together and building friendships and relationships. So, so yes, I'm a huge advocate for in person, not virtual. I know virtual can be successful. But like you said, you know, you're working from home. And all of us are, I mean, even myself, I work from home all the time, I'd like to get out, you know, I push I kick myself in my butt sometimes just to make it to the gym. So I get out of the house, but it's so important, right?

 

Savannah:

Yeah, I know. It's crazy. I've actually was been working from home for a while before COVID. And it's really nice. And it's interesting now, because everyone wants to work, or they at least did wanted to work remote. But now I'm like, I've been doing this for so long I'm ready to actually go back and like talk to people. And yeah, well, and I time. Yeah...

 

Michelle:

And I think employers are realizing that but they're also understanding that when you do work remotely, when you work from home, you actually get more work done. Being in the office, it would just be more of a camaraderie. And and that that will help with the psyche right now, I know that this isn't what we're discussing, but it's mental health is a huge issue all around the world right now.

And a lot of that is because we don't have those five senses that are being engaged.

 

Savannah:

Yeah, people are lonely. And yeah, it's crazy.

 

Michelle:

Yeah, yeah, the world is, is nuts. You know, I, I was reading a stat the other day, and right now the, this generation coming up as the lowest IQ of any generation ever born. I tend to wonder, you know, why is that and a lot of it is our lack of communication. And, you know, this is also something that's really important, like the human trafficking area, we we've learned a lot that predators, will pinpoint young people on social media on in virtual events. And, and then just, you know, meet them in person, then they get trapped, right? And then these, if kids aren't able to communicate well, then they can't communicate what they might think is wrong. Does that make sense?

 

Savannah:

Yes. Yeah.

 

Michelle:

Yeah, so yeah, there's, there's a lot that we can do, you know, I, I talk a lot to different organizations and do a lot of events in person and virtual. And I talked about how it is so important to to teach people communication. My my very good friend, his name is George Chinos, he is the former Attorney General of the State of Nevada. And he has said that one of the most important traits in the 21st century for anybody to acquire is empathy. And right now, we don't know how to have empathy towards one another. Whether it's America or Russia, or Ukraine or the Middle East, or Iran, what's happening in Iran with the jobs, it's, it's really insane that the injustices have become part of our everyday life.

 

Savannah:

That's an interesting observation. Yeah, it's very sad. And it's something that seems like it should come natural, or it should, you know, empathy or even sympathy. It's, yeah, it's hard to fathom that that's such a hard thing to to have. Yes, yeah. And it's sad, but yeah...

 

Michelle:

But we can do something about it. This is why we're on this, this podcast, you know, it's important to you know, spread awareness Yes, to talk about the things that are happening around the world, but then coming together and we can make a difference. One person really can do a lot more than you think. And I remember when I started Unsilenced Voices, I was like, little me, what am I going to do?

You know, I was born in a small town, I grew up to two amazing parents that I you know, I didn't think I was going to run a million dollar organization. I didn't think that I was going to be operational and multiple different countries around the world. And it's not just me, it's it's our team, right. But because I chose to speak up, I chose to use my story for something even greater than myself. Then things are happening and one person can create a domino effect of change throughout our communities.

 

Savannah:

Yeah. And I think that takes so much strength to take to transform basically trauma and turn it into something. Something good that can come out of it.

 

Michelle:

Yeah. Yeah, I have a bootcamp coming up in a couple of weeks, actually in and Florida. And it's all about turning your story into a mission, ministry movement, nonprofit or business. But the the first step is always recognition, right? Recognize what it is that you've gone through, and not making yourself a victim, or even not making yourself an abuser. It's just understanding the facts, and not making it mean anything. And then from there, you can use your experiences, your intellectual intelligence to then educate the rest of the world. And that's what's so important.

 

Savannah:

Yeah. Yeah, that's amazing. And I know we are talking about awareness. That was another question I had for you for nonprofits, basically starting out, and like you said, little ol' you starting your nonprofit. What advice would you give them for starting to spread awareness for their cause? Like, where do they even begin? It might seem overwhelming.

 

Michelle:

It is overwhelming, I totally understand that you have this big vision. And then oftentimes that that vision changes or the steps to get their changes. And I would just say, just keep moving forward. You know, there's, there's a quote that I always say, if you've ever seen the movie, Finding Nemo, Dory swims, and all she sings is just keep swimming, right? Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.

I also like to live by the quote that God can't steer a parked car. So as long as you are moving in the right direction, or moving in a direction, you can be steered differently. And I remember when I first started, I had no idea how, how large this would get or how far we would go. And I just had this idea that I wanted to help. And I just went, you know, I ended up meeting a doctor that lived in Los Angeles that said, hey, why don't you go to my country? And I said, okay.

So take the opportunities that are presented. Because if you start off with a passion and a purpose and a mission, then you just have to start saying yes to the opportunities and the action items that you can do. And I think that that's, that's what we should focus on as, as people who are wanting to impact the world is just start taking action. No matter how small or how big, you never know, where, where you plant your seed. You never know where the trees gonna grow.

 

Savannah:

Yeah, and I also like this quote, and it is kind of cheesy, but basically...sorry, I had it. And I was like, basically, Oh, yeah. Nothing good, comes easy.

 

Michelle:

That is very true. Oh, true. Yeah, no, it is. Yeah. I mean, everything takes takes work, anything worth a damn takes work, right? And same, same type of content concept. And, yeah, just, you know, just keep, keep moving forward. Don't let your your neighbors, your brother, your sister, your cousin's, your husband, or your wife, or your mom or dad tell you, you can't do it. You know, because always look at your life. And then the lives of the people that are giving you advice, do you want their lives and if you don't, if you don't want to live like them, then don't listen to them.

And I will tell you right now, the coaches and mentors and people that uplift you will always uplift you, they will never ever tear you down. It's going to be your friends that you drink wine with after work at the bar or do happy hours with or go have beers with it at a rams game, you know, that are going to tell you that you can't succeed. Don't listen to those people.

You don't want to be sitting on the barstool when you're 60 years old, right?

So just keep going just keep putting one foot in front of the other and you can and will achieve success. It may not be exactly what you want, it could be even better could be different. However, if you just move you will achieve some type of success.

 

Savannah:

Yeah.100% And I think the last thing I did want to ask you because I think this will also help nonprofits that are looking to partner with sponsorships and and not really knowing kind of how to go about that go about that. I want to know your process, like the process of becoming a sponsor for your cause?

 

Michelle:

So are kind of how you partner with them. Yeah, so I'm gonna go at this two different ways. So I'm gonna, I'm gonna, I'm going to talk about being the face of your organization being the CEO. And what that entails. And I think it's very important to network and your network is your net worth, is what my coach tells me often. And it's all about branding, right? So you have to make sure that all your T's are crossed and your eyes are dotted. You you need to go out, you need to shake hands with people you need to meet people.

Relationship capital is what will grow you the most. So I talked to a lot of organizations that are kind of shocked that we're growing. One of the reasons we are growing is because I am out there hustling, I go to events, we are changing our and shifting our dynamic a little next year, but I'm still going to be out networking, I'm still going to be making phone calls and shaking hands with people.

You know, fundraising, I used to view as an annoying part of running a nonprofit organization. However, it is an essential part. So when you want to attract a sponsor, whether it's an individual or a corporation, you first grow that relationship, you ask them how their children are doing, what do they like to do for fun, grow the relationship to where if you give them a phone call, and it's not scheduled, they'll still pick it up. And I think that's important to remember.

So when, as a CEO of an organization, just remember that other CEOs of corporations and other CEOs that you want to attract to become sponsors for your organization, they're busy as well, you know, so, so invest time into building those relationships.

And that's, that's the main thing that I would want to say.

 

Savannah:

Yeah, that makes sense. Well, thank you, again, so much for coming on to the show. And not only sharing your advice, but sharing your story, and your organization that possibly could help someone listening today.

So is there anything you would like to say to the listeners, before we go?

 

Michelle:

Yeah, I would like to give a couple of free gifts. If you are on your computer, and you go to unsilencemyvoice.com. Again, it's unsilencemyvoice.com you can get some information about steps to overcome challenges. If you go to unsilencedvoices.org, there are, there's a resources section, you can download a list of resources.

But really, the last thing that I'd like to leave with you is, is believe in yourself. And I think that that is something that we don't do these days, and we allow social media to impact us. We allow other people's words and criticisms to impact where we're going and I would highly suggest just believe in yourself, invest in yourself, read good books, listen to amazing podcasts like this one, get inspired and and just keep going.

 

Savannah:

Yeah, and if I can add to surround yourself with people that believe in you. You know, a support system is if you can find one is is amazing. But I will link everything you mentioned in the show notes so everyone can find those links and those resources. And yeah, thank you again for coming on to the show.

 

Michelle:

Yeah, thank you so much for having me, Savannah, and hope you and everybody listening has a great rest of your day.

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