Janet is also the founder of JKS by Design, a North Texas-based nonprofit consultant firm. Previously, she's worked with March of Dimes, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and Frankie's Friends.
We spoke with Janet about fundraising during the pandemic, the ways in which she revamped Trusted World's development strategy and her favorite nonprofit buzzword. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Newspark: How long have you consulting for nonprofits, and for Trusted World?
Janet Sherlip: I had an agency in Florida, and then I moved back to Texas (I’m originally from here) in 2017. And literally within a week of getting here, I got a phone call from a friend of mine who was living in Dallas, and said “Janet, I have an organization I want to introduce you to, they need help.” So it was kind of the perfect opportunity.
NP: What were some of the fundamental strategies you brought to Trusted World when you came on in 2017?
JS: A lot of different strategies. The CEO, Michael Garrett, he is excellent in Six Sigma and warehousing and manufacturing, that’s his background. He had a vision for Trusted World, saw a need in the community — that there was this underserved population that was facing situational poverty. He realized if we could step in, we might be able to turn it around for those families or individuals facing situational poverty and start decreasing generational poverty.
And then he thought, If I can find a way of getting these resources to those individuals without having to hire case managers and do the case management work, that would even be better.
Michael figured it out, and realized that if he went to first responders — social workers, school counselors, essentially the people that are on the ground meeting with these individuals — that they might be helping these individuals with mental or physical distress, but the first few things they need to do is assist them with clothing and food and toiletries. And once they can get that handled, then they can go and focus on the bigger picture and the bigger need. But for them to try and get those first things handled, it was taking 30, 60, 90 days because of the paperwork and the mere process of that all. So that’s where Michael stepped in.
I came on board, I’m like, “This is brilliant. How are you being funded?” And he said, “Well, that’s kind of our biggest challenge. We have one angel investor, but we’ve really got to diversify.” And I said, “Yeah, absolutely, because if you have an angel investor and they go away, you go away.”
So I said to him, first and foremost, because we are not out in the public and we’re working behind the scenes, we got to get people in the door. So step one was engaging volunteers and getting volunteers into the door, physically into Trusted World, so they can see first hand what they’re doing. Cause you got to be able to feel, smell, touch it to really get involved.
Step two, getting into the school systems, working through the schools and the counselors and the social workers to assist the unsheltered students and also assist those families that are slipping down the poverty line, because the first person who’s gonna see it is the teacher or the social worker. And if there’s a student in need, there’s a whole family in need.
We also started going into the community talking, with local leaders, the local rotaries, etc. So through those various avenues, we started expanding our donor base, and that list went from half a page to three or four pages.
So then what happens next is Hurricane Harvey hit in Texas in 2017. And we were called upon from the Dallas County Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) to help out. Within three months, we had worked with 22,000 volunteers, processed millions of dollars worth of in-kind resources and then dispersed it down to Houston when it was needed, rather than just collecting and then immediately shipping it down there. By September 1, we found a temporary location at a 340,000 square foot warehouse.
So with Hurricane Harvey, and those volunteers and all the recognition that we’re getting through the media, that catapulted us from just a few pages of potential donors to now over 6,000 constituents.
Then after Hurricane Harvey kind of fizzled out a little bit, things kind of settled down and we rested back into where we are kind of today, up until COVID happened, and now we’re kind of back up in that Hurricane Harvey mode — constantly trying to find and adapt new ways of getting the food clothing and personal care items out into the community.