Amy Friedman knows first-hand that incarceration is hard on families — her two daughters grew up with a father in prison. “The impact on my daughters was profound, and mostly negative because of the stigma attached,” she said.
They were hardly alone. One in 14 children has or has had a parent who’s incarcerated, according to the Casey Foundation, which makes the impact of that stigma even more outstanding.
It was something Amy wanted to address. She modeled POPS the Club in the image of the LGBTQ+ support groups that originated in the 1980s, providing a safe space in high schools where kids could talk about their shared experiences.
The first POPs club opened at Venice High School in California. There are now POPs Clubs in 14 schools, in California, New York, Pennsylvania and Georgia.
Newspark: You were a writer for much of your life. Were there skills that you had as a writer that prepared you for the transition to managing a nonprofit?
Amy Friedman: [Laughs] That’s a great question, and no, except for this: that one of the things we do for POPS is publish a book every year of the writings and artwork created by members of the clubs. I am a skilled editor with lots of experience in publishing, and so that part of the venture has been the easy transition for me. Everything else has been a very steep learning curve.
NP: What advice would you give to someone who’s trying to start a nonprofit, and maybe is a bit evergreen when it comes to that skill set?
AF: One is that, before launching a nonprofit, really look at the landscape to see if there are other nonprofits that exist with whom you might partner.
Also, there are a lot of great programs for training executive directors. And I would say absolutely, absolutely get training. Don’t think that you can do this without some real skill development.
NP: What were some trainings you did?
AF: There’s an organization here in southern California called the Executive Service Corps of Southern California. They have a program that’s the Executive Directors Leadership Institute, which is a yearlong training program that was spectacular. And then I’ve had a lot of coaching and gone to a lot of leadership workshops since that time, including the Vital Voices Global Ambassadors Program.