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Finding Meaning Through Service W/ Joanne Murray #21

Do you feel called to be of service in your community? Do you think there is value in offering your gifts without the expectation of anything in return?

In this episode, Joanne Murray and I dive deep into these questions and so much more. Joanne has over thirty years experience in the nonprofit sector, as an Executive Director and Board member, she has seen firsthand the impact that the right systems, processes, and knowledge have on the success of charities and nonprofit organizations. Beyond supporting organizations with improving their impact, Joanne helps people lead from the heart while actionizing their values and principles. Human systems are complex, but there are common needs and qualities that connect us all. Listen to this episode to learn more about simple places we can start to make a big difference, today.


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Thanks Joanne for taking the time to come on. I know you've [00:01:00] been busy and have so many different projects and, and things on the go.

But. I'm really excited to talk to you about your experience in the, not for profit world and so much of what you've done in our last conversation, I was amazed and interested to, to hear more.

I felt like I just started getting the stoke of the fire. So as we get going, and, and before we get deeper into what you've been doing more recently with the consulting work and, and helping other not-for-profits, I'm curious about what brought you into the not for-profit world in the first place.

Joanne Murray: Yeah.

That's one of those serendipitous things that happens, I guess when the universe has a plan for you that you don't know, you don't know yet know what it is. Um, So the first 15 years of my life post high school graduation, um, I had, I had plans to go into teaching. [00:02:00] Um, and I remember my, uh, grade 12 teacher telling me that, um, I should not do that because there, at that time, , it was such a, um, Glu of teachers that he felt I would be unemployed a period of time.

So that kind of left me reeling. I didn't know what else to do. So I just went to work. I just went to work. I did admin work, uh, for 15 years, I just went from job to job to job. Uh, I was unhappy, unfulfilled. I would get into a job and six months later start looking for another job. Um, so in the first 15 years of my career, I don't think I lasted more than two years in a job.

Um, I felt it was the company. So every time I went [00:03:00] someplace new, I thought it was the company. Um, and then in 1995, um, I was doing, uh, computer training. So I, I just was, self-employed doing software training and I had two different friends who didn't know each other. Um, but knew me who both came to me days apart and said, there's a job.

Uh, That I know about at the John Howard society. Um, and we think you'd be really good for that. I did not know who the John sec Howard society was. I didn't know what the nonprofit sector was. Actually. I, I just didn't know. I worked in government and private sector, um, and I thought, well, that might be cool to have a little bit of extra cash.

It was a part-time job. Uh, so I did the interview. I got the job and [00:04:00] really soon into it, I just, um, felt like this is the coolest job I've had, um, in, in the one set. So yeah, it was, um, Part time job, but I had the opportunity to grow it to full time. Um, and I, I just found that exhilarating, it was like owning your own business.

I had a lot of freedom in terms of how it was to be designed, what kind of programs I could design. Um, but very quickly because I was working with people who were in the justice system, who wanted to do better, wanted better for themselves, um, and started seeing people make changes, um, you know, [00:05:00] start working towards some of their goals and dreams that, that just started feeling really good to me.

Like I felt that I'd found my purpose. Um, And it became not a job at all. That's an old cliche. If you love what you do it, you'll never work a day in your life. And, um, I just, I looked forward to coming to work every day and I stayed for 27 years. So that's kind of wow. Demonstrates that analogy essentially.


Stu Murray: no kidding. Wow. That's, that's very interesting. 27 years. And when you started off, that was a part-time opportunity. Were you still doing another job on the side or at, at

Joanne Murray: first? Yeah. Yeah, it was still still doing computer training on the side. And I love that. Um, cuz I do have an entrepreneurial.

Spirit I've, uh, um, that really fuels me and I was able to use that [00:06:00] to build the organization. So yeah, when I started, I was half I was, um, halftime part-time and, um, there was another part-time person. We had one little, um, contract and every year for the first five years, I was able to double the revenues by bringing in different contracts.

Wow. Um, by the time I left, um, we owned about, um, $7 million worth property, uh, 30 affordable housing units, about 20, 24 office spaces. Um, community rooms, 17 different pro programs, contracts. Um, so it was like growing a business, right? Except you, I had [00:07:00] the, um, benefit of, um, doing, do like working with people, helping people move forward in their lives.

So it it's just was like, it's, it's a huge privilege to, to do the

Stu Murray: work that I did. Hmm. That's incredible. And I, I think you've alluded to it in certain aspects and touched on it, but I'm curious if you'd like to elaborate on, like, what it, what was it really that hooked you after that was 15 years of choppy employment?

What was it that really grabbed you and pulled you in? Yeah,

Joanne Murray: it was, it was the meaningful nature of the work. So as an admin, you know, I, there, it, it is an important piece of an organization having a good organized admin person. Um, but I never saw, I never saw the impact of my work. I never saw [00:08:00] where I fit into the larger picture of an organization.

And I worked for everything from, uh, municipal, provincial, federal governments and private sector in a bunch of different industries, um, fisheries. And, um, I can't even remember the other ones I worked for now, but, um, there, there was just nothing meaningful about the work that I did, um, to show up to your job, go home

Stu Murray: that and sorry.

Joanne Murray: Yeah. Um, Yeah, and for me, um, I need more than that. I have a lot of friends who are quite happy to, to do that and find that fulfilling for me. Um, I needed to connect with people. I needed to see that, um, um, I think early on, I didn't realize the power that we have as individuals to [00:09:00] make a difference in somebody's life.

Um, but as the years went by and I got feedback from some of the people that were helped along the way. Um, I realized just how important, like connecting with people, um, being truthful and honest and hopeful for others, what a difference that makes in their life. Um, and that you never know when something you say is gonna be that tipping point for someone else.

I like to either make them finally believe that they have the potential to do something, or you give them a piece of information, uh, that they use to, um, connect with something else that just gets them over a hurdle. Um, and yeah, like, I can't think of any greater. [00:10:00] Saying that somebody can do right. Is just have an impact on somebody else's life.

That way.

Stu Murray: That's incredible. There's a few things that, that really come up for me there. And one thing that you just said is like that aspect of being truthful, hopeful, honest mm-hmm and not underestimating the power of, of us just showing up in our presence and in our authenticity, like what that can do to transform someone's life.

And that can go beyond work that can just go in our day to day and, and particularly even showing up with our family at home.

Joanne Murray: Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. And that's one of the, I don't talk a lot about my own upbringing and the impact that's had on my ability to be truthful and open and honest and hopeful for others.

Um, but growing up, um, I came from an alcoholic home, um, and. For the first 19 year until I [00:11:00] moved out of the house and my dad and I often joked about this later, um, he stopped drinking when I left home

he will say it had nothing to do. It was pure coincidence, but we often joked about that. Um, and for the next, um, I don't know how many years, I think probably another 38 years, he worked really, uh, just devoted his life to working with other people, trying to recover from alcoholism and, you know, opened his doors to open his home to people that we're trying to recover and form.

So I got to see someone who, you know, before I turned 19. If you would've told me that, um, he would've, um, stopped drinking and got help for his anger issues and got help for, um, other, um, issues in his life. [00:12:00] I would've laughed. I would've laughed in your face. Um, but he did. And so that gives me, that gives me like a unique vantage point.

When I have someone coming to me saying, I've always been like this, you know, I'm not gonna change now. Um, you know, I've been this way for so many years, why bother? Uh, or my kids have written me off, um, cuz I've always been this way. I can have those conversations 100% truthfully that there's, you absolutely can take the steps to change.

And here's some things you can do for your children, you know, as a, as a child of an alcoholic, I know what made a difference to me and just sharing that with them, um, helps them reconnect with families [00:13:00] sometimes. Not always. Um, so, and I, and I think, yeah, I mean, I, I think sometimes that's why, if you think about life's bigger purpose, I think that's why I ended up where I did because, um, because I, I do have that unique, um, Vantage help that,

Stu Murray: that I can help visually.

That's amazing. Yeah, it sounds mm-hmm, like there's been that, that theme of serving in your life. And I, I really agree with you on the aspect of like that, that whole saying you can't teach an old dog new tricks. I, I think it's a, a load of crap and I think it does a disservice to us as in, as individuals who are constantly, you know, there there's this innate desire within us to learn and to grow.

And just because we, we can close ourselves off or I think it has a lot to do with distractions and all of these things, we get comfortable [00:14:00] in certain patterning. And then all of a sudden we, we forget, you know, we forget that there's that degree of discomfort. It is dis it is uncomfortable. Right. And, but yes, but that bit of discomfort, whether that's some self-reflection or some life changing event, or, you know, cutting out something that was numbing all of these different emotions in your life and forcing you to, to sit with what's alive in you, discomfort, isn't something that's bad.

And, and societally, I think we have a really weird relationship with that. And we almost create a culture that seeks as much comfort as possible at all times.

Joanne Murray: no, and discomfort is, is something we try to stuff down with food, you know, substances, relationships, keeping busy. Um, yeah, cuz it is uncomfortable, but yeah, it, it, I [00:15:00] find that.

People go along doing that. It's one of those gradually then suddenly things it's it's okay. You don't notice, I'm fine with this. I'm fine with this. And then all of a sudden, suddenly it's like, okay, I'm no longer comfortable being this uncomfortable. Yeah. And I'm gonna do something about that's it. And it just takes such great courage. Like, um, it's huge.

Stu Murray: It's huge. Yeah. Tremendously. So, and, and some people, you know, some of us can go a lifetime without. Really getting to that point. And, you know, sometimes it's that crisis point or that breaking point or these things that cause us to start to examine things in a different way.

And it is, it is incredibly uncomfortable and it it's incredibly courageous, but the pain and discomfort that will come from not living and examined life, we will have to sit with that at some point. And that will be more uncomfortable than facing that [00:16:00] and giving ourselves that opportunity to

Joanne Murray: stage. Right. I had not those last 20 years or, oh, I wish I had reached out or whatever. Yeah.

Stu Murray: Yeah. And, and so I wanna come back, I wanna circle back to this theme. That seems to be pretty common in your life and write down through. Hand it down from your parents and is this theme of being of service. And I'm wondering from your perspective, I personally think that that's an innate desire within each human, whether, whether that's recognized and realized or not, I believe that to be there, but I'm wondering from your perspective, why is being of service something that's so fundamental to, to who you are?

Joanne Murray: That's really juicy question. Never thought about it before. I've never thought about it before. I think on the surface. Um, [00:17:00] I just feel like I'm healthy. Like personally, you know, my addictions are not harmful to me. My, I love food. I've been blessed with. Certain degree of intelligence, I've got skills.

And I feel a sense of responsibility to use that. if, and I, I don't know where that comes from. Maybe it comes from witnessing, people who, who can't. And, uh, so I just, I think I've just always felt like, um, that I have the responsibility. So, uh, I was gifted with some things and I feel like I, people that are, have to use those for good.

I know that sounds arrogant and it may sound like, I, I believe like I'm an appointed one or something, but it's [00:18:00] very humble. , it's an internal feeling of, um, that's just. My purpose. Like, it's just what I'm here for. There's a whole bunch of other things dimensions to me like business skills and teaching skills. But I always find myself in places where I can be of service. Maybe that's a better way to put it.

It's it, it's often not a conscious thing.

Stu Murray: Yeah, it's a deep question. And I think it, yeah, that's good. I love the questions that, that get the gears turning. And I, you know, it's something I've reflected on a lot and I, I do actually believe it's, it's pretty fundamental within all of us.

And, you know, even in relationships, I've kind of had this principle. Ideally, when we meet people, we show up we can each bring 50%, you know, and, but there's times where mm-hmm, , somebody's down at 20% and then they need a, a partner, a friend, [00:19:00] an acquaintance, somebody in their lives to step up and be that 80% and help ground down.

And I think that's an ongoing game that sometimes we're more vulnerable and we'll need that reflected back. But for me, being of service is actually also recognizing that we are interconnected with everything that is. And so being, being of service to me is largely also reflected in this bigger piece.

It's a recognition that. Your life being better is directly tied to my life. Being better and more for you means more for me and stepping into a mindset and a story of this world where abundance is not only a possibility, but it's a reality and that we can, co-create a life where all of us can thrive.

Joanne Murray: yeah. Well, and that piece you said about, um, you know, sometimes you're 80, sometimes you're 20, that's also a huge part of my belief system. I don't believe I'm any better than, [00:20:00] than the people I serve. Right. Because I learn as much. I have learned as much from them as I have, you know, from any book or any other things that I've done.

There's a saying, um, One of my favorite via Jesuit priest and I'll get it wrong, but it's something about you and I are the same. Um, we each learn from each other and, and we will each recreate each other. Um, and it's so true. Like it's, if you open yourself up to, um, learning from every interaction you have with people, um, then yeah, like I don't have a charitable mindset when I'm in service.

It's not cuz I'm better than, or I'm, you know, it's not, it's not, it's like a mutual thing.

Stu Murray: That's beautiful. I, I think that's, that is the reality, right? It's like [00:21:00] kicking out that hierarchal model of things and really returning to an interconnected, circular, you know, level, level, ground, and showing up in that way.

And, and one framework or model that I've really contemplated for the last few years of my life is the idea of relationship. And I'm talking about relationship to anything outside of us, be it people or things or whatever is relationship being a mirror and relationship right in that mirror. What we see will reflect back what we love, but we don't love.

And for me, that's been of, of great service because it's really focused my energy and my attention on myself. Not in a selfish way, but in a ways where does my work lie?

Joanne Murray: great. Yes. Yes, exactly. And work. Isn't just being, just

Stu Murray: being,

Joanne Murray: just being, um, Because, like you say, every connection you make, every interaction you have with somebody is [00:22:00] potential to be like changing either way.

Stu Murray: Totally. Yeah. And, and that's the seed of a amazing opportunity there. So yeah, there's some, there's some juicy stuff. And I think sometimes looking in those mirrors is very another part that's very uncomfortable and it's so easy to other, by applying a label by dehumanizing somebody by separating.

And I think we've seen a lot of that in the last couple of years and so much of where we need to go. And I think to uplift us as a human species is, is healing, healing ourselves. And being able to see the humanity that underlies and, and really remember in our hearts, that there's actually more, that connects us than there is that divides.

Joanne Murray: Oh, very much so. And in my work with homelessness, that's one of the things that's one of the most damaging things we can do to another human being is, um, point fingers make, um, [00:23:00] I can tell you that the, our view of ourselves comes from outside, right? How the words we hear, other people say, the words we read, um, how we're treated, and when you continue to hear, um, nasty things and judgemental things said about you, you, it just pushes you further and further and further away.

Um, and it's, that's a really hard thing to come back from. It's a really hard thing to, um, You know, when you lose hope and you lose dignity, it really doesn't matter what you do. It, you know, you don't care what you do after that. Cause everybody's already formed an opinion. Everybody's already shut me out.

So it, it really doesn't matter what I do next. So for someone like that and that's any vulnerable, [00:24:00] um, segment of the population. So, you know, people with disabilities, people of minority, um, um, seniors, anything to come back from that, like I have some amazing stuff to, to do that work is wow. Um, yeah, so it, yeah.

Stu Murray: Let me ask you a question. Being, being somebody who's been so involved in homelessness, I've had conversations that. Range widely in, in that topic. Mm-hmm um, and I think there's, there's some differently held beliefs around homelessness. And what would you say to somebody who would say, well, you know, these people are just lazy.

These people are just a bunch of addicts or all of these things. Like what, what's your take when I'm sure you've heard that. And I'm sure that hits [00:25:00] close to home with the amount of work you've done. Yeah.

Joanne Murray: Um, when someone says these folks are just lazy, I will often challenge back. Well, would you hire them?

So they're late. You perceive them to be lazy because they're not working. That's our perception of, um, someone who is, uh, lazy is someone who's doesn't have the get up and go to keep a job or get a job. Um, The work a person who is homeless has to do to get through a day would blow your mind from the minute they wake up in the morning, the first thought in their mind is where can I get a cup of coffee?

Where can I get something to eat? Where can I go? Where, uh, the police aren't gonna stop me or the [00:26:00] store. Owner's not gonna say something nasty. Um, where can I get a little bit of cash so I can buy something to eat? Where do I need to go to avoid some undesirable people? Um, then it's lunchtime and the whole thing goes, where can I get a cigarette?

Yes. Where can I get some drugs potentially? Where can I get some alcohol? Um, then you know, it's afternoon and the cycle starts again for some. And then all evening, they're thinking about where can I find a place to put my head down at night? And so there's never a rest. Um, the people that I know who have been homeless and then been housed that initial transition of being in a room with their thoughts is sometimes so overwhelming that they can't stay in, in a, their apartment or whatever, cuz they're [00:27:00] so used to running, running, running all day long.

As far as addictions and mental health go, oftentimes sadly, that's not how people end up in homelessness, but the longer they're in it, the higher, the likelihood of getting involved in that. I know people that have never, um, injected drugs before. But because it's so prevalent. And it's so cheap and life is so measurable that that's an escape.

That's a way of dealing with the situation that they're in. And as far as mental health goes, it's the same thing. The longer year in homelessness, the worst off your mental health is and your physical. So people and people end up in homelessness for, um, relationships breakdown, lose their job lose their housing [00:28:00] for financial reasons.

We have a lot of youth that are kicked out of the house, for a variety of reason or leave, you know, because there's abuse there or the parents don't accept who they are. So there's not one reason. There's not one pathway into homelessness and, and everybody's experience in it is different too.

Stu Murray: Yeah, totally. I it's, it's a good points that you're raising though about humanizing it and each, each case, like you said, is so different. Yeah. It's so different. And I'm wondering, with your vast experience in this, and I can't help, but look out at where we're at financially with inflation, going up with rising house prices, with rising rent rates, with rising food costs, it seems like more and more people just based on the scenario that we find ourselves in.

Mm-hmm, [00:29:00] seem to be pushed to the brink of homelessness just on, on that, in and of itself. And what are some of the highest impact strategies or, or. Approaches that have been, that you've seen used to help reduce homelessness. Uh,

Joanne Murray: I would have to say things are, things are worse now than they were years ago, years ago.

If you were at a point where, uh, you couldn't afford to pay your rent anymore, families were more likely to let you know, to invite family members back home. Right? Uncles came sons and daughters came, kids let, uh, let their parents move back in who, you know, one or together call themselves homeless.

There's less of that. We're finding. Less couch, serving less [00:30:00] people sharing space together. So that's a trend that that's, frightening, I think. So yeah, the, I mean the only strategies that we have out there now, or is subsidized housing, I'd like to see a return to communal living where you think back to when, when, um, like my grandparents came here from Ireland and when they moved, they lived in a rooming house.

So, and they, and it was all the rooming house was filled with people with, from Ireland. They had served like a den mother, that person cooked, um, They had a, a social network, but they had a locked door, a safe place, and it was inexpensive. And I think we need to move back to that. I think people are missing that connection with others.

[00:31:00] We've housed some people from our, from our shelter and they keep returning for the first month to stay connected with the other, with their friends in the shelter. So you would think it would be, I finally got housing. I'm gonna be so far away from that, but these are their friends. These is their family.

And, um, so I think it's a really healthy response that they keep connecting with, um, with those people they know and trust and that treat them with response. So if we can find other ways to connect people who have been homeless to the community, Um, just before I left John Howard, I designed a community hub.

So housing with, um, that was came with community. Um, we had a [00:32:00] community garden, it had, um, a lounge on the design for each floor so that the guys could just sit out, sit in the hallway and chat with each other. Um, there were community rooms so that there could be activities that would bring people from housing into, for example, a commercial kitchen.

And that had also classes for people in community that lived around the building. Uh, so that. Um, so that the people who moved into the affordable housing units wouldn't feel like they were coming into someone else's neighborhood. It was just that they belonged the same as everybody else in the four blocks around them.

And they could participate in the same activities, um, and just meet each other in a, in a common place. Um, so I, I think that notion [00:33:00] of community, um, that model for affordable housing is in place in other parts of the country. Um, and I think if we did more of that, that would be, be helpful for those moms.

For sure.

Stu Murray: There are some really good points, Joan, and that, that sounds like an amazing project that you were working on. At the end of that, I'm very curious to hear more and I'm, I'm sure a lot of others would as well. And I think you're right. And there there's so many, uh, potential wraparound services as well that we, I think we could ramp up with proactive supports for mental health and proactive supports for addiction.

I know some of these things are just wait listed beyond and we're we're beyond capacity. And so I think there's a lot, um, more at that proactive level that, that we need to look at in, in so many aspects, you know, even down to getting better sports programs for kids is, uh, another conversation I was having where I imagine, you know, so many more of these funds, we're [00:34:00] going that way.

Instead of building new prisons and doing these different things, it would be, uh, lovely to see and a word you mentioned many times I lost count was community mm-hmm . And I'm really curious, like in. In America, north America. So much of that fundamental value has been predicated or based upon this, this notion of individualism and that that self made person we're gonna come in.

And, and that's been really underpinning that American dream, which so many of us have been going and look, I mean, look at our housing structures. We've got, everybody has their own ladder. Everyone has their own, uh, lawn mower. Everybody's got their own individual things here. And that means that means you've made it doesn't matter if you're living paycheck to paycheck or doing all these things, it's a symbolic status that we've achieved something.

And I'm curious [00:35:00] about your take on. As you've kind of alluded to that, that shift towards a more communal living. I mean, if that's been such a successful model while addressing the most vulnerable in our society, what's your take on the power of, of community large as a, as a means of transforming how we're living society.


Joanne Murray: Um, I think we have to go back that way and I totally agree with you. Um, it's funny to the degree that a few years ago, I heard some news piece, um, where someone had done research on the disservice that our youth are experiencing, um, at not being able to live alone. And I'm thinking that is not a disservice

Um, so it [00:36:00] was, you know, our poor youth, they're growing up having to share space with other, like, share an apartment with someone else cuz they can't afford to live on their own. Well, that's a good thing. Um, and so yeah, I think, I think we're starting to see it more in neighborhoods. Um, I know in the neighborhood that I live in, we are, um, semi detach.

So there's a number of them. And we all, we all share. There's no fences, we all share sort of a common backyard and you see people chatting back and forth. And we had our neighbors come over last night and ask if they've been admiring the rhubarb. And she came over with a couple of big zucchini and asked if maybe she could pick some of the, and you know, exchanged phone numbers.

Uh, cuz she said, I [00:37:00] noticed you guys were away for a couple of weeks and your garden was looking really dry, but I didn't wanna go over and water it cuz I, I just didn't know how you'd feel about that. So, and I, I know other people that do the same that are doing the same thing. Um, so I think we're seeing more of that.

The, the segment of the population that I feel that is missing out on that is the seniors. I really do like. There are so many single seniors that, um, are alone in apartments where if they could live in something like this with a shared backyard so that they could actually get out and talk to people. Um, I think that we'd have seniors living longer and more healthy, um, in their homes.

Mm-hmm um, yeah. Yeah. I mean, I, I think we're gonna see a movement to that, and I [00:38:00] feel strongly that we'll see it in the homelessness sector. It's already being talked about, um, in the affordable housing sector, but I really think we need to look like at the prevention end of it, um, to you, like, think about youth living in dorms, there's just such an advantage to living together with your people.

you, if you don't know something, you can ask someone, um, next door. You know how to cook. I don't know how to use the washer and dryer. Um, I don't know where to go for this. Um, and yeah, I, I hope as a society, we move back

Stu Murray: way for sure. Seems like we might be needing to out, out of necessity as well. For, for part of that.

Exactly. One thing that's got me excited as, as some of these projects, we've had that traditional model of the, the trailer park and these different things, but I kind of a newer spin on this that I have been really sinking my teeth into and inspired by lately is [00:39:00] like tiny home communities that have almost like a, a central, larger communal space for events, for a communal kitchen for all of these different things.

But these are. Yeah, and kind of influenced by permaculture principles. So within the land itself, there's communal gardens and shared access to, to resources, perhaps like a tool library and, uh, access to all of these different things. Like I think that gets me really excited. Uh, as far as different aspects of communal living, let's reduce our own personal space a little bit, still have those things, but create more shared opportunities, more collaboration involved, more, uh, reducing the redundancy of needing to own tools that are only used quite infrequently and, and really being able to create networks of support for one another.

As you said, that Skillshare in these different aspects

Joanne Murray: I love the concept of the tiny homes.[00:40:00] It's very similar to how 10 cities are run. They create community norms. They share things with each other. They take care of each other. They step out like self point. You know, who's gonna be the one to take care of the, the old guy in that tent.

Who's going to make sure. So, and so wakes up every day. Who's gonna, you know, I noticed buddy hasn't had a lot of water, so I'm gonna bring him some water. I'm gonna pick up the meals. When I go to the soup kitchen today, I'm gonna get an extra meal, cuz I know she feels sick. And so I'm gonna make sure she's got something to eat.

And that's, that's what humanity is all about. Really like watching out for each other, taking care of each other and bringing what you've got to the table and making room for others that have things to come to the table. [00:41:00] And, uh, like it works, it works beautifully. So yeah, when, when you take that and you give them safer shelter, like warm shelter and, a space that's their own, um, and let, let them manage their community. It, it works. It just occurred to me. We have a, a trailer in, um by beach, in a camp community with a bunch of other trailers. And it's the same kind of thing now that I think of it. If we're not there for a weekend, somebody mows our little piece of lawn. I came one day and all of our flower, we had flower pots hanging and there was big storm and they were flying all over the place.

So somebody took them off and put them underneath our furniture or lawn furniture. So when you live in a community [00:42:00] like bang, like everybody does naturally start to, to take care of each other, but it's when you get in apartment buildings, right? Everybody shuts their door. There's no common space. Nobody knows their neighbors.

Um, it's very lonely that's not good.

Stu Murray: Yeah. Yeah. It's you're right. And I think, again, you're touching on that aspect of service. Like there's, there's this deep desire in us to be able to contribute to the welfare of other people. I think it's innate, it's inherent in the DNA of each of us and when it's not, it means to me, it means that there's some bit of sickness or trauma or lack of health that we have to work through in our own worlds before we can actually step into that.

And so I, yeah, I just, I've been really fascinated around that and, and creating cultures and cultural norms, as you said, rooted in [00:43:00] trust. I think, uh, it's a doist philosophy where they said, you know, trust people and they become trustworthy. And the more we can create these systems and structures that are rooted in inherent trust and not micromanaging, not, you know, bureaucratic top down, but actually grassroots bottom up that empower the individuals because healthy people want to serve, it's hurt people that hurt people.

Right. And so how do we create systems and structures that, that heal that are rooted in trust so that we can actually get down to the root of, of some of these great wicked challenges that we're being faced with societally and really do that work.

Yes. Um, if have you, um, looked at any of John McKnight's work?

He does. His, his work is, how to build community or how to create community, I think is what it is. And,[00:44:00] one of the things he talks about is. People's need, um, everybody needs a place where they can help others. Right. That's where we find meaning. So it is sort of being in service. And so when you think about like, we do make judgements about community at like a tent city, people would never look at that as a community.

That's just a bunch of addicts and whatever. Um, but, but you can see it, like they thrive when they can help others around them. And so I, yeah, I don't, I don't think we can underestimate, um, giving people an opportunity to have agency in their own life and in where they live. Um, yeah, [00:45:00] like it. Yeah, the game

changer couldn't agree more.

I, I really, really think that's going to be we're seems like we're playing a lot of Wole in terms of patching the holes in things it's point, you just like start to go deeper, start to, and really look at the fundamentals that are, that are guiding this. And I guess on that note, I'm curious for you, like, what are some of the values and principles that guide that the work that you do?

Joanne Murray: Yeah, well, first and foremost, it's, um, it's in that people know what they need. I should never say, you know what Stu, I think really you should be doing this. I think really you should live here. And you should go back to school and you should probably, um, end that [00:46:00] relationship with that person, cuz they're bad for you.

and um, you should go to church on Sunday and then you will be a good person. cause that's what I do. And I'm a good person. So I think that if you did that, you'd be a good person too. And so trusting that when someone says, um, like trusting that people know what, the choices that are right for them, um, and the other value would be, um,

I'm not sure what the right word is, but just, you know, like I'm no better than you just cuz I'm at, I'm where I'm at. I have a place to live and I have a car and I have a job doesn't make me any. And, yeah. So was that equanimity? Sure. Yeah, maybe something, um, [00:47:00] the other values would be, like just respect and honesty.

I, when I'm honest with people,

I'm hopeful, always.

I thought that's the core of how I go about every day. I also, maybe I, I like to, so that that's in the people we serve, but then I've always believed in, um, building. Like buildings, people, pot building people's potential. So even the staff that work at the agency. Yeah. Um, so where do you see yourself?

Where, what learning do you need? How do you need me to give you feedback? Um, what do you think we should do? So just that whole, [00:48:00] just cuz I'm the boss and just, cause I've got 30 years in the industry doesn't mean that you also don't have something valuable to contribute and I'm all ears to listen and like together we're gonna build this, um, thing.

Stu Murray: I love that. I love that so much. And I think that's a perfect segue into the consulting work that you have been doing more recently. And so after 30 years working in this space, what is it that you've moved into now?

Joanne Murray: Yeah, so. Yeah, because I had that privilege of, um, learning by doing for 30 years. Uh, I found a few tricks and things that helped me do my job as an executive director, as someone that runs a nonprofit and as a board member, um, uh, I, I feel like we, we have to start with [00:49:00] the fundamentals.

Um, I feel strongly that if people have come together in the name of a nonprofit, so we have a passion for homelessness. So we are going to open a new nonprofit. That's going to help the homeless. I believe that if you don't understand the fundamentals of running a nonprofit. That's everything from governance to funding, to storytelling, um, to financial management, you, you may not get, you may not have the impact that you really want, but if you take the time and invest in yourself in those five key areas, um, you'll have, you'll make a greater impact than if you don't basically, um, a lot of, a lot of [00:50:00] grassroots nonprofits are built on passion and don't have the systems in place to, to just get more work done, get, do better work, have a greater impact.

So again, that sense of responsibility we're in this business for the people we serve. It's a disservice. If we don't get our ship in order so that we can serve them better and long. Um, cuz there's, you know, I know many nonprofits that just struggle month after month and the volunteers get tired and the paid staff get tired.

And if they just had some of those fundamental skills, they'd be sailing, they'd be serving more people better. Yeah.

Stu Murray: I, I think that's so important. I, I, I'm definitely a systems thinker and big into design thinking and mm-hmm I know, even on a [00:51:00] personal level, like I, I, I carry this book with me everywhere I go, and it's full of all kinds of things.

And I just have to get it down if it's stuck up in here and it's some weird halfassed process or something that I'm not fully it's, the clarity is not there. Then I know it's, it's going at least burn me up mentally. Even if I have a have decent flow going. I really think there's so much value in mapping out, charting, creating these systems, creating the processes that allow for, for high functioning teams to, to really thrive because so much of it otherwise might feel like a you're kind of on a ship that's just constantly and not really lacking a lot of clarity, I guess,

Joanne Murray: priority.

And you're gonna go this way and that way, and that way, when you could say I'm sort of straight through, or just a little bit civil wrong. When I [00:52:00] started as an executive director, I had no experience. Uh, again, I didn't know how nonprofits worked. My board members also didn't know, so I wasn't able to get any feedback from them.

I started in 1995 and my colleagues would've been Claude Bradshaw. She was executive director of, um, Moncton headstart, Nancy Hartling. Was executive director of sports, single parents, and a few other really powerhouse executive directors. And I was hugely intimidated and I would never have picked up the phone and said, could you gimme some advice on this?

I have no idea how to write a proposal. Could you help? I never would've made that phone call and there was nothing else. I had to figure it out. I don't even know if we had the internet

I have to check my notes, but I honestly don't [00:53:00] think I could've Googled don't think Google, I

Stu Murray: don't think was a thing in 95.

Joanne Murray: No. So I had to figure that out on my own. And it was, it was like walking through mud with rubber boots on, like, it was really hard. Um, And so if I can shorten that and like, in that time that I was walking through mud, I could have done so many other things.

So if I can shorten that time up for another executive director and sit like, here's how to write a proposal, that where your chances of success are gonna be 90% instead of 10. And here's how to create a budget so that you're actually contributing to the sustainability of the organization instead of begging.

And, and, you know, I, I know a lot of people [00:54:00] underfund themselves because they think it's greedy to ask for too much money. Or if I ask for too much, they might say no, um, or they don't even realize the expenses or costs that they could include. They just don't even know that they could include them. And then that third piece is the evaluation.

So you you've got the money, you're doing the work, but you're so focused on doing the work that you forget to capture the data. And then when someone says, I remember the first time a funder came back to me and said, I don't just don't think that program works. So we're gonna cut the funding and I'm thinking, no, it works.

It works. I see people every day, the difference. And he said, well, prove it. Cause I don't see it. And I did not have the data. So I had to scramble and go back a year and a half and try [00:55:00] to find the people who took the program and get them to tell me their story. And and I can tell you from that point on the data and, but I captured.

In a way, like put my shoe, put myself in the shoes of a funder, I've just handed you a whack of money and I need to know this is making a difference. So asking the right questions, and then retelling that story in a way that matters telling it to community so that you gain support for the work you're doing, telling it to your funder.

So all of those things, I, I love sharing that with other nonprofits so that they can just get on to the business. I. Doing what they do, serving others, making life

Stu Murray: better for someone else. That's huge. Those are huge. And like some of those things you're not going to get, unless you're kind of baptized by the fire and that, or you can get that support and somebody to [00:56:00] help work along.

And this question I have, that's kind of coming up. Might it's, it's quite broad, but I'll let you take a stab at, at however, wherever that lands for you. And I'm, I'm curious in terms of like, when you're looking at some of these NGOs, whether it's one, you've worked with one you're just familiar with, like, what are some of those key indicators that you say, oh, they've got the systems or fundamentals in place.

What are some of those fundamentals or indicators that you would look for that would, you would think that they'll probably be quite successful in their operations?

Joanne Murray: Hmm. Um, if they take the time to, to build the systems. So, um, system, um, like organizational Sy systems, so literally filing systems, mm-hmm, where you keep all of your legal information.[00:57:00]

I worked recently with a nonprofit that didn't know where their letters patent were. Didn't know if they were a registered charity. Um, um, so educating themselves, I think on like who they are as an organization. So this was a new ed going into an existing organization, um, like understanding your role as a board member.

Most board members don't understand what they're responsible for. Um, so learning if you're gonna volunteer and sit on a board of directors, know what you should, and shouldn't be doing around the boardroom table and how you can support your executive director because, um, they often work alone, uh, like in isolation yet they have 12, you know, 10, 12, [00:58:00] 15 bosses each of the board members.

Um, and if that relationship isn't right, um, I mean that can put you at risk as an organization, but, uh, it can also burn out the executive director or, you know, cause turnover and, um, and being focused. Um, as nonprofits, we often chase the money and in the beginning I was really good at, oh, I can make this fit that I can make this idea fit, that funding.

Like I can spin this to fit into that whole, just to get the funding. Um, and it's like an elastic. You could stretch yourself. Sometimes you can stretch yourself so far that you never come back to, you know, the, the [00:59:00] same thing as you were when you stretch. So that's a dangerous thing for a nonprofit to, to just, um, go too far off of your mission, um, in pursuit of funding.

Okay. So maybe that is all packaged in, like know yourself as an organization. What, why are you. Here, what's your purpose and then do everything to drive

Stu Murray: you to that. Yeah. I, I love that. I, I think that's something that's kind of on surface for me in the last few years as well. And I, I have been interested in minimalism as a tangent around stuff.

Mm-hmm for quite some time. And then I actually stumbled upon essentialism, which is minimalist philosophy. But for, for ideas for lifestyles and within the essentialist, uh, philosophy, one thing they say is make the one decision that will make the thousand decisions to come. And I think everything you just pointed to is, is so much about [01:00:00] getting down to that.

Like, what is the essence, what do we do here? What do we stand for? What is our why? And that, why, if we're extremely clear on that, that will tell us about the roles of the individuals. It will tell us about what we do and, and more, perhaps more importantly what we're not doing. So we're not this trying to be everything to everybody all the time, which I could see that not, not for profits, particularly when you're looking at trying to appease different funders or get money from different areas.

I could see those organizations being pulled in, in so many different directions.

Joanne Murray: Totally. I am a big student essentialism. Oh yeah. I, um, that was my, um, that was my ticket to get off of the hamster wheel. Seriously. I read Greg McEwens book that I think it had just been released. And, um, yeah, guys did a little book club with, we organized a [01:01:00] book club around it.

I was like, brilliant. I can found the answer. Yeah. Yeah. And it, it is it's. I had that written on my bulletin board in my office. What's the one thing that if I do that, everything else will get easier. And, I use it often, even with the people we work with, like, you've got a million things you've gotta deal with.

What's the one thing we need to take care of. That's gonna make everything else easier, like right now, um, Yeah, I do too. but it, it does cuz you've also donors coming at you too. And when a donor, um, has funding, sometimes they have conditions attached. Um, like we'll give you this money, but we want you to do this activity or we want you to advertise in this way or whatever, and it can often pull you away from your

Stu Murray: yeah.

That's [01:02:00] something to be careful of. And I, I think even in our own personal lives, that essentialist philosophies it's changed my life so profoundly. And one term I've been using lately, I said it. Making space for the fuck. Yes. And it it's like really that's really so much of what it's been for me. We have a culture that, you know, tells us in order to accomplish anything, we need to exert a force and do something and plan and make all the things like goal setting is great and doing is good, but we're human beings as well.

And so we, we're not human doings and we can't just always spin the hamster wheel and frantically pull out everything we need. And I am learning to surrender. To that. So I've been telling myself lately, thanks to largely to this essentialist philosophy. It's like, my job is to make space for possibility.

My job is to filter out everything that is not fuck. Yes. And just make space right. For the right thing in the right moment[01:03:00] with the right people. It's it's, that's the key. Yeah, totally.

Joanne Murray: Yeah. It's along the same lines as decisions, we help our clients with decision making.

So we would never say you should stop blank or you should not do this. The question I ask is, is that. Decision leading you closer to your ultimate goal or farther away. Cause like in the moment I'm all about this girl and I like shiny new things and I have had to stop myself and ask like, okay, if I do that, is it gonna pull me away from what I really want or leave me closer to it.

And um,

Stu Murray: thousand percent, thousand percent, and you know, that's where these opportunities come up that are good. You're like, well, they're bringing us money or they're doing these things. It's like, [01:04:00] that's aside from the point. And, and that's the question that needs to be asked is it, is this really driving that ultimate purpose?

And if not, then just kindly let that thing pass. It's hard to say no, it's very hard to say no.

Joanne Murray: And the other trick is knowing what that ultimate goal is. Right. So I don't know. , uh, I believe that for a period of time, you have to chase squirrels to figure out like where, where your big tree is. But, but once you get it, , don't take your eye off it because, um, yeah, you can get so caught up in, in all of the things that feel good and, um, You know, for all kinds of reasons, we feel like we should do them.

Uh, but in the end they just keep pulling us away from what we ultimately totally.

Stu Murray: And I, and I think there's [01:05:00] truth in having to reevaluate what that, why is it will con it's a, it's an ongoing evolution process, but you're right. And it's challenging when we're in a culture that's instant now, instant gratification.

It tells us both consciously and subconsciously that we can get, do everything all the time and all these things. But that's not the reality. We, as that essentialist philosophy says, we live in a world and there's got to be trade offs. And so which things am I willing to let go of so that I can make space for really, what's going to fire me up and serve that higher purpose.

Joanne Murray: Yeah. Yeah. You know, we, we live in a society of shoulds. Oh, All the things you, you should do. Like you should go to school and you should have a home and you should have this kind of car, cuz that means you're successful and should hang out with these people

Stu Murray: missing out and.

Joanne Murray: Yeah. [01:06:00] Um, well, and yeah, for me, the big one was you, you should never say no to a business opportunity. If somebody says, would, could you do this? Like, and I'll pay you to do this as a, as an entrepreneur, or you should never say no, never turn down an opportunity. And, I lived a lot of years doing that and it really pulled me away from a lot of things that I, that I probably should have been doing

Stu Murray: instead of, I, I hear you me too.

And burn burnout has been a thing more than once. So don't, don't wanna end up there. And I'm sure in the non, not for profit world, that is a common place from a lot of the friends that I've had is actually, it's been one of the big reasons that they've left. They've felt a sense of purpose. They've felt all these things, but they've, you know, burnout has ultimately, been.

A rough challenge for a lot of people. I know that who have operated in that space. Oh

Joanne Murray: yeah. Yeah. [01:07:00] I, I didn't, I didn't experience burnout, but I, I was probably, oh my camera's going. Um, yeah. And it's, it's all of those things, all the expectations you put on yourself and the expectations others put on you, and then the, the feeling like you're not moving forward.

And I think the work that I do now can actually avoid that can actually avoid burnout because I know the weight that slumping through all of that stuff had on my shoulders and had I had the systems and, checklists and. Sheets, uh, charts. I, it like would've been a lot easier. Totally.

Stu Murray: And so on that point, Joanne anybody, I, I think there's tremendous value just in talking to you and hearing these things. And I've been a part of not-for-profits, uh, for profits and bureaucratic organizations. And I, the things you've listed and, and mentioned are, [01:08:00] are fundamental things that would help any culture or any organization move forward with more clarity, with less franticness and really help move things forward.

So if anybody is interested or any organization, where would they go to, to get in touch or to contact you for for more? Um,

Joanne Murray: they can email me directly. Joanne J consulting CA my website is almost finished, so it's triple WJ consulting CA call. 6

Stu Murray: 82 bunk four. Amazing. I'll make sure to have all of that listed in the, in the show notes.

So anybody can easily access that and, and get in touch. And, is there any last messages or thoughts that you have for, for anybody in that space or, or in general?

Joanne Murray: Hmm, just in general, I think, um, [01:09:00] I would say that, you know, you don't have to there's as board and executive directors. We often find ourselves like mere down in the, I don't know.

Um, and I ask that question. Have you ever found yourself asking, how am I doing here or. Um, something similar to that. Like, I don't have clue what I'm doing here. If that thought has ever entered your head, um, reach out a, a quick phone call can save, um, months of agony. Um, a quick three hour session can just write you, get you back on track.

I do a quick organizational audit that's um, something that comes out of imagine Canada, and it just lets you know, like best practice your organization should be doing these things. If you're not create a little operational plan for yourself and get back on [01:10:00] track and it can just tick the load off the stress load off and minimize your risk is a nonprofit.

And get you back to doing the things that you're passionate

Stu Murray: about. I love it. Well, thanks again, Joanne, for taking the time, I really enjoyed the conversations and, and where we veered off to, to touch on quite a few different topics. It was very interesting.

Joanne Murray: Thank you. I really enjoyed it, Stu. It was great conversation

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