This week, we speak with Kayce Casner Anderson, executive director of For the Good Period. Kayce founded the organization just over three years ago. We were fortunate to catch up with her in between her travels to Kenya and to Telluride—and are grateful for the opportunity to share her wisdom and experience as a recent nonprofit founder.
1. Tell us about you and your organization and the social change you are trying to achieve.
“For the Good Period works with rural communities in Kenya on issues related to girls’ education. We started by recognizing the need for sanitary pads among adolescent girls who were missing school because of that lack. That’s where our work began; then we started ‘peeling an onion’ and became aware that that was just one of a number of other barriers that girls faced in getting an education—and that some boys faced, as well. Our work became more nuanced in addressing the primary issues that we have identified through community meetings, meetings with parents, with teachers, etc. Our goal is to get girls to transition from primary to secondary schools—which is when they are most likely to drop out.”
2. What keeps you inspired and going when things get tough?
“What keeps me inspired is our programmatic work. Any founder or anyone in nonprofits enjoys the programmatic side. I only get to go to Kenya about twice a year, but it’s always incredibly powerful when I go, especially to experience those community meetings. I have several community and parent meetings lodged in my head that I always remember for inspiration when I have to sit down to do bookkeeping or plan for fundraising. We also just hired a couple employees in Kenya to do the work; it’s amazing how that really kicks you in the pants to get up and fundraise—feeling that responsibility to other people, both in the organization and in the world. … That helps to motivate me.”
3. What advice would you give to someone who is trying to break new ground in a traditional field?
“One thing that often gets overlooked is the ‘how’ in the work. A lot of organizations focus on the ‘what,’ as in what they’re doing, but I think there’s a lot of room to find your niche in the ‘how.’ That’s how we have found our niche. What separates us from other organizations that might be focusing on girls’ education or providing sanitary pads is that we, over the last couple years, found that our principles is what defines and distinguishes us. Our principles are: 1) building capacity in the communities we work with and developing self-agency in those people, and 2) making sure communities are leading this change—that they are the leaders and we walk with them. These principles are (the) lens through which we see everything, and I’m hopeful that we are taking a long-term view of the problem that will allow the change we make to be long-term and sustainable. When I got started, it was all about the ‘what’—through a lot of introspection and reflection, now I feel like the ‘how’ is much more important. Organizations can find their place—and find an important place—through that kind of reflection.”
4. What book do you recommend to everyone you meet and why?
“Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. In a very articulate way, the authors are able to give hope to some pretty awful human rights abuses towards women and put the focus on the people and the power of the people and how they’ve created really profound change in really tough environments. It’s right along with the work we do, and I find it very inspiring.”
5. How have you worked with Joining Vision and Action, and how has that helped your organization?
“When I started out founding a nonprofit, I didn’t even know what questions to ask—I didn’t know how to go about it. So I signed up for one of JVA’s training packages and I took pretty much every class that was offered that was a full day or multi-day course during that one-year period. (I live in Glenwood Springs, so I only took the longer trainings due to the commute.) The trainings gave me not only the questions to ask, but how to answer them! The direction those courses gave me was indispensable. I’ve really appreciated the templates, the frameworks and the things I could actually take home and start implementing right away in the organization. Oftentimes, people give you ideas, but then you have to come up with the tools and reinvent them; JVA’s trainings took a lot of the pain out of that by giving the tools—for example, their monitoring and evaluation dashboard is one of like 10 things that I integrated into our organization’s operations, and it has strengthened our work.”
6. What else would you want to share with us that we haven’t asked?
“In this journey of starting an organization and becoming an executive director, I did not expect how much self-reflection that it would take, looking at my personal strengths and weaknesses and also forcing me to extend an arm out to others that I know can fill those voids in my own abilities and help me out. The fundraising side of things has required me to open up to people and tap into a side of my personality that may or may not have existed without those pressures. This journey has changed me as a person; I would say for the better—it made me engage with people much more than I ever did in my previous job. From the programmatic side (delving into designing and implementing programs) to running an organization (which involves so much more than I ever thought) … it’s been slightly painful at times, but good for me.”