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THRIVE Participant Perspective--He She Ze and We

Our Third Cohort of THRIVE: An Accelerator for Social Good, facilitated with our partners at The Spark Mill, began in early September. Each week, we'll bring you the perspective of a participating nonprofit and share a little about their organization.

He She Ze and We

What are you hoping to get out of this program?

Shannon McKay, Co founder and President of the Board: Learning how to be an organization. We’re going from an organization that was led by one person to a formal 501c3.

L. Frances Brown, Board Member/Richmond Outreach: A better understanding of how each of the board perspectives can be appreciated. This discussion has brought about some of the core issues that we have the opportunity to address in a neutral setting.

What did you learn, or feel spoke to you about today?

Katherine Zarfas, Board Member and Treasurer: It was a productive way to reframe our vision. We’ve always had a good idea of who we are and who we serve. We’ve spent a lot of time working on families--these sessions remind us we’re here for transgender and gender nonconforming persons.

L.Frances: It has allowed us to drill down on what we're really here for. To look at what has changed since inception. Taking account of the shared passion and interest in having the group be successful.

Shannon: This solidified that we have this common goal. Working through mission/vision/values--it was energizing to play with that. Who do we impact? The impact we’re looking for is to improve the lives of trans and nonbinary people.

L.Frances: The language and how we’re using words is important. If we only use one word, it can be isolating.

Katherine: How do you not alienate anyone with your language?

Meredith Hertzler: VP of Board: It solidified whether or not we were focused on the right thing and if we were aligned on that focus. We were in the same book but not sure we were on the same page.

Katherine: It was very affirming. Today was an uplifting, positive day.

Tell us about your experience in the program.

Meredith: This helped everyone be more open and honest with each other. Especially post- pandemic, this is forcing me to get out of my comfort zone and talk to people I don’t know.

Katherine: It was my first chance to meet everyone in person!

Shannon: It was really hard the first day, but easier today. We can even align our own experience here, with what our students have going back to school, perhaps that social anxiety, that transition. We have real empathy from our own experiences. Many of us are on that gender journey with our own families.

L.Frances: It’s growth, and growth is difficult. In the end, the result will be valuable.

Shannon: What The Collaboratory of Virginia is doing for us, is what we do for families. That’s what it feels like. Here, it’s nonprofit 101. It's empowering. You’re taking us through the paces.

Katherine: We don’t always know the best ways to run the business.

L.Frances: It’s the business part that can sink us.

How do you see this applying to your organization?

Meredith: What we do moving forward is framed by the work we’ve done. This is helping us week-to-week to reframe what we need to think about. The families are fine right now. What we’re doing here, this is helping us to focus on the business [of running a nonprofit].

Shannon: We know we’re having a positive impact on families. We’re about gender identity specifically and the ever-changing landscape of language. We’re tying to have an impact on transgender, non-binary folks, not limited to an age group. We have the opportunity [at THRIVE] to lay the foundation for our business practices so we can expand.

Katherine: My role was very internal and being able to do the networking has been helpful to be empowered to know how to talk about our organization and how to share it with others.


He She Ze and We serves families with transgender loved ones through support, education and advocacy. We offer the opportunity to gather information and resources, meet and listen to the stories of others and figure out how to be truly supportive… together… in a safe, confidential, and non-judgemental space.


The THRIVE accelerator program provides an opportunity for nonprofits to look beyond current challenges and obstacles and plan out a direct and streamlined path forward. Organizations will tackles a specific hurdle they want to clear to get to the next level of impact with the community and will spend concentrated time with staff and board planning and executing real-time solutions with guided facilitation. We will utilize accelerator techniques to build a cohort-responsive program.

THRIVE was created through collaboration between The Collaboratory of Virginia and The Spark Mill.

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