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THRIVE Participant Perspective--The Pace Center

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.

The Pace Center

What are you hoping to get out of this program?

Katie Gooch, Director: To solidify board and supporter development and a process for that. For 2 board members who are new, this program is a way to onboard. We’re changing board culture, so this is a huge step to engage them--to give them a thing to work on. We can set the expectation and model that for other board members.

Alan Layman, Board Member: As a new board member, to have a better understanding of what we do and how we do it, and where the stumbling blocks are and how to address them.

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

Jean Linnell: Associate Director: While we came to work on board and donors, we also have capacity issues. We only have two paid staff members. The flywheel exercise today helped us see where we are losing engagement with VCU students, who are our clients. We identified our successes, failures, commonalities--what makes up this regenerative loop that our organization travels in. In that loop, we’re noticing gaps.

Alan: If we do all the things in the loop, then we should produce success and growth. When we don’t do everything in the loop, we have failures. The commonalities are the things that are present when we do things well and are missing when we struggle. One example: identifying who the early adopters/student leaders are.

Katie: Another is modeling the community--an intentional community where all people’s gifts and passions are engaged.

Jean: It’s an easy entry point for students to be able to see what we do. Students come along easily because they experience the product of what they can do at Pace. The lynchpin of the flywheel is that students can easily get on board with what we’re doing if they experience it through a well-modeled community.

Jean: We started trying to solve this one thing, but we identified a million other things we know are happening but don't have the time [to address]. The exercise and this time are valuable to us, because we’re able to take these holistic looks at our organization. In the constant treadmill of keeping the work going, we feel successful, but having the space to delve deep is so valuable.

Katie: And [to do so] with people of different perspectives. Not just staff and board but mentor and facilitator. We think our work is obvious, but…

Jean:’s helped having people ask questions of us, why do we do it this way?

Katie: This was the best day that we had.

How do you see this applying to your organization?

Avi Hopkins, Mentor: Often nonprofits are working tirelessly to achieve mission and don’t have the opportunity to step back and look at themselves. What’s working, what can we do better? That’s what I love about this experience, it affords them a chance to step back and assess.

Katie: I want to answer the tactical. We're spending nine weeks, and if we don't walk out with something tactical, a deliverable-- I’m struggling with that.

Avi: This process helps you see it even more clearly.

Katie: If we move our energy over here, will this part over there become unstable?

Avi: Having been an ED [Executive Director], I understand that pressure.

Jean: We never would have come up with this one activity [the flywheel] to do with a board, had we not spent the time here.

Katie: Board members are now doing the modeling of the behaviors we want.

Katie: Our team has been meeting an hour after each session. One deliverable we’ve had in the past [with help from Chris Bennett, lead facilitator, from The Spark Mill], our strategic plan, gave me the power to make decisions and feel like I was on the right path. And now, when we meet a metric we’ve identified here, we know it is helping us move the flywheel.

Avi: The flywheel’s going to give you more deliverables than you may even want!


The Pace Center is an inclusive, multicultural VCU community. As a ministry of the United Methodist Church, we believe all are created to live in deep relationship with one another, not in isolation. We also believe every individual has been created with infinite value and an important role to play in their community.


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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