When Adrienne and Emmanuel Threatt launched Hope Vibes in 2017, they had long been troubled by Charlotte’s epidemic of homelessness. Vowing to do more for their homeless neighbors, the couple began the work by providing dignity to homeless women through access to personal hygiene products and services. Their effort quickly evolved as more volunteers began to join their Serve Days – and by 2018 the organization had distributed 1,500 hygiene packs, 10,000 feminine hygiene products, 200 winter items and 80 tents, tarps and blankets to homeless neighbors. The couple knew they wanted to build on the groundswell of grassroots support and had dreams of a mobile shower and laundry center – but they knew they needed help to get there.
Building on Grassroots Support
Hope Vibes joined Next Stage’s Cultivate cohort in 2020, with the goal of ensuring long-term viability and impact while achieving their ambitious short-term goals. Hope Vibes wanted to frame a strategic plan that would help bring their dreams of the Hope Tank, a mobile laundry and shower facility, to life. The team had a large base of grassroots support – but they needed the knowledge and best practices that would take them to the next level.
Next Stage CEO Josh Jacobson recalls meeting the Threatts and realizing immediately the authenticity and strength of their grassroots model. “It’s such a joy to work with organizations when you realize these things you take for granted as accepted are not why an organization is successful. It helps sustain a nonprofit, but the initial success always comes down to founder energy and the great ideas they embody.”
As an authentic, values-led organization, Hope Vibes was drawing a range of supporters to its cause – but needed to backfill some of the nonprofit and organization processes that aren’t taught in school. This is where Cultivate came in.
Innovation Through Community
Throughout their Cultivate year, the Next Stage team helped the organization develop a business plan and operating model that would lay best practices on top of their existing success while harnessing the creative energy and innovation that makes Hope Vibes unique. Hope Vibes had always been quick to innovate – like the time early in the pandemic when the team used their solar sinks to provide a sanitary place for homeless neighbors to wash their hands.
Cultivate enabled the team to formalize that approach and develop a methodology based on community voice, with ideas tested in community. “We’ve always been passionate about building with our neighbors instead of for them,” notes Adrienne. “Our primary means of research is to have conversations with the people we serve. Of course there is tons of data but there’s something about being able to connect one on one with individuals who are going through homelessness about the issues they are facing, then innovating from that standpoint.” This is how the couple discovered the need for a mobile laundry unit that would enable the homeless to wash their clothes and work uniforms more easily. Cultivate supported the team as they formalized these methods and began seeking additional funding sources to make the Hope Tank dream a reality.
Cultivate resources also helped the organization better understand the strength of its own brand. Hope Vibes developed plans to leverage their powerful brand, alongside their ‘Give Hope Daily’ messaging to develop a more constituent-facing brand. In the years since, this has evolved into an earned revenue model through merchandise that continues to develop into other creative endeavors.
The business model Hope Vibes developed through Cultivate would continue to help the team establish a solid organizational structure and develop funding for a range of projects. Adrienne noted, “Our year in Cultivate was foundational for us. It gave us language and vocabulary that helped us better define our existing culture and a plan that helped leverage our strengths and take us to the next level.”
If you are an emerging nonprofit leader, you can learn directly from Adrienne and Emmanuel’s experience by signing up for Cultivate or emailing us. You’ll get these great videos – and more – that help build on your success and bring process to your great ideas.