Surround yourself with an inspired and dedicated work team. From teachers to board members to volunteers and donors. Empower and encourage your team, make sure everyone is seen and heard. Everyone has a voice is an important piece to this puzzle. The more you make people realize just how important they are to this mission, the more they will want to help and contribute.
For someone who wants to set aside money to establish a Philanthropic Foundation or Fund, what does it take to make sure your resources are being impactful and truly effective? In this interview series, called “How To Create Philanthropy That Leaves a Lasting Legacy” we are visiting with founders of Philanthropic Foundations, Charitable Organizations, and Non Profit Organizations, to talk about the steps they took to create sustainable success.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Connie Clotworthy.
Having experienced the transformation of implementing a meditation practice into her life, Connie Clotworthy made it her mission to teach these life altering skills to others, and children is where she was led. In 2018, Worthy Beyond Purpose, a non-profit organization, was created to do just that. This 501(c)(3) is sprinkled all throughout Los Angeles and has made its way to Jamaica and Tanzania, Africa holding up to their mission of bringing mindfulness & meditation practices to children around the world.
Thank you for making time to visit with us about a ‘top of mind’ topic. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today?
Learning how to meditate is the best thing that has happened to me. I had considered myself a meditator for years prior, but when someone actually took the time to teach me how to be still and clear the mind, I realized my years of meditation up to that point was time for me to sit quiet and think about myself. ‘Who do I have to call’ ‘Did I walk the dog’ ‘I have to send this email’ etc. Meditation Check. That wasn’t meditation at all, I soon learned. I was taught using the Transcendental Meditation technique, using a mantra. It was extremely helpful to get me out of my thoughts. I was actually finding myself able to transcend into a different time and place. It was almost an escape for me.
Then I wanted to expand my practice and I became certified in Vipassana Meditation, or Insight Meditation. This is what actually started to transform my life. Instead of “checking out” in meditation, I began to have full awareness of my thoughts, my body and practiced coming back to the breath. I began to “check in”. With this kind of mindfulness practice, I was able to take off the cushion and into my daily life. My whole life became part of the meditation practice. The practice of staying present and fully aware. Everything started to shift for me in the best ways and I wanted to share this gift with the world.
The first time I sat with a kid in meditation, I was in Jamaica, volunteering at a summer camp in Treasure Beach. It was afternoon and the kids were all having their lunch in the school. I was outside near the playground and decided to do my meditation. Before I knew it, one of the attendees, Parys Frances, ran up to me and said, “What are you doing, meditating?” Yes, I said, shocked that she knew what it was. She asked if she could join me as she sat down crossed legged with her little mudra hands (connecting the thumb and pointer finger) and closed her eyes. Before I knew what was happening, she opened one eye and said, “well…. tell me what to do.” Now, let me tell you, this particular individual was one of the wildest, most outspoken little girls in the camp. The fact that she wanted to be in stillness was a miracle.
So, I began to do a little short, guided meditation. Connecting her to her breath and letting go of all outside distraction. I was able to witness a shift happen in her. It’s as if her body dropped down a level and went into complete relaxation. When we were done, she slowly opened her eyes and said “Woah, that was AWESOME.” She sat for a moment, and before jumping up and running off she says, I want to do that again sometime! That was the moment I knew my destiny was to teach these practices to children.
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? We would love to hear a few stories or examples.
I would definitely say being a good listener. I will be the first to tell you, I do not know everything, I actually know very little. Being able to listen to others share their expertise and their knowledge has been key to growing. Also making sure everyone feels heard and respected. This is heart work we do, we have to stay connected to the heart which is tricky in business.
Being brave is another important trait. You have to be able to put your insecurities and fears aside and go after what you want. My head wants to stop me at every corner, but I have to allow my heart to push me through. I believe in what I teach with every morsel of my body, so I have to believe in myself presenting it to the world. Throw your hat in the ring, take that chance. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Also knowing it is brave to ask for help.
Empowering others. My job is to help my team learn and succeed. I have had a few facilitators doubt their abilities to show up the way I would like them to show up and I have had the privilege of showing them who they already are in this world as well as helping them to see. I want them to show up as themselves and carry this work with their own unique abilities. I believe, we all have something that we are meant to do, and if you are someone who is on the team, it’s because I see it in you. BE YOU, AUTHENTICALLY UNAPOLOGETICALLY YOU. Take the time to find out who that is, sit in meditation and contemplation, ask the questions, and listen…. Find out ~ and be that! The world is waiting for YOU!
What’s the most interesting discovery you’ve made since you started leading your organization?
The whole journey has been a discovery. Nothing looks like the way I envisioned it, especially with the global pandemic. No one could have planned for that or knew what to expect. Letting go of my own expectations and getting in the flow has been the most thrilling and challenging part. Worthy Beyond Purpose has taken on a life of its own and is a beautiful piece of the lives it has touched.
A Place Called Home in South Central LA was one of the very first places we were able to bring in our program and teach. We were offered the recess slot. The kids could either go outside and play on the playground or sports, or they could stay in the dance room and practice mindfulness, mediation and yoga with us. As you could image it was a slow burn, getting the students to our class. I’ll never forget, after being there for about two months, I was stuck in traffic and going to be a few minutes late. I thought for sure, all the kids would already be outside playing. I turned the corner in the hallway and there was a line of kids waiting at the dance room door. They jumped for joy when they saw us and one girl says… “Do we get to meditate today?” The discovery of realizing how much the kids want to learn these tools and want to talk about their feelings… will stay with me forever.
Can you please tell our readers more about how you or your organization intends to make a significant social impact?
Worthy Beyond Purpose (WBP) brings mindfulness and meditation practices to children around the world. The increase of our nations young people with anxiety disorders was escalating at alarming rates before Covid started. Being in isolation for a year throughout the pandemic, our students are lacking social emotional development in a way that they previously got in schools. Our program helps with character building, how to be kind to each other, how to connect and relate, all of these things that were lost in an at home school setting. Having our program in the schools, during the school days also will help to make sure all the students and teachers get access to these life altering tools to help self-regulate, express emotions, and communicate effectively. We do this work to develop soft skills, empathy, and community building. We teach self-love and the social emotional learning components that foster positive identity development.
What makes you feel passionate about this cause more than any other?
We began Worthy Beyond Purpose in 2018 when there were mass school shootings in our country. The famous Stoneman Douglas shooter was a former student who said that shooting guns was his form of therapy. Our proposed solution, from our government at the time, was to arm our teachers! Arm our teachers! This is when I made a Facebook post… “How about we don’t arm our teachers? How about we arm our students with the tools they need to deal with their emotions?” And WBP was born. We are all passionate about being able to help our young people handle their emotions and communicate in an effective way that will change the trajectory of the world. We will not only change the rate at which children are experiencing anxiety and depression, but we may see a drastic decline in drugs and alcohol abuse in future generations.
Without naming names, could you share a story about an individual who benefitted from your initiatives?
I’ll never forget an 8-year-old girl was coming to our online classes talking about her panic attacks and her anxiety and fear. After two weeks of being in our classes she told me she wasn’t having those attacks anymore and how much all the tools have helped. She then said, “How do I teach this to my little brother and my family?” When children are absorbing these life enhancing tools and skills and wanting to share it with their families is the reassurance that this will help transform the world, unmindful kid at a time.
We all want to help and to live a life of purpose. What are three actions anyone could take to help address the root cause of the problem you’re trying to solve?
The root problem we are trying to solve is how to teach kids to look inside of themselves instead of reach for something outside to “fix” whatever it is we’re feeling. As a society it’s systemic to reach for the pills, alcohol, or even seeking a firearm to solve the problem… putting band aids on feelings and emotions which offer a temporary relief for the issue. We’re here to be examples of how the change comes from within. There is no quick fix. The longest road you will ever take in life is the journey from the head to heart.
So 3 actions to get to this place…
1. Meditation & Mindfulness. Be in stillness. Give your mind a break from the 70,000 thoughts every day. Take time every day to be fully present in what you are doing. Right here, right now, in this moment, we are ok.
2. Limiting the use of screen time. Kids are constantly comparing themselves to each other and judging their lives. Comparison is the thief of joy. Create more time to go outside and experience nature and real life.
3. Communication — we also teach how to effectively communicate your needs and feelings, and in this communication we are able to relate to one another and experience emotions together. Learning we are not alone… experiencing true connection.
Based on your experience, what are the “5 Things You Need To Create A Successful & Effective Nonprofit That Leaves A Lasting Legacy?” Please share a story or example for each.
- Surround yourself with an inspired and dedicated work team. From teachers to board members to volunteers and donors. Empower and encourage your team, make sure everyone is seen and heard. Everyone has a voice is an important piece to this puzzle. The more you make people realize just how important they are to this mission, the more they will want to help and contribute.
- The Executive Director is a visible, vocal, and effective public champion for the organization. This is me, this is what my life is about today. I am the message. I know what this work can do for someone, as it has done it for me. I am at all the events and show up everywhere I possibly can to champion for Worthy Beyond Purpose. I think it’s very important for this to be the case.
- Creating Fundraising Streams that are balanced and diverse. Not depending too much on events but having a mix of individuals (large and small donations), foundations, online, direct mail and government. We have quarterly events that bring in a precise amount of money and then we also have private donors that support regularly, and fundraisers yearly. We have just started reaching government Grant status as well. It’s very important to not put all your eggs in one basket.
- Programs are mission-centric & evaluated to determine impact. Our 9-month curriculum is focused on emotions and kindness to ourselves and others. We teach about the functions of the brain, and we have surveys that are studied quarterly to make sure we are hitting the mark and getting the teachings across as we hope.
- An intelligent and integrated strategy for growing and engaging stakeholders in the work… invite folks in.
How has the pandemic changed your definition of success?
Before the pandemic, my idea of success what all about the hustle, the grind and the dollars. I worked in restaurants my whole life. Working weekends and holidays are what you did if you wanted to make the money, and I wanted to make the money. For three years prior to the pandemic, my days were filled with nonprofit work and my evenings were all spent at the restaurant. When everything shut down and we were all told to stay home, the restaurant hustle came to a halt and this is where life changes for me once again. WBP immediately went to an online platform, and because we were in multiple schools, the parents received our information quickly. Our zoom classes were packed. We had kids from all over the world joining us, talking about their fears and worries. The world was in a panic and the uncertainty was uncanny. In our classes, we all got to experience these unprecedented times together. We realized we were not alone. Creating a space for kids to connect to one another was a successful way of getting through the pandemic. Success for me today is transforming the world, one mindful kid at a time.
How do you get inspired after an inevitable setback?
I have to find faith in trusting the process. We are learning so much every day. When things don’t go according to plan, I have to practice what I teach, take a deep breath, connect to a higher power, and let go. It’s probably going to work out even better than I imagined. What I’ve been shown time and time again, “You show up, do the work and let go of the results.”
A school we worked with pre-pandemic reached out about how important it was for them to have our classes back in their schools but, there was no funding for it now. They had a grant they wanted to connect us to. The grant was for 54,000 dollars and was going to put us into 7 schools across Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). This was everything we’ve been striving for and with the help of their grant writer we submitted our proposal. The grant was unsuccessful. What a setback. After sitting in my meditation practice and leaning into the “You show up and do the work anyway,” I had a meeting with my Board of Directors, and we decided to do a Private Fundraiser. In just a couple weeks we raised 50,000 dollars! That is not because of me… that is the work of my Board, my community, and my God. We are continuing to raise funds through our website so that we can bring these teachings into all 7 schools for a whole school year, reaching hundreds if not thousands of students! Inspired to say the least.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world who you would like to talk to, to share the idea behind your non-profit? He, she, or they might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Goldie Hawn! She started her nonprofit, MindUp, in 2003 in response to growing concern about children’s mental health. I believe she would take a liking to what we do and may be able to help us grow and share the message. This is such a WE program, making an impact on the world takes a village, and together, I know we can make a change. Let’s do this work together.
You’re doing important work. How can our readers follow your progress online?
Best way is through the website WorthyBeyondPurpose.com
Thank you for a meaningful conversation. We wish you continued success with your mission.