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Scaling a Non-Profit with Jason Janz

Mary Grothe July 14 2021



Meet Guests, Jason Janz

Jason co-founded CrossPurpose in 2008, influenced greatly by spending his childhood and adolescence in poverty. Jason’s passion for social entrepreneurship and serving the poor is satisfied through his role as CEO where he builds our staff team, sets the organizational culture, and raises funds.


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Mary Grothe: Welcome to the House of Revenue®. I'm Mary Grothe, Founder and CEO. I love scaling companies to their first 5 million, then 10, 15, and 20. If you've reached a revenue plateau and aren't sure how to get past it, you're in the right place. Listen in as we interview CEOs and solve their most pressing revenue challenges. If you want to be on our show or want to learn more, connect with us at

Today is a different day. I've historically worked with for-profit companies. There's a reason why and we've shifted. We recently made a different decision. In the last 10 years, I've had an opportunity to be loosely involved in some way, shape, or form with 10 different nonprofits. And I think I formed a belief system in my own head that nonprofits are difficult to work with. I'm such a high urgency person. I move super fast. I've also been raised in the for-profit business world, predominantly in sales with a bit of marketing and business operations. With that every time I've gone to serve for a nonprofit outside of just serving my time and helping with the mission, but actually working in the back end of the business or serving on a board, I've become frustrated quickly. What frustrates me the most is the lack of attention to detail, investment in allocation to scaling the nonprofit.  They want to serve more people. They want to have a greater impact on the world. But in order to do that, they have to have more than just a mission in their heart. They have to run the nonprofit, like a business. They have to have an allocation to scaling strategies, specifically in the world of marketing and sales and other methods for scaling. You have to look internally at headcount technology, operations, automation.

I think I just grew frustrated with nonprofits, really seeking and wanting help with the talents that I've developed over the years with sales and marketing. But yet it was such a mismatch and it felt like it was in conflict to say, do you really want it? Because I feel like the way you've set up the nonprofit you're allergic to it. There's not even any room for it. And it felt so foreign. Well, the first nonprofit that I met changed my perspective on this. Was a handful of months ago. I met Jason Janz who's the CEO at CrossPurpose in Denver. When I first met with his company, I realized something was very different. I even just called it a company instead of a nonprofit. Jason was mentored by a businessman when he started this nonprofit built the business. As a business and we are being brought into this journey through a referral Jason's part of a CEO group with a couple of other CEOs that we have the pleasure of working with.

When we met, I said, this is different. This looks different. This feels different. The mission is different. The purpose feels different. I knew, hey, we've got to do this work well. We didn't move forward for a few months. There wasn't the funding to do so we'll talk about that more here shortly, but I decided I was going to do something big and bold. We decided to do this work without invoicing our full fee. We're asking for support from our community. We firmly believe that the community can help solve our problems on this and get the funding allocated that we need to the project. But we're committed to scaling CrossPurpose who graduates 200 families out of poverty right now each year to four locations with a goal of graduating 800 families out of poverty. I'm going to allow Jason to tell you about CrossPurpose, and then we're going to dig into how you actually scale a nonprofit. Can it be done? Can you really treat a nonprofit as a business and put everything in place to scale a nonprofit I'd love to figure out in this conversation today if this is possible. How we're going to do it? How we're going to tackle it? Jason, welcome to the show.

Jason Janz: Mary, thanks for having us on and it is a blessing to be with you. And I'm looking forward to our continued relationship with House of Revenue® to meet much of your team this afternoon. As we launched this program of scaling, you know, CrossPurpose started basically my wife and me, we are people of faith. I was actually in the clergy profession raised in kind of the Lakewood Littleton area of Denver. And in 2008, we just wanted a different life and we felt like our faith needed a jumpstart. And so, we actually moved with our four boys into the urban center of Denver and five points in the recession of 2008, really to start a church. And we said to do a deep walk with the poor to save our own souls. That kind of began this journey. We put our kids into the neighborhood schools. We saw poverty up close and personal. A lot of the stereotypes I had about poverty dropped away, but I didn't really see a solution to not just help people in poverty but to help them get out of poverty.

A local businessman adopted my children's school. And then we became friends. He gave our school $1 million to help turn it around. It was the highest, failed school in all of Denver. The only school ever closed down by the state board of ed at the time. And then he's like, Jason, we need to not just help the kids and need to help mom and dad. So, we launched this nonprofit in 2012. With the idea of we're not going to help people in poverty, we're going to help them get out and get out for good stand on their own two feet, be off government benefits and see the dignity they were born with coming to full fruition. So was started by a businessman, with data-driven, type behaviors, and practices, and outcomes. We're an outcome-based nonprofit. And you know, we're having a great time. I mean, my literal next-door neighbor was changing oil at the local Walmart. And now, she's a senior manager at FedEx and has bonuses and benefits, and has a staff of eight. She just needed an opportunity and there are thousands of people like that in our city.

Mary Grothe: There are and even driving to the radio station this morning, there was a man on the street corner, holding up a sign, saying he needed bus fare. To get to work. I have a job. I just need bus fare to get to work. Of course, who knows what the real situation is? He's a salesperson he's figuring out where people will have an empathetic heart and want to give money. Who knows what that sign should really say. I'm a drug addict I'm completely lost in this world. And I have no future. Give me your money so I can go get high. Maybe that's the truth behind the sign, but he's doing what he can, what he thinks is right. Well, here's my heart. I'm sick and tired of seeing those signs. I don't like government handouts. I feel like we can cure this and heal this within our own community. I look at that person and this is what's true in my heart. I just want to open the car door. It's was like, get the car. You have no idea what this world really is. Let me show you a path. Let me show you the way. Yeah. But the risk of that, I'm not alone. I know other people have that same conversation. Do I give them money? Do I not give him money? Do I open it? My home, my heart, what do I do now? Forget it. Right? The light turns green. They drive off. Okay. End of story.

They don't have to have that inner conversation anymore. The conversation though is five out of a hundred. Might actually be ready to get on that path. And that is the work that you do, that you're able to find those people in our community that is employable they're historically low wage or minim wage workers who have just never been given the path, the opportunity, the social capital, the education, the training, the awareness, maybe even some of that own healing internally in their heart and in their mind to believe that they're even worse. Anything for that? You take the risk out of just picking up someone on the street corner, find the five out of a hundred through your vetting process. And then you have the education, the training, the therapy, the mentorship, the development, and the program and the social capital to forever graduate them out of poverty. Tell us more about that.

Jason Janz: Yeah. There's a Jesuit priest who started a gang intervention program in LA called Homeboy Industries. And he said you have to get to the point where you don't help people who need help you help people who really want help. And we all have that conflict of conscience on the off-ramp of the highway. When we see the person flying the sign, if you step back and look at the problem though, there are actually 300,000 people living in economic poverty in our city of Denver. That's a single mom with one kid making less than 15 K a year or a family of four making 22 K or less $11 an hour. So 300,000 people are living under that income tier. And we 1.7% of those are home, roughly 10,000 homeless in Denver. And there are actually 52 nonprofits that are designed to help those 10,000 people. I'm actually focused on the other 290,000 that the single mom with two kids is not going to fly a sign on that street corner. Right. She's going to couch surf at her sister's house or do whatever she can to make sure kids don't stay out in the cold. So what we do is we actually work with the 52 nonprofits that help the homeless people and we're the next pass off to them. So they, if they found some stable housing or affordable housing, and they've gotten off their addictions.

Then we then take them and say, we're going to skill you up. So you can actually not just be in poverty more. You can actually get a livable wage of at least $17 an hour. And a career, not just a job, right? We don't need, we don't need jobs. We need careers where they can climb a ladder and that company can adopt them in a good core corporate culture and they can go on. And, and that that's a generational change in that family's life when that happens.

Mary Grothe: Oh, this is curing poverty. This is ball shooting poverty. This is changing their lives or trajectory forever. This is a story that resonates deeply with me. Part of the reason that we set out on this journey is. I am committed and set on a path to do more with my life than to be self-serving. I am so fortunate at 37 years old to have the life that I've had to this point, I have a wonderful business and incredible team. I've had years of success in corporate America. That really fueled and prompted me to be an entrepreneur, running a company, and the work we get to do scaling other companies. But before all of that happened, I was not destined for this life. I grew up in an alcoholic abusive family. I grew up in a house that was absolutely disgusting with cigarette smoke. So prevalent, there was tar dripping down the walls. We hide cats dogs. There was so much urine on the carpet and cat hair. You could run your hands through the carpet that probably hadn't been vacuumed. I don't even know how long and you would have enough for your own cat out of just running your hands through the carpet to build that up. I grew up in the most disgusting house filled with R-rated movies, profanity, no semblance of love, caring, and nurturing.

My parents lost everything after a series of bad business decisions, they were running a small business. They ended up stealing from the community. They ended up becoming in so much debt, breaking the law, having to run from the law. And when I was 14 years old, we auctioned off everything that we owned. They threw us in a moving van with two days' notice. So my whole upbringing to 14 years old. We get thrown into this moving van to drive 1600 miles away, to run away from that lifestyle for them to take minim wage jobs back then I think was like $8 an hour. And actually, probably less than that, I think it was, in the $6 range because I started working in my minim wage was $6 and 60 cents an hour. So this was back in 1998. I was not destined for any of this that I have.

In fact, when I started working, full-time when I was 15 to become independent of my parents and start building my own life. I ended up going down a very dark path full of, alcohol and substance abuse and hanging out with the wrong people in the wrong places, and making really bad decisions. I was a former straight student who became a college dropout. I got married to an abusive man who I met when I was 19 and I was destined for nothing good. I was destined for absolute disaster and I was working part-time jobs in the bar industry and promotions industry, and nightclubs. I had the most sin-filled life, and I had this calling inside of me to say, you need to get out of this. And I found an ad in a newspaper. I applied for that job and the manager saw something in me, no one in my life to that point ever saw he saw potential. I was so rough around the edges. I was not a kind and classy young woman. I was everything, but. And he took me under his wing and brought me into Corporate America. And I'm telling you this story because of Jason's nonprofit CrossPurpose. They find people who are employable. They've just not had anyone extend their hand and say, come with me.

I had years of healing that had to take place. I had on-the-job skills, education training. I had to learn how to be a different woman and how I showed up to the world. I learned how to be respectful to myself so I could be respectful to others. I. became immerse in a lifestyle and a career trajectory that I started there when I was 22, by age 24, I became the n ber one sales rep, a six-figure earner, and then moved into the life that I have today. I share this with you because there are hundreds of thousands of people like me in our community that hasn't been given the chance. And for anyone who has a heart insane, I'm also tired of government handouts. Like you're not asking for the government to help you. We're here. We're committed to helping you scale. So we can find people who have a future and a path and connect them through the education skills and training, but healing them internally first, then learning then the social capital to find the career that is going to take them to all new stages of their life and get them out of this lifestyle. Your program works. It's anywhere between three to six months before they're graduating, you have one location in Denver now, you want to scale to four locations. How in the world do you scale a nonprofit? Why do you think most nonprofits struggle in scaling?

Jason Janz: I think most nonprofits struggle in scaling mainly because we live first of all in a crisis-type management world. Right. It's all donor-driven. It's usually a lack of the ability to have time to think and plan because people are lined up at the door and we got to help them. So we work in the business versus on the business. But then secondly, I think usually the leadership it's a mindset problem. They don't have a growth mindset. They often have a scarcity mindset versus an abundance mindset. So for instance, most nonprofits think there's a shortage of money out there and that we're all competing for the same foundation dollars. The truth is it's a blue ocean out there. There is more than enough money to fund all of our missions 10 X. It's just a matter of, will you go after it? And then, , you know, it's real easy to kind of blame the system or corporations or all that kind of stuff, but usually, most people just don't know how to give 90% of all people that pass away have no preferred charity that they know of to give to. So I think it's a mindset thing. I do want to go back to Mary into your story. If I can, a little bit, I think he had some huge points that actually want to put a, put a pin on.

Most people, think about people in poverty. They have only one narrative in their head in, and I call it the narrative of the bad choice that these people are there because they've made bad choices in your life. Were you in poverty because you made bad choices? I didn't know any other way. I just grew up. Yeah. I mean, you, first of all, were the product of the bad choices of your parents, right? You suffered this trap in our household of the lack of love. We tend to look at you at 19 years old and say, Oh yeah, you're using drugs and alcohol, right. That you made bad choices. Well, the truth is we have no idea the previous 19 years, what brought you to that point? Most people don't get on drugs just because it's fun, but they have pain in their life. They're trying to medicate. So I'm actually ambivalent about whether bad choices cause poverty or poverty causes bad choices. It doesn't matter to me how you got here. I think even in the way of Jesus, it's just, everyone gets a shot wherever you're at in life. I, I actually don't really care about your past. We deal with people, I mean that have wrapped sheets. One was 35 pages long as her rap sheet. I'm going to give that woman a shot. If she's got the grit and determination because of what actually forged in you in that living room of cat hair and tar, you're resilient, scrappy, resourceful.

You're able to navigate chaos pretty well. You know how to make it on your own and that's actually what makes you the great business leader that you are today. I think there's Mary Grothe's all throughout our city, living in poverty and then the healing piece. Most people say let's just get people, a scholarship to college. You know, most scholarship programs. If you track the retention are pretty poor, especially if they deal with high poverty populations because the people haven't been prepared for college. And also they walk into cultures. They're completely averse to how they've been raised. You actually had to go into this process where you had to heal. So we actually do that in the first six weeks of the program is we provide a lot of opportunities for healing. I've some of the most difficult stories of people that have been through some traumatic stuff, but you know, today on zoom, there are 69 Denver residents on zoom going through our healing curriculum. So they can actually not get onto a job because of boss can trigger unknowingly. Somebody past trap and that person will quit and they're back in poverty. We have to heal that core wound of their heart before we can actually I think move forward.

Another point that you made was the government piece. I think our community, we can solve our own problems. You know, we're doing it today in this radio show, we're saying, Hey, here's the nonprofit to get people out of poverty. We've got a scaling mechanism with House of Revenue®. We don't really have the finances to pull this off. Let's bring in a wider community and can, can we as a community solve this problem together. And that's it like, and I have this quote in our building, but it says that the pinnacle of leadership is when you climb up on a bloody cross and take responsibility for the brokenness in your neighborhood, right? Yes. In what you did with House of Revenue®, by saying, we're going to take on CrossPurpose and we're going to find a way to fund this. Like we're not funded yet, right? No. But you didn't have to take us on, but you saw the brokenness in your neighborhood and you took personal responsibility. That's my problem.

I think in a culture of wealth, and I say wealth, as people who live in the middle 12th class, we have the option to say, that's not my problem, right? But in our neighborhood, we say, Hey, the gang problem is our problem. The education problem is our problem. The poverty problem is our problem. Those are our neighbors and we're to love our neighbors. So, so I, I just commend you on that. I want to encourage our listeners to that Lake. Climb up on a bloody cross with us and take responsibility for the brokenness. And by the way, you'll find your own healing of some of your own poverty on that journey.

Mary Grothe: Amazing. I'm really so thankful that you're just being bold in asking for this because it's not a comfortable area for me because of the way that I was raised. I had to fight and win every dollar that I've ever had to my name. I've never asked for a handout I've never asked for help. It is so hard for me to go to an audience like this and say, Hey, we're climbing the bloody cross. And we're committed to scaling CrossPurpose at all costs like whatever it is, our team's committed. We're all in. We're going to make this thing happen. It was a burden on my heart. God, doesn't do that by mistake. If it's on my heart and it's going to happen, so we're making it happen. So on that note, if you go to House of Revenue®.com in our footer, footers where you scroll to the bottom of the web page, It says help us graduate 800 families out of poverty. You can click that link and you can donate $50, $5,000, $50,000, whatever it is, you can donate and you can help make this happen. I asked Jason about five minutes ago. So how do you scale a nonprofit? I already know.

I wanted to make a good topic for radio today. Maybe people want to know how to scale a nonprofit. I have a better idea. How about we just do the work? And then we come back on air three months from now, six months from now with an update on what we're doing, why don't we create the playbook for how to scale a nonprofit starting with the mental mindset of leadership and the board getting rid of the scarcity mindset, going into a mindset of abundance. Building in the foundational principles to operate as a business, becoming a data-driven organization, and allocating room within the budget for investment into sales and marketing and other revenue scaling strategies. And then whether it's an internal hire or a budget for an external partner who can come in and scale, the nonprofit already answered the question and we're going to make it happen. And as bold as that we've committed, we've said yes to this, and come hell or high water it's getting done.

Jason Janz: It's great. Because when we, when, as you talk to potential people that want to get involved with a nonprofit, I say, you know, we're not really here for just for a donation. We want you to sell your soul to us. You're selling your soul. And I want to say this too, like, If a community to solve its own problems, that means every asset that you have as a person. Whether you've run a business before and you know how to scale like we need intellectual capital, right? I've never scaled anything in my life. And I'm trying to move this organization to four locations and I can. I came out of an executive meeting yesterday and realized I've under clubbed, even the cost for scale and the building of the infrastructure and hiring staff earlier and things like that. So I'm learning, I need the intellectual capital.

You have intellectual gifts. You can bring, you have volunteer gifts. You can bring, you have financial gifts you can bring, and you can also bring the power of connections. Like you probably are lighting up in your head going. I have to have somebody else. My friends got to listen to this podcast, right. Those connections can be super significant for all of us. So let's climb up on the bloody cross together. We're trying to raise $200,000 here to help House of Revenue® pay their staff so that they can actually help us scale what greater investment. I think in nonprofit work, you can decide, I can fund activities that usually end this high body count annual report. Like we help 500,000 people this year, but what was the actual transformation that took place? You're funding, multiple generation transformation in the lives of people.

Mary Grothe: And we're doing it together. I know who listens to the show. We are very able-bodied. We're talented. A lot of us have excelled in the business profession. I know who our audience is. There's a way for you to reach out and extend a hand and to help someone else. And this is better than a government handout. This is better than increasing taxes and wondering where the dollars go. This is actually loving your neighbor in a way that you may have not had a clear path on how to do that. Previously. I said in the video, you'll notice when you go to the donation page, which again is on and the footer on the very bottom of the website, click the link that says you can help graduate 800 families out of poverty. Click that link. There's a video. You'll also find it, all of our social handles, but I said, look, if this is something on your heart where you think our community, our society would be better. If we were able to train and educate and connect with social capital, those who are able and capable of working. But they haven't had someone do that before.

If you're actually interested in curing this and being part of it, you don't have to quit your job or sell your house and move into five points and do what Jason did just to get integrated at the school level, the community level, find the partners, build the nonprofit, start graduating families out of poverty. You don't have to do all that you can simply give, you can give financially so that my team, the House of Revenue® team. And we're starting right now. We're starting now to scale from one location to four, you can do this by giving financially. You can do this by donating your time. You can do this by leveraging your social capital, making introductions. If you're an employer, how about hiring? How about hiring some of these graduates and creating a home for them and putting them on a career path and trajectory to forever leave poverty behind them. Jason, thank you so much for joining us today. How do people get in touch with you?

Jason Janz: and most people want to do great things with good friends. So, let's become good friends on the journey as we do it together.

Mary Grothe: Amen. Make it happen. We'll take your donations now, in the footer.

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