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Partnering for Growth: A Q&A with Kinnect’s Shannon Deinhart

Posted by cleveland

The nonprofit Kinnect was selected as an SVP Investee in 2019 and received comprehensive capacity-building support along with $45,000 in unrestricted grant funding over three years. During this time, Kinnect’s staff grew from 10 people to over 50 and its reach expanded from Northeast Ohio to the entire state. As the organization reaches the end of its SVP engagement, its Executive Director, Shannon Deinhart, took a moment to reflect back on the support and thought-partnership SVP Partners offered Kinnect as it moved through this transformation.

Interview by: Hannah Xu, SVP Intern

Hannah Xu (HX): What attracted you to working with SVP?

Shannon Deinhart (SD): What attracted us is really what SVP offers–this idea that we would be partners, have these leads, and have the opportunity to work with SVP volunteers–individuals who have expertise in lots of different spaces and could support us as we were growing. By the time we got the grant, we had grown. Our growth started from a three person organization to ten people, and today we are over 50 employees. During our engagement with SVP, having Partner Liaisons Megan Patton and Katie Keane along the way as we were continuing to grow was super helpful and also having the expertise of your Partners to provide guidance and support. 

HX: What is something that SVP and Kinnect accomplished together?

SD: There are so many to choose from! 

  • Thinking through the accounting role as well as the HR function is one way SVP Partners helped me that immediately comes to mind. We were able to map out what was currently happening at the organization and what was missing. Identifying those gaps was crucial so that I could really roll out job descriptions and think through how to get those functions filled. 
  • FastPitch was another great partnership and opportunity. The mentors in that space helped me really craft my message about Kinnect.
  • Implementing environmental scans is another success, to which I credit my early work with SVP. I had the opportunity to meet with Partners and think about these kinds of scans. The scans have helped me have a sense of what’s going on in the state and nationally in child welfare. Being able to talk to Partners who have been in organizations that do this kind of scan and who have been part of creating that structure and process was really helpful. Now I can institute that with my team on a regular basis. 
  • Board facilitation and retreat planning–SVP helped with these twice. It was fabulous. I know our board really valued the Partners’ expertise in that space, and the Partners expanded the board’s thinking about the meetings as generative opportunities, versus an old, more business way of doing them. It was so well received and beneficial, we are still using it. We just had a retreat in December that Partner Kevin Shaw helped with. We took the Partner recommendations, incorporated them into what we did, and then implemented them in this year’s board meetings. It’s been very valuable. 

HX: If you could describe the SVP + Kinnect partnership in three words, what could it be? 

SD: Strategic. Purposeful/Intentional. Caring. I think that was the great match that we had with Megan and Katie being my Partner Liaisons. Those three words encompass what I experienced from you all as an organization–every Partner I met, the way they interacted with me, the way they asked questions about Kinnect, and all my interactions with [SVP’s Director of Programs and Operations] Caroline Linden and [Executive Director] Abby Westbrook. 

HX: What is a quote that deeply inspires you and why?

SD: I’m just going to go with what I feel. The Serenity Prayer, the whole “God grant me the serenity to accept to things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference” has been something that, as a leader, I say every day because Kinnect’s growth happened very quickly. We were just three people and then ten and now this. 

I am a social worker by background. I was not an executive director in some other life, and I knew what I was getting into. I believe we don’t do what everyone else does, which means we treat people with dignity and respect, believe families, and make sure we never veer off course. It can be very easy to do that. We have a lot at stake, so, for me, every morning before I sit down and start my day, that’s kinda what I say to myself: “Courage – I have it today.” 

HX: I feel like self-care is a big buzzword these days. What do you do to recharge or rest and relax? 

SD: We have a definition: organizational care is becoming a buzzword. And I don’t mean a buzzword like it’s not important but how are organizations promoting organizational care which is self-care for their staff? 

Personally, it’s been a challenge because of COVID-19 and the changes in the organization, but what I try to do is run and exercise. Being outside is very important to me, so that’s what I do. I’ve adopted a couple little hobbies since COVID-19 started. I started crocheting again; I did that when I was a kid, so I think it was a part of feeling like a kid again. I also utilize meditation as a source of self care.. These are  what has helped me manage all the different levels of stress within the organization. 

And then as an organization,we have  a consultant  who talks with the staff about rest and how to incorporate rest into your day; she has been very well-received by everyone. So we are going to start having her do one hour once a month and are also thinking about adding another person who can do meditation or chair yoga. This will all be virtual because we’re across the state. So those are things we have offered our staff as well. I know the work that they do is hard and, if they aren’t well taken care of, then they can’t take care of the families who they are working with. 

HX: Do you have any recommended reading for people who want to learn more about Kinnect and/or child welfare after reading this article? 

SD: I recommend the Children’s Bureau website. It’s part of the Health and Human Services, so if you went to their website, they then have different categories of where you can read about different parts of what they fund. It’s not only child welfare but also mental health, prevention services, interventions for children, who are zero through five. For me, it’s a very nice umbrella, and they have fact sheets. As I onboard new people who aren’t familiar with child welfare, I send them there. 

And something that I love are TED talks from two people that I very much respect. One is here in Cleveland. Natalie Leek did one for Providence House. She is Providence House’s Executive Director. The talk is  called “Bad moms or bad circumstances.” Her lens for how they work with families is very much in line with ours. And then Molly McGrath Tierney has another great one. While she was the Director of Baltimore Children’s Services, she did a very good TED talk called “Rethinking foster care.”

HX: Anything else you want to share about your work with SVP or in general? 

SD: I’m very grateful for the partnership. I think it’s a great organization and I hope one day that I can be a Partner, that I could use my expertise. 

HX: That would be great. You’re welcome anytime Shannon!