Check out Elevated Thought & WHALE Progress Reports!

Weekly Updates on the progress of the 2020 Cohort
  • By The SIF Team
  • Published on February 24, 2022

Progress Report #2

This is the third in a series of stories capturing reflections from the SIF team and the 2020 Innovators to mark their graduation from the Social Innovator Accelerator. Read the second installment here.

Elevated Thought (ET)

Elevated Thought
Elevated Thought (ET) has been dedicated to its mission of developing spaces for BIPOC youth and communities to engage and understand art’s liberating power since it was founded in 2010 by Executive Director Marquis Victor.

Borrowing a phrase from his executive coach, Marquis says that participating in the Accelerator “helped frame what needs to happen in order to turn from an adolescent organization into a grown up one.” In particular, the Accelerator provided the time, space, and support to build structures for growth and leadership development.

At the onset of the pandemic, the high school youth that participate in ET programming had just shifted to remote learning, and were inundated and exhausted with Zoom. Hearing this, Marquis and his team decided that daily online programming was not the right fit, and instead offered monthly workshops and focused on creating materials to engage the wider community, such as a family coloring book.

This shift opened up even more time and space for organizational capacity building. Marquis focused on sharing the organization’s work externally and thereby nurturing development relationships and has far surpassed the budget goals he set through the Accelerator process.

With this expanded budget, Marquis invested in deepening his team’s capacity, ultimately going from two to 11 full time staff. Along the way, Marquis received support from many SIF connections, including his track partner, consultant, executive coach, and in-kind partners.

For example, Marquis worked closely with SIF’s in-kind HR partner, Positively Partners, to develop a recruitment strategy, offer letter, and employee handbook to support his growing team.

Reflecting back on his experience, Marquis says, “for me, for the first time doing this work, I have the time and space to plan and analyze this vision and walk it backwards to how I’m going to get there.”  

Get to know Marquis and Elevated Thought and learn more about how you can support them!

Waterfront Historic Area League (WHALE)

Teri Bernert, Executive Director of the Waterfront Historic Area League (WHALE), also reflects on the tools she developed to support organizational capacity building.

WHALE works to end the cycle of divestment in low-income neighborhoods in New Bedford by acquiring and restoring abandoned and foreclosed properties for reuse as affordable housing and community gathering places. Because nonprofit real estate development is very complex, Teri has relied on the pitch, graphic model, and PowerPoint she developed in the Accelerator.

Teri has relied on the pitch, graphic model, and PowerPoint she developed in the Accelerator. Teri says, these tools “really explain it in a few minutes and convey what amazing work we do. We will use that piece for a long time and maybe revamp it a little bit. It’s a hard thing to do. It doesn’t seem like it would be difficult but all those conversations with [our consultant] Helena and then working with SIF staff on how to do that was super interesting and the end product was great.” 

Over the past two years, WHALE’s work has progressed, and the organization has navigated the challenges of managing construction projects during COVID. WHALE is currently working on converting a church into a community performing arts center. Especially during COVID, the idea of having a community place to congregate when people are out of their houses again has provided hope for WHALE’s staff, funders, and membership.

The organization continues to be committed to its critical mission of creating more affordable housing. Because of the support for their projects, and the continued recognition of the necessity of creating more affordable housing, WHALE’s operating budget is higher than it has ever been.

Looking ahead, Teri’s experiences with her consultant and executive coach have catalyzed a commitment to continuing to engage deeply with organizational capacity building. The organization is currently embarking on a strategic planning process, engaging the staff and board together in a process of visioning and planning.

Get to know Teri and WHALE and learn more about how you can support them!

SIF has made a commitment to support funders in allocating resources more equitably. Doing so includes acknowledging inequities in the structures of philanthropy, which result in only 10% of foundation grants going to communities of color and unrestricted assets of organizations led by leaders of color being 76% smaller than those led by whites. Throughout this series, you will see opportunities to direct resources towards closing that gap by supporting grassroots organizations and organizations led by people of color. We invite you to consider the following commitments:


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