NPO 007: Considerations for Starting a Nonprofit (Jennifer Smith, Black Butterfly Chicago)

Today's Guest: Jennifer Smith, LCPC
Jennifer is a Chicago native, with experience working with children and families for over 15 years. As a Licensed Clincal Professional Counselor, she has worked with many in achieving wellness in the various areas of mental health. She is an author of various books, such as Shift On, Minesa's Mindful Day, and new summer release "The Feel of Color". She loves to travel, spend time with family, and mostly giving back to her community as an active volunteer with organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters or her own, Black Butterfly Chicago, which also offers mentoring, advocacy, workshops, and counseling services to those in need.  

Nonprofit Spotlight: Black Butterfly Chicago
Black Butterfly Chicago is a nonprofit organization whose vision is to care for youth and families today and tomorrow with resources that transform lives. The initial program (launched last year) of Black Butterfly Chicago is called Dance Esteem, providing opportunities for high school girls on the south side of Chicago to express themselves through dance, become more comfortable with their bodies and have a safe space to talk about other issues they may be facing. Black Butterfly Chicago is also interested in partnering with schools and other community groups to offer workshops on mental health, using mediums such as art or book clubs to explore different topics. To get involved or to become a new partner, contact

Story of Good:
Jen shared about one of her high school girls who has gained confidence and been able to talk more since joining the Dance Esteem program that Black Butterfly offers. In fact, this summer, she will be participating in a week-long program at the University of Illinois, which is something she never would have done had it not been for Black Butterfly. Her mother thanked Jen specifically for supporting her daughter in this way.

Lessons Learned:
Since Black Butterfly Chicago is a relatively new nonprofit, Jen shared some important lessons about getting started. It's important to know that this is hard work and not something for the faint of heart.

When looking for board members, there were three main categories to whom she extended invitations.

  1. People actively working in the field of the nonprofit. These are people who will understand the mission and will be great resources as the organization identifies ways to continue growing.
  2. People who have a heart for this work and could carry the torch, if needed. For new nonprofits, tapping into friends and family is a reality and it works quite well.
  3. People who are connected to resources. These resources can be financial ones, great networks to help spread the word and bring more people to your organization, or who are willing to do research and find new/unique opportunities for funding or partnership.

Networking is the name of the game... talk to people in person, on social media, etc and let people know how they can get involved or can support your organization. It was through networking that Jen was able to get her logo designed, build partnerships for her Dance Esteem program and find out about new opportunities for her girls.

Next Interview: Liz Mills, Executive Director for Carlson Community Services


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