Embedding Structural Care into Your Organization

We have talked about the importance of structural care in organizations. In this episode, we are highlighting actual structural care techniques that you can begin to embed into your organization.  So, if you have been listening to the past few weeks and have been thinking about how to embed structure structural care into your organization, join us for the next 30 minutes. 


Cynthia Rojas  0:02 

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to Coffee Time with Masterminds. In this episode, we are highlighting actual structural care techniques that you can begin to embed in your organization. Now, there’ll be some that may cost you and then some that are budget neutral, but we’re trying to cover the gamut. We’ve been talking about structural care, and it’s time to get down to how do we actually do it. So, if you’ve been listening for the past few weeks, and you’ve been thinking about structural care, especially as much as we do, join us for the next 30 minutes.

Pieta Blakely  0:44 

Hello, everybody, and welcome back to Coffee Time with Masterminds. My name is Pieta Blakely and I’m the founder and principal of Blakely Consulting.

Cynthia Rojas  0:53 

Welcome to Coffee Time with Masterminds.. I am Cynthia Rojas, founder and principal of To Your Growth.

Rebecca Tuttle  1:03 

Welcome to Coffee Time with Masterminds. I’m Rebecca Tuttle, founder and principal grant right now in grant writing for good

Cynthia Rojas  1:11 

Hi, everyone. Welcome to Coffee time with Masterminds, a 30 minute conversation within for leaders of mission based organizations. Today I am joined by all of my co-hosts. Where are you? Pieta! Rebecca!. This is so awesome. I know you came back a couple of weeks ago, Rebecca, and we are so happy to have you. Yay.

Rebecca Tuttle  1:46 

We have been back together.

Cynthia Rojas  1:47 

Yeah. We do want to remind  our viewers and listeners that you have been behind the scenes. So, that’s been so helpful. But we do want to welcome our listeners in both the US and Australia and around the world. Please introduce yourself by putting your name and where you’re from in the comment box throughout the show. So today, we’re getting down to business. We’ve been talking about structural care. And today, we want to discuss what does it actually take to embed structural care into your organization? And so, Pieta, you started this a year and a half ago, right. You said you were mad about self care. And you introduced this concept of structural care. So, can you tell us so that we’re all on the same page, what is structural care? And how is it different from self-care?

Pieta Blakely  2:46 

Self-care, is placing the responsibility on an individual to take care of themselves and make themselves Okay. Sometimes even in the context of an environment that is making them not okay,  or is acting against their health and well-being. Structural care is taking a system wide approach, and saying that individuals can’t solve these problems for themselves at the same time, that they’re burdened by these problems, and that we need to take more global responsibility for it. So, it’s organizing, your, you know, it could be a state level, it could be a national level, it could be an organization level, systems and structures to center well- being.

Cynthia Rojas  3:34 

I love that. I love that. And so, Rebecca, today, we’re going to pull on you because one of the things I hear a lot from organizations is we can’t fund that kind of XYZ. And so, what we need is your amazing brain to help leaders start to think outside the box, especially during these times because I think foundations are stepping up. And they’re funding non-profits in a different way. So, we’re going to pull on your expertise for that. Okay, so here’s what I’ve done. We have done a slideshow. We’re going to try it for the first time. And we have 10 things that an organization can do to embed structural care. And then, as we go through the slides, were going to talk about each of these recommendations. Okay, so we’re going to get started. Is that okay? My co-hosts?

Rebecca Tuttle 4:35

Oh, yeah.

Pieta Blakely  4:36 

Absolutely I have a lot to say about this topic. So..

Cynthia Rojas  4:40 

Yeah. So, the first one, we move shaming around taking breaks and create an organizational culture that endorses breaks. This is budget neutral. You don’t need a budget line item to remove shame. Pieta, do you want to talk about this?

Unknown Speaker  4:57 

Yeah, I mean, I think this is so key. We’ve, and, you know, by we, I just mean, the whole non-profit industry in particular, has created this sort of martyr thing around working really hard and working long hours. And it is absolutely perpetuated in, you know, through funding models that aren’t paying for any extras, right. But what it, one of the things it does is work people into the ground? The other thing that it does is create an advantage for people who need fewer breaks. So, now people who, you know, have a chronic health issue or some other condition that requires more physical and mental rest, are not going to be able to participate in the field the same way as other people. And that’s just, I mean, that’s just an unreasonable level of discrimination. Right?

Cynthia Rojas  6:01


Pieta Blakely  6:01

But it’s also this is cultural behavior that is unnecessary. Like, people should be able to step away when they need to.

Rebecca Tuttle  6:14 

Yeah, without feeling like, oh, my, I’m going to get in trouble, or I’m going to get written up. And the other thing, too, is, when you see other people taking breaks, they’re maybe your superior, but then you don’t feel permission to do that yourself. I think where the disconnect occurs.

Pieta Blakely  6:32 

Yeah, and I think we mean, like, in big ways, and small ways. So, we mean, like, a, you know, a break of several weeks to work on your health. We also mean, like, why doesn’t everybody just lie down around two o’clock in the afternoon? You know, like, why don’t we do that? Well, you know, why is there some, I don’t know, machismo or something about coming in early and staying late and working all day, you know. Why don’t we have time for like, rest, reflection and rejuvenation built into how we work?

Cynthia Rojas  7:10 

I agree, I have gone to these high-tech companies. And their break rooms are amazing, right, and they allow for people to sleep, or to really lounge. And so that to me feels very different than what I see in either non-profit organizations or different types of industries. But let’s see, recommendation number two, or strategy number two:, help employees who work remotely create a workspace in their home. So, I’m still hearing from either leaders of non-profits or employees of non-profits, that they’re still working out of their dining room a year, you know, two years into this pandemic. They don’t have a printer. Right? So they have to do everything by screen, or, their laptop is breaking down. And so, if as an organization you think about we’re in this in the long haul, it is about time we start taking inventory. And helping because some of us don’t know what it is to have a workspace in our home. We don’t know what that even looks like.

Pieta Blakely  8:28 

And it’s about time that the employers are paying for this, too. Employers need to start paying for it too. I mean, they pay the rent when you sat at a desk.

Rebecca Tuttle  8:37 

Right. So also a line item for office supplies. And you know, I mean, it’s just different. No one’s in the office, so you can reallocate those resources.

Pieta Blakely  8:46 

Yeah, and it does make a difference. One of the things that, you know, Lindsey has talked about, you know, both here with us and in other spaces is having a place where you can put your work away at the end of the day, right and not be eating your dinner at the same dining table where you’ve been working all day.  So, you know, there are ways that people could be coached to set up their workspaces so they can close even if closing it means like putting a blanket over it to signal that the day is over.

Cynthia Rojas  9:19 

Yeah, there are consultants that I know organizations hire, to look at space and really design it so that it’s optimal. Imagine an organization that brings in somebody to literally coach and help employees develop their workspace in their home. And I’m going to say this word wrong, but think about the ergonomics involved. So we work in organizations where usually there’s someone who’s walking around making sure that you’re sitting right and all that good stuff. There’s no one at home making sure of that. So creating spaces and conversations so that employees are learning and being very conscious of how they should be sitting, taking their walking breaks and all that good stuff as if they were in the office. Yeah, so not so much budget neutral, but Rebecca, you said something interesting. Or maybe it was Pieta, I don’t remember. This is already a line item in your budget. So, this is another way that it can get funded.

Rebecca Tuttle  10:35 

Yes. And if you’re in a state or federal grant, you have flexibility with I believe, sometimes it’s up to 8% recision. So, you could modify those line items and reallocate those funds accordingly, without having to go through all the steps of permission. Of course, you’d have to report that you did that at the end. But there are certainly resources that I know of, in grants that I’m writing for clients that they’re not actually using those line items the same way. So, this is a great discussion to point that out to people because I don’t even think people really realize that in organizations.

Cynthia Rojas  11:12 

Yeah. And let’s not assume as leaders, because your employees are not speaking up that everything’s okay. That is not a good assumption. We have to reach out to people, because I think we also get used to things, and we’re not realizing how they’re affecting us mentally. So, check in with your employees. How is their home workspace going and how can you help them? Alright, tip number three, have no meetings zones. And by zones, this could look a bunch of different ways. No meetings on Tuesdays. Right? No meetings before 10am.

Rebecca Tuttle  11:56 

I thought you were going to say no meetings in the restroom.

Pieta Blakely  12:02 

This goes back to our previous live about providing appropriate workspaces. There are definitely workplaces where people are taking calls in the restroom.

Cynthia Rojas  12:18 

There are. So, what do you guys think about this one? This is another budget neutral tip

Pieta Blakely  12:28 

I am a huge proponent of no meeting zones. And you know, I am very structured about when I will and will not take meetings so I can get my work done. Absolutely.

Cynthia Rojas  12:43 

Yes. Rebecca, do you see organizations trying this out, this having no meetings at certain times? I see it in doctor’s office. You could call the doctor in the middle of the day, and they will tell you, the office is closed for lunch. And I’m like, oh, oh, wow. People take lunch. Like that’s, that’s interesting.

Rebecca Tuttle  13:06 

Yes, you’d usually see this with permanent standing meetings, but that’s a different zone. Right? If we have a meeting Monday morning, meeting every Monday at nine, that’s not the same thing as creating a no meeting zone where you have time to get the work done. I actually write on Mondays and Thursdays. So, Monday afternoon, and then all day, Thursday, I block out my calendar to Grant Write because if I don’t, I’ll be doing it in pieces. And by having these no meetings zones, and work times, as Pieta had described, it really makes you be able to have time to concentrate. And I really think it produces better work. And so, I help organizations create that time when we create our grant schedule… our project schedule. It makes a difference.

Pieta Blakely  13:53 


Cynthia Rojas  13:55 

And so, Rebecca, do you have any recommendations on how to build the discipline? Because it’s so easy. It’s so easy to say, “Oh, my God, I’m free Monday afternoon.” Of course, you are because it’s a no-meeting zone. You have no other time in the week and now you’re booking your Monday afternoon?. How did you grow that discipline?

Rebecca Tuttle  14:16 

For me, because I have so many deadlines that are just rolling and recurring and tight. I have to force myself to keep within that time and someone will say, “Well, we know.” One of the things and I think Pieta, you’ll appreciate this and Cynthia too, is when someone asks you, “Send me some meeting times.” I don’t find productivity in my schedule or my work. If I just throw out random Thursday at one Tuesday at Two. You know, I really chunk out the times that I am available because if I don’t, I could miss a deadline. I could run out of time to get the project done to the client for review before we submit So, I think it’s all of the what ifs, worst case scenarios will occur that gives me my discipline. You know, and also wanting to deliver for your clients is really important.

Pieta Blakely  15:13 

Right, and the same in an organization. Like, we’re not actually here to hold meetings. We’re here to do work.

Cynthia Rojas  15:20 

Right. I love that. So, I recently added a staff person to my company. She is a project manager. And one of the first questions she asked me was, do I have allotted times for meetings? And I said, “No, people go on my Calendly and they book a time. And she said, Oh, that has to change. And I thought, Wow, I’ve never even thought about that. Right. I never even thought I should have a no-meeting zone. And so, she’s changing that for me.

Pieta Blakely  15:57 

You can set up the rules on your Calendly. So, people still go in and book a time, but their options are restricted to the times that you want to meet with people.

Cynthia Rojas  16:04 

Yes, yes. Except that my Calendly right now has no rules. If I’m free you can book in. It gets me in trouble a lot.

Let’s look at number four. This one was interesting. Set up Zoom calls, as phone conference calls. So, I’ll give you a little background. We’ve moved toward a culture where almost- almost for many of us, every time we’re meeting, we’re meeting on Zoom. Zoom continues to be a burden to people, because you’re constantly aware of what’s behind you and how does that look? How do you look? And not that we should be, you know, working in our pajamas, although that’s what you do, that’s fine. But the pressure of that is something that is being questioned. Do you need to see your staff? Or could we go back to phone conferences? And that there was a time where people talked over the phone and not look at each other through video. And we could do it on Zoom if that’s your primary communication mode by turning off everybody’s camera and just pretending you’re on a phone conference. What do you guys think about this one?

Pieta Blakely  17:36 

Okay, I personally hate conference calls. But that’s, you know, that’s a processing style issue. So, that’s not everybody’s issue. Agreed. You know, showing up on a Zoom call, you know, it’s not just me, but like, the care I take with the environment behind me. Yeah, that adds a certain amount of overhead, of work. It’s, it’s also, you know, privileging people who have big houses and an entire room to dedicate to being their office, and they’re not sharing their office with, you know, a roommate or a partner or something. So, yeah, even I have to agree. Like,  maybe not conference calls, because it’s so hard to follow. But Zoom without video,

Cynthia Rojas  18:31 

Yeah, and this recommendation was specific for using Zoom, but allowing everyone to turn off video.

Pieta Blakely  18:42 

Yeah, to turn off their cameras. Yeah, I feel like it, you know, is a little bit like a performance. Two years later, even though we know that we can turn off our self-view so we’re not looking at ourselves all day, you are still like more reluctant to eat your lunch during the meeting. When you’re on camera, you are taking some care with your environment. And I’ve also noticed over the two years of the pandemic, that the quality, everybody’s quality has gotten better and better and better. Everybody’s invested in a new camera, got better mics. The bar is coming up. Whereas, you know, five years ago, you could be on a Skype call. The quality was terrible. Nobody could really see you anyway, froze all the time. Now, we’re all kind of on Zoom like movie stars. We got our we’ve got our Zoom backdrops like yeah, there’s a lot of effort going on here. And I completely support occasionally giving ourselves a break from it if it’s not necessary.

Rebecca Tuttle  19:52 

It reminds me when this all started. We dial into conference calls and there’ll always be someone who, you’re like, turn it on mute. Can everybody mute for like the first 20 minutes? People, dogs, and the dishes? It’s taking everything in me just to stay on this phone call, right? That was a real exercise in patience. The reason why I like to do call is because when we go out, we’re always wearing a mask now. And it’s really nice to be able to see people’s faces on the video, their expressions. But if you don’t have Zoom, per se, there’s so many other platforms that you can use, too. It’s just a really nice way to connect with people and feel like I’m not alone here in this room, you know, or this, this space.  This is a good one.

Pieta Blakely  20:43 

I think what we’re sort of talking about here is understand the purpose of your meeting. So you know, if we’re doing like Rebecca is talking about we’re building community and we’re seeing each other’s faces, then I that justifies our camera’s on meeting. If this is your Monday morning, stand up, and everybody’s just going to say, here’s what I’m working on this week and this is my priority today, there’s no reason to put your makeup on for that.

Cynthia Rojas  21:13 

Right, right. And so, Rebecca, you said something really interesting. I forgot it already. But I do I do want to add that, I am very conscious of whether I do a Zoom or a phone call. And I have to tell you, every time I tell someone, this will be a phone call, because you have to be very specific. Because everybody is Zoom, you know, assume that Zoom? Yeah. When I, when I say this will be a phone call. The first thing most people say is, thank you. Thank you for my phone call. Yes. And so, I’m realizing that people tend to be more relaxed. I’m more relaxed, because I’m not worried about how I look, or how you look, because sometimes if your background is off, and my eye is going to a certain painting or something, I’m just looking at your background. And, I’m always thinking about what’s the disease that’s going to come about in a couple of years because of what we’re doing today? So, what’s going to happen to us because we spent two years looking at ourselves all day, every day? What is that going to do to us?

Pieta Blakely  22:44 

And there’s already been like a huge increase in plastic surgery.

Cynthia Rojas  22:47 

Yes, yes. That’s why.

Pieta Blakely  22:50 

For two reasons. Well, three reasons. One, people are looking at themselves all day. Right? Two, some people have a whole lot of disposable income, because we couldn’t eat out or go on vacation for a year and a half. Three, when you do go out, you have the privacy of the mask. So, if you’re healing from something nobody’s going to know.

Rebecca Tuttle  23:14 

You know, what else is interesting about this, is my clients, they’re all over the country and oftentimes, I never ever meet them in person, especially now that you can’t really travel much. So, it’s really nice to be able to see them and e- meet them, I guess you could say. But  I find them the more we build that relationship together, the more I’m like, “Oh, I wish I could fly out, see you or you could come out here.”. So, it’s, it’s really an amazing way to keep connected. I just want to, before we move on to the next, Myra’s  here and she has a comment if you don’t mind if I show her comment? She says yes, I’m doing small in person and most call me back. Is this virtual or in person? She says in person and in most like it. Yeah, great.

Cynthia Rojas  24:02 

I just remembered my point, Rebecca, you had mentioned, you know, that you prefer seeing people and I completely have that preference also. For me, seeing you helps me build a relationship faster and better. But as leaders, I want to challenge leaders to think about, although it may be a preference for you, part of your work is also taking care of those who you are leading and really thinking about what would it mean to give them a break from having to look at themselves or other people. Also, there’s sometimes tension within meetings with some people who have the camera off, and some who have it on. And so, we could do away with that by just having no video meetings. But I thought that was a good point. And I was glad you brought that up. Rebecca. We want to be careful as leaders not to impose on something because we prefer it

Pieta Blakely  25:07 

And that can and create a kind of imbalance. When you have a meeting where some people consistently have their cameras on, and some people consistently do not, you start to develop a stronger connection with the people that you see all the time.

Rebecca Tuttle  25:24 

Also, I was thinking, this is all about relationship building. And if you need everyone to have their camera on, because you need to make sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing, that’s not relationship building, if you want your camera on, because you want to see each other and have that little water cooler chat and really just get to know each other… they  are two different things. So, I think if your intentions are good, then you’re only going to have good outcomes from it.

Cynthia Rojas  25:50 

Yeah, good point. Good point. Okay, so this is interesting. We’re only going to be able to do five of these tips. There were 10. So, after this one, we should talk about, do we continue this conversation next week? I’m loving it. And so, increase pay. So, I know Pieta talked about last week.

Pieta Blakely  26:18 

Don’t not pay people. Don’t pay people so little that they can’t pay rent. And then when they’re stressed about that, tell him to go take a bubble bath, it’s stupid. It’s counterproductive. It’s mean. I saw this, this article recently on some animal welfare organization, and the person was saying, you know, reasons why you should not give to that organization and you might consider giving to this other organization. And one of the reasons that he gave was, they pay the Executive Director $200,000 a year. But why are we coming down on not for profits for paying their leadership, an appropriate salary for leadership? It sounds like a hard job. And, you know, this person would probably also like to buy a house and, you know, send their children to college. It’s not one or the other, right? We don’t we don’t need to show that we’re dedicated to animal welfare by living in poverty, it makes no sense.

Cynthia Rojas  27:28 


Pieta Blakely  27:31 

All of these things that we’ve talked about, you know, are ways to shift the burden back on to the organization. And when the people who work in the organization are underpaid, the organization is saying like this business model doesn’t really make sense. And so we’re going to ask you all individually to subsidize it. Subsidize it out of your housing, security, subsidize it out of your kids education, subsidize it out of your retirement planning. That’s not fair. It’s not okay.

Cynthia Rojas  28:03 

Yeah, there’s a lot of shame around pay in the non-profit sector.

Pieta Blakely  28:07 

And one last time, I must say this out loud. Job posts need to have salary bands in them.

Rebecca Tuttle  28:16 

They do. Yes, thank you.

Pieta Blakely  28:19  

They do and I’ve said this to people individually, but I have not publicly said it yet. You send me a job post that does not have a salary band. I will not share it with my network. I do not do that.

Rebecca Tuttle  28:32 

You’ve been warned, everyone.

Pieta Blakely  28:35 

I will not forward that. You’re wasting everybody’s time.

Cynthia Rojas  28:38 

And some states are passing laws that are requiring salary bands.

Rebecca Tuttle  28:43 

That was in the news like last week or something. I saw that. I think that’s great.

Cynthia Rojas  28:49 

Rebecca, this is not budget neutral. And I have to tell you, I had an interesting conversation with a leader recently who said, “Well, we have a high turnover because we don’t pay well. We don’t pay well, because our funders don’t pay us. “And so, I thought, Oh, wow, like this became a conversation of what they couldn’t do versus a conversation of what was the possibility. Tell us how leaders can begin to think about changing this so that they’re paying themselves and their employees what they’re worth.

Rebecca Tuttle  29:24 

Well, I think there’s a lot wrong with your comment about funders don’t pay us enough. The burden is never on the funder. It’s on the organization to raise those right fit funds by diversifying your portfolio through direct donation. Maybe you have some fundraising, some grant funding. The funder is investing in your organization to make the impact in the community, not to fill in areas of deficit or areas of weakness within an organization. And I think that that’s a huge disconnect that through my education and…

Pieta Blakely  30:00 

That’s a very subtle point. Are you saying like when there’s a weakness in your organization, that’s on the organization, not the funder to fix?

Rebecca Tuttle  30:10 

Right, right , because the funder, and by weakness, I mean financial weakness or financial gap. That doesn’t fall upon the funder to correct. That falls upon the organization, because remember, the funder doesn’t owe us anything. They don’t owe us their funds. And a lot of organizations don’t realize that. A lot of grantees don’t realize that. And I’ve seen that throughout my whole 20-something-years career. So, figuring out how do we step back and fill in those gaps, and not place that burden on the funder is really what saves that organization and strengthens it, and I think it’s a learning experience for organization. And if you really believe that, you know, your organization, your team should be paid more, then how can you recruit more volunteers? How can you recruit more minds around the table? Ask your team members, “Do you guys have any ideas to rev up the fundraising rev up the funding, so that we can be more equitable in our organization?” And, you know, just always appreciate the funder. And you can always go to that funder and let them know that this is a challenge for us. This is an area of weakness for our organization. Are there other opportunities for us to grow our funding with you? More often than not, the funder will open up other resources to you or refer you to other resources to help.

Pieta Blakely  31:36 

You know, Rebecca, you used a really important word there. You said equitable. And so, I didn’t want to ref off that on how pay is a huge equity issue and a huge barrier to diversity in your organization. You know, there are people who have other resources that are going to let them work for, inadequate pay. And those people might not reflect the diversity of who you want in your organization. So, you know, increasing pay enough that people could live in the city, be single parents supporting kids, pay their student loans… That’s a big deal. Support elders, sometimes people have to send money home… all of that. It’s a big deal, and it’s affecting equity in your organization.

Rebecca Tuttle  32:29 

And people will help. You know, when I said there’s a lot wrong with your statement, Cynthia, I didn’t mean that was wrong with somebody you said. I’m saying that commonly stated. Yeah, it’s just from a misunderstanding of what opportunities lie ahead. And so, I definitely think that if you ask people, you know, “Can you help us?”People will help if you can articulate that ask.

Cynthia Rojas  32:53 

Yeah totally. And I hear that comment often.  I heard it again, very recently. And I was like, wow, this, this is going to take a mind shift.

So, we are out of time. And we have five more techniques. I vote that we continue this conversation next week as we continue our series on structural care, what do you guys think? Yeah,

Pieta Blakely  33:21 

Yeah, I think we should, because we’ve got a lot more good ideas and options to talk about. And I also want to, you know, encourage people who are watching and listening to comment on other things that they have seen that works or, issues that they think need to be addressed.

Rebecca Tuttle  33:43 

Yes. That’s a great idea. And then we can bring them up next week.

Pieta Blakely  33:46 


Cynthia Rojas  33:48 

And these are techniques or strategies that companies and organizations are using. So, they’ve been proven to work. So, everyone, have a great weekend. This was an amazing conversation, and I’m looking forward to next week to continue on how you can embed structural care into your organization. See you all next week!

Pieta Blakely

About Pieta Blakely

I help mission-based organizations measure their impact so that they can do what they do well. I started my nonprofit career as a teacher in workforce development and adult basic education. It was important work and I was worried that we didn’t really know if we were doing it well. In the process of trying to answer that question, I got a Masters in Education and a PhD in Social Policy, and became an evaluator.

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