Convinced that many black families still don't have equitable access to opportunities to thrive in the areas of education, health and wellness, and economic prosperity, Life Remodeled CEO Chris Lambert founded a nonprofit that acquires vacant school buildings in Detroit neighborhoods and repurposes them into what he calls one-stop hubs of opportunity for families to thrive together.
The organization facilitates the renovation of the buildings and then finds nonprofits that are moving the needle in areas like education, youth programs, health and human services, workforce development, jobs, entrepreneurship and moves them into the building. Then, they help those organizations collaborate with each other so that they can be better together.
"Talent is evenly distributed all over the world, but opportunity is not," Lambert says. "We're in the business of creating access to opportunity. And so, we're constantly measuring the accessibility and the number of people who are acquiring these opportunities in new jobs, youth programs, human services. And then when it comes to what transformation looks like, one of our measurables is that by the year 2025, we want to see Durfee Elementary-Middle School, which is now located next door, become the most improved school in the city of Detroit as a result of kids having access to after-school programming that did not previously exist in this community."
In identifying the reasons to create better access to youth programs, job opportunities and community resources, Lambert says it came from the organization's community engagement efforts.
"We spent months going into the community, knocking on doors, talking to students and really asking a very simple question: what increased opportunities do you want to see more of in your community?" he says. "And those were the categories that rose to the top. We really we're finding those three things rise to the top in almost any highly distressed neighborhood that we're working in the city of Detroit."
Fundraising for the organization is one of Lambert's primary responsibilities, though he gets help from a director of philanthropy and, at the time of the interview, there were plans to hire a director of marketing and a chief development officer. The heart of all fundraising, he says, is something that's true for all industries.
"Everything in life is about relationships, absolutely everything," he says. "People give to people. You can have the most incredible idea in the world for a nonprofit, but if you aren't able to make relationships with those who are capable of supporting it, that idea will go nowhere. On the other hand, if you're able to form a multitude of great relationships, but you're not delivering on the output, on the outcomes, on the impact, that organization is not going to last very long."
At Life Remodeled, he says it's been a combination over years of developing meaningful, transformational relationships, not transactional relationships.
"And what I've discovered is, I don't need to beg anybody for money, or for anything," he says. "What my role is is to find out who people are, what they're passionate about, what gets them out of bed in the morning, what their values are, and if they're values align with our organization's values, all of the sudden the lightbulb goes on that we have something to offer them that can increase exponentially the impact of their values in society. And so really, it's a collaborative effort. And then when we take their resources and steward them in such a way that produces dramatic impact, it certainly increases the likelihood that not only they will give, but that friends and family and other corporations and foundations will join our organization as well, which we've seen play out over and over again."
Lambert spoke on the Smart Business Dealmakers Podcast about the organization's mission and accomplishments, as well as his approach to fundraising. Hit play to catch the full conversation.