[Transcript] Episode 063 – Bernie Kampf

Transcript: Episode 063 – Bernie Kampf

Transcript for Episode 063 – Bernie Kampf on Organizing a Non-Profit to Grow and Serve Veterans

Transcript

Today, on what happens to be Veteran’s Day in the US, I’m honored to be talking to a Vietnam Veteran and guitar teacher for a non-profit organization that aims to brighten the lives of veterans who suffer from physical and mental wounds from their times of service.

You’ll hear about how their mission is shaped by those they serve, how they raise funds for the program, and how they address some unique considerations when matching teachers with veterans and finding creative ways to make the guitar accessible.

Here’s my conversation with Bernie from Guitars 4 Vets:

[00:01:06]

Andrea: Hi Bernie. Welcome to the podcast. Thanks so much for joining us today. Can you introduce yourself and tell us what you do?

Bernie: Hi Andrea. Thank you for having me. My name is Bernie Kampf. I’m the Director of Operations Emeritus for Guitars 4 Vets. I’ve been with them over 10 years now. I am a retired telecom jack of all trades. I’ve been a musician all my life and I’m also a Vietnam veteran.

Andrea: Awesome. Thank you for your service.

Bernie: Thank you.

[00:01:34]

Andrea: And your role in Guitars 4 Vets so you’re not a teacher in the most traditional sense of music teachers but you’re still very involved in using music to reach people through your Guitars 4 Vets. Can you take us back to the founding of that program and tell us about it?

Bernie: Sure. Our co-founder Patrick Nettersheim who is still very active with the organization was teaching out of a music store up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and one of his students was Dan Van Buskirk who was a Vietnam vet who at that point had undiagnosed PTSD and this was all back in 2007. Being noticed after Dan had been learning guitar for quite a while that his PTSD was becoming more manageable and that it was having positive results due to the fact that he was learning the guitar and being able to concentrate on that. After Dan had gone through several lessons they took the program to Zablocki Medical Center in Milwaukee and worked with the VA there to get the program established there. It was officially incorporated in 2007 as a non-profit and it has gone on from that to today where we have over 110 chapters nationwide. And I am still a teacher. I do teach weekly at Hines Medical Center in Chicago. That’s how it started.

[00:02:57]

Andrea: Okay. And are all the locations through medical centers or VAs?

Bernie: Predominantly. We have 110 chapters. Right now, about five or six of them are unaffiliated with any VA facility. We are expanding into that arena now as it becomes an easier way to grow the organization and we can reach more veterans in underserved areas that way but predominantly we work with the VA and they partner with us to go and ride the program.

[00:03:26]

Andrea: Was there a research that had been done before this that made the co-founder Patrick think that this could be something that could really help veterans or was it just something that he discovered through these lessons?

Bernie: Patrick is probably one of the most empathetic people you’ll ever meet and he is a very fine-tuned people person. Some of us are task-oriented or whatever. Patrick is just a total people person. He’s the guy everybody loves and he could see the benefits of it. He could sense it and feel it. No, there was no existing study at that time. We have had one study completed on our program that shows its efficacy and we have another one, hopefully, that’s in the works soon. At the time, this was just his foresight impressions to be able to do this.

[00:04:10]

Andrea: Awesome. That’s really neat. And then how did you become involved with the program?

Bernie: Really interesting story. I retired from my real-life career jobs in 2002 and I was back playing in a band again, a local band out here in the Fox Valley. Myself and two of my friends we were at a guitar show in St. Charles and we ran into Patrick who had a booth there. This was in May of 2009. We chatted up and got to be friends and I said, “I’m a vet. I’m a guitar player. I retired. I’ll do this.” When you retire you look for things to do, ways to give back or things that you want to do, not necessarily that you have to do. I have been looking for several years and this, “Oh, I’ll do this.” It took a year for me to actually get started because in 2009 Guitars 4 Vets was a very nascent company. It was early days and it was still growing and it had a limited budget. We finally got the chapter going in 2010 and we had our first graduate actually 10 years ago this month. So that’s how I got involved, yeah.

[00:05:16]

Andrea: Wow. And then what was the process to set up that first chapter that you started?

Bernie: Well, there was no process. There were no defined parameters. There was no guidance. There were no handbooks. It was just like go to the VA and do it. I got the okay from Patrick to do it in November of 2009 and it took till June of 2010 for me to go through all of the administrative hurdles that the VA presents to you to get it started. All of our volunteers that participate in the program at VA hospitals also have to become VA volunteers. So that process alone, you have to go have a background check, you get finger printed and we had to find some place to host us. We had to volunteer and work for somebody within the VA. All VA volunteers are considered non-compensated employees so it’s a tremendous administrative process that you had to go through. And like I said, we had no handbooks or no guidance on at that time so it took a lot longer than it does today, thankfully, but it just happened. It’s perseverance.

[00:06:19]

Andrea: Is that what led to you becoming the Director of Operations, they needed someone to codify that process?

Bernie: Well yeah, actually, it was a long process. I started out just being chapter coordinator at Hines and the instructor. I was the only instructor. Our first six months we taught at a closet because they had no room for us. We did that and then after a while, it became apparent that there were a lot of opportunities for improvement within the organization and I started to take on a more active role in developing the processes and tutorials and whatever. So I became the National Chapter Coordinator and then that kept going until in 2015-20016 where I became Director of Operations and we also had a national chapter coordinator and a whole lot of things.

Just recently I’ve started a step back in my responsibilities and kind of like reclaimed some of my private life but it was just a natural progression. When we started our chapter, there were 21 or 22 chapters at the time. And then I became national chapter coordinator there were about 30, and then when there were 60, we got a national chapter coordinator and I became Director of Operations and now it’s 110. Had it not been for the Covid issue we would have been looking at 150 chapters this year but this has kind of put a hold on everything because nobody is going anywhere.

[00:07:42]

Andrea: Yeah, it certainly slowed it down. Talk to us about the organizational structure for Guitars 4 Vets. So you’ve described that they’re local chapters. What’s more happening at the national level?

Bernie: Each local chapter has a coordinator and instructor and what we call a liaison. When we’re at the VA facilities there are heaps of regulations that we can’t cross. So we have a VA employee that is considered the liaison and they’re the ones that connect us with a veteran. And then you have the coordinator who can be the instructor of whatever. So those are all volunteer people. The liaison doesn’t necessarily volunteer for Guitars 4 Vets. They’re strictly a VA employee but the coordinators and the instructors are all volunteers. They were all background checked and whatever.

So we have 110 coordinators and close to 400 volunteer instructors. Now, nationally, we have 6 paid employees. That’s all we have and they essentially manage the entire operation of Guitars 4 Vets and the coordinators always report to the national chapter coordinator at this point and we have two people that are responsible mostly for fundraising and events. We have a couple of regional coordinators and we have our executive director.

[00:08:57]

Andrea: Alright, so mostly volunteer-run.

Bernie: Absolutely.

Andrea: And with volunteers from the VA as well. And I should clarify for listeners who don’t know the VA is the Veterans Affairs.

Bernie: Technically it’s the DVA, the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Andrea: Yeah. Some listeners who aren’t in the US, I’ll clarify that for them too. They take care of our veterans and provide services and connect them to resources and things like that.

Bernie: The Department of Veterans Affairs is the largest medical operation in the country. They offer full medical service and mental health services and recreational services to all our veterans.

[00:09:51]

Andrea: And I can see how that would be a natural conduit to veterans and getting those instructions and connections between teachers and vets.

Bernie: Yeah.

Andrea: But also like you mentioned, there’s a lot of red tape by having HIPAA things and volunteer background checks and things like that.

Bernie: And to be clear, we don’t give therapy. We don’t provide therapy. We are not licensed therapists. We’re not professionals. We offer a program and we work under the auspices of licensed professionals within the VA. So for instance at Hines, I volunteer at a department called Recreation Therapy. So we work with a recreational therapist who is our liaison who interviews the veterans and make sure they’re suitable for our program and then hands them over to us and then we teach them under the watchful eye of the licensed professionals. It’s safe, it’s protective and it totally fools the HIPAA guidelines so everything is the way it should be.

[00:10:49]

Andrea: And really utilizes musicians well who may not have that medical background training but are qualified to teach a guitar lesson and help that way.

Bernie: Yeah. We interview all our instructors. One of the chapter coordinator’s responsibility is to interview all their instructors. You don’t have to be a great guitar player to be a Guitars 4 Vets instructor because the idea of the program isn’t to make people BB Kings or Stevie Ray Vaughans or the Wes Montgomery’s. It’s to give them a positive social experience. You need more social skills than purely clinical guitar skills. We have to be able to play the guitar. It’s not purely technical.

[00:11:28]

Andrea: Can you describe what the program looks like?

Bernie: We have a really cool Guitars 4 Vets book that Alfred Music prints out but that’s our Guitars 4 Vets song book. The program is essentially within the constraints of the VA. A veteran will, through their case worker or their social worker, they’ll be made aware that there is a program called Guitars 4 Vets available to them within the VA or their case worker or social worker recommends them for it, then they go to the department that has hosted us–in our case Recreation Therapy. They have an interview with that rec therapist and then they are then put in the queue to get in the program. We give them 10 individual personalized lessons, their private lessons. We give them or loan a guitar to take home and all the accessories they need to go home and practice over 10 weeks.

After they completed 10 lessons there’s no pass or fail and after they have completed 10 lessons, we give them a brand-new acoustic guitar and a gig bag and strings and string winder and a stand and just a whole bunch of accessories. After they graduate, we give them all of these things. Most chapters have at least monthly group sessions where all the veterans are invited to come back and just jam and hang out. In a nutshell that’s how the program works.

[00:12:54]

Andrea: Yeah, that’s really neat. So you really encourage them to continue studying music by giving them the guitar at the end for they kind of earned it.

Bernie: Absolutely. You can’t make somebody a really proficient guitar player in 10 lessons, but the idea is to give them the tools they need to continue and help them have a positive experience. That’s really what it’s all about. Once you get into something that you’re really into and you concentrate on it, everything else in the world kind of like disappears for a while. You become at peace. You’re sitting there holding the guitar, strumming it and you can feel it vibrating against you and you’re thinking about the next chord or whatever, and it just brings peace to veterans who are facing a lot of challenges today. That’s the benefit of it. And then you continue with it hopefully.

[00:13:45]

Andrea: Yes. I talk to teachers all the time who have ambitions to start programs of some kind, you know, whether it’s for mental health or underprivileged kids, and so that’s where I think they’re really going to enjoy this. Can you describe any stories of veterans who had gone through the program and kind of the impact that it’s had?

Bernie: Oh yeah. I’m doing this for like I said 10 years so there’s just a whole gamut of people, but there’s one gentleman in particular. He was in a wheelchair. He had very severe neuropathy in his fingers. He had a lot of challenges and we had to give him a nylon stringed guitar to play because he couldn’t even press the steel-stringed guitars. So after 10 lessons he can only play two chords–an E minor and an A minor–but we sat there, we gave him his brand new guitar and we sat there and he started playing the two chords and I just played along with him and we both had tears in our eyes. And he was just so happy to be able to sit there and do that and it brought him such peace and comfort. To me, that’s a true success story. Not that he could go out and play a whole bunch of songs like BB King, but the fact that he was happy and he got something positive out of the program and I think that’s a success story.

And then one of my other favorite stories is a gentleman that just went through the program last year, actually, and he had a lot of challenges, both a medical and emotional challenges, but the program helped him so much he has become one of our spokesman now. He does a lot of work in suicide preventions for the veterans but he’s also gone and done radio and TV interviews with me and together we’ve performed in some of these interviews, and he’s somebody who used to know how to play but because of his challenges he had to relearn a lot of things. The fact that he could and that he has been able to do that and now he’s gone out and become a hugely productive person in veterans mental health, what more can we ask for? It’s really what it’s all about. It’s just giving back and helping our veterans.

[00:15:52]

Andrea: Yeah. You mentioned some things like whether it’s physical limitations of veterans who’ve been injured in service or just the mental health aspects. What special concerns are you thinking about when you prepare a lesson maybe for one of these veterans?

Bernie: Our motto, we have a motto that is PAGE. It’s “Patience, Acceptance, Gratitude and Empathy” and we look at all of our veterans from that perspective. We don’t have a set curriculum because a set curriculum can, under some circumstances, imply failure if the student doesn’t measure up to that curriculum. So we basically interview our students for the first 15-20 minutes of the first lesson. We try and assess what their capabilities are and what their goals are. We try to set attainable goals and we work towards those goals. That’s kind of how we approach it.

[00:16:50]

Andrea: Yeah. And just even in the lesson structure if there are things you do or you don’t do because of the experiences that the vets have had?

Bernie: Well it depends. If we’re talking to an audience of instructors I’m sure you’ve had the gamut of people with different levels of proficiency or different desires to learn but veterans dealing with PTSD issues or other mental health issues, sometimes it can be very challenging to show somebody something and half an hour later they have forgotten that. So a lot of it is just muscle memory and repeating, repeating, repeating. That’s when you look at the two most important qualifications in Guitars 4 Vets it’s patience and empathy. I’ve had students who can play better than I can and they have no idea what they were playing and I teach them theory, few and far between, but it runs the gamut and it depends on the instructor’s ability to assess the student properly in the first lesson to find out what they want to do.

We’ve had students that we tried to teach them slide guitar because their fingers are not movable. We’ve had several students that were sightless so we’ve taught them that. And the fortunate part of that is we have, at Hines at least, we have a music therapy department that works with sightless people who have been able to help us with certain skill sets and suggestions and props. We had one person who was missing a limb and we had to fashion something equivalent to what you’d use on a dulcimer so that she could take this appliance and put it in her mouth and bang on the strings with that while using her one limb to finger the guitar or use a slide. I mean, we do anything. Again, it’s not about making people great guitar players. It’s giving them a positive experience so that they can move forward with something good happening in their lives.

[00:18:45]

Andrea: Yeah. I can see how that acceptance part of the PAGE motto comes through. It just doesn’t matter where you’re starting from. We’re going to make this a positive musical experience for you.

Bernie: Absolutely. 

Andrea: How about the training? Do the teachers get any training, volunteer teachers, to prepare them?

Bernie: No, basically word of mouth. When I started the chapter at Hines, I would go to guitar shows, did a couple of interviews, and then people would just show up, “I want to be an instructor.” All of the instructors get background checked at the VA but then what we do is we ask them to sit in with us on lessons and observe how they interact with the students because there are–and I’m preaching to the choir apparently at this audience, which is cool, but you can be a really great instructor but you might not be able to teach a certain segment of society that has specific challenges. That’s not a knock on your ability to instruct. That’s just who you are. That’s the thing that we have to look for more than anything is when they sit with us and they interview and maybe we’ll let them teach part of the lesson to see how they do and how they respond and that’s where it becomes really important.

One of my most popular instructors is somebody who had very limited guitar skills but he was just the nicest guy and everybody loved him. So again, working with the VA with our liaison, we would give that person the students who were least challenging in terms of needing to develop skills rather than just to get a positive experience. We work as a team with the VA to do all of this. It’s very cool.

[00:20:27]

Andrea: Yeah and having a real clear sense of our mission is not to make amazing guitarists if someone really buys in and continues to study but that it’s to have a positive experience and relaxation and mental health benefits of playing music.

Bernie: Yes. 

Andrea: When you got that as the focus then you know the most highly trained music teacher is not the important thing. It’s the one who can connect with someone.

Bernie: Absolutely. You’re a piano player, yes?

Andrea: Yes. 

Bernie: So I can imagine that you have sat down and started to work on something or just play the piano and the next thing you know, an hour or two hours had gone by and you have no idea where that time went. So if you can imagine somebody who is struggling with PTSD or a whole lot of other issues, if they can get to that space and everything goes away for a while, how beneficial that is to their mental health? That’s basically the primary focus of the program is to pull that in and give them a mechanism to deal with the things that they have.

[00:21:30]

Andrea: Yeah. It’s so important. So let’s talk about the organizational side again. You said it’s a non-profit, right? What does that mean for the daily operations of the business? How does being a non-profit versus a for profit business change your daily activities?

Bernie: We basically have to beg a lot. We have a board of directors and we have our 501(c)(3) docs all in a row but we have no source of income. We have to go out and establish relationships with corporate sponsors or with donors or with people who want to donate equipment to us which we will resell. We are continually looking to encourage people to donate to us. That’s really what we have to do. We get companies like Yamaha who donates a lot of the acoustic guitars to us. Kraft Music up in Milwaukee, they donate a lot of their back office work so that we can mail the guitars to the graduates. Alfred Music, Hercules stands, Hosa, Kaiser, TKL gig bags, their CEO is a Vietnam vet like myself and he’s given us several thousand gig bags. He’s donated them to us over the course of the year.

So we rely on corporate sponsors like these to help us defray expenses so that we can provide more guitars to our students. It costs us about $200 in monetary cost to put a vet through the program and we have roughly 66% of all the money that is donated to us goes back into that $200 per veteran going through the program. Being a non-profit, that ratio will vary a couple of percentage points year to year, depending on how much money we got in, how many students we had, how many graduated. So we graduated just under 800 students last year. So $200 a pop, that’s a considerable amount of money but the challenges of being a 501(c)(3) are that you have to get the message out and you have to have a fair consistent message. It takes years to establish that. It’s not something that happens overnight.

We go to the NAMM shows, the National Association of Music Manufacturers—a trade show. We’ve been going to them for like eight years now and the first couple of years we went there, it was just get to know me and then after going three, four, five years, then the corporate sponsors started to think, “Oh they’re legit. They’re for real,” and then they started to help us more and more and more. So like I said, next you look at people like TKL or Hercules or Alfred and Yamaha. That’s how we established those relationships, going through those trade shows, but it takes time. One of the hardest parts about being a non-profit is it takes time and it takes diligence and perseverance. It’s a lot of work.

[00:24:15]

Andrea: Yeah. And you’ve kind of got a different marketing challenge than most music teachers where most of us are marketing and trying to get students, you’re marketing trying to get donors. So how does that, aside from going to trade shows and just building those relationships there, how else do you reach out to donors?

Bernie: Interviews like this, TV interviews, radio interviews, anybody who wants to interview us we’ll to them. We were fortunate enough to do a couple of interviews here on WGN and CLTV and Fox 32 here in the Chicago area which creates a lot of interest and a lot of people who are willing to maybe donate guitars, families who have guitar players who may have passed away or whatever and they have always guitars they don’t know what to do with them, donate them to us. We sell them and then use that money to go fund the new guitarists that we have. We have festivals, especially out in Milwaukee there’s–not this year–but we have our Rock to Remember and there’s just a bunch of festivals and fundraisers that we have to reach out to people.

It’s about networking. We used to go to these guitar shows here in St. Charles and [00:25:24] Park. The Amigos Guitar Shows, they’re throughout the country. They donated tables to us. Very generously, Ruth and her cohorts would donate tables to us and we set up a table at this show and people would come by and “Oh, what do you guys do?” Just the same way I met Patrick at a show, people would come in and they meet us and it can lead to just a whole myriad of new relationships that are beneficial and help you grow. It’s exciting. It’s really is intense. Sometimes you know, anybody who’s in business for themselves can surely appreciate that. It’s exciting and it’s rewarding because, like I said, I’m a vet so I get it.

[00:26:05]

Andrea: What’s the role of the board of directors in your operations?

Bernie: They manage us. They set the goals. They tell us how much money we have. They work with our executive director. One of the things non-profits always have to be aware of is expanding so quickly that they collapse in on themselves. That’s always been one of the pitfalls. So fortunately, our executive director, Eric Weinstein, is just really terrific at managing that aspect of the business and he works with the board. He’s on the board too. We set attainable, achievable and repeatable growth goals which of course all got thrown up in the air because of Covid, but we got a really good linear track that is manageable and sustainable, I mean, that’s really what you have to look at. That’s what it’s all about. It’s just sustained, team-managed growth.

[00:27:09]

Andrea: You mentioned earlier that there were six paid staff people. Can you describe who they are and what their roles are?

Bernie: There’s the executive director. There is Patrick, our co-founder, who is primarily responsible for fundraising and events. There is Mike who does fundraising and events. There is myself, again, I’m taking a decreasing role. Then there’s Bailey, our national chapter coordinator, and Peg who is our sales force and training coordinator. That’s kind of like where we are. We are going to be adding regional coordinators and Peggy, not Peg, Peggy, will be one of those in that role. As we grow we have to figure out the best way to manage the growth and we’re working on that right now to make that happen.

[00:27:54]

Andrea: Yeah. I imagine that’s always a balancing act of how to do that. 

Bernie: It is. Again, if you’re in business, you look at “What do I have to do now?” but “What do I need to do next year and for five years?” You have a 5 year plan, a 1 year plan and like what fire do I put out today? That’s just one of the challenges but it’s also exciting.

[00:28:16]

Andrea: How do you, as the director of operations, keep a sense of vision as you go through those day-to-day things and see the fires burning? How do you keep that long-term perspective?

Bernie: The challenge is I write everything down. I’m a copious note-taker. So what you do is you look at a situation and you say, “Here’s where we are today. Here’s where I think I’m going to be in 5 years.” When I did that 5 years ago, that 5 years is today and probably looks nothing like what I thought it would look like five years ago. So you keep adjusting your goals and you keep adjusting your vision so that it more or less is in line with where you actually are and you can’t ever let that slip because if you do then all of a sudden you come up to a point where “Oh, my god, I’m somewhere and I have no plan.” You always have to look at where you want to be and you do it within the constraints of your budget and your workforce. It’s challenging but like I said, that was the fun part but I enjoyed that.

[00:29:20]

Andrea: And what is next for Guitars 4 Vets? What are your upcoming goals?

Bernie: It’s funny how when the world hand you lemons you make lemonades. We had been looking at opportunities for doing virtual lessons or remote lessons. That’s a challenge in and of itself within the VA constructs because of HIPAA and whatever. So what we started to do is develop chapter models that were outside of the VA environment and we address all of the concerns that we had. How do you actually establish the credentials of a veteran? Are there any medical issues? We’ve developed a model where we can now do virtual lessons and we can have essentially what is a virtual chapter. So that’s one aspect of it so that we can branch out and not be locked into having to be at a VA location to give lessons.

We’re also developing processes to provide virtual lessons within the construct of the VA but that requires a VA component because they still have to contact the veteran and set up the program because we’re not allowed to do that so they have to set that up but we can teach virtually within the construct of the VA. So that’s another opportunity that we’ve expanded on and we were looking at all of these things but when there’s no need you don’t pursue something because we just didn’t. So now there’s a need and we’re pursuing it and we’re doing very well at it. When if this virus thing ever goes away, we will be in a position to expand in that direction as well as maintain our traditional models.

[00:30:55]

Andrea: Yeah, all sorts of opportunities there. And how can teachers–we got a lot of guitar teachers in the audience–how could a guitar teacher get involved if they were interested?

Bernie: Oh wow! Cool! Www.guitars4vets.org and there’s a lot of references to “How do I help? How do I volunteer?” Click on that and Bailey will get back to you. There’s a ton of opportunities. You want to start a chapter? You want to be a volunteer instructor? There are other ways you can volunteer. You can do fundraising. You can do whatever. Don’t get trapped into where we are today. Today is a unique situation. Hopefully, this will be much better next year. You look at that in terms of that but being a G4V instructor probably would require a commitment of two hours a week and that doesn’t include travel time and all our volunteers are non-compensated by the way, but it is two hours a week to be an instructor. You will teach two 1-hour lessons and however it will get you to where you’re teaching and back. 

The most challenging part is getting through the administrative hurdles and the training. We train you and we give you all the information and tools that you need to do what it takes to be an instructor and to record all your lessons. We have a good process in place and we have good people there to train you and help support you so www.guitars4vets.org.

[00:32:20]

Andrea: Alright. Is there anything else that I haven’t asked about that I should?

Bernie: The only thing is when people hear about veterans, we still have close to 20 veterans a day that commits suicide and I’m a firm believer that this program helps. But there is just a bunch of ways that you can give back to veterans. Volunteer at a VA hospital. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Go to a homeless shelter and volunteer. If you’re driving down the street and you see somebody playing a guitar and it says “I’m a vet,” and they have a jar out, don’t judge them. You don’t know what they’ve been through. Put a dollar or whatever you can in their jar. Elect politicians who will help veterans, not just say they will but who actually do help veterans. There’s just a myriad of things that you can do to give back and we need to do that 365 days a year and not just on Memorial Day or Veterans Day or July 4th. So that’s my speech. Sorry if it’s not teacher-related but that’s really my feedback on that.

[00:33:24]

Andrea: Thank you for that reminder. It is important every day of the year.

Bernie: It is. Yeah. Check us out. We’re on Facebook. We’re on the web. Support our sponsors. If you’re a musician, support the people who support us and doing a good thing.

[00:33:38]

Andrea: Alright Bernie. Well thank you so much for joining us today.

Bernie: Thank you for the opportunity Andrea and thanks to all your listeners and hope it was informative. Thank you.

[00:33:52] [End of interview]

Recap

As someone with close friends who are veterans living with PTSD, I was thrilled to learn about Guitars 4 Vets. I think the work they are doing is tremendously impactful and I am honored to share it on the podcast.

Bernie mentioned over and over again that the purpose of Guitars 4 Vets is not to create amazing guitarists, but instead to give vets a positive experience. You can hear how the clear sense of vision and purpose influences everything they do from screening volunteers, to matching veterans with instructors, to not having rigid curriculum or expectations for veterans in the program.

This sense of clarity and attentiveness to the students’ needs can help any teaching organization thrive. It reminded me of Episode 029 with Lee Stockner and some of the unique things he did to set his studio up to serve students with Autism, ADD, and other special needs. I’ll link to that in the show notes.

I’ve talked to several nonprofits on the podcast now, and the theme of partnerships keeps coming up. Partnering with corporate sponsors, partnering with donors, partnering with groups that share a similar mission, and partnering with other organizations that can connect the nonprofit with people to serve. This practice of partnering can really amplify the impact of even a small organization.

On a similar train of thought… if you listened to the episode with Reed Caldwell from the Songbirds Foundation, you might recall Reed’s advice that if you want to start a non-profit, first look to see if there’s an organization already doing what you want to do and considering joining them.

Bernie is such a great example of someone who put his passion and expertise to use in an existing organization and has been able to add a LOT of value in the process.

Sometimes us entrepreneurial types can be stubborn about doing our OWN thing (or, maybe that’s just me), but there’s room to exercise entrepreneurial skills within organizations, too, and it can be really fun to join a team that already has some momentum.

Finally, I’d like to express my thanks again to Bernie and all the other veterans who have selflessly served our country.

You can find links to learn more about donating or getting involved with Guitars 4 vets, as well as other resources, at musicstudiostartup.com.

That’s all for today. Thanks for listening. I’ll be back next week.

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