By Alyssa Klaus
Helping nonprofit organizations succeed has been a 30-plus-year mission for Julé Colvin. Her company, Pathways to Growth, sees nonprofits flourish under its leadership training, as well as its grant-readiness assessment, grant writing program, and other services geared toward making organizations both financially and structurally sound.
Julé’s love for nonprofits and the people they serve started early in life.
“I like to say it started when I was 10,” she says. “I can remember always having a heart for it, even though I didn’t grow up in a Christian home. I had good parents, but we weren’t churchgoing folks then.”
Despite this, she felt the desire to help the less fortunate.
Her first job out of college was working for a nonprofit. From there, she never looked back. She has worked every position at these organizations, “from chief cook and bottle washer, to running a program for high school dropouts, helping to build affordable housing in the inner city, working with senior citizens, and the list goes on and on.” She has also served as a board member, executive director, and developmental director to various nonprofits. However, she really found her niche in grant writing.
Grants are extremely competitive, and grant writers must present a compelling proposal if they hope to be awarded essential funds for a nonprofit.
“I wrote my first grant right in my first job,” Julé says. “It was a federal grant and it won, and so I was really hooked on grant writing.”
After coming to Christ in her 20s, her work was transformed into Kingdom work, which has been evident in every position she has held, including her own business. While her company works with secular nonprofits too—though not with any that don’t go along with Pathways to Growth’s values, she notes—it’s “seeing the work that Kingdom nonprofits do that really lights me up,” Julé says. “I’m just passionate about that.”
Pathways to Growth was started in 2004 after the Colvin family moved to Florida. Julé was working for a large ministry as their director of development and was having so much success in grant writing that other ministries started coming to her for help.
“I really just started thinking, ‘You know what? I would like to go out on my own and just do grant writing.’ Certainly God was speaking to me about that,” she says.
From there, Pathways to Growth grew to where she had to keep adding and training more staff.
“The heart of my work is to help faith-based organizations really go to another level in the business side of what they do,” Julé says. “We do a lot of things to help them get to where they’re grant ready and then we write the grants. All of that work makes them operate more effectively, have a greater impact, and also attract donor dollars.”
As the organizations that it has worked with have begun to grow and develop, Pathways to Growth expanded its focus. Not only does it do grant writing, but it does grant writing training for those within the organizations being served. As a John Maxwell-certified trainer, Julé also provides leadership training for the directors and the board members.
“So often I see that a person with a strong personality and who is a charismatic leader will start something and get a bunch of people around them, and they start doing the work, and the work is blessed and it grows, but then they get to a certain point, and because they didn’t pay attention to the business side of it, it can no longer carry what they’re doing. So they find themselves stuck, hitting a brick wall, starting to crumble because they didn’t work on those foundational business principles,” Julé says.
She encourages directors to develop a good board that will guide, protect, and serve the organization.
“My advice to the leaders of these organizations—to the founder, the executive director, and even the board members—is that the founder and executive director cannot do this work on his own. John Maxwell says that nothing of any significance gets done by one person. You have to work on it with others.”
This guidance has come to fruition many times over. One larger organization she works with ran a preschool and helped legal permanent residents of the U.S. gain their citizenship. It started with a $900,000 budget, but, with assistance from Pathways to Growth, its budget is now more than $4 million, and it has been able to open three more preschools.
Another is a nonprofit that ran a pro-life crisis pregnancy center. The center had become run-down, and it looked as if it would have to close its doors. When a new executive director was hired, Julé came in and helped her rebuild. Now, five years later, the center has a state-of-the-art facility and continues to add on to its existing site.
What perhaps is the most rewarding to Julé is watching these organizations succeed from behind the scenes.
“Every week that pregnancy center is posting pictures of babies that are being born. We can look at that and say, ‘Wow, we were a part of that baby being born,’” she says.
Nonprofits aren’t the only ones changing. Julé notes that she has seen growth in her walk with Christ throughout the process of developing and running a business.
“Right now, as the company has grown, I surround myself with Christian business mentors and owners. As a result of engaging with them, this business has grown far beyond what I ever imagined,” she says. “I find that I’m often out of my comfort zone. I really have to rely on God every day to show me what the next step is.”
She also sees it reflected in the way she leads her team of writers.
“My interaction with them, my heart for them and my appreciation for what they’re doing to help, helps me to be in touch with how God looks at them and to honor them for their work and the sacrifices that they make.”
Together, she and her team strive to be witnesses to the secular nonprofits that they work with.
“Right now, I’m actually working on a new policy that I want to get out to my team of writers that’s really about how we interact with our clients, and it’s all based on Scripture,” she says. “This is how we want to interact with our secular clients. It’s certainly an important part of what we do, also.”
Nonprofits, both secular and faith-based, have a great impact on society, and there is a call for the church to support them. Many Christian organizations are “parachurch ministries.” These are ministries that come from within a church and do the day-to-day, in-the-trenches type work that many other churches may be unable to do. Julé explains that “helping feed the hungry, helping high school dropouts, helping with sex-trafficking issues, all of these are things that parachurch ministries are doing, but they can’t do it without the financial support of the Church.”
What’s more, Julé believes that nonprofits, especially faith-based organizations, can be the answer to overreaching state and federal government.
“As faith-based ministries are having a greater impact, operating on a greater level of business capacity, attracting more donor dollars, and able to grow and serve more people, then that’s less government programs that we need,” she says.
At the end of the day, Pathways to Growth desires to see faith-based organizations excel and be among the top nonprofit organizations.
“They have current transformational abilities and eternal transformational abilities,” Julé says. “That’s my big umbrella thinking. That’s what gets me excited about this work.”