Messaging is a challenge for many organizations. From struggling with differentiation, to being too “us” focused, it’s flat-out difficult to nail your core message and engage stakeholders.
Yet most nonprofits have a great story lurking in the haze. After all, what’s not to love about an inspirational mission? And even the newest nonprofits have success metrics that can be used to help frame a compelling story.
Getting your message to land is sometimes as simple as switching the perspective from which you tell your story. It’s easy to consider your organization the hero of your story and fall into language about “we,” “us,” and “our.”
But what if there was a better way?
Flipping the narrative—recasting the roles in the story you tell so your reader is the hero—can be a powerful way to connect with your audience. With your organization cast as the guide, you can tap into your reader’s natural ego and help them see how they benefit when they partner with you.
This is just part of what Danny Combs, Founder and CEO of TACT, and I talked about this week on Relish THIS. His organization helps kids on the autism spectrum get training in trades they love and secure great jobs.
Our discussion focused on the TACT mission and how they effectively share this message with the world—and inspire stakeholders to get engaged—by “making it all about the reader.”
When you focus on your audience’s core motivators, Danny says, and make them the hero of your story, you’re essentially helping them see how helping you will make them feel good. When you can get comfortable sitting in that “guide” seat—with empathy and authority—you can build deep connections. You can even transform strangers into enthusiastic supporters who go on to spread your message far and wide.
We had a few tech challenges during this recording but stick with it. Danny and his team are doing great things and there’s some definite gold to be found in our conversation for any organization.
Hope you enjoy!
Build with Tact
Recognize people’s strengths, if you have a business be open to looking at how you can see someone with Autism as an asset.
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Reframing your story to your stakeholders’ perspective with Danny Combs from TACT
Well, I mean, a big part of what we’re doing is just explaining what, you know, inclusion and neurodiversity looks like too. I mean, it’s when you go out and you talk to people, you will regularly meet somebody that, you know, has a child with autism or a family member, a neighbor wanted 54 people it’s you don’t have to look too far before you recognize that, you know, individuals thought has arthritis, our entire community.
But people still look at it in the sense that it’s like this hidden group that they don’t recognize as a group that’s underserved or not recognizing the full ability of their potential.
Are you looking for ways to shorten your marketing, learning curve and help your organization survive and thrive? Welcome to relish. The purpose marketing podcast is a show for purpose-focused leaders who want to use marketing techniques to fuel their organization’s growth. If you’re a returning listener and you haven’t subscribed already, we love to have you [00:01:00] also please consider leaving a review wherever you listen to podcasts.
Now here’s your host, author, and marketing specialist. Stu Swineford.
Hey relations podcast, listeners Stu here. Thanks for listening to the show. Does your organization sometimes struggle with messaging and, you know, you have a great story and you know, it should resonate, but for whatever reason, it’s just not landing?
Sometimes that can just be a matter of. Shifting the position and twisting the narrative just a bit to make sure that it’s coming at people from a perspective of their needs and their challenges and their desires. And what happens is we get so used to telling our story a certain way. We don’t do a fantastic job of understanding who the audience is and what might be motivating them.
And my guest today is Danny Combs and he is the founder of tact, which is this really great organization in the Denver area that helps kids in the autism spectrum find work and get skilled training in those areas that they’re really interested in. We had a really great conversation. Will warn you that we did have some technical challenges at one point.
So hopefully we’re able to smooth those out, but this is a really fun episode and I hope you enjoy it. And here we go.
Hello, Danny. How are you today?
I am great.
I really appreciate you jumping on our podcast here at relish. I’m really looking forward to learning more about what you are up to at tact.
It’s it seems like it’s something that is very needed and I’m excited to chat with you about it. Yeah, it’s my pleasure. Thank you so much. I can’t wait. Yeah. So how did tack come about? It’s a great question. So it was actually kind of, my son was the inspiration and tact. We started it in 2016 and I kind of like telling the story.
So I appreciate you asking, you know my former life, I was a professional musician and got to do music for a living and got to play with a whole bunch of fun people in Nashville. And It was pretty successful in that. And you know, naturally, I’m fourth generation trades. My great-grandfather worked in aerospace.
My grandfather worked in aerospace. My dad was a general contractor. So when you’re the fourth generation, you naturally pick up a guitar right. And moved to Nashville. Sure. What I did and it worked out pretty great. And my son they ended up having a Nashville just changed my life. He’s kind of the center of my world.
And about two years old started noticing, you know, some unique things that kind of made him extra special and later came to discover that those things were called autism. And even before he could say, hello, dad, I love you. Anything like that? He was. Creating and visualizing and manufacturing, these amazing things on cardboard and doing these amazing drawings.
And it just became apparent that he was very good at kind of my family background of the trades and started looking into, you know, skills-based trades based programs as he [00:04:00] got bigger. Dove in and found that you know, autism had the highest unemployed rate group in the country at 90% unemployment rates.
And, you know, started spending all this money in all these different therapies and kept getting, you know, you’re sending it to do this, or he needs to do that better and never recognizing, Hey, can you see these amazing things that my son is doing? And. I had the chance to meet Dr. Temple Grandin and said, Hey, I’ve got this idea for a trades program.
So this is what my son’s good at for kids with autism. And maybe it would lead towards jobs and she was like, you need to stop what you’re doing and do this right now. That sounds a lot like it, so we just joke that we do it because that’s what the temple told us to do. I mean, that was the push. I think that I needed to, you know, put down the guitar and pick up a hammer and do this full time.
And so we launched in 2016 and it just. Blew up. I mean, it’s just taken off. So we ended up getting our 501 C3 really quickly. We, within six months, had secured space within a year, had secured half a million dollars to get started. And it’s just been ever since then just taking off. And now we’ve served hundreds of kids.
We’re getting kids jobs all the time and kind of bucking the trend of a 90% unemployment rate, trying to make a real, tangible difference in a lot of people’s lives. Yeah, that sounds amazing. I know that you know, Asperger’s and autism and you know, that whole spectrum discussion is certainly just so interesting because you know, people’s brains just work a little differently.
And, and yet they get left behind quite a bit of the time. And so it’s really cool to hear that you have such a great program going now when you talk. Creating jobs for four kids. Is it, is it training, leading up to their kind of adult life? Or what, how does your program work in that, in that capacity?
And we always find that you know, when you’re here at tact, you kind of see the magic, but finding the words to put it in place to help people understand is really tricky, but. We have a couple of different programs. And the idea is we start [00:06:00] kids young and exposure and experience. And obviously, we’re not putting welding torches and five-year-olds hands, or, you know, putting wrenches in their hands where they’re working under cars on engines and transmissions, but we’re creating opportunities to expose, you know, younger kids to the trades.
They do small little woodworking projects or computer projects. Yeah. Textile arts type projects and get them interested in the idea of, Hey, this is fun to make things, to fix things. And then once they get older and they get into that kind of high school transition-age or young adult age, then all of a sudden we can work more in-depth with them.
Again. Develop that skill and a variety of different trades from welding to auto mechanics and carpentry electrical work, and then get them placed within that. So they come here. They are very hands-on strengths-based project-based training where we’re kind of keeping the class sizes small. Despite the fact that we have hundreds of students, we never have more than six kids per class and an authentic three to one ratio.[00:07:00]
A lot of training programs will, you know, count administrators or the people answering the phones or the bookkeeper or whatnot. That’s not what we do. There’s genuine. You know one teacher for every three clients or students that we have in makes it pretty special. And then we can really differentiate and kind of create an individual pathway.
And we create this training program. We go through all of the different things that employers are looking for. And then we work with a whole bunch of different employers and place that client into a job and not just a job, but an actual career that leads towards.
Yeah, that’s great. It’s so you’re basically looking for the areas in which certain kids have different, different affinities or, or attractions too, and then helping them kind of explore those areas of interest in order to build a career in that.
Yeah, absolutely. We’re identifying those strengths and we’re nurturing that and kind of then guiding that individual towards a career with employers that recognize it, [00:08:00] need it. And that’s the thing within the skilled trades right now. There’s, I mean, nationally everywhere, there’s a labor shortage, right.
And especially within the skilled trades, but one of the things we pride ourselves off is when these clients get placed in these. They’re really good-paying jobs with no debt. Let me think of, you know, in Colorado, for example, for years, they were actually had the ability to have a sub-minimum wage. So it’s like, well, shoot.
How is that still such a thing as a sub-minimum wage for our community, even for those that are employed are, you know, students when they graduate and get jobs, they’re making really good money and in jobs that have advancement and opportunity to have. Genuine independence and financial stability. And that’s what we’re trying to do is like, make it something that looks different than the other models.
They’re not apprenticeships, they’re not internships. These are careers that we’re developing with kids and actually making a real future. That’s great. So in terms of your, your model is, you’re a 501c3, so a non-profit entity, but what’s your revenue model. It’s varied. And it’s really diversified as a parent of a child with autism, we want anybody from any socioeconomic background to be able to come to tack.
There is no fee for service for our career tracks program, in the sense that parents are expected to pay out of pocket. There might be for a period of time until we can secure funding. But the idea is that we work with federal grants, local grants, foundations, donors, corporations, and they all create these scholarships.
Over the last five years, we’ve created over $1.7 million in scholarships for students to come to our programming, get the education they need, and then step into employment. And in Colorado, for example, the average family spends about a hundred thousand dollars a year on autism services. Meaning household income is $53,000.
That’s just crazy to think that autism services alone could be twice the median household income, right? It’s impossible for families to create the opportunities that their child needs. And so attacks. We want to be that place that if you want your child, or if you’re that individual that wants an opportunity.
We’re going to make it possible for you. Well, and plus you’re creating these career opportunities where in the past, if there’s a 90% unemployment rate than those parents are continuing to have to take care of, of those children. Possibly throughout their lives. Correct? My gosh. Yes. I mean, that’s the thing, you know, when I started this as a dad and you start looking at that and you’re like, is this what I want for my son?
Is this, you know, the reaching the fullest potential of all he has to offer and recognizing that heck no, it does not. You know, there’s an opportunity out there for everybody and. One of the things we like to do is serve the entire spectrum. So here at attacked, we have students that use alternative forms of communication.
We have students that would, you know, I don’t like the word terms, high functioning, but you know, that you would super traditionally use, you know, the Asperger’s type language that we don’t. We’ve got the full spectrum of people here and we try to find an opportunity for [00:11:00] everybody. And it’s. Yeah, that sounds great.
I know that there are lots of great programs out there, but I think this is the first one that I’ve heard of. That’s actually looking at leveraging those. Kind of those, those skills or those areas of interest. Right. And really helping to, to nurture that, that component, of the child’s identity.
It’s, it’s really great to great to hear how you’re doing that. That’s that’s fantastic. We try to take. Called an education. The Andrew grows real approach as opposed to a pedagogical approach, but we’re putting the student first and we’re developing the strengths. And obviously, we have a curriculum and we have a pathway, but they’re at the focus of it as opposed to the teacher being the focus of it.
Right. So, you know, when you come to some of our classes, sometimes it looks like controlled chaos. Is that you know, the student has control. The teacher still is guiding and facilitating and actually educating and training, but it’s not in the sense of a traditional model where it’s sit down and listen to me, do what I say, follow directions.
I mean, all of those kinds of things, which puts it completely on the teacher to be this dictator of the classroom. We’re giving control to the client saying, Hey, for the first time, like you have control. Over what you want in your life. And then the opportunities that we’re providing, we like to think of as like genuine opportunity where, you know, in the past organizations that do wonderful things, had limited opportunities for our students and our community in the sense it’s like, okay, Hey, do you want to bag groceries?
Do you want to, you know, fold envelopes or, you know, wrap silverware. It’s like those aren’t bad things. If that’s what that individual wants and if that’s what they want. Heck yeah. Let’s find a way to get them there. But if that’s all that’s available, that’s not a genuine choice. That’s these are the three things that we quote-unquote, think you can do.
And, you know, we have clients that put airbags and Audis. We have, if you drive through Denver, one of our big interstates is highway 70. It’s a huge project. Our students are doing the lights. We have amazon.com buildings that our clients are building and lift kits in Jeeps and furnaces and cybersecurity and accounting.
And like all of these really. Great careers that kind of seemed to kind of buck and break the norm of what our community stereotypically does.
Yeah, for sure. That’s, that’s great. I love the diversity as well that you’ve been able to, to weave into the program. Did it start in a specific area and then you were able to branch out or has the program grown you know, from just any specific need that, that arises You know, as a new client comes in the door.
That’s a great question. So it’s definitely changed for sure. You know, honestly, when it started it, it was out of a 58 Chevy panel truck that we put on a police car frame with a Chevy, three 50 on, you know, 20-inch wheels and made it fun. We wanted to do it with style and if you come to tact, which you’re welcome to come out anytime you’d like.
We have a kind of certain artistic style here. We want our clients to feel like, Hey, this is cool and hip. And you know, when people come in a lot of times they think it looks more like Google than a traditional classroom. It’s kind of nice. And it started with just the things that I knew to do that I was raised to do, you know, as a fourth-generation tradesman, I was always working.
It was a free waiver for me. Sure after school or summer, it wasn’t like, Hey, you’re going to get to go home. And there was no such thing as I pads or, you know, cell phones now she went through college. So it was like, you were always outside working. And so they taught me all of these things that became the foundation of tact.
And then as we’ve grown, we now have, you know, 13 people that are full-time staff. Teaching these classes and as more and more trade organizations come to us and say, Hey, we see what you’re doing. We have it in need. And this industry, we know it’s not what you’re currently doing, but is there a way to make it work?
We try to find that. So, you know, now we have furnace companies that are hiring our kids. We’ve never had that before doing this whole HVAC thing, the [00:15:00] whole electrical component. When we first started, it was started with carpentry and auto mechanics, and welding. And then, you know, electrician work was something that we thought would be fun, but it, you know, and I knew how to do it to a degree, but that’s the more complicated in-depth and some of the things.
We found a way to do it. And now our clients that work in the electrical industry, get an apprentice license, they get union voting rights, they get their construction worker license. They’re getting retirement, they’re getting healthcare, all of these things that are pretty amazing. Yeah. And I imagine that there’s a socializing sort of component to this.
As well, it’s not just the skill, but how to navigate a workplace is absolute. And you know, that’s one thing too, that we’ve tried to do from the get-go is making it as holistic as possible. When you look at a lot of autism groups and there’s a ton that does amazing work, a lot of times it’s very singularly focused and segregated, and then they approach the sense that, Hey, we’re going to focus on these skills.
One at a time we’re going to focus on interview skills. We’re gonna focus on math skills. We’re going to focus on, you know, how do you do one thing at a time? And that’s fine. But in the, you know, we found an authentic real-world application. If you’re working in a job you’re having to solve problems.
Multiple things simultaneously. And then the trades, it kind of just naturally presents itself as an organic holistic approach in the sense that, Hey, if you’re working out in the shop and you’re building walls, There’s going to be a communication component. There’s a chemistry component. There’s a math component.
There’s a science component. There are all of these different things that you need to be able to do simultaneously. And when we first started a lot of groups that were established, looked at us, like we were crazy like, Hey, our community can’t do that. And it’s, again, that data approach. You don’t get to tell me what my son can’t do.
I’m tired of hearing what my son can’t do, watching what our kids can do. [00:17:00] And and our kids rise to the occasion. And I think it’s, you know, we’re a Testament when you come to here and you see just how good the kids that are at it, and you see the look in their eye and there’s no way for us to like, Capture just that look and enthusiasm that they have when they’re given those tools for the first time and they, you know, succeed and they create this amazing thing.
You can see, you know, tragically, even for some of them that are in their early twenties. That’s the first time they’ve experienced that. And when you see it, it’s. Makes you realize what you’re doing is worth it.
That’s true. Yeah. I bet. I bet. That’s just really heartwarming to see someone be able to succeed at something that’ll have.
It’s just, that’s just gotta be amazing.
I’m guessing you get to do that every single day. That’s fantastic. Right?
I mean, there’s definitely, you know, hurdles and roadblocks and, you know, as a dad, if we can promote the strengths and all the great things about. Hard work, what we’re doing. I mean, we’re, you know, if people live in our own community, we get pushed back, you know, there are employers and we set tacked up.
We were turned down for insurance 13 times. So, I mean, there’s still all of these things that we’re trying to overcome. We’re recognizing that, Hey, the things that our students are achieving, it’s worth all of it. And if you would’ve seen me five years ago, my hair was brown. And now when you look right, it’s still there.
Thank God, but it is color colors, for sure.
That’s awesome. It’s like a, you have a lot of, a lot of kids. Your. Causing your hair to turn gray. My mom used to say that I was the cause of her gray hair. And so I can imagine with the silver Fox look, you know, that’s what we, when we get older, that’s what I go with.
I’m just going to go with that. Nice. That’s us. So I heard you. Say that you guys rely on foundations and grants and some donations. What are your, what are your growth goals? Where are you trying to go here in the next year [00:19:00] to five years? That’s my favorite question in the whole world. And if COVID hadn’t happened, I think we would have met our five-year goals.
So when you first set it up, we, you know, sadly recognized that we’re the only program like this in the country. And we get people that reach out to us and I’m not exaggerating the slightest to say all the time. I mean, like if not daily, every other day. And cause there’s no one else doing this. So our goal is to absolutely take this program everywhere that we can.
And in January, This past year, we affiliated with Easter seals of Colorado. And the idea is that since we were affiliated with this amazing organization, that has just such a huge foundation impact in our community as the largest healthcare nonprofit in the country with our a hundred years of experience and wisdom that they have already laid the tracks and every state across the country that now we have this program.
That’s so integrally. Integrated into Easter seals that we can use that foundation and take our program everywhere. And that’s the goal that is self, basically franchising kind of on a nonprofit type thing, right. Can do brand everywhere. And you know, one of the hurdles and one of the core kind of values of TAC in the census that we want it to be.
Attainable for anybody by using the services and the funding streams that are out there. And I feel like it’s much easier. And I say this, I don’t know this, but I would imagine it would be much easier to take a model that’s a fee for service to different places, but our model of making it attainable for anybody through foundations and grants and federally funded programs, like the division of vocational rehabilitation.
That have different rules and regulations in every state make taken a model like this everywhere. Difficult in the sense that. How do you make it attainable for families when every state has different goalposts of how to reach that funding stream.
So, right, right. So what are you doing to attack that, that challenge?
That’s the Easter Seals part. That’s right. They’ve already figured that out, which is amazing. Oh, okay. I handle all of the billing and the backend part for us. And then as we’re getting the clients placed into jobs to handle all of that work adjustment training, funding piece and that presets and planted pieces in that regards, that.
That means just not paperwork. We also are Medicaid-approved Pasa, which is a program to prove service agency. So that allows us to take Medicaid funding as well, which is another big avenue anything and everything we can do to take it off of the parents’ plate. And just say parents, we’re with you. We are parents.
I mean, that’s, you know, 75% of our board has a child with autism or is autistic themselves 20% of our staff as. We’re trying to like genuinely walk the walk. We don’t want to be a group of people that, you know, works in an industry, but as an actual living what we’re preaching.
Right. No, that’s, that’s fantastic.
I mean, it sounds to me like the awareness piece probably comes into play pretty organically through your Easter seals connection as well. That’s correct. Yeah. So that’s great. So you’re, you have a lot of, a lot of the hurdles come covered. It’s just a matter of, of getting the programs rolled out.
Are you attacking or are you targeting? Specific areas to start. Is there what’s your next community rollout? That’s a good question. So we want to go throughout the rest of the state first and really just nail that down throughout Colorado. We’ve identified a few different markets in regards to spots and Texas, Pennsylvania, Florida, for example, California.
For organizations that have really been proactive and want to work with us, and that have a really good established Easter Seals affiliate out in those parts as well that we can work with. So that’s been part of it. One of the biggest hurdles is now becoming space as weird as that is to say, like here in Denver, for example, obviously teaching trades here in an industrial part of town in Colorado, when you’re in a warehouse in an industrial part of town, It’s usually not traits that are happening in those warehouses anymore, which is some of the things that are legalized out here.
So, they’ve driven up the market of property values exponentially. So finding spots to do it, that’s been really difficult to find actual spaces that can do it. You need a lot of space. I mean, when you have all these different things that we’ve talked about, the different traits, it’s a very unique space.
That can host that and actually do it safely. And I mean, safety is a big part of what we’re teaching our students. So yeah, that’s kind of one of the hurdles. So I’m imagining that that’s going to be part of a future for Danny. We’ll be traveling around inadequate spaces for our programming. And so we’ll see.
Yeah, I remember even five years ago or, or more now you know, people talking about how warehouse space, you know, the cost per square. Has just gone through the bank and here, here in the, in the Denver and Colorado area. So I can understand that challenge we had.
So you’re from Colorado as well, then.
Oh, fantastic. Okay. I apologize. My ignorance that I didn’t realize that.
So we were in the Rino Arts district and we had this beautiful old, just horribly dilapidated, just falling apart, warehouses. I just love dearly. And anyway, it had no heat. We shared a bathroom with a garage. I mean, it was It was just terrible, but it was also so wonderful by the same token.
And it was just kind of our home. It was our start. And it ended up selling to me the cover of the Denver business journal for $38 million. And it’s just like, how does something with no heat over $38 million? It’s just crazy. I don’t know how nonprofits like us are supposed to attain that, those kinds of things without support.
So. Yeah, it’s a really interesting time. You know, my guess is that right now, it might be a little, little easier in some parts of, of the, of the city You know, just as, as a lot of the coworking spaces and things like that have, have kind of had to pull back, I think, but it’s, it’s still an interesting real estate market, for sure.
Yeah. Yeah. That’s the truth. That is the truth. That’s going to be something that we’re attempting and that’s a hurdle that we’re trying to overcome. We need, we’re hoping for, you know, a new space. That’s about triple the size we are right now because there are so many students too. I mean, that’s the thing with one in 54 people with autism being diagnosed.
It’s a whole group of people out there that need something like our program. And right now we just don’t have the capacity with our size. So You know, the space itself is limited. How many people we can reach. So as we grow and, you know, with these are still support and, you know, people that are listening to this and decide they want to support us.
That’s one thing we need is just bigger space, for sure.
Yeah. So are you trying to drive donations so that you can afford larger space? Or are you looking to try to get, you know, maybe some foundation or partnership agreements that allow you to? To even purchase the space here in all of the above. All of the above.
Yes, absolutely. I mean the nice thing, you know, if somebody chooses to donate to us and support us, they absolutely have to say the right to say, Hey, I would like these funds to go to X, Y, and Z. So like, I want to support. Finding a new space. Please use this money towards that. You know, grants, a lot of times are restricted funds in the sense that it goes specifically towards programs.
You know, we have a very transparent budget. Anybody can find our nine 90, see how honest we are with our funds. We always want to make sure that we’re being authentic with that. If somebody donates money, we want. The grantor gives us money. We’re trying to use it for what it’s intended to use. We absolutely are doing that.
So it doesn’t leave us much wiggle room to save up crazy amounts of money to buy fancy buildings in this market. So we need support like that for sure. Yeah. And it’s interesting with grants there’s, you know, restricted and unrestricted and, and so you can, you sometimes have to, I mean, you always have to use the restricted grant funding the way it was intended.
At least understanding we’re fortunate in the sense that because we’re, we do genuinely do what we tell people that we’re going to do. We have a lot of foundations that support us year over year, which has been wonderful. And we’re really grateful for that support. Yeah, that’s great. I think I heard you say trade groups earlier.
Are, are there potential opportunities there, to engage with trade groups and have them come on as potential sponsors or, or, you know, large films? I mean, that’s the goal. There are contractors that work with us. I’m going to say, contractor. I mean like companies that do contract work like electrical companies or construction, they also, a lot of times have foundations that then donate to us as well, which has been just fantastic.
But as we’re looking at that we need that support, like for example, skills, USA, which is a big trade group. They do all the standards for nationally for high school and transitional-aged kids. So like that, you know, 14 to 21 age group, when we first became a member of that organization, we became the only ADA compliance chapter of it.
And it’s just wild to think kind of like I was saying, we’re the only group doing this it’s 20, 21. How were we? The ones that are truly inclusive. That’s wild to think. So. Yeah. That is kind of an amazing fact there.
Gosh, you would think that the more people would be, would be compliant at this point.
Yeah. I mean, a big part of what we’re doing attacked is just explaining what, you know, inclusion and neurodiversity looks like too. I mean, it’s when you go out [00:29:00] and you talk to people, you will regularly meet somebody that, you know, has a child with autism or family member, a neighbor wanted 54 people it’s you don’t have to look too far before you recognize that, you know, individuals autism or throughout our entire community.
But people still look at it in the sense that it’s like this hidden group that they don’t recognize as a group that’s underserved or I’m not happy recognizing the full ability of their potential. Yeah. I think there’s still an awful lot. Just misunderstanding or just, just ignorance around what autism and being on the spectrum means and is people and it’s, it’s refreshing.
And I think this is how we may have met was I, I believe I saw one of your posts on LinkedIn talking about it, and it was just refreshing to know that the more and more people are able to talk about it and be willing to talk about it as well as. As just having the language [00:30:00] around it and, and creating that understanding.
So my suspicion is, is that you are really well connected in, in kind of the autism arena. So, getting the word out that, that you exist in, is sounding like it’s fairly organic and natural for you. Is that accurate? Okay. So you don’t have any lack of, of students applying or interested in your you know, we have definite things we need to achieve.
There are students all the time that are regional. In fact, we have a waiting list, of students. So you know, the space is the biggest limiting factor at this space. I mean, spacing and funding. And since that we need a bigger space, so we can host more. For sure. Gotcha. How many kids have gone through the program to work on?
Oh, that’s amazing. That’s great. And are most of them or I guess you said all of them are scholarships, is that that’s pretty accurate?
The only differences that I should clarify and appreciate bringing that up are our introductory classes, which we have like workshops on the weekends and they’re kinda like drop-ins where people can come in and be exposed.
They’re $25 a class. So it’s not, we try to make it where it’s not out of reach. And then we use those as kind of a feeder program in the sense that we want kids to come to get experienced, exposed, and then they go back to their school wherever they’re at and say, Hey, I’m really having fun, attacked doing trades.
This is what I want to do. I want to be an auto mechanic. I want to be a welder. Then the school, the idea is saying, okay, well, let’s create a pathway for you to do that. And it gets written to like their education plan and the school does not have the means to do that. And suddenly there’s, there is no means to do that.
Most schools as they’ve cut all kinds of trades programs out of schools, right. Then they have to say, okay, well let’s send you to tact and they do. And so when you were in our parking lot, we have school buses from over eight different districts around the Denver area where people are being dropped off and it’s been fantastic to see some kids just dropped off from everywhere.
And then they get high school credit for it, where they actually are getting elective credit for our program. And it’s directly related to them getting a job. And the cool thing is, you know, there’s no debt for them. So when they placed them to this job, they’re making, you know, say $20 an hour. It gets our average is actually a little bit over that when our clients.
With no debt. And you’re a 20-year-old kid, heck you’re way ahead of the game. So many people that, you know, go to college and get a quarter-million dollars in debt and for our community, if you know, you’re an individual with autism and you go to college, that it only increases your unemployment stats about five to 6%.
So it’s oh geez. Now 84% unemployed versus 90%. I mean, that’s is that. Quarter million plus dollars. I would personally say no. I think, you know, what we’re offering is a genuine opportunity. If that’s something that somebody with. Yeah, it’s great. And are those kids coming just for some period of time during the day, they, they take a regular high school program during the majority of the day, and then they come to you for, for acute a couple hours of absolutely.
Yep. So they’re getting the kind of those core things, math, science, history, things at their comprehensive high school for those that have already graduated high school. And as you know, are older than 21 into the, you know, their thirties, they’re just coming here and they’re getting that skills training.
But again, by being so holistic, there’s so much more than that. So I would never say it’s just carpentry, just welding. I mean, they’re getting social skills, they’re getting job development skills, they’re creating resumes and portfolios and getting interviews and all of those things that, you know, when I was at least in high school that we took out, right.
I mean, there was like a class where you learned how to write a check and how to interview and all of those different things. It comes naturally and all that.
That’s great. And then, and then they also get access to these trade organizations potentially who might have job placement opportunities for them just straight up a hundred percent correct?
Absolutely. And that’s what we’re doing is then we take that and we’ve since we’ve developed these relationships with these employers, they recognize that. Candidates coming out of tact are qualified. So it’s not the circumstance. We’re very fortunate. That sense where an employer hires one is like, okay, thank you.
It’s usually like hired one. They were fantastic. How many more do you get? They can come work. That’s awesome. Yeah, that’s fantastic. Yeah. So I’m thinking that there might be opportunities in terms of, I mean, you, you don’t have a challenge with getting students engaged. Sounds like that’s, that’s taken care of pretty, pretty handily at this point.
But in terms of driving donations, it feels like there’s probably. Opportunity for awareness there that you might be able to tap into where you just start telling this story [00:35:00] about. Know, it’s just some of these stats, like the ones that you’ve shared with me in terms of 90% unemployment rate for, for people in the, in the autism spectrum et cetera.
And, and then building case studies around your success metrics and getting those stories out there to really start to try and drive donations from people who are interested in, in trying to help out in this, in this space. You know, that in this education angle, In my mind are, are two places where there’s probably an opportunity for you to, to build more awareness.
You don’t have to necessarily. You create the content from scratch in terms of, of, you know, going out and doing a ton of research and, and building out a, you know, a research paper, but, but sharing that information when it comes to light and, and enabling people to really get a good understanding for.
The severity of this problem and how you are helping these kids kind of navigate this space. [00:36:00] Yeah. I appreciate you saying that you know, we just said a presentation this week with another organization and they had, a way that they approached it, which I thought was really clever in the sense that they demonstrated the economic impact that their program was having.
Yep. We’ve never approached in that regard. They’ve put in scale, the average, you know, a family that was raising a child with a neuro-typical child, it’s roughly quarter-million dollars to raise that child for that same family or a family with a child that’s neuro-diverse, it costs roughly about $2.2 million to raise that child.
So if they can’t afford that, then it goes to taxpayer dollars that end up paying it. So there, you know, people in the community City in general or the nation, in general, realize that or not they’re paying for it. Cause the families can’t support it. So our taxpayer dollars are going to that. So if you look at the fact that we’re getting people jobs, 90% of them, you know, unfortunately, are ending up in day programs in their parents’ basement [00:37:00] and taxpayer dollars are doing that.
So millions of dollars are going into that. You could look at the fact that. 10 kids that we get employed. And my gosh, $2.2 million times, 10 kids, all of a sudden it’s 20 million, any big economic impact on the community. It’s an avenue we’ve never approached before, but we’re really wondering like, Hey, will that start getting people to be like, oh my gosh, like, this is a big deal.
Like they’re actually having a substantial impact. So I was talking about something about. About story-building and how to leverage other materials, perhaps. So you don’t have to do all the research yourself that is just all about kind of the economic impacts and things like that about autism.
Right. Right. Okay, cool. So let’s kind of keep that conversation going. And then I’ll, we’ll just kinda wrap things up, I guess. Is that sound good?
Yeah. So we were discussing the one presentation that I’ve just started recently, where I heard the one group discuss kind of the economic impact that they were having and that, you know, looking at our organization.
Really tried to focus on the fact that despite, you know, family with neuro there’s neuro-diverse child spends up $2.2 million, what that impact looks like. Like every time we get them a job with that, if you use 10 kids, for example, getting them jobs, it’s $20 million. That’s a pretty substantial economic impact that we hadn’t really considered before.
Yeah. And as you try to reach out to people and get. Aligned with their motivations and their challenges and the things that you are providing that help them out, even if they don’t have you know, a child with autism or they’re not, you know, affected in the way that many people are really enabling them to get a good understanding of how.
Particular challenge affects all of us and how just getting, getting these kids into good-paying jobs can have such a huge economic impact on the community. It] does. And I think, you know, we want a community that’s fully inclusive and then recognizes that the autism community has value and has a unique perspective that, you know, enhances everybody’s life.
I mean, the things that they bring to the table, you know, are just. I mean, gosh, how do you even bring it up? I mean, you look at people that have contributed to history in the past. You look at the fact that the wealthiest man in the world right now is on the spectrum himself. Like what would the world look like without these individuals?
Or if they’re just put into a basement or a day treatment center kind of, these are the ones that have managed to figure out how to bring their unique talents to the exactly. They broke through and do that. Yeah. Exactly exactly what we need. We need more opportunities. We need more people that recognize it are willing to look at the strengths.
And I think it takes our culture and our society as a whole to start recognizing the ability that people have highlighted that ability and stop looking for [00:40:00] reasons to start to say, now let’s start looking for reasons to say yes. I mean, we have, you know, people that can do amazing things. That is being overlooked because of a single word before even given the opportunity and that stereotype and that kind of stigma that is placed on the individual based on labels that, you know, people that aren’t dealing with it themselves a place, no one gains from that.
No, not at all, not at all. It’s amazing. The work that you guys are doing and facilitating and enabling you to know, these kids and young adults and adults as well, it sounds like you’re helping people of almost all ages you know, really figure out and, and gain access to the type of, of I’ll call it to work, but it’s, it’s like that old quote.
You, you know, you won’t work a day in your life. If you did something that you love enabling them to, to gain access to this, these things that they love, that they can bring not only to the community but to their, their families and then to their own pocketbooks as well. So it’s just. Triple a triple whammy there that you guys are providing.
It’s great. Well, thank you. I thank you. I appreciate that. Yeah, it feels like on some days we’re weighing and based. We’re not so on the good days, that’s what it feels like, something that’s awesome.
Well, how can people find out more about tact?
How can, how can people get, get involved or, or donate, or, or just learn more, learn more about their PR?
Yeah, I appreciate your asking. So our website is built with tact.org. I would encourage anybody to visit our website. We’re also on social media, Facebook, LinkedIn, those kinds of things. So I think there’s even an Instagram picture. Our account is out there somewhere. So all those different people can, you know, I’ve encouraged people to go and look, you know, one of the things we’d like to do is showcase the actual work of all of our clients.
There are pictures, where you can see, Hey, this is quality genuinely well-crafted. Good stuff that they’re doing. These are the kinds of things that you know, our community hold needs, more people that have these skills. So even if you’re just supporting that whole trades version of it, and then we want people to recognize that our kids are pretty amazing and we want them to start seeing that for who they are.
That’s great. So one question I neglected to ask earlier in terms of the economic impact is what is a, what’s a scholarship. Valued. Well, what would it cost for someone to sponsor a, a scholarship for a kid?
Great question. So the way that we’ve looked at it is we took the average private school tuition at Denver broken down per credit as well as what federal funding pays.
And it actually works out it’s about the same. So the first semester of classes, it works out roughly to about $5,700 scholarship. The first semester of tax programming works out to that. The fact, if you think about that, cause that’s a big number. The fact that none of our kids are paying that. Is it a Testament to how much we hustle and try to work with different grants and foundations?
So that, that be feasible and possible. Because again, if you’re spending already spending a hundred thousand dollars per year on your child for random services that are great and valuable and not to put them down like another $5,000, I mean, that’s, you know, in Denver it’s a month’s rent. Right? Sadly, it shouldn’t be what it seems like it’s getting headed that way.
Right. So Yeah, we’re trying to make it tangible. That’s great. It’s amazing. You know, if you look at that in, in terms of the, of that economic impact that we can talk about you know, we’re $5,700 for a semester, you know, and obviously, you have kids for multiple semesters and you’re right. But you know, when you look at that, That $2 million impacts that’s, that’s the drop in the bucket.
Thank you. And, you know, again, that’s a way that we haven’t looked at it, but to your point, like if you’re spending, you know, just over $11,000 for two semesters, and all of a sudden you saved taxpayers and families, $2 million, that’s one heck of a return on investment that other organizations. So. Well, I’ve really enjoyed our conversation today and learning more about tax and what you’re up to and how you’re helping the autism [00:44:00] community really be able to, to navigate the world more effectively and, and, and, you know, be able to fulfill what they, what they’re out there.
Capable, of being, is, is just fantastic. And I love having these conversations. One of the things I like to ask at the end of every show is how can people take action? So if there was one thing that you would want people to, to do, whether that’s, you know, go for a hike or ride a bike or, you know, whatever it is what would you have people do today to take some sort of action to make the world a better place?
Gosh, that is one of the best questions I’ve ever gotten into. I love that question. I would almost say it’s different depending upon who I’m asking, you know, if you’re talking to an employer, I would say, Hey, actually open up you’re, you know, interviewing process or your recruiting process to actually consider an individual with autism.
If you’re. The parent, I would say, Hey, look at programs out there, like a tax that are recognizing strengths, and don’t be afraid of these things that are getting your kids dirty. I mean, our kids work with, they get dirty. They’re working on cars, they’re working with welding. I mean, like they, you know, fail, then they succeed.
I think that we need to provide more opportunities. To flourish and actually feel what it’s like to win when they’re genuinely working for something. So it’s not that it’s a handout, it’s that it’s an opportunity for them to experience genuine success. And I would hope that more parents and more community members would get behind us and support that.
I love it. That’s a that’s just a fantastic action item. Again, Danny, thank you for bearing with some technical challenges that may show up here on the show. Thank you for being thank you for being part of the show today.
It’s my pleasure. Thank you so much. I appreciate it. My pleasure.
And there you have it.
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