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Interview with our long-time partner and HALO Award program facilitator, Blue Garnet! (Part 1 of 3)

During the month of June, we will be sharing a brief three-part interview with Blue Garnet. Blue Garnet, a social impact consulting firm, has been a partner to The Carl & Roberta Deutsch Foundation in program development, implementation, and evaluation of the HALO Award since 2011. They facilitate HALO Award grantee capacity building through cohort learning and individualized coaching. After working directly with the HALO Award grantees for 12 years, Blue Garnet has a wealth of insights and knowledge about the program and participant experience. By sharing Blue Garnet’s reflections, we hope to give you a different vantage point of how the HALO Award supports building the leadership of nonprofit professionals participating in the program and the capacity of organizations.

The interview was conducted with Blue Garnet team members Way-Ting Chen, Co-Founder and Senior Partner, and Yee-Sum Mak, Analyst. You can learn more about Blue Garnet’s expansive social impact work by visiting their website at

Way-Ting, Co-Founder and Senior Partner Yee-Sum Mak, Analyst


Interview Part 1: User Experience

Hi Way-Ting and Yee-Sum. Thank you for taking time to share your thoughts and your observations about the HALO Award program. You have been uniquely positioned for 12 years working with 68 HALO Award recipient organizations. Today we would like to hear your take on their experience in the program.

There is quite a bit of information about the HALO program and its different types of activities. In your experience, what makes the program so effective?

Yee-Sum: There’s a lot that goes into the year, from peer-to-peer problem solving to org-specific coaching by Blue Garnet, to frameworks and tools that push thinking and planning, etc.

Way-Ting: In my view, it’s the strategic nature of the year that makes it so effective. HALO carves out space to intentionally step back and focus on the big picture, to look beyond the day-to-day and plan for the future in a structured way. With this, the activities are designed to support organizations to approach the volunteer program more strategically.

Yee-Sum: In the end, it’s not necessarily about which volunteer management system or volunteer outreach platform to use (though clarity on those can definitely come during the year), it’s about thinking through the structures and systems that both support and inhibit progress towards goals and then identifying the appropriate tools needed.

What’s a component of the HALO year that tends to come as a surprise to participants?

Yee-Sum: 1) Others are in the same boat as you, and 2) it’s really as simple and yet as deep as you make it.

Way-Ting: Most nonprofits work with volunteers, yet tend to dedicate limited resources to this organizational asset. So, we hear over and over that the participants are happy to know that others share similar experiences working with volunteers and they’re not alone either in their successes or challenges. HALO provides a vibrant community that volunteer program staff tap into.

Way-Ting: Relatedly, this is an investment, and participants really need to be ‘ready’ to take this on. There’s much thought put behind the HALO curriculum, but as the saying goes: you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. So, having a learning mindset, a willingness to do the work, generosity toward others, and an ability to create time and space for this work yields a better, more productive experience.

Way-Ting: And, that BG gets them!



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