Our nonprofit is not even a year old so I actually feel inadequate to answer this question. We are definitely doing things and learning everyday, so please come back to me in five years to answer this question!

For someone who wants to set aside money to establish a Philanthropic Foundation or Fund, what does it take to make sure your resources are being impactful and truly effective? In this interview series, called “How To Create Philanthropy That Leaves a Lasting Legacy” we are visiting with founders and leaders of Philanthropic Foundations, Charitable Organizations, and Non-Profit Organizations, to talk about the steps they took to create sustainable success.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nickie Davis.

Nickie Davis is a successful entrepreneur, producer, philanthropist, and activist who is most proud to be a mom. She is also the President and founder of MOMS LOVE FOREVER, a non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening the bonds between children and their moms that are incarcerated. Nickie started this organization after realizing the lack of programs to assist her daughter in case of separation due to her own incarceration. MOMS LOVE FOREVER aims to help more children visit their moms in person, and has partnered with the CENTER FOR RESTORATIVE JUSTICE to support similar programs. Nickie’s interviews focus on shedding light and empathy on the plight of children with incarcerated moms and inspiring women to support the bonds between moms and their children, even in difficult circumstances.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about a ‘top of mind’ topic. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today?

Having my daughter and becoming a mother. I didn’t decide to have a child until I was past 35, which means you are classified as Advanced Maternal Age. Once I decided to have a child, I got pregnant relatively quick and almost took it for granted that everything would go smoothly. I didn’t stop working or exercising and even thought, “this is easy.” When I went in for my 12-week appointment and ultrasound — there was a lot of commotion with the nurses and dr and I knew something was wrong but no one was saying anything to me. Finally, the dr came in and told me that the baby had no heartbeat, and I would have to have a late term abortion to remove the fetus from my body. I was heartbroken. Literally, a pain I had never known and sadness. To top it all off, the dr also explained to me that there were very few credible doctors (even in the liberal city of Los Angeles) that would perform a late term abortion because those who dared to would often be subjected to picketers outside their offices calling them murderers. I finally was able to find a dr willing to do the procedure and then it took 9 months before I was able to get my period back and have my body back to where the drs felt I could try to get pregnant again. I prayed every day that I would be graced with another pregnancy. When I finally got pregnant with my daughter, I was just so grateful. I didn’t workout, I didn’t have sex, I stopped working; I didn’t wear high heels or go upstairs (there’s a Chinese tradition that says this is bad for pregnancy) for the entire pregnancy. I prayed every day and night for my baby to be born healthy and to make it to full term. When she was born — my life was forever changed. I knew immediately that being a mom was the most significant job or responsibility I had ever been blessed with. Ever since her birth day, I wake up every day grateful for her. Being a mom is a blessing and it is a privilege. The love that she has taught me is unconditional love. She is my best friend and my forever love. Everything I have done, every decision I have made since she was born has been with her best interest in mind. MOMS LOVE FOREVER (MLF) — is simply an extension of that. No matter what happens, MLF is meant to help strengthen the bond between mother and children, no matter if that mom is incarcerated. We can never forget how important that bond is and no person, thing or situation should come in the middle of that.

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? We would love to hear a few stories or examples.

TENACITY — be willing to work hard, pay attention to details and be willing to do whatever needs to be done in order to get it done. When you do this, not only will you succeed, but your team and people you work with will be inspired to work with you and then everyone can succeed.

DREAMER — If you want to be an entrepreneur that means that you are going off of the beaten path. Being an entrepreneur and having to fully be responsible for your life and your family’s life and expenses as well as those who work for you and are depending on you is a risky and bold choice. It can be much more stable and easier to take a paying job that ensures a monthly paycheck. But the world needs dreamers and entrepreneurs. To be an entrepreneur means that you need to be able to dream and to see a vision of what you are going to or want to accomplish. Be bold and be willing to try things. You don’t have to be an expert in everything to succeed — take chances. Sometimes you will fail and that’s ok. Learn from the mistakes and keep going.

BE LIKABLE & KIND. — I strongly believe that to be successful, you need others. You should help others to succeed but you also will need people to help you. For people to want to help you — generally they need to like you. To this end, you should make it an art and responsibility to be interesting, kind, and foster relationships. Be kind to everyone! Even people you don’t think will ever be able to help you in life because it’s the right thing to do, but additionally, you never know when opportunity will happen and with who. There is always something to learn from someone. A lot of people may disagree with me, but I always try to keep my thoughts about people positive and hope that others will enjoy my company too. Even when things go south in a relationship, business or personal, I’ve learned that it’s best to try to always keep the door open. Cutting people off, even when they have wronged you, is not often the smartest thing. That doesn’t mean that you let them continue to walk all over you or you allow them to cheat you again — but it is seldom smart to completely cut people out of your life.

What’s the most interesting discovery you’ve made since you started leading your organization?

The most interesting thing I’ve learned since starting MOMS LOVE FOREVER is the amount of help that is out there from other organizations that are interested in the same issues we are. This world of passionate people who are motivated to make the world better are so inspirational! In my experience, they have been open to helping me as the new kid on the block and it’s been so inspiring. Also, when we needed volunteers for our event, there were so many young people (college and high schoolers) ready to step up and help and give of their time. We have partnered with the Center for Restorative Justice Works and the ladies that run this organization are so amazing! Hard working and dedicated! Sometimes you can get bogged down with the state of the world today, and even in terms of the subject of MOMS LOVE FOREVER — incarceration, it can be very sad. There was a time when every zoom meeting I had to discuss the organization would end up with me in tears and I would have to turn off the camera. But when you meet so many people who care about the same things you do and see what’s wrong in this world and are trying to make it right — it is inspiring and makes the day brighter.

Can you please tell our readers more about how you or your organization intends to make a significant social impact?

When I started this organization, I wanted to ensure that we would have an impact. The subject matter of women in jail and moms in particular, in this country, is a huge subject and there are so many different ways that you can get involved and try to put a dent into it. It can be overwhelming. One of the things that struck me when I was reading about the topic was how it was difficult for children to be able to visit with their moms in prison. That immediately stuck a cord with me, especially given how close I am to my daughter. I decided that at least initially, our organization would focus specifically on that: helping children to visit their moms in jail so that we could help to maintain and strengthen the mom and child relationship. So that is what we do. We specifically focus on the state female prisons here in Southern California. Eventually, hopefully we will be able to work with federal facilities too.

What makes you feel passionate about this cause more than any other?

I care deeply about this cause and many others as well, domestic violence, improving the plight of women and Native Hawaiians and Asians generally, but the reason I decided to focus our organization on the subject of the bond between children and their moms incarcerated is because I didn’t believe that there was enough being done in Southern CA to address this. I searched the internet and tried to find organizations prior to starting MOMS LOVE FOREVER and there weren’t many in LA so that is why I focused on this. Obviously, given my plea to aiding and abetting FARA and facing incarceration sentencing obviously caused me to begin the research of what resources there are for children who are separated from their moms due to incarceration.

Without naming names, could you share a story about an individual who benefitted from your initiatives?

Any of the children and family members that were able to visit their moms and hug them and hold them and paint their faces and eat together at the recent CIW (CA Institute for Women) event this month — are moms and kids that have benefitted.

We all want to help and to live a life of purpose. What are three actions anyone could take to help address the root cause of the problem you’re trying to solve?

  1. Volunteer. Actually volunteer with an organization that is dedicated to something that you are interested in. When you get on the ground and get involved… it will evolve into something so beautiful and rewarding.
  2. Be empathetic and be willing to learn. People can sometimes not want to help or be empathetic if it has to do with prisoners or jails, but at its most basic level, we have to be empathetic and think about the children and the lives our criminal justice system is affecting with incarcerating so many. The US incarcerates more women than any other country in the world. What do you think happens when you incarcerate a mom especially for a non-violent crime, or a woman who is a victim of sexual assault and abuse? You put a huge void into that family structure and then there is a greater likelihood that you will have generational incarceration.
  3. Donate money to organizations like ours (or ours) so that we can continue to do the work we do and expand it.

Based on your experience, what are the “5 Things You Need To Create A Successful & Effective Nonprofit That Leaves A Lasting Legacy?” Please share a story or example for each.

Our nonprofit is not even a year old so I actually feel inadequate to answer this question. We are definitely doing things and learning everyday, so please come back to me in five years to answer this question!

How has the pandemic changed your definition of success?

The pandemic really hasn’t changed my definition of success. I know for a lot of people it made them appreciate the time they were able to spend with their families etc. but for me, I always really appreciated that so covid didn’t do that for me. For me, success has always been individually measured.

How do you get inspired after an inevitable setback?

This is a great question. There will always be setbacks and it’s so important to learn from them and then get back up again and keep at it. Honestly, when I have had a setback, first I am usually very upset, and I think about why it happened. I go through all the normal emotions most people feel: discouraged, upset, angry. Then, I literally speak to myself and say, “Ok, well you can go sit in the corner and cry which will accomplish nothing, or you can just pick yourself back up and try again or try something new.” In truth, you have no option but to move forward. I sometimes also think back to other setbacks I’ve had in the past and how many of what I had thought was a setback actually ended up being for my benefit! So, have faith. Things happen. Keep moving. Stay positive. Move forward.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world who you would like to talk to, to share the idea behind your non-profit? He, she, or they might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I just read an article this morning about Kim Kardashian saying she could give up her career in reality TV to be a lawyer full time and work toward seeing changes in our justice system. It has been really refreshing to see her dedication to this issue because like I said earlier, it’s not an issue that many want to deal with. There is an idea that permeates much of society that says — prisoners are bad and we shouldn’t help them — which is a crazy thought.

As one of the biggest influencers in the world, I would love for Kim Kardashian to learn about MOMS LOVE FOREVER and help bring more awareness and empathy to the children and their moms who are in jail in this country.

You’re doing important work. How can our readers follow your progress online?

They can visit our website www.momsloveforever.org

Thank you for a meaningful conversation. We wish you continued success with your mission.