Jason Levine and Matt Fuller chat about an upcoming podcast for Jason's Heart.
Jason Levine (left) chats with Matt Fuller '12L '16MAM in the office space shared by SoarinGroup and Jason's Heart in Lincoln's Haymarket district.

Matt Fuller ‘12L ‘16MAM knew he wanted to move his career toward nonprofit work. It was one of the reasons he returned to enroll in Doane University’s Master of Arts in Management program, which is now the Master of Arts in Leadership. His capstone for the degree, the development of a leadership program, was actually designed with the hope that he would eventually be able to apply it at a future job.

Just a few years later, he found a role that allowed him to do just that — at Jason’s Heart, a new nonprofit in Lincoln. Fuller is now COO for both Jason’s Heart and SoarinGroup.

“I really wanted my career to be more focused on the nonprofit world, helping our communities and designing development programs, and I knew, sometime, that program would more than likely be relevant,” he said. “And it was great to see that day finally arrive!”

His entire leadership program has now been integrated into the nonprofit’s curriculum, which includes a full-time, paid apprenticeship program and free, public courses to help build up folks in the community recovering from hardships.

“Our curriculum focuses on building the individual’s foundation first and making sure they’re able to be authentic, and have the confidence to be successful,” Fuller said.

From there, participants can learn and develop skills in IT and media production and strategy. They’ll leave the year-long program with the skills to jump right into a new job in IT administration or media production.

The organization received its 501(c)3 — i.e. nonprofit — status in December 2021 and was also recently accredited by the U.S. Department of Labor as an apprenticeship program. If you drive by the Haymarket parking garage at Ninth and Q Streets, you can see logos for both Jason’s Heart and sister company, SoarinGroup, which provides solutions in IT, HR and media.

Several of SoarinGroup’s clients have included other Lincoln nonprofits, including CenterPointe and the Bridge, which focus on mental health and addiction treatment. In working with these and other organizations, SoarinGroup owners Tom and Michaela Nielsen, and Jason Levine, namesake and executive director of Jason’s Heart, saw several needs in the community that weren’t being met.

The first is that, with the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of people are reevaluating their careers and relationship with work — the “great resignation” as it has been summarized. Which means the job market is better than it’s been in years, but missing people to fill the open roles.

The second is that employment and job training are often limited for certain populations, such as veterans, those who have been incarcerated or in recovery from addictions. Or, for people designated as low-to-moderate income or victims of domestic violence and abuse, resources for empowerment and pathways to higher-paying jobs may have significant barriers. 

“The more that we can collaborate and share and be a big team in our community, the quicker we’re going to raise that tide, and we’re going to be able to level the playing field and bring those up around us who need the most help,” Fuller said.

There’s a reason why Fuller named the program he developed for his master’s degree capstone “people metrics.” He pulled from several of the communication concepts and theories learned during Doane’s Master of Arts in Management (now Leadership) program, but what stood out to him most was the technique of co-active coaching. This technique looks at people with the understanding that they are complete in every way they need to be.

“I always like to say, it’s kind of more of a cycling term, but a ‘hand up,’ like they just need somebody to reach down, give them a hand and say ‘hey, you’re worth it, you can do this,’” Fuller said.

Side note: a hand-up in cycling means giving a moving cyclist a drink or snack during a race or competition so they can continue at top performance. In terms of people metrics, it means providing the foundation and support a person needs to build themself up.

Throughout the process of adapting his capstone to work with the apprenticeship program at Jason’s Heart, Fuller has remained in touch with his Doane professors for feedback and guidance. From receiving his undergraduate degree in organizational communication to finishing his master’s degree, he said his experiences at Doane have all been great.

“There are just so many things about Doane that are different, just the focus on actually coming out with practical things that you can deploy in your career. And I think, more specifically for my program, was just the importance of authenticity, and being transparent and living with intention,” he said.

He hopes that ultimately, as people leave the classes taught through Jason’s Heart, or as they complete their apprenticeships, that they hold those lessons close, too.

“Just be present, be authentic, be transparent and intentional in what you do, you know, do the extra things because they really do matter,” Fuller said.

There are just a couple things left before Jason’s Heart begins accepting applications for apprenticeships. One is running through the curriculum to make any adjustments. Fuller and Levine have been leading the team at SoarinGroup through a truncated version of it for several months as lunch-and-learns, and have made a couple changes already.

“We reorganized a few things in the curriculum as far as the flow, as far as when we introduce more job-specific training,” Fuller said.

The other is finding organizations that want to partner with Jason’s Heart, whether they want to support the program as a good cause or as a way to gain new hires from the pool of apprentices.

For information about becoming a partner, contact Jason’s Heart at [email protected] or by calling 402-480-7035.