Waves of Change: Coaching for Social Impact with Thomas Keown

Thomas Keown is the founder of Many Hopes, a global nonprofit dedicated to rescuing children from injustice and equipping them to be adults who can help others. The idea behind Many Hopes began while Thomas was working as a journalist and visited East Africa. While there, he met children who had survived abuse and exploitation and desired to do something about that in their communities but couldn’t access the education they needed to act on that desire.

When Thomas returned to the U.S., he wrote about this in his weekly column at the Metro Newspaper. Readers reached out, eager to provide children with access to education. Thomas called for volunteers to meet about how to accomplish this, with the invitation, “You bring one person each, and I’ll bring six.” This meeting led to the creation of Many Hopes.

Before coaching, Many Hopes started with two staff members, a budget of $1 million USD, and vast demand to expand. As the organization expanded from offices in one country to six, Thomas recognized that his capacity to effect real change was reaching a plateau—his passion to make a difference had led him to a leadership role he did not yet have the skills for. To break through this barrier and fulfill the organization’s potential for impact, he knew he needed support. He engaged a professional coach.

Through coaching, Thomas learned how to manage and motivate team members, delegate tasks, prioritize his time, and facilitate the expansion of Many Hopes’ operations. He also acquired the skills necessary to keep growing the organization’s budget by engaging in meaningful conversations with donors.

“Before Many Hopes, I never considered having a coach. I thought it sounded like something that New Yorkers did. But as we reached this pivotal moment where the organization was poised for growth, I realized I couldn’t be the factor holding us back,” Thomas said. “A friend suggested I work with a coach, and it’s because of that work that we were able to make 2020 a strategic year of growth.”

Thanks to Thomas’s leadership and expanded skills, Many Hopes exceeded its $4 million fundraising target by an additional $1 million, increased from one U.S. partner to six global partners, and grew its team from two to six. Additionally, the organization revamped and expanded its board of directors and implemented a monitoring and evaluation structure to keep the organization on track for continued growth.

Most importantly, Many Hopes has supported over 1,400 children in Bolivia, Ghana, Guatemala, Kenya, Peru, and all over the world. These children were removed from extreme poverty, sexual abuse and trafficking, and other extreme conditions, and are now in nurturing homes where they are equipped to thrive with education, mentoring, and job skills.

“Coaching taught me to view obstacles as opportunities for growth and innovation rather than insurmountable barriers. Witnessing the positive outcomes of our work on the ground and has instilled a deep sense of fulfillment and purpose that I carry daily and aim to share with our supporters,” said Thomas.

Today, children supported by Many Hopes, who once could not be sure they would reach adulthood, are now graduating college. Looking ahead, the organization aims to reach even more children in need. It released a documentary in June 2023 to share its story and drive donations for sustained growth. It was Many Hopes’ most successful campaign to date, and the donations received will enable the team to build two new schools to serve as safe havens at the point of rescue, support them through high school, and prepare them for college and employment. Further, Thomas aims to build Many Hopes’ partnerships to allow them to eliminate their U.S. presence and sustain their mission independently.

From Thomas’s perspective, coaching was a key element in reaching these milestones, and the skills he gained to be a people-sensitive leader to his team, set a strategic vision, and engage donors more effectively. Equipped with these powerful skills and a coaching lens, Thomas is empowering his team to transform lives, which in turn empowers those children to grow up and make a difference in the lives of others, too.