As Texas rapidly grows and connects, we here at TANO believe it is important to not only represent the sector as a whole, but highlight TANO members that are doing impactful work, and sharing their passions in creative ways. Join us as we embark on a series of interviews with TANO members setting new standards of excellence through their work in the Texas nonprofit sector. We kick of this series with a conversation with Dawn Mann, founder and Executive Director of Dance Another World, a language immersion program that teaches young non-native English speaking girls English through dance.
TANO: What sparked your interest in creating this organization?
DAWN: The concept behind Dance Another World was discovered during my time overseas–specifically in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, where I taught English and Ballet at The University of Dong Thap. I was in Vietnam to teach English to their graduating seniors, with an emphasis on TOEFL. However, in the evenings, I taught a ballet class to non-native English speaking students as well. To my amazement, at the end of the semester, my non-native English speaking dance students were speaking conversational English at a comparable rate to my English majors! It was amazing!
This was done through content-based teaching–our technique of teaching currently used in Dance Another World. When I came back to the states, I was eager to take my love of language, culture and dance and offer the program to girls who need it in my own community. Hence Dance Another World!
TANO: What makes Dance Another World unique?
DAWN: Dance Another World is a truly innovative program. I’ve not heard of anything similar, nor have met someone who has. Through sheltered-based learning, these young girls don’t have to worry about the humiliation making mistakes while learning a new accent, or trying out new words and grammar. Students get to focus on what they love–their passion for dance. We also focus on a love and respect of our bodies, and of our other friends in dance class–we circulate love and respect for ourselves and one another, and build confidence in ourselves as well as in dance and English.
TANO: Are you affiliated with any organizations or nonprofits?
DAWN: Yes. I’m a member of Young Women’s Alliance, Greenlights, Grant Professional Association and of course TANO. Dance Another World also just locked in a collaboration with a writing non-profit in the Austin area, The Austin Bat Cave. We are so excited to see where our partnership takes us!
TANO: What is your 1-year/5-year/10-year goal?
DAWN: Thanks for asking. I can honestly say, everything has stayed true to plan, as we just had our one year anniversary. Fingers crossed our luck stays the same. That being said, I’m working hard to get Dance Another World offered in the Houston Independent School District by Fall 2016. Our goal is to serve as many girls in need as possible. From there, my five-year plan is to really certify the company—to me, this looks like our own official building and reliable funding. In ten years, I want to be offering the program overseas.
TANO: If you could go back 5 or 10 years ago, what would you do differently?
DAWN: My life hasn’t been perfect, and not that I have regrets, but if I knew what I know now, I’m sure I’d do things differently. In saying that, I wouldn’t change a thing. I have a very blessed life, and know that if I had done something different five or ten years ago, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Life isn’t perfect. Hopefully we can just learn from our mistakes, but I know we can’t change them.
TANO: What are some lessons you learned while creating this organization?
DAWN: This is kind of a recurring lesson in my life right now. I don’t force relationships. There are SO many resources and potential collaborations out there available to us that I know they’ll happen when they are supposed to, as they’ve done thus far.
TANO: How do you engage your board to be more active?
DAWN: My board is super. I’m slowly but surely overcoming a fear of mine for “wasting their time.” Because of this, for the first several months of the program, I figured I’d make all the decisions and not ask them for tedious stuff – or what I thought was tedious.
Since then, we’ve really amped up our communication, and I’m learning that they are there for me–whenever I need them. I chose three, experienced and informative board members for a reason, and am so lucky they’re just as passionate about our mission as I am. I know now that in order for our program to expand and serve more, the program needs their expertise and feedback.
TANO: What advice do you have for anyone who aspires to start a nonprofit?
DAWN: I’ve done mine in a semi-backwards way, and I’d suggest others, to do it the same way, if they can. I focus on the girls and the program itself. I dislike the idea of losing sight of the mission and focusing on the fiduciary aspect of the program, though I understand it’s crucial to sustainability.
Because of this, I put 90% of my energy on improving the program, and not fundraising. However, I have been fortunate to have this flexibility. I’ve seen many organizations focus on fundraising, to the detriment of their organizations missions. In saying that, I do understand the program needs money–I just have faith it’ll come, when it’s needed. I’m proud that our program doesn’t require a whole lot to offer it, so our costs our minimal, which allow me to concentrate on the girls, and not our bank accounts.
TANO: Have you benefited from being a TANO member?
DAWN: I feel very fortunate to be a TANO member and am very grateful for this highlight. TANO, more so than any other memberships I hold, has been a great tool. The partnerships TANO has made, and allowed members to benefit from has been super, and they feel unlimited.
TANO: How can we find more information about you and Dance Another World?
Interested in having your organization featured in TANO’s Member Spotlight? Email us at email@example.com!