The Nonprofit Hero Factory: Episode 13

Thinking Like a Donor to Build Authentic Relationships with Lisa Greer

In this Episode:

Lisa Greer is on a mission to change the way nonprofits view and relate to donors. As the author of the book “Philanthropy Revolution: How to Inspire Donors, Build Relationships and Make a Difference,” she’s here to share her research and insights.

Listen to this Episode

Introduction 0:02
Welcome to the nonprofit Hero Factory, a weekly live video broadcast, and Podcast, where we’ll be helping nonprofit leaders and innovators create more Heroes for their cause. And a better world for all.

Boris Kievsky 0:18
Hi, everybody. Welcome to Episode 13 of the Nonprofit Hero Factory. Today we’re going to be talking with Lisa Greer about thinking like a donor to build authentic relationships. And Lisa is the Sorry, my dog is barking in the background. Lisa is a philanthropist. She’s an entrepreneur. She’s a convener, a nonprofit advisor, and the author of a new book The philanthropy revolution, which is currently actually the number one new release in philanthropy and charity on Amazon right now. And so far only the Kindle version is available. The hardcover is coming out I think maybe even this week or within the next few days. We’ll ask her about that. She is a former Hollywood executive who has been an active board member serving on boards, including new Israel fund cedar Sinai Hospital, make a wish Girl Scouts, and many others. She’s also the mother of five and she and her husband Josh live in Beverly Hills. Coincidentally, I have been to Lisa’s house in my former life living out in Los Angeles. For an event where I was a photographer, we discovered that as we were talking earlier, they hosted nearly 200 charitable events. They’re bringing nonprofit stories to donors and influencers in LA, which is part of the perspective that she brings to this conversation and to the book that she wrote. She describes her superpower as helping nonprofits understand and relate to donors with Integrity, Authenticity, and honesty. I’m excited to talk to her today about what that means, why it’s important, and how nonprofits can incorporate it into their strategies. So with that, let’s bring Lisa on to the show.

Lisa Greer 1:56
Hi, thanks

Boris Kievsky 1:58
so much for joining me today. I’m great. I’m very excited to have you on congratulations on the already successful pre-launch of your book. Thank you. I see it’s getting traction on Amazon. I see you’ve got a quote from Seth Godin, one of my idols right there on the front cover, you must know something about what you’re talking about, you must be doing something right. So tell me and tell all of us a little bit about your story, your background, and why you’re doing why you’re publishing this book and doing what you’re doing.

Lisa Greer 2:30
Right. So I have not been a lifelong philanthropist. I was. I’ve given wherever I could, but we didn’t really have money until about 910 years ago when we were lucky enough, I guess and blessed enough to be able to have my husband’s company go public, and I sold my company. We’re serial entrepreneurs, and we found ourselves in a position with becoming one-percenters I guess. Hopefully, that’s not the bad version, And we The first thing that we thought about and we thought it was natural to think about was, where are we going to give our money? And and and how do we become philanthropists? And what’s the right way to do this? And what we found, we both come from business, from lots of different companies, corporate, small business, etc. And what we found is that there were a lot of just basic business tenets that didn’t exist in philanthropy and fundraising, and we just were shocked about that, it just didn’t seem as, in some ways, it was very professional, but in some ways, it was there was a lot of sort of, are you kidding? Like, are you really doing it that way and, and then there was a lot of just generally arcane strategy and methodology. So we did continue to give and we didn’t we weren’t daunted. Some people might have been daunted and just put their money into a donor-advised fund, but we decided that we would push through and, and after a while, I realized that there were a lot of these problems and that nobody was really there. fixing them. And one of the reasons they weren’t fixing them is because they really didn’t know what the donors thought because the donors didn’t want to talk about it. So we decided or I decided to be that person.

Boris Kievsky 4:11
That’s a great story. Congratulations on your success, both yours and your husband’s. And thank you for deciding to focus so much of your energies on helping the nonprofit sector, seeing that there are issues. I mean, that’s one of the reasons why I’m doing what I’m doing. I do have a for-profit background, a marketing background. And when I started working with nonprofits, I started seeing the huge disparity between how the worlds operate and seeing how nonprofits aren’t always taking advantage of the latest tools and best practices that are out there. I feel like you’re doing something similar now for philanthropy.

Lisa Greer 4:46
That’s right. We’re doing I think exactly that. And then more specifically, I’m trying to change how philanthropy is taught. And I was a guest speaker at a number of different couple different schools where they taught nonprofit management and specifically fundraising and philanthropy. And I felt like there was a real thirst on the part of the students to be able to hear kind of contemporary versions of how you might do this better and that for me, but I just felt like they weren’t getting it in their classes. So what I’m really trying to do is, is changed the way philanthropy is taught.

Boris Kievsky 5:18
So what is the problem then? What’s the problem with philanthropy, the way it’s taught the way it’s being practiced? What do you What are you trying to fix?

Lisa Greer 5:26
So the biggest problem is that there’s a whole lot of problems but I think it all stems from one very important piece, which is that the fundraisers don’t think of the donors as in my opinion, human beings. They think of them as some different types of alien creatures, and I was sort of the alien among the aliens. So if a donor is an alien creature, somebody who just all of a sudden got money when they were older is a super alien creature, so I can’t quite figure out where that started. There’s a lot of different I have a lot of different theories. A lot of people in my book who the committee about have their theories, but for some reason, there’s, there’s just its sort of like, well, you are a different kind of person. So if I feel like I get annoyed by XYZ subject line, then the person on the other end oh, no, they’re different. They’re not going to see the subject line the same way that there’s something as simple as a subject line in an email. And it’s amazing how many conversations I’ve had with fundraisers where I’ve said, just look at what you’re sending out and think of it as being sent to you. And how would you feel? Would you open that email if it had that subject line? And they think that’s a really strange question. They kind of look at me and say, Well, I don’t understand that these are donors. And so but they’re, you know, sort of, as I said to someone the other day, it’s sort of like, what is it People Magazine and they say, you know, celebrities, they’re just like you as donors. They’re just like you and sure, there might be some quirky unusual people in the group as there are in any group but in general, you need to look at it and say, how would I feel if I got this? How would I feel if I got a phone call? Say Hi, this is so and so from a charity you don’t know, please call me back so I can ask you for money. I mean, really, I okay, they didn’t say they can ask you for money, but it was implied and nobody would answer that phone call. So that is the most important piece. But because donors don’t like to talk about it as most, if not all of the donors I’ve talked to him said when I asked them, Why wouldn’t you just say to the fundraiser that was really annoying, or it was off-putting or it was demeaning the way you talked to me, you know, just talk to me like you were talking to a friend. They just say it’s easier to hang up the phone, it’s easier to just cancel the meeting and not give to that organization anymore. The downside of that of course is that the organization never knows what they did wrong. The fundraiser doesn’t know what they did wrong. They keep doing it the same way and the donor goes on and life goes on the same way and that’s just not okay. So I realized that there was a problem looming when a lot of these well I’ll get to in a little bit more. You know, my thing about the older people who are not going to be here and not talking to millennials, but this is another big piece of my book is that we really need to talk to people as human beings. And if they are millennials, if they are older people, if they are infirm people, if they are celebrities, whatever they are, you need to talk to them as a human being and get to know them as a person. And that will help your fundraising a whole lot

Boris Kievsky 8:16
Donors are people too. I think that’s absolutely valid and critical. A lot of nonprofits are, I think, starting to incorporate some of what you’re talking about. And they’re starting to understand that you need to make a connection, person to person, not just talk about our causes this and our causes that and we’re doing such great work, but more about, you know, we are a group of people that have a similar philosophy to you. We care about similar things that you care about and really relate to them as human to human on a subject that both are passionate about.

Lisa Greer 8:55
Right, right, right. And the funny part is that almost every nonprofit you can think of and every fundraiser uses the word relationship. And I don’t know they must have a different dictionary definition of a relationship, because how can you have a relationship with somebody if you don’t have any sense of who they are, how they feel, really what the way that I sort of see it is that I think that most fundraisers would really prefer and this is not all of them. I have the boards that I’m part of, and the groups that I work with are the ones that are different. But the vast majority, I think of nonprofits and fundraisers, I think that if you really ask them, they’d say that they prefer that a donor was just like a piggy bank. And the reason why I’m using a piggy bank metaphor is a piggy bank is an inanimate object and doesn’t talk back. And I think they’d really like that. And the idea is that you just find the piggy bank, you find the right piggy bank and you smash it, you take the money and you run. And, you know, I don’t know about dictionary terms, but that is not a relationship.

Boris Kievsky 9:49
Yeah, so I would say, you know, there are lots of different kinds of relationships out there. And I would say I do know, like you many development directors and people in fundraising and nonprofit communications That they are trying to treat people like people and talk to them. But there is sort of this invisible divide between well, I’m not one of them. They’re not like me. And so how do I really relate to them versus trying to think, well, this is what a donor might look like, and not necessarily actually talking to them and knowing what they would like. So what should they be doing in terms of bridging that divide? How do you get inside the donors mind besides perhaps reading your book?

Lisa Greer 10:31
Thank you. Well, yes, if you read the book, there’s a lot of about 40 different people, academics, fundraisers, donors, who actually we got to talk about how they feel. And so as well as my story, and I think, and it also gives a lot of practical information. So there’s a part in every chapter and one or two sections where it says, instead of doing this, why don’t you think about doing this or that of doing that? And when people read it, our initial readers read it. They say, oh, gosh, that’s so obvious. I didn’t think of that. So I think that the academic piece got in the way of the obvious and we need to go back to just sort of human nature. So I think one of the most important things really has to do with what you do for us, which is storytelling, and everybody has a story. And if you can find out your donor’s story or stories, all of a sudden that appears, and if you can also be a little bit more transparent and human yourself as a fundraiser, and you can tell some of your stories. How did you get into this? Why did you get into this? That’s really great. And all of a sudden, the relationship I think, will develop on its own if you can do that.

Boris Kievsky 11:33
And so I’m teaching and working with organizations now and on teaching them the storytelling formulas, and how to extract these formulas, both from their own staff, but also from donors and other constituents, where you really ask a series of questions, essentially, ideally, it’d be great to have these conversations in person. But however, you can have them including even like online, you know, having just a question and answer thing. Here’s a question for you as a donor, how do you feel about being asked for more information? Do you feel like Well, I’m already giving you my money? Do I also need to give you my time? Or do you feel like oh, this organization really wants more from me in terms of myself like a person, rather than just by money?

Lisa Greer 12:17
Yes, that and there are organizations that I believe that most people most younger people, most younger donors, which in this case is people, anybody under 70, or 80. But they really do want to give more of themselves to the organization. They don’t want to be just a checkbook. I hate to say just a checkbook because most people don’t write checks anymore. But we understand what that idea is, and so the more that they, they really get to know each other and the more you might find out from that donor that they happen to have a special power, they might have something that they do that you didn’t even know about as a fundraiser that could really help you. The problem that comes up and it’s come up for me and it’s really, really disturbing Is that there are a lot of organizations that don’t want to use that part of their donors. They just want their donors for their money. And they want to keep that very separate from donors, volunteering and most. It’s funny because volunteers have all the research shows that volunteers, but most organizations, especially longer term volunteers, they are the most devoted to that cause, I mean, absolutely devoted. And if they get a little bit of money, by the way, they’re the ones that put the money away, and all of a sudden, you get a bequest years later and you say, Gosh, I didn’t know that person. They weren’t one of our donors. They were just a volunteer. I don’t know why people don’t spend more time with volunteers. It’s because I know why it’s because they don’t have money now. And that’s really a very short-sighted way of thinking. But the other part is that if you are a let’s say, you’re an accountant, and you can help with the accounting for the organization, there are some organizations that just say, No, no, we want to keep that very separate. We want to keep our volunteers in a box. We want to keep our donors in a box and we want to keep our professionals inbox and those boxes never meet. And especially in this day and age when men’s resources sometimes are a little bit challenging. Yeah, you might want to take that step and actually use them. It doesn’t mean you have to with some people will say, well, what if that account isn’t a good accountant, and then I have to use them. And then I’m committed, again, go back to their people to if you’re not the right fit, just say, it’s not the right fit, we’ve got somebody else. And we really love this or could you take a look at this and tell us what you think about this that our accountant provided? And if you don’t want to use the information, fine, but at least you asked and by asking, it’s going to make that donor feel much more engaged.

Boris Kievsky 14:28
It’s interesting that you talk about volunteers, eventually giving a large amount of money, perhaps, or bequeathing a large money, I actually know of stories where that has happened. But it completely makes sense because psychologically, there is a phenomena where the more you invest of yourself or invest in various ways into a relationship, the more invested you are in it, right. So with every session that volunteers volunteering with everything that they do, they actually put more of themselves. into your mission in your organization. So they are reinforcing their own connection to it with each session.

Lisa Greer 15:06
Right and, ignore, I guess I would say ignore that at your peril if I’m talking to talking to fundraisers like we are today, because that’s just it’s it. But that, again, is relationship. And that is you’re allowing it to cross those lines into the different areas. And as opposed to just say, donor checkbox, see you by thank you note, you know, that kind of thing. And there’s gonna be ways to

Boris Kievsky 15:28
track this kind of data, if you will where once you ask someone once or twice or you ask, Are you interested in these types of opportunities, if they are great, if not a little check, Mark goes into their CRM entry, and you don’t bother them with that kind of stuff anymore. You periodically tell them about what’s happening. Let them OPT back into it if they want. But you don’t need to feel like you’re bothering people who aren’t interested if you just really pay attention to what their responses are to what you’re doing.

Lisa Greer 15:56
Right. So let me give you a couple of examples of a fad or ways to be cautionary area. So yes, ask them what the difference different things are that they’re interested in and actually act on them. So don’t ask somebody how one of my biggest things that I tell everybody, and really, this comes to my sales background, and it’s not just philanthropy, but any kind of sales or anything where you want to be persuasive. In this day and age, ask somebody how they like to be communicated with, how often would you like to get updates from us, ask them that information. And then but then if you ask them the information, or you say, how would you like to be involved? And then you ignore them, then it’s worse than having not asked it?

Boris Kievsky 16:34
Absolutely, because then they feel like, well, I thought it was gonna be an opportunity. And there’s almost a rejection there. Right? Well, I said, I want to do this. And now you’re not letting me do it, not giving it to me. Right. So it definitely creates the opposite reaction.

Lisa Greer 16:48
Right and to assume that a donor is going to get upset if you don’t use them. I think again, back to back to the beginning. If you realize they’re human. If you have a friend and you say to the friend, Hi, can you help me on this and the friend You realize didn’t really do everything I needed, I need to now get another consultant, you still have the friend who talked to the friend and you said, You know what, it wasn’t quite what I was looking for, I need to find somebody else. Thank you so much for your help. For some reason, most organizations don’t want to do that with their donors, they don’t want to, I think the big piece of it is they don’t want to take the risk that the donor is going to get upset. And I don’t know how you have a relationship without risk. So it’s just part of the same deal.

Boris Kievsky 17:25
So let’s talk a little bit about building these relationships and specifically with younger generations than the average donor these days. I know and research has shown there’s several studies that show that millennials are most interested in organizations with some sort of a mission alignment to themselves. They want to be involved, they want to feel connected and part of that community. That is, perhaps psychologically anyway, a big change from the donors of the past where they were just these you know, Omni powerful, you know givers that would just, you know, let you do the work that you want to do, and maybe advise you along the way. Now, younger generations are more interested in being part of it from the ground up and having their hands in it, if you will. Right.

Lisa Greer 18:17
Right. And so there’s a whole gamut of younger people, of course, and everybody, again, they’re regular people. So there are all different types of them. But yes, if somebody wants to get involved, if somebody it is much, much more common for a contemporary donor to say, I really want to get behind the curtain, I really want to know what’s going on with your organization. And if you tell me everything is perfect, I am not an idiot. And I know that that’s not possible. It’s just not it’s not It can’t be real, and therefore, I’m not going to trust you. And trust is the number one problem in fundraising, period. Every research study, you can find talks about trust being this kind of attribute that there just isn’t enough. And so because of that, there’s lots and lots of people who just don’t, don’t donate at all is really an unfortunate thing. And I’m trying to change that. But you need to, you need to actually say, if you say I want to know what’s going on with the organization, I’d like to see, whatever I want to see a budget, I want to see the impact report. And I will be able to see because most donors, as in most people are intelligent humans, and they can see if you’re giving them something that has been cut into nothing because it’s just going to be you know a problem, because it’s, you don’t want them to know any of the bad stuff. You don’t want them to know any of the detail. And so I as a donor, if I say, look, I really want to know, and maybe it won’t be numbered, maybe it’s just, gee, I want to know your work with kids in Africa. I would like to know what’s it like when you go talk to the kids in Africa, just tell me, you know, sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it’s bad. And sometimes it works. And sometimes it doesn’t, that will elicit trust, and if you just say everything’s great, they’re wonderful, they love everything, then I’m going to know I need to go to a different organization. So it’s really important to give that information that they’re looking for and you can give it in a responsible way. One of the things is, that’s a really good idea is to just ask the donor, what part of that? Are you interested in it? Like, why are you asking and in a very nice way in a very respectful way that is that something that you’re interested in? Like, what do you like to see? Are you looking at this? Because you want to know what percentage of administrative costs? Are you looking at it because you want to see what our impact is? And what you might find out. And what I’ve heard from a lot of donors, including some that are in the book, a lot of younger donors, they actually want to be much more hands-off than any ones anyone would assume. They want to believe they want to do all the research upfront, they want to make sure that this is the organization so that the older people didn’t really do. So they really want to look behind the curtain. But then once they’re convinced that the organization is something that they trust, they will very often say I’m giving you money for 10 years and I’m hands-off, which is a really different kind of thing than what we’ve been used to.

Boris Kievsky 20:52
For sure. Yeah, trust is built through empathy and vulnerability. So if your donor can’t empathize with you And vice versa. And if you can’t be vulnerable with them, then why should they trust you? And you are just this inanimate almost object, right? Because anything alive has challenges and has problems and is vulnerable. So that’s incredibly important for any kind of communications and relationship building is to have that kind of vulnerability, which builds empathy, which builds trust. Right. You also talk in the book a lot about ways to be transparent from the outset. Is that also in the capacity of trust-building?

Lisa Greer 21:31
Yeah, I think it is I look at it’s all in the capacity of trust, relationship, Integrity, Authenticity, all of it’s in the same kind of basket. And that’s what we’re trying to get to and again, it shouldn’t be hard. That’s how we work with our friends. That’s how we interact with in most cases, family members, that’s how we interact with people that we respect and for some reason this donor fundraiser relationship is different. And we know some people say it’s because fundraisers actually just don’t like talking about money, which is I think is a very strange and ironic kind of thing. But, we just need to get past it. And the fundraisers need to be taught that the donors are real people, they need to be taught the trust is the biggest issue and that it’s okay to let down your hair, they will still like you, if your mission is an important mission, it’s okay, they’re going to like you. And if they like you, and they feel comfortable with you, and you can bring them to a point where, because they have a little bit of interest where they are super engaged with the mission, then they’re going to give you money. And they need to understand that as opposed to the way of thinking now I think is, is if I, you know, call them 500 times, and I send them a whole bunch of emails, and I tell them that we’re desperate, they’re going to give me money, not a good thing. So it has completely different. So I think it’s and one of the really, really big opportunities, by the way now is that because of COVID and because of where we are, there are people who are donating who have never donated before people and there are all sorts of research studies and people are well aware that I’ve talked to a lot of these people, and they’re out there saying okay, Taking the first baby step I kind of like this. I feel like I’m helping people with PPE or with helping homeless people or getting lunches to kids who aren’t in school. But then what do I do and they are primed. And we now need those fundraisers and organizations and go find those people affect them and get to know them as humans. And I think that is going to reap all sorts of benefits long term.

Boris Kievsky 23:23
Absolutely. Get that during times of hardship, everybody’s empathy goes up. Everybody can relate to someone else who’s in trouble and wants to go out there and help. But it does need to come from some sort of authentic need and authentic connection. You talk just a minute ago about, you know, wanting every donor to like you. I think it’s okay that not every donor does not every donor is your ideal donor. It’s better to build a tribe and to use Seth Godin word of people who actually love you what you’re doing, the way you’re doing it, then trying to get us many people out there as possible that might potentially like something that about what you’re doing and give you even a little bit of money to support it. So the more you can connect to the right people, and you know, in storytelling, I talked about avatars and target audience profiles, basically. But the more you can identify that person, and what they believe in and what you have in common with them, the easier it’s going to be to connect with the right people for the long term.

Lisa Greer 24:25
Right? And everybody doesn’t need to be your friend, but they do have to share your passion. And we have some issues there, which I’ll go into briefly. I go into more in the book, but most fundraisers stay in their job about 18 months so that is a bit of a problem. You kind of wonder, Well, if they’re only there 18 months, and in fact, a huge number of them something like 50% 40%, something like that don’t even want to continue to be fundraisers ask the next year or two. So if that’s the case, are they really passionate about the mission and if they’re not that passionate about the mission, because this thing, is, they’re probably not passionate about the mission, especially if they go to different kinds of organizations. If that’s the case, then how can they convey passionate about the mission to the donor if they don’t really have the passion for the mission, so so you need to have the right people in the right place as well. But if you do, you will find that a very large percentage of people actually want to donate its human nature to want to give and want to make other people happy and want to take care of the world. I just think most people believe that. But when you have to go through this gauntlet of people treating you like you’re an alien, it makes it very difficult to want to continue to donate.

Boris Kievsky 25:32
Absolutely. So this is not an easy thing to flip. It’s not like a switch. Someone can just say, Okay, now our nonprofit does this for a lot of nonprofits might assume that they’re already doing it. So what, where should they start? However, is there something they should start looking at and evaluating in order to create change?

Lisa Greer 25:52
Right? So you know what my answer is going to be here. It’s just looking at the book and you can pick whatever chapter it has to do with what you’re talking about. There’s a board chapter There’s a gala chapter, there’s whatever, look at the problem that you have to go to that chapter. And it will actually say to you, we’ve spent three years working on this book and tons of research. And it will actually say to you, here’s some research that shows some things that you can do to make that change. But what it boils down to, again, is what we talked about at the beginning is integrity and authenticity, and trust and honesty, and all of those things, and treating the person as a human. And really once you do that, the rest of it kind of starts falling into place.

Boris Kievsky 26:27
So with each email with each statement on your website or blog posts, with each social media post with each phone call, right it’s are you talking to someone like they are your friend who believes in what you’re doing? Or, are you talking to someone like they are a potential source of money? Do right?

Lisa Greer 26:46
They don’t even have to be your friend. Just somebody respect, I think, I don’t think it has to go as far as your friend. It’s just somebody that you’d like to have a nice conversation with and know more about, but if you really don’t want to know more about them and you pretend to want to know more about them that never works. So I think it has to be In authentic conversation, and, for example, somebody called me the other day from one of my, she’s seen one of my posts, and works at a large university. And she said, I’m sending out this email, I’m now nervous that my emails are going to be condescending, and they’re not. They don’t feel authentic. It was a very simple email blast it had about, I don’t know, two paragraphs in it, and a subject line, she said, Can you look at it and tell me if any of this is offensive or demeaning to a donor? And unfortunately, the answer was most of it was, and we took it apart. And when I said to her, look at the subject line, let’s just look at this. And here’s one really easy thing that your watchers Can, can can can do a look at your email box in the morning. Think about all of the different emails that you have on your email box, put the email that you’re thinking of sending out with that subject line, just the email and the subject line, put it in your email box, and say, Would I click on that? And for some people, they told me that was life-changing. So because if you’re not going to click on it, and then some people say, well, it doesn’t matter what I think I’m not a donor. And that’s worth getting back to this thing that there are different kinds of people. But if you want, click on it yourself, how can you expect somebody else to do so. To put it just put it in, you can even send an email to yourself with that subject line, have it sit in your email box for a day and look at it and say, is this something that is going to make me want to click on it? And is it going to feel be compelling? And then if you graduate from that part, you can then go into whatever the body of the email is, and say, is this something that I would actually respond to? And I think that’s a really easy first step.

Boris Kievsky 28:31
Absolutely. That’s a great kind of like quick litmus test, you know, we all get hundreds of emails a day these days. Is that subject line from this organization going to make you open that email? Or will it sit there? Will you go, oh, maybe I’ll open it later. Or will you just delete because you’ve got too much else going on? Right.

Lisa Greer 28:48
Right. One of my best examples is that I have all sorts of pet peeves, which you’ll see in the book, but but but when you see an email and it says, end of our quarter, we need to make our numbers and our look at that, I think what does that have to do with me? Like, why? why I’m sorry, if you didn’t make your numbers, then maybe you didn’t do something right a month or two ago, or maybe you didn’t budget correctly but that doesn’t have to do with me. And so I’m going to not open that email. So, so there’s and then there’s, there’s some, in fact, I’ll give everybody a big one of my big, big tips that I’m doing right now. Something that you’ve accomplished during COVID is a really big deal people other than other people are suggesting this to say something that you accomplished during COVID or our something or relate to COVID because otherwise, you look like you are completely tone-deaf if you don’t even and there are plenty of solicitations I’ve gotten that literally don’t talk about COVID at all and don’t talk about Oh, it’s mean we know it’s been a difficult summer they just go straight forgive us money. And I think whether you like how there is no relationship there. You guys are completely out to lunch and you think that I’m like living under a rock or something. So that’s not okay.

Boris Kievsky 29:55
Absolutely. And of course the message about COVID needs to be authentic. You can’t just say something that’s completely unrelated to your mission is suddenly being important. Although you can recognize that like all human beings, we’re going through something right now and that you are a human talking to a human again. So that’s absolutely valid and relevant. And when you said, you know, we didn’t make our fourth quarter, we need help that that just sends up so many pet peeves, alarm bells, in my own mind to you’re absolutely right. It’s not about what did the organization do or not do in terms of their funding? It’s what’s going on that I should want to help with? What so even if it’s about a budget shortfall, which of course happens, and I think is going to happen a lot more next year? What is it that you’re not being not able to do because of that? Talk to me about the people that I can help rather than your organization needs money.

Lisa Greer 30:53
That’s right. And that’s why there’s been a lot of big change with the attitudes towards operational or unrestricted giving versus giving for particular programs, I think both are important. I don’t think it’s one or the other. But some people I got kind of a little bit attacked online the other day because I made some just generic comment. And somebody just assumed that because I was a donor, I must be. I was saying I wanted to we were talking about thank you notes. So I think it’s important to have some sort of people need to say thank you. And there are people out there who think that it’s inappropriate for fundraisers to say thank you because donors basically have money and so they don’t deserve it. And you shouldn’t be pandering to rich people, therefore, you shouldn’t say thank you, which I think is just from another planet. I don’t understand that. I think when you’re for you, actually, I think it’s I read an article in like parents magazine, I think when you’re 18 months old, you’re taught to say thank you. So it’s not okay when you’re 30 or 40, or 50, or whatever. So you say thank you. But, but this person immediately when I wrote that thought that what I meant was that for some reason, I was a donor and I was saying please say thank you. Therefore, I must be one of those people who’s saying money that I donate should only go into programs and shouldn’t go into administration costs. And operational expenses or be unrestricted. And I didn’t say that at all. I didn’t even come close to saying that, but yet I was accused of being that person. And I think again, both are important. I think I think the idea back to back to look at the other person as a human being the idea that a donor is going to look at a fundraiser across the table or across zoom, and think and think that that person works for free, is ludicrous. It makes it seem like the donors are complete that the fundraiser must really think of donors are idiots if they are afraid to if they’re afraid to ask for operational money if they’re afraid to make it clear that they’re professional and they make money just like anyone else. And I was a donor, I really don’t want to sit across the table or across the room with somebody who’s making $15 an hour $5 an hour because I have nothing against those people but I want to know that this is a professional who’s done this for years and who’s who really knows what they’re talking about. And I know that that you have to pay people like that’s just a general thing. If you want somebody something quality, then you must pay for them. I don’t think I think pretty much any donor would know that. And the idea that fundraisers think that donors don’t know that and are crazy. They did a study and it’s about 80% of fundraisers are uncomfortable. This was last year uncomfortable asking for operational support. They just don’t want to ask for it at all. Yeah, it’s too bad. operational support, right? Well, it’s not a sexy ask, but it’s gonna mean that the especially gosh, look at it. Now. It’s if you have really great people running your organization, chances are good that you might have had some rainy day money in the bank and you might be okay. And you might be able to get through COVID. And you might be able to get through economic downturns because you have a really incredible group of devoted people who are really smart and have figured this stuff out. So it actually is protecting my money to know that you’re making a decent wage.

Boris Kievsky 33:48
Yeah, and the better professional you are, the more you do deserve to be paid and the better you’re going to be at your job and bringing more money in. It is a lot of that has the TED talk about an object I blogged about it before I’m in 100% agreement.

Lisa Greer 34:02
It’s about 10-11 years old, but it still works. And I send that to people all the time because it really gets your mind right about that. And I’m very pleased that there’s some movement in the last six months with different organizations that rate charities to really look at them not so much from this operational expense point of view, but from an impact point of view.

Boris Kievsky 34:24
Absolutely. At least I feel like we could talk for another five days and still not cover nearly half of what we can’t talk about. But I do want to be respectful of your time and our listener’s time. in the show notes for this episode, which are already up online, some of them will have more up, obviously, and once this is over. You recommended several different tools and resources like inside philanthropy, Chronicle, philanthropy candid, which I love and have worked with several times. Alliance magazine and board source. Anything that specifically organizational leaders should go to, besides going to buy your book, which we’re also going to have links to in the show notes, anything that they should do when they’re done watching this episode?

Lisa Greer 35:09
Well, I think looking at my blog would make a lot of sense because and I, in fact, had a guest, another donor philanthropist who did a guest column just a couple of days ago. So it’d be interesting to look at somebody else’s point of view. But I’ve done them for about a year, there’s maybe, I don’t know, 40 or 50 of them. And they’re on all different subjects that are a quick read, it’ll take two or three minutes. And they’re all they all talk about, from a donor’s point of view, things that you might do differently. And I think just talk to donors, I think that’s the most important thing. Go. It’s almost like pick up the phone today and talk to a donor and say, how are you doing? That would be a wonderful thing. And that will get you on the right track.

Boris Kievsky 35:45
Actually, right now during COVID. That’s a great practice because it shows that you care about them and you’re actually interested because maybe some numbers, especially if they’re older, and at high risk in terms of COVID, right. You want them to know that you care about them, and not just to pass a check, but also,

Lisa Greer 36:02
but one quick caveat, and then we’ll be done. But, but if you call somebody and you pick up the phone, you’d say, how are you doing? And how are you hanging in there during COVID? And they seem to need help. By making that phone call, you are obligating yourself to actually help them. Because if you don’t, then you might as well not make the phone call.

Boris Kievsky 36:20
Awesome. Lisa, thank you so much for joining me today and sharing all of this amazing perspective that I think is incredibly invaluable. We have so much more that we can talk about, and I’d love to have you back on the show sometime. For those of you watching at home, I hope you got a lot of value out of this or listening later on. If you did, please, please subscribe to us on YouTube on any of your favorite podcast platforms. And leave us a review so that more people can discover this show and people like Lisa talking about these really important subjects. Thank you, everybody. Have a great weekend. Thanks.

Exit 36:57
Thank you all for watching and listening to the nonprofit Hero Factory. We hope this episode has given you some ideas and strategies for creating war heroes for your cause and a better world for all of us. Please be sure to subscribe to this show on Youtube, Facebook, iTunes, Spotify, or your favorite podcast platform and let us know what you think by leaving a review

Concepts and Takeaways:

  • Integrity, authenticity, trust and honesty are the key to good fundraiser/donor relationships.
  • Donors are people, too.
    • Put yourself in their shoes when thinking about the language and tactics you’re using to appeal to them.
    • Communicate with them in a way that you’d want to be communicated with. If you don’t connect with the subject line of your own marketing email, for example, chances are your donors won’t connect with it either.
  • To bridge the divide (and grow an authentic connection) between fundraisers and donors, tell your story and ask them theirs.
  • By building relationships with donors, you might learn that they have more to give than just money. Use open communication to ask how donors want to be involved–and follow through.
  • Be transparent upfront, show where your money is being allocated if asked, highlight real outcomes and the right donors will like you, trust you, and ultimately, support you accordingly.

Action Steps: What Now?

  • Resource Spotlight

    In this episode, the following resources were mentioned:

    • Inside Philanthropy: News website following large philanthropic foundations and wealthy donors
    • Chronicle of Philanthropy: Publication covering the nonprofit world of philanthropy
    • Candid: Nonprofit resource for articles on talent, technology, data, and leadership
    • Alliance Magazine: Online publication covering philanthropy and social investment worldwide
    • BoardSource: For all things related to nonprofit boards, especially for new board members
  • Start implementing!

    • Reach out to your donors and have conversations! Ask them how they’re doing, and be prepared to offer help where you can.
    • Buy Lisa’s book, Philanthropy Revolution
    • Check out Lisa’s weekly newsletter, Philanthropy 451, and connect with her on Twitter

About this week’s guest

Lisa Greer

Lisa Greer

Author, Philanthropy Revolution, Philanthropy 451

Lisa Zola Greer is a philanthropist, entrepreneur, convener, nonprofit advisor and the author of “Philanthropy Revolution” (HarperCollins 2020).

A former Hollywood studio executive, Lisa has been an active board member, serving on boards including the New Israel Fund, Cedars-Sinai Hospital, Make-a-Wish, Girl Scouts, and many others.

Lisa is the mother of five, and she and her husband Josh live in Beverly Hills, where they have hosted nearly 200 charitable salons and events – bringing nonprofits’ stories to donors and influencers in Los Angeles.

Connect with Lisa Greer