The Nonprofit Hero Factory: Episode 27

Navigating the Nonprofit Digital Divide, with Elizabeth Ngonzi

In this Episode:

The nonprofit funding landscape continues to shift in response to the changing landscape in the pandemic and post-pandemic era. At the same time, there is a growing digital divide between those that are quickly adapting and adopting new strategies and those that are in danger of losing the ability to achieve their mission.

Elizabeth Ngonzi, founder and CEO of the International Social Impact Institute joins Boris this week to talk about how some nonprofits are staying ahead of the changes and new opportunities to connect with communities and funders alike. We also discuss how LinkedIn is fast becoming a critical platform for nonprofits, and how professionals can improve their skill sets to help their organizations and themselves.

Listen to this Episode

[00:00:18.780] – Intro Video
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 word for all of us. Da-Ding!

[00:00:19.720] – Boris
Hi, everybody. Welcome back to the Nonprofit Hero Factory. This should be Episode 27 that we’re broadcasting today. And it is with a friend of mine whom I’ve known for a few years now. We first met doing a Candid—it was a live stream, and back then an in-person—panel. Since then, we’ve formed a pretty good friendship. We do a lot of very similar things, so we have a lot in common and a lot that we want to talk to you about today. So let me introduce to you guys.

[00:00:50.870] – Boris
Elizabeth Ngonzi. She usually just goes by Liz. She is the founder and CEO of the International Social Impact Institute. She’s also an Adjunct Assistant Professor and the Faculty Program Developer of a new exciting program at NYU that we’re both going to be talking to you about today as part of what we’re going to talk about. But primarily we’re going to talk about Liz’s area of expertise, which is social media, storytelling, online fundraising, all of the things that we love so much. Liz’s bio reads that she is an international social entrepreneur and educator who helps purpose-driven leaders and organizations to clarify, develop their stories for increased impact.

[00:01:30.940] – Boris
She is the founder and CEO of the International Social Impact Institute, which through initiatives with the King Baudouin—I hope I pronounce that correctly—Foundation US, CIVICUS Global Alliance, Nelson Mandela University in South Africa, the Resource Alliance in the UK and others — create opportunities for and amplified the voices of social impact leaders from historically marginalized communities around the world.

[00:01:54.460] – Boris
As an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Fundraising at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU, she teaches digital storytelling, innovation and fundraising and planning and executing virtual events and fundraisers that inspire and activate support. Both of which are part of the Professional Certificate Program in Digital Fundraising she recently developed. Liz’s superpower is leveling the playing field for change makers and social impact driven leaders from historically marginalized communities. With that, let’s bring Liz on to tell her story.

[00:02:25.900] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
Hello, Boris. Thank you so very much for including me today. Hello, everybody. I’m so excited to be here with you.

[00:02:33.340] – Boris
Thanks, Liz. I’m excited to have you. It’s been a long time coming. We’ve been talking about getting you on the show,

[00:02:37.940] – Elizabeth Ngonzi

[00:02:37.940] – Boris
And we finally had a chance to make it happen.

[00:02:40.620] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
Yeah. No, it’s great. I’m excited to be here with you. And you did such a great … First of all, thank you for pronouncing my last name correctly. Most people botch it, right? Even if they know me forever, they do. So thank you for doing so. And I’m so glad you’re now part of the NYU program with us, which we’ll get into later. But should I go ahead and tell folks a little bit more about that?

[00:03:02.500] – Boris
Yeah. Your bio speaks volumes of the caliber of work that you do. But let’s find out a little bit more about you and your story.

[00:03:10.740] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
I think what most people don’t know is that, kind of like, storytelling is in my DNA, right? My late dad, Dr. John Ruganda, Uganda’s preeminent storyteller. He was a playwright? You can find his Wikipedia page, you can find his books on Amazon, is someone who really was looking to tell the story of Africans at a time when we were going through independence and so much was going on. So I’ve got him on one hand. And then my mom was with the United Nations Development Program for 30 years, retiring as the Deputy Director of Communications.

[00:03:46.000] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
And she used to travel around the world reporting and sharing about the different projects that they were supporting in developing countries. So this is how I grew up learning about all of this, learning about stories, meeting really incredible people, having these incredible experiences. So when I graduated from college, I went to work for corporate America, my parents were like, “What? That makes no sense.” I did that for ten years. And then after working as a management consultant, I actually worked in technology sector as well, in marketing and in sales.

[00:04:21.390] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
And I decided that I wanted to really work with nonprofits and teach them, kind of leverage what I’d learned in the private sector to help them. It wasn’t storytelling at the time. It wasn’t what I called it, but it was really helping them to build their brands, to be able to reach their supporters and raise funds. And we were actually even helping organizations create websites, back in 2004 for their events. We had a company that we outsource to in Uganda. They used to create little websites when you didn’t have all the sites you have now that you can use to host virtual events and to market them—market events—we literally were doing that. And so I’ve always been thinking about digital on how to integrate it into the things that I was doing to help, specifically nonprofits at this point.

[00:05:10.600] – Boris
I love the fact that your father was a preeminent playwright? And it’s something that as long as I’ve known you, I just learned a few minutes ago, part of me wants to just geek out about theater and theater history.

[00:05:25.680] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
You’re a theater nerd right?

[00:05:27.360] – Boris
I am a theater nerd all the way through. I mean, that’s what my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees are.

[00:05:33.750] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
I don’t know. I never sort of thought, you know, there’s so many times when you talk about it.

[00:05:39.720] – Boris
One of these days, we’re going to get into all of it.

[00:05:41.040] – Elizabeth Ngonzi

[00:05:41.880] – Boris
Today, let’s talk about your work and, from your perspective, what’s going on in the nonprofit sector these days. Particularly, of course, the elephant in the room, that’s pretty much taken over the house is, of course, COVID-19, which has shifted so many things to virtual, to digital, to online, something that you and I have been preaching for a long time that now has been sort of this mad rush for everybody to try to get in there and figure out what they can and can’t do. Talk to me. What are you seeing out there at the moment?

[00:06:13.630] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
Yeah. It’s been a rough 18 months. Right? And for a lot of organizations that really weren’t prepared for this in terms of being able to easily move their programs, their general engagement, whether it’s with funders or other stakeholders online. And they’ve really suffered. Right? And quite frankly, those of them hasn’t been able to adapt, and we’re already sort of like, you know, stretched thin financially, had to dissolve or they had to merge with other organizations

[00:06:46.650] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
The organizations that were able to quickly come up to speed, and it’s interesting, my digital storytelling course just went gangbusters in terms of registrations at Covid because we were just trying to figure this out. And so, I’ve seen that those organizations that not only figured out how to bring their fundraisers online, figured out how to really engage their supporters through live stream, and these sort of like, Facebook lives, LinkedIn live, and so on and so forth, those are the ones that are really starting to come out of this. But the other audiences or I’m sorry, the other organizations that really have done a great job here, the ones who’ve identified new offerings online.

[00:07:27.920] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
And so an example of that is I had a woman in one of my courses who worked for Film at Lincoln Center. Film at Lincoln Center literally had a month to basically move its film festival online, you know they had the catalog move online, and they did some in-person events through drive-throughs and things like that. But what they did was effectively create a Netflix offering. So they have the streaming service, which creates a whole new revenue stream down the line for them. And so I just thought it was just genius.

[00:08:00.010] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
Now I understand that there are smaller organizations that are going to be watching this. But I always say, let’s learn from the organizations that have some of the budgets or the kind of the resources that we don’t have to figure out… they’ve already created a blueprint. How do we then emulate what they’ve done in our specific space?

[00:08:15.920] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
So that’s one example, another example that an organization need, that’s really embrace digital is JCC Association in North America. Another one of my students is a head of marketing for them. And in the past, they’ve held their JCC ProCon event, which is an annual event in Florida for a couple of hundred people and adults to senior leaders, a few hundred people. This year, they were able to bring it online and attract about 3000 people. And so what happened by doing that was that they were able to get junior professionals, senior professionals, and leaders to be able to participate in this professional development conference and bring folks together who’ve been separated during COVID, because JCCs are actually physical locations. Some people hadn’t really seen each other. So in this virtual training, they brought folks together, and it really helped to boost morale. And it got people to feel like they’re part of something bigger because now they’re able to actually participate in this great training conference.

[00:09:19.220] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
So those are a couple of examples that I’ve seen of organizations really embracing digital in an effective way. It’s not… it’s one of those things where you’re like, the technology is actually relatively inexpensive. The problem is, it’s the culture. So there’re organizations—like whenever I’m working, with my students, the course I teach at NYU—we essentially create a digital fundraising and marketing plan for their organization, and we always start with a SWOT analysis.

[00:09:51.880] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
And inevitably, one of the biggest challenges or weaknesses they have is organizational. Meaning that they have a culture that does not embrace change. And we’re living in a world that you have to be able to adapt to change because things are happening so quickly. They were happening quickly before the pandemic. But you better believe they’ve been accelerated, right? So we have to really think about how do we change our cultures and how do we attract people or how do we change our mindset to be able to embrace this digital—because digital is not going away. Digital has been here for a while. And Boris, you and I talked about this, back in 2009 when I pitched my original course to NYU. It was just an online fundraiser course… I pitched it because I recognize just from my own clients back then, the huge budgets they had for Galas we’re going. They’re gone because of the economic downturn. So it was like, you have to now go online and really rely on online a lot more to be able to engage with the supporters that they need. Right?

[00:10:52.400] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
We didn’t have all the different social media platforms we have right now, but I did recognize that as a space that they really need to embrace. And I’m sure that’s where you are as well. And so, looking at where we’re at today, it’s not that different from were 11, 12 years ago. It’s just that it was didn’t seem as important because then we went back to normal. But I gotta tell you, normal is going to be hybrid from now, probably from now on.

[00:11:17.240] – Boris
I want to talk about a few of those things because I think you touched on several really great key points. The first in terms of the new opportunities, that the digital rush, if you will—it’s kind of a new gold rush feeling in the nonprofit space and finding new ways to leverage platforms that aren’t expensive anymore because technology, as you correctly said, the average cost has gone down and down. I recently actually came across and now own access to a tool where you can launch your own Roku channel.

[00:11:53.980] – Elizabeth Ngonzi

[00:11:55.260] – Boris
Yeah. So I am actually now looking for a client that wants to launch their own Roku channel, talking to one of my clients about it right now. You talk about the film festival going online. Yeah. Here you go…

[00:12:10.790] – Elizabeth Ngonzi

[00:12:10.790] – Boris
Put your channel on Roku, tell your subscribers where to get it. They could watch either in live set up…

[00:12:17.620] – Elizabeth Ngonzi

[00:12:17.620] – Boris
Or in a format where it’s just on loop or something I programmed, and people can pick their own— “oh, now I want to watch this” kind of like Netflix or HBO Max or any of those.

[00:12:28.430] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
Yeah. Whatever it may on.

[00:12:30.850] – Boris
The technology is so there. And wow, what a great way to find more people, provide more value, oftentimes with the content that you already have, because a lot of organizations have so much video content already.

[00:12:40.700] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
There you go. Exactly. That’s the thing. It’s like. Okay, so my hope is, and it’s not necessarily the case. But my hope is this 18 months that we’ve had to basically be at home and had time to reflect.

[00:12:55.100] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
It’s really helped organizations to think about new ways to leverage their existing assets, because why look outside when you actually have so much internally that you haven’t been leveraging? Right? So you record this thing, you have these assets and you just put them away, but actually they have value. You just have to know how to use them. Right?

[00:13:15.220] – Boris

[00:13:16.010] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
Absolutely. And I didn’t know about this new tool, that platform, but that’s incredible to be able to launch your own Roku channel just like that. Think about it. Think about who owned media, who is able to rate that 20, 30 years ago. That was impossible.

[00:13:35.090] – Boris
Yup. Today we could compete with the Rupert Murdochs and Jeff Bezos of the world really,

[00:13:41.370] – Elizabeth Ngonzi

[00:13:41.370] – Boris
Owns so much of the media and the Disneys and Netflixes. And if our message is more relatable and more relevant to our audience, then why not? Why wouldn’t they tune into us instead?

[00:13:59.580] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
I agree with you. Completely. I definitely agree with you on that.

[00:14:04.980] – Boris
It’s funny. Also, you mentioned the JCC conference. It’s awesome that you spoke to them. They have all internally gone through their own kind of revolution as well. And a year ago, almost a year ago, at this time, I was presenting to the leaders of JCC Global and all the different JCC leaders. And I got to talk to them in Russian, too, because now it doesn’t matter that I’m not physically there. The fact that I speak Russian, and there’s JCC all over Russia, and the former Soviet Union allows someone like me to go speak to them. It also allows them to reach Russian speaking Jews here in the US for extra support.

[00:14:43.880] – Elizabeth Ngonzi

[00:14:44.430] – Boris
It works both ways. The definition of community has completely changed, and you hit the nail on the head. If you don’t change, you will die. It’s Darwinian at that. There’s been such a proliferation also of nonprofits that have started over the last year and a half and even before that, but it’s accelerated. And I feel like and Liz, maybe you have a different opinion on this, but you kind of touched on it that in a little while, it’s going to be too much, and we’re going to have to start merging organizations or folding them.

[00:15:20.220] – Boris
So it’s whomever can actually use the best tools today to reach the most people today. Those are the ones that are going to thrive. If your mission is important, you’ve got to be there.

[00:15:30.290] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
Yup. It’s actually where you started. It already started. I had hosted a live stream, LinkedIn Live, with Candid, a couple of people from Candid last May, I think it was. And estimates, or the research indicated that about 50% of organizations we’re going to either, they’re going to go away or they’re going to have to merge based on what happened with the pandemic. Right? And we didn’t even realize how long the pandemic was going to last. Right? And effectively, we’re still in the pandemic. We’re not post pandemic. We’re still in it.

[00:16:03.910] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
So we’re in that process right now. We haven’t seen what’s come out. And you mentioned that there’re new nonprofits starting. But it’s not no longer just about nonprofits. There’s social enterprises. The individual is telling about that young man from Italy who has 110,000,000 TikTok followers. Right? He started his to account, like in March of last year. So in less than 18 months, he’s even able to develop this following. Now, imagine if he decided he wanted to support a cause or he wanted to support specific communities. He has 110 million people. He can say, “Hey, I want you to support this particular thing.” How does a nonprofit compete with that that has a thousand followers?

[00:16:51.090] – Boris
Yeah. Partnerships with influencers, I think, is a big thing. It’s a little risky at the moment, because the influencer… you never know. Let’s say that young man from middle, he does endorse an organization. And then, you know, a few months from now, he does something.

[00:17:05.810] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
Right? No, of course, that’s the challenge. But the same thing that you have with ambassadors, right? Organizations have ambassadors. But I’m saying that he can either be a partner or he can be a competitor. That’s what I’m saying. So when you’re thinking about a competitor in the real world, right? You’re thinking who’s around me physically. When you go online, that’s anywhere. Right?

[00:17:29.310] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
I as a donor… I mean, I gave money. I made a donation to an organization in Cambodia last week. I don’t know anything about them, but it was because someone had… it was a thank you to somebody who would helped me.

[00:17:42.510] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
And I said, please let me know the cause that you like. She said, this is what I’m interested in, so I made a donation to them. And I also made a donation to an organization here in New York. Right? So as a donor, I have a lot of options because I can do that online very easily.

[00:17:57.360] – Boris
Absolutely. We talk a lot about that the competitive landscape has completely opened up. And you were never really just competing with other organizations in your neighborhood. You are also competing with the Amazons of the world, the Facebooks who want your attention. The Amazons who want your money. Right? The discretionary spending hasn’t exceeded the growth of opportunity for me to spend my money at any given moment.

[00:18:24.750] – Elizabeth Ngonzi

[00:18:24.750] – Boris
It’s making that connection to your specific target audience and making a really relevant and resonant connection that’s going to make the difference wherever they are around the world.

[00:18:35.840] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
Absolutely. At the of the day, you brought up a good point. It is about story, right? You have to tell a great story, and you have to be able to differentiate yourself. It doesn’t matter if you’re on every platform. Doesn’t matter if you have follows. You don’t have a story that’s compelling, you don’t have a way of engaging with folks in a way that makes sense to them. Right? Because when we’re telling our story, we need to tell it within the context of what is going to be of interest to your audience, to our audience.

[00:19:03.860] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
And we tend to forget that we tend to communicate in terms of what’s important to us. And a lot of nonprofits can actually communicate that way. But it’s really important for us to think about what do the audience want? What does the want the audience want to know about us? What’s going to engage with them? What is going to activate them? Because ultimately you’re communicating, you’re trying to activate them. You’re trying to get them to do something. And so it’s important that we take that into consideration before we think about the channel we use. So we need to be really clear about the “what” we’re communicating, the “why” we’re communicating “with whom” we’re communicating.

[00:19:38.040] – Boris
Yeah. I mean, there are, well, six storytelling questions that we all learned in fourth grade and, well, most of us learned in fourth grade. And they are absolutely key to telling any story. What do you advise? Like, where should nonprofits be thinking at the moment to set themselves up for success going forward? Maybe they’ve been doing some of this? Maybe not. But since the landscape has completely changed in so many ways, what should they be thinking about right now to be effective going forward?

[00:20:13.440] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
I think, that first and foremost, it’s time to really take stock of where we are and who we are. And what are story’s all about. Is our story relevant for today? I wrote a piece for Candid last summer about—it was about digital storytelling. I spoke about the fact that foundations we’re starting to shift their focus. They’re starting to think about issues around social justice all around COVID-19 relief. And so organizations really need to recast themselves to be relevant within that context, that they wanted to be able to engage those foundations.

[00:20:47.430] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
And so, along those same lines, I think that we have to think about who are we in this post-COVID or COVID era and ongoing COVID era, as opposed to what we were pre-COVID because it’s going to be different. The realities are different. The way that we even engage with people. The way that we’re online versus in person programming. And so and so forth. We have to really think about what’s going to really resonate with the people we’re trying to serve, the community we’re trying to serve.

[00:21:18.120] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
But also it’s going to resonate with those that we’re trying to engage, bring to come and support us. So that’s one of the things is really rethinking. Who are we? Right? We need to really rethink our purpose, our unique value proposition, which requires some soul searching, right? Some nonprofit soul searching, even for us, is people working in this sector.

[00:21:40.640] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
The next thing I’d say is that it’s really important that we understand that we need to diversify our fundraising. I think that a lot of organizations found—and this happened in 2008, 2009 as well—they were so reliant on just a few funders and even one instance, just one. And when that goes away, you’re done. And in a situation like this, it’s really about having diversified funding sources so that if one goes away or if you lose corporate and whatever, then at least you’re still able to stand. And so that’s also something that I think organizations need to think about. So you’ve got the corporates, you’ve got the foundations, and the foundation is actually the most stable. And then, of course, individuals, you’ve got high net worth, but then you’ve got the individuals for online.

[00:22:26.550] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
And those folks who can really support you on a monthly basis, you don’t want to just get a one time donation. You want to really look at recurring donations. So it’s important we look at that. And I also say you’ve got to start internally. I didn’t even talk about this. I believe that you have no right to ask anyone for money to support your organization if you yourself don’t get to that organization. So I always say what I work in the clients, the board—you know everyone expects the board, the board—senior leadership, and quite frankly, even throughout the organization, it’s important that everyone has skin in the game. It’s not necessarily that they have to make these big donations, but there’s something they’ve got to bring in so that everyone’s clear that they’re actually, everyone’s a fundraiser in your organization, everyone’s part of the mission. So they should feel that they’re an investor in it, as well. So it’s also looking at how you can take advantage of or leverage the internal to your resources to be able to support the organization.

[00:23:22.260] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
And then finally, I would say that—I’m not paid by them, but—LinkedIn. I wrote an article about it. I believe it’s on your site. Linkedin is such an important platform right now. You know, Boris, I’ve been at this a long time. So I’ve got accounts on every platform. I’ve used all of them. I’m on ClubHouse, I’m not even going to talk about ClubHouse right now. But LinkedIn, if you are serious about engaging with professionals, if you’re trying to engage with foundations… there are only 10% of them that have websites.

[00:23:56.660] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
And so you’re going to really try to figure out how to connect with their employees, and that’s where you’re going to find them, because 900 million people have accounts on LinkedIn. So it’s important for you to really take advantage of that platform. Not only as a site like, a lot of people use LinkedIn in the past as a resume site, but it’s literally like your secondary and some of instances, your primary organization’s web presence. So, like, a landing page.

[00:24:26.510] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
And it gives you an opportunity to showcase any of your thought leadership. It gives you an opportunity to present any of your projects and your impact. And then it also gives you an opportunity to bring all of your stakeholders together connected to that page. So that when you’re applying for a grant, whatever foundation and their doing research on you. They’re conducting to due diligence, they get to your digital profile, they’ll say, “Oh, so-and-so is part of the board. So-and-so as part of this. We know that person. We trust that person.” Otherwise, you’re just sort of like this little organization that they don’t know much about.

[00:24:59.840] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
The other thing is that when you’re then conducting research and you do find whichever company or whoever you’re trying to connect with, if you don’t necessarily yourself as the fundraiser or know that person or have a connection to that company or organization, there might be someone within your ecosystem, within your network, connected to your page who can make that connection for you. So it’s really important to have those connections set up. And then finally, I would say that you can take advantage of the training. They have so much going on on LinkedIn, and all nonprofits, qualified nonprofits get 50% off of their products. And so, great research tool, great place to build a brand.

[00:25:42.950] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
And of course, you and I love LinkedIn Live. I did my first LinkedIn Live with you. So, LinkedIn Live, and also using the LinkedIn event sites. Those are amazing the invitation sites, because those themselves create a whole new landing page for your event that lasts a very long time. And so I’m super excited about it. I wrote a piece about it for Nonprofit Times, and in it there are tons of resources so that you don’t have to be like, well, how do I do this? I present a best practice. I give you the resource to be able to implement it. They give you other resources that you can use to leverage LinkedIn.

[00:26:24.020] – Boris
Those are all great points and tools that people should be absolutely thinking about. Speaking of LinkedIn events, the first LinkedIn event that I was a part of was the one that we just did for the NYU.

[00:26:39.740] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
Oh, I didn’t realize that.

[00:26:39.740] – Boris
Yeah. I had never been a part of a LinkedIn event, and I was really impressed with the reach that it got. Especially, you were able to, we were all able to tag each other in the post, and the reach was phenomenal.

[00:26:53.130] – Elizabeth Ngonzi

[00:26:53.130] – Boris
So many sign ups for that. I was genuinely impressed. And I’m looking forward to using the platform for that kind of thing again.

[00:27:00.780] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
Right? It’s awesome. And the thing is, a couple of things that this really takes advantage of is, you see, when someone sends you an invitation, you get to see who’s actually already invited. And that helps you, because we’re all about peer pressure. There’s peer pressure, right? We want to be where the cool kids are. Right? So you’re like, “oh,” I’ll say. “Oh, Boris is going to that. Okay. That must be cool. I’m going to participate in that.” Versus receiving an invitation in my inbox. And I don’t know anything about who’s attending. I don’t know anything. I’m like, “oh, I don’t know. I may not be that into it.” So it gives the opportunity to use that social proof in terms of wealth is going.

[00:27:38.130] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
And then within this site, once you just get into the event, you’re able to then also access any resources that the event organized or share. So we shared, like, articles. We shared that you’d written or I’ve written. We shared videos, anything we want. Polls…

[00:27:57.070] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
And by the way, just because the event is over, it doesn’t mean we can’t continue to communicate. I think you saw I posted a post-event post yesterday, and that site is live. Next month, if we want to add something else, we still can. So it’s really great because we already know what they’re interested in because they signed up for this event so we can continue to communicate with them through this particular channel.

[00:28:22.340] – Boris
Yeah. And it still gets plenty of reach and can be constantly updated. It’s pretty great. I think we should actually link to that event as an example for people in the show notes, along with all the other things that we’ve been talking about and LinkedIn for nonprofits and all of those things, we are also going to link to that event so that people could check it out, see what that was about and how it worked. You could deconstruct it, if you will, and see for yourselves.

[00:28:47.320] – Boris
The power of LinkedIn networking in general… I think for a while LinkedIn was this kind of sleeping giant, if you will. Where, you’re right. It was just resumes essentially, a virtual resume platform and people trying to network to each other to just be able to get a job or something like that. Now it really is a connection tool. And organizations that have a message can find people whom it’ll resonate with on there. And your idea that you mentioned about maybe partnering with organizations with companies, for-profit businesses, right? They’re all on there. Any for profit business.

[00:29:25.140] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
And here’s something that I should mention, you know, when you’re updating your LinkedIn profile. One of the questions that ask you, “Are are there any causes you’re interested in? Are you interested in volunteering? Would you be interested in board service? Would you like to mentor?” So, when you have a certain level of account in LinkedIn as a nonprofit organization, you can find those leaders, those folks who are looking to volunteer for cause like yours, who’re looking to be on a board like yours. And so it’s really helping with that kind of outreach, because we fill it out and we don’t even think about it. I’m like, “Oh, yeah, whatever.” But they’re actually their making it easy for nonprofits or whoever is looking for that information to be able to look for it, to find it.

[00:30:09.240] – Boris
So. We’ve teased this event that we did, and the program. We’ve mentioned the program a couple of times. I want to be respectful of your time and our listeners time, but I definitely want to talk about this because it’s so exciting. Tell us about this new program at NYU.

[00:30:27.030] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
Okay. So as I mentioned to you, I started teaching NYU well, at the time, the Heyman Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising. And we merged—we were absorbed into the Center Global Affairs four or five years ago. But given how much like interest that was in my course during COVID, the directors kind of realized that there was probably something here. And I’ve been talking about. I’m like, we need to expand this program. And so they asked me to create a program that would basically take what I developed as an overall course that helps an organization to develop its digital fundraising and marketing strategy, looking at the different channels and then break that into the different, break each one into a course. Right?

[00:31:18.700] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
So we have you talking about high impact websites. I’m team-teaching with another woman, with Cheryl Gentry. We’re going to be teaching a course on virtual events and fundraisers. And then we have Kat, well, she already came. Right? So…

[00:31:34.960] – Boris
Yeah she will have been on…

[00:31:37.520] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
So she’s talking about social media. And of course, with GivingTuesday as part of that. And then we have Dane Wiseman, who’s going to be covering—it’s actually a course he already teaches on—basically social media metrics, and analytics. And so these are the different pieces that we need. So it’s a certificate program. You can complete it within a two-year period, or you can just say, I’m just interested in one particular course, and you can take it. And they’re six to seven weeks each. It’s really easy to manage. And they write to me once a week.

[00:32:12.480] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
And not only is it great content, but literally you walk away… you’re have something, a tool that you can then use for your ongoing campaign for your organization. I’ve had some students who used it as a tool to get a job. It’s like an auditioning tool. And quite a number of folks also, they implement a lot of what’s covered throughout the period of the course in real time. So it’s very practical. I’m so excited to see what we’re going to be doing with your course, and I’m going sit in on it myself. I want to learn what you’re doing.

[00:32:50.250] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
And so I’m just really excited about it, because what we found, if you look at the Giving USA report, overall, giving is a slight bump up. But online giving is going up significantly, right? Even over the last three years, it’s gone up by 32%. And so we’re really helping organizations to fully embrace how to do it effectively, because during COVID, folks just scramble to do it, right? But now we’re saying here’s how you can really develop a strategy around it. Here are some tools. Here are some of the wisdom we’ve garnered. Here are some examples and case studies. I’m going to have to see JCC Association coming into my course to do a digital engagement case study. I think it’s really exciting, and I’m really glad to see that we’re able to support the sector this way, because this is really necessary. I’m not saying the other topics and fundraisers are not necessary, but this is definitely very timely.

[00:33:50.040] – Boris
Now, with everything being virtual at this point, do people need to be in the New York Metro area to participate?

[00:33:56.060] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
No. The whole program is virtual. The whole program is virtual. In fact, I’ve had students as far from as far as Singapore, in Canada, from Hawaii, so they don’t have to be in New York. The course is pretty much in the evening, so they have to be able to either wake up really early for the different time zone or whatever the adjustment is. So people do it. It’s definitely worthwhile.

[00:34:24.260] – Boris
I’m really excited to be a part of it. First and foremost excited that I get to be an adjunct instructor, professor, whatever it is. Instructor, I think.

[00:34:38.140] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
Yeah exactly.

[00:34:38.140] – Boris
It’s kind of a lifelong dream for me to be teaching at a university, and especially one like NYU. Having grown up in New York, it’s iconic to me, of course. And I’m excited to teach all of these things that I’ve been trying to teach organizations. I’m going to teach other people how to really use them and hopefully partner with nonprofits to help redesign their websites and improve things for their own conversions, to activate more heroes for their cause, as I like to say all the time.

[00:35:06.910] – Elizabeth Ngonzi

[00:35:07.470] – Boris
And anyone who completes it, they can get that certificate and put it up on LinkedIn to showcase themselves and to showcase what they’re working on.

[00:35:16.120] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
And that’s a really good point you bring up, because, Boris, here’s the thing. If you think about our sector, there are not many people with those digital skills. And when I say with those digital skills… with the digital skills, with the formal training. And so, it is a true differentiator. Once you put it in there, you go from being a fundraiser to being a fundraiser with this digital aspect or marker with this and and so on and so forth. So people, again, like I said, they use it to get new jobs, but they can get promotions or whatever it is that they want to be able to do.

[00:35:52.760] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
And we’re building this in such a way that yes, it will, it benefits nonprofit organizations. But if there’re social enterprises that are interested in this, they’re welcome. So are foundations because we’re really looking to support social-impact driven organization.

[00:36:08.090] – Boris
I often answer, when I’m asked, why is it that nonprofits are usually significantly behind the rest of the field when it comes to digital adoption and usage? That it’s partly inherent to the way that nonprofits are formed. It’s not usually by people who graduated with digital marketing skills and now want to start a nonprofit. Although there are plenty that have done that, and that’s fantastic. It’s usually people who graduated with different kinds of degrees and now want to put them in the service of good or are joining an organization that they believe in, but they don’t have that digital marketing or that website development or digital fundraising kind of background to them.

[00:36:52.290] – Boris
And so they’re kind of left to fend for themselves or hire consultants or hire expensive people in house. This program can really help level that playing field for organizations and super excited about that.

[00:37:04.350] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
Yeah, I know. I agree a hundred percent with you, and it’s exciting to see that, because I feel like, this will really move the needle significantly. I’ve already seen it, right? So it’s not theoretical. It definitely will, and it has. And you know, really, to my knowledge, this is the first offering of this type at a university.

[00:37:29.720] – Boris
So, I’m hoping that a lot of people at least check it out. We’ll definitely link to it in the show notes, so that people go see the program and all the information.

[00:37:36.960] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
And also to see the webinar. The webinar, as you guys be a terrific job and let them see the webinar, too.

[00:37:42.050] – Boris
We’ll definitely be linking to that. As I said before in the LinkedIn event, so that you can deconstruct how we did it and how we got so many people there in the first place. And we’ll also link to several of your articles, your Nonprofit Tech for Good pieces. And you mentioned that the blog itself is a good resource for people, I believe.

[00:38:02.800] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
Yeah, it’s a great resource. Heather, who runs it is awesome. It’s a great resource.

[00:38:07.600] – Boris
So we’ll definitely link to that. What is your call to action to any organization, any nonprofit professional, because organizations don’t listen, but professionals do. At this point, they’ve listened to our interview. What should they go do now?

[00:38:22.580] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
Upskill their digital skills. And not just because it’s self serving, but really it’s no longer good enough for you to be like a terrific fundraiser, a terrific market. You need to have digital. It’s not a nice to have. It’s an essential. So absolutely make those investments, whether it’s a store program or elsewhere. Absolutely make that investment because this isn’t going away. Digital is not going away. And if you see, I don’t know if you can see the book, there’s a book behind me, which is The World Is Flat. Thomas L. Friedman.

[00:38:56.480] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
I read that in 2005. I think it was, and I was really looking at kind of differentiating myself too, what I was working on. And I realized that as professionals, as organizations, as companies, we have to constantly think about how we reinvent ourselves to be much more relevant. And if you’re known for real basic things, basic skills, you as a professional can be replaced or you as a nonprofit or you as a company, can be replaced. The more that you can really move up the food chain, the more that you can go to more value-added kind of offering, and this is one of them. The more in demand you will be.

[00:39:36.550] – Boris
Inevitably, you’re paid for the value that you can bring to an organization. Basically.

[00:39:40.910] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
Yeah. So that’s what I would say.

[00:39:43.730] – Boris
Awesome. Liz, if people want to connect with you, by the way, I should probably say Liz is not a flat-earther. If anybody took that out of context.

[00:39:54.280] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
Oh. Okay. Yeah.

[00:39:57.710] – Boris
But if anybody wants to connect with you, what’s the best way to do that?

[00:40:00.940] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
I’m @LizNgonzi on every platform, and they can also email me

[00:40:09.560] – Boris
Fantastic. I’m sure a lot of people will have questions. I want to follow up with you. I’m really grateful to you for coming on the show today, Liz, and sharing all this valuable knowledge and having this immensely important discussion with me.

[00:40:21.190] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
Thank you for inviting me. It was so fun. This is really, really a pleasure for me to do this with you.

[00:40:28.580] – Boris
Awesome, Liz. I’m sure we’ll have more things to talk about, and maybe we’ll have you on again.

[00:40:32.670] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
Yeah, bring me back.

[00:40:34.010] – Boris
Maybe the other myriad things that you and I could dive into.

[00:40:39.030] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
We could talk about plays, we could talk about theater.

[00:40:41.770] – Boris
Oh my goodness. I’m sure there are nonprofits focused on theater that would love that conversation, but maybe we’ll do that as a side note.

[00:40:49.780] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
I’m doing a presentation for arts organizations in the UK in two weeks, in Digital Storytelling.

[00:40:59.750] – Boris
Send me a copy?

[00:41:00.300] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
Not that unlikely.

[00:41:03.750] – Boris
Actually, maybe an episode specifically for arts organizations would be great, because I do have several arts organizations clients, and they have some particular challenges.

[00:41:12.600] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
Oh they really would have gone through it. Really.

[00:41:20.740] – Boris
Yeah, absolutely. All right, we’re gonna do that.

[00:41:22.700] – Elizabeth Ngonzi
Okay. Awesome.

[00:41:23.870] – Boris
All right. Thank you, everybody, for joining us today on the Nonprofit Hero Factory. Please, please follow us on all the social media platforms. Subscribe to this podcast. And if you love interviews like the one we just had with Liz Ngonzi, then please go ahead and subscribe and leave us a review so that more people could discover it. Thank you, as always, for all the work that you do to make the world a better place. I’m Boris Kievsky, and I’ll see you next time.

[00:42:06.180] – Outro Video
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 more 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:

  • Over the last 18 months, some organizations did a great job quickly responding to the Covid shift to digital in their fundraising and programming, while others could not. (6:13)
  • Small organizations can learn from larger ones, following their blueprint and applying it to their own organizations, even if at a different scale. (8:00)
  • With the cost of technology dropping, the biggest differentiator between nonprofits adopting digital today is not financial, it’s cultural. Those that cannot adapt and embrace change may be forced to close or merge. (9:19)
  • Nonprofits have to think about new ways to leverage their existing assets and generate new content. Most any organization can now compete with the large media companies in the world in terms of distributing your content. If your content is just as relevant to your audience, they will be happy to access it in the same ways they get their current entertainment. For example, it’s now simple and affordable to launch your own streaming channel on platforms like Roku. (11:17)
  • Your community is now potentially anywhere in the world. Geography is not as important as relevancy and accessibility. (14:04)
  • There are many new influencers with tremendous reach. These can either be competitors for attention or great allies for nonprofits whose causes they care about. As with all partnerships, though, you have to be careful with whom you partner. (16:09)
  • With the increased competition for resources, building genuine connections with your audience makes all the difference. It all starts with a great story that resonates with your audience, is in sync with their interests, and differentiates your nonprofit from the competition. (18:25)
  • Covid has changed, and continues to change the world. What worked before the pandemic may not be what’s most effective now. (20:47)
  • The funding landscape has also changed. Relying on a few high-level funding sources is perilous in times like these. It is far better to diversify, including seeking out smaller recurring donations. (21:40)
  • In connecting with foundations’ employees, organizations should take advantage of LinkedIn. With 900 million accounts, it is a great platform to reach people and organizations that may be interested in your work. (23:22)
    • Only 10% of foundations have websites, but many have employees who are active on LinkedIn.
    • It allows nonprofits to showcase their thought leadership, their work and their impact.
    • Development professionals can research prospects on LinkedIn and connect with them directly or through someone in their network that can make an introduction.
    • LinkedIn events are another great tool on the platform, creating a landing page around an event with social proof based on who else is attending. You can continue to add things to the event page, and the page will keep reaching your audience long after the event is over.
    • Take advantage of the training. LinkedIn offers 50% off of their products for qualified nonprofits.
  • There is a new certificate program in Digital Fundraising at NYU that offers courses in digital storytelling, virtual events and fundraisers, social media, analytics, high-impact web design, and more, taught by industry experts. (30:09)
    • The entire program can be accessed virtually.
    • Each class will have practical applications
    • The certificate is a great way for nonprofit professionals to distinguish themselves in the field

Action Steps: What Now?

About this week’s guest

Elizabeth Ngonzi

Elizabeth Ngonzi

Founder / CEO, International Social Impact Institute

Liz Ngonzi is an international social entrepreneur and educator who helps purpose-driven leaders and organizations to clarify, develop their stories for increased impact.

She is the founder and CEO of The International Social Impact Institute, which — through initiatives with the King Baudouin Foundation US, CIVICUS Global Alliance, Nelson Mandela University in South Africa, The Resource Alliance in the UK, and others – creates opportunities for and amplifies the voices of social impact leaders from historically marginalized communities around the world.

As an adjunct assistant professor of fundraising at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU, she teaches Digital Storytelling, Innovation and Fundraising, and Planning and Executing Virtual Events and Fundraisers that Inspire and Activate Support, both of which are part of the professional certificate program in Digital Fundraising she recently developed.

Connect with Elizabeth Ngonzi