The Nonprofit Hero Factory: Episode 38

Adapting and Scaling In-Person Programs Online, with Constanza Roeder

In this Episode:

When Covid shut down non-essential access to hospitals, it effectively shut down all of Hearts Need Art’s programming, as it did for so many other service-based nonprofits. Artists were no longer able to perform for patients, patients were no longer able to get much-needed emotional support, and they couldn’t deliver on their promise to donors.

This easily could have been the end of the line for the arts in health nonprofit that Constanza Roeder created just a few years prior, based on her first-hand experience of being a cancer patient and the support that got her through it.

Instead, the young non-technical, resource-strapped organization took on the challenge with their greatest asset: creativity. They developed new programs to meet the new constraints and, in the process, created a significantly more scalable system for delivering their programming that creates stronger connections between their work and their donors, provides a greater continuity of care for their clients, and allows them to reach exponentially more people in need… without over-taxing their resources.

Hearts Need Art founder Constanza Roeder joins the show to share her story and break down how any organization can do the same.

Listen to this Episode

[00:00:06.050] – Intro
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 of us. Da-Ding.

[00:00:22.890] – Boris
Hi, everybody. Welcome back to The Nonprofit Hero Factory. Thank you for joining us. As the intro says, we are here to share advice from nonprofit leaders on how you can activate more heroes for your cause, primarily through technology, storytelling… but it really cuts across all topics.

[00:00:40.650] – Boris
And today we’ve got a slightly different topic than usual, which is, we’re profiling a specific nonprofit leader. Her name is Constanza Roeder and trying to work out what it is that she was able to do during the pivot that many of us had to take during the pandemic in order to not only retain her donor base and her volunteer base, but also to expand it and see how her organization was able to make some pivots and what have been the implications of those pivots.

[00:01:11.100] – Boris
Let me tell you a little bit about her. Constanza is the founder and CEO of Hearts Need Art: Creative Support for Patients and Caregivers and the host of a podcast of her own, which is Arts for the Health of It. Ms. Roeder was selected as one of the top 100 Healthcare Visionaries by the International Forum on Advancements in HealthCare for 2021. As a singer, adolescent leukemia survivor, speaker, and thought leader in the field of arts and health, Constanza is on a mission to humanize healthcare through the arts.

[00:01:40.680] – Boris
When I asked Constanza her superpower, she said it’s using technology and automation to help our donors serve clients so they feel more connected to the cause. Obviously, those are all things that I am very passionate about myself, so I was excited to have her on the show. Let’s bring her on.

[00:01:59.070] – Constanza Roeder

[00:01:59.440] – Boris
Hi, Constanza.

[00:02:00.990] – Constanza Roeder
Hey. Thanks for having me.

[00:02:02.380] – Boris
Thank you for joining me today. I’m really happy to have you. I’m excited to learn from you and what you guys have been doing at Hearts Need Art. First, I’ve read your impressive bio. Congratulations on the impressive achievements. And now I’d love to just hear a little bit. What’s your story? How did you get to this point?

[00:02:20.310] – Constanza Roeder
Sure, I will try to keep it short. So in my bio, you mentioned that I’m an adolescent leukemia survivor, which was really an inciting incident in my story. I’ve had several, but that was one of the big ones. I had 130 weeks of chemotherapy when I was going through that ordeal. So most of my high school experience, I was in and out of hospitals and experienced a lot of isolation and frustration and grief and all of the things that you might imagine anyone dealing with cancer might experience, but especially as a young person, there’s a lot of added, like just add being a teenager on top of that. Becomes very complicated.

[00:03:03.090] – Constanza Roeder
But I was really fortunate to still be classified as a pediatric cancer patient because I had access to pediatric services, which included the arts. The arts were really essential piece of how I was able to cope with not just my treatments, but really kind of rebuild my life after I finished that whole process. And I went on to study music and psychology in college. And I moved from my hometown in California to San Antonio, Texas, where I live now. And I started volunteering on an adult oncology unit.

[00:03:42.030] – Constanza Roeder
And I’ve never been in an adult hospital before. So I was in the unit, I was like, “Whoa, this is really different from what I’m used to.” Where are the activities and where is the arts? And where are all the visitors who want to come and make the patients feel better? And there was like none of that. And so many of the patients I worked with were much older than I was when I finished treatment. It’s not like we magically become a completely different species when we turn 18. We still need connection and love and beauty and expression. These are all things that we need throughout our lifetime.

[00:04:17.260] – Constanza Roeder
And so I did the only thing I knew how to do. I just started going room to room and singing for patients. I would bring music to the bedside, and that grew into starting my nonprofit in 2016, where we could bring in other musicians and visual artists and writers to come and bring… to help really… to help keep people from languishing. I guess I’ll use that word because there’s this languishing that can happen when people are left isolated and in their anxiety and depression just because they’re in this healthcare environment, which is kind of an artificial environment we’ve created.

[00:05:01.350] – Constanza Roeder
And so we use the arts to like I said in my bio, to humanize that healthcare experience, to restore some of that. So we’re about to hit our five year mark and I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished. We have an amazing team and they do awesome work.

[00:05:16.270] – Boris
That sounds great. And I can picture everything that you’re talking about. I’m fortunate that I did not go through quite similar experiences as yours. And I commend you on how you came through it and were able to turn it into a lifelong passion. When we talk about storytelling and you the term inciting incident. And I was actually really interested to hear that you say you’ve had several. I think we all do. And it’s part of how we choose to tell our story, which ones we tend to focus on, which ones we take action on and allow it to lead us down the path of the life that we want to live.

[00:05:52.090] – Constanza Roeder
Yeah, totally.

[00:05:53.420] – Boris
So kudos to you for acting upon it. And now turning it into something…

[00:05:58.490] – Constanza Roeder
I responded to the call.

[00:06:00.790] – Boris
You did. You took up the call to action. I talk about those all the time. And oftentimes it’s not the first call to action someone responds to. It might be the second or third or sometimes fifth. In marketing, they say you have to have at least seven touch points. So you had a long end and harrowing, it sounds, unfortunate experience. But you let that become the call to action and motivation as often we do. We turn our greatest weaknesses and suffering into our greatest strengths and prosperity.

[00:06:34.160] – Boris
So personally, I commend you for doing all that and creating an important organization, I think, because I love arts as most people who have ever listened to the show know. I’m a recovering actor and filmmaker. I did a lot of theater and there’s nothing like that artistic collaboration, that artistic communication. And I say collaboration, I don’t mean between two different artists, I mean between an artist and an audience. To transport them, to get them into a different time and place, which honestly, if you’re suffering from cancer and going through treatment, wow. How valuable…

[00:07:12.320] – Constanza Roeder
You get it!

[00:07:13.630] – Boris
Absolutely. I can easily understand how your work has been impactful and important. And then we had a little something happen around two years ago now, a little less than two years ago in the healthcare space that I would imagine made your work a little bit difficult.

[00:07:34.200] – Constanza Roeder
What? No. That? No. Yes, it did. Yeah, the pandemic— So, all of our programming is in person or was in person. Clue there. And then March of 2020, all of our programs were suspended in the hospital. And so we had to figure out, “Okay, what are we going to do?” Because our patient population, our stakeholders are even more isolated. They’re experiencing even more of the reasons that we’re there in the first place, because now they can’t have any family visitors and they couldn’t leave their rooms like so bad, so bad. Like we have to find a way and we have to find a way to support during this time.

[00:08:21.510] – Constanza Roeder
And so we spent two weeks and we completely overhauled our whole program and put it online so that people could access that. We started live streaming a lot of content, which is a really cool way, because really cool thing is a lot of our donors follow our social media and a lot of our clients follow social media. So we did these live interactive art sessions on social media and they could interact with each other, which is really kind of a special thing that we can’t usually bring a lot of donors into the hospital to kind of see our work. So they got to kind of interact with each other on this virtual platform. And we’ve kept some of those elements that we built in our programming because we found it’s helped us provide a better continuum of care for our patients now as well. So that’s it. Yeah. Interesting time.

[00:09:13.170] – Boris
No doubt, stressful two weeks there that you guys spent overhauling everything. But I hear the outcomes were pretty good. So can you tell us what did you guys come up with and how did it change what you’re doing?

[00:09:26.850] – Constanza Roeder
Sure. So it was kind of on all fronts. Right? So there’s the programming front, but also the fundraising front, which, of course, is common to all nonprofits. So on the programming front, we put together a platform where our clients could schedule sessions directly with their favorite artist or musician or writer, someone on our team, and then they would meet through Zoom. We also did, like I said, the live streaming, we did some group sessions as well. We also kind of put the word out in some of the communication channels that we were connected with in the healthcare community on the national level.

[00:10:08.150] – Constanza Roeder
And so we were able to support groups from around the country. And we still are actually because there’s a lot of groups that have had to shift completely online. We serve a lot of high-risk people that face isolation because they’re immunocompromised. So they’re living pandemic times all the time. So a lot of the social workers we partnered with were having trouble keeping people engaged virtually… the Zoom fatigue is a real thing. So they’ve been bringing us in as like little special fun event things to help keep people engaged so they’re continuing to connect with each other and not just retreating into isolation. Because, yes, virtual is not ideal, but when it’s the only way we can connect, we’ve got to find fun ways—ways to make it fun so people continue to engage. So that’s kind of on the program side of things.

[00:11:05.490] – Constanza Roeder
And then we also built a new program that specifically is supporting healthcare workers. And it’s called… we call it our Gratitude Grams program because the burnout rates are just ridiculous right now. And there’s kind of this mass exodus from the healthcare field because people are tired and they’re burned out. But the data also shows that there’s a 40% decrease in the incidence of burnout when healthcare providers feel valued and when they feel appreciated.

[00:11:40.310] – Constanza Roeder
So we built this program around showing gratitude through the arts. So we put up a platform where people could submit letters of thanks in gratitude to healthcare workers, and they just fill out a simple form on our website. And then we combine those messages with a video from one of our artist, musicians or writers that has an uplifting song or a poem or a prompt or some sort of simple art activity people could do, like on a pad of paper, to shift—take a moment to shift their mindset and help them feel seen and really feel that someone else is holding them in their heart and is really thinking of them and has put some energy into making them feel appreciated.

[00:12:27.550] – Constanza Roeder
And that’s been a really cool program. We have healthcare providers from 30 different healthcare institutions around the country that are enrolled in that program. And we’ve received letters from people all around the country expressing thanks to healthcare workers.

[00:12:41.450] – Constanza Roeder
And that’s been a really cool intersection of the fundraising—like engaging supporters directly in a program that we didn’t really have a mechanism for before. And now it’s been this really beautiful partnership. And people in our community really do genuinely feel grateful for healthcare workers. And now they have kind of an outlet to express that gratitude, even really on a regular basis.

[00:13:12.690] – Constanza Roeder
And we’ve had groups reach out to us and wanting to do something to help. And it’s been a really easy thing that we’ve been able to say, hey, you guys can do this X, Y or Z, and it has this impact, and then they can run with it. It doesn’t require any extra time on our staff, which I know in nonprofit, like when people offer to help, it takes time. There’s an internal cost of that of like, okay, now we have to figure out what they can do and we have to help them do the thing and all that. So this was a repeatable system that helped people feel engaged and supported our clients.

[00:13:51.510] – Boris
There are so many things that I love about that. One, the first, is that you found a way within your mission to create a new program that was entirely… well at this end of it, anyway, entirely digital. That doesn’t require a lot of ongoing cost, a lot of ongoing resources like people power, man hours, woman hours, people hours, and that at the same time, helps achieve your mission by connecting people to the healthcare providers by creating a better atmosphere for everyone involved in that system.

[00:14:30.080] – Constanza Roeder

[00:14:33.310] – Boris
What did it take for you to get that program up? If I’m a nonprofit or a nonprofit program leader and I’m thinking about doing something like this, it may sound resource intensive just to get that going. Can you talk a little bit about what it took for you guys to get that going? What some of the tools that you’re using to make it happen?

[00:14:57.240] – Constanza Roeder
Sure. It’s very simple. It just takes a little bit on the front end to kind of think through what outputs you need, what data does our team need access to in order to make this happen? But we’re using a Google Sheet, and we’re using a mail merge, and that’s it. We also use a Google form that’s connected to the spreadsheet. That’s where kind of the automation comes in. There’s a lot of ways to integrate, especially Google products, which is great, and they’re really accessible. And Zapier has been really useful. We haven’t used Zapier…No, we do use Zapier to send automatic emails when people sign up for the program. So that automates that whole “welcome to the program” part of the program. We built it and then it runs. And as a name shows up and our program coordinator assigns them to an artist, and then they go from there. And the great thing about the format… each person gets assigned a particular artist, but we can scale up as much as we want with very minimal additional costs. So it was a very scalable initiative, which was great.

[00:16:23.960] – Boris
Yeah. I love how simple that is. I mean, I use all of those things all the time. When someone signs up to be on The Nonprofit Hero Factory, for example, they fill out a form, it then get Zapped to an email, to a spreadsheet, all those things. And they’re fairly simple, like plug and play things to set up Zap being Zapier or Zapier implementation. And then what happens once that note is delivered? Do you collect any sort of a feedback? Is that the end of the journey when the note is delivered? Or is that the beginning of the next step? How does it work with you guys?

[00:16:59.260] – Constanza Roeder
Sure. So when a healthcare provider enrolls in the program, they’re enrolled until they say they don’t want to receive messages anymore. So they get regular messages from us, mostly weekly, sometimes every other week. So they get—it’s ongoing. And then we have a survey because, of course, data is really important. Right? We have a survey after they watch their video, they watch their Gratitude Gram. We have a quick survey they can fill out just giving a little bit of feedback how it impacted them in certain areas.

[00:17:33.950] – Constanza Roeder
We’re specifically looking for how it impacted some of the symptoms of burnout, since that’s the real issue right now, and it’s really cool. The data shows that it does. And we’ve actually recently won an award for this program from the National Organization for Arts in Health, a national award in the category of caregiver resilience for the specific purpose. And so they’re reporting that they feel more hopeful, that they feel appreciated, that they feel more energized, that they just appreciate…

[00:18:06.860] – Constanza Roeder
And then we get qualitative data as well, stories about why they signed up, which are so like, Boris, they’re so heartbreaking. Some of them are like, I signed up because I’m looking for a reason to stay in this job. Like I need to remember why I’m doing this or I’ve been in this pandemic for two years and I just want to give up and I need something to lift my spirits. Like just the most heartbreaking stories and we’re not getting all the way to… getting them all the way there. But if we can at least move the needle a little bit and help them feel that their sacrifice that they make every day is seen and it’s important and we value them. That’s the one.

[00:18:55.310] – Boris
Absolutely. It’s that human connectivity, especially at a time when human connectivity is so difficult. And for healthcare workers specifically, the overwhelm that a lot of them have gone through in the past year and a half, two years now is exhausting, so human touch.

[00:19:18.420] – Constanza Roeder
Yeah. And we felt it was really important to have some sort of interactive element as well, because, like, okay, I’m on a mailing list where I get an email, that feels kind of impersonal. So regularly we ask, like, “Hey, if you have any requests like special song requests or types of activities you might want to do, let us know.” And then we make them and give them a call out and all these things. So we do try to have touch points.

[00:19:48.160] – Constanza Roeder
The first iteration of the program, which my team like, they nixed—we were creating personalized videos for each person. We would say their name. We would do the song, we would do this whole thing and it was so beautiful. But then we had too many people enrolling, and we’re like, we can’t scale this. So we had to kind of go back to the drawing board. Like how can we keep some of the touch points but also make it scalable? So that’s what we came to.

[00:20:14.820] – Boris
Until you guys get access to the AI and deep-fake technology where you could just mail merge somebody name into a video and you get them to actually say it. It’s already available. I’m not saying you need to jump on it. But it’s doable now.

[00:20:29.130] – Constanza Roeder
Next iteration of the program.

[00:20:31.600] – Boris
Absolutely. And I want to talk about how you guys iterated and how you were able to come up with this stuff. But before we even get there, you talk about the impact that it’s had on the healthcare workers, which, of course, is key to your mission. Have you seen any impact on your donors and your donor base as a whole as well?

[00:20:48.630] – Constanza Roeder
Yeah. It’s a really good question. When we were in 2020 going into 2021, we kind of had to rack our brains of, like how do we communicate to our donors that we’re still making an impact, but also we can’t do the work that, like the original work that we said that we were doing? We had to communicate all this new stuff. And so getting people involved in the process of actually engaging with the program, they got to see on the inside, like what the program was. And they got a touch point of actually engaging with it.

[00:21:33.270] – Constanza Roeder
And we expected a lot of… a much higher loss last year from donor support. And we… we may, let’s see… Last year, we were on par, if not a little bit more from individual donors last year. And I think that’s like a huge one because we didn’t have any in-person programs. We couldn’t have any in-person fundraising events. And that meant we were able to keep all of our staff employed, that we were able to keep all of our artists employed at a time when musicians, artists, all of those people that rely on the gig economy had no… we were their only paycheck for months and months at a time until things started opening up.

[00:22:22.920] – Constanza Roeder
And so at a time when our organizations around the country were having to lay people off, we were able to keep everyone employed. And that was our goal. As soon as we were shut down and everything was not looking good, we’re like, “We’re going to do whatever we need to do to find work for you all to do to keep everyone employed.” So that’s a huge win in my book.

[00:22:44.450] – Boris
Congratulations. That is a huge win. And the fact that you were able to keep everybody connected didn’t have a large drop off rate. Which, look, donor retention, regardless of your efforts, is never 100%. But if you could keep on that even scale when everything’s in turmoil or maybe even grow it, then that’s an incredible win. And hopefully it’ll only put you in a place where you could grow a lot more.

[00:23:11.300] – Constanza Roeder
Yeah. And we’ve seen, like the digital stuff that we’ve created and the digital platform that we’ve created has created a lot of momentum for us going into 2021, creating our podcast, all like the virtual offerings that we have now. It makes the work that we’re doing more visible, which is imperative for getting people to be like, “Oh, wow. This is cool. I want to support this.” So we’ve seen even more growth this year than… we kind of held steady last year, and we’ve seen a lot of growth and especially those individual donors this year.

[00:23:50.100] – Boris
I think that’s common where when you make a pivot, you first kind of plateau or even dip down a little bit before you can hit that hockey curve that everybody likes to aim for. Once the pandemic is over, which, let’s say in a couple of months, we’re going to be fairly back to normal. Let’s hope.

[00:24:11.910] – Constanza Roeder
Yes. Please.

[00:24:14.130] – Boris
I’m assuming you guys are going to start… if you haven’t already. Actually, maybe I should ask you that first. Have you restarted in-person programming with artists?

[00:24:23.630] – Constanza Roeder
Yes. We were out of the hospitals from March 2020 through April 2021. We were able to go back into the hospitals. And whereas before we were only serving one oncology floor in one hospital, which is still a lot, it was still like 60 beds that we were serving on a daily basis. But because we kept shifting to meet the needs that we were seeing in our healthcare space, the hospitals really took notice. And by the end of the year, we’re going to be in eight facilities. So we went from like one floor before the pandemic to now being in eight different hospitals, serving healthcare workers, playing concerts for them at the nurses stations and serving high-needs patients and stuff like that. So hold on. I got off on a tangent. What was the original question?

[00:25:23.860] – Boris
No, it’s a good tangent.

[00:25:27.020] – Constanza Roeder
Oh, we’re back in person.

[00:25:27.960] – Boris
Yeah. You’re back in person. Are you still continuing the digital programming as well?

[00:25:30.430] – Constanza Roeder
Okay. Yes. So the pieces that we’re keeping are those that are helping us provide that continuum of care. Like I mentioned earlier. So before, especially when we were working with oncology patients, they often have several admissions that they have throughout their course of treatment. So they might be in for a month, and then they’re home for a couple of weeks, and they’re in for another month and home for a couple of weeks. And during those times when they were home, they didn’t have access to the arts because they can’t go to an art class or go to a concert.

[00:26:04.530] – Constanza Roeder
And for a lot of the adults that we’re working with, they’re engaging with us in the arts for the first time. The last time they may have picked up a paintbrush was elementary school. And we kind of reawakened this expressive, creative spirit in them, and they want to keep doing it. And even before the pandemic we’re like, “How do we connect these dots?” Because we want to help them continue to create when they go home.

[00:26:32.860] – Constanza Roeder
So now, they can meet our artist Hannah in the hospital and build a great rapport with her and then schedule Zoom sessions to continue to work with her while they’re at home. And then pick right back up with Hannah when they come back into the hospital with us. So it’s allowing us to provide not just a continuum of care, but a level of accessibility to arts and health that we didn’t have before.

[00:27:00.630] – Boris
That’s wonderful. And this trend, this movement to digital—pandemic or not—it’s inevitable. It will only grow. I don’t think it’ll ever replace live theater. Hopefully not live performance.

[00:27:12.810] – Constanza Roeder
Please, no.

[00:27:14.970] – Boris
But it is a way for you guys specifically, but for all organizations to reach more people to be able to have an impact that’s more scalable than the one-to-one that you are offering or the in person real time, if you will, synchronous time that most organizations have relied on especially in the arts, but in all kinds of services.

[00:27:40.050] – Constanza Roeder
And one of the great things because we do surveys with our patients as well, and we were using kind of the same survey. We adjusted a little bit for the specific—some specific questions about the tech side of things that were… anyway, that wouldn’t be applicable in the hospital, but all of the measures held pretty strongly. So still, they were rating really highly that the activity helped reduce their pain levels, that their anxiety went down, that their depressive symptoms went down. The only one that was significantly different was isolation, that it was still beneficial, but not as beneficial. The numbers weren’t as good as when we were in the hospital. We expected that, but it was great to be able to see that it still was having good impact even though it was digital.

[00:28:30.420] – Boris
And that totally makes sense. We don’t want technology to replace humanity. We wanted to amplify it. We want it to be able to reach more people. And it sounds like the way that you’ve got things set up, it’s scalable. And as you were talking, I was thinking, I hope that you keep improving on the scalability factor, on the systemization and technology of it, because eight facilities is great. But what if another organization wants to or another group wants to start this up in California where you’re from, or on the East Coast or in the middle of the country somewhere in Chicago or someplace else? Can you start now basically almost franchising this model so that more organizations can start up doing it or your organization can grow out and reach just a whole lot more people that really need the service?

[00:29:18.090] – Constanza Roeder
Yeah. And that’s a question we ask ourselves all the time. We’re in this real emerging field. Well, it’s kind of beyond emerging. It’s really popping up all over Arts in Health. And the National Organization for Arts in Health has done a great job of helping to get organizations like ours together so we can see different program models and collaborate. And there are organizations around the country that are doing similar work. But there’s such a huge need.

[00:29:47.970] – Constanza Roeder
We’re always asking ourselves that question: what is our role here with the people in front of us? And then what is our role in the larger mission of arts in health? This should be standard of care. The arts have always been a part of our healing practices and rituals throughout human history. It’s what we instinctively go to when we’re feeling dysregulated and it’s because it is the ultimate regulator. We express those hard emotions. We stay grounded in our bodies while we’re doing that, when we’re moving, when we’re speaking all these things that we do in the arts, these actions that we do in the arts are the trauma research that’s happening around the power of arts engagement is really pretty amazing. And it’s kind of like, duh, like duh, this is why we have the arts, right?

[00:30:43.350] – Constanza Roeder
Anyway, like I said, we’re always asking ourselves, what kind of role can we play? And so that’s where we went into. Okay, we want to elevate these stories. We wanted to start our podcast. I’m interested in learning more about this field of arts and health and how different people apply the arts to tackle different problems in the world.

[00:31:07.390] – Constanza Roeder
You might be interested in our podcast. It’s called Arts for the Health of It. We talk to people all over the world that are doing just the most amazing work with all kinds of different populations. So that’s one way that we saw that we could elevate the work that’s happening throughout the field. But, yes, that’s kind of our next thought is, okay, how do we continue to activate and equip people to do this work, too?

[00:31:33.510] – Boris
Very cool. I’m looking forward to seeing what you guys come up with. I wanted to ask you, though, a lot of organizations are facing similar issues, have been facing them for a couple of years, have found their own solutions. Yours, we could certainly say, considering everything that you’ve told us about it has been successful. To what do you attribute your success, your ability to come up with programs like this and implement things like this? What might other organizations look at and try to mimic in your processes or in your infrastructure so that they can do more of this as well.

[00:32:06.680] – Constanza Roeder
Yeah, that’s a good question. So there’s been a lot of emphasis over the past several decades on STEM and technical skills, but because technology is so accessible now and is also changing so quickly, creativity is a much more important skill in the emerging economy. So none of the people on our team, we’re all millennials Gen Zers. So we’re a fairly young group which hugely work to our benefit, but we’re also creative and so we could learn different pieces of technology and come up with creative applications for that technology.

[00:32:49.450] – Constanza Roeder
So you don’t necessarily need special skills, but you need people who can think creatively and problem solve creatively with the tools that are accessible and you can do it for much lower cost than you might think. There are so many resources out there for free techs for nonprofits, for discounted tech for nonprofits that are really easy to use. Whenever there’s like a new tech thing that I want, like a new software I want to use, I always email them and say, “Hey, we’re a nonprofit, we do blah, blah, blah.” And not once have I gotten someone that’s like, “No, we don’t have a nonprofit discount or no.” They’ve always been like, “Oh, yeah, we can do something special for you.”

[00:33:28.990] – Constanza Roeder
So that’s what I’d say is get creative. If you don’t have young people on your team, we got to lean into our young people right now. Find some interns back in because they have a good pulse on where things are going and we need to pay attention to that.

[00:33:49.870] – Boris
Absolutely. Are there any tools that you recommend to organizations that you guys like that have been working for you at this time? I always like to ask for tools or resources.

[00:34:01.060] – Constanza Roeder
Sure. I’ll give a shout out to Qgiv, which is our donation platform. We’ve had it the whole time we’ve been an organization and they’re amazing. They’re constantly taking feedback from their clients and adjusting to their offerings to support changes in the economy, in the pandemic. One of the great things that they started doing is their peer to peer campaigns now connects with Facebook fundraisers. So we had Readathon at the beginning of this year. It was an all online peer to peer campaign. Seven days. People could create stuff and post it with the hashtag and raise money for our cause.

[00:34:46.920] – Constanza Roeder
And we made more than we expected to make, which is great. But that connection between the Qgiv platform and Facebook fundraisers was really helpful, but on top of that, they provide great and really relevant training around their tools and ways. They had all kinds of support to help their clients shift from in-person fundraisers to virtual fundraisers. And they’ve just been really great partners along the journey.

[00:35:19.100] – Boris
Wonderful. There are a lot of great giving platforms out there. Glad to hear that Qgiv is doing such great work. I’m actually going to be working with them a little bit next year. So I’m excited that people are supporting or appreciating the work that they’re putting out there.

[00:35:32.771] – Constanza Roeder

[00:35:33.230] – Boris
So I really appreciate your times and I want to be respectful of yours and our audience, but I don’t want to let you go before I ask you, what’s your call to action for anyone who’s been listening to this episode or watching us or even reading it online? Now that we’re primed and ready to dig further, what’s your call to action to learn more about you and the work that you guys are doing?

[00:35:57.230] – Constanza Roeder
Yeah. Go to our website, There’s not a person listening to this that hasn’t been affected by the pandemic, that hasn’t been helped by people in healthcare. And if you want to get involved in helping us show appreciation for people in healthcare, you can go to our website and click on the Gratitude Grams tab, and you can write a note to healthcare providers, and that will go out in this week’s group of emails that we send to them and messages that we give to them when we’re in the hospital.

[00:36:26.750] – Constanza Roeder
And then, like I said earlier, you can follow us on our podcast Arts for the Health of It to learn more about this type of work and how you can use the arts to tackle important problems in the world. And you might be surprised. There might be people that you relate to that are doing work with the population you’re working with and maybe are using the arts in a way you haven’t thought of. So I’d encourage you to check out the resource too.

[00:36:51.860] – Boris
Wonderful. We’re going to of course link to those, to Qgiv, to your podcast and to the Gratitude Grams. I do recommend that anybody listening. If you’re not sure how this works or how easy or difficult it is to set up, go check out their page. They did a great job of laying it out, of telling a story, and then making it super easy for someone to jump in and get involved. So do it. Send a message to a healthcare worker that will only be a good thing, and at the same time steal from their playbook, see how they’re doing it so that you can also incorporate some sort of process similar to this, a new program or an adaptation to your current program that will help you reach more people regardless of pandemics or no pandemics by using technology to leverage and amplify your work.

[00:37:36.170] – Constanza Roeder
The best artists riff off of other artists. So you have my permission.

[00:37:40.610] – Boris
Yeah. Is it Picasso or somebody said that good artists borrow great artists steal or something like that?

[00:37:48.690] – Constanza Roeder
Yes, I think that is the Picasso quote.

[00:37:51.890] – Boris
I apologize if I misquoted Picasso. No disrespect to him and all of his admirers myself being one of them. Anyway, Constanza, thank you so much for joining us today and telling us all about this program and what you guys have been up to over at Hearts Need Art.

[00:38:07.430] – Constanza Roeder
Thank you for having me. This was great.

[00:38:09.710] – Boris
And thank you everybody for joining us and listening in today or watching. However you subscribe or consume this content, I hope you’re enjoying it. I hope you’re learning, getting lessons from people like Constanza that you can implement in your own organization to create more heroes for your cause and a better world for all of us.

[00:38:27.010] – Boris
And if you do like this show, please, please, give us a rating. Leave us a review on iTunes or your favorite platform so that more nonprofit professionals like yourself can discover it and get advice to improve their own programming as well. Thank you, everybody. We’ll see you next week.

[00:38:44.630] – Outro
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:

  • Constanza’s story began with her own health struggles as an adolescent leukemia patient. But it wasn’t until she volunteered in a hospital as an adult that she realized that there was something lacking in the system. This was the call to action in her hero’s journey, which led to the formation of Hearts Need Art. (2:20)
  • We don’t always respond to the first call to action in life. Sometimes it takes many calls before we answer the call. Often, when that call relates to our greatest weaknesses, we find our greatest strengths. (5:53)
  • Hearts Need Art was serving patients in hospitals, in person. The pandemic upended their ability to provide their services and they had to get creative. (7:21)
    • In response, they took two weeks to overhaul their programming and create new, digital-first programs that served their community and had additional benefits.
  • They designed an online system for clients to schedule sessions with their favorite artists through Zoom. They also invited supporters in on the livestreams, allowing them unprecedented access to the work being done. (9:26)
    • Using the online tools, they’re now able to scale that program on a national level even as they’re returning to in-person work at hospitals.
  • They created “Gratitude Grams” — an entirely new online program supporting healthcare workers, who needed moral and emotional support as they were dealing with the crisis on the frontlines. (11:05)
    • The program allows anyone to submit a thank you note to healthcare workers that would get delivered digitally by Hearts Need Art, along with creative content from musicians, writers or artists.
    • Healthcare workers from over 30 institutions have signed up to receive these messages.
  • Without any geographical constraints, Gratitude Grams has allowed people all over the country to participate, and for the program to scale at practically no additional resource cost to Hearts Need Art. (13:12)
  • Creating online programs like these doesn’t have to be an extensive or expensive endeavor. In their case, Hearts Need Art used off-the-shelf, free and nearly free tools like Google Forms, Google Sheets and Zapier to automate most of the processes. (14:33)
  • Opting to participate in the program is just the beginning. Hearts Need Art includes data collection tools in the process to continually get feedback that they can take right back to their program managers for adjustments, and their supporters for validation. (16:45)
    • They determine ahead of time what areas of impact they want to measure, and then include a quick survey with every message that allows them to collect the data and stories they need.
    • The program has won an award from the National Organization for Arts in Health
  • With the feedback they collect, they’re able to keep the experience personal while also iterating for scalability. (19:18)
  • The inability to deliver on their original promise to donors (of in-person programming), they were naturally worried that most donors would drop off. Through careful communication and setting new expectations, Hearts Need Art was actually able to retain and grow their overall donor base in 2020 and has grown even more in 2021. (20:48)
    • They were also, therefore, keep their artists employed at a time when artists were struggling.
  • Even though they are now able to provide their programming in person, they are keeping a lot of the digital programs in place because it has helped them reach more patients with a greater continuum of care, and more supporters at the same time. (25:27)
  • While it doesn’t replicate the in-person benefits completely, the scalability has allowed Hearts Need Art to reach more people and has put them on a path to potentially expanding well beyond what they were able to do prior to the pandemic. (29:22)
  • Constanza attributes much of their success to a few factors, including having a young, creative team around her that is always looking for new, creative ways to do things. Technology is available and can be outsourced, and can often be found for free or at a discount for nonprofits. (31:37)

Action Steps: What Now?

About this week’s guest

Constanza Roeder

Constanza Roeder

Founder and CEO, Hearts Need Art

Constanza Roeder is the founder and CEO of Hearts Need Art: Creative Support for Patients and Caregivers and host of the podcast “Arts for the Health of It.” Ms. Roeder was selected as one of the Top 100 Healthcare Visionaries by the International Forum on Advancements in Healthcare for 2021. As a singer, adolescent leukemia survivor, speaker, and thought leader in the field of Arts in Health, Constanza is on a mission to humanize healthcare through the arts.

Connect with Constanza Roeder