EP26 - Kat Murphy Toms - Featured

Episode 26: How Nonprofits Can Get the Most Out of #GivingTuesday… and What Not to Do, with Kathleen Murphy Toms

The Nonprofit Hero Factory: Episode 26

How Nonprofits Can Get the Most Out of #GivingTuesday… and What Not to Do, with Kathleen Murphy Toms

In this Episode:

In its nine years, GivingTuesday has become the largest philanthropic movement in history—with activity in every country on the planet! And it’s showing no signs of slowing down.

With that success, come new opportunities and new challenges for nonprofit fundraising teams looking to participate.

The most common questions often are:

  • Is it still worth participating or is it too noisy?
  • If we do participate, how can we get the greatest returns on our investment?
  • Will it cannibalize our year-end giving?
In this week’s Nonprofit Hero Factory episode, Boris talks with Kathleen Murphy Toms, the Director of Digital Strategy at GivingTuesday, to answer those questions and share strategies, tips and hacks for getting the most out of GivingTuesday.

[00:00:18.020] – 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!

[00:00:20.240] – Boris
Da-Ding! Hi everybody. Welcome back to the Nonprofit Hero Factory. Every week I try to find amazing guests who can help organizations do more with the resources that they have, who can activate more heroes for their cause, as we say, through everything from Web design and social media to digital fundraising. Today, I’ve got somebody who’s at the intersection of several of those things and part of, well, the biggest movement in philanthropy, maybe ever.

[00:00:47.400] – Boris
Her name is Kathleen Murphy Toms. She is the director of digital strategy for GivingTuesday. An organization I think a lot of us have heard about. The biggest philanthropic movement in history, GivingTuesday leverages social media and a broad network of nonprofits, community activists, schools, brands, small businesses and individuals to ignite a movement and global call to action to give. We talk a lot about call to action. That’s pretty much the central one that most nonprofits are interested in. It has seen record-breaking engagement at every level of society. From some of the world’s biggest celebrities and influencers to students, volunteers and everyday givers.

[00:01:27.260] – Boris
Kathleen studies the use of digital tools within social movements, particularly their use in shifting power, creating mass mobilization, instilling behavior change, and achieving global equity. Kathleen has coached thousands of social impact leaders and grassroots organizations from nearly every continent on how to not only generate funds for their cause, but to inspire and mobilize groundswell movements to create systemic change. She is an adjunct structure. I could pronounce that word. Right? She is an adjunct instructor at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs, where she teaches social change makers how to develop innovative content marketing and digital strategies to activate and engage new audiences.

[00:02:08.710] – Boris
When I asked Kathleen her superpower, she said, it is navigating the tools that are worth the time investment versus those that just aren’t. And with that, let’s bring Kathleen onto the show.

[00:02:21.260] – Kat Murphy Toms
Hey, Boris, thanks for having me. It’s always a pleasure. I was just going to say two days or to two times in one week. We are so lucky.

[00:02:29.740] – Boris
Yeah. We just had the Webinar yesterday about the new program at NYU that you’re a part of that I’m super excited to be a part of too.

[00:02:36.220] – Kat Murphy Toms
Me, too. We should talk about that.

[00:02:38.020] – Boris
We should talk about that. But really, I want to focus on the thing that you do that you’re a little bit famous for in super popular for, at the moment. You must feel like the belle of the ball because I’m sure you’re in high demand. And I’m so glad that you have some time to talk to me and our audience today about GivingTuesday.

[00:02:59.790] – Kat Murphy Toms
GivingTuesday. It’s coming. In 15 Tuesdays. Whether we’re ready or not.

[00:03:03.900] – Boris
Tell me a little bit about you. What’s your story that wasn’t in the very impressive bio that I stumbled through as best as I could?

[00:03:10.500] – Kat Murphy Toms
Sure. I mean, that’s the beginning of it. I live on the South Side of Chicago. I’ve lived here my entire life. We’re known for community organizing, and we’re known for a certain President who was elected from here. I was a part of that campaign. I was a part of all of his previous campaigns for Congress and Senate, and all of that. I moved from the political campaign world into nonprofit. It seemed like a natural place for me to go. The skill set of convincing people to vote, convincing people to vote for your person, particularly online. There was a place for me in the nonprofit sector.

[00:03:54.180] – Boris
This was in the early days of the hashtag. Right? I remember to this day clearly trying to convince people about, yes, a hashtag is here to stay. And here you need to use it. And yes, the GivingTuesday is a hashtag. Moved into the nonprofit sector, focused mostly on teaching nonprofits about how to use digital tools and convincing them that social media was not indeed, not going away. And I’ve been blessed to be on the GivingTuesday team for about three years, officially.

[00:04:29.220] – Kat Murphy Toms
But before that, I was a community leader. So when I brought GivingTuesday to Illinois, let Illinois’ statewide GivingTuesday campaign for all of the nonprofits in Illinois. I worked at my Nonprofit Regional Association, and we thought it would be a great opportunity for Illinois nonprofits to raise their profile, get involved in a global movement, raise some funds, raise some volunteers, all of those things. So I’ve been a part of the GivingTuesday land for, I don’t know, the whole time. Pretty much.

[00:05:04.520] – Boris
That’s pretty cool. And I’m assuming it was fairly successful. And now you are in house on the team.

[00:05:10.720] – Kat Murphy Toms
Now, I’m in house on the team. I can’t imagine myself being anywhere else. This is possibly the greatest thing that I will ever do and humbled to be a part of it, really.

[00:05:23.010] – Boris
I remember when hashtags first became a thing and explaining to people what a hashtag was, why it’s useful and were it even comes from as a computer science geek from back in the day, you know…

[00:05:35.790] – Kat Murphy Toms

[00:05:35.790] – Boris
What hashtags were originally for…

[00:05:39.430] – Kat Murphy Toms
Is it pound GivingTuesday? Yes, it’s pound GivingTuesday.

[00:05:43.680] – Boris
When you’re entering it on your touch tone phone, you hit pound GivingTuesday. No.

[00:05:49.220] – Kat Murphy Toms
I’m going to make a shirt, “Pound GivingTuesday.”

[00:05:53.860] – Boris
Okay. GivingTuesday has been around for nine years now. Right? This is your number nine.

[00:05:59.760] – Kat Murphy Toms
This is number nine.

[00:05:59.760] – Boris
How’s it doing? Can you give us some stats?

[00:06:01.880] – Kat Murphy Toms
So I think everybody knows this story by now. This thing started as a day for anyone, anywhere to give. We said, okay, you’ve got Cyber Monday, you’ve got Black Friday. What does it look like if we create a day that flips that narrative on the head that people can do the reverse of that consumerism behavior?

[00:06:22.070] – Kat Murphy Toms
And maybe the original idea was like, hey, maybe people will take a little bit of their savings on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, throw it toward the nonprofit sector, and it morphed into something so much bigger than that.

[00:06:37.470] – Kat Murphy Toms
It was novel in the way that the team designed it because they hoped that people would grab it and take it somewhere new. And that’s exactly what people did. The thing that supercharged GivingTuesday was these small communities. Families, people all over the country and eventually around the world saying, I’m going to make this part of my annual tradition. And I think the most interesting thing about GivingTuesday as we watched it grow, is that from the very first day, this was a story about other people stepping up and raising their hand and saying, I want to make this idea better.

[00:07:10.930] – Kat Murphy Toms
Countries started calling. This was born out of the 92nd Street Y New York. Countries would call and say, hey, can we take this idea? I was one of them in Illinois. And then the UK called and Canada called and Henry Timms and Asha Curran said, yes, absolutely. Take this. Here’s the logo files. You can do whatever you want with it.

[00:07:30.990] – Kat Murphy Toms
70 countries later… 70 official country movements later, when we look at the data on the other side of GivingTuesday there was actually activity in every single country and territory on Earth. Last year was the first time that actually happened. We’ve been watching that grow. And last year was the first time we’ve been ever actually technically able to say there is something happening—whether that’s somebody tweeting about their favorite cause, whether that’s somebody sharing on their Instagram that they did an act of kindness in every single place on Earth, including space. Christina Koch, the astronaut, tweeted from space about why she loves GivingTuesday and how she’ll be participating. And it’s just the coolest thing.

[00:08:14.800] – Boris
That’s amazing.

[00:08:15.219] – Kat Murphy Toms
It is.

[00:08:17.030] – Boris
It’s now an extra-planetary movement.

[00:08:18.290] – Kat Murphy Toms

[00:08:20.550] – Kat Murphy Toms
And the thing that’s most interesting for me about this whole concept is not just about fundraising. This is a movement that people all over the world are leveraging, and it’s nonprofits’ opportunity to tap into that and to focus that energy toward their own cause in a myriad of different ways. So GivingTuesday celebrates absolutely all acts of generosity that you could ever imagine and encourages all of that. It’s not just about fundraising. Contrary to most of the questions that I ever get asked about GivingTuesday. The most successful nonprofits on GivingTuesday are actually asking their current supporters to activate for them in other ways and asking new supporters to come into their mission in other ways.

[00:09:11.420] – Kat Murphy Toms
Can you volunteer for me? Can you help me get ready for my GivingTuesday campaign? Can you join our junior board? Can you join with us and we’re going to create a pop up grocery store for homeless folks on GivingTuesday. People want to give desperately. And we’ll talk more about this in a little bit, especially now when the whole world is on fire, literally in some cases, and we are in crisis mode, and people want to give during crisis. It’s the one thing that they want to do.

[00:09:45.310] – Boris
You know, I want to get into all of that. And I love that there are so many different things that people can use GivingTuesday to activate their supporters. But let’s back up just a second, because I think you’re aware that there’s people out there and I’m on some Facebook groups for nonprofits, and people are asking, “Is GivingTuesday even worth it anymore?” You’re nine years in. It’s super popular, super buzzy. Is it too noisy for nonprofits to get involved at this point?

[00:10:17.960] – Kat Murphy Toms
No, that’s the entire point. Now GivingTuesday… it’s up to your nonprofit. You are welcome to participate in GivingTuesday. We’re not on a mission to ask every single nonprofit in the world to participate in GivingTuesday. That’s not what we’re here to do. We’re here to create a movement of excited donors who want to do something on this day, and then it’s your choice if you would like to enter into that opportunity or not, or leverage the movement in whatever way that you want to.

[00:10:48.140] – Kat Murphy Toms
That’s the thing about GivingTuesday. You can be creative, and you should be creative when you’re developing your campaign. The noise… So…

[00:11:01.880] – Kat Murphy Toms
No. It’s not too noisy because you’re not trying to compete with everyone who’s using the GivingTuesday hashtag. And if that’s what you think you’re doing, you’re doing it wrong. What you’re supposed to be doing on GivingTuesday is mobilizing your current supporters. That’s who you’re fighting against. The average person is not subscribed to 800 nonprofit newsletters like Boris, I know you and I are, and every other nonprofit development director that I know is subscribed to everyone’s nonprofit newsletter because they’re trying to get ideas. They’re trying to collaborate with each other. That’s just what we do as fundraisers.

[00:11:39.360] – Kat Murphy Toms
The average world citizen, that is not the case at all. They are not hearing about GivingTuesday in their inbox 800 times a day like you are as a fundraising director. I always try to remind folks of that. This is not as noisy as I think you think it may be. And then you’re not out here to be capturing people who are browsing on the GivingTuesday hashtag. You are out here to be mobilizing your current supporters to go out and get word out to their followers about why they might get involved in your GivingTuesday campaign.

[00:12:21.300] – Kat Murphy Toms
Peer to peer fundraising on GivingTuesday is probably one of the most effective campaign strategies, if not the most effective campaign strategies. So that’s where you’re asking your current supporters to, “hey, will you run a Facebook fundraiser for me?” Will you run on whatever platform you want, by the way, you don’t have to do this on Facebook. You can do use whatever peer to peer fundraising platform you currently use and go out there and ask your friends and family members to get involved in your mission.

[00:12:57.950] – Kat Murphy Toms
There’s no noise, there’s no noise.

[00:13:00.940] – Boris
So that makes total sense. And I think what a lot of people are seeing as noise is the—in another word—groundswell of activity that is becoming audible. And I think that’s fantastic, because what it should be doing, hopefully, is reminding people, “Oh, yeah, this is a day of giving. What are the organizations that I care about?” It’s on the news. And it’s not like, oh, now I’m going to go surf the GivingTuesday hashtag.

[00:13:27.390] – Kat Murphy Toms
There are only three days of the year where folks are actively looking for organizations to support. It’s, GivingTuesday, and then the last two days of the year when they’re trying to get their IRS, whatever it is that they get here in the United States, their tax break. So on GivingTuesday, this is more of a joy they’re looking to give out of joy. And that’s why it’s one of the reasons we invented this day. You come to tax day at the end of the year, and people are just plain, like, [sighs] that’s not exciting to be writing a check and sticking into the mail in order in order to achieve your tax benefit.

[00:14:05.260] – Kat Murphy Toms
What’s more exciting is to give in a joyful way. You’re given with the entirety of the rest of the world, to be a part of something bigger than yourself. And it’s amazing.

[00:14:16.010] – Boris
So you mentioned the end of year tax breaks, which, you know, you could be donating at any time and get the same tax break throughout the year.

[00:14:24.530] – Kat Murphy Toms
Yeah. But you know procrastinators,

[00:14:25.850] – Boris
Of course, everybody does.

[00:14:27.210] – Kat Murphy Toms
Everybody waits until the last two days of the year.

[00:14:29.260] – Boris
Absolutely. I understand. I’m—one of my other titles is Procrastinator in Chief around here. But the question does come up, then, “well are people going to see our GivingTuesday campaign, give us something on social media, and then feel like, well, I gave at the office, so to speak, and now neglect us at the end of year with their maybe bigger donation.”

[00:14:51.830] – Kat Murphy Toms
Yep. Constantly. The basic answer to that is that does not happen. The longer answer to that question is that GivingTuesday operates a Data Department. I don’t know that folks know about this. We’re humble about it. We don’t talk about it nearly enough, but we operate the Data Commons. It’s the, as far as I know, only philanthropic, collaboration like this that’s ever existed. It’s the way that we come up with the GivingTuesday total at the end of the year.

[00:15:23.880] – Kat Murphy Toms
We have organized… not me, my colleague Woodrow, who runs this entire beautiful operation, has organized every single donation platform, nonprofit donation platform here in the United States, and hundreds of others throughout the world.

[00:15:39.670] – Kat Murphy Toms
So these are your Classys, your Blackbauds, your Network for Goods, your Give Lively, every… QGiv, GiveGab. All of them are in a Slack group. They talk to each other, they collaborate on things and, most importantly, they give us their data. All of it, aggregated and scrubbed. It’s anonymized I don’t literally have your donors information. It’s all aggregated, I promise. But we have that for not just GivingTuesday. We have that for the entirety of the year. So what that empowers us to be able to do is absolutely immense.

[00:16:15.300] – Kat Murphy Toms
We can study everything from this exact question about does GivingTuesday cannibalize? It does not. In fact, GivingTuesday is additive. We’re seeing trends where folks are giving more at the end of the year because they gave a gift first on GivingTuesday and then they receive that on end-of-year-appeal and they just plain give again. I don’t know what else to say about it.

[00:16:38.410] – Kat Murphy Toms
It does not cannibalize end of year. The other thing that we’re finding is that folks who give first on GivingTuesday stick around for longer and longer periods of time than someone who gave for the first time on some other random different day of the year.

[00:16:56.210] – Kat Murphy Toms
They’re just inherently more engaged. It’s just the type of person who participates in GivingTuesday. We’re still studying this phenomenon about why exactly this is. But these are the kind of folks who are more likely to sign up for your monthly giving. They are more likely to respond to your ask to come out for a volunteer project. They are more likely to join your junior board and get more and more actively engaged in your cause. It’s amazing. I could go on forever about this, but the opportunity for participating and GivingTuesday is absolutely immense.

[00:17:34.920] – Boris
So I think that’s amazing. First of all, that you have that kind of data, is that publicly available somehow? Can we find it?

[00:17:41.500] – Kat Murphy Toms
Mostly, yes. If you go to GivingTuesday.org, there’s a menu item called Data and Insights. There’s two sections. We also collect academic research on everything related to generosity, not just fundraising, but volunteerism, mutual aid, all civil society things. And then we have a whole data hub.

[00:18:05.590] – Boris
That’s amazing. I’m definitely going to find that.

[00:18:08.490] – Kat Murphy Toms
It’s really nerdy.

[00:18:09.720] – Boris
If you don’t see me for a month. That’s because I’m playing with your data.

[00:18:13.810] – Kat Murphy Toms
Boris, I can’t even click on it because I go down a rabbit hole every single time. I’ve had to ban myself from clicking on the data. It’s absolutely incredible. There’s working groups who work on all kinds of different things. Workplace giving work group. There is a crowd funding work group. There’s a DAF Holders work group. We do a lot of other things outside of just pulling off this annual day that we do. It’s Cool.

[00:18:42.280] – Boris
So I’m sold. I mean, I have been, I actually wrote articles about GivingTuesday at like, oh my God, so many years ago.

[00:18:50.710] – Kat Murphy Toms
Then we appreciate you. Your one of the folks who helped mobilize and start this whole thing.

[00:18:58.280] – Boris
Anything I could do. I mean, that’s my goal, but alright, let’s say that the listeners, if they weren’t already sold on trying to do a GivingTuesday campaign or haven’t been doing them previously that they are now. Alright, we’re all in. What should we be doing? How do we make this the best effort, the best use of our time. Everybody is strapped for time. It’s one of the least appreciated resources that nonprofits are over stretched on. How do we maximize our time and maximize this campaign to get the most out of GivingTuesday?

[00:19:33.570] – Kat Murphy Toms
All right, a few things don’t invent a completely separate campaign than your end-of-year campaign. The most successful nonprofits are using GivingTuesday as a launching point into their end-of-year campaign. So don’t waste your time coming up with a completely different call to action, a completely different story line, new completely different graphics. There’s no reason for that. Just kick off your end-of-year campaign on GivingTuesday and run at the entire month of December.

[00:20:05.380] – Kat Murphy Toms
Tip number two is to if you haven’t already send your supporters a Save-the-Date email, and in that email, put a calendar invite. Literally a calendar invite. Folks are busy, especially now and I don’t know about you, but if it’s not in my calendar, it is not happening at all. So, you might send different calendar invites to different parts of your audience. If you’re sending it to your general supporters, you might put your donate link in that calendar invite. So when they get the notification on their Apple watch, they can go on their phone and hopefully your mobile donation pages. Mobile friendly.

[00:20:50.010] – Kat Murphy Toms
That’s probably tip number three actually optimize everything you have for mobile. And if you don’t have time to do that, you might think about just using one of the Facebook fundraisers or an Instagram fundraiser or something like that just so that folks can easily give on their phone. If you might send a calendar invitation to your board members that includes “copy-pastable” social media and a reminder that says like, “Hey, can you copy-paste this into your Twitter today or your LinkedIn today to help remind your folks to give on GivingTuesday” or whatever it is that your call to action is for that particular group.

[00:21:31.340] – Kat Murphy Toms
Calendar invite is the number one most effective tool to use on GivingTuesday. Hands down. If you have SMS or like, mobile messaging, text messaging at your disposal, that’s probably the second best. As you are well aware, the open rate on a text message is something like 90% and the click through rate on those are pretty amazing to compared to things like email and social media. So if you have that at your disposal, you’re still early enough. You can investigate that now hopefully.

[00:22:07.100] – Kat Murphy Toms
I use Community for our text messaging. I love it. It’s great. I want to say GiveLively and there’s a couple of other platforms that have mobile giving, which is a little bit different than the Community portal that I use. Big fan of mobile, big fan of text messaging.

[00:22:24.960] – Boris
Mobile is definitely sticking around and has taken over the web traffic, and it’s slowly, if not that slowly actually, taking over the giving space as well. We’re just on our phones all the time.

[00:22:38.680] – Kat Murphy Toms

[00:22:40.260] – Boris
It’s the immediate place to reach us. It’s also the easiest place for us to take actions. The more you can channel us there and make it frictionless for us to give, the better it is. So let me just recap. You said first, use this as the launch of your year-end campaign, not an entirely separate campaign, which also saves a lot of bandwidth and work in the first place.

[00:22:59.490] – Kat Murphy Toms

[00:23:00.600] – Boris
Great. The second thing you said was to send a calendar invite. Again, great idea. When you first shared this with me a couple of weeks ago, I think, I thought that was brilliant. Why isn’t everybody doing that?

[00:23:11.830] – Kat Murphy Toms
I know about a personal mission to get everyone to do this.

[00:23:15.550] – Boris
And you could be absolutely segmenting it. So if you know, ahead of time the people who are going to do Facebook fundraiser, then you could be sending them a reminder. Okay. You’re going to launch today, and you’re going to say this, right? Here’s some sample text, which I also do all the time. Make it super easy.

[00:23:32.710] – Kat Murphy Toms

[00:23:32.710] – Boris
You should copy-paste this. Put your name in here if you want to or fill in the blank. But here’s what you’re going to say and go, go, go. Right?

[00:23:39.840] – Kat Murphy Toms
Yes. Yes. That’s like a blanket statement. You have to make it as easy as possible for anyone that is helping you out in your GivingTuesday campaign. For supporters, for the people who are volunteering to get out there and fundraise for you, it has to be easy as pie. Everybody has to have “copy-pastable” emails. I will make people a toolkit, and I think I have some of this actually prefabbed tool kits that you can customize and then share out to your peer-to-peer fundraisers. With all of this, like sample social media posts, a sample email that they might send to their friends. We try to shortcut everything for you all.

[00:24:20.250] – Boris
That’s amazing. And we will find those. We will link them in the show notes. Because everybody should at least start with that.

[00:24:27.000] – Kat Murphy Toms
Everything’s at GivingTuesday.org.

[00:24:29.360] – Boris
Absolutely. And then there’s the resources section. I know you’ve got some special things for nonprofits there. We’re going to drive as many people there as we can to get their campaigns going. And then the thing about mobile optimization, of course, when behavioral scientists, behavioral economists a few years back, more than a few now, were doing research on how to get people to take action, the traditional philosophies of carrot and stick methodologies, they realized, “Okay. Yeah. Those work somewhat, but actually the most effective thing is to remove as much friction as possible to the fact you want people to take.”

[00:25:06.490] – Boris
It’s almost like when you think about a river. Water will cut through the softest rock. It’s not going to go. “Oh, I have to go this way. Therefore, I’m gonna borrow through the granite. No, no, I’ll go through the softer sediment instead.” Same thing with the way that we behave as human beings. Make it the default. Make it the easiest thing possible. And as long as we don’t disagree with it and don’t have an issue with it, we’re going to go in that direction.

[00:25:29.680] – Kat Murphy Toms
We’ve got time now. So I hope that nonprofits are looking at their donate pages right now. You’ve got time to fix it if it needs fixing. I don’t know that folks go through their own donation process often enough. I like to advise folks to do that at least quarterly, because stuff changes on the back end to some of these donation platforms, and they don’t tell you. And it’s good habit to get into just donate a dollar to your own organization every once in a while, just so you can experience what the donor experiences. When it comes to GivingTuesday and you want them to take action immediately, you have to create as least space as possible between the thing that motivated your person to click on that donate button versus getting them to actually submit their credit card number or information.

[00:26:21.230] – Kat Murphy Toms
So these donate pages, they kill me. The ones that ask for the mailing address, the ones that ask for T-shirt size, the ones that ask for a whole host of other other 30 fields later. And then you’ve lost me. I have to go tend to these children. I have to cook my dinner. The phone has rung… you lost me. I’m sorry.

[00:26:43.280] – Boris
And I also might not—I might appreciate what you’re doing and want to donate to it—but I might not trust you enough yet with all my personal information.

[00:26:50.210] – Kat Murphy Toms

[00:26:50.210] – Boris
I’ve fought with nonprofit leaders about including a phone number field. “No, I have to call them all.” Okay, sure. Can you follow up later, maybe?

[00:26:59.910] – Kat Murphy Toms

[00:26:59.910] – Boris
And say, hey, we would love to be able to communicate with you in other ways. Can we please have your phone number?

[00:27:06.150] – Kat Murphy Toms
Yes. Perfect opportunity to touch that person again a couple of weeks later and get them re engaged in your mission. And so I am a fan of as least as possible. If you can figure out how to get Apple Pay so that I can just double click and it automatically inputs my stuff. That’s ideal.

[00:27:25.010] – Boris
Yeah. And the whole thing about going through your funnel, your donate funnel, quarter or so I think, is great. Not just to see how frictionless it is, but also the full donor experience shouldn’t stop there, right?

[00:27:38.541] – Kat Murphy Toms

[00:27:38.550] – Boris
It should go on afterwards. And when you talked earlier about these folks who are giving again at the end of the year, maybe even giving more. Well, the question is, what did you do with them between the time they gave for GivingTuesday and the time that you asked for your final end of year request? If you gave them some positive reinforcement, if you gave them some more stories, if you made them feel more involved, if you asked them for their input and make them feel like a valued member of the community, you’ve increased their stake.

[00:28:08.600] – Boris
They’re going to then increase their desire to give more, to make it a stronger organization and help you succeed on your mission. Because it’s your group mission now. It’s not just. “Oh, that’s what that organization is doing.” It’s “look at me. I’m doing this!”

[00:28:22.180] – Kat Murphy Toms
Yes, Boris. That’s it. Nailed it.

[00:28:27.590] – Boris
I’m preaching to the choir at the moment, but hopefully there are organizations that do need to hear this and can think about this. Last week I had a guest on here who is all about the thank-you follow ups. And it’s so underutilized and underperforming for everybody. The relationship only starts at the first donation.

[00:28:49.980] – Kat Murphy Toms

[00:28:51.710] – Boris

[00:28:52.950] – Kat Murphy Toms
Yes, exactly. Nailed it. This is about building a movement for your mission. This is not about simply collecting five-dollar donors and then not talking to them again until next GivingTuesday.

[00:29:08.110] – Boris
So, GivingTuesday is the kickoff day, let’s say, for the end-of-year campaign.

[00:29:13.420] – Kat Murphy Toms

[00:29:13.420] – Boris
If we haven’t started planning yet for how to do that kickoff, is it too late or what should we be doing right now?

[00:29:21.800] – Kat Murphy Toms
No, I should hope that everyone’s starting to think about their end-of-year campaign. My goodness, if you all aren’t, you need to do that today. Where to start? That calendar invite, for starters. Figuring out what you’re going to do. What is your story going to be for your end-of-year campaign? How are you going to speak authentically about your mission? How are you going to set a goal, first of all. I think that’s another underutilized tactic.

[00:29:51.610] – Kat Murphy Toms
The nonprofits who have the best GivingTuesdays are almost always the ones who set some sort of clear, smart, tangible goal for not only they’re GivingTuesday campaign, but their end of year in general. Whether that’s: I want to get a X number of new donors. I want to sign up however many number of people for my monthly giving. I want to get sign ups for volunteers, whatever it is, put a number on it, give yourself a bar and work towards that.

[00:30:24.540] – Boris
Do you make those numbers public?

[00:30:27.300] – Kat Murphy Toms
Yeah, I do. I mean, we know for GivingTuesday because we never want to make a guess about what GivingTuesday is going to do, because we never know, we never know. But for nonprofits, absolutely. It gives your folks something to rally behind and some motivation and to see a little bit of the impact.

[00:30:48.200] – Boris
Absolutely. So I always like to talk about what are the metrics that need to be gauged to know whether or not you’ve succeeded? To know whether or not whether or not there’s something you can learn and how you could do better the following year.

[00:31:04.230] – Boris
But also, it’s this concept that I think really took off publicly when crowdfunding first became a big thing. You set a goal. Suddenly people see that goal and they see that you’re trying to get there and that there’s other people supporting it. There becomes this groundswell effect and now, “help us cross that finish” line is such a powerful motivator for people who believe that some of them actually come back in crowdfunding campaigns and donate again.

[00:31:28.650] – Kat Murphy Toms
Absolutely. Absolutely. Have you seen this Quentin Quarantino fundraiser? No. It’s absolutely mind blowing so quick. Quentin Quarantino is this Instagram influencer, he got popular, making memes about all kinds of funny things over the high quarantine times. Right. He started a fundraiser to get Afghanis, refugees, out of Afghanistan and into safe places, and particularly the people who are like human rights activists, LGBTQ activists—the people who really need to be out of that country right now—had set a goal for, like, $500,000. I think it was.

[00:32:10.300] – Boris
That’s ambitious.

[00:32:11.610] – Kat Murphy Toms
Raised 16,000 of it in the first couple of minutes. It’s currently at $6 million. It’s been two days. And exactly what you said. I think people see this. They want to be a part of this groundswell movement. And you, scrolling through, you can see people giving again and giving more. It absolutely blows my mind every time I see it, even though I know for fact that this is effective fundraising and that that happens and that people are generally… that’s our humanity. The one thing that all of humanity shares is our want and our need to be generous. But it still blows my mind every single time.

[00:32:49.600] – Boris
We have a need to solidify our place in community and to give back. It’s part of the social contract that we want to be perceived as good, but we also want to reinforce good out there. So there is this need for generosity that’s baked into our DNA in a lot of ways.

[00:33:07.970] – Kat Murphy Toms
And that’s exactly the GivingTuesday magic. We have this need to… we want to post about our generosity. We want to share it with the world, and it just creates this groundswell and tornado and a Hurricane of generosity and it’s amazing to see every single time.

[00:33:23.360] – Boris
Okay, I know you’ve got a lot going on. And I know every nonprofit who’s hopefully listening to this if they weren’t already busy thinking about their year-end campaign, hopefully their brains are spinning right now. So I want to ask you, besides the tools that we know are up on GivingTuesday and some of the ones that you mentioned that we’re going to link to in the show notes, are there any other tools or books or anything that you recommend nonprofit leaders be thinking about or reading, right now?

[00:33:47.410] – Kat Murphy Toms
I’ve been consuming the entire Community Centric Fundraising website. I think it’s phenomenal. It’s so very GivingTuesday. It’s about how can we take a community-centered approach to our fundraising. It’s all of the things that we just talked about: community first. How can we involve folks together to give back toward our mission and center that. It’s amazing. All great, super great resources. What else have I been consuming? If you haven’t read our book, GivingTuesday has a book. It’s called New Power. Henry Timms wrote it. It’s amazing. Highly recommend that, too. What else?

[00:34:28.850] – Kat Murphy Toms
And follow us on social because we post about all of these things. We post about generosity and the rest of the world and tips that you can glean from the rest of the world, collaborate and innovate with everyone else. So please, if you’re not following our social, you should. If you’re not on our email list, you absolutely should be there. Make sure you flag yourself as a nonprofit so that I know to send you the weekly “what you should be doing for your GivingTuesday campaign” email, which will start soon. Not yet. In a couple of weeks. I need to make that.

[00:35:02.860] – Boris
Well, thank you so much for all this brilliant insight and passion that you have for doing what you do. It’s fun to see your face light up as you’re talking about this because you’re so into it and you know the power of it yourself. You grew up with it, if you will. And now you’re helping spread that joy and that power. So it’s amazing. We will, of course, like I said, link to all of this stuff. If people want to get in touch with you or connect with you, is there a way that you prefer for them to do that?

[00:35:31.240] – Kat Murphy Toms
@GivingTuesday. I am the person who operates that handle. I get back to you right away.

[00:35:37.100] – Boris
Fantastic. Kathleen, thank you so much for your time today. I think maybe we’ll even check back in with you because there’s more things that I want to talk to you about. But maybe after GivingTuesday where we could get together again to talk about… “that’s done, what do we do next?”

[00:35:52.000] – Kat Murphy Toms

[00:35:52.450] – Boris
“How do we follow up with that. And how do we prepare for next year?”

[00:35:55.000] – Kat Murphy Toms
Yeah. It’s great idea. Yeah. Let’s do that.

[00:35:57.560] – Boris
Awesome. Thanks again, Kathleen. And thank you everybody for joining us today for the Nonprofit Hero Factory. I’ve had a great time talking. I hope you had a great time listening. Please check out the show notes for all of the different tools that Kathleen referenced. And, of course, subscribe. Give us a review so that more nonprofit leaders like you can discover people like Kathleen and the work that we’re trying to do here to activate more heroes for your cause. Thank you, everybody.

[00:36:42.150] – 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:

  • GivingTuesday was born from the idea to encourage people to take a bit of their savings from Black Friday and Cyber Monday and put them towards the nonprofit sector. (6:01)
    • The goal from the start was to empower people to take GivingTuesday into new directions, and they have.
  • GivingTuesday is not just about fundraising. It generates acts of generosity of all types and encourages everyone to do it. (8:20)
  • Don’t worry about the “noise.” (11:01)
    • GivingTuesday should not be about competing with others or anyone using the hashtag. What nonprofits should be doing, is mobilizing their current supporters, getting them to spread the word and even start their own peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns that day.
    • There isn’t as much noise as you might think. Keep in mind that the average person does not subscribe to as many nonprofit newsletters as a fundraising and marketing professional.
  • GivingTuesday does not cannibalize end of the year giving. (16:38)
    • In fact, people get more engaged, especially those who gave for the first time, and stick around longer.
    • If nurtured properly, many will even give again at the end of the year.
  • Tips for getting the most out of GivingTuesday (19:33)
    1. Don’t invent a completely new campaign. Use GivingTuesday as a year-end campaign kickoff.
    2. Send your supporters a save-the-date email. And add a calendar invite in that email. You can even put your donate link right in the calendar invite so that the alert pops up with the link to give!
    3. Optimize everything for mobile. If you don’t have a great mobile experience, consider using Facebook or Instagram fundraisers. And use SMS if you can, because it has significantly higher open rates.
  • Make it as easy as possible for your supporters to help with your campaign by giving them templates, graphics, social media language and more. The GivingTuesday website has a lot of these already available on their website. (23:39)
  • When it comes to driving action, you want to remove as much friction as possible—to shorten the distance between the impulse to donate and the ability to complete a donation. Remove everything possible in between, including extra fields in your forms, the need to switch platforms, and other factors that make for a poor user experience. (24:40)
  • Go through your donation process quarterly. Make a $1 donation to experience what your donor experiences, and make adjustments accordingly. (25:29)
  • Set a goal. The nonprofits who have the best GivingTuesdays are almost always the ones who set some sort of clear, smart, tangible goal for not only they’re GivingTuesday campaign, but their end of year in general. (29:51)
    • Making that goal public can create a groundswell of support, with people giving multiple times to help you succeed.
  • We have an innate desire to share our generosity with the world, and GivingTuesday gives us an excuse to do just that. That’s part of its magic. (33:07)

Action Steps: What Now?

About this week’s guest

Kat Murphy Toms

Kat Murphy Toms

Director, Digital Strategy, GivingTuesday

Kathleen Murphy Toms is the director of digital strategy for GivingTuesday. The biggest philanthropic movement in history, GivingTuesday leverages social media and a broad network of nonprofits, community activists, schools, brands, small businesses, and individuals to ignite a movement and global call to action to give. It has seen record-breaking engagement at every level of society – from some of the world’s biggest celebrities and influencers to students, volunteers, and everyday givers.

Kathleen studies the use of digital tools within social movements, particularly their use in shifting power, creating mass mobilization, instilling behavior change, and achieving global equity. Kathleen has coached thousands of social impact leaders and grassroots organizers from nearly every continent on how to not only generate funds for their causes but to inspire and mobilize groundswell movements to create systemic change. She is an adjunct instructor at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs where she teaches social changemakers how to develop innovative content marketing and digital strategies to activate and engage new audiences.

Connect with Kat Murphy Toms

EP23 - Ephraim Gopin - Featured

Episode 23: Increasing Donor Conversion & Retention with Gratitude, with Ephraim Gopin

The Nonprofit Hero Factory: Episode 23

Increasing Donor Conversion & Retention with Gratitude, with Ephraim Gopin

In this Episode:

The average donor retention rate among nonprofit donors is 45%. The average first-year retention rate is around 20%. Combine that with the fact that it costs more to acquire a new customer or donor than it does to keep them coming back, something is clearly not working well at most nonprofits today.

Ephraim Gopin, Founder of 1832 Communications, joins Boris to discuss the benefits of having a Marketing Team and Fundraising Team work well together to attract new subscribers, nurture them into donors, and keep donors coming back again and again rather than chasing new prospects year after year.

[00:00:17.950] – 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!

[00:00:20.360] – Boris
Hi everybody. Welcome back to the Nonprofit Hero Factory. Today, we’re going to be talking about a topic near and dear to my heart, which is the intersection of fundraising and marketing. So if you guys know me at all, you know that I talk a lot about storytelling and storytelling weaves into everything. But there’s often a problem between the fundraising side of an organization and the marketing side where they’re seemingly opposed in what they’re trying to do at times. Of course, they really do want to work together and they try their best.

[00:00:49.010] – Boris
But today I’ve got an expert who really focuses on that, identifying the issues that organizations have in those areas and then helping them remedy them. His name is Ephraim Gopin. He is the founder of 1832 Communications, which is an agency that helps nonprofits build more relationships so they can raise more money, serve more people and have more impact in the community. Ephraim craft strategies which help nonprofits successfully upgrade their online presence, boost their email fundraising, and marketing and improve their marketing collateral. When fundraising and marketing work together, it’s a beautiful thing, he says.

[00:01:22.390] – Boris
When I asked him a superpower, Ephraim said, “making sure that fundraising and marketing are working together at all times across all channels and departments and reminding people that tweet and they will donate is not a viable strategy,” which I love. So let’s bring Ephraim on to talk about all of that and more.

[00:01:39.380] – Boris
Hey Ephraim.

[00:01:39.380] – Ephraim Gopin
Hi Boris. How are you doing?

[00:01:40.390] – Boris
I’m doing all right. How are you today?

[00:01:42.960] – Ephraim Gopin
I’m doing OK. Thank you very much for having me on the Nonprofit Hero Factory podcast.

[00:01:47.330] – Boris
I’m excited to talk to you today because as you know, all of these things are near and dear to my heart. When you and I first connected, we had a great conversation that went in all kinds of directions and they said, we’ve got to have you on the show to talk about all this stuff. So I’m glad you’re here. I’ve read your bio. Please, tell us your story.

[00:02:04.170] – Ephraim Gopin
I’m a third-generation nonprofit executive and fundraiser. So, I kind of have it in my blood. My grandfather was. My father also was. And I’ve had the chance to be CEO and everything on down below that over about two decades in the sector. Did fundraising, grant writing, event management, alumni director, sales, communications. I also had the chance to work on what I call the other side of the table. I was the director of communications for a global family foundation. And that was an experience that was very different from being… you go from asking to sort of giving, even though it wasn’t my money and I wasn’t in charge of doling out the grants. But you’re now on that side of the table and it’s a very different perspective and a very different world.

[00:02:55.490] – Ephraim Gopin
I also spent a couple of years in high tech, so I have some time in the business world as well. And so I took all of that together, working, as I said, in multiple roles. You get a chance to see how organizations work from different areas and different departments and how they should work together in sync. And we’ll get into that, I’m sure.

[00:03:19.060] – Ephraim Gopin
But I got a chance to see how they work. I had a chance to lead as well. As I said, I was a CEO, which was a great experience for me. And now I’ve taken all of that and I’ve started my own company, my own agency. I work with nonprofits, small and midsize, even a little bit large as well, to make sure that their fundraising and marketing is working together. In terms of my personal story, I’m a father of three young adults, all of whom love taking road trips with me and all of whom disapprove of how I take selfies.

[00:03:54.450] – Boris
Excellent. That’s a great personal story you’ve got there and also a great professional story. I could relate, of course, to a lot of those things. Real quick before we get into the meat of the matter, because I think it’s actually a really interesting point that you were on both sides of the table. When in a former life I was in the entertainment world, I started out as an actor. But it was really when I first started to direct and before I even got a chance to direct in those casting sessions.

[00:04:22.260] – Boris
So as an actor, you always going out on auditions and you’re trying. You’re trying and you don’t know what’s going on, why you don’t get the part or even if you do, why you did get the part. And it’s not until I got to be on the casting side of the table that it really got to understand. And so, as you said that I was just thinking, wouldn’t it be great if every person in development and fundraising in a nonprofit got to sit on the other side where they got to see all the applications, they got to see all the pitches that they get in order to really understand what it’s like from the other perspective.

[00:04:54.860] – Ephraim Gopin
It would be interesting, I love your the way you connected it to the world of acting, that’s actually very interesting to me because I’m thinking you’ve got your big Hollywood studio with lots of assets, we’ll call it, and the ability to do big things. And then in walks Boris, the young actor who wants to get a job and stands there and tries to get whatever little role it is, whether it’s in a commercial, a movie, a TV show, whatever it is.

[00:05:22.420] – Ephraim Gopin
And I’m thinking, OK, you’ve got foundations that are sitting on lots of assets and now, here I am. And I did great writing. I remember what this was like. You go to them and you’re that little nonprofit with a budget that’s about a half a million dollars and suddenly you’re asking them for twenty five thousand dollars and it becomes almost the scariest thing in the world to ask them for money. That’s a great, great example. I think fundraiser’s would get a lot out of sitting on the other side of the table and understanding, with one caveat.

[00:05:53.860] – Ephraim Gopin
And I’m pretty sure you saw this also in the acting world, the foundation I worked for, the president told me on the second day I worked there, he said, if you know one foundation, you know one foundation. And so although I have the experience and I, through that foundation, interacted with quite a lot of other foundations, the inner workings of every foundation is very different.

[00:06:17.870] – Ephraim Gopin
And so a fundraiser could get that perspective. But I would say you’ve got to work with three or four before you can really start to you know, if you want to change completely the perspective, you’d have to work at a bunch of them before you could understand it.

[00:06:31.060] – Ephraim Gopin
But certainly even at one, it was a great experience.

[00:06:34.240] – Boris

[00:06:34.400] – Ephraim Gopin
I love doing it.

[00:06:36.230] – Boris
Yeah. I think even, I totally understand because I did work for a foundation and each foundation is of course different. But it’s just that side of trying to see, taking in all of the different pitches that are coming your way, all the different requests, and seeing, well, what really differentiates one from another. What are you more likely to respond to, assuming whatever the mission of the foundation is in that case? Ephraim of this workshop doesn’t already exist, I think you and I need to start it up real quick and go out and change the world that way.

[00:07:05.550] – Ephraim Gopin
Yes, yes. Done Done. We’ll, make it happen.

[00:07:10.990] – Boris
Sign up below!

All right. So you’ve done all these amazing things. You’ve had all these experiences. Third generation. That’s incredible. I don’t think I’m third generation anything except maybe male because there had to be three generations of men in my family. Otherwise I wouldn’t be here. What made you decide on fundraising and marketing the intersection of those two specifically to devote at least this chapter of your life to?

[00:07:37.620] – Ephraim Gopin
The fact that in a lot of nonprofits and when I say a lot, I know that there are millions of nonprofits out there, so I’m generalizing. And so take that for what it’s worth. But in a lot of non-profits, two things happen. Either there’s a marketing department and a fundraising department who aren’t speaking to each other. And so what happens is that the messaging that goes out from each of them is totally different. And so donors get confused because they get one, let’s say, email from the marketing department, whereas they get a direct mail appeal from the fundraising department. And then wait a second, is this the same organization that I’m talking to?

[00:08:10.980] – Ephraim Gopin
The other thing that happens in a lot of organizations is there is no marketing. You have that mentality of the almighty dollar. The bottom line rules. And because of that, I don’t have time for marketing strategy or anything like that. Just get me money, get me money, get me money. And so with that kind of pressure, who has time to consider how to send out emails, what to post on social media, how the website should look, what the content should be, what stories you should be telling, how to use video?

[00:08:41.250] – Ephraim Gopin
All of that gets kind of thrown to the side because, “oh, my God, I’ve got to raise money!” Which brings me to: A) You know, in terms of data, we know fundraisers change jobs every 18 months. Now, as a business owner, I can tell you that is the most unhealthy thing for business to have that kind of turnover. But in a business like fundraising, where fundraising is all about building relationships. And to any CEOs who are listening, it’s not about the money.

[00:09:11.140] – Ephraim Gopin
I know you need money to make, you know, for certain to have your programs and to service the people in your community. But the fact is, it’s about building relationships. If a fundraiser is leaving every 18 months, you’re never building relationships. It’s constant turnover with your donors. And so that becomes a bit of a problem also. So those are the kinds of things I saw during my sojourns in the nonprofit trenches. And I kind of said that’s where I need to focus.

[00:09:41.270] – Ephraim Gopin
And I think that’s where nonprofits need the assistance to make sure even if you don’t have a marketing department, you’re still sending out marketing collateral that is working in sync with your fundraising together, telling the right stories. Getting it out to the right people, at the right time. And it’s not just haphazard… we’re sending this, we’re doing this and we’re doing this. Because, I’ll finish with this wonderful piece of data, the donor retention rate in the in the sector is 45%.

[00:10:17.980] – Ephraim Gopin
And I have one word to describe that, “abysmal.” Even worse than that, first year donors retention rate: 18 to 20 percent. So if in 2020 you went out and got a hundred new donors and I say, “Yay! Good job.” If you don’t do your work properly and you’re only average, you’re only going to keep 20 of those. 80 or falling by the wayside, and now you have a boss yelling at you, “we need to make up that hole from those 80 donors that we just lost.”

[00:10:47.240] – Ephraim Gopin
That’s not a way to work. That’s not the way to run your organization. You’re constantly chasing your tail. It’s not going to work. So that’s kind of where I focused my energies and my time in the nonprofit sector.

[00:11:00.540] – Boris
And I think that’s a great place to focus your energies and your time. The way you describe the problem is dead on. And also feels huge, right? Because as you yourself said, that a lot of organizations, if they even have a marketing team, it’s a small marketing team and oftentimes it is an overlap with other duties and responsibilities. I mean, I’ve worked with organizations where the executive director is the fundraising and the marketing and everything else all at the same time and maybe has an assistant somewhere.

[00:11:33.100] – Boris
And then again, there’s organizations that are gigantic and have huge teams for everything, and sometimes those get siloed, too. So it’s a giant-, giant-kind-of-feeling problem. And I don’t want anyone listening or watching the show to feel overwhelmed by it either, because they’re already overwhelmed. So let’s break it down a little bit, which I know you’re happy to do. And let’s start with what is the, sort of, solution to the last thing that you brought up, which is the donor retention problem, specifically the first year?

[00:12:04.150] – Ephraim Gopin
Oh, boy, that the easiest thing that I can that I can give is to adopt what I call a gratitude attitude. And here I’m going to bring another small data point from Dr. Adrian Sargeant in the U.K., who has done tons of research on this. And he has seen this constantly. Donors remember the “thank you” more than they remember the reason you asked them for a donation in the first place. So if you think about that for a second, most—a lot of OK, I say a lot… I would hope that it’s summertime, your nonprofit is already planning its year end appeal for December.

You’re in major writing mode now, putting it together, getting the printer on board, everything else. And you’re getting ready to launch very soon. Great. Have you thought about the thank you that you’re going to give those donors? You’re putting in a ton of hours right now. Donors aren’t going to remember a word that was in the appeal you gave them, even though it went through seven levels of hell and rewrites because every manager and mid-manager in the organization had to put in their comments and edits.

[00:13:12.290] – Ephraim Gopin
They won’t remember it. They’re going to remember a good thank you. So if you’re thank you now is memorable, you’re going to up your donor retention rate by tens of percent just on that alone.

[00:13:24.440] – Ephraim Gopin
So I would start there and I would add because I know Boris you’re going to chime in on this. That thank you letter, better tell me a little bit of a story. Tell me that I took a donation and how I solve, I as the donor now, I solved the problem in the community or I helped somebody. And use that storytelling already. You used it in the appeal. It better be in the gratitude letter as well. And that’s how you start building that connection with your donors.

[00:13:51.160] – Boris
Absolutely. Yes. There should be stories everywhere along the way as much as possible. When I I’ve worked with several organizations and what we did was we, online, as somebody gave through their online systems, at the end, they got an instant gratitude, instant gratification with a video that popped up. So this was an organization that helped kids learn certain things. And boom, here’s a video with kids saying “thank you for helping us do more of this. You know, we really appreciate it,” holding up signs and all the stuff. I mean, instant gratification.

[00:14:23.880] – Boris
But then, yes, long term, I think this is I’m sure what you do and teach as well. You need to constantly keep reinforcing that the value of that gift and the work that it’s doing out—you know, there’s this expression, make your money work for you. Well, in a sense, that’s exactly what a donor is expecting, right? They’re giving you money. They’re expecting you to put it to work, and they want to see what it’s doing. Otherwise, they don’t think their money is working. They just put it somewhere that felt good at the moment. Am I right there?

[00:14:55.060] – Ephraim Gopin
One hundred percent. A hundred percent. And I love that what that example they used with the kids. I can give you another example that I saw a while ago. Anybody who got… who gave it was their first donation. They got an instant email and that instant email included a GIF of the CEO doing their happy dance. And it was just funny and fun. But if I’m that donor and I get and it’s a CEO, so CEO, important person, and they’re doing this ridiculous dance with no rhythm and, you know, no rhyme or reason to it. But, hey, it makes you smile. And then all of a sudden now I have this happy connection to the organization simply because they said thank you in a way that nobody else is saying thank you. So that’s how you want to retain those first year donors. That’s how you’re going to that’s one of the ways to do it, is great gratitude.

[00:15:46.660] – Boris
And both the example that you said specifically, actually, and the one that that I mentioned, they were personal. You connect a person to the experience. Now, that organization is no longer just some like large organization somewhere or small organization somewhere. They’re actually a human being who is really grateful for what you just did. And that just creates a much stronger bond than anything and can really do outside of that. So how do we then implement that across our communications and how do we maintain those donors over a longer period of time?

[00:16:22.080] – Ephraim Gopin
Ok, so let’s think for a second. We’ve got an overall donor retention rate of forty five percent. Now, that’s been constant for about two decades now. And I’m always surprised when I talk to CEOs and I say, you’re looking at your data and you’re seeing this year over year, but you’ve never changed that. Well, no, because we’ve always done it this way. And I say, you mean you’ve always chased your tail, year … and you go completely, you drive everybody on staff nuts until midnight of 12 or 1 a.m. of January 1st to make sure we get all that money in.

[00:16:54.680] – Ephraim Gopin
It’s time to stop that. And there’s just no stop. I want that ended. What I want is a focus. In dollars and cents, by the way, acquisition costs more than retention, that’s in the business world as well. This is not something that’s only in the nonprofit world. This is everywhere. It’s hard to get new people in the door. It’s easier to keep what you have. So now how do you keep people that you have?

[00:17:18.680] – Ephraim Gopin
It’s that constant communication. Constantly telling them what is going on with the organization, but not “we the organization.” It’s you, the donor. Here’s what you are doing by being part of our community. So as I explain it a lot of times, and I know that sometimes nonprofits hate to hear this, but I explain it as you’re the middle person, there’s a donor who wants to solve a problem. Let’s take homelessness for a second. The donor knows there are homeless people in their community.

[00:17:47.160] – Ephraim Gopin
However they are… they feel powerless to do anything about it because they don’t know how where to start, what to do, and they’re not going to start a nonprofit. So now they go looking for an organization who, through that organization, they can create positive change in the community. Guess what? You’re that organization. Be there for those donors throughout that journey. You’re now getting that donation and you’re doing good stuff with it for homeless people in your community.

[00:18:16.030] – Ephraim Gopin
But then it doesn’t end there. That’s only the beginning. That donation is only the start of a relationship. Now becomes, report to them. Let them know what’s happening. If there’s advocacy stuff that they can do, call a congressperson or whatever it is, is the law being passed, get them involved in that. If you’re having events, get them to those events. Invite them to come to the shelter and serve food one day, every three, every quarter. OK? Get them involved so that there’s that constant connection.

[00:18:42.790] – Ephraim Gopin
And yes, I totally agree with you on the personalization of one to one. If it’s the CEO, then the CEO should be, you know, signed by the CEO on each email. Or at least if it’s the director of development, whoever it is, let that donor feel that one-to-one connection. And that’s how you, over time, keep them involved in what’s going on at the organization and you keep them wanting to do more. It’s not, “I gave in December and the next time I hear from them is the next December.”

[00:19:13.310] – Ephraim Gopin
That doesn’t work. That doesn’t work. They want to hear from you. These are donors who are happy to do good in the community. They want to help. They want to solve the problem, help them solve that problem.

[00:19:27.040] – Boris
Absolutely. So I call that being the guide or the the superpower that you grant to your donors to to the people who want to be heroes, don’t have the bandwidth, don’t have the resources, don’t have the ability right now to solve a problem that they hopefully already see and identify is a problem. Because the toughest thing is to educate somebody that there is a problem. Once they know there’s a problem and then want to solve it—and there’s a whole, I talk about an entire ladder of support that goes from blissfully or not so blissfully ignorant to being a champion ambassador for your organization. The closer they are, the easier it is to sort of sell them on the next step.

[00:20:07.830] – Boris
And the more you can involve them with they’re making them feel like they’re a valuable part of what’s happening, not just for their money, but there are a human being that has value besides their pocketbook, their checkbook, their whatever the credit card. Then the more they invest that they become and the more invested they become, the more they’ll want to keep investing because they’re feeling the positive benefits of it. So I love all of that. How does that translate to, say, email and social media, which I know you focus on a lot?

[00:20:40.260] – Ephraim Gopin
OK, so, you know, you mentioned in an earlier in the bio, and I’ll start with social media. “Tweet and they will donate” is not a strategy. And I want to share a quick story. I know this, you’re a storytelling guru, so I’ll share with you a story that actually happened to me in 2009. I got a phone call from a CEO of an organization who said we want to raise a million dollars through a Facebook campaign. I said, wonderful, how can I help?

[00:21:04.590] – Ephraim Gopin
And my first question was, of course, well, how many people are looking at what you’re doing on Facebook? A couple of hundred. I said, OK, how big is your email list? Aaahh… one hundred, hundred and fifty. And I paused and I said, And what makes you think you can raise a million dollars on Facebook? And the response was and here I’m quoting, well, Obama just did it in 2008 via small donations. So we can too. And I see Boris is smiling and it was everything. I was on the phone thankfully, because if I had been on a video chat, I would have completely lost my composure. But I was on the phone and I kind of said, no, you’re not Obama. I’m sorry. It’s just not going to it’s not going to work.

[00:21:50.080] – Ephraim Gopin
So when I talk about social media, the first thing is understanding your audience and understanding where they are. If you have a boss who’s telling you you need to be on Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat. And I only mentioned seven, by the way. There’s about a hundred others you could be on. No, that’s not a strategy. That’s not a winning.… That’s you’ll be burnt out after ten days and you’ll stop and you won’t get any engagement. You need to know who your donors are. Who are your supporters? Who are the people in the community that are interested in what you’re doing? Are you an animal shelter? Well, who are the people in your community who have already adopted maybe an animal? Or who’ve inquired about adopting an animal? Or who are interested in animal rights?

[00:22:30.750] – Ephraim Gopin
So it’s just a matter of knowing your audience. Now where do they hang out? It could be that your boomer supporters are on Facebook. Whereas your millennials are sitting on Instagram and Tik-Tok. I don’t know. It depends. You have to look at that audience and then you craft that strategy around it. Once you’ve decided where you’re going to be, you’ve got to kind of ask yourself, OK, what content am I going to be pushing out? Again, just posting on Twitter, “please donate to our organization,” is not—nobody is giving that way.

[00:23:00.670] – Ephraim Gopin
That’s not that’s not building a relationship, as we discussed earlier. That’s not doing it. So you have to find content that’s going to engage them and that they’re going to want to… “Oh! Yes, I want to connect with that organization.” And now once you’ve connected with them, it’s a bit of a slow run, but you can get on that path towards building that relationship towards a donor.

[00:23:23.370] – Ephraim Gopin
In terms of email… I’m going to use a very simple example here from the world of e-commerce. There is a what’s called the law… it’s the average of seven touch points. If I want to buy a new product, I don’t just go buy it. I Google, I go on Amazon, I search. I look at the different colors, the different styles. Maybe I, I’m not going to get it today. But then that website follows me around the Internet and shows me ads, I click an ad. Now I sign up for their emails, they send me a 10 percent discount, I go start the process, I decide I still don’t want it. I don’t finish the check out they email me an hour later, “Hey, what happened? Here’s 20 percent off.” OK, now I go finish it.

[00:23:59.950] – Ephraim Gopin
If you follow that story arc, as it were, it took me from the time I decided until the time I actually purchased seven, eight, ten, fifteen touch points. The same that I said for social goes for email, just because you sent them an email does not mean you can ask them to donate. Or as my friend Julie Cooper at fundraisingwriting.com says, you know, don’t ask for a donation in that first email you send them. It’s like the first date you wouldn’t ask for your hand, somebody’s hand in marriage on the first day. Don’t do that in an email. You craft the content, an email, fundraising and marketing strategy that builds up. They sign up. That’s great. Now we’re going to move them to donors slowly. Once you’ve got them as donor, as we discussed before, you’re going to keep that communication going so they continue to stay a donor.

[00:24:48.010] – Boris
So I love all of that. What you’re talking about in terms of the social media, “just tweet and they will give is not a strategy” or however you like to phrase it, there is a… and it actually relates to the seventh touch points, too. There is a common understanding now among at least for-profit marketers that you give a lot of value before you ask for something back.

[00:25:11.170] – Ephraim Gopin
Yup. Yup.

[00:25:12.230] – Boris
Yeah, and I talk about donations as an IOU. It’s not, “Oh, thank you for what you’re doing.” It’s “I am deeply grateful for the work that you are doing and making the world a better place. And I want to be a part of that. I owe you for what you’re doing because I believe in it.” So I absolutely agree with you on that strategy. In terms of the email, is there a specific length of—so what you’re talking about is the onboarding sequence, right, when someone first signs up for your newsletter or makes a donation, however, they first come into your email ecosystem, there is an onboarding sequence that you can walk them through.

[00:25:54.410] – Boris
That’s what you’re talking about in this case, right?

[00:25:55.770] – Ephraim Gopin

[00:25:56.610] – Boris
So is there a particular flow or list of emails that you recommend every organization send based on a new donation or a new subscriber?

[00:26:09.710] – Ephraim Gopin
I’ll start… you know what, the easier one to do is a new subscriber. Because usually, you know, I say usually it could be somebody donated and then they decided to sign up for your email, which is fine. I want to take specifically new subscribers.

[00:26:22.260] – Ephraim Gopin
Again, If everybody looked at their inbox right now, I’m a big fan of Inbox zero, I have no emails in my inboxes, but I know people who have thousands, thousands. Boris right now is—Boris is raising his hand. In your inbox, how many how many emails sitting in your inbox right now?

[00:26:38.370] – Boris
Unread? About five thousand.

[00:26:40.770] – Ephraim Gopin
There we go. See, so I call that a nuclear disaster zone. OK, now that’s the way Boris works and it works for him, and that’s fine. The reason I call it a nuclear disaster zone is because now I want you to think about what happens in Boris’s inbox. Boris signs up for a new email. That’s not a given everybody. He has five thousand unread emails in his inbox. Do you think he wants five thousand and one?

[00:27:02.640] – Ephraim Gopin
No, he doesn’t. He really doesn’t. So if you’ve convinced him to sign up, you better show him the same gratitude attitude that you would show a new donor. That first email that comes to them should be instantaneous after I subscribe on your website and show me the love. Thank you for subscribing. You’re part of a great community. We’re so happy to have you. We’re grateful. Everything like that—the same as you would do in a good thank you letter is the same there.

[00:27:28.960] – Ephraim Gopin
Now that’s the first letter. Now we’ve got a little bit of a onboarding process. If we’re talking seven touch points, it could take anywhere from three to seven emails before you can even ask for a very small little one-time donation or start them off on that. And in between and during that onboarding processes, as we’ll call it, you could send them more information about the organization. You can give them value added. Again, I’ll take the example of an animal shelter, “download our ebook on how to care for your new pet that you just adopted.”

[00:28:03.750] – Ephraim Gopin
OK, but you give them something value-added. You invite them potentially to an event. You invite them to fill out a survey. It could be about them or what do you know about this topic or this issue? So we’ll go back to homelessness, give them three or four questions. What do they know about poverty in their community? What do they know about families who don’t have food to put on the table? What do you know about kids coming to school hungry who need lunches at school in order to literally survive the day?

[00:28:30.820] – Ephraim Gopin
So you use surveys and use quizzes and you can use—it can be fun and interactive. Nothing wrong with that. But it’s a process. It doesn’t happen all at once. I subscribe, boom, ask me for money. I hate getting welcome emails that have donor—that, have an ask in them. And I get them all the time and it drives me nuts. Don’t do it.

[00:28:51.510] – Boris
Absolutely. I love the use of surveys and quizzes specifically. I’ve done quizzes for several nonprofit organizations. They can go viral. They have a lot of interactive joy built in. We could do, like, what type of something are you? And mind you, those get played out and you want to be kind of careful to what you’re likening your your donors to or your subscribers do. But they’re also a wonderful way to start segmenting your list.

[00:29:22.300] – Boris
So if you see that somebody identifies more with one part of your work, with one program more than another, then you can be collecting that data and slowly figuring out what’s the best way to talk to this person. What’s the hero’s journey that they want to take with the organization? Because not everybody is going to want to act on the same exact things just because they believe in the work that you’re doing. They each have their own preferences and feelings of, “oh, this is better,” or “this is not for me,” or whatever that might be. So I love the use of quizzes and any type of surveys in that process. I think that’s brilliant.

[00:29:56.210] – Ephraim Gopin
I would I would just add to what you said about segmenting and how unbelievably critical that is to fundraising and marketing it, the same goes for fundraising. If I give to X program that you have, you already know where my interest lies and potentially you know where my interest doesn’t lie. So you can now custom… make sure that the content I’m getting matches my interests. You might want to introduce me to other programs, but make sure it’s matching my interests and keeping my interests in my interests.

[00:30:29.420] – Boris
Also showing me that you know who I am and you care about the same things that I care about rather than sending me things all of a sudden. I’m interested in your animal shelter and you’re sending me a recipe for a cake. You know, it feels completely disconnected. Obviously, I don’t think any organization is doing something that disconnected, but it can feel pretty much like that. If I’m interested in one part of your programing and you’re pushing a different part to me.

[00:30:51.590] – Ephraim Gopin
Boris, I’ve got to just add here, I subscribe to a newsletter for an organization. Oh wow, I think it’s Covenant House, but don’t quote me on that. They deal with teens living on the streets and they provide a house for them and everything else. You know what? Because you mentioned that recipe thing, they do send out every now and then some of the teens—a recipe for something that the teens made that special to their family and they want to share with their subscribers.

[00:31:17.510] – Ephraim Gopin
And again, it’s a way through food to kind of make that connection between that teen that I’m helping and the donor. Making it now one to one. So when, as soon as you said recipe, yes, it’s totally out of place in, you know, quite a lot of organizations, in this one it works because they’re trying to make that connection.

[00:31:37.280] – Boris
That’s really interesting, and I could see how that does connect people on a human level there, too. Although I have to wonder what the, and I don’t know if they measure it, what the rate of actual usage of those recipes is, how many people will actually take the time to make a recipe just because of this connection? I’m not sure. But if it helps create that personal touch point, then why not?

[00:31:59.980] – Ephraim Gopin
Put it in the email and tell people, make this recipe, post your picture on Instagram, and tag us! And now you’ve moved it to another platform. And there it is. Exactly. And now you get that interaction again between your supporters and your followers and the organization. And now you have people posting pictures and tagging the organization to their followers.

[00:32:21.130] – Boris
Yeah. Ephraim, I’m sure we could keep talking about this for hours. And you and I will keep talking about this for hours, I’m sure. But I want to be respectful of your time and our listeners time. So I’m wondering, what are some of the resources you might recommend to people when they’re listening to the show and they want to dove in further? What are some of the things they might want to look at?

[00:32:42.200] – Ephraim Gopin
So I’m going to, Boris, I’m going to give you a list that you can share with the listeners and watchers of seven newsletters and a couple of podcasts that they should be subscribing to. We’re talking some of the biggest experts in the field and the content that they’re sharing with their subscribers. I call it gold, and that’s the only word I have for it. It’s really just that good. And you’re going to be learning… they are sharing for free their knowledge, their awesome sauce with their subscribers.

[00:33:14.480] – Ephraim Gopin
So those are some tools. There are newsletters. Some of them come once a week, some once a month, and podcasts that you should listen to, read the newsletters, learn from them and go implement.

[00:33:25.160] – Boris
That’s awesome. We’ll be sure to get those from you and put them in the show notes for this episode with links with everything that people need to start taking actions on those. What’s the first step, if they want to start implementing things that you’re talking about, what’s the first thing that they should do, though, on their own?

[00:33:44.860] – Ephraim Gopin
It’s to make, have a decision internally that you actually want to grow and that you want to move forward and that you’re going to use—you’re going to have fundraising and marketing talking to each other. That’s where it starts. And that’s not a budget issue. That’s more of an issue from board C staff and down—C level staff and down. We want to change. And we want to grow. Because it’s not about the organization growing. It’s about being able to service more people in your community, having greater impact on the community.

[00:34:13.070] – Ephraim Gopin
And that’s kind of where the focus has to be. That’s where you start. Once you’ve made that decision, then you can start, “what do we need budget wise? What platforms can we be on? Should we be on?” Again, you don’t have to be everywhere for everyone. You can hyper-focus and do very well just on email, just on social, just—and if it’s social—just on Instagram. It could be that that’s where you should be. So it’s kind of step by step.

[00:34:39.480] – Ephraim Gopin
Don’t get overwhelmed by the process. I know you when you do storytelling with organizations, I know you want to throw a thousand things at them and it can be a very overwhelming process. So when you break it down into a little bits, it’s easier to digest. That’s kind of how I how I look at building that strategy out. So your fundraising marketing is being successful at building relationships and creating more impact on the community.

[00:35:04.760] – Boris
Perfect. And if they want to engage you to help them with any of this, what’s your call to action for them? How should they connect with you? What should they do?

[00:35:12.690] – Ephraim Gopin
You can look at my come to my website, 1832communications.com. And one of the tools that I have there for free, is how to successfully on board new email subscribers. There is a way to do it properly on your website and I lay it out for you step by step with plenty of examples. I did a study of the largest one hundred nonprofits in the US and how they on board subscribers and whether they do a good job or not.

[00:35:44.110] – Ephraim Gopin
And for anybody who thinks out there that the bigger the nonprofit, the better they are at marketing and fundraising. I’m going to share a little secret with you. It’s not necessarily true. Don’t believe it. Go try, it’s trial and error for yourself. Just because somebody else does it that way doesn’t mean it’s the right way. I lay out in that eBook, exactly how to on board new subscribers, where the form should be, what fields should be in the form, call to action, your email afterwards… We talk a little bit about pop up ads, et cetera. You can download that eBook and you’ll have all the information in front of you. Follow the steps and start onboarding new subscribers and eventually convert them to donors.

[00:36:25.550] – Boris
That sounds amazing, and we will definitely link to that as well, so that people can just click on the show notes and and pay for to your site to download that eBook, which sounds like a guide, a template and everything that someone needs when they don’t even know where to begin. Or maybe they’ve already got something but aren’t sure that it’s the best possible use of their onboarding sequence.

[00:36:47.710] – Ephraim Gopin

[00:36:47.710] – Boris
So I’m excited to share that with everybody. Ephraim, thank you so much. I think I’m going to have to have you on again to talk about more things in the near future. Because, like I said, you and I can talk about this stuff for hours. But I really appreciate your time today and sharing all this valuable info with our audience. Thank you, everybody who has tuned in and listened to or watched this episode. Please be sure to go in and leave us to review, subscribe to the podcast, share—share the word about this show so that more people can benefit from experts like Ephraim and all of the amazing guests that we have on the show every week.

[00:37:20.210] – Boris
Thank you, everybody. Have a great week.

[00:37:22.070] – Ephraim Gopin
Thanks, Boris.

[00:37:41.820] – 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:

  • If an organization’s marketing and fundraising departments don’t work well together, donors get confused. (7:37)
  • Fundraisers change jobs every 18 months. This kind of turnover can be unhealthy since fundraising is often all about relationships. (8:41)
  • Have a “Gratitude Attitude.” Donors remember the “Thank You” more than they remember the reason they donated. (12:04)
  • Building a connection with a story in your “Thank you” letter. (13:24)
  • Acquisition costs more than retention. It costs more to get new people to join you than to keep the ones who already have. (16:54)
  • Get your donors involved to create a constant connection and keep them wanting to help more. (18:17)
  • You don’t have to be everywhere on Social Media. You need to understand your audience and where they are, and focus there first. (21:50)
  • On average, it takes seven touchpoints to convince someone to buy something. Don’t instantly send an email asking people to donate. Build trust over time. (23:23)
  • No one is interested in more emails in their inbox. If you’ve convinced them to sign up, show them gratitude right away to reinforce their decision. (26:40)
  • Making sure that the content you are sending out to donors matches their interests. (30:12)

Action Steps: What Now?

  • Start implementing!

    Get Fundraising and Marketing talk to each other.

    This is where it all starts. Start with the decision that you wanted to grow. Then determine where your audiences are, so that you can focus your energies there. Focus your social media and marketing channels to provide more service to the community that your organization is aiming to help.

    Don’t get overwhelmed by the process.

    Break it down first to little bits in a way that it is easier to digest.

    Connect with Ephraim!

    Visit 1832communications.com for free tools that your organization can use.

About this week’s guest

Ephraim Gopin

Ephraim Gopin

Principal, 1832 Communications

Ephraim is the founder of 1832 Communications, an agency which helps nonprofits build more relationships so they can raise more money, serve more people and have more impact in the community. Ephraim crafts strategies which help nonprofits successfully upgrade their online presence, boost their email fundraising and marketing and improve their marketing collateral. When fundraising and marketing work together, it’s a beautiful thing!

Connect with Ephraim Gopin

EP 21 - Doug White - Featured

Episode 21: The Promise and Problems of Philanthropy in the U.S. Today, with Doug White

The Nonprofit Hero Factory: Episode 21

The Promise and Problems of Philanthropy in the U.S. Today, with Doug White

In this Episode:

Charity and nonprofits have had a special role in the American system since its earliest days: to fulfill a need that the government is not designed to or capable of meeting. They are an important part of the individualist character of our nation and its development.

While donations to charity have risen in recent years, the average donation size has outpaced the number of donations. It seems that fewer people are giving, with the difference being made up by larger philanthropists. What does this trend portend for the charity world as a whole? Are billionaires the saviors or the villains of our nonprofit ecosystem?

Philanthropy advisor Doug White joins Boris to discuss the trends and pitfalls of organizations increasingly relying on larger philanthropic donors, their responsibility to large donors and the communities they serve, and how to navigate the two.

[00:00:19.490] – 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!

[00:00:21.480] – Boris
Hi, everybody, welcome back to an episode of the Nonprofit Hero Factory, I’m excited about today’s guest. He is an advisor on all matters philanthropy on both sides to philanthropists and nonprofits. He’s going to give us some inside looks and some things to consider based on recent events and recent news and historic roles of nonprofits and philanthropists. His name is Doug White. Doug is a longtime leader and scholar in the nation’s philanthropic community. He’s an author and an adviser to nonprofit organizations and philanthropists.

[00:00:52.950] – Boris
As I said, he serves as the co-chair of the Walter Cronkite Committee at FoolProof. And as a board member, the vice president of the Secular Coalition of America. He is the former director of Columbia University’s Master of Science in Fundraising Management Program, where he also taught board governance, ethics and fundraising. Doug has published five books. His most recent “Wounded Charity” analyzes the allegations of mismanagement made in January 2016 against the Wounded Warrior Project. I know a lot of us heard about that and were affected by it in one way or another.

[00:01:24.990] – Boris
When I asked Doug what his superpower is, he says, “I try to help people better understand the role nonprofits play in our society and the impact they have on individual lives. I examined the personal stories of charities as well as the broader policy implications of philanthropy.” So with that, I would love to welcome Doug to the show. And hi, Doug, thank you so much for joining us today.

[00:01:48.480] – Doug White
It’s my pleasure, Boris.

[00:01:49.560] – Boris
If you don’t mind. Obviously, I just read your bio and it is impressive, but tell us your story.

[00:01:56.760] – Doug White
I began in the philanthropic world in the late 1970s when someone asked me to come to dinner. They asked me to then go out and talk to some people about raising some money. And I said, sure. It was for my high school. And I went out and talked to these people and they all said yes when I asked them for money. And I was so surprised because they weren’t getting anything back. And I thought this is easier than selling refrigerators or cars or anything like that, even though there’s nothing really tangible there to give to these people for what they’re what they’re paying.

[00:02:31.020] – Doug White
I thought what is going on there? And they said, well, I really had this great experience and I want to give back. All of these things that we now take for granted when we talk about fundraising. But for me, that was brand new. And it was it was so eye-opening. I knew that was my life’s mission at that point.

[00:02:48.470] – Boris
That’s pretty awesome, and I’d love to actually talk to you more about what it is that you think got them to quickly and easily—basically, it sounds like it wasn’t very difficult to convince them to—give. Clearly, that led you into this career of working with philanthropists as well as nonprofits. Why did you decide to go into philanthropy advising?

[00:03:12.570] – Doug White
Because over the years, it’s become clear that many donors want to make sure their money goes to the causes they want to see furthered. And a lot of times they don’t really know what those causes are. And so it takes a process that’s become rather institutionalized in the last couple of decades. But still at the beginning of all of this, it wasn’t. But it takes a process to actually talk to a would-be or a philanthropist about his or her values. What do you want to see changed in the world? How do you want to see your money used?

[00:03:48.570] – Doug White
We’ve gotten to the point on, let’s say, Maslow’s hierarchy to the point where they’re comfortable with their own world. They have what they need and their needs are taken care of. So now they’re saying, how can I look out to the rest of the world and do something about that? Well, a lot of people really don’t know what they want to do. They really don’t.

[00:04:09.000] – Doug White
But when they do know what they want to do, they still have another hurdle to find out what organization is going to best further that mission. So it’s a matter of going through a questionnaire in my case, and I think it’s probably the way most of philanthropy advisors do this, that really examines values. And it also has to do with family issues like what you want your children to be when they grow up in terms of what their value system is, what kind of world you want to leave behind, what kind of legacy do you want to leave?

[00:04:41.760] – Doug White
When I was on the board of what was then the National Committee on Planned Giving, I started this group called “Leave a Legacy”. And I think that’s still going. But it’s a local group. It’s a group that has local efforts around the country where people are encouraged to leave a legacy at a nonprofit through their bequests or some trust or something like that. And that has grown.

[00:05:12.570] – Doug White
That idea has grown and that vernacular has grown, to leave a legacy. But what does that mean? What do I want to do? How do I want to affect the world after I’m gone? People have a difficult enough time to think about dying to begin with, let alone how the world’s going to look like after they after they leave. But that’s the kind of conversation you have to have with people. And they are willing to have that because they’re asking you what can I do to make the world a better place?

[00:05:40.710] – Boris
So I want to touch on several of those things. And I think we’re going to come back to a few of them because they’re definitely on my list of things to chat with you about today. But one of the reasons why this is so important right now, and I feel like—predominantly my audience is nonprofit communications, marketing and fundraisers, and their goal is, of course, to help their organization grow to, as I like to say, activate more heroes for their cause.

[00:06:05.310] – Boris
It seems that over the last at least a few years, there has been a trend in giving where there’s been fewer and fewer smaller donors and more and more philanthropists on a larger scale that are actually more than making up for the losses in the smaller and smaller donations. So overall, giving is increasing while with possibly the exception of Covid last year, which I think did drive a lot more people to open up and and empathize and donate to local organizations or national ones. But aside from that, there’s been that decline and giving has grown regardless of that. So what do you think that trend is about? What’s what’s happening?

[00:06:53.270] – Doug White
I call that—I have a phrase for it—is the de-democratization of fundraising. When I began in the early 1980s with this fundraising gig, I was concentrating on the people who gave low amounts of money. You asked earlier about how I was able to get these people to give money to this school. And I can answer you by saying they basically ask themselves, I was just the conduit. I was just able to release some of their memories and some of their good feelings about the place and how that school helped them become who they were.

[00:07:36.210] – Doug White
I know that’s a bit of a cliché right now, and it’s not entirely true, but it’s true enough. And a school, college, whatever, oftentimes makes an impact on you. And so I was very involved with… those are thousand dollar gifts and that at the time was a big deal. But I was involved with those people who are giving low amounts of money. Today a thousand dollars is almost meaningless to some of these organizations. But over the decades we’ve become enamored with the large donors.

[00:08:10.010] – Doug White
And why not? If someone’s got a potential to give you a million dollars, you’re going to pay attention to that person. You’re going to you’re going to cultivate him over years, maybe, or over years. And why not? Because that’s going to result in more money than cultivating a person who’s got the capacity to give a thousand dollars or five hundred dollars or something even less, if it makes economic sense to take the time to do that. And it makes sense for the organization’s growth to do that.

[00:08:37.700] – Doug White
But, I have also noticed that we are doing that at the expense of paying attention to our smaller donors, and I fear that the pool that we create of smaller donors will not be enough to then turn into larger donors as time passes. And maybe the future of philanthropy is that your big donor will just come in and show up and say, I care about your cause. And so I’m going to I’m going to give you this money, but especially with organizations like, say, heritage organizations like schools…

[00:09:15.020] – Doug White
They grow into big donors. Seniors in college, or are asked to give to their class fund as seniors in college. That wasn’t true when I was in college. And so the idea there is to create a level of paying back, an understanding of how the school works and also to have a participation level. Right now, I’m in my fiftieth reunion for my high school, the school I went to, Exeter, just so you’ll know. And we’re very concerned about having a participation level at a very high level.

[00:09:49.910] – Doug White
And that’s crucial because it keeps people lubricated, if you will. Their philanthropic senses lubricated and keeps Exeter on the front page. And there are so many other competitors for that—the local food bank, their daughters’ schools, the local hospital where they had surgery. And they’re all legitimate competitors. And so what we say in our situation is don’t forget them. But do keep in mind the school that got this all started for you. And even if you can’t give a lot or don’t want to give a lot, then your participation is crucial.

[00:10:25.430] – Doug White
So that keeps that pyramid in the proper level. Still, though, what used to be an 80-20 rule is closer to 95-5 rule. And we are we are paying so much attention to that five percent.

[00:10:39.800] – Doug White
And you are correct, Covid really brought out a lot of the smaller donors. It’s because that’s where the heart strings were. After 9/11, Red Cross brought a lot of smaller donors out. And so a tragedy or an intense situation will get our heartstrings going. And that’s good, but that’s temporary. And so charities have to figure out how to continue that.

[00:11:04.310] – Doug White
And I think there’s a lot of argument to be made to, even though it makes sense to go to the large donor and cultivate that person or the prospect. It also makes a lot of sense to cultivate the smaller donors as well, because otherwise we’re going to get into a situation where it’s seen that philanthropy is only for the rich. In fact, when I make my own phone calls for this reunion, people will say, you’ve got too much of an endowment, you don’t need my money. Besides, you’ve got X, Y or Z famous name giving you this money you don’t need me. What is my one hundred dollars going to do?

[00:11:40.070] – Doug White
And I have to go through the process and say, look, even though there’s a big budget, every dollar is accounted for and the school does do that and it does that very well. And that’s one recommendation for charitable organizations, is to make sure that they are there running their business properly. I say business not in air quotes, but I do say a little cautiously because I don’t want to get people confused between what a for-profit business is and a nonprofit business is. But the way I look at it is that both start with the same premise that you’ve got to stay alive, you have to pay people, you have to have an office, I think even today. You have to have computers. You have to have operational activity taking place.

[00:12:20.720] – Doug White
The difference is that the purpose of a for profit is to make a profit for shareholders. A nonprofit doesn’t have shareholders. It can often make a profit. That’s another issue. But it isn’t meant to go out of business or it’s not meant to go poor or be poor just because it doesn’t sell widgets. In fact, I think what it sells is much grander than widgets or any other widget that we can we can identify.

[00:12:47.990] – Boris
So absolutely, nonprofits do need to function as businesses, as any other business, and they do compete with businesses for the attention and money of people who might support it or might go and spend their money somewhere else in their time doing something else. So there’s a lot of that at play. It’s interesting what you call the de-democratization of philanthropy. I was very excited just seemingly a few years ago when the crowdfunding space first took off, because I saw that as the democratization of philanthropy, where anyone could become a donor to any organization, where any organization can also reach out and capture the interests and hopefully hearts of just about anybody that they could have some sort of affinity with.

[00:13:37.970] – Boris
It was an exciting time. Today, I’m not sure how prevalent that is in people’s mindsets in the organizations themselves. Is it worthwhile for them to run a campaign versus just make a few phone calls, wine and dine somebody if you will, bring them to the gala and get that big check? But it does say something for their future. It also, I think… and you and I agree on this. Possibly shifts their focus and attention away from a more groundswell public want for their services to what an individual or a few individuals might be looking for… the changes that they want to see in the world.

[00:14:23.980] – Boris
Can you talk a little bit about this outsized influence that some of the deeper-pocketed philanthropists might have on the charitable sector today?

[00:14:33.820] – Doug White
It seems to be more and more prevalent. Let me give you a little bit of history on that particular segment of philanthropy. I did a book on this. It was the lawsuit against Princeton University. In 1961, a woman, an heiress of the A&P fortune. And for most of your audience, that is going to be like coming out of Mars. They used to be the largest grocery chain in the United States for many, many decades. Well, the trust dissolved after the death of a grandchild.

[00:15:04.030] – Doug White
And so she inherited directly about a hundred million dollars and she gave about thirty five billion dollars of that to Princeton University, a huge gift, the largest gift to that university at that time. The second largest gift event of any university at that time. To establish the graduate program or to endow the graduate program at the Woodrow Wilson School the International Relations School. Time passes. We understand that the family is not happy with the way the money is spent.

[00:15:36.340] – Doug White
And so in 2002, this was 40 years after the gift was made. The son sues Princeton. Now, by this time that 35 dollars million has grown to about 900 million dollars. The family set up a separate foundation. Princeton was the only beneficiary of that foundation, which is fine. And as a result, Princeton included that endowment in its endowment totals, which is also fine. They were the only beneficiary. So it made sense.

[00:16:04.780] – Doug White
But the son said, you’re not using the money the way my father wanted to. And they said, yes, we are. And so he had sat on the board, there were there was a foundation, a separate organization. Four members were from Princeton, three were from the family. And he contended that a lot of the decisions were being made in their absence and money was being spent without their permission and knowledge, and that a lot of the money was going to the wrong place.

[00:16:30.320] – Doug White
It was going within Princeton. Nobody was walking home with a Cadillac or anything of that nature. But it was just that the donor’s intentions weren’t being served. Princeton came back, said, look, we’re we’ve got a great school here and it’s good. It’s a lot to do with your dad. So let’s not get that wrong. Princeton’s graduate school here is among the best in the world, if not the best in the world. The donor kept saying that’s not the question. The question is, are you using my dad’s money the way you said you would use it?

[00:16:59.960] – Doug White
It was a terrible ordeal. And going back to your question, the donors, that was the first donor that I know of that I know of—and there were others, I’m sure—that ran into trouble with regard to how their money was going to be used. But did they have a right to say this is the way it should be used? Well, if Princeton agrees to it, my answer is yes, they do have that right. Now, fast forward to 2021. And you’ve got a very similar situation taking place right now at the University of Chicago.

[00:17:36.290] – Doug White
So what I’m getting at, Boris, is that there is an environment right now where large donors are expecting that their wishes are going to be granted. And the key thing for me is that the university or the charity agrees to this. And my thinking is not being an attorney and not looking at this through the legal lens, but from an ethical lens. If you’re saying you’re going to do it then by golly, you’ve got to do it.

[00:18:04.580] – Boris
So that’s a specific case with a very large donation. How do we extrapolate that on a national level, it seems like and people are often accusing or I don’t know if the accusing is the right word, but upset with an outsized influence that deeper pocketed individuals or large corporations have on our political system, it seems like there is something similar that might be going on in the philanthropic system. The other side of things, if you will, where the government isn’t directly involved.

[00:18:43.920] – Boris
Is that a cause for concern when a small percentage, as you said, fewer than 20 percent at this point, of the donors are maybe even if they’re not dictating, if they’re not saying here’s a 60-page contract, but they’re saying I’m going to support an organization that’s promising to do this. And then, sure, they might want metrics and performance indicators throughout. But is that, do you think, an issue for us and for most nonprofits out there?

[00:19:21.140] – Doug White
George Washington, in his farewell address, warned of organizations that today would call charities, warned against the influence of charities. And what he meant by that was individuals who may have different designs on the way American society should be from the designs that Congress, the people speaking through their representatives, would say our society should be. And since that day in the 1790s, when he sent that farewell address to Congress, it was actually published in a newspaper. But since that day, we’ve always had that tension.

[00:20:05.180] – Doug White
What role is… what role does charity play in our society? And when we ask that question, we then, in today’s vernacular, also have to ask, what role does the donor play in that whole process? Nobody elected Bill Gates to anything, and yet he’s had massive influence over much of our public life. Now, most people think that his influence has been very, very positive. And I’m going to grant those people that. But it still is not necessarily an expression of the people’s will in the United States.

[00:20:39.350] – Doug White
So I think we always have to take that into account. And any organization that, this is where the tension is, any organization that wants money has to balance getting that money with how strictly they want to adhere to that particular wish by the donor. But I think it’s fair to say at this point that donors do have much more influence over a charity’s mission than they used to and they’re expecting to.

[00:21:11.730] – Doug White
I’m not a psychologist, but I will say that my impression is that the richer you are, the more arrogant you get. In… oh, gosh, I forget the year. But some years ago, Mark Zuckerberg began an initiative in Newark for the Newark Public School Systems, in Newark, New Jersey. One hundred million dollars, and it was going to be matched by other philanthropists and one of the billionaires that I spoke with was part of that group, and he criticized himself as well as Mark Zuckerberg and the entire effort because they knew better. They they could take their private helicopter from a Manhattan heliport, go over and plop themselves down in Newark and say, “here, here’s the money and this is how it’s going to be spent and you’re all going to be the better for it.”

[00:21:58.280] – Doug White
No one talked to the people on the ground in Newark to say, how can this money be spent? No one among the advisors of this came from the Newark public school system or even the Newark schools or the community. So I think there’s a lot of lesson in that. You know, we don’t know better, but who does? The public charities are owned by the public, not any shareholders. So who does? Well, the board of directors is supposed to. There is no real I guess what I’m getting at, there’s no real ultimate arbiter that we can know is going to be right or know everything.

[00:22:41.500] – Doug White
It’s a messy system. Does the donor not know things? Probably not. He or she does know things and could help the organization well. But how much deference should we give to that one person? Is a question that’s probably going to plague us forever. What I think is the best answer and it’s not clean and it’s not perfect, but the best answer is to have a good board of directors who care about the mission, who are intensely engaged in the organization, and who have backgrounds that represent what the mission, the organization’s mission, is all about, deferring to those people as a group. They still might get it wrong, but it’s more than just one person.

[00:23:23.460] – Doug White
And of course, people will say, what if the billionaire’s on the board and just rides roughshod over everyone? Well, that’s a board governance problem. That person shouldn’t run roughshod over everyone. But that does happen. That’s real life. I mean, I do a lot of work in board governance and my goodness, that happens a lot.

[00:23:41.000] – Boris
So, it sounds like you’re saying there’s… That the reality is that they do have an outsized influence and there’s no easy solution to that, nor is it necessarily a problem or something that that needs to be solved. I think that, personally, the solution is to have a broader base of donors and a more, I guess stricter board and adherence to mission so that billionaires or whomever it is can’t ride roughshod, as you just called it, can’t override.

[00:24:26.750] – Boris
Of course, they could also just start their own foundations like Bill Gates did and like so many billionaires do in order to try to influence the change they want to see in the world. I’m a little conflicted on this personally, because on the one hand, I do believe that the greatest good needs to be responsive to the greatest number of people. But I’m also not a direction-by-committee kind of person. I think that often dilutes intentions and often gets nothing done.

[00:25:00.830] – Boris
And in the U.S. system specifically—and you and I talked about this a little earlier—we have this democratic system, this capitalist system where as much as it is complicated and far from perfect today, there is some of this idea of anyone can pull themselves up and rise up. Of course, that’s not true for everyone in this country, unfortunately, at this time. But there are nonprofits working on that, too.

[00:25:31.540] – Doug White

[00:25:33.620] – Boris
So there is definitely a need for private sector funding for charitable causes. And I don’t think that the government is the answer either. Like, we don’t want to I don’t think anybody in the US, except for perhaps actually some billionaires want their taxes raised. Most people do not. So the government doesn’t have the the resources or the bandwidth to tackle some of these larger problems and also isn’t as responsive to smaller things on the ground, certainly not on a federal level. So there’s this need for organizations, charitable organizations to step in and do some of the work.

[00:26:13.840] – Boris
And… without paying taxes, we can direct our own called a discretionary income—call it tithing, call it whatever you’d like—funds to the problems that we think are most important for government or for society to be able to tackle. I think back to the Soviet Union and, you know, in the Soviet Union, there were no charities. And in fact, a lot of immigrants from the Soviet Union to this day do not think that anybody needs to donate to charity because that’s the role of government.

[00:26:48.510] – Boris
At the same time, if you turn it and ask them, they’ll admit that the government in the Soviet Union, which claimed they would provide everything for everyone, really provided nothing for anyone except for the very wealthy elite that secretly stole a lot of funds from the people. So in the US, we need this kind of balance to our capitalist system in a private way. Can nonprofits fulfill that need and how do they approach this need for, at the moment anyway, these these white knights or these whales to come in and fund a lot of their major programing, knowing that it may not be responsive to their entire community?

[00:27:40.190] – Doug White
I’m seeing two questions in there, so let me break those out. Actually, several, actually, but I see two major things running there. What role in the capitalist system that we currently have nonprofits play? And also the role that the white knights play within that? So let me begin with the bigger the first part that you bring up. Congress, in its wisdom, understood exactly what you’re saying over a hundred years ago when they created the deduction for charitable gifts.

[00:28:10.400] – Doug White
So not only are our tax dollars not going to go to these things that we would otherwise want them to go to, we’re getting a tax benefit from this. So if we itemize, we will get a tax benefit.

[00:28:27.500] – Doug White
Now, just as a quick aside, you mentioned earlier we talked about the de-democratization of giving. And one of the factors, I think, in the last couple of years has been the increase in the standard deduction, which means that fewer people are itemizing, which means fewer people are able to take advantage of their charitable giving.

[00:28:46.130] – Doug White
That doubled, I think for married couples, it’s about twenty five thousand dollars now. So that’s huge. So that that that’s taken away a lot of the lower dollar donors from the charitable giving rolls. OK, if that’s an incentive. And there have been discussions as to how incentivizing charitable deduction is. I don’t believe that it’s as much of an incentive as some people do, but it’s there, especially for the larger donors.

[00:29:13.610] – Doug White
But the role of charities in society… It’s an interesting story we have here in the United States. You were talking about the Soviet Union, Europe also in the seventeen hundreds anyway, had a lot of money and they supported a lot of what we now think of as nonprofits, the churches, the art museums, the schools. And in the United States, we were very poor. We had no government money. Our government was bankrupt.

[00:29:43.880] – Doug White
In the 1820s, Alexis de Tocqueville came here from France to look at American society, and he was struck by the number of what he called Associations. And how people in communities would help do these things that in France was done by the government. So we started out very poor. And I think that’s what gave us birth, gave birth to our philanthropic system, which is very, very strong. By the way, this last year, we gave about 470 billion dollars to charitable organizations, a five percent increase over the prior year.

[00:30:12.650] – Doug White
So the role of of nonprofits… excuse me, yes… the role of nonprofits has always been somewhat defined by the fact that we didn’t have any money to put toward these purposes. And as the country has grown, it’s grown richer. There’s still a mindset that the government can’t do everything. I think even if we had all the money to do it the way we wanted to do it or that we could do it, we still wouldn’t take on the old European system where we were just pay for all of these things. Because there’s a sense here that and I believe it’s a very strong one and a very positive one, that as Americans, we’re more individual.

[00:30:48.050] – Doug White
Now that’s had its problems. Nothing’s perfect all the way through. But that individualism has created this nonprofit sector that’s very, very strong. Now, some of the larger problems that the government has to fix or that needs fixing in society, only the government can fix. Nonprofits aren’t going to build roads, they’re not going to create a military. For the most part, they’re not going to take us to the moon. Not going to do a lot of the large, big things that the government does.

[00:31:15.020] – Doug White
But there are a lot of organizations that are doing other things that are big. Cancer research, for example, that’s a nonprofit-government collaboration. The government’s got an interest in this and the nonprofit world has an interest in doing this. And I hope together there can be enough work and research done for that to someday be past tense disease. So I think that going forward, we’re never going to get out of having nonprofit play an extremely important role, nor will we get out of the situation where the government doesn’t want to spend some of these dollars for these purposes.

[00:31:56.260] – Doug White
And I think that’s healthy. I think that’s healthy. And and the government encourages that through the deduction. That’s the only way it can say, yes, we want to encourage you to make these gifts. And I think private philanthropy is a strong, strong, good moral force in society. And I think I know because I’ve been to Saudi Arabia to talk about this, I’ve been to China to talk about this, been to India to talk about this… The idea of how we have grown to be such a philanthropically oriented society is pretty special here in the United States.

[00:32:28.480] – Doug White
And I want to be very clear that that’s different from saying that we are more philanthropic than other people. I believe that’s a human tendency, not one defined by national borders. It’s just that we have a system where that can be better expressed or more efficiently expressed. Now to your second part there, where the large, I think you’re calling them “whales”, these large donors, what role are they going to continue to play in this society as we go forward?

[00:32:57.370] – Doug White
Because if we continue the way we are. We might see a very, very elite nonprofit sector and like we are seeing in the United States right now at large, we’re seeing these higher endowed charities become even better and better off and these lower and doubt charities, if they’re endowed at all, struggling more and more. And that takes away from, I think, the essence of what a charitable organization should do.

[00:33:28.700] – Doug White
And that’s the other thing about this. Charities are public commodities. We’re using public dollars to fund these organizations. So I think there’s an argument on both sides there. But if we allow this mega-donation mania that we have right now going into these larger and larger organizations, I’m afraid the system just may fall apart with such a division between the rich organizations and the small ones. This is where if I may, this is where Mackenzie Scott comes in. Mackenzie Scott, the former wife of Jeff Bezos, is known this past year for having given hundreds of—billions of dollars to underfunded, mostly black, historically black colleges around the United States.

[00:34:19.550] – Doug White
And recently she gave another several hundred million dollars. And what she has done, she’s hired these people to go out and talk to these organizations to find out where the need is. And they’re not overfunded, they’re not over endowed. They need this money. And the money she can give them is a real help to them. I would like to see more of that kind of philanthropy. Rather than saying, OK, I’m going to get more money to Harvard. And I’m not picking on Harvard. They’re a great organization. They really, really are. But it’s just that they have the largest endowment in the United States. But Harvard doesn’t need another building with someone’s name on it right now.

[00:35:01.430] – Doug White
So and as you’ll notice, McKenzie Scott isn’t putting her name on any of these buildings. In fact, she’s keeping that list of those organizations secret. She’s not keeping the organizations from talking about it. And some of them are. That’s how we’re getting the news about who’s getting what.

[00:35:19.690] – Boris
So there’s clearly so much more that we could discuss about this and endless things to learn on both sides of the conversation around this. What are some resources that organizations that nonprofits that might be listening to this should maybe go and check out? Obviously, I think your books are going to be a great resource for both history and some practical knowledge and advice. Are there any other that you would recommend?

[00:35:47.680] – Doug White
I would. And thank you for asking. A lot of the literature and nonprofit and fundraising activity has to do with how great it is or how to do fundraising and how great it is that donors can help charities. And I think we need that and we need more of it. But two books that have caught my eye in the last year, one is called “The Givers” by David Callahan, and he examines who these people are, these givers, these donors and what motivates them. It’s a great book. It’s not at all negative, but it’s not. It’s not it’s not all positive either.

[00:36:25.180] – Doug White
And the other book is “Winners Take All”, by—and I’ve got to look at the name here… he’s very famous, but I still have trouble with— “you’re the hottest who’s very well-spoken, very knowledgeable person.” And his is a critique. It’s an outright critique of how philanthropy and philanthropists really perpetuate the inequalities in American life. And I recommend those books not because of the way they are negative, but because they’re really positive, both of them, because I feel the same way.

[00:37:01.360] – Doug White
I feel like I so cherish the nonprofit world and the role nonprofits play in the United States and the role philanthropists play. I so cherish it. I want to see them all do well. I don’t want to see bad actors come in. I don’t want to see the bad charities take over. Some years ago there was an article in the Tampa Bay Times entitled The 50 Worst Charities in the United States. And there was a scathing review of how some charities really do misbehave.

[00:37:32.290] – Doug White
I want those people gone. I want them out of our sector. It’s too pure and we need good people. And I know we’re not angels. We will never have only angels in the nonprofit sector, even though sometimes we like to think of ourselves that way. But we are and we are human. But we really have to be more and I wrote a whole book about this on the ethical decision making at nonprofits. We have to be better than the rest.

[00:37:57.580] – Doug White
I just I feel our aspirations have to be higher. We don’t have a political environment in which to succeed. We don’t have a for-profit environment in which to succeed. The way we succeed is by really, truly making the world a better place, which I feel is a lot stronger a pull than either of the other two motivators.

[00:38:19.130] – Boris
Awesome. We’re going to link to both of those books and to your works in our show notes, if nonprofits are looking to delve further into this or to start their path down this road, where should they begin? Do you have any calls to action for them to get going?

[00:38:37.430] – Doug White
Well, as a nonprofit, I think I’ve seen the areas of… there are three areas basically that I think need a particular attention: Board governance. And there’s a whole bunch of work within that whole process here. But as I mentioned before, you don’t want one person steamrolling the others. Board governance is a process. It’s a skill. It’s a discipline. And people need to learn how to be board members because they are the ultimate people at an organization. We don’t hear as much about them as we do the CEOs, but they are extremely important. And so the process of board governance is critical.

[00:39:14.540] – Doug White
Ethical decision making at charities. I think we have a unique space to make these decisions. As I said before, we don’t have for-profit concerns that we don’t have political concerns. We’re kind of in a pure space to make ethical decision making as high level as possible. So I think we need to pay more attention to that so we keep our bad actors away.

[00:39:35.510] – Doug White
And finally, I think the question of impact, if I’m a nonprofit, I want to make sure that I can show why I exist. One of the things that I ask a nonprofit when we do our retreats, the first thing I asked them, in fact, is how would society be different if you didn’t exist, if you closed your doors tonight, what would happen? Who would care? And board members have to actually think about that because it’s not intuitive. What would happen if we didn’t exist.

[00:40:06.680] – Doug White
And the answer is, well, we’re trying to cure this disease. That’s what they want to do. What would happen if they did not exist? When you… when I think of it that way and I put this in another book, about 30 percent of our organizations could go away and nobody would notice. So we tout the fact that there are a million. And when I say a million, the 501C3 sector of section of the C3 sector, for profit and public charity, excuse me, nonprofit public charities and foundations, probably a third of those three hundred thousand. And I know that’s maybe controversial, but I would say that that could happen and society wouldn’t be any worse off.

[00:40:53.180] – Doug White
So, if we’re going to get money and if, excuse me, if we’re going to ask for money, I think we have the obligation to tell people how we’re going to use it and the kind of impact the organization is going to have. So those three areas, let me just repeat governance, ethical decision making and impact. If I’m a nonprofit, those are the three things I need to really pay attention to.

[00:41:12.050] – Boris
Awesome. And if people want to follow up with you, what’s the best way to get in touch?

[00:41:16.730] – Doug White
I think LinkedIn I’ve got a public page there. And when it says contacts at LinkedIn, you can click that, and I actually have my own addresses in there, my phone number and my email address. It’s not just the LinkedIn address. So I think LinkedIn would be the best place to go. And I also do pay attention to that and tweak it every once in a while to make sure it’s up to speed up to date, up to speed with what I want.

[00:41:41.780] – Doug White
And so you’ll see what my own value system is in there. And I put that in the introduction of it. And so if anybody wants to further a conversation or have a conversation, feel free to touch base.

[00:41:53.960] – Boris
Awesome. Thank you so much, Doug. Thank you for all your time today, your insights. Thank you, everybody, for joining us for this episode of the Nonprofit Hero Factory. If you like what you see or what you hear, please do subscribe, rate and share our show with anyone that you know that might also benefit from the wisdom that people like Doug are imparting. Thank you again. And we’ll see you soon for another episode of the Nonprofit Hero Factory. Bye bye.

[00:42:40.850] – 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:

  • Philanthropists have reached a point in their lives (3:48) where they are looking for:
    1. Legacy. I.e., ways to improve the world around them based on what they care about.
    2. The nonprofit organizations that they believe can get them there.
  • The de-democratization of fundraising: Fewer people are giving larger amounts and having an outsized influence. Yet, small donors are critical to success. (6:05)
  • Tragedies or intense situations like 9/11 and COVID get our heartstrings going and increase donations from donors of all sizes. (10:39)
    • That’s good, but temporary. So charities have to figure out how to keep those new donors engaged.
    • If nonprofits don’t cultivate smaller donors, philanthropy and giving might start to seem like activities just for rich people.
  • Large gifts often come with large strings attached, and failing to fulfill promises to donors can result in disastrous consequences and legal challenges. (14:23)
    • A notable early example is the A&P heirs’ endowment of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson school, but it continues today.
  • “There is an environment right now where large donors are expecting that their wishes are going to be granted. And the key thing for me is that the university or the charity agrees to this. And my thinking is, not being an attorney and not looking at this through the legal lens but from an ethical lens… if you’re saying you’re going to do it then by golly, you’ve got to do it.” (17:40)
  • What role do charity and nonprofits play in American society? And what role do billionaire philanthropists play? (20:05)
    • Nobody elected Bill Gates to anything, and yet he has had massive influence over public life. Is his an expression of “the people’s will” in the U.S.?
    • The dangers of billionaires hubris donating funds and dictating how they should be spent, as illustrated by a failed reform of Newark, NJ, public schools.
  • Nonprofits need a strong board of directors who care about the mission and are intensely engaged in the organizations, to keep them on mission and not kowtowing to deep-pocket donors… including the board members themselves. (22:41)
  • The role of charity in the U.S. capitalist system vs. communist countries like the former Soviet Union and socialist countries today (25:00)
    • Our system relies on nonprofits to do the work that, in other parts of the world, is being done by governments. And that system relies on individuals to essentially vote for public good projects with their donations.
  • The government recognizes the importance of charitable giving and incentivizes it through tax deductions. With the recent increase in the “standard deduction” allowances, smaller donors are not seeing the tax rewards of charitable giving, and therefore dropping off. (28:33)
  • There is a danger that mega-donation mania can destroy the nonprofit ecosystem, with big organizations like Harvard only getting bigger. How does Mackenzie Scott’s approach change things? (33:28)
  • Three areas that nonprofits need to pay particular attention to (38:37)
    • Board governance
    • Ethical decision making
    • The question of impact

Action Steps: What Now?

  • Start implementing!

    How can nonprofits stay focused on their missions, responsible to their communities and not worry about the possible dangers of outsized donor influence?

    Start with three areas of Focus

    • Board Governance
    • Ethical Decision Making
    • Impact

    Ask yourselves: Why do you exist?

    Think about what would happen if you did not exist. If you closed your doors, what would happen? Who would care?

    Organizations have an obligation to create impact and tell people how they are going to use their donated resources.

    Reach out to Doug White

    Doug is happy to have these important conversations with organizations of all types. The best way to reach him is through LinkedIn, where he has his relevant contact details.

About this week’s guest

Doug White

Doug White

Philanthropy Advisor

Doug White, a long-time leader and scholar in the nation’s philanthropic community, is an author and an advisor to nonprofit organizations and philanthropists. He serves as the Co-Chair of the Walter Cronkite Committee at FoolProof, and as a board member (vice president) of the Secular Coalition of America. He is the former Director of Columbia University’s Master of Science in Fundraising Management program, where he also taught board governance, ethics and fundraising. Doug has published five books. His most recent, “Wounded Charity” (Paragon House, 2019), analyzes the allegations of mismanagement made in January 2016 against Wounded Warrior Project.

Connect with Doug White

EP 19 - Beth Karlin - Featured

Episode 19: The Science of Creating Heroes for Nonprofits, with Dr. Beth Karlin

The Nonprofit Hero Factory: Episode 19

The Science of Creating Heroes for Nonprofits, with Dr. Beth Karlin

In this Episode:

Over the last few decades, there has been a sea change in the way we understand human behavior and guide or sway people to making decisions and taking action. This wave of research—observation and experimentation—has come to be known as Behavioral Science. Dr. Beth Karlin created the See Change Institute and devoted her career to help organizations use this power for good.

In this episode, Beth joins Boris to discuss why and how organizations should apply the principles of behavioral science to their communications and campaigns. From messaging that increases action-taking, to fostering a sense of identity around your cause, we break down dozens of ideas and strategies to activate more heroes for your cause.

[00:00:18.610] – 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!

[00:00:20.720] – Boris
Welcome back, everybody, to another episode of The Nonprofit Hero Factory. Thank you so much for joining us again this week. We’ve got a fantastic guest. This is a wonderful person and friend of mine who happens to be a brilliant scientist, behavioral scientist. Her name is Dr. Beth Karlin. I’m going to read her bio. She is the founder and CEO of the See Change Institute, the Research and Practice Institute devoted to studying and shaping behavior change for the greater good. Her current projects, focus on health, equity, media representation and community energy programs.

[00:00:54.920] – Boris
Beth earned her B.A. in Psychology, Master’s in Public Policy and a Ph.D. in Social Ecology with an emphasis in social psychology. She probably lives in Los Angeles without a car. Beth describes her superpower as applying behavioral science, insights and methods to understand, measure and influence behavior. And with that, let’s welcome Beth onto the show.

[00:01:16.310] – Boris
Hi Beth.

[00:01:17.750] – Beth Karlin
Good to see you, Boris.

[00:01:19.370] – Boris
Great to see you this morning. Thanks so much for getting up so early in Los Angeles to do this with me today. So I read your impressive bio. Could you please share your story with us a little bit?

[00:01:31.100] – Beth Karlin
Sure. I actually started my career right after college in nonprofits. I worked at a volunteer center and I spent the next decade in education and I love the work I was doing. I ended up, after about eight years as a high school activities director, and I started to realize that I could have as much influence on young people and my students outside of the classroom as in. So I started thinking a lot about the power of culture to influence people.

[00:01:56.570] – Beth Karlin
And I just found myself making balloon arches during the day and then reading The New York Times about climate change on the weekend and just said, I want to go to there. I realized that, I mean, my undergraduate was in psychology and I always studied psychology, but I realized that culture matters and that understanding and influencing people to take action for huge issues like genocide and social justice and climate change could be done through behavioral science. So I went back to school and got a PhD.

[00:02:24.320] – Beth Karlin
I did my dissertation work primarily on residential energy efficiency, which sounds super boring, but it’s really trying to understand how the information ecosystem within our homes could help us improve our behavior. And then on the side, I started studying media. I worked with organizations like Story of Stuff Project and Invisible Children. And then afterwards, after a brief stint in government and academia, I started teaching so that I could just keep doing this work with nonprofits and government organizations without having to worry about the overhead or that red tape of the government or a university to do so.

[00:02:59.930] – Boris
That’s so awesome, Beth, I know you’ve worked with a lot of great organizations doing some really amazing and impactful work, I think, especially in the long run as it ripples throughout other areas. Let’s take a half-step back real quick. And for those that might not know, might not be geeks like me, for example, what is behavioral science? How would you define it?

[00:03:21.380] – Beth Karlin
Yeah, so behavioral science, it’s kind of the cooler, newer nomenclature for what it used to be called social science when we were younger.

[00:03:30.050] – Beth Karlin
But behavioral science is really the empirical study of human behavior. Human behavior and its influences as well as its causes. So behavioral science broadly encompasses the fields of psychology, sociology, political science, education, behavioral economics and informatics and human factors, and probably a few more that I missed. But really anything, any study that’s looking at how do we behave, what influences that and what can we do about it?

[00:04:00.170] – Boris
That’s a great definition. And so as part of that, there are two sides to it, right? There’s the theory and the methods.

[00:04:07.130] – Beth Karlin
Yeah, the way I think about, and my training, as you said, is kind of broadly interdisciplinary. It’s in something called social ecology. But if you think about any discipline, whether that’s biology, ecology, psychology, any discipline has kind of two things. One is the level of analysis that it studies. So kind of the theory that encompasses it about what matters. And the other are the methods that are used to solve it. So if you think, if you’re studying a pond, right, a hydrologist would study the water, a geologist, the rocks, a biologist, the fish and ecologist studies the pond.

[00:04:44.000] – Beth Karlin
Similarly, any discipline and science always has kind of theories or ideas about what matters and how independent variables affect dependent variables and then methods that are used and every behavioral science discipline might use different methods from qualitative research into experimentation, conjoint analysis, things like that.

[00:05:03.290] – Boris
So you’ve done a lot of work, I know, with nonprofits, and I was excited to actually work with you on one project. How can, do or should nonprofits be considering and incorporating behavioral science into their work and their communications? What aspects of it really apply?

[00:05:22.040] – Beth Karlin
Yeah, kind of following what we were just talking about. If you think about these two sides, theory and methods, one, the first is applying behavioral insights into your work. There’s a lot of things that we’ve learned collectively over the past decades, centuries. If you go back into philosophy before they were actually calling it science, a lot of the ideas about what it means to be happy and why we care and virtue date back to Aristotle.

[00:05:49.220] – Beth Karlin
But if we look more recently into published annals of literature, you can look at what’s worked. So if you’re trying to send out an annual donor letter and increase the number of people that participate, there’s research on that. There are insights on how people respond to gain and loss, how people respond to information, how people respond to color, to normative information about what others are doing. So applying behavioral insights into your work, there’s significant evidence.

[00:06:14.750] – Beth Karlin
There’s some of the work I did I spent, as I said, a brief stint in government participating with the social and behavioral sciences team in the White House. And a lot of that work was applying behavioral insights into different governmental programs with the hope of increasing participation rates and improving outcomes.

[00:06:30.140] – Beth Karlin
And then the second side of it are methods. So you can apply these insights, you can go, “oh, I heard this thing that if you do X, it will lead to Y,” but test. So there’s this idea of trust and verify, right? There’s this old adage, “only half of marketing works; we don’t know which half.” That’s lazy. You can test. Right?

[00:06:47.780] – Beth Karlin
So you can apply behavioral insights and then make sure that you’re going in place and test it, testing. Also, the other goal is customizing. While there are kind of broad insights and broad ideas about how humans behave, every different area, region, behavioral context is different. And so understanding the unique attributes of the community that you’re reaching and the problem that you are trying to solve will help you apply those insights more effectively.

[00:07:17.080] – Boris
So how can… can you give us an example of how a nonprofit might use behavioral science in some of their campaigns or some of their even grant applications? How does it factor in?

[00:07:30.640] – Beth Karlin
Yeah, so, I mean, one of the things that I’ve done a lot of research studying is social norms. So, for example, we found when I was in graduate school, a couple of my colleagues, we put out, we had done a conference and we’re just trying to improve literally the number of people that filled out the conference survey after we all have that problem, right? Any of us who put on events. And we put in we added one letter, one sentence into the letter that said in the email that went out that had been going out for years, that said, “dear person, thank you for coming to the conference. Please fill out the survey.” And we said, “join 70 percent of people who fill out this,” “join people, the other people who are filling out the survey.” And we saw a statistically significant of five to eight percent bump in the percentage of people that were filling out this conference survey. That finding has been replicated so many times. Actually, one of the original behavioral insights team studies in England that they brought over to the US when we launched it here, was looking at adding that same kind of sentence into the letter that the IRS sends to people who pay their taxes. It works there.

[00:08:33.460] – Beth Karlin
There was a company called OPOWER that was founded on the fact that sending that normative information, if you’ve ever received a bill from your energy utility that tells you how much you’re using compared to your neighbors, that was started by somebody who had read behavioral science research that was published right here in California showing that learning how much energy or water your neighbors used influence your behavior. That company, OPOWER, after about a decade was sold to Oracle for five hundred and sixty five million dollars.

[00:08:58.300] – Beth Karlin
So the power of this to to save enough energy in homes that you can value a company at that amount. And there’s other things on the report. But that was really the core principle. So you can do things like that. Also looking at some of the research we did in those some of those same reports, those same energy reports, we started studying imagery. So we found—this finding has been replicated in other places—that if you replace a photo without people, most of those reports had photos of like… water heaters and light bulbs, and if you put people in the photos, it increased people’s likelihood to click on the information and to take action and increased their likelihood to engage.

[00:09:38.330] – Beth Karlin
Also, if you are doing donors, this is research that Paul Slovic conducted going back and others going back a few decades called “Compassion Collapse.” That if you are trying to get people to donate to support a cause that affects people showing actually one person is more effective than showing a group of people.

[00:09:55.550] – Beth Karlin
So those are just a few. But there’s a ton of behavioral insights that if you apply and when you taken together, if you’re getting a percent increase here and a percent here and two percent here, you can see how those add up to really huge increases in the response to any of your campaigns.

[00:10:10.220] – Boris
And this is why I’m such a huge fan of the type of work that you do in behavioral economics and behavioral sciences as a broad subject because it directly affects user experience and story. It’s the story that we’re telling. It’s the way that we present certain stories and how we frame it so that people respond in a way that they might not if we didn’t use some of these tools and concepts. So it really gets into our core, the core of our psychology and social norms and triggers for us to then activate the good that we want people to to take.

[00:10:43.670] – Boris
I remember a similar study to the one that you’re talking about where and this is being done to this day. They they put cards in bathrooms, in hotels. You remember that one about trying to get people to stop just throwing their towels on the floor every single day?

[00:10:58.880] – Beth Karlin
Yeah, That was Noah Goldstein and Vladas Griskevicius ran the initial study on that.

[00:11:02.840] – Boris
And similarly, it was this not quite peer pressure, what do you call it? The desire to be like other people who were staying in that same room before you. So just by saying, “the previous people who stayed in this room used the same towels for…” I think they said two or three days or something, that sentence, crucially, just changed everything in terms of how often people would have their laundry done.

[00:11:28.100] – Beth Karlin
Yeah, and that was really interesting because actually saying people who stayed in this room was more effective than people who stay in this hotel. So it’s just this like this desire for consistency. We desire consistency with our past behavior and with others around us. And, yeah, that’s been found in so many different domains.

[00:11:43.880] – Beth Karlin
And I think what you said, the story really matters. And and that’s why it’s important that we don’t just, that you understand the context of your audience and your nonprofit and your brand, because if you just apply these because your brand, your nonprofit has its own story and so you have to remain consistent.

[00:12:00.170] – Beth Karlin
One of the studies, and I love when something I do fails as much as when it succeeds, because that’s when learning happens. We applied some huge body of work on personalization and the importance of personalization and kind of creating a relationship, and we worked with a major utility and we worked on a really more personal, casual, friendly, like trying to really build rapport letter as a welcome program. And we attenuated effectiveness with some of the changes we made.

[00:12:25.920] – Beth Karlin
And what we realized, and we followed up and did some qualitative research and reached out to people would receive them—a small sample of people like 10 or 20, you don’t have to spend a lot of money doing this—and we found that… and I got some of the ideas for the language in there from work I had done with Invisible Children, who had huge, great response rates to their messaging and had this fun brand where they they had I remember them. I did my first survey.

[00:12:49.110] – Beth Karlin
They rewrote the survey invites and I was like, I know how to read a survey and they just made it cute. They made it on brand for them. They were like, we love you, you love us. Tell us about it. Ten minutes, easy, breezy. Right? And I was like, kind of cheesy, but it worked, right? They got this huge response rate that email literally got… somebody screenshotted it and posted it on The Invisible Children Facebook was like “easy, breezy, Ben Keesey, anything for you.”

[00:13:13.020] – Beth Karlin
So I tried to apply these insights thinking, like, this is there’s a huge body of work on this. It worked here. But what I found when we talked to people was it didn’t match the brand, that messaging didn’t match the story of that energy utility. People don’t want their energy utility to say “easy breezy” because that’s not the brand. That’s not the narrative. That’s not the relationship you have.

[00:13:32.790] – Beth Karlin
So it’s really important that you can pull these insights, but really think about what is authentic for you. And that’s why that idea of thinking about story and thinking about relationship matters. And that’s where I caution against just like writ large applying behavioral economics insights, is that you really need to take caution and think about who you are and what relationship you have. And if you don’t like it, if you want to be more fun, then you’re going to need to spend a couple of years building that and kind of changing your brand, changing the story of who you are and how you relate to people until you get to the point where you can start saying easy breezy.

[00:14:07.860] – Boris
Because there are definitely some companies I know in the great large industries that do exactly that. They they go counter the norms and attract people who are like, “Oh, this is so much more personal. It’s so much more interesting.” There’re insurance companies, health insurance companies that do that, that say, “Oh, we’re not like some big random organization out there somewhere. We’re just people and we want to have interactions with you and be sure that you are doing well.” And it is really effective. But I really like, what you’re talking about personalizing, because even if you have your brand voice, you don’t have to talk to everybody the same way, nor should you. And so can you talk a little bit more about not applying one overall strategy or approach to everybody that you’re trying to speak to?

[00:14:57.570] – Beth Karlin
Yeah, so kind of persona or segmentation and just to that point. So those companies I’m a member of, one of those health insurance companies.

[00:15:05.262] – Boris
Me too.

[00:15:05.010] – Beth Karlin
I have Oscar. I love Oscar. I love that. Like they sent me Band-Aids and I forgot about it. I just put them in my in my medicine cabinet. And then I hurt myself and I took out the Band-Aid. I opened it and it was like super cute and said, “Charlie bit me.”

[00:15:19.860] – Beth Karlin
And it literally made me laugh out loud. I loved it. Also, that attracts—so the thing in a competitive marketplace, Oscar is attracting people like us who love that brand. Right? So there’s so there’s kind of a fit there. Right? Like people are finding themselves with Rocket for their mortgages and Lemonade and Oscar and going to Zappos to buy shoes because they’re attracted to that. So there’s a little bit of a reciprocation there. Right, because they’re drawing in people who want that.

[00:15:44.340] – Beth Karlin
So you will find that when you put your brand out there, you’re telling the world who you want to work with you. So Oscar knows straight out they’re not getting as many people that maybe want a little more staid, buttoned up type of health care company. There are people who think that that is not what a health care company should sound and look like. Right? So, when you really put your brand out front and center, you’re going to start getting the segments, the customer, the market segments that are attracted to you.

[00:16:09.450] – Beth Karlin
That’s kind of the thousand true fans methodology. That said, once you have customers and or what would you call for nonprofits?

[00:16:18.760] – Boris

[00:16:19.860] – Beth Karlin
Beneficiaries. Thank you so much, Boris. You might still want to segment them. Also, you may be serving really wide groups. So I work now with Medicaid providers and they do serve a large number of different audiences.

[00:16:32.850] – Beth Karlin
And so you might, it’s really important to look and say what are the commonalities and differences? And can I further customize and personalize to different groups? And that’s often called audience segmentation. And there’s different ways to do it.

[00:16:44.370] – Beth Karlin
You can—design thinking, says you kind of go in a room and like, think about who you think your different audiences are. I’m a scientist, so I’m going to say, again, trust, try that, and verify. I think the best way to do that is inductively, not deductively. So you collect data, run a survey and then look, how you can work with somebody to statistically analyze how people fall into groups on their own. What you’ll often find, is that people are not being grouped as much by demographics. You might not have, like, older women and younger men. You might have people who really crave certainty or people who are really focused on security or people who are working from home or people who travel on the weekends. And it depends on what your industry is. Right? I do a lot of work and energy. And so we find that people cluster based on their lifestyle and how much they… how much time they spend in or out of the house, whether they have children…

[00:17:37.590] – Beth Karlin
And some of that will follow along demographic lines, but it doesn’t have to. And the power right now of the Internet and of all the information we have is that we don’t have to rely on those old segments. So if you think about media, for example, when we were thinking about, if somebody was marketing for a Jimmy Buffett concert 30 years ago, the main thing you would think the best predictor of being a Jimmy Buffett fan was whether you were a man maybe between 50 and 65 in a southern Atlantic state.

[00:18:06.120] – Beth Karlin
But now we don’t have to think that. We can go… we can go, the best predictor of a Jimmy Buffett fan is someone who likes Jimmy Buffett on Facebook. And the second best predictor is someone who’s been tagged in a photo with somebody who like Jimmy Buffett on Facebook in the last six months. Because our Facebook friends don’t actually predict our behavior but the people we’re tagged in photos our real life friends, do. So you can start looking for newer ways.

[00:18:26.760] – Beth Karlin
You don’t have to think about just grouping people, because not only is that less effective than it could be, but in this day and age, it’s a little it’s a little off tone. Right? We don’t want to be putting people into socio-demographic buckets and saying this is what old people and young people and white people and black people think. So if we can find even new ways with interests and values in order to group people, you’ll be even more effective.

[00:18:48.500] – Boris
So let’s dig a little bit deeper, actually, now that you brought that up. When it comes to being a Jimmy Buffett fan, at some point, does that become part of one’s identity? How do we focus on people’s identities and getting them to self-identify, if you will, with our causes using the techniques that you study and implement?

[00:19:12.110] – Beth Karlin
Yeah, identity is huge. Right. Identity is a really powerful thing. And the thing is, we all have multiple identities. So what you’re trying to do is often prime… prime an identity. Right? So that it feels self-salient to the person. So if you ask me, Beth, what’s your identity? At any given time, I might be focused really strongly. Right now, I feel really strongly. My identity is a behavioral scientist because you’re interviewing me as one, right?

[00:19:41.970] – Beth Karlin
But I participate in a nonprofit organization called Reboot that’s for Jewish people. And so my identity, I’m very much Jewish in that environment. There’s other environments where I feel very much like a woman or a voter, or I might identify really strongly with my politics or a blood donor. And so one way is just to literally prime and push identity. So research has shown, for example, with voting appeals that if you ask people, “will you be a voter tomorrow?” As opposed to people—they had 11 percent increase in getting people out to the polls—over a message that said, “will you vote tomorrow?”

[00:20:17.900] – Beth Karlin
And the latter, will you vote tomorrow? Actually, grammatically, it just sounds much cleaner to me and tighter. I’d much rather say, will you vote tomorrow, or maybe come out and join us and vote, or join—that’s why social norms also work. “Join the 80 percent of people in your precinct who voted last election.” Right? But just “be a voter” is another way so you can prime social norms by saying there’s a group of people that do this.

[00:20:39.770] – Beth Karlin
And we see a lot… there were a lot of issues in the past couple of decades around messaging strategies that did the exact opposite. If you look at some of the youth drinking—and it’s really turned a corner—you used to get the message when you were a young person that everyone else was drinking and it was horrible and you shouldn’t. And if you notice, the messaging has changed. It’s “not every kid drinks.” So there’s this identity out there that is positive, that’s not drinking in college, right?

[00:21:06.200] – Beth Karlin
It’s not just focused on… we often think that we think and we think that the best messaging strategy to somebody that is one that really focuses on outcomes. Right? Because we’d all like to think that we’re like Mr. Spock, which is like measuring, carefully calculating what’s best for us and what’s best for the community. But we’re much more like Captain Kirk. We’re just rash and brash and we care about what we look like. So really, anything that you can do to make the behavior observable, to make it salient, to make people think that others are doing it, to make people think that others approve and not make them think—

[00:21:39.440] – Beth Karlin
This is important because I’m starting to sound manipulative. You have to use real data. Right. So for a behavior, for example, like—and this is research that Gregg Sparkman’s been doing at Stanford and now at Princeton—for a behavior that’s not yet normative, like, for example, being a vegetarian, you can’t say “join 80 percent of vegetarians.” So you can’t communicate a social norm that says this is a big identity. What you can do instead is communicate what’s called the dynamic norm to say more and more people are giving up meat, more people are eating or are going participating in Meatless Monday.

[00:22:11.270] – Beth Karlin
So you can talk about how something’s trending or shifting. And then again, the most easily you can just say be a voter, be a blood donor, be one of us. And that means thinking about what is the identity that are affiliating your supporter with. Right? What is their identity? What is a hero for your nonprofit look like? Who are they? Is it be a proud progressive? Is it be a voter? Is it be somebody who cares about…? Is it be a champion for charter schools in Delaware? Right? Like figure out what that identity is. What is that hero? What is that persona? And then do what you can to kind of craft that and then you’ll find those people. They’ll come to you and then you reinforce it. You reinforce it to them individually. And you reinforce it to them collectively. “You’re a part of a group of people that do this.” And that will start to kind of become a positive, virtuous cycle.

[00:23:05.090] – Boris
So I love all of this stuff, but I want to take it a half step back, because not everybody is going to instantly identify themselves as a voter, or decide that they want to be and now are a vegetarian or something along those lines. But there is the foot-in-door phenomenon where we could try to get them to self identify on a smaller scale and then slowly bring them up further. Am I think the right thing with Robert Cialdini’s work?

[00:23:32.570] – Beth Karlin
Yeah, yeah. There’s kind of. Yeah. Laddering, or the foot-in-the-door effect. Yeah, you can. So if you ask people to do a small behavior and then you come back and ask them to do a larger behavior, they’re often more likely to do that. There’s also kind of a door-in-face where you can come in with a really big appeal. And when somebody says no, you can ask them to compromise. Ironically, both of those can be effective again under certain circumstances.

[00:23:57.020] – Beth Karlin
Yeah. So, I mean, you can you can try and ladder or build. I think often there’s there’s a saying I learned back from way before I went back to school, which was like “participation precedes donation.” So one of the best things you can do in terms of an initial behavior is ask people for their thoughts, for their advice. People love giving advice. We love being smarter than each other. Right? So you can just engage people and say, you know, “what do you think matters in education? What do you care about?” And then from something they said, we really have this desire, as I talked about, for consistency. So if you get somebody to talk about caring about something, you might be more likely to get them to do something. I would also just say—just caution that, your cause, no matter what it is, isn’t for everyone. So you’re better off building a base.

[00:24:45.350] – Beth Karlin
I really, when I was in graduate school, as I said, I was really focused on climate change. And I started getting really interested in climate deniers because it just “What?” “Why?” “Who?” “Grrrr! What can I do about it?” And then I was in social movements class and and I think it was my social movements professor said in class, like Martin Luther King, to our knowledge, historically never addressed publicly the KKK. He never spoke at KKK meetings. He didn’t go after that group. He built a base. And so I think you need to focus on, like, you know, think about concentric circles.

[00:25:26.280] – Beth Karlin
Right. So there are some people that, like are not worth your time going after even for that starting behavior. So really figure out like, who those concentric circles are, who—I hate “low hanging fruit,” but there’s this idea of like don’t preach to the choir. But the choir is not meant to be preached to. I’ve never understood that. The choir is like on the stage singing to your congregation. Like train the choir. Right?

[00:25:52.360] – Beth Karlin
So you can get so you can again start getting people to communicate with each other and then, yes, train them with behaviors. There’s just again, behavioral science is really messy. There is a risk with that laddering or foot in the door called moral licensing. That there’s a phenomena that we can do one good thing—that when we do one positive action, we kind of pat ourselves on the back. We are morally licensed and we’re less likely to do another.

[00:26:20.140] – Beth Karlin
So this is where it’s kind of hard because there is significant evidence that foot in the door, that laddering works and there’s an equal body of work that says you might get somebody to go, “Oh, cool, I already helped your nonprofit, buh-bye! I’m going to go eat ice cream now.”

[00:26:37.780] – Beth Karlin
And so you want to be careful at how you do that and you want to reinforce and build reinforcement. And the way to do it is not just incentivize but to build identity. So with everything they do, connect them to you, build something that connects them to you.

[00:26:51.090] – Boris
Beth, this has turned into a fantastic master class. Thank you so much. The…what you were saying before about you can’t please everyone. You can’t go after everyone. You don’t need to go after the climate deniers. In my mind, basically to to reduce it really simply, “haters gonna hate.” And you don’t need to try to convince the haters to start loving. You can actually even use the fact that there are so many haters out there to recruit more people to your cause because you need masses to counterbalance the masses out there.

[00:27:24.510] – Boris
I don’t want to monopolize too much of your time this morning. I really appreciate it. But we’re talking around behavior. And I really want to get to B.J. Fogg’s behavioral model, the B=MAP. How do we get people to take actions? Because ultimately, whether or not a nonprofit succeeds, depends on people stepping up, becoming heroes, as we like to call them, and taking actions that further the mission of the organization. Hopefully further the mission that they feel an affinity for towards themselves. But how do we apply this B=MAP towards getting people to do more good?

[00:28:03.760] – Beth Karlin
Yeah, so B.J.’s a psychologist at Stanford, and he’s put out a number of different, really great theories. And one of them is this framework that says behavior equals motivation, times ability, times a prompt. And it’s a simple model. I don’t think it includes everything that you could possibly manipulate or use. But what he’s talking about is, is that to get somebody to act, they have to be motivated in some way, which is largely true, although it is really possible to get people to take actions without being strongly motivated if there are corollary motivations or if you just make it easy for them. “Easy, popular and fun.” As another behavioral scientist, Ed Maibach at George Mason says, just make it easy, popular and fun. And those are that’s kind of his model, which also has a lot of empirical evidence. And they’ve done a lot of great work.

[00:29:00.010] – Beth Karlin
But B.J. talks about: Motivation, make sure that they’re motivated in some way to engage in the behavior. Ability, that relates to, kind of, self efficacy that they have, that they feel that they are able to engage in that behavior. And I think self efficacy is really interesting. People think of it as kind of a univariate construct, but you can think of ability or self efficacy in terms of two things. One is behavioral efficacy and the other is response. And I think that really, really, really, really, really matters for nonprofits. So behavioral efficacy is, “can I do it?” And response efficacy is, “will it matter?” And what we see in terms of like addressing pressing social issues is if we just think ability means something that you can do, people can vote.

[00:29:41.050] – Beth Karlin
A lot of young people weren’t voting for decades, not because they didn’t know how, because they didn’t think voting mattered. So when you think about ability, it’s not just identifying a behavior they can do and making it easy for them. But it’s making sure that they believe that that action will make a difference either individually or collectively.

[00:29:54.700] – Beth Karlin
And then, prompt just means getting in on their radar. So BJ’s model, the BMAP model, really is focused on building daily tiny habits, on getting people to, like, run, floss, eat better. And you might have a nonprofit that’s focused on that if you’re looking at people kind of getting engaged politically. I think it is also it’s also important to look at like easy, fun and popular. That those things really matter as well and like building that kind of social framework around your cause.

[00:30:26.380] – Beth Karlin
But when it comes to just getting somebody or yourself just to meditate in the morning, having that prompt or brush your teeth or whatever, floss your teeth, let’s say we already brush, floss your teeth, whatever those habits are, building habits is making sure that there’s a motivation there and that it’s intrinsic as intrinsic as possible, the ability that you know what you need to do and what the outcome will be if you continue doing it. And then that prompt or trigger, whether that prompt is like, something that’s external, like an alarm that comes into you, or it’s going to floss after I brush my teeth. The other thing he says is try and find like you were talking about, one tiny thing that you can do. So instead of saying I’m going to floss twice a day, you can say I’m going to floss one tooth. And then the thing is, once you pull the floss out and stick it in your mouth and you floss a tooth, kind of feels wasteful just to throw the floss away. Right?

[00:31:17.590] – Beth Karlin
So instead of running, it’s “I’m going to put my shoes on and leave the house.” So finding that way to find your own foot in the door so that you’ll start doing more and more.

[00:31:26.930] – Boris
And I think that model can actually be applied even broader beyond just like physical actions in the physical world, even on a donation page, using that kind of system where you inspire people, you help them feel motivated, you help them see that they have the ability to affect change. You make it very simple for them you remove all kinds of friction, also within the realm of ability. And then you give them a clear prompt, which is that call to action, which uses some of the verbiage that you were talking about earlier, the kind of language of inclusivity and we could all do this together. And you can, specifically, “you can make a difference.” I think just that framework tells a great story that works for taking small actions or large actions towards a common good.

[00:32:09.820] – Beth Karlin
Yeah, definitely.

[00:32:11.200] – Boris
So I don’t want to run too much over here, but I would love to just ask you, we talked about B.J. Fogg’s book. We mentioned Robert Cialdini. Where should nonprofits start if they haven’t started thinking about applying behavioral science to their own organizations?

[00:32:31.590] – Beth Karlin
My gosh, we’re we’re in a huge kind of push behavioral science renaissance right now, there are so many resources, Katy Milkman’s book just came out this year, some of my favorites are Nudge, which was written—so there are three times in the history of economic psychologists have won the Nobel. The first was Herbert Simon, which was several decades ago about work. The second was Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman. Kahneman has a book, it is thick, called Thinking Fast and Slow, but it is like the best primer to just how our brain works.

[00:33:08.980] – Beth Karlin
It’s not going to give you tips and tricks and tactics as much. It does a little bit, but it really gives you the foundation. And then the third group, the third pair were Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler, for their body of work. But kind of the book that encapsulates that is called Nudge. Those are great places to start. Robert Cialdini, his most popular book, came out in the nineteen eighties called Influence that, unlike Thinking Fast, and Slow, is skinny and red and cute and easy read.

[00:33:38.620] – Beth Karlin
But there are tons of great podcasts. This is one of them. These days, Freakonomics, which is another book that talks about some of these ideas. They have a great podcast. There’s tons of resources.

[00:33:50.470] – Boris
Katy’s Podcast, Choiceology.

[00:33:52.090] – Beth Karlin
Yeah. Yeah. So there’s I mean, there really are a lot of resources and there are a lot of behavioral scientists that’re out there. So I would say try and reach out if you can. The best thing is, because like I said, applying these things requires an understanding of what’s called mediation and moderation. Which is, how does it work and for whom does it work? So if you can find a professor or a grad student, doctoral students are always looking for real-world, would love doing applied research.

[00:34:18.430] – Beth Karlin
I find that more and more and more my phone is ringing constantly. When I was in grad school and I said I wanted to do applied work, people thought I was crazy. Now there are more and more students interested in it and wanting to really get applied research experience because when they go out, there are more and more jobs. I just—one of my one of my graduate, the graduate student at See Change—just left us for the summer to spend the summer at Weight Watchers as an intern.

[00:34:42.610] – Beth Karlin
Almost every major corporation has behavioral science units. Now, Google has it. Facebook has it, Intuit has it. Right. And so so they’re looking for experience. So if you can, there are great books. There are great resources, but really meet a behavioral scientist. We’re really nice people and we want to do good. You will not only let them help you, but you’ll also be helping advance science. Because every time we can work with a nonprofit to apply real-world data as opposed to studying college students, it actually improves science. You’ll be helping other nonprofits after you, as well. So that’s my suggestion and plug.

[00:35:14.970] – Boris
Awesome. I really appreciate that. On the practical side, also, there are several things that you recommended throughout this interview today, including segmentation, including trying to figure out—testing—certain things and variables in your messaging and in your work in general that I think nonprofits should be looking at as well. We’re going to link to all of the books and other resources that you mentioned. If you know any others, drop them and we will add them to our show notes as well.

[00:35:43.120] – Boris
If viewers want to follow up with you specifically and with See Change, how can they do that?

[00:35:48.760] – Beth Karlin
Yeah, just visit our website, seechangeinstitute.com. You can drop me a line from there or you can email me directly, I’m bkarlin@seechangeinstitute.com. Yeah. And I would love—I will take a consult that somebody sends me a message I am sent on LinkedIn, and say you have a question or you want to meet. I will send you a link to a thirty-minute consult and I’m happy to talk with people. I believe so deeply…

[00:36:14.860] – Beth Karlin
Like I said, I started my career in nonprofit. And I got my PhD because I thought that behavioral science could help nonprofits do the work that we do in the world, and that you do in the world better. So feel free to reach out, no strings attached. I would love to spend a half an hour with you.

[00:36:28.720] – Boris
I love that. And as someone who has picked Beth’s brain many, many times over the course of the years that we’ve been friends, I can tell you in thirty minutes, much like this interview, you’re going to get a whole lot of value from someone like her. So thank you so much Beth, for joining us today. And thank you everybody who tuned in to watch, to listen. If you liked it, please do leave us a review, give us a rating, subscribe, spread the word.

[00:36:51.100] – Boris
We want to help as many nonprofits as possible. That’s why Beth and I got into doing this type of work. Thank you, everybody. Have a great day.

[00:37:19.660] – 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:

  • Behavioral Science is the empirical study of human behavior. It is any study that looks at how we behave, what influences that and what we can do about it. There are two parts to any science: Theory and Methods. (3:30)
  • For nonprofits, application starts with incorporating behavioral insights into your work. Understanding what we’ve learned about human behavior, user experience and storytelling, and building that into your communications will take you a long way. (5:25)
  • When it comes to people, there is no universal messaging that will resonate with everyone. That’s why the second step is to use behavioral science methodology, which is all about experimentation and refinement. (6:30)
  • There are a lot of behavioral insights that can lead to improvements. When taken together, even the smallest improvements can add up to huge increases in response to your campaigns. (9:55)
  • Story really matters, as does the way we tell it. That is why it’s important that we understand and speak to the audience’s context, along with our nonprofit and brand voice. Consistency and authenticity are key. (11:43)
  • Your brand’s voice / the way you communicate your story speaks to the people you are looking to attract. It may attract some while repelling others, and that’s ok. (13:13)
  • Knowing the commonalities and differences of your audience and customizing and personalizing to the different groups within your base (i.e., audience segmentation) increases the resonance and efficacy of your messaging. (16:40)
  • Identity is a very powerful thing. In fact, we all have multiple identities that we switch between depending on context. Having people see their affiliation with your work as part of their identity is the difference between liking what you do and feeling like a hero for your cause. We can prime and push identity by phrasing our calls to action in terms of identity rather than just asking for action. (19:12)
  • One of the best things you can do is ask people for their thoughts and advice. People love giving advice and they love to feel part of the process, not just someone being asked for time or money. “Participation Precedes Donation.” (23:33)
  • Build behavioral reinforcements into your messaging. (26:37)
  • The Fogg Behavioral Model (Behavior = Motivation + Ability + Prompt) is a framework for increasing the behaviors you want your heroes to perform and habits you want to instill. (27:24)

Action Steps: What Now?

About this week’s guest

Dr. Beth Karlin

Dr. Beth Karlin

Founder and CEO of See Change Institute

Dr. Beth Karlin is the Founder and CEO of the See Change Institute, a research (and practice) institute devoted to studying and shaping behavior change for the greater good. Her current projects focus on health equity, media representation, and community energy programs. Beth earned her BA in Psychology, Masters in Public Policy, and Ph.D. in Social Ecology with an emphasis in Social Psychology. She proudly lives in Los Angeles without a car.

Connect with Dr. Beth Karlin

EP 15 - Sam Horn - Featured

Episode 15: 60-Second Nonprofit Stories that Spark Conversation with Sam Horn

The Nonprofit Hero Factory: Episode 15

60-Second Nonprofit Stories that Spark Conversation with Sam Horn

In this Episode:

Sam Horn, CEO of Intrigue Agency, shares techniques for crafting nonprofit stories that start conversations, intrigue your audience and inspire them to action.

Whether it’s a donor pitch, a virtual meeting or a face-to-face conversation, Sam and Boris discuss how to use story to illustrate the power of your work and gain the trust of your audience for your nonprofit.

[00:00:17.810] – 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!.

[00:00:22.550] – Boris
Hi, everybody, and welcome to an episode of the Nonprofit Hero Factory, we’re very excited today, this is one of our first episodes back. And we’ve got a prolific speaker, author and communicator in general, Sam Horn. Sam is the CEO of the intrigue agency. Her three TEDx talks, nine books, including “POP!” And “Tongue Fu!”, have been distributed widely and she’s presented to Intel, Cisco, Fidelity, nationwide, Boeing and Capital One, among many other illustrious clients.

[00:00:53.360] – Boris
I asked Sam earlier, and she definitely works with nonprofits as well. So she’s going to really hone all of her messaging today just to help nonprofits get their word out more clearly and more effectively. She describes her superpower as helping organizations craft clear, concise, compelling presentations, pitches, website and marketing copy that earns the attention, support, trust and donations of stakeholders. And if she could help us all communicate our messaging as clearly as that, I think we’re going to have a great episode today.

[00:01:21.740] – Boris
So without any further ado, let’s bring Sam onto the show.

[00:01:28.250] – Sam Horn
Hey, Boris, I’ve been looking forward to sharing some ideas with your viewers and listeners.

[00:01:32.690] – Boris
That’s fantastic. Since I’m all about storytelling. Can you share your story with us just for a couple of minutes?

[00:01:38.840] – Sam Horn
You bet. Two minutes. Rock and roll. So some people may know that I helped start and run the Maui Writer’s Conference for 17 years. We did something that was unprecedented at the time. We gave people an opportunity to jump the chain of command. You could pitch your screenplay straight to Ron Howard. You could pitch your novel to the head of Random House. I mean, it was just, it had never been done before. But what we didn’t realize is that no one knew how to pitch.

[00:02:05.150] – Sam Horn
And after the first pitch meetings, one woman came out with tears in her eyes. And I went over. I said, “Are you OK?” She said, “I’m not OK. I just saw my dream go down the drain.” She said, “I put my three-hundred-page manuscript on the table”, and the agent took one look at it and said, “I don’t have time to read all that.” He said, “Tell me in 60 seconds what your project is about and why someone would want to read it”.

[00:02:29.690] – Sam Horn
And you know, Boris. It’s that, I watch those pitches and I could predict who is getting a deal without hearing a word being said based on one thing. Guess what? The decision makers eyebrows.

[00:02:43.340] – Sam Horn
Because if we’re describing our nonprofit or if someone says, “oh, well, tell me what you do,” or if someone says, “oh, I’ve heard about your upcoming fundraiser activity, tell me about it.” And it’s “wah wah wah wah wah wah wah.” If people’s eyes are crunched up, try it right now… Crunch up your, see, it means we’re confused. We don’t get it. And if they don’t get it, we don’t get it. And now if their eyebrows were unmoved, it meant they were unmoved or they had Botox. Now the eyebrows are up right now. Just arch your eyebrows, lift them. Ah, do you feel intrigued? Curious? That means we got what we care about in their mental door and in our short time together today, that’s what we’re going to talk about—is that in a very crowded and noisy world right now, if we’re a nonprofit leader, how can we get people’s eyebrows up so they’re intrigued, and curious and want to know more about what we’re doing in our nonprofit?

[00:03:39.770] – Boris
That’s amazing. Sam, you’re giving me flashbacks of my career in Hollywood and pitch sessions and the opportunity to pitch something to Ron Howard. I might completely melt if I had that opportunity. He’s one of my heroes. And of course, I’ve worked with startups and nonprofits. And getting that pitch honed is so difficult. And I’ll be honest, even for my own things, it’s difficult. I can help others much easier than I can help myself. So I’m really excited to get into some of the stuff. What… Where do where do we even begin?

[00:04:16.760] – Sam Horn
Here’s where we begin, Boris. And by the way, let’s clarify. Pitching isn’t just for baseball, right? Is it? People think, well, wait a minute, I went into this because I care about the kids or I went into this because I care about this cause. The bottom line is, is that Nancy F. Cohen out of Harvard found that goldfish have longer attention than we do. Nine seconds, goldfish, eight seconds, human beings.

[00:04:39.590] – Sam Horn
So when we say “pitch,” all we need, you know, this as we walk into a meeting, we get on a phone call, we send an email. We’ve got less than 60 seconds to get their attention. So how can we hit the ground running every single time? So even if people are busy, even if they’re skeptical, even if it’s seven o’clock at night and they put in a ten-hour day, how can we get those eyebrows up?

[00:05:01.820] – Sam Horn
So you ready for a 60 second opening that gets those eyebrows up?

[00:05:06.080] – Boris
Let’s do it.

[00:05:06.980] – Sam Horn
OK, now, Boris, you said that you’re a storyteller. So what I do and what I hope everyone else does is that every time we want to make a point, we start with a story. Because if we start with the story, as you know, that’s what people relate to. That’s what they identify with. The eyebrows are up. They’re intrigued. And they Socratically get the message and want to know more. Right. OK, so here’s the story about how to have a 60 second opening that’s helped my clients get millions of dollars and we’ll tell the story.

[00:05:40.310] – Sam Horn
So you may also know that I was pitch coach for Springboard Enterprises. We’ve helped entrepreneurs get 10 billion, B billion, in valuation and funding. So one of my clients came up to me and she said, “Sam, I’ve got good news. I’ve got bad news.” I said, “what’s the good news?” She said, “I’m speaking in front of a room full of investors at the Paley Center in New York.” I said, “That’s fantastic news.” I said, “What’s the bad news?”

[00:06:06.230] – Sam Horn
She said, “I’m going at two thirty in the afternoon and I only have ten minutes.” She said, “You can’t say anything in ten minutes.” I said, “Kathleen, you don’t have ten minutes. You have sixty seconds.” Here’s the opening we came up with that helped her become Business Week’s most promising social entrepreneur of that year.

[00:06:25.550] – Sam Horn
“Did you know there are 1.8 billion vaccinations given every year? Did you know up to a third of those are given with reused needles? Did you know we’re spreading and perpetuating the very diseases we’re trying to prevent? Imagine if there were a painless one use needle for a fraction of the current cost. You don’t have to imagine it. We’re doing it.”

[00:06:50.600] – Sam Horn
And she’s off and running. Are your eyebrows up, Boris?

[00:06:53.550] – Boris
I mean, I’m intrigued.

[00:06:55.280] – Sam Horn
OK, now I hope people have paper and pen because that’s the only thing all of our authors agreed at, at Maui Writer’s Conference. You know, Terry Brock would say “you have to write first thing in the morning,” and and Elizabeth George would get up and say, “I don’t get going until the afternoon.” And Frank McCourt would say, “You have to work with an outline.” And Dave Barry would say, “I never work with an outline.” Here’s what they agreed on:

[00:07:18.110] – Sam Horn
“Ink it when you think it.” So grab a piece of paper, think about your nonprofit and think about your meeting with a potential sponsor or donor.

[00:07:26.630] – Sam Horn
You’re meeting with your volunteers. You’re asking people to come to an event coming up. Here are three steps that can help get their attention, whether it’s on the page or on the stage or online. OK, ready? What are three “Did you know?” questions you can ask about the problem you’re solving, about the issue you’re addressing, about the need you’re meeting.

[00:07:50.510] – Sam Horn
So it’s, “did you know this and this and this?” And now what we’re looking for are startling statistics about how bad it is about how money is, how much money is being spent, about how many people are being affected, about the trend is being worse because our goal is: “did you know this? I didn’t know that.” “And did you know this? It’s that bad?” “And did you know this is getting worse?” Do you see how in the first 20 seconds we’ve already turned a monologue into a dialog by asking questions that surprise and startle people, get the eyebrows up now they’re engaged, right?

[00:08:29.600] – Boris

[00:08:30.440] – Sam Horn
OK, now, by the way, if you’re thinking, Sam, where do I find those startling statistics? You “GTS” that stuff. I know we have nonprofits in every kind of industry and on every kind of issue. I guarantee you, if you put into search what are startling statistics about blank, about kids with disabilities, about, you know, about poverty, about homelessness, about your food, needs and things like that, you’re going to come up with things you didn’t know.

[00:09:03.380] – Sam Horn
And if you don’t know it, chances are you’re decision makers don’t know it. Now they’re smarter than they were. You just earned their attention. So that’s the first step. Three. Did you know questions? Ready for the next step?

[00:09:14.720] – Boris

[00:09:15.590] – Sam Horn
OK, one word. Imagine, imagine, pull people out of their preoccupation. It’s it helps them picture your point, see what you’re saying. So they’re not preoccupied. They’re actually picturing in their mind what you’re saying. Now link “imagine” to three benefits of your nonprofit, three advantages of supporting your cause. Three good things that will happen if you go ahead and attend this event or support the nonprofit. And let’s go back to kathleen Calendar. She was president and founder of something called Pharma Jet.

[00:09:56.390] – Sam Horn
Now, before we work together, guess how she used to introduce yourself? By explaining that pharma jet was a medical delivery device for subcutaneous inoculations. What? Look at those eyebrows, Boris. She would have lost them at hello. Right? But now she’s thinking about her decision makers. What are they thinking while they’re thinking about those reused needles? So we made it one use. They’re thinking about those painful inoculations. So we made it painless. Most decision makers, even for a nonprofit, are thinking about money.

[00:10:34.310] – Sam Horn
How am I going to know my money is being well spent? How will the results that you’re getting for my money? It’s so we made it a fraction of the current cost. Do you see how in a world infobesity, we distilled into one succinct sentence? Who wouldn’t want that? That’s your goal. Imagine this and this and this. And people are thinking, sounds pretty good. Ready for third step?

[00:11:00.770] – Boris
Definitely. I’m taking notes.

[00:11:03.530] – Sam Horn
You don’t have to imagine it. We’re doing it here, in fact, in this article, in fact, here’s this respected thought leader who’s on our board. It’s like, in fact, you know, here is a podcast interview or media interview that, that showcases some of our heroes of some of our success stories. Right. So here’s the thing. You can do all that in 60 seconds.

[00:11:27.920] – Sam Horn
And if you do that in 60 seconds, you just gave yourself a competitive edge because everyone else is still explaining what their nonprofit is, which is infobesity.

[00:11:39.110] – Sam Horn
You turn a monologue into a dialog, you’ve gotten their eyebrows up. They’re intrigued and curious. And now they know something they didn’t know before about the importance of your cause, about the number of people being affected by it, about, you know, that it’s getting worse and yet you’re reversing it. You did it all in 60 seconds.

[00:11:59.090] – Sam Horn
By the way, one last thing at the end there, come in with evidence and precedence. So when you say you don’t have to imagine it, we’re doing it. Come in with something that’s objective and factual to prove that this isn’t speculative or you’re just not making some claim. Here is the objective evidence that they can trust to show that you’re doing what you’re saying. You’re delivering on your promises so they can trust you and take it to the bank.

[00:12:29.530] – Boris
That’s awesome. So there’s a lot to unpack there and I want to explore some of it. There are a few copywriting or storytelling formulas because good copywriting should be always good storytelling that I teach and that this just goes hand in hand with, if you will. So the first is, of course, the three act structure of the beginning, middle and end. You’ve got a beginning, which I often compare to, since I spent a lot of time in Hollywood, to that trailer voice of “in a world where this is going on…”

[00:13:03.070] – Boris
Right? And those are the surprising statistics that that you’re talking about. “One man has to…” and that’s the solution. So there’s there’s another that’s the way you put it, of basically a problem then potential result, like the vision, and then the solution, the way we’re going to get there. So there’s current world hopeful world and now let’s build the ark to get from the beginning to the end. So you’ve got all three acts, but you’re doing it in a way that’s constantly teasing people to to think and getting their imaginations open, hopefully even getting some emotional connection, because in studies that I’ve read and the work that I’ve been trying to do, you know, emotion is what really triggers someone to respond and to take action.

[00:13:49.540] – Boris
So I think that’s a beautiful formula that can can really just simplify things for a lot of people.

[00:13:56.140] – Sam Horn
Here’s the good news. It’s a framework, right? It’s both of us believe that that frameworks, templates are just suggestions. And then we customize and tailor it. And Boris the good news: We can do this in integrity. This is not some cheesy tactic, some manipulating of language. All we’re doing is we’re understanding that people have heard it before. And we have 60 seconds once again to genuinely introduce something that they don’t know that now they’re interested in. So they want to continue to listen.

[00:14:29.500] – Sam Horn
Now, you just brought up emotion. So that’s one option. And by the way, this is a buffet of ideas. It’s not you have to do this. You have to do this. It’s not, you know, in a way. It’s not a formula. It is a framework.

[00:14:42.190] – Sam Horn
If you want another option of how to start something off, shall we talk about that?

[00:14:47.110] – Boris
Let’s do it.

[00:14:48.100] – Sam Horn
OK, we’re going to talk about something called the empathy telescope, because stories are a shortcut to compassion and examples are a shortcut to empathy. So here’s a quick example, right? If we show, we don’t tell. So Shankar Vedantam, who is host of Hidden Brain on NPR, wrote an article in The Washington Post years ago, and he wrote about an oil tanker that had caught fire eight hundred miles off the coast of Hawaii. Now, a cruise ship happened to be going by and they were able to rescue the 11 people on board.

[00:15:24.190] – Sam Horn
And the captain gave a press conference and he talked about how grateful he and his crew were to be rescued. All he can think about is his dog that got left behind, abandoned on the tanker. Well, that press conference went viral and donations started pouring in from around the world. Five dollars, five hundred dollars, five thousand dollars. The US Navy changed the exercise area of the Pacific Fleet just to search for that tanker. They found it.

[00:15:53.920] – Sam Horn
They sent a C-130 to fly low, see if there’s any signs of life. There’s a brown and white blur racing up and down the deck of the tanker. Boris, they mount a quarter of a million dollar rescue mission to get this dog, and they were able to safely bring him back to Hawaii. Now, people may be thinking, what does that have to do with running a nonprofit? What’s the point? Here’s the point: Why did people from around the world mobilize to save one dog when there are thousands of people in their own cities and states and countries going without food, water and shelter?

[00:16:37.630] – Sam Horn
It is because of something called the empathy telescope. And the empathy telescope says we can put ourselves in the shoes of one person. We cannot put ourselves in the shoes of millions. We can put ourselves in the shoes of an individual. We cannot put ourselves in the shoes of an idea of an organization or a cause, which is why when we try to explain how our cause works, why it’s important when we start talking about why, how we’re 501C and our mission is to do that, it goes in one ear and out the other.

[00:17:21.220] – Sam Horn
It’s why we give examples, not explanations. So the question, of course, is, you know, who are your heroes? Who are your dogs on a tanker? Who is the individual? And just as you said, Boris show the hero journey ark, right?

[00:17:38.630] – Sam Horn
Show, “as I’ll always remember when Jimmy came into our first event and he hung in the corner and he felt like he didn’t belong. And one of our hosts went over. I’ll always remember when…” So, start at the beginning. And then guess what? You’re you’re an author. You’re a screenwriter. You’re going to love this one. Guess what we do next?

[00:18:01.030] – Boris
What do we do?

[00:18:01.780] – Sam Horn
We follow Elmore Leonard’s advice, Elmore Leonard, great author, one of our favorite keynoters… someone in the audience said, Mr. Leonard, why do people love your book so much? Guess what he said. I try to leave out the parts people skip. Oh! Guess what, Boris? Skip over the middle. That’s where stories get bogged down, right? So we start when they came to us and then we fast forward. And would you like to know the transition that helps us skip the middle, the bogs down the story?

[00:18:35.360] – Boris

[00:18:36.350] – Sam Horn
“Three months later.” And and in our second activity is the next time they came to one of our events. So, see, we skip over the actual weeds of actually how that happened. And we go to the happy ending. It’s that now he doesn’t miss an activity. Now, this donor has decided to stay with us for ten years because we’re the only one that sends him a quarterly report where they’re the only one who says, you know what?

[00:19:06.740] – Sam Horn
We donate money to other non-profits. And the only time we hear from them is when we get the letter asking us to give us more money. We don’t hear like the results. We don’t hear voluntary good news of how they are benefiting people, how they’re getting results in the real world. So start at the beginning with an individual, not with many people and not with a demographic, an individual. Skip over the middle and then the happy ending, the benefit, the result. All done with dialog. I’ve been doing all the talking… ball’s in your court, Boris.

[00:19:41.570] – Boris
No, this is amazing. So there’s the fact that we can really only identify with one person which which you brought up a very acutely and appropriately there. We can’t identify with a million people. There’s also in that particular story of the dog, there’s the idea that I can’t save all dogs. I can’t. I wish I could. I love dogs, but I can’t. However, I can save one dog. So this one dog stuck and we could all—even as you were telling me the story, I was getting emotional.

[00:20:15.950] – Boris
You know, we could all feel for that dog owner, especially if we’re for dog owners ourselves. We could all feel for him. And we feel like if I donate, maybe I can make a tangible difference, some result that I can see based on the effort that I put in, which might just be, to donate. It might be to donate and share. It might be to invite people specifically, to come and hear about this story and make it go viral.

[00:20:42.110] – Boris
So there’s a lot, in that story itself.

[00:20:46.730] – Sam Horn
You know, Boris, it’s like, do you know what the title of that article was in The Washington Post? Genocide and Infamy. Because the point was, just as you said, Boris, when we hear about something that is massive, when we hear about something that is on the other side of the world, it feels distant and it feels overwhelming and we retreat and we withdraw. And that is why focusing on one individual, as you said, we feel that we can we feel like we can help instead of feeling helpless.

[00:21:22.670] – Sam Horn
In fact, there’s another great little story about this. Years ago, I was in charge—I started the National Speakers Association chapter in Hawaii. And so we had Sylvia Chase, who was in town on vacation. And so she spoke to our chapter, Sylvia Chase, worked for CBS News and one of the early versions of 20/20. And I’ll always remember she had a show that she wanted to do and her producers would not approve it. So she jumped the chain of command and she went in to Uncle Walter, Walter Cronkite, because she knew if she pitched your idea to Walter and he said yes, that it would be a yes.

[00:21:58.940] – Sam Horn
So she went in and she pitched your story and he looked at her and he said, let’s see. He said eight words, guess what he said, Boris?

[00:22:10.130] – Boris
I couldn’t.

[00:22:11.300] – Sam Horn
“Sylvia, your cat is not in my tree”, and she was “What?” He said. “Think about it.” Your cat is not in my tree. In other words, well, Boris, I’ve been talking long enough Boris. What does that mean to you?

[00:22:30.500] – Boris
It means that I don’t know how I can step in and help. It’s not on my property, so it’s not my problem, but it’s also removed from me. So I can’t get in there and do anything about it feels like not my problem, essentially.

[00:22:47.220] – Sam Horn
See, Boris, you just got it. Every nonprofit leader right now, it’s like if we’re not on someone’s property, they don’t care. And it’s not that they’re not compassionate people. It’s just they’ve got a lot on their plate. And recency equals relevancy and so is nearness. When something is happening in our backyard, we are much more likely to care about it than if something is literally and figurative far away, distant. It’s not just geographical, it’s metaphorical and it’s psychological, right?

[00:23:21.170] – Sam Horn
So part of our goal and role as a nonprofit leader is how when we’re talking with someone, we can use a real-life example. Once again, not some made up story, a real-life example of something that is happening in their neighborhood, in their city, in their backyard, on their emotional property. So they feel not only that they can help, that it’s possible they feel almost a responsibility or an obligation to step up and do something instead of just look the other way.

[00:23:56.600] – Boris
So we naturally can understand and relate to, sympathize and empathize with things that are going on near us in our immediate vicinity. If something’s happening in my city and there’s a danger, of course, I’m going to be more attuned to that, more responsive to that. But I will say, I think in this day and age, with with digital technology and social media and all kinds of media interconnecting us, there are different kinds of neighborhoods now. It doesn’t have to be a physical neighborhood or city.

[00:24:24.020] – Boris
It could be a neighborhood, a community that I feel I’m a part of. For example, it’s pride month right now. Right? I feel like pride is critical to our society at this point in our history. And I’m going to stand up and take action. If I see something happening to that community or for that community,

[00:24:45.050] – Sam Horn
I tell you, good for you, Boris. In fact, we had talked about how many nonprofits because of covid have shifted to being on Zoom and being virtual.

[00:24:54.710] – Sam Horn
So how can we create a community online? Right, when we have people around the world, around the country, around the state, how can we make them feel or create an environment where they feel they belong, they’re part of the process instead of apart from the process? So let’s talk about how we can do that. Virtually want to?

[00:25:12.500] – Boris

[00:25:13.560] – Sam Horn
OK, number one is that is is to send a letter and email before a Zoom meeting, before any event. And one of the first things is: “We know you’re busy. That’s why you can trust us to start on time and to end on time.” And from now on, understand, Richard Branson said “time is the new money” and I think time is the new trust. If we want our participants to trust us, we always start on time because what is the message sent?

[00:25:48.350] – Sam Horn
If we say we’re going to start at nine o’clock and people are there at nine o’clock and we say, well, we have a few late comers, so we’re going to wait for a few minutes. Who are we rewarding? Who are we penalizing? No, we say you can trust us to always be a good use of your time.

[00:26:06.080] – Sam Horn
Now, the second thing always take less time than they anticipated. People are accustomed to like an hour meeting. You say in that email, we know how busy you are. We know that our board meetings are normally at seven o’clock and you’ve already put in a twelve-hour day. So we have reduced our board meetings to thirty minutes.

[00:26:26.600] – Sam Horn
You know, and people are going, “OK, they’re acknowledging the fact that I’ve got a lot on my plate and I’m a lot more likely to be on that board meeting and participate in that board meeting because it’s a half an hour instead of an hour.” So keep it brief so they don’t give you grief.

[00:26:44.480] – Sam Horn
Now, number three, say you have a thirty minute board meeting. Guess what you can say there’s ten people on the call, Zoom. Guess what you do for the first ten minutes? You go around and you give every single person a voice because otherwise they’re not a part of the conversation. They’re apart from the conversation. They’re passive, they’re not participants. So by giving people a voice in an identity, you are creating a community where we feel connected.

[00:27:16.190] – Sam Horn
So “it’s please tell us, each of you have 60 seconds—and by the way, when we say 60 seconds, we mean sixty seconds—to give us an update, something going on in your world. So that you are connecting your board, not just on a report of what we’ve done since last month. We’re saying, you matter. We want, “Oh, I didn’t know you’re part of that club.” “Hey, congratulations on finishing that 10K.” “Hey, I saw that you got that award.”

[00:27:41.850] – Sam Horn
So that people once again feel connected instead of just sitting and listening to something that’s not even personalized or customized for them and then guess what we do after everyone has a voice (sixty seconds)? We share one of our hero stories. We don’t go right into our budget report and what we spent. What would we say? Here’s a two minute story of of something actually that happened that was a win for the organization that can help you feel proud to be on the board of this ship.

[00:28:14.100] – Sam Horn
So we go right into one of our “Dog on a tanker” stories. So and then then we go into the report, etc. And at the end, you know what we always do? We set up a pipeline because we warm up a cold communication. Do you know how most people start a zoom meeting? You ready? “Put yourself on mute!”

[00:28:39.980] – Sam Horn
Boris, when we have, we have a party at our house and walk in and the first thing he said people is “Put a sock in it”, be quiet, stay silent. No, the first words are welcome. “Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule.” “It’s good to see you again.” “Congratulations.”

[00:29:00.710] – Sam Horn
Warm up the opening so that people are glad to be there. Robert Frost said “no joy in the writer, no joy in the reader.” No joy in the host, no joy in the listeners. And then at the end always set up a pipeline with the words looking forward. We’re looking forward to seeing you next month. We’re looking forward to sharing a report about how that event went. We’re looking forward to sharing next month’s hero story so that we warm up communication. We create a community where people feel involved and engaged instead of just passive spectators who are not participating. They’re not a part of the process. They’re part from the process. What are your thoughts about that, Boris?

[00:29:46.550] – Boris
Well, so I don’t deal very much in board meetings, but that structure absolutely makes sense. And when it comes to building communities online or in person, however they are, whether they’re through social media or through Zoom calls or through in-person meetings, absolutely. What’s key is helping people feel or empowering people to feel like they are a contributor to the community, like they’re part of the narrative. They’re not just listening, but they’re an active participant. That they can share their insights there and make them feel like a human being is absolutely critical.

[00:30:20.640] – Boris
So I love all of that. Speaking of being respectful of time, we just reached the half hour mark and I really want to be respectful of yours. If you have a few more minutes, I’d love to nudge you slightly further in one direction, which is that’s how you engage people and make them feel part of the community. There’s a big content strategy called user generated content where you really solicit insights from your audience, from your community, and then you share it out with everybody, making them feel even more heard, making them feel like they’re actually influencing the direction of the organization, which is fantastic.

[00:30:58.910] – Boris
But what nonprofits are having a hard time with. Not “but”… another thing that nonprofits are having a hard time with is getting people to tune in in the first place. Right? So we’re competing now sometimes on a national scale, which is great, because all of a sudden, Brooklyn organizations that I’ve been talking to have participants in Texas. Great! But they don’t know how to get that attention in the first place, how to compete with the Amazon ad or the retargeting ad that that they just someone just visit a website or the next funny video in the TikTok feed or Facebook feed or whatever it is.

[00:31:35.950] – Boris
So some people call it, how do we stop the scroll? Others are just simply asking how do we rise above the noise? And of course, I have my theories, but Sam, I really want to hear yours.

[00:31:46.130] – Sam Horn
Well, great question. Boris is I believe in something called 60-second stories we’ve already talked about. We don’t have ten minutes or we have sixty seconds. So here’s one of my favorite examples, is that I believe we turn an elevator speech into an elevator story. And so here is a story. My son Andrew Horn started Dreams for Kids, DC. And when people used to say, so what do you do? He said, I run a nonprofit. End of the conversation.

[00:32:15.440] – Sam Horn
Boris. We don’t want to end the conversation. We want to open the conversation. So from now on, don’t tell people what you do, because if they get it, they’ll go, oh, end of the conversation. If they don’t get it, they’ll go, huh? And now they’re confused. Uh-oh, we lost them at hello. Instead, do what Andrew started to do. He would jump right into the Jerry story.

[00:32:37.040] – Sam Horn
He would talk about how Jerry had cerebral palsy, that the first time he came to an event, his mother was very concerned about him. He’d become very withdrawn and introverted, bordering on depression. And so Dreams for Kids, DC, had a policy where they would assign someone to every single kid who showed up at one of their activities, whether it was with the Nationals, whether it was with at the White House or whatever. And and so the first time that Jerry was there, Betty, was his host. Well, Betty made him feel welcome. Betty cheered him on whatever.

[00:33:14.270] – Sam Horn
And a couple months later, they had an event out at Great Falls. And it was actually kind of like a mud race. Now Jerry is on crutches and doing the mud race at Great Falls was quite a challenge. So now all the kids had finished and Jerry was nowhere to be found. So Andrew ran back on the trail to find out where Jerry was. Well, here was Jerry and his host struggling up the trail and he was very determined he was going to finish it. Well now, you cannot make this stuff up, Boris…

[00:33:48.140] – Sam Horn
Andrew runs back, gets volunteers to line the trail so that they can cheer him on and let him know it’s just a couple of hundred yards ahead. While, the while the volunteers along the trail are cheering Jerry on, a van from I think it was Channel 9 shows up and Leon Harris, one of the great broadcasters in Washington, D.C., tumbled out of the van. The camera crew came out.

[00:34:13.130] – Sam Horn
They saw all the commotion and they started filming Jerry come over the crest of the hill, “Jerry, Jerry, Jerry, Jerry.” And they caught as he finished the finished, that race in Great Falls with everyone cheering him on. And Leon goes over and he sticks the mic under his face. “Jerry, how’s it feel?” And Jerry says, “I’m a winner. I’m a winner.” Andrew doesn’t talk about being a 501c and all their different activities and that, no, he tells Jerry’s story.

[00:34:53.520] – Sam Horn
And so I’m asking every every nonprofit leader who’s listening to this, do you have your Jerry stories in 60-second videos on your website? Do you have your Jerry stories on your face, on your Facebook feed, on your YouTube channel? Because in the bottom, on the bottom line, it comes down to are we sharing true, real life examples that show what we do in a way people can identify with it in a way they want to support it, in a way they want to recommend it in a way they want to get involved with it?

[00:35:28.920] – Sam Horn
If so, that’s how we stand out in a noisy world.

[00:35:33.500] – Boris
Very cool, great story, by the way. Takes you right there. Yeah, so Sam, tons of value here. Thank you so much for sharing all of that with us. We’re going to have it all in the show notes. We’ll have the transcript of this. We’re going to have all of it for all of our viewers and listeners to consume in any way that they prefer to really on their time. I ask everyone if there are any tools or resources that based on your expertise and insights you would like to share or you would like people to check out once they’re done consuming this content?

[00:36:12.980] – Sam Horn
Well, thank you, Boris out there of the books that I’ve written. There are three that are particularly useful for nonprofit leaders is one is called “Tongue Fu!” And it’s how to deal with difficult people without becoming one ourselves. It’s been sold around the world now for more than twenty five years. And and this can help us deal with someone who’s upset or unhappy if can help us deal with a sensitive or stressful situation. So “Tongue Fu!” Will be helpful.

[00:36:39.680] – Sam Horn
Also, I wrote a book called “POP!” and Seth Godin said “a third of the way through this book, you’re going to be begging to hire Sam as your consultant.” So Pop helps you come up with one of a kind names and positioning and messaging that can help whether it’s your content online or whether it is a pitch to a donor or a funder, it can help capture people’s attention.

[00:37:01.550] – Sam Horn
And then “Got Your Attention” is based on this whole idea that people are busy and distracted, and how can we hit the ground running and how we can we communicate in a way that really is intriguing. People haven’t heard it before and we get what we care about in their mental door.

[00:37:18.060] – Boris
Awesome. We’re going to have links to all of these in the show notes, if viewers do want to or listeners do want to follow up with you directly or what’s the next step in their journey that they should take?

[00:37:31.130] – Sam Horn
They can go to my work. Well, two things go to the website, which is intrigueagency.com. So it’s intrigue. I n t r i g u e, IntrigueAgency. And if they go to the section called “POP”, we actually have workshops where we work with organizations. And we help with, what are your goals for this year? What do you want to have happen? Now how can you help make that happen by making all of your communications intriguing and strategic and smart and purposeful so that they develop that.

[00:38:03.780] – Sam Horn
And also is that if you go there or the second way is just get in touch with this personally. Just reach out to Cheri, cheri@IntrigueAgency.com. She’s my business manager. She can answer your questions or we could do a webinar for your organization, speak at your annual conference. I’d love to continue the conversation.

[00:38:26.310] – Boris
Thanks so much, Sam. And we’ll have links to to all of those as well in the show notes. I really appreciate your time today. The perspective that you put on things, the way that you frame them, I think is going to be helpful to a lot of organizations. And you’re basically doing my job for me, convincing them that they need to tell stories, they need to tell good stories and do it in a way that’s going to really connect with audiences and get them to take the actions that we want them to take to make a better world.

[00:38:52.800] – Boris
So thank you so much for your time today.

[00:38:55.170] – Sam Horn
You’re welcome. Hope people have found it intriguing, inspiring and useful.

[00:39:00.000] – Boris
And thank you, everybody, for tuning in. We’re excited to have guests like Sam on every week. We’re back now full time and we hope you’ll keep tuning in. If you like us, please go ahead and subscribe. Rate us, help us get the word out so that more people could discover guests like Sam and all of the great other guests that we have on here that help nonprofits reach their audiences and create a better world for all of us.

[00:39:23.040] – Boris
Thank you, everybody. Take care.

[00:39:46.800] – 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:

  • 05:10 — Every time we want to make a point we should start with a story, because that’s what people relate to.
  • 07:26 — Three steps to get attention, whether it’s on the page, on the stage or online.
  • 11:39 — Turning your monologues into a dialog to get listeners intrigued and curious.
  • 14:48 — Empathy Telescopes: People can’t relate to a large group, corporation or demographic. Zoom in on one person/example with which people can empathize. What’s your “dog on a tanker” story?
  • 22:47 — Proximity and recency equal relevancy, so keep your stories near-and-dear to the audience.
  • 29:00 — Warm up your opening so that people are glad to be there. Create a community where people feel involved and engaged.
  • 32:15 — Telling people what you do ends the conversation. Jump right into the story to start a conversation instead.

Action Steps: What Now?

About this week’s guest

Sam Horn

Sam Horn

CEO of Intrigue Agency

Sam Horn is the CEO of the Intrigue Agency. Her 3 TEDX talks and 9 books – including POP! and Tongue Fu! have been presented to Intel, Cisco, Fidelity, Nationwide, Boeing and Capital One.

Connect with Sam Horn

Ep 13 - Lisa Greer - Featured

Episode 13: Thinking Like a Donor to Build Authentic Relationships with Lisa Greer

The Nonprofit Hero Factory: Episode 13

Thinking Like a Donor to Build Authentic Relationships with Lisa Greer

In this Episode:

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

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

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

Lisa Greer 1:56
Hi, thanks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Concepts and Takeaways:

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

Action Steps: What Now?

  • Resource Spotlight

    In this episode, the following resources were mentioned:

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

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

About this week’s guest

Lisa Greer

Lisa Greer

Author, Philanthropy Revolution, Philanthropy 451

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

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

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

Connect with Lisa Greer

Ep 12 - Michael Panas - Featured

Episode 12: How a CRM Can Work for Your Nonprofit (and Not Vice-Versa) with Michael Panas

The Nonprofit Hero Factory: Episode 12

How a CRM Can Work for Your Nonprofit (and Not Vice-Versa) with Michael Panas

In this Episode:

From donor acquisition to management and reporting, how you manage your data can make all the difference. How do you choose a Constituent Relationship Management system and when should you build your own? And how do you make the most out of the new tools?

Introduction 0:03
Welcome to the nonprofit Hero Factory, our weekly live video, broadcast, and Podcast, where we’ll be helping nonprofit leaders and innovators create more heroes and a better world for all.

Boris Kievsky 0:20
Morning, everybody, and thank you so much for joining us for Episode 12 of the nonprofit Hero Factory. We’re going to be talking about how a CRM can work for your nonprofit and not vice versa with Michael Panas. I’ve known Mike for several years now, we first worked together at a national nonprofit about seven years ago, he can correct me and for a couple of years starting seven years ago. So now Mike serves on the feed the children executive team as their chief information officer, their CIO. Talk to him a little bit about what that means and why some organizations need one and whether you do or not. He recently managed the organization’s conversion to a new CRM solution. And as a technology professional, he’s worked for NCR Corp, US West bank holding companies, large health organizations. For the past 12 years, he’s provided technology social change leadership to several national cause initiatives established and chaired his own nonprofits and served on several nonprofit boards. Mike describes his superpower as guiding strategic initiatives to success, anxious to ask him what that means and to get more of his story and talk to him about CRMs and making them work for you. So without any further ado, let’s bring Mike onto the show.

Mike Panas 1:43
Hi, Boris.

Boris Kievsky 1:44
Hi, Mike. Thanks, my friend.

Mike Panas 1:51
Yeah, I’m happy to join. Appreciate the opportunity.

Boris Kievsky 1:55
So tell me a little bit. I mean, I know a lot but tell. Tell our viewers a little bit about yourself. Story, how you got to where you are today?

Mike Panas 2:04
Sure, sure. Well, I started off as an IT person, a technology person. That’s what I was trained in college for and worked for large organizations. And I guess it was about 12 years ago, 12 or 13 years ago, a friend of mine who is a mayor of a city asked me to work on some social change programs. And during that time, as you can imagine, when an organization like a mayor’s office as community leaders to become involved in a change, you know, you pretty much want to support the mayor. And as I did that, I learned a lot more about nonprofits and social change and the importance of certain things out there. So, I kind of set me on a path to migrate my career from a for-profit environment to a nonprofit. And that’s where we met. I came on board to work with an organization founded that started out national All International, I guess, nonprofit and met you and then I’ve moved on, I actually went from there to this position to Feed the Children.

Boris Kievsky 3:11
Cool. So you described your superpowers guiding strategic initiatives to success. What does that mean, Mike?

Mike Panas 3:18
Yeah, so, you know, I guess you can tell I’m not that young necessarily. I’m only 39. But, but in any event, you know, over years of experience of major projects and limitation projects, owning my own company, you know, I think my superpower for nonprofits is literally taking corporate initiatives, whatever that might be, mostly, obviously technology-oriented, and guiding those through a process, to success. You know, a lot of times I teach people and project managers will tend to view a project as a project and you know, I’m a PMP, or I’m this and we have to follow these guidelines and rules. Well, a lot of times, it’s just it’s the guiding leads to success. I mean, you still use, milestones and you still set dates and you still set timelines. But I think if a lot of us and it would look to view things as we’re a guidepost, or we’re helping guide things, it kind of gives you a little different perspective. So that’s kind of why I use the word guiding.

Boris Kievsky 4:29
Gotcha. So tell me, what are you seeing these days? What’s happening in the nonprofit sector? And certainly, from your perspective of Feed the Children, which is a pretty large, national organization, in terms of data storage, and data usage, what are you seeing out there?

Mike Panas 4:48
Yeah, so there are a few things that are significantly impacting, says the industry, the nonprofit industry, of course, we’re in the middle of a pandemic. So there are issues there. A lot of nonprofits are dealing with. And it seems like there’s, almost a situation where some nonprofits who provide services to the needy, have almost been forgotten in the pandemic, and that there are other organizations that had kind of stepped up, and their services are more needed. But what all that means is change. It means a change to the donor profiles, which means a change to your services, which means a change to your partnerships that you have out there. And successful CRM implementation, or if you have one in place, really can help you manage and navigate those waters. So I think in today’s world, I think some nonprofits that maybe haven’t implemented a CRM strategy, or an application or service or cloud product, wherever the case may be, are could potentially find themselves in today’s world wishing they had that now to kind of manage the Change that they’re going through, communicate better with donors, and especially volunteers in today’s nonprofit world, given the pandemic, um, how do you volunteer? And what does that changing? Like? How does that in electronic communications and working from home and just really key? So that’s one thing about the CRM world The other thing that impacts the nonprofit’s not that it doesn’t impact profit for-profit organizations, but, you know, we have new challenges related to especially internationally related to you know, purchase personally identifiable information, how we report breaches, rules, regulations, potential fines, you know, internationally if we don’t do something, right. So, having full control or management or access or understanding of how you’re doing managing data. It could be very powerful if you had a CRM system. So I think some organizations are looking to CRM systems to solve some law or regulatory, or data protection type issues that they might be dealing with or that they, their executive team knows I have to manage it’s kind of it’s very tough out there. And then the last thing I’d say is that many of us in the nonprofit world, have common partners. We have common people we serve. Sometimes our business models are our CRM is full of names of those we serve. Some nonprofits have no names of the people that are served by their, by their caught by what they do. So it just varies. But what we find is, CRM can allow you to serve who you serve better and to communicate with your potential donors or the people that want to help you better. So I think the reality is setting in that no matter how big or large your nonprofit, that people are out there serving, maybe the same communities might have an advantage in their success. So that’s another key thing. That is kind of real now. And of course, that means that our products, you know, SAS cloud-based solutions and that sort of thing, that maybe weren’t there a few years ago are there now.

Boris Kievsky 8:31
So that’s all awesome stuff to share and to understand. And I want to dive into a few of those things. It occurs to me though, that so far, you and I’ve been talking, we’ve been talking about CRMs. But we haven’t actually defined or explained for anyone who doesn’t necessarily know because I’m sure some younger nonprofits, people who are kind of doing grassroots work, haven’t even thought about it yet, or they have didn’t realize. So a CRM is in nonprofit terms a Constituent Relationship Management application, right? In the for-profit world, it’s customer relationship management. But nonprofits have a different need. Because as you said, we’re also working with volunteers with partners. And so those are all our constituents, our stakeholders in the CRM becomes the central digital hub for that information, both incoming and outgoing. So if you collect information about people that you’re serving, or that you’re working with, and then you use that information, and usually again, through the CRM, if you’re able to optimize it well, to then communicate back out to them depending on their interests, their interactions, and keep the cycle, the loop closed and repeating. Right.

Mike Panas 9:47
Yeah, you summed that up really good. Yes, that’s correct.

Boris Kievsky 9:52
So you obviously work for a large and well well funded Not that every no nonprofit is ever not worried about funding organization. Do smaller organizations need to be looking to adopting a CRM? When is it time for nonprofit to look for one?

Mike Panas 10:14
Well, I think even startup nonprofits should consider the utilization of technology. I think your size there, there are good solutions out there that would fit into the small nonprofit in a small foundation into a small school Foundation if you will. So I think it’s very important to consider that no matter how large you are, where you’re at in your lifecycle, we’re 41 years old, but the organization that’s two years old, and expect to grow, should really consider that. So if you were to consider there are two reasons for that. One is that there’s potential for a solution to help you grow right? To help you do what you want to do better, serve the good or do the good if you will. But the other thing is if the founders, even a small organization or the executive team on a larger organization, follow kind of a systematic approach of considering a CRM, you will uncover things just by that process that could help your business. So the the the the ethical, analytical side strategic conversations about really constituent management, which is all the things you explain, these are all of our different types of constituents. That’s the first thing an organization should look at, you know, whether you’re considering a CRM or not, you need to identify your constituent profiles. And then you need to identify so that’s number one, and have a strategy for all of those constituents. What are we expecting to do with volunteers? What are we expecting to do with people that come to events? What are we expecting to do? And in today’s world, not like I mean, technology is everywhere, but then you take the next step and say, What data elements do I need to manage those? Those constituents? I’ll call them profiles are different types of constituents in the world because they will vary just like you said, you know, what is the path for those constituents? A lot of times we think about donors, but sometimes an event participant, sometimes a volunteer, sometimes a board member, is also potentially a great donor. And having that data and communicating with them easily, whether your smaller largest, I think, just critical. So and that’s the power of the CRM, where you could potentially harness that power for your organization.

Boris Kievsky 12:48
And in terms of the types of CRM that are out there, like you said, there are ones that are accessible to organizations of just about any size, the only limitation really being your resource of man-hours or woman hours to actually be able to manage it and look into it, but at least collecting data in the first place so that hopefully, at some point someone comes along and can help you with that, I think is key. There’s a lot of people use, for example, MailChimp for their email communications. In a way, MailChimp is a very kind of low key CRM, actually, they’re doing a lot on the E-Commerce site to become a more full-fledged system for them. But even for nonprofits, a lot of my clients will categorize them, right. So you have one list, hopefully. And then you have categories for people that are your board members, or people who have attended a certain event, or people who have done specific things donated in maybe even in certain brackets, and then you could customize communications to them. So at a very low, low adoption threshold, low friction level, you’re already collecting data just by using something like that rather than say, emailing directly out of your Gmail or something like that.

Mike Panas 14:03
Oh, yeah, definitely. And that’s it in this in the nonprofit world, that’s called basically list management. So you know how to effectively market if you will, or build your relationship and move your relationship along with that, that path if you will to, maximize your relationship. And I think, you know, the leap of faith sometimes is, a lot of times donors or people you have relationships with are looking for more opportunities to work with you. It’s just we don’t get the message to them. But it was like MailChimp, which I call an ancillary package, if you will, that would bolt on nicely. And we actually use MailChimp in one instance here for that exact same reason. We have a child sponsorship program, but we like to use MailChimp to work with people that sponsor children around the world for us, and we do, we’ve had that it’s kind of a legacy application. But when we looked at our CRM implementation, we view that as an ancillary product that would work with our package.

Boris Kievsky 15:15
I’m agreeing with you completely. And it’s interesting you view it as an ancillary product, but for a lot of organizations might be their, their initially, their primary. Good news is that as long as you have the data, whether you stick with MailChimp once you have a more robust CRM, or you move to something else, some CRMs will have a list management built-in MailChimp being one of the biggest ones and we’re saying it so often I feel like they should be sponsoring us. But being one of the biggest players in the field, they’ll work with a lot of different third party or standalone CRMs like the sales forces and all the others out there.

Mike Panas 15:53
And they have to, to survive. Yeah, no, that’s their business strategy. And, and really, we’re kind of talking about buy versus business. A little bit. I mean, at least it comes to mind. Right?

Boris Kievsky 16:03
Yeah, definitely want to get to that. So great transition. Let’s talk about when is it time to build your own CRM versus just buying one off the shelf? What do you need to look at and decide to do that?

Mike Panas 16:18
Yeah. So I mean, looking at the hundred thousand foot level, generally speaking, if we look at buy versus build, I think for nonprofits, and again, this doesn’t apply to all but maybe the 80/20 rule, you want to you really want to look at a buy for a CRM versus a build, generally speaking, and what a CRM can do for you and the enhancements that are made in the management of that. We talked about laws and regulations. And if you have a SaaS product, the cloud product, you know, you put the responsibility on them to protect your data, whether they’re a processor or a controller whatever the case may be, there’s going to be some fundamental things that are a byproduct of them, selling you a subscription cloud subscription that you put on them. You know, we can’t afford to hire seven PhDs and know all about protecting data. I mean, it’s just not feasible. So there’s a trade-off there. But generally speaking, I think a CRM, a core CRM platform, is probably I would focus more on a buy decision versus a build. Building has, if you look at laws, regulations, the changing landscape out there, and the fact that many, many, many organizations are saying I’m going to offer SAS cloud services to nonprofits based upon their size and their industry. In a per-user basis, it could be a very cost-effective way to do things versus building in today’s market, but that’s for the core solution that’s for the base core CRM, then you have the option to look at building or using other products, we have a two-core system. Well, two ancillary systems that work with CRM that we built internally because we just couldn’t find those out there and our CRM system, we could never pay enough money to modify it to do what we want it to. So I think the strategy when you’re looking at buying versus build is not to ignore the ancillary systems, whether that’s MailChimp something you’ve developed your own website, not using the website that may be provided by your CRM, because CRM solutions, try and grow also the vendors trying and have these other bolt-on packages. And you know, especially in the nonprofit industry, you’ll hear about, this CRM vendor purchase this package to bolt on to theirs, and you know, and it’s littered with failures and successes, right? So, you know, don’t necessarily look at throwing away what you’re doing with what I call ancillary systems. Those may be a very good long term solution for you, and then you’re just then you can evaluate the core CRM, and their ability to provide a good SDK or API model for you. And that includes business analytics and warehousing type stuff. So, to me, that’s where the build versus buy where it lands, I would be my recommendation of people called me I wouldn’t necessarily volunteer to be the project manager, if you will, for a large build direction for a large nonprofit. I mean, that has, I mean, you can talk to nonprofits, or midsize to larger and the end and the landscapes littered with CRM failures are trying to build your own application.

Boris Kievsky 19:47
Yeah, it’s very similar in so many different aspects of digital life in general, but in just about anything, there are professionals out there experts out there who already do it and they devote all their time and their staff to maintaining it, making sure that it’s running up to legal codes up to, you know, standards, web standards and information standards that are out there, to do something and build it yourself. You have to have a full time dedicated team to just keep up. On the other hand, when it’s actually I think when you’re a small enough nonprofit, something simple that you could build together, literally, with Google applications. If you only need a certain amount of data, and there are certain interactions, you could build on pretty quickly, and it’ll work just fine for you. But as soon as you can, it’s easier to offload that responsibility to a third party, assuming that they can do the things you want them to do. And going back to you’re talking about CRMs that are now also doing ancillary services and products. My experience has been, that rarely works well, if they try to become all things to all people, and that just makes them not the best at any one thing. So I personally look for, whether it’s the website platform that you’re building on, or the CRM that you’re using, I want the ones that are going to be most interoperable and most flexible and be the best at the thing they do, rather than the one that will do just everything for me, because as soon as you hit any limitation, you’re now stuck. And I’m working with a client right now who was using a CRM, which shall not be named right now. And the CRM had promised certain ancillary features that would interact with their website, and a few years ago, just stopped, stopped developing those so they’re no longer even supported. And now they’re stuck. Now they’re looking at actually going to a whole new CRM, just to get the features that they need.

Mike Panas 21:56
Yeah. And I think everything you’re saying is right, and then if you take that mindset, and then you apply it to the org, whether you’re smaller, large organizations, you know, constituent profile strategy, if you will, that tells you, you know, if your focus is, maybe you’re a nonprofit, and you’re small and your focus is and I’m a found person, you know, a private foundation and you have specific people you want to serve in your, in your data for the first two years is only going to be made up those people you serve, and that’s easily managed through lists and MailChimp. for that period of time, that’s great. But if you look at strategically, where you’re going to go, where you might, you know, is your strategy too, to maybe moving from a foundational approach to a nonprofit approach, maybe you have to do that for tax reasons, who knows, but if he at least is talking about the potential constituents in your world long term, that kind of also allows you to develop strategies and start tracking data and use data, right? So if you ever do convert to a CRM package or things like that, you know, you understand how your data is being used and what you’re collecting and how you’re managing it. A lot of times, you know, people get into trouble and they go, man, if we would have just done these things for the last two years, this is us embracing the CRM package, it gives us all these other things would have been much easier. And so I think that’s an important strategy. It all goes back to me for our CRM is, like you said, it’s a constituent relationship management system. To define your constituents to find the profiles of them and where you’re going short term and long term. And if it’s all about donations, and it’s all about donations, and you may want a CRM to help you properly take credit card transactions and report certain information about that and protect their personal information and make sure you have tokens versus, you know, encrypted credit card numbers and things like that, because you can I think one of the things you let you didn’t say, but I heard you say is you’re forced to if you have a problem, you’re forced to operationally fix it, which means your own internal manpower. So if these two pieces of the solution don’t work together, there’s a gap. And that gap is usually filled with manpower. It’s reentry. It’s checking, it’s balancing and see sort of thing. So, yes. describing all that and having an architecture for that with ancillary products is just very, very important. Because you will plug those holes and unfortunately, it’s with manpower.Unless then you want to do is that staff when you go to a CRM system,

Boris Kievsky 24:46
So in terms of the types of information that you want to be tracking in your CRM and things that you want to be considered, considering as you’re setting this up, certain things obviously, lend themselves more easily to integrating with a CRM, like digital acquisition versus other what I call legacy media, but they’re still very effective certainly for nonprofits. Can you talk to me a little bit about donor acquisition models and which ones are going to work easiest and what you have to look forward to depending on in a CRM, depending on what you’re currently doing?

Mike Panas 25:25
yeah. So, so I think when people, you know, mentioned, you know, what’s our donor acquisition strategies, or, you know, how are we gonna, you know, what’s our plan, if you will, and, you know, usually led by, a chief marketing officer or chief development officer in the nonprofit world. It’s really donor acquisition and then retention. So I think he has, you know, the word to the wise is, you know, we sometimes we focus more on the acquisition strategies if that makes sense than we do on the retention of who we already have. So I think that’s kind of the first thing is to create a donor acquisition strategy that includes not only the acquisition but the strategy, the nurturing

Boris Kievsky 26:18
Yeah, to get them to keep being a donor and hopefully leading them up the chain to become greater and greater supporters. Right.

Mike Panas 26:26
Yeah. And you know, sometimes we say supporters, right of the organization or things like that But I think that’s just an important thing to look at now. Each nonprofit, has different strategies for donor acquisition, right. And it depends on who you’re serving. And then what your, donor what do you need donations for? Is it cash, is it gifting kind Things like that. So, to me, it’s kind of a, I live in Oklahoma in Oklahoma, although I’ve never worked for a gas company. You know, the talk here is when you’re talking to oil and gas professionals, you know, you hear this word upstream and downstream right. And the movement of oil and all this was very similar in the nonprofit world, I think and we refer to upstream individual donors, upstream corporate cash donors, individual support and then also corporate GIK Gift in Kind in our world we receive a large volume of food from our upstream gift-in-kind partners. Those are all you know, those are donors I mean, those are people we have relationships with. So, I think if an organization from a donor acquisition model can the employee one thing is to look at your entire process, if you will, your upstream or downstream who you’re serving, we actually have zero people in our database, who are in need of food, children who are needing food. From a domestic perspective, we have that internationally. Because we have a program we execute programs internationally for children across 10 countries. But domestically, our database has zero information about that, because we have downstream partners who execute that. So what’s important is understanding from a donor acquisition perspective is understanding what you’re doing, who you’re serving, and then turn that into strategies to allow you to acquire relationships with donors out there supporters out there and grow that from a communication. So sometimes it’s information that comes back to a pure pipeline if you will. And that has to be part of your strategy for acquiring doctors and retention of those doctors. And if you don’t, if you don’t, and that’s one of our ancillary packages, by the way, where we have the corporate part I’m sorry, we have. We have partners, sometimes or corporations, but we have partners downstream regional food banks, pantries, churches, Meals on Wheels programs, and those sorts of things where we provide donations to them. And they execute on that. Well, that collaboration communication for us is a strategic initiative to increase our capabilities in that area, which we’ve elected to have that as an ancillary solution to our CRM, our CRM package. So donor acquisition looks have to look at your entire pipeline if you will use an oil and gas term of how you do business as well.

Boris Kievsky 29:53
So depending on your donor acquisition and constituent acquisition strategies, I guess you’re going to need to consider different elements of what a CRM can and cannot do for you. And sometimes I’m thinking on a smaller nonprofit scale, it might be some data entry, right? Some manual labor to get people who are, for example, donating still by mail by check, that’s not automatically going to go into a digital platform. Although, if you start out with the digital platform for the mailings in the first place, then they already have account records. But you got to go back in and you got to, you know, add in some data, in order to keep that relationship going and tracking the performance over time that way

Mike Panas 30:41
And we have a large, you know, direct mail effort in our company, and we had a and of course, that’s a donor acquisition model. We have that and we’re 41 years old, so you can imagine that’s where it started, along with, you know, television and that sort of thing, but we had a very long conversation about the analytics and the data flow between our new CRM system and providing those analytics to do the best job we can. Not only donor retention, but new donor acquisition, and lapsed donors. Of course, those people who haven’t heard from us we lost contact with them. And like you mentioned earlier, sometimes your CRM solution provider can also provide other analytic tools, but they also have access to other data analytic tools. I shouldn’t say data analytic tools, where they mined and gather and provide you with data about your donors that you don’t know about. Because that’s that’s a value add right from them. And then that goes downstream into our mailing or donor acquisition and then the success or maybe not success of a particular mail income back upstream. And then so that’s a critical component of your, of your CRM integration.

Boris Kievsky 32:07
Yeah, as long as those, uh, those ancillary sources of information about your donors is still up to code, because those codes are changing very quickly too. And a lot of organizations are scrambling a lot of information providers are scrambling to figure out, oh, all of a sudden, we can’t work in California anymore. Sorry, we can’t get you that information. Or in Europe, certain aspects can no longer be gathered and collected without explicit permission and management of privacy rights management, all of those different layers of personal protection that’s not put in which is another reason why it’s great to have something that SAS product outsource versus building something yourself and tracking it all yourself.

Mike Panas 32:50
Yeah, well, I think you bring up a good point. You know, not knowing where all this is going to go we typically in the nonprofit world, we work and assist and share information with organizations of like mine with us. at no cost to them, you know, we’re not trying, we don’t sell a data list. We don’t market something, you know, we don’t do what Amazon does, necessarily. We don’t, we don’t work like that. And typically in the nonprofit world, that’s what you see, hopefully, knock on with us, which see all the time. But having said that, it doesn’t matter. If the California laws say this, just because you’re doing good, it doesn’t mean you know, you’re not burdened with the same thing. So yes, we typically work together with other nonprofit organizations to share how we can do good better if you will, but that doesn’t matter to, you know, to the European laws and regulations and we still have to manage the data. So which all boils down to, you know, what are your ancillary packages doing a What’s your relationship? What’s your agreement, who has the risk of if we’re giving our data to a third party to help us do something with their systems, we get data back. If you take California, for example, we have to know what you’ve been doing with that data. We have to know where you’re storing now, right now, nonprofits are excluded from some of those things from the California laws. And we’re trying to keep it that way. But it’s going to happen. I think, the moral of the story and what you bring up, which I think is a great point, is that we need to be managing that now and having a good understanding if you have an outsourced or a SaaS product, or even if it’s in house, but it’s a software vendor. You need to be in tune with what they’re doing, and where your data stored and you know, is on a boat in the sea somewhere in a data center or is it in you know, Sweden somewhere or whatever, because even where the data is located now is something we have to know. And it’s just it’s a burden that, nonprofits like most people have to deal are going to have to deal with.

Boris Kievsky 35:17
Like, this is all really important stuff to know and to discuss. We’re past our half-hour that I asked you to promise me today. So I really appreciate all your time. I asked you for a couple of resources to spotlight you’d suggested people check out and 10 and nonprofit quarterly. Why are those organizations?

Mike Panas 35:41
Well, I like their approach to communications. I mean, it’s very MPR like, if you will, I think, which is great. The other thing is, you know, ask vendors. I mean, vendors are a free resource, whether it’s, you know, pick any CRM system or whatever and They like to talk about what they do. They like to talk about their solutions or product, their approach. And they can help educate especially a new organization, looking for a CRM system, invite those vendors, now it’s, it’s all going to be over zoom or whatever. So it’s easy to have those meetings. it’s cost-effective for them, it’s cost-effective for you and just hear what they have to say, let them present their solution, how it can value your company. And there, they’re an endless resource for you.

Boris Kievsky 36:28
Yeah, I’m sure they’ll talk to you as long as you want is fantastic. We’ll put that in the show notes today, along with that antenne nonprofit quarterly as an action step that nonprofits can take is reach out to vendors of CRMs to see what they offer, actually realized earlier today that there’s an article I have from a couple of years ago on the site, about how to pick a CRM, what things to be looking for and looking out for. So we’ll link to that as well. Before we wrap up, Mike, what should nonprofits do? If someone listening to this show wants to follow up with you, or keep up with the work that you’re doing, what do you advise?

Mike Panas 37:07
Yeah. You connect me on LinkedIn is probably the easiest way. If not search for, you know feedthechildren.org. It’s easy Mike.panas, but I’m on the leadership team on the website, but just, you know, find our number you can call our 800 number, they’ll connect you to me. But LinkedIn is always a good connection point. Just search for me I’m under Michael Panas on Linkedin. So, yeah, I’m happy to talk. I talk with a lot of nonprofits who’ve been looking at CRM, and, you know, we want to help people out there that are in the nonprofit world doing good. I mean, you know, and if I can help them save money or reduce risk or whatever, it just helps them do what they do better, and use those monies for what they do downstream to the people that serve so just give me a ring connect on LinkedIn. I appreciate it.

Boris Kievsky 37:55
We’ll have your LinkedIn profile already linked on the episode show notes as well. listening to the show, it is NP Hero Factory.com/EP12 as in episode 12. We will redirect you to the show notes for this entire episode. Everything that Mike had to say with the transcript with the audio of the video, we package it all to make it as easy as possible. Mike, thank you again so much for your time and all the valuable information and for offering to talk to more people out there that are facing these types of questions and challenges.

Mike Panas 38:40
Well, glad to help and appreciate the time. Thanks, Boris.

Boris Kievsky 38:43
Thank you. Bye Bye, everybody. Take care.

Exit 38:48
Thank you all for watching and listening to the nonprofit Hero Factory. We hope this episode has given you some ideas and strategies for creating war heroes for your cause and a better world for all of us. Please be sure to subscribe to this show and YouTube, Facebook, iTunes, Spotify or your favorite podcast platform and let us know what you think by leaving a review

Concepts and Takeaways:

  • A CRM, in nonprofits terms, refers to a Constituent Relationship Management system. They are used by nonprofits to manage relationships with any and all stakeholders involved in furthering your mission—including donors, volunteers and partners.
  • Collecting and tracking information about your constituents improves your ability to communicate with them as unique individuals, rather than anonymous groups. A successful CRM implementation helps store and manage details that routinely get forgotten.
  • Even nonprofits that don’t have a CRM are likely already using software that either acts like a CRM or interacts with one, including email platforms like MailChimp or donation systems.
  • Nonprofits of any size can make good use of a CRM, and there are options to fit nearly any budget. Although they may add to your operating costs, the value generally outweighs the price as they help you retain donors, attract new ones, and grow your outreach.
  • When deciding if you should “build or buy,” consider the amount of resources your organization would need to keep up with the latest regulations and best practices. This is why an external platform is often the best option, because they have entire teams devoted to all of the legal and practical nuances.
  • Many CRMs offer the ability to expand functionality through ancillary products through integrations, APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) and SDKs (Software Development Kits).

Action Steps: What Now?

About this week’s guest

Michael Panas

Michael Panas

Chief Information Officer, Feed the Children

Mike serves on the Feed the Children executive team as the corporation’s Chief Information Officer and recently managed the organization’s conversion to a new CRM solution. As a technology professional, he has worked for NCR Corporation, US West, bank holding companies, and large health organizations. For the past 12 years he has provided technology social change leadership to several national cause initiatives, established and chaired non-profits, and served on several non-profit boards.

Connect with Michael Panas

Ep 9 - Dr. Amir Give'on - Video

Episode 9: The No-Shortcut Formula to Crowdfunding Success with Dr. Amir Give’on

The Nonprofit Hero Factory: Episode 9

The No-Shortcut Formula to Crowdfunding Success with Dr. Amir Give'on

In this Episode:

There are no tricks when it comes to crowdfunding. But there are time-tested, proven strategies that increase your chances of success. With Jewcer, Dr. Amir Give’on has helped nearly 1,000 nonprofits and individuals raise millions of dollars for worthwhile causes. Join us as Boris and Amir discuss what works and what doesn’t, and the pitfalls and benefits of crowdfunding you have to consider.

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

Boris Kievsky 0:19
Hi everybody and thank you for joining us for episode nine of the nonprofit Hero Factory. We’re going to be talking about the No-shortcut formula to crowdfunding success with a good friend of mine, Dr. Amir Giveon. Amir is an engineer by training and an entrepreneur by nature. He is the CEO and founder of the Jewcer community funding platform, which is a crowdfunding platform that I’ve been helping out with a part of for, I don’t know, five or six years now maybe. He also served as an adjunct professor at the Graduate School of nonprofit management at American Jewish University, and he describes his superpower as helping people raise more money for worthy causes. So without any ado, let’s further ado Anyway, let’s bring Amir out onto the show.

Amir Giveon 1:06
Thank you, Lord. Good morning.

Boris Kievsky 1:08
Good morning. I know it’s nice and early for you out in California. But thank you so much for joining us today.

Amir Giveon 1:14
Thank you for having me on this show.

Boris Kievsky 1:18
So I mean, I know most everything about you at this point for I think over 10 years. Yeah, definitely over 10 years. But why don’t you introduce yourself beyond what I just said to the folks at home? What’s your story? And how did you acquire your superpower?

Amir Giveon 1:33
Thank you. So first of all, I believe it’s been more than five or six years that you’ve been involved in around what we’ve been doing with Jewcer probably closer to seven or eight years. We started very, very early on, I think in around 2011 thinking when crowdfunding was just Starting, today it’s something that you don’t need to introduce. You definitely need to explain and help with but you don’t need to introduce like we used to at the beginning. We’re talking about the days before even Indiegogo existed. It was just Kickstarter around and we specifically for Jewcer which helps Jewish and Israeli related causes. We identified it is a is a great tool for community engagement, yes for raising money, but around, I would say the lens of community engagement of really building a community around your cause. We very soon after and to answer your question, we, we started thinking we’re building a platform we really were so excited about the technology and the tools and the features and all those kind of things. And again, to Remind you right now there’s like thousands of crowdfunding platforms for any niche you can think of it those days there were very few. And we were really concentrating on the features of the platform. We launched it, we we got about 10 to 12 first causes and immediately realize that the technology is not really what makes it or breaks it when it comes to raising money and connecting with your community and everything around that which we’ll dive probably more into. We realize very soon after, and I mean, like after like 10 or 12 first causes that’s really what they need is help with the strategy around it, how to tell their story, how to reach people what to do first, what to do next. In really Take them in kind of like a through the process. And if to answer how we got these, or how I got these superpowers is I’ve been literally involved with more than 1000 campaigns. I usually throw the number 1000. But the reality is, is that is way more than that because a lot of them get started, start working on it and then realize that maybe they’re not ready for it or they come back later. So it’s probably more than 1000 but really 1000 that literally launched and started raising money. So the superpowers I guess, coming from the fact that most of the questions and most of the things I’ve encountered a few hundred times already. Yeah, so that’s really how we came about. So we started to just do to close that. We started as thinking we’re a platform What we really are is kind of like a hybrid between a Consulting Group. We are a nonprofit. So we’re kind of like a hybrid between those two things in the platform. So yes, we have the platform, and we have all those tools and lots of features that I still have a whole list that I would love to add. But the reality is, is that what really helps people raise money is is the other stuff not that technology.

Boris Kievsky 5:28
Absolutely. So yeah, we’re definitely going to dive into all of that. But before we do just a minor thing for anyone who is watching and knows the history of crowdfunding platforms, Indiegogo was actually first just nobody had heard of them. And Kickstarter came on the scene and made a huge splash. So people think of Kickstarter is the OG but it’s actually Indiegogo.

Amir Giveon 5:49
So just I mean, it’s that’s it Yeah, I didn’t even know that I I do know that a lot of people when they come to us, and rather than saying the word like I want to start a crowdfunding campaign, they Sometimes say I want to start a Kickstarter. Right? Yeah.

Boris Kievsky 6:02
Right. It’s kind of become that eponymous. Yeah. Word. So eponymous No What’s, what’s the term? I’ll think of it later like using Kleenex for xereo for photocopy if anybody photocopies anymore. Let’s dive in a little bit of mirror into what’s going on. And specifically right now the world obviously changed a couple months ago and it’s still continuing to change. I know a lot of nonprofits have to quickly adjust their Gallas and their fundraising efforts. What are you seeing in terms of changes going on at the moment post COVID during COVID, I should say yeah.

Amir Giveon 6:39
So again, just to explain my lens and the way that I see things is that we were heavily involved with every campaign that comes on board or reaches, reaches out to us to to start raising money. So as soon as it hits like around March, I all of a sudden, like Got bombarded with like emails and help, I mean through our ticketing system like questions and the first thing that was going on is like, should we proceed like they were like in the middle and in the process of like doing things and some are in different ways in different places in their process. So the first thing that I saw in it, you didn’t even need to just look at the like the KPIs like the the numbers on the platform is that everybody went into this kind of like a shock kind of like a frozen kind of a thing. Yeah, and yeah, there were like very clearly and not just on our platform it I mean, I see also other platforms and I see other things clearly became like a disaster like event. So there were and starting to be like a lot of people, a lot of organizations, individuals raising money specifically for things related to that. And that was the natural thing. So all the others we’re now in kind of like a uncertainty of like, should I still run my campaign? Should I pause it should I all those kind of things? So the graph if I would say was like, like it was like hitting a wall it was like all of a sudden like a lot of them were like, pausing stopping, less requests to start and like all those and I’m happy to see that we’re getting out of it. Like I’m not saying, it’s like I’m, I’m, it’s like I’m seeing like a I have like a pulse that I can see that life is starting to like, come back to it.

Amir Giveon 8:54
So during it The advice I used kept on giving to people is a first and it’s related again to strategy and implementation and all that is like, figure out if you’re able to run a campaign right now, like, you need the money yes. Got that like we all in many organizations but really try and figure out because a lot of people now used to work at it at work now they’re home maybe with kids like it’s like a lot of things changed. Their need maybe has not changed, but other things have changed. So the first thing I was telling people is like figure a figure out if they’re able to run their campaign around capacity. Yeah, exactly. And and we can probably dive more into it because it really is has to do with like, regardless of the times we’re in right now, just in general this capacity of running a crowdfunding campaign is sometimes not seen well enough from the outside. Yeah, exactly like people see the result, people see a lot of money being raised for something, but they don’t see the amount of work that is being put into it. So that was the first thing that I started talking with a lot of those executive directors and entrepreneurs. And I should mention, we work with anything from individuals to organizations that sometimes it’s staff in the organization that does it. Sometimes it’s volunteers, all sorts of things like that. So it was kind of like a lot of chaos, within personal lives. So I was trying to like first let’s figure out if you’re able to do it, then there was always the question of like, Is it still something that now on the other side of it, the people that now will hear about your cause, do they have the capacity now to process that, and connect with that they might have been very passionate about your cause, or potentially have or have the potential to connect with your cause. But all of a sudden the world is changing around them right now. Yeah. So it was a mixture of all those. So the short answer is that yes, like many things in the economy, it kind of like was like in a chaotic kind of a thing. It like went down. And now it’s like, kind of like, slowly, slowly, like waking up and coming out of it.

Boris Kievsky 11:31
There’s a lot of stuff in there that I definitely want to come back to, if we have some time. Actually, you know what, let’s go to it now. So the timing is, in some ways critical. And you and I have some theories on this that we’ve developed over time. But in some ways, the timing is critical. And in some ways, the timing is not. So what determines a good time to launch a campaign to run a campaign? What’s going to be crease success or decrease the odds?

Amir Giveon 12:02
Yeah, so I’ll answer that in a couple of levels and from a couple of directions. So first, my mind kind of like and again, I again to remind my lens like I get like those questions from people like and they feel like it’s like the first person that is ever asked that. But I get a question, for example, on the timing, like, what day and time of the week is the best to launch my campaign. So that’s like one level of that the other level of that is like, time when it comes to like, just like, what’s going on outside in the world and things like that. So in all around that is something and if there could be a takeaway from that for people, is that people naturally do so. are always looking for that One key that like unlocks everything. That’s one thing that like when they just turn it or just hit it exactly right. The effect is, you might like it Like,

Boris Kievsky 13:01
it goes viral

Amir Giveon 13:02
Exactly. Like I, like, I get so many times when they tell me like, I’m going to do this, this and that, and then it will be viral. Like, those kind of things. So when it comes to timing, my, I’ll answer it in two ways. One is my immediate one is saying is saying to people, it’s when you’re ready. Okay, that’s like the first thing and then I dive into them. They’re like, what do you mean is ready, and then I dive into, like, all the things that you need to do. And the second is to try and remove and it’s usually in layers, to try and get them to not think like, there’s going to be one thing they have to get right for everything to work. And at the same time, it also the other side is true, which is if they don’t get it, right, it’s not the end of their campaign. Like if you didn’t launch it on Tuesday at 10:23 in the morning, it’s it’s gonna be okay like, there’s still Now when it comes to like times and like what’s going on outside that has to do more with I call it kind of like riding waves. So it’s like if there’s a certain wave outside. And it’s kind of funny, like the meaning of outside now has like so many, so much depth into it. But if there are waves outside of things that are more trending right now it’s a trade off because people think like, Oh, I’m just gonna ride the wave, but you sometimes forget that there’s many others that are riding riding the wave with you. So now you’re just with hundreds of others that are raising money now to make face masks. Yeah, like, there goes your uniqueness there goes like you know. So that’s on one hand. On the other hand, you don’t want to start like trying to die. divert people’s attention from like, this is really happening now. But this is also important and people are like, No, no, no, we want it, we’re on this. So my go to answer is always follow the process and don’t look for that again the perfect wave if I’m not a surfer, but I have a feeling that that’s a phrase there. You know, like, it’s not there’s people with timing. They sometimes try to give like that kind of like weight to something that yes, it is important, but it’s not everything.

Boris Kievsky 15:42
So I’m gonna add on to that and and say, so my term for that wave is a site Geist, right. It’s the spirit of the time. It’s what people are going to be talking about at any given time. And you can plan a little bit around, for example, religious holidays, or national holidays or political events, anything that’s on the calendar, you know that’s going to get some. And I hate to use the term viral but some lift based on the fact that it’s a topic of conversation that that’s public right now. But yeah, as you were saying, the counter side of that is, there are going to be other people vying for those same eyeballs pulling on those same heartstrings, if you will, trying to get money at the same time. So there is some trade off. You Are you also touched on, you know, being unique. And absolutely, you need to have your own unique point of view. And you and I talk about this all the time, it needs to be organic, to your cause to your mission, if all of a sudden, you are a nonprofit that’s dealing with education, but now you’re launching a campaign to create masks and that’s an extreme example, I haven’t seen anything like that happening. But just to make it clear, if it’s something so out of your scope, you’re you’re not going to pick up any additional volume, but you’re also not even going to necessarily Engage your core base, which is so significant to your crowdfunding success. But right yeah

Amir Giveon 17:01
Even to completely agree and to add to that I’ve seen attempts and again I was part of those conversations and even like was thrown into email chains of like you know committees in organizations and of them trying to use the word organically but I you know, like you probably meant like in a natural way like there was like there were like people that were like trying to force a connection to something and it doesn’t come out authentic enough people on the other side are and and you’re absolutely correct. It’s like forget about strangers that have never heard of your organization, even your own base and the people that usually support you would be like, Huh, and in that would not get them super excited about it. You want to to stay with your core values your core mission if there is a natural connection to it if you’re a factory This is not a nonprofit but a factory that makes drapes and now turns into making masks. totally get it that totally makes sense. Yeah, so it all again going back to what helps running a good crowd in a crowdfunding campaign. Not just in these special times is really connecting all those dots in a natural way they need to all make sense. Like I always and beyond this I often find myself in conversations with them of making a list and I tell them imagine this is around the circle not as a list. All of them must sit together and be completely make sense to like a stranger that just looking at it like they are have money you want to raise? How much time you know, your campaign is all sorts of other things. They all need to always make a a natural connection. Because anything you force, comes out very, very easily.

Boris Kievsky 19:17
I think the key words, and we talked about this all the time on the show are really authenticity, which you mentioned. And integrity. And integrity can mean multiple things. I mean, it is something that you could speak with, with integrity and speak to with integrity and honesty, but also it’s integral to your mission. It is something that is actually part of what you want to do. It couldn’t be slightly tangential, but it can’t be something completely other. It could be a new way that you are expressing your mission and trying to achieve your mission. But it can’t be something that you just decided, Oh, you know what that looks like there’s a need and suddenly we’re just going to do this even though it has nothing to do with our primary Cause right?

Amir Giveon 20:00
Yeah, yeah

Boris Kievsky 20:01
so we talked before about what to title this episode and we called it the the the no secret or no shortcut success strategy right? What is the no shortcut formula to crowdfunding success? Why? And you’re already talking about this but why is that the best title for this episode?

Amir Giveon 20:24
So again like my I don’t want to call it pain because it’s really not my pain it’s like something like I’m encountering all the time and I in a love helping people that are in that state is that they come in thinking oh, I saw those you know the other ones and other organization or this like raised a million dollars or raised a certain a big amount of money and they only see the tip of it, meaning the result in they in the back of their mind or at least if they don’t have any experience with raising money online. They think, Oh, I just need to like, explain what I need money for. Throw it on, let’s call it Facebook. It will be viral, and I’ll raise the amount of money that I need. The reality is just from my tone. That doesn’t happen. It’s the majority of people that come to us. In organizations, individuals have never run a crowdfunding campaign. They might have donated to one and definitely have seen one, but never seen the behind of it. They don’t see how much how many hours were put into describing and telling the story. They don’t know. They, see the number of iterations of telling that same story, they see just the last version or eight version, because they typically don’t even visit that page more than once. So I would say the no shortcut kind of formula is that I try to put them on this path of first working on what is it that they’re trying to raise money for? And really not the cause and not just saying, well, this is what my organization does, and we need money. Therefore, we have a place here for a crowdfunding campaign. to them If it was a Excel spreadsheet where they handed in within their organization, it makes sense to everybody. That’s what we do. That’s what we need money for great. But when it comes to raising money, you need to tell it as a story that connects to somebody many times to somebody who has never heard of you before, and not just resonate. It’s really to call them to do something. thing about it. There are many levels of it, right? Like sharing, liking it donating, of course, like all those kind of things. So the formula that and I doubt it, we’re going to get into all the details of it. But really to systematically look at crowdfunding is not what the lottery ticket is meaning that one thing that’s going to go so viral and it’s a, you know, a plate of potato salad that raised 40,000, I’ve got that meaning a person says, if that one potato salad raised $40,000 This can definitely, like that kind of logic, I’m afraid doesn’t work.

Boris Kievsky 23:46
We won’t have to get into all of those details. Obviously, I will say a little bit of a shameless plug for your course that you did for us last September, when you’d only helped around 800 nonprofits. So it’s, of course, constantly growing, but it is available. We’re gonna drop it into the show notes. If anybody wants to check it out. It’s pretty affordable. Yeah. Where you do go through a lot more of the process and how to get it all done. But I think the point that there’s no quick lever and lottery ticket that you could just subscribe to.

Amir Giveon 24:18
and as I mentioned the other side is also very important to hold on to it also means that you have a lot of room for mistakes. Like it’s not like you. I’ve had campaign organizers that spent weeks on figuring out what’s the right tagline for. It’s like, that’s not what’s important. It’s not one thing that makes it or breaks it. So it’s a whole process and is a whole I would say the formula is yes. Build I mean create a campaign that just like you said, has Integrity, Authenticity. Transparency is a very important one. I get many that sometimes they just tell us what they need money for. And then the amount they raise goes like, Wait, hold on. So he’s like, Oh, yeah, it’s because we also need money for this, this and that, but I didn’t want to put it there. I’m like, people will figure out that if you want to raise money for a music album, and you’re asking for 50,000 and others next to you are asking for 10 or 12,000. Something here is missing. And that’s totally fine. Be honest and transparent with the people and they will connect with you. So first is like figuring out that part then it’s the actual how to tell the story and that has to do with like, the campaign page in the video pitch and the pictures. A lot that I’ve learned from you over the years of storytelling and in really what I find that I end up giving his advice a lot And I by no means an expert in storytelling specifically, is the story need. It’s like telling the same story in different ways, through the images through the text through the video pitch. And it all has to not just make sense, but they all live together. Like you can’t have a video pitch just because you had some video that you created three years ago, and all of a sudden, you’re raising money for something completely different and you mesh them together. It it doesn’t connect. So then when you create all those, all that content that makes sense and everything, then comes the actual strategy of how, what to do at the beginning. Over the years, we developed something we called the launch list method, which again, just touching on it is we’re looking at everything in a way of circles. So you start with your inner circles of people that are would support you no matter what almost like it doesn’t really matter what’s on your page, they support you because it’s you, whether you’re an entrepreneur,

Boris Kievsky 27:09
and they believe in it already,

Amir Giveon 27:10
exactly. In vendors, the other circles that are a little bit less connected to you in less and less until you get to complete strangers. A big, I would say a big mistake that a lot of causes make is that they kind of like push the trigger a little bit too soon. By hoping that you know, influencers will share them magazines and everything right at the beginning. You need to build it up. So I would say like the formula is about creating the story and really using a strategy that works first.

Boris Kievsky 27:52
building your own way of getting that foundation in of your core most supporters on top of that, you’re You’re less connected supporters, if you will, or might be your board and your biggest donors, and then the next level of supporters, and then the people who are just interested in what you do and may have supported you one way or another. And then finally, it’s the big push out to the rest of the world. So that you look like you have a groundswell.

Amir Giveon 28:17
Exactly. And every circle kind of like comes there and sees that the previous one supported so it’s kind of like it becomes

Boris Kievsky 28:24
And then you are on the winning end of a campaign or a challenge, right? Nobody wants to go in thinking, Oh, this is gonna fail exact already believe it’s gonna win. That’s a big one that I know, we’ve taught over the years a lot. So we’re we’re almost out of time. And I do want to cover a couple of things, the stuff that we’re talking about in terms of campaigns, most of that can be applied to nearly any kind of campaign that you’re thinking about launching out there. Why should someone decide to use a crowdfunding platform and oftentimes platforms have fees, versus just running it on your own website on your own donate page? How is it different

Amir Giveon 29:00
So I get that a lot. And people sometimes also like, really dive into that fees issue. And yes, I we have a platform so we take fees and that’s what supports our organization. They often don’t understand what goes into in this is back to tools and all sorts of things like that a crowdfunding platform gives you like, it gives it more like legitimacy, like the page is on a platform with other causes. The second thing, which platforms often give you is this kind of like what I call this cross pollination. People come to a campaign, they start browsing around, they see others, you’re kind of getting a little bit of traffic of eyeballs for free. That’s why I recommend and of course, our platform is one use a niche platform because then the traffic that people Come to that platform is already targeted for what it is that you’re raising money for. So already prime

Boris Kievsky 30:07
are interested in similar subjects.

Amir Giveon 30:09
Yeah, so I would say it’s a combination and in the fees are so nominal we’re talking about around 5%. Give or take the the end result and I’ve proven it over and over to organizations, the amount of money that you will end up raising from this extra you’re getting by being on a platform far exceeds those 5%.

Boris Kievsky 30:36
Storytelling wise, I also feel like and I talked about this a bunch when you’re on a crowdfunding platform, it seems more newsworthy. It seems more like this is something going on now that we need help with right now. versus when it’s something on your website. Even if you’re driving people with a message of this is something new and different. It’s it doesn’t feel like others should necessarily pay attention to it. doesn’t feel like it’s something that is important in this very moment. Whereas you could people often do get press coverage for a crowdfunding campaign. Because it’s on a crowdfunding site. There’s some sort of newsworthiness or buzz-iness to it hopefully,

Amir Giveon 31:15
right, and if you get featured inside internally in the platform or on their social media, their newsletter, all those kind of things, give it to more than you would get by you talking about yourself about your own website.

Boris Kievsky 31:29
So we are already over time, but I do want to touch on. I always ask everybody if they have a tool or a resource or a book that they recommend that nonprofit leaders check out. What do you what do you recommend to people?

Amir Giveon 31:40
So I mentioned to you the lean startup, and there’s so much there’s so much stuff in there. But the takeaway that I usually apply from there to crowdfunding campaigns and when people come to us is there’s no argument that there’s no discussion even though they can To spend the most amount of time at the beginning talking about their need. I again, as part of that, remember, we have those two hats, like I put on the hat of a consultant, and I try to get them to, and I push them trying to figure out, is there kind of like a smaller version of what it is that you’re one that you want to make that you can start with? yes, your think of it is a is a is a marathon, you’re starting a marathon like, let’s start with like a small campaign, you can start another campaign in six months, for the same or related Cause if you’re building it correctly, but if you’re going to go immediately for that million dollar campaign, and raise only $5,000 nobody would come back to and support it.

Boris Kievsky 32:53
You can lose trust, people are gonna think you don’t know what your doing, Surely you’re not going to succeed.

Amir Giveon 32:58
So I recommend to them let’s try and find The $5,000 that you can and it’s a very important point about crowdfunding, close the loop around meaning raise the money, show them that you’re making the impact that you said, you’re going to do with that $5,000. Go back to them and say, See, this is what $5,000 can do in the world. Let’s raise more. And now you’re going to have instead of donors, you have literally a community around it, that can push you towards your next kind of like, a stage.

Boris Kievsky 33:33
Yeah, I mean, I advise Lean Startup that’s on my recommended reading list for all nonprofits, whether it’s about crowdfunding or anything else. And people often think that a Lean Startup it’s about startups is about for profits. Eric Reese actually devotes a good amount of time to nonprofits and intrapreneurship within nonprofits, of how they can use that same his basic model is build, measure, learn, feedback cycle, yeah, to iterate and to create things that people care about. To find ways to connect with people who care about it. It’s absolutely critical. And I hadn’t really thought about it as much in terms of crowdfunding. But you’re absolutely right in the in the way that you’re phrasing it here.

Amir Giveon 34:10
Yeah yeah. And many come to me like think like, and I try to tell them, let’s break it into like three, four campaigns that we’re going to do together in the next two years. And I wish I had better success at convincing more people because they’re very excited and think they can do it. And I jump in fully into it, and I help them whatever they decide. But really like that my takeaway from that is always like, let’s try to have a success story first.

Boris Kievsky 34:42
Yep. And then those people that are part of your success story The first time you reinforced that success, and they become that groundswell for your next campaign so that you have a bigger base to launch off of and you could grow

Amir Giveon 34:53
And it’s much easier the second time around when you already have this base of people that are not just talking Around, not walking around saying I donated to this, but they’re walking around really feeling this ownership of making a change in the world. . And that’s really stop looking for donors and look for people that would feel like they made the change with you.

Boris Kievsky 35:15
And that Heroes for your cause. Talking about right. Feel like a hero. You want them to feel like they’re on the journey and that you’re going to help them get there. Much like we’re talking about today. Yeah, Amir, thank you. We’re well over time. I appreciate everybody who’s who’s still hanging on and listening and watching because this is all awesome information. For anyone who wants to follow up with you, Amir, what should they do? How should they get in touch?

Amir Giveon 35:39
Get on our website jewcer.org Yeah, and everywhere, Facebook, LinkedIn, all that happy to help even and I tell it to people, even if you have a crowdfunding campaign that has nothing to do with Jewish or you know or Israel causes, we’re always happy to help because our, one of our core values is making a better world to kuno lamb. So really just reach out to me I’d happy to I’m happy to help and even like direct you to the right platform if you’re trying to figure out the right one for you, but we know

Boris Kievsky 36:19
you’ve even partnered with other religious organizational or religious based. Yeah, definitely.

Amir Giveon 36:25
Yeah, we’re in touch with there’s a Christian one, there’s a Muslim one and there’s a Sikh one. All like always like, yeah, and and yeah, always happy to help in any way we can.

Boris Kievsky 36:36
Thanks so much, man. We’re gonna make sure we link to all of these things, the resources, the lean startup, the course that if people want to just take to go on their own and learn a lot of what you’re talking about now for themselves. We’re all going to have that in the show notes. I’m sure I’ll have you back on sometime in the not too distant future to talk about more stuff. But really appreciate your time today and everybody who’s tuning in. Thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for everything you’re doing to make this world a better place, and we’ll catch you next time on the nonprofit Hero Factory.

Amir Giveon 37:05
Thank you.

Exit 37:09
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:

  • Emergent situations (like COVID-19) can be the best or the worst times to launch a campaign.
  • The best time to launch a campaign is when you’re ready. I.e., when you and your team have the capacity, and can capture the attention and participation of your strongest supporters.
    • No specific time or date will make or break a campaign. That said, when thinking of timing more generally, try to ride the waves (zeitgeist) of social or political events/patterns/movements to launch the most relevant and relatable campaign you can.
    • If responding to a crisis, have your own unique campaign to stand out amongst the masses that stays true to your mission and brand. (Don’t force a connection.)
  • There’s no one thing that makes or breaks a campaign, it’s the combination of strategy and execution as a whole.
  • Things don’t magically go viral—there are no shortcuts. The formula is about creating the story with integrity, authenticity, and transparency, then doing the foundational and ongoing work to make it successful.
  • Don’t be overly wary of platform fees. Most of the time, the amount of money that you’ll end up raising from a crowdfunding platform far exceeds a 5% platform fee.
  • Whenever possible, use a niche platform for your crowdfunding campaigns, because the traffic coming to that platform is already targeted and primed for your cause.

Action Steps: What Now?

About this week’s guest

Dr. Amir Give'on

Dr. Amir Give'on

CEO, Jewcer Community Funding

Engineer by training and entrepreneur by nature, Dr. Amir Give’on connects his eight years of experience at NASA-JPL as a mechanical and aerospace engineer with his passion for Israel advocacy and Jewish innovation.

Amir is the CEO of Jewcer Community Funding, and served as an adjunct professor at the Graduate School of Nonprofit Management at American Jewish University.

Amir holds a Ph.D. in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Princeton University and spent a year at the California Institute of Technology. Happily married, Amir is the proud aba to a son and daughter.

Connect with Dr. Amir Give'on

Ep 6 - Isaac Shalev - Featured

Episode 6: Making Your Nonprofit’s Data Work for You with Isaac Shalev

The Nonprofit Hero Factory: Episode 6

Making Your Nonprofit's Data Work for You with Isaac Shalev

In this Episode:

When it comes to stretching resources, most nonprofits focus on minimizing their spending and maximizing donations. But many are not taking advantage of everything their data and technology have to offer.

From donor engagement to setting and measuring ROI, to scaling your impact, Isaac shares his insights on how your data can take your work to the next level.

Introduction 0:03
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.

Boris Kievsky 0:20
Hi, everybody. Good morning. Welcome to Episode Six of the nonprofit Hero Factory. We’re talking today about making your nonprofits data work for you with our guests, my friend, Isaac Shalev. Before I get into that, though, the goal of the show is to empower nonprofit leaders with ideas, strategies and tools to activate More Heroes for their cause and create a better world for all of us. So today, I just need to acknowledge and say a special word of thanks to all the nonprofit organizations and individuals working tirelessly in the face of tremendous obstacles and entrenched in justice to make this country in this world a safer and more equitable one for all of us.

Boris Kievsky 1:01
If I can personally be of any help to your nonprofit, your cause and the work you’re doing, please reach out to me and let me know. So with that, let’s get to the subject of this episode and how you can create more heroes, with Isaac, who is going to talk to us about how to maximize your nonprofits data to activate More Heroes for your cause and increase your impact. Were excited to bring him on to the show. My friend, data therapist Isaac Shalev, who is the president of Sage 70, Inc., is a nonprofit strategist and CRM expert who helps make data work for nonprofits by focusing on people policies and systems in that order. So good morning, Isaac, and welcome to the show.

Isaac Shalev 1:41
Good morning Boris. Thanks for having me this morning. Great to be here.

Boris Kievsky 1:44
Always happy to collaborate with you in any way. As we get started, can you tell us a little bit about your story and tell us about your nonprofit superpower?

Isaac Shalev 1:54
Yes, thank you. I started in nonprofit really at the very start of my career. I’ve been working kind of at the intersection of technology and nonprofits for the last 20 years or so. And I was lucky enough to have been raised in a computer savvy house and my dad was a database guy. And so I absorbed a lot of these things in the same way that you know, Millennials are really good with technologies like the phone and social media that some of us older folks are struggling to catch up with. I kind of was born into databases. So I use that superpower. And about 10 years ago, I founded Sage, 70, Inc., which is a boutique consultancy devoted, as you said to making data work for nonprofits. And so my superpower is X ray vision. I can see right through your data I can see right through your policies and I can get to the source of your trouble. I know what kinds of problems are blocking you are the obstacles for non-profits to use data more effectively, and to tell stories that activate people using data.

Boris Kievsky 3:06
That’s pretty awesome. As soon as you say that I have a visual of it the original I think Superman movie where he x rays with his vision of the kid’s leg and sees exactly where it’s broken so he says, it’s okay, Billy, you’re going to be fine. So, how quick are you with nonprofit data?

Isaac Shalev 3:23
Well, look, I’m not faster than a speeding bullets. But I can leap tall data silos in a single bound.

Boris Kievsky 3:30
Well, we could go with superhero puns all day. I love it. So tell me then in terms of your expertise and nonprofit data, what are you seeing is going on in the world today in the nonprofit sector,

Isaac Shalev 3:46
So the nonprofit sector is I think, starting to shake itself from the shock that we initially experienced with COVID-19 there’s still a lot shocking that’s going on in the world. And, you know, we were at a protest last night and over the weekend, and so there’s still a lot happening in the world. But nonprofits are starting to come around to taking control of their destiny. And to bouncing back from a really, really stunning kind of right cross that we all took. What I’m seeing is that there’s quite a lot of focus right now from nonprofits about how to be more scalable in the work that they do. And I want to distinguish this from efficiency. People are not talking about how do we do more with less, and I’m so happy about that. We’re not coming from that, that culture of scarcity. What people are really saying is we have all these incredible tools that we’ve been under using, how do we use them? What barriers lying in the way just as a small example, a client of mine was, they called me up they had a chat panel that they had implemented for their memberships and sort of a private place to chat. And this is all, you know, funders who wanted to chat with one another collaborative funding opportunities. And they called me and they said, Hey, you know, it seems to have gone down, can you help us put it back up? And and then they said, but before you do that, can you tell us why nobody’s really using it? And that was a magical question. Right? Because it wasn’t about what tools they had. It was about why wasn’t it being used in the why had nothing to do with the technology? It had everything to do with people and with community building? And is there a use case, right? Can we actually use this? So we looked at the data in the data set, no, nobody’s using it and we rethought. So that’s an example of how nonprofits are not coming from a position of scarcity but really thinking about effectiveness.

Boris Kievsky 5:49
I love that. You’re trying to get away from the focus on scarcity and doing more with less although at the same time using technology well, doesn’t in fact help them do more with less, it doesn’t take as much in terms of finance, financial resources, and hopefully even manpower once it’s set up or human power, once it’s set up and running, to be able to reach more people more effectively, right, more directly more focused and specialized in the ways that you’re reaching to them. And to your point that you were just saying now in the media that they want to use it in ways that they want to use that media, right. So it’s not a one size fits all. But we can actually customize the experience for our stakeholders.

Isaac Shalev 6:35
I think that I want to encourage nonprofits to think about how to do more with more. And what I mean by that is, there are so many opportunities to actually do better than we’re already doing. And the costs for that aren’t necessarily greater. They’re different though. So a lot of organizations have been thinking about their gift acknowledgement process, and some of that is a real struggle of who goes into the office to pick up checks, open them, they’re all paper Do we need to disinfect, right? There’s this whole health concern and an access problem. By the way, we normally do this with two people, because you’re not supposed to open mail with only one person, somebody’s got a login, you know, all of those processes are being challenged. And so a lot of folks are suddenly saying, hang on, why don’t we shift to email acknowledgement for gifts under some number, right. And this is something that we could have done 10 years ago, or even 20 years ago. It’s true that even in the year 2000, we use email. And we could have done this. And by the way, we could have done more with more in the sense that emails can carry multimedia, they can carry links and calls to action that can be measured more effectively. They’re in some ways, much better for building grassroots relationships than a paper envelope is. So we can do more with more and the more here is thinking through, why is email a great tool and taking advantage of what it has to offer instead of saying, oh, let’s attach our acknowledgement as a PDF to the email, right? We’ve all seen nonprofits make that kind of mistake, right? Here’s the new technology and you’re like, I love this car, I’m going to carry it around on my bike.

Boris Kievsky 8:24
Or drawn by a horse. Right? That actually reminds me there’s a there’s a Facebook group that you and I are both a part of where somebody recently asked, What is the best magazine like tool to publish their annual report online that they’re finally moving from print to digital, but they’re looking and there are tools like issue I know. I think that’s how you pronounce it is su u where it basically gives you a magazine layout online. And I was very happy that some people chimed in and said yeah, there are those tools but why not make it a true online experience? You know, build it out in an interactive format that is designed for the web rather than something to retrofit, you know, and get your printed version up online.

Isaac Shalev 9:11
Yeah, I think that’s exactly right. I do think that you need to consider your audience and how they want to consume your content and why there was a strategy for a while fundraising Gala’s to produce what are called journal books. So these are essentially ads that donors can purchase to send a congratulatory note to essentially express their support in a visible way. And you write a yearbook of sorts, and there wasn’t there were quite a few attempts to digitize this in some fashion. And it didn’t work. Because the only time that you look at that journal book, is when you’re at the gala. And when you’re at the gala, you don’t want to pull out an iPad from your You know, your suit pocket or your non existent dress pockets? Because oh my goodness, why are we not making pockets on dresses. But you’re going to pull that out now and write and start connecting to service to download a thing to flip there? No, you’re going to take a piece of paper and look through it. Papers, also a technology, you need to deploy it where it makes sense. On the other hand, if you’re going to project messages of thanks, if you’re going to do a video tribute, you know, there are there are great opportunities. So we need to think about doing more with more, because there’s so much that these tools can offer us that we can do more with.

Boris Kievsky 10:38
Right on. Absolutely. So what are what are nonprofits doing right right now? What are what are what are you advising some of your clients to be doing at this time? Well, let me take it from kind of a data and CRM angle. I think that’s even though I love talking about some of this other stuff. That’s that’s really the core of my expertise. And what we’re seeing is a couple of things. First off, there is a an acceleration on access projects. And what I mean by that is, a lot of folks have a CRM database, maybe they have some reporting tools connected to it, that were built to serve a an audience of employees who are working on site. And so there’s just a tremendous acceleration of remote access. And it’s a great opportunity because once you’re starting to rethink how you’re serving that data, you’re also starting to rethink what that data is, and in what format it should be served. So reporting projects, Business Intelligence projects, we’re seeing them become prioritized. We’re also seeing that organizations that realize that they’re kind of behind the curve with databases and that they have allowed you know, too many non web based or non web powered database technologies to proliferate they’re suddenly starting to see some of the challenges they and are looking to sort that out. So those those are at the system level what we’re seeing, but we’re also seeing a really powerful change and how people are communicating. You know, if you’d have asked me, you know, two years ago, what would happen to communications, if something like COVID hit, I would have said, Oh, my goodness, this is going to be great. We’re finally going to kill meetings, right? We’re finally going to get out of this. We’re going to realize we don’t need them. We’re going to, you know, all work in Trello and Basecamp. And whatever it is Slack, just the opposite. We’re seeing more meetings. They’re shorter, for sure. They’re all video. And I think that that’s actually the real magic here. We’ve finally gotten over the video adoption hump, to the point where your default meeting is now a face to face video meeting instead of a phone call. We finally realize that the phone is just this really bad app on our phone?

Boris Kievsky 13:06
Totally fair, totally fair. I do think at the moment there are I personally, I think we’re overusing zoom videos. And I think it’s a sort of knee jerk response to, oh, I can’t walk into someone’s office now. So I’m gonna, you know, pull them up instead of actually using some other technologies like Microsoft Teams or slack or something like that to keep smaller threads of communication going consistently. Because I, I think there are too many meetings going on in general, in every kind of organization right now. A lot of it is also based on the fact that people are struggling to figure out what to do and they want to collaborate and the most collaborative form usually feels like a all hands on deck meeting or a one on one meeting with with video conferencing, but I’m hoping that it’s going to tail off a little bit and we’re going to find other more effective ways to communicate, in addition to video,

Isaac Shalev 14:06
It’s exactly right. We need to learn how to use the tools better. And we are learning we’re learning how to share our screens more effectively, we’re learning, you know, we’re learning that if you talk and you’re muted, you’re not heard, right. And so, we’re getting better at this. And we’re gonna, we’re gonna pick up on on that more and more, what I, what I think we’re also learning is that it’s not just about showing up to the meeting, the real question is, how do we communicate? How does everyone look at the same data and see it the same way or at least have the opportunity to reflect on and understand it and you know, and kind of get everyone on the same page about it? What is what was never especially effective was sitting in a room with somebody trying to explain the data. You need analysis, you need to be able to show things visually so that people who understand things visually can see them, you need to then be able to talk to the data and tell a story from it so that people who understand things, you know, through their ears will understand the exciting opportunity right now is to recognize that with video as our primary means that we have so much more bandwidth to fill our communication channel with, right that we have so much more opportunity to express our data in a meaningful way. That’s where we’re seeing a huge uptick is folks sitting, you know, we’ve always talked about metrics and so on. But we really have a need now to name a couple of KPIs of key performance indicators, and managed to that we really have a need to understand processes that we didn’t understand before. And we have also suddenly more data because we’re encouraging our participants to engage with us through systems through the internet because they can’t do it in person. And all of those interactions are easy to count and they’re easy measure. So folks are saying, what can we measure today that we couldn’t measure before? And what should we measure? What counts?

Boris Kievsky 16:09
So then how are they presenting this data in the new visual formats in video? Are you talking about, you know, charts that get converted into animation? Are you talking about monitoring user flows and diagramming that, what is it that people are doing or should be doing?

Isaac Shalev 16:28
Well, I’ll say this, the first thing that people should be doing is connecting their logic model to their metrics. In other words, what are you trying to do? Why do you think what you’re doing is going to accomplish that goal? And what are you going to count to make sure, right, so if you don’t have that, right, if you haven’t done that, essentially strategic planning work, where you lay out your goals, you define your activities, and then you identify indicators. You’ve got to start there. And that’s, you know, technology can help and support you but nothing can replace human beings thinking deeply and caring deeply, and then trying to act. So you’ve got to be doing that. If you’re doing that, you need to be really, really specific about those indicators. What are you measuring and take the leap of faith. One of the greatest challenges that we have in this work is that it’s hard to measure directly the things that we’re trying to achieve. Even something straightforward, right? Let’s say you are running a soup kitchen. So you think that’s fairly straightforward. There’s a need people are hungry, you’re going to cook food and serve it to them. And that’s how you’re going to meet at least this immediate need. And then I asked you, Boris, what should you count to know if you’re succeeding?

Boris Kievsky 17:47
Number of people served the number of meals served, the number of people who still haven’t been served who still need your services, whether they know it or not, I don’t know. There’s a lot of different factors.

Isaac Shalev 18:00
There’s a lot of different factors. And so really what we have done not so well is defined what success is for our operation. So you might say, and this is sort of a process oriented approach is you might say, our operation is intended to serve as many people as possible. And so then you’re measuring things like cost per meal, right? Because you want to make sure that you’re serving as many people as possible. And you’re measuring things like how many people are you able to serve? And how many meals are you able to serve? But you have to take the leap of faith that says that if those metrics look right, you’re also solving this larger problem. And that’s not always true. But you have to at some point, take the leap and say, what we’ve chosen to measure we have to believe is actually helping us achieve our goals. Because day to day, that’s what you have to be focused on. Your strategic process should take a step back from that on an annual or two year or three year basis and say, did we choose the right actions? Have we impacted the way that we thought? don’t measure impact quarterly? It’s a meaningless timespan over which to shift, major challenges that nonprofits are engaged with. But do you measure your efficiency quarterly? Right? Do you measure your operational quality at a much closer interval?

Boris Kievsky 19:25
But I also think that it’s not just believing that the goal that you’ve set for yourself are the right ones, I think periodically, you should evaluate and reassess them because Sure, maybe you’re serving twice as many people this year as last year. But are they still the people that are most in need? Are you finding that you’re serving the right audience, right, because maybe you’ve expanded too far or maybe people are taking advantage of the system? Or maybe there are other programs that are in place that might help some of those people more effectively, whether they’re within your organization or someone else’s?

Isaac Shalev 19:58
Yeah, one of the things we struggle with is measuring our success. So I’ll give you an example. Just the other day I was talking with a director of technology, who was trying to understand whether the trainings that they were delivering to their staff were effective. And, you know, initially they were thinking about a survey and I said, Look, you know, staff as of under 50 people a survey is just not a meaningful method to learn very much like you might learn some very extreme trends, but it’s just not reliable to few people. But let’s try and predict some other outcomes or some other things that might happen if our training is successful. So for example, one thing that you know, tech folks like to do is measure how many tickets come in on support requests. Okay, so if you are going to train people to use some new process, what do you think will happen to support requests following the training

Boris Kievsky 20:58
There going to go up at first

Isaac Shalev 21:00
Right. And that’s the key point, they’re going to go up at first. In other words, you’re you can you can, you can picture this in your head, right? The the director of IT walks into the senior staff meeting and says, I have such great news. We did this training, we taught everyone how to use our CRM, and we have just experienced a 70% drop in support tickets. Isn’t that great? Everyone’s learned how to use it. Right? And, you know, what’s really happening is that everyone is now terrified, because they’re supposed to know. And so they’re not asking support, they’re asking each other, if you’re lucky, or more likely, they found like the three people who really know how to use the system, and they’ve shifted all the work on to them and those folks don’t need as much support. They know how to use the system. Right? So we need to recognize and anticipate what is the shape of our indicator going to be in the beginning. More support tickets over time, less and that’s really tricky. That’s a hard thing to do. And organizations do struggle with it. And that’s why a lot of them throw their hands up in frustration and say, I’m not getting real value out of measuring. So why am I wasting all my time here? Let’s go back to relying on the instincts and the professional acumen of our staff. And you know, the measurements, we can always find a statistic to put in the annual report. I really want to encourage organizations to recognize that that approach guarantees that you’re not going to make progress. It guarantees because you’re always going to find a reason why what is expedient, or what is easy, is also good. That’s our nature as humans, right? If we don’t hold ourselves accountable, we don’t do the stuff that we do, and we do hold ourselves accountable.

Boris Kievsky 22:54
Yeah, and this happens in all levels of society, not even to talk about politics. But you know, there’s a type of thinking, which is magical executive thinking that I know best that I know this market. I know this audience, I know this process, right? And I can predict what they’re going to need. I know how to respond, rather than actually testing, generating data oftentimes, but at least looking at the data that you already have, and validating in terms of a systemized process, these assumptions, the approaches to them. A lot of organizations I feel are tied to the way that they’ve always done it, because it’s worked. And so there’s that fear of why break something that that’s working, why fix something that that’s not broken? Right? But they don’t know what the possibilities actually are, what the potential possibly is, and if they go back to their mission instead of the way that they enact a particular program. They might see that if they test the data that the programs generated if they generate more data, they might see that it’s not as efficient and as maximal as it could be.

Isaac Shalev 24:07
Yeah, what I find is that the journey into exploring your data is a strategic journey. In other words, a lot of times we think about it in terms of operational efficiency, because there’s so much data around operations. And so it’s easier to sort of understand it there. But for most organizations, that’s not really where the the obstacle is to becoming more data driven. And it’s not where most of the rewards lie. I mean, there are certainly some rewards there. But it’s not really where the the rewards lie. When I talk to folks about why data is important. I say data is a hippo repellent. Hippo is the highest paid person’s opinion, right? That’s how we often make decisions. Whoever’s got the authority, whoever’s got the money, whoever’s got the biggest mouth sometimes, right? That drives too much of our decision making. Data gives you is the ability to overcome some of those entrenched, folks who are driving the bus because that’s how they like to do it. It gives you the opportunity to reframe the work that you’re doing. And that is incredibly valuable. I don’t know. I mean, look there, there are enterprise organizations that invest in greater data capabilities and save 4% of their data processing costs. And that represents millions of dollars. And that’s fantastic. And they should keep doing that. But for most nonprofits, that’s not why you want to look into data. Right? That’s not a sufficient reason. What you want is to look at your data, because you want to know that you are doing the mission work that you’re committed to, not just in the best possible way from an efficiency perspective, but that you’re pointed in the right direction, that the kinds of activities that you’re engaged in, help solve the problems. We live in a world of unintended consequences. There’s so many times where with good intentions, you launch something, and you end up stoking the opposite behavior, bad behavior. If you’re not looking at your data, you miss it. And then you entrench it. And then it’s really hard to get out of it.

Boris Kievsky 26:21
I’d love to keep digging into some specific, some more specific ways that people should be looking at it and maximizing their use of data. We’re gonna run out of time soon, though. So I want to jump to some resources and recommendations where people get started, what should they look at? tools, books, whatever it might be, that’ll help them go in the right direction.

Isaac Shalev 26:44
I want to give you two different resources. One is about your data. And one is about everyone else’s data. Because really, that’s how you establish a context. So there’s a tool called the fundraising report card fundraisingreportcard.com. The link is in the notes, and this is a 100% free tool it connects with , easily processes data from databases like the razor’s edge, which I’m sure many of the viewers are familiar with and probably using. And it generates a series of KPIs of essentially metrics that you would want to be looking at. And it does it in a visual way. So you can generate charts and graphs really, really easily. Just walk yourself through it, pull, you know, pull your date range, pull your accounts, you know, whatever it is that you want to count, and just create these really easy to use and appealing charts and graphs. They’re specially fantastic for talking with senior leadership and lay leadership about your fundraising operation. And they’ll do things like calculate the lifetime value of your donors based on the data that you’ve got, if you know the lifetime value of a donor. Now you’ve got a number that you can go look at and say, Well, what are my acquisition costs for a donor? And are they in alignment with this lifetime value. So it’s really giving you some terrific top line insights for essentially 15 minutes of work, you go, you sign up, you export, you know, a spreadsheet, you upload it. And suddenly you’ve got these great charts, you can do it for years and years of data and start comparing yourself year over year over year. It’s a great tool for giving you the ability to explore and what’s especially nice about it is you can create dashboards for different people in it. So you can actually create, say, a series of board dashboards. So for your reporting to your board of directors, they can be looking at a specific set, and they can each do it from their own browser on their own time whenever they want. So there’s transparency benefits as well. So that’s a tool I recommend to anyone who doesn’t already have a business intelligence tool isn’t already in a fantastic engine for generating reports. This is a great place. You’re not going to Be able to use it for like, everything this is for high level stuff. So, you know, this is not where you’re going to query give me you know, all donors who donated last year but not the year before that at over $500 but less than 1000. Like that’s not it’s not going to give you that kind of querying capability. But as a as a high level tool, it’s a great place to start the conversation about how to use data effectively.

Boris Kievsky 29:21
Sounds awesome. What’s the other one?

Isaac Shalev 29:22
The other one is m&r benchmarks. So Mrbenchmarks.com it is not mister benchmarks, although I kinda wish it was. But m&r benchmarks has been doing this for a long time, like maybe a decade if not more. They have been benchmarking statistics across nonprofits in different sectors. So if you’ve ever had that conversation where you say, Well, our open rate was 22%. Is that good? What should it be? You need benchmarks. benchmarks are the collected statistics across many similar organizations that tell you oh were Arts and Cultural Organization turns out 16 to 18% should be our open rates. So we’re 22, we must be doing something, right. That’s the power of benchmarks. They create context that allows you to take data and turn it into insight.

Boris Kievsky 30:14
I dove into that website, maybe a little too hard. I got lost in the awesome insights that they have there, including they actually showed some great trends. So it was really interesting to me to see how, for example, mobiles are definitely on the rise. Finally, in the US, it’s been, you know, huge around the world, but I’m on the rise here in the US. And even though some mobile response rates have dropped, overall, mobile usage is up and overall mobile responses is up. That’s just one of the many things that I was fascinated by. And I’m actually going to bring on someone else that I think, you know, Mike sabet, in a couple of weeks to talk about mobile specifically. And I had to send him a screenshot of what they were talking about there. It was really eye opening and in hardening in a lot of ways To see the things that they’re talking about that are trending that are moving forward, and also the things that aren’t working as well, so that nonprofits could spend less of their time and energy focusing on those things, and more into the right directions that’ll help them grow.

Isaac Shalev 31:15
Yeah, it’s really interesting to see also, the impacts of COVID on mobile use have not been as dramatic, I had anticipated that they would decline, because people are home and they’re not out and about as much and so forth. But it seems that that’s not the case. And I speculate it’s because with everyone sharing internet connections with their families, and so forth, the phone suddenly becomes this really reliable internet device, whereas the computer you know, it all depends on how many people are on zoom right now. But, but I think it also just reflects that we’ve incorporated the phone into our lives in a really sort of intrinsic way. And nonprofits have been behind the curve on this. So, you know, this is this is sort of a perpetual call, but If your site is not yet responsive, if your donation cart doesn’t work effectively on mobile, if your emails don’t read well, on mobile, start there, don’t worry about data. We have some data for you. It’s that you should fix these things.

Boris Kievsky 32:15
Absolutely. Yeah. And the phone is becoming an appendage. Right? We In fact, the reason I think behind some greater usage at the moment is because we no longer have to sit at our desks in front of a computer for X amount of hours a day continuously, we can get up and walk around the house and get a snack. We’re constantly checking our phones on our phones, something pops up, we were going to click it. So I think, especially with younger folks, the usage of phones is only going to go up and up, no matter what the pandemic or other circumstances are, Isaac we’ve run over time, because as always, you’ve got tons of value to share. So I really appreciate it. Thank you so much for coming on the show today. Thank you everyone out there in nonprofit land for watching. And listening to the nonprofit Hero Factory. I’m going to give my little call to action here, which is go to the website and check out the show notes. You can just go to NonProfitHeroFactorycom and see all episodes there or slash EP six. It’s going to be on the timecard in a second here at to see the particular notes from this show. But please, please, please follow us on YouTube, Facebook on your favorite podcast platforms. We’re on all the major ones now. And subscribe, download, listen, and please if you have any thoughts, we would love a review positive negative share your thoughts leave a rating and we could then reach more people help more nonprofits do more good. Thank you, everybody.

Concepts and Takeaways:

A few of the key points and takeaways we discussed:

  • This is a great time to embrace not just how technology can help you do what you’ve been doing, but what technology can do to extend your mission and impact
  • The scarcity mindset of “doing more with less” is not helpful. It’s time to think about what you can do with more, by mining your data and using the right technology.
  • Smart data works like this:
    • Start by understanding the goals you want to achieve (KPIs) — i.e., what does success look like?
    • Decide on the assumptions you can test
    • Determine the data (metrics) that will show whether or not your assumptions were correct and how well you are performing
    • Test against prior data and outside data (see M+R Benchmarks in the Resources section below)
    • Adjust your assumptions


Action Steps: What Now?

About this week’s guest

Isaac Shalev

Isaac Shalev

President, Sage70, Inc.

Known to his clients as “the Data Therapist,” Isaac helps nonprofit organizations with technical expertise, human sensitivity, and quiet confidence. Isaac is the President of Sage70, Inc. a boutique consultancy devoted to making data work for nonprofits. He has over fifteen years of experience leading non-profit organizations, offering strategic consulting in data, fundraising and organizations development, and guiding nonprofits to greater achievement and greater wisdom.

Connect with Isaac Shalev

Ep 5 - Tracy Kaufman - Featured

Episode 5: How Foundations and Nonprofits Are Evolving Through the Crisis with Tracy Kaufman


The Nonprofit Hero Factory: Episode 5

How Foundations and Nonprofits Are Evolving Through the Crisis with Tracy Kaufman

In this Episode:

How have funders responded to COVID-19? What should nonprofits do in turn? And how has this pandemic changed the field in the near and long terms?

As the Programs Manager at Candid, Tracy Kaufman has a front-row seat to the challenges that grantmakers and nonprofits are experiencing in response to the coronavirus pandemic. What’s working, what isn’t, and what’s next?

[00:00:04.310] – 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 world for all of us. Da-Ding!

[00:00:21.930] – Boris
Hi, everybody, and welcome to the fifth episode of the Nonprofit Hero Factory. I’m so excited to have my guest today is Tracy Kaufman from Candid. If you’re watching us on video, I’m excited to announce that the audio version of this show, the podcast, is now available on iTunes, on Stitcher on Spotify and basically most of your major platforms, and we hope to be on all of them within the next few days. So please, please, go seek us out over there. Subscribe, download, listen, and of course, share your thoughts whether you leave a public review. Very happy for those. Or a private one, if you want to send me a note. Anything is appreciated and any constructive criticism is always welcome because that’s how we grow and develop. So yeah, go check us out and without any further ado…

[00:01:07.890] – Boris
Let me tell you a little bit about our guest today. Tracy Kaufman is the Programs Manager at Candid. Candid is a recently formed, or renamed organization from the merger of Foundation Center and GuideStar. And now at Candid, Tracy is their Programs Manager and the main instructor of all things. Basically grant writing, communicating with funders, and she’s also currently working on a lot of their curriculum development. She is a pretty fantastic person in general, she’s a great resource. Very excited to have her, and without any further ado, let’s just go ahead and bring her on. Hi, Tracy. Good morning.

[00:01:47.130] – Tracy Kaufman
Hey, good morning. Happy to be here.

[00:01:49.590] – Boris
Thank you so much for joining us. So I hope that was an adequate introduction. But please, tell us more about your story and your nonprofit superhero superpower. In other words, how you help nonprofits get more heroes for their cause.

[00:02:05.670] – Tracy Kaufman
All right. I’ll start with the superpower just so that I don’t forget what it is. I would say my superpower would be the power of information. A lot of this is because my background was originally as a librarian, and anyone who knows any librarians knows we’re all about information and the power behind access to information. I have been working for Candid, formerly known as Foundation Center and GuideStar. I’ve been with the Foundation Center half of Candid for almost 13 years now. I started working with them back in 2007, originally in their Library. Candid is all about data and research on foundations and nonprofits and how you can use that information to be a little stronger in the work that you do for your cause. Both for foundations to do stronger work in terms of how they can fund things by knowing a little bit more about what’s going on out there in the world of foundation funding, and so that nonprofit organizations can be more well informed about what they can do to work more effectively.

[00:03:20.430] – Boris
That is awesome, and you and I have collaborated on things, you’ve brought me into Candid, to Foundation Center, and I’ve brought you on to Webinars in the past. I know you have a lot of tremendous valuable knowledge that you can share at any given time on a whole range of subjects. So let’s dive in to what you’re seeing right now. What’s going on in terms of the grant making and grant receiving space that you’re seeing?

[00:03:49.710] – Tracy Kaufman
All right. So as we all know, we are in the middle of a pandemic right now. So what has been happening with COVID-19 has been having, obviously, a massive impact. Not just on health, but also on the economy and on nonprofit organizations. They are all dealing with a lot right now. My organization, Candid, has been tracking a lot of data on what’s been going on in terms of foundation funding at this time, and I’d like to just talk a little bit about what foundation funding means at a time like this right now. So at this moment, since mid March, I believe $10.6 billion so far has been committed to funding related to Coronavirus relief. In some cases this has to do with, like, straight up towards the virus, health related issues. In many cases, this is talking about the economic crisis related to it and a lot of things really related to basic needs, food and shelter, unemployment, things like that.

[00:05:02.130] – Tracy Kaufman
But there’s been a tremendous amount of funding going up, and it’s been rising dramatically. The last time I spoke publicly on something like this, I believe we had a little over $4 billion that had been given out. That was in early April. Now that we are in May, we’re at $10.6 billion. A lot of that funding that’s floating around out there is corporate. The early rush of funding from foundations for COVID Relief was about 75% corporate. Now it’s about two thirds corporate, with more of the independent and family foundations beginning to catch up a bit. So when it comes to foundation funding right now, keep in mind, under normal circumstances, foundation funding is a pretty modest piece of how nonprofits are supporting themselves.

[00:05:54.810] – Tracy Kaufman
Like the most recent information was that about 18% of the private support that goes to nonprofits is coming from foundations, just 18%, compared to almost 70% coming from individual donors. However, at a time like this, foundation funding has a little bit more stability to it, relatively speaking, compared to individual donors. I read in a Chronicle of Philanthropy recently that the percentage of Americans giving to charity has dropped to, I think, an all time low of, like 73%. And a lot of this is because people don’t have the money to spare right now. Individual people don’t have the money to spare right now.

[00:06:40.110] – Boris
Are they worried about their long term financial prospects? And so they’re trying to save and allocate as thriftily as possible right now?

[00:06:47.790] – Tracy Kaufman
Exactly. Even if they’re not suffering financially at this moment, the uncertainty makes them more cautious about what they’re going to do with their money. But foundations don’t have that option to give or not give. Foundations are required by law to give out at least 5% of their assets per year. That alone leads to a little bit more stability as a funding source for an organization. At a time like this, foundations also often have certain, kind of, built in shock absorbers that help them to be a little more stable in their giving compared to other sources. I’m not going to say that it’s easy to get foundation funding or that foundation funding will not be affected by this crisis because it will, and it is, but a lot of foundations do what we call asset averaging, which leads them to give a little bit less than it seems like they should when times are good, but it leads them to give a little bit more during a rainy day. And right now we’re on a rainy day situation.

[00:07:50.550] – Boris
We’re in a rainy year situation.

[00:07:52.710] – Tracy Kaufman
Yes, and so because of this, about roughly a third of foundations do asset averaging, so that when they’re portioning out their 5% payout rate, instead of making it be just on their most recent fiscal year, they average it out over the past few years. So that if they’ve had some good years in the past, this means sometimes their payout is a little lower during good times. But it means that when times are rough, if it’s averaged out this way, they’re giving a little bit more. So that’s cool as well.

[00:08:24.870] – Boris
That’s awesome news, of course, for all of us in the nonprofit space. How can, I guess, nonprofits take advantage? I know that at least initially the response from foundations, and I think you just alluded to this, too, is to the most urgent of needs to the nonprofits out there that are handling. Marion Stern was on the show last week, and we were talking about the Maslow’s Hierarchy, and foundations were focused on nonprofits handling the most critical needs on that hierarchy. But all things are necessary in that hierarchy, they’re all needs. So is the funding now expanding to more types of organizations, or are most foundations still focused on those most integral needs of, like, food and shelter?

[00:09:16.570] – Tracy Kaufman
I would say a lot of the new funding initiatives that are coming out right now are going to be heavily focused towards basic needs, food and shelter. And that is important, especially because social services organizations, I think, are being hurt almost most of all, at a time like this. They have the thinnest margins and the smallest operating reserves of all nonprofits, and so it is important.

[00:09:42.010] – Tracy Kaufman
However, if, for instance, you have existing funders that already have been given to you, foundation priorities are foundation priorities. Those don’t tend to change over time. When foundations choose, these are the subjects that we want to give towards, that is a relatively stable thing. If you’re an arts organization, your arts funder is still an arts funder, for instance. I would say it’s probably more important than ever to focus most heavily on the funders you already have. You can chase down new funders, but as they say, it’s cheaper to keep them. Go for the people who know you and like your work the best first and steward them.

[00:10:29.530] – Boris
Absolutely, right on. So speaking of that, what is working and what’s not working for nonprofits these days with seeking foundational funding?

[00:10:39.910] – Tracy Kaufman
I think the most effective technique is to double down on what you do best. What are the critical needs that you serve and how you do it effectively? Some of these things are true, not just in a crisis, but at all times, but they become truer than ever right now. Focusing not just on the fact that your organization is suffering right now. Most organizations are suffering right now, but putting a little more emphasis on the urgency of the work you are doing, what is the critical social value that you provide right now? Why is it important that this work gets funded? What they call the case for support, strengthening that case for support and making sure that you can clearly articulate. Whether it’s to foundations, or to individuals, or whoever, that this is important work that needs to exist. That question of why do you exist? Why do you do the work that you do every day? Being able to communicate that in a crisp, clear, persuasive way is going to take you very far.

[00:11:54.970] – Boris
So we’ve been talking a bunch on this show and really, everyone that I’ve been talking to in general, about how to refocus your mission and within your mission, find new ways to achieve it, to serve your community. I know that individual donors, specifically, are responding to it. So if you have been primarily fulfilling your mission in one way and it’s been more person to person direct contact, and now you’re shifting to programs that are more online based or that are helping people specifically in the situation that we’re all in right now. But it’s something slightly new, something slightly different still, though, based on your mission. A lot of individual donors are responding. They appreciate that you are still trying to serve your community, that you’re filling these important needs, that you are pivoting and involving as needed to keep serving. Are funders interested in new ways that you’re doing your work, or are they mostly interested in the long term programs that you’ve already had in the past?

[00:13:03.370] – Tracy Kaufman
As long as whatever pivot you’re making for your programs make sense for who you are and who you serve and what you do, then, I believe funders are going to be very receptive to that. Funders are people the same way regular donors are people, and they understand that times are complicated right now. As long as you loop your funders in to what is going on, don’t surprise them with whatever changes are taking place internally at your organization. Talk to them right now, if you haven’t already, about changes that you’re making in your program. Because things are different, we are taking this program and reconfiguring it to this new virtual format in order to still keep serving people and getting such and such positive outcomes. Just talk to them openly and honestly about it.

[00:13:56.890] – Tracy Kaufman
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is just to talk openly and honestly with your funders. Do not surprise them, and also just to make sure that you’re getting them on board with things as they are happening, and they can either opt in or opt out. But they’re much more likely to opt into what you’re doing if you’re completely on the level with them at all times and having open human conversations with them.

[00:14:23.470] – Boris
Sure, keeping them feeling like a partner in the work that you’re doing, right?

[00:14:26.770] – Tracy Kaufman
Exactly, because they are a partner.

[00:14:28.990] – Boris
Absolutely, and a lot of storytelling definitely comes into play in that, where it’s, how do you tell the story of the community that you’re serving the way that they’re being impacted right now and the ways that you’re pivoting, adjusting to serve them. But absolutely, as you said, staying true to your mission and the goals of the programs in the first place, rather than all of a sudden, you see a need that’s unrelated and launching something completely new.

[00:14:56.530] – Tracy Kaufman
Yeah. You don’t want to do mission drift at a time like is.

[00:14:59.350] – Boris
Yeah, mission drift, mission creep. Absolutely. We’ve hit the initial crush, if you will, of emotion, of response, of changes in the way that we all not just our organizations operate, but we all kind of see the world in society right now. Things that change really rapidly. Some nonprofits were great at adjusting. Some took a little longer or are still on that path. But now that we see this new reality, if you will, that we’re going to be in for at least the next few months, maybe years. Maybe some changes are probably permanent in their lasting effects. What should nonprofits be looking at now and thinking about in terms of their sustainability post pandemic, post COVID?

[00:15:50.330] – Tracy Kaufman
There are two main pieces of what nonprofits are going to need to be thinking about. They’ll need to think about what do their programs look like? Long term now, and to what extent do you even know the long term? A lot depends on what your subject area is, what you do, what your programs currently look like. Some things more easily adapt to these modified new formats than others, but just being careful that for some things, it might not go back to normal. It might if we’re very fortunate, but coming up with maybe a few plans of what the future might look like so that you can be adaptable. Like trying to be proactive rather than reactive to the situation. Which is difficult, and it’s going to be difficult for everyone, but having an idea of what does, for instance, this time next year look like? How much will be back to normal and how much might not be, and how can you be ready for either outcome?

[00:16:52.190] – Tracy Kaufman
But then there’s the fundraising question. I think there’s a little more control over what the question of fundraising will look like compared to the question of what your programs might look like. Now, fundraising is hard and it always has been, and it will continue to be difficult. I don’t want to paint an overly rosy picture of what foundation funding looks like right now because it’s never been easy to get a grant, and it’s not going to be easy to get a grant, and it shouldn’t be. Grants are given to organizations who merit the grant funding, the case for support. So there is the foundation piece. There’s also figuring out what does the piece of individual donations look like for your organization? Because the share of donors is shrinking.

[00:17:44.690] – Tracy Kaufman
As I was reading that fewer people are giving to charity right now, and what’s that going to look like over time? They’re saying that lower income donors have shrunk the most, whereas the higher income donors have been affected the least. Donor advised funds, meanwhile, this is kind of a bright spot. Giving from donor advised funds has gone up something like, what is it? 58%. I wrote it down. Donor advised fund grant making is up 58% between March and April, compared to what those numbers were like this time last year. That’s a big deal, and that is a good thing to keep in mind. It’s not incredibly easy to access donor advised funds if you haven’t already, but these are basically high income donors, so cultivating them a little bit better.

[00:18:33.950] – Tracy Kaufman
With someone who has a DAF, the thing is, this is money that has already been committed to charity. It’s already there. So you may as well ask, you may as well cultivate those major donors more than ever. But this all leads back into a major thing of what nonprofits need to do to become more sustainable over time, which is reexamine your funding streams, make sure they are diversified. Before the pandemic, there were a lot of organizations that were overly dependent on one or two funding streams. Whether it’s individual donors, whether it’s government support, it’s very risky to be overly dependent on government support. Making sure that you are looking at ways to diversify as much as possible, so that when there’s a crisis, you are more protected, you’ve hedged your bets a bit more. So I think that’s going to be one major major piece of it.

[00:19:29.870] – Boris
Very similar to an investment strategy, right? That if you’re an investor, you want to have a diverse portfolio, because if you’re all in the stock market, the stock market went down pretty sharply over the last few months. Right? And most of your wealth could have been wiped out. Similarly, from the other perspective. As a nonprofit, you want to have multiple revenue and funding streams so that if one goes south, temporarily or long term, you can still keep going along with some of the others and supplement in different ways. Right?

[00:20:02.690] – Tracy Kaufman
Yep, and I mean, nonprofits tend to have been very vulnerable during crises like this, financially speaking. Even in the best of times, nonprofits have very slim margins and not that much money saved up in reserves for a rainy day. And then when something like this happens and you lose a critical funding stream, that is when disaster strikes. So it’s going to be more important than ever to think through finances and operations more carefully than ever to be protected.

[00:20:34.490] – Tracy Kaufman
But at the same time, keep getting out there and hustling to make the case for the importance of your work because you exist for a reason. The work you do is important and essential for a reason. And just learning how to put that into clear, jargon free wording that will get people excited, whether it’s a foundation, whether it’s a corporation, whether it’s an individual. Getting people excited about, “Oh, my money will make results. People’s lives will be better with this money” and learning how to tell that story as vividly as you can. Doing that along with that risk averse financial planning, I think, will be incredibly important.

[00:21:15.170] – Tracy Kaufman
And then there’s going to be one other thing which is learning how to collaborate with your fellow organizations more than ever. It’s been a lot of lip service about the importance of collaboration over the years, and I think at a time like now, collaboration is going to be more important than ever when it comes to being able to sustain yourselves. Sometimes it might be a more informal collaboration. Maybe people share office space at some point, assuming we all get back to physical offices at some point in the future, or it might be something as major as a merger. Some organizations will find that they’ll be able to thrive better if they merge and starting to think about that a little bit more carefully. Consolidating resources so that you’re not replicating the same services as another organization. And I think that will help people thrive considerably.

[00:22:09.470] – Boris
Finding efficiencies and synergies. In terms of office space, I’ve been thinking a lot about that, and I think the coworking model is probably going to shift, and nonprofits can take advantage of it, too. Where everybody doesn’t have to be in the office all the time. Multiple teams can essentially share the same space on different days or different hours, whatever it might be. So that you have a home-base, if you need to go in and have a conference, have an all-hands-on-deck meeting, hands on meeting, whatever that term is. And the other days, you’re all working from home and you’re fine with Zoom or other remote methodologies. So I did want to, though, come back to donor advised funds for a second. Are they very different than, say, a regular family foundation? Do they also have to donate a certain percentage or distribute a certain percentage of their funding in any given year?

[00:23:08.030] – Tracy Kaufman
No. So donor advised funds are kind of a little bit like an individual donor and a little bit like a foundation. A donor advised fund is when a person or a family or what have you, takes a chunk of their wealth, it could be in some places, it’s as small as, like $5,000, in other cases it might be a million dollars. They vary. And they’re invested in a donor advised fund, which means this money, it is technically committed to go to charity at some point, but it is invested. The money grows over time, and whenever the person wants to take a piece of this money and give it away to an organization, they’re able to do that. But there’s not a ton of regulation on donor advised funds.

[00:23:55.310] – Tracy Kaufman
While foundations are required to give out at least 5% of their assets each year, a donor advised fund can go a whole year and give away nothing. So there’s been a lot of controversy about this over time. However, it is a very good sign that right now, donor advised fund giving is up, because a lot of money is going there. A lot of the people who used to set up a family foundation are instead using their money for a donor advised fund because it’s much easier to operate than operating a foundation. It’s a lot of work to run a family foundation, but it’s very simple and straightforward to run a donor advised fund.

[00:24:34.190] – Boris
Do you guys track that at Candid as well? And at GuideStar and Foundation Center sides of it?

[00:24:39.290] – Tracy Kaufman
We try to collect what information is available on them, but there is a lot of secrecy around donor advised funds. A lot of the giving is anonymous, and that’s what people often like about using a donor advised fund as well. They like being anonymous. They like not having every nonprofit in town knocking on their doors at all times. I find it most helpful to think of a donor advised fund the same way as an individual donor, because in some ways they are. It’s like The Wizard of Oz, where behind the curtain of all that money and that structure, there’s just a person with a lot of money.

[00:25:14.030] – Tracy Kaufman
So you might cultivate a donor advised fund holder the same way that you would cultivate a high net worth donor. So getting to know people in spheres of wealth and influence, we’re all trying to cultivate that for our donor basis in some ways, I guess. A lot of people who have a lot of wealth, it turns out, even if you did not know it originally, that they do their giving through a donor advised fund. So I would say talk to them the same way you would talk to an individual high net worth donor. That is going to be the most successful way to do it.

[00:25:51.170] – Boris
So you guys can only collect as much information as you can collect because it’s not all publicly available. They don’t need to file 990s or any kind of documentation, really, that’s public. For the stuff that you guys do track, is there a tool you think nonprofits should be looking at, especially right now or in general?

[00:26:13.370] – Tracy Kaufman
There’s a lot. If you’re interested in COVID-specific information, we do have a pop-up site that our data and research staffers have been working on. Funding for Coronavirus pop-up site is tracking how much funding is going on out there and who are the top funders? Where’s the money going? We’ve been tracking tons of information, doing a lot of write ups and analysis on what that funding looks like right now. That would be a great resource. And just for general information, if you’re looking for foundation funding, you can always use the foundation directory online, which is our database of over 150,000 different grant making foundations. That will be a very helpful resource for researching foundations.

[00:26:56.630] – Tracy Kaufman
If you’re looking to research nonprofits and the type of work that a nonprofit organization is doing, GuideStar will be a terrific resource for doing that. And if you’re just looking for kind of tools for how to strengthen your organization overall, I would suggest grantspace.org. This is where we put a lot of our training classes, our webinars. You can access our Online Librarian Service there. Whenever you have a question about anything, ask our Online Librarians, and they’re very knowledgeable and helpful. So those will probably be the major resources.

[00:27:31.490] – Boris
Those are all great, and we’re going to make sure to link to all of those in the show notes for this episode. If someone does reach out to a librarian, is there a chance they’re going to hit you? Are you still doing any librarian services or are you fully out of that?

[00:27:43.970] – Tracy Kaufman
I used to be one of the Online Librarians, but we’ve got a whole team all over the country of people who are doing it right now.

[00:27:51.170] – Boris
So what should people do if they want to follow you? Connect with you further and learn more about the stuff that you’re doing over at Candid?

[00:27:58.490] – Tracy Kaufman
Well, if you want to follow me personally, you can find me on LinkedIn. I’m happy to connect and answer any questions you have. You can also find me through a lot of the trainings that take place over on Grant Space, so definitely follow Grant Space. If you get on their newsletter list, you’ll be able to keep up with what are the new classes, webinars, what have you that are coming up in the future and my team and I are always happy to be of service there.

[00:28:23.870] – Boris
Awesome. Thank you so much, Tracy. You’re always so generous with all the knowledge and information that you have. So much of it stored up in your head over all these years that you’ve accumulated. I really appreciate it. I’m sure that people will be following up with you on LinkedIn and checking out Grant Space and all the other great resources that you mentioned. Any parting words that you’d like to share with the audience before we sign off?

[00:28:49.250] – Tracy Kaufman
Stay strong and remember to talk to your funders. Call them up today.

[00:28:54.350] – Boris
Awesome. Thank you so much, Tracy. And thank you, everybody, for joining us today for episode five of the Nonprofit Hero Factory. Do check us out on YouTube, on Facebook, on all of the major podcast streaming platforms. Let us know what you think, share your thoughts. Subscribe, download, I don’t know. Do anything that you like to do with a podcast these days. Talk to you all very soon. I’m sure. Bye-bye.

Concepts and Takeaways:

  • Candid’s focus on data and research allows foundations and nonprofits to use that information to strengthen their organization. (2:47)
  • COVID Relief funding saw a dramatic increase of nearly $6.6 billion from April to May. Initially, the rush of funding was corporate, but has since evolved to include more independent and family foundations. (5:02)
  • Of the private support going to nonprofits, only 18% comes from foundations, compared to nearly 70% coming from individual donors. (5:54)
  • Organizations gain stability in funding from the law requiring foundations to donate a minimum of 5% of their assets yearly. (7:00)
  • Asset averaging is common for foundations because during ideal times, it allows the foundation to give less than their assumed amount, however, during unfortunate times, leads the foundation to give a bit more. (7:34)
  • Right now, many funding initiatives are focusing on basic needs. But many established pre-pandemic funders remain consistent with their areas of focus. (9:03)
  • The most effective technique for nonprofits to seek funding right now is to focus on the urgency of their work, not the struggle of the pandemic. (10:30)
  • For nonprofits making pandemic-related pivots, it’s essential to stay true to their missions and communicate significant changes to their funders. (11:54)
  • It is crucial to talk openly and honestly with your funders. Don’t surprise them – instead, keep them involved as changes are happening so they can choose whether they would like to opt in or out. (13:56)
  • Be proactive rather than reactive – plan ahead of time what your organization may look like in the future. (16:24)
  • Funding is, and always has been difficult. It’s not easy to get a grant, and it never will be. As it should, because grants are only given to organizations who merit grant funding. (17:04)
  • When compared to last year’s numbers, giving from donor advised funds, grant making increased by an impressive 58%. (18:10)
  • There is one major thing that nonprofits need to do in order to become more sustainable over time and that is re-examining funding streams and ensuring they are diversified. (18:46)
  • It is essential to have multiple sources of revenue as a nonprofit. If one source becomes unavailable, whether it is temporary or long-term, you can comfortably supplement your additional sources in different ways. (19:46)
    • Even in ideal circumstances, nonprofits have very slim margins and do not have large amounts in savings for unfortunate circumstances. It is during these circumstances, such as losing a critical funding stream, that disaster can strike.
  • In current times, it is more crucial than ever to collaborate in order to remain sustainable. (21:46)
  • Many people who once set up a family foundation are now, instead, using their money for a donor advised fund due to its ease of operation when compared to operating a foundation. (24:17)

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About this week’s guest

Tracy Kaufman

Tracy Kaufman

Programs Manager

Tracy Kaufman is the Programs Manager at Candid. Tracy is responsible for building out Candid’s public and education programming, including stakeholder and networking events for New York City’s social sector at both professional and community-based levels. She is a Lead Instructor for Candid’s three-day Proposal Writing Boot Camp and teaches a popular workshop on Outcomes and Measurement. As one of Candid’s training experts, webinar instructors, and a frequent public speaker, she has spoken at conferences, most notably the United Nations, and has represented Candid on numerous panel discussions. Previously, Tracy held positions with the Association of American Publishers and New York Public Library. Tracy earned her Bachelors of Arts from John Hopkins University.

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