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Nonprofit Radio for March 6, 2023: Meet The FreeWill Founders


Jenny Xia Spradling & Patrick Schmitt: Meet The FreeWill Founders

Jenny Xia Spradling and Patrick Schmitt are the co-founders and co-CEOs of FreeWill. Let’s talk about FreeWill’s founding beliefs; the value and simplicity of wills as planned gifts; the enormous wealth transfer underway; pay equity; women and moms in tech; my personal experiment; and more.


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[00:01:29.00] spk_0:
And welcome to tony-martignetti non profit radio big non profit ideas for the other 95%. I’m your Aptly named host of your favorite abdominal podcast. And oh, I’m glad you’re with me. I’d suffer the effects of Corio retinitis if I saw that you missed this week’s show, Meet the Free Will founders, Jenny Shaw Spradling and Patrick Schmidt are the co founders and co CEO of Free Will. Let’s talk about free wills, founding beliefs, the value and simplicity of wills as planned gifts, the enormous wealth transfer underway. Hey, equity women and moms in tech, my personal experiment and more On Tony’s take two planned giving accelerator. And thank you. It’s my pleasure to welcome Jenny and Patrick to non profit radio Before co founding Free Will, Jenny Shaw Spradling, worked at mckinsey and Bain Capital where she helped launch the firm’s first impact investment fund. She was also a co founder of Parabolas later acquired by capital one before joining Jenny to co found Free Will Patrick Schmidt founded to nonprofits and served as head of innovation at change dot org where he helped the organization to grow to 100 million users in four years. Free Will is at free will dot com. Jenny Patrick, welcome to non profit radio

[00:01:51.67] spk_1:
Thanks for having us

[00:01:57.58] spk_0:
here. Pleasure, pleasure to have both of you. Let’s talk about the founding of Free Will at, at Stanford. You were both graduate students in business, Jenny. Can you share that story?

[00:03:17.03] spk_1:
Yeah. Uh Patrick and I both went to business school thinking we would do something and social entrepreneurship, both very passionate philanthropy. Hey, this might take six months to find someone who I’m interested in working with. And right off the bat week two, we were very fortunate to meet each other at a social innovation meet up that Patrick had planned and we after the meet up had gone on a walk and I remember beautiful Stanford campus, sunny day, Patrick and I are meeting for the first time and about 10 to 15 minutes in. We’re clicking like we walked quickly, we talk quickly. We had both, you know, done our professional careers on the east coast and very excitable energetic people. And so the vibes are just there and Patrick turns to me and goes, you know, I’ve been thinking about this idea and he basically pushes me free will uh and having previously done impact investing and heard a lot of social entrepreneurs with great ideas. I knew that this was something special. Um I loved that it related to the great Well transfer, which is this demographic transition that is going to happen no matter what. And we both had this passion to help nonprofits take advantage to the best degree that they could.

[00:03:32.97] spk_0:
Patrick you feel like you’re adding any uh any color to, to the color commentary to the explanation.

[00:04:25.87] spk_2:
Sure. I mean, two different things. One is the original idea came because I had spent a lot of time in nonprofit fundraising, like many of you all and actually helped run email fundraising for President Obama after he was first elected. And in that world, we just ran constant experiments to make it a little bit easier for you to give 10 or $15 or $25. And there was so much blood sweat and tears that went into that effort. And years later, I was actually doing my own estate planning and found the whole process of trying to leave some money to charity to be surprisingly difficult. And it set off this light bulb and alarm bells that why have we spent so much time trying to make it easy for people to give $20? But it’s hard to give 20,000 or 200,000 because Tony as you know, planned gifts are enormous. And so I was excited about this idea, was a little bit nervous about my own ability to start a startup. And met Jenny quickly realized that she was the smartest person I’ve ever encountered and said, please come do this with me. I think I’m much more confident in us. Doing it together than I am about doing it alone. And so that’s a bit more of the story,

[00:04:44.61] spk_0:
Patrick, could you flush out the, the intergenerational wealth transfer that, that we’re in the midst of?

[00:05:40.85] spk_2:
Yes. So it is so large that most people have difficult, a difficult time getting their minds around it. Over the next 20-30 years, there will be about $70 trillion dollars passed on by some estimates as baby boomers age. Now people forget that baby boomers are the wealthiest generation in the history of America. They’re one of the largest generations. They’re much more educated than their predecessors. They lived through enormous growth in housing wealth, in investment, wealth and productivity. Many more women in that generation where the workforce had a lot of two-income households as opposed to previous generations. And so plan giving over the next 10 years, 15 years is going to dwarf plan giving in the entirety of charitable history. Before this people, people think oh a 10% increase in 20% increase. No, it could double or even triple over the next 10 years or so. I mean, we are sitting on potentially the most important moment for philanthropy in the history of American philanthropy potentially in the history of the world

[00:06:21.46] spk_0:
70 trillion U two U two co authored in 2017, sort of what I wish I had written for the Stanford Social Innovation Review. It read like a manifesto that I would like to have written but you beat me to it. You in 2017 in Stanford Social Innovation Review. I think that quotes 30 trillion And and 30 trillion, like 30 to 40 trillion is kind of a number I’ve heard for many years. But you’re saying now the estimate is 70 like double, more than double.

[00:06:31.10] spk_1:
Yes, there have been updated studies that have come out over the past couple of years. Actually, the number we thought that was 30 trillion is 70 trillion. At least

[00:08:41.83] spk_0:
Jenny. My synesthesia just kicked in. I got, I literally, I got chills. I literally just got chills on my arms and legs. As you were saying this, it’s so this is quantitatively demonstrated 70 trillion. Now we’re estimating, correct. All right. And over 2020 to 30 years. Is that, is that about right? Because Okay, because I’m the youngest, I’m six at 61. I’m among the youngest boomers and you know, in planned giving fundraising, I work with a woman who’s 99 and has an organization in her will. Um so she’s, she’s among the among the oldest. Okay. Um Okay, I didn’t know about 70 trillion. Um jenny, let’s stick with this. So wills wills as a method of Gaining, not gaining what nonprofits can certainly use. And I don’t know, maybe it’s not say, maybe it’s too strong to say entitled to that. That’s an overstatement but certainly need desperately when we look at the missions, the goals, the things that we’re trying to achieve in the social impact sector. Um I’ve been doing planned giving fundraising for 26 years and over the past probably five or six years, I just just became so clear to me that wills are just are the place to, to launch planned giving their, their value, their simplicity, the simplicity for donors, the simplicity for the nonprofits that don’t have to educate their teams about complicated gifts. Uh That was a long lead into a question. But all to say like I’m so simpatico, that’s why you wrote my manifesto. I should be grateful, wrote the manifesto for me that I would like to have written Jenny talk about free will and the simplicity value of wills, how nonprofits can gain their rightful share, put it that way of this wealth transfer.

[00:11:47.66] spk_1:
So we learned a lot during that first year of starting the company and we did almost 200, interviews with various people who had written, wills not written wills added a request to a charity, not even realized it was an option. And there are a couple of things that we took away from that research. The first thing is the main thing stopping folks from making estate plans here in the US is the same three words. We think it’s scary. We think it’s complicated. Um We think it’s expensive. This is not for me, this is not the right time. I know that I should do it And it’s been on my to do list for 10 years, but it’s just too scary, complicated and expensive for me to do this year. So I’m gonna hang out with my kids over this weekend rather than think about writing a will and maybe next year. And so the thing that we heard was, it’s not that people don’t want to make an estate plan, they actually realize they should. And it’s not that they don’t want to leave money to charity is that it’s just too hard for them to do right now. So that was the first thing. The second thing we learned is that the vast majority of folks who are going to make an estate plan, say they actually got there mentally like it’s time for me now. Um if they went to go see an attorney or even if they went to an online site, like Legalzoom charitable giving is not prompted in those conversations. And so again, it wasn’t that folks didn’t have intent. It was that there was no one telling them this was an option. And this is the first time they’re doing estate planning. Of course, they’re not going to remember the flyer that they, that they received five years ago from a charity that they love realizing that this is an option for them. So we put those kind of insights together and we created free will. So instead of scary, complicated and expensive, it is free, it’s warm, it’s intuitive, you can do it in 30 minutes from the comfort of your own home with your loved ones, you can start and stop when you need to. And all of those things We discovered through doing this research really gets people to actually do those estate plans. So at this point now where the world’s biggest estate planning platform, over 700,000 families have done their estate planning on free will. And we love that we can provide this access to this really, really important thing for them and their family, not to mention the causes they care about. So that was part one and part two is we just made charitable giving default. It is part of everyone’s blow and process when they think about estate planning and if they don’t want to do it where they can’t do it for whatever reason, totally fine many folks don’t, but the giving rate on our site is six times the national average giving rate To charities through wills and the insight to just put it there, make it easy. Is not that revolutionary, but it turns out that that has generated over $7 billion dollars in the quest over just the past five or six years.

[00:14:53.91] spk_0:
Raise the raise, the option, give the option. It’s, it’s simple. There’s enormous value. Yeah, I’ve been saying this for, for a long, long time. Uh simple for donors, you know, you don’t have to teach donors about the value of a charitable remainder unit trust with net income makeup provision. And you don’t have to teach your team about charitable remainder trust with net income makeup provisions so that they feel comfortable having a discussion because everybody knows what a will is and everybody knows they need one and everybody knows how they work. And so it’s simple for donors. It’s simple for your teams. Um Can I share my, I got the two Co C E O s I woke up early this morning. I did my will on, I did my will on free will. Here’s my, here’s my page, here’s my, my first page show you. I’m bona fide. Alright. I did it, I did this morning now it took me longer because because I I was taking notes because I’m gonna have a conversation with the two co CEO and co founder. So it took me about 45 minutes, but I was taking notes and I read a lot of the, I read almost all the little info boxes, you know, so I’d say it took me, it took me longer than, than the average, but I love the uh you know, like a simple explanation like Children, should I include my adopted fostered Children or not? You know, it’s like you said, Jenny, it’s intuitive, it’s simple. Um I loved, this is a quote. The final value of your assets is determined when your will comes into effect. I thought that’s much nicer than saying when you die, I, I tend to use just when you die, you know, at your death, but when your will comes into effect, um good explanations for like for what should I have a no contest clause? Should I have a self proving affidavit? You know, valuable explanations, multiple paragraphs to read and explain. This is why you might not. This is why you would, this is what it’ll mean if you like, if you do the self proving affidavit or if you have a, if you have a third witness, the cost is gonna be now you got to get a bunch of people together with a notary and so very, you know, just very intuitive um for the nonprofits, another quote, will you consider leaving a gift in support of a cause that’s important to you? It’s optional, of course. And then you and then free will offers, you know, this is for listeners as well. I know you and Patrick Jenny are acquainted with the free Will site. You’ve probably been around free will dot com a few times. But for listeners so that, so they give the option and then there are a bunch of categories and the first one is local and then goes into like health, humanitarian, military and veterans, environment, culture, etcetera. So that’s where you, that’s where you’re gonna, your, your, your folks are getting the option. And, um, Jenny, you said six times, six times more likely that someone who doesn’t will at free will will include a charity than then then a non free will will

[00:15:20.18] spk_1:
correct six times as much giving. So both people do it more and they give more when you make it really, really easy for

[00:15:50.48] spk_0:
them and you and you present the option just opening, opening the door of the conversation. Alright. That was my lengthy, you know, but I wanted to, I wanted to share my experience with free will. Um Let’s turn to you, Patrick explain how this can be done free. What what the nonprofit role is in making this free for, for uh for everybody short,

[00:17:57.11] spk_2:
tony So about 1100 nonprofits use free will to help with their plan giving. And as you mentioned, it really simplifies the process, not just for the donor but for the non profit as well. So you have all of these organizations who may be getting into plan giving for the first time and having pretty wild success pretty quickly. So for instance, you know, the Boys and Girls Club of Newark got started a little while ago. In the first eight months, they saw a million dollars in new request commitments and how do they do that? Well, they get custom versions of the free will tool that when you get to the charitable giving segment says, hey, do you want to give to our organization? Oh, by the way you can enter in your church, your synagogue. You’re on the modern local nature Conservancy. What have you. But, but it’s really front and center. So Jenny talks about how it’s six times more likely that you’ll give to any charity, but to give to your charity, which is what you, the organization really care about. It’s even more likely. And so you see, you know, relatively, uh, smaller organizations who may not have existing plan giving programs in the first six months suddenly go from 0 to 60. Um We’ve seen relatively small organizations do millions, tens of millions of dollars in request commitments. And this is pretty revolutionary because historically, plan giving has been complicated for everybody. And so if you don’t feel like you’ve got a three person team of experts ready to go, then you’re, you’re not really gonna dip your toes in the water. But as we talked about this great wealth transfer, it’s really important, not just because it’s all this upside, but the baby boomers are also, you know, the biggest donors at the moment. And so as some of them pass away, The organizations that are not doing plan giving are gonna start to slide backwards because many of their biggest donors are either retiring right or passing away, but even retiring and not having as much income. It’s a really big thing, Gen X is not going to replace baby boomer donors because there’s like 10 million fewer of them. It’s not that they’re not philanthropic, it’s not that they’re not well to do. There’s just fewer people. And so, um, this is really a huge step for folks and there is a,

[00:18:01.69] spk_0:
I’m sorry, I was, I was busy interrupting you, say your last

[00:18:12.79] spk_2:
sentence again. I was just gonna say that, you know, however, whatever route you choose to do it, you know, if you’re not on the plan giving bandwagon, you really need to be, if you’re interested in the future of your

[00:18:18.24] spk_0:
organization. Yeah, your competitors are And, and will be in increasing numbers when they hear about the $70 trillion dollar wealth transfer. Um So Patrick, there is a fee for non profits to, to participate. Right.

[00:18:29.22] spk_2:
That’s correct. But its range is based on size of organization. And so, um you know, it will be more for Princeton than it is for the local animal shelter. And that way we try to do our best to make it accessible to organizations with, with a meaningful donor base.

[00:19:26.35] spk_0:
Um I do want to point out something for, for, for listeners to that you, uh you do give the option to inform the charity that they, that you’ve made a commitment. If, if you’ve, if you’ve chosen again, the charitable option is the charitable gift is an option. If you’ve decided to do that, there is a spot where the, the, the app prompts, will you make the work of a nonprofit easier by letting them know who you are? And so there’s an encouragement to let the nonprofit know that this commitment exists. And of course, it’s, it’s yes or no. All right. Um, let’s go from Will’s, but Patrick, let’s stay with you. You have, you have some donor advised fund research. That’s, uh breaking. That’s right. Yes. This very, this very

[00:21:33.76] spk_2:
week. Yes, we are releasing a new 2023 donor advised fund report. And what we’re doing is we’re building on a lot of the great research done by the nonprofit philanthropic trust And a bunch of other folks to really look at two things. One, what does it look like from the nonprofit angle? And to let’s get the first data out there on what happened in 2022. And I’ll give you a couple of highlights that that really struck us. One is giving continues to go way up. So in large part, the story of the next five years in philanthropy is gonna be the story of donor advised funds. Daft gifts went up 31% in terms of number of gifts from people. We surveyed it went up 69% in terms of total money granted from people. We surveyed An average gift size went up by 37%. So huge growth across the board. But one thing that’s really important for listeners is that those who actively solicited donor advised fund gifts got 2.5 times more money than those that did. And so remember, donor advised funds are so new to us as a nonprofit fundraising industry, they’re also super new to donors. And so the way that we’re shaping donor behavior is happening right now. And so it’s really interesting to see how that that plays out. A couple other fun, interesting things, more than half of respondents thought soliciting donor advised funds is going to be much more important during an economic downturn or economic uncertainty because all that money is already set aside. And, you know, 53% said actually, 0% said it’s gonna be less important. A bunch of people said, I don’t really know. Um and then, you know, happy to share some more things. But one of the biggest challenges is that people really struggle to figure out. How do I get these in front of people, how do I make sure I’m asking for them? What’s my plan around it? Um and we’re working with a lot of organizations to solve those challenges now, but it’s really interesting to see you really experience fundraisers who have to relearn a ton of things because donor advised funds are so much more important than they were 56 years ago, certainly 10 years ago,

[00:22:38.11] spk_0:
there is frustration among, among nonprofits. Uh A lot of times I, I am on the front line of that frustration when they don’t know who the gift has come from. That’s a source of a lot of frustration. Of course, the donor advised fund administrator Schwab Fidelity, local community trust. A lot of, lot of, lot of community foundations have donor advised funds. Uh you know, they won’t share that if the donor doesn’t want that information shared. You know, that’s a source of frustration. I mean, look, the gift still comes. It’s just that the frustration is, you know, how do we thank the person, how do we recognize the person? Um And, you know, they get a lot of attention in Congress to, because there is a lot of money in donor advised funds that that isn’t getting to charities. The donors have enjoyed the charitable deduction, but the money isn’t getting to the social impact sector. So I understand there, you know, I know the frustrations but there’s still valuable gifts with notwithstanding, you know, those frustrations, the potential is enormous.

[00:23:47.56] spk_2:
It’s so important and, you know, There’s more than $230 billion dollars sitting in these funds and this is just an astounding amount. And what you said is right, there’s a really, there’s a big information problem. And oftentimes what happens is the donor doesn’t know that their information wasn’t shared. So Jenny might have just given the biggest gift of her life and then she hears crickets from your organization and she’s, you know, she’s very patient, but she’s frustrated and angry and maybe not giving that again. And it’s so important that we know who has a donor advised fund because that is someone who has proven that they have wealth and intent, that money is never coming back to them. And so hard times hit, you want to go to that person, right? Big capital campaign, you wanna go to that person really important, critical moment for your organization. You go to that person. A lot of people say when I find out someone is a donor advised fund, they get assigned a major gift officer that day. And so we need to do a better job of making sure we’re understanding who has won capturing that information. Um And every time we’re asking for any donation, making sure that daft giving is an option, not just because those gifts will be way bigger and they will be, but because it, it really uncovers a potential major donor in your

[00:24:52.49] spk_0:
midst just because you, you mentioned that the phrase, you know, major gift officer makes me want to chat a bit about breaking down silos between major giving, planned giving, annual giving, sustainer giving online events. You know, the we all need to be collaborating because all these Small donors and you in in the manifesto that you wrote that I wish I had written, but you wrote it before me, you say small dollar donors that it never occurred to me. I always say, I always say small donors, then I say, but I’m not commenting on their character, they’re not small people, they just make small, small gifts. But you used the phrase small dollar donors. Very smart. I just don’t know, never occurred to me over 26 years. Um, so the just, you know, the breaking down of the, the institutionalized barriers around, around giving officers, around giving relationships, you know, it’s a, it’s a spectrum that shouldn’t be segmented.

[00:26:18.91] spk_1:
Absolutely. Um, one of the most interesting things that we found with working with free will over the past five or six years is, um, the number of Planned Giving bequests that end up uncovering that someone is not only a very loyal high affinity donor, but actu actually has way more higher capacity to give than the nonprofit knew before. And traditionally, what we’ve seen in nonprofit fundraising models are if a donor has proven themselves to be a major donor to be giving a lot of money, well, then that lead is passed over to Planned Giving. And so plan giving might as that person for to your point, tony earlier, a really complicated Klatt or CRT or pulled income fund and it turns out the opposite can happen too. So planned gifts are perhaps an indicator that someone was in a period of life where they were only able to make these small dollar donations, but that doesn’t hold true forever. Right? Focuses financial journeys, change in their ability to give change. And so we’ve loved to see nonprofits who have been on the edge of innovation in terms of not just moving the leads to plan giving but actually using planned giving as a way to uncover. Wow, these are donors who we should be really taken care of and stewarding and, and potentially asking more from in this next phase of life.

[00:27:07.23] spk_0:
You make the point, Jenny in that uh Stanford Social Innovation review article from 2017, that people who are these small dollar donors that could indicate that they’re just their lifetime savers. So, so their estates are are are going to be larger than they’re giving during lifetime would indicate just because of their propensity to, to be savers during life to be frugal in lifetime. And that’s, it’s very, very intuitive. That’s right.

[00:28:24.93] spk_2:
It’s easy to picture Tony I mean, you have someone who is 75 years old, lives in a home that has paid off in the suburbs of any one of our American major cities called Fairfax, Virginia, right? And maybe she, her Children are self sustaining right there, 30, 40, whatever. Um, she’s got a house, she has a bunch of savings, but she doesn’t know how long she’s gonna live. And so the idea that she’s gonna start throwing, you know, $10,000 checks annually and it doesn’t really make sense, but that whole state might be worth $2 million. And so giving a quarter of that half a million dollars to a cause that’s deeply important to her in her life is very possible and often likely. And yet she’s not gonna show up on the radar. And that’s why it’s really important for, for planting outreach to be much more broad based. And it’s been historically, literally, everyone needs a will, right? Everyone is mortal. Everyone has the capacity to do this. And for virtually everybody, those gifts are gonna be so much larger than anything they’ve ever given before. And so we’re really seeing this, what you’re talking about this breakdown in silos in a really positive way as people start using email, online outreach to talk about plan giving away that hadn’t happened previously. And those that are doing it are seeing just unbelievably stronger results than those who are only saying, well, we’re just gonna have coffee with our major donors and try to bring it up

[00:28:58.77] spk_0:
the percentage of us adults who have wills very low. I mean, I, I see, I see various numbers. I, I think you’re s I ar article I think said 30% of Americans I’ve seen it quoted lower than that. Is that, is it 30%? Is that, is that where you’re comfortable? Like saying 30% of U S adults have wills. Yes,

[00:29:01.03] spk_1:

[00:31:19.81] spk_0:
when it should be 100% right? So that there’s enormous potential, but all the reasons Jenny that you outlined those three words keeping people away from it. Um But still, you know, I mean, we got to keep the drum beating. I mean, it’s like, it’s like fundraising, it’s like planned, giving, fundraising, specifically planting seeds, constant, constant promotion of promoting the idea that it’s important to have your state planned. And when you do it, would you consider including us? I feel like I’m gushing over free will. But, you know, it’s, it’s very, we’re very simpatico. It’s time for Tony’s take two. Thank you. Over the past several weeks, I’ve done lots of promotion for the Planned Giving Accelerator and I’m grateful to you for accepting all those promotional messages in Tony’s take two. Thank you. We haven’t actually started. So I if I told you how it’s going, I’d be lying, but the class will have started by the time you’re listening and I think it is a lovely class and I think it’s going to go swimmingly, but I just want to say all that aside. Thank you very much for accepting all the Planned Giving accelerator promotions over the past several weeks. And that is all just my thanks. That is Tony’s take two. We’ve got boo koo, gotta love the boo koo. But loads more time for Meet The Free Will founders with Jenny Shaw Spradling and Patrick Schmidt. Alright. So Patrick, I’m gonna put you on like figurative mute for a few minutes because I want to talk to Jenny about pay equity for a couple of things starting with, let’s start with pay equity and no salary negotiations. You’ve got some, you’ve got some articles about this. You’ve got policies in free will talk about how those how one, the no salary negotiations supports equity. What’s behind that, those decisions that free will has made?

[00:33:29.33] spk_1:
Um Well, we’re very fortunate. I’m very fortunate in that. Um Equity has been a conversation that we’ve had with free will from day one. Patrick has always been so supportive of me and my career. And between the two of us, it turns out to very passionate feminists and in general folks who really care about D I from the beginning, you end up with some different policies, then many other startups and many other corporations. So one that you’re alluding to tony is from day one. We’ve done no salary negotiations where we tell candidates right up front. This is the pay range for the role and there’s no negotiation and we will give you a few different options, trading off salary and equity, for example, so that you might be able to fit this into what you need in this moment. Um Whether it’s taking that more long term risk and potentially return and reward or just that day to day cash. Um But we’re not going to negotiate it. And the reason why we did this is because there is plenty of research to show that one. negotiating your salary has nothing to do with your actual performance in your job. It is a totally separate skill set, but some people are great at and some people are not good at and it didn’t make sense to us to reward people with higher salary or better benefits because there are better negotiators, not better or worse at their job. And the second thing is that same research says it turns out pretty consistently women and other minorities are worse and negotiating for more at that very first day, you know, of work. Um then folks who are not in that position. And so we end up introducing on accident, not intentionally, no one’s doing this intentionally, this systemic bias into how we would do pay. So we decided from day zero, why negotiate at all? And let’s just be very transparent with our candidates. So they know whether or not this could be a good fit for their lives. Um So that’s one thing that we did early and it’s, and

[00:33:40.37] spk_0:
it’s, it’s not only skill in negotiation, but it’s even just willingness to negotiate. Absolutely, women, women and folks of color are less likely to even enter a negotiation, even raise the negotiation than, than, than white men.

[00:33:57.10] spk_1:
Absolutely. And what we’ve heard time and time again is I don’t want to start off on a foot where I’m not humble where I’m not proving myself first before I’m asking for more. And uh that’s a noble intent, but what it turns into is systemically lower pay. Um And so we wanted to figure out a way to change that system even just a little bit here, every

[00:34:37.24] spk_0:
will. And what about, uh you know, concerns, you know, that I’m fomo fear of missing out that somebody else is doing the same work and they’re getting more than me, you know, they’re not gonna hear those, they’re not gonna have those fears.

[00:35:00.74] spk_1:
Totally. It creates an environment that’s much more team oriented, you know, exactly what your peers being paid, who started the same day as you, because it’s the same as what you’re being paid. And so, um, not having to think about things like um critical feedback or 3 60 reviews from the perspective of, oh, how do I then and interpret um whether or not my pay was fair or equitable. Um They can just be open to getting that feedback, whether positive or negative and take that and actually grow in their development, which is what we want them focused on, right? We want them focused on their development, helping out their team, all those sorts of things. So this shouldn’t be, you know, the nagging thing in the back of their mind,

[00:35:24.96] spk_0:
you mentioned it’s a salary range. So, so then how do, how is a salary fit within a specific number fit within the range?

[00:36:18.76] spk_1:
So, um we give a few different options, meaning um let’s say that the salary was 70 K starters up to 80 K. So if you’re going to take the 70,000 salary, there’s a little bit less equity associated with or more equity associated with that. If you’re going to take the 80,000 option. There’s a little bit less equity associated with that. And what that helps with is we find that a lot of negotiations, actually, folks trying to tailor their needs to this existing structure of the company. And so we are trying to proactively offer options that allow them to say, you know, I’m at a time in my life where I have have kids. I am a solo parent. I need this cash today in order to take care of what I need to get done. Or there are other folks who are saying, well, you know, I have saved up a lot of money. This is the time when I want to take a big bet on the future of free will and myself and my contributions to building this social enterprise. So I’m going to take a little bit more equity.

[00:37:57.02] spk_0:
Let’s move to uh being a mom, an Asian woman, tech execs tech founder, multi multiple tech founder. Uh you know, you’ve, you’ve been writing about this. I, I, I read some pieces. Um one, the one that really struck me was when you talk about right time for a child. But maybe I shouldn’t, maybe I should, you know, maybe that’s not fair. Maybe I shouldn’t focus you on the right time for a child conversation. Not yet. Just give, give, give folks hope, you know, empowerment for, you know, women. I went to Carnegie Mellon University, a huge tech university. I was a I was a social scientist, not a tech tech student, but I used to see women, you know, like made fun of and I wasn’t even in a tech again. I wasn’t even a technical major, but there were so few women to begin with and hear stories about professors, discounting women’s contributions in class, you know, guiding them in, in development projects one way. But being more broad with men just, yeah, just encourage, encourage women in tech, please.

[00:38:02.80] spk_1:
I love this topic so we could not go wrong in the number of things we could talk about.

[00:38:09.43] spk_0:
I’m all over the crime, all over the board. But, but you know, but yeah, thank you. Thank you for

[00:38:54.12] spk_1:
saying that it’s exciting. Um I guess the first thing I’d say is just, you know, some context for um folks listening in. I am an Asian American woman, I’m child of immigrants. So my parents came over right after the Cultural Revolution. You know that story two bags like less than $100 trying to figure out how they were going to make a life here. Um And I am fortunate enough during the course of free will to um this is my second company now. Um I have had my first child who is adorable and wonderful but very stubborn two year old and I’m pregnant again. So I’m

[00:39:03.48] spk_0:

[00:39:04.78] spk_1:
Congratulations you. Um Wonderful.

[00:39:08.46] spk_0:
When, when, when you do

[00:42:04.81] spk_1:
in July. Yeah. Yeah. Very, very excited for that. And these are topics, as I said, I’m super passionate about. But I would say the first thing if you are a woman in tech founding, whatever in your career, surround yourself with people who are going to be supportive. The only reason why this is working for me being a mom and a founder, being a woman and a founder is because I found Patrick. And um there is a difference between someone who gives lip service to caring about equity and someone who actively thinks about it. And I remember the first time Patrick and I were talking about things like equity splits and titles and things like that. I actually had this moment where I was like, I think Patrick is more feminist than I am and it was like almost an identity um like problem. I was, I was nervous about it and I was like, wow, maybe I should be reading more books on this, you know, but of course, I had to reset myself and go, yeah, I have a lot of experience, you know, trying to navigate these things and learning these things. But I was just so excited to find a partner in Patrick. And this is also true of my life partner repeat, who’s my husband um that they really, really care about this topic. So that makes us all work. And on top of that, there are many things that have changed over the past couple of decades that enable my lifestyle, picking up kids making dinners, like coordinating logistical home management with this career. And that includes things like um my investors were very supportive when they found out that I was having a child that might not have been the case a decade or two ago. You know, the typical story there for a corporate woman in general, not to mention a founder is um you know, you have the baby two days later, you’re back and seat, you have to be, you know, and um you’re probably going to have an argument with your doctor because they want you in bed rest because you had a C section and you’re going back to work because you want to make sure you don’t lose your job. And um I don’t have fears around that. And I think we want to establish also at free will that folks don’t have to be afraid about stuff like that. We know practically that it takes a lot of work and throwing up and sleep in order to create a child and also post delivery to recover from that experience. Um And so, for example, having equal maternity and paternity leave here at free will is really, really important to us because we know that it’s not just about the physical burden of carrying a child, but on top of that, establishing that partnership from day one, that the fathers um and secondary, you know, caregivers at free will can be equal caretakers to those who are actually the birding parents. So um I would just say a lot of gratitude to the folks around us and things are changing for the better. So there is hope. I think um it’s at every level whether it’s the employees, folks, running companies and organizations and our investors are understanding practically what it takes to have mothers in the workforce. And it makes sense, they’re so talented. You don’t want to lose them, you don’t want to lose us. Um So yeah, that’s worked out quite well.

[00:42:33.80] spk_0:
What other support would you recommend? So, you know, you talk about having a uh an empathic co founder, uh partner, life, life partner. What other support do you suggest?

[00:44:08.20] spk_1:
Um free will is really fortunate to be a remote company. And um some of the practical policies that come with that really enable motherhood and working as well. So, um for example, um we have working hours that are across from the east coast to the west coast just smack dab in the middle of the day, right? It’s five or six hours in the middle of the day where we have meetings. What that means is you can have flexibility in your day if you need to drop your kids off at daycare and then cook them dinner. But then you want to log on later, you can do that. And it used to be the case with in person that, you know, folks didn’t have that flexibility, right? Everyone was in office in their seat eight hours, nine hours a day. And if you weren’t there for those hours or you left early or you came late, that would he looked down upon. And so I think being in a remote culture, one takes away a little bit of that facetime culture, that stigma but also to really clear boundaries around our meetings, makes that flexibility so that folks can build the life that they need as long as they get the work done, right. We’re still evaluating everyone’s performance the same on the same scale. Well, um but just giving them that little bit of added flexibility has been really helpful to folks and I’ll say for myself being able to move back to Seattle where I have my parents here and I can take care of them, but they can also be a meaningful part of my son’s life. That’s huge for me. Um That makes this experience so much more sustainable. So um all

[00:44:33.65] spk_0:
the free well offices in Brooklyn, New York, right? Or is it? No, it’s in Manhattan, sorry, offices in Manhattan in New York City, right? In Manhattan. Yeah.

[00:44:39.48] spk_1:
Right. But at this point, you know, we’re about 200 employees and only about 10 are still going into that office. So the vast majority of the center of work is completely distributed and

[00:44:54.22] spk_0:
remote. What about mentors, you know, seeking out professionals in the in your career? Was that, was that part of your experience? Too huge

[00:47:32.74] spk_1:
for me. Um I think there were two kind of big mental blockers for me um to be an entrepreneur. Um And in fact, for my first startup, which ended up being successful, it was a fintech startup that exited to capital one. I actually left early because of imposter syndrome. I just thought I couldn’t do it. And I, yeah, I thought I couldn’t do it. I thought that, you know, this would never work. My friends aren’t smart enough, you know. Um I have this image of what it meant to be a founder and an entrepreneur. And that image looked mainly like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, you know, it’s like white straight men who are having a certain background and experience in life. And um that wasn’t me. So um I think a big part of it was gaining the confidence that I could do this, that people like me could do this. And so one piece is just around um finding folks, I could look up to finding models and I didn’t have to know them personally, but reading their stories is really helpful. So, um for me, that meant going back to books, hearing stories from other folks. Um And the second thing was, as you mentioned, tony around finding specific mentors and supporters. And it turns out that um I do think it’s harder for women to find um mentors. I think like it or not. We as a human species, we like people who are like us and we spend time with people who are like us. You know, like finding um folks who are women founders who have the time to mentor is really hard. But um I’ve had tons of really amazing male mentors that have helped me in the founding journey. I specifically remember one who um about four years in this was after the first startup, which I left and I was um in private equity at the time, told me, like, look, Jenny, you’re never going to starve. I didn’t know if you knew this, you know, being a kid of immigrants, but you’re actually always going to be able to have a job that pays you enough money so that you can support your family. You know that right? And I actually just needed someone to tell me that because I didn’t in the back of my mind like that was the type of fear holding you back from founding. And so, um I would say, you know, look far and wide for the types of mentors. Um They don’t necessarily have to look like you, but they do have to share your values. Um And if you can find people who you think, you know what I would like to be like them one day. Um I like their life. Um Keep those people close,

[00:47:57.74] spk_0:
please do share your advice about the right time. To have a child. You have, you have an article on this, maybe it’s in Fast Company or Forbes. Um What’s your advice around there around that?

[00:49:04.01] spk_1:
Specifically, this was to founding moms. And also with the context of most people don’t have a choice in their timing, right? So it’s, when did I find a partner? What is my biological clock say? Um I’ve been trying for two years and I can’t have a baby. So first, I want to acknowledge that experience, which is most people don’t have the luxury of choice. But if you have some flexibility in that and you’re thinking about it, um The main advice that I would have to founder is, is there are phases in the founder of life. I think it’s really easy to think about entrepreneurship is it’s always a slog, you’re always sprinting, you never have time for anything. But I think that’s not quite true. I think they’re ebbs and flows and um pick a time when you have found product market fit when you have build some trust with your investors, when you have established a track record of um really solid financial numbers of beating your numbers. Um And many, many things will be easier at that point. Um And so I certainly applaud all the women that I know who are amazing who are doing right out of the box. I have a baby and a brand new startup. Um But if you can wait a couple of years, it’s really helpful

[00:50:38.43] spk_0:
and the reason I wanted you to share this with listeners because I think your advice could easily convey to a nonprofit C CEO or, or anyone, any woman in any of the C SUITE positions. Uh So, you know, like substitute founding partner or co founder or founder with nonprofit CEO. And I think your advice certainly conveys there. Um Thank you. Thanks for sharing, especially, you know, you’re explaining your, your own impostor syndrome fear. And thank you. Thanks for sharing all that Patrick. Uh I can, I can figuratively a mute. You, you’ve muted yourself, you didn’t have to do that, but it’s very gracious. Um You want to share your, your part of this, the, the explanation, the color commentary to, to your, your feeling around the gender and racial equity.

[00:52:34.09] spk_2:
Sure. You know, I think, um you know, when I, when I met Jenny, when I was sort of blown away by how smart she was too, it was very fortunate find that we’re good at very different things. Um And part of that, although not entirely is that we have very different backgrounds, right? We’re obviously we’re sort of culturally and gender difference. Um Different professional backgrounds, grew up on opposite coasts, etcetera. And one of the big benefits of having to navigate that early is that it creates a really welcoming space for everybody else. We’re used to people not thinking identically to us, right? We’re used to people having different skills, that’s different backgrounds, different interpretations of different values because of lived experience of parents, lived experience of grandparents, lived experience and how it all winds down. And so it’s really created a much more welcoming space, not just for people who look like me or look like Jenny, but of all ages of professional backgrounds and geographic locations, things like that. And so that’s been really, really valuable. I wanna come back to one other thing that, that Jenny mentioned on how do you create a sort of welcoming and supportive environment? And oftentimes, I think this is seen as at odds with being a high performance culture and we actually think it is one and the same and just to double down on something Jenny said, when you give people super clear goals and you’re super clear on what success looks like and what success doesn’t look like, then it allows them to succeed and map their day and their energy around that. And when you don’t have that, then suddenly it’s who’s the last leave the office or who shows up first or things like that, that are not really moving the needle for your organization. And so what we found is that um creating super clear goals has led people to have outstanding results and feel a lot more freedom and comfort. So um it’s, it’s an we’re an ambitious place, right? And we have work life balance, but also really want to do big things in the world. And it turns out you don’t actually have to trade those off in many ways. They’re complementary.

[00:53:07.83] spk_0:
That’s beautiful. You know, we opened with Jenny. We’re gonna close with Patrick. She’s Jenny Shaw Spradling, co founder, co CEO of free Will. He’s Patrick Schmidt. No, founder, co ceo of free will. It’s at free will dot com. I want to thank you both Jenny Patrick. Really? Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed it. I hope you did. Thank you very much. Thanks

[00:53:14.98] spk_2:
Tony. Thanks for having

[00:53:56.19] spk_0:
us next week. Well, I’m not quite certain what next week is gonna be, but I do know that Rio Wang and her money mindset are coming later this month. If you missed any part of this week’s show, I beseech you find it at tony-martignetti dot com. Our creative producer is Claire Meyerhoff shows. Social media is by Susan Chavez. Mark Silverman is our web guy and this music is by Scott Stein. Thank you for that affirmation. Scotty B with me next week for nonprofit radio big nonprofit ideas for the other 95 go out and be great.