Tag Archives: relational fundraising

Nonprofit Radio for May 13, 2024: Experiential Fundraising


Brittan StockertExperiential Fundraising

Let’s take lessons from the experience economy to create meaningful, memorable experiences for your donors. Brittan Stockert, from Donorbox, walks us through her thinking on events, membership programs, challenges, sponsorships, and more.


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Welcome to Tony Martignetti nonprofit Radio. Big nonprofit ideas for the other 95%. I’m your aptly named host and the pod father of your favorite Hebdomadal podcast. This is show number 690. That means we are 10 weeks to our 7/100 show and 14th anniversary as a podcast. Cool. Oh, I’m glad you’re with us. I’d be hit with whipple disease if you fed me the idea that you missed this week’s show. Here’s our associate producer, Kate with what’s coming? Hey, Tony, this week we have experiential fundraising. Let’s take lessons from the experienced economy to create meaningful memorable experiences for your donors. Britain Stockert from donor box, walks us through her thinking on events, membership programs, challenges, sponsorships and more on Tonys. Take two sad neediness were sponsored by virtuous, virtuous, gives you the nonprofit CRM fundraising volunteer and the marketing tools. You need to create more responsive donor experiences and grow, giving, virtuous.org and by donor box, outdated donation forms blocking your supporters, generosity, donor box, fast, flexible and friendly fundraising forms for your nonprofit donor. Box.org. Gosh, I love that alliteration. Here is experiential fundraising. I’m with Britain Stockert. Britain is the fundraiser strategist at Donor box. She has over 15 years experience in organizational development, fundraising and program development spanning nonprofits, social enterprises and NGO S. You’ll find Britain on linkedin and the company is at donor box.org Britain. Welcome to nonprofit radio. Hey, thanks so much, Tony. Very great to be here. Oh, my pleasure to have you. Experiential fundraising. Let’s jump in. What, what is this experiential fundraising thing? Yes, let’s do it. Right. Um I’m gonna throw out the bad news first. The doom and gloom. That’s how I roll. We’re, we’re no strangers to fundraisers, right? Um We know the data out there charitable giving, right? It’s hit a four decade low giving. Tuesday saw 10% drop. Donor trust is kind of on the decline. And, you know, in February, the chronicle of philanthropy talked about this crisis, right? A lot of nonprofit executives are jumping shift from the sector when demand is extremely high and they’re trying to find better work life balance, um, and consulting roles. So we have all of these kind of macro level crises, right? And in the midst of everything. Um, we also know, you know, we were hoping during the pandemic that we would take some of those tidbits of slowing down and baking bread and being more intentional and everything we’re doing. But we’re not seeing that at all. Right. And we’re seeing this in terms of fundraising, donors are being pulled from every which way from different nonprofits. And that’s kind of where we’re at. We’re, we’re witnessing a shift Tony um in terms of how we fundraise. And I know you’ve been in plan giving, Tony, we’ve relied so hard on all of these very usual fundraising tactics, right? You’re in giving campaign, all of these in person events. And we need to step back, we need to really be asking like, are these kind of one time fragmented tactics we’re using, are they really engaging our donors? Are we capturing their attention? And so that’s kind of where experiential fundraising comes into play. Many fundraisers know it as relation, relational fundraising, completely, not a new concept, right? We’ve been doing relationship building for decades, but in kind of this hustle of this fast paced paced moving society, we’ve completely lost sight of slowing down and really building forging those deeper connections with our donors. And so it’s all about kind of just re embracing this mindset of relationship building, engaging the five senses of our donors and setting aside aside these usual fundraising tactics that we do to be more intentional and, and how we build those relationships. So you’re looking for, you know, meaningful memorable experiences and not necessarily around events. Right. Right. It’s, it’s all of the things that, you know, we get so caught up in the scramble of sending out those mass email blasts, right? Or those generic appeals or the annual galas and live auctions. It’s really kind of shifting to those multiple touch points that happen all of the in between and these are in between things about um in getting past barriers and that, that might be, that might look very different to different nonprofits. It might be a community uh focused group, it might be a neighborhood block party. Um But it’s all of these multiple touch points that really kind of engage those five senses of our, of our supporters and really get them to buy into what we do. OK. So how do we create these uh memorable, you know, remarkable meaningful experiences? I know the uh on, on your blog, there are seven different categories or events, competitions, et cetera. Do you wanna talk through those? Well, let’s for the sake of time. Tony, let’s keep, let’s reduce it to three things, right? And again, these aren’t rocket science or whatever, but they’re built on three principles. One of those is a shared journey, right? So again, I’m talking about being intentional and thoughtful traditional fundraising. We send out a generic appeal letter. It’s not personalized. We’re just thankful, we got it out, right? We got it out on time. We did it, what a shared journey looks like is, you know, instead of an in person event or a gala, it might be an event um where we segment it, we, we look at our data and we look at our supporters within our specific neighborhood and we create a segment where they’re all providing feedback in terms of the programs that we do. Um It’s, it’s inclusive, it’s very community centric. So it really shifts from sending out mass emails that are not personalized to individual donors and moving to these creative really informal events that happen regularly where we’re creating space where our supporters are, our supporters, not just include donors, right? It’s very inclusive. It’s including our bene bene beneficiaries, it’s including our volunteers, but it’s creating a space where they’re able to provide some sort of buy in, in terms of just feedback, in terms of all the programs of what we’re doing, shared journey. That’s one principle. The second part of it is really getting creative with the types of events that we host, right? Um A lot of our annual fundraiser events, think about the barriers that we create from the get go, right? Um Our venues may not be accessible to all the the pricing, the the different tiers of registration to sign up to these galas and auctions are probably out of touch for a lot of people. I live in the Pacific Northwest. People don’t really like to, you know, we’re not really big on the black t uh black tie attire. So really shifting from those um types of events that create barrier barriers upfront to a digital event and that what that might look like. I can give you one example, one of our customers um called Cornwall Man down in the UK. Instead of devoting so much money and overhead into a gla an auction, they, they really tapped into donor boxes, peer to peer feature. And they created kind of a competition where they let go of the guard rails of their marketing of their brand. And they let people set up these fundraising pages and kind of fundraise in meaningful ways that really connected with them. So they created, they created a competition exactly, basically just a virtual competition. Um They include the challenges um prizes and, you know, a very small pool of about 216 fundraisers raised over 100 and 50,000 all through this kind of Gamification feature um per se. Now, this is going to vary, you know, by organizational culture too. I mean, I, I’m the first person who to say that events are often overly relied on, right. On the other hand, there are organizations where the, the the people expect the annual, you know, whatever golf outing gala, you know. Uh and I, I under I again, I, I, you know, I appreciate that events are burdensome in terms of time. And I think a lot of AAA lot of that money could or all of it could be captured in through individual fundraising if we were having, you know, like meaningful conversations with donors and, and elevating their giving sort of an investment level conversations. Um But, you know, but by, but by the same token, you know, we can’t just eliminate all the, eliminate all the events because there are people who count on those events in no way. Right? And I, I hear you, Tony and no way am I saying to do away with these in person events? We really do rely on them, right? We, we all know, so there’s nothing like that in person, the face to face um touch, I think in terms of the the format of these events, what I’m saying is let’s get creative and how we engage the senses of our, of our donors. Um Again, thinking about breaking free of those barriers and that might, that might have to do with rethinking the type of venue, rethinking the type of attire um the pricing that’s offered you, you probably know this as well as I incorporating technologies. We saw this with charity Water, right? Not every nonprofit is going to have a massive Hollywood budget. But yeah, yeah, they’re, they’re an outlier. They, they’re enormous, right? But we do have a customer um refugee hope partners in terms of kind of reimagining an in person event. They, they kind of did away with the Gallant live auction. They hosted a three hour community neighborhood event. Um it was family friendly um right after work hours and how they kind of really brought to life, the mission of, of who they serve, which are refugee and immigrant families. They tapped into local chefs who kind of they, each, all of these chefs represented different communities that the nonprofit served and through the ingredients in the, in the in the meals that were served, they kind of used those ingredients to kind of tell the story of the mission. And so I guess that’s what I’m just trying to say is yes, we still need to do these in person events, right? Um But oftentimes we know this with galas and auctions automatically from the get go. There are those barriers before you register and then even thinking about it, Tony, when you show up to these galas, you know, you have one or two people on stage right behind the podium, the proximity, thinking about the proximity. And so just thinking about ways that we can really create these immersive experiences and tapping in a technology to kind of get created creative in how we connect with our supporters. So sort of more experiential maybe and less passive for the for the folks who come, who come to an event, precisely less, less passive observer spectator, more thinking about ways where the supporter is not just hearing about your mission, right? They’re really living and feel it and feeling it and these could be large or small events too. I mean, you, you we might be able to do something with just 25 or 30 people, you know, and not again, not to replace AAA larger event but makes it easier to experience. Maybe you know what’s going on in your office, if you have something that you can show something that people can touch, uh, in a, in a smaller, in a smaller group. Well, and it’s, it’s also thinking beyond the annual fundraiser. Right. I mean, let’s be real with the, with the annual fundraiser, with even a year end direct mail campaign. Think about it. Um, they’re very surface level, right? Do they? What’s the follow up that happens after often times from my personal opinion, it’s, it’s very limited. And so thinking through these other experiences that are baked into your fundraising strategy, again, that might be a um community led focus group where you’re inviting your donors and the people you serve to kind of, they may be, they may be compensated. They’re giving really great feedback on the design of your programs. It might be behind the scenes tours of, let’s say you have a food bank. Um But it’s all those things that need to happen in the in between from the year end appeal that you send out to that annual fundraiser. And that’s what I’m trying to say is we really need to be, we need to slow down. And if you think about it with your, with our loved ones, right, with our family and our friends, it’s not a one and done type of thing. Obviously, it needs to happen regularly and it needs to be really organic and oftentimes really informal, it’s time for a break. Virtuous is a software company committed to helping nonprofits grow generosity, virtuous beliefs that generosity has the power to create profound change in the world and in the heart of the giver, it’s their mission to move the needle on global generosity by helping nonprofits better connect with and inspire their givers. Responsive. Fundraising puts the donor at the center of fundraising and grows giving through personalized donor journeys that responds to the needs of each individual virtue is the only responsive nonprofit CRM designed to help you build deeper relationships with every donor at scale. Virtuous, gives you the nonprofit CRM fundraising, volunteer marketing and automation tools. You need to create responsive experiences that build trust and grow impact virtuous.org. Now back to experiential fundraising with Britain Stockert, you have advice to around membership programs, how they can be more engaging. Why don’t you explain some of your thinking there? Yeah, membership programs are, you know, we have a customer in San Francisco and they have a museum um focused on media censorship and they have a beautiful high quality print publication. And so they basically set up just a membership program with different uh membership tier levels. Basically, if donors wanna sign up, uh depending on a certain price point, it can be $50 donation to 200 per month, depending on that membership tier. They, they get to feel like they, they’re exclusive members. They, they have access to very exclusive types of perks and benefits. Um That is a great way to generate sustainable income. Um I would say it’s very similar to monthly giving only, only that it is a membership program is really set up for nonprofits that, that have the capacity to deliver very specific and exclusive benefits to this group of people. Like you really need whatever you’re promising, right? You need to make sure you have the capacity to deliver. But I would say it is a very popular tool with a lot of our customers um as a way to create that sustainable income membership, membership. So it, it’s sort of, you know, it sounds like um you know, a lot of personalization, uh connection, connection to the mission, connection to your values, maybe even uh you know, thinking through something that’s again, memorable, experiential, you know, personalized. Um Let’s take a little digression. You know, you, you uh you have some thinking about what, what we’re all experiencing outside nonprofits. Now, the the experience economy, which is where your, your thinking kind of comes from. Let’s take a little digression before we talk about more, more strategies for doing this in our nonprofit. What, what uh we, we’re all experiencing it, the experience economy help us recognize what we’re, what we’re living through. Yeah, I mean, I can speak to you as a full time mother. I, I was hoping from the pandemic that we would slow down a little bit slow down in terms of in all of our interactions that we have, whether it’s at work or personal. We’re very thoughtful. We’re, we’re just intentional on whatever we do. We’re not seeing that it personally. And I hear this from a lot of nonprofits that I coach, they’re being pulled every which way and, and you know, I mentioned those kind of macro level challenges that our sector faces. But thinking about it from a donor perspective, we know demand for social services is at its highest, right? We also know that nonprofit executives that are needed in our sector are jumping ship to more consulting work. Donors at the same time are their attention, right? We have, we have shorter attention spans. Donors are being pulled every which way by I wouldn’t call them competing but many nonprofits that are really in need of their attention. And so in my, in how I’m feeling the world is not slowing down, it’s it’s a very fast paced world and we really need to be strategic and how we capture donors attention, how we’re more discerning as nonprofits in our interactions and thinking about how we’re engaging all of their senses because like I said, our attention, I think I heard it one time, Tony, we have the attention of a of a goldfish which is like 30 seconds. So. Right. Yeah, but uh but I’m trying to go bigger picture the the experience economy. What is that? What is the experience economy that we’re all experiencing. We, you know, personally the experience economy, we’re, we’re feeling fatigued, we’re numb. We also live in a world of filters and a lot of noise. And so I, I think about it watching a Netflix movie if I don’t have my glasses and I’m, and I’m watching the movie. It’s very monochromatic, it’s very flat. I need to be fully engaged. I need to have surround sound. I need to have all of these other elements that are tapping into my five senses to wake up and to pay attention. And so I think when we’re talking about experience, economy, we need to be smarter in how we’re engaging with people because people are fatigued, we’re tired, we’re very distracted and we have more external forces really vying for our attention. OK, cool. Thank you. Um Sponsorships, you have some thinking around sponsorships, how these can be engaging, share, share some of your, your thoughts there, corporate sponsorships, you know, I live in Seattle. We are home to big tech and engineering and you know, if you are a start up or emerging nonprofit, really taking a look at uh where you’re located. Most local businesses, most larger companies have great corporate social responsibility programs, um particularly new companies that have just launched a CS R program. They’re looking for nonprofits to partner with um to really support and to really kind of position themselves from other companies in their communities. You know, here in Seattle Microsoft has a month in October of giving and many nonprofits host on site volunteer events. And we partner with a lot of Microsoft teams. And for every hour Microsoft um donates not just $25 per their employee, but for every hour that their employee volunteers. And so a great way to build those event sponsorships is starting looking at your local community and looking at the companies that are there, getting out there, speaking to their teams and doing some sort of on site project to kind of loop them into your pipeline. Ok. Well, we, most of us don’t have the value of the benefit of a Microsoft, you know, in our, in our, in our neighborhood. So, you know, smaller, smaller local companies, uh businesses, right? Might be a dry cleaner. Yeah, it, it doesn’t have to be a Microsoft or Boeing or Expedia. I mean, look at local realtor offices or, you know, it’s a small to medium size businesses that they’re right situated right in the community. They’re feeling the need, they’re seeing a lot of the same social issues that your nonprofit is tackling. They wanna give back and that would be a great place where to start. They’re also uh a lot of companies are interested in engaging their employees in sponsorship that not just that it’s, you know, a $500 donation of services for a silent auction or, or a cash donation or something, but, but engaging the employees because e especially younger folks, uh millennials, gen uh maybe, you know, Gen X. Yeah, you know, they’re looking for experiences uh beyond there, we’re talking about experiential fundraising. So there may be value in engaging employees of the business in uh in, in your work. Yeah, Tony, I mean, you call it out, especially with Gen X and millennials. We’re looking for workspaces that really align with our values. Um And I’ve read quite a bit of research on this more so than competitive pay and benefits. And so yes, this is a great recruitment retention tool if you’re a company, no matter your size to offer a few days of volunteering. And uh you know, your employees really wanna be a part of, of that as well. But from the nonprofit perspective, you know, pitching that to a to a local company that, you know, that we have experiences or, you know, or, or would that or questioning whether that would be valuable for your company, that’s something your employees would be interested in. And if they have younger employees, millennial, Gen X um that, that may very well be giving back to the local, to the lo to one of the local nonprofits. I mean, and it goes hand in hand, you know, we’re living, many of our communities are facing issues with affordable housing and inflation and the cost of living and small to medium size businesses. They would love to provide even more competitive pay, but they may not be able to. So, again, this is a great kind of add on to the company brand, the values in terms of, hey, we, we, we, we not just have a corporate social responsibility program, but we allow you as an employee to take some time off whether that’s one day, five days a year, that’s, that’s a really great selling point to recruit top talent to your team and then also retain them because it, again, it’s really about we’re talking about experience, but a lot of this has to do with that humanistic component that a lot of gen X millennials are looking for uh in their workplace. And it’s important when nonprofits are approaching companies of any size. And, you know, I’m, I’m thinking more of local small businesses um that they recognize that they have value to offer the company, the business, you know, you’re not going hat in hand humble, you know, would you would you give but that you have value to add to the, to their employment relationship. Like, you know, you and I are talking about the potential of volunteering. Um You know, I don’t, I don’t, I mean, that could take different forms, you know, like you said, it could be a day a month or it could be several hours a month. But you want to recognize that you bring value to the sponsorship relationship. You’re not just humbly asking. Yeah. And I mean, to to your point, I can give an example. I was a start right in the heart of downtown Seattle, we have the third largest homeless population. And you know, here I am needing tech services. I needed a tech team to implement AC RM and to customize it. And there’s a tech company called Slalom. They’re big, they’re huge. And you know, I, where I found value and confidence in approaching them was Slalom is located in the heart of downtown Seattle. The need that we’re addressing, right? And so I think when it comes to, if you are a small nonprofit, find where the alignment lies. It doesn’t matter if it’s a large company. If that company has any type of close proximity to the issue that you’re addressing, then more times than not, they will be bought into what you do. And you know, that was just an example, a big tech company, small tiny nonprofit start up. But because we had this shared visibility of family homelessness, right? And where we were located, it was an automatic alignment. And slalom was like, heck yeah, we’ll provide you with those consulting services for six years. So have confidence if you are AAA smaller nonprofit find where that alignment exists. It’s time for a break. Donor box open up new cashless in-person donation opportunities with donor box live kiosk. The smart way to accept cashless donations anywhere, anytime picture this a cash free on site giving solution that effortlessly collects donations from credit cards, debit cards and digital wallets. No team member required. Thus, your donation data is automatically synced with your donor box account. No manual data entry or errors. Make giving a brief and focus on what matters your cause. Try donor box live kiosk and revolutionize the way you collect donations. Visit donor box.org to learn more. It’s time for Tony’s take two. Thank you, Kate. I had something happen in the gym just today. Uh The, the guy I know um his name is Tim and that, that helps me. It helps me remember his name to say Tim in the gym. Tim Tim from the gym. Um And I don’t talk to him that much. I’m not a chatty gym goer, you know, I don’t need 57 minute breaks between each different um different machine that I’m doing or different exercise, you know, with the floor or whatever, you know. So we just, it’s brief, you know, hey, how are you? You know, that’s it. Uh But today I was already exercising when, when he came in and I heard him talk to someone uh who he apparently didn’t know and he said, hey, you know, how are you? And uh the person didn’t hear because there was no response. So he says again, hey, how are you today? And then this woman replies, oh, I’m doing great, you know, hi, how are you? And then he says, Tim says, oh, I’m, I’m great too. Especially because it’s my 67th birthday and I’m, I’m on the elliptical. I’m thinking, oh, my eyes are rolling. I’m thinking, oh, Tim, you know, you had to, you had to get the woman’s attention twice just so that you could share that. It’s your 67th birthday. I’m, you know, thinking why so needy, why? You know that? And it’s not that big a gym, it’s a town fitness center. So, you know, we all know now that it’s Tim’s birthday today. Uh, and I’m thinking, you know, Tim, you know, I, I, it was sad. Um, I would wish for him that he would have friends and family that would know it’s his birthday so they could call him and text him. You know, and, and that he doesn’t have to go to strangers. This was a woman. It was clear. He, he, he had never met her, he didn’t know her. He has to go to strangers twice. And so, so he can make the point that it’s his birthday. So, um, makes me think of, you know, our social networks too. You know, if you haven’t, if you haven’t shared something, uh, you haven’t done it right? You didn’t, if it’s not on Facebook that you, you made this great dinner, then it never happened. Like if he doesn’t tell everybody it’s his birthday, then maybe he feels it’s not a stranger, you know, strangers. So, you know, have friends have, have friends who know you well enough that they’ll call you on your birthday. Right. And, and you can share your joys with them without having to do it, you know, publicly feel bad for Tim. I, I, she was not so needy. She had more friends and that is Tony’s take two Kate. Happy birthday. Tim. So sad. I hope he got a birthday cake. Like, I hope he went out and treated himself and got a little cake or something after the gym. Well, even better. I hope somebody got him a cake. Exactly. But II, I don’t, there doesn’t seem to be enough of that in his life. Well, we’ve got just about, about load more time. Let’s get back to experiential fundraising, holidays and Awareness Day, fundraising. There’s, I don’t know, there are probably 1000 awareness days a year that there might be more, there’s, there’s more than 1000 because that would only be like three a day. Some, you know, some days it’s, uh, you know, you, you look at, you look at lists, um, there could be AAA A score of them 20 in a, in a, in a single day. So there’s thousands, there are many thousands of awareness, so many and they, and they keep cropping up. Right. So, pick a niche, you know, National Pickle Day. If, if you’re, if, I don’t know, you know, if you’re, I don’t know, maybe I was thinking of if you’re fighting alcohol addiction, that’s that’s a bad choice or that, that’s probably an off color example. Don’t use that one. But, um, there are lots of, there are lots of awareness days. Um, and you also have advice about lesser celebrated holidays. What are the, what do you, what do you find the lesser celebrated holidays? I mean, again, it boils down to your nonprofit. What’s the scope of services that you provide? I oversaw a diaper bank. A lot of people have not heard of a diaper need. Well, sure enough, there was a diaper need holiday. So, you know, pick, pick your, your choice. There are so many out there. Um, personally, I’m very biased about giving Tuesday. It’s a saturated day. Every nonprofit is vying for a donor’s attention. So find, find a holiday or a day that better aligns with what your non profit specifically does. It doesn’t have to be popular day that everyone joins in on Valentine’s Day. And Halloween tend to be lesser celebrated by uh by nonprofits. So maybe, you know, those, I mean, you know, especially, well, not, especially either one, Valentine’s Day and Halloween tend to be less lesser thought of. Yeah, and you know, in terms of engaging with your donors and, and I’m, I’m redefining how, what, how we name a donor. You know, that could be someone that you serve. It could be a community leader, a city council member. These are all people that give you time talent, treasure and in terms of how you engage with them again, like we talked about Tony. Yes, those annual fundraisers need to happen. Yes, you and direct mail online year end appeals need to happen. But think about those regular touch points of how you’re engaging with your supporters, donor appreciation events behind the scenes, tours, workshops on whatever topic that you’re addressing, hosting some sort of community led workshop, people love to provide feedback and get and be compensated for that. Uh They can be compensated focus groups. So just kind of really opening our minds to how we build relationships with people. Here, I am with you, right? A late afternoon, we’re connecting. It doesn’t have to be this big formal thing. Like in many ways, we’re having a very intimate conversation. So local partnerships too, I mean, we, we talked about it in the sponsorship, something else that’s uh the another area that’s uh on your blog. Um You know, so we talked about it in terms of sponsorships but, but more like, you know, partnerships partnerships with um maybe recurring events like a farmer’s market, something like that, you know, something that’s iconic in your community. Yeah, I I think of partnerships in terms of advocacy. Um wherever you’re located, chances are there are government leaders, right, that have quite a bit of influence and power and starting to build relationships with your local city council members because they’re gonna also help you advocate to the higher ups at the state level and, and be able to help you pass legislation that really kind of complements the work that you’re providing. So partnerships tapping into partnering with city council members getting to know them closely. Um Obviously other nonprofit leaders thought leaders right there in your communities, small businesses, restaurants love to host fundraisers, restaurants love to, to do partnership types of events. Um There’s so many options like, you know, some, uh the 1st $5 of every dinner or the 1st $25 of every meal on a certain night, you know, goes to, goes back to the nonprofit. And so you’re giving them a surge because you’re gonna be inviting all your, all your volunteers and your donors and maybe your staff has a table, you know, so you’re giving them a surge for a night and uh some of the, some of the, the revenue comes, comes back to you, right? And, and partnering with other nonprofits in the same area of focus, right? Oftentimes because of funding, we’re pitted, we’re, we’re kind of pit against each other vying for the same funding. You know, that might be a donation drive if you’re taking in kind donations, physical items, instead of just your nonprofit, hosting a quarterly donation drive at your local grocery store or wherever, partnering with those other nonprofits providing similar services to kind of make it a bigger event. I know here in Seattle there’s a recycle and repurpose company called RWE. And we had a day our Diaper Bank where we partnered with three other major diaper banks. Like for a major campaign, we, we, we generated press. We were on the news and basically RWE. RWE has thousands of customers on a very specific day. RWE customers. I think about 4000 customers donated unused diapers. And basically, we got pallets. I can’t even uh 20 pallets of diapers where we were able to kind of split the inventory between four diaper banks. And the impact was huge, we were able to really expand our impact. So again, partnering with those nonprofits that you might see as competitors in terms of funding, but tapping into those, those relationships to figure out ways that you can better support each other. How did so many people have so many unused diapers around or they went out and bought them? Was it a campaign to, to, I mean, who, who I think? I mean, I’m the guy with no Children, but I would think you use up all the diapers you have and then you don’t need them anymore because your child has outgrown diapers. It’s a fair question, Tony and I, you know, I’m a mom and I would ask the same thing, apparently, Children from ages 0 to 3 outgrow diapers fast. And so they always kind of are on to the next size and families are left with boxes of diapers and boxes of diapers are expensive. So it was a day partnering with RWE where RWE customers could, instead of the diapers going straight to the landfill. You know, let’s give back, let’s, let’s re, let’s use them. I see how it works. Ok. So people, people hold on to the, the, the 0 to 6 months when, while their child is now like one or something. Oh, yeah. Ok. I didn’t know, I didn’t know people do that. I thought you were just, I don’t know, give to a friend or I never, well, actually I never thought about it so I, I can’t say what I thought because I never gave it a thought. Well, apparently there, there was not a venue, a place to donate that type of item. Right. Yeah. No, I mean, it was enormously successful for you. 20 pallets. I’m not, not minimizing at all. I just, uh, you know, I just never thought of, uh, unused diapers. I thought you would use them to capacity, like, squeeze your one year old into a nine month. But I guess parents don’t do. It’s a good thing. I’m not a parent because I would have, I would have had my, I would have had my one year old in a three month old diaper. I mean, if I got, if I got an extra box of three month old diapers around, you know, I’m going to squeeze you in. Yes. And they’re expensive. So, but, you know, that was, that was also in terms of partnerships. We were also by partnering with these other diaper banks. We were also able to form a coalition where on one day we went to Olympia, which is the capital in Washington, met with legislators as a team and we were able to pass what was called N diaper need where families get an extra 100 and $50 a month as part of as part of their TF so low income families got kind of a subsidy to help them pay for diapers. So again, tap into those partners, you know, other nonprofits doing similar work. There’s so much potential to really expand that impact, especially because we know the issues that we’re up against are massive and huge. And oftentimes are one nonprofit, no matter how well funded, how well staffed we are, we’re just kind of unable to address it alone. So, yeah, look for synergies. I was also thinking of community events like, you know, if there’s a Memorial Day celebration or 1/4 of July celebration, you know, can your nonprofit be a part of that somehow, you know, showcase, showcase your work, somehow expose the public at the, at the community fair around uh Labor Day or something like that. Yes. Yeah. Most cities again, going back to the city level, they, they do host those types of July 4th Memorial Day events. Um There’s gosh, we were talking about all of the holidays, Tony. There are a lot of those and at those events, they’re looking for not just businesses, but they want to see local communities show up and have a presence and get the word out about what they do because frankly governments can’t, they can’t fund these issues, they can’t tackle them alone. They really need those local nonprofits. So, yes, that’s a great idea. Tony. Look at all the events that your city is ho hosting, oftentimes to host a table is a nominal fee for the type of visi visibility that it brings. And it’s also getting to know it’s really connecting with your local neighbors. Oftentimes, I I know this as a former ed when I was leading a start up my initial round of donors, guess what? They were my neighbors, right on, right on Finn Hill. Um That’s kind of where I started really hyper local and then kind of expanded out. What else can we talk about around experiential fundraising that I haven’t asked you about yet? Well, what about the challenges? I, I’m thinking I’m thinking you might get a couple of questions that might say, ok, we would love to do this relational, slow type of relationship building, but the reality is is we’re caught up in the hustle of the day to day. We have a board that’s extremely resistant to change, you know, and so let’s just, those are some of the challenges, right? So I’m, I’m talking about this concept about needing to slow down needing to build upon the number of touch points that we have with our supporters, but we also know the challenges. And so, you know, I guess let’s talk about some maybe actionable ways that nonprofit professionals can do this. Um You named a great one. Let’s focus on uh for the moment, the board that’s resistant to change. How are we gonna uh defeat slay the naysayers? Oh, ah, you know, I’m still trying to figure this out. I, I would say when you’re recruiting board members, it helps to have board members that obviously have some sort of nonprofit experience, whether it’s a volunteer or, or they’re taking professional development training on how nonprofits operate. That that is a challenge. Oftentimes sometimes we get board members, well, meaning while loving very passionate people, they come from the private sector and with that they bring some very harmful perceptions about how do we operate, what things we should fund and so kind of tackling this re this challenge of a resistance, a resistant board is bringing on folks that have been there that have been in your shoes that get it. Um, people that are doing the work and just very open, very open to saying, ok, let’s, yes, let’s do an annual fundraiser. Yes, we still need to do in a gala in a live auction. Yes, we need to do year and giving. But yes, also let’s let’s come up with these really informal organic, not just donor centric, more community centric experiences. And so, yeah, it just comes down to just finding people that have been in, in the shoes of nonprofit professionals. I think that really helps with letting go of that resistance would also be a valuable exercise for your, for your board in fundraising. You know, if we’re like, you know, we’re talking about local partnerships, um challenges, you know, community, community engagement, that could be something that uh the board could help with, you know, what connections do they have? Uh maybe to other nonprofits to, to local businesses. You had mentioned, you know, political leaders, you know, how can the board help us expand our influence in, in any of those areas? You know, that could be something that, I mean, that this all falls under the rubric of fundraising, you know, for boards that don’t want to fundraise or board members that don’t want to fundraise their, their contacts can be valuable and so help in these ways around in the, in the community. Yeah, I think, and I think you alluded to something Tony is getting their buy in early, um really involving them in this process. And I think a good place where to start is would be in your strategic planning. Um Board members are well connected in many, in, in, in many ways, more than one, they might have some great ideas in terms of reimagining the types of experiences that we’re giving with our donors. And so in order to kind of change, change that resistant mindset involving them early on in your strate strategic planning, right? Um You might outsource that to a third party to facilitate that process, but getting their buy in allowing them to voice their opinions about what kind of experiences does the nonprofit wanna offer. And I think that will also help with the budgeting budgeting piece as well because once board members feel acknowledged, they feel heard they feel part of the process they’re bought into it early on, they’re not surprised. It really helps making budgeting for these relational experiential experiences easier, right? To really build a, build a budget for? All right, Britain want to uh just leave us with some final thoughts and motivation around uh experiential fundraising. II, I would just say we get so caught up in the scramble of sending out one digital appeal or in person appeal to the next. And I think just as a former ed, former development director is slow down, pause and breathe, it’s going to be ok and give yourself grace oftentimes it’s really those one on one intimate um experiences you have with your donors that are equally as important as that annual gala and live auction. You’re building extreme, you’re forging, you’re getting to the depth, you’re building really deeper connections with those really intimate experiences you have. So keep doing the great work, be gracious and give yourself a lot of credit because our sector really needs you right now. Britain Stocker, she’s on linkedin. The company is at donor box.org Britain. Thank you very much for sharing all your thoughts. Hey, thanks. Thanks Tony. I I loved your pickle comment earlier that that made my day. I might have to think if there is a holiday for around that. But thank you so much for having me, Tony. It’s been a pleasure. My pleasure. Thank you very much for sharing Britain. Thank you. Next week, we’ll return to 24 NTC with sociocracy and attract more donors. If you missed any part of this week’s show, I beseech you find it at Tony martignetti.com were sponsored by Virtuous. Virtuous, gives you the nonprofit CRM fundraising volunteer and marketing tools. You need to create more responsive donor experiences and grow, giving virtuous.org and by donor box, outdated donation forms blocking your supporters, generosity. Don Box fast, flexible and friendly fundraising forms for your nonprofit donor box.org. I like the way you say that. Don a box. Like it’s obvious why do we even have to say it? It’s so obvious, daughter. A box. All right. All right. Our creative producer is Claire Meyerhoff. I’m your associate producer, Kate Pernetti. The show, social media is by Susan Chavez, Mark Silverman is our web guide and this music is by Scott Stein. Thank you for that affirmation. Scotty be with us next week for nonprofit radio. Big nonprofit ideas for the other 95% go out and be great.

Nonprofit Radio for February 19, 2024: Frustrations & Opportunities With Jay Frost


Jay FrostFrustrations & Opportunities With Jay Frost

Jay returns to share his reflections on four decades in the nonprofit community. There are things he’d like to see us doing better, that the sector has been talking about for many years. But they haven’t changed much. Yet he remains optimistic, so he recognizes the brighter future that’s possible if we practice more of what we preach. Jay is on LinkedIn.


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Welcome to Tony Martignetti nonprofit Radio. Big nonprofit ideas for the other 95%. I’m your aptly named host and the pod father of your favorite abdominal podcast. We have a new sponsor. Welcome. Virtuous to the nonprofit radio family. So glad to have you. I’m grateful for your sponsorship. Welcome. Oh, I’m glad you’re with us. I’d get slapped with a diagnosis of irises if I saw that you missed this week’s show. Here’s our associate producer, Kate with what’s going on this week? Hey, Tony, we’ve got frustrations and opportunities. Jay Frost returns to share his reflections on four decades in the nonprofit community. There are things he’d like to see us doing better that the sector has been talking about for many years, but they haven’t changed much yet. He remains optimistic so he recognizes the brighter future. That’s possible if we practice more of what we preach on Tonys take two last chance were sponsored by donor box, outdated donation forms, blocking your supports, generosity, donor box, fast, flexible and friendly fundraising forms for your nonprofit donor box.org. And by virtuous, virtuous gives you the nonprofit CRM fundraising, volunteer and marketing tools you need to create more responsive donor experiences and grow, giving, virtuous.org. Thank you again for your new sponsorship. Virtuous. Welcome. Anyway, here is frustrations and opportunities. It’s a genuine pleasure to welcome Jay Frost back to nonprofit radio. Jay has worked in the nonprofit community since 1985. That’s 39 years. Let’s call it 40 years between friends. He’s been a grant writer, fundraiser service provider and now he’s a consultant and content creator. You’ll find Jay on linkedin and he hosts Donor Searches Philanthropy. Masterminds series. Welcome back, Jay. It’s good to see you. It is always great to see you, Tony. We talk a lot on the Masterminds series. You’ve hosted me there probably by mistake or, or you had last minute cancellations. Uh I don’t know, three or four times. I’ve been on a bunch of times. I think you’re a popular guy. I, I like to draw a crowd. I, I like to think I draw a crowd but, but we’re focused on you today. The crowd that you draw, the thinking that you have the wisdom of let’s call it 40 years, 40 years in philanthropy. What does that feel like? What does it feel like to have done something? 40 years? Who, when you say the number over and over and now so far it’s 100 and 20. Uh I I it, it uh it, it really, it really makes me feel old Tony. So, thank you. Um But, ok, so there’s a line from Mary Oliver that I want to quote because it’s what I’m thinking about a lot, which is that, um, when it’s over, I don’t want to wonder if I’ve made of my life something particular and real. I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world. So that’s what I’m thinking about these days. And, uh, and it’s a good place to think about it. Right. I mean, we have a lot of fun in our world, especially when I’m hanging out with, with a friend like you. Um, but it’s serious stuff too. And when you say 40 years, 40 years, 40 years, the first thing I think of is, oh, my gosh. I’m just getting started for, well, first of all, it’s not additive. So it’s, it’s not 100 and 20. So, uh, it was, it was keep you with your 40. Let’s not get carried away. Don’t get a big hit. Um, no, but, you know, uh, well, I like the, I like the idea of not, not simply visiting our world. Yeah. Thank you. Thank you for sharing that. Um, what was your very, very, very first job? Was it the grant writing job or? Very, very, very first job in, in nonprofits? Oh, my gosh. Ok. So, first I wanted to be in the film business. I went out to LA. I lived in a garage. I didn’t have a car. I took buses, you know, you don’t do any of that in L A and I did all those things and that’s why I left. So I was there for a brief time, came back tail between my legs to Washington DC where my parents then had, had uh moved and I was introduced to a person at the National Endowment for the Arts. And very quickly, somehow miraculously got a job there as what was called a floater, which is back when people typed stuff and printed stuff, I was running around just doing all those odd jobs at the National Endowment for the Arts. And it was the dream for me because I was raised to study poetry and music and all these other things. So the ne A it was the citadel of all those things. And so very quickly, I, I had the opportunity to work in the inter arts program which was very interesting and controversial place. What program inter arts which is introduced plenty of arts work and um lots of controversy there. And then I worked at the literature program which also had a share of controversy, but that’s where I had a chance to as a 24 year old identify poets who would then be reviewing manuscripts from all the people, writing poetry and fiction and so forth around the country to review it and make investments in writers. I mean, it was, that was my first job. I was 24 I had $2 million in grants responsibility but, but uh I was not making the decisions. I was administering that work. But still, since nobody else really knew a heck of a lot about poetry then or now it meant that I got to be in this candy store of being with people who cared about words and their, and their impact. And that was 1985. That was, yeah, I was, I got there at 85. I was there through just a brief time through 87. Yeah. What happened in what, what happened in uh Hollywood, Los Angeles filmmaking? Oh man. Uh well, you know, you can only live so long on patty melt sandwiches served to you from behind a plexiglass screen for cash um working across in the Kit Kat Club in a theater that’s closed most of the time. Uh I I that was, that was my life, you know, occasionally getting into 50 bucks in the Kit Kat Club. You could have been a, oh my God, you could have been a floater instead of a floater. It could have been many things on that street with Santa Monica Boulevard in the eighties. Yeah, it was an interesting place. Um Alright, but it didn’t go, it just you didn’t take off. No, I did not take off. I had the opportunity to write some uh some scripts for things that probably didn’t need the scripts. Um and I decided not to do that over Christmas vacation. Looking in the mirror. Um, and then was able to rededicate myself to things that have, you know, aesthetic value. I see. All right. Oh, this sounds like a conversation that we should continue over a beer at a conference, uh, on a, on a Friday night. All right. All right. But, yeah, it’s fascinating. Yeah, absolutely. Uh, so let’s turn to, uh, your thinking. I mean, I, I invited you on to, to share your thoughts about our, our community. You have 40 years to reflect over. You’ve seen the things we’ve emphasized over 40 years, the things we’ve accomplished not accomplished. What uh what strikes you first? Wow. It’s a lot of it that occurs to me first are the kinds of things that you and I have chatted about um over the transom every time we’ve, we’ve talked a lot of the petty frustrations that kind of, you know, gnaw at you. Um The things that we laugh over such as uh such as, you know, um why don’t organizations we know, do the things that they should do that are relatively easy to do um such as, uh you know, send out a personal thank you note once in a while. And then we get into all these debates about whether or not people should write thank you notes, whether they’re vestiges of the past, whether they’re too elitist, there are other terms that are less polite for doing this kind of thing. But the, but the thing that really drives me bananas about all that is that it focuses on a tiny, tiny sliver of activity. Uh instead of thinking about the whole, where we can say, what is it that we’re here to do? What is it we’re trying to address what are the best ways of engaging with people who believe in the same things we do, making sure so that they know that we see them, that we hear them, that we know that they’re human and they’re valuable and then we truly partner with them to get things done. Instead, we’ve divided all this stuff up and these little uh actions and then half the time we ignore some of those things to do and I’ve been guilty of it too. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that that I haven’t failed at almost everything because I have. But rather that once we learn these things, I’d like to think that we could put some of them into practice. And I have seen best practices over 40 years. So if we could just pull them together, sort of like our own little mini Bible and actually practice that stuff. I think we could have better partnerships, better friendships and be better trusted and then have better results. Let, let’s take off a few of the things that uh you’re talking about these, these small things that uh accumulate into better, better relationships. What you’re saying, stronger relationships, longer, more devoted donors pick off a few things that pick you off. Yeah, I took some notes so I wouldn’t forget. Um So what are these are so reverential to you? So I have to take notes to you that you have to write them down to remember. Ok, there are two levels here. So what we’re talking about first actually are kind of the appetizers of a conversation like this. They’re the annoyances, right? So those are the things we mess up that we can control for if we thought they were important. So it’s treating donors like ATM machines. This has become a common phrase now. Uh But uh but I think I’ve been saying it for a long time, I’m sure you have to and it’s not just because we see other people doing it and we say tis tis you should do what I say and not what I do. No, it’s because as donors, we experience this, we wonder what in the world is going on here. We make it donation and then we don’t hear from anybody or we get a digital receipt and they think that’s enough. It’s never enough. So uh just one practical example. And I think I’ve told you this before. Um off offline is that I started giving to an organization that this was two years ago now. So it was in the middle of the pandemic uh based on a book and a movie that I thought was just so powerful emotionally wrenching. And so I won’t mention the name of the organization because what I’m about to say suggests that they, that they are not taking care of their donors. And I’m hoping that what I’m going to tell you is isolated, although I fear it’s not. And I know it’s also true for many organizations that is it. I saw this powerful story. I’m really engaged. It’s a way to help people who are getting out of the prison, industrial complex. It is a big deal. We have more prisoners in this country than anywhere else on earth. And so, uh what do we do for these people when they get out? Well, pretty much nothing. Their life is almost over unless they’re lucky or they happen to live in a state with a program for that. I mean, it’s just awful on every level. So, wouldn’t it be great to help out? So I start giving an amount every month, which for me was a fair amount every month. Um And, and even though it’s not a lot of money, I knew it was probably putting in the top like five or 10% of donor pool just because of the stuff we know from fundraising. And so they keep, you know, sending me the kind of the notes uh via email that say dear friend. So I made a point of calling at one point just to say, you know, I’m doing this. They didn’t call me back and then at the end of the year I stopped giving, I thought, well, let’s see what happens. Not because I don’t care. But I was hoping that this would be kind of jarring and they do something and then I’d have a discussion not trying to get business, just trying to say, hey, I’m not special. There must be a lot of people like me silence every once in a while. I’ll get a note from the organization saying, dear friend asking me to give, not even mentioning my past giving. Now this all sounds pretty petty on my part. But the reason I’m mentioning it is because I think it’s just emblematic of a larger problem. Um On the one hand, we don’t have a lot of time in this world, fundraisers just don’t have a lot of time. We’re, we’re, you know, we got a lot to do, we aren’t particularly well paid to do it and we’re doing it out of love. All of those things are true. We don’t often have a lot of support staff. We don’t have a lot of great resources. It’s all true. But then there’s what we do with our time. And if there’s not, I don’t know that there’s anything more important than saying to people who believe in the same things we do that I see you and you’re important and this is important to do together. And I, and I know that organizations can do it and they’ve done it very well in some places, but somehow in the nonprofit industrial complex, we’ve forgotten a little bit of that. And I’m not sure that some of the new technology is, is helping us to become more human. I think sometimes it just relieves us of this nagging responsibility to, to have those little personal engagements that make this work so personally rewarding and so financially successful. It’s time for a break. Open up new cashless in-person donation opportunities with donor box live kiosk, the smart way to accept cashless donations. Anywhere, anytime picture this a cash free on site giving solution that effortlessly collects donations from credit cards, debit cards and digital wallets. No team member required. Plus your donation data is automatically synced with your donor box account. No manual data, entry or errors, make giving a breeze and focus on what matters your cause. Try Donor Box live kiosk and revolutionize the way you collect donations in 2024. Visit donor box.org to learn more. Now, back to frustrations and opportunities. Well, the promise of artificial intelligence is that it’s going to free us up for, for all the things that you’re talking about. So we’re gonna be better to our donors because we’re gonna relieve ourselves of the mundane writing tasks. Uh I think it’s mostly right. I’m gonna use that as the example. That’s what I see the most, you know, the the writing tasks, whether it’s annual report or a 200 word article or whatever, you know, and that’s gonna, the promise is that it’s going to give us time for the, for the human relationships and in my, uh, now we’re on Tony Martignetti s frustrations that, that sounds familiar. It’s a good show. I, I think the, I think the smartphone was supposed to do that for us too. Yeah. And I wonder if the telephone was supposed to have done that in the, I don’t know, 19 tens or I might be off on when, when that was became a widespread technology. But I think I’ve heard this promise before that we’re going to have more time for other activities and, uh, the promise hasn’t been realized in my mind. Right. Yeah. No, I, not only do I agree with you but I think it’s, it’s going back to what I was trying to get to, which is that this is a symptom of a larger issue and the technology it is, seems like a patch on this big tire that we’ve created to try and drive down this road of social change and, and it’s good. I mean, I, I’m all about tech because tech is, is awesome and we really can use it for good. Um, but at the same time if we’re using it as a patch to just keep driving down the same road in the same ways, it doesn’t necessarily serve the purpose. Um, so I’d like to think that if we can go back to what it is that’s supposed to be guiding us. What is the principle behind this work? You know, keep that in mind all the time, keep it up on our wall and look at it all the time. Then hopefully we’ll be doing the more human things. Um There’s a book written years ago by Robert Putnam, you know, Bowling Alone. And the reason I’m mentioning it here is because this concept about uh this kind of fracturing of society where we don’t know each other as well has been potentially exacerbated by some of these technologies, not because of the technologies themselves, but how we use them to avoid actual interaction with one another. And I think that the nonprofit sector and fundraisers specifically not only have potentially a responsibility to do something about that, but it’s more of an opportunity to do something about it that we could decide every time we employ a technology or a technique um that we can use that in order to get closer to people instead of just to mechanize and uh efficient and make more efficient our work because I know what we’re trying to do is get more money. But what we really need to do is build stronger connections in order to get that money, be mindful of your use of the technology. I mean, if, if, if it does, in fact, if artificial intelligence does, in fact relieve you from the, the drudgery of writing your annual report then what are you gonna do with those extra 15 hours that you saved? Because nobody’s gonna tap you on the shoulder and say you’ve got 15 free hours. Now, what are you, how are you going to use the time that the A I saved you? You’re, you’re boasting over coffee. Whoa, the writing, the annual report was so easy this year? Ok. What did you do with the quote surplus time that the, the A I uh allowed you? Did you, did you make more donor calls? Did you have more donor meetings? Did you write more handwrit notes? Did you uh pick up the phone to somebody you haven’t talked to in a, in a while? And this implication, this leads over into the personal too, not only the professional, but you and I are talking about fundraising and fundraisers. So I’ll, I’ll keep it there but use that time consciously if you feel A I is or some other technology has relieved you of a burden. How do you use the new time that, that you used to uh devote to that burden? But, but we kind of forget then about those other things that we can do because if we’re all then trained to engage with one another in these almost mechanized ways like by text and I use text all the time like we all do. But if, then that’s what we’re used to. How comfortable does it feel to just call somebody. So every once in a while I’ll do this, I’ll just grab a number on my phone of somebody I haven’t talked to for a long time and just call them up. And it’s almost shocking because we’re all now so used to communicating in this other way that to do that other thing, sometimes it can be refreshing but sometimes it can be off putting because we’re not accustomed to it. And I, and I, and if that’s true in the personal world, I know it’s also true in this professional world, you, you feel like it’s off putting, I find it more refreshing, then off putting it, you can mean off putting to yourself or to the person receiving the call to the person, receiving the call. And I’m not suggesting we don’t call. I’m saying the opposite. I’m just saying that I think people have become used to a certain kind of thing. And so this new thing, some people do find it refreshing like you and I do. But other people just, they don’t know what make of it. Like, why is this happening? Why is this thing happening? We have to do that. We have to break up that thing and, and do those things to, to engage with people in these ways to make it more human. I, I think my experience is, you know, I I’m working in Planned Giving. So I’m usually talking to people who are 70 80 90. And there’s one woman who’s 100 and one and one who was 100 until she died recently, they grew up with handwrit notes and then they had decades and decades of phone conversations before we went virtual that many decades, like 4050 decades of, oh, no, 40 or 50 years of, uh, phone calls. So to them, uh, a phone call is very thoughtful. A handwrit note is even more thoughtful as the recipients of those. And I, you know, I, I think, um, I think when you do more than what’s typical, I think it’s more refreshing to the recipient than it is off putting. So I guess I’m pushing back a little bit. You know, I, I would and I know you’re not discouraging folks from doing the extra, you know, look, customer service is, um, I have a recurring show that I, uh, replay called Zombie Loyalists with a, a marketing and, uh, pr guy named Peter Shankman and he says, well, he said years ago when he was first on the show and I’ve replayed it many times since then, you know, the average, but it remains true, the standard of customer service is crap. So if you could just be a little above crap, you’re setting yourself apart. So just don’t, just don’t do crap. Yeah, I absolutely agree. You know, whatever it looks, whatever, taking an extra step looks like for you and your donors do it because you’ve got this, uh a surplus time theoretically from the, from the, from the technologies that we, that are, that are saving us so much. But if you do find you have extra time, um, use it, you know, use it consciously. That’s, that’s kind of what I was getting to is, you know, conscious use of time. Yeah, I absolutely agree. And I use off putting that as the way I feel about it but as how some people react even to the idea of doing it. Um It’s, it’s funny though because in talking about these things and you, you’re going through the idea about people who were used to handwrit notes of a certain age than people used to phone calls. And if you talk to people who are maybe of the successive generation, they might say, well, we don’t do these things or people in this age group, they make assumptions, they don’t do these things. But in fact, if we go on to Twitch right now and we see a Twitch streamer who’s raising money for, you know, pick your cause, it might be Saint Judes. It might be something we know as well. What are they doing? They’re engaging with people live right now. They’re talking to them. They’re, they’re um they’re doing that through the chat. They’re engaging with people in a meeting that makes sense for them today. But the reason why I mentioned this is, it’s not about the tech that’s just today’s tech, they’re really engaging with people so anything we can do to properly engage with people, uh, I think is that is exactly what we should be doing. And I, and I, and once again I don’t think it is off-putting. I just think that’s the objection. I think what we really need to do is bring things up a little to, to be better than the boring to go back to your point. Yeah. Oh, I see. You’re, you’re concerned. Yeah, I see what you’re expressing that people might be put off. No, I think people will be uh elated. You know, I write a lot of handwrit notes and not surprising that I get a fair amount of handwrit notes back. But again, I’m writing to older folks. 70 plus, it’s time for Tony’s steak to do. Thank you, Kate. This is the last Chance for Planned Giving Accelerator. The last few weeks. The class starts in early March. If Planned Giving is on your to do list, you wanna launch it. Your board has talked about it. You’ve been thinking about it. I can help you in Planned Giving Accelerator Guide. You step by step week after week, how to launch Planned Giving at your nonprofit. Of course, there’s the incredible peer support too. Besides what you learned from me. Lots of cross talk. We, we set this up as zoom meetings, not webinars, so you can talk to each other. Folks get to know each other. Share successes, frustrations uh help each other. That, that part has been much more uh than I than I expected the, the, the peer support. So there’s all that if you’re interested, the info is at Planned Giving accelerator.com. If you use code nonprofit Radio, 1500 you can claim $1500 off the tuition. It’s all at Planned Giving accelerator.com and that is Tony take two. Hey, I hope people join in the class. Thank you. We’ve got just about a butt load more time. Let’s return to frustrations and opportunities with Jay Frost. What you’re espousing is be relational, not transactional, but that’s something that we’ve been talking about for 20 years. Donor centric. How long about 15 years we’ve been talking about being donor centric. Do you feel like we’ve improved? II I, I’m not experiencing it when you give, when you leave the prison. The prison charity is, hasn’t heard about donor centrism or hasn’t put it into practice. I think that’s it. I think that they haven’t put it into practice. I mean, we have had a really important discussion about whether or not organizations are community centric or not. And I think that’s a valid and important conversation, whether the organizations themselves are accurately representing the needs and interests of the community by having people within the community uh on the board and engaged in the activity and engaged in the fundraising and all these things. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the organization, uh, shouldn’t do these things we’ve been talking about, shouldn’t have a note written to somebody. Shouldn’t pick up the phone and just say I appreciate so much that you care about the same things and what can we do to, you know, to make sure that you have the information you need to keep being involved. These, I think these things work well together. So I understand why we’ve had this discussion. I don’t understand. It sounds like you don’t understand it either is why when we’ve been talking about these things for so many years, whether it’s about donor Centricity, whether it’s about actively engaging the community that we end up in the same place of not doing it, of sending a digital receipt of not just finding whatever the current version of picking up the phone is. And here’s the reason why I think this really matters. I, I think it’s much more than just whether or not we’re going to hit this year’s retention figures and make this quarter’s goals. That’s important. All of that is important. But what’s far more important is that it’s about building relationships of trust that’s fundamental to major gifts, that world that I spend some time in. It’s obviously important to plan gifts, which you spend so much time in. But, and there’s so much revenue there that that’s important, but far more important if people don’t trust our organizations as a whole. And the Edelman Trust survey shows that nonprofits are also seeing declining uh faith in, in our organizations. If people don’t trust our organizations as a whole, then that means they won’t start, they won’t come on the on ramp to supporting us as volunteers, as, as employees, as board members, as contributors. And if they won’t, then we can’t meet the big challenges of our time. So these little things that we choose not to do either because we think we’re too busy or because they’re not important. End up having a direct correlation to whether or not people trust our organizations to take on the biggest challenges of our time. And these are existential. I mean, if, if we can’t get anybody to trust uh the government um or major institutions about issues like climate change, why should they trust, you know XYZ organization either if, if they are engaged with us that we haven’t asked them to volunteer, we haven’t invited them to sit down and have a discussion in the local community. We haven’t invited them to invest. And if they’re not really engaged with us, why in the world should they listen to us about why we need to make sure that we don’t go above 1.5 °C, which we just hit, we just hit this week, the thing that we were supposed to avoid for, for decades, just like for decades we’ve been talking about. Write a Thank you note. It’s, it’s almost parallel to see the decline in trust, the decline in generosity and ultimately the decline, our ability to address existential challenges and we have the ability as fundraisers to do little things to achieve great things just by building these bonds. That’s a terrific sort of segue to, you know, what we can do. And we’ve, we’ve toyed with this, uh uh while we’ve been talking, but we keep saying, don’t do this or do the other instead. But, um yeah, I, I mean, I’m, I’m, I’m with you. These, these small, these small things, small tasks lead to bigger uh either trust or a lack of trust if you’re not doing them, which impinges our ability to uh stop hunger and homelessness and, and reverse climate change and, and save whales and animals from kill shelters and domestic violence victims, survivors and all, you know, all of it and, and the arts education that, yeah. So, all right. So we have the ability to write the ship. It’s just, you know, we haven’t done it. We’ve been talking about it for decades. I’ve only been in philanthropies for 27 years. It got me beat by, by 1312 or 13. Um 12 or 13. Yeah. Right. 12 or 13. I don’t wanna overstate the case. Um But you know, but, you know, I’m not, I’m not, I’m not seeing big uh I’m not seeing big impacts. I’m not seeing big outcomes, outcomes is really what we want to be measuring. So, but that doesn’t mean we stop talking. That doesn’t mean we stop trying. No. And I, I wonder if maybe the, the thing is that we need to give people a bigger goal. Um, I mean, climate change is a pretty, pretty large, pretty existential goal. Right. But that’s, that’s too big too. Right. I mean, an individual or even in an organization, probably many people and many organizations don’t feel like they can do a heck of a lot to make a change to something like that. Um They can do the little things but they can’t do the big things. But maybe there are, there’s a, there’s something in the middle that ties together the work that we do in our world of, you know, um fundraising, for example, and philanthropy together uh with um uh with that bigger, bigger existential um question and, and I wonder if it’s stuff like um determining how we work with other organizations to build trust, you know, consolidating and coordinating our efforts so that instead of everybody forming another nonprofit. Um No, well, maybe we find a way to bring these nonprofits together, not just out of financial distress, which is where we typically go with mergers, but out of AAA true desire to share power, to share resources and to achieve greater things, bigger goals, bigger impacts, you know, through consolidation and cooperation’s, that’s one and that’s a bigger goal that I, I think is also attainable. And um it, something it’s a little easier to sort of imagine rather than how am I going to make sure that the ocean water levels don’t rise too high in the Carolinas. Um, you know, but it does lead there, I mean, if we can get people to work together as organizations instead of all being separate entities, then maybe it’s going to be a little easier to communicate to the public about the importance of taking actions to lobby the government, which is another thing that we can do that we don’t do because we’re so fearful that if we lobby that it’s going to run afoul of the law and that also we won’t be able to receive all the donations we want. So lobbying is one and then we can do things like um ensure that we are partnering with the kinds of supporters who also best represent our values. So we’re not just going for whatever money is out there, but we have big audacious goals supported by larger consolidated and cooper entities in pursuit of these bigger goals, supported by people who are willing to make big investments towards those goals. So not just trying to get uh a few dollars together for a small thing, but bringing more actors together with bigger support from well aligned actors for bigger things. The first one you mentioned the partnerships and those are all valuable uh the the partnerships with other organizations. That’s something I feel that the community, the sector is doing better. I remember um grant making foundations focusing on uh on, on collaborations and, and I think that that made a difference. Um II, I do still hear that there’s, you know, fear about, well, you know, we don’t, we don’t really know what a partnership looks like, you know, is it just a memorandum of understanding or are we doing events together or, or grassroots activities together like uh an advocacy day on Capitol Hill or, or in the State Capitol or whatever? Uh you know, what, what does it look like? And, or our, our board is, is uncertain about working too closely because it kind of suggests that we can’t do the work ourselves. You know, I’ve heard some of these arguments against the, the, the, the partnership ideas, but I do still think we are further along in working collaboratively than we were like 10 years ago. You, you may be right about that. Uh But I do on my end in the consulting work that I do still see so many emerging organizations all the time. They’re popping up like, like weeds or maybe dandelions. I mean, something prettier than weeds. But they, but the problem is that they still are thinking I need to do this alone. And I, and I, and I don’t see the trouble there. I pardon my interruption, but you’re accustomed to it, you know. You know, I, I do that all the time and the, the trouble there is, you know, these are folks new to the sector. So like, you know, they have passion about something. It may have, may be an event that a AAA trauma in their life that they want to create a, an advocacy cause around, you know, but, but they jump in, I mean, their first thought is I want to start a nonprofit or maybe, you know, maybe the first thing is they do a uh a fundraiser, you know, on one of the platforms or something. And then they say, oh, you know, we made $1500. Well, you know, maybe I’ll start a nonprofit, you know, so they, they’re not acquainted with the sector. They don’t, they don’t know what they’re jumping into. And by the time they start to meet the partners, you know, they’re, they’re already incorporated for three years and they’re raising, you know, now, $5000 a year and they’re flailing. But, but they got in with all with passion, which is necessary but not sufficient. It’s time for a break. Virtuous is a software company committed to helping nonprofits grow generosity. Virtuous believes that generosity has the power to create profound change in the world. And in the heart of the giver, it’s their mission to move the Needle on global generosity by helping nonprofits better connect with and inspire their givers responsive fundraising, puts the donor at the center of fundraising and grows giving through personalized donor journeys that respond to the needs of each individual. Virtuous is the only responsive nonprofit CRM designed to help you build deeper relationships with every donor at scale. Virtuous. Gives you the nonprofit CRM, fundraising, volunteer marketing and automation tools. You need to create responsive experiences that build trust and grow, impact virtuous.org. Now back to frustrations and opportunities. It’s, it’s uh it’s hard to watch because you want to take people’s, you know, all that, all that energy and passion that they have and, and help them to achieve that result that they, they say that they want to see in the world. Um At the same time, they’re never going to, it’s going to be extremely difficult for them to hit the scale that they want. What is it? Three quarters, three quarters of all nonprofits uh annual revenue under, isn’t it three quarters under $75,000 or something like that? But, but I, I don’t know, have, have you ever had these conversations with folks who just reach out to you because you’re in the sector and you’re well known and they want to start a nonprofit and they’re like, pick your brain. I, I, I’ve, I’ve had a lot of those pick your brain kind of conversations and the folks are resistant to the idea of donating to an existing cause. That’s, that’s already doing the work they’re talking about or volunteering with it or, or uh just approaching them about how can I help somehow if, if you don’t know what the structure looks like, just they, they feel like they have to do it themselves. It’s, it’s not that the existing organizations are not sufficient. But, yeah, but they’ve already, but they may have already scaled. They’re certainly more scaled than your non-existent organization. They’re, they’re, they’re way beyond where you are now, but folks are, are resistant to that line of thinking. They, they’re just so motivated. They don’t really want to hear the reach out to the existing community versus incorporating and taking on management of a, of a nonprofit corporation. You, you really don’t know what you’re getting into. So this is, this is one of the questions that I have for myself. It rattles around in my head all the time. How much of that is the result of the way we have kind of trained the community to understand how they can engage with the existing organization. I, I mean, some of there are going to be some people who tomorrow want to start their own organization and that’s just the way it’s gonna be, but it could be that they aren’t even aware of how they could be involved with another organization. So let’s take this down to the very, you know, practical kind of fundraising stuff that we do all the time. If we look at many organizations, websites, it’s very difficult in most cases to find out how to volunteer and sometimes volunteering is not only difficult to understand within the website, but there might be barriers to it. Um And those barriers are sometimes practical on the inside. But what it means externally is if you’re the person who says I really need to help the kids in my community um with an after school program. Uh And you don’t know any, any of the programs that are existing right now. Well, maybe that’s a bit of your own personal ignorance, maybe you can do more research, but it could be also that the organization already performing that role, or more likely several organizations have not found a way to bring everybody with that passion in. So I don’t mean to blame us for not being sufficient in our marketing, but I do think that we can open the doors wider to people who share our values and our passions than we have done. And we can certainly do it even in very simple, practical ways that fundraisers have some degree of control over like our websites, our Facebook pages, other places where we are acting as an acquisition tool. Well, it’s, it’s, it’s a way that we can say you don’t need to in indirectly say you don’t need to start your own thing. We’ve already got a thing here. We value you. That’s why we’ve already invited you to participate in this and that and the other thing and to give. So why don’t you come on in and work with us and that work may be as a volunteer, it may be as a advisory board member. It may be as some kind of community event or organizational um activity person, but I’m not sure that we’re doing that job very well. And in fact, if anything, I think that we have in our efforts to streamline our operations once again, um we have narrowed the portal through which people can discover and engage with us so they can find their passions through our organizations instead of coming up with 10,000 other competing organizations. I mean, let’s put it another way. 1.6 million organizations in the United States is just too many, it’s just too many. Some of that is uh the, the, the accessibility, you know, volunteering with us could look like two hours a week. I, I it could look like just a few hours a month, you know, or you, sometimes you see volunteer options but, you know, it’s not, I, I don’t, I don’t know, you, you sounds like you’ve, you’ve spent more time thinking about it and, and looking at them. Um II I, I’m thinking about, you know, volunteering. We, what does it look like? I mean, define, define what folks could do as a, as a volunteer. I mean, I think a lot of people would like to enter as a volunteer and then may very well become donors when they see the, the good work that you’re doing and they’re helping do it firsthand. They’re doing it with you firsthand. Um All right, Jay. Um what else? Now, what else? Uh What, what else would you opportunities on the opportunity side? Well, we also talked about the importance of, of coming up with advocacy um of making sure that uh we are taking a more pronounced role and discussing the issues that are important to us. And that might go a little bit beyond just a statement of our mission, our immediate mission. Uh maybe we once again get together with other organizations and say that this is our common platform, the thing that we all need to do together. So if we’re working with Children, there are lots of organizations working with Children and we need lots of them. Uh Maybe we don’t need as many as there are. I don’t know, but we do need a lot of people out there working with kids, but together, they probably have some common threads and if they worked together, I would think that they could also have more um more weight in lobbying their state legislatures. Um and, and their, their congressional representatives, um the federal government for more aid to Children um in various forms, whether it’s for head start programs or for after school programs. What have you. So in other words, we don’t have to have tons of organizations trying to fight over small amounts of money, kind of that scarcity principle, but instead coming together uh in pursuit of larger goals and then lobbying together uh to make sure that there are more resources available to address these common needs. So I think that advocacy is something that we don’t pursue as well as we could. Um And, and we could, we could do it in a more concerted and um, and successful way uh advocacy days in Washington or in state legislatures are a great example of this, but they’re usually done by individual organizations rather than by a group. Um, and so that’s one more way that I think that we could find common causes together and work together for, uh, a more, more successful outcomes, an advocacy day. I mean, I see that as perfect, uh, fertile ground for partnering, you, you’d rather have six busloads of people than one or a half and one of the organizations may have other organizations are gonna have relationships that you don’t have with, with staffs and, and this could be like we both said, Washington or at the state level. Um, I, I don’t know, I see that as ripe opportunities for, for partnering door knocking campaigns. The same thing. We, we’d rather have hundreds of people than a dozen. And I would think that would be easier if we’re working with a coalition of them. I mean, that’s, that’s definitely what happens in a political campaign. And there are some things that political campaigns do well and some things that they, they don’t, they’re much more transactional, but there are some things they do well that we can learn from and we can uh make sure that we employ those same tools and, and techniques and approaches to reach more people, get them more engaged. You had a, a dalliance with uh political campaigns. You were, you were considering running for uh for the US House at one point. I remember years ago, years ago, I never, I never jumped into the, into the, you were considering, I admire that you were thinking about it. You were serious enough that you, you publicize it to some of us, some. Well, I, I was involved at the state level with uh with the Democratic Party. Um And uh so uh was involved as a finance chair for our congressional district and doing other activities like that. Um There’s also a history of politics in my family on both sides of the aisle, uh especially with advertising and marketing, interestingly enough and in, in, in that world, what I find really interesting is advocating for ideas. So it’s not just, it’s not just the politicking over the bills, but it’s also saying that this is what’s important to us. Let’s fight for it together. Um And I, I think if there’s a kind of a through line in all this discussion, it might seem like we’re bouncing around a little bit. Uh But for me, it’s that if, if we can figure out what it is that we’re pursuing and then find out what our common interests are and common pursuits, then we should be able to attract more people to that together, um, to work on those things and more resources to, to accomplish those things. That’s certainly true in politics. And I believe it’s true in the nonprofit sector. Um, and if there’s something that, uh, that has driven me kind of crazy in the last few years, it’s this almost disaggregation. It’s this breakup we’ve had um that uh that I think that, that fundraising in part can help to fix. Um that instead of uh finding the way to divide up the population into a million different conversations, we can find common conversations and invite people to have those with us. Um instead of fighting over red and blue and, and so forth, whether it’s political or, or sports teams or our approaches to fundraising, um Instead we can find what it is, the majority of us need to do together in order to achieve these common objectives. Um So, yeah, uh politics in some ways is very appealing to me. Um What has been most uh um uh disturbing about politics is also in some ways reflected in the nonprofit sector, we may not have the same kinds of fights here in the nonprofit world that we do in politics. Thank God for that. Um But I do think that sometimes uh we, we get involved in these little uh rivalries over ideas when in fact, some things are, are pretty simple and direct, like sitting down with people across the table and listening to them first, um showing them that we heard them and then invite them to participate equally with us in achieving a mutual, you know, mutually desired result. And I know that in earnest, most of us feel that we are doing that. We are working hard to do that in this sector, but especially in some of the ways we’ve talked about so far today. Um I think we can do better. I think that’s an a, a fine place to stop if uh if, if you’re comfortable with that. Yeah. Is there? No, I need you to work with. I was kind of all over the place. No, no, you, you were restrained, right? All right. I think you like. That’s uh those are, those are excellent parting words and we, we, we can do better and we’ve got existential challenges that are at stake back to J Frost. Oh, thank you. Um Yeah. And we had a, you know, I should have given you a little more space for humor, Tony because this wasn’t the laugh fest. It usually is with you. That’s the only problem. Well, that’s when I’m, when I’m the centerpiece. It’s, it’s more uplifting. No, you were quite uplifting. Maybe. Uh maybe I wouldn’t go so far as to say jovial. But uh you’re uplifting, uplifting. All right. He’s Jay Frost. He hosts the, uh, you do this a couple of times a week, right? The Donor Search philanthropy Masterminds series. You do one a week or a couple of week, 22 per week, plus one podcast per week for 46 weeks. This year, I’m giving myself a little vacation. All right. Let’s not get too slack. 46 444 weeks of vacation. 4 to 4 to 6 weeks of vacation. Um, You’ll find him on linkedin and you’ll find him at the uh philanthropy Masterminds series, which is he’s the host and donor search is the sponsor of the, of the series. Thank you, Jay. Thank you for uh Thank you for opening up. Thank you to really, really appreciate it next week. Publish your book, Thought Leader. If you missed any part of this week’s show, I beseech you find it at Tony martignetti.com or sponsored by donor box, outdated donation forms blocking your supporters, generosity. Donor box fast, flexible and friendly fundraising forms for your nonprofit donor box.org. And by virtuous, virtuous gives you the nonprofit CRM fundraising volunteer and marketing tools. You need to create more responsive donor experiences and grow giving, virtuous.org. Welcome again. Virtuous. Thanks so much. Our creative producer is Claire Meyerhoff. I’m your associate producer, Kate Marinetti. The show 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 be with us next week. For nonprofit radio, big nonprofit ideas for the other 95% go out and be great.

Nonprofit Radio for June 19, 2023: Feasibility Studies: What, Why & How


Brian AbernathyFeasibility Studies: What, Why & How

If a capital, endowment or other campaign may be in your nonprofit’s future, you’ll want to consider a feasibility study beforehand. Brian Abernathy, from Convergent Nonprofit Solutions, explains what they’re all about.



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[00:00:53.31] spk_0:
Welcome to tony-martignetti non profit radio. Big non profit ideas for the other 95%. I’m your aptly named host of your favorite he Abdominal podcast. I’m still traveling without my studio mic. So my sound won’t be up to par. It’ll be back to normal next week. And I’m introducing my niece Carmella as our sponsor announcer this week. Oh, I’m glad you’re with me. I’d be thrown into trypanosomiasis. If you infected me with the idea that you missed this week’s show feasibility studies, what, why and how if a capital endowment or other campaign, maybe in your nonprofits future, you’ll want to consider a feasibility study beforehand. Brian Abernathy from Convergent non profit Solutions explains what they’re all about on Tony’s take too classy digs non profit radio.

[00:01:14.17] spk_1:
We’re sponsored by Donor box with intuitive fundraising software from donor box. Your donors give four times faster helping you help others. Donor box dot org.

[00:01:57.82] spk_0:
Here is feasibility studies. What? Why and how? It’s a pleasure to welcome Brian Abernathy to nonprofit radio. He is General Manager at Convergent non profit Solutions where he has supervised and managed capital campaigns that have raised more than 100 and $25 million. The company is at convergent non profit dot com and Brian is on linkedin. Brian Abernathy. Welcome to nonprofit radio.

[00:02:00.54] spk_2:
Thanks tony. Great to have the opportunity to join you today.

[00:02:13.07] spk_0:
I’m glad you can. Thank you. Let’s talk about feasibility studies. Let’s before we get into the how and the why, which actually will do the why and the how, but before we even do the why and the how, let’s talk about the what, what, what are we talking about? Feasibility studies?

[00:02:39.09] spk_2:
Yeah. So a feasibility study, tony, you could boil it down very simply to a strategic due diligence. Before a major funding initiative in capital campaign. That’s the context of feasibility study. The convergent manages and works with our clients on it’s not a will this new building attract the right market of folks? That’s a different type of study, researching utility. What we’re talking about here is, can this program of work raise the necessary amount of money? And are we confident that we’ve got the right dynamics to go out and execute a successful capital campaign to secure that

[00:03:09.00] spk_0:
funding? Do we need to know what our goal is going into the feasibility study or have a working goal or I mean, surely the study is going to refine that? But do we need to have a ballpark of what we’re, what we’re looking for?

[00:04:22.18] spk_2:
Yeah, within reason, we always say it’s good to think big in a feasibility study. When we go into this process, the the proposed program of work that we’re gonna take out and use in confidential interviews. We refer to that as a draft prospectus. So it is a working document uh primarily because we want everyone we meet with to know that their feedback can still shape that plan. But it also gives us the opportunity to test different aspects of the goal amount and the utility of that funding. So we know we might need to do a building campaign for instance. But do we want to also test the prospect of some endowment to underwrite the long term maintenance of that building? Now, that’s obviously gonna bring the funding goal up. We can test all of those things in the study. We will come back and recommend a specific goal range for a camp pain, but it’s always easier to bring that number in a little bit after a study than to realize, oh, we should have, we should have tested the endowment for the building, but we didn’t think about it in advance. So we want to think with a, what could we possibly need to execute this plan? Uh and, and reference that number as our proposed goal during the feasibility

[00:04:51.34] spk_0:
process? Okay. So, so a part of it is getting feedback on the proposed

[00:05:12.77] spk_2:
goal. That’s right. That’s right. Did people get sticker shock? If, if most of the folks that we talked to see a number in their eyes get really wide and they start to sweat in the interview that tells us it may be a little bit ambitious and sometimes they’re really easy ways to resolve that. Maybe there’s a piece of the program like an Indie that we can just quietly approach in the appropriate individual conversations. But sometimes it is a recommendation of you might want to look at phasing how you go about this so that you can get the necessary funding and just look at a longer horizon of time and potentially a couple of campaigns or more to bring that funding.

[00:05:37.96] spk_0:
Okay. Okay. All valuable info. All right. Um And, and how many folks are we, are we talking to typically? How does that work?

[00:06:07.38] spk_2:
So, excuse me, on average, we’re going to interview between 55 65 participants in a feasibility study process. We typically are going to do three weeks of in person interviews. That number obviously varies a little bit depending on the specific client, the geographic scope. If you’ve got a statewide campaign, it’s hard to get to all the right folks, maybe in a three week period. But we want to talk to the highest capacity, most influential stakeholders for whatever the nonprofit is that we’re working with, uh and get their bearings on where this proposed program of work and potential capital campaign might be headed.

[00:06:31.57] spk_0:
Does it have to be a capital campaign? Can it, can it be a programmatic campaign that we’re doing a feasibility study for or strictly an endowment campaign.

[00:07:22.80] spk_2:
Yeah, that’s a great question. And a lot of folks hear the words capital campaign and think, oh, we don’t need a new building so we don’t need a capital campaign. When we talk about a capital campaign, we speak more about the funding strategy and infrastructure. So it’s a focused initiative to fund a multi year program of work. It may be 100% programmatic. It may be 100% building capital. We’ve got a couple in process right now that are 100% endowment focused. We worked with the boys and girls club in Kentucky last year. That was all of the above. It was retrofitting a building that have been provided to them, funding the operation and utility of that building and its staff for a five year period of time and also putting into place an endowment to fund the maintenance and upkeep of that building. So a little bit of both, but when we say capital campaign, we certainly are not exclusively talking building capital.

[00:07:45.75] spk_0:
Okay, cool. Alright. So let’s move to the y what, what, what’s the value of doing a feasibility study? What are you gonna get out of it?

[00:09:26.25] spk_2:
Yeah. So the old adage of, of counting the cost before you start to build a tower plays in perfectly here, we’re going to approach the study and there’s a few key factors that we’re looking to validate. We need to know that there is a sense of urgency for whatever the need is that this program will work is going to address. We need to know that it’s being conveyed in a compelling way that those who hear about the need and then hear about the solution to that need are gonna be compelled to step in and be involved. We want to know that the right leadership is ready to step up for that campaign and this comes in two factors, tony, um One is just the right influence. Fundraising is a game of relationship strategy goes a long way. But if you don’t know anyone in a community and have all the best strategy, you’re probably not going to get the right doors open. So we want to vet out who would the best possible leaders be from a volunteer influence standpoint in the campaign. And the second piece of leadership is funding leadership, are we able to identify viable prospects ready to step in and play significant roles in terms of their investment in whatever this campaign will be implementing, knowing that we’re able to set the right perspective for the top of that uh donor pyramid or what we call an investment range tape. We’re specifically looking for a way to identify the top level potential supporters for a campaign knowing that that’s gonna set the peak where everybody’s gonna look too. So uh let

[00:09:46.06] spk_0:
me just flush out some of these So, so you can identify uh top potential campaign leadership and also top potential donors through a feasibility study.

[00:10:55.94] spk_2:
That’s right. So every single interview that we’re in, we’re gonna ask a number of questions focused on these two factors. And we’re gonna come out with a recommended list of key campaign cabinet and volunteer leaders for each campaign that we conduct a fees ability study. On, in most cases, we’re actually gonna have a drafted organization chart of different prospect divisions and leaders that we believe are gonna have influence with those different pools of individuals, organizations, foundations, whoever it may be, uh what that tells us is, we’re gonna have somebody with the right set of keys to open the doors that we need to get to and then getting a little bit further down the road into a campaign. We’re able to make the strategic highest and best use of each volunteer’s time because we know volunteers and fundraising efforts generally have day jobs and a lot of other things drawing on their time. So that’s critical intel, it’s for any nonprofit going into a funding initiative, especially a major funding initiative like a capital campaign because you just don’t want to churn and wear out your volunteers on a campaign that runs, you know, 18 months, two years, three years, folks just really start to get exhausted. So we, we map all of that out to inform a leadership strategy for the campaign.

[00:11:37.63] spk_0:
Okay. Uh So So, so far, we’ve talked about a need and a compelling purpose that’s gonna move people. Um you know, the, the value you get out of this, the leadership, the volunteer leadership for the campaign structure, the donor leadership. What else, what, why, why else do these do a study?

[00:12:14.42] spk_2:
Yeah. So in that donor leadership reference point, we do reverse analytics on every campaign that we complete. So when we look at non profit sectors or whatever the case may be, we’ve got a general idea of, we need to find a top pledge of X percent of the overall campaign goal. And our top five need to be the next percentage in the top 10 and so on and so forth. So we’re strategically modeling out a highly, highly reliable perspective on this is the funding mix that needs to be in place so that a campaign can be successful. So

[00:12:42.66] spk_0:
in these interviews, you’re, are you coming right out and asking folks, what, what, what, what do you see your participation as in this campaign that, that we’re talking about or do you, are you proposing, you’re proposing dollar amounts for each interviewee or we’ve got a, are you getting at this, this, this potential campaign contribution? Yeah,

[00:14:16.75] spk_2:
we’ll take the test goal and break it down into a funding chart just to show a visual of, we use around numbers. If we’ve got a $10 million campaign goal, we need a 15% lead pledge that would be a million and a half dollars. And so we do a couple of things. We ask every interviewee, who do you think could be up here potentially at the top ranges of this, of this pyramid? So who might be that million and a half dollar lead or a couple of folks at half a million below that? And, and in these candid confidential conversations, folks will say, oh, so and so would be great or this foundation or that family, you should try to talk to them. Uh The other thing that we do after that is we ask each interviewee if the right leaders were engaged in this campaign and if you had the right confidence in the case for investment, but where do you think from a low to high range your organization or family or whoever it is might land in terms of a potential investment? So it’s all very hypothetical based on the very the conversation, we’re very clear, it’s not a commitment to funding, but the majority of the time because we’re the third party outside person who is not putting a pledge card in front of them, asking them to sign it in this conversation, they’ll give us that range and sometimes it’s pretty broad within appropriate reason based on questions the interview you may still have. But it helps us to know both for those individuals and also for some industry and community subsets of peers where we might expect to be able to find the, for the campaign

[00:14:39.40] spk_0:
when you ask who might be at this, this top level, the 15% of the goal, do people ever say? Oh, I could do that

[00:14:41.93] spk_2:
in some cases? Yes. Does that happen a great way to identify a potential?

[00:14:48.03] spk_0:
Yeah. I mean, if they self identify, yeah. Say there’s no better way but that, that happens. People say, oh, I could do that. Yeah.

[00:15:48.57] spk_2:
Yeah. And especially when you’re talking buildings and you’re talking about naming opportunities, which we would of course address in a feasibility study. If there is a building in play, you get to have a whole another set of conversation to follow down of what might be more most appealing in terms of naming this facility to honor the memory of your mother or whoever the case may be. Now those are confidential conversations. So we’re using that to inform strategy moving on down the line in the campaign. Uh But we do not share that information. So we assure them that they’re never gonna see a report that says Bob and Susie really want to be the lead pledge and name the whole facility. We, we still work through the process, honor the reality that they may have other things they need to vet out and validate before they’re ready to finalize that commitment. But we’ve got a pretty good idea from that conversation, how we would want to approach them when in the campaign timeline, we might want to approach them and even what leaders would be most influential to garnering their pledge because we also asked them who they think would be the best leaders.

[00:16:37.22] spk_1:
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[00:17:19.90] spk_0:
Now back to feasibility studies. What why and how? Okay. Very interesting. So if you’re, if you’re a client, the non profit asks, well, who is it that stepped up? What makes you so confident uh that we can get this? We have a very good prospect for this 15% leadership gift. And who are they? You, you, you can’t say it’s Bob and Susie. Uh

[00:18:34.56] spk_2:
We don’t know, we probably could, we choose not to. Um because it, it is one of those factors that helps ensure that we’re getting the most candid and direct feedback out of those interviews. Uh What we do provide is a perspective of we’re highly confident that these folks should be considered in this range of potential investment or we believe based on prior conversations, this family could be a great naming target. Most of the time, tony with a nonprofit that’s highly connected and engaged with their constituents. They’ve already got a pretty good idea of who those folks are. So it’s not common that we get a complete surprise out of that and more often than not, we’re going into those interviews, uh sort of ferreting out. We think this person could have interest in naming a facility or, or stepping up and taking a key leadership role. So prior to even getting into interviews, we’ve gone back and forth several rounds with the list of interviewees getting all the background information on all the perspective from our client. What’s their past giving history look like and so forth? So we’ve got a pretty good starting point that we’re, we’re strategically approaching those conversations and when we find that potential lead pledge that we weren’t expecting, we’re thrilled. But, but most of the time we’ve got a pretty good idea where those need to come from before we even start the interviews.

[00:19:23.12] spk_0:
This sounds very much like an art. I mean, these, these face to face interviews or whatever zoom or, you know, however they’re done. But these interviews, it sounds like you get one shot, have a serious conversation with a donor or an individual donor or foundation or maybe it’s a couple, you know, it’s got to be it just sounds like an art. I mean, you got to be organized, you have to have the story complete. I think, I don’t know, it looks bad. I think if you come back and, well, you might say we have some follow up questions, I guess I could see that. But it seems to me you get one shot to do it really well.

[00:20:28.03] spk_2:
Yeah. And you’re exactly right. Tony. Most of these folks don’t have hours and hours of time that they want to give over a number of weeks or months to have following. So we’re very strategic. We developed a questionnaire that we use for each client and some of those questions are our standards. Some of those are obviously very unique to the client situation. But we’ve also got a team of consultants, most of whom are former uh sea level nonprofit executives. And so there’s a lot of intuition that comes into play here of if somebody says something about one initiative and a program of work that makes some interest, we may chase that thought a little bit more, uh We may push a little bit harder for what we would call the financial indication in some interviews and other places we may back off. So there’s a lot of nuance in how those conversations

[00:20:31.03] spk_0:
play out. All right. So let’s, let’s keep pulling on this thread about what you’re gonna get out of it, the, the value, why, why do it

[00:21:46.55] spk_2:
so the, if you want to think about value in terms of a simple deliverable, uh We’re gonna prepare what we call an opportunity, analysis report and recommendations and that’s gonna give um the objective responses that we collect did some quantitative, some qualitative, we’re gonna analyze those. We’re gonna give you perspective on the trends in the feedback that we got. And then it’s gonna give specific recommendations on next steps. Very, very rarely. Tony. Is that next step? A cold and hard? No, go on a campaign. Sometimes it is a bad time for an organization to step into a campaign. Most of the time there is specific work to be done to prepare for a campaign or we’re going into a campaign pretty swiftly. Some of that is the shelf life on these reports. We think of it about a 92 120 day times fans. Um The, uh we know from the pack last few years, a lot can change in three months. So sitting and waiting and considering, should we go forward? Should we not on the side of a non profit can be risky in some

[00:21:57.51] spk_0:
cases. Let me ask you what, what might some of that work be that has to be done first? If it’s not a, it’s not a hard, let’s go. We’re 100% or where you can never be. 100% were 95% confident. But if you’re not at that point, what might some of that work be that needs to be done first.

[00:23:57.83] spk_2:
So generally, it’s gonna fall into one of three specific subsets that we focus on. And we’ve got a principle we talked about it convergent called Asking Rights and Asking rights is the intersection of your nonprofits credibility. Uh The clarity of the outcomes that it delivers through the work that it does not the outputs or the activity, but the true bottom line impact and then fundraising skill. So we’re gonna look at those three dynamics through the interviews and we may come out of a feasibility study process and say your credibility is not quite where it needs to be. And so we need to take some focused time to cultivate messaging, to engage your constituency, get the right leaders committed, maybe do some board work to get them ready to step in and be active. Sometimes this can take place in the foundational phase of a capital campaign. Sometimes it takes a little bit more time on the outcome side. Generally, we’re gonna address this through something we call program refinement early in a campaign engagement where we’re taking that draft plan from the study were sharpening it up. We’re answering the questions that we heard, adding some specificity and really, really working on developing what we call an organizational value proposition, which is how we would convey the the true outcomes and economic value that whatever the nonprofit is we’re working with is delivering in their community. Uh And then the last piece is the fundraising skills. So in some cases, we’ve got a great plan, we’ve got the right outcomes. But the fun fundraising infrastructure to go out and execute on the campaign is just not there. And so one of the common engagements that we work with clients on in that space is a multi month resource development strategy engagement where we’re addressing and building out some of those fundraising infrastructure points so that when the time does get there to turn on a capital campaign, the organization is ready to move forward

[00:24:28.21] spk_0:
smoothly. Meanwhile, though the clock is ticking on the value of the the study, you said what you said 9200 and 20 days is that I don’t mean to put words in your mouth. Is that right?

[00:24:34.82] spk_2:
That so

[00:24:51.09] spk_0:
three, so 3 to 4 months, you see uh after that, the landscape could have changed from the conversations that you had time is ticking while you’re trying to do this sort of fundraising infrastructure work. That’s

[00:25:27.40] spk_2:
right. So if we end up with a longer term engagement, uh that, that were involved in what we’re gonna do is maintain the reference points to know what factors we need to see, shift to be prepared for moving into a campaign. If we get beyond that horizon, we’ve got the perspective from the critical interviews that we conducted in the study and we would just roll what we call some re interviews into the early stages of the capital campaign to get some re validation and affirmation. One of those findings adjusted and that’s usually somewhere in the neighborhood of, you know, 6 to 10, maybe 12 key conversations. And once we validate yet, we still got the right leaders, we still have the affirmed support of some of those lead prospective donors or investors. Then we’re confident to move forward with the rest of the recommendations as we had previously

[00:25:48.10] spk_0:
identified. Okay. Okay. Anything else on the value proposition part, what we’re going to get out of this study? Why we’re doing it?

[00:26:13.92] spk_2:
Yeah, the, the last big pieces that campaign strategy and timeline. So we’re gonna give specific recommendations on the scope of campaign. What we believe a high to low feasible goal range is gonna be the number of months that we believe it’s going to take you to manage a campaign. Uh And then if that client is interested in working with us, we’re also recommending the level of campaign management or council from our side that we believe would be most conducive to their success, given their community size, size of their organization and staff and so forth.

[00:27:03.95] spk_0:
So now we have this, we have this report, I guess it’s, it’s also typically a presentation to the board and the C Suite leadership imagine, but also written report. Um Now then folks can take that report and go off and I don’t know, try they can try to try the campaign on their own. I’m sure they’re free to engage convergent, which, which you would love, you’d love to do that work. Uh, or they can do, they could hire some other firm, I guess.

[00:27:06.81] spk_2:
Right. Yeah, that’s right. So, every now and then we will do a campaign where another firm did a study. It’s not all that common and vice versa. It’s not all that common that we would do a study and another firm would come in and manage a campaign just because you can imagine there’s such a depth of institutional knowledge and connectivity that comes

[00:27:38.66] spk_0:
connection. You had somebody else did the interviews and now you’re executing, you’re going back and getting serious about soliciting volunteers, leadership soliciting gifts, but you don’t have the, you don’t have the connection. That’s right.

[00:28:27.79] spk_2:
Right. All right, you do get engaged periodically with an organization that’s got a strong development staff. We’ve got a few repeat clients in this vote. They are prepared to and understand what is involved in going out and raising the money. But they always want third party objective feedback out of the feasibility study. So they’re getting perspective on how do we do over the past X number of years in communicating with our constituents. How is our leadership seen in the community? Who would be the right leaders is the goal feasible? Now again, we’re not divulging the specific feedback from interviewees in these engagements, but we still say, hey, yes, we, we believe this goal range is a pro for you to pursue uh and so on and so forth. But they’re doing that based on aggregate data. Whereas if were retained to manage a campaign, we have the benefit of all of that very specific and nuanced feedback from interviews that our team members would draw on throughout the campaign to, to guide strategy and next steps with, with the different prospects that we may have interviewed.

[00:29:18.23] spk_0:
Okay. Okay. Um So let’s, let’s stick with, you know, I want to the nuts and bolts of this, of this uh feasibility study. Um How do we, who schedules the, who schedules the meetings? Is that, is that the nonprofits responsibility? Now, we’ve got this list of, you said, typically, I think 50 to 65 interviews. Um you know, who’s who, what’s the mechanics of moving forward? Yeah.

[00:30:33.89] spk_2:
So we will have on average between 55 65 interviews that’s gonna come from a list of normally around 120 or so interviewees. We know we’re not gonna schedule everybody we want to meet with, but we want to get critical mass of feedback. So we start with a list expecting some folks won’t be available. What we have found a over time and time continues to affirm a schedule er, from the nonprofit organization is far more successful in securing these interviews, especially with your higher influence, higher capacity interviewees. Just because it’s a name and a and a number or an email address that they recognize the, the email from convergent non profit solution is not incredibly likely to get a response when asking for a meeting. If any, if anyone’s like me, they get a number of those emails every day from somebody uh selling wares or offering something. And so we want to build from a place of strength in the scheduling. So we start with a representative of the organization. Usually we give about a two week lead time for scheduling and then our average feasibility study is going conduct interviews over a three week period. That person may have a little bit of scheduling work to do over the first couple of weeks, just filling in the gaps. But typically that, that schedule, er, is 2.5, 3 weeks ish of their time making some phone calls and following up on emails.

[00:31:02.20] spk_0:
And what are they asking folks to participate in? Uh, you were, the insiders are calling it a feasibility study or you even have a different phrase that you call it uh

[00:31:03.56] spk_2:

[00:31:04.81] spk_0:
opportunity analysis. But what are we using for? Our, our interviewees are potential interviewees? What are we calling it? What are we, what are we saying? We’re asking them to agree

[00:32:12.93] spk_2:
to, we send a letter over the signatures of a few key leaders that are affiliated with the organization explaining why we are there that we absolutely not asking for funding. We’re seeking candid confidential feedback on the proposed plan that is attached to that letter. So we’re giving them an opportunity to see what we want to talk about before the meeting. Uh Partly so they know, but also so they’ve had an opportunity to digest it and come up with questions before we walk into the room and we tell them it’s a feasibility study. It’s a vetting of a potential campaign that it would be unwise for the organization to go forward apart from the feedback of these key valued stakeholders and constituents. And so that information goes out to everyone on the interview list. We have some cases where for, for sensitive information in the program of work. Uh the client that we would work with might not send out the full plan until someone actually schedules an interview. We have online cloud based scheduling system that we use. So all of that is automated and simple. So not a lot of extra work there. But we want uh we want the interviewees to have perspective well, before we walk in the room because it’s gonna help us get the strongest feedback.

[00:33:45.25] spk_0:
It’s time for Tony’s take to thank you, Classy. Their blog post is 17 podcasts for nonprofits you need on your radar, non profit radio. That’s this show is there number five, it would be my pleasure to name the others, but there are 16 of them. You wouldn’t remember them all. And that wouldn’t be fair to the ones that you don’t retain. Imagine that I’m not gonna let that happen to my fellow podcasters. Well, I’m not going to allow it. So there’s really only one show you need to know this one. Tony-martignetti non profit radio. The post with the full list is on the blog at classy dot org. Classy. Thank you very, very much. That is Tony’s take two. We’ve got Boo koo, but loads more time for feasibility studies. What why and how with Brian Abernathy, they’re, they’re being asked to meet with someone outside the organization, right? That you, they’re, they’re being asked to meet with someone from convergent.

[00:34:08.09] spk_2:
That’s correct. And we identify that person even in that letter, uh you will be getting a call from so and so at the nonprofit organization to schedule a time for you to meet with Brian from Convergent for 45 minutes to an hour at a time of your convenience. So pretty, pretty clear all the way through. So they don’t think uh the executive director of the nonprofit is coming to meet with them and then it’s this outside consultant and they’re caught off guard or what have you,

[00:34:23.64] spk_0:
you prefer to do these in person or is zoom a suitable substitute?

[00:34:29.58] spk_2:
Zoom. Zoom has become a suitable substitute for a lot of things. I

[00:34:33.59] spk_0:
don’t know a necessity, right?

[00:35:20.41] spk_2:
But we still do the vast majority of our interviews in person and most of that is the opportunity to cultivate relationship when we meet with someone in their home or in their office or wherever it may be, you know, just the, the fundraising experience of walking in and seeing things in their office to be able to draw some personal connections. If that’s someone uh that we’re interviewing is 34 months later being sat down with by the same consultant to solicit a pledge. We walk in with that much more relational credibility and equity that we can leverage on behalf of our clients. So we love to do in person. That’s always our recommendation. But we, we absolutely are still doing some zoom interviews and in some cases, that’s just the most functional. We’ve, we’ve worked with some higher ed clients that have donors all over the country. And so in person is just not realistic and zoom allows us to do that. Uh And what we sacrifice in terms of not getting that uh in person sit down sort of warm fuzzy feel is certainly not detrimental to the results that we get in the final.

[00:36:28.17] spk_0:
But you prefer the in person. I always, I always prefer in person meetings with, you know, for me, I’m talking to planned giving prospects are playing, giving donors doing stewardship. But you know, there’s just nothing like seeing pictures of grandchildren, a picture of a sailboat awards from their business, whatever brother photographs there might be. I mean, there’s just a wealth of questions and you know, you can ask folks about to try to build a foundation with people and some of it, you know, may end up, you know, see pictures of yachts in the Caribbean or a yacht in the Caribbean. You know, that, that may be indicative of some, some potential potential giving that you maybe didn’t know about. Uh there’s just so much in someone’s home or office, but even just drawing, just like I said, just drawing a foundation for a relationship asking about the pictures, those Children, grandchildren, you know, etcetera. So yeah,

[00:37:13.30] spk_2:
and these days, the in person meetings are the ones that stand out in our memories, right? Where you’re like me all the time. But the so and so came by sat in my office or my living room, we spent time together. Those are now very much inflection points in terms of our interpersonal reactions are interpersonal interactions. And so that helps uh sort of entrance that conversation in the mind of the interviewee as well, which is a benefit when we get to a campaign because we want to come back and build on that prior conversation. Yeah,

[00:37:30.27] spk_0:
just have a warmer foundation to the relationship if it’s, if it’s not virtual, if it’s in person. What about meals? You like? Uh I like to, I like to, but I may have a different purpose. I’m not doing feasibility studies, but I happen to like to meet prospects and donors over meals is that, is that maybe not so suitable for a feasibility study?

[00:37:52.05] spk_2:
Yeah. We specifically tried to avoid meals and places for these conversations and some of it is we want to hear really candid feedback and we want to hear it about the organization we’re working with. We want to hear it about, as I mentioned a few moments ago. Who do you think could be that

[00:38:03.33] spk_0:
other people? Right. Right. The other person might be sitting two tables away. Yeah. Right.

[00:38:35.84] spk_2:
That’s right. That’s right. So it makes it a little bit easier to get the type of feedback we want. When we’re in a quiet private setting, we had clients who have said, hey, we’ve got a conference room right here in the office. We can do all the interviews in the office. And certainly that’s, that’s not the worst scenario. What we don’t want is somebody weird. Well, gosh, the executive director’s office is on the other side of this wall. I don’t want them to hear some of my true thoughts. So I just won’t share those things. So we, we try to always go to the interviewee so that we’re sitting down in, in their turf. So to say

[00:39:02.67] spk_0:
okay. And then, uh you have a conversation, right? You’re, you’re building that foundational relationship because hopefully you’ll, you’ll be embarking on a campaign with this non profit. Any bad story, like any war story, you ever get thrown out of someone’s home or office. Um I hope not. But if you did, I want to know if you did, I want to hear about it if you got thrown out.

[00:41:02.02] spk_2:
So you always get folks that have some sort of other unique local agenda or organization that they’ve got a stronger affinity for. And you hear a, well, this is, this is good but this other organization is, it’s really getting great work done. So, those are pretty commonplace. Um I had one that is sort of my favorite feasibility study. Worst story that, that really undergirds the importance of that fundraising skill that I talked about earlier. I walked into a feasibility interview. Uh The gentleman that I was gonna interview was ready. He was right there as I walked in, he had the draft program of work in front of him. So I’m thinking great. He read it, he’s ready to go and he pulls out another piece of paper and he says, I’m really glad that you’re here because uh five years ago, I supported this organization in a prior campaign. And this is the invoice for my last payment, which I’ll be sending off later this week. And then he held up that program of work. And he said this is the only other information I’ve received in five years is this proposed program of work. So I’ll be sitting this one out, but I appreciate your coming by to hear my thoughts and I didn’t get my questionnaire out. I thank you, I’ll be sure to convey your thoughts appropriately. Uh And, and that was the end of the interview. It was pretty quick, but that just goes to undergird tony, that all that we’re doing in nonprofits is setting the stage for the next opportunity. So you may not have a capital campaign in the next two years. But the things that an organization is doing today are laying the foundational building blocks so that they can be successful whenever that capital campaign or major funding initiative for an annual campaign you’re in, you can swap out the, the avenue. But that, that communication and relationship cultivation is absolutely critical. And

[00:41:30.92] spk_0:
the stewardship that follows. That’s right. He sounds like he made a five year, a five year pledge. He was just about to send his fifth pledge payment, happy to do it. But the stewardship was awful and all he got was the next funding plan. But he, he set

[00:41:49.98] spk_2:
you up very valid reasons for that organization and its leadership. But, but that, that individual didn’t care if there was a valid reason. His perception was the reality that he was working from. Um, and, and learning those things is good. Sometimes it’s painful to learn those things. But again, I would say that’s a value of a feasibility study as you get some of that inside perspective you otherwise might not

[00:42:30.47] spk_0:
have. Oh, absolutely. You know, you can’t count on that guy. He’s not he’s not gonna be your volunteer. He’s not gonna be your honorary chair. That’s right. It’s not gonna be any kind of volunteer and he’s not gonna give. So that is valuable to know because they probably thought exactly the opposite because he made a five year pledge to the previous campaign. So they probably thought he was a very, very good prospect for this campaign, but they did not do a good job at stewardship. So he’s sitting it out. I do note though that he set you up. He wanted to tell you this face to face. He didn’t want to do it by email. He didn’t say have Mr Abernathy call me an anti before he arranges the, before we meet Mr Abernathy called me. Didn’t, didn’t offer that. He, he wanted to tell it to your face to face.

[00:43:04.01] spk_2:
That’s right. He was going to schedule the meeting right after and you know, I can’t even, it’s probably not fair to presume intent or motive, but there’s a little bit of uh giving you the level of interaction that I didn’t get. Right. Nobody came by to talk to me, but you’re here now. And so I’m gonna tell you face in my perspective, it conveyed the seriousness of his thoughts. It’s really easy to ignore an email. It’s really easy to just say no, thanks. Don’t have time to meet with you. But it appropriately conveyed how, how significant it was to him that he had not been communicated with

[00:43:25.22] spk_0:
stewardship, stewardship. There’s no chance of trying to resurrect that relationship. And then maybe in the midst of the campaign, I mean, the, the CEO would have to be very humble and humble and apologetic, but maybe it’s worth exploring.

[00:44:55.96] spk_2:
Yeah, that’s one of those spots where you look at. Okay. Presuming you have the information available who connected with this individual last time. What was the process by which they were cultivated and solicited? What’s their prior other engagement with the organization? And sometimes tony, I’ve had feasibility interviewees tell me we might give a very nominal amount to this and I would have no interest in a leadership role because I’ve got my business to run and I’ve got these other things going on, but then you go back to them with the right person and they’re your campaign chair, right? I’ve literally seen that in that specific instance, play out in a campaign. And so it goes to show that just because someone says yes or no in one of these conversations does not mean that’s their final answer. And, and again, some of that is in the feasibility study, the value of an outside consultant is nobody’s afraid to tell them the truth. They don’t know them, they don’t have any local affiliate e affiliation. And so they’re just talking objectively about a program of work and collecting information when you get into a campaign, what you want is the exact opposite. You want relationship, you want influence and you pair the strategy and the perspective of a consultant with someone with local relationship and influence and you go back, you can change the response that you get very readily in many cases.

[00:45:16.28] spk_0:
So I’m not so naive. I mean, it’s, it’s possible to resurrect even the guy who says,

[00:45:24.89] spk_2:
but he

[00:46:56.46] spk_0:
held firm. But I would try if I was the CEO I would try and then if he’s not gonna meet me or, you know, he’s dismissive of the, you know, then of course, you can’t go any further. I’m not suggesting go any further, but it’s worth a try. I think, you know, I’m of the mind that if he didn’t care, I know we’re pulling on this one thread, but you picked a very valuable, that’s a really valuable outlier in your experience. He did care enough to tell you why he didn’t. He didn’t just do the things that you suggested would have been much easier, ignored the phone call, ignore the email just, you know, and then, and just blow the whole thing off. He did take the time to tell the organization that they messed up the relationship with him in so many, in so many words. So my belief is if people are willing to tell you that you’ve messed up, they, they still love you just not as much as they did when they made the five year pledge from the previous campaign. They don’t love you as much, but they do still have an affinity. They want you to know that you screwed it up. So, I, I see some, I see some potential but, and you’re saying I’m not 100% naive and at least trying to explore it. I’m optimistic. I have a glass is half full. What else can you tell us about the mechanics of, you’ve got these 55 to 65 interviews? You said you don’t do them over like three weeks. Obviously, you need some time to prepare your report. Do all you have multiple, I guess you have multiple interviewers, then how do you, how do you sort of coalesced the opinions of multiple interviewers?

[00:49:13.19] spk_2:
Yeah. So we’ve got some data collection and analysis tools that we use internally, uh that we come out from a couple of angles. So typically we would have one dedicated consultant who is running through the entire feasibility study process. And in a lot of cases, another of our senior team members is going to come on site for 23 days to, to join some interviews. What we want is a couple of different set of eyes on things. Um And then we come back out of those are our team member who’s been face to face with. Folks is telling us sort of the, the nuance of I heard these trends in conversation and these things don’t bear out in the numbers which are readily evolving day by day as we complete interviews. So we’re watching those trends as things move forward. But we’re able to say this, this number ticks here, but there’s, there’s a fact over here that’s meaningful, that’s not going to show up in the numbers. And so are are on the ground. Consultant is looking at that then a member of our client services leadership team is just blinders on looking at the data, right? Did we see a high enough level of interest in filling a leadership role? If we didn’t, we know there’s a hurdle, we’re gonna have to address do the completely objective numbers of a number of potential high level investors. We say investors, not donors. Now does the number of potential high level prospects match with what we would want to see to know that we could go out there and you know the 300 Hall of Fame batting average and still have a suitable pool of lead investments. Uh Do the numbers of financial indications match up to what history has shown us, we need to see to validate the campaign goal. And then we come together as a team internally and compare all of those things and triangulate in on the positive factors, the challenging factors, we identify what we call X factors that are outside variables that no one could control. But we heard enough about this that if X Y and Z bro this direction, it could have an adverse impact on the campaign. And again, we can’t do anything about it, but we need to always be aware of it so that we’re not surprised if something happens to shift, whether that’s local economy. I mean, who knows what those things could be? But they pretty often will reveal themselves through our interviews

[00:49:38.54] spk_0:
and then it’s a delivery to the, to the board. I don’t know, do the board leaders get an advanced copy of the report and then it’s a delivery to the full board or everybody gets it released to them at the same time, how does, what’s the best way there?

[00:51:14.32] spk_2:
So generally, within about a week of completing our interviews, we’re going to jump on a call with the executive and maybe executive team for our client by depending on their preference and share our preliminary find. So this is yes, we believe a campaign is feasible or not. Here’s the goal amount that we believe is uh is feasible low to high range and here or any other unique variables that we want to get planted in your mind so that you can think through how would be best to present those to your board and other key leaders. That meeting is typically about three weeks or so after we complete the interviews, because it does take us a couple of 2, 2.5 weeks to get that report together and polished up and presentable. And then we would send it to our client executive and give them discretion as to how they would want to distribute it in some cases. They just want to share an executive summary. And so we’ve got that ready in others. They want us to present and then they want to share the report. So we’re pretty flexible on that. And that’s really because every organization is different. And so we don’t, that’s one of those spots that we don’t try to prescribe. You’ve got to send the whole report to the whole board before some boards would read it and then check out of the conversation in person. And you know, there’s all kinds of variables out there that we don’t try to over prescribe a method for, for how we would present. But we would step in and show them the details of the findings. Give them some of the candid feedback at a again aggregate level and share whatever our recommendations would be for next steps.

[00:51:34.26] spk_0:
That’s, that’s a feasibility study. And then they’ve got their 9200 and 20 days to make a decision.

[00:51:52.56] spk_2:
Yeah. And most of the time it’s uh it’s, there’s a campaign or follow on work, I should say most of the time, it’s a much quicker transition. We had a client recently that um it’s sort of still in this process. So, but they had a very specific piece of X factor outside variable that needed to have a clear decision before they would be well positioned to move into a campaign that happened to involve some public sector decisions that has played out over the course of about nine months. And it looks like now they’re gonna be ready to move towards that campaign.

[00:52:14.87] spk_0:
Okay. But now they’re now they’re nine months past the feasibility study. So there might need to be some follow up interviews.

[00:52:17.27] spk_2:
That’s right. We’ll schedule over the first month or so of the campaign. A handful of those re interviews, just rechecking bearings knowing that there’s no new surprises that may have crept up or identifying any new surprises and course correcting for how we would want to navigate those moving

[00:52:53.73] spk_0:
forward. You had mentioned foundations as interviewees, foundation staff are willing to, to take these kinds of meetings and make a broad, I mean, they can’t commit, they can’t commit because every decision is a decision of the board. But foundation staff or I guess it’s a program staff are willing to take this

[00:53:47.41] spk_2:
in varying cases. And so you hit a very specific point that we always monitor when there are foundations on our interview list is 99% of the time that foundation staff person is gonna say a grant is a decision of the board. Our grant guidelines are on the internet or invitation only or whatever the variables. But we typically can be pretty strategic in using an interview if we get it as a cultivation approach. So less of a tell us what the foundation would do and more of a, how would we best position this for success? Given your focus areas as a foundation and would your foundation rather lead the way and help us get out of the starting block strong or put us over the goal line at the other end of the campaign? And as you probably know very well, there are foundations that have very specific spots that they want to play in that process. And we need to know that in a campaign so that we’re not starting out thanking on a meaningful grant from a foundation when that foundation’s board would rather be making that grant. You know, when we’re 80 90% of the way to the goal already.

[00:54:31.92] spk_0:
And, and it could be a funder that’s funded the nonprofit in the past, they’re still not gonna commit to something they’re still going to defer to their board. But uh they, you can deepen the relationship in, in that case. Okay. All right, Brian, why don’t you just leave us with a little uh a little motivation about feasibility studies.

[00:56:15.09] spk_2:
The important thing with a feasibility study is I would say is getting it right. It’s not one of those things that you want to rush through, I would say to a non profit, it’s not something you really want to do on your own because you’re gonna miss some of that objective third party perspective. And that is such a valuable due diligence, a campaign, a capital campaign of a large scale and we’re typically testing multimillion dollar projects. It’s not one of those things that you want to risk swinging and missing. Uh knowing exactly what is out there in terms of the fund, ability of a plan, the amount of funding that’s there. You can save a lot of relational equity and as we talked about before credibility for an organization. So like I said, we will do feasibility studies where there is no interest in our doing a campaign uh and, and offer that perspective in that guidance. But it also we’re an organization recognizes, they don’t have the capacity for a campaign in terms of their internal staff is a just invaluable first step of counting the cost before you don’t go out and start to build that tower. So we’re no surprise big proponents of feasibility studies. We’ve talked a lot internally. Is there uh is there a way to get the same information out of a different process? This is one of those things we’ve tried every thought of innovation and how, how could we move faster? But the reality is from our experience, there is just not a better way to get the level of intelligence that a feasibility study provides and then be able to go into a capital campaign from a position of

[00:56:51.64] spk_0:
success. And plus there’s that relational foundation. Yeah, that, that, that’s so much that’s so much value to it as Well, building that building that relationship. All right. Thank you, Brian. Brian Abernathy, General Manager at Convergent non profit Solutions. The company is at Convergent non profit dot com and you’ll find Brian on linkedin. Brian. Thank you very much. Thanks so much, tony. My pleasure. Thanks for sharing next week, data driven storytelling with Julia Campbell. If you missed any part of this week’s show, I beseech you find it at tony-martignetti dot com.

[00:57:17.04] spk_1:
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[00:57:37.14] spk_0:
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 be with me next week for nonprofit radio. Big non profit ideas for the other 95% go out and be great.