Big, bold goals: Learn the secret to long-term nonprofit growth and innovation

Big, bold goals: Learn the secret to long-term nonprofit growth and innovation

July 1, 2021
29 minutes
EPISODE SUMMERY

Nick Black · Founder and CEO, GoodUnited · Founder, Stop Soldier Suicide & Tina Starkey · Chief Growth Officer, Stop Soldier Suicide | In 2020, Stop Soldier Suicide raised $4M and gained 100k new donors through Facebook fundraising alone, allowing them to shrink the gap that stretches between soldiers at risk for suicide and our national population. Hear how a big, bold, goal set them on their path to achieving their mission.

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EPISODE NOTES

Pop quiz, listeners: How much greater is the risk of suicide that our veterans and service members face versus their peers who haven't served?

Before we answer that, let us introduce you to the Nonstop Nonprofit podcast guests today: Nick Black and Tina Starkey. Nick is the founder and CEO of social fundraising solution GoodUnited and he also founded powerhouse nonprofit Stop Soldier Suicide. Tina, Stop Soldier Suicide's Chief Growth Officer, brings a wealth of experience in the social realm, coming from the American Cancer Society as their Sr. Director of Social Marketing.

By uniting their abilities and planting a flag in the sand, in 2020, Stop Soldier Suicide raised $4M and gained 100k new donors through Facebook fundraising alone, allowing them to shrink the gap that stretches between soldiers at risk for suicide and our national population. It's a big, bold goal: Service members and veterans have a 50% higher rate of suicide than the national average here in the U.S.

One of our biggest takeaways from this conversation is how Stop Soldier Suicide's big, bold goal completely flipped their perspective. Like any other nonprofit, the founders saw a need and wanted to help—but when Nick started thinking concretely and looked at their capacity for impact, he realized that deeper donor relationships weren't just mission-critical, they were the key to being Mission Accomplished.

During this conversation, Nick and Tina are the embodiment of expert-yet-excited nonprofiteers innovating on the fly, applying expansive strategies targeted to very specific donor segments, and infusing their work with an urgency that blows past the reservations that often hold donors back, offering them a chance to invest in the lives of those who have invested everything in our liberty.

TRANSCRIPT

Hello, I'm Justin Wheeler, and welcome to this episode of Nonstop Nonprofit!

Pop quiz, listeners: How much greater is the risk of suicide that our veterans and service members face versus their peers who haven’t served?

Before we answer that, let me introduce you to the Nonstop Nonprofit podcast guests today: Nick Black and Tina Starkey. Nick is the founder and CEO of social fundraising solution GoodUnited and he also founded powerhouse nonprofit Stop Soldier Suicide. Tina, Stop Soldier Suicide’s Chief Growth Officer, brings a wealth of experience in the social realm, coming from the American Cancer Society as their Sr. Director of Social Marketing.

By uniting their abilities and planting a flag in the sand, in 2020, Stop Soldier Suicide raised $4M and gained 100k new donors through Facebook fundraising alone, allowing them to shrink the gap that stretches between soldiers at risk for suicide and our national population. It’s a big, bold goal: Service members and veterans have a 50% higher rate of suicide than the national average here in the U.S.

One of my biggest takeaways from this conversation is how Stop Soldier Suicide’s big, bold goal completely flipped their perspective. Like any other nonprofit, the founders saw a need and wanted to help—but when Nick started thinking concretely and looked at their capacity for impact, he realized that deeper donor relationships wasn’t just mission-critical, it was the key to being Mission Accomplished.

During this conversation, Nick and Tina are the embodiment of expert-yet-excited nonprofiteers innovating on the fly, applying expansive strategies targeted to very specific donor segments, and infusing their work with an urgency that blows past the reservations that often hold donors back, offering them a chance to invest in the lives of those who have invested everything in our liberty. Let's dive in!


Justin Wheeler Tina, Nick, thank you so much for joining the Nonstop Nonprofit podcast. I'm really excited to dig in and to talk about Facebook fundraising to I know Stop Soldier Suicide has grown quite a bit with this channel. And Nick being the founder of Good United, a company that's helping nonprofits really optimize Facebook. I'm excited to just kind of dig in and learn from what you guys are seeing and how it's impacting organizations. But before we jump into that good stuff, I'd like to take a few moments to learn more about your guys as organizations. And so, Tina, tell us a little bit more. You've been, you've worked with some of America's largest nonprofits. You've been in the nonprofit space for a good amount of time. So tell us a little bit about your background and why you love working, assuming that you love working, in the nonprofit sector.

Tina Starkey Hey, Justin, thanks for having me. I do love working in the nonprofit sector as much of a glutton for punishment as I am, but it's been a labor of love. I like to say I grew up in this space. I started at the American Cancer Society right out of college. I really grew up in a time in which peer-to-peer fundraising was moving from analog to digital. So I spent the beginning of my career grassroots fundraising, peer-to-peer, for one of the biggest nonprofits in the country with the biggest peer-to-peer event in the world, Relay for Life and truly loved my time at the American Cancer Society. I kind of went from a local role to a regional role and then left in 2019 as the national director of social media. It was really this big transition, taking an organization like the American Cancer Society that's been around for 113 years or however long it's been at this point, transitioning them into the digital age. And then when I met Nick and the other founders of Stop Soldier Suicide, I was so excited to get to join a fresh and young nonprofit that was really attacking the problem with a different lens. So taking social media marketing in the forefront, taking best in class practices from the startup space and from the entrepreneurial space, and then layering that into the nonprofit experience. So it's been a joy. It's been a tough battle over the past two years, Nick and I together. But we're making progress. And that really has started to show in the efforts that we have in our Facebook fundraising.

Justin Wheeler That's awesome. I'm excited to get to that a little bit more with you here in a few minutes. Nick, you're a nonprofit and for-profit founder. Tell us about your story and why you're you're passionate about this space as well.

Nick Black Sure. So I co-founded Good United seven years ago, and the reason why I co-founded Good United was because of my experience with Stop Soldier Suicide. I co-founded Stop Soldier Suicide 10 years ago. And the reason why I did that. Right, not because I'm smart, but because I had experiences previously in the military. So I had the opportunity to serve with 173rd Airborne out of Italy. We went to Afghanistan for two and a half years. My first deployment was 15 months. We were stationed on the border of Pakistan. So a place called FOB Tillman. Named after Pat Tillman who was a football player for the Arizona Cardinals, a fellow ranger. Who was unfortunately killed on the mountain that we were at. I was with 120 guys and we fought every single day. After 15 months, our unit lost 55 guys and 120 guys. We all came back. Two weeks after we came home, one of my soldiers took his own life. So for me, I dedicated my 20s to going to Afghanistan and fighting the enemy. And it was a realization to learn that we've, you know, we're killing ourselves at a higher clip than the enemy ever could. And so I want to do something about it, the other two co-founders and I came together, we started Stop Soldier Suicide. And then growing that organization the one area that continued to frustrate me and made me absolutely mental was donor retention. We're working so hard to get people to focus on the organization and the give. And like many organizations, we only had time to focus on those with the biggest wallets. I think that's garbage, right. So with that, I met a gentleman named Jeremy Berman, at graduate school in North Carolina, and we started to hypothesize and iterate on what can we do with technology? How can we leverage technology to democratize the fundraising experience? No matter how much you're worth or how much you give, you deserve to have a meaningful relationship with that nonprofit. So we've been charged without a Good United for the past seven years. And it's been a really interesting experience on one hand with stops where suicide when able to find people like Tina and then stay involved and the other with Good United in seeing the evolution of this new industry, the market of where people are giving. And it's been an absolute pleasure to be a little part of a lot of incredible organization's missions. So it's all one narrative. I'm focused, I've never been smart enough to read a book and know what to do, but usually, something pisses me off and then I focus and try to solve it. And then that opens up a new thing. And then I try to do that one. And so here I'm at. And thanks for having me.

Justin Wheeler Yeah. Thank you for that. Very helpful. So obviously, as the founder of Stop Soldier Suicide, and Tina the Chief Growth Officer, which I love that title, by the way. Several podcasts that we talked about, titles and growth officer was one that I think is important for every organization to have. To be focused on growth, new opportunities. Tina, tell us a little bit more about the mission of Stop Soldier Suicide and what is the goal of the organization? I've seen you guys post a bit on LinkedIn about one day you hope the organization doesn't have to exist. Tell us a little bit more about the mission and what you're trying, I mean, the name says it in and of itself. But talk to us a little bit more about the mission of Stop Soldier Suicide?

Tina Starkey The service members and veterans have a 50% higher rate of suicide than our national population. So that means the average civilian is, we're facing this mental health crisis as a country and our veterans are even facing 50% higher risk for suicide. So we accept Stop Soldier Suicide are really determined to disrupt that space, to think differently about how we can save service member and veteran lives. One of the misnomers that is just important for everybody to know, a soldier is an Army term. We were founded by three Army Rangers. We have now are we support all branches. So we serve those who've been in the Navy. We serve those who have been in the Air Force. We serve all branches, all eras. And we're finding that the actually the younger population has an even more acute risk for suicide. So all of that to say we have a goal to reduce veteran suicide to the national average. So that would mean that we have to reduce it by 40 percent. We have set a flag in the sand. We want to do that by 2030. So by the year 2030, we will have reduced veteran suicide to the national average. So that no service member or veteran has a more acute risk of suicide than anyone else in our country. And that's a big task, right? That's a big task. But the thing that we're faced with and what we're focused on will make sure that we're not trying to do everything for everyone. We just stay wholly focused on the suicide issue. There are many, many, many layers that need to be unpacked for our service members and veterans. Many of them are suffering from PTSD. But it's not just PTSD. Many of them have traumas from their childhoods that have never been unpacked. We have military sexual trauma that's pervasive. We have all these things that we're working through. And really a differentiator for us is that we take time to respect and honor where that veteran or service member is when they come to us. They come in our door. Each one of them is unique. We're going to serve their needs where they are today. They're never going to get a bill from us and we're going to stay with them as long as it takes. And so that could be six months. That could be two years. We're committed to staying with that individual no matter what, and we're seeing it prove out. We're seeing very high-end scores from our clients. We're seeing testimonial after testimonial that said I would be dead if it weren't for you guys. So we're really, really proud of the work that we're doing.

Nick Black I think just one of the big shifts we had in this organization is to Tina's point, coming up with a quantifiable goal that we're going to accomplish. And for the first seven years, we're really about helping people. We didn't have the resources, the capacity to think bigger and there was an incredible moment that we had up in Washington, D.C., where a young soldier, we we're getting an award from Department of Defense, and a young soldier came up to me, say, congratulations, sir. What's the name of the organization? I said Stop Soldier Suicide. He goes, Oh, cool. When are you going to do that? I said what? When are you going to stop soldier suicide? I was like, oh, I don't know. So maybe we should come up with that answer. And since we've come up with that answer, a very bold answer, it's really changed the game of how we've been able to build community from all different types of donor tiers. But I think that thanks to Tina and team. You know, we have a shot to accomplish our mission.

Justin Wheeler That's, I was going to underscore that point. And I think for our listeners, this is so important when you have a big and bold vision, when you're trying to end something or eradicate a certain challenge, being able to set a timeline with an articulate vision gets donors very excited. You mentioned seeing donor retention rates as being terrible. It's because a lot of times donors don't know what they're funding and they know the organization needs money, but they don't know what's the actual end goal? What is the actual return that this donation is going to deliver on for the organization? So having that big, bold sort of vision with a timeline, I think is such an important exercise for organizations to go through to one obviously set vision, but two, to understand are we making progress towards that vision year after year after year after year? Definitely applaud you for that.

Nick Black The other opportunity within that that we found is especially talking with high net worth or corporate or grants, it's a much different dialog when you say that we would like to have money or we would like to have money to phase, we'd like an investment to phase one, I'm sorry, to fund phase one. Like we're going to accomplish something, I need you to invest so, therefore, we can earn the opportunity to go to phase two, which I think is a different mentality, a different thinking that other nonprofits I think would find success with.

Justin Wheeler Yeah, absolutely. More long-term fundraising goals versus short-term. A lot of times, we're trying to fundraise the current fiscal budget we're in and we have these impact numbers we want to accomplish this year. I think donors get more excited about what we're accomplishing in three years, five years. And so love that phased approach as well. So let's talk about, with a big, bold mission, obviously, you're going to need lots of capital. And one of the channels that Stop Soldier Suicide has been very successful in, is Facebook fundraising. So, Nick, I'd love to kind of get started here with our listeners to understand the opportunity this channel presents. How much is being raised on Facebook today, since the inception or whatever, whatever metrics you have. Because a lot of times I think nonprofits kind of passively tip their toe in Facebook. I think Good United has obviously cracked something here. And so we love our listeners to understand the opportunity that Facebook fundraising presents.

Nick Black Sure. I think we try to market size this and then focus on user behavior. So Facebook, to my knowledge, I think is at 67 or 70% of Americans spend time with Facebook. The most recent report that I've seen as Americans spend 43 minutes a day. No offense, Tina, or anyone at Stop Soldier Suicide, I spend zero minutes a month on the website. I spend zero minutes a month on any website. So if we know that people are spending time in places where they want to be, how do we think through how to engage with them there and being able to leverage great platforms like yourself to be able to follow up and build that relationship? And I think that Facebook came to market think they just released that six billion dollars has been given over the past five years. They're starting to roll out features in Instagram. But I think just in that there's a real neat opportunity of what's happening and Covid-19 has just accelerated the user behavior. In that tik-tok as giving functionality. We're doing great things with Twitch. You know, all different kind of niche networks, Spotify, YouTube. It really seems like these other networks are also trying to follow along with what Facebook's proven out and who is better stories and philanthropy. Right. So, like, if you want their business, I was advertising. So if you want people to engage in eyeballs and engage with content, who's got a better story than Stop Soldier Suicide? Or pick your organization, right? I mean, really compelling stuff. So how can those for-profit businesses enable and empower nonprofits to want to focus and put content into their world.

Justin Wheeler Got it. And I know one of the perceived, I think, challenges that a lot of organizations, we hear this all the time and fundraise is, well, you know, Facebook, you don't get the data, so we can't do it, we can't run our normal donor stewardship plays. Does an organization have to choose between data and good stewardship? What's your kind of reaction to that obstacle that we hear from so many nonprofits?

Tina Starkey It's really interesting to think about that question in the historical sense. In that, every nonprofit organization and like I said, came from a nonprofit organization that was legacy brand one that's been around for a hundred years. And so we're very used to doing things a certain way, but it's really not an either-or at this point there. To Nick's point, people are spending their time in this channel. So if we want to acquire net new participants, donors, volunteers, we need to go where they're spending time. It's about being a starting point for the organization. So what it's doing is giving exposure and fundraising at the consumer level. Maybe for the first time. What we're finding at Stop Soldier Suicide is 80 to 85, even up to 90% of the people who engage in our Facebook fundraisers are brand new donors to Stop Soldier Suicide. So as we acquire them, then it's up to us. Good United provides this wonderful platform where we are able to engage with them in platform. Their bot technology is really, really robust in that it makes the person on the other end of that donor, that volunteer, feel like we're having a personal one-on-one experience with them. And so then it's up to us to use the data that we gather either through the Facebook reports when the donor does check the box and say, yes, you can have my information or from the Good United bot that says, hey, we'd love to share your information with stop soldier suicide. Is this your email address? Do consent for us to use it right now? So now it's up to us the next point to use those donor engagement strategies to pull those people deeper into our organization. So from my perspective, it's an acquisition channel where people are spending their tim,e that we need to understand that consumer attention is is there their attention is where we need to go rather than trying to pull them to where we want them to.

Justin Wheeler And I think the numbers illustrate that. Nick said earlier, spending almost zero time on a website versus four to three minutes a day on something like Facebook, I'm not sure over what period of time this ranges, but it looks like Stop Soldier Suicide has raised roughly $4M through Facebook fundraising, which is probably more than you've raised on your website. 100K+ donors. I mean, how have you achieved such phenomenal success through this channel?

Tina Starkey Yeah, those numbers are from last year. So it's just been really, really exciting to see how people are engaging with us when we invest in this channel. Kudos to Nick as my board member for pushing us to invest. That's one of the major, major differences that I see, nonprofits across the board have this sort of a timid approach to investing in acquisition and investing in Facebook specifically as a channel because of the fear, because of the history and not having really a base there yet. But we've been encouraged to push not how little can we spend, how much can we spend to go find people who want to engage with us that just don't know about us yet and invite them to something? So we've been very aggressive with our investment. We're seeing five and six times return on the dollars that we're putting in in advertising. But it's been really phenomenal that not just the dollars that we're acquiring in that first peer-to-peer engagement with us, but also then starting to fold them in. Yeah, it's by far and above, over any other channel that we're driving right now as an organization. It's something that we want to make sure that we're watching also, right. But it's it as an acquisition channel and as an entry point, we are getting exposure and ten, twenty, thirty, forty-five dollars at a time from so many more donors. 150,000 donors. At this point, it just makes sense to continue to invest. And to me, I really think that's the difference. Nick?

Nick Black I think, Justin, what's interesting is I find nonprofits often operate within a model of scarcity and growth. I think that you have hit it on the head of Funraise. And if we think about fun, right, an engaging experience in that, not to every two people are alike. And no matter what you do, I am not going to show up at 6:00 a.m. to do a 5K pep rally in downtown Charleston. It's not happening, right? There is no way. So don't ask me to do it. But what I might do, is do some type of challenge online or I might want to engage in a new way. So how do we be able to remove our preconceptions and to meet people? Whether they want to play a video game for a cause or they want to do something else? And I think that with the shift and the opening up of giving in social networks, there's so much room for growth. So much room for growth. And, you know, we have the opportunity to serve incredible organizations. And I can tell you that some of the largest on the planet are seeing 90% of the leads that come from social, are net new to their house file. Because they're different types of people, right? So just so much area for growth and so much opportunity and hope for nonprofits going into the next decade.

Justin Wheeler I absolutely love that. And what I love, another piece of Good United's product offerings, is this concept of appreciation. I talked about this the other day on LinkedIn about the importance of thanking donors. A lot of it can be as simple as saying thank you is what can increase your retention rate with donors, helping donors understand what you're doing with their money. But talk to us a little bit about how you solved for this on Facebook. Right. Again, going back to that data issue, you're not getting an email address necessarily right away with a donation. So how is your appreciation tool helping really steward and move donors along in that process?

Nick Black Sure. So we've built a really good relationship with the Facebook team most on the social good side, as well as the technical side as well. And with that being able to develop deep operational technical ability to be able to thank every single one of the fundraisers for our clients. So every fundraiser that we're able to think and not only do we thank those people, we prompt them to engage in chat, to talk to the organization, the messenger. And Justin once we're able to do that through the conversational messaging, we're able to start to really build that empathetic and meaningful experience to understand what makes them tick. So through conversational messaging, just like you and I are learning about each other, we're collecting all that data so we could suggest better messaging in the future. To understand why would you want to give the Stop Soldier Suicide. Well if you're a veteran like me, a knuckle dragger, maybe we should have a different message to someone that smart like Tina. Right. So how do we start to be able to leverage this data to do segmentation on the fly, to be able to deliver the full experience? So it's early days for sure, but our vision is to create a one empower nonprofits to create a one on one relationship with every supporter. So we think about as empathy at scale. It's still early days, but big opportunity and a big challenge that we're fired up for.

Justin Wheeler And that I mean, that's way better than an email address. Being able to do that is going to lead to far more success than an email address. Tina, you were going to I think you can add something.

Tina Starkey Yeah, I mean, just as a consumer, think about it, right. Like for better or for worse. And as much as sometimes they take some hits in the media, Facebook's good at data. You know, Facebook as a platform, Facebook Inc., is good at data. And so we as consumers benefit from that. I as a consumer and one of the ones with the new iOS limitations that's saying, yes, you can still track me because I do want to get those ads that are relevant to me, right. And so I think there's, us marketers sometimes that know a little bit more behind the curtain and really understand that. But if you think about it, it's creating a relevant experience for all of these people. So whether it's sharing and curating my newsfeed with my friends and family content or sharing with me a relevant nonprofit, this nonprofit using that content and that experience to share more relevant content with me, it all makes sense. And it's what we as consumers are really moving towards what we are as consumers are expecting today. So for us as a nonprofit, to be timid about jumping into that space is really going to be a game-changer and a differentiator in the nonprofit space as we grow. If we're sort of stuck in this antiquated, do it as the way we always did, I think they're going to be some major and minor nonprofits that really get stuck and that don't evolve to where the consumer expects them to be.

Justin Wheeler Totally. I agree so much with that. You know, when iOS did release that, I was like, is there a hell yes button for me to keep being track? Because the relevancy is efficiency, right? Instead of having to go and find a company or a product, it's showing me what I need or what I want. And if you translate that into the nonprofit lens, how do we provide that sort of relevancy to a donor which keeps them far more engaged, keeps them giving year over year? So there's definitely a lot to borrow from that. And so I love that perspective. I've got two more questions, one for each of you. Nick, we've got a lot of obviously nonprofit listeners listening that hopefully are inspired to jump in and really start engaging on Facebook. What type of nonprofit makes sense for Good United. And what's the best way for them to get involved and who makes the most sense for your guys, his product?

Nick Black Yeah. So generally, Justin, the best fit is our organizations that have a B to C type brands. So an organization like Stop Soldier Suicide that resonates on social. Some very large organizations just don't have that social presence, whether their names to complicate or the mission doesn't come right across, their grant-funded. But generally, the organizations that we have the best fit with are ones that already are social, invested into the social channel, built an audience, built a brand, and that people want to fundraise for them.

Justin Wheeler Got it. Awesome. Well, we'll definitely link promotional material at the bottom, this podcast, so individuals can push out. We've also launched a new partnership page. We love to, love to become more formal partners. And a lot of organizations using Funraise, I think are definitely fit within that sort of category. So definitely looking forward to formalizing that and sending more organizations your way to achieve some of the success that Tina has achieved with Stop Soldier Suicide, which leads me, Tina, to my last question. Where does Stop Soldier Suicide go from here? How do you leverage the success that you guys have had over the last year and what's next?

Tina Starkey Yeah, I think one of the things we started to go digging on and we have all these consumers, we have all these donors that are engaged with us. We know that the exponential hockey stick growth that we're seeing right now, year over year, can't sustain forever, right. There's going to be more and more adoption in the market. There's going to be more and more people who are having to retain now every year. But then, like I talked about before, how do we really take this information that we've gained from these consumers and use it truly as an acquisition channel? So, for instance, in these challenges that we've done, we're seeing the group participation is hugely, hugely engaged participants that are meeting each other in real life, that are becoming real-life friends that are engaging with us in deeper and deeper ways. How do we invite them to come deeper with us? So 65% of our group participants are female. We know females are many of the decision makers in the household. How were we then asking them to come support our monthly giving program? How are we then telling them the story even more deeply about Stop Soldier Suicide, to invite them, to tell others and to continue to expand our growth? So it's really exciting to think about what this influx of new revenue, but also new donors to engage how we take that and apply it to expanding our mission even faster, achieving that 40 by 30 goal even faster than 2030, if we can.

Justin Wheeler Wow! Ambitious and I love, it sounds like sort of these hundred thousand donors have been acquired through Facebook, become super warm mid-funnel opportunities to funnel into new funding programs, something like recurring giving, like you mentioned. So it's what makes sense for these different types of donors. And again, that number just blows my mind, one hundred thousand donors. Most enterprise organizations doing $2B a year don't have a donor base of one hundred thousand or at least have acquired that many donors in about a year's time frame. So congratulations to you, Tina, on really helping grow Stop Soldier Suicide and Nick for building a great product that's helping nonprofits scale up their fundraising in a meaningful and innovative way. This was a super fun conversation. Thank you both for joining the podcast. I really appreciate the time that you spent. As I know you're both busy. So thank you for joining and good luck on your vision and achieving that as soon as possible.

Nick Black Thanks for having us. This is great.

Justin Wheeler Absolutely!

Tina Starkey Thanks, Justin.

Thanks for listening to this episode of Nonstop Nonprofit!

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