How to fundraise to make impact at the individual level

June 4, 2024
41 minutes
EPISODE SUMMERY

Beth Fisher · Chief Advancement Officer, Mel Trotter Ministries | Beth is leading fundraising, development, and donor stewardship while honoring the individual on both sides of the fundraising challenge. Be sure to stay tuned for our mid-way break featuring an interview with Dana Snyder of Positive Equation!

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EPISODE NOTES

Hard as we try, sometimes the individual gets lost in our fundraising efforts. Beth Fisher is one fundraiser working to change that where she can.

Beth is the Chief Advancement Officer at Mel Trotter Ministries, leading fundraising, development, and donor stewardship for an organization that’s been around—and growing—for over 100 years. In her previous life in software sales, Beth’s superpower was seeing her customers’ needs and selling targeted solutions.

So when she took the reins at MTM, she naturally turned to her clients’ needs, providing them not just with “three hots and a cot”, but dignity as well. Beth quickly recognized that her fundraising efforts also benefitted from that mindset—treating donors as individuals was her key to fundraising success.

Listen in as Beth and Justin Wheeler, Funraise CEO and Co-founder, discuss the overlap of corporate and nonprofit fundraising, the value of nonprofit storytelling, and the importance of the individual in fundraising.

TRANSCRIPT

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

Hard as we try, sometimes the individual gets lost in our fundraising efforts. Beth Fisher is one fundraiser working to change that where she can.

Beth is the Chief Advancement Officer at Mel Trotter Ministries, leading fundraising, development, and donor stewardship for an organization that’s been around—and growing—for over 100 years. In her previous life in software sales, Beth’s superpower was seeing her customers’ needs and selling targeted solutions.

So when she took the reins at MTM, she naturally turned to her client’s needs, providing them not just with “three hots and a cot”, but dignity as well. Beth quickly recognized that her fundraising efforts also benefitted from that mindset—treating donors as individuals was her key to fundraising success.

Let's dive in!

Justin Wheeler Hey, listeners, thank you so much for tuning in to the episode today. Very excited for our guest, Beth Fisher. Beth, how are you doing today?


Beth Fisher I'm doing well. How are you?


Justin Wheeler I'm doing great. I'm excited to talk to you about all things fundraising. Before we jump into that, I'd love it if you could share a little bit with our guests, a little bit more about your nonprofit and the role at the organization.


Beth Fisher Sure. So I work for Mel Trotter Ministries, and our mission statement is to demonstrate the compassion of Jesus for anyone experiencing hunger and homelessness in West Michigan. So I'm looking in Grand Rapids, Michigan, by title. I'm the chief advancement officer. So I have a team of about 18 people. Fundraising roles up through development and then communication and call center and volunteers, and I'm sure there's more. This is why I'm grey. This is like the hardest thing I've ever done in my entire life but so well worth it. Love it.


Justin Wheeler What makes it, the, some of the hardest work that you've done.


Beth Fisher Oh, boy. Well, prior to this, I came from the corporate world. I was in corporate sales and marketing for 25 years. I loved it. I sold software and consulting services for business process improvement and I volunteered here at the ministry. I was teaching devotions and so I knew of the organization and I was really having a hard time when I would show up here every week to volunteer and I would kind of watch how they're sort of fundraising. I'm looking at their CRM over people's shoulders and I'm thinking, ummm. But not my place, right? Until I came on staff and I'm like, now it's my place. So like, all bets are off. It makes it hard just given that, right, Like a high D on the DISC. I'm a three on the Enneagram, like, let's get some stuff done. And to me, I've always sort of had this rebel sort of archetype. And I was always, you know, from the time I can remember a little, little, little girl, I was like, This doesn't make any sense. The world, these injustices in the world don't make sense to me. How do we fix them? And, you know, it's just hard work because it matters so much. It's, you know, manufacturing and for-profit and e-commerce is great, but widgets are not people, you know. And so I just feel like the work that we do matters so much because we were talking about human beings whose lives need some help and some transformation. And so the important work of the business behind the scenes feels harder to me because the outcome is heavier to me.


Justin Wheeler Yeah, very interesting, you know, resonates with me. It's kind of the inverse where I spent my first 15 years of my career in the nonprofit space, starting building nonprofit organizations and then start started Funraise about seven years ago, selling software to nonprofits, helping them modernize and accelerate their fundraising. And so it's somewhat of an inverse story. But, you know, I think what I love about your story is sort of the what you've discovered, right, is there's ways to optimize this organization because it's doing some of the most important work helping homelessness in the Grand Rapids area. And it needs to be optimized so that we can make more impact. So I love sort of that enthusiasm. More nonprofits need that sort of leadership because I think there's a lot more impact that could be created as a result of that. Something that you mentioned that was super interesting was your corporate background and kind of the transformation that you thought you could bring to the nonprofit because of that background? Continue maybe unpack a little bit more what were, what were some of the like low hanging fruit or some of the more obvious areas to really tackle as you got started at the organization?


Beth Fisher Yeah, I love that you call it low-hanging fruit. My team makes fun of me because I use that cliche frequently around here. I'm like, You guys, this is so obvious, right? Like, why are we not doing this? It's just completely, it will just transform everything that we're doing if we just start here. Because, again, it is low-hanging fruit, as you said. So one was budget and so I had the communication budget and the development budget handed to me and we had a former CRM. We used to use Blackbaud, 17 years here at the mission. And I obviously coming into a new role. There had been previous turnover and I said, Great, how does anybody know how much money, revenue they're bringing it? Like, Well, we don't I don't understand that. There's no way to track something that we can't see data on. This is just, again, low-hanging fruit, sort of barebones, minimal. And I, I knew that in order to put it in a new software program because I had sold software for 25 years that I'd have to justify it financially. So I looked at the budgets and I thought, Nobody's questioning this. And again, it wasn't like people here didn't understand that or didn't have the wherewithal to do it. It was more of a capacity issue, right? We were just sort of operating, as many of us do, in an understaffed manner, doing the best we can do prioritizing. And unfortunately, like looking at these sort of fine details was not a priority. It was just like, this is fine, we have a CRM, let's just go. I looked at it and I thought, Why are we paying somebody in Hawaii to administer the CRMs? Just kicking it in Hawaii and we're the Eastern Time zone. That's my first red flag. You know, we're paying them twice as much as we paid our internal DBA. And so then there was a lot of sort of when things would go wrong, easy finger pointing, which as well. I thought he did it and I thought your person did. I'm like, I'm done. I don't time for drama. I don't want to hear about this. I want results. So I immediately got rid of the third-party person who was administering the system. I went to our DBA and said, This is like kind of your job. So the JD says, lets you be a DBA and provide a training and so forth. We got rid of hosting, so immediately we had a salary, gone. We got rid of the hosting situation. And then I said, And on top of that, the system is not doing what we need to do. Let's do an investigation. So there were other credit card charges, the whole thing. So we just start to look at it. The low-hanging fruit was operationally what are we doing here? And then it was staffing, right? And so once I said we need workflow automation, we need to work smarter, not harder. Because right now, as I look around, this is not to sound disparaging on purpose, but why are we being glorified thank you card writers? There's so much more about being in a relationship than being reactive. Let's go be proactive. Let's find the people that care about what we're doing. Let's make sure that we're marketing accordingly, that we're telling them what we do around here to make sure they care about it. Right? They don't know how can we blame them, Right. This is on us.


Justin Wheeler Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think that, you know, really focusing on the storytelling aspect of an organization's mission is absolutely critical to, you know, growing and scaling an organization. I'm curious because as someone that spent a lot of time in sales, in corporate sales, was there anything that you borrowed from your experience as a salesperson that translated well into fundraising, like specifically in building relationships with donors or, you know, I know you're not selling the organization's cars necessarily, but you are selling impact and getting people bought in and so forth. So just kind of curious if there's anything from your sales experience that also really translated nicely to your new role in fundraising.


Beth Fisher Yeah, I actually think all of it I don't think any of it was wasted, right. Because again, sales is about relationship. It's about saying this is how we can make something better. In my former years, it was a process improvement within an organization. Here it is how can I help make the lives of donors better as we collectively help make the lives of our guests better? And so there's that reciprocity, right, in relationship. And so it is really selling the cause. It is selling something. It's basically I tell people when I teach sales and marketing classes, I'm like, we're always selling. I would go to college campuses here and I'm talking to kids who probably don't have either. I'm like, you guys, How many of you like sales? None of them raise your him. I said, Well, but you all sell right, and none of us do. I said well did just try and get a date the other night like that's selling, right. You're trying to sell who you are and why somebody should care about you. Are you interesting? Are you on it like you're selling something? Always. And so for me, it's about how do we get the message out? Because messaging is really, it's storytelling and sales.


Justin Wheeler Absolutely. Yeah. When when I started Funraise, we've raised some venture capital as, as a business. And I realized very quickly how my fundraising background played a pretty critical role in raising venture capital, a very different audience than donors. But it was all about telling the story and our vision as a business where we thought we could take the business, but more importantly, how we thought we could actually help, you know, disrupt the industry and change the industry for better through the products and the tools that we were building. And I realized that like that came so natural to me because for 15 years all I would do was would tell stories with donors. All I would do is talk about, you know, the impact that we were making and the way that we were changing the world and so forth. And so I can see how that was such a relevant sort of experience that translated into organization. I'm curious, as you started fundraising, like one of the obvious as fundraisers, you know, we think about specific kind of seasons are with campaigning, whether it's Giving Tuesday, end of year or any other sort of relevant season for an organization. I'm curious if there's ever been a campaign that you've developed or launched that was maybe unnerving at first or brought you out of your comfort zone? And maybe I'll share a quick story that maybe will provide more context this question. But I remember my time at the last nonprofits at Liberty in North Korea, We were launching our big end-of-year campaign, but we did something totally different than we've ever done before. It was a campaign where we were asking people instead to instead of donating it wasn't an explicit ask is we had laid out this big vision of some policy we wanted to change and what we asked for instead of a gift, give us your signature. And we're going to you know, we're going to take this to Congress and we're going to try to pass some legislation. It was one of our best fundraising campaigns ever, because not only did we, you know, provide a way to get people engaged and a very tangible, practical way to get involved, in the organization. Very naturally, quickly after they like what we want to give to, right? So we didn't have to really ask for it. Not all campaigns necessarily, you have that ability to do that. But I was really uncomfortable going into end of year launching a campaign that wasn't explicitly asking people to give, instead it was more of a talent and time kind of ask than a resource ask. And I was hesitant about it, but it ended up being one of our better campaigns. And so curious if there's anything like that that you've worked on in your experience at the or similar?


Beth Fisher Right, so an uncomfortable is strong for me because I'm like to me it's all very comfortable when you're trying to help somebody else. I'm like, oh, we're just going to do this. How can you tell me no? I mean, any of us know with this work. But I think in the similar vein, it I started here in January of 2020, so I was like thrown into lines in three months, pre-COVID, etc.. And we also prior to that had launched the soft phase of a capital campaign. So talk about trying to bring in regular operational dollars as well as, you know, in tandem a $20 million capital campaign, because we really wanted to change the way in which we serve our guests. So COVID taught us a lot about that. I mean, in hindsight, right? In retrospect, it was a huge blessing that we were able to learn so much from COVID in terms of safety and health, etc., and how to really do isolation well. But our entire facility has changed the way that we service our guests, meaning we used to have 113-bed dorm for single men who would come in experiencing homelessness. 113 people in one room. I can't even sleep with my husband who snores. I'm like, No thanks, You know, I need my space. And think about it, you've got such a myriad of people in there, some experiencing addiction, some who have extreme mental illness, some who are just grumpy, some who just...  Nobody wants to be in the first place. Right. So we said, how can we make this more dignified? So through this capital campaign, we completely revamped our building and now we've got two people in a room, two people in a room either side, and they're sharing a bathroom. Now to say in terms of fundraising for that, that was comfortable, it was not at all because we have to still make these asks to say, you know, we have to keep the lights on here. So like the non-sexy asks, right, and we have a $7.5 million operational budget. P.S. we also need another 20 mil over here to do some other things. But again, if you say no, your audience know you're why it makes it a lot less uncomfortable.


Justin Wheeler Yeah. No, absolutely.

Don’t go away! When our episode returns, Beth explains how they are disrupting the age-old generalization of why someone is homeless and how Mel Trotter Ministries better serves those who are... Stay tuned!


And now, enjoy this segment sponsored by Funraise, the world's most innovative and friendly nonprofit fundraising platform. Nonstop Nonprofit recently took our podcast on the road to NextAfter’s 2022 NIO Summit in Kansas City, MO. At the conference, I had a chance to catch up with Dana Snyder, Founder and CEO at Positive Equation. Listen in as Dana shares about how creating an impactful mission for your donors can build an overall movement for your organization.


Justin Wheeler Dana, thank you so much for jumping on the podcast. How are things going?


Dana Snyder Things are great. I mean, I'm sitting here with you, Justin. And we're in Kansas City.


Justin Wheeler Kansas City, What a place. What a place.


Dana Snyder What can be greater than some good barbecue.


Justin Wheeler That's true. How's the conference been so far?


Dana Snyder It's been great. I think, honestly, my favorite thing is now that we're all back in person, is just to see each other and be able to have in person conversations instead of in Zoom. Like you can be semi distracted or like, I got to jump to the next call and you're like, or my dog's doing something on the couch across from me, right? But like, we're able to be here and hang out in person. And I love this event in particular because I'm obsessed with data and optimization. And so everything that they talk about is my jam.


Justin Wheeler Yeah, I was, I was talking to the team and this is definitely my favorite conference of the industry. And it's also like, so practical, right? There's like every speaker has like very practical things to share. And so you walk away and you're going to get something super valuable. Your talk mission to, mission to movements, talk to us about what the...


Dana Snyder It is a tongue twister.


Justin Wheeler It is. Talk to us about the meeting. Like, what's the like thesis behind your talk? This is also I think your podcast name. Is that correct.


Dana Snyder Yeah. Missions to movements. Yeah. So, you get the theme there? The branding and what I'm trying to do?


Justin Wheeler I do. I do.


Dana Snyder So the idea of the concept of missions to movements and really my focus is in the social media space and just really overall the digital ecosystem of like what your organization is doing is how can you make sure that what you're saying online can translate to an individual donor to really create an impactful mission for them and therefore builds an overall movement for your organization? So the example that I gave to my talk was talking about Dance Marathon. That's how I started my philanthropy journey. And I think they did such a beautiful job as we were 18 year olds, right? And we were learning about giving so young and we were so excited. But like, how did they do that? So I really like went back to just my roots of starting that and understanding like, what was my experience? How did that happen? Because I wasn't looking to get I wasn't looking to get involved with a charity that I knew literally nothing about. So how did they move me from this? Like one time maybe donor to this obsessed college student in this program with an amazing experience to now 13, 14, 15 online? How many years later to now like every time I see their organization, their cause, their logo I'm going to continue to give.


Justin Wheeler Yeah. So was that moment, the dance marathon moment, was that something that like because it happens like once a year, right? Like it's...


Dana Snyder It happens once a year, but it's in, I think currently still over like 100 plus universities all over the country.


Justin Wheeler Yeah, Yeah. We have a few of them actually that like raise on Funraise.


Dana Snyder Oh cool.


Justin Wheeler And so that's really cool. Is that really what there's that your why of like how you got into non-profits was that what introduced you to it or was there something else that happened?


Dana Snyder I mean, I think maybe subconsciously I grew up in church and I grew up going on mission trips. Not that I really understood the nonprofit like organization.


Justin Wheeler Yeah, yeah.


Dana Snyder But the sense of connection when you're in middle school, right? But the sense of giving, I think was always there. But I think Dance Marathon was the first time that I truly understood, Oh, there's an organization that impacts this hospital, that impacts this little girl that I love.


Justin Wheeler Yeah, absolutely.


Dana Snyder And then that's kind of what made it come full circle.


Justin Wheeler Was the like, you know, because like, dancing people are having a great time, right? And so was it also like, oh, wow, like charity can be cool. It could be fun. Like, was that was that something that like also kind of like, intrigued you into, like, the industry?


Dana Snyder Yeah. You know what's so funny about Dance Marathon is we at the time were very small. University of Central Florida. Go Knights, representing, which there was actually a crowd in my session that is from UCF, which was amazing, and like hollered in the back. What's fascinating is we were struggling at the time I mean, this is back in 2008. Yeah, we were struggling to get past like raising 50 grand as students and us was raising a million plus dollars and like, what are they doing? Like, how are they doing this? We went to their event and us in Orlando, I think it was different that we are a college inside of a major metropolitan town. Gainesville is not necessarily the case like UF is what holds the glue I feel like of Gainesville together. Yeah, their event was so simple. The games that they had, they were doing like four square. They weren't having to bring in like crazy musicians or comedians or talent. It was just really creating community within the participants. And we were like, Are we overthinking this to be too complicated? Like, do we just literally go back to what makes us have fun as kids?


Justin Wheeler Yeah.


Dana Snyder And now the university is raising 1.5-2 million annually and yeah and it's a I think was interesting is how much we can overcomplicate things in our mind because we're so inundated and like the day to day minutia of what we do. Versus like, let's just take a step back. And I love learning by experience of what others are doing.


Justin Wheeler Yeah, we had this. We had this like saying Invisible Children and I was there that in order to like to get someone to donate, you had to get them to laugh first, then cry, then donate.


Dana Snyder Yes.


Justin Wheeler And so whenever we were launching a new campaign or whatever, you know was happening, that was like the formula we would use.


Dana Snyder I totally forgot you worked there. Jason Russell was on my podcast and he, brilliant storyteller.


Justin Wheeler Oh, yeah, he is. He is. It's like he's like a totally different level of storytelling. I mean, so a lot of nonprofits that I've talked with think like, oh, like movements, like that's for like a different kind of organization, a type of different type of nonprofit, you know, like we're, there's just like a stiffness to a lot of nonprofits. Yeah. And so do you encounter that in in your consulting and in working with organizations of like, no, like movements are for you too?


Dana Snyder Yeah. I think there's a stigma around what a movement is, like, it's the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, right? And that's a movement. That's not true. Like you can have like many movements and what you're doing to make a greater impact. So I think it's just the perception of the word can get this, guys, but it's really like if you look at the definition of a movement, it's really like, are you creating an impact in a change in your specific cause area of what you're doing and what you're advocating for? It doesn't mean every single person and everybody on all the news channels need to be talking about what are you doing for it to be considered to be a movement? And I think we get caught up in like this press media notion of we're not successful if we're not breaking into CNBC and FOX and CNN, right. That we're not creating a movement. And that's not true, because that could be a micro depending upon what you're doing.


Justin Wheeler Absolutely. Absolutely. And it's like it's a groundswell, too. I mean, it takes time to build. Like if you get to a point where you have a big movement like at Invisable Children we had a huge movement. Yeah, but it was I.


Dana Snyder Remember you guys on my college campus.


Justin Wheeler Yeah. And it was it was seven years of touring the country, sending like high school students all over the country, going school, to school, to school, to school. So you have to put in the work.


Dana Snyder But it was interesting in there, too, with you guys is you also went for a younger generation.


Justin Wheeler Yeah, our ICP, our like ideal donor was 16 years old. Thatwas like, that was what we built our...


Dana Snyder Which I don't think anyone, All right, I'm not goint to say, anybody, but I think it's very rare that people think about, oh, I'm going to go for in this case Gen Z now.


Justin Wheeler Yeah. Yeah.


Dana Snyder Because they think oh it's the boomers is where it's at. .


Justin Wheeler Yeah. And it's you know, the reason why we focused on on such a young demographic was like twofold. One is like we think we can make charity cool for better or for worse. There's lots of lots of things that like bad things that have come from Invisible Children that was like initially, can we can make charity cool? Yeah. And if a 16 year old cares, you know, about what's happening in Uganda, their parents are going to care, right? Because they're like, they're going to be excited that their kid is thinking about something much larger than themselves..


Dana Snyder Excited about philanthropy, yeah.


Justin Wheeler That's what ended up happening was it was like the younger generation became like our doorway into the boomers.


Dana Snyder Do you see, I know this is supposed to be you interviewing me.


Justin Wheeler That's alright.


Dana Snyder Do you see a big shift just because you guys get so much data with what you do in terms of generational giving and how we're giving? I think the current sector is so used to large, substantial gifts that they rely on all the time. But as a millennial, I mean, my husband and I, we are not currently preparing to give large sums or create an endowment. More so we would like to be monthly donors to multiple organizations, maybe getting smaller, but getting for a long, substantial amount of time. Do you see a big shift of that happening in like education to orgs?


Justin Wheeler Yeah, I mean, I think like one thing that we see is organizations are like super hungry to diversify like their funding and, and you know, it's like the top like 2% of giving. It's like it's very crowded, right? And there's only so many foundations. I mean, there's, there's a ton of money, but like it's, it's very competitive. 75% of giving comes from households. And so many organizations don't prioritize household giving. But we are starting to see organizations really build these, like what we're terms we're seeing, are like consumer facing like giving programs. Yeah, which is spot on because I mean, you've got, you know, 300 million people here in the States to build a program around. And and one of the things is where we're seeing, you know, average gift size, like from this like demographic of donors, hovering around $100 bucks. Right. And so it'll be interesting to see kind of like over the next decade what happens. I mean, there's a lot of wealth transfer happening. Yeah. You know, within the millennial generation that are going about to become, you know, larger major donors. Yeah, but I think an organization, to be successful, and to grow, needs to have a very solid annual fund program that's targeting young donors. You can give $50, $100 bucks.


Dana Snyder Yes. And I think I had a really interesting conversation with the birthday party project this year. They, in during COVID, they said, okay, a lot of other things are slowing down for us. Let's redo our brand. They completely redid their branding. They look so professional. It's fun. It's vibrant, it's bold, and that attracted, A new donors, but B, large international corporate donors.


Justin Wheeler Oh, wow.


Dana Snyder Because it just completely leveled out their look and their feel. And so I think it's also investing in, we are so used to as consumers the Amazon of things the one, two click, right, donate. We're so used to going to these for-profit companies that have beautiful sites that we just kind of expect the same thing. Which is like tools like you guys that make it really easy to create something beautiful. Because that's what I think, the expectations are also of a younger donor base.


Justin Wheeler Oh, totally. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, like if a donor goes to a website and, you know, can't figure out how to donate or can't like navigate the site or it looks like it was built in 1999, donors are gonna drop off. Like you are not going to convert that individual.


Dana Snyder That was part of what I talked about yesterday was like, okay, so you have this personalized donors journey, right, from awareness consideration, decision. And if you're working so hard and building all this content to get me like through the awareness consideration, I'm educated. I'm excited that at the very last step, if I'm like signing up for something and I can't do it, or if it's difficult. Yeah, or if there's friction, it's just like, you're gone.


Justin Wheeler Totally, totally. Yeah. And it's it's funny how organizations will try to really, you know, outsource that to volunteers like the, like web development brand building. These are things that like, yeah, Jason Russell actually said this, we had him on our podcast too, he said like one of the most important things you can do as a nonprofit is invest as much money as possible in your story.


Dana Snyder Yes.


Justin Wheeler Because that pays dividends, right. And like most organizations have a very long term game to play. And if we're just focused on like, you know, a quick win here and there, it's not going to be sustainable.


Dana Snyder If there's one thing that somebody hears from this, please hire a social media, digital role for your team. A.K.A ideally they can tell stories through your social channels, but to invest in that person and invest in giving them the resources that they need to do their jobs. I think we think, okay, I'm going to hire this manager, but I'm not going to give them any budget for a management platform for content building. Oh, we need a travel budget so they can go on trips with us or there's no ad spend for them, to test running ads. But, like, go do your job.


Justin Wheeler By then I mean an intern can come in and do all your social media, right?


Dana Snyder Of course they could!


Justin Wheeler Last question and a series of fun questions. Well, these are all been been fun. But so when I wanted to go back to one thing that you said is, is you creating all this content for it for social media and you're you're pushing the donor kind of through this journey and then they like land on the site and it doesn't match, you know, everything else that just happened. How do organizations dial in, sort of this like, cohesive approach. Whether they're acquiring donors from Facebook or from LinkedIn or any other social media platform? What's like the best strategy of organizations to really build a cohesive donor journey?


Dana Snyder That's such a good question. So what I have found, I do a lot of work in ads, and what I found is there needs to be exactly like you're saying, that consistency in that branding. So there's imagery and colors and visuals that you're showcasing in your content, in your ads, your website needs to reflect. Literally could be verbatim the exact same photo that's actually worked really well, because then that donor, that supporter, knows that they're in the right place. I think to not complicate it is I always share and I do this personally in my business is really focus on a primary and a secondary social channel. Do not try and be everywhere. I literally have, I'm not on Twitter. I stop trying to be on Twitter because to do it properly, it takes a lot of time. I have a tweet that's pinned to the tab that says, I'm not here, find me on LinkedIn. And I have like three clicks, like links of resources, but people know, Oh, okay, she's not on this platform. But I let them know I'm not there and then you can find me somewhere out. Yeah. So simplify your life. Focus on like where you truly think your audience is. Focus on creating really great content that also is true to the business of that platform. So when you focus on less platforms, you can think about, okay, what is Adam from Instagram talking about in his weekly updates, right? What can I gauge from him? That's really important. He's the head of Instagram. What are they looking to do and grow as a business? Okay, I should be creating more video content. I should be creating more reels, I should be engaging in my messages and then really focus on building a community and the platforms that you choose.


Justin Wheeler Got it. Awesome. Thank you. Great, great feedback. All right. Now some questions. Now, there's no right or wrong answers, but there are some wrong answers. Okay, So first off, digital reading or an actual book?


Dana Snyder Actual book.


Justin Wheeler What's your favorite most recent book you've read?


Dana Snyder Oh, my gosh. Okay. Kristen Hannah, I love all of her books and what was the most recent one, oh Four Winds.


Justin Wheeler Four Winds.


Dana Snyder So, so good. It's like historical fiction vibe.


Justin Wheeler Okay. All right. Pizza or salad?


Justin Wheeler Pizza. Pizza, nice. Beach or the mountains? Get to live somewhere the rest of your life.


Dana Snyder Oh. That's really tough. I'm a Pisces, but I'm a skier.


Justin Wheeler So you're gonna say mountains? Ah, you're going to be in the snow the rest of your life.


Dana Snyder I would say mountains.


Justin Wheeler Okay. Football or futbol.


Dana Snyder Ah, football.


Justin Wheeler Futbol?


Dana Snyder No throwing.


Justin Wheeler No throwing. Okay, So football, American football.


Dana Snyder American football.


Justin Wheeler Okay. Yeah. Are you, it sounds like you're more college football than pro football.


Dana Snyder Yeah. I mean, although I will say go Buccs because we have Brady for another year.


Justin Wheeler Dogs or cats?


Dana Snyder Dogs.


Justin Wheeler Dogs. You like cats?


Dana Snyder I used to have a cat. Definitely dogs though.


Justin Wheeler Okay.


Dana Snyder My puppy is the best.


Justin Wheeler Yeah, me too. Funnel cake or cheesecake?


Dana Snyder Cheesecake.


Justin Wheeler And the last one, The Goonies or The Sandlot?


Dana Snyder Oh, gosh. Sandlot.


Justin Wheeler Sandlot. Awesome. Dana, thanks so much for joining.


Dana Snyder You're welcome. Thank you for having me?

Hey! Welcome back to Nonstop Nonprofit. Before our Funraise-sponsored break, Beth was sharing about what they learned through COVID and how that shifted their ask to their donors. Now, let's get back to the conversation.

Justin Wheeler I'm also curious, you know, I think homelessness is such a, it's such a big problem in the United States. And I've noticed, just especially during being involved in so many different causes and nonprofits around the U.S., for some reason, I feel like homelessness has this like stigma, right? Where for individuals who haven't experienced it or aren't going through it, you know, it's, there's this stigma of like, well, why, why are they on the streets? Like, why aren't they working? You know, why are they lazy or whatever like their excuse may be like, I'm not going to give them money. They're going to buy alcohol or drugs. I'm curious how you guys overcome that, because obviously that's a generalization. I can see how that could potentially impact new individuals from giving to an organization like yours. So how do you guys tell this story to help supporters understand the importance of your work? And then further, how do you show the impact? How do you help your donors understand the sustainable impact that you're making as an organization on this issue?


Beth Fisher Yeah, Thank you for that question. Because you are exactly right. That is the perception and the misconception, right? Which is that everybody is homeless, they just must be making a choice. And if they would just go out and pull themselves up by the bootstraps, get a job, problem solved. Not even close. Right. That is such a small percentage of the folks whom we serve, especially in this day and age with inflation, with lack of affordable housing here in West Michigan, it's a real problem. And so what we're doing is more of an educational awareness program, right? It's like, hey, I know you guys think this. I'm a big believer in like lean into the elephant in the room, just as you did, right? I go into every room I can speak about and people will say, Well, you just saw people who X, Y, Z and I'm like, that's not it at all. Let me tell you, I understand why you think that. Let me also tell you why it's so, so wrong. And data right data backs it up. But again, going back to, systems in place and the right CRMs and the right data and the right inputs that will help us then have the right outputs to do the storytelling, to do the marketing. Without that, it's kind of like people are going, Well, I only see what I see and I only know what I think that I understand, none of which can be backed up. So that's how we go about it. And we really talk about all of the wraparound services because we, you know, this is going to sound derogatory, but people old school think three hots in a cot, right? We'll give them $2.39. I'll give them some gross mashed potatoes and put them on a cot. And again, this is all we can do. But hey, we're checking a box here. Where we're fulfilling our duties as human beings and as Christians, so now we're good. It's so much more. It's so much more. People are living paycheck to paycheck, you know?


Justin Wheeler Yeah, I've heard, you know, a lot of people are one paycheck away from, you know, being homeless. I think, you know, kind of piggybacking on what you just said there, I think this is why I believe marketing should be a program expense, not an overhead expense, especially on an issue like you're working on. When I was at Liberty in North Korea, no one really knew what was happening in North Korea. Everyone thought that North Korea was our enemy state. It was the axis of evil. It was crazy dictators, nuclear weapons. Why would we ever donate a dollar to a country that has been perceived this way for so long? And so we knew that in order for us to actually create, you know, support and resources for an issue that was one of the worst human rights violations in the world, that we would have to first peel back the layer, the onion, and talk about why North Korea should not be perceived this way. And so we spent at the time, over 50% of our budget for the first two years on just telling that story and just spreading awareness, generating awareness. Changing people's hearts and minds. Because you knew if we did that, then we would be able to actually make a bigger impact on the issue. And so the question for you here is, is it hard at your organization to generate the resources you need to continue to tell the stories and to continue to demystify these wrong perceptions? Or do you feel like you have enough resources to do that for the organization?


Beth Fisher I feel like it's a work in progress. You know, we have 100, we've been in existence since 1900, Mel Trotter Ministries. So we clearly have name recognition, right. The problem is some people recognize that name from the old school way of programing around here. And that's not how we do things in 2023. And so I do feel like we have enough resources for us, I guess the thing that we continue to sort of bang our heads up against a brick wall is how do we actually say the information in so many different ways that it actually lands, right? How do we actually market to all of the audiences collectively saying the same thematic information, like we don't want to confuse people clearly because clarity is what it's all about, but yet how do you sort of deconstruct, undo, whatever those words are, what people have had in their mind for so many years? And that's the thing is we have an aging donor database, as many organizations do, and they've known what they've known, giving for 30 years. My daughter, who's 25, I don't think she knows where her mailbox is at her apartment. Right. She has no idea what This looks very, very different to her. And she cares, as we all know, it's so true, I'm watching it, she grew up in the faith, but she's like, mom, I don't see what I was taught as a kid. I want to know that somebody on the streets like what I do, if I give them $5 every month, I want to know how it helps them. So impact, impact, impact. And so we do. We share the numbers, but for me, it's more about faces and names and stories because people can read data. It's kind of boring at the end of day, let's be honest. I mean, it doesn't really well, people, it's necessary to substantiate, but what sells, if you will, what people stop and go, Oh my goodness. I had no idea is when they say, wait a minute, a family lives there, you guys, it's a family becomes homeless in West Michigan right now. There's no place for them to go. That answer is you're right. There isn't. That's the wow factor. I'm like, it could be your neighbors, it could be your sister, it could be your family. Think about that.


Justin Wheeler Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, giving in is such an emotional experience, you know, for individuals and donors. And, you know, a lot of times organizations will lead with data, you know, like there's 100,000 homeless people living in Grand Rapids or, hey, there's this lady named Sally, and she could really use your help. That message is going to resonate with more people. It's tangible. I can understand one person. It's hard to understand, what does 100,000 people look like living in the streets? And how does my $5 actually make a difference for 100,000 people? And so I totally agree with you. Data is to substantiate the impact and to inform decisions. It's internal, right? It's for you as an organization to use to make good business decisions. But when it relates to fundraising, it's got to be about the story. It's got to be about the individual. I'd take that a step further even and say that there's this old conversation in the nonprofit space that the donors, the hero, I think, I don't believe the donors here. I believe the donor is an amazing character in this story. But the individual receiving the help, the individual overcoming their challenges coming off of the out of the streets, that's the true hero. They've been enabled. They've been given the opportunity to overcome their challenges. And so I think that it's so important to tell the story in a way that represents all parties in an equitable manner. But definitely agree with you that it's about the story. It's not about, you know, the data point. That's not what gets people to actually give. Beth, you have a lot of experience in fundraising in the corporate world. Be curious if there's any advice you'd like to offer for new fundraisers coming in, whether they're coming from corporate, whether they're just getting started in their career. Any advice that you'd like to share to help them get started that would maybe help accelerate their learning curve as they start fundraising for their organization?


Beth Fisher Yeah, I had to learn this in my early twenties, too, when I was in sales. And for me, it's the biggest lesson is to network. Is to get yourself in so many different groups, right, that it's sort of you will find the crossover, you will find the intersection, but kind of sit back and feel like, Well, I'm going to go in the office 8 to 5. I'm going to like be in front of my CRM all day. I'm going to call this person. I'm going to write a thank you. It's so much different than if you are in, right grassroots, like get out there. Really? Like when I see our development team and they're in the office, I'm like, I want to see you. I love you guys. I don't see you right now. I want you in relationship with your donors. I want you to say, Hey, I care about you. Let me tell you what I just saw. Real-time updates. Huge, Huge. Because if I am somebody who is being solicited and I am right, we all are in some way, shape or form, I want to know that I am unique. And the only way to let me know that you feel like I'm unique is for you uniquely to speak to me. And so I don't, I'm not really into I know it's a necessary evil. I mean, don't get me started on direct mail. Yes, it's necessary, but I don't I personally don't like to be one of many. I want to be one of one. And I want to know that you see me and you understand my heart for giving and you understand my connection to your organization. Because if you don't take the time to get to know me, I may not take the time to give you my money.


Justin Wheeler Yeah, no, totally. I totally agree with that. Yeah, I was chuckling a little bit because I think, where I think the one-to-many works is more actually on like the guerrilla tactic style of fundraising, we did this really well that the first organization was called Invisible Children, where we would literally go to any Apple store. We would travel around the United States to spread awareness, and we were like, Where are their mass computers? We went to libraries, Apple stores, and we changed the home screen to our banner to our website. And we actually drove additional traffic and we would get new support all the time. We had hear about people donating that would say, Hey, this is so creative. I found your organization. It's so amazing. I'm going to contribute. So I'm also all about the like the creative kind of grassroots guerilla style. But nothing beats, you know, that 1-to-1 relationship building, especially if we're trying to beat donor churn. If we're trying to keep donors involved in organizations for the long haul. If we're trying to create lifelong donors. It's so important to build those relationships. And so thank you for that advice. I think that's, that is super, super helpful. Beth, I know you're busy and so wish you the best of luck in your efforts. And thank you so much for joining Nonstop Nonprofit to share your wisdom with us and our audience.


Beth Fisher Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.


Justin Wheeler Thanks, Beth.

Thanks for listening to this episode of Nonstop Nonprofit!

This podcast is brought to you by your friends at Funraise. Nonprofit fundraising software, built by nonprofit people. If you’d like to continue the conversation, find me on LinkedIn or text me at 562.242.8160. And don't forget to get your next episode the second it hits the internets. Go to nonstopnonprofitpodcast.com and sign up for email notifications today.

See you next time!

How to fundraise to make impact at the individual level

How to fundraise at an individual level to make impact at the individual level

February 2, 2023
41 minutes
EPISODE SUMMERY

Beth Fisher · Chief Advancement Officer, Mel Trotter Ministries | Beth is leading fundraising, development, and donor stewardship while honoring the individual on both sides of the fundraising challenge. Be sure to stay tuned for our mid-way break featuring an interview with Dana Snyder of Positive Equation!

LISTEN
EPISODE NOTES

Hard as we try, sometimes the individual gets lost in our fundraising efforts. Beth Fisher is one fundraiser working to change that where she can.

Beth is the Chief Advancement Officer at Mel Trotter Ministries, leading fundraising, development, and donor stewardship for an organization that’s been around—and growing—for over 100 years. In her previous life in software sales, Beth’s superpower was seeing her customers’ needs and selling targeted solutions.

So when she took the reins at MTM, she naturally turned to her clients’ needs, providing them not just with “three hots and a cot”, but dignity as well. Beth quickly recognized that her fundraising efforts also benefitted from that mindset—treating donors as individuals was her key to fundraising success.

Listen in as Beth and Justin Wheeler, Funraise CEO and Co-founder, discuss the overlap of corporate and nonprofit fundraising, the value of nonprofit storytelling, and the importance of the individual in fundraising.

TRANSCRIPT

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

Hard as we try, sometimes the individual gets lost in our fundraising efforts. Beth Fisher is one fundraiser working to change that where she can.

Beth is the Chief Advancement Officer at Mel Trotter Ministries, leading fundraising, development, and donor stewardship for an organization that’s been around—and growing—for over 100 years. In her previous life in software sales, Beth’s superpower was seeing her customers’ needs and selling targeted solutions.

So when she took the reins at MTM, she naturally turned to her client’s needs, providing them not just with “three hots and a cot”, but dignity as well. Beth quickly recognized that her fundraising efforts also benefitted from that mindset—treating donors as individuals was her key to fundraising success.

Let's dive in!

Justin Wheeler Hey, listeners, thank you so much for tuning in to the episode today. Very excited for our guest, Beth Fisher. Beth, how are you doing today?


Beth Fisher I'm doing well. How are you?


Justin Wheeler I'm doing great. I'm excited to talk to you about all things fundraising. Before we jump into that, I'd love it if you could share a little bit with our guests, a little bit more about your nonprofit and the role at the organization.


Beth Fisher Sure. So I work for Mel Trotter Ministries, and our mission statement is to demonstrate the compassion of Jesus for anyone experiencing hunger and homelessness in West Michigan. So I'm looking in Grand Rapids, Michigan, by title. I'm the chief advancement officer. So I have a team of about 18 people. Fundraising roles up through development and then communication and call center and volunteers, and I'm sure there's more. This is why I'm grey. This is like the hardest thing I've ever done in my entire life but so well worth it. Love it.


Justin Wheeler What makes it, the, some of the hardest work that you've done.


Beth Fisher Oh, boy. Well, prior to this, I came from the corporate world. I was in corporate sales and marketing for 25 years. I loved it. I sold software and consulting services for business process improvement and I volunteered here at the ministry. I was teaching devotions and so I knew of the organization and I was really having a hard time when I would show up here every week to volunteer and I would kind of watch how they're sort of fundraising. I'm looking at their CRM over people's shoulders and I'm thinking, ummm. But not my place, right? Until I came on staff and I'm like, now it's my place. So like, all bets are off. It makes it hard just given that, right, Like a high D on the DISC. I'm a three on the Enneagram, like, let's get some stuff done. And to me, I've always sort of had this rebel sort of archetype. And I was always, you know, from the time I can remember a little, little, little girl, I was like, This doesn't make any sense. The world, these injustices in the world don't make sense to me. How do we fix them? And, you know, it's just hard work because it matters so much. It's, you know, manufacturing and for-profit and e-commerce is great, but widgets are not people, you know. And so I just feel like the work that we do matters so much because we were talking about human beings whose lives need some help and some transformation. And so the important work of the business behind the scenes feels harder to me because the outcome is heavier to me.


Justin Wheeler Yeah, very interesting, you know, resonates with me. It's kind of the inverse where I spent my first 15 years of my career in the nonprofit space, starting building nonprofit organizations and then start started Funraise about seven years ago, selling software to nonprofits, helping them modernize and accelerate their fundraising. And so it's somewhat of an inverse story. But, you know, I think what I love about your story is sort of the what you've discovered, right, is there's ways to optimize this organization because it's doing some of the most important work helping homelessness in the Grand Rapids area. And it needs to be optimized so that we can make more impact. So I love sort of that enthusiasm. More nonprofits need that sort of leadership because I think there's a lot more impact that could be created as a result of that. Something that you mentioned that was super interesting was your corporate background and kind of the transformation that you thought you could bring to the nonprofit because of that background? Continue maybe unpack a little bit more what were, what were some of the like low hanging fruit or some of the more obvious areas to really tackle as you got started at the organization?


Beth Fisher Yeah, I love that you call it low-hanging fruit. My team makes fun of me because I use that cliche frequently around here. I'm like, You guys, this is so obvious, right? Like, why are we not doing this? It's just completely, it will just transform everything that we're doing if we just start here. Because, again, it is low-hanging fruit, as you said. So one was budget and so I had the communication budget and the development budget handed to me and we had a former CRM. We used to use Blackbaud, 17 years here at the mission. And I obviously coming into a new role. There had been previous turnover and I said, Great, how does anybody know how much money, revenue they're bringing it? Like, Well, we don't I don't understand that. There's no way to track something that we can't see data on. This is just, again, low-hanging fruit, sort of barebones, minimal. And I, I knew that in order to put it in a new software program because I had sold software for 25 years that I'd have to justify it financially. So I looked at the budgets and I thought, Nobody's questioning this. And again, it wasn't like people here didn't understand that or didn't have the wherewithal to do it. It was more of a capacity issue, right? We were just sort of operating, as many of us do, in an understaffed manner, doing the best we can do prioritizing. And unfortunately, like looking at these sort of fine details was not a priority. It was just like, this is fine, we have a CRM, let's just go. I looked at it and I thought, Why are we paying somebody in Hawaii to administer the CRMs? Just kicking it in Hawaii and we're the Eastern Time zone. That's my first red flag. You know, we're paying them twice as much as we paid our internal DBA. And so then there was a lot of sort of when things would go wrong, easy finger pointing, which as well. I thought he did it and I thought your person did. I'm like, I'm done. I don't time for drama. I don't want to hear about this. I want results. So I immediately got rid of the third-party person who was administering the system. I went to our DBA and said, This is like kind of your job. So the JD says, lets you be a DBA and provide a training and so forth. We got rid of hosting, so immediately we had a salary, gone. We got rid of the hosting situation. And then I said, And on top of that, the system is not doing what we need to do. Let's do an investigation. So there were other credit card charges, the whole thing. So we just start to look at it. The low-hanging fruit was operationally what are we doing here? And then it was staffing, right? And so once I said we need workflow automation, we need to work smarter, not harder. Because right now, as I look around, this is not to sound disparaging on purpose, but why are we being glorified thank you card writers? There's so much more about being in a relationship than being reactive. Let's go be proactive. Let's find the people that care about what we're doing. Let's make sure that we're marketing accordingly, that we're telling them what we do around here to make sure they care about it. Right? They don't know how can we blame them, Right. This is on us.


Justin Wheeler Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think that, you know, really focusing on the storytelling aspect of an organization's mission is absolutely critical to, you know, growing and scaling an organization. I'm curious because as someone that spent a lot of time in sales, in corporate sales, was there anything that you borrowed from your experience as a salesperson that translated well into fundraising, like specifically in building relationships with donors or, you know, I know you're not selling the organization's cars necessarily, but you are selling impact and getting people bought in and so forth. So just kind of curious if there's anything from your sales experience that also really translated nicely to your new role in fundraising.


Beth Fisher Yeah, I actually think all of it I don't think any of it was wasted, right. Because again, sales is about relationship. It's about saying this is how we can make something better. In my former years, it was a process improvement within an organization. Here it is how can I help make the lives of donors better as we collectively help make the lives of our guests better? And so there's that reciprocity, right, in relationship. And so it is really selling the cause. It is selling something. It's basically I tell people when I teach sales and marketing classes, I'm like, we're always selling. I would go to college campuses here and I'm talking to kids who probably don't have either. I'm like, you guys, How many of you like sales? None of them raise your him. I said, Well, but you all sell right, and none of us do. I said well did just try and get a date the other night like that's selling, right. You're trying to sell who you are and why somebody should care about you. Are you interesting? Are you on it like you're selling something? Always. And so for me, it's about how do we get the message out? Because messaging is really, it's storytelling and sales.


Justin Wheeler Absolutely. Yeah. When when I started Funraise, we've raised some venture capital as, as a business. And I realized very quickly how my fundraising background played a pretty critical role in raising venture capital, a very different audience than donors. But it was all about telling the story and our vision as a business where we thought we could take the business, but more importantly, how we thought we could actually help, you know, disrupt the industry and change the industry for better through the products and the tools that we were building. And I realized that like that came so natural to me because for 15 years all I would do was would tell stories with donors. All I would do is talk about, you know, the impact that we were making and the way that we were changing the world and so forth. And so I can see how that was such a relevant sort of experience that translated into organization. I'm curious, as you started fundraising, like one of the obvious as fundraisers, you know, we think about specific kind of seasons are with campaigning, whether it's Giving Tuesday, end of year or any other sort of relevant season for an organization. I'm curious if there's ever been a campaign that you've developed or launched that was maybe unnerving at first or brought you out of your comfort zone? And maybe I'll share a quick story that maybe will provide more context this question. But I remember my time at the last nonprofits at Liberty in North Korea, We were launching our big end-of-year campaign, but we did something totally different than we've ever done before. It was a campaign where we were asking people instead to instead of donating it wasn't an explicit ask is we had laid out this big vision of some policy we wanted to change and what we asked for instead of a gift, give us your signature. And we're going to you know, we're going to take this to Congress and we're going to try to pass some legislation. It was one of our best fundraising campaigns ever, because not only did we, you know, provide a way to get people engaged and a very tangible, practical way to get involved, in the organization. Very naturally, quickly after they like what we want to give to, right? So we didn't have to really ask for it. Not all campaigns necessarily, you have that ability to do that. But I was really uncomfortable going into end of year launching a campaign that wasn't explicitly asking people to give, instead it was more of a talent and time kind of ask than a resource ask. And I was hesitant about it, but it ended up being one of our better campaigns. And so curious if there's anything like that that you've worked on in your experience at the or similar?


Beth Fisher Right, so an uncomfortable is strong for me because I'm like to me it's all very comfortable when you're trying to help somebody else. I'm like, oh, we're just going to do this. How can you tell me no? I mean, any of us know with this work. But I think in the similar vein, it I started here in January of 2020, so I was like thrown into lines in three months, pre-COVID, etc.. And we also prior to that had launched the soft phase of a capital campaign. So talk about trying to bring in regular operational dollars as well as, you know, in tandem a $20 million capital campaign, because we really wanted to change the way in which we serve our guests. So COVID taught us a lot about that. I mean, in hindsight, right? In retrospect, it was a huge blessing that we were able to learn so much from COVID in terms of safety and health, etc., and how to really do isolation well. But our entire facility has changed the way that we service our guests, meaning we used to have 113-bed dorm for single men who would come in experiencing homelessness. 113 people in one room. I can't even sleep with my husband who snores. I'm like, No thanks, You know, I need my space. And think about it, you've got such a myriad of people in there, some experiencing addiction, some who have extreme mental illness, some who are just grumpy, some who just...  Nobody wants to be in the first place. Right. So we said, how can we make this more dignified? So through this capital campaign, we completely revamped our building and now we've got two people in a room, two people in a room either side, and they're sharing a bathroom. Now to say in terms of fundraising for that, that was comfortable, it was not at all because we have to still make these asks to say, you know, we have to keep the lights on here. So like the non-sexy asks, right, and we have a $7.5 million operational budget. P.S. we also need another 20 mil over here to do some other things. But again, if you say no, your audience know you're why it makes it a lot less uncomfortable.


Justin Wheeler Yeah. No, absolutely.

Don’t go away! When our episode returns, Beth explains how they are disrupting the age-old generalization of why someone is homeless and how Mel Trotter Ministries better serves those who are... Stay tuned!


And now, enjoy this segment sponsored by Funraise, the world's most innovative and friendly nonprofit fundraising platform. Nonstop Nonprofit recently took our podcast on the road to NextAfter’s 2022 NIO Summit in Kansas City, MO. At the conference, I had a chance to catch up with Dana Snyder, Founder and CEO at Positive Equation. Listen in as Dana shares about how creating an impactful mission for your donors can build an overall movement for your organization.


Justin Wheeler Dana, thank you so much for jumping on the podcast. How are things going?


Dana Snyder Things are great. I mean, I'm sitting here with you, Justin. And we're in Kansas City.


Justin Wheeler Kansas City, What a place. What a place.


Dana Snyder What can be greater than some good barbecue.


Justin Wheeler That's true. How's the conference been so far?


Dana Snyder It's been great. I think, honestly, my favorite thing is now that we're all back in person, is just to see each other and be able to have in person conversations instead of in Zoom. Like you can be semi distracted or like, I got to jump to the next call and you're like, or my dog's doing something on the couch across from me, right? But like, we're able to be here and hang out in person. And I love this event in particular because I'm obsessed with data and optimization. And so everything that they talk about is my jam.


Justin Wheeler Yeah, I was, I was talking to the team and this is definitely my favorite conference of the industry. And it's also like, so practical, right? There's like every speaker has like very practical things to share. And so you walk away and you're going to get something super valuable. Your talk mission to, mission to movements, talk to us about what the...


Dana Snyder It is a tongue twister.


Justin Wheeler It is. Talk to us about the meeting. Like, what's the like thesis behind your talk? This is also I think your podcast name. Is that correct.


Dana Snyder Yeah. Missions to movements. Yeah. So, you get the theme there? The branding and what I'm trying to do?


Justin Wheeler I do. I do.


Dana Snyder So the idea of the concept of missions to movements and really my focus is in the social media space and just really overall the digital ecosystem of like what your organization is doing is how can you make sure that what you're saying online can translate to an individual donor to really create an impactful mission for them and therefore builds an overall movement for your organization? So the example that I gave to my talk was talking about Dance Marathon. That's how I started my philanthropy journey. And I think they did such a beautiful job as we were 18 year olds, right? And we were learning about giving so young and we were so excited. But like, how did they do that? So I really like went back to just my roots of starting that and understanding like, what was my experience? How did that happen? Because I wasn't looking to get I wasn't looking to get involved with a charity that I knew literally nothing about. So how did they move me from this? Like one time maybe donor to this obsessed college student in this program with an amazing experience to now 13, 14, 15 online? How many years later to now like every time I see their organization, their cause, their logo I'm going to continue to give.


Justin Wheeler Yeah. So was that moment, the dance marathon moment, was that something that like because it happens like once a year, right? Like it's...


Dana Snyder It happens once a year, but it's in, I think currently still over like 100 plus universities all over the country.


Justin Wheeler Yeah, Yeah. We have a few of them actually that like raise on Funraise.


Dana Snyder Oh cool.


Justin Wheeler And so that's really cool. Is that really what there's that your why of like how you got into non-profits was that what introduced you to it or was there something else that happened?


Dana Snyder I mean, I think maybe subconsciously I grew up in church and I grew up going on mission trips. Not that I really understood the nonprofit like organization.


Justin Wheeler Yeah, yeah.


Dana Snyder But the sense of connection when you're in middle school, right? But the sense of giving, I think was always there. But I think Dance Marathon was the first time that I truly understood, Oh, there's an organization that impacts this hospital, that impacts this little girl that I love.


Justin Wheeler Yeah, absolutely.


Dana Snyder And then that's kind of what made it come full circle.


Justin Wheeler Was the like, you know, because like, dancing people are having a great time, right? And so was it also like, oh, wow, like charity can be cool. It could be fun. Like, was that was that something that like also kind of like, intrigued you into, like, the industry?


Dana Snyder Yeah. You know what's so funny about Dance Marathon is we at the time were very small. University of Central Florida. Go Knights, representing, which there was actually a crowd in my session that is from UCF, which was amazing, and like hollered in the back. What's fascinating is we were struggling at the time I mean, this is back in 2008. Yeah, we were struggling to get past like raising 50 grand as students and us was raising a million plus dollars and like, what are they doing? Like, how are they doing this? We went to their event and us in Orlando, I think it was different that we are a college inside of a major metropolitan town. Gainesville is not necessarily the case like UF is what holds the glue I feel like of Gainesville together. Yeah, their event was so simple. The games that they had, they were doing like four square. They weren't having to bring in like crazy musicians or comedians or talent. It was just really creating community within the participants. And we were like, Are we overthinking this to be too complicated? Like, do we just literally go back to what makes us have fun as kids?


Justin Wheeler Yeah.


Dana Snyder And now the university is raising 1.5-2 million annually and yeah and it's a I think was interesting is how much we can overcomplicate things in our mind because we're so inundated and like the day to day minutia of what we do. Versus like, let's just take a step back. And I love learning by experience of what others are doing.


Justin Wheeler Yeah, we had this. We had this like saying Invisible Children and I was there that in order to like to get someone to donate, you had to get them to laugh first, then cry, then donate.


Dana Snyder Yes.


Justin Wheeler And so whenever we were launching a new campaign or whatever, you know was happening, that was like the formula we would use.


Dana Snyder I totally forgot you worked there. Jason Russell was on my podcast and he, brilliant storyteller.


Justin Wheeler Oh, yeah, he is. He is. It's like he's like a totally different level of storytelling. I mean, so a lot of nonprofits that I've talked with think like, oh, like movements, like that's for like a different kind of organization, a type of different type of nonprofit, you know, like we're, there's just like a stiffness to a lot of nonprofits. Yeah. And so do you encounter that in in your consulting and in working with organizations of like, no, like movements are for you too?


Dana Snyder Yeah. I think there's a stigma around what a movement is, like, it's the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, right? And that's a movement. That's not true. Like you can have like many movements and what you're doing to make a greater impact. So I think it's just the perception of the word can get this, guys, but it's really like if you look at the definition of a movement, it's really like, are you creating an impact in a change in your specific cause area of what you're doing and what you're advocating for? It doesn't mean every single person and everybody on all the news channels need to be talking about what are you doing for it to be considered to be a movement? And I think we get caught up in like this press media notion of we're not successful if we're not breaking into CNBC and FOX and CNN, right. That we're not creating a movement. And that's not true, because that could be a micro depending upon what you're doing.


Justin Wheeler Absolutely. Absolutely. And it's like it's a groundswell, too. I mean, it takes time to build. Like if you get to a point where you have a big movement like at Invisable Children we had a huge movement. Yeah, but it was I.


Dana Snyder Remember you guys on my college campus.


Justin Wheeler Yeah. And it was it was seven years of touring the country, sending like high school students all over the country, going school, to school, to school, to school. So you have to put in the work.


Dana Snyder But it was interesting in there, too, with you guys is you also went for a younger generation.


Justin Wheeler Yeah, our ICP, our like ideal donor was 16 years old. Thatwas like, that was what we built our...


Dana Snyder Which I don't think anyone, All right, I'm not goint to say, anybody, but I think it's very rare that people think about, oh, I'm going to go for in this case Gen Z now.


Justin Wheeler Yeah. Yeah.


Dana Snyder Because they think oh it's the boomers is where it's at. .


Justin Wheeler Yeah. And it's you know, the reason why we focused on on such a young demographic was like twofold. One is like we think we can make charity cool for better or for worse. There's lots of lots of things that like bad things that have come from Invisible Children that was like initially, can we can make charity cool? Yeah. And if a 16 year old cares, you know, about what's happening in Uganda, their parents are going to care, right? Because they're like, they're going to be excited that their kid is thinking about something much larger than themselves..


Dana Snyder Excited about philanthropy, yeah.


Justin Wheeler That's what ended up happening was it was like the younger generation became like our doorway into the boomers.


Dana Snyder Do you see, I know this is supposed to be you interviewing me.


Justin Wheeler That's alright.


Dana Snyder Do you see a big shift just because you guys get so much data with what you do in terms of generational giving and how we're giving? I think the current sector is so used to large, substantial gifts that they rely on all the time. But as a millennial, I mean, my husband and I, we are not currently preparing to give large sums or create an endowment. More so we would like to be monthly donors to multiple organizations, maybe getting smaller, but getting for a long, substantial amount of time. Do you see a big shift of that happening in like education to orgs?


Justin Wheeler Yeah, I mean, I think like one thing that we see is organizations are like super hungry to diversify like their funding and, and you know, it's like the top like 2% of giving. It's like it's very crowded, right? And there's only so many foundations. I mean, there's, there's a ton of money, but like it's, it's very competitive. 75% of giving comes from households. And so many organizations don't prioritize household giving. But we are starting to see organizations really build these, like what we're terms we're seeing, are like consumer facing like giving programs. Yeah, which is spot on because I mean, you've got, you know, 300 million people here in the States to build a program around. And and one of the things is where we're seeing, you know, average gift size, like from this like demographic of donors, hovering around $100 bucks. Right. And so it'll be interesting to see kind of like over the next decade what happens. I mean, there's a lot of wealth transfer happening. Yeah. You know, within the millennial generation that are going about to become, you know, larger major donors. Yeah, but I think an organization, to be successful, and to grow, needs to have a very solid annual fund program that's targeting young donors. You can give $50, $100 bucks.


Dana Snyder Yes. And I think I had a really interesting conversation with the birthday party project this year. They, in during COVID, they said, okay, a lot of other things are slowing down for us. Let's redo our brand. They completely redid their branding. They look so professional. It's fun. It's vibrant, it's bold, and that attracted, A new donors, but B, large international corporate donors.


Justin Wheeler Oh, wow.


Dana Snyder Because it just completely leveled out their look and their feel. And so I think it's also investing in, we are so used to as consumers the Amazon of things the one, two click, right, donate. We're so used to going to these for-profit companies that have beautiful sites that we just kind of expect the same thing. Which is like tools like you guys that make it really easy to create something beautiful. Because that's what I think, the expectations are also of a younger donor base.


Justin Wheeler Oh, totally. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, like if a donor goes to a website and, you know, can't figure out how to donate or can't like navigate the site or it looks like it was built in 1999, donors are gonna drop off. Like you are not going to convert that individual.


Dana Snyder That was part of what I talked about yesterday was like, okay, so you have this personalized donors journey, right, from awareness consideration, decision. And if you're working so hard and building all this content to get me like through the awareness consideration, I'm educated. I'm excited that at the very last step, if I'm like signing up for something and I can't do it, or if it's difficult. Yeah, or if there's friction, it's just like, you're gone.


Justin Wheeler Totally, totally. Yeah. And it's it's funny how organizations will try to really, you know, outsource that to volunteers like the, like web development brand building. These are things that like, yeah, Jason Russell actually said this, we had him on our podcast too, he said like one of the most important things you can do as a nonprofit is invest as much money as possible in your story.


Dana Snyder Yes.


Justin Wheeler Because that pays dividends, right. And like most organizations have a very long term game to play. And if we're just focused on like, you know, a quick win here and there, it's not going to be sustainable.


Dana Snyder If there's one thing that somebody hears from this, please hire a social media, digital role for your team. A.K.A ideally they can tell stories through your social channels, but to invest in that person and invest in giving them the resources that they need to do their jobs. I think we think, okay, I'm going to hire this manager, but I'm not going to give them any budget for a management platform for content building. Oh, we need a travel budget so they can go on trips with us or there's no ad spend for them, to test running ads. But, like, go do your job.


Justin Wheeler By then I mean an intern can come in and do all your social media, right?


Dana Snyder Of course they could!


Justin Wheeler Last question and a series of fun questions. Well, these are all been been fun. But so when I wanted to go back to one thing that you said is, is you creating all this content for it for social media and you're you're pushing the donor kind of through this journey and then they like land on the site and it doesn't match, you know, everything else that just happened. How do organizations dial in, sort of this like, cohesive approach. Whether they're acquiring donors from Facebook or from LinkedIn or any other social media platform? What's like the best strategy of organizations to really build a cohesive donor journey?


Dana Snyder That's such a good question. So what I have found, I do a lot of work in ads, and what I found is there needs to be exactly like you're saying, that consistency in that branding. So there's imagery and colors and visuals that you're showcasing in your content, in your ads, your website needs to reflect. Literally could be verbatim the exact same photo that's actually worked really well, because then that donor, that supporter, knows that they're in the right place. I think to not complicate it is I always share and I do this personally in my business is really focus on a primary and a secondary social channel. Do not try and be everywhere. I literally have, I'm not on Twitter. I stop trying to be on Twitter because to do it properly, it takes a lot of time. I have a tweet that's pinned to the tab that says, I'm not here, find me on LinkedIn. And I have like three clicks, like links of resources, but people know, Oh, okay, she's not on this platform. But I let them know I'm not there and then you can find me somewhere out. Yeah. So simplify your life. Focus on like where you truly think your audience is. Focus on creating really great content that also is true to the business of that platform. So when you focus on less platforms, you can think about, okay, what is Adam from Instagram talking about in his weekly updates, right? What can I gauge from him? That's really important. He's the head of Instagram. What are they looking to do and grow as a business? Okay, I should be creating more video content. I should be creating more reels, I should be engaging in my messages and then really focus on building a community and the platforms that you choose.


Justin Wheeler Got it. Awesome. Thank you. Great, great feedback. All right. Now some questions. Now, there's no right or wrong answers, but there are some wrong answers. Okay, So first off, digital reading or an actual book?


Dana Snyder Actual book.


Justin Wheeler What's your favorite most recent book you've read?


Dana Snyder Oh, my gosh. Okay. Kristen Hannah, I love all of her books and what was the most recent one, oh Four Winds.


Justin Wheeler Four Winds.


Dana Snyder So, so good. It's like historical fiction vibe.


Justin Wheeler Okay. All right. Pizza or salad?


Justin Wheeler Pizza. Pizza, nice. Beach or the mountains? Get to live somewhere the rest of your life.


Dana Snyder Oh. That's really tough. I'm a Pisces, but I'm a skier.


Justin Wheeler So you're gonna say mountains? Ah, you're going to be in the snow the rest of your life.


Dana Snyder I would say mountains.


Justin Wheeler Okay. Football or futbol.


Dana Snyder Ah, football.


Justin Wheeler Futbol?


Dana Snyder No throwing.


Justin Wheeler No throwing. Okay, So football, American football.


Dana Snyder American football.


Justin Wheeler Okay. Yeah. Are you, it sounds like you're more college football than pro football.


Dana Snyder Yeah. I mean, although I will say go Buccs because we have Brady for another year.


Justin Wheeler Dogs or cats?


Dana Snyder Dogs.


Justin Wheeler Dogs. You like cats?


Dana Snyder I used to have a cat. Definitely dogs though.


Justin Wheeler Okay.


Dana Snyder My puppy is the best.


Justin Wheeler Yeah, me too. Funnel cake or cheesecake?


Dana Snyder Cheesecake.


Justin Wheeler And the last one, The Goonies or The Sandlot?


Dana Snyder Oh, gosh. Sandlot.


Justin Wheeler Sandlot. Awesome. Dana, thanks so much for joining.


Dana Snyder You're welcome. Thank you for having me?

Hey! Welcome back to Nonstop Nonprofit. Before our Funraise-sponsored break, Beth was sharing about what they learned through COVID and how that shifted their ask to their donors. Now, let's get back to the conversation.

Justin Wheeler I'm also curious, you know, I think homelessness is such a, it's such a big problem in the United States. And I've noticed, just especially during being involved in so many different causes and nonprofits around the U.S., for some reason, I feel like homelessness has this like stigma, right? Where for individuals who haven't experienced it or aren't going through it, you know, it's, there's this stigma of like, well, why, why are they on the streets? Like, why aren't they working? You know, why are they lazy or whatever like their excuse may be like, I'm not going to give them money. They're going to buy alcohol or drugs. I'm curious how you guys overcome that, because obviously that's a generalization. I can see how that could potentially impact new individuals from giving to an organization like yours. So how do you guys tell this story to help supporters understand the importance of your work? And then further, how do you show the impact? How do you help your donors understand the sustainable impact that you're making as an organization on this issue?


Beth Fisher Yeah, Thank you for that question. Because you are exactly right. That is the perception and the misconception, right? Which is that everybody is homeless, they just must be making a choice. And if they would just go out and pull themselves up by the bootstraps, get a job, problem solved. Not even close. Right. That is such a small percentage of the folks whom we serve, especially in this day and age with inflation, with lack of affordable housing here in West Michigan, it's a real problem. And so what we're doing is more of an educational awareness program, right? It's like, hey, I know you guys think this. I'm a big believer in like lean into the elephant in the room, just as you did, right? I go into every room I can speak about and people will say, Well, you just saw people who X, Y, Z and I'm like, that's not it at all. Let me tell you, I understand why you think that. Let me also tell you why it's so, so wrong. And data right data backs it up. But again, going back to, systems in place and the right CRMs and the right data and the right inputs that will help us then have the right outputs to do the storytelling, to do the marketing. Without that, it's kind of like people are going, Well, I only see what I see and I only know what I think that I understand, none of which can be backed up. So that's how we go about it. And we really talk about all of the wraparound services because we, you know, this is going to sound derogatory, but people old school think three hots in a cot, right? We'll give them $2.39. I'll give them some gross mashed potatoes and put them on a cot. And again, this is all we can do. But hey, we're checking a box here. Where we're fulfilling our duties as human beings and as Christians, so now we're good. It's so much more. It's so much more. People are living paycheck to paycheck, you know?


Justin Wheeler Yeah, I've heard, you know, a lot of people are one paycheck away from, you know, being homeless. I think, you know, kind of piggybacking on what you just said there, I think this is why I believe marketing should be a program expense, not an overhead expense, especially on an issue like you're working on. When I was at Liberty in North Korea, no one really knew what was happening in North Korea. Everyone thought that North Korea was our enemy state. It was the axis of evil. It was crazy dictators, nuclear weapons. Why would we ever donate a dollar to a country that has been perceived this way for so long? And so we knew that in order for us to actually create, you know, support and resources for an issue that was one of the worst human rights violations in the world, that we would have to first peel back the layer, the onion, and talk about why North Korea should not be perceived this way. And so we spent at the time, over 50% of our budget for the first two years on just telling that story and just spreading awareness, generating awareness. Changing people's hearts and minds. Because you knew if we did that, then we would be able to actually make a bigger impact on the issue. And so the question for you here is, is it hard at your organization to generate the resources you need to continue to tell the stories and to continue to demystify these wrong perceptions? Or do you feel like you have enough resources to do that for the organization?


Beth Fisher I feel like it's a work in progress. You know, we have 100, we've been in existence since 1900, Mel Trotter Ministries. So we clearly have name recognition, right. The problem is some people recognize that name from the old school way of programing around here. And that's not how we do things in 2023. And so I do feel like we have enough resources for us, I guess the thing that we continue to sort of bang our heads up against a brick wall is how do we actually say the information in so many different ways that it actually lands, right? How do we actually market to all of the audiences collectively saying the same thematic information, like we don't want to confuse people clearly because clarity is what it's all about, but yet how do you sort of deconstruct, undo, whatever those words are, what people have had in their mind for so many years? And that's the thing is we have an aging donor database, as many organizations do, and they've known what they've known, giving for 30 years. My daughter, who's 25, I don't think she knows where her mailbox is at her apartment. Right. She has no idea what This looks very, very different to her. And she cares, as we all know, it's so true, I'm watching it, she grew up in the faith, but she's like, mom, I don't see what I was taught as a kid. I want to know that somebody on the streets like what I do, if I give them $5 every month, I want to know how it helps them. So impact, impact, impact. And so we do. We share the numbers, but for me, it's more about faces and names and stories because people can read data. It's kind of boring at the end of day, let's be honest. I mean, it doesn't really well, people, it's necessary to substantiate, but what sells, if you will, what people stop and go, Oh my goodness. I had no idea is when they say, wait a minute, a family lives there, you guys, it's a family becomes homeless in West Michigan right now. There's no place for them to go. That answer is you're right. There isn't. That's the wow factor. I'm like, it could be your neighbors, it could be your sister, it could be your family. Think about that.


Justin Wheeler Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, giving in is such an emotional experience, you know, for individuals and donors. And, you know, a lot of times organizations will lead with data, you know, like there's 100,000 homeless people living in Grand Rapids or, hey, there's this lady named Sally, and she could really use your help. That message is going to resonate with more people. It's tangible. I can understand one person. It's hard to understand, what does 100,000 people look like living in the streets? And how does my $5 actually make a difference for 100,000 people? And so I totally agree with you. Data is to substantiate the impact and to inform decisions. It's internal, right? It's for you as an organization to use to make good business decisions. But when it relates to fundraising, it's got to be about the story. It's got to be about the individual. I'd take that a step further even and say that there's this old conversation in the nonprofit space that the donors, the hero, I think, I don't believe the donors here. I believe the donor is an amazing character in this story. But the individual receiving the help, the individual overcoming their challenges coming off of the out of the streets, that's the true hero. They've been enabled. They've been given the opportunity to overcome their challenges. And so I think that it's so important to tell the story in a way that represents all parties in an equitable manner. But definitely agree with you that it's about the story. It's not about, you know, the data point. That's not what gets people to actually give. Beth, you have a lot of experience in fundraising in the corporate world. Be curious if there's any advice you'd like to offer for new fundraisers coming in, whether they're coming from corporate, whether they're just getting started in their career. Any advice that you'd like to share to help them get started that would maybe help accelerate their learning curve as they start fundraising for their organization?


Beth Fisher Yeah, I had to learn this in my early twenties, too, when I was in sales. And for me, it's the biggest lesson is to network. Is to get yourself in so many different groups, right, that it's sort of you will find the crossover, you will find the intersection, but kind of sit back and feel like, Well, I'm going to go in the office 8 to 5. I'm going to like be in front of my CRM all day. I'm going to call this person. I'm going to write a thank you. It's so much different than if you are in, right grassroots, like get out there. Really? Like when I see our development team and they're in the office, I'm like, I want to see you. I love you guys. I don't see you right now. I want you in relationship with your donors. I want you to say, Hey, I care about you. Let me tell you what I just saw. Real-time updates. Huge, Huge. Because if I am somebody who is being solicited and I am right, we all are in some way, shape or form, I want to know that I am unique. And the only way to let me know that you feel like I'm unique is for you uniquely to speak to me. And so I don't, I'm not really into I know it's a necessary evil. I mean, don't get me started on direct mail. Yes, it's necessary, but I don't I personally don't like to be one of many. I want to be one of one. And I want to know that you see me and you understand my heart for giving and you understand my connection to your organization. Because if you don't take the time to get to know me, I may not take the time to give you my money.


Justin Wheeler Yeah, no, totally. I totally agree with that. Yeah, I was chuckling a little bit because I think, where I think the one-to-many works is more actually on like the guerrilla tactic style of fundraising, we did this really well that the first organization was called Invisible Children, where we would literally go to any Apple store. We would travel around the United States to spread awareness, and we were like, Where are their mass computers? We went to libraries, Apple stores, and we changed the home screen to our banner to our website. And we actually drove additional traffic and we would get new support all the time. We had hear about people donating that would say, Hey, this is so creative. I found your organization. It's so amazing. I'm going to contribute. So I'm also all about the like the creative kind of grassroots guerilla style. But nothing beats, you know, that 1-to-1 relationship building, especially if we're trying to beat donor churn. If we're trying to keep donors involved in organizations for the long haul. If we're trying to create lifelong donors. It's so important to build those relationships. And so thank you for that advice. I think that's, that is super, super helpful. Beth, I know you're busy and so wish you the best of luck in your efforts. And thank you so much for joining Nonstop Nonprofit to share your wisdom with us and our audience.


Beth Fisher Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.


Justin Wheeler Thanks, Beth.

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