In the Eye of the Beholder: Become a Confident Fundraiser by Understanding Your Nonprofit's Value

In the Eye of the Beholder: Become a Confident Fundraiser by Understanding Your Nonprofit's Value

September 23, 2021
45 minutes

Mallory Erickson · Executive Coach & Fundraising Consultant | Mallory is a fundraiser-turned-executive-coach whose confidence unlocked an almost 4X increase in her nonprofit's revenue. With that key in hand, Mallory passes along her hard-won knowledge to thousands of nonprofits through targeted coaching programs.



Confidence is a tricky thing: it's simple to say, to talk about, and to identify, but confidence is difficult to reach, and it's even harder to hold onto. During today's Nonstop Nonprofit, Justin Wheeler, Funraise CEO and Co-founder talks to a fundraiser-turned-executive-coach whose confidence unlocked an almost 4X increase in her nonprofit's revenue.

Justin's conversation with Mallory Erickson goes back to his time as a fundraiser. For context, while these days it's pretty common to follow loads of skilled specialists on social media, back then many fundraisers learned on the job... they weren't necessarily taught the stuff that Mallory brings to the table, and it's a shame—fundraising is so much easier when you view your nonprofit's value through a funder's lens.

Speaking of value, that's the key to confidence we mentioned earlier. Hearing Mallory lay it out, you'll see that it's all connected: when the value your nonprofit offers aligns with a funder, the dynamics of your conversation are fundamentally shifted.

Listen in as Mallory and Justin discover assets you never knew you had, smash the power dynamics of outdated fundraiser-funder relationships, and try on different lenses to reveal your true confidence as a fundraiser.

P.S. Access Mallory's Power Partners intro course for free today!


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

Confidence is a tricky thing: it's simple to say, to talk about, and to identify, but confidence is difficult to reach, and it's even harder to hold onto.

During today's Nonstop Nonprofit, we'll talk to a fundraiser-turned-executive-coach whose confidence unlocked an almost 4X increase in her nonprofit's revenue. Once she had the key, Mallory Erickson took it a step further, passing along her hard-won knowledge to thousands of nonprofits through targeted coaching programs.

My conversation with Mallory took me back to my time as a fundraiser. For context, while these days it's pretty common to follow loads of skilled specialists on social media, back then many of us learned on the job. We weren't necessarily taught the stuff that Mallory brings to the table, and it's a shame—fundraising is so much easier when you view your nonprofit's value through a funder's lens.

Speaking of value, that's the key to confidence I mentioned earlier. Hearing Mallory lay it out, you'll see that it's all connected: when the value your nonprofit offers aligns with a funder, the dynamics of your conversation are fundamentally shifted.

Listen in as Mallory and I discover assets you never knew you had, smash the power dynamics of outdated fundraiser-funder relationships, and try on different lenses to reveal your true confidence as a fundraiser.

Let's dive in!

Justin Wheeler Mallory, thank you so much for joining the Nonstop Nonprofit Podcast, how are you doing today?

Mallory Erickson I am doing great and I'm so excited to be here and to have this conversation. So thanks so much for the opportunity.

Justin Wheeler Absolutely. Thanks for agreeing to come on. We're super excited to have you. Today, really excited to kind of dig into what it means to become a confident fundraiser. And the reason why I'm excited to have this conversation with you is because not only were you a former nonprofit executive, fundraiser, now you're training nonprofits all across the country. And so things are going to have a lot of really good things to say. So thanks for coming on and having this conversation with me today.
Mallory Erickson Yeah, one of my favorite topics, so I'm excited.

Justin Wheeler Awesome. So let's jump in with your nonprofit story. I'd like to ask this of every guest. How did you get involved in the nonprofit space and tell us a little bit more about your background within nonprofits.

Mallory Erickson Yeah. So I, you know, I graduated my undergraduate program from the University of Michigan, really focused on sociology and political science, and social change. And I thought actually when I left that I was going to go to Washington and sort of back to public policy school. I was really interested in education reform and education policy in particular. But I decided that I wanted to spend a few years understanding the intersection between the public school system, the nonprofit sector and policy. So I went and did a fellowship program through an organization called Citizen Schools in Boston, where I got my master's in education and I was in the middle school environment and an extended learning day program. And I had gone because they had they also had kind of a policy and advocacy arm. And so I thought it would be this really interesting opportunity to sort of see how it all came together. But I ended up falling in love with the nonprofit and with the school. And so I actually never even did kind of that part of the program and instead stayed sort of on the ground running the organization in the school partnership model, which then led me to other education nonprofits. And I think, you know, I just I really believed and believe that the nonprofit sector is a place to catalyze tremendous change. And I think once I was in like I was in and didn't really have, consider another path for me and so went on to work in a number of other education organizations grew and international exchange organization that worked on the ground actually year-round in the US, Nicaragua and Ecuador, and then went on to run an organization focused on education but tailored to people with diabetes. So that was like my first sort of introduction into the health care space, but with a strong education component. Yeah. So there's just been the education thread has really been a huge part of my journey. And then obviously now get to work with hundreds of organizations every year and support amazing work across the world.

Justin Wheeler Wow. So you've done a few things. It sounds like the nonprofit sector, one sort of thing that I mean, looking kind of at your track record of growing nonprofits, you know, one, in particular, you took from to from a million to $3.6M, nearly four hexing sort of the organization. So talk to us a little bit about how you achieved such tremendous growth in a short period of time. What were the strategies and how did you get to that growth story?

Mallory Erickson Yeah, so, you know, I mean, I think with all of my fundraising experience, like, it's been really trying to look carefully at, like what works and what are the particular I call them now inside my program assets. But I didn't always have that language, but it was like, what were the things that the organization had that were aligned with particular types of funders? And then I just kind of like doubled down and tripled down there. I think one of the things that gets us really distracted in the nonprofit sector, and I'm not at all saying we don't need diversified funding. Of course, we do. But I think when we think about diversified funding, we're like, oh, we need it this much in foundations and this much in individuals. But this organization, they had tremendous value to companies, tremendous value to companies, and they weren't positioned very well, frankly, for a foundation based on the programs that they were offering. And so instead of banging my head against the wall, trying to find foundations that I really grew the corporate partnership program so that instead of five companies funding this organization, it was forty-six when I left. And so I think just really recognizing the strength of the organization, creating partnership opportunities that mattered, that we're going to move the needle on the issue, that the organization cared about, that these partners cared about and really finding successful strategic partnerships was kind of the name of the game.

Justin Wheeler Wow, that's amazing. And you said something I'd like to underscore. Things are super important. Point talked about diversity and funding. And I think where a lot of people get this wrong is they they assume diversifying funding is diversifying channels and not every nonprofit belongs in. Every single fundraising channel, obviously, I think you mentioned going from five to forty-six funders or corporations, that's a tremendous story of success in diversified funding, right? It's when I think about it and when I talk about nonprofit with I talk to nonprofits about this, it's more of like how do we how do we get like 20% fewer donors not funding 80 percent of your budget. Right. That's that's really what we want to try to achieve here. So I appreciate that point and totally agree that diversity in funding isn't always channel-specific. Could just be doubling down on something that's working really well.

Mallory Erickson Yeah, I'm so glad you said that because I could not agree more.

Justin Wheeler So what's interesting in your story is, you know, you you were you're very successful, but you share that you almost hated you hated almost everything day to day specifically as it related to fundraising. And so curious because typically when someone finds a lot of success in something, they typically enjoy it. And it sounded like it was kind of the grind for you. And so would love if you could just unpack a little bit of what you mean by you kind of lost the the enthusiasm or whatever it might have been. And so would love to kind of unpack that story of it.

Mallory Erickson Yeah. So what I'll say is that a lot of the success that I saw in that last story I shared started to happen when my experience with fundraising started to change. So like that organization moved from like a million to one point six years out when I still really hated fundraising. And then that sort of explosion happened when I started to have a lot more fun and I started to recognize what I said before around, sort of like where is their alignment to build really mutually beneficial partnerships? And, you know, I think the reason that for so many years I hated fundraising. And, yeah, I still saw success in my past organizations because the name of the game there was hustle, and I can do that if I need to. But I don't want nonprofit leaders to operate that way. Right. And so like what I did or like the reason that I disliked it so much is that I just found fundraising and sort of like that the way we've all been taught to fundraise, to be this super uncomfortable practice. You know, I would go to these fundraising trainnings where they would talk about the 12 to 18 months, like major donor kind of like moves management system. And they would tell us to go on these listening tours and never to bring up money, but to be asking them about all these things. And then you're definitely being held accountable for the money that you're getting from this person that you're not allowed to talk about money with. And I was just kind of like, what is this game? And like, I don't get it. And I just really couldn't find a way to make it feel good to me. Like I tried to follow the steps and I tried to do the things. And I just always kept walking away feeling like this is not me and I just don't want to, you know. And then I finally had a fundraising coach really who didn't play those same games and was sort of like, OK, Mallory coaching me around. He used to have this mantra that I loved where he would say, make the ask over soup. Right. And that was sort of like don't bury the lead. Like, be more transparent with your funders. And what I found when he was coaching me around, that was like I didn't want to make the ask over soup. And so what happened was as I started to ask myself, like, why? Like, what's coming up for me? Why am I so uncomfortable? Why don't I want to say those things? And I had this really lucky experience that when I was working with him, when I was fundraising all of this money, I went through executive coach certification, which really helped me start to understand the way my thoughts and beliefs were impacting my experience as a fundraiser. And I really got to unpack like, oh, I don't want to make the ask over soup because I'm worried they'll be mad at me or I worry it'll ruin the whole rest of the lunch or I worry that they won't give it all because they'll think I was too forward or, you know, like I just texted a bunch of friends about trying to raise this money to house this woman fleeing domestic violence. I don't normally do this, but I'm trying to get her in a home fast. And I still had that ping of like, oh, what if they're mad that I texted this then, right? I think those feelings are really natural. And but I think I felt like there was no container or no space for me to talk about them.

Justin Wheeler Wow. So, yeah, that's super interesting. Takes me back to my fundraising days and it's not quite as, It's not quite as thought out is kind of what you walked through, but sort of like the golden rule that I set for myself as a fundraiser when, when asking for money or was more around sort of, so when is the timing right? And so there's all sorts of like theories out there, like when you should ask somebody for money, should they know that you're going to ask them and so forth. But sort of like what I use as an indicator when someone was getting ready was when they started inviting me to things that had nothing to do with the organization. So we are building a true friendship. And that's really how I tried to build all of my fundraising relationships with people is like, I want this. Person to invite me to their friends, get together to their kid's birthday, whatever it might be. And so how do I build that relationship in that way? And once those things start happening, there's that more sort of like trust. And it was I enjoyed it because, I mean, I'm an extrovert. And so I love to get to know people and love hanging out with people and so forth. And so that was one of my drivers. But I'll have to say, it sounds like sort of this process that you were going through internally and seeking coaching for and so forth has led you to your current business where you're providing an array of different services. And so would love if you could kind of talk through some of the particulars about your consulting business and would love to really shine a light on specifically something that sounds super interesting as the Power Partner's formula. You and I discussed this previously before, and so we would just love to take a few minutes to learn a little bit more about your consulting business and how you help organizations in their fundraising and executive efforts.

Mallory Erickson Yeah, so I love that and I love what you shared, but I will do that. I will answer your question. No, so I just want to say I really appreciate what you shared about your experience. And I think it highlights a really important point, which is that it's not problematic to build relationships that aren't talking about money, right? And it's not problematic to build genuine relationships. What's problematic is the disconnect before what you say, between what you say you're doing and what you're trying to do. And it sounds to me like you really were trying to build these relationships. You cared about these people you wanted to build. You wanted to get to know them better. And that so that was able to be authentic for you. I think we're fundraisers have the problem is when they're going to these meetings, but they aren't really tapping into that empathy or they don't really care. And they're sort of going back to send an email to their boss about how much they raised.

Justin Wheeler Yeah, I totally get that and agree with that. That sort of approach is much more transactional. It's I've got a target. I got to hit this number. Whether or not my donor or donors are ready to be asked. I have the bottom-line pressure to hit these goals. My job's on the line and so forth. So I totally get that. When that pressure is there, you lose a lot of the authenticity. Yeah. And the actual raising, or building the relationship and raising the funds.

Mallory Erickson Yeah. And so Power Partners is really based on this like fundamental concepts. I'll start with Power Partners because that's really my signature program and all the ways that I work with organizations really center around that. So Power Partners, the Power Partners formula is a course that anyone can join and be a part of. It's a community of fundraising professionals, sometimes the executive director, sometimes the development director, sometimes the development coordinator who is looking to fundamentally change the way they fundraise, to focus on building reliable, sustainable strategic partnerships with individuals, with corporations, with foundations. But the underlying principle is that we as humans and humans being companies and humans being foundations and humans being individuals, giving we so many of us want to achieve the same goals. We want to see the same change in our community. We want to see the same change in our world. And not everyone. But your job as a fundraiser is to identify the people who do who share the desire to impact the world the way that your organization impacts the world and your job is to be able to find them and identify them and then to speak to them in that shared language. So really, to understand, I talk about a lot inside my program, this idea of thunder lenses. How do you put on the glass? I'm wearing pink glasses. You're wearing green glasses. And so when I'm talking to you, I need to sometimes think about what is this look like through green glasses? Because if I describe something to you and it's all pink, you're going to be like, I have literally no idea what she's talking about, right? But if I know you're wearing green glasses and I describe something to you through the lens of green glasses, you're going to be able to connect with what it is that I'm sharing with you. And it doesn't mean you're sharing something fundamentally different. Like these principles sort of go back to design thinking concepts around empathy. Right? Like we all experience the world in different ways. And it's our job as fundraisers to find the people where that alignment is really there and then be able to translate that alignment to the lenses that different funders are wearing. And we need to do that in the way we engage. Then we need to do that in the way we have conversations with them and then being authentic and transparent around our desire to build mutually beneficial partnerships. Like I see you, like I see what you're trying to do out there. It's so clear to me, based on X and Y that you really want to move the needle around Z. Over here at our organization, we are fiercely committed to the same thing. I wonder if there is an opportunity for us to come together and be able to blank, blank, blank. Like that is so different than like, hey, come to our gala because we're like in your local community and buy a table for your friends because you should.

Justin Wheeler Right.

Mallory Erickson Right? And so that Power Partners is really based on like my mantra or Power Partners is that great fundraising is not an ask. It's an offer. And when we understand that and when we internalize that and I have a process inside the horse called asset mapping, where organizations lay out all of the things of value inside their organization, way beyond their programs and services, but things like thought leaders on their board of directors or the skills of their different staff members, the number of people on their email list, their Instagram following, their blogs that could be sponsored by companies where there's content overlap, audience sharing. I mean, they have so much. And actually, I just got off, I can't say too much about this yet, but I got off a call with someone today who works with some of the biggest brands in the world around and helping them become like businesses for good, like really. And the thing he said is he said, you know, nonprofits do not recognize that they are sitting on treasure. That they have the keys that so many people are looking for around what's happening in communities, how to move the needle on certain things. But there is a communication gap with their ability to connect with either the, sometimes it's the for-profit sector, sometimes it's the individuals with their different life experiences and sometimes it's foundations because again, they're writing everything from their pink glasses. And so Power Partners is really like helping them both be able to put on those other glasses, identify the assets of the organization, match them appropriately. So find that alignment and then get over that communication gap by effectively engaging them. That was a lot.

Justin Wheeler No, it was good. Lots of good, lots of things to unpack there. Is this specific program, is it, in a way, is it kind of your own journey to kind of rediscovering what it meant to be a fundraiser? Is that kind of how you curated this program to help others? Because it seems like the passion for fundraising is stronger than it has ever been. And you've got all these tactics, and tactics could, you know, could sound negative, but it's really meant to be positive. You know, you have these strategies to really help individuals and organizations accelerate their own sort of fundraising. [00:17:40]So what was it that kind of, what was like a light bulb moment for you that went off, that kind of reignited this part of your professional sort of career around fundraising within nonprofits? Because it sounds like a lot of sort of this is based on your own experience and your own journey as a fundraiser. [16.6s]

Mallory Erickson [00:17:58]Yeah. So it's a really good question. I think I'm going to share something I've never actually shared before. So first I started just coaching, using my executive coaching skills with nonprofits one on one and my one on one practice so that really fast. And so I was like, OK, I need a way to support organizations that don't that where they don't have to hire me one on one. So I knew I needed to create a course. And for months I had this feeling like when you have a word on the tip of your tongue, that kind of like feeling like something's in your head, but it's like not all connecting. Like the course was in there. And I cannot remember the light bulb moment, but something happened and it just like exploded out of me. I mean, I wrote the entire course in three days and it was like it was just like there. And yes, I think a lot of it is my personal experience. A lot of it is the experience of my clients and all the organizations I was seeing as I was coaching. And I think so much of what is inside the course and what's inside my practice is like, OK, looking at what are the things that we're not taking action on, but we have the tools around, so like when I started to really look at, OK, there's plenty of template emails out there that people aren't using or aren't sending. Why? You know, that question about like why didn't I want to make the ask first at the beginning of the meeting, why don't people want to be more transparent in their emails. So I really started to unpack the barriers that were coming up for people and using executive coaching framework. I've been chasing, I've been trained and habit building and behavior change with B.J. Fogg. I've done work with IDO on design thinking. And so having these different frameworks to start to kind of decode like what are the barriers like? We have so many things that we need. I mean, I remember saying to you when we first talked like, gosh, you know, I watch organizations with tech solutions that could solve 80% of their problems, but they're using 20% of the software, and why? Like why? And I know what they'll say it first is that they don't have time. But that isn't really it. There's something else there. And so, so much of it was like, yes, uncovering it in my own personal journey when I started to ask myself those questions and then also asking dozens of fundraisers what was getting in their way from taking a certain action and really being able to identify some patterns in what was holding them back. And so Power Partners combines the technical like with asset mapping. I was like, OK, great fundraising is not an ask. It's an offer that I did this fearless fundraising webinar throughout 2020, I kept saying that. But I was watching that folks weren't able to like internalize that. They were like, that sounds cool and like I'm going to give you a like on Instagram, but like do they really feel that. The way I feel it they didn't. And I was like OK, so what's the process to get them to recognize that they have something incredible to offer? An asset mapping was the solution to that, because when they map all their assets, they see what they have to offer. And so not only are they able to leverage those in conversations with funders, but they show up to those conversations feeling so different. [200.8s]

Justin Wheeler Right. And your motto of like, it's not an ask, it's an offer becomes a lot more grounded in that asset mapping exercise, right? When you get it, aside from like the tax write-off and the donor feeling good about themselves, which is definitely something to be said for sure. But it's also like, look, all these other all this other value that we offer. Another one actually just was talking to someone today. I actually think the employer brand is another sort of asset that can be leveraged. I think charity: Water does is best where they make donors feel almost like they have FOMO, but are people who are thinking about giving. It's almost like you FOMO for not giving to charity: water. Because you want to be a part of that club. And so that's another sort of another sort of, I guess, a way to leverage an asset of an organization. But something you also said and something I've seen kind of just through what I've read up about these different programs and services that you offer, is it seems like you're also playing a pretty big role in helping instill confidence into fundraisers. And I think this is like one of the larger problems in our industry today, is a lot of fundraisers didn't go to school to be fundraisers. Maybe it's like their second or third career path. And so you just there's just a lack of confidence, whether it's asking for money or just creating a strategic plan on how to fund the organization. And so talk to us about how you help people become more confident in what they're doing. Are there any, like, secrets to becoming a more confident fundraiser or is it more of a muscle that you just condition over and over again with love? Your thoughts on that?

Mallory Erickson Yeah, I think it's both. So I think one of the sort of underlying executive coaching tools I use is something called the cognitive behavior loop, which is the idea that our beliefs and our thoughts inform how we feel. And then ultimately how we show up and how we show up, of course, impacts our results. So whenever we're having like trouble with our results, I want to go back to like, what is the thought and what is the belief? Right. And sometimes you need to start with the feeling. Right. OK, so how do you feel about fundraising, right? If you have that gut-dropping feeling in your belly when you're going into donor meetings, what are the thoughts or what are the beliefs that are leading you to that feeling, right? Because fundraising is not inherently stressful. And like before people hang up the podcast, just hear me out for a second because but because fundraising is just fundraising, right? What's stressful are the thoughts and the beliefs we have about fundraising. You know, they didn't give last year. They won't give again this year. Some of the things I said before, this person might be mad at me for sending blank. What if my friends never invite me to parties anymore because I'm always talking about my nonprofit. Oh, I sent the thing I hear from board members the most. I emailed my friends last year. Right. Like, why do I have to email them again this year? And I always say to board members, when they say that I go, hey, do you ever get mad? Like when somebody invites you to a birthday party again, like the next year, you're like, hey, I went and brought a gift last year. It's like, of course not, right? But we have these perceptions and beliefs that are deeply rooted to money, value, being helpful. These things that we really identify with that are core to who we are that get triggered when fundraising comes up. And so for me, confidence comes from like, first of all, unwinding that story and understanding that story, like I am really against, like, kind of toxic positivity. And I always say, like mindset even now is getting a little bit like corrupted as a word, because it's like people think mindset is like a mantra on your mug. And I'm like, no, like real mindset work involves understanding what is happening in your brain and recognizing that you have tremendous power to change it. So like the first step in building confidence, I think, is acknowledging even the thoughts and beliefs that you're holding and then recognizing that you have the opportunity to choose different thoughts and beliefs. And when you do confidence, yes, it's a practice because like I said, I still got triggered a little bit when I sent that text to all my friends. That's very normal. Right. But like, that feeling would never paralyze me anymore. It would have paralyzed me five years ago. I probably wouldn't have even sent the text message. Right. And so that's where the practice piece comes in of like really recognizing that. Yeah, look, we have been taught money stories and particularly for women, we have been taught money stories about whether or not we're even allowed to talk about money for our whole lives. And so, of course, it's going to be uncomfortable to break out of some of those things. But I think when we know that, when we know that, it's like, OK. Like, yeah, you know what? I'm feeling really uncomfortable right now because biologically, as women, we are community builders. And so we never want to rock the boat and we're always around building community. And I'm afraid that this thing is going to rock the boat in my community and that's why I'm getting triggered. OK, I'm used to that feeling coming up. But like, is this really threatening my community or like my friends now? OK, great. I'm going to keep going forward with that action, right? So it's really about I think that is, you know, in confidence doesn't always have to look the same like. And so I think it's this practice of just maybe even being a little bit less scared and then a little bit less scared. You know, I say to my clients, like, you don't need to be fearless all the time. You need to have moments of fearlessness. And I think that's true for confidence, too. Like just start small, like send that text message and then celebrate yourself for sending that text message, click send on that email and then celebrate yourself for sending that email, right? All of those wins. That's what builds confidence over time.

Justin Wheeler That's why I like your lens framework looking through like the different color lenses framework you talked about earlier, because I think you I mean, like whether it's like a fundraising ask or even like a sales process like there is always going to be nerve in that, like, am I going to win this deal? But I think at the end of the day, like where it all comes together is, are we a good fit, right? Is our software solution a good fit for our organization A, B or C. Is the impact that we're trying to achieve as an organization a good fit for this donor? And if you know the answer to that question right, like you know you know that you are, in your words, giving them an offer that that is something that they can't buy anywhere else, right? And so I totally agree too. Like your point around like, confidence doesn't mean like it doesn't mean you always have to you're always not afraid to ask for money because that's I mean, I think inherently, you know, it's a touchy subject. And we talked about this a little bit. And you were kind of hinting, hinting at this I feel like, in this response, we talked about sort of the power dynamic between fundraisers and donors. And specifically, we talked about it's it's even more prevalent when the fundraiser is a woman and so is what can you unpack that like and how can we overcome this? Because I feel like especially the nonprofit community, this power dynamic shouldn't exist. And so what are ways that we as a community, as a culture can help overcome this power dynamic between fundraisers and funders?

Mallory Erickson God, this is a huge, long question.

Justin Wheeler We could spend a whole podcast on this.

Mallory Erickson Yeah, I mean, I think first, even just giving a platform like even just bringing up that question is a really important first step. I think, for us all to be talking about this. Like, one of my biggest regrets running organizations is that I didn't talk about this with my staff like this and especially young fundraisers coming into my organization. I mean, I think about, I started fundraising when I was twenty-three years old, particularly from older men wanting money. And, you know, it's like I think people can imagine and feeling like I had nothing to offer in exchange for that money so that that inherently sets up like know, I think we are taught so often are like just by being in the country we live in here in the US. And I know we're not alone in it, that we feel like money is the only thing with value. Right. It's like how we measure so much value. And so I think the recognizing that, like inside organizations, you're a fundraiser, not closing a gift because there was a really, like, uncomfortable power dynamic that they needed to be excused from in that moment and treating them with the love and compassion and space to process that. But that's really important. Like, I think this is a big shift for us to make as a sector to acknowledge these power dynamics and to recognize that if we just keep moving forward with them, we're actually working in direct conflict with the problems in our world. We're trying to solve and I think be giving space for that conversation and for women to talk about uncomfortable experiences. I mean, I will say that I did not think I could even say that or that I could even process it or that it wouldn't sort of get flipped on me as me just being a bad fundraiser. When I'm like, oh, man, that felt super uncomfortable. And like, who can I even talk to about that, right? And so it's weird. We have this thing that's related to performance and money. And when we don't feel like we have anything of value that's being exchanged for that money, it sets up this power dynamic. Right. And so I think both for you, for fundraisers like that's sort of the thing behind asset mapping. For me, it's like I don't want people showing up to tables with donors anymore feeling like they were not they did not have a lot of value that they were giving. Because I knew that would one allow them to, like, sit in themselves in a much more confident way. But it would also shift that dynamic because when they show up more confidently, that starts to shift the dynamic. I mean, I would send emails to funders that say the fourth email to a funder about something to say, hey, I'm about to close this round on corporate sponsorship. I definitely don't want to hound you, but I don't want to like I don't want you to miss this opportunity if you're not interested. No problem. I just want to leave you out, like, think about the difference in that power dynamic versus like, please, please, please write. It's like, hey, I have this thing and I want to invite you to be a part of it. And if you don't want to be there, no problem. But I don't I don't want to make the decision for you. So I just want to give you one more shot. It's like that's a totally different type of relationship where the power is shifting naturally because you know that you have something of value and that money is not the only thing of value in the conversation. And I think that's actually what you said before that I really appreciate. It's like this is all about alignment. Like if a donor if a funder is not aligned with you and you've been transparent and authentic about who you are as an organization, like, release them. You know, like I have had donors all the time be like, this isn't in line with my giving priorities. And sure, I'll ask some other questions about like, do you see this moving into priority areas in the next three years or is there anything we could do that would engage you on a deeper level? Sure, sure, sure. But at a certain point, I will say, do you need any help identifying another organization that you do feel strong alignment with? Because I would love to connect you with blank. And I think, like, if we have more of that mentality that it's not like, oh, man, they rejected me, right. Because, again, rejection is about the other person having the power. But instead, if it's like, yeah, this wasn't a fit, I really hope you find an organization you're a good fit for. That's like another way to just start to disassemble that power dynamic.

Justin Wheeler Absolutely. Absolutely. And to, you know, to that point around sort of alignments, just kind of underscore that even more, I remember one of the first times in my fundraising career when I told a donor, this is not going to be a good fit, you know, based specifically based on sort of, there's a couple of things at play. But like the most important was I knew that we wouldn't be able to do what the donor wanted, right? And I just wasn't an area of expertise or focus. It was something we were in. And as an organization, but we just didn't have the infrastructure set up to deliver just yet, and this wasn't like a proof of concept or either it was a donor who expected know, pretty immediate sort of results. And so we acknowledge that. I remember the feeling that felt as good as accepting a donation. Like that, sort of feeling of when you're aware enough to see that this isn't going to be a good fit, this is going to cause problems later down the road that's going to bleed in and take up more time and resources. And so I think, though, the thing that fundraisers need to be able to be confident in doing that is the support from their executive director, their CEO, because too often they're measured by, and it's not necessarily a bad way to measure of fundraisers. How much they can raise you over a year shouldn't be the only thing. But at the same time, you can't accept every donation. You can't chase every dollar that comes across. And tying that back to your point on the power dynamics of feeling desperate versus saying, hey, I don't want you to miss out. Like, that's a super interesting concept. Gosh, I can't believe we've already been almost 40 minutes.

Mallory Erickson Oh, my Gosh.

Justin Wheeler I could talk to you forever. I could listen to you share your stories and we are, almost 40 minutes in. So my last question here is for someone who, I think, and lot of our listeners are, I would say mid-sized, small to midsized nonprofits. Single kind of fundraising team like one person, fundraising teams, one to two, whatever it might be. And maybe it's their first time in a fundraising gig. What are some areas that you would recommend? Of course, they should sign up for your class/course and go through that program, definitely. Anything else you can recommend out of the gate that would just be helpful to help build their confidence, help build their sort of capacity as fundraisers, any direction you'd point them in as they begin in this exciting journey of raising money for changing the world.
Mallory Erickson Yeah, well, one thing I would say is so I have a free class that goes over the Power Partners blueprint that is just at And I talk there actually a lot about confidence and confident fundraising kind of verses, like the car salesmen fundraising that maybe we've been taught a lot. So that's helpful. And then I think find your people and also stop following things that aren't your people. So like I would say, like a lot of people follow consultants and coaches in the fundraising space on Instagram and on Facebook. And the thing I would really encourage fundraisers to do is stop following folks. And this goes for, myself included, that don't make you feel empowered, like different types of messaging and different types of communications resonate with different people. And I always say, like, I want you to find the coach and consultant for you, right? Because we do. We are, we regulate our nervous systems differently with different people. And so there's always going to be a coach that's more or a consultant that's more kind of your style. And to follow them and look at what they're offering and what they're teaching and what their resources are. And then if there are folks that you're following or you're in Facebook groups, free Facebook groups that don't resonate with you, ditch them. Because I think one of the things that happens actually, as opposed to maybe being able to find good advice, is that people just get too much bad advice, right? That they're in all these spaces where they're just getting inundated with different fundraising ideas, with different with everything under the sun, right? This little thing here, this little thing here. And my recommendation is focus. You know, like identify where the strengths are in your organization. Focus, increase your skillset there. Really do the thing, do the thing and do it well. And like I say, a lot in my course, don't build half-built bridges, right? And so, like, I think that if you want to be surrounded by people in your local community because you look for a local nonprofit resource center, right. If you love learning online, virtually, like you guys, right, offer tons of resources for folks to find, like through your people. So, find resources through your people. They are going to recommend either their own things or people who are similar to them or resonate with them. And I feel like that's a place to start as opposed to sort of getting scattered.

Justin Wheeler That's, I think that's brilliant advice and something I'd piggyback on to add to that, and I think and I think like we there's just so much noise. Right, especially on social, especially on LinkedIn today. And so I think, I heard this piece of advice, which is kind of funny because I'm going to tell you the opposite. But I heard this once as a guy that's actually so true. It's like we like as humans listen to people like other people's advice, like way too much, right? And whereas like what worked for me, when I was a fundraiser, and you know, the relationships that I was building, the organization I was at, the dynamic, the culture that was created, what worked for me may not at all work for you. And so, like, don't take anyone's, like, word as sort of like the truth, like definitely like decipher it and understand. Is this actually, does this resonate? Does this make sense with our audience and so forth? I think we like, fundraisers, can listen to other people too much and not experiment on their own. I think experimentation is so important trying things that just kind of like sometimes you can't validate with data, but you're like you, I have a gut instinct that this is going to actually work out. I think there needs to be more of that risk-taking in fundraisers. And, you know, because I mean, that's so much of a lot of how I kind of created my path and in fundraising was that. I mean, there wasn't as much content available, free content online, you know, 10, 15 years ago. And so that's something I've also noticed is just like as fundraisers, we need to take charge. We need to, we need to innovate. We need to we need to take risks. Yes. we need to, like, learn from other people, but don't be afraid to also, like, discover your own path, your own way. I think there's there's a freedom in that.

Mallory Erickson It's so true. And I'm so glad you said it, because I think what I was trying to get at is like, listen to yourself in terms of what's resonating with you and what's not. And you just took it a step further, which I totally agree with. I talk a lot about how things shifted for me in so many areas of my life. First, as when I was getting yoga teacher certified, when I stopped asking, like, is this the right way? And started asking, how does this feel? And so that's an underlying mantra for me, too. And I love that you're asking that, like you should be constantly in reflection around how does this feel and trying things out and iterating and getting out there and really coming back to like what is happening inside you when you're taking that action.

Justin Wheeler Absolutely. Well Mallory, thank you so much for spending time with us and sharing just your wisdom and your experience with our listeners. We truly appreciate it. We're going to put links into the show notes here, how people can get access to your free course and sign up for the Power Partners formula course as well, along with all the other services that you provide to those. Also for the listeners, those will be in the show notes at the end of the podcast. Mallory, thank you so much.

Mallory Erickson Thank you for having me.

Justin Wheeler Absolutely. Have a good one.

Mallory Erickson You too.

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