Building systems and empowering people to sustain change

June 4, 2024
41 minutes
EPISODE SUMMERY

Bill Lutz · Executive Director, New Path and Coach and President, Pinnacle Strategies | Bill is the ED of New Path and Coach and President of Pinnacle Strategies—and he’s got a *chef's KISS* focused view when it comes to nonprofit leadership and fundraising.

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EPISODE NOTES

"Keep it simple." Could it be that simple? Could changing the world be as simple as… keeping it simple?

When Bill Lutz says it, it seems obvious. Bill is the ED of New Path and Coach and President of Pinnacle Strategies—and he’s got an amazingly focused view when it comes to nonprofit leadership and fundraising.

But his advice to “keep it simple” isn’t as simple as it sounds. Bill recognizes that a great nonprofit leader does the work of building the structure and instilling discipline while passing along the simplified system to an empowered team. An illusion, that’s what “keeping it simple” is.

And even when they simplify, those same great nonprofit leaders continue learning. Speaking of learning, listen in as Bill explains how nonprofit leadership is like both baseball and poker, illustrates the value of preparing for future donors, and delivers the most valuable—and simple—advice of all.

TRANSCRIPT

Hello and welcome to this episode of Nonstop Nonprofit!

 

"Keep it simple. Could it be that simple? Could changing the world be as simple as… keeping it simple?

 

When Bill Lutz says it, it seems obvious. Bill is the ED of New Path and Coach and President of Pinnacle Strategies—and he’s got an amazingly focused view when it comes to nonprofit leadership and fundraising.

 

But his advice to “keep it simple” isn’t as simple as it sounds. Bill recognizes that a great nonprofit leader does the work of building the structure and instilling discipline while passing along the simplified system to an empowered team. An illusion, that’s what “keeping it simple” is.

 

And even when they simplify, those same great nonprofit leaders continue learning. Speaking of learning, listen in as Bill explains how nonprofit leadership is like both baseball and poker, illustrates the value of preparing for future donors, and delivers the most valuable—and simple—advice of all."

 

 

David Schwab Hello, everyone, and welcome to this episode of the Nonstop Nonprofit podcast. Today we have Wil Lutz joining us. Will is the executive director of New Path Inc and the coach and president of Pinnacle Strategies. Bill, thank you for joining us today. Would you like to give a quick intro to our audience?


 

Bill Lutz Yeah. So New Path is located in Tipp City, Ohio, or just north of Dayton. We do a whole bunch of human service things food pantries, emergency financial assistance. We give out medical equipment. In any given year, we'll touch the lives of about 26,000 individuals, costs about $650,000 a year to run our organization. We have a staff team of 15 individuals, and so all that certainly keeps us busy. And so, yeah, I'm ready to get into it.


 

David Schwab Sounds great. Well, again, thank you for joining us today. Bill, you and I actually first got introduced, I think just through a LinkedIn thread. Someone from Funraise had a topic and you happened to cross it and commented. I saw your comment, I was like, Wow, this guy really has a good perspective on fundraising. So we had a chance to connect after that. And I thought, you know, man, if I took so much away just from the first time we got to chat, I thought it would be great to have you on and share some of that wisdom and experience with our podcast audience and with the people who listen in. And so thank you again for joining us today. I always like to start it's such an interesting question and everyone has a different answer, even though I ask it the same way ever with everyone we talked to. But can you just give us a little bit of your background? What got you started in the nonprofit sector and when you've been in the nonprofit sector in different leadership capacities for almost a decade now. So I'm thinking the things that have kept you probably are different than what first brought you into the sector. So if you could tell us how you got started, what's kept you so long, And now you're also doing coaching and consulting with other nonprofit leaders and founders. So what led you to start that practice as well?


 

Bill Lutz Sure. So graduated from Wright State University with a bachelor's degree in urban affairs. Learning a lot about local government ended up getting a master's degree in public administration from Wright State University in Dayton as well. In the program, there were two sets of students, those students that wanted to do local government work, and then another set of students that wanted to run nonprofits. And my job was to just stay away from those guys at all times because, you know, they wanted to save the world, you know, And it's like you guys are setting yourselves up for a life of poverty and misery. So I know where I wanted to be involved with that. So I ended up getting into local government. I worked in local government for about 12 years. Nine years ago, this nonprofit gave me a call and said, Hey, would you like to be our executive director? And I'm like, Nah, that's not what I do. And the individual that I knew as part of that nonprofit was a pastor of a church. And he said, Well, I'm going to pray for you. And I'm like, Well, you do that. You let me know how it turns out. Well, six weeks later, here I am, you know, running a nonprofit. And so, you know, personally, I feel really blessed because when I was in graduate school, I actually took a couple of classes in nonprofit management. So I was able to kind of hit the ground running, knowing exactly some of the things I wanted to do to get the organization into a place where we were thriving, not just surviving. Yeah, And one of the things that I've learned running the shop over the last eight and a half years is that most executive directors of nonprofits never intended to be an executive director of a nonprofit. It just kind of happened through a happy accident or divine intervention in some cases. And if they certainly didn't have the desire to do it, they certainly didn't have the educational background to do it. And so the whole point of the Pinnacle strategies coaching business I started was to help guide small nonprofit executive directors in their growth and to help them grow organizations. One of the things you quickly learn is that when you are leading a small shop, you're wearing all the hats and it gets to be extremely lonely. And one of the things that I tried to do is, is be a good sounding board for individuals in this line of work and give them confidence. You know, most of the nonprofit directors I know are sharp enough to be able to run their ships and run them effectively. You know, you don't need to have fancy degrees and you don't need to have a ton of experience. You know, you don't have to have 30 years in to be a good nonprofit director. You need to have a heart and passion for your work and you have to have some set of skills that can easily be taught. But you know, it's all about attitude. The hard skills can come later, but if it's. You've got the soft skills to lead people and to be passionate about your work. You're going to be just fine. As an executive director of a nonprofit organization.


 

David Schwab Awesome. Well, you know, it's funny. You said the pastor you knew said he'd pray for you about becoming the executive director. I've got several friends who are pastors. And whenever they offer to pray for me, I say, is that a promise or a threat? Well, Bill, I, you know, really impressed by your background and your path into out of the public sector, into the public service sector, as I like to call it, or the for good sector. Your path kind of reminds me, we had a conversation with, I'm not sure if you know him Tim Lockey on our podcast a few weeks ago. And his background is in digital, the digital side of nonprofit fundraising and management. And he uses this term volun-told, right. And it's kind of like very similar to what you're talking about with executive directors who kind of fall into nonprofit leadership rather than pursue it or go get a formal education. And so it is very similar to, you know, reminded me of what we were talking about there. But maybe, I think a good place for us to start today. Maybe we take a mock coaching session on one of your, from one of your Pinnacle strategy sessions. And let's just talk to some of the new leaders in our audience here who whether they're, you know, directors or vice presidents or presidents, executive directors, CEOs, let's say, you know, this may be their first time, like they may be a seasoned skilled manager, skilled in their craft. But working in the nonprofit sector for the first time, what kind of tips or tools or strategies would you give a new leader to navigate maybe their first leadership role at a nonprofit?


 

Bill Lutz Yeah,so the first major issue that I think most nonprofit executive directors go through is this. Absolute fear that their life is going to be turned upside down. And so the first thing I tell the nonprofit executive director is to be very careful in how you control your time. If you look at your calendar, you've probably got 50 to 60% of your time doing things that other people want you to do, or they might even be things that you just don't you just hate doing. And the number one rule I tell some of these nonprofit directors is understand that your calendar is your calendar. It's not someone else's calendar dictating what they want you to do for them. And so I say that because it's like in this line of work, if you don't take intentional time to take care of yourself and that means exercise, that means professional development, that means de-stressing. Those types of things, you are going to experience burnout and you're going to experience that burnout very quick. So I always tell folks, make sure that you are cutting out of that calendar at least four or 5 hours a week just for you and tell your staff, tell your board, tell your team that this is time that you've got for yourself and that you're not going to be bothered during that time. And once you start getting into that habit and you start developing very strong boundaries on what is something that is important to your organization over those things that are important to your organization, you're going to realize you actually have more time to do the things that are going to move the needle for your organization. You know, the 80/20 rule is really true. You're going to get 80% of the benefit from 20% of the work you do. So let's make sure that you're operating in that 20% as much as possible. And so let's keep you from wasting your time or having other people abuse your time in ways that aren't productive.


 

David Schwab That's awesome. I think it's so important to reiterate, there are so many things a new leader can do, so many things they can learn, so many things they can study, so many places they can invest their time. But I think honing in on the fact that you said the number one most important thing you can do as a leader at a nonprofit organization is take care of yourself. And I think we're almost at the point in the sector where there's an epidemic among nonprofit leaders of burnout. And it really, it comes down to the fact that the leader feels like they have to take on more, do more, spend more hours, answer every email or respond to every phone call, message, text. But it's almost the exact opposite. To make an effective leader now is you need to focus on doing less so that you can do more of the valuable things to become the most effective leader possible. That 80/20 rule where 80% of your impact comes from 20% of your effort. But if 100% of your day is taken up doing things for other people that are low value.


 

Bill Lutz Well, yeah, I think you're absolutely right, David. And, you know, think about this is like like a professional golfer, you know, I mean, do you really think having them hit an extra 100 balls on the practice range is going to make them that better of a golfer? I don't. I mean, they know how to hit the ball, right? They know the mechanics of that. You know, it's the same thing here. You know, even with our staff team, it's like I would much rather you come in 30 minutes or an hour late, refreshed, ready to go, rather than having you drag yourself in at 8 a.m., you know, feeling like, oh, my gosh, today is just going to be another grind. Now, you know, if you do that too many times, we're going to have a conversation about how we can make sure you get here on time. Well, it goes to the point it's like when you can present yourself as the best version of who you are, you're going to do a better job. And one of the things that, like you said, that's an epidemic in this sector, in this economy, we have a lot of martyrs. We have a lot of people who just want to do all the things and tell everybody how busy they are. And they feel like if they're more run down, somehow, that gets some extra gold stars. And it does it, you know, pace yourself, you know, do those things you know, you're good at. And if there's things in your organization that you are good at, that you can find a board member or a staff member to do, give them the authority to do it and let them run with it.

 

 

David Schwab Yeah, such good advice. Now let's turn the view a little bit as we talked about how to prevent burnout as a leader. How can a leader outside of modeling the proper behavior, how can a leader help prevent burnout from their staff and their team?

 

 

Bill Lutz You have to be able to communicate your expectations extremely well. And with that, you have to realize that you're going to make communication mistakes sometimes, and you have to own those mistakes. I have a group of people that I know will bend over backwards for me, but I don't expect them to do that. And they know that. But by the same token, I'm very clear on what I expect. And if the expectations are not clear in those cases where it does happen, it's on me. It's not their fault. They didn't, you know, check that box to make sure it had the right month on it. If I wasn't clear that the month had to be put out of the box, it's one of those things. And so I have to check myself constantly to make sure that my direction is clear. And then also, if something didn't turn out the way I wanted it to turn out. Where do I have to take responsibility for that? You know, and we have a lot of grace around here. You know, I mean, let's face it, the nonprofit world, especially with some of our staff members, especially in the human service world, we're not paying a lot of money for the folks that we get. And we all know that some of the folks that we get could make more money doing something else, being somewhere else. And so what that means sometimes is we've got people that we've got to train up and that we've got to understand we're going to have to work with them a little more to ensure that they're the excellent employees that we want them to be. And so it's a lot of learning on everybody's part to ensure that our organization is running the way it should and being in an effective shop for everybody that comes through our front door. I mean, it's a struggle, but it works. It works.


 

David Schwab It is an interesting topic and maybe one for another conversation or another podcast entirely, but something that has been a broader conversation I'm seeing is wage and payment and compensation for nonprofit professionals. And I'd be really interested in your take. Maybe give us your, you know, your hot take on payment and compensation and how you see that changing as part of this conversation.


 

Bill Lutz With many of the positions I have. If you are here working for me for five or six years, you're not growing. And if I'm having you stick around here for five or six years, I'm not doing my job. The saddest day in my job was also one of the happiest days of my job when we hired a young lady to run one of our food pantries and she worked for us for three years. And during this three years, she had gone through a divorce. She had a baby. There were a lot of things in her life that could have really broken her down. But she stayed with us. In fact, she told me, she said, you know, this job is the only stable thing in my life. And so it's like, okay, well, we will work through these issues with you. Let us know how we can help. Well, you know, three and a half years into her job, she comes to me and she says, I hate to say this, but I've got a job somewhere else. I'm going to be making more money with a different, different organization doing different work. And I said I said, this is the saddest day, but this is the happiest day because you're growing and you're doing the things you have to do. And, you know, I can't be everything to everybody. And she was here for a season and it was a good season for us. It was tough on her, but she grew through it. And then, you know, you bless and release those people and let them go achieve the things that they're meant to achieve.


 

David Schwab Yeah, I think that's so important and such a critical piece of a healthy culture of an organization, whether it is a for-profit organization or a not-for-profit organization. And that's something that I'm working on instilling with my team at fundraisers. Look, I'm under no disillusion that there are a ton of opportunities for everyone, particularly the really like the really solid rock stars that we have on our team. So I always tell her I'm like, look, Exactly. Exactly. You said I have you for a season. I'm going to make the most of the season that I have you, and I'm going to make it. I hope it lasts as long as it can. I want to make it last as long as possible. But my job as your leader, as the as your boss is to equip you, to empower you, to help you grow and to celebrate when you do grow, even if that growth is not directly with me anymore. And I think that's such a critical piece of having a healthy culture and coming back to what you're talking about, avoiding burnout with our staff is knowing that they're valued far beyond just the widgets they produce or the work/output they have.


 

Bill Lutz You know, I've often compared being the executive director of a nonprofit like this is to being like a minor league baseball manager. Mm hmm. You know, you're not evaluated on your wins and losses. You're evaluated on how well you can move your talent. Up the system. And the good players you have. If you're a good buy, your league baseball manager won't be with you very well, because they're going to get the attention of the general manager, and then you're going to go up the system. So, you know, it's kind of the life we live.


 

David Schwab Yeah. Well, switching gears a little bit, but still on the topic of leadership, we can't ignore the fact that, you know, it's 2023 and times continue to just be weird. We've come out of a pandemic, but not all the way. We had a booming economy that has now feels like it's crashed, but it also is not crashing. But it might crash. But it might not crash. It's not crashing. People are being laid off in almost every industry left and right. We're talking about potential recessions, but also the market is going up and then it's hot and it's cold. It's just a confusing time to be a leader. How would you help coach an executive director or a leader at an organization? And what would you encourage them? Because I mean, you're been in an executive director role for almost ten years now. You've faced uncertainty many times. What is it that has helped you navigate those waters what wisdom would you pass on to maybe new leaders who are facing this uncertainty for the first time?


 

Bill Lutz Well, a lot of the things that you describe are macro, big-level concerns. There's really not much that we can do about it. Of course, it's stuff we all are talking about. It's stuff that we see on the news or we read in the newspaper or we see on the Internet. And it's it just becomes a hot topic that everybody wants to be a part of. But at the end of the day, there's really not much we can do about it. My advice for the for the new leader is to understand your organization well enough to understand the things you can change and let go of those things. You can't. You know, you're out prospecting for donors and, you know, maybe in the past you could easily find two or three $10,000 donors for your work, and now you can't. Okay, I can't find a $10,000 donor. Well, maybe I can find some $5,000 donors. You know, don't get caught up in trying to, you know, change things. You can't change. But, you know, there's this Danish saying, you know, the best poker players aren't those that play the best hands. The best poker players are those players that can play a bad hand. Well, yeah. And if you can play your bad hand, well, you're going you're going to be just fine in this line. Anybody can play a good hand.


 

David Schwab I'm writing that quote down and put it on the wall behind me. I'm going to use that with my team now. And they come and tell me probably when you're telling, you know, the best poker players are not the ones who can play a good hand are the ones who can play a bad hand. Well, you got it. It's great. So, Bill, I you know, you kind of touched on, you know, general fundraising. But as I was getting ready for our conversation, I was looking at your newsletter on Pinnacle Strategies and something you talked about a couple of weeks ago. You posted an article about, you know, fundraising trends to watch for in 2023. It was from a study that, interestingly enough, GVSU Grand Valley State University, which is right in my backyard, published a little earlier this year. So I kind of want to open the floor for you. What trends in that article stood out? What are, you know, maybe something that as you were reading that you like, I think they missed this. Or I would add that this or like, you know, just generally what as leaders and nonprofit people continue to navigate 2023 and take the time to prep, you know, over the next couple of weeks and months, most organizations are going to be laying the groundwork for their giving season campaigns and their big giving season push. What are some trends that we should be paying attention to now that may impact the broader fundraising programs and strategies we'll be putting together over the next few months?


 

Bill Lutz Well, I think the number one thing and you bring it up is, you know what? What is your giving season? One of the things that I have always found absolutely fascinating is that most nonprofit executive directors believe the only time you can ask for a donation is in the month of December. I think something like 80% of all giving happens in December and that number may be a little high. But I think we can all agree that most giving for charitable organizations happens in December. Yeah. So it's like what I tell folks is you're not getting because you're not asking, Right. How many of us have like an annual campaign in June or July? And why not? Oh, everybody is out of town. Everybody's doing things like that. Well, first of all, you think about May and June. People start getting their income tax refunds, you know, So they got a few extra shekels in the pocket. That may not be a bad time to do it. And if nobody else is asking during that time, go ahead and make the ask.


 

David Schwab Yes, absolutely.


 

Bill Lutz You know, how many times do we go home and middle of December? Like there's five different requests for solicitations for money in our mailbox and we just end up throwing at them all away, you know, be a little different. Do something a little different.


 

David Schwab Yeah, I always you know what I'm talking with fundraisers, I always say, look, if Target can have a sale, you can ask for a gift, right? You don't have to have a you know, it doesn't have to be December. It doesn't have to be the holidays doesn't have to be year and it doesn't have to be giving Tuesday. If Target can have a random day-of-the-year sale. And I know every single one because my wife gets all of the notifications. If Target can have a random sale on a random day, you can ask for a gift in the middle of May.


 

Bill Lutz Yes, you absolutely can. And you should. I also think another thing we're going to see is, you know, I talked to a lot of nonprofit directors that are really they get worried about the stock market. They talk a lot about like cryptocurrency and things like this. And I talk to these not these small nonprofit directors. It's like, don't go there. I mean, really, you're a small nonprofit. Cash is king. You know, don't get excited If you get a if you get a donation of stock, that's great. But the best thing for you to do is just cash that out, right, then, Yeah, convert it to cash, have a endowment program. If it is that big of a chunk, get with like a local community foundation and start talking about how you can create an endowment program for your own organization. Do those types of things. Because I mean, if you start getting into some of these really risky, and what I mean by risky are investments that you don't understand. If you're getting into those types of things that you just don't understand, and it would take you a long time to get some level of knowledge. Don't do it. Just get it. And it's cash form. Treat it as cash, treat it as the things you do know and that you can control a lot better. So I think a sense of trying to get back to the simplicity of fundraising will hopefully come back here in 2023.


 

David Schwab I always tell my team, there's this acronym KISS that I use a lot, keep it simple, and then there's a not-so-nice word that I don't use around my four-year-old, but I replace it. My last name is Schwab. So I say keep it simple Schwab. And I say, yes, the the last word is interchangeable. But that's what I tell my team. Guys, make it easy. I'm not the smartest person in the room. That's why I hired you. Keep it simple. Make it easy, Get back to the basics. Because the easier it is, the more we can do right and the more we can repeat it. But I did want to touch, though, on something you talked about stock and asset-based giving because it is a trend that I'm seeing pick up. And I think if we don't know what we're looking for, it can be really distracting because it's just like big shiny object like, oh, I can go get gifts from people like from someone's portfolio. And, you know, the average asset base gift is 10 to 15 times what an average cash gift is. So why would I not go after that? But there's so much to be processed and understood about asset-based giving before you go all in on that. And then maybe you haven't had a chance to do that much yet. But I've seen you talk about dafs and charitable giving like that a little bit or like higher-end philanthropic giving. What is your take on maybe like the right first step into being prepared for receiving gifts and generosity from someone's assets rather than their wallet, their cash?


 

Bill Lutz So it is important to be prepared if something like that were to happen. I mean, we had a incident four or five years ago where an individual, well, that's $25,000. And so we currently have that in a restricted find that we're we're not going to touch for a number of years, which was basically though the grantors wish. But what that incident told us is that we are woefully unprepared to receive estate gifts, gifts of stock securities, those types of things. So what we did was we started to talk to different community foundations around where we live and said, Hey, what do we need to do? And they said, Well, you need to start an endowment program and. We were able to get an endowment program started with some other fundraising activities that we did. So right now we have an endowment fund of about $120,000, which for our organization we didn't even have one three years ago. Right. Which is a sizable amount. First thing we did was we got our board together. We created an endowment committee. The endowment committee made it very clear these are the assets we'll take. These are the assets we won't take. So things like timeshares, boats, rental properties, those are things that we're not going to take because we're just not prepared to take them. That's not in our area of expertise. But if folks were to give us a donation of cash, well, we now have a tool where we can accept that and we can sell that and put that into the investments that we currently have in our endowment fund so that we're more knowledgeable about it. And so we're basically just converting it from one security to a different security. And any community foundation that's near you would be more than happy to have that conversation with you to just let you know these are the steps you need to take to start your own endowment fund.


 

David Schwab Yeah, that is it's a really cool idea and first step and I think asset giving is going to catch on more as more donors have less cash on hand but have more assets on hand. Like I don't think generosity is going to change, but I think how people are generous is changing. So I think being ready to accept and knowing what kind of assets you can accept or how to convert those assets. One of the biggest celebrations we had at fundraise in the last six months was when we were able to start equipping our the organizations that use Funraise to receive asset-based gifts in the same way that they can, you can cross that process, a credit card gift online. You can now process an asset-based gift online. And it makes it very simple for that donor. It makes it simple for the donors portfolio manager. It makes it simple for the organization. So I do think that's going to be an interesting trend to keep an eye on. So whether it's being able to accept, you know taking the time to know these are the type of... Yeah, go ahead, sorry.


 

Bill Lutz Well, you're absolutely right. And you take a look at a donor advice fund is a perfect example of that. You know, 15, 20 years ago, donor advice funds were really just kind of the tools that ultra-wealthy individuals would use to make gifts. And now you can go to a place like Fidelity Charitable and start one for literally nothing and use that as your tool to do philanthropic giving. And you can sock money away in it and then end up earning some return on that to further your philanthropic dollar and further philanthropic giving. As those tools become more and more accessible for middle-income and even lower-income givers, we're going to see more giving through those types of tools.


 

David Schwab Bill, this has been a great conversation so far, a lot of really important things for leaders to pay attention to, fundraisers to pay attention to. But I think we can't have a conversation about trends and strategies without also talking about how to filter these trends, filter these strategies through the lens of staying true to who you are, who you are as a leader, who you are as an organization. I know you and I had a really interesting conversation offline about the ethics behind fundraising and creating fundraising appeals and some of the different strategies and tactics fundraisers can pull and levers they can pull. So, you know, I guess my question to you here is, if we're thinking about, you know, asset-based giving and creating bandwidth to refresh yourself as a leader, are all of these things we talked about, there's a lot for someone to think about. I want to start that now. I want to go to this. I want to go start an endowment. I want to get ready to take asset-based gifts. I want to tell all of my donors to set up a DAF. I want to carve out 3 hours a day for myself to meditate and exercise and do all these things and have me like. But not everything we've talked about is true and applicable 100% to every single person listening. So let's spend and maybe round out our time talking about how can we make sure that the things that we choose to do are true to who we are as leaders, true to who we are as fundraisers, true to our organization?


 

Bill Lutz I think what you're talking about really is instilling new disciplines in your life. Whether those be personal things or work-related things. When you start doing those disciplines and you do them after a certain period of time, two or three weeks, you quickly realize whether those things bring joy into your life or not. And if it's not bringing you joy and it's not furthering you, why would you continue to do it? Are you just doing it because you think it's what all the other cool kids are doing? I mean, now it's a pretty lousy reason to keep doing something that's gonna make you feel more miserable in the end. So, you know, David, you're the only person that you're going to have to live with for your entire life. And you've been the only person you've ever been around since day one. And so you know yourself better than anyone else. And so you really do have to reflect on who you are, what your values are, what your passions are, and what you want to do with your life. And if you can answer some of those questions and have a good understanding of who you are, I can give you a whole list of like 20 or 30 things to do. You will quickly know the two or three things that will work. But more importantly, you'll know the two or three things that won't work and you will stay away from them. And so, you know, I do believe that most of the life isn't doing things that are super productive, but a lot of it is just staying away from those things that are going to put us down, rabbit trails that aren't going to get us anywhere.


 

David Schwab Yeah, that's so important. It reminds me, I'm reading this book right now, and I was talking about an organization that grew their recurring revenue and grew their donor base exponentially by canvassing. They had hired a company to help and trained up a bunch of people to do prospecting, go door to door and canvass at events. And another organization that shared, you know, a donor base shaped a service model provided the similar services. They looked at that and said, everyone's like, well, they're having so much success canvassing. We've got to do it. We've got to do it now. But then they stopped and said, But do we really want to be the organization that even if this is super successful financially for us, do we want to be the organization that is known for interrupting people's days, interrupting dinner time, interrupting their commute to work, And they ultimately decided like this could be really valuable for us financially, but it's not who we are and we're not excited about it. Like you said, it doesn't bring us joy at the thought of succeeding in this manner. So they ultimately decided not to. And I think it is because, like you said, it's they focused on knowing who they were and what they were about as an organization before they just pick something out that someone else was doing to try it, be sure it worked and it could have worked for them in the short term but how would that have resonated long term and how would they have sustained it and all of those important questions. So I think that's so valuable and important. All right, Bill, we're rounding out our time, but I always like to close and give you a chance. Is there any final thoughts or anything else that you want to share with our audience? Obviously, you've got a ton of experience. You've got a ton of knowledge and wisdom to share. If nothing else, where can, you know, after listening to this, our audience are all probably going like, Hey, you know, I really want to go read some of these articles. I want to follow along. I want to learn more. Where can people connect with you? Where can they learn more about Pinnacle Strategies or New Path?


 

Bill Lutz Sure, you can check New Path out at newpathserves.org, which is S-E-R-V-E-S.org. You can check out Pinnacle strategies on Substack. And we're also very active on LinkedIn. So, you know, those are two areas where folks can find us pretty easily. You know, the thing that I will say is that for every nonprofit director listening or basically for any nonprofit employee listening, never shortchange the work you're doing. There are not enough people in this world that are taking responsibility for the things that need to be taken care of. And you have stepped up to the plate and you've taken on a very large burden. And I know there are days where it feels like it's a grind and it's hard, but you are being seen. People are benefiting from the work you are doing and you are making this world a better place. And it may not feel like that today, but it will feel like that soon. And it will feel like that sooner or later and never feel inadequate. Never feel like you can't do it because you are doing it and you you are doing this world more good than you could ever, ever imagine. And never forget that.


 

David Schwab Awesome, incredible words of encouragement for all of the nonprofit professionals out there. I will let it close with that because I have nothing better to add. So, Bill, thank you for your time. This was an awesome episode, great conversation, and I look forward to it being the first of many.


 

Bill Lutz David, have me back any time. This was an absolute blast. Thank you so much for the invitation.

 

 

Thanks for listening to this episode of Nonstop Nonprofit! This podcast is brought to you by your friends at Funraise - Nonprofit fundraising software, built for nonprofit people by nonprofit people. If you’d like to continue the conversation, find me on LinkedIn or text me at 714-717-2474. 

 

And don’t forget to get your next episode the second it hits the internets. Find us on your favorite podcast streaming service, hit that follow button and leave us a review to help us reach more nonprofit people like you! See you next time!

Building systems and empowering people to sustain change

Growing Together: How building systems and empowering people creates sustainable change

May 25, 2023
41 minutes
EPISODE SUMMERY

Bill Lutz · Executive Director, New Path and Coach and President, Pinnacle Strategies | Bill is the ED of New Path and Coach and President of Pinnacle Strategies—and he’s got a *chef's KISS* focused view when it comes to nonprofit leadership and fundraising.

LISTEN
EPISODE NOTES

"Keep it simple." Could it be that simple? Could changing the world be as simple as… keeping it simple?

When Bill Lutz says it, it seems obvious. Bill is the ED of New Path and Coach and President of Pinnacle Strategies—and he’s got an amazingly focused view when it comes to nonprofit leadership and fundraising.

But his advice to “keep it simple” isn’t as simple as it sounds. Bill recognizes that a great nonprofit leader does the work of building the structure and instilling discipline while passing along the simplified system to an empowered team. An illusion, that’s what “keeping it simple” is.

And even when they simplify, those same great nonprofit leaders continue learning. Speaking of learning, listen in as Bill explains how nonprofit leadership is like both baseball and poker, illustrates the value of preparing for future donors, and delivers the most valuable—and simple—advice of all.

TRANSCRIPT

Hello and welcome to this episode of Nonstop Nonprofit!

 

"Keep it simple. Could it be that simple? Could changing the world be as simple as… keeping it simple?

 

When Bill Lutz says it, it seems obvious. Bill is the ED of New Path and Coach and President of Pinnacle Strategies—and he’s got an amazingly focused view when it comes to nonprofit leadership and fundraising.

 

But his advice to “keep it simple” isn’t as simple as it sounds. Bill recognizes that a great nonprofit leader does the work of building the structure and instilling discipline while passing along the simplified system to an empowered team. An illusion, that’s what “keeping it simple” is.

 

And even when they simplify, those same great nonprofit leaders continue learning. Speaking of learning, listen in as Bill explains how nonprofit leadership is like both baseball and poker, illustrates the value of preparing for future donors, and delivers the most valuable—and simple—advice of all."

 

 

David Schwab Hello, everyone, and welcome to this episode of the Nonstop Nonprofit podcast. Today we have Wil Lutz joining us. Will is the executive director of New Path Inc and the coach and president of Pinnacle Strategies. Bill, thank you for joining us today. Would you like to give a quick intro to our audience?


 

Bill Lutz Yeah. So New Path is located in Tipp City, Ohio, or just north of Dayton. We do a whole bunch of human service things food pantries, emergency financial assistance. We give out medical equipment. In any given year, we'll touch the lives of about 26,000 individuals, costs about $650,000 a year to run our organization. We have a staff team of 15 individuals, and so all that certainly keeps us busy. And so, yeah, I'm ready to get into it.


 

David Schwab Sounds great. Well, again, thank you for joining us today. Bill, you and I actually first got introduced, I think just through a LinkedIn thread. Someone from Funraise had a topic and you happened to cross it and commented. I saw your comment, I was like, Wow, this guy really has a good perspective on fundraising. So we had a chance to connect after that. And I thought, you know, man, if I took so much away just from the first time we got to chat, I thought it would be great to have you on and share some of that wisdom and experience with our podcast audience and with the people who listen in. And so thank you again for joining us today. I always like to start it's such an interesting question and everyone has a different answer, even though I ask it the same way ever with everyone we talked to. But can you just give us a little bit of your background? What got you started in the nonprofit sector and when you've been in the nonprofit sector in different leadership capacities for almost a decade now. So I'm thinking the things that have kept you probably are different than what first brought you into the sector. So if you could tell us how you got started, what's kept you so long, And now you're also doing coaching and consulting with other nonprofit leaders and founders. So what led you to start that practice as well?


 

Bill Lutz Sure. So graduated from Wright State University with a bachelor's degree in urban affairs. Learning a lot about local government ended up getting a master's degree in public administration from Wright State University in Dayton as well. In the program, there were two sets of students, those students that wanted to do local government work, and then another set of students that wanted to run nonprofits. And my job was to just stay away from those guys at all times because, you know, they wanted to save the world, you know, And it's like you guys are setting yourselves up for a life of poverty and misery. So I know where I wanted to be involved with that. So I ended up getting into local government. I worked in local government for about 12 years. Nine years ago, this nonprofit gave me a call and said, Hey, would you like to be our executive director? And I'm like, Nah, that's not what I do. And the individual that I knew as part of that nonprofit was a pastor of a church. And he said, Well, I'm going to pray for you. And I'm like, Well, you do that. You let me know how it turns out. Well, six weeks later, here I am, you know, running a nonprofit. And so, you know, personally, I feel really blessed because when I was in graduate school, I actually took a couple of classes in nonprofit management. So I was able to kind of hit the ground running, knowing exactly some of the things I wanted to do to get the organization into a place where we were thriving, not just surviving. Yeah, And one of the things that I've learned running the shop over the last eight and a half years is that most executive directors of nonprofits never intended to be an executive director of a nonprofit. It just kind of happened through a happy accident or divine intervention in some cases. And if they certainly didn't have the desire to do it, they certainly didn't have the educational background to do it. And so the whole point of the Pinnacle strategies coaching business I started was to help guide small nonprofit executive directors in their growth and to help them grow organizations. One of the things you quickly learn is that when you are leading a small shop, you're wearing all the hats and it gets to be extremely lonely. And one of the things that I tried to do is, is be a good sounding board for individuals in this line of work and give them confidence. You know, most of the nonprofit directors I know are sharp enough to be able to run their ships and run them effectively. You know, you don't need to have fancy degrees and you don't need to have a ton of experience. You know, you don't have to have 30 years in to be a good nonprofit director. You need to have a heart and passion for your work and you have to have some set of skills that can easily be taught. But you know, it's all about attitude. The hard skills can come later, but if it's. You've got the soft skills to lead people and to be passionate about your work. You're going to be just fine. As an executive director of a nonprofit organization.


 

David Schwab Awesome. Well, you know, it's funny. You said the pastor you knew said he'd pray for you about becoming the executive director. I've got several friends who are pastors. And whenever they offer to pray for me, I say, is that a promise or a threat? Well, Bill, I, you know, really impressed by your background and your path into out of the public sector, into the public service sector, as I like to call it, or the for good sector. Your path kind of reminds me, we had a conversation with, I'm not sure if you know him Tim Lockey on our podcast a few weeks ago. And his background is in digital, the digital side of nonprofit fundraising and management. And he uses this term volun-told, right. And it's kind of like very similar to what you're talking about with executive directors who kind of fall into nonprofit leadership rather than pursue it or go get a formal education. And so it is very similar to, you know, reminded me of what we were talking about there. But maybe, I think a good place for us to start today. Maybe we take a mock coaching session on one of your, from one of your Pinnacle strategy sessions. And let's just talk to some of the new leaders in our audience here who whether they're, you know, directors or vice presidents or presidents, executive directors, CEOs, let's say, you know, this may be their first time, like they may be a seasoned skilled manager, skilled in their craft. But working in the nonprofit sector for the first time, what kind of tips or tools or strategies would you give a new leader to navigate maybe their first leadership role at a nonprofit?


 

Bill Lutz Yeah,so the first major issue that I think most nonprofit executive directors go through is this. Absolute fear that their life is going to be turned upside down. And so the first thing I tell the nonprofit executive director is to be very careful in how you control your time. If you look at your calendar, you've probably got 50 to 60% of your time doing things that other people want you to do, or they might even be things that you just don't you just hate doing. And the number one rule I tell some of these nonprofit directors is understand that your calendar is your calendar. It's not someone else's calendar dictating what they want you to do for them. And so I say that because it's like in this line of work, if you don't take intentional time to take care of yourself and that means exercise, that means professional development, that means de-stressing. Those types of things, you are going to experience burnout and you're going to experience that burnout very quick. So I always tell folks, make sure that you are cutting out of that calendar at least four or 5 hours a week just for you and tell your staff, tell your board, tell your team that this is time that you've got for yourself and that you're not going to be bothered during that time. And once you start getting into that habit and you start developing very strong boundaries on what is something that is important to your organization over those things that are important to your organization, you're going to realize you actually have more time to do the things that are going to move the needle for your organization. You know, the 80/20 rule is really true. You're going to get 80% of the benefit from 20% of the work you do. So let's make sure that you're operating in that 20% as much as possible. And so let's keep you from wasting your time or having other people abuse your time in ways that aren't productive.


 

David Schwab That's awesome. I think it's so important to reiterate, there are so many things a new leader can do, so many things they can learn, so many things they can study, so many places they can invest their time. But I think honing in on the fact that you said the number one most important thing you can do as a leader at a nonprofit organization is take care of yourself. And I think we're almost at the point in the sector where there's an epidemic among nonprofit leaders of burnout. And it really, it comes down to the fact that the leader feels like they have to take on more, do more, spend more hours, answer every email or respond to every phone call, message, text. But it's almost the exact opposite. To make an effective leader now is you need to focus on doing less so that you can do more of the valuable things to become the most effective leader possible. That 80/20 rule where 80% of your impact comes from 20% of your effort. But if 100% of your day is taken up doing things for other people that are low value.


 

Bill Lutz Well, yeah, I think you're absolutely right, David. And, you know, think about this is like like a professional golfer, you know, I mean, do you really think having them hit an extra 100 balls on the practice range is going to make them that better of a golfer? I don't. I mean, they know how to hit the ball, right? They know the mechanics of that. You know, it's the same thing here. You know, even with our staff team, it's like I would much rather you come in 30 minutes or an hour late, refreshed, ready to go, rather than having you drag yourself in at 8 a.m., you know, feeling like, oh, my gosh, today is just going to be another grind. Now, you know, if you do that too many times, we're going to have a conversation about how we can make sure you get here on time. Well, it goes to the point it's like when you can present yourself as the best version of who you are, you're going to do a better job. And one of the things that, like you said, that's an epidemic in this sector, in this economy, we have a lot of martyrs. We have a lot of people who just want to do all the things and tell everybody how busy they are. And they feel like if they're more run down, somehow, that gets some extra gold stars. And it does it, you know, pace yourself, you know, do those things you know, you're good at. And if there's things in your organization that you are good at, that you can find a board member or a staff member to do, give them the authority to do it and let them run with it.

 

 

David Schwab Yeah, such good advice. Now let's turn the view a little bit as we talked about how to prevent burnout as a leader. How can a leader outside of modeling the proper behavior, how can a leader help prevent burnout from their staff and their team?

 

 

Bill Lutz You have to be able to communicate your expectations extremely well. And with that, you have to realize that you're going to make communication mistakes sometimes, and you have to own those mistakes. I have a group of people that I know will bend over backwards for me, but I don't expect them to do that. And they know that. But by the same token, I'm very clear on what I expect. And if the expectations are not clear in those cases where it does happen, it's on me. It's not their fault. They didn't, you know, check that box to make sure it had the right month on it. If I wasn't clear that the month had to be put out of the box, it's one of those things. And so I have to check myself constantly to make sure that my direction is clear. And then also, if something didn't turn out the way I wanted it to turn out. Where do I have to take responsibility for that? You know, and we have a lot of grace around here. You know, I mean, let's face it, the nonprofit world, especially with some of our staff members, especially in the human service world, we're not paying a lot of money for the folks that we get. And we all know that some of the folks that we get could make more money doing something else, being somewhere else. And so what that means sometimes is we've got people that we've got to train up and that we've got to understand we're going to have to work with them a little more to ensure that they're the excellent employees that we want them to be. And so it's a lot of learning on everybody's part to ensure that our organization is running the way it should and being in an effective shop for everybody that comes through our front door. I mean, it's a struggle, but it works. It works.


 

David Schwab It is an interesting topic and maybe one for another conversation or another podcast entirely, but something that has been a broader conversation I'm seeing is wage and payment and compensation for nonprofit professionals. And I'd be really interested in your take. Maybe give us your, you know, your hot take on payment and compensation and how you see that changing as part of this conversation.


 

Bill Lutz With many of the positions I have. If you are here working for me for five or six years, you're not growing. And if I'm having you stick around here for five or six years, I'm not doing my job. The saddest day in my job was also one of the happiest days of my job when we hired a young lady to run one of our food pantries and she worked for us for three years. And during this three years, she had gone through a divorce. She had a baby. There were a lot of things in her life that could have really broken her down. But she stayed with us. In fact, she told me, she said, you know, this job is the only stable thing in my life. And so it's like, okay, well, we will work through these issues with you. Let us know how we can help. Well, you know, three and a half years into her job, she comes to me and she says, I hate to say this, but I've got a job somewhere else. I'm going to be making more money with a different, different organization doing different work. And I said I said, this is the saddest day, but this is the happiest day because you're growing and you're doing the things you have to do. And, you know, I can't be everything to everybody. And she was here for a season and it was a good season for us. It was tough on her, but she grew through it. And then, you know, you bless and release those people and let them go achieve the things that they're meant to achieve.


 

David Schwab Yeah, I think that's so important and such a critical piece of a healthy culture of an organization, whether it is a for-profit organization or a not-for-profit organization. And that's something that I'm working on instilling with my team at fundraisers. Look, I'm under no disillusion that there are a ton of opportunities for everyone, particularly the really like the really solid rock stars that we have on our team. So I always tell her I'm like, look, Exactly. Exactly. You said I have you for a season. I'm going to make the most of the season that I have you, and I'm going to make it. I hope it lasts as long as it can. I want to make it last as long as possible. But my job as your leader, as the as your boss is to equip you, to empower you, to help you grow and to celebrate when you do grow, even if that growth is not directly with me anymore. And I think that's such a critical piece of having a healthy culture and coming back to what you're talking about, avoiding burnout with our staff is knowing that they're valued far beyond just the widgets they produce or the work/output they have.


 

Bill Lutz You know, I've often compared being the executive director of a nonprofit like this is to being like a minor league baseball manager. Mm hmm. You know, you're not evaluated on your wins and losses. You're evaluated on how well you can move your talent. Up the system. And the good players you have. If you're a good buy, your league baseball manager won't be with you very well, because they're going to get the attention of the general manager, and then you're going to go up the system. So, you know, it's kind of the life we live.


 

David Schwab Yeah. Well, switching gears a little bit, but still on the topic of leadership, we can't ignore the fact that, you know, it's 2023 and times continue to just be weird. We've come out of a pandemic, but not all the way. We had a booming economy that has now feels like it's crashed, but it also is not crashing. But it might crash. But it might not crash. It's not crashing. People are being laid off in almost every industry left and right. We're talking about potential recessions, but also the market is going up and then it's hot and it's cold. It's just a confusing time to be a leader. How would you help coach an executive director or a leader at an organization? And what would you encourage them? Because I mean, you're been in an executive director role for almost ten years now. You've faced uncertainty many times. What is it that has helped you navigate those waters what wisdom would you pass on to maybe new leaders who are facing this uncertainty for the first time?


 

Bill Lutz Well, a lot of the things that you describe are macro, big-level concerns. There's really not much that we can do about it. Of course, it's stuff we all are talking about. It's stuff that we see on the news or we read in the newspaper or we see on the Internet. And it's it just becomes a hot topic that everybody wants to be a part of. But at the end of the day, there's really not much we can do about it. My advice for the for the new leader is to understand your organization well enough to understand the things you can change and let go of those things. You can't. You know, you're out prospecting for donors and, you know, maybe in the past you could easily find two or three $10,000 donors for your work, and now you can't. Okay, I can't find a $10,000 donor. Well, maybe I can find some $5,000 donors. You know, don't get caught up in trying to, you know, change things. You can't change. But, you know, there's this Danish saying, you know, the best poker players aren't those that play the best hands. The best poker players are those players that can play a bad hand. Well, yeah. And if you can play your bad hand, well, you're going you're going to be just fine in this line. Anybody can play a good hand.


 

David Schwab I'm writing that quote down and put it on the wall behind me. I'm going to use that with my team now. And they come and tell me probably when you're telling, you know, the best poker players are not the ones who can play a good hand are the ones who can play a bad hand. Well, you got it. It's great. So, Bill, I you know, you kind of touched on, you know, general fundraising. But as I was getting ready for our conversation, I was looking at your newsletter on Pinnacle Strategies and something you talked about a couple of weeks ago. You posted an article about, you know, fundraising trends to watch for in 2023. It was from a study that, interestingly enough, GVSU Grand Valley State University, which is right in my backyard, published a little earlier this year. So I kind of want to open the floor for you. What trends in that article stood out? What are, you know, maybe something that as you were reading that you like, I think they missed this. Or I would add that this or like, you know, just generally what as leaders and nonprofit people continue to navigate 2023 and take the time to prep, you know, over the next couple of weeks and months, most organizations are going to be laying the groundwork for their giving season campaigns and their big giving season push. What are some trends that we should be paying attention to now that may impact the broader fundraising programs and strategies we'll be putting together over the next few months?


 

Bill Lutz Well, I think the number one thing and you bring it up is, you know what? What is your giving season? One of the things that I have always found absolutely fascinating is that most nonprofit executive directors believe the only time you can ask for a donation is in the month of December. I think something like 80% of all giving happens in December and that number may be a little high. But I think we can all agree that most giving for charitable organizations happens in December. Yeah. So it's like what I tell folks is you're not getting because you're not asking, Right. How many of us have like an annual campaign in June or July? And why not? Oh, everybody is out of town. Everybody's doing things like that. Well, first of all, you think about May and June. People start getting their income tax refunds, you know, So they got a few extra shekels in the pocket. That may not be a bad time to do it. And if nobody else is asking during that time, go ahead and make the ask.


 

David Schwab Yes, absolutely.


 

Bill Lutz You know, how many times do we go home and middle of December? Like there's five different requests for solicitations for money in our mailbox and we just end up throwing at them all away, you know, be a little different. Do something a little different.


 

David Schwab Yeah, I always you know what I'm talking with fundraisers, I always say, look, if Target can have a sale, you can ask for a gift, right? You don't have to have a you know, it doesn't have to be December. It doesn't have to be the holidays doesn't have to be year and it doesn't have to be giving Tuesday. If Target can have a random day-of-the-year sale. And I know every single one because my wife gets all of the notifications. If Target can have a random sale on a random day, you can ask for a gift in the middle of May.


 

Bill Lutz Yes, you absolutely can. And you should. I also think another thing we're going to see is, you know, I talked to a lot of nonprofit directors that are really they get worried about the stock market. They talk a lot about like cryptocurrency and things like this. And I talk to these not these small nonprofit directors. It's like, don't go there. I mean, really, you're a small nonprofit. Cash is king. You know, don't get excited If you get a if you get a donation of stock, that's great. But the best thing for you to do is just cash that out, right, then, Yeah, convert it to cash, have a endowment program. If it is that big of a chunk, get with like a local community foundation and start talking about how you can create an endowment program for your own organization. Do those types of things. Because I mean, if you start getting into some of these really risky, and what I mean by risky are investments that you don't understand. If you're getting into those types of things that you just don't understand, and it would take you a long time to get some level of knowledge. Don't do it. Just get it. And it's cash form. Treat it as cash, treat it as the things you do know and that you can control a lot better. So I think a sense of trying to get back to the simplicity of fundraising will hopefully come back here in 2023.


 

David Schwab I always tell my team, there's this acronym KISS that I use a lot, keep it simple, and then there's a not-so-nice word that I don't use around my four-year-old, but I replace it. My last name is Schwab. So I say keep it simple Schwab. And I say, yes, the the last word is interchangeable. But that's what I tell my team. Guys, make it easy. I'm not the smartest person in the room. That's why I hired you. Keep it simple. Make it easy, Get back to the basics. Because the easier it is, the more we can do right and the more we can repeat it. But I did want to touch, though, on something you talked about stock and asset-based giving because it is a trend that I'm seeing pick up. And I think if we don't know what we're looking for, it can be really distracting because it's just like big shiny object like, oh, I can go get gifts from people like from someone's portfolio. And, you know, the average asset base gift is 10 to 15 times what an average cash gift is. So why would I not go after that? But there's so much to be processed and understood about asset-based giving before you go all in on that. And then maybe you haven't had a chance to do that much yet. But I've seen you talk about dafs and charitable giving like that a little bit or like higher-end philanthropic giving. What is your take on maybe like the right first step into being prepared for receiving gifts and generosity from someone's assets rather than their wallet, their cash?


 

Bill Lutz So it is important to be prepared if something like that were to happen. I mean, we had a incident four or five years ago where an individual, well, that's $25,000. And so we currently have that in a restricted find that we're we're not going to touch for a number of years, which was basically though the grantors wish. But what that incident told us is that we are woefully unprepared to receive estate gifts, gifts of stock securities, those types of things. So what we did was we started to talk to different community foundations around where we live and said, Hey, what do we need to do? And they said, Well, you need to start an endowment program and. We were able to get an endowment program started with some other fundraising activities that we did. So right now we have an endowment fund of about $120,000, which for our organization we didn't even have one three years ago. Right. Which is a sizable amount. First thing we did was we got our board together. We created an endowment committee. The endowment committee made it very clear these are the assets we'll take. These are the assets we won't take. So things like timeshares, boats, rental properties, those are things that we're not going to take because we're just not prepared to take them. That's not in our area of expertise. But if folks were to give us a donation of cash, well, we now have a tool where we can accept that and we can sell that and put that into the investments that we currently have in our endowment fund so that we're more knowledgeable about it. And so we're basically just converting it from one security to a different security. And any community foundation that's near you would be more than happy to have that conversation with you to just let you know these are the steps you need to take to start your own endowment fund.


 

David Schwab Yeah, that is it's a really cool idea and first step and I think asset giving is going to catch on more as more donors have less cash on hand but have more assets on hand. Like I don't think generosity is going to change, but I think how people are generous is changing. So I think being ready to accept and knowing what kind of assets you can accept or how to convert those assets. One of the biggest celebrations we had at fundraise in the last six months was when we were able to start equipping our the organizations that use Funraise to receive asset-based gifts in the same way that they can, you can cross that process, a credit card gift online. You can now process an asset-based gift online. And it makes it very simple for that donor. It makes it simple for the donors portfolio manager. It makes it simple for the organization. So I do think that's going to be an interesting trend to keep an eye on. So whether it's being able to accept, you know taking the time to know these are the type of... Yeah, go ahead, sorry.


 

Bill Lutz Well, you're absolutely right. And you take a look at a donor advice fund is a perfect example of that. You know, 15, 20 years ago, donor advice funds were really just kind of the tools that ultra-wealthy individuals would use to make gifts. And now you can go to a place like Fidelity Charitable and start one for literally nothing and use that as your tool to do philanthropic giving. And you can sock money away in it and then end up earning some return on that to further your philanthropic dollar and further philanthropic giving. As those tools become more and more accessible for middle-income and even lower-income givers, we're going to see more giving through those types of tools.


 

David Schwab Bill, this has been a great conversation so far, a lot of really important things for leaders to pay attention to, fundraisers to pay attention to. But I think we can't have a conversation about trends and strategies without also talking about how to filter these trends, filter these strategies through the lens of staying true to who you are, who you are as a leader, who you are as an organization. I know you and I had a really interesting conversation offline about the ethics behind fundraising and creating fundraising appeals and some of the different strategies and tactics fundraisers can pull and levers they can pull. So, you know, I guess my question to you here is, if we're thinking about, you know, asset-based giving and creating bandwidth to refresh yourself as a leader, are all of these things we talked about, there's a lot for someone to think about. I want to start that now. I want to go to this. I want to go start an endowment. I want to get ready to take asset-based gifts. I want to tell all of my donors to set up a DAF. I want to carve out 3 hours a day for myself to meditate and exercise and do all these things and have me like. But not everything we've talked about is true and applicable 100% to every single person listening. So let's spend and maybe round out our time talking about how can we make sure that the things that we choose to do are true to who we are as leaders, true to who we are as fundraisers, true to our organization?


 

Bill Lutz I think what you're talking about really is instilling new disciplines in your life. Whether those be personal things or work-related things. When you start doing those disciplines and you do them after a certain period of time, two or three weeks, you quickly realize whether those things bring joy into your life or not. And if it's not bringing you joy and it's not furthering you, why would you continue to do it? Are you just doing it because you think it's what all the other cool kids are doing? I mean, now it's a pretty lousy reason to keep doing something that's gonna make you feel more miserable in the end. So, you know, David, you're the only person that you're going to have to live with for your entire life. And you've been the only person you've ever been around since day one. And so you know yourself better than anyone else. And so you really do have to reflect on who you are, what your values are, what your passions are, and what you want to do with your life. And if you can answer some of those questions and have a good understanding of who you are, I can give you a whole list of like 20 or 30 things to do. You will quickly know the two or three things that will work. But more importantly, you'll know the two or three things that won't work and you will stay away from them. And so, you know, I do believe that most of the life isn't doing things that are super productive, but a lot of it is just staying away from those things that are going to put us down, rabbit trails that aren't going to get us anywhere.


 

David Schwab Yeah, that's so important. It reminds me, I'm reading this book right now, and I was talking about an organization that grew their recurring revenue and grew their donor base exponentially by canvassing. They had hired a company to help and trained up a bunch of people to do prospecting, go door to door and canvass at events. And another organization that shared, you know, a donor base shaped a service model provided the similar services. They looked at that and said, everyone's like, well, they're having so much success canvassing. We've got to do it. We've got to do it now. But then they stopped and said, But do we really want to be the organization that even if this is super successful financially for us, do we want to be the organization that is known for interrupting people's days, interrupting dinner time, interrupting their commute to work, And they ultimately decided like this could be really valuable for us financially, but it's not who we are and we're not excited about it. Like you said, it doesn't bring us joy at the thought of succeeding in this manner. So they ultimately decided not to. And I think it is because, like you said, it's they focused on knowing who they were and what they were about as an organization before they just pick something out that someone else was doing to try it, be sure it worked and it could have worked for them in the short term but how would that have resonated long term and how would they have sustained it and all of those important questions. So I think that's so valuable and important. All right, Bill, we're rounding out our time, but I always like to close and give you a chance. Is there any final thoughts or anything else that you want to share with our audience? Obviously, you've got a ton of experience. You've got a ton of knowledge and wisdom to share. If nothing else, where can, you know, after listening to this, our audience are all probably going like, Hey, you know, I really want to go read some of these articles. I want to follow along. I want to learn more. Where can people connect with you? Where can they learn more about Pinnacle Strategies or New Path?


 

Bill Lutz Sure, you can check New Path out at newpathserves.org, which is S-E-R-V-E-S.org. You can check out Pinnacle strategies on Substack. And we're also very active on LinkedIn. So, you know, those are two areas where folks can find us pretty easily. You know, the thing that I will say is that for every nonprofit director listening or basically for any nonprofit employee listening, never shortchange the work you're doing. There are not enough people in this world that are taking responsibility for the things that need to be taken care of. And you have stepped up to the plate and you've taken on a very large burden. And I know there are days where it feels like it's a grind and it's hard, but you are being seen. People are benefiting from the work you are doing and you are making this world a better place. And it may not feel like that today, but it will feel like that soon. And it will feel like that sooner or later and never feel inadequate. Never feel like you can't do it because you are doing it and you you are doing this world more good than you could ever, ever imagine. And never forget that.


 

David Schwab Awesome, incredible words of encouragement for all of the nonprofit professionals out there. I will let it close with that because I have nothing better to add. So, Bill, thank you for your time. This was an awesome episode, great conversation, and I look forward to it being the first of many.


 

Bill Lutz David, have me back any time. This was an absolute blast. Thank you so much for the invitation.

 

 

Thanks for listening to this episode of Nonstop Nonprofit! This podcast is brought to you by your friends at Funraise - Nonprofit fundraising software, built for nonprofit people by nonprofit people. If you’d like to continue the conversation, find me on LinkedIn or text me at 714-717-2474. 

 

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