This is the first stop on our live tour through the biggest fundraising conference of the year—AFP ICON 2022 in spectacular Las Vegas, Nevada!
Welcome back, nonprofit friends! Nonstop Nonprofit is kicking off our season 3 with a four-part series loaded with live interviews from AFP ICON 2022! Hang out at our booth with us and talk to nonprofit's brightest stars about trends, impact, and the future of fundraising.
Episode one of our compilation series features Francesco Ambrogetti, Kishshana Palmer, Sommer Brock, and Jarret Ransom. Listen to the full-length AFP ICON 22 live interviews on YouTube.
Hello, I'm Justin Wheeler, and welcome to this episode of Nonstop Nonprofit!
Welcome back, nonprofit friends! Nonstop Nonprofit has a whole new season ahead, and we’re kicking it off with a compilation series loaded with live interviews from AFP ICON 2022! Hang out at our booth with us and talk to nonprofit’s brightest stars about trends, impact, and the future of fundraising.
As a bonus, we’re capping this series off with the best clips from last season; so if you’re new to the podcast, stick with us—you’ll get all the goods in a fraction of the time.
Episode one of our compilation series features Francesco Ambrogetti, Kishshana Palmer, Sommer Brock, and Jarret Ransom. Let's dive in!
In our first segment, Francesco Ambrogetti, UNICEF’s Principal Adviser of Innovative and Alternative Finance for Children, gives his take on the importance of donor engagement and global growth through financial innovation.
Justin Wheeler Francesco, thank you so much for joining the podcast this morning.
Francesco Ambrogetti Thank you for having me.
Justin Wheeler Absolutely. So before we jump into some of the topics today, tell us a little bit about what you do at UNICEF.
Francesco Ambrogetti Yes, I was until a few weeks ago, the supporter engagement lead worldwide. So substantially coordinating the experience of our donors, volunteers and social media followers. And then a couple of weeks ago, I've been just moved to being the Director of Innovative Finance for Children. It's a new, broad area that include mainstream investment. So all the ETFs, mutual funds, bonds, but also all the new modalities include crypto in NFTs.
Justin Wheeler So I do want to talk about that, but we will go back to your old role first to talk about donor experience. How much of a priority do you think nonprofits need to be putting on experience for their donors, supporters, volunteers? You know, I mean, it was your job. So obviously, UNICEF prioritizes it. But why is it so important today?
Francesco Ambrogetti Well, it is important in general. That's put it the like that. Commercial worries obsessed about improving the experience, you know? Every time you buy, download, go to a concert, the first thing you got how was the experience from 1 to 10. How often do you recommend to your friends? And why do you do that?
Justin Wheeler Yep.
Francesco Ambrogetti Because that's your single source of growth. You're not growing, acquiring new customers or, you know, offering better price. Your'e acquiring because you get a bunch of loyal customers. It's the problem with Netflix now that they found out that actually their customers are not that loyal. So in nonprofit sector, as you know, we are very good in acquiring because it's easy is a transactional. I can just repeat this transaction, ask you to do more and so on. But as a cost and as you can see all that appointed our retention is terrible.
Justin Wheeler Yeah.
Francesco Ambrogetti So it costs so much more to acquire donor than to retain it. So in the previous role, the idea was can we embrace this customer experience culture and is a struggle. Is a struggle because you know, because it is a different way to measur. It's a long term investment but is definitely yield much more money. Just to give you one data, when we start measuring those donors that say they are satisfied of experience, they do and they are committed. These two indicators are leading to a much better lifetime and retention of donors. So it just if you start bothering, asking and measuring, then are you going to start to see the change?
Justin Wheeler Yeah. Are you... Is there a specific tool that you're using to actually measure that feedback from the donors?
Francesco Ambrogetti We do two surveys, and in different shapes and forms. And then we plugged it into our CRM. Okay. But is not that spread. And we just started first, and this is across all Latin America, it is like 15 markets. It's clearly just lead indicators. So this survey at the beginning of sign up or to telephones when we start to welcome donors and then we just keep measuring back after, potentially after, each experience.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, it makes sense. At Funraise, we measure sort of customer satisfaction, you know, it's called Net Promoter Score, right. Like how likely are you to promote Funraise? And it's an indicator. Doesn't necessarily mean the customer is going to, you know, stay loyal or remain loyal. At the end of the day, like their needs have to be met. Right. And so I'm curious, is there like, how do you aggregate I mean, you survey individual donors, is there some sort of like scoring mechanism that you use to kind of aggregate and score your entire donor base? Or is this a more like an individual level that you look at?
Francesco Ambrogetti Well, look, first of all, this gives me the opportunity to shamelessly say that in my book that is, "Hooked on a Feeling," there is a part that is devoted to how to measure and what makes a difference. So Net Promoter Score is one of them. As you know has been heavily criticized in terms of productivity. But my point is, if this sector will embrace some sort of measure, it's better than nothing. Yes. So our system is pretty simple because it's 1 to 5 level of commitment, 1 to 5 level of satisfaction and then you end up as basically being four quadrants. People are highly committed, satisfied or low committed, satisfaction. And each of them apart, from being a scorer, is automated an action which that's what is an important thing. So because they are different people. People that are highly satisfied and high commitment that deserve a certain type of care. People that bother to tell you that they are not satisfied. they require immediate action and feedback. So it's pretty simple but very effective in terms of predictability and actionability, which just for me, what is a system should be?
Justin Wheeler Yeah, absolutely. And I mean, organization and your guys' size and lots of donors, lots of records. And so I would imagine that there's a very strong emphasis from a culture perspective of systematizing and operationalizing these types of things.
Francesco Ambrogetti Up to a point. [
Justin Wheeler Up to a point!
Francesco Ambrogetti First of all, we are an extremely decentralized organization. So every we call in national committees and independent and 501c3 so, and then we have our country offices. They are the one best in emerging markets. So there's a very spread level of sophistication and so and also a lot of jealousy to not share much data for privacy reasons. So we definitely know that. We try to inspire and benchmark as much as we care, we want. Again, I mean, for me culturally, for the size of UNICEF, I would like to say that we are just there, but we know we still on a transaction based. Don't forget. Yeah, like all the sector is easy to acquire new donor, charging, asking. We are still in that mentality. So that part is relatively new.
Justin Wheeler Okay.
Francesco Ambrogetti [And so in terms of systematizing and I'm glad that we now approved. Like I said, 15 countries in Latin America, same operation that now can just say, okay, what is this core of commitment and satisfaction. How is this connected to the lifetime value or the other value. Then there's already a good start. Moving that globally is a different story is a lot of resistance. Local chapter don't like global systemization.
Justin Wheeler I can see that. One more question on this topic, then we'll move on. Can you point to like a single maybe like strategy that has increased retention aside from just measuring sort of like the satisfaction of your donors, is there something specific that UNICEF has done to beat the, just the, terrible retention rates that the industry has become accustomed to?
Francesco Ambrogetti There are many things. Again, my books has more examples on this, especially from UNICEF, because I was before this role, I was also the director of fundraising and marketing in UNICEF in Italy. And, you know, you would be surprised about one of the single leading retention indicators being a birthday call. So we start calling donors, calling them, of course, based on their potential and making a simple call to say, special day, you're important for us, happy birthday. If you compare two groups, same size, same story, same level of giving these group, they received the birthday call, that's five times the lifetime value of five times our retention rate. And so we just mainstream sounds simple, but that's how we beat the competetion, if you're want, with a single vertical. Oh and What's App.
Justin Wheeler Do you, do you use your own team for those calls?
Francesco Ambrogetti Yeah.
Justin Wheeler Wow. That's, that's a, I mean, that's, that's amazing. Five, 5x better attention. Very interesting. Okay, so you're sitting on a new team, talk to us a little bit about the new what the new role looks like and what you're excited about in this role.
Francesco Ambrogetti Well, it is very exciting. I mean, that's been sort of doing this double role in the last few years because something my SRO who has been like I mean, what we do, and philanthropy is great, but has its limitations, right? How much people are going to convince to give money? And if you look at the data, very few. We haven't grown the pie, you know, and you can see from every angle but still, you know, the number of people. And now there is a trillion, some money that goes everywhere. Spy ships, spaceships and acquiring Twitter or whatever you want to call it. Startups that fail miserably, that resources would be desperately needed to us, right. Because unless you're going to say that, you know, find a cure for cancer or eliminating poverty is less important than acquiring Twitter or going to the space, right?
Justin Wheeler Yeah.
Francesco Ambrogetti So how come that we are so limited? And this is Dan Pallotta, I feel remember? One of his points is we undermine ourselves. There is a big lock on a trillion-dollar capital market that we cannot access. Because we cannot reward, if somebody is giving money, you cannot reward it. We cannot take the risk in taking the money, if we lose them. And so we just literally just rely on the money we raise. How much money are you going to raise through fundraising? It depends how much you raise. If you raise that much you, can get that much. It's simple why we're not growing. So, my new role is called Innovative Finance for Children, it's trying to just say, how can we go to capital markets and all these trillions of dollars really make a difference for children in our case. And this is not going to be writing checks or giving online, this is going to be financial products. That means somebody is going to give the money, expecting some return, some reward and taking some risks. Yeah, and so, so does UNICEF. So if you want to do that, you have to just give some rewards and take some risks, right? It's a mix. And so in this we are is a big area that means mainstream investments that are products that today, you know our 401K isn't invested in ETFs, mutual funds bonds and all the new breed of crypto and NFTs that is completely new separate work. So all these things is like can we just match? And you know why we do that it's not because it's fancy, it's new, it's cool. Because number one, it can substantially accelerate what we do.
Justin Wheeler Yeah.
Francesco Ambrogetti One thing to just say I need $4 billion to eliminate poverty from the world. How long is it going to take to raise $4 billion. I wanted to just say, well, the market can give me $4 billion and I'm going to pay back in ten years. Yeah. So we can accelerate, we can grow what we do today. One thing I wanted to just say, I need this thing to enlarge my service. And in return, I can really innovate and take some risk some time that, you know, things that we cannot do because, God forbid, fail.
Justin Wheeler Yeah.
Francesco Ambrogetti I can maybe do with the market. So this is, is a new area of work with a lot of resistance again, as you can imagine. Yeah. But it's pretty cool.
Justin Wheeler In regards to getting more access to the capital markets, would you consider also like debt in there as a vehicle?
Francesco Ambrogetti 100%. And in fact, I mean, I cannot reveal, I can reveal, that we are now in a, we have to ask to the General Assembly of the United Nations, because we are a U.N. body, to change the rule to take on debt. Because that's the most single, you know, I can imagine, for me, it's incredible that, yeah, every company grow through that.
Justin Wheeler Oh yeah.
Francesco Ambrogetti And we don't.
Justin Wheeler Yeah. It's, you know, it's actually, this is a super fascinating. Something I'm really interested in because I mean, you know, I started Funraise, and we've raised equity, we've raised debt. Without those we wouldn't be where we're at today. We wouldn't have scaled and hit that growth. And so like I've gone down this line of thinking that how do we make access to these capital markets easier for nonprofits, right? Because nonprofits are looked at, especially smaller ones, as like high risk. And so it's super interesting that you guys are kind of pioneering this pathway.
Francesco Ambrogetti Yeah. And so, again, last year, one of the things I'm going to talk about in my session, I managed to launch the first-ever bond...
Justin Wheeler Yeah.
Francesco Ambrogetti Of 100 million, through Citibank and World Bank. And this bond, the proceeds, will go to fundraising in emerging markets. So Thailand, Uruguay, Brazil, it goes.
Justin Wheeler So interesting.
Francesco Ambrogetti The interesting part is, it's a no recourse bond means there's no guarantee to the investors other than the money we're going to raise...
Justin Wheeler Ahh!
Francesco Ambrogetti In five years.
Justin Wheeler Yeah.
Francesco Ambrogetti Which is a risk. They take risk. The reward is the impact. Because of course every dollar we're going to invest, they're going to make at least three, so will be three times the impact. For UNICEF is $100 million that otherwise we would have taken from the budget. So you see that's what I'm saying. Why you want to use your grand money to grow while the market.
Justin Wheeler Yeah.
Francesco Ambrogetti And the market bring a new breed of investors that maybe can also consider to become your donor.
Justin Wheeler Interesting. So in, in ten years from now, where do you see this, this sort of concept going? Do you think that this becomes more accessible to nonprofits? Do you think to investors, start getting more interested in investing, looking at nonprofits as investment opportunities, not just philanthropic opportunities?
Francesco Ambrogetti They already do? There are not that many opportunities. There are billions of dollars, trillions of dollars that people say, can I invest? I'm happy to take risk. Tell me how many bonds you know that nonprofit has in the market. Tell me how many ETFs nonprofit has in the market. The investor can't do. So the investors are there. We are not there, I think is a sort of Darwinian process, if I can say, because just those that dare to get there won't survive if you want to grow, if you'll want to grow. And the same for the startups. I really hope a new breed of startups will come with this concept.
Justin Wheeler Yeah.
Francesco Ambrogetti And what I've seen ten years, is I really see to really see more the financing of all this, the needs acceleration needs grow coming from the market that also bring more discipline brings more risk. But also I really, my ultimate dream is to have a stock market or being in a stock market because in the end, our course deserves that be to be owned and financed by the public.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, absolutely.
Francesco Ambrogetti That's where I, I think we should go.
Justin Wheeler Yeah. One more question and then I have a few rapid-fire questions for you. Going back to donor experience and sort of the risks that, you know, the perceived risks are perceived, the real risk that you are taking on, in the capital markets, do these things ever conflict? Do donors, when donors learn about this, does it scare them away? Do they think it's it's not wise? Have you guys had to interact or course-correct there at all with the donor?
Francesco Ambrogetti To be honest, I mean, at least my experience, this has been more internal. Internally you've got oh, my God, this is not right. This is not ethical. It's all internal debate. We haven't got any one single donor that complained...
Justin Wheeler Okay.
Francesco Ambrogetti Also because the donor supports UNICEF, so transparently I said, this will, your money will be generated three times or more.
Justin Wheeler Yeah.
Francesco Ambrogetti I basically know where the donors should be, again. I don't think there is actually a backlash. It's very much an internal debate. And from the investor point of view, they wanted to, they wanted to invest in us. They are just scared that we are so against risk. We are so against rewards. They are, we are making so much deal. So I don't see a donor backlashing that. Quite a contrary. Actually, our donors could be also investing in our product, right?
Justin Wheeler Yeah.
Francesco Ambrogetti Can donate,
Justin Wheeler Totally.
Francesco Ambrogetti but also can just say, why don't your ETF, your 401K is investred in our mission. Capital is protected and you'll help us advance.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, actually I did think of another question that is something I've thought a lot about. And at one point, you know, charity:water did, so obviously working in a nonprofit, you know, you're typically sacrificing on the compensation side and no upside, right? No upside. Like you could solve poverty and not benefit at all from that. I think that needs to change...
Francesco Ambrogetti Absolutely.
Justin Wheeler because it brings the right talent to the organization when there's upside and when there's better compensation. Do you think we'll ever get to a point where working in a nonprofit could be comparable to working in a for-profit like a startup or a company where you can get equity in? Do you think that we will ever see the nonprofit community in that way so that nonprofit employees can share in the upside and share in, and that potential future growth?
Francesco Ambrogetti The honest answer is, I don't know. I see a lot again of internal resistance of a culture is the same, Dan Pallotta says the same, right? One or the other obstacle, we cannot attract talent because we cannot pay them, right? When we should pay them more because we are solving much bigger problems than WeWork, just imagine, right? But so, can we get there? I don't think so. I mean, as it is, the sector today is very much I mean, look at the salary there are proportional. And that is, we have a problem in attracting, you know, my era that is highly sophisticated finance and digital, we have problems in attracting talents because obviously we're not competitive enough. So I think it's part of the same mentality and culture I think it's harder to change that part. Comparing to, at least they, they understand engaging with the market get some money. This will be easier than changing this reward mentality. But it's part of the same obstacle. Exactly. So how can you engage in a financial space, digital space, if you can attract the right talent?
Justin Wheeler Yeah. Yeah, it's tough. It's it's tough. And I often say many times nonprofits have to operate with two hands tied behind their back. It's hard to, to scale, too hard to grow and even more hard to retain great employees because of how competitive it has gotten in the workforce.
Francesco Ambrogetti Absolutely.
Justin Wheeler All right. Few more rapidfire questions. There's no wrong or right answer here. I'm just going to ask some questions and you just respond to them. Movies or series?
Francesco Ambrogetti Personally?
Justin Wheeler Yeah. Do you like movies or series better?
Francesco Ambrogetti Series.
Justin Wheeler Series. Tacos or cheeseburgers?
Francesco Ambrogetti That's very American. Sorry! Tacos.
Justin Wheeler Tacos. The beach or the mountains?
Francesco Ambrogetti Beach.
Justin Wheeler Beach. All day, every day for me. Digital reading or an actual book?
Francesco Ambrogetti Digital reading.
Justin Wheeler Digital reading, okay. Ice Cream or Froyo? Also very American!
Francesco Ambrogetti Ice cream.
Justin Wheeler Or gelato?
Francesco Ambrogetti Gelato! Gelato.
Justin Wheeler Football or fútbol?
Francesco Ambrogetti Football means American football or soccer?
Justin Wheeler So football would be American football. Fútbal with a U would be...
Francesco Ambrogetti Soccer?
Justin Wheeler Yeah, soccer.
Francesco Ambrogetti Soccer.
Justin Wheeler And then, actually, that's all I got. Sorry. A couple of those are too American, but thank you for participating!
Francesco Ambrogetti I appreciate it. Thank you. Thank you.
Justin Wheeler Awesome. Thank you so much.
Francesco Ambrogetti Thank you. Appreciate it. Thanks.
Next up we’ve got Kishshana Palmer. A nonprofit leadership expert, keynote speaker, and fellow podcaster, gives her take on how technology is going to factor into the future of nonprofit leadership—and sings a little bit of Disney.
Justin Wheeler Kishshana, thank you so much for stopping by the Funraise booth and talking shop.
Kishshana Palmer Always a good time when we get together.
Justin Wheeler I know it can't be the first time we've met in person.
Kishshana Palmer I know.
Justin Wheeler But I blame the pandemic for that.
Kishshana Palmer That's it. But this ends today. So now when I find myself on the West Coast, aI'll be like, Hello, what are we doing?
Justin Wheeler Absolutely. We'll show we'll show you a good time in L.A.
Kishshana Palmer That's what I like.
Justin Wheeler So a few questions for you.
Kishshana Palmer Let's do it!
Justin Wheeler Maybe before we jump into the juicy stuff, just give us, I'd love to hear a little bit about what you're thinking here in 2022, just as it relates to nonprofits, fundraising, what are some of your, the things that you're most excited about either iterating on top of or working with your clients?
Kishshana Palmer So what I see right now happening that's been so curious to me is that like we talked coming into the pandemic about the leadership shift that were supposed to be happening, folks and retiring, folks were stepping down from their roles. And so we were supposed to see this big leadership shift. And because of the pandemic, folks were like, Hold on a second, wait a minute, let me stay in place. Let's figure this thing out. And so what I'm seeing now, particularly with my clients around talent, is that folks are starting to shift again back into like, okay, I'm ready to step down. I'm ready to transfer leadership. Who am I transferring leadership to? Who needs to be in the leadership seat? And so really helping folks to understand how to navigate the changes and that younger professionals who are coming into the sector are coming in with more education, earlier on. Their credentialing, earlier on. They are more tech savvy and excited about leveraging technology to do their work and wanting to align with organizations that are moving in more of an innovative way as opposed to in a Catch Me If You Can and catch up kind of way. So those are some of the things that I'm seeing right now with organizations and the work I do.
Justin Wheeler Very interesting. I've definitely seen something similar and what I've really liked is aside from like the fundraising and the marketing, seeing organizations actually like really leveraging technology for their programs.
Kishshana Palmer Yep.
Justin Wheeler In talking to an individual earlier who they delivered like goods and services across the world. And during COVID they couldn't they couldn't do that. And so they started using drones to drop these goods and services.
Kishshana Palmer Oh, that's amazing!
Justin Wheeler Really, really cool. And so my hope is that this type of innovation will continue just to accelerate, because I think it's going to make stronger, more successful organizations.
Kishshana Palmer Absolutely. And I think that organizations who make the choice. So this one is now a choice, to not let, and I would say leverage technology, and there's things that are tech enabled and there are things that are tech activating in order to be able to do their work, in order to be able to exercise and activate mission are going to get left behind. And I think that we just don't have the luxury of doing things the same old same old anymore.
Justin Wheeler Absolutely. So regarding, going back to like the leadership pipeline, going back maybe in two years.
Kishshana Palmer Yeah, feels like forever.
Justin Wheeler It does feel like forever being in person again. It feels like it's hard to be like, how to be social. I could never again be social. But the question about the leadership pipeline is it seems like it's a prime opportunity for organizations in 2020 following the death of George Floyd.
Kishshana Palmer That's right.
Justin Wheeler Where we, you know, talked very aggressively about DEI initiatives.
Kishshana Palmer Woo, it was so aggressive! Wore me out.
Justin Wheeler And made big, bold statements.
Kishshana Palmer Big statements! Bold statements!
Justin Wheeler And so you think that with leadership sort of transition, that this be a great opportunity to really embrace some of those actions. Have you seen that actually manifest? Have you, are we moving forward? Have we moved backwards? What's your perception?
Kishshana Palmer I think that we're moving backward or at least in quicksand. And here's why. What I saw and what I saw in '08 when we had the market crash the last time was that folks of color and particularly black women, and I identify with that because I'm a black women, are typically moved into positions of power at a time of real crisis and then are underresourced, have helicopter runways to fly 747s, and we call that the glass cliff, and so you're in a situation where you get this transfer of power, but you get this transfer of power without runway or without the purse. And so what I'm seeing right now is as organizations are trying to figure out, like, what's next, folks who are put into those positions in a manner of crisis, who weren't successful for many of the reasons the success is subjective, but who weren't successful are sort of being blamed, like, well, you know, we could have done something different. And so people have this reticence in being able to actually really step out and do the kind of recruitment, do the kind of scaffolding, do the kind of succession planning that would actually make true some of the promises that foundations and institutions and organizations and tech firms and so forth made during the height of, I call it freshman year of the pandemic. Particularly around protests with Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. So what I would like to see is organizations not just throw stuff at the wall and hope something sticks, but to actually resource the process of being able to make sure that when there's transitions of power that they're done so really thoughtfully. And if you're going to operate from an equitable approach, understanding that you have to resource it to do it, and it takes time and so align with professionals to help you do that.
Justin Wheeler Are there any organizations or companies that you look at that like they're doing it right there? There are good poster child or a good organization to at least learn from that's been higly effective?
Kishshana Palmer That's a good question. I feel like a lot of the affiliated organizations are trying their best. So I look like I look at a CIS, communities in schools. I look at what the Boys and Girls Club are doing. So the reason I'm looking at these federated larger models is because that to me from a footprint perspective, have lots of different smaller organizations in different populations and parts of the country where they have to answer to and address what the local climate is, in addition to what the national organization is doing. So I'm seeing a lot more learning and development money being put into federated organizations. I would love to see smaller organizations get more press. And so the reason you ask that question, I was kind of like, hmmm, immediately I can think of two or three large organizations that come to mind, but they have more money for branding to be able to say, Look at me, this is what I'm doing. And so small organizations who might be doing really amazing work if they're not getting the press behind what it was a necessary shift in business we wouldn't know as much about. So I got to think about that because I feel like there are probably lots of organizations that folks would like and this will want to hear this and this one and this one. And I'm like, did you get press on that one, though? So that's something that my team, as we do more leadership and management coaching and training this year are really working on is what is the research and what does that look like for the organizations that are really doing best in class work?
Justin Wheeler Okay. And are your clients are they exclusively nonprofits or do you work with the for-profit companies as well?
Kishshana Palmer No, actually, my smallest percentage of clients at Kishshana & CO right now are nonprofit. So I work with, on the nonprofit sizde, large, federated, complex, matrix organizations. And so if you have affiliates, if you have spin offs, if they're separate, 501c3s, networked organizations typically is where I stand in institutions. But most of my work, actually, I believe it or not, are in tech firms, in fintech and in cannabis.
Justin Wheeler Oh, interesting.
Kishshana Palmer Isn't that crazy?
Justin Wheeler Okay. Yeah.
Kishshana Palmer And so a lot of them want to do like CSR work. They want to get into social good, they want to make sure that they are diversifying their teams alongside their values in a really healthy way. Because I come from a fundraising background and I raise money for social ventures which are like fast growth, you have to get in and, you know, make sure your leverage really early. A lot of my donors were from the VC world, etc. So because I had that background, then I get hired to do like sales training and stuff like that of my team does. So it's been a natural shift.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, yeah
Kishshana Palmer To move into that work had been so much fun.
Justin Wheeler Any like, any a key sort of differences between working with like a nonprofit and some of your for-profit or tech clients?
Kishshana Palmer The speed at which people move and the cash they have to move it. And so a lot of times depending on like, so I work with folks who are either on their second round of raising, they've moved on from the initial raise or they are more stable and they're starting to move into more mezzanine funding for how they're being capitalized. And so I noticed that they'll hire lots of bright people, but they may not necessarily have the experience, the time on the ground or they are switching or the share of school. There's something they're like in that sort of skill, experience mix is not quite, right? And so, money moves things, right? I read a quote who said this quote, I think the guy who wrote the book "Who not how."
Justin Wheeler Yeah.
Kishshana Palmer It's just having a bright side.
Justin Wheeler It's not Sinek. It's not Sinek.
Kishshana Palmer No, no, no, not, Sinek. Ahh, it's gonna to come to you in the shower, watch!
Justin Wheeler That's probably right!
Kishshana Palmer Okay, so the quote there is, I'm going to paraphrase it like, if you have money to solve a problem, you don't have a problem. And what stuck with me, I don't think that's always true, but what sticks with me in that is that what I've seen in terms of the difference between nonprofit organizations who are not as well resourced and working with fintech and tech firms who are is the speed at which they're able to try to solve a problem. Interesting in their like how much is it gonna costs? Like that's the question that I get from them. Like how much? How long? How many? With nonprofits I have to talk about mission alignment in a different kind of way and make the case in a different kind of way. And so it feels like, it may not be true, but it feels like, working on the corporate side of folks, folks are more apt to move because they're trying to grow.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, yeah. You know, so I agree with the quote, but.
Kishshana Palmer You're like ohhhh!
Justin Wheeler I also slightly disagree with it. Well, this is, so the MacArthur Foundation did like a really interesting research on the Negative impact foundations, grant making foundations have in communities.
Kishshana Palmer Yes.
Justin Wheeler And it's because, you know, you have people in the boardroom making decisions where money's going.
Kishshana Palmer Yep.
Justin Wheeler They control the money.
Kishshana Palmer Yep.
Justin Wheeler But the people on the ground, whether it's the, you know, the community organizations and so forth, they're not actually, you know, they don't have much of a say in how/where the funds need to go.
Kishshana Palmer Absolutely.
Justin Wheeler How it's going to be used. And so I think money solves a problem, but it's how is the money actually being facilitated?
Kishshana Palmer Yeah. That's exactly it. Who has access to the purse? And I think, you know, there's I always say that to my team all money is not good money. This sounds to say to say no. Thank you. Oh, so nice. No thank you. That we need to be able to do with folks. And so I agree with you in that nuance, in that quote and what I took from it and what I continue to take from particularly quotes where you like give a little side eye, is that like what do I understand from what the situation is creating? And I think that right now we're in a space in the sector and in folks who service the sector. So the thing that has been such a transition for me is moving away from direct service and organizations who do direct service to the companies that serve the sector. So I'm able to stay a subject matter expert in the work and also understand the business that happens. That is a part of the ecosystem of the work.
Justin Wheeler Yeah. What's influenced your your niche? What you focus on with your business? What would you say, is it just like the experience year after year of kind of building it or was there anything that like happened in your life that like was transformative, that you're like, this is what I want to do? I want to invest my time and skill sets in.
Kishshana Palmer Gosh, I think that the thing that made me really focus on leadership and management specifically and then really a lot on women in the work is that there are so many overlapping, not so great things that happen to many women I know in the sector. Everything from sexual harassment to discrimination around race, around gender, etc., to be maligned. And I was like, we got to do things better. And how many of us have not had a bad boss at like some point in our career? And I was like, we can do this better. Like, this does not have to be trash. And so my lived experience, alongside with my teams lived experience, and because I had the luxury to have large teams and also the gift to have large teams, I'm able to see how leadership can look when you allow folks to have to have room to grow and to be themselves and when you don't. I think the other thing that's really informed my work right now, my company's work is if it isn't, fun is one of our values. Core values that is on our website. Like, if this is not fun, you can't come! Like I am not interested in working with folks and having my team members work with folks where we can not, at the end of the day, even when the work is hard, we do a lot of transformation work and change management. Like if we're not having a good time, what's the point? Yeah, what is the point?
Justin Wheeler Life's too short.
Kishshana Palmer Life is too short. And there's too much good work to be done. And so that has really driven my curiosity. I love that. Yeah, I love that.
Justin Wheeler It's actually kind of a tangent, but side note is that's actually why we name and Funraise, Funraise, dropped the D is because I felt like it like so many nonprofits, like their fundraising development teams...
Kishshana Palmer Yeah.
Justin Wheeler They're like, they like hide in a corner.
Kishshana Palmer Oh my Gosh. They're like, those over there!
Justin Wheeler This opportunity, like, this is like the best part of the nonprofit industry, in my opinion, is raising funds. And so it should be it should be fun. [6.0s] All right. So I know they're about to start the main session here, so what I want to do is this rapid, rapid fire questions. All right. Here we go. Alrighty! Favorite, movie or series?
Kishshana Palmer Oh, my gosh. Favorite movie of all time is Coming to America.
Justin Wheeler Coming to America. Tacos or cheeseburgers?
Kishshana Palmer Cheeseburgers.
Justin Wheeler Beach or the mountains?
Kishshana Palmer The beach.
Justin Wheeler The beach, me too. Digital reading or an actual book?
Kishshana Palmer Digital reading now.
Justin Wheeler Oh, really? I'm an actual book.
Kishshana Palmer But I buy all the books. So I, I have the physical book for every digital book I have.
Justin Wheeler Okay. But it's just you, just like, it's just easier tocarry around?
Kishshana Palmer Listen first or read first. And if I like the book, then I go and highlight the physical book, cause that's how I memorize.
Justin Wheeler Nice. Okay. Okay. I like that. Ice cream or froyo?
Kishshana Palmer Ice cream, man.
Justin Wheeler Ice cream.
Kishshana Palmer I mean, if you're going to have gas, just have it. Just enjoy it. Get the good stuff!
Justin Wheeler That's true. That's true. Frozen yogurt is overrated in my opinion.
Kishshana Palmer I mean it really is. It's not that great.
Justin Wheeler I this one's been a contentious one today. So I hope you're ready. Football or a fútbol?
Kishshana Palmer Fútbol.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, right.? That's what I think.
Kishshana Palmer Hello!?
Justin Wheeler Absolutely. And this one, this one's kind of tough too, Moana or Aladdin?
Kishshana Palmer Oh. I'm an Aladdin girl.
Kishshana Palmer Alright, you've gotta sing the song.
Kishshana Palmer "A whole new world!"
Justin Wheeler Wow. There ya go!
Kishshana Palmer Is that the right one?
Justin Wheeler That was actually Little Mermaid.
Kishshana Palmer Damnit! Hold on. I do that. Now I'm about to sing Beauty and the Beast now, catch my breath. I'm trying to run down every song and I'm like, still not the right one.
Justin Wheeler That's alright. You have a high schooler now. You're beyond the Disney years.
Kishshana Palmer That's it. Forget it, I'm not watching Disney anymore.
Justin Wheeler Kishshana, thank you so much for joining us today.
Kishshana Palmer Thank you for having me. I appreciate it. I definitely, what is the right song?
Justin Wheeler So Aladdin is...
Background That was 100% the song.
Justin Wheeler Was it really? Oh my gosh.
Kishshana Palmer I was like really?
Background 100% the song.
Justin Wheeler Wait, a whole new world is Little Mermaid.
Kishshana Palmer No. The Little Mermaid is.
Justin Wheeler For the record, Kishshana was right. Justin was wrong.
Kishshana Palmer The Little Mermaid is, "look at this stuff, isn't it neat?"
Justin Wheeler That's right! You were 100% right.
Kishshana Palmer I was like, hello? I sang that in choir in high school!
Sommer Brock, VP of Development for the Pontiac Community Foundation is the next segment. Here she gives her take on getting rid of the nonsense in the donor-centric fundraising model.
Justin Wheeler Sommer, thank you so much for joining the podcast.
Sommer Brock Thanks for having me.
Justin Wheeler How are you doing today?
Sommer Brock I'm doing well. How are you?
Justin Wheeler I'm doing pretty good. Pretty good. It's great to be back in person.
Sommer Brock Yes. I'm hoping that my voice holds up because I did go to the iconic after-party last night. So hopefully...
Justin Wheeler Did it get wild?
Sommer Brock It got wild. We left once people started getting in the water, we were like, okay, it's time to go.
Justin Wheeler Oh wow. We missed it. We missed the party. So you're one of the speakers here. Talk to us a little bit about your session and what you talked about.
Sommer Brock So I had the pleasure of presenting with my friend MiVida Burrus. A session on community-centric fundraising and engaging your constituents through a lens of inclusion, diversity, equity and access. You know, we just really dropped some gems on, you know, how important it is to engage your community around not just your fundraising efforts, but how nonprofits just need to be moving to a more community-centric model of being informed by their community needs. Instead of deciding for people, what services or things they need?
Justin Wheeler So aside from just like the actual like funding, it's what type of programs are needed and is that, is that what you're talking about?
Sommer Brock Yeah, but we really focused our presentation on fundraising and what fundraisers could do to sort of bring in the community and be a little bit more community-centric.
Justin Wheeler Yeah.
Sommer Brock So it's really just about uplifting the values and the needs and hopes and desires of the people in your community. And it's not about not being donor-centric, but about not being donor-centric at the expense of your community.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, absolutely.
Sommer Brock Just prioritizing and leading with that community need.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, absolutely. That makes sense. There's a lot of conversation around, like placing the donor as the hero.
Sommer Brock Yeah.
Justin Wheeler And I've written quite a bit, actually, about. I actually don't like that.
Sommer Brock No, don't like it, please.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, yeah, I actually think it's the beneficiaries of the work that are the heroes and individuals overcoming the odds stacked against them.
Sommer Brock Yes.
Justin Wheeler And I hope that we can just get rid of that, that language, because I just think it's, it's just totally wrong.
Sommer Brock Yeah. And I think that's where the fundraising world is, is moving. I've been doing this work for more than 20 years. So all of the literature, all of the data, anything you read, that's sort of evidence-based, it's all based in donor-centric fundraising. But what it doesn't take into account is that there is no data on community-centric fundraising.
Justin Wheeler interesting.
Sommer Brock So when you look at, you know, which works better, it's easy to say, oh, well, this is the proven model, right? We know this works, but we have to try something else to see if it can work as well. And I think that people are becoming more and more comfortable with moving towards that model because, you know, when you say out loud that organizations that are built for the benefit of the community are not informed by the community, it doesn't make sense.
Justin Wheeler It's an oxymoron. Yeah, totally. Has it, have you been met with a lot of friction going down this path? Like what are some of the challenges that you're overcoming?
Sommer Brock Well, I think that before I got in my current role, I think that there was some friction and I talked to fundraisers about it. And I even had internal friction myself, right, about moving 100% to this model because I felt like the donor world wasn't quite ready for the community-centric model. Right. We've been doing something the same way for so long. And to expect that just because we're ready to change that donors are ready to me would be assumptive. So my sort of suggestion and how I've chosen to do this work is to always be continually thinking about how I can be more community-centric in all of my fundraising tactics. So it's not a flip the switch and now I'm community-centric. It's more of a baby step progression towards becoming more of a community-centric and I think that's the way we can bring our donors along with it.
Justin Wheeler Got it. And as the VP of Development at the Pontiac Community Foundation, tell us a little bit about the foundation and the work that it's doing in Pontiac, MI.
Sommer Brock Thank you for asking that. The Pontiac Community Foundation is so special to me. We're only a four-year-old organization. In fact, this May, we're turning four.
Justin Wheeler Oh wow, happy birthday.
Sommer Brock Thank you. Thank you very much. And at the Pontiac Community Foundation, we really are just building a brighter future for the residents of Pontiac, Michigan. And we do that work through our four focus areas, which are neighborhood investment, economic vitality, civic engagement and racial equity. For our neighborhood investment, we're looking at community development from a more neighborhood resident-focused perspective. We want to do projects that immediately impact residents. We're staying away from downtown development, you know, those things that don't immediately. So most of our grantmaking lies in the space of supporting small business owners. We have the Center for Pontiac Entrepreneurship, which serves as a hub of resources for small business owners, education programs, access to technical assistance, grant funding. And then we support Pontiac nonprofits. We're a collaborative organization. We see supporting other nonprofits as part of our work. We want to see the whole community, you know, be a better place. So we do not only grantmaking to other nonprofits, but educational opportunities. Last year was the second year we did what we called the Pontiac Impact Challenge, which was a crowdfunding competition amongst nonprofits. So we didn't just launch the competition and asked them to participate. We gave them the tools to do a successful crowdfunding campaign. I did training sessions where I created all this material for them, like a tool kit, so it could be really turnkey for them. And because to me, it's about teaching them the fish, right? I don't want to, I want them to be successful and be able to, you know, incorporate these tactics into their overall fundraising and just be more successful in general. So we also do civic engagement in Pontiac. We're really looking to build leadership and build a leadership culture. So we're doing that by providing resources to our community members about, you know, those who are running for different political offices. Information about getting out the vote. You know, all of those great things. And then my most favorite focus area for us is racial equity, because many people don't know in our small little low-income community of Pontiac that our residents have a 20 year lower life expectancy than people who live just three miles away in the affluent suburban areas of our of southeast Michigan. So we're really working to identify why this is the case and see what things we can implement or support to help rectify that and in turn, improve quality of life for Pontiac residents.
Justin Wheeler Wow. Sounds like a very important mission.
Sommer Brock Yes.
Justin Wheeler What inspired you to get involved with the foundation?
Sommer Brock Well, I actually had the pleasure of being a founding board member for the Pontiac Community Foundation. Pontiac, Michigan, is my home. I'm born and raised there. So for me to have sort of gone out in the world and gotten all this experience working for various large nonprofit organizations all over Southeast Michigan, it was like an honor and a privilege to be able to bring my skill set back home and uplift my own community through that work. So to me, it's an absolute no-brainer. And I also do some nonprofit consulting on my business is No Nonsense Fundraising, where I really focus on just trying to level the playing field with small nonprofits, because I've seen through my experience so much disparity, right? And resources and all types of things. So what's fortunate for me is that most of my clients are also Pontiac nonprofits. So I'm really in a privileged position where in my day job, my side job and even in my volunteer work, everything I do is in support of Pontiac.
Justin Wheeler Sort of connected. Yeah, that's awesome. No Nonsense Fundraising. So what's the inspiration behind... What's the nonsense that we need to get rid of in fundraising?
Sommer Brock Oh, my God. There's so much nonsense, right? There's so many things that muddy the waters. And for me, the nonsense is not focusing on individual donors. And I've noticed that that's the trend in most of the clients that I have. Most small nonprofits, most nonprofits that serve low-income communities or nonprofits that are led by black and brown leaders, have a heavy reliance and dependance on foundation grants just to fund their missions. But my experience in working with large, sustainable nonprofits is that 80% of their funding base is individual supporters. So my whole purpose of creating that consulting firm is to teach small nonprofits to engage individuals.
Justin Wheeler Yeah.
Sommer Brock So that's a lot of the work I do.
Justin Wheeler That's awesome. I prior to starting Funraise, I was in the nonprofit space for 12 years. I was a fundraiser. And we in the early days of I was one of the founders of an organization called Liberty In North Korea. And we were heavily funded by one foundation. And we went back for our annual pitch to get funding. And the foundation was like, hey, listen, like, if, if you can show us a pathway for our decreasing sort of our gift to, you know, 50% of your revenue, then, well, we'll actually give more. We'll double our gift. And that was the greatest gift they could have ever given us, because we went back and built out an individual donor program and today it's like 90% of the organization's revenue. And so I totally agree. I love love your approach.
Sommer Brock And I love that foundation's approach. I may have to steal that.
Justin Wheeler Yeah. Yeah. Because they pushed us to like, it became the most important thing, you know, for us to, to do. On the consulting side, is there anything else on the fundraising... Do you get tactical with the organizations and do you help develop fundraising programs?
Sommer Brock Yes, I help develop fundraising plans. Most of my clients are on sort of monthly retainer. I meet with them monthly. It's really about having an accountability partner. Because I don't do fundraising for them, you know, that would be foolish. I'm teaching them to fish right? But it's really more about holding them accountable. Having, giving them a thought partner, helping them think through some things because typically they have a lot of the things they need to be successful. They just haven't organized it or structured or prioritized it right. Lke for example, I have one client who was doing this email communication soliciting for support and was excluding their volunteers. And I was like, why would you not? I said, I'm all about not converting. I hate when people say I'm trying to convert my volunteers to donors, but I'm like, It makes no sense that you're not asking them at all, right? So it's like this light bulb goes off for them, just for little, little things, you know? So when I can just have a conversation and it helps them raise more money or just be more thoughtful about what they're doing, then it's a win for me.
Justin Wheeler That's awesome. I've been asking a lot of nonprofit professionals here, you know, who've been in the industry for a decade plus, what are they excited about to see change in the industry over the next decade? Any thoughts around sort of things that you just need to absolutely change?
Sommer Brock I think we had some banter about it before we got started here today, and it's really for me, the donor-centric model needs to be like reimagined.
Justin Wheeler Just buried! Just buried in the ground, right?
Sommer Brock Yeah. And, you know, it's not because I don't want people to be donor-centric. You just have to look at that differently. And I think the way we say, the messages we put out, how we are sort of lifting up and putting the onus or not the onus, but the spotlight on donors, I think is wrong. And for me, it's wrong because we need to be prioritizing communities, right? So it's not that we don't want the donors to support or that their support is not important to us. But we need to be talking about it in a way that reflects the wholeness that the community of support that it takes to run these programs or to, you know, do different initiatives. And for me, this whole shift to a more of a community-centric model can help us stop perpetuating the injustices that nonprofits some, like nonprofits were created to eliminate these issues, right. Where when we look at them in these ways, a lot of times they're perpetuating the same systemic issues that we're trying to eliminate, right. So for me, the shift to community-centric fundraising takes the focus off the donor and puts the focus on your community. And I think that's really where we need to shift in nonprofits to to help people.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, I don't know when it happened, but like we took gratitude, like showing gratitude to donors and instead, you know, put them as like the center of the story and thinking that that was like showing gratitude, you know, being thankful.
Sommer Brock Because that's all we've been taught.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, exactly.
Sommer Brock It's like any anything that's printed or any book that anybody has wrote or all of the experts that we've sort of admired over the years, that that's the model they teach, it's relationship-based, donor-centric fundraising. I love the relationship-based part of it, but to me it's about... And it's been working well for me and my organization, just having real transparent conversations about the needs of my community.
Justin Wheeler Yeah.
Sommer Brock In fact, it's led to unrestricted, major gifts. Who would have thunk that, right? But that's because of the trust and because I'm being transparent and talking about the need. And when you do that, the donor is like, Well, I want you to take this money and do what you need to do with it. Right? So that's how you to me, it's a part of building trust and it's a necessary step we have to take.
Justin Wheeler Absolutely. I'd love to do a longer episode on this very topic because I think we can go really deep on it and hopefully get more.
Sommer Brock Oh, I'd love to chat further.
Justin Wheeler Yeah. All right. I don't take too much more of your time, so we're going to go on to some rapid-fire questions...
Sommer Brock Okay, let's do it.
Justin Wheeler to end it. So movies are series?
Sommer Brock Series.
Justin Wheeler Series. What's your, are you currently bingeing or have a favorite series?
Sommer Brock Oh my God, I think I watched all of Ozark's. I like stalked the, the last of the seven episodes. Yeah. And then I watched probably Bridgerton in one sitting!
Justin Wheeler Yep, yep. Season two, you watch season two?
Sommer Brock Oh, I watched both. Yeah.
Justin Wheeler Yeah.
Sommer Brock It didn't take me long to get through either one.
Justin Wheeler Oh, Severanceis... If you like Ozark... Ozark is kind of dark and like heavy.
Sommer Brock I know, right and then Bridgerton is like...
Justin Wheeler Helps balance it out a little bit, right? Oh, that's funny. Okay. Tacos or cheeseburgers?
Sommer Brock Oh, tacos.
Justin Wheeler Tacos. Like, do you have a preference of, like, what, which protein?
Sommer Brock Well, we do ground turkey...
Justin Wheeler Ground turkey.
Sommer Brock We don't do a lot of ground beef, but tacos go over very, very well. Yeah, we have to have them at least once a week.
Justin Wheeler At least on Tuesdays.
Sommer Brock Yes.
Justin Wheeler The beach or the mountains?
Sommer Brock Beach.
Justin Wheeler Beach.
Sommer Brock Oh, yeah. Course. No brainer.
Justin Wheeler Digital reading or an actual book?
Sommer Brock An actual book.
Justin Wheeler Hardcover or softcover?
Sommer Brock Hardcover.
Justin Wheeler Hardcover. Me too.
Sommer Brock Right now I'm reading the autobiography, Finding Me, Viola Davis.
Justin Wheeler Yeah? How is it?
Sommer Brock Yeah, it's... I tried to read it on the plane. Tears were rolling down my face. I was like, I have to read this in private, I can't read this on a plane. Her story is so touching.
Justin Wheeler Football or fútball?
Sommer Brock Football.
Justin Wheeler Football.
Sommer Brock Yes.
Justin Wheeler What's your team?
Sommer Brock The Lions!
Justin Wheeler The Lions. Yeah.
Sommer Brock Even though they're the losers. But they're going to come back.
Justin Wheeler They're going to come back.
Sommer Brock I'm still a super fan. I don't care how bad they are.
Justin Wheeler Maybe go put a bet on them here and maybe that'll help them out. All right. Last one, Moana or Aladdin?
Sommer Brock Aladdin.
Justin Wheeler Aladdin. Okay. The original or the in person, real, what is it? What's that called?
Sommer Brock I don't know. I'd have to say the original.
Justin Wheeler Okay, the original?
Sommer Brock Yeah.
Justin Wheeler Yeah.
Sommer Brock I probably haven't seen the other version.
Justin Wheeler Okay. Awesome. Well, thank you again, Sommer, so much for joining us. I appreciate it and enjoy the rest of the conference and good luck on your pitch.
Sommer Brock Thank you. I appreciate it.
In our final segment, Jarrett Ransom, aka the Nonprofit Nerd, gives her take on embracing and adopting disruption as a natural move toward nonprofit progress.
Justin Wheeler Jarrett, welcome back to the podcast, I should say. How are you doing?
Jarrett Ransom Hey, thank you. I am great. It's always good to be here with you.
Justin Wheeler It's great to be back in person and I assume you've been to conferences. This isn't your first in-person, is it or is it?
Jarrett Ransom It is, yeah. I mean, not in my whole age of existence, but in the last two years. I have done I, you know, host, emcee, speak. So I've done some of that in smaller groups, but not anything of this magnitude.
Justin Wheeler Yeah. So what's what's your big takeaway from this year's AFP?
Jarrett Ransom You know, I'm also a first-timer, so I've not done the AFP ICON. Next year, I hear it's going to be in New Orleans, so I'll see you there. It's been great. I love the energy. I love the the buzz, the vibration. You can feel it in the showroom, you know, the doors open at nine. Yeah. So really just seeing people as you said, like in real life, like, oh my gosh, is this virtual reality? It's just been really cool to connect, reconnect and see the advancements on the floor.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, absolutely. So one one of what it was about couple minutes talking about disruption. One of the things and I don't want this to like sound negative it might sound negative and if it does, it is or whatever. Being here, there's a lots of, lots of great things happening, lots of great speakers, phenomenal speakers. But I don't know, I just have this sense that like we need to like take the next step in, in this industry moving forward in more innovative ways, because an organizations here are solving the most important problems facing humanity today. Like the biggest challenges. And I feel like we've just been stuck, right? Like the pie hasn't really grown that much. Yeah, incremental for sure, but not not significantly. So I don't know any like thoughts around disruption anything that you're thinking about in that space?.
Jarrett Ransom You're preaching to the choir Justin. I love it. I love disruption, I love innovation. You know, for me, disruption isn't negative. I feel like it has a negative connotation. So if you get too negative, I just start calling you Negative Nancy. But I think we're good. I do think that you're right. We're not taking it as far as we could and maybe as far as we should. Yeah. You know, I see technology advancing all around us. And the sector, the nonprofit sector in particular, is slow to adopt. And maybe that's what you're referring to. We've talked a little bit at this conference about A.I. artificial intelligence, which sounds scary, right? It's like, well, what is that? Is that big brother? You know what? What exactly is that? Where are these data points coming from? I agree wholeheartedly. And I like to push the envelope regardless of the conversation. Yeah. So really pushing the envelope to say, okay, what is next and why the hell are we not doing it?
Justin Wheeler Yeah. Something that actually something we've been experimenting with that at Funraise, is a combination of machine learning and AI around sort of like the ask string on an unforgiving forecast. And you know what, what we've we've analyzed millions of transactions and have created a model based on sort of like an individual's IP address, an individual's device that they're on, whether it's mobile, an Apple, Macintosh, and all these things that are very easily knowable and need to know from it from a platform perspective. And there's lots of similarities in the type of device a user has, for instance, and the type of gift that they would make and adjust the mastering accordingly so that they don't give too little or get scared by too big of an ask. Sure, I'm out. But it's been interesting. Like nonprofits run into fear of that not being something nonprofits should do, right? Even though like, I mean, e-commerce has been doing this for four years.
Jarrett Ransom Oh, yeah.
Justin Wheeler Right, and so that that's like the sort of like attitude I want us to as a community get rid of we if we want to scale, if we want to grow, we have to push the envelope on. And, you know, that's a small example, but things things like like that.
Jarrett Ransom Yeah, no, I agree. We have to you know, even back in 2020, so many organizations hit the pause button. So many organizations were not comfortable asking. Why do people give? Because they're asked. Yeah. So we have to ask. We have to ask a certain amount. We have to tell them where it's going, how it's helping the organization, helping the community. I'm also a huge proponent for, you know, that sustainable donor groups are maybe a monthly donor and maybe even going back to that monthly donor group to say, hey, might you consider an additional gift this month? Right. And that is something that might be $7, it might be $25. But those incremental ask and donations adding up. We know this, right? Yeah. It makes a huge amount. Yeah. So so why not do that. What is stopping us?
Justin Wheeler Yeah. I mean, I think status quo that's the, I think the biggest, the biggest sort of like, you know, competitor enemy to sort of innovation is status quo. We get comfortable and we maybe even see like positive results. But are they the best results? Yeah. And I think, you know, there's not nonprofits aren't afforded enough opportunity to really kind of.
Jarrett Ransom You're right.
Justin Wheeler And go for bigger results.
Jarrett Ransom I wish that I knew this woman's name. She was a staff at Google, maybe even an executive. And she made a really big mistake, very costly mistake. And her supervisor said, that's okay. You learn from it. Yeah. Whoa. Like, mind blown. Imagine if we, the nonprofits, had the ability to afford to take risk and make mistakes and to learn from it, right? And so it really is about. Okay, let's do. Take it to the next level. Let's not settle for status quo. Yeah. Is our community like do they deserve status quo? No, our constituents deserve status quo. No. So what is holding us back? That's a good question.
Justin Wheeler I think it's the fear of failing. And, you know, there's like a famous story at Facebook where Facebook used to operate under like move fast break things. And there is like a junior engineer that just came first day on the job, you know, it was like took that to heart and was building and they would like deployed daily to to the platform. Engineer took on the platform first time Facebook ever went down in its history. And you know, an individual is freaked out that that that he's going to be fired right away for it. But instead, it caused Facebook to actually look at why did this happen. Right. What? Because it's problematic. It was inevitable. This is going to happen soon. And this uncovered, you know, something that was very problematic in the code base and they're able to fix it, move on and continue developing. And I think that's sort of the mentality we need is maybe not like necessarily break things, but we got to move fast and we need to try things. And if we fail, we fail. But we got to move on from from there.
Jarrett Ransom You know, it's funny you say that we have to move fast because I've caught myself saying, hurry up and wait. Like that has become a motto, a mantra, I believe, in the nonprofit sector. When I talk to other consultants, you know, in the work that we do nationally, it's Oh yeah, I sent in this proposal or I talked to this board member and I still haven't heard from them and it's been 30 days. So if we're waiting to take any action, we are waiting to fail. I feel like we're really. So how do we move faster? How do we, you know, take these risks, take these opportunities when they present themselves, regardless. It could be literally signing up with a client or taking down the website.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, I think an easy like step and it's easier, easier said than done, is removing the bureaucracy that exists in so many organizations? You know, I think where a lot of things where a lot of things die, go to die is the board. You know, and I think that we need to really rethink the way that the board operates, like their their fiduciary is to the organization, but they should not be slowing it down. And I just see that time and time again. And I think that, you know, that's that's an area and and the bigger you get, it's harder. You need process. You need to operationalize things for sure. But the thing that I'm interested in, even with with my own business as we scale and grow, is how do we never lose what I call the startup edge, where like the agile, nimble, we can move fast, we can change. We can change our minds. It's okay to change our minds and which kind of kind of coincides with this. But it's maybe a little bit of travel. Is this idea that like the best idea wins, right? Like it's not like the most senior person in the room. It's not maybe even like the domain expert in the room. It's literally the best idea, right?
Jarrett Ransom Right. Yeah. Well, I love that. I truly do. Because to stay nimble, to stay agile, I feel that those organizations that did that over these last three years are the ones coming ahead. Right. Like they are sprinting across the finish line. Yeah, which doesn't exist yet. We're still sprinting. Yeah. And I think those again that pressed the pause button and said, we're going to sit this one out. They're losing, right? They're getting lapped by the people that are out there sprinting. And we do have to stay agile. What does that look like? Like. I also think, you know, the bureaucracy is you mentioned that there's this great book. Again, I cannot think of anything off the cuff, but it's delegate decisions up to a certain amount, right? It could be a dollar amount, a decision, whatever that looks like. Allow your staff, allow your executives, allow anyone to make that decision immediately off the cuff, knowing that is in alignment with whatever has previously been designed. Yeah. And I think once we do that, we trust our team, we trust ourselves, trust our board. We're able to take faster steps forward.
Justin Wheeler Totally, totally agree with that. Shifting a little bit, what are you most excited about? Whether it's project, campaign, new client, for the rest of 2022.
Jarrett Ransom Oh my gosh. So I started my business lucky 13. I'm in 13 years. So 13 years ago, 2009. Thank you. So I'm a teenager, right? I have I have some breakouts. I have some moodiness trying to figure out who it is that I want to be. So one of the things I'm launching this year, brand new, because I started my business, The Raven Group, I'm also known as The Nonprofit Nerd. As a grant writing consultant. That's really what was needed in 2009. Really needed now. Grant writing, I don't love it. Which is interesting, right? I'm saying I don't love it, but I love coaching, training and teaching other people how to do it. So I have started the grant writing business program and I'm teaching other people, in particular women like myself, to become, you know, part of their community, submit grants, start, build, scale, their own grant writing business specifically for nonprofits. So www.nonprofitnerdschool.com. I'm going to help you get to six figures if you want to do that. There are so many dollars out there to be awarded to nonprofits and there are so many organizations seeking professional grant writers. So that's what I'm nerding out on.
Justin Wheeler That's awesome! What was the inspiration to start that this year?
Jarrett Ransom Yeah. So my inspiration honestly is, you know, as we look at this great reshuffle, great recession, great resignation, whatever that looks like, I look always into my future. I want to retire at the age of 50. And I will tell you, I have seven years to do that. You can do the math. You can do the math. So in seven years, right, I really want to retire. I live a nomadic life. I have this huge desire, you know, it used to be taboo to say, oh, I lived down by the lake, you know, in a van. That's my dream. That's my, like, retirement. So for me, I really want to empower other women. I want to teach them how to start building scale a business like I have. Ten years ago, I was on food stamps, going to food banks, you know, being the recipient of our community resources. Now, I'm, you know, thriving in a six figure business. So I want to teach other people how to do that. I just got back from Cabo San Lucas with my son for spring break. So these are the opportunities I am so passionate about teaching other women how to do that. Yes, I accept men if that's, you know, who is attracted and wants to do this as well. But I'm super passionate about, you know, the nonprofit sector and really about nerding out.
Justin Wheeler It's very exciting. I'm excited to follow along. And see how it goes. What was your everything in Cabo? We love Cabo. I go there every summer.
Jarrett Ransom Oh, my gosh. Okay, well, we're going to have to make that happen and connect. My favorite thing in Cabo, God, there are so many places. Well, we stayed at, it used to be the Welk Resort, which is beautiful. There's the food, you know, like the tacos. I live in Phoenix, so we get a lot of tacos anyway. And we of course did the arch, you know, we did that beautiful tour.
Justin Wheeler Did you eat at the office?
Jarrett Ransom Yes, I ate at the office.
Justin Wheeler All right. All right.
Jarrett Ransom Yes, it is fun. Yeah, they're expensive margaritas, but they're worth it.
Justin Wheeler We were we were actually were just there in February. And I was with our family. I have four kids and a couple other families as well. And we were sitting out there on the beach. And did the Rambo guy come up to you with the tequila shots?
Jarrett Ransom No.
Justin Wheeler So he comes up to our table. He's like fully dressed like Rambo. He's got the bandana on and everything. Wow. And he comes behind me and he grabs my head, pulls it down, is about to pour shot in. And my daughter across from me, she's seven. She just freaks out and starts, like, bawling and crying. The whole restaurant, like, looks at us is so embarrassing. It was so funny.
Jarrett Ransom But did you take the shot?
Justin Wheeler I took the shot. I yeah. I had to take the shot.
Jarrett Ransom You got it.
Justin Wheeler And then you went up to her and gave her a lemon juice shot. It was it was so funny.
Jarrett Ransom Oh, that's great. To let her know, like it's safe. Daddy's fine.
Justin Wheeler Yeah. Not going to hurt him. Yeah, that's exactly right. Let's see some rapid fire questions as we wrap this up. There's no wrong or right answer. So, movies or series?
Jarrett Ransom Oh, series.
Justin Wheeler Are you actually watching or bingeing a series right now?
Jarrett Ransom I don't think I am, but, Shameless. That's a good one.
Justin Wheeler Shameless, okay.
Jarrett Ransom On Netflix.
Justin Wheeler Netflix.
Jarrett Ransom Yeah, it is. It's. It makes you feel really good about your life.
Justin Wheeler Nice! I can, I can use that. I can use that. I'm currently watching Severance. And it's really it's very dark. So maybe I need to...
Jarrett Ransom Would you recommend it?
Justin Wheeler Yes. It's like, it's an amazing show.
Jarrett Ransom Where would I find it?
Justin Wheeler I think it's HBO.
Jarrett Ransom Okay. Yeah. Severance.
Justin Wheeler Tacos or cheeseburgers?
Jarrett Ransom Tacos. hello, Cabo.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, there ya go. The beach or the mountains?
Jarrett Ransom Mountains.
Justin Wheeler Mountains, mountains, okay. You like the cold.
Jarrett Ransom You know, I just love nature. I love nature. I just bought a condo in Park City, Utah.
Justin Wheeler Oh, I was just there last week.
Jarrett Ransom Oh, my gosh. Well, next time let me host you. Yeah, so I'll be spending my summers there.
Justin Wheeler Oh, very cool. Very cool. We were there and it like snowed the last week we were there.
Jarrett Ransom It's snowing today or yesterday.
Justin Wheeler Oh, wow. Yeah, it was. It was a lot of fun. Ice cream a froyo?
Jarrett Ransom Ice cream.
Justin Wheeler Ice cream.
Justin Wheeler Rocky road.
Justin Wheeler Ugh, we're like the same. That is my favorite ice cream too. That's amazing. Football or fútbol?
Jarrett Ransom Ah, Fútbol? Yeah.
Justin Wheeler So Soccer?
Jarrett Ransom Always soccer. Yeah, I was a competitive soccer player, actually.
Justin Wheeler Oh, no way.
Jarrett Ransom Yeah, defense. Sweeper.
Justin Wheeler Nice. Alright, last one, Moana or Aladdin.
Jarrett Ransom Ohhh, Aladdin.
Justin Wheeler Aladdin, okay.
Jarrett Ransom Yeah, I like Aladdin. Especially the monkey.
Justin Wheeler Oh, what's his name again, Abu?
Jarrett Ransom Yeah. Good job. You do have kids.
Justin Wheeler Yeah. Oh, yeah. Four of them. Too many. No, just kidding
Jarrett Ransom Yeah, four too many.
Justin Wheeler Awesome. Well, Jarrett thank you so much for stopping by. This was fun, as always, and enjoy the rest of conference.
Jarrett Ransom Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Justin Wheeler Yep.
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