This is the third 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 three of our compilation series features Karen Houghton, Bret Heinrich, Shiree Skinner, and Mallory Erickson. Let's dive in! 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 three of our compilation series features: Karen Houghton, Bret Heinrich, Shiree Skinner, and Mallory Erickson. Let's dive in!
In this segment, Karen Houghton, CEO and founder of Infinite Giving, brings high-level investment planning to the nonprofit world. It's an exciting concept! Hear why nonprofits that want to fire back at inflation, take a long-game approach to program funding, or make stock donations attractive and easy need a tool designed for them.
Justin Wheeler Thank you so much for joining the podcast. How are you?
Karen Houghton Hey, I'm good. Thanks for having me.
Justin Wheeler So tell us about Infinite Giving.
Karen Houghton Infinite Giving is a automated investment platform. So we are the first robo advisor built specifically for nonprofits. We help you hedge against inflation, grow your assets, and create and manage endowments.
Justin Wheeler And what led you to to start the platform?
Karen Houghton Great question. I am a former life. I was an executive director and founder of a nonprofit. So I came from that. I understand scarcity mindset. I understand difficult board conversations. And I then had a later in life had a nine year career in tech startups. So advising tech startups, working with them and also got into venture capital. I also serve on three nonprofit boards, one for higher education. So I have this really unique blend of board experience, being an executive director, walking in those shoes, and then also with this tech in venture capital and finance background felt like infinite giving was this perfect blend of like what I was meant to build and how we could serve the people who needed it the most.
Justin Wheeler Was there a specific moment that you encountered a project, just a challenge with whether it's accepting stock donations or on the investing platform side that led you to wanting to start Infinite Giving?
Karen Houghton Yeah, I think a lot of it was like, what am I uniquely made in my experience to what problem is that to solve? And looking at the investment opportunities that nonprofits have is very traditional. Yeah, there's not a whole lot of opportunities that actually can decrease fees, that can make easy to understand and approachable, that allows them to create endowments. So it's just a very traditional industry and a lot of it is just ripe for disruption and an opportunity for us to leverage technology to really it's a very modern technology that allows them to really grow their giving.
Justin Wheeler Yeah. So I mean, I imagine there are some challenges in getting nonprofits to change sort of their perspective on what to do with idle money sitting in the bank. A lot of times organizations build up or try to build up, you know, a cushion for a rainy day and so forth aren't naturally inclined unless they're bigger to invest. [00:02:15]So talk to us a little bit about how Infinite Giving helps sort of bridge that divide and educates nonprofits around investment opportunities. [6.5s]
Karen Houghton [00:02:23]I think as most nonprofit leaders know, anything worth doing is hard. [3.1s]
Justin Wheeler [00:02:26]Yeah, that's true. [0.9s]
Karen Houghton [00:02:27]And so a lot of it is education. We spend a lot of time talking to people and offering them a lot of data, right? Data doesn't lie. And so when you're looking at inflation, for instance, right, right now we have 8.5% inflation. Is this a forever thing? Surely we all hope not, right. But even when you're looking at, you know, in a gray economy, the Fed's target inflation rate is 2%. Now, you look at a savings account, a money market, a CD, maybe 0.06%, 0.11%, right. And so what feels safe is an emotional decision that we're making. We're saying, all right, I'm going to put it away for a rainy day. It's in a savings account and I need it. But when an emergency happens and you actually go maybe three, four or five years down the road, and you need to access that savings, it is no longer worth the same amount of money that it was before because of inflation. So any things sitting in a money market savings account or a CD is actively losing value. And so we really wanted to democratize access to conservative portfolios, right. We leverage ETFs and index funds. And a lot of that is also based off the data that decades of academic research has proven that over 90% of active wealth advisors can not outperform index funds over a five year period. So that's where you've had this big rise of passive investing and robo advising. So when we talk about robo advising, that's using mathematical algorithms, right, it's using technology to help you create investment decisions. And it's existed for over a decade. You've got Wealthfront, you've got Betterment. You've got Schwab intelligent portfolios. So they exist. Merrill Lynch has one. Everyone's got one. It's only been available for retail customers. Like you and I personally could go invest. My husband and I have invested in Wealthfront for years. Great transparency, easy access to our funds, incredibly reduced fees. All those are wins for nonprofits. And so Infinite Giving is, is we're the first robo advisor that allows for entity investing. So we're bringing this technology that allows all of these great outcomes and helping nonprofits access those. [125.0s]
Justin Wheeler That's amazing. How has traction been so far? You mentioned about a year in the business. How how are nonprofits responding to the technology?
Karen Houghton Really well! And once they see our product, they want it. So a lot of it is understanding, a lot of it is education around fees. I will say that probably 95% of the nonprofits we speak to do not understand or know their investment fees. And when you're talking about significant money going to third party vendors, that they shouldn't have to spend. It becomes really significant, but they don't understand what's reasonable, right. So Common Fund Institute did a big survey where they said the average endowment that's $25 million is paying an average of 1.34% in fees. So the question is, is that reasonable? Is that not? I've talked to others who are paying upwards of 2%, two and a half percent. And so there's a lot of opportunities to decrease that by using technology. And that's what infinite giving provides. I literally did a RFP for an organization the other day and I was like, great, just on these fees, we're not even talking about asset growing. But just on these fees, we were going to save them close to $900,000 in third party fees over five years.
Justin Wheeler Wow.
Karen Houghton And yet they thought they had a great fee structure.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, that's amazing.
Karen Houghton Yeah. So it's when that money could be going to like your mission or your bottom line, like they're it's not wrong, because that's been what's available. Yeah, but now with Infinite Giving, you have different opportunities and you're able to put that money towards things that are more important.
Justin Wheeler Yeah. As part of your go to market, have you found that a lot of nonprofits already have an active, like, the ability to accept stock donations? I mean, you think about sort of like, you know, where where wealth is at, very few people actually have cash just sitting in the bank, right. Individuals, it's usually in the markets to some degree. Yet so little nonprofits actually have the capabilities of accepting non-cash donations. And so how has that been in going to market understanding sort of organizations capacity? Have you had to do a lot of educating there? Or have you found nonprofits have already been accepting stock donations, to an extent?
Karen Houghton Yeah. So as far as go to market, I mean, we're an investment platform, we are a registered investment advisor, so they still get, we're they're outsourcing their fiduciary. So we have technology, that's what we use, but we also have people if they need it. So you do get an investment advisor if you need them to join finance committee meetings or board meetings. I would say usually you kind of have to pass your you're a smaller nonprofit who is scared to invest or you don't meet the high minimums or you don't want to pay really high fees and you're in a savings account money market. And so that's where we're talking about hedging against inflation and educating that way. If they are currently investing, then often it's about understanding, fee structure, understanding, you know, what a diversified portfolio is and why you should not manage that money yourself, right in that board. So that's always the most affordable way is just go do it yourself. But then it's like, do you really want to have fiduciary responsibilities? And then from there with stocks like so once you're on our platform, you're able to use many. We have several different gifting tools which allows you to receive stocks for free, receive crypto for free, and then create and manage endowments. We even have a unique endowment gifting tool. So all that to say is, to your point, high. Well, donors carry the majority of their money not in cash. Yeah. And it's because they understand inflation and they know, hey, if I leave my money sitting in a savings account, I'm going to be actively losing value. So I'm going to put it into the market. Yeah. And it's the most tax efficient way to give. So when you're asking donors to give you cash, that means you're like, okay, I'm going to have to go sell these stocks, I'm going to pay long term capital gains on thosem, and then it's a lot of manual back and forth, and then they have to eventually, whatever they end up giving, the nonprofit has a smaller gift left, right. And so most nonprofits receive stocks or they know we can do that. Like you're like, oh, yeah, we can do that.
Justin Wheeler Download this PDF.
Karen Houghton You gotta call.
Karen Houghton Yeah, exactly.
Karen Houghton Yes. Everything, I'm like, oh, my gosh, yes. Can I download this, you know, ten page form and then wet ink, you can fax it or whatever. And then your guy has got to call my guy and then blah, blah, blah. And so what we've done is we've created a custom URL that makes it really easy. They have like four things to fill out. It's like, here, I'm going to gift you these hundred Apple shares. Here's what I want to do. And they can embedded into an email, into a button on their website. And then from there, once they fill that out, the nonprofit gets notified, says, Hey, Karen Houghton's going to give you your 100 Apple shares, get ready for it and keep an eye out on it. And then when we receive those shares, we liquidate them immediately and reinvest it into diversified portfolio. So the idea is right now, can most people, if they would like to figure out how to open a brokerage account? Yes, it takes weeks, it takes paper. It's really pain. We do a fully digital brokerage account opening in about 15 minutes for an entity account. And then from there with the stock gifting, we provide transparency. So you can go in and say, great, I didn't actually have to do anything is a nonprofit. Like I just was like, oh, I received it and I just get to say thank you. And then we're able to do that and that's how we're doing crypto as well is that you'll just be able to receive that and then we immediately turn it to Fiat Cash and then reinvest in diversified portfolio.
Justin Wheeler Got it. On the on the stock side, how big is the stock like giving market? Like, you know, how much annually is given through like stock donations? Is that, is that monitored?
Karen Houghton That's a good question. I know Russell James did a study that showed that if you start asking for cash gifts and stock gifts, you can grow your giving up to 55%.
Justin Wheeler Wow.
Karen Houghton Which I find extraordinarily high. And it's not like this magic, oh, if I do this and put this on my website, it's all going to come in. So it's still education, but it's certainly a increasingly popular conversation because it's been an untapped opportunity by most nonprofits. And when you're telling these high wealth donors like, hey, this is the most tax efficient way to give, you won't have to pay long term capital gains. Oh, by the way, we make it really easy for you. You don't have to call somebody and then they get a higher deduction off the gift and the nonprofit is able to receive that. It's really helpful and I think the gifts tend to be significantly higher on average as well than a cash gift.
Justin Wheeler I think I heard something like an average stock gift is like $6,000. Which is significantly more than cash.
Karen Houghton Yeah, cash gift is like $20 herr, $20 there. And so a lot of it is about intentionality, education and creating easy opportunities for those donors to connect with you.
Justin Wheeler So you're a year in. What is the next couple of years have in, what are you excited about whether on the technology side that you guys are building? Growth plans? What are you looking forward to over the next couple of years?
Karen Houghton Absolutely. We look forward to being the asset management and investment platform that all nonprofits use. So there's no one else out there doing what we're doing the way we're doing it. And it's it's what's best for the customer, which is the nonprofit. So it's able to reduce fees. Our dashboard is so intuitive, it's really easy to use. You have access to your money, you can have multi users log in and you can have different, you know, permissions. So, hey, you want to see that? Great. But you can't actually move money, right? So you can create those permissions. And it just allows a lot of accountability and transparency. And I personally would love to see is a rise in micro endowments, because I think that's, endowments are not for everybody, right. You gotta get out of that scarcity mindset. You've got to build your reserves. But the idea that endowments are only for higher education, I think small and mid-sized nonprofits are missing out on a huge opportunity. And that's an incredible opportunity also to build sustainability. And I think too many people don't understand endowments. Like it's not just restricted endowments anymore. Like we only do quasi endowments are unrestricted endowments. And the idea that an endowment is something that you can use to fund a scholarship, to fund a program, to fund salary increases. We're working with an independent school right now. And their endowment is literally so they can use that disbursement to give all of their teachers raises. And I'm like, that's so important. And yes, do you know how we can help you build a campaign around that? Like, there's a lot of like, easy ways to do that. And you're like, yes. People will still give to operations. A lot of it is about the story you tell.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, yeah.
Karen Houghton And what Higher Ed has shown us is that high wealth donors want to give endowments. Do you know how big Harvard's endowment is?
Justin Wheeler I'm. If I had to guess, I'm going to guess. Multi-billions.
Karen Houghton $53 billion.
Justin Wheeler Wow.
Karen Houghton Stanford's $33 billion dollars.
Justin Wheeler Wow.
Karen Houghton And God bless those schools. I'm happy for them. But like, I think most of us listening to this would be like, they're good. They don't anymore, you know? So it's like, how do we give other people the tools to be able to receive that? Because high wealth donors want to give endowments is the easiest story to tell. If you give ones that build sustainability and a legacy and gets passed generation to generation. And if it's unrestricted then and you're starting to look at long term goals, right? If you're not setting ten, 20 year goals, don't do an endowment. But if you are and you're like, Hey, no, we're going to be in existence, we are seeing this long term path. Then you have the opportunity to start asking for endowment gifts. And we have like a donor portal where they can log in and they see it named after them. And we have really subtle asks like would you like to add to your endowment? And we want to add stock and cash gifts into their endowment and they can invite people into that. So it's almost like you're crowdfunding this endowment. We have a little activity feed where it's like, Oh, you know, cousin so-and-so added to it or so-and-so. And so even though they're small, the idea is that every year they're excited and feel connected because usually if you give an endowment, like I've spoken with people here today, AFP Icon, that's like, hey, we get an endowment, we feel really disconnected or we don't, we don't know what to do with it. And I think that's a great opportunity for us to change the story we're telling and tap into more opportunity.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, that's amazing. So, setting that endowment aside real quick, because as you mentioned, it's not for every nonprofit. I think it's probably a good size capacity right thing. All the other services and products that you do offer for nonprofits listening like what, what's the bright profile or cash minimum requirement to get started with Infinite Giving.
Karen Houghton Yeah. Our minimum investment is $25,000 and then we serve customers up to 100 million essentially. So we right now I think our sweet spot is going to be in that between kind of one in. 50 million, which is a massive like difference. I think when you're getting over a hundred million, there's just some different challenges and different types of boards and they also often have the ability to diversify into real estate and different things, right? So we're looking at just simplifying ETFs, index funds, having fiduciary responsibilities and growing your asset giving in a way that's really approachable and easy to understand.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, that's awesome. Awesome. I have some rapid fire questions.
Karen Houghton Let's go. Let's do it.
Justin Wheeler There's no wrong or right answer..
Karen Houghton Wait, do I get to ask these questions back to you?
Justin Wheeler Sure, yeah. You're the first one to ask that, actually, but you're welcome to. All right. Movies are series.
Karen Houghton Series.
Justin Wheeler Which is your favorite series?
Karen Houghton Oh, gosh, it depends on the day you ask me.
Justin Wheeler What are you actively watching? What's in your queue now that you're the most interested in?
Karen Houghton I'm, like, panicking. I can't even tell you right now, because here's what happens is I go really deep and I watch it all, and then I'm like, great, done, next. And then I just can see, it's like how I read books. I read books like I watch movies where I'm like, great. I sit down, I read the whole book in like three days, and then I just have to like come up for air.
Justin Wheeler Okay.
Karen Houghton I love series. How about you?
Justin Wheeler I love series, too. I've been, I went, I binged all of the like, you know, the tech crashes.
Karen Houghton Absolutely.
Justin Wheeler So like wecrashed.
Karen Houghton Oh yeah.
Was super fascinating.
Karen Houghton Man, we crashed was so fascinating. That could be a whole podcast. Well, it is a podcast.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, it is. It's like everything now. But what's crazy is I'm blanking on the actor's name now that plays Adam. But if you see them side by side, it's crazy. Like how well he did. They actually nailed it. Yes, but yeah. And then also what's it called, Superpumped about the fall of Uber
Karen Houghton Haven't heard of that one.
Justin Wheeler Or Of Travis
Karen Houghton I haven't watched that one.
Justin Wheeler That one was pretty interesting too.
Karen Houghton I'm pretty sure that another one's gonna be made about Twitter right now.
Justin Wheeler Oh, yeah, for sure. Absolutely. Okay. Tacos or cheeseburgers?
Karen Houghton If it's a Tuesday, taco because it's taco Tuesdays. But any other day cheeseburger.
Justin Wheeler Okay. I'm cheeseburger.
Karen Houghton I have a six year old daughter, well, she's about to be six. She could eat cheeseburgers every single day of her life.
Justin Wheeler I have twins, six year old twins and that's what they ask for everyday.
Karen Houghton It's the best age.
Justin Wheeler Yeah.
Karen Houghton Cheeseburgers are great, too. It's the best age for cheeseburgers.
Justin Wheeler Okay, Beach or mountains?
Karen Houghton Beach. We're in Atlanta, so we live right on that 38 not far from, sorry. So it's like 5 hours. So we go to 38, like the panhandle of Florida a lot.
Justin Wheeler Okay. Yeah. And I mean, it's...
Karen Houghton And we have Blue Ridge Mountains north of us, like an hour and a half.
Justin Wheeler You have both. But yeah, like if you had to live somewhere for the rest of your life, I'm like, beach, nice weather. Not, not the ocean, I mean, not the mountains. Digital reading or an actual book?
Karen Houghton Actual book.
Justin Wheeler Hardcover or soft?
Karen Houghton Oh, good question. I love a good hardcover book, but I'm gonna... Yeah, hardcover. I would say the practicality. I always buy softcover because they're more affordable. I don't spend money on that.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, that makes sense. I'm also a...
Karen Houghton Hard covers look better on bookshelves.
Justin Wheeler Yes, they're more decorative. I also prefer actual versus digital.
Karen Houghton I'm on digital like, computer, phones, all of that. Someday at night I just want to...
Justin Wheeler And it doesn't feel like I'm reading a book when it's on digital.
Karen Houghton I need to be able to fold the little corner down.
Justin Wheeler Know the progress, see how much more you have to go to end the book. Yeah, it's important. Ice cream or froyo?
Karen Houghton Ice cream.
Justin Wheeler Ice cream, yeah.
Karen Houghton I feel passionately about that.
Everyone has said ice cream. I think Froyo is on its way out. I think it needs to go. It's had, it's had its moment. Yeah. Football or fútbol?
Karen Houghton Well, I'm from Georgia. So, absolutely go Bulldogs. National champs all the way.
Justin Wheeler So your football?
Karen Houghton Yeah. Yeah, football. How about you?
Justin Wheeler I, I'm not a sports person.
Karen Houghton Yeah, I married into it.
Justin Wheeler Yeah. So, like, I'm only, there's only sports on the TV, if a friend is over that, it's like interested in the game.Or it's like the playoffs.
Justin Wheeler That's a good friend. You're a good friend to do that.
Justin Wheeler Yes. The only reason why I have cable for my friends. Moana or Aladdin?
Karen Houghton Moana.
Justin Wheeler Or Encanto?
Karen Houghton Moana. I know.
Justin Wheeler It's too good.
Karen Houghton Yeah. Although I can sing a lot of the Aladdin. That's like what we grew up on, right?
Justin Wheeler Yeah, yeah.
Karen Houghton Moana for my daughter. Aladdin for me.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, there you go. Well, thank you for participating. Thanks for doing the podcast. I would love to do a deeper dive on just all things investing for nonprofits.
Karen Houghton Right? This could be such a big conversation.
Justin Wheeler Absolutely. So thanks for taking the time to bring us up to speed today.
Karen Houghton Thanks for having me.
Justin Wheeler Absolutely.
In this segment, Bret Heinrich, CEO of Wings of Hope and AFP board member, gives us some great examples of how necessity has resulted in innovative solutions. From the humble beginnings of Wings of Hope to the most recent pandemic hurdles and on to harnessing the power of technology, Wings of Hope has continued to increase care and impact where it's needed most.
Justin Wheeler All right. Well, Brett, thank you so much for joining us here. Nonstop Non Profit Podcast. How are you doing today?
Bret Heinrich Justin I'm doing great. It's so exciting to be back in person with the conference as a member of the AFP Global Board. We've been waiting for three years for this. We have nearly 3,000 fundraisers here this week.
Justin Wheeler What's how did you get involved with AFP? I mean, as a you're a nonprofit leader, which we're going to get into. Why did you decide to take on the responsibility and join the board at AFP?
Bret Heinrich AFP was really the best career decision I ever made as I started in nonprofit work. I was a program person and was asked to take over and develop a development department and I had no idea what I was doing. So AFP became my lifeline and I stayed involved all these years and it has really been the source of inspiration, of learning, of creativity and of successful fundraising for me.
Justin Wheeler In regards to the pandemic. So yes, it's been virtual for the last three years or is it just been postponed? How has it caused you as a as a board to really think through AFP moving forward? I mean.
Bret Heinrich Well, everybody's favorite COVID word, pivot. We happened to pivot quickly and literally the first year we went from in-person to virtual almost overnight when we were shut down and couldn't proceed. So we learned quickly how to use technology in a new way, how to make resources available to our constituents in a new way. But we couldn't replaces the fellowship you get at an event like this. So we're just so excited that people are back together.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, it's great. Great to be back. I love AFI and so thank you for all the hard work that you guys have done to to make this happen. You run a very interesting nonprofit and maybe for kind of kick start that conversation. Tell us a little bit about your nonprofit, what you guys do at a high level, and then we'll kind of dig into some of the interesting programs you guys are running.
Bret Heinrich Absolutely, Justin. So I'm the president and CEO of an organization based in Saint Louis, Missouri, called Wings of Hope. And we are a global humanitarian organization that uses airplanes to save and change lives. We fly in to some of the most remote locations around the world to provide humanitarian assistance, places as far flung as the Amazon rainforest, the plains of Tanzania. We also transport people in the United States that cannot access specialized care in their communities. So, for example, a child with severe clubfoot and there's no orthopedic surgeon for miles and miles, we'll transport that child and mom or dad as many times as it takes at no cost until the child is healed.
Justin Wheeler Wow. And what was the inspiration for did you start the nonprofit or what's like the founding? Kind of like the startup story of the organization.
Bret Heinrich I am so glad you asked. We have a great startup story. It began 60 years ago. There were Catholic Charities relief efforts going on in Kenya, and one of the relief efforts involved some of the world's first flying nuns. So the nuns were flying into this desert area of Kenya, providing relief, and they were flying a plane that had wooden wings with canvas stretched across the wings and the desert. Conditions were beating up on that plane pretty badly. So the canvas began to peel back from the edge of the planes. And at night, when the nuns would park their plane and go in for the evening with that glue exposed, the hyenas were really attracted to the taste of that glue, and they would come out at night and they were literally eating the nuns airplane. Wow. So our founders in Saint Louis heard about this and decided we can't let the hyenas continue to eat the nuns airplane. So they raised the money, purchased an aluminum aircraft and sent it to Kenya. That became the very first Wings of Hope aircraft. And so I say we owe our humble beginnings to the nuns and the hyenas.
Justin Wheeler Wow, that's great. That's a great start of story. I love it. You mentioned that when the pandemic hit, your organization had to rethink the way that it delivered the services and products that you were delivering around the world. Talk to us a little bit about the process to get to where you landed and then what was the actual outcome of the innovation that took place as a result of the pandemic?
Bret Heinrich Most definitely. Virtually all of our ten field bases were shut down during the early days of the pandemic, but people were still hurting. People still needed care that they couldn't access based on where they live. And that was particularly true in our work in Ecuador, where we work with a non-governmental organization called Alice de Socorro and Alice de Socorro and Wings of Hope were unable to fly into the rainforest to provide relief to the eight indigenous tribes we work with. Because bringing in COVID, of course, could have been devastating to those tribes. So it set us thinking about what can we do, what can we do to provide relief when we physically can't be in the rainforest? So next week I'm on my way to Ecuador with my team and we're setting up a drone program so we can deliver anti-venom, where we can deliver medicine and other lifesaving supplies when we can't physically be in the rainforest.
Justin Wheeler That's amazing. Yeah. Have you thought about, you know, as a as a former fundraiser myself, I think about, wow, this opportunity, you know, to to drop off goods using drones and, you know, thinking about like, how do you bring the donor into that experience? Have you thought about how the donor might be able to interact or see the impact for themselves using, you know, something like a drone, which you can obviously capture aerial view shots and so forth. Have you thought about how that might also impacts kind of your fundraising efforts moving forward?
Bret Heinrich Most definitely. In fact, going with us as a film crew to document this experience, and they will be with us for a week. We'll be spending the night in the rainforest to capture the full experience in the rainforest. And we're hopeful that this really turns into something that our donors can see and feel and hear and touch.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, absolutely. Also, you guys been nominated for two Nobel Peace Prize. Is is that is that correct?
Bret Heinrich Yes, sir.
Justin Wheeler So how does an organization like yours even get nominated in the first place? What's sort of what's the process to how you get actually nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize?
Bret Heinrich Well, first and foremost, we're so humbled to even be in that realm. It is such an honor to even be nominated, and it takes someone to become aware of the work you're doing. Our nomination, we believe, was based largely on our work throughout Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, to reduce infant mortality rates among the Masai that live in sub-Saharan Africa. And we were nominated. It's very secretive process. In fact, they don't release the name of the nominees nominated tours for 50 years.
Justin Wheeler Oh, wow.
Bret Heinrich And so we're happily nominated. We don't necessarily we think we know who nominated us, but we we're waiting a few more years, three.
Justin Wheeler More years to find out.
Bret Heinrich To find out.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, that's exciting. Well, congratulations on that. Thank you. That's definitely something to be very, very proud of. Yeah. So you guys are doing very important work helping people around the world. What's your motivation of why? Why did you get involved and step in as the CEO of the organization? I'd love to learn a little bit more about your your passion for the work that you guys are doing.
Bret Heinrich Justin, you know, my personal values and beliefs, my personal mission statement has always been to ensure every child has the opportunity to reach her or his full potential. And that's really what we're doing at Wings of Hope. We are ensuring that everyone has access to a better life. That's our vision. We want to make sure that no matter where you live in the world, you can have healthy babies, you can have your wounds taken care of. You can have the supplies that you need without any strings attached. We're not going to ask you to change your culture or beliefs just to continue to allow us to let you serve the basic needs that that you feel you need.
Justin Wheeler Got it.
Bret Heinrich So that's been my motivation. I am so pleased to be able to run an organization that shares in that motivation.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, that's amazing. Amazing. As you look to towards the future, what are you excited about? What's the potential that you see as the organization kind of continues to iterate on its innovation and continues to help more and more people? What are you excited about as you look forward in the near future?
Bret Heinrich You know, again, with COVID, it taught the world to think differently. And we're seeing a proliferation of telehealth here in the United States, and that's something we're interested in taking into remote communities. I flew in with our our good friend in Zambia, who's the country's only reconstructive surgeon for an entire country. And we spent half of our day triaging patients because that was what we had to do. And there was really no clear path for him to monitor his patients from a remote location. So we're working with just some terrific people to make this happen, where we can set up a telehealth link that will allow us to triage patients before we arrive to follow up with them afterwards. That and ultimately, I, I see an opportunity for Wings of Hope and in the entire global humanitarian ecosystem to engage volunteers broadly. Wings of Hope has 350 amazing volunteers, including our young ambassadors that are expanding now from Saint Louis to Atlanta. And eventually I see a global movement of people around the world supporting efforts like Wings of.
Justin Wheeler Got it. Yeah. And then the last question here for you is, what's what would you say, Wings of Hope, greatest challenges today. What's maybe holding it back from scaling or growing or helping more people? What keeps you up at night as as a leader or thinking about the challenges that you're trying to overcome to continue pushing the organization forward?
Bret Heinrich You know, I think like a lot of nonprofit organizations, it's matching the organization's strengths with its capacity. We are poised to do really exciting things. Our team is so great and we have so many great partners in our global humanitarian network. But we have to stay focused on on a plan that allows us to expand in a very responsible way. So while we want it all today, we know it may be until tomorrow before we get it all there.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, absolutely. All right. So as we close here, when I ask some rapid fire questions, favorite movie or series?
Bret Heinrich Favorite movie. Rocky.
Justin Wheeler Rocky. That's a good one. Tacos or cheeseburgers?
Bret Heinrich Tacos.
Justin Wheeler Beach or the mountains?
Bret Heinrich Mountains.
Justin Wheeler Digital reading or an actual book.
Bret Heinrich Actual book all the way.
Justin Wheeler I feel you on that one, too. Ice cream or froyo?
Bret Heinrich Ice cream?
Justin Wheeler Oh, yeah. We're like the same person here so far. Football or football?
Bret Heinrich Football. Chicago Bears style.
Justin Wheeler There you go. Oh, Mona or Aladdin.
Bret Heinrich Oh, my goodness. I'm old school, so I'll go with Aladdin.
Justin Wheeler Aladdin? The lady can't go there. Yeah, that's what I said. All right. Thank you so much for participating. Loved it. Love to have you on the podcast and look forward to bring you back on. Talk more about your amazing programs.
Bret Heinrich Thank you, Justin. A real honor. Thank you so much.
Justin Wheeler Absolutely.
Bret Heinrich Yep.
In this segment, Shiree Skinner, Director of Development and Communication at New Futures, AFP presenter, and idealist, reminds us that nonprofiteers are the best people in the world. From pride in our work to tackling new challenges to progress on our long journey to equity, it's easy to forget that nonprofits are literally making the world a better place.
Justin Wheeler Shiree, thank you so much for joining the Nonstop Nonprofit Podcast. I heard you're a rock star at podcasts.
Shiree Skinner This is my first one. I'm going to be a rock star.
Justin Wheeler There you go. There you go. How is how is AFP been so far?
Shiree Skinner It's been great. I love being around my colleagues. You know, we're in a very unique profession and it's part of coping to come together.
Justin Wheeler Yeah. Yeah.
Shiree Skinner You learn a lot, too. You know, the session that I had today, we make sure that it's very interactive because we, we learn from each other. Not just from listening to, you know, the present or being a presenter. So I love coming to AFP.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, it's great. It's great to be back in person. Yes. Like you said and it's, you know, the energy, the momentum. I love. I love that. And so yes, definitely glad to be back in person. You've been a fundraiser for a while.
Shiree Skinner A long time! Guess how how many years?
Justin Wheeler Twelve.
Shiree Skinner Haha! 31.
Justin Wheeler 31 years. How has the industry changed over 31 years?
Shiree Skinner Well, it's definitely changed in what funders want to know about your organizations. I think when I first started, you know, I started at a police athletic league. Are you familiar with them?
Justin Wheeler Police athletic league?
Shiree Skinner So kind of like an after school summertime youth development organization. And back then we could just say, oh, we're going to serve a thousand kids this year, give us the money. And just because we had the numbers and we were in certain neighborhoods, you know, we didn't have to provide a lot of data. There wasn't a lot of say before and after. So that has changed quite a bit now. Definitely more data and metrics driven. And even your individual donors want to know exactly what is your impact and how are you measuring that? Hmm. So it's changed quite a bit.
Justin Wheeler Yeah. But I mean, obviously you've been around for the ride and you're enjoying it.
Shiree Skinner Absolutely.
Justin Wheeler Do you see yourself for the next 31 years being a fundraiser?
Shiree Skinner I can't imagine not being a fundraiser. You meet the best people! I think philanthropists, you know, I'm an idealist. I think you have to be an idealist to work in the the nonprofit sector. And so it's like I really feel like I want to change the world and I want to help other people change the world. And I think we all have a role to play, whether that be somebody who's volunteering or somebody that's riding ginormous, enormous check or whatever, however you want to say it. Or, you know, a person like me who's on staff, and the program delivery people, right? All those things have to come together, so, yeah.
Justin Wheeler What's one of your proudest moments as a fundraiser?
Shiree Skinner Wow. I've had a lot of them recently. I managed a 30th anniversary event for an after school organization in D.C., and they had never hosted a fundraising event of that scale before. I remember when I said, we have to raise more than $100,000 and we have to do, you know, X, Y and Z. And really, they kind of looked at me like it was an impossible task, and yet it came together. We exceeded all the goals that were set. And we had this amazing event for this, you know, hyper local organization in D.C. And our founder was there, and we had a journalist who served as our master of ceremonies, and it was just so awesome. I don't know if you know the name Bruce Johnson, but Bruce Johnson is from wUSA9. And it was just an enormous event. It was it was a huge milestone for the organization. And the fact that we were able to celebrate it the way that we did was really fantastic.
Justin Wheeler That's awesome. Congratulations.
Shiree Skinner Yeah, very exciting. And I exceeded all my fundraising goals.
Justin Wheeler There you go!
Shiree Skinner So, that's always good. Yeah, I left that organization. I'm starting with a new organization, but I left there. I went out with a bang.
Justin Wheeler You went out with a bang! So, you know, I used to, I was a fundraiser for 12 years. And for me, like, the the hardest thing about fundraising was January 1st, right. It feels like everything just, like, started over. Like all everything you had accomplished in that year. Like, it's almost like the clock sets it back to zero.
Shiree Skinner Yes.
Justin Wheeler Do you deal with that at all or have you found ways around?
Shiree Skinner Well, I think it's it's one of those never ending cycles, right. But I always think that the beginning of a new year is an opportunity to set a new goal and accomplish it. So often times like how many things can you work on at once? So for an example, like if you want to start a major donor society, for example, like you could spend, that could be your focus for one year, you get it done and then the next year maybe you're working on the legacy society. Or you're working on that event or something else. So I think, you know, the start of a new year is, is an opportunity to, to add something. To your development portfolio.
Justin Wheeler I think that that's a good perspective.
Shiree Skinner Yeah, yeah
Justin Wheeler So you're here at AFP. You spoke this morning or this afternoon.
Shiree Skinner This afternoon, yeah.
Justin Wheeler The topic was What it's Like to Be a Black Fundraiser In a Mostly White Philanthropic Environment.
Shiree Skinner That's close. That's really close. Yep. Okay. In essence, what it was about.
Justin Wheeler What it's about. So yeah, dig to help me understand what is it like, how, what are the challenges that you face in this environment? And I have another question, but I'll I'll pause.
Shiree Skinner Well, I think, one, that statistics are staggering how much of a minority we are in the nonprofit sector and especially in leadership positions. So 87% of nonprofit CEOs in the United States, 87% are white. So what does that mean? Only 13% are black, right? Or other race.
Justin Wheeler Other yeah.
Shiree Skinner Right. So then we look at board chairs. 83% of board chairs in nonprofit organizations are white. I mean, the numbers are staggering. So I think for us, that means that we are, we are walking into the room, one, we got an interview with people that don't look like us, who don't know the challenges that we come with. We're working with philanthropists that don't look like us. And sometimes it's, you have a feeling that you should not be your authentic self, right? That maybe you should pretend to be something else or try to be more like the person that you're talking to. And so having very candid conversations about preconceived notions about the environments that we work in, I know for me, I bring my past to my to my work, my philanthropic work. And it's one of the things that motivates me to help level the playing field for underserved, underrepresented populations. And so you can either make that, you know, the passion and your drive or you can kind of get caught up in it and not have the best career experience, not be as successful a fundraiser as you possibly could be. Because it's a weight. It's a heavy weight that you carry with, you carry it with you every day.
Justin Wheeler Right. You mentioned in your session it's interactive. And yeah, you're looking around here, it's mostly white people. So how what's what was the interaction that individuals were a part of? I'd love to hear about that. And how do people respond?
Shiree Skinner Yeah. So, you know what's interesting is that AFP does an annual study, their I.D.E.A. Study every year on race and nonprofits and all of that. And and it's it's coming from the association and they have found that 90% of their members are white. So but we're here like we're out here. But for some reason, a lot of black fund raisers are not coming into AFP. I think that's often because they don't see themselves in the chapter at all. Or they could be barriers, you know, sometimes we are working for small organizations that won't pay the membership fee, etc., etc.. Yeah, so you're asking about the session, We wanted this session to be very diverse, but we knew that because of that topic we're going to be a lot of people of color in the audience. And there were and one of our white attendees stood up and said, you know, it's great to see all these people of color, but really this session is for people like me, for the white guy, you know. And there were a few people that raised their hand and said, whoa, whoa, whoa, I'm white. But it was like six people.
Justin Wheeler Yeah.
Shiree Skinner So I think the lesson for us, we make it very interactive because we provide time for people to turn and talk to each other on some of the discussion topics. We allow people to stand up, come up to a microphone and bring up a topic that they're wrestling with based on what we've presented. So very, very interactive. I mean, to the point where we had to sort of shut it down from from all the questions and everything.
Justin Wheeler Yeah.
Shiree Skinner But I think what we want to accomplish is to tell people that you can have these candid kind of conversations and there's ways to have them. We're going to help them articulate their experience so that they can explain it to other people. Explain it to their CEO executive director, say why maybe they don't feel supported in their role and then explain how they could feel supported. But we have to give them the language and the tools to be able to do that. And so providing the framework to say this is what it looks like for me. I'm walking into a space that's mostly white. I want to be authentic, but maybe I'm afraid to be so. You know, if your organization CEO is not supporting you and being authentic and maybe they're diminishing you in front of donors, then it's going to be hard for you to be successful.
Justin Wheeler Yeah.
Shiree Skinner But you can work with someone if they're not quite understanding what is going on. So that's what we're trying to trying to help people do.
Justin Wheeler Got it. You know, [00:10:32]I hear a lot of organizations who are predominantly white. You know, when when they talk about how they're trying to diversify, like the team, you know, kind of justify it by saying, hey, we opened up our recruiting and no one applied, right. Which I think is bullshit reason. But what's your perspective to those people that people that say it that like obviously, I mean, I have some thoughts too, but I'd love to hear your perspective because I hear that often and I'm I feel like it's 2022, like this shouldn't really be the thought process today. [32.5s]
Shiree Skinner [00:11:05]Well, I think a lot of times in the nonprofit sector, because we are lean organizations where we're unlike corporate America that can just throw money at problems, you know, but where we are posting openings is, is probably the first....[15.8s]
Justin Wheeler [00:11:22]First place. [0.2s]
Shiree Skinner [00:11:22]Issue, right? And a lot of times we use our networks. So if you're white, what's your network? Is your network mostly white? But I'm a person of color. Is my network mostly white? No, it is not. So I think sort of getting out of whatever your sphere is or your bubble and increasing how positions are posted, seeking out different kinds of networks to post positions. I think, you know, our chapters are really good resources in that regard. I'm with the D.C. chapter. We have a black affinity group with the DC chapter and there are other affinity groups too that you can, you know, get to maneuver to within, within different chapters. So, so that's one of the things I would definitely suggest in making an intentional effort to reach out to candidates of color, minority candidates, whatever that definition is. But it can't, you can't do it the same way you've always done it and then expect a different result. [62.2s]
Justin Wheeler [00:12:25]Right. Yeah, totally. Do you have hope that our industry will get better at this or. [5.2s]
Shiree Skinner [00:12:31]Oh, it definitely will. I mean, like I said from the beginning, we're the ideal is right. We're the do gooders and the communities that we're helping are, I think, pushing us. One, you know, you've heard this expression, community centric fundraising, right? So our communities are pushing us to work differently. And that, I think in turn is going to ripple out and and have us really look at ourselves, look at the industry and look at how we're doing some of these things, like you said, like recruiting and whatnot. [28.9s]
Justin Wheeler I think also like democratizing the purse stringsm, right? I mean, if you think about at the grantmaking level, the way that decisions are being made on funding is often boardroom decision, not people on the ground on the front lines. You know who would have a much better say on how funds should be disbursed and where it should go? In your experience, have you seen sort of like even a lack of diversity in funding because of how it's controlled?
Shiree Skinner You know, I really haven't seen that in my experience, you know, and I've worked with all different kinds of funding organizations from companies to, you know, medium sized foundations or family foundations. I think it's the onus is somewhat on us as a fundraiser to make the connection why the organization is worthwhile. And that may mean that we are sending information to a funder for a couple of years before they actually fund us, that we are initiating some conversations with them. A lot of information, public foundations, there's a lot of information out there that you can find out about them, what their portfolio looks like. And so I think we have to have those you know, they could even be awkward conversations to say, you know, we've looked at your portfolio, we think we'd be a good fit for your portfolio. And here's why. And then to continue having those conversations with the funder or the program director or whoever that is. So I think some of the onus is on us. I do think, you know, all of us in the sector need to, you know, sort of look in the mirror and take a close examination of who we are, a realistic, you know, view of who we are and how we're operating. Some organizations are doing a better job at that than others. And I don't know that we'll ever eliminate, you know, implicit biases completely, but we can move the needle, I think. Yeah.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, and I mean, having, like, open conversations in the workplace about it. It's not enough, but it's a starting point, right?
Shiree Skinner Right. Exactly.
Justin Wheeler You know, bring to the table what's happening and. Yes, what's important to discuss and to work towards.
Shiree Skinner I agree with that. And that's one of the things that we said a lot today, that, you know, this is a way to put some of this stuff on the table. Yeah. And a lot of times, I think as a as a black fund raiser, like you go through these cycles and you don't even understand where you are in the cycle. But we provided like today, we provided language for people to articulate this is, this here's some scenarios and here's one that I've been a part of. Being a token, being a token person. So an organization identifies that we've got an issue with the lack of diversity. Let's hire a person of color, but then the person of color comes in, they're unsupported, the expectations are unrealistic. You know, they're supposed to, like, solve world hunger on their own or something, you know, so there's frustrations and then they wind up leaving and then the cycle kind of starts all over.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, right. We were, we were, actually I was talking about this with Kishshana a little bit yesterday. She talked about how a lot of times people of color, when they're given the CEO position, it's often in times of crisis, right. Or there's no funding or, you know, and so then, like, you look back and through and it was, it's yeah, it's insane that you're...
Shiree Skinner Almost set up to fail.
Justin Wheeler You're set up to fail, exactly. Yeah. 13%, that's hard to wrap my head around of and to remain optimistic but I guess we got to take it one day at a time.
Shiree Skinner Yes.
Justin Wheeler Yeah. I have some rapid fire questions for you.
Shiree Skinner Okay. Uh oh.
Justin Wheeler Are ready?
Shiree Skinner I don't know if I'm ready, but I'm going to try to be ready.
Justin Wheeler All right. So there's no wrong or right answer.
Shiree Skinner All right. All right.
Justin Wheeler So don't worry about it. Are you a movies or series person?
Shiree Skinner Movies.
Justin Wheeler Movies. What's your favorite movie?
Shiree Skinner Forrest Gump.
Justin Wheeler Oh, that's a great movie. That's a great movie. I love that movie.
Justin Wheeler And the other one, this is crazy. I don't know how these two things go together, but I really like Aliens. You know the Alien series with Sigourney Weaver, but the second one, not the first one but the second.
Justin Wheeler Usually the first one is better.
Shiree Skinner With the Marines! But the Marines. Yeah, okay. I really like that one.
Justin Wheeler Tacos are cheeseburgers?
Shiree Skinner Tacos, yeah.
Justin Wheeler Steak, chicken, shrimp?
Shiree Skinner Shrimp. Yeah, I don't eat meat like that.
Justin Wheeler I was talking to, are you are you vegetarian?
Shiree Skinner Pescatarian, yes!
Justin Wheeler I was talking to pescatarian yesterday and they're like, I can't do anything with a head on it still.
Shiree Skinner All right, see!
Justin Wheeler Yeah. Digital reading or an actual book?
Shiree Skinner Book. Gotta turn those pages.
Justin Wheeler Hardcover or softcover?
Shiree Skinner Either is fine. Hardcovers stay home though mostly.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, they're more decorative, right?
Shiree Skinner You don't carry the, oh she's carrying a hardcover. That's great. I love it. She just bought that in the bookstore, right? The AFP bookstore. Check it out, everybody!
Justin Wheeler Ice cream or froyo?
Shiree Skinner Ice cream.
Justin Wheeler Everyone has said ice cream. I think froyo is definitely going out now.
Shiree Skinner Because, you know, first of all, I think the frozen yogurt thing is like save some calories or something, but then you want to put in the cookies and the fudge on top of it anyway.
Justin Wheeler And it just ends up right there.
Shiree Skinner Justthe damn ice cream, you know?
Shiree Skinner Football or fútbol?
Shiree Skinner Oh, football. Yeah.
Justin Wheeler All right.
Shiree Skinner American football. Jets, J E T S! Jets, Jets, Jets! Gotta get that in, okay.
Justin Wheeler I think Andrew's the Jets fan, right? No, no, no. Oh, Eagles, that's right. Moana or Aladdin? Who?
Shiree Skinner Aladdin.
Justin Wheeler Okay. Yeah.
Shiree Skinner Yeah. I like the gimme the wish thing.
Justin Wheeler The genie in a bottle.
Shiree Skinner Yeah, I like that idea. And Will Smith, he played a great, I know he's in trouble now, but he played a great Aladdin though. For real though, he did, yeah.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, yeah. So that was my follow up question, the original which he gets very upset when I ask or the live...
Shiree Skinner I like the Will Smith version.
Justin Wheeler Yeah me too.
Shiree Skinner I did, I liked it.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, I liked it better too. Awesome. Well, thank you.
Shiree Skinner He's in trouble. Not me. I didn't do nothing.
Justin Wheeler Well, thank you so much for joining the podcast. really appreciate it.
Justin Wheeler Thanks Justin. Thanks for having me today.
Justin Wheeler Absolutely. Thank you.
Justin Wheeler Good luck with everything.
In this segment, Mallory Erickson, executive coach, consultant, and AFP presenter, dives into what it means to be a nonprofit not just in the 21st century, but in a pandemic-affected, increasingly digital, relationship-as-a-gold-standard online world
Justin Wheeler Mallory, thank you so much for joining the podcast.
Mallory Erickson Oh, thanks for having me.
Justin Wheeler How has AFP been so far?
Mallory Erickson It's been awesome. It's been so fun to see people in person and just the energy in the room. It's clear everyone's really grateful to be back together.
Justin Wheeler This isn't your first in-person conference, is it?
Mallory Erickson Other than AFP Lead, it's my second. Yeah. So pretty fresh.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, yeah, it's, we were talking earlier. It feels kinda like post 2020 almost. Or sorry, Pre 2020 where like, you know, a lot of people feel a lot more comfortable to be around humans again.
Mallory Erickson Yeah, yeah. It's really nice.
Justin Wheeler It's a nice feeling. We're gonna talk about fundraising. If you could tell your younger self something that you know now as a more mature fundraiser or something that you could do differently as you're just getting started, what would, what would that be? We have a lot of fundraisers listening. And so what would you, what would you say? What advice would you give to them?
Mallory Erickson Yeah, I mean, I think there's so many things because I was a fundraiser who hated fundraising for a very long time and felt super uncomfortable. I think the number one thing I would tell myself is that I'm not bothering people when I'm giving them invitations to be involved in our organization. Like, I think we have this narrative that we're bothering our donors all the time and they'll give a gift and we don't want to bother them by letting them know about a volunteer opportunity. We don't want to bother them by inviting them to this other thing that they might be interested. And we sort of have this narrative that they've given when they didn't really want to, or somehow they were kind of tricked into it. But like all the data shows that retention really increases when people have an opportunity to do something personal. In addition to giving the gift or having that sort of peak moment with an organization close to a gift is incredibly impactful that our donors actually really want to hear from us. And we're giving them a tremendous sense of identity in themselves when we continue to make those offerings and those invitations. I think as a young fundraiser, I just really felt insecure about that. Like I was taking up space where the other person didn't necessarily want that relationship with me. And I would tell myself now that they really do and they're really grateful for the opportunity to express themselves through giving.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, and I couldn't agree with that more. I think donors, I mean, from my experience as well, I think are much more excited to actually engage and get involved and be invited to things to feel connected to, like the actual mission of the organization. It makes giving way easier. I mean, of course they're going to give like, that's like that's understood. But inviting them into the experience of what it's like to, you know, to be at the organization and connected to the impact and that that goes a long way. And I think a lot of times as fundraisers we can, we get inside our heads and we think that the donor just wants to write the check and kind of be passive, where in reality most people want to actually be involved because it's satisfying to be close to that.
Mallory Erickson Yeah.
Justin Wheeler So you work with a lot of non-profits and as we kind of get almost, crazy halfway through 2022, where is this year? Geesh, that's crazy. But you know, [00:03:09]I think like one of the we've we've talked about this before, but one of the like I think positive aspects of the pandemic was it forced nonprofits to really adopt and become more tech savvy and to really accelerate their sort of, the way that they operate as organizations. How are you seeing in mid 2022, how are you seeing sort of like those learnings? Are they sticking with nonprofits? Are nonprofits going back to their old ways? What are you seeing with, within your clients that, I'd be interested in that? [29.6s]
Mallory Erickson [00:03:39]Yeah, you know, it's interesting. I feel like at the beginning I'd be curious like what you guys saw in this area too. But I feel like at the beginning, right when COVID hit, we saw this like paralysis for a bit, right? And then we saw this sort of differentiation, like nonprofits taking action, finding quick, tech solutions, pivoting fast, and other nonprofits that stayed paralyzed. And a lot of those nonprofits didn't sort of make it through. And I feel like we're seeing a little bit of a similar pattern right now where some organizations are getting sort of stuck in that, like, okay, what is the new future look like? And kind of overanalyzing like what's the perfect way to fuze virtual events or hybrid events or in-person events? And then we're seeing others that are like, you know what? We still don't know exactly what this looks like, but we saw all this strength in having a bigger digital footprint or an easier way of giving online. So what if we test it? What if we ab test it? What if we play with this? What if we try this? And I feel like that piece around just recognizing that it's an ever shifting landscape. Someone said this quote yesterday that I cannot remember perfectly, but it was something like, you know, there is no back to before, right? Like the goal of any growth is not to go back to the way things were. And so I think it's about how do we think about everything that's changed, everything we've learned. Everything we've done better, and now we just have opportunities to integrate that into being more in person. And so the folks who work with me are definitely sticking to their tech tools and continuing to integrate those and then just seeing new opportunities everywhere. [94.6s]
Justin Wheeler [00:05:14]That's good. That's good to hear. [0.6s] Yeah, I've been thinking a lot about like when retail got disrupted with e-commerce, right? Like brick and mortar retail, it was such a like night and day shift. And you look at fundraising in the nonprofit space and still only like 10%, 12% is online and the rest is is offline, like, you know, the equivalent of brick and mortar. What are your thoughts on sort of like how far will it go with with it nonprofits like how much of digital will be like the pi of fundraising? Like have we hit sort of like, you know, that the capacity like the threshold or do you think there's still a lot of room left to go?
Mallory Erickson Yeah, tons. I mean, I think also when you like at least organizations that I work with, the folks who are writing checks tend to be older generations of donors. Right. And so I think as like digital adoption takes a bigger role in all of our lives and the donor population continues to grow as younger and younger people become donors. And, you know, I think I think there's so much room for growth. I think what's interesting and what, you know, the data doesn't always seem to capture is that I feel like there are also so many new ways of expressing generosity. Like I've been really fascinated with what's been happening since the Ukraine crisis started and just people expressing generosity by buying digital art on Etsy or giving through Airbnb.org and I feel like that tells us so much about the digital appetite for donors, but also that nonprofits haven't always done the best job making, direct, giving, easy, or celebrating the small dollar donor or, you know, things like that that those types of avenues like do give the opportunity for. So for me, there's like something really like special and possible if we can sort of capture both of those pieces.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, absolutely. Within, within your clients, are you seeing any trends that you're like, oh, I didn't realize this was happening or like anything that's interesting from the cohort of customer or nonprofits that, that you work with or like I want to like double click on that, that's an interesting sort of trend or anything. And it's kind of like maybe a hard question to answer.
Mallory Erickson But I mean, I feel like I'm just continually inspired by the way folks are building partnerships. Like I think that the growth that my folks have seen, particularly with like corporate partnerships, I think even over the last two years has been tremendous. And just people getting really creative and thinking about giving like integrated into so many other elements of what they do, whether it is like online shopping. Like for me, I'm like, okay, you're right about that revolution in like e-commerce, right? So what that I think has massive implications for us too, because I think people are much more likely to add a dollar at checkout than to click the little box on the on the credit card swipe thing, right. So what does that mean? So I think the thing that surprises me in a really good way is the creativity of that partners have been coming to the table with and and just watching that blossom.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, that's yeah. Interesting. One of the things that, like I've, I've been seeing is actually like more competition between nonprofit and for profit, like social good with social good mission or, you know, CSR component. And seeing that not just the competition between like the nonprofit and the corporation but actually like the consumer or that the donor. Is that a good thing? Is that a bad thing? Like what are your thoughts around sort of that?
Mallory Erickson Oh, okay. Well, I love that you brought it up. I think it has the potential to really shake up the sector in a positive way if we listen to its teachings, right? Like I think I was just talking to someone who graduated college like on our own 12 years after me and sort of she was talking about, you know, deciding where she wanted to go with her career in a way that she can make a positive impact in the world. And I was sort of saying when I graduated college, I felt like it was like, if you want to do good, like you go into nonprofit and that is just not true anymore, right. There are so many ways to make a positive impact. I think it means that there's more competition in the job market. I think that it means that as nonprofits, like nonprofits need to get savvier and like have the opportunity to rise to the occasion to be sort of competitive with applicants and putting. I think that's also sort of begs the question for like if you are competing for a for profit that has a really beautiful digital footprint and makes it super easy for people to get involved and express their identity through generosity, and that way nonprofits have to show up for that, too. And so what does that look like? So I think it's a little bit scary because we haven't always seen nonprofits adapt and adapt quickly. But I think if we can really. Like, listen to what this is teaching us. There's tremendous opportunity.
Justin Wheeler Absolutely. And I'd like to see I'd like to see nonprofits kind of take the posture of, for example, like, for example, second time Elon Musk has come up today, but we'll go with it more so. Like if you think about like how Tesla has basically pushed all mainstream automobile companies to go electric by everyone saying 2030, right. And you look at like, how did like a company disrupt an entire industry so fast? It's been like a decade, maybe a decade. That's like as like a nonprofit leader. The question I'd be asking myself is how do we disrupt problem X, Y and Z that we're trying to solve as quickly and as as as quickly as possible? And I think that's that's where I think, like, it doesn't have to be competitive. And in regards to like someone cares about climate change, do you buy it's already donated to like your favorite charity work on the issue think more so it's like the frame of mind of of getting to scale and and making an actual dent on the problem that you're trying to solve.
Mallory Erickson Yes. Yes. I was just reading a statistic that, like the average donor gives to like 5 to 7 organizations. And I think that's interesting sort of in line with what you're saying, like what came up for me when I saw that was, okay. So what this tells me is that like donors, like if giving builds pieces of identity about our identity, we're complex people, right? We're not going to do one thing. We're not going to go to one organization like because we want to express who we are in a lot of different ways. And so that's right. Like it's not competitive, but it's like how can organizations make it really clear that like being a part of their work is like that? People want to say like, yeah, people like me do things like this, like that Seth Godin quote, you know? And so that's just about our creativity and connection. And I think not one of the things I think nonprofits fall into a lot is try to be everything for everyone. And when we've seen these like revolutionary brands disrupting spaces, that's not what they've tried to do. They've been really clear about who they're for and they've trusted that people are going to start to be that person. I want to be that person and I'd I'd like to see more of that in our sector.
Justin Wheeler Interesting. Yeah. And I think that that pushes nonprofits to have to get more personal, like personalize their message, their branding, who they are as an organization, right. I think that's a that's a great point. And I think that's that's such an important aspect of being a nonprofit in the 21st century, is to be able to relate with with your donors in that way. What are you the most excited about with for six months? Six and a half years, I guess seven months, really? Seven months left in the year. What are you tackling? What's a challenge that you're excited to be addressing? Like what's something that you're really hoping to just nail in 2022?
Mallory Erickson Yeah. Well, you know, one of the things I'm thinking a lot about for nonprofits is I interviewed this woman on the podcast who's a motivational scientist, and she talks about this idea in motivational science of the middle problem. So like how we get really motivated at the beginning of any challenge and then we're very motivated at the end, but motivation wanes significantly in the middle. And she has some strategies for, you know, how to do that kind of on an inner individual level, right, when we're trying to start a habit or something like that. But I've been thinking a lot about how I feel like the middle problem is stewardship like. And so I'm starting to like just sort of explore and unpack what that means about how we think about tracking and metrics and fundraiser enablement and behavior and celebration. Like I think about how many organizations just celebrate or even track the money coming in and like, what if we could shift and be tracking fundraiser behavior in all the ways that really matter? Because I think fundraising is so much more than just the moment the money moves into the organization, but sometimes we really, like, compartmentalize it and then we're missing opportunities.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, you know, it's this might be a little bit controversial, but maybe not. This is this is actually why is such a big problem with like move management because you're you're like taking a human being from like one point to a transaction, right? Like ideally like very simplified version. Like that's what moves me as it is, is trying to get a transaction out of somebody. And if you think about, I mean, that's just that's like not how you build a relationship, right? It's not how you steward an individual. So it's interesting, like I've been thinking that's been on my mind of like because it comes up and specifically with like product, right? It's like, yeah, what we're finding is we're going to build like move moves management like own it. And in my head I'm like, I never want to build it because I actually hate the practice. And I think it's it's not the best way to actually steward donors. It's it's a way to, you know, track like where someone's maybe at in like the lifecycle of of giving. But it's not the way you actually steward a donor and build a relationship.
Mallory Erickson I could not agree more. And I think it's a very like two dimensional look at everything, right? It's like we just don't know how else to track fundraiser behavior. We don't. It's like our best, but it's totally new. Mediocre standard of like evaluating how we're doing these things because we don't have another way to say where we're at and we're not comfortable saying we don't know where we're at. But the reality is, even in a movies management system, we don't know where we're at. Yeah. And so I just wish we were a little bit more honest about that and like let the nuance live there and say, like, these are human beings and these are human relationships. And how do we celebrate the actions for fundraisers that we know to be the most impactful, be successful, you know, bringing in money in the future, but also that really, like honors the relationship in the mean time.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, absolutely. All right. So going to some rapid fire questions. Okay. There's no there's no wrong or right answer. Okay. So this is just whatever whenever you want. Favorite movie or series?
Mallory Erickson Ooh, The Usual Suspects is my favorite movie of all time.
Justin Wheeler Okay, I like that. Tacos or cheeseburgers?
Mallory Erickson Oh, taco because I'm vegetarian.
Justin Wheeler Oh, interesting. I don't know that. How long we've been vegetarian for.
Mallory Erickson Since I was 11.
Justin Wheeler Since you were 11?
Mallory Erickson Yeah. I eat fish now. I started eating fish a few years ago, but I stopped eating all meat when I was 11. And then just a few years ago.
Justin Wheeler Was like when you had, when you had fish for the first time, was it like a weird like was the texture weird or was it like what you remembered.
Mallory Erickson It was like, I can't eat anything with like a head on it.
Justin Wheeler Oh, that's good.
Mallory Erickson Has to be a well disguised fish.
Justin Wheeler I love it. I love it. All right. Beach or mountains?
Mallory Erickson Oh, mountains.
Justin Wheeler Mountains.
Mallory Erickson But I love them.
Justin Wheeler So if you had to live some of the rest of your life, mountains.
Mallory Erickson Mountains I think yeah..
Justin Wheeler Interesting. So you like the cold?
Mallory Erickson No. Can it be like lukewarm mountains?
Justin Wheeler Sure, sure. This is, these are your questions.
Mallory Erickson This is my fantasy, right?
Justin Wheeler Yeah. Digital reading or an actual book?
Mallory Erickson Ooh, actual book.
Justin Wheeler Actual book.
Mallory Erickson Yeah.
Justin Wheeler Football or fútbol.
Mallory Erickson Football.
Justin Wheeler Moana or Encanto?
Mallory Erickson Encanto. And I've literally watched it 74 times in the past few weeks.
Justin Wheeler Do you cry every time you watch it.
Mallory Erickson It's so... The last song, Oh my God, I just can't do it.
Justin Wheeler I know my kids, they love it.
Mallory Erickson My and my daughter Emmy goes, this is the part where mommy cries.
Justin Wheeler That's cute. Well, Mallory, thank you so much for joining us again on the podcast.
Mallory Erickson Thanks for having me. This was so fun.
Justin Wheeler Absolutely. Thank you.
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