This is the last 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 four of our compilation series features Taylor Shanklin, Madison Gonzalez, Chad Barger, and Courtney Gaines. 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 four of our compilation series features Taylor Shanklin, Madison Gonzalez, Chad Barger, and Courtney Gaines. Let's dive it!
In this segment, Taylor Shanklin, CEO and founder of Barlele and expert marketing leader brings some interesting examples of nonprofits overcoming growth obstacles with some innovation and explains how changing your mindset can change everything.
Justin Wheeler Taylor, thank you so much for joining the podcast here at AFP. How you doing?
Taylor Shanklin Good. It's good to be here. Thanks, Justin.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, absolutely. So I want to, something I've been thinking about lately, I'd love to get your kind of thoughts and perspective on it. So been thinking about the pace in which nonprofits move specifically around change. Am I in my head or do you see this as as a challenge in this space today?
Taylor Shanklin Oh, it's absolutely a challenge. And the bigger you are, the more averse to change you are. I've seen this my entire career. I've been working in the nonprofit sector for about 15 years now, and it is the thing that I think holds nonprofits back the most. We as humans are like risk averse and we don't like change. It's in our very nature, I think, not to like change, but for some reason in the nonprofit space, like it's it's worse than other other arenas. And I've been in startup before, I've been in for-profit. And it's certainly something that affects this sector more and honestly, like we need to do something about it. And I think part of it is just helping to shift mindsets.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, totally. You know, Facebook used to have a value move, fast break things, and they became famous for early on and they've said they have since moved away because they were breaking too many things.
Taylor Shanklin Right. Yeah.
Justin Wheeler But it.
Taylor Shanklin You can go to far..
Justin Wheeler Yeah, you can go too far. But it did, it led to obviously enormous growth. And I know that, you know, Facebook is different than a nonprofit organization. But I do think that the inability for organizations and like you said, like especially large organizations to move fast, especially around things that I would I would say are less risky, like new tech, new fundraising programs. It really it has a long term impact on the growth of the organization.
Taylor Shanklin It does. You know, sometimes I'm going to say something people might not like, sometimes I wonder how much they want to grow. You know, and I know that that sounds weird and it might not even be on a conscious level. Yeah, but you do have to ask that question. What is it that makes nonprofits so hesitant to make changes? I've seen little things like things like you said that you would think would be simple adopting a project management tool, for example. Yeah, I've seen that take months and months and it's like, it's Trello, y'all...
Justin Wheeler It's a free version.
Taylor Shanklin It's free. It's supposed to help you get organized. So that you can do a better job with your campaigns, with raising money, with keeping all of your stuff together. And yet. Well, I don't know. I just, you know, can't learn it. Is so-and-so going to be upset we're not using this project management tool? And so I think people get too much in their heads and think that they have to get buy in at every little level. I think people have a lot of fear and so they go around and it's like death by committee. And more startup world like you do see that fail faster motto often. And it's true sometimes you can go a little too fast and you have to slow down. But I do think it helps you learn and I think that's one of the things that nonprofits miss out on by not changing anything. They are missing out on a lot of learning opportunity.
Justin Wheeler They look at failure as a net negative, not necessary a net positive. Yeah. And there's a lot of learning when you fail. Yeah. And going back to the buy in I often refer to to death by board because this is, I think this is less common at the larger nonprofits more in the mid to like smaller nonprofits where the board has to sign off on approval for everything. Yeah. And that's just not the function of the board and it shouldn't be the function of the board. And many ways, you know, I have a thesis which won't go too much into you that boards are one of the number one causes for lack of growth in smaller to midsize nonprofits. I don't if you have, if you've seen that or experienced that.
Taylor Shanklin Yes, absolutely. I think it's a good thesis and I've definitely seen it happen. I do think that it's I don't understand it either. Like why I don't I don't think that that's the board's, maybe I don't know enough about boards, you know.
Justin Wheeler Like, well, they're fiduciary, their primary is to be fiduciary responsible for the organization. A budget gets passed. It's passed. Yeah. You don't need to make you don't need to make decisions on software that the nonprofits buying and so forth. And so I think that there's there's just too much oversight and you know, that is what it is. But the other the other thing I wanted to ask about is sort of on the opposite. Nonprofits that maybe you've seen are moving fast and are prioritizing growth and exploring new things. Is there any, is there a nonprofit or two that stands out in your mind that I think is a good sort of case study for this concept of moving fast?
Taylor Shanklin Yeah. I mean, I'll give you one example. This is an organization I used to work with. I don't work with now, but I've got a good friend there and she's been telling me about how they are starting a peer-to-peer pickleball.
Justin Wheeler Oh, interesting.
Taylor Shanklin Program, because apparently Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in America. I don't know if you knew that. I found that out recently.
Justin Wheeler I do have a pickleball net.
Taylor Shanklin Everyone loves pickleball.
Justin Wheeler Yeah.
Taylor Shanklin I remember playing as a kid, and it's really funny because I've now she was telling me how, like, they're working on implementing this and they're like, you know what? We decided, they've done walks for years, they've done employee engagement, peer-to-peer programs for years, and now they are doing something on Pickleball. Because it's an innovative sport that apparently is picking up a lot of steam. So I think that's a good example of it. It'll be interesting, it has it launched yet? So that's probably why I'm not naming it because I don't even know how I'm supposed to talk about it.
Justin Wheeler Yeah.
Taylor Shanklin But I think it's an interesting example of them looking at the market and saying what's new and exciting and different and how can we take the same principles of peer-to-peer and social fundraising and take that into something that people haven't done before? Maybe they reminisce as a kid playing pickleball at summer camp or whatever, and coming back and getting involved in something that feels new. And I think it doesn't even take all that much to give your donors, people who interact with your organization, something that just feels new. Yeah, but, like, so it's pickleball. Like, why? It's not risky. Like, it sounds fun. Let's just try it, you know? So it's cool to see them doing that.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, I love Pickleball, so I'm going to keep my eye out for this, this fundraising campaign.
Taylor Shanklin I'm going to go play well. So funny thing, I live in a little town in the mountains in North Carolina, and the rec center is building pickleball. Like, I go to the rec center down the street cause I go swim there a lot. They have new pickleball courts that they're putting in. So I learned about this. I've heard one or two other people talk about Pickleball lately, and then the rec center, they're like, we're putting in pickleball. I'm like, Where did this come from?
Justin Wheeler That's awesome. What are you most excited for, this is the question I've been asking here with different nonprofit leaders and service providers, is what are you most excited for, for the remainder of 2022? Whether it's a project you're working on, something new you're developing for alongside your clients. Yeah. What are you excited. looking forward to over the next, call it seven months.
Taylor Shanklin Seven months. I do move fast and fail fast. So I think two or three months ahead Justin. Actually I'm excited, there's a project that I've been having a lot of conversations on and it's building out an e-commerce experience for an organization and they're thinking different about like they're actually bringing their kind of social enterprise group and their nonprofit group together to say, how can we fundraise and invest in our community and our partners to build something that's different than just fundraising? And so we're working on this whole Shopify thing for them. Awesome. I've never worked with a nonprofit before on a Shopify site and thinking through like, how do we, they're going to provide low cost special assistance products on the site to people who need them. So I think that's something that, it's nice to see that kind of innovation where you're thinking different and outside the box. And it's not just your standard, well, let's just throw up a donation campaign. They're like, Oh no, let's sell a product. Let's sell that product at a good price for people who need that product and let's do it on a tool like Shopify, which is more modern, which you see more in the for-profit space usually.
Justin Wheeler Yeah. Awesome. Well cool. I know you have to speak here in a few minutes, so I'm going to ask you some rapid fire questions. There's no wrong or right answer. There are better answers, but no wrong answers. No, just kidding. All right. Here we go. Movies or series?
Taylor Shanklin Movies.
Justin Wheeler What's your favorite movie?
Taylor Shanklin Ouh, I don't know. I like this is a really dumb one, but I really love that movie. Can't Hardly Wait.
Justin Wheeler Okay.
Taylor Shanklin With Heath Ledger. Yeah, yeah. I don't know. I used to watch it a lot. I mean, I haven't seen it in years, but that was the first...
Justin Wheeler The first thing that popped up.
Taylor Shanklin Popped into my.
Justin Wheeler Head. There you go. Tacos or cheeseburgers?
Taylor Shanklin Tacos.
Justin Wheeler Tacos. Beach or the mountains?
Taylor Shanklin The mountains.
Justin Wheeler You're in the mountains. What, where? What mountain in North Carolina?
Taylor Shanklin I live in Boone.
Justin Wheeler Oh, no way.
Taylor Shanklin It's close to Asheville.
Justin Wheeler Oh, my gosh. I did, I used to be, I used to work at Invisible Children. Yeah. And we we toured in Boone all the time, and I stayed there a couple nights and I thought, this is the coolest mountain town I've ever been to.
Taylor Shanklin I love. I moved from Texas. It's totally different.
Justin Wheeler Very different scenery.
Taylor Shanklin Very different.
Justin Wheeler Very different scenery. Yeah. Nice. All right. Digital reading or an actual book?
Taylor Shanklin Book.
Justin Wheeler Book. Hardcover or soft.
Taylor Shanklin Soft.
Justin Wheeler Really?
Taylor Shanklin Yeah.
Justin Wheeler Just more compact, easy to travel with.
Taylor Shanklin I have small hands and I think something. Yeah, yeah. Moving it around and I don't know, it's just easier to navigate.
Justin Wheeler All right, all right. Ice cream or froyo?
Taylor Shanklin Ice cream.
Justin Wheeler Ice cream. Me too. Football or fútbol?
Taylor Shanklin Oh, foosball.
Justin Wheeler No football. Foot, foot.
Taylor Shanklin Football.
Justin Wheeler Football or fútbol?
Taylor Shanklin Oh, I don't know. Football.
Justin Wheeler Okay. That one is hard to say. I don't know why.
Taylor Shanklin If I had to choose one Pickleball man! C/mon, we talked about this.
Justin Wheeler There's no wrong answer. There you go. Moana or Aladdin?
Taylor Shanklin Aladdin.
Justin Wheeler Aladdin. The cartoon or the real one?
Taylor Shanklin The real one is pretty good though. Yeah, but I mean, I'm old school cartoon. Yeah, I love Jasmine.
Justin Wheeler Love Jasmine. Yeah. All right. Well, Taylor, thank you so much for joining us and good luck on your talk today.
Taylor Shanklin Thanks, Justin.
Justin Wheeler Thanks.
Taylor Shanklin Bye.
In this segment, Madison Gonzalez, ED of Morning Light, brings hot storytelling tips and reminders designed to push you past the planning stage into serious story mode. It's amazing how many AHA! moments she covered in our time chatting.
Justin Wheeler Thank you so much for joining Nonstop Nonprofit Podcast. How are you today?
Madison Gonzalez I'm doing wonderful. So happy to be here. Thank you for having me.
Justin Wheeler Absolutely. Is this your first time AFP or have you been coming over the years?
Madison Gonzalez Yeah, so this is my first AFP Icon. I've been to another conference AFP Lead in Indianapolis. Which is my hometown. Okay. So I was I was happy to drive down the street and go to that.
Justin Wheeler Yeah. Awesome. So before we jump into today's topic of storytelling, tell us a little bit about yourself and your nonprofit.
Madison Gonzalez I would love to know. So my nonprofit really dovetails right into storytelling. I learned the power of story through it. We're called Morning Light, and we operate the Abbie Hunt Bryce home in Indianapolis, which is a free hospice home. So you can imagine being terminally ill, which is six months or less to live, and you can imagine not having a home and not having a support system. The people we serve have both of those. And so we really try to make the end of life as peaceful, as comfortable as possible. We believe that nobody should die alone, and we believe that everybody, regardless of your background income, should have dignity at the end of life.
Justin Wheeler Absolutely.
Madison Gonzalez And the end of life is such a unique and beautiful time because people are so open and reflective and eager to share their insights, their experiences, the things that they've learned. Everybody wants to leave a legacy. And so when I started working at Morning Light and interviewing the people that we serve and just getting to know them as human beings, I developed this obsession, I guess you could say, with storytelling and legacy and just the power of all of that.
Justin Wheeler Yeah. How did you get involved with the organization? What led you to that line of work?
Madison Gonzalez It's a funny story, so my background is actually event planning. So my passion is celebrating life. I love holidays, events. Yeah, I went to school for that. I did one wedding and I thought, No, thank you. I don't want to do that anymore. And so I decided to use my my interests, I guess, to hopefully make a difference. So I just started looking for event planning work in the nonprofit sector and I landed at Morning Light. And so I think I have a unique perspective a little bit because I came into the end of life and senior and hospice at kind of a young age where I didn't even realize the value of what that looks like. Yeah. You don't, you know, at that age you don't really get past like the next week, right? So thinking, thinking that far ahead just wasn't something that I had done before. But as I mentioned, once I started really talking to the people that we serve and like getting to know them, I just developed an intense interest and passion for the cause. I started as an admin helping with events, and I'm the executive director and very proud to be there.
Justin Wheeler Awesome, amazing. So let's dive into storytelling a little bit. You know, arguably, nonprofits have the best stories to tell.
Madison Gonzalez Absolutely.
Justin Wheeler But we often don't, we don't see nonprofits tell stories well, or maybe not even at all. What's importance and significance of storytelling, especially that relates to nonprofits and fundraising and, you know, stewardship of donors and so forth.
Madison Gonzalez So I'm really nerdy about storytelling because it's actually very psychological, which is something that I'm interested in. Human brains are hard wired to connect to story. We've been, you know, consuming stories since childhood with bedtime stories. We all have our favorite Netflix show that we like to watch people look to stories to learn, right from other people's successes, from other people's mistakes. And so we're eager to consume them. Our brains just like them more than other forms of communication, like statistics, updates, that kind of thing. So if you can take your abstract mission, for example, free hospice housing, that's an abstract mission, but you can give it a face and a name and an identity. Like Richard, someone that we served and tell his story, you know, how did he get there? What kind of common denominators might he have with a donor or someone who wants to support. You know, what might he enjoy as a human being that your audience can see themselves connecting to? And then also just displaying that, that classic kind of struggle and then overcoming scenario, right? We all need a good struggle. All nonprofits are solving issues and conflicts and solutions. Yeah. Infusing your story with, you know, what that struggle is, but not focusing on that, focusing on on the overcoming aspect. Yeah. So the resilience, the courage, the compassion, the bravery, the fun of helping someone else. If you can talk about all of those kind of qualities in your story, you'll inspire your listener to then want to join you on that story. Yeah. So it's super important because first of all, you're breaking down those barriers, you're breaking down, you know, stigma, you're giving them something interesting to consume, but then you're inviting them to become a part of the story as well.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, yeah. It reminds me, I read this book, I forget the author, but it's called Story and it's a USC professor, like in the School of Film School and he talked about like every story needs, you know, you mentioned struggle, like he talked about it and the concept of like a climax, right? Like you're working up towards this climax and then like you're you're taking like the audience back down the resolution, like, afterwards. And, you know, that leads me into somewhat of a controversial topic, I think, with non-profits a lot of times, you know, I think you have two types of like storytelling in nonprofits today. It's like one is like sort of like the gravity, right? Like how bad it is for for like are these people and you show, you know, photos that could be disingenuous or photos that maybe like remove the dignity, you know, from from the individual. And then you have organizations think charity:water does really well, where they focus on their like the potential the success. Yeah. You know, they they really help bring the the audience in to what you can help accomplish and how you can get to get there. The hope, thank you. I was, like, struggling to find that word.
Madison Gonzalez Exactly.
Justin Wheeler So do you think there is a right and wrong way? Do you think that like. See, I'd love to think about that.
Madison Gonzalez Yeah. So I do a lot of teaching on this and it's it's really something that I think is relevant today is the ethical component of storytelling. Yeah. Not exploiting people. People don't want to be cast as a victim. Nobody wants to be a victim, right. We want to showcase. Look, these people were dealt a hard hand or maybe they made some bad choices along the way that got them in a position that they're in now. Maybe they inherited this. Maybe it's stigma and society that's caused this. You never know why someone's back story has led them to where they are, but I think it's really important to just ethically to showcase the story in a way that they would want it to be told. You know, showcasing, like I said, their courage or their kindness or their intellect through the struggle. So we're not necessarily trying to get that shock factor out of everyone. Yeah, like you said, it's the gravity that I think a lot of nonprofits have done in the past and maybe just did it know better because, you know, gravity, I mean, you think about the puppies with Sarah McLaughlin over there. Yeah. You know, it's like it's very emotional. It's very impactful. However, I think there's a better way to do it personally, which is to showcase, you know, the hope, like you said, inspiring people. Yeah, I'm bringing them in in that way.
Justin Wheeler I think a brand that I often think of that that's exceptional storytelling and I think a lot nonprofits can borrow from is Nike, right. Like Nike, they make you believe that if you wear their shoes, you're going to be an Olympian athlete. Right. And that's that's like they're there's like they don't, like, talk about, you know, you need that. You need to work out more because you need to do X, Y and Z. They're more focused, focus on like, you know, just this kind of like dream that at one point maybe all of us had. I think that's that's interesting. What I do want to dig into is going back to sort of like why so little nonprofits tell great stories. And I think you see this in the way they budget. And so as a as an executive director, I would love to know, like, what's the priority of storytelling even at the like budget level? A lot of organizations look at it as an expense, as a negative thing. And so I just love to like hear your thought process on and how that gets prioritized.
Madison Gonzalez Yeah, that's a great question. We're a very small nonprofit. Honestly, Morning Light is small and so you have to get creative with how you're sharing your stories. Thank goodness for social media, it's free. Thank goodness for phones with photos and videos, it's free. Yeah. What you need to do, in my opinion, that doesn't even cost that much, is just have the conversations with people, just ask them. And I think one of the reasons that people don't tell the stories is because I think a lot of people are uncomfortable with broaching that subject with people. We're kind of almost taught not to pry, like not to ask those personal questions. However, you may be the only person in that person's life to take an interest in their life. As a nonprofit professional, you have, like you said, direct access to some of the most incredible stories known to man, right? We are serving these really unique populations that have a story to share and maybe no one's ever asked them. So instead of worrying about like, Oh, I don't want to make them uncomfortable, of course you always give them the option to share or not. You know, it's not a requirement. There's no punishment if you don't share the story. But think about what it would mean to you for someone just to come up to you and say, Tell me about your life. You know, what, what insights do you want to share? What legacy do you want to leave? Yeah, what message do you have? And then we have this unique way as a nonprofit, as a following, as a voice in the community, to then showcase those stories and those voices. And it doesn't take a lot of money. You can do it through email. You can do it online. One of my favorite things that I was taught, especially with social media, is the idea of this episodic approach. So you get the story and it's a whole story, right? You touched on some of the some of the components of a story. You have the setup, you have the confrontation, you have the climax, and then the resolution. If you can break each of those kind of components of the story up into different materials, you're introducing a character, you're introducing a hook, you're getting them interested in that person's life. But then you take them on the journey with you and you can post multiple pieces of content. You can share multiple email up. You know, here's where they were. Here's where they are now. Here's what they want you to know. Quotes, testimonials. Getting it directly from the person also really helps with not exploiting them. As we talked about, you know, those direct quotes, those videos. All you have to do is open your phone and say, Do you mind if I record, you know, you're sharing your story for a few minutes. It doesn't have to be production. It doesn't have to be bringing in. And, you know, these big expenses of thousands of dollars for for first class videos. We are actually quite accustomed to consuming iPhone content all the time. Right. Nobody is going to frown upon that. Yeah. So I really wouldn't let budget be a barrier because you already have the tools and you have people that work for you. You have people that you serve. You have the, you know, a phone and you have a Facebook page. Yeah. You've got what it takes to start sharing those stories.
Justin Wheeler Totally. Has storytelling always been a priority of your organization, or is that something that you helped kind of usher in as the executive director?
Madison Gonzalez I love that question. So we we didn't always share our content in the form of story. It used to be this abstract, right, where free hospice. I think what I brought in, because I'm a writer by passion, you know, I've always written and I really appreciated the stories. I said, we need to be showcasing these human beings. We need to be saying names and showing faces. And when we did that, we actually saw a major increase. So since I've come on board for about five years now and we've increased our fundraising 120%.
Justin Wheeler Wow. Congratulations.
Madison Gonzalez Thank you. I think that a lot of that is just due to how we framed the language. And it's a shortcut to communication. Yeah. And actually, I won the Storyteller of the Year award at the One Cause Raise conference in 2019 for some of the work that we've done. And the secret really is don't let the budget be the barrier. You just have to find those stories. The other little hot tip that I have that I do want to share is if you have a great story and you've packaged a great story, you've done the work for the media. So if you start to reach out to some contacts in your hometown or, you know, wherever your community consumes their content, news stations, newspapers, other kinds of, you know. PR Yeah. Will be more interested in partnering with you because you've done the work for them. You say, Listen, I have this great story. Listen to this inspiring story. I think your listeners will really resonate with it. Yeah. Then they don't have to come in and improvise. Yeah. Yeah. So you're kind of doing the work for them and that really works for us. We got in several newspapers, news stations, and I think that really helped us spread our message.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, I love that hustle. That's a that's a great. Yeah, I can tell. I can tell. Yeah. All right. So I have a few more last questions, rapid Fire. There's no...
Madison Gonzalez Oh my gosh. This is stressing me out.
Justin Wheeler There's no, there's no wrong or right answer here. So we'll just go through them. All right, so, movies or series?
Madison Gonzalez Oh, gosh, ah series.
Justin Wheeler Series, okay. Tacos or cheeseburgers?
Madison Gonzalez Tacos.
Justin Wheeler Tacos. Beach or the mountains?
Madison Gonzalez Beach all day.
Justin Wheeler Goo, good. Yup. Digital reading or an actual book?
Madison Gonzalez Book. I like the paper. Turn the pages.
Justin Wheeler Hard or soft cover?
Madison Gonzalez Soft. I do. I like the soft covers.
Justin Wheeler Like, easy to travel with?
Madison Gonzalez Yeah. You like flip. Yeah. Kind of move on. They're lighter. Yeah.
Justin Wheeler Yeah. Ice cream or froyo?
Madison Gonzalez Ice cream.
Justin Wheeler Ice cream. Yeah. Everyone is being saying ice cream. I think Froyo is on its way out
Madison Gonzalez I'm sorry but I think it had its moment.
Justin Wheeler It did. Football or fútbol?
Madison Gonzalez That's a good question. So I'm actually engaged to a UK resident, ah yes. So he's getting me into the fútbol, but my dad would say football.
Justin Wheeler So you're torn.
Madison Gonzalez I'm torn. I'm sorry.
Justin Wheeler Well, congratulations on on the engagement.
All right, last one here, Moana or Aladdin?
Madison Gonzalez Oh, I love this. I'm a Disney nerd. Completely. I can't choose. I'm sorry.
Justin Wheeler It's okay.
Madison Gonzalez I'm sorry. Aladdin was my time. Moana is my kids time. It's got a special place in both my heart. Yeah, I love both.
Justin Wheeler There you go. Awesome. Well, thank you so much for joining the podcast today.
Madison Gonzalez Thank you for having me. This is fantastic.
Justin Wheeler Absolutely.
In this segment, Chad Barger, otherwise known as Fundraiser Chad and founder of Productive Fundraising, looks back at the effect the pandemic has had on fundraising events. The result? A world that needs both virtual and in-person events to maximize participation.
Justin Wheeler Chad, thank you for joining the podcast.
Chad Barger Great. Thanks for having me.
Justin Wheeler Absolutely. How is how is AFP been so far?
Chad Barger It's Icon. We're back in person seeing people you haven't seen in three years. It's been fabulous.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So I understand you're speaking tomorrow to talking about events.
Chad Barger Yeah, I'm doing a session called Productive Events. We're kind of talking through you know, the last two years have been a little challenging for events. So maybe we made some changes and now we maybe can go back to normal. But do we want to be looking at those true purpose of events and taking this as an opportunity not just to, oh, I can't wait to go back to doing what we always did.
Justin Wheeler Yeah. Something we've been very curious about is now that events are possible to do in person. Well, or will nonprofits go back to that? And, you know, one of the things in particular I'm interested in is specifically around galas. I think that the beauty of what happened over the pandemic was that people were able to reach a much larger audience, for sure, with their events. And if they go back in-person, are they going to keep a digital component of the event? And so what what are your thoughts?
Chad Barger We're definitely right in the midst of exploring that right now. I mean, many groups are going back to what I did before or I can do in-person. They're super excited. You know, the virtual hybrid kind of thing. It took a lot of work to learn. Yeah, not everybody loved it. Everybody's that digital native or had that training, you know, they had to hire somebody or figure it out real fast. So I see a big retreat of people wanting to go back, but we also taught our donors that we can do these virtual events, there can be other experiences.
Justin Wheeler Yeah.
Chad Barger So quick story. I had a client in the fall. They took their gala back to in-person and they got about half the audience. You know, not everybody was comfortable yet, but they wanted to. And then they had the other half of the audience say, you know, remember last year when we did that virtual event, you know, you sent me wine and showed up online and there was a sommelier that walked me through a wine tasting or something. And I sat on my couch in my pajamas and I still paid you 250 bucks. Yeah, I want to do that again. I like that.
Justin Wheeler Yeah.
Chad Barger Don't have to put the tax on. Give up my Saturday night and I'm seeing that, you know, they'll still come to some things, but maybe they want that option. Yeah. So I'm kind of thinking like, we need something in our portfolio that kind of appeals to both about.
Justin Wheeler Yeah.
Chad Barger And our other big side too is, is this hybrid word of like, you know, doing the in-person but having the online component and I can join in and it's just really, really hard to do well, yeah, not having somebody feel like they're left out and it's usually the virtual folks like you can't just put up a camera in the back of the room. Yeah. And say, you know, call it, call it.
Justin Wheeler Yeah.
Chad Barger It's more like producing a 30 minute television show. Yeah. And yeah.
Justin Wheeler Yeah. To do it right. It's a lot more challenging. But I think the interesting thing is galas require so much work around the programing, right? Like usually exclusive content created, you know, for the event, whether it's whether it's video format or whatever, it might be a lot of time and effort and it's, it's, it's a bummer that it, it only, you know, two, three and people get to experience it. Yeah. Over, you know. So what, what's nice about the sort of hybrid approach is a lot more shelf life, right? A lot more eyeballs.
Chad Barger Accessibility and equity. Yeah, those are kind of the two things like yeah, anybody can get to a, you know, much broader audience. Our sponsors are happier because they, you know, get much, much more reach. You know, it can actually play their 0 :30s commercial in the middle of your gala without having to rent $5,000 worth of equipment. Yeah. You know, actually in the ballroom and we just have all this shelf life.
Justin Wheeler Yeah.
Chad Barger And I mentioned accessibility and equity, you know, so anybody could get through it. Yeah. And it's not just, you know, people that might not be fully able to, but also folks, you know, when I was a development director, I would have donors that said, you know, I'd love to come to your gala, but I just don't drive at night, so I'm not going to help. So they could do it. Yeah. And on the equity side, you know, anybody could attend that wasn't, you know, oh, I can't afford the $250 ticket. You know, the virtual events had much different pricing options.
Justin Wheeler Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So your company productive fundraising, right? Talking about your core kind of focus.
Chad Barger So we do fundraising, training and coaching, primarily focusing on small to midsize shops and have a kind of some key niches a lot in the library field and museums as well. So and we, you know, do a lot of virtual training, board training, those kind of things. And we have a free monthly webinar series which has proven to be pretty popular.
Justin Wheeler So what was the jump from? Being on the front lines as a development director to more of the coach.
Chad Barger Trainer Yeah, kind of fell into that role. I was doing my dream job. I was the executive director of a United Arts Fund. I'm a former band geek, so I loved being the talking head that would come on stage at the beginning of the concert and tell you to turn off your cell phone, which I failed to do with this interview. I know you guys are going to take it out but just a epic fail there. So I was loving that, you know, raising mostly corporate money for the arts in my community and got really involved with AP, became a chapter president, started getting asked to speak, learn that I love speaking because it's like a rehearsed performance, just like marching band was. Yeah, that kind of deal. Yeah. And then more speak. People just say, Hey, will you come into my shop and work with us? I fell into it and learned. I love that too. And about five years ago I had to make a hard decision of which way.
Justin Wheeler So that's awesome but.
Chad Barger Can't totally stop. So I still volunteer and fundraise for some causes in my community as well. Yeah.
Justin Wheeler What would you say is some of the biggest gaps that you see as you work with clients on training development directors that you're that you're helping?
Chad Barger Yeah, I think I can approach that two ways. Like there's definitely sometimes a knowledge gap in fundraising, especially. It's so hard to find, you know, a knowledgeable fundraiser. There's definitely more opportunity than there are people. So a lot of times folks will hire for, you know, passion and just, you know, somebody they know that can be a good relationship builder. Yeah. And then kind of teach that skillset later. So we do a good bit of onboarding, onboarding, coaching work that way. But usually that's fixable. Like I say, I can't fix passion. You got to have that. Yeah, I can't make you a people person. You kind of got to have that. We can do the skills. Yeah, but the other side I see too is people that just struggle with like how to works, like how to manage myself. Like all this emails and meetings and skill and now with the whole virtual and at home and like, it's just this how to handle everything. Yeah. And time, energy, attention. So I'm a bit of a productivity nerd as well. So I love helping people with that with some some suggestions and tips as well.
Justin Wheeler Awesome. What are you looking forward to the remainder of 2022, whether it's new projects that you're working on or something new you're trying out in with your business?
Chad Barger Yeah, well, I'm just excited to finally, finally be back out on the road. So I typically travel once a month to a random AFP chapter or, you know, Iowa Museums Association, something like that for for conferences. And that really revs me up and keeps me moving. So the roadshow is back on and and here we go.
Justin Wheeler Nice.
Chad Barger Yeah. So looking forward to seeing people out and about anywhere. Who knows?
Justin Wheeler Yeah, that's really great. I got some rapid fire questions.
Chad Barger Oh, boy.
Justin Wheeler So don't worry. No right or wrong answer here, but we'll start with are you more of a movies or series guy?
Chad Barger I'm going to opt out and go podcast, but if you force me to turn the screen on, I'll say eries.
Justin Wheeler Okay, so what's your top three favorite podcasts?
Chad Barger Ooh, that is really, really hard.
Justin Wheeler Or top one.
Chad Barger I love stuff in that productivity space being a productivity nerd, so I'll go with Asian efficiency. So it's great tips, excellent hosts. Good folks.
Justin Wheeler Awesome. Cool. Tacos or cheeseburgers?
Chad Barger Tacos.
Justin Wheeler Tacos. Beach or the mountains?
Chad Barger Mountains, I was a scout leader.
Justin Wheeler Oh yeah? And you're fine with the cold?
Chad Barger There's no such thing as too cold it's just wrong gear. So yeah, I love, try to hike about 20 miles a week or so.
Justin Wheeler Wow, wow. Digital reading or an actual book?
Chad Barger I do like the actual books, but they're just hard to carry around some or digital. I always have the Kindle with me.
Justin Wheeler Or maybe a listen? Audio?
Chad Barger Yeah, but I have too many podcasts that have enough room for the audio books.
Justin Wheeler Ice cream or froyo?
Chad Barger Uh, it's got to have bacon on it if I'm going to eat it. I have no sweet tooth, so.
Justin Wheeler Oh, really? All savory, huh?
Chad Barger Yeah, so I like the jalapeño kettle cooked chips. Yeah, whole bags. It's just going to eat it at once.
Justin Wheeler Next time we'll have a bag for you. Football or fútbol?
Chad Barger Football. Go Steelers.
Justin Wheeler Go Steelers. Last one, Moana or Aladdin?
Chad Barger Both good. I'm going to go Aladdin because I remember being 12 when it came out and see it in the theater and it was awesome that kind of took animation to another new level and I saw the Broadway production on Broadway and that was pretty cool. I still don't know how the genie came out of the floor.
Justin Wheeler Mystery, it's still mystery.
Chad Barger Yeah.
Justin Wheeler Still a mystery. Awesome. Well, thank you so much for joining the podcast again. I look forward to having more conversations in the future.
Chad Barger Sounds great. Really appreciate.
Justin Wheeler Alright, thank you.
In this segment, Courtney Gaines, Senior Vice President at NextAfter, shares the one thing that every nonprofit has to do, large or small, whatever the level of tech-savviness, no matter the mission—and how your nonprofit's culture is stopping you from doing it.
Justin Wheeler Courtney. So good to have you here. How are you?
Courtney Gaines Thank you. Thanks for having.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, yeah. How's. How's have you been for so far?
Courtney Gaines Great. My first time, actually.
Justin Wheeler Oh, is it really?
Courtney Gaines Yeah, yeah. I spoke this morning about value proposition. Had a great crowd. So, yeah, glad to be here.
Justin Wheeler The only thing AFP is missing is the themed event.
Courtney Gaines You are so right. Like, where is, where is the Wizard of Oz? Where's the Willy Wonka. Exactly. I know. Yeah. And that's not to flag our summit or anything, but September, Kansas City.
Justin Wheeler You all should go. Yeah. There you go. I was actually talking last night, I forget the nonprofit, but I was telling them about and NIO and we actually were debating, is it NIO or nee-oh?
Courtney Gaines Well, it's, that's the great the debate. No, I call it nee-oh.
Justin Wheeler Nee-oh, okay. Okay
Courtney Gaines I was an employee four so I mean, there's some weight behind that.
Justin Wheeler So nee-oh it is. We, we're gonna with nee-oh. Yeah, and I was tellin them, I was like, because they were talking about like best nonprofit conferences and I was like NIO butI said now, but now it's gonna be nee-oh and and they're like why? I was like, well, one, the themes are always just over the top.
Courtney Gaines Of the charts.
Justin Wheeler Yeah. Yeah. So we like, we're looking at like...
Courtney Gaines Who has a chocolate fountain going through the, you know, the floor of their speaking gig.
Justin Wheeler Yeah. Anyways tell us a little bit, I mean we've had, we've talked with a few people at NextAfter. But for those just tuning in, tell us a little bit about NextAfter and what you guys specialize in.
Courtney Gaines Yeah, we're really three things where a research lab, a training institute and then a digital first agency. So we work with the top about 5 to 10% of nonprofits and really with the goal of building and growing their digital fundraising programs.
Justin Wheeler So one would maybe think top five, 10% nonprofits have it all together. My guess is they're dinosaurs and there's a lot of overall that needs to happen. What's the experience?
Courtney Gaines Right, whether you're a mom, pop shop or of the top 5 to 10%? I think everyone deals with the same challenges. You know, whether that's technology or honestly very foundational, just like understanding donors as good as we all think we might be or understand our donors as well as we do. We don't. And we we know that. And we see that through the testing that we do so.
Justin Wheeler And I imagine I mean, with with the size of nonprofits you work with, you know, they're at a certain scale. And so you see a lot of interesting insights or learnings. From the perspective of fundraising, what do you see works at scale that maybe doesn't work for like a smaller organization?
Courtney Gaines Sure. I think actually what's surprising about that, Justin, is that whether it's small or large, a lot of it is repeatable. And I think that that's what technology is so great about, is that some of the things that we do on a smaller scale, 1 to 1 communication we can do at the large scale. You know, one of the biggest things over the last year and even like what COVID I think taught us or demonstrated to us, is that people do want to be cared for, they want to be talked to, they want to feel valued. And so we heightened our communications and cultivation through that season. And we're not stopping just because COVID is quote over Is it over? Whatever it is.
Justin Wheeler I'm calling it, post COVID. It just feels reassuring.
Courtney Gaines Right, right. So we can actually automate all of that for these larger scale organizations. So, you know, actually, I think that there's a lot that we can learn from smaller shops that are doing very like intimate, grassroots, human contact kind of stuff and actually help our larger organizations do some of those things. Because what we're seeing is the more human we can be, more personal we can be, the greater successes these larger organizations have. You know, we don't have to lean on that big brand that they are that people know them, as. They do well, of course, on the paid media side, because they have a big name. But at the end of the day, like donors are donors, donors are people. And whether I'm giving to a massive organization and a lot of the organizations we work with or some smaller one, you know, they're still giving to a cause that they believe in regardless of size.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, that makes sense. On the name brand recognition. Sorry, a tongue twister there. I was talking with about a year ago, World Vision and they're in the top percentile for sure. But it was interesting cause they said that they had they had a name brand recognition problem in the United States. And.
Courtney Gaines Shocking.
Justin Wheeler Yeah. And so it got me, it got me thinking, is that, like when you think of like Nike, right? Like everyone knows Nike and when you are talking about like nonprofits in particular, like in the nonprofit world, it's a big brand. But like, I guess here's the question sorry this long about ways, does that not translate to like individual donors? Or like the general population because less people give than by Nikes, I don't know. Know what I'm saying? So, like, is name brand recognition harder for nonprofits because the audience is smaller?
Courtney Gaines Huh? That's a tough question Justin.
Justin Wheeler I mean, just a light, little, you know, thing to think about.
Courtney Gaines I don't look at them in the same same breath. You know, if I'm going to purchase a new pair of Nike kicks and give to a nonprofit, whether it has great name recognition or not, my motivation is radically different. Yeah, maybe I'm not answering your question. Right. So I think that there's things that we can do about name recognition and there are things that we do do about name recognition, and we can do that easily, digitally. But I don't think it's a an issue really at all. And I think that those larger organizations, they do lean on that brand recognition. They do see easier, greater, better results than the smaller ones.
Justin Wheeler Is that trust just because it's like, oh, like I know my money is going to be used, I'm guaranteeing my money is going to be used better than if I give to a small organization. Or is it that? Or...
Courtney Gaines No, I don't think necessarily. Again, I think for donors it's like, how well are you communicating your value proposition? At the end of the day, whether you're the largest nonprofit or the small nonprofit, you know, actually what we see with large nonprofits is they do tend to lean on that brand recognition and get a little bit lazier with with value proposition and communicating really like what it is that they do, you know, or like what a donor can actually accomplish through their organization. Because like, well, we're so and so, you know, like, of course you want to give to us. Yeah, but I mean, it doesn't matter if you have a well-known name or not, you still have to communicate what you're doing because at the end of the day, like, there's also a retention thing, right? So if I give to you because I think you're cool this week and actually that's a thing that's happening with the younger demographic is, younger demographics are giving to organizations, one that they like this week and a month. They're like, Oh, I like this one. So they give to another one. You know, like whatever is, is kind of out in the marketplace then you that you're leaning on at that point is brand recognition. Instead of like, oh, by the way, you're doing this incredible mission and reminding them of that mission over and over and over again. So to me, it's like value proposition conquers everything, whether you have a big brand or small brand. And that is an area that regardless of size, that we have to do better at.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, absolutely. Another thing I want to ask you about is donor experience. I was talking earlier with Francesco from UNICEF and his job, his sole job was donor experience. And and to come up with like a methodology to score sort of like how satisfied a, kind of like an NPS but a little bit more in depth and so forth. And their sort of like thesis, which I totally agree with, is that like if we can retain in X percentage of more donors, we'll grow faster because acquiring new donors is the more expensive and is harder. So the question is working with the top 5 to 10% of nonprofits, how much do they prioritize donor experience and to the point of like even budgeting for a donor experience, right. And not just like how good is your website look and how easy is it to donate more kind of like the stewardship side of like what does the experience post, you know, donation.
Courtney Gaines Yeah, sadly maybe, do I start with that.
Justin Wheeler That's fine. Yeah.
Courtney Gaines Badly, it's terrible. No, I mean, I, I would love to think that they're doing an incredible job at that. But again, I think that so much is focused on acquisition.
Justin Wheeler Yeah.
Courtney Gaines That donor experience does kind of become at least a secondary or even like the third priority. Yeah. Acquisition is always at the at the forefront of everything. So to hear that, like that is his job. Your job is donor experience. I want that job, first of all. That's my favorite part is, is loving and donors. that's a whole other story. So most organizations do not have necessarily a separate team devoted to a donor experience. I'd be curious what he's doing. And maybe other teams are like, well our marketing team does that or our X, Y, Z team does that. They just don't have a cool title like, our friend from UNICEF. But it is an area that I think that it's like, Well, we do it, we think we do it well, but I don't think...
Justin Wheeler We put them in our newsletter. We give them an email every once in a while. Oh yeah. We've got great eperience.
Courtney Gaines Right, exactly. So, are they doing it well? I think there's a lot of opportunity for improvement there for honestly all nonprofits. Which is crazy to think that because we're working with these larger ones.
Justin Wheeler Yeah. And it's, the reason why I mean I'm like really interested in this topic because retention has just been horrendous, you know, for decades and it doesn't seem like nonprofits are really trying to address it, right? And/or like even, they put the, we gotta get tech to like do this for us. Well, to me, this isn't a tech solution. It's, it's really a strategic like initiative. It's culture at the organization, yeah, and intention. It's like, it's so, to me it's also a math problem. It's so easy to math out. If we were to increase retention by x percent, yes, we could bring down costs on acquisition and we could actually grow at this rate. I just don't understand why this hasn't been addressed. It is. And is it like and then gets me thinking how much of it is on the organization versus the donors attention span and they find a new cause. So I don't know if there's, I don't have any data around sort of like the average kind of like lifespan a donor gives to an organization. Some I'm kind of curious about that but.
Courtney Gaines Yeah I mean it's our job. It's our job. And I say our job as fundraisers. So it's whether that's an agency that's helping you, it's the organization itself, it is our job to retain the donors. Yes. They're going to get distracted and they're going to be, you know, whatever the next best nonprofit is that maybe they're going to give to for younger demographics. But at the end of the day, we have to understand how to retain them and what brought them in originally. And I just don't think that a lot of the times we do a lot of that work, I think we again become lazy of like while we acquired them, they're just not staying on our file because they're not staying on our file. They're they're bored with us or, you know, whatever it is. They went on and moved on. Well, the reality is like, have we done our work to actually say, what is it that motivated them to give in the first place? What have they been receiving? Is it the right kind of communication? Is it the right frequency of communication? You know, are we giving them that high touch experience? You know, I just actually gave a talk on mid-level giving and someone's like, well, could I just do this, like high touch to our broad based general file? I'm like 100% we should be. Yeah, because that is the problem, Justin is like, you know, we said we have this like mid-level donor crisis because they're not getting high touch and not getting regular, you know, communications like the general file, but really, at the end of the day, if retention is an issue and we know that major donors are sticking around because we're giving the white glove treatment and mid-levels are starting to come around to that, then why are we not treating the rest of our file in that way? And we can. But again, it comes back to that organization. It is our responsibility to do that.
Justin Wheeler Another thing that on this point, not to bring up UNICEF again, but I was fascinated by this because they're trying to solve this retention problem internally as well. And they started doing testing different like strategies. And so they broke a group of donors into different cohorts, same size gifts, sam, within the same year of giving to them cohorts. And one group they called on their birthday to say Happy Birthday. You mean a lot to us. And the other group, they didn't. The group that they donate those phone calls to had increased their gift by 5X and stayed around almost three times longer.
Courtney Gaines It's amazing.
Justin Wheeler And yeah. Just a simple little thing like that...
Courtney Gaines A birthday phone call. We've done testing with that in email. We added one additional email on a weekend. All it was is cultivation value add to half of our file, for six months. We looked at the retention and giving after. Again no additional ask. They were getting everything else that everyone else is getting. It was one additional cultivation email just to like check on them, give them an article really just to love on them. And it increased overall revenue by 26%.
Justin Wheeler Wow, wow.
Courtney Gaines One additional cultivation
Justin Wheeler Yeah, that's amazing.
Courtney Gaines From some random person at the organization who had never sent an email before, you know. It's amazing.
Justin Wheeler It's like top of mind. Yeah we did, when I was at Liberty in North Korea, we did, we called it like your birthday, your something, it basically was on the anniversary of your first gift to the organization. And so 12 months after your first gift, you get an email to say, hey, you know, happy giving birthday. Thank you so much. And we didn't do an ask, but the conversion rate and people actually come back and just giving after that was... so sometimes it's like the smallest, dumbest things that actually work.
Courtney Gaines No and again, it doesn't take a lot. And that's why my word was like, it takes intention. That is it. That's it. That is it is not some like big additional team, big additional budget, big additional technology. It is really just like, how about we start, how about we start caring?
Justin Wheeler Yeah, absolutely. Okay, one last question and then Rapid Fire.
Courtney Gaines All right.
Justin Wheeler Any campaigns coming up that you're really excited about that you think is new, difference? Anything that like that you're excited or project?
Courtney Gaines I'm we're doing a mobile giving study right now okay. That's going to come out in the fall right before our summit. So yeah. So I'm, I'm really excited about that because I mean, we do a ton of testing. We have over actually we just hit today 3,500 experiments in our library, which is a huge accomplishment. They rang the bell, have a cake, come in all the things while I'm here. So 3,500 experiments and others experiments, most of them are not focused on mobile giving. And while we we did tests, you know, whatever the thing is, the element we tested was on both desktop and mobile devices. The test and the hypothesis itself was not focused on the mobile device. And we know obviously the mobile experience is so radically different.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, yeah.
Courtney Gaines And so we did a research study. We just conducted, just finished giving to over 200 some organizations through our mobile phones and looked at the experience of the giving form, what communications looked like after. And now we're pulling together the research for that to kind of say, well, what is the state of nonprofit giving on mobile devices? And that also then allows us to understand and look for opportunities of where and what we should be testing to get an even greater response on mobile devices. Because we know that mobile giving is about half of what it is on desktop, even though traffic is, you know, almost double what it is on mobile devices.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, interesting to read that right before. Alright, let's do some rapid fire here. There's no right or wrong answers, so don't stress it. Okay, first question, are you more into movies or series?
Courtney Gaines I know this is rapid fire. I understand that it takes one answer.
Justin Wheeler That's alright. You could have multiple if you need it.
Courtney Gaines Series if I'm at home, movies in the theater for the popcorn.
Justin Wheeler Okay. What series, what's your active series right now?
Courtney Gaines I do really dark drama TV series, so I'm finishing Ozark right now.
Justin Wheeler Okay. If you want to stay on the dark theme, go to Severance next.
Courtney Gaines Ahh, done.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, it's so good. Tacos or cheeseburgers?
Courtney Gaines Oh, tacos.
Justin Wheeler Tacos. You're in Texas, right?
Courtney Gaines Yes, but not originally. But yeah.
Justin Wheeler Beach or the mountains?
Courtney Gaines Beach hands down.
Justin Wheeler Oh yeah, easy. Digital reading or ... where's your home?
Courtney Gaines Oh, not really. It's like in my heart Justin.
Justin Wheeler Yeah, yeah, I got, I gotcha. Digital reading or an actual book?
Courtney Gaines Audio. Audio, okay, there you go.
Justin Wheeler Ice cream or Froyo?
Courtney Gaines Ice cream.
Justin Wheeler Ice cream. You know, I think everyone has said ice cream. I think for Froyo.
Courtney Gaines It's like cupcakes, old news!
Justin Wheeler Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Football or fútbol?
Courtney Gaines Football.
Justin Wheeler Football. Okay, last one here, Moana or Aladdin.
Courtney Gaines Oh, I know rapid fire. Dang, the Disney heart in me is painfulright now. Ah, Aladdin. C'mon, nineties, nineties, you know.
Justin Wheeler Yeah. So, you're talking about the cartoon not the not the real life Aladdin?
Courtney Gaines Right, right. The original.
Justin Wheeler The original, the original. Awesome.
Courtney Gaines I would do Moana for the beach side of things but you know, and I lived in Hawaii for a while.
Justin Wheeler Oh, nice. Awesome. Well, thank you for joining the podcast. Have a good rest of the conference.
Courtney Gaines Awesome. Thanks, Justin.
Justin Wheeler Bye.
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