SynerVision Leadership Foundation

The Nonprofit Exchange: Leadership Tools & Strategies

Leadership Tools & Strategies
The Nonprofit Exchange: Leadership Tools & Strategies


Every week, the SynerVision Leadership team sits down with thought leaders across the nonprofit world to bring you leadership tools and strategies that can bring direct impact to your organization.


Developing Relationships For Winning Partnerships with Barbara Jaynes

Apr 21, 2019 55:02


Developing Relationships For Winning Partnerships with Barbara Jaynes

Barbara Jaynesis the founder of Positively-Funded. A Business Development firm focused on making nonprofits THRIVE. Barbara came to the nonprofit sector after having spent over fifteen years in large scale commercial real estate development. Bringing with her savvy negotiation skills and durable relationship development between the private and public sectors. Positively-Funded assists nonprofits with creating authentic community allies. Engaging for profit partners in nonprofit missions to increase their revenue, decrease employee turnover and create sustainable resilient communities. Barbara focuses on winning relationships for the long-term.

More about Jayne

Google AdWords Grant Help with Hank Robinson

Apr 14, 2019 52:38


While attending college in Gainesville, Florida Hank Robinson created and internet marketing software solution. This software provided Environmental Consulting firms with a bidding platform for government proposals. The business grew to cover the entire Southeastern United States and later sold.

While working for an Internet start-up in Tampa, he created tracking and reporting software for internet advertisers and Google Ads advertisers. This tracking software led to establishing – Internet Media Buyers in 2002.

Internet Media Buyers is a digital ad firm that offers tracking software solutions for local and medium-sized businesses. Internet Media Buyers tracking and reporting software is especially useful when combined with Google AdWords and Google Analytics. Internet Media Buyers grew along with the success of the Google search engine.

Internet Media Buyers became known as the tracking solution to maximize the results of Google Advertising with a client base of hundreds of monthly Google AdWords accounts.

Recently sold Internet Media Buyers to focus more on non-profits. Sunray Marketing offers internet based marketing solutions to non-profits.

How Fundraising Really Works:How to Secure the Best Talent

Apr 7, 2019 01:00:15


How Fundraising Really Works:
How to Secure the Best Talent Interview With Jason Lewis

Jason Lewisis a CFRE & AFP Master Trainer who provides the sector with an often needed contrarian voice, willing to question deeply ingrained beliefs and assumptions of how effective fundraising really works. Whether writing or speaking, Jason challenges the prevailing wisdom about effective fundraising practices, hiring decisions, and donor behavior. Jason’s first book, The War for Fundraising Talent, is an honest yet hopeful critique of professional fundraising, intended especially for small shops that find it difficult to consistently achieve their fundraising goals.

Jason is the host of The Fundraising Talent Podcast. Every week, Jason and his guest have an honest conversation about what it means to be a fundraising professional. The podcast provides listeners with a better understanding of what it means to be in one of the sector’s critically important yet least understood roles.

Jason is the creator of The Fundraising Toolbox, introduced in the conclusion ofThe War for Fundraising Talent, which consists of four planning models designed to ensure that nonprofit organizations can align their board, professional staff and volunteers around a shared understanding of how effective fundraising really works.

Wine and Community for Nonprofits with Ross Halleck

Apr 7, 2019 59:09


Wine and Community:
How Wine Events Build Community and Income
with Ross Halleck

[caption id="attachment_2166" align="alignleft" width="313"]Ross Halleck, Founder of Halleck Vineyard[/caption]

Ross Halleck, Principal and Founder of Halleck Vineyard is a man of many talents and a colorful history. After traveling halfway around the world with a backpack, in his early 20s, he settled in Western Kenya to teach secondary school in a small village on Lake Victoria.

Returning to the US, he completed school at UC Santa Cruz in marketing communication and founded a branding agency in 1980 at the birth of Silicon Valley.

In pursuit of mutual passions, Ross focused his creativity on both high technology and wine with offices in Silicon Valley and Sonoma County.

In 1992, Ross planted a Pinot Noir vineyard on the Sonoma Coast. His first 2001 vintage was judged the #1 Pinot Noir in the US.

This launched Halleck Vineyard, which focuses on four varietals: Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Gewurztraminer, and it’s newest, a Dry White Zinfandel..

Between 2016 -2018 alone, Halleck Vineyard earned over 50 medals in 10 national and international competitions.  Most were Gold. Every wine earned a Gold Medal in multiple events.  Halleck Vineyard wines have been featured in multiple wine publications, including the Wine Spectator.

In 2019, Halleck Vineyard was judged #1 Pinot Noir in North America in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. This is the largest, oldest and most respected in the country. 7200 wines competed. Further, Halleck Vineyard was awarded not one, but two Best Of Class Awards, for two the two top price categories of Pinot Noir. They were also awarded a Double Gold and Silver in the same year. No other winery in the 40 year history of this competition has achieved this.

The spirit behind Halleck Vineyard is “Building Community Through Wine.” They accomplish this by:

Welcome people to their home for private tastings. Sharing experiences around the world.  Supporting philanthropic endeavors that touch their hearts.

In 2017, Ross Halleck began a partnership with Josh Groban and his Find Your Light Foundation to support education in the arts in the public schools in the United States. Their first vintage, a Halleck Vineyard 2014, Find Your Light, Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir sold out in four months. The 2015 vintage was released at the Find Your Light Foundation Gala in May, 2018. To date, Halleck Vineyard has assisted in raising approximately $200K for the Find Your Light Foundation.

The Challenges of Leading a Nonprofit Association: Panel of Experts

Mar 31, 2019 01:01:22


The Challenges of Leading a Nonprofit Association: David Bone, FUMMWA Jim Rindelaub, ALCM Kelly Abraham, PAM FUMMWA David Bone

David L. Bone has served since 1991 as the Executive Director of The Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts. In this position, he manages the program and financial affairs of The Fellowship. David is also the co-author of “The United Methodist Music and Worship Planner” and “Prepare! A Weekly Worship Planbook.” David was on the worship planning teams for the 2012 and 2016 General Conferences of The UMC.

  David holds Master of Music degrees in Sacred Music and Choral Conducting from Southern Methodist University. David is a regular clinician at local and national events in the areas of music, worship, and choral conducting.     The Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Artsexists to assist worship FUMMWAleaders in creating meaningful worship experiences that bring people into deeper relationships with God and each other. Founded in 1955 as the National Fellowship of Methodist Musicians, The Fellowship has grown to include worship artists, clergy, and laity involved in all aspects of worship from a variety of denominations and experiences.     ACLM   Jim RindelaubJim Rindelaubis a lifelong Lutheran with church music degrees from St. Olaf College and Westminster Choir College. He has served as the organist/music director at Saint Mark's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jacksonville, FL, Grace Lutheran Church in Phillipsburg, NJ, Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, IL, First United Lutheran Church in Dallas, TX and currently Ascension Lutheran Church in Indian Harbour Beach, FL. He was the founding director of Jacksonville's Community Bach Vespers Chorus and Chamber Orchestra. Jim has served on the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians National Board as Region II president and was the organization's 2003 National Conference Chair held in San Diego. He has served in various offices for local American Guild of Organists and Choristers Guild Chapters. As a deacon in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Jim chaired synodical worship committees in Florida and Illinois. Jim served as the Choristers Guild executive director from 2004 - 2017.ALCM

The Association of Lutheran Church Musicians: Music is a vital expression of Lutheran worship. The church’s song takes many forms and is expressed in many ways. By sharing the knowledge,
experience and passion that honor our heritage and inspire our future, ALCM nurtures and equips those who lead music in worship. ALCM offers practical education programs and diverse resources through conferences, publications and fellowship to serve musicians of all types – from paid professionals to volunteers. By connecting servant leaders to one another and by cultivating their musical gifts, ALCM supports worshipping communities in the proclamation of the gospel.

PAM   Kelly AbrahamKelly Abraham serves the Presbyterian Association of Musicians (PAM) from its headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky. Before joining PAM, she was the Director of Youth & Families at First Presbyterian Church in Lexington, Kentucky. And a lifetime before that, she spent her days in fiscal administration at the University of Missouri-Columbia.  She is a graduate of University of Puget Sound (accounting & business) and University of Missouri - Columbia (MBA).  She loves youth, music, collaborative worship planning, strong liturgy and the synergy that comes with working with people not like her. She is married to Kirk and the mother of two teenage girls.  

The Presbyterian Association of Musiciansprovides resources, conferences, publications and a vast network of members who are engaged in worship, music, and the arts worldwide. Becoming a Presbyterian Association of Musiciansmember of PAM gives you instant access to these valuable benefits which will improve your worship planning for any size church in any location with information addressing new and old issues facing all denominations.

​Choir directors, worship musicians, organists, Christian educators, artists, clergy, and lay people will find PAM to be a valuable resource for creative worship planning. PAM is not just for Presbyterians. Other denominations find our resources, conferences, and publications helpful in their service to God.

Getting the Most Value from Interns with Marc Propst

Mar 24, 2019 59:28


How to Get Maximum Value with Intern Engagements

Marc PropstMarc Propst is a Senior at the University of Lynchburg (Lynchburg, VA), graduating with a Bachelor’s in Political Science. In the short time frame that Marc has been a college student, he has had many different internship experiences with Non-Profits from different industries. Marc is currently the project management intern at the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance, a 5-star accredited Chamber of Commerce & Economic Development Center. Marc is also the Deputy Executive Director and Executive Council Member of the Non-Profit, Spectrum Arts Society. Marc is also a co-founder of the Office of Equity & Inclusion at the University of Lynchburg. The Office is aimed at providing Diversity & Inclusion efforts for the University. Creating this office helps to foster community and an inclusive environment allows for all members of the University, from students to alumni & friends. A life goal that Marc has is to be President of the United States, to help even more people.

College students are the future of the workforce, whether it will be in the For-Profit area or Non-Profit area. These students could be in charge of your organization. Help them to connect with others in the community, bring them to events, expose them to amazing opportunities that the world has to offer. You can help shape our future to become better leaders, thinkers, and advocates. Take the time to invest in the future because you were one of us too.

How Evaluation Helps Nonprofits Thrive with Dr. Annette Shtivelband

Mar 17, 2019 54:08


Dr. Annette Shtivelband is Founder and Principal Consultant of Research Evaluation Consulting. For more than a decade, Dr. Shtivelband has worked with dozens of organizations as a researcher, evaluator, and consultant. She works with her clients to systematically, strategically, and thoroughly measure their impact. She excels in program evaluation, scale development and validation, training, and strategies that promote positive organizational change.

Evaluation is a powerful tool for nonprofit organizations. In fact, I believe that evaluation is the “secret sauce” that differentiates organizations that thrive versus those that only survive. Nonprofits that are able to utilize and leverage evaluation will have more successful and sustainable organizations.

Top 3 Branding Mistakes Your Profit Needs to Stop Making Now

Mar 10, 2019 01:00:00


How to Put a "Twist" in Your Brand with Julie Cottineau

Julie CottineauJulie Cottineauis the Founder and CEO of BrandTwist, a brand consultancy group that helps entrepreneurs and corporations build stronger, more profitable brands. Prior to launching her own business, she was the VP of Brand at Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, overseeing branding strategy for new and established Virgin companies in North America.

About the Interview:

Ever wonder how Richard Branson manages to shake things up every time, in so many different industries? Julie Cottineau, spent 5 years as the VP of Brand for Virgin in North America helping to grow this iconic brand. Now the best-selling author of TWIST: How Fresh Perspectives Build Breakthrough Brands(Panoma Press 2016), Founder & CEO of BrandTwistwill show you how TWIST your non profit's brand  for maximum impact.

Fresh ideas come from looking at old problems from new perspectives.

In this podcast, Julie will teach you how to:

Go beyond “me-too” marketing, and get stand out Make the most of every brand touch-point – large and small Connect with target more deeply to create loyal brand ambassadors Walk away with tangible new ideas for your organization

Why nonprofits should care about brand

A unique, compelling brand can make or break even the strongest, most worthy enterprise. Once you understand the true nature of your brand, you achieve clarity and focus. You are in a much better position to serve the cause and the people you’re really passionate about. Literally, it can change a life.

Your charity, church or synagogue needs a strong brand – one with a TWIST. The TWIST is your unique story that will help you stand out, get the attention your good work deserves and build a loyal community of followers, donors, and volunteers.

Julie’s Website

Get her book Twist


Are Websites Dead?Pip Patten Shares Ways to Engage New Supporters

Mar 3, 2019 55:59


Interview Transcript

Hugh Ballou: Welcome to another episode of The Nonprofit Exchange. It’s Hugh Ballou and my colleague, Russell David Dennis. How are you today, Russell?

Russell Dennis: Greetings, everyone, and welcome. We are doing great in the Denver, Colorado area.

Hugh: Russell, you and I have been doing this for a while. Overall, The Nonprofit Exchange started four years ago. We have hundreds of episodes from really good people. Our guest today was here once before talking about a different topic. We are talking about a related topic. I thought it was so important that we should invite him back and dig a little deeper into his intellect. Us old guys, we have earned the right to talk about more than one thing because we have been around the block a few times. Let’s welcome back Pip Patten. He is from the central Florida area, in Orlando. Pip, welcome.  

Pip Patten: Thank you. Appreciate it. I am in Tampa technically. That qualifies as central Florida.

Hugh: I know where Tampa is; I used to live in St. Pete.

Pip: I know you did. A little on my background. I currently have a digital marketing agency, which I’ve had here in Tampa, co-founded with a partner about eight years ago. In a former life, I was a Yellow Pages rep. I sold them back when the Yellow Page directory was the search engine of choice. That has now changed. What was interesting about that was it gave me a lot of insight to a lot of types of businesses. Since then, my focus has been helping local businesses primarily market themselves, which is what I enjoy doing. I found the people who own local businesses are folks I enjoy working with and getting to know and helping succeed. It is rewarding for me and for them.

When we spoke a while back, we talked about Google grants, which are available to the nonprofit sector. Google Ads availability, which Google will provide. We will visit that again at some point.

Today, I think we are going to talk about the idea of websites are dead.

Hugh: We are. That was our teaser headline. It’s about more than just one thing though. Where did you get this expertise from?

Pip: After being in Yellow Pages and working with local businesses for 14 years, I got out of that and really spent a couple of years taking care of my mom who needed some attention at that time. In the process, I was interested in technology. Google was starting to raise up and become well known. I remember having to wait early on to get a Gmail address because when they first started Gmail, you couldn’t just get one. You had to get on a waiting list because they were rolling them out slowly to make sure things would work. I remember waiting for that.

I began to learn more about websites and marketing online and how that could help local businesses. As I talked to local businesses that I knew, they were confused about having a website or not. How am I going to market myself? Yellow Pages doesn’t have attention anymore. TV and radio have become fragmented. It’s all about in today’s world where are people’s attention. Where is their attention focused? Can I get my message in front of them? Today, people’s attentions are on their phones. This little device has changed the world. As powerful as this device is right now, within the next 10 years, it will become vastly more powerful and important, especially from a marketing standpoint.

Hugh: You gave us a couple of topics. Are websites dead? But your overall thought was how do we create a sales funnel? We are talking about a nonprofit, Pip. Why do we need a sales funnel for a nonprofit?

Pip: One thing in particular that it can be used for is in the fundraising arena. I have seen a lot of nonprofits and regular businesses that will spend money on advertising, Google Ads and other things. They will send traffic to the homepage of the website. But it doesn’t actually focus a visitor’s attention any one place. People get distracted very easily today. When you land on the home page of somebody’s website, there are 42 things you can click on: drop-down menus and social media links. In a lot of cases, people have wasted their advertising dollars just sending a visitor to the homepage of their website. If they are trying to get them to make a donation, if they are running a charity golf event for someone to sign up, if they want them to join a newsletter, if they want to announce an upcoming event, maybe it’s a holiday coming up. Maybe they are starting to promote some Easter activities. When you are going to direct people for a particular purpose, where they will land needs to speak solely to that purpose. Mostly it doesn’t. That’s why I say the website is dead. A website is really just a brochure as opposed to what we’d like to call a landing page where you can direct somebody’s attention for the purpose of getting them there.

Hugh: You’re bringing them in from a noisy world, and you create more noise, so they don’t know where to go. I will give you an acronym that I learned from Tom Antheon, who teaches speakers how to build businesses: HITS is how idiots define success. You don’t care how idiots track success. It’s not how many hits you got; it’s how many conversions you have.

Websites. I will agree with you. I see a lot of dead websites. I have heard this from clients I’ve had, who had a large team and produce big web experiences for state parks, for government, for universities. There wasn’t just a pretty thing up there. Tom had also talked about web designers being propellerheads. We create something that is pretty, but no engagement factor. You hit on a big one in that websites are in fact dead because we don’t know how to engage people with this experience. Let me throw that back in your arena. Any comments?

Pip: Absolutely. That is the case. That is what we are finding today. Let’s say a church has a large email list, and they want to do an email promotion for a particular purpose. They have to send that traffic to a particular place if they want to get the results they would like to have. A website itself is not going to make that happen. It needs a landing page. A landing page can be part of that website, or it will be a mini website, what I call a sales funnel. If you direct someone there, then you have the ability to extract the result you’re looking for. When they get there, they only have a couple options: follow through and do what you’re asking them to do, or click away and go somewhere else.

As an example, outside in the regular for-profit sector, there are a lot of companies, large and small, who spend huge amounts of companies on ads online, Google in particular. All of them spending significant dollars, five figures a month or more, are sending that traffic to specific landing pages. If an attorney is advertising for an auto accident, he wants to send that traffic to a specific page that talks about that topic and gives some of his testimonials that speaks to his credibility. They have options. One is to call him or to send him a message asking for his consultation.

In the e-commerce world, I have a funnel that I created for Christian Family Life recently. All it is designed to do is to get people who are interested in finding out more about their small group study for marriage ministry called Two Becoming One.

I recently did a funnel for a jeweler. Jewelers are people who don’t take advantage of digital media at all. One of the benefits of that is they can choose to buy something, and in the order process, you have the ability to get them to buy something extra.

The same can be applied to the nonprofit sector. If someone agrees to make a donation, then in the checkout process, there may be other things you can offer them that they would like to participate in that would generate more revenue for the nonprofit and doesn’t require any extra work of the person who is making the purchase or the donation. We have a mechanism called a one-click upsell. Let’s say you go to a page and say, “Yes, I want to buy this item.” You’re selling a T-shirt. You want to buy a T-shirt. You put in your credit card information and are ready to check out, and at the bottom of the page, it says, “By the way, would you also like a hat that matches? They are normally $25, but you can have one for $15.” All they have to do is check Yes, and boom, they don’t have to go back and put their credit card information in again. It’s a powerful thing. When people have already made the decision to spend some money or make a donation, in many cases, you can offer some other things that will entice them to spend more money or make further donations for a different purpose while they are in that mindset.

Hugh: It requires knowing what you want. I think building out what Russ and I do is help people build out their strategy so they know all the things they want to accomplish. Someone like you can help them pull it off. We have this big gap between desire and implementation. Part of implementation is on your side. I am going to ask you another question and let the smart guy ask some.

We’re talking today about websites being dead, but they don’t have to be dead. They are an active, organic engagement tool. We’re talking right now about the funding piece. We just say, “Oh, make a donation.” We don’t create the language or make it a simple process. As they are checking out, you can upsell them. The other option is, “Here are some committees. Here’s a place you can volunteer.” They are investing in the outcomes of the organization, but they can also invest with their time. Maybe there is a way to share this stuff with other people while they have the site open.

I’m sure you have lots of tricks up your sleeve, but I heard you say at the beginning of this that when people get there, we drive traffic. That’s one factor. But what do people do when they get there? What is the most important thing you can say to people thinking about updating or beginning to build a web experience for a nonprofit or church or public service organization? What’s the advice you’d give them as they are starting up?

Pip: As they are starting up, I believe every business needs a website. Websites are dead for a certain purpose. Everyone should have one as a general information point. As far as a start-up nonprofit, yes, I believe they should have a website that when someone lands there, they can quickly understand what that nonprofit is about. What is their purpose? What is their mission? What are they trying to accomplish in the world?

Russell: There is a lot to that. With the website being dead, one of the things that confuses people and leads to them being stuck is the availability of so many tools. You spoke to the landing page, which is for a special purpose. What are some of the other tools in addition to the website that are effective for nonprofits? Why do these work well together?

Pip: One thing right now is we are probably at a point where it’s easier to build a brand online than it ever has been before. With that, that involves making a commitment to social media. I had a meeting with a young lady yesterday who used to be a Tony Robbins coach, and she is launching a coaching business of her own. She needs to be doing a Facebook Live every day. Take that video, whatever that is. It could be 5-20 minutes. Download that video, and put it up on YouTube. Then go through that video, and find nuggets of wisdom. 60-second clips. Post those on Instagram. We will take that video and separate the video and audio. Put the audio on a podcast. If we go a step further, she can take the audio transcribed and create a blog post. Parts of the video can also be posted on LinkedIn. Now you have the ability to put out media on a daily basis to a whole bunch of channels. Why is that important?

That’s important because, like I held up the phone before, it’s a battle, if you will, to get people’s attention. You don’t know where everybody’s attention is. Mine might be on Facebook. Yours might be on LinkedIn. Hugh might be on Instagram. Some people spend a lot of time on YouTube. Some folks like to read. Reading is still a thing that people do, I think, especially if they are over 40.

Russell: Hugh happens to be surrounded by Yellow Page guys. I sold Yellow Page ads during college. Once again, he’s out on the fringes, but that’s ok.

Hugh: My worst nightmare.

Russell: There are so many things here that we can use. What we are all about here is strategy. With all of these tools available, and you just mentioned one way that someone can take one single piece of content and spread it across six platforms. Do you find confusion out there about how to use these platforms? What is the best way to approach a social media strategy? You want to have a brand. Don’t different people show up in these multiple places?

Pip: They do. You want to know who your audience is. Ideally, as you guys know, if you are building a strategy, you want to create an avatar. Who is that person you’re speaking to? You want to do the best you can with that. As far as social media strategy goes, I work mostly in the for-profit sector, I tell people to put out your best content. Put out your best stuff. Most people don’t want to do it themselves. They will find someone to do it for them. The more you give your best information, the more you establish yourself as the expert, and you become branded and create content that people want to share.

What’s interesting about Facebook is when you start doing this, you may not have anybody watching your Facebook Live. But the more you do it, the first time you do it, you get one person. The next time, it’s two or three. As that number begins to grow slowly, Facebook realizes there are people staying on listening to this for 5-10 minutes. We will start showing it to more people. Facebook knows more about all of us than we would like anyway. They will share it with who they determine to be like-minded people with the folks who are watching. It takes time to do it, but it doesn’t take dollars to do that.

One great thing about doing this social media strategy is if you are doing video content, you will find over time that more posts will get more engagement than others. If you find a post with a higher level of engagement, you can download that video and use it in a paid advertising strategy because you know the content has good engagement already, so it will do better if you put money behind it than if you were just starting to spend money on a campaign not really knowing if you had engaging ads or not. It can help you in that regard as well.

Russell: It makes sense. That’s part of being effective: staying on track and tracking everything you do. We encourage people to do that. What would you say is the best approach to building a brand, given that there are so many options?

Pip: Just what I said. I would set up a Facebook page around their brand. I would be getting on there doing regular content, if not daily, 3-4 times a week. Doesn’t have to just be them themselves. It could be an interview like we are doing here. This is a podcast that is live-streamed to Facebook, but it could just be someone doing a 1:1 interview on Facebook with someone within their niche that they felt like their audience would be interested in what that person has to say. I would just start there.

The other means of taking that content and putting it other places is it may initially be challenging for some folks. With a little bit of instruction, it’s not that tough to figure out. I know a couple people who would disagree with me, but overall, if you’re dedicated to building your brand and you know where you’re going, you’ll figure it out.

Hugh: It’s ok for people to disagree with you because you’re not responsible for their low functioning.

Just to play in to what you’re saying, to show it’s practical, we are streaming live on Facebook. We are recording on my computer, which I will edit and put the music and brand on it. I will relaunch the video on YouTube. We put it on LinkedIn and Facebook. In the next couple of days, it will have several hundred views. In a few days, it will launch on the audio podcast. We will take what you say, every word you say, and transcribe it. That goes into the podcast and the web page. By the way, the livestream of the Facebook is streaming on your page on the website. We have publicized that on our 250,000 contacts on social media. They can just watch you on our website. We are repurposing live right now. Before I go to sleep tonight, it will be on YouTube and all over. People will be ringing your phone wondering who is this guy?

We provide value to people every week when we do these things. What I do find, Pip, is when I show up in a group of leaders, people know who I am because I’m out there on the live stream. I’m out there on social media. People don’t always agree with what I say, but I subscribe to, “Comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.” We stir things up a little bit.

This is so helpful. If people don’t know how to do all these things, we will put into the window your website address and your email address. Pip@SI- What is SI?

Pip: Search Intelligence. That’s my company.

Hugh: I know Russ is anxious to dig deeper on some questions. I’m going to throw it back to Russell.

Russell: This is all fascinating. People look at social media. There are so many platforms and choices out there. What would you say to a nonprofit leader who says, “We don’t need all of that. We only need one. We’ll just do Facebook.” What would you say to a nonprofit leader who says that?

Pip: I would say that’s a good start, but it depends on- My attitude is this. I’ll hold up the phone to him/her as well and say, “This is what holds most people’s attention today.” Everybody whose attention is here is not on Facebook. Some of them are watching YouTube videos. Some are on their Twitter feed. Some are on LinkedIn. Some listen to podcasts when they are driving around doing things. A few people go to websites and read stuff still. I would say, “Yes, you want to be on Facebook.” It’s important. and you want video on Facebook because video holds people’s attention. But you are handcuffing yourself if you are just sticking with one platform. If you will put the work to doing that one platform, it isn’t a whole lot more work to get that content on other platforms. Ideally, someone on their own could get this done in an hour a day once you get used to doing it and get a system going. Before that, it will take longer. It will be burdensome until you fine-tune it for yourself.

Russell: Multiple platforms. For nonprofits, and I know you work with different businesses, are there some that are better than others, if they have limited bandwidth as far as the amount of time or people they have to sit and work this system and set it up? Is there an order of priority that works better for nonprofits?

Pip: Facebook and Instagram are huge, of course. I think for a lot of people, LinkedIn hasn’t really been utilized to the extent that it could be. But if you are going to do the Facebook content, it’s just not a lot of extra work to take some of that content, clips or still shots, and get them on Instagram. You can take that same video and post it on LinkedIn. On LInkedIn, you will put that on your personal profile, not the business profile. People don’t look at the business side.

Russell: Some platforms are more visual like a Pinterest or Instagram. Those are visual. How important is it to play to all of the senses that people have in making your message stick and reach more people?

Pip: You want to mix it up. Part of the advice I give people is if you have your avatar, what is the age bracket? If you are dealing with 40 and under, you need to focus your attention more on Instagram. If it’s 35 and up, then maybe Facebook. There is a saying out there now that the millennials aren’t on Facebook. I don’t believe that’s true. I think they’re there as well, even though Instagram may have their primary focus. Pinterest, I don’t do much with it. I think for certain niches, specifically e-commerce, it can be good. I think it’s good for jewelers and the wedding industry. It’s visually oriented, even more than Instagram is visually oriented. You have to play with different ones and see which posts you do get the most engagement.

The other thing you can do on Instagram in particular is search hashtags. If you know what your hashtags are, search those. Find out what the top performing posts are on that platform. Use those to help yourself model the posts you do. I have a young man I know who is proficient on Instagram. He is 21 years old. Normally, he is on there in T-shirts and jeans and flip-flops. He was looking at a competitor and saw he had done one dressed up in a suit and tie. The post got huge engagement. He went out and got a suit and tie and did a post. It did better than anything else he’d been doing. You can learn from what other people do. You can’t copy, but you can model that success to gain more success for yourself. Does that help answer that a little bit?

Russell: It does. The hashtag gives people things to search through. The thing I’m seeing more and more of is video. Talk about the importance of video. I know for nonprofits, it’s about telling a story in an engaging way. Why is it really important for them to use video? Are there some things that would be more effective where video is concerned?

Pip: Video is important because it will hold people’s attention longer. The one most important thing is the sound needs to be really good. People, even if the visual part is good, if the sound is poor, people won’t stick around and listen.

Another trick with Facebook: Most people who watch videos on Facebook on their mobile device do so with the sound off. 70%. It’s a good idea to make the effort to close caption the video so you can get your message across even when they don’t have the sound on. That’s an extra step, more work, but certainly can be well worth it.

Videos need to be real. If they are too slickly produced, you will lose people. I know a story that I’m fond of telling is I have a friend who has an online business. She lives in the Northeast. She is a mom with four kids. She is busy. She had been trying to get this video post out for a week. It was always something going on. The dog was sick, or one of the kids was sick. Finally she had to get it done. She didn’t have time to do her hair or put on her makeup. She had her sick son sitting on her lap. She turned on her webcam and microphone. That post got more engagement than anything she’d ever done because it was real. People could relate to that.

In any arena, you need to have content that people can relate to. A video is too slick, and everybody thinks they can’t do it or it’s too well produced. You can have some of that, but it’s nice to have the stuff that is real and you pull out your iPhone or mobile phone and shoot some video. That can be really engaging and very effective.

Russell: It looks like that red carpet footage from Hugh from Sunday night will have to stay in the vault.

All of this material that we put together and all of the ways we bring this information together is to tell a story that is relatable to people. Back to the whole topic of a sales funnel. We want people to become more and more engaged so you attract more at the top and bring them in. Talk about some of the things that nonprofits would use a funnel for. Some of it is to engage donors. What are other uses for a sales funnel? What messaging would go into that?

Pip: The messaging could be what they are trying to promote at the time, whether it’s raising funds or attracting volunteers or promoting an event. The best way to do a sales funnel is put one together that is a single one focused on that one topic. It’s all about the strategy. What are you trying to accomplish?

The other thing that is important on these funnels is the social proof. Social proof is everything in today’s social media world. When you’re pulling out your video and are having an event, you want to get some comments from other people that are not necessarily a part of the organization, but they are fans of the organization or the people who come to the church or support the charity or volunteer for the charity or are recipients of the charity’s good works. All of that, as much as you can, needs to be captured. Pictures, video. That needs to be a part of that sales funnel so when you direct traffic there, the people can see this evidence that says, “I’m here for a particular reason.” You see an overwhelming amount of social proof saying, “These guys do some good work. Here’s the evidence.” It makes it easy for people to say yes and take the next step.

Russell: That’s powerful. Have your friends recommend you. That is the best thing you can get out there. People who are talking about why they support that nonprofit. More people that your audience can relate to.

Pip: Absolutely. That is so important. As I mentioned, I am doing some work for CFL for a marriage ministry. Our whole focus of attention right now is gathering social proof for people who have been through this marriage ministry and the positive results they received. We are gathering that before making our next big marketing push. It’s weird to say marketing in the nonprofit context, but it is marketing.

Russell: If nobody knows what good work you’re doing, they can’t support you.

Pip: That’s right.

Hugh: We have an aversion to some principles. We have an aversion in nonprofits and churches (which are nonprofits) that we don’t want to sell. What is evangelism? We don’t want to market. What is evangelism? People don’t give. Have we told them what’s going on? Have we told them about the impact of our work? Interviewing people, and getting third party testimonials, is excellent.

However, we have to give them a format to talk in. They will talk about fluff unless we say talk about what you needed, talk about the impact, and talk about the results you saw. Say a little bit about how when we do get people to talk about us and we post this-

We started out talking about our websites, but we have talked about a web presence. Your website is your credibility piece. This is what we do; this is what we’re about. Your website is not just on the one platform. A church is not only behind the four walls. There are other pieces of marketing. Russell is spot-on. How do you connect with people?

Pip: I think one of the best ways to make sure that you’re not getting fluff is you have to ask questions, specific questions. If you’re gathering a video interview or if you are walking around an event with your mobile phone, ask people questions. Get their answers. Then you’re not just going to get, “This is great. I’m happy to be here.” “What have you seen today that made the biggest impact on you?” Or, “Have you thought about a friend who you really want to know about this?” Or, if you are talking to someone who has been the recipient of the good works of that organization, ask them, “How has this impacted your life? How has this helped you at home? How has this helped you with your children?” You get some specifics in there, and not just fluff, as you said.

Hugh: It’s not that we’re programming them. We’re helping them focus on what’s important. I’m going to let Russ have another go at you. Russ, what else do you have on your heart that you want to ask him to talk about?

Russell: One thing we talk about at the Colorado Speakers Academy is messaging, trying to find out what you want people to know, feel, and do as a result of the message. What would be the advice that you would give to nonprofit leaders specifically to hone in on accomplishing those three things? Are there certain best practices that serve a nonprofit more so than it would serve a commercial entity?

Pip: I think they are largely the same. Anybody who is leading a nonprofit is already in most cases someone who is comfortable speaking. They are having to get up in front of people and speak. It’s getting comfortable turning that webcam on and talking to a Facebook audience when you are not seeing a person right in front of you. Interviews can be helpful because then at least you have another person to speak to. Focusing on the message that you want. The other thing that is effective is telling stories. It’s important to get your message told in a story format because people love listening to stories. But they don’t like being lectured to. If you can get your message across in a compelling story, you will be more effective.

Russell: That was one takeaway from my mastermind. We have a group here that meets. Somebody will share a challenge. We had one of our members looking at updating some of our material on social media. She had written something very carefully, and it was slick and polished. When the question was posed, why is she doing this, her authentic self came out. She talked for about 45 seconds. One of the members said, “Why didn’t you write that down?” It was smooth. She was just seamless. She was into it. It came out very well.

Do you find that people feel like they have to polish stuff up because maybe they are uncomfortable being on camera? Even if they are the only person in that room, it’s like speaker anxiety where they are afraid to talk into a camera. How do you address that?

Pip: What I tell people is the same thing I tell myself because I am not comfortable doing it either. We have to do it. Whether it takes you 10 times or 20 times or 30 times, once you do it enough, you will find your voice, and you will get a good understanding of how you need to present that information and the kinds of stores you’re good at telling. With the Speakers Bureau, if they have never done speaking but always wanted to, they will be bad when they start. Practice gets you better. I used to play competitive golf. If you have ever played any golf, you know that the first time you pick up a club, the first thing you do is totally wrong. You learn those fundamentals, and then you practice. The nice thing about social media is that people are intimidated by and large. If they see somebody looking not so polished or stumbling over their words a bit, they’re okay with that. That’s real. Real can be compelling. You can draw an audience by being an authentic person. I could do that.

Russell: I don’t think they will mistake Hugh and me for Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon. But I think we hold our own here. Get a message out to folks that resonates with them. That’s what we hope to do. Finding other people that are doing some of this type of stuff might be helpful. Do you recommend helping people get a support system? Talk to somebody who has done this before. How about some of the volunteers in the organization? Do you find that when you work with nonprofits, some of them have volunteers on board who are savvy with this stuff who can interface with someone like you to bring the image to life for a nonprofit?

Pip: In this arena, I can’t say I have worked with enough of them to have that experience. I am working real solidly more with one right now. They do have some volunteers who are helpful in this arena. It still largely falls to the head of the organization. Most nonprofits don’t have big staffs. There is not a lot of people. Even if there are volunteers, they don’t have enough time. It’s learning how to put it together into a system that you can create for yourself. Once you get it down, you can do a Facebook Live video and parse it out to the different platforms inside an hour, if you have done it before and know what you’re doing. It just takes some time to learn those steps, like everything.

Hugh: Speaking of an hour, we can multiply ourselves if we can learn how to lead a whole team. Pip has opened up a topic that is really important. We think we will just get some kid to put up a nice looking website. We haven’t developed an integrative program. Pip, part of what we don’t do is define who we are and identify our brand value, our brand image, our brand promise. We need to identify who we are. What we have at SynerVision is a whole integrative process. You are doing things differently with web presence and social media presence and letting people integrate with us and engage people. It’s critical in the nonprofit space.

*Sponsor message from SynerVision Leadership’s forum*

What tip or thought or challenge do you want to leave people with, Pip?

Pip: I would challenge everyone to get out there on social media and do a Facebook Live. Start there. Get comfortable with that. Then you can figure out a way to parse that material out. Take the video and put it on YouTube and Instagram and LinkedIn, etc. Hugh, if it’s okay, can I make an offer to your audience?

Hugh: Yes.

Pip: I will offer to create a sales funnel for three nonprofits for no charge. The first three that contact me as a result of this interview. Contact me via email at I will put together a funnel for them for no charge.

Hugh: I don’t think Russ and I can take the first two. That wouldn’t be fair. That’s generous. Thank you so much for being here. Russ will close us out today.

Russell: Thank you very much, Pip. It’s been very enlightening. As always, an hour flies by here.  

A Sustainable Not-For-Profit Financial Model with Steve Merager

Feb 24, 2019 58:38


Steve Meragerhas twenty-eight years in the financial services industry and now provides sophisticated services to small- and medium-sized businesses as a fractional CFO.

Steve has managed the budget of a nine billion dollar bond project, was the lead financial manager of the pilot program for what is now the country's largest student loan program, regularly helps businesses with their pre-IPO requirements, finds profit opportunities for clients and helps organizations find solid ground for their work.

Steve believes that true clarity for a business leader happens when a company's books tell the same story in numbers that the leadership tells in words. If there is a divergence between the two, all of the reporting that would otherwise provide guidance instead creates confusion.

Greater profits and peace of mind are available and Merager Financial Solutions is the trusted resource to make that happen.

For more information about Steve Here

Growing Early Stage Organizations with Bud Michael

Feb 17, 2019 48:30


Bud Michael has 40 years experience for industry leading hardware, software and services companies. He has held executive level sales and marketing positions with large, industry-leading product companies including Intel, Tandem Computer, Sequent Computers and KANA Software, and has successfully contributed marketing, sales and general business leadership to mid-sized software and services companies. Bud has been CEO at four privately funded technology and data services companies where he led the scaling of these businesses, selling two of these companies for substantial return to the shareholders. Bud is currently a management consultant with Renaissance Management Services, a consulting firm he founded in 2006.

Bud is on the Board of Directors for Rockliffe, a leader in enterprise collaboration solutions for mid-tier companies, IRT Software, a leading provider of incident management software for public safety organizations and SunTechDrive, a provider of power electronics for the energy industry. Bud is an advisor to Innosphere a 501c3 nonprofit incubator formed to accelerate the development and success of high-impact scientific and technology Startup and Scaleup companies in Colorado. He is also an Independent Consultant for NAVIX, the leading services provider helping business owners achieve their goals for their business exit. Bud is author of “Favorite One-Liners for Business,” a business leadership book published in 2010.

Producing Successful Funding Events with Lauren Towers

Feb 10, 2019 54:46


LAURIEN TOWERS began her diversified career of over 30 years as one of the producers of LIVE AID, immediately followed by several other live global telecasts. Laurien has produced and directed multi-cultural events internationally including with Eastern Bloc nations, concerts, animation, film, and theatre. Her expertise includes strategic planning, creative development, and production of special events, benefits, concerts, live global telecasts, animation, documentaries and film festivals.

Ms. Towers has extensive experience in Special Events Production & Management. She has worked internationally with government agencies, non-profit organizations, private companies, performers and media worldwide to create and establish joint business ventures and entertainment co-productions. Laurien has organized, produced, directed and managed the logistics, travel and promotional details for business conferences, benefits, concerts, live global telecasts,theatrical, film and video productions. Additionally, she has managed and represented international musical acts for charitable events and commercial concert venues in the U.S.

Dedicated to promoting cross-cultural understanding and cooperation, Laurien has been involved with the development and production of positive, innovative projects that focus on children, humanitarian, and environmental issues. She has served as Executive Director for Medicine for Humanity, an international non-profit organization dedicated to improving
women’s health worldwide, and consults with other non-profit organizations to develop creative projects and mutually beneficial alliances with local venues and businesses for fundraising events.

How a Nonprofit Founder Launches a Vision with Mary Putman

Feb 3, 2019 50:56


Making Homelessness History:
Listening to the Voices of Lived Experience

After over 30 years in the hospitality and business world, Mary Putman found her place in the world of Social Justice in 2011. At that time, Mary offered her services to the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless to create, open, operate and develop the program for a Social Enterprise, Pizza Fusion. The full service restaurant offered transitional employment and job and life skills training for individuals who have experienced homelessness. This role challenged Mary to utilize every aspect of her experience, intuition, creativity, intelligence, humility, energy and heart; a process she welcomed and carries forward today. The Pizza Fusion closed after 4 years but the human centered work continues as Mary founded The Reciprocity Collective in 2016. The Reciprocity Collective is an organization dedicated to providing bridges between the business community and the nonprofit world to build dynamic partnerships to guide individuals experiencing homelessness and poverty forward; in employment, in community, and all aspects of realizing their full potential of healthy and enriched lives.

About the Reciprocity Collective: WE need to shift our focus back to be more constituent centric, allowing the voices of those that we serve to guide the work that we do. Connect to that and to each other doing work in the community to build effective partnerships that do not compete for folks to call our “clients” but to collaborate to best serve them.

Are Websites Dead? Pip Patten Shares Ways to Engage New Supporters

Feb 3, 2019 55:59


Pipp I Pattonis the co-founder of Search Intelligence LLC a digital marketing agency based in Tampa Florida. They specialize in SEO, sales funnels, and Facebook marketing. Pipp in a former life was a yellow pages rep back when your yellow pages directory was the search engine of choice.

Pipp is a recovering golf addict, loves to travel and enjoys finding new and interesting restaurants with his fiancé.

Pip says, "Nonprofits should be using all the current sales and marketing technology to build their brand and maximize their revenue production."

More about Pip HERE

Email Pip HERE

What are the Secrets to Scaling Your Nonprofit with Lauren Cohen

Jan 27, 2019 58:16


What are the Secrets to Scaling Your Nonprofit with Lauren Cohen

Lauren CohenGlobal entrepreneur and #1 bestselling author Lauren A. Cohen is an attorney licensed in both the U.S. and Canada. Lauren is an expert concierge immigration and business legal advisor boasting a stellar track record of success. Lauren has first-hand knowledge of the visa process, having herself immigrated from Canada in 2001, and later becoming an American citizen in 2012.

In 2008, Lauren started e-Council Inc. an internationally-acclaimed company focused on providing concierge strategic full-service solutions for businesses seeking capital and foreign entrepreneurs seeking access to the U.S. market. In 2017, Lauren established Find My Silver Lining, a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to helping struggling single moms – and parents in general – to find their silver lining in a crowded world.

Continuing in the tradition of sound strategic solutions, ScaleUPCheckUP is Lauren’s newest initiative – an online risk assessment checkup tool for growing businesses in ScaleUP mode with the overriding mission of anticipating challenges before they happen. Designed in response to the challenges faced by so many entrepreneurs that simply do not understand the critical importance of proper professional guidance, and/or are afraid that the costs of protection are too high, ScaleUPCheckUP is poised to revolutionize the professional services industry and the way in which collaborative professional services are delivered.

For more information go to

Bringing Meditation Into Schools, Companies, and Large Organizations

Jan 13, 2019 52:23


Ellie Shojais an award-winning Writer, Producer, and Motivational Speaker. She is the founder of Peace Unleashed, a personal transformation company that focuses on helping individuals and groups level up holistically. The Peace Unleashed philosophy is rooted in the understanding that teams are more efficient and companies more productive when individual members attain a level of internal peace and groundedness that remains unshaken by life events.

There is a reason many high-profile individuals and thought leaders of our time from every industry are advocating meditation. It's not an accident that many companies from Apple and Google to the FBI are encouraging their employees to participate in meditation.

The benefits we receive by meditating even for a few minutes per day are many and result in surprising side effects such as improved communication skills, increased productivity, the ability to make connections more easily and solve problems more efficiently, improved sleep, and even the ability to replace old habits with new ones with more ease.

There is no doubt that the simple act of meditation can literally change a person's life for the better, yet most people don't meditate. The greatest objections we receive about meditation include statements such as, "My brain is not made for that," "I can't stop my thoughts," and "I don't have time to sit and do nothing."

The fact is that meditation does not require a quieting of the mind though it can result in that, and it is also far from a passive activity. Meditation is the simple and active observation of the mind. Once we become aware of the the fact that we are thinking our thoughts, our thoughts stop thinking us. And in that lies our true power as a human being. When we retrain ourselves to recognize that we are thinking, we then can identify which thoughts are not serving us and replace them with thoughts that do serve our greater good.

This is what meditation does. It is a focusing of the mind and a training of the mind, so that we can live actively rather than reactively.


Unleash Your Peace Podcast

Peace Unleashed Blog
Peace Unleashed Instagram

What is missing for Nonprofits to attract Millenials and GenZ generation?

Dec 23, 2018 58:44


Why Millenials and GenZ are disconnected with nonprofits today?

Pradeep KadimallaPradeep Kandimalla, Founder and Chief Executive of SAHAVE™ is so passionate about social change he has dedicated his life to serving others. Spending twenty years in the nonprofit world and witnessing their struggles to fulfill their missions spurred him to build The Platform for Social Change to bring about social change worldwide. Not only does SAHAVE keep him hopping, his beautiful daughters keep him busy as well. Oh, and mom has high expectations for him too.
Ever since watching “Schindlers List,” a significant impact has been made on his career and inspired a mission to work towards a greater good around worldwide. He has been working on and refining the concept of SAHAVE since 2015 and now it is time to make this disruptive technology that is going to shift how nonprofit and communities can come together to provide service, available to the future world.

Review of the New SynerVision Online Community

Dec 16, 2018 29:57


Join and Shape Your Online
Community for Community Builders
A Preview with Russ and Hugh

Hugh Ballou and Russell Dennis preview features and opportunities for leaders in the newly

Hugh Ballou

Hugh Ballou

Russell Dennis

Russell Dennis

launched SynerVision Leadership Community for Community Builders.

A Nonprofit Is a Business Just Like Any Business with Alan Harrison

Dec 9, 2018 56:49


A Nonprofit is a Business
with Alan Harrison

[caption id="attachment_1275" align="alignleft" width="200"]Alan Harrison, CDCF     Alan Harrison, CDCF[/caption]

Alan Harrisonis a nonprofit executive with over 25 years of for-profit and nonprofit experience in a diverse set of roles. Born in Pennsylvania, Harrison holds a B.S. degree in Biology from Geneva College and an M.S. degree in Biology (specializing in Ecology) from Lehigh University.

There is a pervading view that nonprofits are somehow less serious than for-profits. I have run across this several times in many situations. Some people think that somehow the money just rolls in and work is a big party every day. There is also a view that everyone works for a pittance and you couldn’t really support yourself or a family working for a nonprofit. These views could not be further from the truth.

After many years of experience in nonprofit I have learned that a nonprofit is a business, just a different kind of business. For-profit businesses make goods or services in pursuit of money for shareholders or owners. This is the “profit” piece. Nonprofit businesses also make goods or services. The difference is that the nonprofit business is not in it to make money for an owner or shareholder, they are there to make good of some sort for a group of people that will benefit from the good or service. In simplified terms I like to think of nonprofits as business that make good not money.

Nonprofits businesses are not a party. Everyone who works at a nonprofit goes to work every day and works just like anyone else. If you do your job you keep it and succeed, if you don’t do it you get disciplined and eventually lose it. Nonprofit businesses have all the same functions as for-profit businesses. There are finance, HR and IT people. Someone cleans the offices and takes out the trash. Any function you can associate with a for-profit business is there with a nonprofit business. It may look a little different, but it is there. The fundraisers are analogous to the sales people in a for-profit business.

Read the Interview Transcript

Hugh Ballou: Welcome to The Nonprofit Exchange. It’s Hugh Ballou and Russell Dennis. It’s kind of an interesting day here in central western Virginia. We’re expecting some snow tonight and a storm on the weekend. How is it in the Rocky Mountain high of Colorado?

Russell Dennis: Well, it’s actually sunny today. It’s a bit chilly, but it’s very sunny. We’re just going through a typical Colorado winter. I don’t worry about it. If I don’t like it, it will be different in five or ten minutes.

Hugh: It may make people feel cool because they might be listening to this podcast in the heat of summer. Think about how cool it is. I got a little hair standing up here. Russell, you don’t have that problem. You can’t see him on the podcast, but he’s a smart man – he doesn’t waste any energy growing hair.

Russell: I haven’t had a bad hair day in a long time.

Hugh: I’m thinking you haven’t had a bad day. It’s always a good day with Russell David Dennis. We have a person who is in the space of philosophy and practice that we are, Russell. It’s Alan Harrison. We met on LinkedIn and had some conversations. He said he’d like to share his wisdom with nonprofit leaders. Alan, welcome to The Nonprofit Exchange.

Alan Harrison: Thank you, Hugh, and thank you, Russell for having me here. I’m very excited to be here and looking forward to today.

Hugh: Tell people a little bit about who Alan Harrison is.

Alan: I’ve been in the nonprofit space for over 15 years now. Before that, I was in the for-profit space for almost that long. I spent a lot of time in the water treatment industry. I have a Masters degree in biology. Toward the end of that part of my career, I wanted to make a change and moved into the nonprofit space. I moved from technology into operations. Most of my nonprofit career has been spent in administration, HR. I have been vice president of administration. I have been CEO of a small nonprofit, running things from an administrative and financial standpoint as opposed to technology. That was a big change for me, but I have never looked back. I enjoy it and really love the nonprofit space.

Hugh: We are talking about good sound business principles today. You’ve come from the business world. We use the funny terms “for-profit” and “nonprofit.” Right there is where we set up a false premise with the word “nonprofit.” We have had guests who talk about it being a social benefit or a tax-exempt charity. One guest gave us the title “for-purpose” organization.

You and I spoke a little bit last week. You’re very passionate about the principles that you teach and bring to this tax-exempt world of charities that are really cause-based. We’re working to improve people’s lives. The bottom line is ROL, Return on Life, the impact that we have in people’s lives. Let’s start from why do you think it’s important that these kinds of organizations, which we will use the word “nonprofit” because that is the sector we’re talking to—we’re talking to clergy, leaders of associations that are tax-exempt like a chamber of commerce, or cause-based community nonprofits, all over. Why is it important for us as leaders in this sector to understand business principles?

Alan: The first point that I would make is that a nonprofit is a business. I like the term “not for profit” because we can make a profit. There is nothing wrong with making money. Certainly we raise money. Nonprofits offer goods and services, and they charge for those things. There is nothing wrong with that. The difference is that they take that profit not to make money; they take that profit to make good. There is a principle they are trying to advance, whether that is feeding people who are hungry, trying to make people healthy, global health, or just the health clinic in your local community. It doesn’t matter. They are taking that money, whether it’s a profit or a donation, and using it to make good in that community. The reason we need to keep business principles in mind is because it is a business. All the things that a business does, a nonprofit does. We have finance people, and administrators. We sign contracts. We have buildings we need to upkeep. We have employees. We have HR departments. Everything that a business does, a nonprofit has to do as well. You might say they don’t have sales, but they really do. Fundraisers are analogous to sales. Every function you find in a business or a nonprofit you would find in the opposite organization.

Hugh: We set ourselves up for failure when we minimize those things you just talked about. We expect it’s going to happen. Even at the detriment, we say we can’t make a profit, or we can’t charge too much money for that, or we have to dumb down. What are some of the scripts people tell themselves and others that make some of those things you talked about difficult?

Alan: First off, when you talk to people about a nonprofit, they think somehow the money just comes. One of the biggest errors I see people make in politics and the nonprofit world is they assume that if they do good or the right thing, somebody will support that. That’s not the case anymore. There was a time a lot of years ago where you could go to a donor and say, “Hey, I’m doing really great work. You need to support what I’m doing.” The donor would say,
“You are doing good work. I do want to support what you’re doing.” It’s not that way anymore. We’re well past that. We are in a time where it’s an exchange of value. Just like if I buy a pair of pants from a clothier near me, I want to give him money. That is the value he gets; the value I get is a nice pair of pants. It’s no different for a nonprofit. If I am going to a donor, I need to explain to them the value proposition: what they are getting for the dollars they are giving to me. It may be marketing. It may be publicity. It may be something that encourages their employees because employees are interested in social enterprises and organizations that make a difference. Whatever that value proposition is, I need to go to my donors with. A lot of people don’t realize that. They think if they are doing a good thing, they will give me money. The great nonprofits, the ones that are really successful, understand that.

Hugh: Those in business build a strategy. At least, some of them do. At SynerVision, we consider the strategy to be central. As you know, I’m a musical conductor. If we don’t have a musical score, nobody knows what to play. We go into our space with all our volunteers and board members and staff and say, “Go,” and they don’t know where to go. There is a lack of understanding where they can be engaged and what they are supposed to do. Part of that is understanding what our brand is and what our unique value proposition is. You just spoke about value propositions when you are making a presentation. I don’t think we’re very good at either defining it or expressing it. What do you say about how we get there?

Alan: You mentioned brand, which is important for a nonprofit. As a nonprofit, you have your reputation and your brand. People need to be crystal clear on what that brand is. When you think of a good nonprofit, the Nature Conservancys, and the CAREs, and the American Cancer Society, people know what those organizations are about. They know exactly what the American Cancer Society is. They know exactly what CARE does. They understand that brand identity. Those organizations understand their brand identity is what is out there. It’s no different than Google. People know Google’s brand identity and Microsoft’s brand identity. It’s the same kind of an idea. It needs to be marketed the same way as those organizations would.

One thing I always recommend to a nonprofit is get your values. Know what your values are. Understand what they are. Put them first and foremost on your webpage. If you go to the really successful organizations, one of the first things you will see on their webpages is what their values are. Lead with those values. Lead with that brand. Lead with that understanding. That is what a lot of nonprofits don’t do. They don’t have a 30-second elevator speech where they can distill their brand down into a few short sentences that make people go, “Oh, I’ll get that.” That will allow you to understand whether you can connect with that person. Some people won’t be interested in what your mission is, and that’s fine. But it will allow you to connect with those who are interested in your mission and find out who those people are pretty quickly into the conversation. You don’t want to spend six months or a year cultivating a donor who really isn’t interested in your mission. You want someone who will be clued into what you’re doing.

Hugh: Russell, that’s one of the messages you bring up very often with board members and donors. Find out what they’re interested in. Do you want to chime in and come up with another question for him?

Russell: Everyone has a different motivation. When you’re talking about value, which is a word that is rarely used in nonprofit circles, the value is in the mind of the supporter. You’re going to be talking to multiple audiences. You have a message for volunteers. You have a message for donors. You have a message for people in the community.

Really what we’re talking about is profit. With nonprofits, there is a profit. There is a social profit. There is a monetary profit. The discussion that Alan started with values, that is very important because when you look at where it is that you see yourself fitting, where you want people to go as a result of being exposed to your services and products, what is it that you ultimately want them to have? What is the experience they’re going to get? You almost have to set the table for your own measures in a sense by explaining where people start and where they end up. That is something that you measure. Everything doesn’t fit in a pivot table. There is a place for where Berny calls the dolphin story and the results. People want results. Donors are very sophisticated now. Are you delivering results? What do those results look like? As a business, it’s really important to run a business like a business. It’s about good stewardship. Alan is kind of like me. You had a different career, and then you transitioned into this career. What would you say was the biggest surprise when you got when you moved out of your old career into the nonprofit space? What was the one thing that was the biggest shock to you?

Alan: I think for me, when I moved from the for-profit to the nonprofit world, I remember I was moving into the Nature Conservancy. Someone there called my old boss and said, “Can Alan do this job?” He said, “Of course he can. It’s an NGO.” That’s what surprised me. I have never been anywhere where people work harder or where people were more talented than the nonprofits I work in. People have this view that it’s kind of a party or money somehow comes rolling in or we don’t really work; we just lay around all day. That to me was the biggest surprise.

When I went to the CDC Foundation, it was during the ebola crisis in Africa. I have never seen people more dedicated, work harder, more talented, than anywhere I have been in my life. This idea that people aren’t working or people don’t work hard really was a surprise to me. I was taken aback. I have become a nonprofit evangelist when I talk to people. We have analogous to sales. We have finance. We have HR. We have IT. Every function you can think of, people are working hard. You have to do your job just like anywhere else. If you don’t do your job, you lose your job. There is this view that somehow it’s not serious.

Hugh: What Russell and I do as a resource for leadership and strategy and performance, it’s harder in this sector. I served inside the church for 40 years. There is a really good case of dumbing down and not having the standards you’re talking about. It’s the same as any other generic nonprofit, except churches think people will walk in the door. We have lost in the mainline denominations our relevance. I still believe in it. I’m a critic of it to help it. But it’s the mindset that we develop that is a scarcity mindset. With scarcity thinking, the mindset ought to be abundance. God has given you abundance, but you have to be a good steward of it.

The piece that Russell brought in, one of our colleagues, Berny Dohrmann, runs a business growth conference for 25 years. It attracts entrepreneurs. They come in from the business side and the nonprofit side. There are characteristics that are the same. The dolphin thing he was referring to is “Here is my sweet little dolphin,” but there is no substance to your ask. You just are petting your dolphin, and you want everyone else to pet it.

The point you’re making is there is a quantifiable value you bring. Instead of talking about ROI, we talk about ROl, Return on Impact. It’s really bottom line impact. We take your values. We have to be clear on what we value. As we do strategy, we take core values to another level. People write these words that they don’t understand. We develop guiding principles. How do you make decisions based on these concepts? Being a principle-based organization, what we’re now teaching nonprofits is how to develop your strategy and develop the principles. You will take that strategy and integrate it into performance, which is as you probably have experienced is a big gap. We have a lot of well-intended, passionate, dedicated people who are low on the performance scale. Really, these people want to do more. In many circumstances, they work harder here than they do in their day jobs.

Do you want to come back at us with some other thoughts?

Alan: I would agree that people work hard in nonprofits. Some of the people I have talked to who transitioned from for-profits to nonprofits are saying they work harder now than they ever did in the for-profit world. You have to wear a lot of hats. Money is scarce. There is a lot of challenges.

Another challenge for nonprofits you touched on is the impact and measuring the impact. Donors want to hear about impact. That can be a challenge for nonprofit. In a for-profit, you can look at your balance sheet and your P&L sheet for the quarter. You can say you sold 27,000 widgets. I made this kind of gross margin and net profit. It’s fairly simple. But for a nonprofit, if you are a single cause nonprofit, you feed hungry families for example, or you feed homeless people, you have one number to work with. But a lot of nonprofits do multiple things. It becomes extremely challenging to measure impact. I have been in nonprofits that had up to 80 or 100 active projects. How do you measure impact across 100 active projects? That becomes difficult. You start to focus on ones that are most important or most impactful. There is no question that you don’t just have a number. We did 27% this year. Our gross margin is 12%. That is not how a nonprofit works. When you look at your impact, you have to break it down by project, by population you serve, by the areas you serve. It’s a huge challenge for a nonprofit.

Russell: I think the place people have to begin at is- I was looking at a book, The Social Profit Handbook by David Grant. A lot of times, when we think of having programs evaluated or people coming in and assessing, we look at it like other people assessing us. The model that we teach at SynerVision and where people bring to is look at how can we do what we’re doing better once we decide what it is that we’re doing. If we don’t make a decision or try to measure what we’re doing, other people will do that for us. The purpose of evaluation is not to get a grade to give a better check. The purpose of evaluating and benchmarking is to get better at what you’re doing, deliver more impact, and find new ways to collect that information so people can understand that value. It’s having the people you’re working with talk about how being affiliated with your organization has made a difference. There is a lot that goes into storytelling. It captures that information that won’t fit neatly on the pivot table that helps us connect with people emotionally that helps define some of that impact. That ROI is return on impact, or return on influence, these types of things. The thought pattern that people have around nonprofits really needs to change. You addressed that very well, Alan: how people seem to think it’s quick and easy. There are a lot of people who are reluctant to write a check because they say, “I’m not interested in paying your rent. I want to make sure every dollar I give you goes into the program.” If you don’t have an infrastructure to deliver it, you don’t have a program. How do we create a shift in that focus with people? What are some things you’ve done to help shift that thinking around?

Alan: I think your point about overhead is important. No one goes to Google and says, “You shouldn’t have a finance department. Those should be all volunteers. You shouldn’t have an IT department. Those all should be volunteers.” You know what you get with volunteers. You have very dedicated people who have little time, and they can’t necessarily put in the time you need them to put in. Just like any other business, you have to pay for what you need.

Imagine a large nonprofit depending on a volunteer CFO. It will be a mess. Or a volunteer IT department. It will be a mess. You have to have a well-oiled, well-run organization. You’re competing in the same talent pool. There is a subset of people who want to be in nonprofit. They love the nonprofit, they love the mission, and I honestly believe the employees who stick around in nonprofits are the ones who love the mission. You’re still competing for the same talent pool. If I need to hire a CFO, that CFO could go to another organization or for-profit. The idea that we shouldn’t be paying for overhead, or whatever that number is, doesn’t make a lot of sense.

The finances need to be transparent. They need to be reasonable. You shouldn’t be spending 90% on overhead obviously. But you have to have enough of a spending to hire people who have families and car payments and house payments and those kinds of things. I think we need to have honest conversations with the foundations, the corporations, and the other donors who seem to have this mindset that this should all be for free. It’s not. They want a good product. They want excellent services to the population that we serve, or the cause that we serve, so they have to understand that comes with a cost. You have to have good people to have a good product. You have to have good people to offer a good service. You have to pay those people so they can live; they have to send their kids to school and pay their car payments.

Russell: The flip side of that is there are some nonprofits who think, “Hey, we’re doing worthy work. Why aren’t people coming? Why won’t they write us a check?” There is that other piece where from the side of the nonprofit, they don’t always understand what people are looking for, what motivates them to support a cause. How do you have that conversation with nonprofit leaders to get them to understand the sort of things that will motivate people to lend that support?

Alan: You touched on it when you talked about value. It’s an exchange of value. There is some value that that donor has to be getting from the nonprofit, whether it’s a demonstration to their employee base that they are making a difference in the world and they are a socially conscious organization, whether it’s a marketing campaign that they can build around the work they’re doing with an organization, whether it’s something that makes them feel good. It doesn’t matter what that value is. What you have to do as a nonprofit is understand what value they’re interested in and determine if you can supply that value. If you can’t supply that value a particular donor is looking for, stop talking to that donor. You’re wasting your time, and you’re wasting their time. Find a different donor that would be interested in the value you offer.

If I sell suits and somebody is not looking for a suit, I probably don’t need to talk to that person, and they probably don’t need to talk to me. It’s the same thing.

Russell: Is there a point where you say a lot of nonprofit leaders hanging on beyond where they probably should simply say ‘Next”? Is it a common problem for nonprofit leaders to continue to try to implement strategies to attract donors that they might just not be the right fit for?

Alan: I think it’s harder for a nonprofit leader to say that. As nonprofit leaders, we care so much about what we do. We care so much about our cause that it’s hard to imagine someone else wouldn’t care about that.

It’s hard to see maybe that someone doesn’t care about that. We’ll keep pushing a value that maybe that other person isn’t interested in. But there is somebody who is interested. Your time is better spent finding that person who is interested.

Hugh: It’s a good match. People have a philanthropic side. They want to volunteer. But really, they don’t want to volunteer for everything. We sometimes talk people into volunteering when they really don’t want to. Then they don’t perform. We blame them when it’s really our fault. We have a vision of what they ought to be interested in instead of having a conversation. That also goes with putting people on boards and putting them in slots, like a treasurer, secretary, communications. We put people in the wrong place.

Going back to what you were saying about the misconceptions, I am not sure if you have seen the TED talk by Dan Pallotta, “The Way We Think About Charity is Dead Wrong.” Have you seen that video?

Alan: I haven’t.

Hugh: Look it up. It’s the stuff you guys were talking about. We think we can’t spend money on marketing. We think we can’t take risks. We lose a few hundred dollars, and people will go insane. Disney has a $200 million flop on a movie or more than that today; that’s just the cost of doing business.

The other one is this overhead thing. It’s a fallacy. You’re paying people. We can’t pay decent salaries. You’re going to give up this big corporate job and work for less money, and we expect you to do the job of three people for a third of the pay. There are some really unreasonable expectations we have. Those are the biggest myths, which are totally wrong in my book. What do you think?

Alan: I agree. I have seen people on boards that clearly weren’t interested. They don’t do anything. Six months later, they resign. It doesn’t make sense. You have to understand what drives that person. You have to take the time. The myth that you can’t spend money or take risks, one of my favorite quotes is from Samuel Johnson, who was one of the Founding Fathers of the country. He said, “If all danger must be removed, then nothing will ever be accomplished.” The idea is that if you reduce the risk to zero, you won’t accomplish anything. That is an absolute fallacy that we can’t have any risk in a nonprofit organization. All risks have to be considered. They have to be logical. You have to have reasons behind them. When things fail, you have to learn from them. I had a boss years ago who said, “Fail faster.” I thought that was crazy until I realized what he was saying was there is going to be failures in life. Accept them when you get to them, move past them, and get on to something else. Things are going to fail. You will try a program that won’t work. You will try to serve a new population that doesn’t work. You have to accept that risk you took in trying to serve that new population isn’t working and get on to something where you really can have an impact.

Hugh: Underneath of what you were talking about, this conversation of embracing good, sound operational principles, they are the same for a for-profit or a not-for-profit organization. But there are some subtle differences that actually we have a lot more regulations in the nonprofit arena. We have to be careful with how money is used. Especially if there is designated gifts. If people give us money for a certain thing. There is a public persona.

You mentioned American Cancer Society, which is a curious organization to me. We are talking about overhead. But they raise tons of money. Only 12% goes to research. That is a classic example of exorbitant salaries and overbenefiting the employees. Every little goes to the end result. However, people look past that somehow and there is a lot of money donated to that organization. There is a persona, a marketing piece that is evidently very strong.

But on the other side, we feel defeated because other organizations are taking all the money. Last time I checked, money is a renewable resource. Part of our thinking, it’s fundamentally, where I’m headed with this, sorry to ramble, underneath this is leadership. Nothing happens without leadership. The organization is the reflection of the leader. There are organizations that do a very good job like American Cancer Society of presenting themselves in marketing, but there are other organizations who probably have 10% overhead and make a lot of impact, but they are vastly compromised by their lack of effective board and lack of revenue. What do you think of leadership as being an anchor for what we’re talking about?

Alan: There is no question that you need a leader who understands that all of these things are important. If you have a leader in a nonprofit who only focuses on providing the service or whatever good the nonprofit is doing and doesn’t get out there and talk about the organization and market the organization, recognize how important branding and marketing is, you are not going to go very far.

Another item that you touched on is accountability. It’s holding people accountable. A lot of people in nonprofits think we need to be nice. I would argue that we do need to be nice and treat people with dignity. But treating people with dignity and being nice to them does not mean not holding them accountable. Accountability is a big piece in nonprofits that can be a challenge because everybody wants to be nice. Sometimes you have to say this person isn’t working out, this project isn’t working out, this department isn’t working out, and make a change. You can do that in a kind way. You can do that in a way that preserves people’s dignity. But if you just let it slide, like I have seen happen, then you get mediocrity. Every organization is as strong as its weakest link. Every chain is as strong as its weakest link. It breathes down the whole organization. I would argue that leaders need to be focused on that accountability that sometimes is an issue in the nonprofit world.

Hugh: We cause some of those problems. We put the wrong person in the wrong place, and then we are nice to them. They’re trying. They are bringing down your culture. They are representing your brand in a negative way. It’s damage control at that point.

Alan: The brand has to come first. The mission has to come first. Everything that you do in the nonprofit has to be focused toward advancing the mission and advancing the brand. You always as a leader need to be asking yourself the question: Does this advance the mission in the best way? Does this advance the brand in the best way? I think a good leader can recognize, this isn’t working. We need to make a change. We brought this person on our board who isn’t interested. I need to have a conversation with that person. It takes some assertiveness and guts, but the leader has to be willing to make those kinds of changes and have those kinds of conversations in an organization. For some reason, they are more timid in nonprofit organizations than people are typically in for-profit organizations because it’s perceived as not being nice.

Hugh: It’s being honest though. We want to be honest with people.

Alan: That’s right.

Hugh: Russell, it’s back to you.

Russell: I think that honesty goes a long way, but honesty without compassion is brutality. It’s all in how you go about putting things out there. As we look at this environment today, there is the realization that business principles are so critical to being effective stewards of things that are entrusted to nonprofits. I think there is a whole lot of confusion, but there are still some very subtle and distinct differences between the nonprofit or social profit and the purely profit entity. What do you see as the most important distinctions to make between the for-profit and the social profit entity?

Alan: It’s obvious that in the for-profit world, you are in it for the profit. You are trying to enrich shareholders. You are trying to enrich management. You are trying to have quarterly profits that increase every quarter. Anybody in the for-profit world is familiar with that. I have been there. We can’t forget what our mission is in a nonprofit. That ‘s the difference.

You talked about having compassion. The nonprofit world is about manifesting that compassion in the larger world. That is really what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to take that compassion we have and manifest it in the larger world. I would argue that while we can learn from the for-profit, the for-profit can also learn from us. That compassion for employees, for the larger world, that goes a long way. I always use the word “dignity.” I think we need to treat people in a way that preserves their dignity, in a way that doesn’t threaten their dignity as a person. I think that the for-profit world would learn from a lot in some places. I would never say that all for-profits don’t treat people with dignity. But it’s much more common in that world. I think they would learn a lot from what nonprofits do in terms of treating people with compassion and dignity.

Russell: Where do you think that you see more of a collaborative type of leadership? Another question I would ask is do you see some pathways to create more collaboration in both worlds? We are in a society today where people are really getting locked into their differences. I think we are suffering from it. How can collaboration as a way of life in both types of entities help us with our larger conversations with how we approach each other as people?

Alan: I think nonprofits and for-profits should be collaborating with each other. One thing I like about the millennial generation is they really want to make a difference in the world. They have a lot of passion for recognizing what is wrong with the world, and wanting to make a difference. That becomes important just to have a work force in the for-profit world. As nonprofits, we can bring them opportunities to engage their employees in causes that are important to them, whether that is environmental things, whether it’s feeding the homeless, those sorts of things. We can give them direct volunteer opportunities. UPS has a goal to have 20 million hours of nonprofit volunteer time with their employees. Nonprofits need to step up and talk to all the organizations out there about the kind of opportunities we can offer them to engage their employees. In those kinds of volunteer efforts. Those things go a long way for both organizations. The nonprofit gets exposure and marketing. People come away saying, “Wow, this is great. I got to do this or do that.” The for-profit gets an engaged work force that says, “I work for a great company. They let me take a day off and go plant trees for this tree planting organization, or go feed people in the soup kitchen that didn’t have anything to eat that day.” I think those kinds of collaborations, which happen but probably don’t happen nearly as much as they should.

Russell: If you get somebody that comes out of university, it was a little bit different when the three of us attended, but now you are looking at a situation where somebody comes out, particularly if they have done any graduate work, they have this massive debt that they have to deal with. You have career opportunities and private enterprise that are driven by stock prices. How would you make a case to get somebody who is very talented to choose a career in the social profit field knowing they are leaving all of these other things on the table, and they have this debt? How do you make a case that it’s really worthwhile to go into the nonprofit sector?

Hugh: One thing I noticed with people who are coming out of university now is they don’t expect to work for the same company for 25 or 30 or 40 years and retire from that company. A lot of people in the millennial generation go into a job knowing I want to be here for two or three years. I want this to be a resume-builder. I want this to be a skill-builder. I want this to be an opportunity. Then I am going off to the next thing. I think as nonprofits, we have to accept that, not try to change it, not try to talk people into working somewhere for 30 years, but go into talking to them about what this opportunity is. This is an opportunity to build your resume, this is an opportunity to wear a lot of hats and gain a bunch of skills, this is an opportunity to be exposed to donors, some of whom are people you may want to work for someday. If we go into it with the idea that we understand what these people want, we understand what this particular market or employee wants, and offer them that, then you’re going to get more people saying, “I could go there for three years. That would be awesome to work with these big companies who are their donors and have volunteers. Then I can go onto the next thing.” I think accepting that approach of how they want to live their lives, they will be more interested in talking to us.

Hugh: There is a lot of comments in this interview about money. I find the common perception is nonprofit leaders say, “If we just had the money, we could do more.” I come back with, “Can we see your strategy?” “I don’t have one.” “How do you define the board’s engagement on a scale of 1-10?” I get a 4.5. That’s the reason you don’t have money. If you had money, you probably wouldn’t get the results you want. Do you experience that as a definition of what is missing? Do you have a different take on what they need to do to earn it or attract it?

Alan: I certainly agree with you that money is not the be all end all. An organization needs to be in a position to effectively use any money they get. If you have a board that is engaged at a 4, you’re right. I serve on a board, and it’s an extremely engaged board. The organization is doing very well financially. That is because the board is engaged, and the organization recognizes they need to do marketing and branding, and they need to measure impact, and they need to do all of the things that are important. It comes back to those principles. You have to be willing to accept things just won’t come rolling in. You will have to work for it. You will have to understand your audience. Pick the right audience. Execute. And demonstrate you have executed. It’s no different than a for-profit business in that way. There are a lot of differences about what we do and what we’re trying to accomplish. In terms of execution, there are a lot of similarities there.

Hugh: Sometimes people get excited when I talk about team execution. They think they are going to shoot people.

Alan: Let’s hope not. That’s not a good nonprofit.

Hugh: We do it to ourselves. We bring in people because we have a perception they ought to be doing something rather than what Russell’s vestige is, is find out what they are interested in first. I talked about ROL, return on life. We have a mission. That is our intellectual property. We’re doing this. This is the value we bring. We want to get the money. We have this middle capital. This value capital. We want money capital, financial capital. But in the middle is relationship capital. We don’t invest in that. Part of what businesses do is they are really, the ones who are successful, building relationships with their customers. In our customers in the nonprofit world are our supporters, stakeholders, donors, board members, volunteers. We don’t do a good job of nurturing them, do we?

Alan: No. Some organizations do a very good job of that, but others, again, don’t take the time, like you said, to really understand what they are. You need to meet people where they are, not where you want them to be. You need to be willing to invest the time and effort in really understanding what people are looking for. Then you have to ask yourself the honest question of whether you can give them that. If you can’t, you walk away. It’s not the right fit. I think that because we love what we do so much, we project our love for what we’re doing onto other people. That is a little bit of a pitfall for people in nonprofits.

Hugh: It’s common, isn’t it? That’s a common scenario, isn’t it?

Alan: Yeah, it’s very common. I don’t think it’s any different than any other world. People tend to project their own loves and desires and interests on other people. But when you are running a business, it’s dangerous, and it can be devastating.

Hugh: I want to get one more thing on the table here before I go to the sponsor message. Russell and I serve leaders as an advisor. We don’t customarily use the word “consultant” or “coach” because there is so much gray around what that means. 90% of those people who say they are consultants give us a bad name. We have gone from consulting to insulting to advising. We have a paradigm in SynerVision that is a WayFinder. We partner and have some strategies to guide the process. But our job is to help leaders step up their own game. I find that the people struggling are the ones who want to figure it out for themselves. I find by and large the successful leaders have someone like one of us as an advisor, whatever they call them. Why do you think people are reluctant to pay for somebody to help them learn, help them be accountable, give them a process, connect them in different ways? Why do you think there is a reluctance for people to do that?

Alan: I think there is a little bit of a stigma attached to having a coach. There is some view that if we have to get this guy a coach, there must be something wrong. He’s not doing his job. He’s not performing. My view is that one of the greatest gifts that an organization can offer an employee is coaching, to help them get better on what they do, to help them understand how to get through the challenges they are facing. I think that’s a huge gift an organization can offer an employee, whether it’s a senior executive or a manager, to help them get better at their job. That is a stigma of we had to get this guy a coach, or we had to get this woman a coach, she must not be doing a good job. People will look down at that. I think we have to be very clear that coaching is a positive. Support is a positive. None of us are an island. None of us can completely be effective at everything on our own. Everything has strengths and weaknesses, things they will be good at and not. Giving someone support is a greatest gift an organization can give an employee.

Hugh: That’s a great answer. Russell, what do you think?

Russell: I think having a trusted advisor is getting somebody that is outside of the scope of what you’re doing and not so attached to it that they may have blind spots. I have discovered that for me. When I work with other people, they have what I call a superpower. We can’t always define our superpowers. They are things that each of us do that are so easy for us that we tend to minimize it or blow it off. Or we may not even recognize it. When you talk to people around you and they say, “Oh, you did something,” and they will point out something you did. Having a system in place where you recognize everybody’s superpowers and you recognize one another’s superpowers is very important. Everybody’s working to their strengths that way. It’s honoring that. It’s honoring what you’re good at and having an outside perspective is how you can pull that genius that is right there in house. I find that when I’m working with organizations, they don’t know how much they don’t know. On the flip side of that, they don’t know how much they already know. Having somebody to help them channel all of that genius is valuable. They will get more out of it. Taking that time over the long haul to really get better at what you do and to define what you do and to find the right people to collaborate with, to serve, to have pay for their services, taking that time is critical. If you don’t take that time, you are serving the wrong people or reaching for the wrong people, you burn a lot of energy.

Hugh: Alan, we have laid a lot of themes on the table today for people. You obviously have a lot of wisdom to share, a lot more than we can cover in this limited time. You have a lot of experience. You’re taking some time off for family. You will go for your next venture next year. I’m curious to say where you end up. Whomever gets you will be lucky because you bring a whole lot of value and wisdom to their organization.

*Sponsor message from Wordsprint*

As we close out this really helpful podcast, Alan, what tip or thought do you want to leave with people before Russell closes us out?

Alan: I think to boil everything down into a 15-second piece is that if you use business principles in a nonprofit and don’t forget the compassion and the mission, you will be successful. You will maximize your chance for success. I hope people can take that away and cogitate on that a bit and apply that to what they do in the nonprofit world.

Russell: Alan Harrison, it has been a joy to sit and speak with you. What is the best way for people to reach you?

Alan: If they find me on LinkedIn and try to send me a connection request, I think that’s probably the best way. I’m active on there. I would certainly love to make some new connections there. I want to thank both of you for today. This has been fun and stimulating for me. I always get my best ideas in conversation with other people who understand the subject. This was rewarding for me, and I hope it was rewarding for others as well.

Russell: This is definitely rewarding work for us. That’s why we do it. If you can’t have any fun at it, why do it?


A New Vision of Collaboration from United Way of Central Virginia

Nov 18, 2018 33:39


Interview Transcript

Hugh Ballou: Hey there, it’s Hugh Ballou. We’re back. This is a bonus session of The Nonprofit Exchange. We are recording a series of interviews about partnerships and collaborations. Recording some thought leaders in the place where SynerVision is located in Lynchburg, Virginia. It’s central western Virginia, about halfway up in the commonwealth on the side almost in West Virginia.

Bill Varner: Almost.

Hugh: Almost. And my guest today is a new friend. I have only been here a year, and we met shortly after. People kept saying, “You need to meet Bill Varner.” Give us a little background, Bill, on who you are. You came from corporate America to run a nonprofit.

Bill: I did. The last 30 years, I have spent in health services and hospital administration. The last 17 of those were with Centra as their vice president for strategic planning, marketing, business development, communications, and PR. All of that has been in new business development, evaluating communities and determining what their needs are and putting plans and processes in place to meet those needs. One thing that’s interesting about the health system environment is while there is often one single plan for the organization, there are numerous subcomponents to the organization, too. You might have a focus on cardiovascular services, a focus on women’s and children’s services. There can be strategic plans at each of those levels as well, but they all have to work together toward one single ambition. I have the responsibility for that. I did that for the last 17 years at Centra, headquartered in Lynchburg, and covered all the geographies that organization covers.

About a year and a half ago, the opportunity presented itself to run United Way. They were looking for a different skill mix for their incoming executive director, no longer just someone who was comfortable with raising funds, but someone who could say this is an organization that needs to adapt to the future and the current state. What type of skills and experience do we want in the role? Bottom line, they were looking for somebody with more of a strategic planning/vision-setting, tracking incomes type of person. That not only fit very well in my wheelhouse, but I was also very interested in doing something that actually put me a little bit closer to the people that benefited from the work we do. Centra is a great organization, but I am obviously not a physician or nurse or clinician. More and more in my life, I found that I really wanted to be closer to those who were having an impact in the community and to see who we serve. United Way is an ideal fit for me.

Hugh: In my world of empowering organizations and leaders, the centrality of it is starting with your vision, mission, and strategy. Being a musical conductor, we have to have the chart in front of us so we know what we have to do. It’s a really important foundation for any organization. Coming from corporate America into this philanthropic work for a for-purpose organization—we like to call them that because nonprofit is such a crazy word. When you and I first met, give me an idea. Let’s talk about how many other organizations you support.

Bill: We support 26 agencies, 38 programs in those agencies. We actually fund those programs. Several of our agencies have more than one program. 26 organizations, 38 programs.

Hugh: What makes your work different than Community Foundation?

Bill: Community Foundation and we overlap in some respects. Much of what the Greater Lynchburg Community Foundation does focuses on social needs and community needs. They have a broader focus in that they may have benefactors that have funded foundations within their structure who have a very dedicated focus outside social services. We are strictly focused on social services. But we recognize that because we have a shared purpose in the community, we talk. That’s a monthly get-together we have. We have included the Centra Foundation. There may be others we want to include in that. We are all to some degree doing the same thing. Let’s at least make sure we’re coordinated. If we are asking agencies and other nonprofits to collaborate and coordinate, we need to hold ourselves to the same standard. So let’s get together and talk. Not sure exactly what is going to come from it. We don’t have a hard deadline as to when we will have certain deliverables, but we are starting to see that there will be opportunities for us to communicate and make sure we are all rowing in the same direction around certain needs in the community.

I may be getting off your question a little bit, but that’s why we recognized early on we needed a single direction. I started to talk about this idea of why don’t we do a single community needs assessment? In the past, each nonprofit we support in various times in their planning cycle would do a needs assessment. They each didn’t necessarily coordinate with one another. I thought if we could do one needs assessment for the community, not only would we save the time and effort of having everybody do it separately, but we could all participate in that one process, get input into it, and see the same results. We would then ideally be all rowing in the same direction. Here are the three or four biggest issues in the community. Let’s make sure we exert most of our time, resources, and effort on those areas. We have the data and feedback to support those are priority areas. We are doing much more than if somebody comes and asks for a grant, we fund them. We’re really looking strategically at if this is addressing a community need. Bill at the Community Foundation and I are trying to stay very coordinated in that effort.

Hugh: At the heart of collaborations and partnerships, there is defining the need and defining the vision and your philosophy of how you will proceed. How has the work of part of the conversation has been with the city, with the arts center, and with a group called Unity in the Community who are purposefully pulling people together and having projects they can work on together. The theatre is opening up, and there is a whole program centered around the arts. Unity in the Community is centered around religious and service programs. You sit around that table. Thinking about partnerships and/or collaborations, they are slightly different, you can collaborate without being in a partnership, how has your work specifically and your work through United Way created a catalyst or been a facilitator of those things?

Bill: Let me answer that by going one step back. I think it’s important to understand a place like Lynchburg in central Virginia. One thing I have noticed here, and I have been here 17 years, and I have been in positions myself where we needed help for health issues or other things. This is a community that steps up. This community does not sit around. You just gave an example of your request for people to participate in a choir, and 100 people are there. You don’t know if they’re all singers, but there is a lot of interest. This is a community when it sees a need, it does not hesitate to rally a group together and try to address that need.

Now there is good and bad with that. The good is that you have people who are there who are ready to go, symbolically speaking, they are not thinking all the same. What you also get is multiple efforts that may be duplicated with an existing effort or somehow are running counter to an existing effort. But at the very least, you have multiple organizations who have not yet communicated with one another, who may not even know the other exists. Now you have two different organizational structures. You may have two actual nonprofits who are registered, who have to create a board and have an executive director. They each go into their own direction and suddenly you have fragmentation. I will say a lot of what makes this a unique and wonderful community to live, that good heart that is willing to step up and engage, the unintended consequence of that is there is often too many people who have not yet coordinated. We are replete with organizations who are fragmented and could benefit from coordinating.

We have identified that as an issue in our strategic plan. We feel like we have a role in being a catalyst to bring those organizations together. One, because we work with multiple organizations, we may be the first place to see that you are doing the same thing as this organization is doing. Why don’t we get you together and talk? Our funding could go a lot further if we could support a consolidated and coordinated effort than it would if we were trying to support two separate organizations. By those way, those two organizations, and in some cases it is six, seven, eight organizations who overlap, are each out in the community asking for funding. My experience with donors is by the third time a person comes and asks for money for the same need, they suddenly realize this isn’t coordinated. I won’t give my money to this. I think there is a benefit that can come to those who do coordinate in that the ability to “sell themselves” to a donor and to sell their potential impact to a donor is greatly heightened.

We are in a unique spot to see maybe for the first time where there are points of fragmentation. It’s not always just a duplication or a fragmentation. There are some cases where the work of one organization could feed the work of another organization. Two places should be working together because they are taking care of people at different points in their life. Make sure they are doing a hand-off from one organization to the next. We feel like because we are in that unique spot that sees a lot of this, and we are in the position to be able to fund, and we track outcomes, that is an important role for us. Not just as a fundraiser to give money to those organizations, but to help those organizations operate more efficiently between one another. We are also doing some things to help them operate more efficiently within each organization.

Hugh: That’s promising.

Bill: We are in the very early stages of that. I don’t want to oversell accomplishments on that. We are starting to recognize where those overlaps are and are trying to bring groups together and see some of the challenges in that. It’s tough for groups, at the end of the day, if you are going to coordinate and collaborate, what you are also going to do is compromise. It means that if I am going to coordinate with another organization, I have to go in with the spirit of compromise, and I have to go in it saying there is a purpose we are coming together for that supersedes my personal self-interest in this. It may in fact require me to give something away for the greater good of the community. I think as long as we are willing to do that and take self-interest and self-preservation out of the equation, I think we will do good things. As long as self-interest, self-preservation, egos, turfism stay in the discussion, it will be hard to move the needle. But I think the purpose of focusing on the community is a much more noble cause than the purpose of focusing on organization and organizational growth. We just need to be all prepared and recognize we will have to compromise.

Hugh: I remember reading a story about one of the larger foundations in southern California in the LA area telling their organizations they funded. They pulled them all together and said, “We are not going to fund you anymore unless you work on collaborative efforts. We’re leaving the room. You come back to us with a collaboration, and then we will revisit the conversation.” There was a funder stepping up and setting a boundary. We are not duplicating funding anymore.

Part of what came to my mind as you were describing that situation was that we create an unintended consequence of leadership: a competitive situation. We have a need, so we will service that need. There is too much of when we didn’t adequately do our research about what was available. In business, we look at our competition. What is our unique value proposition? Is it being served?

A lot of people come to me when they want to start a nonprofit. I say why don’t you work under another one as a project? Do it for a year, and see if there is really a need for this. Then you don’t have to go through all that paperwork.

Bill: That’s music to my ears. That’s exactly what we are asking organizations to do. Before you start a nonprofit, pump the brakes. Let’s take a look and see if there is somebody else out there not necessarily doing the same thing, but addressing the same need. If there is, talk to them first. It’s much more exciting to get your own organization started and create your own logo and website. That stuff is sexy and exciting, and people get caught up in that. You need to let that go. If my real purpose is to serve the community, not just create an organization, let me find out if there is a moving train I can hop onto now, somebody else who is already doing this.

In fact, we had an example of that this last year. An organization came to us and wanted to start a new nonprofit. We think you are more appropriately aligned with an existing organization. Long story short, they are now a program under that organization. At least for now, that makes the most sense for them. Now they don’t have to go find a separate board. They have not created costly infrastructure. They will share the overheads of the other organization. If anything, that helps spread that organization’s overhead out, so that’s a win-win.

We’ll say we have stopped short. We do recognize that as a funder, we have some leverage to say we will withhold some funding until you collaborate. We have stopped short of saying we will not fund you. In our view, that is punishing the wrong person. We’re not punishing the organization; we are punishing the people who benefit from that organization. I’m not going to tell for example if there are two backpack programs in the community that provide food to kids on Friday and they are not collaborating, I am not going to say I am cutting your funding until you collaborate because I am not hurting those organizations, I am taking food out of the mouths of the kids on Friday. While it feels like an important knob to turn, to me, it’s being a little reckless with money as a motivator. It’s not targeted enough to actually motivate the right people. It just hurts the community. But we have said our funding is going to put strong preference on those organizations that collaborate.

Hugh: That’s true of a lot of private foundations that do fund nonprofit projects. They look favorably at collaborations and partnerships.

Going into ways- I want to talk about two things. Going into these joint venture things, what are the deficits? People don’t think about writing agreements for certain things. I want to talk about that. And then what are the resources that you and your organization bring to foster those conversations?

Bill: It’s interesting. I will talk a little bit out of both sides of my mouth. One, I will say I think those organizations who come together to collaborate should not set too high of an expectation early on. I think it’s okay to say, “Let’s get in a room and talk and see where things go.” If we put a lofty expectation in there meeting one, we may scare each other off, and we may not really know what we’re trying to do yet. Don’t set super high expectations right out of the gate. Don’t be too rigid with saying we have to have an outcome by December.

However, at some point, you have to switch the conversation from the stream of consciousness rambling, which some of these can be, which can be ultimately beneficial. At some point, you have to get people on a map. We have talked now for a few meetings; what are some of the things we think we share?

Hugh: It’s kind of like dating, isn’t it? I didn’t ask my wife to marry me on the first date. Did some relationship-

Bill: That might have been a little presumptuous.

Hugh: A little.

Bill: It’s very much like that. Once you know a little bit more about each other, you can say is there something more here? Is there a common purpose that we share? Is there a common goal that we should work on? If so, let’s articulate that as clearly as possible. Maybe that’s just one goal. If so, we make part of our work to focus on that goal, and let’s keep having this open conversation about other areas you might benefit from or other people you want to bring to the table. But I think ultimately, if work is to get done and accomplishments are to be made and we are going to have positive, sustainable impact on the community, you have to get a plan together.

You have to have the basic rudiments that a lot of people think are NBA 101, so people don’t do them. They think they have to hold this in their head. You have to have a vision statement that is meaningful, clear, concise, and not have vague language, not be marketing fluff. You need to have a meaningful vision statement. Then you have to talk about the strategy that will get you there. That strategy has to be goals, objectives, tactics, 90-day plans, 30-day plans, who is accountable for it, when is it going to be done, and how do we measure whether or not it was done. If you have that line of sight between that vision and what you need to have done Monday morning, that is a recipe for doing good things. I do think those early collaborative efforts need to be loose on the front end, but gradually get more focused as topics bubble out of those areas.

I am in several of those meetings right now. A couple of them, we are in those early stages where we are just talking. We leave the room. The type A in you leaves the room says, “We did a lot of talking, but I don’t know what we accomplished.” The more patient side of you should say, “We have done a lot of talking, but we have not talked before. That’s good. That’s progress. No real hard outcome just yet, but we will get there. Maybe the next meeting or the meeting after that, we will plant a stake in the ground and say that we all want to do this. We all focus on food, clothing, and shelter. Let’s pin that up on the wall and say what can we do differently together to do this?”

That can be scary to organizations because that does ultimately mean you are going to somebody in the room, probably everybody in the room will have to compromise a bit. You just need to know that going in. If you are going in saying, “I am not doing anything that is going to take something away from me or that causes me to lose influence or control over a certain area of my life,” if you go in there with that attitude, you might as well not be in the room. You have to go in saying, “This is not about me. This is about the community.” If there are points along the road here where I may be doing something that affects something we are measuring at United Way, maybe I need to let it go. If it’s better for the community, if what I lose is more than made up for by what the community gains, I should let it go.

I will give you a good example. We run a backpack program right now. We fund several backpack programs, but we run a couple different schools out of the United Way. We get revenue for that. That revenue is included in our total pledges that we report at the end of the year. Ultimately, all those backpack programs need to coordinate and consolidate a little bit better. That probably will mean our backpack program could move to a more centralized program somewhere that might be able to do it more efficiently and effectively than us. If I move that backpack program out, that is probably the right thing to do to get it in a more efficient program. But I have also taken X thousands of dollars worth of revenue that had been associated with that program outside of my organization. Somebody looking at our dollars might say you just went from $100 to $75. You’re losing ground. Not really. I know where that program went. I know it’s doing better where it is now. It made more sense for it to be operated there. If I am collecting $25 less than I used to collect, that’s okay. That’s not a failure. In fact, that’s evidence we collaborated on something. If my only interest is in growing our revenue, I would never do that. That’s why you have to let that interest go. There is room for all of us. At some point, organizations may need to consolidate and think about shared purposes. Right now, we are in the earlier coordination and cooperation stage.

Hugh: One of the things I am clearly hearing is that you’re a catalyst for people to think differently.

Bill: We are trying to be, and trying to facilitate conversations like that. and help them see that we are doing this, too. We are not some expert coming in and saying that we want you to do this and it’s going to be hard on you and easy for us. We are holding ourselves to that same standard. We can be the voice of experience and say, “Here is what we had to learn about ourselves and our behavior in order to do this effectively.” We want to share our experience with you and see if you could see there is a different way to think about things that might be more advantageous for the community.

Hugh: You’re the champion of fostering new thinking, but you’re also bringing some skills, history, tools, and leadership to this. You re bringing business expertise into tax-exempt business models, which a lot of nonprofits don’t think of themselves that way. We have to generate revenue. Otherwise, we will go under. The unintended consequences are people want to go too fast, so you are encouraging people to take a deep breath.

Bill: Before starting a new organization out of the ground.

Hugh: Or even two organizations- we spoke of one before we went live, which we won’t talk about here. We have two coming together who have had some history who had not talked about the philosophies and processes and values moving forward. They got to get to work. There is a self-imposed urgency sometimes. Are we in the long haul compromising our work by going too fast?

Bill: Absolutely.

Hugh: There is something we could do now. Part of what United Way brings to the table in the community, you are not only working in Lynchburg, Virginia, but you are working in central Virginia.

Bill: Amherst, Bedford, Campbell, and Lynchburg.

Hugh: That’s pretty much the footprint of the greater area.

Bill: That is, yep.

Hugh: With the impact having more than just funding the programs. You’re a funding agency; however, you’re fostering this creative thinking about how to work together and how to go to the top a step at a time.

Bill: We’re doing that not only around collaborative efforts, but we are also trying to establish a program that we are casually referring to now as beyond funding. Many people know us as a organization that does work to improve the community through fundraising that supports nonprofits. In the course of visiting all these nonprofits over the past year and getting familiar with how they operate, it’s become clear to me, and I’m sure you feel the same way, that they don’t have the marketing department and a finance department and a social media department and an HR department. In many cases, they have an executive director who might be a volunteer, certainly I daresay most are overworked and underpaid. They are in it because their heart is in it and they want to do the right thing. Our money we give them each year is important.

They have ample needs beyond that. We survey our membership at the end of last year and asked, “Other than the money, what else could we be helping you with?” About 20 things that we thought they might answer to give them some prompts. We left it open-ended, too. We heard a lot of things. Most said we need help with grant writing, marketing, social media. Many said we need help with board development and board selection or coaching or performance reviews or my building. Our organization can help with some of those things directly. We have someone who writes grants. My background is strategic planning and business development, communications.

Aside from our having to fulfill every one of those needs, what we want to do is serve as a broker between those organizations who have their needs and people in the community who can help you address those needs. Right now, one of our agencies who we had a meeting with last week, they need help with their finances. We connected them with somebody from a local employer who says they think they can help them out. We’re in the middle. We brokered the relationship. We will stay in touch with it and see if this organization can improve its financial situation. There are several who want grant writing help; we can probably provide that directly for them. We are trying to break the mold of us just being an annual check-writer. You all need help in various areas. Don’t be shy asking for help. Tell us, and we will work to get through it.

Hugh: That’s great. That’s a great model. People who are listening and reading the article are looking for ideas. How do we up our game? This will live on in its form as a podcast. As we do a wrap here, parts of this article are some of the other entities in the city, in the arts community and the church community. How do you interface with any of those in your work? Do you?

Bill: In some cases, we are taking a sit back and wait and see posture. In many cases, we are directly at the table. Some of these efforts have just gotten started. We have United Way, Centra Foundation, Greater Lynchburg Community Foundation, and that is one group. We have another group that Nat Marshall has pulled together that is us, Salvation Army, Goodwill, Interfaith Outreach, and a couple others. We are in those very early stages of just talking. Poverty to Progress has its combined effort with Bridges out of Poverty. We are in some of the sub-committees of that. We are not sure exactly what our bigger role in that could be, but we probably need to spend some time with the leaders in that effort, Treney and Hugh, to understand what is a better place for us to plug in. Is there some place we can be more effective in that? Given that is one of our big focus areas—we focus on health, education, income, and basic human needs—under income, poverty is one of the biggest issues that we could possibly talk about addressing. We have things that we’re doing right now that are not yet looped into the Poverty to Progress initiative. We have more to do to build lines of communication there. Again, that is another one we are sitting back and waiting to see where is the best place for us to plug in. It’s broken down into eight or nine groups now. We think we need to try to figure out how to take these lofty conversations and turn those into actionable plans. That is where that effort is now and we may have a role there.

Hugh: It’s a shame there’s only one door. You have covered a lot of turf.

Bill: You’re the only person who has said that.

Hugh: I’m getting tired thinking about it. There are a lot of sub-conversations in there. As we close this out, what thoughts would you share with other leaders who want to move into a partnership or collaborative relationship with their community? What thoughts would you have for them to go forward with?

Bill: I’ll take a step back on that question, too. One thing I learned early on when I got into this role, and a certain experience in my life from my past made this role very compelling to me, made me be in a position to help people. As I have met executive directors in all the organizations that we support and other organizations, they tend to have a story. They have some reason they are in that type of work. Nobody gets into nonprofit work because of the glory, fame, and riches; you get into it because you care about it. That to me makes this an incredibly exciting sector to work in. The people that you work with are invigorated because they genuinely care. When you get caught up in operating an organization, you can turn down the light on that part of your brain and your heart and get obsessed with what you have to do today.

My thought is when you go into a collaborative effort, remember what brought you there. What brought you there is you wanted to help people, not that you wanted to build an organization. If you can keep the light shining on that, the collaboration falls naturally behind. You have to be willing to let some personal interest go so that the benefit accrues to the community, not necessarily to you or your organization.

Hugh: Bill Varner, visionary leader for United Way in central Virginia. Thank you for sharing your wisdom today.

Bill: Thank you for your time.

Lynchburg Mayor Treney Tweety on Partnerships

Nov 11, 2018 42:03


Hugh Ballou: This is Hugh Ballou, and I have the honor today. I am in Lynchburg, Virginia where I live. I have the honor of speaking to a native.

Treney Tweedy: Yes, I am a native Lynchburger.

Hugh: Burger. Treney, it’s a mouthful for me. Mayor Treney Tweedy. Hugh Ballou has its own challenge.

Treney: Well, thank you for being here. Thank you for having me as your guest. We’re talking.

Hugh: This is part of what we call The Nonprofit Exchange. We talk to people in social benefit work. They might be in government work, education, running a community for-purpose organization. We like reframing nonprofit to for-purpose. This is a live interview, but we are also recording and transcribing, preparing for the next issue of Nonprofit Performance 360 Magazine, which is going to be about partnerships and collaborations. I moved to Lynchburg 13 months ago. It’s been a very welcoming community. I noticed unlike a lot of places, people do work together in some communities, but here there is a whole community spirit of let’s attack the issues that are holding us back. Back in history, before the Civil War, Lynchburg was one of the wealthiest cities in the country.

Treney: We were. We do understand our place in history. A lot of that was because of industry, because of being located by the river, and the tobacco industry, and many areas of utilization of the river alongside the city. Families and businesses grew along with it.

Hugh: Lynchburg comes from John Lynch.

Treney: Yes, who ran the ferry. The businesses back then utilized him. He helped develop Lynchburg. I know people don’t understand that. They often don’t get where Lynchburg comes from. It does come from the founder John Lynch.

Hugh: It’s a great story. A lot of great stories here. Our story today is about how leaders in this city, and it’s a right-sized city. Not too big. We have 80-something thousand?

Treney: It’s about 80,00 residents. We are in a region of 250,000. Lynchburg is the anchor city with surrounding localities. We are a city of 80,000 strong. Numbers are going up. We are a city we feel is compassionate and caring and innovative in how we think and work together. It wasn’t difficult to say we have a problem. Previous leaders before myself looked as issues, tackled things as they came along. There have always been community dialogues around issues. It wasn’t unusual for us to look at our current issue, which was our poverty rate, a high poverty rate we have among families and children living in poverty, and say, “We are just big enough to have the problem, but small enough to do something about it.”

So that started the conversation amongst the previous Mayor Joan Foster. When we were on the campaign trail, the poverty numbers came up. When we were talking about education and work force, the actual percentage rates, when they hit you in the face, that almost a quarter of the population lives under the poverty threshold, we think of ourselves as being that formerly wealthy city, a city of opportunity, a city where you have a church on every hill. We also have restaurants. We love to eat. We love economic development. We have a thriving downtown. So what’s going on that we still have a quarter of our residents living under that poverty threshold? Of that 24%, 9% of those are children who are living in that.

Once you get the numbers, you understand where we are, many cities, we drive by poverty every day. Do we actually have the wherewithal or the gumption to say we are going to do something about this? We have a lot of faith leaders, faith communities, faith houses. We think we have a strong education system. We know we have a thriving economic system here and development. It’s not getting to everyone. Everyone is not seeing that opportunity. That is when the city manager, the previous mayor, Joan Foster and I sat down and just said, we are going to commit to talking about poverty every two weeks during our meetings. We are going to look at how to develop our plan of talking to nonprofits and organizations. Where is the first step? We went looking for plans. We didn’t really see the canned program, and this is what you are going to do to fix your problem. It had to be locally thought out and locally grown. The communication conversation, we knew we had to make it solely for Lynchburg and build it around Lynchburg.

Hugh: That’s wonderful. I have attended two meetings recently. One was Mayor Joan’s last meeting. There were reports from some grants that the city had given two different constituents, and how they were working and working together was quite impressive. A few weeks ago, there was one with faith leaders in the community and how they are sharing things together. It’s another level of remarkable.

You break the politician mold. One of the definitions of a politician is someone makes half the population mad at them.

Treney: I can believe that.

Hugh: I don’t know if that’s the standard definition, but it’s my definition. I experience a lot of synergy, a word which we are both fond of. As a conductor, ensemble is we synergize together. I see synergy in a broader sense. The spirit of what people are doing. It’s fair to say- we are recording this in October 2018. We are not at perfection. It’s a work in process.

Let’s jump to the future as you and your colleagues have done work on this. What do you all see in the future? Have you looked at a future vision?

Treney: Yes, it continues with the cooperation and the collaboration. We realized early on that government can’t do it all. We had to partner with nonprofits. While everyone has always partnered together in programming and events, this is how we move our community into its best future. That is shifting the idea of organizations that have been doing great work. Someone said, I can’t take credit for this, that we manage poverty well. How do we move people out of it? How do we affect that mindset and shift that thinking for families and individuals? We need the collective community—the nonprofit leaders, the volunteers, the education institutions—to help work with all of that, to shift the mindset. We have what I say, you always want or need more resources. We already have dollars coming into our city. How are they being utilized? How are they connecting to the issue at hand for us? A lot of organizations are serving the same people. When you actually look at the individual households and the families, they are the same folks who are maybe walking through different service buildings, different types of needs at different times. Prices that are coming into play.

One catalyst for this work was our health care system. Centra system. Centra health care realized early on that they were serving a small number of families in the emergency room. It was costing a huge amount. About 1,100 people were costing them about $17 million in ER. It still wasn’t meeting our need of the crisis of that family or individual. They began to look at how we can spread out the medical services or the opportunities for people to have that better relationship with a health care provider that gives them ongoing assistance and management. They developed mobile medical clinics. They researched the specific street of life they are coming from. What are their health care needs on that street? That really began the conversation in part probably of people looking at our neighborhoods, our streets, our families, our homes. Tying the census track data to it. We know where folks in their households are. To be able not to affect that somehow with all the data available, all the technology. Centra created the mobile medical units that went around to each neighborhood and brought medical care to folks who couldn’t access it. Maybe a transportation system. What is a ten-minute car ride to get to a doctor appointment for you or I? It might have taken them an hour and a half to get on a bus and transfer. That just limits the mobility of folks to take their children and themselves.

All of that is what began the greater conversation of the types of committees we needed in addressing the poverty issue. Child care. When somebody goes to work, do they have child care? Transportation system. How does our bus system get people to their necessary appointments, but also to a job that is on the outer part of the community? Not closer in downtown, but further out. How does that spoken wheel type of thing work? Do we have routes for people who are on the outskirts of the city? Or are they spending two hours to get around within a five-mile radius? What is that?

We created those committees through the Poverty to Progress initiative to galvanize the community, to say, “These are what we think we need to do in reducing the challenges and the barriers.” Identified those. Asked the community, whoever wanted to, college students, seniors, youth, whichever neighborhoods you came from, work on a committee. Talk about the challenges. If we had resources, how would you apply them? The community identified the greatest challenges and how to begin to work on them. People change. That is a year of asking people to commit to need.

What I am very pleased with is that city council also agreed that this is a challenge for our city. A unanimous vote, which happens, but maybe not all the time in a council setting. The unanimous vote came that we are 1) going to apply a position to work as the glue for this work, the connector, the liaison between city government, the nonprofits, and the citizens. They committed to half an individual salary that works in the city manager’s office. They also committed to grant funds, up to $5,000 each, up to $25,000 to have as what I call putting skin in the game. If someone has an idea to help our communities, whether it is individual research or some other funding source, we wanted them to be able to have the opportunity to apply for up to a $5,000 grant and then leverage that with either another nonprofit or another grant or other work that is going on to make actionable goals actually become reality. Each committee developed two actionable goals they would work on during the year with some funding tied to it. We have seen some great partnerships happen out of that.

The biggest part of the work was breaking down the silos. Silos are a terrible word sometime. Getting people to talk to each other, sometimes entities that are responsible for federal dollars, state dollars, never really talk. Everyone needs their own system of data collection, their own outcomes. We are all still in one city. If you are responsible for human services work or social services work, and the city is appropriating funding, maybe there is another agency that is responsible for poverty reduction with federal dollars. If we never force the conversation, and everyone to come to the table to say what are the hand-offs, how come we are all serving the same families, how can we serve them differently. You may do this very well and have less funding. We have some money here that can be used, but we have never been able to do this work. It’s getting people to come to the table and getting them to talk. They may not have the plan laid out, so you have to come to the table ready knowing there is not one answer already there. We are working toward the answers. Every day that we have conversation, every day that we create the expectation that this is for the benefit of our community. I said it in several meetings, if you set the tone that we want this to be operating in the spirit of excellence. Whatever ideas, whatever resources, we want to put our best feet forward. We want folks to have stellar service and opportunities. Then we have to build it in that way.

We can’t do things mediocrely. I feel like sometimes in the history over time, it was easier to be mediocre. We get to a certain level, and then it’s too hard. We work a grant, and then the funds are dried up, so the work goes away. But people still suffer. If you leave work half undone or you are not able to complete it or continue it, then you leave a neighborhood, folks who are sometimes left behind. There has not been a focus that has been on that neighborhood. Our students coming out of environments that are not healthy maybe for them. What do we do to make that better, improve? It’s all connected.

Hugh: I mentioned a large portion of your work as mayor. I like to help clients do all kinds of things all over the world in reframing leadership as influence rather than authority. You can lead from your mayor position of authority, but from my experience, you are an influencer. You probably spend a lot of your time connecting and building relationships. You can pick something to delegate to. Who would do that? That person stepped up. Many leaders think delegation is a sign of weakness. You validated yourself a few times. You know delegation is a strength of leadership. You also understand we can meet some common goals when we come to our table. Besides being an influencer, you’re an encourager. I think sometimes people don’t think of that.

Treney: We all have skills and talents. I recognize where I am weak in certain areas. I have learned over time. I have worked for private and public organizations. I have worked for superintendents, worked for the public school division here. I have seen the importance of building a great team and having a deep match. It’s great to have people that you know. They can get in and build a vision. They understand why we’re doing something. We trust people to be able to do their job and say, “This outcome is a reflection of all of us. It’s not just me.”

As a politician, and that is what I appreciated about the previous mayor when she put me aside her as vice mayor. She had led dialogues on race and racism and healthy initiatives in our city. As far as being an organizer and understanding how to pull people together, I watched her do it over my first couple of years here. Coming into a political leadership if you will, I had the benefit of having worked for the public school division, sitting in on every school board meeting for eight, nine years, sitting in on joint city council and school board retreats. I was the public information officer, so I watched how leadership engaged and interacted and talked to staff and built their teams over the years with various city managers and school superintendents. Building a team of folks who understand their roles and allowing them to carry it out toward that mission or that vision just worked better.

When you respect people for what they bring to the table, their background, their experience, they are invested, and they know they are part of a group doing some great work. You have to have the flexibility to have that freedom within yourself to say, It’s okay to let go a little bit. You watch and come back and are available to talk to folks about questions, concerns. How is this shaping up? Are we seeing the outcome? Are you seeing what’s expected? If not, what do we need to do? We are sometimes afraid to tweak the work. It’s important because there is no perfect solution out the gate. That is one thing about Poverty to Progress. Media stories will say, This didn’t go right. Where is the right and wrong? We are working toward something. We are local. We are home growing this if you will. We can go back and reset. We can reevaluate.

That’s what we do with this process, with the Poverty to Progress. We merged with another group that was doing similar work from the regulation/policy side. It wasn’t about who started first. But they were a regional focus. We were Lynchburg-centric. We were really focused on Lynchburg. Once it became that they were pretty primarily working with Lynchburg residents and policy/regulation, another locality started looking at its own county to see what they could do for themselves because they were rural and we were city. We have merged the groups now, created a collaborative leadership team that is getting ready to meet. She has become a citizen volunteer now. I tell her if I leave, if other council members leave, that doesn’t mean the work should stop. How do you build that group of people, that process, whoever is in the seat, this work will still be a focus because it is part of our economic development, our eco-environment. We have to have successful families and individuals. We can’t leave a block or two- Our multi-million dollar development downtown, and you go three blocks over, and the average income is less than $20,000. I am throwing out a number. It’s just not good for the whole of the city.

Hugh: We are close to the economic dividing line. Working with the churches on Court St is the dividing line. They are aware of that. There is a lot of stuff in there, a lot of information that represents very effective leadership. It’s effective. It gets traction. You have developed a system, so it’s not personality-centric. So many times, somebody builds a system around their personality. When they go, it crumbles. There is a lot of wisdom in that. There is a master plan for the city of Lynchburg. There are phases of that. As we moved in here August a year ago, streets were being paved.

Treney: We still have work going on.

Hugh: Even in that time, there has been remarkable progress. A bunch of unused buildings are now loft apartments. We have millennials and businesspeople and ordinary citizens and retired people moving downtown. We have a lot of restaurants in walking distance.

Treney: We do. I wish I could say it was during my era of leadership. Previous councils and administrations built a plan and created that vision out in about 2001 or so. With that adoption came the development of downtown. Downtown was a ghost town. They decided to do something. A few developers were early pioneers. They came in, bought a building, and moved in. A few here and there. Council came on board with developing the master plan. What you are seeing today is the results of that plan and administrative teams sticking to that plan, making right decisions along the way, whether it was code enforcement or infrastructure decisions on staffing and how to work with new developers coming into town. We have approximately about 800 new residents downtown living in the lofts. With that, we put people into an area wherever it is, it is going to bring commercial development and businesses. Folks who live down there have needs. They want different opportunities. I was reading an email today from our Downtown Lynchburg Association. They are energetic and creating vibes of putting in pocket parks. When you go to the larger cities, you may be able to eat downtown at a little park for lunch with benches. People are really taking hold of what has happened and saying, “We can do this. We can take this public space and turn it into a park.”

With the development of business is coming our arts community. While we have new hotels downtown that have been renovated from hotels of the ‘50s that went through transition and became housing and its own Section 8 housing, or housing for college students, developers came in and renovated wonderfully older hotels so that creates new business, new folks staying. Also, our arts academy has been renovated. It will open in December. Historically for the city that is important because originally when the academy was in its heyday, persons of color could not go in, or they had to go through the separate entrance with the separate ticket taker, sit way up in the top. December will be the first show where we have all of our community able to walk through the front doors of the newly renovated academy downtown.

We are excited about our new residents, lofters living downtown. The businesses that come behind it. We have global businesses that have our corporate headquarters here. They have understood the investment of staying here with us and putting their main offices downtown. We have an entire city that is developing. For a city of our size, we have six colleges or universities that are located within our city. We embrace Sweet Briar, which is a college that is in another locality about 15 minutes away. With so much education, with global companies and various industries that are here with us, we know we have all the tools to make Lynchburg an even greater city in our future.

How does it all connect? How does it all interact and engage? How do our citizens become beneficiaries of all of that great building and development? You have to sit down with key leaders, education leaders, faith leaders. We meet with college presidents. We have a great volunteer base of college students and rec departments. How do we all make it work to create that great city that people benefit from? That’s that future vision: it’s not just in my head, but someone that everyone embraces in order to put it in their future plan.

Hugh: I work with business leaders as well as education and some government. We fail to think about the business model for what we’re doing. We think we don’t have a business model in government or nonprofit or church when we really do. We tend to gravitate toward the bad name businesses as greed. We are looking at the triple bottom line businesses who are social entrepreneurs who are creating goodwill for everyone. I see that you have that mindset.

As a leader, from where you sit, I want to piggyback on what you said in passing about you wish you could claim that progress. This is the relay in the Olympics. The first runner hands off the baton. This is your leg. You can get behind or ahead. You’re part of this journey. You’ve been handed a really good baton and are in the lead. We are also not competing against other cities. We are shining our own light. There is nothing that compares to Lynchburg. We are our own shining light. Some people get in this “I have to be as good as them” mindset, or they want to copy others. When you said there wasn’t a model, that’s good because no model would fit here. There is unique challenges. One is called Hill City.

Treney: And there is a reason. How do you utilize that? It’s great exercise. We have super steep hills for anyone who’d like to come. We have a great quality of life. It’s affordable to live here. Young families can start buying a home here. They are not using all of their discretionary income on housing. We have those opportunities, walking by the James River or going kayaking or keeping our faces sunned with great parks and trails here. When people decide to move here and they bring with them new ideas and new insights from their experiences, new directors and folks who take key positions, spreading information and communication about how people can become involved, how they can help with projects downtown or in other parts of our city. Just the energy of working with businesses. When businesses locate, what I hear repeatedly over and over is they want their employees to have a great quality of life. The education system matters. The quality of life of the community, which are all of that, the parks and trails and entertainment and green spaces. All of that matters. When you keep it focused, for me, this hand-off of the baton is about the economic environment, how we integrate our neighborhoods and our folks who are living under the poverty threshold. How do we integrate them into that economic opportunity? How do we shift folks’ language and thinking about their everyday spending habits and wanting to spend more or wanting to be part of home ownership? What does all of this mean? That is why I think it’s important for us to work together, to create an education opportunity as well as folks becoming involved. You have to try to get people to cast the vision for themselves. Businesses need a work force. We have to make sure our citizens are trained with the credentials and skills that entry level jobs are requiring these days. Businesses can pick up and go anywhere with a good environment. Other people have rivers. Other people have parks. What makes us unique is that work force system that we create. Giving people the soft skills, the training and credentials in the industry sectors that are important to Lynchburg and are thriving here, matching them with jobs. We want people to have jobs and careers that pay them well in order for them to be contributors of the tax base, of our residences and neighborhoods through home ownership, and just a part of that American dream. It’s not a dream. It can be reality. It is reality. We feel like with all of this work, we are creating pathways for people.

A great wise person once said in a class that I took, I can’t take credit for this, but we talk about the prison pipelines. When you are in a pipe, it’s hard to get out. You have one end or the other. The pipe is solid. If you create pathways for people, they are able to get on or off. They are able to take a detour. There is a way on. That is why in meetings we have, for me personally, I always talk about creating career pathways and life pathways, different options. The way you and I enter that highway of life may not be the same in our careers, but if you at least shine the light on this as the direction, how you get there is several ways. It will be a great benefit to you as an individual or to your family or children.

Telling our story. Cities and localities don’t tell their stories well about what their city looks like. We do marketing and branding campaigns. What does it mean to be a Lynchburger? How do you feel when you walk down Main Street and you can talk to your neighbor or someone else while you are running up Monument Terrace? It’s an engagement of being in a city of 80,000. We are just big enough, but just small enough. I can pick up the phone and call our faith leaders. I can call our business CEOs and presidents. We can have Town & Gown meetings and invite them to the table. They are talking to us about their challenges, and we are able to lay our challenges and successes out there, too. Each layer of leadership in this city, everyone is willing to sit down at the table.

Hugh: That’s a key component. I don’t see the leaders who make it about them. It’s about us. It’s about the community. It’s about the impact we have on humanity. Even the churches who are very different, I told you a story before we started about four unlikely churches working together, building some platforms for people to connect. Anything we haven’t touched on? I think we have covered a lot of stuff.

Treney: We have. Hopefully I haven’t bored you too much.

Hugh: I live here. You just gave away the secret of how good Lynchburg is. We have a lot of history here. I live across the street from the site of the Battle of Lynchburg. There is the Sandusky house. One of Thomas Jefferson’s homes is here. We have Monument Terrace. Those steps are the equivalent of eight floors.

Treney: They are. Everybody uses it often every day every week. But also, it means a lot to our veteran community. We have a strong veteran community here. I served in the Navy for a couple years. I enjoyed my time there, which taught me discipline and collaboration. That is where I started my public relations work. It has continued from my early years as a young adult. Our veteran community here has met at the foot of Monument Terrace every Friday for over 350 weeks or so. It has been incredible. I think the last time I was there was at 52 weeks, several weeks had gone by. But it was at the start of the war. They were at war. To show support of the troops, to show that home was still praying for you and still connecting and still caring about you, they began to meet every Friday at 12 until 1. If you go out there.

Hugh: They’re there now.

Treney: They were there. They group up at the end right at 1. It’s one hour. That community at the base of Monument Terrace, which is a recognition of all the previous wars and the persons who lost their lives, that type of every Friday for years just meeting to support and show respect is this community. They come from the other localities. It’s not just Lynchburg resident folks. It is veterans from Korea and Vietnam and folks who come home and know. That is the community that- We reference the faith leaders, but we also have a strong veteran community. We are not located near an active duty base like Norfolk or the Pentagon or the Virginia. But we have a lot of veterans that just support several efforts. They come together and create that idea that we all care. We all collaborate. We all work together. That is an example. I just wanted to share with folks the commitment that individuals and organizations in our community have. We respect that and the work they do. Everyone has something to contribute.

Hugh: There is an anchor when you say that we respect.

As we are wrapping up this really good interview, any particular thought, challenge, or tip that you would like to leave with leaders? We mostly have nonprofit leaders, but we have all kinds of people who listen and read.

Treney: Be open to new experiences. Be open to working with new people. Everyone has a voice or background or experience or story that you can either glean something from or contribute toward the work you do. You may be able to share your story or narrative with other people. When we do that and we open ourselves for learning and connecting with others, or the respect factor or listening, you will see great things happen. You really will.

Hugh: Very good words. Treney Tweedy, thank you so much for sharing.

Collaboration to Restore a Historic Performance Venue in Lynchburg, VA

Nov 4, 2018 01:00:40


Geoffrey Kershner is the Executive Director at the Academy Center of the Arts (Lynchburg, VA) and the founder of the Endstation Theatre Company in residence at Randolph College. He is the winner of the 2015 Vice Mayor’s Young Adult Award of Excellence (City of Lynchburg) and was named a 2016 “Top 20 under 40” by Lynchburg Business Magazine. Under his leadership, Endstation was the winner of the 2012 Rising Star Award (Virginians for the Arts), the 2014 Cultural Organization Award (James River Council for the Arts and Humanities), and the 2014 Good Works Award (Downtown Lynchburg Association).

In his time at the Academy Center of the Arts, the organization increased need based scholarships for arts programming by 124%, increased the overall operating budget by 110%, and completed a capital campaign for a 30 million dollar historic theatre restoration project (the theatre is scheduled open this December). Geoffrey has served on Virginia Commission for the Arts (Area 2, state wide) grant review panels, was a member of the National Arts Strategies’ 2014-2015 Chief Executive Cohort, and completed the Arts and Culture Strategy course through the University of Pennsylvania and National Arts Strategies in 2017. He served as a faculty member at Florida State University, Daytona State College, and Lynchburg College. He earned his BFA from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA and his MFA from Florida State University.

Getting the Grant Awards You Deserve with Beverly Burgess, the Grant Guru

Oct 28, 2018 01:00:46


Beverly D. Burgess – Grant Writer, Grant Teacher, and “The Grant Guru”

Former State of Florida Executive Administrator, Department of Labor, Employment, and Training, State of Florida Grant Writer and Federal Grant Writer, Bureau of Apprenticeship

Former State of Florida Partnerships with NASA, Lockheed, Martin Marietta, Bureau of Apprenticeship, State of Florida CO-Programs Developer, Bureau of Apprenticeship, State of Florida Students Recording Certification Specialist, Bureau of Apprenticeship

Beverly D. Burgess brings over forty-two years to the table, in the grant writing arena. She worked for the State of Florida, Department of Labor, Employment, and Training, Bureau of Apprenticeship Division, for over twelve years. 

Ms Burgess also trained as an expert corporate grant writer by the State of Florida, Department of Labor, Employment, and Training, Bureau of Apprenticeship, she has built relationships and partnerships with many world’s corporate CEO’s their companies.

Getting and Keeping High Level Sponsors with Andrew Felix

Oct 16, 2018 01:00:36


Learning the Value of Human Alignment / Collaboration

Oct 8, 2018 57:59


Powerful Collaborations with Stewart Levine

Hugh Ballou: Welcome to The Nonprofit Exchange. Russell, here we are again. Week after week, we have amazing people. Yet today, this is a friend from years ago. I sent out an email asking people if they wanted to contribute to the magazine or be on the show. Immediately, Stewart Levine responded. How are things in Denver today, Russell?

Russell Dennis: It’s a little cloudy, a little bit cooler than it has been. But we are in the fall season. All is well otherwise. Welcome, Stewart. Thank you for coming.

Stewart Levine: My pleasure to be with you guys today. I will be landing in Denver early tomorrow morning and then driving up to Vail for some American Bar Association meetings. Interesting, because I have a new book called Becoming the Best Lawyer You Can Be: How to Maintain Physical, Emotional, Spiritual, and Mental Health. The American Bar Association, 27 authors, I curated it and edited it. I’m actually very excited about it.

Hugh: Look at that. Let’s back up. I’m sure there is people watching who want to know who this guy is anyway. Why don’t you tell them, Stewart?

Stewart: Thank you, Hugh. Here’s the short synopsis. I practiced law for about 10 years in a reasonably traditional number of contexts, starting off in the New Jersey Attorney General’s office. Then I got tired of fighting with people. And it was before the whole ADR, Alternative Dispute Resolution, movement came on board. So I decided to do a little career change. I spent six years inside of AT&T as they were going through huge organizational change and transformation with major law firms as my clients, not in a legal sense, but in an account representative sense.

On a parallel track, I started divorce meditation because I wanted to use the skills I had developed as a lawyer. I learned a lot about communication, about collaboration, about conflict resolution working with couples getting divorced because no one is in worse shape than that. Over time, I moved that work over into working with organizations, teens, organizational transformational cultural change work, individual coaching. For the last 30 years, that essentially is what I have been doing.

The last 10 years, I have learned a ton of teaching programs and all the soft skills, relationship skills on behalf of the American Management Association. I have done a number of collaborations over time with various other individuals, all in the organizational space. That is the short synopsis, except I have also written a couple of best-selling books. The first one is called Getting to Resolution: Turning Conflict into Collaboration. It was endorsed by Stephen Covey. It was named one of the best business books of 1998, second edition came out in 2008. A follow-up called The Book of Agreement: 10 Essential Elements for Getting the Results You Want. That was endorsed by a number of notable people. That’s the short answer. You and I met in the context of both being on the faculty of an organization called CEO Space. It’s a pleasure to see your face again, Hugh.

Hugh: It’s a pleasure. Thank you for stepping up when I sent out that probing email. Actually, we were standing in those groups out in the lobby, and someone was addressing the group. I whipped out my draft of my workbook, Dealing with High Performance Teams, and I said, “Would you do me a favor and review this? Tell me what it’s missing.” You sent me an email saying there was nothing about agreements in here. So I asked if I could quote your book of the 10EssentialElementsofAgreementsso I could give you attribution. I refer to those all the time. I send people to Amazon to get that book. It’s really a treasure.

We are speaking to people who are in the social benefit/for-purpose sector. They are clergy running a church or synagogue. They are executive directors running a for-purpose community-based organization. They are running a membership organization. I see a lot of conflict because people haven’t been really good in creating this agreement. They don’t write it down. They haven’t decided how we are going to define expectations. I would guess, we’re talking about collaboration and alignment today. I would think one tenet of alignment is to be able to have your expectations written down. Where do you start with alignment? What is the starting point?

Stewart: Sure. Just to frame this, what I always say to people is you can pay me now or pay me later. If you pay me now, you’ll pay me a lot less. Essentially what that means is spend a little time on the front end, making sure you have alignment, making sure you have shared expectations. Otherwise, the root of conflict is when people have different understandings of what they are doing together, and they have a different sense of metrics in terms of how we are going to measure whether or not we were successful. Critical piece is spending time on the front end. TheBookofAgreementcontains about 30 models of agreements for getting to a place of alignment. Those ten elements are actually so good I put them on the back of my business card. It’s not like I’m trying to keep any secrets. I am happy to give them away.

You start off by having a conversation. What is our intent and vision? In other words, what are we doing together? What’s our intent and vision? By the way, as a little aside, most legal agreements are something that I refer to as agreements for protection. What if this goes wrong, and what if that goes wrong? There is not a huge amount of time spent on what we are trying to achieve here. That was the perspective that I took. What is our intent and vision?

What is the role that each one of us is going to play? In other words, what is each party or person responsible for?

What are the specific promises that each person makes? In other words, what is each person going to do to bring that vision into reality? How are they going to contribute?

What is the value that each person receives? Why? Because if people don’t receive, if they are not getting value out of any form of collaboration, they will stop contributing. They will stop performing.

Metrics. How will you measure whether or not you were successful? Get it to a place of objectivity.

Concerns and fears. People often have concerns and fears that they don’t want to talk about. They are shy. What I like to do is put this in the model. No, this is something you have to talk about.

Renegotiation. The idea that when we begin, we know what we know, but we don’t know what we don’t know. As we work together, moving down the road, we discover things, and we constantly need to be mindful of renegotiating that agreement to make sure we are back in a place of alignment.

Consequences or benefits. What’s at stake here? What’s really at stake in this collaboration for the individuals involved, for the organization, for the community that is being served in the world of nonprofit and benefit organizations?

Conflict resolution. We know that things happen. How are we going to resolve the conflicts and differences when they come up?

After you have talked about those nine things, you look at the other person or the group and go, Yes or no. This is a project that I am engaged with. What I like to say is if you got good alignment, you don’t have to worry about loose panels flapping off the rocket ship that you are trying to get to take off.

I’m not sure where that came from. A little feedback from the universe. That’s okay. The last element, number ten, is agreement and trust. Are we aligned? This is what is essential to do at the front end. People who start to use this and discover it think it’s like sliced bread. It’s just amazing, the simple ten element model, what it can create and what it can save you in the long run.

Hugh: Absolutely. I call it paying the upfront price. You quoted the oil filter pay me now or pay me later. That’s a great commercial. It’s so true. It’s the price upfront is far cheaper. That’s a brilliant model. What happens when you get to #10 is you really know that you have an agreement.

Stewart: You know you have an agreement, or you know you don’t, which is of equal value. You know that Okay, this is, we’re not in alignment. I don’t think we can get to alignment. This is not a good project to work on together.

Hugh: I don’t know if you know I do lots of group board meetings and staff meetings. I am fundamentally a music connector who helps build ensembles, which is synergy in group interaction. In the South, y’all can tell I’m in the South, we say none of us is as smart as all of us. How do you get the best collective thinking without going into groupthink? My answer to that is we teach people how to build consensus. I find most people confuse consensus and compromise when they are the exact opposite. A consensus is a win-win, and compromise is lose-lose. What dawns on me as you are describing that model which I have read so many times is that prompts people to talk in a different way, discover new things, and come to some sort of consensus that whether we can work together or we can’t. Is consensus part of alignment?

Stewart: Absolutely. Consensus is essentially alignment. I’m glad you mentioned the word “compromise.” You said it exactly correctly, Hugh. Compromise means to lose-lose. People giving up what’s important to them. Consensus is we are all in agreement, we are all in alignment, we are all moving forward toward the same things with the same end result in mind.

Hugh: It’s very misunderstood. What setting it is. A corporate setting, a boardroom, or anything like that. I think it’s really misunderstood. It’s important that we can build that synergy if we are going to work together as teams. Why is alignment essential in today’s world? Why don’t you go to D.C. and teach them? You can skip that second part.

Stewart: I want to go back a second, and I will come to your question. I want to punctuate this point, Hugh. What also happens in the process of having this conversation is you start to develop a real deeper relationship. I don’t mean an intimate personal relationship; I mean a working relationship. And as we all know, when you have relationship with people you are working with, it’s much easier to resolve differences, which will inherently come up. The only reason people end up in lawsuits is when relationships break down. That’s the only time they resort to those 100-page agreements that attorneys prepare, when the relationship breaks down. Otherwise, they work it out; they want to keep working together.

Having said that, why is this more important in today’s world? I think it’s more important in today’s world because we have a lot less face-to-face interaction. So much of what we’re doing transactionally is virtual. In those kinds of situations, it’s easier to be a jerk. And people don’t consciously spend time to build relationships. This is a way to do it. That’s one piece.

The second piece is it’s too costly when things break down. When you end up in conflict and any kind of lawsuits or legal process, you can’t afford it. You can’t afford to waste that time removing so quick.

Three is if you look out at the world, it seems that there is a movement toward a much more values-based business and organizational culture. Much more. Because people realize what goes around comes around. You can’t treat transactions as a one-shot deal. We have to be more relational and values-based. Even the millennial generation coming up, for them, it’s real important to be part of a mission-driven organization, whatever that mission happens to be. To frame for-profit missions as having a “missionary” value. Business organizations in some sense are becoming a place where people get in culture. Business, nonprofits, in that context, it’s where we spend so much time. Bringing values and alignment into that are critical.

Probably more than you wanted to hear. To go back to that other question about Washington D.C., about 10 years ago, I was actually doing a two-day program for the Federal Executive Institute, which is run out of the Treasury Department. I had about 75 people for two days. At the end of the program, a bunch of Navy officers came up to me in white uniforms and said, “You need to go down the block and teach those guys in Congress.” Bottom line is, I don’t know if you remember those old jokes, “How many blanks does it take to change a light bulb?” How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but it’s got to want to change. The guys in D.C., I use guys generically, they don’t seem to want to change. They are sitting in some old cultural model, and that’s why the rating in D.C. of the folks that we elect as representatives and our employees, the ratings are so incredibly low.

Hugh: They are. We are shaped by the culture that we have experienced and the culture we have been injected into. We don’t have to accept that. I can’t imagine what it’s like on the inside. Some of the large companies and some of the large churches I have served have a culture. You refer to this topic of conflict. Before we leave the alignment and agreement piece, what I have experienced when people have those kinds of conversations. By the way, another piece Russell and I present and attend is the Business Acceleration Summit with your cheerleader Shannon Gronich, who studied your program with you. She uses it quite well. In going through that process, there is a transformation that happens with people’s perspective, even those who want to change. There is a substantive transformation that happens. Give us the story. Am I right? Does that happen with people exploring those options? If so, is there an example without giving away names of the kind of transformation that happens when people can have a different kind of conversation?

Stewart: It creates connection. Connectivity. To me, human connectivity is the key to productivity. That sounds like a rhyme. Connectivity is the key to productivity. It is. If you think about high performance teams, what was it about the teams that made them great? The human relationships. The high levels of trust. When you create alignment, that is naturally going to happen. For religious organizations, go back to the words of Christ. Wherever two or more of you are gathered, there is one. When you create alignment and connection, you create a different kind of energy. It’s there. It’s there.

One other thing I wanted to say about this, Hugh. You mentioned the word “culture.” I do cultural transformation work. People often ask for that. It’s a very amorphous concept. When you think about what is culture in an organization, culture is actually held in relationships. Relationships are a function of agreements, implicit and explicit. I say if we can make our agreements explicit, we can change the culture. By having agreements with how we will be with each other, how we will treat each other. I have done this in many organizations over time. It always comes up value-based because people use their highest aspirations when they are creating these kinds of agreements. Culture. Huge piece.

Hugh: Let’s focus in a minute. As a conductor, I create high performance cultures in choirs and orchestras. If you are familiar, the person at the front influences others. I have a lot of leaders say, “I want other people to change.” I point out, “That ain’t gonna happen unless you change.” I don’t know if you’re familiar with the work of Murray Bowen, the psychiatrist who has a whole leadership methodology. Bowen’s wisdom is if you want to change people on your team, you change yourself, and they reflect that. What you are talking about is the vulnerability of the leader willing to open their brains to something new.

Stewart: Jim Kouzes, favorite leadership consultant, and his partner Barry Posner. Talk about as one of the key elements of leadership modeling the way. That is a validation of what you just said. Modeling the way. Change yourself. Show others how you want them to be. Critical piece.

Hugh: Amen.

Stewart: Amen. It’s interesting. I did a project for a state government agency a few years ago. You asked for an example. They were implementing a new fiscal system to the entire state. It was coming out of the controller’s office. You can imagine the political, the legacy systems. It was a group of professional accountants who were charged with the pilot program. I got a call from someone who had seen me present about 10 years ago for the Project Management Institutes in the Greater Bay Area of San Francisco, which is where I am. I got in there and used the models that we’re talking about to get to the bottom of what conflicts were between the various units and to create an agreement about how it was that these folks were going to move forward with the level of human alignment to get this first pilot off the ground and in the implementation off the ground. It’s amazing what these ten elements of agreement can do. It’s a systematic way of creating an activity, alignment, a shift in culture, how to get humans hooked up and connected.

Hugh: I’m coming back. We are champions of transformational leadership. That is a transformational mindset here of people being aware. I think what happens when I have seen leaders go through steps like which you are proposing, there is a transformation of their knowledge and their being. They see the world differently when they start having conversations.

Stewart: I call that mindset “resolutionary thinking.” Resolutionary thinking. Mindset is certainly something that I talk about. As a matter of fact, in my first book, when Stephen Covey endorsed it, he actually said, “The mindset and the skillset are just terrific.”

Hugh: Love it. I have been hogging all the time here. I want to give Russell a chance. He listens. Russell, I notice Stewart doesn’t miss a lick. He comes back to my questions even though I forgot I asked them. Real clarity of thought here. Russell, what are you hearing? Before we switch over to talking about conflict, do you have any observations or questions on this powerful part Stewart is bringing to us?

Russell: Thinking about alignment, it starts with ourselves. I am going to go out on a limb and guess that’s why you wrote this book: to talk about internal alignment. We all have that. When we recognize that need to align ourselves internally, then we get along better with others. What is critical to this alignment and approaching this process in this manner it stops any problems before they start. People don’t do business with entities; people do business with people. If we are not aligned or on the same page, it won’t work very well. I really appreciate all of the things that I see. This is a book I keep for myself. I have used it to put agreements together that I put together for people I do business with so that we can create a good set of expectations. We don’t want to have problems later. Although this book has been around for a while, people don’t seem to be as proactive as they could be. You look at your typical agreement, and it’s written in legalese. We don’t want to duck for cover. We want to work together and solve some problems. I love your approach in that way.

Stewart: It’s interesting, Russell. Having practiced law for ten years, I saw all these legal books that their lawyers put their names in. In some ways, when I wrote The Book of Agreement, it was my antidote to that kind of agreement. The legal agreements I call agreements of protection. My agreements I call agreements for results. They help you get to that place you want to. Thank you. Thank you. To validate your point, this whole notion of being aligned internally, having some level of clarity, having some level of emotional intelligence, mindfulness, call it being awake, call it religion, religious people having a level of Christ consciousness, all these things are critical to being able to engage effectively with others. In some ways, having yourself out of the way a bit so that you can listen to the needs and wants of others, which is the only place you get connectivity. When I talk about listening skills, I say that listening is a skill that has you show up as a great communicator, and it’s one of the few things you can do unilaterally. You don’t need anyone else’s cooperation. All you have to do is drop your concerns and be in service to the other to find out what it is they are talking about. That is the foundational piece to create real connectivity.

Hugh: Russell, do you have a question you are noodling on here?

Russell: No, I was thinking about what the great problem is. A lot of us internally make assumptions. When you make assumptions, the expectations build upon that, which is what leads to conflict. I have heard people define expectations as pre-planned resentment. People don’t come to the table. They sit down, they sign an agreement, they assume that the other side knows what it is they want and what those expectations are, and there is a lot of legalese without getting to the meat and potatoes of assumptions.

Stewart: Russell, one of the mantras when I was practicing law was when you would come to a resolution of the case, the mantra was, “If everybody is unhappy, then you have a good settlement.” I just scratched my head the first time I heard that and said, “No, there has to be a better way than this.” This is the perfect transition if you want to talk about conflict for a bit. The whole notion of resolving conflict is about when I say getting to resolution, not having an agreement everybody is unhappy with. You haven’t resolved anything.

Going back to our initial discussion, you compromised, and you ended up in a lose-lose situation to be able to move forward. You killed a relationship. You have killed what may have been an opportunity for real productivity.

Hugh: Amazing. This fictitious topic of conflict in the workplace. Why don’t you give us a perspective? How do you define conflict?

Stewart: An important distinction in this conversation initially is differences versus conflict. Differences as we all know are a good thing. This leads to diversity in opinion, better solution, innovation, creativity. Difference is different perspectives. A good thing.

Now, conflict arises when people become committed to being right, when their egos take over, and their way or the highway, or my way is the right way, or I have the truth here. That is when they get emotionally attached. That emotional attachment is what I call conflict. Difference is a good thing. Conflict is emotional attachment.

Where that leads to in terms of thinking about conflict, it’s never about who is going to get the corner office. It’s about the individual’s emotional attachment. If you really want to resolve the conflict, and I learned this early on doing divorce meditation, deal with the emotion first, whatever that happens to be. Give people the opportunity to vent and get that emotion out of their system. Then, whatever they were fighting about, it almost seems silly. When people have the opportunity to talk about the emotion that was hanging them up.

Or another way of looking at that is you can think of conflict as oppositional. People are gripped in emotion. If we were all emotionally mature and evolved, when something was not working, you could just say to each other, “This isn’t working, is it?” We both go, “No, it’s not.” Where do we want to go together? Where do we want to go together in the future? As opposed to processing this conflict, let’s create a new agreement. Whatever we think we have by way of agreement is not working. Let’s create a new one prospectively for where we want to go together from this point forward. Otherwise, we keep dragging the baggage and the cost of conflict with us moment to moment, and the cash register is raining on that cost. So that’s a frame, a way to think about it.

Yeah, operating on assumptions and crossed expectations is the greatest cause of conflict in organizations. Greatest cause of conflict. Hugh, you look like you want to say something.

Hugh: I do find it pretty much in any organization. It’s more prevalent when people aren’t willing or able to confront the facts. We have spun confront to be a toxic thing when it really means with your front. What I also learned in studying the work of Murray Bowen is that you approach conflict directly and calmly and factually. If you got your agreement form, we have got the renegotiation piece in there. We don’t think we can do that. We have made a plan, so we have to work the plan. Wait a minute. Something is wrong. This renegotiation piece, it would occur to me is a part of way to move through conflict.

Stewart: Critical piece. Just to validate this notion about confronting. Intel, which has been a pretty successful organization over the years, they actually characterize their culture as one of constructive confrontation, constructive conversation. We tackle what is off in terms of alignment. We want to be in that place of getting back to alignment. The renegotiation is that piece. As you know, people sometimes get attached to being right or their way, especially when the clarity of expectation was not set correctly at the front end with a good, solid agreement of the kind I might help facilitate or the kind that you use.

Hugh: Back to the relationship piece. What I find happens, and we had a guest a couple months ago from Australia who has a brilliant tool called the Conversations game. People are able to take down a mask and talk about things they really didn’t think they would talk about. People who were enemies asked each other for their phone numbers. Part of it is disarming people by leading them into having conversations of substance rather than the ones we think we ought to have. We learn about the other person. There is this relationship building. That is what is so good about my definition of consensus: an agreement that is worked out in a group process, but is backed by relationship. If you have gone through your agreement, your tenth point is you are in agreement because you know each other by then. Speak to the relationship piece of this moving through conflict. We write the agreement; how do we keep it active instead of a piece of paper we file away?

Stewart: Great. First of all, it’s not 100 pages. It’s probably two or three. As you see from all the agreements in the book.

Two, in terms of the relationship piece, people do get emotional. We have different perspectives. We have different observations. We have different feelings because we are unique individual biological machines. We get emotional. Our emotions get triggered. You need to give people the context in which they have the opportunity to get those up and out of their system. In my conversational model for resolving conflict, there are two ways in which that is done. One, people get to tell their stories about the situation, which is a narrative, an open-ended question.

Then there is a specific set of questions to move people down a little bit deeper, to make sure what is tied up on the inside actually comes out. It’s almost like there is not the truth of what the stories the people hold is, but you need to give them the opportunity to get it out and clear it a bit so then they can resume the positive relationship moving forward in the future. I saw this with couples, which is where I learned, and the emotions do not run so high in organizations. But I saw couples get out of them and given the opportunity to realize, Oh, that was my husband. That was my wife. That was my partner. That was my mate. That was my lover. How have I gotten to the point where I have created them as such a monster by the noise in my own head? They were doing the best they could. That’s what most people realize in this process. The other person was not intentionally trying to be hurtful, but they were trying to do the best they can. We all know we are living in a very fast-paced soup that the military of all places, the U.S. military, has defined as we live in a VUCA environment. It is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. This is the soup we are trying to transact in. People get to see and realize they were doing the best that they could now, so what is our relationship going forward?

Hugh: This is so synergistic with what we teach, isn’t it, Russell?

Russell: I thought so. Very much so. As we move through this process, it’s taking the You statements out of what you say to people. That’s critical. This is a place, and I know that when you talk about marketing, people want to address You statements and talk about the value for the people you are serving. When it comes to conflict though, You statements can escalate it. It’s backing away from those things and really setting a frame where people want to cooperate, they want to resolve things, and they don’t want to make it personal. There is a skill, and we will probably address it in the personal skills, that for separated people from behavior or from statements. That is critical to creating a place where you got an environment or friend where you want to come to agreement.

Stewart: Critical. We have all seen it where you have major breakdowns on a business side, and people realize, Geez, there is too much profit here. We have to make this work. I did a program a number of years ago for a nonprofit private adoption agency. It was a partnership between a county child welfare agency and this adoption agency. What the adoption agency did is they got kids who were considered unadoptable up to speed so they could be placed in permanent homes. The consequences for a kid being emancipated when they are still in foster care and don’t have permanent adoptive care are huge. I got Masters in Social Work on both sides, and it was almost like central casting. I am working in a room where I have posters of the kids all around. The bottom line was I kept trying to get them to realize, and they got it, that working together is absolutely essential because there is a larger benefit here. People realize that. To have a programmatic way of moving through the difference in conflict. My goal was to get it so that it wasn’t just an agreement on the surface, but people would have a context in which to cleanse that emotion. They would resolve that emotion. That emotion wouldn’t linger going forward. As they could actually have real alignment. The technical term I would use is there was no longer any chatter.

Hugh: As you are working through this, you referred to some skills. Stewart, what are the critical interpersonal skills that one must pay attention to and embrace?

Stewart: This whole area of emotional intelligence, which has become a buzz word these days. Self-knowledge, having some knowledge of who you are and self-awareness. What’s going on inside of you at any moment in time. Self-regulation. Capacity to manage your own behavior and your own emotion. Self-motivation. Knowledge of what’s important to you, which is like a strategic element of emotional intelligence. Empathy. Care and concern for others. I go back to my electronic signature. People use it all the time. It’s a couplet from Longfellow, “If you knew the secret history of those you would like to punish, you would find a sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all in your hostility.” Very powerful. Standing in another’s shoes. And the skills of speaking from the I perspective or I statements, as Russell mentioned earlier. Listening skills as a critical skill. Being able to appreciate and understand that the operating system of the human biological machine over there is different than the operating system in this human biological machine. Not good or bad, it’s just the way it is. Trying to be more audience-centric in our conversation. Think about who it is we are speaking to. Otherwise, we are just talking to ourselves. So those are probably the most critical pieces.

Hugh: Many leaders aren’t aware of the impact and influence they have in the culture. Self-awareness is something that I see a lot of leaders struggle with. You probably serve as a confidential advisor to leaders. We call it different things. I choose not to use the word “coach” or :consultant.” It’s around that mentoring/coaching/consulting people, and helping people discover some of these blind spots. What is your opinion on successful leaders having an advisor of some sort?

Stewart: It’s critical because leaders are working alone. If they are at the top of the pyramid, or as Max Dupree would say, at the bottom of the pyramid, I am here to serve everybody else. But essentially, it’s in all literature that leaders are working alone. To have someone they can confide in and talk about their own insecurities, it’s a critical piece. The self-awareness is- When I am teaching, I always say my goal is to become a more audience-centric, emotionally intelligent, conscious communicator, when I am teaching communications skills. By conscious communicator, you thought through in some ways the impact of what you are saying and doing on other people.

Another one I left out is nonverbal. The awareness of your nonverbal skills. As we all know, so much of our communication, somewhere between 60-90% is nonverbal. To be aware that people are picking up messages from you. To be mindful about the presence that you bring. It’s so important. Always having two-way communication, or as I like to say, communication happens when you establish shared meaning. Broadcasting messages is not communication. It’s broadcasting messages. There is a big difference. Communication is when you have a back and forth, at least to a shared meaning and a common understanding.

Hugh: It is a lost art in some places. We are in a high-tech world where people send out data assuming that is communication. I appreciate your reframing of that. In 31 years of working with groups, the subject of communication always comes out, lack thereof. It’s like when Barry used to say is you perceive happiness, it eludes you. It’s almost the same with communication. When you focus on communication, it eludes you, when really it’s a byproduct of building relationships and being clear on our agreements, our purposes, our expectations. Within your strategy and implementation of your strategy, communication happens. You have demonstrated in this call today really good listening skills. That is top in being a conductor. We impact the culture by what we do, and the visual part is huge. One of the trainers of conductors says, “What they see is what you get.” The impact we have in that self-awareness is a huge one. I appreciate that list of skills. Good leaders are always working on those, aren’t they?

Stewart: Always. It’s the whole notion of lifelong learning. After each interaction, you have the level of mindfulness to do a self-assessment. How did I do? How might have I been better at doing that? It’s always about creating relationships. Always. Always.

One of the things I wanted to say in terms of the context you guys operate in, the religious and nonprofit organizations, in those institutions, it takes an additional degree of focus to some sense. Why? Because people have a different sense of self. By that I mean there is some element of—and I don’t say this in a negative way—righteousness. We are engaging and working on a good cause. We are working for something positive and of value. When it comes to interpersonal relationships, that righteousness can have a tendency to get in the way, which I am sure you have experienced over time. This is where these skills become important in those contexts.

There is something else I wanted to say in response to what you said, Hugh. It left my mind. The thought drifted off into the universe. Maybe it will come back before we’re done.

Hugh: I am very fond of people who can encapsulate things. As I am thinking through all of what you’re talking about, the leader impacts people. We’re anxious. It spreads throughout the community. Richard Rohr, author and founder of OFM, says, “Hurting people hurt people. Transformed people transform people.” It would occur to me working through the system that you have created, which is not really difficult, but is pretty profound in its simplicity and directness and the impact that it has.

Stewart: It’s really interesting. I was just working with a group of senior scientists. I knew they would love this. This whole model I am talking about I have it drawn down to half a page schematic. Each one of the critical elements. As I like to say with so many things in this area, all of the things we are talking about are simple, but not easy. Simple to understand. This is not rocket science, but it’s not easy to do. There is the one-page-

Hugh: Cycle of Resolution. What book is that in?

Stewart: It’s in Getting to Resolution. Page 248.

Hugh: You can find out more about Stewart at I would imagine your books are listed somewhere on your website, and possibly on Amazon as well.

Stewart: Both of those places.

Hugh: I will give you a chance to have a parting thought with people. What would you like to leave people with? Russell will close out this interview.

*Sponsor message from Wordsprint*

Stewart, what would you like to leave people with?

Stewart: The importance of relationships. The book Getting to Resolution might have been called Getting to Relationship. That is the critical piece. Alignment, moving through differences and conflict, always back to that place of relationship. That is where productivity comes from. That is where creating value comes from. Critical piece. It only happens as a result of, Russell pointed out, being centered in yourself, having alignment within yourself, and then when you have that foundation, you can use all the tools and techniques I talked about to connect with others.

I wanted to thank both of you for the wonderful quality of your presence in this interview. My pleasure to contribute to the community you guys are serving.

Russell: Thank you. Folks, take a trip over to There is lots of material here. The principles are powerful. The power is in the simplicity. It’s not easy. What separates what Stewart is doing from a lot of other things out there that you see is that it’s not just dealing with situations or agreements in and of themselves, but it’s creating a framework where we can talk to one another and continue to have open conversations together to keep things on track. We are all different. We will not agree on every little thing. If we have a process where we honor one another, the breakouts will disappear. That’s a wonderful thing.

Hugh: Thank you, guys. Such wonderful material. Stewart Levine, again, a pleasure to be with you.

Stewart: My pleasure to be back in connection, Hugh. Thank you for inviting me.

Nonprofits Need to Make a Profit, Too with Steve Breitman

Sep 23, 2018 52:38


Successful nonprofits understand that in order to create a stable, sustainable organization capable of filling its missions for years to come, that it must earn a profit.  Nonprofits are businesses just like for profits.  One major difference is that a portion of a nonprofits profits are reinvested into achieving its mission.  That mission is about making the world a better place.  Successful nonprofits are nimble and think entrepreneurially.

Steve Breitman is a CFO with a CEO perspective.  His hands-on work in operations sets him apart from traditional accountants.  He understands how business “really” works.  Steve can tell you not just what the bottom line is, but why and show you how to use the information to grow your business.

Steve trained as a CPA and has 28+ years of accounting, financial and operational management experience.  He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, Magna Cum Laude, with a BBA in Accounting.  Steve’s career path led him to work in public accounting and to hold a variety of management positions including CFO, Regional Controller, Corporate Director of Management Reporting, Executive Director and Regional Manager.  He had management responsibility for 6 business sites with 175 employees and $20 million in revenue as well as reporting responsibility for 25 business sites with $120 million in revenue.

Steve gives back to the community by volunteering his time.  In the recent past he served as a Board Member of the Better Business Bureau and was on the Finance Committee of the Better Business Bureau Foundation.

The Nonprofit Exchange Episode Reviews with Russ and Hugh

Sep 16, 2018 01:01:26


The Nonprofit Exchange Episode Reviews with Russ and Hugh

Stepping On and Off the Field of Hope and Transformation with Wendy Adams

Sep 4, 2018 54:37


Stepping On and Off the Field of Hope and Transformation with Wendy Adams

Interview Transcript

Hugh Ballou: Greetings to The Nonprofit Exchange listeners. We talk about the important themes that we as leaders step up to the plate as influencers in our arena as community leaders, as religious leaders, as leaders in organizations, no matter where we are. We do influence other people in the organization. My guest today is actually a neighbor in Lynchburg. Her name is Wendy Adams. Wendy, welcome to The Nonprofit Exchange.

Wendy Adams: Hugh, I appreciate the opportunity, especially coming off a holiday weekend, to share.

Hugh: Oh yes. Getting back to work on the Tuesday after Labor Day. It seems like a Monday. Wendy, you are in the sports area, but you really are in the storytelling sweet spot. I am not going to try to describe what you do, but I am going to ask you to tell a snapshot of who this mysterious person called Wendy Adams is. What is it that you’re doing right now? Give us who you are and what you’re doing. I also want to know why you’re doing this.

Wendy: Great questions, Hugh. Again, I appreciate the opportunity to share. I am in the industry of storytelling. My official title is Chief Relationship Officer. I am reminded constantly by my family that I thought I was a chief for a really long time, and now I actually have the title. Really what that comes down to is I work with Sports Outreach. We are a ministry of 30 years. November will be our 30thbirthday. We have used sports as the common language. We serve in four other countries outside the United States, and we don’t all speak the same language, but we all know what to do with a ball or how to perform on a field or on a chess board. Really what it comes down to is if we can open up conversation, then we can be able to influence. We can be an influence, and we can share where we are getting our influence from. As a Christian organization, Sports Outreach has the ability to meet both practical and spiritual needs.

My journey really began with a bout of disobedience. When I get asked, “How did you get to where you are, Wendy?” it’s not a mystery. I am an open book. I was walking one particular path that I was clear the Lord had put me on. In 2007, He said, “I have something different for you. I want you to use those skills, those abilities in a different way.” I quickly answered, “Thanks for sharing. I love what I’m doing. I’m going to keep going.” As 2009, working as a business owner in the area of special events in Tampa, Florida at that time, things came to a screeching halt. Just as He said, He had something different. I decided to take the long route. It not only brought me to a geographical location, but He literally took the skillset of being an influencer and being a connector of people, and He turned it in a way very different, very meaningful, but not what I saw coming. That brought me into the area of what we would officially call fundraising. What it really is is relationship-building: connecting those who have a need with those who have been called to meet that need and having them meet through the story. One telling, the other listening, and how they can connect. That is really what I do: building the bridge in that. In this case, we use the bridge of sports.

Hugh: As you probably know, I use team analogies with the orchestra, but you could use team analogies with any sports team. What we do together has a lot more profound impact if we function together as an ensemble, a musical ensemble, a drama ensemble. My sport is NASCAR. Wouldn’t have guessed that, I’m sure.

Wendy: Not at all.

Hugh: These guys jump over the wall. In 14.2 seconds, every tenth of a second is critical, they put in four new tires, fill the tank, clean the windshield, and they are back over the wall. They have to do it with utmost precision. They rehearse that. There is lots of different cultures of team performance. I guess you know I served mega-churches as 40 years as music director. Did you know that?

Wendy: I did.

Hugh: My church in Atlanta had something like 85 basketball teams and 100 softball teams. We had quite an extensive sports ministry. I understand a little bit about what you do. That wasn’t my area. How do we come together and build those really important relationships? But I also understand you have hit on a couple critical points in the first couple of minutes of this interview. Creating relationships, telling a story, and connecting people with the value of impact. You didn’t say it that way, but I heard it that way.

Let’s unpack these. Your title is not a typical title. What is your title?

Wendy: Chief Relationship Officer.

Hugh: You’re under that umbrella that many call development.

Wendy: Correct.

Hugh: Which is a funny word.

Wendy: It is. What are we developing?

Hugh: Yeah. I have worked with nonprofits of all kinds for 31 years. I am changing that position to be Funding Strategist. It’s how we create all the strategies and relationships that are the underlying factor. The world I live in, underneath leadership, is relationships. Underneath funding is relationship. Underneath communication is relationship. You are probably one of the most important people in this organization as far as putting all this together.

Start out with this. Talk about the storytelling part for a minute. How did you get good at telling stories? What is so important about how you put it together and how you deliver it?

Wendy: I have to say the first piece to that is telling the story is actually being a good listener, which I’ll be honest, is not my natural default. Listening is an active activity, an opportunity. When I sit across the table from one who has either given to the organization or wants to know more about the organization, I really have to do less talking and more listening to be able to hear where they are. That is how you become a good storyteller is because you have to make sure you are telling the right story, what they are actually asking. If I am doing all the talking, that’s not going to happen. That’s really key in what I do. It’s something I have to be intentional in, which goes back when we talk about building relationships. It’s very intentional, not by happenstance.

Hugh: You are getting these highlights that are so on target. I know so many people in charity work – I substitute different words. We are not in a for-profit business; we are in a for-purpose business. I hate the word “nonprofit” because it makes us think in scarcity terms.

Wendy: And you’re in abundance.

Hugh: Yes! It’s there. God has given us abundance, and we turn away from it instead of accepting it. There is a lot of good things we can use that for.

What you triggered with that last thing you said, a lot of people have the script, and they give the same script to every single person without regard to what you just said. What is that person looking to do? What difference do they want to make? What are their interests? As you approach people, what are some of the things that you do to get to know that person?

Wendy: I start with asking a lot of the same questions you have asked me. Who are you? What has brought you to the place for us to sit down and have this conversation? Tell me about your family, your background, your passions. Then you sit back and listen. Usually, in that first meeting and interaction, you may very scarcely actually speak about the organization you are serving because the whole point is to recognize where they are and how they connect with us. That is going to take time. Like any other relationship, it’s going to take time to understand those points and have them be comfortable enough to share. That first meeting is really just getting to know them, and it’s asking those probing questions. A lot of what we don’t do in the traditional networking world. I really enjoy, and it feeds me because I really get to learn. I get to interact and learn more about people. I say most often I love people. I don’t always like people. I am not always liked. But I love the interaction of people. We talk about people-watching. I love to people-listen, get to know them more, and see how we do inter-connect. I couldn’t do what I do all by myself, no matter how much I feel like I have a skillset for it. It takes all of us. To be put in a setting where I get to fill myself up with learning more about others, how they connect, how they click, what they are passionate about, really pushes me to be a better version of myself.

Hugh: Whoa. You keep rolling out these sound bites. You can’t do it by yourself. Build relationship. It’s not about the organization; it’s about them. Here’s one that just zinged past and I am bringing it back. You said in the first meeting. It’s not one and done. Talk about that, would you?

Wendy: Oh no. Hugh, how many times have you and I crossed paths and spent time? It’s not one and done. I don’t go into it thinking one and done. This is for longevity. They’re looking to leave legacy. They want to make sure that beyond themselves, who they are is left behind and others will know. That takes time. That’s not going to happen in one interaction. When I think of any of the relationships, we can all think back to high school. Maybe it was a great experience, maybe it wasn’t. When you think about the opportunities to engage with the people you knew at that point in time, how long did it take to establish a relationship that you could still engage with that person today? We are not high school students anymore, well past that. You cannot think about it as a one and done. You go into it knowing you want more. You go into it recognizing the next time we cross paths, I will be looking forward to learning what’s happened since that time to where we are. It’s that expectation that comes across in conversations that I think draws people in to say, “I want to tell you more.”

Hugh: The other one you talked about is before you can be a good storyteller, you have to be a good listener. How am I doing on that listening so far?

Wendy: You’re doing great. You actually do a fantastic job with that. You know why I know that, Hugh? When we have conversations, the next time we engage, there is usually some sound bite you bring back to the table from our last engagement. That is active listening, to hold onto those nuggets.

Hugh: Active listening. It’s active, empathetic listening. It’s caring about the person. There is a quote I can’t chase down the origin of, “Listening is so close to loving you can hardly tell the difference.” Isn’t that rich? We need more love. We have people fighting over things. We need more love.

We are in a place where charities in this world are more important than ever before in history. We are doing a lot more important stuff. It’s important for us as professionals in that space to continue working on yourself. You said that somewhere along the way. You’re always working on yourself. Jim Rohn, the motivational speaker who used to speak a lot in front of multi-level companies, but he did a lot of generic presentations, was known to say just about every time, “Work on yourself harder than you work on your business.”

Wendy: It’s a great point.

Hugh: You and I knew each other from the Lynchburg Business Alliance. I hear you present at the first Friday gathering, and Lynchburg Business Alliance is a great organization. It’s like a chamber of commerce on steroids.

Wendy: Great analogy.

Hugh: You step out. I talk, and I feel stupid. You step up, and it’s brilliant. Let’s talk about you’re making a presentation. I see people making presentations that don’t make eye contact, they don’t work on their language, they don’t face the person and look engaged, and they talk all the time and don’t listen. What I have noticed about you is A) you are a top notch presenter. You are a speaker, and you have lots of poise. But you have lots of skill. Did you get coaching on presentation skills? How did you get where you are with your delivery? Your articulation is wonderful. Your physical presence, your demeanor, you’re there, you’re engaged with people. Your pacing is very good. It’s so easy to follow. Those aren’t skills you normally drop in and go with. Did you have some learning to get where you are now?

Wendy: I don’t hear myself that way. It’s great to know that’s what’s coming across. It goes back to that intentionality. No formal training. I’ll be very honest with you. I can’t wait to share this recording with my mother. In fourth grade, the big thing was, “She is a great student, Mrs. Adams, if we could just get her to stop talking.” So now I’m using the power for good.

I have just been talking for a very long time. I do like to be heard. We do. We as humans do like to be heard. What makes it pleasant for someone to listen? A big part of it is recognizing your audience. If there is a time frame, we have 30 seconds. 30 seconds is 30 seconds. What can I do in that 30 seconds to convey a message that will be pleasing and attractive to my audience?

Back to that intentionality and thinking it through. We are talking to people at 8:15 in the morning. Have they all had their coffee? What is going to draw them in and engage them for that 30 seconds and get that message across? Leaving them wanting a little bit more. When that time comes for further dialogue, we have something to springboard off of.

Clarity in our speech. People need to be able to understand. If they can’t understand, they’re checked out. We’re busy. There is so much coming past us on a moment by moment basis that if you bog them down with so much, and all these words, and they can’t figure out what you’re trying to say, what you’re trying to convey, what you want them to hear, they’re done. We’re busy. It’s taking those things. I hone in on everything I do to be intentional. Whether that’s in my personal or professional life because time is precious. It is the most precious commodity we have. Can’t get more of it. So let’s use it to the fullest. Those are the things that roll through my mind as we pass that circle and I see my time coming, “How can I use this most precious commodity with these people who have given me their time?”

Hugh: That would be generally true of anybody you are speaking to on behalf of the organization, I guess.

Wendy: Most definitely. There is no doubt. There is so much. We are one of how many organizations. We know that it used to be on average that those that give to a nonprofit who want to do more and beyond themselves, they were having at least seven to ten opportunities coming through to them on a weekly basis. That number has exponentially grown at this point in time. As we get toward the end of the year, that steps up even further because of those who want to jump into the game and get their message out there. Going back to that active listening. Do I know this person well enough that I can speak into what speaks to them? If I haven’t had that opportunity yet, let me at least know that I am engaging and not wasting their time. If there is something that speaks there, they come back and say, “I do want to know more.” So yes, in every conversation, that is the whole point I walk in with.

Hugh: That is such a key point. You keep hitting all the high spots. Let’s unpack that one. You said you want to leave them wanting to know more. I teach at a business growth conference that happens in the Tampa Bay area where you are from. I have been presenting at 12 years. There are meal tables, and they get to sit with faculty and present a pitch. I have been at 900 of those meal tables over the last 12 years. 4-8 people at a time giving their pitch. Universally, there is too much data. That is the hardest thing to cure. We are so enthusiastic, and we want people to be as enthusiastic as we are. There is so much to know. How do you get to what is the essential message you want to give people? How do you stage it so you get their interest? They are not looking for places to put their money typically. They are giving you the time because you have the relationship. How do you go through this sorting process of coming up with what the essential message is for the first and second time?

Wendy: What it comes down to is learning as much as I can, if it’s an individual, about the individual. Most cases, someone is being introduced to me through someone else. How much can that person who is doing the introduction tell me about who I am going to be sharing with and having that opportunity to sit down and have a meal with? Going in with that knowledge.

Again, I have to be super intentional about this because I am a talker. My natural inclination is to tell you everything. I am excited. But I walk in there recognizing that I will never be able to tell you all of it, and I need you to experience it. The best way for you to experience it is when you come back to me and want to ask questions and know more. I have to leave you that cliffhanger. It’s like writing that drama series. You want them to come back next week. How do I give you just enough of the information, being respectful of your time, knowing what I know about you, but leaving enough of a question mark, not I don’t know what you talked about, but I want to know more. It is setting the time before any meeting, any interaction to think through and putting that together. It is orchestrated to a point, and letting them take the lead in bringing that about.

Hugh: How did you get here? You said your teacher said you talked a lot. How did you get from where that was to where you are today?

Wendy: Lots of trial and error. It wasn’t something that was overnight. It was recognizing that work does not have to be and is not intended to be a four-letter word. It is something you can actually enjoy and have passion about. Your passion and your career can come into a marriage that is harmonious. That does not mean that we live in a happily ever after, and you wake up every Monday morning and say, “I just can’t wait to.” That doesn’t mean that’s the case, but it does mean there is a recognition, there is a purpose behind what I am doing. I am able to live in that purpose and perform in that purpose and engage in that purpose on a daily basis. That is what brings me the joy. Happiness is not the end goal. That’s circumstantial. Circumstances don’t always bring about the outcome that I want. Happy is not where I want to reside; joy is where I need to reside.

It’s been through a process. The business I had for almost 12 years in Tampa Bay, I did well at a point in time. I realized one of my dreams, which was to manage a major sporting event, which was the Super Bowl in 2009. At the end of that very year, my highest high, I experienced my lowest low, when the economy took such a tank that it took my small business and pushed me into bankruptcy. Something that was one of the most difficult things in my life to walk through. This is who I had identified myself to be. My faith has really been the catapult to, through the highs and lows, keep me grounded as to not getting caught up in the day-to-day circumstances, but recognizing it is a journey.

That is what took me from that fourth grader who just wouldn’t stop talking. It has been honed and manipulated on that potter’s wheel to a point where I recognize the strengths in it and the weaknesses and being intentional about honing both of those. Allowing the weaknesses to be decreased and those strengths to be increased. It’s in my power, but with my hands surrendered open. No secret. The secret is open to all of us to be able to do those very same things because that was the intention of our Creator for us. That is where I find most of my joy: knowing I Have laid myself in His hands. He is the one who is doing it; I get to experience the joy through it.

Hugh: It is a true joy. There are a couple things there about perseverance. Getting a no. it’s hard not to take that personally. Keeping the faith when you get no’s. There is a process. I want to ask you about the steps and the process. But first, are you familiar with Napoleon Hill and his writing?

Wendy:I am not.

Hugh: Napoleon Hill met Andrew Carnegie. You know that name?

Wendy: Yes.

Hugh: Andrew Carnegie said, “If you work for me for 20 years, I will introduce you to the most successful people in America.” It was the 1930s, so they were all male and that competitive capitalist of Rockefellers and Wanamakers and Carnegie himself and Ford presidents. 500 people he interviewed. Came up with this law of success. A lot of it is what you just articulated. God has given us natural laws. We either work with them or not if you want to be successful. What you are presenting ought to be intuitive, but they are logical laws of how things work. The laws of nature, the laws of human relationships. When we don’t have a sensitivity to how those work, then we don’t get the results we think we should.

What he distilled out of those, he wrote lots of documents, but what he distilled were four major pieces. All those people had definiteness of purpose. You talk about purpose. They were very clear on their purpose. They were also very clear they brought value to people in what they were doing. Think of Thomas Edison, the most prolific inventor he ever heard of. He was so intent on inventing things to help people. They also gathered in a group that he determined to be a mastermind group, and they helped each other out. There was this community of people they work with. The last one was this thing about intention. There was no admission of failure. He said every failure there is a seed of a future success. Failure in my language is a rehearsal for success. It is a learning opportunity. Those are very similar to what you said. Napoleon Hill wrote a lot of things. People mistakenly think it’s about greed and money when really it’s about creating this position that you can influence people to create value that brings everyone benefits. I didn’t know if you knew about those writings. They are often misplaced and miscued to be greed when really it’s about what you just said. The way I have read it over the last 30 years.

Any response to that?

Wendy: You hit two great points that are pivotal for me in my day to day. Professionally and personally. One is the idea and the concept of community. The fact of how important it is. We weren’t designed to be these lone soldiers. I know that our culture says, I don’t need, I can do all by myself, self-made, things of that nature. But we really are, not to just use terminology that has been thrown around, better together because that is how we were designed to be. I recognize whether I am talking about my core team I work with within our headquarter staff here in Lynchburg, whether I am talking about our staff that is all the way around the world, or our community of supporters. It is because of all of us working in harmony, community, having that unity, having that common purpose, keeping that common language in front of us that really makes us better. No matter how much I may be in the position of garnering funds down to this basic core of being a fundraiser, truly, if I don’t have intentional communication and unity with my operations staff, communications staff, finance, it’s not going to work. I am not going to be the best I can be, and they won’t either.

Making sure, because that audience is just as important, thinking of my board. They are coming from different aspects. Those are volunteers. We think of board members and how much influence they have. They are volunteers, volunteering their time. One of the main things that you said that sparked with me that is an underlying current is keeping that community in the forefront of anything that we are doing.

Hugh: But your board of directors is your mastermind group, if we would like them to be.

Wendy: Yes.

Hugh: How do you interface with the board?

Wendy: I try to be as personal with them as I am with those who I sit shoulder to shoulder with within the office. Again, trying to get to know them, making no assumptions that because they have been a board member for 25 years, that they actually understand all of what is going on in the organization and the direction we are going in. it is so easy to get caught up in how we have done it. Sports Outreach is 30 years old. I started with them last June. This is the first time this organization has really been in a place of having formalized development, formalized fundraising, relationship cultivation. It’s been friend-raising to this point in time. Someone may know this snapshot about this organization, and may not realize they are part of an organization that is really reaching a much broader scope. That includes our board. It’s spending time and being intentional and picking up that phone, beyond an email, and saying, “I need 30 minutes of your time for me to tell you who the organization can best serve you. What are your passions beyond sitting at that board table?” We have a very active board, a very engaged board, but there are definitely those who are founding board members and who are a little stuck a couple years back, if not a decade or so back, to where the organization is, simply because someone hasn’t had that intentional conversation and allowed them to share where they are.

Hugh: That never happens in any other board, you know.

Wendy: I am glad to know we’re not alone.

Hugh: I would say you are in really good company. It’s part of human nature. It’s people like you who inspire people to think out of the old box. Interfacing with the board is key for your position, isn’t it?

Wendy: It is. If I don’t have board support or understanding, they are introducing me to, when we go back to how I get those initial meetings or who am I sitting and talking to, what are those relationships that need to be cultivated, my board is key in opening those doors. If I don’t know them well enough and in turn they don’t know me well enough, they are not going to open those doors up. They will continue to come and sit around the table. We will sign some documents twice a year and move on. If that’s not the case when you sit down and have that one on one conversation with a board member outside of the round table and say, “How is the organization speaking to you? Where do you see our strengths?” opening that door to say, “Where are areas we need work?” Again, people want to be heard. The relationships that are built there are crucial. Recognizing that, especially as one who is coming in brand new to not only a position, but for all intents and purposes, I wasn’t replacing anyone. We were building. I need those to come around me to help build us together. I have received a lot of appreciation for that approach. I would not be one to be listed as traditional. I am outside of the box. We talk about the elephant in the room because he’s not going away even if we don’t talk about him. That’s how we get up and over and on to that next level. It makes some uncomfortable. No doubt. But we don’t just leave it there. That's where the difference is. You can open up a can and let it fly. It goes back to that intentionality of needing to deal with something, so let’s do this together.

Hugh: I’m pointing out to listeners that the elephant in the room was a “he.”

Wendy: Yeah, I recognize that’s what I said.

Hugh: I wasn’t going to let that slide by. It’s probably more true than not.

There are boards that think when they have a person like you, they don’t have any work to do. What are the different components of your work? I’m thinking there is a teaching component, a team component, a prep component. What are some of the components that relate specifically with the board?

Wendy: You hit on a lot of them. The number one is teaching. They don’t take anything for granted that they just know. There is that idea of we know that this needs to happen. Why does it not just in our organization, but in my previous organization as well. The area of cultivating relationships, we know is important, and it’s people give to people, not to organizations. If we know it’s important to be able to have that groundwork, why does it most times come across as an afterthought to put someone in that role? It’s not because of the dollars and cents that go along with the role that I have, truly and honestly, especially when you are working in the area of as you said, we don’t like to use the term analogy “nonprofit,” but we do recognize that those dollars are crucial. How they come in and how they are being used and the impact we are making and the responsibility that we have with those dollars. Where the rub usually comes in or what makes people uncomfortable is what someone in my role brings to the table to say that we have to do. A lot of that is we have to do this together. It isn’t you get to come in twice a year and speak through a couple of agenda points and move on. There is an expectation that we are going to engage together. We are going to sit down together and meet with us. You won’t give me a list of names and say go. You’re going to share with me relationships that you have established, and we will do that together to a certain point because without you. I am just another person on the other end of the phone. It is that education component that I feel is most crucial with a board, especially an established board.

Then there is the thinking outside of the box. We will only get what we have always gotten if we always do what we have always done. We have to do it differently if we want different outcomes. You want to have a board that is established and not feel they are flighty and all over the place. There is that danger of becoming complacent unintentionally if you just let it lie. There is that pushing component. I don’t know what the best terminology for that is. We do have to stay on the cutting edge. We do have to continue to see what are our constituency saying to us? Listen through their giving or their non-giving. Or they literally are speaking to us. They are writing back on- are we listening, or are we continuing to communicate what we want and we have always done a newsletter every month so we will keep going. Maybe we need to do a quarterly. Maybe we need a new format. Maybe we need more pictures. Maybe it is too wordy. If these are the things they are saying.

Those two components, just within my first year, are the things I have spent most of my time with the board in presenting and showing credence to. Listening to them and giving pushback. Thankfully I have to say I have a board who has accepted that really well, even when we don’t all agree. But they have given me the opportunity to share, to listen. I don’t have all of the answers. But I have been in this industry for a while. The big thing is I have been who I am for 43 years. I recognize that really spending time with those who are like-minded and they want to share, spending time listening to what they are sharing and acting upon it, has the greatest impact.

Hugh: This listening goes all the way around. It’s not just your donors. It’s your board members as well. I experience you as very direct in asking for what you need. That’s one reason I see that board members don’t perform on any level because they haven’t been asked to do so. Let’s ask them to do it, but let’s give them the skills and the documents. They need a one-sheet, or they will talk from a slide deck or the verbiage to open the door for you to come if there is a high-net-worth donor who wants to talk to the person in your seat.

There is also a factor of what psychologists call money shadow. People don’t feel comfortable talking about money so they actually repel it. I find a lot of people say, “I am going to give you a name. Would you connect with us?” I don’t want to talk about money. There is something negative in talking about money. Do you know what I’m talking about?

Wendy: I do. I have heard it enough times from constituency, from our supporters who have said- Just last year, I was waiting to be asked. I needed someone to explain. I wanted someone to understand. Just waiting for the ask. We sit in conferences and hear these things and read blogs that say it, but I have actually experienced it. Waiting for the ask. To share that with a board member that this sphere that we have of they don’t want to be asked. It’s just the opposite.

The other piece to it is the education of. It’s not going in haphazardly. We have a need, and we want you to meet the need here. Back to that intentional conversation. Where is their heart? What is their passion? We serve in a lot of different areas. Through this area of sports ministry, we are touching lives from child sponsorship to feeding programs to education to church planting. There is so much that outpours off the field we are serving that there is bound to be an area where we have to listen, and then you can make that presentation. Oh, they are selling a house. They are sending children off to college. Where are they? That will give you an opportunity to have an ask that is intentional. Again, they want that. I tell board members, and I tell other colleagues, and I have to remind myself of this: It is truly not an ask for dollars and cents – it is an invitation to make impact. That’s what it is. Everybody likes to be invited. Everybody likes to be invited. I want in on that party. That’s the way I walk into a conversation. If I feel like I’m coming after your wallet, then I don’t want to do that. Who wants that? We are going to clench that wallet or that purse so tightly because now you are trying to rob me. But if you are inviting me, I am ready to be a part of that. That is a mindset that has to be one that doesn’t just- cute little phrase to say. No I have to live that out. When I believe that, that’s why it is easy to go in and say, “Here’s an invitation, Mr. Walmart.”

Hugh: Those are really good words. So many good sound bites in this. There is a front end story telling before you meet the donor. There is also a back end after they have donated. We fail miserably here telling them what has happened with their money, telling them the story. You come up on the anniversary. Then when you ask for another donation, it’s a whole different ball game. How do you navigate that?

Wendy: The first thing after they have donated is make sure you don’t muddy the waters and you thank the supporter. We can’t mix all of these things together. There really is an opportunity to thank the donor for what they have done. Thank that supporter for how they have come alongside you, how they have deepened the relationship to accomplish that impact. They want to be appreciated. You want to be appreciated. I want to be appreciated. It’s built into our DNA. Making sure we don’t gloss over that with just a receipt letter saying we received these dollars, but actually saying thank you for the impact you have made. Thanking them. You’re right. If the next time they hear from us is the next time there is an invitation to give, and they don’t know what that last has actually done, I am quite convinced you will get another gift. It’s not going to be the gift that we could have gotten if we had actually shown, if they had become connected with the people on the other end of that gift and not just gotten stuck on the dollar and decimal.

Those are the steps that come along the way is making sure they have that engagement piece and they know they can picture that coming across. Making it real to them. We have the opportunity within our organization to put our supporters on the field where they are serving and interact. That’s not for everyone. I recognize that. Whether it may be stage of life or financial component, just not a desire to travel internationally. But they still want to know. They still want to experience. That as a storyteller is a good portion of my job is making that as real for them through video, through photo, through my story from being on the ground myself. I just returned from El Salvador in July. I have been thoroughly excited, pulling my pictures together, throwing up on the slideshows as if I wanted to share with my family. This is what I was able to experience. Look at what we are doing. We collectively. Not Sports Outreach headquarters, Wendy Adams, chief relationship officer. What we are collectively doing and able to make impact and who we are touching. Families that are. Children that were getting drawn into gang violence and now have an option because there was no option before. That brings people to a point of wow, that’s happening? I am a part of that? Not only do I want to remain a part of that, but I also want to deepen that and share with others. All of a sudden, I have just extended my development team.

Hugh: I am going to give you a chance to leave people with a parting thought. Before we do that, talk about the start from where you finished. What are some steps and a process to find, engage, present, secure the donation, and follow up? Can you give me some of the timeline steps in that timeline?

Wendy: Yeah. I can try to do that in a concise manner here. Making sure that you’re comfortable, I am comfortable enough with my message, that I know who we are. Who am I? Who is Sports Outreach? What are we doing? What are we accomplishing? What is our mission so I can articulate that in a way that makes sense? When I have that opportunity to share, it’s being intentional with the time and with the person who I am with. Knowing about them, sharing that. That first meeting and getting to know them, make sure there is a follow-up. You immediately thank them for that time. That was the first gift they gave: the time to sit and listen and share. Following up with a thank-you there. We can’t out-thank. There is no over-thanking. You can’t. When it comes to a point of making that invitation to give, making sure that that is something that is connected to the supporter’s perspective, or established but you want them to go deeper. That is not something out of the clear blue just because the organization needs it.

From that point, then we make sure we thank them for that gift. Again, going back to that thanking. Then taking those steps to make sure there is an intentionality of impact storytelling along the way. A blog comes through. They may not be an Internet person. That may not be the way. If they are like my mother, she will check every ten days. Print it off. Write a handwritten note, and throw it in that snail mail box so they can see this is the difference that we are making together. I can’t say thank you enough. Inviting them to share it with others. Don’t leave it out there as just well, they are going to do that. Invite them to do that. Remind them how important it is to get the word out that we celebrate this with others. At any opportunity to take them to another level and for each person, you have to have your notes because for each person, that next level is something different. Make sure we do have an intentional plan along the way of how we are going to continue to deepen our relationship.

I know those are the steps that work. Honestly, if we think about it, and you said this before, those are the basics of human interaction. We could take the fundraising portion off the table. That is how we deepen the relationships one on one personally. Making sure those are touchpoints along the way. It won’t happen without that intentionality.

Hugh: Wow, that’s a lot of really good information.

*Sponsor message from Wordsprint*

Wendy, you and I both know email has gotten pretty toxic. I took the weekend off, and after five days, I have 5,000 emails. I haven’t even started on them. If there is a crucial message in there, I am likely to miss it. That is a practical application.

Wendy, I want to give you a chance to have a final word. What closing thought or challenge or idea would you like to leave with people today?

Wendy: I definitely want to be able to say we have been called, our community of nonprofit nonprofessionals to again do this work better together. We may recognize that we represent several organizations. But we are talking to a lot of the same people who have a lot of the same passion which we discussed earlier about leaving a legacy beyond themselves, beyond just what’s happening today. I think instead of really jockeying for position, I know here locally there are organizations and associations that bring us together as professionals in this area to learn from one another, to do exactly what we have done here today in sharing and recognizing that I don’t have all the answers and neither do you, but as we come together, that community that we were talking about, we can actually make deeper and further impact in our world and our time that we are living in now and for the future that is coming. My charge is recognizing that everything we are learning now and engaging around and doing in our present circumstance isn’t just for today. How can we build one another up to make this world a much better place for the time we are here? That is what I have learned significantly over the last seven years and really tried to have as that common line throughout my day-to-day as I am interacting and engaging with my clients and reminding each other of that.

That is my parting word. Remember, work is not a four-letter word. Passion in everything that we do. Enjoy it. Enjoy it and embrace it. It’s something that we need to be intentional about reminding each other about. Today is my day. Tomorrow I might be in the depth of those 5,000 emails, and I will need that reminder. Let’s be that reminder for one another.

Hugh: Absolutely. Wendy Adams, Sports Outreach. Your wisdom far exceeds your years on this planet. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with our friends that listen to The Nonprofit Exchange.

Wendy: Thanks, Hugh.

A New Approach to Decision Making for Nonprofits with Jim Dygert

Aug 28, 2018 59:05


A New Approach to Decision Making for Nonprofits with Jim Dygert

Interview Transcript

Hugh Ballou: Greetings, it’s Hugh Ballou and Russell Dennis. Russell, good day to you, sir.

Russell Dennis: Happy Tuesday, the last Tuesday of August. Welcome to The Nonprofit Exchange. We have a brilliant financial mind here today in the form of young Jim Dygert. He is going to talk to us about money, something some of us get a little uncomfortable with, but we always have to keep in mind.

Hugh: Oh, Jim Dygert. Tell us about yourself please.

Jim Dygert: Good day. I began a journey after college with a little operation called the U.S. Treasury Department. I scored very high in some adaptation skills that I had, which allowed me to move into what they call a systems analyst. As a systems analyst, I am looking for not only the repeated process steps inside of an organization or an activity, but I am also looking for the aberrations that are caused when things don’t work right. With that, I was advanced to be an examiner for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which is a division of the U.S. Treasury. They’re charged with establishing the solvency and liquidity of our entire national banking system. When I was doing my work there, we were doing the things that ultimately are now considered stress test. The ability for a financial institution tor any organization to behave according to its mandate, its vision, and its mission, and its purpose such that it becomes sustainable. I learned the term “sustainability” long before it was applied to the green world of sustainable businesses beyond economics. I learned it from the standpoint of what we call triple bottom line and the ability for an operation to not only create cash flow in those organizations that do create cash flow, or to serve and store the cash flow so that it might be provided to it in the world efforts and the arena of, say, nonprofits, where there may be a grant or sponsors or contributors that are allowing those funds to be available to pursue a particular goal and vision or mission.

In that process of learning systems dynamics and systems analysis and procedural process steps and mapping of flow of work force behaviors, ultimately in the last 15 or 20 years, the industry that’s applied to, I wanna say consulting, but not really, the work I do is not really consulting. It does give consul, and it does give a procedural step. We actually have built a non-technology-based, non-IT-based, non-software-based procedural process steps for risk mitigation. In effect, the decision-making skills that any organization needs to go through, whomever is stewarding the direction of that organization, needs to have a tool set for discerning and determining what are the best decisions to make. Now there is a lot of prior work we all say that we stand on the shoulders of giants who came before us. There is a lot of prior work in this industry. But no one has taken the position that we have, that we create what we call a mirror and complement to the chart of activities or the chart of accounts that is associated with financial statements. I think you’ll agree, and your audience is probably familiar with, financial statements.

Whether it’s a personal solopreneur that needs to have a financial statement and does have one, or an enterprise or organization, whether they are for profit or whether they are not for profit, those financial statements are often the story that is told of the history of that organization’s activities. To be able to read that story is much like reading a language. Understanding the nuances of how those outcomes came to exist is the story which we dive into. We give the real practical, actionable, practitionable events that allows the decision-maker, again, whether it’s a solopreneur or all the way through to a larger organization. We have worked with very large organizations with more than 2,000 employees.

The process works because it does what we would call- it goes beyond business process management. Some people may have heard of things like Adjul or Balanced Score Card or Sig Sigma or a whole arena of disciplines that approach and help to describe the inter-working relationships that go on inside of an organization because an organization is a living, breathing entity. It goes and lives in essence beyond the work force. It creates it. Hopefully it does. Whether it’s a proprietor who built something and some day steps away, because they have sold it or it grew up, we have worked with employee stock option programs where employees have purchased the operations that were created by an original founder. We have worked on mergers and acquisitions where a company is going to be absorbed by someone else or merges, and there is a cultural clash that goes on between them. Oftentimes, cultural clashes are merely an outcome of not sufficient information and not sufficient communications. There is a whole arena of work in that environment. We encapsulate that. We encapsulate financial literacy and mastery of financial statements, and we encapsulate this entire process of organizational behavior and created a mirror and complement to the chart of accounts that mirrors and complements what we call a chart of activities. When we do that, we get a true line of sight between the behavior inside the organization and the financial outcomes it produces. From there, we can create performance and projections.

Hugh: Russell, what is that spark in your interest? You work in the financial area. What kind of interest does that spark by you?

Russell: One of the keys to being able to make money in nonprofits is to tie a story to it. Money tells a story. As you said, it has a language of its own, and people can tie- I like that statement: chart of activities. It’s COA. In painting a picture for people that support you, it’s important to be able to talk about how what they’re contributing is making a difference or an impact in the lives of other people. Being able to follow that activity is important. As we teach here at SynerVision, the money should be tied to the plans. All of those numbers mean something. All of it has a place, as all of your activities have a place and should have a place. Unpack that a little bit for us. People will sit there and look at a chart of accounts and think of a budget. What is a good example of an account that becomes activity? If you were to take a certain set of items off of that chart of activities and relate it to a chart of accounts, what would those things be, and what kind of story would they tell?

Jim: Sure, that is exactly what the process begins to do. We actually map those, and we end up with a value creation map. The value creation map is indicative of the collection of activities. It is not just usually a single person or a single node that ends up impacting the financial direction of the organization. Either the past, or if we intend to change its future. We are actually looking at that collection of things that may drive the results we are looking for. For instance, we may have in a nonprofit as you say the source of funds coming from an outside environment. We don’t have to have operational activities to drive source of funds the way a product or service company does. But we still have an activity that might be needed to raise funds or to maintain funds or to continuously create an additional flow of funds. That behavior activity, as a group of things that are done, end up being the driving factors that will of course show up instead of income like a for-profit company, it will show up in the direct revenue sourcing.

Russell: This sounds like an interesting hybrid between a spreadsheet and a value proposition map, for example.

Jim: Exactly. You’re capturing the concept of what this is. The process is rather definitive. We define the exact ways in which things are done in order to solicit and create the organizational alignment because as we all know, whether it’s a for-profit or nonprofit organization, if we don’t have alignment of vision, purpose, and mission, we don’t have the right contribution of human energy in order to get the things accomplished we need to, whether it’s run a particular campaign or do a particular event or maintain the back office in some way. We go through a process that first aligns people.

Secondly, through that alignment process, there is a dissection or depiction by the individual parties of what are the value creation activities inside the organization that create a thrilled and delighted customer? We can use the term analogy “customer” in any vernacular we like. Who is our customer in this? Who is our customer in that? When we go through that process, we are looking for the hand-ups and hand-offs of the things that are going on, the action steps, the behaviors and activities that then can be mapped and charted and now because of that grouping and analysis work, we can find out what impact it has. If it’s on traditional financial statements or a nonprofit’s financial statement, now we can begin to tie that together. We have actually redefined what is called a KPI.

People have heard of that: key performance indicator. When the KPIs were first identified and created, they had a very significant and purposeful meaning. Over the years, KPIs have slipped a little bit. The integrity of what a KPI is has been lost and is a minutiae almost inside of so many other disciplines. Sometimes today in a manufacturing world, a KPI company might be how many widgets we produce today, this week, or this month, or this quarter. Or how many cartons did we ship off the loading dock. Those are certainly performance indicators, but they are not what we call keyperformance indicators, and they are not master measures of what kinds of things are being done inside the organization. When I say how things are being done, not just what is being done.

When we apply the process steps to which we derive key performance indicators, first of all, we are looking for an operational data point, something that we can demonstrably describe in an operational statement, and how is that measured against a financial data point, and that data point may show up in the financial statements. Once we have those two, now we are looking for discernment as to whether it’s historic activities are in line with where we want to take the direction of the organization, or they may not be, and what changes do we need to make in order to impact the future growth of the organization?

There are some similarities in for-profits and nonprofits. Not always. But in some for-profit businesses, they have a board of directors. The board of directors may be implementing operational directives that the chief executive officer or a hired president may need to have as a mandate to move forward to directionalize the growth of that organization. It’s coming from the board. Similarly, nonprofits may have an operating manager or an ED or a managing director that is stewarding the direction of the organization, but they may also have a board that has some mandates to what the outcomes we are looking for are. As the decision-maker and the go-to process person, the president or the managing director, they have to make decisions regularly on what is the direction that the organization is going in. Is it consistent with the mandate? And it changes.

Hugh: Russell opened up a good topic. I’m sorry, I thought that was a period, it was a comma. He opened up this fascinating topic, this channel. You have delved into the data. It is almost like a three-dimensional way of looking at a static document. I find that there is remarkable similarities in entrepreneurs, whether they are working for a for-profit or for-purpose enterprise. Virtually, the board of directors has financial oversight responsibility. Financial oversight and governance are the two big ones. Russell’s area of work is high-performance nonprofits that generate money. My work overlaps with that. Our work overlaps each other. It’s how we generate the culture of high performance.

Jim, what occurs to me as you are explaining this, is the similarity is the people running the organization don’t really understand the numbers and what they mean. There is a fundamental lack of understanding of the balance sheet and the P&L budget and they don’t really know what a cash flow projection could be used for. They also don't realize the metrics you are putting on the plate. You are measuring what we do, how we do it, but we also need to measure the results of what we are doing. That is the real meat. Speak in that direction a little bit. You are creating a whole new picture. We named this interview – I took the liberties in saying it’s “a new systems approach of financial decision-making for nonprofits.” What you are opening up is a whole new paradigm of how we, the governance of this organization, make effective financial decisions.

Jim: Correct. Because it’s not just financial decisions. We have non-financial outcomes as well. That may be job satisfaction, enjoyment in what we do, the contribution of time and talent, besides the treasure people may be giving to a nonprofit or a for-purpose business activity. We are looking at that holistic approach from an operations- how does the grease move between the wheels? If we called the money the cash flow, the grease that moves between the wheels, how does it get there? Where does it go? How is it used? What decisions processes do we have to go through in order to implement change and/or growth and/or strategies that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to project forward without the understanding of how much grease there is, where it comes from, and where is it best used? Because this is a decision process tool to help discern the activities inside the organization that will drive the organization to where its intended destination is.

A lot of budget process steps are analysis work to discern how much did we do last year, what is our deviation differences between the few years before and where we want to go? We set goals as dreams, as visions, as desires. We begin to move there. We don’t have the tools to stay on track. We don’t want that train to jump the track. We have to lay down the track in a way that is consistent with the activities of the past and consistent with our intended outcomes and set the mile posts and the signs on the track ahead to ensure that it stays on the track. If it starts to get off the track, which happens, how do we know it’s getting off the track before we derail it? Long before we have derailed it so that we can make sure we are staying on track and staying focused with our vision and purpose.

You had it right, Hugh. This is like a three-dimensional view of a single-dimension financial statement. When a business operator looks at their financial statements, oftentimes, the individual who is running that organization or that entity has a little depth into it, has a second level view into it. But until that second-level view can be catalyzed and articulated to the other members of the organization, such that the other members have full unanimity and an understanding of what is happening inside the organization with the value creation activities that create a thrilled and delighted customer, all those things that begin to manifest and create the organization as an entity, that is your second level of depth.

Your third level of depth is once that takes place, we need a loop back system. We need a way in which those activities are not only understood, but they are inculcated into a system in a way in which those behavior traits begin to manifest by everyone inside the organization. The deeper we take it through a work force environment, the more sustainable results that we can end up achieving. Believe me, the beauty of this is it’s not particularly hard or difficult. It’s not tech, and it’s not software. These are process activities that can take a very limited amount of time when we implement them in the strategy we have created.

Hugh: Tag on that a minute that was a direction I was hoping to go. As you explained it, I am melting down here. This looks like it’s really hard. For Russell, it’s a piece of cake. For me, it sounds hard. Can you give- This is one thing you can implement without breaking a sweat.

Jim: I will use an example where a chief financial officer or president of a company, a for-purpose organization, has a viewpoint of the operational activities of that endeavor. We begin to do a process map and let them unpack that tacit amount, that information we have in their head. How do we do this? How do we operate? When that is done, we usually go to the next key performer inside the organization. In a for-profit, sometimes that is a controller or a CPA or the CFO. We get their alignment. We get their vision of it. Once we get unanimity between the two, then we can begin to move that out into the next realm of responsibilities: senior teams, the core teams of a for-purpose organization.

As that begins to become a real map, a real value creation activity map, now we begin to tie those things into, in their case, their financial statement, whatever that financial statement is. The system, we have used it for early-stage start-up organizations that are less than three years in operations, and it does have tremendous value, and we can get alignment. The best use of what we have accomplished is in larger organizations that have been established for a period of time and have a lot of working modules. There is a theory of domains that say in an ordered and in an unordered states. Ordered states are things like simple and complementary. Unordered are things like chaos and complex. We work in that world of simple and complexity. Because of that, every organization has intended activities. Therefore, we have a loop. Once we know there is intended activities, we have a loop. When we have a loop, we can define the elements that support that loop.

If I can bring it back down to that working relationship for you to understand, Hugh, it is simply diagnosing the activities inside the organization. Looking for systems that are created. Some of the best activity that we have applied this to is there is a thing called the theory of constraints. If you constrain a volume of water and constrict it, you are going to reduce the amount of flow the water has. You may increase the speed, but potentially you are restricting that. When we applied this process using the theory of constraints, we are applying it to the aberrations in the system. Remember I said something about my background as a systems analyst of aberrations in systems. That is what we look for.

When we apply it to an organization, we are looking for those things that just don’t connect well, the things we call disconnects and strengths and problematic areas. The things that keep people staying up late at night, those little worrisome areas that say, “I wish I could fix this.” This process begins to unpack and peel back the activities that create the process which are the intended outcomes. We define those unintended outcomes that are the consequences. Then we can reapply the same process to discern what are the intended outcomes we want and giving us the gauge point that behavior statement, data point, on top of a financial data point. Now we can begin to monitor and make sure the activities are what carry forward.

We are a big believer in organizations should run under what we call non-directive leadership. We have gone through the development stage in organizations where directive leadership is command control, rank and file, orderly activities. I am not saying that’s being replaced. There is still a lot of need for the process steps that that has been built on. But in today’s environment, to become nimble and to be able to adept itself as a living entity in an environment that is also changing, the better you can encapsulate your living environment and ensure you are in command and control of that environment, means you can be nimble. Command and control in that sense means that you have diversified some authority and moved that authority down through the rank and file so that decisions can be made by people who have the responsibilities and then need the authority to make those decisions.

We look at non-directive leadership in that the hierarchy of work force, be it up through managers and presidents, is all about red light, green light, or yellow light projects. The projects are being brought from the lower level and brought in as saying we believe this is a better way to accomplish what we intend to accomplish. Here is how we propose to change what we have happening to improve that process. Senior personnel will either then red light the process because it is not acceptable for whatever reasons, yellow light it with exceptions being like “I’ll green light it once you have these answers. We have to look at the system elsewhere and see where we have some aberrations that might take place,” or green light it, “You did a great job. We don’t see anywhere wrong with this. We have checked, and we believe you have a solution to a problem and this is the way to mitigate it. Our blessings. Implement this process.”

Hugh: Russell, you are contemplating some of these themes. What is brewing in that good-looking shiny head of yours?

Russell: A lot of people are jealous of my naturally curly hair, but we will save that for another episode.

What I am thinking, because that is the third piece of building what I call a high-performance nonprofit, is staying on track. Having good tools to measure is critical. I am going to ask you about how you get around some of this overwhelm because as you talked about, these things can look overwhelming, especially to somebody who is in a small nonprofit. What I look to do, and I remember meeting a young man by the name of Brendan Brouchard who talked about creating tools. His theory was that they should be easy to access, understand, and use. I have some things that are not necessarily scientific, but it gives nonprofit leaders ways to measure things, just like a profile of a donor or a customer, very basic things. I find that with tools, if the tools kind of flow into the work that people are already doing, it becomes easier for them to actually access them and use them. I think there is a bit of resistance. I know you are working with larger systems. I can’t imagine how much you see.

What I was going to ask you was because a lot of people, their eyes will glaze over. How do you break down this need in a way that people sort of get it and convince them that it’s really in their best interest to use it? There is that human resistance to things that look like they will take more effort than the benefits produced. How do you work around that? What are some good ways to talk to people, especially nonprofit leaders about the importance of this and some things they can do that don’t look so large and overwhelming?

Jim: Good point. Here’s as simple as it can be. When we look at an organization, any kind, no matter its size or purpose, there are four major activities. We get all caught up in all kinds of strategy sessions, but there are four activities. There is sourcing and discerning who our client is, whatever that client is, for-purpose or for-profit. There is servicing and ensuring that that client, prospect, customer is cared for. There is research and development. Then there is back office.

Our proposition in the way we have designed and created this simply follows those four arenas. When you look at your whole existence, and you discern yourself in those environments, now, yes, we can get into all kinds of permutations and chart of accounts and 300 line items and financial statements that come off as reams of data because it is a big organization. If we really step back and look at it and say what we are doing here, why are we doing this, what are those elements or arenas that say if we could encapsulate and roll up all those charts of accounts into categorical arenas, those are the four arenas we would find.

It is possible to have other minor arenas. But our contention is that is not the focus and motivation of what the organization was intended to accomplish. It may have grown into some of those other arenas along the way. They can be carved out or pushed away or sold. Maybe they developed so deeply that it was a great idea, and it’s time for it to carve out or to break away and become its own existence. We’d have to nurture it and support it along the way. But when we look at those, at the aberrations and not the real content, we now are putting them in the right perspective, and we can stay focused on the right content in the right context so that we can actually create operational behavior. Intended organizational, operational behavior for intended outcomes.

Russell: This is all very exciting stuff. Because you can get lost in the weeds with software and tools and what’s out there. When you are working with people, what would you say is the primary deliverable they get that they can take and use to, once this system is built, keep themselves on track?

Jim: Perfect. Well asked. If we hold onto those four arenas, and you simply look at each of those arenas and give yourself four or five activities in each of those arenas that constitute the major activities of that arena, what are the most dominant things that go on in that arena? Whether it’s sourcing or profiling or understanding what our client perspective is, or whether it’s the supporting and product and service delivery, or whether it’s R&D, or back office, if we looked at five or six major activities inside that organization, they will be able to map out for themselves. This could be a six-person organization. It doesn’t have to be 6,000. This can be a very small or ongoing activity. Once they begin to find that, now you are really fine-tuning who is doing the things. How many hats does somebody have to wear to get these done in a small organization? When we get into bigger ones, we are just carving them out and breaking them down deeper.

We look at the chunk-it-up to the top. Look at it from that 10,000-foot view and simply understand the mechanics of what is going on. When you get those mechanics down, you can actually create a map. We call that the value creation map. Those are the four or six things in each arena that are done to make a thrilled and delighted customer.

Russell: That is brilliant. At what point do they have a number of items in those four arenas, is an organization in danger of losing its effectiveness? Is there an optimum number of activities under each area? I’m certain probably that there are certain things that are most important to each one. What would you say an optimum number is in terms of the effective span of control and efficiency?

Jim: I don’t know there is an absolute way to discern that because different things do different things. For us to look at things, whether it is a 6,000-employee organization or 60, we still maintain there is probably an optimum number to define for yourself. A master measure of defining, this is what we call, that leads to the KPI, that master measure is the pinnacle of activities, whether it encompasses several thousand people or just a few people underneath it. We do look for an optimum. When we build a chart of activities, we are looking for just 20-22 activities. That’s it. That constitute well over 98% of the activities inside the organization.

Russell: I was just thinking about those KPIs. They are different for everybody, for every industry. Those KPIs, with a nonprofit, your donor, your funding sources, there are a lot of other people that help define what those are. The people that get your services. A lot of definition and customization.

Jim: We also believe a KPI is something that expires over time. When we build a KPI, we are building the data point for the problem, the theory of constraints. We are building a data point over a financial outcome point. We are looking to improve that KPI to the point where the problem has been negated. It’s not a problem anymore. It’s gone away. Or another problem becomes more prevalent and more important. We rotate KPIs over time in having a history base of what those KPI measures are and maintaining an index of those. Now we have assessment tools of what we have done over time and what the process steps of the organization have been. It literally builds the generic environment that allows the organization to thrive and survive over time and be nimble moving into its future.

Hugh: For some people who aren’t familiar with KPIs, give us an example of what some typical KPIs might be. As a group, we are looking at a staff, board, committees, volunteers in a for-purpose enterprise. As we look at the KPIs and the measurability of our processes and outcomes, it would seem that would be a way to engage the culture in a performance standard they have not otherwise envisioned.

Jim: Sure. Let’s use something that has typically been done, and is probably done regularly still, in a for-purpose organization. Let’s say they do something called a fundraiser. They are doing an activity. I don’t care if it’s a 5k run or a pie-eating contest. They have done this before. They know what they are likely to redo again this next season. They are planning for it. In their planning steps, they begin to find out how many people do we have to do this, how many people do we have to do that, how many things do we have to do. The KPI in that activity would be something more along the lines of do we have the punch list created for what we need to accomplish? Surprisingly enough, that simple activity is usually where most of our consult ends up being and mentoring being when someone is failing at an activity. Are you doing the basic block and tackling? If we can now say we need to have an overall planning strategy that constitutes the punch list necessary that defines all the activities before we go in and assign activities, we need to make sure we have a reconcilable document effectively that says now we know how many we are going to assign for this and for that. Now we have a better predictability of the results happening the way we had intended. Now we can define that against the outcome which is how much did we accrue that day or weekend or five-day event?

That seems rudimentary. But it does give you an idea that we are looking at a facts of activities. Not the who, not necessarily the what, but about the how. Are we defining the how clearly enough that we can answer it so that we can provide the who that ends up coming out to be the what? In a for-profit business, it could be as simple, and in a for-purpose business, let’s say we are not having good success in driving traffic to our website, and we don’t have a good conversion rate. People are not hitting our landing page; it’s not doing well. Do we have an overall master plan that includes the process steps associated with all the right things necessary to make that work? Or did we just venture into it with a hope, a wish, a dream, a desire to have this outcome? It might sound like tediousness, but we are not talking about the actual things that need to be done. We are talking about defining what needs to be done. Once you define what needs to be done, now you can have the measurement tool to say are we doing that?

Hugh: Let’s connect the dots. What Russ and I are good at is creating the strategy and a strategic plan, what we call in SynerVision a solution map. It’s fundamentally the same. Where do you want to be, and how are you going to get there? Subsets of that, we have milestones that have price tags on them. We have to generate funding for those. We have a marketing channel – we have to let people know what we are doing so they will fund us. The people who attend our events, the people we want on our board or committees, know what we are doing.

We are coming to the last ten minutes here. Give a short answer here, and then we will have a wrap and you will get the final tip before we cut loose this interview today. How do we connect all those different parts?

Jim: How do we connect them? That was the question.

Hugh: Your tool providing, is it a way to take what we think we want to do on paper, what we actually want to do, and integrating it. Does your process help us connect those dots?

Jim: Yeah. In that we are looking at the actual activities that are being performed today. A little bit of what you were describing was a proactive going-to-do thing. Did I garner that a little bit when you said if you looked at the strategy, we want this to happen so we have to budget for it? We are applying it in the realm of is that activity working now? Because if it is, that is how we are applying our systematic approach. If it’s not working now, that becomes hypothetical. It only allows us to accept the framework, but we don’t have the loopback in the financial outcomes yet. In our environment, for what we are doing, we have to have the loop back. It’s a quad-loop activity instead of a dual loop or a triple loop. By the time we get done, we have to have that connectability between operations and the outcomes.

Hugh: That’s missing often, isn’t it?

Jim: If it’s an ongoing organization, it’s there. If it is an early-stage start-up or brand new or doesn’t have enough history to it, it is extremely difficult to tie this together. We can do theory, and we can get people to understand. They can adapt the process steps that allows for the alignment to take place. That vision forward, that alignment that goes on. That’s good. But in order to create the line of sight reconcilement to the financial statements, if there is none that exists, or it’s too early stage, we don’t have that history yet.

Russell: That’s why I built that four steps to performing a high-performance nonprofit course because you have to start somewhere. You have to begin where you are. By having some tools that you can take and start tracking certain things, you can build that history. It’s important to build that history. If you are talking about a start-up and you have probably come across some that are looking at raising large amounts of money, it’s critical to have that system in place, I would think.

Jim: It’s about the source and use of funds. If we go back to that value map, and we go back to 20-22 activities within those four arenas, anybody can do that. Start-ups can do it. Early-stage developments can do it. Ongoing activities that haven’t had a huge history yet, anybody can do that. When you step back and look at and get real about if this is what we are doing here, now that you can begin to do that, you will channel the activities, that precious time, and that precious talent that is wanting to support that idea, concept, or project that is being launched, now can devote their attentions to the right things and minimize those things that might be important but are not critical. Now we can spend energy and time in the right things.

Hugh: Russell, I bet you’re thinking what I'm thinking is that these things are highlighting some of the things that donors want to know about.

Russell: When somebody comes to you, somebody may be listening here, and we hope people get listening here get value out of it. That’s why we do this work. It’s very important. When somebody approaches you and says, Okay, well, I think I understand in theory why I need this. Where do I start? Where is it that you tell them to start? Or you begin the process so that they can move in the direction of implementing this system.

Jim: Again, working from the inside out, we start with the chief steward of the organization. Whoever is the responsible party for making the focused decisions of what to do here. We interview them and have them unpack that story that is that chart of activities, those 20-22 activities inside those four areas. Once we unpack that, we begin to hone it a bit. More importantly, since we are not really ever talking to people who are solopreneurs, someone who has a few people around them, we begin to go to the next responsible party. Without the answers provided by the first, we allow them to do the process maps themselves. Then we begin to get the alignment. When we get the alignment, now we begin to say where is our energy and time? As that system begins to manifest out into larger circles, from that alignment process, once we have alignment, we can begin to make measure. Depending on what we are measuring against, whether it’s the history of the story and the financials or whether it’s what our intended outcomes are, now we can at least begin to apply it.

Hugh: A lot of good intentions. This backs it out with some tracking. I think this is an energy field where people understand what’s going on, and it begins to build the collaborative energy in the organization.

Your website is Management Operating Systems, Spell out the word “upgrade.” People can find out more there and contact you at that site.

*Sponsor message from Rock Paper Simple and SynerVision Leadership*

Jim, what do you want to leave people with today?

Jim: Because of the nature of your questions, I know you wanted me to simplify this. I believe we have. I may not have explained it quite that well, from the standpoint of it’s very, a professional can do things that look so simple. When we take a look at your organizational activities, we really do look at the complexity of every organization, but we simplify it.

If I can leave one message behind, it is that this ain’t so hard. This ain’t so hard. As I said, we built it on the shoulders of giants. There is a lot of research and data behind this that proves the process and theory. We have some practical demonstrations of outcomes that have worked for some good-sized organizations.

MOSUpgrade, which is Management Operating Systems, You can find me there listed as one of the team members. We do have an organization to implement this with some specialized talents.

Directly, people can contact me easily on Love to be able to walk some people through this. Our real challenge is to find people who have a real desire to impact and are having some difficulty making that happen.

Hugh: Russell, let’s say goodbye.

Russell: Jim, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you very much. It’s always important to measure what you’re doing. It’s not rocket science. Contact Jim. Go to or, and there are tools for you to do all of these things. Many thanks again.

It’s A Whole New Day! Leadership Challenges Faced by Today’s Church Leaders

Aug 26, 2018 01:01:58


Jim Chandler began coaching and consulting in 2016 after nearly 30 years of experience as a pastor and church planter in the Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church. He also served on the staff as a campus pastor and leader of the stewardship system at The Journey Church in New York City — a dynamic multi-site church known for its effective church ministry and small groups systems.

Jim brings a positive and encouraging approach, believing that God is at work in churches of all shapes and sizes, and knowing from experience that small changes can make a big difference.

Jim did his undergraduate work at the University of North Carolina, double-majoring in Economics and Political Science. Following graduation, he operated small businesses and his work eventually led him to Northern Virginia. It was there, in 1987, that he finally answered a call he had felt and resisted for years: to enter pastoral ministry. Jim received his MDiv degree from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC.

Jim currently serves as the Coordinator for New Church Development for the Alexandria District of The United Methodist Church in Northern Virginia (DC Metro area) and as a consultant for church vitality for the Charlottesville District of The United Methodist Church.

Jim and his wife, Lynda, celebrated 30 years of marriage in June of 2016. They have two grown daughters, Whitney and Hannah, and a lovable rescued dog, Tabasco. Jim enjoys reading, sports, and traveling with his wife on their Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Connecting Branding with Marketing for Market Domination with Daniel Ruke

Aug 22, 2018 01:02:26


Daniel Ruke: We go so far back, and we know each other so well. You actually know my real name because you said my real name. Daniel’s my real name. Ruke is my last name. As a guy who loves branding, there is a lot of Daniels out there, but there is no Rukes. I attach my identity to my last name. If you’re confused, that’s why because he knows me more than most people.

I’m an artist privately trained since the third grade. I had a gift. I had really cool parents who supported that gift, and they said this kid has somethin’. They put money out there and invested in me to hone those skills. I graduated as an illustrator from the top illustration school in the United States at that time, Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida. I jumped right out and created my own business. My passion really is I love to wow people. I love creating imagery that evokes emotions, that gains reactions in a storytelling setting. That is what I do today. I do that for my full-service agency, Blink. I actually teach and show up people, I love my fun brand. It’s World Dominating Brand. I think it’s very important that we can design our own world. We have the power to do that and define what that world is and dominate it in a great, positive way. That is a little bit about me.

I have been married 22 years. I have four beautiful children. I love to play. I am very- I feel I’m very successful because I play. I get to do my dreams for a living, and I love helping others, especially those who want to have huge impact in the nonprofit world. There is a mission behind everybody, there is a story behind everybody’s efforts, there is a heart and desire that is burning in their bones. That fire they want to get out there in the world. Showing up here today to give some of the tools that we use from a marketing and advertising perspective and from a world dominating perspective, I'm excited to share that with you to empower you and your audience to be awesome and effective in an amazing way.

Russell: Daniel, it’s great to see you. Really it is about a dream. When people step into a space where they want to make a positive difference in the lives of other people, the sky’s the limit. We are facing some huge problems out in society today. It takes big fakers, big dreamers. A lot of times in the grind of serving people, which so many nonprofits do every day, they often lose sight of that dream. That’s a terrible thing to have happen. One of the problems that I’ve seen is I see people doing phenomenal work out there but nobody knows about it. What do you think would be at the root of that?

Ruke: There’s a mentality of scarcity. There’s a mentality of not worthiness. There’s a mentality of insignificance. When I’m dealing with a leader who’s having that trouble, the trouble is really in their head. It’s what they feel internally. I like to bring them back to the passion of why they are doing what they are doing. They started this mission for a reason. They wanted to change something for a reason. They saw a problem and a solution. It wasn’t just from a business opportunity. It’s more from the heart space, where they want to be effective to solve a problem. When you start doing that, a lot of self-doubt comes into play. What you are trying to cure and solve is so big, how can you do it? That leads to that mentality.

Then of course trying to get people to rally behind you, to support you in doing that. While a lot of people will support your endeavor, I like that, that’s a good idea, and we encourage you, you have to jump through that like and love perspective and create them as brand partners or donors or supporters, whatever your nonprofit is made up of. That is a hard part. I’ll tell you some of it is because you are doing this out of the goodness of your heart, it’s sometimes hard to ask for the money. There is a guilt. You don’t want to be needy. You don’t want to beg. What I do, I hope that answer is why mentally some people are there.

What I love to do is I focus on their brand, their branding or brand culture, especially internally. Behind the scenes, they see the mountain here. That’s all they see. They think that you see that mountain with them. You don’t. That’s the mountain they created that they are trying to solve. You are looking at them and watching them take their steps up. When I say you, that’s the outside world. Articulating those steps is very vital in building that connection. When I say “succeeding and growing up in front of your audience,” we don’t always see the great things we’re doing. We only see what’s ahead of us. We’re only problem-solving. We’re empathizing with our cause. Sometimes we get mythically caught up in the cause and become so empathetic that we are sympathetic and we have the similar mentality that infects us, which is not necessarily good. You always have to be that knight in shining armor. While you feel like your steps might be insignificant, they’re not. When you really look at what you’re trying to reach, that jump, that leap, that bridge to get where you want to go is always big. You don’t always know how. That is where that insignificance comes into play and adequacy comes into play.

What I love to do, and I honestly think this is a good way to do this, is start a journal. Create a journal. Write down what your hopes and desires are for your cause, the recipients of your cause. Then write down some of the case study points of wins. Write down what you’re trying to achieve and what happened. Out of that, you will identify little stories of success. What’s going to help you is if you write that and review it every week, month, or quarter, you will realize that you made a big difference in Sally’s life. But we were so close we didn’t see it. That journal will help you do that. Wow, we helped this family get to the next level! Those are big wins sometimes, but you really don’t see the small steps. What you start doing is look and reflect on those steps. Look at those wins. It takes a lot of little wins. We are always waiting for the big win. Once we get here, then we will show up with our marketing now, then we will show up on social media, then we will start doing announcements, then we will start doing a newsletter when we have these big bragging rights and we put that goal so high. It’s here above the camera. You’re not going to reach it, and no one is going to hear it. You have to talk about the little steps and tell the little stories along the way.

Of course, in today’s world, with social media and everything that we have, there is no reason why you can’t do it. There is nothing stopping you from doing it except yourself. I can preach, baby. Welcome to the church of Ruke.

Russell: The mindset is where it’s at.

Ruke: It is.

Russell: As far s the organization goes and what we teach at SynerVision is to start from the beginning and build that system. It starts with that dream. You have that dream. You reverse-engineer everything essentially. It’s finding out, bringing the right people on the box, as Jim Collins says in From Good to Great. You don’t have to do everything. The leader gets into the trap where he/she feels like they have to do everything. Here’s the thing that complicates getting the message out there because you want to attract board members, you want to attract volunteers, you want to have donors, you want people that actually use your services. There are so many different people that you have to talk to. The challenge I see folks having is getting the right people on the bus. There is a different message for each type of person. Trying to reach these people is something that a lot of these leaders could use some assistance with. It is about people. It is about stories. People give to people. This is very important. In order for that nonprofit to be effective, they need to reach all of those multiple audiences with the message that resonates with each audience.

You have been successful. You have done lots of different types of enterprises. You can look at different types of nonprofits. I happen to be on the board of trustees for the church that I attend. While you have certain activities that are church-related, my church does work with homeless programs, with food banks, and a few other agencies in the area. When it comes to messaging and reaching out to these multiple audiences, how would you do it in a scenario with an organization such as a church that works with multiple nonprofits?

Ruke: You’re getting me to preach here. Let me get up on my pedestal. The challenge with the church specifically is it’s the balance. You’re not really a church. You’re not really a business. Church is sometimes too much of a church, or it’s sometimes too much of a business, and they’re neither. It’s difficult to walk the fine line. When you talk about rallying people behind you, we have to be able to say no. A lot of times we stumble is because we are taking all the Yeses in. You have to be able to say no.

The opposite side of that is we put so much criteria in front of them to vet them that we actually squash the fire in their bones. That is where a lot of nonprofits actually fail. As you bring people on, you’re building that brand culture. You need to understand what that brand culture stands for and it’s not you. You started it. It’s your vision. But it’s not your organization, right? It’s the donors’. It’s the receivers’ organization. Once you build a brand culture, understand how you are there to serve and to contribute. Now you are always talking about that. It’s never about you and me. You are able to say, “Here’s our brand. Here’s what I stand for. How do you fit into it?” Now all you have to judge is the commitment.

Here’s the hard part. When they want to do something on their own, oh, you get all scared. It’s your baby. It’s not your organization. You started it. You’re the visionary. But it’s the brand that matters. What you actually get to have a conversation with that person that has all the fire in their bones they want to do stuff. You want to judge if they are committed. That is a proper way to vet them. How much time? What can you do? How much money? What kind of effort? Great. To make sure they will be there. They will finish what they start. Generally, it’s us as leaders of those organizations that get in the way that don’t allow them to finish.

What your conversation is, how does that fit within the brand. That can be missions. That can be what your goals are. How does that fit within the brand? As long as it’s doing that, you can give them the freedom to go out there, trust their brand is being represented properly. Getting clear on that is important.

Russell: It is about the brand. The first step to building a high-performance nonprofit is to have a solid foundation. This is where that branding piece comes in because we look at the core values that drive what the leadership team thinks. Who are the people you serve? Who needs you? It’s not about you. The greater mission is where that focus is. You have to determine what are we about? Who do we serve? What is the problem we solve? Why do we do it in a way that nobody else can? That is what it becomes about. That becomes the engine. When you mentioned leaders, I see that leaders have a tough time. You know the ones that have the biggest struggle are the ones that start it, especially after it starts to take off. There is a really good book called The Founder’s Dilemma [by Noam Wasserman] This is something that happens not just in business. To a lot of people, branding is a business term. That’s not necessarily what branding is. Branding isn’t peculiar to business. It’s really who you are and what you’re about. Why do so many people miss the boat on branding? Why do you think that is so misunderstood?

Ruke: That’s right out there with the word “marketing.” The definition of branding is the activity of marketing. It’s confusing because you have a brand. Most people think that’s a logo. That’s a piece of it. We are building a brand. That’s kind of a company. That’s a piece of it. In my opinion, it really isn’t. The brand is again the exercise of marketing. How you show up. It’s an experience. When you nail down what your internal branding is, what your brand culture is, it’s a set of missions, experiences that you’re trying to achieve, that you stand for. The external branding is the activity of marketing. Once you understand that, I am going to answer your question, that conversation shifts always toward that. You as the founder can release a lot of that control because it’s now about the brand, not about me and my ideas. People who have the most trouble are the smartest people, are the most caring people because they care so much. You have to understand, identify what that brand is, what that stands for, what that experience is doing. Then you can focus on that, and it takes you out of the equation quite frankly.

But people get confused on branding because it’s an ethereal thing. It’s an emotion. A lot of that emotion is memories and promises of what that experience is. Since it’s ethereal, it’s hard to pinpoint. There are steps to identifying branding: just like what you said, what do we stand for? What are our goals? What is the logo? What are our colors? How is that spread to the world? How is that communicated to the world? How do we look at it internally? In brand words, what do we stand for?

I have an exercise that helps you discover what your brand words are. It takes all this big concept to three little words. I will tell you mine right now: creative, empowering, and entertaining. Every company that I own, every company that I start has to fit into those three things. If not, it will be out of sequence with me. I hope you see I’m creative. Empowering, I am giving you a lesson right now. Entertaining, I hope I’m making you laugh. So everything I do fits in that. It takes our brand and the essence of that brand and simplifies it. Sometimes that is the best help they can get. What are those three words? You can always go how does that communication fit within creative, empowering, and entertaining? It can fit maybe two, but not one. Your CFO. Don’t want creative. You don’t need every bit of it. If you really do your communications, you can always look at it and say, “That’s a great idea. How does it fit into those words?” If it doesn’t speak to all three, it’s not a good fit. Get rid of it. Or if it’s a communication, and you’re going to show up on Facebook, can we show up in a creative, empowering, and entertaining way? You guys are great at that. If you can, it’s great, that’s a great initiative. If you remember those three words and hone those three words in and own them, you can always point to that and challenge and judge everything you’re doing from what you wear, what you say, what medium you use, what kind of newsletters you put out there, what Facebook Lives you put out there. It really helps you stay on track.

And people can take the ethereal thing and judge themselves to see what they are doing. We rely so heavily upon them.

Russell: That’s great. It’s all about who we are. Boiling it down, in the book, why should I choose you, they boil it down to seven words that drive why you do your business. Doesn’t necessarily show up on the slogan. The idea you’re talking about is just the same. The definition of why you do what you do, and it directs everything you do. Some people are really good. They get this part down. Oh, great. Now we know what it’s about. Now, who are some of the people we want to reach? How do we find out who we want to reach? Well, I gotta recruit some more board members. I gotta find some volunteers. How do I find out where they are, and how do I get to them? Then what do I say when I get there?

Ruke: Yeah. That comes down to choosing the right people. I like to look at board members, and the reason why you bring board members is they are giving money or they are a point of credibility that allow you to get money. This is for nonprofits. That’s why they’re there. If they just want to give and they are not going to do that, they are more volunteers. Again, what I love to do is talk about the mission and the brand. This is what we stand for. This is how we’re applying ourselves to the world. Of course, this is what our goal is. This is what the cause is behind it. You have to see if they resonate with that and have the same passion. They have to have the same passion. What level of commitment are they willing to give? You might have a lot of people who want to commit a lot, but they aren’t in sync with that, so you have to say no, or vice versa.

Ho w to communicate that. Here’s the truth. If you go back to the first part of our conversation about the little stories of success, and you start talking about them, first of all, you the leader, whomever the voice is, the communicator, the marketing director, the founder, once you connect back to why you’re doing what you’re doing and focus in on those brand words, to get really centered, then look at those little successes. Forget about the big monster. It’s that cloud that hangs over you. Forget about that. Just the little successes right now. You start sharing those successes with your world. You will attract the right people, especially if you show up within your three brand words. My perspective. If you show up in an entertaining way, if you show up in an empowering way, if you show up in a creative way, you will attract people who are attracted to that. If you articulate what you are trying to do, they will walk beside you. But they also want to see success. The reason why those little stories. I am going to tell you how you apply some of those to help with the marketing part.

When you start articulating those stories of success, they see their investment of time, money, and energy grow. They are seeing tangibility to the efforts that they are doing. That is so important. Those little stories of success can show up with Facebook Lives. Hey, we’re here helping the kids today. Thank you donors because you have been able to put backpacks. We’re going back to school, right? We were able to give 50 backpacks to this grade school. You guys did it. Thank you. That’s a huge success. People feel good about that. It could be a newsletter. It could be your Facebook pictures and posts.

I focus on Facebook. I will tell you some tactics here as we get into this. I focus on that because it is the easiest, most successful media we have. It is the most visited website out there, so you might as well. Almost everybody is on there. I would also say there are other platforms, but make sure your audience is there. You want to reach the people you want to reach. There is definitely other platforms like Snapchat and Instagram. Depends who your supporters really are. Quite frankly, you might have a platform where you speak to your supporters. Some of us are older, so that’s Facebook, but your recipients of your supports might be on Snapchat. You might want to separate the way you communicate. Here’s showing how we support. Here’s our actual support. But that might be a deeper dive.

Russell: Success leaves some clues. The important thing is really to be aware of where the people that you want to reach are at. Having a leadership that is committed to doing that is really important. Everybody you talk to may fall into a different category. You want three things from people. All three would be lovely: time, talent, and treasure. If you can get them all, beautiful. But everybody can serve in some capacity. What is important to some may not be important to others. There is an extra level of commitment that you need out of your board members. They have to be committed. Once you figure out what it is that you stand for and what that thing is that drives everything you do, it boils down to making sure everybody is singing off the same sheet of music. The guy who is sweeping the floor should be able to tell you the mission with as much skill as your executive director because everybody’s enthusiastic about it. Everybody has a way to serve in a way that matches their desires. It’s matching all of those desires.

When it comes to tactics, it’s really about getting into these different places. Stories matter. You got the CFO type that you mentioned before. They are all about the numbers. But when you translate the dollars you raise to the number of backpacks you purchase and the number of laptops that the school is going to have that the children have access to, you’re not only showing the impact with the dollars, but you’re impacting lives. That is the double bottom line that nonprofits- You are providing value out there. It’s important to talk about the difference you make and that you’re providing value. You don’t need to show up with a hat in hand. You are there to partner with people to make a real difference in your community. There are a lot of tools out there to do that and ways to talk about doing that. That is your wheelhouse. It’s painting a picture for people so that they understand how what they do matters. Every time we contact people, we don’t have to ask for something. We can tell them how what they have already done has made so much difference. Hey, you can do more. The more that you do, the more people that we help. It’s really getting in there and not being afraid to look at things like marketing because we have to create success systems as leaders. We have to give people tools to talk with, tools to go out and reach out to other people with, and make it personal because everything, whether your tax status is profit-making or nonprofit, it’s all about relationships. People work with others that they know, like, and trust.

Ruke: I agree. Let me share with you some tactics on how to do that. Is that cool?

Russell: That’s outstanding. I would like to see that.

Ruke: Ready to learn some cool stuff? First of all, I want to say this. If I go through this, you can ask me questions. I will tell you to go to That is our group. We can let you in. I will rattle some stuff off. You will probably go, I have to take notes. I want to give that to you because your mission is very important. What you have in your mind and your ideas and what you are trying to do is absolutely correct. I want you to be able to have the great impact you were born for.

That said, one of these is we might sometimes have a problem asking for support. We don’t want to constantly ask for money. Especially in the digital world, one thing we love to do is, “Hey, here are a couple ways to support us.” This is what we are trying to do. Here is how you can participate. One easy way is to like our fan page. That’s it. Right. That is small. Then you can build. Maybe volunteer, or donate. When you’re asking for support, it’s not always give me money. Like our fan page. Share what we’re doing. That’s awesome. What that does is that triggers people to go, Oh, I’m involved now. I’m invested. I do like your fan page. By the way, let me back this up. I am talking about your Facebook fan page, your business page. That said, or whatever social media you’re talking about. Join us here. Support us by liking us and subscribing. That’s huge because now you can build a relationship you’re talking about. When you make that request, there are three ways to support us: this, this, and this. You should always get a yes. If you don’t, they don’t resonate, so don’t waste your time. That allows you to grow in to the bigger question of donate. If you already have that relationship, you have built that cold relationship to a warm relationship to a hot relationship, then you can make that big request. Let it sit there.

Here are some technology tactics I would do. The reason why you want to like, and I am going to go through a journey. This will be a customer journey. The reason why you want them to like the Facebook fan page business page is so that you can retarget them. Now you are going what does that mean? That is talking about running ads. I will get to that last. Running ads on Facebook. That is what you want to do. A lot of people go, I want to see my likes. I want them high because it makes you feel good. I am not saying from vanity. It’s not that. The reason why you specifically want that is because you want to be able to retarget them. Get some likes. Then run ads that are just about how awesome the mission is. No request. It’s only a brand awareness. What you’re doing is saying, “Like us, love us.” What you can do within Facebook specifically, and it’s a deep dive, and we are doing this training so I am welcome to do it. It’s free training. Happy to show you some of these techniques.

What you are going to do is when you place an ad, and it could be a video of you talking about your mission, what you’re doing, some cool things, some stories, and you can spend dollars on that and get it out to the world. When you do that, there is data points that you can check off that are people who are highly likely to support other nonprofits. People who are interested in X, Y, and Z. Now you are specifically targeting people that have not only habits that might give to you, but also have interest. If you come out there with your story first, these stories of successes, you are creating brand awareness. As you have done that, you then can follow that up, so you have this brand awareness stuff, with the same group because they have liked your page. You can now follow up with requests for support. Support us. Then they hit that button, Yes, I want to support you. They can come to a landing page that has several ways to support us, and one can be donating.

The key to that is get people to like your business page/fan page on Facebook. Then run ads talking about how awesome the mission is. No requests. They’re just top of mind. A third would be here is a specific request to support us. That support is three different ways. They might have already liked it. Who cares? It looks like they have helped you. Volunteer, support us, give us money.

Russell: That’s what it’s all about.

Ruke: And that’s automated.

Russell: It’s making it easy. What you just illustrated is how making it easy for people to act actually increases that support. Make sure you visit WorldDominatorsUnited. Getting out there, making it easy to support you is really important. it’s like non-ask events when you do things live. But it’s all about building that relationship. That’s one way to do it. Tell us more, Daniel.

Ruke: Here’s another secret sauce. These are my little ninja tricks. Understand if you set what I did, it’s not complicated. Some people might think they have clarity now, and others aren’t sure. It’s not complicated. But once you understand that cycle of we are going to market our brand to the world, then we will retarget them with asks of support, all you have to show up with is your story. Now that’s working, all you show up with is, Here’s a small win. Here’s another small win. Here’s another small win. Or maybe your thoughts. I was reflecting with someone who we’re helping, and it meant a lot to him, so thank you. We have the small ones. Again, don’t get caught in the mindset of, I have to share big wins. It’s the small ones that matter. We’re usually too hard on ourselves.

Here’s another ninja trick. I know you, my friend. I know that we go to places together, right? We network in places. Most nonprofits have somewhere where you’re networking. Here’s what I would do. This is real ninja stuff. Are you ready? I do this. It’s so much fun. I’ll tell you inside of some things we have done because of this.

I would look for a place for you to network.

Russell: Okay.

*Technical difficulties*

Ruke: You missed my ninja trick!

Russell: Now you have to go to WorldDominatorsUnited and sign up to find out what the trick is.

Ruke: No, this is important. Where’d I leave you, baby?

Russell: I’m not exactly sure. It got stuck there.

Ruke: It did? Here we go. I’ll kinda start the technique over again. I saw your face freeze, and I wasn’t sure. You go to a networking event. They meet weekly, monthly, or quarterly. This technique really doesn’t work anything more than that. You go there. You collect business cards. Then you come home, and either you do this yourself, have a virtual assistant or assistant take those business cards in, and invite them to like your page. Some you will have to friend, which is cool. By the way, what you said, Russell, those who give, you give to people you know you like. They gotta be your friends. Does that make sense? There is a reason for that relationship. What you do is invite them to like your page. Now what you do then, imagine this, Russell. You go to a networking group. Say you meet 30 people. Now you may have 30 people who like your page. That doesn’t matter. Now you run ads a week before going to the event. It’s just brand awareness. Hey, look at my page. This is a great win. We helped this family out. Thank you for this support. No request. It’s just that.

Here’s what happens. All those people who liked the page are now giving all these ads. You can spend $100 on this. It doesn’t have to be exorbitant because you are only trying to reach a handful of people. You’re not trying to reach the masses at this point. What happens is when you show up, the buzz that you create is tremendous. You are going to have people walk up to you and say, “I see you all over Facebook. I see all the great stuff you’re doing.” “I appreciate that. Thank you so much. Have you ever thought of supporting? Do you want to help? You seem excited about this.” See how that works.

That’s how you can use social media online in an offline networking situation. You constantly do that. Every time you show up, you have your campaigns going, and then you have these people who see you. They get to know you more. What happens is their confidence in you and love and support for your endeavor goes up, and their barriers go down. That is when you can start making real requests. People will come to you and say, “How can I support you?”

When I started speaking, here’s proof of this, Russell. When I started speaking, I did this. There’s a networking group that you and I both love tremendously called CEO Space International. When I had the great honor of being asked to talk, I did this. I showed up, and everybody knew who I was. Why? Because I was targeting you.

Russell: Yeah. You seize control of Facebook. This is something that Daniel started several years ago to become more effective and to find ways to use this effectively. What a lot of agencies do, they look at everything as a cause. If nobody knows about what you’re doing, you’re not going to reach anybody. You have to invest on the front end more in the way of time is what you’ll have to invest. But you’ll have to, in order to stay top of mind and get out there, and I’ll be talking a little bit about that with one of our sponsors. It’s being top of mind, getting out there. Sometimes a nonprofit doesn’t have the resources, but these techniques that you have just learned are something you can start doing today.

Let’s look at an organization and say either one of two things is taking place. Maybe they got a little bit to invest, but they don’t have the skills or the knowledge to do it. Or they have gone out and thrown some money at Facebook ads. I have spent quite a bit. I don’t seem to be getting any traction. With those techniques, there is a logical sequence that you follow and you got loads of followers. What would be a logical sequence you would have somebody in that instance follow to ramp that up?

Ruke: 80% of your business is going to come from existing business and people you know. That is what I call warm and hot traffic, leads. What a lot of people come in the mindset of is that 20% is cold. That is the most expensive. You are going to spend 80% of your dollars getting that 20%, but you can see over time how that grows a business. There is not a silver bullet. A lot of people go, “I want to spend a couple hundred bucks and get brand new people in.” I showed you a scenario that doesn’t work. I am also saying that you want to use those tools and techniques to support your existing endeavors. We don’t want to throw everything away and start all new, unless you are trying to go big fast and you have the wherewithal to do so.

By asking people first to like your page and invite them on Facebook to do so, don’t go around giving them a card and saying to like your page. No one is going to do that. I am talking you go on it, and you type it out, and you invite them. Once you have done that, now you can spend very low dollars because you are only reaching a handful of people. That supports your existing endeavors. Does that make sense? That is one key to step into there.

As you want to grow, you don’t want to sit there and be stuck at a computer all day. There are automated systems for this. If you are talking about the smaller end, you have HootSuite, Sprowt Social, which helps you with social media stuff and getting it out there on platforms. You can level that up with automated marketing stuff called, which I love. It helps build out customer journeys. Once someone comes in and opts in, they get an email or a text or whatever. Let that relationship work itself. One of the higher ends is HubSpot, which creates all your marketing and all your emails and your ads and all that fun stuff. You can go deep real fast.

But the little steps are be clear on your mission and what you are trying to do. I will tell you some of the stuff I like to do is education. I challenge nonprofits not just to sit there and tell their opinion and tell why they are doing it, but also offer some education on how what they are doing can make every person better by X, Y, and Z. That is one thing we do.

I’ll pull it right now. You have received this before. When we show up, this is our World Domination package. In it are these cheat sheets. That is what you were talking about. These things are obviously taking time to build out, but these are our handouts. We talk about it costing money. This is not inexpensive. When I talk, everybody in my talk gets a whole packet like this around the subject matter that they can implement. Creating some cheat sheet. All you have to do is talk about those cheat sheets, those white papers. There are a lot of words. The secret formula for how to accomplish something. Whatever the education platform. It might be a video series to help your audience. As you do that, a lot of people who are now recipients of your nonprofit could become donors on small levels because they felt it, they felt effective, they felt like they had gotten use out of it. The big deep dive to solve their problems. You are educating them to what I call symptoms.

I am pulling up a random one. How to Create Lead Generation. It’s what we talked about. Build out a persona. What you want to give to them for free. And a landing page. It tells you how to do it.

But when you have that kind of information, you could give it out to people. Yes, it takes time and money to do that. But when it is received, they get to know you. They become affected in a positive way of the intellectual property, the systems and processes, your knowledge, you’re preaching your teaching, and they become fans. Now the next conversation is you want to support this so others can have it. That is when you get them in. Some of these people might not have a lot of money, so you can support Facebook and like us on your social platforms, or donate $20. It’s easy. It’s not hard to accomplish that. Actually grows your fan base with great value. Does that make sense?

Russell: That’s what it’s all about. The word “value” is not used often in these circuits. Bringing value to people you serve, how they define it depends on how they relate to you. Those are parts of the stories you want to weave into the fabric of who you are and the difference you are making. What is the value? People will tell you what is valuable to them. You overdeliver and underpromise on that value. You demonstrate that impact. Those tools, I’ve sat through one of the early sessions you did when you first developed that system. It’s better now than it ever was. It’s remarkable. If you sit and take time to go through that and put a system together and find ways to give people value, and that’s talking about what you do and what’s important to them, using a system a lot like this one. It’s perfect. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. World Dominators Unite. They will walk you through those tools. This is where we put in the time. This is a great project.

If you’re looking at attracting support. One of the best kept secrets is pro bono. I don’t think a lot of nonprofits leverage pro bono talent. The reason that people will do pro bono work for your nonprofit varies as to whether it’s a professional firm or students. If you can find an intern and teach them the system he just showed you, they can go in there, and it would give them a project of substance. It would lay out a plan that would help you reach specific types of people. You can use this system whether you’re looking to find donors, board members. It will help you gather the information and put together the things that are important because what you’re doing as a nonprofit leader is something that everybody tries to do on one level or another.

My friend Danna Olivo for example talks a lot about creating an experience for donors. How do you get them to stay with you? You have to stay connected to them. These are the things that Daniel is talking about: staying connected to people so that they stay with you. Some of the statistics I have seen, Daniel, are that most people keep 55-60% of their donors. You are losing upwards of 40% of their donors annually. What are some of the ways that you think they can eliminate that, using these tools and getting more people?

Ruke: A lot of it is because they have- It’s twofold. One is what you were speaking to, is that they don’t know where you are with the story. They are not seeing the little wins. If you are not expressing that, they don’t feel like they are walking the journey with you. If they are supporting you, they want to walk that journey with you. If you allow them to keep up with you by communicating with what you’re up to and you get in front of them and use technology to do so, it makes your life easy, and all you have to do is show up as the cheerleader and ambassador that you are. That’s great. That helps.

The other part of that is the reason why they fall off is sometimes we actually choose too big of a goal. They go, Wow. I don’t know how. You know how sometimes when you are looking at what you are trying to achieve, and you feel insignificant to obtain that, they do, too. How is my support, my contribution, even if it’s $20, how is that going to solve that? They don’t see it. Sometimes you’re not expressing the little steps and little milestones and little goals along the way either so that you clearly tell them what the effect of their support is actually having and accomplishing for the company. That is how you keep them connected.

Russell: How many people do you see- I know that some organizations use Facebook Live. Have you come across any where you see a nonprofit doing the Live where they thank a donor by name as they have money rolling in?

Ruke: Yeah. I’m going to go way extreme on you, baby. All right. Twitch TV. What is that? Twitch TV is the YouTube channel for video gamers. While they are branching out, it was solely video games. What they did is created “Letsplays.” That’s a geeky word of Let’s Play Along. It’s letsplays. If you have ever seen a video where the video game is being played, and in the corner, we have our heads in the corner, on my screen I am over here, that’s letsplay. You see the person playing the video game in the corner, and you see the video game they are playing. What that person is doing is playing the video game, but they are actually entertainment value. They are making jokes or talking to the audience.

By the way, Russ, there is young people who make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year playing video games and what they do is what you just said. They are playing and saying thanks for supporting me, Russ. A lot of people give just to hear their names being shouted out. Playing into the vanity of that.

You can do that with Facebook Live. Now Facebook Live has features that are experimental where you can actually buy stars. You know how we give hearts and thumbs up. You can give a star. But a star costs you money, real dollars. If it happens, give me a lot of stars. On their gaming platform, they are now doing that. They started rolling that out.

Russell: it’s really thinking about these things in terms of an investment in time. People that support you, remember the three T’s, time, talent, and treasure. Anybody that is engaged in what you’re doing can help you on some level. The more supporters you have, the easier it will be. More hands makes the work lighter. That’s the way it goes.

Let’s talk about the people who look at this and say, Well, you know, this all sounds very good, but I’m technologically challenged. It sounds like it’s going to take forever. I don’t know how easy this is. There may be folks with some genuine fears around trying to do some of this stuff. How would you address them, and how would you encourage them to move forward? What sort of suggestions do you have to help them do that?

Ruke: I am going to come up with a smart alecky answer. Do I have your permission?

Russell: Go for it.

Ruke: I listen to a lot of different things. You know a little bit about me. I don’t always talk about this. But one of the people I love listening to is Joel Osteen.

Russell: Okay.

Ruke: The message that I was listening to- I listen to a lot of talk radio because I can listen and talk. I can get in my zone and produce my- I can’t listen and talk. I can’t do that. I tell my wife that, but she will just tell you that I can talk. I can work and listen. It doesn’t require any hands.

If you want it bad enough, you will get over it.  Do you want it bad enough? Do you really want to solve that problem? Do you really want to have the impact on the world that you want to have? If you want it bad enough, you will put the work in. You won’t use that excuse. You’ll learn. What really helps you get there is being very on fire and clear on what your mission is. What you’re doing and why. Constantly having that in mind. Constantly being mindful of that. As you’re doing this, learning Facebook. You know what the impact is going to be. I’m hoping today I bridge for those because I try to keep it- I can get real geeky. I am trying to keep it simple because we are talking about complex things that aren’t that hard for some people, and for others, there are challenges. I am trying to bridge the gap of if I do this, here are some benefits that will happen.

For very small steps, doing Facebook Live can be challenging for people. If you are watching this, you have some affinity for it, which is awesome. This is the easiest form of getting out there. Show up and tell the stories. If that doesn’t work, you could do that at your local rotary club or different churches. Talk about those stories, the mission, and events. If that’s too much, do it with your networking group. Start telling those little stories of what you’re doing. Instead of talking about what you’re up to, meaning from a brand perspective, what are you trying to cure, that’s important, but for framing. Stop talking about that. Start talking about the little impacts you’re having on your audience. Now people can relate to that. If you can have those conversations in a networking group one on one, from the stages at little events, or big stages, or this virtual stage, if you can talk about the impact you’re having, now people can meet you where you are. If you change that focus, you will be more effective. The conversation of support becomes natural.

You can get more technological. I do want to backtrack on something. You said, “I will always start with this scarcity mentality.” You said there are people who will tithe their time for you. You used a different word, but it’s the same thing. I challenge you to pay for it. If it’s that important, it should be a line item on your budget because if you do the marketing correctly, and that’s what marketing is. If you do your marketing at all, you’re a step forward to getting more exposure and more results. If you do it correctly, if you listen to what I said and apply what I told you today, you will be doing it correctly, and you will have great results. That’s important. I would actually invest in those things because sometimes what we do is this is where we hit the mentality.

I’m technically challenged, so I don’t want to look under the hood. I don’t want to have that conversation. Then you have a gap in your understanding. If you are a true leader, a true CEO, a true person that is marching down to solve the world, you owe it to yourself, you have an obligation to close that gap. Not that you have to run your social media every day. That’s not what you’re talking about. But your understanding of it. That’s one thing I train people on. From a CEO level, this is what you need to know as a leader. Not that you need to know all the buttons to hit. That’s okay. But to understand the effectiveness of it, and where your mind needs to be, and more importantly, your voice. You got me preaching again.

But what happens is I don’t know it, so it’s out of sight, out of mind. And also, I don’t understand it. Here’s a challenge. I don’t know how to get someone to do it, so I am going to find someone to do it for free. Because you don’t value it. Now you have someone working on your behalf, volunteer-wise, tithing their time, because we are pushing it off to someone. But if you’re actually investing in it and hiring someone to do it for you, that’s a better tactic because you will come close because you are paying for it. You will come closer with your gap because it’s their job to help walk you through some of that stuff.

That’s where that pitfall is. I don’t know anything about it. Do you know something about it? Will you help me do it? You see that delivery there. The relationship is already set off wrong because you are not getting up to speed on it, you are not closing that gap, so that is why a lot of people fail in that area. Those who understand marketing understand the value of it and understand spending a dollar on it, and they are getting the good quality stuff.

Russell: They key word that you used in that is “investment.” It’s not a cost. A lot of nonprofit leaders look at stuff as a cost. This is an investment of your relationships that are invaluable.

Speaking of valuable relationships, *sponsor message for Wordsprint*

Thanks to our sponsors, we get to have people like Daniel Ruke here. This is a place to go to get that basic training. He’s got remarkable tools there. Daniel, it’s been a real pleasure.

Ruke: Can I add one more thing?

Russell: I wanted to get your closing thoughts that you wanted to leave people with. What’s the biggest takeaway they should have?

Ruke: I gotta add something. I know the time right now. When you said “investment,” here is a misnomer I want people to understand. I am using my stuff as an example again. When I talk from stage, I hand this stuff out. These are for people who aren’t doing business with me. This is the kind of stuff we create and hand out. We have spent up to $25 per person in a seat. That is my cost. Not getting there, not travel, not the hours to pay me and my team that it takes to make these things and create these unique things. It’s the largest investment that I make.

Here is what you need to understand. When you are out there getting cold traffic to warm them up, that is the biggest expense you are going to have by far. When you talk about investment, a lot of people go, “Hey, no one bought off of this yet.” You have to build the relationship. It takes time. When you look at the ROI on this stuff, how does it get to the big stuff, too? Once you get the big traction, the big donors, the big numbers, that is where you can trickle it down and say it cost you nothing. It was well paid for and profitable. That is where a lot of people look at these little steps like the free giveaways and go, “How is that going to make us money?” It’s not going to make you money immediately. It’s on the path, on the journey.

What I’d like to leave you with is that it is a journey. You started out, and you’re doing what you’re doing because you have fire in your bones. I hope it’s still there. If it’s not, go center yourself, think of three words that inspire you to do this because the world needs what you’re doing. You are important. What you are trying to cure, solve, support, and help needs you. If you do not invest in you, with your money and your time, with your platforms, with your marketing, with your organization, if you don’t ask for the money, the support, yep, support liking, but if you don’t ask for the money, you won’t have the impact that you want. That’s a shame, and that’s sad.

I would say that you are doing the right thing. Keep at it. Take the words. Listen to this a couple times. Apply. If you really want it, you’ll do it. Those who get it done want it the most.

Russell: Daniel Ruke, you’re a wizard. It’s always a pleasure. Thank you so much for your time and preserving it at such a high level. is where you can get all these tools. ROI, it’s not just return on investment, but for you folks, it’s return on influence, return on impact. You can do that with the right tools.

Thank you again for joining us on The Nonprofit Exchange. This is Russ Dennis signing off until next week.

Conversations with Barry Auchettl

Jul 29, 2018 49:11


Barry Auchettl (ock-er-tell) is a world leader in communications from the Gold Coast, Australia. Barry is the creator of Conversations: an inspirational game, which transforms ordinary talk into meaningful connections. Having a Masters of Education, he is also trained facilitator of The Virtues Project and The Blue Wren project for the prevention of domestic violence.  He is currently working towards being a Non-Violent Communication facilitator. Barry is an author, international keynote speaker and runs a six month Life Vision Mentoring program, that specializes in clearing sabotages and creating authentic communication. He is also the founder of Eye Power vision improvement services.

Interview Transcript

Hugh Ballou: Greetings, it’s Hugh Ballou and Russell Dennis again for The Nonprofit Exchange. As usual, we have a very intriguing guest on this episode. Barry Auchettl from just south of Brisbane, Australia. It’s called the Gold Coast, Barry.

Barry Auchettl: It’s called the Gold Coast here.

Hugh: Oh yeah. Russell is in Denver, and we are having a good time. We are having to accommodate the time because our normal time for Barry would be in the middle of the night. He likes us, but he doesn’t like us that well. We are accommodating. Barry, I put a little dangler out there about Barry Auchettl. We are talking about Conversations today. We will leave that hanging for a minute. Tell people who Barry is.

Barry: Hi, Hugh. Hi, Russell. Great to meet you guys again. My background is quite varied. I have a varied background. I started off as an accountant for Pricewaterhouse. I worked through the lines of there for a few years and recognized that accounting really wasn’t my thing. It gave me a great background into business and how businesses work. I decided then I was going to go teaching. I had a calling to teach. Ended up teaching for about 15 years. My areas of expertise were accounting, computers, and religious education, of all things. I have a theology degree as well. I have a business degree, a theology degree, and a Masters in Education. It keeps me busy. About 1997, it actually happened, I left teaching in ’97 to start up my own business called Eye Power, which has now been operating for 21 years. Eye Power is about improving people’s physical eyesight, but it also looks at people’s vision of life and how the two are connected. That’s really what I have been working with in a whole variety of fashions since ’97.

Hugh: Now Conversations is the topic of this interview. Conversations is technically a game, but it’s a game with a purpose. What was the inspiration for developing it? It’s pretty intricate and complex. It’s easy to play, but you can tell there is a lot of psychology, philosophy, thought underneath the principles here. What was your inspiration for creating this tool?

Barry: It’s really a communication tool for connecting people. That’s what it is, and transforming relationships. The origin of this game is fascinating. As much as I have a teaching background and I was helping groups, by that stage, I was helping and supporting adults. I was recognizing that people weren’t communicating properly. But I had no intention. This was way back in 2001. All I did was I went to bed one night really frustrated because my work wasn’t taking off like I wanted it to. When you are a start-up business sand things are really slow, I was frustrated one night. I went, “What is going on here?” I went to sleep that night, and I literally had a dream about the Conversations game that night. I had all these things I had to get done. In the next three days, I put together the Conversations game. I don’t know how, but all the other things got done as well. I don’t remember doing anything else. I just remember working on doing the very basics of the Conversations game. Within two weeks, Neale Donald Walsch, whose Conversations with Godand founders of Humanity’s Team, a nonprofit organization, played the game and really endorsed it. He said this is fantastic. You have to get this out there.

Hugh: You need to bring it to America. We’re not talking to each other.

Barry: Look, I have been really lucky. I have had the fortune of going around the world. By and large, people are the same. One thing I have found around the world is when we take out our politics and religions, underneath all of that, we are wanting to connect to each other and be kind and look after our families and have a good life. It’s almost a basic process. What I found that the game does, and I have played it with people, I have had ten countries play at once on Zoom, it was a fascinating experience to see that we are all- This experience we are all one. We are all having the same issues, concepts, desires, wishes.

Hugh: It’s fascinating, isn’t it. Give us a couple of examples of here is what was going on, people were not connecting. They did the game. On the other end, what happened?

Barry: One of the very early ones that came to mind is the first birthday of Conversations, and I decided to have an open house and invite people around. I had one person walk in. She was from a fundamental, strict religious background. She was making sure that there was nothing spooky going on because it would affect her religious beliefs. I said have a seat, have a cuppa, you’ll be all right. I eased her into it. The next person who walked in, I said, “Welcome to the game. Would you like a cup of tea before we start?” She literally looked up to the sky and said, “Yes, my angels told me I could have a cup of tea.”

Hugh: Oh wow.

Barry: Wow, this is going to be an interesting game. It was almost two extremes in terms of beliefs that you could get, you know. This is way back. This was back in the mid-2000s, the one-year release when I printed the game in 2005, so it was 2006. I was thinking, Oh my goodness, what is going to happen here? How are these people going to get on? What happened is a miracle, I believe is a miracle. I have played this game around a thousand times. The miracle was not only did they have an argument, because I could see their different viewpoints, but somehow the game drew out of them what was similar, so much so that not only did they not have an argument, but they also exchanged phone numbers and became friends. That showed to me the potential then of what could happen with the game.

Hugh: Oh my word. I guess people need to come to the game with an open mind and a willingness to talk.

Barry: That’s right, and just be open. The game is designed in a way that people talk as deep as they are comfortable with. The idea is slightly bend people’s comfort zones, not push them out of their comfort zone. Let’s extend ourselves and see how it goes. A good example is I received two emails once. One was from a grandfather, and one was from his granddaughter. They both sent me a letter to thank me because they had their first ever real conversation with each other. They talked to each other with their family, and the traditional roles, especially as a grandparent, and I guess they talked to each other as two human beings having a conversation.

Hugh: Barry, that’s the big gap in all of our systems. We are talking to leaders that are running religious institutions, membership organizations, cause-based charities, community foundations. We are talking to people who have a very tight network of people gathered around a particular philosophy. That doesn’t mean they talk to each other. The church in America, the mainline denominations, there is a little bit of revitalization energy going on, but we have lost a lot of members. Part of it is this whole thing is we come and we sit, we don’t interact, and we go home. We don’t talk to each other in meaningful ways. Can we play a little bit of this game with you and Russell?

Barry: The game normally goes between one and two hours, but we can do a ten-minute demo, which will give you guys and everyone listening a feel of what this is about. Russell hasn’t played it, and I can see he is intrigued already, aren’t you, Russell?

Hugh: He is intrigued. Russ, you’re ready? You wanting to do this?

Russell Dennis: I’m ready to rock and roll.

Barry: Okay. The game itself as an outline, the game itself has three cycles. It has an Aspect cycle, which is an aspect of life. That might be career or health or something like that. Then we look at a Life cycle, which they call the Drama card. That was the easy part for me to do. Then we have the Inspiration cycle, which is to step out of that. That’s really what the game is all about: that whole inspiration of how to move forward. The purpose of the game-

Just before we play here, I want to take up your point about communication. I believe real authentic communication is a two-way process. One is we need to be able to speak and feel safe speaking. Authentically speak, and know that we won’t be criticized. Part of this game is when someone speaks, no one comments on them. They get to speak without anyone saying that was a good answer or a bad answer or “Why don’t you do this?” or try to fix someone. There is no fixing allowed in this game. In actual fact, we only use “I” statements. That’s part of the game. We only use “I” statements. There is no “You need to do this.” It’s for me, I might choose to meditate more, or something. That’s the first part.

The second part of the game, and it’s really important, and I used to call it active listening, about really listening to each other. I have shifted that in the last six months because I have done some work with nonviolent communication and empathic communication. I really believe now it’s about empathic listening. It’s not just listening to the words; it’s listening to what is behind the words. When we can really do that and tune in and get a feel for what the person is about and have some empathy for the person and have some empathy for yourself, you can then relate what is being said to yourself. That part, the game creates that.

The final part that I can’t create but the game somehow magically does is to create an openness and a connection with all those who play. Because somehow by having people have a physical card in their game gives them position to open up. It just seems to do that. When we do that, we recognize we are similar.

That is a real introduction. I am going to start the game with us.

Hugh: Drumroll please.

Barry: Okay. So we are going to get through each cycle and keep it really short. Our answers are down to a minute to allow a ten-minute idea we suggested. The first part of the cycle is we choose an aspect. Hugh, because you have played before, I am going to choose an aspect for you. These are so-called random. I don’t believe in random. The aspect I have for you is “Fame and Glory.”

Hugh: Fame and glory.

Barry: I will give you one of the doc points. And the doc point here is “See yourself as equal to others.”

Hugh: Okay.

Barry: I want you to comment on what fame and glory means for you, in context of nonprofit organizations.

Hugh: In seeing myself as equal to others. Was that the other part?

Barry: Yes. That was the point that came up for you, yes.

Hugh: Part of how I perceive that is that I like the statement “Nobody is perfect, but parts of me are excellent.” There is parts of me that are really good. I focus on those. I just take it in stride. Other people value it and say, “Ooh, that’s really good.” It’s part of who I am. It’s my way of giving to other people. Fame and glory for me is just focusing on what I do really well and maximizing that gift, that space that I give to others.

Barry: Okay, thank you. Everyone playing can relate to that. I am nodding, and I can see Russell nodding as well. I’m sure this will also relate to all the people listening. It’s interesting how this game, it’s for one person but can expand to everyone. That’s the amazing part.

Russell, I have a card for you. Your card is “Rest and Relaxation.” And the doc point, there are four doc points with each of these cards to help people with their answer. I am going to give you one of them. The one I want you to comment on is “Allow the soul time to recuperate.”

Russell: Rest and relaxation. I am a firm believer that for me, it’s important to raise my level of consciousness, whatever I am facing. That is what fuels me and gives me energy to go out and try to make a difference in the world. In order to give, I believe we live in a reciprocal universe. I have to recharge my batteries from time to time so that I am able to serve at a high level and give to other people. For me, what’s restful and relaxing is my meditation practice that I do daily. It’s a chance for me to shut down, notice what’s going on within me, and look at my day. Just not attach myself to anything, whether it’s good or bad. But just to notice where I’m at. And harvest a supreme gratitude so that I can continue to serve and recharge. Part of that rest and relaxation is turning the squirrel cage off and sensing that connection to the universe.

Barry: That’s wonderful. Thanks, Russell. Thanks for coming out and sharing that with us. First game. You jumped into it. That’s awesome. I am amazed at how close the answers can be as we get these.

I am going to choose mine to round the first cycle off. The card I have is “Humor.” That’s a good one here. I am going to read the very first point, “It’s only a game.” I think it’s a really good one for me. Sometimes I can take myself so seriously. Playing this Conversations game, it’s a very serious game. We are going to go deep, and we better not smile because it’s serious. I think it’s really important for me always to remember to bring humor. When I educate people, when I do my training, I do a six-month mentoring training around the world, I have to use humor as part of that because otherwise I get bored. I think it’s a great way. When people laugh, we learn. I have a big belief that we can go deep and laugh at the same time. It’s not a choice.

Really interesting three cards. We have “Fame and Glory, “ “Rest and Relaxation,” and “Humor” coming up for the three of us. Really interesting combinations.

That’s the first cycle. People go around. If we have time at the end, which we won’t do today, we can look at where the connections are between each of those aspects. It’s quite interesting in itself

Hugh: How many people can do this at one time?

Barry: The game has sixteen aspects. I normally run small groups between two and 32 people because 32, you pair people up and do things like that. I have actually played with 300 people at a conference, where they had me play with the entire audience. It is possible to play the game with large groups. You just do it differently. It’s part of the facilitation process I’ve done with this, and with an educational background, I have been able to create a variety of ways of playing the game. It was used in a 300-seat auditorium in New Zealand, and that got me to be the entertainment at halftime to connect people.

Hugh: Sweet.

Barry: Let’s continue. We will go into our Life cycle. We usually call this the Drama cycle. Each would get a turn by the way if it’s a small group. If it’s a large group, we obviously couldn’t. We are going to choose one card as an example. Russell, you are choosing the card for us. All you need to do is I will read the card out, then you say what does it mean for you, and what does it mean in terms of your aspect? I will get you to invite only one of us to speak. One of the things you will learn in this game is you don’t always have to speak about everything all the time. For some people, that’s a good learning process. Oh, I don’t have to say something. I will let you choose whether Hugh talks about fame and glory with this card or if I talk about humor from that viewpoint. But what I want you to do is say what this card means to you and what it means in terms of rest and relaxation. That’s what you need to do at this point. You don’t have to agree with the card; you can disagree. These aren’t stone tablets; you can disagree with them. The card says, “I find it difficult to love myself.”

Russell: What that means to me is that person doesn’t really recognize how exceptional they are. Hugh, what does that card mean to you?

Hugh: I don’t have difficulty with that. My standards are pretty low. I accept myself. I criticize myself heavily, but judging my performance and loving myself, I have been able to think of in different ways. Part of fame and glory, and Barry, I get to conduct an orchestra this season, and that is very public, and in my community, that is part of fame and glory. I am up there, and when you are in front of everybody, they will judge you. I have gotten to a place where I do what I do, and celebrate it because I know somebody will like it. That means being comfortable in loving myself. It’s a journey of saying, I am going to let go of the flaws and love myself just how I am. That is part of personal empowerment for me.

Barry: Awesome, thank you. Russell, since it was your card, did you want to make any other comments before we move on?

Russell: I think that’s an interesting card. A lot of people may or may not choose to look at that. It’s something that’s important to look at as far as rules surrounding how we set living for ourselves. I love this. This is really deep. The way to solve things is to look within myself and start there.

Barry: One thing we will do in a game is I would probably call you in a real game to say “I” statements than “we.” For me, this means… It’s a key concept in this game to keep coming back to self. The rest of us go, “Oh yeah, I can relate to that as well.” My own personal journey, I am a little bit stubborn. When anyone tells me what to do, I tend to do the opposite.

Russell:People don’t want to be told what’s wrong.

Barry: Like we said, we all need to meditate. Oh yeah, sure. When you say, “I meditate every day,” I can relate to that, or maybe I need to do that, whatever it is. It gives people permission to come on board without the request or the demand to come on board. That’s an important process.

We are going to keep this fairly quick and move to the Inspiration cycle. Russell, I will start with you again. Inspiration is about maybe one sentence about this, let’s keep this fairly short. This is moving it up toward a higher level. The Life card shows a drama aspect, and this takes us to another place. Your card says, “What would happen if everyone did this?”

Russell: I believe that if everybody did this that there would be an increase in the level of collective consciousness for all the people who participate.

Barry: Awesome, thank you. My card says, “Give to another whatever you choose to have for yourself.” It’s really interesting because I have been doing a mentoring program. As I support other people in stepping up, and it is about raising their consciousness as well, I work in raising consciousness and frequency as I am helping them to raise their consciousness and frequency, mine increases as well. It comes back to me. I think that’s a great card for me.

Hugh, your card is, interesting one, “Affirmations work better when they are about something that is already true for you.”

Hugh: Hmm. Hmm. Hmm. At 72 years old, I’m finding that anything I do, there’s still room for growth. Working on the skills I have my top skills makes them better. The ones that are down the ladder a little bit, I do not need to mess with those. I want to focus on affirming who I am and what I do. Focusing what I am makes it better, and that my top skills, it makes them continue to grow.

Barry: Awesome, thank you. That is a quick version. That was about 15 minutes. We could have discussed that further with each other, particularly cycle two. That gives us a feel of what this is about. Before we continue the interview, I want to complete the game properly. Hugh, could you say what you personally got out of the game, in one sentence, for yourself? What did you find out about yourself from this game?

Hugh: Absolutely. It made me think about myself in ways that I would not normally do. I felt a little vulnerable, but it felt safe.

Barry: Great, thank you. Russell?

Russell: I love this game. I think it’s wonderful. The thing I notice is I happen to be very careful because of the circles I run around in. I run into a lot of like-minded people. My language in general is inclusive. But I have to be very careful to come from the place of talking from within my own experience so that I’m not putting anybody on the spot but being more inviting for them to relate in the way that is comfortable for them.

Barry: Thank you. That’s a wonderful insight. For me, I have played this game over a thousand times, and I don’t get bored. I always learn something about myself. This is a workshop in a box. You get to play a workshop every time. The key for me is what was my inspiration card was, as a reminder that I am of service to others. That comes back to me. I am recognizing my life is amazing at the moment. I am probably the happiest I’ve ever been in my life, and I am serving people more than I ever have. The two are hand in hand, so that’s pretty cool.

That’s the nutshell of the game. Congratulations, Russell, on completing your first demo. Hugh, you have played this a number of times now.

Hugh: It’s always different, Barry. It seems to always be different for me. You go to a museum, and you se a great work of art. It’s different every time I look at it. There is more depth to it.

Barry: It’s true for me. I do get bored pretty easily in life. I have done a whole lot of different things. This is something I do not know a game that I play where I was bored because you always are learning. I can play a whole game and just listen to people talk. You go, Wow. It’s fascinating to not to have to be the speaker and let people talk about what is happening and how it relates to me. I can relate to both of what you said, Hugh and Russell, in terms of my own life.

Hugh: I’m sorry, Russ. Go ahead.

Russell: The one aspect of this is it never gets old because every time you sit down with it, you’re in a different place. I think the dynamics of solving very real human problems requires me, there I go again, lesson learned, to look at where I’m at and to constantly evaluate how I can do that and how I communicate with other people. It’s all dynamic.

Barry: Where I started with that was with my own family. That was the first place I played the game. It really connected my own family. I can remember my children were already teenagers at the time. The older boys were quite talented in all sorts of things, even as teenagers, they are setting up international businesses. That entrepreneurial skill. My daughter said, “How can I be like you guys?” or something like that. After the game, they turned to her and said how amazing they thought she was and the life she has ahead of her and her talents and gifts. It opened up on a heart base to each other. My daughter is now having an engagement party here in Australia next month, and my two boys are flying in from America and England just to be at her engagement party, just to support her. It’s really connected them together for life.

Hugh: What I have experienced that is different than normal interactions is that being a musician, I have worked on my listening ability my whole life. We need to be very intentional about listening. Your pivot from active listening to empathetic listening, I believe I heard the word, is there is a willingness to understand the intent behind this. It’s a whole different paradigm. Where has that been very helpful in the games where people have been at odds? Where has that perspective been helpful?

Barry: I think it’s helpful when we recognize that we have different language. Sometimes we can get caught up on the words. I know for corporate in some organizations, one of the aspects is “unconditional love.” Sometimes I have a corporate edition, which calls it “unconditional acceptance.” I recognize that sometimes it’s just our language that holds us back in the words that we use. If we can go behind the words and get a feeling for what is going on, we are not going to get caught in the language. When we use words, especially words that can have a charge, when we talk about love or God or universe or spirit, people have different ways of expressing that. Just allowing and accepting of that that ultimately we are referring to the same thing. The energy behind it is what’s important.

Hugh: Nonprofits and religious institutions attract people around a cause. We have passion to the cause. It doesn’t mean that we know how to interact around how we work together. I think there is a big gap. We spend time texting, and we spend time on the cell phone, and emailing, and doing things on our computer, and posting on social media. We are not really having a conversation where we are listening and where we are using I statements. This takes us out of all those routines and has a face-to-face relationship. I see in nonprofits, there is a lot of important work for us to do. Government shouldn’t be doing some of the stuff they are trying to do. Nonprofits can come in and have a neutral place and do some healing and some philanthropic work that we are cut out to do. That would necessitate us being, I call it a new architecture of engagement. How do we show up as this fine-tuned music ensemble? We are in there working together. There is a special place for nonprofits in this communication area. How do you see it playing there?

Barry: Can I make a comment about that? I actually used to work for a project called Living for Harmony in Australia. It was about bringing all the different cultures together and recognizing how we can get on together than being separate. That was a project about bringing people from the straight tribes to politicians together and being open together and trying to be honest with each other. The game is part of that process of connecting people, of having a deeper conversation. It’s been played in church groups, in nonprofit groups, in corporations, in schools, in universities. It’s whenever we need to have a greater conversation, and I believe especially wen we are talking about nonprofits. A lot of people in nonprofits come in and volunteer their time because there is a higher purpose to why they are doing it. In return, sometimes, all they want to do is be heard. They want to have a voice and hear that what you’re doing matters and is important to us. We’re hearing you, we’re listening to you, and you are important.

Hugh: Russell, what are you thinking there?

Russell: I think that is critical: being able to get support for the mission in nonprofits because you have so many different audiences that you are talking to. Some of them are internal. Your staff, your board, your volunteers/servant leaders, as we like to call them. There is the community you work in. The various people who support you, whether it’s through corporate sponsorship or grant people or individual donors. It’s important to talk to people in terms that are meaningful to them without losing who you are. Having the good conversation is critical to that. It’s difficult to find that language where it works for everyone so that there is no misunderstanding. It’s what it’s all about. That’s how you bring people into the fold, or the way that I feel you bring people into the fold is that you connect with them at a deep level so that you are working toward the same things. You have that deep understanding. And it’s the ability to put what needs to be done ahead of my own individual goals for the greater good. It’s important to have good conversations around how you do that.

Barry: Definitely. Well spoken.

Hugh: The whole shift in paradigm, Barry, it takes us out of feeling like we have to have the answer to something to the place where we are exploring what the answers could be. One of the religious writers I read is Richard Rohr. He is very eloquent in talking about non-dual thinking. We want it to be good or bad, left or right, up or down, debit or credit. There is a third way, a different way, multiple different ways. Instead of being dualistic, let’s talk about the other options. Part of this, do you experience when people are playing the game, that there are times of silence, where there is some profound things going on without words?

Barry: It’s interesting because the realization. I will give you two examples of this. Part of the game, when we say don’t interrupt people, is to allow people an opportunity to sit with the card they pull for a while. Sometimes it can have a profound effect. Part of the magic of the game is not only do they get a card, but in the game, we seem to get the exact cards that we need on the day. It seems to happen that way. We have had two cases.

One case I remember, a guy got “Personal Growth and Spirituality.” It was a group of about 20 people. He threw the card on the ground and said, “I don’t want to play.” It was really good because nobody in the group reacted. They just looked at me, like what are you going to do. I said, “It’s your choice. We won’t force you to do anything here. Do what you feel comfortable with.” But he said, “I want to stay.” I said, “All right.” I thought about it. It was a choice: What are you going to do? You can stay. It felt like he needed to stay. He stayed.

We got about halfway through, and we had a break. We started playing the second half of the game, and I said, “Any questions?” He put his hand up and said, “Barry, can I play again?” And I said, “Sure. Your card is on the ground, exactly where you left it. You can go pick it up.” Spoken like a true teacher. He went and picked the card up, and I said, “Who wants to go next?” His hand went straight back up again, and he wanted to go next. He pulled a card, and what came up was that he had a rebirth in his spiritual life and walked away from it. This night was the time that he came back to it. He recognized that he couldn’t run away from it anymore. It was an amazing process. It was in the silence of no one trying to fix him and allowing him to make that choice to return to the game, to return to his own spiritual life that created a change in him. That was quite remarkable.

Since I did get humor, I had another one. A lady got “Food.” She almost walked out. She got food. “I shouldn’t get food. I should have gotten personal growth and spirituality or unconditional love. I got food. I should have gotten something more important than that. I don’t want to play.” I said, “Look, that’s fine.” Why do people keep asking permission? She got up to leave. She got to the door. At the door, she turned around and looked at the group. The light bulb moment. She said, “Maybe it’s because I had an operation on my stomach last month.” The entire group started laughing, like the connection was so strong. It made her laugh to recognize that’s what was important to her. Of all the aspects, food has the biggest charge for people because how we relate to food or how we don’t relate to food and use it as an emotional crutch and all sorts of things.

Those scenarios show me the power is what’s behind the game more than what I do or even more than what the game does. It’s almost like its own energy that runs with it.

Hugh: There is a shift for me. We are in a high performance culture, no matter where you live. We are expected to do things. We can shift from being human doings to human beings and live in the moment. Be in touch with parts of us that we haven’t been in touch with in a while.

Barry: Totally. My greatest gift, and I am grateful, is the fact I get to do this all the time. I get to open up and see and witness people opening up. The two biggest groups I get to witness is one, the person who is really quiet and doesn’t say anything. We normally get a card and say, “I don’t normally speak, and I don’t know what to say. If I had to say something, it would be this wisdom.” Then the other one is the person, you might know those people as well, are the ones who talk all the time. They come up to me at the end and say, “It was great that I didn’t have to have an answer for everything. I learned that I can actually be quiet,” because part of their thinking process is they have to have an answer for everything that is said.

Hugh: Isn’t that funny? We have imposed that on ourselves. We have to fill every minute with talking, and we have to have answers for everything. I keep seeing celebrities being interviewed, and the interviewer wants to trick them and ask these hard questions. They stumble with their answers. I think, Why do you try to answer? Just say next question. I am not answering that. Oh my

Russell: I have been trying for myself to operate out of the philosophy that there is no accident in the design that I have two ears and only one mouth. My best bet is to try to at minimum use a proportional.

Hugh: Funny. If people wanted to find out about this Conversations game, what is the URL they can go to?

Barry: The easiest one is, and .au, for Australia. It’s

Hugh: Conversations is the name of the game.

Barry: dot com dot au.

Hugh: Oh, dot com dot au. Gotta have them both.

Barry: Both. Dot com because it’s relating to my business, and dot au because it’s Australia.

Hugh: Whoa. Put that in the notes so people can go there. We like to keep these interviews under an hour. I think we have given people a huge amount of value today. It’s a physical game. Is there a virtual version of this game?

Barry: One thing we are looking at, and I went to CEO space. Part of what I’m looking at is to create an online version. I do play online with people like we did here. My goal is to create an online version to connect people around the world so that people can start creating relationships and building friendships and building connections with people around the world. A number of things coming up:

One is that the Conversations online is a project. If you go to the website, there is some information on that, if people are interested or interested in being a part of it.

The other one is the Conversations documentaries, where we video full games and allow people to express who they really are. One of the things I recognize is that sometimes when people have been doing a lot of media, they almost have a script for answers, and you don’t get to know the person behind the script. I think people would be really interested to know who some of the celebrities are behind the scripts. Some of these people would be more than open to say, “We have had to work through this ourselves.” Some new thought leaders would say, “We just didn’t get here. We had to come from somewhere. We have had to work through this process.” The documentaries will be there to support that. We will start those in Australia as early as this year. But there is information on both of those on the website.

There is information for people who want to be facilitators of the game. You can get a game and play it with your family and friends. If you want to play it with larger groups, there are processes I do to help people with that. I am really here to help you in whatever way, for your organization, whatever that is, to get that moving and to get your people talking to each other, to get the people they work with talking to each other, getting their families talking to each other.

*Sponsor message about Rock Paper Simple*

Hugh: Russell, before I give it to Barry for his final thought, what would you like to say to Barry or to us?

Russell: Barry, thank you for the work you have done to create this. I am pretty excited about it. It is something I want to look into. In my conversations with people, the one thing I want to highlight is they have all sorts of brilliance already. I’d love to have people tap into that brilliance because they have a lot of their own answers. I ask a lot of questions. This is a remarkable tool that can help enhance that process. Thank you very much for the work you are doing. I look forward to interacting with you more in the future.

Barry: Same here, Russell. It’s been great to meet you. My wish for the game. I am going to put my biggest wish here for the game. I know when I created the game, the dream was actually more than the game. Part of the dream, there was a grassroots approach to get the game out there. It wasn’t a Mattel toy you buy in the shop. It is people supporting people supporting people. My wish is that this game is in every family, every family gets the opportunity to play it. Every church has it in the church to help its congregations. Every nonprofit organization has it to support their volunteers and the work they do. I want every corporation to have a game so that we create a new way of doing business with each other. I want schools to have it so that kids know they are safe and can talk to each other as well. That is my real wish.

I know I can’t do that alone. I know it has to be a grassroots. If there are people out there who want to be part of this and help with that process, we already have 100 facilitators around the world. We haven’t built up America yet. There is an opportunity there to look at that. If people want to support that process in making a difference in the way that we talk to each other. I want to thank you, Russell and Hugh, for the opportunity today to show people just how amazing this game is because I really feel I am a custodian for this game. It came through a dream. I feel that sense of responsibility to nurture it and get it out there to the world.

Hugh: Barry, you are an inspiration. Thank you so much for sharing with the nonprofit community on The Nonprofit Exchange.

Barry: Thanks, Hugh.

Purposeful Decision Making and Effective Problem Solving with Jess Dewell

Jul 16, 2018 39:58


Staying in business can be difficult at times. Critical skills that are required to build a business exist and grow year after year. All business owners, at one time or another, find themselves struggling to keep clients (retention), to keep up with what customers want from the company (experience), and to add people (increase products).

Over the last 20 years, Jess Dewell has worked on many of these problems with companies and clients. When there is a chasm to cross, she points it out and cultivates the team to figure out how to build a way across.

Professional and thoughtful, she brings to the table.

Transcript of the Interview

Hugh Ballou: Greetings. Welcome to The Nonprofit Exchange. We are into the fourth year of this now, Russ. Russ, I know we’re on an audio podcast, but I don’t see your smiling face. All I see is a picture. One of your better pictures.

Russell Dennis: Well, I’ll fix that. I should be live.

Hugh: There you are. I’m traveling today. I’m at a hotel in Orlando. We have a live audience here. We are going to be watching with bated breath, and we will come in with a few questions. We do have a little background noise, so I’m going to mute myself. It’s probably a popular notion with some people, so we will mute our end so it will be quieter. Russ has got some really good questions for what I think is going to be an amazing interview today with- Jess, you know me, so I am just getting acquainted with you. I am going to pay attention.

Jess Dewell: It’s great how that happened. You meet somebody, and they tell you all about you and how you think, yet you have never met them before because of the personality and the ways that we get to communicate. I totally understand being in that place.

Hugh: Love it. Tell us about yourself and how come you do what you do. Then Russell will take it on and ask you some really interesting questions.

Jess: That sounds great. I am Jess Dewell. I founded Red Direction 14 years ago. It started out as something slightly different than what it became. It became building frameworks for resilience. What came up on the radio show that I host, which was live streamed right before we are live streaming here, we were talking about bounciness. The more struggle we face, the more that we fall down, the more risks we are willing to take, we get bouncier. I love the concept of that and how that fits into businesses. Businesses can get that concept of bounciness. Pick ourselves up together, and go forward together. The last seven years have really been dialed into what we do for organizations that are growing and changing. They are in these critical points of development, and their leadership got them so far, their skills got them so far, and now it’s time to infuse them with more. Turn them upside down. Look at them in different ways to maximize the work flow, learning, and experience that already exists to go forward with grace and determination and whatever words you use to describe your companies. That is what we do over here at Red Direction.

Russell: It’s all about establishing the great culture. There are a lot of things that go into culture. For our audience, what does culture mean to you in the sense that applies to organizations?

Jess: You could look it up on the Internet and get the definition that Google or whatever your search engine is will tell you. I define culture as how we work together, and the strength with which we are able to work together and its effectiveness.

Russell: Yeah. What are some elements of culture that make organizations successful?

Jess: What makes an organization successful? I am getting cues that your volume, Russ, is not as high as our audience would like. Since I got that message, I am going to pass it on to you right here. Will you repeat the question?

Russell: What are some of the elements that go into culture that make an organization successful?

Jess: Are you ready for this? Are you really ready for this, Russ?

Russell: Bring it on.

Jess: People, people, people. There might be a few more p’s, and we will just replace them with people and people and people. It’s the culture. It’s what do we look at, how do we react, and preferably, how do we respond, and of course, how are the other people that we are surrounding ourselves with doing those things? And an awareness of the fact that we play off of each other.

Russell: Because you work with a lot of organizations of all types, what do you find are the biggest disconnects in organizations that have problems culturally?

Jess: Are you ready?

Russell: I am ready.

Jess: People, people, people, people, people. So really, it’s we think we are doing one thing, and we are being perceived as something different. There is a break in our communication. We think somebody is doing something, but we never actually asked the clarifying question. Even some people go, “I have a dumb question.” You know what? The dumb question that goes unasked just leads to bigger misunderstandings, so might as well ask that and get rid of the qualifier at the same time. “I have a question. Did I understand this right?” We are thinking of culture, and we are thinking of how to work together as a team. We all have different reasons for being in the roles that we are at. A wise man once told me, “The people who work here choose with their own two feet every single day to come to work for us.” I thought that was really a fabulous thing, and understanding that everybody has a different reason for being here, to work together. Yes, we have all agreed to this goal; however, if we haven’t created some sort of an awareness of how all of us fit into that end goal, we end up getting bumps and scratches and slowdowns and stalls and U-turns also.

Russell: Let’s look at the term “rules.” My good friend Dr. Hal Dibner talked with me the last time I saw him, we were actually talking about rules and how to move people to action. There are a lot of internal rules that each of us has that shapes the way we approach things and the way that we live. I think these rules can become internalized in the culture with an organization. What are some rules that you have seen that have become part of the culture of organizations that have hindered their progress?

Jess: I call those “elephants in the room.” The big elephants in the room. One of the things that Red Directions’ programs are really good at is finding the elephants in the room, pointing them out, setting up a little station, and inviting them to break them. Just being aware of what elephants are in the room. Another phrase might be “unwritten agreements.” We have done it this way. It’s worked all right, so this is the way that we do it. Whether that’s the case, or we are avoiding something, the elephants in the room, either way, when left unexplored, it can cause so many big problems. I have been a part of a company that has imploded because of that. I have also seen companies really unfortunately breed distrust and really feel fear around, “Am I actually safe in my role?” because of the unwritten agreements and insecurities and unknowns they cause. All that gets in the way of decision-making, which really when we are in business, is the ultimate goal: make decisions, nonprofit or otherwise, move toward an objective, make decisions, move toward an objective. Hit those goals and those signposts along the way.

Russell: I think that the way people view their work really impacts the culture. When organizations get stuck, in my experience, a lot of people don’t really like to be told what’s wrong. At what point do you find that organizations have hit a place where they are willing to have those conversations? How much does it generally take in your experience for somebody to reach that point?

Jess: It really varies. I have witnessed some other outlying symptoms if you will. If we were to look at symptoms that you are on your way down that rollercoaster, and you’re not sure if there is an up at the other side, is that everybody is tired. Everybody is behind. They are unable to keep up with the things that they have going on, with the commitments that they have made, and it becomes a drag. Those are the types of things that allow us to miss other cues. We are turned off from actually using our external perception, and it’s only stuck inside here. It can manifest other ways, too, besides the “I’m stuck,” “I’m overwhelmed,” or “I can’t meet my deadlines.” People leave. I’m burned out. People leave. “This is not what I thought it was going to be.” People leave, and then they are talking about their experience. They don’t talk about their experience until they leave. Nobody inside knew because there was a gap between each of the people, and there was “seemingly” to have a connection, but it was actually missing or had been broken.

Russell: A lot of our work focuses around leaders and how leaders interact and work with people and a common problem is leaders that overfunction.

Jess: Yes.

Russell: They take on a lot of things rather than train people. They find that it’s “quicker” just to do it myself than explain how to do it. Sometimes there is a fear of letting go of some control, not trusting people to do it. But if you bring people on to your team, you hire people because of the skills, knowledge, and abilities that will serve you, they have talent, and letting people actually do what it is that they do is a little difficult for leaders. That can get grounded in the culture. That creates burnout because you have a few high performers who are not being built to be better leaders, and they are just trying to do things instead of spreading them out, delegating, and building. The leadership skills of other people. We see that in nonprofits. Are you seeing that with-

Jess: In every organization. Every organization is susceptible to that. It’s interesting because yes, we hire for skills, knowledge, and ability. Most of the time, in most processes for bringing people on, what is left out, or what doesn’t have enough focus in that interview and onboarding process is what we mean when we say whatever we value. If service to a specific group, serving an underrepresented group in some way, if somebody comes on and they have the skills, the knowledge, and the ability, but they are only using this as a stepping stone, and they are exactly what you want for the job, part of the conversation becomes, “We know this is just a stepping stone on your path. Are you able to buy in? What do you like? What are we disconnected on what you’re doing while you’re here? Do you understand with where you’re going how this actually helps you get there?” You know what? A lot of people don’t want to face the fact that they are hiring someone who is going to leave. However, if we bring it up in the conversation, and we are talking about this, and it’s part of what we believe in, we know- We know we’re not going to do what we’re doing forever. We know we haven’t done what we’re doing forever. We have all had different experiences in the past. So why not just put that on the table? Then it’s never a surprise. Then it’s your performance reviews, your check-ins we’re having along the way, the conversations we are having before, after, and during meetings can still revolve around what are we doing in this organization? What is our mission? What is each of our parts in that while we are here? That type of collaboration is what is going to make somebody want to stay, but also it will prepare them to get them to where they want to go. As leaders, as employers, anybody with staff, it is our job to embrace and to love and get that person where they want to go because maybe this is the place, maybe it’s not, but we can do really well for them, for us, for our community, for our donors, for the people that we serve because of that small thing: having that type of conversation up front.

Hugh: Hey, Russell. We are having trouble hearing you.

Russell: It’s all about growth. That better? It’s all about growth. If you have a conversation about values, it’s important for both individuals and the organization to understand what it is that people want to get out of a relationship that you have. This is how you attract people, whether they are working for you, volunteering for you, coming to work as a staff member, coming to serve on your board. It’s having congruent values that will drive the day. The idea of growth is something that is fundamental to everything. To get better at what you do, you increase that level of support that you get. Culturally, with nonprofits, one of the things aside from the fact that you have some leaders that may overfunction, maybe they haven’t thought through all of their processes or systems or how they can actually get better at creating an experience because they are more effective and efficient at delivering their programs. Talk a little bit about your experience around that and some of the things that you would help people work around that.

Jess: I wouldn’t say work around, I would say work with and strengthen. The reason is that we all have a strength. When we can put a stake in the ground and say, “This is what I stand for,” wherever I work, whoever I work with, I know what I stand for in general. That allows me to have a guidepost when I show up in an organization and when I am working with other people. If other people are floundering around and are not sure, we put on that lens. What is important to me? What is my purpose here? What is my purpose in this situation? Maybe not my life purpose, but in this situation. How can I bridge that gap to move things forward? Those are the types of skills that we develop, programs that we create. The biggest reason for that is experience. Until we do it, we don’t know if we are good at it. Until we do it, we don’t know how to apply our personal strengths to the work that we’re doing. When we find our strength and can focus everything through that, it becomes easier as managers, as directors, to find the strengths in others and be curious and be willing to try a few things here to be curious with others to find their strengths as well. Maybe it’s a strength. A lot of people know that they can stay behind an idea. In a nonprofit, I come to work for a nonprofit, I volunteer at a nonprofit, I give money to a nonprofit because I care about the idea they are working on. When it comes to actually doing the infrastructure, taking the action to make all that possible-

You mentioned your values, how do we bring all of our skills together to get something done? But also you talked about processes and systems. Processes and systems are great on paper. As soon as you add people to them, you add what they are thinking in that moment, what their past was, what their dreams are, and what is on their mind right now in that situation. It may not be those things that are most important to working on an organization to develop it. Processes and systems are really impacted by all of the things that we care about, all of the things that we face. I am all about efficient systems, efficient processes. However, when we stop, when we weave what we care about, how we do our work together here at this organization, allows us to then be able to have a deeper conversation, a quicker conversation, which improves efficiency in a whole different way than just pushing the levers of a process.

Hugh: How about a question from Florida?

Danna Olivo: Yeah, Jess.

Jess: Bring it.

Danna: Bring it on. It’s funny that we’re talking about this today because- My name is Danna Olivo, and I am a business strategist. I work with early-stage micro-companies and medium companies. I work on those processes, the systems, and things like that. But one of the things that was really fascinating to me was you were talking about communication styles and hiring and things like that, talking about skills and values. One of the things that a lot of companies don’t take into consideration when hiring are the behavioral and cultural characteristics that are inbred in the people they are looking to hire and making sure that those cultural characteristics match the organization. Therefore, in order to do that, what we have done is we are trying to make a concerted effort to try and match those cultures to the behavioral characteristics to get a better understanding of their fit within the organization.

Jess: May I ask you a question?

Danna: Yes.

Jess: When you’re thinking about that, that means an organization really has to know.

Danna: The whole thing just dropped.

Jess: That means an organization has to really know where they stand. They understand that what they’re doing is already working. Do you find that a company is going to need some other help and some other work actually figuring out where they stand as an organization versus just being able to put this on top of what already exists?

Danna: Yes, I do find that part of the whole process is we have to make sure that they have those working systems and methodologies in place. Part of that process involves bringing the team on that will work with them in order to do that. If they aren’t centered around the same cultural values that the company has set in place, you are going to end up with a divided approach to these systems and methodologies. Does that make sense?

Jess: It makes complete sense. In fact, sometimes, in an existing organization that is going back, they are going, “We are having this problem hiring the right people. We are having this problem keeping the people we want who have the skills in our roles.” When we get to that, it’s interesting because people are always like, it’s the people. It’s the talent we are facing. They forget to look inward. Those would be the things where I’d be like, How strapped are ya? Because you might be better off having somebody do some temp work just for a short period of time, stop to take a step back, and evaluate some other things. Those are the elephants. You’re talking about the elephants in the room right there, Danna, and being able to recognize what we are willing to incorporate right now for where we are. One of the things that I hear in the work that you and I do, people want me to come in, and they think I can change everything. The answer is no, I can’t change anything. I can only facilitate and create a program to educate to allow that change to occur within an organization.

The other thing that people think, in all organizations, both profit and nonprofit, I get a lot of work done from people who have just done a rebrand, thinking that rebranding will actually solve the problems that we are unclear about what we stand for. You probably are unclear about what you stand for, but the way you look and describe yourself doesn’t matter. It’s a Band-Aid, isn’t it?

Danna: I love the fact that you’re talking about this because we are all about education. What I teach my people is you can’t operate in a vacuum. You don’t have all the answers. You have to surround yourself with that team that will be able to help you reach those goals. You have to surround yourself with those people who will be able to say, “You’re off base.”

Jess: I keep pointing with two different colored pens because these are the notes that I take. Anybody listening is going to be like, “What is she talking about?” I have two pens to take notes on every conversation that I have because there are things I want in one color and other things in another color. All of my notes have been written on before by a third color. If I hold up pens at you, it just means I’m excited. Yes!

Nonetheless, I hear what you’re saying. You’re right. It is about education. You said something that made me think about a program that we have. We talk about ThinkTime. This is a combination of words, think and time, that might be heard in the same sentence, that are squished together with no spaces. ThinkTime. This is something that we do at Red Direction. We have a process. How do I, as the steward of this mission that we’re on, whether it’s an entire organization, whether it’s a business unit, whether it’s my particular role, how do I in the stewardship of my position have time to actually allow all the chatter to get out? Because all that chatter has to get out to have new creative thoughts. More importantly, ThinkTime, a lot of people are like great. I like a whole day; however, I don’t use a whole day. I use a half day to get started. I use four hours, once a week for four hours, closing everything out. This is how that system typically goes. I am going to give you all the steps. You guys can play with this as much as you want.

That is first, put it in a calendar, and guard it fiercely. Four hours, one time a week. The first month, the first four, maybe the first eight, you are going to think they are useless. They will feel useless. All you will want to do is catch up on email. All you want to do is clear up the clutter on your desk. All you want to do is return those phone calls. All you want to do is write out a report that needed to happen or think about reports. It takes some time. But after about eight to ten sessions of four hours, all of a sudden, you sit down. I remember this so clearly the first time I did this. This is going to work; this is so great! You sit down, and it’s like, Okay, I actually see the Red Direction vision. I actually see the actions that we’re taking right now. I can just experience what that looks like and have an idea of what problems we’re facing right now, where we’re doing really well, and then what are the things that we could be doing better or different? When we have that space outside of our ThinkTime is when we go, Let’s break it down into a problem. Do I have a problem here? What’s that problem? Let’s go through those four steps of problem-solving. Then we can go bright. When we get to the options, we get to make a decision. Being confident in a decision comes from not running around rapid, not thinking or knowing we are never going to have all the answers no matter how much information you know about it, but we spent the time upfront to decide what the decision was, what the problem is we are going to solve. We are evaluating the path, not just a solution, but the path to betterment, the path to what we want next.

The more we get to do that, that’s the second piece, the more we get to practice those steps, the more confident we become in our decisions, and we can make them quicker. We can evaluate and get rid of options that don’t work right now.

Tell me this, Danna, and whomever is sitting next to you, and Russ. When you are sitting here and looking at all these problems you’re looking at all these things that are going on. I can choose any one of them. I don’t know what this means; you have too many options. Does that happen to you? Occasionally, sometimes, all the time.

Danna: Oh yes, even as a strategist, I find that I have to take a step back and decide, Okay, which one do I need to focus on right now? First of all. Secondly, what is the fastest way to come into a solution? By taking that step back sometimes and evaluating what is my talent, what is it, my talent that can help me come up with that solution? If I can’t find the talent within me to provide a solution, then I have a resource of people around me who I reach out to. I am not afraid to bring them in. You can’t operate in a vacuum. You said this. Our capacity as an entrepreneur only extends so far.

Jess: That’s right.

Danna: This happens to me. Jose Belen here, has a new nonprofit that he is starting called Mission Zero. Great nonprofit. We happen to be meeting Hugh here so we can get some tips and learn and stuff like that. Do you have any questions for her?

Jose Belen: No. Actually, this has been very informative. We have been around for about six months. Mission Zero is an organization dedicated to helping veteran suicide. That was part of the initial invasion into Iraq in 2003. Since I was honorably discharged in 2005, I have been fighting PTSD and suicidal thoughts. Every 80 minutes, there is a veteran somewhere in America committing suicide. We are dedicated to making a difference. So Mission Zero hopefully one day will stop veteran suicides. We appreciate any support and like-minded individuals. Thank you.

Danna: So they took the advice that you are giving. They have been surrounding themselves with the people who can help them get this off the ground rather than trying to do it all themselves.

Hugh: Jess, you probably know more about me than I know about you, but I’m quite amazed at the synchronicity of what you are talking about. I will give it back to Russell. I hijacked his questioning here. But it’s the synchronicity of what you are talking about and what we teach at SynerVision. This whole culture piece is core to transformational leadership and how we empower leaders. Thank you for such a passion around this. Love it. So, Russell, remember the old age and mental condition? I will give it back to you.

Russell: Almost escaped without that. He loves that one. That is his trademark thing. I don’t know why. It’s not true. He likes it. He entertains himself with that story. He’s going to find out as he gets to spend more time with you and learn more about you how remarkable you are. We haven’t known each other very long, but I love what you’re doing. What you’re talking about is creating safe spaces and collaboration. Collaboration is something that I think people are slowly starting to get. It’s a really important piece of everything that we do. It’s about people. I just had a mastermind this morning with other business leaders who were talking to me about helping me and my business. It doesn’t matter how many people you meet. A lot of times, there is that little piece of us that resists. Talk to us a little bit about how you help businesspeople, nonprofit leaders, some of the tools that you use to help them face that inner resistance. That is the one thing an organization, it’s all about people. We have this built-in resistance. Part of it is to change and some other things. Talk a little bit how you equip people to deal with that resistance and what they should look for.

Jess: Such a loaded question. There are like 212 ways—that is when water boils—we could start this conversation. I think ultimately the point is that water will boil. If we resist long enough, we have no choice, just like water in a pan on a stove. It doesn’t matter how long you leave it there. It will eventually reach 212 degrees and boil. I feel like when, so tools.

Let’s talk about tools. A lot of the tools that we teach are soft skills. The reason we teach soft skills is because I can come up with a process just like all of the other processes out there. Some would be good, and some would not be as good as the other ones out there. We all work differently. When we all work differently, and we are thinking about how we do what we do, we don’t give ourselves grace. We resist what our own strength is and how we work.

We are going to go back and use me as an example. There were five people in my family, three kids and two adults. Every Sunday, we would sit at the dining room table after dinner and we would look at the whole next week. If it wasn’t on the calendar, it did not happen. It was the time to ask questions, get permission, do all of this stuff. I grew up with this time management concept. I grew up with this concept of, Okay, we know who the decision-maker is, the person who can drive. If it doesn’t fit in their calendar, it can’t work, so I have to make a really good case that my stuff is more important than my sister’s.

This happens in business. This same thing happens in business. We get together, whether we are using time management skills or not, it comes down to how persuasive are we, how passionate are we? Can we clearly communicate the beginning, middle, and end of an idea to move it forward? Some people use time. I am really good at time and time blocking, and ThinkTime is a part of that. I am also really adept, and the programs we teach around soft skills are also around time management because we can only scale so much. We can only scale so much with one person. Each person can only scale so much. The whole purpose of being in an organization is to be able to understand what is my purpose, how do I leverage my time? What is their purpose, and how do we leverage their time? Have a good time doing it. Enjoy being together. You mentioned the word “ collaboration.” I think collaboration fits in a lot of different ways here. We are talking about- By the way, everybody who thinks collaboration- I am going to stop what I was going to say and talk about collaboration.

I have a bad taste in my mouth when somebody says collaboration because I remember when, and we can all do this, I remember a time I was on a collaborative cross-functional team, and I did all the work. Now you know- You’re a driver. You’re going to do what it takes. Right? So we have to let that go. Those of us who feel that way, and other people are like, Ooh, collaboration. I give ideas, give ideas, give ideas, and I don’t have to do anything. Let me just be an idea machine. Well, that only works to a point, too. Then there are the people who will take different kinds of action and throw in what some of us would call kinks in the wheel, but they are trying to make it better. They are poking holes in it. Can we get this to a point where we are seamless, we have something that can stick that we all agree on? Those people are really necessary, too. When we embrace not everybody does well, not everybody thinks well, not everybody wants to be the devil’s advocate, then we get to go, “Hey, we need everybody.” We can do this in a different way. We can have a conversation. Collaboration starts with a conversation. What are we doing? What can our parts be? How can we move this forward together?

Hugh: Jess, you have opened up a lot of topics.

Jess: I know, right?

Hugh: You’re in here because Russell invited you. I have to work hard so I can keep up with him. He’s a smart dude. What I’m going to throw out here is I’d like to take a couple of these themes and come back around and dig into some of these themes a little deeper. You have a whole lot of stuff to unpack here. We are coming to the top of the hour for this particular show. I want to talk about the sponsor moment here that makes it possible and give you a chance to wrap people’s heads around some of the major themes you want to leave us with. Then we will let Russell close us out. Does that sound good to you guys? Russ has been really diligent in helping us pull this together today with a whole lot of technical issues.

*Sponsor message for Rock Paper Simple*

Jess, how would you like to wrap this up and leave folks with? What is a profound thought you want to leave people with before Russ closes out this great session?

Jess: All right, we just upped the ante. The most profound thought you want to leave us with, Hugh. There is no low bars here. Everybody, I have listened to a few of these in preparation for this conversation. Of course, I know Hugh, and I know Russ. There is no going back; there is only forward. I think that that’s really a key piece of what culture and what we’re talking about when we are talking about these elements of culture is that we are always moving forward. We can embrace it. We can resist it. Either way, it’s coming. We can make it more fun. We can make it more effective, and we can serve more people when we get out of our own way and we recognize our own self and how we can show up and invite others to continue to join our party.

Russell: Great stuff. In conversation with what’s happening with anything that I touch has to start in the mirror. That is the X factor. That is the one thing I can actually do something about. The willingness to actually look at where we are as individuals energetically makes a big difference. We can find some compassion for ourselves in there and in other people and put ourselves in their shoes and say, “How can we create an experience? How can we get to the larger point? What are the things we need to put on the shelf to make this thing work the way it is built to work?” That is really where it starts.

Jess, as always, it’s been a pleasure. Danna, Hugh, all of our friends down at CEO Space, the July forum, wonderful organization. Being a part of that has changed my life. I have a contact in veteran suicide that is actually somebody that has been in Texas shining the spotlight on it. His primary thing is to get their stories captured. We will cycle back around and talk about that again.

In the meantime, I’d like to thank all of our listeners out there every week who join us here at The Nonprofit Exchange. We got a really good guest next week. He is going to be talking about conversations. He has an incredible tool that can help us look at the way we have conversations on a personal and professional level. You don’t want to miss this because he has got a brilliant tool called Conversations. Join us next week for that. Hugh.

Hugh: Thank you, Russ. Thank you, Jess. It’s been a great session. Thank you so much.

Using An Effective Integrated Marketing Communication Mix In Nonprofit Organizations

Jul 9, 2018 58:58


Using An Effective Integrated Marketing Communication Mix In Nonprofit Organizations

Clark Greer is the founder of Clark Greer Communications, LLC, a consulting firm that focuses on assisting nonprofit organizations with marketing communications and public relations. He holds a Master’s Degree in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Southern California, and a doctorate in Communication Studies from Bowling Green State University. Clark’s full-time job for the past 20 years has been as a communication professor specializing in public relations, strategic communication, TV news, and communication research. In addition, he and research colleagues have published nearly 20 studies in academic journals, and have presented more than two dozen papers at research conferences.

Sarah Quarantotto: The Story of Miriam's House

Jul 2, 2018 53:05


Sarah Quarantotto: The Story of Miriam's House - Ending the Cycle of Homelessness

Sarah Quarantotto joined Miriam’s House in 2010, after working for a number of years in the Lynchburg area with local social service and mental health agencies.  She has immensely appreciated the opportunity to lead an organization with such a rich history of empowering families and individuals made vulnerable by homelessness.  She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a Master of Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University.  When not working to end homelessness, Sarah is spending time with her husband, Jeremiah, and their two children exploring the outdoors and beauty of Central Virginia.

Bill Bodine: Keys to Grant Application Success

Jun 24, 2018 58:09


Bill Bodine is a graduate of the soon to be University of Lynchburg with both undergraduate and graduate degrees there.  Much of his career was spent in healthcare, but he is now the President and CEO of the Greater Lynchburg Community Foundation, which was formed in 1972 and last year provided grants to local nonprofits and scholarships totaling just under $1.7 million.

Cracking the Focus Code with James Burgess

Jun 19, 2018 57:52


Cracking the Focus Code to Prevent Chaos

James is Author, Speaker, Business Planning Strategist and Business Management Consultant, providing real and permanent solutions to business planning challenges through programs creating radical focus and accountability


Transcript of the Interview with James Burgess

Hugh Ballou: Greetings, this is Hugh Ballou and Russell David Dennis. Russell, how are you today?

Russell Dennis:Greetings and salutations. It’s a beautiful day here out in the mountain west.

Hugh: And in Virginia, it’s lovely. Our guest is from the Toronto, Canada area. Lovely place. I just love Toronto. It’s like a clean New York City. It’s got all of the great stuff, and it’s clean. It’s got great people there. I love going north of the border. Russell, why don’t you tell people who our guest is and what his sweet spot is? He is going to introduce himself.

Russell: Greetings. Today, we have a real treat. We have imported some brilliance from our neighbors to the north up in Canada. We have James Burgess, founder of Focus 31. He is a master business strategist who works with small companies, from start-ups to under $25 million in revenue, who tries to help them get out of their own way by focusing on the right things, creating the right systems. He has done all sorts of work with both businesses, profit-making businesses, not-for-profit entities and is well known throughout the Canada. Many associations he has made presentations to. James, welcome. Why don’t you tell our friends on Facebook a little bit about yourself?

James: Thank you, gentlemen. It is absolutely delightful to be with you this afternoon or this morning, depending on how far west your audience reaches. I would like to start before I introduce myself to dispel rumors that Canadians all live in igloos. It is equally gorgeous without the thin air that Denver has. It is about 77 degrees, clear, blue skies, and we are headed probably for about 82 by the weekend. Yes, I live in a house as you can see by the walls behind me. I say that all in fun. But every time I get to educate on what Canada is all about, I take the opportunity.

It’s a pleasure to meet all of your listeners, virtually of course. My name is James Burgess. I am a speaker. I am the author of the international best-selling book Chaos: How Business Leaders Can Master the Power of Focus. I’ll give everyone an opportunity to get a free copy of this book at the end of the podcast, so stay on. I am the founder of Focus 31, a business that sells a service that no business owner wants, and yet we do it extremely successfully. Every business owner I sit down with or passes the table where my book is sitting says, “Yep, this is me. My business is in chaos, and I need focus.” Whenever they say “focus,” I know what they also need to be saying is I need accountability. That is entirely what Focus 31 does. I act, or my team acts as virtual CEOs for small businesses, as you indicated, from start-up to up to $25 million in revenue. In the past, we have worked often with not-for-profits to get them understanding just what it is they want to do, where they want to get to, how they are going to get there, and hold their feet to the fire, not in Tony Robbins’ way, but holding their feet to the fire to ensure they in fact act and implement their game plan that will get them to that new platform of success.

Russell: Brilliant. I have to get you guys up here to huff some of this thin air. It will keep you laughing and smiling. You talked about focus. You work not only with business leaders, but in nonprofits. What are some of the ways that a lack of focus has held nonprofits and businesses back that you have observed?

James: Great question. I will share with everybody that I do speak at extremes to make a point. Something is never as bad as I make it sound, but neither is it as good as I may make it sound. The majority of businesses or nonprofits are right down the middle, but I do make a point by exaggerating my point. I will start with that as my premise with everything I say here today.

What is the impact of chaos on nonprofits? I have to believe that typically if they aren’t clearly in control of their organization, if they don’t have a clear understanding of where they want to get to and how they’re going to get there and have a system in place to actually and act on the game plan, then they go nowhere. They remain stuck. They don’t build more contribution or revenues, however you want to refer to it. They’re not able to serve their clientele more than they did yesterday. Typically, there is a lot of disappointment within the organization, wondering why, why is this happening, what is it about what we’re doing that isn’t getting us what we want to do? There’s lofty goals, but the thing is, I meet a lot of, especially in the small business, I meet a lot of coaches and naturopathic doctors. They hold the same kind of mindset that nonprofits do. We don’t want to talk about money. We want to save- I’m exaggerating. We want to save the world. That’s all well and good, but at the end of the day, Bill Gates can save the world far better than the rest of us can because he got focused on money first, made incredible strides in building an incredible company so that now he has the financial resources to give it all away where he chooses to. The nonprofits I have spoken to, and I have done it a number of times, when I get in front of them, and I start talking about setting a set of objectives, financial targets for the year, I just feel the shudder, the absolute shudder in the room because nobody wants to talk about getting money. But at the end of the day, it’s the money that allows you to expand your services and to serve more people. You have to get down to understanding that businesses are successful because at the core, yes, customers and employees, but we serve our customers and pay our employees better when we are earning revenue, not when we are thinking about saving the world. With all love and affection for every single nonprofit association that is out there.

Russell:Saving the world costs a little bit of money. It takes an investment. Our good friend Dr. David Gruder, Hugh’s twin out on the West Coast, talks a lot about our relationships with money. You worked with countless business owners and nonprofit leaders. What are some of the most common features that you find with their relationships with money when you start a conversation with them?

James: The core of our system to get focused and accountable is as I said something no business owner or nonprofit wants. That’s a business plan. Everybody starts walking out of the room when I start talking about business planning. The really cool thing about our system is it’s not 25 pages. It won’t cost you $25,000 to create a marketing document to share with your constituency. It’s to celebrate what you did well and a couple of pages to show financial results and talk about strategy upon strategy that takes five pages each to express a single strategy. Our system for business planning is really easy. It’s really fast. Therefore, it makes it practical for the managing directors to actually put into use day in and day out. We write strategies not in five pages, but in 100 characters. We write a strategy in less content than it takes a tweet, if you can believe that. An entire strategy in less than 100 characters. It’s phenomenal, and it gets you tight on what you are proposing to do and how you are going to do it. It gives you something you can actually implement. In that background, I apologize because I lost sight of the actual full question that you had for me. If you won’t mind repeating it for me.

Russell:A lot of nonprofit leaders and business executives come in, and they have a relationship with money that is not the best. What is the typical type of relationship with the average person that comes to talk to you, whether it’s a for-profit leader or nonprofit leader, what are you finding that their relationship with money is, when they walk through your door for the first time?

James: I guess in quotations, it’s a “necessary evil.” Again, just because of the mindset, this overwhelming desire to serve more people, which I think is absolutely fantastic. Until you connect with where the money is coming from, how you are spending it, what your marketing plan is, every business has a marketing plan, it may be social media, it may be print, it may be site, whatever it is, it has to be linked and consistent. You have to be prepared to spend money on the resources to make money. Businesses have a hard time to understand to spend money to make money. Nonprofits is tenfold that much more difficult to understand that I will get more contribution by spending money on making sure people know who we are and where we are. If you’re not investing in the systems needed for a strong marketing implementation, then your business is effectively a billboard in the middle of the desert beside a gas station that has been closed down for 100 years and nobody is going past you. They don’t know you exist. Again, I exaggerate to make a point that obviously your nonprofits are operational, they have clients, they have contributors, but we have to be focused in on day after day, week after week after week, how are we going to get more contributions and more contributors? How are we going to use those funds cost-effectively to draw in more people that we can serve with those monies? It’s generally a failure to connect with what’s needed to move the business forward instead of remaining in the status quo. If you remain in status quo, you’re already in decline, you just don’t know it. Businesses and nonprofits cannot stand still. You must be moving forward every single week, developing new ideas, implementing, testing, measuring, determining what’s working. If you’re standing still, thinking everything’s okay, you’re wrong. You’re already losing market share. You just don’t know it yet because it hasn't showed up.

Russell: It takes planning to come up with money. It takes planning to figure out how to deliver those services. I have a feeling about it, but I was wondering what your feeling is. Is there a natural resistance to planning? What are the top three reasons for that resistance?

James: Absolutely. As I said, we sell something nobody wants. The school system does not teach us about starting a business. Colleges don’t do much of a job around entrepreneurship; universities, definitely not. At the end of the day, it’s the school of hard knocks as we are all very familiar with as entrepreneurs. The same applies for nonprofits. Managing directors have grown up in the education system that doesn’t talk about how I grow my business. Along the way somehow we get influenced by the people around us. I’ll call them the ninjas in our lives. Professional or otherwise. You start talking about a business plan. Somebody will tell you it takes too long. Somebody will tell you it costs too much. Somebody will tell you that you will never implement it, don’t bother. For nonprofits, I’ll suggest to you that for the managing directors, the executive board, the board of directors will dump all their ideas on you at an annual convention, expect you to go do something without giving you any more resources to implement with. Here is my answer.

It doesn’t take too long. Is ten hours to get your initial business plan done, plus 30 minutes once a month, and another 45 minutes once a quarter, but don’t add in the 30 because that quarter is also a month, so it’s just 45 minutes, and annually, an hour. Is that too much time to invest in the future by conquering the chaos and getting focused and accountable on what has to happen. Is that too much time to spend, to lay out the future of your organization? I’ll suggest to you it isn’t.

At Focus 31 last year, planning for 2018, it took me 25.4 minutes to do our annual business plan. Why? Because I keep it current all the time. 25.4 minutes. I kid you not. Ours is a very involved business plan. No more or less involved than a nonprofit’s would be. I think that’s time worth investing in your organization.

Hugh: James? We get that all the time. I don’t have time to do this, so I say, “Wait a minute.” In nonprofits, we have a board of directors. Theoretically, those are important people. I say, “You have time to bring all these important people together and waste their time, and you have time to go back and do it over again. You have time to waste money and spin your wheels.” Really it’s about thinking about process. I was a musical conductor for 40 years. We wouldn’t dream of stepping on a podium without a score. We have different documents. At SynerVision, a business plan is exactly what you said. It’s a financial document for an investor or a grant. Strategy, it’s how we’re going to implement. That’s our music. We are constantly amazed that people don’t have either. That’s a real big. There are objections, which is a request for information. We give them information. Then there is excuses. How many times do you run across those who have excuses, and people are so ingrained they don’t want to change?

James: Sorry, was that a question?

Hugh: Yeah. Do you find people use excuses? Usually an objection is something you can answer like a question. But an excuse, what do you do?

James: The key to a successful nonprofit is a clear joining of understanding between a managing director (I am using this term as the typical title of the operational leader of a nonprofit) and the board. You said something interesting, and I want to touch on it first before I answer this. You said the business plan is for grants and investors. That is exactly the kind of plan I think puts organizations in jeopardy because they will cost $25,000. They will be 50 pages long. They will be very colorful. They will tell a wonderful story, but they don’t give the managing director anything to do day in and day out to advance the organization. The planning process I was speaking about earlier is an operational business plan. Sure, take that five-year vision. Let’s make it three years because we want to be emotionally connected to the outcome we want to create  and operationalize the ideas the board has given us to move forward on. But the issue with implementing the business plan between the board and the managing director is the board has lots of ideas, and the managing director has no additional resources. Their head, not intentionally, is like an ostrich buried in the sand dealing with the day-to-day working in the nonprofit, never on the nonprofit. Where a decision is made to work on a business plan together as a board and a managing director, there has to be a strategic approach to it. We have these great ideas. Let’s get them tabled out. But then ask the question, How do we help Jack or Susan implement this? What resources do we reasonably need, or what can the board do by committee to take some of the workload off so the plan can in fact be implemented? If you change nothing, I don’t believe it’s because the managing director doesn’t want to move the business forward, I just believe they can’t without resources to get them out of the business and every single week spend a little bit of time working on the nonprofit.

Hugh: That’s a huge sound bite, Russ. Hey, Russ, are you hearing his vowels? We hear the Canadian.

James: I thought you guys were distinctive.

Hugh: We are. We say y’all, but there is a bunch of y’all, we say all y’all.

We spend a lot of time with our tribe educating people. We have developed in SynerVision, just to your point, what you do is brilliant. I want to clarify for people. We spend a lot of time clarifying strategy. What we have in SynerVision is what we call a solution map. We do have it on one page. We are not as efficient as you are, but we summarize it in one page. It’s a road map for where you are going to go. We do have people who write business plans that have no tactical part to them. Yours has a strategic part to it. I want to make a distinction that we are on the same page. Don’t get confused by words. That’s why we did solution map. Sometimes nonprofit leaders say, “That’s a business thing. It will inhibit my creativity.” We say, No, your strategy is your container for your creativity. Now you can fully access it. We are on the same page. I want to get some terms out that people don’t get confused and think we are preaching two sides. We create a road map to go forward. That’s what I hear you saying.

James: Effectively, I like the idea of road map, a journey. If I want to get from Toronto to Denver, I am going to take the highways because they’re faster. A vision statement, in a business plan, our approach is the vision statement is defining the destination. I want to get to Denver. I want to get to Denver because I want to go skiing, and I want to experience the lifestyle of the thin air and laughing more than I laugh now. That is my destination three years from now.

The mission statement defines the guard rails on those highways. It keeps me true to running my business the way I said I would run my business, the way I committed, and the way I communicate running my business to my clients.

The objectives are the mile markers along the way. The signs that say I have 4,222 miles to go until I get to Denver.” The next one, I have 4,000 miles until I get to Denver. The targets are the mile markers on that highway.

The strategies define the infrastructure of that highway. The strength to carry the business. The smoother the highway is, with less bumps, the faster and safer with less hiccups we are going to be able to get to Denver by.

The action plans are the decisions for braking and accelerating and steering that we do to implement getting us through those mile markers, measuring our success against the time it’s taken to get us to Denver. I thank you for using the road map. We actually look at it as the journey in terms of how each part of the business plan is on the highway.

Hugh: Regardless of what our wives say, men occasionally do use maps.

James: Absolutely.

Russell: It’s even scarier when we actually stop and ask for directions.

James: Just not with them in the car with us.

Hugh: Before I give Russell back the interview I just hijacked from him, talk a minute. We are talking around this, but SynerVision is about equipping leaders. What you’re talking about is a leader making an effective decision to raise the whole capacity of the whole team. We talk about capacity-building in nonprofits as generating the ability to do what you want to do in a more efficient way. This is a very clear leadership choice is to have somebody like you come in and work with me because I’m really good at what I do, but I’m not really good at creating the map. So speak about what’s the challenge you see of leadership, and what’s the benefit of a leader stepping up to this trough and doing it?

James: Awareness. In one word, it’s awareness. You have to be aware. The leader needs to be aware that something is broken. Then decide that they are in enough pain to care that something is broken and have the awareness that where they want to get to isn’t where it is now. They are so stuck in the quicksand and drowning with the spouse ready to leave, and the kids not getting the attention they should get.

I had a client just two weeks ago. We found each other on LinkedIn. I sent him a copy of my downloadable version of my book. He operates a $20 million home renovation business. He started it from start-up. You can well imagine somebody from a start-up to $25 million has probably had to make some crazy decisions along the way because of the absence of knowledge on how to move from 0 to $5 million or $5 million to $10, but to go all the way to $25 million, man, his head has to be hurting from hitting that glass ceiling so many times because he was guessing at what he should do next. And we had a 30-minute discussion about it all. He had the awareness. It was broken. He had the awareness he was in pain. He gets into the hospital every two weeks with anxiety attacks because of cash flow, personnel issues, and he said, “I had no idea somebody like you was out there that could be my virtual CEO and just plain give me somebody else to talk to to make me feel good about what I am doing, but kick me in the butt and get me moving on things that I don’t know how to do properly.” He came to the awareness.

By the way, I will share it. Please do not take this as a sexist comment, ladies. You are brilliant. You’re nurturing. Your family responsibility, as business leaders, you will own the world because you accept far more readily than men do what is broken and understand you need resources around you. You have spent your life keeping family resources and networking resources close to you. When you are in business, you draw the right people in. Men have got the stupid hormone. It’s called testosterone. It’s the No hormone. It’s the “I am not in pain” hormone. It’s the “I am fine just the way I am” hormone. It’s the nonsense hormone. So men have got to- We’re losing it. We’re losing ground if we don’t come to terms with the fact that we know what we know, and we may know a couple of other things. We have our core capabilities, but that is not enough to move a business from $5-$25 million. You have to have help to do that, especially if you want to franchise like my client wants to do. Nonprofit, same thing. The women get it much better than we do that resources are needed to help support them being stronger. The guys will spin and spin and spin and they will finally get it, but imagine getting it sooner how much more effective the nonprofit could be.

Russell: I think more women leaders in nonprofit circles would be helpful. A lot of what you’re talking about is just wiring. We guys are like make a list, 1, 2, 3, 4, get it done, get it done, get it done, get it done. Women work around building relationships. They understand that relationships are valuable. Whatever you’re doing. We do one thing at a time. We can’t seem to focus on more than one thing at  a time. There’s just that difference in style. Women in general are better listeners, too.

James: Absolutely.

Russell: Those are really pluses in leadership. Good leaders listen. There is a leader that we come across. They are brilliant in every way, male or female, but you run into some situations where people approach you and say, “I need better results” and start talking about some of their problems. They just don’t connect the dots. There are some things within them that for some reason they just don’t seem to want to entertain change. How do you approach a leader that is actually in his or her own way so to speak when they are lining out these problems? That may be clear to you there is something they may or may not be doing. How do you approach them when they are laying things out and they don’t actually see it?

James: I’ll share that some of my other training I don’t rely on often, but it fits so well because it came into my head. I am also a master practitioner of neurolinguistic programming, hypnotherapy, timeline therapy, and that kind of thing. There are, in very general terms, two kinds of people: those who are in cause and those who are in effect. Those who are in effect are the ones who blame everything around them about why they can’t be successful. People in cause go out and recognize their responsibility, they take action, they’ll fix anything they want to fix. When I’m on stage, I don’t speak in those terms. I talk about being a business warrior. The difference between a warrior, and I am not talking currently, I have all the respect for Canadian and U.S. military and the job soldiers have to do, but there is a difference between a soldier and a warrior in ancient Seng-Zu’s time frame. There is a big difference. I talk in my seminars about the difference.

The answers are the warrior is leading. The warrior knows what the objective is and will give up nothing to get to that objective or frankly die trying. They are prepared to think through moves necessary to get to the objective and be flexible. If you think about a warrior, they welcome barriers and challenges because every barrier they break down, they will go over, go under, go around, or go straight through means they have moved that much closer to the objective. They say bring on another barrier, and I will overcome that one as well. They are ready for the next and the next. It’s the passion for what you’re doing, the passion for the journey or the objective at the end of the journey that is needed in business leaders to say, “I don’t give a rat’s ass quite frankly about barriers. I want them because it means I’m growing and I am improving and managing my business better, giving it longevity and giving it a destination to get to.”

People in effect don’t have the passion for change. They don’t have the passion for barriers. They are squeamish at barriers. They want somebody else to break it down, to answer how I do this. Give them all the answers. These are employment decisions that have to be carefully considered because involuntarily your team can come to a grinding halt if you haven’t got the passion at the top of the house to just say, “Give me anything. Put anything you want in front of me.”

The Washington Capitals, holy cow. The Vegas Knights. Who would have expected those teams to play in the National Hockey League Stanley Cup, leaving all the Canadian teams completely out of the ball game? Changing sports there. What did they do? They said, “Come hell or high water, they are going to win,” and they did. They came back against incredible odds. It was an amazing series of games. Washington played brilliantly as if their lives depended upon it. When we take that approach in business, nothing can stop us.

Russell: And that really starts with us and knowing that we can do it and making why and what so important that nothing stops us. One of the things that the foundation of a lot of the workshops that we do is Hugh’s Transformational Leader Accelerator, which was something that is the foundation of the work that we do. Transformational leaders do all of those things that you’re talking about. They are so focused on the prize, they will just get in there. But the thing is they know they don’t have to do everything themselves. They build exceptional teams around them to lift themselves up. That is a really key feature. There are a lot of leaders that sometimes get in their own way. They are not taking advantage of all the brilliance that is around them. It blocks their productivity and everything that they do. A lot rests with the leaders. That is why that emphasis is there with all of the leaders coming together and driving that common vision. But you get people around them, the tools that they need. It’s all about growing. To do more, we have to become more. It’s simple mathematics. A lot of people get stuck. Stuck is a very common word, but stuck means different things to different people. That could be around productivity. It could be around where you are. How would you define stuck, and what are some of the most common ways that you see that show up with the nonprofit and even the business leaders that you work with?

James: Another terrific question. How best to answer it. I sat on our local Chamber of Commerce board for a number of years. And I was the committee head of our business excellence award, which was the most powerful evening of fundraising that the chamber had. So I have the experience of being on the inside as well as on the outside looking in. The biggest stuck that I think I, the best way of putting it is I can’t, it’s too big to change, there isn’t enough money to change it, and I don’t have, the organization doesn’t have enough time to make the changes nor the innovation of ideas in its circle of influence so why bother? I’ve got a job. I’ll be in this job. I love the constituents that I serve. I love them. I will love whoever we can pull in here, and I will take as much money as I can. But I just don’t see how to change, and therefore, I don’t understand why I should change.

Russell: That’s quite a place to be. A lot of people are in that. That sort of thought process comes to mind because I have been involved with organizations. I was in one of my old jobs with the Rooster Band of Knick Knacks. We work with the communities around us. I was on some regional planning boards which covered the whole northern half of the state. People would sit down. You’d get these types of efforts that as groups and as individual organizations alone, all we have another planning process or a visioning. Half the eyeballs in the room roll up into people’s heads. Oh, here we go again. We did this three years ago, and nothing changed. Why do you think that nonprofits and other organizations that take the time to do these plans struggle to implement them?

James: Really good. I am collecting my thoughts on this. The challenge every organization faces, and this goes from start-up to multi-nationals and includes every organization imaginable, the planning process becomes a brain dump. I’m sure many of your listeners annually have a gathering of the minds. Call it what you will. A convention, a planning session, a strategic meeting. Anybody in the circle of influence is welcome to come in, and they plop. I use the word “plop” because it is the sound these ideas make, a plopping sound on the board table because there is nothing to go with it. Everybody brain dumps, plops it down, and they leave, and it’s the director’s responsibility to take a scraper, pull all that plop off the table, and figure out what to do with it. There are some great ideas in here. Boy, I wish I knew to go about doing them. I wonder who is going to help me get the resources so I can dedicate just an hour a week to get some of this going forward, but I don’t know where that hour is coming from.

We have to learn that business planning is a strategy unto itself. Don’t start with it as a tactic. We need a business plan. “I heard James Burgess speak on this podcast, and he said everybody has a business plan. He said it’s easy and fast.” Even the fast and easy business plan that sits on the Internet or in the cloud or on a piece of paper or in the credenza as a 25-page document that doesn’t get enacted is a complete and total waste of time and energy and resources. Don’t do it. Save the money, invest it in your constituents, and give them the money for the programs that you have rather than invest in a business plan.

When you think about it strategically, you talk not just about having the plan, but what are we going to do about it, and how do we make sure it stays alive? That is my program of weekly holding my clients accountable to do the work necessary by giving them that high level of responsibility to plan out their week. Knowing that I am watching what they are going to be planning out to do and giving them weekly feedback elevates the responsibility to actually do it so we have something to celebrate the next week far more powerful, and work starts to get done. A three-year vision is nothing more than 156 weeks of a little bit of work on the business. But if it’s just a brain dump and a plop, hey, great ideas, who’s doing something with it?

Is that committee going to do it? No. Committees don’t do work. What are you talking about? It’s all on you, dude. You can’t take that approach. The team starts with the chairman of the board and goes down to the volunteers. You gotta link them all together. When you don’t, then your organization will begin to create this perspective. You’ve heard this all in corporate and in nonprofits. The CEO says something or the senior executive and the staff say, “Oh, don’t worry about that. Wait 30 days. It will go away. It won’t matter.” We as leaders create that environment of employees just saying, “That’s not going to last. They will stop focus with the next kneejerk reaction.” You can’t do that. You have to have the strategy and the intensity to stay on the important decisions that you’re making.

Russell: At SynerVision, we lay out a road map that really empowers the leaders to do just that and to create responsibilities and accountabilities where everybody inputs to the plan and takes some ownership in it. I would say that with these plans, even in a common situation when somebody says, “Okay, things are not really going very well,” it takes some courage to step up and say, “We need to do something different. This is not working well.” It takes courage to do that. But going from that to actually getting a working plan that is implemented and shared is another matter. That is what the WayFinder process that we use at SynerVision is designed to eliminate and to help with. That is very important.

James: There are very powerful organizations out there that have been quoted by a ton of speakers from the stage, motivational speakers, that say within the organization, decisions are based not on, “No, it can’t be done,” but rather how will it be done. We may not have the answer today, but let’s ask the first question: What would be our first next step if we think this is important? And start to work at things that way, rather than saying no. Well, yes, this is important, so what’s our first next step? What’s our first next step after that? Then you really start to create incredible momentum and momentum in the staff, in the leadership team, and lo and behold, these are companies that are blowing the roof off of financial results. The Dow Jones recognizes their success. Huh, big surprise. Right. You gotta move away from the No and move into the Yes, but how?

Russell: It is the possibility thinking when you build that around. I like to think of myself to be a possibility engineer and keep asking questions. A lot of people get stuck in thinking, “It’s always been this way. We can’t really change it.” A good question to ask is, “Okay, if I believe what it is that I want to try to do is possible, what is the next thing I would do in this very instance?” Keeping that type of thought process flowing. It’s an internal job, and I think there are a lot of things internally, which is why the Transformational Leader Accelerator is so important. The more of these principles that are incorporated to open the leader’s thinking is something the leader passes on to the team. It’s getting into that possibility thinking. People that think they are enlightened enough to create a plan have a knowledge inside them somewhere that they have enough brilliance on their team to come up with something. There is lots of brilliance under that roof. If somebody has been sitting there for years and they have made suggestion after suggestion, nothing was done with it or they weren’t encouraged to own the process, they just start to say, “I am going to sit back here, relax, and get my paycheck. Hope it doesn’t bounce.”

James: Have my bagel and cream cheese. Exactly.

Russell: I gotta have my bagel and cream cheese with my coffee in the morning. Productivity suffers. All sorts of things suffer. Chaos ensues. In your experience, what are some of the signs that chaos is crippling the nonprofits in what they’re doing?

James: I think the very first and obvious one is contributions, revenue aren’t growing. If you’re a nonprofit supporting an orchestra and shows of some sort or a theater, the first sign that things are broken is you set financial goals, you apply a marketing plan, and it’s moving in the wrong direction or it’s simply stagnating. That is the first indication that something is wrong.

I certainly see this next one in larger organizations: a revolving door on employees. I had a client say to me, “I don’t understand. The longest-standing employee I have is 25 years, but she is 65 and retiring next year, and she has always been just an administrator. All of my key people are under 18 months employed with me. What’s their problem?” I said, “Hang on a second. You just went into effect, dude. You’re not in cause. In effect, you say it’s their problem. In cause, you say, No, you’re the one who thought you needed the role. You’re the one who, oh, wait, didn’t define a job description for them. You’re the one who posted a job for them but didn’t consider the attributes or the skills needed for the job; you simply went out in the street and shook somebody’s hand and brought them in. You didn’t have an orientation program. You didn’t pay the market rate. You haven’t supported them. You haven’t coached them. Whose fault is this again? Help me understand.” Those are two areas, certainly revenue and employee satisfaction.

The third one will always be customer satisfaction. If you are not serving your customers or the people you serve, you have no idea whether or not you are gaining more or losing them, whether they are satisfied or not. There are good ways to survey and bad ways. I’d be happy to talk to anybody listening about what I think are the right ways to survey. You need to have an understanding about where your customers are at. Customers don’t drive revenue. Employee satisfaction drives customer satisfaction drives revenue. All three have to be going. One will only be in sync when the other two are completely aligned with each other. When you don’t understand that connection and innovatively work at strategies to improve employee satisfaction and understanding the customer and making sure that how your employees are improving is fitting with what your customers want from them. Typically, we just look at services and our product, but let’s look at who is delivering them and how they are delivering it. Get that linkage between employee and client and then our revenues will improve.

Hugh: James? That is so key. That is so key. Our customers are our donors. Sometimes, people come to our events. The orchestra, the constituents pay for tickets and attend concerts. That is a big piece. I am going to give you a chance to have the last word in this interview. Russell has done a great job of grilling you. I was hoping he would stump you with something really tough and make you sweat. Not only are you a master of your content, but you are really good at the analogies and teaching people about the concepts. I find that to be extremely helpful. This is really timeless content. You are going to have an offer about your Chaosbook and some other things. I have been thinking and making notes for myself. This is really useful stuff. Thank you for being here.

The pieces that you’re talking about today, I believe, are key components for employee and volunteer and board engagement. People know what to do and when to do it.

We are going to give you the last word. You are graciously giving us that Chaos book. And what’s a closing tip before Russell closes this off?

James: Sure. Thank you so much for including me in this podcast. In my enthusiasm, I regrettably tend to speak very negatively about what’s wrong. The good news is the resources I have for you today, because I couldn’t speak long enough about what the resources are to resolve the issues, I have them all for you. My book Chaos: How Business Leaders Can Master the Power of Focus, I want to offer all of you a free downloadable version. Please get a pen and paper out. The website is It’s free. It’s not a free registration. The book is free to be clear. In this book, I give you all the answers about how to do a business plan fast and easily. We talked a bit about one of the confusions within the nonprofits is the power of delegation. There is a chapter on delegation. There are chapters on mindset, measurement, accountability, and chapter eight is the powerful one. It’s a workbook style. Mark it up. Make the most use of it.

You can send me an email at I’ll even send you a workbook that you can use along with the book to create your business plan easily, fast so that it’s sustainable and entirely relevant because it is easy, fast, and sustainable. Entirely relevant to your organization.

Better yet, we have a home study program. It is completely free. I give everything I can for free when it comes to business planning. You can go to our website and register for, again it’s not a free registration, like you sometimes see, but the program is free. What we do is we have a home study program. It’s seven modules. It’s delivered by way of 15 emails over a time sequence to give you time to work on each component of your business plan along with some additional resources that will enable your success. If you’d like to get that program, it’s called Focus Yourself. Get it at I apologize. I didn’t have time to set up a tiny URL for this call. I should have. You can register for Focus Yourself, and we will immediately start sending the content to you.

Hugh: James, good news. We will put this in the notes for the podcast. You have about two minutes. What is your closing wish, challenge, or tip for people?

James: This is so easy. I say this all the time. Get it down, then get it right. The typical reason business plans never get done is because you are looking to create the perfect plan. It doesn’t exist. Even with my help, the perfect plan will never exist because you will learn tomorrow, and you will learn again more about what to do tomorrow after that, and after that. Get it down, get it under way, and with each learning, improve upon it by making it the leading document that prescribes where you are going and how you’re going to get there.

Then I rely on the most powerful management consultant, not just that the world has ever known, but that the universe has ever known. In his words, no, there is no tribe, just do or do not. You will recognize that as being Yoda from Star Wars5. Stop trying. Remove “try” from your vocabulary. It’s a message to your unconscious mind that it’s okay to fail and to justify it in a way. Do it, or don’t do it. Make the choice. Not doing it is just fine. As Tony Robbins says, “That’s a decision unto itself.” I’d like to see everybody do it, register for the book, register for our home study program, but do things, don’t try to do things. Get your kids to stop using that stupid word because it is just so self-defeating. I love you all. It’s been an absolute pleasure. Russ, over to you, buddy. Thank you so much for meeting me on LinkedIn. It’s been a tremendous pleasure.

Russell: Well then, thank you again, James. Thank you very much for coming and tithing with us. We tithe our time, talent, and treasure. That is what nonprofit leaders do. We don’t have to do this by ourselves. There are people out here who help us do it. I know that you’re brilliant. We are in alignment on this type of thinking. Once again, thank you to all you nonprofit leaders who are out there on the front line making a difference every day. This is Russell Dennis and Hugh Ballou thanking James Burgess again, signing off for now. Do it. You don’t have to do it alone. Thank you again.

Collaboration and Authenticity

Jun 10, 2018 59:48


Collaboration and Authenticity in Nonprofit t Leadership

Interview with Scot McCarthy

May 29, 2018 58:19


Telling Your Nonprofit's Story

May 28, 2018 54:29


The Nonprofit Exchange 2018 Sessions Review

May 6, 2018 52:09


Hugh Ballou and Russell Dennis Review 2018 Quarter One Highlights for The Nonprofit Exchange.

Romal Tune: What Happens When Men Heal?

Apr 29, 2018 57:14


Romal Tune:
What Happens When Men Heal? The Impact of Life, Leadership, and Legacy!


Romal Tune is committed to this five-word sentence:

“Help the hurting find healing.”

He equips people to heal the wounds of their past, bravely

offering his own journey as a case study of raw transparency and refreshing honesty. Romal is dedicated to helping others overcome shame, self-doubt, and self-sabotage and discover a new path to wholeness. This commitment is rooted in the Belief

that whole people comprise communities that are economically viable, emotionally healthy, and socially responsible.

As a speaker, seminar leader and author, Romal guides audienceces to discover

and embrace their unique stories. He is a global leader who equips individuals,

organizations and institutions to recover from setbacks and achieve success by acknowledging the past embracing the future.

For more information go to

Coming from Personal Trauma to Success and Helping Other Succeed

Apr 22, 2018 58:15


Barry Shore: Coming from Personal Trauma to Success and Helping Other Succeed

Barry ShoreBarry Shoreis an ambassador of Joy.

Because of his successes in business and recovery from full body paralysis he has built an “Eco System of Good” internet platform that enables people to Give to their Favorite cause at No Cost.

Barry was an instructor in the Diamond Program at the GIA, an author of a world wide resource book on diamonds and an international wholesale diamantaire with sales exceeding 100 Million dollars.

After a brief retirement at age 33 he returned to business and built an international telephony company. From this grew an innovative process in 1999 that enabled faxes (sic) to be sent and received via email (think dial up) to 17 countries for FREE (!). Barry was awarded Two Patents in this space and built a stellar executive team. He then sold the Company 18 months later for more than $10 million dollars and the acquiring Company is today a $2 Billion market cap.

Then he built a predecessor to Skype (enabling people to call to 17 Counties for FREE) which was funded and then bought within 9 months by a NASDQ company.

Then on 17 September 2004 Barry became a quadriplegic  (paralyzed from his neck down!) overnight from a rare neurological disease (GBS).

His journey since to regain mobility caused him to GO MAD: Go Make a Difference.

He envisioned a Platform that enables People to GIVE Money to their Favorite CAUSE at NoCost to the Giver and attracted smart caring talented successful players to build the System.

He has been granted a Patent in the process and has found the Formula to Create the “ECO System of GOOD”: where Supporters, Brands, Causes All Participate for Mutual Benefit.

Barry’s Mission is to Make Everyday Giving Effortless and his Big Audacious  Goal is to facilitate the Giving of One Billion Dollars without costing any Giver a penny.

He is the Founder of the KEEP SMILING Movement ( which has distributed more than 1.2 MILLION KEEP SMILING Cards throughout the world in 27 languages.

He is the Founder of the MOL (minute of Love) Podcast produced 6X/week.

He has become an avid swimmer (2 miles/day/6x/week) and has accumulated enough miles over 9 years to swim from Venice CA (his home) to Shanghai, China.

Barry is focused on transforming the giving space.

More Information at

Here's the Transcript for the Interview


Hugh Ballou: Greetings, it’s Hugh Ballou again on The Nonprofit Exchange. As usual, we have quite an amazing guest today. This guest and I have met passively over the last ten years here and there, just touching base. Recently, a mutual friend connected us, and there was some real synergy. I got to hear Barry’s story again. We all have stories. Very few of us are as good as telling the story as Barry. Barry, today, instead of my normal routine of giving us a bio and telling why you do what you’re doing, I think we are going to build this conversation around your story and what you have created. I’ll tease people: it’s called Dlyted. We won’t tell them about it yet. Introduce yourself, Barry Shore. You’re in California. You take it from there. Tell them about yourself, and then let’s hear your story.

Barry Shore:  Thank you, Hugh Ballou, for being here, being who you are, and being a conduit for good and channeling. Here is my greeting to everybody out there listening. Hello, beautiful, bountiful beings, and good-looking people. How can I make the statement that they are good-looking, Hugh? I know the people who are listening and watching are always looking for the good.

Hugh: Outstanding.

Barry: The story about Barry Shore is a young, dynamic, debonair, 69-year-old chronological being. The 17thof September, in the year 2004, a mere 14 years ago, I was standing up in the morning just like everybody I hope, watching this Facebook live, and listening to our story. That was in the morning. In the evening, I was in the hospital, paralyzed from my neck down. I became a quadriplegic overnight, in a matter of hours, from a rare disease, not an auto accident, a rare disease called Guillain-Barre Syndrome, GBS, for the cognoscenti. I went from being a healthy, happy, wholly, hearty, dynamic 55-year-old who had been extremely successful in business, married 27 years to a wonderful wife, had a 17-year-old son (at the time), traveling around the world, came back to California for holidays, and now I am paralyzed from my neck down.

Here is a great part of the story. The other day, I saw my doctor who has been treating me for a number of years. He likes to recall every time we see each other, “Shore, I remember the first day you called me from the hospital. You said, ‘My name is Barry Shore. I am coming in to see you. All I can move is my mouth.’” Imagine that. In the morning, you’re up and doing, and in the evening, all you can move is your mouth.

I will give you the back of the baseball card statistics for the moment, Hugh. That’s how we live in this world, giving people ideas of some things. I am in the hospital for over four and a half months in various kinds of rehabilitation centers. I was in a hospital bed in my home for over two years. Couldn’t turn over by myself. I was in a wheelchair for four years. I had braces on both legs from my hips down to my ankles. Today, thank God, I am able to be vertical and ambulatory with the help of a six-and-a-half foot walking wand that was made for me by a zen master. But I still have help 12 hours a day, seven days a week, and I can’t walk up a stair by myself or a curb. But hear my voice. Feel the passion of life that flows through me because the good Lord has been so kind and giving to me that he activated in me something that enabled me to become a real giver.

Here is an example, Hugh. Before all this happened, I had built two Internet companies, one of which I sold for many millions of dollars, was doing very well. Of course, I am a giver. I am generous. I wrote checks. But it was all part of what you do. You help people. You write a check. That’s it. You think you’re a giver. That’s not what a giver is. A giver puts the other beings first. What can I do to be of benefit? It wasn’t part of my very soul. That was the genius and the benefit, what others call adversity. This test and a testament to the good Lord in being able to show me a path that I was able to go from complete, total paralysis to literally being able to now get out of bed, albeit with difficulty, and stand up, albeit with help, and to be positive about that, and to be thankful, and to turn that energy into a channel of goodness. That is the beginning of the story.

What I’d like to do as we speak is tell a few incidents along the way that helped me gain this insight.

Hugh: Sure. As you go on, some people are listening to this that have problems that pale in comparison, like me. I am listening to it trying to understand and learn about myself. What are the motivational factors? What inspired you to not give up to this disease that had a lock on your very body? This is fascinating. Please continue.

Barry: Thank you, Hugh. I truly hope that this is beneficial to people listening, and that we all recognize these great words: Never give up. I am living it. I am only here as a channel to be of benefit so that others can say, “If he can do it, I can do it.”

Let me give you two small incidents that I think may be of help. The first one occurred after I had been moved out of the ICU, where I had been for about 11 days. They put me in a telemetry unit. A telemetry unit is where nurses can watch you from monitors and such. I had this great run. I was a single occupant in a great hospital. Not moving anything of my body, I am just there. They had to set up something special on my bed just to bump my head because I couldn’t hit a call button. Here I am in bed in the telemetry unit. A nurse came in at midnight or so. I am not able to sleep because you are not moving a lot. They have to inject drugs in you to get you to sleep. The nurse said, “Mr. Shore, would you like to watch a movie? Maybe that will help put you to sleep.” I assented and chose a biography of Abraham Lincoln. Of course, we all know how that turns out. Not so good. Toward the end, I had tears in my eyes.

Imagine you are lying in bed with tears in your eyes. Everybody knows that tears are salty. They hurt. What do you do? You wipe them away, right? Well, I can’t move my hands. I can’t move my arms. I am new to this stuff. Nothing in my body is moving. I couldn’t move my head left or right enough to move the tears out, and the button that had been put up behind my head had been moved somehow. I couldn’t reach the nurse. Of course, I can’t just sit there because it hurts. I resolved, I am going to call out. I did. “Help! Help! Please!” My voice had been compromised also. I could barely speak. I resolved to count to ten and then call out again if the nurse doesn’t show up. I got to four, and the pain was too much. So I called out, and I mustered all of my strength, “Help! Nurse, please!” By the time I counted to four, the nurse was at the door. “Mr. Shore, did you call?” “Yes, my eyes!” She came over and saw there were tears in my eyes. She cleaned them and fixed the button behind my head. Looks at me and says, “Is that all?” “Yes, thank you.” I recognized then no one really knows the pain of another. She didn’t know how much it hurt. I couldn’t express myself. Thankfully, she came in and cleaned it up.

About a week later, I am being wheeled on a gurney from a test they had run on me. People picked me up, took me on the gurney, ran the test, and brought me back. There was a male nurse taking care of me. I had interacted with him three or four times over the past few days. Pleasant fellow. He looked down at me and asked, “Mr. Shore, can I ask you a personal question?” I said yes. He says, “I am a male nurse. I see people in your condition frequently. I have never met anybody who is not angry and bitter. You’re paralyzed. How come you’re not angry and bitter?” I realized he was asking me the great existential question: Why me? Why dear Lord did you do this to me? But I wasn’t thinking like that. I was asking the question: Why me in the sense of who am I? I am just a guy. What do you want from me, dear Lord? What can I do?

At that moment, Hugh, I reached deep inside of me, and I asked the good Lord, “Please help heal me. Please show me my purpose.” A wave of serenity and calm came over me that I had not known in 55 years. I was now determined with the good Lord’s help to walk again. That was a major turning point in my life.

Hugh: So nothing gets Barry Shore down. That was how many years ago?

Barry: That was in 2004, almost 14 years ago now.

Hugh: You had a very successful career before that.

Barry: Correct.

Hugh: You sold that enterprise, you said?

Barry: Yes.

Hugh: And then this condition- how do you say it?

Barry: Guillame-Barre syndrome. It is actually two French doctors, Guillame, which is the French for William, and the other doctor’s name was Barre, like Barry.

Hugh: I have known people in the past who have had that, who have come through it. It’s quite a traumatic experience. Today, you are in a different place than you were with your business. But you have focused on doing good for others. Is that right?

Barry: That’s correct.

Hugh: I looked at a website called- Spell it for us.

Barry: It is spelled D as in David, L as in Love, Y as in Yesterday, T as in Terrific, E as Enthusiastic, D as in Dynamic, I am Dlyted to be here.

Hugh: I can see that. What is Dlyted about, and what was the passion and inspiration behind you setting up- Dlyted is more than one thing. It’s more than one program, isn’t it?

Barry: Yes. Dlyted is an engine of philanthropy. Let me digress for just a moment because it gives the background as you want to hear. It’s very important. I was deeply affected by something that I learned from a great man called the Four P’s. Those four P’s are Purpose, Prayer, Perseverance, and Patience. Those four P’s have been active in my life. I was able through them to begin this process of healing, both in a spiritual and physical sense, and bring out through purpose and prayer, the great perseverance, which I will demonstrate in just a moment, and patience, this platform, which has a mission and a goal.

Let me tell you how it came about. It has to do with my wonderful wife. I would not be sitting here as strong and capable and handsome as I am, speaking with you, if it was not for my amazing, dedicated, fabulous wife, Naomi. It’s hard for me to speak without choking up, but I am going to try and do it.

I will just tell you a brief story as it deserves longer, but time is always of the essence. Released from the hospital about four and a half months later—they wouldn’t keep me there longer because insurance wouldn’t pay, and we had already racked up bills over half a million dollars—I was in the special hospital bed. When you are in the hospital, by the way, one of the more important things to be afraid and aware of is bed sores. They are debilitating. We had to get a special bed, which the insurance company didn’t want to do, but they were forced to because of circumstances. It is a special air mattress that allows the body to conform without the issue of bed sores. We brought this bed to our home.

While in the hospital, every night, you have to turn people over who are paralyzed because if you keep people in the same position, the body deteriorates. They have a team who goes around the hospital every two and a half to three hours, two people with back braces, usually strong people. Together, they turn the person onto the side, then the other, to give some sort of normality to your process in the hospital. This happened throughout the months I was in the hospital.

Now we come home. We had sufficient funds, so we were able to have help in the home 24 hours a day, seven days a week, except for one thing. My wonderful wife did not want people staying overnight in her home that she doesn’t know. She is very protective. We had help until 10 pm, and then help would come again at 7 am. But during the evening, she was going to take care of me, and she was in charge. Her home, her rules. Great.

One small situation, though. My wife is all of 97 pounds, 5’1”, very beautiful. Remember, I just told you in the hospital, you have to be turned over every 2.5/3 hours. Here I am, almost 6’. Because of my situation, I had been reduced from 195 pounds to 137. But still, 137 pounds, and she is all of 5’1” and 97 pounds. She said that she is going to turn me over. She did. Every two and a half hours, throughout the evening, two or three times a night, night in and night out, week in and week out, month in and month out, for two years, this amazing woman turned me. That is love.

I say this as a preface to the following incident. I mentioned also I was in a wheelchair for four years. Thank God we could afford it. I had a motorized wheelchair and a fancy Olympic-style wheelchair. Together, they cost almost $10,000. The lightweight wheelchair we needed because in addition to having private therapy, I also went to group therapy in the hospital. It’s important to be with other people who have situations and challenges when in a situation like this, just to be in comradery. At these situations in the hospital, I noticed not everybody could afford the kind of wheelchairs I had.

One day, I came home and was still back in bed. I said to my wife, “Honey, would you please find a place that helps people get wheelchairs? Let’s send them a check for $1,000 and help out.” She said okay. She left the room. I am feeling great. I am just a quad lying in bed, but I am feeling good. I just gave $1,000 to help people get wheelchairs.

About five minutes later, I called out, “This is dumb! This is dumb!” I didn’t raise my hands. I called it out. My wife comes running into the room and asks, “What’s the matter?” I said, “This is dumb. Just because I was moved and we can afford to write a check, why isn’t it that there are tens of thousands of people not giving money every single day to help out other people? Why not?” My wife said, “Hey, Mr. Shore, you’re smart. You build stuff on the Internet. Make it happen.” And she walked out of the room.

I am laying there. I said, “Okay. Dear Lord, why not? Please help me.” I had a few parameters. One was it has to be easy. If it’s not easy, Hugh, people don’t do it. Right, Russell? That’s number one. Number two is it has to be vast and almost fun. Imagine that. We put the fun back in fundraising. Number three, you’re going to love this one, it has to be free. What does that mean? I mentioned to you I already built two Internet companies, one of which I sold for many millions of dollars. Both of those companies were based on the free model. One was faxing for free, and the other was speaking for free. They were built on the ability to do something for free. How do you give money for free? Russell is scratching his bald head not understanding that. I think I believe you, Barry Shore. You’re a friend of Hugh’s, but what do you mean give money for free? Those were the parameters. I tried to go to sleep.

The next day, I was doing a lot of exercise. We had people coming to the house. I am still a quad. I have people moving my body around trying to get it to do things. Move your arm up, move your leg, do stuff like that. To this very day, I can’t wiggle my toes. I can’t move my feet up and down. I am able to get around. After a very exhausting therapy session, they put me back into bed. I am laying there, closing my eyes. My eyes pop open, and I see a vision. I see three circles intersecting like the circles from the Olympics or a Venn diagram. Not only that, but each circle was labeled, to show you how the good Lord works. It was a simple, elegant answer to the questions. If it is not simple and elegant, it doesn’t work. If it’s too hard, it doesn’t happen. The best problems are simple, not simplistic, but simple to solve.

The first circle was labeled “Mobile” or cell. About ten years ago, it was the first year of these things called Smartphones. Think back ten years. Just coming out. Well, hey, I am in the Internet, I am in the world. I realized this was not a trend or a fad. This is a complete disruption in human communications. Look what we are doing now, ten years later. This stuff did not exist. This is a change in the world.

The next circle was labeled “Gift cards.” You can’t walk into a store and not be assaulted by racks of these things. Those are plastic. What does it have to do with this? There was a line moving from the second circle to the first circle and an arrow labeled “Digital.” I got it! You hit a button on the iPhone and you say, “Give me $50 of Starbucks,” and it gets sent in seconds. Wow.

The third circle was the most important though. This is what is critical to all of us. The third circle was labeled “Cause.” Here is what gets really interesting. We know as adults that sometimes what isn’t said is almost as important as what is said. Didn't say “charity.” This is a pet peeve of mine. Bear with me. It wasn’t labeled “charity.” To me, a charity is the following. Someone has a hand out, and you put a dollar in that hand. The next thing, he goes into your pocket to get more. That is a charity. A cause is something I want to help. It’s attractive. What can I do?

I thought about these amazing beings called millennials and younger, the generation after them. Some of the most caring, giving people ever. At least they say so. We want clean water. We don’t want pets to die. We want to make sure everyone has shelter. We want to do all of these things. We, as a little bit older, and some of us have gray hair, and some of us even have hair, we recognize it all costs money. Watch this. Put these three circles together. You mean I can hit a button on my phone and order a brand I am going to shop at and love anyway, whether it’s Amazon, the Gap, TGIF, the movies, ordering pizza, hundreds of places. I hit a button, pay what I’m going to pay, and get the exact amount sent to me within seconds. Because I did that, and Barry Shore arranged it with the brand, some portion of that goes to the cause of my choice. You hear this? I am going to drink coffee, I am going to go out to eat, I am going to go to the movies, I am going to go shopping. Just because I do that, some portion goes here.

It has to be fast. It has to be easy. It should be fun. It doesn’t cost the giver a penny. Out of this came the two most important sentences I am going to say. A mission and a goal. Hugh, you mentioned to me you work with a lot of groups that are mission-oriented. It’s a mission to go out and spread the word of the Lord. It’s a mission to help people with food. It’s a mission to educate. We are a mission. We need a mission statement. Our mission is four words: Making everyday giving effortless. You like that? Making everyday giving effortless. That is the mission. What is the goal? The big, hairy, audacious goal: the facilitating of giving one billion dollars without costing any giver a penny.

Hugh: That’s quite amazing, Barry. That is the overarching framework for Dlyted. Is it operational?

Barry: Thank you for asking. Dlyted attracted great people in the Internet world and investors. We are here to transform philanthropy. Over the past three and a half years, we have built the platform that enables everything to happen that I told you about. I am happy to tell you that we function every day, and we help organizations all the time. We do all the heavy lifting. We build a landing page for a cause, whether it’s a church, a youth group, American Cancer Society. Now they will have their own page where when people come to that page and register, whenever they do their shopping through Dlyted, the money automatically goes to that cause. It is not going to 30 different causes. It goes to that cause. We are concerned about how people can make sure they have an attachment to and stay with their cause, their church, their group, their organization. It becomes fun. Yes, we are operational. We raise money. We have some great stories. People love it. Once they hear about it, think about this. Here is the biggest problem we face. Too good to be true. Am I right?

Hugh: Barry, speaking of that issue, let’s address that right away. There is money that goes to the charity from the purchase. Where does the money come from?

Barry: I will give you the simple economics. An Example is Gap. Everybody knows Gap. Millions of people shop there. We negotiated with Gap what we call on the highfalutin language arbitrage, which is the difference between the buy and sell price. When you walk into the store and you see those racks of gift cards, the store makes some money out of selling those. When somebody buys one of those, the store makes a percentage. That percentage, instead of going to the store, is going to be going to the cause. Let’s say a $100 gift card for Gap we are able to get at $90. $5 goes to the cause. It costs us 3.5% to process with a credit card. We get the $1.50 to keep the business going. Each brand has its own particular amount they are able to share with the cause. Instead of going to the store that sells it, it now goes to you.

Here is where it gets really exciting. I call this the four C’s. The four C’s are the following: Conscious Consumers. Whether you are talking about a 17-year-old who is fired up to change the world or an 87-year-old who understands it costs money to do things, these are conscious consumers. People who want to use their money and time well. I care about what I eat, and I care about who I shop with and buy from. Those are conscious consumers.

 The next C is Conscious Capitalists. I am proud to say that more and more people who run businesses are becoming aware that capitalism is not a dirty word. It is the word that will enable all of us to raise up this great world if we recognize that living together and not squeezing profit is the best way to live. You can turn your profit and become prophetic, from an f to a ph. If your business wants to stay around and really grow, bring in those conscious consumers who want to work with conscious capitalists and are willing to share the bounty.

The third C is Conscious Causes. There are some causes out there who call themselves charities who are there just to raise money. That’s what they want to do. They don’t want to go out of business. American Cancer Society would like to be out of business in the next few years. Why? Because they cured cancer. We are not looking to raise $100 million so we can have people who have fat salaries. We want to maintain and sustain and grow.

The fourth C is what I call the Collaborative economy. Are all these three working together understanding? Hugh, you were kind enough to share with me this idea of a number of Methodist churches in Virginia. Collaboration amongst one or two or a number of these can oftentimes yield a greater amount than just being on their own. When you literally collaborate hundreds or thousands of people who are now consciously shopping, again using Dlyted doesn’t cost you money to do it, it may take you a few extra seconds to say you want $300 of Southwest through Dlyted, but I had to do that extra step. Now because of that, $15 just went to help out a mission for kids to go someplace. Think of collaborating 1,000 people with that mindset. These four C’s now become powerful. A lever.

Let’s go back to Barry Shore. I want to tell you a story about my recovery that may illustrate some of this. May I do that?

Hugh: Yes, sir. Then I want to hear from Mr. Russell. Go for it. You keep talking, and then we will hear from Russell.

Barry: Let me tell everybody a story. I am enjoying telling these stories. Hugh, I gotta thank you again. I am loving this. Russell, I hope you are loving this also. I hope all the people listening are loving this because it’s my wife that is the backbone here. It is the good Lord who gave me the energy and the ability for me to be able to express my thanks for allowing me to be of benefit. As I mentioned to you before, everybody thinks they know what www stands for. You think you know. WWW stands for What a Wonderful World. That’s your acronym. We do that ASAP, which stands for Always Say a Prayer. Watch this one, kids.

Remember, I am a quadriplegic for years. A quad is somebody who is paralyzed from the neck down. As my doctor said so eloquently, “Shore, all you can do is move your mouth.” But you are still moving. Watch this.

In the course of healing, the good Lord sent me an amazing person who happened to be a neighbor on my street. He saw me in the wheelchair one day and said, “What happened to you?” I told him what was going on. He said, “I am going to have you up and walking in a year.” Hmm, okay, fine. Why? Because he is one of the leading people in the world of aquatic therapy. As you can hear, aquatic therapy means you put somebody in the pool, and you move them around to get your muscles moving, and you get better response in the water. For me, it’s very important because when they were trying to get me up on my feet, oftentimes I would fall down. When you fall down because of gravity on pavement or on the earth, it hurts. I have even sprained and broken bones because of it in therapy. I was very open to this aquatic therapy.

Gets me in the pool and works with me over the course of months. When they had me in the pool the first time, I had floaties on my legs and my tummy and my arms so I wouldn’t sink and drown.

Fast forward now. Over the course of a number of months, got me to the point where with floaties on my legs and floaties on my belly, I was able to be on my back and move my arms over my head in the water that I was simulating a backstroke. I am going to make the story a bit shorter because I can go on. Over the course of a year, I was able to swim at the end of the year one mile on my back without stopping. It took me over two hours to do that, but hey, I am in southern California. I am swimming outdoors. I have a great tan, don’t I? I am in the warm pool, so why not? And I am moving my arms. For a quad, that is big time stuff, kids.

Now I am going to the make the story more amazing. Suffice it to say, within the next year, after I had already swum more than 75 miles, I was able to get on my tummy and still with floaties on my legs, otherwise I would sink, and I had paddles on my hands because my fingers don’t close or the water goes right through, and I use a snorkel because I can’t move my head enough to breathe in. So we have a snorkel, paddles, floaties, and I am outdoors in a warm pool in southern California. I am on my tummy, and over the course of time, I was able to swim a mile on my belly. I put it together, and I was swimming two miles a day six days a week. I have been doing that for almost nine years.

Hugh: That’s amazing. I am going to let Russell comment. We are heading to the last part of our interview. Anybody out there who thinks they have an excuse probably thinks by now they don’t really have an excuse. You had insurmountable odds. I want to learn more about Dlyted and how people can benefit from the charity they represent. Russell has been patient. Russell, howdy.

Russell Dennis: Greetings, good to see you again, young Mr. Shore. It has been a long time. What a remarkable story. I love the platform. It just doesn’t- Let me give you an idea of some of the people who are out here. He mentioned a few. Amazon, AMC, AirBnb, Groupon, Southwest Airlines, Xbox, Regal Cinemas, GameStop, Starbucks, Under Armour, Target. These are just a few. What do they give back? Amazon gives 1%. AMC, 5%. Home Depot, 2.5%. You can see exactly what these people are giving to the charity. This is 1, 2, 3. This is what Barry is talking about. Make it easy. Where do you shop? You can buy your stuff online. Sign up, create an account, one. Pick a card, any card. This is not a trick. Then step three, type in who you want to support. It’s that quick and easy. You type them in, that card is locked in. When you run that card, you are supporting that charity. Who can you support? Anybody who has a listing. There is a SynerVision landing page in here.

Hugh: Oh, there is? I didn’t know that. How did you find that?

Russell: You must go in and play as you set up your account. It is in here. It is so easy. This is very intuitive. It is very easy to use. You can do this in a matter of minutes. Within three minutes, you are making a donation to your charity. You go to the home page, you click on Start Giving. There is a place to create an account. You can either sign in or create a new account. There I am. I am going to drop my name in right now. There is my name, email, and password. I got fat fingers going here today, guys. Create an Account.

Hugh: What do you mean, today?

Russell: I have fat fingers every day. That’s why I have a fat finger tool that is not on my desk. I now have a Dlyted account. Verify my email. It will send me an email. I can go in here now. is my poison. Trust me, I collect books a hell of a lot faster than I read them. It’s that easy. I think it would take a total of three minutes to create an account, pick a card, and pick somebody to support. Once you have set it up, your card is there. Whether you are shopping from your phone—I have friends who have flip phones, I am working on them, Barry. Once I have converted them, I can get them signed up. Hugh doesn’t have a flip phone. I want to say out loud now that Hugh is not one of my flip phone carriers.

Hugh: Despite my age and mental condition.

Russell: Oh God, we didn’t make it. We almost made it without that comment.

Hugh: I’m sorry, it was a cheap shot. Russell, you work with nonprofits everywhere. Many of them struggle to put some funding strings in place. Part of what we teach at SynerVision is there are eight different ways to create revenue streams. This one we group under Earned Income or Business Income. It’s affiliate fees. We recommend or are tied to help people find products they would buy anyway, and a portion of that goes to the charity. Barry’s story is quite remarkable. He did not give up, but he took adversity and reframed it into a benefit for a whole lot of people. That is quite a compelling story. Coming from your position of helping charities think about their funding options, what do you see and hear is a benefit for all those nonprofits, churches, synagogues, that are struggling?

Russell: Easy is good because a lot of these folks are wearing 6-7 hats. They don’t have the revenues or the support structure. This is collaborative. You get people on your team. It’s low hanging fruit. This is a high-powered platform that has been around for a while. It’s getting better all the time. It’s mobile-friendly. It renders beautifully on my iPad. You have to render beautifully on any mobile device because more giving online is happening from these mobile devices. Any time you can put a platform together that combines online giving, so a charity could very easily share this site, and leverage this, this is something they can earn revenue through. It’s very simple. It’s very easy. Everything is set up. It’s just about driving traffic, which is telling as many of their supporters about it as they possibly can. This is powerful revenue. It’s passive, yet people are coming in. Every way that you can find to support yourself, you should be driving people to that platform. This is stuff they buy all the time.

They are going to buy it whether they are supporting you or not, so they need to know that platforms are in place like this to leverage this. People are just shopping. Once you set it up, you pick your charity, you can pick several. Once you pick, you’re done. Every time they buy, they don’t have to think about this. They get full dollar value for what they purchase, yet the charity gets a certain percentage depending on the merchant. It’s just getting people to take an extra step. This is something they are doing all the time. It’s not onerous to the person.

Hugh: Now that you have signed up, you are going to select SynerVision Leadership Foundation as your cause, right?

Barry: Let me jump in here for a moment. Russell made some remarkably beautiful points. One of the famous studies done on what people fear most, #3 was fear of dying. #1 was speaking in public. Remember that, Russell?

Russell: Public speaking.

Barry: #2 is asking other people for money. You said something so genius. What Russell was saying is that the real beauty and benefit of Dlyted, in addition to the fact that you are giving and doing it anyway is that you are sharing. You know why? I sit on a board. I need to raise $1,000. I call up my friends, “Russell, we do business together. You’re a friend. You love me. Can I put you down for $250?” Even if he says yes, which he probably wouldn’t, as sure as we are sitting here, in six months, I am going to get a call from Russell, “Hey Barry, I am raising money. I need your help. Can I put you down for $250?” I am a jerk? I am going to say no? He just gave me $250. So I might as well have just written the check myself. With Dlyted, you can now share this with everybody in your social world because you are never asking anybody for a penny. I don’t fear it anymore because I am not asking you for money.

Here is where it gets really amazing. You have these Methodist churches in Virginia. You have Russell in Denver. You have Lola who lives up in Alaska. Anybody anywhere in the United States can now support an organization using Dlyted. Whether you live in Alaska, Hawaii, Florida, anywhere, you can now be supporting this little place in Indiana or in Denver. It spreads anybody anywhere anytime, and you never ask anybody for money, so you share, share, share. Everybody has 300 people they talk to. You get a church of 1,000 people, so you could now be talking to tens of thousands of people. You can help us, and it won’t cost you a penny.

Russell: They are writing a check without writing a check because they buy this stuff anyway. If you spend $500 on Amazon, you are going to give us money. Just go here. You’ll get every penny that you invest in that card. $50 on Amazon will be $50 you spend, but you will be sending $2.50.

Barry: Watch this one. You just gave me an idea. We have Mother’s Day coming up soon and Father’s Day and birthdays. When you do your gift-giving, because people will send gift cards online, through Dlyted, not only are you giving the gift, but you just made a contribution. Think of Mom. Hey, I just gave Mom $100 of Macys, but I just gave $5 to the church doing it. Mom would love that because I gave her something, and Mom would also be proud of me because I just gave money.

We touch the two deepest emotions in a human being: I am smart, and I am good. How much smarter can you be than to do good that doesn’t cost you anything? Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays, anniversaries, holiday time. It’s all part of the flow. Just taking that extra step. Once you get into the habit of doing good, you become a hog, in the Habit of Good.

Hugh: That’s amazing.

Russell: You can build a campaign calendar using just about anything. People can do stuff all year round.

Hugh: Russell, we are moving to a place where we are not going to leave the money on the table. If we don’t access and redirect this money to the charity, it doesn’t go anywhere. It goes to the company. There is that money that is part of their marketing budget. They redirect part of their marketing budget to people who directed the sales.

Barry, we are on the wrap-up of this inspirational interview. I want to make sure that people understand that I invited you here to tell your story of how leaders do not accept challenges as failure. Leaders succeed because they get up one more time than they fell down. Leaders succeed because they are purpose-driven and they do not see failure as an option. Success is the option. Your creation is something you have done because you care about leaving a legacy, building goodness in the world, and helping other people generate revenue. We are going to continue to talk about ways that SynerVision can help you spread the message. You are a very good and compelling storyteller.

Thinking about leaders out there, there are people who are on the verge of giving up, who feel like they are so over-loaded they are never going to succeed. There are people out there who don’t see the daylight as they are really there. I am going to give you the last two minutes to give people a tip, thought, or challenge as they go forward.

Barry, we have spent an hour telling a story. It seems like two minutes to me. We are almost done here. Last two minutes are yours. What do you want to share with people as a parting thought, comment, or challenge?

Barry: Thank you again, Hugh and Russell for the opportunity to address these amazing people who are making a difference. Go mad, everybody. Go make a difference. I have to leave you with two things. Here they are.

The first is the four P’s: Purpose, Prayer, Perseverance, and Patience.

As I mentioned to you, I swim two miles a day, six days a week. I have accumulated enough miles to swim from Los Angeles, California to Hawaii, from Hawaii to Taiwan, and from Taiwan to Shanghai, China. More than 6,578 miles, and I am not stopping. Never give in. Never give in. Never give in. Thank you.

Hugh: Barry Shore, you are an inspiration. Russell, thanks as always for being here.

Russell: Thank you. Good to see you again, Barry. I will be doing my shopping on Dlyted.


7 Steps To Building Awesome Customer/Donor Relations​

Apr 16, 2018 57:03


Danna Oliviois a Business Growth Sequencing Strategist and CEO of MarketAtomy, LLC. Her passion is working with small first stage entrepreneurs to ensure that they start out on the right foot and stay on the path to financial freedom. Known as the Business Birthing Specialist, Danna understands the intricacies involved in starting and running a successful business. Her efforts extend beyond the initial strategic planning process on into the implementation and monitoring phase. As an intricate component ingrained into her client’s business structure, she works diligently to keep her client’s accountable and on track to fulfilling their success goals.

A graduate of the University of Central Florida’s College of Business, Danna holds degrees in both Marketing and Management Information Systems (MIS). She brings more than 35 years of strategic planning experience in business, marketing and business development both nationally and internationally.

Danna is not only a professional business growth strategist but has worked as an International Strategist within the country of Brazil, is a public speaker and #1 Best Selling Author on Amazon with “Success From The Heart” and “Journey To The Stage.” Her newest book “MarketAtomy: What To Expect When Expecting A Business” is now available through Amazon on Kindle.

What You will learn in this session:

What do Sponsors/Donors Expect How to Build an Infrastructure to support the Donor Experience The 7 steps for creating a lasting Donor Experience

How to Get Over the Problem of Asking for Donations

Apr 14, 2018 55:00


We all need money to run the nonprofit that we lead, however many of us are timid when it comes to asking donors for funding. Clay will help to shift that paradigm in today's interview. He will teach the skills he shares with top business executives on closing sales so that we, as nonprofit leaders can approach donors with confidence.

Clay Neves

Clay Neves, is Owner of Personal Sales Dynamics, a consulting and coaching firm that empowers small business owners to attract, engage, convert and retain the variety of business relationships their businesses need to survive and thrive.  He has over 33 years of sales management, VP of Sales, and Chamber of Commerce Executive experience, working with Fortune 500 companies and small businesses alike, Clay  has consistently multiplied sales results using the variety of prosperity relationships.  In fact, he increased sales for one multi-million dollar post-secondary vocational training school by almost 900% in just 3.5 years, resulting in an Inc. 500 award for that company.  He conducts monthly networking clinics for several Chambers of Commerce. He also serves as Club President for CEO Space International Utah Chapter.  He is a master wordsmith in business and personal life, and is a student of language and words and an avid writer of prose and poetry.  His book, A Wealth of Friends, 7 Essential Relationships Your Business Needs to Survive and Thrive is schedule for release the end of May.  He lives in the Salt Lake City area with his wife of 32 years.

More about Clay Neves at

Engaging Volunteers or Hiring Staff without a Background Check is Trouble

Apr 12, 2018 59:01


Interview with Steve Durie

Hugh Ballou: Greetings, it’s Hugh Ballou. Another episode of The Nonprofit Exchange live, it’s Hugh Ballou and Russell Dennis. Russell, how are you doing today out there in beautiful Colorado?

Russell Dennis: After a snowfall last night, the sun has come back out. Everything is beautiful out here in Colorado.

Hugh: Love it. People on the podcast can’t see it, but you’ve got a shiny head. Is that part of the sign, or is that just the light over your head?

Russell: All of this glare helps keep the focus off of the shadow here with all of the gray hair in it, so there is a method to my madness shining the light here.

Hugh: I see that. Russell, the real person. We have a guest who is also a resident of Colorado, but he is a new resident of Florida. We are going to hear from him in just a minute. Today’s topic is protecting your culture by doing effective vetting of the people you’re bringing in, be it volunteers or paid staff. Steve Durie, welcome to The Nonprofit Exchange.

Steve Durie: Thank you, Hugh. It’s good to be here.

Hugh: So good to have you. Tell us a little bit about yourself, some background, and how did you arrive at what you’re doing now? Why is it important to you?

Steve: I have been doing this for 15 years. Where it started was when I was actually volunteering in youth organizations with my kids. My question was: Aren’t you going to run a background check on me? They’re like, No, we don’t do that. We trust everyone. Previous to that, I had a lot of database experience in a consulting company in consulting on justice projects, that is, how to share criminal data. I took that knowledge about sharing criminal data and my passion for keeping my own kids safe and know that I was going to be working as a volunteer and turned it into a business 15 years ago. My kids are a little older now, and my wife Laura and I have a special needs son. He is an adult; he is 31. But he is also extremely vulnerable and needs protection. He doesn’t live at home anymore. And that is a constant worry about Tommy, whether the people who are working alongside him are safe. It does transcend not just our children in their youth, but into any vulnerable population. That is a broad brushstroke is anybody who is vulnerable, and we can look at each group individually as to how to best screen someone and check them out if we are working with children, youth, or vulnerable adults, or elderly, or single people. There are a lot of different. Vulnerable populations who may need our work.

Hugh: Absolutely. It’s really good to know about people. In the work that Russell and I do through SynerVision, we help people build their strategy out. Part of that is competencies. We have created a new paradigm that replaces the position description, and the first of four colors is the competency. When you look at somebody’s competency, you also want to do a background check so that you can validate what is on their resume, that they actually do that. Are there some hidden things in there? Finding out about the people. What is their performance going to be?

Role and responsibility? If it’s financial, there is another level of compliance. I used to live in a town of 30,000, and one year, there were two nonprofits that had treasurers make away with $750,000, trusted friends and community members. They didn’t do an adequate background check or have safeguards in place.

The third color is the culture fit. If somebody has a history of conflict or abuse, you don’t really want them spoiling your culture.

The fourth color is expectations, but the vetting the person, competency, not only are they clean, but they also fit the culture. There are lots of reasons in any kind of enterprise to do the background check. I think it’s especially important when we are dealing with people who are compromised, like your son, like children, like older adults. There are lots of opportunities for people to abuse the system. You have worked with nonprofits so far, have you?

Steve: Our focus of the company SecureSearch is with the nonprofit community. It’s been over 15 years; we have served over 10,000 nonprofits as their partner for screening their staff, their volunteers, and their board of directors. We are a full-service company. We can do anything, from resume verification to child awareness for those who work with children.

Hugh: Resume verification. I heard a guy one time, and his resume said he went to Yale and studied finance. I found out later he didn’t graduate. People make up things on their resume. That’s a new piece of data.

Are nonprofits any more vulnerable than for-profits? Is there an attitude of difference there? You told a story about you being a volunteer, and you ask about the background check. They said we trust people. Do you find that to be more common than not?

Steve: I find that to be pretty common in the nonprofit culture where they are really hungry for people to serve and to help. With that, sometimes they actually push aside the fact that these people may have a nefarious past. They are looking to quickly onboard them, get them into a position. They are happy to have a warm body. They are happy to have the skillset the individual brings to the table. Referred by a close friend or family member, so they are not even thinking about screening them, especially if they are not working directly with a child. When they are working with a child, it’s more in our consciousness that we should put the best people with these kids to keep in faith. But what about people who are just working alongside one another? The workplace violence conflict. We need to focus on making all of our communities and all of the workplaces as safe as possible. It’s the responsibility of the organization to do so. But nonprofits, because of their compromised budgets in some cases, they are spending their money elsewhere to maybe grow their projects and they are not really thinking about the people, if they are safe in the environment they are working in. In corporate America, it is common, and in the nonprofit arena, it is not as common. We are here as a voice to raise the awareness that everybody should be doing this, whether you have one employee or thousands.

Hugh: You and I met at a conference last week, CEO Space. Had I met you—I came in late in the week because I had conflicts—and said, “Hey Steve, what is it that you do?” and you say, “I do background searches,” and I say, “I have a nonprofit. Why is it important for me to do that?” How would you respond to me?

Steve: As a nonprofit?

Hugh: If I say, “I have a nonprofit. Why is it important for me to do that?”

Steve: You touched on this. It’s about reducing risk and reducing liability. Liability is big. It all ties into the overall image in the community they’re serving. It’s protecting their image. It doesn’t have to be their first priority. The first priority is protecting those who are part of their organization. You have to look at the entire hierarchy of your staff from your board of directors down to your volunteers. Oftentimes, there are people in between the upper board and the volunteers who are just coming on who get missed. They didn’t think it was important to screen them. Really it’s about lowering your liability and lowering your risk, or at least managing your risk. You can’t be a risk-free organization; that doesn’t exist. It’s about, how do you take steps and utilize your budget dollars to minimize your risk as much as you possibly can?

Hugh: Russell, you and I interface with a lot of nonprofit leaders and boards. I find there is a lot of boards that aren’t up to speed on how to be the board. They think about being in charge of governance sometimes. They sometimes realize they are responsible for financial oversight. I don’t think boards realize they have a liability whatever happens. Do you find, Russell, in your work that boards are blind to this element as well?

Russell: I have talked to people who really don’t have a core grasp of the notion of having liability insurance for the board of directors officers as they are putting these things together. They don’t understand how critical that is and what risks are involved. A large part of the problem is people don’t know what they don’t know. Nonprofit leaders, these are people centered in the idea of making the world a better place and service to others. They are more prone to take people at their word as opposed to doing any sort of digging. They may not think there is a big risk associated with bringing a person on. It’s nice to be able to take people at their word, but it depends on what kind of work you’re doing, who you’re serving, the assets of your organization you’re protecting. It never occurs to people there may be a scurvy elephant roaming around the zoo. You have to have a look at who you’re dealing with. People aren’t always who they say they are. That is just the reality of it. It’s important to look at these things up front because if you don’t have a person who is not in integrity in there in the first place, you don’t have to figure out how to get rid of them later on when you could have problems. The reputation of your organization could be at stake. You just have these horror stories. There was a veterans’ organization a few years ago that saw their reputation fall apart because the CEO was playing games with the books. Always you have to think in terms of protecting yourself with your regulations, with internal controls, with the way money and other assets are handled. More important, how you deal with the people you serve. You can really get in a lot of trouble easily and quickly without in the least bit intending to.

Hugh: Steve, did that shake loose any thoughts for you?

Steve: Yeah, it actually did. I do believe that nonprofits feel that the people they bring in have the heart for what they do. If they have a heart for what they do, then they are probably good people. I really think that is a mistake a lot of them make. Taking that assumption because they say they believe in what you believe in, they have the passion for what you have a passion for, that doesn’t mean they have the same background you have. A lot of people are trying to use their influence they currently have in the community, it could be a leader in the community, to find their way into a vulnerable group. That is the MO of a pedophile is to build up trust in everybody around them, including building themselves up to be leaders in the community so that everybody seems to trust them, and that is when they can get to the vulnerable children and build relationships without anybody thinking twice about it.

Screening is not going to catch everybody, only if they have been arrested or convicted of something in the past. It’s only one part of the puzzle for keeping not only your organization safe, but those that you serve. It goes much more beyond the background check. I don’t think anyone can feel that they have that warm fuzzy feeling now that I have implemented background checks. I’m good, I got a green check mark for that person, I can just let them go. That is a wrong approach. You really need to have a conscious community around that everybody is the eyes and ears of the organization. We all have to keep our eyes on who we’re working alongside. If they are doing something we believe is incorrect or harmful to the organization or to those who serve, to make sure we all feel empowered to report those things, especially for physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, whatever you might see. It’s up to us to report it.

Hugh: There is another realm that Russell talked about with having your policies and procedures up to date. You just pointed out, we have to pay attention. That is part of our responsibility as a leader to see what is in front of us. I never realized people who are—and it makes sense if you talk about it—a pedophile positions themselves in a place of trust and then continues to validate that, so they throw people off guard. No, it couldn’t possibly be true. I have known people in that position before, and they were busted. Eventually you got caught. How long does it take and how many people do you hurt in the process? At least do your background check, which also helps relieve your liability. I’m sure some of the companies that Russell talked about that issue board insurance require a background check so they have less liability.

I didn’t warn you: When Russell comes in, he asks you the hard questions. I’ll ask you easier ones first while he formulates the hard ones.

Give us an example where people were trusting, and it really created damage. Then you came in and maybe you helped them get a process in place to prevent it in the future. Without naming names, what are the kinds of things that people should be alert to?  

Steve: There are so many stories. Some have been recently in the news that everybody is aware of. One is USA Gymnastics with Dr. Nassau. Building trust, not only from the organization, but with the parents of these young children in the gymnastics program, and then going on to abuse them for years without ever getting caught. Sandusky at Penn State, same thing. He was able to testify with his peers that showering with young boys was just about cleanliness. They are always going to try to lie about who they are and have somebody believe it. They are masters at it. They never take any responsibility for their actions. It’s that narcissistic behavior on the pedophile side.

Another story has nothing to do with a criminal record. This was a nonprofit organization that had drivers and they were doing deliveries. One of the individuals when we met with them, and we were on site for this one, he was in the state of Colorado, but he had a Tennessee drivers’ license. He said he had been here for four years. I asked him why didn’t he have a Colorado license. He said that he lost his license in Colorado from too many speeding tickets, so he had to go to my parent’s house in Tennessee to get a license. He is volunteering for an organization that drives one of their vehicles.

People can get around from their past and get away from their past, whether it’s criminal behavior or not. It could be resume fudging. That happens more than you know, especially for certain positions, for executive director positions, finance positions, COO type positions, where they can say they have a Master’s degree in finance. They really just have a Bachelor’s, or they never finished college. They put it on their resume for years, and nobody questioned it. There are stories where the CEO of RadioShack, and RadioShack is falling from grace, but the CEO never had his Master’s degree in business, never had his MBA. It was a reporter who figured it out and started reporting on it. Then he resigned or got let go.

Same thing with the president of the business school of Harvard. She had miscommunicated on her resume that she had a Ph. D, and she never did. Organizations that we all know about and have heard about, down to around the corner with businesses in your neighborhood or possibly even your organization. It’s important to vet the higher-end positions in your organization. It’s not just about the volunteers. I can go on forever about why it’s important for the volunteers, but anybody working in your office, making sure you are looking at embezzlement or money laundering or anything that deals with your budget, your finances, your books, make sure those are always intact and that you are bringing on the best people.

Background checks don’t always catch everybody. They may never have been arrested before. I am going to go back to what Hugh was talking about with the pedophile. Eventually they get caught. That’s not true. They never get caught, and they die with their secrets. The average pedophile molests 137 children in their lifetime without ever getting arrested for it. That is where the training is more important than the background check and being aware and keeping their eyes open.

Hugh: Wow. I guess there is some people who will be polite and they think it’s not polite to do a background check. Have you come across that? How do you respond to that?

Steve: For the last 15 years, we have dealt with that. I don’t know exactly where that really stems from other than they feel like it’s unkind to ask someone to sign a consent form to do a background check. They are giving of their time, and I feel like I am invading their privacy if I ask them for this information. But you have to think about your organization and its reputation and why you have that organization set up in the first place. Then you have to make sure you bring on the best people. You just need to frame it differently: we are a culture of safety instead of just being haphazard about who we bring on. I think that everybody who comes on board would feel more confident with the person sitting next to them, with the person they are running an errand with to Office Depot if they are going in the same vehicle together. You will have a higher level of confidence that the organization did the right thing before you came.

Hugh: Where is the person who said, “Oh, I don’t want to be impolite to them,” so they back down from not realizing they are being impolite to everyone else in the culture. I don’t want to make trouble, but if they don’t do that, they will make trouble for everybody else.

What about the person who says, “I don’t have time for that?” That sounds like too much trouble.

Steve: The one issue with nonprofits is wearing so many hats and being so busy. I think that sometimes the background check seems like a daunting task, especially if they have never done them. First, I have to vet a company. I don’t know where to go to trust somebody. I don’t want to do all the paperwork. I have enough things going on. I don’t even understand background checks. How am I going to do this? I don’t have a Human Resources background, nor do I have a HR director on staff.

That is where SecureSearch makes it a little unique. We can come in understanding that that is one of your pain points on not having enough people to do all of the tasks you have to do. We made everything paperless. Not only are the consent forms, but also the entire process of signing up is paperless. Everything is the click of a button. The applicants, whether they be your board of directors, staff, or volunteers, they do all of the data entry. All you’re doing is sending an email invitation. Simple as that.

Hugh: Wow. If I came to you and said I have ten volunteers and I need to take them through a background check, then you’d give me a consent form for them to sign, with permission to do that.

Steve: The way you phrased that is interesting, that you give them a consent form. It’s actually against the law for us to provide a template consent form. We provide samples. All consent forms are the organization’s form. It’s not my form. We provide a sample, but it is really up to each organization to go through legal counsel and make sure everything is in there that needs to be in there and that it meets their federal and state laws. We try to do our best with our samples to make sure they are good, but you should only use that as a framework.

Hugh: Before you can do the background check, I have to have them sign a form though.

Steve: Yes. That form can be in paper, or it can be through our paperless volunteer and applicant portal that is called Search My Background that we have. If everything is in the portal electronically, and they sign a signature box either with their finger on a mobile device or the mouse of their computer. That signature will map to all the documents in the system so that everything is signed and everything is provided to the applicant.

Hugh: Where I was headed with that, and I thank you for the clarification on the language, where I was headed with that is I would say I have my ten volunteers and I need to run them through the process. Would you suggest to me that I do it on myself as well?

Steve: Well, somebody should run one on you. But if you want to at least have something in the “file,” whether it be a digital file or a file folder in a lockable filing cabinet, having your own in there is a good idea, especially to report to the board that if you are the executive director, it started with you. Sometimes you can be surprised on what you might see on your own.

We had an executive director in Minnesota who had a small nonprofit. I think it was five or ten volunteers based on what he told me over the phone. This was quite a few years ago. When I was small enough and able to see the background checks coming in on a regular basis, I pulled it open and said, “Oh, I talked to that gentleman on the phone.” He signed up and ran his background check; he had three pages of felonies on his own. He never ran another background check with us. I think he was curious as to if his own background check would come up and expose him as a customer. There was nothing I could do to share it with the greater group of that organization. There is a lot of risk out there. It can start with that executive director. I don’t think the executive director should be the one running the background check; it should be pushed by the board that the executive director have a background check.

Hugh: Absolutely. Nobody should be exempt from it. Everybody should go through it. The founder, the executive director.

Steve: Everybody.

Hugh: Great. We are almost halfway through this interview. Russell, I’m sure that you have formulated a great question for our guest.

Russell: As I was saying earlier, a lot of people don’t know what they don’t know. I think it starts with going from a place of what do I know, what have I been told, what don’t I know, and where did the information I get come from? How do I know what I know?

I think my first question would be all quality information. How can you get quality information to make sure that what you’re hearing can be verified?

Steve: That is a really good question. There are a lot of background screening companies in the U.S, thousands really. Everybody approaches business differently. Some are very small, that concept of working out of your garage, and they might not have a website. They might be in it just for the profit. There are lots of different data points to put together a good background check. The problem I see with the nonprofit side is they are learning on these database products to be the be-all end-all product because it’s fast and it’s inexpensive. They think because somebody might be calling it a national search that it truly is. But it isn’t. I like to think of the database searches as a net. If you can picture the map of the United States and now you’re casting this net across the United States, what is the net made up of? Holes strung together is the way I’d like to put it.

I want you to remember that while it might be national—we call it multi-state—there are going to be holes. In some areas of this net there will be tears and huge holes versus tightly knit holes in other areas. You have this product that a lot of the nonprofits like to order because they think it’s national, they think it’s an easy, inexpensive way to launch into the background checks, and they don’t realize the risks that are still going to be there. They are not conducting what we call a best-in-class background check. Nonprofits have to be careful.

To answer your question about data, we take three different aggregation data points from the database and merge them together, eliminating the duplicate points. Other companies will buy data from these aggregate groups of data, and they will hang it on their own internal servers and ping against that data for months before they refresh it. That’s how you get the $2 background checks for some of these large nonprofits. I’m not saying everybody does it, but in order to reduce the cost to meet what an expectation might be for a nonprofit, which is cheap, these organizations are going to give you bad and old data.

We refresh our data every week, in some cases like the sex offender registries, for some every two weeks. But the oldest refresh we have is 30 days for our entire database. Again, it’s a merge of three different data points coming together. We didn’t get into this business primarily to make a profit; we got into this business to protect those who need to be protected.

Russell: That’s it. It’s setting that intention right up front. When you talk to people, you have to set an intention up front about what it is you’re doing. When you talk to people who might be new that we need to help, but understand we are going to be looking into some things, asking you questions for the sake of transparency, and direct about it. Who, what, when, where, why, and how? We keep our questions as open in that way as we can so that we get some meaningful information. I think that people who have things to hide may balk a little bit at this directness. Somebody is fidgeting, and they are talking about how much time this is taking, why you need to know that. In my head, that will be a red flag. What say you?

Steve: A hidden benefit of the background check implementation is the bad ones kind of leave in the guise of night. They don’t come back tomorrow. You actually said, “Hey, we take it seriously, we are going to have a consent form for you to sign. We will call your references. We will check in on who you say you are.”

That’s another thing, references. If you are not calling references, whether you outsource it to an organization, I recommend doing it internally so you can hear the nuance of the phone, the pregnant pauses of someone being asked, “Is this somebody you would bring back into your organization if you could?” and they go, “Hmm, well, I don’t know about that.” If you outsource that, it’s hard for somebody to put that into words on a report. I recommend if you have the time to do it yourself. If you have the money, you can outsource it. References are just as important as the background check. The background checks of course can be criminal. They can also verify your resume, education, employment. It’s not always just looking at their criminal records, but making sure they are who they say they are.

Hugh: While you are on that track, what kinds of background checks are there? Go over that again.

Steve: There are lots of different types of background checks. We want to get nonprofit organizations to stop thinking about using the database just for looking for a criminal or a sex offender. Because of the analogy I used with the net with all the larger holes and tears, you need to look at each applicant holistically. Instead of where your organization is serving or based and the geography and how that might look in a database search, you need to look at the applicant.

John could be a resident of one place for his whole life, and Mary has lived in seven different places in seven years. Mary, you are going to have to do more on because there are possibilities that the database has missed where Mary lives, they weren’t up to date, and you are going to add a county courthouse search or a statewide repository search if it exists, like it does in Colorado. Other states have that, too. You are going to need to start with a foundation and then lay additional due diligence on top of that to get a good profile for each applicant instead of one size fits all.

The criminal side, you break out into two different things. We have state and local crimes that you find in a database. You have the sex offender crimes that are in the sex offender registry. Then you will have crimes against the federal government or federal-related crimes. A lot of people think of these as the white-collar crimes, the Bernie Madoffs or the Martha Stewart crime where she got involved in the stocks. Yes, but inter-state kidnapping is also a federal crime. Money laundering and profiteering is a federal crime. Any building on federal lands. A lot of organizations and companies lately neglect ordering a federal criminal search. That can come back to bite them if they don’t search it.

There are a lot of other things, too. Motor vehicle searches, I mentioned. Credit reports we can do. You can do the education verification. International criminal and credit. Motor vehicles. We have 165 different services available to any organization, and most organizations look at about five.

Russell:What are some of the training opportunities? Part of the challenge is training nonprofit leaders or other people about what the benefits are and the dangers of neglecting to do due diligence. In other words, what are the things that you’re doing to assist people to understand the value of it so that they actually have this awareness? It’s one thing to bring somebody in. Somebody could slide under the radar after you have done your search. Maybe something changes. People need to have an idea of what sort of things they need to look out for to make sure that everything is good. What training do you folks give nonprofits an opportunity to take advantage of so that they have a better sense of when they may need some help digging into something?

Steve: We actually have a very specific training program that I actually founded. It’s called Safeguard from Abuse. With a focus on the vulnerable populations that a lot of nonprofits focus their energy into those communities, it is a 75-minute online and also on a DVD training program with a certificate of understanding for those that pass the test on all of the different types of abuse, not just the sexual abuse, but neglect, physical, and emotional abuse, diving deep into what they are, diving deep into how to recognize when a child is being abused. So many organizations have that fear of having a sexual predator in their midst, so we do focus more time and attention in their personality traits, their grooming behaviors, understanding the personality of that pedophile.

The most important thing is raising the awareness overall through the training, but empowering each person who goes through the video to be a mandated reporter and to understand that they can’t help if they put their head in the sand. They have to be empowered to report, and they have to understand how to do so is very important. The awareness training is important.

My example that I like to use is Russell, you want to buy a new car. You have a brand of car in mind, and you’re getting in that car and heading down the road. All of a sudden, you start to see that car everywhere. It’s now in your awareness. It’s always been there, just like the characteristics of people who harm kids. They’re still doing it in front of us; we’re just not aware of it. We didn’t raise our awareness level high enough to see what’s always been there but invisible to the eye. It’s really what we focus on is what we see. What we focus on we become as well. We want to make sure that we can train enough people to end child abuse, or at least if we can save one child, it’s all worth it.

Russell: Every time you buy a new car, everybody buys the same make, model, and color that very same day. I was thinking about all of these things. There are people who are listening to this, and they may be leaning back in their chairs thinking, No, I never did any of this stuff up front. Now I have 60 people. How do I know that I don’t have somebody like this in my midst right now? Is there some type of organizational audit or assessment that you can do?

Steve: We can definitely help. What you’re saying is I gotta go retro. I have to go back to day one, and anybody who is still with me, screen them. That seems like an invasion maybe, or a daunting task, or maybe you’re just thinking, I’ll start with the next person. Now you will set yourself up for some difficulties being fair and equitable. If it’s just Susan who just walked in the door but you did not go back five years ago and do this, once you implement the strategy, you have to implement it at any level and go back and do everybody. Starting top down is a good approach. Start at the top, and push down through the hierarchy of individuals in your organization. It’s about resetting the reason for why you’re doing it. You are resetting the fact that you have this new program that you’re implementing. Our insurance company wants us to do it. Most insurance companies want you to do it anyway. If you have to put it on something else, you can just say it’s a new requirement. It could be just your organization’s requirement. Once it’s a new requirement, it’s a requirement. Everybody has to do it.

Russell: Having everybody do it ensures that you don’t have somebody out there who wants to take you to court saying they’re being singled out because I’m a woman or I’m black or I’m over 50, or just anything they can pull out to say why it doesn’t apply. We talked about that comfort level that people have. I don’t want to offend or put anybody out. How do you help people who decide to do something like that do it in the face of the apprehension that they may have and the fear of offending somebody, implementing it seamlessly? What are some of the things you do to help people through that?

Steve: That’s a good question. We help organizations put together a background screening policy. It’s all about policies. Sometimes you might have a policy- With those who work with kids, you might have a child protection policy, for example. But even in that child protection policy, they don’t talk about background checks. So we need to weave in another layer of policy, and that is who do we screen, why do we screen them, how often do we screen them, and what do we order? Really it comes down to being comfortable enough with your organization and communicating that you do have policies. It’s part of your mission and vision, wherever it is that it fits in, to make it that important. You can make it unimportant and be at risk and have everyone at risk, or you can make it important and be an advocate for safety and make your organization. It’s all about preserving that organization. Amp up your image; it will help you and the community.

Hugh: Both of you are talking about people not knowing what they don’t know. There is a side that people are so close to it, you’re so involved in it, that you’re so blind to it because you are focusing on the day-to-day and the relationships. You’re blind to all of the liabilities. Having someone like you that is skilled to discuss policy procedure with I think is really a high benefit. Is that part of your service that you offer?

Steve: We offer that at no charge. Phone call conversations, any time someone wants to talk to me. It’s very individual. Each organization is very individual, and I can’t just say, Here is a template. We like to discuss what your organization looks like, the different roles and responsibilities you might have, the silos you may have, the offshoots of your organization you may have, and drill down. Like I mentioned, it’s not a one-size-fits-all. Based on roles and responsibilities, you will be ordering different types of services. You may order motor vehicle for one, you may need to look at a credit report for one, but it won’t be for all. We want to make sure that you understand that as an organization, what’s available first of all, why you should order it, and then implement it. Now it’s part of your policy manual, and now it can be handed off if you were to leave the organization. If you are in charge of this role, and now you are leaving or retiring to go do something else, you can now hand it off to someone else and they won’t have to reinvent the wheel. It’s important to do it on the front end, but we’ll help.

Hugh: Your link for people to find you is

Steve: It’s actually not. I wish I had that. It’s

Hugh: That’s better.

Steve: We have

Hugh: You have been talking about databases, and people can do a database search. Say more about that for people who don’t know what you mean by “database.” I think of a database as where I keep my CRM, where I keep my contacts. Say more about that and why it doesn’t really cut the mustard.

Steve: Okay. A lot of people think that there is one central place to go to do a background check in the United States. Just go to the FBI. They think there is something in some place to go. That is a fallacy. We are a disparate country. Our systems do not communicate with each other. What you have in Colorado doesn’t communicate with what’s in Virginia with what’s in Florida, even though we think that’s the case. Another fallacy is that a social security number is all you need to find a criminal record. We don’t find any criminal records using a social security number. That’s a myth. We use the social security number to find out what the person might be: what names they have used, what addresses they may have used, information sources.

The databases, because we have this disparate system where counties don’t communicate with states sometimes and counties don’t even communicate with each other, all of these groups work in silos. Their information or their data is also stuck in that silo. You have to search that silo to find that information. In some cases, these silos of information raise their hands and say they will share. There are companies called data aggregators to say, I will pull from this county, I will pull from that county, and this department of corrections wants to give me that information. They compile it all together. They go out to my industry and say, “Do you want to buy my information?” I was talking about having three of these aggregators that I purchase information from and weave it all together because they will miss some in one and miss some in another and I am hoping I can fill in some of the gaps. This is not 100%. Again, it’s that net with holes. It’s as good as it gets. We search over a billion records, but there are so many holes and gaps in this data. That is where the database comes in; it’s a base of data. There will be holes that you can’t rely on as your only search.

We can consult on the best approach. The best approach is you have to look at three different things. First, your due diligence, why you do what you do, why you want to screen in the first place. Do you want to protect the vulnerable? Is it because your insurance company made you do it? I don’t care what it is. We have to understand what the impetus of your diligence is.

Then we need to look at your organizational budget and say what budget dollars do you have to work with. Do you need to go find more budget dollars from another bucket in order to cover something like this? You want to implement it as soon as possible.

The third is your comfort for risk, or your risk tolerance. That is already comfortable with your organization name being in a newspaper because you didn’t do a background check, and now you brought in a pedophile into your organization. Or does that make you cringe and keep you awake at night? What does your legal counsel say? What does your insurance company say?

We need to bring those three things together and create a unique, sustainable program for your organization. That may be very different from the organization I talk to tomorrow. That’s okay. It’s unique to you and sustainable and something you’re comfortable with and can move forward with in your organization.

A long answer for a simple question.

Hugh: It’s a complex question, a complex situation. I have met people who think they can just Google somebody’s name and find out all kinds of things. What’s the fallacy in that strategy?

Steve: Did you have consent to do it, first of all? Every applicant has their legal rights. They have to provide you consent to really do a background check on them, especially if you want to use it. If you just want to be the armchair neighbor and check in on a neighbor, you have the legal right to do so. If you are going to bring this individual on board and have them fill out paperwork to be a volunteer or member of the staff, you have to get their consent. You can’t just go to Google. The data out there is only as good as the data out there. If you’re not buying it and it’s free, there is a reason it’s free. If you’re spending $59.99 to get the rest of the report, they gave you a little bit, and the rest of it is behind the scenes, that is just database information, and that is way more than you ever need to pay. You need to do a database search for only $15. It’s something you need, and something you need to build on, so you want to make sure you make it affordable on the database side so you can grow it and add the county courthouse searches as necessary.

Russell: There are some things out there that are robust. I have probably used some of the things as a revenue agent for IRS. It’s not off the shelf, and it’s not cheap by any means, but it’s good stuff. It’s important to do that. You get what you pay for. A lot of these databases that you describe pop up if you do an online directory search for the Yellow Pages, or something like that. These things get offered to you all the time.

Steve: It’s the free data available to everyone that they compile. Not everything is going to be in there as I mentioned. It will be fraught with holes. They make it look good. They put a shiny website together, and you see moving parts. It’s like they are searching as deep as they can go, and I will get every tidbit of information I need in seconds on one of these companies. You have to be careful with what you do. Everything needs to be validated at the local level. Anything from the database, any red flag, has to be validated at the court or the point of origin of the information to be accurate; otherwise, you are not supposed to see it anyway. That is why you want to work with a consumer reporting agency. SecureSearch is a consumer reporting agency. We are a member of concern consuming reporter agency, making sure we do it the right way and making sure we do validate everything at the local level before you as the customer gets to see that information.

Hugh: We are coming to the last part of our interview, Steve. is where people can find out more. What is the differentiator? What makes this business different? You mentioned there are lots of others out there. Why are you different from them?

Steve: That’s a good question. The first thing is the information we have to share with you is through years of experience. We have veterans in the industry on staff who run our customer service department, who run our operations, and who run the executive office. That’s number one, lots of experience.

Two is we have a heart for the nonprofit sector because we understand you are wearing many hats. You don’t have time, and you may not have the skillsets. You can feel comfortable with us. We are going to answer the phone. We will talk to you. You won’t be alone in this process. We will be there to answer any questions you may have throughout the process, and you will have someone you can work with, whether it be me, you can always work with me directly, or anyone on my staff.

We also don’t have a single salesperson on staff, so you will never be “sold” anything. We only have consultants, so we will be asking you questions and making you recommendations for best practices. You won’t hear from us five million times; we won’t pound you until you buy. We wait to hear from you again if you’d like to do this with us. That is what makes us different.

We have a heart for the nonprofit, the integrity of our data we are purchasing, and the integrity of the system we have and the compliance of our system and processes is what set us apart.

Hugh: That’s strong. It sounds like this service is incredibly expensive, thousands of dollars, to do a background check. Is that true?

Steve: No, that’s actually very far from true. Depends on the organization you’re working with. Our pricing model is geared toward the nonprofit sector, so we are extremely affordable. We actually have scalable pricing for those who have high volume discount programs. A background check, I would say that a good budget, if you want to do it right, for the criminal and sex offender and fill in all the gaps, is budget for $50 a person. It doesn’t mean it will always cost $50 a person; it may cost $15 for some, $22 for another, or $85 for another. It could be all over the board. But I would budget that to make sure you have enough allocated funds for a good solid program.

A lot of people are going to ask if they need to do background checks through the fingerprint process, too. No, you don’t. You can get good information that is disposition-based. Disposition is what happened in court, information from a secure search without ever having to do fingerprints. If you are getting government funding or state funding, they may make it mandatory, so you have to do it. But we can still make sure that the fingerprint arrest record—and that’s all it is, an arrest information source with biometrics, and not everybody gets fingerprinted when they get arrested—that the courts dismissed it or said it was a guilty verdict and enhance the arrest record database you search.

Hugh: Good. Thank you for that complete answer. This has been a very informative interview, and I’m sitting here thinking about all the organizations that I know about that have fallen short. We are going to make sure we will put a recommendation in our work that they do this early on. I think it’s that important.

As we are tying up this really good interview—Steve, thank you for the time today. It’s been exceptional—what impression, what challenge, what thought do you want to leave in people’s minds?

Steve: I guess my question is: What image do you have of your own organization? How do you look at your own organization? Do your process and your people align with it? If you are worried about that and you want to lower your risk and your liabilities as an organization and maintain the image you want to have of your own organization, it doesn’t cost a lot of money, it doesn’t take a lot of time, you don’t have to learn how to do it. We do everything for you. Just reach out to us. There is no charge to sign up or for a free consultation. Talk to one of our advocates. We’re here to help; we’re not here to sell. We hope to hear from you. It’s something you should definitely take a look at. If you’re doing the background checks now, we can talk about if you are doing them the right way. If you’re not doing them, we can help you along the path.

Hugh: Russell, thanks again for being here and being by my side. Steve, thank you for a wonderful interview. Thanks everyone for listening.

Steve: Thank you very much.

Dr. Thyonne Gordon and Hugh Ballou

Mar 23, 2018 07:55


Hugh Ballou and Dr. Thyonne Gordon share highlights from the 27th Leadership Empowerment Symposium held in Lynchburg, VA.

Leaders Must Have a Clear Vision with Bishop Younger

Mar 18, 2018 56:35


Bishop K. Y. Younger: Leaders Must Have a Clear Vision

The Ramp Church International is a body of believers who love God, and love the people of God!  We are passionateRAMP Church about spreading the Gospel around the globe and serving our community.  It's a place for family, worship, and fellowship.

Bishop YoungerBishop Younger is renowned for his academic and philanthropic prowess.  He has matriculated through the ranks of ecclesia, widely regarded as a spiritual sage, an erudite historian, and an astound autodidact.  Younger is the catalyst and namesake of the S.Y. Scholars Program, a competitive college prep program for elementary, middle, and high school students in Central Virginia.  Serving as the institution’s Chief Advisor, Bishop Younger travels to the nation’s most prestigious colleges and universities with the Symposium Tour, where he, along with prominent political and education leaders, converge and discuss, “The State of Education in America.”

His unprecedented leadership has compelled many Christian leaders and Pastors to seek his oversight. As a result, he was elected into the bishopric, and subsequently founded the One Way Churches International in 2011, where he currently serves as Vice-Presiding Prelate and Co-Adjutor Primate over 15+ churches.

Bishop Younger is a proud member of Christians United for Israel where he serves as a local and regional director.  He also serves with Global Peace and humanitarian organization with efforts all over the world.

Bishop Younger is widely regarded as the preeminent voice of this generation. His ministry has been solicited across this world both nationally and internationally.  He has been embraced and affirmed by the upper echelon of ecclesiastical elite as a pedagogical pundit whose wisdom transcends his age.

He is an itinerant preacher, musician, instructor, conference speaker, humanitarian, and highly solicited revivalist throughout the United States, India, Israel, Central America, South America, England, Africa, South Korea, China, and Mongolia.

Rise Against Hunger: Leading the Next Chapter with Rod Brooks

Mar 12, 2018 01:00:18


Rod Brooks has served as CEO of Rise Against Hunger since July 2006. He provides leadership and direction toward the achievement of the organization’s mission to end world hunger, focusing on service programs, fundraising, financial and administrative management. Rod has spent nearly twenty years working in the non-profit sector. Prior to directing Rise Against Hunger, Rod worked for 16 years creating Exploris (now titled Marbles Kid’s Museum), an interactive museum about the world, ultimately serving as Vice President for Administration.

Rise Against Hunger is driven by the vision of a world without hunger. Our mission is to end hunger in our lifetime byRise Against Hunger providing food and life-changing aid to the world’s most vulnerable and creating a global commitment to mobilize the necessary resources.

Driving Rise Against Hunger’s work is the recognition that ending hunger is more than just feeding people, which led Rise Against Hunger to focus its feeding programs in areas where we can have a real impact and expand its hunger-fighting programs beyond meal packaging and distribution.

Our organization’s approach to ending hunger centers on mobilizing a global network of hunger champions.

Another core focus of Rise Against Hunger is responding to crises–both natural and man-made.Another core focus of Rise Against Hunger is responding to crises–both natural and man-made.

Our third approach to eradicating hunger centers around grassroots community empowerment.

Nonprofit Compliance with Christian LeFer

Mar 6, 2018 54:21


Christian LeFer creates solutions to benefit the nonprofit sector. His passion has always been to empower others to impact their world: “Unleash your inner hero!”

His family’s involvement in the community and as advocates for foster and adoptive parenting, along with a successful consultancy in founding and fundraising for nonprofits, make this foray into software and solutions for charities a natural.

Having organized successful 1st Amendment litigation in state and federal courts, Christian has also become a sought-after adviser on free speech and civil liberties issues.

LeFer’s key strengths include vision, copywriting, marketing (direct and online), and sales. I earned a B.A. from Rutgers University in History/Political Science, cum laude.

What is Charitable Solicitation Registration/Fundraising Compliance?

A: 41 out of 50 U.S. states have enacted regulations requiring “charitable solicitation” registration – covering virtually every conceivable method of fundraising activity by nonprofits. The registration process varies by state, and depends on factors including annual revenues and method of fundraising – creating a confusing patchwork of regulations.

State government agencies including Attorneys General and Secretaries of State have staffed compliance enforcement departments with prosecutors and Administrative Law judges, and a finding of non-compliance can result in monetary fines, civil or criminal penalties, and revocation of the right to raise funds.

These laws no longer only apply to large-scale phone and mail fundraising: A passive website “donate” button or social media “share” can result in your organization being targeted and penalized – even publicly listed as an “offender” online.


Feb 19, 2018 56:52



Evangelist Carlton Pearson is ostracized by his church for preaching that there is no Hell.

Bishop Carlton Pearson

Bishop Carlton Pearson

Carlton Pearson is a native of San Diego California, where he spent the first 18 years of his life with his parents and five siblings.

After studying at the Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he majored in Bible Literature English Bible, he served as Associate evangelist for the Oral Roberts Association and the ORU Board of Regents for 15 years on its Board of Regents. He has received several honorary doctoral degrees.

After a shifting to what Carlton calls “Expanded Consciousness”, his ministry changed dramatically, causing the re-inventing, re-positioning and re-branding of himself and his focus. He likes to call himself a Sacred Activist and Spiritual Progressive and is a strong proponent of Justice and Peace issues.

Presently, his life story serves as the basis for the Netflix original movie produced by ENGAME and NPR titled “Come Sunday” highlighting his personal story about the shift in his ministry to Radical Inclusion insisting that Christians are not the only people who will experience eternal life. The movie premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 21, 2018 and will be released on Netflix on April 13, 2018.

Interview With Rev. Dr. Bishop William Willimon

Feb 12, 2018 48:38


Upgrading Leadership In Churches 

Interview With Rev. Dr. Bishop William Willimon


Hugh Ballou: Greetings, this is Hugh Ballou. Welcome to this version of The Nonprofit Exchange. We talk to leaders worldwide about their particular perspective in leadership, their expertise, and to hear from their perspective, from their seat that they led from for so many years. My guest today is Will Willimon, Dr. Reverend Will Willimon. We are sitting in Durham, North Carolina at the Duke Divinity School where Will will tell you a little bit about what he does here. He and I got connected a number of years ago when he came to north Alabama as a bishop, and I was serving in a Methodist church. We first got connected there. I have been extremely impressed with his writing, and we have interfaced a few times. You have even spoken at one of my events in Greensboro. Welcome, Will, to the Nonprofit Exchange.

Will Willimon: Thank you.

Hugh: It’s like when I go somewhere and say, “I’m Hugh Ballou. This is Will Willimon.” Tell us about yourself, your background, and why you’re here at the Duke Divinity School.

Will: I’m a Methodist preacher from South Carolina. As a young preacher, I was summoned by Duke Divinity School. I came up here and joined the faculty back in the ‘70s to teach worship. Didn’t like teaching full-time, so I went back in a parish in South Carolina. Then again Duke called me to the pulpit of Duke Chapel, and I was there 20 years. It was my first experience with a ministry that large, a budget that large, a staff that large. From there, I was a bishop. After being a bishop for eight years, I was invited back to Duke. I teach courses in preaching and mission. I also teach a class for ordained leadership, and for the doctor of ministry, I teach a leadership class. In my latter years, I find myself moving more into leadership. In fact, in my mind, I think every class I teach here at Duke Divinity School is a leadership class because I think leadership is utterly necessary for ordained clergy to be leaders, but often that is something they say they don’t get in divinity school. It’s right at the top of the clergy list of skills they wish they had more of.

Hugh: That’s amazing. As people go into this meaningful work in ministry, first off, it’s very difficult work. It’s very challenging work. Let’s go back a minute. We talked about leadership. I want you to define leadership. I also want to ask you about what do you think from interviewing pastors that have been in churches for a while, what do they think they wish they had known before they started? Define leadership. Then what are you hearing from preachers out there they wish they had gotten from this class you’re teaching?

Will: I hear pastors complain about administration. That consumes too much of their time, they don’t enjoy doing it, they had no training in how to administer well. Larger church pastors, whenever you’re together, the talk always gets to staff: staff problems, problematic people on staff, hiring people, holding people accountable, all those things you got to do in supervision. I think few pastors come into the ministry saying, “God is calling me to administer a church.” And yet that is the work you find yourself in.

Another problem is I know when I went into ministry, my vision of myself was I will be a part of a small rural congregation in South Carolina. I hope I’ll have a part-time secretary. That would be wonderful. Then you wake up one day like I did at Duke Chapel, and I had 30 human beings that I was supposed to be supervising and orchestrating and coordinating and leading. That was when I reached out and tried to get better leadership administrative skills. Probably should have reached out sooner. I hear about administration.

Then I hear pastors complaining about conflicted congregations, congregations that don’t seem to respect their authority and leadership. This whole complex set of things that leaders, managers, administrators have to do. I hear a lot of that.

You mentioned that being a pastoral leader is hard. I agree. However, there are times I think when pastors get together and complain, whine about administrative leadership difficulties thinking this is what everybody faces who works with human beings that have some tasks assigned to them, some mission they are engaged in. Maybe the surprising thing is that pastors are surprised this is the world.

Hugh: This is the work. It’s with people. Years ago, I interviewed you for an article I was doing for a magazine on the topic of conflict. We were talking about particularly how pastors do or don’t approach conflict. One of the statements you made was typically, pastors want to move away from conflict. One of the people I interviewed on the podcast was a woman named Dr. Roberta Gilbert. She was a psychiatrist and a colleague of Murray Bowen. I don’t know if you-

Will: I know Bowen theory, yeah.

Hugh: I have been studying it for nine years. She was on this series of podcasts. What she helped me realize was that we move toward conflict, remaining calm, sticking to the facts. Instead of avoiding it, moving toward that. I found that Bowen systems is a way to know self, so it helped me to reframe some of my leadership. But conflict is one of the things that exists in any human system like Bowen talks about. Part of what that theory helped me do was he calls differentiation of self. What are our principles? That is a really foundational piece for leadership is defining self.

Will: Agreed. For pastors, self-knowledge is a never-ending task. It may be complicated by the fact that for pastors, we have lots of opportunities to be self-deceitful if we want to be. One, I think people aid us in our self-deceit as they say to us, “You’re just so loving and caring. We have never had a pastor like you.” Pushing all those buttons. Then you start to believe that. It is a halo effect.

I was in a church recently that has severe problems with decline and severe problems with their staff being unable to step up. The first thing the pastor said was, “We have a wonderful staff here. I feel so privileged to be working with them.” I’m thinking that from one angle, that sounds charitable, and you seem to be a charitable person. You’re thinking positively about these people. From another angle though, let’s be honest, you don’t want to do the work that would be required by being truthful, that you’ve hired the wrong people, you are going to have some painful conversations, you need to make some moves. Rather than do that work, you are going to say, “We have a wonderful staff, and we are all Christians.” I love that self-knowledge.

For instance, in a leadership class I teach here, two thirds of the class always admits they have problems with conflict. Much of the class says one of the appeals of Christian ministry is that they could do this without hurting people. In business, you have to fire people. I know it sounds ridiculous as you know the church. I try to say it’s very important to own that. I put it on my list, too, with clergy.

I think we clergy think of ourselves as powerless people. We look at our paycheck and say we don’t have much influence or power or they’d be paying me more. It’s easy for us to say there is a problem of the staff, that it’s for the personnel committee. They deal with this; since I’m the pastor, I don’t deal with that. I think that can be very dangerous.

One of my jobs as a bishop was to discipline errant clergy who had moral lapses, and invariably, the image was, “I am just a loving, caring pastor. I couldn’t hurt anybody.” That is dangerous. It’s important for pastors to own who they are, the power they have. Use that power carefully. Self-knowledge is a big deal. I don’t know if the president of General Motors has to know thyself, as Socrates advised, but pastors do. There are so many opportunities for deceit, for those moments where you say: I am telling you this for your own good and because I love you. Probably more typical is for pastors to say in response to when I ask “Why didn’t you tell the truth? Why didn’t you share the facts?” “Oh, I am such a loving, caring person. I didn’t want to hurt this person.” We pastors have many resources for deceiving ourselves about our real motives.

Hugh: Along that channel, I find that the really best leaders have a confidential advisor or coach, a mentor, somebody that helps them discover their blind spots because they are called blind spots for a good reason. That would be one of them. It’s an accountability partner.

Will: Good advice. I remember we had a consultant in Alabama, and he educated us during a day about what it takes to revitalize a moribund, static, plateaued congregation. You gotta do this and this and this. Have these discussions, these strategies. At the end of the day, at the bottom of the list he put- His voice raised and he said, “None of this can be done by yourself. You’ve got to get external assistance. You have to get a coach, an advisor, a mentor. You have to get somebody who is not embedded with you, somebody who has no power in that configuration.” I sure found that to be true.

As Alabama’s bishop, the church gave me a job but I had no training, and as you can see, very few gifts. I had 800 pastors, 600 churches. It was a leadership management nightmare. After a couple months, I got a retired business executive. I asked, “Bill, what’d you make your last year at the life insurance company?” He said, “About $400,000.” I said, “Well, I’m prepared to offer you $20,000 to work with me and to be my coach, to be my advisor. God wants you to do this. God has told me to tell you to do this. You wouldn’t want to disappoint the Lord, would you?” He said, “Wow, you really do need an advisor if that’s your attitude about things.” It was wonderful. He had an office near mine. Bill went with me to meetings. He sat at the back of the room usually, took notes. We would have an evaluation after the meeting. He would say things to me like, “Once again, you talked about a third of the time, and two thirds of the time, they were talking.” Or he would say things to me like, “You know, you’re asking less questions than you did when we first started. I think you have to discipline yourself to ask more questions and make fewer declarative statements. Your questions are not as good as they were in the early days. I’m afraid you’re falling into the trap of thinking you know what’s going on now. No, you don’t.” Because that is a moving target, people are being deceptive, and they don’t even know they are being deceptive. It was wonderful.

The trouble with being a bishop is it is really hard to find anybody who will tell you the truth, except generally your most severe critics whom you can’t stand because they are so critical. Bill was wonderful. Now, when any pastor says to me things like, “Oh, this church. I tried this, and it didn’t work.” “Let me stop you right there. I know where you’re going with this. I am going to recommend you get a coach. You get some help. Let me just stop you right there and talk about the help.” I’m just not sure pastors can do much of anything without somebody coming in from the outside and making the work as difficult as Jesus means it to be. I use that phrase a lot. If the work assigned to us was simply to be a loving, caring group of people, a lot of churches are a loving, caring group of people because that’s all the pastor knows how to lead, the pastor is uncomfortable around anybody in their twenties, so therefore the pastor ends up spending a lot of time with people my age. Unfortunately, Jesus Christ, the work he has given us to do, the mission is much more demanding than that. There is going to be disagreements. There will be crises, not simply because people are hard to work with, which they are, but because Jesus Christ is hard to work with. He won’t let us be the men’s garden club. I keep trying and thinking about leadership.

What difference does it make that we are Christian doing this? How is our leadership of a different quality than, say, leadership by a well-meaning humanist or something? That is a hard question to answer, but nevertheless, I think it important for clergy.

Hugh: It is. We take sound leadership business principles, and we learn from them. When we put them in the church, they are different because it is the church. There are things we can learn. In my conversations with Jim Forbes, a pastor from Riverside, New York, he said, “We need for our spiritual journey experience 15-20% outside of our discipline.” Talk about the coach so we don’t get stale and blind. Nothing else is there. This is what I know. Part of what Bishop Joe said to us at Blacksburg is the Methodist Church was losing 1,200 members a week in America. We get on a track where we think this is how it ought to go, but it’s not working. We have sat ourselves up for failure. Some of the gaps in leadership.

When I talked to Cal Turner, and he has talked to the council of bishops, he went to his leadership team at Dollar General and said, “I am the son of the boss. I got this because I am son of the boss.” He was president and chairman of the board. “You have the skills. I have the vision.” He claimed the vision, but he said that he wanted them to do this. Everybody stepped up. Cal said, “Hugh, leadership is about defining your gaps and finding really good people to fill them.” He also pointed out that transparency is- You’re not whiny, but he was very straightforward. They know. They know you don’t know it. Why pretend? If I didn’t tell them, they would be like, “Well, I’ll show him.” There is this vision thing.

I worked with Dick Wills when he was bishop in Tennessee. We were talking about a cabin retreat. I was talking about the vision for that since I was leading it. He said, “The cabinet is not going to develop the vision. I didn’t see anywhere in the Bible where God gave the vision to a committee. Here is the vision.” That is the vision piece. I don’t think the great commandment is your mission. That is a commandment. That is a commission. That is not a choice. Paul Borden said that when you brought him in to talk to north Alabama. That is not a choice.

What is it that God has called this church or organization? We are talking about leadership in the church. There are some unique differences, but there are some global differences for anybody leading any organization. A lot of what you are talking about corporate leaders have trouble with, too. Talk about the pastor.

Back to Bowen systems. There is this pseudo self and basic self. We want to please people, so we go into pleaser mode, which is a downward spiral, rather than going with our principles and making the right decisions for the right reason. Not pulling people in and saying, “This is not how we do things.” It’s a pleaser personality. You did say to me in that interview a while back that in addition to avoiding conflict, it gets worse as it goes on. You also said that conflict is the sign of energy in an organization. We don’t ever eliminate it. We are energetic people.

Managing this and addressing it, I think we misunderstand words. One word is we need to confront the conflict. The root of it is with your front. It doesn’t mean you hit them with a baseball bat. With your front means approach it directly, calmly, and openly, stating the facts. There is a huge challenge I see in this area you’re talking about. How can pastors equip themselves, besides having a good coach? I suggest it doesn’t always have to be clergy.

Will: You can have coaches. When pastors talk about difficulty of personalities, because you have graduated from divinity school, you have had zero training in how to handle people, how to hold people accountable, how to have difficult conversations with people about their work. But I guarantee you you have people in your church that God has called to the ministry or personnel work. Draw on them. Commission them to do this with you. There is an arrogance behind the pastor who says, “I have hands laying on my head. I’m good at preaching and administration and budgetary oversight.” With one meeting with the finance committee, I was thinking I have always disliked people like you in high school who were always talking about some really interesting math problem in homework. I’m no good in math. That is one reason I went into the ministry to avoid that. Any wonderful guy who has called you. This is what you’re good at. Let me give you that authority to do that.

As you were talking, you talked about good business principles and how they are different in the church. That is so true. However, I don’t want to let us clergy off the hook by saying a frequent way- It’s either arrogance or evasiveness. “Wait, remember now, the church is not a business.” That is just a cop-out for saying, “I am so arrogant I am not going to submit to instruction. I am not going to learn.” You were talking about conflict. You can get better at managing conflict. There are certain things you can learn. You do this, then you do this, then you do this. You develop an attitude, which doesn’t say, “There is conflict. I did something wrong,” but rather, “There is some heat being generated here. I can feel it. Maybe I am doing something right.” There have been moments in my ministry where I swear it’s like Jesus says to me, “Gosh, ain’t it a shame that I didn’t have your personality. Maybe I wouldn’t have ended up like I did on the cross.”

Sometimes, good management leadership principles can be overruled by the theological missional commitments of the church. I remember when I was weighing into the immigration fight in Alabama, taking on Jeff Sessions. My management coach said, “Ah, really, at this time, I hate to see you get into this.” I said, “Well, the better clergy are asking me to get into this with him.” He said, “This is one of those moment when I realize that this is more than about good management coaching. This is about the gospel and Jesus Christ. I guarantee you you’re going to do this because I know you. This is where I realize I’m not ordained. I’m not clergy. At your best, you think like clergy. I just want to say now as you go into this, know that you will come into some casualties and take some hits and expend some of your capital, but it sounds like you think this is right.”

Part of being clergy is applying theological and knowing- In the class I was just teaching, I had Douglas Campbell, who is our great New Testament scholar here, talking about conflict. He was talking about how Paul served a multi-cultural diverse church. He said, “Boy, it’s all blowing up in his face. You have people with Pagan values and Pagan ethics, and you have Jewish Christians, and Gentile Christians. They are fighting it out with each other over who is a real Christian.” A number of the pastors in the program said, “I’ve been there. I am there.” Then Douglas said, “You know, maybe Paul would say, ‘If you’re in a placid, content, homogeneous church, you ain’t much of a missionary, are you? You’re not much of an Evangelist.’ The testimony to how effective Paul was is the squabbles going on, the conflict they’re having.” I thought that was a great way to put it. If my church doesn’t have any conflict over racial issues or political issues, you better check out your Evangelistic leadership because Jesus Christ is about wider business than simply a happy club of older adults.

Hugh: That’s what separates us from being a social club.

Will: Absolutely. We usually say, “We have love, harmony,” yeah. But if that love and harmony is by our disobeying Christ’s commission, it’s wrong. You mentioned Paul Borden. I loved him in a church leadership on testosterone way. I remember one of my pastors saying to Paul, “You can’t be captured by the older adults in your congregation. You have to free yourself from that. You have to ask yourself, every time you go to the hospital to visit those shut-ins, who are you not visiting? Who are the conversations you’re not having?” One of the pastors said, “Paul, don’t you think there is something to be said for honoring the sacrifices and love of those dear people who built this church?” Paul said, “No, the church does not exist to honor any human being. The church exists to honor Jesus Christ.” Paul whacks him to the thing he says, “Some of you should have gone into nursing. Maybe you can empty bedpans, do nice things for people. This is better than that. You are a preacher of the word of God.” I don’t know how the group perceived that, but I was thinking it is good to be-

Sometimes it is good to be reminded that God has called me for more than an efficient, well-run organization. Again, I’m not trying to dismiss leadership management incompetence. For me, preaching was the thing that kept calling me back to say, “I am not simply aspiring to be a manager of an efficient volunteer organization. I am a spokesperson for God. I am the one that says, Okay people, we are gathered again before the scriptures. How are we being challenged?”

Hugh: Our duty and delight is to do meaningful work and to challenge people. I am thinking Reinhold Niebuhr, “Comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.”

Will: Quoting Reinhold Niebuhr reminds me of his book, Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic. But in there, he says something that has challenged me throughout my ministry. “Before I became a pastor, I thought there were so many boring and tame sermons because preachers were cowards. You have to be careful about how you say things. Now that I have become a pastor, I realized the source of bad preaching is love. You start to love these people, you are with them. You have a front row seat on their misery. The last thing you want to do in a sermon is make them more miserable. That is why there is so many boring and tame sermons.”

Not sure if he was right about his characterization of prophets in Israel, but I found that so challenging that many of the really unfaithful things pastors do and lead, they blame it on love. I’m not telling this congregation the truth about their future, the fact that they have no future or very little future because I love them. They are some of the sweetest people. It complexifies leadership and Jesus’ name. it also says to me now. Be honest, here. You have noted that when you tell people painful truths, what do they do? They come back at you, and they start telling you painful truths. Then where would we be? We might be something on the way to being the body of Christ where the church says, “We are not only loving and caring and friendly; we are also truthful to a degree that you can’t get without the holy spirit working in you.”

Hugh: We’re also not truthful in how we interpret the Bible. Paul Borden challenged the great commission is not your mission, it’s a choice. Richard Rohr or John Bishop, they talk about how we hijack scripture for our own purposes-

Will: We do.

Hugh: -as leaders. We misinterpret that. That is a built-in liability.

You spoke about power earlier. I want to ask about that in a minute. I find a lot of leaders are unaware of the power differentiation. The pastor is an influencer of power, whether they know it or not. We get in trouble with relationships. We get in trouble with money. We get in trouble with authority because we are not aware that we have a position of power with what we do.

In my church in Atlanta that I served, the session, which is the ruling body of the Presbyterian church, were Sotheby executives who abdicated their authority to the pastor, which is not in the book of order. He has one vote. The teaching elder gets equal votes. They abdicated because he was the CEO. It was that power position that they gave into. They didn’t know how to be the board. But he got things done. He died at 63 because he really wore out his body. He worked hard and grew that church. It was a great delight to know him. I do find that typically clergy especially are unaware that they do have this position of power. What they say has a lot more weight. How does that get us in trouble?

Will: It’s dangerous- It’s also so important to own your power and use it responsibly. We give policemen guns, but then we really expect them to be very careful in using the firearm. When I am ordained in the Methodist church, the bishop says, “Take thou authority to preach the word. Take thou authority to administer the sacraments.” The bishop should have said, “Take care with thou authority we’re giving you.”

It amazes me that illustration is fascinating. I have been on boards of colleges where you have these powerful executives on the board. It’s like they walk into a church meeting and turn off their brains and become docile, smiling people. Some of them will say, “It’s the church. It’s not like a business.” I say, “I think it should be more like a business. By the way, I guarantee your business for any of its ethical failings would never do anything this unethical that is going on right now in the treatment of staff or whatever. Come on. Be an executive. Use your power.

I watched a little college go just about down the drain because of a board sitting there saying, “He is the president, and he has his Ph. D. I just have my B.A. degree, so what do I know?” They tolerated behavior they would never have tolerated in their bank or whatever. Knowledge of power, clergy moral abuse.

I remember a dean of a medical school told me one time, “The purpose of medical education, morally speaking, is to produce people who can be alone with naked people and not take advantage of them.” I said, “Turn around. You see the divinity school. We do that in three years for a lot less money than you charge to do that.” I thought it was a great- Clergy are around naked people a lot, vulnerable people a lot. To take advantage of that vulnerability is a heinous act that requires removal from ministry. We can never- You violated a whole thing. Oftentimes, when I have been involved in disciplining clergy, the self-image the clergy person has is, “Me? No, I’m just- She said she was lonely, and her marriage was unhappy. I’m in the business of loving. So I tried to love.” I said, “That is your explanation for what occurred on your desk?” “Yes.” “That is horrible. Goodbye.” It is a big issue.

In the congregation, I do think one thing we clergy have to be savvy about is power, power inequalities, power dynamics. Who are the powerless people in the congregation who are not being heard and who are not speaking up? I remember a pastor turning around a congregation. A group came to him and said, “We don’t like this. We don’t like this.” He said, “Every one of you is over 65. You represent 70% of this congregation.” They said, “We certainly do. Glad you’ve noticed that.” He said, “I bet you represent 90% of the giving.” “We’re glad you noticed that, too.” “If this church is going to live another day, I have to ignore you as much as I can. I’ve just met with the pitifully six people we have in this congregation in their 20s. Here is what I have heard from them. We could lose those few people. I have challenged them to double their numbers this year. Here is what they tell me we need to do. For the good of this church, I am going to have to take my orders from them. I hope you’ll understand that. I hope you’ll see that by my doing that, I am giving this church another day.” That struck me as somebody understanding power and saying, “I have to discipline myself not to let you have the power that determines the mission of this church.”

Hugh: That is not a typical decision though.

Will: I honored this pastor. Teach me how to do more of that.

One other thing you said is one thing as a bishop, my coach said to me, “You’ve been an academic. The way you guys think about stuff is with your mouth open. You say, ‘Hey, this is an interesting idea. I want to know how you feel about that.’ You can do that in your old job, but you can’t do that in your new job. In your new job, when you say to them like you did in a meeting, ‘Hey, I’m thinking why don’t we have district offices? I think you guys ought to be in your car more than in your office. You have to be in the district.’ So why don’t we make district offices? It was breathtaking. Everybody there froze and said, ‘You have a job now where you have power. You could actually do that if you wanted to.’ You have to be a bit more careful about the stuff you throw out. If you want to shock them, if you want to steamroll them, you have the power to do it. I believe you’ll end up paying a heavy price for that.” It was a great thing to say. You’re the bishop. You could move them to Timbuktu if you’re unhappy with them. They know it.

Hugh: Leaders do that not only in the church, but also in other charities, and are totally unaware of their consequences of those actions.

Will: That’s a good word, consequences.

Hugh: There are consequences, and they are unaware of them. I want to close this interview out with two more questions. Recently, there was an article in the Washington Post that said at its current trajectory, mainline denominations have 23 Easters left. That is a pretty sobering thought whether it’s true or not. What do leaders in mainline churches need to do to turn that trend around?

Will: Ooh. I have a long list. A bunch of stuff. Today, I would say: One is we have to look at the painful, ugly stuff, like that statistic. We have to stop lying. We have to find a way to tell difficult truths to people whom we love. Again, I’m a preacher. That is what I think I do every week is stand up and tell difficult truths from Jesus to people that I love, many of them. We ought to be good at this.

I think in a sense we ought to be made to stare at that and think, I can’t be this kind of leader that I thought I was trying to be. Pastors would often say to me, “This is not the same church I signed on with. I tell you what, when I joined, I didn’t sign on for this.” What a dumb statement. We serve a living God for one thing, and not of the dead. But also, every leader has got to constantly retool, constantly go back to school, constantly start over, constantly ditch these principles that worked great at my last job. They are inappropriate at this one. Get used to it.

I start my ordained leadership class by saying to them, “I am going to try to share with you what I think I‘ve learned. A lot of it I learned the hard way. Maybe it will help you avoid some of my mistakes. You will get tired of the pontificating and the stories about Alabama, but you need to use that. You take that in. About 50% of that is going to be wrong. You can’t serve the same church I served. You can’t do what I did. There are people here in their 20s who don’t know a lot about ministry, but you know more than I do about the future. That is your job in this class. You take in what I’ve got, and you sort through it. But you also keep your eyes on the future of things. The Lord is taking me out of this game. But He is sending you in. Step up and take responsibility.”

That is the move I think we got to make. We will not have a future in mainline Protestantism unless we can do that. I must say I’m more impressed by local pastors in little out of the way places that are finding a way to lead into the future. I’m more impressed than I am about seminaries and all.

Hugh: Hey there, it’s Hugh Ballou. Wasn’t that a great interview with Dr. William Willimon? We lost the last few seconds when I said thank you and goodbye because of a technical glitch, but you had all this great content.


Nonprofit – The Step Child Of Business

Feb 5, 2018 54:41


Operating by her motto “You Are Your Only Limitation (YAYOL)”, Sherita Herring is a motivating speaker, radio personality and best-selling author.

She has successfully raised over $30 million and formed more than 600 businesses operating globally, including in more than 17 countries.  She’s a sought-after speaker, motivator, best-selling author, radio personality and business strategist.

For more than 27 years she has tirelessly worked behind the scenes coaching, facilitating and/or strategizing with some of the top social entrepreneurs, celebrities and organizations in the world:  Former President of Mexico, Vicente Fox; U.N. Ambassador Byron Blake; Parliament representatives of Trinidad; legendary actress Tippi Hedren; Oscar Winner Hilary Swank; NFL Great Jim Brown; NBA Star Jalen Rose; Hall of Famer Bootsy Collins; Producer/Actor Bill Duke; Actor Anthony Anderson; Comedians Michael Colyar, Kim Coles, and Eddie Griffin; Motivational Speakers Les Brown and Lisa.

Points for the interview:

What motivated you to work in the nonprofit industry, coming out of corporate America? Most people are unaware of the impact of the Nonprofit area, why is that? For nonprofits that have not been successful in their pursuits for grants, what strategies can you suggest? Can a nonprofit make a profit?

How Community Building and Assessment Marketing Help You Build Relationships

Jan 29, 2018 55:20


At Super Brand Publishing, we are experts at helping you become the world authority you always knew you could be. You know it. We know it. And this is how the rest of the world catches up.

Confidence, passion, and a strong vision of her potential have all contributed to Juliet Clark's incredible success as a woman entrepreneur.

Juliet Clark founded Winsome Media Group in November 2009. Within 90 days of opening her coaching and publishing company, she had filled her coaching schedule and established herself as an expert helping people build their digital footprint to sell more books, products, and services.

Juliet's ability to help other fast track their success has made her extraordinarily successful. She assists her clients in all facets of publishing, and book and business marketing.

Juliet is passionate about helping authors achieve their dreams. In addition to personal coaching, Juliet is also known as a motivational speaker and teacher through her Author Success Academy and the Entrepreneur Success Academy. She also is the host of a podcast called Ask Juliet, which answers author's questions and features successful authors and speakers who have effectively build platforms.

Specialities: Professional speaker, motivational speaker, business webinars, author business bootcamps


Jan 22, 2018 51:54



Chuck Vollmer is the author and founder of Jobenomics, which deals with the economics of business and job creation.  The Jobenomics National Grassroots Movement’s goal is to facilitate creation of 20 million net new U.S. jobs within a decade.  The Movement has a following of over 20 million people.  Jobenomics has six books and produces quarterly employment and unemployment reports on economic, business and workforce development.  Jobenomics national-level initiatives include the Energy Technology Revolution, Network Technology Revolution, Urban Mining and Urban Agriculture. had 6 million hits in the last 12-months, a growth rate of 400% over the last year.  Today, over a dozen cities and states have started Jobenomics initiatives led by local community leaders.  These initiatives focus on people at the base of America’s socioeconomic pyramid with emphasis on women, minorities, youth, veterans and citizens who want to work or start a business.

Jobenomics (Jobs + economics) deals with the process of creating and mass-producing small businesses and jobs.  Jobenomics National Grassroots Movement’s goal is to facilitate creation of 20 million net new U.S. jobs within a decade.  The Movement has a following of 20 million people.  Jobenomics regularly updates its six books and numerous reports to keep its members current on the latest national and international economic, business and workforce development issues, trends and solutions.  Jobenomics websitehad 6 million hits last year, a growth rate of 400% per year, which is indicative of the high level of interest in a new approach to economic, business and workforce development.

Jobenomics also provides advice and timely data to policy and decision-makers worldwide.  Over the last few years, Jobenomics met with over a thousand government, business and community leaders to incorporate the best of their ideas and requirements into Jobenomics initiatives and programs.  Today, a dozen communities have started Jobenomics initiatives led by local community leaders.  Another dozen are in the pipeline.  These initiatives focus on citizens at the base of America’s socioeconomic pyramid with emphasis on women, minorities, youth, veterans and other hopefuls who want to work or start a business.  While Jobenomics is designed as an American business and job creation movement, there is significant interest from Asian, Middle East and African nations to start similar movements.

Making The Most of 2018 for Nonprofits

Jan 15, 2018 59:41



Mark S A Smith is the author of 13 popular books and sales guides and has authored more than 400 magazine articles. He is a genuine Guerrilla Marketing guru, co-authoring three books with Jay Conrad Levinson, and is a certified Guerrilla Marketing Coach.   A renaissance man with many talents, Mark is passionate about leadership, team building, teamwork, sales, and marketing. For over twenty years Mark has served as a strategic advisor to corporate leaders and executives all over the world who must develop the best way to bring in the right strategies for successful growth and sustainability.   What makes him different is he brings a holistic view of the business instead of solely focusing on one aspect and ignoring the impact of decisions on the rest of the organization   How to Get the Most Out of 2018 Tapping into the top five trends to grow your nonprofit: Omnichannel – allow members to consume you anywhere and every way How the growing economy creates monetary opportunities The impact of higher unemployment on your volunteer force and how to pivot to get all you need New leadership demands: what’s changing and how to stay out front Turning unrest into peace: how to divorce your organization from the media’s promotion of outrage

Interview Transcript


Hugh Ballou: Greetings, it’s Hugh Ballou and Russell Dennis on this version of The Nonprofit Exchange. A dear friend who I see too rarely, we have been talking virtually but now we are together. I said, Why don’t we talk about some things that are on your radar?” Mark S. A. Smith, welcome to The Nonprofit Exchange.

Mark S. A. Smith: Such a delight to be here. Thank you, Hugh. Hello, Russell. Hello, friends on Facebook. Welcome. We have a lot of interesting things to talk about because 2018 is going to be an astounding year. You might be listening to this in 2020 or 2024. But you know something? What we are talking about today will probably still be issues even in the next five to ten years. Or opportunities, as the case may be.

Hugh: We record messages that are timeless. But you’re right. We are turning the page into 2018 as we are recording this. If you are a regular listener, you know you can go to and see the video versions of these. But you can go to iTunes and download the audio there.

Mark, you are in a series of really powerful interviews we have done over three years. We are starting our fourth year of these great interviews. What we endeavor to do more often than not is find people that have business expertise. Let’s install that particular business expertise into the charity. It might be a church, a synagogue, a membership organization, or a community foundation, but it’s some sort of philanthropic work that we’re doing. Before we get into the subject matter, which I’m going to hold off in giving people a title, tell people a little bit about Mark Smith and why you are able to talk about this topic today.

Mark: I help people sell complex, expensive, high-consideration things as fast as humanly possible. I am an electrical engineer; therefore, I am a systems thinker. I have recovered. I don’t sell or do engineering very much, but I do help people sell complex things. That is where you have multiple people involved in making the decision. Each person has a different view of what creates value and what we need to do. Sounds an awful lot like this nation, doesn’t it?

Hugh: Yeah.

Mark: How do you round up consensus? How do you have people go the same way? Just like when you’re working with nonprofits, herding cats is what we have to do. It’s the same thing when you have to sell expensive technology. What I’m doing here is applying all the things I have learned about selling very expensive things to the world of nonprofits. It’s absolutely identical. I, too, do work with a nonprofit. I am on a board here in Las Vegas where I live. I’ve been involved in nonprofits throughout my life. I understand, and I am delighted to share with you my business acumen. What I like to tell people is a nonprofit is not a business plan; it’s a tax status.

Hugh: That’s not a philosophy, no. You’re very active on social media, especially Twitter. You put out little short memes with a few words on it. I gotta tell you, they are very thought-provoking. They help me focus on what’s important.

Mark: I am honored that that happens. Thank you.

Hugh: There has been this coincidence of you tweeting on the things we are actually talking about. Sometimes simultaneously. I find that to be fascinating.

Mark: The issues are the same. Whether it’s nonprofits or the for-profit world, the issues we face are frankly identical.

Hugh: I laugh when business leaders say, “That might work in the church.”

Mark: Or the other side is that the religious leaders say, “That might work in business, but it won’t work in the church.”

Hugh: If it’s true anywhere, it’s true everywhere.

Mark: We’re humans working with humans.

Hugh: I think we’ve stalled long enough in telling people what the topic is. What is the topic? Russell wants to know.

Mark: All right, Russell. You’re ready? Today’s topic is how to get the most out of this year, which happens to be 2018. We are going to talk about five trends that are going on that you need to know about as the leader of your nonprofit to stay ahead of the game, to grow, and to prosper heading forward. Some of the things we are going to talk about are technology, and some of the things we are going to talk about are psychology.

Hugh: Say that last sentence again. That caught me off guard.

Mark: Don’t you know I do that to you? And you do the same to me when you’re speaking. Some of the things we are going to talk about are technology, understanding the technology that nonprofits have to be embracing and keeping track of and staying up with. Some of it happens to be psychology, what is happening in the general zeitgeist of the world and how they impact nonprofits. Whether you think they do or not, they do. Your constituents, your members, your flock all are impacted by what they see in the news and what they experience with retail and what happens in the business world. They carry those attitudes and insights into your organization, whether you want them to or not. We have to manage that. We have to deal with it. We have to capitalize whenever possible or perhaps even neutralize it in some cases. That is what I mean by psychology.

Hugh: Absolutely. I think we’re guilty in any discipline. I know in the church, I have had people say to somebody, “You’re so heavily minded you’re no earthly good.” We all live in the reality of today. I can say that I served the church for 40 years and probably got to that space myself. I put in very carefully numbered bullet points. I noticed that I numbered them wrong. Our first one is, Omnichannel. Speak about that. Tell us what that means.

Mark: Listener, have you ever had the situation where you were multi-tasking, perhaps watching television and checking your telephone for messages or tweets, or maybe even reading the news story you are watching on TV simultaneously to see what if you were seeing on TV made sense to other news channels? That’s omnichannels, my friend.

The reality is we are multi-screening. You are getting information from multiple locations at all times in all ways. What this means to nonprofits is you have to be able to bring your message, bring your service to your constituents in every way that they consume information. Just by a show of hands, who here has for your organization—I see ten fingers there, well, eight fingers and two thumbs. Sometimes I am just all thumbs. Do you have an app? Do you have the opportunity of having your constituents consume your services, your podcasts, your sermons via a dedicated app that would alert them when something new becomes available? Are you using the technology to your benefit? Now if you’re doing that, fantastic. Just stay with it.

You have to understand we live in an omnichannel world. We are consuming many things in many different ways. Mobile apps, partner locations, maybe figuring out other locations for people to access your services. Where do your constituents go that you can have a kiosk or a corner or something like that where people can plug in, enjoy, take advantage of, be reminded of, contribute to, consume whatever it is you are bringing to the marketplace? Since I don’t know what your nonprofit is, we are spraying and hoping you will catch a couple of ideas here.

The concept here is you need to be everywhere that your people are every time you possibly can be. The reality is if you are a church, people are carrying around a sermon in a box in their mobile device. Chunk things up into five-minute pieces to give them a chance to remind, refresh, and renew. If you are supplying educational elements, keep pushing out opportunities for people to learn and to refresh. If you’re supplying the opportunity for people to volunteer, if they are standing in line or waiting at a traffic light and they can pull out their mobile device and contribute something in some sort of thought-provoking way, let them do so. That is what we mean by omnichannel. Take advantage of that any way you possibly can.

Hugh: You said something about five-minute segments. Remind, refresh, and renew. Talk more about that.

Mark: What I am finding is short segments of content that provoke people. Just like when you read something from me on Twitter, you’re telling me that I am inspiring you, I am provoking some thoughts, I am causing you to think about new things, maybe connect some new dots. The bulk of those tweets are 140 characters. There are some that run a little bit longer thanks to Twitter’s new length limits, but it’s a very short little boom. It’s a little thought bomb that goes off in your brain.

As a nonprofit, most of us are in business to inspire, to have people live a better life, to improve their condition, to stay on target, to stay on task, to stay on the straight and narrow. That requires constant reminders. Another thing to keep in mind is if you are a church or an organization where people come to see you once a week or once a month, it’s not enough. They are bombarded by all these other messages and all these other counter-messages that they may not wish to consume. Our job is to remind them there is another way of thinking. There is another opportunity. There is better potential for them that they have already volunteered to be a part of. If we can chunk our messages from a text standpoint, an audio standpoint, or a short video standpoint to refresh, renew, and remind themselves there is a reason why those of us who have a spiritual practice, it’s a daily practice if not hourly.

Hugh: Yes. Oh yes. That is so important. I think the biggest flaw I see in organizations is when people say, “They should know better because we told them that,” but they told them that in 1903, and you have repeated it since then.

Mark: Here’s the problem, friends. You may have told them that, but the other side has told them their viewpoint a thousand times since the last time you said it.

Hugh: Omnichannel. When I first saw that, I thought it was a piece of software.

Mark: It’s a concept.

Hugh: Russell is taking good notes. Do you want to weigh in on this omnichannel touchpoint? Mark, what you’re doing is top of mind marketing, isn’t it?

Mark: Yes. Let’s just keep reminding them what they have asked us to remind them of.

Hugh: Russell? He’s been very polite.

Mark: He’s been quiet. He’s been smiling. He is giving me thumbs up. He is also muted.

Russell Dennis: Not anymore. We can quickly fix that. Greetings and salutations, Mark. Good to see you again. It’s been a while. I was just typing that when you’re out there in multiple places, where your people are, and that’s the important thing to figure out is where your people are and getting out there and getting in front of them. We are in a short attention span society. If you’re not out there online, you’re left behind. It’s not a fad. It’s not a trend. It’s here to stay.

Hugh: I think it’s also in person. Where do your people hang out? I am hearing omnichannel as virtual as well as live.

Mark: Absolutely. Physical, too. It has to do with digital signage for example. Digital signage is omnichannel. Most of us have digital signage in our houses of worship. As I pointed out, as we talked about, where are they? Let’s see if we can put a digital sign in the places our people hang out to remind them of the messages they have agreed to consume.

Hugh: Great. We are sitting at the top of 2018. Our market has been growing. There are over 100 companies that announced employee dividends and financial expansion of programs since the tax bill passed at the end of 2017. There are all kinds of energy and economy. Talk about how that benefits the nonprofit sector.

Mark: We are sitting at the highest consumer satisfaction index of all time. I think it’s for a number of reasons. One is that a lot of people are feeling good about themselves again. A lot of them have hope for the future. A lot of them feel that in spite of the noise we hear on the mainstream news on a regular basis, locally, the communities are doing well. More people have jobs. More people are feeling good about what’s possible. Certainly my business has been substantially increased. As you pointed out, yours has, too. A big part of it is that my customers are looking forward to growth and therefore investing in opportunities to grow.

As a nonprofit, you can plug into this feeling of goodness and growth, asking for more than you could ask for in the past. Requesting more. Asking people to donate more for perhaps more time, for perhaps a higher level of investment of themselves into the organization. When people are feeling good, they say yes to opportunities because it doesn’t feel like it’s so heavy. Doesn’t feel like it’s such a burden. When we feel depressed, it’s very hard for people to feel good about themselves.

Hugh: What makes people say yes? I still have lots of-

Mark: What a great question! I’m so glad you asked it. What makes people say yes is because your request is in alignment with their personal identity.

Hugh: Whoa. Whoa. Hey, Russ. What does that trigger with you?

Russell: It’s everything. Everything revolves around relationships now. People are starting to figure that out. It doesn’t matter what business you’re in. Now you have to build relationships. In the old days, you could just blurt out at people. There were very few places for them to get a message. They were fed by three big networks messages. Think about Henry Ford when he talked about the Model T. They can have any car they want as long as it’s black. Now people have choices. They have different avenues for expression, and they have short attention spans, so you have to resonate with people because they will look for another cause if they feel like they’re not being romanced, so to say. You have to keep that connection some type of way, keep thanking them, showing the impact they are making, and staying with it. People change. There are so many different causes that they can get involved with now. It’s like anything else to maintain that brand loyalty as it were. You have to connect with your tribe. People want a sense of connection and a sense of accomplishment. Younger people coming into the work force want to do work that matters.

Hugh: Mark, I pinged Russell because many times in the interviews, he helps us remember that whether you are creating board members or talking to donors, we have to think about what it is they want, what they are interested in, what they want to achieve. There is a messaging piece that I was honing in on here. How do we form our message so that we do connect with that like-minded person?

Mark: Let’s get back to the concept of personal identity. People buy things to support their identity or they buy things or engage in things to help them transform their identity into a new place that they desire to be. It’s a really important concept because all sales, all marketing, all recruiting, all conversion happens when a person sees their identity as that which you are offering as a nonprofit. That transformation for a lot of people is where we’re heading. As people grow, they transform. As young people go from high school to college, they are transforming. As they go from college into the workforce, they are transforming. That personal identity, how you view yourself and how you want to be viewed by—Russell, you said it right on—tribe, we choose our tribe, and the choices that we make determine our tribe. In a model I generated, those tribe decisions are mission-critical. The reason why is because if you make the wrong choices, the people who you might like may just stop calling you back. They may quit inviting you out. They might leave you on your own. That is where that personal identity comes into play. Identity happens way more than people realize. A great example of that is sports. Russell, do you consider yourself a sports fan?

Russell: I love it.

Mark: Do you have a team?

Russell: Believe it or not, I root for the Cleveland Browns.

Mark: Why the hell would an intelligent man like you root for such a losing team when a logical person would pick a winning team to root for?

Russell: I grew up there.

Mark: That’s it. Yes!

Russell: I haven’t lived there in almost 40 years, but home is home.

Mark: It’s part of your core identity. It is so deeply ingrained in your core identity that I couldn’t get you to wear a piece of the opposing team’s clothing even if I paid you. That’s the power of identity. When you as a nonprofit can tap into that identity, that is where you really get that brand experience where people refuse to go anywhere else. But you have to keep reinforcing that identity. You have to make sure that the identity you’re offering continues to shift in the proper direction over time. In a growing economy, people have the opportunity of transforming that identity. That is really where we’re going with this #2 point. It gives you a chance to perhaps recruit people, to bring people in that you haven’t been able to before because they couldn’t afford it, they didn’t have the bandwidth or the money. Now they do. Get very clear. A definitive passionate, audience that wants to be recognized or grow their identity can help you as an organization grow. Get really clear. Get really sharp about this. It will have a massive impact for you in 2018. Cool?

Hugh: Absolutely. You talked about unemployment. The numbers show the unemployment figures at the end of 2017 were the lowest they’ve been in forever. But there are still people who are underemployed. They are not unemployed.

Mark: In fact, those underemployed people are the ones who are perfect for volunteers. The reason why is as humans, we like to feel we are making a difference. Russell, you pointed that out in your last comments. We really want to feel we are doing good, like we are making a difference. When we are underemployed, we don’t have that feeling that we are living up to our potential. People in that environment can be invited to fulfill that in a nonprofit volunteer situation. Whether it’s an executive who has moved to a lower position, who needs to give back and still provide that strategic input, that is the perfect person to capture for example. Or perhaps the stay at home mom who went back to work because her kids are out of the house, and as she enters back in, she doesn’t go back in at the top level where she started. She comes in at a lower level, and she needs to fill that gap of feeling good about herself until she can be promoted up to that new level. That is the opportunity that you as a nonprofit can fill.

Hugh: You spoke earlier about working with a local nonprofit in Las Vegas where you live. Why did you say yes to that?

Mark: For two reasons. One is that I have an expertise that the association can use. I can benefit the association in quite a few different ways because of my deep history in business and as a professional. And that association also allows me, it feeds me in that I get to be with other people whose future is my history. And so I get a chance to give back because if I rewind my life back 30 years, I was the person who is being served by the mentor who I get to be today.

Hugh: So your input is important to shaping the future of their work.

Mark: And they have a desire to have a similar experience that I had. When we are looking for a mentor—this is probably one of the best pieces of advice I’ve had in my life—look for somebody whose history is your future. They can help you plot the path. While your paths will be slightly different, the fundamentals won’t be that far off.

Hugh: Russell, did you capture that last comment?

Russell: I did not. I was in the process of typing that. I don’t type very quickly. This is interesting because what we are talking about, there are three things that a nonprofit needs: time, talent, and treasure. We get obsessed with the money and forget about time and talent. Especially with people who are underemployed, people have different motivations for joining you. When you are clear about what it is you are trying to do and you have inventoried all of your assets, which include time, talent, skills, knowledge, abilities, those are all assets to the nonprofit. When you can leverage that and get other people, it’s like money in the bank because you go out, build relationships, get sponsors for media, cash sponsors, you go out and get people to contribute pro bono services, you bring students in, you bring professional firms. There is a number of different ways to approach getting pro bono talent. When you are clear on who you are and what you need, you can offer these folks some time. Maybe they need to build their portfolio. Maybe they are tried and just want to give back. Maybe they are entering the workforce. Maybe they are underemployed and want to have some projects and creations of their own. You can set that table. When you are clear on what it is that people want, then they will come support you and always keep evaluating, putting challenges out there for them to stretch and grow and invest in their learning. They have reasons to stick with you in that case.

Mark: Right on. I think if you get the time and talent right, the treasure follows automatically. The reason why is what is money? It is a reward for doing what others want. It’s canned labor. That’s another way of looking at it.

Russell: Canned labor, but meaningful labor. It’s not standing at a copy machine all day or making coffee. It’s actually creating things. Building your social media strategy, writing policies, it’s endless the number of things you can find volunteers to do that they can help support the organization with. Yes, even fundraising. The sky’s the limit. It’s up to your own creativity and finding out what moves people. If you don’t have any money, you probably have time and talent.

Mark: They probably know people. There is also ways of converting some of that talent and some of that time into treasure. If you think about it, that’s what a business does. It converts time and talent into treasure. As a nonprofit, you can do exactly the same thing. Your tax status permits that to happen.

Hugh: Money is also reward for providing value.

Russell: Another way to keep score.

Mark: That’s universally agreed upon.

Hugh: Back to where we were talking at the beginning of this interview about installing sound business principles into the charity. I am using charity purposefully here. Sometimes we use the word “nonprofit,” which spins us into this scarcity thinking that we can’t generate a profit. But the profit is what pays for the philanthropic work of the organization. Like you said, it’s not a business plan. It’s not a philosophy. It’s a tax classification. It’s really tax exempt work. We are getting a lot of useful content today about leveraging what is around us instead of getting stuck in our hole, our silo. You ready to move to the next one?

Mark: Let’s do it. I think we have beaten that topic up a little bit. I like it.

Hugh: #3 is New Leadership Demands. What is changing, and how do we stay out front? I remember years ago people were hiring the motivational speaker. Give me rah, rah. Then people left the room, and it was over. People aren’t hiring motivational speakers. They are hiring people with solid, executable content. What has changed in the leadership segment? What are you thinking about?

Mark: What I see is the informational speaker and the inspirational speaker versus motivational speaker. Let’s talk about that, and then we will go on to the topic of what’s changing with leadership. The difference between a motivational speaker and an inspirational speaker is very simple. If we go back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which I see as a fundamental to everything we do, both within the charitable sector as well as the business sector, those two lower levels of Maslow’s hierarchy is physical needs and then security. Within those two levels, you can motivate people. It’s basically a pain-based motivation. Once we get to that next level, where you have love and self-esteem and move up to self-actualization, that is where inspiration comes into play. If people are in pain, you have to motivate them. If people are out of pain, then you can inspire them. Don’t try to be inspirational when people are hungry and tired and scared. That doesn’t work. It’s just frustrating. They will nod their heads and do what they need to do to get the hell out of your view so they can go get some food or drink or get warm or whatever. We have to help people to the third level of Maslow because we can start to inspire them.

With that in mind, from a leadership standpoint, understanding your leadership is 100% contextual on the state of the person and ultimately the team you are working with. That is not a blinding flash of the obvious to most of you, but we have to be reminded of that because a lot of the traditional leadership mantras that we hear are being offered from the top of Maslow’s hierarchy. But a lot of the people we are leading are way down the hierarchy, and we have to remember that sometimes it’s just giving them a shoulder to cry on and taking them out to lunch or buying them a cup of coffee. Sometimes that’s all the leadership they need in that moment.

Hugh: Wow. That’s a paradigm shift. What are you thinking there, Russ? You’re smiling.

Russell: The thought came to mind that great leaders always have a pulse on where their people are because no two people are in the same place. Cookie cutter leadership doesn’t work. It may have worked back at the turn of the 20th century.

Mark: It didn’t work then either, Russell. I hate to tell you, pal. It was just misreported.

Russell: They pushed it as, “Get in line or go work somewhere else.” That doesn’t work. Good leaders build other leaders around them because that is what makes a great leader look good. We have people who can execute or delegate, and she is doing high level functions. Sometimes you have high performance individuals, and it is really hard- When they have been driving the train for a long time, it’s really difficult for them to take a step back because they have their vision and it’s their baby. They have a hard time taking a step back. This is a way that leaders have to grow in. If people in the work force today aren’t getting work that means something. They move on. Do yourself a favor and let other people help you.

Mark: I think some of the things we have to take a look at from a change standpoint is that our millennial culture, I raised five millennial children. None of them live at home. I consider myself to be a success. They don’t put up with ultimatums. They’ll just raise their middle finger and wave you goodbye. The reality is that leadership is now voluntary. It was always voluntary, but it is now absolutely voluntary. People accept leadership voluntarily, and a charitable organization has always been voluntary. We have to become a whole lot more about what it is you are looking for. How can I help you grow? Where do you want to go? What do you need to help you get there? Can we help you get there? It’s a lot more of the let’s figure out where our tribe needs to go and bring that to them. I think that’s a big component of that. We raised our children to question authority. The boomer generation just shakes their head at, “I am a boomer.” Friends, I raise that generation. I raised them to be what I wanted to be when I was their age, which was to have the freedom to ask questions and to push back and to say, “That’s really stupid. Why do you make that?” When I was a kid, that earned a slap across the face, so I learned to shut up very quickly. I let my kids ask those questions. They were hard questions. They made me a better man.

That also means that military-style, authoritarian leadership will no longer work. It has to be collaborative leadership. But how do we do collaborative leadership? It’s simple. You just ask people. You ultimately, as the leader of your organization, get to make the decision. But you also have to have that collaboration of how we arrive at the destination. You are responsible for the destination. Then we collaborate on how we get there. That is what I see as being a major shift.

Hugh: That is especially true in nonprofits because we do attract some capable people. We think we have to do it as a leader because we don’t want to bother them because they are volunteers and are busy in their real life.

Mark: But wait a minute. That’s why they showed up.

Hugh: You got it. I set that one up good. You are really interfering with what somebody has come to do. That seems like a logical step. That is a huge problem. Bowen leadership systems, Murray Bowen as a psychiatrist created this whole leadership methodology. He talks about that as overfunctioning, and the reciprocity to overfunctioning is underfunctioning. Especially when you have a boomer, me, and you are talking to millennials, like the editor of our magazine, Todd, he says, “Tell me where you want to be, and let me get there.” Nobody likes being told the steps or micromanaged. Millennials like it the least of any particular segment. You raised five millennials, and I don’t see any wounds on your body.

Mark: I’m a much better man. Before I raised my five millennial kids, I was a jerk.

Hugh: Really?

Mark: Yeah. I knew everything. I knew exactly how to do it, and I could prove it. If you didn’t believe me, I’d write a book about it.

Hugh: Wow.

Russell: I just sense that pleasure. Here’s the thing, Mark. They’ll be back. They will bring more with them.

Mark: It gets better and better and more disruptive and more delicious.

Hugh: There is a story of this conductor, who are known to have healthy egos. This conductor walks into a restaurant with a whole bunch of musicians. One person stood up on one side and said, “All conductors are jerks.” Whoa, it got back like this. On the other side, somebody stood up and said, “I resent that comment.” The conductor looked at him and said, “Hey, are you a conductor, too?” He says, “No, I’m a jerk.” I love it. That is a reframed lawyer joke.

Mark: The way I like to talk about conductors is conductors are highly skilled. They can play every instrument in the orchestra. They can. But not well enough to make a living. At the end of the show-

Russell: [hard to hear] tickets on the train, either.

Hugh: The model you are talking about is the conductor doesn’t tell them step by step what they do. The conductor says to the oboe player, the violinist, whatever, “This is the effect I want. This is the result I want.” They guide the process.

I wanted to segue into that as a model for what you’re talking about. That has been a consistent model over the decades. If we look at that in today’s world, leadership as a profound influence and not the micro that you are talking about, do this, do this, do this. It’s a nuance of engaging people and empowering people to raise the bar. That is the essence of transformational leadership really: building a culture of high performers that respond to you.

So we are looking at what has changed, but also we are looking at- Earlier, you talked about transformation. There is a transformation in ourselves before we can be effective. How does that link with what you’re talking about?

Mark: Everybody that I know is going through some form of transformation. They are trying to add a new skill. They are trying to let go of an old habit they see as not serving their life any further. They may be going through a spiritual revolution where they are going from less spiritual to more spiritual. It may be that they are looking for a physical transformation, losing weight, adding muscle, adding health. Those transformations always trigger help because if we could do it on our own, we already would have. We need either skills or encouragement or motivation or a tribe to travel with.

Let’s talk about transformation for just a minute. Let’s have some fun with this. I know that we bumped into this idea with me before, Hugh, and let’s talk about it. I think we have enough time. It’s fairly simple. There is fundamentally a seven-step process in transformation, plus a step zero and a step minus one.

Hugh: Ooh, do tell.

Mark: The first half is about belief. The second half is about knowledge. The difference between belief and knowledge is a manifestation in the physical world. Step minus one is where they want to go. The transformation they want to enjoy is invisible. They can’t even see it. It’s not even within their awareness. It’s not even possible. They hadn’t even thought of it. If you as a charitable organization want to find new people, part of your job is to message the outcome that you deliver so that we can take people who don’t even see that as an opportunity into something that is within their awareness.

Then step zero, going from invisible to impossible. That is the step zero. “Oh, that’s impossible. I could never do that. I don’t see how that’s possible.” That’s step zero.

The transformation starts when they go from the impossible to, “Hmm, that could be possible. You have 1,000 people in this community that has made this transformation? Wow. You’ve helped that many people? It is possible.”

Then the next step is to probable. “I could probably do this. I don’t have all the answers. I may not know my path yet, but this is probable. I could do this.”

Then the third step moves to inevitable. “This is going to happen. Oh yeah. Let’s make this happen. Yeah.”

Hugh: Minus one is where-

Mark: Minus one is invisible. Don’t even know it is possible.

Hugh: Invisible, okay.

Mark: Step zero is impossible.

Hugh: Okay. One is possible.

Mark: Possible.

Hugh: Two is probable.

Mark: Two is probable.

Hugh: And three is?

Mark: Inevitable.

Hugh: Inevitable.

Mark: This is going to happen! I know how to do this. Whoo-hoo. Help me!

Hugh: Russell is scribing these. He is capturing the brilliance.

Mark: That is all based on increasing belief because the transformation has not yet become physical. It is still nonphysical. It is thought and that is about it. Now we cross over from the nonphysical to the physical, from the belief to the real. Step four is real. We go from inevitable to real.

From real to sustainable. I did it! Okay, let’s do it again. I can do this any time I want. That is sustainable.

Then we go from sustainable, step five, to step six, which is normal. “I do this all the time. Sure, of course. This is just part of my life.”

To step seven, which is historical. “I have always done it this way.”

If we are working people through a transformational process—invisible, impossible, possible, probable, inevitable, real, sustainable, normal, historical—if we can run people through that process, we can help them through their transformation.

But here is the most important aspect. You can’t take somebody from impossible to inevitable in one step. That is the psychology of leadership. We have to help them move from impossible to probable. We have to help them move from probable to inevitable. We have to help them move from inevitable to real. Each one of those is a step, as we are crossing this chasm, let’s call it a river, from impossible to historical, going from one side to the other. Every step is a slippery rock that as they reach out with their foot, it may feel like, “I don’t know if I can do this.” Our job as leaders is to hold their finger, hold their hand.

When I was raising my kids, we would do- Kids were going across the rocks, and I would give them a finger. All they had to do was hang onto my finger. That was enough to give them the confidence to take the step. My kids would grab that finger, and we could move them. You did this, right? Russell, you’ve done this with your kids? Just give them a little bit. We don’t need to hold them in an airman’s grip. We just have to give them a finger to hang onto.

Russell: If you don’t want to carry them, you just give them that finger. It’s just enough. Less is more.

Mark: That’s right.

Russell: More, and they step into that power. That’s what it’s about. Whatever the mind can conceive and make itself believe, it can achieve. That is a process.

Mark: You just summarized those seven plus two steps in three words.

Hugh: Thank you, Mr. Hill.

Mark: Yes indeed.

Hugh: That is a profound statement. I was really small, walking with my father, and I would hold a finger. One day, he put a stick there. I kept going because I thought I had his hand. All I had was a stick. When I grew up, I repeated that dirty trick with my kids.

Russell: Interesting. That brings a story to mind. I don’t know how old I was. I may have been two or three. My mother used to carry me upstairs at night. One night, my mother and sister brought me upstairs, stood me in front of the crib, and said, “Okay. Climb in.” I was baffled. I didn’t do anything. So they said, “Okay, well, you will climb in or you will stand there all night.” I don’t know how long I stood there. It turns out they were there watching. It wasn’t very long. I climbed up in that crib. Oh, okay, I got to do this or it’s not going to happen. I never forgot that. I don’t remember much that happened before five. As five gets further away, it’s harder to remember. But that was something I never forgot. A lot of life is like that.

Hugh: That’s a great story. That’s a big leadership example.

The last one of your five topics for the year is Turning Unrest into Peace: How to Divorce Your Organization from the Media’s Promotion of Outrage. What ever are you talking about?

Mark: I’ll be delighted to share with you. With the broad spread availability of Internet and mobile devices, the media got out of the news business. The reason why is the news was available any time I chose to pick up my mobile device and read the news from dozens of news sources. The fundamental TV news made a wholesale pivot from news to opinion and entertainment. You watch any of the mainstream news, and they are not delivering news. They are delivering opinion, not even fact. Opinion. It’s the mot hilarious thing. I watch the news now and laugh. I just see it like reality TV. It is completely scripted. Whatever side they are trying to spin, that is what it is. What is truth? I have no idea anymore. The challenge is to get people to watch opinion, you have to generate outreach. You have to go to them and say, “Isn’t this awful? Isn’t this unfair? This is just horrible. I can’t see how we can even stand doing this anymore.” That outrage allows you to sit through the commercials for pharmaceutical products that help you fix the outrage. You laugh because it’s true.

Russell: Okay. I’m going to give up on MSNBC and Fox Noise because-

Mark: It is noise. I can watch Hannity once a week. It’s the same story every night.

Here’s the thing. First of all, you have to realize that the news business is really to do one thing. It’s not to inform you. It’s to sell advertising. Pure and simple. Their job is to create a community that wants to be outraged a specific way and to promote that outrage so people feel like something is going on. They feel like something is important, but the reality my friends, in the world of charitable organizations, we are offering another way of thinking, another way of feeling. We are offering perhaps a better feeling. I feel way better after going to church than I do after watching the evening news. That circles back to our #1 point today, which is omnichannel. We have to keep providing our message on a regular basis daily, hourly, morning, evening to counter all of the outrage that people are being fed from a commercial stream. Go ahead. Carry on. What do you have in mind there, Hugh?

Hugh: Wow. Wow. Where people are getting into an emotional state, not a factual thinking leadership functioning state. We are going into this-

Mark: Facts don’t matter anymore when it comes to mainstream news.

Hugh: We are in a post-truth culture.

Mark: We are. It’s really interesting.

Hugh: When we hear comments like “The media lies,” I watched purposefully for several weeks reports on CNN, CBN, PBS, and FOX. They were all different.

Mark: Yes.

Hugh: Which one is lying? Or are they all lying?

Mark: None of them are lying. They are presenting their vision of what they want you to believe. Facts have nothing to do with anything. They believe It’s true. They look you square in the eye through the camera and make you believe they believe it. And they do. Otherwise they couldn’t deliver that.

Let’s circle back to the facts that matter to us and to constituents of our organization. That is what we need to focus on.

Hugh: We have eight minutes. We are wrapping up here. That is a perfect segue, thank you. Go ahead.

Mark: The whole point is we need to make sure our message and our leadership and our direction and our transformation is absolutely clear. We have to supply at last some rational thinking. When people say, “Did you hear what the news was?” and the answer is, “Do you believe it?” Let’s focus on something you can believe. So help pivot people away from buying into something that we keep illustrating over and over again is patently not in alignment with the belief and the worldview that we wish. We have to substitute the worldview that our tribe wishes to see.

Personally, I see humanity as growing, expanding, being bigger-hearted than ever before. The people in my environment, the people I bump into, including the folks on the street that ask me for help, are doing better than ever before. My job is to elevate, not to outrage. I think that there are way more people that have that desire than ever before, and perhaps that is why Cartoon Network has a higher rating than CNN. It’s because we want to feel good. We don’t want to feel bad. As a charitable organization, bringing that good news to people and giving them things they can do to feel better about themselves and to improve humanity and their tribe is probably the ultimate thing we can bring to our constituents.

Russell: To piggyback on what you are saying, out of my own experience, I was an advertising salesman for WGAM TV while I was in college. Our most expensive segment was the news slots. That supports that, and that has been the case for quite some time now. That was a few years ago.

The other thing is people are looking to raise their level of consciousness. The media likes to exacerbate this idea of taking sides. One thing that happened to me as a result of my experience working with the Native American tribe is I became nonpartisan here. The people who were going to help you may be on other sides of the aisle. I was literally more interested in what was going to benefit my tribe than what fit their politics. What we are talking about really is raising our level of consciousness. Me, for the most part, I am tuned out on those things. I can’t watch that stuff. If I do happen to catch glimpses of it, nobody lives out in the middle of nowhere. There are a few people off the grid, but you will be exposed to some of the noise. Does that noise matter? We are trying to raise our level of consciousness, and there are people who need our help. When that is the driving thing, you learn how to play nice with others, but you don’t always have to agree on everything, except who is it you want to help and how can you get there. You leave all of the ego and crap on the doorstep and come together to perform missions. I’m glad you haven’t said anything that made me so angry I have to go put a nasty tweet out. I have a Twitter account, and I don’t want to use it.

Mark: Personally, I have a positive posting policy. If I can’t say something nice, I write them a letter and burn it.

Russell: As long as you don’t mail it. That could get you in a lot of trouble.

Mark: If you are writing a letter to somebody or emailing, don’t ever put their address in there as you write it. Otherwise you might by accident send it. Guilty as charged.

Russell: It’s good to write letters every once in a while. Us old guys write letters. You can write letters. Younger folks out there, it’s a dying art. It’s fun.

Mark: It’s great fun. I wrote myself a letter on New Year’s Eve. It’s part of our ritual: to write ourselves letters.

Just to wrap up this segment, an important component is what is your core principle as a leader? Focus on activities that will provide you and your tribe with those core principles. My core principle is freedom. Everything I do needs to lead me to freedom. Freedom of thought, freedom of action, freedom of life. From that freedom, I can serve people. I can’t serve people when I am not free, from a thought standpoint, a physical standpoint, a monetary standpoint. I use that personally as my filter. If I am going to do something, say something, act in some way, the question is: Does this bring me closer to more freedom, or does this take freedom away from me? It could be anything else. It could be oneness. It could be joy. It could be love. It doesn’t really matter. All of them boil down to the same situation anyway. Just that word resonates with me. I think ultimately that is what we need to do to bring peace to our tribe.

Hugh: Our strategy is Russell and I encourage people to be very clear on their vision while they are doing something. As charities, we have to be very good at defining the impact of our work. What difference will it make? We achieve all of that through setting powerful goals. You have given us a whole lot of ideas for goals. Russell mentioned him before, and he is looking behind you there. Behind you is Henry Ford.

Mark: Actually that is Edison. Carry on.

Hugh: They lived next door to each other down in Fort Myers.

Mark: They did.

Hugh: Edison said he never failed; he just found 9,999 things that didn’t work before he invented the light bulb. Ford said obstacles are what you see when you take your mind off your goals. They are both dedicated to excellence. They were both in tune with the culture and trends of their day.

Mark Smith, I don’t know a lot of people with two middle initials. Mark S. A. Smith. You stand out from all those other Mark Smiths.

Mark: That is the reason why. That way you can find me on Google.

Hugh: They are impostors.

Mark: No, they are not impostors. They are just hiding.

Hugh: This is really rich in content. Russell, do you have a closing comment you want to leave here?

Russell: There we are. I’d like to thank Mark for the thoughts he dropped. You are preaching to the choir. It’s about who you are. That’s a message that has to ring true. Who are you? Who are you, and that way you can connect with the people that you are aligned with. I love the alignment. Great comments. Notes in the SynerVision Leadership webinar notebook. I have the notes, Hugh. It will also be out there for folks to look at. It’s a great day here.

Hugh: Super. Mark, thank you for being here and sharing your wisdom with us.

Mark: Delightful to be here. Thank you for the invitation to do so. We have plenty more in 2018.

The SynerVision Leadership Empowerment Symposium

Jan 10, 2018 48:59


NPE SynerVision Leadership Empowerment Symposium

Hugh Ballou: Hey, it’s Hugh Ballou. This is the Nonprofit Exchange. We have a special episode today. I have some friends on here, and maybe some more who will come during the time. We are talking about the SynerVision Leadership Empowerment Symposium. We have done them all over the country, and I have some friends here who have attended and who have been presenters. I wanted to get some first-hand testimonies about what they have experienced and what we are going to experience. Let me introduce the panelists today. First, my co-host Russell Dennis. Welcome, Russell.

Russell Dennis: It’s December 19th, and we are rolling closer to the big day. It’s been a very good year.

Hugh: It’s been a very good year for you.

Russell: Yeah. It’s been a good year in a lot of ways. I have had some challenges. But when you focus on the good, you don’t give into the challenges.

Hugh: You’re an inspiration. I should call you every day to get inspiration. You always have good inspiration. One of your neighbors and our mutual friends is Flo Lattery. She is also in Denver, Colorado, the Mile High City. Flo, welcome.

Flo Lattery: Thank you, Hugh. Good to be here.

Hugh: Down in Clearwater, Florida, we have the one and only David Dunworth. Marketing Partners is your company.

David Dunworth: That’s correct. Marketing Partners. Glad to be here with all of you and all of our viewers. Looking forward to a great interview session today.

Hugh: Super. We are going to talk about the SynerVision Leadership Empowerment Symposium. First, we don’t give dates on the podcast. We’ll send people to the page, and you can find the dates because people might be listening to this podcast a year from now. We do 12 a year, 12 of these one-day events somewhere in the country, everywhere from southern California to New York City to Chicago to Florida. I have done two in Melbourne and two in Vero. Those are repeat locations for us. David, we might want to consider the other coast, St. Pete, Clearwater, Tampa, somewhere on that side.

David: I think it would be valuable to spread our wings across the state because there are a lot of people I think might be able to use our message.

Hugh: Absolutely. We are uppin’ the format of it. I have upped the game as I have gone through the process for the last 18 months to two years. There is a handout/workbook that you are all familiar with. In the workbook, I have started out with what I have learned in 31 years of doing this. When I have had David be a presenter and Russell twice, I have learned there are other people who have had really good content. I have had some good presenters in Winston-Salem and Vero and Melbourne. I also had Shannon Gronich; she couldn’t be here as she is on another live event right now with the Chamber down in Palm Bay. We are going to have more presenters.

Basically, what’s going to happen from this point on in 2018 going forward is we will give content on the four pillars: the leadership piece, which is the skillset and planning piece. The relationships: how do you build your teams, boards, volunteers? How do you incorporate your stakeholders, your systems? Well, we have ideas. How do we take the ideas we got and create revenue out of them, which is one of Russell’s strong suits? He has many. How are we going to market to people? That is one of David’s skillsets out of many. How do we hold it all together so the balance piece, how do we manage different priorities? We will have four or five presenters in each one-day event. Throughout the year, the detailed content will be dripped to the attendees. You will have the top line trainings, and then you will have the content. Once a month, we will have a Q&A session. We are redoing the SynerVision Leadership Foundation community site, and it will be up and running before the 1st, a new site with interactive components. Then we will have multiple presenters at each event. I think it’s time to go back to Denver. It’s time to go to the west coast of Florida and the east coast, both. We’re looking at Salt Lake City. We’re looking at San Diego again. We’re looking at Chicago again.

I want to start out with Flo. You and I have been friends for five, six years, something like that. I said, Let’s do this in Denver. You helped me network with some people, and we had a group. We partnered with the Better Business Bureau there. As you have seen me teach over the years at CEO Space, and we have talked other times, and I have been to Denver many times, you sat very patiently through this symposium. Give the listeners a top-level view of what they can expect. The content fundamentally won’t change. We are going to change how we deliver it. Give people an idea of what to expect and how important it is.

Flo: The perception of nonprofit (I’m going to use nonprofit here), there is a certain connotation around that, how you get money, how you structure. I have been on the boards of a number of nonprofits. I am on one right now that is very active and doing a lot of great work. The biggest takeaway for me from that weekend was how do we get structure, how do we get a foundation under us? Not thinking of a nonprofit as some other entity as opposed to being a business. It is a business. It should be treated as a business. Just like if you were a for-profit business. That is the problem a lot of nonprofits have. I have a friend here in Denver who has a great nonprofit. I was having a conversation this morning with someone. Why isn’t that particular entity being looked at for what it really can be in terms of raising funds, having a business structure like you’d have with a for-profit with a CEO, a COO, and pay these people? Why isn’t that being done for a nonprofit that is really positioned to explore that train of thought? I think people like that would benefit from coming to your symposium and learning that what they can do. There is that option. You can build a thriving business whether you’re a nonprofit or not. The education there is what is a nonprofit? How do you structure it? What is the potential? What you can do, how you can create a real business and make it successful.

Hugh: Thank you for lifting that up. It is our goal to teach people that run charities. We call this the Nonprofit Exchange, but I am using the word charity a lot more. It helps people think in different terms. It is a tax-exempt charity that must make profit. Thanks for lifting that paradigm up. You have brought up some good topics here.

Russell is one of the official WayFinders with SynerVision Leadership Foundation. We have changed the paradigm of the consultant to the WayFinder. We teach people how to fish rather than give them a fish. We build strong leaders in organizations. Russell, you came along. I think the first time you participated was in Melbourne a couple years ago, wasn’t it?

Russell: It was. I managed to get to one of Shannon’s events. I hadn’t seen her for some time up until then to actually go to an event and talk about at that particular time just different sources of funding and some advantages and disadvantages of them. When you talk about money, you have people’s attention. You can’t really talk about fundraising of money in any meaningful sense without going back to the basic fundamentals of who are we, what’s our value proposition, what’s the problem that we solve, and who wants what we have. What do we want to get out of it? I am in the process. I am putting the finishing touches on the fundraising course. It’s an overview course. There is a lot of videos, a lot of content, a lot of information on resources that people could have because you can’t really get it all into one shell. It’s really thinking about who you are and going to that core and talking about the value that you bring and not showing up with your hat in your hand. That is a whole dynamic that is going to take a little bit of time to shift. That is why we got people like David with brilliant marketing minds that can help us shape that. It takes some digging for people to really get at the core of who they are.

A lot of people think it’s woo-woo. I gotta tell you, I don’t know if you have ever heard of the Strengths Finder, but I remember doing that a few years ago. One of my five top things is what they call WOO, which is Winning Over Others. That is bringing people around who are like-minded to support you. Your people are your most valuable asset when it comes- It’s all about a paradigm shift and getting out there, understanding that we can provide value just like any other business. That value has to be paid for, and people get a valuable benefit. The word “value” is almost never used in nonprofit circles.

Hugh: Good words. I take a great risk any time I am in a room with Russell because he has to make me stretch and keep my game going. He is a high performer. I remember the first time you presented in Melbourne because Russell shows up, he is very polite, mild-mannered, like Superman. He has an S under his shirt. He shows up. When he started presenting, people are going, “Whoa, who is this guy?” I always try to get people better than me, which sometimes isn’t too hard. With Russell, I know he is better. Russell, you have brought an incredible amount of experience and wisdom and thought into all of the presentations you have done. Thank you for being a part of this. We are going to incorporate you more. We are going to make you travel some. We are going to incorporate you more into this in the future.

The three main issues that people bring. I ask people at the beginning of the day: What is it you want to deal with today? What question or issue do you want to make sure we deal with today? Number one is leader burnout. Number two is board underfunctioning. Number three is lack of sufficient revenue. We teach them the strategy, and then Russell can do his magic.

David, one of your hats is marketing. You really can’t do a marketing job unless the company has identified their unique value proposition, their mission and vision, and who their target market is. Say something about your experience both as a listener. You have been patiently sitting in these symposiums, but you have also presented a little bit, but not nearly enough. I’d like to get you more involved in the future. Talk about it from both sides: what you saw when you were a presenter, the exchanges with the people, and what you saw from the viewer side.

David: What I have seen in the past with my limited exposure, I have seen the symposium twice, one of which I participated in. I want to make a point about what Russell just finished saying. It’s just like- We have a mindset of scarcity. That mindset needs to shift from one of scarcity to abundance. Everybody in the nonprofit world is worried about we have only so much money so we can only do so much. As Flo said, if we treat it like a business, the only difference between a nonprofit/charity is that the funds reserve account in a charity would normally go to Uncle Sam’s tax or payout for salaries. That is the only difference. That money needs to come in. You need to sustain yourself as an entity. You need to fulfill your mission. If you focus at it from a business standpoint rather than a social service, the options for generating more revenue are abundant, well beyond that of writing for grants and that sort of thing. That is what I see as a critical component dismissing- Number one is the mindset, as Russell pointed out. Number two is the marketing strategies and tactics that can be employed for little or no money that will generate a return on investment. I hope that helps answer your question.

Hugh: Absolutely. Back to what Flo was saying, we really haven’t thought of our charity as a business. Russell will tell you from his years with the IRS that- We have Geo Ropert joining us. He has been an attendee before, and I asked him if he could weigh in. Hello, Geo. Thank you for being here.

Flo brought up the topic of business and thinking of it as a business. As Russell will tell you, the IRS has strict guidelines on what happens with the money. It’s important that we have a boar that oversees the finances and where the money flows. We really have to generate the revenue so we have something to worry about. I find a lot of charities are under water. David, you talked about the return on investment. Say a little more about that.

David: Whatever is expended in terms of generating revenue, whether it be time, effort, or financial resources as a seed, you expect to return at least as much if not two, three, five, ten times as any small business would. Rather than the mindset of “Let’s utilize our money to serve the community as much as we can, and then we will wait for more money to come in magically,” we set out a marketing, tactics, and strategy campaign to where it’s identified in advance and budgeted for so that we can establish itself as a business, expecting to generate not only X amount in grants but Y amount in revenue-generating campaigns. Much again, as Flo mentioned, it has to be treated like a business rather than a cookie jar with only six cookies in it.

Hugh: Yeah. We worry about how much of the pie we get. How big is our slice of the pie? When we should think about increasing the size of the pie. Geo Ropert down in Melbourne?

Geo Ropert: Hello. Yes. How are you?

Hugh: Good, good. Welcome. You are in Melbourne, Florida.

Geo: Yes, I am. Beautiful Florida.

Hugh: Both David and Geo have been guests on The Nonprofit Exchange and have given us really a wealth of information around the marketing piece. It’s interesting. There is a quote from the composer/conductor Ralph Vaughan Williams that said, “Music did not reveal all of its secrets to just one person.” We could say that about leadership or about marketing. Geo, thanks for joining. You attended an event way back.

By the way, we are sharing with The Nonprofit Exchange listeners about the leadership empowerment symposium, which is fundamentally all the tools you need to up your game and run your charity or your business. Actually, a third of attendees have been small business owners over the 25 different cities we have done this, actually 22 because we repeated Melbourne and Vero Beach twice. Geo, one of the things that you may not know is once you pay for registration, you get to come back. Once you’re in, you’re in, and you get to come back because each time we offer this, it has enhancements. There are more things to learn and more ways to grow. I am doing this today to let people know more about the symposium. It can come to a city near where everybody lives. We need somebody in that location to help us pull together an audience of people who want to learn and want to do better in their charity.

Geo, you and I met like a day or two before, and I twisted your arm and you came anyway. What was your experience at this day-long event you attended?

Geo: It was great. It really was an eye-opener, if you will, to getting some good insight into a change in thinking and a way of thinking. I left there with the renewed sense of ability in myself and also I think the way you talked about team-building and leadership in teams was very important. I particularly remember the exercise you gave us of having to raise a bar and trying to get everybody’s mind to work together to accomplish a task. How seemingly easy it can be on the surface, yet when you get down to it and when each is assigned and each has a responsibility, it is equally responsible for bringing that task to light and seeing it through to its conclusion, how that really has to be all in and everybody really has to be part of it and really focus together. I still talk about it because when we first started doing it, this is a piece of cake. We started doing it and the cake became more like brownies and then crumbled cookies. It was interesting to say the least. I really enjoyed it. You have a magic touch when it comes to conveying the importance of leadership, especially in nonprofits. I come from a couple different nonprofit jobs, along with my for-profit business. What you teach is sound on all levels.

Hugh: Thank you. You came from the perspective of a small business owner. A third of the audiences have been small business entrepreneurs. A third have been clergy, rabbis or pastors. A third of the audience has been nonprofit executives, leaders, board chairs, executive directors, that kind of thing, or a chamber president. You came from the standpoint of an entrepreneur. Did you find the content was just as useful for your business as it was for you thinking about nonprofits and working with them?

Geo: Absolutely, yes. That translates. I think I caught the tail end of David mentioning nonprofits, charitable organizations, are businesses. Whether that nonprofit be a 501(c)3 or a 501(c)6, in my experience, we have all had it, nonprofits do not think of themselves as businesses. Unfortunately, they really need to. I have always looked at the nonprofits I have worked with from an entrepreneur’s eye if you will because that is how I think. I think business. Anybody who has got something that has a balance sheet to it, let’s put it that way. If you have a balance sheet, then this is something you really need to do: come in and experience this and understand the concepts and theories that Hugh is going to share with you because it really is important and can help everybody. The third one, the clergy, that was what my grandmother said I should have been. I have all three. Preacher politician, that is what she said. You are going to be a preacher politician. I lean more toward the politician, but keeping the preacher alive.

Hugh: That’s hilarious. I never knew that. Hope she wasn’t too disappointed.

Russell, what are you thinking?

Russell: I am thinking that if Geo is going to be a proper politician, he has to get a lot angrier.

Geo: You know what? I want to be the passionate politician. That is what I want to do. I want to change it. I want to change it. Chances are slim to nil.

Hugh: I am going to throw it to Flo, bring it back to sensibility here. Flo, what was the most useful thing that we did during the day? You talked to people throughout the day. There were quite a wide range of people there. I see our friend Eddie Blackwell is on the Facebook feed here. He was in attendance there. What do you think, judging from what people said, from what you experienced, what was the most useful thing that happened during that day?

Flo: There were several things that came out of there. One of the thoughts I have is on strategy. You need strategy whether you are a for-profit or you are a charitable organization. What is your strategy? What is your foundation? What does your team look like? What is the functioning of your board? One of the big takeaways for me is when you talked about boards and who should be on a board and what they should bring to the board and how they participate and support the organization. Those are eye-opening for me also.

Having gotten on boards myself, the first thing I expect when I get on a board is what is my role and responsibility? I have left boards because I didn’t have that. They could not articulate. You asked me to be on the board, and what do you want me to do? That just wasn’t forthcoming. It was not a structure where each person on the board had a defined role and responsibility. We showed up for meetings, then we left meetings, maybe we did something or tried to do something, but there was not a specific outline of what the goal of the organization was, what the plans they have are, what the deliverables are, and what role I would play in those deliverables. I have always appreciated that. Having people on a board is not just assembling people you like and calling them board members. They need to have specific roles, and they need to be contributing to the organization in some way.

Hugh: Those are- I got to watch what I say. You remember everything I tell you.

Flo: Yes, I do. I still have my book.

Hugh: Oh, good. David, what about you? How would you answer that question? What do you think was the most important thing you saw or people resonated with that you met in the room?

David: In terms of resonating, your messages about leadership and burnout and avoiding that through a structured approach to the operation made the biggest impact on me. I think the audience when I sat at panels that time was kind of glazed over when I spoke of marketing because they are not of the opinion or weren’t of the opinion, I should say, that raising money beyond the grants scheme was somebody else’s job. Unifying the message and the leadership of the organization to get on one set of sheet music, notice that little jibe, is paramount to do in order to move an organization forward. Flo is right. It has to be structure. It has to be strategy. It has to be aligned tactics and responsibilities that have to be followed through.

Hugh: Geo, do you want to add to this conversation?

Geo: It is concurrence. You guys speak as eloquently as I do. I loved it. I really love to listen, especially when Russell starts talking.

Hugh: It’s always risky when I throw it to Russell. You never know what is going to happen.

Geo: It always turns out to be pretty good.

Hugh: It’s always excellent. I have to watch my game because he shows me up every time. I like it. It’s really good. My excuse is my age and mental condition. He doesn’t let me slide with that one. Had to work it in, Russ.

Russell, what do you think was some of the most important-? I knew the piece you did on funding, people did lots of notes and they wanted to have conversations. That was a key piece. We will say that up front. It was a key piece for me. I learn things from all the presenters, which is really great. What do you think was the key learning piece of the day, based on your experience and based on what you observed in the room?

Russell: With the group we had there, I think the one thing that really came through in every piece of information that we talked about was an aha moment that everybody in the room when they came to the realization is that if we don’t take time to do this up front and go through all of these steps, if we don’t take time to do it and get it right up front, when are we ever going to have time to go back and do it over again if we missed something? I think that was the biggest takeaway for everybody. A lot of this stuff in the old days was called woo-woo. You really have to think these things through because this is all about who you are and what you’re about because that is what drives the bus. That is the level you connect with people on. You have to have that shared vision and shared goal. More importantly, you have to know what you don’t know. That seems to be a difficulty that I have experienced personally. There just have been times where I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and it came back to bite me later. If that is in a critical area, that can make the difference between keeping your doors open and having to close them.

Hugh: Absolutely. Half of the nonprofits formed every year will close because they are not successful for a number of reasons. Money is just one of those. Russell, if you’re listening to this, you want to find out more, you can go to and find out more about the general principles, what you are going to learn. You can find the city, click on the link for the ones that are scheduled. We have always several scheduled ahead, 90 days out. If you want one near you, there is a link there and you can email us and say, “Let’s talk about having one in my city.”

Russell, who should attend this?

Russell: This is something you could have any member of your board of directors attend. If you have really committed and dedicated volunteers, you have people that are thinking about investing in you and sponsoring you. It’s not just for nonprofit leaders. I would have people from foundations, from government agencies that have people that actually go out and look to fund the work of nonprofits attend. There are some insights they can gain that can help them look at some projects differently when they think of the process nonprofits have to go through. I really think it’s important. One of the things I am emphasizing in my new course is to get out there and think about some of the ways that people that fund projects think, whether they are a donor advised fund or a foundation because if you can understand that dynamic- Here’s the thing most people don’t consider. It’s every bit as difficult to give that money away as it is to get it. These folks don’t want to lose; they want to make money fast and be certain they are betting on projects that are going to get a return, a social profit, in terms of the impact they make on people and operate at a surplus. There is that dual bottom line that is almost never discussed. Anybody that is interested in solving a social problem, I think would be good for them to attend this.

Hugh: We have Dr. Thyonne Gordon. She was in transit and just got to her computer. Welcome to the conversation. We have been talking about our experience at the symposium. One of the many topics that she is an expert on is board development. Dr. Gordon, we beamed you in from LA to Vero Beach, and *audio cut out* a lot about board development things we don’t know. Welcome to the conversation. We are doing a promo about the symposium because we have plans. We are recording this in 2017; we don’t know when people will be listening. Our pattern is to do one in some city 12 times a year. Doesn’t exactly work out to one a month, but almost. We are talking now about who should attend the symposium. Why don’t you weigh in on who should attend and based on what you know, what do you think some of the important values are that people get when they attend?

Thyonne Gordon: Hey, everybody. It’s so good to see everybody. Flo, David, Geo, Russell, everybody, and of course, you, Hugh. Hello to our viewing audience. I am excited for this symposium that is coming up. Hugh has been talking about it for a while. We have done a couple of small symposiums back and forth in different places. Who should attend this in terms of the 501(c)3 world, or what I call the social profit sector? Anybody and everybody who wants to share their story and get it out to people who need to know the work that you do. We are a community of people that provide services beyond what other people do with their products and different things in the world. We provide things that make a difference in the world, that make an impact. In the social profit sector, I’ll explain why I say that a little bit. My company is Beyond Story Consulting and Training. With Beyond Story, I take you beyond your story into success. In particular, with 501 (c)3 and social profits, I encourage us to pay attention to the words that we use. We are the only industry that say what we don’t do before we say what we do. The work that we do is so important we need to say what it is. We do social profit work. We do on-purpose causes. Instead of saying, “Oh, I’m a nonprofit,” I encourage people to relabel yourself. That is why I call us social profits.

Attending this symposium would be anyone who wants to advance their mission, who wants to see their vision fulfilled in a truer way, who has a dream like I do that some of these social profit causes will not be needed in the world in the future. I would love for there to be a day where we didn’t need a foster care social profit organization because children were cared for by the communities in which we lived in. Anyone who has a cause, a mission, a vision of changing the world, you should be at this symposium.

In terms of the piece that I work with and that I think is most vital and important, of course, fundraising is one of them, development, making sure your programs are intact, all those things are important. But the crux, the structure, what I call the foundation of nonprofits is your board and how your board governs and how they work with the executive directors and the people that are in the organization. Board governance is one of the key critical pieces of any organization. Unless your board is on track and understanding their fiduciary responsibility to the organization that they sit on that board for, they are not doing their job. Unless they really understand it, they get it, and they are walking the talk, they are not doing the job. I think board governance and relating board chairs with executive directors is one of the most important and crucial factors that you can have to have a self-sustaining nonprofit with longevity or a social profit with longevity. That is one of the reasons you should attend. I really hope to see you there. I can’t stay on for too long, but I will sit in and listen in to everyone. Hugh, thank you for inviting me to the call. For all of you who are listening, I want to see you at one of the symposiums in one of the months, any place in the country where Hugh has it, or even if he takes us out of the country, which would be fun. Thanks!

Hugh: Yeah, we should go to the islands in the winter. Of course, it’s always nice in southern California. It’s chilly here. Maybe when you come here in March, it won’t be that chilly.

Geo, Flo, David, do you want to weigh in on why people should come?

Geo: Thank you, Dr. Gordon. I wrote down social profits. I love that term, and it’s something new. You always learn something. I’m glad I got on. You know what, the people should really attend are the people who are thinking about starting a nonprofit because I tell you what. I talk to a lot of people, especially in the community, who say I am going to start a nonprofit. I have been on nonprofits before. I have sat on boards. Until you are actually in the throes of developing one of these and organizing from the leadership side, you have no clue what you are in for. An executive director doesn’t show their cards 99% of the time. They can tell you what’s going on. You can see some of it as a board member and learn, but you need to know going in what you’re getting into, what you should be prepared for, what you should know, and you should know the things that you teach, Hugh, because 50% of them go out of business. Dr. Gordon, when you said I would love to see that we don’t need them anymore, I echo that thought. I also think that we get too many folks who jump in and start a nonprofit because they think they can do something better instead of going back and maybe having their whole board go to one of these trainings and become a better organization so there doesn’t need to be another one started who will also try to get a piece of the pie. You have to have more volunteers and start polluting that pool to the point where it becomes unsustainable.

Hugh: Great. Flo and David, if you want to weigh in, then I’ll have one final question. Who should come, David and Flo?

David: Everybody that has already been mentioned. I would say local government needs to be there. At least a local government representative. It could be some of these city council people and so forth because we need them as well to help support the cause. Other than that, Dr. Gordon, I second the motion.

Hugh: I don’t care what she’s sellin’. I want it. Flo?

Flo: I totally agree with Geo about those who should come, but I also want to invite- He is saying if you are thinking about starting a nonprofit, you should be there. I see so many foundations, nonprofits, charities, whatever you want to call them, who have started. It’s all about their passion. They are passionate about what they are doing. They want to be successful. But they don’t have the foundation to support them to get where they want to go. If you are already there, you are running around doing all the things you should be doing.

We have had an experience with someone I introduced to Hugh who is very successful at what he does, but he is doing it all by himself. All by himself. He is the head cook and bottom washer. He is running around from donor to donor to donor doing things, and from corporate sponsors who are contributing tons and tons of food, and he is the person on the line. He needs to step back, create a structure of a team. He needs a team. He does not have a team. The board that is in place is not very functional. They just aren’t. We had a board lunch, and half the board didn’t show up. I invite those people in our listening audience, if you are under way, we are just not talking about if you want to start something. If you are already out there doing your passion but you are all alone doing it, you will burn out. What happens to the people you want to serve?

Hugh: If you overfunction, you are robbing a volunteer of an opportunity.

Let’s start with Dr. Thyonne Gordon. I want to ask the same question, then to everyone else. What words would you use to invite somebody to come? What is the invitation that you’d like to extend to people listening to come to this event?

Thyonne: Now you are asking me to put on a marketing hat. This is really a nonprofit forum where you get to be everything. Accountant, now a marketing person.

What could I say to somebody who is going to attend an explosive, inclusionary, and exclusive event? I think those would be the words. It is an event that is very inclusive of the social profit community and also very exclusive in terms of making sure that they hit the sectors that need to be hit in a very defined and specific way with some of the people that you’ve brought on to help bring this to fruition. I would just say explosive because the things that will happen, the thoughts, when each person here spoke, David and Geo and Flo, and Russell always has something great to say, I always learn something. It’s like a starburst going off in your mouth. That’s good. Ooh, that’s good! You just want to write your notes down. I would say it’s explosive, it’s inclusionary, and very exclusive for the social profit community. It’s something that you don’t want to miss.

Hugh: Love it. Thank you for being here. Geo, you meet your friend XYZ on the street. What would you say to him as to why he should come?

Geo: If you have a nonprofit and you want to have a nonprofit tomorrow, then you should come to this.

Hugh: Bottom line, man of few words. Flo, you met Suzette on the street. What do you say to Suzette?

Flo: I would say to Suzette: How successful do you want your organization to be? How many of the people that you’re targeting are you reaching now? How many more could you reach if you had the right structure and right foundation and right volunteers and right board, the money in the bank? Think a lot bigger than where you are right now, not just within your local community, but how far could you go? How many more people could you reach and serve? If you have that intention, that passion, that want to reach more people, then you need to be here to learn how to do that and to do it effectively and not by yourself.

Hugh: David, you are in a meeting and you see your friend George. What are you going to say to George as to why he should come?

David: George, you need to bring your passion, share your genius, and learn to build sustainability so that we all can serve more people tomorrow.

Hugh: Whoa. Russell, you meet a lot of people. What are you going to say to them? We are going to hold one in your backyard and you want to invite them. What is your compelling message?

Russell: We have a friend in our Facebook room who has been somebody that I have been talking to, and he is going to change the face of education and the way that we deliver that. It’s about bridging and transitioning because a lot of people have already gotten started. They didn’t take time to do this extensive process or have the team. As far as bridging, it’s making connections, bridging and transitioning from a reactionary type of operation into a strategic, purpose-driven operation with teams and tools that are going to propel you forward so that you can get dug out of the mud and really get out there and make that impact because there are big changes that people have that they can make the innovation that my friend online here, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It’s timely and needed. The longer that my friend is stuck in the mud, the longer it’s going to take us to pull our education system out of the tailspin. I am looking forward to seeing him at events coming up here in the Denver area.

I’m looking forward to making this available so all of these people that you see and hear are part of that. We will be adding value. You can learn and gain from our experience and get resources. I have a couple of resources on what to do as far as considering starting a nonprofit and alternatives. There are many things you should do. Those will be available on the SynerVision website and on my revamped website. That is what it’s about. Let us give you the tools that you need to move forward.

Hugh: Thank you. Dr. Gordon, thank you for being here. Geo Ropert, thank you. Flo Lattery, thank you. David Dunworth, thank you. It’s a pleasure to know you all and thank you for your support and love and care of all those leaders who need your wisdom.

Nonprofits That Work: 15-40 Connection

Dec 18, 2017 39:04


15-40 Connection is focused on educating and empowering people about early cancer detection. This education helps individuals become aware of the early warning signs of cancer. Most cancer organizations focus on research for a cure, treatment or support. There are also many cancer organizations that focus on prevention. Unfortunately, we still don’t know what causes all cancers, so while some preventative measures can reduce risk; it can’t remove the risk completely. Research shows that detecting cancer early improves effectiveness of cancer treatment and also improves the chance of survival, which is why 15-40 Connection is empowering individuals to be aware of the early warning signs to give them their best chance at effective treatment and survival.

15-40 Connection aims to educate and empower individuals with the skills to recognize subtle health changes in themselves, rather than rely only on medical professionals. Through 15-40 Connection’s 3 Steps to Early Detection individuals learn how to become active participants in their own health care so cancer as well as other illnesses can be diagnosed earlier. The result is a quicker return to health and most importantly lives saved.

For more information: 

As Vice President for Engagement for 15-40 Connection, Kelly Fattman supports educational outreach and national communication that teaches people how to detect cancer earlier. She is passionate about saving lives through the power of early detection. While working in this role, she experienced health changes herself that lead to a brain tumor diagnosis. Kelly put into practice the exact education she was delivering to change the outcome of her situation.

Using 15-40 Connection’s 3 Steps Detect, Kelly became one of the most valuable members of her health care team. After describing how her health changes felt, she was told by two doctors. “That doesn’t make sense.” Her health changes were different from what they had seen most often. As they put the piece of the puzzle together to determine her diagnosis, Kelly continued to trust how she was feeling and shared that information. It was because of one of her symptoms that were not making sense that her doctor ordered additional tests which revealed her brain tumor. Had Kelly not shared that information, her diagnosis would have been delayed, the brain tumor would have continued to grow, her treatment options would have been more limited, and the chances of lasting side effects would have risen significantly.

Prior to her role at 15-40 Connection, Kelly, helped companies large and small launch products, reach new audiences and improve customer engagement. Some of the major brands she has worked with include Reebok, Dunkin Donuts, American Express, New Balance, and the Boston Marathon.

Here's the Transcript of the Interview

Hugh Ballou: Welcome to this episode of The Nonprofit Exchange. And yet another interesting guest, Russell. What do you think of that?

Russell Dennis: Good-looking and interesting and smart. Dedicated. Those are the kind of people that show up here. I like it.

Hugh: We attract really brilliant people who have good stories. Kelly, welcome to The Nonprofit Exchange.

Kelly Fattman: Thank you for having me.

Hugh: We had a struggle with technology, but we conquered it. Here we are. Let’s start out. I don’t like these dry introductions of people. I like people to tell me a little bit about themselves. What about you is important to the work you do? Then talk about this organization, 15-40 Connection.

Kelly: It’s interesting because I have a background in marketing and development. I have spent the last part of my career, probably the last ten years, in strategy, development, and activation, specifically around customer engagement. When I came to 15-40, my role was to really help to drive engagement and scale because we really needed to scale our message. We knew it was life-saving education, and we needed to get to as many people as possible.

What is unique in my story is I was working as a consultant, and then I had a health change. Part of our education is about noticing changes in your health and acting on them. I did that. I call it my orientation to the business. I was in real time in my life testing our education. Does it work? My health change was significant. I did see a doctor. I had some challenges with getting a diagnosis, but I pushed. I became the empowered patient, which is something that we talk about, and got to an accurate diagnosis, which really changed my life. That makes me not just a business professional, but also a consumer. That combination has been very successful as we enter the drive of this mission and our need to scale it and our ability to scale it.

Hugh: Kelly Fattman, y’all aren’t from the South, I can tell. Where are y’all from?

Kelly: I am actually born and raised right outside of Boston, Massachusetts, but my parents are from Pennsylvania. I have a little bit of a mixed problem going on here.

Hugh: Russell is over there in Denver. They got a really distinctive accent, which you can’t tell. The South is very distinctive, and in New England, it is of course really distinctive.

Tell us a little bit about 15-40 Connection.

Kelly: Our mission is we teach people how to detect cancer early. It’s that simple. There is a ton of companies. Once you are diagnosed with cancer, there is a bunch of resources to access for treatment, care, mental health, and research. When it comes to the path that leads to diagnosis, there is nobody who does what we do, which is unfortunately why we are doing it. The founder wasn’t necessarily looking for something else to do, but when he saw this opportunity and the gap that was available to people to maintain their health and survive cancer, he acted on it. Our education is teaching people how to recognize symptoms, act on those symptoms, and connect with their doctors to get an accurate early diagnosis.

Hugh: Outstanding. On your site, there is a core educational message called Three Steps Detect.

Kelly: Correct.

Hugh: Say more about that.

Kelly: The Three Steps Detect is our core education. It is really the entry point of what you learn when you’re learning about early detection. We broke it down into three simple steps. If you follow these three steps, it will lead to not only potential cancer diagnosis early, but really diagnose anything. We have heard from people this year that have diagnosed heart disease, kidney stones, things along those lines. We know that it’s not just cancer that can be detected early. It can be anything. We know that anything detected early gives you a better chance of survival, better health outcomes, getting back to your life quicker, back to health quicker.

Hugh: It’s not just cancer?

Kelly: We are focused on cancer, but the interesting byproduct of our education is it’s helping people find other things as well. But our primary focus is cancer.

Hugh: Wow. So you started telling a story that you had a health change. It brought you- How did you connect with 15-40? Was it already in existence?

Kelly: I was actually working here, and they were developing the curriculum Three Steps Detect. We had been doing education before I got here but knew that we needed to tighten it up, be clearer on the message, get something that was memorable and actionable. That is what I was working on. When I had the health change, I followed the three steps quite honestly.

The biggest step we talk about is the part where the patient interacts with the doctor. Doctors, we call them detectives. They only can solve the case based on the clues that are provided to them. We are the people who provide the clues. I was providing my clues; however, the doctors basically outlined to me that what I was saying didn’t make sense, that my explanation of my symptoms couldn’t be what they are. I stayed true to my story because of what I learned here, and ultimately they ordered the right test and got to an accurate diagnosis. I had two diagnoses prior to the third, which was the accurate one.

Hugh: Some of us listening that are paranoid. When I visit people in the hospital, I start hurting when they start talking about their operation. Can you give us an idea of those three steps?

Kelly: Sure. First step is to know you’re normal, to know that you’re great. What’s good for you? When you wake up in the morning, how do you feel on a good day? We don’t have a checklist, but it’s setting benchmarks. What’s your normal sleep patterns? What is your normal energy level? What are your bowel habits? Those are the things you should be checking in with. How is your skin? Do you have a lot of moles or just a few? Are you watching your skin? If new things come in that weren’t there before. It’s knowing what your normal is so if something changes, you can recognize the change. That is step one.

Step two is the two-week rule. Since you have set the base of your normal, when something changes, you’ll notice. Your stomach starts to act up. Maybe you’re going to the bathroom differently. You’re more tired than normal. Most things will clear up after two weeks. The flu, pneumonia, the common cold. There are lots of things that after two weeks solve themselves. If after two weeks you are still feeling these symptoms, we recommend you go check it out. It does not mean you have cancer. The two-week rule helps people not to be a hypochondriac, as you stated; it helps them to be calm because they say, “Okay. In two weeks a lot of things go away.” Two weeks gives them a reason to go check it out.

The third step is the sharing with your doctor. That piece is the most critical in that it’s what I outlined earlier. What you say to your doctor is going to determine what they know about you. They don’t have X-ray vision. They can certainly order tests, but they don’t know which ones to order if you are not sharing the right information with them. Ultimately, that relationship is critical. In this time where health care is so challenging and so variable across the country, it is understanding all the different scenarios that people can enter. Some people have long-term relationships with primary care. Others use urgent care or medical clinics, so it’s a one-and-done environment. It’s making sure the patient is driving the conversation, and they are driving the outcome to early diagnosis because if we don’t drive, the doctors and the way the model is now built, they don’t have the infrastructure and support systems, most of them, to do the follow-up and the additional work. They also don’t know how you’re feeling, so you go to the doctor and leave and don’t follow back up with them, but you’re still not feeling well. How are they going to know?

Those are really the three steps.

Hugh: I guess it’s tricky. We all assume that the doctor knows everything. They tell you something, and it’s a tendency for us to want to shut down. What I hear you saying is that we learn to be assertive in talking about ourselves. Is that the context you’re talking in?

Kelly: We say the best chance is you, the empowered patient. It’s all of those. It’s the strength of believing in yourself, trusting in your instincts, not being embarrassed. Some of the cultural norms. In the times we grew up, people didn’t question their doctor. I’m not sure people are being raised the same way now. I think now is the right time. You know you the best. It’s about a partnership with a doctor; it’s not about us versus them. It’s about creating a partnership between you and them.

Hugh: That is a really helpful paradigm because- You called them a detective a minute ago. We have to give them the clues. They depend on us telling them. I have a very good doctor who listens very carefully and spends time and asks me very good questions. Sometimes those are questions about things I have never thought about, but you are helping me think about being prepared in case I wake up and it’s not normal. If you are not normal, you wait two weeks, and if it doesn’t go away, then you make an appointment. Is that what I heard you say?

Kelly: That’s exactly right. We also say that if something changes significantly, like you break your leg or you have a really sharp pain or something along those lines, then you don’t wait two weeks. It’s making sure you understand the difference. Our teaching is about the subtle, persistent changes that hang around that wouldn’t necessarily impact your ability to go about your day. Those are the ones you wait two weeks and they usually clear up. Things that are more like the symptom I had was more significant. I had a sharp pain in my head that would come and go, but it was nothing I had ever felt before, very different from my normal and was more dramatic. It wasn’t subtle, I should say. I acted quicker than two weeks.

Hugh: Why is 15-40 Connection a 501(c)3?

Kelly: Essentially because a nonprofit is the best way to get to everybody. Our mission is to educate people on how to detect cancer early. The fact is it wasn’t being done before. Now that the issue is raised, you have to build the case to get the education out there. What we were able to do is build the case with funders and people who are interested in the nonprofit space to make a difference and save lives. That is how we landed as a nonprofit segment versus a for-profit who would be selling the education, which is not the motivation of the founder and the other people who work here.

Hugh: It’s to make it accessible to more people.

Kelly: Yes.

Hugh: Russell, what are you hearing here? Do you have questions or observations?

Russell: That is remarkable. I can think back to a health change that I had when I was working for the IRS. There was some signs. I did not act. In my case, I can speak for myself. I think fear was a factor. Does your education program go to address those things that people may have, these fears that going to the doctor could cause me to miss work or my insurance may not be adequate? Fear is unreasonable often. It doesn’t make any sense, yet it is there. Does your program address any of these fears that people may be experiencing or provide a space where people can discuss it?

Kelly: Yes. Fear is the #1 issue. People say, I’m afraid to go. If I don’t go, it will go away. The reality is that that fear, where it’s unfounded is if you catch it early, great. That’s a win because you can take care of it. If you don’t have anything, that’s great, too. Both are celebration points. We do have a natural fear of what the doctor is going to say. We also on the flip side of that want the doctor to say you’re okay. Once the doctor says you’re fine, we say, Oh, great, even though you still don’t feel well, even though the symptoms still persist. You heard them say you’re okay, and that’s what you want. We call it the get out of jail free card because that is what people are looking for. You have to trust your instincts. You have to trust yourself. A lot of the teaching is about recognizing the obstacles, all that you just outlined, that keep people from going and keep people from getting the early detection because of those obstacles.

Russell: Do you have any statistics—I think you might be a source for it—of people who are finding out that they have cancer, let’s say late detection? Are there- How many cases are there where people are finding out too late that they could have been treated or the treatment becomes more difficult because they waited? Do you have any of those numbers per chance?

Kelly: I don’t have them at my fingertips. What I can share with you is one in two men and one in three women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. Those numbers are staggering. That is about 40%. That is a big number. We need to get as many of those people to detect cancer in stage zero or stage one. We also know the cost is significantly different. We do have data that supports stage one care versus stage four is the difference is probably 300-400%.

The other thing is they just started to publish these studies now in the National Journal of Medicine and a few others around. Misdiagnosis is a blind spot that has been ignored for the last 20 years. The misdiagnosis leads to the lack of early detection. The more diagnoses you get that are inaccurate, the longer the pathway is to the correct diagnosis. There has been a lot of studies published on that. But the actual numbers of early versus late haven’t found that yet. But we are continuing to see stuff like that pop up.

Russell: That is a lot of people, 40% of the population. That is staggering. Is that how it’s been historically? Have we seen an increase historically?

Kelly: I don’t know how long ago it was tracked. I can’t answer that. But I know certain cancers are on the rise, some in younger people, like colon cancer and some others. I am not sure to answer your question if it’s on the rise. But the number is staggering. And not rising at a percentage increase like the opioid epidemic. It’s relatively static from the way the government sees it. I know that. Huge numbers, but not these kind of growth rates that are alarming to people.

Hugh: You said with men, it’s one in two. That would be us, Russell.

Russell: That would be. I get that. The funny thing is because Kelly was plugged into 15-40. Kelly, because you were plugged in there, you were looking at being proactive about this problem and actually going out to solve it. In my case, I just instinctually shied away from it. My boss and her boss had two separate one-way conversations with me to tell me to go to the doctor. They actually had to threaten to fire me before I did it. That is how strong the fear around facing this was. With men in particular, and it doesn’t surprise me, we like to be angry and flex our muscles and growl, which is a good mask of fear, to be angry for guys.

Kelly: No one looks forward to sitting on a stool in someone’s office. It’s not a position of power, I like to say.

Hugh: No, it’s not. Russell, thanks for sharing that story. I guess you went to the doctor then.

Russell: I did because they threatened to fire me. It was crazy. Once I found out what was going on with me, I was a lot calmer. I approached it a lot better. I was a lot more optimistic than letting go of it. Because I chewed on it and kicked it around for a while. I had a support system of people around me who were there to help me gather information. Good friends that came. My goddaughter and other friends. They said, “Okay, we are going to go with you. Just listen to the doctor. We are here. We can take notes. We can use your voice recorder on the phone. Just lean into it and listen and share where you are, what’s going on.” It was a partnership. It was a team approach. Some of the things that I heard, whoever went with me didn’t hear. There were a lot of things that people went with me to these appointments heard that I didn’t hear. We were able to gather all of this information because when you sit in the chair, facing the treatment, a lot of times you’re overwhelmed with things going on. There is economics, your affairs going forward, how I am actually going to feel. Am I going to be able to go back to my life as it was with work and with family? There are just a ton of uncertainties and a ton of questions that people face. Having people that have gone through it, having the education, having that support network to say, “Look, it’s better to face this stuff sooner rather than later, and you’re not alone” is critical to getting better. I have recovered fully. I have been in remission. I am approaching six years since the completion.

Kelly: Yay, I like those stories. You bring up a good point about examples of people sharing examples. That is our model of education. We use storytelling. We use people who have had cancer diagnoses and gone through the process. They either detected cancer early or they didn’t. The different outcomes they had as a result, it really is powerful because it helps people live the situation through other people, which can make it less scary. I appreciate you sharing your story, and I am very happy for your outcome.

Russell: The unspoken thing my doctor said: We have some challenges, but he hinted at the fact that if I had come in a bit earlier, it would have been easier to treat. He wasn’t sure how things were going to go. They are not always sure. They don’t have crystal balls. It’s important to get all of that information out there. No detail is too minor. Get that information out there to assess the situation to find out exactly where you are and what steps you can take.

Hugh: Kelly, earlier in your dialogue, you talked about the support systems you have. When people find out, there is an emotional side to this. How do you help people there?

Kelly: We are really the path that leads to diagnosis. We are trying to encourage and engage and empower people to go through the process to get to the diagnosis. As I had said when we started, there is a lot of groups and organizations that support once the diagnosis is made. That is not our focal point. Our focal point is making sure people get to the doctor and get that diagnosis if indeed that is what is wrong with them so they have more options and better chances for care and better health outcomes.

Hugh: Two more things I am thinking about. People like to say, “I’m too busy to do some of this.” How do you encourage people to cut through that excuse and do what’s important? Secondly, when they actually make the appointment, how do you empower them to have that meaningful conversation with your doctor?

Kelly: An hour today could save you ten hours tomorrow. Busy is busy. Everybody is busy. At the end of the day, getting to the doctor, taking the time today to get the early diagnosis could save you so much time, so much money, and your life quite frankly. It’s about prioritization. It’s not easy. At the end of the day, how many people prioritize themselves first, especially when you are a parent with children and with a job? But you have to reinforce it as often as possible that to the people who love you, alive is the option. They want you alive, and if it is going to mean that you don’t get to make that lunch because you went to the doctor early or you might miss the last meeting of the day, you are not effective if you are not in the meeting at all. Fortunately, that is one thing that is shifting. It does feel there is support out there in corporate wellness and those environments to focus on health. It sounds like even your experience, people were like, “Get to the doctor or you’re fired.” I love to hear that because they are prioritizing your health over the bottom line of the company. Not everybody does it. Not everybody works for supportive people. You have to be number one, or the consequences can be significant.

Hugh: Wow. Equipping people to have that conversation.

Kelly: It doesn’t have to be us or them or me or you. It’s more about I’m having something I have to deal with, and I need support for me to go do that. It shouldn’t be too much to ask, but I know it can be trickier than it sounds.

Hugh: But getting there. When you talk to the doctor. I am guilty of when I get to the doctor, it doesn’t hurt anymore.

Kelly: Yep.

Hugh: So I have to have a good recall. This is what I was feeling. I am self-conscious or nervous, so it has surpassed the slight feeling of pain that I had. I guess there is making notes and being prepared for the doctor. What other ways can people be prepared?

Kelly: You just touched on something. In advance of the doctor, make sure you write down everything that you experience. Symptoms, changes in your health, that piece. Make sure you make that list in the Notes app or handwrite them. Inevitably, when you get to the situation, you forget half the things. When you are there, make sure that you go through everything and that you don’t, even if you are feeling rushed, it’s your time in that room. You have to command it. It’s that empowerment thing again. I am not done. I haven’t shared everything I am feeling.

The two other pieces that have been very helpful in the education are: ask them if they don’t know what it is, what could it be? It could be this, or it could be that, or something in between. It gives you some framework to work from. Then you say, Okay. What is the path to the answer? You treat the minimal thing they think it probably is. If it doesn’t work, when should I feel better? When should I come back? You have a plan on what the next act is, and you’re not waiting around for somebody else to reach out to you. In this day and age, you don’t traditionally get a follow-up call.

The other one I just touched on is when should I feel better? If I get this ten-day antibiotic, on the tenth day, should I feel better? On the fifth day? When should I feel better? What do I do if I don’t?

Those two things have been powerful statements to keep people in the driver’s seat of the process.

Hugh: We don’t know what questions to ask. That is helpful.

Your website is The logo is 15-40 Connection. Tell us a bit about the website. There is a Donate button. A Contact. You have a blog. What is on the blog?

Kelly: To set the stage, our product is education. It’s early detection education. We offer through Train the Trainers, through webinars, and through live presentations with panelists. To support the education we have provided, we have a social infrastructure. We are on all social media platforms, and we have a blog. What we do with our blog is enhance and continue to tell the stories of what we have taught. It’s everything from last Valentine’s day, we had a blog post on the most important relationship is the one with your doctor. We actually just are launching the 12 Days of Early Detection. Each day someone sings one of the days. At the end, on December 22, you will be able to hear the whole 12 Days of Early Detection. Each day is reinforcing our education. That is what we use all of our social platforms and our blog to do. A lot of it also is through storytelling, highlighting stories of people who have had successful health outcomes as a result of our education or because they didn’t have our education, they value it and want to make sure other people have it.

Hugh: Start the Conversation. Know the Power of You. Know Your Role. Be Informed. FAQs. The Three Steps Detect. Remember You’re Great. Two-Week Rule. Share with Your Doctor. Learn from People Like You. Get Involved. Education & Outreach. Share Your Story. Events. Donate. Find out About Us. You have a team for the marathon. 2018 Boston Marathon.

Kelly: We do. We have seven runners who are collectively already over $25,000 in funds raised. That is super exciting.

Hugh: That’s great. I ran for the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society raising money for cancer.

Kelly: For Boston?

Hugh: No, I ran Atlanta. Yuengling in Virginia Beach. It is a grand event. They give you a name of somebody who is in cancer treatment who you run for. On your website, you can click on that and find out about joining the team. Is that the idea?

Kelly: Our team is full. We have filled all seven slots. You can certainly support our team. Three of our seven runners are cancer survivors. They are out pushing the mission forward and empowering themselves and running a marathon and supporting early detection education, which is amazing.

Hugh: I love it. You are sitting in the office?

Kelly: I am.

Hugh: You’re in Boston.

Kelly: We are about 35 minutes west of Boston.

Hugh: West. Tell us about your staff, your founder, and your board.

Kelly: Our founder, Joe Coghlin and his family. It is a good story. Jim, his best friend, Mark Ungerer. Jim said, “He is my best friend, second only to my wife.” How romantic, right? Mark lost his son at the age of 15 to leukemia. Mark, as a lasting legacy to his son, started a successful golf tournament. He funded research to help continue to find cures for leukemia. Mark, years after this tournament started, said to Jim, “If something ever happens to me, would you keep this going?” Jim said, “Of course, I will, but you’ll outlive me.” Unfortunately, shortly after that, Mark died. Jim had a commitment to this tournament. He continued to fund the research. He is a very successful businessman. He decided to check out the ROI. For all the funds that were being put into research, what was the outcome? As a result of some of that work, he found this statistic, which showed that there had been an issue around delayed diagnosis and the impact of delayed diagnosis on cancer survival rates. Once he found that and recognized that nobody was focused on it, he met with a family and said, “This is a calling. We can’t let this be. We have to do something about it.” That’s how 15-40 was founded about eight years ago.

We have an active board. We just had a board meeting last night. We have eight members at this point. We are actively pursuing additional board members as we scale and build new curriculum. Our staff has eight people who work across all categories: development, marketing, education, outreach to support the mission and to scale the mission.

Hugh: That is music to our ears, isn’t it, Russ? Russell and I reframe the word “consultant” to “WayFinder.” We don’t give people fish; we teach them how to fish. We work with many nonprofits, and boards are not as active as they ought to be. Russell’s specialty is funding. We think about donors and grants, but there are six more streams of funding. It sounds like you have a good thing going, a really solid platform. How many people like you in the office? There is nobody like you, but how many others?

Kelly: There is eight total people who work in the office each day. A lot of us are out of the office because our education is we are out in schools, in corporate wellness, on college campuses. We are spread all over. There is eight total in the moment.

Hugh: Do they all wear black furs to work?

Kelly: Exactly. This is to celebrate our 12 Days of Early Detection. I wore a fancy jacket so that I could sing. Stay tuned. Watch our Facebook page.

Hugh: You are going to sing. Your Facebook page is 1540 Connection. Twitter is @1540connection. YouTube is The1540Connection. Instagram is 1540connection. No hyphen. Just written out.

Kelly: Each day, we will post. Everybody is singing a day of early detection.

Hugh: Love it. That is clever. Russell, we are on the last stretch of our interview. I bet you got some observations and closing questions for Kelly.

Russell: I love the fact that everybody is cross-trained and understands everybody’s function and role and taking that responsibility onto yourselves. It’s marvelous. Spreading the wealth and spreading the joy. I love what you’re doing. I’d be interested to know more about your Train the Trainer process. That is something that should be spread beyond Boston. I think it should be spread around the country so that people understand what they are looking at.

Kelly: Because of technology, we were able to do a Train the Trainer in Florida. We are national. Our feet on the street is here in Boston, so we have deeper traction here. We are definitely moving across the Mississippi and trying to hit all four corners and the center of the U.S. and make sure everybody gets the education.

Hugh: One of your tabs says Get Involved. If people are not in Boston, how do they get involved?

Kelly: So many ways. You can get involved through social media. You can share our story with your network. You can bring our education through your schools or corporations. You can also sign up for Train the Trainer. You can bring us to your college campus. It really is endless. All the opportunities are posted there. There is also an email capability to tell us what you’re thinking. We are nimble, so we are constantly looking for new ideas. We welcome all ideas.

Hugh: Amazing. So Kelly, as we wrap up here, is there something we haven’t covered that you want to share? What parting thought do you have to leave with our listeners?

Kelly: As our founder says, “Health is wealth.” At the end of the day, if you are not healthy, everything is a struggle. We have the capacity to get well. Most people can access a doctor or a hospital. Taking the extra time to do that if something changes in your health can be a life-saving decision. Our founder says often, “Don’t be selfish. Think about all the people who love you. If you make this decision and you are negatively impacted as a result, they are, too.” That is a strong statement. It’s not just about you. It’s about everybody around you. I have young kids. I am being wheeled into the hospital with a ten- and eight-year-old. That is not an easy pill to swallow. You want to come out and make sure that you are there for them. I think that is the key component of all of this. Make it a priority because at the end of the day, nothing else matters. If you don’t have your health, the rest is not going to happen.

Hugh: Amazing. Russell, those are good words, aren’t they?

Russell: They are wonderful. Thank you for making this information available to a lot of people. It’s a worthwhile cause. Access to information and resources is critical, especially in today’s climate of rising costs. The thing that I would say to people as a closing thought if you got some things going on and you are stopping to think, Well, I don’t know if I have the money or the resources to pay for it, I will point out that I have never seen a U-Haul behind a hearse. Dead people don’t pay bills.

Hugh: Kelly, thank you for making time. I know you have a lot of things to do. Thank you for sharing your story with all of our listeners.

Kelly: Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.

Nonprofits that Work: Rise Against Hunger (Founded as Stop Hunger Now)

Dec 11, 2017 58:54


Ray Buchanan:
A vision to end world hunger 

In 1998, envisioning a world without hunger, Ray Buchanan — a United Methodist minister — founded Rise Against Hunger (formerly Stop Hunger Now). After enlisting as a U.S. Marine during the Vietnam War, Ray Buchanan quickly recognized that accomplishing a mission required “commitment to something larger than yourself.” Over the past three decades, that principle has driven Ray’s mission to eradicate world hunger.

As a divinity graduate student at Duke University, Ray began working with the poor and hungry. He continued that work at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he received his master’s degree in divinity, and as a pastor at ve rural United Methodist churches in Virginia. As a pastor, Ray joined the effort to save the lives of starving Ethiopians during the 1973-75 famine in Ethiopia.

Driving Ray’s hunger work is the recognition that “ending hunger is more than just feeding people.” So Rise Against Hunger “focuses its feeding programs in areas where we can see transformational development,” he says.

Ray embodies the ideal of a servant leader. And he understands that volunteers and organizations working together can build a global movement that will stimulate the political will to marshal the resources that are essential — and available — to eradicate hunger.

Rise Against Hunger has realized positive, annual growth mainly through expansion of the meal packaging program into new communities. Rise Against Hunger continues to further Ray’s legacy of commitment both to domestic and international crisis response including relief from famine, natural and manmade disasters and health epidemics.

More information at

The Interview Transcript

Hugh Ballou: Greetings, this is Hugh Ballou. This episode of The Nonprofit Exchange is great, like every one of them, but this one is a new friend who is right here in Lynchburg, Virginia. He has an extensive history of founding charities and taking them not just to the next level, but taking them to the top. In some cases, over the top.

Ray Buchanan: Over the top would be a good way to put it.

Hugh: Ray Buchanan. We are going to talk principally about a charity you formed that you originally called Stop Hunger Now. Now it’s Rise Against Hunger. I want to let you tell a little bit about yourself. You had an idea about something. How did you put it together and start this, get people on board, and get it funded? There is a lot of people with ideas, and they don’t really understand the sequence and how to put it together. Tell us about Ray. Thank you for being on The Nonprofit Exchange today.

Ray: Good to be here. I appreciate the opportunity. I was in the Marine Corps during Vietnam. Came out of the Marine Corps. Did all my undergraduate work in about two and a half years. I then had a mentor who saw more in me than I thought was there. He said, “Where are you going to go to get your divinity degree?” I said, “I hadn’t thought about it.” He said, “You need to go to Duke.” I said, “Riiight.” I literally thought he was kidding, but he knew people who knew people and I found myself at Duke.

I immediately felt like I was way out of my league. I looked at all these young people coming in the first day of class, and I said, “I don’t belong here.” What happened was very interesting. I stood in the corner of the student center of the divinity school, and I saw somebody come in the door who looked as miserable as I felt. He was about my age, older than the normal incoming divinity school student. We hooked up, and he had military experience, been to Vietnam as well. We started talking, and pretty soon another older student came in. The three of us gravitated together.

What happened was that first semester at Duke, we became a support group. We didn’t know that’s what it was, but we were all married and had at least one child. In the course of that semester, we became best friends, closer than friends, and a support group like I said. We started in January. During the summer, of course we all wanted to pastor churches. According to the Methodist church, they had no churches available in North Carolina around Duke. I had the choice, and I chose doing beach ministry in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. That sounds like a real cool gig, but we did most of our work with runaways and drug culture between one and two o’clock in the morning. I had a safe house for folks.

One of our other friends served a small church in Raleigh. Ken, the first person I saw, came from Virginia. His superintendent needed pastors badly. He already had a church promised to him. He talked to his superintendent, and he said, “You have friends that might serve churches?” The process was so far along that we didn’t get to visit, but he called. I learned my first lesson of humility. He asked me who I was and what I wanted, so I told him I’d been a youth minister in a larger church in North Carolina when I was in college. I had experiences as a chaplain’s assistant. I really pumped myself up the way you would to a boss. He said, “I haven’t been able to get up with your other friend. What kind of experience does he have?” I said, “He’s a really nice guy. He doesn’t really have as much experience as me, but he is really committed. He has a heart for the Lord, but he just hasn’t had the experience.” The superintendent without missing a beat said, “Well, that is his subtlety. You obviously have much more experience. I’ll give you the five churches, and I’ll give him the four churches.” I learned real quick you don’t need to do that.

I started there because that is really the start of the journey we are talking about. The three of us were appointed to churches in rural Virginia, the south side of Virginia. We were right outside of South Hill. Between us we had 13 rural churches.

Hugh: Oh, wow.

Ray: And we were going to school fulltime, commuting an hour and a half one way. We learned really quickly about supporting one another. We learned that each one of us had gifts and graces that matched with the others. Where I was weak, my friend was strong. Where he was weak, our other friend was strong. Rather than compete, we decided we would work as a team. With those 13 churches, they were all small, struggling, had that feeling that many small Methodist churches have, that they weren’t ministering. They were surviving. We decided to change that. For the four years that we were there, we made sure we worked as a cooperative parish. We weren’t ever legally called that, but we had our churches go together. I remember the first thing we did is we gathered clothes for Appalachia. They had never been able to do anything as one or two churches, but as 13 churches, we filled a huge U-Haul truck. The men took it to Appalachia, and it made them feel so empowered to be able to do something.

Hugh: As you’re talking about that, that is a group of churches. The same thing could apply to a group of small charities.

Ray: Absolutely. One of the key philosophies that I have always worked with is everything is built on partnerships. The more partners you could have involved, the stronger the program is. I’m not saying it’s easier, but it really impacts more people, not only from the relief side, but also from the folks doing it.

A key principle in what helps grow the organizations I have been a part of is we always seek partnerships. One example is with Rise Against Hunger, when I started, I knew nothing about international relief work. I had been doing domestic relief work for 20 years, and I’ve done a few things internationally. But how you work internationally is something I had to learn on the job. One thing I committed to was I was not going to start offices internationally because internationally, every place I wanted to work, there were already relief organizations on the ground. I didn’t need to reinvent the wheel. I just needed to partner with the folks already there who had a better idea of what was necessary.

Hugh: I won’t let that one slip by. You’re really understanding the synergy of collaboration. Let’s do more stuff than we can do by ourselves. What year was that?

Ray: I started Rise Against Hunger in January of 1998. What had happened was earlier than that,

Society had a program called The Potato Project. That is the story of God’s grace. Basically, Society of St. Andrew was an intentional community devoted to covenant living. What that means is in response to world hunger, we said we wanted to come together and demonstrate a lifestyle that the entire world could adopt, a just lifestyle, a fair lifestyle. We had two families that moved together onto a farm. We formed a covenant to live under the poverty level. When we started in 1979, that was about $2,000 a person.

Hugh: Oh my goodness.

Ray: If you put all the stuff in the world in a pile and everybody took a fair share, in 1979, it would come to about $2,000 a person. We made a covenant that we would live under that. We had nine people in our community: four adults and five kids. We said we would live under $18,000 a year. We never made it up to $18,000 a year. Basically, we lived under the poverty level out of choice, and we wanted to do that not only to identify with the poor, but also to demonstrate to the church especially that if we wanted to, we could live in a way that the entire world would be able to have a fair share.

Hugh: The year you founded this organization was 1979. It was founded as Stop Hunger Now.

Ray: The first organization was founded as Society of St. Andrew. I was the co-director of that from 1979-1998. In 1998, the reason I left Society of St. Andrew is because after 15 years or so, both my co-director and I were getting burned out. You start out with your hands working with the poor, shoulder to shoulder, but as the organization gets bigger and bigger, you get further away from the poor. We worked with the poor. Then we had staff that worked with the poor. Then we had managers. Then we had directors of the managers. All of a sudden, you look around and you have 70-80 employees in five or six states. You are so far you can’t even see the poor. I started using my vacation time to go internationally to work in Africa and what have you so I could still get my hands dirty.

Hugh: That’s interesting. You get so far away from the work that is your passion. You get sucked in to the organization. There is a lesson in that, too.

Ray: Absolutely.

Hugh: When did you found this organization that is now Rise Against Hunger?

Ray: 1998.

Hugh: And it was founded as Stop Hunger Now.

Ray: Yes, it was founded as Stop Hunger Now. The reason the name is important, the reason I founded it is because I did my work internationally, it hit me that although hunger in the United States is real and it’s horrible and it’s immoral, the richest country in the history of the world, that we have hunger doesn’t make sense. The Christian church has to understand its responsibility there. As I worked internationally, there were opportunities that started to rise in doing stuff internationally. My passions fairly quickly turned to doing international work because although hunger is real in the United States, it’s qualitatively different than hunger around the world. In the United States, no one dies of hunger. I challenge you to find a newspaper article that talks about the last time anyone died of hunger. They might have died of exposure or something, but it is such a rarity that it is not measurable. You go international, and after all these years, we have hunger down to 20,000 people a day.

Hugh: A day.

Ray: But when I started, it was like 30,000 people a day dying of hunger. There is no way to explain that. I have always wanted to have the biggest impact. So I started focusing internationally, and my partner, after you work together with somebody for 20 years, you know each other. He looked at me and said, “If you need money for that, you raise it. We don’t have money for that.” At that time, Society of St. Andrew was doing $15 or 20 million worth of in-can work, and our cash budget was $1 or $1.5 million a year. We never had enough money. That is how Stop Hunger got started because I needed to raise $25,000 for a special project. I didn’t have it. After my partner said, “Well, if you want it, you raise it,” which was the way we worked, I remembered that five years earlier, a donor had come to us, he and his wife. We had an office in a sheep shed. They came and sat around the table and said they wanted to help feed the hungry. His vision of hunger was a starving child with a bowl held up. At that point, my partner and I said, “We don’t do that.” We didn’t. We worked in the United States, using tractor trailers to haul produce to food banks on Native American reservations. We told him we really appreciate the offer, but that is not what we do. It’s not a good match. But we have a friend who is chairman of the board of Food for the Hungry. We will give you his name, and you can connect. We broke the cardinal rule of you never give a donor away. We gave this donor away before we ever started working with him. Strange thing though. Every year, he would call us and say, “Do you have any special projects?” We’d say yes. He’d say, “Send me the bill.” For about $8-10,000. He would never give us a grant. He would never write us a check. But he would always give us a gift of about $10,000 by paying a certain bill. I remembered his vision.

After five years, I went to our Director of Development and called him and said, “Give me this guy’s name and number.” He said, “Let’s meet.” I went to Virginia Beach, and we had lunch. I’ll never forget. The timing was amazing. I drove from the big island, and he drove a couple of blocks and we got there at the same time. We met in the parking lot and walked into the restaurant. He said, “How are things going?” making small talk. I said, “Great. My daughter is having her first child.” He said, “Oh, you’re going to be a grandfather for the first time?” The proper answer would be, “Of course I am. Yes, that’s great.” I said, “No. When my son turned 21, he got a girl pregnant, so I have a grandson.” I said, Shut up, shut up, this is not the way you speak, shut up. It was like I had verbal diarrhea. We get in, and the maître d’ seats us. He comes back and starts to speak. John waves his hands, saying, “No.” He leans across the table and he says, “Ray, last year was the worst year of my life. I went from being a millionaire to not being a millionaire. I got kicked out of my own organization that I started. My wife divorced me. My son had to get staggering drunk to tell me that he had gotten a young lady pregnant.”

Hugh: Oh my goodness.

Ray: This is before the menus get there. All that is simply to say we were on a level that you normally don’t get to with a donor until you’ve cultivated them for years. That is how Stop Hunger Now got started to be honest.

Hugh: We are recording live on Facebook. If you come by and wonder what this is, this is the Nonprofit Exchange. Every Tuesday at 2 EST, we talk with a thought leader about how they have made things happen. We are talking to Ray Buchanan about multiple charities he has founded. Ray, I have moved from using the word “nonprofit” a lot even though this is the Nonprofit Exchange. When I am in conversation, I use the word charity because we have tax-exempt charities. It’s a business and a framework that has got a lot of rules and regulations for the IRS. My co-host, Russell, used to work for the IRS. He is very much up to date with how we need to comply with those. We need to have strong business principles. If you are listening to the podcast sometime in history, you can ask questions on the podcast page. We learn from other people’s stories. Ray, when you are looking back and talking about starting these, Russell was just meeting with a gentleman that has got a hunger project. This is quite an amazing story, Russell, about Ray starting what was called Stop Hunger Now. Now it’s called Rise Against Hunger. You had an idea. How hard was it to get it off the ground? How hard was it to get people to support it? How hard was it to get some funding?

Ray: I want to say one of the first things that was my first organization, Society of St. Andrew, what made that successful is that when we started our first big project after three years, we fell into the Potato Project, which has taken unused produce otherwise thrown away, wasted. We were going to get that to the hungry across Virginia. The farmers agreed to give us the produce, but they had to get their money recouped on the extra labor, the bags, and the transportation. I could tell you a lot of funny stories about that. Long story short, they could get us potatoes that would normally be thrown away for three cents a pound, a phenomenal price. They said they could get us a million pounds of potatoes. A million pounds of potatoes at three cents a pound is $30,000. At that point, our two families were living on between $12-15,000 a year. That was all the money in the world. That first $30,000 came from the United Methodist Church seeing the vision and buying into the vision. I could talk for hours about the faithfulness in that because at that point, we were seen as a couple of hippies living on a farm. We weren’t the bare-faced young guys. But they had enough faith to put the money into it.

Once that project started, we had never realized that we were just scratching the surface. Farmers wanted to give us more and more produce, which required more money and more distribution areas, which required more transportation. Literally within two months, we were spending $30,000 to last us this summer, and after about a month and a half, we were out of money. It hadn’t been misused, but the need was so great. We started having to raise money. The first thing we did was my partner’s brother who had a business degree came to us and said, “You all need somebody to fund this.” Both of us understood that numbers are not my friends. I will be honest with you. I like letters. You can make words with letters, and words make sentences. Numbers are just numbers. We asked his brother to help us, and he graciously helped us. From day one, we ran the organization as a business.

Hugh: From day one.

Ray: From day one. That is one of the biggest benchmarks that I can point to as to why it worked. We didn’t operate as a church. That sounds very horrible, but it’s true. We operated as a business, not only in that the finances were handled to the penny. I can literally remember Friday evening at 6:00 realizing that David was still in the office. We operated in a sheep shed that previously held sheep in it. I would see the light on and say, “David, what are you doing?” “I can’t get the books to balance.” I said, “What is it?” He said, “It’s 27 cents. I cannot find it.” I said, “Here is a quarter.” He said, “Noooo, you don’t understand.” That is the way we operated financially from day one, but we also realized that when we made a promise, it was a commitment. Unlike a lot of charities, church organizations, nonprofits, it was like, We will not get to it if we can when we can. If we said we were going to do something, we did it. The operating as a business is a key principle that every nonprofit ought to operate by.

Hugh: Hey Russell, we teach this stuff. It works. How about that?

Russell: The sweet spot is where fun and compliance and compassion come together. That’s what I call the sweet spot. 27 cents by the way is not material if you have more than five dollars.

Ray: I understand that. But the principle is the same.

Russell: The principle is the same. It’s like operating a business without losing who you are. If you have a mission and the mission is spiritual, you don’t have to lose that. There is a point in there where money and spirituality mix. It’s just understanding both the critical components to what you’re doing so that you don’t leave either out to the exclusion. They are not mutually exclusive in other words.

Ray: Absolutely. To jump forward, when I started Stop Hunger Now, basically I met with this donor. I was asking him for $25,000. He had been giving us $10,000 a year for five years. When I got to the point where he said, “What do you really want?” and I told him I needed $25,000 to move three containers of food to North Korea and Africa, he said, “Fine, I’ll write you a check Monday.” Any time you can take a donor from $10,000 to $25,0000, you know that is a home run. I was just going internally like Yes! I couldn’t wait to go home and work out the logistics.

He lookrd across the table and said, “Tell me, you said you were burned out and were thinking about leaving the organization a couple years earlier. What is it that you really want?” Not trying to be flip, but I said, “I want to feed more hungry people.” He is not the kind of man who accepts an answer like that. He said, “I asked you a serious question. Give me a serious answer.” I had to take a deep breath. I answered him, “What I’d really like to do is go to crisis areas around the world, find out what the real need is, come home, and cut through all the red tape and BS and get that need met as fast as possible.” He leaned across the table and said, “That’s exactly my dream, with one exception.” I said, “What is that?” He said, “I’d want you to take the checkbook with you.” We finished the meeting.

As we are getting in our cars, he looked at me and said, “Let’s see if we can’t make our dreams come true.” Two days later, he called and said, “How soon can the head of my foundation and I meet with you and your partner in Big Island?”

Two days after that, four days after our original meeting, they were in our office. Both my partner and I knew what he wanted: to set up an international relief hunger organization. My partner and our wives and I have nonstop been figuring out how to make it work. At that point, Society of St. Andrew had an 18-year track record. We were known throughout the United Methodist Church, working in all 48 contiguous states, constantly went up to the Hill to give testimony on hunger and gleaning. I was on the House Select committee and a bunch of stuff like that. We said, “Oh, good, we are going to have a domestic arm and an international arm.” We presented that to him as what we were going to do. He looked at us and crossed his arms and said, “Nope, I’m not interested.” We were crushed. We thought we had this perfect plan. He said, “Look, you are a domestic hunger organization. Your board is always going to fight over who gets the money. Here is what I’ll do. I’ll give you a quarter of a million dollars a year for two years. Three conditions. 1) You set up a new organization. 2) You set up a completely separate board of directors. 3) You are the director,” pointing at me.

Hugh: Oh.

Ray: Now, what do you do when you’re 50 years old and somebody looks at you and says, “I will make your dreams come true?”

Hugh: Oh my.

Ray: That is so exciting. But if you look at the flip side of it, we had an organization that we had started as two families living under the poverty level and was now at the pinnacle of our ministry. Like I said, we are at Capitol Hill every month. Our senator’s wife was on our board. It was a horse you could ride until you wanted to get off. It was only going to get bigger and better. You leave that to start over basically. You leave that. The four adults that founded this society prayed together and cried together and discussed for two to three days. We came to the conclusion that if we didn’t take his offer, that money was not going to be there. To get to a place where we could do the international ministry that we wanted would take us a couple of years to raise another quarter of a million dollars because we had maxed out our fundraising capacity at that point. We knew that it would take us a year or two to ramp up if we could. We thought we would take his offer because we could do more good faster by doing that than any other way we could.

I left Society of St. Andrew at that point to take over and start a new organization. That is how Stop Hunger Now got started. I started January 1, 1998 with a guaranteed $2,500. Show you how simple I am. I had two goals for 1998 for Stop Hunger Now. I wanted to do at least a half a million dollars’ worth of ministry. I wanted to double his gift of $250,000. Secondly, I wanted to be in five or six countries. I didn’t want to be a single country nonprofit. At the end of the first year, we were audited, and the audit showed that we had done $2.9 million worth of aid in 18 countries. That was the start of Stop Hunger Now.

The name is very significant because Society of St. Andrew, my first organization, was named for the disciple Andrew. He was always introducing others to Jesus one at a time, “Here is my friend.” We like that kind of evangelism. More importantly, he was the disciple that knew about the boy with the loaves and fishes when Jesus fed the 5,000. Very significant spiritually. As we grew, we had focus groups and consultants come in. The first thing every group said, “That is the most horrible name you could have picked. There is no worse name.” Society of St. Andrew: Is that a Presbyterian program? Is it a Catholic program? Is it an Episcopal program? Is it a golfing group? It says nothing about what you do. I learned that. When I started my own organization, Stop Hunger Now, our mission and our ministry were identical. Nobody ever asked what do you do.

Hugh: Why the change from Stop Hunger Now to Rise Against Hunger?

Ray: We rebranded this year because as we grew, we realized that Sodexo has their foundation called Stop Hunger. Dozens of times, we tried to work with them to get the trademark Stop Hunger Now, and their lawyer said it’s too close. For 12 years or 15 years, we worked side by side, no problems, but as our program expanded internationally and we started doing more programs outside the U.S., we bumped up against Sodexo in England, where they didn’t want our brand in England for some reason. Our board looked at it and realized we had to get a trademark name. As we started looking at marks, we couldn’t even get the mark that we had. We had to start from scratch to rebrand.

Hugh: It’s really good to have that clarity. Your brand tells people what you do. If there is confusion, people don’t want to help you. Russell, I know your brain is going with this funding thing. Russell teaches charities how to attract funding. He is one of our WayFinders in SynerVision. We are talking about Ray joining the WayFinder team. I didn’t tell him about the initiation process.

Ray: I don’t have a lot of hair to shave.

Russell: There is full heads of hair, and there is perfect ones like this.

Ray: That’s right.

Russell: You don’t need to dress this up.

Ray: I hear ya. I hear ya.

Hugh: Russell, did you come from- You got this striped shirt on. Did you come from a ball game where you are refereeing, or were you on the work cam for the prison?

Russell: Rocks from Little Rocks all morning long.

Hugh: Russell, you are listening to this story like I am. I am thinking like this is a fairytale story. How do these people come along?

This is one of our colleagues in Denver. You are real popular.

Russell: I am just a party waiting to happen here.

Hugh: I know. As you are listening to his story, how many charities have we worked with over the years that really struggled to get somebody to believe in them to help them get some funding? There must be something that worked with your tenacity, your language, or something. Russell, what are you hearing? What question do you have for Ray about this early stage and the funding piece together and then getting the right team?

Russell: That is a perfect illustration of what we talk about when we talk about why you are doing what it is that you’re doing. Or do you want to get out of it? That is a perfect illustration of how important that is because that is exactly what happened to Ray. When somebody brings that horse to you and says, “Here is the gift horse. You don’t quibble over what you call it. You just say thank you and move on.” There is a lot of fear involved with that. But you took the bull by the horns and went on and did what it was that you thought you needed to do. Focus on the fact that the mission is important. This is big. This is something that is bigger than me. I have to go here and do this. Here it is. Face that fear and go ahead and do it anyway. Talk with people and find out what is important to them. You were able to speak their language, and that is why they partnered with you. When you talk to people, it’s important to use language that is important to them and that they value and move from that standpoint.

Let’s talk about that a little bit, Ray. I’m sure there were some doubts or some voices come up. We have our critics. We have our itty bitty committee, and I throw something a little extra in. This is PG-13. I will not throw the extra word in there. Itty bitty committee that comes calling when you go to brass that dream and you go to take it a step further. Talk about how you handle some of those conversations that were going on in your head and push through them to reach for the bigger goal.

Ray: It’s interesting that you say that because I tell friends that Stop Hunger Now started in January 1998. We knew about it from the end of August. That was when the donor made the decision to move forward. September through March, that six-month period, was probably the period where I was most frightened in my whole life because I had always worked with a partner, worked as a team ministry. We had gotten very successful with what we were doing. We fulfilled all our commitments and were just growing. I was getting ready to leap out into an area I basically knew nothing about with no support network behind me. I was so frightened, but I realized after I did it, I was thinking it was like leaping across the Grand Canyon. Actually, it was just like stepping off a curb. It was just a change. It was nothing great.

What helped me was what I’d learned with my first organization: People honor results. The people allowed us to do the Potato Project because they had seen us living for three years according to a basic lifestyle of justice. Being just and living that out gave us a platform to do the domestic hunger. Doing the domestic hunger piece for 18 years said that yes, we can fulfill what we promised. When I started Stop Hunger Now, that first year, we were able to make some huge accomplishments again through the grace of God. But for example, my first trip in January of 1998, I went to Nicaragua, Honduras, and Haiti because those are the three poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. During those trips, I made partnerships and started putting the protocols in place to help some organizations. All of a sudden, in August of that year, we had Hurricane Mitch, one of the biggest hurricanes that hit Central America. Because I had worked with these folks and I had the protocols in place, I was able to get them funds that allowed them to be the first organizations in Honduras for example to actually make a difference for the hungry.

When people see that you’re actually making a difference, they want to be a part of that. People are hungry to help. The biggest difficulty that I’ve seen is they don’t know how. If you can demonstrate that your organization really makes a difference, you will not have difficulty finding funding most of the time.

Hugh: If you go out there and knock on doors.

Ray: If you go out there and knock on doors to start with. It’s always the case that when you need money the most, it’s the hardest to get. When you get to a place where you have grown the organization where money is not that difficult to come by, it flows in. That has always been my understanding. I will say that in the early days, my first organization, Society of St. Andrew, when we started the Potato Project and started spending money, it was $1,000 a month, then it was $1,000 a week. We literally had the capacity to spend ourselves out of existence in any two-day period that we decided to move enough produce. Went to D.C. and talked with a lady at a project where we were helping. We were getting potatoes for her. She said, “I know a man that might want to help you. Let me give you his phone number. He likes organizations like yours, so he will probably give you $1,000.” And $1,000 was wonderful for us.

I called the number. It was a business number. He never had come in by 11:00, and he always left by 1:00. Literally for over a week, I couldn’t get up with him. I finally asked the administrative person, “I’m sorry, but I really need to talk to this gentleman. Is there any way I can get ahold of him?” She said, “Let me give you his home phone.” I called his home phone for a week and never got up with him. We were panicked, and the need for money was so great we were at a loss. I called the secretary back and she said, “Oh, I gave you his bedroom number. Let me give you his den number.”

The first time I called this young man, and he was a young man, he answered. I told him who I was and what we were doing. He said, “Oh man, that is so cool. I like that. Could you use $10,000?” I was hoping for $1,000. I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Let me talk to my dad, and we will put it through the foundation. We will give you $10,000.” With just a letter, I sent him a letter request. He gave us $10,000. Then they gave us another $10,000, and another $10,000. That was $30,000 over the course of two months with never meeting him, just a letter. I kept trying to meet him to take him to lunch and get to know him and cultivate him. He said, “Man, I don’t do the lunch thing.” I said, “Fine.” One time I knew I was going to be in D.C, and I told him, “I would love to come see you.” He said, “Come up to the house, and we’ll talk.”

I came up to the house, and this was a young guy who had been involved in the drug culture. It had affected him quite a bit. He had a huge mudbog truck taller than I was. We spent about four hours together just getting to know each other. He fixed us ham sandwiches in the kitchen. Just a really nice young man who is really trying to find himself. I mean, he had a good heart and never talked about money the whole time.

As I was getting ready to leave, he reached into his back pocket and gave me an envelope. “We have been giving you money from the foundation. This is from my personal account. I am sorry it isn’t more than it is, but I’ve been burning through the money a lot faster than I thought. My accountant said he was surprised I had any left in the account at all. This is all I can do. I believe in what you’re doing.” Well, I thanked him profusely of course and put the money in the car.

I got in the car and drove out to the edge of the driveway. It is a long driveway outside of D.C. I couldn’t stand it. I wasn’t going to go on the road home until I looked in the envelope and saw a check for $43,500 from his personal account. The reason that is significant is that $43,000 got us through the next three weeks at which time the United Methodist Committee on Relief gave us a grant for $100,000. You just never know how you cultivate donors. I want to say if you’re faithful in doing what your passion calls you to do and you communicate that openly to your donors, they will respond.

Hugh: That is a big “and.” A lot of people don’t connect those dotted lines, do they, Russ?

Russell: That’s that fourth piece of the four steps to building a high-performance nonprofit is communicating that value that you bring. The language is a little different for different people, but it’s about relationships. You communicate that. That is very important. It’s critical. It’s actually being able to go out there, understanding what your core is, and communicating those values. They may not be for everybody, but you go out there and you do it and you make those critical connections. That’s what it’s all about. It’s about relationships.

I was just thinking because that is an example of one donor, but you have different people who volunteer, different people come to work. What are some of the things when people say, “Why do you work with Rise Against Hunger?” What are some of the reasons that people will give? When you understand that, you can communicate that. I am going to put that question to you, Ray, because you have all these relationships you have built, whether it’s a staff member or a volunteer. What are some of the things people are saying when the question, “Why do you work with Rise Against Hunger?” comes up?

Ray: We get the same answer all the time. We engage about a quarter of a million to 350,000 volunteers a year now. We engage them to a meal packaging program that allows- It’s an inter-generational program that lasts two hours where volunteers package high-protein dehydrated meals for school feeding programs internationally. It is a beautiful entrance into making a difference on hunger. We get the same responses every time we ask people. We don’t usually have to ask them. First of all, they say it’s so much fun. We can make a difference. We are having an impact. They can see the connection between their hands and their heart. It’s one thing to write a check and for some people that’s exactly what they need. More and more people in the millennial generation want to be physically involved in what they are committing themselves to. Giving volunteers a chance to be involved makes all the difference in the world.

The same thing is true for boards. I am passionate about growing boards because a high-powered, high-impact board really empowers an organization to reach the next level. It’s the same for every level of volunteering. Giving people a chance to make a difference where they can see it and feel it makes all the difference in the world. People come back time and time again to our events because not only are they interacting with other people and having a good time, but they also know when they put those meals in the box, the next time that box is opened, it will be at a school somewhere where the kids would not be able to come to school without those meals. They know they are transforming lives. That is so important.

Hugh: You sort of understanding the fun part of that. My church in Blacksburg did this. In two hours, how many pounds of food do we package?

Ray: You probably package 10,000 meals.

Hugh: 10,000 meals we packaged in two hours. They have an area director that comes in and tells people all the resources there, the boxes, the gloves. It is a very sanitary process. It’s like an energy field where we are doing stuff, and it’s like a church social event. It’s like games. Like games for families at church. This is far better. We are doing something worthwhile. It is really an energized process where people package. They tell us exactly what is going to happen to it. We put it in those boxes. We take it out, it goes into a truck. Whoosh. It’s gone. I was very impressed with the organization. It’s like turnkey, boom.

Ray: That is part of the secret. The turnkey part of it. The thing is, the more people you have involved in this process, the more fun it becomes. We have done events. One of my favorite events was done in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We had one university with four campuses. They packaged a million meals in seven hours using 4,000 students in four locations. It was just awesome. It was electric. We do million meal events all the time.

One of the most exciting events I have done recently was February a year ago when Kraft Heinz merged. They brought all their senior leaders from around the world together for their first gathering. They asked Rise Against Hunger to come and do a team building event by packaging meals. They wanted to package a tractor trailer load of meals, 285,000 meals. They wanted to do it in two hours. They had roughly 900-1,000 employees from around the world. Not employees, leaders. These are senior leaders. They came, and this was to merge the Kraft people and the Heinz people together. They had such a blast. The CEO of Kraft-Heinz was in there among them going from table to table, talking about what they were accomplishing. They are one of our biggest corporate partners now. They were then as well. The energy in the room, when you can have that many people working on the same thing, interacting with people you normally wouldn’t interact with, it’s magic.

Hugh: What is the website where people can go find out about this?


Hugh: Riseagainsthunger. It will be listed in the podcast notes and TheNonProfitExchangeorg. It is listed there along with your pretty picture. We will work the logo as well.

The story about getting started is pretty dramatic. I will fund if you start a nrw organization. Talk about it today. How many countries, how many pounds of food, how much reach?

Ray: We started in 1998. For the first seven years, we were a crisis relief organization. I was in the Marines, so I am being comfortable being in sketchy situations. We focused on getting into areas where the larger organizations either couldn’t go, wouldn’t go. We were a fast operation. I mean we would go in faster than most organizations and make stuff happen. I always wanted to move away from crisis relief into a more sustainable attack on hunger. Our original board donor who gave me all the money was not interested in that. His idea of feeding the hungry was crisis relief only. After about seven years, we had some board transition and a lot of other stuff. It was about that time where the Christmas tsunami hit. I found an organization that was doing meal packaging. I came back from visiting with them and said we are going to do this. That time, I had three staff people. We are going to start this in two months. They all laughed at me. We were able to get it started in two months. The first year, we started meal packaging, we meal packaged 1.1 million meals. The second year was 3.1. This year, we will package 75 million meals for the hungry.

Hugh: 75 million from the start of 1.1 million.

Ray: Yes.

Hugh: My goodness.

Ray: Now we have offices in 20 cities in the United States. We now have offices in five countries. I always said I didn’t want to raise a flag in other countries. We didn’t do that until we absolutely had to. What I mean by that is we don’t set up offices in countries to distribute meals. But implementing partners that do that well, they know what they’re doing. So many countries came to us and said, “We want to package meals and engage volunteers in our country.” South Africa was the first. We looked around, and South Africa had all the resources necessary to package meals. We started working in South Africa. Then Malaysia, the Philippines, Italy. We have a list of six or seven countries that want us to come in and start offices. But we are very careful about going and starting offices. They have to have all the resources available, and it has to be a wonderful thing. South Africa for example, they will package 8 or 9 million meals this year themselves. But what they have done is they have talked to the United States so much. This is the fun part about when you have work as partners.

The situation in South Africa is completely different than the United States. They have lots of volunteers, but no funding. The churches in South Africa don’t have a financial base. They had to start going to corporate donors where we weren’t using corporate donors in the United States so much. The corporations got behind what they were doing and gave significant amounts of funds. We went to school and said, “If they are doing it, why don’t we work on that?” Our corporate income has grown by over 70% because we went to school with what South Africa was doing. We learn from each other that way.

In the Philippines, our office there said we use dehydrated vegetables in our meals. Rather than buy those on the market, why don’t we get farmers to grow them so they can have a sustainable livelihood? They have cooperative farms where the farmers know that when they grow these vegetables, they will be bought at a fair price. Now they are getting the production ready to where these can be dehydrated, which will employ more people. They have the value chain from growing the vegetables to putting them in the meals. Employing lots of people. In India, they are doing other things.

Every country operates as its own entity. In fact, I just came back from the Philippines a couple month ago where we had our first strategic global gathering where we are trying to figure out how to operate as a more global organization rather than the U.S. and affiliates. I can’t say enough about the board in the United States willing to look at that and say, “We can be one among equals rather than being paternalistic about it.” It’s a huge sea change, but it’s fun to see that happening. Never envisioned when I stepped out and started Rise Against Hunger, we had probably 148 employees in the United States in five countries. It keeps growing because it’s doing what it says it needs to do.

Hugh: We are hitting our last five minutes in a wrap here. Russ, do you have some comments or questions for our guest today?

Russell: Innovate and collaborate. That is the name of the game. That’s what you are doing. You can spread the impact. The sum is more powerful than the parts. It’s an ideal model. That’s what high performance nonprofits do. I commend you on that. You are doing a remarkable job. What is the big goal for 2018? What is the takeaway? What is the impact that you want to bring in 2018?

Ray: Probably, we are in our strategic planning process now. We have just gone from one year budgeting to three year budgeting. In ’18, we are going to probably 100 million meals. That is just a part of all that is going on. Our global model will be to be implemented in ‘18 and hopefully by 2020, that will be fully operational. It’s more collaboration in ’18 than we have ever had, even in ’16 or ’17.

Hugh: I want you to be thinking about a parting word or sponsor that you have for people who want to do something but are afraid to do it and think it’s an uphill battle or impossible. You have given them a great story, but what advice do you have?

Ray Buchanan, this has been an inspirational hour. You said how long is it going to be? I said, as long as it takes. Well, we could talk all day. As we are wrapping this interview up, what word of encouragement or what thought do you have for people who have a great idea like that but they are afraid to get started or don’t know where to start?

Ray: Let the preacher come out of me for a minute. Three points. First, I think it’s faithfulness. You have to be faithful to what you know is right and what you know you’re called to do. That means doing it. The second is vision. When you are faithful to that vision, people will see that and respond to it. The third is get off your buts, and act on that vision. Faithfulness, vision, and action: those three things are what allow you to do far more than you ever imagined you could do. It’s what encourages people to get in and work with you. Those three things, you do that, and you can make a difference in the world. I think that’s what we are all trying to do is change the world forever. I tell people Rise Against Hunger, the vision is to create a world without hunger. Very simple. What we are really trying to do is change the world forever. I want to be a part of that.

Hugh: Little bit at a time. One person at a time. You have compounded that over the years. Ray Buchanan, thank you for spending time with us and sharing your story. Thank you, Russ.

Ray: Thanks, Russ.

Russell: Thank you.

Nonprofits That Work: Journey's Dream

Dec 4, 2017 44:58


Mark Hattas has, amongst other accomplishments, started, built and sold a $20M/yr tech company. He was later diagnosed with Bipolar I Disorder and told there was no cure.  Mark didn’t believe the prognosis and through study, faith, and practice, Mark lived into his faith that he could be well.  He is so thankful to all who have helped, and to God.  He is committed to help others and give them hope and paths to success as well.  This inspiration in 2012 led him to pursue and eventually co-found HSI and Journey’s Dream.  The dream will be realized when all people can find hope and well-being.

More information at

Transcript of the Interview


Hugh: Welcome to this edition of The Nonprofit Exchange. We always have special people, but these people are really special because they invited me to participate in the foundational strategy building for their vision for bringing amazing resources to others. I want to introduce these two people. Russell, say hello from Denver, Colorado.

Russell: It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood and a beautiful day to be here with Mark and Mitzi. I look forward to a wonderful chat today. They are doing great work here.

Hugh: Russell and I co-host this, and we have some fascinating conversations with people that are doing amazing things. This particular chain of interviews is about people who are doing real things in the real world. The ones we have done previously have been organizations that have been in existence for a while. This one is a young organization, but they are really making some traction. They are doing some really good stuff. I wanted to interview them about how they got started and what kind of traction they are making and what their plans are and how they impact lives.

Mark, let’s start with Mark Hattas. You tell us a little bit about your journey, who you are, and why you’re doing this. Then throw it to Mitzi and let her introduce herself and her role in this. Welcome to The Nonprofit Exchange, Mark.

Mark: Thank you so much. Great to be her with both of you, good friends, and Mitzi. *audio cut* My revenue stream, or one of them, one of the things that I had the pleasure of doing early in my career is I built and sold a tech company. About nine months after that, I had a very unique experience where I started experiencing the world much differently than I had previously. I went into what is commonly called mania. I was diagnosed bipolar I, and I was in and out of the hospital three times over a three-year period. I was told right away that I would not get well, and I would be on medication the rest of my life. Most of what we know about the brain we learned in the 1990s, and the world of psychology was still navigating what was really going on. The hospital with that kind of prognosis. It was inspired maybe two months after that, after I had an unusual experience where I was terrified that I was going to have to live my life with my brain in the mode that it was in. So I started to seek solutions, and thank God there were solutions out there. There are amazing practitioners, amazing resources, and I applied them, I practiced them, and I got well. For over three years, I have been off all medication and have been very healthy.

Over that course of a period of time, I met Mitzi and her husband Rex and her daughter Brea and learned about what was happening in their lives. We joined together to start what’s called Hattas Shay International Foundation, which its project is called Journey’s Dream, to help those with mental health challenges find resources and get to a place where they could really believe again that they could get well and then have the strength and the tools to start to go out and navigate their health and well-being with the best support mechanisms that can serve them. We are a hub that creates that environment. We are still building, but we have had some great traction so far. Mitzi?

Mitzi: My name is Mitzi Montague-Bauer. My son Journey is symptomatic in his senior year at University of Michigan. At first, we thought it was his quirky behavior or something. We didn’t really understand the magnitude of what was happening until he graduated and came home. There were several diagnoses as they didn’t present the same way each time. The first doctor thought he had schizophrenia. After that, he was diagnosed with bipolar and depression and manic disorder and a lot of them actually. He was told the same thing that Mark was told: that he would never get well. There was no cure. The best we could hope for was to manage the symptoms and that would be a lifetime of medication.

I didn’t want to believe that. I didn’t believe it. It seemed that the more he heard it, the more he began to believe it. During that time, I spent countless hours looking for the solution that we now know is available, but they were difficult to find. I spent a lot of time searching for any solution that had a different prognosis. By the time I felt confident with the solutions and the collection of modalities that I had collected, Journey was no longer interested. In the beginning, he was open to help. By the time I felt like I had the answers, he had isolated himself, and didn’t seem to trust anyone. It became apparent to me that if we had had these solutions in the beginning, perhaps there would have been a different outcome. Journey, after three and a half years of struggling with his mental health and being told he would not get well, he stepped off of a building and ended his life. Because of the lack of- Well, the solutions were there, but they were difficult to find, and there wasn’t really one place to find them.

The vision that we share is that there would be a place, if a family member or a loved one or someone who is struggling landed on our site, that they would have a whole collection of solutions, possibilities to meet them where they were. Those solutions could be medication. There is a place for medication. A whole slew of other opportunities.

Hugh: Thank you for sharing that. That is an important message. Mark, to declare that SynerVision has been working with this project from the onset. We started putting together the pieces in Mitzi’s basement with Mitzi, her husband, her daughter, you, and me. We worked really hard for a couple of days getting our heads around what this looks like. That was not really the starting point, but it was the launchpoint where you were able to then say we are doing this for real and we are moving ahead. Why did you decide to put this in the framework of a tax-exempt charity?

Mark: I’d built the for-profit organization. When I started to learn about the power of the tax-exempt organizations, it allows for people to give to a cause that they believe in and the way that they can and have tax benefits. It gives an opportunity to donate funds, provide in-kind services—for example, there is an organization helping us with our technology for the practitioner network. They are donating all the framework and developing even. That would have cost us quite a lot of money otherwise. Because it is for the greater good of the broader population, we didn’t really see a need for any one of us or any group to own it. We wanted it to be available for all, and we are the stewards of it. So we really looked from the beginning at this organization being something that is a gift to all of those people who were in a situation like Journey’s situation, or my situation, and the many that exist out there. Tax-exempt has made a whole lot of sense.

When we spoke with Sherita Herring, she helped us set that up and reeducated me, retooled my brain, along with you, on what the power of tax-exempt is and how much funding is actually out there and available, and support. We took advantage of your expertise and knowledge to set this up right from the beginning.

Hugh: There is a lot of power in philanthropic giving, both in individual donors. We were on a call with Sherita last night. She is one of our partners in SynerVision. Actually, she helped me create my foundation years ago. She is a queen of nonprofit information. She knows the right stuff. We have been on a journey equipping the culture to then step up to where you need to be.

I have been impressed with how systematic you have been. You have tried not to short-cycle everything. You have taken things in stride, in sequence, and really let the different stages of this play out and mature without cutting it short. I commend you for that. So many people starting organizations like this want to get there and want to get it done. They leave a lot of stuff in the garbage on the side of the road on the way. You have been very systematic in developing this. I commend you for that. Russell, I know a little more about this because I have been involved with him for a year and a half. We decided we worked together for 365 non-continuous days. It’s been a pace that’s been very logical.

Mark, you’ve created some programs, and you have done some beta tests on the programs. Talk a little bit about who those programs are for and the impact that program has had and will have on people’s lives.

Mark: The intent long-term is to have a whole hub of many programs. We have a few through affiliate partners, but we also- One of the things that we co-created with Rookha Group is a program called the Optimal Being program. The Optimal Being program is absolutely by far the core of what I did to navigate the brain dynamics that were spinning around in me and get to a place where I could start to navigate the world in a more healthy way.

There are three things that occur in the Optimal Beam program. One is the awakening of the inner guidance system. It’s really incredible that every human being innately has an inner guidance system, but so many people have conflicts within it and their programming that has them doing things on automatic decision-making that is not really constructive for their lives. What this does is help to soften that, release those beliefs and ideas that aren’t really serving us anymore, and get to a place where the inner guidance system is listened to and it comes alive in us and it really leaves us to what’s optimal for us. Mitzi mentioned sometimes medication is the optimal thing for someone in the beginning stages, so go for it and do it. Listen to those doctors. Believe the diagnosis they give you, but don’t believe the prognosis if they are not telling you you can get well. Allowing for that inner guidance system to come on gives people confidence. It gives them courage. It’s a healthy courage. It realigns their personal code of decision-making from one that could be negative and destructive to one that is always constructive. That is a key thing with the Optimal Being program.

Another thing that happens there is community. Here is people that come together who are also going through life’s challenges. To learn these tools together and to come to a community where people are in a like situation or like-minded, they are seeking solutions, that accelerates everyone’s health and wellbeing. Ideas are shared in there that the facilitators may have never thought of. One of the people who are participating is contributing as well. People are both giving to the group and receiving from the group. It’s a combination of self-instructional programs as well as a weekly online part of the program.

The other thing is there is metrics. At the beginning of the Optimal Being program, we allow someone to go into ten categories of their human behavior. These are things that are like self-love. How is that going for someone? If love of self is really low, maintaining love while thinking about themselves is really low. There are some tools that we teach to support increasing that. Maintaining love while thinking of others, maintaining love while actually approaching truth. There is ten of these categories. We measure them in the beginning, and at the end of the 13-week program online, we measure it again.

It is fascinating to see how dramatically people change. These are core human development skills that could be taught to a fifth grader or even younger. When someone integrates them into their life, whenever they face something that is a challenge, instead of going to historical patterns of coping mechanisms, they start to have tools that are foundational human tools to start to realize what potential lies within them and have it start to come out in the world. The transformations we have seen in corporate leaders, people who thought they were actually doing fine but wanted to get to the next level, and people who have challenges is profound.

Hugh: It’s not just for people who are having—I forget how to title it—severe emotional issues. It’s not just for people in that profile.

Mark: No, it could be someone who is going through a breakup from a relationship and they are sad. It could be a loss of a loved one, and they are going through that grieving process. It could be any number of things that creates in someone the desire to seek something where they are going to feel better. When people feel better and they get to a joyous, and Mitzi knows well about this, place in life, one of the things that starts to occur is their life self-perpetuates in a positive direction. We want to help people navigate through that, so we teach the opposite of the way they were taught in the world when they were growing up. It’s like a rewiring of some of the processes they had been using. Mitzi, I don’t know if you want to ask anything to that part.

Mitzi: I thought you did a beautiful job summarizing.

Hugh: Mark, what is the name of that program? The Optimal Bean program?

Mark: It’s called the Optimal Being Program.

Hugh: It’s my age and mental condition.

Mark: We have tools and technologies. There is an app online that is actually free. People can go download- If they do a search on their phone on “Rookha Group,” they will find the Optimal Being app. It is a powerful app that helps to heal relationships with the commitments tool and to practice maintaining love and the breathing properly as they face a challenging situation. That alone is healing.

Hugh: Spell Rookha.

Mark: R-o-o-k-h-a.

Hugh: R-o-o-k-h-a.

Mark: You might be able to type in Optimal Being and get it at this point, too. It’s been up there long enough I think you could type in either one.

Hugh: Optimal Being. O-p-t-i-m-a-l B-e-i-n-g. So Mark, this is not coaching. It’s not counseling. It’s not therapy. What is it?

Mark: We’re like a group of people who have been there and have navigated this. We are educated mentors. I am someone who has gone into it and out of it. When someone does that, they develop a certain set of skills and support others in getting to a place of hope. I don’t think anybody in our organization—Mitzi, correct me if I’m wrong—but I think every single person in our organization sees the human beingness in a person. Never have we seen any kind of diagnosis or some kind of illness. It’s not the way we look at it. We look at it more like-

There is a great analogy of the caterpillar to butterfly. Imagine that the caterpillar goes in to the chrysalis, and then everyone starts to say how awful they are because they don’t look like a caterpillar anymore and they are stupid and can’t do this and can’t do that. The caterpillar is transforming. If we suppress that transformation, we are going to have some funky-looking caterpillars. If they didn’t allow the chrysalis process, they are going to be angry, frustrated, grumpy, and eventually fall into depression because they are denying that natural, innate, transformative state. When somebody actually goes into who it is they truly are and they do it with the tools that exist in many different forms, we happen to give them in the way that we learned them. It supports someone having the courage to do what they are innately guided to do. That is why when I was mentioning inner guidance systems it’s like listening to yourself, but letting go of all the noise that was in the way, creating conflict within a person.

Hugh: I love it. Mitzi, I have appreciated you on our team calls and live work together. You ask really good questions when everybody else is letting it fly by and wondering what that meant. You say, “Wait a minute.” Your attention to detail is very acute. But you always ask it in a very generous and kind way. Instead of putting anybody down, you say, “Would you explain that again? Is it this or that?”

First off, talk about your son. This project is named Journey’s Dream. Why did you step up to want to be in this core team of four people? I guess it’s four people. This core team of champions that are really making it happen. Talk about yourself, and then talk about the other two that aren’t here, Rex and Brea.

Mitzi: That inner guidance system that Mark was just talking about was what led me to be one of the founders. I again saw a deficit when I looked at the mental health situation on the planet. The suicide attempts and the actual suicides and the message that people hear when they get a diagnosis is one that we wonder why is a stigma. When you get that diagnosis, if you get a diagnosis of schizophrenia and went home and Googled that, that would put you right in the depression, I think. You probably wouldn’t want to talk about it. The prognosis is awful. I would love to see the core messaging changing around mental illness. What would have happened with Journey if he was told that he was in a transformational process or that he could get well? That is a different message. A lot of people who are experiencing these states of mania are brilliant. They are on a genius spectrum. They are navigating different things than we are. I think if they had these tools that are available, it would be a different outcome entirely. I was motivated by that, and this is what I was being guided by, too.

The other two founders are Rex Montague-Bauer, my husband and Journey’s father. Rex and I have been students of these principles that are a lot of the core principles of the Optimal Being. We have been students for a while of that and do our best to practice those in our lives. Our daughter Brea is the fourth founder, Journey’s sister. She is a brilliant human being, compassionate. We are all inspired by the same thing: to see a different outcome for people who receive a mental health diagnosis or who are just challenged in general.

Hugh: This is a high-functioning team. You all work really well together. That is not the case for every team. Russell, I met Mark at the very first ever SynerVision Leadership Empowerment Symposium. I think it was called Leadership Excellence then. It was in Chicago. Mark met me at a CEO Space gathering the week or two before, and he decided he’d sign up and come. We got connected there. We had conversations. He checked me out for about a year before he- He wanted to make sure I wasn’t a flake and was there to stay. Then we started working together. We have had some very deep conversations over time.

I am really a fan of Mark and Mitzi and the team as well as what they are doing. So we have been on a journey ourselves. Mark, thank you for inviting me on the journey. It has been a pleasure to be there with you. It has touched me in many ways I hadn’t realized I could be touched. It has been an important journey for me just to watch and participate. Russell, what do you see and hear that you want to comment on? I’m sure you have found a couple questions you’d like to throw back at our guests.

Russell: I’d like to thank you both for coming here and sharing your story. We have powerful why’s, and that is critical to everything. The idea of paying it forward. What we are talking about is raising our level of consciousness. This is something that everybody can do. There is a lot of power in interacting with people who get it. There is a lot of fear and stigma around the idea of a mental diagnosis, but a diagnosis does not define you. Just looking at the alternative complementary types of solutions is critical because it’s not all about poppin’ a pill. It’s about a mental and emotional and spiritual connection and going within and finding that thing that is inside you that can make all things better. To be fair, I think Hugh scared you off with- Mark is probably in earshot when you let loose one of the age and mental condition things. He does that every once in a while, but he is a brilliant man. I know that you had a long journey to figuring out that the idea of raising your consciousness and being around other people who experience the same thing, how did you come to the conclusion that this was the actual solution? Tell me about how that journey took place.

Mark: First, I don’t know that it would be fair to say that it was the actual solution meaning if you are referring- Are you referring to my own health or the creation of Journey’s Dream?

Russell: The creation of Journey’s Dream as a way to move forward is really- That is my term for raising your level of consciousness, connecting with that is strong and valuable.

Mark: I apologize. I misunderstood the question at first. With regard to- How did we discover that Journey’s Dream was the solution? It goes back to trusting that inner guidance system and listening. One of the things that we discovered along the way is we want to be very collaborative with other organizations. We want to be inclusive. We believe that there is a place for medication, and there are many organizations who have gone through mental health recovery processes who are against the medication. If I didn’t have the medication, I’m not sure I’d still be here. It served me well while it served me. It was more that there was more, and it stopped serving me at some point in a way that I felt like I could really achieve my heart’s desire.

We wanted to give people access to programs like the Optimal Being program, where they could tap in and tune in and get to that higher consciousness that is going to optimally serve them and give them other tools that could meet them where they are today. They may not be seeking that today; they might just be feeling really miserable and not want to get out of bed. They would like to wake up one day and feel a little better. They are not seeking some lofty thing, but to them, that is very lofty. To get back in touch with who is it that they really are and what is it they are really here to do?

We had a belief that if we as a group take care of the stuff that was in our system that was not going to serve Journey’s Dream, that we would always know the optimal next step and the optimal step we were in would have the proper attention and focus to be executed optimally. We just did an event in November at Soldier Field. Our first event ever was at Soldier Field in the Midway Room there. There were a couple hundred people there. More than that, it was the BDSA, the Bipolar Depression Support Alliance was there supporting this. Nami Metro were bringing in- They do stuff with the arts. I am not a big art kind of person, but to see what they are doing to give people who are struggling with mental health the opportunity to sing and play music and explore what it is that is going on inside them in a different way, that is extraordinary. There was a faith-based counseling organization that came and supported called Sumeric Care. I am not going to remember them all right now, but they all came together and collaborated to realize a vision. There is a VA organization in Illinois, Joining Forces, and the Illinois Department of Human Services was even there. That is unheard of in my world before that to see these groups come together and say, “You know what? We are going to stand for something, which is we believe that there is a path for all people to get well.” We may not know it today. There might not be a cookbook recipe that is on the shelf. But when we start to bring resources together and collaborate, that is when solutions can be found. That is when the optimal support can come out.

We had a half dozen practitioners that committed to come. They spoke and changed people’s lives, just by letting people know that these doctors who see patients every day were telling them something different than what they had heard in the hospital, which is you can get well. Just to hear that from another doctor, all of a sudden, all the belief systems around what their condition is collapsed. They had to walk out of there with a remodeled and reconfigured belief system. If they say I can get well, then I can. That is a huge thing.

Then we had a few celebrities there who were extraordinary, too. David Stanley, who is Elvis Presley’s brother, was there sharing his story and the story of Elvis and the opioids and that process and giving people hope that they can get to the other side of that, and his own depression and stuff he has been going through. The founder of Make-a-Wish Foundation talking about how he had PTSD early on in his career, and his partner who had taken his life. Because Frank Shankwitz dealt with it in a different way and found a solution for him, Make-a-Wish Foundation exists today, one of the most successful not-for-profits. That was another reason we wanted him there, to let people know that there is hope for people struggling, but also we wanted him to express that Journey’s Dream might be at the beginning just like Make-a-Wish was after he was going through his recovery process and had the opportunity to do something pretty cool.

These not-for-profit organizations can be run like real companies and provide real services, real value, create income streams that produce impact that is huge. Make-a-Wish is doing a few hundred million a year in their overall umbrella. That is the kind of organization we see building. A global organization that can have that impact. That is why we hired Hugh. If we are going to build a sustainable, real organization, we waned someone who has been there and done that. Hugh Ballou helps not-for-profits all over the planet to do and set up for success. If you have something that you really believe in and you have a passion behind it, trust yourself and hire the resources that are truly going to help you in your situation set up for success.

Hugh: Thank you for that. I certainly have had enough rehearsal doing this. Mark and Mitzi, tell people where they can go to find out more information.

Mitzi: You can go to our website, which is That would be the place to begin.

Hugh: What will people find there?

Mitzi: They will find our website, which we are going through the process of making some changes to now as we have grown in the four months since we first launched the website. They will find a beginning of a practitioner’s network. They will find the Optimal Being and other resources we are offering. There will also be a place for practitioners where we are inviting practitioners to join us if they see fit. There is a place for practitioners, and there is a place for family members or people who are struggling looking for solutions. They will see what solutions we have, and they will see the vision for what we have for our future.

Hugh: Did you think when we were in your basement putting stickies on the boards that this would go here in this period of time?

Mitzi: No, sir, I did not.

Mark: One more thing. From a context standpoint, we have grown within a handful of weeks to over 600 followers on Facebook. If you go to the Journey’s Dream page on Facebook and follow us, you will not only be getting things about Journey’s Dream, but things about mental health and innovative approaches and solutions over time. Encourage people to do that as well.

Hugh: What’s next, Mark? What’s next in your radar of accomplishments for 2018?

Mark: In a week, December 4th, we are launching another Optimal Being program. Anyone who is interested in that, it’s a 13-week program. You can go to the website under Educational Programs and click on Optimal Being. You can read more about it and sign up and register if you like. That’s one thing.

2018 is going to be a year of automating that program so we can get it to a lower cost; forming additional partners and building out the practitioner network; and building a fund so that people who can’t get the kinds of care that insurance doesn’t cover that they can get some additional support in paying for those services. Some of those services that I have had the benefit of don’t take insurance, so we want to educate people about those but also be good stewards of funds that come in so that part of those funds get allocated to address one of the biggest issues in mental health, which is it’s really expensive to get the good care that is going to help someone navigate their own life to a healthy state of being.

Hugh: Awesome. There is resources now, and there is resources that are coming. The Facebook page is also called Journey’s Dream?

Mark: Yes.

Hugh: Russell, what are you thinking?

Russell: I am thinking I love what you’re doing. It’s wonderful. I’d like to say that I have looked at the website. There is something there for everyone who has been touched in some way with a diagnosis of a mental illness. Having to face that fear, there is a lot of fear, a lot of stigma around that. But it’s important to connect with people who get it. Mark and Mitzi get it. If it’s you, if it’s a loved one, go to and get connected. Talk with somebody. Happy Giving Tuesday by the way. It is Giving Tuesday. Take a few minutes after this broadcast and go to that site and plug in. If you do nothing else, subscribe to the email list, get the information, and give it a listen because a lot of the things that can be seen as solutions here are not the conventional things. They are not the things people tell you, things like mindfulness. Some of this stuff might seem like it’s touchy-feely, but it saves lives. Take a minute to consider something a little bit different than what you have been taught because your life’s on the line. These are folks who have been there and they get it. It’s facing that fear and knowing that yeah, there are some other solutions but they are only solutions if you take time to plug in and do it. Go to Facebook. Go to the web. Get plugged in. Make a donation. Sign up. This is a gift to give yourself and maybe a loved one for Giving Tuesday.

That is my two cents. Again, thank you so much Mark and Mitzi for what you’re doing here because you’re saving lives. This is going to grow beyond anything you’ve ever imagined.

Mark: Thank you, Russell. Thank you, Hugh.

Mitzi: Thank you.

Hugh: That is really good. I’d like to ask you to think about a closing thought. I’ll ask Mitzi to go first, then Mark.

As we wrap up here in this really good story that you guys have shared, Mitzi, what is your closing thought for our listeners?

Mitzi: I guess I would like for everyone to challenge themselves when they see a homeless person or someone who looks different than them on the street or on the bus or in your community, don’t make an assumption that you know anything about that person. They may have a Ph. D. My son had a degree in economics. Mark, who is brilliant. Extend compassion. Look them in the eyes as a fellow traveler who is sometimes on a challenging path. Offer some compassion. That would be my thought. It is something that has changed in me since Journey’s experience, and I would love to see more of it.

Hugh: Great. Thank you. Mark?

Mark: If you could think of one person in your life who is struggling now or who has struggled in the past, I would say just reach out to them and give them the URL. Say this podcast, this Facebook live, it looked interesting. Let them know it exists. One of the things that I experienced early on is people don’t know how to talk to people who are going through a challenge. We want to change that. We want to give them those tools. Whether it’s a mother or a father or a son or a daughter or a friend or spouse, what is it we can do to support? One thing you can do is let them know you are thinking about them, whether it’s saying website or Facebook page. That is not the point. The point is let them know you’re thinking about them. Send them things that can be constructive, that could really help them. If they deny that they are able to be helped, they may not like it. But you know what? Someday they will remember it because all people can find a path to health and well-being. Allow yourself to be in the face of those experiences. Be the presence of love. We are all called to be. If someone does come at you and say, “Hey, you shouldn’t have done this or that,” and they are triggered, recognize what is going on inside them, but do it from love, not because you want to heal them or get them better. Do it from love. As you think about them, think about what it is you could do to really be of service.

Hugh: Awesome words. Awesome words. Russell, thanks for being here. It is such a consistent supporter. Mitzi, Mark, thank you for sharing your story. It has been powerful indeed.

Mitzi: My pleasure.

Mark: Thank you so much for having us.

Nonprofits that Work: Food for Families

Nov 27, 2017 56:11


Food for Families

Interview Transcript


Hugh Ballou: Greetings to this episode of The Nonprofit Exchange. We have two guests today. They both work in the same charity. It’s called Food for Families. I was down there yesterday hearing some stories. There was a lunch gathering for a bunch of charities that work out of the same building. I have been talking to these guys for a while and said that we needed to tell their story because people have a lot of ideas, and putting some traction to ideas is pretty important. I learn from people who have lessons to teach, but I also learn from people who have life lessons to teach through stories. I am going to ask these two gentlemen to introduce themselves, a little bit about their background, and then we will circle around and talk about their foundation. Ray Booth, who are you?

Ray Booth: I’m one of the rare breeds. I was born here, and I’ll die here. I’ll never live anywhere else.

Hugh: We are in Lynchburg, Virginia by the way.

Ray: It’s a great place. Come join us. I felt a calling early in my life to be an engineer, and I was a simple engineer graduate. After I got out of college, I felt called to ministry and considered that quite a bit. I think I’d do best in public service. I spent my whole working life in public service, first with the state government, then 25 years with the city as Director of Public Works. I have impacted this community. Everywhere I drive, I see my impacts and construction all the time. After I retired, I went to work with my construction company. I did more private/public partnerships here in Virginia in many of the cities and counties throughout Virginia. I retired from that, and now I am a consultant and real estate broker and am still trying to impact the community for the better.

Hugh: Gordy Harper, tell us who you are.

Gordy Harper: I am the director of Food for Families. Previously I was a real estate broker. Before that, a Harley Davidson dealer in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Hugh: We are across the state from the commonwealth. That is four or five hours away the other way.

Gordy: Virginia Beach?

Hugh: Yeah.

Gordy: Four hours, at least.

Hugh: It’s real flat over there.

Gordy: Yes, it is.

Hugh: I ran a half-marathon there. Part of the reason I chose it was because it was flat. The other part was because Yuengling served beer at the water stops.

Food for Families, this is a nonprofit here. Let me set the context. We live in Lynchburg, Virginia. Lynchburg has one of the largest populations of those that live below the poverty line. I think 24% of the population. Food for Families is sort of geographically located where a lot of that population is. When was Food for Families started, and why was it started?

Ray: Many years ago, Food for Families is located in a church that currently is in a poorest area in the city. Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, it was the heartbeat of the city. The first shopping center was there. This was the in place to be. It grew exponentially and was one of the wealthier cities and churches in the city. As time moved on and the new shopping mall was built in the suburbs and all the retail people in that part of the city left and went to the new mall and the development moved there, this area became more of a transient location. Over time, the poorest people in the city moved into this area. Lynchburg in the early 1900’s was one of the six wealthiest cities in the nation. A lot of wealth here, and they built huge homes. We have a lot of beautiful inner city homes. They were turned into apartments in the ’50s and ‘60s. Once the people started to come and appreciate the architecture, they bought all of those homes and moved the poor people out.

The poor people gathered around the Parkview Community Church. That is now the poorest area west of Richmond in the whole state of Virginia. The church was flourishing. As retail moved out, it started going downhill. They started having a Wednesday night meal every week. Back in 1996, a street person came in, and they fed him. The next week, he brought two of his friends. And more and more of the street people came in. More of the congregation left. They continued to feed the poor, and that number grew and grew. Still to this day, 21 years later, there is still a Wednesday night meal. We feed 125-150 people on Wednesday nights. The church started food boxes in 2007 because they saw all of these poor people on Wednesday night needing food. In 2008, the church was closed, and the food pantry survived another year or two until the guy who ran it died. It was closed for three or four months. Through a grant, we reopened the food pantry in 2011 as a client choice facility, the first one west of Richmond and one of the few-

Hugh: Tell us what client choice means.

Ray: Client choice means the neighbors come in and get a grocery cart and actually go back through the pantry and pick up the items their family will eat. Pick a produce, meat, dairy, bread, so forth. They only shop like you would shop in a grocery store or anywhere else and pick up the items their family will eat. That was very successful and still is to this day.

There has been a number of changes over the years. In 2012, a gentleman who has never been married, very poor, never owned a car died and left $225,000 for the benefit of youth in Lynchburg and to be used by the district superintendent. They developed a partnership with UMFS, which houses foster care and adopting. They agreed to put a regional office there. They used a third of the money to run the space. After they came, the district office moved there. We divided expenses three ways and utilities, and the Lord has continued to bless over the years. It has really taken off, and now we have 13 different nonprofits in the building. Many of those are very complementary to Food for Families and the neighbors, and today we serve 25% of the poor people in Lynchburg with food. That’s 3,000 individuals. We have had as much as 80,000 pounds of food going through the facility.

Hugh: 80,000 pounds. I have been by there on a Saturday. There is people waiting. Ray, when did you join this organization?

Ray: I joined in 2010.

Hugh: 2010. This is 2017 when we are making this recording. People may be listening to this in some other year or universe. Gordy, when did you join this organization?

Gordy: 2016.

Hugh: 2016. Year and a half. Ray is the chairman of the board, and you are?

Gordy: The director.

Hugh: What other data would you like to share? What I’m hearing is there are people who were doing something that was meaningful and they stayed with it. There is people listening to this who’ve had an idea and tried it, but haven’t really stayed with it long-term. I’ve also heard because of the value of the people staying with it, you attracted some funding and some other synergies with some other organizations. What other things do you want to share about what you know from the history and what the history is from 2016 going forward?

Gordy: As I came in, what we tried to focus on was changing the culture. I would sit in meetings in the city and hear people talking about how they didn’t feel respected when they went into those places. A lady said a culture of respect, and that locked into my brain. I went back and we tried to change the culture and help people see our neighbors, our clients who we call neighbors, not clients. Our focus was on changing the culture. A lot of that is in developing relationships because what I was hearing was people needed to help them come from where they are. I just knew from my own life that if you wanted to help me come from where I was, you were going to have to have a relationship with me, to be able to sit with me and share with me and listen and take it to heart. It mattered the things you said to me. The first year I was there, I was trying to build relationships and trying to bring down the walls that people build up around themselves because of where they are. We tried to show the love of Christ to people.

Hugh: Russell, they said a couple magic words. Relationships. They said culture. Do you have some comments or questions for these gentlemen?

Russell: Culture is more than just a cereal. It’s supposed to be good. It’s wonderful because what you are talking about, and I have dealt with it a lot, is basic human dignity. Sometimes it’s hard for people to reach out for help because they are in a circumstance through no fault of their own, and it’s important to treat people with that basic dignity. I commend you for making the effort to do that and connecting with these people that you’re serving. I was also excited to hear that you are co-located with a number of different agencies. If you could, talk about some of the things you have been able to do with some of those other folks that are partnered with you to provide a more holistic service to those people you are serving.

Gordy: We have a free clinic. We have tried to build relationships actually with all the different partners in the building. But we have a welcome center. Our welcome center is like a resource center, and I have set them up a satellite in our office. We are in the lower level of the building. Everything else is in the upper levels of our building. We have tried to establish ways to draw them down to where the neighbors are. But we have set a lady up in our office that can actually one-on-one with the neighbors. They are actually in the room waiting for hours at times. Some days I am there at 7:30, and there is a 2:00 distribution with people waiting already. We try to capture those morning hours where people are waiting to be able to shop and draw people in that can lead them to resources.

The free clinic, we have an establishing relationship. There is a nurse practitioner in there that is going to come down and meet with the neighbors, announce what services are available, and what she has actually talked about is coming to the Wednesday night community meals and establishing relationships by sitting with the neighbors and letting them know what’s available. We are trying to get flu shots. There are little things we talk about just from what we hear with the neighbors and try to see what needs they have.

We have a relationship with the local bank and a lady that is vice president there who is coming in and teaching personal finance classes, basic computing classes, reading, math skills, different things that will help people be in a better position to get employment.

Ray: There is a nutritionist that has been there several years that is teaching cooking classes. While the neighbors are waiting, she is up there showing them how to cook. We also have a counseling service there. This facility started even before everybody else moved in with a facility bin there. We met there for over seven years.

As a result of that synergy that came around that facility and those people being there, you have 50-60 people there every day at lunchtime for an AA meeting. As some of those people were able to overcome their addiction, one of them started a telecommunications company that is in the building that provides low-cost Internet and phone within a one-and-a-half-mile radius of the building. Two others actually formed a counseling service using the peer group model that is now extremely successful. They have contracts with all of the local school systems and hospitals, so if a student gets caught with drugs and alcohol, instead of being suspended, they are sent there. They have nine counselors now. They have a lot of people whose lives have turned around as a result of that.

The UMFS has foster care and adopting services for the entire region. They have contracts with all the schools as well. We have three churches that meet there. One on Saturday that is in a growth of the AA group. A lot of the people at the church service are across the spectrum. We have doctors, lawyers, all types of people there that through prescription drugs and other things, you read about it so much today, that were cured or came off the addiction that didn’t feel comfortable in their own churches or places. They come there with brothers and sisters who shared the same war and are helping each other. After the worship service, they have a meal together. That’s every Saturday night.

We have a Sunday morning church, and then we have a Sunday afternoon church. They are now getting more involved in the mission. Most recently, we have had one of the larger churches move their church office into the building because they want to be close to the neighbors and be more involved in administering to the poor. We have a number of different things there. We are continuing to try to expand more services as we get there. It’s continuing to grow.

Hugh: Russell is one of the first people. SynerVision is the synergy of the common vision. I have trademarked that name. We like the word charity because nonprofit is a stupid word. You have to make some profit if you are going to do any good. We like the word charity a little better. It is a tax-exempt social benefit organization or social capital. Lots of ways to describe it. People think of nonprofit as a philosophy, not a tax classification. I don’t hear any of that thinking from what I hear today.

Russell and I have reinvented the consultant model. I went from being a consultant to an insultant to a resultant. Now we partner with them to help them find the way, so we are WayFinders. We created a whole different paradigm because 98% of the consultants out there give the rest of us a bad name. Maybe they give answers, maybe they don’t. It’s the stock answer. Our calling is to give people information, free or at a price they can afford, so they can improve their culture, their service, and therefore improve their funding.

I wanted to talk about two other pieces here. We teach leaders that you don’t push, you influence. I am hearing some of that in your dialogue. You have been steady. You have worked out these collaborations with these other organizations with some synergistic work. I am gathering you were the first one on board and the others have come on board since then. Because of the impact of your work, I want to shift, and a lot of charities do that, but I know since I’ve heard your stories. There is measurable, profound impact from the work you do. That is part of the position of influence. Your operational guidelines, your high standards of integrity, the value you give people: those are all really strong principles. Those are part of who you attract, both in the collaborations and in the funding side.

If that influence piece makes some sense, you talked about improving the culture, redefining the culture. I’m not sure what word you used, but it was working on the culture. I watched you yesterday where you had most of those organizations represented at lunch. It was a lunch to share stories and be together. You were a servant leader there. You were handing out plates and checking on people. I don’t know if you were official, but you were an unofficial hospitality person yesterday. It gave me some insights into your leadership, sir.

Culture is so important; that’s part of the work you do. Leadership is a culture. It’s not just a person, it’s the culture. What’s been your journey of helping them—I like the word transform rather than change—transform their whole idea of culture? Give us a snapshot of what that journey has been like.

Gordy: It goes back probably. For this journey, when I was seeing it, people don’t really mean some of the things you see sometimes. It’s just more the nature of people as a whole unfortunately. I was watching. I would hear certain things and watch certain responses. It just wasn’t the outcome I was hoping for. I want more of a warm and comfortable- The way I have tried to sell it is the people we are serving don’t really get experiences. If I want to take my kids to Disneyworld or my grandkids, we are going to go. They don’t really get to do the same thing. We have tried to help people see that we want to create an experience where you look forward to coming back.

I know it’s just shopping to some people, but to our neighbors, when you see that they will come, some come at six in the morning. I have had people tell me- We start at eight, so I come around 7:30. There can be 10-15 people waiting. It just makes me understand the value. I know it’s free groceries. But they get to come once a month. I would like over that month’s gap for them to really look forward to it. We try to take everything, implement everything we can to make it an ice experience. We want to do it like the nice stores do, like Walmart. You want it to be. We need vests to say, “How can I help?” We want it to be clean, well-stocked, and with customer experience. We have to put it in the mindset that an average person would be thinking. When you walk through the grocery stores, what do you see? What is happening around you? Everything is neat and in order. The only difference is that we bring our pallets right through the front door. We set them right in the middle of our produce room and start picking through it to be able to distribute the food. It’s harder to keep it clean. We don’t have people come in the middle of the night to stock us to be ready for opening tomorrow. We have certain challenges that Walmart has mastered because of finances and the help they were able to bring in. if you think of it as creating a wonderful experience and not just feeding people-

Hugh: I love it. It’s the visual of people waiting in line for the new iPhone. They are excited.

Gordy: It’s hard because my family does what everyone else does when they want to do it. We have been very blessed. But I realize these folks don’t.

Hugh: It’s hard to realize that. Russell, we were born into white privilege. It’s not a disease, but there is a cure for it. I was in a room yesterday, and I said to Leigh Anne, “It’s nice to be in a room where everybody doesn’t look like me.” Because if everybody were to look like me, that would be scary. We had a cross-section of Lynchburg in that room. Age demographic, educational background, race, some of us better-looking than others, but not me.

The culture thing is something that we work with charities and churches on because we have inherited a culture. We don’t realize that people aren’t responding to us because we are doing the things the same way. I started a workshop Saturday with church leaders, and I said, “Who knows the seven last words of a church?” Nobody knew. “We have never done it that way before.” I said a lot of us come to meetings with that written on our foreheads. How about stripping it off? Let’s start with an open brain.

You came in 18 months ago. Ray, what sort of transformation has happened during his tenure so far?

Ray: Obviously his approach is very positive and very much like what we were all looking for. Our previous people took it more- In fact, he was a retired military person and was more for giving orders and this is the way we do it type of approach. That doesn’t create the same level of respect. You have to have a heart that you want to share and relate to these people rather than treat them as something to go through the door. Gordy has brought the heart into it. As a result of his faith, he has ben able to share that heart and love with the people. That is something I strongly believe in and something I try to do. I grew up very poor, not white privilege. I relate to these people really well. It’s all by the grace of God. It could be any of us. It’s been wonderful to see Gordy there and the way he has transformed the people there.

The other thing that has been such a huge benefit is the tremendous amount of volunteers we have. We have only a couple part-time people. Gordy is part-time. It takes at least 30 volunteers to run a distribution day. We have brought hundreds of volunteers in and hundreds of volunteer hours. If it wasn’t for the volunteers, we couldn’t survive. It’s important for the volunteers to have a good experience as it is for the neighbors. If they don’t appreciate and we don’t appreciate them and what they do, they wouldn’t be coming back. We have a tremendous amount of volunteers repeat on a continuous basis.

Also, Wednesday nights, we have numerous groups that cook the food, serve the food, provide music devotions, and relate to the people. That is probably 30 different groups over the years. That creates an experience of love and a relationship that carries forward into the volunteers on Thursday and Saturday and Wednesdays.

Hugh: This is what Gordy’s brought to the table. We like to teach that culture is a reflection of the leader. We want to criticize other people and take the blame off of ourselves. I want to ask some stories. Russell, what questions are you hearing, and do you want to throw some questions on the table?

Russell: What we are talking about is critically important. There is reasons why people want to support you. A nonprofit that is effective creates win-win-win scenarios: wins for the people who are working, wins for the people they serve, and wins for their supporters, whether they are giving time, talent, or treasure. Having the connection with people.

When you go into a community, particularly if you look different, there is a bit of a level of suspicion you have to overcome. That has been my experience. People get to know you and see you as genuine. You go in and ask a lot of questions; you don’t walk in with a lot of answers. People respond to that, and it’s a constant dialogue. How can we make this better? How can we serve you best? What is something that we can do that we’re not doing? These are all things to be critical. It’s having these conversations.

You have hundreds of volunteers. I am seeing people like Travis Smith, who has spread impact locally to 11 cities now. He has been successful at leveraging large numbers of volunteers. The question that I have is: What are you learning as you ask the people who volunteer for you why they keep coming back, why they enjoy serving, what makes them want to work with you?

Gordy: That’s a tough one to figure out. We do get responses and things from people. I haven’t really done a lot of research on it as much as it seems almost a standard amongst, especially the students. I see the students come in, and they start, they don’t know where to plug in. Some of them require hours and things like that, community service hours. You can start to see develop within them a heart for service. I think most of the young people nowadays really want to do something. They have something inside them that is stirring to give back. It’s interesting because I know one of the local colleges, they get 20 hours they are required to serve in their community. Over and over, I get comments of, “I had to do it up until then. I want to do it now.” It’s just something stirs within them to make them come back and want to do it. I think any of us, they will actually step outside of our comfort zone and go into these places and start to invest your time and energy, it’s in us.

Ray: All of us want to do things and please people. When we serve people, these people appreciate it and show their appreciation verbally, nonverbally, and so forth. Everything you do is appreciated. That warms people’s hearts, and they want to continue to be able to help the people. It’s all about being able to help and se that immediate impact and the smile on the face. That is what brings them back, and that is why if they get past that first hurdle and get comfortable, at least talk to people, then they can develop a dialogue. Particularly for young people, they don’t have the boxes that older people do as it relates to race, culture, etc. They more quickly join in if you will than the older people. They have a harder struggle sometimes getting past that barrier.

One of the big things that has been in Lynchburg the last five, six, seven years is Bridges over Poverty. We have gone through lots of training on that. Just a local pastor recently shared with me that he had the white privilege, if you will, to serve in larger churches. He really didn’t know how to talk to the poor. He went into one of these Bridges programs and came back and tried some different things. All of a sudden, they responded, and all of a sudden, he comes back every week because he’s retired and he sees how he can bring a smile to these people’s faces and how they can all of a sudden smile rather than sit there frowning.

Hugh: We bought this house recently. I said to the realtor and the mover, “You do this all the time, but we felt like we were your only clients. We move once in a great while. You move somebody every day. You sell a house every day.” These people, it’s a unique experience for them. You’re doing it all the time. What I am hearing about the culture it is a profound experience for everybody. You have created a win-win for everybody. Parts of white privilege don’t have to do with money. Just because we’re old white guys, there is a lot of dimensions to that. What I am hearing is you have evened the playing field in that people are people.

I’d like to hear a couple of stories that you can share. We have some time here. Is there a story of impact? Either one of you can start. Is there a story that you’d like to share that warms your heart or really made a difference in somebody’s life?

Gordy: Recently, we had two ladies come in. it was an off-time in our schedule. They were homeless. The way it hit me was it was impactful because of the pieces that came together. We are sitting in the office. We were able to draw the lady from the welcome center. She was in there. We were able to see them get their housing that evening. By establishing the housing, we were able to establish their food. She was able to get them bus passes. All the pieces, we stood in the office, and we talked it all through. All the pieces in a matter of 15 minutes came together. We stood there, we all held hands together, prayed together. We said, “Wouldn’t it be something if six months from now, we talked about, Remember when we all gathered here and figured out all the pieces?”

In two weeks, they came in and both had jobs. It was powerful for them to come in and share and for us to remember all the different resources aligned at that moment. It’s a powerful image of us remembering to draw the resources. You have to keep a pool of everybody together. They wanted me to understand all of our resources there and make sure what’s happening and get everybody everything they need and understand that the other partners in our mission are in as well. We have come to find out they are in as well, and they were actually doing some things that I hadn’t even realized.

The counseling, I sat with one of them and said, “I really want to figure out what we can do together.” They’re like, “Did you not realize Steve has been sending people up for a long time?” I’m like, “I did not realize.” Steve is the face you see first when you come into the office. Steve has been directing people to the resources they needed.

Ray: There are so many stories that happen all the time. We had a guy come in the office, and we had been getting money from somebody that gave us $100 a month for a long time. We didn’t know who it really was. One day, this guy comes through the door and says he didn’t have a car or anything. He rode the bus. “One month, I didn’t have the money to give you, and I got on the bus. Somebody got on with a bag of groceries, and I said they need it more than me.” He came back and gave us that $100. That guy has since come back numerous times, and he had Gordy go with him to the bank. The bank is sending us a check for $100 every month from his account. He had money when he first came to Lynchburg, and he has donated most of it. He has enough just to live. He really has the heart to help people. You look at him, and he has a long beard, long hair, but he has a heart. You never underestimate people. Don’t judge a book by its cover.

Hugh: That’s a remarkable story. What do you think, Russ?

Russell: I think that’s great. That’s probably typical of the work you’re doing there. It’s all about people. As you bring people in, they come through the front door, and it’s almost like having them slide into your funnel as it were. When I worked for a tribe, people walked through the door. My programs were about jobs and business, but I was familiar with all of the other programs around me within the tribe.

When somebody walked into my office, they could start anywhere in that office, and they would be walked around from one end to the other, or across the street to the health clinic. When they walked in, they left with what they needed. Nobody took time to say, “This is not quite my job.” They would take the time. As a program director, we take time to walk people from one office to the other and make sure they are getting what they need before we hand them off. It’s a team effort. I looked at it as I worked for the community. I had a boss, I had the tribal chief and the tribal council, but I worked for the community. I am on display with everybody I serve.

It is important for them to have satisfaction. It is important for people writing the checks to be satisfied. It is important to have good relations with the community. All of that is important. Everybody has to feel like they are winning here. I commend you for setting up that type of environment. Asking people what they like and why they serve is critical because once you find out what it is they like, you can do more of it.

Even if they have to do a certain number of hours, they can do those hours with any nonprofit in Lynchburg, but they choose you. That is because of what you have been doing. That is your work on the culture. Find out a little bit more. I am in the frame of mind you can never ask too many questions to find out what makes people tick and to be there and to be that solution and have that heart of service that people need.

As we are coming up on this holiday, this is a great time to remember a lot of these things we are grateful for. Are you going to see some people over the next few days? I know the holiday is coming. There are a lot of meals to be served. What is on the agenda for the rest of this week? And Giving Tuesday is coming up. What is on the agenda? What do folks need to know so they can help support the work you’re doing because you serve a lot of people in need there?

Hugh: We are recording this prior to Thanksgiving in 2017, to put in context for people listening to the podcast. We are approaching a holiday where a lot of us eat a lot of food and celebrate with family that other people don’t have that option. What I have learned is when you are down and out, the society doesn’t help you most of the time. You guys are giving a hand up. This is so encouraging. To relay Russ’s question, what particular reflection do you have this season of the year? How do you interact with people that is different? Or is it different?

Gordy: I don’t see it as different.

Hugh: A lot of places shut down. It’s a trick question.

Gordy: I don’t understand the question, haha.

Hugh: A lot of places shut down, Russell. Oh, it’s a holiday. We are going to take time off. A lot of them close today and open again on Monday.

Gordy: We have our Wednesday night dinner. It will be a sit-down, serve you at the table.

Hugh: Who comes to that?

Gordy: Everybody in the community is allowed to come. It’s an open-door policy. We don’t even know who will be there yet. But the expectation—I reached out today to get more tables and chairs because we are expecting a huge crowd.

Hugh: Just to go back to the lineage and history of this that we heard, this was a very active large Methodist church. It dwindled down in membership, and it was no longer viable. The building is owned by the Methodist church. It reverted back to the district office who had to maintain it. Through the wisdom of the district superintendent, they started using it. It had a rebirth. Not just one church worships there, but there are at least three. Plus you have 13 different organizations. The ministry has sorted- It’s not all under the umbrella of the church. They are still ministries, I think. Go ahead.

Ray: It’s a building that originally started in 1857 on that site. It has grown until now, where it is 26,000 square feet. Then it died, and it’s now been reborn and rebirthed in even a greater sense. It’s how the people use the facilities.

What makes this site so unique is that it is in the very heart of the very poorest area. Two blocks away is the Salvation Army and the Center of Hope. Across the street is the public health department. Another block is a recreation center. There are ten Methodist churches within a two-mile radius of this. There is probably another 30 or 40 storefront churches and others around this. We have now partnered with another church, where a bus picks up people in the neighborhood. We give out so much food. We average 30 pounds of food for an individual in the family. A family of four will get over 100 pounds of food. The biggest problem they have is getting it home. They can’t get on the bus with that much. They all have to get taxis and share. It is a tremendous undertaking to take 80,000 pounds and distribute it in over two days. This past week leading up to Thanksgiving, we had over 300 families that went through there.

Hugh: Say those numbers again. You just slid those in here. How many pounds of food?

Ray: 80,000 pounds a month.

Hugh: 80,000 pounds of food per month. That other figure.

Ray: This past week, we had the most families we’ve ever had of 320-something families on Thursday and Saturday, just those two days.

Hugh: Over 300 families. That’s a lot of people.

Ray: Over 2,000 individuals.

Hugh: Wow. On Saturday?

Ray: Thursday and Saturday.

Hugh: Thursday and Saturday. That is just one week in this month. The impact of your work is pretty huge. We find that helping charities define their impact in quantifiable terms helps them attract regular, recurring funding. Talk a bit about how you sustain this, how you continue to make sure there is operational money, food in place, and you pay the light bill. How do you attract the funding? How many sources does it come from? I’m sure there is some in-kind, but there is some cash in there, too, isn’t there?

Ray: We have been tracking the cash. It comes from different areas. We get from churches, we get from organizations, we get a lot from grants. A lot of individual donations. If you donate $10, it will feed a family of four for one month. That is based on the supply of 100 pounds of food. We are able to present it that way. A lot of people respond to that because they want to help. It’s individuals, churches, organizations, and grants.

Our biggest supporter by far is Walmart. Over that 80,000 pounds of food, a third of that comes from Walmart. We pick up from three Walmarts, a Little Caesars, a Panera Bread every week. Walmart supplies are tremendous. 30-40,000 pounds a month comes from Walmart. They have given us grants. We have had a $55,000 grant to widen the entrance so we can get food in easier. Last week, we got another $55,000 grant from Walmart to buy a refrigerated truck so we can keep the produce fresh longer and pick it up and keep it fresh. They give community service grants as well. The people here are just so supportive of what we do. This community is very supportive.

Hugh: We qualify for that by showing the impact of your work. I want to point out to any businesspeople listening to this. You heard three brands mentioned here: Walmart, Panera, and Little Caesars. Those companies support you. You don’t have to toot their horn about their brand. It’s good for business to do this. This is the Walmart Foundation. It is philanthropic, but you have also had support from local stores, which is another source of funding.

What I heard you say is you have individual and company donations. You have in-kind donations, which is the food. You do get grants, so that’s three. We teach charities there is eight streams of revenue. We have money, which we call partner money. It comes from a rotary foundation or a church. They have designated funds for particular projects. It’s not really a grant or a donation, so it’s partnering. They have the funds and aggregate and take a bunch of churches or a groups like a rotary foundation. Each rotary has their own foundation. They can purpose special gifts. For charities to think about partnering with churches, synagogues, and other community organizations that want to give you a little bit of money, and you multiply it by 10 or 20 organizations, then you have some sustainable revenue to help you sustain your work. Are there other sources of revenue? I heard those.

Ray: I think you hit most of them there. You just never know when the Lord is going to bring something. Recently, last year, we got a big donation from an individual we have never heard of before, from another city. They just happened to have a family member that heard about it, and the foundation wrote us a check. We had to find out where it came from. You just never know how the Lord is going to provide and how the money is going to come. You never know.

Hugh: Russell, we are on the final wrap here. We are going to run over time. Any closing comments from you or a parting question?

Russell: I’d like to thank you for the fine work that you’re doing down there. You have some marvelous opportunities to leverage all the work you’re doing. I could say the same thing about the business. Find out what it is they like that makes them support you so you can just keep doing more of that and bring in more people through the door and keep talking to people. Those relationships are important. Keep working on culture because that is where it starts. This is what draws all of these gifts. When you have the right culture, you create the type of energy field, and the synergy to bring all this stuff about. Keep up what you’re doing. Blessings to you. Enjoy the holiday. I don’t know if you planned anything special for Giving Tuesday, but that is an opportunity to reach out and talk to people. Go on your Facebook feed and talk about the work you’re doing. Remind people that Giving Tuesday is an opportunity to support you.

Hugh: I want you to think about a parting comment. There are people out there struggling who have not been able to get traction. What encouragement would you give them if they are thinking about starting or they have tried to start and haven’t got traction?

As we are signing off here, which one of you wants to give a challenge, tip, or thought for somebody who wants to up their game?

Ray: Never give up. Just keep trying.

Gordy: Love the people you are doing it for.

Hugh: Love the people you are doing it for. And I heard with. You do all of that. I watched you in action. You can’t hide. Thank you so much for sharing. Russell, we are three guys having coffee in my kitchen. This is a kickback.

Russell: I am having coffee with you guys. It’s great. I noticed that I am drinking more coffee than you guys.

Hugh: We don’t subscribe to whether it’s half full or half empty because we think it’s all refillable.

Russell: It is.

Hugh: Blessings to everyone. Thank you for great stories on this podcast.

Nonprofit Performance 360 Magazine History and Heritage

Nov 20, 2017 44:33


In it's third year of publication, Nonprofit Performance 360 Magazine set' records for quality and inspiration. Dr. Todd Greer, editor shares his vision for starting this great resource and his vision for the future.

Todd Greer holds a Ph.D. in organizational leadership with a major in human resource development from Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia; a Master of Science in ministerial leadership from Amridge University in Montgomery, Alabama; completed graduate work in communications studies at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan; and a Bachelor of Arts in communication studies from Defiance College in Defiance, Ohio. He has numerous publications to his credit, including journal articles and book chapters, and has presented at national conferences.

He has served as lead instructor and board member with the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce’s Innovation PortAL and instructor for the Chamber’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy for high school students. He is a board member for United Way of Southwest Alabama and Springboard to Success Inc. which, with the Downtown Mobile Alliance, operates the Urban Emporium retail incubator. He is an advisory board member with Veterans Recovery Resources.

He was an instructor with University of South Alabama’s Minority Business Accelerator and an adjunct instructor at Spring Hill College.

Previously, Greer was executive director of the SynerVision Leadership Foundation in Blacksburg, Virginia; minister of administration for Glen Allen Church of Christ in Glen Allen, Virginia; and head boys’ volleyball coach at Highlight Springs High School and assistant women’s volleyball coach at Virginia Union University, both in Richmond, Virginia.


Interview Transcript


Hugh: Greetings, and welcome to today’s session of The Nonprofit Exchange. Today, we have a very special guest. Russell, it’s the first time you’ve met Todd Greer. Dr. Greer was the one who started The Nonprofit Exchange. He is the founding and current editor of Nonprofit Performance Magazine. Todd, welcome.

Todd: Thank you so much, Hugh. Great to be with you. Russell, I’ve heard such wonderful things about you, and it is great to at least virtually connect with you here.

Russell: This is great. I’ve done my best to bring out your inner English teacher.

Todd: It’s important. Gaps. Hugh mentioned I was the editor as we started out. Hugh is definitely the publisher. He is not the editor. It is good to have other folks around like you, Russell, to help keep him in check.

Russell: It takes a village. That is why there is more than one of us there.

Todd: There you go. Absolutely.

Hugh: The vision for The Nonprofit Exchange is to interview experts in different fields and to bring really good leadership principles into charities and churches and synagogues, often from business leaders. Todd, in addition to having your Ph. D in organizational leadership, you are ordained as a pastor, and now you are a dean at the University of Mobile. Am I correct?

Todd: That is correct. It has been an interesting transition. Hugh and I met in 2014. Hugh had this wonderful vision. SynerVision Leadership Foundation had the vision for a magazine and a community of nonprofit thought leaders that could help to build capacity and to help build and move things forward. I think it’s been a beautiful vision to see it come to light, to be something that I’ve been a part of and that has touched me deeply. Over the past two and a half years, I have been able to move down to Mobile from Virginia where he and I met, start a business down here, see that grow, and see a community of entrepreneurship really raise up. Now I have the opportunity to get in and engage with university students and to work to encourage them for the world that we’re inventing each day.

Hugh: We’re glad to have the academic connection. Even though you have gone on to do some other great stuff, you’re still shaping editorial policy. What we have done with the magazine is separate the commercial part from the editorial part. What I do is I’m the champion, and I bring people into the funnel that we set up so brilliantly and around the editorial policy that you shaped so that we keep it really clean and really valid journalism for leadership. Thank you for that contribution to humankind and to SynerVision.

You launched The Nonprofit Exchange, which we are doing at 2 pm on Tuesdays EST, and the podcast. We are hitting about 15,000 listeners on this particular podcast, and I have 10,000 on Orchestrating Success. We share some interviews in common, but they are helping people think through their skillset and organizational development and personal skills for developing their teams. Talk about three years ago in September that we launched that first John Maxwell edition. As you were shaping out the vision for this magazine, talk about your thought process. What was important about how you laid down the tracks, and what does that look like?

Todd: One of the things that we consistently saw as we were looking at the nonprofit space is that there is good research, and then there is speakers. Then there are some books that are written. But there is a gap in the middle. What we wanted to do was come in and give nonprofit leaders, whether they are board members, staff, or executives, the opportunity to be able to engage with deeper thoughts around a holistic idea.

What we started from that day forward is to create these themes within our magazine so that you could look at what we could consider an evergreen concept, something that is not based upon a specific time. It’s something that whether you are looking at it three years ago or today, the points are still valid, the theme is still important, it is something that drives home a needed opportunity in that space. We really worked to say, This is not an infomercial. This is not a chance to sell your book. This is not a chance to get yourself engaged in a speaking environment. This is really about bringing the best thought leadership from all over. We have worked with the athletic director of Virginia Tech. We have worked with bestselling authors. We have worked with professors from a number of top-notch schools across the country. We have worked with nonprofit facilitators. We have worked with people that do some speaking across the space. We have tried to engage and bring together for our listeners, for our audience, for our readers as many different engaging and unique perspectives that can help them move it forward. And the reality is we wanted a place that would challenge you. It’s one of those things that oftentimes it is very easy for us to become stagnant or to reach a plateau. If we are engaged with new people all the time, it helps.

The cornerstone of each issue, there are a couple things we wanted to lay out. One is we wanted to have that big name at that cover that you can look at. John Maxwell was quite a name to be able to start with. You see others that have gone on to head the cover of the magazine. They have done an amazing job.

We have wanted to make sure that each magazine touched on board relations. Each magazine touched on that sense of funds attraction. Each magazine talked about a couple things.

The second cornerstone of the magazine to me was the Nonprofits that Work Section. It’s great to be able to think about these huge nonprofits that have great budgets and are extremely well-known. But how do we seed this idea, this theme exemplified in the life of a nonprofit that is probably going to be one you have never heard of before? We have been able to show these organizations all across the country who are doing exciting things around that theme. It’s been one of those pieces where I have learned so many new amazing nonprofits to be able to point to them later on.

In fact, there was one that we worked with not that long ago, The Mission Continues. Hugh, I don’t know if you remember them from the work that we did with them, but it’s exciting right now because Aaron Scheinberg, who we worked with from there, he is running for Congress in West Virginia. He was somebody that we worked with not that long ago on that article. The Mission Continues was a veteran organization to work to continue to engage vets as they come back stateside to continue in that mission, working in the nonprofit community that surrounded them to engage in different missions. You get to see those kinds of things. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to engage and think about how all of the good ideas in nonprofit spaces don’t come from just nonprofits. They come from all over.

Hugh: Good principles are good principles. Part of your inspiration was to have a different theme for each edition. One of the real fun editions I remember was one with Frances Hesselbein on the cover, who is in her late nineties and is expert on millennials. We did this whole issue on millennials. You had an interest in it, as did I. I’m a boomer, you’re a millennial. My article was about how we have similarities in core values and principles. You had this really good interview with Frances. Those are the top downloaded interviews on the Nonprofit Exchange podcast.

Todd: Hugh, it’s a beautiful thing. Frances has now just turned 100 or 101. She is still kicking. I have seen a couple pieces from her recently. I was telling my daughter this last evening. My daughter is a Girl Scout. Frances was for about a decade and a half the CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA. I was telling her, You have to understand the legacy of those that have gone. My daughter is a third grader. I was explaining to her that what Frances has done, and I use Frances a lot when I am speaking to students, to be able to understand what it looks like that she is engaging, to never stop learning, to always open doors for others in the sense of when you find trustworthy people who are passionate, give them an opportunity. Open the door for them. They may be young or different from you. Whatever it is, understand that everybody needs a door opened for them.

Hugh: Absolutely. You have crafted our submissions page. When you go to, it will forward the URL to SynerVision’s magazine page. Then there is a submissions page so people who want to contribute can go there and submit articles. There is very clear guidelines for submissions. The boardroom issue is being designed now, and it will be printed and distributed before the end of this year. Since people are listening to podcasts maybe at any time, it’s important that the material on this podcast and in the magazine is timeless. Solid principle.

I am going to let Russ insert some questions. Russ, you have been a contributor for the magazine. As you look at the guidelines Todd has crafted, and specifically the identification of the theme- Russ is a very gifted writer. Russ is one of our WayFinders. I don’t know if you know that. He has gone through the certification. He is the first certified WayFinder, but we have some more in the chute. He is the guy forging the trail out there. Russ, how do the guidelines for writing and the description of the theme help you as a writer shape your contribution for that article?

Russell: It’s important to have a clear message that is direct, to the point, that has a lot of punch, and that forces you to really put your best thoughts on paper without any extraneous information. Also, it forces you to up your game because when you are looking at some of the people like Dr. Jeff Magee for example that are sending material into this magazine, you don’t want to send a piece in there that is less than your best. People turn to this because they want to know what sort of things they can do to really enhance their performance. What are some of the best practices out there? What are some things that you can take away from this article and actually make it actionable?

When I send a piece in, I ask myself what I want people to know, feel, and do. There should be one piece of actionable. If there is more than one, that’s better. Sometimes people can get confused. I am trying to either put a sequence of actions or sequence of things to look for or some sort of actionable piece that somebody can take and implement today. It’s important to be able to access, understand, and use that information.

I was just surfing the Web today, and I came across a list from an organization called Giving Confidence, which points you toward nonprofit resources. It’s five podcasts nonprofit people should listen to. I opened that in anticipation of seeing The Nonprofit Exchange. We’re not there yet. We’re going to make that list. They talk about why people should listen to that. We’ll just keep doing what we’re doing. At some point, we’re going to end up on that list. I think that’s a worthy goal for us to shoot for.

Hugh: I’m glad to know about that. Russell, you weren’t on the journey as we have gone forward. We are on our third year of the magazine, and it is hard to believe that we haven’t talked about it on the podcast. We have three years of podcasts. Lots of episodes out there. From an outside perspective catching up, what kind of questions do you want to pose to Todd about the history of the vision or the future?

Russell: One of the things I am interested in seeing, because you are in that university space, I was curious as to how many younger people like yourself are moving in to the space because they want to do work that matters and how many are looking at programs that focus on nonprofits and philanthropy. Are you seeing an uptick in that?

Todd: That is a great question. If you go back to the work that we did on millennials, that’s a huge issue. I don’t have the stats in front of me, but the vast majority of millennials say they want to be part of a company and work that makes an impact, and they will do business with a brand that makes an impact. We see a greater sense of social responsibility in this generation than any other generation in quite some time. There is still that struggle of a gap between what I want and what I’m willing to do. So we know that that’s not always something where that gap is closed. But we know that there is a desire.

We do see it among our students. We happen to be at a university that is a private Christian institution. We have that faith basis in our students where they do want to go make impact. Across the community here in the Mobile area and across the state and the country, we are hearing more and more about programs like social entrepreneurship coming up. We are seeing people including the Beet Corp and other groups where they are saying they think there is a blurring of the line coming before us between the typical business and the typical nonprofit or charity. They do want to engage. They want to do something.

The key right now that we are dealing with is how we make sure we are building the right capacity. I think that’s to your point. Historically, one of the things we have consistently seen is that the people who come in to the nonprofit space are people who are passionate about a cause. Passion is extremely important. Books upon books upon books have been written of the last decade or so just on passion and why you should pursue your passion. One of the things we are very mindful of—this has been part of the lynchpin for us for the beginning—passion without guidelines, passion without the right framework or strategy or understanding, can be very dangerous. We are asking questions here about how we cross the line between our school of business and our school of ministry, between our school of business and education, between our school of business and music. We are asking those questions. It’s already happening a lot in a lot of places, but you are going to see an increase in those.

Folks like Businesses Mission is a concept that has really come up over the last handful of years. You have schools that are developing these centers. They are getting out there and serving. We have a great opportunity. I think it means a lot to our communities. I think going back to that millennial piece, and even touching into our current issue that will be coming out here in December about the boardroom. One thing that is important for our nonprofits is to make sure that they are engaging millennials and thinking about what it looks like to have diversity from an age perspective on their board as well. I think the younger generations are incredibly excited about the potential to make impact in the world.

Russell: This is important. I have been engaged with my own church here in doing envisioning. We have been basing that on good to great for the social sectors. One of our local guys, Jim Collins, he is just up the road in Boulder. We started envisioning on that. One of the things that was said verbally was we really want to get young people involved. I dove into this process with him. I created a system to work with the faith-based community and created a coding system. What they say and what scores, there is a bit of a disconnect. This is something that is worth exploring further. We want younger people involved, but where are our actions leading us? There is an underlying- This wasn’t done to scale to any scientific scale or with the thought of statistical validity in it. There is a lot of open-ended stuff that is my own interpretation of it. It’s really interesting. I would love to share some of those codes with you, some of the coding idea with it.

The other thing I wanted to say is we have a very strong Businesses Mission chapter. As a matter of fact, I am going tomorrow morning to the monthly meeting.

Todd: That’s great. What you said is spot-on. There are two pieces that have really stuck out to me. I don’t know who said one, but I do know who said the other. Somebody said to me, “You will get what you celebrate.” Step back and think about it. In an organization, whether it’s a nonprofit or for-profit, you will get what you celebrate. You say you want something. If you don’t celebrate it when it happens, you’re not going to get it. That is the reinforcement. When you celebrate something, you are reinforcing that this is the culture we are working to establish.

Then the other piece is Chris Argyris. Chris was a theory guy. I want to say he was at Harvard Business School. One piece he brought to light is there is espoused values or theories, and there are values in action. There is often a discrepancy. You think about how many organizations you have come through. You see those values on the wall. You looked at those values and thought, I don’t see those organizations.

Hugh, you’re laughing because you have seen it countless times both in a religious environment and in other nonprofit organizations. It’s a hard thing. We set these ideals up, but we often don’t create a concrete way to establish those throughout the organization. Going back to the celebration, we often don’t celebrate when those things happen.

Hugh: We forget that, don’t we? I see Russell taking some notes. Russell grabs some sound bites in these that are very astute.

Russell, when you were talking about how you construct an article, that was really good information. What do you want people to do?

Todd, back to you. As we were putting this together back in the old days, was that part of our thinking? What do we want people to take away? You have a better recollection of some of this than I do. Your focus was on this more. What were some of the takeaways, the impacts, the results that we wanted people to have because they had the magazine?

Todd: There are a couple things that really stuck out in the early days we were doing it. Russell, I think you said it great: know, feel, and do. I want people to know, to feel, to do what I want. One of the pieces we said is leading in a nonprofit organization can be lonely. One of the things we wanted to establish is you’re not alone. You’re not alone in this journey. The things that you’re feeling are being felt all across the country by organizations big and small, by religious and those that are community-oriented in the nonprofit space. That was a big key for us because a lot of times when you are doing this on your own, who do you have to talk to? Can you share with your board these challenges? Can you share with your staff these challenges? Who can you talk to? A lot of times you are even afraid to share with other executives because you don’t want to feel like you’re the idiot in the room and you’re the one who is falling short when other people, at least what they present, seem so strong. We want to be very real. These are issues that we’re facing. That’s one of the things that comes up in each one of these themes. The acknowledgement that we are all facing them. We have challenges we are facing. We need a variety of voices to encourage us moving forward. That was a big piece.

Next to that is the big piece of we wanted to say this is more than just from the seat of our pants kind of framework. This is about how we work to establish real strategy in our organizations. I think that’s one of the pieces that often gets lost. We do without thinking of the strategy. You go back to Stephen Covey’s four quadrants. In the nonprofit space, because we are dealing with not an abundance of resources and staff, we are just going so fast through the things that become urgent or the things that flare up in front of us. We take care of those things. We don’t step back to create that holistic strategy. The magazine and podcast were intended to encourage us to really step back and think about our strategy around these types of subjects.

When we talk about leadership, what’s your leadership strategy? How do you build a leaderful organization? I am going to go back to Joe Raelin; he was one of our guests about two years ago from Northeastern University. How do you create leadership throughout your organization? We have talked about succession planning. How do you make sure that when you’re gone, the organization not only continues, but also thrives after you’re gone? That was a big piece to this.

We want you to think about that sense of strategy. What’s going on? What’s working? What doesn’t work? When we talked with Frances and Joan, we looked at Peter Drucker’s five most important questions. A lot of what they do is they want you to make sure you are periodically having that review process. For some time in our country, the after-action review was a pretty typical thing in certain types of organizations. In nonprofits, we don’t do enough of that now. What worked, what didn’t, how would we change it for the next time, and how do we continue to grow that to make sure that it’s better fitting our mission and our customer moving forward? I think that’s a really key issue that’s often missing.

Hugh, when you step back and think of all the organizations you’ve worked with, how many times do you see- In the for-profit world, we are talking about continuous improvement. Did you see a lot of that?

Hugh: No.

Todd: It’s something that I think we do. When the thing is done, we go, Whooo. That was long and that was tiring and I’m so glad that we can put that in a box for a year. The next year, we’ll pull that box out and regurgitate the same thing. We don’t think about, Hey, this is something. Heaven forbid we ask, Is this thing necessary anymore? Do I need to do this anymore? Are we just doing it because it’s what we’ve always done?

Hugh: Absolutely. I was thinking about Caesar when he lost his wreath. He got off his throne and there it was. He said, “I have been resting on my laurels.” We want to get there and rest. We want to think we’ve made a plateau and we can stop. That’s a dangerous place to be. I find that continuous improvement is the jargon in corporate America. What we work on in SynerVision is continuing improvement and personal development. The journey is never over.

Part of crafting the whole process and the whole design of the magazine is there is different categories. I forget what you call them, different categories. There is Member Engagement, Strategy, Point/Counterpoint, Executive Office, Grants Corner, Academic Desk, Design Corner, Nonprofits That Work, Board Relations, and Systems Thinking. Talk about why those categories. We have had something in those categories every single issue.

Todd: Those are big ones. We wanted to be able to really narrow in. One of the things that I think is way too easy when you are starting a magazine or any kind of medium is to say, “I’ll accept this” and have it in this vague space. We wanted to give people a way to look forward to new things that were coming. Some of the pieces we referenced before that featured personality in the Nonprofit Works and the Board Relations—one of the things that we wanted to engage in this is Design Corner.

One of the things in the Design Corner was always that idea that all too often, we tend to forget that things can look good and they can come together. In the church, for a long time, we lost our artists. We lost our designers and their input and their value. I think we are starting to see them come back again. The same thing is true in nonprofits. Just because you are a nonprofit doesn’t mean that your website has to be ugly or that your engagement with your members or your engagement with your community has to be lacking thought. We wanted to make sure that happens. What this does is it gives us a framework that when we are going out to seek contributors or contributors are coming to us, they know that this is the target I am seeking. We want to make sure that the people we have are experts. They really are bringing their game to the table, and it’s somebody that you can trust as you are hearing from them. I think that’s a really important piece for us.

Hugh, I want to touch on as well: We talked a little bit about this issue that is getting ready to go to print. I know some people will listen to this at some time in the future. One thing we have coming up is social media. Obviously, we don’t live in a world where social media is a might. I might do social media. Whatever your organization is, social media is really important. Going back to strategy, you have to have a strategy for it.

My wife and I were talking last night while watching an old episode of Madam Secretary. There is good and bad obviously about where we are in social media. Sometimes social media has created this perception of reality that is so far from it. It also has allowed people to get a platform that some people should never have. There are things that are going on where you think you never should have a platform. But nonprofits have a great opportunity to engage with their community, with their members, with their public through a very intentional strategy in social media. We want to make sure people are really conscious in thinking about it.

Another tendency is that we look at whomever is the youngest person on our staff and we say, “You’re in charge of social media,” just like we say, “You’re in charge of graphic design,” just like we used to say, “You’re in charge of web design.” We can’t just throw it on the youngest person. They may be good, but you have to have a real consistent strategy for you organization. What does this social media strategy look like throughout? What are organizations that are doing it really well? We always want to find those people who are exemplars in our field.

How does that impact the board? What’s the board’s role in that? Do you expect your board members to tweet out everything that is happening from your Twitter account? Do you expect them to engage? What does that look like? What are the expectations that you have? That one is coming up here soon.

Following that is what Russell and I were hinting at: this future of the public/private partnership. We are going to continue to see growth in that area. The moniker “charity” is something that really has a bad connotation in our society now. What a charity does is it comes without strategy and without fiscal strategy and they come and say, “Please give to me so that I can give to others.” We love to give. But we are asking the ROI question. Just like we asked return on investment, we are asking what the return is on my impact, on my giving in the nonprofit sector. We really want to make sure that we are thinking strategically not only about where we are at right now, but also about what is coming down the pipeline. How do we make sure that we build the right partnerships with the corporate entities in our environment? If we care about this issue and you care about this issue, how can we collaborate to be able to make real impact in our community?

Hugh: That’s a word that most of our charities don’t understand. Russell, we are rounding out to the final nine minutes of our interview. I am going to give you some more air time. You have some good questions. Is there one brewing for Todd?

Russell: When it comes to social media, it was interesting. I was at the Socratic café at the University of Denver. Me and a few other guys get together on Saturday nights to do that. We had an ongoing discussion for eight weeks about isolation. Social media came up, and one of them pointed out, “You seem to be very comfortable. I haven’t seen anybody your age that is that comfortable with social media.” I don’t know everything, but we talked about being isolated even though people are on social media.

There were a lot of things, pro or con, that were raised with social media. There is a balance to be struck, and it’s not totally evil or good. We want to be able to have these face-to-face interactions. There is nothing like face-to-face interaction. Social media is a tool. I think a lot of people view it as some sort of mysterious scale of people. After you turn 25, your brain oozes out of your ears, and you have no clue what to do. You have to find your children and your grandchildren. That is not the case.

What sort of things have you heard people talk about when you’re talking with them about using social media to engage? Is there some resistance? Is there some people who think it’s the Holy Grail? What are you hearing people talk about? I think it’s a great thing to devote a whole issue to.

Todd: Let me touch real quickly on something you said, and then I will come back to the questions themselves. You talked about isolation. That is a very big reality because it wasn’t until social media really crept up that we had this acronym FOMO: Fear of Missing Out. I think what it does is it drives us deeper into that sense of isolation because we don’t feel like we’re part of something, so we withdraw even more. Social media is amoral. It’s not moral or immoral. It’s amoral. It’s a tool. It’s a medium. It’s a channel. Yes. The question is how do we use this? That’s really important.

Yours, what kind of feedback are we hearing? In smaller, more traditional nonprofits that typically are led by older executives, there is a fear. How do I do it? How do I engage? What kinds of media do I put out there? Do I do it for my personal social media channels? I might have Facebook. Do I post about the organization on my personal page? Do I do it in the groups? How do I build a following? All of those are big questions. It’s not an easy thing. There is not really a one-size-fits-all response to that.

One thing that is important—and I know Hugh has done a masterful job in building that social media following. Hugh created a platform where he said I am going to focus on leadership. I am going to focus on how we empower people around leadership. When you see his messages, they are consistent. He is consistently posting about leadership and organizations, and he has built a following around a theme. In your nonprofit, that is a key thing for you. You have to own the space that you are in. You have to be mindful. It’s quick and easy to go chase the shiny object. We have talked about chasing money in nonprofits before. That is something that gets a lot of nonprofits off track. They go and chase money. The same thing is true with social media about chasing the shiny object. Not everybody has to have a perspective on every issue that comes up. When LeBron went to Miami, your nonprofit didn’t have to talk about LeBron going to Miami unless LeBron was the spokesperson for you in Cleveland. Then you might have something to say. It’s being mindful about putting your blinders on when you need to and knowing what you are good at and what you should be talking about. That is a big thing. Your following will come out when you are consistent in what you are talking about, when you have a definitive framing to your social media messaging.

We live in a world where the social media algorithms are consistently changing. It used to be photos, and now it is video. Video is the hot piece. Having opportunities. Here we are live on Facebook right? That is a really important thing. Whether it’s video chats or small snippets, you want to be able to create bite-size visual media because it is attractive. It will engage more people. It is more likely to be seen by folks than I ate nachos for dinner last night. Nobody really cares, unless you have a great picture of your artisan nachos with your tofu on it or whatever. Then people might care. But I think that is to make sure that when you do post something, you’re harnessing all that is available to you.

That is another piece. We will talk about it in the social media issue of the magazine. Something a lot of people don’t realize is there are very tangible ways for you and your nonprofit to be able to have good visuals. I know Hugh is an Apple guy. Apple made it very available for people to cut and edit simple but good, clean video. You have those more recently in a design perspective. I am blanking on the name here. is an organization that came out. One of the pieces they wanted to promote was the idea that not everybody is a graphic designer and can afford a graphic designer, but everybody needs good design. They created a very simple free platform or premium platform where anybody can go in and create good design to be able to make sure that is consistent with their organization in the top-notch perspective.

Hugh: That’s great. We are doing the wrap here. We have had a really good session, Todd. Thank you for watching this with your vision that is continuing. I hope we continue to execute it faithfully. As you are sitting in this academic seat, you are still editor at this magazine and shaping the editorial policy in a really helpful way. Are there some points you want to leave people with before we end this information session?

I want to encourage people to go to and at least click on the virtual edition. 15,000 people read it every month. It’s a Flip file. Go in there and sign in. You can read the archive editions, and you can subscribe and buy issues. It’s very reasonable. If a nonprofit executive or pastor were to get issues for themselves and their whole board, then some people are on the same page, and it gives you something tangible to talk about, especially the board issue.

Todd, as we are exiting and wrapping up on this interview, what are some things you want to leave people with?

Todd: Hugh, when you go back to the initial vision, it’s the idea. How do we make impact in our communities? We really wanted to do that. When you talk about some of the download numbers for the magazine and the podcast and the video series, we started at zero. We started without subscribers. We started without followers. We started without any of that. If we can do it, you can, too. It’s really important to make sure you have a good message, that you have something people want to listen to, to follow, to read. But you can do it. You can make great impact in your community. You can do great things. You can build it if you want a platform. The key is that you just have to continue. What ends up happening is we see people in our community who start something and they’re not resilient enough when the challenges happen. Hugh, you know. Our core team that we started with, we have all gone through significant challenges, life changes, but the key is to continue through it and continue to work together. Truthfully, if you don’t like the people you’re working with, you probably won’t continue. We have had a great group of people, both our core team and folks who have come around us and great new faces like Russell who are able to invigorate and continue to move things forward. I think that’s really important for any organization. Make sure that you continue to invite new people in as you continue to hone what your message is. Have fun. Life is too short not to enjoy what you’re doing.

Hugh: Good, wise words. Russell, you can do it. We have fun. Todd, thanks to you. Thank you so much.

Todd: Thank you so much.

Website Branding with Joshua Adams

Nov 14, 2017 26:02


Transcript of Interview with Joshua Adams

Joshua Adams, the Head Honcho of Rock Paper Simple, lives and breathes entrepreneurship, branding, and marketing. Joshua started programming at 11 years old and began his freelance web career at 14. As a result of working with over 700 clients, he has become an expert in the fields of web development, digital marketing, and branding. Joshua founded Rock Paper Simple in 2011 with the vision of empowering businesses who are awesome at what they do by developing their brand and digital presence. He is never satisfied with the status quo and is always working hard to find the simplest, but most effective ways to create results for his clients and ventures. You will frequently hear him say “Ever Forward!”, as he believes the best option is always, always to move forward. He lives to empower talented people and dedicates his work in every endeavor to the glory of God. Amongst other accomplishments, he was named a finalist of LEAD Brevard’s “4 under 40” award in 2016 and again in 2017

Rock Paper Simple

Hugh: Hey, it’s Hugh Ballou. I have a guest who is a fairly new friend, but a couple years. We have connected, and over the couple years, we have had significant conversations. This is Joshua Adams. I’ve seen him and his team do amazing work. I wanted to share some information today with all our listeners about branding. We want to do a website. We’ve given no thought to what it looks like, what representation it is for who we are and what we stand for. Joshua, hello.

Joshua: Hello, how are you?

Hugh: I’m awesome. Tell people a little bit about you. What’s your background that has brought you to this really good place of branding, marketing, and web design?

Joshua: Absolutely. I actually got in the industry more on the web programming side of things. When I was 11 years old, my dad handed me a programming book and said, “Here, learn this.” I remember picking up the book and going, This is bigger than the Bible. At that time, the Bible was the biggest book on the planet in my mind, so this was a big deal. I dug into it, loved it, and dove into programming. My friends were playing games, and I was at home programming, clockin’ away, making games and applications. As I got older, I got into web and focused on that. When I was 14, I started freelancing. When I was 18, I started my own web design company in my parents’ garage. I had three desks all lined up and said, “I’m doing it.” It took off. I loved business. I loved entrepreneurism. It was natural.

A couple years into doing that, I merged with a marketing agency. This is where my mindset shifted because I went from a programming mind, that engineering, tell me what to build and I’ll build it—as you call them, propeller-heads—to thinking more along the lines of, How can I build it? How can I make this cool? I realized that these marketing clients don’t care how cool this is. They want it to make the money. They want it to have results, to have a purpose. I learned what marketing was, what branding was, and that influenced me.

A month into this new partnership, my partner decided to disappear for an extended period of time. I went, Great. Here I am, a programmer, running a marketing agency. During the day, I’d be on phone calls; they’d want printing, design, or logos. I’d go, “Absolutely, great,” and I’d hang up and go, Crap. Google is my friend. I searched online courses and had to learn this on the fly. Here we were, developing for big clients in the area, and I had to figure this out. That was trial by fire. A few years into that, I had to part ways with my partner for more reasons than just going our separate ways. I brought all that marketing and branding knowledge with me and said, I want to develop a company that takes all the complexities away, all these over-the-top things that we were doing in the previous agency. I want to simplify it and build websites that are marketing-focused. At the time, my passion was still websites. I loved branding and marketing, but I wanted to focus on websites.

We launched Rock Paper Simple five years ago with the premise that we would build websites on purpose, bring all this knowledge, and build marketing-focused website platforms. That was our claim to fame. People knew us for that. You want a marketing website? Go to Rock Paper Simple. You want a technical product? Maybe go somewhere else. A marketing-focused one? That was what we did. We took off with that.

The funny thing was we’d sit in those planning sessions because we were big on planning. We would be talking about the brand and logo, and I’d be advising them on brand messaging and how they should position themselves. They had never thought about the unique value proposition. Our website planning session would often become a branding planning session. People started asking, “Do you do branding?” “No, we don’t.” Finally we said we ought to create a product. I’m a big believer that if you can’t do it well, you really shouldn’t do it. We said, “We’ll offer branding when we’re ready.”

We set off, and about eight months later, myself and my lead designer created a brand product. It was logo and brand colors and messaging, the whole deal. We launched that and won a Gold Addy for it that year. That was about three years ago. Fast forward to now, we’ve added digital marketing services to our repertoire. It’s no longer just me and a couple guys. It’s a team of ten here in Florida. We focus on helping brands and organizations figure out who they are, their identity, build a web platform, and then get known in the world. That’s a fast forward of where I’ve come from and what I do.

Hugh: You do it really well. I call people propeller-heads because they are geeks that put up pretty pages, and they don’t do any of the stuff you’re talking about. There is a whole back side of a website that drives traffic.

We’re talking to social entrepreneurs that run a church, synagogue, or charity. The organization is a cause-based nonprofit. Why is marketing important to those organizations?

Joshua: Sometimes marketing can be a bad word in some of those cases, just like profit. They’re making profit. We use different words for types of organizations. I myself was a youth pastor for three years. I have been involved in ministry my entire life. I get it. There is a bad connotation to it. But in many ways, we have to be careful how we say this, but the way you run any organization is like a business. There is a balance sheet. There are margins. There is overhead. You have customers, kind of. I use that loosely. Ultimately, any organization, whether it’s nonprofit or ministry, etc., you have all of those things. You have to cater to those people.

In the terms of a nonprofit or a ministry, you still have to get out to your audience. You have an audience; you are trying to attract them. Whether that is because you are trying to make a profit or make an impact, it doesn’t matter. What your goal is as an organization may be different, but you still have to get to people. Regardless of what it is you are trying to do, you have to reach people with your message. Sometimes that marketing is to get donors, to drive revenue, to be able to do bigger things. Sometimes for outreach, to be able to reach people who are in need. There is plenty of need for that, to reach people who need the organization, whether that be a ministry outreach or a support group or whether that may be. How you get that message out there is important.

Taking that step back to what we want to focus on today is that branding. What is that message? If you don’t have a clear, concise, consistent message, people don’t know what it is you stand for. That’s very important, even more so with these organizations. What is it that you stand for? I want to get behind something. We are very involved with that here at Rock Paper Simple. We believe in giving back to our community. I believe it’s in my fate; I believe I am supposed to give back. We are supposed to be an impact and a light to our community. That is a responsibility I have even more so because of my position, where I’m at. We do have the resources to do it. When I am asked to contribute or be involved or be an emcee for this or come and lip-sync battle over here—yes, we did do that—I am looking at who is this organization, what do they stand for, what is their message, why should we be involved, why should we give. They have to have a clear message.

We have sat down with organizations before and said, Hey, we just did a branding project for a nonprofit. We went through the whole process. I can admit that sometimes it can be a challenge to sit there with a board. It’s a little bit easier when it’s one-on-one with a stakeholder. If you have a board, it can be challenging to make sure you really break down what you stand for.

Hugh: This is all a lead-up, an umbrella for this interview. All of this is setting the context, which you have done quite well. The whole context of this is about design. Underneath that design is all the stuff you’re talking about and principally, for this interview, we are talking about design, how we engage the board, not that they are going to help you draw the logo. We think brand is a logo. I want to move into this umbrella of design. Also, you do work with boards. That was a really good segue. I didn’t set you up for that. That was just a predestination theory. I think people misunderstand brand. If you are going to do a really good design, all that work you talked about manifests itself in a very relevant design.

Let’s talk about brand. We hear these words “brand image,” “brand promise.” People think a logo is a brand. Give me a short definition of brand. We need to have this brand so you can do the design, correct?

Joshua: Absolutely. Understanding like you said, most people think I need a brand, so it’s a logo and some colors, etc. While that is part of your brand, you have to understand that your logo is a representation of your brand. Your true brand is really the character and essence of your company, the personality of it, what it stands for. That is your brand, not necessarily that pretty logo sitting there. When you have a truly great logo, a truly great image representation of your brand, it comes from a good understanding of who you are.

I was talking about this yesterday at Shannon Gronich’s event. We were talking about branding and the concepts of that. What happens is people don’t know themselves. We have to stop and say, “Know thyself.” I like to use that. Who are you? What are you trying to convey? I was joking about how a lot of people do their 60-second pitch, their elevator pitch. Here is who I am and what I do. A lot of people come up and go, “Hey, I’m John Smith, and I build websites,” and they walk away. Okay. But really, what makes you different? You have to convey that. Know yourself. Know the true part. A lot of businesses don’t. Not only do a lot of businesses not, but a lot of organizations don’t. They will say, “Yeah, we help feed the hungry.” Okay, but more than that. Who are you? Why do you do that? What sets you apart? What kind of an impact are you making on the world that is different than the other ones doing it? Why are you more trustworthy? Tell me more about you. Tug at my heartstrings. These are all things that people miss.

We take a step back and say, “Okay, yeah, we want to make a logo, but let’s talk about what you stand for.” We call that “brand vision” here. What is the vision of your brand? Before the mission, before the promise, all that: what is the vision? We say within ten words or fewer, what is the highest calling of the company? What is that headline in the newspaper you are so proud of? Ten years from now, a headline says, “Rock Paper Simple: Empowering people who are awesome at what they do.” Boom, there’s a vision. Something we want to accomplish. What is that brand vision? What is that battle cry? That is my favorite terminology to use for that that you can rally around as an organization. That’s brand vision.

When you can define that, then you step from there and say, “Okay, what is my mission statement?” which is the how. How do I accomplish that vision? What is my brand promise? Who am I making that promise to, and what is that promise, that unique thing I am promising to every customer, stakeholder, donor, whatever it is? What is that unique promise I am making?

The reason it’s important to define this is this stuff can float up in the head of the leader(s) or even the organization’s members or employees or staff or team members or clergy, whatever. When it comes out on paper and becomes real, you can live this stuff out more. Helping pull that out, I’ll sit there with boards and pull this stuff out of them. Tell me more about this. Let’s build this promise. Once we have a unified promise and everybody can get around what they’re promising, now it’s so much easier to deliver on that brand. We work on things like brand personality, how it should sound, how it should look, how it should act when you’re out there. Core values and value statements. That is the essence of your brand.

With all that stuff, I give you a logo that represents it. When somebody asks me to define a brand, that is 90% of your brand. Your logo is just the representation of that.

Hugh: Then you build a website to manifest that brand image, right?

Joshua: Exactly. Now not only are you matching color and logo and style, but now you are matching personality and belief and message. That is what is so important. Design is so much more than just some pretty pictures and colors. It’s a message. True design has a purpose. Why are you doing what you’re doing? I am a big believer in questioning just about anything. Why are we doing this? There is always an answer. I am a little over-the-top with it, but there has to be a purpose. The first board I ever sat on, I was sitting there at 19, 20, and I go, “I am 20 years younger than everybody else. Can somebody explain why we’re here? If there is no point here, I don’t want to be here.”

Hugh: That’s a key point, my friend. Too many people on the boards, it’s a nodding board. They come home, they nod, and they go home and do nodding.

Joshua: Then I nodded at you.

Hugh: Everything we do, we should ask why we’re doing it.

Joshua: Yes.

Hugh: We’re not going to delve into it in this particular interview, but we have talked about a web experience versus a website. What I’m gaining here is you are getting a whole experience. There is an engagement. At the beginning of that, people have to understand why you’re there, what your purpose is. Too many charities complain they don’t get donations. Well, there is a reason behind that. This is that structure that is so important. Let me focus. We are looking at the design element.

Let’s take all those components. We are talking to the executive director of the clergy. They have an idea for this. They want to engage their board and get them on board with this. When you work with a board and define a course, the more people you have, the harder it is to make finite decisions. There is a general education level before people can make decisions. Can you give us two or three points for a nonprofit executive for clergy, how will they approach the board and get them focused on the work that needs to happen so they are supporters and understand why this work needs to happen and their role in giving input to it? How do you work with a board?

Joshua: I have worked with individuals and boards. I have done 13 people. I have 13 stakeholders in a room. I got to get them all to agree. That can be challenging. What you have to rally around is core goals, a core vision. What are you trying to accomplish today? Typically, that is unity, a strong message, focusing our scattered message, nobody knows who we are. That is normally the pain we are running into. We say, “All right, let’s rally around this.” For me, the easiest thing is to work on my first step, that vision. If I can get 13 people to agree on a vision, the rest of it is much easier. We can build out from there.

Before that even, why is it important? I think a lot of times an executive director is that person who has to go to the board and say, “This is important to me because…” People don’t know who we are. People don’t know what we are. Our name doesn’t represent what we do.

I’m dealing with one board that I sit on—I am co-chair of it—where they are saying our name doesn’t represent what we do currently. It represents what we did 20 years ago. We needed to talk about that. Is this even relevant currently? We talk about that. It’s understanding that you have to make sure you are speaking the right message to the right audience, that you’re differentiating yourself from the crowd, that you’re making an impact with your message, and that you’re being consistent. These are all things that are important to any organization with their brand.

Hugh: Great. You have created a page for our listeners. Your brand is There is a backslash with my name, Hugh. There is a page there with some special offers. Is there a place people can request a consultation with you?

Joshua: Yes. Click on the tab “Schedule Free Consultation.” It pulls it up right there.

Hugh: It would occur to me some leader listening to this says, “I have an idea I need to go in this direction. I want to brainstorm how to present to my board.” Is that a good reason for somebody to schedule a consultation?

Joshua: Yes, I am working with someone now. We are more than happy to strategize how you present to a board, how you say, I’d like to explore this. You can even bring us along. We’ll tag along, show up at a meeting, have a chat real quick. No pressure. We won’t sell the board. If we are able to help, then great. If not, then we can move on from there, that’s fine.

Oftentimes, getting the board to understand why this is important, everything you do is influenced through your brand. If people don’t trust your brand, they are not going to donate, they are not going to show up to your events. It’s the same with a business. If you go to a website and see a product you might be interested in and the website doesn’t look good and the logo looks like it was made in MS Paint, you see the Buy Now button, and you are going to think twice about clicking the Buy Now button. This is just regular business. You’re afraid you don’t know who they are.

The same thing is true with nonprofits. If I go to your website and it looks like not great, then I am afraid to make that donation. It’s just the way the world works. We are trained that if it’s trustworthy, it’s consistent. That’s just how we are trained with our world that we are around. That’s why it’s important to have that brand cohesiveness. It doesn’t have to be the most amazing, wondrous design on the planet, but it does need to make sense. It does need to convey the right message. It does need to be consistent. Speak to the right audience. You choose your design, style, colors, and everything else based on what your audience wants, not necessarily your stakeholders’ favorite color.

Hugh: That is a key point. What I am getting from this for you to approach the design piece of this at all is a whole lot of thinking that the leader with their teams, the board, the staff, whomever, need to go through so that they can give you intelligent answers for their questions.

Joshua: When we work with somebody, we have a discovery session first, which is that pre-sales process so we really understand what’s going on. If we decide to work together, then we have a planning session. Prior to that, we even send them a questionnaire to learn more. We review it in that planning session. Then we get to work. Before I even start working with that board or company, we have gone through three steps of gathering information, understanding who they are and what they are. Then we wipe it clean and say, All right, tell me. What makes you guys different? What’s the vision? What sets you apart? We work on it right then and there. Sometimes in that first meeting, we knock out half the document. Sometimes in that first meeting, we have four or five choices for a brand vision, and we reschedule. Depends on the board honestly.

Hugh: I would encourage people not to rush this part of it. We gotta have a website up next month so we are going to do something. That may do you more harm than good. There is such a thing as negative brand recognition, isn’t there?

Joshua: Understanding that your brand says something, what does it say? Are you controlling that? Are you purposely driving that message? Your brand is going to say something. Whether it says we knew what we’re doing, we’re fun, we’re exciting, we do all this stuff, or it says, maybe we don’t know, maybe we’re not put together, maybe we’re not organized. It’s going to have a message. People are going to take that subconsciously without even knowing it. There are plenty of fantastic organizations out there with horrendous logos. They come across my desk. We donate to this. I look at it and push it aside. I look at this one over here. I know these guys. Later on, I find this other organization is fantastic, it just didn’t look good. I wasn’t writing a check to it because I didn’t trust it. I’m not saying that there is somehow a correlation to how good an organization you are. But it does impact perception.

Perception is so key. Regardless of the truth, perception is the truth to most people, right? How often are we misjudged? I am just talking personally as people. We misjudge or we are misjudged all the time. This is another conversation. That is perception. You can’t just say, That’s not who I am and get mad about it. Unfortunately, to that person, perception is their truth. Until it’s corrected, that perception is what they are going to believe. The perception of your brand unfortunately is the truth to your audience until you change that. You take control of your brand and say, “I want my brand to say this.” Therefore, everything else will follow it.

I want Rock Paper Simple’s brand to say that we empower people who are awesome at what they do. Whether that is they do, we empower them to grow and build. The rest of our statements go into how we do that. Our core values talk about how we go about doing what we do with the character of the company. Things like integrity, growth, and teamwork. These are all things in core to our team. One of our core values is community. That is why we do so much in the community. Why do we do that? it’s part of the brand essence. It’s part of the message we want to speak. I was speaking the other day and somebody made the comment, “Oh yeah, Rock Paper Simple does all kinds of stuff in the community.” The brand’s working. We are doing stuff. People know us as a company that does that. That’s important. Is my brand going to accidentally just communicate to people that we have integrity, that we are team players, that we are fun? No. I have to decide that’s what I want the brand to say and then push it out there. We are a very fun brand. One of our core values is legitimately fun. We do things that convey that.

Hugh: You are a mushroom. You are a fun-gi. All right. This is helpful information. To do your design, there is a whole bunch of stuff underneath that: engaging the board in meaningful conversation around this. People can go to and get some more information.

Joshua: Absolutely.

Hugh: There are some special offers. Joshua Adams, I know you have a very fine team behind you, but you are the leader and you have created this powerful vision for yourself. Thank you for helping us think about design and how we engage our board around that.

Joshua: For sure. Glad to help.

Why Understanding Marketing is Crucial for Nonprofits

Nov 9, 2017 55:07


Nonprofit Marketing with Geo Ropert

Interview Transcript


Hugh Ballou: This is Hugh Ballou and Russell Dennis co-hosting this episode of The Nonprofit Exchange. Hello, Russ.

Russell Dennis: Good happy Halloween. Good to see you both.

Hugh: As we are recording this, it is Halloween in 2017. You might be listening to this in another century. We are creating episodes for posterity. Russ, we have been on this journey for quite a while. Thank you for hanging in there and being my co-host.

Russell: It’s a pleasure. I meet so many interesting people, like Geo, who is here to talk to us today about marketing. And a lot of nonprofits don’t think they have to do that, but you have to get your message out.

Hugh: You spoiled the surprise. We were going to surprise them.

Geo Ropert: I might as well hang up now.

Hugh: Geo Ropert, welcome to The Nonprofit Exchange.

Geo: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here. I am certainly honored that you asked me to join you, and I am really looking forward to this today.

Hugh: I looked at your resume, and you have been holding out on me. You haven’t told me all that good stuff. We generally start out asking people to talk about themselves. In a little snapshot, the things that are related to PR and marketing. Then after you talk about yourself, what’s your background in this really complicated, for those of us who don’t know it, what’s your background and what’s gotten you here? After you do that, distinguish between PR and marketing. I know people confuse marketing and sales, but they also confuse PR and marketing. They don’t know where sales fits. If you can sort that out. But first, give us a snapshot about Geo.

Geo: I have 20+ years in the public relations and integrated marketing community. We’ll talk about that as you had asked. I am accredited in public relations, which means I hold a national certification that less than 10% of PR professionals throughout the country have. I have won awards for my work, and I have been- It really is my passion. I love to communicate. I love to help businesses and organizations share their message across platforms, everything from traditional to new digital and social. I work especially with businesses and nonprofits to really help them be able to tell their story and for them to be the ones that people pay attention to when they speak, when they produce content, when they get out there to their audiences.

I have worked in the nonprofit field. I have probably a little more than 10 years working exclusively for nonprofits, both 501(c)3 and 501(c)6 organizations, so I’ve spent a lot of time really in the trenches with those communities and have learned a lot and have really been able to translate that knowledge to help out organizations, especially nonprofits. That is where my passion lies: helping those folks be able to engage their audiences and gain the support and the resources they need so that they can do the good work that they do.

If you want to talk about public relations and marketing, while they are similar, they are very different in the sense that public relations really has to deal with the side of a business that is the brand. It’s the storytelling, it’s the reputation-building, it’s the work that is done to create buzz, if you will, to create information and knowledge. It’s meant to educate and inform audiences so that they can understand what a business is, what they stand for, their mission, their vision, their values, their culture—all those things are public relations.

Marketing, on the other side, is a staff function that is really about the promotion of products and services that the company has. If you are talking about selling widgets or if you are talking about having your organization that helps feed hungry children or protects kids from danger, these are the things that marketing does. It’s getting out the word on those products and services. They work together intimately, but in most cases, people see that as different.

I’ve been working in the realm where my belief is the industry has been changing to more or less meld those two together because it really is about communication, and the way we communicate today really blurs the lines sometimes. It is effective in both of its aspects.

Hugh: Actually, you need to have a good public image or your marketing won’t be helpful.

Geo: If your reputation is shot, you could have the best products in the world, but nobody will buy them.

Hugh: People also confuse sales and marketing. Sales is another animal. Do you want to give us a sound bite about what’s different about sales?

Geo: Sales is the process that marketing is geared to do, to make people aware of what those products and services are, the benefits they have for them. Then sales is the close. That is where all the process of engaging interesting, getting clients to pay attention and come to your website or make that phone call to your business, everything then is left to the folks in sales to close that deal.

Hugh: We are going to focus on the marketing piece. We have had other experts on this series over the years. Cheryl Snapp Conner owns a large PR agency in Salt Lake City; she was here several months ago and is very eloquent about her field of PR, doing press releases and getting that image out there. The niche that is marketing, that’s moving people toward understanding why they need goods and services—charities aren’t in business for selling things. I’m using the word “charity” instead of “nonprofit” for this conversation. Why would a charity need even think about marketing?

Geo: Because there are—let’s see how many there are—over a million public charities in the United States alone. Those are a lot of voices out there, each vying for the attention.

Hugh: Four million. 501 somethings. Churches and government. There are a lot of variances.

Geo: I’m sorry. I had a million public charities. You’re right about the four million. Everyone is clamoring for the attention, the pocketbooks of folks who can support their causes. As much as each of them are involved in very important and very worthwhile endeavors, there is a limited pie out there of funds and resources that are available. The ones who can tell their story the best, who can communicate what their audience is most effectively, are the ones who are going to succeed and be able to advance their causes where the others are basically struggling. I think we see more of the majority struggling than those we do being successful.

Hugh: Absolutely. There is a fallacy out there, and it is exposed in Dan Pallotta’s TED Talk, The way we think about charity is dead wrong, and he has a book to follow that up. The TED Talk says the fallacy is that nonprofits, he says charities, cannot spend money on marketing. That is taboo. I believe- Russell, we don’t agree with that, do we?

Russell: I disagree completely because a lot of people in nonprofits, especially if you are talking about a social worker or teacher, have difficulty talking about the value that their organization provides. It’s a value proposition. A lot of people look at it as bragging when in fact it’s just telling people that you are doing good work. Marketing is important.

A thought just crossed my mind. I came up with a question because I know that reputation management and getting the word out there about what you’re doing are separate but melded together. I was wondering what Geo thought is the right balance between PR and marketing.

Geo: I think if you are looking for a balance, you really want to integrate them both effectively. I don’t think you put one on top of the other in the sense that of course you have to have your brand identity established and visible and strong. People need to recognize it and know what you do, who you are, what you stand for, and what you do to benefit the community. That really is the telling of the story if you want to in PR.

In marketing, it’s telling people exactly what you do, why it’s important that they support your cause. You say, “Well, we don’t have products or services.” Most do. They have some type of service. They provide some type, whether that be support or education or advocacy. All of those things really fall into the marketing side of it.

What a lot of nonprofits- You’re right. They talk about marketing and PR and spending money on it as a taboo thing, that it’s not something they should do. I agree. It is completely the wrong idea to have because unless you are spending money on your voice and getting your message across to people, you are going to be one of the majority that are having a huge amount of trouble keeping your funding sources alive, keeping your organization alive. That is one of the problems I see.

What I also see is that many nonprofits- I can’t tell you how many times a month I get approached by organizations that want to get support, but they are not able or willing to pay for it. They expect to have it for free, pro bono services. While I do believe in helping my community and I support an organization that I work with every year, sometimes intensely, unfortunately I have bills to pay. I have to be able to afford to keep the business running.

Getting them to understand the value of PR and marketing, and marketing especially, is sometimes the hardest thing to do. Once they can really grasp that, and it comes from the leadership down, the executives, the board of directors, once they can understand that you put money into marketing is going to have a return on that investment and is going to grow the donor base, it’s going to grow the support base, and they can see that, then it starts to make sense to them, and they are more willing to invest in actual professional services and, if not, investing in the tools and software that are able to accomplish that.

Hugh: Geo, what’s an appropriate amount as far as a percentage? Is there any kind of benchmark? You mention something that triggered this. We use the word “nonprofit,” and we go into this scarcity thinking that we can’t pay for anything. We can’t pay good salaries, we can’t pay for services, we can’t allot money to marketing, we can’t spend money talking about the goods and services, the good that we do, the impact. That is what is going to drive sales. Sales is donations. Sales is for churches, synagogues, it’s evangelism. It’s growing your numbers in the 501(c)6s, the membership organizations. Why is it important? What is the impact of our work? We are telling a story.

Go back to this. You started exploring about stories a while ago. Where does that fit? There is two questions in here. How do you figure out what’s an appropriate amount to designate in your budget to marketing? What kind of information do you- You can’t tell people everything, so you have a limited budget. If you grow the revenue, then you can grow that marketing budget in tandem with that. How do you decide what to market? How much to spend, and what is the story you are going to tell?

Geo: According to the numbers I’ve seen out there, there was almost $400 billion given to charities last year alone. Of that, we would expect, as a business does, to spend a minimum of 10% at least on the marketing efforts. You could figure that is about $39 billion that would go out to help communicate that story, that message.

That can fluctuate anywhere from on the low end to 5% on the high end to- Some of them are spending up to 15% if you look at charitable organizations and the nonprofit organizations, the 501(c)6s.

What they do, the good ones, is they tell a consistent story that resonates. They have a mission. They focus on the mission in their campaigns, in their public relations and in their marketing campaigns, with a singular, strong message. You could have an organization. Maybe you do three or four different things, but your main mission needs to be conveyed and clear. What happens is oftentimes people say, Well, we do this, we do that, we help these folks, we help those folks. It confuses the message. There are millions of messages going out every day that we are being bombarded with. If a message from an organization comes across in three or four different ways, how are we going to be able to focus on that? It takes a minimum of seven times for somebody to see your name to recognize it, to see your message and recognize it. Unless they see that message seven times, maybe in a slightly altered way but still the same consistent message, the chances of traction are slim to none.

Hugh: I have to think about that. What do you think, Russ?

Russell: In terms of income, if people are spending money, they are going to want to know what I am getting back for this. How important is it to show a return on generating income? Is there a typical amount for nonprofits in terms of looking at return on investment with those dollars that they invest?

Geo: I think what you do is you look at the 5-15% of your annual revenue as a baseline maybe to say, Okay, this is where we are going to start. What happens in nonprofits is they base their marketing revenue on those numbers, and if the numbers go down, so do their marketing efforts. Where I believe that you need to be consistent and strong and you have to have a budget set aside. It’s not overhead to me. It really isn’t considered an overhead expense like executive salaries and rent and those kinds of things. It is an expense that helps to generate revenue. If revenues start to decline and you cut way back on your marketing dollars, you might as well just expect those numbers continue to decline. Whereas I think good marketers and executives who understand their value of effective marketing are more apt to say, Okay, let’s put in a substantial and usable amount of revenue into our marketing efforts. If we continue to do that and our mission continues to be strong and delivered across the right platforms, we are going to grow our revenue, we are going to grow our support, we are going to get the things we need to get.

Hugh: I saw some evidence—Russ, that’s a good question—during the last so-called recession that businesses cut way back on their marketing budgets, but the few that didn’t kept market share and actually increased market share during that recession. Russ, I’m sorry, I interrupted you there.

Russell: Just in your reply there, you hit on what I call the magic dirty buzz word, and that is overhead. People are in the frame of mind that anything that you spend beyond the actual delivery of those services is overhead and that you got to put the squeeze on that. You can’t have a huge overhead. Marketing and PR is important. When a corporation goes out and spends money on that, they applaud them. They go out and hire superstar marketing people and superstar executives to run the organization. They pay them good salaries, but they draw in huge amounts of money. Nobody ever questions that because they can see that value.

When a nonprofit or social profit tries to do that, it becomes taboo. It leads to what they call overhead. I don’t think they are doing this, that marketing and PR among other things and fundraising are bad ways to spend that money. You have to have a good structure to have a good solid program. When it comes to marketing and PR with nonprofits, what are the biggest challenges that you see nonprofits having when it comes to actually taking it up, doing it, and doing it well?

Geo: The thing I see is the lack of knowledge, the lack of experience, to do that job. Oftentimes, a lot of nonprofits will say, You are the reception today, and this afternoon, you are going to be our chief marketing officer. Very little knowledge of what it entails. This is a profession. This is something that people go to school for to get educated. Some of us have spent many hours a week, let alone throughout the year, honing our skills, growing our education to do that. That is one of the things.

Another standing is the available vehicles to us for marketing. There are so many, but they have to be selectively chosen based on the type of audience that you have, the type of response that you want to get, and also basically the areas that you want to focus your attentions on. It’s one of those things where so often I see, and people have sat down with some folks in the last couple of weeks and they said, “Well, we want to market our agency. We want to market our organization.” I said, “What’s your budget?” “We don’t have one.” “Good luck.”

As much as you can get something, you can get free press donated. Media is great about supporting causes, local newspapers, publications, digital sites that will do that, but you still got to pay for things like Facebook advertising, social media advertising. You have to pay for websites and development and maintenance of those. There are costs to the things that you print and your direct mail costs. If everybody would give it away, it’s wonderful, but I am also reminded that you get what you pay for. If you think you are going to get something free from these people, they will get it to you when they get it to you. They may not be there. They are probably not as deeply invested as somebody whom you pay, even if it is a modicum of money to at least value their services, their expertise. That is what I try to push people to understand. Spend a little money, and you can make a lot of money.

Hugh: It’s not really cost; it’s an investment.

Geo: Absolutely.

Hugh: Going back to Russ’s question on ROI, we have the old- There is another way that comes up here: advertising. Is advertising part of marketing?

Geo: Yes, advertising is one of the vehicles we use to market. If you are going to spend money on advertising, that is part of your marketing budget. Return on investment, that is something that you want to set up with the organization. I think that’s part of the goal-setting strategy for any organization is: Okay, what are your revenue or support goals that we want to have this year? Then back those numbers out and say, Okay, we believe that we’re going to raise $3 million this year. We are going to spend $300,000 of that in marketing and PR services and software and vehicles and print and digital and creative costs and those kinds of things. It’s very clear.

An organization that has a track record can easily look at their data and say, Okay, we spent this amount of money on Facebook this year, and that got us the best return on our investment. We went over to Instagram or YouTube, and those didn’t necessarily perform as well. We will allocate our resources where they work best. There are so many tools out there right now to be able to gauge what your efforts are doing. They are very measurable. We rely on them now. We can’t just walk into a client and say, “We have an ad or an article in your paper. It has a circulation of 200,000. We multiply that by 1.5, and that is your average viewer.” No, now we can actually measure who sees the ad, who responds to it, who interacts with it, and we can trace them all the way from initial interest through that final check being written or that volunteer sign-up being taken care of.

Hugh: That’s really good. One of our sponsors at SynerVision is the company that prints our magazine Nonprofit Professional Performance, Wordsprint. Bill Gilmer has been on this show and on a panel that we had on PR a while back. His research is in the area of direct mail because he is a print house and a mail house. His statistics are very profound about when people get something in their hand. His research says it’s 30% the message, 30% the person, 30% a regular rhythm, and only 10% the appearance. He has years of documentation.

The donations don’t only remain consistent with the donors, but they go up because people understand the impact of their money, the return on life, ROL. Their return on their investment is the return on people’s lives, the impact. He calls that top of mind marketing. What does that term mean to you? He backs it up with an email. Joe, you got a magazine yesterday, did you look on page four? That doubles the open rate. His research almost without exception is that the donors remain engaged and remain donors because we have done more than ask for money. We have told them the impact of the work. That is part of your message in PR and marketing. Go back to top of mind marketing. Are there other ways besides this really valuable way? That is For more information, you can go there.

Geo, top of mind marketing, what is that, and what are other ways you can do that?

Geo: Hugh, you mentioned one of the key things. People say direct mail and print advertising is dead. It is not. It is still one of the most effective ways to communicate, especially in the fundraising side for charitable organizations. Everybody has to go to their mailbox. Mail arrives every day. They look at that mail, and when that mail catches their eye, it is more likely to stay on the counter or on the table. It’s whereas our digital information that we share comes and goes in the blink of an eye. Unless you’re consistently putting that message out across the platforms that are available, they are great, and they do an enormously good job getting attention. Again, it’s fleeting. I am a big believer, especially in getting messages across that people will read the direct mail, look at it, remember it. It’s that visual imprint. It is great.

What I always look at is a mix of marketing materials and methods in order to get the point across and to enforce it. If you see in the mail, and the next thing you know you have it on your website or you are looking on Facebook or one of your other social media sites and you see that message repeated again, that’s seven times. How many times do you see it before it finally clicks and you say to yourself, “That is an organization I want to support?” You are absolutely right on sharing the value of their investment. What is that return to them? You can do it visually so much more easily than any way, shape, or form when you have it right there in front of you. You have pictures and stories and words that convey that mission and vision.

Hugh: I am going to toss it to Russ. He is the one who asks the really hard questions. Russ’s area, one of his areas of brilliance, is helping charities think about their funding options, how they get funded. Russ, relate it to what he was just bringing up and what we have been talking about. There is a relationship to getting more donors, keeping donors, raising donations through what we are talking about. I am going to toss it to you for some comments and questions if you will.

Russell: I think this is part of what comes in when it comes to the fear of how much you spend. There are so many different channels out there that people are focused about which ones to use. The answer to that is it really depends on where your audience is. At my age, they like getting stuff in the mail; they can hold onto it. But if you are reaching out to younger people, they may be in social media, they may be on websites, they could be anywhere. I think if you tailored a channel to where your donors are coming from, you meet them where they are. It takes a little bit of homework to figure that out, but at that point, you can really target your dollars to where you want them to go. That is where people get overwhelmed. I think they should be working from their strengths and whatever works best. That may be direct mail and Facebook for some organizations; it may be Instagram and email if they have a younger audience. Talk a little bit about how you gauge that and how you help nonprofits figure out what the best mediums are for them.

Geo: There is a lot of data out there on the demographics of every person on Earth right now. I like to say that with the analytics and data we have, we know what coffee you drink, when you wake up in the morning, what color pajamas you have, and what car you are driving to work. It’s all there. We have become a very sharing society that we basically give it away and let people know who we are, what we do, what we like, and what we don’t like.

You were asking about what works. There is a 2016 Content Marketing Institute report on the nonprofits in America. Believe it or not, in-person events are still the largest and most effective way for nonprofits to get their message across and to gain supporters. That personal one-on-one touch-and-feel that people have in a personal interaction is still the most important, followed by illustrations and photos, e-newsletters, videos, social media content (interesting that it only ranks fifth out of the most effective tactics) followed up by case studies and those kinds of things, a lot of data and information and background information that people look for.

It really is imperative that you have someone who understands how to read demographics, how to interpret those, and be able to take those and say, Okay, our group from 35-54 is mainly on this type of media or reads this type of publication or attends these functions. All of those have to be wrapped up. You have to get a real good understanding of who your audience is. That is the only way you are going to effectively market and spend your money. Again, you can throw that wide net out and put it out in a newspaper. It may have a circulation of 200,000, but only less than 1% of those people could be target audiences for you. You just wasted 99% of your budget right there to reach the 1% that is actually going to care.

Russell: There is a lot of data out there on that. It is really easy to get lost in the weeds. What would you say are the most effective marketing strategies organizations can use to grow their share of that donor base or other supporters like volunteers or board members or advisors?

Geo: Understand your market. Know what appeals to them. Know what their hot buttons are. Where do they have their most care? In business, we talk about the citizen brand, where you create the culture and a mission and a vision that reflects your audience. That is becoming an interesting thing to follow in the way that all organizations are operating is to say to their people: What is important to you? That is important to us. It really helps to create a stronger bond because people today want to know what is in it for me. How are you going to make my world better through your work? Even in a charitable organization, they are still saying that. How are you going to save the animals or save the rainforest, or how are you going to protect abused and neglected children? What is your culture going to do that is going to get me to want to write that check or volunteer my time and efforts?

Russell: Those are brilliant reasons for reaching out repeatedly because you don’t always have to have an ask. You can ask questions and find out what is important to them. You can take that language and recycle it and return it back to them in their solution.

Geo: Exactly. The three important things to do when you are communicating, especially in the public relations realm, is to inform, educate, and entertain. You are able to do all of those things even with a charitable organization because you inform them of your mission, you educate them and show them what their results are of their support, and it is okay to entertain, too, because not every message has to be, We are in a terrible situation. Our clients are destitute. Our planet is falling apart, whatever that may be. It’s also okay to take a lighter side, show how the organization reaches out in the community, show what some of the folks do in their daily lives, show behind the scenes of what this organization does in their daily work. Create that. Again, you want to create that personal feeling. You want the person who you are targeting to feel like those are the same people that I am, and I want to be with them. All three of those, if they are done properly and in the right percentages, you have an extremely effective message platform that works.

Russell: Live videos from your events where you see people having a good time. What could be more fun? People can say, “Hey, I want to go to the next party these guys throw.”

Geo: Video is hands-down the most important thing that people see nowadays. It has the largest effect. As I am sure is well-known, we have less of an attention span than a goldfish of less than eight seconds. Text doesn’t do it. Photos are okay. But you put something on video, and that’s why Instagram is growing and Facebook is such a volume. Facebook Live is the go-to platform for people to put their messages out there and all the video capabilities that Facebook and YouTube and Vimeo and theses platforms have. They have realized the importance that video has in marketing and public relations efforts.

Hugh: So there is a lot of dynamics that come to mind. Russ, we have interviewed several people on this topic. It’s like the quote Williams said, “Music did not reveal all of its secrets to only one person.” We can take marketing/PR and substitute it in there. I am hearing some different things. What about you, Russ?

Russell: Every time I talk to somebody about this, I learn new stuff. There is a lot to grasp. There is a lot of approaches. Like anything else, different people resonate with different people at a different level.

Hugh: I am sorry to interrupt you, but there is so much to cover that we can’t just cover it in one podcast. The other people had really valuable stuff; you’re not just contradicting them. You are filling in some of the cracks that we don’t have time to deal with. Russ asked earlier how we measure the effectiveness of your campaign. I had somebody we’re talking about. I wanted to introduce them to Bill Gilmer for this direct mail piece, which he is so successful at. They said, “Oh, I tried that last year, and it didn’t work.” I said, “You went to the gym one day and that didn’t work, either?” I stole that from Bill. Bill says flat-out, “You have to do this for two years four times a year in order to see tangible results.” We get in there and want to see success overnight. That is not reasonable, isn’t it?

Geo: No, it isn’t. When we sit down with a client, I tell them that it’s going to take us six months to be able to honestly make an impact in what we’re going to be doing for you. We need six months’ minimum. A year is what we really like. Those efforts are going to take time to gather steam. Developing and distributing content takes time to get it out there, to use it in all its various forms. We are very clear. We can measure on a daily, weekly basis everything that you want to know. We can tell you what’s happening, but we can’t tell trends until we are able to see some data come in. I just started with a client, and we are doing Google AdWords. I think we’re going to have a great return. Can you tell us what we’re going to be doing as we go every week or so? Yes, we can, but we are going to be testing various messages. We are going to find out if that message resonated or if we changed a few phrases, that one worked better. Then we are going to work on that and test another one. Eventually, after a while, you have got the data to back up and say, “These key words work. These key phrases are what are getting people’s attention and are causing them to react and take action.” Anybody who wants it overnight is not going to get it. You really need to understand that because otherwise you are just spinning your wheels. You are throwing money at the next thing the next day. If one doesn’t work, we’ll put money here. No, let’s refine what we are doing here because this is the platform that our audience is on. Let’s make sure we work to create the messaging that is going to be effective.

Hugh: You spoke about live video as a platform. You have spoken about direct mail. That’s a platform. Speak about some of the choices for platforms on digital marketing.

Geo: Digital is like the wild, wild West. There are over 242 social media sites, and those don’t include the dating sites. Just in social media alone, you have a plethora. Those are general social media, industry-specific, interest-specific, all kinds of platforms. Right now, the digital platforms that nonprofits and charitable organizations are using and that have the most effect is Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+, and Pinterest, in descending order. Those are the platforms that are available in a social media sense.

You also have your website, which should be the hub of all of your marketing materials. All of your social media should direct back to your website. That has to be a very fluid and dynamic piece of work that is easy to navigate, easy to understand, clearly defines messaging, benefits, features, all of those things that any business and organization is going to want to put in front of folks.

Then you have your digital platforms, your blogs and digital publications and those areas where you can use your message to get out articles, white papers. You can place ads within most digital publications that are attuned to your audience. They are all out there right now. As I said, you can really focus your marketing dollars where it’s going to be best and you will get the phrase return because the data on each of those platforms is very clear. You don’t have to guess about what’s going to happen once you’re there, as long as you understand that it’s the place that you’re supposed to be.

Hugh: When I work with charities of all kinds, I suggest they have someone internal that has the communications hat on. When they hire a person like you to build out their marketing campaign or their donor management correspondence, there needs to be somebody that is focused on bringing in all the data to one point. Somebody like you can be more effective in helping the organization. I find so many people working in charities that are underfunded are overworked and stretched. Imagine without the right data you can’t be fully effective, can you?

Geo: No, not at all. Nor would you expect to be. I wouldn’t want to walk in and be thrown into a situation where I wasn’t given the tools or data. If you are the receptionist in the morning and you are the marketing person in the afternoon, I consider that a waste of money. You might as well just break me a nice check and let me go play golf because that is about what you’re going to get out of that person. It’s nothing against them; it’s just they don’t know how to do it. When my firm comes in and works with a nonprofit, I bring a team of folks. I have the web designers, the writers, the social media experts, the AdWords experts, the graphic designers, whatever that organization is going to need. I am able to put the team together and only for what they’re going to ned. I am not keeping a full staff and having to pay salaries for people who aren’t working on that particular project to keep the company running, which I believe helps the nonprofits out because they get exactly what they need. It’s on time, great time, great service. That is what I think makes a difference. We get in there, and as I always look at it as a partnership, business or charitable organization. I call them partners. It’s not only for the partners I work with to produce, but it’s also the folks I work with because I want to be their partners in marketing and public relations and be a part of their success and help them to reach their goals. When I am doing that, I am as intimately involved in their organization as they are. I learn everything about it. I get data, I get history, I get nuances and rumors and innuendos and anything else they want to share that can help me to better understand how to operate so I can help them do what they really want to do, which is grow, succeed, and serve their communities.

Hugh: Russ, we are in the last part of our interview. I am going to toss it back to you for some comments and questions, if you will.

Russell: One thing that came to mind is that you do have a lot of these smaller shops that don’t have the staffing or funding. What kind of tools could someone like Hugh or I give to an organization that is in this situation that would empower them enough to gather enough information that you would actually be helpful to them?

Geo: There are a lot of free and very inexpensive software platforms that you can use for data analysis, data gathering. Google Analytics is #1. You can go to your website and once you set up your Analytics code, you can see exactly what kind of traffic you are getting to your website, where it’s coming from, how long they’re there, what kind of pages they visit, so you can determine your strengths in messaging. Facebook Insights is another one where if you are putting out Facebook campaigns, you are getting data back on the users. There is plenty of remarketing and other tools that Facebook has that don’t cost you anything. It’s just the cost you are paying for placing your ads.

A customer relationship management software program is critical for every organization, especially when you are talking about data and analytics. A couple that are great that I’ve used is HubSpot. There is a free version of it, which is not as robust as their full system, but it allows you to be able to capture names and email addresses and then also to share that with your email system, like MailChimp or Constant Contact. You have CRMs like SalesForce or Zoho. All have a cost to them, which you have to consider when you are putting your marketing budget together. The software platforms you are going to use to analyze your data. You have to keep all of these things in check and in mind and find the one that is going to work best for you.

There are a ton of fundraising management tools that are online that can help you out. SalesForce, Raisers Edge, Donor Perfect. I like Salsa. It’s a really robust system that is fairly inexpensive, but it gives you the opportunity to manage your donors online and your messaging to them. A couple of free ones that I’ve seen work but have not tried yet are Donor Manager, Metrics, Donor Box, and Civic RM. Those are all free. They have different capabilities. You go online and can pull up a web search and say “Free fundraising software.” You will get a list of all of those that are there. There are a lot of great resources that compare them and show the pluses and minuses.

Russell: One of the things that comes to mind because a lot of it is sofware-driven. If you are a nonprofit charity, you can register on the Tech Soup platform, and you can get licenses for commercial software at a reduced rate. That is an important thing for nonprofits to do because you can spend a ton of money on software.

Geo: Hundreds of thousands of dollars. Companies do, but they are bringing in millions and millions of dollars, and that software is their life blood. I’s critical now. You can’t do business without knowing where your information is coming from and where your customers are coming from.

Hugh: Amazing. There is a lot to know about this topic. I think we are going to wrap up here. Geo, we have covered a lot of the topics that we had thought about covering. Is there an area we haven’t asked you about that you want to give us some data in before we do a wrap?

Geo: One of the things that we work on as we are working with clients is: What is important to you? The results are interesting. This comes back to, and I have to agree with what happened in the Content Marketing Institute survey in 2016. Engagement, brand awareness, and developing client loyalty are the top three things that content marketing and marketing efforts are going to do or the goal of those for an organization. They want to get their base engaged, they want to raise that brand awareness, and they want those folks to take that action, to join that organization, to be there not just for that one check, but to be there for five to ten years down the road. Look at when you are setting up your PR and marketing efforts, make sure you establish some very clear goals as to what you want to achieve from them. Getting your name out is great, but what happens when you do that? What then do you want to happen? How do you want in sequence your efforts to move forward? If you start with the brand exposure, how do you then make sure that that becomes an engagement effort, and then how does that translate to getting the folks to say, “You know what? I am going to find out more about the organization and write a check and sign up to help out.”

Hugh: That’s awesome. That sounds like a good summary statement. What do you think, Russ?

Russell: Absolutely. What do we want people to know, feel, and do? It just comes back in so many ways, but that can’t be overemphasized because that is the whole kit and caboodle. If you’re not there, you will never reach the people you want to get to.

Geo: Never. It’s easy to miss them if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

Hugh: Geo Ropert, Ropert and Partners is your company. Thank you for sharing this information. I have learned a lot today. Russ, it’s given me some ideas for us to move SynerVision in another direction.

Russell: There is a lot of information people need so they can be good clients. There is a bit of an art and science in the pro bono. Like Geo pointed out, it’s not for something you need yesterday. You have to be clear on what it is that you want out of that engagement. Even as a pro bono client, you have to in some ways behave like a paying client. That is another discussion. Geo, thanks for all the brilliant information you have provided. There is so much out there to take into consideration. But the main thought I want to leave people with is that you can’t afford not to talk about what you’re doing. You can do the best work in the world, but if nobody knows about it, nobody sends you a check.

Geo: No. No, they do not. If you know any nonprofits that need some help in PR or marketing, give me a call. I can help out.

Hugh: You will give them a free consultation, won’t you?

Geo: Absolutely. The consultation is free. The work isn’t.

Hugh: We’ll put your link in the notes. Geo, thank you so much.

Geo: Thank you, Hugh, and thank you, Russ. It was great to be here.

Russell: Thank you.

Strategy for Charities: Dreams, Teams, and Funding Themes

Oct 30, 2017 58:13


Dreams, Teams, and Funding Themes Danna Olivo Shares Her Secrets of Success

Danna Olivo is a Business Growth Sequencing Strategist and CEO of MarketAtomy, LLC. Her passion is working with small first stage entrepreneurs to ensure that they start out on the right foot and stay on the path to financial freedom. Known as the Business Birthing Specialist, Danna understands the intricacies involved in starting and running a successful business. Her efforts extend beyond the initial strategic planning process on into the implementation and monitoring phase. As an intricate component ingrained into her client’s business structure, she works diligently to keep her client’s accountable and on track to fulfilling their success goals.

A graduate of the University of Central Florida’s College of Business, Danna holds degrees in both Marketing and Management Information Systems (MIS). She brings more than 35 years of strategic planning experience in business, marketing and business development both nationally and internationally.

Danna is not only a professional business growth strategist but has worked as an International Strategist within the country of Brazil, is a public speaker and #1 Best Selling Author on Amazon with “Success From The Heart” and “Journey To The Stage.” Her newest book “MarketAtomy: What To Expect When Expecting A Business” is now available through Amazon on Kindle.

You can find out more about Danna Olivo at


Here's the Transcript


Hugh Ballou: Greetings to the Nonprofit Exchange. We do this live every Tuesday at 2:00 EST. Today, Russ is with me as always. Russ, how are you today?

Russell: Greetings. Happy Tuesday, everyone.

Hugh: Russ is in Denver, and I’m in Virginia. I’m getting ready to move into a new home. Moving is one of my most favorite things. It’s right below setting myself on fire or teaching middle school. It’s in close competition, but I am moving this week. My life is full of excitement.

Russ and I see each other at least once a week and talk in between. Thank you for being a faithful co-host in this series of interviews with thought leaders. We certainly have one that you and I both know. We are talking about some of the themes that we have talked about in the past, but we are on the verge of launching the third pillar of SynerVision Leadership Foundation. We have a pillar that supports clergy and all the religious organizations, like churches and synagogues, and the para-church organizations. And we have a leg that is all these social benefit community charities; we call them nonprofits, but it is the other tax-exempt type of organizations. Now the third leg is for early-stage entrepreneurs. There is a lot of struggle with early-stage nonprofits and businesses around the topic of getting your grounding and getting your funding. Today’s guest is a dear friend of ours, Danna Olivo. Danna, welcome.

Danna Olivo: Hi, Hugh. Hi, Russell.

Hugh: Danna, you and I have known each other for a number of years. We participate in some activities together. You have actually spent a day at one of my live events. You were not at the one where Russ was a co-presenter, but you were at one where Shannon Gronich was a co-presenter. You’re familiar with the methodology of SynerVision Leadership Foundation. I’m familiar in concept with the brilliant work you do. You came to me a couple weeks ago and said, “Hugh,” and you came with another friend of ours who is a funding expert, “let’s build a system, a program for those people early-stage who are struggling.” We are talking about the future now. This is what’s going to happen under the umbrella of SynerVision Leadership Foundation. Danna, welcome to the Nonprofit Exchange.

Danna: Thank you, Hugh. I am real excited about this new program that we’re talking about launching. You know as well as I do that there is a gap out in the marketplace that is just not being met. And we really need to touch on that and help them. We make it so easy for entrepreneurs to start a business here in the U.S, but we don’t make it easy for them to grow a business in the United States.

Hugh: They can start a business, but they lack the- We can teach them how to drive a car, but they need to put gas in it so it runs. That is the world of funding. Before we dig in, we are going to keep people in suspense for a minute. Before we dig into the topics for today, give our listeners some background about you. What’s your superwoman power? What’s brought you here? You could probably talk the whole podcast about your experiences. But capsule what’s brought you here and your primary passion for what we’re doing together.

Danna: My company’s name is MarketAtomy; it’s marketing anatomy. I have had so many clients that were coming to me that were new entrepreneurs, and they had a good product or service they had started their business on. But what happened was they got into business and there were no customers coming through the door. They couldn’t figure out how to bring those customers through the door. In an effort to teach them the infrastructure that needed to be in place around that product or service is where MarketAtomy was born. The way I do that is by explaining to them graphically through the human body that the heart of your business is your why. Why are your customers going to come to you? Why are your patrons going to visit you over the competition? The brain is your how. That is your structure. That is your systems, the methodologies, everything that runs the business. But in the human body, can the heart operate without the brain? And vice versa? No. You need both the heart and the brain in order to grow your business and bring those customers through the door by pushing your message out through the veins of the body to your market, which is the human body. It’s a real simple concept. My vision for MarketAtomy is to teach this to every single entrepreneur out there wanting to start their business. Ultimately, make a dent in the number of failed businesses out there in the world.

Hugh: I want to highlight what you’re saying and move it into the nonprofit sector. We teach nonprofits (we’re using the word because people understand it), we teach tax-exempt charities how to install business principles in their organization because it’s truly a tax-exempt business. We have more rules from the IRS for how we manage money. Basically, we have to create profit to fund the work that we’re doing. We need to attract those customers or stakeholders or donors or volunteers. There is not a whole lot of difference in how we attract those. How about you?

Danna: No. there isn’t. For the most part, you hear about nonprofits always trying to raise funds, and they are going to the for-profit corporations to help them through donations and things like that. What about the for-profit side? Is there a way, or there is a way, where they can rely on nonprofits that are going to help them build credibility in their company? Reach out and expand their market. There is a synergy there between the nonprofits and the for-profits by partnering, and that’s what we call cause marketing.

Hugh: Yeah, absolutely. I am going to use the words “business” and “charity” because it’s simpler for my brain not to have so many “p” words in there.

Danna: Business and charity works good with me.

Hugh: I want to cut through the chatter and get down to the brass tack. You’ve done a brilliant thing like we’ve done a brilliant thing. We have put synergy and vision together and got SynerVision, which is the synergy of the common vision. You put market anatomy together, and that comes up with a new concept. Plus you can go get a URL nobody has.

Danna: That’s true. Got it. Done it.

Hugh: I want to set the context for what we’re going to talk about later. I want to delve into some of your expertise. People tell us they learn important things they can utilize day to day in their charities. Our primary listening audience are those people who are executive directors or clergy, and they are trying to make their way through all this stuff they don’t understand. We want them to understand some business principles. People tell us if there is some very useful information. We have tens of thousands of people who view these videos and listen to the podcast. Knowing you, you will give us some nuggets for the interview. We are launching a program underneath SynerVision Leadership Foundation for early-stage entrepreneurs, whether they are running a business or a charity, to get that strategy and to have access to early-stage funding, which is a trap for a lot of people. They get stuck right there. We will talk about that later on in the interview.

As we start this, I have SynerVision International, which is a business. I work with business leaders. I have SynerVision Leadership Foundation, which is a 501(c)3 charity. There has to be a clear line as far as how the cash flows from one to the other; there are strict rules. There is tax rules for everybody, but there is more strict rules with a charity. Russ knows about this. He has had years with the IRS. We attempt to stay out of prison and not get in trouble and pay penalties because we try to uphold those rules. They are there for a really good reason. We can attract funding that is philanthropic funding, but there are eight streams of revenue there. There are a lot of ways we can attract funding.

You work with people in a business and a charity. Sometimes you have people that have both like me. You started talking a little bit about the two of those working together. What else would you like to share about how somebody could have an entity, two totally separate entities, two checking accounts, two different leaderships—you have to have a board with a charity. Just because you founded it doesn’t mean you get to say anything. You have to have real clear principles because the board is in charge of governance and the funding piece, the disbursement, the financial accountability. If people have both, you advocate to people to have both. If so, how do you manage that?

Danna: First of all, yes, whether you are a business or a charity, I think you should have a board of directors. On the business side, it could be an advisory board, depending on where you’re going. Yes, you need somebody that is holding you accountable to what your culture is, what your vision is, what your mission is. It’s the same thing on the charity side. If you have a nonprofit and a business, I would say it would be beneficial to have two different boards because there is two different mindsets going there.

Hugh: Let’s let the expert weigh in. Russ, we’re getting in your territory here. Do you want to weigh in here?

Russell: Good to see everyone. Having separate accountability structures is pretty critical because in essence you have different things that you’re doing. One of the terms by the way that I have seen is lack of social profit entities. That might be better terminology to talk about what you’re doing.

Structurally, you need to keep things separate because if you get into a situation where your profit-making business has unrelated activity going on and the nonprofit is conceived as bringing in revenue from activity that is not related to its primary cause, you could create a taxable income situation. You don’t want to do that. You definitely don’t want to- The whole purpose of having a nonprofit is not paying tax. That is a big part of it.

Danna: I think the other thing to keep in mind- The most critical thing to think about is whether you have both a nonprofit and a for-profit arm, there are two separate businesses. You have to operate them as two separate businesses. They have their own licenses. Everything is operated separately. For that reason, I would say, you do need two boards.

Hugh: We talk about an arm and an arm, but really they are two distinctly different entities. What Russ was referring to is IRS has this thing called unrelated business income. If you are bringing in lots of money and it’s not related to your mission, then that is really taxable income, no matter if it’s a business or a charity. You could argue that I would rather pay tax on more money, but you want to keep your accounting really clean and keep really good records. There is some synergies between the two. There is lots of examples in the marketplace where people do business work here, but then they give away or have a greatly reduced price for those charities. For instance, Russ and I work with organizations through SynerVision Leadership Foundation either for free through opportunities or at a drastically reduced cost because that is the philanthropic calling for SynerVision. We offer people who can’t afford it goods and services, and that is why we are tax-exempt. On the business side, I work with business leaders who jolly well have the income and should be paying for it. They get value for that.

Let’s talk about some of your background. What would you say are your areas of expertise? You have used the word “strategist” and “business plan.” We use business plans.

Danna: I call it the life of hard knocks. Believe me. I’ve got my degrees, I’ve got this, I’ve got that, but I’m sorry. It’s life. It’s life experience that has taught me a great deal of what I know. It comes out in the way that I talk and the way that I teach. I don’t teach at a level of a professor or anything like that. I am right there at the level of the entrepreneur, and I think that’s what benefits me.

I’ve had two failed businesses. I’ll be up front. This is my third business, and it’s a success. I’m glad. But we are still growing it. Through those two failed businesses, I learned very early on what I was missing, which is what I’m bringing to the table now. I did not have that business experience. Even though I was a marketer, I did not have that strategic experience on how to develop a strategy to take a product to market, to take a business to market. I did not have those. I just jumped right in, which is what a lot of business owners do.

They have a good product or service. They jump into business, and before they know it, they have robbed themselves of their 401k, they have mortgaged their homes to the hilt, they have exhausted their savings, and now they are continuously putting money into a sinking ship, so to say, only because they don’t have that knowledge base. They don’t have the skills. Short of going back to school, which is what I did for four years and got my degrees, short of going back to school, they really have no other options. They have They have other e-learning academies out there, but if you don’t know where to start, if you don’t know what questions to be asking, they’re not going to help you. I am introducing the MarketAtomy e-learning environment at the end of this year, and it will have the actual structure just like going back to school. If you want to learn about doing a market analysis, you have to know who your customer is, who your competitors are in order to do it. They will have to go and make sure they understand that. That is what we are trying to do.

Hugh: That is what we are going to do.

Danna: Yes, exactly. Oh yes. We are, Hugh. Okay. I am so glad I have you in my corner now.

Hugh: You got me cornered, didn’t you say. You could say that same thing about people starting charities. I have met people that have exhausted all their money. I have one yesterday that put a lot of money into the charity because they believe in it. I put money into my charity.

Danna: I’ve done it.

Hugh: It’s going the wrong way, and I’m not taking money out. I don’t take a salary form SynerVision. It’s a concept that I’ve rallied a lot of people around. We are moving into phase two of development, which is 2018 is going to be a substantial year for the work we are doing. What you don’t yet know is that the gentleman on the other end of this call, the other host, has some good programs that will be valuable to you as well around funding. He is an expert in a number of areas. He is more than a pretty-looking guy; he is smart.

Danna: That’s great. I’m telling you, I need all the help. I will be the first one to tell you I have big, big visions, just like you, Hugh. But I can’t implement them, and I need those people in my corner, which is why I reached out to you and Money Miners. It’s why I reach out and surround myself with those experts to make my vision a reality.

Hugh: Russ, did you capture that? Number one thing in leadership is to delegate, to bring people on your team. What do you think of that?

Russell: I think that’s the way to go. At least, that’s what we have been telling people. We drink our own Kool-Aid. If we’re not drinking the Kool-Aid, then we are not going to get anybody else to do it.

Danna: My brain is too small to absorb everything, I’m sorry.

Hugh: My vision to you is that you have a big brain and a big heart and lots of really good content. You have great passion for what you do. What we preach in SynerVision, and you just did it, too, is we can do more if we run together. Down in your neck of the woods there was a NASCAR race in Daytona. When they draft, they go faster, and they use less fuel. Both cars. Three cars. It’s like a train. You can be much more efficient. We are creating our own draft here. You didn’t know I was a redneck and a race fan.

Danna: My daughter is a big redneck race fan. I hear it all.

Hugh: That’s me. We’re creating this vortex of energy. Focusing on the road ahead. Talk about some of your programs that you already have that you offer people and how you are going to repurpose those for business and for charities.

Danna: I mentioned the e-learning academy that we are developing. We are beta-launching at the end of December. That will fill that self-help avenue that needs to be filled. Then there is still do-it-with-you services because we are a firm believer that you do it with your business owners than for. They need to understand.

There are two areas that I have found with the services that I offer where my clients struggle the most. One is clarity. Vision clarity, market clarity, all of that. I have introduced a five-stage clarification process. It’s mind-mapping. I will actually take them and clarify all of the components and find those gaps that they are missing.

The other area of focus that I have found is even more prevalent is the financing side and funding side. Hugh, you and I know from going to CEO Space there are a lot of business owners that go in thinking that they can just pull together their business plans and just go and present before investors. But what they don’t realize is the amount of work that has to go into these packages. Not only that, but they also need to be answering the questions these investors ask. They are not putting themselves in the minds of the investors. That is the other side that we are helping them with by first educating them on the front end and getting their companies credit-worthy so that they can go for these larger dollars on the back end to help them grow.

Hugh: That’s really critical. You get your own house in shape. Russ, what are you hearing over there? What’s brewing in your mind?

Russell: What’s brewing in my mind is getting that message out there of what value you are bringing, the problem you solve. You got to do it in the language of people who are writing the checks. It’s language. If you don’t have the right language or you are talking to the wrong people, this is a component that has been challenging over the years for me. I have found myself a lot of times talking to the wrong people. You really have to have tools in place to measure what you’re doing. What people measure, and this is what makes social profit so maddening, because you do have dollars and cents, but there are other things that are important to people. It’s finding out and having systems to go find out what’s important to people so that you can deliver that. It’s really asking questions and tapping into their own genius. A lot of these have genius under their own roof that they’re not leveraging. That’s another story with over- and under-functioning leaders. That’s another path that we’re not going to go down today.

Danna: You’re absolutely right. I know I’m preaching to the choir here. I spent six years in Albuquerque, and I was working in the children’s department of Hoffmantown, one of the largest churches in the United States. Charles Lowry was the pastor there. Pastor Charles had a business side to the business as well, where he had a men’s group, and he would travel the country and teach men entrepreneurs the concept of business in the Christian sense of the word. Where I came out of this is understanding that even in a church environment, it’s a business. It needs to be run like a business. I got that from Hoffmantown. You have all of these smaller churches that crop up, and their memberships, their patrons are giving their dollars to these churches that don’t have a procedure, a system in place. They are not being good stewards of the dollars that are being brought into the church. Those are the kind of things that we need to teach.

Hugh: To be fair with our listeners, we are in concept stage with this. But we all see a huge importance. We are going to resources. Danna, this dovetails with what Russ and I have been working on with some of the other thought leaders you know in creating a portal with both live and virtual events. It’s going to be initially under the umbrella of SynerVision Leadership Foundation, and we will go after some philanthropic funding for that. We’re actually going to put our money where our mouth is basically. People may be listening to this podcast way into another year. If you’re listening to this podcast in 2018, you will see this launch. If you go to, there will certainly be a section on the site that talks about this collaborative entity. We have kicked around names. Let’s leave that for later. We’ll name it something special, but it will be a project right now. It’s a tax-exempt project to empower early-stage thought leaders who really can’t afford it.

Danna, in the communities where we do the work, it’s part of reemploying the work force. Reactivating the military, there are 49,000 homeless vets, and there are a whole lot in homes who are wa