[Podcast] 3 Things to Remember About Donor Trust with Shannon McCracken

Shannon McCracken joined us to talk about the current fundraising landscape, why trust and relevancy our essential now more than ever, and her take on what nonprofit leaders should focus on amidst times of crisis and uncertainty.

Shannon is the CEO of The Nonprofit Alliance, and lead the association through rapid growth since its launch in 2018. Previously, she spent two years as Charity Navigator’s Chief Development Officer, where she now serves on their board of directors. She spent 17 years with Special Olympics International, most recently as Vice President of Donor Development, building and managing a multichannel individual fundraising program.

3 Things to Remember About Donor Trust

Shannon shares several key lessons in this episode about building trust and relevancy with your donors. If you want to show your donors that your nonprofit is worthy of their trust and pertinent to their interests, remember these three truths.

1. Modern Donors Have Options

There have never been more vehicles for making a difference than there are right now. Where nonprofits and faith communities used to reign supreme, today’s donors have many options to support causes they care about.

Shannon points out, “There are platforms that allow people to connect directly to stories of need and give directly to an end beneficiary. There’s amazing social activism where I can feel like I’m making a difference, not necessarily by writing a check in that moment of concern, but by calls to action, and activism, and spreading the word and engaging and exciting other people.”

When a donor has choices, it’s up to the nonprofit to adapt and meet donors where they are. Shannon says, “Think about once upon a time, billboards on Route 66, that caught everybody’s attention as they drove by. Then the interstates were built. If you kept putting up your billboards on 66, nobody was seeing them anymore. You had to, at the very least, move your billboards to the interstate.”

More than just moving your same billboards, it’s worth considering the broader impact of the change. “Probably if you’re really smart,” Shannon says, “[You’d] start thinking about how the interstates are going to change people’s lives, change the way people travel, change who travels, all of that to really keep that relevancy.”

Nonprofits can’t afford to keep their billboards on Route 66 and wonder why no one sees them. Tell your story, try new channels where your donors are, and be prepared to demonstrate your impact.

2. Donor Trust is Not Guaranteed

At the same time that donors have many ways to do good, trust in nonprofits and institutions in general, is quite low. Many modern donors are skeptical about organizations and how they’ll use their funds. “Nonprofits can’t just rely on this halo of goodness that we once had, that was almost a given for us,” Shannon says.

Instead, prove your organization is trustworthy with transparency, accountability and good governance. Make it easy for donors to find your Form 990. List your board members on your website. Communicate about the work you’re doing and the impact of their contributions. Publish an annual report or other communication that explains your financials to your donors.

For donors to trust you, they have to know you. Being trustworthy isn’t only about the big governance issues, Shannon says, “ It’s also about how we answer the phone or an email. It’s those one-on-one conversations that validate our commitment to accountability to our donors.”

3. Show Your Donors You’re Listening

We build trust with donors much in the same way we do in other kinds of relationships–by listening and connecting. Asking your donors questions like “Why do you support us?” or “How did you get involved?” can give you a much clearer picture of who they are.

When you learn new things about your donors, you need to start reflecting back what you’ve learned. This shows them that you were listening, and that they mattered enough for you to remember what they told you. In the modern age, data collection isn’t hard. “We can all be data geeks all day long,” Shannon says, “But how do you reflect that back in a way that feels very, and is very, authentic?”

Listening and connecting are steps toward trust and away from irrelevancy. Shannon uses the donors at Special Olympics as an example. “We could say to people when we were asking them to renew their gift, ‘We would love to have you come watch an event,’ or ‘Have you considered volunteering?’ but you don’t want to say that to somebody who’s a Special Olympics coach and is already out there a gazillion hours a week.”

Instead of generic mass messaging, Shannon says, “Being able to use that moment to thank them and give them a different call to action that felt really relevant and connected, that was critical to us. Lots of other organizations have the opportunity to nuance that in their own way.”

Full  Transcript

Shannon McCracken: Start with our two circles. One of them is the donors and one of them is the beneficiaries and then slide them together like a Venn diagram and where those two overlap, that’s the nonprofit organization, that darker color of the overlapping circles is the nonprofit organization as the direct connection with donors and beneficiary. So instead of the buffer, we’re the overlap or the piece that comes together.

Noah Barnett: From Virtuous, I’m Noah Barnett, and this is The Responsive Fundraising Podcast, a show where we talk with fundraising leaders and thinkers to uncover how today’s top nonprofits craft remarkable donor experiences and build lasting relationships at scale.

On this episode, I’m joined by Shannon McCracken. She’s the chief executive and at the helm of The Nonprofit Alliance. She also has an interesting vantage point and she spent over 20 years in fundraising leaderships at multiple organizations and now is actually on the board of Charity Navigator.

During our conversation, we talk about a variety of topics, but focus in on the current state of fundraising and how fundraising leaders like yourself can address so many pressing challenges that are facing us in 2020 and beyond. We then dive into how you can adopt a listening strategy that doesn’t just generate data, but how do you actually turn that data into relevant actions that help you build trust and relevancy with your donors.

It’s a great conversation. So, let’s dive in.

What Are the Most Pressing Challenges Fundraisers Face Today?

NB: Shannon, you have a unique vantage point. You spent nearly 20 years in fundraising leadership roles and now are at the helm of The Nonprofit Alliance and on the board of Charity Navigator, what do you see as the most pressing challenges fundraising leaders are tackling today?

SM: That’s a great question, Noah, and yes, you’re right. I’ve had a great journey to this mid-point in my career. I had the opportunity to spend 17 years inside one organization in the fundraising and donor development program there.

Then I actually, so I worked for Charity Navigator for two years. I was in a leadership role. Then I had this fantastic opportunity to launch The Nonprofit Alliance, which is a membership association. We protect, promote and strengthen the philanthropic sector. So, it’s been quite an amazing ride. I’m so fortunate.

To your question, what are the most pressing challenges we’re tackling today? It’s a great question. I think the common denominator is really it’s trust and it’s relevancy. So once upon a time, think about it, that nonprofit organizations, including or in addition to one’s house of worship and I’ll come back to that in a second, but nonprofits were really the vehicle for people to make a difference, I say, beyond your fingertips, right?

So, if there’s a problem or a concern right in our own footprint of space, then most of us naturally lean into addressing that, but when it’s this bigger problem, something we see on the news or something that just feels larger than we can tackle on our own, the beauty of our society has always been that we could join with others, partner with other people who feel like us and through a nonprofit organization, make a difference in this greater shared vision.

So, today nonprofits absolutely still serve that role, but we don’t serve it alone anymore. There are platforms that allow people to connect directly to stories of need and give directly to an end beneficiary. There’s amazing social activism where I can feel like I’m making a difference, not necessarily by writing a check in that moment of concern, but by something calls to action, and activism, and spreading the word and engaging and exciting other people.
I still don’t have to leave the comfort of my own sofa, right? Just in the old days of writing the check and then I can feel better. There are other ways that I can feel like I’m making a difference right now.

Then corporate responsibility. Look at the way corporate entities are really stepping up. Yes, part of it is about their marketing and customer engagement, but they’re making a difference in some of our nonprofit space and they’re doing it with their for-profit models.

Then I mentioned houses of worship. I don’t think you can have any conversation about fundraising today without some cognizance of the change in people’s giving to religious organizations because that’s really the canary in the coal mine, and we’ve seen the data that shows as people will start connecting less with faith, then giving in other places goes down. It’s sort of this like I said the canary in the coal mine, the leading edge in the way that people are giving and feeling like they can make a difference.

So, bringing it back to your question of relevancy and trust, I think when there are so many more options for ways in which people can give back, and we have really short attention spans and news cycles are fast, and there’s so many sources for information, nonprofits have to operate differently to remain relevant and meet people, meet our donors where they are.

Think about once upon a time, billboards on Route 66, and that caught everybody’s attention as they drove by. Then the interstates were built. If you kept putting up your billboards on 66, nobody was seeing them anymore. You had to, at the very least, move your billboards to the interstate. Probably if you’re really smart, start thinking about what the fact … how the interstates are going to change people’s lives, change the way people travel, change who travels, all of that to really keep that relevancy.

Then part two of that is, again, the trust and the idea that nonprofits can’t just rely on this halo of goodness that we once had, that was almost a given for us. We have to actively own that and manage that accountability and transparency, and the good governance steps of publishing or 990, but it’s also about how we answer the phone or an email when our donors call. It’s those one-on-one conversations that validate our commitment to accountability to our donors.

NB: Yeah. You hit on so many key points that I definitely want to continue to unpack through our conversation, but in summary, I feel like what you’re saying is that the world that we’re fundraising in is complex and has changed, but also is ever-changing. So, the role as a fundraising leader is to really adapt and be nimble in that environment while also focusing on this idea of trust and relevancy.

Ultimately, we’re talking about this on the morning of the tornadoes that just ravaged Nashville. There’s so many things that are compounding the complexity daily, whether it is new crisis like what’s happening for the folks in Nashville that fuel this, or it’s political spats, or global crisis, or the marketing slump, or even just recently, the real threat of the coronavirus, which I know is just top of mind for a lot of people.

How Should My Organization Stay Relevant In a Crisis?

NB: So, that relevancy becomes even more important because what’s consuming the minds of today’s donor continues to change, and it does change rapidly. So, I want to push this back on you as someone who’s obviously helping to coordinate rally nonprofits to be thinking critically about this idea of trust and relevancy, but like, what can you do?

I guess if you’re a fundraiser going into work next week or you took over the helm of a organization as their chief development officer, like what should they be focused on? Where should their attention be? Obviously, it’s trust and relevancy, but practically, what does it actually look like?

SM: Well, fortunately or unfortunately, I don’t think there’s a one-size answer. I think it depends on the starting point where your organization is. I think it depends on what your organization does.

So, you mentioned something like the tornado’s a disaster. There are some organizations that have stepped up because they’ve stepped up so many times before. Every time there’s a disaster, they are at the front lines because that’s their DNA. It’s the core of what they do.

So, that’s one set of answers, but the other piece of that is when something happens, what do the rest of us do to adapt and adjust to that? For major gift donors, are you reaching out to some of your long time supporters who are in the Nashville area to check on them? Are you thinking about how this impacts their relationship with your organization?

The impact might mean that they’re not thinking about you right now, right? But, you are not the most burning issue in their world. That’s from a major donor, that’s from the one-on-one point of view, but then step back into broader fundraising, what is the value that the important work that you do as an organization doesn’t change because something else happened, but maybe the way that you communicate with donors or your timing of that, or your sensitivity to what you’re putting on social media today, think about some of those pieces as well.

That’s very much in the nitty-gritty of the moment. It is a heck of a lot easier said than done, because we’re all trying to juggle so much at all times, but the sensitivity and awareness is important.

NB: Yeah. I love the use of the word awareness. It’s like looking outside of your organization’s board room or staff meeting and being like “What’s going on in the world today? How are our donors or our future donors being impacted by the noise that’s muffling maybe some of our messages? And how do we help support that and just be acknowledging of that?”

That’s a big part of what we present as part of what we call responsive fundraising here at Virtuous. This idea of like, how are we listening for donor signals? But, those signals aren’t just specifically from a donor, but they could be more of these macro signals, like, hey, the current conversation right now, like it’s Super Tuesday, there’s disasters going on.

The coronavirus is causing fear in a lot of different ways. What’s our role in that conversation? How do we support our donors that might be thinking or kind of consumed in that conversation? But first and foremost, you said awareness, it’s looking up and out instead of always focused internally, but that’s a really tough thing when you have fundraising goals.

I know you spent years in the seats of many of our listeners, so it’s hard to prioritize and balance that, especially with your team and still to drive forward towards your goals and the impact you’re trying to make happen in our world.

SM: Exactly. Yes. The flip side of that is we need to be aware and sensitive, but we also need to, we can’t be quiet, right? We can’t wait for, “Oh, what is my moment for my organization to speak?” Because our organizations are out there on the ground doing important work every single day. So, what is our strategy for telling and showing our stories?

Again, going back to what I said, there’s not just this natural assumption anymore that nonprofits are all good and doing amazing work, and donors don’t just wake up and say, “Hmm, I’m going to go make a donation today just because I’m inspired to do that.”

We have to continually layer and make that case and give people a compelling reason to follow us. We need to activate our evangelists and our influencers to just continue to beat our drum for us. If we’re going very narrowly-focused and so programmatically-driven that we forget that we need to bring everybody along with us, then we’re going to find out that we’re pretty alone. So, that storytelling and that sharing our stories, especially in today’s world of social media, you just … if you’re quiet, you don’t exist, right? You have to stay on its radar.

NB: Yeah. It speaks to the side of what you mentioned, which is relevancy like how do you maintain that relevancy in a world filled with micro-moments. The monthly newsletter is not sufficient anymore, because if you even look at some of the data on why donors stopped giving to charities or choose to continue to give to charities, in summation, it comes down to this idea of what we’ve called confidence and connection.

So, at the end of the day, donors that are confident and connected to a cause are going to continue to give, but if there’s a feeling that they don’t have confidence or don’t have a connection, they’re going to stop giving. I think that’s ultimately those two elements build trust, which is what you shared.

How Do I Establish Donor Trust?

NB: So, I know obviously you’ve been in the fundraising leadership role before. So, how did you all think about building trust with donors? How would you advise someone to be thinking about how to establish trust? Not just with major donors, but with all their donors.

SM: Yeah. So, perhaps I knowingly know but you’re leading me into something that’s one of our passion projects with The Nonprofit Alliance right now. So, I’ll answer that question first though. So, I was with Special Olympics for a long time, and we had this great opportunity to work with our … We managed a lot of the fundraising in the direct marketing from our national headquarters, but we worked with our state programs or our state chapters.

So, we had the opportunity to partner with the “feet on the ground,” if you will, in delivering our sports and health programs along with the fundraising expertise from headquarters and figure out which ones of our donors were also volunteers or Special Olympics coaches or Special Olympics athletes or family members of athletes or health providers, special education teachers, people who had a real connection with our mission and were living it every day.

They knew that and they expected us to know that, right? So, being able to connect those dots and not just ask for and collect the information from our constituents and our greater good of people who surround the mission but then also reflect that back. That’s sometimes the hard piece is you can get all the data.

We can all be data geeks all day long, but how do you reflect that back in a way that feels very … and is very authentic? For us, some of the messaging, maybe our default messaging, because we do have grassroots programs all over the country and the world. We could say to people when we were asking them to renew their gift, we could also say, “We would love to have you come watch an event,” or “Have you considered volunteering?” but you don’t want to say that to somebody who’s a Special Olympics coach and is already out there a gazillion hours a week knowing that they were a coach.

Being able to use that moment to thank them and give them a different call to action that felt really relevant and connected, that was critical to us and something I’m really proud that we were able to do at Special Olympics. Lots of other organizations have the opportunity to nuance that in their own way.

As I said, we have this passion project now that we call “Tell Us What You Love,” which is really about that. It’s like how do you ask, collect and then reflect that relationship information or the reason that somebody loves you? The old animal organization of, is somebody a dog person or a cat person? That is such an easy question to ask. When somebody tells you that, they expect you to remember it and reflect it in the future.

NB: Yeah. I think in my research for our conversation, I happened upon The Nonprofit Alliance’s “Tell Us What You Love” campaign that you just mentioned. It’s so beautifully mirrored and executed many of the concepts we’ve outlined within responsive fundraising.

You’ve mentioned those specifically the importance of listening. It’s listening, not necessarily just to listen, that’s kind of that data paralysis side of it, but to connect in a personal way, but then also to make suggestions that are relevant to that individual, and you shared how that would differentiate for Special Olympics between maybe someone that is a donor versus someone who’s a coach and knowing what to suggest to the right people at the right time is so powerful today, because it hits on your two points.

By doing that, you’re building trust and you’re building relevancy because you’re saying, “I know you, I hear you. These are things that make the most sense to you.” So, it’s not even asking them to do something they’re not wanting to, you’re basically suggesting, just like Netflix suggests things that I want to watch next that are relevant. The less relevant, the less trust I’m going to have. Ultimately, that builds connection and confidence, which leads to growth and a bunch of other leading mechanisms.

So, I love this campaign. I think I don’t want to move past it because I think it’s really important, but I would love for you to share more about the campaign’s origins and its intent, because I know it’s a new thing that the Alliance is pushing, and I want to let you unpack that so our listeners understand what you guys are thinking around this.

What Do Data Ethics Have to Do with Donor Trust?

SM: Sure. You started to touch on it there as well. There are lots of great third-party data sources that can help us identify or make some pretty good guesses about the reason somebody might be interested in our organization, so we can make those assumptions on their behalf and frame things in such a way that we’re reflecting that even without that donor necessarily having told us.

That can be very effective and I’m sure will continue to be very effective, but we are in a very different space right now in terms of people’s awareness of what information they are and aren’t choosing to share with organizations, companies, the apps on their phones. There’s data privacy legislation at the state level bubbling up at the federal level.

We all need to be very cognizant, not only of being compliant with this changing map of legislation, but also how do we, again, back to both relevancy and trust, how do we strengthen that relationship we have with donors so that they are choosing to share information with us. Then we are validating our strength of our relationship with them by reflecting that back.

So, there were a few of us on a call sort of talking about how do we elevate this conversation. The Nonprofit Alliance is really involved with the data ethics and the legislation and advocacy around that. How do we make that story and these changing climate of compliance more connected or interesting to people who maybe sort of tune out legislative stuff, right?

How Can a Nonprofit Demonstrate Trustworthiness?

SM: I’m not giving anybody a free pass on tuning it out, but if you’re one of those people, here’s another way that you need to be approaching this or thinking about it is if you want to continue to really connect well with your donors, then you need to ask them questions. When they trust you and say, “Oh, let me tell you this about myself.” And you honor that trust and that friendship by sharing that back to them.

If you and I are talking right now, Noah and I tell you something about myself, and then the next time we talk, it’s like you’ve never heard that before or worse you say something that is completely contrary to this tidbit that I shared with you, that’s not going to feel good to me. So, in our relationship with our donors, how do we ask questions in a way that we know we can capture it and use it?

So, I shared a good experience with you of something that we did well at Special Olympics. I’ll hang myself out there and share a not-so-good experience, but a teachable moment for myself.

We had a survey that we sent out to a relatively small number of donors, but it was large enough that when we got the survey responses back, we realized that our open-ended questions, while we got fantastic answers and people turn the paper over and attach notes and told us their life stories, we didn’t have any mechanisms in place including human power to be able to figure out how to capture that in our database.

So, we had all this great information sitting there, spread out all over this conference table, more responses than we expected in any of our best projections and we weren’t in a good place to be able to go back to that person time and again, and say, “We know that you told us such and such.”

Actually, that was the moment when we realized and this sounds silly now, but at the time, that was the moment when we realized how many of our donors were special education teachers or retired special education teachers, because we’ve never asked that question, but one of the survey questions was, “Why do you support Special Olympics?”

People shared all these stories about all their years of teaching, and now they’ve retired, and this is their way to stay connected. We had nothing in our database to connect that, nothing programmed in our messaging to be able to reflect that.

So, that’s my, again, sort of rambling story, but the “Tell Us What You Love” is, how do you ask questions that can lead you to discovery and then make sure that you have the operations and the plan behind it to be able to carry forth that relationship?

NB: Yeah. I think we run into this a lot when we talk about this with groups and have been promoting responsive fundraising over the past six or seven months, is this idea of, well, how do you actually turn the data into something that’s actually relevant?

I think the challenge, and even in your story, and I have a similar story when I worked in fundraising, is that it’s still better to ask the questions so that you have the opportunity to unpack and realize maybe where there are holes in your segmentation model or how you’re messaging to your supporters.

Because I think what we realized in a similar way is that we had so many different types of people that their involvement with our organization and their interests were exactly the same, but the intent behind what they were trying to do was completely different.

Until we pushed beyond this idea of involvement and interest, which are still great tools and you should be using them, into intent, we were able to unlock something that helped us raise retention rates and also leverage that data to actually message into new markets, to actually acquire new donors, because we better understood why people were supporting us today, so we could go out and actually find like-minded individuals as well to support us through that same intent.

Which donor signals should I pay attention to?

NB: You mentioned something else where you talked about first-party data and the importance of that. There’s a book that came out this summer by Nick Ellinger called The New Nonprofit. He speaks to this concept as well, where donors that actually opt-in to give you more information or complete your survey are more highly likely to give to you.

If you actually segment out and just say like, “Did they actually contribute information back to you?” Just that simple segmentation, not even responding to what they said, it shows that they actually end up giving more because they care more.

So, just the art of asking and receiving feedback is an indication that these individuals want to be a part of what you’re doing. They care about the cause. Like you mention at the beginning, they want to come together with others to actually make a difference in the way that your organization is changing our world. So, just that alone is powerful. Let alone the followup steps where you’re actually responding and presenting that back to the donor.

SM: Yes. Giving donors the opportunity to raise their hand and tell you that they care and there are other great data points, targeted analytics back, was I think one of the pioneers on really helping organizations understand that when somebody calls to tell you that something was wrong with something they received or they, my gosh, if they call and tell you that they’re moving and give you their new address, it’s those raising your hand things.

You don’t just want your donor services team to go, “Great. We’ve updated your address.” You want them to actually capture somewhere, this person called and told us their address. They had us on their list of important people to call when they were moving. We all know what moving is like, and we still made the cut. My gosh, what sort of banner do we need that donor to fly that says “I love you” more than that? Then, again, how do we echo that back and make sure that we know that you know that we know, one of those things that-

NB: Yep. Yeah. Yeah. The simple one we saw was when people gave us two addresses because they were snowbirds, it’s like the fact that they’re telling us that they spend half the year in Florida and half the year in Michigan. Again, it’s clear that they want to hear from us. They actually care that we’re communicating with them. When we break that trust by ignoring that, that’s when you lose sight of that and lose the entire momentum that you’ve built with that supporter.

So, it’s kind of this balance between knowing the information but also making sure you don’t overlook the importance of what was shared. So, like you mentioned, being ready to actually respond to what you hear is so important from a strategy standpoint, not just a tactical standpoint. Are you ready to respond to the data that you’re going to get back? If not, don’t do it.

SM: Right, and learn from it. So, going back to my example of the survey where all of a sudden we realized special education teachers were in an important and unrecognized part of our donor file, we quickly figured out a way to start to collect that information. We were more aware of it going forward, so we could listen for those cues and we could look for those cues and even include that in future surveys. It was just was a way to acknowledge this part of our donors that had always been there but we were somehow blind to it.

NB: Yeah. Again, it resurfaces the idea from a strategy-value standpoint that then trickles down to tactics, which then leads into fundraising. So, it’s not just tactical changes, but it’s actually kind of strategies, and even values and virtues of your organizations. If you’re listening to this, I hope you take away that it’s not just, “Oh, send a survey, listen to feedback and send.” It’s like there’s an adoption of a set of values.

We actually have some coming out in our new book, Gabe’s new book, that’s coming out next month called Responsive Fundraising. We actually have commitments there.

How Should I Relate to My Donors?

NB: One thing that stood out to me for what you are doing at The Nonprofit Alliance is you all have done the same exercise and noted for “we care” statements that members kind of share or agree to share. I would love for you to unpack these because I think these are valuable for fundraisers to hear because you’ve only chosen four. So, I’m curious what these are and why above all other options these were selected.

SM: Yes. Maybe more so than that, I mean, they are values but identifiers. So, let me share with the four “we cares” are and then I’ll unpack them a little bit.

So, we care about accountability to a society that understands and values the vital role of nonprofits. We care about responsible use of technology and data that enables nonprofits to provide relevant and timely outreach to the people who care about our missions and the work that we do. We care about donors and supporters who are individuals and invested in our work as much as we are. We care about the future of our sector.

The accountability to a society, that is about that trust piece and ensuring that not just individually, but collectively as the nonprofit sector. Caring about the responsible use of technology and data, so that has to do with data privacy legislation and the way that’s changing and impacting the way everybody, nonprofits, small businesses, large tech companies, the way all of us are engaging with donors and customers.

It’s also recognizing that nonprofits like everybody are so tied to this very rapidly changing world of technology, which is about how we find people, where they are, where people find us, how we communicate, the way that we share our stories, the ways that we serve our mission and deliver our programs. We can’t as an association not care about that. So, putting that out front and center is something that is important to us was vital.

We care about our donors and supporters as individuals. So, this one is the one that, I don’t know, that I want to say is more important than the others, but is the one for me that just really drives home The Nonprofit Alliance vision and value.

If you think about it, a lot of people, if they had to describe the diagram of a nonprofit and the way it engages with people, you’d put the beneficiaries or the work that we’re doing in the middle and then the nonprofit organization like a big ring or like a doughnut around that sort of protecting that. Then the donors or investors as prongs to me and out of that donut, or another circle around it.

So, it’s beneficiaries in the middle, then the nonprofit organization, and then the donors. The nonprofit organization, in one sense, it’s connecting the donors to the beneficiaries, but it’s also separating them, right? It’s like you’re inside the donut or you’re outside the donut.

The Nonprofit Alliance vision and frankly, my vision, is that we change up that model a little bit. We change up that diagram, or that visual, and instead think about: Start with our two circles. One of them is the donors and one of them is the beneficiaries and then slide them together like a Venn diagram and where those two overlap, that’s the nonprofit organization. That darker color of the overlapping circles is the nonprofit organization as the direct connection with donors and beneficiaries. So, instead of the buffer, we’re the overlap or the piece that comes together.

I don’t think the greater whole of our space necessarily thinks of it that way. I don’t think media and the world outside of our space thinks of it that way. I want to change the way we approach our model of nonprofits.
So, that’s a very long explanation of “we care” bullet number three, and then “we care” bullet number four is pretty self-explanatory, caring about the future of our sector. If we can’t protect and promote and strengthen the philanthropic sector today, that doesn’t bode very well for us in the future.

The Nonprofit Alliance, we want to be running a few steps ahead of the nonprofit organizations and our members with our machetes and clearing the path a bit, so that they can keep doing their vital work and have a little bit less of the branches and the thorns in their way.

NB: I appreciate you unpacking each of these because I think they reflect how modern nonprofits are, those that are looking and thinking about the future really are adopting or refactoring how they posture towards donors and supporters, but also thinking about data and technology and also the future. Especially number three, I think aligns so well with our beliefs here at Virtuous and this idea of “How do we actually bridge the gap and bring the givers and the good closer together? and the organization is rather a platform for that to be facilitated.

I think there’s a lot of alignment between what the Nonprofit Alliance is talking to, and what we here at Virtuous believe in and are helping nonprofits do through technology, or that’s our intent. So, I really appreciate you showcasing that.

If people are interested in learning more about The Nonprofit Alliance and the programs and events and other resources you all provide, how should they go about doing that or how can they connect with you all?

SM: Absolutely. So, you can find us on Twitter, and LinkedIn and Facebook, but also come to our website. It’s tnpa.org, thenonprofitalliance.org, tnpa.org, all sorts of information you can dive through, events, our “we care” statements, our policy positions, but also at the very bottom of the homepage, you can sign up to be on our email list and then you’ll get our newsletters, and our legislative roundups, and our job bulletins and all kinds of good stuff.

NB: Yeah, definitely check that out, tnpa.org. Shannon, always a pleasure to have a conversation with you. Thanks for joining us.

SM: Noah, thank you.

Fundraising insights you won’t delete.
Delivered to your inbox weekly.
Tips For Responsive Year-End Fundraising

Tips For Responsive Year-End Fundraising

What makes a year-end fundraising campaign responsive? The year-end fundraising season is a critical time for many nonprofits to raise money and build relationships with their supporters. This week on…
How To Involve Your Board In Year-End Fundraising

How To Involve Your Board In Year-End Fundraising

How do you engage your board at year-end? Your board members can be important partners in your year-end fundraising campaign. But how do you inspire them to participate? What’s the…

Grow generosity with Virtuous.

Virtuous is the responsive fundraising software platform proven to help nonprofit organizations increase generosity by serving all donors personally, no matter their gift size.

“Virtuous truly understands nonprofits and the importance of our mission. And their open access to data and built-in custom reports gave us access to the data we need.”
Todd Shinabarger​
Chief Information Officer