In this webinar, Jay Wilkinson examines shifting demographics, greater interest in service, the blurred lines between nonprofit and for-profit, advancing technology and new ways to engage and collaborate.

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right, Jay, my watch has 1:00 here on the East Coast, so is it okay if I go ahead and get it started officially?

Jay: Yeah, let’s roll.

Steven: All right, cool. Good afternoon, everyone, if you are on the East Coast, and good morning, I should say, if you’re on the West Coast, or somewhere in between. Thanks for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar, “5 Trends Shaping a New Reality for Nonprofits.” And my name is Steven Shattuck, and I am the Chief Engagement Officer over here at Bloomerang and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always.

And just a couple of housekeeping items before we get started here. I just want to let you all know that we are recording this session, and I’ll be sending out the slides as well as the recording later on this afternoon. So if you have to leave early or maybe you want to review the content later on, I have a feeling you’re going to want to do that, so don’t worry at all. I’m going to get you the recording today. Just be on the lookout for an email from me with all that good stuff in it.

And most importantly, as you are listening and following along today, please feel free to send us your questions and comments right there on the chat box. We’re going to try to save as much time as we can for Q&A at the end. So don’t be shy. We’d love to make it as interactive as possible towards the end.

You can also tweet us. You can use the #Bloomerang. You can use our . . . you can send us message right at @BloomerangTech. I’ll be keeping an eye on the Twitter feed for sure, so don’t be shy there.

And then, one last bit of housekeeping, technical stuff. If you’ve got any trouble with the audio through your computer, we find that the audio by phone is usually a little bit better than the computer audio. So if you got a phone nearby and you don’t mind dialing in, if it won’t bother any co-workers, and if it’s comfortable for you, try that before you totally give up on us. There is a phone number that you can call in the email from ReadyTalk that went out about a half hour ago today. So try that before you totally give up on us.

And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, I just want to say a really special welcome to you folks. We do these webinars every Thursday, just right every Thursday throughout the year. We literally only missed a couple of Thursdays the entire year. We bring out a great guest like today’s guest for an educational, informative, inspiring presentation. One of my favorite things we do here at Bloomerang for sure. So thanks for being here if this is your first webinar.

If you’ve never heard of Bloomerang besides these webinars, just to add a little bit of context, we are a provider of donor management software, and if you are interested in that or just want to learn more, check us out. Check our website. Don’t do that now. Wait for 2:00 Eastern because you guys are in for a real treat today. We have one of my personal heroes on the line here, Jay Wilkinson from beautiful Lincoln, Nebraska. One of my favorite cities as well. Hey, Jay, how’s it going?

Jay: It’s going great. Thank you so much.

Steven: Thanks for being here. I just want to brag on you real quick. Firespring, one of our closest, most favorite, and I think the first partners here at Bloomerang. Jay had been just a great friend of Bloomerang and he really is quite the tech and nonprofit visionary. He’s the CEO over Firespring. He has helped start seven nonprofits. Did I get that number right, Jay? Seven, that’s a lot. It’s hard to start one nonprofit, let alone seven. He is very involved in the tech scene in the Midwest as well. He’s helped start over 25, or helped invest in over 25 startups, and he’s also raised a lot of money for nonprofits through his work at Firespring and through all of his speaking and education content that he puts out.

So this is a real treat of a presentation I should say. This is not one that Jay normally does at the webinar. He made a special exception for this group, which we really appreciate. This is a presentation, he normally gives it to keynote at major conferences. So I am really excited to hear this. So Jay, I have taken up way too much of your time, so if you want to hit that screen share button and take it away. We’d love to hear what you had to say. So thanks for being here, Jay.

Jay: You’re so welcome and thank you, Steven. And Steven is absolutely correct. We here at Firespring have been partnering with Bloomerang from the very early days. Actually, even before Bloomerang was officially started, we were having deep conversations with Jay Love, and Steven, and the crew there. And we are a huge fans of not only the people, but also the products and services that Bloomerang offers, and we’re really, really, really proud to be partnering for this webinar today.

We’re going to be talking about five trends that are shaping a new reality for nonprofit organizations, and I think it’s an incredibly important topic that we all need to be thinking about and really focused on more fervently. And I want to just start with do with asking the question. Imagine if, when you turn on the news every day, this morning, any day, instead of reading about whatever CNN’s talking about whether it’s something about the Trump tapes, the secret tapes, or even really big important news like celebrity couples that have huge age differences between them, whatever the news is, imagine if instead of all of that, every day we had a dose of a nonprofit organization somewhere that’s doing something to make a difference in the world, that’s creating impact on the world around us. Imagine how different the world would be if we just focused on these stories of organizations and people who are doing more good in the world around us.

I’ll go all the way back 1986, Ronald Reagan said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m here from the government, and I’m here to help.'” He got a good laugh from that. And the really funny thing is though, or maybe not so funny depending on what perspective and how you’re looking at this, the size of the U.S. government and the reach and scope of what it oversees is now five to six times bigger than it was even back then in 1986 when he made that statement. And there was a lot of discussion going on in and around the nonprofit sector at the time, that nonprofits needed to essentially rise up and take up some of the space that our government was at that point in time thinking that it needed to be part of. And it’s crazy how that parallel path has created so many opportunities for nonprofits and all around the government institutions as well.

I find it interesting that in the last 10 full years that we have data for. So from 2007 to 2017, in the for-profit sector, overall jobs have actually had a decrease 0.6%. So we’ve actually had fewer jobs overall if you add up the entire 10-year period from 2007 to 2017. And you compare that to the nonprofit sector, where we’ve had a 3.7% increase in jobs. We are making headway. We’re doing some cool things in the nonprofit sector.

And I find it also fascinating, if you think about the jobs that that nonprofits provide for Americans around the United States more than 11 million, that’s more than every celebrity, politician, and incarcerated prisoner combined, but yet that seems to be where all of our focus is, around celebrities and politicians and what’s going wrong in the world. So somehow we need to work together to change this narrative, and I say that nonprofits need to help create a new reality. We need to stand up and help create what is the new reality for where we need to go.

And so I did a little research on what this means. What does new reality really mean? And found a few interesting things. There’s a place where you can . . . with a conscious connection to your inner being, you can discover new vistas of inspiration, love, and creativity through spiritual metaphysics. That’s one potential, you know, avenue we could take.

There’s a lot of things that pop up when you when you say new reality. I’m not sure who this is, but Honey Boo Boo or something like that. I never got to see this show, but now today, there’s all kinds of new genres of shows coming online about reality shows and what is the reality. In any case, no matter where you look, we know that it’s complicated. It’s a maze that we need to figure out and solve together.

And so, what I’ve been doing for the last couple of years is really focusing as much time and energy as I can on what it is that we need to do as the nonprofit sector to be focused on creating this new reality. And there are five trends that I’ve seen that are emerging that are rising to the surface as I’m looking through, thinking through, talking to nonprofit professionals around the United States, interacting through the conferences and events that I am fortunate enough to be able to attend. And I’m seeing a consistent element in all five of these elements. I’m going to share them with you today, and hopefully we can together start to make some impact on helping create this new reality.

The very first trend that I see is around this greater interest in service that has been created, and this goes back to when Obama was elected. During his first term in office, he was really focused on civic engagement, and there was a substantial increase in civic engagement that happened all around his tenure as president. However, much of that energy was captured by private businesses and companies, which we’re going to talk more about today.

But there’s no question that we see an interest in people wanting to participate in civic engagement in the nonprofit world to be heightened. We hear all the time the millennials versus the other segments. I’m not a huge fan of all of the dissension that we create by trying to point out the differences between the different age groups. But in any case, there’s no question that younger people have a higher level of interest in volunteerism.

We also though see at the other end of that spectrum a truly an unprecedented number of people that are retiring and want to give back into the communities that they’ve been part of. We see all kinds of trends happening around here. We see micro-volunteering as a growing trend, where people are saying, “You know what rather than just say I’m going to be a volunteer for XYZ organization and not to I married to, who I’m always helping. I want to spend, you know, one week helping this organization. Maybe next month, I’m going to help with a different organization.” We see people, kind of, jumping around from place to place wanting to spread out the love, so to speak. And it’s really created issues for a lot of organizations that historically have had large legions of volunteers that have supported a particular organization because they have a trouble, or that they have a difficult time managing the flow of how people are connected in their service to that organization.

But at the same time, other organizations have seen it as a major boon, a major impact because they can they can make a call out for very specific needs and very specific times that they need help. So at the end of this, we know that people are interested in helping. They’re interested in engaging and volunteering. We, as nonprofits, need to continue to seek out new ways to engage with the people who want to give back in substantial ways. So that’s the first thing that we’re seeing is this overall rise in attitude, greater interest in service in general.

The second trend that is becoming evident, I’ve already given a little prelude to, the shifting demographics and how that’s changing things. We often refer to the generation that is in the emerging workforce as Generation Y, and, you know, we make fun, we poke fun of a lot of things around them. One thing we do know is that if you’re born from 1977 to 2004, it’s the largest segment of the workforce today, and Harvard Center is the one that coined them as Generation Y. It’s the essentially the same thing just with a slightly different timeline as a Millennial as we’re referring to them today. The only difference is millennials are born beginning in 1982. It’s a different organization. The firm of Straus and Howe is the one who coined that term.

In any case, we do know that this is now the largest segment of the workforce, especially in the nonprofit sector. And these are people who grew up with just being ingrained into the aspect of spending time volunteering and being involved and spending time in, so to speak. It is absolutely more diverse than any generation before it. In fact by the year 2043, it is projected that the United States will become a minority-majority society meaning that there will be obviously more than 50% of the citizens of our country will be in a minority category of some sort.

So it’s shifting. It’s changing. It’s continuing to evolve in that direction. To these people, working in a collaborative nature with others on common tasks, and working on things that feed them with purpose and passion is second nature to them. And they would rather give back than get more. They care more about giving back than they do getting more. And I know that what I’m sharing with you are generally platitudes and generalizations about a whole class of people and every individual is different, fully aware of that and mindful of that, but what we see in the data and the stats that it’s a resounding increase. More than 20% increase in desire to volunteer among the generation that’s currently aged 22 to 30 in that in their beginning of their working ages compared to 20 years ago from similar stats that have been taken by Strauss and Howe and others. It’s fascinating just how much more interested, involved, engaged, and active that these folks are.

And engagement and transparency, the technology, work-life balance, all of these things, these aren’t things that, you know, nice-to-haves. They’re not options. They’re required. If they don’t feel like they’re getting out of what, getting something more out of what they put in, if they don’t feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves, then they’re going to move on until they find that. They want meaning in the work that they do.

All right, so all of that said, bottom line is they agree with Peter Drucker even though they have no idea who this guy is. He’s the one who said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” So I’m going to talk for a few minutes about culture and about engagement among the workforce of today and share four revealing stats about employee engagement. First of all, we know that the majority people, 70% of people in the United States claim that they are not engaged at work. That’s really sad if you think about it. If you look around, you know, and you have 10 people in a friend group, 7 out of 10 of them are going to say, well, when they go to work every day they’re prime . . . the majority of the day, they don’t feel engaged in what they’re doing. Sad to think about but it’s true.

We also know that most people that are in a company or a nonprofit, if they’re in a job, they don’t leave that job to make more money. We think that that’s the case. Managers, executive directors, people that are in leadership positions in organizations and for-profit companies for that matter as well, we think that people leave for more money, but 89% of us say that, but only 12% of the employees actually say, “Well, I left because of more money.”

Why do they leave? Well, the majority of the people, 75% leave because they quit their bosses. They don’t connect or they don’t jive with, in a meaningful way, their boss. They don’t really think that they’re growing as a . . . in their role and the work that they do because they don’t see eye-to-eye with the person directly responsible for managing them in that organization. That’s why they leave.

And then, the last of the four stats that I think are really interesting, 70% of millennials say that they would take less money if they had an interesting job where fun was valued. Fun, interesting, purpose, all of those things are more important than money.

Now in the nonprofit sector, it should be just a starter, you know, it’s a get-in-the-game scenario to say that, “Well, there’s going to be purpose behind the work that we do.” That’s why people are in the nonprofit sector, but fun and interesting are not always words that we use and associate with jobs in the nonprofit sector. And as leaders in our organizations, we have to do everything within our power to make sure we’re continually focused on how to create an environment where our people feel like they are engaged in a fun and interesting way.

And I find it interesting. You may have seen this report from the “NonProfit Times.” They’ve updated it every year for about a decade now, but they publish, “The 10 Key Drivers.” And what they do is they do this massive study and survey, and they choose the 50 best nonprofits to work for in America every year, and they rank them 1 through 50. You may have seen this report.

But the thing that I find most fascinating about this report is the outcome of it. What they do is once they’ve identified who they are, they actually survey all of the employees who work for these organizations and they ask them, “What are the most important things for you?” So this is something that we should all, as nonprofit professionals, we should be studying this, and learning, and ingraining this into the way we think. It should be part of our DNA and the ethos of our organization.

Number one, “I feel I am valued in this organization.” Two, “I have confidence in the leadership. I like the type of work I do. Most days, I feel like I made progress. Employees have fun at work.” Those are the top five. “I can trust what the organization tells me. I’m satisfied with the benefits.” That’s the first time there’s anything related to benefits or money. Overall, I’m sorry, “There’s room for me to advance.” So there’s some, kind of, upward advancement. “I like the people I work with,” and “I feel part of a team working toward a shared goal.”

Those are the top 10 things that they rank in the order that they rank them among all the people who work for the most engaged companies in the nonprofit sector, and the most engaged organizations across the entire sector. I think it’s interesting. We should focus everything we have on building this sentiment among the people that work with us in our organizations.

And I would encourage you to consider taking this self-assessment quiz, the seven common traits of nonprofit organizations that are culture leaders. So how are you doing in your organization if you were to administer, self-administer this quiz for your organization. Number one, does your leadership team, do they walk the talk? Are they setting the prime example of what it means to be a leader in this organization? And are they culturally driving the organization forward in a way that other people want to be part of it? Do they create a sentiment that people just feel valued? Does your organization value learning and growth?

I’m a huge, huge believer in this concept of constant evolution iteration. I think most of us are, especially if you’re on this session today, it tells me a lot about you. You care deeply about evolving as a human and learning. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t. We need to get all people in the nonprofit profession to be focused on evolution, and growing, and learning.

We have a mantra here at our company at Firespring. It’s called find a better way, and what that means is that no matter how long we’ve been doing something in a certain way, we’re always open to evolving and finding a better way, helping every process, every person, every client that we work with to figure out how to do whatever it is that they . . . we’re doing for them in a more efficient, more effective, more leverageable way. Always focused on finding a better way.

Number three, is the leadership team transparent about all aspects of the business? I think the word transparency is a little bit overused here in 2018. That’s one of those words that’s become, kind of, the, like, a buzz word that we, kind of, push aside because it’s been used so often. But the word aside, the sentiment behind what it means is incredibly important and valuable to all of us. Do we open the door literally to our offices and invite people to come in and connect with us and ask any question? And I’m a big believer in open book management especially in the nonprofit sector. Sharing our profit and loss, and sharing with people how we’re doing with raising money and administering the programs and services that we offer, being open and transparent with everything.

Number four, do the leaders embrace change? This ties into the other one we just talked about about constant evolution and growing because that’s what happens as a result of evolution and education is we realize we’ve got to change. And, you know, in the point that’s on the screen, if you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.

Number five, does our leadership team listen more than they talk. My grandmother used to always have that expression. I’m sure you heard this before maybe from your grandmother, “We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. We should listen twice as much as we talk.” And leadership teams in organizations that genuinely listen and begin every interaction with someone with an intent to understand what they’re . . . rather than just with intent to respond as quickly as possible or to defend or whatever, but to truly understand. It’s a really essential attribute of a great leader.

Number six are the employees of the organization, are they the biggest believers in the mission? The best way to know if a nonprofit organization has a great culture and people want to be part of it, just check with the people that are working part of that organization in terms of how committed they are to the mission of the organization because if they’re not, if it’s the donors, or maybe some volunteers that are helping out, or board members or other people, if they’re bigger believers in the mission, then we’ve got a problem. Always be focused on that.

And then the last thing to think about as self-assessment, does the leadership team take action? Not just words, but actually take action on diversity and inclusion. This is a big hot button for me right now because I’ve listened, and we’re in Lincoln, Nebraska, and we have a very small minority population here. It’s a very white community. It’s being in the middle of America in a college town, and we’re struggling all the time with trying to figure out how to do better with diversity and inclusion. One of my favorite thought leaders on this is Nikole Hannah-Jones. She says, “Racism is embedded into every institution in this country. I don’t know if we will ever be free of that.”

And so the point being that the way that things are set up. I mean, I’ll share a stat with you that I find interesting. The average person . . . the average white person in America, 93% of their contacts on social media, they’ve done analysis on this on Facebook and Instagram, and other tools like that, 93% percent of the average white person in America is connected with other white people. And so that makes sense, you know, we hang out with people that are like us. I get it. But then, when we ask our team members, “Okay, help us open up, and we want to become more diverse and more inclusive as a culture in our company in organization and we want to attract more people, help us do that.” And they go out and share on their social networks, you know, they’re sharing with other people that are like them. And so it’s like that systemic, embedded thing that is really hard to overcome.

And we hear all the time this, too. I hear my own employees talking about this, you know, “Well, diversity, you know, goes way beyond just race and gender. It’s also about, you know, diversity of religion, or gender, or sexual orientation, or age, and all these other kind of diversity that’s really important to be focused on.” And please don’t get me wrong, I agree. I think all of that is important. But my personal opinion is that we are using that as a crutch, and it’s really become more of a scapegoat or an excuse as to why we’re not able to be better at bringing more people of color and more people that are truly of different backgrounds than we are.

So we’re fighting this every day at my company. I talk about it with our managers incessantly. We’re being more intentional now than we’ve ever been about diversity and inclusion in our organization. It’s a journey that we’re on, and we’re all on a journey with culture for all of our organizations. It’s not something that we, “Hey, we’ve arrived. We have a great culture, and so now we can put our feet up and relax and just rest.” That will never happen. Any company, any organization, it’s always something you’re going to be working on. And the bottom line for me is we’re trying to create this environment that people love to be part of.

The average adult in America, we spend the majority of our waking hours at work, so why wouldn’t we want to work in an environment that feeds us with energy instead of sucking the life force right out of us? And I know, you know, I know them, too. Lots of people who have just a life sucked out of them every day that they go to work. It’s very difficult. And it’s important that we create a culture that helps us rise above that. So on shifting demographics, I encourage every nonprofit to think about embracing a new wave of diversity and openness, include these young people in the big picture, not just by words but by actions. Include them in the vision and foster a people-first work environment.

All right, let’s move on to the third trend that we see. The third trend is the blurred line that we see happening between the nonprofit and the for-profit sector. This is where there’s, kind of, this massive convergence of things coming together. Regulations that used to just favor the nonprofit organizations now are less intentionally separate. And so businesses are becoming more like nonprofits is what I’m saying here.

501(c)(3) organizations are strained further outside of the bounds of what they used to do. So there are organizations called an L3C corporation. You may have heard of these. There are about 2,000 of them in the United States. They’re growing fast. You can find them in Vermont, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Utah, and Wyoming. And there’s legislation pending in 26 additional states to create a new type of company that is a for-profit enterprise, but essentially, it has similar benefits and tax liabilities and tax rules as a nonprofit. We’re, kind of, converging the two together.

There’s another type of company called a B corporation. A B corporation uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. In the B Corp world, there are more than 2,500 of those all around the United States and they keep growing. These are companies, again, that at the heart of the organization, they’re focused on either an environmental or a social issue, and they want all the people that are working as part of the company to help them focus on that issue in a meaningful way.

I know a lot about B corporations because we at Firespring are one of them. We’re one of those 2,500 B Corps. Our mission as a company is to leverage our people, our products, and our profits to do more good in the world. That’s what we exist for. And we do that through our Power of 3 program, where we give 1% of our top-line revenue back to nonprofits in our community in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska where our offices are.

Two percent of our products, we’ve chosen three nonprofits part of our Power of 3 mantra, we’ve chosen three nonprofits and we’re hyper focused on helping those three organizations with free services and products to help those three organizations elevate. And it’s a three-year commitment we’ve made to them to help them just reach an entirely new level with the services and the products that we offer.

And then 3% of our people, this is perhaps the most important. It’s our people-first initiative. Every single person in our company is required to volunteer one full day at a nonprofit organization of their choice. They get to choose the cause or the purpose that they’re most passionate about, and they go out into the world, and they are volunteering. We have more than 200 employees here in our headquarters in Lincoln and Omaha, and every one of them is out eight hours every month volunteering. It’s paid time off. They don’t have to take time, you know, unpaid time to go do that. It’s all paid time, really important.

So what I’m saying here is these blurred lines, these corporate causes are now competing with local foundations for donor-directed funds. This concept of impact and social virtue, it’s no longer exclusive to the nonprofit sector. We’re in competition. So for-profits are trying to be more like nonprofits, and nonprofits are trying to be more like a business. We see this continued convergence and smashing together happening, and that leads to my big question as it relates to this particular trend.

The big question is, “If I can go to work for a corporation, make a really good living financially, and still do socially-meaningful work, why would I choose to work for a nonprofit instead of a company?” This is the big question that I see creating competition and collusion between the nonprofit and the for-profit sectors. And we need to know how to answer that question as a nonprofit organization. We need to focus so much more on our purpose and our mission creating a healthy culture or work culture in our environment and create opportunities for the people that work as part of our organization to make sure that they always know that they’re part of something really big by being part of this organization. Nonprofits, we need to stay true to our mission and be who we are unapologetically, be so focused on what we’re doing.

All right, that’s the third trend. Fourth trend is the technology that we see advancing so fast today. It’s absolutely mind-boggling to think about how fast it’s changing. So think back, in the entire lifetime, your entire lifetime, back from the day you were born to today, how much we’ve seen technology advance and how much more information is available in the world than the day that you came onto planet Earth?

Okay, now let’s think back all the way to your parents’ lifetime, to the beginning of their lifetime to today, how fast technology has proliferated and advanced? And let’s just go all the way back, let’s, you know, scrap that, go back to the beginning of time when mankind first started walking on planet Earth all the way to today. And get this, you compare that entire thing to what’s going to happen in the next 18 months. Technology, innovation, and information will double in the next 18 months. That’s how fast things are proliferating today. It’s remarkable to stop and just think about what’s happening.

Nicholas Negroponte, one of my heroes, says that, “A child that was born 10 years ago in 2008, by the time that child graduates from college, they’re going to have access to tools and technology that are a thousand times more powerful than what we were using back when they were born in 2008.” That means that they have the capability of processing at the speed or the rate of the human brain, and we’re getting there.

There’s already technology that exists that make it possible for us to essentially download our brain onto a hard drive. How would you like that? You can download your entire memory bank and hand over a little hard drive to your grandchildren someday so they can see, and hear, and remember everything the way your brain does. Yeah, I know, we all hope that there’s a massive Delete key. So I want this entire period of time, these five years right here are wiped out clean.

We all, you know, are scared with some of this stuff, but it’s just crazy to think about what’s happening, and we all see it every day. The world’s largest information source prints no books. The world’s largest taxi company doesn’t own a single taxi. They lease them to their people, but they don’t own them in their own corporate inventory. The largest accommodation provider has no real estate. On down the list, the world largest movie house owns no cinemas. It’s really fascinating how things are changing.

And we know that dealing with technology, it’s not like a walk in the park, it can be really aggravating. It feels like there’s just so much coming at us that we can barely keep up, but once you’ve mastered technology, and you have it working for you and not against you, it can be a liberating experience. So I think it’s important that we really focus on how to use technology in a way that helps us grow, and become better, and do more, and be more effective, and be more efficient.

So this photo that I have on the screen now is a photograph of myself with my parents, my dad and my mom, My mom passed away seven years ago now from breast cancer. But at this point in time, I was showing them how to use a computer. I think my parents were the last humans on earth to actually want to know how to use the computer.

I grew up in a small farm and ranch community in Central Nebraska, you know, way out in the middle of everywhere as I like to call it. And, you know, so there wasn’t a lot going on out there. They didn’t really know what was what was happening in the technology world, and I remember trying to walk them through, trying to recover them from Luddite status to start using technology. And it didn’t take long, within six months, they were on email and they were texting, and they were on Facebook, and they were on Skype with the grandchildren of course. That’s what pulls most grandparents over the last 10 years into technology.

And I remember one day I was getting ready to drive, I was driving through my hometown in Central Nebraska on the way to Denver. I live in Lincoln. So I was driving basically across the state of Nebraska, and I had sent my mom an email saying, “Hey, are you going to be around? I’m going to be coming through, want to see if you guys are going to be home. We’d love to come by. Let’s have lunch on my drive, whatever.” Didn’t hear back from her.

Another couple days go by, still haven’t heard back from her. So I picked up the phone and I called her, and I told her I sent her an email. I was hoping to come through. She’s said, “Well, an email? Why didn’t you just Facebook me?” I said, “What? Who are you and what have you done with my mother?” Because it was literally six months earlier when she said, “I’m never going to be on that. It’s just ridiculous. I have no time for that stuff.” But we all get there eventually. We all start using this technology.

Now as a nonprofit professional, my perspective is that we should be focused on three fundamental aspects of technology. Three things that are most important. The AMA, the American Marketing Association has said for 10 years running now that, “The most important investment that the one with the highest return on investment, the highest ROI that a nonprofit can make is in your website and your donor database.” Those are the two most important things. Nothing else even comes close. Number three on the list falls way down. If you want to know what has the highest return on investment, it’s your website and your donor database those are the two things that you need to be focused on.

So the first thing that I want to just touch on is your website content management system. In your organization, most of us have websites and we have all these different things that we want people to do when they come to our website, like, if you’re in the Habitat for Humanity community, we work with a lot of those around the country, you know, they’re sending people to Beams and Dreams, the construction schedule to donate, to volunteer, to register for their events. They got all these different things that they want people to do once they’ve landed on their website, but the vast majority of the Habitat websites all around the country, once someone gets onto their website, they send them right back off to some other module, or plugin or, a third party tool, this is the way life is in the WordPress generation, where so many nonprofit organizations, we built our websites out in WordPress.

And what that ends up doing is means we use the free modules or plugins that someone else has built and added to the inventory so we can easily add our own stuff and it becomes really difficult for us to be consistent. We have . . . we create I call them Frankensteined websites because we’ve just, kind of, bolted things on to them. In order to do it right, we should be using a content management system that you and other members of your team have the ability to update and modify the information on your own website without having to go through a third party or a gatekeeper, so to speak. You should be able to update that yourself.

And the most important thing is that when people come to your website you don’t necessarily want them to go to a search engine, or to your appeal letter, or your email marketing program, or whatever it is, and go straight to the homepage of your website. That’s not really great management of your web presence, and how you’re converting people into actually being connected to your organization.

You want them to go to a landing page that allows them to take action on something that you want them to take action on. Do you want them to sign up to register? Do you want them to become a volunteer? Do you want them to learn more about this or make a donation? What is it that you want them to do as a result of clicking on the link in your email marketing, or typing in the domain that you’ve included in your appeal letter, or finding you on a search engine through a keyword?

However, they found you, send them to a landing page that allows them to take action on whatever it is you want them to take action on, and watch your organization rise and soar, and be so much more connected, and convert so many more people that are coming to your website. It’s really important that we all in the nonprofit sector understand landing pages, and why they’re so important.

So second technology thing that I want to focus on is your donor database or your member management tool depending on the type of organization you are. Now, in this world there are three must-haves that we believe fervently are really critical. One is a dashboard because you’re going to manage what you measure. If you don’t have the ability to have a dashboard that you share with your board and other key leaders in your organization, you’re not going to be focused on moving the needle and be focused on the right things.

Number two, the ability to measure engagement. How connected are you with the people that you serve in your community? And automate as much of that as possible. And then third, if you can find a way to integrate your website and your donor database tool together so that you’re entering data in only once. If somebody comes and connects either on your website or on your donor database and you want to feed that information to one or the other, you should be able to build that out.

And of course, I’m a huge believer, this is like I could I could share this information with you, and then say, “Well, that’s Bloomerang in a nutshell right there.” Having these must-haves and the ability. Bloomerang in particular when it’s connected to a high-end website that makes it possible for everything to work together.

And then the third thing are apps and web tools that simplify and leverage your day. I don’t have time in today’s session to go down this rabbit hole with you, but if you’re interested, I have a session called “Online Tools That Help Nonprofits Learn, Listen, and Engage.” It’s a one-hour webinar just like this one, where I go behind the scenes and show you exactly how to use the tools that make it possible for you to manage your entire social media presence in 15 minutes a day. We’d love to share that with you. If you’d like to learn more, you can just go to, or you can contact any of us from Firespring after the session, and we’ll send you a link to a recorded version that we’ve done some time in the last few months.

Bottom line here, on number four, nonprofits that refuse to embrace technology because your fear, may be because you’re scared, you’re uncertain, or just confused, you’re going to risk losing opportunities that are going to help you grow in the right ways.

All right, the last of the five that I want to focus on today, new ways to collaborate. This is all about your e-community that didn’t exist 15 years ago. What we used to know is our Rolodex and it’s funny because I’ve actually . . . I was doing a presentation to a group of college students a few years ago, and I put this graphic up on the screen and not a single person could tell me what this thing is called. So they had no idea that it was a Rolodex. They just said, “Well, grandma has one.”

But we used to manage all of our contacts in these, kind of, devices, but now we have them all in our smart devices, right? So it makes it a lot easier if you want to contact or stay connected with people that are important in your life. And now we have, on top of all of that, we’re layering all these social media layers, LinkedIn, and Facebook, and Twitter comprises our e-network. And note that I’m not saying netplay. It’s your network. This is an important aspects of how we are connected as humans in 2018.

One of the things that I will always be focused on at least as long as I continue to see the trend going this way, I believe that LinkedIn is an incredibly important tool for nonprofits. LinkedIn is going to, in my opinion, replace what used to be known as the phonebook, when we used to get to stack the phonebooks on our porches every year and it would be delivered. That has all been replaced now with LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is the network that’s intended to be the network where we connect professionals with one another. So people in your community, your board members, your donors, your volunteers, employees of the organization, anyone that you’re connected with in other capacities in your life, maybe you have children and you’re connected with their teachers, or the parent-teacher association at your school, the other parents. We should be connecting with people on LinkedIn. That’s what this tool is for. I think of LinkedIn as this giant Rolodex in the cloud, you know, in the sky, and it has all of the contacts that are important in our professional life.

And here’s the cool part I never have to go and update a single thing because if Steven changes his last name, or if he moves to a new job, or his email changes, or anything at all, he updates that himself. All I have to do is just go to Steven, and he’s updated all the information. I don’t have to keep anything up-to-date.

And LinkedIn, I believe is going to continue to get more and more important. And there are so many facets of LinkedIn that are effective if you use them right in the nonprofit sector, not just in connecting with people but in some of the forums and the discussions that are going on around the nonprofit space. I’m a big believer in it and I have no stake in it, no investment in it, anything. I just see the value with the people that I work with.

You should be connected with the people that you are working with in and around the nonprofit sector. In fact, I’m going to throw that out there right now. I would encourage you, we’re going to spend an hour together today, we should be connected on LinkedIn. That’s the whole purpose of this. At some point, after this session, at the end of the day today, whatever, just do a search for my name, Jay Wilkinson, and send me a LinkedIn request, let’s connect.

That’s what LinkedIn is for. It’s for connecting with people that you come across in your professional life that in some way or capacity could add value to your network or to your life. It’s really that simple. So if you’re one of those people that has been ignoring every LinkedIn request, or you set up a filter in your email program to put it, you know, in a folder somewhere so you never have to see it, I encourage you to think about and reconsider. It’s a powerful tool if you use it right.

Social media provides a gigantic opportunity for all of us to leverage our message, to increase the brand equity of what it is that we do and how we serve our communities. Those tools should be used and we should participate in that conversation. The conversation’s going on. It’s better to be part of it rather than to ignore it and be just ignorant to the fact that it’s happening. Let’s get out there and let’s participate in this conversation and make sure we’re part of it.

Few action steps, find new ways doing a volunteer. Foster a people-first work environment by embracing diversity and including young leaders in the big picture. Make sure that you’re focused on using social media to collaborate and to network and to participate in conversations that are going on all those important conversations.

And with your website, make sure that if your current version doesn’t, your next version has a content management system that simple and easy. It should be drop-and-drag easy for you and at least two others on your team to update and modify the content of your own website without having to go through a third party to do it. Manage your connections with a cloud-based donor management system so that you can access it from anywhere and you should be able to integrate that with your website so you can connect the two and not have to be redundant in entering data.

And keep learning. There’s so much more out there. I’m a big fan of I believe that it’s one of the pre-eminent sources of information and content on the planet. I know Steven is a contributor to that, to as am I. So I’m a huge fan for many reasons, but most importantly they are there for you. They’re, kind of, like the NPR of the space. They only allow advertising of organizations and companies that are providing educational material. They don’t, like, slap you in the forehead with ads every time you log in. They’re really thoughtful about how they’re getting support from the community, and there are so many great articles from everything from branding to video and everything in between. So many great things that are going on there.

All right, I want to say thank you again to Bloomerang, especially to Steven. He talked earlier about heroes, Steven has been an icon in my world for many years and the way that he leads in content generation and thought leadership throughout the nonprofit space. And Jay Love as well, very, very dear friends and people to me, and I just want to say thank you again. I am going to take a quick turn here before we open the floor for Q&A. So if you have questions, make sure you send them across through that . . . through the discussion panel. Steven’s going to monitor those and then, kind of, share the ones that are most relevant to the entire group.

And I’m going to take a quick moment and take a little bit of a turn here. Our mantra at Firespring, my personal mantra is as well, “Educate without expectations.” To share information, data, things that we gather. We’ve done thousands of focus groups around the country over the last decade trying to understand how nonprofits use websites and things like that, and how their constituents access and use it, and we love sharing that information openly and transparently, you know, without trying to tweak it one way or another.

But for the next three minutes, I am going to educate with some expectations and I want to make sure it’s really clear that I’m turning that corner here, and I’m going to share with you just a little bit about what we’re doing at Firespring. I’m really excited about it. I would love to share this with you.

We are solving what I consider to be one of the biggest problems in the nonprofit space. We know that the majority of nonprofits have this mantra, “We’re always trying to do more with less.” You’ve probably said those words yourself, “Always trying to do more with less.” And the result of that is that the average nonprofit in the U.S. today has to restart or rebuild their website every two to two-and-a-half years. They just completely start over because the person that was doing it before has moved on. They’ve had a child or a third child, or maybe they’ve graduated from college, or got a new job, or whatever. Something happens, life happens. And then they say, “All right, who’s ready to step up? We need help with this.” And the new person comes in and says, “Well, we’re going to do it all different.” It happens all the time.

So trying to fix that issue, this cycle that nonprofits go through, we built what we consider and we believe is the world’s best nonprofit website platform. You would take your existing website and essentially move it in, use the content management system that we built to take the content, the photos, everything from your existing website, and just move it into this new website on our platform. We bundle with that powerful email marketing tools that include all kinds of automated marketing and drip marketing components, and education and templates and how to use it, really great stuff.

Event registration, so the people that are registering for your events will have a professional experience on your website, and you have a professional experience managing it on the back end. It’s all built specifically for the way nonprofits use it.

Blogging tools and news feeds, so you have the ability to keep your entire website up-to-date, and most importantly, you create thought leadership around your cause or issue in your community.

The ability to land or to launch your own landing pages. This one is so important. I talked about it earlier. Every nonprofit should have a minimum of five landing pages, and you should be adding landing pages to your website at least a couple of times a year based on the things that are going on. Landing pages are so important because it’s what converts people to take action around your cause. So having the ability to do this yourself without having to go through a third party to launch them is really important.

Search engine optimization so you can be found, not just the tools but the education on how to use them. The ability to take online donations right through your website with the lowest cost in the industry, and simple, straightforward right to your website.

And then we bundle all that with a fundraising bootcamp that we’ve partnered with Nonprofit Hub to provide, where they take thought leaders from around the nonprofit sector and walk you through the process of becoming a master at fundraising and legendary support and training. You can pick up the phone at any time, and talk to a real live human who can take you by the hand and walk you through any issue with your website. And you can have it entirely up and running in as little as 10 days. It happens really fast.

We have two different plans. One includes event registration and email marketing, that’s 129 a month, and the one without those two things is 89 a month. But either one, doesn’t matter which one, if you went out to try to build this yourself and you said to a local developer, “Hey, we need a website that has the ability for us to launch fundraising campaigns, you know, ourselves, needs to have payment processing built right into it, needs to be totally responsive so it works great on every on a phone, on a tablet, whatever. We need to make sure that we have the ability to add our own landing pages and update our own website.” Just go down the list. If you went out to try to build this yourself, it’d be 50 grand or more, easy. Probably way more than that if actually if you built every tool in there.

And at Firespring, there’s no upfront cost. It’s just the monthly fee and that’s month-to-month. We think every client should have the opportunity to make a decision to move technology at any point in time that we need to earn our keep every month. So it’s month-to-month, and you can totally DIY it, or you can say, “Hey, we would like you to do our content migration for us,” for example, or customize the design to look and feel. So there are entry level, very affordable cost structure available if you want our help on getting stuff moved over, or built out in a very personalized way. To learn more, just go to, and just request a personalized demo. We just build one for you so you can look and see what it looks like, and no obligation, no hassle, just take a look at it. See if it makes sense.

All right, I’ve included on the screen here several of the webinars. I’ve mentioned a few of these. I’ve mentioned, “Online Tools That Help Nonprofits Learn, Listen, and Engage.” I talked a little bit about landing pages today. We have a session specifically on converting supporters with landing pages. We have one specifically on how to build out a powerful and engaging website, and the power of blogging and thought leadership. All of those are really relevant to the conversation we’ve had today. We’d love to have you join us for any of those in our webinar series as we move forward.

Steven, I think I’ve hit the end of my stuff. What questions do we have out there that we might want to address?

Steven: All right, well, we got some good ones, but first, let me say thank you to you Jay for taking an hour out of your day to give us this great presentation, and lots of cool stuff in here, really enjoy listening along, and based on the comments I’m seeing at the chat, I think they did, too. So thank you and we love Firespring. If you’re using a WordPress website, you got to check these guys out. Please check them out. They are the only website developer in a nonprofit sector that we recommend, that I talk about. They do really good work, so check them out. Please take advantage of that free demo offer.

So we got some questions. Jay, here’s one from Meghan, “How do you . . . ” Meghan’s wondering how you’d be transparent with the whole staff. She’s a maybe a little concerned of not, kind of, burdening the staff with decisions and maybe they don’t need to be a part of. So I think this question came up specifically during your, sort of, culture and diversity standpoint. So how do you guys manage that at Firespring and some of the organizations you work with. Do you, kind of, shoulder the entire burden as CEO or how far down the chain does it go?

Jay: I believe it’s incredibly important, and I’ll talk from my own personal perspective. I’m a huge believer in the Gestalt theory, which is, you know, to share a personal experience and people can glean from that what they will. And my personal experience on this has been all along the way, especially with the nonprofit’s that I’ve either been part of as a founder, or as a chairman, or a board president, and things like that, where we’ve tried to get things up and running off the ground, especially in the nonprofit realm.

Every time that I’ve had a question as to whether or not, “Well, should I share this with people or not?” I can think of very few incidents or circumstances where the answer has been, “Well, no, I shouldn’t,” with the exception of personal things that are related to people on the team. If there’s somebody on the team that has dropped the ball and let everyone else down, of course, people are going to know that. If it’s public knowledge and everyone’s aware of it, then you address it openly and honestly. But if it’s something that you’re aware of and no one else is aware of, there’s no need or reason to drag an individual, you know, through the mud, so to speak, and condemn them for a mistake that they might have made or whatever. So, you know, if you think transparency, well, that means you’re being open and honest with every person in the organization based on everything that happens.

So I draw the line only at where it affects someone personally. And everything else, you know, I think the most important thing as a leader is that the leader herself or the leader himself must be vulnerable. I believe it’s one of the top three most important characteristics of a leader is to be vulnerable, and just to be open, and admit fault, admit responsibility, share with people that, you know, “Hey, I messed that up and I appreciate the fact that that, you know, so many people have been concerned about this and address it.” And I don’t know specifically how to go down the rabbit hole of answering that question in the time that we have and provide other examples without just saying that, when in doubt most of the time, I would say 80% of the time, when in doubt I would say share, open it up, and make it an open discussion for the entire team.

And, you know, at Firespring we have 200 plus employees. I bring them all together quarterly and I lay my heart out on my sleeve and I tell them when I’ve messed up and when we have failed as a company to do the right thing. We are just very direct about it, and the people in our company deeply appreciate that level of transparency and honesty. And it’s better to . . . it’s actually more important to talk about the negative things or the mistakes and it is to talk about the positive things in all the wins. They’re all important, but it’s more important for our culture that we that we are willing to talk about the things that are hardest to talk about.

Steven: I love it, great advice. Well, we’re, kind of, coming up on the 2:00. Maybe one way to end the question is we, you know, Jay, we’ve got a lot of small shops here listening to our webinars on a weekly basis, a lot of one-person teams. What’s the advice you would give to those small organizations who want to do all the stuff that you mentioned today, but maybe they’re feeling a little overwhelmed? What do you think they could tackle today to get started?

Jay: I appreciate that perspective a lot, Steven, because you know it’s true. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in the event or a conference somewhere and I’m talking about things and oftentimes I forget to mention and make reference to the fact that 80% of the people in the room are coming from organizations that have one to five employees, and they’re, you know, they’re very small. And oftentimes people think, “Well, you know, Jay, Steven, whoever, they don’t get it. They don’t know what it’s like to be in a small organization.” And I will say that you may be right, we don’t know what it’s like to be in your organization, but we’ve all been part of something at a starting point or even if it’s not at the starting point that’s just small, and there’s not a lot of people around. And I think that we have to expand the way that we think about our organization.

I believe that if a nonprofit has been in existence for a year or more, it has proved its potential sustainability. It doesn’t mean that it’s automatically going to sustain forever, but it’s proved its potential to be sustainable. And if you’re in that space, where you’ve been around for a year or more, and you still have just one or two or three people around, don’t think of your organization as one or two or three people because it’s not.

All of the people that are on your board, all of the people that volunteer, that give up their time and are earnestly awaiting further instructions at how they can help and impact the organization, all of the people that are connected to the organization in some support or way are part of that extended team.

When we counsel and coach teams on how to build a team blog, to how to become a thought leader in their community by blogging, I think it’s a big mistake to try to ask every single person on your blogging team, all of them to come from the organization’s employment pool. They shouldn’t necessarily all be employed by the organization. You should bring in a couple of volunteers and a board member, and make it . . . and bring together a group of people who believe in the mission, who are supportive of the organization in a really ardent way. Those are part . . . that’s part of your team.

And I think nonprofits really need to think of that culture, the culture that we’re building, it needs to extend out beyond just the people that get a paycheck from the organization every month. It’s the people that are volunteering and the people that are serving on the board and other capacities as well. We need to think about how we build the culture all around that, not just with people that, you know, the one to three people that are employed by the organization. And if we had more time, we could dig in and talk about some practical steps on how to do that, but just start thinking about how do we include this bigger, broader group of supporters not just employees to build that.

Steven: I love it. Man, this was great, Jay. Thank you so much for doing this session for us. I know it’s a, kind of, a rare one for you, so I really appreciate you digging in and out of the archives for us. It was a lot of fun. Thanks for being here.

Jay: You’re so welcome and thank you for the time. I really appreciate, and again, incredibly grateful for the relationship and for the opportunity to share this with the folks that took time out of their day to join us.

Steven: Yeah, I guess we could say thank you all for taking time out of your day. I know it’s a quite a busy time of year for you, and we appreciate you always hanging out on our Bloomerang webinars. It’s nice to see some familiar names that join us week after week.

So we are a little over time so we’ll call it a day there. Look for an email from me with the recording and the slides. I’ll get that out there here in just about an hour or so. We got some great resources on our website as well, you can check out if you are interested. And then we got some great webinars coming up here including one week from today, very special session. Two experts in capital campaigns, we’ve got Amy Eisenstein and Andrea Kihlstedt, special session, a new session. We’ve actually been working together on crafting this one.

So if you’ve got a capital campaign coming up or maybe if you’re in the midst of one, it’s okay it’s not too late, you’re still going to get something out of this session. So register for that one week from today, 1:00 p.m. Eastern, totally free, totally educational. We’d love to see you again next week.

And if you’re not quite interested in capital campaigns at the moment, that’s okay. There are other sessions that you can register for on our website so check that out. So we will call it a day there. Look for an email from me with all the goodies like I said, and hopefully we’ll see you again next week. So have a good rest of your day, have a safe weekend, and we’ll talk to you guys soon. Bye now.

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.