Lindsay Simonds will decode the top five most impactful ways people contribute to communities. By understanding core motivations, intentions, perspectives reflected in this webinar, you will be able to build a stronger case for support, increase the impact you have, and gain strategies for creating and preserving community.

Full Transcript:

– [Lindsay] Okay. 

– [Steven] [inaudible]. Okay, Lindsay, I got 1:00 Eastern. Is it okay if I go ahead and get this party started officially? 

– [Lindsay] Ready to roll. 

– [Steven] Nice. Awesome. Well, welcome, everybody. I’m so glad you’re here. Good afternoon, good morning, no matter where you are. If you’re watching the recording, hope you’re having a good day because we are here to talk about some creative ways that people are contributing to the community. This’ll be a fun one. 

Thanks for being here. I’m Steven. I’m over here at Bloomerang, and I’ll be moderating the session as always. And just a couple of real quick housekeeping items, just want to let you all know that we are recording this session and we’ll be sending out that recording as well as the slides later on. So if you have to leave or leave early, or maybe get interrupted or just want to review the content, don’t worry, we’ll get all that good stuff to you later today. 

Just look for an email from me towards the end of the day. But most importantly, please feel free to send in any chats or questions or comments along the way. There’s a chat box, there’s a Q&A box, you can use either of those. If you use the Q&A box, it might have a little higher chance that I’ll call it out at the end. 

But we’d love to hear from you, introduce yourself if you haven’t already. But bottom line is we want to hear from you because we’re going to save a little bit of time at the end for Q&A. You can also use Twitter. I’ll keep an eye on Twitter as well. But say hi. We’ve got an awesome expert here that’ll answer as many questions as we can before the 2:00 hour. And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, welcome. 

We do these webinars just about every Thursday. Pretty well known for it, but if you’re wondering what the heck is Bloomerang, in addition to these webinars, we’re a donor database. So check that out, if you’re interested, if you need software, if you’re just curious, all kinds of good stuff on our website you can check out. But don’t do that right now because, dang, Lindsay Simonds is back. 

Lindsay, how’s it going? You’re awesome. You doing okay? 

– [Lindsay] You’re awesome. I’m great. I am having a great day and I’m thrilled to be here. And I’m really excited about this topic too. It’s very personal to me. 

– [Steven] This is great. You did an awesome webinar for us last June and we were like, “We got to have Lindsay back.” So I’ve been eyeballing this week all year. If y’all don’t know Lindsay, you got to check her out. She’s got a really awesome podcast. I’m going to kind of skip through the bio here, but I got it right here, Lindsay. Some of you know that I … – [Lindsay] That’s the right one. 

– [Steven] Yeah. I bike to work and at least once every couple of weeks it’s Lindsay having an awesome conversation with somebody that speeds up that commute for me. Really cool conversations, lots of different topics, social justice, criminal justice, I think you talked about last week. 

– [Lindsay] Yup. That was the most recent one. 

– [Steven] That was really cool. That alone, I don’t know how you do that and then all your other awesome, you know, fundraising and client work, but it definitely has helped out a lot of organizations raise over $1 billion, and is just a delight to listen to. This is kind of fun for you, I imagine, Lindsay, because you’re usually in my shoes listening to a guest speaker, but … – [Lindsay] I am. 

I’m, like, almost cheering on. I’m like, this is too much. Can we please stop? 

– [Steven] Okay, I’ll stop. 

– [Lindsay] I’m like I need to present. 

– [Steven] Yes. Well, let me take down my slides because they want to hear from you, not me. But let’s see if we can … – [Lindsay] You’re so funny. 

– [Steven] Here we go. 

– [Lindsay] Thank you. That was very generous of you. I love it. So are you ready for me to present my slides? 

– [Steven] yeah. Let’s bring those up, we’ll see if it works here. 

– [Lindsay] And can you still see me? Because I’m now just seeing you. 

– [Steven] Yes. 

– [Lindsay] Okay, good. All right. 

– [Steven] I can still see you. 

– [Lindsay] Let me just do a few things here. So as I’m moving my mouse around, I want to say how much I appreciate just your support. I feel like, Steven, since we met, you have been one of my biggest cheerleaders and I’m so grateful to you for that. It makes me feel connected and a part of community to know that somebody that I’ve actually never met face to face is cheering for me and advocating for me. 

So that’s something that I really value, and I appreciate that. Now, can you see me and my screen? 

– [Steven] I can. I think you’re good to go. 

– [Lindsay] Okay, we’re in business. All right. Sweet. So, yes, this podcast … this podcast, oh, man. Now I am in my podcast zone. This webinar is about my podcast actually. So it’s about a study. 

I’m a social scientist by passion, but a fundraising consultant and executive by trade. I have been in the nonprofit space for about 15 years now and … There we go. There’s my bio. It was a little bit more of what Steven has already said. So I’ve run major capital campaigns as big as $600 million and manage budgets $1.2 billion and above. 

But my first gift was to the World Wildlife Foundation, and I just … I still support them. I still support a lot of organizations. So my perspective today is as somebody who’s been studying philanthropy for my career, but also as a passion. I started yoga about, you know, from a really early age, my family introduced me to mindfulness and meditation, even though you would never guess it because they don’t look like typical hippies. 

But I was really grateful and lucky to have that exposure early on. So this webinar is about what have I observed? What have I learned over my time, but especially over the last year of doing this podcast? The podcast is called “Creating Community for Good Podcast.” And we talk a lot about fundraising strategies because that’s my area of expertise, but we get deeper into what is it like to be a human and what is it like to contribute to something and to build community? 

I’m sort of getting ahead of myself. Here are some of the clients that I’ve worked with, and hey, I can’t stop without, or start, I should say, without recognizing RuPaul. So I love this, “We were all born naked and the rest is drag.” So happy LGBTQ month, and grateful to this quote and this, you know, this leader because RuPaul has been somebody who’s been doing “Drag Race” for 17 seasons now and really does embody what we’re talking about here, which is really know thyself first so that you can then better contribute to others. 

And maybe not take everything so seriously because life is serious and life is hard, but we should be having a good time. So for those of you who were in my webinar last year, as Steven said, I did this webinar with y’all one year ago about stewardship as a strategy during crisis. And one of the elements that I brought together was, you know, how important it is to really nurture and take care of your community. 

And so today, I’m talking about, well, what does that really look like? And how do you do that? So what does it look like? Well, did you know that community actually came from the Latin word public spirit? I love that. That’s just a quick fun fact for you. And my motivation for this podcast, I feel like I’ve spoken through it a bit, but really, it is to understand what does it really mean to be part of a community and how are we all making the world a little bit better or brighter for each other and for ourselves along the way? 

Okay. So I’m having just a moment here where I’m mixing my, or trying to figure out my slide so I can see my deck clearly. Here we go. So, Steven, this is where I’d like for you to actually turn this slide into a survey. There it is. 

Thank you. And I’ll give you about 30 seconds or so to activate. So what do you hope to get out of this webinar? There are five options here, and if it’s something that’s not up here, then you can write it in the chat, and I’ll try to skim over that quickly as I begin to digest. 

But are you looking for some inspiration? Maybe it’s a Thursday afternoon and you’re having lunch at the moment. Maybe you’re trying to understand how to better improve your own community and how you can contribute and be a, you know, a better servant to community. Maybe it’s because you’re thinking about fundraising or nonprofit management. Maybe you’re considering your program and how you can actually engage folks to actually think that they’re part of a community which will create that sticky power that continues to be self-perpetuating so that folks continue to give their time, their talent, their technology, their treasure. 

And maybe it’s just because you love Steven so much that you wanted to be here and support him. Also, perhaps you’re interested in the podcast and reflections that I’ve learned. Steven, let’s wrap it up. All right. So most of you are hoping to get strategies about how to strengthen your volunteer donor and staff relationships and sense of community. 

All right. I’m going to stop sharing those. Now, onto the next slide. Let’s see. Can we get there? There we go. Okay. 

So a little bit about what community is and, you know, folks all around the world have been studying community since the beginning of humankind, right? I don’t need to sort of belabor this point, but community is something that we all consider in various different ways. But I would say that what’s most important is that we’re actually rallying around a cause, a mission, a shared common ground. 

We’re going to talk about that in detail today. So here’s the next survey, Steven, right off the bat, just to make sure everybody’s kind of present and getting us grounded. I know people are transitioning from meetings and … so please activate the survey. Great. So do you feel that you have found a community in any or all of these groups? 

It’s okay if you select all of them unless that’s not an option. Perhaps it’s not. I’m thinking you actually have to just select one. So with that, just say what’s the community that you’re most connected to? Seeing results coming in. 

We’ve got about 100 votes already in. Keep going. We’ll give it another 10 or so seconds. All right. 

Let’s wrap it up. We’ve got almost 100% participation and it looks like it’s a tie. Okay. So between space of spirituality or religion or charitable and volunteer opportunities. Awesome. Let’s move on. So here’s what the rest of the nation says. 

So there is Pew Research. This is a few years old, so forgive me for that. But I have been studying these types of engagements and research on community for years, and it is predominantly a religious organization that leads the way. That’s how philanthropy has been reflected as well until the most recent years. 

Hobbies or groups, charitable organizations, so that’s what the rest of America is saying. So if you take nothing else out of this conversation today, I want you to remember these three things. And that is to start with a common ground to establish a connection and trust, distribute or contribute, rather, something of value, and then progress with curiosity. 

So that’s how you sort of lay that foundation, you start activating it, and then you progress. And so what that means is something … that’s what the arc of this conversation is going to be about. I’m going to weave in stories that are connected to … oops, there we go. Weave in stories that are connected to the podcast and I’m going to share some model language for you. 

So right off the bat, what does it mean to connect and establish common ground? Well, what it means is that you’re communicating, right? You’re finding something that you can all agree upon. You’re building trust, you’re building relationship, maybe even friendship. And then you’re always coming back to this same foundation. I’ve seen with a lot of my nonprofit clients something that’s worked very well is coming up with a decision tree, so that when you do get to a point of confusion or debate, or you know, where there are differing opinions: Maybe you want to do an expansion, maybe you want to invest more resources in your endowment, or maybe you want to have a higher number of people that you serve, a lower ROI, whatever it might be, if you come back to the decision tree, which is based on a common ground, which is hopefully your mission, vision, values, what is your goal for the organization, then you can come back to the center and reunite your community from all the various ideas that might be generated. 

So what I learned from conversations with my podcast’s guests, which I’ve done about 50. It started during COVID. So with all that extra time to spare, I got activated, right? I lived alone and felt isolated. I’m sure many of you did as well. 

And my hope was how can I create a community for myself above and beyond my clients? So as an independent solopreneur, I have now friends who, and I have for many years, of course, but really trying to distill those relationships by having conversations with people about what’s meaningful and important to them and how they’re contributing. 

So what I found was that these three folks in particular really drove home the point of the importance of finding common ground. Bart in episode two, and he’s somebody that I volunteered for on his board for about five years. He’s now one of my mentors, advisors, and dear friends. He talks about the importance of a mission, vision, and values. So going back to the drawing board, he goes back about once a year and checks in with himself on his personal mission, vision, and values as well as the organization that he’s serving. 

He is a serial entrepreneur who really believes that this is the only way to start anything good. Ryan, he is somebody that I serve on his board now as well at BUILD, and he’s in episode 21. We talk about what it’s like to reactivate a board that may be a little bit defunct. So this board was in place, but then it was a little bit aimless for some time. 

The leadership changed. The goals changed. What we did was Ryan and I got together and we talked about what do we really want from the board members? And how do we communicate that from them? So it’s finding that common ground of this is what our goal is. This is what we need you to do, so roles and responsibilities, those were sent out in advance before anybody then ultimately committed. 

So signing a contract to say, “I’m committed to be part of this board. And here’s what I’m going to commit to do. I’m going to commit to putting this organization in my top three priorities. I’m going to commit to serving it by being a volunteer. I’m going to commit by supporting it, by being a donor. I’m going to commit to advocating for it and by sharing the word about what we’re doing.” 

So this was a way that we formalized a commitment and a grounding for this group of people that we then wanted to be in community, so that we could always come back to that statement to say, “Hey, you know, I know that we all have different professions and experiences, priorities, and abilities to give, abilities to connect. But what we’re all here to do as we’ve all agreed to is X, Y, and Z.” 

Now, Nikole is somebody who I’ve looked up to for a long time. I think we met over a decade ago, and she was in episode six, really early on as well. And she talks about the importance of visioning being a common ground. So it’s not just what’s your baseline, but it’s also, how do you hope to actually change the world in a grand way? 

And then how do you set the table to do so? So she’s talking about what does it look like to bring folks together about STEM education and how do we talk to donors and our volunteers and our, you know, supporters of any kind about the work that we’re doing using different techniques that ground us. So here’s a model for how you can establish common ground. 

So you might say something along the lines of, “We both care about STEM education. Let’s now discuss how we can make an impact together.” What drives your commitment to philanthropy? So your commitment is the tie-down to philanthropy is the common ground, right? So then you’re opening with curiosity, which we’ll talk about some more, but that’s the tie-down, and then asking an avid skier, so what’s the best way to showcase the mission as an avid skier, excuse me, what’s the best way to showcase the mission of preserving nature? 

Why is this important? Because then you’re able to build your case for support by having that common ground. What’s the best way for, oops, I want the best for you. How can I help? Even just sharing that, that we were both in this together. I want the best for you, this is a little bit more interpersonal skills, of course. And then if you’re getting into a debate, you know, these techniques that I’m going to talk about today can range from any form from your nonprofit to your religious organization, to your mom’s group, to your friend group, and even to a debate, political science. 

This is all coming from psychology, social sciences, and my personal observations. So I can see your point and are you open to hearing my perspective? The next is contributing something of value. So this is where you want to actually share that you’re offering something, right? 

So you’re starting right off the bat after you’ve agreed to a common ground, you’re offering something. Anything from a new approach, to a technique, to information, insights, you’re offering your emotional intelligence. Perhaps you’re offering empathy. You know, we’ve all now had a shared experience of the pandemic, and none of us has been able to escape the atrocities of the social injustices, the political strife, the environmental concerns that are out there. 

We all have these as common grounds, but what else do we have in common ground, and then how can you take it the next step forward to extend yourself? So maybe it’s that baked, you know, baked cookie. Maybe it’s a pie. Maybe it’s simply just sitting and listening. What was your experience like during the pandemic? How did you resolve to stay afloat during this time? How did you connect with your donors? 

How did you yourself connect with your family? Asking things things like that where you’re actually actively listening, you’re showing empathy and care, that’s an offering that people genuinely appreciate, and I don’t think that they get enough of. I just had an interview with one of my guests very recently, and in the outtake I said, you know, “How was this interview for you? What are your thoughts on this?” 

And she said, “Do you know what? It felt so good because I just felt so heard.” And I felt like, you know, I’ve committed my entire life to this project, social justice. This is with Shanti Brien. You can hear it in the outtake, and I’m paraphrasing for her, of course. And she said something along the lines of, “All anybody really wants is to just be heard. And the question, tell me more, or I’m so interested, let me hear your path, let me hear your story, that is an offering and a gift that is priceless. That’s something that will really connect you.” 

So these three, and Steven and I were just talking about and celebrating Mallory Erickson. She was just on Forbes yesterday, it sounds like, and I just heard about it on LinkedIn and I’ll have to give her a call. She is beautiful and brilliant inside and out. And what she offers is structure and strategy to how to become a better fundraiser through doing some of your own self-reflection. 

And I won’t speak for her, but I would definitely recommend listening to the episode 43 with her, or going on to her website and learning more about what she offers. But her business model is all about generosity, all about offering. And I would argue that anybody who’s listening to this podcast or this webinar, excuse me, we’re all committed to that, right? 

We are all part of this impact community where we’re trying to do good. We’re trying to impact change. So what we’re doing is offering. Think of yourself. If you’re a fundraiser, think of yourself as offering an opportunity to support your organization rather than pleading for support. Nathan, he is another mentor and friend of mine who believes in knowledge and statistics and database. 

He is an absolute Willy Wonka-type quirky person where he just wants, in the best way. I mean that in a really positive way. What I mean is that he is a tinkerer. He wants the data, he wants the information, and then he wants to say, “Okay, what did we learn here and how can we go forward?” So he often comes to the table bringing information about how can you use technology? 

How can you use Bloomerang to better understand your clients, your donors, your volunteers? How do you take that information, distill it, and then manage it forward, so that you actually can create deeper relationships by offering something that’s continuous and of value. Jaime-Alexis, she talks a lot about in episode 11, how you might listen deeper. So I love this quote here, where she may say something along the lines of, “I heard these three things are really important to you. And I noticed that you didn’t mention X, Y, Z over there. Tell me more about that.” 

So Jamie has Empower Work is all about texting, to provide services of empathy and routing … it’s networking and routing for folks who need help in the workplace. So she talks a lot about how to create deep listening over text. And if that’s blowing your mind right now, it blew mine as well because I find texting to be something that’s a big problem for us in society, where we’re not able to emote and there are energies lost in translation, messages are lost in translation. 

So she talks a lot about how you can actually use better texting language to create a sense of community and an offering of listening. So a couple more models in addition to what Jaime-Alexis shared is your organization has used the same prospecting approach for several decades. Let’s think outside the box. 

How can we do things differently? I want to share with you how to look at your data differently. By thinking about solicitations in a different way, you can persuade donors who may otherwise seem off-limits. What might be outside, oops, what might be outdated and overdone about your approach or initial thinking? So these are some of the offerings that you can model as while you’re trying to offer something of value, while you’re also opening it up for curiosity in the conversation. 

I’m going to pause here. I’m seeing a few chats here. That’s great. Kathleen, thank you for the comments, and I admit that I’ve just been going through this deck and not looking as much at the comments in the chat. So Kathleen, thank you for saying that. And I loved it as well. And if you are interested in learning more about deep listening, especially through texts, go to episode 11 on “Creating Community for Good,” where Jaime outlines a lot of that information. 

For those of you who haven’t written anything in the chat, then go ahead and add your comments and share your thoughts here. I’ve got another 10 slides max, and then I want to talk to you about what is your experience? We’re right on time, halfway through the presentation. The third element that I want to talk about, progressing with curiosity. So how do you actually move the needle? 

It’s one thing to have shared vision and values and ideals. It’s another thing to actually offer something. To invite somebody to join and to participate, to share new information. But just because you’re adding something doesn’t mean that you’ve actually created a community. The next best way to actually create that touchpoint of engagement is by listening and opening your mind. 

So being curious, inviting a dialogue by opening up the dialogue, all right? So lead with curiosity so that you don’t become emotionally attached to a position or dismissive of others. So that’s something that … oh, I’m just blanking. Adam Grant, his book is right next to me. 

Adam Grant talks about in his book, think, what is it? “Think Again,” here it is. I’m stumbling a little bit over here because I was just looking at it. “Think Again,” I love this book and highly recommend it. It is brilliant. And he talks a lot about the importance of curiosity and how to bring together a community by being open to different mindsets. So having that abundance mindset rather than the limited mindset, and then that’s the illusionary sense of explanatory depth. 

So if you tell somebody you should give to this organization because boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, you really are better off limiting your explanation to 1 to 3 points rather than 10 points if there are 7 that are not as strong. So the 1 or 3 points will outweigh 10 good to weak points any day of the week. So that’s explanatory depth, is when you get too far down the rabbit ho;e to where you start to lose the essence of what you’re trying to explain. 

So I saw this as a pattern and underlying message with these three women in the podcast “Creating Community for Good,” in my studies, as well as what I’ve learned in my readings and exploration as a consultant with nonprofits. But Leti talks a lot about what does power look like? 

So if you are, oh, and I’m wondering if you can see the chat on the screen, let me move that over. There we go. So she talks about what are the mechanisms of power? Where do they come from? What do they look like? And then if you yourself can identify having power, then take curiosity into how are other people having or not having power? 

How are they empowered or not disempowered? And how can you then expand that community or that connection by taking out a sense of unnecessary hierarchy and creating that sense of neutrality or community when appropriate? She talks through this pretty eloquently and I definitely recommend this episode as well because she’s very curious about how can I know myself better and how can I understand my own power better? 

Shanti, this is the one that Steven was just mentioning at the beginning and I mentioned she enjoyed being listened to and being able to share. So stay the course, don’t give up hope, keep hoping, look inward, and persevere. So what she is doing in her offerings is she’s a lawyer and she’s looking at how might I find a solution to this problem? 

She often works with folks who have gone through … they’re at the end of the rope of the criminal justice spectrum. And what her goal is, is to uncover information that hasn’t been covered yet. And as much as you might think that law is all about statements and facts and dominance and power, she argues that it’s really about curiosity and exploration. 

Corey, she’s one, for those of you who are thinking about how are you presenting your case for support with your nonprofit with your supporters, volunteers, donors, whatever it might be. She talks about the importance of learning and discovery rather than impact and evaluation, saying that impact and evaluation certainly has had its time and is important, but what’s most important now, what donors are really looking for is what have I learned? 

What have you learned as a nonprofit and how are you then pivoting, making minor tweaks to adjust the organization’s mission or how you’ll fulfill it in the next 12 months to 5 years, whatever it might be. So the curiosity factor is really strong, and I found that to be the most salient point in actually getting the ball off the ground. 

Yeah. So one of the questions that has just come up is, I’m going to pause on that, Kathleen, thank you for that question. I will get to it and thank you for submitting it. Others who have questions, please continue to submit them, as we’re about to wrap up for this segment of the three parts. So here’s the third element, which is what I’ve offered in the past. 

It’s my modeling. So how might we … Or, tell me more? What do you mean by X, Y, and Z? That’s interesting. What makes you feel that way? Are you open to hearing more? What are you most curious about in terms of how we might collaborate? 

What’s your experience like? Tell me your story. How has your experience affected your life? Or paint me a picture. Those words I often use in my trainings with fundraisers. So whenever you’re trying to get to know a new prospective donor, or even somebody that you’re trying to steward, any one of those conversation starters is going to lead you down a path of exploration and curiosity that you might not have ever known. 

What I see happen a lot with fundraisers and nonprofit leaders is that they have committed themselves so diligently to understanding their case, their mission, their statements, their facts, their learnings, that they pitch them. And it’s important to do pitching, and I trained pitch practicing as well. But what’s even more important is to take that message of the pitch where you’re hopefully trying to find a common ground, and then you move it into an offering where you’re adding facts or insights that somebody can reiterate, they can digest and share with others. 

And then what you’re doing here is taking that conversation to the next level by gleaning information and insights about what motivates them, what compels them, what draws them to you. And then what you can do is bake that learning into your solicitation or into your next ask, whether the ask is to drive you to the airport, or if it’s to give you $1 million. 

You can use the same language that somebody has offered you from their heart, from a dialogue, and reintegrate it into the next step of engagement that you’d like to have or advance in your relationship. And that’s how you start creating community where both people get a chance to feel heard and feel connected. So here’s where I want to open it up. 

So this is a true question to you. This is not me necessarily lecturing any longer. This is how might we see these techniques activated? Where are they helpful? For me, I use them when I’m caught in a rut. When I have that limited mindset, when I start thinking, “Oh, no, this is terrible. You know, we didn’t get this project or this or that didn’t happen,” and then I could go into that, you know, some of the gremlins that Mallory Erickson talks about is, you know, that self-doubt, that negativity, that messaging. 

And so it’s important to snap out of it. And you can even say something to yourself like, “Hang on a second. Over my lifetime I know that I have these values or these are my priorities. This is my mission. This is what I’m here on earth to do.” And then you might look at, “What have I offered in the past that’s worked?” 

And then curiosity to yourself, “Is it true? Is it true? What I’m saying? Is it true that I have this fate?” Right? So think again, when you get caught in that rut, about what other opportunities are there? How can you become more abundant in your own thinking about yourself? And then moving it all the way through to new connections, building your case for support, managing conflict. 

And my question to you then is, okay, so where else? So, Steven, this is where I’m going to open it up and ask that you help me because I want to invite the audience here to share examples of where they might use this technique, or what has come up for them in challenging moments. So as folks are submitting their comments and questions, I’m going to turn to Kathleen, excuse me, who asked, “Could you touch on developing a relationship with a volunteer or donor as a person versus a relationship with them just about their volunteerism and donations?” 

Absolutely. So what I recommend is doing that last element of curiosity. Tell me your story. That’s one that will work really well with somebody who you’re trying to get to know. You know, what was it like for you to live through the last year? What was your experience like? 

Or what is your motivation behind supporting this organization? Kathleen, I’m not remembering what organization you’re working with, but I’m going to use BUILD as an example because I’m a board member there. So I might say something like what was your experience with education? Or how did you come to appreciate education? Or why do you believe that it’s important to have thoughtful education techniques for all? 

What would it be like if we just isolated our best educators to a certain area? What is it like if we expand that to the whole nation or the whole globe? Okay. So Kathleen works with a foundation for a school system, or she works for a foundation in a school system. So I think my model was probably spot on then since we’re talking about education. 

So I think that what’s important is to acknowledge them. So doing a little off-the-cuff modeling. If you are sitting down with a donor, you might say, “Thank you so much for supporting our mission, and here’s what’s happened.” So by thanking them, that’s the common ground, it’s also an offering by recognizing them. And then say, “Here’s what we’ve done with the fund so far,” or, “This is how we’ve had an impact on our mission.” 

And then you’re reiterating the common belief in the mission. You’re sharing new information or new insights. And then the next step is asking them that question, that’s digging deeper. It says something like what inspires you about what you’ve heard today? Or how does our mission interplay with your day-to-day work as a human, as a professional, as a member of society? 

So those are some techniques that I’d recommend. Any other thoughts on that, Kathleen, or others, on that particular example? Okay. All great. Steven, are there any other comments or questions that are coming in yet? 

– [Steven] I’m not seeing any yet. Although there was that comment about deep listening. I was wondering, Lindsay, if you could maybe pull on that thread a little bit of, maybe share some examples of what that kind of looks like in practice. 

– [Lindsay] Yeah, absolutely. So deep listening, and I’m going to move over to that slide. Oops. Nope. There she is. So deep listening means that you are not only asking a question, but then you’re asking for a follow-up question. 

So you might say, “I heard you like this model here,” right? So I heard you … Oops, I don’t know, is the chat blocking the view? Let’s see. 

– [Steven] No, it’s not. You’re okay. 

– [Lindsay] Okay. Because I have it right in the middle of my screen and I wasn’t sure if then it was blocking everybody’s view. So deep listening looks like starting with an observation. This is what I loved about what Jaime-Alexis shared. “I heard you mention these three things are really important to you, but I noticed that you didn’t mention X, Y, Z over there. Tell me more about that.” 

That was an aha moment for me because I haven’t tended to draw out the absence or the negative. I tend, my personality and my, you know, my way of being tends to reiterate what I’ve heard. So it’s mirroring. I heard you are curious about deep listening. Why are you curious about that? Tell me what’s important to you about that. 

Have you ever tried it? So that’s more of that positive. I’m trying to reiterate and go deeper in what you’ve said. But what Jaime-Alexis is offering is try something else. So I noticed that you didn’t mention active listening. And I’m just playing with this question here, Steven, as you can tell. But the observation about trying to understand what’s the whole picture. 

So she’s working with people who are in crisis. So her constituents, the beneficiaries of her organization are folks who need help with unemployment situation. Oftentimes they don’t speak English as a first language and/or they don’t know how to get help. They might be individual contractors, they might not have an HR system, and so she has this text network where you can go ahead and say, “Hey, I’m in a situation. I need help because I’m battling these three priorities.” 

It might be that I need funds, I need my cash flow, I need my job, but I also have a threat to my health, or I might have a X, Y, and Z. And then, so she might reiterate, “I heard you say these three things, but have you considered what it would look like to look for another job?” And what she was recommending in her pitch to me was that you don’t want to assume that anybody has or has not discovered any of the thinking that might come to your mind. 

And that’s why the phrasing is so important because when I say something like, “Have you ever considered another job?” It might sound a little bit condescending. So you might rephrase to say, “I didn’t notice that you mentioned exploring other jobs. Is that something that you have done or you’re open to?” And that’s a way to really kind of pull in nuances of connection and ask for that person to dig deeper or share a little bit more. 

So that’s one model of deep listening. Another model of deep listening that I ascribe to as somebody who meditates and practices yoga is getting into quiet space. So quieting your mind, quieting the noise around you, whether that’s, you know, in your bathroom for five minutes or if you’ve got, you know, pastures and fields and outdoor space that you can get into for a hike or for just a moment of sitting and listening in to yourself, what is coming up? 

What is your nature? What is your truth? And then bringing that into the space that you’re offering, when you connect with others, you’ll be able to connect with them even better because you’ve connected with yourself first. It’s a little bit of a stretch, but I think that the essence that I’m trying to share here is that deep listening means that you’re hearing, but you’re not only just hearing and going through the motions, thank you for your response. 

Great, great. Move on. It’s more so let me understand what that even means. Let me think for a moment. It means slowing down, pausing, and listening to what the other person’s saying, reflecting it, asking for clarification, and then moving forward. Asking what might be helpful is another way of deep listening as well, rather than sort of projecting what you think might be helpful. So thank you for that question. 

What else is coming up here? 

– [Steven] Yeah, there’s a lot of good questions in here, Lindsay. I think the dam broke open while you were talking about deep listening. Do you want to cover some of these or do you want to move on in your next section or? I can do whatever you want. 

– [Lindsay] You know what, nope, this is the end of the presentation slide. So, yeah, let’s just dive into the questions. 

– [Steven] Yeah. There was a good one from Kernan in here. It jumped out at me. How do you suggest helping your team deal with discouragement with not getting buy-in on maybe their ideas or, you know, maybe they’re discouraged by something they want to contribute? What about the team, as it relates to all this stuff, Lindsay? 

– [Lindsay] Yeah. Great. And I think I’m going to stop sharing my screen. Oops. I just stopped myself. Hang on. 

Oh, there it is. Sorry. It’s like I’ve never done Zoom before. I don’t know where I’ve been for the last 15 months. So in terms of team feeling discouraged, can you say it one more time? What do you do when your team feels discouraged about a donor not finding common ground? Was that it? 

– [Steven] Just in general, how do you help your team deal with discouragement? 

– [Lindsay] Okay. Okay. Yeah. So these techniques can definitely work. So finding the common ground, offering something, and then leading with curiosity. So finding that common ground by acknowledging. That’s deep listening too. 

So if you have a team member or an entire team who may have had, like, many a rough year, right, we have all gone through so much together, so it’s acknowledging it. So starting off with empathy. Deep empathy is one of the most valuable things that you can offer to any human being, especially a team where you’ve got high hopes and expectations about your KPIs, about your goals. 

So it’s asking them, you know, I recommend doing some kind of either a poll, a survey, or even one-on-one share where you say, you know, “How do you feel about the fact that we just lost this proposal or it didn’t hit this benchmark?” or whatever that discouragement is. And you just state it. 

You claim it, you state it, you say, “This is what’s happened. How does that make you feel?” And then using those deep listening skills to understand what is coming up here and what’s the motivation for that discouragement? Are they feeling a personal sense of failure, a collective sense of failure? Or are they feeling like we’re not even on the right page here? It’s not so much about I didn’t do the right thing. 

It’s about, we missed the mark and how can we change? And I’m frustrated, right? A lot of times when you don’t miss the mark people experience pain and sadness through frustration and anger, and that’s usually what’s behind any kind of anger, is sadness. So it’s understanding what could it be that we can do differently? So when you start sussing out what’s coming up for your team that’s discouraged, then acknowledging it. 

So that’s your first offering of saying, like, “I hear you. This is what I’ve heard. This is what people said.” I like to do an executive summary. I was just on Clubhouse yesterday. I do a weekly Clubhouse every Wednesday at 8:00 a.m. Pacific or 11:00 a.m.Eastern. And every week we talk about something different. In this session yesterday, we talked about feasibility studies and the importance of once you ask for data, ask for information of sharing back. 

So it might be sharing back an executive summary, and even for your team, say, “Okay, team, this was the challenge. This was the letdown. Here’s what you said.” And you can do some quantitative and qualitative responses. You can share, “Most people felt like this. And then here are some of the comments that were shared in terms of how you experienced that feeling.” 

So that’s that offering, that acknowledgment, and then the next step is moving forward with curiosity. And in terms of creating community, servant leadership is one of the best ways to create employee retention, positive experience, friendships at work, which is proven to be a sticky power that keeps people employed. So then offering that opportunity for them to share, you know, curiosity. 

So how might we have done this differently, or what can we do going forward that’s different? So should we adjust our goals? Should we adjust our case for support? Should we adjust who we’re reaching out to? How can we refine our pitch? How might we work together? What was the problem last time? 

Did we have a communication breakdown? How might we come together to reforge trust, connection, and ease of communication and dialogue? So I hope that answered the question in a way. If there are any other questions, then I’m open to those too. 

– [Steven] Yeah. We got some good ones in here. Sorry. I didn’t realize my camera wasn’t on when you came back. Lindsay, there’s been a few people asking about the role of the board in all of this. Yeah, I’m sure you’ve got a lot of things to say. It seems like the board itself is kind of a mini-community, right? 

– [Lindsay] The board is a mini-community. And, I mean, that’s why I was so excited about this topic, honestly, is because the more I started thinking about it, the more I realized literally everything is community. That’s part of being a human being. Like, there was even a really nice quote that I ended up taking out from John Muir, who’s talking about the community of a tree and the network that it has with itself and then with the other trees in the ecosystem. 

So I believe that you can take that whole sense of community and relate it to every part of your human experience. But driving into our sector of philanthropy and nonprofits, board members are absolutely community. And one of the most important things you can do is create a sense of community. Because if you see that everybody is an individual contributor, they will eventually peel off for various reasons, without feeling as much need to stay. 

So a community is built by having some kind of sticky power. I’ve mentioned that word a few times, and what sticky power is, is an intangible. It’s an intrinsic motivation. Like, I want to stay as a member of this board because I’m having fun. You can’t quantify that. You can’t say, you know, that’s something that you wouldn’t say, “You should join the board, you should stay in the board because it’s fun.” 

You know, you have to feel that. That’s an intrinsic thing. You have to feel a sense of connection to others. So your board, it’s so important. Ryan Oliver, like I said earlier, he and I really talked about this in one of our episodes. Let me see, what episode was it? Episode 21, where we talked about how important it was for us to create buddy system. 

So in your board, you want to have people feeling like they’re connected and that they have another peer that they can ask those awkward questions to. You want to have roles and responsibilities, right? So you want people to know what their boundaries are so that they can perform. Because nobody wants to be a part of a board where they feel like they’re failing. Nobody wants to fail, first of all. 

Like, that’s a human motivation. People want to look good, show up right, do a good job. So if we know that, then we know that board members are human and that they want to be successful. So giving them boundaries and guidance as to how to be successful, giving them tools of resources, peers, information, tools, training, that’s going to make them feel set up for success. 

Then, how do you create a sense of community? Well, it’s leading those board meetings with that same structure. Finding that common ground of saying, “Hey …” Like how I found common ground with everybody here that I’m not seeing your faces and your names was acknowledging the time of year, acknowledging the LGBTQ month, and acknowledging some of the, you know, changes we’ve all experienced, right? 

So that’s a common ground. Now, if you were in front of me and you’re a group of 8 to 15 board members, I can establish a common ground about many deeper things. And I recommend you do that. That’s your icebreaker, that’s your opening. And then you go into the offering. So it’s by offering kudos, praise, acknowledgment, success. Always leading with good news in a board, then going into the curiosity. 

So what have you learned in the last month since we’ve connected, or quarter, or whatever it might be? What’s coming to mind for you? Giving your members of the board a voice right off the bat. Oftentimes I see in board meetings where the executive director or staff, they all have their roles and their decks and their, you know, they, everybody has their speaking moments, but we’re not inviting conversation right off the bat, which is what I tried to model as well by offering surveys right away. 

And so, saying, you know, what do you want to hear? What do you want to get out of this? And I’m going to try to tailor my conversation to that. So that’s how you can actually start feeling like there’s a natural connection. How’s that? 

– [Steven] Love that. 

– [Lindsay] Make sense? 

– [Steven] That’s awesome. Very cool. Here’s a juicy one from Julia. She works at a private school, they’re just getting their development efforts going, but they’re having trouble getting the staff to prioritize their work given all the changes that happened during the pandemic. And they don’t really have board or parent involvement yet. It seems like for a school, the parents would be, you know, a big part of that community. 

What do you think for Julia’s situation there? It seems like a big problem, maybe too much to unpack in a one-hour webinar, but any gut feelings for her there? 

– [Lindsay] Yeah. I mean gut feelings and I’m just reiterating those three points over and over in this webinar. So, you know, obviously, I know that there’s a lot more complexity to our work, but just to offer a framework, I think that there is value in reiterating three concepts. I’ve learned that people learn best to learn just three things. 

So try doing that. So my recommendation to you, Julia, is to, as soon as you hang up this webinar, take a piece of paper and write down the three things that we talked about today. So common ground, what’s your offering, and what’s your curiosity. How can you demonstrate curiosity? And then put some bullet points below each of those. You could start the exercise by just doing that for yourself. 

So it’s asking the question that Steven just read out loud, do that for yourself. So what’s the common ground that I’m seeing? And that might be that there’s a problem. The common ground might be there’s a problem here. And then your offering. Well, what can I offer? What are the solutions that I can brainstorm myself? 

And then curiosity, what am I missing? What have I not thought of? That’s when you can go to others and ask, you know, bounce around this idea for me, with me, or just go for a walk and come back to it. I swear, that’s the best technique for your brain to activate is, think about something, give it space, and then let some, you know, whatever it is, creativity will come to you when you get exercise, movement, nature, fresh air, when you move yourself physically from staring in front of a screen. 

So that’s a technique that you can do as a take home. But something that I can offer you as like a quick help or solution is the same concept. So what’s your framework of the common ground? So it might be reaching out to all of your families that are part of the school. So your alumni, your current parents, those are going to be the easiest to find board members. 

You’re going to suss out who is engaged? Who is interested? And then you might pluck from there. Okay, these are the most interested and most engaged people, and invite them to explore a conversation about joining your board. But still, it’s going back to that foundation to say, we all believe in, you know, we want the best for our children. We want the best for our community. You know, this is what we’re doing to share. 

You know, think about your values or like the founding messaging that you use for your organization. Share that. Use the same language, just like when you’re applying for a grant. You know, if you look at the website of that donor, you use the same language. You reiterate it. It’s the same thing here. That’s what I’m talking about is like take what you’ve heard and give it back to them. 

Take what you’ve already done, give it back to them. That’s how people start saying, “Oh, sameness, sameness.” Brains start aligning, “Oh, we’re connected.” Right? So this is some of like the psychology behind what I’m sharing. So find your common ground, state it, and say, you know, we all believe this, right? And they could argue with you, but most likely, you’re going to create some kind of vision that we all do believe in in your community. 

Then it’s your offering. Here’s what we’re doing with your kids these days. Or here’s what’s coming up. So it’s sharing information, getting them feeling informed, and something new and different, and then asking that question of, you know, I would like to invite you to a conversation. Will you please fill out the survey? Would you be open, please be receptive to a phone call. 

Whatever it might be, it’s a call to action. So as you can see this same thing, you use this for a case for support, you use this for a feasibility study interview request, you use this for application for a gift. You use this same model in any kind of interaction, in any part of your work. Just think about it. Like I have … literally, my mind has been blown. Like as I’ve been thinking about this webinar, I have thought about this framework and all the things that I’ve done and it works. 

It totally works. So I’m excited about it. Maybe too excited. 

– [Steven] I love it. 

– [Lindsay] What else has come in, Steven? 

– [Steven] You can’t be too excited. 

– [Lindsay] We have five more minutes. 

– [Steven] Here’s a good one from Martha. How do we move donors already within the community to consider more kind of deeper engagements, you know, beyond just sort of a transactional gift? It seems like common ground would come into play here as well, right? 

– [Lindsay] Yeah. I think the common ground that you should use is, “Thank you for your gifts.” Like, this is what you’ve done. You know, common ground is, “Whoa, together, we’ve had a big impact. And from donors like you, or specifically you yourself, we’ve been able to do X, Y, and Z.” So that’s your common ground. Then your offering is maybe an update, here’s what we’re hoping to do. This is our vision. 

And then you’re offering again, and it’s curiosity. So what is your vision? What would you hope to do with your philanthropy? You might even acknowledge, you know, I think this is a great solicitation strategy, is to say, “Steven, you’ve been supporting our organization for five years now. Here’s what we’ve done over the last five years. It’s absolutely incredible and I’m so grateful to your leadership.” 

Let’s say I’m a new person. I love that even more. Like, let’s say I’m a new staff member and say, you know, “You’ve been a donor longer than I’ve even been employed. So I am just so deeply grateful to you, and I want to learn from you. What motivates you? What drives you? Why have you been giving year after year? What’s worked well about the people that you’ve been working with at our organization that I should model?” 

You know, “How can I create a really meaningful relationship for you?” Even using the most basic language like that, you guys, it is so profound because I don’t think that people often ask donors that. Asking them the question, like, what’s been working and how can I make it even better, is a simple question that your donor can have a lot of thoughts about. 

You know, when I interview donors, they say, “Oh, gosh, you know, I hear this from the fundraiser but I wish I heard this.” So that’s your opportunity to say, “What do you hear and how is it going? How am I doing? How can I do better? How can I create a really great relationship for us for another five years and beyond?” 

– [Steven] Nice. I love it. It’s almost 2:00, but maybe one way to end it, Lindsay, a few people here, and something I know about this webinar community, a lot of brand new organizations. What would you say to those folks that maybe feel like their community isn’t there or hasn’t been built yet and wants to create it? 

Who are the people they should be looking for? Is it those common values connected to the cause type or service recipients? What do you think there? 

– [Lindsay] So when you’re trying to build a community, I would look for who is a thought leader in the community. So let’s say you’re starting a new school, just as an example. So you might say, okay, what are the other schools out there and who is outspoken about it? Now that everything is virtual, so many people are getting online and they’ve got platforms to talk. 

And then you might reach out to those people and ask questions like, “Here’s what we’re building. Here’s what we’re developing. I’m looking for more friends, and we’re looking for more supporters, advocates, donors, board members, leaders, partners. Is that something that you’re interested in and in what way, and who else might we explore?” Every time you have an interview with somebody, ask them who else they would recommend. 

That will help you to build your baseline. Also, another strategy that I use in feasibility studies is sharing a list. So these are the list of our top 50 supporters or influencers or whatever it might be. Do you recognize any of these names? Do you know them? Who else is coming to your mind? Now that your brain is thinking about this type of community, who else should be on this list? 

Would you like to be on this list? Who else should be? So it’s asking those exploratory questions as well, using that same framework of that common ground, the offering, and the curiosity. 

– [Steven] I love it. Dang, Lindsay, I feel like we could talk about this all day, but I want to be respectful of your time and everybody else’s. Do you want to pull up your slide with your contact information just so … – [Lindsay] Yeah, I was just thinking I should do that. 

– [Steven] Yeah. How can folks kind of keep the conversation going? 

– [Lindsay] Okay. So I am very open to keeping the conversation going. I love this stuff. I geek out on it. If you have questions or comments, feel free to email me directly. Oh, it looks like I don’t have my email on here. Is it on the first page? 

Let’s see. Is it on this page? No, it’s not. But it’s really easy. My email is lindsay@lindsaysimondsconsulting.com. So you can see my website there is lindsaysimondsconsulting.com. So just put my name before it. 

And I’m happy to have a dialogue with you. If you have thoughts about the podcast, any, like, questions that you’d like to hear about. So the podcast is not just about creating community. Definitely, that’s the underlying message, but in the podcast, you’re going to hear me interview people about how do you make a solicitation? How do you build a feasibility study? How do you do employ giving campaigns? 

How do you write a stronger case for support? How do you develop, you know, your research analytics? How do you use data? So there’s a ton of resources on there. Also, I am open for hire as a consultant. I work with nonprofits that are big and small, and I focus mostly on coaching executives or new hires, running feasibility studies, and managing capital campaigns. 

So any kind of capital campaign that’s, you know, usually about $1 million up to $600 million. 

– [Steven] Whoa, your podcast just started playing. Sorry. 

– [Lindsay] Oh, good. Okay. There you go. That’s some … 

– [Steven] I don’t know why that happened. I was trying to pull it up. 

– [Lindsay] That’s awesome. Well, we’re right on the hour, but just know that I am open and definitely I’m active on social media. So LinkedIn and Instagram are the most active places that I am, and I’m happy to stay connected. 

– [Steven] Yeah. This was awesome. Definitely check out the podcast there. It’s, like, every other week, I think is the … – [Lindsay] Yep, every other week … 

– [Steven] … the format, Lindsay? 

– [Lindsay] … is the cadence. 

– [Steven] Yeah. 

– [Lindsay] I started with every week and … 

– [Steven] Yeah. 

– [Lindsay] I got real. 

– [Steven] Like 40 minutes. It’s real digestible and always really awesome guests. And you do a great job moderating, of course. 

– [Lindsay] Thanks, Steven. 

– [Steven] So check that out. It’s on iTunes, you know, you just hit subscribe and, yeah, definitely connect with Lindsay because I think she could help a lot of folks here. So thanks for doing this. I know, you know, you’re super busy, but I always appreciate you coming on and talking to our folks. Thanks, Lindsay. 

– [Lindsay] Oh, I always get a lot of value out of it. And I’ve found, you know, the last time we did this, I had people emailing me right away saying here’s a question or here’s what I learned and thank you. So for me, it’s good because it creates value and community for me because I feel connected to people that I didn’t know before. So I really appreciate the platform and the opportunity and your support, Steven, and Bloomerang. 

– [Steven] Well, no problem. You’re doing us a favor. And thanks to all of you for hanging out. I think we had maybe 200 people at the height, so that was fun to see. I’m glad all of you took the time out. And we’ve got a lot of great webinars coming up. Next week our conversation about young professionals and junior boards, check that out. 

Oh, yeah. It’s going to be a good one. We’ve got some young professionals presenting. So they’re going to have some opinions on that, having been on those boards, good and bad experiences, I would imagine. So check that out. If maybe you have that kind of board structure or you’re thinking about it, I think you’ll learn a few things there. So same time, same place next week. 

Actually, exactly one week from right now. 2:00 on Thursday, it’s going to be a fun conversation, and we’ll, of course, record it. So if you can’t make it, register anyway, it’s okay. You won’t take up anybody’s spot and then you’ll get the recording. Speaking of, we’re going to send the recording of this in just a couple of hours, so be on the lookout, and hopefully, we’ll see you again next week. So we’ll call it a day there. 

Have a good rest of your Thursday, have a good weekend. Stay safe, stay cool out there. Stay healthy, most importantly. We need all of you doing all your good work. So thanks for what you do, and we’ll talk to you again soon. Bye. 

– [Lindsay] Thank …

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.
Kristen Hay