Emotional Intelligence, Relationships, and Inner Healing with Haley Cooper

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“If the environment is not willing to change, or the other person isn’t willing to change, at least you’re able to understand the context of your own emotions and how those relate to each other, and then be able to make that sound decision of where that relationship should go next.” – Haley Cooper

Episode #184


In this episode of What the Fundraising Podcast…

Are you eager to understand your emotions better, improve your relationships, and begin a journey of personal growth and healing? Get ready for a journey through the intricate dynamics of human relationships, exploring how emotions shape our interactions and influence our behaviors.

Meet Haley Cooper, a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE), Certified Stress Management Coach, and Certified EmC Train the Trainer—the driving force behind The Savvy Fundraiser, an esteemed nonprofit consulting and coaching business committed to uplifting nonprofit leaders. With a deep-rooted passion for effecting positive change, Haley has emerged as a seasoned expert within the nonprofit realm, fueled by a mission to cultivate thriving organizations.

During today’s conversation, Haley delves deeply into emotional intelligence and its profound impact on your personal and professional lives. Her wisdom and authenticity shine through, offering practical strategies and profound insights to empower you on your journey toward emotional wellness. From her extensive experience in nonprofit leadership and relationship management, Haley shares invaluable insights into the power of emotional connection and attachment science. She also introduces the concept of emotional connection leadership (EMC) and explains how it fosters empathy, understanding, and effective communication within teams and organizations.

Moreover, Haley illustrates the importance of slowing down and naming your emotions to unlock the amygdala and achieve emotional balance. She advocates for practices such as journaling, meditation, and seeking support from trusted individuals as essential tools for processing and healing emotional wounds.

Furthermore, Haley sheds light on the role of control in conflict resolution, highlighting the significance of expressing impact over feedback in fostering constructive dialogue and nurturing emotional safety. She also encourages embracing vulnerability and the journey of self-discovery as you navigate the complexities of your emotional landscapes.



Haley Cooper


  • This week’s episode is sponsored by DonorPerfect

    DonorPerfect’s Community Conference is igniting a passion for change!  This year’s event, on June 4th & 5th, will equip you with the tools to excel in donor management, program innovation, community engagement, and organizational growth.

    Remember, every powerful movement starts with a single spark.Your expertise is that spark!  Head over to donorperfect.com/donorperfect-conference to register today!

  • If you haven’t already, please visit our new What the Fundraising community forum. Check it out and join the conversation at this link.
  • If you’re looking to raise more from the right funders, then you’ll want to check out my Power Partners Formula, a step-by-step approach to identifying the optimal partners for your organization. This free masterclass offers a great starting point

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Get to know Haley Cooper:

My journey into nonprofits began as a founder of a nonprofit peanut butter factory in Malawi, Africa. In 2022, I founded and became the CEO at The Savvy Fundraiser. My specialization lies in cultivating buy-in and fostering a sense of belonging within nonprofits to help them focus on the most effective fundraising strategies, ultimately to raise more revenue and make a greater impact. As the host of the “Lead with Heart” podcast, I have the privilege of amplifying voices and sharing insights from industry leaders, visionaries, and changemakers. Through candid conversations and thought-provoking discussions, we explore the intersection of leadership, empathy, and impact, inspiring others to lead with authenticity and compassion.


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Episode Transcript


Mallory Erickson: Hello everyone. I am so excited to be here today with Haley Cooper. Haley, welcome to what the fundraising.

Haley Cooper: Thank you so much, Mallory. I am beyond excited to be here with you. 

Mallory Erickson: Well, let’s start with you just introducing yourself to everyone. What brings you to our conversation today? 

Haley Cooper: Yeah, well, thank you for that question. So I am your go to gal for all things non profit fundraising and beyond. I am currently the CEO and founder of the Savvy Fundraiser, but I want to backdate it to how I got started in non profits and then bring it full circle to what I’m doing today.

Haley Cooper: So my [00:02:00] professional journey actually began 12 years ago. Like most people I would say maybe there are some people that like toast nonprofits But I didn’t know this was a career until I got into it and I graduated college in 2011 with a degree in Kinesiology and I thought that I wanted to be a registered dietitian Exercise physiologist all the things door after door was closing and I had this opportunity That summer Malawi Africa on my first missions trip My family was involved locally philanthropically, but when I told my parents, I was like, guess where I’m going this summer?

Haley Cooper: They were like, who are you? Like are you crazy? But they fully supported me. I went on the trip after that again, I was, you know, applying to college after college. And about six months after that trip, the, the person who had led that trip said, Haley, do you wanna go make peanut butter in Malawi for a year?

Haley Cooper: And this is in March, 2012. So I said yes, and quickly learned what it took to start a nonprofit. Look [00:03:00] like the bureaucratic landscape of Malawi and I moved there in August 2012 for two years And then travel back and forth for another two and I’ve co founded a nonprofit called PB& J And this initiative involved the development of a peanut butter product and the establishment of a factory from inception to operation.

Haley Cooper: And through strategic planning and implementation, I positioned PB& J as a supplier for esteemed organizations that we could have widespread distribution. And again, PB& J was called Peanut Butter and Jesus. So it wasn’t just about feeding hungry bellies. It was also about nourishing souls and sparking change.

Haley Cooper: But we knew that we had to feed people first before we could do the other. I meet their most basic needs. So while my journey did start in the heart of Africa, it’s really taken me places I even couldn’t imagine. Cause like I said, I didn’t even know what nonprofits were when I first got started. So I learned a lot.

Haley Cooper: I learned a lot quickly and from 2016 to 2021 I worked both in small and [00:04:00] not large nonprofit teams. Again, fell into fundraising, found that I was one of the weird ones that I loved it. And I’ve mostly worked my career in human services, homelessness, and youth sectors. And like most people, again, I’ve worn, I’ve done grants, major gifts, annual gifts, events.

Haley Cooper: And in 2022, I started the Savvy Fundraiser. And my goal really with my business is to help nonprofits get buying and belonging so that they can focus on the right fundraising strategies and raise more revenue for their mission. Because we all know teamwork makes the dream work. And what we’re going to be talking about, I think today is I’m specialized in EMC leadership, which is emotional connection leadership.

Haley Cooper: And that’s really where that buying and belonging piece comes from. So that everyone in the organization feels connected to each other from the board to the team so that they understand their important role in the mission. 

Mallory Erickson: Amazing. I’m sure it’s so helpful for folks to hear just how much of your own [00:05:00] experience, you know, is similar to things that they’ve been through and just how well you are.

Mallory Erickson: Sort of understand a lot of the challenges that come with fundraising. So I want to talk about one of the things there were so many topics that we could talk about on this conversation today, but we decided we’re really going to focus on using attachment science for board development and engagement.

Mallory Erickson: So can you please. Start first with, I feel like we’re both kind of, you know, behavioral science nerds. Can I use that term? I think I feel very proud about that, but so can we start with just you sort of explaining a little bit about attachment science in general and then, and how it’s sort of. Utilized in different types of relationship management, and then we can talk about boards specifically.

Haley Cooper: Yeah, that’s great. So I became, like I said, an EMC leader trainer through Dr Lola Gershfeld, who is the founder of the EMC leadership process and through her understanding of workplace environments [00:06:00] and attachment science. She created this framework that I since have used since I became a trainer in the nonprofit space, specifically in teams and boards.

Haley Cooper: And attachment says that when we work together, we depend on each other and this dependency creates an attachment and it turns on our bonding needs and emotional connection is the glue that holds that bond together. So, we always talk about how conflict, whether it’s in the workplace, the board environment, in your own personal relationships, it’s never about content.

Haley Cooper: Content is about the topic of the conversation. It’s about emotional disconnection. So it’s about, let’s say someone said something to me and all of a sudden, I don’t feel heard. I don’t feel seen. I don’t feel like I matter to you. That’s when I become emotionally disconnected. And there’s ineffective coping strategies that we go into that we’ve learned from childhood, that we’ve learned, uh, I mean, I’m not a psychologist, but just through the work that I’ve done and what I’ve studied [00:07:00] and I’ve seen in the workplace, there’s ineffective coping strategies, whether we pursue or we withdraw.

Haley Cooper: I was talking in a workshop a few weeks ago how I was disconnected with an ED and I would send email after email because I had a grant deadline that I needed to get done, but the ED wouldn’t respond to me. And so I kept pursuing, she kept withdrawing, and utilizing this process, we were able to understand how important we were to each other, how much we matter to each other.

Haley Cooper: And what we needed to be in a positive cycle of engagement, because when we get stuck in these negative cycles, there’s no one to blame. And that tends to be what we do out of our own innate, I mean, it’s neuroscience, that’s how our brain reacts. When we feel disconnected, our amygdala takes over our prefrontal cortex, and we’re no longer able to think logically, we’re no longer able to communicate and collaborate.

Haley Cooper: And we know how important that is in the workplace. And so by understanding what we need, there’s no blame. The negative cycle is a [00:08:00] blame and we just got negative cyclists to blame. And we just got into this negative dance and this happens all the time. And so it’s important to be able to slow down emotions because emotions run fast.

Haley Cooper: There are higher processing system. They tell us if we’re safe or if there’s a threat. And so being able to slow down our emotions and understand again, how important we are to each other, how, what our fears and needs are. Okay. And we can dive deeper into what that looks like as well, really helps us to be able to move into that positive cycle of engagement and have those conversations that get us to where we want to go.

Mallory Erickson: Okay, I love what you’re talking about here. And I do want to talk about what those fears are, because I think that piece around sort of how we slow our emotions down or like our nervous system response, because I feel like when we work with board members, In particular, or I’ll just speak for myself.

Mallory Erickson: When I worked with board members in particular, I found myself get getting activated a lot. And I [00:09:00] think that there were a variety of reasons for that. Like, I think I felt underappreciated. I think I felt often like Really talked down to, and I think there was like a little bit of a paternalistic attitude, you know, towards me from the board.

Mallory Erickson: And I’m not saying that boards can’t be great and board members can’t be great. And even on that board, there were many board members that I love, but I know I’m not alone in some of those feelings or like getting activated by board conversations often. And so I’m curious, like what are some of your like first recommendations for folks who.

Mallory Erickson: They’re like, okay, yes, I want to build that type of relationship with, with my board members. I want to be, you know, having conversations about sort of how important we are to each other. But I’m still like, so in my feelings that I don’t even see the pathway forward to start that. 

Haley Cooper: Yeah, that’s a really good conversation, a really good question.

Haley Cooper: And I just want to validate those feelings because They’re totally normal, and I [00:10:00] feel like whenever I talk about this, it’s, there’s always like a, a two sided, like, issue, right? Like, those are the experiences that we feel that are so valid, and we need to recognize what those are. And sometimes, you know, when I’m having these conversations, there might be relationships that have just gone too far that you can’t repair them, unfortunately.

Haley Cooper: And it really takes that time to, you know, like I say, fundraising is an inside job and you have to lead well from within. So it’s really understanding the context of like, what you need to feel supported in that role and being able to voice those fears and needs, which is totally really hard. But I think the most important thing is to focus on repairing and in that, again, it comes down to slowing those emotions and understanding.

Haley Cooper: We say like there’s three levels of emotions. There’s. Surface your softer and your primary. So you articulating these emotions and even just naming them helps us slow down our amygdala and understand [00:11:00] what we need to feel supported. Like I said before, and what are our triggers? What are our automatic responses?

Haley Cooper: What do we think about ourselves? When someone says something to us, like in this situation, when my boss wasn’t responding to me, I was like, I don’t matter to you, I’m not good enough. You don’t care about me. And so then I have these automatic responses of pursuing of judging of blaming. And so it just and then also understanding what’s your fear, like what’s your fear about yourself in the context of this?

Haley Cooper: What’s your fear about your relationship with the other person? And what’s your fear about the organization? And so understanding that and, like, where you feel that fear in your body, again, just naming it can help slow down your amygdala and be able to make those logical decisions of, okay, maybe this relationship is too far gone and maybe, like, there is no repair, and then I have to, out of a sound space, like, make a decision of where I want to go next and not make it out of an emotional place, or maybe [00:12:00] you’re like, okay, this is what I need, and I feel safe and supported in this relationship, And now that I’m not in this heightened sense of emotion, like, I can communicate that to the person and start to have those bonding conversations that say, hey, I know how much you care about our mission.

Haley Cooper: I know how much you matter to me. Like, this is. Where I see us going. Can we do this together? Okay. I 

Mallory Erickson: love that. I’m curious. Okay. So one of the things that I love about that suggestion is sort of the curiosity that it brings to the conversation. Like, What would it look like? And sort of the teamwork around repair, because I feel like a lot of times, well, tell me if this is what was sort of inside of that suggestion.

Mallory Erickson: Maybe I’m making an assumption here. But one of the things that I feel like I heard in there was like this It’s opening for the potential of finding a new pathway forward, but it [00:13:00] really taking both people in order to get there. So it wasn’t like, okay, I have to make myself feel better about this relationship all by myself and I need to bring a totally new attitude all by myself and just sort of figure out a new way to deal with or handle this relationship with the board.

Mallory Erickson: It was more being about like understanding, you know, where your feelings were coming from. And then saying, okay, what does it look like with this person to repair in a way that’s ultimately going to feel good to both of us? 

Haley Cooper: Yeah, I would say that’s true. Because I feel like, again, it’s like that twofold of any like relationship, right?

Haley Cooper: Like there’s only so much work that you can do in an environment. But if the environment’s not willing to change or the other person isn’t willing to change, like, again, at least you’re able to understand the context of your own emotions and how those relate to each other, and then be able to make that sound decision of where that relationship should go next.

Mallory Erickson: Yeah. Okay. That’s really [00:14:00] interesting. What do you say? So, right, like so much of coaching is around sort of how we manage our own experiences, regardless of what’s happening around us. And I know, like, through my coach training, you know, one of the really important pieces to that is like not getting overly attached.

Mallory Erickson: To how other people behave right and sort of like navigating your own like decision making and how you show up Really focused on you, but in this context it seems like this very sort of like tender place right where coaching intersects with relationships and how the other person responds to really affects us, right?

Mallory Erickson: Or is like, and so how do you in your work with clients navigate that, like help folks sort of stay focused on their inner experience? Regardless of what’s happening around them [00:15:00] while enabling them to perhaps move relationships into deeper connection. Yeah, 

Haley Cooper: that’s a really good question. So, you know, again, we use this like reconnection form, and I think, you know, like I said, emotions run fast.

Haley Cooper: So if you think about behaviors, I think the process of the ENC leadership really helps you to have more empathy and understanding that that person might not be reacting in the way that they want to show up, and it’s out of this place of feeling disconnected. And so when we’re doing this reconnection form, we actually go through it for the other person’s experience.

Haley Cooper: So when I was doing this with a leader that I had when Lola was coaching me, um, I’ll give you an experience. So we have become disconnected. I wanted to be promoted. This person said she felt like she was called to not promote me or whatever. Yeah, and she wanted to be really hard on me because she thought that’s how I was going to grow.

Haley Cooper: But me personally, if you’re hard on me, I withdraw. I’m like, I [00:16:00] don’t operate in that level of engagement, right? And so there’s a better way to work with me. But we have become disconnected because what I saw was, I don’t matter to you, or I’m not good enough, and you don’t value me as a part of the team.

Haley Cooper: But when I did it on the other side, I started to have more empathy for her and understand her context and what she was going through as a boss. And so while not necessarily how she was treating me was correct, but going through this reconnection form of You know, those automatic triggers, those automatic responses, what primary emotions came up for me.

Haley Cooper: And then doing that on the flip side was able to help, like, contextualize it for me. And I hope that answered your question. Okay, 

Mallory Erickson: this is so interesting, right, because Connection. I obviously believe that, like, great fundraising happens in connection. And I love this idea of reconnection and sort of this framework around reconnection, because I think we often think that, like, you’re either in a [00:17:00] connected relationship or you’re in a disconnected relationship.

Mallory Erickson: And so often we get uncomfortable with the process or the steps that would be involved in reconnection, or we don’t necessarily even believe it’s possible. I also am like, something is like coming up for me as we’re having this conversation around like, where is the line between connection and control, right?

Mallory Erickson: So I’ve been doing a lot of research around like fear recently and what increases our fear and how do we decrease our fear and sort of the, the way that the illusion of control plays into fear. And so there’s something here. I feel like when we’re talking about relationship building a lot of the time or we’re talking about how to build connected relationships, what maybe is underlying for some of us is like, how do we feel more in control of relationships moving in the direction we want them to move?

Mallory Erickson: And I think especially with a [00:18:00] fundraising focus, that’s what we want to feel right? Like we’re in control of the direction of the relationship. Yep. But control and connection are very different things. And I would argue that you cannot control connection. You can create a healthy environment for it. So I’m just curious, like, I know this is not like a super coherent question, but this is like where I feel like my brain is getting sort of like stuck around, like, what is this line and how do people go into this type of relationship building and connection?

Mallory Erickson: Without like grasping and holding tight to control the situation and the outcomes of the relationship. 

Haley Cooper: Yeah, that’s a good question. And you know, this makes me think of when you’re talking about control and if I’m understanding where you’re coming from, there was a study done and it brings me back to like control and our mammalian brain and how like we’re wired to want to feel a sense of control.

Haley Cooper: What? And whenever I think of the [00:19:00] mammalian brain, I always think of mean girls and like people going after each other in conflict. And it is this sense of control, like we want to control being seen and heard. I mean, that’s our basic needs. And when we don’t have that, like, we go into panic and it becomes our protection.

Haley Cooper: So control is part of protection. And then this leads us into safety, isolation, and emotional separation because we go into this danger queue. So, you know, at that moment, like I said before, you can either pursue and demand that outcome, demand that person to change, and what we talk about is like giving feedback, impact over feedback, because feedback is control and telling that person, this is what you did to me.

Haley Cooper: This is how you’re acting, and I want you to change. Your impact says, this is how you made me feel, and this is what I need to feel supported moving [00:20:00] forward. And so it kind of changes that narrative where it’s not like, I’m coming at you and being like, this is all the stuff that you did wrong. It’s saying, this is how you impacted me.

Haley Cooper: And this is how I want to move forward, because when you start with that place, people feel more emotionally responsive and engaged, because when you give that feedback, people will feel more reactive and get into that sense of panic, isolation, feeling like they’re alone. And so when you give that impact, again, it builds that conversation and connection.

Haley Cooper: And the EMC process helps you take control of this panic and discover, again, your attachment needs to feel safe and connected. In those environments. 

Mallory Erickson: Yes. Okay. I mean, I obviously agree with everything that you’re saying, and so much of it aligns with how I coach and the work that I do. And I also just, I feel this like tension, I think, [00:21:00] between, you know, the scarcity mindset that’s often in the sector, the fear, like, there’s just so many things around us as fundraisers, as nonprofit leaders that I feel like Disregulate us or activate us or make it so easy for us to like, switch back into a mode where we’re like disconnected from ourselves even and then when we’re in that frame of reference, we go into as you’re talking about, like, These protection modes, right?

Mallory Erickson: And so control is one form of that. And so do you have any suggestions or things in your work of kind of like daily rituals or exercises that you encourage folks to do in the event that they aren’t sort of aware of how these things are showing up in their Like daily experiences or they can’t kind of witness them yet.

Mallory Erickson: Things that help bring them more in touch with themselves. 

Haley Cooper: Yeah, that’s a really good question. So I think, you know, from what I’ve experienced with working with clients and as well as in my own personal life, I [00:22:00] think there’s like three strategies that I would use again, slowing down and just naming how you’re feeling really unlocks that amygdala and that heightened sense of emotion.

Haley Cooper: So sometimes I know it’s been a long journey for me, but you know, Being able to just name your emotions, write them down, keep them in a journal, maybe save them for later. I would also say journaling. Um, I am a huge proponent of like stream of conscious journaling. So however you’re feeling, just write it down.

Haley Cooper: Again, when you’re writing it down, when you’re naming it, it helps you slow down those emotions. I would also say tuning in and meditation or just sitting in silence because I think a lot of times we’re told not to process our emotions, right? We’re told to push through them. We’re told to compound them, push them down.

Haley Cooper: But you have to, what I like to say is you have to feel it to heal it. So you have to feel it in your body. You have to [00:23:00] understand how it feels and it’s going to be uncomfortable. No one likes to feel their emotions, but. Like the book, trauma gets stored in your body. Emotions get stored in your body. So whether you like it or not, if you don’t feel it, it’s gonna show up in some way or another.

Haley Cooper: You know, I’ve seen this a lot in case managers or even in my own life, not feeling my own emotion, it leads to burnout. It leads to autoimmune disease flare ups. It leads to your body. Like, my husband had deep burnout and he had panic attacks. And by naming and feeling and understanding through this process, he was able to make that logical decision forward.

Haley Cooper: So, again, I think writing it down. Acknowledging it and feeling it and provide and whether that’s through coaching or therapy or a safe person that you have that you can feel it with. I think those are the three tools that can really help you be able to move forward in this context in [00:24:00] terms of your everyday life.

Mallory Erickson: Yeah, it’s so interesting, right? Like, I definitely thought for a long time that like, oh, if I like let myself feel my emotions, like I’m going to get sick. stuck there or they’re going to sort of take over. And the opposite is really true. Like then they can actually move through you. And if you don’t like they’re just stuck in you and sure, maybe they’re out of your like head or, you know, like they’re somewhere else in your body.

Mallory Erickson: Um, that is certainly what happened to me. It was like a chronic pain experience that really kind of awakened me to so much of what I had been. Holding onto and not letting go of Haley, we could talk forever, but I feel like this, you gave such an amazing snapshot into this work and into some really tangible strategies and like snip bits.

Mallory Erickson: Like, I hope people listen to this multiple times for some of the language that you used in those reconnection suggestions with board members in particular, where can folks go to learn more [00:25:00] from you to learn about your work to work with you, tell them all the good things. 

Haley Cooper: So you can find me on LinkedIn.

Haley Cooper: It’s where I like to hang out. Haley Cooper. If you, my little icon, I’m in a pink, a pink blazer. Can’t miss me. Also the savvy fundraiser. com and I talk about nonprofit leadership on my own podcast, the lead with heart podcast. Amazing. Thank you so much for joining me today. Thank you, Mallory. I really enjoyed it.

Mallory Erickson: I hope today’s episode inspired or challenged you to think differently. For additional takeaways, tips, show notes, and more about our amazing guests and sponsors, head on over to MalloryErickson. com backslash podcast. And if you didn’t know, hosting this podcast isn’t the only thing I do. Every day I coach, guide, and help fundraisers and leaders just like you inside of my program, the Power Partners Formula Collective.

Mallory Erickson: Um, inside the program, I share my methods, tools, and experiences that have helped me [00:26:00] fundraise millions of dollars and feel good about myself in the process. To learn more about how I can help you visit MalloryErickson. com backslash power partners. Last but not least, if you enjoyed this episode, I’d love to encourage you to share it with a friend you know would benefit or leave a review.

Mallory Erickson: I’m so grateful for all of you and the good hard work you’re doing to make our world a better place. I can’t wait to see you in the next episode.

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