Integrating Business Tools and Practices for Nonprofit Success with Donald Summers

This episode is sponsored by:

watch on youtube


“When you speak the language of business, entrepreneurialism, and finance and have those conversations with people outside the sector, you become very powerful, your organization grows, and you make the world a better place. ” – Donald Summers

Episode #186


In this episode of What the Fundraising Podcast…

Today’s episode shares profound strategies on how nonprofits can evolve from merely surviving to becoming scalable change agents by adopting business tools and practices to maximize their impact and ensure sustainable growth!

Meet Donald Summers, Founder & CEO of Altruist Partners. With decades of experience in nonprofit management and fundraising, he is dedicated to helping nonprofits achieve their missions through strategic planning and effective management practices. Moreover, his book – Scaling Altruism provides a comprehensive guide for nonprofit leaders seeking to integrate business strategies into their operations.

Throughout the episode, Donald passionately discusses the heart of fundraising, emphasizing the importance of evangelical passion and strategic teamwork in driving impactful social change. He sheds light on nonprofits’ challenges in adopting business practices, addressing barriers such as intimidation, cultural biases, and historical legacies. Donald also unveils the groundbreaking concept of the Altruist Accelerator, a supportive community designed to equip changemakers with the tools and resources needed for success. He further shares insights into the evolution of the nonprofit sector, the necessity of transparent communication, and the vital role of human support in driving organizational growth.



Donald Summers


  • 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

Brought To
you By:




Get to know Donald Summers:

Donald Summers is the Founder & CEO of Altruist Partners, a global advisory firm for nonprofits and social enterprises. He and his firm have led scores of successful nonprofit and social enterprise accelerations from the local to the global level in the fields of education, human services, health, environmental reform, and public media. He is a graduate of Middlebury College and Harvard University.


Other episodes you would enjoy



I teach nonprofit fundraisers to bring in more gifts from the RIGHT donors… so they can stop hounding people for money. Fundraising doesn’t have to be uncomfortable.


Episode Transcript

Donald Summers  0:00  

Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right. And so many nonprofits with this wonderful mission and world changing potential destroy that potential because of risk, aversion, and fear. And we talk about in addition to the growth mindset, even in the preface, we talk about the personal qualities needed to drive a successful organization.


Mallory Erickson  0:28  

Hey, my name is Mallory. And I’m obsessed with helping leaders in the nonprofit space, raise money and run their organizations differently. What the fundraising is a space for real and raw conversations to both challenge and inspire you. Not too long ago, I was in your shoes uncomfortable with fundraising and unsure of my place in this sector. It wasn’t until I started to listen to other experts outside of the fundraising space, that I was able to shift my mindset and ultimately shift the way I show up as a leader. This podcast is my way of blending professional and personal development. So we as a collective inside the nonprofit sector can feel good about the work we are doing. Join me every week as I interview some of the brightest minds in the personal and professional development space to help you fundamentally change the way you lead and fundraise. I hope you enjoy this episode. So let’s dive in. Welcome, everyone. I am so excited to be here today with Donald summers, Donald Welcome to what the fundraising Mallory, thank


Donald Summers  1:29  

you for having me.


Mallory Erickson  1:30  

I’m excited. We are talking about your new book, scaling, altruism, and I want to just get into the meat. But let’s start with you sharing with everyone a little bit about you who you are, what brings you to this conversation and and what the book is about. Before


Donald Summers  1:45  

I do that, allow me to thank you for doing the work that you do. Fundraising is incredibly noble profession. And it’s joyful. And from what I’ve learned about your incredible work, you show a lot of people how to do it, right. So first of all, I want to thank you. And I want to thank everybody in the audience fundraisers for nonprofits are the best people. We’re all altruists. So it’s just a joy to be with you. And it’s a joy to connect with this audience. And the reason that brought me to this work, I grew up very suspicious of business, and also really mortified at all the problems that finance capitalism was creating in the world. And that drew me to the nonprofit space. And out of an accident, I got an education in business and finance and really hardcore entrepreneurial methods. And I’ve spent my career kind of taking the tools of business and that intimidating, scary stuff that’s out there drives these startups and major corporations, that nonprofit people are completely justified in going up that’s don’t like that. That’s bad. And I’ve spent my career showing people how those tools are not immoral, they are amoral, you can repurpose those tools for good. Okay. So, in my career, as a fundraiser, I’ve been positioning my organizations as social impact enterprises that have an ambitious goal and are sophisticated and capable, and do very high quality work. And they have clear plans, and they’re transparent, and they’re accountable. And when you can adopt that footing, and speak the language of business, and entrepreneurialism and finance and, and have those conversations with people outside the sector, you become very powerful, and your organization becomes high growth, and you make the world a better place. So that’s my philosophy. And it’s taken me a long time to get there. And I really appreciate why people in the sector are perhaps tentative, or they don’t want to be in business for very good set of reasons, right. And we’re just trying to give them access, democratize access to these sophisticated tools in a way they can use them. So that’s what’s driven my career trajectory. And ultimately, it’s what drove me to create a process and a system that is now open source, if you will, everything that we’ve learned in our firm of driving these growth and impact. We’ve now articulated that and it’s out to share and that’s why I’m here talking with you and your audience to say, hey, take a look. Hopefully this stuff helps you it’s a different approach. And maybe that’s a little bit of a hope. I’m not talking too much Mallory, but hopefully that gives you a good overview of where I’m coming from. It’s a different place. And you know why we’re talking today? Yeah,


Mallory Erickson  4:42  

and I’m excited to talk about you know, the book obviously is filled densely with a ton of really actionable advice for folks. And it provides, I think, a really good kind of like undercurrent and tone setting at the beginning around on some of the, like mindsets, but also, I don’t know, sort of like cultural elements that are required in being able to ultimately implement the strategic framework that you’re talking about too. So will you first sort of tell us what the steps are that you outlined in the book, but then also that relationship between sort of maybe I’m not sure if culture is the word that you would necessarily use, but the 100 chapter and strategy component,


Donald Summers  5:26  

it’s a quote that it’s not Peter Drucker’s, it’s Miss attributed to him. But he’s famously thought to have said, culture eats strategy for breakfast. And it’s true. So the book is divided into seven chapters, which are seven phases of organizational growth and development. And it’s a step by step process when we say you have to do it in order. And much as you know, fundraising becomes a challenge if you’re not ready to fundraise, right, and if you don’t have your ducks in a row, but what we do is make it very clear and specific about which thing comes first. And the very first thing that we talk about all those seven chapters are divided up in subdivided into little practices, little bite sized things that you have to get right before you go on to the next practice. And absolutely, number one, the first one is make sure everybody on the team has a growth mindset. And there’s a link to the articles in there. There’s professors at Harvard Business School that write about growth mindsets, it’s a big thing, you can take a deep dive on what it means to be a growth mindset. And like everything else in the book, we boil that stuff down to just the thumbnail that you need to understand. And here’s where you are in the right column. And if you have these mental traits, you need to like check your head literally before you even bother. He wasn’t a very good person. But he was a tremendous business leader. And he’s an example of someone who used very powerful tools for good and for ill. But you consider the famous industrialist Henry Ford brought us many good things. And he had lots of deep flaws, right. But Henry Ford said, whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right. And so many nonprofits with this wonderful mission and world changing potential, destroy that potential because of risk aversion, and fear. And we talk about in addition to the growth mindset, even in the preface, we talk about the personal qualities needed to drive a successful organization doesn’t don’t care if you’re running a for profit, or a nonprofit, or a government agency, or an institution, these are common to all organizations, you’ve got to have courage to even be in the sea, you’ve got to have optimism to think you’re going to be able to win, you’ve got to have grit, because it’s going to be really hard. You have to have focus. And you have to work with urgency. And so we try to thumbnail all of those things and say make sure you have that growth mindset. And if you don’t have them, then it becomes doubt it gets down to the next truth which organizational change begins with personal change. And it’s got leaders and decision makers that aren’t ready for the journey, and aren’t ready to take risk and make themselves vulnerable on behalf of the vulnerable people that they’re serving, right. It’s going to be hard. So that’s why we start with that. And yes, it’s incredibly important. The book is primarily strategic and technical. However, we do understand that culture is an incredibly important thing. We’ve got a lot of things in chapter seven around leadership and culture. But you’re 100% right, Mallory, we got to think we can win. We’ve got to act selflessly. If we’re going to succeed as nonprofits, we have to put others before us, right? It’s the fundamental tenant of of altruism. So I couldn’t agree with you more mindset, having that growth mindset is critical. And that’s practice number one. And you know, the very first steps of the process.


Mallory Erickson  8:55  

And then how can you go through sort of the tactical steps as you’ve outlined them in the book, and there was something we were talking about before we clicked record that I’m hoping sort of can get weaved in there, which is the role of the fundraiser. I mean, as you were talking about culture and that leadership piece, like one thing I hear so often from fundraisers is, you know, I can’t do that, because I don’t have leadership support around blank, right, or I can’t even you know, something that came up really recently on a coaching call was, I doubt my leadership’s ability to actually fulfill this offering that as the fundraiser I’m being asked to put in front of donors, right and so fundraisers are so I think, because they are being asked to be very vulnerable and you know, connect on these like deeply personal levels. They also then feel this tremendous obligation to ensure that what they you know, promised in that funder meeting actually comes through to fruition and they don’t always feel like they have sort of quote unquote, control on That being the case because of their roles, the fundraiser. So we’ve talked about that sort of inner woven in these pieces for


Donald Summers  10:05  

you hit the heart, you hit things at the heart, Mallory, you’ve been doing this a lot I can tell. Fundraising is a team exercise. And the incredible thing about fundraising, yes, it’s sales. And some people reject that label the mechanics or sales, but the heart of fundraising is evangelicalism, you have your seat, you’re making the world a better place. And if you believe in your mission and your ability to carry out the mission, fundraising becomes the most in powerful self fulfilling, you do in any way, right? Getting to that state where the fundraising team truly believes in the mission truly understands the social return on investment. They’re able to use the same discipline tools of that every investor looks for ROI. But you can say, here’s our return on investment, not just in economic terms, but it’s social and moral, and environmental, and cultural. And having that strong value proposition that you believe in and then functioning as a team. So when you bring in the dollars, your program folks can show you what happens. And your board is helping bring in new leads when everyone in your CEO is when it all comes together, that requires a team. And so often, as you know, the fundraisers are put in silos and say go find the money, right. And then they’re constrained or performance is constrained, because they’re siloed. They’re not supported. They’re not sure there’s blockages and constraints happening other parts of the organization. And this is exactly why I wrote the book, because fundraising is interconnected with everything. If you’ve got to get everything right, from understanding from governance, from strategy, from your key performance indicators, to your execution, your program team to your it’s all got to work together. And that’s the big challenge for leaders is the solutions are all in silos and different pieces. Getting together an organization to work well involves putting many puzzle pieces together and getting everything to work in sync. And I believe, you know, other people have tried to articulate all the things you have to do in the right order. That’s why it’s taken me 10 years to figure this out another five years to write the book, I think and again, I don’t want to sound like I’m gonna know it all here. But I’ve been through this cycle hundreds of times of of taking organizations that were stuck, or suffering from these constraints and putting them through this transformation process. And as a result of that constant study with plenty of failure, tons of error correction. I’ve been, as I write in the book, I have calluses on my buck from all I’ve taken. So there’s no arrogance in this. This is I’ve just stuck with it. If I have one quality, it’s tenacity. And I’m just wanting to figure out the formula. So what we show there’s a reason that fundraising is chapter five, right? First, you have to have an organizational assessment where everyone benchmarks here are the critical success factors for a high performing organization. Most boards and executive teams know some of them, but not all of them. And they don’t put themselves through a robust diagnostic and the old school SWOT analysis are slow. There’s a much faster, better way that’s really targeted. And we have dimension and a toolkit for that. And then you have to get everybody on the team. Chapter Two is alignment. Take your typical board and ask them to write down their goals and strategies on a post it note pad, that’s an exercise in the book, boy, are you going to get stuff all over the road? Like what’s the strategy, people have different ideas of even what a strategy is, they don’t know that you have to have a program, an impact strategy and a growth strategy. So you kind of go through all of these things, chapter three, then you have to write a business plan that says, and it’s not a theory of change ain’t gonna, that dog doesn’t hunt, I’m sorry. Okay, you got a theory come back to me. I’m not You’re not ready to fundraise on a theory. You need proof logic model, you know, come on you business plan, keep it simple, right? Talk to people outside of your bubble, right? Nobody outside the nonprofit space knows what a theory of change is. It’s not robust. They’re complicated. So we’re trying to, you know, out of due respect to the people that are well meaning that are trying these planning tools, we have a much more robust, much more humble, specific, hey, do it like this no fancy jargon. And then you got to test that business plan. You got to make sure you have partners and stakeholders and you’re, you’re in a collaborative, not a competitive landscape, and kind of go through all that work. And then you have to define your revenue strategy before you go Wow, is it contributed? Is it earned is it invested? Contributed has five different buckets, individuals, foundations, corporations, government agencies, right. And there’s the impact capital to their debt, and earned income. Half the money in the social sector comes from service and product sales and contracts. Anybody who says a nonprofit isn’t a business time out people $750 billion annually is earned by nonprofits in the United States alone, you’ve got the capital stack, and the nonprofit space is incredibly complex. There’s earned contributed invested, there’s five different buckets. Each bucket has sub segments, individuals has annual gifts as major gifts it has planned giving it as peer to peer, right. And so you got to understand the whole keyboard that’s available to your mission. Right. And as you counsel Mallory, people suffer because they do exactly what everybody else does. They go out and a rubber chicken dinners and beg for grants and get on the hamster wheel. And they do the same thing everybody else does. They haven’t had. And it’s not because they’re bad people. They have to really understand the the complex nature of all the opportunities, and how to go from survival to success, how to go and you teach this very well, you teach nonprofits to go from survival strategies to success strategies. And you if you have all of those things before you once you get to the fundraising stage, you can be very powerful, you can be Evangelical, you can capture what we call, not gifts, but investments, social investments. And we call them investments, because you’re going to show the ROI after the social ROI after it happens, right. And here’s the final piece to the puzzle. After you get the money you got to execute. This is where nonprofits also struggle is execution with the efficiency and effectiveness, it requires that you’re delivering a product or service. And that requires a whole set of managerial principles they didn’t teach you in the schools of education, public policy and social work. Right? Very, very few nonprofits actually execute well, so and fundraisers need that evidence of execution to go back to their donors, their their charitable investors and say, Hey, you want to put people on a Growth Wheel, you want to turn a $50 gift into a $500 gift to a 5000 to a 5 million to someone’s estate, you got to show the results. So I hope I’m not going on too long. But the whole reason for the book is finally to make it clear the entire ecosystem, the teamwork that has to come together, and fundraisers are so off. There’s such good people. They’re also under compensated, they’re underpaid. Yeah. How many organizations are trying to hire a top fundraisers for $60,000 a year? It just doesn’t that dog doesn’t hunt. Okay. So we also talk about how to capitalize these operations and how to incentivize performance. And that fact that the one of the biggest barriers to performance for nonprofits is low pay for the staff. That’s an that’s objectionable, any nonprofit that has martyrdom and its compensation strategies is doomed to fail.


Mallory Erickson  18:23  

Oh, my gosh, different things


Donald Summers  18:25  

have to come together.


Mallory Erickson  18:29  

Oh, my gosh, there’s so many layers to what you just said around sort of like the implications of these standard practices that ultimately then impact leaders and fundraisers sort of ability to do to do this work well, in the way that you’re talking about, you know, something kept coming up, as you were sort of talking through some of those pieces. I really love what you said around sort of like the theory of change and how I feel like in this sector, we have sort of taken practices like that and, and sort of claimed or felt like maybe those are the nonprofit versions of things like business plans. And so we’ve let these kind of like models, right, and nits like override, ultimately, what the folks on the other side of the table are using to make decisions about whether or not they want to be in partnership with us.


Donald Summers  19:28  

I hope this doesn’t turn into a rant but you experienced fundraisers together. Nonprofit fundraisers that have been in the business as long as we have danger of turning into a race. I write about I hit on a term and it comes from really respected people. So one of the most one of my intellectual people I admire most is Jim Collins, the Stanford professor who wrote Good to Great and Great by Choice just creates these crystal clear paradigms for How to run a high performing organization. And God bless Jim Collins. We love him to death. And then he goes out and writes good for great for the social sector and completely distorts everything. And I’ll respectfully say he gets it 100% Wrong. He falls prey to the myth of uniqueness that the nonprofit sector is this different animal. He says, Well, you can’t pay nonprofit people the same that you can’t for profit. And I say who did that? Look at all these football coaches making big bucks. And these university presidents and hospital, you can pay nonprofit people, you can’t have excessive compensation, but you can certainly pay market rates. And then he says you can’t fire people. Well, you got to get the right team in the bus. And, you know, there’s all these myths. And then you know, you have people like the founder of the Nonprofit Finance Fund says Nonprofit Finance is unknowable. It’s a funhouse mirror. And nobody knows how that works. And I’m like timeout, if a nonprofit wasn’t following generally accepted accounting principles, they’d get their penis revoked. And that confusing your tax status with your business model and no business rules. Not every rule running a private company applies. There’s no equity. Space, right. But most of the basic management stuff around analytics around team building around culture around you know, evaluation, you can walk it right over. And here’s the thing that crushes fundraising, when you define your program in terms that your own little tribe only is the only one that understands it. When you use all this fancy academic jargon or sector specific jargon, because you think the other stuff doesn’t apply. What are you doing? You’re creating barriers to understanding and engagement outside of your little community. Right? So if you can’t talk to it, what’s the number one source of wealth creation in the United States among individuals starting your own business? entrepreneurialism? Right. So we have all these wealthy people, just one of the many revenue sources you can get to that are looking to give back. They maybe they made all this money, and now they’re looking to give back. And they’re trying to understand how nonprofits are going to use their funding. And they’ll put a nonprofit through a process that the private sector calls due diligence, you’ve done your homework, can this organization handle this amount of money? And when they get this stuff like theory of change and logic models, and there’s no there’s no clarity to what the organization is going to do. And the organization doesn’t understand or misuses basic words like strategy, right? Guess what? No confidence, no trust no money. So what I got over my inherent aversion to business practice, because I’m like, I need to explain what I spent 10 years as a frontline fundraiser for small and big organization, and I raised lots of money, much more than the organization’s I’ve raised before. Because I listened to what the prospects wanted and framed the organization, you know, mission and work in those terms that they can understand. I never went to I only had a couple of courses in business school. But I’ve got a hardcore MBA by listening to what the sophisticated investor prospects want. Hey, look, show me the pro formas on what’s a pro forma. I remember sitting at the headquarters of Bloomberg in New York City back in early aughts. And one of my very first nonprofit clients created a partnership with Bloomberg and we got to sit with their executive committee at the whole company with Michael Bloomberg and his top C suite. And I sat very quietly in the meeting and everyone around the table was KPI this and KPI that who wants a KPI? What’s the KPI for this? And like, what is your KPI? And after the meeting, I looked it up, oh, Key Performance Indicator, right? And then when we came back to them and say, hey, here are our KPIs. Wow, the trust that we’re able to create in transparency and accountability, we ended up having a very fruitful partnership with that organization. That’s a single example. How if nonprofits can just learn how other people outside of the nonprofit sector, create trust, transparency and accountability, right? You got to make yourself vulnerable. You got to admit that you’re gonna make mistakes, you can all tell, oh, everything’s great. You’ve got to engage in this this really courageous conversation that you’re not going to get it right the first time, and you need people’s help, and you might make a mistake. Know how many nonprofits have those honest conversations, right? All of this has to come together.


Mallory Erickson  24:51  

I wonder, you know, I’m curious what you think about this question, but what you’re talking about is so complicated. on like an emotional level, I think for some fundraisers like, because I think sometimes as fundraisers or nonprofit leaders, we’re treated a little bit. Or we’re taught to sometimes in like patronizing ways by our funders, right. And so I feel like there’s this, there’s this, like dance here around this, like desire to, you know, I didn’t go and get my MBA and certainly 15 years ago, if I had been told to create a business plan around my nonprofit, I would have been like, why do they have me in this Ed role? Like, I have no skills in order to do that. And then I think there were these like messages actually did have a board member, though, who sort of took me under his wing helped me learn like the business model canvas for creating a business. And I did ultimately create a business plan for my nonprofit, but my beliefs about my ability to do that were like, wow, that’s way outside of my skill set that I feel like I was once told was necessary to be a nonprofit leader, and also continues to get reinforced by funders and sometimes board members and executives, who sort of tell me that those aren’t the things that I’m good at what I’m good at are the things like the theory of change, and not the business plan. And so it continues to, like reinforce this cycle of like messaging to us as leaders that then I think make it makes it so hard for us to get out of that to say, Okay, I hear that what are, you know, funders and community want is for us to be able to put this more sort of robust strategic, you know, direction and plan and business plan in front of them. And how do I sort of like overcome all the messaging that tells me, I can’t do it, I don’t know how to do it, somebody else should be doing it, etc.


Donald Summers  26:49  

gets even worse. It’s not just the intimidation factor. We talk about the in my introduction of my book, I talk about how badly the brand has been tainted. The whole process of management is a field that evolved because slavery was no longer an option. It’s a substitute. It has a terrible legacy. The father of scientific management, I’m blanking on his name right now, Frederickson would use numbers and data to take the place of the whip. And business tools have been used to oppress populations for many, many, many, many years. And so you go to a social change agent and a leader who’s trying to solve the problems created by these practices, and they say, come up with a business plan, you’re gonna have a lot of heartburn to say the least. There’s racial overtones, there’s oppressive overtones. There’s the fact that they don’t teach this stuff in graduate schools of public policy. And the fact that you’re intimidated, you don’t know the stuff. The barriers to this Mallory, there’s a reason that nonprofits haven’t adopted all of this stuff, despite their power. So I want to acknowledge those barriers for people and say, if you’re feeling them, it’s normal. Right? But if you’re courageous, you have the courage to say, You know what, I don’t understand that. And but I’ll learn it. And we’ll figure it out together. And if you have the belief that these tools can be translated, right, and put to good for the betterment of the world, and the vulnerable, and the environment, when the stuff works. So what what’s necessary, what’s next is to give people access to these tools in a way that they can understand and use them. And they’re no longer intimidated, because they know what they mean. And they know how they’re used. As a number one, why I wrote this book, here’s the entire playbook, all the stuff that’s scary and wrong and bad and tainted, actually, if you understand what it is, and put it to you. It’s incredibly powerful. Now you can pick and choose whether it works for you. But if you don’t want to use it come from a place of information and experience not a place of hesitation fear or ignorance or some other stores right. And, you know, stop reinventing the wheel. We we’ve known the incense the industrial revolution, we know how organizations grow and get things done. And the nonprofit sector out of that fear that fundamental insecurity, the need to define itself as something different than need to you oh, we’re special, we’re different. You’re not You’re an organization of people like everybody else, and get out. Humans are tribal, we’re status seeking, right? And if you want to be an altruist, you got to get out of that tribal status seeking fearful mindset. And if you want to be courageous on behalf of other people look outside your box. So those are Some of the reasons and I don’t mean to preach here, but the barriers you’re talking about, I don’t want to minimize those there.


Mallory Erickson  30:09  

No, I yeah, I really, really appreciate you saying that. And I think it also brings up for, for folks that, you know, I love that thinking around like this book can empower you with the knowledge so that you’re making decisions, not from a place of oh, I just don’t understand that. And I never will, and I can’t, and that’s sort of like inaccessible to me, versus really empowering yourself with the information to then be able to sort of guide you on the decisions you make next. And I also think for, for folks who are listening to this, you know, recognizing that, as you start to, you know, take sort of like ownership around your thoughts in your beliefs in certain areas, and some of these mindset pieces and your knowledge in these areas, it doesn’t mean that the, that the system around you is magically fixed, and that you won’t along the way continue to face some of those barriers that reinforce the problems that you’re aiming to address in your own personal work, right? No, everybody’s not doing that personal work at the same time. And I think what you said before, that is sort of like sticking with me around that is that like, when you were saying people are, you know, massively underpaid, and there are sort of like all these other systemic and systematic things, that that ultimately continue to, I mean, dysregulate, US challenge us make it harder for us to overcome some of the resistance that we feel inside of ourselves, and to just for people to be able to embrace learning like this, and growth like this, and know that it’s a process, and that there are going to be things that happen in our personal experiences that make us doubt even our ability to perhaps adopt a new framework. And those are the moments when we need to sort of remember that, you know, that, that all of these things are interconnected. But all we can do is, is prioritize our own growth and learning journey. And


Donald Summers  32:18  

you continue to say some things that are so powerful and strike to the heart of this very complex puzzle. How do we transform nonprofits from struggling to survive into scalable change agents that solve problems, not nibbling around the edges? That’s what we’re all about? How do we get high performing teams that are paid every bit as much as their private counterparts? How do we deliver evidence based interventions that have adequate funding, and that can grow to the size of the problem? We have a few examples of that, but not enough if let’s let’s remain on target, why we’re doing what we’re doing. And what you’re bringing up is the cultural and the human dimension of this. The book is strategic and technical. And it says, here’s what you do. And here’s how you do it. There’s guides, there’s templates, there’s toolkits, there’s examples, there’s a library of additional resources, you have the confidence that many nonprofits, some of our most exciting success stories today come from using this methodology. One is threaded through the book. But what you just described is a missing piece that I’ve been struggling with for many years. How do you get the human support? How do you do this in a community where you’re not isolated? Where you have, and you can’t, it’s this is not a one and done nonprofits, who translate this management system, take six to nine months, even to get the basic tools in place. We see hockey stick growth, but that takes anywhere from nine to 12. And sometimes 18 months, right? From takes time. And it’s hard work. As you know, you’ve got to have grit and resilience. And guess what, in addition to being tribal status seeking creatures, we’re also intensely social, right? And you need support. And I’ve been struggling, okay, here’s this really robust toolkit. And people are like, Oh, my God, how do I get this done? Well, the book shows how to create that teamwork and the alignment. But what we’ve also done and it’s it’s a brand new effort, I write at the end of the book that we have to create a support ecosystem. And we have to the private sector has accelerators, they have incubators, they have mentors, systems, they have all this stuff that’s out there. The support systems for nonprofits, they’re there, but they’re not robust enough if they were we wouldn’t be seeing the challenges we are. So we Not to disparage all the people that are trying to create support ecosystems, but we need a stronger one and a better one, and one that’s more powerful and equips changemakers For the support to implement these tools, so in the spirit of Gandhi Be the change you want to see in the world. I’ve been trying to figure this out for many, many years now that we have the recipe, the playbook, we’re also creating a support community for change agents that cost, it’s run by our nonprofit arm, it costs very little money, there’s a nominal monthly fee to join. And we’re going to be building a community of changemakers, who, who are, first of all absorbing this very sophisticated toolkit, right? Some people have called it an MBA and a can for social impact. That’s not just about fundraising, it’s about organizational design. It’s about strategy. It’s about metrics, and evaluation and governance and all the stuff you need. So you learn it, and then you apply it. And as you apply it, we’re envisioning a community of support that comes together from many different organizations to say, Hey, I’m struggling with this too. And even if we’re not, we can’t struggle on these journeys alone. And we talk about fundraisers being caught in a silo, what if we had a community for ambitious changemakers to come together and work through all these challenges. So that’s what we’re trying to do with the altruist accelerator. And I write about it at the end of the book. And by the time this is a funny part, by the time I had the book written, I still hadn’t figured it out. I knew we needed, I knew we needed an accelerator, I was still struggling with the old cohort cohort model, which I’ve only been able to run a couple of, because it’s really hard to get all these nonprofits together and walk them through this stuff. It’s not ready for primetime yet. But I’m also glad to announce for you and for folks listening, that we’re going to build this online community to grapple with these tools to embed these tools in your organization to grapple with the change management process to get support, you know, we’re going to have a curated community of people that very, very robust rules, we want to make it very confidential, very transparent, and really supportive and positive. People who are ready to do the hard work and grapple with these big issues. And hopefully, that’s the other strategy to help change this field from survival into success. And it’s a grand vision, and there’s a lot of work to be done. You’re doing incredible work your own through your, your fundraising and the type of work that you’re doing with your power partnerships, right, your fundraising courses, we need more, we need more of this. And so we’re trying to to break down the the knowledge barriers, and not just give people the tools, but also give them the support. The key piece that I haven’t been able to figure out is how to do it really, really well. And also for almost no money. Yeah, many nonprofits pay us hundreds of 1000s of dollars to come in and work with them. And they get massive returns because we raise the millions of dollars as a result, right. But only a small fraction of nonprofits can afford that. And now we want to democratize access to these tools. So that’s the the other message I want to give to you. And I think it really hinges on your comments that all of this has a lot to absorb. You can’t do it by yourself. There’s very few people that take this approach in the sector. They’re doing great work, but there’s so many. It’s scary, and it’s it’s new, and it’s challenging, and it’s tainted, and there’s all these. So we need a new, we did transform the field before we’re going to transform the problems that we’re working on.


Mallory Erickson  38:34  

Yes. Okay. That’s a wonderful note to end on. Will you tell people where they can go to get the book and also to learn more about the accelerator for those who are interested? The book


Donald Summers  38:43  

is scaling, altruism, just Google it pops up. So wherever books are show sold, scaling, altruism, and the website is altruist excelerator.org. It’s our firm’s nonprofit arm. And it talks about the book. And there’s an online toolkit. It’s not just a book, it comes with templates and guides and case studies and examples. And it’s very, very clear and practical. So we ask people to start with the book, and then go to the website, the accelerator, the public Accelerator has not launched yet. We’re just taking signups to the launch the summer. And we’re going to build that online community where we’ll walk people through the book and help them absorb the tools but scaling altruism and altruistic accelerator dot o RG


Mallory Erickson  39:31  

Awesome. Thank you so much for your time today for walking through all of this with me with everyone listening I’m so grateful that this book is going to be in so many folks hands and start to pull the curtain back around so many things and love the way that their synergy and our work around how we talked about alignment and and so many other things and that growth mindset piece. So thank you for the work that you’re doing for the sector and for nonprofits as a whole but also for fundraisers how you’re thinking about their role and I love that I’m really grateful. Well, I’ll close


Donald Summers  40:02  

with how I started. I’ll thank you for the incredible work you’re doing to help organizations capture more resources for their missions. And for all your listeners. Thanks for hanging in there, you have a tough job. But you know, there’s hope and I hope you find these resources helpful.


Mallory Erickson  40:23  

I hope today’s episode inspired or challenge you to think differently. For additional takeaways, tips shownotes, and more about our amazing guests and sponsors, head on over to Mallory erickson.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. Inside the program, I share my methods, tools and experiences that have helped me fundraise millions of dollars and feel good about myself in the process. To learn more about how I can help you visit Mallory erickson.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. 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.


Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Scroll to Top


Just put in your name and email to let the magic begin….

You're one step away from getting my favorite tools!

Just put in your name and email to let the magic begin….
This is default text for notification bar