The People Behind the Products: Reimagining Fundraiser Enablement with Nick Fitz

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“We’re very interested in reducing the amount of technologies and things people use.” – Nick Fitz
Episode #191


In this episode of What the Fundraising Podcast…

This episode explores how the future of fundraising is being reshaped, making it easier for fundraisers to thrive and, ultimately, raise more money with greater ease and satisfaction!

Join Nick Fitz, the Founder & CEO of Momentum, a pioneering company focused on enhancing the fundraising experience for nonprofits through innovative technology. Nick holds a BA in philosophy and policy from Grinnell College and an MA in psychology and society from the University of British Columbia. His expertise and insights have been featured in prominent publications such as The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Atlantic, and Nature.

Before founding Momentum, Nick was a Senior Behavioral Scientist at Duke University’s Center for Advanced Hindsight & Startup Lab, where he led research on the psychology of fundraising and donor behavior. His work blends a deep understanding of human behavior with practical applications in the nonprofit sector.

In this episode, Nick takes us through his extensive journey from academia to founding Momentum, a groundbreaking platform designed to revolutionize fundraisers’ operations. He shares how his initial work on a donation app evolved into a comprehensive donation infrastructure, tackling the complex challenges fundraisers face.

Furthermore, Nick delves into themes such as choice paralysis, friction reduction, and creating delightful fundraiser experiences. He discusses the importance of focusing not just on donor behavior but also on the psychology and well-being of the fundraisers themselves. By addressing the systemic issues and day-to-day frustrations that lead to high turnover and burnout, Nick highlights how improving the work experience for fundraisers can lead to better fundraising outcomes. Also, he shares valuable insights into the innovative approaches to streamline fundraising processes, reduce administrative burdens, and foster community and support among fundraisers.



Nick Fitz


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Get to know Dr. Nadia Brown:

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.


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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

Nick Fitz: [00:00:00] Those of us that are thinking a lot about the fundraiser psychology or behavior, their experience, I think the kind of outcomes maybe are just longer, you know, satisfaction at work, right. And staying there and for everyone in the pipeline and just enjoying it more, and there’s obviously lots of that knock on effects, but first and foremost, I think it’s just like not being, maybe being frustrated of the less that during your, like the time you spend doing your job.

Mallory Erickson: 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.

Mallory Erickson: It wasn’t until I started to listen to other experts outside of the fundraising space But 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 [00:01:00] development. So we as a collective inside the nonprofit sector can feel good about the work we are doing.

Mallory Erickson: 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. Bye. Welcome, everyone. I’m so excited to be here today with my friend, Nick Fitz.

Mallory Erickson: Nick, welcome to what the fundraising 

Nick Fitz: thanks for having me. 

Mallory Erickson: Let’s start with you telling everyone a little bit about you and your journey. And then we’re gonna talk about the current project that you’re working on momentum, which I’m personally very excited about. But give us a little back story. What brings you here?

Nick Fitz: Sure. Yeah, it’s been a I guess you could say long journey for me, though I’ve been interested in in aspects of the space for a long time. So I grew up in DC. Um, I guess there’s a lot to say there, but I’ll just say I grew up there and I ended up, my parents worked for the government. I went to undergrad at a liberal arts school in Iowa and did philosophy and policy.

Nick Fitz: [00:02:00] And it brought me back to DC and New York. I worked at think tanks. And then the kind of first step here is that I ended up moving to Vancouver to initially work and then do grad school, basically UBC and Oxford in Neuroethics are in ethical, legal and social implications of new technology, and a lot of that was social psychology, running studies, people’s attitudes towards new technology, different psychological questions, sort of questions around people’s moral psychology, support for various policies, this sort of thing.

Nick Fitz: And it led me into a world of behavioral science. I’ve been involved, I guess, tangentially, or as part of, for a long time, kind of a, there’s kind of a question of, you know, you have limited time and money and how you spend it on reducing suffering. So there’s a group of people working on global poverty, or on animal welfare, or on criminal justice, or on a lot of different positive areas who are thinking about it this way, um, and so I’ve been thinking about stuff like this, and then basically, um, a very long story short is I just didn’t, I had fallen into academia and it wasn’t, um, we’ll say like my theory of change or what I wanted to keep doing, sort of putting out psychology studies and [00:03:00] I ended up going to work with this guy, Dan Ariely, who’s at Duke, and that I basically did three things there that were relevant to this.

Nick Fitz: So I had come in running a research program on the attention economy and how phones affect mental health and things like batching notifications and how they affect people’s productivity or stress or attention. And then I had run something called the Startup Lab. Where we basically invested in, you know, early companies working on some kind of social impact, some really fun companies came through it and we taught them how to apply basic, basically behavioral science to their psychology, to their product, you know, better onboarding, social proof, this kind of thing, or to their growth message system, look like ads that those intersections and, uh, I ended up running a research program on the psychology of giving for a long while on the psychology of small dollar donors.

Nick Fitz: And then, uh, Increasingly on the sort of, you know, what high net worth donors care about and what things influence their judgments or their donations, and then even more on the sort of psychology of fundraisers themselves, which I think is super interesting, just people raising the money, [00:04:00] right? It’s a very hard, isolating job and people are, there’s a lot in there.

Nick Fitz: And so after that, I started momentum, although about four or five years ago, it was a very different product and vision and, uh, we’ve shipped her a lot of times. So of course, happy to kind of give you that as well. That’s how this started. 

Mallory Erickson: Yeah. Well, I think it is helpful, maybe at a very high level, to explain the shift in momentum because I think it demonstrates at least, or it complements my shift too, from the psychology of donors and the prioritization of donor behavior to the psychology and prioritization of fundraiser behavior.

Mallory Erickson: So I think sharing that with people will be really interesting. Yeah. 

Nick Fitz: Yeah. And I think it’s You know, for better or worse, a lot of our journeys have come along this path. So initially we were an app for people to donate and the sort of behavioral science piece of it, or what was unique about it. And we still do this, but in a very different way.

Nick Fitz: Was that, you know, people would sign up and [00:05:00] they’d give on different, they’d give when they, you know, along things that they sort of do and care about, right? Or different psychological motivation. So you’ve got to eat or you get gas, let’s say, and it would offset it, right? Or move to clean water, um, or you walk a mile and give or don’t walk a mile and give.

Nick Fitz: So sort of behavior change or the first ones around offsetting, or, uh, Give them Trump tweets, right? Or there’s a mass shooting or things that are frustrating in the world or give when, you know, your team wins or things tied to identity, basically all these different actions. We’ll say basically that’s, yeah, maybe the way to summarize it is like we launched this, uh, we raised some money.

Nick Fitz: We moved out to Oakland. I, so I moved from, from at that point I was living in North Carolina and we had a batch of people on it, let’s say a few thousand, it gets covered by the press and it leads a lot of nonprofits to come in, right. Who want care about recurring donors or recurring donors give eight times more.

Nick Fitz: The one time donors, you know, it’s a, it’s a valuable thing. We do a bit of stuff this way. And then basically the pandemic happens. One way to summarize this is that we sort of take a step back and think like no one wakes up in the morning and it’s like, how do I get 50 away? Right. It’s not, not that it’s a, you can say it’s not a hair on [00:06:00] fire need for people.

Nick Fitz: You get up and you’re like, there’s a lot of other things maybe that are on people’s minds. We’ll say, um, it’s not that people don’t give, you know, 75 percent of it’s give 450 billion, all this stuff, but really people are giving, they’re asked. And so at that point we thought, okay, Okay. Really the person who has this need are non profits generally.

Nick Fitz: And so we pivoted and built this thing that was like fundraising infrastructure, right? Donation pages, embeddable components, all this stuff that, you know, was about, was around these camp, these actions. And one of the ones we launched was something that ended up. Being called defeat by tweet. Uh, it was give every time Trump tweets in this sort of tongue in cheek way to orgs working on voter engagement and, and, and just civil rights in generally.

Nick Fitz: And the long and short of it is that like 40,000 people joined in in a month. Like it very, it grew very quickly, right? And suddenly we were moving them, you know, it went from nothing to basically like overall, you know, more than 25 million. It quickly grew to do like one and half million a month. 40, 000 people are joined, you know, joined in giving about 40 bucks a month.

Nick Fitz: And so at that point, we went into this sort of phase [00:07:00] of the company of making donation infrastructure. And, you know, as you pointed out, a lot of this was around donor psychology and there is a whole body of very interesting work there, but we sort of set off on this journey. There’s a lot of reasons why we ended up pivoting about a year ago, but the main one again, is that we felt like this isn’t exactly a hair on fire need for orgs, right?

Nick Fitz: We started working with all these people at nonprofits and hospitals and universities, and It’s an, a donation page is an important thing, but it’s not something that people are thinking about every day. Right. And so then we did this really, you know, this is I’m fast forwarding through some stuff here, but it’s, it’s fine.

Nick Fitz: The, the kind of the strain, very fun thing we did is we, I guess it depends how you look at it, but we, we paused what we were doing, I guess, at this point, a little bit more than a year ago and the fall of, what is it? 22. And a batch of us moved into a house at that point with our CTOs partner and one year old.

Nick Fitz: And we did these, you know, we sent out thousands of emails that were like from me to lots of people at nonprofits or at these places, you know, various fundraisers at different levels being like, Hey, can we donate some money and talk to you and just ask you stuff? Right? And we get on and be like, what do you wake up stressed about?

Nick Fitz: [00:08:00] And what do you go to sleep frustrated by? And like, if you could hire somebody, who would you hire? And all of these. Questions about their own lives. We had our own hypotheses, of course, but a lot of what came out of it really was frustrations around managing a funnel, right? Or just a lot of major donor fundraising.

Nick Fitz: There’s a whole bunch of stuff that came out of it, but a lot of it was around relationships with people we’ll say, or managing that process, right? Who do I reach out to today or when, or what do I say to people or just people? Tons of people copy paste, you know, their emails into the database and. Just all the stuff around taking action, like getting meaningful touches.

Nick Fitz: And so that led us down a whole other journey, right? We did that for a few months. And then this past year has been like going to AFP and HP and 50 conferences, talking to a bunch of advisors in the field, like yourself, just learning a bunch and building a bunch. And we’ve ended up now with a very different product.

Nick Fitz: That’s basically like a, for anyone raising executive directors or CDOs or really major gift officers. Um, It’s like an inbox with text and [00:09:00] email and a co pilot to help you do stuff. And there’s still that payment infrastructure, but it’s been a very different set of things instead of problems and been great to just dig in with.

Nick Fitz: Like the focusing on the psychology of people raising the money has been just great, something we’ve thought about for years. So it’s changed over the years for sure. 

Mallory Erickson: The thing that I really like about Momentum, or even just that shift around thinking about how does the technology support the fundraiser instead of just like, how does the technology support the donor and really taking into account there like, Psychology, motivation, challenges, resistance, like, I, you know, I feel like technology oftentimes is like, oh, we’re tech.

Mallory Erickson: So like, we’ve made it easy because we’re tech and they don’t like go deep enough into number one. Not everybody loves technology. No, right. And number two, that like, sometimes what the [00:10:00] technology is enabling. Is something that’s really vulnerable and scary and has this whole human emotional component to it, which means that whole human emotional component to it needs to be addressed in the technology.

Mallory Erickson: And I feel like, you know, the way you guys are thinking about that has obviously gotten me really excited and I think it like, what do you think it could change? Like to not be too reductive in a short conversation, but like, how does the experience of a fundraiser change when they have technology that is designed around like enabling them in this way?

Mallory Erickson: Like, what about their sort of like full experience gets to change? 

Nick Fitz: Yeah, it’s a great question. I think there are like, maybe 2 or 3 things that are themes that I’m most excited about. One is stuff around like sort of choice paralysis and friction. And another is just around like delight and your actual sort of lived experience.

Nick Fitz: And then there’s maybe a third around sort of [00:11:00] connection or collaboration, but basically the first, as you mentioned, like. Technology often is built horizontally or like HubSpot is for a lot of different people, right? It is true that we have in our space google building stuff for fundraisers or for people at non profits but you often have like a database that holds data right or crm intelligence that complements that and then you have all these workflows or You know what we call jobs to be done that are like, I need to make a contact report, right?

Nick Fitz: Or I need to, who do I literally send the email to right now? And I think those things, there’s a lot of nuance in the UX or just in like thinking about what is someone’s actual experience? Like when they open their computer and they’re like, today, I need to do these things, right? Where we might show you, there’s just one person you need to do, or.

Nick Fitz: Text you saying, Hey, remember, you need to do this, put it in your calendar, right? There’s like, we’re very interested in reducing the amount of technologies and things people use. Like we don’t want to be another thing on top of it. Right. Or maybe more like a bridge that makes a bunch of things work. And so in that case, we’re like, Hey, we’ve ingested all of your, you know, emails and text, all this stuff that your CRM, you know, and your [00:12:00] plan, we work with people and build stuff around that.

Nick Fitz: And then. What we’re interested in is how can you just make that super easy? Like open up a screen, it’s drafted for you. It’s all there. Right. And there’s like kind of this blank page syndrome. Okay. We put a draft in your writing, right. Or there’s like just friction around things, right? Like my favorite example actually around this is like people get off of in person meetings or calls, but it’s most acute.

Nick Fitz: Unlike, you know, you have a day of in person meetings on some trip and you’re like writing stuff down of what happened. Right. And so we’ll text you after the meeting and say, you know, Hey, what happened? You can leave a voice note and we’ll summarize it. And then we’ll ask you, you know, Hey, what’s your next step?

Nick Fitz: You know, send a thank you note or follow up, you know, when do you want to do it tomorrow? And we’ll pull that back into the inbox. Right. And just this, the like, you know, copy pasting emails is another one, but just trying to reduce a bunch of the administrative burden around this. Like people spend almost as much time, some of our folks like dealing with the CRM, right, as they do actually talking to people.

Nick Fitz: And so we’re like, how can you just. You know, do what you’re really special at here and do that. The other half, however, the batch of things I think about is like delight for people, like people, [00:13:00] they have maybe a portfolio of a hundred people, sometimes more. They’re trying to get seven touches. It’s like a hard job.

Nick Fitz: It’s a lot of outreach. It’s a lot of communication. It’s very personalized and crafted. It’s, it’s often the people that. Are strange in some way, we’ll say right or how it’s it can be stressful, right? And there can be fields. There’s things that people get really stuck on. And so we’re interested in doing things like, you know, when we recommend, hey, send this next average, maybe it’s a call your mom or reach out to a friend or there’s stuff around, like, let me flag this to my collaborator or to my boss.

Nick Fitz: I want some help on this, right? There’s things around, like, how do we connect people both like, you know, say, Okay. Groups of major gift officers and kind of master classes, right? Or in networks where they can communicate, but also just within the org, there’s often like silos essentially. And so how are you making it easy for people to get data from one place or to just get advice or a quick edit on an email or something from another.

Nick Fitz: And so I think there’s, yeah, just stuff around sort of people think a lot about the warm glow for donors and we’re like, well, how do you do that for. Fundraisers basically. Yeah. Yeah. 

Mallory Erickson: I love that. I mean, I love the [00:14:00] whole like fundraiser centric piece and this is an episode that’s going to come out later, but I just interviewed this really interesting researcher over at Stanford who studies the science of motivation and One of the things that she’s found in her research is that when people are experiencing like the sort of tortoise time in their motivation, right?

Mallory Erickson: Yeah. Because you’re not always the hare, which is a lot of fundraising, right? A lot of fundraising is like tortoise time. Those like seven touches. Right? And so, and what she said is, in that time we’re often like, we experience a lot of feelings of self-doubt, and we’re really critical and we think we’re not where we should be.

Mallory Erickson: Right. We’re really hard on ourselves. And when that happens, our instinct as humans is actually to disconnect because we don’t want to be exposed to stimuli that could sort of remind us where we’re at, but the way to overcome that motivation hurdle is of course, to like be in connection with each other.

Mallory Erickson: And so all of those little things that you’re [00:15:00] doing, sort of that, like Forced connection almost or the operationalizing of connection, I’m assuming is to get them over that motivation barrier in those moments. 

Nick Fitz: I mean, I think you put it so well and like, I mean, look, we can be honest. I’ve raised money for the org.

Nick Fitz: I think we all have these moments a lot, right? Where you’re like, you know, you’re just alone sending emails, right? Or you’re doing something like this. And for sure, I think whenever we feel anxious or stressed or any of that, there’s like a to disconnect, right? Or to do something, go on a walk. And I think some of the best things you can do is say, Hey, ask for a friend for help, right.

Nick Fitz: Or dig in with somebody, you know, people go to coffee shops or it’s in generally like, it’s easy to avoid if it’s in little 15 minute chunks. Right. So we’re like, okay, let’s do it in a batch, but even then it can be stressful or overwhelming. Right. And so I’m, I’m interested in like, you can imagine, I mean, you do some of this where people hop on and just send thank you emails, right.

Nick Fitz: Or, or just do this in community. Yeah. Right. And I think you can do that in small groups. You can do that. You can build those communities on teams and people just have somebody where they, they’re just like, Hey, can you check this email and see what it looks like, or they [00:16:00] trust their kind of, you know, their writing or their editing, right.

Nick Fitz: Or you can do this by connecting like, you know, groups of major gift officers. You can do this in lots of different ways. And there isn’t actually the same kind of community that you do see in other sectors. I mean, we, the whole industry built on like trust and collaboration community, but actually within major gift fundraising, it’s, it can be lonely.

Nick Fitz: And so I think any of those times where you can just do it with someone around, even if they’re just co working with you can be a lot easier too. 

Mallory Erickson: Yeah. It’s like, we’re often isolated because like systemically inside our organizations, but then also because of the thoughts that we are holding, we’re like kind of further isolated with the chatter in our head.

Mallory Erickson: And so this helps. That’s right. 

Nick Fitz: No, we’re isolated. I mean, we’re isolated as a society. There’s lots of ways. We’re in our own houses and all of this. And then you’re like isolated from the team because you’re not, you know, you’re fundraising. You’re like making sure there’s money to pay everyone. And the core thing yet you’re the work you’re actually doing.

Nick Fitz: Right. Or the work, you know, when I’m raising money, I’m, I’m talking to [00:17:00] outside people. Right. So it pulls you out separately. And then you’re trying to get notes back to people. But there’s lots of ways. I think it could be disconnected to people. If you think about this, their, their everyday experience.

Mallory Erickson: Yeah, yeah. Okay. So what do you think, what are the implications of this shift? Like, not just through momentum, but like, if everybody started to, to shift their gaze from focusing or hyper focusing on donor behavior, To enabling fundraiser behavior. What do you think the implications for the sector could be?

Nick Fitz: Well, it’s a good question. And I think we’re just part of a larger movement of people thinking about action, right? Or thinking about how do you make a lot of this stuff easier to people? You know, there’s, there’s a whole bunch of people working on this yourself included, right? That are, that are starting to think about this or have been for a very long time.

Nick Fitz: Of course, there’s raised more money, right? I’ve got that. If you just look at like who actually raises the money and you look at their experience, like that, that matters a lot. If you think what predicts, This people are so focused on donor behavior, like, you know, this appeal or that appeal and this, and, and of course there’s lots of great research [00:18:00] there, but I think if you’re looking at like, It’s the same as what it predicts outcomes and like mental health treatment and therapeutic relationship.

Nick Fitz: Right. And you can say it’s the relationship between the fundraiser and the donor that really predicts, are they going to give a hundred million or 10? And so I think like that, there’s an obvious thing to say there about raising more money. I think the probably more interesting thing is just like people’s experience and you can quantify that and like how.

Nick Fitz: We all know about the like 18 month turnover numbers, right? We know that it’s tough to retain people. And it’s not like it’s a big mystery why it’s a really hard job. And there’s a lot of aspects about it that are tough. And so I think like, I mean, Nathan’s written about this. So there’s like, this is, there’s some unsustainable things about this.

Nick Fitz: There’s some systemic things, right? And then there’s also just about the actual job. It just burns people out, right? It’s a hard thing. And they pull donors one way. It’s just, it’s complicated and hard. And so I think like those of us that are thinking a lot about the fundraiser psychology or behavior, their experience, I think the kind of outcomes maybe are just longer, you know, satisfaction at work, right.

Nick Fitz: And staying there and for everyone in the pipeline and [00:19:00] just enjoying it more. And there’s obviously lots of that knock on effects, but it’s first and foremost, I think it’s just like not being maybe being frustrated of the during your, like, Yeah. 

Mallory Erickson: I always say like, people are always like, Oh, power partners makes fundraising easy.

Mallory Erickson: And I’m like, no, it makes them able to fundraise with more ease. Right? Like this job is hard. It’s hard. 

Nick Fitz: There’s no way around this. Like people, there’s no golden goose or whatever. Like the thing is just hard work. Right. And we’re doing a lot of things to say, look, there’s lots of things you don’t need to be doing.

Nick Fitz: Like, like the things that you don’t need to be doing yourself. Right. Or that we can try to make it easier. Easier, but it is hard work. Um, just very hard work. 

Mallory Erickson: Yeah. And, but I think to your point, that the piece around the challenges that we have fundraising from a monetary perspective and the experience that we’re having as fundraisers are rooted in the same problem.

Mallory Erickson: And I think the better that fundraisers [00:20:00] feel The better they’re going to fundraise. And so like those, there is a solution there that is like deeply connected. And I think it revolves around our focus on fundraiser enablement through their holistic experience fundraising, which is why I love momentum. I 

Nick Fitz: agree with you.

Nick Fitz: I think it’s like the kind of. Proxy writer is the deep thing here is like, what are the people’s experience look like who power the whole sector. Right. Yeah, it’s a, it’s a very hard job, but there’s some unsustainable things about it for sure that happened. I’d love to, like, reduce the burden a little bit, basically.

Mallory Erickson: Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Thank you. I know we could talk about this forever. Tell people where they can go to learn more about momentum to connect with you. All of the things. 

Nick Fitz: Yeah, I think it’s pretty simple. Just www. givemomentum. com and we have a bunch of stuff there. There’ll be a new site soon, but [00:21:00] that has the info and otherwise, you know, and all the basic places on the internet.

Nick Fitz: Perfect. 

Mallory Erickson: Thank you so much for joining me today and for sharing about your journey and what brought you to this moment and, and the cool way that you are helping to push our sector forward. And I think inspiring other platforms and people to be thinking about things this way. So I’m really grateful.

Nick Fitz: Yeah, thanks so much for having me on here. It’s um, I’m a long time fan and you know, I’ve loved working with you and it’s been great to be on here. So yeah, I’ll talk to you soon and thanks for having me here.

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 MalloryErikson. com backslash. 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 [00:22:00] program.

Mallory Erickson: 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.

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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