WHAT THE FUNDRAISING

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41: How to Align Goals, Language, and Perspectives to Create Win-Win-Win Cross-Sector Partnerships with Kate Williams

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“1% for the Planet was born as essentially a way for businesses to pay rent … and increasingly become a force that sustains our planet so it can be a thriving place for future generations.”

– Kate Wiliams
Episode #41

Overview

In this episode of What the Fundraising Podcast…

I talk with CEO Kate Williams of 1% for the Planet, a non-profit whose 6,000+ members are integrating environmental giving into standard best business practices. She helps us imagine a world in which every operating budget includes line items to underwrite social causes as routinely as office space or equipment rental.

Conjured some 20 years ago on the banks of the Madison River in Montana, the founders of Patagonia and Blue Ribbon Flies, a fly fishing company, foresaw a need for businesses to support environmental organizations far beyond simple check-the-box annual giving. Out of their vision for paying back the planet has grown a network that partners socially responsible businesses with on-the-ground resources. The result? Mutual learning, storytelling, opportunity, and, perhaps most of all, a sustainable win-win-win proposition.

Kate explains why companies of all sizes (as well as individuals) are willing to tithe 1% of their annual revenue under the umbrella of 1% for the Planet, whose model is built to withstand inevitable market fluctuations and shift the mindset of giving from a “nice to have” or “add-on” to an integral part of any forward-thinking business operating plan.

“Investing in the planet isn’t something you opt into or out of based on whether or not you had a good year,” says Kate, “because you’re having an impact on the planet whether or not you’re having a good year.” In exchange for that commitment, 1% for the Planet provides a suite of tools that support successful, fully vetted ongoing partnerships. Businesses take pride in their contribution to a better future and have a valuable vehicle to showcase their branding story.

So remember, when it comes to changing the conversation, non-profits are not in the business of asking. We are all about offering — giving donors the opportunity to advance a better world through transformational investment. If that sounds like the fundraising that you want to do, register here for my upcoming webinar, “How to Raise Money from the Right Donors Without Hounding Them” or take a fun Fundraising Superpower Quiz. And check out the amazing tools from our sponsors and friends at  Pledge, that make it so much easier to build cross-sector partnerships. 

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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.

MALLORY ERICKSON

episode transcript

Mallory: Welcome Everyone! I am so thrilled to be here today with Kate Williams. I’m going to let her introduce herself in a moment. Kate, I’m just so grateful for you and your time and the work that you do and for joining me today. So thanks so much.

Kate: Oh, thank you. I’m so happy to be here. What a great opportunity to have a conversation.

I’m Kate Williams as Mallory shared, and I’m the CEO of 1% for the Planet, which is a global nonprofit focused on environmental philanthropy. We have members in the business space as well as individuals, who commit to giving their 1% back to environmental nonprofits.

Mallory: And you and I were connected many years ago when I was one of those environmental nonprofits, but can you tell me a little bit more about sort of the history and the structure and the innovation of 1% for the Planet.

Kate: Sure, and it’s our 20th anniversary this year, so it’s fun to talk about where we’ve come from and where we’re headed. So really appreciate that. We were founded 20 years ago on the banks of the Madison River in Montana.

The story goes, when Yvon Chouinard, who’s the founder of Patagonia, and his friend Craig Matthews, who was the founder of life fishing company Blue Ribbon Flies, basically had connected all the dots on their own commitment to the environment and their awareness that business both has an impact, a negative impact on the planet just by virtue of doing business, even if you’re being careful. And is a generator of resources that can give back to the planet. So their aha moment on the banks of the river is we need to create a way in which all businesses can step into the opportunity to connect their business directly to not only growing and building as a business, but also side-by-side giving back for every bit of that growth. 

So 1% for the Planet was born as a way to have businesses essentially pay rent as a way to think about it for acting and growing and doing all the things that businesses do that are wonderful and impactful on the Planet, such that business can become increasingly a force that sustains our planet so that it can be a thriving place for future generations.

Mallory: Can you tell us a little bit about kind of the growth trajectory that you’ve seen because I feel 20 years ago, and even however many years ago, that it was that I was leading that environmental organization, I feel like there was a lot more banging my head against the wall getting people to talk about things like climate change.

And I’m just curious, what you’ve seen and what the organization has seen really and what growth looks like, like how many people are a part of the network today.

Kate: Yeah. From, two guys talking on the banks of the river, we’re now fully global, so we’re more than 50% international in terms of our membership. We have close to, well more than 6,000 members adding up individuals and businesses alone are more than 5,500. It’s definitely sizable and the real number though, is the amount of giving, that’s how we measure impact. So last year we certified more than $50 million in giving.

We do convert it all into dollars. It happens internationally, but we do translate it all into dollars to describe our impact. And I think also it’s grown in many different dimensions, there those numbers. Then there’s also the sectors, like who’s involved and we’re across many different sectors. I think people often in their minds because of our founding, associate us with the outdoor industry, but actually we are no more than 10% of our total network in any single industry. So we’re in food and beverage, apparel, beauty, financial services, like really across the board and that is really awesome. 

And we’re small businesses, we’re big businesses. So we have publicly held companies. We have privately held companies. What we love about all of that is not only is diversity stronger than homogeneity, but it also really signifies that this isn’t a sort of niche strategy for doing business. This is a core business approach. And really every industry can integrate philanthropy into the core of their business operations as a way to connect the business to driving change through non-profit giving. And that’s super exciting to see that.

Mallory: I love that. And I think that’s so exciting to see that diversity across sectors and it’s been so fascinating to watch the growth around ESG funding and the shift in corporate awareness around so many things.

And I know when we’ve talked before, one of the things that you all do from my understanding is really help with a piece of sort of due diligence to protect and ensure the integrity of the network. And tell me a little bit about that and who are the businesses who are part of 1% in terms of not what do they do. But what do they believe and why have they decided to be a part of the network. And what helps them feel that sense of belonging.

Kate: Yeah so again, I would say the businesses are many and diverse in terms of who they are as they come to 1% for the Planet. What I mean by that is, that one of our internal mottos is, “Progress, not perfection” if we were to screen out every company, except for those that have already hit the highest levels of sustainability, I would feel like so what, like, how are we really making the world better? Those companies have already figured out a lot and that’s awesome. Go forth and be amazing companies, but we really want to make sure we’re also welcoming in companies who are really psyched to progress in their journey of driving change. 1% of sales is a big number so any company that comes to us and says, I’m interested, I want to explore doing that. We’re like, we want to talk to you because good for you for thinking about how you can incorporate this into how you do business at a high level, 1% of revenues is not nothing.

What we really look for, we’ll talk to anyone, and what we really look for is are you interested in leaning into our program and to becoming part of the community. And that’s when we really get into the values to that part of your question, because there’s so much that companies gain, that in the end, what we really love is when companies feel like, yeah, it’s 1% of the sales, but boy I gained so much.

And of those values, just to run down the list, one is the diligence that we do on the non-profit side. So we can help companies to feel really confident that the nonprofits that they’re giving to are awesome, impact driving non-profits who make great partners. And we really are able to assess our nonprofits and elevate those nonprofits that are able to drive impact and do that in a way that meets the needs of the donors and of the Planet.

Members also access our advising. So figuring out how to put a giving strategy in place, it’s hard. It’s hard to know how to give well, and I think that a lot of people know that and a lot of people don’t give because of that, they feel overwhelmed by it. So our awesome staff is really experienced with helping to develop the matrix of what a company is trying to accomplish. What’s the brand story, the volunteering, appetite, all of those different things, what’s the geography, the size. We’re able to help develop that giving strategy and really think through how it can be integrated with the business. 

And then another one that’s really important is the amplification. So telling the story, part of our growth in recent years, especially has been because consumers are super interested in how can my dollars drive change. And they’re looking for ways that they can understand which brands are the ones that they want to put their dollars into. And so 1% for the Planet is a really strong signifier because so often, our companies are not only giving their 1%, which is driving really meaningful change, dollars invested in those companies given for purchasing are really contributing to powerful. Oftentimes, they’re also doing a lot more, so the 1% for the Planet logo is a big signifier as is the storytelling. So we’re able to help amplify what our members are doing through storytelling and supporting the members in storytelling. 

And then I would say, last but not least and there is some other values as well, but it’s an amazing community for individuals and businesses to become part of this community of people who are making this commitment. It’s so powerful and so energizing. And there’s so many stories in our network of members who access this powerful community. And then they start saying, okay, so 1% giving is one thing, and now I’m going to do all these other things because I’m so inspired by these other members and I’m also like practically instructed to, oh, I see how they’re doing packaging. I can ask this person about how they’re doing their banking. So many things start to come together through the network that it’s super powerful.

Mallory:  I love that. And I’m curious, I know this is a little bit of a nitty gritty question, but the decision for it to be 1% of revenue of sales, as opposed to 1% of profit, I have to imagine that was really intentional.

Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Kate: Yeah, definitely. And it’s a great question because there’s sometimes confusion on that. And it’s a big number. Basically it’s that revenues or sales is a verified commitment every single year. Whether you do well or don’t do well, you have a revenue number, right?

So it’s a commitment that has to withstand the test of time. And it also is a commitment that really makes it clear that investing in the planet, investing in nonprofit partners, isn’t something that you opt in or out of based on whether or not you had a good year, because you’re having an impact on the Planet, whether or not you’re having a good year.

So it’s important that you’re building in this paying a rent, because we don’t get to choose not to pay our staff or not to pay our rent if we have a year that’s a little tighter than a good year. We sometimes may struggle with that, but we still do it because we know we have to have those things in place to operate our business.

We also need to have a healthy planet in place, for its own sake, but also for us to have an economy for the future. 1% of sales really captures that whole philosophy in a really meaningful very specific tangible way.

Mallory: I love it. I have to imagine that it creates a level of consciousness around the commitment all year long as opposed to something they might do at the end of the year or during one reporting cycle, because it’s a real. And I feel like with environmental investments we often, there was a headline in the newspaper the other day that said something about aiding climate or something like that there was going to be something in the budget to aid the climate. And I just looked at my husband I was like, how about to undo the years of harm that have been caused that now we have to fix. 

I feel like there’s this really important sort of language piece and conscious piece that decision creates, that’s incredibly valuable and is probably a huge part of then why they go on to do in addition to the network and that inspiration, more and more because all of a sudden it’s in their consciousness at all times that they’re having this impact.

Kate: Yeah, I think that’s a really good point and it’s in their consciousness and it’s built into their business too. Which is really important because I think we sometimes traditional philanthropy is like this extra, like at the end of the year, if I have money left over I’ll give it, that’ll be a nice thing.

And what we believe in what the 1% for the planet model really structures is, No, it’s like part of your business, it’s integrated into your business because if you drive more sales, you get to give more. And we have like amazing members, Maine Beer Company, and it’s a semantic difference, but it’s very real. They talk about their success as a company in terms of the amount they’re able to give. And of course that’s a like percentage of their total revenue, but it’s a really different way of thinking about what’s success looks like, and that’s a great example of, both what you’re saying about the consciousness, but also of the fact that it is just such a core part of the business.

Mallory: I love that. I interviewed someone a few months ago who talked a little bit about that from their own income standpoint, that they tithe 10% and they actually think about how much they want to earn in a given year by how much they’re going to give away.

And so I think that is just such a beautiful, beautiful way to think about those pieces. The other thing you said before that I just want to go deep in, is the way that 1% has really created this valuable asset to organizations. And I feel like the way that you think about partnership, what you said before, around how they’re getting so much that yeah, maybe it’s 1% of sales, but they’re getting so many things.

And one of the things we see often in the nonprofit sector, and I just actually hopped off a call where somebody said, Would it be okay to go to X, Y, and Z restaurant to see if they want to do this campaign with us? It feels like it’s the wrong time because restaurants are really struggling right now.

And I said, in that question is this inherent belief that it’s not going to be good for them, like for their business. It’s that it would only be inappropriate to bring it up if you feel like the partnership offers no value to them and it’s only for you. Which is something I focus a lot on how do you build win-win mutually beneficial cross sector partnerships and how when you do that, everything changes, and your own feelings as a fundraiser. And I feel like you guys are the best example of this. So will you talk to me a little bit about.

Kate: Yeah, I think what you’re getting at is the whole idea of trade offs and that used to be how we framed a lot of the thinking about doing good, is that there’s a trade off. Like you choose to do something that’s good for the Planet at the expense of, or as a trade-off against doing well or making money. That’s seen as you had to sacrifice one for the other. And I think what has been really good to see, unfortunately, I think it’s because things have gotten so much starker, but that is sometimes what we need in order to see the light. But doing the right thing for the Planet, but also like the data shows that this is for other causes that people care about, so a lot of social causes. That is good for your business in a bunch of different ways. It’s good because consumers are interested in that. So just from a brand and sales standpoint, as long as it’s credible, and consumers are good at sniffing out inauthenticity, as long as it’s credible that it’s good for sales and good for the brand. I think it’s also the longevity of businesses and the viability of business is increasingly seen in that sort of crucible. In order for us to have a habitable, econ planet with an economy that can operate, we have to address some of these issues.

So I do think while there are still some trade offs, because sometimes there have to be upfront investments in order to get into a more sustainable place but by and large we’re increasingly seeing those trade-offs get equalized. Which is awesome because then we can really start talking about the real stuff, which is that how in the world can we not do what’s right for the Planet?

When did we get it into our heads that there was an economy that should be at odds with a healthy Planet. If you think of an economy should be an ecosystem which should be compatible. And I know there are people out there who are probably listening and thinking, what does she know about capitalism? I have studied these things and a good thriving long-term economy. And it, some of it has to do with the time horizon that you want to think in. I think about, my children and future generations, 1% of the Planet, our whole purpose is we want a thriving future for our Planet and future generations.

That’s our mindset, is looking out ahead. And so we do see the economy has to support that and 1% of the Planet is one of the good ways to start building toward that.

Mallory: I remember thinking about that so much in econ classes or just the way that it always felt like the environment was this separate conversation. It was like, if you want to learn about the environment, then you go take environmental science, but in all these other disciplines,that drastically impact the environment, we’re never going to talk about it and that has finite resources and all these things. So I think you’re right, moving away from the zero sum game and thinking about that in terms of the length of time that you’re thinking about what it takes to thrive and live and survive and all of those things, I think is so important. 

I’m curious, you mentioned before that you do the due diligence on the non-profit side. Can you talk a little bit about what you look for, or need to guarantee in order to say that a nonprofit is the right partner to be a part of the network?

Kate: Yeah, sure. So overall our approach to vetting non-profits is knowledge-based. We aren’t looking to rank, create an absolute ranking of, here’s the best nonprofit, meaning here’s the worst. What we ultimately want to do is be able to provide each company, each member, so business or individual with the nonprofits that are best for them based on their matrix of impact goals, location, brand, all of their unique needs. In order to be able to do that we want to understand our nonprofits really well and so it’s knowledge base. Our vetting process is basically an information gathering process and that we work through in stages. 

So there’s an initial stage that we’re doing just to make sure they’re a legit non-profit focused in the areas that are within the sort of larger frame that we’re working in. Which is the environment using but pretty broad, like we’ve incorporated environmental justice. We use the UN sustainable development goals as a way to really look at the environment as more than just straight up, protecting acres and really understanding some of the interconnections between some social and environmental issues, Planet and people.

So using that broader frame, and then we from there dig into what’s the impact, how are you measuring change? We also look at things partnering, because unlike, foundations where there may not be an expectation of a kind of relationship and engagement. For most of our members, there is a greater expectation and hope for more of a relationship and the ability to have shared storytelling or partnerships.

And again, based on different companies. And this is largely I’m mentioning companies because it’s largely on the business membership side, they are going to be the ones who are more interested in some of that, but then we are able to provide those best fit nonprofit.

Mallory: Okay. I love that. And I’m curious, will you go a little deeper in the matrix of the needs of the businesses. This is really interesting because I think that a lot of nonprofits assume that they might not be the right fit for a business if they don’t see mission alignment necessarily or vision alignment.

And they don’t necessarily know how to identify what are all the other points of alignment between a business and a nonprofit. And so I think understanding a little bit more, what are you all looking for? How do you matrix that out, to think about who the right nonprofit is for the right fit?

Kate: Yeah, it’s a good question. Basically we seek information on both sides, so we get a good understanding of our nonprofits and what they’re doing and how they operate. Do the same for the businesses and specifically what we’re seeking to understand is what’s your, where are you operating? Do you want to do your giving super locally around headquarters? Or are you’re looking for global change. So geographic based on size of giving, typically we’re thinking through like how big a nonprofit do you want to work with? Just because a small donation to a very large nonprofit may not be as effective or give you access to as much of a partnership as you might want. So it’s scoping the recipient based on the size of the giving. And that’s not always the case, that’s one that we do look at and make sure there’s just good understanding there.

Volunteering, some businesses want to have their employees able to volunteer. So that is then another cut on, okay let’s understand and it may be, many of our businesses, particularly bigger businesses will have multiple different nonprofit partners. Some are more aligned on the volunteering side, some are more aligned on different giving. In terms of that geographic scope of impact, just to go back to that, sometimes companies are thinking through where on our supply chain do we want to have the giving allocated? So it’s not just do we want it to be close to our headquarters, but also just where are we having impact and how can we work with nonprofit partners in those areas to have an opportunity brand.

We do look at what are the brand elements of the business that they want to bring in out  through their nonprofit partnerships. So sometimes that’s literally through like where is there a brand match, like a similarity in terms of how they present.

Sometimes it’s around how active is the nonprofit in terms of storytelling and are they willing to sort of engage around that and share storiesm, sometimes that’s super important. The business wants to do meaningful giving and to be able to talk about it and to have good content that enables them to talk about it in a meaningful way that’s respectful of the nonprofit and highlights what the nonprofit is doing . We ultimately are fostering a direct relationship so the reason I’m hesitating is because then from there it can be really specific like the business and the non-profit once they’re connecting may figure out what their kind of special sauce is.

So to be clear the way our model works, the money doesn’t pass through us. We do the advising, we do the sort of building of both networks of the members and the nonprofits, but then the giving is direct. And so the relationship is direct. And so it’s very two way in the best relationships. It’s very two way of, money flowing from the donor to the nonprofit, the business or individual to the nonprofit. And then the impact and storytelling and all of that positive flowing back and then together they are creating something more through how they communicate that.

Mallory: I love that. And it’s making me wonder how often are companies looking for new partners? If they come into 1% and they get matched up with let’s say, five aligned partners and those partnerships are growing and they’re doing great. Do you find that companies are doing a lot more sort of long-term relationships with each other or are they constantly looking for new opportunities to partner? What do you see there?

Kate: It really varies. So we have some members who will have long-term commitments, some who will have a very sort of structured rotation, like we want to do two years and then some who will in their first few years, do a lot of sort of testing to figure out what works and then they’ll settle into a plan. 

I would say it’s rare that we have a company that’s just, this is a nonprofit I give to forever. We’re really trying to educate everyone involved on like how philanthropy can be most effective. And we really encourage and help our members to understand the costs of fundraising for nonprofits. So when there is a good relationship and we invest a lot in helping to build those, if it can last more than a year, that’s super helpful because then that time that the nonprofit can spend focusing on doing their amazing work in the world, as opposed to going out to find more resources.

And most of our businesses are really receptive to that. So even if they’re making a change, a lot of times they’re growing, so they add more nonprofits and then communicate clearly if there’s going to be a change. So that tends to work out well. And then, there’s some that are campaign initiatives that it’s clear, like there’s going to be some money that comes from this for one time and then something else is going to happen.

Mallory: Yeah, I think the piece that you are just driving home so clearly is that it’s really all about alignment and that you guys do a tremendous amount of work making sure that the organization and the business are aligned, helping them also then it sounds like, really, they both identify and then be able to communicate about that alignment. 

One of the challenges I often see is a communication barrier between nonprofit professionals and the company. And so even if I perhaps as the outsider can see, oh my gosh, there’s so much brand alignment here in terms of what this company is doing around this and what this nonprofit is doing here, when we’re in our tunnel vision and especially if we haven’t worked with the other sector before, or been inside it ourselves, they’re just sometimes these words that I watch people miss opportunities around.

Will you talk to me about what you see there and how you guys support around that piece?

Kate: Yeah, it’s a great point. And maybe I’ll just back up briefly to share, we really do see the values, the unique and equally powerful values of both the business sector and the nonprofit sector. And we sit in a space where, you know we touch both very closely so we speak the language of both and understand both and really value and see how they have such an important opportunity to relate. Businesses are generating resources through their goods and services and being able to and have the ability to influence change through how the business operates, how they use those resources that they’re generating.

Nonprofits operate where there often is not a market, so they’re not generating resources through their work, they’re generating impact. And so when a business or a member, but I’ll use businesses, are giving to nonprofit, there is expanding the scope of influence that they can have because then they’re operating in the market space. But they’re also contributing to impact outside of the market space and so that relationship is super powerful. 

So for us, like understanding that clearly and really seeing there’s generation of resources and there’s generation of impact over here. That’s a little bit of a simplification, but largely that’s true. And I think one of the keys is that idea of going where there is no market and operating where there is no market to drive change.

Within that, to do well in those two sectors, you do have to have some different skill sets. You do use some different language. There are different experiences of scarcity and abundance and so creating ways in which there’s shared value is the opportunity. And the transfer of money from one to the other is like the kind of most tangible piece of the interaction, but it’s not the only part of it. And really fostering shared sense of different and equal power is really important and something that we really believe in terms of impact and resources. Like we need them both and they fuel each other as, positive impact, I should say. And in different ways, through the conversations that our amazing account managers and our team is having on a regular basis. Just really try and foster understanding for nonprofits, help them to understand, here’s what these businesses are looking for. And how can we help you be ready to communicate that to them so that you can be a good partner with them. And for businesses helping them to understand unrestricted dollars are super helpful, for you to come in and tell them how to spend, telling the nonprofit partners to spend their money is sometimes really challenging. And even though the money is valuable and you understandably want to understand what’s happening with your dollars. Let’s figure out a way that we can help you to stay in the unrestricted space if at all possible. 

We do as much kind of a real-time education as we can. And that is what we have found to be most effective because when we’re doing it, in the context of building relationships as opposed to white papers and stuff like that, it’s it really is operationalized.

Mallory: Yeah. Wow. Inside my course, the Power Partners Formula, I do this thing called asset mapping where I have organizations basically lay out all of their assets because I believe something so similar. 

And as someone who grew up in the nonprofit sector, I spent my entire career here and really it gets in your head that the only thing of value at the table is money, right? When you’re constantly in this constant hamster wheel hustle, just trying to hit our budget goals, it really can drive this really deep sense of scarcity. And for me, a lot of what changed the way that I saw that and thought about that was going through an executive coach certification and starting to track, what are my thoughts and beliefs? Are they true? How are they correlated to how I feel? And then ultimately how I show up as a fundraiser.

And one of the key beliefs was that, I felt like I was always asking people to do something they didn’t want to do. And when I really looked at that belief and did a lot of work around it, it shifted ultimately into actually like great fundraising is not an ask. It’s an offer. It’s about opportunity and partnership and collaboration, and there are all these things of value.

But then when I tried to translate that to other nonprofit leaders, particularly ones who I wasn’t one-on-one executive coaching with, I was like, gosh, when we’re in a deep state of scarcity, it’s so hard to access abundance. We hear people just be like, think abundantly. And you’re like, how, that feels so far away.

And I was really struggling to figure out, I don’t mean quick in a sort of self guided way, how can I help people move out of scarcity? And asset mapping was a really tangible way and I didn’t even totally anticipate it to happen the way that it did. And then it really started to shift the power dynamics at the table because these fundraisers started to be able to show up, really recognizing I have a lot of value here and maybe there is going to be alignment and maybe there’s not, but yeah, money is not the only thing at this table of value.

And I feel it starts to then open up the possibility for more conversations about mutual benefit and win-win, and actually the stuff that’s better for everyone because the companies don’t want you coming to them just asking for their money. They get a billion requests for gala sponsors a year, right? That shows no awareness around who they are or what they do, or how they want to work with folks. And so I think the work you’re doing to facilitate those relationships is tremendous beyond just that one engagement or even their 1% for the Planet engagement. But just starting to break down these silos of what does it look like for us to really create meaningful change by recognizing the assets and resources that both sectors hold, and how much value is created when we come together.

Kate: Yeah, that’s great. The asset mapping, I love that. Framing because I really do think for us operating with a awareness that their assets in across all of our stakeholders and how do we leverage those together through relationships to drive as much good as possible for Planet and people.

Mallory: I also just interviewed this woman for the podcast, Vanessa Bohns. She’s a scientist who studies influence and she wrote this book, You have more influence than you think. But her sort of scientific research is really focused on all the different ways we underestimate our influence and she’s studied fundraisers and donors in particular.

One of the things that came out on that interview that I think is really relevant to this is how much people in power often underestimate how influential their sort of suggestions are. And so we were talking about this in terms of restricted and unrestricted funding that because people who have more quote, unquote, power and power sometimes being that construct of money being the most valuable thing so the person with the most money has the most power. But so people with more power in her perceived situation because they have a lot of autonomy, incorrectly assume that the other person at the table also has that same amount of autonomy. 

So they throw out ideas thinking, like loosely brainstorming, but then the fundraisers, like this donor said we have to do this. And they restrict the funding and they buy the truck or they do whatever the thing is, instead of asking more questions or trying to get clear and so I think the fact that you’re talking about power more transparently is just so critical and I’m just so glad you brought up.

Kate: Good, well thank you. And we’re always growing and learning and the trust-based philanthropy approach has been one that we’ve really been learning from. And so I want to be open and transparent about the fact that I believe in everything I was just saying, as does our team, and we’re on the journey to keep learning and getting better at that.

Mallory: So what do you hope for if you look 10 years into the future with 1%, what are your big dreams?

Kate: Back to where I started in terms of talking about this concept of paying rent for the planet.  With the idea behind that being that it’s not something that you think should I opt in or opt out of this, it’s actually something that you do. If you have a business you do this. 

My vision, our shared vision, is to really grow and become sort of a recognize global standard for how a business should operate, in a really core way, not as like an add-on, but that 1% check. Like that’s part of how we manage ourselves in the context of the world that we live in. Definitely, see that growth.

And we think about that in terms of brand or awareness. Just may sound interesting, but the more recognized this is as a way in which good business operates, the more it will become normalized and just expected and that’s what we would love to see.

Mallory: What would you say to a small business or a business that’s just starting that doesn’t feel like they can make a 1% of revenue commitment right now. Where do you suggest folks begin.

Kate: I would say two things. The first thing I would say is why do you think you can’t. And I don’t say that without an understanding of the fact that like starting a business you need every penny, but I do think like really interrogate what are the other things that you are identifying as core costs? Why is this not one of them? In what way does this not meet the criteria of what core to operating a good business. So just ask those questions whether or not you answer them and they lead to of course I should start, I don’t say that as like a guilt trip question, more just as a reframing question for what it means to operate a business. 

And then in terms of more like action oriented item. Think philosophically or like figuratively about 1%, if you do feel like okay I tackled that question and I really honestly don’t think we could get off the ground if I’m giving 1%. Think figuratively about what’s 1% that you could give, so to really start building in the practice of that commitment. Because we believe as an organization is that everyone has a 1%, it might be 1% of your coffee money as an individual. Like maybe, you think through, okay I spend X amount on buying coffee each week.

I’m going to think through what is 1% of that, I’m going to map that out. Okay I’m going to give, start in some way that you can wrap your head around it or more just like I’m gonna give 1% of my energy to try to make someone’s experience more positive every day. It doesn’t even have to be something you can literally measure, but just really start thinking in those ways, because then you start to see the basic concept is 1% adds up over time to being real and to being changed. So the sooner I can start and the more I can build it into my everyday, the more I can see of course, I can do 1% every day. Of course I can. And so really creating that mindset that small steps add up to getting to big mountain tops.

Mallory: I feel like that’s such an important point because I think sometimes we can get into this all or nothing mindset, and then it feels even sometimes in the ways that we make different purchasing decisions or I’ve had my fair share of guilt throughout the pandemic in like early motherhood about making a last minute purchase at a place I try not to purchase from.

And my husband and I did something a few years ago where we started offsetting all of our carbon and it was just a way to bring it into our consciousness around all of our different decision-making throughout the year. And it doesn’t mean that we never make decisions that have an impact on the planet.

I think, like you said, at the beginning, which is so critical is that we are having that impact and we need to accept that and recognize that. And even the most, even businesses that are built with the intention of being more sustainable just by being businesses, are creating a situation where they need to pay rent.

And so I really liked that framework and just not being about like are you bad or good, but that this is something we’re all participating in and so we should really all contribute to our time.

Kate: Totally. Progress, not perfection.

Mallory: I love that. So tell everyone where they can find you and where they should go if it’s a business listening to this, where they should go to learn more about becoming a member and same with the nonprofit, if those happen to be different places.

Kate: Yeah, so our website is onepercentfortheplanet.org, all spelled out in letters. If anywhere in the website, you can learn a lot of good information. There is a join link, and you’ll get information there about both individual and business membership, so I encourage you to go there.  And then I’m on LinkedIn, Kate Williams. So I definitely invite people to connect or to reach out that way. 

It’s been a wonderful conversation, so thank you.

Mallory: It’s been such a pleasure. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today.

Kate: Thank you.

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