WHAT THE FUNDRAISING
Episode 0: Meet your host, Mallory Erickson With the Team from We Are For Good
“One of my top values is curiosity. Curiosity is the solution to so much, it’s the solution to judgment, it’s the solution to black and white thinking, it’s the solution to low energy, to negative self-talk.”
– Mallory Erickson
In this episode of What the Fundraising Podcast…
It is episode zero of the What the Fundraising Podcast, and I decided to kick it off by sharing with you who I am, what I do, and why I’ve started this podcast. And what a better way to do that, than having my lovely friends John and Becky from We Are For Good interview me.
We talk about my vision of the nonprofit world, the core values I put into my work, and the crazy journey that led me into fundraising by chance. Also, I share what my course Power Partners framework and this podcast is all about and how they will revolutionize this field. No more outdated guides and frameworks; the purpose of this podcast is to launch the nonprofit sector into a new way of thinking, connecting, and operating.
Join this conversation and let’s get to know each other! John and Becky say such kind words I hardly believe it’s me that they are talking about. Plus, they put me up for some surprise rapid fire questions to know me better that you won’t want to miss!
It is episode zero of the What the Fundraising Podcast, and I decided to kick it off by sharing with you who I am, what I do, and why I’ve started this podcast. So I asked my lovely friends, John and Becky from We Are For Good, to interview me to answer the question: Who am I?
We talk about my vision of the nonprofit world, the core values I put into my work, and the crazy journey that led me into fundraising by chance. Also, I share what my framework around Power Partners and this podcast is all about skills, lessons, and learning from inside this framework can revolutionize this field. No more outdated guides and frameworks!
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NON PROFIT SHOUTOUT
Get to know GiveThx!
GiveThx is a research-validated digital program that strengthens student wellbeing & social-emotional skills using gratitude science. GiveThx’s mission is to create school communities where all students feel a strong sense of belonging, and to use technology to break social barriers and build healthier connections.
Get to know Brave Trails!
Brave Trails is a national non-profit organization dedicated to LGBTQ+ youth leadership. We offer accredited summer camps, family camps, mentorship programs, meet-up groups, and year-round leadership programming. All of our programs focus on helping LGBTQ+ youth find what they need most to thrive: their people, their place, and their passion. Nothing makes us more proud than seeing our youth take the skills they gain in our programs and use them to create meaning change in their communities.
[Mallory]: I am so excited and thrilled and honored to be here with Becky and John from We Are For Good to kick off What the Fundraising, this is episode double cero. I love what you do so much, and being on your show was just one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. So I’m thrilled that you agreed to help me start off this way.
[Becky]: Let’s be honest, if Mallory Erickson asked us to detail her car, we would drive across the country and do it. So anything that you need us to do, we are there. We love you and adore you.
[John]: You realize we define our life as before we met Mallory and after. It was such a defining moment. So this honor is huge for us.
[Mallory]: Ah, okay. I’m going to hand it off to you guys. Thank you for saying that, but I’m going to hand it off to you guys. I’m going to let you run this.
[Becky]: We are so excited. It’s episode zero, this is the tone-setting episode about what is, What the Fundraising, what is the tone? What are we trying to achieve?
And it’s really just a time to get to know our incredible friend who is one of the most empathetic, kind, but bold disruptors in this sector. We want your audience to come to know, trust and love you, in the way that we do. You have such an incredible point of view that we believe is just going to launch the nonprofit sector into a new way of thinking, into a new way of operating, and into a new way of connecting.
I want to just say the first time we met you, before I get into the first question, do you remember this John? Mallory came onto our podcast, she had met with our producer beforehand and our producer was like, “I have a mic drop guest for you. I met this woman, she is in California”. We’re in Oklahoma, we’re probably the first people you’ve ever met from Oklahoma on this podcast. And she said, “She is going to knock your socks off”.
She came onto our podcast, she disrupted and changed everything about the way we thought about partnerships. And then we fell in love with your heart, your soul and the kind human you are. You can never get rid of us, we are your BFFs for life.
[John]: I couldn’t agree more. It’s just, Mallory is the complete package of a friend. And I’ll say when we get asked, “Who would you want to work with?”, and if we could go back into our former life, you’re the type of coach, and I say coach specifically, that you need as a development professional.
So I was so excited you were launching a podcast because we all need that. We need the inner work to be able to go do the hard outer work of development. I’m so proud and happy for you and to be here.
[Becky]: Let’s do this! Question number one is we want you to share your falling into the nonprofit story.
I don’t think we’ve had a guest on our podcast, in 140 episodes, who has said “I actively went into the nonprofit sector”. So lead us through organizations and positions and how you got into our sector.
[Mallory]: Yeah, so I also didn’t think I would spend my life in the nonprofit sector, but after leaving college in my undergrad from the University of Michigan, I was really interested in education policy. I thought I wanted to work at the department of education. I was going to go to Washington, but I was probably going to do that via law school or a master’s in public policy. But I wanted to spend a few years on the ground, in the public education system, before I entered that next chapter of my life.
I found an organization called Citizen Schools that really fused together the nonprofit on the ground, inside the public schools. They also had a policy arm of the organization, the nonprofit arm, the advocacy arm of the organization. So I thought it was a great opportunity for me to really see the connection between those different places and spaces.
I actually didn’t work in their HQ office, which had been the whole point of me going to their Boston location because what I really fell in love with was being inside the school with the kids and partnering with teachers. So I stayed there for a number of years as a teaching fellow, I was an AmeriCorps member, got my master’s in education, and then stayed on as a campus director with them.
I then went and did some consulting work for an organization called Peace First in New York City that also had an in-school partnership model focused on social-emotional learning. Then after that, I really started to get interested in the idea of cultural immersion and cultural exchange, both with young people from the US going abroad, but also with students in other countries coming to the US. So for five years in my life, I worked for and helped grow an organization called Global Student Embassy.
We worked with youth in the US, Nicaragua, and Ecuador. I grew that organization from about 300,000 to 2 million. Before that point, I knew “This is where I’m going to be”. I love the nonprofit sector and I really believe in its power for transformative change. And I saw problems all over the place.
I saw problems with fundraising and program development and a scarcity mindset. But in my core and in my gut, which is still where I sit, I just believe that this sector has the potential to be such a powerful force. I spent a lot of years really banging my head against the wall, trying to prove that belief to be true.
The thing I talk about a lot is that throughout all of this, I had big fundraising expectations, absolutely hated fundraising. I left Global Student Embassy, became the managing director of another organization, grew that organization from 1 million to 3.6 before I transitioned out. It was really inside that organization that my framework around fundraising changed because I went through an executive coach certification program.
I studied design thinking with IDEO, I worked with BJ Fogg on behavior change and habit and behavior design, none of which were related to my fundraising. But the frameworks came together for me at the same moment. And I was like, “Wait a second. This doesn’t have to be done the way we’ve been historically trained to do this.” “Why do I continue to study best practices from a system or a sector that hasn’t actually figured out the best practice for this thing yet?” And it really opened my eyes to the learning that’s outside of the nonprofit sector that can fundamentally change the way that we do things inside for good.
And that’s really the foundation of this podcast, and the foundation of all of my work: We have been missing big lessons, we have been missing big opportunities because we are in our tunnel vision inside the sector. And I know, I grew up here too so I totally get it, that’s how I operated for 13 years, but there is so much we can do to strengthen what we do individually and the sector as a whole, when we pick our heads up out of that sand.
[John]: Oh goodness, there are so many things that we’ll need to unpack.
[Becky]: Holy smokes!
[John]: Before we move too far off, you’re such a social justice warrior. It comes through how you’ve poured yourself into your work and I’m just blown away at your experience. Honestly, every time I hear pieces of your story, I’m just like, “No wonder Mallory is the way that she is”. This category and this kind of time of just learning and growing has really served you in the space that you’re in today.
Would you take us back though? What is Mallory like on the playground growing up? Who is this girl? Where did she come from? What is your family dynamic like? Just fill in a little bit of the gaps because we’re going to come back to all the framework and good stuff.
[Mallory]: Yeah. So who is Mallory on the playground?
I’m on the playground again right now with my two-year-old daughter, which is just so fun. I’m the oldest of four women. I grew up in the East Bay in California, and I’m also the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor. I say that because that’s such a significant part of my upbringing. She really helped raise me with my mom and my mom was a first-generation American.
My family’s from Hungary on that side. So I just really grew up with a lot of conversation around injustice and inequity and the importance of standing up for what’s right and what happens when we don’t. As the oldest of four, I also think there was a piece of my identity that was really linked to being the helper.
I really tried to be a helper and not get in the way of what my siblings needed in a lot of ways. So it’s been an interesting identity shift as women in general and then me and my own family, I really fell into being that helper by necessity. It’s been an interesting journey for me to step out and be like, “Okay, I want to be a person committed to service and community because that’s a core value of mine, but not because that’s the only thing that makes me worthy”. I really grew up with a real fear-based value around helping, that I better be helpful or else, I better be nice or else, I better be kind or else.
Cause that was Mallory, she was the nice one, she was the helpful one. I derived a lot of my like, “Okay, this is who I have to be”. And it really wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I was like, “Wait a second. I get to actually choose how I show up”. And it doesn’t mean these values are bad values, of course they’re not, but I really have switched the way that I approach them from a real conscious space perspective, and that’s a big part of my coaching work with clients as well.
[Becky]: Okay. Couldn’t Mallory Erickson be any more of a loving, evolved, and self-aware human being? There’s so much to tap into and to double click on, on there. And one, I just want to tell you that the way you show up in business, the way you show up in your friendships…
I will put a pin on the fact that you are clearly my most favorite friend that I’ve met in the last year since we have launched this company. But the way that you show up is so grounded in that value system that you’re talking about. I just think of the legacy that you honor through your grandmother’s life and the way that you have this arc for justice.
I will even share a personal story that Mallory a couple of months ago, and I don’t even remember what the latest senseless shooting of an unarmed black man was, but we were both so upset about it. And so anybody else would have just been upset and sat in the angst of that. Not Mallory, she gets on social media, she makes a gift, toward a movement that would not only eradicate this but provide justice. And then she calls on other people to rise up and match her. And that is the kind of evolved human that is not just preaching she’s doing. And so I really want to like, double-click on this value system, because
I think that you have some wonderful, deeply entrenched values that you’ve created for your company, and I would love for you to talk about how you bake them into what you do.
[Mallory]: Oh yeah. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are obviously strong values in my company and my personal work. One of my top values is curiosity. I think that curiosity is the solution to so much, it’s the solution to judgment. It’s the solution to black and white thinking, it’s the solution to low energy, to negative self-talk. It’s like, “Where can we get curious?”
We get so certain that we have this perfect way, this right way, the only way, and the world is not black and white. So curiosity is a very top value for me.
The other is integrity, that’s woven into transparency and honesty and another is courage. And I put courage on there, not because it’s a natural value of mine, but because it’s one I really intentionally work on to be courageous. “Gosh, I’m scared of that. I’m scared to do that, and I’m scared to say that, I’m scared to put that out there”. Okay, “But you value courage more than your fear”. That’s a really intentional one.
I talk a lot about authenticity and imperfection. I talk a lot about it for fundraisers, I train on it and I teach on it; it’s a huge part of my program because I believe so deeply it is the key to sustainable fundraising success. I hold myself to a really high standard there too, in terms of letting myself be imperfect and visible and letting myself be authentic and visible and taking whatever backlash comes with that. Which sometimes it does, but it’s okay because I know that’s the road to success for me and my business, to fundraisers in their fundraising.
And then the other two values are accountability, I just hold myself really accountable to the things I commit to, the people I commit to. When you’re my person, I’m all in. I’m all in! You’re my client, you’re my friend, you’re my family member, you have me and I have your back.
That’s sometimes a hard value to choose because I have to also choose myself and make sure that I’m not holding myself to a level of accountability that doesn’t allow space for me. So that one always takes some work, but it is something I really value. And then the last one, I’ll say is vulnerability. That I just feel like that’s the point of all of this.
I don’t want to be some robot on this planet and I just want to feel, deeply, and sometimes that is really hard to do. I can’t watch scary movies cause I just feel the pain of everyone in the movies. My husband is oh my God, please. But I feel everything because my heart is open and my eyes are open and it is a really hard place to live in that level of vulnerability.
But I just don’t want any other existence when it comes down to it. That’s another kind of core value of mine.
John: I think I’ve heard you talk a lot about how you feel really does inform you of a gut check almost. To me, it has been disruptive how you teach people to listen to that. I wonder if you’d share a little bit of that because it’s spoken to me when you’ve shared it on social media and I’d go back and I’m like, “I need to keep reading this”.
Would you share that little story?
[Mallory]: Yes. I can share the story that I posted about recently. So years ago I became yoga teacher certified, and one of the things that was really interesting about that experience for me is that it was an immersive certification.
The first few weeks I just kept asking, “Am I doing this right?” And I kept looking, I looked under my arm or looked between my legs, like “How’s everyone else doing it?”, “Does this look right?”, and “Is this the right thing?”
And I know I just kept asking that, and at some point, two weeks in maybe, all of a sudden I just shut up and I started asking myself, “Does this feel right?” Who cares! What does right even mean?! My body’s not her body. It’s never going to look that way when it’s in that position, so why am I so obsessed with this “right”?
It totally changed my experience with yoga. And the other day I was in a yoga class and I had that hit come back to me. All of a sudden in the middle of the yoga class, I was covered in chills, and I came out of my pose. I was tearing up and I wrote it down on paper, “Everything changed when I stopped asking “Is this right?”, and started asking, “How does this feel?”
When I think about that shift, it has been true for everything in my life. That’s what changed my fundraising when I stopped asking, “Is this the right way to fundraise? Is this the right type of email to send?” You can find so many different examples of things out there.
I feel like the key to all of this is figuring out how to tap into those questions. How does this feel? I’ve had partnership opportunities, sponsorship opportunities for my company that are exciting financially, maybe reputationally, and I always come back to “But how does this feel?”
Our bodies know so much, our bodies and our bellies. We hold information there, that is all in that space of curiosity, and I feel like we fall into these conditioned tendencies of not listening to it because we’re like, “I don’t have time”, or “I’m just going to think about this critically and, put it on some chart of pro-con list”, but there’s wisdom that doesn’t live there that you have. That is just such a routine for me, and now, at this point pretty subconscious, I think until I had that moment a few weeks ago of just constantly checking in like, “How does this feel?”
And being really honest with myself, when something doesn’t feel good and sometimes making the really hard decision to not do something, even if all the data or all the things… Sometimes my team members will be like, “Mallory, come on!” “You’re supposed to do blah, blah, blah”. I’m like, “It doesn’t feel good”.
I know that if I act out of alignment with my feelings you’re not going to get the best of me, you’re not going to get my best energy. I’m going to dread doing the thing you’re asking me to do, and my capacity is going to decrease as a result. So it’s just such a driving question, and I think for fundraisers, a missing one.
[Becky]: Mallory, where were you the last 20 years of my career? I needed someone to tell me that!
[Becky]: I love this metaphor so much for your life, for your career. I honestly hadn’t heard that story because to me it is the secret sauce of fundraising in this brave new world that we’re in right now.
I have to compliment you about it too because to me it all comes back to those two core values of yours, which are authenticity and vulnerability. You know that we are huge proponents of the art of fundraising. There are tried and true systems that you can follow step-by-step in any academic fundraising book.
However, if you get to know someone on a human level, you understand their heart, you understand their motivations, you understand nuance about your relationship. It is going to require you to do what I talk about with my daughters all the time, which is listening to the little man inside your stomach. Your gut has something to tell you. And when we listen to it then extraordinary things begin to happen.
That is how great movements begin to escalate, grow and ripple, and people want to be a part of that. Why? Because it feels good, because it feels natural. And it leads to things like being named Forbes’ Leading Disruptor in the non-profit sector.
Can we talk about this for a second?
[John]: This is a huge deal!
[Becky]: This is so huge! So earlier this summer Forbes came out with an article and it was actually entitled Female Leaders That Are Disrupting and Changing These Five Sectors. In that little category of fundraising in the entire world, Forbes selected our friend Mallory Erickson.
I want to give everybody this quote very quickly because I thought it was really powerful. She says, “As an executive coach in the non-for-profit world, Mallory Erickson helps nonprofits understand how to avoid over-baked donor stewardship by more strategically nurturing donor partnership. Her technique helps reduce burnout among nonprofit employees and adds the human touch back into what should be a human-focused industry.”
I have to tell you, when I read that article, I stopped and paused to wipe away the tears, I printed that sucker off, drove across town, and put it in my mom’s fridge. Cause that’s how proud I was of you!
Tell us about what this meant to you, because I know it was a huge shock, but I have to say, as your friend, as your colleague, as a champion of what you’re putting into the world, those of us who read it were cheering, Arsenio Hall style pumping our fist because we feel like the sector is finally identifying and seeing that we need to do a hard pivot into this organic human way of approaching fundraising.
So talk about what this article meant.
[Mallory]: Oh my God. Thank you for all of that. I’m going to try not to cry too much. I feel like a lot of times, or I don’t know how many other people this happened to, but so much throughout my career I heard things like “Mallory, but you’re so capable. You could do anything. Don’t you want to go work for Google or Facebook or Apple?” People would say that all the time like I was playing small somehow inside the nonprofit sector. One of the things I’m so deeply committed to is re-writing those stigmas, about how powerful the people inside the sector are and how amazing they are, and how no one has any fricking idea what it takes to run a nonprofit on the shoestring budget they are running it on.
So first of all, that. It was interesting having this thing come out, which all of a sudden got a lot of people’s attention who probably had a lot of beliefs about my career, which I thought was really interesting.
And for me, the way that I think about it is “Yeah, it’s cool”. I’m glad that fundraising was on there, frankly. I’m glad that the nonprofit sector was on there. That was the thing I was the most pumped about. I was like, “Our sector is being included finally in things like this”.
That felt really good, and the other thing that made me excited about it is that I know that one of the things that holds people back from working with me or taking Power Partners, is that it feels scary to fundamentally fundraise differently. I know that for a lot of people, my process around listening to themselves, slowing down in order to go faster, really building these intentional strategic partnerships that are going to lead to sustainable, reliable, revenue without that hustle is actually really uncomfortable for fundraisers at first. We have this value system inside the sector that the hustle is what makes us worthy of raising that money. I’ve had clients say that to me, that they’ve gotten a big gift from way less work than they anticipated, and they’re like, “I feel guilty about it”. I know that’s one of the scary things about fundraising in a different way, or even investing in learning a different way to fundraise, “Is it gonna work for me?” “Okay, this is new, but does it really work?”
And so the Forbes thing for me was more like… I hope this gives people the confidence that they don’t have to keep doing things the way they’ve been doing them. That there is another way, that they can get off the hamster hustle wheel. More than anything, I hope it gives people hope that they aren’t stuck in these old-school fundraising methods that didn’t work for me, that haven’t worked for any of my clients. Maybe they have temporarily worked in bringing money here or there, but they’re not lasting, and they’re leading to burnout. They’re making people leave their jobs, leave the sector; the whole broken ecosystem around it, too.
[Becky]: I just want to say one more thing on this, because to me, this was such a moment in time. This was such a pivotal moment in our sector where I felt like one, there were people finally raising their eyebrows saying, “Oh, do we need to disrupt the sector? There are people who want to do that?”
And then two, it gave them permission to lean into it and to explore that why that you’re talking about. I just sat there thinking “Our friend is the poster child of this movement”. No pressure, but it brought me back to this moment, at this quote where it’s “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants” and I’m sitting there thinking “John, we’re all going to stand on Mallory’s shoulders. She is paving this way. She is trailblazing this path that is going to connect humanity and empathy and the desires that we all have”, that I think frankly have been unearthed in COVID as we’re trying to find purpose and meaning because we understand life is fragile and precious, and this is the time of which we pivot.
I could not be more overjoyed, enthusiastic that you could be the shepherd, for us. And again, no pressure. I am totally in your block and we are behind you. I think the most gratifying part is the more we talk about it, the more we are finding little soldiers who want to come along and want to do things differently, so bravo.
[Mallory]: Thank you. I can’t really handle what you just said. It’s so interesting, cause I don’t feel like a giant, I feel like we are all standing hand in hand on some shore just taking one courageous step after the other. That’s why I keep courage as one of my core values because so many of the things I’ve talked about or I’ve said felt so scary to say the first time I said them. The first time I ever said, “I hate fundraising”, I was so scared to admit that. Or the first time I ever said, “I think my money beliefs are actually leading to the reason I’m not great at fundraising”, “ I think the way I spend money has a lot to do with why I’m not fundraising well”.
Or the first time I said, “God, that felt so uncomfortable. I felt like I wasn’t totally honest in that meeting. I didn’t lie, but I felt like I wasn’t totally honest and it just felt bad.” And I did not feel like I had any place to say those things before. I think that’s the thing I hear the most from people, even in the quiet DMS or the little emails of just “God, I never thought we were allowed to say that”.
For me, it’s also a lesson in that, disruption doesn’t have to be some big, huge performance of something. I’m just sharing my truth that happens to be the truth of so many other people and we’ve all just been really scared to talk about it. I was really scared and I am really scared sometimes too. But I just know so deeply that we just have to keep doing it.
[John]: The fact that you do all the things we’ve just described, and I’m glad that you’re getting the attention and recognition for it. But we know you personally, too, and there’s just no ego involved. There’s no ego in the way you present yourself, but also just personally.
I just think that is your secret sauce, that keeps this authenticity and this vulnerability and why people love you and gravitate and want to learn from you because you’re honest that you’re learning too, and it’s about the community being lifted. So I just have the chills.
Another thing, removed fully from values that I think is just so true of you, is that you have got such a heart to lift the voice of the oppressed, those that do not have a microphone, you provide that microphone to people in a lot of different ways. Would you talk about that? I’ve seen you lift fellow women in this sector, the BIPOC community, and all of the different things that we’ve faced over the last couple of years since we’ve found you. I’d love for you to speak into that as well of why that’s important to you and how you’ve done that.
[Mallory]: Yeah. I think it’s a constant recognition of my own privilege. I think it’s been really easy, I shared a little bit about my family’s history. I think it was easy for me when I was younger, to separate myself, maybe other myself from needing to take responsibility for the way that other groups of people have been marginalized and oppressed and discriminated against.
In my own learning and work, I have really recognized that actually, my responsibility is to step up in a much bigger way. I was not exposed to diverse voices as even consulting options when I was leading organizations, and there are just so many things that I feel like are so wrong about the ecosystem that surrounds the nonprofit sector and many things that are happening within the nonprofit sector, both for around fundraising and volunteerism and a number of different things.
I’m not going to solve them all, but I’m definitely going to give my audience and my platform or open it up for a higher level of inclusion than I typically see, and that I believe needs to be a part of everything that we do.
[Becky]: Thank you for showing up the way that you do. Thank you, you seemingly always put your ego aside and you lift the person next to you. That’s what every human being on Earth should strive to do. I don’t want to get off this topic about empowering women until I talk to you about what is it like being a wife, a mom, and a small business owner.
I want to know the joys, the realities, the struggles, and the kind of lessons that you’re hoping to teach sweet little two-year-old Emmy, as you’re modeling this very big life for her.
[Mallory]: I feel like motherhood has taught me so much about business and life and other relationships too, to just surrender. It is one of my main mantras, surrender.
And I bring a lot of those same values. Curiosity. I get curious. “Okay. You’re having a massive tantrum in the middle of the kitchen, we’re trying to go to daycare. I definitely have a call in 15 minutes, but let me just take the beat and try to get curious about what is triggering this situation right now.”
So I’m really trying to apply those values. Same with vulnerability. It’s really interesting, my business and my daughter were born really close to each other. So it’s very interesting the way that those things have grown together. Emmy, when she was first born, I have no idea why I did this, but she would start crying and she was like a few weeks old and I’d say, “Tell me about it. Tell me about it, baby. What’s going on, what’s happening?”
I just talked to her, I just gave her space to cry, and I didn’t shove a pacifier in her mouth and I didn’t shush her. I’m not saying those things are bad, but for some reason, that wasn’t what I felt called to do. What I felt called to do was ask her about her pain “Does something hurt?”. I have no idea why, but it’s interesting. What I found with her was that a lot of times me just asking questions like that calmed her right down. It’s been really interesting to let her be vulnerable, let her be scared, and not draw a lot of meaning from it.
People are always joking about how many bumps and bruises the girl has, but I let her be brave and courageous and vulnerable because she’ll find her own boundaries. She’s so different than me, she’s a really unique combination of me and Ryan. And Ryan just makes our world go round. There’s no way I could have the business I have today without him… I want to say sharing domestic responsibilities and he’s probably listening to this like “Girl, I do 75% of everything in this house”.
[Mallory]: He has a big career and he works at a big company, he is in a big role. And he is so my partner in everything and I couldn’t do any of it without him. Raising Emmy with him is just a ball, and I love being a working mom. For me being a working mom, I think it provides me with a ton of balance. I have a hard day at work and I get to go home and be with my daughter.
I have a hard Emmy morning and I get to go to work, and I love that balance. When it’s a hard day at work and a hard Emmy day… Yup, those days are super rough, but they aren’t most of them. I learned so much in the different pieces of my life that I feel like nurture and, I think that comes from allowing myself to be fully me.
[John]: You have a beautiful family and we’d love watching from afar and hopefully we get to hang out with y’all in person too because it’s just a really special relationship that y’all have. Thank you for sharing about that.
Okay. I love all things frameworks, and you have been teasing this. You’re such a strategic thinker, Mallory, and something that I remember striking me from the first time we met is just how, as a teacher, you don’t want to just teach something one-off that worked for you, maybe at one of your offices over the years. You’ve really zoomed out, blended psychology, sociology, all this passion that you have, into what really works in a framework that everybody can adopt and that’s Power Partners.
It’s how can you build these amazing relationships that breed a ton of fundraising and better communications across the board. Would you share a little bit about the founding of that and what it really means to the people that have been through your course?
[Mallory]: Yeah, throughout 2020, my one-on-ones filled up really fast and I just couldn’t meet the need that was coming in. So I took a step back and I said, “Okay, what am I doing with these one-on-ones, what are the questions I’m getting asked the most? And how can I build a course?” “I’m a teacher by training, how can I build a self-guided course that can really fuse, what I know from an education standpoint, to what I know as an executive coach and all these other frameworks I’ve been exposed to?” So I stopped my one-on-ones in October of 2020, and I basically spent three months building Power Partners.
When I finally started producing Power Partners, what it was really about was like, “Okay, what are the things my brain has been trained to do combining all these different frameworks?” “What does my brain now naturally do when it combines my habit design, with design thinking, with executive coaching?” It required me to basically reverse engineer without someone needing to get certified and as an executive coach or going through all the programs that I had gone through. To bring me to that moment, I had to reverse engineer how somebody could think the way that I was thinking when I was applying those multiple frameworks at one time. I don’t even know if what I’m saying makes sense. Does that make sense?
[Becky]: It makes so much sense, and I feel like a bobblehead because my head is nodding so often.
[John]: I actually feel more impressed than I already was.
[Mallory]: One of the big underlying frameworks is called Funder Mapping, and inside that is this thing called Asset Mapping, and what this was created around, was the constant question I got from people about “What is our lowest-hanging fruit?”. If there was any question I got into the discovery call the most by far was that “Mallory, can you just tell us our lowest-hanging fruit?” and no, I can’t tell you that in five minutes after looking at the homepage of your website and I don’t even understand your mission statement, there’s no way! But I was like, “I need to figure out how to help you identify that”.
That’s what Funder Mapping is all about. I realized that when people were hiring me on retainer and hiring me one-on-one, part of what I was doing was this process of lenses. So through executive coaching, I really learned about this idea of lenses, which is that we all show up to every situation with the perceptions, beliefs, desires goals that we hold. I’m wearing blue lenses, Becky’s wearing green lenses, John you’re wearing red lenses, and unless I put on your glasses, I’m never going to be able to speak directly to what it is you’re interested in.
The thing I saw with nonprofits all the time is they were sending the same type of outreach email to a foundation, as they were to corporate partners, as they were to an individual. And I was like, “Oh man, they really do not understand how differently those entities are thinking from one another”. I walk people through a process that’s called Funder Lenses and we do foundations, corporate partners… Inside corporate partners actually get way more granular because there’s a big difference between marketing, corporate social responsibility, and a corporate foundation. So there’s actually a different lens for each of those. Then we talk about individuals, which also there are a variety of lenses within individuals, but that’s the first thing I have them do.
I have them really deeply understand their current funders and founder prospects based on a number of different components. Then I have them do something called Asset Map; I have them write out all of the things of value inside their organization. I’m going to tell you that this is more magical than I even realized when I was first coming up with it.
The idea is that nonprofits are holding so many things of value that go way beyond the programs and services that they’re offering: their audience, their email list size, the thought leaders on their board of directors, the skills of their staff members, the product placement inside the gift baskets that they send out to their clients.
There are so many assets, dozens if not hundreds, inside these different organizations. So I have them write all of that out and then I have them match organize those types of assets, by the desires of the different types of funders. So we know that a foundation might not care about your list size, but a corporate partner will. A foundation is going to care about thought leaders on your board of directors, actually, a corporate partner might care about that too.
I have them organize them based on the funder lenses, so funder lenses are first and then we see where’s the most heat. So if you look at your corporate assets and you have 56 of them and you look at your foundation assets, and you have 13 of them, then your lowest-hanging fruit is to build corporate sponsorship around either your current annual program or maybe a particular event, because there’s so much heat there. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to have a foundation strategy, you’re not going to have diversified funding, but you need to pick one bridge to start with.
Because the problem is that when we’re trying to do everything at once, we are losing so many brain calories to context switching, and we’re building all these half-built bridges that are not getting our organization to where we’re trying to go. So the Funder Mapping Process helps you identify your lowest-hanging fruit, and then you move into what’s called Effective Engagement, which helps you apply everything you learned into your outreach.
[John]: Who’s surprised that Mallory created The Power Partners that allows the funders to be seen and appreciated and valued? Like it’s not lost on me that of course, that is the course. And it’s scary that’s disruptive, right? That people feel seen in this process is disruptive, but it is, especially those of us that have been in it.
[Becky]: We have the same brain because I was literally thinking “The way Mallory shows up in life, is the way that she has built Power Partners to make things more efficient, to make them more human, and to make someone feel seen.”
I want to give Power Partners just a little slight love right now because I love this concept of no more half-built bridges. I feel like Power Partners is such a smart, emboldening, sharpening framework. The market is so hungry for this, and you showed up and created this framework that felt good. And I just want to give you some prompts through the lens of someone who’s watching this go down. I’m a part of The Power Partners Facebook group, I’m watching it go on on Instagram. And I want to just say one, this process works and I don’t even mean that as an infomercial kind of a sale.
This is a process that works and we see it all the time on Facebook. People are posting all the time and that is important because the bean counters want to know that we’re making progress and we’re getting money in the door. But the best part to me is watching the human response to how Power Partners has made people feel courageous, it’s made them feel authentic.
You have created a space where people come in and it’s almost like when your kid comes in and they’ve successfully tied their own shoes or buckled themselves to the car seat. It’s like “I did it!”. And the joy you have for them, and we’re all celebrating in community, even if it’s a very tiny non-profit who never thought they could have had the courage to walk in and ask for a gift at that level. And the person that’s funding it feels so great because it was a partnership, it wasn’t an ask. I could not love it more, and I could not endorse it more. I want to get in there.
[Mallory]: Can I say something about that too, or two really quick things? I think this piece is really critical. Inside Power Partners, right before they do effective engagement, like where they’re sending out the emails, that’s where the executive coaching comes in.
Right before they’re going to click send on these emails. There’s a module about here’s what you’re going to hear in your head, right before you click send: “They might be mad at me for asking for more”, “My friends might hate me because I send this out every year, at the end of the year, they might not give at all if I send this email”.
All those little gremlin voices, the self-critic, the chatter that are baked into fundraising so deeply. However you get support around your fundraising, it has to include that. I honestly don’t want to see one more fundraising program, course, training, anything that does not acknowledge the inner blocks that hold us back from being able to execute the strategy in front of us.
Strategy is important, the science of fundraising is there, best practice is there. But they cannot be effective if they are siloed from what is happening, inside your brain and inside your body when you try to implement them.
Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox.
[Becky]: Oh don’t! Because I’m going back to my major gift officer days and that imposter narrative that you have created in your own head is such a psychological roadblock.
I think the word that I keep thinking of is your word in this situation, in which you were giving people permission to surrender. It’s like, “Give it up, embrace this courage. Let it go, send that button, make that ask, let it go”. And the success that’s coming out of it is such a great boom to the sector, it’s growing the nonprofit, it’s growing the professional. It’s giving such an incredible nucleus to the relationship between the funder and the nonprofit. It is like a win-win. I could not geek out more on Power Partners, so bravo to you. Thanks for listening to the little man inside your stomach.
Okay. As we’re starting to wind down this conversation. I want to get into some of these soft questions. I just want to know who inspires you?
[Mallory]: Gosh, everyone. I am not inspired by the big things, I’m inspired by the little things. I’m inspired by the people who post inside Power Partners of moving someone from a $1,500 sponsorship to a $10,000 sponsorship because I know how scary that was to ask. I’m just inspired by people who take that one next courageous step at a time. I think that’s what keeps me going and what keeps me inspired every day.
[Becky]: The thing that I love about who you are as an individual, about the way that you’ve set up your businesses, is you’re such a good listener. I think this podcast is just going to put a flag in the ground for the sector that is going to buoy so many conversations that have been waiting to be told, stories that are going to be shared.
And so our last big question for you is, what are your dreams for your company? What is your dream for the podcast?
[Mallory]: My dream for the podcast is that it’s a safe landing for people to feel seen and heard. That it provides a diversity of experiences and insights. We are complex people. You know, I think at the root of what I’m talking about in terms of fundraising, it’s just that fundraising is a human act and humans are diverse and complex and multifaceted. When we try to nurture the fundraiser in us, just with one mode of education, we’re missing all the other limbs that are involved.
This podcast is diverse from episode to episode. There are podcasts where I’m hysterically laughing half the time and others where I cry three times and others where I just have to stop and write notes down because what they’re bringing up is just a breakthrough concept.
People have told me, I have to systematize and make sure it’s predictable, and I’m like, “You know what? What’s predictable is that you’re going to get some mind-blowing value and that I want everyone to find a space and a place here that hits their humanness, where they’re ready to let me in”.
For my business, Power Partners is the foundation. People keep asking me “What’s next?” But that will always be the core of what I do because I think it’s it. I didn’t create it to make money, I didn’t create it to have a product to get out there and then do another product.
This is what I believe can fundamentally change the sector. My goal is that every development person, every executive director can take Power Partners at some point in their career. That’s my true deep goal.
[Becky]: She’s like the Dalai Lama of the nonprofit.
[John]: Or the Dolly Parton.
[Mallory]: I’d be so happy to be either!
[Becky]: Okay. We have had the best time going through understanding your heart, and understanding your why. I didn’t think it was possible, but I adore you even more. For those of your listeners that are still hanging around, we wanted to do some quick-hit questions as we’re rounding out this conversation because we’re going to humanize our friend and we’re going to let you know and peek behind the curtain about the things that are important to her, as simple as maybe… What is your favorite road trip snack? These are power questions, Mallory.
[Mallory]: Oh my gosh. Okay. Snyder’s Honey Mustard broken pretzel things. That is my number one road trip snack.
[Becky]: John has one that’s very similar to that.
[John]: Okay, the movie you’ve seen more than any other?
[Mallory]: Oh movie I have seen more than any other… Oh, 10 things I hate about you! I just will never match my eighth-grade obsession with Heath ledger. Nothing can ever compare to that. I don’t even want to think about how many times I watched that movie.
[Becky]: It’s the modernized version of Taming of the Shrew by Shakespeare. It is so fantastic and the music is great. So I feel you on that one.
Okay. Favorite memory with Emmy or a trip that you’ve taken with her? Even if it’s out into the woods!
[Mallory]: Oh, God, it is so hard to pick, that feels so hard to pick. We just recently went and visited a friend and they had a bouncy house in their basement, they’re in New Hampshire.
And just watching her bounce around with the older kids was so cute, but then she got a little freaked out at the very end. So for the rest of the trip, we would say, “Emmy, do you want to have lunch?” She would say “No bouncy house”. We’re still hearing about it. We’re still hearing “No bouncy house”.
I’m just so obsessed with her. It’s hard to pick a favorite memory, but that one, I just love it.
[Becky]: Bouncy houses can be traumatizing, who would have thought?
The first concert you ever attended?
[Mallory]: The Rolling Stones.
[Becky]: Oh my gosh. You’re supposed to have a really embarrassing one as I do.
[Mallory]: I was taken by an adult. I was taken by my youth group director when I was in seventh grade. So that’s probably the only reason it’s not embarrassing.
[John]: Okay. What’s your Enneagram type?
[Mallory]: Gosh, I don’t know. I need to stop taking the free ones cause they all tell me something different.
[Becky]: You are two or two winning three. She’s either a helper or an achiever.
[Mallory]: Okay. So that is true. I get two and three a lot, but once in a while, I get one, which is really interesting. There’s a lot of perfectionist tendencies in one and I call myself a recovering perfectionist.
So I think it’s interesting when we think about what are our conditioned tendencies versus who we are after we’ve done a lot of work on ourselves. I feel like I still am in there a little bit.
[John]: Okay. What’s your favorite human quality?
[Mallory]: Can I say vulnerability again? I think that’s it. I think that’s what makes us human.
[Becky]: I just love you so much. Okay. Thank you for saying that one.
[John]: This will be the last one. How would you like to be remembered?
[Mallory]: When I think about it, I just don’t care. I hope I’m not even there in a story. I hope it just changes. I hope we just all get to feel better about the work that we’re doing and the money that we’re moving and the impact that we’re making. I hopefully just actually solve these freaking problems. I spend literally zero energy thinking about my legacy. I hope I am irrelevant.
What I want is for you to not need me anymore. Some of the things I’m teaching, God, it’s sad I have to be teaching them! I just hope it doesn’t matter anymore, and that that it just is the way we get to be.
[Becky]: Okay. That was the most beautiful, selflessness that could have been tied to this conversation. And one, you’re failing at this goal because you are so relevant and so important and so needed right now.
I love you for saying that. I have loved this conversation, ladies and gentlemen, Mallory Erickson: kindness creator, justice seeker, dreamer, goodness celebrator, emboldener of the little guy.
Thank you for seeing everybody. Thank you for creating this podcast. We are beyond humbled and honored that we got to have this conversation with you. Go do good.
[Mallory]: Thank you both so much. You know how much I love We Are For Good and both of you and Julie. I’m so grateful for all the goodness that you’re putting out there and for forgiving folks like me at different platforms to get up on our soapboxes when we need to. Thank you!
[Becky]: Our pleasure. Let’s go change the world.