WHAT THE FUNDRAISING
107: Unlock the Power of Authentic Communication to Create Sustainable Relationships and Lasting Impact with Jenny Nuccio
“People know our energy and how we are represented as a brand, right? There’s a voice that’s represented in that underlines what your message is in marketing and you’re going to attract people or you’re going to deny people.”
– Jenny Nuccio
In this episode of What the Fundraising Podcast…
In this episode of the podcast, Jenny Nuccio joins the host to talk about the connection between marketing and fundraising. Jenny is the founder and CEO of Imani Collective, a socio-economic women empowerment program, and a social enterprise with three locations in Kenya.
Jenny shares her insights on the differences and similarities between marketing and fundraising. She highlights the need to brand a cohesive message in the nonprofit space and how the perception of money affects the approach to both marketing and fundraising. Jenny emphasizes the importance of being transparent and authentic in fundraising, as well as the need to destigmatize fundraising by approaching it with passion and zeal.
Jenny also shares her thoughts on the impact of COVID-19 on marketing and fundraising, and the importance of being flexible and adapting to the changing needs of donors. She emphasizes the need to find one’s center as a leader and fundraiser and be grounded in authenticity, which will attract the right people.
Throughout the episode, Jenny provides valuable insights on how to approach marketing and fundraising in an authentic and effective way, and how to balance both for sustainable success.
Jenny and Imani Collective
- Many thanks to our sponsor, Keela for making this episode possible. Our friends at Keela offer nonprofits like yours comprehensive fundraising and donor management software, equipped with powerful tools to expand your reach, increase fundraising revenue, and foster a dedicated community of supporters. Want a user-friendly platform that provides actionable data? Look no further than Keela. Check out Keela at keela.co/mallory.
- If you haven’t already, please visit our new What the Fundraising community forum. Check it out and join the conversation at this link.
- If you’re looking to raise more from the right funders, then you’ll want to check out my Power Partners Formula, a step-by-step approach to identifying the optimal partners for your organization. This free masterclass offers a great starting point
TIPS AND TOOLS TO IMPLEMENT TODAY
Get to know Jenny:
Dr. Jenny Nuccio is the Founder/CEO of Imani Collective—a global social enterprise and woman-empowerment program focused on defeating generational poverty through education and employment opportunities in Kenya. She holds a Doctorate of Education focused with her research consistently focused on global social enterprises and the intersection of global innovation and corporate sustainability. Dr. Nuccio has a well-rounded background in both academic research and practical application for implementing sustainable solutions to the global challenge of marginalized women in developing regions. She is committed to the collaborative advancement of equitable opportunity for marginalized populations worldwide.
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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.
02:05 Mallory Erickson: Welcome everyone. I am so excited to be here today with Jenny Nuccio. Jenny, welcome to What the fundraising.
02:12 Jenny Nuccio: Thank you. I’m so excited to be here.
02:15 Mallory Erickson: So, let’s dive right in because I know we have a lot to uncover. Tell everyone a little bit about you, what you’ve built, what you’re doing, and then we’ll dive in from there.
02:25 Jenny Nuccio: Yeah, so my name is Jenny Nuccio. I am best known for being the founder and Imani Collective, which I’m so excited, we’re celebrating our 10 years this year. We are a socio- economic women empowerment program, but basically, and just layman’s term social enterprise. We started with 16 women. We started as a training program, started as a very traditional nonprofit model. Over the years, we moved into a hybrid model, grew into a leading global ethical home decor brand, and we sell both here in East Africa all over the world. And now have three locations in Kenya, serve a little over 170 artisans, and just continue to grow and have great vision. So, I have a wonderful team that I work with and I could share all the nuggets in between that gives you a quick nutshell of who I am.
03:11 Mallory Erickson: I love that and I have a three-year-old and in her room are a lot of Imani Collective items, so we love what you guys are doing. One of the reasons I was super excited to talk to you today is because I think you really uniquely understand the need for marketing and for fundraising in the two different engines of the organization. And so, can you just talk to me first at a high level around how do you think about fundraising? How do you think about marketing? What are the similarities that you see and are there any differences that you like to point out?
03:47 Jenny Nuccio: Yeah, absolutely. I’ll break them up first because I started as a fundraiser and I started with having to raise for our training program. And I think when we’re in the nonprofit space, when we’re a leader in that space, we define that differently. And then revenue, right? So, in business, we’ll describe that as a revenue coming in, as income as selling of products, and then in a nonprofit space, it’s still revenue, but we use all of these other terminologies, but we still have to have a plan around how we are bringing revenue, how we are creating sustainability, how we are engaging in stakeholders, whether that is a donor or whether that’s a consumer, they’re still stakeholders and they’re making things turn in your organization. And so, I would say as we grew, one thing that we talked off mic a little bit is the relationship of fundraising. I struggled with that a bit. As I grew, we needed to bring in a lot more money. We were trying to move quickly, and I lacked a lot of strategy in that and in detail of how to do that well. And so, I hurt a lot of people in the process of what that looks like of fundraising. But at the same time, in the parallel and similarities with marketing and what we’re doing and we’re trying to generate when we’re selling a product, is we can still hurt a lot of people when we’re doing marketing if we’re doing it inauthentically and unwell. People will not gravitate towards that. People know our energy and how we lead, how we are represented as a brand. There’s a voice that’s represented in that, that underlines what your message is in marketing. And you’re going to attract people or you’re going to deny people. The similarity across the board is, you are creating a relationship with people who are involved in what you are doing and the movement that you’re trying to create. And I think we create these very specific differences because our brain works separately. It’s like, oh, no, no, no, but this is a nonprofit and this is a cause and this is different. So, I’m not going to apply these business essentials and these skills to a nonprofit because that’s not what we do, you know? And so, I actually teach in social entrepreneurship and in a social work program, and I teach social work leadership and management. And I talk about this contemporary way of doing social work where you’re an impact centric leader. And so, that’s like macro level social work. We all do this in nonprofit.
We all care, we’re all coming in with hearts.
06:02 Jenny Nuccio: The other side of contemporary social work is you’re adding these business essentials and these skills, and no matter what, I almost want to label that differently as it’s not business skills with just comms and marketing and all of that, it’s sustainable skills. You’re creating skills, underlying skills to create this model that is going to be long-lasting and sustainable. And so, as we grew as Imani Collective, we moved into this hybrid model because I saw the excellence of how that could work together. Of course, we were developing a brand, we were growing as a business. Running under a nonprofit didn’t fit us well because we had these multifaceted levels of who we were. And so, I wanted to separate that, but I wanted us to cohesively brand a message together. And I would say, in that growth in our team, it challenged our team. I have my staff, I have several who land on my nonprofit side who focus on our impact. And I have several people that land on our product side and focus on product development, where we’re going as a team. And to get them to come together on messaging, now we have this beautiful rhythm of what we’ve created over so many years. But the beginning of that transition was really hard because it was like, well, we’re not going to spend marketing dollars on talking about our impact. We’re only going to do that in our product. And there was just these interesting conversations of how we are reaching out. Even the idea of a consumer, this is always interesting, right? We have almost 50,000 followers on Instagram. We have a high conversion rate of how you take a consumer to be a donor, and to engage in your impact, right? That is still a very hard conversation to have with my team because they feel like it is invading space of our consumers, that we shouldn’t be asking them that question because they’re there to buy a product and they have impacted by buying a product. But I’m like, there’s so much more that they can do that we’re constantly like, we can engage and you can do it in a beautiful way that is not invasive. Because I think on that side of, on our team, and if they’re listening, they totally will agree with me on this, no disrespect because I have an amazing gem of a team. But they’re constantly challenged with the idea of being too much, giving them too much messaging. And I just feel, as we’ve switched and changed over the years, we’ve realized that that’s not the case. And in fact, a lot of people want to know more about our impact and we’re just not talking about it enough. And I think that marketing tool can be used with consumers and it’s not just for business. It’s extremely effective for a nonprofit. We still have a lot of growth, but I say I’ve seen us continue to step outside of the box into, and our team to get a little bit uncomfortable and be okay with it and try new things in the space.
08:36 Mallory Erickson: Okay. There are so many questions I want to ask you about how you find that balance between person who’s both the consumer and a potential funder, or a current funder. But before we get into that, one of the things as you were talking that I started to wonder or think about is, when we have our marketing hat on, are we more comfortable with the word money than we are when we have our fundraising hat on?
09:06 Jenny Nuccio: Absolutely. It’s a physiological thing and it’s so strange because first of all, the power of a thought works in 125th seconds. Your thought can change your physiology of what you’re bringing into this world. What is crazy to see is when you talk about money in a marketing in a business, nothing is wrong with that. Let’s talk about money. Let’s talk about how we’re going to be successful. Let’s talk about profits. So, we’ll talk about Giving Tuesday, right? It is hilarious. Okay. We do Giving Tuesday every year. My team in the states, on the for-profit side, our business struggles the most with this day because they’re like so uncomfortable with asking people for money. And I’m like, why? You do it every day in your job. You do it every day. You ask everyday people to buy products from you. You’re actually asking for more every day when we’re working with distribution clients. It’s like, but it’s this framework in their mind. So, it seems when they put on that fundraising hat, they believe they’re inconveniencing someone, they doubt, they’re nervous, they’re not working on high level frequencies anymore, they’re working in like this hermit, like I’m afraid to even like tell people what we’re doing. Just looking at body language alone is really weird to see how people react to what you just said. Money and marketing, versus money and donations. The way your body reacts is different, but it shouldn’t be. Again, the similarity go back to the very beginning, is relationship. If you’re asking for money on a donation and you’re asking for money in a product, whatever that might be, and a consumer, they’re your key stakeholders. When you’re asking with authenticity and you’re asking with transparency, and you’re telling your story and you’re showing up, in that space, people feel that energy, people know that’s different. And it’s hard for people to get there on a donation side. That takes work. But if they could really step back and realize that it’s within their behaviors and how they’re approaching it, it’s a mindset thing. If they could shift their mindset towards how they view that relationship and how we’re, again, marketing the movement or the organization or the impact, whatever that might be, the product, it’s one and the same. It’s just, we frame it differently in our head and when we frame it differently in our head, our response are different and people are going to feel the response. And guess what? They’re going to feel that you are uncomfortable asking them and they’re not going to want to give because they’re not trust there.
11:27 Mallory Erickson: Yes, because it feels like something’s disingenuous, right? It’s like, I hear what you’re saying, but I don’t feel what you’re saying. And so, there seems to be this like lack of alignment. It’s interesting, I just finished this minicourse on the Polyvagal theory, which is about sort of the regulation of our nervous system and what’s happening when our nervous system is in a more grounded state versus activated in some way, either in that overdrive, flustered, anxious state, which has a spectrum. Sometimes we’re like, Ooh, I’m really anxious right now, but sometimes we’re just like a little bit disembodied. We’re just a little bit in overdrive, and it feels like maybe I had too much caffeine or like maybe I’m uncomfortable, I’m not totally sure yet. Right? We’re like in that space. Or sometimes we’re in this really elevated nervous system state, which is more like overwhelmed shutdown paralysis. What’s super interesting to me, so I was learning about how we create safety for ourselves and how we create safety for others based on our own nervous system regulation, that one of the things that makes other people feel unsafe is when we are dysregulated in certain ways. And that is really another scientific body of research that supports what we’re talking about. Which is, if we’re really anxious and uncertain and saying one thing, but feeling another, that translates across people. And when you’re in your most grounded state, when your nervous system is not activated into one of those other two ways, that’s when we can connect. And when money moves at its best is when we’re connected. And so, it’s so interesting to me that in marketing, it sounds like we can stay in a more connected state because we feel like there’s this level of transparency or clarity around the purpose of our activities. But in fundraising, we’ve been taught, I think all these like superficial ways of building relationships, or we’ve been sort of taught like, it’s all about relationships, but also go on a listening tour, don’t talk about money. But throughout the entire time, listen for clues that tell you whether or not they’ll give you money.
13:42 Jenny Nuccio: It’s so disingenuous and it’s the weirdest thing. And it is rooted in ingrained decades. There has to be a theory behind that, right. But I think exactly, all we’re talking about is energy and I have a very, very strong faith and I push, I’m risky in how I lead, but I’m also extremely real. What you see on my socials, what you hear in my podcast, how I show up in my emails, like that is exactly what you’re going to get in person. And people are going to be able to see that switch right away. People can feel energy through even your emails, like even how things are framed. Things for me, even when like reaching out to donors, like I know all the strategies, lets create a template, and do this. I do not template things because that is how I’ve hurt relationships in the past. I find them inauthentic. It might take me longer, but I want to connect with you because I love you and I care for you, not just because at the end of the day, I want your dollar to come into my organization. No, I want to know that you’re healthy as well. I want to be able to pray for that health for you as too. And so, in marketing, I think we align marketing and what we’re talking about in a business, business is exciting. Imani Collective has always been a business in my mind. I immediately switched to a business mindset way before we actually were a legal entity quote unquote, a for-profit business. Because you can truly have that business mindset in your nonprofit as well. It’s whether or not you choose to make that shift. But for me, it’s exciting because you can actually see tangibles, you can see your moving product, your moving services. When you started your company in the pandemic, it’s like you can see stuff happening. Money is flowing. It is so exciting. You can actually make some sound strategy on KPIs that are based on service products. And that is a little bit more easier to grasp than making KPIs based off just solid relationship and the hope that they’re going to write you that check, right? So, I think that is also the discrepancy with it, is it’s, this is exciting, I see it moving, I see the money, I see how I have control of it. Fundraising, we feel there’s a lack of control. But the truth is, you have control in your mind. You have control in your authentic nature. You have control in how you build relationships, but you also have to have patience because it’s going to look different than pushing a product. As you are patient and you continue to push in those relationships, and you continue to be authentic in conversations and you continue to show up in every space, on podcast, in discussions, over coffee, people are going to see the alignment all across the board and then all of a sudden, it’s going to be like overflowing. And I don’t believe, as fundraisers we’re patient enough to see it get there and most of us burn out in the process. The same thing can happen in business too, but we just see that instant
gratification faster. We feel it faster because we have strategy behind that, that makes a little bit more sense because we can put numbers to that. Of course, we know you can create strategy in fundraising, but the ambiguity of that strategy, I think is what tips us over of feeling hermit, of feeling doubt and not working in our highest-level frequencies. And that is where the discrepancy in marketing comes and how we are using it in those spaces, and the tension that it holds.
16:57 Mallory Erickson: Okay. This is super interesting because for me it continues to go back to that the way that our beliefs about money play into both of these activities. Because I feel like that ambiguity piece is definitely true. Like in marketing, I hear from marketers all the time and tell me if I’m wrong, but that there’s a ton of uncertainty in particular marketing work too.
17:23 Jenny Nuccio: Very true. I had been burned out by so many marketing agencies where I’m like, I spent like, how much time and how much money and what was the ROI on that? Like, so we’re willing to like take the risk there, but we’re not willing to take the risk over there.
17:37 Mallory Erickson: I think it’s because we think with marketing, no matter what, we’re talking about money, or no matter what we’re trying to sell a product. So, we’re like, okay with the failure there in certain ways because it didn’t change what people like think about us perhaps. But like with fundraising, if you are trying to fundraise in a way where you’re not being transparent about why you’re having a certain conversation or why you actually really want to meet with that donor or what’s happening here, then there’s so much more fear, I think, around the time. Because if you’re sitting in that blank space of time, the slowness of that relationship with a whole lot of uncertainty, feeling disingenuous, like you’re not able to bring your whole self to that relationship. It’s like, I don’t like comparing fundraising to dating, but it’s as if you showed up to a first date, not like your normal self. And then it’s like you have to keep performing like that person. Like I remember, I used to be, well, I still have a lot of energy clearly, but I used to have a lot more anxiety and worry and stress. And it was something that my ex, who I was with for a long time was really hard on me about and criticized me for, all the time. And I remember, after that relationship ended, for a long time when I would date, I would really try to hide that part of myself. I’d really be like, oh yeah, no, whatever you want, like I’m so flexible. Oh, you’re going to change this plan on me last minute, no problem. Even though like inside I’m like dying. But I was like, that part of me is bad. And I remember when I met my husband, this is so embarrassing to say on a podcast, but on the first date I was like asking him really intense questions. I was like, by the way, I’m going to have a kid at 32 with or without a husband. Like I was just, so a 100% myself, because I was like, I don’t really have time to waste not being me anymore. And I think with fundraising, we become this version that isn’t really us, so the length of time it takes to build a relationship is so painful because we’re just like trying to fully come through. What do you think about that?
19:53 Jenny Nuccio: I think so. And I believe that. But I also just don’t think in that, I like how you said, oh, I wasn’t showing up fully myself. In the comparison of that, because I think in that we are just not asking what we need because we think that’s too much. And so, I remember having a big shift in probably 2019 around fundraising, and I was like, you know what, we need a lot and I’m just going to ask for it. Like, I’m just going to start putting it out there and not just sugarcoating it, and being like, this is our budget, give what you can. It was like, no, I’m literally going to shut down my doors in six weeks if I don’t get $30,000 now. And guess what? We raised like $40,000 in 24 hours? I’m not even kidding. Because I asked for what we needed and people came around us. Now can you do that all the time? Can you call like on Audible and be like, I’m going to shut down? No, because then that becomes inauthentic and you’re using, like you don’t want to do that. But at that moment it was like literally I am overwhelmed; I’m not telling people what I need. And so, I think we are scared. The fundraising thing is, I think we sometimes too with that and like kind of what I feel in that parallel is like, you thought you were too much, like you didn’t want to show up and be too much. And so, I think we think that on the marketing of our programs are asking too much. Because guess what? We are responsible as leaders to steward that money well and to make sure that that impact is happening. And so, we feel that pressure, whether you acknowledge that or not, you’re feeling that pressure as you receive, as you’re grateful. And then you also feel the pressure that you owe them something. The reality is, they chose to give to you. They chose to give to you. And yes, be grateful. Send them gifts if you want, but most of the time they’re not expecting you to sugarcoat, to treat them like special. And in fact, a lot of times they don’t want you to like treat them so special. I was talking to my friend Philip, he’s one of our investors. I was asking him about, because he is also like an impact investor but also is multimillionaire mini businesses that he sold and that he gives, so he gives exponentially. If he’s listening, you still have not given to us. That’s okay. But we’re here. But no, I love him.
So, I asked him one time though, I did say, how does that feel to just a relationship to always just be asked of? That you know that people are coming to you because they know you have money. And that’s why I think I’ve always kept him on the business side. He is always on that side because I heard this response and I know that if something happened, he knows he gets my reports every month. I send out these company reports and these organizational reports, that if something aligned with him, he would give. Like he’s that type of soul, if something aligned. It’s also knowing your people who you’re talking to. But one thing that he said was so profound is, I said, how does that feel when people come to you? They know you have money, but the only time they talk to you is when they need that money. And he was like, well, that’s why I just hang out with people that have a lot of money because we don’t talk about money. That’s not a conversation, like we have that, and of course that’s a privilege, but that’s why that’s his community is, he hangs out with other millionaires and other people because we’re not acting out of desperation. So, when we market, we market with passion and zeal on a product side and business, and we go full force unapologetically. On a fundraising side, we’re apologetic. We kind of sometimes come out of desperation. It might seem crisis, it might seem pressured, and those emotions behind that, again, that energy is low and what is fueling that, they’re going to feel and that’s inauthentic. So, we have to also get at a place in our organization where we’re also not leading out of crisis management and right now mentality, but we are being proactive enough so that when we’re having conversations with them, we’re just sharing about impact and saying, hey, like, is this the year you want to be a part of it? Like, wouldn’t that be exciting? That’s a different ask than being like, oh my gosh, we’re not going to make it this year. I know you have money. Like, can you save me? Obviously, I’m not asking it that way. But you are asking it in your tone and the way. So, we have to think of marketing across the board and how we’re marketing ourself and our organization and what we need. That it’s not just the voice and the words and the templates and how and who we’re asking. Again, like we’re talking about, it’s the body language and energy and the mindset we’re putting behind it. And people are going to feel that. And we need to grow confident that our programs are killer.
That like, they want to be a part of it because they have a really cool story of how they spent their money. Act in that energy and that’s excitement. That’s why I love our mutual connections with Dana and I love how we have a really cool story of how we met back in 2018. So, she has actually gotten to see the genesis of Imani collective, I think over just the last five or six years. But, that’s why I love running, the Giving Tuesday I’m running, it’s called a Joy Room. The first Giving Tuesday, like 24-hour room I ever did, and Dana and I talk a lot about this, was called the war room. And the intensity behind a war room is intense, like never run a war room, guys. It is so intense. You do not want to bring that into the field. At the end of it, I was drained, I was exhausted. I was like, that was not fun, that was war. Like that’s what we set up to do. Now we raised money. I’m going to tell you, we did raise like $12,000 or something, yay for us. That was like our first one. But it was so not fun. So, the next year I was like, how can we make this more fun? What are we going to do? And so, it was 2019, 2020. But from that we started running a joy room. And again, that’s just showing you the shift of energy and just even those words, war to joy. And you do that the same in your presence and just how you show up for people, you know. And so, we need to learn how to shift that when we’re showing up for people on the fundraising side, just as we get excited about a product launch over here in the magic that we’re creating here.
25:30 Mallory Erickson: Okay. I have a kind of a weird question, and if you don’t want to answer it, it’s totally okay. So, I love what we’re talking about from the side of nonprofit leaders and fundraisers and what they can do to sort of shift their energy. And I think this also goes to the need to de-siloed marketing and fundraising inside organizations as much as possible. And to help destigmatize fundraising, like fundraising cannot be a bad word in your organization, and you cannot have people who are like, well, I’m not a fundraiser. They might not be in development in your organization, but just that kind of like tone and energy and attitude around fundraising, it also just really isolates the fundraisers and I think can lead to a really challenging culture. One of the things I think that happens on the sector wide level or the global level, that’s interesting to me and I’m curious. What you guys have seen around this is, okay, so it’s end of year or it’s around Giving Tuesday, Cyber Monday, all the things. We’re all getting like, 24,000 emails from stores, like telling us about like, oh my gosh, like I never needed a mirror, but like my 12th email from Pier One, so maybe I need a mirror, I don’t know. We just delete the ones we don’t want. We don’t think about, it has no emotional impact on us. But when we get too many emails from an organization, a lot of people respond, you’ve emailed me too much. Or they fully unsubscribe, or they post something on LinkedIn about like, why are nonprofits asking so many times? And all the nonprofits are sort of sitting there being like, wait a second, you’re getting way more emails from companies right now selling products, but your problem is with the nonprofits asking too much right now. And there does seem to be a little bit of this double standard. There are things that nonprofits can do to correct that as well though, which is around like creating relevance around why they’re asking right then, that isn’t just like, it’s Giving Tuesday, or it isn’t just like December 31st. But like helping make it relevant to the donor. But I’m curious what you guys see, because my guess is, that time of year you’re sending, you’re doing a lot of marketing, you’re doing a lot of fundraising. So, what do you see in the relationship between your donors and your customers and your communication?
27:39 Jenny Nuccio: Yeah, I love this because we’re actually completely shifting our strategy this year to not send one email in December. We’ll always do Giving Tuesday. It’s a thing we do. It’s fun, it’s really for our team and for you guys too to get involved. But we just love doing it and we do give back initiatives to other organizations, so it’s just fun for us. But we got a lot of feedback this year of like, hey, we don’t really give in December. Like this is just not. And it’s so funny when someone unsubscribes, I get this like, why did they unsubscribe? You know, this like hurts. I’m not really hurt, but I’m like, okay, I understand, I guess. But it’s always like this weird, like we’re walking on eggshells of trying to have a conversation. End of the year is this really weird phenomenon because people are running tax breaks. But again, the million-dollar people, your normal like people, I shouldn’t categorize them as normal, but the majority of people, that’s not when they’re going to give, and that’s what we figured out. We actually started calling all of our donors this year and just like, had a very authentic conversation. It was like, hey, this is a deal, we’re in deficit, we’re trying to reach this goal. When is a good time to like talk to you about this, and what is your cadence to give? And so, I think, so let’s go on a consumer side.
I don’t know why it rubs us the wrong way to be asked to give versus like to buy. But I think it has to go with a matter of like, when we’re buying, we’re buying something for gratification of some sort. We’re getting something. First thing is, I think when people are unsubscribing or that, it’s because there’s a misalignment to the organization and to what they care for. This happened to my father, actually my dad doesn’t give to us. I love him. I love him. He does. He gives every now and then. And most of my family actually starting out did not give, and they consistently actually give to my husband’s program. And my husband runs a Street Boys program, so they love what he does in drug rehabilitation, which is awesome. But they always would send back emails of like, in the nicest way. This might be a really intense way to say it. But like, I don’t really care about what you’re doing. These are the organizations I give to, like veteran services, like Red Cross, and they would share with me what they give. So, I think we have to do an audit of our people and we automatically think if we have over thousands of people or whatever, that it should be an open rate. I don’t know, I’m not really answering your question, I’m talking in circles, but I think in a consumer basis, we’re constantly looking at the trends of what our consumer wants. Why aren’t we constantly looking the trends of what our donor is wanting? And I think that’s in that value alignment. And sometimes it’s a season and they’re not with you. Same with like some of our stuff at Imani Collective. Like, it’s a season, our products for people in their life. It’s not always for everybody and they’ll move out of that season.
I think we have to do better on our side of knowing that, one, it’s okay to not follow trends. So, to not always do the end of the year thing. Find your own rhythms that work for your audience and fit into that. And then two, I think we have to understand that again, there’s people on the other side of that email and how many times are we actually checking in with them? There’s a report that actually came out for business report this year about how do you keep customers. And they said the important part of keeping customers this year is not about acquisition of new customers, it’s actually about the retention of your customers. They also said that in this report as reading through it with our marketing team of how we were going to engage them more. It was, they want to see more behind the scenes. They want an immersive experience. They want to know who’s leading it. They want to feel part of the story. It’s the same way in the nonprofit. We need to just stop talking about all the impact we’re making, but actually like just who’s working it, what’s going on? Like, let them experience you. And I think we always just feel like we have to justify their dollar with an impact number, and then it becomes inauthentic over time because we’re not just telling the raw stories of what we’re doing.
31:22 Mallory Erickson: Okay. You said something just then and in connection to something you said a few minutes ago, I think this is a really interesting point and I’m curious if you agree or if this is what, one of the things that was sort of underlying some of what you were talking about. Is this idea that when we’re marketing, at the point of sale, we feel like we’ve given the consumer something. It’s almost like the experience or the relationship feels whole at that point. But with fundraising, we feel like at the moment of giving, we still have a lot to do for them. We need to justify their donation. We need to thank them; we need to do all these other things. And we don’t feel like they’ve sort of gotten anything yet from us. What do you think about that, first of all, as just an overarching concept?
32:17 Jenny Nuccio: So, when I started the frameworks for the School of Ethical Impact, and I now do use it in my coaching and stuff, one of the things I talked about in having like ethical impact relationships and what this looks like is that this idea of, let’s think of missionaries, let’s start there. In the history of missionaries, they are supported by a Church and they’re acquired, they’re given money, they’re supported by a Church, or they’re given that money. And then they’re required to go back and report. There’s the expectation that I have to report on that. And then when you look at a typical sponsorship model, most of the time in a child sponsorship program, you have people that are giving into that program and guess what? You feel responsible and you know it’s your responsibility to report back to them the progress of that student. Maybe they’re writing a letter, whatever that might be. So, I think it is grounded in the growth of aid, of how aid developed and went into regions and areas of the world, and we could get into fun conversations about what we’re not going to talk about here, being in Africa and all the things. With that I think it’s going to take generations to break this mindset of what it is to run in a non-profit way, to market yourself in an authentic way, to be empowered in doing that and not feel like you’re always in dependency mode. Because if you’re always acting in dependency, you’re always going to feel like you owe that person, because you’re dependent on it. It’s like a baby and their mom, they’re always going to need some more.
They’re going to need to come back and they’re going to need to then. I think it’s in that, and it’s in that, that once we’ve done a sale and a transaction, we know in a product they’re getting their stuff and it’s checked, we’ve done it. We can follow up, say thank you, and that, and it’s a very smooth, very seamless, hopefully an easeful transaction. This is again, going back to the word ambiguity and this discomfort of what does that person expect. And I think, that’s what’s interesting in marketing because your marketing also, and your marketing approaches. Now, hopefully this is where we need to shift it, right? But I think the development of strategy and marketing approaches depends on the individual they are approaching and it should be flipped where you are developing just very clear marketing and tools, and stories, and telling it. And the people that want to be a part of that will come to you. I coach a lot on program evaluation that when you create a program into region, that you’re doing it out of passion and your why and our mission statement. That’s what your organization is supposed to do. When you create a program out of funding, there’s a grant opportunity, you see it and then you create a program because you want that funding. Most of the time that program is going to be inauthentic and is going to fail because you created it out of wanting that source of money, not from what you were already doing. And so, we can view that, I think in the relationship of an individual. As you’re seeing an individual like, oh, I can get something from them. That’s the wrong mentality. When people are just, you do you, and people are going to come to you. I mean obviously their strategy of how people come to you too, but to market yourself in that of just you doing you and not catering yourself to that individual, being dependent in that dependency mindset, if that makes sense.
35:22 Mallory Erickson: Totally. You would never have someone come to you and be like, oh, I really like those flags, but I only want them in four by three. And you would be like, okay, we’re going to totally recreate the way we make the flags and we’re going to get you a four by three flag. We would never do that.
35:39 Jenny Nuccio: The only way I would do that is if they’re ordering like 30,000 units and it’s a collaboration. Like it’s a very specific whatever. That’s an exact example. We’ve actually had people reach out to us asking for one banner. This happens weekly. And I’m like, I don’t know who you think we are. We’re not just like a print shop that turns these things like this.
We actually have a system and products. And yeah, it’s the exact same way. We have to think of it in that way, like you’re not going to change and alter who you are, and that’s changing your values. And you’re not aligning with the right people and your values. In 2018, I partnered with an individual and an organization that was completely misaligned with who we are, but I felt that if I had partnered with them, that we would get in the right audience that we would grow. It’s kind of that quick fix, right? They were like friends with lots of celebrities. I was like, this is going to be good. We’re going to be like jiving in that. No complete fail. One, because there was no alignment in why I should have been there. Those were not my people. I learned a very hard truth of like, oh my gosh, I could get something out of here, I could be in front of them if they just posted us once on their million follower Instagram, it could change everything. It could be our big break. That is not how we should be strategizing out of that type of posture. And we have to learn how to again, be so authentic in who we are, and people are just going to gravitate towards that.
36:55 Mallory Erickson: There are like 12 more questions I want to ask you, but can I ask you one more? When COVID first started, one of the things that was like the most shocking to me was how many businesses shut down so quickly. And maybe that shouldn’t have been shocking to me, but as a nonprofit leader, hearing from my entire career about sustainability and about reserves, and how we needed to have six months or 12 months reserves. And then all of a sudden, these massive businesses are getting ready to file for bankruptcy after one month. And I was like, hey, wait, why did nobody ever talk to these guys about sustainability? Like, how come nobody ever talked to them about reserves? Why are we constantly being like having that shoved down our throats? And so, this idea of marketing and retention of customers and all those things, like that is so similar to fundraising. And the reality is, marketing always depends on sales continuing, just like fundraising depends on fundraising continuing. And so, I’m curious for you though, as a leader, balancing both sides of your entity. Do you feel in yourself or have you noticed in yourself more uncertainty, more fear around sustainable fundraising, then sustainable marketing and sales?
38:15 Jenny Nuccio: First of all, I’ll say we grew 116% in our business in COVID. So, to see people shut down, it was disheartening, it was sad, it was a heartbreak. But I also saw people be super innovative and be able to move in different ways. But I would say at this point, I actually feel more confident, but at this exact point. Okay, ask me in a month. We have really big, big, big, big, big strategy for this year. I’m so excited about all the things. But I feel more confident about my relationships and my nonprofit, that if tomorrow, I don’t want to say I want to do it, but if tomorrow I needed a hundred thousand dollars, I could go out and get a hundred thousand dollars. I feel very confident in that. If tomorrow I needed a hundred thousand dollars in sales, that’s risky, it’s extremely risky. We’re not turning that in a day. That’s going to take time and I know exactly where it’s going to come from. So, I am extremely confident and certain where I know that a hundred thousand dollars is going to come from in my product and over time, and I can probably tell you exactly when we’re going to hit it or what that’s going to look like as we grow throughout this year. But it’s not going to be something where I can just pick up the phone and make a hundred thousand dollars sale. But I have very strong relationships and people that believe in our model, what we’re doing and our impact, that if I made that call, I feel confident that we could get that. I think when you balance both sides, it’s interesting.
Now I have to, and I continue to build relationships on the sales side. I am constantly following up with our customers, I’m not like our customer service of you guys who are buying retail. Sorry, that’s not me. I will make those calls every now and then. But I’m constantly following up with our wholesale clients who are making those orders, who are filling up their shops and seeing how we can serve them better and things like that. Just in the retention side, just like we would on our donor side. And an impact centric and a social enterprise model. Like I love our impact. I can tell our story every day, put me on a stage, put me in front of people and I’m not going to ask you, you’re just going to want to get involved. We’re doing some really cool stuff. I can tell you about that. And if you go buy a product, that’s awesome. And if you connect me to other people who want to buy products, that’s awesome. But that’s the byproduct of sharing an extremely impactful story of what you’re doing, is that if you also have a business too, people are going to ripple effect over and overflow into that business. So, I don’t know if that answered your questions. I think it ebbs and flows year over year of where I’m at. And because I am, when I set out the strategy for the year, I’m like strategically using both sides and thinking on both sides, and leading my team. And how we’re doing that in both sides very authentically. We always want our voice to be inclusive. We always want it to be uplifting. We always want to feel kind of like that person next door that you can come to and talk to, both on our nonprofit and both in our business. Every week I have an open prayer meeting we do with our team. And everybody, like I have a hundred plus people invited to that. How many people join? Maybe five or less. Anybody can hop in. You know? It’s like weekly. It’s there. It’s to know that we’re available to you. And we want that feel on both sides.
41:19 Mallory Erickson: Really love what you shared, and I think it makes the point around the importance of the dual engine too. And it also demonstrates to me the need for patience on both sides. Both marketing and fundraising, they both have ways you can do quick wins if you need them. They have some ways that are better than others that preserve a relationship and other ways that don’t. And they also have the need for patient relationship building over time and that sort of like stable growth piece.
41:53 Jenny Nuccio: But that’s it. You can have quick wins because you have a foundation of relationships. So, you can’t just go into your year not thinking strategically, like you need to put some key performance indicators down on both sides. Yes. How are you cultivating relationships in the most authentic way? People are not numbers right, but how in the most authentic way are you telling people your story? Is that showing up on podcasts? We need to think creatively outside the box besides saying, oh, I just have to go grab coffee and that’s how I’m doing relationships. When I first moved to Kenya, I just moved doing business as missions, so I was felt very misunderstood in this middle ground of, on this side, I had this like lots of missionaries, relationship based, had coffee with people, opening in the Bible, sharing Jesus. Like that’s missionaries. On this side I have like business people expats, but like driven by profit, running yacht business, it’s very different. And so, I just felt like in the middle because I’m like, man, I want a cradle shit ton of money. But I also want to do it in a very authentic way. When I would be in these spaces, I just felt, I still, I’ve learned to like really understand my like flow and so it doesn’t affect these polars don’t affect me as much. But it was interesting because someone asked me on a business as mission side, who kind of thought on both sides.
They’re like, well how are you impacting people? Like how’s your faith integrated in what you do? And they’re asking me all these deep questions and I was like; I just create jobs and that builds trust in relationships. And then I get to just shine my energy and my light on people, and they know something’s different. And then we go from there. It’s a different way of thinking. And I think we have to think that in relationships. So how are we connecting with people? It doesn’t mean that we’re just, again, having coffee. Like, what are we doing to connect with people and meet them where they’re at and just be a part of their lives instead of being. My husband just talked about discipleships really just on his heart all the time. He loves discipleships. And one thing he said is different, the mentorship. Mentorship is a meeting, and I think this is fundraising. Sometimes we see fundraising as a meeting. He said discipleship is like allowing people to just be in. Like you don’t have to change anything in your schedule, they can just join you in what you’re doing. And I think we have to think of that like, it shouldn’t be anything extra in how we’re allowing people to come into our space and allow people to see our impact. We shouldn’t feel as stress or anxiety in how we’re sharing that, or it has to be a perfect presentation. We should be who we are, and people are just joining into our space. And they’re joining our schedule, and what we’re doing, and observing, and being a part of it, and experiencing it. And I think we have to switch that. And again, not creating for people, but them coming to you and aligning with your values and knowing that that’s exactly where they want to be and connect with.
44:37 Mallory Erickson: There’s one thing you said in there that I really want to double click on, which is the need to find your center as a leader and as a fundraiser. And the more true we are to ourselves, the more we can hold multiple truths about the skills, and things that we have. And asking that question like, so what? Like why are we doing this? Like, what’s the actual point here? And having that sort of relationship core. I was looking at my bedside table last night. I have two books on it. I have never split the difference, which is a negotiation book written by the guy, like an FBI, hostage negotiator. And then I have How To Heal by Alex Elle. And I was looking at the two books next to each other and I was like, both of these are me. Both of these are parts of me. And you would probably look at this and be like, there’s no way the same person is reading both of those books at the same time. But I think because I know myself and I am like really grounded in that, that I can flex the different parts of me in different ways when I need to and when I want to, all from a place of authenticity, all from a place of alignment and integrity. But that starts with like knowing ourselves. And I think it sounds really similar to what you’ve done and your ability to step back and say like, I’m not changing me when I talk about marketing and when I talk about fundraising, but I’m from my center looking at how the strategy differs, what’s needed here, what’s needed there, why are we doing these different things? And so, I just think that’s such beautiful advice to wrap us up. So, thank you.
46:12 Jenny Nuccio: You’re welcome. You do a good job at summing up all of my little stories and things. That’s right. Be grounded in who you are. Be authentic, and you’re going to track the right people. And marketing should be easeful, no matter what entity it falls in, no matter what it’s for. And if it’s not, if it feels like effort, then you need to step back and ask why does it feel like that? Because then you’re taking the wrong approach to it.
46:39 Mallory Erickson: Such good advice. Okay. I will make sure the links to find you and check out Imani Collective are below for all of our listeners. Thank you so much for spending this time with me today.
46:50 Jenny Nuccio: Thank you.
46:57 Mallory Erickson: Okay. I loved this conversation and there’s so much inside of it, but here are some of my top takeaways.
Number one, the first step in creating a relationship with stakeholders is to build trust. Trust is talked about a lot in our sector, but not necessarily in the right way. Trust is built through open and honest communication, maintaining transparency, and building a sense of connection.
Number two, developing a brand message that is cohesive and authentic is essential in marketing and fundraising. It is important to create a relationship with key stakeholders and to present a clear message that resonates with them.
Number three, finding the balance between marketing and fundraising is an important part of any organization’s success. When it comes to marketing, it is important to have clear messaging that resonates with your target audience and conveys the value of your product or service. And on the fundraising side, it’s important to build authentic relationships with potential donors and be transparent about the impact your organization is having.
Number four, fundraising and marketing both involve creating relationships with stakeholders, whether they’re donors or customers. Building trust and forming authentic connections is key in order to succeed. Fundraising, however, can be particularly challenging as it’s often associated with a negative connotation. There’s a lot of stigma around it. People often feel uncomfortable, quote unquote, asking for money, which can lead to a lack of strategy and a sense of unease. This can be seen in the body language of those involved. So, it’s important to try to shift the mindset around fundraising so that we can bring our full self to it, the way that we do with other activities like marketing and programs. This has such an impact on us becoming the magnetic fundraisers that we can be.
And number five, you can create safety for yourself and others by regulating your nervous. This involves being aware of your body’s physical and emotional responses and understanding how they affect others. This can be done through various techniques such as deep breathing and mindfulness. By regulating your nervous system, you can remain in a grounded state, which will allow you to remain present and authentic and connected in conversations. And this feels so much better for your donors as well.
Okay. For additional takeaways and tips inside this episode, head on over to malloryerickson.com/podcast to grab the full show notes and resources now.
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