WHAT THE FUNDRAISING
111: Real Relationships: Using Behavior Design to Improve Donor Relationship Management with Stephanie Weldy
“To be able to bird’s eye view your own behavior actually becomes a super power for being more effective at the stuff you care about because you stop blaming yourself and instead, you can analyze or turn these dials – is this a motivation problem?… What’s the fear that’s holding me back?”
– Stephanie Weldy
In this episode of What the Fundraising Podcast…
As fundraisers and change-makers, we get immense purpose and value from our work. But how do we optimize that? How do we optimize our donor relationships so we can keep creating value for our organization? The key is creating the right habits! If you can create strong habits and get good at the skills that strengthen and grow your donor relationships, you’ll soon be seeing wins left and right.
Habits free us up to focus on the areas we need to grow, optimize, and see results in. This is where Stephanie Weldy shines. Stephanie Weldy, Chief of Staff at BJ Fogg, is an expert at the intersection of Behavior Design and Employee Well-Being.
In this episode, Stephanie talks about how to use habit and behavior design to improve your donor relationship management. She emphasizes the power of small behavior changes in creating big changes in your organization.
You’ll learn tips, tricks, and advice on designing sustainable habits that will help you manage your time, prioritize your donor management tasks, and see real progress in your fundraising strategies.
Ready to get out of the cycle of blaming and shaming yourself for low motivation? Ready to start designing consistent and reliable habits? Tune in to learn how!
- BJ Fogg
- Learn about the Fogg Behavior Model
- Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg, PhD
- Five Day Challenge with Tiny Habits
- A big shout out to our sponsor Instil, the holistic tool that reimagines nonprofit technology in ways that deepen community relationships and nonprofit processes to magnify impact. The platform’s advanced UX design and real-time analytics supercharge donors, increase volunteer engagement, and smooth donor management and operations across your entire organization.
- 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 Stephanie Weldy:
Stephanie Weldy is an expert at the intersection of Behavior Design and employee well-being.
After spending a decade in public sector work, she manages operations and partnerships for Dr. BJ Fogg, Stanford University Behavior Scientist and Author of the New York Times best seller, Tiny Habits.
Her work is all about supporting BJ’s teaching, writing, and research in industry, collaborating with key partners, championing all aspects of project management, and teaching Behavior Design with BJ to train industry innovators. Together, they’re helping people be healthier and happier.
Stephanie is passionate about connecting people to resources that enhance their lives, her professional career is rooted in employee health promotion, where she designed and implemented comprehensive well-being programs in higher education, non-profit, and government settings.
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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.
02:14 Mallory Erickson: Welcome everyone. I am so excited to be here today with my friend Stephanie Weldy. Stephanie, welcome to What the fundraising.
02:22 Stephanie Weldy: Thank you, Mallory. So good to be here with you. What an honor.
02:25 Mallory Erickson: Oh my gosh. So, Stephanie and I met when I first went through BJ Fogg’s Behavior Bootcamp. We’ve become good friends and I love the way that she thinks about behavior change, habit and behavior design. So, we’re going to be walking into some really fun territory today. But why don’t you start, just give everyone a little background on you and what you love to focus on in your work?
02:51 Stephanie Weldy: Yeah. Awesome. Well like or origin story, Mallory, you and I meeting, doing training for industry professionals. I work with Dr. BJ Fogg, who teaches and has a research lab at Stanford, and he splits his time between Stanford and Industry. On the industry side he teaches people who are building products and services, how did they get the psychology right about how human behavior really works and how to understand it in a dynamic way that helps you think clearly about behavior, and then helps you have the skills for design. So, we’re all about helping people be happier and healthier. My background is in the employee health management field. I spent about a decade there before going to work with BJ in 2016. And it’s an interesting thread because at the end of the day, I’m probably most passionate about connecting people to resources that better and improve their own wellbeing. And I think as Industry professionals, we get purpose and value from our work. And so, how do we do our work in the most effective way that then optimizes us for the parent we want to be, or the partner we want to be, and really just a friend and community member too. Like those things are such quality-of-life indicators. So, it’s a fun mix for me, and I’m practicing what I preach, because I’m raising two little toddler boys on the other side of this wall too, so. As you know, keeping my hands full most of the time.
04:24 Mallory Erickson: Yeah, which I actually think also when we talk about habit and behavior design, like your lived experience and being on the ground and in the trenches as a mom, understanding what it looks like inside a lot of nonprofits from your prior experience, you just have a really good pulse check on the reality. And so, there’s the ideal world around habit and behavior design. And then there’s the reality, which is what I’m excited to sort of talk about today because I think you always have that dual lens.
04:59 Stephanie Weldy: You brought up something that I didn’t even think to share, and it’s that really my career, my professional career started in the nonprofit space. If I’ve talked to you about this, I did a work study program in college where it was called, you get course curriculum and credits, but it’s about learning and actually working within the real world. And I worked at a domestic violence shelter in Charleston, South Carolina. And it was for women and families who had been impacted by domestic violence so they could come to the shelter as needed. And so, I was like really my first foray into professional world. And then it was such an impactful experience for me that I went on to work in nonprofit youth programming. And I’ll tell you, it was that world that felt like it could unlock so much potential for a 12 or 13 year old child. This is in Louisville, Kentucky. I guess I’ve shared to some extent, but I, those were really formative, really great experiences for me about the possibilities of human potential. Yes. If we could invest and help nurture people, even when they go through really hard challenges, then we could see that from even a really young middle schooler, such a vulnerable age, right? And so those were great experiences for me early in my career. But then I moved into the education space, which was for large group public sector organizations primarily.
06:31 Mallory Erickson: I love that history, and it’s similar to how I started in the nonprofit sector, in the youth development route. So, I love that similarity that we share. Okay, so today I want to get into the topic of donor relationship management. And, let me sort of set the stage here a little bit. So, when it comes to fundraising, the primary advice that nonprofit fundraisers are given is build strong relationships with donors. And there’s not a lot of clarity around, what does it look like to actually build strong relationships with donors? So, we have another episode that’s talking all about how do you build genuine connection and what does that actually mean? What are some of the things that build relationships over time? All of that. But as they are building these relationships, they’re having to hold really this duality between building a genuine, authentic relationship and keeping track of that relationship as it drives towards their ultimate fundraising goals. And so, there’s a number of different reasons why I think we have challenges with donor relationship management, but one of them I think is that there haven’t been a lot of best practices designing habits around how to record information, things you can do before you walk into a donor meeting. I was thinking when I was first designing this series that this episode is a part of, I really wanted to do a whole series on fundraising on the go, and I started to ask around. Because when I was an executive director, I was literally going from being in the garden, teaching a garden education course to changing into my pencil skirt in the car and then like going into a coffee shop in a donor meeting. And so, this idea of being at a desk and filling out donor records, I was calling my assistant and be like, Hey, can you read me that thing in the CRM? And now technology has really come a long way, but there was so much inconsistency in the environment around me, and yet I was expected to do some very consistent things. And I think that habit and behavior design has a role to play here that has not really been integrated. So, I’m curious, just with all the stuff I just said, what are some of your initial thoughts?
08:50 Stephanie Weldy: It feels to me, not as an expert in that particular space, but as an expert in understanding how human behavior works, that your intuition is right. The environment that we’re in changes. Even a behavior you repeat with some frequency when you’re at the comfort of your own desk, it becomes a very different behavior that you might do when you’re on a plane or in a cab or in a garden, in your example. Let me give you a very normal example. How you consume media when you’re on your own phone or at your own computer, maybe with your own headphones. It’s probably very standard. But when you get on a plane, and I was just on an international flight, the way you consume the media on the little screen in front of your TV is to plug in those earbuds. And unless you have this special converter that lets you connect your fancy earbuds that you probably brought on the plane, you’re using these 12 cent throwaways that they give you. And so, it’s a different behavior. And that’s just one example of how the environment or the tool in this case, which is part of your environment, changes the behavior altogether. So, I see two things happening here. The environment’s changing your props. So, the things that are telling you to do that next action as well as it’s changing the tools that are available to you. And those are very important elements to get right when you want a habit or a behavior to happen reliably.
10:23 Mallory Erickson: Okay. So, for folks who are listening to this, who are familiar, have been familiar with my work for a while, they have probably heard me talk about BJ Fogg and BJ’s behavior model. But for folks who haven’t, will you just give us the one-minute version before I ask you the follow up question to that around what creates behavior?
10:42 Stephanie Weldy: Yeah, sure. So, in BJ Fogg’s behavior model a behavior, it could be any behavior, happens when three things come together at the same time. You have motivation to do the behavior. You have to want to do it. You have the ability to do the behavior, you have to be able to do it, and you have a prompt or a moment in time that says, do this now. With the fog behavior model, you can understand behaviors across every culture, all different types of behaviors, meaning something that’s like a one-time behavior, maybe something you subscribe to, something that’s a stopping behavior. You remove motivation, ability, or prompt, or habit. So, something you want to happen quite reliably. And when you can understand the behavior model, which written out looks like B equals MAP. It’s not an equation but it’s a model and that you can then conceptualize where it falls along two dimensions. So, people can look at behaviormodel.org. That would be the starter place to learn about the model. And there’s some really helpful super short videos there, two minutes or less, if I’m not mistaken, that just explain each of those elements and how they map back to a behavior happening or not happening.
11:57 Mallory Erickson: Thank you for taking us back to that because I want to apply that to the headphone example or the watching media on a plane. Because I think it’ll help people recognize, I have a feeling that some people who heard that example might have still been stuck in, well, either way you’re watching the movie, so how is the behavior actually different? But the behavior is different because you’re doing it on a different device. You have different things that are doing it. But what’s not different perhaps is that in both cases there’s motivation to watch the video. So, you’re going to figure out how to get over that action line. You’re going to figure out how to be able to consume the media versus what we’re talking about today are actions where motivation actually is a challenge. And so, that’s why the behavior design component is even more critical.
12:55 Stephanie Weldy: Yeah, so let me clarify that for my own understanding. So, your motivation could change, and mine did actually. So, I’ll use myself and then maybe we’ll relay into the actual topic. But it’s like, I’m only willing to work so hard on a plane to get my Wi-Fi set up and my own device working until I’m like, whatever, I’ll just probably look at pictures of my kids on the plane, if you want the real truth. I’m so boring. But your motivation, we talk about it like, comes in waves. It can be high, it can be low, it can be anywhere in between, but it changes with time. And so, when I think about tracking donor relationships in an on the go setting, your motivation might not change, but when you’re on the go, I’m guessing that behavior is quite hard to do. As compared to if you’re at the comfort of your own desk and it’s like, hey, log those call notes into the CRM, that’s pretty easy to do if it fits into the flow of your workday. So, it could be that we talk about it from the angle of what’s making the behavior hard to do? Is it that motivation’s fluctuating because you’re on the go and you know your audience better? Or is it because the behavior’s harder because you’re on the go. So, process that with me a little bit and then we can dive in.
14:13 Mallory Erickson: Yes, I think there’s a little bit of both. I would say it’s more an ability issue, but I would say that people feel less motivated to fill out a donor record than they do to perhaps watch a movie. So, I guess what I was saying is like, if you want to consume media on a plane, even if it’s not in the format, that’s the easiest way to consume media. If you want to watch that movie, you’re going to figure out how to watch that movie, but you might not really want to do a donor record. So, when it is harder to do, it makes it so much harder to get over the action line. And one thing I’ll add to this is that, from what I’ve learned from you and BJ over the years, the way that motivation, hope drives motivation up and fear drives motivation down. And when it comes to fundraising, there are so many different fears related to fundraising. A lot of them are unconscious or subconscious. And so, I think it’s not about people not being motivated. In their head they would probably say, I’m motivated to fill out a donor record, but there is this unconscious fear related to looking at donor records that I think actually is decreasing motivation as its defined in this model.
15:26 Stephanie Weldy: Yes. Oh my gosh. Such a good insight. And so, there’s two things I think we could go the direction of. You just affirmed for people that they’re not alone when they’re on the go. They don’t need to feel shame or it’s me, I’m the problem, it’s me. They need to feel like, oh, I see what’s happening here and I can adjust so that I can still get this right in this moment. And that’s a superpower. Let’s just pause to acknowledge, to be able to bird’s eye view your own behavior actually becomes a superpower for being more effective at the stuff you care about because you stop blaming yourself and instead you can analyze or turn these dials. Is this a motivation problem? In this case, Mallory, you might say like, what’s the fear that’s holding me back? Because instead of, come on Stephany, you can do it, just open the donor record on the go. Instead of trying to falsely amp up your motivation you say, what’s holding me back right now? Is it that I’m afraid I’m going to log their kids’ names in the system wrong that I thought I heard them say? Or is it, I’m going to get the tech wrong and then my boss is going to think I look bad because I don’t get this right? So, Mallory, tune me in a little bit further, but I just want to acknowledge that that’s a really good insight that we can get out of that cycle of blaming ourselves or shaming ourselves, and instead we can start to analyze and design for the behaviors we want to do more reliably.
16:56 Mallory Erickson: Okay. This is so interesting. Gosh, I love this because I think one of the things that BJ’s work really helped me do for my own life, and I talk about this in his book, is go from beating myself up around why something wasn’t working, to really tinkering with habits in a way that was iterative and curious and sort of saying, okay, here I am trying to do this thing, it’s not working. Asking myself questions about fear and ability, which we’ll get into. So, I love that we’re going here. Here’s a hypothesis that I have. My guess is that one of the subconscious things that hold people back from filling out donor records, maybe on the go, and also perhaps in a different setting. So, this is just on the motivation line but for both is that, when they’re recording a donor record and notes from a meeting, oftentimes they also at the same time want to be adding in the next steps with that donor because they’re not sure if they’re going to come back to that donor record. And my guess is, if they don’t feel tremendous clarity on what the next step is, it actually gets in their way of them touching the donor record at all. Oh, I need to think about that, I need to think about what the right next step is. Maybe they didn’t define it in their meeting. And they end up not touching the donor record at all, and then they forget to come back and put the next step. And then the whole everything is lost.
18:23 Stephanie Weldy: Yeah. Wow. The sequence makes sense to me. So, your hypothesis is that the vulnerability or the fear is actually not having the next step. I’m guessing one of the final steps in the donor record update. And so, we avoid it because we avoid things that decrease our status. So, we wouldn’t want a colleague to go into that record and see that we had left out, or the information we had put in was less than optimal or less than polished maybe. Am I getting that right? Do you want to course correct me on?
19:02 Mallory Erickson: Okay. Actually, that is a whole other thing. I think you’re right. Are we comfortable putting in something that is not our finest work to get something in, in a short amount of time? Because there is this prompt. When I was thinking about, okay, how would I design some donor record behavior? And I was thinking about it also for people who have ADHD like me, or other neurodivergent needs. And one of the things that was so hard for me was, if I did not capture certain information immediately when I sat my butt on the seat in my car, by the time I got to my computer, it was gone. I had to record stuff right then and there. What you’re just saying though is really interesting. Okay, how do we create a habit sequence that ensures that we don’t lose things like that? Because I think even for people who are not neurodivergent or don’t have ADHD, in our attention economy, everyone’s losing information in their brains faster than ever. And so, everyone probably needs that. So how do we design a sequence of habits that helps people work on their donor records in pieces, even when they won’t get the perfect thing in one go.
20:19 Stephanie Weldy: Well, you said it earlier, Mallory. You iterate, you look at your day, you look at the way you block your calendar, you look at your transportation mechanisms, and you say, okay, I know I have six meetings today. I know that certain prompts, so this is in the model prompts are the times within your day that say, do this now. So, it’s like the update your donor record prompts. And it could be that you both scale back the action. This starts to get into ability a little bit, but just go with me here. You scale back the action. So, it’s like, I’m not going to fill out the whole record, I’m just going to say, the smallest portion of the record that I can say to at least initiate the update, or initiate the record update, that would be one way. Or you do a starter step. So, there’s just two ways to make the action easier to do. So, you either do a really small version, like you fill out one line in the record, or you do a starter step that gets the full behavior started. So, for example, it could be that you just launch an email and you transcribe into your email, maybe via your phone or whatever. These are all the things I remember about the meeting. You put the title and subject in the email line, and you send it to yourself. And then that email later serves as a prompt. Now you’re back at the comfort of your own desk. That prompts you to do the full record, and it could even prompt you to do something else you wanted to do, like okay I also know that I’m going to use that email to send my thank you note or my note of appreciation to Daniel donor and say, hey, I really enjoyed our chat today. My action items are X, Y, and Z. Am I clear that you were looking for this? So, the sequence there is, end of your meeting some version of the action that you do to get started. What you’re doing there is your kind of building it into your routine of end of the meeting, wherever you are. And then you could be sending a prompt for later. It sounds abstract when I’m saying it in this way, but I think all of us can look at our behavior patterns in this very analytical sense to say, what’s the real estate? BJ talks about it like, what’s the real estate within my day where I could plant the seed for the new behavior that I want to happen. And we talk about that like a tiny habit, but in this case, it doesn’t have to be that tiny, like launching my phone, sending myself an email using the voice to text option. You could talk for five minutes if you needed to as you commuted or whatever, as long as you’re doing that safely. That could be the way that you help yourself once you get back to your desk. So, you’re setting yourself up for future success by doing a habit on the go.
23:23 Mallory Erickson: Okay. I love this. I’m curious about how do you suggest people try out different prompts? So, let’s say people heard that and they’re like, okay, I want to do the, make it tiny, actually put it in the donor record. I have a great technology tool that allows me to do that on my phone. So, I want to do it even though I’m probably going to use some voice dictation, it’s not going to be perfect, all this stuff. Is the prompt sitting down in my car, is the prompt a notification on my phone that comes up right when the meeting was supposed to end? How do people figure out what’s the right prompt for them to try first and then how do they deal with iterating on that?
24:04 Stephanie Weldy: Yeah. Ooh, good question. So, there’s only three sources of prompts and I can lay them out. This is called the Pack Model. And in the Tiny Habits book you can see the graphic, that’s probably helpful. But there’s just three sources. So, the first is a person prompt. You just count on yourself to suddenly remember you want to do this new behavior, or maybe this tiny version of an existing behavior. The second is a context prompt. Notifications on your phone, posted notes on your desk. You have like a pen and pad of paper or something. It could be a context prompt that’s like, you need to do this behavior now. And our environments are flooded with context prompts. So those are the hardest ones. Typically the best option and certainly the most breakthrough one is what we call an action prompt. And an action prompt is an existing behavior that prompts the next behavior in the sequence. So, that’s what we think of as like the best real estate for the new habits you want, follow the existing habits you already have. So, imagine, go with me here. You get into your car after a meeting, you buckle your seat belt. What do you do next, Mallory, after you buckle your seatbelt?
25:18 Mallory Erickson: Probably put where I’m going in my GPS
25:21 Stephanie Weldy: Great. Okay, so maybe you pop in the directions. Maybe you hit the start button on the car, change the radio dial, whatever it is that you do in that moment before you move the car. It might be when you launch your CRM app, type in Donna Summers or whoever you met with, and you use that. Turn on the radio. Put in the GPS. You already do that behavior reliably. You sequence the new behavior after that. We call that an anchor moment. It’s something you do quite reliably and its really good real estate for your new behaviors or habits that you want to follow those anchor moments. And that’s how you design a tiny habits recipe. And it basically can be a way for you to find great opportunities in your existing routine to see the new behavior that you want.
26:12 Mallory Erickson: Okay, so if somebody sometimes drove to donor meetings and other times they took public transportation, does that mean that an action that they should use a different type of prompting system than an action prompt?
26:31 Stephanie Weldy: Yeah, so you can choose any of those. It’s just that an action prompt is the most reliable. So, you have similar prompts when you sit down on public transit, you have similar prompts even if you walk to a meeting, you’re probably doing something reliably, like, put on my coat, type in my walking directions, get going. And so, I think the headline here is that you can look for the opportunity in your existing routine, whatever it is. When you close the garden gate, in your example, Mallory, after you change into your pencil skirt, after you sit down in public transit, once you put on your coat, maybe it’s even after you put in your headphones, those opportunities afford you to put the new behavior in, sequence it in, just like we’re talking about. And then the real magic of it, the real moment that takes that from being something you did one time and said, okay, I did it one time, who cares? Is that you feel successful as you do that new behavior. So, no matter how you sequence it in, the best way is to look for an action prompt, but it’s the feeling you allow yourself to fire off. We talk about this. BJ has named this technique called celebration, and you may have shared about it with your crew here before. But it’s like that feeling of success going good for me, even though I input just the name, I nailed it. Like, I got the new name and the contact record, or it’s the date and the name, and it’s that feeling of success that actually wires it in. It’s not the 66 days, it’s not the reputation, it’s not the drill on, I did this 47 times it should be automatic. No, it’s feeling, look at me. I’m a fundraiser on the go and I’m rocking it, getting these contacts added. And it has to be a genuine feeling. It can be like a physical thing. Oh yes. Good job. Or it can be spirit fingers, or it can be something just fun or kind of like affirming that you say to yourself. But what you’re doing is self-reinforcing the behavior and you’re re-encoding your brain to expect, what’s called a reward prediction error. And I’m not a neuroscientist. I’m not going to go into the neurology of it, but the purpose of that reward prediction error is to help your brain say, I want to experience that again. You reinforce and encode that behavior as one that you then seek out to do again and again. And so, even though it’s this small action or this starter step, that sequence into your new routine, you feel successful as you do it, and that’s what wires in the habit, that’s what changes your behavior in the long term. That’s what you get lasting engagement in terms of stepping up to do new aspects of the contact record and so on. So, it’s this very practical sequencing, it’s this very intentional celebration, and then it’s the habits that you want done reliably. And affirm the nonprofit fundraiser and the executive and colleague you want to be. So, it’s really affirming your identity like I’m the kind of person who updates that donor record. I’m the kind of person who fulfills the commitment to my team I said I was going to do, and so on.
30:00 Mallory Erickson: Okay. There are so many questions I want to ask you based on everything that you just said, but I want to ask one first clarifying question. When you were talking about the sequence, inserting something into a sequence, you could also insert that small behavior into multiple sequences, right? So, you could insert it into the car sequence with the map, but you could also insert it into your train sequence with your whatever it is that you do. You can build a habit in sort of two different contextual sequences at once if you’re using an action sequence.
30:36 Stephanie Weldy: Yes, absolutely. You can build it into as long as you’re seeding it after a reliable anchor. So, it’s something you do already. This is the beauty of the Tiny Habits Method, is that it scales almost effortlessly. So, you can say, oh, that worked when I got in my car. Now I’m going to do that when I sit down on the train. I’m going to do it when I first sit down at my desk after getting back from a meeting. But notice your environment’s going to be different in each one of those places. If you get a call when you’re in the car, that’s going to be a different prompt in the environment. If you sit down at your desk and get 72 new emails, it’s a different behavior. And this is why it came back to your answer, which is, iterate. You’re not going to be perfect, and that’s okay. In fact, it’s part of the method to revise and iterate so that you can get it right and you do it in a way that matches the changing environment that you’re working in. And honestly, more than ever we are on the go. Like I work from home, but even at home sometimes I’m toggling between my laptop and my desktop, or I’m on my phone to take the kids to preschool, and then I’m back at my desktop. So, in those on-the-go environments, having reliable ways to sequence the behaviors you want is even more important, and you can do it in even more dynamic ways because the system scales and scaffolds into your real daily life. It’s not made for a laboratory. It’s made for real people, and it’s worked for over a hundred thousand people learning the method and iteration is part of that process.
32:15 Mallory Erickson: Okay, cool. And so, can we talk about the celebration piece a little bit? Because one of the things that I really appreciate you saying is that it has to be genuine, that you actually have to feel this sense of celebration. And after a donor meeting, sometimes people are feeling in a celebratory mood and sometimes they’re not. And I’m sure that there are a lot of habits that you teach people to build where the energy around that habit or that behavior is not necessarily positive, but you want them to have this sort of celebratory moment. Do you have any tricks or suggestions for that? Like how people can tap into that even if they’re in a hard moment?
33:02 Stephanie Weldy: Yeah, it’s such a good question. I’m going to rewind our conversation 20 minutes and pull something out and use it as an example here. One thing you said was, your hypothesis is that people avoid doing the donor record because they haven’t done a good job wrapping up the meeting potentially to say, let’s get really clear about what our next steps are. Kind of this vulnerable moment in a meeting. It’s like, let me recap what I heard and I’m responsible for, let me recap what you said you would do. And let’s make sure we agree on those and we’re both going to agree or we’re going to move forward on that trajectory. This is a bit of a vulnerable moment. But let’s imagine you’re at the end of a meeting and you remember to say, let’s talk about our next steps before we wrap up. We have about five more minutes. Let’s just say you remember to say it, but then somebody else starts talking and somebody makes a joke and oh my gosh, the meeting’s over and your donor has to fly, and it’s like, I didn’t do it. Well, in the moment that you remember, you use that celebration technique to go, good for me, I remembered to ask the wrap up question. Even if you never ask it, you still celebrate being prompted by your brain. This is kind of a person prompt, right? You’re just remembering. A context prompt might be, it’s on the agenda that you laid out for the meeting. So, the last bullet on the agenda might say, discuss next steps and agree upon next steps, or something like that. That would be a context prompt. And when you see it, you could put like a star next to it or a smiley face on your own little personal agenda that you’re keeping. And so, that could be a form of celebration where you just notice that it’s there and you go, good for me, I included on the agenda for this meeting. And then the final, and I hope this is a relevant example because I feel like this matters, like meeting preparation matters. And we’re not always going to be at a 100%. So, we can still celebrate in that moment so that future us is like, that would’ve been a good play. I didn’t make the slam dunk at last month’s meeting, but that would’ve been a good play. I can do that next time. And so, you don’t beat yourself up, you don’t self-sabotage or feel like I’m such a failure because I missed it. You celebrate in the moment to say, I actually remember to do it and I didn’t get to it. Or it was on the agenda, but we didn’t get to it. And you know, Mallory, I’m going to go a stretch further. BJ has said before that we all have a plenty of ways to tell ourselves, we didn’t do a good job, we messed up, we fell short of our mark. We are not a great partner, parent, colleague, friend, whatever. We all are really good at doing that, but we don’t have this abundance of ways of telling ourselves, we did a good job. We’re not as generous with that side of things. And we know it has to be true and genuine, and we know that. And so, the reason I use that wrap up because if your hypothesis is right and people are feeling vulnerable in the moment of what is next for this relationship, then just remembering or just affirming that you did get on the agenda is a really good starting place for setting up future success because you’re strengthening, I think of it as the caboose of the meeting. The last car, my toddlers are obsessed with train, so I’m going to use this like mom analogy. The last car on the tracks is that wrap up car. And if you can get really strong at saying, it’s going to be this red rectangle shaped with a little roof and it’s going to have these features, then you’re going to get even stronger at being that kind of collaborative donor partner that your organization is wanting to find the best fits and those donors are wanting to find the best organization. So, I just see that as a win win.
37:02 Mallory Erickson: Yeah. Okay. I love that. And I’ll just speak for myself. When I first learned to fundraise and was an executive director, I didn’t even think I was supposed to end donor meetings with clear next steps. I thought I was supposed to be building these ambiguous relationships, and one day, I would know a magical day would come when talking about money made sense, and I wasn’t sure when that was going to be. And until then, I would just build these relationships. And so, for nonprofit fundraisers who are hearing this, who are like, wait a second, we’re supposed to talk about next steps. I just want you to know, I think that that is actually a really missing conversation in this sector in general, and our fears around talking about money and all of that discomfort lead to that. But I think, even if you leave a meeting and you didn’t have the goal of identifying next steps, but then you get to the donor record and you don’t know how to put the information in there with purpose because you just have this like general information. I also want to just make it okay for folks who are listening, that still needs to go in there and then you can set yourself a secondary prompt. Maybe it’s time on your calendar at the end of the week to take a step back and think about, okay, how do I want to move? What’s the next engagement I want to bring to life with this donor?
38:16 Stephanie Weldy: Yeah. And no one is alone if they’re not fulfilling that type of behavior. But what we are able to do is systematically address, this is the behavior I want to happen, it’s not happening reliably. How do I make sure there’s a prompt? How do I make it easier to do? And maybe check in with your motivation, but if you have to check in with your motivation and you feel like you have to constantly remove your fear about it or whatever, you might say instead, is there a different behavior I could do? And so, within the realm of behavior design, we talk about it like behavior matching where maybe you are a more junior associate and you don’t feel like as comfortable with those conversations yet. You could say, hey, could I lead the part of the meeting, which is setting up our next meeting? So, it is a little lower stake, but you feel very confident being like, hey, what’s the best time for us to regroup, let’s say an April date, what would work for you? You might feel very confident, and then you choose a different behavior. So, it still helps you help your team grow the relationship, but it’s one that works for you. And I have a colleague that is so good at this skill. It is a keystone habit for him where it’s something he always does. Whenever he’s on the phone with a client and that call is about to end, and they’re like, well, yeah, we’ll pick it up in three weeks. People leave it in this big abstract place. He’s like, sure, let me open the calendar right now. How’s the week of March 12th looking for you? Without fail they’re like, yeah, let’s put on the calendar. I will send it through right after we wrap up. So, he doesn’t leave that to chance. And gosh, if you can get good at the particular skills that you know will enhance and grow your donor relationships. You can be really good at a set of them and probably be winning in this space because you’re very comfortable, you’re competent. Yeah, I’m not doing everything right, but I’m doing the things I need to do in a really strong, and gosh, is this the 15th time I’ve used the word reliable? But that’s what habits do. They free us up to focus on the areas where we need to grow, the areas where when business processes are automated, it helps us feel like, I can do two times as much. And with the demands that are just a plenty, habits are the things we can count on to kind of keep us on the rails. And I think of them as, they actually free me up to optimize me in other places, places where maybe I’m not as strong. And so, those habits help me do that. So, I think, that’s what we’re aiming for. You’re not going to be good at everything and that’s okay. But you set yourself up for success and you feel good about the successes you do have.
41:10 Mallory Erickson: Yes. Okay. I feel like you just really opened up something that’s important for fundraisers to think about, so I’m going to translate it sort of into their language for a second. That piece around noticing, where is something not happening that you want to be happening. So, I hate the way that I end meetings not knowing what that next step is, or I hate ending meetings and then spending six weeks trying to schedule another meeting with all the back and forth. So, it’s like identifying the pieces of the human process around donor relationships that are not working for you. Identifying both, like I think asking yourself if there’s some fear there, can be really important, and then figuring out how to make that action easier to do. And then in that play piece, find the things that you’re good at. I would also add, find the way to do that that feels authentic to you. I always try to schedule calls at the end too, and my line is, hey, do we want to save each other some back and forth and put something on the schedule right now, because that feels really real to me. And I feel like the people that I’m talking to can relate. Let’s get some email congestion out of both of our way and put this on the calendar now. And so, find the line, find the transition, find the piece of that behavior that’s really true to you, because that’s, I think, what is going to increase your motivation as well and your comfort there to actually take the action. The other thing I want to double click on really quickly that you said is around the celebration piece, because what is so critical there is that it’s about celebrating behaviors, not outcomes. And so, if you had a negative outcome in a donor meeting that is making you feel disheartened around something, you do need to zoom out and still take a moment to celebrate the behaviors that you did in that meeting that you want to create habits around. And we, I think in this sector, need to pull apart outcomes from behaviors way more than we do because we only think we’re allowed to celebrate the outcomes. And everything that you’re talking about is if we want to turn these things into habits, if we want to more consistently do the behaviors that ultimately build healthier relationships, we have to celebrate those behaviors and not wait for the payout of those relationships.
43:35 Stephanie Weldy: What you just shared, those two points to me feel like career guidance that everyone everywhere could benefit from. Now, Mallory and I are kind of kindred spirit, so consider me a biased opinion, but what I heard you say was, point one, to show up authentically means to be vulnerable at times, but in ways that bring levity and lightness and connection. So, it’s not like a showing off thing. This is who I am and we are all sharing this human experience. There’s no one better to meet with than someone who shows up as themselves, because pretty quickly you get an idea, is this a good fit or not. And I would guess in the donor relation world, what you’re really trying to do is, figure out the mission and vision of our organization a match for the mission and vision of how this foundation or this family office or this donor, how they talk about it, is it a match for what they want to do? And that’s just really good business etiquette to do good listening, show up in authentic way. So, I feel like career guidance, Stephany at 21 would’ve really benefited from that Mallory.
44:47 Mallory Erickson: Mallory at 21 would’ve too.
44:50 Stephanie Weldy: Yeah. So, everyone out there who’s 21, enjoy your twenties and take that advice. I just aged myself out of my twenties in case anyone was questioning that. But the second thing about celebrating the behavior and not the outcome, that is a missed opportunity if you’re waiting for the home run instead of affirming the success in the moment. And I’m going to add like a little twist. You can do this for yourself. It’s a superpower. It gives you the ability to like free yourself up from the doubt and the criticism and so on. You can also do this for other people. And especially when you have teammates who are questioning their skills in a certain area, or a manager who’s questioning the performance of their team, if you start to look for the behaviors people are doing that are like, in the vein of who they want to be at work or in the, it helped boost them in genuine ways. You’re doing a real service for others. Because like I just said, we don’t have tons of ways of saying I did a great job. We have a lot of ways of saying I did a poor job. Well, I didn’t get that call quite right, but at least we had it. It’s like, how about, I was really organized before the call, I wish I would’ve said things differently, but I’m really happy that we followed through on that connection that somebody introduced us to or something like that. It’s not pollyanna. It’s looking to affirm the ways you’ve been successful, actually creates success momentum for future ways that you’re going to step up and perform. So, you don’t beat yourself up. You affirm what you did well. And you say, next time I’m going to practice using this opening line. Or you’ve got your line that you say, something like, let’s save ourselves a bunch of email clutter and set this up right now. That I would consider a starter step and it helps future Mallory, when you see that call or whatever on your calendar. Good for me, I remember to set this up already, feels good. And you can’t underestimate the power of what that’s doing for you to help you have lasting change, to help you have more long-term success. And in the data from Tiny Habits, every week we see that even though people are making this tiny change to their work, or their productivity, or their relationships, or their health, and so on. About 20% of them step up to take on a big change. So, if you are the manager affirming your colleagues on these small things, know that the data supports the old adage, like, change leads to change. Week after week since BJ launched the Tiny Habits, it’s a free five-day program, Mallory. And people show that they start with these tiny things, almost minuscule. How’s this going to change anything? But then almost 20% of them step up to do something big. So, they start with wiping the counter after they empty the coffee pot or whatever, and then they step up to have a hard conversation at work. Or they start with just adding this to the end of their donor call and they step up to apply for a grant that’s bigger than they’ve done in the past and so on. So, it’s like, how do you practice those skills? It is the behavior that you affirm and celebrate, it’s not the outcome. To tie this all the way back around, because those tiny changes are actually what lead to the big outcomes, the big successes that you’re very likely aiming for.
48:42 Mallory Erickson: Oh my gosh. Okay. What a note to end this on. Thank you so much for joining me today. I will make sure there are links to the Tiny Habit five Day Challenge below where they can find and learn more about the behavior model, links to you on LinkedIn. Is there anything else you want to make sure we tell people today?
49:01 Stephanie Weldy: Oh, my goodness. Well, I feel like I’m preaching to the choir, but all hail Mallory. It’s so fun to work with a collaborator like you who is helping meet people where they are and help them do their best work in the world. Like, I think more than ever, we are learning about the impact that work benefits life, life benefits work. And I feel like we all have a limited amount of time, but in that, it’s like, how do we help others improve their quality of life? How do we help others grow their career? And this community you’ve built around your work, it’s just you’re being extremely vulnerable and you’re also showing up and practicing the things you’re sharing about. So, I just really admire you and I hope that anything you’ve shared has helped people go out and serve others and celebrate them, because our world needs that more than ever. So, thank you so much for the opportunity to share, and I look forward to the connections I grow because of the great work you do. So, thank you, Mallory.
50:07 Mallory: Oh my gosh. Thank you. Thank you for all of that. And, likewise, you teach me so much about what it means to practice what you preach and to integrate things like this into all the different areas of your life. And that piece around time is, I was just thinking about this the other day, that time is finite, so it feels easy to get into scarcity around it. But how we do things and the speed with which we make decisions or take actions, that is not finite. And to me, your work and BJ’s work, it has made me feel like I have so much more time in my life, and so I’m so grateful for it because life is short, but it is wide. And I think that these are the types of tools and skills that allow us to have the best one we can. So, thank you for everything that you do.
50:55 Stephanie Weldy: Yes. Thank you for that. This has been so fun. And of course, I love connecting with you, but connecting with the people who are seeking out your guidance is an awesome experience, so thank you for that.
51:08 Mallory Erickson: Yes, thank you.
All right. I am so grateful for Stephanie’s willingness to dive into this conversation with me, and there are so many takeaways from our talk, but here are a few of the key things I’m double clicking on.
Number one, just a reminder that any behavior happens when three things come together at once. Motivation to do the behavior. The ability to do the behavior. And a prompt, a moment in time that says, do this now. You can use this model to better manage your habits and behaviors around your donor relationship management.
Number two, behavior design becomes more critical when motivation is a challenge and there is often an unconscious fear of looking at donor records that’s actually decreasing motivation when it comes to fundraising, and we need to account for that in our habit and behavior design and continue to look at making the action easier to do.
Number three, in our attention economy, everyone’s losing information faster than ever. So, designing a sequence of habits can help you prioritize your tasks and act on them.
Habit and Behavior design can help you work on donor records in pieces without striving for perfection.
Number four, there are three sources of behavior prompts that you can use, and I thought this was so helpful to understand. Person prompts, context prompts, and action prompts. And action prompts are the best type. So, think about how this applies to your own design of habits.
And number five, celebratory self-recognition and self-affirmation, especially during and after donor meetings, are great ways to maintain your motivation and set yourself up for future success. It’s all about celebrating behaviors, not outcomes.
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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