117: Magnetic Fundraising: How Community Building Moves Us from Transactional to Authentic Relationships with Sara Lomelin

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“So much of what we think of planned giving is stuck in the 90s, when the fact is modern day gift planning is all gifts, from annual fund all the way up to major gifts. It’s just about how big and bold the donor’s vision is and their capacity to be able to afford that.”

– Paul Nazareth
Episode #116


In this episode of What the Fundraising Podcast…

What does it mean to be a magnetic fundraiser? It means you attract abundance and connection instead of chasing it. Magnetic fundraisers are authentic, good listeners who prioritize meaningful connection with donors over outcomes. So, it’s possible to be fully authentic when asking people for money? Of course it is!

Sara Lomelin, CEO of Philanthropy Together,  is working to diversify and democratize philanthropy by creating the infrastructure needed for the giving circle model to flourish in all communities. You might have heard her name recently because of her incredible Ted talk on how to disrupt philanthropy.Philanthropy Together is a global initiative, co-created by hundreds of giving circles and collective giving network leaders, to diversify and democratize philanthropy, help start new giving circles, and help existing giving circles thrive.

In this episode, Sara describes her approach to being an authentic, magnetic fundraiser with an abundance mindset, instead of a transactional fundraiser in a scarcity mindset. She also talks about why giving circles are so successful at fundraising and building strong, authentic donor relationships. 

Tune in to learn Sara’s best tips and strategies for talking to donors, creating safe spaces for connection and transparency, and increasing both the effectiveness and the efficiency of your fundraising efforts.


Sara Lomelin


  • Philanthropy Together
  • Listen to Sara Lomelin’s Ted Talk
  • What is a Giving Circle?
  • Many thanks to our sponsor, Givebutter for making this episode possible. Our friends at Givebutter really understand what it takes to be a magnetic fundraiser. Their fundraising platform empowers millions of changemakers to raise more, pay less, and give better every single day. To learn more about them, head on over to givebutter.com/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.

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Get to know Sara: 

Sara Lomelin is a connector of people and ideas, a relationship builder, and a firm believer that everyone can be a philanthropist. As founding CEO of Philanthropy Together, she is working to diversify and democratize philanthropy by creating the infrastructure needed for the giving circle model to flourish in ALL communities. Sara’s work provides a platform for different perspectives in the collective giving field—a unique giving model that has given away nearly 1.3 billion dollars in the past two decades and exploded in popularity among diverse audiences in the past five years. Sara has traveled the world speaking about the power of collective giving, the correlation between civic engagement and Latino philanthropy, and collaborated with advocacy organizations globally. Her work has been featured at TED, Netroots Nation, Unity Summit, as well as in Forbes, Associated Press, Chronicle of Philanthropy and many more. Prior to Philanthropy Together, Sara served as Senior Director of Leadership Philanthropy at Opportunity Fund, now Accion Opportunity Fund, the largest nonprofit small business lender in the US. Previously at the Latino Community Foundation, Sara served as VP of Philanthropy for eight years and created the Latino Giving Circle Network™—the largest network of Latinx philanthropists in the US with 22 circles and 500 members. She currently serves on the National Council of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and the Board of Directors of GivingTuesday and Battery Powered.


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episode transcript

Mallory Erickson  01:35

Welcome, everyone. I am so excited to be here today with Sara Lomelin. Sara, welcome to What the Fundraising.

Sara Lomelin  01:42

Thank you so much, Mallory, I’m super excited to be here with you. Thank you for the invitation.

Mallory Erickson  01:47

I really loved our first conversation, I felt like there was so much energy in the room talking about the way we both look at giving and community building and fundraising. So why don’t we start with you just telling everyone a little bit about you your incredible work for those of you who don’t know her yet or haven’t seen her incredible TED talk? I know so many people listening to this are chomping at the bit for us to dive in. But why don’t you give everyone a little background?

Sara Lomelin  02:12

Yes, of course. So I’m originally from Mexico City, I moved to the US 26 years ago. So I have been most of my life here. My background is not in philanthropy. So I started with communications and then in a financial institution, and then I have my own business for a little bit. I was making babies sleeping bags, for car seats and strollers. Yeah, super random. And then about 12 years ago, I started working in philanthropy, and specifically fundraising. And for me, it was a totally new world, learning everything on the job. And I just fell in love with it, but not with the fundraising per se. But as a total extrovert for the chance of meeting new people listening to new stories, just figuring out what moves people to give to different causes and different communities. I worked for eight years at the Latino Community Foundation in San Francisco, and I loved every single minute there, I started the Latino giving circle network, which is the only Latino network in the country. And during those years, I started getting connected to other leaders of giving circle networks across the country. And I’m going to just step back a little bit to tell the audience I know most everybody knows what I can struggle is, but some people may not know. A giving circle is a group of people with shared values that get together to create change. And these creating change is really important for me because I would like every single given struggle is to move outside from charity to change to really engage with communities. Given circles are not the same as crowdfunding given circle members are not your regular donors are 84% of giving circles give locally given circle members are always extremely informed in the causes that they care about. They’re educated in the community that they serve. And they engage a lot more actively than just by donating their financial resources. They give their time, their talent, their testimony, their time and their treasure. Going back to a little bit of me, after working at Latino Community Foundation and meeting all these leaders from different given circle networks. In 2017, a group of hearts got together to dream what was needed for the collective given field. And with a small gift from the Gates Foundation. We embarked in a co design project during the year to really involve the human circle leaders giving circle members, founders, researchers, academics and to dream What was possible. And out of that codesign project, philanthropy together, was born. And philanthropy together is the organization that I lead. And we launched in the middle of the pandemic in April of 2020. And our mission is to democratize and diversify philanthropy through the power of collective good.

Mallory Erickson  05:20

Okay, I love that you gave some clarification around what a giving circle is and what a giving circle is not and the difference between the donors who are inside the giving circle because I think a lot of times, people think of giving circles just in terms of the structure of how gifts move into the organization, as opposed to the structure of the group itself. Like, here’s a collective group of people who gave us a donation for X, they all contributed to that total amount. But that structure of money movement could happen in a number of different ways. And they’re not all giving circles.

Sara Lomelin  06:01

Totally, you got it, yes, because crowdfunding is collective gaming. There’s also collaborative collaborative funds donor collaborative, and they are donor circles, right? Many nonprofits have a donor circle that maybe have a certain donation level. And it’s a group of donors that get together and maybe they need in a couple of events a year, and the money that they give goes to the same nonprofit or the same organization. And that’s great, because even with donor circles, you can also include some of the aspects of a given circle. But if we want to be very strict, in a given circle, you have four different components that make a golden circle. So the first one is to create belonging, so is the sense of community and getting together with like minded individuals. The second is to open space for this course, that is something that I love about giving circles and every single type of collective given because you hear from different perspectives, when you join a given circle, you know that your individual decision is going to take a step back, it’s going to be in the backburner because you are joining a group, and you will be okay with the decision of the group. Right. And for me, this is important because it’s a practice on democracy, just hearing different perspectives, learning in the process, and then coming together to a decision. The third part of a given circle is trust. And that is where we want everybody to move. There is a lot of trust in the circle members, there’s trust in the process, because in a lot of giving circles, the pooled fund is there before you even know where the money is going to go to. So there’s trust in the process, there’s trust among members. And also, you know, hopefully trust in the leaders on the ground, like the people that are doing the work in community. And then the last month for me the most important is acting in abundance and going beyond the dollars. And this is the engagement part where it’s not just about the money that you moved us or getting circle, but it’s how else can you open doors for those organizations that you support? How can you advocate for them? How can you share their story in social media? How can you go and volunteer with them or join their board? So all the other ways on how you can engage with something that you care about? Okay.

Mallory Erickson  08:33

You can tell me if you don’t want to talk about what I’m about to ask, but I can’t help think about it. So I’m going to ask this, you can say yes or no, we can always go in a different direction. I’ve loved hearing those pillars. And there’s so much inside each of them that I think are so important for both an organization having healthy relationships with their donors, and for individuals and people to find meaningful ways to participate in society and build the world that they ultimately want to see. We’re seeing inside the sector this big conversation happening between donor centric and community centric fundraising principles. And giving circles are really unique to me in the sense that it is an activity for and by donors alike. It is inherently donor centric in certain ways, because it is about a group of donors coming together and making investment decisions together collective decisions together. But in terms of how they work with the organization, it feels incredibly community centric, in terms of the commitment to community impact, the removal of individual ego, from the donation process, like it feels like this very community centric activity that still takes into account the experience of the donor. And I feel like sometimes in this tension between donor centric and community centric, we feel like we can’t do community centric fundraising or have community centric experiences. And still keep in mind and account for the human experience of the donor. But giving circles to me feels like this healthy way of doing that. And I’m curious what you think about that?

Sara Lomelin  10:25

You’re totally right, I should start with saying that when you know, one given struggle, you know, one human struggle, right, because the model is extremely flexible. And everybody can invent their own or create their own rules, right. So they’re giving circles are a very traditional, very donor centric people get together they decide they give that said, they invite the organization to maybe once a year, whatever their other given circles that are actually extremely progressive, and involving the community voice in decision making to, for example, in my years, during Latino Community Foundation, many times like at some point, I was managing 23, common struggles. And many times after giving grants, the executive director for one of the organization’s would call me and say, Hey, I love this. And I want to be part of the green circle as a donor. So we came full circle, because those voices in the community are extremely important to have an inside the giving circle. So we have very diverse get in circles, like we were around the table, because what unite us at that moment was the issue area that we cared about. But we have people in their early 20s, to their seven, coming from different backgrounds, different immigration stories, different industries, so extremely diverse. And then here, you have kind of like a mix, and then they’re giving struggles that are not even making the decisions, they’re pulling the money, they’re pulling the funds, but they are inviting members of the community to decide where those funds go. So a lot like participatory grantmaking. They get those experts in the community, to those members from the community to make the decision, and they are as donors, they are putting themselves aside in a decision making process. So there are many different models. If you ask me, you know, I love the idea. And this is something that is not my good friend and colleague of mine from Latino Community Foundation said it all the time, it’s like, we need to start looking at our grantee partners, our community partners, as our family, look people in the eye and give as you would give to a loved one, right? Because there’s trust, and you blurred the power dynamics. And I feel that more and more giving struggles are moving towards a lot more transparent, progressive and trust based practices. Okay, I love

Mallory Erickson  12:58

hearing that. And there’s an interesting piece like for those giving circles that have moved in those progressive directions that perhaps aren’t even making the decisions about the giving. My guess is that the donors who are a part of them still have a positive affinity for being a part of it, like they still feel good. And so what are the elements when we’re able to remove? Because this is super interesting to me, there’s a lot of beliefs in the philanthropy giving world that if you remove ego too much, you lose the donors like essentially. And what giving circles I think prove is that’s not true. There are ways for people to have positive emotional experiences, cement memory, get all the dopamine they need without power. And so it’s fascinating to me. So tell me, what are the pieces that create that identity and belonging that we can learn from in terms of building healthier relationships with donors?

Sara Lomelin  14:03

I think the most important part from all my years in fundraising, if this work cannot be transactional, you’re building relationships. And it’s that community building piece. What keeps these donors even if they’re not making the decision, is the community building piece, the success of given circles is because they are extremely social, especially, you know, right after the pandemic, like we are hungry for that human touch that community and just getting together around the table sharing a meal, sharing a glass of wine learning from each other. There are so many byproducts of a given circle, like the money out of the door is the least important one. Of course, it’s important because in the past 20 years given circles have moved $1.3 billion. So it’s not leading change, but the way that these relationships among them Members and among organizations and partners and initiatives get created, I think that is what keeps given circles getting stronger. And also the learning part there is a lot of learning is not coming and doing contributing to a crowdfunding campaign that you go, you give, because your costume told you to give, or they send you a link, and then five minutes later, you don’t even remember what you get to. So in that given circle, you are learning not only about the causes, but about the challenges, the opportunities you’re getting in constant communication. And at the same time, you are also building friendships with the members of the circle to

Mallory Erickson  15:40

Yeah, wow, I love that. So much of this tracks with what we’ve been learning about that people identify more with causes than organizations. And we’ve been I’ve been hearing and reading some statistics recently that like, the identity of donors tends to be more caused based these days than organizational based. And I don’t know exactly how that gets measured. But to me, giving circles also, and the growing nature of giving circles indicates that element to it. I’m curious, like that abundance piece. So for a fundraiser, and you’ve been on all sides of this. So I’m curious sort of how you think about this. I feel like there’s so much language in our sector that makes it so hard for fundraisers to feel abundant. There’s just so much constant language about scarcity. And it’s really hard in the midst of that, and in the midst of capitalism, and in the midst of so much suffering, too. Like there’s so much suffering in our world. And all of those things, deregulate our nervous system, and they make it really hard for us to be our most grounded and bodied selves, which is where abundance lives. And I think where connection lives and belonging lives. And so for fundraisers, we talk a lot about abundance or sufficiency or Moving Towards Abundance, but I think like in their bodies, they like have such a hard time even feeling that way. Do you have any mantras, tips, strategies, things that you found, even when you’ve personally noticed scarcity in yourself, that help you move into more of that abundance mindset? That’s such a key piece of the giving circle model?

Sara Lomelin  17:32

I love this question. Because yes, and you didn’t say this, but avviene, you have your board on top of you like oh my god, we’re not going to be able to get the funds that we need. So you are feeling like anxious, like, where do I raise this money? And then this whole narrative of well, you know, it takes the same amount of time to cultivate a person that is going to give you $20, or someone that is going to give you a tummy, right. So a lot of our sector is focusing on high net worth and ultra high net worth individuals, because why bother with the small donors? Well, I am going to totally disband them. Like we cannot, as a country as humanity, stop focusing on the everyday donor and the everyday people. Because guess what? That community engagement, that learning that sense of belonging that people used to get from church, like there’s a decline of people going to church, right? How are people engaging, giving circles, collective giving is an incredible way to do this. And my big mantra would be, do not assume, who can give and who cannot. I am Latina. I spent many years with an African American colleague and an Asian American colleague, literally we’d call it the traveling show, to many conferences, where we were invited to talk about how do you engage diverse donors, right? You know, we don’t come from another planet. We have been completely invisible from traditional philanthropy, fundraisers are not looking at us. Why not? Because they think we cannot give. I had many, many members of those Latino given circles. That said, You are the very first person who asked me to give, if we ask fundraiser will ask more and stop assuming who is going to give and who is not. We will be very surprised. Sometimes someone that may be given to you $80 A month, $80 a month. If you go and ask that person can be giving you $10,000 $50,000 a year that happened to me and many times Those young learners, the ones that are just getting started in philanthropy, they’re getting excited. If you cultivate them, if you believe in them, those are the people that are going to be in the long term in positions of power of opening doors for your organization’s with their employers with the foundation, never assume I had many times, you know, people telling me like, Oh, you shouldn’t invest your time in that person. He’s too Junior, no, stick with people, because you may be very pleasantly surprised. Okay,

Mallory Erickson  20:36

there’s so many things that you have recently said that I just want to double click on really quickly what I hear you saying in that last piece around as a sector as a society, we cannot lose sight of the everyday donor, to me that is so connected to this idea that fundraising is the work, I think we have long put, like fundraising over here, and then our programs over here. And we think about fundraising as this like necessary evil or a means to the end. And what I think giving circles really demonstrate to me is another example of like, the fundraising, the movement of money, is the work, inviting people in building community building identity, galvanizing support around issues that we care about. That is the work of our organizations, too. And it cannot be this thing up here separate on the shelf, and then the program work is the only work that we’re doing. If we’re fundraising, right. And I really hear you saying that, too. You’re also bringing up this, I’m gonna go back to something you said a little while ago that finally sort of hit me while I was holding on to it when you talked about not being transactional. So I think and I’d be curious what you think about this, I feel like in this sector, we use that word transactional, to mean the same thing as talk about money. Like when we say don’t be transactional, what we’re really saying is don’t talk about money. And so we bury the lead, that we actually want to have a conversation about investment and what we can do together, we go out sort of saying, we just want to build a relationship. But inside, we are like, is this person gonna give me money. And so then, then they can feel that right, they can feel that there’s like a misalignment between what you said you were there for, and what they feel like you’re there for, and there’s this conversation that we’re having. But then this conversation that we’re not having, versus what’s so amazing to me about giving circles is like, There’s no mystery like, we’re here to pool our resources to make a positive impact. Money is not a dirty word, it is not a bad word. We are all coming here with like, our eyes open. And now that we have that out of the way, that that’s what we’re actually here to do. Let’s talk about how we find alignment and how we move money in ways that feel good. And we find organizations that work. And I feel like nonprofit fundraisers could be doing the same thing to say, look, my ultimate goal would be that if we’re in alignment, we find a way to work together. That’s not going to happen today. We’re just getting to know each other, I want to build a relationship, I want to figure out what you’re looking to do in this community. I want to tell you more about what we’re doing. But if down the line that seems like we’re aligned, and we want the same thing, then I hope we’d be open to having a conversation about that when the time is right. But there’s no like mystery around like we’re trying to become best friends,

Sara Lomelin  23:31

donors, everything, everybody you appreciate honesty. And when you are some fundraiser or calling someone to say, Hey, let’s go buy coffee, they know you’re going to ask for money, right? They know. And I think you need to be transparent. We all as fundraisers, we need to listen more than what we talk. And I cannot stress this enough. And I think you and I spoke about this last time, right? Like that the way to build relationships is to be authentic. At some point with the 23, given circles that I had, I have 500 people and I knew everybody’s kids names and birthdays, and who was going on vacation and who didn’t. Why? Because I care about those folks, a lot of them are now very good friends of mine. And we started these relationships in the giving circles and also because the giving circle creates this space where people can be also very vulnerable. And your share things like even opening up with an icebreaker and usually we ask the question of Who inspires you to give? What are those personal values and the values that the guide you’re giving? Who inspired those values in you and that opens up these very deep conversations like there are many given circled meanings that there’s a lot of tears, but it’s tears of joy and sharing and finding you know, a common ground among people. So that is why I totally love about collective giving and what I was saying that we can Not just look the other way or not see everyday donors, if we need more people to care period, we can not become numb of what happens in our backyards in our neighborhoods. And guess what, all of us focusing on a few billionaires and millionaires, that is not helping. And it’s very, very alarming. What I’ve seen is that it’s very scary that every year these reports come that, yes, the amount of dollars in philanthropy are going up. The number of donors has gone down. And we cannot let that happen for society for democracy.

Mallory Erickson  25:44

Yeah, I think it’s such an important point. And a moment ago, when you share that question around, what inspires you to give? That’s a question that I haven’t heard, you know, we see these sort of routine questions thrown around around what to say at a donor meeting? And I don’t think that’s a question that I’ve actually seen a lot of places, I feel like a lot of what I see being suggested is sort of going straight to the mission, like narrows the focus of the conversation to Why did you give to us the first time or how did you get involved in our work? And my guess is you have some amazing questions that are broader than that, that actually give people a much deeper sense of the underlying drive and desire and connection of the individuals. Do you have any other suggestions on questions that really create opportunity for vulnerability and connection around giving that you would recommend?

Sara Lomelin  26:46

Yeah, I think that conversations about values is key, because you start talking about, okay, what are those values that guide your giving? And then you jump on the who influenced those values? Or who did you get those values from, and is usually your family, a teacher, and that opens that person’s mind is sharing more about their life and what they care about. We have done several activities and exercises where we ask people to bring a picture of someone that inspires them to be involved in this work, or to give to a particular cause. Anything that you can get people to close the space gap with you. And really, again, look each other in the eyes as people not as fundraiser as a donor, as people that both of us care about the same thing is key. Another thing that I learned the first few years into fundraising, right? I used to get very anxious, if people told me no, my God, what am I doing wrong? And someone said, don’t take a personnel. If they are saying No, first of all, they’re not saying no, no, no, never. They’re saying Not yet. Let me tell you, you know, I don’t care about this. It’s not yet. And then if someone says, No, they’re not saying it to you, and changing that narrative into instead of coming with the scarcity mindset of asking, you invite people to be part of the incredible mission of your organization.

Mallory Erickson  28:22

Yeah, it’s so interesting how much fundraising can like shift the narrative on certain things in our head, I was thinking, you know, if you’re having a birthday party, and you invite 100 people to the birthday party, and 50 people, commerce 60 people come, you’re probably much more likely to remember who came to the birthday party than the people who didn’t come to the birthday party, because they came to the birthday party. But I feel like in fundraising, we focus on the people who didn’t come to the birthday party, and we like, lose sight of it. And we sort of obsess around like, Why didn’t so and so come to the party. And there is just this shift that can happen in like, these are invitations, this is not personal rejection, although it might feel like that. And if it feels like that, like acknowledge and validate that that’s how it feels. And just because something feels true, does not mean it is true. And so even though it might feel true that this was personal, it is not actually personal. And so I just think that’s such good advice. 

Sara Lomelin  29:22

Yeah. And another thing that it sounds super simplistic, but I think that a lot of times we forget, right? Don’t assume that even though a donor has been given you for many years, they know your mission by heart. So every time you sit with that donor, remind them about your mission, remind them about your programs or share a couple of stories because sometimes we forget to do that or an event. The person that comes to the microphone starts talking without introducing themselves because they feel well you know, I’m the executive director ever already knows me. Well guess what? Maybe no. So those little things that you can? Do you need to repeat your mission, you need to always bring people back to why are they there? If they are in a fundraising event that they already have a house party? Why are they there?

Mallory Erickson  30:19

That is such good advice for so many reasons. But I just think about the way that that builds more safety and inclusion for people, I think about how I’ve been at events like that, where somebody didn’t introduce themselves, and I don’t know who they are. And I immediately feel on the outside, everybody knows something that I don’t know, like, I’m not really supposed to be here. This is for people who, and so just how much practices like that. And you can say, like, I know, so many people in the room might be familiar with X already. But I want to take a moment because we’re so grateful to have so many new faces here. And so it’s such good advice. And I feel like there’s this word that keeps coming up for me recently. And when I met you, I was like, Oh, my gosh, she is the epitome of which is just like magnetism, like magnetic energy. Like there’s there are certain people that you meet or that you talk to, and fundraisers that I’ve seen, and I’m like, they are magnetic, like they are showing up in a way that is an open invitation for people to connect with them. And I really think that that has such an impact on how safe people feel to connect with you. And I’m curious, like, even how that resonates with you? Or is there things that you feel like have been important in your life, to allow you to show up as your full self and open to connection in that way?

Sara Lomelin  31:48

First of all, thank you for the compliment. You know, at the beginning, I didn’t study to be a fundraiser, I was not in philanthropy. Actually, I think I shared this with you last time that when I started the Latino Community Foundation was like, I have never done fundraising in my life. I haven’t never worked for nonprofits. And my then husband gave me the nonprofit for Dummies Yellow Book, before my first day of work, so I hear I’m breathing all this. And I get into LCF. And the day after I go back to my husband, Larry said, Guess what, this is not a regular nonprofit. It’s a foundation. And he’s like, and what is that? And I’m like, I don’t know yet, but I’ll find that out. So the fact that I didn’t come from philanthropy or foundation background, and an amazing colleague of mine was not coming from that background either. allowed us to do a lot of things outside the box. At the beginning out of pure ignorance. We didn’t know the lingo. We didn’t know the protocols. We didn’t know anything. But that gave us a competitive advantage of people remember us, we used to send emails full of love and flowers and emojis. Right? And at that time where no one was using emojis. We’ve had these calls with funders, potential funders, and start with, hey, Mallory, how’s your heart feeling today? How are you feeling? What do you have for breakfast? People were caught off guard because they’re like, oh my god, we were sending handwritten notes with pictures that we were sending to Walgreens to print. And we were cutting up pictures and sending thank you pictures. And suddenly we are leading out of funders office. And there it was our hand written picture cards, right? So in all this sector, you need to be rememberable, you need to do something that funders will remember and donors will remember. And I feel that you can make anyone give to your organization or your cause once out of you’re like what Stop it I don’t want you to ask me anymore. But the secret is having that person giving you a second time, because that means that person is passionate about what you’re doing. And you have established a relationship. And that’s hard. And people can smell from a mile. If you are treating them as a checkbook. Like how many times you hear from even you if you’re given to different organizations, you have your favorites, right? And who are those favorites that the organizations that keep you informed? The organization’s that also try to engage you in other ways. Those are the organizations that you want to be near them.

Mallory Erickson  34:46

Yeah. I recently interviewed it’s coming out in a few weeks, this woman Carol Robbins who wrote a book around connection, and she talks about how one of the main ways that we can connect with people is when And we are fully known and when we allow somebody else to be fully known. And so I feel like that you’re talking about that in so many different ways, which is like how do we show up as more of our real selves, less of our performative perfectionist, because we cannot connect to that it makes us feel safe, because it makes us feel like then maybe we won’t ever be criticized. But it’s also not a place we can connect from. And then to give other people the opportunity to be fully known for more than the check that they’re writing is just the key to actually building a relationship,

Sara Lomelin  35:36

Totally. And actually, I had this conversation with a young woman that was working with me at some point, she asked, am I going to this event, like as an attendee, or some going like, representing the organization? And I said, the fact that you’re asking me that, it’s wrong, like, you know, I show up, I have the jersey on all the time, I have the team, the team’s Jersey all the time, not because I am a workaholic, I’m crazy, whatever, no, because I am so passionate about what I’m doing. That that passion, it’s in every single pore of my body. So first advice for anybody, you know, listening to us is, if you are the fundraiser are not completely passionate about the mission of your organization, find another job. Because that passion needs like, you know, people can see it, you need to reflect that. And you cannot fake that. So there is no on the clock or off the clock. It’s like, people know what I do? Because it’s given circles, I am part of many game circles. In my free time. I work with getting circles because I love it.

Mallory Erickson  36:48

Yeah, I know, I recently sent my husband, because before we met, I was 100%, a workaholic and had very bad boundaries and a very unhealthy relationship to work. And when we started dating, he was like, that’s really a non negotiable for me that we have sacred time together and that you are not working all the time. And so I worked very hard to adjust a lot of my lifestyle, which was very good for me, too. It was not like for him, but it was a good accountability piece. But now today, I’m always thinking about my work. Now, I’m not thinking about my business. I’m not thinking about am I going to get more clients, but I think about fundraisers and this sector, constantly, constantly. And I recently said to him, do you think I’ve fallen back into my like, workaholic tendencies? Because I’m just constantly problem solving around like, what do fundraisers need what’s getting in their way here, like, I just cannot turn it off. But it’s like coming from a place of passion, not scarcity, not like I better do doo doo, because if I don’t, then I’m not good enough, or I’m not valuable enough. It’s like, this is so important to me. And it is in every cell of who I am. There’s no room I walk into where this piece of me doesn’t come to it’s not always the center of the moment, but it’s always in me. And so I love what you said, because I think that is such an important reminder for fundraisers. And I think sometimes fundraisers get tripped up for those who are listening to this who are like, okay, like, I’m all in on the mission. But where I get tripped up is around, like the programs. And I’m curious what you would say to this, too, I feel like I hear a lot from fundraisers. Like that program isn’t ready to be fundraised for yet, like, we don’t know enough about blank or I feel nervous representing a certain thing as a fundraiser, because I have some questions actually around how effective it is on the ground right now. I feel like we’re in this evaluation phase. And we don’t totally know what the outcomes are. And so that makes me nervous as a fundraiser in terms of representing it. And that’s been letting go of perfectionism and where transparency is really valuable. But I’m curious what other advice you’d have to a fundraiser that feels that tension.

Sara Lomelin  39:10

Something that helped me a lot is try not to work in silos, be very close to your program colleagues. You know, we were a tiny, tiny, tiny Foundation. And I didn’t have that relationship with the grantees like I was in in charge of the donors. And then a colleague was in charge of the community partners. And at some point, I started going to the organizations and meeting the leaders and being there and seeing the programs. It gives you another level of understanding like really going and experiencing it, because you can never talk about a program if you haven’t seen it or see the faces of the people, the clients that people that your organization is serving. You need to be there take the time, like I at some point, I was Like block in the morning, so one day a week to go and visit the different organizations that we were supporting to meet everybody.

Mallory Erickson  40:07

I love that advice. And for the fundraiser who’s like, I don’t have time, because data dot, that time, make the time because it’s going to make your other time so much more valuable. And our donor meeting is not like equivalent to all our donor meetings, and you’re gonna have a much more effective and impactful and connected donor meeting when you have those stories to tell, then if you don’t and so when people think about how can I make my work more effective or efficient it is in those things we say we don’t have time for that makes our work so much more effective and efficient and all of those things. So okay, I could talk to you forever. Is there any question I have not asked you that I should have asked you.

Sara Lomelin  40:51

I think no, but I think everybody and that’s the other thing. Everybody should be part of academic circle. It doesn’t have to be with your colleagues or for work. Like if your organization is not starting a giving circle, join one with your customers, your friends, your high school friends from 20 years ago, it’s something that you are going to love. And you’re going to see the benefits that can bring to your costs to your organization. But first we need to experience it. So we have like a big global directory of given circles, there are like 4000, given circles there already. Now we’re in the process of training that director but there are about a good number of giving circles. And you can put your given your zip code or issue area and you get a bunch of kin circles near you.

Mallory Erickson  41:38

Amazing. Thank you so much for joining me today. Where else can folks go to find you connect with you. And I’ll make sure all the links are below as well.

Sara Lomelin  41:47

Perfect. Philanthropy together.org. All the programs that we have are open source are free of charge. We are having the weekend Summit in May, which is a virtual Summit. It’s about three days long. We get like 1000 people from around the world. Amazing content, and amazing keynote, so join us for that. We have an equity and justice in collective given theories. Everybody can also join, we have webinars every month, and yeah, bunch of trainings. And if you want to learn more about what is the giving circle, or you want to send that to some of your donors or your board or whoever to explain the model, there is some website that it’s called, Whatisthegivingcircle.com that we have it in English, Spanish, Mandarin and German. It has been a good tool to just understand the model a little bit better. 

Mallory Erickson  42:40

Amazing. I will make sure that is below as well. Thank you so much for this conversation.

Sara Lomelin  42:45

Thank you so much. Mallory, thank you so much for having me.

Mallory Erickson  42:54

All right, there is so much inside this episode. I hope you are as fired up as I am. But I want to double click on a few of my very top takeaways. Number one, I love the four components of giving circles to create belonging to open space for discourse, trust between members in leaders and in the process, and acting in abundance going beyond the dollars. Number two, I thought it was fascinating to learn that 84% of giving circle members give locally, they’re very informed about the causes that they care about. They’re educated in the community they serve, and they’re engaged more actively than the majority of donors. Number three, giving circles are so successful because they’re community centric, while also boosting the donors experience through their giving circle identity and network. It’s a form of social fundraising that builds community connection and opportunities for learning, which is what keeps donors engaged and committed to the cause without taxing the organization itself. Number four, to feel more abundant. trisara is mantra for preventing a scarcity mindset. Do not assume who can give and who cannot ask more, assume less and you will be pleasantly surprised. Number five. When building donor relationships. listen more than you talk. Be authentic and caring when connecting to donors show up as your full self. So donors can too. And number six, when you engage with donors, remind them of their why their mission and their values. And lastly, number seven, create moments that your donors will remember we’ve talked about this on other podcasts too. But getting dopamine flowing really helps increase donor retention, memory and relationship to the organization. Okay, for additional takeaways and tips inside this episode, head on over to Mallory erickson.com backslash podcasts to grab the full show notes and resources now, you’ll also find more information there about Sarah and our amazing sponsors give better. Thank you for spending this time with us today. If you enjoyed this episode, we would love it if you would give it a rating and review and share it with a friend. I am so grateful for all of my listeners and the good hard work you’re doing to make our world a better place. And if you miss me between episodes, stop by and say hello on Instagram, under what that fundraising underscore. Have a great day and I’ll see you tomorrow for the next episode in this incredible mini series with give better

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