WHAT THE FUNDRAISING
67: Friendraising: Avoiding Transactional Fundraising Through The Lost Art of Connecting with Susan McPherson
“Companies were speaking out about everything else: climate, LGBTQ, immigration and refugee reform, gun violence, Black Lives Matter. But when it came to access to abortion, nope!”
– Susan McPherson
In this episode of What the Fundraising Podcast…
Did you know that connecting is entirely different than networking? The mindset is different according to Susan McPherson, author of “The Lost Art of Connecting: The Gather, Ask, Do Method for Building Meaningful Business Relationships.” As a social impact strategist, she has developed a methodology that turns certain nonprofit conventions on their head, as we learn in this episode of What the Fundraising.
Our fundraising superpower starts with broadening beyond the goal of racking up dollar commitments to instead ask: “How can I be of use? How can I contribute? What can I provide?” Corporations and other funders want to feel their contributions are more than transactional; that they are cultivating community, offering employees ways to engage, learning and helping think creatively about the issues of our times. Nonprofits bring to the table huge resources, knowledge, and ability. It’s a value-add that should not be underestimated!
Susan walks us through her methodology and offers terrific practical advice for upping our levels of engagement and building confidence. She’s also reflecting on what defines a nourishing workplace and some of the evolving standards for behavior, programs and that promise meaningful corporate change. Millennials and Gen Zers are demanding it!
Finally, we wrap up with Susan’s thoughts on everyday opportunities for advocacy and engagement. Enjoy this whirlwind conversation with a remarkable strategist – and force – within the world of social impact and beyond!
Interested in following what Susan is up to? You can subscribe to her bi-weekly newsletter, The McPherson Memo here. You can also click on this link to purchase her book, “The Lost Art of Connecting: The Gather, Ask, Do Method for Building Meaningful Business Relationships.”
To learn more about how to build long-term strategic partnerships, check out my Power Partners Formula and register for a FREE Masterclass to get the entire blueprint here.
sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable
- Is your nonprofit ready to scale up? Our sponsor DonorPerfect has evolved a powerful platform to get you there. Click here to learn more about how this collaborative all-in-one fundraising hub can help your organization drive results, coordinate development, and foster donor engagement.
- To learn more about how to build long-term strategic partnerships, check out my Power Partners Formula and register for a FREE Masterclass to get the entire blueprint here.
- The Women’s Philanthropy Institute
- “The Lost Art of Connecting: The Gather, Ask, Do Method for Building Meaningful Business Relationships,” by Susan McPherson (with Jackie Ashton).
TIPS AND TOOLS TO IMPLEMENT TODAY
Is your nonprofit ready to scale up? Our sponsor DonorPerfect has evolved a powerful platform to get you there. Click here to learn more about how this collaborative all-in-one fundraising hub can help your organization drive results, coordinate development, and foster donor engagement.
To learn more about how to build long-term strategic partnerships, check out my Power Partners Formula and register for a FREE Masterclass to get the entire blueprint here.
The Women’s Philanthropy Institute
“The Lost Art of Connecting: The Gather, Ask, Do Method for Building Meaningful Business Relationships,” by Susan McPherson (with Jackie Ashton).
Susan roots for 19th News, an independent, nonprofit newsroom reporting on gender, politics, and policy.
Get to know 19th News
The independent, nonprofit news organization’s goal is to empower those it serves — particularly women, women of color, and the LGBTQ+ community — with the information, resources, and community they need to be equal participants in our democracy.
Get to know Susan:
Susan McPherson is a serial connector, angel investor, and corporate responsibility expert. She is the founder and CEO of McPherson Strategies, a communications consultancy focused on the intersection of brands and social impact. She is the author of “The Lost Art of Connecting: The Gather, Ask, Do Method for Building Meaningful Relationships” (McGraw-Hill). Susan has 25+ years of experience in marketing, public relations, and sustainability communications, speaking regularly at industry events including Massachusetts Conference for Women, BSR, DLD, Worth Women, and Techonomy, and contributing to the Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, and Forbes. She has appeared on NPR, CNN, USA Today, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, and the Los Angeles Times.
Click here to learn more about Susan and her work at McPherson Strategies.
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I teach nonprofit fundraisers to bring in more gifts from the RIGHT donors… so they can stop hounding people for money. Fundraising doesn’t have to be uncomfortable.
Mallory Erickson: Welcome everyone. I am so thrilled to be here today with Susan McPherson. Susan, thank you for joining me.
Susan McPherson: Thank you so much, Mallory. It’s a thrill to be with you.
Mallory Erickson: What has been top of mind for you lately? What are some of the things in your work that are keeping you up at night right now?
Susan McPherson: In 2019 at the time our client was NARAL, our national abortion rights action league. We created a coalition between NARAL, Planned Parenthood, ACLU, and The Center for Reproductive Rights, to push business leaders to step up to speak out on behalf of women’s reproductive healthcare and abortion.
Companies were speaking out about everything else, climate, LGBTQ, immigration and refugee reform, gun violence, Black Lives Matter, but when it came to access to abortion, nope. And what was crazy was 2019 and today, 78% of the American public wants ROE to stay full out of the land. So if you’re a company, you shouldn’t be so terrified, yet they were. And so we were able to get 360 CEOs at the time to state that the abortion bands were bad for businesses. Because they were, you’re causing all kinds of challenges. And so we are resurrecting the coalition, we’re going to be relaunching.
And now it’s all about how companies can protect their workers. Because you’re going to have 24 states at minimum that are going to automatically ban abortion. And that means if you have workers in those states, what happens? And so there’s a lot businesses can be doing to protect. So that’s one big thing and been very like all day. Like even though we have 18 clients, that’s been top of mind and I think it’s just cause it’s so egregious what’s happening for so many people. So that’s one thing. But we have lots of other clients and I’m still doing a lot of book talks even though the book’s been around a year. I think given the state of the pandemic in the fact that companies are very much having a hybrid workforce, it still has a lot of relevance.
Mallory Erickson: Yeah, I’d be super curious to talk about your model of connecting and how folks think about that. And I’d be really curious, you guys sit in a really interesting position because you do the consulting on the company side of things and on the nonprofit side of things so you see the needs of both entities. And probably can facilitate then a ton of cross-sector collaboration. And I’ve interviewed a number of people on the podcast who sit at different points of that intersection. But I’d be curious to learn from you about what some of the biggest communication barriers are between folks in the sector and how you help and support that.
Susan McPherson: I’ve done a lot of trainings over the years on how for instance, nonprofits can go about creating partnerships with for-profits. And interestingly enough they often put themselves, they think they’re at a disadvantage. And for years I’ve always been a big proponent of it’s not what they can do for you, it’s what you can do for them. And you need to go into these meetings with these companies with all the ways you can be beneficial, as opposed to going into these meetings saying can you give me money, right?
For now, for companies whether it’s positive or negative the vast majority of companies will fund only fund if there is an employee engagement opportunity. Which definitely makes a challenge for nonprofits that are working in war conflict regions or disaster zones, it makes it a bit more difficult for an employee to say, let’s get on a plane and go fly and volunteer. But if there are ways that the nonprofit can be bringing ideas to the company that their employees can get involved in some shape way or form is going to be much more likely that the company’s going to write a check. It’s a partnership. It’s not just a donation.
When you are building a long-term kind of engagement, you have to think of it as you’re both on an equal playing field. So that’s something really come in and touted. The Women’s Philanthropy Institute has been a client for now four years. So from the standpoint of understanding who’s giving and in the women and girls space, as well as what are women and girls giving to. We’re always on the cusp. We always know because they come out with Bellwether reporting. And then we take those reports and publicize them to Various and Sundry and try to also get them out of like the academia that they live in. So then everybody reading can learn. And then this notion that every single one of us is a philanthropist when we give $5 here or $10 here, $50 here. And it’s not the purview of only the uber-very wealthy.
Mallory Erickson: So I’m curious about this piece around donor behavior and the relationship between the funder and the fundraiser, in terms of who drives the behavior and the decision-making. And there’s a lot in the nonprofit sector around what are the behaviors of our donors that we look at. But oftentimes we don’t look at that at the intersection of what we did to cultivate that behavior. And I think what’s really interesting about what you do, my guess is you understand actually those connections a lot more intimately like what drives companies to take certain behaviors. What have the nonprofits done to inspire certain behaviors of companies. And so I’m just curious even when I say that, what does that make you think about in terms of your work?
Susan McPherson: I’ve served on a number of nonprofit boards over the years. And when I have been on those boards and gone for corporate donations or corporate funding, I have had much more success around program elements. Not certainly buying a table or any of that. Those days yes, that still exists, but that isn’t what companies want to do. They really want to figure out a way for their employees to be not only themselves funding, but getting excited about the particular cause. That they can use it as a connection-building tool so that they can use it as a means to drive engagement so that it can get them potentially thinking about new ways to be doing their jobs and transferring their business acumens to particular nonprofits. That is what companies are thinking about. And over the years, that is what I’ve seen.
But I was on the board for years of an organization called Business Council for Peace, BPeace. We were a network of business professionals pooling our individual strengths and business experiences, and then transferring those to women in conflict regions, Afghanistan, Rwanda, and helping these women build their businesses. We didn’t donate, we would actually provide our knowledge. It was each woman was part of a three-year program. So it wasn’t like we came in and said, hey, here’s the help, and then we’re leaving. So they have this kind of support system over three years. And then to fundraise BPeace organization would go to companies that wanted their employees to be training. And it was like an opportunity for them to galvanize their employees to step up.
Mallory Erickson: And so that’s a really special intersection of what is the need of the nonprofit. How does that intersect with the needs and desires of corporate partners? And then really building that win-win relationship from the ground up.
Susan McPherson: Yes. Exactly.
Mallory Erickson: It’s interesting what you said about I feel like there are a number of dynamics in the nonprofit, for-profit partnership space where for-profit professionals are providing expertise to nonprofits. But you said something earlier when we were talking I thought it was really interesting around the skills and resources that nonprofits have for companies. And how to shift the mindset, I think because we’re so used to receiving support, be it time, skills, or money. We forget that we actually have a tremendous amount to offer companies and folks as well.
Susan McPherson: You think about, and again not every nonprofit, but you think about the role that perhaps you have an understanding of a particular population of people that you could help with. That is invaluable to a company that’s perhaps expanding to a region that they’ve never operated before. Or targeting a market, maybe a nonprofit, the Lower East Side Girls Club here in New York, it’s girls age eight to 18. Maybe Mattel wants to better understand that population and this takes creative thinking. Think of all the ways you offer value in the world.
Mallory Erickson: Yeah, we do. We do something inside Power Partners called Asset Mapping, where I have them think about what are all the things of value in the organization, all the skills, all the knowledge, all the things. Because what I found and I’d be curious what your experience was like here. But what I found was that a lot of the conversation was around scarcity and abundance. There’s too much scarcity mindset in the nonprofit sector.
But then when you talk about abundance, people felt abundance was so far away. How do you go from feeling the sense of scarcity and urgency to being able to access or what’s one step in the direction towards abundance? And for me, it was doing this thing called Asset Mapping for the organizations that I worked with. And so I’m curious from a mindset perspective, or even how you warm organizations up to the idea that they have all this value that maybe they haven’t considered before. What’re some of how you walk folks through?
Susan McPherson: We just tell them.
Mallory Erickson: For folks, is that a light bulb moment?
Susan McPherson: Yes. I think also, although I will say nonprofits we’ve got to give them credit. They’re very resourceful. And the ones who are run well, they are thinking that way. Pandemic, for instance, many nonprofits might not have been in the world of healthcare or COVID or disease or infectious diseases. But there were many that were able to pivot to survive. So I think it’s if you’re not thinking this way you need to, all the time. All of us, whether you’re a for-profit or nonprofit.
Mallory Erickson: Yeah. It relates a lot to the way that you teach network building and connection. So will you talk to us a little bit about that? About the book and just about the methodology.
Susan McPherson: The book has three sections, but the underlying let’s say theme under the three sections is always leading with how you can be helpful to others. Which is a polar opposite of the way we were taught to network. And there’s a reason I titled entitled the book, The Lost Art of Connecting versus the lost art of networking. Because when you look up the definition of networking, it’s icky, in the Miriam Webster dictionary, it’s kinda like eww. It’s also very transactional and it’s walking into rooms and thinking, what can I get? What can these people give me? What can I walk away with? And I want everyone to flip the switch and think instead walking into the room, what are my superpowers and how can I be helpful?
And it’s a little, like the way I was just talking about with the nonprofits, what can they be doing? And up their value, right? We all have superpowers, no matter whether we’re just graduating high school or approaching retirement, we still have them. And they’re going to ebb and flow and we’re going to have many of them. That’s the underlying leading with how you can be helpful.
The three sections are Gather, Ask, Do. In the Gather section, you connect with the most important person in your life and that is you. And you do a self-assessment to think what are my goals over the next one year, three years, five years. And who do you want to connect with or reconnect with that are going to help you meet those goals and vice versa? How can you help others meet their goals? You also think about in the gather phase what your superpowers are. Because if you’re going to follow my mantra about leading with how you can be helpful, guess what, you need to know what your superpowers are.
And lastly, in the gathering phase you think about how you’re going to do everything in your power to break that hermetically sealed bubble that keeps you in the company of people who look like you, sound like you, the same age, race, color as you. When we know actually that the only way we are going to grow and improve and add value to life is if we are interacting with people who aren’t just like ourselves.
The Ask phase is learning to ask the meaningful questions of others so that we can find out what their hopes and dreams are. So that we can find out what their north star is. And if we listen very carefully, which I learned in the research for the book, we’re woefully bad at doing. But then we can get to the Do phase. And the do phase is where you become reliable and responsible and you follow up. And you do the things you said you were going to do. And this is not a one and done, you’re not going to do it like today and then be done. This is something, and dare I say with the world we’re living in today with the fits and starts coming out of the pandemic. It’s a great time to do the self-assessment.
So that’s the Gather, Ask, Do.
Mallory Erickson: Okay. I love that. And I’m curious from the gather work, are those fixed things. Or I was thinking to myself as you were talking that probably my list of superpowers pre-pandemic. I also became a mom so a lot of identity shifts all at once, but thinking that the things I probably would have written down as my strengths and superpowers three or four years ago are quite different than perhaps what I would say about myself today. How often do you recommend that people do that evaluation? Or is it what you discover, does that really stand the test of time and different life iterations?
Susan McPherson: Absolutely. This is something I’ve been doing for years and years. And I founded the company I run now nine years ago when I was 48, and 90% of our business has been inbound since I found it. Which I don’t think is the norm. And I’m not like, oh, good for me. I share that because I think it’s really important for people to understand how important it is even early in your career to start making connections, and meaningful connections and nurturing them like a garden. I’ve made a lot of stupid mistakes, but one thing I did was I started early building connections. When you think about your 401k or your SEP, you want to start early and you want to be doing it. Wow. I just love that analogy, I’ve never used that.
Mallory Erickson: I love it.
Susan McPherson: We should treat our connections like we do our investments. You’re investing for the future.
Mallory Erickson: Yeah. I really liked that analogy too because it really everyone’s growing and so those connections you make early in your career as well, and as you’re nurturing them as your career grows. And I found that with funders too, I think we don’t nurture a lot of really key funder opportunities in organizations because they aren’t popping out to us at the beginning. And we’re missing huge opportunities to grow with funders, I think in exactly that way by building really meaningful connections with them earlier on in their journey as a philanthropist.
Susan McPherson: A hundred percent.
Mallory Erickson: How do you suggest that people balance all the relationships or do you find what happens when too many people need things from you at the same time, or just that delicate balance between showing up for the people in your lives and holding space for yourself.
Susan McPherson: It’s a very personal thing because everyone has different levels of what they can handle. And many people have many more responsibilities. I don’t have children, I don’t have parents and I don’t have a significant other. So you have to say I have a little more bandwidth. Other people at different times of their lives. last year I had a lot of health issues, so I couldn’t be as helpful Susan. So I think it comes down to what your goals are and then being intentional about what are the concentric circles you want to build.
And also when people think oh God, I can’t take another meeting. Sometimes it isn’t all about a meeting. It might just be giving someone a shout-out on social media, or it might just be suggesting a newsletter or a podcast. So I think sometimes we think, oh God connect like I have to sit down. And it’s it doesn’t have to always be such a big lift. And I’m a big believer in two things. One, I take notes when I talk to people so that I have a reference. And that’s extraordinarily old-fashioned and archaic but that works for me. So whatever works for you.
And I take pictures when I meet people, it’s easier to remember who they are so that a month from now if I’m scrolling back in my pictures I’ll be like, oh, I meant to get back to that person. And I think also it’s calendarizing like if you went to an event and you met a couple of people. Put down your calendar like next Wednesday, just so the week goes by and you didn’t respond, you will have that.
But I don’t have this system of keeping in touch. I’m blessed with a very good memory but I have a rule of thumb, every morning I reach out to three people. The first three people that pop into my brain and they may be people from 20 years ago and they may be people from last week. And I’ll just be like, thinking of you. I hope you’re doing well or sending some love, like nothing. And I don’t have an agenda other than hey, I’m here kind of thing, just putting a little joy out in the world. And when people ask me how I have time, I’m like I have time to brush my teeth. There’s ways if you could just set yourself goals, and this is a muscle that if you do it, you will continue to do it. And it will help. And there’s going to be times when you can’t because life calls. But it’s just these are good habits to get into.
Mallory Erickson: Yeah, I’m pretty sure I learned this from you, but I’ve been doing so much more when someone pops into my consciousness, sending them a little message or little voice note, this thing happened, I was just thinking about you, just wanting to send me some love. And just having those moments without any agenda, or trying to catch myself from we should catch up soon. Because I think sometimes I would hold myself back from those little things because I felt some level of obligation to offer some bigger engagement. Especially during the pandemic, without childcare for a big portion of it and all those things, I had less capacity and just had to really shift the ways that I offered my love or support or cheering on and found it to be a really beautiful practice.
One of the things I’ve been really grappling with recently is the word transactional and the way we use it in the nonprofit sector. Because I think sometimes we use the term transactional to mean don’t talk about money. But we use it in situations where the fundraiser is being asked to raise money. So I’m wondering if being transactional is always about talking about money or if there are ways to not be transactional and still talk about money.
Susan McPherson: I think you can talk about money and not be transactional.
Mallory Erickson: Yeah. Okay. So what does that look like? Like in your mind, what are the ways to do that?
Susan McPherson: First of all, you shouldn’t make it just about the money. Yes, I get it if that’s your ultimate goal. But there are other things that people can be doing in addition. When you gather a room full of high-net individuals, they have lots of other ways they can be helpful in addition to the money. They have networks, okay. They have knowledge, they have family members, they have so many things. So if you’re fundraising from these people, best bet is to forget about the money from now and really just build long-term relationships with these people so that you can be a resource to them.
Money should be like, yeah of course it’s top of mind, they know why but in the end they’re not funding you because they are excited about writing a check. They’re funding you because it fills a niche or a need and they want to be part of a community. So you, as the fundraiser should be doing everything you can to build bridges between these people. So state the obvious, we’re all here because we raise money. But in lieu of that, we have so many other goals.
Mallory Erickson: I think that piece is so important around like either if you can’t forget about the money saying something that says yes, our ultimate goal is that we’re finding a pathway to create this program together or solve this problem together. And money might be one element of that but today what we’re here to focus on is building a relationship. Seeing if there’s alignment around our goals related to this, we want to get to know you better. We want to show you this thing. I think what you said is so important, everybody knows, folks understand what’s going on. But how can you be transparent about that but not make it transactional or make it all about the money and be able to forget about the money because you are trying to figure out all these different ways to serve each other? Do you see a challenge with that in fundraisers that you work with?
Susan McPherson: I don’t think so much now. I think probably 10 years ago, five years ago.
Mallory Erickson: So when you think about your work and trying to build these bridges between different people, different sectors, create opportunities for folks to build their own bridges. What is your north star? In 10 years what do you hope to sod?
Susan McPherson: I’ll be 67. I have no idea. I think I want to make sure that I’m continuing to grow the company I run in a way that is nourishing, exciting, and exceptional for the people who work there. I mean to me that now that we’re nine years in, we’ve had explosive growth in the last year and a half. I’m turning my attention to stabilizing and ensuring that my employees just absolutely love working at the company. Which is really hard during a great resignation. That is something that I’m really focusing on.
Mallory Erickson: I feel like you see inside so many different companies who are looking to create value or show up in meaningful ways. And so I’m curious when you think about creating a nourishing work environment, what does that include? How do you define nourishing?
Susan McPherson: Give them clear lines for ways they can grow, be transparent. We became a BCorp. We had to be far more transparent. Now all of our job postings on our website have salaries, complete transparency in the company and that’s a huge step forward. Offering as best benefits as we can, four months of paid leave for family leave, which is unusual for a small business. Giving summer Fridays, these are things that make it a more enriching environment. And we just had a retreat last week which was the first time everyone got to meet in the last two years and doing more things like that because people located desperately.
Mallory Erickson: Yeah. Would you say creativity is something you’re consistently trying to nurture in yourself and your business?
Susan McPherson: Absolutely, at our retreat we had an afternoon where we created vision boards where we were using paint and all sorts of things we could stick on and glue. And so that was a good opportunity to exercise that.
Mallory Erickson: Yeah. When I was looking at your website and just the work that you do, that was the word I just kept thinking about was creativity. The way that you show up to these different partnerships and I think helps everyone think outside the box around how people can solve problems together. Which I think is just a really inspiring model to witness happening in the world.
Susan McPherson: I love it. Thank you.
Mallory Erickson: Yeah. And I’m curious when you think about companies and the value that they’re seeing in being more creative about the way they show up or the way they center value in their work, what have been some of the most kind of surprising and inspiring things you’ve seen.
Susan McPherson: I think it’s companies who are speaking up about things like gun violence, about climate. But also in addition to speaking up, doing something about it. And after George Floyd’s murder, you had all these companies saying we’re giving those funds. Where in a year later, two years later, how many of them have made definitive changes within their organization? And that’s something I want to see more of, but I do feel like we’re starting to see more because employees and Gen Z are holding them accountable.
Mallory Erickson: Yeah, do you feel like companies are doing that more comfortably, or there is still a lot of internal resistance?
Susan McPherson: Yeah. There definitely is still internal resistance because companies are inherently conservative, but there’s gonna come a time where transparency is going to be more of the normal. I definitely think we’re going to see more of.
Mallory Erickson: I know you and I are talking in a particularly challenging few weeks. Do you feel like overall hopeful about the direction that companies are moving? That partnerships are moving.
Susan McPherson: I have to keep hope, right? What is the point of doing all this work if I don’t hold hope?
Mallory Erickson: That’s true.
Susan McPherson: But we have to be relentless. We have to keep pushing them. They’re part of our society and they need to be participating as part of society.
Mallory Erickson: For folks who are listening to this who want to do one thing to help advocate, what would you recommend they do?
Susan McPherson: There are so many people in this country that don’t vote and I get it. It’s not easy for many, depending on where you live and what kind of job you have during the day, but vote. When you don’t vote and then if you criticize, it’s woes is you. We need to and if you do work at an organization, speak up. Go to the powers that be. And I realize again, that I’m saying that from a position of privilege but if you are comfortable doing so, I encourage you. If you’re with a company that has employee resource groups, join them, because that helps build power.
We are seeing the return of unions, which I think from the standpoint of employee power is real. We’ve seen this just dramatic rise in executive pay and C-suite bay, and we haven’t seen the same rise and it’s not sustainable. So that is an entry point for unionization. Employees now have more power. So if you do feel fearful, just know that the wind is in your back. And if you work for smaller organizations, go right to your CEO with ideas. In the end, you may yes, you are always going to anger somebody. But if you look at things like LGBTQ and immigration reform, the vast majority of people are on the right side of these things.
Mallory Erickson: Yeah and the other thing that I’ve been thinking about is your work around connecting, for nonprofits folks who are listening to this. I think that’s another value of the advocacy work that they do to build partnerships is sometimes they’re creating an opening for a company to explore an issue area or a partnership area that they haven’t figured out necessarily how to tap into yet or how to make a difference than yet. And so I can imagine that’s a really powerful and meaningful way to do work as well.
Susan McPherson: A hundred percent. And nonprofits can offer guidance to companies as they’re traversing. Before marriage equality passed, you had Glad and HRC, almost being consulting firms to companies to help them. And there are nonprofits. The same way IRC international rescue committee and others are helping companies understand how to manage the Ukraine crisis and the warning. See, nonprofits can do a lot with the skills that they have and the experience they have.
Mallory Erickson: Yeah. That was something I didn’t consider earlier in my career and in my last leadership role, that was when I feel like I first ventured into that world. And it was a pretty small organization. It wasn’t some huge organization. I was the only like full-time staff person when I was brought on, we grew the organization a lot, but there was a ton of corporate advocacy work that we did behind the scenes in building our partnerships and in just helping companies understand. Because I think more often than not, they’re shared goals that we have not recognized.
Susan McPherson: A hundred percent.
Mallory Erickson: Yeah. What is something in the sharing of your book, what has been one of the biggest surprises of that work being shared?
Susan McPherson: People are still interested, it’s been a year and I’m still getting requests for book talks. And as much as it was so challenging to launch a book during the pandemic, I never got to go physically and give talks or go to bookstores or any of that. I am also blessed because of the pandemic because the subject matter stayed relevant. And just the amount of amazing people I’ve met because of the book, all the other rooms I’ve been able to be invited to, and ultimately people that, again, I love I’m gregarious on meeting people. But the book opened up so many new doors, like you, I would have probably never have met you.
Mallory Erickson: I know. There’s something really special I feel about providing that methodology to folks during this time too. Probably during a time where we felt more than ever like we didn’t have a lot to offer or a lot of capacity to give or necessarily ways to help. Or for me, I think really like I said before with even that little strategy around sending people love or recognizing them in moments where they would pop into my consciousness.
I think the pandemic for me definitely made me feel like I have less capacity in a lot of ways. And so I felt less helpful and I think it also really helped me reframe that it doesn’t have to be this massive way necessarily that you’re helping everyone. But there’s something that you have that you can offer that folks around you need. And just being more generous with that, whether it’s connecting to people, or sharing a link to something, or ping you when you need this. It really did open up the space for me to even think more creatively about what does it look like for me to offer and to start with that internal work around what do I have that’s valuable to folks who need it.
Susan McPherson: Always. And that’s where that thinking about what your superpowers are, for sure.
Mallory Erickson: Did you always know that your superpower was connecting?
Susan McPherson: Yes, except it wasn’t until 2007 that I had the guts to share. I went away for a weekend with seven of my dearest friends and we went up to the Catskills. And the goal of that weekend was by the end to be able to articulate our elevator speeches. So that Sunday afternoon I finally said, I’m Susan MacPherson and I’m a serial connector. And it was yay, I said it and then I almost wanted to pee in my pants cause it sounded so ridiculous. But then 16 years later I wrote a book on it. My suggestion there is when you are fearful or don’t have the confidence in your superpowers, ask the people around you/ People who can mirror back to you, ask your loved ones, ask your friends, ask your dog.
Mallory Erickson: So we usually end with giving folks if they want an opportunity to highlight a nonprofit really near and dear to their heart or that they’re thinking about particularly right now. And then to tell folks all the ways they can find you and work with you. And buy the book.
Susan McPherson: I love it. I have so many nonprofits that I’m passionate about, but how about the 19th. The 19th News is an independent nonprofit, it’s a newsroom that reports on gender, politics, and policy, and they were founded last February of 2020. And then grew exponentially during the pandemic because we know the pandemic really inextricably harmed women in much greater ways than the rest of the population. So the news that the 19th produces every day is vitally important and it adds to the public discourse about the issues that are most important.
So you can check it as the 19thnews.org. And then people can find me everywhere on the interwebs at SusanMcp1. My last name’s McPhearson and my company’s website is McPherson Strategies. And lastly, the book is available anywhere books are sold, The Lost Art of Connecting.
Mallory Erickson: Amazing. And we will, I’ll put all the links for everything below. Thank you so much for joining me today.
Susan McPherson: It was a joy. Thank you, Mallory. And thank you for the good work that you’re doing.
Mallory Erickson: Thank you so much.