EPISODE 8: Reimagining Business and Partnerships for Good with Duke Stump

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“I would much rather be wrong based on something that I fundamentally believe in, versus deferring or defaulting to this mechanical rote way of doing things.”

Episode #8


In this episode of What the Fundraising Podcast…

I talked to marketing expert and founder of Bonfire With Soul, Duke Stump. Duke has been the CMO or VP for top brands like NIKE, Lululemon, Seventh Generation, and Lime. Some of Bonfire’s 12 unique principles are to begin from the inside, widen our lenses, and trust honesty against perfection. You can see why his unconventional approach to bussiness totally vibes with me! He (like myself) believes there is a way of doing things outside of the prescripted formula.

In this conversation, Duke and I talk about burning dogma, the potential for good in the for-profit world and nonprofit world, and the power of cross-sector partnerships. Is there a fundamental disconnect in the nonprofit mindset that holds us back from making the change we are trying to achieve? Tune in now, I promise this is one of the most thought-provoking conversations I’ve had this season!

Duke Stump

Duke Stump is a marketing expert and founder of Bonfire With Soul. He has been the CMO for top brands like NIKE, Lululemon, Seventh Generation, and Lime. His approach to business is far from conventional, he believes in listening to our natural ability to see, believe and go against the grain.

Duke’s work is based on authenticity, transparency, and partly on nature’s knowledge. Like in nature, we can´t live without profound partnerships and shared goals with others around us. Honestly, he’s a refreshing reminder that there is a lot of potential for good in the for-profit sector.


Duke Stump



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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.


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episode transcript

Duke Stump: How are you?

Mallory: I’m good. I feel like I’ve already been with you for an hour, cause I’ve been bingeing some more videos from Bonfire. I just feel like it’s hitting on so many things that I wondered about and thought about, and just deeply hope everyone in business takes forever and ever. And I’m just so grateful for what you’re teaching, so thank you.

Duke Stump: I appreciate you sharing. It’s been a learning journey for me just to see how people have received or responded. And I think what’s nice is it hasn’t been the same for everybody, in terms of their takeaways are all different. I don’t think it’s really a business course or adventure, I think it’s something different, but it’s been fun for me.

It’s hard to put it out there. It’s normally not my nature to do stuff like that. So it’s been rewarding and fun.

Mallory: Yeah. Really cool to hear about your own journey with public speaking throughout it and the way you weave parenting into different stories. I think what you’re talking about, and this is what I am constantly wondering is okay, what is business? What is the nonprofit sector? Does it have to be these boxes that we’ve traditionally made them out to be? You share so many stories throughout it too so maybe it’s not a business course in terms of what’s being taught traditionally in college, but should it be a business course? And isn’t that the better question? 

Duke Stump: Yeah, I think whether it’s non-profit or for-profit, I really believe that financials are not a predictor of success, but they’re a function of doing all these other things. And these other things I think are applicable to nonprofit or applicable for-profit. As I shared at the beginning of the course, I’m obsessed with burning dogma business, regardless of what type of business it is, because I think we limit possibility by a lot of our actions, and it goes against the grain. So for some, it rubs people wrong and they’re like, “that’s not how you do it”. If I talk to Silicon Valley friends, they’re like, “what are you doing?” And I’m like, “I’m sharing a different path”. 

Mallory: Yeah maybe that’s what we really even focus on during this conversation. What does it look like to trust doing things in ways that aren’t the prescriptive ways? 

Because I feel like that’s the overarching theme that I’m walking away with from all the principles. So many of them require a level of saying, “you know what, those metrics might be known as the indicator of this outcome because that’s been the way on a macro level, that we can calculate”.

We just desperately want prediction and understanding, and I feel like so much of what you’re teaching is out of your head, into your body, into the community, listening. And when all these things are in flow, of course, those other things are going to happen, but what does it take to let go of some of the other stuff? Yeah. 

Duke Stump: It’s interesting. As I share in the course, I love the natural world and the natural world creates the conditions conducive to life cause it’s always attuned. Locally attuned and responsive. And I feel like we’ve become lazy. We defer to methods of predictive, or measurable, or tangible things, and then we forget the ability to see all these other things because we’re not attuned, we just grab input, and then we react.

I feel like what’s lost is when you’ve really believed something. When we had Peter Farrelly the other day, who’s the Oscar-winning director on, he said, “I’ve been told no so many times on scripts and things, but if I fundamentally believe it, then I just do it and it doesn’t mean it’s always worked out”. 

He goes against the grain and I normally talk about my own experiences, but the story that I love is that when they were first doing Seinfeld as a pilot, it got terrible reviews. And I think it was one of the producers who said, “I don’t care, we’re going to do Seinfeld”. Could you imagine if Seinfeld never existed? It was one of the most iconic shows in TV history! 

So I just think we’ve lost the artist’s serendipity when we dull people’s own radar. I would much rather be wrong based on something that I fundamentally believe in versus deferring or defaulting to this mechanical rote way of doing things.

Mallory: What point, and maybe you talk about this in the course, and I just haven’t seen this part, but was there a noticeable moment in your career when you gave yourself permission to create? You started at Nike in that program where it sounds like they really fostered a level of creativity or, thinking outside the box, so maybe it wasn’t something you feel like you had to like unwire. 

But I’m wondering, there are so many people who have done things the textbook way,  what would it take for them to give themselves permission to step back from some of those indicators and learn how to move forward in a fundamentally different way?

Duke Stump: Yeah. I think for me it started with a number of different points. One of them I talked about in the courses is when I was in university, an economics major and I’m taking this philosophy class and I have to do this comparison between Plato’s Republic and Socrates. And I remember saying “ I just can’t do this. This feels really boring”. 

But I know I got to play by the rules and get the grade, and so for whatever reason, which was outside of my normal demeanor, I’m like, I’m going to write a play and they’re going to be in a pub in a local bar in Burlington, Vermont. And I’m just going to share this dialogue between the two. 

And I remember it felt so good writing it, it was freeing. Then I remember I handed it in, and that once I had it in, it was like, “Oh snap! I messed up! I’m not going to get an A. I’m not going to get an A”. I was having heart palpitations when the paper came back and then the teacher gave it to me, and I got an A or A-. And I just remember him saying, “Thank you. I read hundreds of papers or hundreds of documents, and this was just really refreshing and creative. You captured the spirit of them in a unique way”. I remember at that moment I was like, “Oh, wait! I can go outside the lines here a little bit”.

And then getting to Nike there were no rules. That place, especially in the early nineties, it was a magical time. It was my first job in my early twenties, I’m in LA, my boss was my age, she’s in Portland.  

She’s like “Hey, just enhance the connection between our brand and this community”. And I’m like “What else? Do you have anything else to tell me?”. And she says, “No, just go out there”. Intercourse I’m doing some things that are just off the wall bad, but then I’m doing things that do well. And I was like, “God, I love this place!”.

I think what’s lost in a lot of business is being empowered and that was the greatest gift saying “Hey, we trust you, go out and do what you gotta do”. And I was like, “Okay!”. 

I think for me, I was fortunate to grow up in my first big job and in a culture that was like, “We’re going to burn dogma for our daily breakfast. That’s what we do.”

There really were no rules, even on the idea of predictive things. I’m like, “Yeah. Okay”, versus, “Hey, what was the CAP or the marginal CAC”, or the language we use today around performance and growth marketing. 

Mallory: Interesting to hear you say that because this is something I think about in fundraising a lot. 

Even just asking ourselves the question differently, that is actually the fundamental question. I do an event planning bootcamp, and the fundamental question I walk people through is: what does this person feel like? What do your corporate sponsors feel at that event? What do your donors feel at that event? What do your board members feel at that event?

And I walk them through trying to experience this, they simulate it in their mind, what those people are experiencing. They walk into the room, what’s there? Who are they greeted by? What did they say? What are they proud of? Who do they want to sit with?

And so much of what I created in my course was like, what do I think about when I’m helping an organization? I wanted to help people be able to do, without hiring me one-on-one, to be able to use the practices I used, and so I was like, “Okay what do I do? What are the questions I asked myself?”

And I found that so many of them went back to that. And it’s so interesting because I think that even the clients that I’ve worked with, it freaks them out a little bit, that I’m not talking about metrics. I’m not talking about how many silent auction items they’re going to have at the table, and I’m not talking about it because I’m like “That’s going to happen”. But if we design first around the feelings of what we want to build, the other stuff is going to fall into place, and we’re not actually going to waste so much time talking about whether you have. 47 auction items or 50. Cause that’s not really the point, right?

The point is this whole piece that no one’s even asking. So I, yeah, I just love that it comes back to that fundamental question. 

Duke Stump: Yeah. One, I applaud the fact that you recognize that and I love that idea of anytime you’re doing something it’s like Peter Block would say, create connection before content.

I think when you try to understand what’s the feeling you’re trying to amount your behavior and actions and how you’re curating,something shifts. Recently I was speaking to his team at Microsoft and my first question was: After this, after we have our talk, what do you want people to feel?

And so then I can create around that versus just give a talk and then not even be attuned to what type of vibration or verb that was trying to come from it. I think it’s bold and it’s scary and it’s bold because it’s venturing into the unknown and it’s scary for people because they’re like, “No, like how is this going to go?”

So I love that. I just think it is sometimes what’s the question we’re asking such an important piece. That’s where I think the art of inquiry is also a lost art. We just make statements most of the time. 

Mallory: Yeah. My life mantra is get curious, anytime I feel myself jumping to judgment or something, I’m just like, “Okay, you’re not being curious enough. You’re gonna lose something big here”.

And yeah, I think that has also been something that I’ve just watched serve me and the people around me. One of the underlying questions I do, that I am curious about your take on, is the role of the nonprofit sector versus business. Because when I hear you talk about what businesses can be and the types of businesses, I know you’ve been involved in, on board, or as an advisor.

When I graduated college, I believed that in order to make a social impact, the nonprofit sector was where I needed to be, and I knew that was what I wanted. So I never really considered that business could be a model for good in the way that you talk about it. 

What do you think about that? How do these sectors compliment each other? Do they need to be fundamentally different in certain ways? What do you think?

Duke Stump: I don’t think we need a fence between for-profit and nonprofit truthfully. I think you can blur the lines and I do believe business can be a force for good. Obviously, most nonprofits are a force for good, but to me it’s more important for a nonprofit to blur the lines because sometimes when you’re a nonprofit, you pray from a place of scarcity.

You’re like “Oh, we’re a nonprofit” and meanwhile businesses over there being bold and brash and doing all these things and nonprofits are like, “Hey, we’re a non-profit, we live with a set of limitations.” 

I’m on the board of the school in Ojai and it’s a nonprofit. And I have to say the head of school she’s badass. She’s like “No, man, we’re going to be a force of change in the world, and this is how we’re going to do it.” Even fundraising, all those things, but it’s never from a place of scarcity. It’s actually from a place of abundance in terms of just recognizing like this like “Wow! Imagine if we could do this!”,and  living in possibility.

I think a lot of businesses are realizing the beauty of standing for something meaningful in the world. I still think there’s a lot of brands that shouldn’t even exist in businesses or whatever, but I think if you look at the ones that do… Here’s an example, just because I share this in the course, I’m going to school, University of Vermont, I’m taking an economics class, learning about business and I’m watching Ben and Jerry’s down the street, just crushing everything I’m learning.

I’m like, “Is that business?” But they taught me early on that man, you can stand for something. They were standing for social issues and in the early eighties nobody was doing that. And even today I think they got their voice back again. I think that’s a great example of how you can make a great product, ice cream and with the magic of it stand for something meaningful in the world.

Once again, I sometimes find  that we minimize possibility by saying whether we’re a for-profit or a non-profit because at the end of the day, I think you’re both trying to really do the same thing. 

Mallory: You just walked right into my followup question or actually just gave me the answer, which is exactly that when I hear you talk about what it takes to approach business differently, or with that creativity, there’s an abundance there that you don’t see in the nonprofit sector.

There’s like a safety of belief that it’s going to be okay that nonprofits just don’t hold. And I’m trying to really understand what fundamentally that is, because it’s not about the amount of money in the bank account. I think that’s really interesting to me having grown up in the nonprofit sector and constantly being asked about our budget and our reserves, six months reserves and all these things that I was pounded about when I was running organizations.

And then I watched COVID, and I watched all these huge midsize, small businesses have no reserves. And I was like “Wait a second. What don’t they have at least six months reserve? How is this happening? Why is it just the nonprofit sector?” I feel like I’m grappling with this fundamental question around both in practice and beliefs. How are we viewing money so differently that it gives us either the catalyst to create bigger change or holds us back from it.

Duke Stump: If you think about what you just talked about, cashflow, whether you’re a for-profit or nonprofit is….there’s obviously a Silicon Valley model where you can just raise money forever and never make a profit. But I like to think for those businesses that are more diligent on cash flow, it’s a real issue, whether you’re for a for-profit or non-profit. Even when I was in public companies, you’re always looking at the money piece.

What’s interesting to me is just how you approach your business. Meaning if a nonprofit started from a white canvas and where you forget any limitations or things of scarcity and you just focused more on what’s the impact, I always ask that burning question: What does the world need most that were most uniquely qualified to deliver?

What if you then you lived into that without imitations, not knowing for while you’ve got to actually have money or cash flow and reserves and all those things. I see the nonprofits spend a lot more time on that, and I think it comes from desperation, whereas business comes from inspiration like “It’s okay, now we’re going to do this!”

I just think there’s a mindset that I see around nonprofits more often than not, that just operates from a place of scarcity. And the nonprofits and for-profits really, aren’t that much different at the end of the day. That’s the way I look at it, it’s an interesting challenge, but also it’s an amazing opportunity for nonprofits truthfully. 

Mallory: Yeah, I don’t know how much experience you’ve had with this in your different roles, but I’m curious about the way that shift in mindset can impact strategic partnership opportunities. Like when nonprofits and for-profits come together to run the campaign together.

Is it harder for-profit companies to partner with nonprofit companies because of that fundamental mindset difference or is it that nonprofits aren’t coming. Because one of the things I’ve seen in my work, that was the impetus of me creating my course, was that when I went to for-profit companies and was like, “I think there’s something really big we could do together”, they were like, “Talk to me.” 

And I spent 13 years being like, “Hey, will you give $2,500 to like our gala? Be a sponsor? Like pretty please? Because we’re doing this really good work”. And then I shifted to “I think we have a mutual goal, and I think there’s something really significant we could do if we come together”, it was like that tiny shift that shifted everything.

And it also has me thinking, I really believe that cross sector partnerships can be incredibly powerful, but I am wondering what are the language barriers or mindset barriers that make it hard for us to sit at the same table and think really creatively together?

Duke Stump: Yeah. I mean, you’ve said a number of really interesting things.

One is going back to the natural world, things thrive based on mutualistic partnerships. So one party is not taking from the other party, you’re both mutually benefiting. And I think if something’s positioned in that respect as a for-profit business, you’re like, “Yeah, I’ll listen. It’s going to make me better, and there’s going to be this mutualistic partnership”. I think that’s such a key piece to it.

I also think it’s how you approach it. If you say you’ve got something big,it’s like “Yeah!” But if there’s like a timid nature to it like, “Hey, what do you think? Maybe…”, they are going to be like “I don’t! Whatever!”

I also think that at the end of the day everything’s about trust, and whether or not you really trust the other partner. But I think brands or companies in today’s world… Great brands have our bonfires with soul and they stand for something bigger than their product. I think everyone is striving to get to that place for the most part, they’re not exactly sure. 

I think partnerships are a really amazing way as long as it’s authentic and genuine and real. We’ve also seen a lot of partnerships where you’re like, “That’s gross.” You can tell it’s just a transaction, it’s not a deeper relationship.  But I think anytime you’re a business, a company and there’s a non-profit that wants to partner, I think it’s how it’s delivered, what’s the point of view around it,  one plus one equals 11 type thing. 

What do you think is a great example right now of a for-profit and nonprofit partnership that you admire right now? Gosh,

Mallory: Gosh, it’s a really good question. I think they’re actually probably ones we don’t know about. 

One of the ways I talk about for the non-profit sector people, to show them how valuable they are showing up to the table with for-profit companies is I have them do this process called asset mapping, where I have them basically list out all the assets of their organization that go way beyond their program themselves or their services.

Because one of the things I have found is that when I’ve talked about scarcity or abundance, it’s so hard for these nonprofit professionals to go from scarcity to abundance. Abundance feels so far away. So for months I was asking myself what’s in the middle? What’s the first step towards shifting out of scarcity?

I started to think about assets. So I have them write down everything from like their email list size, to thought leaders on their board of directors and all these different things. So then when they’re showing up to these conversations with these for-profit businesses, they’re talking about their organization with all of these assets.

One, it helps them strategically align better because they’re like, “Okay, this brand wants access to this audience, we have that”, and then figure out a way to do a campaign together. But also just changes the energy of the fundraiser because they feel like they’re sitting at that table with something really valuable.

So from that perspective, one of the partnerships I talk about a lot is Disney and Make A Wish because that is a strong for-profit/nonprofit strategic partnership that clearly elevates Disney’s brand. They do commercials together, now they have a shared product line together.

So for nonprofit professionals to see the value add of Make-A-Wish to Disney is big. But I don’t know what that partnership looks like behind closed doors. I don’t know how good it feels to Make A Wish. I feel like probably the best ones are the ones we don’t even necessarily know about, but they’re elevating the work of the nonprofit organization and the ecosystem around them, supporting the business in a way that feels so authentic and aligned that we don’t even see the cross sector partnership there.

Duke Stump: Actually, that’s fascinating. And that’s probably true, actually. I love the asset idea, by the way, that’s brutal. It reminds me, there’s a teacher, she teaches the entrepreneurial program at Stanford, I think her name is Tina Seelig and she tells her class, “We’re going to do a project. You have $5 and then five minutes to present. How are you going to take this $5 and make it bigger?” 

And so teams go off and they buy a bike pump and they spend a day pumping up tires for people on bikes. And then there was one group though that was like, “Hey, what’s our most valuable asset in this?” And they were like, It’s not the five bucks. It’s the five minutes.” 

So they sold the five minutes to Frog Design, which is a design firm that could use that five minutes to recruit the students. I don’t remember the exact number, but they blew away everyone else’s because they recognized what their assets were. Getting people to see the assets is actually a really brilliant thought because I think sometimes that scarcity is also just seeing “Oh, we just do this one thing and remember we’re limited”. But if you can define that asset mapping, like you suggested, that’s damn cool. I might add that to my repertoire.

Mallory: Do it! Yeah. And then they have 200 things, and the coolest part is watching them look at this list of things and just being like, “Wow!The value!” because you’re right, and I love that example because I feel like the cognitive shortcut is to think money is the thing with value, but take a step back!

Okay. Money is one piece of this puzzle, and sure, put that on the for-profits asset map, no problem, but that’s not the standalone position. 

Duke Stump: That actually is brilliant. I think that’s applicable to actually any organization, for profit or nonprofit, just as that idea of asset mapping. It’s interesting. Really interesting. 

Mallory: I love the way you talk about mutual benefit.

I think I might steal that because I often talk about win-win partnerships and sometimes it can make nonprofit professionals a little bit uncomfortable. Like, “Why are we thinking about the win of the business?”and I’m like “because the whole ecosystem being successful is important”. 

There is this sort of belief system or maybe old school belief system of nonprofits coming to the table just with what they need, and that people should just give because they’re a nonprofit and to help them fill the gap. And I love thinking about what does it take for us to really align around shared goals and the value we each bring to the table in order to achieve a shared goal that we have, and for non-profit professionals to believe that for-profits share a lot of the goals that they have.

Duke Stump: Yeah. So I was part of this thing called biomimicry. I was part of the nonprofit Biomimicry Institute for eight years. And it’s basically how you look at nature as a mentor and is founded by Janine Benyus. And in my Bonfire With Soul course, she talks on the podcast and she says something that really has resonated with me.

She says the definition of what success is in nature is different than business. What she meant by that, as she said, in nature nothing survives by itself, there’s an interdependence on all these other things. And with that comes the ability to create conditions conducive to life and thrive and flourish. Whereas business, it is true generally for profit/non-profit you’re like “I’m going to go at it alone”. And that actually is counter to how the natural world would do it.  

I think the beauty of partnerships and collaborations is that they’re rich because one, you’re also bringing a diversity of different thoughts in, which I always think helps. You can get out of your own monoculture of thinking, but to me so much is about partnerships and this mutualistic approach, in a way that once again, both parties benefit without detracting from the other. 

Mallory: You talk about three principles in Bonfire, like trust. Trust is really woven in everything. I feel like you were telling stories about building trust almost in every module, even though there are some that are specifically talking about that. But trust, honesty, perfection… Those have a deep relationship with building partnerships. What do you think about that? What’s the relationship between maybe even perfection and trust?

Because I feel like a lot of non-profit professionals, when they think about building strategic partnerships, they are perfectionists hat goes on hard and I believe it’s actually the biggest barrier to them building deep lasting strategic partnerships, but it feels terrifying to them to even hear that from me.

Duke Stump: Yeah. I think in the spirit of trust, one is there’s so much beauty in letting go. Look at it at a personal level, if you’re in a personal relationship, and there’s no trust, man that has a heart rough road. I’m not sure anybody is feeling really good about that, but when there’s just effortless loyalty and trust, you’re not putting your mind on things that are negative, you’re actually probably putting your energy on all these things around possibility and connection. 

Then when I get to the idea of perfection I’ve lived it straight out. We had the Nike labor crisis in 95, which truthfully was a horrific time for a lot of different reasons. But one of the worst things was just how the company actually handled that.

It was like, “Okay, hire the biggest PR firm, we’re going to do damage control”. And a lot of people were telling Phil Knight at the time “Hey, we just need to be transparent”. And he even says his biggest regret was he didn’t listen to his own team on how to handle it. That level to be perfect, actually just inflamed the situation that still exists today. Like when you say child labor, sadly, a lot of the times people will think of Nike.

It then led Nike to the seventh generation, which was finding corporate responsibility, and I remember we’d mess up on something or someone looked at one of our ingredients and it was a substrate that wasn’t good. And I remember Jeffrey Hollander was like “ We have to tell everybody.” And my first reaction was like, “What’!, We’re doing what?”, and he was like “Oh yeah, transparency is everything, just be honest”. 

And we would tell the world, “Hey, this is going on”. And next thing, our business grew. So I think this idea of honesty versus perfection one, it’s actually really liberating for the individuals to not live under this cloud of trying to be perfect because that’s super hard.

And also, I just think it enhances relationships when there’s just a deep sense of vulnerability and honesty. Like “Yeah, this is what happened. This is where we’re at.” I think people appreciate that sense of humanesse truthfully. 

Mallory: Yeah, I totally agree. Something I say to fundraisers a lot is, if you start with your perfectionist hat on which I did for 13 years, I was just the fundraising robot, I thought I was supposed to be and saying all the right things and doing all the right things. But then what it meant was that you always have to stay that way. All of a sudden you’re being this person, who isn’t truly authentically you because you can’t be authentic and perfect because nobody’s actually perfect. 

So even in that kind of adoption, you’re losing yourself and then whatever you’re doing, isn’t going to feel good there. 

Duke Stump: So why do you think nonprofits take the position that they need to be perfect? Because they view themselves as less than, or…?

Mallory: Yeah. Gosh, I think there’s probably multiple reasons for it.

I think one of the things I am starting to research on my own is the way that scarcity mindset actually shifts our decision-making. Like it actually affects our cognitive ability, it changes our brain. There’s a lot of research around it, not in relation to non-profit professionals, looking more at things like scarcity and in situations of poverty and things like that.

I do think that the scarcity mindset is part of what breeds perfectionism, right? If there isn’t enough of something, then the way for me to get my share is to be error free. That I’m going to sort of risk access or every meeting, every relationship feels like this is the last shot or like your only shot, as opposed to there being so many people out there, so many companies to partner with.

I think I’ve said this to you before, like I do not believe that the nonprofit market size is a fixed market size. Okay, foundations give away a certain amount every year. Other than that, building partnerships with marketing departments, that’s not even factored into philanthropic giving,  individuals and how much you inspire them to get involved…

There’s not some market share, but the wiring is, there’s $5 in the bowl and whoever reaches fast enough at just the right angle, is going to get it and everyone else isn’t. So I think that’s part of it. I think the other is I think scarcity is a financial construct, but also an emotional one, right?

That they are less than, they’re coming to the table without the thing of value. They’re the one in need of something,  asking for something. So I think that creates a lot of it. And I just think we’re so afraid to be fully seen particularly when we need help, however we view that. We’re just so afraid to be visible.

And maybe because we’re afraid of hearing that our organization isn’t refined enough for that investment, because then we take it to mean that we’ve done something wrong. And part of it probably is that the causes that professionals are committed to feel like a part of them, so it’s almost like hearing somebody doesn’t like your non-profit, I’ve heard this from clients before.

I’m like, “Look not everyone’s going to like your nonprofit, no problem. You’re never going to find the right people unless you are who you are”, and they’re like, “But like that means they don’t like me”. And I think it hits on our deepest human desire to just feel loved and appreciated, and that what we’re doing is  the right thing.

And when something indicates that maybe it’s not, it wasn’t the right pitch or it wasn’t the right partnership or it wasn’t good enough in this way, we then build these structures and systems to avoid any other interaction. 

Duke Stump: I’m curious do you find that there’s like a traditional path or trajectory for someone who enters a nonprofit versus a business?

Meaning is there like a mindset or…

Mallory: Well, there are some characteristics that I have found to be really true. In my executive coach certification program was through an organization called AIPAC. And one of the tools that I’m trained on is this thing called the Leadership Index Assessment. 

And it’s an attitudinal assessment that basically evaluates your current resonating energy level, like how you normally operate, and then what happens when you’re triggered into stress.  There are these seven levels and they talk about catabolic energy levels. 

One is like martyrdom or victimhood, level two is anger.Level three is rationalization, four is helper energy, five is win-win energy. Six is joy and seven is enlightenment, right? So you can feel how from victimhood to enlightenment, there’s this whole spectrum of human experience and leadership styles. And I’ve taken those and turned them into the seven styles of fundraising.

But I’ve done this assessment now with hundreds of fundraisers. And what’s really interesting, this is the first time I’m sharing this actually,  is that 98% of the assessments that I’ve done, the primary resonating energy level with nonprofit leaders is four, which is the helper energy, and the primary level when they’re triggered into stress is one, which is victimhood, and martyrdom. And then they have a really strong three typically, which is rationalization. 

So there’s this loop that I see with all of them where they’re like helping, someone says no, someone doesn’t respect me, deep into paralysis, victim, hood, martyrdom, being at the effect of their life.Then they rationalize it and say “They just don’t understand, or they just don’t know what we really need”. And they rationalize their way right back up to four. Then they just keep themselves in this loop. 

And there’s little access to win-win at five and little access to joy at six. And so, one of the things that I explore with a lot of my clients, is okay, first of all, this assessment is not who you are forever and ever, this is like how you’re showing up right now. 

And so a lot of what I talk about with my clients is, okay, so you have a strong level four, a helper energy, and they’ll be like, “Yeah, being helpful is like a strong core value of mine”. And I’m like, okay, is it a chosen value? Is it a conscious based value or is it a fear based value?

They’re like, “what are you talking about?” It’s my value. And I’m like, okay, but does it come from a place of, I want to be this or does it come from a place of, if I’m not helpful, then I’m unlovable, then I’m not enough then people won’t want me here. And has been such an eye-opening experience, how many people that is true for that it comes from a fear-based place.

Like they needed to be helpful, or else. I’m the oldest of four, I totally grew up believing that lmy value was deeply linked to how helpful I was, how much I made things easier for the people around me and how little space I took up myself . And the pattern and seeing this with my clients it’s like okay, so it’s not that level four is a bad place to be. It’s a great, pretty anabolic place to live. But if it’s not coming from a place of choice, then it’s all scarcity.

Duke Stump: Yeah, I talk about this a little bit in the course. For me this idea for me it’s a practice. Am I working from inspiration or desperation? And I’ve tried just to notice it. I always think of the Buddhist way, but even Victor Franco would say, there’s that magic space between stimuli and response. And what is your chosen response? 

I just think our chosen response around something is so important. I can remember once that the micro mobility company we were supposed to launch in Germany, we had five weeks, it was a rush. And there was just really frenetic behavior.

And it was like, “Oh my God, we’re gonna we’re gonna blow it”. My whole thing was like, “What have we actually nailed? How could we  look at this from a place of possibility versus this playing not to lose or this safety fan?” Fortunately, we did really well. 

Just changing our mindset had such a huge impact on our behavior and our actions and what we did. I guess the question is one,  I would be curious where you think the business sector would fall in the one to seven. And then the other question is, do you just think the nonprofit world lives in the fours and threes, just because it’s the culture that’s conditioning that all the time?

Mallory: Yeah. The thing I’ll say to answer your first question is that because twenty-five percent of my clients end up being from outside the nonprofit sector, just from referrals, and I do regular executive coaching, that there’s just a lot of diversity there. 

Yes, I see more primary fives and primary sixes, but I also see more primary threes, and I see four there too. It’s just that it’s not all the same, which is in my, maybe 90% is the wrong number in my entire time doing this assessment, nonprofit professionals, only one person has not had four as their primary energy level, one person.

But that is not what I see outside of the nonprofit sector. I think part of it, and I’m curious how this is going to change as I feel like businesses are changing in so many ways or brands are becoming about more than their product, I’m curious how it’s going to shift where people go in terms of like they graduate college and what’s the right space for them.

I mentioned, I really felt like the nonprofit sector was where I could make an impact. I feel like there are these feeders around what you’re interested in earlier on.

I never thought of going to business school really until a few years ago. And I was like, “Maybe I should go back and get my MBA because I actually think there’s this whole thing that would have made me a better non-profit leader.” And so I think  we’re really siloed. And I think in a lot of institutions, we’re told: “You want to make money, you go to business school, you have a big heart, go into nonprofit.”

Duke Stump: Actually, I do think that is the general label, for a lot of people.

I think you’re putting a cap or a limitation on a nonprofit by saying you’re going to play in this little space, this is what you’re going to do, and you’re not going to be able to experience these other things because that’s the way it’s positioned. 

AAre there any non-profits out there that you feel like, wow, these are just really bold, adventurous like burning dogma, breaking rules that you admire?

Mallory: Yes. There are so many, there are so many, I really love the organization She’s the First and they work on elevating women and girls around the world. And actually the reason that, and that is definitely not their mission statement. We can put that mission statement below this, but the reason why they’re on my mind so much right now is they just a few weeks ago, months ago now maybe, they came out with a statement around why they stopped sponsoring girls.

They’ve essentially shut down an arm of their fundraising model, where they used to allow donors to sponsor girls. It was just this post on Instagram about why they stopped that practice, how it’s actually rooted in colonialism and white supremacy and all these things. And when I saw it, I was just like, “Wow, like this is bold and right but fearless in the way they talked about this is the right thing to do”. 

And some of you are going to come along for this and some of you aren’t, but it doesn’t actually change how important it is that we do this. And I think even as I’m watching this reckoning a little bit happening in some areas of the nonprofit sector, moving from donor centric models of fundraising, to community centric models of fundraising, I think there is this desire to get out of the fear based scarcity models, and believe there are other ways to build organizations, in recognizing that there’s so much looping belief systems. 

I want to make sure I want to flip the partnership question back on you. Are there like cross-sector partnerships that really inspire you?

Duke Stump: I guess there’s two things. One is I am seeing more and more companies adopt a social impact arm within their businesses, which I think is interesting. And then you’re bringing in people who are really good at understanding social impact generally from nonprofits. So I just think that’s emerged. That seems to be becoming more and more predominant. And for some companies that’s bullshit. But I’ve seen it done better and better. 

I live here in Ojai, so I’m close to Patagonia.I like the 1% For The Planet model. I think that’s a good one, there’s a lot of partners that love that as a batch, and they have 1%. And I think there’s value around it. 

And then there’s probably a lot of them, but that’s the one that comes to me just because I know how proud people are to have the 1% on whatever it is.I think that’s a good example where I think it works well. I don’t know the current executive director, I knew the previous one, and I know he was always like under the raise and everything. So it’s not like you’re trying to find the right partner, it just seemed like it was this constant chase. 

And then the other one, I have mixed feelings about it, but I thought RED in terms of just the scale, of the amount of money that was raised, it was staggering. Obviously the goal was to go to a proper cause, HIV and AIDS. I forget her name, the woman who was leading that, I had one conversation with her, I can tell you flat out, she never lived from a place of scarcity. 

Her conversation was bold and brash and for some people may be too much, but I don’t think you can discount the value of what it was in terms of size and scale. And I don’t even know where it is in today’s world, but that was I think a good example of one that lived and breathed in a lot of big corporations.

Everyone wanted to have a RED campaign during that year. So yeah, but I think I’m having a greater affinity for 1%, just because of the model and the distribution of funds. 

Mallory: Yeah. Yeah. I love them. I love them too. I want to be really sensitive of time, but I’d love to ask you to share where people can find you and if you want to share anything else about Bonfire.

And then if there is a nonprofit that you would like to highlight for folks to go check out and give if they can. 

Duke Stump: Folks generally can’t find me because I’m hiding all the time.

During COVID they’re like, “What’s it like?” And I’m like, “it’s sad cause it’s tragic, and the carnage. But for me personally, I love solitude. So it’s great”. I live in a hill nestled in nature so it has been beautiful. But folks can find me at bonfirewithsoul.com

The whole idea there was that I thought that could be a new school of thought around business. I have jokingly said I was going to take down or obsolete Harvard Business School. Think it’s actually becoming less and less a joke and more serious. 

But it’s just 12 principles that I’ve operated under over the last 30 plus years, that once again, go against the grain of traditional thought and thinking, and they’ve worked for me, so I’m sharing that. And then I’m private on Instagram but I am on Twitter and you could definitely see my left leaning side on Twitter. I’m not sure everyone will love that.

Mallory: They will, if they’re listening to this, probably. 

Duke Stump: Yeah, I thought that was the last question. I can remember what the other was.

Mallory:Oh, if there’s a non-profit that you’d like to highlight.  

Duke Stump: The Biomimicry Institute for me is just one of the one.  I just think nature, for 3.8 billion years, there’s been this mentor for us, and we can adopt life’s principles and how nature would operate. 

When people say, “What should we do?” I’m always like “Ask nature”, and The Biomimicry Institute is doing just really brilliant work. Beth Ratner who’s up in Moran, who’s the executive director has just done a remarkable job.

So Biomimicry Institute, if you haven’t seen it or go to asknature.org. I think you can find out a lot of cool things.

Mallory: Amazing Thank you. Thank you so much for joining me today. I hope everyone will go check out Bonfire With Soul. It is a course I wish I had taken when I was running a nonprofit too.

There’s so much. It’s going to change my business dramatically. Some of the principles that you talk about have just been mind-blowing so thank you for all of that. 

Duke Stump: My pleasure. Thank you. And I’m just really excited for what you’re up to.

I actually think you turning the world upside down and waking up the neighborhood around this is going to be just such a breath of fresh air, and I wish you the best on this. 

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