5 days ago
5 days ago
We interview Libby Hikind, CEO and founder of GrantWatch.com and GratnWriterTeam.com about what nonprofits need to know about applying for grants.
About Libby Hikind
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Libby Hikind is the Founder and CEO of GrantWatch.com, the leading grant funding search engine for nonprofits, businesses, and individuals. Libby holds a post master’s degree in Educational Administration and Supervision and is a wife, mother, grandmother, and great grandmother.
Libby is often referred to as the "Queen of Grants." Libby opened GrantWatch in 2010 after retiring from her 29+ years as a teacher with the New York City Department of Education. While teaching, Libby wrote grants for her special education classroom, mainstream education and business careers, computers, and entrepreneurship classroom. For two years, Libby worked as a grant writer for an NYC Dept of Ed Brooklyn school district raising $11 million.
After which time, Libby returned to teaching and opened her own grant writing agency in 1994. Libby Hikind is a national grants expert. From 1999 to 2001, Libby created NYCGrantWatch, a faxed grant newsletter publication for her nonprofit client organizations. Libby took a sabbatical to run for city council and is well known for her successful primary election campaign for New York’s City Council (2001) for which she received an endorsement from The New York Times. Following September 11th, Libby volunteered at Ground Zero, where she gained recognition as a FEMA Project Liberty Crisis Counselor and Team Leader. Libby is credited for more than 46,000 children receiving health insurance, as a result of her coalition building of nonprofits and writing the first Staten Island Child Health Plus proposal.
[00:00:00] Well, this week on the podcast we have Libby hn, the C e o and Founder at Grant Watch and grant writer team. So Grant watch and grant writer team, and I came across them because frankly, , you have to, if you are looking in and around the grant world, you run into, uh, these organizations. And Libby, thank you for taking the time to sit down with us and just talk to us about all things grant writing, grant trends, because even though it says nonprofits at the head of everyone's organization, we care a lot about profits when it comes to making money.
[00:01:02] And grants are a big funding source. Thank you for joining. Thank you for inviting me. Appreciate it. Well, maybe in your own words, can you explain what Grant Watch does? Well, grant Watch is a grant search engine that lists the grants that are available for non-profits, municipalities, businesses, and individuals.
[00:01:30] We have over 60 categories of grant. That the way we categorize grants on, on the right side of the website, you can use a keyword search and find them as well. And we add new grants every week and we archive the grants as they come do. So really Grant watch is all about currently available grants and that's great.
[00:01:53] And you, um, looks like founded it in 2010. So you have . Successfully survived over a decade of operation, which is rare air and certainly has my respect for anyone who can, uh, build for that long. Thank you. We've been through many economies.
[00:02:11] I think that's important too, because I think if you have a short timeframe, you're like, oh, times have only been good. And then you have covid and you're like, times have only been bad, and you're like, times are gonna do what times do. I'm curious though, you're, you're mentioning, you know, what's going on in the economy.
[00:02:26] How do you see that impacting the grant market in general? Well, I think more and more people are gonna be looking for grants. Uh, they're gonna be looking for funding. And with what happened over the weekend with the, the banks, uh, I got a lot of notices that some good funders had their money in that bank in, well, s s uh, Silicon Valley, right?
[00:02:53] And yeah, svb, right? So that's, you know, that would've affected a lot. And now it seems like, uh, everything's gonna be paid. Let's just hope it doesn't happen, you know, to many more. . Yeah. Well, you know, something like that is pretty terrifying. Haven't seen that since 2008, where you've got actual depositors losing their funds.
[00:03:13] But more importantly, like you said, that has a direct impact on funders, grant makers. Right? They, that's, if that's where their funding is, then they're not gonna be able to be give, they're not gonna be able to give it out. So that's, that's a big issue at a larger level. I wonder if you see when markets kind of get scared.
[00:03:34] You see something like, oh, the Dow is down, whatever that actually means. Does that, as far as you see impact folks that are writing checks, or is that money already sort of allocated into the, the grants at least that, that you all list and find for nonprofits? Well, first of all, the government grants, once they're announced, the money's.
[00:03:57] So that's there. Mm-hmm. , uh, what happens is when we see new bills being passed and then there's new initiatives, so then there's new funding from the government, and then you have from state and local as well. The same thing when it comes to the foundations that can affect it, of course, if their money's tied up somewhere else.
[00:04:17] But once they've announced the grant, they generally come. . So I don't, I don't see that impact. We may see less grants being announced from foundations if something like that happens, but you have to understand that a foundation has to spend a certain, they have to give out a certain amount of their money over, uh, certain period of years.
[00:04:40] That's how that money goes into the foundation. So it, it doesn't impact it as much. What we did find over covid. That as soon as money was announced, it got used up very quickly.
[00:04:54] Yeah. And maybe, I guess, do you get data, uh, year over year? So right now we're, we're sitting here and we're in the spring of 2023. Do you ever look at saying like, oh, we are, you know, up 10% for a number of grants being issued, or, Amount of of dollars being put out or is it does not work that way? ? Well, I could tell you that as far as grant watch goes, in 2019, I remember having a, a meeting and we had 3,500 grants on the website, and now we have hit 8,500 at different times.
[00:05:32] Uh, right now we're about, I think 7,300 and we will be moving upward every time we do a new initiative on grant. , it takes the staff's energy and puts it into the new initiative. And so we slow down a little bit. It's like, you know, the bunny hop one step forward, two steps back, , you know, we're always juggling like that.
[00:05:53] Uh, but we believe that we will, uh, be back up to 8,500 and the goal is 9,000, uh, in a short time. , and I know you have a lot of different types of grants. You know what percent, roughly speaking are government versus private foundations say, oh, well, that we keep right there on the front on the homepage of the website.
[00:06:18] Uh, so how many are, so we know that we. , four nonprofit organizations. We have right now, 5,700 for individuals. We have close to 1900. Mm-hmm. and for small businesses, 1100. And that it, these numbers change every single day, and sometimes a grant is available for all three of these. Now as far as where the grants come from, you know, what percent or foundation grants, I mean, that's also something that changes, but, uh, at this moment, 5,000 of our grants happen to be foundation grants.
[00:06:56] And that is Oh, that's interesting. Currently available. Yeah. Well, I mean, you can on, on the navigation bar, on grant watch, all the way to the right it says grants by type. And you can click that and then there's a total number that lets you know, and that's, you know, it's super helpful to see, I wanna come back in and, you know, it's actually nice to see that you haven't, haven't seen a, oh my gosh, we're at like, half the amount of grants have stopped.
[00:07:24] You know, cuz I think we are, like you said, coming down off of a very high period. grant making in the aftermath of Covid and that money. I think, you know, when we were talking about private foundations, the fact that they have that, as you mentioned, 5% mandatory must be distributed in a 12 month timeframe.
[00:07:43] Uh, it can be tough when maybe your overall endowment or, you know, frankly, holdings have decreased because the overall market's going down. But it doesn't seem like that, at least from grant watches standpoint. Uh, Affected the number of grants available to organizations, which, good thing, yeah, we, goodness, we don't see that we, we see us chasing it all the time.
[00:08:06] I mean, we can't keep up with it. Some days it's just coming in nonstop. Mm-hmm. , I wanna pivot a little bit because I know you also have the grant writer team. Service, which has, you know, it pretty, pretty clear in the url saying like, Hey, do you need some help writing an actual grant? I have, I guess like a, maybe a, a personal assumption based on my own experience writing grants, that if I'm writing a grant but I have not talked to the issuing organization or somebody on that team there, my chances of winning that grant are, you know, kind of like snowball's chance on a beach situ.
[00:08:47] Well, so this, remember I just mentioned we have a new initiative. So on grant watch right now, when you look at a grant, if you're a paid subscriber, you'll see, uh, if it's a foundation grant, most of them, uh, because we're getting the data, constantly getting new data have a, a button that says C view nine 90 report.
[00:09:10] Now, when you click that, you get to. The nine 90 report that they filed with the IRS and all the data. So if we have an XML of it, uh, which is like an ex, it's like all coding, right? And we've taken that and we've put it into pie charts and graphs and bar graphs, uh, tables to give you that information.
[00:09:35] And we let you know the website where the. , the funder is, and their phone number , you know, so you can really get in touch with the funding source. You can take a look who did they fund before we give you a list of the grants they gave money to. How much did they give? What states did they fu, you know, put the money into?
[00:09:54] So now you look at it and you go, Hmm, I'm looking, I'm, I wanna apply for this grant. And it says it's for general support of non. But I'm looking, and all their money really went into preschools, and I'm looking to run an afterschool program for high school youth. Now, it may be a long shot for me because I see every single grant went to preschools.
[00:10:21] So even though they're saying this, that's where their money is, that's their focus. So you get to look at that and through grant watch and what if you need a hundred thousand dollars? But you see that every grant they gave, they gave a lot of grants, but they were all 3000, 5,000, 10,000. It's nowhere near what you need.
[00:10:40] So now are you gonna take your old, you know, when you write a grant, if you're a nonprofit, your entire organization is involved because there are parts to the grant that have questions and somebody's gotta answer those questions. , it's constant back and forth. There's all this interactive work that goes on when you're writing a grant.
[00:11:00] Do you wanna spend your resources on a grant that's, first of all, isn't gonna give you enough money. It's not going to give you, uh, it doesn't, it doesn't seem likely that they're going to fund you. So why are you gonna go there? I mean, let's say your organization is politically conservative and it's well known that it's politically conservative and.
[00:11:22] Foundation funds more left and or vice versa. You don't wanna go there. So, or your, um, your organiz nonprofit is a certain religion and they say that this money is for faith-based organizations, but they have never funded your religion. They've always funded a different religion. You don't wanna go there.
[00:11:43] So, like you said, if you haven't spoken to anyone, you don't even wanna make that phone call. If you see that you're really, this is not for. But what if you see it is you have so much information you, you understand there's in the xml we are pulling and we're displaying what was the purpose of the grant that they gave the money for.
[00:12:04] Like we have lots of grants for climate change and some grants are so specific of that O Oceanic grants, right? So you know where you're going when, when you're looking at the nine 90. So we've worked on this and we're still working. and we're still refining it. Uh, it's ready, uh, press release is gonna go out about it and people are able to use it already, and I can see that they're using it and that makes me very happy.
[00:12:32] But that, you know, we do this, we slow down there, but we're catching up. I think it's. Really helpful to understand like where you can go to get more information. And frankly, the, the nine 90 is publicly available. It could be hard to parse though, I'll say, you know, going through, but the, the points you're making are excellent.
[00:12:49] Saying like, what is the average grant size? What is the average organization look like? And frankly, if you don't look like those organizations, you know, take a pause and ask yourself, is this the, the grant for me? Maybe a, a different way of asking this question is, You are playing the grant writing game.
[00:13:07] Would you ever submit a grant to a foundation if you had not talked to talk to them in some respect? , like zero personal connection and you're, you're firing off a blind grant. Right? So there's two different ways to work with the foundations. One is if you're going to just con, you're gonna write these, um, generic grant applications, a letter of inquiry, and you're gonna send them out to all these foundations.
[00:13:33] So there's a certain percentage that people will say won't land in the garbage can, right? Hmm. It's kind of like a fundraising letter. You get a. And you send it out. And there's a few people that I don't know, the kid was in the hospital recently. They wanna give charity. They, uh, they believe that it, you know, giving charity will help them.
[00:13:54] And so you'll get a check, right? And, and that they'll give charity, you know, the, it's like the, the, um, the boomerang effect. You know, you, the, you throw things out to the universe and thing. Good things come back to you. And so that's how those fundraising letters work. Somebody has pulled your hearts. And it happens to me many times I get it letter and I never thought of this organization before, and I, it's just that time that I really feel, I wanna say thank you to the universe, to God, and so I'm giving something to somebody else.
[00:14:29] That's, that's basically what your letter of inquiry to these foundations that have never said that they're giving money does. If you wanna do. , it's a waste of time, uh, for the effort. But people do it if you wanna do the phone calls. The communication, that's the other way. People used to apply to foundations.
[00:14:52] They would go to sit in the foundation center building, you know, for a full day and sit there and make lists and lists and lists and photocopies and come home with a list and then they'd start making phone calls. I would. I was guilty of it also, I'd look in who's who in America for that name. I'd see if I have any connection whatsoever to that person or some family member of mine.
[00:15:13] Uh, were they in the same high school? Did they graduate the same year? Did they, did we have, uh, a hobby in common? How can I approach them? I tried that. That's why we built Grant Watch . We deal with currently available grants, and so you don't need to make that phone. You need to apply. You need to follow the directions in their grant application.
[00:15:36] That's the difference of Grant watch and just going through foundations. Now we're offering it now. If you want, it's there. Right? But we are taking it a different way. You found a grant on Grant watch that is being offered from by a foundation and now you can see all the nine 90 information. You wanna make that phone call.
[00:15:57] You can, sometimes it may give you an. Sometimes it may get the person upset with you. They put out an application, can't you follow directions? You know, you know, you have to know what's going on. And so we take it from a different point of view.
[00:16:12] Yeah. I do remember, I actually, uh, I, I know the foundation center. I grew up in New York and I have, uh, I have been in the, in the office and gone through that cold approach and it definitely felt like a massive waste of. And from the sort of like smile and dial, but like for what? And it seems like you actually have a decent amount of faith that when you have a grant that you find and you follow the directions that, you know, while it may seem like a black hole, it is actually the a, a fair enough process to, as long as you're matching the, the size of the grant, the type of the organization that you, you will hear back from them.
[00:16:51] Is that your feeling? But Right. But. The first thing if you ask me for a tip is check the eligibility. Do you meet that eligibility? They're gonna say in the grant application, who they wanna fund. And oftentimes they'll say what they will not fund. And if you don't meet all the criteria, if you can't check off all the boxes, don't apply.
[00:17:16] If you say, well, maybe, you know, they said if you have to be in business, uh, the nonprofit has to be up for at least five years. Well, we're at three and a half. Maybe they'll let it slide. Don't apply. They made the rules. , you know, this is it. And so somebody at the foundation is receiving everything and she has, or he has the list of rules.
[00:17:39] What's the eligibility? And then there is a stack that is passed onto the board members. The ones that don't meet eligibility criteria never get there. So why bother? . Yeah. Maybe you just really like paperwork . Right? You're like, I, I Real hall. Gotta take those shots. Yeah. I don't believe in that and especially with a government grant, you really better match.
[00:18:07] Yeah. What is the big difference you see between government grants and foundation grants? Well, government grants are generally much larger. mm-hmm. than a foundation grant. Uh, most often they're multiple years. They have, uh, an evaluation criteria that you need to put in, uh, much more strict in what they're asking.
[00:18:32] A federal grant can take you 60 hours of work that they tell you it will take you when it might take you 120. It's just much more strict. , it's generally a lot more objective, whereas a foundation has people sitting on the board. They may have somebody that they know is applying, that they're waiting for that particular application.
[00:18:55] Everybody might have their favorite kind of situation. But when I went to, uh, DC to score grants for the federal government, I was a peer reviewer. We sat in a. , they took, uh, they take apart a hotel and they take the beds out of the room and they put tables and you're there with, uh, three other people and we get 10 grants and they're quite thick.
[00:19:21] Uh, they're about a hundred, 150 pages. And you sit there and you read and you score according to all the criteria. And then if we are too far apart, we discuss it. If we are all on the same mark, then that's the. and there's usually somebody else that is there to break the tie. And that's even that as objective as that is, because if I know one of those organizations, I'm not gonna allowed to score it and have to sign that I don't.
[00:19:48] But even with all that, if there's chocolate on the table, I might be in a better mood. Eating my Hershey's kisses, uh, then the, the room next door. So my, our, our scores might get a little higher than the other room. And then, so that batch of 10 could be a little bit lower than ours and hours might fly above.
[00:20:09] You know, it's just we're not computers where human beings and things happen. Yeah, we, uh, I, I had experience as well, sort of scoring grants as part of the nonprofit coordinating committee. And there's, you know, it, it can be frustrating looking at like, I wish all systems were perfect, but the truth is that yeah, if you're hungry, you're gonna get a longer prison sentence.
[00:20:32] Uh, from a judge, right? And those, uh, those reports, those research is, is out there. So I think the lesson that everyone should take away is obviously send chocolate with your grant submission, shov it into the machine and just right over the fence. , I mean, I think you point to another facet of this, which is that there is, uh, human on the other side and.
[00:20:55] you know, how you present your numbers is one thing, but how you present your story seems like another, because you end up needing an internal champion. Know when it comes down to it because you, you are having subjective scores, but then conversations. So there is somebody who you are trying to pull onto your side as you do this grant.
[00:21:15] No, it could be, you can try to make that call. You can try to reach out. Sometimes you get there and sometimes they don't wanna hear from. , you know, so it, it is, it is a tactic. Uh, but you can't do that with the federal government. You're really not allowed to. Uh, and the people that you might talk to on the phone will not be the ones that are scoring the grants.
[00:21:39] Mm-hmm. . So, yeah. How do you, yeah, that makes sense. That's what I'd hope from the government. But you know, what I used, used to do, my last set of grants that I wrote, . I used to make the organization charts very colorful. I'd actually put a little picture on the side, a cartoon that represented what we were trying to do.
[00:21:59] Uh, I just wanted to make them smile. I would add some bar graphs and pie charts and in color now, depends how it was copied, if it was copied on black and white or color. Now everything's copied in color anyway, so it's not a. , but understand that if you're reading 10 pages of one section in a federal grant and there's nothing in between all these paragraphs, somebody's gonna be really bored.
[00:22:25] But if you can squeeze a chart or a table in, it looks a lot better.
[00:22:29] the, the sort of, the, the craft of trying to break up. You know, the, the daunting layers of text that, that are involved here, right, is, um, is a real art. Mm-hmm. , um, I like shorter paragraphs. The, however, sometimes you have a grant that says the page limit is five pages. The paragraph, uh, each section has a character count.
[00:22:57] That's it. You have to follow that, and those are the hard ones because you really have a lot to say and you have to. very concisely. Yeah. Well, I actually kind of respect the, the word count limit when they're giving you an idea of like what it is that they're actually after. Mm-hmm. . Um, it's actually kind of nice.
[00:23:16] Uh, I would say I'm curious about seasonality. Is there, you know, a standard fiscal year that you see? Does it change? Uh, what is your, well, you know, you have nonprofits of January. , you know, their fiscal year could be January to December and it could be um, June to July, right? Or July to June. Uh, so it really depends on the, the foundations.
[00:23:45] Uh, we see that deadlines often happen either mid month or end of month for grants. And that's really, that's a very interesting thing. You know, if you miss a deadline, that's it. You can, you can have the most wonderful grant, but you miss the deadline. You, you need to hold it for the next, you know, the next application.
[00:24:07] And so Grant, we are working on our grant calendar. That's the next thing where we, when we, when I feel like I've done enough with the nine 90 s, even though we have a grant calendar, I'm working, I have ideas to make it even. . That's, that's great. And I know of other things you're working on. You mentioned before I pressed record here that you're working on a book Yes.
[00:24:29] Which is exciting. Can you, can you share anything about that? Well, it's titled the Queen of Grants from teacher to CEO to grant writer to CEO, . It's about my journey, uh, from starting out as a teacher all the way into grant watch and what I'm doing now.
[00:24:48] I want to leave a legacy so people can realize that the decisions, every decision we make in life and every fork in the road we take, leads us back, leads us somewhere either back to where we started with something we wanted to do or beyond. And you know, just things happen. And that's. , so I'm hoping.
[00:25:13] Well, it sounds, you know, like still something that will be hyper relevant to, to organizations as long here. Here's the thing, as as long as super wealthy organizations and governments need nonprofits to fill the gap of service to each other, there is going to be a process. That process is gonna involve grants.
[00:25:32] And you're gonna have to write them. So, uh, I, I'd say, you know, at least the topic is, is fairly future-proofed. Well, I wanna take, I wanna take them through my journey. I wanna take people through my journey, but I also want to show them how to write a grant. I want to give them my knowledge. I wanna pass it, pass it on so that people learn what I've learned throughout the.
[00:25:57] I was going through your, your bio here, and I was just sort of curious on your, your, your total amount of, of grants won. And by my rough math, it looks like while you were a grant writer at NYC Department of Education, uh, in Brooklyn which is actually also where I'm from in good old Brooklyn, uh, you raised 11 million.
[00:26:17] And then on top of that, your awarded grant history seems to total up to about 6.5 million. So, I mean, , you're coming in at a close 20 million in terms of, uh, total, if I'm getting these numbers right, for winning grants, that's, and I retired. It's strong, and I retired from grant writing and people were throwing money at me.
[00:26:36] Libby, please write this grant, please. This grant. And I said, I just couldn't do it anymore. I opened the business and it was just too much. You either running a, running a company, or now it's companies or you're a grant. and we built grant writer team because the realization is that if you have to go out there and look for jobs, you can't write grants.
[00:27:02] So you need to have the, the projects flowing into you, not you going out and searching. So we built it and it's, it's working. There are always grant writers looking for work. They come to us and they, they're fed constant. . Yeah. No, it's, it's uniquely different too, in terms of, oh, I need someone to write this, you know, you know, blog post or resource article, this generic, go find a writer versus like, we need our story told in the right way, in the right word count based on this grant, you know?
[00:27:36] Mm-hmm. , I, I think it is uniquely different, isn't it? Yeah. And you also need your story told with your passion. So if, if you are, if you hire a grant writer, And they have no connection whatsoever to what you wanna do. You sh that's the wrong person for you. I always tell my grant writers if there's a job out there, and hypothetically, let's just take a Alzheimer's, and that's what it's for, what the grant is for.
[00:28:06] If you have an uncle, and hopefully not, but if you have an uncle who has it and suffered from it, or a best friend and you. Then you should write that grant because you can speak in the same passion as the nonprofit you're representing, but if you've never seen it, if you have no connection to what it is, that's not your job.
[00:28:29] And that's how we want the grant writers to apply. We want them to look at the look at what the nonprofit is saying and see if you have any background whatsoever in that, because otherwise you can't speak to that passion. . That makes sense. I'm curious, I think I know what your answer will be, but let me just map out something.
[00:28:49] I, I'm not sure if you've seen the many articles that have been coming out about AI tools that can write, like people, uh, tools like, uh, chat, G B T and others. I'm, I'm curious because one of the concerns I see is, is that with the proliferation of just general writing, Computers. I am afraid that it's gonna be creating a lot more things like grant submissions and has this, you know, one unintended consequence maybe of saturating certain foundations and application processes with just tons of generically written grant submissions, which could make it harder for folks playing by standard rules.
[00:29:38] I, I don't know if you. . So a hot take on this or not, my take is that we use what's available, right? I mean, I wrote my first grant on, uh, Commodore 64, right? I had one of those Dynamite Machine. . Okay. So what, what's available we use, however, the chat bot is a language. a good English language writer. So if you want to answer a question to that's posed in the grant application and you write your answer now, you can give it to chatbot and say, edit this, and then paste your paragraphs in and they'll spit it back out to you with all of your information.
[00:30:28] And now you have better English language. Right? But you, you wrote. , it's just being edited. So you may have saved the editor, but if you say, Hmm, I, uh, chatbot, I need, um, a paragraph on the statistics of car steps in KSI, right. , that's not good. You didn't do any of the research and you shouldn't use it that way.
[00:30:58] First of all, because you don't know what it's looking at. You don't know what the primary or secondary source was. You have no idea. It's not quoting anything. And the one that's out there is based on 2021. That was the last time it was updated. So anybody using that for that kind of research is making a big mistake.
[00:31:17] And a lot of it can be. from somebody else's article or whatever. But if you are giving the information, you already wrote it and all this chatbot is doing is rearranging your paragraph a little bit, a little better. I don't see the problem with that. It's, uh, it's interesting. I, I think absolutely, it's, uh, it's an addition to nu instead of, and frankly, not ignoring it might.
[00:31:43] At your own peril because I think it can accelerate and improve when used correctly. I'm not sure how many people actually understand the nuance that it's going to, uh, lie about facts, but actually be decent about what it's supposed to do, which is predict the next word that should come in the sentence and follow directions, uh mm-hmm.
[00:32:03] So what I hope is super important note, right? But I hope it's not taking my information and giving it to somebody. Am I teaching the chatbot? Yes, you are. Okay. So I might be causing myself some competition if I'm a grant writer. You are. It's, uh, it's so hard because it is unfortunately, like, you know, this catch 22 where certainly you could hold back, but you know, the, the fact that you're writing a book and.
[00:32:34] You know, pieces that you have done writing on in terms of your approach and strategy like that. You know, has been hoovered up by the trillions of data points that this thing has been trained on, and I'm, you know, curious and, and how that impacts the, the ecosystem of grant writing. And also, like, I, I mean it from the foundation side, I'm, uh, I'm worried about humans trying to keep up with robots on one side of it because you need a human to evaluate it.
[00:33:02] You can't fake that. Can you have a lazy grant written by, uh, chat G P t? Yeah, you can. Yeah. But you have, you still have to have a plan, a grant, there's a program. I need money. What do I need the money for? Yeah. Well, I need the money for I always go back to preschool. I love that or, you know, raising reading scores and I'm going to teach, uh, reading through the arts.
[00:33:29] That's my program. And because of that, I need this much money in supplies and, and th these are the supplies I wanna buy. I don't see chat. Um, doing that, I see chat, taking my opening paragraph and making it, and beefing it up and giving me some alternatives to what I wanna say. I write three sentences and I don't think it's really punchy enough.
[00:33:52] And I say to Chad, you know, edit this, make it more exciting. And they give me three different version. and it's all my words, and now I have it and it sounds a little better. That's how I see it. You can't, you can't. Chad's not making me a budget for my proposal. Not a good one, . No. I mean, no, it's not right.
[00:34:10] It'll guess that I need to know the salaries of the people that I wanna hire. I need to know what, uh, percentage of the, their full-time equivalent is going to be used for this program. I mean, if I have a supervisor in a. And that supervisor is going to supervise the afterschool program, but they also supervise the adult education program.
[00:34:31] There's a percentage of their time that's allotted for my program. Chad's not doing that, so I think that those, those grants are gonna be spotted right away. . Yeah. Yeah, for sure. Uh, I have one more question before we go to, to rapid fire cuz I'm just kind of curious about, uh, another pitfall I'd say of frankly what happens when a nonprofit that you know, helps preschool, but then also sees a tempting grant, but would have to extend their programs to go get it.
[00:35:07] Such as, let's just say like gardens in schools and they're like, well, I guess we could create a whole gardening program because we see this grant, this, you know, tail wagging the dog sort of thing. How, how do you view it given your history with the relationship of the grant making process and when we're trying to fit our new program together, we get money.
[00:35:30] Well, if that garden is going to enhance their preschool program, that's great. They just never thought of it before, are they? But you know, how are they going to use it? And now they really have to show how. The children may be learning to identify plants, how they're going to learn the colors because of the garden.
[00:35:51] If they're going to take all of that and include it in the gardening and they're really committed to doing it, that's great. If they're not committed to doing it, you know, a foundation can say, Hey, we wanna come visit. because they wanna do some press and they never even started the garden. They're gonna have to give all that money down.
[00:36:07] Show me some carrots. Yeah. Now those carrots take a while to grow . Right? Right. And some foundations wanna get pictures because they wanna put it up on their website. So you know, you can write a great grant, but if you don't really plan to implement it, you're gonna have to give the money back. Yeah. I'd say other cautionary tales include sort of when you see, hey, we.
[00:36:31] A program developed in a city where you aren't and you're like, oh, we can, you know, create a footprint here and develop, develop our services. And the problem is when that grant runs out, you still have an obligation to that community, employees and a foot footprint. And I have seen that happen. And that's, uh, that's disastrous actually.
[00:36:49] Right? Well, the, a good organization gets a grant and immediately starts applying for. . You don't get one grant and say, oh, we're done. We don't have to do this anymore. That's what happened in, uh, community School District 18. We had to constantly write grants. It wasn't, you get one pat on the back and that's great.
[00:37:12] You just keep writing and writing
[00:37:14] Oh gosh. It sounds, sounds like a lot of fun. Um, yeah. Well, I learned it was a great learning. . All right. Let's jump into the rapid fire questions and hopefully, uh, give you a quick response to, to some of these. Uh, let's just kick it off. What, uh, tech tool or website, uh, have you started using in the last year?
[00:37:39] Well, we used SIM Rush, and that is very helpful. A lot of people in the organization use it for different things. The developers use it to look at. links that are not, that are giving 4 0 4 errors. It identifies that the marketing people use it for seo. So it's very versatile. What tech issues are you currently battling with inner joining tables?
[00:38:06] That, that is something I'm, I'm battling with because I wanna inter joinin three tables for the nine 90 reports, and that's giving me a little trouble. But hopefully we'll get through it every time we, we want to do something, we find a way. Uh, what is coming in the next year that has you the most excited?
[00:38:25] Well, I'm really excited about the nine 90 report. The next is the calendar to make it much more interac. And at the same time, my book finishing it up. Can you talk about a mistake that you made earlier in your career that shapes the way you do things today? Well, early in my career we, in my career in Grant watch, you can, you can choose, so you can say earlier in grant watch, or you can go back
[00:38:59] Okay. In Grant watch. I knew we could build a website, but I didn't know anything at all about code. So we had hired somebody and he was right out of school and he was like leading us, but we knew what, we knew what we wanted Grant watch to do, and it was then called NYC Grants watch to show you how my dream was so small that it was just NY.
[00:39:27] and then it went to New York State and then it went to all the states around it, and then it went throughout the United States. Then it became International Israel, Canada, and kept growing. Now, you know, when you build, you build small. You keep having to do things and add, and add and add. You know, since then we've now we changed our, our server just.
[00:39:48] In November and we went from a small ser, you know, a smaller server to a very large humongous server. So I think the mistake was not seeing all that. It could be how great it could be. I was just focused on NYC and it just kept going. So I, I think that's pretty much it. And I, if we say a mistake, I should have gone back to school and learned to code.
[00:40:12] Do you believe nonprofits can successfully go out of business, can go out of business successfully? I How do you successfully go out of business? I mean, go out of business, you close your doors because you, you can't provide services anymore. So how do you successfully go out of. Well, hypothetically in the case where you were tasked to solve a social problem and you solve it such as, you know, we did it polio solved, we can close the door successfully would be one example.
[00:40:47] Okay. I guess they could, um, , but if I, if I was that same nonprofit, I would say, Hey, let's take on another disease and let's go further. We, we have the recipe. for success. So why, why close the doors
[00:41:03] if I were to put you in a hot tub time machine? And I think I'm, I know what you're gonna say, but we'll go through it anyway. A hot tub time machine. Back to the beginning of your work with Grant watch, what advice would you give yourself? Well, I said I probably learned to code. What advice would I give myself?
[00:41:20] I think I would, my biggest problem. Today is finding my successor. That's, that's my problem. Within my family, I have you know, people in the business, but because the business has grown so much, we each take a different leadership role and there's nobody to take my leadership role at this point. And so that's my greatest.
[00:41:48] And if anybody's out there listening and you think you can be me, let me know.
[00:41:53] That's that. I think that is a first for our podcast. Well, there you go. We'll see who gets back to you. What, what is something you think that you should stop doing? Well, I have been in development from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM. Every day since Grant watch began, and that's, it's time to move that over to somebody else.
[00:42:18] Um, I've worked hand, you know, right, with the developers many times just on shared screen, directing every single color, every single letter and word on the website. And that's something that I need to be able to pass over to someone else. If I were to give you a magic wand to wave across the social impact sector, or maybe we can say the philanthropic sector, what would it do?
[00:42:46] Uh, I would tell them to not react to everything going on in the, in the chaos and follow your gut. The nonprofits just keep reinventing, reinventing what their focus is because of what's going on in the world. And I think that we know who we need to provide services for and why and how, and we should stay the course.
[00:43:22] What advice would you give college graduates looking to enter the social impact sector? I would tell them to take a grant writing. And go and volunteer at a nonprofit and write grants for them. And even if you don't win immediately, you will because you'll be persistent and you will have a career.
[00:43:47] What advice did your parents give you that you either followed or did not follow? Well, I was supposed to go to. , I got accepted to Pratt. I had a portfolio and my parents did not want me in an art school during the time of the hippies. Uh, so I didn't go. I went to Brooklyn College, minored in fine arts and, uh, majored in education.
[00:44:13] So I did follow. My parents were active in the community wherever they lived, so, and I learned that. You know, the impact that people could have on social organizations. So I think I followed everything. I, I was always a good kid, . All right. Final question. How do people find you? How do people help you? Well, grant watch.com.
[00:44:42] G R A N T W A T C H. Our phone number, uh, our contact information is there. We have a chat, uh, that's open during office hours. If you leave us a mess, a message on the chat, we'll get back to you. We return phone calls, uh, we're right there and we, we answer the phones.
[00:45:05] Well, I appreciate the resource you've created for the sector and for sharing, uh, for sharing some strategies with us today. Uh, thank you so much. Thank you. It was fun going down memory lane with you, .
7 days ago
7 days ago
State of California Partners With Nonprofit Drugmaker To Produce Affordable Insulin
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced a $50 million, 10-year contract with nonprofit drugmaker Civica Rx to produce the state's own line of affordable insulin, CalRx, according to reporting from NPR and other sources. Upon FDA approval, these insulins, which are expected to be interchangeable with popular brand-name insulins, will be priced at no more than $30 per 10ml vial and $55 for a box of five pre-filled pen cartridges, potentially saving out-of-pocket patients up to $4,000 per year. The move is part of California's broader CalRx initiative to manufacture generic drugs under the state's label and disrupt the pharmaceutical industry, with plans to produce generic naloxone next.
- Factbox: What is the Willow project in Alaska, and why do green activists oppose it? | Reuters
- People Are Dragging MrBeast For His Shoe Donation Video | BuzzFeed
- New NPT Salary & Benefits Report Shows 6% Salary Hikes | The NonProfit Times
Tuesday Mar 14, 2023
NGOs Call On U.N. To Advocate For Reproductive Rights In U.S. (news)
Tuesday Mar 14, 2023
Tuesday Mar 14, 2023
NGOs Call On U.N. To Advocate For Reproductive Rights In United States
Nearly 200 human rights organizations, including major international NGOs like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have sent an "urgent appeal" to the United Nations (UN), calling for the international body to intervene and ensure that the United States protects reproductive rights, as reported by The Washington Post. The appeal follows the Supreme Court ruling in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, which overturned the constitutional right to an abortion. At least a dozen states have since moved to ban or heavily restrict abortions. The organizations argue that the US is violating its obligations under international human rights law, and they are calling on UN mandate holders to take action, including communicating with the US, requesting a visit to the country, and calling for private companies to protect reproductive rights.
- Silicon Valley Bank Collapse Puts New Affordable Housing in Limbo | The San Francisco Standard
- New Kentucky tax laws impacting local nonprofits | | WPSD Local 6
- Peabody EDI Office responds to MSU shooting with email written using ChatGPT | The Vanderbilt Hustler
Tuesday Mar 07, 2023
Rise of Nonprofit AI - response to OpenAI shift (news)
Tuesday Mar 07, 2023
Tuesday Mar 07, 2023
EleutherAI Seeks To Make Open-Source AI Research a Nonprofit Enterprise
As reported by TechCrunch, The EleutherAI community research group is starting a nonprofit research institute, the EleutherAI Institute, which could have significant implications for safe and ethical AI development. The institute will be funded by donations and grants from various sources, including AI startups and former tech CEOs, allowing the organization to engage in longer and more involved projects than previously possible. By formalizing as a nonprofit, EleutherAI will be able to build a full-time staff and focus on large language models similar to ChatGPT, as well as devote more resources to ethics, interpretability, and alignment work. Importantly, the foundation aims to remain independent despite donations from commercial entities, demonstrating the potential for nonprofits to contribute to AI development while avoiding conflicts of interest. This announcement is particularly significant given the mixed results of previous nonprofit initiatives in AI research, highlighting the need for continued efforts to ensure the responsible development of AI.
- OpenAI prices leaked, no longer a nonprofit | TechHQ
- ESG Investment Returns Getting Questioned | The NonProfit Times
- White House Declares March as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month | Fight Colorectal Cancer | Fight Colorectal Cancer
- Most innovative companies not for profit 2023 | Fast Company
- How 12-year-old's night light nonprofit helps foster kids: Good news | USA TODAY
Tuesday Feb 28, 2023
Train Derailment & Environmental Fallout (news)
Tuesday Feb 28, 2023
Tuesday Feb 28, 2023
Train Derailment & Environmental Fallout In East Palestine Leads To Political & Legal Frenzy
The train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio has led to a frenzy of political activity, criticisms, lawsuits, investigations, advocacy demands, and conspiracy theories as the fallout from the derailment continues to maintain prominence in the national conversation. The derailment has prompted criticism of both the Biden and former Trump administrations, ensnarled politicians like Gov. WeWine and Secretary Buttigieg, and has led to numerous lawsuits, criticism of the EPA, and many other activities. One nonprofit law firm We The Patriots USA (WTP USA), a nonprofit public interest law firm, “will host a press conference in Akron to discuss litigation against the Environmental Protection Agency” according to local reporting from WKYC. Americans are increasingly sensitive to environmental disasters and this incident could refocus public scrutiny on environmental regulation, and potentially spur increasing attention toward nonprofit environmental advocacy and intervention efforts.
- Many Ukrainian refugees in US are sponsored by ordinary Americans | USA TODAY
- IRS working with nonprofit New America to deliver online direct file tax system study | FedScoop
- The nonprofits accelerating Sam Altman's AI vision | TechCrunch
- Together We Rise becomes Foster Love
Tuesday Feb 21, 2023
Is February for Fraud? (news)
Tuesday Feb 21, 2023
Tuesday Feb 21, 2023
Project Veritas CEO Ousted By Board Of Directors
James O’Keefe, founder and CEO of the conservative organization Project Veritas has been ousted by the group’s board of directors, according to reporting from The Washington Post and other outlets. O’Keefe was ousted on concerns that his antics threatened the organization's IRS 501(c)3 tax-deductible status, according to a memo released by the board. O’Keefe alleges that he was unfairly ousted in what, according to reports, might be a power struggle within the organization. Regardless, O’Keefe has been called “cruel” by some former employees and has been alleged to spend money in lavish ways that threaten the organization's longevity. Project Veritas is known for its aggressive “sting operation” videos against targets—usually progressive, liberal, or otherwise mainstream organizations, campaigns, or media outlets. The organization’s 501(c)3 status prohibits political operations or the use of operational expenses for private benefit. Project Veritas raised $21 million in donations according to its most recent filing. O’Keefe allegedly spent $14,000 on a private chartered flight and upwards of $150,000 for private drivers over the previous 18 months in a letter released by the board.
- Mormon church, affiliated nonprofit to pay $5 million to settle SEC charges alleging disclosure failures | CNBC
- Former FTX Executive’s Charity Generated Profits From Employee Token Prices | WSJ
- A Christian Ministry Promised An Obamacare Alternative. The FBI Says Its Leaders Pocketed $4 Million And Left ...| Forbes
- How Sean Penn’s Charity CORE Became a Money Mess | Bloomberg.com
Tuesday Feb 14, 2023
Earthquake Devastation In Turkey & Syria (news)
Tuesday Feb 14, 2023
Tuesday Feb 14, 2023
Devastation In Turkey & Syria As Earthquake Exacerbates Ongoing Crises In Region
A devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake rocked Turkey and Syria last Wednesday, in a region already at the center of the world’s most pressing humanitarian crises. As of writing, the Associated Press reports a death toll surpassing 33,000. The New Humanitarian reports that the region has already been torn apart by war, conflict, economic crises, and a refugee crisis as the Syrian civil war has left much of Northwest Syria without a functioning government, instead controlled by militias, rebel factions, and other groups including Turkish and Kurdish forces. The on-the-ground reality has made moving aid and emergency response resources across the border extremely difficult. Yet, in some areas, NGOs and aid groups are the only form of search and rescue and disaster response resources available. Freezing temperatures and already haphazard infrastructure for those in Syria have made already dire situations worse. Across the border in Turkey, the government’s response has been seen as lackluster as the death toll rises. Experts warn the region will need substantial, long-term, ongoing aid and resources beyond that of typical natural disasters. Consider supporting relief efforts through organizations like Americares.
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Thursday Feb 09, 2023
How to Personalize for Purpose on Your Website | Optimonk
Thursday Feb 09, 2023
Thursday Feb 09, 2023
We discuss different ways to increase leads on your site through personalization with the Head of Partnerships from Optimonk, Eric Melchor.
Website Personalization is the human-centric approach to CRO that focuses on the customers' needs first. It is about creating more relevant customer journeys that are unique, remarkable, and meaningful on a personal level. A journey that starts with a personalized welcome message, which is improved by relevant product messaging, and ends with an irresistible offer, tailored to each customer.
In our Personalization Bootcamp, I’ll give you a deep dive into the art and science of website personalization. I’ll show you how to use website personalization to grow your subscriber list, get more leads, and boost the ROI of all your marketing activities – all at the same time!
[00:00:00] Track 3: Welcome to the using the Whole Whale podcast, where we learn from leaders about new ideas and digital strategies making a difference in the social impact world. This podcast is a proud production of Whole Whale a B Corp digital Agency. Thank you for joining us. Now let's go learn something.
[00:00:27] Track 1: This week on the podcast we have Eric Melcor from OptiMonk. And as I understand, OptiMonk helps brands sort of personalize create, custom experiences on this site so that they can, uh, make more relevant content. And he is the partnerships and personalization ambassador. Beyond that, uh, Eric, uh, is big in, uh, European startups as a podcast host.
[00:00:57] He is a self-proclaimed mediocre tennis player and also, uh, passed founded fly movement.org. Uh, a nonprofit focused on, uh, I guess youth health and, and tracking them. And this was based in Texas. So Erica, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for.
[00:01:16] eric_melchor: Hey, George. Pleasure to be here. Thanks for having.
[00:01:20] Yeah. And I will say it was, uh, you know, it's interesting how various guests find their way here, and in this case, I have to hand it to you. Uh, you wore me down on email.
[00:01:29] honestly, and the way I'll say this, the way you did it was very clever because, you know, after a number of these, I'll just be honest, they get a lot of random, Hey, look at our software.
[00:01:39] George: Look at our software. , you actually did the homework. Listen to a podcast and then ask me, uh, the following
[00:01:45] eric_melchor: following
[00:01:45] George: how does
[00:01:46] eric_melchor: does
[00:01:47] George: moon cut his hair? To which I had to see the answer and it was, he eclipses it. Um, perfect. I mean, it's just per, I was like, damn it. He has my attention now. Ah, and clearly that's your job, getting people's attention and then moving that toward a goal, a conversion.
[00:02:07] Track 1: Can you tell me a little bit. Your work and your approach.
[00:02:13] eric_melchor: Yeah. Well, George, I, I guess a question for you. Have you ever gotten a handwritten letter before?
[00:02:19] George: I have gotten a handwritten letter before from not
[00:02:22] eric_melchor: not
[00:02:22] George: mom, but I have gotten handwritten runs from my mom as well.
[00:02:26] eric_melchor: And it pro, you probably felt delighted, right? You probably, it gave you a sense of importance. Right, that feeling. And so with Opti Monk, uh, we try to give marketers the tools that they need to give that feeling of delightfulness and importance to their website visitors in real time. like you mentioned, we are a website personalization platform, uh, that allows you to create different messages for different segments, and those segments can be. like your v i P donors, maybe they are new visitors to your website who, uh, you know nothing about. Maybe they're visitors from a specific channel, maybe like a, a volunteer website or maybe somebody who just made a donation. And so what we do is, uh, give marketers the opportunity and the tools. Very easy to do. By the way, it's mostly a drag and drop interface, and you don't need to have any coding experience, but to just take a step back and, and, and ask yourself, okay, if I was in this visitor's shoes and if I was a person that didn't know about my ngo, what is a good experience for that person? Or if I just made a donation, what would be a. experience for a post donation. and once you have the answers to those questions, then we give you the, uh, the ability to craft that experience, uh, in real time for your website, for those, for your audience, for those visitors.
[00:03:50] Track 1: and I'm curious. We'll be shifting our, our conversation to how, how we get those conversions and different tactics, uh, for, for doing that. I'm curious though, how, how that's achieved, given the clamp down on third party cookies and the ability to like, understand who someone is, right? When someone shows up to the site, like, I go there, you don't know that I am George, you know that I am maybe coming from California because of my IP address.
[00:04:15] What are the ways that I am beginning to customize somebody? Who they are versus what.
[00:04:23] eric_melchor: Yeah. It's all dependent on the type of browser they use. Um, so it's, it's really based on cookies. If they're using Safari, we will recognize that data for. Unfortunately for maybe just seven days, but if they're using Google Chrome, then we can actually know who they are and recognize 'em for up to about a year. so it's dependent on the browser that, the browser that's somebody using, and it's all based on cookies.
[00:04:48] Track 1: Gotcha. are, I mean, do you have concerns? We actually just released an episode of how the, you know, cookie apocalypse as we're joking and how cookies are just gonna get mowed over by updates. You know, obviously we've already seen it in Apple and the land of Apple, uh, but they could be coming for browsers like Chrome, you know?
[00:05:10] eric_melchor: How
[00:05:11] do you view that as, you know, a shift in the landscape of personal.
[00:05:16] landscape, uh, we kind of welcome it because we are investing a lot in zero party data and it's, it's really actually, and lemme just take a step back. What is zero party data? Zero party data is the data that's actually based on directly from your visitor. And so if, if you have somebody that comes to your website, you know nothing about them, maybe you just have like a, a nice message for them that just says, Hey, we wanna make this experience as pleasurable as possible for you, can you just let us know?
[00:05:47] Are you somebody interested in volunteering? Are you an individual donor? Are you maybe a corporate donor or something else? And once they, they make an answer, then you already know a little bit about that person. and you could probably take 'em to the part of the website that's most valuable to them. But you can also, once they made that answer, you kind of tag them and then put them into a segment that can also be carried over to your email marketing programs and initiatives as well. And so a lot of our, the brands who use Opti Monk really take advantage of our, um, what we call conversational message. And you know this, like I mentioned there, there's different ways to start that conversation, but one of the most popular ways is just have a message that appears, uh, when somebody goes on your website, and again, it's asking. What are you interested in? You know, can you tell us who you are? You know, it's, it's, it's basically like a welcome and, and really trying to hold that person's hand and just take 'em to the part of the website that makes sense for them. And so we're not relying too much on. level data because a lot of this shift has been over towards how do you start that conversation? How do you get that engagement? How do you start those micro engagements so where you can start letting the person know that you're there to educate them, provide value, and ho their hand?
[00:07:06] And that's where we're seeing a shift toward a lot of the top e-commerce brands. Start doing that at the very beginning,
[00:07:13] Track 1: Gotcha. So it's a chat interface or it's a popup, or it's a form somewhere that says, what are you up to?
[00:07:21] eric_melchor: Yeah. Yeah. And I think there's a big opportunity for NGOs because NGOs, in my opinion, most of them are focused on that. Do donate now button. think 99% of NGOs you go to, that's the main call to action. It's donate now and you really have to look for, uh, where to sign up for the newsletter. I, I mean, I was doing a little bit of research this morning, for example, world Wildlife Dot. Had a hard time finding out where to subscribe to. The newsletters. You gotta go at the very bottom and there's like a little text link that says subscribe. Same thing with charity water.org and another, uh, NGO called st baldricks.org. Right? It's like they're hiding it. For some reason, they're hiding that, that part of what could be a really good experience because not everybody just like in the, in the for-profit. everybody is purchase ready. And when it comes to NGOs, not everybody is ready to make a donation right there and then. so I think they're missing out on the opportunity to collect or basically try to get somebody's email so you can continue that conversation, tell them your story, tell them more about you, so when they are ready to make a donation, they can go back to your website and do just that.
[00:08:32] So it it. there's very easy things that NGOs can do now to actually grow their subscriber list. Uh, and I could share a few of those, you know, with you during our conversation.
[00:08:43] Track 1: Well, that's great. I think we are on the same team when it comes to believing that the, the, the smartest ask the lowest friction, highest yield play for social impact organizations. is around getting that email, that permission to communicate, to borrow from Seth Code. And that permission to communicate list is that first and most important asset because again, not just for the purposes of donation, but for awareness, identity alignment, for social change, you need that communication bridge.
[00:09:19] And it's one that you own, you know, as, uh, as far as it goes. You don't own that Twitter. , you don't own that LinkedIn, like you don't own anything built on somebody else's.
[00:09:35] eric_melchor: Yeah. Do you know how powerful that email is? And so years ago, God, it's been almost 10 years, but I created an NGO back in Houston, uh, and I ran it for five years. Ended it in 2018, and, um, when I ended it, I stopped sending out emails or updates about the initiative. I, I went back into MailChimp and I looked at my list and I, I was doing something that was related to, to that NGO years ago, and I thought it'd be great to just kind of let people know what I was doing. I sent in a campaign out, literally four weeks ago to that list that I have not communicated with in over five years, and my open rate was above 30. And so it is so powerful where just like you said, it's like those people, they're not necessarily following you on Instagram or maybe Twitter or TikTok, or maybe they are, but whatever you own that, that is like an asset that even if you don't use it, you know, on a consistent basis, you should.
[00:10:36] You definitely should, over time you could actually send out a campaign with a thoughtful headline, you know, good educational, valuable content, and you're, you're still gonna get eyeballs. So it's very important. It's the, it's the most important thing you can do, as you said.
[00:10:54] All right, So
[00:10:55] let's jump into it. Uh, and maybe we can go
[00:10:58] back and forth with ideas. Cause I really wanted to, to generate a little bit of value for the folks listening in terms of what they should be doing. And I love talking about this in q1, where you should be building your list, you know? Planting, planting the seeds before the tree, digging the well before you're thirsty.
[00:11:16] Track 1: Insert metaphor here for here. Give me one of your more clever ideas for acquiring emails as a social impact organization. What do you got?
[00:11:28] eric_melchor: Yeah, I mean, this one, this one to me is a no-brainer, and it's called, we call it sort of an exit intent popup. so e-commerce brands use this. If somebody's trying to leave the website and maybe they had something in their cart and it's like a little popup message that reminds them, Hey, you know, these, these are the items that are in your shopping cart, or, Hey, before you leave, you know, here's like a 10, 10% off coupon or something. But if you're a, a nonprofit, can use the same tactic. I mean, anybody. When they leave your website or they hit the uh, uh, the back button on the brows button, uh, just have like a little popup message that just says, Hey, do you wanna stay in the know and get our emails? And just have that little message there, appear when they are trying to leave your website.
[00:12:13] And we see on average that that will give you email subscribers anywhere in the range of eight to 12%, which is actually much higher than trying to get somebody's email at the very. When you really don't know anything about them and they haven't even started browsing your website or clicking around. Um, so that's like one thing that I would highly recommend that NGOs start testing or experimenting with.
[00:12:38] Track 1: and I love the fact that you put the caveat exit intent. Uh, I get very nervous when I see nonprofits throwing a popup in the, uh, time to first screen and interrupting the content, uh, layout and risking content layout shifts of the site load, which is a fancy way of saying it. Don't. Piss off Google with your pop-ups cuz you'll be hurting more than you are helping.
[00:13:03] So yeah, I'm, uh, I'm on board with the exit 10.
[00:13:06] eric_melchor: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Um, another idea,
[00:13:11] Track 1: Go. Oh yeah. What I.
[00:13:12] eric_melchor: Okay, another idea. And I'm on, I'm, I'm on the same page with you. I do not wanna show any popups during this entire experience what, what we have in this, in, in, in, in this platform. And I'm sure other platforms have the same thing as, as what we call a teaser. And a teaser is just like a little message that can fit like in the lower left-hand corner of your website.
[00:13:33] And it's like a little message that just says, Hey, get our emails to stay in the know, you know? And it. It doesn't, it doesn't really stand out, but it does catch attention. Um, and if somebody wants to, if somebody's curious and they wanna click on that to see more information than they can, and once it's clicked on, then obviously, uh, like a pop-up would appear and it says, you know, you know, get our newsletters to stay in the know.
[00:13:59] Please enter your name and email address right there. So that's probably the second thing that I would recommend. After the x and intent popup message,
[00:14:08] George: I like it. Uh, well, I think I like it. I want to, I wanna see it, see it in
[00:14:12] eric_melchor: For
[00:14:12] George: know, it, I feel like there can be a bit of a, , um, malaise that sits in with layout based email asks, right? They're like, oh, just stick it in your foot or stick it in your head or stick it in the sidebar. You know, that that sort of basic block and tackle of like, are, is it around there?
[00:14:28] And then like, eventually the, the person that's amazing, they can just sort of have screen blindness to these things. Uh, and so, you know, I feel like some things can get lost.
[00:14:36] eric_melchor: screen.
[00:14:37] George: Um one I really like that I kind of go to is, uh, uh, various ideas framed around a content locker being. Here is a bit of information for free, but here is the entire list of 101 dma, and if you want the entire list of 101 DMA, hand over your email and we will give it to you right here.
[00:14:57] eric_melchor: email. Yeah, I, I mean if that works, then great. You can probably, you know, continue using that. I didn't think of that, of that one for NGOs. Um, but what's important though, I think no matter what is that you have the right message for the right target, right? And so if you have specific landing pages and you know that, hey, on these landing pages, uh, it's probably a good opportunity to try and capture somebody's email address for somebody who is not yet ready to make a donation. but we don't wanna lose them. Um, and so on those specific pages, then you. know, present some sort of content, that could be very appealing, such as, hey, if you wanna get the a hundred list of 101 dalmatians, you know, sign up here and we'll, we'll get it to you.
[00:15:41] So I think there's key landing pages that maybe are appropriate for that.
[00:15:45] Track 1: All right. What else?
[00:15:47] eric_melchor: Um, well, I mean, to be honest, I mean, those are the two tactics that I would try. First obviously donate. Now is, is the main call to action for NGOs, but the exit intent, the teaser pop up, and then the right message will be the other thing that I think is very, very, uh, important and the right message. If an NGO is doing any sort of like paid me to advertising maybe on Facebook ads, and so you have traffic come into your website and you. these people never heard of you and they didn't come in through, you know, organically, but they came in through a paid ad. Then on that landing page would be another opportunity to where you could have very targeted messaging for those visitors dependent on the ad. And so if that ad. That messaging that was on the ad itself make it very appealing and make sure that it's, it's the same sort of messaging or value proposition that's on the headline of that landing page. And I think once you have that, then it's, it's, it's much easier to try and get the, um, the email, uh, the email ask, uh, once you have your ad aligned with your landing page headline. And so that would, that would be the third tactic
[00:17:00] Track 1: I'm glad you mentioned the value proposition because along the way you, you mentioned you, you have a new, uh, a newsletter pop up saying like, get the newsletter from us. And that's one of those like, sort of like triggering things for me when I see an organization trying to make their unique selling proposition, Hey, their user.
[00:17:20] George: Would you like another email in your in. , do you know? Are people, if you walk around being like, you know what? Do you need me to hit you in the hand with a hammer? Cuz I have one. I'll do it.
[00:17:32] You need another email in your inbox?
[00:17:33] eric_melchor: inbox.
[00:17:34] George: So I like that you said value proposition. Can you tell me
[00:17:39] eric_melchor: compensation about
[00:17:41] George: approach?
[00:17:41] Anything maybe the product does, or what you've seen for message testing
[00:17:45] eric_melchor: investing
[00:17:46] George: getting away from? I will say the dreaded, like you need another.
[00:17:51] eric_melchor: Yeah. Um, humanizing the copy, the brands that we work with, those that tend to have the higher conversion rates in terms of getting email subscribers are the ones where the copy is, uh, is humanized.
[00:18:06] And what I mean by that, like off the top of my head, I think really good emails.com, they've gotta. And it says something like, hey, sorry to be an AHO and interrupt your experience here, you know, But I mean, it's just, it's just a really good copy that captures your attention you end up reading the entire message and, uh, you know, it's got this, it's got this humorous component, human touch, you know, that it wasn't like standard copy and paste corporate type messaging.
[00:18:36] So if you can do anything. Maybe could put a, make somebody laugh and, uh, you know, that, oh wow, this person, you know, or this organization, uh, they're trying to, you know, human humanize a this approach, this human-centric approach, uh, that works well too.
[00:18:55] Track 1: There's a term in, in marketing, communications and copywriting. Um, grabbing a, a swipe file and creating a swipe file. And this is just a, a funny way of saying like, , you should go around and shop for anytime you see something like that, something clever, a good framing in and around, adjacent or even not adjacent communication and, and, and save it and sort of prime your mind with ways of doing that because I think you're, you're right, you need to have something that breaks the third wall.
[00:19:29] Something that stops the normal train. Consume and move. Uh, and so, you know, I dare say interrupt, but rather entertain is a, a good framing and a good approach. And, and too often just because a nonprofit works on serious issues doesn't mean they always need to be serious. There, there's a line there. Um, and I think it's possible to skate on both sides.
[00:19:59] and you know, your point, I don't know, would work on a, you know, world animal protection being like, sorry to f and interrupt here. You know, we were busy with this tiger, but get on this email. Uh, you know, you wanna be careful. But, uh, when it comes to, when it comes to AB testing though, because we're gonna come up with a clever idea.
[00:20:18] Cool. Does it work? Can you tell me a bit about your approach to AB testing messages?
[00:20:26] eric_melchor: Yeah, I mean, that's what we recommend for all brands to do. It's very easy, e very easy to do within our platform. Uh, I'm not sure if you knew this, George, but Google is suning Optimizly. I think
[00:20:38] George: Ah, don't
[00:20:39] Track 1: get me started on the number of things. Google is sunset. That has me infuriated number one, universal analytics, number two. Is optimized like number three is just the fact that they're rebranding Data Studio as Looker, cuz they got Looker and now they're just getting rid of Data Studio. But it's like pretty much the same functionality.
[00:20:56] But I'm, you know what, Google, just stop it.
[00:21:00] eric_melchor: Yeah. It, yeah.
[00:21:02] George: Rant.
[00:21:02] Track 1: End. Rant. Continue.
[00:21:05] Before I interrupted.
[00:21:06] eric_melchor: Yeah, but that, that's the main thing that you should be testing. You could test headlines, you know, with AB testing. With the messaging, like for popups, asking for an email subscriber. You can test different popups that have a different image, different copy, or maybe even the different popup itself, maybe an exit and 10 popup versus another side message popup.
[00:21:24] There's all kinds of ab testing that you can do within our platform, and, uh, you can see, you know, the results in real time also with the degree of statistical. Uh, significance as well. You know, if it's at least 90% or better, we show that too. Um, as as well. But, uh, the humorous approach, I mean, how did I get your attention, George?
[00:21:45] You know, y I sent an email and I don't think I got a response and I followed up with, uh, with the joke, right? And so it works if that is your person. You know, if that is, if you're being authentic and you're being genuine, it works, right? And so if you're an, or if you're an organization and you're very professional and very corporate, like it's probably not gonna work If you, you tr first of all, it's not even gonna get past compliance and legal.
[00:22:14] They're not , they're not even gonna allow that. But it really works. If that is your personality type, and I, I would say that I'm able to get a response back to more than 90% of people that who don't know who I am, but I end up sending them, you know, a code email or something, and I add a touch of humor, because. people under, people wanna work with people they like. And if you can make somebody laugh, then you're, that's, that's half the battle already. They're like, oh wow. You know, this guy put a smile on my face. And it's the same thing works with, we're trying to get somebody's email, maybe even trying to get somebody to donate.
[00:22:51] Right. And it's engaging, it's like a fun micro engagement that I don't see brands take advantage of, enough in this day. And.
[00:23:03] Track 1: Well, certainly in, in your approach, like look, you're, you are proof, proof to that statement right now, right? You got through I'd say a fairly high barrier of me ignoring the heck out of everything that comes in, uh, to my attention, the. Point though also as, as a tactic, you know, if you are doing that type of cold outreach, which, you know, fundraisers and communications folks do, when you're trying to get the attention of the c s r director at so-and-so, when you're trying to get Yeah, just a conversation at maybe the, the, the grant manager at what you callit trust, I think going back to what is your value proposition and how are you positioning who you are and what it is like humor has.
[00:23:47] Um, and it communicates more than maybe we, we realize what I enjoy talking with this person. Does this person both see the cause, see the issue, see the world. And you know, how, you know, how humans really do orient around humor. And I think is, is undersold in, in what I see around social impact communication and certainly just as a tactic.
[00:24:09] I think there's a lot to borrow. I think there's a lot to borrow here from, you know, I'll, I'll see this, this tactic more from, you know, folks that are, we'll call it SMILE dialing and emailing
[00:24:21] George: for,
[00:24:22] Track 1: for attention, but there's a lot I think nonprofits could borrow. What do you think about that?
[00:24:28] eric_melchor: Absolutely. Um, when I was at Bonura and people would come on board for like a free trial, you know, all of us, we would try to send, uh, a personal video. And I found that once I started telling people jokes, specifically like cheesy dad jokes, like, Hey, when does a joke become a dad joke? When it becomes apparent, 20% of people would respond with a video of their own and tell me a dad. You know, and , it just, it just really, it just really broke down Barriers started the conversation and the conversion rates compared to just sending anybody a personal video and just saying, Hey, hi, welcome to have you on board. Um, it blew those, you know, through the roof. I mean, significantly higher when you, when you try to add humor.
[00:25:14] And I do the same thing on LinkedIn too. When I connect with somebody and it's somebody that I do wanna engage with, you know, if I just send them, uh, a really nice message, even with a little dad joke or whatever. I actually get a lot of responses back. People are sending me jokes as well. So, uh, I think it, if you could put a smile on somebody's face, um, it just really opens the door for further communication, just as it did with you, you and myself here. Um, and that kind of clever, that kind of humorous approach. Really works well for any sort of organization that is trying to start that conversation, that initial conversation, uh, whether it be a customer, a potential donor, maybe somebody that they just wanna continue that communication with in the form of a newsletter or email.
[00:25:57] And it works, you know, it, it works. It's been working for me over the past three, four years. And, uh, I've had nothing but great, you know, great results from it and created lots of different friendships, relationships, and contacts, uh, because of that.
[00:26:14] Well there you have, we had, we had to get you to minute 26 of this podcast.
[00:26:19] but there it is. There's the gem for you. You can stop listening. Dad jokes. Dad jokes convert. Simply put, you could stop listening now, or maybe there's more, but there's probably not, uh, I, you're, you're just talking to somebody who has taken great pride in the fact that we index, I think,
[00:26:35] positions, whatever, one, two, or three in the top, top few for non-profit jokes.
[00:26:42] George: Um, because I thought it was funny and I just put a bunch of dad jokes as non-profit. Simply because, uh, simply because, but getting back to
[00:26:52] eric_melchor: getting
[00:26:52] George: idea of AB testing, I think this is critical, uh, because just setting it and forgetting it,
[00:26:57] eric_melchor: it,
[00:26:57] George: uh, is betraying the point of doing the work in the first place. Do you have any stories or anecdotes or testimonies of being like, you know, I did
[00:27:07] eric_melchor: I
[00:27:07] George: thing and then suddenly the conversion rate doubled.
[00:27:10] eric_melchor: Right? That dream of like two x it, because here's the power. and I don't think we, we get it.
[00:27:16] When you double a conversion rate, you have doubled your effective ad spend. You have doubled the efficacy of all of the hours of work you put into writing content. You've doubled the downstream net income that comes from the value per email.
[00:27:35] Track 1: It, it is so. and it takes sort of so little time, but it is so overlooked and I like, I try to frame it in different ways, but do you have, what is your stump speech on this? Do you have any stories?
[00:27:47] eric_melchor: Yeah. Uh, I remember when, again, back to the personal video and welcoming somebody that, that was coming for free trial for Bonura. I, um, I started experimenting with after I said the dad joke, right, where we could tell if it was like a SaaS company or if it was an ngo. Or if it was an e-commerce, uh, company, uh, or if it was like an agency or something else. if we were, if we knew that information, um, we would see it before we would send out the video. And what I would do is the call to action would be specifically for. That specific industry. And we had case studies. So for example, uh, if you were an agency, we had case studies about agency owners who started using bargi and they were able to get more clients and more demo calls, uh, because they were sending out personal videos if you were in the education space.
[00:28:42] We had case study on a university that started using uro and uh, they saw that application rates started. Went up like 25% because they were sending out personal videos to potential new students, uh, at the university. And so once I started including a specific call to action that was tied to that industry in the, in the video that I was sending out. the conversion rates, but more than double, I mean, we were seeing clickthrough rates go from, on average, from like 15% to like over 35, 40 5%. And we knew that we had a winner right there just because we recognized who they were. and once we knew, were able to recognize who they were, then, you know, we could insert content that was most appealing for them.
[00:29:26] In the case of a. Right. AB testing, you know, different headlines or different value propositions for the different, uh, visitors that are coming in from different segments. And so with a platform, with the personalization platform, it should have the ability to trigger a different headline, a different copy, a different image, or a different graphic.
[00:29:50] Based on the source. So if you want to, if you're doing, you know, a lot of visitors, you have a lot of visitors from Instagram or maybe Facebook, you can actually show them a different message, um, on that landing page. But even better do an AB test where you have two different messages trying to appeal to visitor visitors.
[00:30:08] Or maybe you don't even want to a ab test the headline. Maybe you just have a regular experience. But for 50% of the visitor, visitor. you're asking them a survey. And on that survey you have a few questions that you're asking them so you can do different things, um, uh, based on the source of where they're coming from. Um, also, you know, based on, um, Uh, the type of visitor. So maybe it's a returning visitor, maybe it's a v i p customer. You already have them in your C R M and you already know who they are. and then also, you know, new visitors as well. You can also ab Tess, um, with those visitors as well, so starting to get carried off there.
[00:30:46] But yeah, it's a fun approach. I always, my, my philosophy is you can't really call yourself a marketer if you don't do AP testing. Point, point, break.
[00:30:56] Track 1: Well, you can call yourself whatever you want. Can't call yourself a good marketer.
[00:31:00] eric_melchor: Yeah.
[00:31:01] Track 1: Uh, I think also with, with nonprofits, they have access to other other means, including now limited to the Google Ad Grant, which is 10 K a month in kind of search advertising. now you can tune and fix all day on the top of that funnel and get, you know, after a certain point diminishing returns on, on that traffic.
[00:31:21] But looking at the landing pages, looking at what you do with that traffic once it's on your site, like you can then look down the marketing funnel and then remember when you get those improvements, it magnifies the value of that attention because you're converting it, turning it into the permission to talk to somebody.
[00:31:39] But it's only through that, that activity. Of AB testing.
[00:31:43] George: Alright.
[00:31:44] eric_melchor: Yep.
[00:31:44] George: Yeah.
[00:31:45] eric_melchor: bringing back memories. I remember when I started my nonprofit, I didn't find out about that program till like over a year. And when
[00:31:51] George: Oh gosh.
[00:31:52] eric_melchor: like, why didn't anybody tell me about this? You know? Yeah.
[00:31:58] Track 1: Well, I mean, whole whale. We have, uh, free resources on how to set that grant up to maximize it and what you can get out of it. We spend a lot of time trying to give away that information. Um, we even have a, a trained cohort coming up where, um, you know, that. Nonprofits limited. 25 of 'em can, uh, can be a part of it, uh, because it's such a powerful tool.
[00:32:19] But it's also, you know, it, it's important because all that glitters is in gold. There's a diminishing return after maximizing it, and then it's just about managing it efficiently for, uh, what it's good for. So before you run off, if you've never heard of this before, be like, oh my gosh, I'm gonna start a nonprofit just to get this grant and I'm gonna take over the world.
[00:32:36] Like, read the article first.
[00:32:38] eric_melchor: yeah. Yeah, absolutely.
[00:32:41] Alright, Eric, anything else that you wanna leave with our audience as a, a tip or guidance
[00:32:48] on the upside of personalization?
[00:32:51] Yeah. Website personalization is a bit like Google Analytics and everybody thinks that, oh, I know how to use Google Analytics because they figured out, figured out how to create an account. And get it working. Um, but the thing is, is that you really want to try to go to. Get as much education as you can.
[00:33:08] Maybe go to our workshop. We have free workshops, free website, personalization boot camps. I actually conduct those and we walk you through our process we actually show you a lot of, uh, the best practices that top companies do, small and mid-size organizations on how they use website personalization.
[00:33:27] And we provide free resources along with like a checklist. And based on that checklist, you actually will uncover, um, top ideas and experiments that you can do that are going to give you the biggest ROI based off the reach, the impact, and um, the expected effort. And so once you have that, then you have an idea in terms of what should be the priorities of what I should focus on next.
[00:33:51] And then we also have like playbooks and how you can implement those for, uh, for your website. So, um, that URL. Optum munk.com/bootcamp and that that's the what I highly recommend. That if you wanna learn more about website personalization, then check that out.
[00:34:08] George: Well, we normally end our show with rapid fire. I'm going to cherry pick some out of there because typically we're talking to non-profit leaders and focused conversations. But I, I'm gonna throw some random questions at you. Uh, please keep your answers super short and here we go.
[00:34:23] eric_melchor: Okay.
[00:34:23] George: is one tech tool that you have started using in the past year?
[00:34:27] Track 1: We cannot say optimum. What is it?
[00:34:30] eric_melchor: One tab.
[00:34:31] Track 1: One tab?
[00:34:32] eric_melchor: Yeah. Have you heard of this, George?
[00:34:35] Track 1: No. What?
[00:34:36] eric_melchor: No. So, you know, every marketer has like 50 or 60 tabs open and it makes your website, you know, your, your computer run slow anyway. Um, Uh, for, it's for Google Chrome and you can use it in basically just kind of hides and, and saves in the back, keeps it, keeps it in the back, all those tabs and you can very quickly, uh, find them.
[00:34:57] But it just saves a lot of me memory. Um, you know, while you're using Chrome and you don't have to have 50 tabs open, you can just have one or two. It's called Onet tab.
[00:35:07] Track 1: what is one tech Dragon Tech problem issue that you are currently battling with?
[00:35:13] eric_melchor: Uh, text Expander. This is another third party tool. Um, it's a great tool that allows you to just to type a few different keys in and it'll auto-populate the rest of the message.
[00:35:23] George: this a G
[00:35:23] Track 1: P T three game?
[00:35:25] eric_melchor: no, the problem that I found out is that if you have LinkedIn open at the same time, LinkedIn, um, thanks that you're using it as sort of an automation tool to try and connect with people. Autom messages people on LinkedIn. And so I actually have my LinkedIn account like, like pause for like 24 hours because of this thing. so that's the thing that I'm currently battling. It's called Text Expander. It's a good tool but just can't have LinkedIn open or can't have it open. When you're using LinkedIn,
[00:35:57] Track 1: Okay. Uh, what advice did your parents give you that you either followed or didn't?
[00:36:03] eric_melchor: uh, I would say the advice, it was not so much like words, the advice, but more of actions and, uh, my dad, when we were kids, he had this like mini Mitsubishi truck and I remember the windshield wipers and stop working and he never replaced them. And so it'd be like raining and he would, you know, be trying to drive out there in the middle of the night. Couldn't see. Couldn't see. And I've always just, it's not necessarily advice, but it's one of those things that you learn from and you, you learn like what not to do as a parent. And now that I'm a parent, it's like that's something, you know, stupid things like that I would never do.
[00:36:47] Track 1: Who is the most important mentor that you've had, and how did you come across?
[00:36:52] eric_melchor: Oh, uh, my most important mentor would be secondary mentors. And so that's just a lot of different books, everything from, oh God, Napoleon, to, uh, God, I mean even, even and, and different coaches like Pat Summit, Vince Lombardi, um, did a lot of reading when I was younger. I just didn't really have a lot of access to good mentors, um, or people in my family. Um, you know, I'm first college graduate in my family, so, uh, secondary mentors were just a lot of books that I, that I read so many
[00:37:30] Track 1: What is something you think you should stop?
[00:37:37] eric_melchor: mm. You know, I've, I'm really happy with my life right now and the person that I am, the parent that I am, the father, that I am, the husband that I am. I think of one thing that comes to mind is, um, I haven't written any handwritten letters to my family, I think in over a year. And so that's something that I should start doing, but that's like the first thing that comes to mind. oh, I know what I should stop doing. Eating, eating candy and junk food when I go to. It's 10:00 PM I go to bed and I go grab some, a candy bar, and I'm eating that. That's, that's what I should stop doing.
[00:38:11] Track 1: Yeah, you gotta put the Gremlin law into effect. No feeding after a certain period of time.
[00:38:15] eric_melchor: Yeah. Yeah. My wife is, uh, to blame for that one.
[00:38:19] Track 1: Well,
Tuesday Feb 07, 2023
Is Charity Content for Clicks Charitable? The Mr. Beast Debate (news)
Tuesday Feb 07, 2023
Tuesday Feb 07, 2023
Hot Take Debate: Was Mr. Beast's Cataract Surgery Video charitable?
World Cancer Day Promotes Advocacy, Awareness, & Early Detection
World Cancer Day, which was this past Saturday, emphasizes the importance of awareness around cancer, its potential symptoms, and the importance of an early diagnosis. The BBC acknowledged the day of advocacy by highlighting stories of young cancer patients who were misdiagnosed, acknowledging that young people can get cancer too. Many nonprofits, including Whole Whale client LCFA, advocates for research, awareness, and community on behalf of those impacted by cancers of various type. Many hospitals and other medical centers launched advocacy campaigns themselves, including the Georgia Cancer Center.
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Thursday Feb 02, 2023
Buying Voter Files is so 2015 Advocay - Join 2023 with Quorum
Thursday Feb 02, 2023
Thursday Feb 02, 2023
Alex Wirth, Co-founder & CEO of Quorum.us - a leading public affairs software that helps map, track, change, and report on policy landscape, shares insights into advocacy approaches that will work in 2023.
Alex ranks: Twitter, IRL meetings, calling, letters, videos, Meta, and billboards as just some of the methods advocacy organizations can be using to get the attention of representatives.
He shares why buying Donor Voter files may be obsolete in the new advocacy landscape.
Alex Wirth is the Cofounder and CEO of Quorum, a public affairs software platform that enables organizations to launch grassroots advocacy campaigns, manage stakeholder engagement, and monitor dialogue in Washington, Brussels, all 50 states, and thousands of cities around the U.S.
[00:00:00] audio1717820249: Today on the podcast, we have a returning guest, a returning guest that we had on a few years ago. His name is Alex Worth, the co-founder and c e o at Quorum. Uh, quorum is a public affairs software helps you work smarter, move faster. Thousands of public affairs officials use quorum and their work to Congress.
[00:00:44] My short hot take on it is it helps you connect with Congress and has an amazing database and functionality prior. To that, uh, he did happen to graduate from Harvard, as I understand it, and he was an intern at , the White House. Uh, and the office of the Chief of staff, uh, has also spent time as a global shaper.
[00:01:04] And a board member on the Economic Club of Washington, among other things. Uh, but Alex is also one of the folks that I've known since back in the day, and I respect his work and his persistence in, in staying with, uh, staying with the organization and building it over time. So, Alex, welcome and, and thanks for coming back.
[00:01:25] Awesome. Thanks for having me. Well, I hopefully didn't confuse people too much about Quorum, but what is your elevator pitch and explaining what Quorum does in the world of political advocacy? Yeah, so we're a public affairs software platform, uh, that is used by public affairs professionals at major companies, trade associations, nonprofits, uh, little bit of federal government work to track everything that's happening on Capitol Hill.
[00:01:56] All 50 state legislatures help communicate up to members of congress. Um, we collect both the official and staff contact information and have the tools to be able to get email messages to those staff. And then also we have a whole series of grassroots advocacy technology to help individuals write their member congress, tweet their member, call their member, run massive mobilization campaigns.
[00:02:18] And we are currently working to bring a brand new pack product to market to help, uh, third party packs, both collect and raise. Manage their individual bank accounts and records and then issue disbursements to lawmakers to participate in the political process. So the quick way to think of us and our goal is to be the one stop shop for all the efforts that an advocacy team needs to engage on Capitol Hill in Brussels or in any of the state capitals across the country.
[00:02:45] Yeah. It's pretty impressive. And before we, we pressed record, you were telling us, um, about Capital Canary. Right? You were, you were able to, to pull them into your. Feature suite and what has that capability? Yeah, so this has been the really exciting update for us, uh, from the last year is that we did acquire Capital Canary, which is the new name for the phone to action business, which sends more messages to Capital Hill than any other technology platform out there.
[00:03:15] Uh, phone to Action on average sends about 25 million messages a year to Capitol Hill, and so we combine forces with them, uh, at the end of September of this past fall. And overnight both doubled in size for the number of clients we serve and that we're working now with 2000 organizations, including hopefully some listeners, uh, on this call, but also as a result of that, have been able to double the size of our research and development team.
[00:03:41] So we're incredibly excited to be working combined as we think about innovations with advocacy and advocacy technology rather than against each other, taking the same teams to build the same features on multiple different platforms. And we're pretty excited about what the future's gonna be able to bring from.
[00:03:58] Well, last time we talked, I feel like you were really opening my eyes, our audience's eyes, to the impact that Twitter was really starting to have. And mind you, we were pre pandemic, we were PreOn Musk coming into Twitter town, and I felt like you really were helping us understand that there are, you know, I guess a hierarchy.
[00:04:21] A hierarchy of ways that elected officials and you know, really their staff. Are are listening to constituents and I'm, I'm wondering, maybe we could just revisit that. What is your current hierarchy of high to low attention? No attention for messaging, elected officials, representatives. Yeah, so to start with the Twitter piece one, you were spot on.
[00:04:49] Twitter has taken off since we last talked, and a lot of that was as a result of the pandemic of you had members of Congress, state legislators, mayors who are used to being out with people in their constituents, stuck at home, not able to meet everyone, anyone. And wanting to show that they are being relevant and share as much information as they can with constituents.
[00:05:10] And so we saw the number of social media messages from elected officials skyrocket in 2020. I mean, just a full jump, um, as the pandemic and lockdown hit. Um, and so there's been more definitely usage of the platforms. I think the other component to it is, I do agree with Elon Musk's comments that Twitter really is a digital town square, and I think you see that very significantly in the policy influence participation journalism and advocacy worlds that exist on Twitter and that many of us, including me, follow along, but that we see members of congress, journalists, policy, influencers, actively participate in.
[00:05:51] And the example that I think is helpful to share is that almost every state legislature in the country, Has a given hashtag for the individual legislative session. I was born and raised, uh, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. My dad happens to be a state legislator so I know it well. Uh, and in New Mexico the hashtag is hashtag nm ledge.
[00:06:09] And the best way to get information about what's going on in the State House during session is following on the hashtag nm ledge. Cause you have people that are in the gallery. You have reporters sharing what the information they have. You've got leadership sharing, Hey, we're gonna be on the floor of the House of Senate.
[00:06:24] This bill is moving, party's sharing what's up next. And you can't get information that quickly, that accurately and from that many people anywhere else. And so that same level of conversation that's happening, New Mexico is happening in all 50 states. But also then it's happening on key issues here in Washington DC and it presents a really significant opportunity for advocacy organizations to participate in.
[00:06:48] Stuff. Yeah. Because frankly, it's, you know, love it or hate it. We're not here to litigate the, you know, week by week changes that Musk is putting out there. The, the truth is that it's, uh, an open, trusted platform to the extent that identities and we understand the identities of representatives and people that have been able to burnish their reputations with consistency on the platform are able to report on things like bills progress, uh, and political means, and.
[00:07:18] And one of the questions I actually had for you is around the fact that, you know, recently, you know, we were recording this in January of 2023, uh, change of allowing political ads in political organizations to, to run ads. Now on, on Twitter has, you know, the, the ban has been lifted. What are your thoughts on the, the implications of that or opportu.
[00:07:41] Yeah, so I think there's huge opportunities you think about reaching policy makers and their staff in that it is possible to geofence state capital, the US Capitol, a given agency, and run publical or public policy related Twitter ads to those organizations. I think that is some of the biggest opportunity and impact.
[00:08:03] and the Great Washington story that I, I've heard over the years is there was an official at the Department of Transportation that was needed to approve an airline route from one country in Europe to the us and it was held up with a singular individual official, and the public policy firm in DC figured out where the official lived.
[00:08:23] Figured out the exact direction that their apartment window faced out of, found the billboard that they look at every day, and went and bought just that one billboard and talked about the benefits of opening up this airline . And literally the official had to stare at it for a month or a month and a half, and then suddenly the approval came through.
[00:08:42] And so that's obviously like the really old school way of doing things. And that story is probably from 10 plus years ago. But that is now possible again on Twitter with public policy and political advertising. And it makes a difference because these elected officials are looking at it. They're watching and seeing what's happening and going on, and so you wanna be at the platform that they're on.
[00:09:02] And it's a lot more cost effective to do than that, than try and advertise to everyone that's gonna be watching Super Bowl Sunday and like hope you get the elected officials that are also gonna be watching as well. So I want to come back to my question about hierarchy. So at the top of the hierarchy, Billboards in front of the windows of representatives, number one.
[00:09:23] What is number? In person meetings. Um, and I think that that is something that very much got lost in Covid. Um, members of Congress did love to do zoom meetings cuz they could be many more places at once, much more efficiently. But there is something about sitting next to someone in person explaining your story, saying, I traveled to Washington or the state capitol from whatever county or state it may.
[00:09:51] And giving that pitch and, and giving that conversation. I think the third one that I would put out there is video. Uh, and this is something that we're seeing much more cutting edge within the last year and a half, is video story banking. So pulling in and having individual advocates or members or donors record, what does the organization mean to you?
[00:10:11] Why is this policy issue important? How are you being impacted? Buy this change or buy a covid lockdown. And then organizations stringing that together to be able to play to an individual legislator or lawmaker or appointed official and say, let me show you how your constituents are having an impact.
[00:10:28] And it feels really raw when someone's sitting in their car with a cell phone video and sharing that. And that's been pretty impactful. I've probably put Twitter, um, close to number four. And the reason for that is that we have seen an increase in members of Congress who are personally tweeting themselves on the platform.
[00:10:47] Um, and that's one of the big things that we've expected to happen just as we've had both, you know, more younger members of Congress become elected, but also more members adopted. And one of the interesting things from our annual social media report, Is that some of our most prolific tweeters in Congress are actually the older members themselves.
[00:11:04] Um, and so we're seeing, you know, individuals look towards that example and realize this is the way that you communicate with constituents. And let me tell you, we've all used the Twitter app. You know, when you're mentioned and you know, when you're talked about. And it's a little bit along the lines of, you know, what people are saying about you, not behind your back, but on a public town square.
[00:11:22] Like, you're gonna click on that and see how you're mentioned and see how you're being discussed. And so I think that has a huge impact that oftentimes can go overlooked as a way to be able to reach and, and get to a member of Congress. That's a sort of self-aware sentiment that I'm sure they're all using tracking applications.
[00:11:41] And last time I dug into this, there are very, you know, smart apps that are, that can be used to track these things and manage messages. And so that's up there. So it's interesting because it feels like it, it's moved up the rank, you know, looking back, we were talking about calls and letters, you know, where, where does that communication medium fall for?
[00:12:01] Yeah, so calls are still key, um, and certainly have an impact. I mean, if you can have a hundred people call a legislative office in a given day, that's really big. Now the challenge is that staff picks that up, not the member. There are some great stories, a members that'll occasionally do a little time phone banking and someone calls and suddenly, if they're a member of Congress on the phone.
[00:12:22] But you know, that's one in a million um, calls that it happens. And so members do, and I was a congressional intern, you know, get a sheet every day of here are the top issues that we're called about. And the key piece there is doing it all in one day so that you're at the top of the list. Because having a hundred people call over a month, you're gonna have five, six calls a day.
[00:12:40] It's not gonna be as effective as everyone in one given day. Um, I still think that personalized letters really do have a pretty big impact. Um, and the key piece of it is making sure that they are differentiated and on, you know, slightly different subjects than all form letters on the same thing.
[00:13:00] Because what happens behind the scenes is that members of Congress have constituent management software platforms and they can both pull and collect similar messages together and highlight that. If a message is 50% the same text, batch it all together, write, write one response, and send it. . And yes, the numbers matter, but it's different than if somebody takes the time and writes a completely customized note.
[00:13:21] You can't send a form letter to a customized note, and so then you actually have a staffer customizing a message in response, getting that approved and having that happen. Uh, and I really do believe that that starts to change some of the conversation in a congressional office because it can take an issue that no one was previously aware about and suddenly raise it to be top of mind for the office because they're spending time writing and customized and thoughtful.
[00:13:45] Mm-hmm. . So you would still put Twitter above calls and differentiated, we'll call them custom letters. So I, the handwritten letter is what might give that a little bit of a run for the money. If you can deliver a handwritten letter to a member, um, that's pretty valuable. But again, the opportunity with Twitter that exists is you've got a chance to reach that elected official or policy influencer directly themselves and differentiate and also catch them in a little bit of downtime.
[00:14:13] Um, and I think that's the key thing that I would encourage and you know, it helps with both my parents being local elected officials, is they're people just like, And so members of Congress the same way they're sitting, waiting for that flight to take off to go home, do they really wanna be sitting there, you know, powering through email?
[00:14:26] No, they're probably scrolling on Twitter. And are they gonna click on the notifications tab? Of course they are like, we're all human. Um, but you know, that's a different experience than if you're a state legislator and you're trying to go through email as fast as possible. Like it may not have that same component or piece to it.
[00:14:43] Um, that getting the direct in front of and, and on the Twitter platform. . All right. Any other honorable mentions out there? You know, the, the case for Facebook, TikTok, YouTube, fill in the blank. You know, I won't talk about Mastodon because I feel like that is a moment in time. Yeah, we're cer We certainly see some members that are active on Facebook at the congressional level that use it even more than Twitter.
[00:15:10] Um, I think, you know, anecdotally we'll see more form posts or posts that it feels like come from staffers and are a little less personalized. Um, than Twitter. We, interestingly enough, see more state legislators have Facebook accounts, uh, than Twitter accounts. It's about 75% have a Facebook account and little over 50% have a Twitter account.
[00:15:33] Uh, and that's where they do end up using it a little bit differently. But the medium of the platform is just harder of saying, oh, you're gonna comment on an. Uh, in, you know, sending someone a Facebook message to page, it just doesn't work the same way that Twitter does. And, and that's part of, I think, you know, the relevance of Twitter and also where I have to say long term, you know, I am bullish on Twitter continuing to be around because you have all the users and people on it, and it's designed in a way.
[00:16:03] that is very user friendly and also very personal. That is a, you know, way for an individual to communicate. Whereas I think when you look at some of the other platforms, there are many more uses for them. And so as a result things become harder where, you know, TikTok is not gonna be the best way to, to reach your legislator.
[00:16:19] I mean, are they allowing government officials on TikTok anymore? I know there's certain bands talked about for, uh, government employees on the platform. Um, namely because China is literally probably used to spy, manipulate popul. Yeah. So I know certainly that's been talked about for federal, uh, executive branch employees.
[00:16:39] Um, I am not as familiar, um, with the rules that are currently happening in Congress, but realizing is a different branch of government. Oftentimes we will see different rules, um, that are applied to congressional staff. Um, but I don't have the answer top of mind. Gotcha. Alrighty. I wanna talk about what you're seeing.
[00:16:59] 2023. In terms of tactical trends, there's an organization listening right now saying we are, you know, going to be gearing up. There's the, you know, the new elected officials in office. We're trying to get our, you know, lobbying and advocacy straight for 2023. What are the types of activities that you see being planned for, that you think are going to be.
[00:17:22] Yeah. So first off, it's state level, state level, state level, state level. And the reason for that is we now have a divided government here in Washington with Republicans in control of the House and Democrats in control of the Senate and the White House. And so the general mood in town is that not a whole lot is going to happen here over the course of the next two years.
[00:17:41] Uh, and where are things gonna happen? Things are gonna happen at the state level because you've got state houses. Both on the democratic side and the Republican side, where you have either Republicans or Democrats in complete control of both chambers as well as the governorship that wanna enact policy and want to go, and Bills can move fast and they're able to do things.
[00:18:01] And so it is incredibly important to have a state level advocacy strategy because there's both an opportunity for a lot of wins, but also there's an opportunity to, that you need to be aware and be playing defense because any of your opponents are gonna be really active. on that state level as well. Um, so I think that's part one.
[00:18:20] Um, part two of that is thinking a little bit about how do you build a thoughtful and engaged advocacy program to succeed in Washington in the long term. Uh, and it's a pretty exciting time because we're about to. Start thinking about the 2024 presidential election cycle and also what does Congress look like in 2025 during the next cycle.
[00:18:42] And there's a world that, you know, we could be back with one party control. There's a world, we could have a new president and a new administration, and there's a world that we could still be in divided government, but that as we are ramping up for that, now is the time to be planning those strategies in.
[00:18:56] For 2024. And when talking about strategy, I'm talking about things like voter education. What are the campaigns that you're gonna be running when everyone's talking about the presidential election cycle, and how are you helping your advocates and your donors and your employees and your members register to vote, find their polling places?
[00:19:11] There are some super innovative programs that I've seen nonprofits do targeting campaign staff. Targeting individuals who are running for president and making sure that they are very known. So one of the most simple ones is just simply to go wear your nonprofit's t-shirt and go volunteer for a presidential or congressional candidate and make sure they know that on that given day the phone bank is 50 people from this organization.
[00:19:35] They're gonna notice, and these elected officials and presidential candidates are gonna be way closer to the voters than they are during most times of the year. And then figuring out bigger picture, like how are you gonna position your issues both in the election cycle, but as well as in the presidential cycle?
[00:19:51] So that they're top of mind when either, you know, the administration is reelected or new congress comes in so that you're off and running in 2025. And I think it's really about playing the long game at the federal level. Um, that becomes so important. And then the last thing that I'll share, Just on thinking about 2023 and the advocacy side is it's all about integration.
[00:20:11] I think in the past we've seen a lot of very siloed efforts and siloed technology platforms. So you use one thing to send things out and you use another thing to do advocacy, and you use another thing for tracking. Um, and it ends up with data being lost, really clunky, lot of time doing downloads and uploads and what we're seeing both with Quorum as well.
[00:20:34] Other platforms out there is that integration so that you have more one-stop shops and that your data lives together connects together, um, and that you're able to leverage the full benefits from it.
[00:20:56] I have a random question. Can you explain data, data voter files to me as though I were a seven year?
[00:21:06] Yes. So when you are 18 and you get to register to. You go and give information to your county clerk about where you live, who you are, your age, and that information is compiled in a publicly available record that you are registered to vote, and then that record is accessed by campaigns candidates.
[00:21:37] Policy organizations and advocacy groups, and they can use that very simple information, most notably your home address, to attach a whole series of additional information to you based sometimes on algorithms and sometimes on other anonymized data. So for example, if you give your home address to go. For a hunting magazine, they can tag you as likely interested in hunting.
[00:22:07] And so when you get a mailer from your candidate or uh, elected official that's talking about the work that they're doing on access to guns and hunting. You can bet that the person that cares about environmental issues or cares about gun control is not also getting that same mailer, and so it lets a series of both hyper targeting from mail, but also from digital ads occur in an anonymized fashion that protects an individual from being exposed by, or being known for the fact that they subscribe to a hunting magazine and may care about.
[00:22:47] I was wondering, I've seen some organizations, you know, when it's time to jump into the advocacy fray, think that like, step one is I buy this absurdly expensive donor file and then I do the advocacy. I, I, um, I'm curious of what your thoughts are on where that fits in the strategy versus, you know, looking at it from a different lens.
[00:23:14] Yeah, I, I love this question. So I've spent this morning with, um, two Quorum customers as we've started off the year and done just strategic planning around their advocacy campaigns. And one of the comments from breakfast this morning was that 2015 was the era of buying big lists. And this organization bought a massive list of.
[00:23:37] Suddenly had all these people on their contact program, and now five years later, what they're seeing is these people aren't active. Their sending domain and reputation is going down. People aren't engaging because they never signed up and never wanted to be a part of it. And so that era of big list buying and just adding people in is over.
[00:23:57] It is all about having a trusted brand or trusted network of communication of someone that you know. And getting individuals to take action through that. And one of my favorite examples of this, uh, is American Airlines, uh, a company that I am, uh, quite a big fan of as being a frequent flyer. Uh, but they're also phone to action customer.
[00:24:21] And about four or five years ago when they were facing some of the challenges with air traffic control staffing and the f AA funding and where we gonna have enough air traffic controllers, they sent out an advocacy alert to all their frequent flyers, myself included saying, You don't wanna have longer waits on the tarmac.
[00:24:38] We need to fully fund the f a and expand the number of controllers. And so suddenly you have all these frequent flyers saying, of course I'm in. Take action, write my member of Congress. And it elevates that issue. And so for organizations out there, My encouragement for you is you have to start by looking at who's on your existing list, who are your most engaged donors, advocates, event participants, individuals who are involved, and use that list to start your advocacy program and then slowly recruit people beyond that because it's about the quality that matters and not the quantity.
[00:25:10] And it goes back to behind the scenes of what the Congress. To see if you have a ton of people that don't really care, just sending and clicking a form letter, it has nowhere near the same impact as someone who really does care, taking even just two minutes to write what they personally care about. And so that's where, you know, unlike 2015, you shouldn't feel this pressure that, oh my God, I need to send 10,000 messages because 10,000 messages that say the same thing.
[00:25:34] ops is just shrug. And I'm like, yep, I've seen this before. But sending a hundred messages that are all different and super customized, like that's really impactful at the end of the day. And then ideally, you're having your in-person advocacy team go up and talk to the members and re-share those messages and say, let me tell you about your constituent who's facing this issue.
[00:25:54] Yeah. I think that's, that's helpful. I love you saying it was such a 2015 moment. It's clearly burned into your mind as you led up to the presidential elections. I. , you know, the, the expenditure on that. And the interesting thing is, you know, you're, I, I dunno what the going rate is, but it's tens of thousands of dollars depending on what you're getting, but you're not getting the permission to communicate.
[00:26:14] And, and I think that's what you're hinting at. And when you burn through that list, you are also hurting your digital reputation. You know, ending up on, on many, uh, do not send lists and ultimately the goal was missed. Um, and so what, what are some int. Planning in terms of spending, like, you know, clearly everyone will get quorum, , uh, right.
[00:26:38] But, you know, in terms of the, the outreach, what, you know, is it buying Twitter ads? That seems like, uh, an opportunity, is it spending to build up my list? Am I trying to do petitions, promote petitions? What is the, the tactic then if, if you're not buying. but earning it. Yeah, so the most easy one that we go to is Facebook Lead Ads, because Facebook still has a series of targeting that you can get pretty specific in terms of individuals with interest that you're looking for, as well as individuals that are in a given region or area that you can then connect.
[00:27:14] Through to an advocacy webpage. Uh, and so that by far is the default for organizations that are really actively looking to grow their lists and looking to invest. But I will also just go back to my big challenge is before you look externally, look internally and what are the options with your internal events and internal lists to be able to grow your pool of advocates.
[00:27:38] And what I often see happen with nonprofits is the advocacy team. Siloed in a given area that says, oh, well that's your database, that's your list. You figure out how to grow it. And the organization is sitting on a list that is way bigger and way larger for their major trade association or major individual impact summit or movement.
[00:27:57] But it says, oh no, you can't use that list to do advocacy. And I think one of the key message. To share and highlight is that advocacy can be helpful in building a more robust relationship with your members, donors, individual participants, because they're looking for ways to be involved. And I think so often what you get is fundraising teams who go, oh, well, don't even ask our donors for anything.
[00:28:19] We're already asking them to give money every year. But if you're just asking, give money, you're sitting there saying, well, what's my connection? Why am I here giving resources and dollars to it? I don't feel like I'm helping. I want to be more. And so as you can have a donor who gives money and say, oh, thank you for it.
[00:28:35] Would you be willing also help us out and take action? There's more of an attachment, more connections, and so you can build on the ladders of engagement and actually end up with, you know, larger donations, more frequent donations, and people who see the work and connection that they're funding. Rather than just get hit up for a check every single year.
[00:28:53] I think the inverse of that too is also your grassroots advocates are the best people to identify future donors from. Because asking someone to go and write a hundred dollars check, like that's a big ask. Asking someone for two minutes of their time to click a couple buttons and write their member of Congress, that's easier.
[00:29:09] And so the challenge that I would give to any of the organizations listening, Is what percent of your grassroots advocates are donating and how do you help increase that percentage? And what I think you're gonna find is, is that very few organizations turn around and actually solicit the grassroots advocates because the advocacy teams are sitting in their silos saying, oh, well we don't wanna ask them to donate money.
[00:29:28] Like we're trying to get them to do advocacy. And really what we're seeing is the best organizations are connecting the two and making it part of a cohesive engagement.
[00:29:40] final. Uh, thank you for sharing that. It's, you know, helpful to see your framing on it. I'm now curious, you know, we're talking about grassroots advocacy communication, and it's not one size fits all. I feel like when we last talked, we were in peak moments of what I will call rage politic, right? Ra ra rage messaging was all the rage.
[00:30:04] I, I, I'll go out on one and say, what? , what do you look for in terms of tactics, guidance, advice, approaches for getting people to care when clearly, uh, we are, we're even postig of political messaging at this point, so I think one, you have to make it relevant to them. Uh, people are not as interested to be stirred up or responded in, uh, Aggravated per se based on whatever the issue is on left or right, because certainly there are people there that feel that way and feel really passionately.
[00:30:44] But you also have a whole series of people that just wanna go about their lives that aren't thinking about what's happening. The state capitol aren't thinking about what's happening in Washington, and honestly probably don't even know the names of the individuals that represent them. And so the challenge for most organizations, Is, how do you phrase the messaging in a way that gets at those people who are in the middle, who and are, who are often on the sidelines.
[00:31:08] And I go back to that American Airlines example, and there's many others. If you have to make it directly relevant to them of, Hey, your life is going to be impacted because of this. And that's how you get some of the most passionate and engaged stories. Because what you end up hearing is saying, Hey, if I'm sitting on the tarmac for another three hours, I'm not home playing with my kids and I already have to travel.
[00:31:28] X number of days a week. This is the personal impact that it has on me. That's the story that you want to tell the member of Congress, not the story around government funding and whether we should spend more money or less money on the f aa and how that impacts the federal debt. Um, because it comes down of that.
[00:31:43] They wanna hear the personal stories and that's what moves. And so making clear that individuals know, you know, what is the impact for them, and making that as hyper-relevant as possible, I think leads to both the best advocacy outcomes and also the most effective. . Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Making it practical, bringing it to your backyard, you know, the sort of act local and is what you started off by saying, which is , the state.
[00:32:08] The state, state, you know, is acting in your backyard. Um, super helpful. Anything else that you wanna share regarding Quorum Cool Tactics, uses of the platform that are. I, the big one I just go back to is this is the year of integration, the year of one stop shop, and it's time to get your data working for you.
[00:32:31] Um, and both, some of that runs through the work that we're doing is we work to string together, pack information, advocacy, legislative tracking, and have that sync. But it also comes to just simply donor databases and is your donor database talking to your email platform, talking to your fundraising tools, talking to your grassroots advocacy tools, and getting all the information from those back in a, you know, circular motion so that you can learn from it and apply more analytics and information.
[00:32:55] This is something that was really probably cutting edge as we think 5, 6, 7 years ago. But now is the time to make it happen. And we're seeing a lot more organizations make changes to their technology stacks to reflect that we're in 2023 and the technology is out there. It is possible to do, but it's really comes down to a matter of having both the willpower.
[00:33:20] As well as the encouragement to know that now is the time and that you don't have to be a trailblazer to go and, and make that happen. Um, and so I would just encourage folks to really think about that because as you think about 2024 and the advocacy opportunities coming presidential election cycle, like that's the time when you need your tools to be the most effective they possibly can be.
[00:33:40] And so take the time this year to go make those investments and make those changes, uh, to be your, put yourself in a position, uh, for. . Well, thanks for that. All right, we're gonna move into some rapid fire here. Please keep your responses brief and interesting. , what is one tech tool or website that you or your organization has started using in last year?
[00:34:04] So we finally started using a chat bot on our website to engage with people who were coming to the website. Uh, we were late on this, um, from a B2B perspective, and many of you have probably been to websites looking to buy and see the little chat bot pop up. But we've seen a whole new series of engagements, conversions, and people that wouldn't normally just fill out a form on the website that we've captured through the chatbot.
[00:34:29] And so my kind of out there challenge to the listeners on this podcast is what would it look like to put a chatbot on your website? Who would you wanna try and engage with? What information would you wanna capture and can you get more people added to your organization's list or engaged than you could from just a standard email sign up?
[00:34:47] I think we've seen a lot of B2B uses for it, but I don't think we've seen as many advocacy nonprofit and even B2C uses for it, and that there's a lot of low hanging fruit there, especially with the new AI coming out. As you know, as much as you wanna trust a pre-trained AI to answer on behalf of your organization, uh, is a good point though.
[00:35:07] tech issues. You are battl. Yeah, so we just bought Capital Canary, doubled in size overnight and literally had two of every system. Now, sometimes they were the same system in that we had two instances of Salesforce. Sometimes they were totally different. We had an instance of churn zero and an interest of Gainsight.
[00:35:25] For our customer software, uh, we have HubSpot and we have Marketo. And so we are currently in the middle of a major, major push to both select go forward systems and integrate so that we're operating as a combined business. And the advice and kind of mandate that I gave our team is that we don't wanna be Southwest Airlines.
[00:35:45] When you look at the challenges Southwest ran into at the end of December of 2022, they have not upgraded their technology yet the way that they need to. And so you saw a massive meltdown as a result of it. And I think that all organizations need to take a moment and just look within and say, do we have the technology infrastructure that we need to scale as we look to grow and expand our operations, or even keep the operations going right now?
[00:36:09] Because the, you know, if Southwest Airlines is culpable of not having the technology, I know that there's a lot of organizations out there that may be looking and saying, yeah, my tech really isn't working for me, so we're up to our next, just because of combining two businesses together and doing it. But I'm really excited because I know we're gonna come out stronger with more advanced tech than if we hadn't done the combination.
[00:36:32] What is coming in the next year that has you the most? Yeah, so we're launching a brand new pack product to help pack professionals run, manage, and distribute contributions from their pack. It's gonna be the first new software in the market in 20 years, and so we both have an incredible amount of excitement to come into a market that just has not seen a whole lot of innovation.
[00:36:56] And also we have customers that are really. Excited about for what that's going, uh, to bring. And then for us, it's the last leg of the stool on the integrated product strategy of finally putting together federal and state legislative tracking, grassroots advocacy, impact management at one place. So that's certainly gonna be, uh, a highlight for us.
[00:37:16] Can you talk about a mistake that you made earlier in your career that shapes the way you do things? So the biggest business mistake that I've made is signing a new office lease in downtown DC where I sit now. Uh, and I share this because I think organizations really need to think differently about both their office space and their work strategy.
[00:37:39] We signed this lease three months into Covid, so probably. Uh, probably a year or so after we last talked and, um, you know, we were focused in betting on a rebound of coming together and coming back to the office. We now have a fully remote development team, and about 35% of our team is fully remote and lives outside of dc And even for the folks that live in DC people are not coming into the office the same extent that they normally do.
[00:38:05] Now, luckily as a company we doubled in size, and so the amount that we're paying is a small percentage of our overall budget each year. But still, when you sit in 28,000 square feet of office space and have 30, 40 people coming in, you realize that is this really the best use of money? And is this also no longer is the way that you engage, retrain, uh, at attract and, you know, help, uh, skill and motivate team members, uh, because it's a whole new world.
[00:38:35] Uh, and so I really think that both has changed the way that I look at the world, both of how we operate as an employer in an organization. But also, you know, I was even in a board meeting, um, earlier this week of folks that are planning to renew their office and, you know, thinking really is that the best sentence?
[00:38:52] And looking at what are the other options? What can you do with less space? Can you do more flexible working? And that the way of working as much as I loved it or others may have that we've done for the last 50 years has completely changed with the pandemic and that we've gotta adapt our strategies to that.
[00:39:10] do you believe that nonprofits can successfully go out of. . Absolutely. So one of the things that we initially met through do something.org, uh, which is just an incredible organization, uh, working on efforts and getting more young people engaged in making a difference. And one of the things that I think do something really framed for me is this ideal of social impact and doing it in a way that.
[00:39:38] Funded by organizations that are looking to make a difference or by donors, um, that are looking to achieve a particular outcome that's clearly measured. And I think the same way that businesses can go out of business, if they're not consumers that are willing to pay for it or customers that are interested in the service.
[00:39:56] Uh, nonprofits should be able to successfully go out of business either because, one, they've solved the problem and so there's no more need to pay for that individual code or service. Or two. I think it's also okay to. And look at the number of startups out there that have tried to do successful things and the number that fail as a result of that.
[00:40:15] Um, and even with that, it's clear that hey, there's not a market or need to it. And I think the trap sometimes that, uh, smaller organizations, even larger organizations, can fall in of what, we're a big institution. We're here, the donors keep funding it, and so let's keep finding things that we can keep getting more donations.
[00:40:32] The push that I would say is, are you really making an impact at the end of the. And one of the clearest ways to do that is if someone is willing to pay dollars or services or time for what you're doing, even if it's a small amount, because that gives an indication that you know what you're doing is, is successful.
[00:40:48] And then the best ones, uh, you're eventually gonna run it out of that because hopefully you've solved your individual problem. How did you get started in the social impact sector? So I was involved, uh, in local youth advisory boards. Uh, I served on the Santa Fe Mayor's Youth Advisory Council, uh, and eventually chaired it for two years and gave me really a chance to start thinking bigger and broader around the community.
[00:41:13] And then realized that there was a whole series of opportunities to work with organizations that informed youth advisory boards do something. Dot org was one of those, uh, and had the chance to be on the do something youth advisory board. Uh, and then I sat there thinking about it and saying, look, we've got a whole series of governors, a whole series of members of Congress that have youth advisory councils.
[00:41:29] Why doesn't the president, uh, have one? And so I ran a campaign for probably four or five years to try and get a presidential youth council. Uh, we got this close, but ultimately, uh, we're not successful. With it. But what it really taught me was how to start and run an organization. How do you get people signed on?
[00:41:48] How do you delegate tasks? How do you put a website up? How do you send out email updates? Uh, basically everything but a whole ton on the financial side. Uh, and what I realized is that social entrepreneurship was one of the best lessons that I could have ever wished for, for doing actual entrepreneurship because as we were founding and launching the company, it felt really familiar and it was something that I'd.
[00:42:09] You know, a couple of years before, just in the social side for the Presidential Youth Council. Yeah. It's funny, I rare aside that, yeah, it is how we met. I'm getting flashbacks. I don't know if I was directly running it at that point, but I do recall at one point it might do something career, uh, needing to arrange a bunch of kids coming to New York, going to and from hotels to our office.
[00:42:31] I don't know if you were part of that adventure when I was running it, but that was pretty funny. Yeah, I remember it. , I'm glad I didn't lose you in the , the subway. Uh, alright. If I could put you in a hot tub time machine back to the beginning of your work, what advice would you give?
[00:42:54] So I think one of the hardest pieces is you have to be prepared to give things up. And there's a great article called Giving Away Your Legos. Um, but you have to train yourself and learn that you have to constantly be pushing and giving things to other people as you grow and scale. . And that's really hard because when you're a small organization, you have all the Legos and you know, the Legos are super, super fun to play with.
[00:43:20] But as you scale more and more Legos start falling on your plate and you have to start giving away your favorite Legos and that you can no longer send the emails or collect the invoices or spend all the time with customers or do these items and you need a team around that has their own Legos that they're playing with.
[00:43:35] But all those have to start with you. And so I think one of the most challenging lessons is we've scaled. Is learning, okay, how do you give away your favorite Lego set and say, I'm no longer involved in doing that, or I'm not gonna go do X. And that's a really core part of scaling that I think founders definitely struggle with because you care, you're passionate, you're engaged, uh, and I think also applies for individuals, even if you didn't found organizations.
[00:44:00] What are you doing that you can give your new team member that just joined or be able to delegate or give back to someone else to let you really spend time focusing on the things that matter the most? Uh, and that's been one of the most helpful framing things that we've learned over our eight and a half years of doing this.
[00:44:16] That's so funny. There's part of my brain that's saying Absolutely right. , you have to eve away tho those types of things. And the other part of me is saying, I don't want to give away my Legos. I think there is, you know, speaking to somebody who's approaching a decade of work in the organization, I think there are some Legos that I will say you have to hold onto because it fuels you in some part, because otherwise you're just left with all the little gray pieces that don't really match or anything.
[00:44:37] And you're like, these Legos stink. I don't like this Jack. So I'll put an asterisk on that. Alrighty, . Very fair. . What is, what is something you think you or your organization should stop? Uh, the number of meetings that we have. I am a big believer in the book time, talent, energy, and I think the shocking thing that the book starts out of is you have all these organizations, many listeners too, who have large finance departments that are really concerned when you go spend a hundred or a thousand dollars on something and all the approvals that are involved.
[00:45:13] Well, most organizations', largest expense is the salary. For their headcount, and each individual each hour of the day has a cost associated with it. But yet, so often you see, oh, let's put 10 people in a meeting, and suddenly you're looking around and you're running a $500 or a thousand dollars meeting.
[00:45:31] And most organizations, including ours, Don't have a whole series of protocols in place that limit the number of meetings or put standards around meetings the same way that you have to get your expense report approved or a budget approved. And so I certainly would love to see us reduce the number of meetings, reduce the number of people in meetings, and be more intentional about when we get together.
[00:45:52] But it is a fight that I've fought for many years and it is a challenge because we as humans wanna socialize. Wanna see each other and default to that, and also wanna be inclusive, and so add more and more people and suddenly you've got 15 boxes on a Zoom screen and it ends up being a pretty significant cost to the organization.
[00:46:13] What advice did your parents give you that you either followed or didn't follow? I love, I love this question. So, when I first told my mom, uh, that I was going to start a startup at Quorum to track what was happening on Capitol Hill, uh, her immediate response is she goes, oh, well that sounds like a nice thing to do between college and graduate school.
[00:46:34] Rest assured, both my parents are lawyers that would've loved for me to have gone to law school. Um, I did not have the opportunity to go to graduate school. I'm very happy to be here in growing the business. Uh, and so that, uh, immediately comes to mind because look, founding a company, Or a social, uh, impact effort or a nonprofit can be scary and you've gotta jump off and have confidence.
[00:46:56] And if you spend enough time working towards it and iterating, you will eventually get there, even if it's not the idea that you started on. If I were to hand you a magical wand wave across the social impact sector, what would it do? So for us, we're always interested in more government data, more information published online, more information in machine readable form, and more transparency, uh, that happens every day, uh, on both state governments and, and the political process.
[00:47:27] I think there's a ton of opportunities at the state government level of just being able to pull in much more information around the individual proceedings on the floor amendments, agendas, and committee hearings. Some state governments have individual transcripts of what's happening on the floor and committee sessions, and so there is huge opportunity, but oftentimes we'll see government organizations trying to hold it back where they don't want to give too much information to the public.
[00:47:51] They don't want to invite too much participation, and so that's the big area that I would love to take a magic wand and just fix that and make the government more accessible. What advice would you give college grads looking to enter the social impact? So my big advice would be go follow your passions.
[00:48:12] Go do the thing that you are most excited about doing, and that gets you up every day, even if it is not the given chosen path or the one that might be most exciting. And it's really interesting. Well, that most exciting, but most financially rewarding. When I look at my college classmates now, about eight years out, the ones that really went out and followed their passions, did the most risky things that at the time we graduated.
[00:48:38] You said, well, why aren't you going to take the really high paying. Consultant or financial job or going to law school and doing the traditional thing. Um, those are the folks that I think are both most successful and most fulfilled currently in their careers. And that is something that when you are leaving college at a given and current moment, you have this pressure of where everyone else is making high salaries and going to, you know, go work in business or go work in Wall Street or going to go do X or Y and a big encouragement that you will.
[00:49:09] Financial success, you will find fulfillment. You will find what's right. It might take you a little while to get there, but your twenties are the time to do that. And so use that time to explore because you'll end up with just a much more fulfilling career and you'll have more opportunities to pivot within it than say you will, you know, going into one of the more traditional paths.
[00:49:29] Well, Alex, thank you so much. Final question. How do people find you? How do people. Yeah, so we're super easy. Um, quorum.us. My email's just Alex quorum us. Uh, more than happy to be helpful. So if you're looking at your nonprofit technology and just want someone to talk to, certainly happy to bounce ideas off.
[00:49:48] Uh, if you're figuring out your advocacy strategy for next year or looking for advocacy software, we're certainly here. Uh, and happy to talk and in general, you know, looking to be able to give back to the community because I think it's so important that we help each other and realize that there's a lot of advice, uh, and favors and help that we've been given over the years.
[00:50:04] That's let us build the company, uh, and looking to see more people do that with NGOs, social impact movements, uh, and startups. Uh, thanks for the work you're doing in the sector. We appreciate it and good luck this year. Awesome. Thanks so much for having me on, George.