Ep 90: Framing your donations as investments with Greg Harrell Edge from Coachart

A small adjustment in the language you use can make a big impact on your outcomes.

A lot of nonprofits, in fact, MOST nonprofits, talk about donations in terms of “gifts”. This tees up a certain dynamic – one with low expectations which can reduce the frequency and volume of said “gift”.

My guest today is Greg Harrell-Edge, the Executive Director at CoachArt. He and his team have completely reimagined how they talk about donations to reframe the narrative to one with heightened expectations, resulting in an increase in revenue and engagement with their donors.

Instead of simply being a donor who gives a gift to the organization, CoachArt uses language framed around “investment” language. They talk about IPOs and ROI and use similar language that transitions the relationship they are building with their stakeholders from one that is a one-way exchange of value into one where there is increased interest and investment in the outcomes, creating more of a two-way relationship with donors.

This was an incredibly fascinating conversation jam-packed with valuable insights that can be applied to any organization’s playbook.

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Greg: We, we don’t want to denigrate the idea that donations can be a gift as well, and that to some people they are, and, and that, that there are prob and, and one thing I was thinking about when you were talking about that, the idea of a gift versus investment is, is a gift comes from a place primarily, I think of kindness and, and generosity and, and investment has an element of, of strategy and, and, you know, a, a, a more of a, a plan to it.

And so it’s great that there are lots of people that want to give and that are motivated to give. But part of our theory, you know, basically just the theory was that there are other, that there’s more than just those people. And are we as a sector, are we as an organization communicating effectively to the people who.

Do want to take more of an investment approach. So, so not that one is good and one is bad, but that one is probably thoroughly addressed and communicated to. And the other one may be something closer to untapped.

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Now here’s your host, author and marketing specialist stew Swineford.

Stu: Hey everybody Stu here. When’s the last time you took a peak at the language that you use when trying to engage with your stakeholders? A lot of nonprofits, in fact, with most nonprofits, talk about donations as gifts and. Guest today, Greg Harold edge from coachart. He’s the executive director over there at cohart.

He and his team have made a really interesting shift in the way that they talk to their investors well to their donors and have positioned that in an investment sort of capacity. So instead of just being a donor and giving a gift to their organization, they’ve really started using language around investment and IPO and ROI and things of that nature that really transition that agreement or that relationship that they have with their stakeholders from one that is kind of a one way gift to one that is almost a two way.

Agreement that they have with their donors in terms of what the expectations or what the, what will happen with the money that they are investing in in the coach art program, it was a super fascinating conversation. We had a, just a ton of, of really fun conversation going on. And I think that you’re really gonna enjoy this episode.

I, I hope you can stick to it to the end and that it’s valuable to you and your organization. And here we go,

Hey, Greg, how are you doing today? 

Greg: Doing great. How are you doing? I’m 

Stu: very well, thank you so much for joining me today. I’m really excited to hear about what you are up to over at coach art and and just learn more about, about your organization and, and how things are going over 

Greg: there. Well, I’m excited to have the chance to tell you about it.

And, and so I’m really grateful to be on this show we’re newly nationwide. And so we’re trying to do as much as we can to get the word. That’s 

Stu: fantastic. So tell us all a little bit about what you’re up to at coach Artan and what kind of impact you’re making with with kids around the nation.

It sounds 

Greg: like now. Sure. So coach art, we do free arts and athletics for kids affected by serious illness. And so these are kids where 31% of the kids in our program have cancer. We also serve a lot of kids with really rare illnesses. So it’s any child affected by any really serious illness. And so often we imagine these kids as being in the children’s hospital, but actually 99% of kids fighting a really serious illness are actually at home.

And they often aren’t able to participate in local. They often stay home from school. Aren’t able to participate in local sports or arts, athletic, you know, activities. And so cohart for 20 years has been pairing them with volunteers who can used to become to their house and provide arts and athletics lessons for them.

Stu: That sounds really cool. And so have you moved to a largely virtual format in, in the age of, of virtual stuff? Or are people still in, in a, in person 

Greg: capacity? Yeah, so we pivot was the big word of 2020, right. Everybody was talking about what their pivot wasn’t and we were right there along with them.

And so we pivoted to video lessons actually two years before that in 2018, we had launched an app, a co-work connect app, which made it easy for any volunteer to find any child affected by chronic illness living near them. And so we had actually already started to, to scale and were growing. We had grown about 50% per year or less hours, about 50% per year for the past two years.

when the pandemic hit. Obviously people were not gonna be showing up at strangers doors and, and going inside and teaching their kids arts and athletics lessons. So we moved to video lessons mm-hmm . And what we discovered was we actually started scaling even faster. Like a lot of businesses, you know, there were some businesses that were really hard hit by the pandemic, but then there were those businesses that actually started to accelerate and, and in the nonprofit sector, we were one of those.

And so that actually allowed us, we started growing the number of lesson hours, even faster. We started being able to expand to new cities that summer, we expanded to five new cities nationwide. And then in November of last year, we were able to flip the switch and start accepting kids with any serious illness anywhere in the.

Oh, really 

Stu: great as well. Yeah, that’s amazing. So is it a one to one type of capacity in terms of the, the lessons? Are they, are they geared toward you know, essentially one kid, one instructor and you do that one time or are you cataloging those lessons and, and leveraging them to kind of a one to many capacity.

Greg: So we do both or actually all three. We, we have something to, to your last point we put tutorials on Facebook live mm-hmm where it’s the, the one to many, many but we do small group and one on one. So the kids are able to do the, the, each activity. The initial commitment is four lessons.

And so for small groups, we call them clubs. And we’ll have four weekly lessons where it’ll be 20 to 30 kids led by an instructor and some volunteers about whatever that activity is. And then our core program is our one-on-ones. Okay. So every day we’ve got approximately 20 one right now lessons happening on video between a child affected by a serious illness, somewhere in the country and a volunteer, teaching them an art or athletic activity over video from somewhere in the country.

Stu: Gotcha. And, but you, it doesn’t sound, or maybe I misunderstood the, the, the Facebook piece, but it doesn’t sound like you’re, you’re cataloging these and having them be like lessons that someone could just go and access and, and view in a, not life capacity. Is that accurate? 

Greg: Yeah, so we do we do tutorials that we call them on Facebook live.

We really, we don’t actually consider those part of our lessons when we track our, the growth in our lesson hours. We only track the, the live element and part of our impact that we have on the kids has this social component to it. So we really do those, you know, we, we believe that they have an impact, but they also are a way to get the word out.

Okay. So we do pre-recorded lessons they’re on Facebook live, and then we put them on YouTube where they’re accessible as well. And just recently we’ve actually partnered with a children’s hospital that. Televisions in all the rooms, a, a closed circuit all throughout the hospital through the Seacrest Ryan Seacrest foundation.

Okay. And Seacrest studios where they’ve been airing some of our tutorials for the kids in all the rooms, actually in the children’s hospital. Oh, that’s great. 

Stu: So it sounds like you’re leveraging that kind of archival material for additional reach as well. So that’s, that’s fantastic. 

Greg: Exactly.

Yeah. But ultimately we always want it to drive to the, the live lessons that have this social component, this just absolutely you know, really essential and impactful for these kids. 

Stu: Yeah. That’s great. So art and sports seem to be you know, the two, two things that tend to not get grouped together.

I’m, I’m excited to hear a little bit more about, about how you handle those two components either, you know, together or or you know, a little separately within your, your 

Greg: construct. Sure. So it’s really just extracurriculars is, is essentially the, the broadest definition where, when these kids get these diagnoses, , you know, a family will, all of a sudden have a child who has a cancer diagnosis.

Mm-hmm in first grade or fifth grade or ninth grade. The child often has to be homeschooled and, and stay home from school. Mm-hmm usually the school system solves for the educational component. Mm-hmm . And so, you know, between the family or, or the school system, there’s the, the child will keep learning their math lessons or, or, or whatever it is.

But it’s the extracurriculars that often are so hard to replace and they aren’t considered as absolutely critical as, as the education. But, you know, I always ask people whether you had an illness as a child or not to think back. Whatever extracurriculars you did. And Stu I’d be curious what your answer is of any art or athletic activity growing up and, and what impact that might have had for you and argue that this is really critical for these kids.

And I can talk a little bit more about the impact that they have, but I’m curious if anything comes to mind, were you, were you any artists or athlete growing up for you in particular? 

Stu: Yeah, I was enrolled in a variety of different sports, but soccer kind of was the one that stuck for me at a, at a fairly early age.

And and so I, I played. So, I guess extracurricular soccer seasonally you know, from the time that I was probably six or eight, I can’t remember exactly how old I was when I started, started playing soccer. And then, you know, a variety of other things scouting was was part of my upbringing as well.

My dad was a big scout guy and, and so both my brother and I you know, went into that, that type of program you know, and then there were camps and, and, and things like that, where certainly there was a lot of, there were a lot of different activities you know, participated in there. And then, you know, in instruments and, and things like that were certainly part of my, part of, I was fortunate enough to be able to yeah.

Renaissance skills as part of my upbringing as well. Although I never really took to some of that as well as, as others, but but yeah, I would say that. You know, it, particularly in the absence of, of in person schooling, which certainly kids with, with extreme health problems they tend to discourage them being in, in large groups.

So I could see how how, you know, you lose that, that social component from just the schooling perspective as well as, you know, all of those after school and and extracurriculars. So, yeah. It sounds like you’re, you’re really, you know, hitting the nail on the head in terms of, of fulfilling and a real strong need there for these kids.

Greg: And, and it took me a long time being at the organization to be totally transparent, to really put my finger on what the impact was. And, and part of the way that we talk about it now is identity. And when kids are growing up, That’s when we, we form our sense of self is, is through these transformational years.

And so I imagine for you, whether it was Scouts or soccer or these different activities, you tried, there are ways for each of us to try on a different persona, figure out if it fits for us. Think about who am I in, in relation to this activity. And so with a lot of our kids, what happens is they get slapped with this label that they did not want and did not expect.

And that is sick child mm-hmm . And that label is true within their family. That if they have other siblings, they’re the sick kid to their parents, you know, consciously or subconsciously, they’re the sick kid to, to the, the, the classmates that they had when all of a sudden they aren’t coming anymore.

They’re not coming because they’re the sick kid. And so. While each of us was able to try out these different, you know identities when we were growing up, I would argue it’s even more critical for these kids where, what coach art does and, and the way that I think we’ve started to think about it is it creates this bridge for these kids to be able to try out all the same activities that any other kid is able to try out.

And, and we talk about how these kids get to shed the label of sick kid and start to think of themselves as the exact same things that you just mentioned, that they can start thinking themselves as a soccer player or as a chef or as a pianist and try them on and see how they feel and that among other things, you know, it, it has this social component, but it also just changes how a child thinks of what about what’s possible for themselves and their lives overall and, and, you know what kind of life they, they might go on to lead.

And so first and foremost, you know, it’s easy on the surface level. It’s arts and athletics. It’s it’s basketball, but, but ultimately I think it’s, it’s helping these kids define an identity and define what’s. 

Stu: Yeah, and our brains are so plastic, I think is the, the right term at that age where, you know, we’re learning, we’re growing and, and if we don’t have that variety of, of inputs and, and variety of experiences, then, then there’s opportunity for, for us to, to kind of have a, a, a little bit of a stunted, you know, brain and, and development growth.

So, you know, having that as a, as a, an outlet and a, a mechanism by which, you know, kids can get some social interaction You know, that just sounds like it’s an amazing addition to really, to any kids’ life particularly those, those who are, are ill. Is that the, what you’ve experienced in terms of, of of any of the research that you’ve done around around cohart?

Greg: Yeah, absolutely. And, and, you know, one thing we’ve had a hard time find more and more research is, is becoming available. It’s more holistic about the impact of arts on a child. Who’s struggling with this. And, and a lot of it’s very specific. The, the, the actual studies that are out there about. One particular diagnosis and one particular activity.

Mm-hmm so still it’s a lot of it is, is really anecdotal. But one of the things I was thinking about when you were talking about that was a family that I, I met at one point where the child had to quarantine in the home mm-hmm with his mother. So his mother and he quarantined for one year, they didn’t have physical contact with anybody else in their home.

And would you believe that the, the quarantine was scheduled to end March? Oh no. Of 2020. And so, you know, they went right from, you know, going, doing that quarantine for medical reasons, right. Into the, doing it, the same reasons that, that each of the rest of us did. But over the last few years, one of the things that we’ve learned is even the term social distancing was one that our families were familiar with long before.

It was part of the kind of cultural zeitgeist and something that, that they talk about a lot. And so it’s exactly what you were just describing. It’s something that a lot of our families are really familiar with. 

Stu: Yeah. I had another gentleman on the show last year from hope kids who that’s a Colorado based organization that that works with, with kids with with illness.

And one of the things that they saw during the pandemic was the, the families of their kids were already so conditioned to social distancing and, and all of that stuff that, that they were able to really keep up with a lot of the events that they had already planned or that they normally did you know, on a year to year basis, because so many of those either had a social distancing component to them or or, or we’re already virtual.

So gosh, you know, the, the, the kids that are affected in that, in that way are. You know, so lucky to have organizations like yours that, that facilitate that interaction. Just cuz that seems like it would be such a lonely place to, to have to live for for, 

Greg: for most of us. Yeah. And, and we all had a lot to learn from them.

I, I think they, you know, the, the kids and those families were sort of teachers for us, even on our team and on our staff during the early days of, of the pandemic of, you know, what, what was possible and how to, how to craft the most meaningful life out of, you know, when, when all of a sudden dealing with a set of challenges that you had not previously anticipated.

Stu: Yeah, absolutely. So I know that you, you mentioned when we were talking a little bit before the show that, that you had a big gala last fall and you had some kind messaging positioning or messaging pivots to, to use that word again tell, tell me a little bit about about what transpired last fall and, and what you what you’ve seen as a 

Greg: result.

Sure. So I had sort of left off at the point where we had expanded to these new cities, and then we got to the point where we could expand nationwide. And so we were sort of had circled on the calendar that November of 2021. We felt like we would be able to sort of flip the switch and start accepting kids with any illness and any volunteers from anywhere in the country.

So we decided to make that the theme of our event and, and a kind of national launch party of introducing. And of course, you know, we used to do all of our fundraising with in person galas and this was online. And so we did an online national launch party for the organization. So through all of these conversations about how do we want to introduce what we’re doing to the country and how people can get involved you have these fascinating kind of philosophical conversations about what, you know, how do we want people to think about the organization?

How do we wanna approach them? And a lot of our board. The organization was co-founded by Xander lure. Who’s the CEO of survey monkey momentum and a lot of our border tech and digital media folks. And so in having these really interesting conversations with them, we started talking about the idea of what do people want when they’re getting involved with an organization when they’re donating to an organization that they’ve never heard of.

And we started talking about the idea of that. They’re making an impact, an investment in the type of world that they want to live in. They’re making an, an investment in. And so we started looking at the history of how nonprofits have, have done, you know fundraising and the Sally Struthers era and the Sarah McLaughlin era and the giving and, and peop asking people to give.

And, and we started thinking about, well, what if we reject the notion? Are there people who don’t wanna think about their donation as a gift, but instead want to think about investing in, in the type of world that they want to create. And so that national launch party online national launch party that we did, we launched a brand new fundraising program.

And we called it was our impact investment club. It’s a monthly donor program at $18 a month funds the cost of one student to get the lesson materials, to do one match every month. We called the launch of that. Monthly donor program, our IPO and asked people to invest in potential and opportunity.

We made an ROI promise to all of our donors, and that was a, a return of impact rather than, you know, a, a profit return on their investment and really sort of try to use the, the framework of that people might make when they’re making an investment in a company and use the same Headspace and, and mindset and invite people who are donating to do that.

And, and so it’s a really a two way agreement that we want our donors to think about that and, and their expectations of us when they make that donation. And that we want to think about that and the expectations that we have to our donors to return impact. Mm-hmm , 

Stu: I, I really like that, that kind of mindset shift on, on what’s going on.

I like the word, you know, I, I like leveraging the power of the word gift. But I think in the, in this situation, what you’ve, what you’ve uncovered is, is actually a really interesting way to reframe the narrative in that. It, it removes any idea of cost which, which to me is, feels like a, a money out as opposed to a money in, and, and it also creates this idea of community and shared responsibility.

And you use a couple of words in, in your response there that I also find interesting in that you said both agreement and expect. And one of the things that’s, that’s really fascinating. And I can actually I’ll share in the show notes a brief, I dunno if you’d call it a lecture, a brief discussion by a gentleman named Steve Chandler, who was a he was a, a coach, a very successful kind of mindset.

And I guess you could call him a life coach. And he has this, this concept of, of expectation versus agreement and the way that he describes it is when you have an agreement. People feel like there’s a shared responsibility for an agreement versus an expectation, which tends to be a one way kind of kind of approach to things.

So for example, if if I were your employee and We have a monthly or a regular, let’s say it’s a weekly meeting that we’re all we all have agreed to attend and be present for et cetera. If that becomes an expectation where, for example, let’s say I show up late either once or, or consistently, and you come to me as, as my employer or my boss, and you say, you know, Hey Stu, I expect you to be to these, to these meetings on time.

There’s a power dynamic there that is, is reduced. At least when you say, Hey, Stu, can we have an agreement that you know, that we’re, we’re gonna show up on time that we’re clear our schedule prior to these meetings and be there and be present because, you know, because you’re a valuable part of this team and we need you to be, to be involved from the start of this meeting, to the, to the finish.

And when you just shift that language and, and actually make it a two way street, where, where we’re both You know, coming to the table and saying, you know, there’s an opportunity there for me to say, well, no, I can’t agree to that because I have this other meeting that, that usually goes long or mm-hmm , or that wraps up, you know, right here.

Then we can start a conversation around that. And so I think what’s really fascinating about, about the, the use of that language as well, is the impact investment piece that you’ve, that you’ve hit upon is that when. When you have created that, the agreement that your stakeholders are going to, to invest in the success of your organization and the, the outcomes that you’re hoping to achieve there, there there’s that mutual component to that.

And so I think that combination of, of of both agreement and and investment is, is really very interesting. And , you’ve, you’ve really kind of nailed a I think a really powerful opportunity to, to, to get people even more involved than they, than they may have already, already been. 

Greg: Yeah. I, I love all of that and I think you’ve zeroed in on a fascinating idea and, and part of it that I think deserves more exploration.

And, and one of the things I was thinking about when you were describing that was, you know, I wonder. What, what you would say, or, or, or, or what an average donor would say of this idea of, you know, what agreement has existed? What, what agreement sort of implicitly or explicitly exists when someone gives money to a nonprofit organization, mm-hmm, what is their expectation for what the nonprofit is going to do in return?

And are we doing it? And, and I think, you know, each of us as organizations kind of thinking about that and defining that, but I’m, I’m, you know, for any listeners, you know, I, I, I wonder what that implicit or explicit agreement is for your organization, but I, yeah, I’m curious if you have any thoughts on when someone does give to an organization that they’ve never heard of, if they’ve just seen an ad on TV, or if it’s one of these you know, their friend is, is doing a bicycle ride.

What, what do you think donors expect? What, what is the two way street? What, what, what do, what do they expect of us as organizations to agree to. For their donation. 

Stu: Do you? Yeah, it’s a, it’s a really good question. I mean, I think most people, the expectation is that, that, that donation I’m gonna use donation here.

Mm-hmm I’m gonna choose language here very specifically, but that donation is going toward the fulfilling, the mission that the organization has communicated is the, is, is one of the, one of the, I, I would say that’s an expectation of, of that that transaction mm-hmm however I think, like I said earlier, gifts can be a very powerful word to use when, when one is, is.

Addressing an agreement, for example. But it also has a component of it that, that there’s a, a, a loss of control mm-hmm and that, and that that’s the, that’s almost the expectation of a gift in, in my opinion. And in some ways, and that maybe my upbringing, I was, I was told that, or I was, I was raised to believe and to agree to, I guess, that if I gifted something to somebody that, that I no longer had it’s it’s Providence, the right word.

Yeah. I, I 

Greg: think it’s that over definitional. I, I bet, depending on the definition, you know, Websters versus whoever else that probably most definitions of gift, you know, specifically involve a relinquishment that mm-hmm, that I, I think that’s a really interesting point as well. Yeah. 

Stu: And, and so, so if you, if I were to give you my car at that point, if you decided to set it on fire or, or give it to somebody else, or what have you you know, even though there’s a, there’s oftentimes a, a desired continued like I said, Providence or, or ownership, or some, some sort of, you know, possession of that gift.

That’s just not really how gifts work. Right. Mm-hmm and, and that’s how a lot of times gifts can get relationships in trouble. But I, I also think that that investment piece there’s, there’s a component of an investment or that language to me that implies some risk mm-hmm . So, so if. If that in investment, doesn’t go as planned.

There’s there’s auto automatically built into that language is an understanding that you, you have relinquished some control over that. Although there’s, there’s the idea that this is going toward a bigger thing. So it’s, it’s an investment that is intended to have a return, a positive return. Or the idea is that, that, that that’s the, that’s the goal of it.

Where a gift to me is kind of like, well, I, I gave it to ’em and they, you know, they took that money and, and you know, just went to the casino or, you know, what, whatever frivolous I, I don’t wanna suggest that gambling is, you know, is completely frivolous. Some people are very good at it, but, but, you know, I’m, I’m just suggesting that, you know, that they set that money on fire.

For example, that that’s, that’s what happens when you gift somebody, something versus an investment. You know, I’m gonna invest this in, in, in you or in your growth, then there’s a little bit of an attached sort of expectation 

Greg: around that. So, yeah. And, and a couple of, of thoughts that that brings to mind.

And, and one thing that I wanted to circle back to is, and, and we, we had conversations about, we, we don’t want to denigrate the idea that donations can be a gift as well, and that to some people they are, and, and mm-hmm that, that there are prob and, and one thing I was thinking about when you were talking about that, the idea of a gift versus investment is, is a gift comes from a place primarily, I think of kindness and, and generosity mm-hmm and, and investment has an element of, of strategy and, and, you know, a, a more of a, a plan to it.

And so it’s great that there are lots of people that want to give. Yes that are motivated to give. But part of our theory, you know, basically just the theory was that there are other, that there’s more than just those people. And are we as a sector, are we as an organization communicating effectively to the people who do want to take more of an investment approach?

So, so not that one is good and one is bad. Mm-hmm but that one is probably thoroughly. Addressed and communicated to, and the other one may be something closer to untapped. And, and for us, it’s really critical because we’ve got these huge organizations that are in our space. We serve a really similar population to make a wish.

Yes. And you know, and so how do we distinguish a, a group of people find people who might be, and, and where, you know, we have what we think are advantages. We use technology we’re growing fast. We’re, we’re leaner, we’re more efficient. And so how do we find and communicate to the people for whom our values are their values and, and how do we talk to them?

That’s might be a different group of people and communicate to differently than, than folks for whom it’s a gift. 

Stu: Yeah. It’s an interesting concept. I think that you’re. We’re we’re getting into the territory of persona development, right? Where if you start to look at your core audiences or your core donors, and you say, okay, well, let’s split our core donors into, into two specific groups here.

And one is somebody who, who resonates more with the idea of a gift and the other might be somebody who resonates more with the idea of an investment. And how do we communicate to, to each of those effectively? And, you know, in fact, there may be kind of a third group that, that is sort of the, the Venn diagram of, of those, the overlap of those two groups themselves.

Sure. At which point you might be able to use language like, you know, your, your gift is an invest is, or your gift funds the, the investment in, you know, you know, the, the growth and continued wellbeing of, of of at risk or, or ill ill and Yeah, you know, ill youth or whatever, however yeah.

Whatever, whatever your, your language would be there. But essentially what I would try and, and this would depend a little bit on how much traffic you have and, and whatnot to your site, but you might try just AB testing you know, two or three different messages. And the first being, you know, send a certain volume of traffic to a page that talks about gifting and how this, how this gift helps helps people.

The other might be a, a page that, that, you know, has the same goal in mind. We’re trying to to, to get people, to engage with the organization in a donation or donor capacity. But that is more aligned with the, with, with the investment language and then a third that does that sort of combination of, of the two of those.

Yeah. And if you have enough traffic that you can kinda. Kind of split tests or AB test those three messages and just see which one is most effective. And then have that one become your primary and then start testing other things. That, that tends to be how I would how I would 

Greg: approach that, I think.

And, and that’s one thing that I wanna be really transparent with the audience about just where we are in our, you know, in the stage of this is that we are very much in that mode right now. So, so we, you know, launched this event in November, that was essentially to our audience, to the audience that we’ve built over the years, using the same process that we’ve invited people to our in person galas.

And then our virtual galas, you know, since the pandemic started and we used this more experimental language and we felt great about the, the success that we, it was by far the most successful event that we’ve ever had the most well funded and, and attended of all of our virtual events and, and all of our events period.

So there was this, what felt like, you know, in, in the. For profit sector, they might call product market fit. You know, it felt like this audience was, I mean, this, this message was, was resonating and then it’s okay, well, how do we find, you know, all the things that you just said, the personas, how do we find right?

The, the mix of the messages, you know? And, and so we’re in the mode right now of doing a lot of AB testing and trying to identify, you know, what does this look like? And so a year from now, you know, it would be really interesting if, if I, you and I were to touch base again to say, yeah, this part of it, we felt like we were really onto something the whole other part about, you know, IPO.

We had a totally reject because that had this, had this negative connotation and just flopped in terms of the testing, et cetera. So yeah, so we’ll, it’s, it’s a very, very much in process, right? 

Stu: Yeah. So if you have the means and the, and the resources to do you know, AB testing and as well as the, a volume of, of traffic to, to get a viable survey sample from the ni I recommend you know, organizations do that kind of work where you’re, you’re going out and, and always.

Running these little experiments to see what, what resonates most effectively. And, you know, my recommendation for that is to, you know, maybe not send all of your traffic to some new new donation page that, that just starts talking about investments without You know, with, without having some parameters around that end and also, you know, the understanding that that could tank but you know, hopefully you have enough traffic that you could, you could carve off a certain percentage of it to, to really get a good feel for whether or not that message was, was resonating.

And if it’s not then put, put all the traffic back to the one that was, and if it’s, if it’s working better, then you can confidently make that, that kind of switch. Yeah. The two other things that I would certainly recommend you know, any organization kind of exploring this language change is understanding what audience you’ve actually presented that to, that, that it worked with.

So for example, people who go to gala’s Tend to be a little bit different persona type different audience than those who just donate online. And so, you know, those types of individuals might be more inclined to understand you know, the language around IPOs and the language around investments and, and things of that nature than perhaps the general public.

And so. That kind of language might be best reserved for traffic that you have identified as as of that kind of mindset in some fashion. So what you could do theoretically is a lookalike campaign. So take all of the people who came to your gala and I’m assuming you collected email addresses from them.

Sure. And if do, do you remember how many people. Approximately, 

Greg: I think we got about 600 email 

Stu: addresses. Okay. Yeah, that’s, that’s a perfect amount. I think that to do a lookalike campaign, you have to have at least 300 email addresses or else the there’s not enough data to to, to figure it out.

But essentially and this is run in Facebook for example, so what you do is you can dump that, that donor email list into Facebook. Facebook is not going to use those email addresses, or they’re not supposed to at least use those email addresses in any sort of nefarious way. But all they’re doing is looking at the, that audience and trying to find similarities among those.

Those email addresses that they also have in Facebook already. And then they build what’s called a lookalike audience around that data. And then that audience in theory should be very receptive to that IPO investment type language. So then you can run ads to that audience to try and get them into the fold.


Greg: Yeah. And, you know, and we’re, we’re very much in the process of sort of trying, trying to do that persona building message, audience fit as much as possible. One, one thing that we’re doing that, that I can talk about especially given, you know, that our, our co-founder, as I mentioned, is that the CEO of, of survey monkey momentum is we’ve started using survey monkey audiences.

So that’s the tool where you can pay for you know survey responses for people who are not familiar. To your organization. And I don’t know how much nonprofits have been doing this or not, but just sort of a, you know, templates of brand awareness, consumer insights type of surveys. And we’ve been borrowing from some of that language.

And it’s been really interesting because what you get there is you can ask people, you know, anything really, but what, what we’ve been asking people is sort of, what is your perception of, of nonprofits and, and of nonprofit marketing and kind of trying to find the folks who do feel like who do feel cynical or, or jaded about some of the ways that nonprofits have traditionally marketed themselves.

Talking about some of the messages that we’ve got and, and testing some of those out, asking about some of the, the sort of calls to action or, or ways that we can get convert folks. And then just asking a bunch of demographic information and we’ve gotten really fascinating. Learnings out of that already and, and plan to do a lot more of it, of just kind of pockets of people with demographic information or, or, you know, asking about what their consumer, what their, what their media consumption choices are and things like that, who the, the traditional messages are not resonating with them.

Mm-hmm and the more experimental messages that we’re trying do seem like they’re they’re resonating. And so that’s been a jumping off point and then taking those onto, you know, into the, the social ad testing world and saying, okay, this is a group of people who said that they think that this type of Audi, that this type of message might work, let’s float it out there and see are they responding to this ad or they responding to that ad.

And so it’s been I can say it’s been really fascinating and, and trying to, to figure out who these folks are, that that might be more open to supporting a, a coach art than other organizations that are in our space. 

Stu: Yeah. Having access to that, that kind of that kind of, of, of application and, and the ability to, to have someone at least even kind of coach you through how to, how to leverage you know, leverage those surveys is, is just a really fantastic resource.

It’s cool that you have that you have that on your, on your team 

Greg: there. Yeah. Although for sure, although I’d also say, you know, the product is, is just on survey monkey available to anybody it’s, it’s called survey about the audiences in particular. And you can kind of tinker around in there and depending on the number of questions that you want to ask and the amount of targeting that you do, the, the cost per response, you know, when, or, or the first version of it, the cost per response was something like a dollar 50 per response.

But then as we got more targeted and went up to something like it started to climb and, and got up to something like $6 per response, but then you’re really getting. People who demographically fit the personas that you are, you know, that you had already targeted. And so, you know, they just a lot of free resources out there that, that you can kind of hack these things, your yourself in a way that, you know, we haven’t really asked the, the CEO is too busy to, to take time to say, Hey, what’s, what’s the best survey question for us to ask, to try to find somebody who’s doing this.

He’s, he’s glad to know that we’re using their product and in a, and, and it’s yielding a lot of great results. 

Stu: Yeah. That’s, that’s amazing. So, so you rolled this out at your, at your gala and, and are, are you kind of soft launching it to on the site or have you, have you started changing that messaging or are you still in the testing phase of that soft 

Greg: launch?

Yeah. Okay. That we’re aiming to do a big overhaul that we had originally targeted for late July. Which when we, you know, started this transition back in a, after our event in November, felt like it was forever away. And now it’s feeling like it’s tomorrow. right. And so we’ve, we’ve been doing some kind of backend testing.

We’ve been experimenting with AB testing on, on some pages, you know, the, and, and you had mentioned this sort of testing we’ve, we’ve used that the different messages. We’ve tried to test them wherever we can, with our emails, with our organic social, with our on, on page, on our site where we don’t have huge traffic but you know, but enough to, to have, get some meaningful determinations of some things.

And so, yeah, so we’re moving towards what we hope we stay on track for a, a kind of overall new launch in, in late July. But we’ll see. It, it’s sort of the more we learn it, it’s one of those, like, it, it introduces three more, you answer one question and it introduces three more really questions.

And so we’ll see, but, but also we we’re big believers in the sort of agile approach and that it’s gonna be iterative even after we launch and, and and all. 

Stu: Yeah. And, you know, there are certainly other tools that you can, you can leverage to do you know, smart text replacement or even AB test messaging on a, on a particular page and get data back that that gives you an idea of whether or not people went and did, did took an action more frequently or less frequently, or, you know, left the page more, less frequently, et cetera.

So you can kind of AB test, not just around you know, individual form pages or, or donation pages, but you can actually AB test on, on pages themselves if if you have that capacity with your systems. Oh, that’s great. But, but yeah, it, it, it is so. You know, it’s, it’s so iterative and we, we really try to talk about marketing as relationship building, and it’s just a matter of, of, you know, understanding that you are, you know, a not gonna necessarily get it right.

The first time, every time that, that, you know, any, any relationship building is kind of an exercise in, you know, how many, how many at bats did you get? And, you know, you get more confidence and you, and the more, more swings you get, the, the more you’re able to try different things as you’re, as you’re swinging each time.

And and so, you know, really just, just, you know, understanding that you’re trying to you know, to create a, a relationship that then hopefully turns into a longer term relationship with, with each and every one of your of the people that you, that you’re introduced to. Yeah. Absolutely. It’s kind of the way that that we tend to think about, tend to think about marketing.

Greg: Yeah. Stu one thing that I was thinking of actually going a, a ways back in terms of the sort of idea of agreements and expectations, that’s been an internal. Question that we’ve gone around and around on that, I’d be that relates to all of this that I’d be really curious to pick your brain about mm-hmm if you’re, if you’re open to it is the idea of the, I, I thought of it when we were talking about what, what have donor’s expectations been of nonprofits when they donate?

And, you know, I, I think you touched on one, which is the idea of sort of gratitude that and, and goes in line with a gift that there’s an expectation that I’m gonna give, and this organization’s gonna be grateful. The, the other closest thing that I could think of, and, and it reminded me of this conversation, we’ve had a bunch of times is the idea of that language around 99% of the gift goes directly to the cause a hundred percent of the gift goes directly to the cause.

And it’s something I’m personally really conflicted about because I think of it as something that is very shortsighted and, and does it, or, or doesn’t match with this idea of truly investing in impact. And I can mm-hmm I can. Unpack that if it’s helpful, but also there’s been so much sort of expectation built around that over the years that I think it’s something that sort of, it it’s a, I, I think of it as an unfair expectation or, or really unhelpful expectation to both sides for donors to have, but given that they have it, do we want to, it’s not our business to sort of change the perception of that, of that idea.

And so do we want to, how, how do we, do we want to address, you know, use that language and feel like we’re sort of exacerbating that or, or not. Do you have any thoughts on the kind of the 99%? The a hundred percent idea? 

Stu: yeah, it’s an interesting concept because in theory, you know, EV every dollar spent within the organization itself or invested within the organization itself, you know, theoretically goes toward the.

The furthering of, of the mission of the organization. Right. So what’s interesting is when you start looking at, at the breakdown of, of those dollars, and I think that charities get into trouble when people start looking at, you know, at executive salaries and, and how do those against, you know, from a percentage standpoint, usually against the the amount you know, theoretically given directly to to, to advance the mission.

And you know, we could certainly call out a few different organizations that have gotten in into some trouble there. But it, but it’s always one of these questions that I think can be you know, you can always manipulate that messaging. Either, you know, for good or for bad. And so if people are looking into your organization, they might say, oh, well, Greg gets, you know, however much money a year is a salary.

How is that? You know, how is that a direct a direct benefit to the, to the mission? And it’s like, well, but, but it is because you’re going in every day and you’re leveraging your relationships and your expertise and your you know, E everything that you’ve, that you, you, you know, how to do to further that mission.

And so, you know, I think it’s naive to think that even, even if a, an organization makes the statement that, you know, a hundred percent goes toward the mission that you know, that that’s either correct or incorrect, because I, I think that it could be, that’s a good point, too. You know, it could be spun a variety of different ways, right?


Greg: To, to me, you know, I, I think like one, one thing that I’ve always said is the idea that if you give a hundred dollars. To someone who says, I’m just gonna go hand this a hundred dollars to the first person who looks at, like, they need it in that I run into in the. Then a hundred percent of your donation has gone directly to the cause.


Stu: Yeah. Or you could even cut out the, the middle man and just go give that directly to, to somebody. And that’s a 

Greg: hundred percent and, and the whole idea of a nonprofit should be in my opinion. And, and really if, if we were function, you know, if the nonprofit sector was, was had the opposite mindset and sort of our goal is to build solutions at scale and economies of scale.

And, you know, if you give me a hundred dollars, I’m gonna put it towards building an app in which, you know, every person who’s got a spare room knows if there’s a homeless person who’s near them who needs that space or, or, you know, and so for the first two years, it’s gonna look like 0% is going directly to the mission, but by year three, we’re gonna see this.

And by year five we will have hopefully, you know, made a a hundred X impact in, you know, that, that it, it just looks that, that the whole notion. Sort of, or, or, or put it even more simply, I’ve always said if, if, if 99% of the, of the money goes straight to the cause, how can an organization with a straight face say that they’re gonna be making five times as big of an impact five years from now?

You know, it’s, it’s, it takes an investment and break just like any other business that, that if a restaurant told you that 99%, if you were gonna invest in any company, and they said 99% of every dollar is gonna go directly into our piece of technology that we’re building. You’d say, well, I’m not gonna invest in that company.

That sounds like a terrible business model, you know, and, right, right. And so what, you know, what, what what’s different about nonprofit that, that that we shouldn’t be making investments in, in future growth, et cetera, but, you know, and so ultimately the, the, we ended up doing it and, and we set up two different funds and we ask our big corporate sponsors to donate to a fund that that fund is used to cover overhead and anything that, that isn’t directly to the mission that, you know, it, it needs to come out of that fund.

And so it sort of, as you were alluding to, there’s a bit of an, an accounting trick to it. Our, our big corporate funders are funding the, the overhead of the organization, right. Such that. Any individual donor who finds out about the, the, you know, our impact investment club, a hundred percent of it goes directly to the, to the mission.

And, you know, so we ended up deciding that, that we would use that language and that value proposition, although, you know, ultimately I’ve, I’ve always had some, some misgivings about it in terms of what, what message are we the public as nonprofits? 

Stu: yeah, it’s really interesting. And I like the solution that you’ve, that you’ve come up with.

I, I, I do, you know, my gut kind of tells me, or, or I, I think from a gut standpoint that those people with whom the IPO investor impact investor club language works with have a P potentially slightly nuanced relationship with how business might work and would have a, a better understanding that not every dollar that goes into.

An organization can or should be tracked directly to the outputs of that, of that organization. So the example that you used earlier with, with the app that, that someone might say, well, a hundred percent of, of everything goes to the app. How, how are you paying for, you know your, I don’t know, you know, your executive salaries or your you know, insurance for your, for your staff or, you know, whatever, the, whatever the things are that, that might fall outside of 

Greg: that perceived, you know, literally on, on our nine 90 S with the IRS, the money that we spent building that app counted as overhead and not programmatic.

So if you look on our, you know, financial reports, it looks as if that was money, the money that built the app that allowed us to, to four X, the, the number of lesson hours that we do shows up as if it’s, it was wasted, you know, to, in some people’s eyes that it was that it was not. Programmatic one, one other point you just made me think of another and not to keep plugging survey book their, their tools, but you made me think of an, I, I wanna add that as a question where we can, you know, literally ask one of our personas.

So if we’ve got, you know, women 25 to 40 who work in, in tech or digital media, we can target that group and ask them when you hear 99% of the, of the donation, a hundred percent of the donation goes to directly to the mission. Does that strike you as a, as a positive thing or a negative thing? Or, or do you have questions about it that, you know, we could literally find the answer to that or over the next couple of weeks and it, and I just made a note of that where I think we’re gonna try to, 

Stu: yeah.

I think it’s an interesting concept to continue to explore. And, and like I said, I, I think that the people who would resonate with the IPO impact investment type of language, probably You know, you, you probably don’t have to have to leverage that relationship from that 99% or a hundred percent sort of language also.

But it, you know, it’s certainly something that that’d be worth testing or, or, or thinking about a, a little bit more, you know, it feels to me like you might use that language with, with individual donors who, who are resonating with the gift language, like we talked about early on. And then. You know, not leverage that same messaging with those people who, who are, are more interested in that impact investment language and are willing to come in, come on on a monthly investment kind of standpoint.

Yeah. And, but that’s just my gut. Yeah. I’d want to test 

Greg: that for sure. And, and another good point that, that, that we circle back to sometimes that I just thought of from your comment is we also don’t wanna get carried away with any of this right. At, at the end of the day, all of the, all of the feel good stuff that you and I were talking about at the beginning of the conversation is what it’s all about that we’re trying to bring smiles to these kids.

And so if any of the language of this. Takes away from that. Then, then it’s not doing anybody, you know any service where at the end of the day, we want people to think differently about how they, or, or find the people who are, who are already thinking about what organizations they support and, and what their agreements or expectations are of, of the nonprofit side of it.

But, but ultimately, you know, it’s also people who are trying to bring smiles to, to kids who are fighting some of life’s toughest battles and, and it’s easy to, for me in, in our internal meetings to myopically, spin up and, and get all excited about the, the nuances of some of this, but making sure that that’s never lost.

And all of it, I think is really critical, 

Stu: too. Yeah. Ultimately, it’s what I, what I said a couple minutes ago about just relationship building. It’s like, well, what’s, what’s gonna be the most effective way to, to have conversations, build trust, get people to, to know like, and trust you, then be able to do something that engages them with you.

So they get to try and then, you know, for lack of a better word, buy, so engage in an, in an investment or a gift with your organization and then feel so good about that, that they wanna do it again, and they wanna tell everybody about it. So they wanna do, you know, a repeat and a refer and that’s that stakeholder life cycle that they’re trying to, trying to get people to to have a, a, a positive fruitful engagement with 

Greg: yeah, absolutely.

And one last point that, that made me think, you know, even the, the model of monthly donations and the monthly donor program, that’s one of the thing we, we like how baked into the model it is that we promised people that you sign up and we’re not gonna ask you for future gift. That that right. You know, if you make a one time gift, the organization’s mindset is okay, well, what can we do to ask this person again and maybe for more?

And, but, but when you sign up for a monthly donor program, our job, then be instead of our job being, how are we gonna come back to you and ask for another gift? Our job is how are we gonna come back to you and prove that the donation that you made is making a big enough impact that you should stay in the program.

And, and so mm-hmm, , it sort of flips the, the expectation. Again, the agreement expectation just by virtue of a monthly donor program in a way that, that we really appreciate. And, and we want that expectation of our donors and, and we want to have that two way agreement that you were 

Stu: referring to. Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

I, I do think being a, save the children donor, I do think that they actually do a pretty good job of escalating that gift by allowing people to, to sponsor or support additional kids. So they’ve tied you know, a monthly donation of, I’m not sure what, what the number is. Let’s just say it’s $25 a month that they’ve tied that to it, its positive impact or, or, or a positive effect on a single child.

And then going back to people and saying, you know, we really appreciate you being you know, an impact investor in your language here that helps one kid on a monthly basis. You know we we’d love for you to, to have you know, that same kind of effect on on a second, a second kid for, for $36 a month, or you might be able to do some sort of economy at scale component there.

But but it, you know, I would certainly not I would certainly recommend not leaving potential money on the table just because You know, just because you, you, you feel like that that monthly investment is, is as much as people will want to do. Yeah, for 

Greg: example. Yeah. That’s a really good point.

And, and actually we do have options on the page right now. And, and one thing that I don’t think I mentioned so we actually send a monthly email and we have we’ve set up the automation on the back end so that each donation of $18 a month is tied to. One specific student and one volunteer in the activity.

And so people get what we call an impact investment report and every month yeah, they get an email that’s this is the non-identifying, you know, the, the first name of the student and the volunteer and the activity that was done that is unique to that donor. And so we’ve actually got templates of that, you know, that are for $18 a month, donors that’s one and then $36, $54, $108 each.

Stu: Perfect. A different, good. Yeah. Good. I just wanna make sure there’s plenty of plenty of opportunities for nonprofits to leave money on the table. And, you know, one of the ways that that tends to happen is, is pre-selected or, or recommended donation levels without an open-ended donation level. Mm that’s interesting.

And, and so, you know, just being aware of, of the desire or you know, the end goal of, to not, not leave money on the table is I think is important. 

Greg: Yeah. Yeah. That’s 

Stu: a great point. Well, Craig, I have had a really fun time talking with you today. I can’t believe we’ve been chatting about about this for an hour.

It’s been amazing. Learning more about, about how you’ve, you know, how you’ve made language adjustments and, and how you’re really trying to help help kids out there who, who need you know, some of that socialization and and activity stuff that they are, are not able to get just based upon.

You know, their sickness or, or their recovery. So thank you so much for being on the show. How can people find out more about, about about 

Greg: coach art? Yeah, absolutely. Www.coach art.org. We’re absolutely thrilled, like I said, for, for you to have us, that, that we’ve quadrupled the number of lesson hours that we do since we launched this app.

But our goal, especially now that we’re nationwide, you know, we, we hope that we’re on track to, to 10 Xing the, the number of lesson hours that we were doing before the app. And so we hope that we’re just on a, on a trajectory where it’s so critical to get the word out. And, and so we’re so grateful for opportunities like this just to talk about what we’re doing and, and, you know, build relationships within the nonprofit sector and, and, and outside of it and have these conversations about how, how each of us at our, at our respective organizations are thinking about these really interesting questions and the evolution of them over time.

Stu: Yeah, absolutely. So I, I know that you’re a fan of the show. You’ve listened to a few episodes. At the end of each of these, I really love having these conversations and talking about things and working through challenges or, or opportunities for all the, all the great nonprofits that are out there, but I really wanna inspire action.

And so if, if people listening to the show could take one action. After listening to our conversation today, what would you have them do? Oh 

Greg: gosh. So we the timing is such that we’re launching what a, a, a opportunity to get involved with the organization. That’s not a donation. Opportunity. That’s gonna be part of that August launch or, or late July launch that I’m almost hesitant to mention, but it’s but of course, you know, we would be thrilled for anybody to join our impact investment club sponsor a student at at $18 a month.

We’re really mindful of the idea that within the nonprofit sector, we all wanna help each other’s organizations and we can’t all donate to each of our organizations. So I’ll just give a, a teaser that uhgo with this airs that we’re launching. So our new content hub is likely gonna be called and you’ll see if you visit right.

You know, whatever this you are listened to this our inspiration Coard inspire. So Kohar connect is the name of our app and we’re launching Kochar inspire which is gonna be our, our content. Where we’re telling stories on a weekly basis, trying to spread the word about the organization.

And then we’re launching an ambassador program of folks who are taking coach on inspire and spreading that inspiration all over the country. And so, as part of that, we’re asking people to sign up, to share the content. We send out a little digest of the content once a month into like share and, and participate with that on social to help spread the word about this new model that’s, that’s now available nationwide.

And then when they do they’re incentivized to do so where they can win gift certificates to our cohart. Swag shop where we’ve got merchandise that was designed has art that was designed by the kids. That’s in our swag shop where people who are participate in our ambassador program can win that.

So that was a long answer. It’s something that when someone visits the page, it might look a little bit different than what I just described. Cuz like I told you, this is all unfold thing right now. But if they go to cohart.org they, there would be that in other ways, interesting ways that we’re trying to dream up, that folks can get.

Stu: Well, it sounds to me like you guys are, are doing so many really interesting things that I would encourage anyone listening, even if you, you don’t necessarily have the capacity to you know, to donate, to just go check out what what Greg and his team are doing over at coach art, because you, you, you guys are doing some really amazing stuff.

And I, I really had a great time talking with you today and I, I appreciate you being on the show. Yeah. 

Greg: Thanks so much. And I appreciate it as well. One last thing, if I can plug it. So we, I’m starting to write about this stuff and try to build more of a nonprofit audience on LinkedIn. And so if anybody’s wants to look me up on LinkedIn, Greg har edge you know, I’m, I’m trying to have more of these conversations there as well, and would invite anybody listening to, to find me there as well.

Stu: Well, I will add that to the show notes as well. And thanks so much for being on the show, Greg. Yeah. Thanks 

Greg: for having me still and keep up the great work. Thanks 

Stu: you too. Bye-bye. And there you have it. Another great episode of relish this. Thanks again for listening, you can find past episodes of the show@relishthis.org.

And remember if you liked what you heard today, please subscribe and leave a review. Wherever you listen to podcasts. For more information on purpose marketing, grab your free copy of my book. Mission uncomfortable. How nonprofits can embrace purpose driven marketing to survive and thrive. Get your copy now@missionuncomfortablebook.com.

Thanks again for listening. Come back next week. Won’t you.