Episode 29: Leverage and Utilize Your Team’s Collective Knowledge For Better Connections and Growth with Danielle Graczyk of Canine Inspired Change

RTNP 29 | Collective Knowledge


I find myself falling into the “easy” trap all the time.

If I can do something easily, the thinking goes, it couldn’t possibly be worth anything, right?

But what seems simple to me may actually be incredibly valuable to someone else who hasn’t been steeped in marketing for the past 30 years. 

On today’s show, my guest is Danielle Graczyk, the Founder of Canine Inspired Change. Her organization uses the healing power of dogs to help vulnerable youth create better connections with their communities.

Our conversation covers a wide range of topics and focuses on leveraging the CIC team’s collective expertise training dogs to create opportunities for mission expansion, donor engagement, and growth for the organization. 

And we discover that what seems simple and intuitive for Danielle and her crew actually represents a font of valuable information they can share to create new revenue streams and build relationships for their nonprofit.

This show is packed with ideas for how to expand your organization’s reach. Check it out!





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Leverage and Utilize Your Team’s Collective Knowledge For Better Connections and Growth with Danielle Graczyk of Canine Inspired Change

I’m here with another super fun episode. Have you considered how you can leverage your team’s collective knowledge to drive donations and engagement for your organization? In this episode, my guest is Danielle Graczyk, the Founder of Canine Inspired Change. Her organization helps vulnerable youth create better connections with our communities through the healing power of dogs. Our conversation covered a wide range of topics, including leveraging the CIC team’s collective expertise in training dogs to create opportunities for mission expansion, donor engagement, and growth. This show is packed with ideas on how to expand your organization’s reach. Check it out.

Danielle, how are you?

I’m good. Thanks, Stu. How are you?

I’m very well. Thank you for joining me on the show.

I am so pleased to be here. I’m thrilled with what you are doing. I’ve read some of the episodes, and they are great.

Thank you. I appreciate that. I’m hoping that they are helpful for people. You are in Saint Paul. You run a cool program called Canine Inspired Change where you have dogs help kids from underprivileged children get up a pal kind of thing going on.

We do social and emotional learning with our students. These are our own personal dogs that have been trained to be therapy dogs specifically for the program we created. Think of like instead of going into gym class or whatever class you would go into as a child. You would go into Canine Inspired Change class. Usually, the kids we work with have been through some trauma or have a learning disability. They are underserved or have been socially isolated in some way. We are trying to bring about the feeling that people have for dogs and put that into a curriculum program.

Did you develop the curriculum and the training yourself? Did this come out of another program that you were involved in?

I was a professional dog trainer for many years. To back it up even further, I grew up in a family that had a lot of issues. I grew up with an unstable, violent, and trauma-ladened journey as a young child but I always loved my dog. As I grew up, I encountered all my own set of fun things that people of that background usually encounter, such as different addictions and relationship problems. During that whole growing-up stage, I decided I wanted to be a professional dog trainer. I had always been good with dogs. I have always related to dogs.

They were always my solace. I was lucky enough to become one. I was a dog trainer for many years. During that time, I got sober, and the sobriety/recovering from harsh childhood/loving dogs all balled into one little thing and became Canine Inspired Change. There are a lot of good people around me helping me do this. The original idea was mine but I couldn’t have done it without my strong crew.

I appreciate that story. It’s crazy what we all go through and how amazing dogs can be to help us get through those tough times.

Now we have science-backed data that shows cortisol levels decrease while petting a dog. People recover from a major surgery quicker that having a dog in the house. We know biologically, with science-based facts, what happens when you are working with dogs and therapy dogs. What we did with our program is to take it one step further because it’s hard to get a service dog, which is different than a therapy dog.

A service dog is well-trained, with zero issues, including any health issues, allergies or anything trained from preferably one day old. They are placed with people that have disabilities and more vets returning from service and suffering from PTSD. They do good work. However, there are not a lot of them, and they are expensive. There’s also this other category of therapy dogs that have been around for a long time where people bring their dogs to visit hospitals, hospice care, and nursing homes.


RTNP 29 | Collective Knowledge
Collective Knowledge: The kids actively train with the dogs which is really empowering to a student that’s been disempowered.


Where we’ve fit is in the middle. These are our own dogs that have been very well-trained over a period of time so that they can get the designation of a Canine Inspired Change therapy dog. They don’t stay with our students. However, they are not expected to lay there. They are interactive with the students because we do an agility course and some trick training. The kids actively train with the dogs, which is empowering to a student that has been disempowered, which is basically all of our students. We do collect outcomes, data, and things too. We are trying to compile that.

What age range of kids are you working with for the most part?

We work with students from preschool all the way up in their twenties. Usually, our students in their twenties are developmentally delayed and present at a younger age. We do work with some teenagers that are in the juvenile detention programs in Minnesota, too. That has been cool as well. We have a base program that can be tailored to the outcomes and the populations that we are trying to help.

For the people that you are working with and maybe not the people individually but the organizations that introduce you to those people, is it a fee-for-service type of situation or are you solely relying on donations?

There is a fee for service. However, we offer financial support whenever we can if people don’t have that. For the vast majority, our school partners or community partners are invoiced. They do pay. Most of the time, they can’t pay the full fee or want us for spring, fall, and winter semesters but they can only afford one. There’s a scholarship too. It depends on what we’ve done that year in fundraising and grants.

I tried to get a feel for your revenue structure and listen for challenges or opportunities that you might be having that I could maybe help solve for you. With your services, the people who choose the program to be part of the curriculum, that usually like school boards or some organization?

Yes. Ramsey County is a county that we live in. We have contracts with them. That is for the Juvenile Justice Program. We have different contracts with Saint Paul and Minneapolis public schools and some private organizations like Transitions Plus, which serves students right out of high school who have Down syndrome and are on the autism spectrum. We do have a large revenue stream that comes in through that, and because of 2020 and shutdowns, that went away this year. We are trying to stay afloat until we can get back into the schools.

We have one summer camp booked and are looking at trying to do a couple of other summer camps. Those are outdoors, and we are optimistic about those. There are two things that we did. We started a podcast called Canine Inspired Podcast. I was like, “What should I do?” We need to keep getting content out and stay relevant. We are in good shape to start a podcast because we had somebody on our staff that knows about them, the equipment, etc.

We started one, and that has been going relatively well. We’ve got some great community connections and donations through that. The other thing we did, which I want to pick your brain about, was to apply for a grant through the Federal system. We awarded it for making some videos. The videos basically have three outcomes. One is overcoming and giving tools to deal with anxiety, fostering connection, and building empathy through diversity.

We did the videos. It was quite the undertaking. The first one is completely done. There are only two left pretty close to them, and let’s say they are all done. We are building a curriculum around them. The million-dollar question is, “How do we get these videos out to everybody that needs them and still generate some income so we can stay running?”

Do you have a plan for distribution now? That’s the big question. How do you even start there?

Within the grant structure itself, we had to name the organizations. These are the people that we are going to get this to immediately at no cost and no charge. They have to be done before January 1st, 2022. The videos are done and sent out to the people, and there are a lot of them who are our school partners that we’ve worked with. We wanted to get to them anyways. After the New Year, we are allowed to create revenue off of them. There’s no barrier to geography.

We are doing tons of Zoom sessions with schools in the area. There would be an option for us to Zoom in with some dogs. There’s an option to even train via Zoom some dogs in the area. We talked to some local dog clubs in the area and got a dog fit to show up and work with the kids after they watched the video and did the curriculum. I have a lot of ideas around that but I’m a big-picture person. I like to meet people and others on my team and say, “Settle down, let’s figure this out.”


We have science backed data that shows cortisol levels decrease while petting a dog people.


Let’s talk about those a little bit more. How long is each video approximately?

We’ve done only ten minutes long. However, we built into them pauses or parent pauses to like, “Pause the video now, and then you will do this.”

One of the first things we look at is if you’ve created an asset like this, where are there potential opportunities to take it, and first of all, syndicate it so that it goes out into different channels? Second of all, how can you clip it? How can you take a large asset and make it into multiple smaller assets that then can be shared to either drive interest or to be sold as a series, or something of that nature? Certainly, at ten minutes, you are not pushing that this is long enough to maybe dig into that. What you might be able to do is sell the entire package as a series or provide that as an informational opportunity.

The other thing that we have seen, particularly with 2020, how the pandemic all rolled out and everybody went to complete virtual is if there is a single opportunity that has come out of this, the ability for very location-based nonprofits and other organizations to scale to be able to cover a wide territory. Before, you were very in-person and had to have relationships with schools to show up and teach your curriculum. You could do that before but people have embraced this idea of remote learning. Those would be 2 or 3 things there that I would start to explore. Are you recording your Zoom sessions as well? Are they repurposable in any capacity?

That’s tough because we work with minors, and most of them are vulnerable minors, so no. However, I’m doing a lot of Zoom dog training. We get to Zoom to prep for the therapy dog class. People are like, “My dog is not quite ready for a therapy dog class,” and that went over gangbusters, and there’s another one coming. We will do another therapy dog class on Zoom. I have been doing some one-on-one training too on Zoom, and they are going over gangbusters.

We are getting such great results because I have people who send these little videos and send them back to me if they are having issues. However, for all of our Zoom students, as soon as things open up, they will have to come in and do a live evaluation. I’m thinking, “What if somebody in your area hears this?” We are like, “I have a dog, that would be great. I will gladly jump on a car or plane if you want to use our curriculum and do a bunch of Zoom sessions and then go there once the dog is practicing and ready to go and certify that dog for that particular school or organization.

That is a great segue because one of the first things I wrote down was a question about the certification. If that is something that is very specific to your area or something that you could brand, and this becomes a program that you then are able to teach. You could do this virtually and fly out to do the final check. Potentially, you could scale this a variety of different ways but have you developed or thought about developing that CIC certification piece?

We have it. We have a CIC certification. The reason why is there are two main therapy dog organizations, and they are wonderful but very geared to hospital visits and calm visits. With our dogs, we want them to go through a tunnel and over a jump. They are small doable ones. We want them to interact with students.

We focus on how you guide your dog in an interaction with a student. “Does your dog like it? Do they like to work with other people? Here are some things that happen and how you can react.” It’s very specific. A couple of years ago, I thought we had to develop our own evaluation and therapy dog badges because we are not quite doing what traditional therapy dogs are. We do have it.

I looked on your site, and there was a $150 class fee. Is that part of that certification? Is that the entirety of the investment that someone would need to make to get CIC certified, aside from time and having a dog that’s not mine who’s well behaved?

I’m going to answer that but I want to tell you that oftentimes when the dogs “misbehave,” what misbehave is if the dog generally likes people and kids, a friendly, pretty happy-go-lucky dog, however, sometimes they will bark. Occasionally, maybe they jump up or they are not wanting to sit still. These behaviors that most dogs, at some point or another, are super great teaching tools within our program.

My dog is Sharpie, and I will be like, “Sharpie is having a hard time settling down now. Can you guys tell him?” They will be like, “He keeps getting up.” I will be like, “Yeah. What do you think we could do to help him? Have you ever felt like that? I sure felt like that before.” We covered four deep dog breaths where we did a debriefing with the students and gave them tools to understand in real-time how to help a dog. We translate it to the sound. We can have dogs that are aggressive or extremely fearful of noises.

I have one very strong-willed Chihuahua and one wonderful Xoloitzcuintli. She’s very calm and more well-mannered than my kids.


RTNP 29 | Collective Knowledge
Collective Knowledge: Now, there’s not a barrier of geography, so we’re also doing tons of zoom sessions with schools in the area.


What did you say the other one’s name is?

Her name is Havalina. She’s a Mexican hairless.

You are one of us.

Tell me about that. It sounds to me like that certification piece would be something that you have some of the assets available. You can share some of the training or leverage some of that training to get people to sign on for remote training. That, to me, sounds like a real opportunity.

Let’s say somebody in your area in Colorado wants to do our training. We would need to have something for them to do in that area so then the videos can come in. Oftentimes, the entry point is a person that’s interested in doing the work with their dogs. Those of us who love dogs like we love our dogs, see our dogs helping, and people that have had a hard time, open your heart ten times more.

It’s feel-good work and an opportunity for connection and volunteerism on multiple points. Oftentimes, the person is like, “I want to do this with my dog.” They have a grandchild, a cousin or somebody at a certain school and make an introduction. We can send them videos and do a lot of Zooms or send over our curriculum. That usually starts the conversation.

Going back to the video piece, looking at the bulk of the video that you have available, this is everything from the three specific videos about anxiety, connection, and empathy that you’ve created as well as looking at some of the materials that you have through the virtual dog training stuff, the Zoom training. Trying to look at that as a bulk of assets and figure out ways to leverage those materials to develop a series or an online curriculum that people can then get bought into. That asset analysis would be the first step that I would recommend looking at it. Look at it from the eyes of how can I take this and maybe chop it up into something interesting?

It’s a 30-second to 1-minute-long clip that gets somebody’s attention. Essentially, trying to use it as feeder material for something bigger. That asset analysis piece would be first. You have what I would consider being a not uncommon carthorse challenge. By that, there are two different audience groups. 1) People who have dogs and want to participate in this type of program from that perspective, and, 2) Organizations, schools, juvenile detention facilities, and places like that that have a need for this type of service to be brought into their systems. What’s a challenge is a lot of times, both of those two have to be nurtured at the same time to get the other one going.

If you don’t have the need over here, then you don’t have the need to fulfill it over here. However, you can probably start working on the dog end of that. People who have a desire for their dogs to be part of a program like this. They want to participate in this type of thing. You can probably get in front of those people fairly effectively through social media.

Looking for ways to promote Instagram posts or Facebook would probably be another great place to start exploring there. Essentially, you are getting engaged with, building, and nurturing relationships with these people across the nation or the world, in theory, who are dog lovers, understand the benefits that dogs bring to the table, and are interested in having their dog be part of this program.

That one is a little bit easier to get in front of in some ways. Once you start to get some momentum there, particularly in specific areas, what you can do is reach out to organizations that you know are a good fit for your program in those areas and say, “We have a group of people going through our training. Is this something that you would be interested in? If so, can we start that conversation?”

From there, being able to get materials to show them what the program looks like and how it works. Those three videos that you got the grants to produce, I haven’t seen them but those are probably pretty good resources there to try and entice those groups into that piece of the program. At that point, you have each of these sides pulling at this desired intersection. You are off to the races.

Going back, we talked about getting a clip together. Maybe your clip could be a video. One of us is talking about the training classes and the explanation of what we do because it is a bit unique and it takes a little bit of an explanation.


We really focus on how do you guide your dog in an interaction with a student.


What I would do is look at your existing assets. Come at it from what are my existing assets? We have these three videos about anxiety, connection, and empathy. We have potentially some videos around training that you could share. At the very start of the pandemic in 2021, we did a virtual training with Mikey here with a local trainer. It was the first time he’d done it. It was a little bit of an experiment for him but it does work. We did make a lot of progress. What I would try to do is get those assets together and think about how they could potentially be used to entice people to take a different or a new type of action.

Think about the training videos in the context of, “How I can leverage this clip or this moment within a training video to demonstrate what a wonderful thing it is to have your dog be part of this CIC program.” That essentially becomes this hook that people are like, “I’m definitely interested in online training. I am interested in joining the CIC program as well.” It becomes this opportunity for you to leverage all those little things to create, even if it’s a three-step series on how to get a dog who doesn’t like to come to be better about that. Put together a little series and say, “This is part of the CIC program. At the end of that series, you can pitch the CIC program. Does that resonate?

Yeah, totally. We did a podcast with dog training questions and answers, and that can be easily turned into an Instagram video maybe or Facebook video with, “This is how you can join one of our classes,” or something.

Thinking about at the end of all of these little clips, what that next step might be? Is it more training for people who want to have better-behaved dogs? Is it more training for people who want to potentially have a CIC service dog? Is it more information about how CIC works within the programs? How are you helping kids live better, less anxious, and more fulfilled lives? How can you escalate the engagement through these programs?

I appreciate it. This makes common sense.

The fact that you have a podcast too there might be audio that you’ve already recorded. Thinking back about your podcast, if there are sections of your podcasts that are very specific, you could then go shoot a video to support it. You’ve already done your VO. You go into the backyard, the gym or wherever you guys are training these days. Wherever you go to do the training, think about this VO, Voice Over, that you already have in the can, and how can you reuse that material to either become this opportunity to attract people or to convert people?

Is it something that you can exchange for someone’s email address? Is it a big enough value that you can say, “We have this great video on X, Y or Z. Come to our site and check it out?” When they get to the site, you have a landing page that says, “This is what the video is about. This is why you are here. Give us your email address and maybe answer a couple of other questions that would be valuable for you guys to know. We will send you the link to the video.”

Potentially you can then escalate even further with, “Here’s a series of five videos that are part of the CIC curricula. We will share those with you for a donation of $15.” At that point, you are leveraging a couple of interesting psychological components of human nature. One is this desire to help. You have the donation piece coupled with this desire to learn more.

If you package that at a price that seems reasonable and affordable if I could pay $15 for some step-by-step things that I could come back to, they would achieve the result that I’m seeking to achieve. That’s a sound investment. Particularly if that’s couched in this donation thing, people will be even more apt to jump on that bandwagon.

This is wonderful. I appreciate the guidance. What you are doing is cool.

It’s my pleasure. It’s fun to have these little case studies to be able to think about, help people, and figure out how to navigate all of this. The other thing to consider is we all have a tendency to believe that what we know may not necessarily be valuable because, to us, it might be easy. For you, training a dog is something that’s pretty straightforward, probably but, for me, as a person who doesn’t do that all day every day, that’s where this idea of attraction comes into play. In the attract phase, what we like to do is consider who your audiences are and what problems or challenges they are facing that they are looking for solutions for.

If you can then provide them some guidance, that is a value exchange or even if it’s, “Give me a moment of your time, and I will give you something of value,” that’s the spark of a relationship. The spark of a relationship is essentially a value exchange. Those interactions over time create a stronger and stronger bond. If someone has hit your website and said, “Donate now,” and you don’t give them any information about what problems you solve or how you help people or animals out? Any of that stuff, and you say, “Give me some money,” you haven’t created exchange and any opportunity to build a relationship.

By putting some information out there, and perhaps, even giving them a quick video on techniques to get your dog to sit, that’s your audience, whether or not they are exactly your audience may not matter completely at this phase. They can either be transitioned into your audience or might know somebody who is like, “This program would be perfect for my school. This would be great for this organization that I’m involved with or my buddy, Jim, was talking to me about what a great dog he has and how he’d like to be able to get his dog into a program.” All of a sudden, you’ve established that you are a trusted resource, willing to share and give, and people like to be reciprocal in those scenarios.


RTNP 29 | Collective Knowledge
Collective Knowledge: We’ve figured out a way to put a curriculum together that is really effective.


This is great. It’s a beautiful mind over here. I can’t wait to have my whole team read it.

Those are the first steps that I would take in terms of trying to expand that reach and scale. You do have a real opportunity, and we were all thrown into the deep end of this virtual world back in March 2021. The net result is that people have gotten used to that and are pretty good at it. We still have problems with being on mute and talking. For the most part, people have wrapped their arms around there’s a lot more that we can do in a virtual world than perhaps we thought or remotely. People are vastly more willing to embrace that idea now than they were, perhaps this time in 2021.

I will also see if we can get the information on how to do this. We’ve tested it and have written it down. We’ve figured out a way to put a curriculum together that is effective. We will get that to whoever is interested. However, we don’t always need a live dog but to have a live dog, there is it up jumps the boogie. The average home with a dog in it is our audience. From there, if our program resonates with them, oftentimes, they can lead us to an organization that might benefit from what we do.

I know that your mission isn’t necessarily to train dogs and create a world with better dogs. However, a world with better dogs can feed into this program in a variety of different ways. That’s where your expertise and your team’s expertise as actual dog trainers and starting to leverage a little bit of that information out into the public sphere becomes potentially a strong feeder for the program and both sides of that program I mentioned earlier.

That’s something that I would consider and allow those training to become pre-commercials for the program itself. Here’s the other thing that people potentially discounted in 2021, most of us are not commuting now. The average commute is usually 30 minutes. That means that most people have an extra hour every day to do something. For you, if that’s true, taking that hour and putting material out there that people can get and even giving them a choice to donate or not.

If that’s all you guys did, record training videos and put those out there on YouTube and your site, and at the end of those, say, “If this were helpful to you, we would love for you to do a couple of things. One, we would love to see if you can donate to our cause so that we can help more people. We would love for you to share this with friends. We would love for you to share your experience with us so that now you are building up a repository of testimonials that then become social proof that you can use to get more people into the system.” Leveraging that knowledge again, taking that, spreading it, and allowing that to be that feeder for the program is another interesting idea to explore.

It is because we are all about building healthy relationships and communities. Dogs are such great equalizers. There are a lot of people from different walks of society that would not have interacted were it not for our program, for sure. Somebody with a dog and you don’t particularly agree with maybe their political views or whatever, at least they have a dog. We need glad tidings towards us dog lovers in the world, which there are tons of us. That is the basis. We exist to be a force for good in the world. We happened to do it through dogs.

The larger mission is, “We are all here together. Let’s help each other out and create a little more kindness and equanimity. Here are some tools too.” You do sometimes feel out of sorts, anxious, and fearful. That’s part of being human beings. We are not trying to sugarcoat any of that but we do have some great tools that have developed. The dog’s anchored the space for everybody.

The other thing that I would encourage you to look into is to think about all of the stakeholders that you have in your program. Everybody from the volunteers to the donors to the beneficiaries, for example, you’ve mentioned schools and juvenile detention centers and places like that. If you start to consider who those people are and narrow down which of those you get the most traction out of, for example, perhaps volunteers, donors or who you’ve served most effectively in terms of the beneficiaries. That will allow you to start to look for those similar types of people in different areas.

Now, you have been focused on Minneapolis-Saint Paul but these same types of people exist in Denver, San Francisco, and all over. We call this the 80/20 exercise usually but it doesn’t have to be that focus necessarily, but essentially if you can take and create a list and think about the commonalities among that list, what makes these people tick? Where do they go for information? Where might you be able to contact them most effectively? That becomes the way to make sure that your efforts aren’t too scattershot in terms of your focus. What are some of the other challenges you are experiencing regarding how donations have been?

In Minnesota, we have something called Give to the Max Day, and all the organizations and nonprofits in Minnesota participate. It’s a big, huge day of giving. 2022 was our largest donation to date.

Is that part of Giving Tuesday?

It’s not part of Giving Tuesday. In Minnesota, it’s the second Thursday of November. We’ve done some live parties like group hubs and things before. We set a goal every year. Every year, we get pretty close to it. In 2022, we set a goal of $15,000 because we lost roughly $30,000 in programming. Our largest Give to the Max Day prior to that had been around $10,000. I didn’t want to set a goal of $30,000 for my team and give them too much to work on. I said, “This is where the $15,000 comes from. It’s half of what we lost.” I gave the pep talk to the team like, “If we don’t make it, that’s fine. If we don’t strive for it, we certainly won’t make it either.” We went into Give to the Max Day, nothing live also all from media. The podcast helped a lot but we made our goal, which is so phenomenal for us.


We exist to be a force for good in the world. We just happened to do it through dogs.


We have Colorado Gives Day, which is if you have a similar idea. It is the Tuesday after Giving Tuesday, maybe. I can’t remember but the same time of year. One of the things that we’ve encouraged our partners to consider is that there are a couple of ways to extend and advance your opportunity to get donations. One is to allow or even encourage people to donate less but more frequently. Try and get somebody on a recurring donation of a small amount can end up being vastly more money than you would have collected if you had asked them for a one-time donation, so leveraging that power. I’m on a couple of boards of local nonprofits, one is called Go Farm Colorado.

One of the things that they noticed in 2022 was they were having a little bit of a challenge with their larger donations. The speed and the frequency at which large donations were coming in had slowed down a little bit but they saw an uptick in small donors. I believe this is still the case but at one point, the number of donors had gone way up. The average donation had come way down but there’s a real opportunity there because you are doing a few things. One, you are building that list and getting a huge number of people to raise their hand and say, “I like this thing. I’m willing to support it with my monetary donation.” That list becomes something that you can go back to over time.

The smaller donations become a springboard for either smaller or larger donations. Considering the life cycle of that donor and this was where what we call the inspire phase comes into play. Making people aware that what they have contributed, regardless of the size, matters and makes a difference, and letting them know how much you appreciate what they’ve done. Even doing that without asking for more necessarily can be an effective way to make sure, again, it’s all about that relationship.

A lot of times, people, once they’ve sealed the deal, don’t have a plan for that ongoing interaction and engagement. Essentially, they’ve put all this so-called cost into that initial relationship-building to get me to say, “I like this program and want to participate.” They haven’t put into play anything to inspire those people to do more. A lot of times, the to-do more is not necessarily even asking for more donations or support other than sharing their stories and spreading the word. There are some costs, and in the for-profit world, it’s a lot of times referred to as customer acquisition costs.

It’s the same approach or the same idea in the nonprofit world. It’s maybe called the donor acquisition costs but there’s a lot of time, effort, mailers or other things that you’ve invested in to get people into your system. Once they are there, that tends to be the easiest well to get water from again. Making sure that you continue to nurture that and keep those relationships healthy can be super effective.

What would you say are some of the top things to do that? I’m aware of this. We are a small nonprofit, so I literally love every single person that’s ever donated or has been a part of it. That’s not to say we wouldn’t be larger but we still know everybody. We’ve done a couple of different things. The one we did was let’s do coffee on January 2nd. We are going to have a Zoom link.

We sent it out to all of our registered therapy teams, our volunteers, and donors. We would love to see you. We are going to check in and say hello and see each other’s faces. It was not well attended. I’m like, “That didn’t go over so well.” I’m trying to think, “What else I could do to let those people know that I appreciate them.”

Do you have a feel for how many different donors you had engaged in your program, let’s say in 2020?

It was about 80. In our Mailchimp, we have close to 500 subscribers. People dip in and out with different dogs that have passed on or they’ve got a new dog that’s not always active volunteers but there are people that have still stayed on to receive our newsletter.

One of the things I would encourage you to do is be extremely authentic and personal with the donor base that you have. If it’s 80 people, it’s probably worth taking the time to write a note to all 80 of those people, thanking them for their support and telling them what they have provided for you has gone toward helping people out, coaching dogs or whatever that story is that you think would resonate most effectively. Instead of leveraging Mailchimp, nothing wrong with Mailchimp at all. Automation is great and bulky mail is certainly something that I would encourage you to continue to do. However, the more personal you can get, the better off you are going to be.

Thinking about relationships, and if you had somebody you liked and they sent you another email, you could tell that it went to everybody else. It might not be such a great way to nurture that relationship. I would leverage the power of the dogs to help seal that deal. Dogs are so happy, friendly, and excited. I saw a clip of a golden retriever freaking out because he or she saw their master or their buddy come up and did this funny gallopy run toward the camera. Even if you captured that and let that dog tell that story of how excited we are to have you as part of the program, that would resonate well with pretty much everyone in your constituency. Being authentic and personal is the first thing I would explore there.

One of my friends called me and said, “I feel like I’m doing the world or at least everywhere that I’m driving around in Saint Paul. I’m being extremely therapeutic too.” Her dog is sitting in the front seat of her car, a golden retriever. She’s like, “Every time I stopped at a stop sign light, people are looking over and smiling and waving.”

Leveraging that stuff and seeing what you have available or what you could create quickly. You could send that clip out to everybody on your list, which would be great, and say, “We were excited to see you in 2021 or however you frame that interaction. Having something that is personal and even might be worth looking at some of your either most frequent donors or your largest donors and using video again. It sounds like you are getting pretty good at that, create a video clip and send it to them that personally thanks them.

Would you send that via email?


RTNP 29 | Collective Knowledge
Collective Knowledge: We really are all about building healthy relationships and healthy communities and dogs are just such great equalizers.


Yeah, you might send that via email. Handwritten notes are great and don’t come very often these days. Most people leverage electronic correspondence, and there’s nothing wrong with electronic correspondence. However, with the written word and getting something in the mail, it takes a little bit more time. It is a little bit more personal. It feels a little more personal. It stands out these days.

I did that for Give to the Max Day. We went over our donor list, and each one of us on the team took the people that we personally knew and we hand wrote. I’m thinking maybe we will do this for Valentine’s Day too.

There are opportunities year-round. I encourage our nonprofit partners to make sure that they don’t wait until the end of the year, which is the typical giving time. There’s a saying that this crosses the right message to the right person at the right time. At any given time, some percentage, and let’s make up a number, 90% of the people that you are sending a message to aren’t ready for that message. That means that if you send out 100 emails, 10 people say, “I’m ready for this. Let’s do this thing.”

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t talk to that group of 90 again. If you send out the same message or a slightly altered message at a different time, they might be ready. It’s all thinking about who your audience is, and it’s not necessarily fixed. We want to help you grow that but certainly, it’s a number that you have now at your disposal. Let’s pretend that number is fixed.

You have two variables. One is timing, and the other is a message. Starting to play with those two things, staying out in front, and having a podcast is a great first step to creating material. I’m assuming you are doing that on a fairly regular schedule. That cadence is super powerful. I would email your list with the podcasts every Tuesday and say, “The new podcast is out. Here’s a link to it.” I appreciate you being on the show. What are your takeaways from our discussion?

The first thing I have written down is I need to review my assets and look at the app. How can I get that out and get people to take a different action within these assets? I have written down the desire to help and learn more or to traits of human psychology. How could we help people with learning more but let them know, “Here, I’m going to help you teach your dog to sit, and here’s how you could help us.” The relationship piece, the value of schools in a relationship, is eye-opening too. I’ve never thought about it that way, so that was helpful to look at it that way. I got a ton of good stuff done here, Stu, and be extremely personal, which for me, be careful when you ask me to be personal. I’m usually an open book. That’s well taken.

For people who want to learn more about your program, how can they find you?

You could listen to the podcast, which is on all the podcasting platforms. It’s Canine Inspired Podcast. You can find us also at our website, which is CanineInspiredChange.org. We are on Facebook, @CanineInspireChange, and Instagram @CIC_TherapyDogs.

I love to end all of these shows with an action item. I love conversations and talking but I also want to inspire people to take action. If you had the ability to ask everyone who reads this episode to do something after reading this, what would you ask them to do?

Join our newsletter, become part of our path, and reach out to me. Let’s expand and cover the world in dog-based, good vibes and connections.

I’m going to go pet my dogs and maybe take them outside. I appreciate you being on the show. Thanks for joining me.

You are welcome. I appreciate you, Stu. Thanks so much for doing this.

It’s my pleasure.

There you have it, another great episode. Thanks for reading. If you would like to learn more about how to apply the audience engagement cycle to expand your organization’s mission, there are two things you can do. You can go to MissionUncomfortableBook.com to download a copy of my book. While you are there, you can get your purpose-driven marketing score to see where you can unearth some gold for your organization. If you would like to read the back episodes of the show or sign up to be a guest, go to RelishStudio.com/podcast. That’s it for this episode. I will be back next episode for another great episode of Relish This.


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