Ep. #1163 - Nonprofit Fundraising
In today’s episode of Startup Hustle, Matt DeCoursey and Kenny Liner, CEO of Holler and Hum Music, talk about nonprofit fundraising. Matt and Kenny discuss the difference between raising money for nonprofit and for-profit organizations. Additionally, the pair share best practices in making pitch decks, overcoming economic downturns, and more key advice to entrepreneurs in the nonprofit sector.
Covered In This Episode
Nonprofit fundraising presents unique challenges that founders must overcome. Holler and Hum Music illustrates the difference between raising money for a business and a nonprofit.
Listen to Matt and Kenny discuss tips for raising funds for nonprofits. They talk about the importance of passion and authenticity. They offer tips on overcoming donor fatigue, preparing a pitch, and leading with the need. Kenny advises nonprofits not to make assumptions about their buyer, donor, client, or prospect. They wrap up the conversation with the notion that many startups have social missions.
Curious about nonprofit fundraising? Join the conversation in this Startup Hustle episode now.
- Kenny’s backstory (1:34)
- The difference between raising money at a nonprofit (3:23)
- The importance of passion (7:17)
- How to prepare for your pitch (12:29)
- Lead with the need (17:16)
- Details in emails (18:13)
- Words and vocabulary matter (20:35)
- The problem with scripts (22:33)
- Overcoming donor fatigue (32:11)
- How to make yourself stand out in the nonprofit space (34:56)
- Overcoming economic downturn (38:28)
- Don’t make assumptions about your buyer, your donor, your client, or your prospect (40:46)
- People want authenticity (43:53)
- Time, Talent, or Treasure (46:14)
- Many startups have social missions (49:53)
Passion for helping people is a great motivator, for sure. And you get a lot of very motivated, especially young people coming out of college. They have their, you know, idyllic situation. They think, Oh, I’m gonna make this huge impact, and they want to go out, and then it’s a little harder in the real world once you get up against some real-world problems. But yeah, most, you need that passion, you need that fire. And I think it does translate to any startup.– Kenny Liner
So I tell startup and entrepreneur hopefuls, if you’re not passionate about what you’re doing or the business that you’re starting, don’t start it because it’s still going to be there after your initial rush of starting a business. The two most exhilarating things in business are starting and exiting the business. The middle part of it is, is rowing.– Matt DeCoursey
When you’re talking about nonprofits, you’re raising money for a cause. There is no competition there. It’s actually what I like to call a community. So what I tried to do is if there’s someone else that’s doing something similar, that’s taking a certain amount of what I believe could be… market share, I like to actually try to create a partnership. It works a lot better in the nonprofit world and in for-profit because, basically, where you have the same mission if you’re trying to do similar things.– Kenny Liner
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Following is an auto-generated text transcript of this episode. Apologies for any errors!
Matt DeCoursey 00:00
And we’re back. Back for another episode Startup Hustle. Matt DeCoursey here to have another conversation I’m hoping helps your business grow. I have so many conversations about fundraising. How do I raise capital? How do I make a pitch deck? How do I get an offer? How do I do this? How do I do that? You know what I almost never talked about non-profit fundraising. Let’s change that today. And before I tell you who I’m gonna have today’s conversation with today’s episode, Startup Hustle is powered by FullScale.io. Hiring software developers is difficult and Full Scale can help you build a software team quickly and affordably and has the platform to help you manage that team. Go to FullScale.io to learn more. There’s a link in the show notes for that. If you’re not aware, that’s my business. And we’d love talking to Startup Hustle listeners. With me today I have Kenny Liner, Kenny is the CEO of Holler and Hum Music. Now, that’s a music management and label service out of Bend, Oregon. What does that have to do with non-profit fundraising? Kenny’s gonna tell you all about it. He’s a specialist in this field. So, let’s just go ahead and say Kenny, welcome to Startup Hustle.
Kenny Liner 01:08
Thanks, Matt. It’s good to be here.
Matt DeCoursey 01:10
Yeah, let’s let’s just let’s get this started with a little bit about your backstory. Because, you know, I know, I’ve met you through friends and and my music world. And I know you’re very talented in that regard. Whether you want to admit it or not. But with that you have, you have developed a specialty for non-profit fundraising. And yeah, I’m curious about how that came to be.
Kenny Liner 01:34
Sure. It, it happened pretty organically. Like you said, I was in the music business for a long time. I had the dream, just like a lot of people, of a starting a band. And I did and hit the road. And I did the tours. And I traveled the world. And I met so many amazing people. And that was great, sort of in my 20s. But as my 30s came along, it didn’t go as far as I wanted it to and just sort of did a reassessment of life. And I was living in Baltimore, Maryland, there was a huge need there, I started to realize things around me there were a lot of people that had and a lot of people that that didn’t have. And it just didn’t feel right at that point. Continuing to serve my own dreams, I had been doing that for so long, I thought, why not do something to help the people around me. So, I just had this idea of building a recording studio and one of the housing communities actually the largest housing community in Baltimore City, and started, just went down there and talk to them, and they tell us that’sa great idea and raise the money myself. Had eight kids, that, you know, all different age groups, and it just took off became really popular and organically just started to grow till, you know, we’re seeing in multiple sites, over a thousand kids a day, all across Baltimore. And then people started, you know, just learning organically, how to grow a nonprofit. It was it was a wild ride. Until eventually, like, like, you said, I became a consultant and started helping other people do it. Because I guess I cracked some sort of codes to, to do it. Do it ethically and, and do a good job of it.
Matt DeCoursey 03:23
What’s what, you know, obviously, raising money for a profit compared to a nonprofit business is going to probably have a different approach. I’m not going to pretend to have any expertise about raising money for nonprofits. What’s the big difference other than profit?
Kenny Liner 03:39
I think you’d be surprised how little difference there is. I mean, at the end, people want equity, you know, whether that’s social equity or, or financial equity. I mean, you create a good narrative, you have good data. And, you know, people have and want to spend their money for lots of different reasons. And those reasons are different for each individual donor. And that’s why or, you know, that’s that’s just why you do a donor profile when you’re have a startup or a nonprofit, but, you know, people are looking for for good ways to spend their money, whether it be to help people, to believe in a cause they believe in like art or music, or to make money, which is obviously a great way to spend your money.
Matt DeCoursey 03:47
Well, and for those of you that want to know what social equity is, that refers to the concept of fairness, justice, and equality in society. And emphasizes the need to ensure that all individuals have access to the same opportunities, resources, and privileges, regardless of their background identity or socio-economic status. Do you agree with that?
Kenny Liner 04:53
Yeah, I mean, I think so. I think in general, it’s just fairness of distribution of wealth. You know, like you’re you’re in St. Louis Right? Or Kansas City, right?
Matt DeCoursey 05:05
So you don’t say St. Louis again because then we have to fight.
Kenny Liner 05:08
Okay, gotcha. I’m sorry. Well, you’re in Kansas City. And this still it’s a similar to Baltimore or any really major city, you, you’re on one street and you see the people that have and then you go to the next street, and you see the people that don’t. And there’s a good amount of investment to make sure, you know, those, those scales are leveled. So that there’s an even playing field for everyone. And I think there’s a good that’s a good, you know, mission to have for for people. Donors looking to donate, especially for, you know, in, in the cities, major cities where, right now there’s a lot of problems going on.
Matt DeCoursey 05:48
So one of the one of the big things that stands out already for me with the difference is you talk about getting equity versus social equity. Now, when you’re raising money for a nonprofit, you don’t necessarily get shares in it, do you?
Kenny Liner 06:04
No, no, not at all.
Matt DeCoursey 06:06
We’re raising donations as opposed to capital. Yes, technically, they are still forms of capital, I suppose. But
Kenny Liner 06:14
Correct. Yeah, it’s, it’s, um, yeah, you’re absolutely right. The way that nonprofits are structured, it’s a unique system. So it’s run by a board, there is no, there is no equity. So no one owns it, like, the board is just kind of managing the money. And then if there’s any money left over at the end of the year, it’s not owned by anyone, it just rolls into the next year’s budget. So it’s, you’re absolutely right. So it’s a very different system that’s set up than, than your typical corporation. And with that, there’s a lot of challenges. Honestly, you don’t get the same talent that you would get when you’re trying to hire people sometimes because the money’s not there. And, you know, people want to build lives for their own families, like, I have to do, I have to juggle both worlds, and because, you know, I also want to provide a great life for my family as well.
Matt DeCoursey 07:17
Yeah, and that’s understandable, I think one of the things that you might be likely to get more of them as passion, you know, like it and passionate passion moves, moves gears and moves things forward. And I think that passion is a isn’t a an ingredient that if removed, from most situations, almost certainly equals a lower output, you know, and like, it’s passion that well, you talked about, you know, and, and for those of you that aren’t familiar, you know, I worked in the music and and around the music industry for almost 10 years and wrote a book on the subject with my friend and hero, Joel Cummins, which is how I know you. I first met Kenny and didn’t even we didn’t even remember meeting each other 12 years ago in Baltimore because you you were performing along with Unfreeze McGee at I believe it was the Ram’s Head.
Kenny Liner 08:14
Matt DeCoursey 08:14
Is that right? I saw that. I remembered that though. When we talked, I was at that show. I remember I remember seeing it, it was a good show. And, you know, with that, you know, I found that a lot of people you mentioned the, the in the music industry, grinding it out and riding in a van or traveling the world and doing a lot of that passion for music fuels that more I have found with musicians more so than the true expectation that they’re going to be a jet setting rock star, you know, in a lot of these.
Kenny Liner 08:46
Absolutely. And passion for helping people is is a great motivator, for sure. And you get a lot of very motivated especially young people coming out of college, they have their you know, idealic situation. They think, Oh, I’m gonna make this huge impact and they want to you know, go out and then it’s, it’s a little harder in the real world once you once you get up against some some real world problems. But yeah, most, you need that passion, you need that fire. And I think it does translate to any startup. You know, when I sit down with a, with an entrepreneur, that’s the first thing I notice is how excited they are. It’s, like, get me excited. That’s why some of the asks are the same. Because if someone’s excited about something, you can get excited about it. And you know, if someone doesn’t seem that excited, it’s an immediate turn off, I’m sure for you as well.
Matt DeCoursey 09:40
Yeah, well, Oh, totally. I mean, I think when I, you know, and I do so one of the things that that we can talk about here in a second, but you’ve become a specialist at the pitch and the pitch deck and the presentation of, of how you’re presenting your plan, your mission, your hopeful outcome. All All of that. And once again, for those of you that aren’t aware, I actually work with organizations within the city of Kansas City to help people that have received startup grants or different things. And I help them work out their pitch because at some point, they’re going to have to be on a stage and there they get one minute. Tell me everything in a minute. And now here’s the thing. A minute is actually an eternity in my world. Yeah, it can be like, and in some cases, like, I’m, oh, my God, how are we? What, what are we going to say to fill the minute, and then when I’m coaching, some of them is what can I do to get this down to a minute, but, you know, it’s usually one or the other. Yeah, but with that the passion for what they’re doing is immediately identifiable. And if you are passionate about what you’re doing the ability to move others and sway them to join you. Or to get up and do a little more or, or, in some cases do a little less. It’s a lot more influential, and it’s easier to do. So I tell startup and entrepreneur hopefuls, if you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, or the business that you’re starting that don’t start it because it’s still going to be there after your initial rush of starting a business. The two most exhilarating things in business are starting and exiting the business. The middle part of it is, is rowing. Yeah. I mean, it’s rowing. You could think about it at summer camp, you’re really excited to go in the canoe, and you put on the life preserver and you’re like, this are so cool. You get in the boat, and it’s kind of tippy and you almost fall out, you’re like, Whoa, that’s a rush. And then you realize, an hour later, when you’re still rowing, it’s a lot of work. And then you’re really excited to get out of that thing. Yeah, or arrive at the destination. And I think that’s, that’s a pretty good explanation. I just made that up on the fly there. But I feel like it’s a pretty good explanation. And so the thing is, if you’re not, if you’re not into the rowing part, you’re not going to get to the destination. But you got to do it in there. And now, let’s talk about that. Because I want to what do you what, when you get the presentation or the pitch, or, and you’re working with people to convey this message? I mean, what do you find that people are not getting right? And how do you fix some of that?
Kenny Liner 12:29
I think the first like my first big boxes, I check, you know, and I’ve done this a lot, as you’ve alluded to, is like knowing the audience, you got to really make a profile of what kind of investor you’re looking for. So many people waste time going to the wrong people. You know, I think that’s like a first, the first big check. It’s like, some of these early people think they can just walk into VC and just and just walk out with handfuls of money. And it never, it never happens. It’s a time waster. So I think you gotta know, the first thing I like to do is just do a basic, a very basic profile of who of who this, you know, who you’re really pitching to. Because once you know that, you can start to gear the pitch. And then And like you said, most of my work is actually done shortening, I think a lot more people come in with way too much information than way less, I have seen the way less it’s definitely out there. But for me, it’s usually, wow, no one has time to look at your 40-page deck that like has every single bit of information you’ve ever learned. And I get that. I understand why. When it’s your thing, and you’re and you are passionate, and you are excited, and you’ve done the work, you really want people to know it. But that’s just a turn off for most, you know, people that are looking to invest in, in my case. I think, sometimes for real estate that works to hit him with every fact possible because that’s just a different ballgame sometimes. But but other than that, I think those are my first two big boxes is, like, net is like who your who the who the donor is and how and how you’re going to try, especially if it’s a nonprofit and doing a profile, and then really shortening it. And then I like to use the word narrative a lot. I think that when people are creating a pitch, it is a story. It is a narrative. It needs a beginning, a middle and an end. And the end is obviously the ask, but how are we going to get there and you start saying filling in, you know, it’s like making an outline, you start saying what is this overall arching narrative? And you start to say, here are the things that build that narrative. And here are the things that take away from that narrative. And once you do that you put together And again, I have very niche and nuanced things about pitch decks that I’m sure we could talk about for hours. Like how many words be on the page? How many headings? How many pictures? Never want too many pictures per page. You never want too many words. And then I actually am pretty big fan of the script. I don’t like when I mean, some people are great talkers, even me, I think I’m a pretty good talker. But I think if you just put me in a room, I can, I’ve messed up me, you know, I’ve I’ve taken, I’ve let my my mouth pull me out of a lot of good situations, and get me into a lot of good situations, of course. But what I’ll do usually is I’ll help that I’ll help people write an actual script. And they can go off of it, obviously, if the conversations go, and there’s always room to answer questions, but I think scripting something and having somebody practice it and really knowing it is really helpful. Because you’ve all we’ve all been in that meeting where you’re pitching with your partner, and you’re just like, wishing they would shut up, you’re just sitting there going, shut your mouth, shut your mouth, you know, and they just keep talking. And you see the hole is just getting bigger and bigger, and then they go into something else. And you’re, like, you’re getting off the skirt, you know.
Matt DeCoursey 16:16
I think it was in that meeting. It was
Kenny Liner 16:20
I mean it to me, it might
Matt DeCoursey 16:21
have been that person talking a couple of times, you know.
Kenny Liner 16:25
Well, what I do when someone hires me, as I watch them pitch, and I’m just sitting there taking notes, and I’m just like, like, it’s, it’s, it’s often painful. It’s surprising, I think we might have even talked about this, but surprising how intelligent and advanced a lot of these entrepreneurs are out there that have the the most amazing ideas and companies they’re starting, and they just do not know how to sell it. They just do not know how to pitch it. And it’s kind of sad because, you know, it’s it’s just not a skill everybody has. So there’s there’s a lot of ways to people keep hearing no, no, no. And it’s, like, hey, I’m doing all this work. I have these great ideas. But everyone keeps saying no. And it might just be because you don’t know how to present. You know, and that’s, that’s unfortunate, but it’s definitely I see it, I see it a lot.
Matt DeCoursey 17:16
I think one of the things that I’ve been covered with the coaching that I’ve done for people that do pitches and just in general like and I’ve done that in a formal way I’ve done it for friends I’ve done it for myself is Yeah, okay. Well, first off, you mentioned the narrative. And yeah, it is a narrative. But you gotta no one’s gonna listen to your narrative if you don’t get their attention first. So one of the things that my book author is always saying to me is you got to lead with the need. Well, that works with your pitch, too. So yeah, we looked at like the one minute pitch, which is a little different than like going in for a VC pitch. But then again, it doesn’t get if you get if you just if you’re just terrible on that first minute, the eyes glaze over and no one’s listening. People are looking at their phones, some other dudes answering emails, other people just tell you to stop. You know, like, that’s the world of VC. Like it’s not there to be polite. It’s like, I’ve seen that I’ve seen that happen,
Kenny Liner 18:07
Of course, yeah.
Matt DeCoursey 18:10
Hey, just just to stop, this isn’t something we’re into.
Kenny Liner 18:13
I have a little catchphrase that I’ve made up and you can surely use this, or your people can use this. But it’s details in emails, like, if somebody you know, it’s a conversation and someone wants very nuanced details, I just say, Hey, let me follow up with an email because basically, you’re going to get into the weeds. And it’s, it’s not going to move it forward. And you’re not going to be as accurate. If you if you switch over to an email, you can take your time and really craft something that they’re gonna want to read and understand. And I just talked to entrepreneurs all the time, details and email. So you don’t have to have these talks like over the phone. And it works. And I’ve sat there and pitches, and I love hearing. Oh, let me follow that up with an email. It’s like one of my favorite things to hear.
Matt DeCoursey 19:01
It’s the right way to do it, though, because you could sit me I’ll give you an example. So, you know, Kenny asked me a question. It’s got a lot of details with it. There’s a lot of details and information that go with that. Let me give you a follow up email. I want to be accurate with what I send you and I also want to be efficient with your time here today. Beautiful. Love it. That’s it. And that’s brevity. Now look, being someone that has about I think I’ve done on 800 episodes of Startup Hustle at this point. I can talk I can. In fact, I know a lot of people that might actually avoid me on Sundays because they’re worried we’re going to talk about get into the weeds or something. But as I’ve gotten older, I have practice the art of brevity is the thing. Say last do it in fewer words, and then I spend a lot of time I’m not a scientific because I’m not in pitch decks and presentations as much as you are but I am a big messenger type person. So there are words that you can use that are way better than others. Like, I’ll give you an example. People often want to interchange the words cheap and affordable. Like, they’re the same thing. Hey, we’re the cheapest. That’s that’s not really like selling me on what you’ve got. Because when you use the word cheap, and I use this example, a lot, the word cheap is associated with Bredel or shoddy or like, it’s crap, like, Oh, what is this cheap piece of crap? No one ever says, What is this affordable piece of shit? I don’t ever hear people say that do?
Kenny Liner 20:35
Of course not. No. Words, words. Yeah, words are really important, especially, you know, to turn this back to nonprofit to just to that every year, it seems like they’re updating vocabulary and language. And if you’re using three years ago as vocabulary and language then then people notice, I mean, it’s that important. And that’s why there’s a lot of young people excelling in the nonprofit world because they’re, they’re fresh out of school, and they’re learning the newest things, and the newest social entrepreneurship. And it does have a vocabulary, and you can get lost. So, you know, some, you know, I’m 44, I’m a dinosaur. Like, literally, everyone around me is is usually younger, not everyone, but it’s, it’s at this age, I’m starting to feel old. So I have to work hard to maintain the proper vocabulary. Or else, you know, you’re absolutely right. And it’s not just I mean, that cheap, affordable is really noticeable. But for people that are ready to write a check, it’s it’s even more nuanced than that. You know, like, and that’s why script again, the script is really important in a pitch because it could be one, one word that turns them off. And then once once, you know, and I’ve done this, and we can talk about this, but as we talked about pitch decks, but I’m sure you’ve been in a meeting, it feels really good. And then all of a sudden, something turns, I can always tell when I leave a meeting, whether we’re getting the check or not, you know, it’s it’s, I’m never wrong. You know, I’ve literally never been wrong, I might be not know. And I might say, hey, we might get it or we might not. But I’ve never been, like, we’re gonna get this and not get it or I’ve never been like I’m not gonna and I can watch people’s eyes. I can watch and often it comes from they’re checking their cell phone. They’re looking away you’re just
Matt DeCoursey 22:33
You’re during your jam bam, dude. So you know all about improv improvisation course. And in our in the book that I wrote Joel Cummins in the interview with Victor Wooten, who is maybe one of the world’s most famous bass bases at this point. And he’ll talk about making errors. And he’s used keep playing notes until they’re right again, right? You know, some of them, you got to correct your course. Now, I want to talk a little bit about scripts, because I’m actually not a fan of scripts. Okay. But I’m gonna say, I’m going to tell you that right before I read a few words off of a script and let you know that finding experts software developers doesn’t have to be difficult, especially when you visit FullScale.io, where you can build a software team quickly and affordably. Use Full Scale’s platform to define your technical needs, and then see what available developers testers and leaders are ready to join your team. Go to FullScale.io to learn more, there’s a link in the show notes and put a link down there as well. So you can find a way to reach out to Kenny if you want help with your pitch deck and like he can help you with nonprofit stuff. He can help you with your startup. All of that there. There is a ton of similarity. By the way you accidentally quoted me earlier when you said no one wants to see your 40-page pitch deck. When I say that about now, the number varies sometimes, but and I also say no one wants to see your 62-page comprehensive business plan upon first contact me. Now, let me tell you why I don’t like scripts because I don’t mean that I don’t like the practice. So what I what I’ve noticed, alright, so more people are afraid of public speaking than they are than people are afraid of dying. Sure, wrap your arms around. That is a real thing. Now I am married to someone that is terrified of public speaking. And it just it’s an inherent quality that some people have. They’re just not outward like that. So what they do is they memorize every single word of the speech or the script. Now this is where it becomes problematic is when there’s a hiccup somewhere, they get distracted, they get nervous, they forget. And then if you’ve gone to enough of these things, you’ve seen someone freeze, of course and they’re sitting there and they’re frozen and it is the most uncomfortable frickin thing that I had maybe other than like watching someone just melt down. It’s up there, right and it’s just you feel bad for the person because what they’re doing the reason they’re frozen is because it regardless of what got them to that point is because now they’re having to go through the all of the notes to get back to the one that they need to start at. So I try it with the with the with the people that are doing the elevator pitch. So an elevator pitch and like a full pitch can be different. Elevator pitch is intended to occur like that’s that minute or less, like, could you do it within the context of an elevator ride. We actually practice that sometimes we have elevator, it’s really slow. So its forgiving. But with that, you know, so, but what I do recommend, and you’ll recognize this as I write I call it a setlist. And the same way, when you go to see your favorite band, what you don’t often see is a piece of paper that is taped to the stage that has a vertical list of the names of the songs that they’re gonna play. Okay, that way, when you have just played song D, you know that song G might be coming next. And that’s why is that there? That’s so five people don’t all start playing a different song. And that’s embarrassing and that looks like crap. So I write down keywords, right. So like, Okay, so first off, you might have and here’s the thing, if you’re raising for a nonprofit, then you guaranteed have some kind of need to lead with. Sure. Have you you know what the hardest part about learning how to play music, as is when you’re trying to learn how to play music, and you don’t even own an instrument. That is leading with the need, if you are a charity that were to provide music or maybe the studio or something like that, that’s going to get my attention. That’s leading with the need, like, we had a an s recent there was a data analytics company. Now look, let’s be realistic, that’s boring to a lot of people. But what isn’t boring to a lot of people is money. So they’re leading with their, their need to lead with, I’ve got them to start, do you know that businesses are sitting upon a goldmine, a literal goldmine of data. And they don’t know how to get that out that money out of the ground, you know, something like that, and that’s gonna get people’s attention, oh, well, maybe my business is like that. What doesn’t work is when you get up in front of a room, and you’re like, you know, I’d like to thank everyone at this organization. And I’d like to thank my mom. And I’d like to thank my dad, and I’d like to thank my wife for putting up with my shed, I’d like to thank my business partner. And next thing you know, 30 of your 60 seconds are gone. Sure, tell them that you want to thank them on the side. They’ll get it. Right. So some of that is like you see people do that, or they’re like, I don’t know, it’s irrelevant stuff. But you gotta get people’s attention upfront. And then you kind of keep rolling with it. So yeah, there’s a lot a lot to be said there. Now with the script, like, I don’t think you need to abandon it. But you use that to practice, you can still learn your lines, you can still learn the notes. I just have find that the people that are really terrified about public speaking, and if you can get them, and oh my god, you want to tear them away from the script. I had a few that I’ve coached and they just go right back to it. And that’s fine. I mean, I’m not there. I’m not there to grade them. I’m just there to try to help them. But
Kenny Liner 28:17
So can I let me just say like it the script isn’t as it’s fluid. And basically what I like to do, it’s the same thing you’re talking about, like I do, you know, some bold words that they have, that I really want them to get. And the script is for. It’s because you’ve we’ve all been in meetings that run too long. We’ve all been in pitches that run too long. And if you practice the script, I mean, I’ve worked with a couple people. I mean, they could nail that I mean, people that have raised, you know, millions upon millions of dollars, where they literally I’ve sat in their office and they say the same exact thing over and over again. They can say a drunk, they could say it at a dinner table. They could say it on a walk in a park. They could say it in their office or in another office. They like literally these people are robots and they raise. Okay, so
Matt DeCoursey 29:20
That’s not scripted at that point, that’s rehearsed. And that’s different
Kenny Liner 29:23
Correct. No, no, I understand. But the point is, is that there they are saying the same thing over and over again. And that script that I write is to be rehearsed. So I will sit there with entrepreneur and make them pitch to me, make them pitch to friends and family. Do it over and over again, because I’m like, sitting there with the timer on my phone going, you’re behind. You’re behind. Let’s go. Let’s go. You’re behind. Let’s go. Come on, because I don’t need to wait. We’re not wasting anybody’s time. And it’s not to sound like a robot but they’re you we’ve all done this to where you go through your pitch and you miss a really important point because you started going off on a different tangent, that we don’t want that either. And I also, like I said, to me, it’s all about narrative at all builds upon this goes to this goes to this goes to this. And then by the time you’re at the ask, you should have hit all your points. And honestly, like you’re saying, like me, and you are talkers, but a lot of people aren’t. So some people again, they hire me, I give them a script, and they don’t follow it. But then when I’m sitting there watching them pitch and they hear no, no, no, no, I’m like, it’s not my fault. You went off the script, you started to give them all the facts that no one cares about. You think that you’re, you can talk your way into this money, because you’ve done it before, but it doesn’t work. If you sit there and follow the script, usually, it will lead to the outcome of a check, or a better outcome of a potential check. So I mean, every single person is different. And they want different things. And some people I write a script for, and they throw it out. And maybe that works for them and maybe that doesn’t. Some people, like you said, who are very have a hard time public speaking, I’ve worked with people that have nailed it. I mean, people that I’ve watched pitch that were horrible, that will practice this script for hours and hours and hours. And it comes off beautifully and natural. And they hit all their points, and they even have their little improv zones, you know, in their time, hey, do you have any questions about this, and they’re, they’re like, kind of feeling it. And I’ve taken people who have been so nervous and so horrible at pitching to being able to get through like in a in a timely, efficient manner. So that’s why I do it, I offer it as a service. Because some, some people just really need it. Now some people don’t. But like I said, we’ve all been there, including ourselves where we’ve talked ourselves out of a check. So for me, it’s good to know, the bullets. I do the same thing. I feel like I can talk with anybody. I feel like I can read the room, I can improv, I can do all that. But there’s there’s definitely, there’s definitely a moment where I’m like, whoop, you know, like.
Matt DeCoursey 29:34
No, focus on the benefits, people. All right, so I consulted my good friend ChatGPT. Okay, cool. Yeah, who never has a shortage of words. And I, you know, I was curious, because, you know, coming into this, I’m like, you know, there’s obviously a lot of challenges with all the things that all of us do. So I asked it, what some of the challenges that are presented to nonprofit fundraising are, and it gave me a list. And I’d like to rattle through that pretty quickly, because I think it did really correctly, or did well and did really correctly. There we go. That’s why robots are better than people on Sundays. Gchat GPT, did not say really correctly. Matt, Matt GPT said, All right, don’t donor fatigue. I go through this a lot, I get asked for a lot of donations. And I actually donate a lot of money to a lot of different places. But donor fatigue is a real thing. Meaning, like, if you’re earmarked in the world for someone that can could or should give donations, you get asked for a lot of them and it can be kind of tiresome. How do you overcome that?
Kenny Liner 33:27
It’s finding the right people that are interested in it’s all profile, you know, like, you’re not going to like people with money get asked for money constantly, every day all day. And you got to know that but it’s also the world is a menu to them. So you know, you might be at the best restaurant giving them the best menu and you just got to know who to ask and when to ask, you know, so there’s certain times a year that are great for asking: the end of the year and the beginning of the year, the two easiest, when people are kind of figuring out what they want to do. Asking Of course not but I’m just I’m just saying, like, you know, a lot of people are constantly getting hit up by like politicians per se, you know, for for donations all the time. And it’s like, alright, well that they might not even be in your political party, you’re just on a list of someone that has a high enough, you know, income to get a call from them. So I think when you find someone that really believes in what you’re doing, and you got to and that’s just like any startup or you gotta make yourself the best, and people want to give to you, you’re doing amazing things. And you have a lot of great stuff going on. It’s it’s going to be easier to find the right donors. But yeah, you don’t want to constantly I’m not for there’s all these programs out there that just give you lists of people that with certain incomes. I’m not for that. I don’t I don’t really believe in that in the nonprofit space.
Matt DeCoursey 34:56
Okay, increase competition. There’s a lot of things things that are out there. This is kind of paired in many ways, in my opinion with donor fatigue. Yeah, because there’s more people out there asking creating that fatigue in some regards. What’s, what’s a quick way or tip to make yourself stand out that we may have not already mentioned?
Kenny Liner 35:16
So I like to say, especially coming from nonprofits, I disagree with this. I don’t think I think in in for profit, yes, you’re gonna do competition, it’s got to be understood, you got to know what kind of market share you’re looking for. When you’re talking about nonprofits, you’re raising money for a cause. They’re not competition there. It’s actually what I like to call a community. So what I tried to do is if there’s someone else that’s doing something similar, that’s taking a certain amount of what I believe could be, and this word is not used in nonprofit, but I’m going to use it for your profit people to understand but market share, I like to actually try to create a partnership. I it works a lot better in the nonprofit world and in for profit because, basically, we’re you have the same mission, if you’re if you’re trying to do similar things. And then maybe, you know, just like you, when you’re really honest with entrepreneurs, if someone else is taking all the checks, you’re probably not doing a good as good of a job as that person. So you need to change your development, you need to change your programming, you need to be better, because if you’re having better outcomes, you’re going to get more checks. But it’s not uncommon in nonprofit world to actually partner with organizations doing similar things and create a unified asks.
Matt DeCoursey 36:40
Yeah, I like the idea of community over competition. All right, economic conditions. This is if you’ve been around all of it long enough. You’re you I’m older than you are, by the way, it’ll make you feel better. I have 325 employees and one of them is older than me. One, so don’t don’t feel bad. And I’m not 50 I’m getting there, but I’m not Yeah, I’m still under 50. But wow. But yeah, so anyway, back to economic conditions. The you know, this is somebody speaking of age and Alright, so 2007 2008 major financial crisis occurs. At the time I, I sold luxury goods, pianos, grand pianos, on the front half of that bubble. Oh my god, dozens was booming. On the back half of it, it fell apart. I mean, literally fell apart. When people have when economic conditions are strong, money’s flowing in people feel good about future money flowing in. There are a lot freer with it. Whether it comes to buying luxury goods, giving donations, personal spending, travel, purchasing house, purchasing things they can’t afford, a lot of that. But on the backside of it when that’s on the downslope a lot of that. That’s all everything I just mentioned is the very first stuff to go. Sure. I don’t even want to talk about raising and good times because I think that’s probably child’s play, forming for profits we’re going through right now with VC like, of course, unless you’re an AI company, you’re in for a dogfight. Yeah. If you’ve never been in a junkyard fight with a junkyard dog. You might want to wait till things get better again because that’s what it looks like out there. How do you overcome out in a down economic downturn?
Kenny Liner 38:28
Especially for nonprofits? It’s it’s tough, and you can’t dictate your market. You know, and I guess for me being in Baltimore, starting a nonprofit in Baltimore City, which is already traditionally a lower income city. I mean, when I live in Los Angeles, you can walk into any coffee shop and probably more than half of the people in that coffee shop wearing sweatpants are millionaires. You know, you just assume everyone around you in certain neighborhoods are, you know, they got it. In Baltimore, you can walk into a coffee shop and the nicest neighborhoods and there’s probably no no millionaires. So I think like you said, it is it is a hustle, it is a fight, you know, and you got to claw and scratch your way through things and it comes back to your development again, and your programming, you know, you got to be efficient, you got to save for the rainy day. You know, you got to be you got to pick I hate using the word pivot but you got to always be willing to change and improvise when things aren’t going your way and that’s just the way the market is and when when a market is bad. You just gotta hold on ride the wave and hope that it brings you to shore because there’s there’s not a lot you can do. Honestly, it’s just keep, keep fighting. And I’ve seen a lot of great things that didn’t make it, you know, both for and nonprofit.
Matt DeCoursey 39:54
Oh, yeah. Yeah. And with that, raising money as a form of sales As a salesperson, I’m going to just tell you right now, don’t assume that what you see is what you always get when it comes to a customer because like, as you mentioned, you know, millionaires and sweatpants. Yeah. Look, some some people that live the most humble lifestyles and don’t do flashy shit have the most money in their bank. Because they’re not out there buying Yeezys and Gucci purses and, and $200,000 cars and stuff they can’t afford.
Kenny Liner 40:34
I think, more than more than ever, like, that’s just the case now then. You know, I’ve I don’t think so.
Matt DeCoursey 40:44
I think that a lot of people are toned down and
Kenny Liner 40:46
Yeah, that whole thing of being gaudy and flashy, it’s, it’s, it’s it’s overplayed, and I haven’t you know, I’ve been in the room with several billionaires and none of them look look like, you know, the traditional, they all are very, not all but actually, yes, I don’t think I’ve been with a gaudy billionaire. You know, I think all of them that I’ve been around seem to really tone it down and want to be you know, they got a lot of
Matt DeCoursey 41:13
Suffering from donor fatigue. Like maybe if I don’t look like a donor, but you know, this is funny because our Alright, so in my book, Million Dollar Bedroom, I joke about, you know, opening a business because I wanted to work and flip flops and shorts. By the way, dude, I am in flip flops and shorts right now. Awesome. I don’t shave every day. I don’t even own a comb. Yeah, I don’t have I don’t have a thick, full head of hair like you do, Kenny but not enough that I could come at that with that, you know, like I wear a t shirt wear shorts. It’s funny because I don’t I look kind of like a scrub on a lot of days. Now I have done okay for myself. But I will go in some stores. You know, when shopping, holidays have tried to come to mind. My wife and I just had our 10th anniversary. And I want and I upgraded her ring. And I went to a couple places to shop for them. And I and it wasn’t getting a whole lot of attention. Because I’m just the way I was appearing at the time and that completely slovenly, but I wasn’t wearing, you know, a suit or a tie? Or I do. I actually I’m proud of this. I went four straight years and I didn’t even own a suit. But yeah, me that what you see isn’t always what you get. So there’s this term called pigeonholing. That means don’t make assumptions about your buyer, your donor, your client, your prospect until you have like, look,
Kenny Liner 42:41
I have a super funny story about that actually, my mentor, this amazing man who taught me, you know, kind of how to raise and how to pitch who I hold dearly to my heart is like a second dad to me. We had this pitch where we’re asking somebody, a fairly large corporation, athletic corporation. One of the biggest for you know, a couple million dollars and, you know, go on right to the CEO, right to the board. And, and I went out and bought a suit and showed up and he was wearing a grey shirt and Chuck Taylors. And he’s, like, what are you doing? I was like, a, I’m wearing a suit. And he’s like, just be yourself, dude. Like, they’re gonna know you’re not a suit guy. So now whenever I go into a meeting, even when I’m asking for, you know, $3-5 million, I got my tattoos out. I you know, I just, I’m just myself. And I always get it where people look at me for a second and go, you don’t look like everyone else we’ve been talking to.
Matt DeCoursey 43:44
Congratulate, I would say thank you to that. Well, yeah. Recently. Yeah, it’s kind of like, yeah, and you’re like, thanks, I appreciate that.
Kenny Liner 43:52
But that is a huge thing that just, you know, to tie this all up with a little bow. It basically the trick to all you know, when people always say, Oh, what is it? What is it? I always say, you got to be yourself. You know, like, at the end of the day, people want authenticity, and especially from, you know, entrepreneurs and people who are tied in with nonprofits to people who are trying to raise money for a cause if you seem a little fake, or you’re not yourself or any of its put on then it’s usually an immediate No. So
Matt DeCoursey 44:29
I wouldn’t want to donate to an organization that had flashy people exactly in the front of it. Because I’m kind of wondering at that point, I’m exactly what are you doing with my money?
Kenny Liner 44:40
Yeah, that’s exactly right. And, and you can the cool part about nonprofits, it’s all public. So you can kind of look up whatever the CEOs or ED or whoever they’re saying, now you can look up their salary, kind of get good judgment of what they’re making and what they’re spending it on and and you. They all the spending has to be public. And it’s a little ways to be tricky about it. But it’s cool. You can really dive into the finances before you donate to a nonprofit. And there’s ways to make it look good and ways to make it look bad. So
Matt DeCoursey 45:15
Alright, so as as we are running out of time here a quick reminder that today’s episode Startup Hustle was brought to all of us by FullScale.io. If you need help hiring software engineers, testers and leaders Full Scale can help with that. Get the people the platform and the processes to help you build the software team you really want. Go to FullScale.io to learn more. You got a link for Kenny down there as well. Kenny on our way out, what’s your encore here, man? What do you got for me?
Kenny Liner 45:44
Just thanks. Thanks for having me. If anybody out there any entrepreneurs are here and a lot of no’s and they they want some help. I love nothing more than I love to see pitch decks I look at like 40 a week, maybe 50. I’m just constantly out there. I love when people send me stuff. And also, we didn’t even talk about it. But, but we got a cool music thing going Holler and Hum Music, you can check it out and check me out and appreciate the time. Wish you the best.
Matt DeCoursey 46:14
Yeah, and for all of you non-profit warriors that are out there. First off, thank you, I always like to take a minute to thank people that are out there doing the things that that some of us don’t. It makes a big difference. I don’t usually quote the Catholic Church, but they had a slogan at one point that was Time, Talent or Treasure. I’m a big believer that you should and there that, you know, like I said, I’m not usually quoting the church. But I love those three words when it comes to giving back to a community because you’ve got one of the three, right? So like, for example, if you don’t feel like you have the time, maybe you have the treasure and that money can can push someone else’s initiative for it. I’m one of those guys, like, I find that that my money can be turned into, it can fuel other people’s passion to help drive the initiatives that I still feel good about. Donate your time, you know, or maybe you’re talented at something, maybe you can introduce someone that’s raising money to say, you know what, my friend Joan, is probably the person you want to talk to, or something that’s, that’s, hey, that’s still talent. Or maybe you can donate something that some level of expertise, find a way to do one of those things. You know what one of the things I didn’t mention is, you can do a lot of this stuff through your for profit company. At Full Scale where we have over 300 employees in the Philippines, we actually have a company holiday that we call Outreach Day where we give everybody the debt paid day off if they want to go participate in one of the many community outreach events or or causes that, that our admin team has set up. So, like, this year we already did it. We planted a couple 1000 trees. We cleaned up, here you, go a kilometer of beach, rest the world’s on the metric. I don’t even know how far long that is. I had to ask them like how long is the kilometer? They’re like, it’s not a mile, Matt.
Kenny Liner 48:20
Yeah, so three quarters of a mile basically.
Matt DeCoursey 48:22
Also, so we use so we use our company’s financial resources. And then you have the time frame thing about what 300 People in one day can accomplish. And all these things. We bought a bunch of solar panels and when installed them at schools that are off the grid. In a country like the Philippines where the country consists of 7000 different islands. Infrastructure is a challenge because there’s not power lines that run everywhere. So solar is a big thing. And we also had so we had these little pillars that we had and one of them was also animals. So we went and cleaned out some animal shelters and did some stuff. We adopted an eagle last year. So yeah, so just these different things. And you know, the amazing thing with this is first off, it feels great. Love, love having do it. It creates a sense of community amongst our employees, they really love it, they love and in that market, they have most of them have experienced some exposure to big business maybe coming in and taking advantage of their country a little bit. So the idea that they work for a company that also gives back and allows them to participate and we’re doing it there in their community. It Okay, I have a 93% employee retention rate last year that was during the year of the resi, resignation, according to the Wall Street Journal, and you know, and it was it was it was a big thing. So there’s ways that you can get out there and do things that help and you know, we also have donated to other causes and charities.
Kenny Liner 49:53
For people with startups, Matt too. I feel like a lot. A lot of them have social missions. And it’s really helpful, honestly, like, it’s helpful to get the check at the end of the day, it’s great to make money, but if you can also help, and that need is also solving, you know, a social problem or helping people, you know, you have multiple startups out there that are to, you know, to help the environment, you know, with their other ways of making buildings. And I think that’s, that’s cool to think about. And I think a lot of young entrepreneurs actually are, I think, it just naturally, a lot of social missions are attached to these things. And that’s where kind of my crossover comes into is, um, I’m good at connecting those dots. And it’s nice to see, it’s nice to see a lot of these young companies want to have social missions and want to help either a social problem, you know, I’m seeing a lot, I’ve been seeing a lot of things that are geared towards helping homelessness. Homelessness has been such a problem while all these people, all these really smart young companies are coming together that are for profit that have the potential, you know, the biggest one is these, you’re gonna start seeing a lot if you haven’t yet, but these 3D printed houses, you know, that was
Matt DeCoursey 51:12
I was just about to say that, yeah, I just had a guest one of Las Vegas is Top Startups on our list was a company called Boxabl.
Kenny Liner 51:19
Matt DeCoursey 51:20
Yeah. Have you heard of them?
Kenny Liner 51:21
I have, yeah.
Matt DeCoursey 51:22
I had their CEO and founder on here and, and, and in the background of the video, you could see the factory and they’re building them. It was really cool. But that’s awesome. It’s basically like a fold out house. I was, I was telling Kenny, before we hit record, I just bought a farm. And it’s got a house on it. I need a couple other buildings. And I was like, Man, I mean, I thought about because I’m gonna host entrepreneurs and like, have friends over and I’m like, Well, we’re gonna keep everyone I’m not gonna just throw a sleeping bag at everyone. I don’t want people that drink all my cold beer and then drive. Like being I might build a village of tiny houses or something. But, but yeah, but you see, it’s out there. And it makes a big difference. And it helps and
Kenny Liner 51:59
Yeah, they’re gonna do your part. They’re gonna make a bunch of money. And it’s a great idea. But it’s also going to solve a huge social problem, which is great. You know, and I think there’s a lot of businesses like that, especially, that are good for the environment. It’s, it’s just cool to tie in a social cause. And that’s
Matt DeCoursey 52:15
A million dollar company. Yeah, exactly. For profit enterprise, exactly. For profit isn’t inherently an evil thing.
Kenny Liner 52:24
No, it’s a good thing.
Matt DeCoursey 52:25
In fact, it’s kind of required because it’s gonna go away. It’s exactly the nonprofit world if you don’t make a profit. Apparently, unless you’re a software startup, then you can not make money for a very long time and then sell it for a lot of money. I’m sure. I’m still all these years later, trying to figure out the math on that but I’ll get it eventually. Hey, Kenny, thanks so much for joining me.
Kenny Liner 52:46
Thank you, Matt. Yeah.
Matt DeCoursey 52:47
Folks, reach out to Kenny or find some help give your pitch to someone. There’s a lot of things you can overcome. Hopefully this episode helps you get past a few of them. Kenny, I’ll see you down the road.
Kenny Liner 52:58