Ep 26: Jonathan Silver: Data for Good

In this episode, Erica is joined by Jonathan Silver to discuss how nonprofits can utilize data to help boost consistent donor engagement. They talk about low friction ways to expand your nonprofit toolkit and how personalization can drive a better business model. Jonathan and Erica weave data with empathy to help you message to the right prospective donor and improve humanity.


This is a transcript of Erica Mills Barnhart’s interview with Jonathan Silver on the Marketing for Good podcast. You can listen to the episode here and listen to more episodes on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you enjoy listening to podcasts. Enjoy!


data, nonprofits, people, empathy, marketing, consumer, affinity, technology, organization, low friction, donors, donate, business

Erica Mills Barnhart  00:06

So if you’ve been listening to this podcast for a while, you may recall an interview I did with Hanson Hosein and Hanson talked about the role of technology, data and society and kind of the interplay between these things. This conversation that I have with Jonathan Silver really made me think about that or reminded me of that conversation and some very specific things. Yet, I have to say it left me profoundly hopeful about what’s possible if we are able to use data for good. And Jonathan, you’ll hear about in the episode, he has this initiative, this data for good initiative, which is not unique to nonprofits, but certainly could benefit nonprofits and he makes an invitation at the end so any of you who are listening who are from nonprofits, he makes an invitation, right to say like, if you want to become involved in this, let’s do this together. So, you know, one of the things we talk about a lot in general right with the Claxon Method, which is what does success look like? Who’s your target audience? And then how are you going to reach them? So what who, what, who, how always grounded in the why? This episode, I think is going to give you some insight, that’s what Jonathan does is gleans a whole bunch of data so that folks can have consumer insight. And his whole bottom line is so that people could have better lives. And so one of the things that can happen that I see quite often happen for nonprofits is when we get to the who part of things like, who are your donors, who are your volunteers, and unfortunately, we don’t have a ton of data and kind of accessing it can feel really overwhelming. Like one more thing to do. And yet, that’s like gold, right? And again, in a previous episode with Maria Ross, she talks about empathy. So if empathy is the bridge, right, it’s the bridge between where you are today and where you with your supporters where you all want to end up. Empathy can bridge that as can data. So you know, those things came up in this relationship between data as a way to generate and be centered on empathy. Again, it just gave me hope. And then we get into some like very specific ways that things could look different to expand nonprofits toolkit around donor engagement. And it got me just so excited, so grateful to people like Jonathan, who are doing this work, grateful to people like you who are doing the work on the other end. I don’t know, I’m super interested in what you think about the possibilities that we discuss. So I will look forward to hearing from you as always, you can reach out to me via email, on LinkedIn, whatever. If you want to up your game when it comes to marketing, I know that can feel overwhelming, please never forget that we have the Complete Nonprofit Marketing Course, which you can find if you go to claxonuniveristy.com. So I would also love to see you there. And if you have any questions about that, I am here to answer those for you too. Okay, here we go, my conversation with Jonathan Silver. Jonathan, welcome to the show. I’m excited to have you here you are a long time data guy, is what I get. And you’ve been in like the consumer insight business for more than 20 years, which I mean, that’s that’s a long time to kind of be in that particular space. So I’m grateful to you for being here. And I think there’s gonna be a lot to be shared. I just want to acknowledge that’s a while to be in this space. Like, it seems like you kind of got into this space early, before people were using terms like consumer insight. Will you share with us a bit about how you, what attracted you to this? How you got into it? All that?

Jonathan Silver  04:46

Sure. Well, first of all, thank you for having me. I appreciate that. And yeah, data is definitely what I’m very passionate about. My journey after graduating from Wharton and engineering UP, I worked for McKinsey, which is a consulting firm you guys obviously know, and I got very interested, first of all, in not working for anyone else. So that was one part of the journey. But then I also became very interested in businesses that were highly predictable. And businesses that rely on data, we call it direct marketing once upon a time, digital marketing, you know, the same approach within certain ranges can, you know, when used over and over again, can get the same result, that kind of rational use of data to lead to predictable positive outcomes was, was something that attracted me. And then sometime, we started creating programs for banks that were around getting the banks to deepen their relationships with customers in certain segments, like young families, and college students and outdoor enthusiasts. And we became really good at bundling offerings that would appeal based on your affinity, your life stage lifestyle and hence the name Affinity Solutions.

Erica Mills Barnhart  05:53

All right, that mystery is solved. Thank you.

Jonathan Silver  05:56

Yep. And then we ended up getting access to all the data from the banks, because we invented a kind of loyalty model where the, the card holders have a bank that had a credit or debit card, when they shopped at a certain retailer, Home Depot, Walgreens, Joe’s Pizza would get rewarded, and that required the banks to give us all their data. So then, and now from many banks, we get every day, the data that you know, represents the transactions from yesterday, we get today. And we used it in order to identify the right offers that would be appropriate for a card holder. So someone who looks like they’re going to do a kitchen remodel or a bathroom renovation might get a Home Depot offer and someone who likes to eat out in restaurants a lot may get a restaurant offer. And then finally, kind of the last stage of the journey was about five years ago, when we realized we had 3000 banks sending us data every day, we started getting interest among nonprofits, as well, as well as commercial entities, to use that data to leverage it in other ways beyond just this loyalty model. And that’s when we started getting really creative, helping businesses figure out where to open stores would be very much enabled with access to purchase data across all of the consumer spending behavior within a category. And you know, how to allocate their capital and so on. And so we started, you know, working around purchasing and all these different ways and convinced our banks to give us the rights of us to use it to help different organizations, both profit and nonprofit.

Erica Mills Barnhart  07:29

Okay, so I may be having a reaction that some listeners may also be having, which is like, I know that my data is given to others. And simultaneously, that feels kind of creepy. So can you address the like, creepy factor to, you know, sharing data and like that side of it?

Jonathan Silver  07:52

Absolutely. So our, our whole model or vision is to use data to improve people’s lives. That’s our company vision and that clarity of that vision came over the last couple of years anchored under that umbrella of using data to improve people’s lives is consumer permission. So everything we do with the data we receive from our bank partners is because a consumer has opted in, opted in given permission, they’re in the loyalty program, and they’re getting value back. So whenever we use data, first of all, it’s anonymized, it’s aggregated, it’s not able to be re identified to a person. But in addition to that, whenever we use it to, let’s say, help, a not for profit, working with a government entity to help figure out policy, and let’s say that results in $1 of revenue, we share that back to the consumer, in the form of relevant high value offers. So there’s there’s also a value back to the consumer, you know, in our model.

Erica Mills Barnhart  08:50

All right, thank you. I mean, whenever we’re talking about data, I feel like we kind of have to, we can’t go there. So I’m going to quote you, you said “in the future, we will all have personal data clouds or operating systems that will dramatically shift how we live, work and play. I see data surpassing technology as the great equalizer.” So I way back when, actually about 20 years ago, when you started Affinity, I went to work for a nonprofit called NPower. And our thing was putting technology know how into the hands of nonprofits. So it kind of had a front row seat in some ways around technology being an equalizer in that space. And then of course, because of our clients, we did a lot of work around opportunity gap and all of that. But when I, what I hear you saying is and I’m not sure if these are sequential, or for if you’re saying we’re going to jump the curve, because let me back up and say, I don’t feel there’s still a technology gap. There’s still an opportunity gap when it comes to basic things, you know, where everybody’s going back to school now. And you know, there are some students who just are not going to have the same technology as others, and that has a ripple effect. So I would say I don’t know that we’ve buttoned up the or close the opportunity gap is a relates to technology and now what you’re saying is data is going to sort of come into play in some way, as the great equalizer. Am I getting that right?

Jonathan Silver  10:12

You are and I agree, the technology gap has still not been resolved. But the way we think about a data is the great equalizer, when I really step back, and it pains me, you know, when I look at the significant economic and opportunity gaps that exist in our society, when we talk about personal data cloud, you know, there’s there’s a commercial side to this, where people want to make sure they’re getting the products that they need that fits their budgets. But we see a world over the next several years in which consumers are going to have more control over their data, you know, back to the point of consumer permission that we talked about before, not just your credit card data and your debit card data. But where you go, you’re the apps on your phone that most people are not aware of, are collecting information on, you know, your location at any given moment in time, there’s going to be greater control over that data. And while the first natural application for that data is in the commercial realm, and there’s some you know, there’s some very good things, they’re not just about selling you stuff, it’s really about making sure that you can get the things that you need to fit your budgets. But then we start moving into other domains like education, and medicine, health. And for example, I think that 5 to 10 years from now, the educational models of the future, will make what we’re doing today look prehistoric, I think that you know, everything will be personalized, education in particular, will be aligned with you know, children and young adults aptitudes, interest, or propensity to learn, I see some very sort of outlier educational models that some people are experimenting with, where people learn and discover, you know, what, what they’re really good at, and where they can make a contribution. And I just think you’re gonna see a ton of that moving forward, it doesn’t mean that education will not be in the classroom, it will be both classroom and non classroom. But I think that’s one example, I think health is another example, where, you know, the medicine of today, it’s gonna be much more personalized, it’ll take into account your medical history, your doctor’s visits, you know, the genetic, the 23 And Me and ancestry.com information, you know, your Fitbit and so on to make recommendations. And I think that will create a much more level playing field, whether it’s education, commerce, because let’s face it, you know, as a starting point, we’re not we’re not at the same starting block. And so I think data, we actually go further than just personal data cloud, we think of it as a personal operating system. Now operating systems are typically the model is it’s attached to a device, it’s attached to your iPhone, if it’s iOS, or it’s attached to your laptop, Windows, or maybe attached to a cloud based entity. We think of an operating system here as personal. It’s attached to Erica, it’s attached to Jonathan. And it includes the personal data, cloud, all your data, but it also includes technologies that sit on top, like privacy controls, consent management, machine learning, artificial intelligence, that can use your data to create connections, where you need them and where there’s going to be the most benefit and the ability for you to advance in society. So yes, very much see it as the great equalizer.

Erica Mills Barnhart  13:19

All right. Interesting. I can’t decide I’m sitting here. I’m like, does that sound wonderful, or, like terrifying? And I think maybe it’s both, I think I have to hold both of those, both of those feelings. We had on a previous episode, Hanson Hosein, who speaks very eloquently and somewhat radically about the role of data, and you know, one of his big messages is yes, it can be the great equalizer and also don’t kid yourself about, you know, companies being technology companies, so he’s pointing to Facebook and Google. And, you know, he really is driving the point home that these are data companies, we think of them, you know, on the consumer side is technology companies, but really, it’s about data. So, you know, your comments definitely make me make me think about Hanson and his take on things. He’s also based in Seattle, where I am and came and talked to my graduate class at the University of Washington, my marketing class last year. And it was awesome, because, you know, these these students, they’re all getting their Masters of Public Administration. They care deeply about making the world a better place. They’re amazing. And so Hanson comes in, and they’re sitting there and Hanson is like, and then this and then this, and don’t forget about this and then there’s black rain clouds, and there’s all these things and he’s like, okay, high five, have a great day. And you walk out and they were like, what just happened? It was kind of fantastic to watch their minds get blown with this idea. And you know, they’re mostly millennials. And even for them, this is such a different way of thinking about it. So you care about using data to make people’s lives better, which I love and you have something called the Data for Good Initiative. Tell us about that?

Jonathan Silver  14:54

Yes. And I just want to comment, if I may, you know, because it goes back to your comment about creepy. This is all about, you know, using data to improve people’s lives, which is something that we’re fully anchored, every time I have a conversation with someone, internally or externally, whether I explicitly say it or whether I just think it, I’m filtering the decision of what we do against that vision. Yes, we want to help organizations build deeper relationships with their constituents, whether it’s a not for profit for their donors, or whether it’s a company with respect to consumers, but the underlying theme is using data to improve people’s lives. And so the big difference between you know, as you say, wonderful and terrifying is the consumer being in control, people in control, and using data to improve people’s lives. It’ll always, as long as they control it, any major technology shift is scary. TVs were scary in the 50s, and you know, iPhones and other personal devices are often the cause of great concern for people like me who’s kids use it all the time. But it’s advanced, it’s advanced society. So as long as we’re anchored fully in consumer control, then I’m confident that we will do the right thing. So Data for Good is the umbrella term, and we started, it was actually during COVID, that we kind of officially launched it. It’s using data to help not just businesses, and consumers in society, kind of all three. But we started to get a demand among academics, scientists, researchers, nonprofits, and the media for information, there was a big hole punched in the data set that a lot of the world of commerce was using to figure out what’s going on, meaning the spending at their stores, spending on their website, people just stopped showing up, stop showing up. And so they wanted a more outside in view something to help businesses navigate something to help government agencies navigate. And so we created Data for Good as a way to provide data, many cases for free, to not for profit entities so that they can help with government policymaking so that we can provide tools to give. I was shocked that a lot of the municipalities don’t even get sales tax information until, you know, months after the fact. So how can they make decisions based on what happened last week or the week before if they don’t have the information? We get it every day. So that’s really the umbrella for Data for Good was using data to help businesses, consumers and society make better decisions.

Erica Mills Barnhart  17:29

I didn’t realize actually that it was launched because of COVID. And what I’m hearing you say is sort of this seismic shift in consumer behavior, as all of us collectively and individually fully freaked out, as we realized that this was a marathon and not a sprint and started adjusting that. Okay, that’s great, on your website, so Data for Good is an initiative of Affinity. So let’s say that and I just I love this and I want to read it so that listeners can can hear this “Crises are a double edged sword, times of strife have the potential to push customers away yet, if handled correctly, they pose the opportunity to bring them closer than ever. Affinity Solutions is here to help clients optimize brand experience in ways that best demonstrate empathy” I’m going to come back to that. “And improved emotional engagement vital to walking that balance is an organization’s ability to leverage data in ways to act in service of humanity, not in place of it” To act in service of humanity, not in place of it. Okay, I have a very nit-picky question before I have like a bigger question. You don’t have periods at the end of your sentences is that on purpose?

Jonathan Silver  18:37

I would say it wasn’t necessarily conscious. But sometimes, you know, ideas shouldn’t necessarily, you want them to continue free flowing and periods are kind of like a barrier. So you know.

Erica Mills Barnhart  18:49

It was intentional. I totally love that. It’s both so it wasn’t like an oversight, you know? So it’s at the end of each of these, like mini paragraphs. Okay. Thank you very much.

Jonathan Silver  19:01

We’re trying to take the the boundaries away.

Erica Mills Barnhart  19:03

Yeah. Okay. Okay. So that’s, that’s really cool. Okay, and then so more substantively, this idea of empathy. So we just had another episode, if folks are interested in empathy, go listen to the episode with Maria Ross, who wrote the book, The Empathy Edge. And she, you know, speaks very eloquently about empathy being a bridge between what’s here and what’s possible and how you can, you know, yeah, use empathy as a bridge towards that. How did empathy come in, factor in, when you were thinking about Data for Good?

Jonathan Silver  19:41

Yeah, so well, first of all, we see businesses that demonstrate different degrees of empathy, organizations in general during the Coronavirus, their ability to really understand what their customers were going through or their constituents or their donors vary pretty widely and there was some organizations that did a really good job like AT&T is generally recognized, and it’s not just somebody figured out a way to create an ad that, you know, was clever. It was that they changed many cases, businesses were changing their delivery system, their customer experience, to align. And so AT&T did a particularly good job. They wanted to support the frontline workers. They create a curbside engagement opportunities, you know, where frontline workers and people in general could come and get their phones. And we saw this in the QSR space where you know, Domino’s stepped back and said, you know, we of course, have always done home delivery, same thing with Papa John’s, but we’re going to go a step further and we’re going to make it completely contactless. So no human hands, touch the pizza. And you could order pizza, you could order your pizza and have it delivered to the front door of your house, the side door, the back door, they just made that home, the whole home delivery experience easier and safer. And I think, you know, customers see that and, of course, the marketing, the messaging lines up there. So number one, we’ve seen a lot of a range of the way in which companies and organizations deal with the changing environment and those that do it well, they’re they’re doing well.

Erica Mills Barnhart  21:06

This is Maria’s take, which is companies that put empathy at the center of what they do, it improves their bottom line, and she you know, has done her research to support that. I love that topic because, and that point of view, because I think it makes people’s brains sort of like be like empathy, you mean that woo woo, stuff, like oh I care about you? Like, don’t we only do that? And then what are we all gonna hold hands and sing Kumbaya, like what comes next? It’s like, no, it’s a business move. And it’s a smart business move. And I mentioned this, but you know, a lot of listeners to this show, work for nonprofits. One thing that’s very interesting, so I’ve work with hundreds of nonprofits, because I’m lucky that way, nonprofits tend to be empathetic by nature, you get into the work, because you are in feeling with the people to whom you’re in service. And yet, you turn it right around and it’s like, there’s a total block between, not a total block, but oftentimes a clogging, I would say, of using empathy to market mission. So they’re like day in day out nonprofits, the folks who work for them are like, super empathetic, and then they get to marketing’s like, it should be rational, we can’t use markets, like they go into, you know, kind of robot mode. So I really appreciate you centering empathy, and, you know, reinforcing this point, because it’s a good business move to be centered on empathy.

Jonathan Silver  22:29

It is, and, you know, without getting controversial, I mean, we’re in a, in an environment right now, where there’s not a whole lot of empathy coming from some of our leaders. And so I think, you know, it’s created this, I think empathy is going in the wrong direction for some segments of our society. And, you know, it’s not just a woo woo thing, it’s not just to be nice, it does impact the bottom line. And when you step back and look at data, and when we talk about using data to improve people’s lives, you know, empathy can be built into the way in which data is used, you know, if you, if you want to, if you look at a person situation, you want to personalize their experience, by definition that requires empathy. If you believe personalization is a key ingredient in driving better business models, then how can you personalize without understanding, it’s almost, it’s almost the two go hand in hand, and personalization, we are entering a world of hyper personalization, you are going to see models is the tip of the iceberg. You’re going to see all kinds of things across domains from commerce, education, health, entertainment, you know, think of it as a next generation app store where your friends will say, hey, check out this experience, you got to sign up for this app. And when you do, and you walk into the store, the entire environment of the store is going to change to become, you know, the Erica Barnhart store. You’re gonna, I tell the story in January, I was at this conference called CES used to be called the Consumer Electronics Show.

Erica Mills Barnhart  24:02

It’s the big show.

Jonathan Silver  24:04

Like insanely big. And the CEO of Delta Airlines before the world and then travels put on pause was on stage, the first keynote 1000s of people in the audience talking about the future of travel, and he brought one of his partners on stage. And you know, we’ve all heard of virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality. This was called parallel reality. And this is imagine if you and I were in an airport together, Erica and Jonathan standing in front of a billboard, I see only things on the Billboard that relate to me, what time I have to be in my gate, when my one of my flight arrives, what restaurants are near where I’m standing that have food that matches my preferences, and I’m seeing nothing else. You’re standing right next to me. You’re looking at the same exact billboard, and you’re seeing nothing related to me only things that relate to Erica. And we’re not wearing special glasses. We’re not doing anything and we’re having this experience. Don’t ask me how it works.

Erica Mills Barnhart  24:54

You preempted my next question.

Jonathan Silver  24:58

I know but before, you know, travels on pause, but imagine that experience in a physical store and that ability for, you know, for data to interact with other technologies like that, to personalize your experience. That’s where it’s all, that’s where it’s going. And it’s going to go with consumer permission with people raising their hands. So it’s not going to be creepy, it’s going to be with invitation only. But that’s, that’s where it’s going. And in order for that to be done right, empathy is a core ingredient and emotional resonance. We like to call it Billy Howard from our, our partner, brand throat, you know, talks a lot about emotional resonance that we try and bake and everything we do.

Erica Mills Barnhart  25:37

Yeah, beautiful, and a beautiful segue into something I really want to talk to you about, which is the difference between decision making when somebody has their consumer hat on and when they have their donor hat on. And, you know, emotional resonance in different spaces, you know, it’s gonna resonate differently. So how I, you know, what insights do you have from the massive amounts of data that you have, and working with folks in all different sectors? I mean, what we know is, donors, you know, are rationally, you know, rational, like they’re not, they want to be like, no, I have researched this, I’ve gone on GuideStar, it turns out, like, you know, 2% of donors go on GuideStar, or anything else to sort of gather data about the organization, we give, for the most part to nonprofits from our heart, and then kind of backup the data caboose a little bit. However, there’s a volition, I would say, and for better for worse, which is another conversation. COVID has sort of been a forcing function in terms of like the level of accountability that people are looking for from nonprofits, like every dollar matters so much to most folks right now. So giving it all is a big deal. It makes people feel great. So people want to be giving and they want to be hearing from nonprofits. And it’s, it’s challenging to know like, what headspace is somebody and I mean, we’re, I assume you’re at home, I’m at home, right? So that those lines used to be so much brighter, and now feels like they have been conflated or mushed, together would maybe the technical term for that. What insights can you offer listeners about how to think through those things and approach them?

Jonathan Silver  27:18

That’s a great question. So we think a lot about, you know, donors, just in the political realm. And I’ll go to the non political in a moment, just to go into dangerous territory. We were contacted actually, late last year, early this year, when Michael Bloomberg was running for president, and I’m sure you know, many of your listeners know he was spending a lot of money on getting his name out there. And this organization that his campaign was working with is called Hawkfish, which is a digital marketing group. And they were very interested in how we could not only provide insights on who within the data or world of data would have a propensity to donate, propensity to vote for that candidate, propensity to be, to maybe change their point of view when presented with information. We all know that data can be misused. We all know what happened in 2016, with Cambridge analytic and Facebook, but use properly data can actually be used to help really profile someone with the right message. If you think about marketing, you know, there’s a whole bunch of variables that go into marketing, what’s the message? What’s the creative? What’s the positioning? What website do I advertise on? To whom am I targeting in a programmatic world? Where an audience’s definable, right, you say, I want this to go to this profile of individual wherever they go on the web, or on a mobile device, the location, the timing, and the frequencies, a lot of variables that go in to marketing. And so the ability to then say, in the context of Michael Bloomberg, or Hawkfish, to profile, the audience based on who is likely to respond to donate or to vote in this case, we found some really interesting things. And then unfortunately, he before, Super Tuesday, he pulled the plug. But we continue the dialogue with others like Hawkfish, in the political space. Going beyond the political, you know, this idea of emotional resonance, you know, what will touch people’s hearts, you know, what will motivate someone is just as relevant. The same technology, the same approach that I just described with all the different variables can identify someone who would respond to a particular message about, you know, donating to a particular cause. So I would strongly encourage anyone who’s listening in the not for profit world to look at technologies out there that can map the right message to the right prospective donor. And it’s incredibly, it’s fascinating, because those same variables, what message will resonate for me, you know, that will get me to round up my purchase at CVS or to donate, you know, a standalone donation to an organization is going to be different from the next guy.

Erica Mills Barnhart  29:53

You just touched on something I had not thought of until you mentioned in this context, which is the, I think the big overlap moment still is, if you know you’re at the grocery store, and you’re checking out, and I’ve noticed this happening more, and I don’t know if that’s just here, so I’d be interested in your take on it. But being asked to round up for different causes seems to be happening more often. Are you seeing that or hearing that? Or is that just like in my little corner of the world?

Jonathan Silver  30:21

No, I’m seeing a lot of that, I’m seeing a lot of it. And you know, just to add a little more color to what I was saying earlier, our organization Affinity Solutions, we are big supporter of the Pediatric Cancer Foundation. And you know, candidly, why, as the CEO, I was contacted by someone in our community, Nancy Johnson was the Executive Director of the group. And you know, it’s hard, it’s hard not to go to their website and see kids with cancer and not, you know, not, you know, have your heart go out. And so we’re, we’re a big supporter of that. But I, I kind of think of, you know, you’ve got a window, right, whether it’s a round up at the end of a purchase in a store, or whether it’s, you know, an ad or a TV commercial to connect emotionally with a prospective donor. And as I said earlier, different messages will resonate differently with different people. And so to me, you know, a big area that’s gotten a lot of attention, it’s just making it real, right, you know, which is what a lot of the TV commercials do, they’ll show dogs, you know, in the animal rescue space, they’ll show, you know, dogs or other animals that are being mistreated. And in my case, you know, I’m a big dog lover, because we have our golden doodle, so anything to do with dogs will get my attention. But you know, the word affinity or name is kind of like, what we’re talking about here is what, what’s the point of emotional connection that a consumer is going to care about, it may be tied to their life, stage, lifestyle, pet ownership, stage in life. And if you can connect with someone based on their affinity, their passion, what floats their boat, in the context of what you’re trying to do, you’ll get their attention.

Erica Mills Barnhart  31:55

Yeah, I mean, what’s always been interesting to me about the, I think it as like the consumer bump up moment where it’s like, round on up to the next dollar, is people are in a consumer mindset. And so I don’t know that it’s about deep affinity for whatever it is, because generally, it’s going to be one organization that they’re promoting, rather than the, you know, that a suite of them. And so I think, with that, what’s interesting to note, and important is like, that’s a low friction, right? Oh, I could just round up and I can feel good, you know, I can get that nice hit of dopamine, not that people saying they’re like, I would like to hit a dopamine. But that’s what happens. That’s what happens, all the happy chemicals come out. But it’s so frictionless. And so it seems, if I’m connecting dots between what you’re saying is like, there’s a world in the not so distant future, where when I walk up to the checkout counter, it dishes up what I care about, you know, so supporting, you know, women who are survivors of domestic violence, and you know, things like that. And that gets really interesting, right? Because then you’re actually combining low friction, it’s an easy, yes with affinity, values, cause and that, I mean, that can be so powerful, you know, assuming that everybody has opted in, and it’s not creepy, you know, when you walk up to the checkout, you know, it would have some adorable dog, you and my son would be, you’re speaking the same language, that I think it’s very, very interesting.

Jonathan Silver  33:21

Yeah, so we did some work some years back with United Way where they, they had a program that we actually, we’re going to run the back end for called Pennies for Change and in that case, it was, you know, United Way is a complex organization with different subgroups. So there was some challenges in getting a launch, but it was basically adding a penny to every transaction to the consumer. And then you know, those pennies, obviously aggregate to something meaningful. And I think Bank of America tried to do it in something called Keep the Change. But your point about low friction is really important, right, you can have the best, you know, ability to identify the message that’s going to engage somebody. But if it they have to jump to three or four hoops to do it. So you’re right, the roundup is a low friction point, I would argue not all it’s a hit is a hit of dopamine, and may also be the opposite. If you don’t donate, you feel like kind of like a creep. You know, either way, it’s to feel good. But there’s other examples of low friction where you can add on is while you’re pulling out your wallet for something you can add on to that transaction. And we do a lot of work with our banks. We talked about our data side of our business, but the way we get the data is we run loyalty programs for financial institutions, and the technology that we use in serving the 3000 banks in the loyalty model is called card linking. Where your card is on file, in this case, the bank has it because they issue the card and it’s very easy to just say click to donate, right you don’t have to type your credit card number in, they already have it right or while you’re buying something. So card linking is going to be a very important part of I think a not for profits arsenal in the low friction piece of it. We can talk all day long about how to use data to identify the affinities of a person or potential donor. But you want to make it, I love what you’re talking about in terms of low friction. So I think just wanted to mention card linking as a key part of the loyalty of what we do.

Erica Mills Barnhart  35:16

That’s fascinating. I guess it just, I feel like it’s such a moment where, on the one hand, you know, I, I’m in contact daily with lots of some, you know, clients, and then just I’m in the orbit of nonprofits so and they are like, truly hurting. It is, you know, for on a variety of levels, the work they do tends to be very heavy emotionally, and now that the future is very uncertain. So the idea of expanding their arsenal or doing anything extra is a lot like I’m doing these sort of more coaching sessions, that I’ve done, and basically, I come in, and I’m like, let’s, let’s generate, I, let me just generate ideas with you. Because people are like, I can’t even think of anything else. You know, they’re like, I just got to get the appeal out. I’m like, yes, you do. And let’s make it awesome. But I really am hoping that part of what will come out of this is this like expansion, of thinking about the arsenal that sounds so like warmongering, but let’s just stick with it. I don’t have a different word, like, your suite of offerings, so it really gets me thinking intentionally and strategically. And with partners, you know, with like Affinity Solutions, who might be able to help them do this, this idea of like, what are all like, this is passive income. If we were talking about sort of an in business speak. What’s passive income? It’s like the Smiles Program, Amazon Smiles Program, and and how can we make that super easy for nonprofits to implement because they can not take on anymore. So that it’s just these, you know, this sort of passive income that you don’t have to work as hard for and then you know, a lot about loyalty programs, kind of if that’s like an initial engagement, then how do we connect that to their databases? So that then they’re like, oh, wow, you know, Jonathan, you know, gave us a penny and all the pennies are adding up or he rounded up or whatever, I think that’s a really, that’ll be a really critical data, potential data gap. So being able to link that information about maybe who gave so that then they can engage them more deeply in the cause. And, you know, be in community about the cause.

Jonathan Silver  37:21

Yeah, so you said a lot of things there. I think that personal, you use the word arsenal, I use the word toolset, right. Giving a not for profit the toolset.

Erica Mills Barnhart  37:31

That’s much nicer, Jonathan, I like that so much better.

Jonathan Silver  37:33

You know, arsenal? Yeah, it’s a little aggressive. Yeah. But, you know, it works. I you know, that we think a lot about the democratization of the tool. So some of it, you know, we look at in the dimension of small versus large organizations, the big ones seem to have more money for, you know, investing in technology. But there’s more and more tool sets that are available for smaller organizations, whether businesses or not for profits, one of those tool sets is around this idea of card linking, what nonprofits want to get into is a scenario where they don’t have to fight to get a donation.

Erica Mills Barnhart  38:06

That’s right.

Jonathan Silver  38:07

It just happens by itself. And you know, that obviously, the flip side is getting getting people to see donation as a fact of their own lives. It’s just what they do every day every, why not every transaction have a round up? So there there is a group and I probably should have said this earlier, that I think I may have mentioned, it’s a consortium of scientists, academics, researchers, and not for profits, where we’re giving our data and the tools, the data tools away for free to certain organizations. And I would just say if anyone’s interested in your audience, and wants to reach out to me, they can go to www.affinitysolutions.com. Do I have to say WWW. anymore?

Erica Mills Barnhart  38:48

I wonder that every time I say that, I’m so glad you said that out loud. Do I say the WWW out loud? Or does that just make me sound like a boomer like an official? Although I’m not. But anyway, generalized term.

Jonathan Silver  39:16

But if you reach out to me, we will bring you into this consortium, it’s actually on a Slack channel. Slack is a collaboration tool, and we can let people go in and have at it and we want to help. I mean, I think the whole Data for Good thing for me is the chance to give back, it’s a chance to, to show, you know, again, I get passionate about, you know, in terms of cause around using data to improve people’s lives. So, you know, I think going back to the data side about what is going to connect with people to want to make them donate or connect with an organization, figuring it out to me, it’s making it real, and I could, I would just love to know every time data is used to improve people’s lives, I want to see that person. I want to see how it changed their lives, gave them more access to information and improve their ability to make ends meet. That’s what would would make me want to donate more and more in my chosen sphere. But I guarantee you that you know, for those people that have any propensity to donate the challenges and then figure out what’s going to float their boat, what’s going to make them want to donate in a low friction environment?

Erica Mills Barnhart  40:19

Yep, Agreed. Agreed. All right, I end every interview the same way, which is by asking guests, so we talk a lot about inspiration and motivation. So inspiration means etymologically speaking, to breathe in. Okay. So inspiration gives you breath, motivation is about taking action. So you need both. What inspires you and what keeps you motivated to do this work?

Jonathan Silver  40:43

Well, at the risk of redundancy, it’s really around using data to improve people’s lives. But it’s also, you know, at my core, when I was unhappy working for an environment where I didn’t think I can create, so I am a creator by you know, in this case, creating a company or creating an environment where we can impact individuals using data, we can create an environment where people want to, you know, work for our organization to that end, and serving our different stakeholders. So that is what motivates me, I meditate on a regular basis. So that’s my version of breathing in, most mornings, where I have to remind myself step back, and make sure that I don’t, you know, don’t get caught up in the, the BS of day to day and recognize kind of direction where all this is going.

Erica Mills Barnhart  41:30

You don’t have to answer this question. But I’m curious, since you’re meditator, do you use breath throughout the day to kind of calm or center yourself?

Jonathan Silver  41:40

It’s a good question. I have, I think the act of meditating almost every morning, it sort of becomes second nature. So I think, I think, I probably do it without thinking about it. Because the whole thing of meditation in my last 23 minutes and 50 some odd seconds, because it’s a it’s a guided meditation. And I think it’s just anchoring on a visualization of what you want to project out and, and breathing is is a core part of that, so you do that every almost every morning for 24 minutes, it’s going to affect how you use breath during the day.

Erica Mills Barnhart  42:12

Yeah, that’s great. I just, you know, marketing, the world is so swirly. marketing is swirly listeners and viewers, I just think the world is it’s pretty tippy and disorienting. And, and there’s no end in sight. If we’re being honest about that vaccine or not. We just don’t know where we’re going to come out. So I always love them and guest on their own sort of, you know, comments on how they, how they keep themselves centered, you know, just to keep doing the work.

Jonathan Silver  42:41

Yeah, and I don’t know what that is, you know, it’s and you hear a lot of people talk about difficulty, you know, separating, you know, their work life from their home life, because now they’re working from home a lot. And that’s true. But there’s something in a way, if you embrace that, thinking about it now out loud, but if you embrace it, there’s something nice about that your personal life is interwoven into your work life. Right, because I think there’s the there’s an artificial separation sometimes. And if they’re in harmony, if the things you care about are what you’re doing workwise that’s actually okay to have the your work world and your your personal life kind of blend together.

Erica Mills Barnhart  43:18

Couldn’t agree more, and I can’t think of a better place to end talking about data with humanity is what I heard you say, how I’m gonna interpret it. Jonathan, I really appreciate you being on the show, sharing everything you know with consumers. As always, listeners and viewers, we’ll put all the stuff in the show notes. So tons of resources that Jonathan has put out there. And I I’m excited to see, I’m really excited to see where this all goes. This gives me great hope that there’s a way to expand the toolkit and a low friction easy to do way for nonprofits so that they can do more in the world. Listeners and viewers as always, do good, be well and we will see you next time.

Do you communicate as effectively as you think?


Do you communicate as effectively as you think?