Ep 6: Rebecca Zanatta: COVID-19 Angst and Fundraising Joy

On this episode of Marketing for Good, Rebecca Zanatta joins Erica to talk about fundraising. Specifically, they talk about the weirdness of engaging donors during COVID-19, what fundraising will look like after COVID-19 and how to prepare for it. They also discuss whether Millennials approach giving to charity differently from Baby Boomers or Gen X. Lastly, they talk about how to engage individual board members in ways that play to their strengths and the value of clearly communicating with them about your organization’s current needs and how they can help you meet them.


This is a transcript of Erica Mills Barnhart’s interview with Rebecca Zanatta 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!


people, work, board members, donors, philanthropy, nonprofits, events, fundraising

Erica Mills Barnhart  00:00

 Welcome to the Marketing for Good podcast. I am really excited because today we have Rebecca Zanatta with us. Rebecca is a fundraising leader and that’s putting it mildly. She has more than 20 years of experience. Building and stewarding strategic donor partnerships. Currently she unleashes her superpowers as President of the Ostara Group, a fundraising firm that values relationships, partnerships, and I’ve come to learn a good beer. She is a Washington State University graduate and holds a certificate in fundraising management from the Lilly School Philanthropy. She is faculty at Seattle University in the Master in Nonprofit Leadership Program and is a Washington State University Foundation trustee. A little known fact Rebecca is one of the few people who can walk around Green Lake which is a lake right in the middle of Seattle faster than I can. I’m pretty fast walker. She’s a faster walker, and she has walked your way around more than 25 countries on five continents. Welcome to the Marketing for Good podcast. Rebecca, I’m so excited to have you here.

Rebecca Zanatta  01:48

Thank you so much, Erica. I’m excited to be here with you today, it was something to look forward to, thank you.

Erica Mills Barnhart  01:55

You in the fall actually walked and probably did other things around one of my favorite places which is Normandy, France.

Rebecca Zanatta  02:02

Oh, amazing, yeah.

Erica Mills Barnhart  02:04

Where did you go?

Rebecca Zanatta  02:06

So, Paris is one of my favorite cities in the whole world. So we, of course, couldn’t leave out Paris on this trip. So we flew into Paris, and then rented a car and drove out and stayed in Bayeux. So kind of in that area close to the beaches, and had an amazing tour, full day tour, we actually followed the band of brothers tour, if anybody have watched that show before. Then my significant other is a huge World War Two history fan, so we spent days on the beaches, and really enjoyed that. And then we went down to the Loire Valley and spent some time drinking some wine, and then came back to Paris and then came home. So I’m really glad we had about two weeks.

Erica Mills Barnhart  02:54

That sounds amazing. And we’re recording this while quarantined, sheltered in place, whatever I’ve become unclear on what the difference is for day 3079, so travel just feels so delicious. Just the idea of it.

Rebecca Zanatta  03:14

You know, so I travel around the world for a year in 2006 so, sold, sold my house, quit my job, did the whole thing. That’s when we visited 25 countries on five different continents. My total track today is about 46 country. So, I am looking forward to whatever that 47th will be, dreaming a bit of Sri Lanka, maybe Bali, but just now not sure when. But still, as you said, dreaming of you know, when it’s possible to go and learn and support and be part of another community.

Erica Mills Barnhart  03:55

Mm hmm. Sounds lovely. But here we are. Here we are, we can dream but not go yet. I will so the reason I love Normandy is the first time I went to France so I’ve been there quite a few times and very very blessed plus obsessed with the French language. I went to and stayed with a family for a month in Rouen, which is the capital of Normandy, right up, there and then we went to- Yeah, well, you know, I, since I spent my early early days in Canada, actually, I learned how to speak English first, but I learned how to read and write French first. Well, that’s a little, little glitch I have. So I’ve always been in love with France and it was super cool and the beaches were amazing, and the, just all of it stuck with me for sure. Alright, so let’s, let’s see, we’re going to talk about fun fundraising and marketing and people, all sorts of things. And one of the things I often say is that nonprofits aren’t like toothpaste. And what I mean by that is you don’t like have to give to a nonprofit, like when you run out of toothpaste you like have to go buy more toothpaste but you don’t have to give to a nonprofit. So over the years you in your roles have seen thousands of people give to dozens of nonprofits. And I’m just wondering, in your opinion, why do people give money to nonprofits, like, what accounts for this quite irrational behavior? I think people, so the word philanthropy means love of mankind. So if you believe that people are good, and people want good in the world, and want to be part of their community, then I believe that philanthropy is one of the ways in which you can do it. Now that is a very lofty word and that’s why I say when it comes down to it, it means love of mankind. Because I think people give because they care. And I think they give because they want to see better in the world, and there are so many places where people can make their gifts and I think that’s the beauty of working in this nonprofit sector is seeing the various people who support different organizations and knowing that they’re making a really big difference with no matter what size of gift, by the way, it’s really about participation. And I think there’s a value in that, but people feel to their community, it’s the people that there are the people that the organization is serving.  Yeah. Yeah. I mean, all the evidence would suggests that you wouldn’t, you wouldn’t donate to nonprofits anymore, and yet there is something so core to, you know, folks who do and what it means about them and their identity and their sense of self and a whole bunch of other things. So we’ve already mentioned we’re recording this while sheltered in place, and COVID-19 I mean, it’s changed our world’s in so many ways and that includes marketing and includes fundraising, of course. What would you say to those who are listening who are struggling to raise money? I mean, it’s hard right now. It’s I just want to pause and acknowledge, these are not easy times, and they’re really not easy for, you know, frontline workers. Thank you so much for what you’re doing. You know, people in the medical profession, health care professionals and folks working for nonprofits, it’s just tough. Um, I want to come at this, I’m generally an optimist and a positive frame person, but I want to hear you just talk about because you have this vantage point where you see a whole bunch of organizations doing and trying different things. What mistakes are you seeing organizations make and what would you, what would you recommend they do differently to be more successful? I think the mistakes are coming from fear and unknown. And so one of the mistakes is sterilization and not not not engaging your donors and making decisions for your donors and not communicating with your donors because you don’t know what to say. I think it’s really it could be really easy right now to just crawl in a hole and just not come out for a while. I mean, and that’s the hardest part, right? We don’t know when we’re going to be able to sort of crawl up out of this. And even when people say it’s going to be go back to normal, there will, the normal will be completely new. And I think in fundraising, especially it will be new. But the mistakes that I’m seeing are when people are basing some of their decisions or lack of decisions on fear. Do you think it’s solely fear? I guess part of what I’m seeing and wondering about is folks feeling not folks, people working for nonprofits feeling like they shouldn’t like bother their donors.

Rebecca Zanatta  08:54

Yeah.Yeah. That’s a great you know, what’s interesting about it is we are all in this together, right? And so as much as angst as you feel as a nonprofit professional, whether you sit in the Executive Director role, you sit as a Board role, you sit as a Director of Development, or the Program Team, I mean, whoever’s part of that ecosystem of philanthropy right now. Their angst is just very similar to what our donors are feeling. And I mean that by our individual donors, our foundation donors, our corporate donors, everybody would love to keep giving, everybody would love to keep participating. And what’s interesting is I’m seeing and I’m talking about it a little bit when you think about, you know, something, the three T’s right time, talent and treasure, and you think about it in the aspect that there might not be a lot of treasure right now. But heck, some people have a lot of time. And so what is that, that you could ask your donors or engage with your donors that’s more around their time or their talent than their treasure because ultimately treasure will come back and some people are still giving. I mean, there’s certainly in some of the clients that I work with, especially in the food banks and in the social service sector, those that are frontline are seeing a complete increase in donations, and an overwhelming support and acknowledgement of the work that they do. And that, that that’s heartwarming, right? Because that’s something that I hope carries forward in terms of the realization that our nonprofits and that the third sector, the nonprofit sector plays in our community.

Erica Mills Barnhart  10:32

So listeners of this podcast work for nonprofits and foundations and and then other tax statuses, right? Because it’s fundamentally just a tax status and actually was my dad who recently we were talking about charity, philanthropy and giving and all these things. And he said, you know, I think about my charitable donations is like my way of paying for, he didn’t say it quite, he said it more eloquently, but basically buying the better world that I want to see. And you know I teach right now, I’m teaching so it’s like on my mind, I literally just taught earlier, a couple minutes before this, my undergrad class at the University of Washington, which is on nonprofit philanthropy, social innovation. And, uh, you know, we’re talking a lot about how blurry the lines are between things. And you know, those students grew up in a time where they put every decision and every purchasing decision and donating decision through with this values filter. Not every, but a lot, right? So it’s a it’s a very different mindset. And I wonder if you see that playing out, you know, sort of this generational difference in terms of how younger generations and then older than us and us think about just makes decisions. It feels quite different to me. I love, that’s a really interesting point because so I have a senior in high school, Lucy, who is my stepdaughter, and my heart breaks for her. And she is handling it amazingly. So what’s really interesting is I’ve been thinking about it and having different conversations with people, because generational giving is something that I’m passionate about and have been for probably the last 20 years. And it’s the first time all five generations from Generation Z, Generation Y, Millennials, Generation X, baby boomers, and the matures, are all working together. They’re all giving to different causes together. We’re all in this world, this thick of it together. And yes, certainly, generations have different characteristics in terms of their giving. Speaking specifically to the younger generation, specifically Millennials, Generation Y and Generation Z, and I think about it I’ll speak more specifically towards Lucy so Lucy was born right after 9/11 right? So that’s part of her core. She knew about that, there was lore behind that she knew about it. Then she went through the depression or the recession in 2008 2009. And so how and what her, you know, again, becoming a young adult in that time, and now they’re experiencing this and coping, and they’re going to vote, by the way, in November. So what’s super interesting to me is to watch Lucy and look and listen and hear some of the conversations her and her friends are having about volunteer engagement about, you know, the money that they don’t have right now, but where they would give it and by the way, they do, do still give, even if they don’t make a lot of money. Again, the misnomer that just rich people give money is actually sort of the opposite. A lot of people who don’t have tons of money are actually the ones who carry philanthropy a lot in our country. So I think certainly, what’s interesting is people probably by generation are reverting back to kind of their giving characteristics. But Generation Z for me is the one that’s the most fascinating to watch and to see how they will sort of transcend from this as as philanthropists involved in organizations as volunteers, as donors. So that kind of answers your question.  Yeah, no, that’s great. I wonder if we’re fascinated. I mean, there’s so much like focus on millennials and now the, the Zoomers, which, I think both both my kids are 12 and 15 are technically Zoomers, the 15 year olds, maybe be a little on the cusp. Anyway, I wonder, you know, there’s so much sort of attention and like, how do you market to them? And how do you engage them and and I wonder if we’re intrigued because of, because we don’t know the end to the story? Right, like our minds always kind of want to like know what the ending is to the story. I don’t know that they’re inherently more inherently more fascinating than the other generations. We’re fascinating. Not really, but you know, comparing is fascinating, but I do really like it intrigues me deeply. Why, why there’s just so much focus on it, but yeah, I love I love hearing about Lucy and what her friends are talking about. It’s a great-  Well and they care. And they are, you know, their, their, they they give me hope. Right? Like their generation gives me hope. And where they’re going, how they’re getting us there, what they’re teaching us, you know, I’m the one falling in the corner because she’s not going to have a graduation and she’s like, oh I’m good you know, and we’re going to do this, this and this, and I don’t know if that’s just her and maybe some of her friends but you know, they are certainly, she is certainly handling it really, really well. That’s great to hear. I do always say that, what, if people are bummed out or pessimist or are feeling down, I come, well, you can’t always come in and sit in a class because it would be awkward but like they give me hope every single day that I teach and get to be around my students is a gift, because they remind me that like, good things are still coming. You know, it’s part of the reason I want to do this podcast is, I feel like you know, we have a negative negativity skew is also human nature. And there’s a lot of goodness happening in the world. So part of this podcast was my way of being like, no, no, I’m not crazy, like there’s a lot of good happening in the world.

Rebecca Zanatta  16:32

We’re going to talk about it.

Erica Mills Barnhart  16:33

We’re going to talk about it. Let’s talk about it. I mean, okay. So speaking of silver linings, because I am always looking for the silver lining. So much will be, is different now. So much will be different. And then we know that we will go back to status quo because that’s what we know in a lot of ways. Well, you know, probably we will if history is any indication of the future. What are some things that you’re hoping won’t go back to the status quo? As it relates to philanthropy. So one is the fact that the third sector, the nonprofit sector, was even included in the stimulus package. Right, like actually in, in, at table. So I think there’s a way for advocacy to lead more front and center than it ever has before. And for nonprofits to understand how they can participate, because they can. There’s such this sort of misnomer that you can’t participate in advocacy. You can’t really lobby but there’s a really different, there are really different rules between advocacy and lobbying. And so that advocacy seat at the table voice being heard, I hope continues. I also hope we are reverting back some tried and true fundraising practices. Picking up the phone and calling donor x and checking in and saying hello. And you know what, I have always been an advocate for that. But I think now more than ever, people realize that phone calls and checking in or maybe a Zoom conversation or a FaceTime conversation, whatever that might be. That personal engagement is all is, is, in my opinion, and always will be the number one way to engage people in giving period is by the face to face ask. And I think that can happen now, we’re realizing in different ways, whether it be over the phone, over zoom, etc. The other thing and I think we’re in the thick of it right now, Erica, is event season. And it’s, you know, I think about the people who were doing events and like early March, at least in Seattle, because I know listeners are probably all over but for Seattle, we were sort of on that front end. Of course, we were the epicenter before, you know, there was an epicenter that that started traveling around the country, and those nonprofits who were doing events during that time, there were some that did some really good work in pivoting really quickly to like online events to virtual events. And now, you know, a month and a half later, we’re still having the conversation, because we don’t know what it’s gonna look like in the summer. And we don’t know what it’s gonna look like in the fall. But my hope is, there’s also an opportunity to engage more thoughtfully with the events that we do, and still do events, because they’re still really important. They are opportunities to acquire new donors, they are opportunities to educate people about the work that we do. But they are also I think, became some of a crutch for us in terms of how much money we raised from them, how much time we spent on them, and the energy that it takes to put on an event. And how can we take some of the lessons we’re learning right now in having to pivot, there’s that word we’re using a lot. How are you, how are you changing your event strategy? And so for me, sort of that seat at the table, tried and true best practices, and maybe looking at our event strategy and learning from some of the things we’re having to sort of be forced to do. You know, I’ve been thinking about this way. So you mentioned I did go to the Lily School Philanthropy, and it was before there was the Lily School, and I sat on a podcast, or listening actually, it was a Zoom webinar. And they were talking about a blank piece of paper, right? And there’s an element right now, and I think on the other side of this, where we can have a blank piece of paper, and we can kind of say, what do we really want to do? Why do we really want to do it? And let’s go out and do it and sort of throw away all the other things that you never really like to do any way that we can’t do right now. So that sort of blank piece of paper thing also gives me some kind of excitement towards what could be on the other side of this.  I mean, that would, actually do that to take a blank piece of paper, and by the way, turn it horizontally rather than vertically because our brains process differently on the horizontal-

Rebecca Zanatta  21:01

I like that. Yes.

Erica Mills Barnhart  21:03

And like, you know, there’s that, the author of The Little Prince who said, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, his name is very hard to say, a perfection is reached not when there is nothing left to add, but when there’s nothing left to take away. And I’ve really I’ve been kind of meditating on this idea because it was adapted into something that I heard, which is this question of what’s essential, and therefore, what can fall away?

Rebecca Zanatta  21:30


Erica Mills Barnhart  21:31

And my invitation to listeners is really, and with this edition of like, take a blank piece of paper, and really ask the question about what’s essential, I feel like and I know from talking to colleagues around the country and the world, that we’re pretty event heavy in Seattle, and I don’t know why we like it so much, but we love us an event. And so, but I mean, it’s fairly common for nonprofits. And you know, I talk to organizations and be like, why are you doing the event and it almost became like, well, we have to do an event. It’s like, no, you actually don’t.

Rebecca Zanatta  22:00

Because we’ve always done it that way.

Erica Mills Barnhart  22:01

Right? You know, either we’ve always done the way or and the thing that like kind of got me going a little bit more is like, well everybody’s doing events, so if we don’t have event, well, maybe you zig while they zag. But this idea of just a blank piece of paper, I love that. I think it was Susan Hallett who I heard this from and she said, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. She was paraphrasing somebody, I don’t know, she was paraphrasing. I have loved seeing, you know, nonprofit step up and stand tall into that, like, we deserve to be in that stimulus package. Guess what? No, we can’t just keep doing this without help. We’re so on the front line. So that definitely gives me-

Rebecca Zanatta  22:46

 There is an opportunity to be bold and to be big and again, there is an opportunity right now to think beyond and to think big and bold and what is it that you want to let go you know, take that blank piece of paper, but also think about what could be, right? Because donors love to be involved in something that’s big. And that is really impactful. And it doesn’t have to steer away from your mission. But like, what is that next big idea that you want to go out that you’ve actually learned during this time that could have really benefited you? Right? And so thinking about it from that aspect of yes, there are aspects right now, where we have to be reactive, because there is just there is just money that we need to raise to support our people, that our programs and everything that we do, but like when you get a chance to sort of sit, take a breath, get out that piece of paper, put it horizontal, and then dream. And, to your point, get rid of the non-essential, and that’s the other thing, I think the word essential has become so loaded right now in our communities, because who wants to be told they’re non-essential, right? But the reality is, there are certainly things that are work in philanthropy that are essential and there are certainly things that we could probably do without or do differently next time.

Erica Mills Barnhart  24:09

Yeah, I mean it bums me out because the, I love the word essence. I’ve always been because I talk a lot about from a messaging perspective how you want to communicate your essence, not your everything.

Rebecca Zanatta  24:21

Ooh, I like that too. Yep.

Erica Mills Barnhart  24:22

And then this word then essential comes along and it kind of like sullies essence a little bit. I feel like in this day and age, but I really, listeners I want you to hear this point that Rebecca’s making because I feel like it’s really important, which is, you know, this dreaming isn’t luxury and maybe you can’t do it right now, but just like opening up a place in your brain where you might do it would be great. Have you ever heard of any organizations, actually, this will be a lot of insight to like where my brain goes when I hear things. Has it, have you ever heard of organizing like mailing, doing a mail or mailing out a blank piece of paper to donors with a little note saying like explaining, like having to be an invitation to dream the future with them?  No but love it. Because again, another one of those quotes that I don’t know who the origin is, but like long term leadership involvement for me is people, people tend to support what they create. And so if you could, how cool that would be a direct mail piece. Love it.  It’s cheap, how cheap is that? Like, it’s a blank piece of paper.

Rebecca Zanatta  25:29

Super cheap and it could be written in a way where you could literally see the frame, and there could be some prompts. And there could be a way to go with a self, you know, a response on below. And you could do a whole campaign around it. I love that.

Erica Mills Barnhart  25:46

And then they and then and then and then, of course, self enclosed, you know, self addressed stamped envelope so they actually get back to you. You have like endless social media fodder.

Rebecca Zanatta  25:58


Erica Mills Barnhart  25:59

Click, Click. Okay, I hope that when some listener takes this and runs with it-

Rebecca Zanatta  26:04

If they can reach out Eric and I will help you.

Erica Mills Barnhart  26:08

Well, I just like generating the ideas these days. But you know, we’re here and there if they want it. But I do I was gonna ask you anyway. Ostara Group, where you are currently President, I just feel like in the past three to five years, you’ve just like taken off. And you were like this kind of like it was oh Ostara who is Ostara, you know, and now all of a sudden everybody knows who you are. Will you share with us like was that intentional? How did that happen? And how are you feeling about it? Where, where are you, where are you going? Yeah. Thank you. That’s good to hear. Because you never know. Right? Like, it’s interesting because so we celebrated our 10th anniversary last year. And our CEO and founder Kyle Halmrast and I met 11 years ago through Leadership Tomorrow, which is a program through the City of Seattle, many cities have them. And Ostara was born out of that experience for wanting to create consulting for the small and the mid sized organization. And we really think about things in the three C’s culture, capacity and capability. And so I would say, you know, loosely, we were a bunch of independent contractors up until about 2016. So kind of in your timeline of sort of when things sort of got noticed, I would say we we all became employees then in 2016. And we are now a team of 17, and we are we’ve worked with over 350 some clients in the region as well as sort of statewide. And I think we have really good people, I do, and I think we all have worked on the frontlines of fundraising, and so when we say we get it, we actually really do get it. And so there’s an element of the people that we hire who work for Ostara who have really live experience that they can bring into consulting situations. And so we do grant work, right? So we do research, writing and strategies where we actually are part of a team. We do campaign work, so readiness planning, council, we do strategy and facilitation, so traditional Board retreats and workshops and facilitations. And then have a whole line of development services where there’s major gifts, individual giving, development assessments. And so we’ve sort of focused in those four areas, and hire people who have sort of breadth of experience in each of those. And so what I continue to hear is that we work, one of the things we say, we work shoulder to shoulder with you, everything’s custom built, there’s no notebook, and of course, there’s things that we’ve learned from all the clients that we’ve worked with, but you have to go in and really listen and and where are you and what do you need and what are you trying to become and then let’s do that together. So I think that essence, I’ll use that word, of what we do is has caught on. And I think people appreciate that. You mentioned that you do work with Boards.

Rebecca Zanatta  29:11


Erica Mills Barnhart  29:13

What are your thoughts on or your observations about how Board members are thinking about themselves? You know, in this moment. Yeah. So a couple I’ve been, you know, probably like you, as an academic, been doing a lot of reading and looking at articles and all these different things. And Joan Garry, who’s one of my favorite fundraising professionals, had a great blog post about probably three weeks ago and I have just continued to use it, because it’s how Boards can show up right now. And for me, it is a couple and then I’ll caveat by saying I also sat on a webinar by The Chronicle of Philanthropy last week, that was was talking about Boards, I think it was last week, I don’t know, every day kind of feels like a week. Um, but they were talking about Boards right now we have to think about them differently. We have to think about them collectively as the Board, and then we have to think about them as individuals on a Board. And so they have different functions right now because the Board and that governance is being tested, right? In terms of how you show up, how you govern, and then there’s this element of, you know, you mentioned first responders or people that are working in this that are also Board members. Well, they’ve got to do what’s first priority right now. So to me, what I’ve seen work really well is when Executive Directors and staff can be really clear with what they need from the Board, and then ask them for that, versus a call out that we need your help, because then someone might come back to you with help that you might not need right now. But the idea being really clear and prioritize what you need. And then also getting Board members on the phone, talking with donors. I mean that human to human. That idea of just picking up the phone and calling someone to say, how are you? How is your family? How are you doing? How is life? And just listening. And you know, that was the beginning of Joan’s blog was a Development Officer or Executive Director had done that to check in. And guess what? The next day they called and said they wanted to make a very sizable gift. And they did not call to ask, they called to check in. So a great role for Board members to play right now is in that stewardship. Hello? Always a great role. So here’s what I’m going to put into this list. I feel like we’re creating of like things we hope stay and don’t go back to status quo, which is this dynamic of, you know, Executive Directors and staff, kind of not wanting to like bug or be too directive of the Board and there’s some legitimate reasons for that. And there’s power dynamics and a lot of other things. But with really high functioning organizations, at least in my experience, part of why they’re so high functioning is because the Board like has clear vision, they’re aligned on the vision, and they’re asked to do very specific things.

Rebecca Zanatta  32:15


Erica Mills Barnhart  32:16

Like, here’s your list, work the list. And I love this idea, I mean, I think we all get it like I would love I would love a phone call from any of the organizations I support right? Just saying, how are you doing? And that’s it. That you can feel that that would make you more loyal. And it’s a nice way to ease  the Board members who don’t like those phone call things into it, like, literally all you’re doing is saying, hey, how are you?

Rebecca Zanatta  32:37

Yeah, you know, don’t give someone 20 there’s no too much going on for 20 give me three or maybe five and I guarantee your Board member will come back asking for more. I guarantee it. Because I sat on a Board meeting last night, Zoom again, sort of my my new norm Zoom Board meeting and the couple Board members were talking about thank you calls they had been making. And it was just great to hear their stories, because you know, one of them was like, well, the person was a little bit hesitant. And then they knew that I was just calling to say thank you and hello and then they just talked to me for 20 minutes, you know? So, again, other thing I think happens a lot, Erica, and I’m, again, back to sort of what am I seeing right now is the angst that we feel, oftentimes, we put on to other people. So in fundraising, if I don’t want to be asked, if I don’t want to be called, that I don’t want to ask, I don’t want to call. And so again, taking taking that opportunity to A) not make decisions for donors and let them decide, and putting it out there as the opportunity to just check in and so yeah, you’re right. I think it’s, I have seen if it’s reasonable to give a little script with a few bullets, and then they can tell their personal story again, the why, start with the why it matters, it’s the most important thing about the work that we do, you cannot go out and ask anybody for money unless you have a reason why. And story is connected to that. And everybody, all of our Board members have a story. You know, and then the other side of that, too, is not everybody is cut out to be a Board member, and that’s okay. But there’s a place to be in the world, again, as a volunteer or somewhere else in the structure. But, you know, I think there’s an opportunity to sort of see right now, and focus on the Board members, I guess, that are showing up is what I’m saying. Right? Is that the 80% who are and the 20% that aren’t kind of that rule that we think about Pareto’s Principle. That matters right now, because I’m sensing frustration from some of my clients about their Board. But then when I sort of, like dig into it, they’re telling me about three or four people of a Board of 10 who are showing up and I’m like, that’s who I want you to focus on right now. Let the others go right now, and let’s just dig in with those three or four that want to show up and want to help.

Erica Mills Barnhart  35:06

Yep, that’s great. Yes, this, this projecting of my angst becomes your angst. Yeah. So but let me just dip into the weeds with a super practical question. What do you say to listeners who have Board members who want to help but don’t want to do the things you need them to do right now? Because you want Board members feel wonderful, you want them to feel like they’re contributing. Yeah. So I’ll pull a little bit from something I heard last week from that Chronicle webinar was our Boards are showing up right now in in the habits that we created for them in the past. So, if we were not clear about a Boards rule or the expectation of a Board member before, it’s very difficult now in a pandemic, to try to try and create a clear expectation. So I think you got to start there. Right? So if you are an organization who has had really clear roles and responsibilities and expectations from your Board, I think you treat your Board just like you would another donor, as you think through what are the priorities that you need? And you know, again, I’d like to think of three. So one of those three things that you need right now, get on the phone with that Board member, and just say, hey, I know you want to help. And be honest, I mean, I’m all about the, I call the BDC, the big difficult conversations, right? And sometimes they can be with Board members, where you’re feeling in that power dynamic. Like, I don’t want you to do that, I want you to do this and just say, hey, you know what, Erica? I love that you want to volunteer and do this right now, I actually would like to share with you there’s a couple other things that are just rising on a priority list. How would you feel about doing this or that and again, giving choice not open ended right now, because I think open ended is a bit overwhelming for people. And I think the idea of sort of this or that in terms of choice and connecting it to priorities of the organization, which, by the way, go back to serving our mission. Because the reality is I don’t raise money for Rebecca Zanatta, I don’t raise money for the organizations that I even work for. I raise money for the people that benefit from those organizations. And so if you can get Board members to think in that way, in terms of thats who they’re supporting, I think there’s ways to sort of steer or whatever word you want to use, them into a different way to help right now versus maybe the way that they want to help. Yeah, yeah. So if you’re listening to this, I really I want to underscore this one point, which is this idea of choice. Like here’s two options, not like this isn’t a time to be saying like I did, let’s let’s freeform. You know, I don’t like the term spitball. I don’t, I don’t I don’t get it. Why would I want to be involved in that? Ew.

Rebecca Zanatta  37:57

There’s a lot of tissues that you’re going to need and toilet paper-

Erica Mills Barnhart  38:00

And then you got to clean it up. So, whatever. There’s not like a spit ball cleanup crew that comes along first like it’s oh, why did I say that?

Rebecca Zanatta  38:08

They’re getting on the wall that one to like, throw the spaghetti on the wall.

Erica Mills Barnhart  38:11

Okay, ew. Anyway, we could we could, we could hop far far down that bunny trail, lets not. But I do want listeners to hear this because, I think that we do again, back to power dynamics, there’s a tendency to sort of defer and sometimes that’s super appropriate. But I love this language you’re giving folks which is like, this is what we need. Remember, you start with why we’re in service to the mission. We’re a service to the people we’re serving. That’s why we’re all here. We’re all doing this. So here are organizational priorities right now in the immediate and here’s two things. It’s actually funny because I realized the other night that, so, dinner for us can be a little bit fraught, because my family like there’s a Venn diagram of the things we like. It’s like just not that much overlap, so it’s always a little and I love food, and I love cooking. I love little things. So it’s a little bit of attention for us. I realized recently but rather than saying like, what should we had for dinner tonight? If I was like, there’s tacos or spaghetti, which one you want, or whatever the thing is? Yeah. Well, it’s just like a much less stressful approach. Yeah. And you’re right. There is some power dynamic in there. And there is some, like I’m telling someone what to do, but it’s right to do it in service of the mission. And that is the other thing, right? As our organizations right out cannot do everything. And if I’m talking with organizations about, I want you to throw away your strategic plan, not really, but like put it on a shelf. Set it aside or beat.

Rebecca Zanatta  39:31

What do you say?

Erica Mills Barnhart  39:32

Just set it aside for right now.

Rebecca Zanatta  39:34

Totally, exactly. And do the same thing with your development plan, right? If you had one. And if you didn’t, that’s okay, too. But the reality right now is I want you to think in terms of quarters, right, like three months, like what is our goal, and what are our priorities for the organization and for us in fundraising for the next three months? Right? And then let’s check in in June. And then let’s think about it from July to October, September, September. And what is it the same and do we just carry that forward? Or have things changed a little bit? But this idea that we can just be like we were before, I think adds a layer of stress and pressure that, again, back to the blank page, right? Again, use the strategic plan, use the development plan, everything that you have in there is really helpful. But like making sure that you’re thinking about, hey, guess what GiveBig is coming up, Giving Tuesday and GiveBig March, May fifth and six. So those are what we’re going to focus on now. And then we’re going to do something in June. And those are gonna be our two priorities. And then yes, you might need to start thinking about that event or whatnot that you were going to do in the fall. But again, kind of limit how much you put on yourself right now in terms of what you have to really figure out. And then that drives then how you can involve Board members, and how you can involve people to support the work that you’re doing.

Erica Mills Barnhart  40:54

Yeah, I love that. I even wonder about three months out feeling far. But but one thing so again, on my, on my optimistic wishful thinking list. I feel like there’s so much wisdom inherent in mission minded purpose driven people. And that sometimes every once in a while when we get into strategy which I love, this weird thing happens where we sort of stopped listening to that wisdom, like that intuition about how to do things. And I just, I hope, I hope, I hope you know, if you’re listening to this and you like you will listen to that wisdom and get that blank piece of paper with others, of course, you’re not going to go off with your piece of paper and be like, no, it’s just my piece of paper, we’re all gonna do it how I say it. That’s not what I’m recommending at all. You know, but I think there could be great power and, you know, doing this as a team activity and going away and then coming back and seeing like, there’s overlap, but this piece around just making, making peace with like, we can do one thing or two things well. I’m just I’m looking over here because I have this little fortune cookie, its a fortune I got recently, and it said, you can’t ride in all directions at one time.

Rebecca Zanatta  42:08

Oh my gosh, totally.

Erica Mills Barnhart  42:10

Which actually is the Newton’s third law of motion. Okay, it’s just a riff on Newton’s third law of motion, which is for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. And so if you’re like, a whole bunch of things are going out to the, you know, world, you just don’t get that much traction. So it’s always true. You know, and of course, the Claxon method, which is what I’m always going on about is, it simplifies it right? What does success look like? Who do you need to get involved? And then how are you going to do it?

Rebecca Zanatta  42:39


Erica Mills Barnhart  42:39

Just work the methods sequentially, I would, I mean, I would, I’m really encouraging folks to think one channel, one thing and not not even three’s, which is generally where we go. Because it’s just, I mean, we’re human, it’s too much.  And maybe that’ll stick because I mean, sequencing, you know, single tasking, there’s so much evidence to support that’s so much more effective than multitasking, right? But like, if you could multitask.

Rebecca Zanatta  43:02

Don’t tell Ben that downstairs. I mean, I’m a great multitasker.

Erica Mills Barnhart  43:07

Right. Right. Right. Okay. Um, I close all of the- Yeah?

Rebecca Zanatta  43:13

I have one thing, one thing, one thing you’ve said that just sparked in my mind is thinking about it from that aspect of the Claxon method and thinking about the development plan, and people are like, what are the what are the components? And I’m like, well, all you need is the why, right? Like the what do you raising money for?  And then it’s the who, right? And then even then it’s just like, pick five people. Who are the five people who are your most trusted last year that you can call on right now? And then what’s your how? And is your how going to be GiveBig? Is your how going to be an intimate event on Zoom? Where you’re going to have a toast? Or is your how going to be an email campaign? And that’s what I’m talking about the same sort of thing in terms of like, organizing yourself in terms of how you’re going to get through this in terms of fundraising is really simple. Why, who and how?

Erica Mills Barnhart  43:57

And I would I would insert, of course, the what in between the why and the who. Just because otherwise, it’s fascinating to me, like truly fascinating. How often folks assume that they have a shared sense of like what success looks like. And then and I’m like, okay, let’s just make sure let’s just put words to it. You name it, you can tame it. And they’re like, oh, well, shizzle we’re really, I that we’re on acquisition and you’re over there on retention. So, we’re, we’re in alignment on this. Okay. I asked every guest this question in closing, which is so in order to do this work, we need both inspiration and motivation, motivations for the mind inspirations for the heart. I don’t know if I shared this with you the rationale behind this right got here, which is the root where the word inspiration came from actually means to breathe in and motivation is about action. So we need that breath in order to keep doing things. So, what inspires you and what keeps you motivated to do this work?

Rebecca Zanatta  44:59

So in terms of the inspiration, it’s the people that I get to work with, the clients that I get to work with, and when they have success. And what’s even better is when you actually get to experience your success, meaning someone shares with you is that, hey, that piece we worked on, I sent it at one o’clock and by four o’clock, I had 10 new monthly donors, right? And then it was the I was kind of hesitant to do it, but you, you know, we talked through it and you kind of pushed me and we did it like the inspiration of sort of knowing that that in that specific case that that many more people will be helped.The motivation is I just I I also am an idealist. I’m an optimist. And the motivation is that we just aren’t done yet. I don’t think you’re ever done. I think it’s an element of what’s the word? Ego. If you think you’re done, like, that’s why I love to continue to learn. I learned from students, I learned from the people that I work with, I learned from my family, and I learned from our clients and the people that we serve. And so motivation for me is to continue to challenge myself to help in that way. And I’ve you know, I’ve spent 25 years this has been my career. My first job was calling alumni at Washington State University. Go Cougs. And that’s what, what did you say?

Erica Mills Barnhart  46:44

I said go Dawgs.

Rebecca Zanatta  46:44

You said go Dawgs? Of course you did. Of course you did.

Erica Mills Barnhart  46:47

Okay, that’s a little insider joke. We’re in Washington State. There’s Washington State University, which is the cougars, and then there’s University of Washington where I’m faculty and alum and that’s the dawgs the Huskies actually, but we say go dawgs, okay, what were you saying Rebecca? Is that is that I have found, I have found a place in this in this work, right, to and I think I have found a place with the people that I work with. And inspiration that breathing in is seeing when that work comes to life. And then that motivation is to just know that there’s more to do. That’s beautiful. Thank you for that and thanks for being here. Thanks for being amazing. If you like to connect with Rebecca you can find her on LinkedIn and Twitter where you where you will find her at @RebeccaZanatta, R E B E C C A Z A N A T T A, so many A’s, to learn about the Ostara Group you can go to ostaragroup.com, O S T A R A group.com, all of that will be in the show notes. You know, we’ll always what is always going to be true regardless of pandemics and COVID and Coronavirus, and all the rest of that crap. A pitch perfect elevator pitch is never going to go out of style. It’s just not. And so if your pitch is a few notes off key, which many, many are, I want to remind you or encourage you to go to ClaxonMarketing.com/pitchfalls, because you there you can download your very own free copy of the book I wrote: Pitchfalls: Why bad pitches happen to good people. You’re good people. So go get your free copy ClaxonMarketing.com/pitchfalls. Thank you for being here with me and Rebecca today and thank you, thank you, thank you for making our world a better place.

Do you communicate as effectively as you think?


Do you communicate as effectively as you think?