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Fundraising is all about mindset. And if you don't believe that, chances are actually that you need to work on your mindset. If you've heard me speak about my fundraising origin story, you’ll know that I have loved fundraising right out of the gate, but I know that that's not the case for everyone. And so today you're going to hear from someone who hated fundraising and learned to love it by focusing on changing the mindset.

Mallory Erickson, CEO & Creator of the Power Partners Formula, joins us in the podcast to discuss how you can change your mindset about fundraising and raise more money for your nonprofit.

Myths that Mallory wants us to walk away from:

  • Mindset has nothing to do with fundraising. How we feel and think about fundraising ultimately impacts how we show up and the results that we see. We can overcome the barriers to fundraising success by reframing our mindset and developing new habits.

  • Great fundraisers don’t get rejected. Good fundraising is a job that involves regular rejection and it takes a lot of intentional building of resilience to be able to not internalize that rejection or make it about you, or have it relate to your stories about yourself that get in the way and keep you in a paralysis and perfectionist state.

GAIL: four primary types of thoughts that hold you back from successful fundraising

  • Gremlin or self-critic is the voice in your head that says “I am not good enough. I am not smart enough. I am not pretty enough. I am not enough” which plagues all of us. It gets triggered in fundraising because fundraising is a job that involves regular rejections and it takes a lot of work to build up your resilience so that you don't take them personally.

  • Assumptions This is the result of our belief that when something has happened before, we believe it's going to happen again. For example, one donor didn't give last year, now we think that they're not going to give this year. But in reality, the data shows the exact opposite.

  • Interpretations are the stories that we make up about someone’s behavior that is not based on facts. For instance, a donor does not respond to your email in 48 hours, and you make up an entire story about what is happening, how they feel about you, what they think about you, and if they're ever going to donate to your cause. We make these stories and hold on to them as if they were true, but in reality, they are not based on facts.

  • Limiting beliefs are things that society puts on us that restrict our ability to think outside the box. The hundred percent model is a great example of a limiting belief, where we have been trained to think that there’s too much money to overhead. This is simply the limiting belief that we are all continuing to perpetuate, even as fundraisers. However, once you begin to challenge these beliefs, they disappear.

Favourite Quotes from Today’s Episode

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“Good fundraising is a job that involves regular rejection and it takes a lot of intentional building of resilience to be able to not internalize that rejection or make it about you, or have it relate to your, um, stories about self, um, that that often sort of get in the way and keep us in a sort of paralysis and perfectionist state. ”

“And one of the fundamental things that really needs to be changed is celebrating the actions that people are taking to fundraise if we intentionally, we know that celebration builds habits. So if we do a better job celebrating, making that phone call right, going to that meeting, parking your car in front of that foundation, like give yourself a high five, you know, like if we're starting to build in celebration around the actions, it's going to continue to help us build healthy fundraising habits, feel a lot better about our work. Um, and then have more resilience when people do say no, cause that's the, that's it, man.”

Resources from this Episode

What the Fundraising Podcast

Power Partners Formula

Mallory Erickson Instagram

The Good Partnership


Cindy W.: Fundraising is all about mindset. And if you don't believe, chances are actually that you need to work on your mindset. Now you may have heard me talk about this before, I've talked about it. when I introduced to you my book, Raise It! The Reluctant Fundraiser's Guide to Raising money Without Selling Your Soul, I've definitely talked about it on webinars that I've hosted or when I've spoken at conferences, but today my guest is someone who's lived it. If you've heard me speak about my sort of fundraising origin story, I loved fundraising right out of the gate, but I know that's not the case for everyone.

And so today you're going to hear from someone who hated fundraising and learned to love it by focusing on their mindset. And now she teaches others how to change their mindset so that they can both love fundraising and raise more money.

I'm your host, Cindy Wagman. And you're listening to the small nonprofit podcast where we bring you practical down-to-earth advice for running your small organization. We know that you are going to change the world and we're here to help.

With that today's guest, you may be wondering is Mallory Erickson and Mallory, I love Mallory because her approach to fundraising is similar to mine. I just had to have her on the podcast to share with you because even I learned a few things, Mallory, herself, runs her own consulting business called Mallory Erickson, which you probably have guessed by now. She started based on her experience. She was an executive director of a $3 million organization that she grew from $300,000. She worked a lot and really hard putting in 70 hours a week to keep everything afloat. But in that time she worked on herself and her own development to really embrace leadership and fundraising so that she could be successful.

And so now she teaches that to other non-profits. It is such a joy to welcome Mallory to the podcast. Mallory, welcome to the podcast.

Mallory E.: Oh my gosh. Thank you so much for having me.

Cindy W.: I'm so excited for this conversation because literally every time I spoke to people in the sector, there's, they're saying, oh my goodness, you have to meet Mallory. You have to meet Mallory. And when we finally did, I understood why, because I think we have a lot in common, including, and especially our approach to training, to fundraising training. And that's what we're going to talk about today, which is not just the training. The training, the tactics, but talking about how we train and develop the individual, the fundraiser, or executive director or whoever. So that's what we're going to talk about today. I'd love to hear from you how you came into this work and ended up with this approach.

Mallory E.: Yeah, and I love it too. I was hearing the same things like you have to meet Cindy and then I feel like it took us about three minutes to be like, oh yeah. Okay. We get it. So I, I love that. Yeah. So I have spent my career in the nonprofit sector. Like so many people became an accidental fundraiser. As I started to get promoted up through the ranks, found myself in a managing director role and then an executive director role. And. I hated fundraising. If you would ask me my least favorite part of my job when I was in ED I would have, without it outset fundraising. And I sell it for so many years, even though the numbers suggested that I was doing a good job, I really felt like a bad fundraiser. I was like, there's no way like good fundraisers feel the way that I feel.

And so I got to this moment in my career where I was like, maybe like nonprofit leadership isn't for me, because I'm just not sure that I can deal with the emotional toll that this is taking on me on a daily basis. So I went and I actually got certified as an executive coach. I went through behavior change and habit building certification with Dr. BJ Fogg. I started to get trained in design thinking with IDEO, really like this, look at what's next for me, here are the pieces I love about what I do. And, but at the same time, I was fundraising while I was going through and learning all these new sorts of tools and frameworks.

And what I recognize, first I really started coaching, doing executive coaching around leadership development, particularly focused on women, particularly focused on moments of vulnerability, things like career transitions, but even much deeper and personal, like infertility or online dating or these moments that we're bringing up for women. All of the deep stuff. And what was so interesting is that as I was doing that, I was fundraising them. And I don't even remember the moment that it happened, that I took this step back and I said, wow, the moments in my life that are triggering all of these feelings that are, creating these moments that I'm helping my clients solve are fundraising.

They're all related to fundraising. I was like, how come nobody's ever talked to me about this before, and money beliefs and all this stuff. And so I feel like I just first started to peek my way out of the woods and was like, Hey, you, have you ever been scared going into a donor meeting or and having these conversations and then just, over and over again yes, like where is more of this conversation and where the tools for how we work through it.

And so my practice really came out of there first, primarily working one-on-one with women doing executive coaching focused on fundraising and the fears and discomforts and limiting beliefs and blocks around it that hold us back from implementing the strategy. The strategy. I love how aligned we are there.

It's like the strategy is great. But the way that I think about it is like the strategy is the movie script, right? It's like the movie script, the way you feel your mindset, all those things. That's the director. So like a movie script can be as good as, you can win lots of awards for this. But if you don't have a good director, the movie still sucks. And so that's how I think about fundraising too.

And so in 2020, my one-on-one sort of exploded in relation to this free training I had been doing really just to help keep people out of paralysis and keep them moving when things felt so heavy and so scary. And so I built my course, which is called the Power Partners Formula. The infusion of the best fundraising strategy for individuals corporate partners and foundations with executive coaching and behavior change habit building and design thinking principles. So that was a very long intro.

Cindy W.: I love it. And it's so funny because while we have so much in common and literally everything you said resonates deeply with me, the one difference I actually. At chose to be a fundraiser very early on when I was in university and that's rare in our sector, I said, this is what lights me up. This is what I want to do. And I started, and that's how my journey started. But in working with all these other people, it became so clear that I was very rare and that everything you talk about mindset, and we, mindset is one of those terms that I think people feel it's wishy-washy, but in fact, it's absolutely not.

And there's so much science behind how our brains work which is again, where I think we're so aligned in terms of how to move forward. You can't just tell people to do things and expect that they're going to do it if fundamentally they don't want to, or it makes them feel icky. And so we S we've totally come to the state ending or path with very different beginnings. I love that. And I think our listeners will deeply resonate with your experience for sure. I'd love to hear a little bit about some of the common mind blocks that prevent people, you nailed it when you talked about implementation, right? It's not about the strategy, it's about doing the things. What are some of the common things that you find people? That shows up for people like getting in the way of their ability to move forward.

Mallory E.: So I love that you're asking me this question because there are actually four primary types of thoughts that I see fundraisers. And so they're called the gales. And this is part of what I learned through my executive coach certification, but have obviously translated it to fund fundraisers. So the gales stand for, and I'll explain what each of them is, but like the G is like the gremlin or self-critic that A is an assumption, the I are interpretations and the L is Limiting beliefs.

So limiting beliefs are things like society puts on us that restrict our ability to think outside the box. So the hundred percent model is a great example of a limiting belief, right? We have been trained to think like too much money to overhead too much, whatever.

No, your donors care about the impact, and you, as the fundraiser can talk to them about impact in a million different ways. A hundred percent language is just the limiting belief that we're all continuing to perpetuate even fundraisers, like we, we blame our funders, for that framework, but we are perpetuating, perpetuating it as fundraisers every single day in terms of a limiting belief.

So that's one sort of example, the really amazing thing about limiting beliefs is that once you start to break them, they disappear. So I always like totally mess up this story, many in the fifties, I think nobody had ever run a mile faster than four minutes and it was like accepted by society. Physically, biologically impossible for humans to run a mile faster than four minutes. And then someone did. And what was fascinating was that after that person did it person after a person started to run the mile faster than four minutes. So that just shows you the strength of limiting beliefs, like how deeply we believe in the actually holds our bodies back. So that's one, so limiting belief.

So then, interpretations are the stories that we make up based on the behavior of someone else that is not rooted in reality. Yes, so for someone, someone does a donor does not respond to your email in 48 hours, and we have an entire story about what is happening, how they feel about us, what they think about us, if they're ever going to give us.

All of these different things, we have really made it up and we do this in our lives in so many different ways. I remember the first time my husband does not emote the way that I do. And the first time we met online, the first time we went on a date. I get off the train, I'm looking at his face down the street and his face doesn't change. Like he doesn't smile when he sees me. I'm like, oh he's disappointed. He doesn't think I look like my like I immediately I'm like all my interpretations. And the thing is that we see the world through our own lens. I'm wearing blue glasses, you're wearing green glasses, but we project that lens onto other people. And we make these stories that we hold really tightly to as it's their facts. And they're not rooted in any data. So we can talk about the ways you work through those things. But that's the second type of bear in our barrier.

The third is assumptions. This is because something has happened before we believe it's going to happen again. Okay. So that donor didn't give last year. They're not going to give this year. Actually, the data shows the exact opposite. In fact when asked appropriately. This is so interesting, but we make up so many assumptions about lapsed donors because, and it's related not every Gale is like in its own little silo, I'm sure you can hear like how assumptions and interpretations right, are related, but, or we'll say, okay, at, oh, I already talked to, this is what I'll hear from clients all the time. I've already talked to our board about fundraising. Like I can't talk to them about it again. And it's okay, so I'll ask them, I'll say so, because that was true before, does it have to be true again?

And what might be different about it this time, because an entire year has passed, perhaps their lives are different. They're different people, all these other things have happened. You're going to talk about fundraising differently, right? There are all these other factors that our brain just really quickly predicts. That it's going to be the same as last time. And this was a very natural and normal thing to happen, for this, for that we are constantly predicting our reality, but this is what leads to be self-fulfilling prophecies, particularly around fundraising.

And so then the fourth one is the like gremlin, the self-critic and this is like the deep. I am not good enough. I am not smart enough. I am not pretty enough. I am not enough, that plagues all of us, we all have these, this gremlin. And it gets triggered oftentimes in front or not oftentimes, always, in fundraising because fundraising is a job that involves rejections. Regular rejection. Good fundraising is a job that involves regular rejection and it takes a lot of intentional building of resilience to be able to not internalize that rejection or make it about you, or have it relate to your stories about self that often get in the way and keep us in a sort of paralysis and perfectionist state.

Cindy W.: Yes. I love it. I love it. And was it you, or was it Jess who was saying that part of their program, they, I think it was you actually give an assignment for people to go and get as many no's as possible? Can you tell me about that?

Mallory E.: Yes. So inside Power Partners, we have something called the seven-day, no challenge. And so there's a specific data list that people are being asked to pull from their own reports with a specific type of donor that they don't think they're going to get any money from anyways. So that they think the probability of them getting no is pretty high. And their goal is to get as many nos as possible in seven days. And I really try to have them hit 50. And the idea is that after each no they're celebrating it because their goal is the no. Like, I will have people right, in our Facebook group, like I'm failing the challenge because people keep saying yes, like how long do I really keep going? No. So it's this really interesting challenge, right?

It actually disrupts a few of our things. It disrupts our assumptions, it disrupts our interpretations and it builds our resilience around projection and recognizing that a huge issue I see in fundraising is that we only celebrate, the money, like we only celebrate the success of the money. And one of the fundamental things that really needs to be changed is celebrating the actions that people are taking to fundraise, if we intentionally, we know that celebration builds habits.

So if we do a better job celebrating, making that phone call right, going to that meeting, parking your car in front of that foundation, give yourself a high five, if we're starting to build in celebration around the actions, it's going to continue to help us build healthy fundraising habits, feel a lot better about our work. And then have more resilience when people do say no, cause that's the, that's it, man.

And you know what you the point is not, my course is called Power Partners because the idea is not that you are going to be the right organization for everyone, you shouldn't be what possible organization would that be? Honestly, if, when I have a client come and tell me no one's ever said no to me before. I'm like that is a huge problem. You are not pushing hard enough. You are not like outreaching, exploring new donors like you are holding yourself back from so much possibility if you're not hearing no a lot. That's, it's a great sign to me when I fundraisers are being told now.

Cindy W.: I love that. And especially the 7-day challenge. I think that's so brilliant because one of the things we find is part of our process doing the strategy piece and just is getting to know your donors. And I can't tell you how many people get stuck before they even get started. Just to have a conversation. There's no ask even nothing, no money on the table. It's there's this barrier and it's I think a lot of it is also the assumptions and interpretations that show up. So I'd love that is such a tangible, specific goal that, resiliency building that muscle we know, and we've talked about success comes from implementation, right?

And from doing the things I'd love to hear some other things that you get people to do or take action on that really help move the needle for them, both in there, like in their activities, but in their mindset as

Mallory E.: So another one of my favorite things inside Power Partners is what I call Five and Dive. So one of the biggest issues that I also see is just endless prospecting. And I just want to say, I just want to call myself out. I was the queen of prospecting. If I had a dollar for every Excel spreadsheet I had, where I slice and dice the donors in different ways, you guys, I could retire. So this is coming from my personal experience as well. And what I see with all my clients, but we prospect to avoid outreach. And we, because we bucket it. We're like, oh yeah. You're like I was working on fundraising. Like I was creating that other donor lists like I was working on fundraising. So we like to give ourselves that kind of pat on the back, which, and, I did just say celebrate the action, but we need to be aware of when we're overdoing an action in an effort to avoid a scarier action and that's what over prospecting is. So inside Power Partners, we do something called five and dive where you are only ever able to prospect by. People companies foundations at a time before you outreach you five, dive five dive. Cause it's all about momentum. It's all about action.

And then, the thing we talk about with regards to that with like fearlessness and I have this whole framework inside the program too, that talks about like how you access fearlessness. But one of the things that I talk about is you don't need to be fearless all the time. That's not the point. The point is to be fearless. So get those five emails, all setup. You've already read through them, they're good. I need you to close your eyes and click send and call it a day. That's it.

And then the thing that, I think you were just alluding to a moment ago too, is that yes. Like you're going to get no, or things are going to go wrong or there is going to be a type of. And you know what you're going to survive and that's going to help build your resilience around bright, I call myself a recovering perfectionist. Like we just have to like, keep staying in action. Like you're never going to overcome perfectionism from paralysis.

Cindy W.: Yeah. That's so ties into what we teach and how we teach fundraising, which is in order to change, so a lot of what you talked about, I the perspective of the lens that we look that I look at it from is how our brains and neuro pathways are developed in our brains and through repetition and experience. And those you talked about the stories we hear over and over again. And so we always say, the best way to rewire those shortcuts or the way our brains make decisions really quickly is to just build repetition and exposure to a new and more ideal way of that. And so I love all these examples because that's exactly what you're doing. It's the repetition of the behavior that we want to become our new shortcut in our brain.

And so I want to talk a little bit about before we had the time, cause we can totally talk all day is you mentioned how we can break those gales. And so the sort of repetition is clearly one. I'd love to hear other tips or advice you have for people. Or maybe pick one Gail and we can talk about how to overcome that or move beyond it. Yeah. Yeah.

Mallory E.: Let's talk about interpretations because I think that's the one that there are so many components of fundraising inside that, so we can talk about a few different strategies related to it. So one of them, one of the things is to, first of all, the number one thing is to recognize when you are interpreting something. And so the way that you do that actually is to start to have a heightened level of awareness around how you feel. So you're like, okay, I feel bad or I feel guilty or I feel uncomfortable or worried or something like that.

Okay. I'm tracking that feeling. I feel that feeling in my body. The next question you to ask yourself is, okay, what is the thought or the belief that's leading to the way that I feel, right? Because all of this comes back really to this cognitive behavior loop. The idea that how we feel is informed by what we think and what we believe. And how we feel is ultimate what impacts, how we show up and then the results that we see. So you can even take it a step farther to say, okay, I didn't see the result I wanted there. How did I feel about taking that action? Oh yeah. I felt real. slimy okay. Why did I feel really slimy? What are the thoughts or the beliefs that I'm holding about that action? And then you can start to unwind those pieces, right?

So the thing about interpretations is that we often hold very tightly to them. I was saying this before because they feel really true. And so some of them, some, because there are cognitive shortcuts, right? Essentially our body is trying to, and our brain is trying to preserve metabolic calories by just predicting something, that we have a context for. And because of all the stigma around fundraising in general, around us, in our lives, we naturally have this context that fundraising is uncomfortable, right?

And so Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett talks about this and how emotions are made in her Ted talk. She does this cool thing where she shows a black and white blob image. And you're like, I don't know what that is. And then she shows a picture of a snake and you're, and it like is the steak, that just had gotten turned into this black and white image. But what's really cool is when she takes the snake away and you see the black and white image again, you can still see the snake.

And what she's showing is exactly what you were saying before that when we have a new context for something, we can start to see it everywhere. Where we all know this tendency around, we hear something for the first time, and then all of a sudden it's everywhere, so that's because we have that context inside of.

So sometimes we can deal with interpretations by what you're saying, practicing different ways of being, and building that context. But sometimes it actually needs to happen inside our head through the sort of evaluation and deconstruction of our thoughts and beliefs. So let I'll make this really tangible, you don't get an email back from a client in 24 hours and you have created an entire story about how mad they are at you, how much you blew that last meeting, how much they don't like you and how they're going to tell all your friends, and you're not going to hit the end of your goals, and you were very certain about this story.

So write it down, write down on a piece of paper on the one-half side of a piece of paper or open your journal. Write down when. On the other side of the paper or on the other side of your journal, I want you to write an exact opposite story. What could be the exact opposite story related to that? And I'll have clients say things like they're really busy because oh yeah their daughter just had a baby and they're probably checking their email a whole lot less and oh, maybe I should just send it to know about the baby and all of a sudden like they're opened up to oh yeah, actually like there is this whole other kind of possibility. And the thing is when those two stories are written next to each other, the probability of both of them is equal because you have no data to support either. And so it's really your, and it's more likely the positive one, even though our brain tends to go to the negative side, but even if you can't believe that you can at least believe that they're dead even.

Yeah okay, so now you have a choice, now you have a choice. You can either hold really tightly to your first, right? No, I'm sure. Sometimes I'll find that no matter what I'm like, sure. She's mad at me. Okay. So here are your options. Your options are to like, hold it really tightly to that story and feel the way that you feel, and keep spiraling on this situation. Or you can choose. To believe the other story, which is just as valid has just as much, if not more data rooted in it, and then you can let it go, and then you can move on.

And my bigger question is if you believe the second story, the one about the baby and all those things, how differently will you then behave for the rest of the day? How differently will it impact your other actions today? Then if you continue to believe your first story, what's the impact of that? And then what story do you want?

Cindy W.: I love it. And so funny because I talk a lot about it, I have one evening like burned into my memory where I had received an email from a friend doing a peer to peer campaign. They asked for money and I was going to give it to them. And my kids had the most epic hangry meltdown that I gave them Cheerios for dinner. And like I crushed so hard when they went to bed. It didn't look at my emails again until later the next day. And of course, that one had fallen by the wayside and it was, I had every intention of giving, and eventually I did, but it took me. Probably five to 10 times longer than had the kids not melted down like that is case in point.

So I love that example that you gave. We, I am aware of time, so why do I want to wrap up where can our listeners learn more about you connect with you and, continue their work I guarantee you, if you're listening to this, you have to do this work in some way, shape or form. I, it has come up pretty much everyone I've met in the sector. We all have work to do, and our mindset to help us, move past some of our limiting beliefs. So Mallory, where can I listeners connect with you?

Mallory E.: Yeah. And it'll just say this is lifelong work, I'm working on these things all the time, too. This is about tools and practices that you have access, too, and so it really is yeah, so one thing is, so I have a podcast that's called what the fundraising, and there are a number of interviews on there. It seems related to today, like an interview with Dr. Lisa Feldman Barret, dr. BJ Fogg on habits and tools. That's one way to learn more. I also would really encourage you to go to Mallory, backslash free and watch my webinar about the Power Partners Formula, which is not one of those sorts of teaser webinars, but I actually go through a lot of the principles of fundraising, like with mindset first. So it's a 45 minute training. And then if you're interested in joining us inside Power Partners, you're invited to at the end. But even if you just go and copy the blueprint and start to apply it to your fundraising today, you're going to start to see some massive results. We talk about prospecting differently. And all of those things that really inside this framework and with this awareness around how we feel when we show up

Cindy W.: Love it and truly if you're listening to these chances, are you like what we do? I guarantee you're going to like what Mallory does because there's so much great content there. I think there's a really similar approach and we're such a big believer, like we need more people, like you like, like me, but we need more people,

Mallory E.: no, you know how much I love your work. Yes. Yes. Oh. And I'll say you can also find me on Instagram underscore Mallory Erickson. I always forget to say that, I'm somewhat of a social media newbie. So come teach me how to make a reel say hi on Instagram.

Cindy W.: Amazing Mallory. Thank you so much. It is truly a pleasure to have you on the podcast and get to know you more, like I said, I just feel these are conversations that need to be actually at the forefront of what we do in our sector. Thank you.

Mallory E.: Thank you. Thank you for having me so happy to be here.

Cindy W.: Folks, that's it for today's episode of The Small Nonprofit. I'm your host, Cindy Wagman. And this show is brought to you by The Good Partnership. As a reminder, if you want more resources around raising more money for your small numbers. Visit The Good and download our free fundraising strategy guide. I'll see you next week.