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From a plan to implementation with Deborah Gold

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There's more fear than there was courage. We had to sort of change into, you know what, we're trying something new. We are not asking the clients to give to their own campaigns or to give to anyone else's campaign. We are asking them to tell their story to their friends and family and invite their friends and family to support us. — Deborah Gold

From a plan to implementation with Deborah Gold

Planning to change the world might seem daunting. Getting help with your fundraising - maybe even more daunting! Today’s podcast is a conversation with one of our clients about how she made the leap to hiring a fundraising consultant, what she learned along the way, and what’s working for them now. On today’s podcast, join Deborah Gold to dive deep into all things fundraising for BALANCE for Blind Adults.


  1. Making a decision to seek fundraising help

  2. Behind the scenes, challenges and wins in implementing a fundraising plan

  3. Raising funds and awareness through peer-to-peer campaign

  4. How the campaign evolved over time, including lessons learned about what works and what doesn't

Connect with Deborah Gold:


[00:00:00] Cindy: Welcome back to the podcast. We are actually today gonna hear from one of our clients at the Good Partnerships, someone we've been working with on and off often in different capacities for, well since 2018.

[00:00:23] So for quite a while. And she's going to give you all the back end of her role as an executive director and approach to fundraising and learning about fundraising and all the good things, so buckle up.

[00:00:44] My name is Cindy Wagman, and you are listening to the small nonprofit podcast where we bring you practical, down-to-earth advice on how to get more done for your small organization. You are going to change the world, and we're here to help.

[00:01:03] So with that, it is my pleasure. I really, I'm so excited to have this conversation, to introduce you to Deborah Gold, who is the Executive Director of BALANCE for Blind Adults. She's been in that role for six years, and it is her first executive director role. And super fun fact, she loves riding her bike to work and just riding her bike generally.

[00:01:25] And her bike has her own Instagram account and a fantastic name, Violetta Bicicleta. Did I get it right?

[00:01:33] Deborah: Yep. That's her name.

[00:01:35] Cindy: So, uh, Deborah, welcome you and Violetta to the podcast.

[00:01:40] Deborah: She's in the next room actually, because I had my last bike stolen right outside this door and, uh, here at the corner, not that corner.

[00:01:47] And so now I just roll her into the office. I have to warn all our clients who are blind or partially cited and some of our staff that the bike is.

[00:01:55] Cindy: Bike is there. Yeah.

[00:01:56] Yeah, I love living just a few minutes from my office and being able to like over.

[00:02:02] Cindy: Yeah, actually that's one of the things I miss about having an office is actually biking in. You know, it is what it is. So.

[00:02:09] Deborah: Actually living in a different time.

[00:02:11] Cindy: Yeah. Deborah, we were just talking before we hit record and I admitted that I actually don't remember how we first met, and then neither of us truly remembered. But I want you to go back, even before we met, you were first-time executive director in a new role, and you decided that fundraising was important.

[00:02:33] Tell me about what was going through your head at that time, how you made that decision to even start looking for fundraising help, and what were you trying to solve for?

[00:02:42] Deborah: So some of the small nonprofit executive directors who are listening right now will completely identify with what I'm talking about, where you are hired for a new role or an also new role for you, but in an organization where they very much need your help to get things back on track. Let's put it that way. I'm not gonna go into a lot of detail there, but this organization went through maybe about 10 years of not really paying attention the, to the revenue side. We are very fortunate to have a core grant in, about three years stints, depending on the year from the Ministry of Health here in Ontario.

[00:03:23] So it's easy enough to kind of truck along, although of course, to be honest, and maybe your listeners, listeners will identify with this as well. That amount has not grown in the 14 years since we first got it. So, um, that's, yeah. Yeah, that's pretty typical, uh, for, for community services here and, maybe in other provinces as well.

[00:03:47] I have no idea. So I came to this role from a background in research, also in visual impairment and sight loss at a large Canadian organization called C ib, which something may have heard. And I was the director of research there, National Director of Research as well. And I had written a number of grants and also as a doctoral student, I was familiar with grants before that.

[00:04:11] So, you know, I knew I could have some success, but I also I knew that we wanted to do more and I am fond of saying, I was fond of saying when I first started, The executive director of small nonprofit wear about a dozen hats. Mm-hmm. is extremely challenging to know what should be a priority. You are really when I started, it's a little less like that now.

[00:04:36] We are a little more stable now, but I was in fact taking out the garbage one moment and writing a proposal the next, or making a presentation to the board, or helping with board development or dealing with issues, which were for the first few years I was here were a priority human resources. So there was just a lot going on and there was a lot to do way outside of fundraising.

[00:04:59] And at the same time, I knew it needed some attention. I started in 2016 and the way I remembered that we met is that I had been toying for about a year with an idea and the need for a fund development plan if I could present the board with a plan for bringing in more revenue. Cause I knew they were interested.

[00:05:23] They had hired me with the expectation that, that, that might happen, that that would happen. So I said, I can't do this myself. We're going to need to invest to get, uh, back. So I can't, The part that I don't remember is whether I researched and or somebody told me about you. It may have been a recommendation but found The Good Partnership.

[00:05:46] And contacted you, and we spoke and we signed a co-contractual agreement, and you developed a fund development plan for. Which I was really happy to see, and I'm happy to say now was the magic of which was a one-year plan because you said you didn't believe in something that would end up sitting on the shelf and that you wanted for this to be something we could accomplish in one year.

[00:06:11] And we did go about working on one aspect of that, which will come to, um, so that's kind of in a nutshell. There were a lot of things going on in those first two years. There was a little bit of turnover here. There was trying to get a hold of why staff were doing things the way they were doing, and had they not thought of this other way that it might be done, they were, everybody was seeing every client once a week.

[00:06:39] That's just an example, and I was like, well, does every client need you to see them every week?

[00:06:45] Cindy: It's the same. It's like, Well, it's always been done this way, right? What, What person hasn’t come into an organization? And the answer for generally, a really good, important question is, Well, that's the way it's done.

[00:06:58] Deborah: And I'm so proud of where we've come from there. I mean, we now have, I think, almost all my staff and we, I should say we only have six, five of whom are frontline providers, plus me, and then we have contractors and we can get into a little bit more than and that we use on a part-time basis. And we have an exciting new program we've developed in one of our areas and much is going on.

[00:07:22] But for those four or five of our staff, I think it's five. It might be four, they have additional roles? Mm. So one of our, our specialists with clients is also our volunteer coordinator. One of our other specialists is also the program coordinator now as of April 1st, and she's doing great. One of our others is the data quality specialist, who has a lot of time working on our databases we just upgraded to a new so, and interestingly enough, everybody's more productive.

[00:07:52] With these additional responsibilities. Yeah. So, and, of course, as everyone knows what we're discussing here is also about driving in more revenues so that you can use that core grant to keep the staff you have happy on a yearly basis.

[00:08:09] Cindy: Yeah. Yes. So we did a fundraising plan for you. It was one year and it was very specific to tactics and deliverables. Was there anything in that plan that surprised you or that wouldn't have been on your radar?

[00:08:26] Deborah: Well, you gave us three possible projects or directions. Mm-hmm. and then, I think the peer-to-peer fundraising campaign was a surprise. It wasn't something we had thought of. You also, the first thing you talk about in the plan is grants.

[00:08:45] Writing more grants didn't surprise me and I knew it needed to happen and it definitely is. We now have a grant writer part-time on staff, on contract for the past two years and it's been, and that was also a great decision. Took us a bit to get there. I was writing them with the help of the summer student.

[00:09:02] I think either the summer you were with us or right afterwards we were starting to work on sending out as many as we could once a year. But I knew that I couldn't, I needed someone who was really good at it. But the peer-to-peer campaign was, was definitely the, cake. Yeah. Not the icing, but the cake.

[00:09:20] Cindy: The cake, the, the meat of it. Let's talk about the peer to peer, cuz this is something I get really passionate about. Where we look at, I know you know this cause we've had this conversation where so often in organizations we look at our client base and we think that there's a huge separation. We make decisions about giving. For them.

[00:09:45] We say, Well, they're not in a position to give or be involved in fundraising, and we say they're the recipients. And on the other hand, are our donors and never the two shall meet. And we changed that with this peer-to-peer campaign called because of BALANCE. So I'd love for you to talk a little bit about if you remember why we came to that as a fundraising strategy and how it's gone. Do you remember why we picked that?

[00:10:16] Deborah: I do. You did a ton superb research. Your team did, and I can't remember her name, but there was a woman working with you who was talking about the ways in which our clients speak about us and kind of the philosophy of some of our staff. We were, you know, at that point, and still we have a really strong philosophy. We have really great values, which we've since articulated in a new strategic plan and a new look new brand, you know, that reflects who we really are. We have a heart shaped B that is our logo, and that's really, you know, really about the whole person. Empathy, trust, respect, inclusion and independence are our values.

[00:10:58] So that was all coming across the idea of getting, I think the idea was that you guys were saying those modeled a bit on the hospital. Model that people are happy with what they received, could they tell others about it and tell their story and then ask them to support BALANCE as a result of telling their story?

[00:11:21] So we asked, the suggestion was, I think it was a different name at first, but we changed it. I think I had input there and we, it became the because of BALANCE campaign with asking people to complete the sentence stem because of BALANCE, dot, dot. Why have they been able to achieve, do differently, feel better about why do they love us?

[00:11:42] What is it they wanna tell others about us? The initial resistance or feeling that it might not work was in two places. One was about the staff were quite clear that they didn't want this thing that happens at hospitals where, you know, the doctor gets touted as part of the campaign. Because of treatment from doctors so and so.

[00:12:04] You know, and you see the posters up in the hospital. No. The staff were like very uncomfortable with because we're so small. Yeah. They, you know, the idea that you would call out one staff member and they were also private and shy and didn't want mm-hmm. . So we did, we stopped that idea that we gave that feedback to you guys, to yours.

[00:12:23] And then we, um, I can't remember what the other place was that we changed, but anyway, that was one of them. But we felt that there was some resistance as well, from what you're saying. Sorry, just come back to me. Mm-hmm. ,, that the clients wouldn't be comfortable. There was some thinking on behalf of, and.

[00:12:44] As much, there's more fear than there was courage. We had to sort of change into, you know what, we're trying something new. We are not asking the clients to give to their own campaigns or to give to anyone else's campaign. We are asking them to tell their story to their friends and family and invite their friends and family to support us.

[00:13:06] And then the third place of issue to solve, let's say, I would not say it was exactly resistance. More challenging for us was because we were going to be supporting you guys in the implementation of some of our client's inability to use the technology that they might need for campaign. So typically, when you talk about what I consider to be the craziest, which is the cold water dumping on the head of one of the big organizations, but there are many.