Episode #090 – Improving Volunteer Experiences & Raising More Funds with Kristina Carlson

Tobi: Welcome to the Volunteer Nation podcast, bringing you practical tips and big ideas on how to build, grow, and scale volunteer talent. I’m your host, Tobi Johnson, and if you rely on volunteers to fuel your charity, cause, membership, or movement, I made this podcast just for you. Welcome everybody to another episode of the Volunteer Nation podcast.

I’m your host, Tobi Johnson. And today we’re going to talk about the volunteer experience, but we’re going to bring on somebody who really has developed a lot around the donor experience and really engaging the support of your community in the way that you treat people.

Now that may seem simple at first glance. A lot of the reasons volunteers aren’t coming back is the way that they are treated. And we want to talk about boosting experience and boosting satisfaction because that’s what keeps volunteers engaged, keeps them coming back. And actually they deserve it, right? For all of they give of their time and talent, they really deserve to be treated like champions.

So really want to talk about this. And my guest Kristina Carlson has a fantastic method called the KIND Method that we’re going to dive into that really can help us deepen relationships with the people in our communities that want to help. And so we’ll get into this, but I want to start by just talking about our volunteer experiences as laying the groundwork for how volunteers get involved.

But how much do we really pay attention to how they’re. Treated beyond our formal volunteer recognition, our thank you’s, our national volunteer week. Do we really pay attention to how people feel when they’re helping out? What’s the opportunity cost as well when volunteer experiences are less than ideal?

And what does your non profit leave on the table? when folks have a less than ideal experience. So in this episode, we’re going to discuss how to create meaningful opportunities for volunteers, the overlap of volunteers and donors. We’re going to talk about that a little bit because as we know, donors are volunteers and volunteers are donors.

And we want to talk a little bit about how to engage volunteers in making financial contributions, because sometimes we think we shouldn’t be asking and there’s a way to do it. And there’s a way to offer that opportunity and option to people without turning them off. So, we’re to talk about that a little bit as well.

So, let’s get started. I want to introduce Kristina Carlson. She’s the founder of the KIND Method  and she’s the managing director of global philanthropy at Carter. Kristina guides transformational capital campaigns, advises on eight figure gifts and grants. Creates bespoke training programs and develops innovative technologies for some of the world’s largest nonprofit organizations.

And she’s been in the business for a while y’all. She also helps maximize the philanthropic engagement of former U. S. presidents and other heads of state, Fortune 500 CEOs, Forbes 400 individuals, faith leaders, celebrities, and everyday people. And some of those folks have pretty high expectations probably of their experiences, right Kristina? They’re used to being treated like by, like royalty, right?

Kristina: Absolutely.

Tobi: And it’s their time. Their time is very valuable, as is everybody’s. Through her roles at Carter Global, Ketchum, and fundraisinginfo.com, Kristina has supported thousands of organizations worldwide across a wide range of causes and impact areas. Her mission is to inspire leaders, philanthropists, and professionals to practice outrageous kindness. And we’re going to talk about this today as they define and take mission critical actions, create accountability systems, and experience the magic of philanthropy.

I love that. I love that experiencing the magic of philanthropy and you have a master’s degree in community economic development from New Hampshire college. You also live in Oxford, Mississippi, and we were talking about this. You’re up just down the road from me. Basically, I’m up in Knoxville, Tennessee, and you start each morning with Tazo Awake black tea and a quick round of Plants vs. Zombies. I love it.

Kristina: I like to win something first thing in the morning. It just gets my day off to a good start. Right. Start with a win, right?

Tobi: A win. That’s right. So, welcome to the Volunteer Nation podcast. I’m so excited to be here. Kristina, tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into nonprofit work and philanthropic advising? Tell us your birth story. I love to hear how people got into the field in the first place.

Kristina: Well, you know, it is my birth story. I’m a unicorn a little bit in this space in that it’s all I’ve ever done. My father was a fundraiser, a minister, and a philanthropic advisor. I grew up traveling with him, working in his offices during school breaks, and really building a fundamental understanding that it is one of the greatest honors you can have to help others find ways to invest their time, talent, and treasure in meaningful ways.

I started my professional career with Ketchum, which at the time was the largest capital campaign consulting firm in the U. S., and after a few other stops, including a successful entrepreneurial endeavor in the fundraising industry, I ultimately went back to Ketchum as the only female president in its hundred plus year history.

Tobi: Wow. Seriously?

Kristina: Seriously.

Tobi: Congrats!

Kristina: Well, you know, it’s just part of my story about how I’ve shown up in places that maybe were different or weren’t necessarily cookie cutter just for me, but learned so much by doing so.

Tobi: Most of our listeners understand the power of volunteerism, but from your perspective and those you work with, what do you think the role of volunteers is in the world? We’ve got our donors and some of our donors are volunteers, but specifically for volunteers, since this is the show, we talk about volunteerism. What do you think of that role is, and I’m sure you’ve seen many iterations of volunteer efforts throughout your career. What do you think the role is, especially nowadays?

Kristina: Yeah, absolutely. It’s a great question. I think at the end of the day, positive change, making the world a better place is going to require every one of us to unleash our potential for good. We all have it. We’ve got to find a way to get it out there. And volunteering is one way that we can find and refine that potential.

It puts us in different circumstances. Gets us connected with different people having conversations. Maybe we wouldn’t have otherwise. And it’s helpful to us in finding what it is. We really want to do to make an impact in the world gives us that opportunity to test our abilities, to make changes, those relationships we build with others who share our values.

Maybe they have different opinions sometimes, but they share our values, and it opens our minds up to new experiences and points of view. And that’s just so vital, so very vital to creating positive change.

Tobi: Absolutely. I mean, I think about nowadays we have a fairly divided. I think most people would agree are in the U.S. anyway. We have a pretty divided society. But it’s interesting in volunteerism because it becomes a great meeting ground where you can have similar values around a specific cause, but you may not vote the same way. And usually within the middle ground, it’s no man’s land. If nobody’s people can come together, we all agree that puppies and kittens need good homes.

So, we’re going to come together for that. And then when we vote, when it comes around to voting time, we vote differently. And that’s okay too. It seems like some of those sort of more political divisions for many causes melt away when people come together. And it’s also a way for us to just rub shoulders with people we just would not come across or would not socialize with otherwise. Would you agree?

Kristina: Oh, absolutely. We’re very polarized, right? And social media and all the algorithms that are behind it just add to that because if we’re not careful, we can really get in a narrow hallway of information and ideas and opinions.

And I just love that you were talking earlier about reading the, all of the comments related to a topic you were interested in the Washington post, because most people just look at the things that they agree with.

And we’re going to really get back to building towards more positive change. We’re going to have to lock elbows with people that we don’t necessarily see eye to eye with on everything. Right. We’re going to have to find a way to connect and build relationships. Even in those places where we’re thinking maybe it’s not so comfortable.

Tobi: Yeah, absolutely. And what I was, I’ll link to this Washington Post article. One of my former members of the VolunteerPro community emailed me a Washington Post article that was a couple days ago, and it was basically, why aren’t people volunteering anymore? And it had 495 comments.

Now I don’t know, I don’t read the Washington Post online all the time, so I don’t know if that’s a large number. Seems like it. Seems like there was passion. And at some point, they turned the comments off. And it was a lot of the themes   and the people who were commenting were volunteers and they were talking about why they didn’t volunteer or why they do volunteer. And a lot of people talked about the personal fulfillment and the expanded knowledge they have.

But also they also talked a lot about what wasn’t going well in their volunteerism. Of course, you had your political cranks and all that going on. Cause that happens in every single online forum. But for the most part, most of the comments were from volunteers themselves.

And when I see that outpouring of people, I’m thinking to myself, you know what? People still care. Volunteerism is not dead by any stretch of the imagination. And people are very passionate about helping. And it’s maybe one of the last places it’s for, first of all, it’s non monetized. And second of all, it may be one of the last places where people can maybe have some of their own personal biases challenged and maybe learn more about the world outside of their own bubbles. So yeah, absolutely. I think it’s vital for some of those exact reasons.

Kristina: Yeah, absolutely.

Tobi: So, let’s get into, because one of the things in this article was really about, and I think I’m going to do an episode where I read some of these comments because I think they’re so intense, but it’s so instructive, instructive, I will say.

A lot of the comments were about how people were treated. So you’ve developed a model. For philanthropy called the KIND Method. Let’s start with that and talk about what you call outrageous kindness and the KIND Method help create more. You talk about it with philanthropy, but also with volunteerism, how can you use, how can walk us through the method and how can people use it to create more meaningful experiences?

Kristina: Oh, I’m just excited to talk about it. You know, it isn’t just a model for philanthropy or even volunteerism. It’s really a model for creating transformational change in your life, your business, and the world. And there’s so much of my own experiences that roll into this concept.

But one such experience dates back quite a ways to when I had first my opportunity to work with Habitat for Humanity on a global campaign. And I got to work alongside Millard Fuller, who was the founder along with his wife, Linda of Habitat.

And I remember when he passed away, there was an editorial about his life in our local newspaper. And it just talked about what a phenomenal sacrifice he had made in life. He gave away millions of dollars to go live a more simple lifestyle and start Habitat. And it was really inspiring, but it struck me.

That so often we like to elevate people who have made these huge sacrifices and say, wow, look at them. Look at this great way in which they’ve helped others in their lives. And often say very few of us are ever going to have the chance or the need to fortunately, thank goodness to run into a building that’s burning and pull someone out. But every single day we have the opportunity to be nice. To people around us, to say hello, to find a way to connect, to open up, and just smile.

My late husband suffered from what’s called Lewy Body Dementia, and it was quite a thing to watch what it did to him. But even in the latest stages of his disease, he really inspired me more around this concept of outrageous kindness. Cause he would say in spite of everything else, he might do good or bad in a day because it’s his disease.

He would consider it a win if he could help someone else smile. And just think about that. If that was part of how we defined success was, did I help someone else smile today that maybe wasn’t going to do it? Otherwise, and that’s at the heart right of outrageous kindness is just this thought that it’s not big giant strokes, right?

It’s the little things and the KIND Method is rooted in that it starts with each letter in the word KIND stands for something. The K is knowing more, really committing to listening, understanding, empathizing, trying to see all sides being open. And we’ve already talked a little bit about this to different points of view.

And I worked with a lady years ago who would say when two minds think alike, one’s not necessary. And it’s that openness to, will you accept challenges? Will you, to your point of view, will you try to see the other side? I’ve got a teenage son and I tell him all the time when he’s in the midst of stuff.

There are three sides to every story. There’s your side, there’s the person you’re talking about, and there’s probably what really happened. And that kind of starts with that understanding that there’s more to learn, more to discover, but you’ve got to be open to that, and you’ve got to be willing to Except that you don’t know everything and everyone you need to know in life. So, knowing more.

I is for identifying your impact, identifying what it is, building clarity around your goals, recognizing the importance of being kind to yourself. Is a big part of that, but really identifying what’s the impact you want to make. And boy, I could go on about how important that is to working with volunteers, right? Being very deliberate in defining the role you want them to play and how they’re going to know they’ve been successful.

So there’s K, know more. I, identify your impact. The N in the kind. And here it is. This is our world today. You’ve got a no normalized change and your reaction to it. Most people lose their cookies, right? When something happens out of the ordinary. Or things don’t go exactly as they thought they would. Or the volunteers don’t show up on time. Or they show up and they have different ideas about what’s supposed to happen.

Everybody wakes up every morning thinking they know what’s going to happen that day. And then when it doesn’t because somebody cuts them off in traffic. Or you go to the airport and nothing ever happens the way it’s supposed to there, right? So you’ve just got to accept that change is constant. You’ve got to embrace it and its inevitability. Create your standard responses to change, right? You, you gotta have those mechanisms. Just go ahead and realize it’s going to happen.

What are you going to do about it? How are you going to react? How are you going to foster that resilient and adaptable environment that you need in our world today? Because change is constant. So, you got to normalize it.

So, there’s the K, know more. I, identify your impact. And N, normalize change.

And then D is my favorite. You gotta dance. You gotta dance along the way. You have to make things fun, celebrate success. Tobi, especially when you talk about working with volunteers, if they’re not having a good time, why are they coming back? If there isn’t something and having a good time doesn’t necessarily mean, Oh, you’re giving them cake every time they show up, but that it’s meaningful and it’s enjoyable and that they’re getting something out of it.

But just that dance and celebrating successes and telling people good job and telling yourself good job and informing others of their impact. It just really helps provide grace uncertainties and oh, I can go on about just how important that piece can be, especially when things are really difficult.

Tobi: Yeah. And, and they are. With the economic situation as it is, people are struggling. We’re in a pretty stressful world at the moment. I love that, you know, the K.I.N.D. Method  is, is really about, it is about how you’re supporting other people, but a lot of it’s about your own self-management, right? When you talk about having your, creating standard responses to change. I love that.

What’s your default? When you hit turbulence, what’s your default? Is your default like, ah, we’re going down. Everybody hold onto your hat or in a freak out and create all that, like anxiety of people around you or is your standard response Oh yeah. Turbulence. We’ve been through this before. We’ll get through it again.

Kristina: Absolutely. Yeah. I’ve actually been in an airplane that was in a nosedive. Yes. I, I’m not going to hold you to having a standard response to that because that’s not a, turbulence is one thing and nosedive.

Tobi: Uh, did you get out of it?

Kristina: Obviously. I’m sitting here.

Tobi: But how long was it in a nosedive for? I gotta know.

Kristina: Yeah. So it felt like forever for sure because if you’ve ever been in any kind of experience like that, it feels like forever, even if it’s. Not, and what you realize very quickly in those kinds of circumstances is if you don’t keep, and that’s the notion behind identifying your impact, normalizing change, dancing in the face of these kinds of things, because if you overreact, if you let your emotions get the best of you.

This is true for when you’re talking about big teams of people, organizations, or even in your personal responsiveness, right? If the reaction to change is panic, or anger, or some other negative emotion, it doesn’t help. It makes it worse.

So yes, we were in a nosedive. Yes. My son was in a baby car seat and I was so in my mind, I’m going, I got to hold onto that seat and I’ve got to make sure the pilot isn’t panicking. And so, if I start panicking and then he’s got to deal with me, that doesn’t help anything. So yeah, it was keeping focused on the things that would change the situation, as opposed to letting the situation impact how I was going to react to things.

Tobi: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I think it’s a practiced skill.

Kristina: Oh, absolutely.

Tobi: Managing your mindset, absolutely practice skill. I meditate on a regular basis. I’ve been having, I will be truly honest. I haven’t been doing it for the last few weeks, but I was meditating daily and just watching my brain and the thoughts that it was having. And you have very similar thoughts over and you realize what your habits of mind are. And once you know, then you can make some changes.

Kristina: I also love that too because I think what we find often with organizations, corporations, nonprofits, et cetera, is that actually permeates organizations as well. They build up this culture of assumptions about what they are as an organization, how people relate to them or don’t relate to them, what volunteers can and cannot do, what you can and cannot ask people to do.

This culture of assumption comes from that thinking, right? That, that we repeat and verbalize. On a regular basis without billing, willing to challenge it and no more decay in the K.I.N.D. Method , right? Being open to knowing more and challenging those everyday assumptions that just become a part of who we are, either as teams, organizations, or individuals.

Tobi: Yeah, absolutely.

Kristina: And I like the identifying your impact, not only as a leader of volunteers or someone working in development, et cetera, but also, I think with volunteers, you can also, and with donors as well, you can stimulate a conversation and cultivate a conversation about their big why. What’s the impact they want to make?

Does it align with your organization, or does it align better with another organization down the road or in your community? And I think one of our jobs is to educate the public on understanding their own goals around helping rather than just emotionally saying, Oh, somebody asked me. Or there’s a crisis in the community. I’m going to step up.

That’s great to do, but for long term support for an organization, they have to have a deep commitment. And that deep commitment, I think comes from their big why. I think in the face of what’s going on in our world today, in fact, a friend of mine asked me a couple months ago, why are you working so hard right now? Like, cause the world is on fire. We have wars, we have climate issues, we’ve got disasters, we’ve got polarization. It’s. And we’ve got this learning gap due to COVID. It’s just so much.

And I think for a lot of people, they look at all that and they, uh, there’s nothing I can do about that. Right. That’s too big. I can’t do anything about it. And the idea behind the KIND Method  and outrageous kindness is, there is something you can do about it. And there’s something that’s uniquely you. That can be done about this. And when we help people unleash that uniquely you, then the world gets better. Right? Everybody has that possibility.

They have to believe it first. And I think that’s really an important role that nonprofits play in our society is to tell people whether it’s through their financial giving or through their giving of their time, as you say, time, talent, and treasure. They’re helping to make that difference. They’re unleashing that potential. And we need to tell more people that there is something to do. They can help change those things that they look at and say, I can’t do anything about it.

Tobi: Yeah. In fact, I’m in the midst of writing a book. I’m in my second round of edits. It’s going to come out next spring and it’s for volunteer leaders. So, volunteers who lead, and it’s working from leading from the inside out.

And the starting point is yourself, your big why, because that’s what’s going to sustain you. Sure, your friends can invite you to an event. Maybe you’re going to do a fun run and it’s for the local senior center. And you’re like, you know what? I’ll come and I’ll help out. But I really care about foster kids because I was a foster kid. Then you need to get yourself aligned with an organization that helps foster kids.

And so, when we’re really clear about our values, I think it allows us to sustain through those turbulent times where, because we know in the nonprofit, look, if things could be fixed as easily, I would say corporate America would have figured out a way to monetize that.

And that would have been done did, but the nonprofit sector’s here for the long term, and it’s a very complex, most of the problems are quite complex to try to fix. They’re usually not a single one and done solution. It’s usually multi-factor and then sometimes the result isn’t immediate if you think of like advocacy work changing legislation.

Sometimes those things are decades, generations long the result to get to the final result and even then it changes. So, I think unless people are very grounded in their belief in their big why it’s very hard for them to sustain. It’s a great way to get to know your audience. So, I love that your method talks, speaks to that. I think that’s, I love that. Yeah.

Kristina: Oh, thank you.

Tobi: Let’s take a quick break and get more into some practical terms about leading volunteers around this. This has been fantastic so far. So everybody, we will be right back after this break with more on how to create amazing volunteer experiences, all while raising more funds. Yes, we are going to get to fundraising y’all with Kristina Carlson. So don’t go anywhere.

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Okay, everybody. We are back with our discussion with Kristina Carlson on how to create amazing, KIND volunteer experiences. Let’s get into relationships.

Because I feel like this folks will focus a lot, especially in the volunteer space, because it does have a human resources element to it, that folks focus a lot on paperwork, especially when new volunteers are joining an organization. It’s like this glut of paperwork. It takes forever. It feels a little bit, if not disoriented, certainly off putting sometimes to volunteers.

Not that we don’t, we should be doing our risk management and all that. We should be making sure volunteers are the right. Fit for a right role, those kinds of things. But how can we improve some of this communication, especially early on? I feel like that is such a vital time. It’s a vulnerable time. A lot of volunteers come and then they’re like, I’m out. This is, I’m not down with this.

What do you think are ways to do that? What are your best recommendations? I think it goes back to wanting to know more, right?

Kristina: I think any interaction, you meet a new person, you interview someone for a job, you invite someone to volunteer. It shouldn’t be a sales pitch on your part, right? Let me tell you all about me. Let me tell you all about the organization, blah, blah, blah. No, it should be a two-way conversation. It should definitely be driven by that.

Okay. I want to know more. I want to know you. I want to know what you’re looking for. So, surveys are so important, right? Asking people what they think after people have had volunteer experiences, being open to send out a feedback survey. How was that for you? What would have made it better? Would you ever invite a friend to come join you in volunteering at our organization?

What a great test of the experience they’ve just had, right? Oh, no, I’d never invite anyone. I might keep doing this, but I’m sure not ever bringing anyone along with me. That tells me a lot. So, I think that’s important.

I think the other thing is really making sure that what you’re asking volunteers to do is significant for your organization that it’s not out on the fringes somewhere. That it’s not siloed off, right? Don’t we find silos within organizations all the time where certain activities are going on that really don’t connect with the overall strategy or the overall intent, or maybe when it got different buckets of things going on all in their own little worlds, if you will.

And I don’t think volunteers want to do that. I don’t think they want to do things that don’t move the needle for your organization. They want to know they’re doing things that are impactful. So, I think that’s a piece of it as well. Committing to knowing more. That K again, and then identifying the impact, the I, and the KIND.

Really making sure that what you’re asking them to do is meaningful. It’s measurable. You can tell them the significant difference that they’ve made. And you’re going to give them the training and support that they need to do that. Particularly in the fundraising space, working with volunteers, we know that they can be extremely But only if they’re trained and supported, right? If they’re just left to their own devices. Oh my goodness. Who knows?

And then Tobi, I guess the last thing I’d say about that, and I think this applies to fundraising as well as volunteering, it shouldn’t require a huge sacrifice to get started because sometimes people don’t know. Right. As I used to say, you know, you’d never ask anyone on a date and say, Hey, let’s go get married, you know, as exactly, you got to start with something like, Hey, let’s go get coffee or, you know, a drink or something.

That’s a little more like, okay, I can do that. I can take that small step. I don’t have to give up as Millard Fuller did millions of dollars just so that I can say that I’ve done something meaningful today. It can be a little step and organizations, I think sometimes make it so complicated to get involved, to make a donation or to do whatever that people are left thinking, Oh, I don’t want to have to give up that much time.

Oh, for me, the worst thing you can ask me to do before I’m going to get involved in something is to fill out a lot of forms. I would just as soon go do something else because paperwork and yes, no. So even going back to what I said, if you’re going to ask people, take a survey or whatever, make it easy, make it simple.

I mean, if it’s more than three steps, I’m probably checking out. So, you gotta have that easy point of entry for connection.

Tobi: Yeah. I was working with a Big Brothers, Big Sisters recently, and their process is complicated because they’re working with vulnerable young people, children, et cetera. And I said, that’s great. Behind-the-scenes, you’ve got a lot of steps in your process, a lot of things that need to happen. How can you break down the communication of these steps into no more than five, no more than five steps so that people understand. Now there’s a lot of your behind-the-scenes admin stuff you got to do, and people need to give you the information they need, and they need to do a background check, this, that, and the other.

And then we also started to map their journey and try to figure out how to create efficiencies at each step. So instead of having people complete an application after an info session, they came to learn about volunteering. Why not just fill it out there? And if they need to do an interview, why not just book the interview right then and there?

And I think we are turning people away. If you’re a volunteer organization, Just look at if you can get your hands on the data of how many people come to the page where you can click on the button and submit an interest form or an application form. Just look at how many people have gone to your page and how many people actually took action And you will see the droves of people that come in And in some cases, you have to set up a login you have to put your email in set up a lot I’m, like no people want to do it.

They have an urge to help at the moment. That’s why they’re on your website poking around. If you don’t capture that attention right then and there and make it really easy for them, then they’re moving on. And I used to say same thing. Like, look, if you know, you don’t go on your first date with somebody and ask people to sign a prenup, like an NDA, we talked a little bit and I want to dig into this a little bit more before we talk about maybe designing opportunities.

And then maybe let’s talk a little bit about fundraising, but it may be designing opportunities around fundraising, but we’ve talked about volunteering is a place where we can rub shoulders with people who think differently than us. Sometimes we don’t agree with people, and I can get a little contentious.

How do you recommend people have conversations because I know it’s such an emotional, you know, people are working in nonprofits do what we call emotional work. It’s actually the way we modulate ourselves, our emotions, the way we’re managing our conversations with people, that kind of thing. So how do you recommend folks, especially volunteer managers do that emotional work in having conversations with people they don’t necessarily agree with, but also at the same time, want to engage them because gang, we can’t just choose to work with people, only the people we agree with. Otherwise we’re getting nowhere fast.

Kristina: Yeah. What a great point. I had the opportunity to attend the International Fundraising conference back in October in the Netherlands and Erica Chenoweth from the Harvard Kennedy School spoke and talked about real change. In hard places and just how important sustainable change has to rely upon building alliances with people who aren’t necessarily on the same side of the fence. That if you can’t find relationships with quote “the enemy,” it’s going to be real hard. And maybe not the enemy, maybe those who are a little bit on the fence or are part of the bureaucracy.

But it starts with building relationship. And one of the things I love about living in Mississippi is the fact that the culture really connects people from all walks of life and all ways of thinking because we really have a spirit of hospitality here. We share meals, we share the arts, sports.

I’m a Chair, I’m actually the chair of our local film festival. I had an experience a few years ago where we showed a film that was about a very controversial topic here in Mississippi, and very contentious. And the audience that showed up to watch the film was, it was just, you could feel the energy in the room that was very. Passionate, I guess is the word I will use and at the end of the film, the filmmaker brought up everyone who had been a part of the film to, to, to the front, the main people who he had interviewed to talk about their experiences.

And I will tell you in the film, these people were shouting, some of them had weapons. When they were being interviewed, and they all stood up there, all of them, from these different, very passionate sides of this issue. And it was weird, because they were like laughing, and talking to each other, and everybody’s like, what the heck is going on here?

And finally, One of the guys who had been interviewed in the film who really came across as this very potentially violent person. Just say that. He says, what you don’t understand is at the end of the day, we’ve all sat down and had cornbread together. We’ve shared cornbread recipes with each other. We’ve learned about each other’s families and why we support what we support.

We’ve gotten to be friends. Now, we still don’t agree. But we’ve gotten to be friends and I think it’s that sense of, can we open our minds to knowing more, the K and the kind, right? So that we can identify those places of shared values, shared ideas, shared sense of belonging and build from that. Let’s not build from the negative.

Let’s build from that place of connection. Because if we can do that, then we can be in dialogue. Then we can be in relationship, and we can’t change if we aren’t talking to people, if we’re not connected to them, it’s not going to happen. We’re, you’re never going to yell at someone enough, right? There has to be.

Erica Chenoweth’s work shows is that non-violent responses to things are actually, in many ways, more long-lasting than when we try to use violence and negativity to make change. So important. I think it’s about people being seen and recognized as who they are. If you see me as who I am, and usually there’s areas where we can agree, we can find, you can find agreement with anybody, you can find some area of agreement.

It might be like, oh, I hate getting up in the morning, or, oh, my family. My kids are the most important thing in my life. Or, Oh, I really do not like brussels sprouts or whatever it is. You can find, if you sit and have the conversation long enough, you will find with anybody.

And it doesn’t take away your values or your meaning in life or your worth to yourself. If you don’t lose that, no one takes it from you. I think sometimes we think if we’re having these conversations that somehow somebody is going to take something from us. And by the way, we don’t change anybody. They change themselves from whatever realizations they have. But these conversations offer the opportunity for the realizations to happen without the conversations, no realizations happen.

And when you’re on social media or regular media. Or you’re just seeing archetypes of people. You’re not seeing real people. It’s very easy. I know we have, and certainly we can be self-righteous and all that, but there’s a point in time where I think we have, in the volunteer space, when we’re trying to engage the community in what we do, the mission has to be the most important thing, not whether or not we agree.

We need to agree on the values and vision of the organization, certainly, and the mission, and that the mission is important. But the other stuff If we’re truly mission driven, that has to be the pinnacle of what we’re doing.

Tobi: Absolutely. Sort of compass.

Kristina: Yeah, absolutely.

Tobi: Let’s talk about volunteers. Because fundraising is your focus, let’s talk about volunteers and the overlap with fundraising. So maybe talk about are you seeing organizations, cause here’s what I’m seeing out when I’m talking to folks, and maybe this is, I’m not sure, I don’t have data on this, but I feel like nonprofits are still treating donors and volunteers differently. And even volunteers who fundraise differently than other volunteers.

So especially your boards, your governance folks who are out there raising money and out there making decisions on the organization’s behalf and guiding the organization. They don’t even call board members volunteers. And they are volunteers.

There’s a lot of the principles that of regular volunteer management that apply but also there just seems to be these silos, that we don’t we’re not seeing supporters as a more unified group of people. I don’t what are your thoughts on that? Are you seeing that on the side of fundraising?

Kristina: Oh, you know, absolutely. Culture of assumptions, right? That, oh, we can’t ask volunteers for money, or we can’t ask these people to do this, or we can’t ask these people to do that, and always say, is there such a thing as asking for too much? How will you know when you’ve asked for too much? Have you been asked to stop asking? Are you, what, but you’re making assumptions, right, and breaking down those assumptions is so important to really giving people the opportunity to engage in ways that they want to.

And yes, I’ve seen countless examples of people who’ve connected with an organization in a certain way. And because they made that connection in that way, they are put in a bucket never to be let out. Maybe the first time they connected was online. And so therefore they’re seen as an online supporter.

Maybe it was just the easiest thing for me to do that day. That doesn’t mean that’s all I ever want to do, but that happens. We create these assumptions and then we stick people, and we do this in our own lives, right? And how we interact with people. Oh, you’re this kind of person or that kind of person.

We do the same things with our volunteers and donors, and we label them. And we stick them there and we don’t necessarily see if they’re interested in exploring other ways to connect and get involved and expand our work and often ask organizations if you have all the money in that you need. Right?

Do you have all the money you need? Do you have all the volunteers you need? Because if you do, then yes, let’s not ask them to do anything else. Because there’s over a million nonprofits in the United States alone, and they all need money, and they all need volunteers. So, if you’re fine with what you got, let’s leave it alone and not go beyond what we already assume is possible here.

Tobi: So, what is the best way if a volunteer manager is thinking, you know, I probably think I’d better approach my, we better get out of our silos. We better have a conversation with development and see how we can collaborate and understand that we have shared. A lot of times I feel like volunteers are donating and volunteer managers don’t know.

In fact, I have a friend who found out one of his volunteers had a bequest of $200k and he’s like, I had no idea that we’re in his will. Yeah. I had no idea. He’s been a longtime volunteer. He’s just out there working the trails, doing our citizen science, whatever. And I had no idea. And we don’t know these things.

For these two departments, and some of them are working within the same department, but often not, volunteerism is a department of one often, even though they’re working within a department. How do you recommend they start the conversation with one another to find shared goals and to figure out how to collaborate on supporter engagement? I like to use the word supporter because it includes everybody.

Kristina: Yeah, yeah, I love that. I think you hit on part of it, and it’s data, right? Making sure we can have shared data and we can see into someone’s full connection with our organization, how they’re interacting with us as volunteers –  Their online interactions, their giving interactions. If we can’t see into that, it’s really hard to understand the whole person. And it makes it easier to make assumptions about things.

I’m a big believer in pilots, pilot programs to help break down assumptions. Finding some champions both internally and externally to help us try some things as a way to help build support for new ideas within organizations, particularly as it relates to how we might engage volunteers and donors differently.

I worked as a volunteer with an organization a few years back that I got more stuff from them than actual time I put in. And it was just insane, the swag that they gave me. And I kept thinking, how is this possible? And, you know, I got into this conversation with the executive director about just what’s the, what’s really the end game here, the ROI with your volunteers?

He says, Oh, we’ve just never been able to stop. When we started the volunteer program, this is what we did. And so, people just assume they’re going to get all this. And I’m like, are you sure about that? Cause I sure didn’t raise my hand. Cause I wanted all this stuff.

So, we ran a little thing. We got a focus group together. We asked. You know, we did some surveying and it turned out they were spending a lot of money on swag that nobody really cared about. Piloting concepts, really testing them with data is so very important. It’s that K.I.N.D. Again, don’t just assume that what you’re doing is the only way or it’s how we’ve always done it.

Tobi: Yeah. Oh, I know. It’s tough for people. I swear. Sometimes. So, thank you so much for joining me today. It’s been fantastic. I know we’ve run long in our conversation, and you’ve got to run.

The last question I want to ask you is just how can people get in touch with you if they have questions? Where can they learn more about you? What you do, the K.I.N.D. Method , et cetera. Just let us know and we’ll post some things in the show notes as well.

Kristina: Yeah, that’s great, Tobi. Thank you. So, to learn more about Outrageous Kindness and the K.I.N.D. Method or to talk with me about doing trainings or workshops, best way to reach me is Kristina@ KristinaJoyCarlson.com.

As it relates to my work in philanthropy and doing  capital campaigns and transformational efforts with nonprofits, I can also be reached at Carter Global, where you can learn a whole lot more about the work we do to help organizations really transform and scale their impact.

Tobi: Fantastic! And again, I will put that in the show notes.

Thank you everybody for joining us for another episode. of the volunteer nation podcast, Kristina, it’s been a joy to talk to you. I hope that you all will check out Kristina’s work and also think about that volunteer experience and how you can make it more K.I.N.D. Take care everybody. And we’ll see you next week, same time, same place on the Volunteer Nation.

Thanks for listening to this episode of the Volunteer Nation Podcast. If you enjoyed it, please be sure to subscribe, rate and review so we can reach people like you who want to improve the impact of their good cause. For more tips and notes from the show, check us out at Tobijohnson.com. We’ll see you next week for another installment of Volunteer