In this episode, we have Ric Phillips, Director at YEDI, to discuss why nonprofit organizations need to focus on friend-raising instead of fundraising.

In this episode we cover:

  • How effective is friend-raising and how to implement it
  • How to get mentor to join your nonprofit organization
  • How to ask for sponsorship
  • How to build connections with donors and sponsors

More about YEDI and Ric Phillips

Ric Philipps is a Communication Coach, Trainer and President at 3V Communications, a Director, Program Advisor and Instructor at YEDI as well as an Executive Director at NCCA Canada.

YEDI stands for York Entrepreneurship Development Institute and is a charity that trains entrepreneurs in Canada and abroad, both for-profit and non-profit.

Learn more about YEDI on their website and on Facebook.


Hi, everyone. Just McIver here. Program advisor at AMC NPO solutions today on the Strategic Nonprofit, we will be talking about fundraising. Today on the podcast, I’ve invited Rick Phillips of the Yeti Institute to discuss fundraising with us. We’ll learn a little bit more about what fundraising is, how you can, incorporate that into your organization and what it is exactly.
Rick. Thanks for joining us on the cast today. can you tell us about Yeti and, your role there? Absolutely. So I’m an original co-founder of Yeti and, Instructor program advisor and now director of international programs. Yeti is a mouthful, your entrepreneurship development institutes, a mouthful.

So we just, I call it Yeti, based in Toronto, but simply speaking, we train entrepreneurs, both for-profit, nonprofit, internationally here use, you name it. So that’s w that’s our business. So we are a registered charity. we’ve been off operation since 2013. we’re expanding every year.
but that’s what we do. We’re in the business of training entrepreneurs. We partner with universities, for example, York University and Schulich school of business here in Toronto, overseas universities we’ve been travelling, but we are an independent charity ourselves. Perfect. Thank you. Thanks for sharing that.

if you can tell us a little bit about, what challenges executive directors, typically face, executive directors, CEOs, to put it that way, during, when they’re trying to secure funders. So what are the challenges around that? first of all, I just want to mention that. Not only am I on the team of Yeti, but I’m also the executive director, as you mentioned of this NCC Canada, which is the national communication coaching association of candidates.
It’s nonprofit and I’m the executive director. So I share the pain of a lot of executive directors when it comes to things like fundraising. So what are the challenges that are like asking does a 1200 bear have a flea? there’s a lot challenge, right? But at the end of the day, Funds is a serial focus.
If I don’t have funds, I can’t do anything. If I get money, I can do this, if I don’t get mine, I can’t do this. How do I get funds? Do I go to my government? If so, what level? federal provincial, municipal. If I go to donors, how do I approach them? should I even ask for money? How do I ask for money?

Do I have a membership drive? Do I have a gala? So there’s a lot of questions around fundraising. Cause at the end of the day, Especially for the nonprofits and the charities they’re really looking at how do I get money, basically as much as money as possible, as quickly as possible. So I’m not saying this is entirely wrong.

But it can lead to a manic feeling of desperation, especially when funding is easy company. Cool. So there’s a lot of problems with that. It starts with the idea having obviously a good strategy. This is not the first person to say that everyone should have a good strategy for marketing, for sales.
why not for fundraising and for anything else. And obviously doing research, what are, what is the funding available? In terms of government funds or private funds, how do people do it? Who can I network with and, connect with, to teach me how to do this, if I’m just starting out, there’s a lot of things, but that’s the nail on the head really?

Yeah. Is that there’s such a focus on money and money now that it often creates problems or mistakes or emotional turmoil for the executive directors. And it doesn’t matter if it’s for profit or nonprofit, because they really think of funds as being self that drives the business. It’s not entirely wrong.

Of course, money’s important, but sometimes the thinking is incorrect when they’re putting all their eggs in one basket, they’re looking at how can I get money now? how can I get it immediately? Especially the nonprofits really seem to be focused on funds and, Not having a lot going on in terms of their resources, without the funds, government funding or private donations, whatever.

So there’s a big focus on it. So it’s not that it’s wrong. It’s that you have to have a strategy, like everything else. I have to have a good marketing strategy, financial strategies, everything else. You’ve got to have a good strategy when it comes to that stuff. So fundraising is not wrong. It’s just that I’ve met a lot of people from nonprofits and charities who suddenly are out of money because of some.

Government grant dries up or they weren’t expecting. And suddenly now they’re cutting back their operations chopping off things, or even we’ve been stopping if it’s a smaller organization. So this is the problem. The main problem that these executive directors will face is securing funds and, having continuous streams and really it’s about how to think properly about funds and fundraising.

Yeah. at something at a Yeti that you teach is fundraising. how is that different from fundraising? Yeah, it’s a bit of, obviously, it’s a play on words. so it, and that’s on purpose, right? We’re trying to teach the people that instead of focusing directly on funds. Instead of focusing only on.
Hi, do you have money? No. Okay. Thanks, next person. How do you have money? No. Okay. Thanks. Instead of this kind of attitude go towards friend-raising. How do I raise friends? How do I raise my network? How to expand my network in different avenues. And the goal is to really make them think about what are the benefits to me as the executive director.
Of not asking for money directly. This is a different way of thinking, right? It’s really it’s about what can I get and really when we’re teaching it, because we are an educational institution, we’re teaching like to come them a thing. What else besides money can you get, if you expand your network, first of all, who do you want to chase to bring into your network?
Why and what else can you get? So that’s the first question. So they have to think about, oh, I just want money and then, okay. What else? Can you get from someone from your network? They, maybe I get mentoring. Maybe I can get, some good advice announcing. Okay. So let’s say you’ve got somebody in your network, whether it’s previously in your network or you’ve gone and got some, and let’s say they’re giving you advice.
I’ll just say once a month for a coffee or in this case, the zoom chat, giving you advice. Okay. Because they want to because they want to help you. Okay. guess what? After a couple of months of that, they’re not just mentoring you, but they’re advising you. now, suddenly as you’re growing your board and not just the director’s board of advisors, if you don’t have one, a lot of newer nonprofits don’t think about a board of advisors.
Now you can get that person. Can I have you on top of my, board of advisory, please? It’s quite often nothing too formal at all. Most people say, sure, no problem. why is that important? Because then when you are applying for funds or go into the bank or whatever you’re doing, you have a board of advisors of these specialists, experts, people with experience in your industry, or even just like great accountants, lawyers, whoever they might be.

And now that’s going to make your application stronger for when you are applying for funds. So it’s not directly saying, Hey, I want to find this person here and immediately get them to sign on something that they trust me with their money. It’s not that it’s about just how can I expand my network of friends, LinkedIn, et cetera.

And what are the other benefits that I can get besides asking for me directly? So when you change your focus from looking at money directly, suddenly the world opens up a bit, and that’s just one example of how a parttime mentor can become on your board advisor to help you have a stronger company profile.

It’s just one example, right? There might be another person who, through your networking, offers some shared office space or office space at a lower price. So again, you’re always looking for money because all I need this, I need office space. I need to print photocopies. I was okay. But it’s not the money is Tim Ferris said when he wrote the book the four hour workweek, it’s not really the money you want.

It’s what you’re going to get with the money. So instead of looking at the money, look at the goal. So if someone’s offering you free office space or a part-time office space or. That’s the goal. If someone is going to help share their booth at some event or conference or a networking event or, or trade show that you need, that’s the goal.

It’s not about, I need money all the time. So it’s you gotta think differently. And I always tell people anyway, with nonprofits, you always have to be thinking like, here’s my nonprofit hat. I always joke and say, put a nonprofit hat on. Cause I work in for-profit nonprofit. So when I’m a nonprofit hat, it means I’m allowed to ask for anything at any time.

In the name of a nonprofit, I may not get it, but I can ask for it. I can say hi, can you have something free? I’m a nonprofit, can I get a discount? I’m a nonprofit, you’ve got to train yourself as an executive director because it trickles down the people below you. They see. And obviously, there’s a lot of people that have a small team.

Anyway, in the beginning, they’ve got to see this attitude. So you have to cultivate yourself. I’m a nonprofit today. I want something for free. So again, I’m not chasing money directly. It’s not exactly fundraising, but it’s about this dilemma of what do I do without a lot of money. Okay. So that’s the first half is training the people to think themselves about it’s okay to ask for money.

How do I do it? How do I expand my network? How do I find different avenues and opportunities besides money directly money may come, but it’s not directly. And the other half of it is asking yourself, why would that person want. To help me. So let’s say I pick up someone on LinkedIn, go, he’s he, or she’s a big former CEO of a big nonprofit or whatever it might be, Oh, that’d be a great person network with, and I send an email, but maybe they don’t get a response. Why? So I’ve got to think to myself, what would make that person respond and say, yeah, sure. Rick, I’d like to meet you and chat about whatever. So that’s the other half of this, which we’ll probably get to I’m.

Sure. So there are two ways to look at it. It’s what’s my benefit to raise friends and what is the benefit? They would have to connect with me. yeah, and I read a little bit online to myself and there’s, it explained more about building relationships, as opposed to just the asking for money.
So like what my profit, what can my, not-for-profit do for your kind of idea. What would you say that you could do, like from your experience? How can you incorporate friend friend-raising into an organization if you don’t have that in place already? Yeah. Yeah.

It obviously starts at leadership. It always starts at the top. always. and then it trickles down whatever size of the organization. And so it’s about. Instilling the concept of that let’s bring all of our networks together. So not just the executive team, but even if there’s like volunteers on that stuff, like what kind of network, or we all bring it together to the table, what kind of incentives can we offer volunteers, for example, to bring in other volunteers, to bring in, potential people, they know, what do they have a voice?

And this is a separate issue. I could give a whole lecture on how to deal with it. The volunteers, but a lot of times volunteers feel very secluded, very separate because they’re not full-time workers, usually not even part-time workers, they’re not paid almost always. So they’re almost like there are the volunteers over here.

They’ll do a few hours for us, then they’ll probably drop off. So let’s ignore them. So they don’t feel this need to really give and contribute and help. But if we gave them an Avenue where they could, for example, Contribute online. let’s call it a Facebook group. That’s only for the volunteers of that non-prime and they can share, and they get incentives to bring good people to the table.

You never know whose father his mother’s an accountant, a lawyer, a fundraiser. You just never know. So that’s a way from top-down, the approach has to be, Hey we’re okay. The business of networking constant let’s pick the right events to go to. Let’s pick the right people to go. let’s make sure that we tell tele whoever’s going.

How do we ask questions correctly? How do we listen? How do we navigate our position to make it interesting too that person to want to work with us? And finally, of course not asking always for money directly, that there’s a time for a pitch. It’s a time for just building a network. If people will invest in you, any kind of investment, not just money for three reasons, right?
Either they like you like literally they like you as a person and this could extend to your team. Or B they like your cause your business, your cause your social venture, you’re nonprofit, they like it. And what it stands for and, or see, of course, some kind of ROI return on investment. in the for-profit world, ROI means the money in the nonprofit world.

It’s not money per se. It’s what will I get? this is what I was going back a little bit earlier, I’m saying like, what will that mentor get to join your team? What will that a retired professor get? If we’re going to have them join our team, what is that a donor going to get? What is it going to get?
They’re not all the same. Are they with donors? What are they looking for? Do they want to feel good about their donation? Do they want their name on a plaque somewhere? if it’s a corporate sponsor, what do they want? They want their logo somewhere. They want maybe cross-promotion of the, they want to show the world that they’re a good organization that is in line with yours.

So you can’t have the same message for everyone. You can’t just think that they’re all the same. And of course your beneficiaries directly the customer, right? The person that’s benefiting from your service. So if you’re, have a soup kitchen, then. You have that person soup and don’t bug them.

And then the corporate sponsor gets the logo, saying that, Hey, we helped a soup kitchen. And make it clear. So it’s about knowing how to talk to people and how to understand and ask questions. If you don’t know what to make sure you understand, what’s there. What will they benefit from aligning themselves with my organization?

It doesn’t have to be money. The money will come. For example, Nike, I said, Nikki, can you give me a thousand bucks from, I bet they say, no, thanks. We don’t give money. I said, okay, thanks. Bye, that’s too cut and dry. Isn’t it? What if I just said Nike, I have this organization, we do these types of things where we help young athletes.

Is that sort of interesting to you? Yeah, maybe. we have this event, do you want to get involved somehow? Or, what do you think? they may not give money, but they may give you uniforms. They may get with their logos on it. They may give some other cross-promotion. Like you just don’t know.
But if you’re only asking for money directly, you’re going to get a pretty clear yes or no. So that you got to teach everybody. Friendraising it’s about to deal with the people as people, but also try to understand what’s their angle. What could they benefit from doing business with you? What could they benefit from working with your organization?

And in what way do they want to align it as a donor, as a sponsor, as a beneficiary three different ways. Oh, that’s great. Can you expand on that a little bit more? Yeah, I think that the point is to. To teach people to separate the concepts of that. The pitch is different for each category.
Again, you’ve donated, donated even 50 bucks or 20 bucks or 200 bucks. We’ve all donated. It depends if the organization said to you, what do you like? We can put your name on it. And a tree showing that you donated some money to the kid’s foundation. Oh, that’s nice.

I get my name up there and the grocery store, like it’s, I’m a donor I’m giving. yeah. I usually put my son’s name up there, but there are different ways to do it. It’s different ways to do it. But if you’re talking about 5,000 or 10,000, there’s usually a bit more than just putting your name on the tree and that.

Something else. It’s about the understanding of what does the donor want? Usually, a donor wants, we call it good guy, feeling good person feeling usually, right? If it’s a corporate sponsor, again, they usually have the big companies have their processes of how they deal with interact with nonprofits and charities

They have their rules. It’s quite easy just to let them lead you. But as I said, they might give you money. They might give you some leads. They might connect with other people. They might just put their logo somewhere, but you can’t. Talk to them the same way as a donor, you can’t talk to a beneficiary the same way as a corporate sponsor, the soup kitchens.
Interesting idea, because let’s imagine someone’s really hungry and they find a soup kitchen and they walk in, but before they can eat soup, they’ve got to fill in a survey Business. This is a bad business, right? It’s not, it’s bad business. It’s a bad feeling. It’s no, they’re hungry. Give the person soup.
That’s what, they’re their beneficiary. You’re charging nothing for it. It may maybe a buck than do that. Let them eat soup and leave them alone. If there’s one internship in the background and all that stuff, and that’s fine. And then the camera’s committed interview, the CEO of the company to us. We every year, once a year, I give food to the homeless.

Here’s me dishing out the soup. Yeah. it’s a PR thing, but that’s worth it. If that organization is giving support that nonprofit charity. So it’s about just looking at different angles and whoever’s doing the emails or phone calls or wherever with those different people are networking.

They’ve gotta understand who they’re talking to. you can’t offer the CEO of Nike soup. Hey, taste our soup. It’s delicious. you should support us. It doesn’t work that way. It’s not what it’s after. That’s great. In-person, this will help you run your business better. I believe that he or she really likes soup. that’s yeah. Moments, right? Yeah. I really like to see if I want to put my logo. So not, he’s not in the soup business, so yeah. So it’s yeah, we’re exaggerating. that’s to train people to think from top-down, whoever’s the people in charge of networking face to face, or, Online, it’s who you’re targeting.

Please help us well, out of all the people, I just said that to who, maybe listen to this podcast, how many people feel it? what if I say, I’m going to give money to, starving children in North Korea. Does that mean that every single person cares about North Korea? I’m not trying to be rude, but let’s be honest.

It’s every single person say, yeah, I really want to help North Korea. no. Certain people will be triggered. Maybe people from South Korea, maybe people from Asia in general, maybe people who dealt with, starving children. Maybe people had a bad upbringing, but not everybody. So you’ve got to tailor your message to whoever you’re talking, at least as best as possible.
So that resonates and they feel something with, Oh, why I should get involved. Whatever that means with this organization. So you have different messages and obviously, when you go to different events, you could tailor it more and you can, you have, I know I’m sending an email to a corporate sponsor.

I can tailor it and you can create templates and you can give your employees templates to use and all that stuff. But that’s, I think that’s the big lesson with friend-raising is two things. One doesn’t ask for money directly. The money will come and, and look at what else should you get besides money resources.

And then the second thing is, tailor your message for your particular audience, donor sponsor, the beneficiary. And also from what I’ve understood, also provide value, provide them with some sort of value, as you were saying, putting up the name on the tree or putting them in a promotional video, or maybe they don’t even want to be known.
Exactly. Find out too. So yeah, you have to ask, you have to have a conversation, right? So we’re talking about a relationship. It’s not a, back and forth. it’s areas of back and forth. It’s not just a one time deal. It’s not like here’s my proposal. Yes or no. here’s what we do. Do you want to interrupt?

You can’t be that way. You’ve got to be chatting and flexible and especially as a nonprofit or charity and see what’s going to make that person comfortable in whatever way they want to get organized. I, had an old, I have an old, business book many years ago and. A long time ago, he said this to me.

So the average business deal takes seven meetings. And I don’t know exactly where that statistic came from, but I find it fairly true. And if not, it’s a good way to think about don’t rush. If you have a meeting with somebody important, don’t expect to sign everything immediately. The first day, like a meeting, might be a phone call here, an email there, luckily even you and I.
How many meetings did you and I have before this podcast? Or tea or touches, touches of like email phone calls. I asked you to connect on LinkedIn. Yeah. We thought five or six, seven days. Yeah. Five or six at least. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So just teaching people to relax and to have good communication skills.

I’m a communication coach by trade. That’s me. That’s my focus is no good listening skills, asking the right questions. So you don’t, you’re talking to tailoring your answer to be persuasive to their benefit. These are communication skills. So that’s really important for, for anyone at any level of work at the nonprofit to pay attention to.

Yeah. So if you were to give, a piece of advice to an executive director or CEO, I think I know you’ve touched on a few things already. Is there something else that you would suggest? I think to trust the process, trust that relationship building is a good thing and that will create a lot of opportunities and to see the opportunities as I said, it’s, it may not be somebody ready to get checked, but maybe through that connection, you get some furniture donated to your space.

You get some, some iPods donated to your class, two children. there’s a lot of things that can come out of that if you’re open to that idea. But if you’re too narrowly focused on money yes or no, if you’re going to miss those opportunities, So keeping an open mind. Yeah. and not just over remind, but like the radars on like really having this sense of I meet this person.
again, this is especially true. When you find someone that you feel is really going to be really valuable to your organization, right? Someone who could mentor someone who could bring in a big check, someone who could have got a lot of experience, like those people replace a lot of high value on that’s really important, To build that. Relationship, like I said, like why, what would be in that person’s benefit to work with your organization and in what capacity is it that they, like you and your team that like what you’re doing, they’re going to be some sort of return on investment, which is not money, but it’s some kind of guy feeling.

It’s some kind of, mentoring opportunity, which they want to do. They want to give back to society. They want to have their name on some sort of, a monument of some kind. You’ve got to find out and give that person what they want. Don’t try to give it. suit to the corporate sponsor, give the person what they want and you’ll be, you’ll have happier relationships.

You have longer relationships, at the end of the day, Hey, by the way, if people don’t like you. The business, cause they’re really not going to do too much business with you anyway. that’s, the other day nonprofits are fairly clear about what they’re offering the world. and so if people are really not interested, they’re not going to do too much.
It might be a one-off. They didn’t want to get the pe

ople involved to really, believe in what you’re doing. Obviously right. And you have a longer life with them. but, but also if they like you and your team, so it is true. It’s not just about, the organization, it’s about how you show up, how you talk, how you present yourself, how you communicate and, and you and your team represents the company.

It’s also very important. Yeah. Yeah, no, that’s a very good point. is there anything you want to add? Is there anything that I missed? No, I don’t. I don’t think so. it’s a big world. Like communication skills is a big topic and fundraising is a big topic and friend-raising is a combination of both.
And so at the end of the day, yes, you’re fundraising. But you’re doing it by relationship building. And by being open to the opportunities of what those relationships could bring. And you’re not afraid to, I ask because you have a nonprofit hat on at the end of the day, though, the money will come and support will come.

the only other thing I could add is that for all nonprofits out there do not relies solely on government funding. A lot of newer young nonprofits. They try to get a, a grant at, through the government and that’s. Grants last for two or three years, max, and then suddenly it’s gone.
So they do all this work to build up their organization, then that it’s gone because that’s the way the government works. They don’t th the government’s trying to ween you off. And I’m just saying this cause a lot of people who get into nonprofit at the VA, they don’t know this. So it’s. To get this money.

And they’re like, wow, I got millions of dollars from the government. So it runs out and they apply again. They don’t get it. And then some of the cutting back. So the key is to diversify your income, like any other for-profit, what money do I have coming in from grants at different three different levels.

Cause my donors, window going here, can I sell my product or service to the open market? people sell t-shirts and sell mugs and all that stuff. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a product that you can sell to the open market. you can sell like, events, right tickets to an event like a gala of some kind.
You can raffle off things if you’re registered for that. And there are all these opportunities where you can make sure you diversify that stream coming in. since that you’re not struggling all the time as a nonprofit or charity. And then this sounds funny, but don’t feel guilty for raising money.

A lot of charities and nonprofits. Cause we teach a ton through Yeti and we know they feel guilty. They’re like, oh, I’m a nonprofit. I’m not supposed to have a lot of money. So the zero balance at the end of the year now you’re not man, not at all. You’re supposed to raise money so you can do good without money.

And you’re allowed to have like when they call it, the government calls like saving for a rainy day, which is up to six months, operational costs you’re allowed to actually save in your bank account so you can be making money. It’s a dollar as an organization, as long as those millions of dollars are doing what it’s supposed to.

So don’t have this guilty feeling of what, asking for money. Don’t have a guilty plea raising money, what you’re supposed to do core to your mission. And when you get these resources, You’ll be able to do more good and you’d expand. So that’s a, again, it’s an attitude of how people think, especially newer people into the nonprofit space.

They have some challenges adjusting to different thinking, I believe.

Thanks. thanks for joining us today, Rick. And, in the note in the show notes, we’ll have some information, so anyone can learn more about Yeti and, and how that can, how Yeti can help, the not-for-profits. Sounds great.

Look forward to any communications. I’m happy to respond directly. Okay, great. Thank you. Bye.

About Tom (TJ) Abbott

Tom (TJ) Abbott, CSP is the Managing Director of AMC NPO Solutions and an authority on Governance. He has over 25 years experience as CEO, President and board director of several not-for-profit organizations. Tom has also spoken in over 20 countries.