Even in the midst of massive growth and major impact, nonprofit work can be exhausting. How do you maintain your energy – and passion – when you’re dead tired?
In this conversation, Mark Davis, Founder and Director of Abundance International, shares his secret to staying energized and on fire for his mission.
Mark and his team bring life-giving aid to orphans in Ukraine. Given recent attention on the war, Abundance International has had the opportunity to share their mission with a wider audience and experience incredible growth as a result.
During our conversation, Mark shares how he’s nurturing relationships with a new community of supporters, how he uses storytelling to connect audiences around the world with his mission, and what he’s learned from such rapid growth.
In This Episode You’ll Learn:
- How to maintain your passion and energy even in the most exhausting seasons
- How to manage and nurture relationships with an influx of donors
- How to foster connection and growth with storytelling
Season 2 Episode 10 Transcript
Mark: The first and foremost thing of any of us running a nonprofit thing is to encourage ourselves daily. That’s more important than the organizational work, the work you’re doing for your recipients. Anything else is keeping your fire lit. And I wake up every morning with a motivational video. I keep my body in shape and I get reminded about what I’m doing and the need part is that when you’re doing something that’s life changing and anybody you talk to, I’ve worked other jobs where you introduce yourself, tell ’em what they do.
I go, that’s nice. I tell ’em now I’m over. Me a difference in saving lives for these orphans in Ukraine.
Kimberly: Sometimes in fundraising, you have to step outside of your comfort zone, dive in and learn something new. I’m Kimberly O’Donnell. And this is Accidental fundraiser, the show from Network for Good and Bonterra that shares radically authentic stories from the trenches. Even in the midst of massive growth and major impact nonprofit work can be exhausting.
How do you maintain your energy and passion when you are dead tired in this conversation? Mark Davis, Founder, and Director of Abundance International shares his secret to staying energized and on fire for his. Mark and his team bring life giving aid to orphans in the Ukraine. And given the recent attention on the war, abundance international has had the opportunity to share their mission with a wider audience.
And they’ve experienced truly incredible growth. As a result during our conversation, mark shares how he nurtures relationships with the new community of supporters, how he uses storytelling to connect audiences around the world with his mission. And what he’s learned from such rapid growth. So, mark, I am so excited to be here with you today and talk about abundance international.
Can you give us a little bit of a overview about what abundance international is and how it came to be.
Mark: Absolutely Kimberly and I gotta tell you, I’m delighted to be in your program. And the name is couldn’t be more appropriate for where we’ve come from. I was a business guy and I traveled and I had clients coming back and forth and I loved Ukraine.
I had family there. And so I was bringing people there and I just simply wanted to give back to the community. So for. Really for 11 years, I took the 5 0 1 C three that I had, and I simply appealed to my customers saying, Hey, donate some money. We’re trying to do these things for these kids. And it really exploded.
And it was simply out of love. It was giving back, paying back to the community. I didn’t anticipate that it would become the things that has become today because of the war in the work we’re having to do now. Basically the truth is the first time I went into this orphanage in Nicolai Ukraine, where all my family was, and we just simply walked in the door and said, Hey, can we do something to help you guys out?
And they were like, and who are you? The most of these places in Ukraine don’t have major corporate sponsors. They don’t have the big name nonprofits doing good for them. Like today. They’re, I’ll tell you that story a little bit, but. Our part of it was just pure love. Every time we’d go in there, four or five times a year in person.
And aside from the giving work, we’re doing the construction projects. We got to hold the kids and play with them and we’d bring things just for them. And it was a joy, but we got involved in building ICU units, birthing centers. We did really just trans. Transformational projects. We had training centers for down syndrome kids cuz a third of the children brought to orphanage there because they have special needs.
The parents don’t want the burden of raising a special needs child. We just fell in love with what we’re doing. And we ended up adopting two orphanages and the work was tremendous. The second orphanage was a disaster. Nothing had touch. For any improvement since probably the sixties, we had to redo everything, electrical, plumbing, heating roof, and then renovating all the rooms for these kids.
And each time we’re bringing food and medicine, diapers, whatever they needed. And the they’re so cute pictures that one time we didn’t get there in time with the diapers and they’re literally have cooking pots. The kids are sitting on cooking pots and when somebody says I need to go to the pot, they literally were doing that until we got there with the diapers.
So we just had so many heartwarming stories. But then from recent historic events, I was there in February 24th here, 2022 and five 30 in the morning, woken up to the horrendous sounds of the explosions as they blew up our airports and all the events that followed. So
Kimberly: you were there as that was happening.
What was that like being someone who primarily lives in the us from the environment, which we live, which is fairly safe in comparison. What was that like?
Mark: It’s a very valid question. And to clarify for the last eight years, I’ve lived primarily in Ukraine. My residents there have an office there had staff.
And so I had become numb to the disbelief that it would really happen. We were there through the 2014 revolution and nothing really happened to the common people in the streets. And we consider all of the Sabre rattling just to be politics. So it was an earth shattering moment when those explosions went off and we’re just going.
This is really gonna happen. And I remember going down to my office and recording this famous one minute 24 second video, where I just said, this guy that they made the choice, this really is happening. And you, you can’t be prepared for that. You see the people ask me all this news stories, the pictures of the video, they real, every one of those are real now.
It doesn’t mean they’re all across the country, but they’re all very real. And the unfortunate part is my city of MLI between Odessa and the Kione region is really the hotspot target right now with as many as 60 rockets hitting there on some hot days. And all the stories I could tell you that has happened in the last five months are very real and.
If you don’t mind, I’d like to segue a little bit into a question. I get asked a lot because I’m an American and I have family here. Our supporters are mostly in the us. I was told from months ahead of time, get out of there. And a lot of people were leaving and so people have asked me, why did you stay?
You didn’t need to. And. I made a decision months ahead of time that if it really did happen and I gotta tell you, we really didn’t believe it was gonna happen. Most of the people even living there didn’t believe it was gonna happen. But I said, if it really does, I wanna look back a year from now and be able to be proud of what I did.
First of all, second of all, I have all these family and friends and employees here. And how would I feel if I’m sitting at home in a comfy couch, watching a big screen news event while my people are actually living it. And third, I had to believe that if I’m there. There’s divine Providence involved that I was selected to be there for such a time as this.
And there was something I was supposed to do, and I just needed to pay attention to be willing, to dive in and go to work. And we did. And now we’re six months since that first day, but I was there primarily in Ukraine coming back and forth to as Romania. Back across the border. So many times up until really about four weeks ago when it just became impractical, the gas stations don’t have gas anymore.
And so we have been there trying to one by one hit minister now to 20 orphanages across the country, as we are trying to expand, we’re doing to give aid where we’re asked.
Kimberly: And so you are in the Ukraine right now.
Mark: No I’m coming back and boot rest. I can’t go back in right now. And the problem for this is if you have to understand, I’m not worried about hitting with a bomb, I’m not worried about that.
I’m not gonna drive into Russian controlled territory. So I’m really not worried about personal safety, but the problem is because the Russians like to hit the fuel depots, the supply of gasoline in the country, benzene or natural gas, the supply of benzene is so limited. Only one outta five gas stations have any, and the lines are horrendous.
and the distance traveling between any of the major cities is at least three and a half to four hours. So the prospect of being stuck somewhere in the middle and really having zero chance for help just became impractical. So we’ve literally spent the last three months strategically putting people in place.
So I could wire money to them. They could buy things, send other seeds, show me pictures with it. So no I’m in boot rest. And I, I don’t know when I’ll be able to get back into.
Kimberly: It sounds to me like you enjoy being a boots on the ground kind of person. How is it now to shift from that to being the planner, the organizer, the facilitator, but you are not there physically to be able to help and deliver that relief.
Mark: Wow. Kimberly, the scope of my brain exploding to answer that question is intense. Cuz there’s so many directions I could go. If you don’t mind, let me start with day one on the war and let’s walk through a little narrative because the thing that intrigued me about the name of your podcast, the accidental fundraiser, and I wanna tell you this story, how this happened.
We literally raised 1.1 million in a month and a half, and I wanna tell you how it happened. Because up till then we were doing basic donation, friends and family enough to keep these two orphanages going. It was six figure money every year, but it was not what would happen since the war. I literally, the day the bombs went off, received a call from a friend of mine in the us who was like, mark, how you doing?
And I said, well, my regular business is gone, but we’re just trying to do, we can help the orphans. And he says to me, you know what, let me do something to help you. I’ve got a great PR. Person that I work with and she’s got me on majored network TV. Let me have her contact. You build a story and see if we can get you on some spots.
Sure enough. She got ahold of me right away within eight hours. I was on CNN, BBC five Fox stations, MSNBC, CNBC. And then of course I got picked up by a lot of local TV stations. And every time I did. We were making about $5,000 a minute that I was on the air. So I just stayed on as long as I could. And there are sometimes when I was in the dark, sometimes they’re having air raids.
There is sometimes stuff going off in the background. Most of the time, since I’m in Ukraine, the media appearances were. Four in the morning, local time. So there was actually after about 10 days, there’s one. I just absolutely had to cancel. I was so exhausted. I just couldn’t do one more. And I thought I should have just done one more, but because the interest was so high and it was such a window of opportunity.
Now that interest has died down, but I literally that friend hadn’t called me. I don’t know that I would’ve had the initiative or the wherewithal to know to go call and find a PR agent to say, get me on TV. Cuz I’ve got a hot story. But I think the couple of the takeaways are, is connecting anything you’re doing to some story helps and they want photos and video clips.
These guys were obsessed with them. It honestly, I gotta tell you, it almost felt like it didn’t matter that I was actually on the interview. I was this thing that filled in them showing pictures of the kids and pictures. Anything I could do to shore what’s going on in the streets. And I was the one providing it.
So I got to be interviewed. And of course they graciously let me name my website. There’s so many things I learned about these media appearances less than half actually put my website on the lower third during the interview, I had to say it. They told me they were gonna do it. But when you’re in these major network interviews, most of them you see nothing but a black.
You don’t even see yourself, they’re feeding you in from the cable, but you have no idea. What’s going. The other end, you’re talking to air, you’re hearing the voice of these guys on the other end. It is very awkward and disconcerting thing to try to do this where you’re looking at a blank computer screen.
And then later you see how they reassembled this whole thing on CNN. And you had no idea what it looked like, or if they ever put your website on there. So you have to have a ability to get your website spoken. In a way, I don’t feel like the brilliant guy that made this happen, but at the right time we touched the world and they responded.
I simply said the name of our website, people found it and gave, and the average donation was $94. We’re just now looking at trying to apply for grants and formalize this thing and take this to the next level because. We’ve spent six months doing the hard work and about three and a half months ago, I realized we’re gonna have to transition to corporate life.
We’re gonna have to get over here and have people in place who can execute. I can’t just drive my little Mitsubishi. Pajaro all across the country. Like I had been loading the back and drive it over to the orphanage. After we go to the grocery store anymore, I’ve got to be able to have a network of people in place.
And so we did that. So today, Literally this morning, I got more photos yesterday, three different places. We sent some money to one’s in Odessa. Several of the amazing stories are behind enemy lines. We are the only ones I know in the world who are actually able to help the orphanages, the orphans who are in Russian controlled territory.
And they’re so grateful because Ukraine can’t even help them anymore. They are getting no other support. And so stories are phenomenal, but to. Question about transitioning to corporate life. One, I’m not the brilliant marketer. I was an accidental fundraiser. So I love the name of your show. Second of all, now we have, I’ve got a full time managers moving here with me in the us.
We’re coming to the us. We’re gonna set up offices. And the rest of it is probably gonna all be remote boots on the ground within Ukraine, where we can still send resources and hold that accountable. Additionally, we’ve now hired, like I said, grant writing firm and we have a partner team with Google who is gonna help us do ongoing.
Ads to let it out. We also got some sponsorships. I got Ben Vare that did an endorsement for us, a commercial, and they wrote a whole song for us and they produced it with an orchestra in New York. That’s the transition I’m doing to corporate life. And I am very excited about it. Cuz now we can really sink in, be more sophisticated with, I guess you’d call it our marketing, our fundraising to get the message.
Through grant writing through ads and then try to hit some more celebrity endorsements and set things up. So we can now aggressively, proactively go back to the orphanages who have been asking us and saying, okay, what do you need now? We’re set in place. We’re ahead of the game. Now, not just responding to people, asking us.
Kimberly: an incredible story. And it is such a Testament to how things can happen in an instant where you do have your organization, you are doing incredible good, but then something happens and all of a sudden it literally just takes off in so many ways and directions. As you mentioned, the concept of leveraging what’s happening in the news is called newsjack.
And it sounds like guys were able to do that. I didn’t even
Mark: know that I didn’t even know that. So it’s very
Kimberly: well, that’s the whole thing about being an accidental fundraiser, right? Like we fall into these roles, we’re driven by a passion to serve and to help others or to really pursue whatever mission we are focused on.
And then. Life goes on and your organization will take these twists and turns and it’s all a matter of how you navigate it. And when things happen that are big, like this, how you truly news Jack and make your organization a relevant piece of what’s going on and the news in your case, being able to support these orphanages and also children that are transitioning outta foster care.
I know your organization is involved with that as well, but it. Calls for new and different leadership skills. And so I really appreciate how you’re saying, wow. It was helpful to, to have a PR agent. We would’ve never thought of that. And I’m gonna do every interview that I possibly can without falling down, because I want this word out there and yes, I want to make sure that everybody has my website.
So I’m going to spell it out while I’m on air. Is there anything else, any of those tangible that you would give others who are speaking with the media and are just, and are not used
Mark: to. First of all, I would say getting some kind of coaching helps because having the PR person who obviously she knew what she was doing, these people cost anywhere from 8,500 a month to 15,000 a month.
And they’re gonna work for a minimum three months. But on the other side, you look at what we raised and if it’s somebody who actually can get that result for you, then you go, wow, that’s worth the exposure. The second thing I would say in addition to getting a person who. Already has that network is then they’re gonna connect with you.
So in other words, every time you get an email from whatever MSNBC, anybody else like this, save those contacts. Those now are your contacts. And so it’s invaluable. So later now I can go back say, Hey, previous guest, Mark Davis abundance international has, and then hit him with whatever the new story is.
And they have lots of links with photos and things in the email say, when can we get back on and share our story? And honestly, I’m just catching my breath now. So I haven’t even done that yet. I haven’t retouched base to this. I got 44 different major media contacts that are now in my. Network cuz I saved them and created ’em in an Excel spreadsheet.
So then I can go back to those cuz this war’s not going away soon and neither or whatever your cause is not going away soon. So save those and it may be one of those people says, oh, Hey, I remember you, but I’m not the right person and whatever, but save those and learn from each interview. The very first interview I did was a major one, a CNN piece.
And I was. Misdirected in it. In other words, I get on there and he introduced me as this guy. Who’s managing orphanages in Ukraine and American. And then he spent the whole interview asking me about, have I seen tanks on the street? And that was my first interview I got, I sucked in and I go, well, no, but people are saying this stuff and we hear the Russians.
Think we, some people hear, think they’re gonna take over in four days. And I realized he started to close the interview and say, what’s nice. Been talking to you. I hadn’t said anything about my cause. And so I, I just jumped in. I said, The reason I’m here. I don’t know anything about where reason I’m here is for abundance international.
The work we’re doing for the orphanage, just we need everybody’s help because right now these kids may not have support in just a few days, please. Anybody who can go to abundance, international.org, I got in like 10 seconds, but that 10 seconds got us about $40,000 worth of donations. So what I learned is that.
You have to prepare what you’re gonna say before the interview. And it almost doesn’t matter the question they ask you, you’re gonna take their question, flip it to what you wanna say, because if you don’t, you will lose the entire opportunity. I remember getting on BBC and the BBC people says, look, we don’t want this to sound like it’s a cheesy salesy thing.
So don’t mention your website. We’ll just put it in the lower thirds. I listened to them and I shouldn’t have, they did not put my website anywhere in the lower thirds. We got nothing out of a major appearance on BBC, nothing. Nothing. And I was like, why did I listen to them? Of course they’re not, they don’t have my best interest or they have their interest heart for me, just to have said, I just thank and appreciate everybody.
Who’s giving it abundance, international.org. And we can use all your help. If I just said that eight second piece, we probably could raised $50,000. You have to be a little bit in control of making sure your message gets out no matter where they want to go with the interview, chances are they’re gonna be putting.
Your photo and video pieces over your face. Most of the time. Anyway, that’s what people are gonna be watching while they’re listen to you in a little post stance thing in the lower corner. Anyway. So getting in your website about two or three times helps, but doing it in a way that’s not pushing for everybody.
Give now we’re desperate. Let’s say I thank everyone. Who’s given to abundance international.org cuz of our work we’ve been able to do so much. Good. And it was so much more needs to go, please. I just thank all of you on behalf of abundance, international.org. We’re just so grateful to the work you’re doing.
If you watch it, where you watch this podcast, count the seconds that it took me to say that, but I was on 50 interviews before I really got this down. Now I’m going. I got, I wanna go back now. Cause now I feel like I know what I’m. Exactly.
Kimberly: Excellent advice. I know if we could just go back in time, the things that we would just twink a bit, especially when it comes to fundraising and promoting our organizations.
I wanna talk with you about the fundraising side of things. Two pieces, right? One is. You are raising an incredible amount of money for your organization over a very short period of time. How do you manage that? And then two, how are you engaging all of these donors so that they wanna stay involved and connected to your organization?
Mark: I would love to have this interview with you in a year from now would be totally different. But right now I’m on catchup mode. I real I’m on catchup mode because honestly, here’s the problem. Originally, this guy who helped me get the PR agent set me up with a GoFund Tobe campaign. And originally GoFundMe was having difficulty confirming that they would send us the money.
They weren’t approving us. We’re going, here’s my S we’ve been at 5 0 1 C three since 2006. And because of that, I switched to PayPal. And about a few days later, we ended up putting both on there. So here’s one thing I. With PayPal. I can always go back and get the email addresses. And so the delicate part is if you’re just scraping email addresses without somebody who didn’t opt in, there’s a problem where if, when you send those people a separate email to say, thank you that if they’re flagging you a spam, it could really hurt your account.
So I took a risk. We had 5,000 at that point, different people who, who had given to us on PayPal, I went ahead and sent them. And you know what? Out of 5,000 people, only four marked at a spam that’s below, even. Relationship based email averages. So we didn’t have a problem with it. I can’t advise you on that, cuz I don’t know if it’s a legal issue or not, but I just said, I can’t not approach these people.
They gave, they want to hear what’s going on with this. So I took that risk and again, somebody’s gonna tell me that was illegal. That was spam. I just took the risk. And so once I’ve done that. And everybody else seemed okay. And they received the emails. We had a very high open rate then I just said, okay, I have a relationship with these people.
Now, the problem I had was with the GoFund B people, they will never give you contact information about your donors, what they’ll do. And I’m here. I. Please. I’m a newbie, Kimberly, you, your audience probably knows this stuff in their board already, but I had to learn that they don’t give you any contact information.
The only thing you can do is post an update, which they will email your people about what you did. Or there is something where you can, as a donation comes in type a quick note and. They will also send that. Thank you note to them. So what I need to get more sophisticated about is now on a regular basis, pumping out a new video every week, along with an email and to every GoFundMe people to go ahead and just hit that and send a personal message to them and doing the updates to GoFundMe.
So building that relationship, we are now gonna get systematized and more consistent because honestly we’ve been scrambling just to keep up with the needs and you’re right. Raising that much kind of it hit during those six weeks. And then I don’t wanna say almost to nothing, but it went down to. 20,000 a month.
So we’re going like, okay, if we’re gonna, we just committed ourself to 20 orphanage just now, instead of two, we don’t have a choice. We have to ramp up long term fundraising. Having that bulk committed once gave us a little bit of a cushion. So we’re probably good for the rest of the year. What’s another six months now.
And now we’re having to look at getting nurturing. And we do it traditional ways. I, I don’t know. You tell me I’m new to I’m new to being a big league charity, which I really, I have to treat it that way. Cuz I really believe we, we should be a three to 5 million charity as we get this thing going on and the limit to just working with Ukraine’s orphans, we’ve only touched 20 out of 146 that we know of.
And some of them were having to drive up to aside from that, to answer your question about nurturing relationships. Yeah. We’re going to be doing weekly video updates, posting them on the website. Combining that with an email and to each individual donor, we want to be able to respond the same day with a thank you to the individuals, but that’s gonna take me another.
Probably a month and a half before I have all them in place ready to just push those buttons. And I don’t think it’ll be a problem. People are loving and understanding. We’re just gonna do a big blast about a month from now. And just say, guys, thanks for your patience. We’ve been actually just dealing with war and we’re gonna make a commitment to try to get you update some more regular basis.
Have as I set up physical place outside of Ukraine office and. To manage that. So I feel like Indiana Jones, Reese says, Hey, I’m just making this up as I go. That’s what I’m saying. This is a fascinating time to be interviewing me.
Kimberly: it is. And it’s so relevant to our other accidental fundraisers because a lot of them make it up as they go too, because they know no different.
And they’re riding the wave of. Trying to support their organization and live within the times. And that’s been the case through the pandemic and now through the war, through our recession, within the U you know, us and so much more. So one of the things, and this is a sidebar, but you were talking about your PayPal and your GoFundMe pages.
You also haven’t networked for good account where you could also be sending all of that. Through there and donation pages and you could send video and text and all
Mark: of those things. Yeah. Actually I’ll do a plug for you on that. The only reason I didn’t mention that, cuz it doesn’t have a problem. That one just works.
Okay. I don’t have to qualify people on these other flags with the network for good page. That one works and I’ve got staff with network for good that just con. Attack me and walk through what we’re doing. And so, yeah, forgive me for not mentioning them first because that one’s the one that’s just not a problem.
Kimberly: so share with our audience, why you have multiple giving pages, because people are always wondering about that. Should they have one, should they have many? What is your strategy there?
Mark: Again, you’re talking to the guy who’s new into this whole thing and I intentionally. Immediately when the war hit, I contacted network for good and signed up with the program and got a representative and we set up the pages.
So the thing is I find that it’s just like anything people find you in different ways in different sources. Why do people do some social media and YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and wherever else? Because people are in different places. They’re not all looking in the same way. And I learned early in my life in other businesses that the idea is.
You wanna get yourself in front of where people are looking, not make them have to look somewhere else, but wherever they are looking be there. And so the idea of having multiple sources is let’s catch ’em there. And we did honestly, out of that million dollar number that we hit, a lot of that came through the network for good page and source we had because.
Some people before they just give, wanna do a check on you. Obviously, a lot of ours just had a heart. It was timing. We just touched ’em at the right moment. They just went to our website and clicked on whatever link was available to them. We just put it out there, whatever works for you. But we found that everyone who wanted to do a check on who is abundances international.
They ended up going to the network for good page, because then it obviously shows you’ve looked at our, our 5 1, 3 C status. You’ve looked at all the different things. We’ve had a relationship with you for years prior to the war happening and all of that lended credibility to us. So I think when somebody’s new to your organization, I think the credibility would come more from network for good organization like that than PayPal or GoFundMe, because I got a lot of flack from both of those.
So. I think it helps to give people as many options as possible because they’re all coming from different places. And to just have one option, I think limits them. I have an account also. And the funny part is that could take, I could take credit cards directly without anything else without any other organization.
I don’t even put it up there because I wanna create a sense of familiarity with people and that they pick the path that they trust and they feel good about. And I think especially in a charitable environment, having a sense of comfort. Okay. Somebody else buys into these guys, I think helps. And so those are all my reasons why I still will continue to offer a couple of different ways for people to Don.
Kimberly: I appreciate one of many pieces of advice that you’re sharing here in just this part, which is, I appreciate that you’re suggesting that organizations update their GuideStar information and which is now through candid and other charity watchdog websites. So that when something like this hits. You have the most current information, your nine 90 S are up and loaded.
If you are submitting a nine 90 and it’s all there. So it shows that your organization is credible and ready to accept funds. It’s just really important. And as you said, having what we call a network for good, but it’s actually now we’re Bon Terra donation page really can help with the credibility for your organization.
So there’s a question that I have around, around all of that, which is you have multiple ways to. You’re communicating through multiple channels. Do you have multiple social media sites? Are you a talker?
Mark: No, actually we’re just purely Facebook and YouTube. Oh, we do have Instagram because of Facebook, but right now that’s where we are.
But again, we’ll have to look at if we need to expand to more, but that’s all we are. And
Kimberly: because you are capturing images on the ground, how often are you using those images, the video and all of that in your communications with both donors and prospect.
Mark: Let’s say the plan as we will initiate it here right now, we’ve been doing it as can.
And so it’s not been as frequent as I am told. It must be in social media to have a regular schedule when you hit everybody. My thinking is once a week, we will do a video piece and that video piece will go be promoted through email. Hey, go, we just put this video up daily. We will be putting out photos and that’ll go to the Facebook and Instagram.
Pages. I find that the photos by themselves, obviously cute kids get clicks, cute faces, get clicks. And I think that’s what we’re finding. We’ve been doing some testing with running Google ads. We’ve done it through display, through search and through video. And the display ads are getting it because just put one of the pictures of the kids up there and people are clicking in.
10 to one over the other things. Now I need to do a good video. We haven’t produced one, so that that’s all I’m doing. I, and like I said, you asked me a year from now, how did it work? What did we learn? And I’m sure it’ll be a very fascinating
Kimberly: interview. yeah, please come back. We wanna hear all of your learnings from this experience, an incredible experience we hear about how to fairly and ethically represent.
Individuals in which we’re serving like the children, you kids get clicks. Do you have any concerns or hesitation or anything that you consider as you put those images out? And the, the way in which these children in, in orphanages are being portrayed?
Mark: Hundred percent. And Liz, trust me, this is first on our radar.
First of all, you have to have, especially a case of an orphanage where the orphanage is a legal guardian. They have to be okay with it. A lot of ’em don’t want pictures of the tinies cuz we are, we’ve been serving most of our time serving the tinies like zero to four years old. And so we have to have certain authorizations.
Also, you. Wanna capture them at certain times that in a sense in the past we’d wanna put them in the best light. And so, in a way, in contrast to the war, the pass, it was happiness. So that, that doesn’t really work for fundraising. What we’ve found is that as we’ve given, I’m just telling you what we’re doing now, cuz it’s, we’re learning on the fly, but right now, As we give and we ask, Hey, could just show us really it’s for accountability too.
Cause we’re having to wire money to people. So we want the receipts. We want a picture that, of what we gave and delivered with some of the kids around her, just say, Hey, it went to these kids. And so they’ve been so good. They’re like, Hey, no problem. We’re grateful. You’re helping, you’re saving our lives.
So these, some of these kids have sang songs to us. Some of them have said, thank you. They hold them. Thank you cards. They wrote in English and say, thank you pictures with all the. In front of them. So in a sense, I don’t think I have an ethical problem with the fact we’ve checked with all the legal guardians and the kids are simply saying, thank you for what we delivered.
So the only time I. Really, and I haven’t had an ethical problem with it, but there’s some photos that are just very sad. Some of these kids are just they’re, especially in the villages, they’re dirty, they’re not clean cared for the clothing. Isn’t that then intact, like some of the orphanages who have the washing machines really care for these kids.
And some of the looks in their faces are really sad and it breaks your heart, but there’s, the mothers are right there with them and the mothers there with the kids. And they’re just saying, thank you. We had in helping to move some family. Not only refugees, but even within the countries to get out of dangerous spots into other areas.
So I don’t, again, I’m going by the seat of my pants. I’m going through my own heart, tells me is right. And I haven’t cross platform this, except that the approving entities have been okay with it. Google is very careful about what pictures of kids you put in their ads and they’ve approved all the ones we did.
They had a couple that they didn’t like, and we had to talk to ’em about it and, and understood. Because we have a Google ads rep that works for us now. And so she’s our advocate there. I don’t know. I’m not the attorney on this. I ju I’m guy, I’m listening to my heart and seeing what the people who do have to approve these things, Google the Facebook and YouTube, what they will and won’t allow.
And so far, I think we’re on the right side of everything. Checking the right boxes, putting ’em in the right face, getting the right parental legal authorities to endorse the photos that we do.
Kimberly: And for our listeners who are interested in this, and there are pieces out there that you can look at where there is advice around how to portray children and just service recipients so that there isn’t any victimization and that they are being ethically represented.
Because as these children age, they may or may not feel a. To attach to the fact that they grew up in an orphanage and would they want that image out there? And that may not be the case for these individuals, but certainly with other service areas, it may. And so I encourage people to pause and really think about the images in which you are putting out there to promote your organization and fundraise, and really think about how they’re being represented.
So let’s talk for a minute about the storytelling aspect. Traditional fundraising had organiz. Sharing a story from start to finish in one, go in one email in one direct mail letter in a video, have you tried storytelling with what I would call characters, right? Like where you have different people who are tied to your organization to abundance international, and it may be part one of the story.
And a little later you share a little bit more about that person or that experience.
Mark: There’s no question. It’s the best way. And we were fortunate enough to be able to do this for the first three weeks of the war. And it was me. I was going through and I was standing in line at the grocery stores and telling the story, how they lit us in the front of the line and how we were in front of the hospital.
One time trying to get stuff for the kids. And the military was there also getting some stuff. And we were telling them who we were and they went and took 200 pounds of potatoes out of their own rationals and gave it to us for these kids. And so every day I had something and it was. Revolutionary remarkable.
Now, at some point I came into a couple of conflicts just due to the nature of the war. We started taking people across the border and they were terrified that my broadcast would expose their location. They thought they’d be harassed, they’d be problems. And so we switched modem for the sake of the confidentiality and really very security concerns.
I realized I couldn’t broadcast my location anymore because they were target. Charitable places they’re targeting. Warehouses are humanitarian goods. And so if I’m out there every day saying, Hey, I’m doing this good. I make myself a target. It’s ridiculous. So I had to shift. The storytelling to being project by project.
What we’re doing for the, these kids, the orphans, and doing it in a voiceover and doing it more of generically what’s happening, not necessarily identifying a location. So going forward since I’m not on in the field. And not everybody on the field is good on camera. So what we’re gonna do is take the stories both from what’s happening in the war and what’s happening in the orphanages.
And then wrap that into some videos. So for example, this week, we, we have a group of an orphanage that literally had to be disbanded because the Russian pressure. So they have. Force foster home, their entire orphanage to local families. And now the money that we’re sending, what they’re doing is taking and putting those in packages and they’re delivering it to the family.
So the kids are still getting cared for is a problem, unique solution. Here’s the result. And then all we have is these very Amish pictures of a family standing there holding their bag of goods and the kids and the kids leaning against the parents in a farm. Environment. So the photo quality, I have no videos, but a video slides show with a story.
And there’s my story. I think you just have to look at. The narrative of what you have, if you can have a spokesperson there. And perhaps I get in studio and I do the intro and the ending, I don’t know that I add value to this cuz nobody cares about me. It’s really about these kids. I think it’s better just to run a slideshow and do a voiceover and tell the story.
If you do have somebody and it helps you having a spokesperson, like a TV commentator walking through it. That’s great. If it’s a bubbly personality, somebody that really captures audiences, then maybe they, they engage people and. If the person talking, captures people, they wanna keep listening. Then put that person out there.
If it doesn’t then use something that will keep people watching. The
Kimberly: only other thing I would add to that would be to stir in some data because data
Mark: helps. I’ve been scolded by that the Google people are, they totally trash my website completely. They say, you need to let ’em know how many of these kids you’ve helped, how much they’ve been delivered, what cities and you find it on individual videos, but he says, no, that’s the.
First thing that goes in there. And so we got all this stuff to redesign. They’ve been really good to us. Other eyes would be my advice. Other people’s eyes on your stuff. We’re too close to it. We don’t see it. We don’t get it. But data is the thing I keep being told about. Cuz we have great data. We it’s amazing what we have done.
Not only prior to the war, but now since it’s staggering in the potential where we’d like to take it. So thank you for reminding me of that. Yes. Data is the thing I need to improve on a hundred percent, cuz these people wanna know. It just helps people know I made a difference and it contributed and here’s the numbers.
Kimberly: Absolutely. It helps to really showcase the impact that they are making by giving their dollars through you through your organization, to those orphanages. The work that you’re doing is so important. It was so important. Two years ago, five years ago. Today, it’s critical given what’s going on with the war in the Ukraine.
How are you maintaining that energy level that you have? I know passion drives a lot, but we do get tired. We get worried. We worry that we’re gonna fall down. How are you maintaining this energy that you
Mark: have? The first and foremost thing of any of us running a nonprofit thing is to encourage ourselves daily.
That’s more important than the organizational work, the work you’re doing for your recipients. Anything else is keeping your fire lit. And I wake up every morning with a motivational video. I keep my body in shape and I get reminded about what I’m doing. And the neat part is that when you’re doing something that’s life changing and anybody you talk to, I worked other jobs where you introduce yourself, tell ’em what they do.
I go, that’s nice. I tell ’em, now I’m over there making a difference in saving lives for these orphans in Ukraine. And every time I can be at a gas station, somebody will then turn back to me and says, Wow. You are a very rare and special man. I really appreciate you doing thank you for what you’re doing.
And if you understand the value of what you bring to the table, that the rest of the world recognizes it, you have those rare and special opportunity to take what you love. What makes a difference in the world and changes lives and something that can radiate make you glow from inside with passion and energy.
Just go, my gosh, I wish I could tell all the stories. You have no idea how amazing it is to do this work and where I don’t think once about bombs dropping around me, those kind of things. I think about these little kids. And I think about how exciting it is and the fact that I get to do this as my profession.
It’s such a gift. It’s such an amazing gift. And. Resist the urge. And when we get too corporate, too busy, too task driven, too checkbox, considering how much you have to do, but always keep the focus on. I’m not gonna emotionally get dragged down by the mundane of the fact that it is also a business. I’m gonna keep focused on the fact that this stuff changes lives and you have to start your day immediately getting that focus.
So doesn’t get taken away by the mundane. Which kills boredom kills mundane kills, giving life force appreciation, gratitude in yourself. First, encouraging yourself needs to be your first job as a leader, and never forget that you are responsible for being the one on fire and being encouraged. Ooh,
Kimberly: I love it.
I feel it accidental fundraisers. Did you hear him? He said that we are rare and special. And that we are making a difference in the world and there really is nothing better than that. There really isn’t. So I truly appreciate our time here with you today. I know your time is very precious as is our accidental fundraisers.
What’s next for you?
Mark: First of all. I appreciate all your questions because as much as you’re asking me and a lot of ’em have been dry, so my brain’s scrambling. I’m putting this together as I go, but what’s next for me is the assembly of this into being a major recognized charitable organization in the country.
I’m really glad that I got the domain and the name abundance international back in 2006, I think abundance was one of the greatest things we could have our capacity to expand. Worldwide, of course is always there. So the next phases for us are only up and continued networking, continue to getting more organized, continue to get more sophisticated because everything we’re doing is so freaking cool.
And every time we touch something, it has a story. And every day it just gets you something gets you excited to wake up and do my next steps are of course, organize the entity, getting the regular donor communications, going, getting a machine going so that our fundraising network for good and connecting with our website, all those kind of things gets streamlined.
So we have that. Of flow going on, but so both the communication, all the rest of that organizing and being open to whatever God’s gonna bring our way, I feel like we’re on the ground floor, even though we formed it in 2006, I feel like we’re just on a whole new chapter of life. And there’s a part of us that’s exhausted because I cannot deny the mental taxation.
There is hearing the news every day, what’s going on our beloved Ukraine, but there’s another side of us that says we were put here for a moment such as this. And thank God that he saw me worth. To tap on me and say, I want you to help. And you’re the man at the right time in the right place. So all I can do is just be grateful and go for this with everything I’ve got.
Kimberly: Thank you, mark, for sharing your story, your time and your purpose with all of us today really has been an incredible interview. Thank you so much. I wish you all of the best. I am truly rooting for abundance international and for your growth as you move up into this next level. Good luck. And may this war end soon.
Mark: Amen. Pray for the peace and Ukraine. Thanks Kimberly. Appreciate you.
Kimberly: Here are our key takeaways. First how to maintain your passion and energy, even in the most exhausting moments and seasons two, how to manage and nurture relationships with an influx of donors and three, how to foster connection and growth with storytelling.
Yes, you can. I’m Kimberly. See you next time on accidental fundraiser and be sure to follow along wherever you get your audio.