Talking Shizzle

The Generosity Crisis and How to Fix It with Nathan Chappell

October 26, 2022 Taylor Shanklin Episode 9
Talking Shizzle
The Generosity Crisis and How to Fix It with Nathan Chappell
Show Notes Transcript

In today's pan sizzle-worthy convo, Nathan, Taylor and Will sit down to discuss the topic of the generosity crisis & the generosity cure. Nathan shares his background-dizzle and how he got involved in the nonprofit sector - and his passion for helping others. We discuss the importance of generosity and how it can help solve the crisis-

Nathan Chappell is an entrepreneur who has been focused on AI and machine learning since 2017. His passion for these technologies began when he saw the potential impact they could have on the nonprofit sector. In particular, he saw how AI could help connect people with similar passions. As he researched the topic, he became interested in the idea of a generosity crisis that was developing as a result of the increased concentration of wealth among a small number of people. He sees AI as a potential solution to this problem and is working to develop applications that can help people connect and give to causes they care about.

Taylor and Nathan explore more amazing discoveries including;

  • Precision Consumerism, and what that means.
  • Nathan's first jobs and endeavors are discussed.
  • Entrepreneurial journeys, including the ups and downs of being an early adopter.
  • The importance of having tenacity and being able to operationalize ideas.
  • Brilliant ideas are sometimes too overwhelming, but crafting them is even more fascinating.

Learn more about Nathan and connect with him here:


Taylor Shanklin  0:01  
Hey hey all you lovely people out there. You've got a lot going on in your day with big dreams and big goals for your world. Are you ready to talk some shizzle and learn some shizzle from leading entrepreneurs, changemakers coaches and overall interesting people who like to shake things up. I'm your host Taylor Shankland, CEO and founder of creative shizzle and I am stoked to bring you a fresh episode of talking shizzle today, this show is all about helping you think differently so that you can grow. Talking chisel is brought to you by our team at Creative shizzle where we help businesses, entrepreneurs, and social good innovators make amazing marketing shizzle happen. Check us out on the web at Creative Now, let's talk some shizzle

All right, all right friends. We are rolling on another episode of talking shizzle. Today I'm your host Taylor. Shanklin. Here was sidekick. Well, what's up? We'll What's up, everyone. It's sunny in New Jersey today. We are excited to have Nathan Chappelle on the line here today. Hey, Nathan, how are you?

Nathan Chappell  1:20  
Doing? Great, great. Thanks for having me.

Taylor Shanklin  1:23  
It's good to be here. I'm excited about what we're going to talk about. It's a topic that's very near and dear to both of our hearts because of the the industry that we both spent so much of our careers. And we're going to be talking with you about the generosity crisis and the generosity cure. How's that sound?

Nathan Chappell  1:42  
I think you're onto something. It sounds great. Let's let's do it.

Taylor Shanklin  1:45  
Well, you're the one who's on to something. So we're gonna pick your brain about the topic. But before we get rolling, tell us a little bit about who you are. What's your story? What's your passion?

Nathan Chappell  1:55  
Gosh, yeah, well, you know, my story is probably very similar to a lot of people in the nonprofit sector. I never intended to spend 20 years of my, my career working in nonprofit, I was an entrepreneur, really on the tech side of things. Early on, I always kind of prided myself as being an early adopter and built my first computer when I was an undergrad and, you know, started programming in a long time ago, you know, just by divine intervention and how the world works. I ended up in a nonprofit 22 years ago, spent 20 years of my career, raising money for really great causes. And then, frankly, out of just sheer, maybe boredom, but frustration and lack of innovation decided to learn around the application of machine learning. And its impact on the nonprofit sector, essentially, allowing nonprofits to connect people with people that had similar passions. And so since 2017, been focused in AI, really deep learning and machine learning and natural language processing to learn, really the data science behind giving. And then as it relates to generosity crisis, is something that I studied for a long time. So my passion around 2012, I did a study on the evolution of mega gifts. And the impact that the giving pledge was going to have on philanthropy and giving pledge was created by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett in 2010. It just found some interesting things. And now we're essentially seeing some of the generosity crisis being a result of this idea that very wealthy people are making up a larger pool of giving. And on the downside is that the average American or less people are giving less on a year by year basis. So I don't know I don't have a lot of other passions Other than that, I'm kind of boring, I think and just focus on AI and giving pretty much 24/7.

Taylor Shanklin  3:54  
So tell us a little bit about your journey as an entrepreneur. Like, I'd be interested in how you kind of took some of those initial findings and research into the problem and then parlayed it into what you started building with AI.

Nathan Chappell  4:10  
Yeah, you know, it's, I haven't been asked that question for a while, you know, and it goes back so far. It's like, it's kind of when you're an entrepreneur at heart, it's kind of it's who you are, it's in your DNA. And when I was a young kid, I was in gosh, I think fourth or fifth grade, I broke my knee. And I had a full length cast and all the kids in my class one of these my crutches. So at recess, I would rent my crutches out so they can hobble up and down. Well, I sat in collected money. And then you know, from there, you know, I had a double paper out kind of ran my own business running a paper out. And so kind of throughout my life, I always had these like, ways to manifest money based on things that opportunities that were around me and that I just saw. And when I was completing an undergrad, I worked in a company that I was scanning data scanning pages using like photocopy machine, they weren't scanning them, they were photocopy and pages for insurance companies and saw this incredible opportunity like there has to be a better way and and scanners are new and CD ROMs are just being introduced to be able to burn. And so we invented the first portable scanning device that scanned high speed documents onto a what was called a magneto optical drive before, you could actually burn stuff onto a CD ROM. So from there, I ended up launching the first company to sell skis on the internet in 1997. So got into that space. So it's always been around something that there's like, there's something that hasn't been done yet. I think I'm really drawn to things of the future that are going to be kind of mainstream, but no one's doing them now. And that's not always the best time to be an entrepreneur, because there's, you're essentially paying for the learning curve that everyone else is going to follow you and do things a lot faster and cheaper. But I think it's that inquisitive part, I'm always just like looking out for what's next and what's going to be mainstream. I mean, AI in 2017 people looked at me, like I had foreheads. And now, you know, there's like general acceptance that, you know, AI, you know, can help improve personalization and create efficiency. So there's a price you pay for being that early adopter. And it's not always fun. But you have to have a lot of tenacity, I think to, to continue with it.

Taylor Shanklin  6:27  
Oh, yeah, absolutely. That resonates with me a lot. Sometimes I was telling a friend the other day, you know, as a fellow entrepreneur, I'm like, I just feel sometimes like I'm on an island, just making stuff up and be like, maybe this will work, you know?

Nathan Chappell  6:43  
Yeah, it's the difference of people who have an idea and just sit on the idea versus those that have an idea and at least make an attempt to do something about it. You know, that's really, for me, the the entrepreneurial style is, you can be brilliant have amazing ideas all the time. But if you don't, if you're not able to actualize them, and operationalize them. And so now, you know, I am leading the new division at donor search, which is a long 15 year old family run company. But this is essentially my fourth startup in the space. And all four actually, we're in technology, which is kind of interesting, because I don't really think of myself as a programmer, although I have some programming skill set. And really, it's really more about just big picture, and how do things connect to each other? And how do how does the need now translate to something that someone is going to want to purchase in the future?

Taylor Shanklin  7:37  
Well, y'all are doing good things. We love the team at donor search. Good people good group there. So let's get into something. You mentioned this, and I was reading your article, the generosity crisis article that came out in the Chronicle of Philanthropy. And you just mentioned a word you said depersonalized, I think donor experiences in the article, you said that many nonprofits have depersonalized philanthropy, letting the chase for dollars dominate their messaging, and relationships with supporters? Can we unpack that a little bit? Like why do you think this has happened? What are some of the trends you're seeing? And then let's get into what you want to talk about in the article and tease out as the cure the generosity cure?

Nathan Chappell  8:25  
Yeah, well, I mean, there's so much packed in there. And again, I consider myself a student of this more than anything. So not that I have all the answers, but I'm on a journey, like a lot of people are like, what's going on? You know, so from a macro perspective, the evidence shows less people are giving less essentially for the last 40 years. And I read a book Putnams book Bowling Alone, which is for anyone in any sector, it should be a must read. I mean, it was think written in the 80s, or, or maybe in the 90s. But it talked about the decrease in civic engagement since World War Two. So like, essentially, less people are donating blood and less people are involved in PTA and and Elks clubs, and rotary clubs and things like that, as that translates to give in what has been, unfortunately, the outcome of that. So as people divest themselves, from caring more intimately about nonprofits over time, nonprofits have figured out ways to use technology to essentially like, monetize, giving, based on transactions. So just focus on like, how do I get $1 from you? Or how do I get $100 from you, and then beyond to the next person and the next person, the next person? So it's unfortunately created this very one sided relationship, you know, the connection is not like it used to be in the early days of the Gilded Age of philanthropy, where it was extremely personal, extremely community oriented, you knew the people and they know you that you know, it was just, you know, it was just reciprocated. And, you know, for the last 40 years is there's been this diminishing number of people giving nonprime office, I just tried to atomize I guess, like this, the way of giving the Judas like, you know, we need, we need more money. So we're just going to broaden the pool versus, let's really focus on on the relationship. So that's one of the reasons there's lots of different reasons for the decrease in generosity. But let's compound it everything right now, I believe, is that we're living in a personalized world. And so this this chasm of like nonprofits just, you know, building more and incentivizing more transactions, versus everything that I ever learned in business school, which is all about scale, has really flipped upside down, it's all about being unscaled. So like, I'm a customer of one, you know, it's precision consumerism, it's all about me, as an individual have my own needs that are different than my spouse, or my kids or my neighbor, every person is individualized. So this is the gap. And that gap is widened so much, that really now is opportunity for nonprofit organizations to focus on what they originally were built to do, which is bring people together to do things they couldn't do alone. And, you know, share that vision, but it truly means kind of sacrificing the transaction and focusing on the relationship.

Taylor Shanklin  11:23  
Okay, so let's talk a little bit about how to do that at scale. Because I think that that's something that quickly becomes overwhelming for people at an organization. You know, it's like, when you think about, I actually really liked that you called it, precision consumerism. So, you know, in our day to day lives, we have so many companies targeting us in a very precise way, right? Like we live in this Amazon world. But I think that for nonprofit organizations, it's like, well, I can't do that. I don't have the resources for that. I don't have the technology for that. How do you help nonprofits break that down and start to figure out well, like, where do you start to personalize and how do you implement?

Nathan Chappell  12:07  
Yeah, I mean, there's so much to unpack there, to be honest. But I think the idea is first starts with awareness. It starts with awareness to really evaluate your practices today. And look at, do these practices incentivize short term revenue, or long term relationships? It's very hard for a lot of organizations that have been doing this the same way for so long to rethink everything they think they know about relationships, and go back to, you know, why do we track revenue as the end goal? Like, why is revenue like how much we raise the into the air, the ultimate measure of success, versus the true measure of success? Which should be? How many people did we have last year that we have this year? And we'll have next year? You know, so. So that really has to be I mean, this is often understood, like most people understand this philosophy and concept of donor retention, donor acquisition is super, super expensive. donor retention is actually the best solution for sustainable philanthropy. So So I think first it starts to It starts by looking at your practices to say, do these practices just incentivize more money for more people, or they focused on how to bring in people and keep them over the long period of time, that should be the ultimate measure of success? Honestly, I don't even think it requires technology to do that. It requires a commitment at the highest level of leadership to say, enough's enough, you know, no longer is revenue. Like the only thing that matters, what really matters is how many people do we have last year? How many people do we have this year? And how are we building and fostering those relationships that keep people along? There is technology that can help with that. And so AI as a subset of technology is really built first and foremost, to create personalization. And so everything that we interact with, whether it be our you know, our phones, or kiosks or computers are all tailored to us in the moment. And you know, there are ways for nonprofit organizations to do that as well to not treat people like a donor or a prospect, but to treat a person based on the value of their connection. I shared this at a conference last week, it kind of just came out but as a most nonprofits believe that the value of their database isn't how much net worth is in there, like so if, you know, I've got 100,000 constituents, and in total, those people are worth $1.2 billion. And I've heard people professionals talk about this, that the value of my database is $1.2 billion. The reality is, it's absolutely worthless without a deep connection. So the value of your database is in the depth of connection. Nothing really frankly, to do with the worth because you can't activate people To give if they aren't connected to you. So I think it's this paradigm shift of really getting back to what nonprofits inherently do is like bringing getting to know people intimately, and then forging powerful relationships, you know, with you as an individual, not just as a constituent ID are just one of the 100,000 people that are going to help me hit my goal that year.

Taylor Shanklin  15:24  
Yeah, I liked that you said, treating someone more based on their value of connection, that got me thinking a little bit more about the overall value of the impact that each person has. So maybe their impact is of their major donor, maybe their impact is that they're an advocate, maybe their impact is that they're a volunteer, maybe their impact is that there are $10 a month donor like, all these different people have a different level of impact. And so I think what you're getting at is like build the relationship, and nurture that relationship based on a more personalized approach for the impact that that person can have with your organization.

Nathan Chappell  16:14  
Yeah, I mean, philanthropy manifests itself in many different ways. And money is just one of them, right? Advocacy, volunteerism, all different types of different ways that people can show that they care, which is all, you know, should be accepted, and then wanted by nonprofit organizations that are wanting to do good in the world, you can't just only have people that write a check. At the end of the day, it also speaks to this new age of like precision philanthropy or precision consumerism is that me today is different than me tomorrow. And I'll be different in two weeks and two weeks after that. And so ultimately, every day you have opportunities to get more involved, or basically kind of walk away. And so this idea that I'm not just a donor, I'm not just a prospect that I'm a person with a varying degree of connection. And that if an organization can find a way to harness that connection, and deepen it, I'll become more involved in my philanthropy will manifest in different ways. But if I don't, and I don't hear from that organization, and they just kind of fall off my radar, we live in a attention economy, there's a gazillion other ways that my attention will be taken up in other spaces. So it really in this day, I think has to be authentic, it has to be in real time. And organizations, I think, really have an opportunity as people want to, I believe I'm a glass half full, people want to do good. I think generosity is inherent in the human species, I think is something that we're built to do. And we're built to not be alone and to be together. And philanthropy just happens to be one of those ways to go through life. One happier and also not alone.

Taylor Shanklin  18:00  
Alright, so would you say that the generosity cure if there's like one thing to pinpoint as the cure it precision philanthropy or personalization? Or what?

Nathan Chappell  18:14  
Yeah, you know, that's such a, we've really struggled with this. So you know, writing a book called generosity crisis that comes out and fall and for the first year of working through kind of the, the tenants of the book was, here, all the problems, but what's, what's the cure, and it took us a while to myself and my co authors to come up with scalable solutions to reversing that generosity crisis, because it doesn't matter if you have solutions if they're not scalable. And it turns out that technology in itself, that fosters you know, identifies and fosters relationships, is probably the only if not the only one of the only scalable solutions to reversing the crisis. Because it really comes down to I know you and you know, me, and you know, you can assess connection of any person to an organization, whether it's a private corporation, it's me with Patagonia, you know, because I, I'm, like obsessed with Patagonia versus me with Children's Miracle Network. That level of connection is unique to me as an individual. And so technology is able to assess that, based on things I'm opening things I'm sharing things that I'm donating to or buying. So really in that way, I do think technology, responsible AI can be one of the one of the main ways that we could reverse the generosity crisis. Other than that, you have to find ways to teach people about the virtues of giving in ways that churches used to do for generations that really are no longer and less people participating in religion and it will continue that way probably. So there has to be a substitute it, whether it's private companies teaching young kids about, you know, saving and giving back, or it's, you know, the Boys and Girls Clubs of the world that are really not forcing kids to volunteer, but really encouraging volunteerism, there has to be awareness of all all of this for further to be changed. But I do think technology is probably, again, I'm biased, but probably the only scalable solution to reversing it. If it's done responsibly.

Taylor Shanklin  20:27  
I think you're right, I think there's two parts to it personally, it is the philosophical mind shift, you know, in the industry as a whole. And then the technology that will support and back up making it, implementable and scalable.

Nathan Chappell  20:43  
And to that point, there's still a lot of haters is a bad word in the nonprofit sector. But there's a lot of people that don't believe there is a generosity crisis, it's just that, you know, people aren't giving the same way, generosity has never been greater, but they're giving a different way. So, you know, Elon Musk says buying a Tesla, you know, makes you that Tesla is a philanthropy company. I mean, there's like, he literally was quoted saying this. So people, you know, may be given through corporations, or purchasing responsibly, but is that the same. So there's a lot of conversation around the changing definition of philanthropy right now. But at the end of the day, if people were more generous than ever, then we would see decreases in homelessness, and we'd see decreases in food insecurity. And most of those core vulnerabilities are at all time high. So I'm actually not a believer that giving is just, it's never been better, that we're in the golden age of philanthropy. Because if that were true, we would see decreases in some of those most vulnerable populations. But I'm definitely open for the debate. Like I love when people want to challenge and talk through these things. Because I back to your point, it all comes down to awareness first, before you can ever come together to essentially try to, you know, solve anything, you've got to come together and debate, learn and research, and then explore possibilities to change.

Taylor Shanklin  22:07  
And Will, what do we say, haters gonna hate?

William Novelli  22:13  
That's true. Haters are gonna hate. 

Nathan Chappell  22:15  
That's one thing, writing a book that I don't know, I guess I may get a thicker skin than I think but knowing that you're putting yourself out there, and there's thoughts, and there's people that are absolutely going to hate it. It's hard, you know, but at the same time, you have to follow your convictions, right of you know, like, there's something that I believe needs conversation. And at the end of the day, if, at least in my opinion, if it encourages one person to think about their own personal contribution to society and humanity. Ideally, if it encourages a lot more people to think about, like, I never thought about philanthropy. That way, I never thought about my own role in teaching my kids about giving back I just thought they'd, you know, carve out their own path versus like, I'm modeling this. So, at the end of the day, I don't think anyone can argue that doing good is is not good for humanity. If people want to hate that, then frankly, I don't want to I don't want to be friends with them anyway. Well, Nathan,

Taylor Shanklin  23:12  
to round it out. We've got some questions that we like to do at the end of the show. I want to ask you, one in particular for you. What's one thing that you could pass on to others to give them advice on starting up maybe a strong attribute or something that you can do to push a vision? Forward?

Nathan Chappell  23:33  
Man love that curveball down? Yeah. 

Taylor Shanklin  23:36  
Well, it

is talking shizzle. 

Nathan Chappell  23:38  
Just straight up.

shizzle. Yeah, you know, gosh, you know, because that's fundamentally goes back to, you know, having an idea. And then not just sleeping on the idea and forgetting about it. You know, to me, it's like, I guess it's all about the very first action. I'm just the kind of person I make lists. And I, I research a lot and I, you know, I ruminate things in my brain around. But honestly, I think the difference is, is just taking that next best step, and then taking the next best step, because if I think a lot of people get overwhelmed with like, you know, trying to eat the whole elephant, but you know, one bite at a time you can get there. And so I guess I'm if I'm reflecting on some friends that I've seen, that have had really brilliant ideas and never really activated them is because it became too overwhelming. I think that is just literally waking up. And if you have a an idea or a vision that you want to achieve, then it's just, if you can make the best use of that day toward that, then that's all you can do, and don't get overwhelmed with it. I kind of view it like playing chess like chess is not always a straightforward game. Sometimes he goes sideways. Sometimes you go diagonally. Sometimes you go backwards. And the idea is that you're still playing like you're still As you know, working to win the game, it's okay if you're going sideways, but just continue to play the game. So that's my, my morning words of I don't wouldn't call them wisdom, but at least probably more my coping mechanism of making myself feel better about all the time I spent on this for the last 20 years.

Taylor Shanklin  25:19  
No, I love it. I think that's great wisdom and great advice. And the world needs you. And all of the time that you spent on this in the last 20 years, like you've been pivotal for the industry. And it's just, it's an honor to know you and get to talk to you about this stuff.

Nathan Chappell  25:35  
When it comes to doing good, there's really no way to mess it up, right? I mean, the stakes are very low. Like if I, if you know, I give someone $1 or I, you know, help someone across the street, like, you know, even the smallest step, with good intention is it can still be powerful.

Taylor Shanklin  25:53  
If people want to find you online, get in touch, learn more about what you're doing that donor search, what's the best way to do so?

Nathan Chappell  26:01  
Yeah, I mean, LinkedIn, I really I love by LinkedIn community. So that's probably the easiest, most straightforward way. You can also go to just Nathan, which goes from my LinkedIn page, I've kind of you know, put all my eggs in that basket. But I love the power of people coming together, you know, to have conversation and to do good. And so that's just for me, one of the places where that happens.

Taylor Shanklin  26:24  
Well, thank you so much for your time today. We've been thanks for sharing your insights. It's been a pleasure as always. And folks, we hope you learned a lot on this latest episode of talking shizzle where we talked all things shizzle around the generosity crisis, and gave you some ideas on a cure. We'll see you next time. Well, hey, there. That was fun. I love how much mind blowing and mind opening shizzle our guests bring to us with every episode. We hope you enjoyed the conversation as much as we did. Make sure you hit that subscribe button on your favorite podcast player so that you don't miss a beat up the talkin shizzle podcast. And if you're listening on Apple, be sure to let us know what you thought and leave us a review. We'd love to hear from our listeners so that we can bring you all the good juicy Business Growth shizzle that you would like to hear about. Get in touch with us and follow along at Creative or email us at podcast at Creative Until next time, keep making your shizzle happen

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