Tia Newcomer is the Chief Executive Officer for CaringBridge, a charitable organization based in Minnesota which allows people facing various medical conditions and their family and friends to communicate. Her career has spanned both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors and includes experience in healthcare, technology and consumer packaged goods. She is a 1995 graduate of the UNL College of Journalism & Mass Communications where she majored in Advertising. She was recently selected as one of Top 100 People to Know in 2023 by Twin Cities Business. She spoke with Campus Voices as part of a series on the future of the media and communications industries.
icon search Searchable Transcript
Toggle between list and paragraph view.
[00:00:06.330]Hello and welcome to Campus Voices.
[00:00:08.280]I'm Rick Alloway, and as always, I thank you for your time.
[00:00:11.403]We are continuing our series of programs on Campus Voices
[00:00:15.570]that deal with futures,
[00:00:17.640]the futures of the various mass media industries
[00:00:20.122]that the College of Journalism
[00:00:21.810]and Mass Communications supports
[00:00:23.520]and that our majors tend to find their way
[00:00:25.440]into after graduation.
[00:00:27.083]Today on the program, we're talking with Tia Newcomer,
[00:00:29.970]who is the CEO of CaringBridge
[00:00:32.123]and is a proud alum
[00:00:33.442]of the College of Journalism and Mass Communications,
[00:00:35.880]having studied advertising as her undergraduate program
[00:00:38.363]when she was here.
[00:00:39.300]Tia, welcome to the program.
[00:00:40.133]We're glad to have you with us.
[00:00:41.910]Thank you so much, Rick.
[00:00:43.050]Glad to be here.
[00:00:44.430]Let's start a little bit by talking about your background.
[00:00:47.281]What brought you to the university in the first place
[00:00:49.602]and what was your initial thought
[00:00:50.961]of what you wanted to do for a career when you came here?
[00:00:54.480]Great question. I love sharing the story.
[00:00:56.460]I'm actually a third generation Husker,
[00:00:58.350]so I'm not sure I had a choice in where I went to college.
[00:01:02.550]Outside of that, no, all jokes set aside,
[00:01:06.330]I grew up actually in New Mexico,
[00:01:07.710]so while I was born in Nebraska
[00:01:09.420]and both my parents were raised in Nebraska,
[00:01:11.454]we found ourselves through my father's job in New Mexico.
[00:01:14.940]So when I started exploring what I wanted to do,
[00:01:18.134]I actually wanted to be a vet, veterinarian.
[00:01:20.880]That's where I was going.
[00:01:21.930]And I took a chemistry and a anatomy class in high school
[00:01:27.750]and I was like, "Nope, that's not what I'm doing anymore."
[00:01:30.900]And I think this is a really good point, I think,
[00:01:33.600]for anyone exploring what they wanna do.
[00:01:34.854]I had the benefit and blessing
[00:01:38.214]that my counselor at school said,
[00:01:40.087]"Hey, take this personality test."
[00:01:41.910]And now there's thousands of them.
[00:01:42.814]The world is digital, we can find these.
[00:01:45.094]Back then it was much more not that way.
[00:01:48.300]And so out spit out
[00:01:50.520]that I should be going into journalism and advertising.
[00:01:53.070]And I was like, "What's that and why did it say that?"
[00:01:55.830]So I think it was a great first point where I explored like,
[00:01:59.670]what are you good at?
[00:02:00.503]What do you do when time stands still?
[00:02:02.610]And it made me realize,
[00:02:03.630]oh, this is something that I should look into.
[00:02:06.600]So at that point I had multiple schools,
[00:02:10.412]and University of Nebraska, of course, my parents,
[00:02:15.300]they had a desire to send me there,
[00:02:16.274]but cost was a consideration.
[00:02:19.140]Then it bubbled up that it was one of the top
[00:02:21.420]in the nation journalism schools,
[00:02:23.460]and my parents surprised me honestly.
[00:02:25.680]I was set to go to the university of,
[00:02:28.560]actually New Mexico State,
[00:02:29.760]and I came home one day and they said,
[00:02:31.567]"You're going to Nebraska."
[00:02:32.670]So I was thrilled for multiple reasons.
[00:02:35.460]I had grown up a Husker tried and true,
[00:02:38.280]and going to a top school is always a pleasure
[00:02:42.030]and it served me well.
[00:02:45.355]Do you have any specific recollections of faculty members
[00:02:49.230]or experiences or activities from your time in the college
[00:02:52.560]that resonate with you still to today?
[00:02:56.640]Stacy, oh my gosh, I'm forgetting her...
[00:03:00.870]Yes, Stacy James, how can I forget the last name?
[00:03:03.012]She was amazing 'cause she made our classes fun.
[00:03:06.211]I remember one specific, we had to memorize all the,
[00:03:10.332]I share this still to this day with my team,
[00:03:13.350]memorize 200 plus typography.
[00:03:15.300]I just remember it distinctly and, you know, index cards.
[00:03:18.540]I'm like, "Why are we doing this?"
[00:03:19.373]But she made it fun and guess what,
[00:03:20.601]I memorized over 200 font types,
[00:03:23.401]which has also served me well.
[00:03:25.980]The other thing that I would bring up from the college
[00:03:28.361]is our final project and then the Daily Nebraskan.
[00:03:32.850]I started out in the basement of the Daily Nebraskan
[00:03:34.800]as a classified salesperson.
[00:03:36.990]I wanted to do the other job, which I eventually did,
[00:03:39.810]which was designing and selling the advertising
[00:03:42.020]'cause that's what I wanted to do.
[00:03:44.520]But it was a lesson of humility
[00:03:46.410]in that they didn't have the position open there,
[00:03:48.450]but I wanted it so bad.
[00:03:49.440]They were like, "Great, can you do classified sales?"
[00:03:51.300]And I was like, "Sure."
[00:03:52.200]I didn't even know what it was.
[00:03:53.700]I literally, for those that remember a phone book,
[00:03:56.580]I took out that phone book and went line by line
[00:03:59.100]and cold called people to advertise in the Daily Nebraskan.
[00:04:03.060]That then catapulted me
[00:04:04.530]into actually being able to call on businesses locally
[00:04:07.740]and design advertising for them in the Daily Nebraskan.
[00:04:11.250]So that was a great extension
[00:04:13.297]of the college and opportunity.
[00:04:15.660]And then the last thing I'll share is our final project,
[00:04:18.720]which was a mashup.
[00:04:20.490]So internet was, I graduated in '95,
[00:04:23.040]so the internet was brand new,
[00:04:26.010]but we had the assignment to do a mashup
[00:04:30.450]of advertising business, invent a business,
[00:04:35.010]advertise the business, come up with a marketing plan,
[00:04:38.383]as well as almost like what is that business?
[00:04:44.400]What's the rationale for the business?
[00:04:45.930]It was one of my favorite projects,
[00:04:47.460]presented on poster board and typed on a word processor,
[00:04:49.501]which also I think was around for all of maybe two years
[00:04:52.890]before we had computers and other things.
[00:04:54.420]So I sat right in that technology change.
[00:04:57.570]I think the next year they actually published their,
[00:05:01.170]maybe in the next two years,
[00:05:02.250]they published their final projects online,
[00:05:05.190]which, yeah, now that's all we do.
[00:05:07.710]So those are my three memories.
[00:05:10.320]But obviously they've stuck with you,
[00:05:11.300]so that means that you gained something from them
[00:05:12.772]and it sounds like in many cases
[00:05:14.012]continue to pass those things onto your team.
[00:05:16.080]Do you make your current team memorize fonts?
[00:05:18.750]Oh heck no, but they always wonder why
[00:05:19.932]I'm so specific about design and like font styles.
[00:05:25.050]They're like, "What is wrong with you?"
[00:05:26.310]I'm like, "Oh, I have to tell you."
[00:05:28.350]Yeah, when I see memes online about,
[00:05:29.947]"Please don't use Comic Sans for certain signs,"
[00:05:32.610]I always think back to my own days memorizing fonts as well,
[00:05:35.442]so a shared experience there.
[00:05:38.640]Coming out of the college,
[00:05:39.870]what was it you thought you most wanted to do
[00:05:41.690]in your entry level position on graduation?
[00:05:44.940]Yeah, this is also a favorite story of mine.
[00:05:47.070]I came out wanting to go into the agency world,
[00:05:49.753]and I had actually got an intern through the college,
[00:05:52.314]really good about placing us in internships,
[00:05:55.770]and so I had three offers all in the advertising world,
[00:06:01.950]and I will share at that time I was like,
[00:06:04.717]"How much are you gonna pay me?"
[00:06:05.940]And by the way, that that was not a good,
[00:06:08.617]"How much are you gonna pay me?"
[00:06:09.540]It was like, "How much are you gonna pay me, question mark?
[00:06:11.790]I just went to school for four years."
[00:06:13.890]So I went to my advisor and she was amazing.
[00:06:18.060]She's like, "Tia, I've watched you the last four years,"
[00:06:20.100]which was also a quality part of the college
[00:06:22.125]that my advisor actually knew me
[00:06:25.260]and saw, you know, what I was doing
[00:06:26.764]and could probably pick up again on my strengths
[00:06:28.964]better than I could at that age.
[00:06:31.140]And she said, "I've watched you.
[00:06:32.520]We have a company coming on board or on campus
[00:06:36.444]and it's a sales job."
[00:06:38.040]And I was like, "Sales job?"
[00:06:40.260]Last thing that I was thinking about,
[00:06:41.877]and it ended up being the best move I ever made.
[00:06:44.340]Starting in sales,
[00:06:45.750]that totally influenced how I worked in marketing,
[00:06:50.524]how I thought about what the people on the street,
[00:06:53.160]the people that carry the bag as we like to say,
[00:06:55.620]actually need to sell what they're doing.
[00:06:58.260]So I thought I was gonna go into an agency
[00:07:01.484]and I ended up in Revlon,
[00:07:04.020]a Fortune 100 or Fortune 500 company doing sales.
[00:07:09.240]Now, you graduated in '95.
[00:07:11.040]The organization for which
[00:07:12.085]you now work as CEO, CaringBridge,
[00:07:15.870]I think started in '97, correct?
[00:07:17.760]So pretty shortly after you graduated.
[00:07:20.404]Yes, yes, 25 years old.
[00:07:22.830]Okay, so what was it that led you to CaringBridge
[00:07:24.600]and how did that that transition in careers happen?
[00:07:29.910]I will bring up three milestones.
[00:07:33.330]I started my career in retail, consumer packaged goods,
[00:07:36.720]phenomenal training ground both for sales/marketing
[00:07:40.163]but also how you manage people
[00:07:44.040]and really lead people is probably a better word,
[00:07:46.650]not manage, but lead people.
[00:07:48.690]I did that for about 10 years
[00:07:50.142]and then I had a pivotal moment
[00:07:51.342]where technology started taking off, the tech boom,
[00:07:55.440]gosh, what was that, mid 2000s or early 2000s,
[00:08:01.380]and I leapt over into technology with Hewlett Packard,
[00:08:05.160]so huge global company, Fortune 10.
[00:08:08.790]And that really got me the experience in global,
[00:08:12.060]I had roles from business development to analytics
[00:08:15.560]to global marketing.
[00:08:18.810]And then I had a high quality pivot.
[00:08:20.490]And I will stop for a moment and pause and share
[00:08:22.721]that at that moment, I had a very good career going at HP
[00:08:26.640]and I could have carried that, I could still be there today.
[00:08:30.840]I am married to a now retired lieutenant
[00:08:34.020]in the fire department
[00:08:34.881]and a two-time cancer survivor.
[00:08:37.980]The reason I share that
[00:08:39.030]is that when you have someone that's coming home every day
[00:08:43.650]and you think you have a hard day,
[00:08:44.880]and you share, "Well, what'd you do today?"
[00:08:47.430]and they're like, "Well, I've saved a life, I did this,"
[00:08:49.680]and like it's no big deal,
[00:08:51.240]you start to reflect on what your own purpose is
[00:08:54.358]and how you show up in the job that you do.
[00:08:58.320]And then because he's a two-time cancer survivor,
[00:09:00.810]that also changes your purview
[00:09:02.130]on how you approach life every day.
[00:09:04.277]And the quote I will share that then started to influence
[00:09:07.158]my next career move, which led me to where I'm at,
[00:09:10.199]is, "What you do today is important
[00:09:13.410]because you exchanged a day of your life for it."
[00:09:16.800]And so when I was sitting at my desk,
[00:09:19.680]having this great career in technology, I was like,
[00:09:22.717]"Gosh, is this really what...
[00:09:24.480]Am I influencing lives?
[00:09:26.130]Am I influencing the greater good in the way that I want to?
[00:09:29.670]Am I bringing all of my talents to bear
[00:09:31.238]in my current position?"
[00:09:32.610]And the answer was no.
[00:09:33.630]At least my personal decision was no.
[00:09:36.300]And through many mentorship conversations,
[00:09:39.597]I had a lot of mentors that said,
[00:09:41.157]"Look in the healthcare industry
[00:09:43.320]based on your passion, your background."
[00:09:45.600]And that catapulted me into life sciences
[00:09:47.940]and working primarily in the women's health fertility space
[00:09:50.315]for the last 10 years.
[00:09:53.940]And that all led, all of those experiences together,
[00:09:57.916]led to this role as CEO at CaringBridge, a nonprofit,
[00:10:02.340]so 25 years in the for-profit, very intense,
[00:10:06.000]from big, big Fortune 10 companies,
[00:10:07.675]to private equity backed,
[00:10:09.330]which is a whole other intensity,
[00:10:11.490]and this is nonprofit.
[00:10:12.870]And so I found myself in this moment where,
[00:10:16.320]talk about vision and mission and impact
[00:10:18.634]and bringing to bear all of those skills
[00:10:21.480]that I learned over the last 25 years
[00:10:23.280]to actually grow impact on people.
[00:10:26.001]It was just a perfect moment
[00:10:27.141]to make that leap into the nonprofit space.
[00:10:31.740]Tell us a little about CaringBridge
[00:10:33.057]for folks that may not be familiar with it
[00:10:35.010]for one reason or another.
[00:10:35.843]What does your organization do?
[00:10:38.760]CaringBridge is a nonprofit communication platform
[00:10:42.690]that helps primarily caregivers
[00:10:45.060]who are surrounding a loved one
[00:10:46.560]that's going through a health journey.
[00:10:48.360]It helps them communicate what's going on to their network,
[00:10:52.410]it helps them capture the journey,
[00:10:55.020]it helps them coordinate
[00:10:56.820]all the help that they may need on that journey,
[00:10:59.220]and it also builds community.
[00:11:00.900]It activates their community in support
[00:11:02.850]of that loved one on a health journey and themselves.
[00:11:06.929]I am someone who has had an account
[00:11:08.550]with you for quite some time,
[00:11:09.840]as I suspect is the case with many folks.
[00:11:12.030]I got it because someone was in that mode
[00:11:15.870]of needing to share a lot of information and said,
[00:11:18.397]"Rather than repeat it a thousand times,
[00:11:21.060]how about you jump onto this CaringBridge site
[00:11:22.846]and we'll just post updates there?"
[00:11:24.327]And I remember thinking at the time,
[00:11:26.490]what a fabulous opportunity
[00:11:27.721]because that's a time in people's lives
[00:11:30.964]when I know they all say it's catharsis
[00:11:33.630]to tell the story and get it out,
[00:11:35.010]but not 100 times in a row over a period of 24 or 48 hours
[00:11:38.490]when, as you've shared with your own life situation,
[00:11:41.362]when you've got somebody who is wrestling with cancer.
[00:11:44.040]As much as you love the support,
[00:11:45.300]you've got other things to do.
[00:11:46.782]What was the genesis of the creation of this platform?
[00:11:51.690]Yeah, it's actually, you almost summarized it perfectly.
[00:11:55.380]Sona Mehring is our founder.
[00:11:56.480]She's still a great supporter and we keep in touch.
[00:12:01.050]26 years ago now, her friends had a premature child
[00:12:06.717]who was in the NICU
[00:12:08.397]and unfortunately only lived a short nine days.
[00:12:11.370]But during that nine days, Sona's friend asked her,
[00:12:15.367]"Can you please communicate to our community
[00:12:18.630]what's going on.
[00:12:19.463]We're getting a lot of calls."
[00:12:20.700]And Sona is a entrepreneur at heart
[00:12:23.790]and she is a woman of STEM.
[00:12:24.999]She was a coder back in 1997,
[00:12:27.780]so ahead of her time for a minute, for much.
[00:12:31.890]And she, on her second call,
[00:12:34.110]45 minutes each, very emotional, even herself trying,
[00:12:38.490]she's not even the patient
[00:12:39.720]and/or even the immediate caregiver,
[00:12:42.090]and she thought to herself,
[00:12:42.923]"There's gotta be a better way."
[00:12:44.400]And so she went downstairs to her basement
[00:12:46.890]and coded the first CaringBridge page,
[00:12:48.373]which was for our namesake, Baby Bridget.
[00:12:53.640]That's a fascinating story,
[00:12:54.534]and to me, it's one of those that so many
[00:12:57.208]of the interesting things that are in our society today
[00:12:59.760]are rooted in individual examples like that
[00:13:02.220]where somebody faced with a pivotal moment
[00:13:04.608]and a reflection point, said,
[00:13:07.007]"We gotta do something different,"
[00:13:08.488]and came up with something that has taken off on its own.
[00:13:11.160]But to that same degree,
[00:13:13.050]your being there is sort of that same sort of scenario.
[00:13:17.790]You are a combination now
[00:13:18.830]of all the things that came before
[00:13:20.937]and have now reached where you are,
[00:13:24.390]going from for-profit to nonprofit
[00:13:26.610]using all of the background that you've had.
[00:13:29.190]And from what you've told me already,
[00:13:30.630]I know that a lot of this is still rooted
[00:13:33.000]to what you learned here in the college
[00:13:34.332]back in the mid 1990s.
[00:13:36.000]You're still able to parlay all of this material together
[00:13:39.572]to get to the position you are as CEO.
[00:13:45.876]This is such a trite question, but I'm curious,
[00:13:48.030]and given the organization,
[00:13:49.276]what is a day in the life like for you
[00:13:51.750]as CEO of this wonderful nonprofit organization?
[00:13:55.386]How do you spend your day,
[00:13:57.374]if there's any such thing as a normal day for you?
[00:14:01.980]Yeah, as we all know,
[00:14:03.540]none of us probably have normal days,
[00:14:04.920]but on average I spend
[00:14:08.850]40 to 60% of my time externally,
[00:14:11.880]so talking to our donors, major donors,
[00:14:14.670]talking to different industry people,
[00:14:17.313]'cause you never know.
[00:14:18.480]And one of the things this has taught me,
[00:14:19.912]and actually even in my previous roles,
[00:14:22.110]is that I have to prioritize the meetings I take.
[00:14:27.210]However, getting externally out
[00:14:29.100]helps me think about things more expansively
[00:14:31.800]for our organization,
[00:14:33.030]'cause as a CEO, if you get too mired
[00:14:36.450]in what I'll call the day-to-day operational details
[00:14:39.570]every single day,
[00:14:41.100]you can kind of get caught up in the what's wrong
[00:14:43.140]versus the what's possible.
[00:14:44.760]And so a lot of my time is spent externally.
[00:14:47.910]Now, I will kind of talk out of two sides
[00:14:49.501]or both sides of my mouth.
[00:14:51.840]The operational piece is very important because without,
[00:14:55.080]we like to say two things,
[00:14:56.850]without a vision and a mission,
[00:14:58.860]we don't serve the people well,
[00:15:01.980]you know, our family caregivers and their loved ones.
[00:15:04.680]And also why I'm out externally and focus internally
[00:15:08.190]and looking at the key metrics
[00:15:09.830]of how many people we're reaching
[00:15:11.700]as well as what revenue,
[00:15:13.320]'cause the revenue immediately, no money, no mission.
[00:15:16.470]So if we don't get the donations
[00:15:19.350]and the connecting back to our mission,
[00:15:23.030]then we don't have CaringBridge anymore.
[00:15:25.470]So that's a really important part.
[00:15:26.910]So I am constantly working with the team
[00:15:29.040]to that balance of what are we doing today
[00:15:31.590]that's driving us forward?
[00:15:32.760]And then what's that plan for, you know,
[00:15:35.100]both the near and then outward future
[00:15:38.070]so that we ensure that we grow our reach?
[00:15:42.240]The timing of your arrival at CareBridge
[00:15:44.850]could not have been more cataclysmic
[00:15:47.730]in terms of world events.
[00:15:48.710]You came in on board as the CEO anyway in June of 2021,
[00:15:54.270]smack dab in the middle of the pandemic.
[00:15:57.210]And I can't imagine a more important time
[00:15:59.590]for what your organization does,
[00:16:01.770]given the ratchet up in health issues
[00:16:05.010]that we all wrestled with at that time.
[00:16:07.650]But what was that like coming into this role
[00:16:11.265]in the midst of something
[00:16:13.470]that you had no clue how long it was going to run?
[00:16:17.190]And how did that affect the operation
[00:16:18.566]and the need for what you provide?
[00:16:21.930]Yeah, I think I'll start with coming in.
[00:16:24.900]Gosh, so interesting timing, right?
[00:16:27.300]Where one, I am coming in as the new leader
[00:16:32.095]that the old CEO left on her own accord
[00:16:34.978]and very well liked and loved.
[00:16:38.130]So I'm coming in with very little connection, right?
[00:16:41.559]Connection other than let's call it the virtual connection.
[00:16:46.290]And then also to your point, we were needed more than ever.
[00:16:49.020]We had hospitals calling us
[00:16:51.540]because loved ones couldn't go into the hospital,
[00:16:55.140]that they needed a platform
[00:16:56.910]to alleviate some of that burnout
[00:16:58.170]that we're now hearing about even more
[00:17:00.510]from their nurses and their staff
[00:17:02.490]so that they could actually have connection
[00:17:04.230]to the outside world.
[00:17:05.370]And CaringBridge was the perfect platform for that.
[00:17:07.890]So it was this perfect storm of like,
[00:17:09.307]"Gosh, I need to come in,
[00:17:11.130]take over from good things that were happening,
[00:17:13.854]but without that physical connection
[00:17:15.575]and ability to kind of quickly huddle the team."
[00:17:18.974]So there was cultural implications and difficulties, right,
[00:17:22.890]to move through during COVID.
[00:17:24.134]And yet we had this platform that was amazingly needed.
[00:17:27.840]So I look back,
[00:17:29.880]it's now been two years almost to the day, June 1st,
[00:17:34.560]and there were so many challenges
[00:17:40.740]and so much growth,
[00:17:41.760]so it's one of the best learning periods of my life so far,
[00:17:46.410]and it's still happening.
[00:17:49.410]How large is the organization?
[00:17:50.850]How big a team do you work with?
[00:17:52.440]Are there a lot of volunteers
[00:17:54.570]or are there a lot of paid positions?
[00:17:55.920]A mix of both?
[00:17:56.753]What's the ratio?
[00:17:58.470]Yeah, we actually have no volunteers.
[00:18:00.510]I'll explain why.
[00:18:01.500]We have 45 people in the organization.
[00:18:04.149]Most people are shocked to find out we're a nonprofit
[00:18:06.930]and that we only have 45 people.
[00:18:09.389]We are global in nature and reach.
[00:18:11.760]So the reason why we don't have volunteers
[00:18:14.580]is we are a digital platform.
[00:18:15.657]And it's actually one of the things
[00:18:17.130]that attracted me to CaringBridge.
[00:18:18.870]A lot of times when we say, who's your nonprofit competitor,
[00:18:21.900]it's hard to find one because most nonprofits have that mix
[00:18:24.589]of paid and volunteer staff.
[00:18:27.870]Because we are essentially,
[00:18:31.500]let's call it the private nonprofit version of Facebook
[00:18:35.010]for healthcare journeys,
[00:18:36.870]imagine how large Facebook is.
[00:18:39.240]They have developers, coders, right, marketing people.
[00:18:42.480]And we are that on a nonprofit scale
[00:18:45.390]but supporting this specific healthcare journey.
[00:18:48.060]And so to bring in volunteers, for example, to code,
[00:18:51.090]you can imagine that's really hard
[00:18:52.320]because to code something in a 24 hour period,
[00:18:54.989]or if you volunteered for eight hours, that's really hard.
[00:18:58.549]So we are looking at some models
[00:19:00.429]maybe to use some volunteers, but we are paid staff,
[00:19:04.269]100% paid staff.
[00:19:07.710]Based out of the Twin Cities, is that correct?
[00:19:10.350]Yes, and part of the pandemic
[00:19:12.279]has allowed us to be hybrid in nature,
[00:19:16.980]so we actually now have 10 plus people
[00:19:19.106]that are spread across the United States
[00:19:21.450]and we all meet once a quarter in person
[00:19:24.060]to create that collaboration and connectivity.
[00:19:27.480]Well, speaking of the Twin Cities,
[00:19:28.830]I should note and congratulate you
[00:19:30.137]on your presence on the list
[00:19:31.977]of the Twin Cities Business Top 100 People to Know for 2023.
[00:19:37.140]That's quite an honor,
[00:19:38.040]'cause there's a lot going on up there
[00:19:39.420]in the Minnesota area.
[00:19:40.253]So congratulations on your measurement of achievement
[00:19:46.290]as the 100 People to Know in the Twin Cities.
[00:19:52.200]Tell me a little bit about what you think you've seen change
[00:19:56.010]just in the couple of years that you've been there
[00:19:57.960]in terms of how your organization operates
[00:20:00.865]and the differences that you have seen now
[00:20:05.160]about how it works now compared to when you first came in.
[00:20:07.770]Have there been some enhancements in the way things operate
[00:20:10.573]or are you sort of just trying to keep it going
[00:20:13.590]as it was when you joined?
[00:20:16.650]Yeah, I'm gonna name three things.
[00:20:20.653]Hybrid work, I think, is here to stay,
[00:20:23.493]and it creates its own challenges
[00:20:25.053]and it creates its own positives.
[00:20:26.730]So when I came in,
[00:20:27.563]we were 100% only hired in Minneapolis or Twin Cities
[00:20:31.453]and in the office.
[00:20:34.830]Now, COVID obviously disrupted that.
[00:20:37.410]And I think when you think about working models,
[00:20:42.480]you can recruit and retain people
[00:20:44.700]all over the nation or world for that matter.
[00:20:46.860]So I do think, again, there are complexities,
[00:20:49.206]but our organization looks very different
[00:20:52.050]because of that collaboration tools,
[00:20:55.800]how we show up together purposefully.
[00:20:58.080]So, you know, creating those moments
[00:20:59.795]where we are collaborating together
[00:21:01.560]in a hybrid environment, but in person.
[00:21:03.750]And how do we structure that so that we get the connectivity
[00:21:07.186]and that culture of connectivity
[00:21:10.230]that's different when you're not in person?
[00:21:12.622]So that's one thing, hybrid.
[00:21:15.000]The second is cloud.
[00:21:16.470]And I think this nods to just, I mean,
[00:21:19.500]what we're doing right now, right?
[00:21:20.790]This will all be stored in the cloud after we're done here.
[00:21:24.510]When I came on board, we still had physical servers
[00:21:27.390]supporting, again, a technology stack that was 25 years old.
[00:21:31.170]And in the short two years,
[00:21:32.580]I've have some great team members and leaders,
[00:21:35.850]we are 100% in the cloud with AWS.
[00:21:38.742]And why is that important?
[00:21:41.130]You know, well, two things.
[00:21:42.780]The speed at which technology is changing
[00:21:45.090]and having everything in that cloud
[00:21:46.680]makes it easier for us to innovate fast
[00:21:50.070]and integrate the things that our users,
[00:21:52.980]our family caregivers and their patients need.
[00:21:56.250]And then second, from a collaboration perspective
[00:21:58.770]in that hybrid model, right,
[00:22:00.330]having things in the cloud
[00:22:01.590]and accessible for anyone, anytime, anywhere
[00:22:05.160]is table stakes,
[00:22:06.860]and that includes for our family caregivers.
[00:22:09.300]If you think about the importance of that for them,
[00:22:11.940]they're in a hospital, they're in a car,
[00:22:14.070]they're not stationary
[00:22:15.570]sitting in front of their computer probably ever,
[00:22:18.483]or very short amounts of time.
[00:22:22.170]So hybrid, cloud.
[00:22:23.430]The last thing that everyone's talking about,
[00:22:26.070]I will tell you it changes weekly right now
[00:22:28.110]depending on the conversation, is generative AI,
[00:22:32.040]and the implications, I mean, is for everyone, right?
[00:22:34.980]And so for us specifically,
[00:22:37.038]actually last weekend
[00:22:38.558]I was at the American Society of Clinical Oncologists,
[00:22:42.030]it's a global conference,
[00:22:43.038]and I talked to the chief patient officer
[00:22:45.630]at American Cancer Society.
[00:22:46.463]We have a pretty tight partnership.
[00:22:48.717]And he is contemplating
[00:22:52.650]implications to their business model based on,
[00:22:55.320]if you think about American Cancer Society
[00:22:57.120]or anyone that curates and creates content,
[00:23:02.580]now with generative AI,
[00:23:05.070]it can find that, pull it out,
[00:23:06.990]and suddenly do you have a value proposition
[00:23:10.800]that resonates anymore?
[00:23:11.670]Like, if you're creating content and something can,
[00:23:13.410]in a matter of milliseconds,
[00:23:15.060]grab your content and no one needs to go to the place
[00:23:17.163]where you're storing this, what's the implication?
[00:23:20.283]And so for CaringBridge,
[00:23:21.643]we're thinking about it a little bit differently.
[00:23:23.850]We actually think it's a huge opportunity for,
[00:23:27.120]if you think about two things, content.
[00:23:29.310]So if I'm going through a specific health journey,
[00:23:31.882]in a specific geography,
[00:23:33.402]like think about the specificity.
[00:23:35.580]We can in milliseconds serve someone
[00:23:38.160]the resources and content they need.
[00:23:42.900]I think the second thing is one of the barriers
[00:23:46.657]that we know at CaringBridge,
[00:23:47.896]just based on a 25 year old platform,
[00:23:50.610]when this was invented,
[00:23:51.750]their webpages were new and blogging was popular.
[00:23:56.640]If I look at my teenage daughters, they don't blog,
[00:23:58.860]and in fact they don't even type in complete sentences.
[00:24:01.470]So if you think about that change
[00:24:03.723]and the barrier we currently have is right now,
[00:24:06.450]when you interact with our platform, you get a blank page,
[00:24:08.910]and if you don't process through, which I do,
[00:24:12.450]through typing or, you know, my journalism background,
[00:24:15.690]I love doing that but that's kind of a dying art
[00:24:18.155]if you think about it.
[00:24:20.040]And with generative AI,
[00:24:22.050]are we able to tee up content that then you edit
[00:24:25.320]in your own voice
[00:24:26.910]that makes it easier to communicate
[00:24:28.056]what you're going through?
[00:24:29.100]Or can we ingest some of the medical terminology
[00:24:32.220]or other things that you're going through?
[00:24:33.750]So there's huge potential and it is changing every week
[00:24:38.640]and there's certainly negative implications
[00:24:40.375]that we're all gonna have to figure out as well.
[00:24:44.040]I wondered if that would come up
[00:24:45.120]because in the half dozen or so I've done of these so far,
[00:24:49.410]AI has been mentioned by everyone
[00:24:51.240]in differing situations and scenarios,
[00:24:55.053]and everyone has done the duality that you just mentioned
[00:24:57.614]saying there's a potential for negative
[00:24:59.814]but it's not going to go away,
[00:25:02.040]so we need to get on board and figure out
[00:25:04.440]how it can be used positively within our area.
[00:25:06.960]And certainly as a starting point,
[00:25:09.480]it makes a lot of sense for a lot of things
[00:25:11.400]and not necessarily as an end point,
[00:25:12.930]but as you said, start with something,
[00:25:14.790]then edit it in your own voice
[00:25:16.050]and add in more specificity as needed.
[00:25:18.510]But I am intrigued by what you said
[00:25:20.190]about the use of it to pull in resources
[00:25:23.070]automatically for folks,
[00:25:23.913]wherever it is that they're reaching out to you from,
[00:25:26.670]because from what I know of CaringBridge
[00:25:30.357]and my friends who've made use of it,
[00:25:32.460]it has been very helpful.
[00:25:34.290]You come into people's lives
[00:25:35.760]at the worst time in their lives in many cases,
[00:25:37.950]and the comfort that this kind of a service
[00:25:42.167]can provide to folks by providing that sort of,
[00:25:45.180]not just the connectivity among friends
[00:25:46.447]but also the resources you just mentioned
[00:25:48.367]has got to be a terrific resource
[00:25:51.300]for CaringBridge to be able to offer.
[00:25:54.300]And that was actually one of my other questions
[00:25:56.220]I wanted to get to,
[00:25:57.053]is what kind of technological changes
[00:25:58.080]have impacted the field?
[00:25:59.070]And it sounds like that AI
[00:26:01.500]certainly is one of the major ones.
[00:26:05.520]You had, I think, a really excellent opportunity
[00:26:08.238]to look at both the for-profit
[00:26:10.170]and now the nonprofit sectors of things,
[00:26:12.918]and I'm intrigued.
[00:26:15.960]When you moved from for-profit to nonprofit,
[00:26:19.230]were there major changes that you saw
[00:26:22.920]in terms of how you do your job
[00:26:25.140]and what kinds of jobs are required?
[00:26:27.270]Or was there a lot of carryover
[00:26:29.216]from the previous industries in which you'd worked,
[00:26:31.590]but just for a different type of client base?
[00:26:35.495]It's a great question that I've reflected on actually
[00:26:37.736]'cause I have a passion about,
[00:26:40.410]nonprofits should be operating like for-profits
[00:26:43.200]and for-profits should be operating
[00:26:44.416]in different ways like nonprofits.
[00:26:46.440]So there's a really nice intersection here.
[00:26:49.256]The skillset's transported beautifully.
[00:26:51.810]I would tell you,
[00:26:54.720]I got some flack a little bit for saying this,
[00:26:56.450]but I will explain why.
[00:26:58.157]At the end of the day, nonprofit is a tax status,
[00:27:01.260]full stop, period.
[00:27:02.670]We spend all of our money
[00:27:04.500]where for-profits obviously keep it and reinvest it
[00:27:06.749]and that's part of their valuation.
[00:27:09.930]What I do every day, so again,
[00:27:11.235]spending 10 years in private equity
[00:27:12.990]and VC backed companies in life sciences,
[00:27:15.270]I had to go out and do business development
[00:27:17.370]and raise funding.
[00:27:18.330]Guess what I'm doing now?
[00:27:20.010]I'm doing business development and raising funding
[00:27:21.755]in a different capacity,
[00:27:24.000]but it's a very, very similar skillset.
[00:27:28.320]Having to manage many constituents,
[00:27:30.210]whether that be multiple board members or donors, right?
[00:27:32.812]It's very, very similar,
[00:27:38.250]so from a skillset perspective, 100% aligned.
[00:27:41.430]I think where my passion,
[00:27:42.990]and I talk to a lot of both for-profit
[00:27:45.420]and nonprofit executives,
[00:27:46.470]is I think the sense of urgency and the growth mindset
[00:27:51.510]is a opportunity for nonprofits to lean into.
[00:27:54.870]And I'm generalizing,
[00:27:55.955]so there are a lot of nonprofits that are in that
[00:27:58.560]that are doing that and doing that well.
[00:28:00.237]But I think it can be sometimes you get
[00:28:05.370]rose colored glasses or the stars in your eyes
[00:28:07.650]because you work for a nonprofit
[00:28:08.820]'cause vision and mission is so strong
[00:28:10.442]and so at the forefront
[00:28:12.600]that sometimes you forget the,
[00:28:15.420]did we serve more people this year?
[00:28:19.230]Are we doing the right things?
[00:28:21.120]Do we have enough insight about our constituents
[00:28:24.390]that we are investing those dollars that they're giving us
[00:28:27.720]back into doing better for who we serve?
[00:28:31.590]And I think the last thing
[00:28:32.580]is because you're a nonprofit, right,
[00:28:34.187]it can feel like you don't have a lot of funding
[00:28:38.220]regardless of your size,
[00:28:39.810]so it tends to drive a fixed mindset.
[00:28:44.190]And where I think the opportunity,
[00:28:45.660]and where I've really been proud
[00:28:46.830]of the team at CaringBridge is,
[00:28:48.751]okay, don't start with we don't have the money.
[00:28:53.460]Put that aside for a moment.
[00:28:54.630]What does good look like for the people we serve?
[00:28:56.640]Now, let's back into that.
[00:28:57.900]Maybe it takes us three years.
[00:28:59.160]Maybe we have to go out and find a donor
[00:29:00.690]that believes in this thing
[00:29:02.130]that we need to go do differently.
[00:29:03.480]But that's growth mindset,
[00:29:05.700]which I think we can cultivate a bit more
[00:29:08.160]in the nonprofit space.
[00:29:10.860]So even though one is profit and one is nonprofit,
[00:29:13.170]there are still metrics to be hit and goals to be hit
[00:29:15.870]and challenges to be met that are similar
[00:29:18.005]in their kinds of operating necessities and systems.
[00:29:22.684]You've mentioned a couple of times here
[00:29:25.110]the idea that you're going out and calling on clients
[00:29:27.120]and you're doing fundraising,
[00:29:28.256]and to me that form of pitching, right,
[00:29:32.400]is something that a lot of students, I think,
[00:29:33.973]when they come into a program like ours
[00:29:36.116]are a little bit hesitant to do.
[00:29:38.217]There is a little,
[00:29:40.800]perhaps it's just human nature
[00:29:42.000]to not want to knock on doors
[00:29:43.022]and do the kind of Daily Nebraskan,
[00:29:45.150]go through the phone book and cold call
[00:29:46.890]stuff that you did to start with.
[00:29:48.720]I know we have students sometimes that are even hesitant
[00:29:50.610]about doing face-to-face interviews
[00:29:52.110]on just straight up news stories and say,
[00:29:54.479]"Can I just send them a list of questions in email?"
[00:29:57.330]And we say, "No, we actually have to go talk to human beings
[00:30:00.359]and spark a conversation."
[00:30:03.180]What makes that easier for you?
[00:30:06.420]Why do you enjoy that, or do you enjoy it?
[00:30:08.550]And I guess I shouldn't assume it's easy for you,
[00:30:10.156]but how do you encourage young people to get better
[00:30:13.710]at the pitching part of almost every job?
[00:30:18.711]It's so good, especially I have two teenage daughters,
[00:30:21.690]so I'm thinking about them as well.
[00:30:25.898]So it's not easy for me and I will tell you a story.
[00:30:30.750]When I was younger I was the girl that was shy, quiet.
[00:30:34.710]When I was called on, turned bright red, quiet voice.
[00:30:38.670]And people that know me now, they're like,
[00:30:40.057]"No you weren't."
[00:30:40.890]I'm like, "Oh yes, I was."
[00:30:42.720]And so to anyone out there, most people,
[00:30:46.050]this does not come easy, right?
[00:30:47.428]So it's the practice.
[00:30:50.010]So that leads me to the second thing which is yes,
[00:30:52.866]you have to practice it,
[00:30:54.360]you have to get good at it,
[00:30:55.650]you have to sit in the uncomfortable.
[00:30:57.180]And once you can sit in the uncomfortable,
[00:31:00.045]and then you realize that the person,
[00:31:02.970]and it is a person that you're talking to is a person,
[00:31:05.820]and I think the most important thing
[00:31:07.610]is the human connection that you have, right?
[00:31:09.345]So you can dive into the questions,
[00:31:11.910]but I think getting on some level that human connection,
[00:31:16.050]who that person is.
[00:31:18.120]And sometimes you have to do it in 30 seconds.
[00:31:21.600]It might be a smile, a laugh, a commonality, right?
[00:31:24.061]And that's the research part
[00:31:25.590]that I think University of Nebraska taught me well, right?
[00:31:28.320]Know who you're talking to.
[00:31:30.510]And now, gosh, I would've killed to have all the resources
[00:31:34.140]we have now from LinkedIn to Google search
[00:31:36.195]to all the things, right?
[00:31:39.690]I think if you can just find that one little connection,
[00:31:42.990]it will make it easier.
[00:31:43.862]And practice again.
[00:31:48.030]Yeah, I am that person that was eternally nervous
[00:31:51.330]and now because I do it all the time,
[00:31:53.100]it's become easy.
[00:31:54.660]But that took practice.
[00:31:57.120]Yeah, finding that one little spark
[00:31:58.470]and that one human connection has not changed
[00:32:00.024]since sitting around the campfire millennia back there,
[00:32:02.850]trying to find that connection between two people
[00:32:04.944]that nothing happens until that connection is made.
[00:32:08.280]So since I teach a section of our large ethics course here,
[00:32:12.540]which you would've taken
[00:32:13.380]when you were an undergraduate yourself,
[00:32:15.030]it was actually my favorite course
[00:32:16.042]when I was an undergraduate back in the Stone Age here,
[00:32:19.522]what kinds of ethical challenges
[00:32:21.888]do you see in the nonprofit sector
[00:32:25.470]and the kinds of work that you do moving forward?
[00:32:35.646]and I think I learned this at the University of Nebraska,
[00:32:37.890]it's probably still true today, the headline test, right?
[00:32:40.440]And so we are often faced,
[00:32:43.110]I don't care what level you're at,
[00:32:44.388]like you're faced with a decision immediately,
[00:32:48.120]and it can be good for business, it can be good for you,
[00:32:50.510]it can be good for your team.
[00:32:52.290]And I think the ethical challenge
[00:32:55.050]is making sure that if this showed up
[00:32:57.152]and for our young people today,
[00:32:59.610]it could show up in a millisecond and live forever,
[00:33:03.510]so, you know, would my grandparents be proud?
[00:33:06.720]This is the headline test.
[00:33:08.250]I think the ethical challenge
[00:33:11.640]probably comes into the immediacy of our world,
[00:33:14.610]quite honestly, and so that level of preparedness
[00:33:18.870]I was just talking about
[00:33:19.860]is probably more important than ever
[00:33:22.680]because one slip up of a word that you did not intend,
[00:33:26.790]the intent may be good.
[00:33:28.440]And I think that's what's interesting
[00:33:29.683]about the world we live in.
[00:33:30.960]It's so fast and it reports things so, well, so quickly,
[00:33:36.450]and it lives in perpetuity
[00:33:38.070]that if you're not prepared
[00:33:39.630]and you aren't thinking about your audience
[00:33:41.170]and the certain words,
[00:33:43.290]so that preparedness is probably more important than ever
[00:33:46.290]when I think of ethics,
[00:33:47.790]'cause I've seen a lot of people stumble on a word
[00:33:52.303]or some nomenclature
[00:33:54.390]that they may not have thought was offensive
[00:33:57.480]come into their lexicon,
[00:33:58.680]and then it's pretty disastrous.
[00:34:01.380]So did that hit your ethics question
[00:34:05.250]or were you looking for something different?
[00:34:06.540]Nope, I'm paraphrasing Mark Twain here
[00:34:08.277]in what you just said when he said famously,
[00:34:10.567]"The difference between the right word
[00:34:12.277]and the almost right word
[00:34:13.950]is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug."
[00:34:16.980]And so what you're saying is absolutely correct,
[00:34:19.290]and I think we can look at,
[00:34:20.956]not necessarily in the case of one word or another,
[00:34:23.700]but in perhaps a campaign
[00:34:25.237]that folks thought might go one way that went another,
[00:34:28.500]we can look at two or three retail organizations right now
[00:34:31.635]just within the last month that have found
[00:34:33.306]that once the wording or the imagery goes a direction
[00:34:36.720]other than what you intended,
[00:34:37.890]it's hard to get that back in the bottle.
[00:34:40.080]So yes, the preparation
[00:34:41.960]and being able to deal with what might come
[00:34:44.506]from misreading of that preparation
[00:34:47.388]is I think critical in every ethical situation.
[00:34:50.970]We actually talk about that in the class,
[00:34:52.202]so you were spot on in your answer.
[00:34:54.564]I appreciate that.
[00:34:56.700]So looking ahead then,
[00:34:57.720]what do you see as the future of nonprofits?
[00:35:00.649]What are the big challenges you see moving forward
[00:35:03.028]in the nonprofit sector?
[00:35:06.180]I think the biggest challenge will be and continues to be
[00:35:09.240]the impact you make
[00:35:10.740]and what needs to be substantiated by data.
[00:35:13.710]So to me, data is king.
[00:35:16.680]It always has been.
[00:35:18.330]Those early days I actually went into analyst work.
[00:35:22.788]Now we call it business intelligence.
[00:35:24.360]We probably call it something else.
[00:35:25.380]It probably changed in the last week.
[00:35:26.388]But I think data from a nonprofit perspective
[00:35:30.900]is often, you know,
[00:35:33.030]we report financials,
[00:35:34.140]and here's how much we grew in our revenue,
[00:35:35.790]and here's, you know, how many more people we served.
[00:35:39.108]But there is so much underneath that
[00:35:40.868]that if you think about for-profit companies
[00:35:42.869]that they have to think about.
[00:35:44.910]I think for the nonprofit world,
[00:35:46.260]particularly as you think of all of the dollars,
[00:35:49.230]it's not like the dollars are growing,
[00:35:51.030]the dollars from a donation perspective,
[00:35:53.010]and actually this just came out in a survey,
[00:35:56.250]are relatively saying the same.
[00:35:58.140]So the pool of money is the same,
[00:35:59.419]the donors are the same,
[00:36:00.990]but what they're being approached with,
[00:36:02.850]whether it be social justice causes
[00:36:04.499]or social determinants of health or equity,
[00:36:09.030]those things are changing
[00:36:10.710]and they tend to change pretty rapidly
[00:36:12.619]about investment areas.
[00:36:14.340]So to be able to look at your data below revenue,
[00:36:19.200]so for example, who are you serving,
[00:36:21.780]and really know down to specific demographic levels,
[00:36:25.110]geographic levels, right?
[00:36:26.460]I'm talking about some sophisticated data modeling
[00:36:29.490]that you can pivot
[00:36:30.960]how you fit in to the society needs in large
[00:36:34.860]is gonna be really, really important.
[00:36:36.300]And I don't think for most nonprofits
[00:36:39.090]they really have that infrastructure
[00:36:42.292]to support data
[00:36:43.830]so that you can pivot
[00:36:46.320]how you're serving your constituents
[00:36:48.390]and how you're talking to your donors
[00:36:50.010]about why what they are donating is important
[00:36:53.070]to the greater cause, the greater good.
[00:36:57.000]For that end,
[00:36:57.840]when you're looking at what we look at here
[00:37:00.060]in terms of another group of seniors
[00:37:02.580]moving out now into the real world,
[00:37:04.290]what kinds of skills would you see as most beneficial
[00:37:07.691]to students in our college
[00:37:09.731]and students at the university level
[00:37:11.490]to put forward to try to move into the industry,
[00:37:14.331]the nonprofit sector that you're in?
[00:37:17.910]Yeah, don't afraid to be scrappy.
[00:37:21.270]Curiosity is your best friend.
[00:37:23.160]And curiosity for me, I'll describe it in a Brene Brown way,
[00:37:27.420]is like get in the arena,
[00:37:28.426]ask the questions to really understand
[00:37:31.230]what your leader or your organization is doing
[00:37:33.450]because you will then be part of the solution
[00:37:36.300]quicker than anyone else if they're not,
[00:37:38.160]if they're kind of sitting out in judgment.
[00:37:40.457]So get curious, get in that arena.
[00:37:43.793]And then I think that curiosity leads to my last thing,
[00:37:47.670]which is data.
[00:37:48.503]I do think you need analytical prowess, so to speak.
[00:37:56.490]Data informs strategy, data informs, it's not the strategy,
[00:38:00.600]so that's important.
[00:38:01.890]But I think it gives you credibility
[00:38:04.020]and your gut and data go together hand in hand.
[00:38:09.480]And so I'll close with you have to be analytical,
[00:38:13.950]you have to know data and trust your gut
[00:38:16.950]'cause those two things are really, really important,
[00:38:19.020]and they don't succeed on their own individually.
[00:38:21.960]They are together.
[00:38:24.804]I would've almost have thought
[00:38:25.860]I would've given all of our guests in this series
[00:38:27.443]the same talking points in terms of curiosity.
[00:38:30.300]That specific word has come up
[00:38:32.520]in almost every one of these interviews that I have done,
[00:38:34.470]and I think it's been a driving force of this college
[00:38:36.728]from the time it was founded.
[00:38:40.050]The studies here in journalism go back over 125 years.
[00:38:43.770]But I think that's an ongoing tenet
[00:38:46.650]of everything that we do in all of our majors
[00:38:48.420]is just a natural curiosity about the world
[00:38:51.090]and how we can tell people about it
[00:38:52.975]and try to improve it as we go along.
[00:38:55.470]But I think you'll be pleased to know
[00:38:57.060]that the college has really ratcheted up our work
[00:39:00.187]in data and analytics and statistics
[00:39:03.450]because in all four of our majors
[00:39:05.370]we realize how critically important
[00:39:07.346]an understanding and ability to use statistics and data are,
[00:39:11.490]and I liked your comment that they inform the strategy,
[00:39:14.066]they're not the strategy, but you've gotta have that.
[00:39:16.740]I know in too many places our students come in
[00:39:19.050]having observed the end product
[00:39:21.750]of what we do from our various industries
[00:39:24.150]but don't know all of the research and the data
[00:39:26.100]that led up and were the foundation
[00:39:27.750]behind those end products that they see.
[00:39:30.000]And we're right there with you on that one.
[00:39:32.160]So along that line,
[00:39:33.900]if students were coming through for a tour of CaringBridge
[00:39:36.865]or any sorts of nonprofits like yours and said,
[00:39:42.277]"This is really cool.
[00:39:43.200]This is what I think I wanna do with my life's work,"
[00:39:45.210]what would you tell them is the best way
[00:39:46.504]to start to get to where you are now?
[00:39:51.750]I would start, I would do two things.
[00:39:54.423]I would go into both nonprofit and for-profit.
[00:39:58.050]If you start in nonprofit,
[00:39:59.850]I think getting a view of development,
[00:40:01.663]we call it development, which is fundraising,
[00:40:04.320]so really understanding the ins and outs
[00:40:05.743]'cause that's changing, by the way.
[00:40:07.290]I didn't mention it but, you know,
[00:40:10.620]we have a term called rubber chicken dinners,
[00:40:12.293]you know, for fundraising.
[00:40:13.800]We still do that and those are very successful.
[00:40:16.110]But the reason CaringBridge has sustained for so long
[00:40:19.470]in Sona's view and her foresight
[00:40:23.310]is we have individual donors and it's all via digital.
[00:40:27.150]We get 13,000 donations a month via our online platform
[00:40:32.108]and they're on average $50.
[00:40:33.840]So it's not like, you know, giant gifts,
[00:40:36.210]but wow, what a great, great model.
[00:40:38.970]So I would say start in that development world
[00:40:43.140]'cause fundraising is key to any nonprofit
[00:40:45.609]and it's changing rapidly.
[00:40:47.190]So if you're getting in now,
[00:40:48.150]you're gonna learn a lot about what's changing
[00:40:49.860]and what we're having to do differently.
[00:40:52.290]And then the other piece that I would say is this.
[00:40:57.840]If you pivot out of nonprofit into for-profit,
[00:41:00.090]I would recommend bouncing between the two.
[00:41:02.820]I think in the for-profit world,
[00:41:03.826]probably getting that core foundation
[00:41:07.380]in how you lead and influence people
[00:41:10.290]is really important
[00:41:11.400]no matter what kind of industry you go into.
[00:41:14.280]But I find that the for-profit
[00:41:15.510]has a little bit more structured development plans
[00:41:17.698]and talent and development plans around that,
[00:41:20.010]and so I do think that kind of overlay
[00:41:23.178]is a really important piece.
[00:41:24.978]And I think just like my foundation,
[00:41:27.938]I started out at Revlon,
[00:41:29.790]but then I went to FritoLay PepsiCo,
[00:41:31.560]which has a very well known training curriculum
[00:41:36.510]for, you know, from entry level sales and marketing
[00:41:38.978]all the way up
[00:41:39.811]kinda like P&G was known for at least back in my days.
[00:41:42.540]I think they still are.
[00:41:44.880]I think getting that foundation is really important,
[00:41:47.430]and it will help nonprofits.
[00:41:49.770]So I would just encourage people, if they wanna go in,
[00:41:52.410]have that varied viewpoint of fundraising
[00:41:55.140]and/or business development,
[00:41:57.210]analytics, marketing, and sales.
[00:41:59.550]That's a lot to ask, but you can get that in different...
[00:42:03.270]You can be in development, for example,
[00:42:04.890]and by the way, you're still doing sales.
[00:42:06.690]So it doesn't have to be titled marketing or titled sales
[00:42:11.220]or titled business development.
[00:42:12.720]Look for the areas where you're developing,
[00:42:15.000]again, data analytics, business development,
[00:42:18.540]marketing, and sales
[00:42:19.373]because you'll find it in multiple types of jobs.
[00:42:22.020]So to close,
[00:42:25.462]if you wanna go into a nonprofit
[00:42:26.970]and kind of go up to the CEO level,
[00:42:29.457]I'd go into nonprofit
[00:42:30.690]but then have some for-profit experience and come back in.
[00:42:34.230]From what you have seen in your journey,
[00:42:35.783]because you started this discussion
[00:42:37.590]by talking about just coming out of school
[00:42:39.096]and looking rather soberly at what the salaries were
[00:42:42.537]in starting positions,
[00:42:44.340]is there a comparison between nonprofit and for-profit
[00:42:46.977]in terms of what someone can expect to make
[00:42:49.537]over the course of a lifetime?
[00:42:51.030]One would presume, I think our students would presume,
[00:42:53.730]that since nonprofit means or sounds like no money,
[00:42:57.630]that that also could apply to salaries.
[00:42:59.910]Is that an unfair thing for them to think?
[00:43:03.337]It is, I'm gonna characterize it two ways.
[00:43:05.057]One, nonprofits, because of the nature of what we do,
[00:43:08.610]and if you look at all nonprofits
[00:43:10.710]have to publish what's called a 990 on their websites.
[00:43:13.947]Go in there and look because their top paid executives,
[00:43:16.547]you'll see how much they make.
[00:43:18.360]It's the downside and the upside, I guess,
[00:43:20.250]of being at a nonprofit.
[00:43:22.140]And why I share that
[00:43:23.306]is that because we have to compete for talent
[00:43:28.941]and to grow the people we serve,
[00:43:32.520]the gap is closing on the disparity in salary,
[00:43:36.360]both from a total compensation
[00:43:37.980]as well as a base compensation.
[00:43:40.320]Where I will say, and I'll just be very upfront,
[00:43:43.500]there's a lot more upside that I will call
[00:43:45.771]in compensation in for-profit
[00:43:49.980]that looks like stock equity.
[00:43:52.620]Nonprofits are not gonna have that,
[00:43:54.420]but those are also a not guaranteed part of your portfolio.
[00:44:00.132]And money's not everything.
[00:44:01.860]I learned that very early on.
[00:44:03.600]If you love what you do,
[00:44:05.310]I think my grandmother shared this with me,
[00:44:06.810]if you love what you do, your lifestyle will follow,
[00:44:10.919]the funding will follow.
[00:44:12.706]So I would not be discouraged.
[00:44:14.377]The gap is closing, yeah.
[00:44:18.900]And I think the version I heard growing up was,
[00:44:20.760]if you love what you do,
[00:44:21.593]you'll never work a day in your life.
[00:44:23.490]And I understand that you still gotta pay the mortgage
[00:44:26.119]and all that, but for what it's worth,
[00:44:28.000]universities are in the same sort of boat.
[00:44:29.910]People say, "Well, if you're going to go
[00:44:30.744]work for a university,
[00:44:32.070]shouldn't you expect to take less money?"
[00:44:34.200]But it's just for the joy and the pleasure
[00:44:37.530]of working with young people, which it clearly is,
[00:44:39.630]or I would not have stayed as long as I have.
[00:44:41.940]But we're in the same boat,
[00:44:43.020]to be able to attract the kind of talent we need
[00:44:45.120]to be able to train the next generation of leaders
[00:44:47.970]in all the fields that we cover,
[00:44:49.290]we have to be competitive
[00:44:50.700]with what people are making in the private sector.
[00:44:52.680]So that same sort of thing applies for us as well.
[00:44:55.470]So I'm glad to know that you dispelled
[00:44:57.174]one of the things that students ask me about periodically
[00:44:59.640]when they want to go to work in nonprofits,
[00:45:01.200]and I had assumed it was what you said
[00:45:03.180]but wanted to make sure
[00:45:04.013]I was giving them accurate information.
[00:45:06.210]So since we're talking futures,
[00:45:07.590]what's the future for you?
[00:45:08.640]Are you content where you are right now?
[00:45:10.040]Do you see yourself staying in this position for some time?
[00:45:13.604]Or is there another chapter you think
[00:45:15.752]still to be written in your own book?
[00:45:19.380]I will answer that two ways.
[00:45:20.387]I love what I'm doing.
[00:45:21.840]It's the best job in my career.
[00:45:24.207]And we have established a great strategy and a great vision
[00:45:28.620]and I've gotta see that through.
[00:45:29.910]Is that three years from now? Is it one year from now?
[00:45:31.890]I have no idea and I've learned that,
[00:45:33.325]do not predict those things 'cause they will surprise you.
[00:45:36.006]So I have a chapter here at CaringBridge that is not over.
[00:45:41.310]My husband I talk a lot about what is that next chapter.
[00:45:43.890]So I have no doubt, I turn 50 this summer, yay,
[00:45:48.780]that I have another chapter left in me.
[00:45:51.600]What does that look like?
[00:45:52.740]There's many roads to follow from that.
[00:45:54.960]So CaringBridge is a big part of it.
[00:45:57.090]And then what's next?
[00:45:58.763]Again, I've learned that...
[00:46:00.570]Actually, my husband says this,
[00:46:02.404]"If you wanna make God laugh, tell Him your plan."
[00:46:04.770]So I'm gonna stick with that answer.
[00:46:07.380]I love that line.
[00:46:08.880]Well, you're doing wonderful work there
[00:46:09.963]and we appreciate you taking some time away from it
[00:46:12.003]to talk to us for this week on Campus Voices.
[00:46:15.090]And thanks for all you you've done
[00:46:16.563]for all the millions of people
[00:46:19.170]that you've reached through CaringBridge.
[00:46:20.520]We appreciate all the work you do
[00:46:21.780]and for taking time to talk with me today.
[00:46:24.540]Thank you, Rick, I really appreciate it.
[00:46:26.610]Our guest today on Campus Voices, Tia Newcomer,
[00:46:28.920]who is the CEO of CaringBridge
[00:46:30.910]and a 1995 advertising and public relations graduate
[00:46:34.530]from the College of Journalism
[00:46:35.463]here at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
[00:46:38.370]I'm Rick Alloway, this is Campus Voices,
[00:46:40.470]and as always, I thank you for your time.
Log in to post comments