Fundraising for Sustainability with Dr. Shantell Chambliss : Successful Nonprofits: The Perfect Money Pitch with Shantell Chambliss

The Perfect Money Pitch

Fundraising for Sustainability with Dr. Shantell Chambliss

The Perfect Money Pitch

Fundraising for Sustainability with Dr. Shantell Chambliss

by GoldenburgGroup

Let’s talk money.  We all need more money.  We all want more money.  We all hate to ask for money.  

But making that ask is essential for every nonprofit’s day-to-day programming and long term sustainability.  Listen in on our conversation with Dr. Shantell Chambliss, a self-described “sustainability junkie,” for expert tips on how to support your team of solicitors as they prepare for and conduct the perfect ask. 

Listen to the Episode Here!


Nonprofitability Website

Dr. Shantell Chambliss’ LinkedIn 


(9:51) The perfect money pitch

(15:40) Put your solicitors in a position to win

(17:18) Cultivate solicitors into being donors

(19:12) Role play the ask ahead of time

(22:02) Play to your strengths when making an ask

(26:36) The “people cost” of running a nonprofit


Dolph Goldenburg (00:00):

Welcome to the Successful Nonprofits® Podcast. I’m your host Dolph Goldenberg. Today on our show, we have the pleasure of hosting Dr. Shantell Chambliss. Shantell is a wife, mother, award-winning entrepreneur, business strategist, and philanthropist. And let me say, she actually sent that line to us, but I want to tell you a little bit more about Shantell. Some listeners might be laughing and thinking, “I can’t believe Dolph would say that.” But she did and that’s what I would expect a good guest to do. A good guest is going to help us help them, right? They’re going to be like, “Hey, here’s some great stuff that you can say about me.” And I have to say, there’s so much great stuff to say about Shantell. So let me just share a little bit about her with you.

Dolph Goldenburg (00:48):

First of all, not only is she the principal consultant at a boutique consulting practice known as Nonprofitability, but she also is the founder and executive director of Dress for Success in central Virginia and a managing partner with Mahogany Suites. So it is safe to say that Shantell not only has impressive business and nonprofit credit, but she’s also an incredibly busy person. For the past 18 years she’s been doing coaching and consulting with nonprofits and purpose-driven leaders to build stronger, more sustainable organizations, communities, and brands. Her work has been recognized by lots of media outlets: ABC, CBS, National Association of Women, business owners, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, and others. Like myself, Shantell is the principal consultant of her own boutique firm, which I’ve already mentioned, which is Nonprofitability. And let me also do a quick aside. I love the name of my firm, Successful Nonprofits®, but Nonprofitability. That is a great name. Oh my gosh, I adore that name.

Dolph Goldenburg (02:03):

And also like me, her consulting practice has niched down. The best consulting practices aren’t those where the person says, “Oh my consulting practice is for every nonprofit.” There’s hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of nonprofits across the country. It’s those that niche down and say, “This is the kind of nonprofit I want to work with and this is the specific type of work I want to do.” So she is niched down to equip nonprofits and faith based organizations and give them proven tools and practices that help promote sustainability. Hey Shantell, welcome to the podcast. I’m so glad you’re with us today.

New Speaker (02:41):

I am so glad to be with you today, Dolph. Thank you for having me.

Dolph Goldenburg (02:45):

As I’ve already said in the intro, I love the name of your consulting practice: Nonprofitability. You’ve got to tell me the origin story of that name because somehow I have a feeling you didn’t just read that somewhere; that evolved from somewhere. Tell me about it.

Shantell Chambliss (03:03):

It is so funny listening to you talk about the name. I started laughing immediately because I remember the day that I came up with the name. For a long time I had just been consulting by myself. I got into a really heated debate in New Orleans, of all places, where you’re supposed to be happy. But I got into a really heated debate at a conference about nonprofits. A coach, like a business coach, said a line that I’m sure you’ve heard before and all of your listeners have heard before: if you want to do something free start a nonprofit. I was infuriated and I went on my old tangent about how nonprofits can be profitable, too, and nonprofits of today are not what they were originally for. They aren’t like the soup kitchen or the clothing closet. That’s not the modern day nonprofit. On the plane ride back I was just doing some branding and marketing work, and it just hit me like a lightning bolt: Profitability. Nonprofitability. I’m on a plane from new Orleans to Virginia and thinking, “Yes! That’s it! That’s my brand. I’m going to make nonprofits profitable.” And that is how Nonprofitability was born.

Dolph Goldenburg (04:28):

And then of course, probably as soon as you landed, you went to WhoIs to see if was available and then so thankful it was.

Shantell Chambliss (04:36):

I totally did it on the plane. I’m like, “Oh, buying this domain name right now.”

Dolph Goldenburg (04:42):

Oh my gosh, I love that. It’s so important to you that you’re willing to spend the $14.95 for Delta or American Airlines to get internet access. That’s awesome.

Shantell Chambliss (04:52):

You know, I have paid a small fortune in the air wifi because I get the best ideas up there. And I cannot risk landing and getting busy and forgetting. So yeah, I’ve spent a small fortune in air wifi.

Dolph Goldenburg (05:09):

You and I have this in common. When I started my consulting practice we had a soft launch in fall of 2014 and a hard launch in January 2015. At first the consulting practice was named after me. So it was The Goldenburg Group. And about the same time I had a book come out that was called Successful Nonprofits Build Supercharged Boards. And then I think it was July 2016 when we launched the Successful Nonprofits® Podcast. And so for me it was not necessarily a lightning bolt, but what I noticed was that I was spending all of this time and energy supporting two brands; one was The Goldenburg Group, LLC, and then the other was Successful Nonprofits®. And then Donald Trump got elected president at the end of 2016. And suddenly I didn’t really like having something named after myself, I just want nothing in common with that man.

Dolph Goldenburg (06:07):

And so every single time I would introduce myself as being with The Goldenburg Group, it just felt distasteful to me and I thought does my name really have to be on it? And so from there it was a pretty quick transition. So it was not a lightning bolt, it was an evolution of at first The Goldenburg Group, then realizing I had two brands, and then realizing that we’re in a day and age where no one should be so invested in their own name that they put it everywhere, they just shouldn’t be. So it was, it was an easy one.

Shantell Chambliss (06:40):

I love it. Yeah. I was very intentional about the fact that I wanted my consulting firm to be separate from me because I’m a sustainability junkie. I don’t want some CEO running the company that still says “Shantell Chambliss” when I’m 15 years dead. We want to create companies that we can build and scale and eventually sell and they can go on and on and on. And sometimes that may mean name disassociation, right?

Dolph Goldenburg (07:14):

Yup. Absolutely. I love your take on that: I want this to live beyond me and when I’ve been dead for 15 years, I don’t want someone using my name in ways I would not approve of. I love that. Based on your blog, I believe some of the work you’re doing is actually around fundraising.

Shantell Chambliss (07:36):

Yes, absolutely. I mean it’s so critical. The end game for Nonprofitability is to build nonprofits that last, that are sustainable and fundraising is a huge part of that. How do we fulfill these missions with no money? So, yeah, I do a lot of work that revolves around fundraising. I work with startups and that’s their most burning, pressing concern. So we have to talk money.

Dolph Goldenburg (08:04):

I agree with you. It is often the most burning, pressing concern for startups. But where I’m going to push back is with my work with organizations, and while I don’t really do fundraising consulting, fundraising consulting is a pressing concern for the $1 million organization for the $5 million, for the $10 million. No matter what size an organization is, it almost always wants to be doing 10% more, which means it needs 10% more money.

Shantell Chambliss (08:29):

Absolutely. It’s kind of like in the sales business where it’s like: always be closing. It’s the same thing in the nonprofit world. You can never stop fundraising. It’s literally your lifeline.

Dolph Goldenburg (08:40):

I just have to ask, since you just referenced Glengarry Glen Ross, ABC, “Always be closing!” Have you ever done a fundraising training where you stop someone from getting coffee and you go, “Coffee’s for closers!”

Shantell Chambliss (08:57):

No! But I’m totally going to do that! Next training, that’s happening.

Dolph Goldenburg (08:59):

Oh my gosh. I really don’t do a lot of fundraising work, but now I want to do a fundraising training just so I can do that. Just so I can actually put a pot of coffee in the bag and then say to someone, “Hey, Jack, coffee’s for closers. When you get the gift, that’s when you can have a cup of coffee. Otherwise, sit in the chair.”

Shantell Chambliss (09:17):

I’m going to hope that my next training is recorded so I can do that and send it to you.

Dolph Goldenburg (09:24):

I mean, obviously you probably have to tell the person up front that you’re going to do that to them so that you don’t derail your entire training. So at least someone is in on the joke; everyone else will be appalled. But you need one person in on that joke, don’t you?

Shantell Chambliss (09:40):

Oh, that’s hilarious.

Dolph Goldenburg (09:41):

So let’s talk about that closing. This is a softball from your blog, and I know that, and this is also a great promo for your blog at But what is the perfect money pitch?

Shantell Chambliss (09:56):

Oh my goodness. So where I go with the money pitch is that remember that the donor is not donating to your mission or your cause. They’re donating to their mission or their cause. So if you really want to knock it out of the park, you’re going to appeal to what’s most important to them that aligns with your mission. For example, if you are not a cat person, Dolph, I can’t sell my cat rescue to you. I just can’t because you could care less, right? You’re thinking, “Put them all down. I hate every cat. I hate it all.”

Shantell Chambliss (10:34):

So when I’m teaching how to make the ask, it’s know your donor, know what their mission is, and if it aligns with your mission, then that’s your starting point and usually how you’re going to get them to the finish line. It’s what’s their mission and how do they want to see it move forward. So it just depends on who you are as to what your pitch line is going to be. If you are a dog lover and I am running SPCA and house all types of animals, I’m not going to talk to you about the reptiles. I am going to appeal to you through what the cost is to keep another dog alive or off the streets. I’m going to appeal to what your mission is.

Dolph Goldenburg (11:20):

I love that you said you’re not going to talk about the reptiles. Admittedly my husband and I don’t have any animals; we’re not particularly pet people. We wish them no harm, unlike your hypothetical person who’s ok with putting them all down. We wish them no harm, let me be clear, but we’re just not particularly pet people. And my husband is terrified of snakes and reptiles. So if we take our nieces to the zoo, I’ve got to take them into the reptile house; he will not go in to see the reptiles. So yeah, if the SPCA were to approach us and ask for support for their lifesaving work with reptiles, my husband would say, “No, I’m not gonna.” Probably even if his best friend asked him, he would say no to that.

Shantell Chambliss (12:04):

Now if his best friend asked him for cats or dogs or bunnies. Okay, he would say, “Yeah.” Which is the other thing we’re going to touch on: I kind of feel like the perfect money pitch is not that pitch of, “Well you know, I have this board member, Joe, and I know that Joe’s friends won’t tell him no. So we’re going to ask Joe to go ask people who won’t say no.” That’s just a terrible money pitch. That’s a guilt or relationship money pitch.

Shantell Chambliss (12:31):

It’s a guilt trip and it is totally not sustainable because I may do it once since Joe is asking, but the next time around I’m going to say that I don’t have it. When people give money, they get that dopamine thing. So the first time around, because Joe asked me and I want to feel good for giving it to him, it works. But when I realize that I don’t get that good feeling when I give to Joe for this cause, so I’m going to stop. But every time I see my monthly donation for my sponsor child in Guatemala or receive a handwritten note telling me the kid is starting third grade, I get a small adrenaline or dopamine rush. If that feeling ever stops, I’m going to stop giving because it’s no longer my cause. So yeah, it is a horrible idea to ask people who you know won’t say no .

Dolph Goldenburg (13:37):

Right. It’s also horrible because when Board Member Joe leaves your board you also lose that person’s gift. And Joe hates it because he knows that if he comes and asks me to give $100 to the Cuddly Puppy Foundation, I’m probably going to do it. But when I’m doing the Alzheimer’s walk, I’m probably going to ask Joe to give money to the Alzheimer’s walk and he is going to have to do it. So then it kind of almost becomes diminishing returns. So Joe hates it too because Joe knows that I’m going to come back and ask him for my cause.

Shantell Chambliss (14:09):

Right. It’s like the bartering system. Bartering still works in some areas of the world. But have you noticed we don’t do that in America anymore? It’s because the value diminished so drastically that it became worthless. I could give you two goats and you give me a chicken, right? And those are very valuable. But after a while it just starts to diminish. So eventually I’m scratching your back when my back doesn’t itch, so I don’t even really need you to scratch my back. You should be cultivating real relationships with real people who are really interested in your mission because it’s their mission.

Dolph Goldenburg (14:55):

So often, when organizations are training volunteer solicitors to go and ask for money, they’re really afraid to ask anyone who they don’t believe is going to automatically say yes. So Board Member Joe might come to me because he knows I’m going to give $100, but he’s afraid to approach someone else for that $100 who might be even more inclined to actually want to really support the Cuddly Puppy Foundation. We’re not going to personalize it today, I know someone will be upset if I do, so we’ll call it The Cuddly Puppy Foundation. So how can we help those volunteer solicitors be less afraid of asking?

Shantell Chambliss (15:40):

Listeners, remember volunteers also are there because of that good feeling; they are volunteering because they want to feel good about themselves and how they’re helping their community. And nothing feels worse than rejection. It’s the worst feeling on earth except for childbirth. Trust me. I know. So put your volunteers in positions to win. Instead of asking them to go door to door or to cold call, have them host a cocktail party at their house where they’re surrounded by friends and family. You can even invite people they don’t know, but they’re on their turf, it’s on their terms, and they don’t even have to make the ask. I work with a nonprofit and I helped them put together a cocktail party at a pretty wealthy donor’s home. We invited some of the people on their mailing list that they wanted to build a relationship with.

Shantell Chambliss (16:39):

The hosting donor didn’t know these people personally, but the donor didn’t have to because they had a mutual contact through the organization. The executive director got up, thanked everyone for coming, made the ask, and then invited everyone to have more wine and cheese. And so her hosting donor feels like they contributed, and they did because anyone who gave at that cocktail party is a direct result of the host. So put your volunteers in positions where they don’t have to make these cold, hard asks; they can help out in other ways. They can go find items for a raffle or a silent auction. Another thing with volunteers is to cultivate them into donors themselves. People are much more apt to ask someone else for money for a cause if they are also giving money to the cause. It they’re just volunteering and not giving financially, it’s going to be super hard for them to ask someone else to donate.

Dolph Goldenburg (17:39):

Once upon a time I was a fundraiser. So occasionally I do fundraising trainings for boards, usually for an organization that’s already a client so I know the people and the organization so I’ll step up and do it. So on the rare occasions when I’ve done fundraising trainings, I’m always really clear: make your gift first. Make your commitment tonight. Don’t go out and ask anybody for a penny until you’ve made your gift. And if you’re going to be asking people to make a substantial gift, you need to make a gift that’s substantial for your family.

Shantell Chambliss (18:14):

Absolutely. I do a lot of work with startups, and the executive director and the board are often afraid to ask volunteers for money because they know these people have already given so much of their time. But this is a trickle-down effect, so if they are not giving to you financially, they will never convince someone else to give to you financially.

Dolph Goldenburg (18:32):

That’s exactly what I say about volunteers, as well. It’s kind of like your staff, board, and volunteers have a backstage pass and a front row seat to whatever life changing work your organization is doing, whether that’s saving cuddly puppies, feeding homeless people, educating underprivileged children, whatever it is. And so if that backstage pass and front row seat do not make them say, “Yeah, I want to put some of my resources here,” even if it’s what might be thought of as the widow’s mite, $10 a month or whatever, if they’re not willing to put something there, chances are they’re not going to ask anyone else either.

Shantell Chambliss (19:10):

Yes, absolutely.

Dolph Goldenburg (19:12):

Going back 18 or 19 years to when I was a development director, we used to do role playing with our board. When I would first say we’re going to do it, there were groans in the room. But by the end people were like, “Oh, I’m so glad we did this.” And, by the way, the very next year when we did it again, there would be groans in the room; they forgot how glad they were that we had done it. So we actually assigned people the role of solicitor and of prospect and had everybody play the different roles.

Shantell Chambliss (19:53):

Sometimes it was eager prospects and sometime it was reluctant prospects. But everyone gets to play the different roles. I went to social work school and one of the things that I know from social work school is everyone hates role play. But it also helps us start to create those talk tracks and figure out how to get the words out. In school it was how to have a conversation with our clients and for fundraisers and volunteer fundraisers it’s how to have conversations with prospective donors.

Shantell Chambliss (20:26):

Yeah. So we actually do that in our board retreats and trainings for Dress for Success. There’s role playing, scenarios, and case studies to identify different types of donors and the appropriate talking points. We need to practice. Role play is horrible, it’s the worst thing ever, and everyone hates it.

Dolph Goldenburg (20:50):

Except the facilitator. We filthy sadists, we love doing it.

Shantell Chambliss (20:54):

I love doing it because I’m not actually role playing! But what role playing does is it gets us to see the ask from both perspectives while it’s not actually happening. It’s like watching a movie. I get to see how to escape the purge because I watched The Purge, so now I know how to get out when the purge happens. It’s like an evacuation plan, so that when you get into these tough conversations, you know what to say and do. And the most important thing about this, especially for a board, is that everyone is talking the same talk; everyone is speaking the same language. There’s nothing more frustrating than when I walk into train a board and I’ll ask everyone the same question and everyone is giving me a different answer. That is overwhelming and confusing to potential donors. They are automatically going to lose interest because they don’t even know what you guys are talking about because you’re speaking five different languages.

Dolph Goldenburg (21:56):

Absolutely. The other thing that I’ve always recommended to solicitors, with a caveat, is if you’re soliciting someone and you’re uncomfortable, whether you’re the executive director or a board member, you should acknowledge that upfront with that prospect. You should say, “Hey Bob, I need to tell you I am really uncomfortable, but I know, because I care about this cause so much, that I need to ask you for this gift.” And then you say, “Bob, The Cuddly Puppy Foundation really needs you to consider a gift of $500 this year.” And the miracle behind telling somebody you’re uncomfortable, and this is human nature, is that unless the person is a sadist, they want to make you feel comfortable. Unless the prospect, in this case Bob, is a sadist, Bob is not going to want to make you feel uncomfortable.

Dolph Goldenburg (22:59):

So the prospect is either going to say no in the most gentle way or counteroffer. Even if they originally are inclined to give nothing, they’re going to say, “Well, can I do $100?” Or if you’d asked for $5,000 they might suggest $1,000. Because they’re going to want you to feel comfortable. They’re going to have mad respect that you put yourself in a place where you were uncomfortable, but they’re also going to want to make you feel comfortable. It’s like if you walk into someone’s home and say, “Oh my gosh, my shoes are killing me.” The host is going to say, “Well would you like to kick them off?” even if they really don’t want you to kick the shoes off. Now the caveat to this is it is fine to tell people this until you’re no longer uncomfortable doing it. Because if you’re using it as a trick, it’s just insincere manipulation. I’m not at all shy now about asking people for money because I’ve done it so much and so, often. So If I were to walk into someone’s office or home and say that to them, my body language wouldn’t say that I’m uncomfortable and the way I was talking would not say that I’m uncomfortable. And the prospect will think, “Dolph is trying to manipulate me. No, I’m not doing squat for Dolph.”

Shantell Chambliss (24:03):

I have the same advice. I call it “kill the sleazy car salesman.” I know that’s horrible. But what I’ve realized is this is the main reason non-sales people hate asking for money; they feel like a car salesman. Everyone has this old, horrible vision in their head of that old sleazy car salesman with his slicked back hair and he’s coming to sell you this lemon that is going to break down as soon as you drive off the lot. I think by owning that and saying, “Hey, I’m really nervous,” makes you human again and it kind of rips that away. The person that you’re talking to instantly sees that you’re not trying to sell them a lemon. And so I think being honest about that upfront works perfectly. Like you said, if you tell someone, “Oh my gosh, my feet are killing me” because your feet are genuinely killing you, they’re going to say, “Hey, kick your shoes off” even if they want you to keep them on.

Shantell Chambliss (25:00):

But you’re also right in the sense that once you aren’t uncomfortable you can’t claim to be. I could never walk into a place and go, “Oh my gosh, I’m so nervous. I don’t know how to ask you for $500!” It’s going to look like I’m putting on a whole act, right? Because I could walk in here and ask you for $500,000. So you have to play to your strengths. If you really are nervous, say you’re nervous, but if you’re really not nervous, then make the ask! So, yeah, I am totally on board with that. Tell people you’re nervous because you will look like you’re hiding stuff if you try to hide it and pretend you’re super confident They are probably hoping that you are nervous, anyway, because it makes you human. And if you’re genuinely not nervous, you appear more knowledgeable and experienced.

Dolph Goldenburg (25:55):

Right. “Would you consider a gift of $500 or even $50? Just $50?” and suddenly the person’s like, “Whoa, this is a used car salesperson.”

Shantell Chambliss (26:04):

Exactly. People want to know you’re not selling them a lemon, that you’re not taking their money and paying some lavish executive director’s salary. They want to know that you are genuinely raising money to move a mission forward. And so I think you should just keep the human component in there. You don’t have to walk in and kick down the door in your best suit. It’d be all “sales-pitchy,” for lack of a better word.

Dolph Goldenburg (26:36):

So there’s one thing I’m going to challenge you on, Shantell. You just hit my third rail, that phrase “lavish executive director salary” because “lavish” is in the eye of the beholder. I should rephrase that, I should be a good host and I should rephrase that: it’s not challenge you so much as making sure that we’re managing expectations with our listeners and making sure they understand. Because when we talk to donors, “lavish executive director salary” is really subjective. I’ve been working on a blog post in my head for about three and a half years now that that has not hit the typewriter. 

Shantell Chambliss (27:22):

I bet it’s the same one I’m working on. Go ahead.

Dolph Goldenburg (27:25):

I’ll tell you it’s an amazing blog post. I cannot wait to pound it out on some flight somewhere. But here’s the blog post, Shantell: My brother and his family are worth about twice what my family and I are worth. And the reason is that my brother studied engineering and he did an internship where he was paid $30 an hour. I haven’t done the math, but that’s roughly $62,000 to $63,000 a year if he worked full time. And we’re talking 1990 when $30 an hour was a lot more than it is today. My brother and I are three years apart. When I did my social work internship, I got paid bupkis. I got paid the great experience of having a social work internship. Consequently, my brother graduated from college and wouldn’t consider any job making less than $75,000 a year because he was making $30 bucks an hour as an intern. I should be ashamed to admit this, but I’m not: I graduated and in 1994 I was offered a job making $18,000 a year with the organization that I had done my internship with. And my reaction really was, “Oh my God, I used to do this for free! You mean you’re going to pay me to do this?”

Dolph Goldenburg (28:40):

So let me be clear that lavish salaries are in the eye of the beholder A salary of $100,00 or $150,000 for a really strong, competent executive is totally reasonable. Most of those prospective donors aren’t going to think that’s much money. I think sometimes in the nonprofit sector we get stuck in this poverty mindset of, “Oh, well, if we paid our executive director $55,000 we’d be putting that on our 990 and no one would give us money.” Guess what? The people who are going to give you real money are making a quarter million dollars a year and they’re going to look and see your ED is only making $55,000 and they’re going to wonder what kind of ED you have that’s going to work for that little, no matter how wonderful your ED is. Sorry, I’m off my soapbox now.

Shantell Chambliss (29:29):

Well you jump down because I’m going to jump on. My first job in the nonprofit sector was essentially founding my own nonprofit.

Dolph Goldenburg (29:39):

That paid real well, didn’t it?

Shantell Chambliss (29:44):

Oh my gosh. I was like, “What am I doing here?” It wasn’t even about the drastic change in money. It was really the shift in mindset. When I was and HR executive and I would pull up to functions driving my luxury vehicle, people were like, “Oh, that’s cute.” But when I pulled up to a fundraiser in the same vehicle, people want to know how much money I’m making. And I’m thinking, “What is happening here?”

Dolph Goldenburg (30:12):

Hold on. People really would gossip about that?

Shantell Chambliss (30:14):

Oh, I got an email that wanted to know how I could afford to drive the car that I drive. I dunno. Um, I’ve been working since I was 15 years old maybe?

Dolph Goldenburg (30:24):

I have to unpack that real quick. How much money was the person that sent that email giving?

Shantell Chambliss (30:30):

None! And that was my next point. The people who question every dime that goes in and out of this door are usually my in-kind givers. They’re the people who give clothes and shoes. And those are things that we do absolutely need to run the organization, but I cannot go to the power company and say, “Please take these fives suits in exchange for electricity.”

Dolph Goldenburg (30:55):

Really!? Hold on. Really!? You mean the executives at the power company won’t do that? I’m shocked.

Shantell Chambliss (31:02):

It amazes me how much mindset shifting and explaining we have to do about the cost that goes into running a nonprofit, especially the people cost. You don’t go into social work for the money, but you don’t go into social work to be poor. You go into it because you have a passion for it. But I also went into HR because I had a passion for it. I was paid really, really well in HR and now that I’ve transitioned to this sector, I still deserve to be compensated accordingly. Just like you said, I essentially am doing workforce development in the nonprofit that I run and I was doing workforce development in corporate America. But for some reason, on this side of the tracks, it’s worth less than half. It’s worth less than half. I’ve been in the nonprofit sector now almost 10 years and it still doesn’t make sense to me.

Shantell Chambliss (31:59):

It’s kind of behind the Nonprofitability name. Many nonprofits have executive directors that are not paid- that is a plague in the sector, it is a plague. Or they are paid but don’t have any staff, so they essentially lean on volunteers 40 hours a week and if a volunteer doesn’t come through, then the ED picks it up as the only paid employee. So, when I start working with organizations my first order of business is figuring out how to get the executive director paid or get the ED some paid support staff so they do not work 80 hours a week on a 20-hour-a-week salary. So, yeah, that’s my soapbox.

Dolph Goldenburg (32:42):

I could not agree with you more. And for me that that’s where sustainability really comes into play. If you’ve got a free executive director or you’re paying that person well below market, your organization is only sustainable as long as they’re in your organization. And that person might be great, maybe they’re a retired executive and they’re great. But if you can’t post that position and within a reasonable period of time, for most executives it will take more than a month, but within a reasonable period of time find someone who’s willing to do that work for the same compensation then you do not have a sustainable organization.

Dolph Goldenburg (33:21):

I don’t do searches, but I do a lot of executive director transition work and I cannot tell you how often I have organizations that will come to me and they will say, “Dolph, we are looking for our next chief executive. We want someone who can bring in six figure gifts, manage our current staff of 12 employees, grow us over the next three to five years into 25 or 30 employees, and that means also grow our impact by 2.5 to 3 times.” And I’d say, “Oh, great. What kind of budget are you looking at?” And they say, “Well, we’re currently paying our executive director $45,000 and we’re willing to pay up to $55,000.” And my response, because I hold no punches, is always, “So you want someone who’s willing to ask for six figure gifts but not ask for a six figure salary?”

Shantell Chambliss (34:18):

I don’t want that person. That is not your six figure person. It totally negates every goal you set for yourself: We want to grow this much. We want to raise this much. You just negated every single goal by saying, “But we want someone to do it and we’re going to pay them peanuts essentially.”

Dolph Goldenburg (34:39):

Or one of the mandatory requirements is that either they inherited money or they’re in a relationship with someone who has enough money that they don’t have to care about it. And that should be in no one’s job description. You know, minimum requirement: must have income from other sources because we’re not going to pay you enough.

Shantell Chambliss (34:58):

That should totally be a new law. I’m going to start reposting ads for EDs and saying, “Oh, hey there. I fixed it for you.”

Dolph Goldenburg (35:07):

Oh my gosh, I love that. I may actually create a joke executive director job description just for giggles.

Shantell Chambliss (35:17):

Please tag me in that!

Dolph Goldenburg (35:17):

Are you kidding? You’re going to co-author it with me, Shantell.

Shantell Chambliss (35:26):

You know, it’s funny, we scheduled an hour for recording. We’re already at the end of that hour and we have not done everything we’re supposed to do, Shantell. So I’m going to get down to business, and it’s the serious business of asking you the off the map question. Now in every episode, we like to ask our guests an off the map question that allows our listeners to get to know them a little bit more, get to know the person behind the profession. And so, Shantell, as we were preparing for this show, I made the discovery that your first major in college was not HR, it wasn’t business, it wasn’t social work. This seems kind of appropriate since you’re the founder of Dress for Success in central Virginia. It was fashion.

Shantell Chambliss (36:10):

It was. I actually have an Associates in Fashion Merchandising. Fashion was, and is still my first love. But I had an advisor who essentially pulled me to the side one day and said, “You know, you’re not gonna make any money doing that, right?” Listen, I’m a little poor girl from the South who grew up in the projects. I was like “What!? I went to college and I’m not going to make any money!? Change my major today!” But I was at the end of the program, so I finished and went back to that same advisor and asked what should I do. What I really wanted to do was go to law school and be a corporate attorney, but I felt like I couldn’t afford it. And he told me, “HR is more important in an organization than lawyers. If you’re not going to go to law school, then become an HR major; they’re more important in the organization.” I wanted to be the most important person in the business, so somehow or other, I ended up in an HR degree after that. But yeah, my very first degree was in Fashion Merchandising. It’s funny, I do some little sidebar consulting for three fashion brands right now. I still love fashion very much.

Dolph Goldenburg (37:28):

Very, very cool. I knew there was going to be a good story behind going to fashion school. That’s very cool. Shantell, it has been so great spending some time with you and I’m so grateful. I obviously record a lot of podcast episodes but I rarely smile and laugh this much. I’ve just had such a good time on this episode. Thank you. Now, Listeners, if you are inspired by Shantell’s words today and have yourself thinking, “Hey, Nonprofitability, that could be the boutique consulting firm that can help me address the challenges that I’m facing” then you can learn more from her down-to-earth and easy to digest advice on her blog at Now, if you want to connect with Shantell more personally, make sure that you reach out to her at her personal website, We’re going to have both of those URLs in our show notes; I encourage you to go check it out. I’d also encourage you to subscribe to her email list through Shantell, thank you so much for being on the podcast today.

Shantell Chambliss (38:42):

Dolph, thank you so much for having me. This was an amazing Friday afternoon.

Dolph Goldenburg (38:48):

If you were busy Googling “nonprofit consultants doing fundraising training in my area” and did not write down Shantell’s URL, don’t worry. You can get Shantell’s contact information through our show notes at Now, did you know that we also have an email list you can join? I know right now you’re thinking, “Really, Dolph, I may like the podcast, but I get way too much email. Why on God’s beautiful green earth would I want to join another email list? Even yours.” Now let me give you the case for it. First of all, we never email more than once a week. You sign up for some lists and suddenly you’re getting two emails a day and you’re like, “I can’t stop it!” But we only email once a week. And in that weekly email we share our blog of the week, we share a fun meme, we share other resources that might be of use to you like, for example, if we see something great come through Shantell’s blog. So I would encourage you to visit and sign up for our email list. Let me also just assure you that we don’t sell the list, we don’t rent the list, and we’re very respectful. If someone says, “Hey, will you take me off?” We take you off. So this is not the list that you can’t get off of. Dear Listeners, that is our show for this week. I hope you have gained some insight to help your nonprofit thrive in a competitive environment.

Dolph Goldenburg (40:23):

I am not an accountant or attorney and neither I nor The Goldenburg Group provide tax, legal, or accounting advice. This material has been provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or accounting advice. Always consult a qualified licensed professional about such matters.


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