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Biased Toward Action - An Interview with Nic Prenger

In this episode, Andrew sits down with Nic Prenger, founder and CEO of Prenger Solutions Group.  Nic shares about his digital consulting work at Prenger Solutions Group, and Andrew and Nic chat about technology tools for fundraisers, fundraising for the Catholic church and its associated challenges, and tips for Catholic donors.   

Listen to "127 - Biased Toward Action (Fundraising Technology, Innovation, Catholic Social Media): Nic Prenger (Prenger Solutions Group)" on Spreaker.

Show Notes


Prior to entering the world of Catholic fundraising, Nic was a prosecutor in Omaha.  In 2006, Nic left his legal career to join the Steier Group, a development firm focusing on parish and diocesan capital campaigns.  Nic enjoyed over a decade of consulting with Steier before founding Prenger Solutions Group.  With Prenger Solutions Group, Nic saw an opportunity to address enormous needs surrounding technology and fundraising.  


Prenger Solutions Group

Prenger Solutions Group started by helping dioceses run their annual gift campaigns.  And, while annual gift campaigns are still one of the main services offered by Prenger Solutions Group, the company has expanded its reach and expertise into fundraising software, database management, and Catholic social media.  In doing their fundraising  work, Nic and Prenger Solutions Group saw the limitations that dioceses faced because of outdated technology and under trained staff, and they decided to create solutions to those challenges.


Catholic Social Media

Prenger Solutions Group worked with Catholic website builder, eCatholic, to conduct a survey about parish use of social media habits.  The study noted a significant correlation between parishes that posted on social media daily and increased household giving.  Unfortunately, for many parishes, daily social media posting is a daunting task.  To address this concern, Nic and Prenger Solutions Group started a new service, Catholic Social Media.  Catholic Social Media is a subscription service that provides parishes with daily social media content.  Parishes can use this content for purposes of evangelization and donor engagement.


Challenges to Catholic Fundraising

Andrew and Nic discuss challenges that are specific to fundraising for Catholic entities.  First, they discuss the occasional resistance of the Catholic organizations to embrace change.  With the recent pandemic, however, parishes and dioceses were forced to turn to new outreach and fundraising methods.  Prenger Solutions Group addresses this reluctance with specific data sets that show how new ideas can be successful.  Nic also shares how the inherent geographic limitations of diocesan and parish fundraising can be challenging for development officers.   


Innovation in Catholic Communications

Nic closes his interview by highlighting how much he enjoys the innovative, solution-oriented work of Prenger Solutions Group, especially as it allows him to work to grow the Catholic church.  Nic shares how he’s seeing so many dioceses choose to end print newsletter publications in favor of social media and increased online presence.  Dioceses are sharing the same information, stories, and photos, yet they’re doing it in a more efficient, easily-accessible way.  


Lightning Round

  1. If you could fundraise for any organization or cause at any time in history, what would it be?
    • St. Thomas Aquinas Newman Center in Lincoln Nebraska:  I actually got to fundraise for this Newman Center, and while it seemed like an impossible task, we had the will, and we were successful.
  2. If you could get a donor meeting with anyone living or dead, who would it be?
    • Oprah:  So many of our clients are always suggesting that we write a letter to Oprah for support.  I’d love to meet her for that reason.    
  3. Is there enough money out there for every organization that's doing good work?
    • Yes and no.  Yes because people are inherently generous, more generous than we give them credit for.  But, we have so many organizations doing duplicative work, and we likely can’t find all of them.  There’s a much greater need for collaboration.     
  4. What is one piece of advice that you would give your past self?
    • Eat better, eat healthier.   
  5. Who are 3 people who have most influenced you professionally?
    • I have a group of 5 men I’d like to call out:  (1) Cande de Leon in Phoenix, (2) Scott Whitaker in Austin, (3) Cory Howat in New Orleans, (4) Brian Niebrugge in St. Louis, and (5) Peter de Keratry in Oklahoma City.  They are an incredible group, and I always bounce ideas off of them.  They are true fundraising professionals, living their faith, and they aren’t afraid to try new things.      
  6. What is one fact about you that most people don’t know?
    • I play the cello.
  7. What is a book that you would recommend?
    • Drive by Daniel Pink.  It’s a fantastic book for nonprofit leaders.  It offers wonderful, grounded, lessons in what motivate people and what discourages them.     


If you would like to connect with Nic, you can find him on LinkedIn.  You can also check out and  


Looking for something else to listen to?  Check out PDS episodes by some of Nic’s professional influences:


Episode 87 with Cory Howat - A Handful of Wax

Episode 5 with Peter de Keratry - Into the Deep


Andrew’s Takeaways

  My first takeaway from my interview with Nic is about hiring and team-making.  I love how Nic speaks about the team he has created at Prenger Solutions Group.  He mentions several times how fond he is of his colleagues and how much fun they have.  This might seem trivial, but I truly believe that a team that enjoys and respects one another is a more successful team.  Development directors and other ministry leaders should really strive to create a working environment where there is joy and fun in the middle of the work.  If you missed my recent interview (PDS episode 120) with Jeff Schiefelbein, I highly recommend you go take a listen.  Along similar lines, Jeff and I discuss the importance of culture in the workplace, and Nic reiterates that emphasis.  I also really appreciate how Nic speaks about how he hires people who are “biased toward action”.  Nic looks to hire bold, innovative people, and this hiring strategy also contributes to the culture he’s creating at Prenger Solutions.  All told, Nic encourages us to be intentional in hiring and leading our team.  


Speaking of innovation, I also really appreciate how Nic speaks about Prenger Solutions Group’s mission.  On the most basic level, Prenger Solutions is there to see problems and find solutions, and they’re really good at finding solutions.  The challenge comes, however, when they need to convince bishops, priests, and other church leaders that they’ve found a better way to do things.  Long story short, my second takeaway is about data and supporting evidence. The strategic emphasis that Nic places on having tests and data to support the solutions he’s trying to sell is so important.  Nic shared about surveys they’ve done, data they collected, and A/B tests they run.  Nic knows that change takes time, yet he finds ways (in this case, data) to facilitate change.  Prenger Solutions uses this data when trying to convince church leaders to use their services, and we can learn from that strategy.  Whenever we want to make changes in our ministry, it’s good if we can produce some kind of data to support our ideas.  I know that’s not always possible, but when it’s an option, the more data and supporting evidence, the better.  


My final takeaway comes from one tiny part of the discussion Nic and I had about donors who want to specify how their gifts are used.  Nic talks a lot about how gifts with strings can be counterproductive to a donor’s intent, but I’d like to focus on how we prevent those strings being attached to start.  As all development professionals know, donor relationships are essential.  High capacity donors must know you, the fundraiser, well, and really, it helps if the donor also has a positive relationship with other ministry leaders.  The better your relationships are with donors, the more influence you can have when they come to you wanting to make a large gift.  If they trust you, they will be more open to your suggestions of how large gifts can be used to best meet their needs.  You will have more opportunities to guide and subtly nudge them in a direction that works for both the ministry and the donor.  



00:56.60 Aggie Robison: Let's get started. Howdy everyone and welcome back to another episode of the Petrus Development Show. I'm thrilled that you're with us here today. Today, I have Nic Prenger. Nic is the founder and CEO of Prenger Solutions Group, and in the development world, there are a couple of us that have kind of been around, and we float in the same circles. We know all the same people, and then when we get a chance to actually meet each other and talk, it's kind of a pleasant surprise because we're like, "Hey, I feel like I know you," and Nic is one of those guys for sure. He knows a lot of people, both in the Catholic world and the nonprofit world and fundraising world, and so I'm just thrilled that I get to sit down here with Nick and have a conversation about his career, his journey, the work he's doing, and all things fundraising. So Nic, I am thrilled that you're with me here today. Great. So.

01:43.63 Nic Prenger: Yeah, thanks for having me.

01:49.27 Aggie Robison: We usually start these, tell us a little bit about your background and what your journey has been like to get to this point where you are the founder and CEO of Prenger Solutions Group.

01:57.13 Nic Prenger: Yeah, yeah, the short version is I was a prosecutor in Omaha and had a couple of friends that were in a Catholic consulting firm here in Omaha called the Steier Group, which you probably heard of. I was talking to one of them, and they said they were looking for people. So I went and met with the owner, Jim Steier, and I started there back in 2006. So I left the prosecutor's office and I joined and started running parish capital campaigns and bias and campaigns, and I just absolutely loved it. I was there for 12 years. I took over as president for the last five of those, and then just had that itch. I wanted to start something. I could see that there was a need in this area around technology and fundraising. So after 12 years at Steier Group, I launched Prenger Solutions Group, and it went by in a blink. We're about four and a half years old now.

02:53.32 Aggie Robison: That's awesome. Time certainly moves quickly, right? It's ah.

02:54.39 Nic Prenger: Um, it really, it really does. It, well, yeah, it feels like ah feels like it's been about a month, and it feels like it's been about 20 years at the same time. It's ah, it's been a heck of a ride.

03:06.57 Aggie Robison: So I'm curious, I want to learn more about Prenger Solutions Group. But before that, what was that shift from being a prosecutor to being a fundraising consultant like? Because they seem like there's certainly some crossover in some of it. But.

03:23.31 Aggie Robison: Distinctly different ah past in life for sure.

03:23.56 Nic Prenger Yeah, yeah, you know any job you have, you're in some degree a project manager, right? Whether you're a prosecutor and you're shuffling cases and organizing caseloads and child dates, or whether you're a fundraiser organizing volunteers and print dates and all of that. So a lot of the skills transfer. But so much of what we do is just relations, right? I knew the folks, I knew the team over at the Steier Group, and it looked like a fun team to work with, and that makes all the difference in the world, you know, and it was and that's what we tried to do here at Prenger Solutions, and in the world of fundraising, if it's just communication and organization, right? There's nothing more complicated than that, you know? If you can communicate, and if you can be well-organized, you're gonna have success.

04:09.19 Aggie Robison Well, I know as a fundraising consultant myself, a lot of what I do on the early, you know, on the frontend of any engagement is I have to learn about the client, and you know, here's what they're saying is their problem, but you know, you sometimes have to ask those probing questions, right, to figure out, all right, is that actually the problem, and are other solutions that we're going to work towards going to solve that, or are there other needs that are sort of under the surface or behind there? And so, you know, I imagine, I mean, that's a direct ah, a direct ah connection to.

04:39.48 Nic Prenger The 2.

04:43.30 Aggie Robison Work as a prosecutor is, you know, really diving in and finding the truth and asking those questions. Is that your experience as well?

04:46.38 Nic Prenger I think that's very well said. I mean, one of the, you know, you go to law school, and you think you're going to learn the law, and it's nothing like that. You hear that with the different years. Instead, you're sitting in classes, and they're giving you a bunch of, you know, paragraph after paragraph, and you have to sift out the junk and find out, you know, what's operative and what's the, you know, what in this, you know, a pile that I'm looking at here is important, and it's the exact same thing as what you described. There's a lot of noise, and you just got to get down to the first principles and build up from there.

05:15.27 Aggie Robison Great. So tell us about Prenger Solutions group. What are the solutions that you're trying, what are the problems that you're trying to find solutions for, and what kind of work do you do?

05:23.77 Nic Prenger Yeah, yeah, so we've grown in a bunch of areas that I didn't foresee, so we started out helping dioceses run annual appeals. That was our core function. A couple of the first dioceses we worked with were Denver and Phoenix, and they saw that we had our finger on the pulse of where the fundraising world was going, you know, much more technology-driven with automation, using social media, email campaigns, drip campaigns, all of those things. So we started on this path of being a vendor for dioceses, running their big annual bishop's appeal, whether it's 3,000,000 or 10,000,000 or 20,000,000, and  that grew and grew, and it took on kind of a life of its own. Then we reached a point where the fundraiser's consultant we are doing, we kind of hit a wall because we were recommending things that were very sophisticated as far as donor segmentation, and our clients couldn't do it because they were using a software program. Almost all of them use Razor's Edge, and the person running that Razor's Edge shockingly was underpaid and undertrained and didn't really know how to use the system. So we decided to hire a bunch of Razor's Edge people that were really smart and good at what they do and knew that.

06:27.65 aggierobison Right.

06:39.71 Nic Prenger I'll have to back up; I'm so sorry about that. Um.

06:41.92 aggierobison No worries. You can even just start by saying, "So we hired a bunch of Razor's Edge people."

06:45.49 Nic Prenger Yeah, yeah, yeah. So we hired a bunch of Razor's Edge people that were very smart and capable of running that software and knew fundraising. That's really when things took off for us. Then we were going to dioceses and our clients, and not just being able to help them with all aspects of their appeal from print to social media to email and everything else, but we could also pair them up with the Razor's Edge buddy that could help them pull the data they need and run the analysis and generate the reports and help them reconcile with the finance office and help them put scanlines on their pledge cards and work with a lockbox provider to get those in seamlessly. That was a real need, so that was a case where we just followed where the need was and made sure that we could deliver on it. So now we consult for more than half the dioceses in the country. We run many of the big annual appeals from Phoenix and Dallas and Houston to Baltimore, Kansas City, Orange California, St. Petersburg, Nashville, Knoxville, all over the place, and we love what we do. That's the core of what we do, but where our growth has been interestingly was we saw a couple of needs in the technology space, and we ended up putting together some software products that have really taken off. The first one was we did a large study. We partnered with eCatholic on this, good friends of ours and a lot of folks in College Station there with you, and we did a study.

08:05.44 aggierobison I Josh Simmons, and I play basketball together every week, so that's good.

08:11.71 Nic Prenger There you go. There you go. So Josh, the first day I started Prenger Solutions Group, I was actually down with Josh at their team week. They invited me down, and we kind of launched this together. They've been a great partner for us. So we did a large survey with them of Catholic parishes across the country. Really just to inform the work we are doing as Catholic fundraisers, but what came out of that, we asked a question about social media. We asked parishes a whole bunch of questions. How often do you post? Are you on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram? We just wanted to understand it out of curiosity, and what came out of that research project was this amazing stat. Parishes who were posting on social media daily were reporting household giving that was 44% higher than parishes who were not posting. It was just this incredible correlation. Now, I can prove correlation. It wasn't causation, right?


08:58.37 aggierobison Um, wow.

09:07.59 Nic Prenger But it was stark enough. They're like, okay, there's something happening here, so we started sharing that stat with parishes. Like, Father Man, you've got to really get on social media, look at what's happening, and we shared it with all of our pastor friends and a bunch of parish staffers. They're like, that's great, Nic, but we don't have the bandwidth to do this. Like, we don't have graphic designers. We don't have communications people. You know, we don't know what we're doing there. So we spun up this little service and we started providing parishes with social media content. Again, this is like out of the garage, me and a friend, you know, just emailing attachment, be like, "Hey, Tuesday's the feast of, you know, the assumption. So, you know, here's just great graphic and some things to put on there." And that little software service just blew up in a huge way, and of course, COVID hit, and then everybody's going online. Now we have this thing called Catholic Social Media where we provide hundreds and hundreds of parishes across the country with social media content.

09:54.29 aggierobison Um, now.

10:01.72 Nic Prenger Um, that they use as sort of their baseline trustworthy, you know, authentically Catholic content that they can put out, and it looks like they created it, doesn't have any logos on it or anything, and then they supplement that with their, you know, their local stuff, and that's been incredible. So that's one of our services. We just, ah, week ago released the diocesan version of that. We're working with the Archdiocese At Boston who there then providing us the parishes and then the diocese is creating content for the parishes. So that's a huge area for us. Another one is a service we started called Ask Genius, which was coming directly out of our fundraising work and direct mail work. There was no clean way for us to ask every donor on a list for the exact right amount. Like there's no button you can click in Blackboard that says create the perfect ask amount for this annual appeal for a 100000 different people.

10:42.90 aggierobison Right.

10:51.40 Nic Prenger They'll give you, you know, wealth ratings and scoring and things like that. But it needs a human to look at it and figure out what the right ask amount is. So we're all fundraising nerds at Psg. So we dug into it. We're doing it all by hand in Excel, and then we turned it into a little app that's taken off in a big way. So now, Ask Genius is out there. Folks can check it out. It looks at giving history and wealth research and demographics and human behavior to take all of your donors and then create the perfect ask string that's not too high and not too low for your draft mail appeals. So that's where we are now. We've got some other stuff coming up in the automation space, but I won't take up your whole podcast just talking about our services here.

11:30.34 AggieRobison: Well, what I love is that there's just this constant innovation, right? It's like, "Hey, here's a problem," and it's a problem that a lot of people have been dealing with for a long time. Let's just let it continue to be a problem, whereas you guys are like, "Well, there's a solution somewhere out there."

11:41.31 Nic Prenger: Right.

11:47.93 AggieRobison: And I think that's huge, right? In the nonprofit world and certainly in the Catholic space sometimes, where we can tend to be a little bit slow on the uptake in terms of thinking of solutions. Like, no, we always do it the same way now. You know, in fundraising, there are those core principles you always go back to, like you said earlier, it's all about relationships, and at certainly at the higher levels of giving, that's what it requires. But it sounds like you guys have really looked at how you can introduce technology into a space that is, you know, really sort of open and, in a lot of ways, behind the times in the use of that technology.

12:24.84 Nic Prenger: Yeah, that's exactly right. And we're biased towards action, and we hire people that want to take the big swings, right? And be innovative. That's what gets us up in the morning. But the Catholic Church is interesting because, of all the fundraising segments and niches that are out there, the Catholic Church is, yes, we are slow to adopt technology, but nobody needs it more, right? Technology is a force multiplier. I mean, in the Catholic Church, whether it's a high school or university or a parish or a diocese, they're understaffed in a big way. They're undertrained in a big way. They're under-resourced. Technology is a solution that can help them play at the same level as other nonprofit organizations that have more resources. So that's how we look at it. And if we can see ourselves as kind of the tip of the spear, working out the kinks and coming up with the ways that technology can help our Catholic organizations, then we can safely bundle it up and hand it off to the organization, say, "We know you're scared of changing things, but we've tested this out. Here's how this can work in your world, and it's proven to work pretty darn well so far."

13:33.17 AggieRobison: What are the biggest points of resistance that you get in that process?

13:37.24 Nic Prenger: Ah, um, the most dangerous words in the human language, right? Like, "Well, this is how we've always done it." The good news is that's every organization, right? "Here's how we've always done it. We don't need to rock the boat."

13:47.84 AggieRobison: Right.

13:52.65 Nic Prenger: So it just comes down to the political in the person that's the decision maker. But this moment in time that we're in right now, Diocese, you know, P, she launched four years ago, and it was right at the same time that every diocese is looking around and saying, we can't keep doing what we've been doing, you know, sending out a letter and just praying that somebody sends us a check back. Isn't going to cut it anymore because you can just see it written in the numbers and in the data that we have a shrinking pool of donors, and if we don't, you know, convert a lot of them over to recurring givers, we are not going to be able to fund the missions and priorities and apostolates that we need to. So there was a bit of a shakeup and a reality call that coincided when we launched. So there's a new appetite. Maybe wasn't there, you know, 5 or 10 years ago. There's nothing like a crisis to jolt people into action. So even on the social media side covered I mean, there's no zeal like a convert, there are pastors like Nick we're never going to do anything digital. You know, we don't need that stuff.

14:37.81 aggierobison: Right.

14:48.29 Nic Prenger: And then Covid hits, and suddenly there's nobody that's more into, you know, live streaming mass and online giving and being active on social media than that pastor who was previously dead set against it. So that's how we see it's been a nice, a nice evolution.

14:56.56 aggierobison: Right.

15:03.31 aggierobison: I remember back in 2009, I was working up in Ohio at the Newman Center, and I sat down with a bishop. Not the bishop of our diocese, but he was visiting, and, you know, he was talking about challenges and reaching the youth, and I think we were even at a, you know, with some college students, which is why I was there, and I said, "Well, you know, Bishop, have you ever thought about having a Twitter feed, you know, for yourself?" And he was like, "Oh, god, no. I would never do that. I don't want to have my thoughts out there on Twitter and, you know, this and that," and I was like, "Okay, well, you know, it would probably be something worth exploring, and you could probably get a team around there," and he was like, "That I don't take, so that's for that's a younger man's game or something," and I was like, "Okay, but I would ah, I would bet that that's that attitude is probably, if it hasn't changed completely, certainly at that level, it is changing and."

15:39.11 Nic Prenger: Um, enough.

15:54.86 aggierobison: Um, you know, just it. It's seen more as an opportunity, and certainly when groups like yourself are presenting the data that shows the benefits that can come with it, then it kind of becomes like, "Ah, all right, it, you know, I'm no longer going to view this as a danger."

16:09.25 Nic Prenger: Um, I.

16:11.73 AggieRobison: But I'm going to see the opportunities and the benefits that come with, you know, adoption of this kind of technology.

16:17.99 Nic Prenger: And a lot of it is like what you said. We see, I mean, your example at the bishop is so spot on. A lot of what we know works, and we do so much A/B testing with all of our appeals and all the dioceses. What works is some like a picture fundraising letter that's heartfelt. It's from a real person, it's from a bishop, it's written in normal English, it's simple, it's direct, it's very human. That is what works, that is what donors love to read, and it's longer than you think, right? It's a 2 to 3 maybe 4-page letter. There are many dioceses that they just have a history of being very formal, right? And very flowery, and they think that when they're writing a donor letter, it needs to read like.

16:53.95 AggieRobison: Yeah, the King James version of appeal letters. Yeah.

16:54.10 Nic Prenger: You know, any pistol or something and exactly right, exactly. And there's dioceses that have made the switch, and like, holy cow, you know? Where's this been my whole life? But there are still, you know, you asked what the struggles are. There are some that are reticent. You know, even at the point that we had a client that wouldn't have the bishop sign the letter. They wouldn't have one person to sign the letter. Every letter they sent out was like from the organization, right? It was like an official decree and not like a human-to-human person saying, "Hey, we have some great stuff going on. I'd love to invite you in to help support it." So we have our own little wrinkles, but by and large, I've been surprised and delighted over.

17:20.74 AggieRobison: That.

17:29.92 Nic Prenger: How willing to change, you know, at least at the diocesan level folks have been.

17:35.48 AggieRobison: So I have a question for you. It wasn't on the list of possible topics, so hopefully, it doesn't throw you off too much. But I was playing around with some AI technology the other day, just, you know, now they've got these chat GPT and some of these other.

17:46.44 Nic Prenger: Yes.

17:51.13 aggierobison: And I told it to write an appeal letter from a Catholic organization and it spit out, you know, whatever 600 words, and I was like, "Wow, this is better than I expected." And then I said, "Now, do this, you know, put a scripture verse on that."

18:00.99 Nic Prenger: Um.

18:03.59 aggierobison: And the first one, and I did that, now add some humor, and it wasn't very funny, and I said, "Now, try some Catholic humor," and it was. It was really funny. I was like, "Oh no, I both love and hate this at the same time." Um, but is that something that you guys, you know, being kind of so far into innovation and technology, are you seeing the introduction of AI on a micro level on projects like that? But then at a macro level, you know, just in the nonprofit and fundraising space, being more of a consideration down the road.

18:36.27 Nic Prenger: Yes, we absolutely are. So we actually had an old meeting about this AI. We had our team's strategic planning meeting yesterday, and we spent half the day talking about this AI. So we've been using ChatGPT and experimenting around with it on everything from, you know, how do we help, you know, from us as a firm, you know, writing blog posts and things like that, writing fundraising letters, and it's, think of it in terms of getting you 80% of the way there. So if you're stuck staring at a blank page, you're like, "I need, okay, I need to write an email to donors, you know, thanking them for XYZ," and you can start off with something written down, and it's great now.

19:13.45 Nic Prenger We messed around with it a bunch and we said, "Hey, give us the other day John Rogers, who's our VP of Peer Services. He asked Chat GPT, he said, 'You know, give me 600 words on Pope John Paul II and why he was a groundbreaking saint and pope,' and it gave it to us and it read so well. But two of the five facts were wrong. And you can see why it was wrong like that, and I won't get into the technical details, but it's careful. This isn't something where we turn off our brain, right, and hand it over."

19:45.76 aggierobison Right.

19:48.79 Nic Prenger Like any other tool, it's one that can really be a force multiplier and let you leverage your time and use your time better. But there's still a premium on folks that can take it that last 10 yards, right? So we're seeing that. We're also seeing it in the graphic design space, right? The things that AI is doing and the ability to alter graphics and create graphics from whole cloth is terribly frightening and exciting at the same time.

20:15.37 aggierobison Yeah, I think you're right. It's that kind of, you know, every sci-fi movie in the world that somebody invents robots that then take over the world. It's like, why didn't we put an off switch on this that a human can control this or, you know, it's like everything it always is going to need, right? Like these tools, these resources can, and I love what you said, you know, get us 80% of the way there, right? Like it gets the ball rolling and gets us started, and then but it's still going to require human intervention to take it the rest of the way. Otherwise, it's going to, you know, just the same way as you don't want the letter that reads like a King James version of an appeal letter. You also don't want an appeal letter that reads like a robot and reads like a Wikipedia entry, right? Like you have to have that human touch to really take it to the next level.

21:01.87 Nic Prenger: And I like what you're saying. I hadn't even thought of it this way. But you know we fight that battle to get dioceses and clients to write more personalized, heartfelt, human letters. The rise of AI probably puts a premium on that, right? Because people will start to get used to the "oh, this is clearly one of those spit out of a machine" type things. So you'll have to put in those markers that show that you're a real person, and it will only become more important.

21:28.67 aggierobison: I know that when I was a history major, and so if anybody is in college and in a history major or English major, here's a small tip. I had so many books to read and write reports on that I just couldn't keep up. But I learned a trick that I would skip to the end of each chapter, and I'd-

21:32.43 Nic Prenger: Um, proud now.

21:44.41 aggierobison: I'd pull a clip out of it, and I'd put that quote in my book report. So then it was like, "Ah, you know, did I read the whole book? I clearly must have, because here's a quote from page 375." So that was me, sort of, you know, ah, hacking the system so to speak. But at the same time, you had to have those-

21:54.62 Nic Prenger: I think that-

22:02.97 aggierobison: Those personal touches that are what makes it really heartfelt and truly created by you. So what do you wish, ah, I want to switch gears a little bit and talk a little bit about from the donor standpoint. We've talked about it from the fundraising standpoint and from the fundraiser standpoint, but let's talk about it a little bit from the donor standpoint. What do you wish more Catholics knew about philanthropy and generosity?

22:34.21 Nic Prenger: Oh boy. Um, from the donor perspective, I think that - excuse me, that cough that we all have this winter here. Um, I think of the donors. Um, there's a certain subset of donors-

22:42.56 aggierobison: 

22:51.84 Nic Prenger: Um, that get to where they are in the ability to give away large amounts of money. The thing, you know, the solution is but a lot of strings on things, right? Like, "I'm going to fund xyz," and at least half the time, when a donor is putting strings on gifts, it's counterproductive to what the donor's trying to achieve, right? Um, a donor might go to a high school and say, "Hey, I want you guys to thrive, and I'm going to give you this amount of money to go, you know, buy this land." Or I was working with the Diocese years and years ago, and they had a group of donors who went to the bishop and said, "We're going to make huge, you know, multimillion-dollar gifts, and what we want to do is sit down with you and look at a map and plot out where to put parishes in this diocese." And their intention was good. Their intention was to help the diocese have parishes in the right spots.

23:38.89 aggierobison Right.

23:40.67 Nic Prenger But the solution and the strings that they were attaching ended up causing all sorts of consternation. It just wasn't the right way to go about it, and it ended up being counterproductive, right? It started off with good intention, but it was counterproductive. And I understand why donors want to put strings on things. I don't trust nonprofits. I work in nonprofits. I know how much you know, things can go sideways. But I guess I would just say I want donors to know, you know, meet with the leadership of the organization that you want to support, make sure you're sharing the vision, but then trust them if they're trustworthy. You know, to accomplish that mission, or at least be open to alternative plans. You know, if you're making those large gifts, and Andrew, I might just be bringing that up because we have a couple of those, you know, at the top of mind here. So I don't know how large scale this problem is, it's just something that we've been talking through with a couple of our clients, you know, related to major gifts.

24:30.60 aggierobison Yeah, and um, there was a story, and I'm going to get the details of it wrong, but it was either Ray or Joan Kroc. I think it was Joan Kroc, when she passed away, that she gave, what was it, $1 billion to the Salvation Army or to the American Red Cross, but it was very, like you're saying, it was so specific that they had to build these, you know, locations or use it to fund this growth that ultimately it put them in a situation where if they were going to actually utilize that gift, it was going to put them in danger for that long-term.

24:45.91 Nic Prenger Right? It was Southationian Army. And I want to be clear, like, and it's the donors, right? Like, you giving the money, you have the right to put every string in the world. So I'm not saying you don't have the right to do it. What I'm bringing up is the fact that a lot of times when you're doing that, sustainability of the entire organization and, um, do you remember that story? Am I way off, Salvation Army?

25:22.68 Nic Prenger It is going to hurt what it is that you want to accomplish. So I'm not saying donors need to give unrestricted gifts and just trust that somebody else knows better. No donor that makes a major gift is ever going to trust somebody to know better than them. But I just introduced that idea that we sometimes the strings and restrictions we put on things end up being counterproductive, and there's probably a better way to get there. And that, like anything, that's where the role of the fundraiser comes in, right? To be the collaborative. You've been fundraising for a long time. You know that fundraising is not shaking people upside down and tricking them to give and all those other things that people think it is. It's going to a donor and finding out what they care about and then finding ways for that to align with the mission of an organization and then bringing them opportunities and invitations to accomplish what they want to accomplish. It's not any more complicated than that.

26:10.50 AggieRobison: And it goes back to that. Um, that earlier point that you made about this being about relationships, right? Like if it was really just about being, you know, being right? We want to be a caveat in some ways for the donor to live out their generosity. But if that's all that it is and there are not those relationships built and that trust built, really, it is what it comes down to. Then we end up with well-meaning and well-intentioned people who are actually not accomplishing the impact that they want to accomplish, right? And then that becomes ultimately counterproductive to the entire world of philanthropy and the work that we do in nonprofit fundraising. Yeah, yeah, that was stretching my brain to remember Joan Kroc. I remembered it was something and then I'm glad you're here Salvation Army. I would go back and read that story again. Um, so what are some of the biggest challenges that you face? What is it that's keeping you up at night?

27:16.25 Nic Prenger: Gro. Um, yeah, I guess it's different from, you know, from a fundraiser standpoint and then just a business owner's standpoint. Um, I mean my job at PSU is just to make sure everybody's in the right spot. I mean, we have an absolutely amazing team. I mean, people are just incredible and the things they come up with on a daily basis, innovations, you know, the willingness to try new things and improve it out. It's just an absolute rocket ship, and it's my job to make sure we're focusing on the right things. Um, you know, for our long-term growth and to be able to help the church in a big way. Um, you know what keeps me up at night? Ah, I think the biggest challenge is in our world of fundraising, right? Running those annual bishop's appeals, which funds so many of the important ministries and missions and offices that do the good work. Um, the ceiling on how much any diocese can do is reflective of the number of people in the pews, right? Um, if you're at a diocese and they say our appeal is at $5,000,000, but when it has 10,000 donors, we need to get it to 20,000,000 and 30,000 donors. That probably isn't possible, right, unless you have folks in the pews celebrating the sacraments, investing in their faith. Like, that is the finite amount of people that are gonna support your annual appeal. Again, this is just our little niche side of the world, but that is the challenge, right? The solution to bringing in more donors and having higher participation, we've reached a point at a lot of these appeals that are running very high-functioning, well-run appeals. Um, the solution to getting more donors is not a fundraising solution. It's an evangelization solution, right? It is a churchwide solution, and that is a big, big challenge when it crosses outside of fundraising. So all the development directors out there, they could be absolutely crushing it and doing a wonderful job and inviting people in and thanking donors, making it a great giving experience. But if they've reached the total maximum amount of folks that are active in their faith life and able and inclined to give, there's nothing more they can do as a fundraiser, and that's a challenge in a lot of places given the demographics and the trend lines that we're seeing.

29:13.58 AggieRobison: Um, all right.

29:26.62 aggierobison Yeah, and I think that because I agree, right? Like, that's a huge concern, and it's just a reality. And I think the point that gives us hope are the stories like organizations. You know, like Texas A&M, where I went to school, and the campus ministry there.

29:38.43 Nic Prenger For dinner.

29:43.29 aggierobison Um, where they really invested in fundraising twenty-five years ago and now have a staff of, you know, 40 on staff. They're seeing, you know, numbers student and student engagement climbing through the roof. You know, it's organizations like Focus, right? Fifteen years ago, they had five fundraisers and were on...

29:56.43 Nic Prenger Um, how about that?

30:02.65 aggierobison You know, about 30 campuses, and they invested in fundraising. They told the story, they engaged people, they were able to raise a lot of money, and now they've grown their both their development staff and their staff. Their programming staff, and now they're on, you know, over 150 campuses, right? So it's like that.

30:19.55 Nic Prenger Five.

30:22.64 aggierobison It's that, how do you, ah, how do you, how do you use fundraising based on your current limitations of the people that are sitting in the pews to create more funds that allow you to ah, to tell the...

30:29.37 Nic Prenger M.

30:42.11 aggierobison You know, ah, to have what the programming the invitation really that brings people into the pews that ultimately then grows the entire program, right? So it's like this kind of cycle, but it's a tricky cycle when you're in the middle of it to figure out, all right, where are we now, and how are we going to get to that point where we want to be?

30:59.38 Nic Prenger For sure, and even the, you know, the examples of Focus and in, you know, the Newman Center there at A&M, those are great examples. And I think of, you know, Lincoln as well. But even that is functionally different than the world of diocesan fundraising, specifically because if you're focused, you can't tell your story to a wider audience, right? You can tell it to Catholics all across the country.

31:09.91 aggierobison Yeah.

31:18.12 aggierobison Yep.

31:18.35 Nic Prenger: If you're the diocese of Tulsa, right? Or the diocese of Shreveport. That's not realistic, right? There are not Catholics outside of the diocese of Shreveport that want to support the missions, you know, vocations in Shreveport, and the Catholic Youth Conference in Shreveport. So that's what I'm talking about when you do have a finite, you know, geographically bound donor base there. We are at a point where a lot of dioceses have done all the right things to the point where they've maximized, and they're getting close to that ceiling, you know, and of course, there's still things you can do. You can move from one-time givers to recurring givers, and you can work on laps donors, and you can work on, you know, increasing the size of the gift and asking for the right amount by using tools like AskGenius, but there is a certain realism to, you know, that the geographically bound nonprofit that at some point, there is a limited, you know, cap of available potentially supportive donors.

31:37.79 AggieRobison: Um, me.

31:53.88 Nic Prenger: Increasing the size of the gift and asking for the right amount by using tools like AskGenius, but there is a certain realism to, you know, that the geographically bound nonprofit that at some point, there is a limited, you know, cap of available potentially supportive donors.

32:08.20 AggieRobison: So then let's ask the opposite question. What do you love most about your work? What gets you up every morning ready to take on another day?

32:14.64 Nic Prenger: And it's ah, it's innovation stuff like that. That's and that's the beauty of working where we do, right? So we get to serve the Church. We get to live in the church and at the same time as ah, as a private sort of niche boutique consulting agency. We get to do all the fun cutting-edge tech stuff, ah, that maybe we couldn't do if we were, you know, directly employed at the nonprofit so we have that freedom and it is just an absolute blast every day working with the team that we have here in the innovations that we're doing around social media with Diocese and communications office in a lot of Diocese. We are becoming the replacement for the old Catholic Newspaper, right, which are shutting down in staggering numbers. The need for that Catholic Newspaper still exists. You know, to tell stories, to show people photos, and to give Catholic news from a Catholic lens or national news from a Catholic lens, all those needs exist, and the solution is not to anymore to print, you know, ah, newspaper and mail it out to 80,000 households. The solution is to get that word out there for free largely through social media, and we're able to take on that big thorny problem and come up with solutions that are making a real difference like that is. Really do think, you know, Andrew, I have the best job in the world. I mean, what? What our team is doing and getting to work in the church and getting to innovate and roll out these new solutions and see them work in the wild is just about the most gratifying thing that I can imagine. It's in the last wow.

33:35.93 aggierobison That's awesome. Well, it's certainly been a pleasure to visit with you and hear about some of that innovation and learn about the great work you're doing, and it's just been a pleasure, and I certainly enjoyed it.

33:48.60 Nic Prenger Yes, likewise, yeah, let's do it.

33:51.10 aggierobison Great. So what do you say? Shall we switch over to our lightning round now? Perfect, all right, here's where the questions get really tough. Question 1 of our lightning round: if you could fundraise for any organization or cause at any point in history, what would it be?

33:59.98 Nic Prenger Yeah.

34:08.42 Nic Prenger: "Who boy, um, I'll say that I did it. I was involved with the great team in Lincoln, Nebraska, when they were building that Newman Center there. Jude Warrner was the development director, Father Maia. It was one of those projects that if you just look at it on paper, you think there's no chance, right? And it's similar to what you brought up earlier. You know there's no existing donor pool. There's no long history of fundraising, all of the normal things that you look for. But you could tell that there is a will here, there is an appetite, and it was just an absolute blessing to get to work with that team. And if you haven't been there to see the St. Thomas Aquinas Center there at Lincoln, it's incredible. And of course, the Newman Centers are the hot, you know, Catholic non-profit all over the country now. There's this great renaissance and folks investing in Newman Centers. So I'll go with that."

34:53.88 Aggie Robison: "Awesome. I have been to Lincoln, Nebraska and seen the Newman Center, and you are absolutely right. It is a beauty, and it's having an impact on that campus, which in turn is then having an effect on across the state of Nebraska and really around the world. So really, really cool. All right, question number 2. If you could get a donor meeting with anyone in the world, living or dead, who would it be with?"

35:19.28 Nic Prenger: "Yeah, I don't, that's the tough one. I saw the lightning, you know. I don't know the answer. I'll say, you know, when you're a fundraising consultant and you're working with parishes and stuff, you always hear the same thing, like, 'Oh man, we just gotta write a letter to Oprah,' or 'We gotta write a letter to, you know, Warren Buffett,' and stuff. And you know, you want to respect people's ideas, but you know that they're never in a million years going to care about your specific, you know, niche organization that they don't have a tie to. So I'll, yeah, I'll say Oprah just to get that one off my back, first, for as many times as I've been asked to write a letter to Oprah. Ah, we'll go ahead and get that meeting. Yeah."

35:55.37 Aggie Robison: That's awesome! I love it. I think this is actually the second time that somebody has mentioned Oprah on this. So that's, there's that.

35:59.19 Nic Prenger: Well, and it's usually that. But then I even remember my favorite, I was running a parish campaign outside of St. Louis and this sweet lady that was on my team was like, "We got to write a letter to every member of the St. Louis Cardinals. You know they make so much money." And this is where I mean, we're like an hour and a half out of St. Louis, you know, and there's...

36:15.62 Aggie Robison: Yeah.

36:18.90 Nic Prenger: ...tiny little town, and having that conversation about whether that would be a good use of our time or not was memorable.

36:25.67 Aggie Robison: That's awesome. All right, question number 3, is there enough money out there for every organization that's doing good work?

36:30.29 Nic Prenger: Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that people are inherently generous, so much more generous than we give them credit for. It is unbelievable what you can accomplish if you have the right mission, a good plan, and you just invite donors to participate. There's more than enough money. There is not enough money for every organization that is doing good work because there are thousands and thousands of organizations that are doing duplicative work. Everybody that spins up a little mom-and-pop nonprofit because they want to help solve hunger in their community, there are 15 other organizations that are already working on that same thing. And there's not enough money to solve each of those because it's crazy to be banging our heads against the same thing. So there's much more need for collaboration than there is right now. So I'll say yes and no on that.

37:21.70 Aggie Robison: Great, I love it. Question number 4: if you could go back in time and offer yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

37:27.66 Nic Prenger: Whole, eat better, man. I have just let myself go. That, no, I've never had a problem, Andrew, eating tasty foods. It's the, ah...

37:33.61 Aggie Robison: Eat better, as in eat tastier or eat healthier or, ah...

37:43.45 Nic Prenger: You know how it goes, you're young and you got kids, and you're running around, and you're starting a business and that is the thing, you know, taking care of yourself. And I'm getting better at it now. But, you know, there's a stretch there and through Covid where it is absolutely back-burnered, and now I'm in my 40s and I'm an old man thinking, I got to pull this.

37:44.56 Aggie Robison: Yeah, yeah.

38:00.83 Nic Prenger I've got to turn the ship around, man. I've got to figure this out because life comes at you quick.

38:02.70 aggierobison Yeah, yeah.

38:02.70 AggieRobison: Ah, my thirteen-year-old has started having, I don't want to call it phantom pain because she is telling us it is real pain, but you know these random pains in her wrist. She goes from wrestling with her little brother to you know, 10 minutes later coming in and saying, "I can't move my wrist because I've got this pain." We're like, "Okay, I'm not really sure I buy it," and this is over the course of a couple of days and weeks, and she was in the middle of telling us this, and I was like, "Oh, sweetie."

38:36.80 aggierobison: Just wait till you're a little bit older, everything will hurt and you won't be able to understand any of it, and you just have to live with it. So, but it's right? Oh man, that's good advice for all of us - eat better.

38:42.87 Nic Prenger: Um, yeah, yeah, every day is a new adventure.

38:53.33 Nic Prenger: These healthier, more accurate. Yeah.

38:53.96 aggierobison: Eat healthier, right? Question number 5 - who are 3 people who have most influenced your professional development?

39:01.94 Nic Prenger: Ho? Um, um, I'll give you 5. So, there's a group of guys that are just absolutely brilliant in the space. So, from conda de leon in Phoenix, Scott Whitaker in Austin, Corey Howard in New Orleans, Brian Niebuhr in St. Louis, and Peter DeCarlo, formerly in Chicago, not Oklahoma City. Ah, that group has been incredible to me. It's been any idea we have, I bounce off those five first, they've just been wonderful. So, guys that live in the faith but that are also true fundraising professionals that understand the world of fundraising. Understand where things are heading, aren't afraid to try new things. It's just been a wonderful support group for me. So, that's 5, so I'll give you 2 bonus.

39:44.75 aggierobison That's awesome. Love it. Question number 6, and I know a couple of those guys, and they've been on this show, so we'll have to link them in the show notes. Question number 6, what is something interesting about you that people may not know?

39:59.35 Nic Prenger I played the cello. Yeah, my mom was my teacher a little bit, but not nearly as much as I should. My mom was a music teacher, and we had four kids, so I also played the cello, and I had a brother on the bass and a sister on the violin and viola. Stringed instruments were very important when we were growing up, and I love that they forced us to do it. Now I get to return the favor and force all of my kids to learn the piano, play instruments, and all of that. I think it's critical.

40:31.60 aggierobison Um, did you guys do any tours when you were a young family?

40:33.87 Nic Prenger Well, what I did even all through college was I would play cello and I sang for weddings as that was my side hustle. So if you're a good cellist, I tell you what, everybody needs Pachelbel at their wedding. So we had a little string quartet and it was an hour and a half on Saturdays and there's always weddings going on. So I did that and I sang and it was a great side business for a high school and the college kid.

41:02.59 aggierobison That's awesome. I have a good friend of mine who is gifted similarly, and he can sing, he can play cello, he can play guitar. He probably knows, you know, if you give him a trombone, he could figure it out as well. But it was probably, you know...

41:14.80 Nic Prenger Right.

41:19.16 aggierobison He's probably not thinking when he was younger as a similar thing, you know, "Mom, I don't want to learn," and it's like, "You'll be happy for it later."

41:23.27 Nic Prenger Yes, yes, yeah, that's right. When there's a window, so when you start, it's cool, and then it's like, you know, sixth through eighth grade. It's a total slog, and it's the lamest thing in the world, and then you push through. I mean, there's probably a lesson you can apply to everything in this. Then you push through, and then suddenly it's cool again, right? Like once you get to high school and college and you're really, really good at it. You know, then it's cool, and you're begrudgingly thankful to your parents for making you persevere.

41:47.62 aggierobison Yeah, that's right. I tried to teach myself how to play the violin when I was in college, and I failed miserably because I had no training, no musical training. I just bought a violin off of eBay and didn't get any lessons or anything, so I don't know if I still have that violin. I'll have to look.

42:05.00 Nic Prenger It's not too late. You got time.

42:06.75 aggierobison Ah, ah, well, my thirteen-year-old wants to learn how to play the guitar. So maybe the two of us can teach each other. All right, and last question, what is one book you think everybody should read?

42:11.46 Nic Prenger Take, yeah.

42:19.35 Nic Prenger I'm gonna say "Drive" by Daniel Pink. If you've never read any of Daniel Pink's stuff, start there. But the book "Drive" is fantastic, absolutely fantastic, especially for folks in your audience that are in the nonprofit world. There are wonderful, psychologically grounded lessons in what motivates people, what discourages people. If you manage volunteers, if you manage employees, it's just a fantastic book.

42:49.20 aggierobison That's great. I have read a couple of Daniel Pink's books, and I believe that I've read "Drive". But I'll have to go back in and pull it up in my Audible and give it another go, because I have found, I don't know about you, but there are a couple of books that are kind of seminal reading that you could read over and over again. Even though you've read it once, you read it five years later and you're at a different stage of life and it hits different, you know, it hits in a different way. "Good to Great" is one of those for sure. "Play Bigger" is one of those that I've read a couple of times now. But Daniel Pink, you know, certainly, um.

43:13.55 Nic Prenger Yep.

43:25.98 aggierobison You know, Simon Sinek, really anything that he writes. But Daniel Pink is one of those guys that has written a couple of books that you could read at different stages of your life and have different takeaways every time.

43:35.21 Nic Prenger: It's fantastic, and for the small business owners, "Built to Sell" is a must. For the fundraising folks, everybody knows Jerry Panas, you gotta read "Asking," the 59-minute guide. I think we gave that at Steyer, and even here at Bringer Solutions Group, anybody that starts, you know, we hand them that book and you just. You can absorb it in a couple of hours, but it's just absolutely fantastic.

43:56.33 Aggie Robison: That's awesome. Well, Nick, it's been a pleasure visiting with you. I appreciate you taking the time to come on and share about your journey and the work that you guys are doing. If people want to reach out and contact you or learn more about the work you're doing, where should they go?

44:08.13 Nic Prenger: Yeah, so I'm on LinkedIn, it's probably the easiest. Otherwise, or, and they can find me there.

44:20.18 Aggie Robison: Great. Well, Nic, I appreciate it. All the work that you're doing and thanks for being a guest on the show, great, and for all those listening, thanks so much for joining us. I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did. If you have any questions, you want to reach out, you can email us at [email protected]. Otherwise, ah.

44:23.21 Nic Prenger: Absolutely. Thank you so much, Andrew.

44:37.85 Aggie Robison: Please pass this along to somebody else who you think might enjoy this episode, and God bless you, God bless your work, and we'll see you next time.





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