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Trust Me, I Work for a Nonprofit - An Interview with Justin DeMoss

In this episode, Andrew visits with Justin DeMoss of Your Philanthropic Advisor, a seasoned fundraising professional, entrepreneur, and adjunct professor at Oklahoma City University.  During this conversation, Andrew and Justin discuss the need for nonprofit organizations to be innovative and build trust with their donors and their community. They also discuss strategies for creating an organizational culture that embraces innovation and takes risks.


Show Notes


Justin entered the world of nonprofit fundraising when he was a FOCUS missionary  raising support for his annual salary. 



While studying to receive his M.A in Philanthropy and Development, Justin learned the value of mentorship and networking.  He also studied ways that the nonprofit sector could learn from the sales and marketing techniques and the innovation of for-profit businesses. 


Innovation and Change

Justin highlights the urgent need for nonprofit organizations and nonprofit professionals to embrace innovation and change.  Though most people fear change and failure, once nonprofit professionals accept the risk associated with innovation, their programmatic and fundraising capabilities grow.  Fear of failure by nonprofit professionals often stunts mission impact.  When program and development leaders fear repercussions for unsuccessful new ideas, an organization remains stagnant.  Instead, leaders need to view failure as an opportunity to learn and improve. 



Andrew and Jason discuss how the nonprofit community, including churches, can overcome any fear of accountability and transparency.  Part of accountability for nonprofit organizations involves communicating failures, highlighting lessons learned, and brainstorming opportunities to do things differently in the future.



To encourage innovation and accountability, nonprofit organizations must create a culture of trust among the board of directors and the nonprofit’s leaders.  Leaders must have the flexibility to try new things knowing they might fail and knowing failure isn’t the end of the world.  Justin outlines 3 things that are absolutely necessary for building trust in an organization:  (1) clarity of purpose, (2) resolution of any misunderstandings, and (3) accountability using metrics that signal success for programs and development.  Justin emphasizes that nonprofit professionals have to set the example of trust by trusting others and setting the expectation of vulnerable, transparent communication.   


Lightening Round

  1. If you could fund-raise for any organization or cause at any time in history, what would it be?
    • A children’s hospital
  2. If you could get a donor meeting with anyone living or dead, who would it be?
    • Ronald Reagan. President Reagan had an admirable way of interjecting humor into his speech, even when he was speaking on divisive topics.
  3. Is there enough money out there for every organization that's doing good work?
    • Absolutely!
  4. What is one piece of advice that you would give your past self?
    • When you start your career, get mentors! Mentors have been there, they have experience, they can tell you about the mistakes they made and what they learned from them, they can train you how to think about problems. 
  5. Who are 3 people who have most influenced you, professionally?
    • Peter de Keratry, John Flynn, Mike Perkins
  6. What is one fact about Justin that most people don’t know?
    • I used to be a bullfighter and rodeo clown in college. 
  7. What is a book that you would recommend?
    • Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others by Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas


If you would like to connect with Justin you can reach him by email at [email protected]


Andrew's Take-Aways:

First, building trust is paramount in the faith-based nonprofit community probably more so than any other industry. Our organizations rely on trust not just to be able to fundraise, but also just to be able to take risks and innovate in our approach to ministry. Justin laid out 3 key elements for building trust that I thought were great.

  • First you have to have clarity of mission and communicate that clarity to everyone.
  • Second, you have to address misunderstandings with your board members and supporters, preferably before they ask you about them.
  • Third, you have to build accountability through vulnerability.

By sharing our goals and strategies with leaders in our organization, and then asking them to help us remain accountable, we create a channel of communication that allows us to try new things, change our approach when necessary and still be able to count on one another’s support.

These are excellent points and I hope that it’s given you ideas for how to manage team members, how to start conversations with your supervisors and how to engage your boards and mentors in new ways. 


One more takeaway for this episode is the importance of understanding the differences between efficiency and effectiveness. Just because you can report low operational or administrative costs, does not mean that you are maximizing your impact. There’s a great book called Team of Teams by General Stanley McCrystal. In that book, they break down being efficient, meaning spending less time or money, and being effective, meaning accomplishing the intended goal.

In my own experience, there are people in different organizations who would step over a dollar to pick up the penny, as the expression goes, but miss the larger point of investing what is necessary to have an impact.


I hope that you enjoyed this episode. If you liked it, please share it with a colleague or friend in the industry.

As always, you can reach me at [email protected] if you have questions or want to chat. Have a great day and we’ll see you back next time. 


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