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Stu is considered one of the top thought-leaders in the non-profit sector. He is also the Director of Thought Leadership and Advocacy for Omatic Software, a data-integration software for non-profits that allows them a complete view of their donors, promoting data-driven decision making.
Founded in 2002, Omatic Software has also made the ‘Inc. Magazine’s Inc. 500 | 5000-America’s Fastest Growing Private Companies list’ for 5 years!
We have a great conversation around the power of technology and data for doing good, and how a personal mission can become a career.
Check out Omatic Software at https://omaticsoftware.com
Connect with Stu on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/stumanewith/
Transcript powered by Happy Scribe
Just imagine being able to say that you literally do good. And someone says, how are you doing? I do good. This is somebody who does good. Stu Manewith is the guest on today’s DiscoPosse Podcast. Had a really fantastic conversation with Stu, we’re going to dive into why he and the team in Omatic Software are doing really cool things. But in the meantime, speaking of doing really cool things and people that do good.
Good stuff is doing things like protecting your data. So shout out to our sponsors and supporters of the podcast, including the amazing people over at Veeam Software. I can implore you that this is the place you need to go to get everything you need for your data protection needs, whether it’s On-premises, whether it’s in the Cloud, whether it’s Cloud-Native, protect yourself from ransomware, protect yourself from just day-to-day making mistakes on the keyboard, accidentally hitting delete, maybe Microsoft teams, maybe Office 365. Look, we’re losing data all over the place. Don’t do it. Just go to vee.am/DiscoPosse and you can make yourself completely protected for just such an occasion. Don’t be a victim. That’s something I’ve learned the hard way.
I lost some data here and there, then I got Veeam and I got good. So speaking of good, also what’s really good, not just protecting your data, whether it’s at rest, but delivering it in transit safely using a good VPN. I say this because I use a VPN all the time, especially when I’m traveling or when I’m moving around. I’m using other people’s Wi-Fi. There’s a lot of weird stuff that goes on on Wi-Fis when they’re not yours. Heck, even when they’re yours. Let’s protect your data, protect your identity.
And if you want to use a great VPN, you can head over and try out ExpressVPN. I’m a fan. I’m a user. So if you go to tryexpressvpn.com/DiscoPosse, you can get set up. And it is absolutely a must have in this day and age. It also helps you to cut down on some of the spam, the noise and the adjunct. Very, very cool. I also use it for web testing. All right, one more thing.
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All right, let’s get to the good stuff. This is Stu Manewith from Omatic Software. He’s a thought leader and advocate. Those aren’t titles he gave himself. Those are what the world gives him. He’s a great person. This is a great conversation. Enjoy this.
This is Stu Manewith from Omatic Software, and you’re listening to the DiscoPosse Podcast.
Stu Manewith, thank you very much for joining. I love when I get a guest submission, and it takes me all of, not even hitting below the fold before I think, it’s an absolute yes. You are among a list of the type of people that I have a real respect and adoration for in what you’re doing both directly. We’ll talk about Omatic software. We’ll talk about what you’re doing today, but beyond what you do in your day-to-day, I’m a big fan already. I loved your other podcast. I got to listen to some of the other stuff you’ve done, so I’m excited to be able to share some time with you.
But for folks that are new to used you Stu, if you want to give a quick bio and an introduction, and we’ll dive into your world at Omatic and beyond.
Great. Thanks so much, Eric. I’m Stu Manewith. I work at Omatic Software. My title is Director Of Thought Leadership And Advocacy, but that means a lot of different things. And I think we’ll talk more about those things as we talk for the next little while. I have been in the field for 30 years. I’m a man of a certain age. I started out working in the nonprofit sector the first half of my career. My very first job actually was in the performing arts. I worked at the Repertory Theater of St. Louis producing children’s theater.
But in doing that, I learned that you had to raise funds and you had to engage granters, etc. And I was mentored, thankfully, by a brilliant director of fundraising who showed me how grabbing funds from funders and then putting them to work is the best way to show how those funds are used. And so I learned a lot about the fundraising field. And I went to work for a small educational foundation, and then in 1996, I’m aging myself. I’m getting myself. I found myself working in healthcare. I was living at a big hospital foundation, a big part of a big medical center.
And I really learned a lot more about constituent relationship management and how to deal with donors and supporters and decidedly how to use data. How nonprofits use data really as the nourishment, as the lifeblood of their organization, to interact with people, to raise money from people to find what makes someone tick and then kind of hone in on it in a really good way, not in an exploitive way, but in a very positive way to help them meet their philanthropic goals and philanthropic challenges.
So I worked there for about seven years, and then I was called some might say to the dark side. I thought it was a great experience. I went to work on the technology side of the nonprofit sector. So I went to work at a company called Blackboard, which is at least one of the world leaders in technology for nonprofit organizations. Fundraising, CRMs, accounting, educational, education system management exclusively for nonprofit organizations. I worked there for 13 years from the beginning of 2003 to the end of 2015. And then at the end of 2015, I moved to Omatic software, which was actually started by an employee of Blackboard to build a better mousetrap in terms of donation and I’ve been here in Omatic for the past six years.
I just celebrated my 6th anniversary, the end of last month.
Wow. Very cool. The thing that I really like is this progression and the interesting realization now. I get into this often in the tech side of the world. So I came from the customer side of technology, working in financial services and designing systems, and then moved over to the vendor side of the world. And I like you described sort of like the dark side of one side of the business to another. And what was interesting is the more that I worked in the technology. I realized the business was intrinsic in how I would do technology because I understood the business side, and it led me to make technology decisions based on the business.
And then when I work for a technology vendor, I made decisions on how I did technology marketing based on the business usage, and then the sales team. The connection started to move together, and I started to realize, oh, I think I’m in sales, like, in a way, there is sort of a general acceptance. But the difference is I’m understanding the story. I’m using data to drive decisions. I’m working with the relationship sellers, and it became a simple thing of understanding, what is the funnel? How does the buyer’s journey work?
So now I’m a nerd, right? I look at nerd technology, but the first thing I think of is like, kind of what’s the buyer’s journey, what’s the adoption curve? What are all these things? So I look at your progression as well, career wise. Lived experience that then you bring towards attaching a business wrapped around it. So it’s a beautiful and natural transition to them running or going it alone, so to speak. So you’re clearly not alone. Omatic is growing well. And congratulations on all the work that you’re doing there. But now it’s this thing of combining those things together and realizing that there are systematic things that you can do in philanthropy that will help to promote giving power and value to those, like philanthropic investments, which is people have trouble understanding, where does my money go? Like, what does my money actually do?
It’s so important that donors and supporters and volunteers, anyone who is engaged with an organization that they feel that their time, their money, their input is that it matters. And what we want to do is we want to help organizations use their data to do all of that, to benefit them from the bottom- up, from the top-down, from the sides in every possible way. But the point that you make about how we engage, how we engage supporters, how we engage. People generally don’t start out with an organization giving money to them immediately. They need to have some connection. Was I cured? Was I educated? Was I fed? Was I given a basketball to play with as a kid when I couldn’t afford one? Was I given food during the pandemic, when I lost my job? And now I’m back working and I can give back. So people need to have, generally, have some emotional tie. And then that’s where organizations that are technologically savvy start collecting and using data to engage people. And one of the things that has changed over the past 20 years. And let’s be honest about the time frame is how many different platforms and systems organizations have used.
When I worked at Barnes Jewish Hospital Foundation in St. Louis, we had one system. We used one database system. There wasn’t online given in 1996. Not very much. There wasn’t email journeys or email marketing. We just had a single system. Fast forward 20 years, and organizations are using one or very often multiple online giving systems, email marketing, peer to peer fundraising, special events, volunteer management. There may be a separate system for membership or for ticketing or for any of the different things that are needed. And those all lead to multiple data repositories. And so organizations that 20 years ago had a single system where all the data was stored now are facing. It’s not unusual for the organizations that we work with to have at least four and often up to eight or nine different places where their data comes from. And that doesn’t even count all the spreadsheets that people keep. Right. So it’s a challenge.
No, seriously, it’s a challenge to amalgamate all of that data and keep it clean and keep it from getting stale and keep it from being siloed.
People always they ask me, what would you name as the top used software in the world? And I would say it’s Microsoft Excel.
Unquestionably. What we find is, and I’m digressing a little bit. But what we find is people have shadow systems. It works for them. They are successful at their job using this spreadsheet. But what they don’t realize is they don’t have the benefit of data collected. Let’s say you’ve got a major gift officer, and she’s working with her list of 150 people, and she knows what their gifts are, what their giving history has been. But she doesn’t know what emails they may have opened based on some newsletter that they received from the marketing team that talks about a specific program. And so she doesn’t know to talk about that program the next time she calls them. And so she’s got a blind spot. Does that make sense?
And this is where people would look at, especially sort of large giving philanthropy. And they often think it’s purely a relationship and a life position type of opportunity. And obviously, that’s a big player right there. Where there’s sort of like friends of the school, friends of the university, friends of the hospital. They are generally people who are at a particular financial level in life, and they’re familiar with the brand. But what we don’t realize is that’s almost like Pareto’s principle, but that’s a big portion of it. However, the other gap is hundreds, potentially thousands of donors, of participants in philanthropy where you don’t have a direct relationship. And look, the truth is that relationship seller has learned over time that, hey, I may have some key contributors, donors, whatever they want to talk about as discussion point or how we call them. But how do we acquire new faces and introduce people to this organization to this brand and then excite them about stuff? And so long gone are the Rolodexes where it’s like, Jenny has a good friend and he likes to support the university. Okay, great. But what happens when Jenny’s friends suddenly doesn’t give money?
Jenny’s friends actually has a friend who came to the newsletter. And like you said, they clicked on the link because they saw something about a school program and like, oh, you can start to then use that data.
Absolutely. 100%. I mean, you’re hitting the nail on the head there. It’s very tactical. It’s not sexy and exciting. It’s very tactical, but it’s collecting as much data on these touchpoints coming from various sources. These days, most are different systems, like email opens, email click throughs, what people are clicking on, or volunteer opportunities that people even express interest in and they may not follow through. But it’s all of these data points that you can amalgamate and then leverage by using other data about these people that you’ve collected and then figure out a story or a journey that makes sense for them.
And in the perfect world, there’d be a very personalized journey for each $25 donor. That’s not practical. But with data, organizations can at least group people reasonably into reasonable sized groups, depending on how big their staff is and what their resources are and then build relationships back up based on that. And I am always surprised at really how well that works when people feel that you care about them enough to talk about something that’s important to them or on the flip side. And this happens to me by personal experience. And this is again, I’ll kind of weave in some of what Omatic does, but I made a gift.
I guess it was the beginning of 2020 pandemic. So early 2020 to a large, well known organization. Everyone. I’m not going to say the name because I don’t have their permission to, but everyone would know the organization. Very well known, does great work. I made a gift. And not surprisingly, a few weeks later I got a solicitation for another gift, but I got two emails, two separate emails. And then I got two direct mail pieces. It may have been that one was addressed to Stu Manewith and the other Stewart Manewith, and they may have had my name in their database from a long time ago. And then I made a gift in March or April of 2020 that they didn’t realize was the same guy. And so I started getting two of everything. I’m in the business. So I take it with a grain of salt, maybe. But people who aren’t thinking, what the heck? Don’t these people know that I’m only one person? Or what kind of systems do they use? They’re mailing me two letters. That’s twice the postage they need to pay. So it works both ways. It can bring people closer to you.
And it can also push people away if you’re not careful with how you’re using data. And again, to weave in what Omatic software does, when we move data from, say, online giving to your main CRM, we check that we prevent duplicates. We will pop up and say, oh, and it doesn’t work exactly the way I’m telling you, which is on screen with a user interface, but it’s saying, oh, this guy, there’s an 80% chance that these are the same people. Do you want to merge them? Do you want to investigate further, or are they really, maybe the senior and the junior, and they are, in fact, two different people. But at least it gives you. We give database professionals the opportunity to make those decisions so that they are really ultimately treating their constituents, their donors and their supporters as best as possible.
Yeah. And that really is the thing that we experience, and we get it all the time. So I’ve got my little trick that I use when I go to, like, events, and I have to sign up. So I signed up in my name. I put it E-R-I-C, but I put the E and the R capitalized, so that when I get an email.
You know, it’s yours.
I can tell automatically whether this was me actually signing up for something. Or it was just an auto sign up from me just showing up at an event.
You know what that also does. It also tells you who’s selling their lists to whom. I’m serious.
It does. So this is the funny thing. Suddenly you get an email from a company. I’m like, I didn’t go to their booth. And you’re like, wait a second. How did this happen? And you realize, like, oh, wow. So they’ve probably done. We call them list swaps, right? Or contact swaps, which in fact, is illegal. I’m old school. We touched before we record because I’m Canadian. For people that know me and my odd voice and things I say. But we introduced something called CASL, Canadian anti spam legislation.
I’m familiar with it.
Yeah, it was onerous to deal with this. I worked for a major financial services institution. So we suddenly went to the point where every system has to be able to recognize CASL, and it was opt-in required. It wasn’t automatic. So there was like, if you have an existing business relationship, that was one thing. But there is no way that someone could even. If they go to your booth, they had to actually opt in, and it sort of switched the industry around. So it was funny. But like I said in that experience, if I’d get something from a company and I know how the systems work. So I’m like, sometimes just curious of, like, now it makes sense to me, but I know how the machine works, and I see past it like you said, but most people would be like, what the heck? I didn’t go to this company, and now they go through their personal list of, like, I’m not giving to anybody because this is what happens to my data. And it affects the whole industry when bad practice, unfortunate practices, even. Like you said, just a simple thing of like, we accidentally sent a thank you, and it included somebody’s name when it shouldn’t have or whatever.
Even like my dad, bless his heart, will key in all uppercase. And then he’ll get a letter that comes back to him in all upper case. And he’ll think, what the hell, what the heck? What are they doing with my data? Not realizing that he’s the culprit. But there are tools like Omatics, for example, that will fix that. It’ll clean it up along the way. So that data are pristine. And so people really feel like they are important to the organization. There’s two pieces. There’s that piece. And then to your point, a little bit ago, it is then reflecting back to people that their money was used wisely, what their money was used for, that the organization is being good stewards, that they are making nobody individually, but that together they are helping the organization make its mission impact, make the impact that is consistent with the mission that it’s trying to propagate.
Yeah. I was lucky. I had Emily Jillette, who also for people that know the name, she happens to also be the wife of Penn Jilette of Penn & Teller, but I had Emily on. She’s strong in the world of philanthropy, and I have a huge respect for her. Through a friend, we got connected. And that was this whole thing of like finding an organization that you believe in their mission, and you believe in their ability to do good with what you give them.
And every little interaction you have can influence your belief in the actual output of good and understanding the breakdown of the dollar I give to what the recipient will actually get. We hear for years about this, the difficulty of the cost of management. You hear about charities that have issues with overpaying staff, underpaying the actual people that should be receiving the money by doing what you’re doing, you get rid of the need for that to occur, right? Like, by giving good practices, giving good data management, we don’t have to throw high dollars at administrative stuff because it allows us to be more effective and efficient.
Yeah, it’s both. And you’ve made me think of two things that I wanted to talk about, and I’m happy to be given the opportunity. There’s efficiency, there’s reducing expenses. That’s very tactical. And then there’s using better data to be more effective in driving revenue. And both of those things, directly and indirectly, they generate more funding for an organization to use towards submission, whether it’s money that is saved from being more efficient or more money that is raised, not necessarily through fundraising, but maybe through programmatic fees as well, or whatever the direct program in revenue. But let me dig into that just a little bit more. On the expense side, if you can make your data management activities more efficient to use a very broad example, if it used to take you, I’m making this up 8 hours a week to key in data by hand. Philanthropic data or accounting data or what have you. And now through technology, it takes 1 hour. That’s 7 hours that saved. That where people can be redeployed and you’re spending this end as an executive team looking at it, you’re spending the same amount of money on someone’s salary or on someone’s job, but now you’re getting them not to be doing data entry for 8 hours, but doing data management work for 1 hour, and you can redeploy them to do other things that need to be done for seven more hours.
And so that is you’re driving mission impact because you’re redeploying people to do work that wasn’t. Otherwise you had to pay extra for or that just didn’t get done. That’s a on the flip side, if your data is processed faster and it’s better quality and it’s no longer siloed and it’s all amalgamated and consolidated and it can be used effectively, then you are better able to be strategic about being able to get people to renew their donations, being able to convert people who were involved with the organization but not donors to become donors. You may even be able to get them to increase giving or for organizations. My first job I told you was at the Repertory Theater of St. Louis. When I think of revenue, non fundraising revenue, I automatically go to ticketing. But if you can use data to get somebody who’s a single ticket buyer to buy a subscription or someone who has bought a subscription to buy a second subscription or anything like that, you are increasing earned revenue, and then you can similarly use data to improve fundraising activity by again having it faster, having more of it so that you can segment better.
You can talk to people more personally. You can communicate with them at the right time, and all of that is going to grow revenue. So by using technology to save money and by using technology to drive revenue more strategically, all of that is more funding for your mission. I know that’s a mouthful, and I get kind of passionate about it.
It’s 100% true. And we see that every day with the customers that we work with that were paper everywhere or that were spending hours keying data in and now they can or putting stuff in spreadsheets that someone else had been keyed in. It’s funny, we work with accounting systems as well. We have a big piece of our business is transmitting fundraising and other revenue data to account to general ledgers so that it doesn’t have to be rekeyed. And I said to somebody, I said, you know what? When the term double entry accounting was coined, it didn’t mean enter here and then reenter it here. That’s not what it meant. A big piece of that time savings is we help organizations take that those revenue transactions and transmit them directly to the general ledger perfectly without having to be rekeyed and also easily reconcilable. So there’s not that hunting and pecking for a missing transaction or something that got delayed in transit to the bank or etc.
It’s a very important thing, too, when you think of. These are organizations that may not even realize that this kind of data flow, this kind of analytics can drive things. Like you think about a regional church. I had this joke with somebody that said, Imagine you’re starting a brand new church. You don’t sort of think of like, okay, who is our prospect audience? And I got four potential prospect parishioners. I got three moving into strong upside this week. Like, in the end, the sort of funnel dynamics are always there. We just don’t use the name. We talk about new contacts and their leads, their contacts, their prospects. They’re in stages of funnel.
But all that really is that there are signals within the data that we understand about them in their journey, whether it’s the buyer’s journey, the givers journey, whatever it’s going to be, that if you look at the signals, you can better guide a positive experience towards the ultimate goal, which is to acquire, get funding for donations, get funding to drive good, and then the bonuses, then you can spend the time showing them the value they’re getting from that money going in which then leads to, oh, right. If I send an email with a response, it gets more reintroduction, they will be more likely to give a second time.
Absolutely. In the fundraising field, we refer to that as stewardship. Similarly, stewardship is the way the term is used in faith based organizations, but it’s absolutely a cycle. And there’s been some studies that have shown that for a new donor to an organization, if they receive proper stewardship meaning, thank them for their gift, tell them how their gift is being used or how similar gifts have been used and then re-solicitation within three months. They are four times as more likely to make a second gift than without those things. And that kind of retention and being able to leverage that kind of statistic is imperative but it’s all based on that cycle, and again, using data to properly tell people what they’re interested in knowing about and then re-engaging with them at the right time. But, Eric, you said something else about when you mentioned a church, something about technology that wouldn’t have happened other than when the pandemic started is really interesting, both in the faith-based subsector and also in the arts. The visual arts sub sector, even performing arts to some extent. And that is, organizations were able to broaden their reach to audiences that they never imagined that they would with online technology.
Museums can offer exhibits across the country, around the world. Churches. People can attend church services whatever time they want, whatever church they want. And nobody has to know. If you’re Catholic, you can go to a Protestant church if you want to test it out and from the comfort of your own living room. But what that has done is it has opened. It has expanded the reach of organizations the way they never imagined. I know of a woman who lived in Maine that sent her daughter to drama camp in Florida because she could.
Or we looked at an exhibit in Boston Museum of Art from the comfort of our living room in St. Louis. And that kind of reach is something that technology has afforded because it’s driven by the pandemic. But obviously it will continue well after. And it gives organizations the opportunity to reach audiences, prospective donors, even possibly prospective volunteers and supporters in a way that would never have been thought of, even with the technology the pandemic made it, you know, necessity is the mother of invention. It made people think about different ways to leverage technology in order to be able to stay alive, to stay in business.
Well, the thing that I always look back and said, what are the positive impacts of what’s the most difficult thing that in my lifetime we’ve experienced, right? And it’s tough to even say it because how could you think this put something positive like, well, think about it. We’ve democratized access to systems and services that prior to being forced into having to do this, right? How many organizations struggled with work from home like, well, it would really break up the dynamic of the company. There’s no way we can operate, like in November 2019. There’s a lot of companies that you’re like, hey, you can’t get a job there because you’d have to come into an office and it would be a massive impact on your life. Well, all of a sudden, especially for Canadians, too. Back when I was getting into technology, you had to work for a Canadian tech company. There was no option to cross the border to work remotely. You had to live near the financial center. You had to live near mark of Ontario. You had to live near a tech center or drive to it.
Right or so. Same difference.
Yeah. So now in everything, in every sector. We suddenly, as you said, the invention has had to occur because of a real adverse situation. But goodness, we really have learned great things from it so that if we do go back to a more location centric existence, we will really value why we do it more so than you’re forced to do it. It’s not a good time to be in real estate, investment trusts and such.
Right. Commercial real estate? Yeah, I know.
I saw a commercial the other day, and it was one of the things like investing. You’ve got people that are selling gold and silver and all. God bless Bill Davey. He certainly must own a lot of silver and gold. But there was somebody that was pitching some kind of an REIT. And at the end, of course, it’s like past performance is not indicative of future results. I would not be putting money into REIT right now because those are going to be vacant spots. Sadly, I really feel for the folks that are in that sector because it’s going to be a struggle for quite a while.
But the other thing that really hits me, too is when you can connect what you do with the real outcome. And sort of the joke I always say to people when someone says, how are you doing? I’m doing good. Like, no, Superman does good. You’re doing well. So grammatically. We have to correct that all the time. But then I tell people and I use this story at work, and I showed people I like to use strong imagery when I’m presenting I’m working for a tech company right now. I talk about what we do with software automation, and I show like, a picture of a rocket. I’m a big fan of rocketry. Like what does SpaceX do? And how do they get to do that right? And ultimately tying the business outcome to what the technology does. And like, my thing that I close with often. You’ve probably seen the video of it. A little two year old girl who receives a cochlear implant, and the video is her hearing her mother’s voice for the first time in her life. And like, if that doesn’t stop you in your tracks when you see that stuff. So here I am like an audience full of people who are like a bunch of tech nerds, and they’re just like, you really inbring this thing forward.
And they said, this is what we do. The Salesforce system you built. This is what happens because of what you do. And I tell them we do amazing things with technology, and it’s beautiful to be able to tie it to that.
It’s interesting. It’s actually something I’ve not thought of, but that our technology, which again, I know I’ve probably said this three times already, which provides very tactical solutions for organizations. If they leverage it properly, it allows them to leverage other technology. Like, you’re talking about right now that really can solve big problems, like big medical problems or climate problems or animal welfare problems or medical research. All of the things that vaccine research. I mean, all of the things that we think of when we think of technology for good, we don’t necessarily think of importing data faster or transmitting revenue transactions to an accounting system, but that’s really kind of at the basis of it, because if we can figure out a way to streamline that kind of stuff and to make data more accessible to organizations to use, they can go ahead and make more money, frankly, raise more money, build more revenue to support that really cool tech that will help the little girl with the cochlear implants or put a fast track on fixing our environments or building a new wheelchair. I’m making it up doing and doing those kind of high tech things that people really do think of when they think of tech for good.
Our tech for good is kind of the bottom of the pyramid. But I guess, in my opinion, it’s the most fundamental. It is making sure the systems are working effectively and efficiently so that organizations can drive the big stuff.
It’s the perception, even in the way that we describe some of the things which is tough. Imagine if you got a friend who’s, like, I’ve got a friend of mine. He’s a plumber. He makes a disturbing amount of money doing it. And he’s like, so people talk about, like, oh, it’s just the plumbing. He’s like, I’m right here, dude, I’m in the room. Yeah, I drive a Mercedes. That’s just the plumbing. Like, pardon me, but guess what goes through a toilet. I deal with your stuff so that you don’t have to.
We have difficulty sometimes in seeing the importance of those tactical things. But really, this is the opportunity for us to create a connection of turning data into insight and then turning insight into actionability and whether it’s empowering your sales force or your donor outreach force and whatever it’s going to be empowering them to do more with what they’ve got today and to find more signals inside the potential noise of the amount of data that’s out there. This is massive, right? This is effectively almost a Gutenberg revolution in the fact that we can take what was seemingly an intractable problem of just like, hey, this is just the way the systems work.
People talk to people and they give money. You’re like, no, no. What if we find out why? What if we actually use, like, Kahneman and Tversky taught us more about economics and their behavioral psychologists. They won a Nobel Prize for economics as behavioral psychologists because they taught us about the heuristics that drive prospect theory. And then how did they do it? Well, they took research and data and anecdotal information. They combined it. So when it came to this stuff, where whether it’s giving back, whether it’s local and regional churches, whether it’s global giving organizations. If you can take that data and turn it into true insight, you find something incredible in the same way that Kahneman and Tversky figured out that if you tell somebody they’re going to lose money instead of they’re going to get money, their risk profile alters.
Yeah. Changes. Yeah. What we want to do is we want the organizations that we work with. I think I mentioned it. We work only with nonprofits, exclusively with nonprofits. We want the nonprofits that we work with to understand that we can make it possible for them to amalgamate data from as many sources as they have, as many sources as they need, whatever engagement tools they find best to engage with their constituencies. We want to help them amalgamate that and then use it exactly as you say, to build insights to drive the next strategic thing they do, to continue to engage existing supporters, new supporters, people who have been with them for a long time and are looking for something new to leverage those connections, leverage those relationships, and it becomes unstoppable. It becomes a ever growing concentric ring. That’s the image that comes to my mind of data relationship stewardship. And then using that data again to drive the cycle. Does that make sense?
Yeah. Absolutely. It’s fantastic.
So looking in your own personal stories throughout your career, you stayed close to this ecosystem. And so I would tend to think from there that there’s something meaningful to you in being in an area to help with giving. What drew you to this as a choice, even when given a business, you talked about sort of going to the business and going to the tech. But it was always in an area where you’re working with people in this ecosystem, in this opportunity to be able to give and create giving.
Well, I’m glad you asked it. It’s a good question because I think that nonprofits are underserved. They are under something I’m trying to think of the right word. People don’t give non profits in general in the US anyway, the credit they deserve. And when I was in the trenches when I was a fundraiser and a non profit finance director, I was focused on my thing. And I was focused on my organization and on success for that organization. When I went to work with Black for Blackboard, and I saw how many different organizations we worked with at the time. Back in 2003, Blackboard had about 20,000 customers. Now they’ve got twice that. What that helped me understand was all of the different organizations that need help that do things poorly, not because the staff aren’t intelligent or not professional, but because they’re spread so thin and they don’t have resources. We could help Blackboard and Omatic, for sure. We can help organizations just do better. And that just is to say a turn on. Is that a bad thing to say? That’s just a turn on for me is to know that we can help organizations be better, do better, be more effective in how they, now in formatic, use data.
But when I worked for Blackboard, we use systems to just be better at what they do so they can get more basket balls to poor kids or get more meals to families, or get the next vaccine developed or educate people. Give them scholarships, give them a rewarding, faith based experience, give them a great show to watch and exhibit to see. I’m trying to look at all the different sub sectors that we work with, but just to make them be able to deliver their mission better just is very rewarding for me. And what I learned was, I can do it more and better working for a company that serves the sector broadly than for any individual nonprofit. There’s plenty of great fundraisers and nonprofit executives out there. There are less of us who work in companies that are committed to serving the sector and bring the best technology to them. And I’m proud to be able to do that kind of work.
And it is the beautiful combination of your personal giving to the world through what you do and that you can have a greater impact both directly and indirectly, with this. And this is why I really enjoy. In fact, your progression is like I said, it feels like that true natural progression of number one. I can directly give back, right? I’m on the ground, boots on the ground, day to day, making sure that my organization is able to thrive and our community can thrive so we can give back to them. Then you move to understanding the systems approach of things at a larger scale. And then from there, you say, well, I know how it works directly. I know how these systems are built in order to support this industry and this ecosystem. But I see the problem, right? So now you ultimately have gotten to the problem statement because of the scale at which you could work. And then you make an active choice to say, I’m going to go and solve this, and I can’t do it here because my role mission would not allow me to sort of step out and say, like, hey, folks, I think we got a problem here.
They’re like, “Sorry, Stu, you got a day to day gig here. This is neat that you’re doing this stuff”, but you do have to go out and say, okay, true. Sort of first principle startup methodology. Let’s go solve this problem. And in the end, young Stu benefits, middle career Stu benefits. And now you are able to benefit because you can.
New me Stu benefits, right?
That’s right. Yeah.
And it’s a beautiful thing to be able to find opportunity to do something that can have a greater effect than the hours you put in your day.
Well, thank you. I appreciate that. I’ll say that our team at Omatic generally is aligned with the nonprofit sector. These are people who are talented engineers, developers, and even the people that work in our sales and marketing team. These are people that could easily work for companies that serve the insurance industry or the manufacturing industry or anything else. And they are equally as passionate. They have chosen to work for a company that serves the nonprofit sector because it’s just so important. It’s so important to provide tools and technology that will help them make the processes better.
Now, I like your role and your title. That’s one that as a technology evangelist. Before there was advocacy, it was evangelism. And so I always sort of joke, one day I’ll change my title to map to the rest of the world. I’ll become a developer advocate, which is sort of in the tech world a similar thing. But the idea of advocacy and thought leadership is important in that you’re representing the larger sort of system through words, writing, communication and ways to engage with the broader community and introduce people through thought leadership is always a funny thing because there’s a lot of people that they usually say I’m a thought leader. Like, if you say you’re a thought leader.
No, you’re absolutely right. Someone is a thought leader when others say they’re a thought leader, and I have no idea this whole thought leadership thing is I’ve been doing it only for about two years, two and a half years, when I joined Omatic, I was in implementations. I ran the implementations team. I’ve graduated to this role and we had a little bit of a struggle coming up with my title. We knew what we wanted me to do, which was to advocate for the sector, whether they were customers of ours or not. We wanted to know what their challenges were and build our products and deliver services that address those challenges. So I really very firmly consider myself an advocate for organizations in nonprofit sector, and I would encourage anyone who’s watching or listening if you’re in the sector and you want to talk to me, I love talking to the sector and finding out what makes you tick, what you’re especially in the area of data quality and integration, what your needs are, because that’s what a big part of my job is know, is trying to get a handle on that so that we can build better products.
But thought leadership, Eric, to your point, is kind of the evolved advocacy. It’s taking all of that information that interaction with the sector with your market and then building thought provoking questions and answers around it. I want to say more than dabbling. I’m getting a handle on that. I get a handle better and better as each month progresses.
Well, if I were to put somebody at the front, there are two personalities. There’s the self proclaimed thought leader, somebody who’s very good at public speaking and storytelling. That’s fantastic. Right? There are people that are great stage presence or the real person that I want to carry the title that you carry and the responsibility that you do, is somebody like you who’s doing everything you describe yourself. You never describe you at the front of anything. You talk about advocacy and graduating into your role and being given opportunity as magical, right? It’s actually rare to have somebody who has put yourself into opportunity, but do not take credit for it. You are absolutely in the right world, and I need the world to contain more Stu Manewith’s.
Well, thank you. I appreciate that very much. You know, I don’t like to be the center of attention, and so I tend to focus on the customer or the process and kind of extract me from the situation. But I certainly appreciate your words. Thank you.
I always tell people the greatest thing I will ever achieve will be helping somebody else achieve their greatest thing they’ve ever achieved. And it’s a great thing when you can do good, you can bring something to the world where you can empower people to achieve more. Now on the data side, this is the interesting thing, too. Obviously, you’ve got a strong technical background. You led the services and professional and services and engagement side and implementations. So this is probably a fun, real career positioning where you can take all that experience and now take those progressions and then bring them back in stories and in connecting to the world, it probably does feel exciting. Did you think five years ago that you’d be where you are today in your career?
No, I didn’t. You know what? I’ll give a plug to our CEO, who’s Canadian, he’s from Toronto. Who, Daniel Kim, who about two and a half years ago took me aside and said, I need someone like you to be our company advocate to advocate for the sector, and we’ve never had a position like this. So we’re not exactly sure what it’s going to look like, but let’s partner in building used to being our domain expert and subject matter expert and being kind of out in front going to conferences, writing blogs, writing white papers. The irony was, so that was summer of 2019, and of course, conferences kind of went the way of all things during the pandemic. But again, we’ve had an opportunity to do virtual conferences and to kind of promulgate our message to again, a broader spectrum of people than would have ever come to an in-person conference. So there’s the benefits of that, too. I was just going to say, sorry, but I have loved that progression that you’ve reminded me of, is kind of being in the field and working directly with customers on a one to one basis for so long and then amalgamating all of that experience to be able to tell stories, to figure out how to help organizations that are the organizations that have yet to come.
Well, this is the important thing is never disconnecting from that. And this is often what happens when folks I work in tech and the tech evangelist was that one that funny title that everybody’s like, I want to be a tech evangelist. So they end up working in technical marketing for a while. I left right from working for the customer world to going and becoming a technology evangelist for a vendor. And it was like as if I bypassed working as a sales engineer and working in technical market. I just, rocking it right through that. But I’d been a blogger. I’d been doing a lot of stuff and understanding how to connect value and storytelling and such and every step of the way. I always make sure that never forget how you got here and never forget who you helped get from their morning to their evening. Right? And that’s the customer stories and sitting with customers and listening to them is such an important part. Advocacy is, in fact, a two way, much more inbound than outbound.
And it’s something that people don’t realize. So they see this with like, oh, yeah, Stu, you just see a professional speaker. Stu is grounded out in the trenches for a long time, so he bloody well deserves where he’s at and first of all, and it’s earned. And then I guarantee. How much of your time do you spend still directly connecting to the people that are doing the thing? I guess.
One of my most fun parts of my job is I get to write case studies, so I interview. We call them customer success stories. I interview customers who, first of all, are willing interested in having their story told. It surprised me, actually, how many are circumspect and I get it. Non profits, and I worked at three before I went to the dark side. As I said, there’s a level of privacy, and I understand it. But I also expected organizations to also want to gush about how happy they are, not with our product necessarily, but just in general when something’s working. And so there’s not as many as I would have thought, but it’s so rewarding and exciting to interview customers and then write their story up and then send it back to them and say, this is what we want to use to help others do what you’re doing. And that’s one of the most fun parts of my job, is writing our customer success stories. And also, I do get pulled in to one part of my job. I would say kind of is the universal translator. So if there are people, whether it’s in our products team or our sales team or whomever marketing and they need someone who really deeply understands the sector who can help be an intermediary so that everyone’s communicating on the same wavelength.
I was a fundraiser for so many years that when some fundraising function comes up in discussion and there’s a lack of clarity how I may get pulled into a conversation. So I love those conversations because then I can let the prospect or the customer know that we get it. There are people at Omatic that have walked in their shoes. We know what their challenges are, and we can describe solving it in a way that makes sense to them.
It’s funny. I hate to make it a thing of sales and psychology, but it truly does work. And I do it all the time myself, directly, because I know I can say I’ve lived your experience. I’ve walked in your shoes. I’ve been on the other side of the computer, running a data center at scale, doing whatever it gives the credibility to your thing you’re attached to. So ultimately Omatic benefits because the people that you’re talking to say, look, I literally know what you do because I did it for years.
And it builds a comfort with them because they’re more likely at that point to be sort of disarmed. They’re more open to discussing things because you have a peer relationship with them, and it helps.
And we speak the language. I can use terminology and experiences if I need to. That just build a level of confidence and trust. And again, not that I want to talk to people that don’t get it or that are argumentative or that are circumspect. But I love the opportunity for people to understand. Yes, we really do have your best interests at heart. We really have walked in your shoes, and our technology solutions will help solve your problems because we know what those problems are. And we’ve designed our solutions through a nonprofit lens from the bottom up.
Yeah. The converted are often the most exciting parts of it. Right. When somebody comes to you and says, Stu, I saw what you guys do. Where do I buy it? Okay. That’s neat. But I want someone to go like, I don’t know if I see a fit you’re like, no, trust me.
When I was doing this. I kind of know what it was like. And this is an example of where I wish I had it. And also they’re like, okay, I’m interested. Let’s go further. And you’re like, all right. I feel excited now.
That’s exactly right. And it’s like something as simple as, now do you have to add a bunch of columns to your spreadsheets in order to get them to import? Yeah, that takes me so much time. That’s what I used to have to do. And it just becomes an easy conversation with a lot of confidence and a lot of trust built because of our background in the sector and just knowing what our customers are living through.
Nowadays, especially that we’ve moved to a dominantly digital experience. Every organization struggles, the ability to pair up with in person events and be able to have a presence there, gave you visibility. Well, now we are using mailing lists, and we are using digital outreach. This is the new door-to-door. This is the new in person relationship is we have to begin with digital, survive and thrive in digital. And then when an in person opportunity comes, it’s actually further in the engagement. Right?
Exactly. I was just thinking the same thing. The relationship has already been established and even built upon in a digital way, so that when you do talk to somebody, you’ve already had email conversations with them, you already know about them bluntly, you can look them up on LinkedIn or Facebook and learn about them and vice versa. It’s a two way street. And so the relationship has been established already.
It’s a beautiful familiarity. And when you connect the face to the name, when you get to break bread and press the flesh in real life as. What used to be the first stage was we’d begin there and then move through the digital journey and then hopefully meet again on the other side as a customer. Now it is a great thing for us to leverage the tools that we have available do more good with the data we have and then see that little girl, that little boy, that person that’s given a home where they didn’t have it, somebody who has a shelter tonight because they didn’t have one last night when we can connect and really impact the world in small, positive ways every day and use what we have, the tools we have, Stu, of data and storytelling and connecting it together.
And ensuring that the tools that you, if you’re a nonprofit and you’re listening, the tools that you’re using are going to ensure that your data are right so that the processes that use them do what you want them to do or better, and you can engage more people and raise more money and have that available to do more calculator implant research. Or I always go back to buying more basketballs for the underserved so that they can enjoy their after school time where they wouldn’t otherwise, or any of the non profit missions that all of us are familiar with or the things that are most important to us.
That statement right there should be in the front of your website. It’s beautifully said.
So, Stu, thank you very much. It was a great discussion and it’s been a pleasure and an honor to share time with you. If folks want to connect with you, what’s the best way they can do that?
Thanks, Eric. It’s been a great conversation. Thank you so much for having me. omaticsoftware.com. Info at omaticsoftware.com. You can also email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
Excellent. So this has been great. So definitely folks, however, you can get connected, and if nothing, you can at least be inspired by what any of us can do in some way of connecting the end to the day to day. The tactical stuff. It seems unsexy. Sounds like plumbing, but we can work some pretty good magic with it. And when you can see a real worldly impact, it’s one of my favorite things to be able to do so. Thank you very much for all that you do, Stu.
Thank you so much. Eric. Nice to talk to you.
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