Seth Godin on Unlocking Positive Auctions for Fundraising with

In this episode of the Whole Whale Podcast, host George Weiner sits down with Seth Godin, bestselling author, entrepreneur, and founder of, to discuss how nonprofits can innovate their fundraising strategies and engage donors more effectively.

Seth introduces the concept of positive auctions, a new approach to fundraising where every bid is a non-refundable donation, creating a gap between the winning bid and the total amount raised for the charity., Seth’s latest venture, is a platform that facilitates these positive auctions, incorporating game dynamics to encourage participation and virality.

Throughout the conversation, Seth emphasizes the importance of empathy in marketing and the need for nonprofits to offer donors a sense of belonging and satisfaction. He suggests that nonprofits should focus on creating tension and providing unique, desirable auction items that generate excitement and conversation to attract new audiences.

Seth also shares his insights on collaborating with influencers and involving them in the brainstorming process to create more successful fundraising campaigns. He stresses the significance of nonprofits stepping out of their comfort zones and taking risks to solve interesting problems and make a lasting impact.

The episode concludes with a discussion on the impact of AI on various industries and the importance of embracing it as a teammate rather than a competitor. Seth encourages nonprofits to use AI tools to enhance their work and stay ahead of the curve.

This thought-provoking episode is a must-listen for anyone in the nonprofit sector looking to revolutionize their fundraising strategies and make a genuine difference in their communities.

Key points:

  1. Nonprofits face challenges in engaging donors and raising funds, often resorting to ineffective methods like galas or traditional charity auctions.
  2. GoodBids introduces the concept of positive auctions, where every bid is a non-refundable donation, creating a gap between the winning bid and the total amount raised for the charity.
  3. The platform incorporates game dynamics, such as free bids for early bidders and referrals, to encourage participation and virality.
  4. Seth emphasizes the importance of empathy in marketing and the need for nonprofits to offer donors a sense of belonging and satisfaction.
  5. To attract new audiences, nonprofits should focus on creating tension and providing unique, desirable auction items that generate excitement and conversation.
  6. Collaborating with influencers and involving them in the brainstorming process can lead to more successful fundraising campaigns.
  7. Seth discusses the impact of AI on various industries and the importance of embracing it as a teammate rather than a competitor.


  📍 📍 📍 You’re offering them a chance to do something that gives them a feeling of belonging. That is the only useful way to think about marketing. If you’re doing marketing to your donors, it’s not going to work. You have to do it with them 📍


📍   📍 📍 📍 📍 Seth Godin is an author, an entrepreneur, and a teacher, and he’s been doing it for over three decades. Seth is the, , author, actually,   📍 📍 📍 of 21 best selling books, most recently, This Is Marketing, and The Practice. He also 📍 created the Carbon Almanac, the carbonalmanac. org. Seth has,   📍 📍 founded two different companies Squidoo and Yo Yo Dine, which sold to Yahoo.

And his blog, Seth. blog, has basically been the most popular marketing blog in the world. Over 7500 different posts and has reached millions of readers.   📍 Similarly, his TED talks have reached millions of people.   📍 📍 He’s also the founder of the Alt NBA, an online leadership and management workshop that has trained over  5000 students from over 90 countries.

 We were actually part of an early alt MBA class, , and then was inspired to then go on to found Whole Whale.   📍 So I am very much in debt to Seth Godin. I’ve invited him today to talk about goodbids. org. Goodbids. org is unlocking positive auctions for social impact, and we’ll be getting into that today.

  📍 📍 Seth, you’re back. You were a guest, on our 100th episode, and now we just passed 400. You’re back to make sure we’re still here.

 400. For those of you who weren’t here for episode 100, I will state for the record, without fear of contradicting myself, that George is one of those people you meet and you know that you will engage with them again.

And a ace, a number one. First round draft choice, the kind of person you want to hang out with. How are you, sir?

I’m doing incredibly well. You know, I gave you an intro. It, you know, it takes up quite a lot of tape. So I do want to come back to this fact that the Alt MBA definitely in its early phases, I was a part of it and was an initial domino that has gone on to help make sure that   📍 whole whale has grown to the company and size and impact that it has.

So your work has ripples and I am just one of them.  And I. Deeply appreciate your contribution as a teacher, entrepreneur, and now a founder trying to shake things up in the nonprofit sector fundraising world.

Yeah, I couldn’t help myself. But sometimes an idea comes along and a team of people come along and you know, I did it in memory of my parents.

The people in the nonprofit world work so hard and it’s the only industry in the world where the more successful you are,   📍 the more time you have to spend doing the thing you like the least.  

Uh, there’s too much to unpack there. Looking at what your path of creation has been, it is, it is massive,   📍 but there’s actually like this nonprofit thread and you talk about your parents and the inspiration there,  but Squidoo I know had a nonprofit angle to raise money for nonprofits, right?

There’s also the carbon almanac.   📍 📍 I mean, that kind of speaks for itself. Let’s not ruin the place where we live.  And now and now with good bids, goodbids. org. And you’ve, I loved it because you took this tactic of positive. auctions And I don’t know, maybe you can explain a bit more about this tool.

  📍 So what’s the problem? The problem is that donors have their own challenges. Donors have their own story. Your cause is worthy. The thing you’re working on is urgent. The donors don’t know what you know. So how do we go about engaging with people who haven’t donated as much as they might? To the cause that we’re building.

Well, one way to do it is to spend time with high net worth individuals and foundations. Take the time to have them see what we see and have them make the kind of donation that someone who actually sees the problem might be.   📍 📍 Another way we could do it is have a gala in which we create a , a social tension where people, , feel like 📍 if they’re not there, their friends will think less of them where we get them sufficiently, , drunk that they take actions.

Then who knows where they regret them or not.  But the problem with the gala is it distracts our entire organization for six months. It’s high stakes is very expensive. I don’t know. What about charity auction? Well, sometimes the charity auction works. ,   📍 Warren Buffett auctioned off lunch last year, I think for 19 million, but in general, when people go to a charity auction, they’re looking for a bargain.

 So there’s a mismatch because the bidders want to spend as little as possible, and the charity wants to raise as much as possible. Because once you say auction, people’s minds go to, I gotta figure out how I can get a bargain here. So I looked at all of this and I said, well, what if we could use the power of asynchronicity, it doesn’t have to be in real time, and the internet.

To create a new kind of interaction, one that won’t distract an entire nonprofit. So that’s how we invented the positive auction. So I’ll give you an example. We’re going to auction off. I don’t know,   📍 Seth Godin and Simon Sinek appearing on your podcast and the bidding starts at 10 bucks.  And it goes up in 10 increments, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50  so far so good.

However, every bid is a non refundable donation to the charity. So at the end of the second bid, 20 plus 10, you’ve already raised 30. So the auction I just described, the winner paid about 700. Which means that the charity, the curve. org raised more than 24, 000. So there’s this weird gap between what the winner paid 700, what the charity got 24, 000, and it’s in that gap that value is created.

  📍 So Goodbids.Org is for profit organization. It’s a tool and we charge, , the charities a fee if they raise money, nothing, if they don’t, here’s this software we built, you can go find a cool prize. And run auctions your donors will come at the beginning because they like you but over time other people will come Donating because it’s fascinating because they want to win something.

Oh, and by the way, because they care about cause

 It’s a wonderful game dynamic to apply to social impact here. And it’s something that I don’t see enough as somebody who cares deeply about technology and impact. And if I could pull back like 30, 000 feet here,   📍 the nonprofit industry is seeing a general reduction in total us giving by whatever measure you want to look at number, not going up.

Number is going down. We can point at many things. I’m curious what Seth Godin points out as to why us donations are declining.  

I’m not surprised at this at all. You know, the thing is,   📍 I don’t know if you have a dog, but the price of dog food has gone up by a factor of 15 since I had my first dog. Not because dog food costs more to make, but because the kind of dog food that’s being made is more and more expensive.

So the total sales of the dog food industry have gone through the roof.   📍 And as that has happened, the happiness of dogs has not changed one bit. Because dog food. Expensive dog food is not for dogs. It’s for the people who buy  it for how it makes them feel.

  📍 And the challenge that nonprofits have, two parts, one is When you raise more money, are you giving people more satisfaction because people only donate to a nonprofit if the donation is worth more than it costs them?

If it’s a bargain, someone gives you 100 because you gave them 200 worth of peace of mind or 200 worth of social status. That’s why they do it. So if we want donations to go up, people need to get more satisfaction from it or it’s not going to happen. The second thing. is the people in the nonprofit space who are so urgently focused on making a difference do nonprofit fundraising because they have to,   📍 and many of them are just churning and burning.

They’re turning the wheel.  And frankly, they’re spamming people.   📍 You take your biggest supporters and your best donors, and you just spam them like NPR pledge week, 52 weeks a year. You’re just bothering them burning them out until you’ve extracted what you think is the most money. And then you go on to the next one.

 I’m just doing my job. I’m in a hurry. I got numbers to make. Who do I hassle? Well, the combination of the two less, no new satisfaction. Plus I’m going to spam you. What a surprise. People aren’t responding by giving more money.

 I mean, simply, simply stated. And when you dig into it, I think there’s a lot of nuance when we’re talking about that donor burnout.

And I like, and have always liked the way that. You reframe this idea that non profits don’t sell anything, right? Ah, I don’t sell anything at a non profit. It’s just me doing great things. And that’s simply not true. And I think you, you provide that lens that really shaped how I look at that. Can you unpack, though, why you think non profits actually do sell something?

  📍 Oh, well, let’s talk about empathy because most people in this space have plenty of empathy, empathy for the people that you serve, empathy for the patients you’re helping or the disaffected or, , Unrespected and empathy is essential. Empathy is at the heart of marketing. Practical empathy says, I don’t know you.

I don’t see what you see. I don’t want what you want. I don’t believe what you believe. And that’s okay. If I can’t say, and that’s okay, then I don’t have empathy. So if you’re making 80, 000 a year as a fundraiser, and you’re calling on a multimillionaire to   📍 pitch them on putting their name on a building for 2 million donation in the back of your head, you’re saying, that’s crazy.

  📍 If I had 2 million extra dollars, there’s no way I do this. And so it’s very difficult to make that pitch because if you were in their shoes, it wouldn’t be interesting to you, but you’re not in their shoes. This person who has all the things money can buy, doesn’t have enough status, doesn’t have enough peace of mind, hasn’t honored the institution.

They were part of enough and wants to tell themselves a story about mattering and 2 million is a screaming bargain.   📍 They pay 5 million to have a building named after them. So you’re offering them. A 3 million bonus when you show up to sell them this donation. It’s a gift to them.  You’re not hassling or hustling or shaming people.

You’re offering them a chance to do something that gives them a feeling of belonging. That is the only useful way to think about marketing. If you’re doing marketing to your donors, it’s not going to work. You have to do it with them.

 It’s a sort of, by the way, it goes to a good cause, by the way, we’re turning money into meaning, but make no mistake, I have gotten a dopamine hit.

I have gotten a sense of belonging. I have gotten an addition to my identity that I am someone who does things like this with other people who do things like this,

but to be clear, Some people get that feeling from an anonymous donation based on a spreadsheet that shows that this is the most altruistic thing they can do.

So it’s not always this tit for tat, you’re shallow kind of transaction. Often it’s the opposite. So our friend Scott at the well, Charity Water says, look, you’re the kind of person that doesn’t need a standing ovation. Put 4, 000 a month on your credit card and you’ll stop thinking about it. That doesn’t make sense to a lot of people because you don’t get any more dopamine hits.

You just get an asshole and you see a credit card statement. But for the kind of person who says I’m the kind of person. That’s well meaning enough that that’s all I need, it’s exactly what they need.

With people that buy Teslas right now, it’s kind of interesting.   📍 The motivation really isn’t, I care about the carbon output of my constant trips to the grocery store. It isn’t motivated by, I’m deeply concerned about climate change. It’s, Boy, what a cool looking car that matches my identity and it happens to be electric, but it goes much faster.

  📍 I feel like there’s a little bit of that going on with good bids because I could maybe be attracted to wanting to win an auction, like, Oh my gosh, look, I can get an Apple watch for 235. I’m in, can you unpack that dynamic a little bit with good bids? Oh, I would be happy to someone who used to work at Tesla told me in the first year, the model S was for sale.

The number one conversation that Tesla owners had with strangers in parking lots was not, Oh, there’s no tailpipe.   📍 Oh, how fast does it go? It was, wow, those door handles are really cool. What kind of car is that? That the thing grew because of the door handle.   Now, if you’re someone who’s looking to electrify transportation, you have to cheer for this because if they had put out a rickety car with lousy door handles and fewer people had purchased it, everyone would still be driving a gas car.

So   📍 what GoodBid says is you’ve already picked up all the donations that are going to come from people who know you, trust you, care about your cause. All the donations that don’t require any incremental song and dance, you already got all those. We’re not touching those. Now, how are you going to get someone who’s not really committed to philanthropy?

How are you going to earn donations from someone who wants to have a shorter term dopamine hit and they feel like they had a great day today?   📍 Because, at least for a few minutes, They felt like they were going to go to Amsterdam and see Taylor Swift. Now, maybe they didn’t win. We know lottery tickets are a terrible investment and people still buy them.

 Now, what bothers me about lottery tickets is they tend to prey on the poorest people in our community, but not, that’s not a good business, but in both cases, the mindset is the same. What’s for sale is how does it make you feel? To click the button that says bid now. And if 90 percent of that money goes to a great cause, sign me up.

I think that that’s a worthwhile way to spend our time.

Yeah. And that makes sense. And one of the early case studies you had is I believe it was that,   📍 $235, you know, Apple watch goes for that amount, but I mean, it raised 2, 400. My question though, comes to, there’s a nonprofit listening right now being like, well, I’m just going to buy a hundred.

Apple watches and just keep running the play. Is there an error in that strategy?  

📍 📍 Well, it’s tempting to want to   📍 scale everything to infinity. At some point you will run out of. Bidders and so will good bids, but I don’t know when that point is  eBay still doing fine and you know what we knew   📍 we raised 74, 000 in our two week test launch right now,  there’s no active auctions going on as we regroup and get ready for a bigger launch 74, 000.

And the only real promotion was my blog. So we can’t use my blog again to raise the next 74, 000, but we can use George’s blog, or we can use that podcast, or we can use your donor list, et cetera. And   📍 part of the magic of having the tool be connected is you may send people to some other auctions,  but all the other options are going to send people to you.

And because we’ve created a benefit to people who bid and who talk about it, The virality of it could pay off.   📍 So I don’t 📍 think you should go buy a 📍 hundred Apple watches, but I 📍 think you should buy five. 📍 And if they do well, then go buy five more.  Sooner or later. All marketing mechanics like this fade, but I have no idea when that will.

Yeah. On a long enough timescale,   📍 you know, heat death of the universe eats us all. Exactly. And entropy wins, right? That old bugger. This is

the first time someone on a podcast brought up the heat death of the universe.

 I appreciate you so much, George.

 Anyway, the thread, I, um, I’ve, I’ve been a part of positive auctions for charities. And of course the gambler I am,   📍 📍 📍 I’m up there trying to time it toward the end. I’m like, I’m always trying to find the angle for good. And, you know, at the end of that though, somebody won. But it was one and done. Your point about the audience and audience fatigue is real.

After we all listened to this game in this room for an art auction it was very clear if they did it again, I was not going to raise my hand first in the positive auction. I wasn’t going to bid 15 when I knew there were going to be at least 20, 30 bids to come.  How are you addressing this cold start problem in bidding? 

There’s nothing more fun than talking to another game designer.  

📍 We spent a year to put this together. I believe it is pioneering breakthrough economics work. I’m not up for the Nobel prize, but if I win it, I will not turn it down. Here’s what we did two things. First of all, the early bidders are almost certainly going to be people who just want to support the charity that if we can be clear to our core donors, look, you’re going to give a hundred bucks to us anyway, do it this way.

And it will jumpstart the auction. There are some people who will do that. The second thing we did. Is if you’re one of the first three bidders, you get a free bid of any amount that you can use in any auction, even for a thousand dollars. So actually the first three bids go really fast because it’s worth so much to get a free bid.

And then we say to everybody, if you tell someone about any of our auctions and they bid any amount, even 10 bucks on one, you get another free bid. So now every time someone turns one of these auctions viral, they get to carry around a gift certificate that they can use later in the game. Now you can say, well, this costs the charity money.

It doesn’t. It simply inflates the bidding. So the person who outbids you paid 10 more than they would have. If you hadn’t had a free bid now in our test, two of the auctions were won by people who had free bids. I was thrilled by this because what happened, they got rewarded for doing something that seemed irrational.

And that is what we need more of. So again, We’re by making it a game. It’s no longer. Would you like to give money to our charity so that you’ll have less money for treats for you and we’ll spam you forever to, would you like to give money to our charity?  Cause it’s fun. It’s fun. And you like might win a prize.

That feels to me like a compelling pitch to get a non involved donor more involved.

 I love the game dynamic there, and of course, you know, you’re, you’re watching it. And you’re being considerate about not just, you mentioned that at present, you don’t have any active bids, you’re analyzing, you’re paying attention, you’re somebody like me is trying to game it right now. And I’m going to send you an email.

I think I figured out a way to game it. .

I can’t wait. Many thousands of people have tried to game it. People are smarter than me and no one has succeeded. But I, you can tell us right here, tell us on the radio. Well, how are you going to game this thing, George?

I think there’s an arbitrage opportunity for bids, say under 50 if I’m my own referral.

So I’m going to get a free bid. So I’m essentially saying, you know, at 30, 40, 50,

uh, up

front, as long as that bid is there. If you keep,

if you keep making. New accounts so that you can, cause you can’t get one for your own bid, right? You’d have to have multiple accounts and keep doing it. If you decided to game us that way, who would lose exactly?

I mean, essentially doing that, you know, the question is how many free bids there. But the next part of the game is waiting toward An inflection point. So if I know Apple watches go plus or minus 200, then I start throwing my free bids at it, but then other people throw three free bids. And the arbitrage on that was I paid 35 for a 200 value, but I did pay something for a chip in a chair.

You did, but also because we have anti sniping at the end of the auction. People who thought, for example. The inflection point on the Simon and Seth podcast thing was about 300 at 300. The bidding slowed down to once a cycle, but there were seven people in that cycle. And so the bidding went on for another week, maybe more.

And it ended up going, it used up everybody’s free bids because no one knows what the actual value of these things is, let’s imagine that a lot of people decide to game it the way you’re saying, and that we always sell as Apple watches. It’s still going to work because in order to get these free bids, you’re still bidding and there’s going to be a scarcity of things for you to bid on.

So the price for you to get a free bid is going to go up and it keeps working.

So let’s just go back to, , the Tesla metaphor where someone really doesn’t care about the price. The environment. They’re like great handles. Look at the handles on this thing. Brilliant. How do you imagine helping nonprofits build that relationship with the donors in quotes, or does that not matter?

Cause you’re cashing the check.

Well, it matters a lot. And I got a note half an hour ago from someone who was begging me to go. Do some work with Tesla. Well, I don’t do any consulting, but even if I did do consulting, I don’t work with people who throw tantrums and they are making about 400 mistakes and they’re making them over and over and over again,

  📍 📍 so once someone decide that their identity is wrapped up in a vehicle like this, Where’s the follow up teaching them what they need to know teaching them how to talk to their friends about what happened?

Where’s the community building? Where’s the chance to invest other parts of your life in? Modeling this change that you seek to have happen in the world. How do you turn the customer base? Into the customer base, more like they have it, uh,   📍 Yankee candle or 📍 Patagonia, because that takes work and the churn and burn mindset that many nonprofits have found themselves stuck in. 

Is what I’ve been working to change most of my career, right? Go read.   📍 This is marketing. 📍 Go read permission marketing. That’s what these books are about.   📍 So here’s somebody who just bid hundreds of dollars on the Taylor Swift auction, and they didn’t win. What should the email they get from charity water say, right?

 What should the email they get after that say, because if you’re just going to put them in the hopper of someone’s going to die, if you don’t send us 20 bucks, you’re not going to get 20 bucks. But if you can put them in the hopper of, uh, you know,   📍 you can sell your birthday to charity water and people can give birthday gifts and your status, blah, blah, blah.

 And all these other things that match the mindset of someone who just bought a Taylor Swift chance. You now have a chance to engage people, to   📍 have a journey they want to go on, as opposed to trying to change them into people to go on the journey you want to go on.   And I wish, and I’ve said this in writing, I wish nonprofits didn’t have to do this.

I wish worthy nonprofits were simply   📍 paid from oil money or whatever it is, and you could get back to work. But we don’t live in a world that’s built that way.  So if your cause is important enough for you to work on, it’s important enough for you to figure out how to find empathy for people who aren’t donating the way you want them to donate

 the quality of the auction item. And I know you’re a massive Bob Dylan fan. So for you, it’d be like anything, Bob Dylan adjacent here. Like you’re just there clicking, you’re clicking all day.

How can nonprofits and what tips do you have for nonprofits to package? You know, let’s go beyond the Apple watch package, valuable Auction items that will attract a new audience or one. So this is,

this is a really good opportunity to talk about tension.

  📍 📍 If you want to make change happen,   📍 you must cause tension to occur. You can’t shoot a rubber band across the room without pulling it backwards first. And many of the people who sign up to work in nonprofit work don’t like tension.

 And that’s why change isn’t necessarily easy to sit with. So when they go out, just to pick this very trivial example, when they go out to find a prize, they want to find a prize that’s not that hard to get, and that everyone might like a little bit.   📍 Basket of kids books from the local independent bookstore.

There is no tension there. Anybody with 200 can go buy that at the local bookstore.  It’s not something that some people would drool about and other people would say who cares. So for me, The most extraordinary prize in the auction was, uh, the   📍 Neil Armstrong owned Apollo 11 shoulder patch, identical to the one he wore on the moon.

 It makes me tear up. It was in my office until just recently. It was beautiful. And a whole bunch of people could not care about that one bit, but the people who did care, cared a lot. The second part of the tension is how are we going to acquire the, An extraordinary prize like this because someone might say no.

And when we go to someone who is a supporter of ours and we say to that person, when I was at your house, I saw this priceless work of art. We’d like you to donate it to an auction. That’s a audacious thing to ask. On the other hand, if that person, if you’ve created the correct conditions says to you, what else can I do to help this cause?

Cause I can’t get on a plane and go to Rwanda because I’m too busy being a hedge fund guy. What else can I do? And you start brainstorming with them. And they say, I’ve got this painting. I’ve never liked it that much. I would love to donate it. Everything has shifted and it wasn’t easy to create those conditions, but they can be created.

So I know I acquired almost all the prizes. With help from David Meerman Scott and a couple other people for the auctions. And I know that when I reached out to people who I knew, who I cared about and said, Hey, Damon, will you do this? Or, uh, Hey, Simon, will you do this? The answer was not only yes, but thank you for giving me a chance to do this.

Because. It’s more fun for me to do this than not do this. It helps my status more to do this than not do this. So what I’m mostly pushing for here is not people to sign up for good bids, because we have a waiting list and I hope we get the right kind of charities, but we’re not hustling for people to join.

It’s to challenge nonprofits to do things that might not work. So the story I told a couple weeks ago, you might’ve heard, but my mom.   📍 was on the board of the Albright Knox, one of the most important art museums in America. She was the first woman on the board. She ran their museum store. She was the treasurer of the museum store association.

 She was a wonder. And she came up with this idea in the seventies before Antiques Roadshow was on television. She called up Sotheby’s and she said, would you send a couple of praisers to Buffalo? And I don’t know why, but they said they would. So the deal was a small article in the Buffalo Evening News, Come to the Albright Knox on Saturday morning, bring your priceless family heirlooms, and you’ll get them appraised.

It doesn’t cost you anything. It’s just a way to get people to come to the museum, for the museum to engage in the community. And the night before, my mom said, I’m a little nervous. What if no one comes? And then she turned to me and she said, Well, if no one comes, no one will know that no one came. And  the next day when we got there, there were a thousand people waiting in line in a city of 400, 000 people.

And it just chokes me up to tell that story.  But the question I’m asking the people who are listening to this is, could someone at your non profit do something like that? If the culture is such that the answer is no, because we’d have to go to the board, and we’d have to go to the legal team, and we’d have to go to this, and we’d have to go to that, and there’d be 42 meetings.

Then I think we’ve put our finger on why creative marketing is hard for you.

It’s easy to think, Oh, all I need is the right item. If I build it, they will come just put it on this site, put out the date and it’ll happen. And so much is done by your mom and the architecture of that event and how it was pitched and that curiosity gap.

But it’s not just the item. It is the audience that comes with that. And that is why I think so far you’ve, you’ve done well, you’re being concerted in how you’re, you’re going about. About this, um, can you say more though about how nonprofits can find additional audience and this attention? I’m really concerned right now that more and more our audiences are being commoditized, eaten up by frankly, a lot of AI in the worlds that I deal with.

And there’s a constant battle. What are some of the tactics or approaches you’d see for nonprofits in this game?

So, you know,   📍 📍 when in doubt, look for do something analogy or example. So here we go.   You can’t ask the teenagers for money. You know you can’t ask the teenagers for money. That what you’re asking the teenagers to do is to take action.

So here’s the campaign.  

📍 📍 animal shelters have a problem and the problem is that not enough people are adopting dogs and cats as before.

So let’s do a campaign where we challenge kids to take their digital cameras, go to an animal shelter, take pictures of the puppies so that the shelters can post the pictures at Pet Finder and other places. And obviously the real problem is   📍 if you’re at a pet shelter, you’re going to take home a puppy.

So that’s the win. But what really happens is this. You gave teenagers something to talk about. You made it easy for them to say to their friends, I’m going to the pet shelter, or I went to the pet shelter. Look at this, giving somebody something to talk about.  So the challenge that most nonprofits have is that their donors are uncomfortable talking about it.

They’re uncomfortable talking about it for a whole bunch of reasons. One of the reasons is if you talk about it, your friends are going to get spammed too. If you talk about it, your friends are going to get shamed too. If you talk about it, you might say something that offends somebody or it’s complicated or brings the room down and makes people sad.

But when we make it easy to talk about it in a way that raises your status, builds affiliation and helps spread the word. For example,   📍 it’s no fun to talk about Lou Gehrig’s disease. And I’m not even supposed to say that because that’s not what it’s called, right? It’s no fun to talk about It’s a horrible tragedy.

 You know, what’s fun to talk about   📍 the ice bucket challenge That’s fun to talk about because watching 📍 bill gates get a bucket of cold water dumped on his head That’s easy to talk about so what they did that raised them 150 million dollars in a few weeks Was gave people an easy way to talk about something  and that is missing from almost all the non profits You That I care about

  📍 They’re both sides of this. Where I see one at the ice bucket challenges is probably the most overused case study for nonprofits.

Why don’t you make it go viral? You know? Oh yeah. If I had a nickel, I’m

not, not disagreeing with you. I could


fund, I could fund a nonprofit, no problem. Right? Um, and I,  and I love you, brought up the picks for pets   📍 because I was the CTO at the time. And actually the other fun thing is if you design a Facebook.

App and voting system, and I don’t know, somebody’s   📍 taking a picture of a kitten named Mittens, and it’s the cutest thing you’ve ever seen, and you challenge the audience to say, is this cuter than this one?  Uh, you get a lot of engagement. So, I’ll just add a little more fun background. One little kitten named Mittens did a lot of work for animal shelters, I’d say.

Yeah. I think there’s, I think there’s a great opportunity here to package this maybe at the influencer level when you have an influencer, you have an audience, your tool, your tool, and this method actually is a brilliant ask instead of, Hey, can you go beg on your Tiktok for our nonprofit? Can you go like, just shill our stuff real quick.

This is a brilliant way. So let’s, let’s put Seth in the marketing department of Nonprofit X and they’re reaching out to their influencers. What is what is the good bid pitch for this?

  📍 📍 Okay. So just to clarify. I totally agree. That’s why Apple computer examples are terrible because if you were Apple computer, you wouldn’t need any examples. The virality of the ice bucket challenge. Unrepeatable, but the path to understand how they got there is totally repeatable because that at a smaller scale is what is missing.

So I’ll give you one other example from Cleveland. Uh,   📍 I was walking through the Cleveland airport 15 years ago, and there are these people in,   📍 uh, baby crates in the center of the airport. They’re in jail. And the March of Dimes has found local business people and celebrities. They put them in the cage at the airport and they have to call all their friends to make bail where they have to spend the whole day in the airport.

 So the entire conversation was, I’m a cool enough person that, uh, the March of Dimes picked me and I need you to pony up a hundred bucks. Cause I know you do that. If it was in real jail, I’m in March of Dimes jail. We give them money. I actually think that that’s a little bit of a dead end because it’s not generative.

It’s, it’s reductive and it doesn’t help you go forward, but it’s a different way of thinking about how are you even engaging with it?   📍 With that said, the influencers who are supporting you, some of them are supporting you because they grew up in really dire circumstances and your cause works directly on those circumstances and it’s personal, but that’s not most of them. 

Most of them are supporting you because they’re going to support someone and they’re going to support someone because they’re a good person and they’re going to support someone because people like them are supposed to support something   📍 that it raises their status in a way that our culture demands, which I’m in favor of.

So if that person gets solace and status from engaging with you,   I would reach out to them and say something like, can we make you the prize?   📍 I would reach out to them and say, will you brainstorm us with us on what the prize should be? Now that person owns a bigger part of the success of this project.

 Now it’s in their space. They don’t have to worry about sounding foolish because they don’t know anything about asthma. They know a lot about themselves. They know a lot about the people who follow them. They know a lot about how to get people who follow them to take action.  If they just talked about you, which they’ve done in the past, you might raise a hundred bucks.

But if they talk about themselves and the community and the connection and a reward, They might raise a hundred times that

It’s such a powerful point that if they are participants, rather than you going to them saying, Hey, I, I saw that, you know, Simon Sinek did this appearance on a podcast. Like you show up on a podcast, like that’s not their game.   📍 They do 37 second dances on TikTok. Okay, what is your idea?  And it brings them into that conversation, and I, there’s so much to unlock here, and it’s really exciting, I, I’m sure nonprofits are knocking down your door to become a part of this, what does that process look like?

What do the next six months look like as you roll out good bids?

So, I every day wake up with the Rogers product adoption life cycle imprinted on my brain. And funny that you should ask, cause I can show it to you. And what it says is that some people like to go first and some people don’t.

  📍 What it says is that early adopters, geeks, nerds want to try something when it’s new. Those people are showing up and they’re, uh. Going to I believe the   📍 📍 the website is joinus. goodbids. org. And if you go to joinus. goodbids. org, there’s a little, One page form, you fill it out and we’ll get back to you.

We are being very deliberate and careful about who we’re inviting along.  And other nonprofits, the ones that are out on the far end are saying, we’ll let other people show us how it’s done and we will copy them and there’s nothing wrong with that. And if you were the kind of person that bought an iPhone, the first six months it was for sale.

You know that you liked it going first. And there are plenty of other people. who still have a 12 flashing on their VCR. It’s all good. You need to go when it’s right for you and your organization.

Yeah. I don’t think you’re going to have a problem on, on that side of demand. I think the issue will probably be finding and refreshing the audience of people that want to bid and getting nonprofits to be creative about the item and the audience they bring, as opposed to saying,   📍 here’s my 75th Apple watch money now, please.

Cause people at a certain 📍 point. Don’t need another Apple iWatch or to bid on

 that. To be fair, we keep getting into this trap. My books have been bestsellers, but less than 1 percent of the U. S. population has ever bought any of them. So 99 percent of the people aren’t, they don’t know. That’s fine. I’m not going to run out of people.

I could keep saying the same thing over and over again. I’m not going to run out of people. I might bore the people who are already part of the circle.   📍 But the smallest viable audience is the key to this, that nobody reaches everyone. And we get to repeat this  dynamic over and over again in new communities.

  📍 The same way when a Shake Shack opens in a new town, nobody there is tired of Shake Shack because it just got there.

 This is not narratively consistent at all,  but it’s my podcast.  And I’m curious about something.   📍 You had an episode, the most jarring episode of Akimbo that I think I’ve ever listened to, which was your AI episode where you voice dubbed. And it, uh, it shook me a little bit as to where you saw yourself in this new ecosystem of AI generated intellect.

  📍 And the fact that frankly, all of your work, your 21 bestselling books and your 7, 000 plus posts, like it’s been ingested. And incorporated into an AI that doesn’t have yellow glasses. I don’t know how I feel about that.


  When I first discovered that it had done that, I said to myself, think about how angry I would have been if it hadn’t

that you do this work, not the corner of the market, you do this work to change the market.

  📍 📍 And so if my contribution makes AI a little bit better being the way I think the world would be better, I’m thrilled at that. Does it change my commercial prospects?  Probably, but I’m okay with that too.  And if you’re a radiologist, you’ve got a bigger problem   📍 because you were taught from an early age to be a mediocre radiologist to fit exactly in the radiologist box, and now an AI can read the typical x ray faster, better, cheaper than you.

That’s a big problem.   What I have found as I continued, I use Claude way more than chat GPT now is The minute it can sound like me, I have work to do   📍 because I have to then sound more like me than it does. I have to be way less linear and figure out how to do things that it couldn’t do. And the day I can’t, I should stop doing this, which is fine.

 I’ll go do something else. Um, we have invented 7 billion jobs in my lifetime and Those jobs have been invented with tools that everyone said we’re going to destroy all jobs. And I think AI is going to do the same thing. That doesn’t mean it’s always going to be good. It doesn’t mean that those dislocations are going to be easy.

It does mean if you’re not using it every single day, you’re falling behind and   📍 you need to figure out how to make it a teammate, not a competitor. That doesn’t mean you ask it to do mediocre work cheaper than your lowest paid person.   It does mean what it’s really good at is. Give it a list of five things you’re thinking about and ask it to list five more.

It’s great at that. It’s better at that than any human I’ve ever met.   📍 Give it a 30 page document and say, tell me the contradictions and tell me the hard parts and it will blow you away.   📍 Do you have this trillion dollar tool for 20 a month? That is going to be the smartest, Doctor slash MBA slash lawyer.

 You could afford to hire standing there at all times waiting to give you advice. And it doesn’t make sense to me to pretend it doesn’t exist. 

Yeah. I mean, you can   📍 put your head in the sand, but, uh, the ocean’s still coming.

And then you have your head in the sand.  

Yeah. There are better places for it. Thank you so much for your time and your, you know, unwavering work, I think, to push the nonprofit sector forward.

Any last pieces of advice for folks in the nonprofit world that you want to share?

  📍 📍 We get very frustrated when someone in a bureaucracy who’s supposed to be doing good stuff says I’m just doing my job.   It’s very, very tempting.  With so much in your inbox to just do your job. But what your job is, is to do new things, fail at them and tell everybody else what did not work because we give nonprofits a special dispensation to solve problems.

  📍 We don’t know the solution to, and our work is to solve the problem. Interesting problems.  So when you find yourself slipping into, they won’t let me speak up about who they are and let’s get real about why we’re here and the change we seek to make because   📍 the guts you had to walk away from lucrative and easier gigs to do this, you’ve earned the right to do something important now.

 And that’s probably not just doing your job. It’s something scarier.

  📍 Thank you, Seth. Your work has ripples.

Thank you. Go make a ruckus. It’s always a pleasure to see you, sir.