Agency for Change- Marjorie Maas, Executive Director of Share Omaha » KidGlov

Announcer:

Welcome to Agency for Change, the podcast that brings you the stories of people creating positive change in the world. We explore what inspires these changemakers, the work they’re doing, and how they share their message. Each of us can play a part in change, and these are the people who show us how.

Lyn Wineman:

Hi, everyone. This is Lyn Wineman, president of KidGlov, and today’s episode of the Agency for Change podcast is launching on April 19th, 2021. This is the first day of a brand new event in Omaha, Nebraska, called Do Good Week. And Marjorie Maas, the Executive Director of SHARE Omaha, is here to tell us all about it. Marjorie, happy Do Good Week.

Marjorie Maas:

Well, thank you so much. Yes. Happy Do Good Week is absolutely correct.

Lyn Wineman:

I think that’s a fantastic name for a weekly celebration. Let’s get started by having you tell us all about what Do Good Week is.

Marjorie Maas:

Do Good Week is based on the question, What if our dollars added up to impact and more? What if it was not just cash, but our efforts, our time, our shopping, that all led to nonprofits and our causes succeeding in the community. We have taken the mantle of what was a beautiful event with Omaha gifts based on cash and cash infusions to the nonprofits in our community in the spring. Now that SHARE Omaha really has that responsibility, we said, “Let’s show the community all that they can do, so it’s not just focused on a cash infusion—though we hope that happens on Friday. We hope people feel welcome to sign up for a new volunteer opportunity; we hope people feel welcome to shop either in person or on an Amazon wish list of nonprofits.

Marjorie Maas:

Every day of the week has different callouts, a different prompt, and you can follow them. Mission Monday is today, and that is an opportunity for nonprofits to really tell their story. You may even have seen it this morning, but social media is going to be lit up with nonprofits telling testimonials with videos, with executive directors stating their case. That leads into New Donor Tuesday. We really want people to be able to make (and feel welcome to make) a new gift to a new organization on New Donor Tuesday.

Marjorie Maas:

Wednesday is Wish List Wednesdays. Most of our nonprofits at AmazonSmile Wish List listed on their profiles. People are able to click through and make those purchases or use those as suggestions to buy for local retailers. And then Thursday is maybe the biggest stretch for a name of a day. It’s a Volun Thursday.

Lyn Wineman:

I like it.

Marjorie Maas:

I like it too. Volun Thursday is your opportunity to make a new volunteer commitment, to apply for a new volunteer opportunity to get involved and get trained for a new opportunity. Plenty of nonprofits have trainings that day that are virtual. Also a lot of nonprofits are thanking volunteers on that day.

Marjorie Maas:

The big day—big drumroll, please—is Fund It Friday. We’re really hoping to see a cash infusion to our nonprofits on that day. We hope people will give whatever amount to whatever nonprofits matter to them. Every donation counts. Every gift matters on Fund It Friday. We’re excited to see how the community reacts. One thing, Lyn, is that we’re celebrating all of this on Saturday. Nonprofits are entered into a prize pool based upon their activity throughout the week in a randomized fashion. And $1,000 in gifts will get awarded. There’s $37,000 in the prize pool. 15,000 of that came from First National Bank of Omaha, our presenting sponsor. They’ve really come to the plate for this. I’m so grateful for FNBO.

Marjorie Maas:

Omaha Steaks donated $10,000 to that prize pool, and Pottawattamie County Community Foundation has dedicated an Iowa-based, Iowa-specific prize pool of $12,000. We’re so excited to award those gifts on Saturday. One thing about Do Good Week in general, we scoured the web to find if there’s a precedent for this type of prompt each day of the week and we can’t find another community doing this.

Lyn Wineman:

This could be the first one in the country. We know there are a lot of communities that have giving days, and Omaha has had giving days, but you’ve now taken that and run with it and made it into a whole week. That would be really cool if this is the first in the nation of this kind of thing.

Marjorie Maas:

We think it’s because of our software. We think it’s because the software allows us to give gifts and cash. It allows us to shop wish lists. It allows us to see events and volunteer opportunities and get to know the nonprofits in the way they want to be known. We serve up nonprofits in a randomized fashion, so you get a chance to have the best window-shopping experience that hopefully leads to long-lasting relationships. Since we have this amazing technology, we said, “Why not use it to its full capability for a whole week?” The community can learn during this week what resources they have to make a difference. That can be used any day of the year to make an impact in the community.

Lyn Wineman:

What I love about it is we often talk about how you can give time, talent or treasure, but giving days focus mostly just on treasure.

Marjorie Maas:

Treasure.

Lyn Wineman:

Time and talent are very important aspects of that as well. Just to hit that again, you said Mission Monday, and then what is Tuesday again?

Marjorie Maas:

New Donor Tuesday.

Lyn Wineman:

New Donor Tuesday. Find something new you’ve never given to before. I bet if people come to your website, which is shareomaha.org, they can find those new nonprofits. On your website, can they?

Marjorie Maas:

Absolutely! There’s a button right there that says, “Find Nonprofits.” You can’t miss it.

Lyn Wineman:

Remind me what Wednesday is again.

Marjorie Maas:

Wish List Wednesday.

Lyn Wineman:

Wish List Wednesday, because there are certain things that people need. What you said is they can go through the AmazonSmile accounts to purchase the wish list items. Cool! And then Volun Thursday. And then the last day is …

Marjorie Maas:

Fund It Friday.

Lyn Wineman:

Fund It Friday. All right. I bet if people go to your website, they’ll see all of the days. And I imagine social media. And everybody’s going to be talking about it all week. We’re hoping to highlight Mission Monday, because it is Mission Monday, and we’re going to be sharing this podcast on our social media as well. Marjorie, how did this idea come about? This is a big idea.

Marjorie Maas:

Well, I really want to thank my partners at the Omaha Community Foundation in Pottawattamie County Community Foundation. When the Omaha Community Foundation decided they wanted to focus on their initiatives and their grant work, and that they have other priorities with their strategic plan that they really want to focus on, they knew online philanthropy had a home at SHARE Omaha. We said, “Of course,” but we all agreed there needed to be a spring giving thing. Our community is trained for it. Our community is ready for it. They’re used to it. And we had to give them a new way to do that on shareomaha.org.

Marjorie Maas:

That was really the impetus, as well as asking, “What if we don’t just focus on cash, but focus on all of the capability that shareomaha.org has?” We put together a listing of days of the week. They were so grateful that sponsors FNBO, Omaha Steaks, KTB, Omaha World-Herald, the Pottawattamie County Community Foundation, and so many are with us and have decided that this is something they want to be excited about too. We’re grateful it’s something that made sense in our minds, but obviously it makes sense to the greater community.

Lyn Wineman:

And one thing we know about Omaha, Omaha is a very generous community. Our nonprofits need this support now more than ever as we’re coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, or at least starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. They’ve been through a lot. Many of them have been asked to step up in new and different ways. They’ve had new and different expenses. It’s really great to have a whole week to shower them with this love. Now, Marjorie, we’ve been talking about this awesome event, but I also know SHARE Omaha as a relatively young organization in the Omaha area. I’d really like to hear more about the organization. Can you tell us a bit more about SHARE Omaha?

Marjorie Maas:

My favorite thing to talk about? SHARE Omaha was founded—we launched to the public—in January 2019. Our staff came together the third and fourth quarter of the year before and got ready for our big launch. We launched to the public with 156 nonprofits on the website. Today, just two and a half years later, I think this morning we’re at 589 organizations. So nearly 600 nonprofits on the website. That’s a rocket ship of time.

Lyn Wineman:

I thought 156 sounded good, Marjorie, but nearly 600 sounds even better.

Marjorie Maas:

It’s amazing! We are formulated as a conduit, so we are our own 501(c)3 organization in Omaha, but we serve an eight-county footprint: five counties in Nebraska, three counties in Iowa. We work really hard to make those first and lasting connections happen between the neighbors who want to impact the community and the nonprofits that are making the impact. We try to be that meeting ground and to take away as many barriers as possible to make that experience starting a new relationship and keeping one going as easy as we possibly can. To talk about it in bigger words is it’s about democratizing philanthropy.

Lyn Wineman:

Boom! Explain that for me: democratizing philanthropy.

Marjorie Maas:

People know where they want to make an impact, they just might not know who is doing that good work. We all have that itch we want to scratch in the community—the thing that when you’re scrolling through Facebook or watching the news at night or hearing the news on NPR, it’s an issue that bothers you or an issue you want to make sure succeeds. We know that shareomaha.org and the SHARE sites make that process of finding that itch really, really easy. We try really hard to make our filtering criteria as broad or as narrow as you need it to be. It then serves up in a randomized fashion, not A-Z. It serves up in a randomized assortment of nonprofits that are addressing that issue. You hopefully get to know not just the ABC organization, but the XYZ organizations right in the mix of each other.

Marjorie Maas:

It’s not based upon budget size. It’s not based upon a fee they give to us. Nonprofits are invited on the platform at no charge. We really want to make sure those intimate and newer nonprofits feel as welcome and get as much prominence on the website as those you normally think about in the community that are supporting pillars of our metro area. Democratizing philanthropy is being able to choose that specific source you want to make an impact through in the community. You get to do it in whatever way you want to. If you want to donate time or talent, shop for a nonprofit and give them durable goods or make a cash gift, all of that is made an option to you.

Lyn Wineman:

That is cool! Tell me, you mentioned earlier about this special unique software you have. I imagine that’s what supports this whole process. Can you tell me a bit more about this software? I can’t imagine what it would cost for a nonprofit to replicate something like that on their own.

Marjorie Maas:

100%. We often get two questions. We get the question, “Well, this makes a lot of sense. Why has this not happened before?” It’s the very reason you just said, Lyn. For a nonprofit to independently set up this type of conduit system would be cost-prohibitive. And to be able to form this software would be a mammoth undertaking. We’re very fortunate in the Omaha Metro that we were supported by three foundations right at the gate, the Suzanne & Walter Scott Foundation primarily, then the Robert B. Daugherty Foundation and the Sherwood Foundation saw what this software could do for a community based upon our sister city in Charlotte, North Carolina. That’s where the software was formulated. Over the course of the next two years, since we founded, the creator of that software decided this really needs to be a nonprofit enterprise. It’s not so much an investor LLC situation. For a nonprofit to run the software makes a lot of sense.

Marjorie Maas:

One thing that not many people know is that the Share Good Software (that’s what the tool is called that runs SHARE Charlotte, SHARE Omaha, and now SHARE Detroit, SHARE Greater Lynchburg, Virginia, SHARE Cape Fear, which is also in North Carolina, and some other communities that are in the pipeline) is now run out of Omaha. That software was gifted by our donors to SHARE Omaha. For the time being, we’re not only powering the work that happens in Omaha, we’re powering the work that’s happening in all of these communities. We really get to be in the driver’s seat in Omaha to work with local developers to make all these improvements we want to make the Share Good tool even better.

Lyn Wineman:

Marjorie, one of the reasons I love doing this podcast is because I go into them thinking I know the story, and then I always learn new bits of information that are just fantastic. You are in Omaha running this network that’s going to impact communities throughout the country with this fantastic software. I bet they’re going to learn from you. I bet they’re going to have their own Do Good Weeks. What do you think?

Marjorie Maas:

They are. Actually, the inspiration for Do Good Week came from our sister city in Charlotte. They have a week fully based on volunteerism, so we wanted to learn from that. When we had the opportunity with the Omaha Community Foundation to host the giving day for the Omaha Metro through our software, we asked, “What if we expand upon what Do Good means?” Expand on it so it is not just about doing good works but doing good in all the ways possible. Our mission is to help other nonprofits fulfill their own missions by raising new support and service. That is true of every SHARE community across the country. It’s kind of this movement of democratizing philanthropy that we’re trying to get into as many communities as possible. We’re in this phase right now where we’re raising capital in order to improve the software and be able to go out to the nation with an even better product than we have right now. There’s more to come.

Lyn Wineman:

That’s fantastic too! Oftentimes, you think about raising capital for either building projects or even for startups, and you’re raising capital to improve the engine, improve the software to move across the country. You mentioned your mission is to help nonprofits achieve their missions, which I really love. Can you share some stories of how you’ve been able to do that work?

Marjorie Maas:

One of my favorite examples happened right after we launched. It was the dead of winter in Nebraska and Southwestern Iowa, and the Omaha Children’s Museum put out that they needed some handyman work; they needed some people to help build their next exhibit. We saw, because we can see the volunteer opportunities and applications that come through, that a construction company called SpecPro signed up to build that exhibit. What I love about that is that they wanted to put their workers, their employees, to work even during a cold season where they couldn’t do a lot of external or exterior work in the community. They used their staff and labor time to directly serve a nonprofit in a very practical way. That’s one of my favorite first examples of what we saw the capability of our website could be. That’s a multi-thousand dollar gift that they gave the Children’s Museum. I love that. But what we really saw was that we are useful in a time of crisis. Shortly thereafter, after the first couple months of SHARE Omaha, the floods of 2019 happened.

Lyn Wineman:

Oh, that was bad. It was debilitating.

Marjorie Maas:

It was debilitating. For the entire state of Nebraska and all down the Missouri River, it was devastating. We knew that if we were able to aggregate all of the nonprofits that were saying they could volunteer—the in-kind item drives they were helping, the donations that would matter to those communities, and those families and those businesses that were adversely affected—we would be doing our part. And no kidding, our web traffic nearly tripled over the course of the height of the crisis. If nothing else, it showed that people wanted a centralized location to go to in order to find out how they could impact a crisis. That says a lot about our community as well. Finally, the next March was March 2020, and we had an opportunity. We, of course, didn’t know how useful we would be in a pandemic.

Lyn Wineman:

Right—to be able to help nonprofits with digital tools in a time when they couldn’t get out and operate in-person like they normally do.

Marjorie Maas:

You nailed it. Absolutely! At first, we were publicizing, and we still have that list of what was adversely affected during the pandemic. Like what stages were shut, what museums were shuttered, what galas had been canceled. That was fine. People did go to that page and see all the changes that had happened. But then we were asked, “Well, what can I do?” We realized that is our role. Our role isn’t to tell the sad stories; our role is to activate. It was like a switch flipped for us. We were able to go out to our nonprofit network and say, “What can people still do for you? Can they write notes to your clientele? Can they sell masks for frontline workers? Can they still work at the food bank for the Heartland?” And all of those things were true.

Marjorie Maas:

We created a campaign called SHARE @ Home, which allowed people to figure out what volunteer opportunities were available for work-from-anywhere, and what in-kind items were still being collected and what skills-based opportunities people could still generate for themselves at home. I will tell you, the impact we saw was remarkable. We had a media sponsor, KTB actually helped us promote the SHARE @ Home campaign. But beyond that, it really caught people. I’ve told the story before to other people, but it still wows me. An average month for us, Lyn, is about 250 nonprofits receiving applications for volunteer service. That’s a really good month.

Lyn Wineman:

That sounds good to me. Yeah.

Marjorie Maas:

It is. But with the help of our media sponsors and the way that it caught people’s imaginations, in April 2020 we saw 700 applications come through our website.

Lyn Wineman:

Almost triple. You know what’s interesting about April 2020? We’ve been doing a lot of reflecting. I think many people have, asking, “Gosh, what were we doing a year ago? How were we feeling a year ago?” That was a scary time. We were at the beginning stages of a pandemic. We didn’t really know what was going to unfold. I think if we knew what was going to unfold, if someone had told us, we might not have believed it. But I do think people were looking for how they could help. It strikes me, Marjorie, that you connect people not just during times of crisis, not just during times of Do Good Week. Say it gets to May and there’s an issue you want to help with, or you find yourself with some time or you want to support a nonprofit or a new nonprofit, SHARE Omaha would be the place to come to help find those opportunities.

Marjorie Maas:

100%. You said something about how people still wanted to help. One way we’ve described this and processed it as a team is that people were stuck in their homes. Either they were working or they were furloughed. People were looking for significance. People were looking for a way to still impact others and help others—to do something that gave them purpose in the midst of all of that shifting that was happening in the world around us. To be able to be part of that really feels meaningful.

Lyn Wineman:

That is really neat. I’m always interested, Marjorie, to hear about how people’s career paths led them to where they are. I’m curious, did you grow up and say, “I want to lead this nonprofit initiative”? How does someone get into a position like yours?

Marjorie Maas:

Oh my, how long do we have to talk? I’m kidding. Service and giving back has been a part of my family culture. My father served two tours in Vietnam with the Army Corps of Engineers. My mother was an American Red Cross Donut Dollies, as they called them during Vietnam, and she went to Vietnam and Southeast Asia to help out with the efforts there. It’s always been part of our family. I got involved in volunteer service in high school at a very, very young but impactful age. I ran the blood drive, did the HIV awareness campaign at my high school and just loved that type of work. I got involved in college with a service sorority. We called ourselves Sisters in Service. We had fun, but it was all about serving the community.

Marjorie Maas:

I got the bug for doing campaigns back then. I had talked to a friend who told me that one in three college women had an issue with eating disorders or body image. I was like, that is an epidemic. And there I was in this group of women that wanted to impact the greater campus and community. And so, my friends and I started Eating Disorders Awareness Week. We got a speaker to come in and I got a chance to drive her from my college town to Kansas City and back. I realized after I dropped off the keynote speaker that I loved this. I loved these top-of-the-mountain moments where I knew I was reaching people. I didn’t quite know what that meant, but I knew I needed to have that energy given to me on a regular basis; I needed to be part of that. And so, I started out my career in marketing.

Lyn Wineman:

Marketing is a great field.

Marjorie Maas:

It is. I marketed at the Mid-America Center right when it opened in Council Bluffs. I loved it: best boss, best boot camp experience I could have had to learn how to buy media, pitch stories, work with specialty seat holders, and things of that nature. Great experience. Then my passion for the arts and community really came back to me. I worked for the Omaha Symphony for a time, consulted for about five and a half years for a lot of arts organizations and artists. I expanded my client roster to include Metrobus lines. I ran an art fair and other things of that nature. But I realized I needed to go back to work after having two children. I needed to have a steadier schedule.

Marjorie Maas:

I worked for the Arts Council running Nebraskans for the Arts for a time. I enjoyed that, but realized if I stayed in the arts I was never going to get a chance to see that 360-degree view of the community I knew I cared about. I credit my time and leadership to Omaha for really showing me poverty elimination, diversity and inclusion, transportation and different issues I knew I cared about. I went back into nonprofit service. I ended up raising money as a development officer and coordinating communications for College Possible, Omaha. I did that for a time, then I got a chance to be on the other side of the table working at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska and running all their grant and community initiatives through corporate social responsibility. That was an amazing experience.

Marjorie Maas:

There was a shift in leadership and perspective on that work. The next opportunity that arrived at my doorstep, kind of the patchwork quilt of my career as I look back, was SHARE Omaha. It was this opportunity to have that 360-degree view of the community on a regular basis and have the top-of-the-mountain moments like Do Good Week that I was running to make sure the community felt that spark. I now feel like I’ve achieved what I thought I was going to in college.

Lyn Wineman:

It’s fascinating because you talk about it as a patchwork quilt of experiences, but yet looking back it’s almost like you perfectly crafted the path to what you’re doing now. The marketing component, the fundraising component, the different types of nonprofits, being on the corporate grant side, all of that had to perfectly come together for you. I can hear the passion and enthusiasm in your voice, and I just find it incredibly rewarding to talk to and work with people who have found that passion, who are living their passion, fulfilling their mission. It’s got to be one of the greatest feelings in life. Marjorie, as the leader of an innovative and impactful organization, I’m curious what advice you have for others.

Marjorie Maas:

That word passion is super important. I don’t think everybody gets a chance to fill that bucket at work. I believe you can fill it in other areas or professionally. Your work should be something you do with intent and purpose, regardless of what it is. But you have an opportunity in this life to do something that fits your passion. I’m fortunate to be able to bring my passion into my professional life, but I encourage anybody that if there’s something you want to move the needle in, that door is wide open to you. You can do that through your church, you can do that through your alma mater, you can do that through institutions that are close and dear to you. There are so many ways to impact the greater community, by volunteering for that gala or volunteering your financial expertise for a nonprofit, that may lead to something that’s a professional pursuit as well. I invite you to open the door by expressing that passion as demonstratively as possible.

Lyn Wineman:

I think that’s really good advice. Nonprofit service and volunteering can be a really great way to explore some different things as well. You don’t know if you would like doing a certain thing, but you can jump in and volunteer in that area. Maybe meet some people, network, build your knowledge and decide if it’s something you want to pursue. Marjorie, next I’m going to ask you my favorite question. People who know me know that I love motivational quotes, and what I’m really hoping is you could give us a few of your own Marjorie Maas words of wisdom to inspire our listeners.

Marjorie Maas:

Thank you. I love this question. There are three phrases, three ideas, that I think are top of mind for me on a regular basis. One is to trust, the next is to give grace, the third is to work hard. Back to that patchwork quilt of my career, I had to trust that each step I was making was going to make sense in the end, that each step leads to the next step, that you have to trust the process by which you’re working in, and you have to trust others.

Lyn Wineman:

That is such good advice. I’ve talked to so many leaders who talk about how their career path was not exactly what they expected, but they’re glad that they had it. They’re glad they trusted the process and that it would work out.

Marjorie Maas:

Exactly. I think another big piece on the other side of the coin of trust is giving grace. Giving grace to others to make mistakes, to fail forward, to learn something new, to trust that somebody had good intent in doing what they were doing. I think this allows you to be more optimistic than having cynicism rule your life and the way you look at things. You also have to give yourself grace. You have to give yourself the ability to accept that maybe you made a mistake or you were doing your best. That’s all you could ask of yourself on that day. Giving grace is something that is hopefully innately human, that we have the ability to forgive others and move forward because we’ve given somebody the benefit of the doubt. Honestly, it allows us to be happier and not doubt that everybody is out to get us or that the worst thing is going to happen. Positivity, obviously, is in my top five Gallup strengths.

Lyn Wineman:

It’s a good one.

Marjorie Maas:

I’m happy I have it, no pun intended.

Lyn Wineman:

I can hear it in your voice. I can hear that positive note that comes out behind your voice and the intent of what you say.

Marjorie Maas:

The final thing is work hard. You have to put energy toward the thing you’re trying to move the needle on. Whether it be something small or big, don’t take your eye off that ball. You’re always trying to figure out how you move that bit forward today. Then you know you did the best you could. You know you did the work that was placed before you. That allows you, if you’re consistently moving in that direction, the trust and the grace that fall right in line with that. Hopefully that all makes sense together.

Lyn Wineman:

I think that’s great. Six very powerful words. Thank you for that. Bringing this full circle, we are kicking off Do Good Week. For people who want to find out more about Do Good Week, or just learn more about SHARE Omaha and all of the opportunities you have, tell us again what the best way is to find you.

Marjorie Maas:

The best way is shareomaha.org. Our handle on all social media is SHAREOmaha. We have a very active presence in all of those channels, especially Facebook and Twitter, so dive in. We try to make the website as appealing and as intuitive as possible. Just go to shareomaha.org and you’ll find all the answers.

Lyn Wineman:

We were talking about how positivity is one of your strengths. I feel positivity as part of your brand strength too at SHARE Omaha. I feel it on your website and in your social media. I think that’s a great thing to have. Marjorie, as we wrap up our time together today, what is the most important thing you would like our listeners to remember about the work you’re doing?

Marjorie Maas:

Everybody’s invited to the table.

Lyn Wineman:

Yeah.

Marjorie Maas:

Everybody has a role they can play: young, old, middle-aged. Everybody has something they can give, and we try very hard to help you find your fit as you accomplish what it is you want to do in the community. We all have something to give, and all of those acts adding together is what makes community change happen. To continue that Midwestern spirit of giving back, of taking care of problems, of solving issues, that comes from somewhere, and I believe it’s our responsibility to all contribute to that good work. I believe we all have something we can add to it.

Lyn Wineman:

That is really fantastic. For everybody who is listening on April 19th, today is the beginning of Do Good Week. There’s something fantastic all week. If you happen to listen to this afterwards, check back in the show notes and we’ll provide an update on how this great week went. Marjorie, it has been a delight to talk with you today. Best of luck with Do Good Week. I hope it is a wild success.

Marjorie Maas:

Thank you so much, Lyn. This was an absolute pleasure to share our story with you.

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