Speaking with nonprofit audiences with Dave Tinker

Episode aired August 26, 2020: Public Speaking

Dave Tinker is a fundraising authority. With 30 years experience in the field, he is a sought after speaker at small and large conferences. He knows what needs to be prepared in advance of a talk and how to engage an audience. In this episode Dave discusses

  • how to personalize a talk
  • what 3 things to prepare in advance
  • which topic causes the most eye rolls in the audience 
  • what a “no” from a donor actually means and
  • which group of fundraisers don’t receive the respect and recognition they deserve.

Below you can listen, watch or read this podcast episode.


Ephraim: Welcome to this edition of the Your Weekly Dose of Nonprofit Podcast, the podcast that delivers actionable items you can implement at your organization right away. I’m your host Ephraim Gopin of 1832 Communications. Today I’m thrilled to have with us a great guy and nonprofit authority, Dave Tinker, as my guest. Dave, how you doing today?

Dave: Great. How are you?

Ephraim: I’m doing great. Let’s introduce you to our listeners, watchers and readers.

Dave is Vice President of Advancement at Achieva where he oversees all fundraising and communications. A certified fundraising executive and an AFP master trainer, he received the outstanding fundraising executive award from the AFP Western PA chapter in 2013. Dave has published numerous articles in professional journals and has written curriculum for the fundraising school at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University. Dave is the past president of the AFP Western PA chapter and has served in many volunteer roles for AFP international and his own chapter, where he is currently the Vice President of Communications.

He’s a member of the Brentwood Borough school district board of directors. He coaches youth softball and basketball and has served in leadership positions on numerous nonprofit boards. Dave received a Master of Public Affairs with a concentration in nonprofit management from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University. He’s also a graduate of the National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities at the University of Delaware, class 44. Dave is an accomplished and sought-after public speaker, so he’s with us today to discuss public speaking.

Individualizing A Speech

So let’s dive right in. Dave, when speaking in front of a large group, is it possible to individualize your talk? Meaning you make a connection to each person, even though the room is full of people?

Dave: Yes, there’s a couple ways you can do that. The first is actually, just when you’re talking to the audience, you look at people. You look and see what… you look at their faces. Obviously in a bigger audience, if it’s a large conference type setting, it might be hard to see people, especially if the back of the room’s dark and they just have the lights up on the stage. But looking out and looking at people helps.

At the same time, something you can do is actually make your conversation in your talk have a personal story in it and that actually helps personalize things. Not just does it give the audience a sense of who you are and a little more knowledge about you, but they see themselves in the same way that you do. They can see themselves as you and understand you a little bit better. So that’s an easy way to kind of personalize things, especially with a much larger audience.

Preparing For A Speech In Advance

Ephraim: Fantastic. So today’s actionable item: What three things should a public speaker have prepared in advance to avoid screw-ups during the speech?

Dave: First thing you want to do is make sure you have backups of any sort of technology you plan on using, whether that’s a slide deck or videos or audio. You want to have redundant backups too so you don’t just… you email it to yourself, you can save it on like Google Drive or Dropbox or any of those tools, you put it on a thumb drive in case the internet’s not working. Obviously you save it to a laptop, desktop sort of thing as well. But that definitely is something you can do and that’s an easy thing to do.

The second thing you should consider doing, if you don’t do it, is get an understanding of where the room is and what the room is like, to help you understand how you can walk around or not walk around, make sure there’s the right type of microphone. You’re anticipating those sorts of things. Just get a lay of the land if you will in the room if that’s possible.

And then the third thing is really just practice your talk and do it over and over. And it’s not just a matter you want to be comfortable with what you’re saying but you want to kind of do it without having to rely on looking at the slides or looking at the video. It comes off, if you’ve actually practiced enough and you’re polished enough, that it works. Practice makes perfect in this case so that’s a big help.

Eye Rolls From The Crowd

Ephraim: Excellent. What nonprofit topic that you present causes the most eye rolls in the audience and tell us why?

Dave: I think right now it’s really been ethics. Ethics is increasingly important in nonprofits, not just fundraising, not just one specific area but all of nonprofit and just looking at it and listening to it. When I was a younger fundraiser, I thought, Oh, that’s something older, more senior people are concerned with. But it actually impacts everybody, even the new fundraisers, the middle career fundraisers, the senior fundraisers. Everybody has some sort of ethical impact that happens to him one time or another and it certainly has happened to me. But that’s one area that people kind of roll their eyes like, it’s time to talk about ethics again. But it’s very important.

A Harder Sell

Ephraim: Okay. What would be harder for you- asking a room full of people to donate or making an ask of an individual donor?

Dave: I’ve definitely done both and I would say asking the individual donor for sure. While it’s always going to be the best way to raise money, it’s always a little nerve-wracking going in because you want to put on your best show if you will, make sure you’re explaining everything okay and it’s just you sitting there waiting to hear back from that donor. When you’re doing it in front of a large crowd or a large audience, it’s not as personable if you will and not necessarily everybody’s going to come back at you with a yes. But with sitting there with an individual donor, it’s a little bit harder because you’re… again you’re practicing but it’s just you one-on-one.

Ephraim: Okay, I’ll just ask a follow-up question. If you do get a no. what’s your next move?

Dave: Well usually if somebody says no, I take it to mean no not right now. So I might actually ask them, is there another time that might be better? Or I might start asking them some questions about why they might have said no. Is there something going on career-wise for them? Did they just send their kids off to college and just paid the tuition bill, so they don’t have any extra cash to make a gift right now? Stuff like that and that’s important. But no doesn’t always mean no, it just means not right now.

Ephraim: So continue the conversation.

Dave: Yeah.

Is The Nonprofit Sector Inclusive Of People With Disabilities?

Ephraim: For many years, you’ve worked for an organization that advocates for the full inclusion of people with disabilities into society. Do you feel that the nonprofit sector has done all it can to live up to the disability community’s mantra ‘nothing about us without us’?

Dave: There’s a lot more that can be done. I mean there’s been…. you think about the Americans with Disabilities Act and other international acts that have tried to include people with disabilities more. But clearly there’s a lot more. There’s self-advocates and family members who would love to be part of your organization, whether it’s serving as a committee member or a board member or even just donate to you. It’s easy to overlook somebody with a disability but they’re fully capable of making a gift just like anybody else. And they want to make that gift, they want to support you and want to volunteer, but we’re not including people.

Inclusion and diversity is a hot topic right now and disability is an area within that that hasn’t been focused on. Yes we focus on whether it’s men versus women and or non-binary if you’re worried about gender or ethnicity. Obviously Black Lives Matter is big and it will be for a long time and it should be but people with disabilities are also a big area that have been under represented and underutilized and could be a great help to any organization.

Let’s Learn More About Dave

Ephraim: Fantastic and totally agree. Let’s go on to the lightning round and learn more about you. What got you started on your nonprofit career path?

Dave: Well it’s been over 30 years now. I had a summer internship working at a fundraising council. Originally when I was in college, I thought I was going to go to medical school when I graduated college but I enjoyed working at the fundraising council so much, I kept asking go back every summer and then I went to graduate school for fundraising.

Ephraim: Amazing. So given 30 plus years in the field and all your experience and expertise, if there’s one thing you could shake up in the nonprofit world, what would it be?

Dave: I would say that there’s a lot of younger professionals that are really good at doing fundraising and they’re not given enough credit. I was a young fundraiser when I first started. I

I was 19 when I was an intern at Ketchum and just moving forward, there were a lot of people that didn’t necessarily take me as seriously as I would have liked and that’s something that people should do, because there’s a lot of great ideas and there’s a lot of knowledge in younger people. You just need to embrace that a little bit more and be open-minded to it.

Ephraim: Okay. What do you love most about living in Pittsburgh?

Dave: I love Pittsburgh. I lived in the midwest for a while and moved back, so I boomeranged. It’s a big city but it’s really a small town if you will. It’s got a lot of great features like a big city has but it’s not as big as a huge metropolitan area like New York or Los Angeles or one of those other major areas.

Ephraim: Excellent. I visited last summer and I had a great time there. Lots to do. You’re active on The Twitter. After many years on the platform, what do you like and hate most about it?

Dave: I like the ability… it gives everybody a voice and anybody can do it as long as you sign up with an email. What I dislike about it are some of the ways that… one, you can’t edit some of the things because I have a habit of doing typos in my stuff, especially if I’m using my phone to type quickly and so it’s either it’s the wrong word pops up because of autocorrect or something I don’t notice until after the fact. So that’s.. I think that would probably be the biggest one, being able to edit.

Ephraim: I will co-sign on that. I’ve been calling on Jack and then he’s not listening to me.

Dave: Me neither.

Ephraim: Oh well. If you could work in any other sector, which one would it be and why?

Dave: I originally started in I’d said medical school I actually completed my chemistry degree. I would probably be working in a research lab. Working on my senior thesis that I did was on buckminsterfullerenes, which is a big word but it was a new type of… it’s a form of carbon. It’s a natural state now. There’s more besides just that but all the nano technology stuff has come out of it, thanks to buckyballs and buckminsterfullerene. So I’d be in that area somewhere.

Ephraim: That’s interesting. That’s totally different than what you’re doing now.

Dave: It is.

Ephraim: Alright. Let’s turn the table. Your turn to ask me a surprise question. I have no idea what it is. Go ahead.

Dave: Okay. You’re very kind not to ask about my Penguins, who got crushed in the playoffs. But I wanted to ask, if you were Bill Buckner in 1986 World Series and you saw that ball coming at you, what would you do?

Ephraim: Wow. You know what? There is a video that HBO put out in 2004 after that series and they interviewed a lot of lifelong Red Sox fans. And they go through the curse basically and the curse being broken. And they look at 1986 and in that video, you know everybody’s completely… was distraught and just couldn’t think straight for days afterwards.

In that video there’s actually a rabbi and I believe he’s from Haverford, Massachusetts and he says, after watching the play, I’m back in grade three in the police league and I’m hearing my coach go, glove to the ground, glove to the ground. How does Buckner not know glove to the ground?! I knew that! How did Buckner not know that?!

The crazier thing, that I don’t think nobody… it got lost in the whole Bill Buckner thing is that throughout the entire season, Joe Morgan, the manager, had substituted in Dave Stapleton in late innings because he was a better fielder than Buckner. And Morgan, because the Red Sox had a two run lead, wanted Buckner on the field when they won the world series, so he left Buckner in. If he puts in Stapleton, that game goes to the 11th, because the game’s already tied at five by that point. He doesn’t let in the winning run but the game goes to the 11th and we don’t have Buckner so who knows. But after 2004, all is forgiven Billy Buckner, we’re good.

Dave: It was rough for me too. The Red Sox are my favorite American league team, always have been. But especially during that world series because I hated the Mets growing up. Yeah I hated the Mets. So if they’re not the Pirates, it’s the Red Sox for me.

Ephraim: I totally get it and just yuck. That’s all I’m going to say. I talk about it with passion but I’ve gotten over it. All I’ll say about that video on HBO is that they interview another guy who said that after that game he went outside for a long walk, because he had to walk it off, and the old guy in his town in Newton, Massachusetts and the guy looks at him and he says, in the heaviest Boston accent, he said, today is the darkest day in Boston since Jack Kennedy was shot. Since JFK was shot, this is the worst thing. That’s how bad it was. So thank God for 2004, 07, 13 and 18, so all is forgiven and all is forgotten. Mostly. Forgiven yes, forgotten- depends on the day.

Thank you very very much for taking time to appear on the podcast today. I urge you to connect with Dave on Twitter at @davethecfre. He is always happy to talk shop, engage and he is one of… he is a nonprofit authority on many issues, not just fundraising but also grants, management, ethics, philanthropy and everything in between. Please connect with him there. Dave, thanks very much. I appreciate it.

Dave: You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.

Ephraim: My pleasure. Have a good day.

Dave: You too.