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To register for the Sept. 25 seminar, The Art of Cause Marketing and Mastering Donor Relationships:
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Nonprofit organizations are hardwired for passion and commitment to their causes, and Silicon Valley startups are known for entrepreneurial spirit. So, what happens if you blend the best of philanthropy with business principles and innovative strategies?

The Sanford Institute of Philanthropy, part of the Sanford Education Center at National University, offers a series of ongoing programs that explore these topics and much more as they related to best-practice skills in fundraising, relationship building and nonprofit leadership.

As part of its programming, on Sept. 25 Wes Wasson, a long time Silicon Valley business executive, will be among the featured speakers at a Sanford Institute of Philanthropy seminar titled “The Art of Cause Marketing and Mastering Donor Relationships.” Mr. Wasson stepped down from his job as chief marketing officer at software leader Citrix to focus on giving back. He now guides nonprofits toward success. Wasson will speak about “Seven Marketing Secrets You Won’t Learn in School; Observations of a Recovering Silicon Valley Marketing Jedi and Non-Profit Padawan.”

The event’s other featured speakers are Mark Stuart, foundation president at San Diego Zoo Global, who will speak on “Donor Relationships,” and Deirdre Maloney, an educator, author and speaker, who will lead a session titled “Marketing Matters.” Maloney is president of Momentum, a training, facilitation and marketing company.

Wasson is currently involved in several poverty alleviation projects, including his work as board chairman of Elevate Africa, a San Diego-based non-profit that uses technology, education and mentoring to help people in developing countries break the cycle of poverty. His efforts recently won the “Most Innovative Microfinance” award from Google and Mifos. In an interview, Wasson talks about his transition to non-profit advocacy, the opportunities for growth in non-profits, and best practices when it comes to wooing donors:

Q: How did you transform into an advocate for charities?

A: I spent the last 20 years of my career in Silicon Valley, just an amazing place. I love that culture, the amount of innovative thinking. But I always knew there would be a Chapter Two for me.

About three years ago, I sat down with my CEO after working on his staff for eight years over which we’d grown to over 3 billion in revenue. I told them I wanted to be able to take all of the things that I’ve learned and observed in the world over the years and use it in some way to help people.

Q: What can entrepreneurs like you bring to the non-profit world?

A: Inside the heart of an entrepreneur is someone who’s used to taking a problem and looking at it in non-intuitive, adventurous ways. Entrepreneurs know how to be wildly innovative, to challenge assumptions all the time and look for inspiration from unusual sources.

I’m also a fan of the recent notion out of Silicon Valley that you need rapid innovation that makes the customer an innovative part of the design process from the beginning. This isn’t the way companies have traditionally been built.

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To learn more about the Sanford Institute of Philanthropy, established at National University in 2014 through a generous gift by renowned philanthropist and businessman T. Denny Sanford:
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Q: What areas for improvement do you see in non-profits?

A: A lot of non-profits want to change the world but haven’t had a tremendous experience in helping something to grow. When you’re building a leadership team, make sure you have diversity of talent, people who’ve built things and understand how to sustain them. Try to find someone who’s run a retail operation or launched a consumer mobile app who will bring a mindset of innovation and a focus on sustainable business models.

You can’t just look for someone else to make a donation to make it work. You need to look for models with sustainability built in.

Q: How can non-profits do a better job at connecting with donors?

A: It’s super-important for marketing and people who are involved in communication, engagement and donor relations to not think of marketing as just the whipped cream topping that you plop on top of the dessert when you’re done.

You don’t build something and then hand it over to someone else so they’ll sprinkle pixie dust on it. If you want to be really effective with communicating with people, you have to understand the “why” part of asking them for support. This is better than starting off with “this is what our organization does, now please give.”

We credit Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi with starting great movements. In fact, they tapped into beliefs that were already there. Their talent was to articulate them so people looked at them and said, “That’s what I believe.”

Q: Why might entrepreneurs want to make the move like you did and support non-profits with more than donations?

A: When you spend time in a business setting it’s very easy to get very focused on execution, goals and financial outcomes. Working with non-profits is a great way to lift your head above all that and say there a purpose that transcends everything.

For more information on upcoming seminars, please click here.

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