“Inside IPM” is a new series featuring the talented players who comprise the IPM Advancement team! Here you’ll learn all about the people who work behind the scenes at IPM to help nonprofits raise more money to make the world a better place. Today, we’re talking to…
Samantha Timlick, VP of Client Services
Hi Samantha, you’ve been with IPM since the company first started. How did you get involved?
I actually began working with Jack before he and Russ launched IPM. I was going to school at ASU. Jack was running the mailroom for a company where my mom was working and they needed someone to come in and box up some files. I figured why not pick up a few hours. While I was doing that, I learned they were looking for a new receptionist. The job was close to campus so I went for it.
Interesting! So how do you go from receptionist to VP of Client Services?
As I got to know the business, people in the office would bring me things to work on. One day Jack came to me and said he was doing a special project for a client in San Diego. I said yes even though I had no idea what I was even going there to do! Turned out I was running an in-house call center for a client. I quickly found out I don’t like making outbound phone calls. But I also found out I was very good at working with clients. When I came back a few months later, Jack said he had this new company called IPM Advancement and asked if I’d be interested in being a project manager. And that was that!
You studied psychology in school. How has that helped you at IPM?
My degree is a Bachelor of Science in psychology — the more sciencey and math side of psychology. So I like the analytical side of things as well as understanding what makes people tick. Both help me work with clients. I’m able to listen to clients and hear the things that they can’t articulate, and then help them identify the best approach to achieve what they’re trying to do. IPM is very nimble. If a client wants something, we rarely say no; we say, “Let’s figure out how we can do that.” And that’s where the analytical skills help.
You mentioned that you don’t particularly enjoy outbound calling. What’s something you love about fundraising?
I love brainstorming solutions with clients. And I love the follow-through — putting pen to paper, doing the research, and marshaling the resources to say, “Okay, here’s what that will actually look like from a budgetary perspective and a calendar perspective.” In other words, translating the touchy feely stuff and turning it into an actionable plan.
Based on your experience working with clients, what’s one of the biggest challenges or opportunities you see for nonprofits in this new decade?
For most nonprofits these days, their annual fund is not the major revenue generator anymore. Even so, it can be a very valuable resource … if you know how to tap into it. So the opportunity and the challenge are the same: Using all we know about donors from decades of data on direct mail and translating that for new generations of donors who behave very differently in the digital age. While nonprofits are getting better at managing their social media channels in terms of content and getting likes, they have trouble translating that into dollars and actually raising revenue. What IPM does is help them bridge the gap, to integrate their online and offline fundraising so it works together in a way that connects with younger donors and still retains older donors who respond well to direct mail.
I understand that your son is enrolled in a Montessori school, and you’ve become a bit of an amateur expert on Montessori. What attracted you to that teaching approach?
It probably won’t surprise you, given what I explained about data and my attraction to analytics, that my husband and I are planners. So I was doing all this research on cribs, questioning do we really need this huge piece of furniture that the kid will only use for a year or two? I posted on Reddit and got a couple of responses from people suggesting a Montessori floor bed instead. I looked into it and discovered this whole philosophy that really appealed to me. The idea of children and babies as actual people who have thoughts and feelings and deserve to be respected and who if given freedom, and tools that fit their bodies and abilities, will be so much more capable, than we give them credit for. So I asked myself if I could give my son any gift, what would it be? And the answer was for him to have a lifelong love of learning and the skills to accomplish things for himself without the need for accolades and approval.
I can see this perspective on respect being useful in all relationships. How has it helped you in your job?
IPM has always taken a collaborative approach with our clients, and now I understand the value of it even more. A fundraising organization’s relationship with their client should never be one-sided. I’ve worked with clients who listen to our recommendations and say, “Sure, whatever, I’m paying you so just go do it.” I’ve also worked with clients who say, “No, we know better. Do it our way instead.” Neither of those relationships are very productive. The most successful fundraising happens when both sides value the input of the other.
What’s one of the most common mistakes you see nonprofits make?
I see nonprofits spread themselves too thin, or try to be too many things to too many people. So my advice is: Know your lane. To thine own self be true. Don’t let anything shiny pull you away from that. To best serve your cause, you have to be really focused. So know your strengths and don’t stray from your mission.
If you could give a nonprofit one and only one piece of advice that would best prepare them to be financially stable for the next decade, what would you recommend?
Direct mail isn’t dead. Don’t give up on it just because it might feel a little old and dusty.
Is there a single piece of advice that you would want to give non profits on how they can have a greater impact on their cause in the next decade?
Focus on stewardship and recognize donors as people. Even when they’re giving $5, they’re not just numbers. They need to be thanked, promptly and authentically, for their involvement and investment in your cause. That includes donors, followers, volunteers, employees — anyone who engages with your organization. It’s people who ultimately make things happen, whether they’re outside the organization or inside the organization.
Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you or IPM?
I feel a true kinship with our clients and my coworkers. I’m very proud of the fact that for every client we have, there’s at least one person on the IPM team who believes strongly in their cause. I think that’s reflected in our relationships with each other, too. The longevity of our team is something pretty rare, I think. The least tenured one of us has been with IPM for almost five years. People stay places where they’re happy and feel like they’re doing meaningful work.