#94 Help Your Favorite Nonprofit Raise Money Effectively, with Sabrina Walker Hernandez from Supporting World Hope

Sep 12, 2022

Sybil is joined by Sabrina Walker Hernandez to talk about how to support nonprofits in honing their pitch. She also describes service gaps and how government funds are used to support NGOs.

Episode Highlights:

  • Sabrina’s journey into nonprofits and fundraising
  • Government public dollars that support important NGOs
  • What does “At risk” youth mean
  • The importance of stories


If you enjoyed this episode, listen to these as well:


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Welcome to my podcast, Sabrina. I'm happy that we are meeting on this podcast. So, we didn't know each other ahead of time, and when you reached out to me to see if you could be a guest, I just said yes right away because I looked at your website and I looked at all you had to offer, and I was like, "Oh my gosh, my listeners would love to hear from you.

And let me tell you why I thought that my listeners were donors who wanted to give money away effectively. And what it looks like you do is help nonprofits, on all levels, be more effective and support them to do good in their work. One of the things you do is you help nonprofits own their pitch, which is sort of what I do too.

But, you know, I work more with donors, and you work more with nonprofits. So, I see the beginning of a friendship here, and I see the beginning of a partnership. So, let's talk a little bit about, first of all, just your journey, and it sounds like you have been our community organizer as well as a professional who's working with nonprofits. So, can we talk about what got you into what you wanted and what you're doing? And then we're going to get into, like, what you do, how you help nonprofits, and the advice you have for donors in terms of how they can approach nonprofits effectively because I know you have a lot of experience there.

Yeah, yeah.

All right let's just go for it. What is your personal story, first and foremost?

So, you know it depends on how far you want to go back. And I just want to say my mom was a missionary in the church, and so as a child, we were fundraising because you needed choir robes, or you wanted to go on a church field trip or something like that.

You did a fundraiser. I didn't know that was what I was going to be when I grew up. I thought I was going to be an attorney, but when I was in college, I did an internship with this organization called Advocacy Resource Center for Housing, which is also known as "arch for short," and basically, I was an intern so that I could mediate between landlords and tenants and also get to work with attorneys.

I'm in that process I found out that I did not necessarily want to be an attorney, although I was majoring in political science pre-law. I love this nonprofit. It reminded me of, you know, how I grew up. And it all kind of clicked. And the synergy was there, so I decided to go to graduate school and get an MPA and pursue non-profit. Hello, this is my post-internship search journey.

Ask Sabrina. You're being modest. He went to Harvard, so yeah.

Yeah, and that's a part of the journey, too. That is a part of the journey of getting the nonprofit management certification. I focused on it because if I'm going to do something. I want to be good at it. I want to know what I am talking about. So, I worked for the county here in Hidalgo County, Texas, where I live. I was in the military, by the way, and then I came to Texas, but I worked for the county. I worked for the county doing the CDBG grant, which is the Community Development Partnership grant. And one of my bosses' names is Alan Comma Saki, and I like to pronounce his name.

He's since passed away, but he saw that I gravitated towards working with the nonprofits because what I did was monitor and audit the nonprofits to make sure they complied. I did what it took to get HUD funding, which was a lot of making sure they filed their 990s, making sure I saw their audience and making sure they complied with procurement policies. His code of conduct, all of those kinds of things. And so, he saw that I gravitated towards them and what he did, and people might think that was not a blessing, but it was such a blessing to me, that he gave me all of the nonprofits in our county as my caseload.

That is, that is such a great experience, and to help them be able to navigate federal grants, that's yeah, that's intense.

It was intense and I loved it. I loved it. I got to see the back offices of a lot of nonprofits. I got to see those who struggle. Why did they struggle? And sometimes it was a fund-raising struggle because perhaps they were only relying on this funding, and they didn't have a diversification of funding.

Or perhaps it was a lack of board involvement and engagement because they failed to have policies in place around procurement or financial management. And then I saw nonprofits who were kind of like knocking it out of the park. So, when I was getting ready to transition from actually working for one non-government entity into another, I pretty much knew the back office of a lot of nonprofits, right?

And so that allowed me to kind of say I want to work for this nonprofit because every audit, every compliance piece, the CEO was engaged, the board was awesome. When they have a position open, I will apply for a position in that organization. And so that's how I landed in the Boys and Girls Club in Edinburgh, my local town. They had an opening, and what was so interesting about this organization that I spent 20 years in, and I grew in was that they were a quasi-department of the city.

And so, there was that relationship. The city and the nonprofit, which had a great collaborative relationship, saw that the way they set it up is now coming full circle. I serve on the DC board for our city, but what they did was the economic development model that cities adopt. They adopted that for youth development, and so the Boys and Girls Club became the youth development arm of the city.

OK, yeah, so I just want to interject because this is important. It was like a conversation we're having specifically around government public dollars that are supporting important NGOs, and the folks who are listening to my podcast are mainly donors from the private sector. And a lot of times, what we ask as donors from the private sector is how can we leverage public dollars I say leverage in a more positive, friendly way, rather than simply how you can. We use things, but more in the sense of how we can.

We, you know, really work with the nonprofits to ensure that they're getting the biggest bang for their buck from the public institutions because, as private donors, we just don't have as much money as the public institutions, and also, we can maybe be more nimble.

We can maybe, like, help start-up cool programs that then maybe get more funding. I see you nodding, and so I'd love to hear about your experience there Like, you know, you worked. You have a such great experience with helping nonprofits access that money on the public side, and we, as private donors, were going to be like, "Oh, right on Sabrina. We need your help to help, you know, with the nonprofits we care about. Make sure the nonprofits are leveraging those dollars.

But talk to me more about how Have you worked with us, the private donors?

And so, I guess because of that relationship with the city and having that quasi, a lot of the community thought, oh well, you're fully funded by this, by the city, and that was not necessarily the case, so when I took over the organization, we had like a $750,000 budget and about 200,000 souls came from the city. And what I realized was that this was the perception in the community. So, one of the things I would say is from the perspective of a donor and a non-profit. Perspective is, you have to make sure that you are educating your donors and the community on your sources of funding and not only educating them on their sources of funding but also going in when you are talking with them to let them know.

So how are these funds allocated and what are the gaps in service? And that's what we had to focus on with our donors. What did the absences mean?

Thank you for saying that, because that's the key, right, is that the nonprofit defines the gaps in service. They can do that, and then, as a donor, we can ask what the gaps in service are.

Although at the same time, I think we're going to be interested in leveraging our money as there might be gaps in service. So public dollars aren't going there yet, but maybe there are public dollars that could go there in the future if you're filling a gap with a smaller amount of money from the private sector. Here, that gap is starting to be filled, but then that empowers.

There's like a staffer maybe at the nonprofit that empowers them to then say, OK, we need to now see if the city can give us money as well or something. Is that like how that works together?

That's how they work together, and it is, you know, going to the donor and saying, "These are our gaps 

Yeah, cool.

Because a lot of times, of course, you know, with any kind of government funding, it can be restrictive, right? And there are just certain things you can spend on and certain things that you can't spend it on.


And so, when you want to expand your programs or provide, in our case, transportation, even though those are some of the gaps in our services, we wanted to provide scholarships to our graduating seniors because we're working with kids who are from low-income families oftentimes. Or who are at risk, and I'm going to educate people right now.

At-risk does not mean that they're from low-income families. At-risk simply means that they are facing some types of challenges, and so for me, I was a working parent, and I worked a lot of hours. I'm so glad my husband has a two-income household, but my children were at risk because when your parents are working all the time, that is a risk factor, right? And so that's just my educational moment.

Thank you for the education moment, Sabrina I appreciate that.

Yeah, that's just my education moment because yeah, awesome That's confusing, you know?

So, when you're serving that clientele, there are some things you want to do, and one of those things we wanted to do as an organization provided scholarships to our children.

And so that's not something you can necessarily do with public money, with government money And so we started on the trajectory of developing an annual camp. Based on individual donors and the establishment of an endowment to fund these scholarship programs and educate donors on how their money will be spent,

Yeah, I love that. And that is a great story and illustration of it. So, Sabrina, you now have a business where you're helping nonprofits more generally based on that experience, many of your experiences. Let's talk about your business. I'd like to know what you're doing there.

And then I want love, love, love. Any more advice you have for my donor? Listeners who want to be more effective talk about what you're doing specifically and how people can reach you too.

So, what am I doing? It goes right hand in hand with my story. So, in 2018, I retired. And I retired because it's been 20 years and at some point, you have to acknowledge that you've taken your organization to where it can be, and it's time for new blood to step in, to take it to the next step, especially if you love. You have to recognize your limitations as an organization. But not only that. I say to God in his mercy that in 2018, at the age of 47, I was diagnosed with not one but two cancers.

Oh my gosh, Sabrina.

Yeah, he made retiring a little bit easier, but the cancers that I got were lymphoma and multiple myeloma, which are blood cancers, but they're directly related to stress.

And I realized that I was successful in running my nonprofit, but it did come at a cost, and so what I wanted to do, but what did I do from my hospital bedroom? When I had to undergo a stem cell transplant, I knew that once you do a stem cell transplant, you're in a hospital for 30 days.

So, I launched my company, supporting World Hope, from my hospital bed, and the mantra that was in my head as I love what I do. I love what I do. And I don't want anyone else to have to experience what I experienced. And so, I thought I had 20-plus years of experience in my head.

I can help people shorten the learning curve. I can put out resources. And share those resources. And so that's when I launched my company called Support World Hope. And supporting world hope is there for nonprofit professionals and board members who feel overwhelmed and stressed, so they don't have to have the same experience that I did. And so, as a part of my company, I provide a lot of free resources. and low-cost resources.

I have a VIP resource library on my website at www.supportingworldhope.com where it has sample policies, board engagement tools, marketing tools, and all kinds of tools, and I do webinars as well as executive coaching and fundraising, as well as coaching.

And so, I do that because, again, I don't want nonprofit professionals and board members who got into this to do some great things. I don't want them to be stressed. When they are out, a lot of times they put themselves second, and self-care is not a topic of conversation. And so, I just want to be able to say, you know, you don't have to go down that Google rabbit hole Just come here, and I will support you in that.

That's beautiful, Sabrina. And also, you know, hats off to you. I mean, I know this is just audio, but we're talking, and you are just all energy. I would never have guessed that you went through that experience in terms of, like, the way that you're just right there, raring to go.

And I suspect that even though you're like, OK, I'm, you know, trying to have people, not burnout and move forward and be healthy. All the things you just listed for yourself, that's a busy person there. So, but at the same time, maybe because you have your own business now, you're able to focus on self-care as well, right? Yeah, it's good. I'm just looking out for you too, friend.

Yes, it does. Yeah, right, right. Yeah, because I can control my time. 

Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

After all of that, I'm a little bit more in control. OK, I'm profiting. So, I'm good. I'm good.

Yeah, I am a donor to a lot of nonprofits, and there are a couple of things that I look at when I choose to donate to certain organizations, right? One of the things that I look at is, believe it or not, and I don't know if this is right or wrong, but I look at the leadership in the organization.

Who's the CEO of that organization? Are they visible in the community? I look at the board members. What type of board members do they have? Are they engaged? Are they credible? And I do this because there are a lot of nonprofits that I serve, not serve, but give to.

You are local in my community, so when they're local in your community, you see the people, you know who they are. For me, that makes a difference to who's serving on your board locally, right? Some of the other things that I look at as a donor, for me, I don't This is one of my pet peeves. And maybe it's one of my pet peeves because I was in an organization and ran an organization and I didn't ask about the administrative costs and that percent. Then I look at the impact. Like, what impact are you making?

I am not into looking at, well, how much are you spending on fundraising or how much goes to direct program services, and I don't look at that, and here's why: having run an organization, I understand. As the CEO of an organization, I did a program.

I was out there with the kids gardening. I wanted to stay connected with the kids because that's where I got my joy and my involvement from but as a CEO, when you're doing your 990's and all that, my time was credited towards administrative oftentimes, but I was engaged hands-on in the program.

So, I look at the impact. What is your impact on the community? What are you doing for your clients, and how are their lives being improved? But at the same time, from a donor perspective, if you send me a report that's all numbers and stuff, you've lost me.

That's so important.

I am up here.

Yeah, it's got to be stories, conversation, and impact.

I'm a story girl.

Yeah, totally.

Yes, that's me It's got to be a combination. I have one board member, whose name is Jesse. Love Jesse.

He's a numbers guy He wanted to see the numbers. So, you kind of have to speak all the donors' languages, but I'll tell you 90% of the time.

Yeah, yeah. Good point.

Stories, right? But some like the numbers. But from a donor perspective, look at the impact and look at those organizations that are in communication with you and that are building that relationship with you. I am a monthly giver to an organization and have had two very different experiences. I never hear from them until the year ends, and I was so upset last year that I picked up the phone and called them. I promised to give you something every month.

I don't get a newsletter every month, and I don't get this, but you have the audacity. Send me an end-of-year card. I don't appreciate it. Those are sometimes the conversations you need to have.

Yeah, because you're helping them. Because you care about the group and you're helping them, then maybe reprioritize because other donors may feel the same way, but they're not saying.

So, thanks for that, Sabrina. That are great words of wisdom, great nuggets for people to take home with them, and in our show notes, we're going to have all of your contacts. information as well, and it's just been delightful to talk to you today. Thanks so much for taking the time out of your busy day to talk to my listeners about how to make the world a better place, essentially.

Yes, impact, impact, impact.

Totally. Thanks a lot, Sabrina.

Thank you.

So, there you have it I hope you enjoyed this podcast as much as I enjoyed making it for you. So, if you want to find out more about what I have to offer, please check out www.doyourgood.com and learn more ways to make your money matter. Until next time, do your best and be well.