You may already know that MarketSmart helps nonprofits engage with their supporters in a way that keeps them highly involved and committed— so they give more.
But what you might not know is that the personal challenges I faced building this business have been tremendous. So today, I thought I’d share my story with you.
I tried to bury what follows because it was so painful. But, when I was interviewed because my firm won a very big award (last year), it got me thinking about the challenges I/we overcame to get here.
I started the business in 2008 during the economic downturn. It was shortly after my dad died from a heart attack and my stepmother began to sue me for his estate.
At the same time, my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer.
That meant I had to help her physically, emotionally and financially. Then one of her nurses stole $50,000 from her after giving her an overdose of drugs and rousing her from her sleep to have her sign checks emptying money from my mom’s account to her’s and her friend’s.
On top of all that, sadly, that crime led some people to judge how I took care of my mom (even though they weren’t involved in her care at all). I felt terribly guilty that I wasn’t with her 24/7. But I had to work. When she first got sick, I brought my laptop to her bedside and worked beside her. But I just couldn’t do that every hour of every day. Nevertheless, I felt horrible about it. Reprehensibly, those people made me a pariah. It still breaks my heart.
If that wasn’t enough, the adjustable rate mortgage on my home came due and my house payment more than doubled.
The business wasn’t ready to provide my family with an income. I had been paying my employees. And, of course some of them wanted raises. But I wasn’t yet paying myself. And, in fact, the business needed a lot more capital just to keep it alive.
Everything was hitting me at once.
Plus, many of you probably know that my wife has been a Type 1 diabetic since the age of 8. The birth of both of our children was tremendously challenging. Her daily life is filled with blood sugar testing, episodes of hypoglycemia and other demands. It was because of her dreadful disease that I took particular notice of a terribly offensive newsletter sent to us from a diabetes-related charity. That’s what led me to realize that I could do more to support the search for a cure by helping them overhaul their marketing efforts than by giving them money. More on that can be found here.
So, on top of my dad dying, his wife suing me, my mom dealing with cancer, my mortgage coming due and my business floundering, I had tremendous concerns for my wife’s well-being.
Her disease made it especially challenging for her to rear our two young children. I desperately wanted to be there to see them grow up because my dad wasn’t around much when I was a young boy or a teenager. He left our home when I was just 12, leaving me with my mom who suffered from chronic depression, anxiety and other issues.
I can’t believe how much I was dealing with when I look back. But I’m sure many of you have faced similar hard times. Everyone does, including your donors, volunteers and the beneficiaries of their gifts and time.
Finally, MarketSmart started to deliver serious results for our clients.
I was thrilled. Making progress warmed my heart. Building relationships with great people around the world made me feel like I was contributing. Making the world a better place.
But we still weren’t out of the weeds yet because many fundraisers simply were not yet ready to accept our “disruptive” software and strategies. In fact, soon after achieving amazing results for a few of our clients I was invited to speak about our successes at a fundraising symposium. But a handful of naysayers heckled me so much I couldn’t even finish my presentation. It was awful! I felt like an Uber driver at a taxi cab convention all because my technologies and methods were unorthodox and unconventional.
Today MarketSmart is finding more acceptance but, we still frequently encounter consternation.
I guess I’m a pariah to some in the nonprofit sector too. Such is the life of a disruptive, conscientious capitalist. We’re growing very fast. People keep asking about buying us or funding us. We’re winning awards. But most of all, we’re delivering results in line with our brand promise and our mission.
So that’s my story.
And now I just want to say “THANK YOU” to my wife. She is everything to me. She is the reason I started the business— to help raise money to cure her diabetes. She is my inspiration, my support, and my most trusted advisor. She is my true love and my best friend. If you ever meet her, you should thank her too. Without her, none of this would be possible.
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