#35 – Amy Palmer: How to start and run a non-profit. A fascinating discussion about the non-profit world! We also get into some specifics regarding attaining non-profit status and partnering with other organizations for that same purpose. You will thoroughly enjoy getting an inside look at how non-profits are formed, funded, and managed!
Aaron Spatz 00:05
I’m Aaron Spatz. And this is the Veterans Business Podcast. A podcast centered around the stories of US military veterans, and their adventures in the business world following their time in service. Its stories of challenges and obstacles, and an inside look at how veterans find their life’s work, their purpose, and their post military lives. Welcome to another episode of the Veterans Business Podcast, I just want to thank you so much for tuning in this week. It’s just a sincere delight and pleasure to be able to produce the show for you. And really excited to introduce to you our guests this week, we welcome Amy Palmer, Amy served our country in the US Air Force before transitioning out and taking on a variety of roles within many different organizations. She’s predominantly worked in the nonprofit space. So that’s, that’s really fun. Amy is the president and CEO of soldiers angels, and with a simple and profound mission that no soldier goes on loved. Amy, thank you so much for joining the show.
Amy Palmer 01:05
Sure. Thanks for having me today.
Aaron Spatz 01:06
Yeah, absolutely. Just would love to love to learn a little bit more about you a little bit more about your background. What What was your upbringing? Like? What, what motivated you to join the Air Force?
Amy Palmer 01:19
i Well, I think kind of my motivations to join the military were like a lot of people’s we didn’t know what we wanted to do with our life, I love to say it was because I was a, you know, patriotic citizen and did it for those reasons. But that would probably not be the accurate answer. But I grew up in a large family and I had 10 Brothers and sisters. And so you know, a small town community, there really wasn’t a lot of opportunity available. I graduated high school a year ahead of my class. And so you know, I just really didn’t know what I wanted to do in my life, I spent a first my first year in college, and, and still had no direction. And of course, you know, at that, at that time, it wasn’t like it is now where kids come home again, after college or, you know, on and off again, once we left, we left. And so back then is like, you know, shut the door behind you. And so, you know, I just really didn’t have a lot of support, just because we had a large family. And there were lots of kids, you know, it just there wasn’t enough for one to be able to pay for college and those sorts of things. And so for me, the military was the best option. So I joined the Air Force at 18. Did, as I said, at your school, and then ended up you know, with my first assignment in at Osan, Air Force Base in Korea.
Aaron Spatz 02:36
Wow. That’s pretty cool. Getting to go through all the training pipeline and just immediately ship out overseas is there. Yeah. And I’ve noticed a lot of people either that’s either what they really want, or that’s what they really don’t want. So was that something you were kind of hoping for?
Amy Palmer 02:52
Um, not at all, you know, first, being in a big family, we didn’t really get to have birthday parties as kids, you know, where we went to stuff. So I mean, I didn’t go to my first movie until I was old enough to drive myself. I think just because there was so many of us. We didn’t have you know, roller skating parties, a lot of those things just because there was so many we didn’t eat out very often. And we I had never been on an airplane until I joined the military. And so So of course, when I did my dream sheet, I put everything around me and I grew up in Kansas. So I put everything nearby, you know, Wichita and Oklahoma, Texas basis and ended up with Korea. So I had no idea even where I was like looking at the globe and see where that was. You get your little assignment sheet and it has all that stuff about security classes, all that it scared me. I was like, Oh, my gosh, where am I going? Yeah, this is, you know, a lot of words on that thing that sounded really serious, big words. And I’m like, Oh, my gosh, look kind of play. So they said to me, Jaylen, you know, it just, I mean, it was your traditional, you know, your traditional assignment sheet, it just made it sound worse than it was. And so, but it was a great experience. I mean, there was a one year remote tour at the time. And, you know, just, I mean, I grew up really fast, and learned a lot about you know, different cultures and things and different people and, and, you know, with everybody being there on a remote tour, nobody had their family. So we really got close to each other even in a stateside base, you know, of course, people go home to their families after work. And there, nobody has their families on a remote tour. And so we really get to know people and, and you really develop strong relationships with people. So it really was a great tour. And, you know, at the time i i met, who was now my ex husband, but we were married 2626 years, we were together, that and we met there and so I got married, you know, three weeks after my 19th birthday. And so I mean, it really was a great experience. And I would encourage anybody, you know, while you’re single and have that opportunity to take those overseas assignments, right? They were so much fun.
Aaron Spatz 05:01
Yeah. And it only gets more difficult with the more attachments and the more just craziness of life. Yeah, yeah.
Amy Palmer 05:08
If you can get them over before you have already. I mean, everybody usually gets those tours, if you can get enough of them. You may not have to take those remote tours later in your career when you don’t really want to. I mean, it’s so much better than so yeah, I was, I was happy to have gotten that out of the way right away. But it was a great experience.
Aaron Spatz 05:25
Nice. Yeah, well, then. So then shirtless little bit more detail about what what it was you did when you’re in and then and then a little bit about your decision to leave the Air Force?
Amy Palmer 05:34
Yeah. So I was in air transportation, when I started, when I was in Korea, worked in the air passenger terminal and did the space flights and the Friedenberg coming in and out. And then I worked in the Air Transportation Operations Control Center for a bit and did some flight planning and things like that. During that tour, and when I came back to the States, there’s not as much of that in the US and, and at the time, when I got married on my mid tour, so we could get an assignment to the same location. And when we got to the next location, they didn’t have that portion of my career field. So I ended up pushing, pushing rocks, loading, you know, it was a training base. And so we loaded fake cargo that they could do training missions on. So they were pallets of rocks, basically. And so we loaded that. And then I ended up doing some Fleet Service, which is nobody’s dream job. And, and doing latrine service on aircraft, which was the back end of that career field. So I did that for a while I was injured actually, ultimately at back surgery. And so when I was in Korea, I had an injury. And so that I’m medically retrained into personnel worked in retirements and separations for a few years and an orderly room and at for for a couple of years, and then ended up getting out was med boarded out from my back at the time, you know, during that time, they didn’t keep people with injuries, even injuries, 10 or 20%. Disability now I could have, you know, stayed easily. But then they were, you know, if he had injuries that were significant enough that you know, it made it difficult to deploy, you know, they, at that time, they were med board and a lot more people for those sorts of things. So, which worked because you know, join spouses a lot difficult when both of you are trying to move. It impacted his ability to progress in his career field because of them trying to assign both of us to the same base. So really, for his career for his career, it was a lot better for me to get out. And, and the med board made that possible. So So I worked civil service, actually right away after that, working in, in NPF. Same way, doing, you know, working in the same kind of arena, except instead of Orly room as at the NPS, I did that for a while. And then, you know, we’re civil service through a couple of additional assignments and then ended up in the nonprofit sector from there.
Aaron Spatz 08:01
Wow. Yeah, no, that’s a that’s an incredible story. And sorry, I’m sorry to hear about the about the medical medical separation there because that that’s tough. I feel like the military has a way of using that as a force shaping tool to just come up with recruiting standards or you know how, not that the standards get more lacs, but there’s a minimum and then how much how much more above standard? How much like, these waivers are in there, and you’re not going to get approved that used to get approved back in the day. And then I think the same thing on like, on the med board side of things. It’s, you know, it’s a it’s a kind of a way to adjust the levers on the front end and back end. Yeah. With force shaping, but absolutely, yeah. Yeah. That’s crazy. Yeah. Yeah. So then you’re you’re very unique. I, like I told you, before we actually started the podcast. I don’t know. I mean, I probably have, I just can’t think off top my head. But I don’t think I’ve had anybody else on the show that has been so, so long in the nonprofit world. And I feel like that’s a I feel like that’s a type of business that people think that they understand. And there’s like a billion of them. There’s, and I’ll joke with people too, like with the podcast. I mean, there’s a million in one nonprofit organizations out there. And the podcast is my way of doing a nonprofit without doing a nonprofit, but share with us a little bit about the journey into the nonprofit space. How did you get linked up into it? First of all, and then share this a little bit about what what that experience has been like?
Amy Palmer 09:37
Yeah, I mean, when I was in the military, I was always the one that was in charge of soliciting, although you weren’t technically supposed to solicit that. Back then we had the savings bonds. You know, we went around and try to get convinced people sign up for savings bonds and come on federal campaign and holiday parties. You know, where we’re getting siloed off, getting raffle items and stuff for your squadron parties. I was always that person. And who always did those sorts of things. So I was always the one that wasn’t afraid to ask people and, and, you know, if they told me that get 90% to sign up for savings bonds, I was gonna get 90% Decide for savings bonds. You know, it just, it just was my thing. If I had a goal in that area, you know, I did that. And so, after I got out was working civil service. You know, I’d have a lot of first sergeants and you know, commanders and things that would stop at the MTF. And they would ask, you know, where can I get this, we have, you know, people deployed and, and back then, you know, I mean, during the Gulf War, you used to could send stuff through the military postal system, if you had someone in your unit deployed, and you wanted to send a care package, and they stopped doing that. And so, you know, units and for sergeants were trying to get stuff to their service members, or they had packed a package and, and they didn’t have a means of getting that paid for. And so they would ask me, you know, where do I get this? Where do I get this because I was used to asking people in the community for things. So I was always kind of that role. And because they needed that sometimes money. You know, I set up and, and nonprofit, which eventually folded into another nonprofit. And so So, you know, we raised money to be able to support those sorts of kind of basic means of things. And you know, so it was a natural fit for me to get into the nonprofit industry.
Aaron Spatz 11:17
So you’re are you talking about Operation Homefront?
Amy Palmer 11:20
Yeah, so at the time, it was called My So Operation Homefront when I started, mine was called the Armed Forces Foundation, which still is partially in existence, uh, well was to recently in DC. So we had started what was the Armed Forces foundation and, and I was at Scott Air Force base at the time. And then the I met the Meredith who had started Operation Homefront. And they had had the desire, they were in San Diego, they had a desire to grow from San Diego to Nashville. And we had already by then started, you know, setting up affiliate branches. So we put them together. So mine had branches, we combined with them and kind of grew it. But we were both pretty little at the time. And then we took on the operational front name. Operation Homefront at the time was working with a radio show out of San Diego, that was pretty well known. And so it was really important for us to keep that name just because because he was building kind of a brand around it with the radio show. So we stuck with the name Operation Homefront, and I was there. I think about 13 years in total with Operation Homefront.
Aaron Spatz 12:23
Yeah, I was I was just I was looking at background like you were there. You’re there for quite some time. Yeah. So so what were like what were some of the big lessons learned, I guess, in the early days of start? So you’d started Armed Forces foundations that was yours? Yeah. But so so share those share with those that either? I mean, I think it’s impossible for veterans to not know about nonprofits. I mean, like you, like you said, the Combined Federal Campaign. I remember, when I was in the Marine Corps and combined federal campaign, you felt it was like mandatory, it was like as close to a mandatory as possible. Yeah, you’re gonna give to one of these million different things on the sheet. Right. So. So I think as veterans, we’re all very familiar with nonprofits, but walk with us through the process of getting a nonprofit set up, like what is what does that look like? What are what are? What are some things that may be different as compared to forming just a sole member LLC? Are some of the other more basic types of businesses?
Amy Palmer 13:22
Yeah, I mean, I think the initial setup as a nonprofit is actually relatively easy as it is like you would be setting up an LLC, you know, you file a simple registration form. And magically, you’ll have an LLC, you do it depends on the state that you’re forming that in. But in most states, you have that three board members to form a nonprofit. But, you know, a lot of them were your husband and your next door neighbors. And so we, you know, a lot of us have joked that I have done this, because I’ve done some nonprofit consulting, and some speaking for different foundations and such, on governance and stuff. And we always used to say, we used to have our board meeting in the shower, because we, that’s when we made most of the decisions in the morning, I’m like, I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna, and the board just agreed, because they were friends and neighbors. They didn’t care. They were just a name. That’s not, you know, it worked for me at the time, just because, you know, they didn’t care about making decisions, but it was hard because you don’t have anybody to kind of bounce things off and you don’t have anybody there. I mean, there were nights, you know, I stressed a lot about money and whether we’d have the money to support certain things, and, you know, somebody came and needed something, you know, whether we’d have the money there. And, you know, there were some difficult days of doing that. And so, you know, nonprofits have to run like a business. You know, people are sometimes I’m think that they don’t that they are different, but But you know, in some ways, it’s tougher because of our audit requirements and things over once you receive once you exceed a certain level of income, you are required to get an audit. And there’s a lot of organizations that will support you even under that threshold without the audit And so the and then the charity watchdog groups, of course, you know, maintaining those standards make things even more difficult. So to be a small organization, if you want to be a care package organization in your garage, it’s not that difficult to do. And you can have a board of your friends and neighbors, you know, if your friends or neighbors or your your subdivision or your community is, is the one that’s raising the money and supporting it, it’s not that difficult. But if you want to be beyond that, and you want to be able to even get a gift from your local Walmart or your local Albertsons or Kroger’s or whatever, they do have an expectation of certain things that you’re going to have in place and meeting those standards is definitely a lot more difficult. And the watchdog groups are, are more difficult. We’ve had a few organizations that have wanted to merge with us, and we’ve taken some in, because a lot of those care package organizations, you know, they got to a point where they didn’t want to do it anymore, it was harder to raise money, you know, right after 911, there were people wanting to give to things pretty readily. And, and then it got hard, you know, and 2008 2009, it wasn’t quite in the media so much. You had to actually go out and start soliciting and have a plan to do to fundraise and to, you know, to maintain operations. And so a lot of them folded during that time, because that just wasn’t their area. And they or they weren’t interested in that. And it got harder to raise money. And so, you know, the climate just changed a lot. And a lot of organizations really had to professionalize. And we had to do that too. So I had to go back, I really learned a lot about, about running those businesses and being able to have a diversified funding stream and things. And so So people sometimes think it’s not like a business and it shouldn’t run like a business. And sometimes they’re surprised people that run nonprofits make make a living, or get paid, you know, some people think they should do it for free. But at some point, you can’t run a business like that. It’s just not, you’re not going to survive, because of all the various things that you have to have in place to, to run and to have your board meetings and things that are required of all these watchdog groups. So So you know, it is it is a business plus? Um,
Aaron Spatz 17:16
yeah, no, I can definitely see that. And, and, like, I appreciate the, like debunking some of these myths too, because I think I think there is a bit of a myth that it’s like, you know, just the money just magically shows up. If you’re a nonprofit, it’s just, there’s just, money just gets wired into your account, just somehow, and, and it really, it really is different. And you talked about, you know, diversified funding streams. And that’s important. And I would love to get your take on this too, as well. Actually, I had another question. I’ll go and ask both at the same time. So you talked about being on receive gifts. So I’m asking out of sheer ignorance. But I’m also asking, because I know people watching this are gonna have the same question. So when you talk about receiving gifts, are you are you going ahead and you’re getting nonprofit status from the IRS from the get? Or are you waiting until you exceed a certain threshold before you go ahead and do that? So let’s start there. And then I’ll ask my next question. Yeah,
Amy Palmer 18:13
so good question, you can actually apply for nonprofit status with the IRS which which takes six months to a year to actually get but it’s retroactive to the date you are incorporated or the date of filing. So. So you can you can be a nonprofit and not be a tax exempt nonprofit, you can form a nonprofit entity, nonprofit corporation in your state by filling out this simple form and paying your 50 bucks and be a nonprofit organization and call yourself a nonprofit but not actually be federally tax exempt. And so there’s some that do that. And and without you knowing you know that you may not be able to tax the duck what you gave to them, because they’re not a tax exempt agencies and some of the smaller care package organizations never went that route to actually file because it you know, cost you a few 100 bucks to get your exempt status and probably to pay somebody to do it. So you may have 1000, or $1,500, or 2000 invested in getting your 501 C three. But you can be a nonprofit without a 501 C three. And so a lot of people don’t know that. But you know, when people give to you, you need to make sure that you tell them your gifts to you are not a tax tax exempt. And but we did file right away just because we wanted people to be able to deduct them. And we knew it was a long term plan for us if it had been a short term plan. If we had been kind of care package focused or something like that, like a lot of the groups were and that was kind of a short period of time, we probably would have asked to borrow the tax exempt status of another agency. So you can work under a church or a Legion or VFW or somebody else that has a tax exempt status and be a program operating under them and using yours without having to actually do that filing. So if somebody wants to do something short term or wants to Fill it out before they do it, I would encourage them to go that route is finding somebody that will sponsor them versus setting it up on their own. Because, yeah, it gives you a good sense of whether you can make it happen. I mean, because we’re passionate about serving people, we assume everybody is. And that’s just not the case. When you start asking people to help or volunteer or give money, you know, then you realize it’s a little, it’s tough. And so So starting out under another agency, or church or something else, it makes it a lot easier just to really get a sense of this, is this something you want to do long term before you actually file for your own tax exempt status?
Aaron Spatz 20:36
So I’m going to ask the follow up that I know people would have on this. So does that affect the ownership structure are you like surrendering operational control or, or any kind of ownership of your nonprofit, when you’re using someone as a sponsor? How does that work,
Amy Palmer 20:51
you’re not because you can be a nonprofit without being a 501 C three, so you can be a nonprofit without having the IRS exemption. So when you’re using somebody else’s, you can do it as you’re still your LLC, but using it under them. So when you do so for receipt purposes, you would tell them, you know, you’re working under whatever church or whatever leaked, or post or whatever, but you’re still your same entity. So it doesn’t impact your entity status, you’re just using somebody, somebody’s organization, to to cover those donations to you.
Aaron Spatz 21:28
I gotcha. So then the way that the then then the flow of money then would then be I give to church. And I’m like, you know, marking my giving as I wanted to go to this nonprofit, and then the church or whatever nonprofit organization with with 501 C three statuses, then turning around and writing you a check to your like, to your to your own nonprofit organization that doesn’t yet have 501, C three,
Amy Palmer 21:55
well, you can actually even have a checking account under that name, and still receive it directly, you just have to make sure that your your information goes back to that entity, because when they file their taxes, then they’ll need to add it to their data. And so you can be a subordinate of one. But churches don’t typically file taxes. And so if you do it under a church, they may not even want that information, because churches, most churches don’t. I mean, they have an option, most churches don’t file taxes. And so federal tax returns, so a lot of them may not even want that information, but but you could have even an account under that name. You know, even like if it had been soldiers angels, you could have it under that name and still be using the tax exempt status of a church and just say, Hey, this is the IRS tax exempt number we’re using under this, you know, we’re being covered under this entity, and still have that even a separate accounting and such.
Aaron Spatz 22:52
Wow, okay. Blew like blew my mind. And I’m sure there’s a lot of people by people listening watching this like, okay, noted, like I did, I did not know that the and that’s a great way like you said, to kind of test drive your idea maybe like proof of concept of a of a nonprofit idea. And see gives you the kind of chance to test drive it and see if it’s worth pursuing. So,
Amy Palmer 23:17
yeah, it definitely as in like community, like churches like to do a lot of civic things, too. And so community food banks and things like that, you know, say, hey, I want to set up a Community Food Bank program, a lot of those groups or even a VFW Legion, they, they’re all about serving that same population, as long as your populations match up. A lot of them would be happy to take on something like that as another project without you know, you having to go through the legal process of doing all the things that you need to do. That’s great. Yeah, cool. That’s
Aaron Spatz 23:47
some something I certainly didn’t know. So very, really helpful. Okay, so then this is another question that you’d get me excited about asking. But I wanted to ask you all that prior to. So you talked about diversified funding stream. And so I would love to get your your perspective on this, too. So the the classic nonprofit, at least from what I’ve seen, in my limited experience stealing nonprofits, but the classic model has been purely donor driven, where like you’re signing up to be a $10 a month, a $45, month one and all these different sponsorship levels. And that has traditionally been for a lot of nonprofits like that, that makes up constitutes 100% of their of any kind of income. What is your what’s your position on that, like, do it? Are they are they making themselves vulnerable? Is that a great strategy or I feel like it’s probably not going to be given that you’ve talked about diversity funding, so I’ll leave it to you.
Amy Palmer 24:49
Yeah. So a lot of the charities that started post 911 And when there was a lot of, especially veteran military veteran charities, there were a lot of companies that wanted support that population. And so a lot of the charities that started at that time were real, heavy corporate giving, just because those companies want, you know, and especially defense contractors that were getting a lot of government contracts at the time wanted to give to that space. And so there was a lot of money from corporations flowing into those nonprofits. So in those days of the first five or six years after 911, most of those newer charities that were created were probably 75%, corporate gifts, which isn’t a great strategy, because as you see what like COVID, and other things, when those things decline, they’re the first to really tighten up on those areas, individuals, which historically, a nonprofit organizations that are have been around many, many years are very heavy, individual donor base, which is usually 75 to 80% of their gifts come from individuals, and the average gift is 35 to $45 per gift. And so that’s kind of your basic bread and butter of it, because even economically difficult times, they’re usually consistent, or there’s enough of them, but that a little bit of a little bit of them having to squeeze tight, doesn’t really impact your overall strategy. And so because you have 1000s of those verses, one to 20 companies, if one of them goes sometimes that’s really, really a pain in your nonprofit. So traditionally, nonprofits try to stay 75 to 85% individual, and then usually seven 8%, foundation, seven 8% corporate giving. And so that’s kind of your traditional nonprofit model. And that’s the goal to get to as you start diversifying, that’s where most nonprofits strive to go. Because those individuals even in tough times are, you know, when you do direct mails, and you do email campaigns and things, those people are still kind of your baseline supporters that stay but but you know, there are government contracts, we don’t we don’t do government grants, federal grants, just because of the reporting requirements are very, very stringent. And sometimes you end up spending more money to manage it, then it’s really worth, okay, or you don’t align well enough to qualify, or the amounts or really large amounts, and you don’t really have the infrastructure to support that kind of an advance, which we found out with the USDA Farm to Families program, if it familiar with that, where the USDA had to buy, because of COVID. And the farmers, you know, having crops and, and milk and all those things the government started, started a program where these vendors could apply to get funding from USDA to then donate those, the milk and the produce and those things, to keep those places in industry, you know, those those farmers and things in business. And so. So, you know, those programs to apply in, some of them are getting 20 $30 million for them. And actually, there was one here in San Antonio, that was an event planning company, I think got eight or $9 million, at least. And they had no idea how to put that kind of infrastructure in place to even manage that kind of a grant. And so it was a total disaster. So people sometimes adjust to accommodate those grants, and it’s just not worth it. So for us, we don’t apply for federal funding, we look at them and make that decision. And if we did, I mean, I would probably take it to a board before our board before we did because it’s because we just have not done that. But we look at them, you know, and make that decision with each opportunity. And so far, none of the opportunities have been where we want to take on and manage that kind of reporting requirements and infrastructure that it needs to do it. We’ve been a sub grantee for federal things under somebody else, but it’s their infrastructure, we provide the data, they support what we do, and then we go back to them and provide the data and they actually do it. And so we’ve been sub grantees, but we’ve never been a grantee ourselves, and we’ve never even applied. So some have that kind of in their portfolio, direct mail, which is a way to accumulate individual donors. And that’s pretty common. A pipeline, automobile donations, which is something we do and actually is doing really well right now is automobile boats RVs. We accept those donations, you see a lot of billboards for those, you know, Donate your vehicle. Those are third party companies, traditionally, that people give their vehicle to they sell it, they tow it, they sell it and they give that money to whatever charity they have are contracted to support and that actually so that’s kind of a diversifying option because it’s kind of a regular steady stream that we don’t we don’t have to facilitate the manpower to support it. And and right now it’s actually up because you know, used cars are our there aren’t that many of them available right now and the markets hot for you Use cars. And so they’re actually selling at auction right now more than they typically were. So actually, our auto donation money is actually up right now. Whereas like our corporate giving is a bit down or special events are down, because nobody’s doing conferences and those sorts of things. Um, those two areas are now but our individuals are right on track. And our, our foundations are actually up because a lot of people do COVID specific grants. And so we were able to apply for a lot of COVID specific money to support the military veteran community. And our auto donations are actually up quite a bit right now. Just because the cost of you know, people are buying them higher than they normally did before at auction. So, yeah, so you want to definitely diversify, because you got to figure out how you’re gonna make because you don’t want to rely on one company so much that if they changed their giving, that that shifts and companies do you know, there are some companies that change their criteria every year that are thinking from a marketing perspective, how do we generate more business more sales for a company, and and what’s what’s hot this year may not be so military veterans were hot next year, it may be a children’s charity, or food banks are really big right now, because of because of COVID supporting food banks. And so those a lot of those big companies will change their strategy every year, whereas there’s some that once they once they choose you as a charity, they stick with you like Lockheed Martin has been with us forever. And and they are what can we do? What can we do when COVID came? How else can we help you? And like Carlson, who does the military travel, though the same way and hgB. And some of those, you know, regulars are Bank of America, like, how can we help you, and and they stay. And then there’s those companies that change focus every year. And so, so you really want to be careful about having too much in one area, because if they switch, it may be devastating. And most nonprofits make 75% of their revenue in the fourth quarter. And, and if you’re expecting that coming up at the end of the year, and you’ve banked your your year on it, and that doesn’t happen, you got to figure out oh, my gosh, there went my savings we were going to put aside for the first quarter, a lot of charities have switched to a fiscal year like the military uses. So their first quarter is October, so that when they get to January, they know they’re big, they’re 75% is behind them. And they know Okay, for the next nine months, we made this much as we can spend it this much. And so some of them have started their year that way with an October, you know, with an October 1 month, we’re on a calendar year, because we’ve always been that way. And it’s kind of a pain to change it at this point. But, but if you bank on November, December be a big and it’s not, you know, you may be in a rough, rough go the next, you know, first because the first three or four months of the year are really slow, or relatively slow on the donor side. So yeah, so you definitely have to be diversified to make sure you know where your money’s coming from and when to be prepared. Because you know, it, it changes the dynamic of everything. Yeah,
Aaron Spatz 33:01
well, no, that’s, that’s incredibly, incredibly insightful. And thank you, thank you for sharing all that. That was a ton of really awesome knowledge. Because in Yeah, I mean, I guess you’re just confirming kind of what, like, after you say it, it’s really obvious, but unless you’re in the space, or may not be as obvious and so, you know, according corporate donors as is obviously a great strategy, because you can, you know, the payoff is going to be large, right? But then you’re more vulnerable, because if you’re late, like you’d said, if you maybe you’re, you’re funded by a pool of 10 to 15 corporate donors and one or two or three or more, right, decided to withdraw and kind of tighten down, tighten, tighten their belt up for the next year, then your your hose like your it’s really gonna hurt you. But then, like you’d said, with doing individual donors, and I guess, like, as you’re, as you’re saying that I guess I wasn’t expecting you to say such a high percentage. And I think after you say, like, it makes sense, because, you know, you can afford to, I mean, you certainly don’t want to lose any money, right? But, but if you do lose a few, like you’ve you’ve, you’re diversified enough that it’s not going to, like totally cripple you. And, you know, the point you made too and this is not a shameless sales pitch. This is just the way my brain goes because I’m thinking to social media marketing is like it’s the same principle is if you put all your eggs in one basket on one social media channel, and that’s all you focus your your energy on is you’re vulnerable to that platform. And so like for you, it’s like if I if I invest everything I’ve gotten into corporate sponsorships, then you’re vulnerable there but you know, if you diversify and you get a little strategic a little bit creative with individuals or or like you said cars and lands and you know, any number of other creative things, I think that’s, I think, I think that’s pretty solid. What are some of the common pitfalls that you’ve seen? Like New nonprofits face as their as the you know, They’re excited that they got this this great social justice cause or this big, you know, this big, brilliant idea to impact millions of people, what are some of the biggest mistakes that you regularly have seen or run into it with people that are just starting out?
Amy Palmer 35:16
I think probably the biggest is people just assume because they’re passionate about it, others will be. And so I think it’s important for them to, to go out and speak to some people about it first, and to present their plan to make sure that it really is a solid idea. There’s a lot of foundations and particularly city foundations like San Antonio area Foundation, San Diego Foundation, or Denver Foundation, any of those that usually have a training education arm. And so like our sandstone air foundation here has a nonprofit component where you can learn some nonprofit is a $200 class, and you can learn some things. But they’ll also help you, you know, they can help you find pools of donors or pools of board members, and potentially and so recruiting people that are invested in it upfront is important, because it really tells you whether this is something that’s going to be, you know, be able to be achieved. And so I think it’s important to do that outreach to not just recruit, not just create your board of your friends and neighbors and then go from there, I think it’s important to try to, to have a good enough plan that other people think that this is a good idea. And even people that have had some board experience and service. So when you go to some of those area foundations that different cities usually have, you can talk to people that have some expertise in that space to really determine if that is the case, there’s a lot of times that people want to do it that they could probably do it under, under the umbrella of something else. And so you know, you can you can set it, like someone I knew wanted to do support groups for people that were that suffer from drug addiction, or recovering from drug ation, or family members related to it. And instead of starting our own nonprofit, there are groups that do that, but that have some component of that. Go talk to them about creating a counseling component, or even a new site for counseling that they had may not considered versus creating something of your own. And, you know, just the management and the infrastructure. And all of that is really complicated. We actually got a donation last week or a couple of weeks ago, it was like less than $1,000. And it was from a wounded a guy that was pushed on 11 He’d been injured and he had gotten some some of our clothing from Lawn store when it came in off the battlefield. They had, he had gotten a sweatshirt sweat pants, because they cut off this stuff when he was injured. And so we’d gotten those. And so he remembered us. And when he got back to the States and, and got home, he started a nonprofit to do some financial assistance locally. And he did it for quite a few years. But recently, he sent us what was left of it and a note saying, Hey, this is why He gave it to us, because he you know, we had helped him and had been his inspiration to start an organization, but you know, he was going back to school and he just didn’t have the time, or the desire to continue it anymore. And, and so, you know, he ended up rolling it over and dissolving that and paying out the proceeds of what was left in his account to us. But you know, there’s a lot of organizations that will get to that point. And so, so a lot of times, you know, if you have a mission, or you want to do something specific, that that that can be folded into somebody’s already existing program, and maybe a new component. So we had somebody who wanted to do counseling for four people for service members who had considered suicide, and you know, it’s a big, big emphasis right now on suicide prevention. And so he wanted to do a program for that. And he wanted to start his own nonprofit, but there are lots of organizations that you know, care about that as well that may not even have that that may want to tie that as a new program or a new initiative if somebody wanted to lead something like that and so you know, before you create your own ask around and talk to the other agencies because there may be a good existing fit just having that infrastructure in place already and a network of people and people who understand is is really a big deal and people who understand how to solicit money and where to do and have the all the infrastructure to support it is really a game changer and so I would encourage people to go that route first and look at those options first before they start something of their own even if it is a great idea you know, because it’ll still be a great idea six months from now if you just have the slow roll into it. You’re says jump straight in
Aaron Spatz 39:54
yeah in your you’re not saying signing it over to somebody else like loot already stabbed was early on, right? So cuz I, like I know, from because this is me speaking for as a as an entrepreneur, right like you get into business because you you want you want to be able to maintain control to a certain extent. So even in the nonprofit world, you’re gonna have someone who wants to start some just amazing thing. But they’re the idea of them going in working under something else just get some a little get some a little nervous, but it doesn’t mean that you’re like abandoning your mission and all the things you’re you’re, you’re simply actually it’s almost like a great way to kind of, like, incubate an idea and, and kind of give it life and kind of prove it out and partner with another organization that can offer that as a part of their diversified offerings gives you some experience gives you some exposure gives you a larger network to people to tap into and get mentored from so, I mean, I see nothing but upside to that. And then yes, and then assuming things start to grow and get to the point where you need to establish a little bit larger presence, then you can go do that. So
Amy Palmer 41:04
yeah, I mean, I would still incorporate and at least have that in place and, and get that name. So if you have a name that you want, even if something changed, and you wanted to separate all, you would still have that entity already established already with that name, that would stay with that person. So so you could create something under Name and use somebody else’s tax exemption and then separate off later and still keep that entity and that name intact. So I would definitely encourage them to go that because I mean, although you would be working under somebody else, you would still have control of that corporate entity, and the name. And so others have done it too, like snowball Express, many people have heard of them. And they had many years ago, they had had, you know, they take families have fallen to Disney. And they’d had a rough go for a while there was some things going on that were really great. And they and they had some really serious problems. And they got absorbed by Gary Sinise Foundation. And so snowball Express still maintains its name. So if you go to the Gary Sinise Foundation website, you’ll still see snowball Express, but it runs under the Gary Sinise Foundation. And so its mission hasn’t changed. It just doesn’t have that full board of its own. It doesn’t have all that infrastructure and all that management of its own, all those tax returns, all the audits, all the things that they would have to do, you know, it’s pulled up in his but it still runs under the name of snowball Express. And their vision is still the same as what snowball Express was. And so you know, that can happen under under the right umbrella. So I would definitely encourage that before people decide to go out on their own. And especially military veterans share this because it was a lot easier. You know, right after 911 I mean, the money was flowing, and people wanted to support, it’s a lot harder now to get to get that same kind of baseline in place. And, and the infrastructure and it’s a long process to get to get those wheels moving, where people are giving and, and you have some revenue that gets to be consistent. That’s that’s hard. And it’s hard right now, with COVID. And but also the military veterans face isn’t in the media so much anymore. And so people aren’t, you know, people don’t realize we have so many still deployed, or that there still needs out there and, or, you know, and so if you really have to be really happy to go out and get it. It’s so it’s a hard space, and I wouldn’t encourage anybody to jump straight into that space right now for sure.
Aaron Spatz 43:29
Yeah, no, it’s It’s crazy to think too, as you know, it feels like, you know, the the war efforts that we’re still that we’re still executing right now, we still got people down, right? Yeah, right now, and you would have no idea because it never gets news coverage. You know, not? It’s not like 2005 Right? Yeah. 2010 2011 We’re all it was all over the news. But trying to trying to wind down the No, no, we’re starting to run up on our time. But I’ve only got two questions left. And then I’d love to spend a little bit of time here at the end kind of talking more about what what is it you do specifically how people can get can get in touch with you, but we’d love to hear from you though, like what what’s been one of the biggest challenges that you’ve had to face as somebody that’s starting and founding a nonprofit and it could either be from, you know, years ago or it could be recent doesn’t really matter. It just would love to would love to understand, like, what’s a big challenge that you’ve had to overcome?
Amy Palmer 44:24
Um, I think the biggest thing is really the funding as the hardest, you know, getting getting money and and finding a network of people to give and being able, you know, you want to do direct mail and you want to be able to buy ads and things like that, but you know, you can’t do it without money. And so um, so that’s tough because you know, it’s you can’t serve clients without the money to do it. And you know, it’s so it is tough, the funding component of is probably the hardest. Getting that in place and and moving that forward. But there’s a lot of of things that I’ve learned over the years and not just me other nonprofits have learned like with the chapter model, there’s a lot of charities that were under a chapter model, Red Cross used to be USA used to be under traditional tractor model where they all their chapters were independent entities under kind of a franchise umbrella. And, and a lot of organizations nationalized about 10 years ago, where they have absorbed all their affiliates into one entity. And, and that’s to avoid them having to have to file their own taxes and have their own local boards and things like that. And most of the charities went, went that route and absorbed them. But because they were independent entities, you know, their board may have voted not to so some of the USS did not get absorbed initially. And, and so, or, like we had a couple, when we did the same thing at Operation Homefront. During the same timing, we had a couple that ended up changing their name and staying independent, because they did not want to be under a national umbrella. But you know, so people, you know, realize that this is like a business, we run like a business, we have to function like a business, we, you know, when things get off, we lay off like everybody else we hire we, you know, we don’t have competitive salaries to the for profit world, you know, we, we know that. But, you know, if you have a desire to serve, like, being a nonprofit, so long, there’s no way I could go back and work in a for profit environment and spend as many hours as I do, making somebody else money. I just, it’s just not where I am. Because I’ve done this along, like when I’m working late, I know it’s feeding somebody, or it’s, you know, it’s doing something else for a veteran community or veteran space, it’s getting masks or sanitizer, whatever to people. You know, I know that I’m doing that. And so I don’t so you know, it makes it worth it to be working those crazy hours, but it also makes it worth it that I’m not making as much as I probably would on the for profit side, but in the for profit sector, but you know, it just makes you know, get up everyday come into work, fun, but every day is a different day, you never know what challenge tomorrow will bring. You may wake up with a plan of I’m going to do these things and and a donation of, you know, books just shows up a giant donation or something happens like we’ve had, you know, veterans of suicide betters at that location. And, and there’s just a social, a big shift and like COVID You know, a lot of people when COVID happens, they’re like, oh, it’s gonna be boring, things are gonna be slow. I’m gonna watch the grass grow. We did not do that. Because we were like, how do we shift our services? We can’t do we can’t do the same things in the VA that we were doing it because we used to do luncheons, we were luncheons, and dinners for patients and doughnuts and coffee for patients and patient visits, we were passing a hygiene and those sorts of things. And so we had to shift. So now we’ve been doing meals for the staff, we’ve been doing home food delivery for the veterans that are home bound or chronically at rest. We’ve been doing masks and hand sanitizer and, and supporting national guardian. That’s what we’re setting up frontline hospitals and all those sorts of things. And so everything that we did really shifted to support that same population of people just in a different way. And so, so it was, I mean, the first six weeks or so was crazy busy just making that shift to virtual patient visits. So they’re doing patient visits with a veteran, but on an iPad. And, and you know, because a lot of them could leave the hospitals and couldn’t leave, especially in nursing homes, they couldn’t have visitors and stuff. So they still wanted that engagement, but it had to be different. And just making that shift. And so it was it was really tough. But um, but you know, working in the space, it’s worth it. Because seeing and seeing who you’re serving is really worth it in the end.
Aaron Spatz 48:52
Yeah. Well, it’s, I mean, and that’s exactly what that’s exactly why you’re doing what it is you do. It’s because you have a love serving and love making an impact and you get to you get to see very tangibly very real the way that that happens. And you’re fortunate enough to be in a spot where that you know that that that is happening like you’re impacting tons of people’s lives. And so I’d love to, I’d love to give the floor back to you. One I’d love to want to share please share with us more about your about your nonprofit, but also, how can people get a hold of you? How can people give and then to, you know, any any last parting shots or final bits of advice for folks in the business world? Would love love to hear this back to you?
Amy Palmer 49:34
Yeah, so soldiers angels was started in 2003. So of course right after 911 by General Penn’s family, Patti Patton, her son was actually deployed to Iraq at the time. And she wanted to set the program up to be able to provide care packages and support to him and members of his unit and others because they kept asking for more packages and more packages. So she built a website where people could go adopt a service member that was deployed, we actually still do that. So you go still On our website search, you know, join us volunteer search by branches service gender homestay and still see the deployed service members so that and adopt them. And then we added to it. So we have some additional teams that are used that same model. Like we have a baby shower program, that’s the same way. So you can go do virtual opportunities, letter writing, baking for deployed people, we have a chaplain support special operations, all those are still done via that same system, although it’s a new version of it. But But everything’s done by mail. So it doesn’t matter where you live. As long as you have access to a post office, you can join any of those teams and provide support either deployed or even families at home. But we also as things, you know, winded down deployments did draw down and we used to be send up pallets and pallets and things overseas. And they’re like, no, no, no more. So we figured how do we ship those things. So our traditional care package supplies, snacks and hygiene, we started making hygiene kits for veteran patients, because when you go into the VA hospital, you don’t get your toiletries like you get in a civilian hospital. And so we started doing hygiene kits with those toiletries. And then we started doing non perishable box lunches for homeless and low income veterans that have the tuna pouch, the granola bar, the jerky, the fruit cop, all those sorts of things that were traditional care package items. Plus, we used to get stumped by the palettes from donors, because that’s how they knew us. And how do we use those. So most of those things now go to the VA medical centers to support that population. Some still go overseas, like we just got a shipment of coffee from black rifle. So a portion went to different Guard and Reserve units of the US and VA hospitals. And then a portion actually the packing today that’s going overseas to deployed. So we’d still do that, but we It just can’t be in the same volume it used to be so we’ve had to shift quite a bit to support veterans of all generations, which is which something we’re working on. So so that’s kind of our model now is deployed servicemembers, wounded heroes and veterans of all generations is really kind of our key focus areas. And in terms of you know, follow up, people can go to our website, soldiers angels.org It’s actually a great, great time right now, because we have all of our virtual opportunities up and, and things you can do at home in your PJs, making those so blanket, a paracord bracelet for deployed, write a letter, any of those sorts of things you can do from the comfort of your home. But we also have our holiday things. I know seems early, but actually our holiday stockings just went up over the weekend. So you can pack a holiday stocking for deployed or for a veteran patient or now even frontline hospital staff in the VA hospitals, or National Guard people that have been activated to do COVID testing and those sorts of things. So they can pledge stockings and and collect stockings and fill them with goodies and donate them. So you know any of that information and getting help is available on our website at soldiers angels.org. That’s perfect.
Aaron Spatz 52:55
And now I just I just want to thank you. I really want to sincerely thank you, Amy for spending spending some time with me today. Thank you for sharing your story. Just your your journey through the nonprofit space. incredibly insightful. And so thank you for sharing some of the some of the hard fought wisdom that that you’ve that you’ve been through or the last several years. But then also thank you so much for the meaningful work that you do, to support to support this entire amazing community of people. And just just really grateful to you, and thanks again.
Amy Palmer 53:29
Yes, if you have people that are interested in this space, you know, or interested even if it’s not a military veteran charity that are interested in nonprofit, you know, they can email me or they can find me on LinkedIn or whatever and send me questions that they have questions or want me to look at something I can look at it, you know, to give them ideas or suggestions. So I mean, if anybody is interested in that space, I’d rather they ask a flat then learn from the mistakes that we’ve we’ve learned from so definitely, definitely feel free and fitment is interested to connect.
Aaron Spatz 53:58
Perfect, perfect. Well, it’s a it’s a it’s a sincere pleasure, me again, thank you,
Amy Palmer 54:04
thank you have a great day.
Aaron Spatz 54:12
What a incredibly insightful conversation. So the nonprofit space is obviously one that I do not know a whole lot about. And so it’s always intriguing to me of how nonprofits are formed, how they’re funded. And I think a lot of us have a great idea of how that’s done. But it was just really cool to be able to hear, you know, from her directly on like how these things are, are formed, how they’re funded, how they’re sustained, where they’re vulnerable. And then just some really cool strategies of just, you know, partnering and working with another nonprofit using their tax exempt status, like, Who would have thought of that I would have never, never would have imagined that as being a viable option. So it’s those little things right, that that help you learn and help you bypass years of pain and suffering and so, learn learn those lessons, right. I would encourage you to also Just get get in touch with me. So if you are a veteran in the space and nonprofit, a nonprofit startup is is your thing. And that’s something you want to do, I would encourage you to reach out to her directly and pick her brain See 16 That she’d be able to to help. You may even consider bringing her on as a consultant for a preseason, just just to help your idea get off the ground. So I think it’s fantastic that encourage you to go to soldiers angels.org and give and support that mission. It’s incredible and insane to think that we still have people deployed, not just deployed but deployed into combat zones, still drawing combat pay. It’s it’s, it’s nuts, because it feels like so long ago, but yet it is still going on everyday right now. So I just want to thank you for tuning in. Thanks for watching. Thanks for listening. And we’ll see you again next week. See ya