In this episode Josh interviews Tim Kachuriak, the Chief Innovation and Optimization Officer and Founder of NextAfter, a fundraising research lab and consultancy aimed at helping nonprofits generate more giving.
The goal of this “for cause” company is to create the most generous generation the world has ever seen. Using a data driven systems and behavioral economics, Tim and his team aim to de-code what drives people to give. NextAfter has ran over 12,000 marketing optimization experiments that are publicly sourced for other companies to use freely.
Tim shares where his passion for helping nonprofits began. He talks about creating his own ad agency right of college, which ultimately led to doing some marketing work for his church. Tim noticed the excitement in himself that was generated for doing work for a cause that he genuinely cared about. This promoted a sale of his business and a career pivot to go work for a nonprofit faith-based organization in Fort Lauderdale, Fl. Some turbulence accompanied the transition and his digital marketing job suddenly included helping the company generate money via fundraising.
The journey of an entrepreneur is one of peaks and valleys and Tim provides some awesome nuggets of wisdom for fellow entrepreneurs based off of his own experience. The power of contentment, not always acting on emotion, and having the fore sight to not make change too abruptly are some of the topics that he expounds upon during the podcast. He also shares thoughts on planning out financials before venturing out to start a business, the power of becoming a known commodity in your field, forming relationships with competitors, and becoming indispensable in your current company to leverage leaving when the time comes.
As Tim’s career continued to morph, he had a break through at a conference that was geared towards for-profit companies to optimize their marketing efforts. Tim had a light bulb moment and realized that these same tactics could be applied to the nonprofit world. Tim implemented the ideas on an email campaign before he even got back to the office and saw immediate results. This was a game changer, and the ultimate genesis that would become NextAfter.
What Tim loves most about optimizing in the nonprofit world is the ability to help shift the culture and thinking of nonprofit companies and originations. To go from a poverty mind set to one of growth and doing more with less is an extraordinary change to help produce. NextAfter is about doing more good, not about maximizing profit at all costs. Tim explains, it’s not about the money, it’s about how they can we seriously influence change in the entire nonprofit sector.
Tim and his team are trying to answer this question…
WHY DO PEOPLE GIVE?
We’re obsessed with answering that question.
That’s why we help nonprofits turn the web into an online fundraising research lab and discover how to…
Reach more people
Acquire more donors
Raise more money
We aren’t exactly sure who first decided that charities and caused-based organizations should be given a label that expresses what they are not (i.e. nonprofit, non-governmental organization, not-for-profit), but since these are whom we serve, we decided to follow suit.
NextAfter is a non-agency. We’re also not a nonprofit.
But we very much are a cause-based organization. Our cause is to unleash the most generous generation in the history of the world. To do that we have constructed a new type of company that combines the perpetual learning of a marketing and fundraising Research Lab with the practical application of a Consultancy. NextAfter works alongside nonprofits to develop research as to why their donors give and put those learnings into practice to help them reach more people, acquire more donors, and generate more dollars to fund their world-changing work.
Check out the Nonprofit Innovation Optimization Summit –
Josh: Good day everyone, and welcome to the Bet the Jockey Show. My name is Josh and I’m an entrepreneur, and I get the privilege of interviewing other entrepreneurs to share with you guys their story, how they overcome challenges in their business’s, and how they actually grow their business. So, on today’s show we are going to talk a lot about this term called generosity from the master of generosity. His goal, his mission in life is to create the most generous generation this world has ever seen. He wants to unleash generosity. Ladies and gentleman, welcome my really good friend, Tim Kachuriak, to The Bet the Jockey Show, welcome to the show.
Tim: Hey Josh, it’s good to finally be on here, it’s about time you had me on your show.
Josh: [Laughs] Yeah, you know, as I’ve grown to know you, I love you more every single day. You’re like a twin older brother of mine, and I really appreciate you.
Tim: Am I the evil twin, or are you the evil twin?
Josh: Oh, you’re definitely bad cop. I’m good cop, you’re bad cop.
Tim: [Laughs] Great!
Josh: So, for the audience listening in, who is Tim Kachuriak, and what is it that you do?
Tim: Well sure, my name is Tim Kachuriak and I am the Chief Innovation and Optimization Officer and Founder of NextAfter. What NextAfter really is two things, we are a fundraising research lab and consultancy, and those two components, the lab and the consultancy, feed each other and help our business to grow and to hopefully inject more generosity back into our clients fundraising programs.
Josh: Okay, right on. So, you know, you work in in fundraising, could you give us an idea kinda of what kind of clients or customers that you work with. Give us an idea for what your business does for them.
Tim: Sure, what we work with, the nature of our work, we are constantly testing and trying to discover what works and what doesn’t work, particularly in online fundraising, and due to the nature of that kind of work we generally have to work with larger nonprofit organizations that very large economies of scale, they have lots of web traffic, they have existing lists, and we can use that to then perform online experiments to find out what works and doesn’t, and ultimately why people give. And the cool thing about running these different experiments and tests and understanding why people give, is that we can actually then use that to help the smaller non-profit organizations. So, you know, we discover pretty early on that were not a non-profit organization ourselves, we’re very much a for profit company, but we are a caused based organization and our cause is ultimately to, as you mentioned in the intro, unleash the most generous generation in the history of the world. The way we can do that is by decoding what works in philanthropy. So that’s what is really exciting today about the web. Its not just a channel of communication, it really is an opportunity to peer inside people’s minds and find out what works and why they do it by using behavioral economics and decision science and all these fun things that exist in our world today.
Josh: Got it. So, you work with big non-profits and you help them through the internet. Help them fund their missions essentially through online giving and you take a scientific approach and a behavioral approach as to answer the question “Why do people give?”. You help them discover that about their clients and then increase more? Is that how you do it?
Tim: Yeah, per say, I’ll give you an example. So, for example, uhm, let’s say that an organization is posting different messages on Facebook and ultimately, they want people to click on the message on Facebook, go to their website, and perhaps sign up to receive some piece of content, right? That’s going to help the person understand more about the cause and hopefully even get invested and engaged and participating in the cause by giving. We will broaden a test, and sometimes those tests are pretty radical where we will completely change the post. We will run version A vs. version B. Sometimes we will change very small things, like one or two words. And what we are finding out is that these changes although sometimes small, sometimes great, can have significant impact on the ultimate conversion goal that people have. So, if I want to get more people to click, sometimes using the word activate your pre-online course vs. enroll, can make a significant difference. So, if you go to our website you’ll find we have over 1200 published experiments just like that on everything like that from Facebook ads to email campaigns to lending pages or donation experiences and we open source all that work cause ultimately, we want more and more organizations to benefit from this research.
Josh: So, this approach to testing and this approach to helping people improve their marketing, right, through testing and experimentation and to finding out how to get more yes’s from marketing. This is pretty powerful. Why did you choose help impact non-profit companies rather than go to the corporate world or start ups or you know, or whatever? Why did you choose to serve non-profits rather than someone else?
Tim: That’s a great question. If you talk to most people that work in the not for profit space, they often have taken an indirect pathway into the sector. I’ll share a little bit about mine. I graduated from college right after 9/11 which is, a really difficult time for somebody to enter into the job force. And fortunately for me, I worked for a country club all during high school and college, so I had 432 uncles that were all captains of industries. I desperately wanted to work in the field of marketing and advertising. That’s what my training and education was in. And the guy who was actually the president of the country club, that I worked at, was also the president of the second largest ad agency in Pittsburg, where I grew up. So, I went and met with him, and did my whole dog and pony show and he was like “Ah man, I’d love to hire you!” and then he started to kind of ring his hands and looked down and but was like “You know we just laid off 30 people yesterday. You know 9/11 hit our industry hard, hit our agency harder and you know sorry I can’t help you.” And that was my experience out of college. Door after door after door getting closed. And then I met a guy on a golf course, pretty interesting, you know, serial entrepreneur type guy. He said, “Can you do a couple projects for me? I’ve got these different little businesses. I need little marketing stuff, maybe you can help me with that?” So, I started doing some of these different projects and he said, “You know, why don’t you start your own business?” I said, well gosh I don’t know how to do that. And he says “Well I do. We’ve got an incubator on the second floor of our office building, I’ll give you a desk, I’ll introduce you to people, I’ll be your partner and you know the rest is up to you, kid.” So, my first five years out of college I ran a business. An interactive marketing company called Ambiance Interactive and you know we grew out of the incubator and ended up hiring a staff of six people and we had our own office space. I had to go learn how to do business, how to get clients, how to keep them happy, how to pay bills, and do payroll, and all that fun stuff that goes with running a business. And I absolutely loved what I was doing. But I wasn’t really exactly just jazzed or excited about the clients that we were working with. We ended up being a digital boutique that worked with all of the general market ad agencies in Pittsburg, and you know, we worked with whatever clients they had. And the agencies we happened to work with, one had a whole slew of automotive dealership clients, the other one had a whole slew of legal clients. There’s nothing wrong with car dealerships or lawyers, but it just didn’t excite me. So right around that time, about five years in, my church was doing a capital campaign to build a new building. I said well that’s cool, so I volunteered our agency to do all of the marketing materials for that capital campaign. It was the first time where I was able to do something that I felt like I was really wired to do, marketing communications, but do it for a cause that I cared about, which was my church. After that first experience, and kind of getting bit by that bug of doing something for a cause you care about, its hard to go back to making car dealership websites. So, I had this kind of crisis of career and had to decide what to do and ultimately, I made a decision. I sold my agency. I sold my house. I moved from Pittsburg Pennsylvania to Ft. Lauderdale Florida to work for a non-profit, faith-based ministry. This was broadcast radio tv ministry. The day I accepted the job and moved my family from Pittsburg to Ft. Lauderdale, the founder of the organization had a heart attack. He was in the hospital for about nine months and he passed away. And we went from being about a 36,000,000 dollar a year organization to a 16,000,000-dollar organization in less than twelve months. So, it was a very turbulent time. I was hired to do digital communications, and I knew nothing about fundraising, but they came down saying “Whatever your doing with this internet thing you need to figure out how it can make money because you know, we’re hemorrhaging, and we need to figure out how to find donors.” So that was my first experience of being like violently thrown into the world of fundraising and honestly, I had a pretty low view of fundraising. I thought it was kind of like the necessary evil or the dark side of non-profit work. Where people go meet in back rooms and do deals to fund the world changing work that the people on the front end of the organization are doing. That was just my own naivety, right? What I’ve come to discover, is that fundraising is incredibly powerful. Just cause, and even ministry in and of itself. You get to inspire people, to look past their own self center-ness, their own desires, their own wants and needs, and look to the needs of the people around them, and I think that is perhaps the coolest thing ever. It’s the miracle of generosity.
Josh: The miracle of generosity. And you kind of got tossed, violently thrown into this opportunity, now, you kind of started your own agency, you got out of school, you couldn’t find a J-O-B. You did your dog and pony show, and you found out that there’s no job for you. So, you actually had to create a job for yourself and then you eventually created jobs for six other people, your staff. Now, talk to us about, if you can, some of the struggles you had starting up a business, and then also what it looked like to have a partner to helped you start that off. What did that look like in the early years of Tim K., Timmy Kachuriak.
Tim: Yeah, well, gosh your taking me way back now. I haven’t thought deeply about this in a while. They guys name was John Benso. He is just an absolute saint of a human being. He was actually very interested in philanthropy. He was also a musician, so he would often do, in his off time he would do music shows and everything would always benefit some charity. But you know, John, John was great because he didn’t breathe down my neck or tell me how to do everything. But he was always there if I needed help. He was always there if I actually got stuck and needed some council and someone to help me get unstuck. In those early days it was like, you know, you’re kind of scrappy, and you don’t really know what you are as a business. So, you kind of take on any projects that come your way, like oh yeah, we can do that. For a while we were making tv commercials. I went out and bought like 10,000 dollars’ worth of video equipment. And we’re like oh yeah, we can make tv commercials. We’re doing them for Harley Davidson dealerships and car dealerships and like, you know, lumberyards. It was just the widest array of different things. And then they’re like “Oh we need a website!” and we’re like “Oh yeah we can do that.” I found a guy that was just out of art school and had a computer science degree. He was really good visually but also could make great code, and we started making websites. Then we found out that more and more people needed that stuff. About 2002-2003, search engine marketing was just coming on the scene. So, we’re like yea, we can get you traffic. It’s not enough to have a website, you need to get traffic. I think that a lot of people that start their own businesses, they have one kind of vision of what that business is going to look like, when they go into it. And when they get into experiencing what the market wants, what the market needs, and solving more and more of those problems, they find out that their business is very different than what they intended. The current company that I run, NextAfter, is not exactly what I had drawn up when I had first envisioned it, so it’s kind of an interesting journey for the entrepreneur.
Josh: Yeah, so looking back, let’s just say, your dad Tim, and then you’re talking to your son Tim of the past, you know, just about to start ad agency with this partner in an incubator in Pittsburg, right? And you go and have a conversation with the Tim of the past. What advice would you have for him back then, 2000 you know when you started this in 2002 or so, Ambiance Digital?
Tim: Yeah, I think that the key is to not make decisions based on how you feel on any difficult time. I think a lot of times people throw in the towel or quit or give up. Or they pivot too early just because they are not quite seeing the exact results that they hoped they would see right away, and I think that a mistake. What I’ve seen and experienced personally, is that that you know, a lot of times and even now, I don’t want to do my job. I don’t want to be in this business. And that’s just the feeling I have because I’m frustrated, or I’m discouraged or that I’m not really in the zone. But guess what, that’s life. You’re not always right in the middle of the zone. And if I would have given up early on, there’s a couple points, early on in Ambiance Interactive’s coming of age where I could have thrown in the towel and given up I would have missed so much. So, I guess just to sum it up, stick with it, you know? And not make decisions just based on how you feel at any particular point in time.
Josh: That’s awesome, man. So, in the early years of you owning your business, becoming a first-time entrepreneur, kind of getting tossed in it because you know, 9/11 happened and there weren’t job availabilities. What was one of the biggest struggles you had, and how did you overcome it as a new entrepreneur? Take us back to that time.
Tim: Well, you have to keep in mind, that this was really my first job out of college. So, I had never worked at another company and I had no idea what the expectations were or where the bar was set. Because I was incredibly insecure as most people who come out of college are, I over compensated for that insecurity by kind of going over and above what I guess was the normal expectation. So, for me personally, it was actually a blessing not having had to work at any company cause I didn’t have any bad habits. I had no pre-conception as to what is good and what is expected, what’s too much, right? So, I think that was kind of a great opportunity for me. And it was like really earning a PhD in business, right? Because before I ever had to work at a company and learn from other people I actually had to learn how to do things on the job. So, that was kind of a, I guess, an un-anticipated blessing of those early days.
Josh: Ah, that’s great, man. So, from there, you built your business and you actually had an exit event where you sold off your first business that you really ever created. You sold that off and moved to Ft. Lauderdale. What does it look like to build a company and sell it? Can you walk us through that experience?
Tim: Yeah, aha well, here’s where you know, the details of the story sometimes change your interpretation. When I say sell the company, I basically was able to assign all of the debt that I had acquired over to somebody else that took that over. So, in terms of a windfall opportunity for me, that was not my experience. [Laughs]
Josh: [Laughs] So you didn’t have the Microsoft or anything like that?
Tim: Yeah, it’s not like I’m out you know, shopping for my new Lambo the next day. This was like, I knew that I wanted to do something else. I felt really called to move into this caspase and I ya know, made some of the big mistakes I made was going into debt early on, as a company, and financing my company with debt. You know, you have to pay that stuff back. So, it wasn’t a glamorous experience. It was a very unnerving experience, right? Because I’m basically strapping someone else down with the burden I had acquired myself. I was grateful. It was a great opportunity for that person that took over the company, but you know, if I would do it over again I would have done things differently and probably would have been a little bit better about bootstrapping and not going in to the line of credit.
Josh: Got it. So, bootstrapping versus funding by Visa, right?
Josh: So, you went down south and kind of got violently tossed into philanthropy and working for a non-profit where it was built around a leader and the revenue was almost cut in half. And they said Tim, your new job is to figure out how do you get customers and donors right? In a non-profit their customers are donors; how do you get this online? So, this is really early in the world of internet marketing and such, and the way, I guess, the questions is, how were most non-profit doing it then, making money?
Tim: Yeah, I mean most non-profits even still today, acquire most of their, at least broad-based revenue, through direct mail, right? So, you get the direct mail piece with the little nickel on the inside and it says this nickel could save a life! And they want you to mail it in. I always thought that that was weird. Its kind of like wait so you just mailed a nickel, did you just kill someone? But direct mail is the primary driver of a lot of non-profit organizations. When I was in Ft. Lauderdale working at this non-profit I met a guy named Tom McCade. Tom McCade owned a direct mail agency based out of Dallas Texas and he had been in business doing this for 3-35 years and I was just really, attracted about how he viewed fundraising. He saw it as a cause in and of itself. He taught me the philosophy and even the theology of fundraising and how we could actually make it better. Through the course of our interactions together I realized that gosh, Tom basically runs an advertising agency that works with non-profits, how cool is that? And as we got to know each other a little bit more he said look we’ve been doing direct mail for 35 years and we’ve been really wanting to try to move deeper into this grave new digital world. Would you consider coming to Dallas and starting a digital fundraising division at our agency? And at the time, my prospects didn’t look very good. My wife was pregnant now with our third child. Let’s see, we had an 18-month-old, a newborn, and my wife was pregnant. So, I took Tom up on his offer. I moved from Ft. Lauderdale Florida to Dallas Texas and I went to work for KMay Direct Communications. And when I first got there, ya know, it was actually a pretty difficult experience. They just hired a bunch of executives at the same time, we’re all stepping all over each other, trying to figure out our way. Honestly, I was ready to pull the plug pretty early after coming to Dallas. But, I had an interesting conversation with my brother who I’m generally not very close with, and he said hey man, are you ever really just content? It just seems like your always looking for the bigger better deal for Tim. And that kind of, that stuck with me. I’m like he’s right. Just because things don’t feel right right now, just because I’m not really excited about some of the challenges I’m faced with, doesn’t mean that I should pull the rip cord. So, going back to that early lesson, just stick with something. I made the decision to just go all in with KMay. It was like after that I experienced some incredibly wonderful opportunities and was able to do some really pioneering stuff and learn at such a rapid pace that I would have missed all that had I left early. So, I was at KMay for about 2 ½ years, and we were acquired by another agency called the Pursuit Group and I was there for another 18 months. And during the time at KMay and Pursuit I really became obsessed with this idea of optimizing fundraising. I started studying some of the things that were happening in the for-profit space with conversation rate optimization, behavioral economics, and decision science. I was like man, why isn’t anyone talking about this in the not for profit space. Is this an opportunity to perhaps, lead to potential breakthroughs in our space? So, I went to a conference put on by a company put called MecLabs which I know you’re familiar with cause that’s where I met you, years and years ago. At this conference, in the first 15 minutes I was like man, this could change the way we do everything. And I remembered calling my team at the first break and I said hey guys get ready because when I get back on Monday we’re going to change the way we do everything. Then I started thinking about it and was like why wait until Monday? We were working at the time, with the George W. Bush presidential center. They were building a 300,000,000-dollar library and presidential center on the SMU campus in Dallas. We were doing all of the digital fundraising for that campaign and I said hey guys I know we’re getting ready to send out an email tomorrow but give me like an hour and I’m going to come back with a new treatment, a new version of that email that we test, to see if some of the stuff that I’m learning at this conference works. Because I was afraid of breaking what was already working, I only made one tiny little change to that email, to the last sentence. And if you know anything about email marketing, you know that only about 18% of people read to the end of the emails. So how could making one tiny little change make a significant difference? But regardless, we actually ran the experiment. We did an A/B split test. 100,000 people got version A, which was the original version and 100,000 people got version B which was the new treatment. That one little change produced 121% increase in click through to the email and a 42% increase in revenue. And at that moment I was hooked. I was like man this is it! I’m going to spend the rest of my life optimizing fundraising, because those green arrows feel so good. And it was so cool to be able to realize that adequacy and what was working before is fine, but what’s good is the enemy of grey. You know, adequacy is the enemy of ??? And the optimizers job is to continue to push through and find better way to get the job done.
Josh: So, you’re sitting in a conference that really wasn’t geared towards nom-profits. They were talking about corporations and how they could optimize their marketing. You saw something, and you said let’s apply this to a non-profit and you were running a campaign with an email with hundreds of thousands of people on this list, and you changed one sentence and it produced a huge result in revenue, like money, major major money, for one sentence change. Let me ask you a question Tim. What would have happened if you didn’t have a win on that first one? What happens if it was an utter failure?
Tim: Hmm. That’s a great question Josh, because now having documented over 1200 individual experiments, they’re not all green arrows. Sometimes they’re red arrows. And sometimes their not even statistically valid, like we cant even determine if something is better or worse because we don’t reach any sort of statistically validity. But yeah, that’s a great question. What would have happened if that first experiment was a failure. Would I have continued down this path? I don’t know? That’s a great question. I’m very fortunate I guess.
Josh: [Laughs] You’ve got this green arrow which, side by side, this green arrow shows that your hypothesis about this one little sustenance can make a difference. There’s a green arrow on the success and then also the money. It actually made money. You deployed a whole team to do this and it made money. So, thank God, that the thing worked and you came back with, we need to apply this to everything. We need to do this thing called testing to everything to figure out how we can help non-profits make more money. So, coming back with this fire in your gut, in this like desire to really increase revenue for non-profits, what started to change in your own position, in your own world?
Tim: Well it’s the change that we see now with the groups that we work with. Before everything was about how are we going to get this done, how are we going to accomplish it? We don’t have enough resources. It was just a constant like, I guess, I don’t know, a real discouraging culture that we experienced. Non-profit organizations are resource strapped, right? They’re resource combined. They’re always having to do more with less because they don’t have the resources of big for-profit corporations. And I think that sometimes that poverty mindset can be a trap. It can hold you back from discovering that there is an opportunity to do better and there is great opportunity to do more with less. That’s what I think testing has opened up for me. We like to say like, today, we go into organizations optimizing webpages and we go out optimizing the culture of the organization because people move from this mindset of how are we going to get this done, to how are we going to do this, we don’t have the right resources to man, what if we tried this? What if we tested that? Or what if our donors really cared about this? And it becomes this new and exciting culture of innovation and discovery and perpetual performance improvement. Its just a completely different mindset. I think that the biggest thing for me, is just being able to become more optimistic about my work, about our industry, and about the future of philanthropy.
Josh: That’s awesome. So, let’s talk about NextAfter. Your company NextAfter you had this idea. You were doing it with KMay which got acquired by Pursuiant. You were optimizing peoples marketing, kind of like evolving the nonprofit world which seemed to be a little behind in focusing on direct mail and sending out nickels and getting people to acquire new donors. You had this idea. How did that passion turn into your own business, NextAfter?
Tim: Yeah well, I realized pretty quickly that it wasn’t going to be a good fit for me long term at this new company and I was pretty open about that. I think that looking back that may have not been the best thing to do. I might not prescribe that. But I was very open and transparent with my boss. I said hey I don’t think that this is along term fit for me. We tried to find different configurations to make it work, but at the end of the day it wasn’t a fit. Now fortunately for me I was kind of the lead digital fundraising principal on a lot of key accounts and so when I said hey guys I think I’m going to move on from here. They said well can you at least contract back with us for a period of time so that we can kind of transition the accounts appropriately and make sure that there is no destruction to the clients. Of course, feeling a tremendous burden and obligation to make sure that the clients were served well, I said sure, we will do that. We worked out a deal, which was actually pretty favorable for me. I got 93% of my salary for 50% of my time. So, once I had that initial kind of, contract thing with my previous employer I realized I had a runway. Now it was a 6 months runway. So, I had to find a way to bring other customers on pretty quickly. I ran and talked to I think two other organizations. One was a technology company that served the non-profit space and one was another agency and I quickly got another contract. So now I was ahead of the game. I was actually making more as an entrepreneur than I was working at a company, and I still had 6 months left to go. I think the key is to figure out how are you actually able to make that ??? Whatever that is. What’s the amount of money that you need to be able to pay your mortgage, support your family, put a roof over you head? And once you have that in place, then its full-on hustle mode. Its about how can you add on to that as quickly as possible? And what you find out when you’re an entrepreneur, is that you have a lot more capacity than you thought you did, right? When you work at a big company, there’s lots of people, lots of hands off, and honestly there’s a lot of waste that happens inside larger companies. But as a solo preneur, right? When you’re all by yourself, a single shingle, you realize gosh, I don’t have to go have a meeting, I can have a meeting with myself and just do it. And make the decisions, and I’m able to be a lot more agile, a lot more efficient, and I was able to deliver a good product. That was kind of the early experience. So, what I thought because my clients were agencies and technologies, what I thought NextAfter was going to be was kind of a consultant to the consultants. So, what I was going to do was go into these agencies, and I did, you know? I had a number of different agencies as clients. I had a couple technology companies as clients and I was going in trying to build this optimization capacity within their organizations. But what ended up happening is these companies saw that as the new shiny thing. The new shiny thing helps them to get new customers. So, what ended up happening is that I became a glorified sales person for these different organizations. I was kind of like a hired gun that came in and showed people shiny stuff and then people would sign contracts. And I was like well that’s not going to work. That’s when I started to realize that I needed to take on nonprofit clients directly and work directly with them one on one. That’s kind of what lead to what NextAfter is today.
Josh: So that’s an interesting approach. You had the opportunity to exit your job, but to retain some security and stability for the next 6 months, so that was definitely in you favor. You were serving nonprofits directly as a manager but through Persuiant. Then you had this opportunity to be a consultant to consultants so instead of going after non-profit clients, you actually went to who else is serving nonprofits and you found out like, what could I do for them? Talk to us about your first kind of pitch to these other groups. How did you find them? What did you talk to them about? How did you land your first client as an entrepreneur?
Tim: What led to me being able to secure clients pretty quickly after leaving my last company was the fact that I had invested the previous 5 years becoming known in my space. So, when I worked at these other agencies I would go to all of the conferences and would glad hand and meet everybody. I would speak and get on panels and committees and be very, very involved. And when you do that you begin to build a personal brand. I think that if I had not done that, If I had not had a personal brand, I would not have had all of the opportunities I had so quickly after leaving my own company. So, for anybody that’s out there listening that is currently working somewhere and wants to start their own business, I’d offer two pieces of advice. Number 1: Become known in your industry and your space. That might mean that you have to hustle a little bit harder and travel a little bit more, go to conferences, go meet people. Maybe even get to know your competition. I never really considered my competition as people that I shouldn’t befriend and was very open with sharing things I was learning, which created trust and relationships. So, when I did leave my company then the people that were competitors said hey how can we work with you? We like you, you’re a nice guy. You know some neat stuff, right? So, that’s one thing. Kind of be know and be known in your space. The second thing, is become indispensable within your organization, right? The reason why they gave me that nice, fact contract, when I left and asked for me to stay on for a period of time is because they needed me more than I needed them, right? And that’s a great position to be in because it gives you tremendous leverage when it comes to negotiating some type of soft landing. So those are the two of the things I would certainly recommend.
Josh: Got it. So how did you come up with the name NextAfter and then how did you, because you formed an all-star group, a part of your leadership team, really great guys and gals. So, first how did you come up with the name and then how did you acquire your team?
Tim: Sure. Well the story of NextAfter…. So, if you understand our company and what we do today. We’re always kind of pushing for what’s next and we’re always looking past what we did today and trying to make it better tomorrow. So, the name NextAfter totally makes sense. Our logo kind of like looks like a graph that goes up and then down and then back up and breaks through the chart, up and to the right like a hockey stick thing you would look at in a line graph. Everyone thinks that there was some grand vision behind that but I’m here to tell you that’s not true. [Laughs] The name NextAfter, so when I was back at KMay, so this was in the first 6 months I was back at KMay, right? And I was telling you I was having a difficult time and I was frustrated and I was ready to leave. And I was like you know I’m just going to go start my own consulting business. I don’t really know what I’m going to do next after this so I’ll just call it NextAfter. So, the domain was available boom, register this. LegalZoom.com was 100 dollars, I’ve got now NextAfter LLC., right? So, it wasn’t as grandiose or as thoughtful or as you know… It didn’t tell a story that most people thing it is. But it fits! I was kind really fortunate cause it makes sense when you think of what our company is today and we are very forward thinking. We care about innovation and optimization. So, NextAfter makes sense. But yeah, it was just lucky.
Josh: Yeah so, here’s some common themes which makes us very similar. I’m a lot like you where I have a hard time with just sitting still and complacency. You know like being just satisfied with where I’m at. Things could always get better which makes consultants and sales fun because I could always help improve things. But you kind of have had this thing where…. And even your brother called you out on it. He’s like hey Tim are you ever satisfied, right? Like complacent with something. But even the name of your company is like NextAfter, like how can we get better? How can we improve? How can we do this? Is there kind of like a blessing curse side to the dissatisfaction of things? When is enough every enough?
Tim: Yeah, that’s a great… I’m so glad you brought that up Josh. You’re right, because it can be a blessing and a curse. This idea of never settling, never being fully satisfied. That can be good if you channel it and direct it in a way that helps you to create new opportunities or new capacities, or even new entities, right? But it can become a bad thing if it causes to you pull the rip cord too early, right? So, there’s kind of like this healthy dissatisfaction of things. Like I’m never, I mean I’m very grateful and please don’t misinterpret this, I’m very very grateful for everything that we’ve been able to accomplish as a company and for the tremendous blessing of the different clients that we get to work with and the work we get to do, right? I’m very very grateful for that. At the same time, I’m not satisfied with just doing a good job and being done with it, right? I’m always trying to figure out well how can we leverage that and do something even better, right? And that’s what the art of an optimizer is. It’s this mindset, this belief that Peter ??? said that adequacy is the enemy of after thoughts. Even though what we are doing today is adequate. It’s even more than adequate, its abundant. But that doesn’t mean that there’s not something else that we could do to make it better or to be able to help more organizations. And I think because we are cause minded people at NextAfter, we don’t get obsessed with how much money we can make. We get obsessed with how much good we can do. And that’s why we make significant investments pouring back into our not for profit space. We host a conference every year called the Non-profit Innovation and Optimization Summit. And having been to many many nonprofit conferences over the last decade, they leave a lot to be desired. Generally, there’s not a lot of new speakers with new ideas coming in. It’s a lot of agencies kind of pitching from the stage. It’s not really helping anybody push beyond what they already are accomplishing today. So, what we do is we go to some of the leading end marketing conferences around the world and we try to find the best possible speakers we can get and we pay them, significantly, to come and speak new ideas, new insights and new ways of thinking into our nonprofit community. And to be completely candid we take a on the conference. We lose a tremendous amount of money. But we see it as an investment and try to do more innovative stuff in our space. As I mentioned, every single experiment that we’ve ever performed, is documented and is available on our website. There’s not password required. There’s no membership required. You can just go and access the entire body of knowledge that we have acquired over the last 6 years of being in business. And people say, well gosh, isn’t that stupid? Aren’t you training your competition? Yeah, we are. Half of the people on our file are other company’s other agencies that do the kind of work that we do. And a lot of those people come to our conferences, and we welcome, we invite them. We celebrate when they come cause…. It doesn’t matter how many organizations we can work with our how big our company will get. We will never be able to work with all of them, right? So, what we want to do is actually create an organization in our industry, right? And that’s what’s kind of really on my heart today. Is how do we engineer generosity into the fabric of our company? And I think that’s a lesson too for your listeners. How can I be generous in my business, like radically generous, right? That’s something I think that is an exciting prospect.
Josh: Well that’s awesome. I asked a question, and I kind of took us off rails but early on you started doing this work for nonprofits and other agencies and technology companies, but essentially you said okay we need to actually start nonprofits ourselves. You attracted a rock star leadership team, some partners to kind of build this with you. Talk to us about the early days of bringing on partners and how to do that because you were probably getting maxed out in your abilities and also you might have had some weaknesses that you needed help with. Talk to us about how you made the decision to bring people on and how did you find them?
Tim: Sure. Well I grew up in a home where my father was an entrepreneur and he had a business partner, his name was Gary, and to me he was just uncle Gary. And we would spend holidays together and backyard picnics together. I just loved the fact that my dad had this other person that was a sounding board, that was sharing this burden of stuarting this company. So, I always knew that I wanted a partner. I met Jeff Giddons who was the first person I hired who came on as a partner. I met him at Persuiant. I met Kevin Peters, who is another partner of ours, I met him at Persuiant. Well when you leave a company and especially when you’re contracting back, generally there’s non-competes, non-soliciitations that you have to sign so I couldn’t hire those guys or even talk to them about hiring them for a full year. That’s why I think that it was kind of good that that first year I was the hired gun and I worked with these other for profit companies these agencies and technology companies that served nonprofits. They gave me to their clients to be able to do some of this testing and experimentation. But also, gave me an opportunity in a lab basically to test how am I going to sell these services to nonprofit organziations. So, I learned a lot during that time. I got passed that window where I couldn’t contact those guys and I knew exactly who I was going to call. Because I had worked with them and I had experienced ya know, what they were capable of in the past. I guess that’s a pretty common thing. When you move to a different company and you start your own company, generally you bring along some of the people you worked with in the past, right? But those two guys are incredibly talented and have a very diverse skill set from my own. Jeff is incredibly good at managing our clients and keeping our clients happy and satisfied and building a team of people that can do the same. Kevin is incredibly gifted at analyzing data and telling really stories with people’s data and identifying opportunities. He’s also a gifted technologist. Everything from integrating different technologies together and even just build campaigns, he’s very very gifted at that. So, once I had my two generals, honestly like, you know, it became really clear that we could scale this thing.
Josh: When you contacted then you were like let’s go have a beer or let’s go to dinner. I want to talk to you guys about something. Did the both say yes when you first presented it? Or did you have to kind of duke it out with them for a little bit or? What did that look like?
Tim: Well Jeff did. He was excited to be on board from the beginning. Kevin to a little more convincing. [Laughs] But in the end, I think they would both say that we feel like we must pinch ourselves every day because we feel like we have the dream job. We’re all kind of like in our sweet spot and it’s just an exciting place to be.
Josh: So, you guys have a rock star team and you have people that work with you all over the United States and even Canada I think. And you guys have this growing company. Your company hit ink list, right? Tell us about some of the successes your company has for yourself and for some of your clients.
Tim: Yeah, yeah. We made the inc 500 in 2016, which was really cool and fun. Actually, funny story about that. So, we applied and thought we might be close and I had been checking the mailbox every day. And it was really a weird time Josh, you and I were kind of doing that aggressive workout regimen and eating differently and changing our diets. And it was super super hot in Dallas this day and I guess I had worked out a lot and I didn’t have a lot of electrolytes in my system. I was just drinking glass of water after glass of water after glass of water and I guess what happened is that I washed all the electrolytes out of my system. And I was on a conference call, I was doing a GoToMeeting presentation. And I was like someone’s going to have to take over cause I think I’m having a heart attack. What had ended up happening and fortunately enough there was a hospital right across the street from our office. But I was like let me just check the mailbox really quick. And I check the mailbox and sure enough there was a package from inc 500 and I was like oh my gosh. So, I’m sitting there in the emergency room like waiting to go back to get like EKG’s and all this stuff right cause they’re trying to figure out what’s going on. I found out that we were number 422 on the inc 500 list which is a pretty exciting thing. I was like ah I can die now, you know? [Laughs]
Josh: So, on the way to the emergency room you checked your mail and you made it!
Tim: Yeah, yeah so what ended up happening, so it was dehydration. I had rinsed all the electrolytes out of my system which can be a dangerous thing. It can cause seizures and even heart attacks so it was kind of scary thing. But, funny story.
Josh: what kind of entrepreneur on the way to the emergency room checks the mailbox and hits the inc 500? That’s awesome.
Tim: Everyone would. I think every entrepreneur would do the same thing if you were expecting that package, right? Especially if you think you’re dying, right?! [Laughs]
Josh: Yeah! You want that win, right? I think that we are all hustling and building that just like one more call, one more thing or let me just check one more time, because I think entrepreneurs in general have this healthy dissatisfaction about how things are. That’s why we build stuff for ourselves. What’s the future of NextAfter? What’s the future of Tim Kachuraik look like?
Tim: Well, that’s a great question Josh. Where we are headed today is we are trying to… We’ve got this large body of research of different things we’ve learned, different things we’ve tested. We hired a very talented guy named John Powell about a year ago. His full-time job is to go into our research library and mine the universal transferable learnings from this body of research so that we can develop training programs and resources and publications to be able to help more nonprofits to access what works and what doesn’t when it comes to fundraising. We’ve launched online courses. We’ve got 3 online courses with over 20 hours of content. Everything from turning Facebook likes into donors, to email fundraising, optimization landing page optimization. And the future looks more like that. We’re going to be doing more and more training, developing more and more resources to again, help transform our industry. Right now, we give all that stuff away for free. This kind of goes back to like and this might be a good way to close out our conversation… But it’s also the idea of how do you engineer generosity to the fabric of your company? And I can’t tell you what it looks like for everybody. But I can tell you what it looks like for NextAfter. We take off the top, 10% of all of our profits and we give it away to nonprofits. We actually invite our staff every year at our holiday Christmas party to participate in that corporately with us. We as them for different names of organizations that they would like us to give this money to. We redistribute 30% of our corporate profits back to our staff, back to our employees. We realize that we wouldn’t have profits if it wasn’t for their hardworking efforts. We want to share the rewards and the upside from some of that hard work. I don’t know if we will do this forever, we still have a small staff of about 12 people, but from the very beginning we would go out to lunch together every day. So, NextAfter buys lunch for all our staff. That’s probably one of the best investments we’ve made because we get to really sit down and break bread and get to know our staff on a personal level, right? Not just as the work that they do. And yes, we discuss work when we’re at the table but we also just get a chance to be together as a team and to hear from each other every day. I also think it’s healthy for people to take a break and eat lunch. When I worked at other agencies, you’d rarely have an opportunity to stop and take a break and have lunch. If I did eat, I probably be running down to the 3rd floor coffee shop to grab a crummy sandwich and eat it at my desk while I was on a conference call. I decided that that’s not healthy for me personally so it’s not healthy for a team. So, you know were constantly looking for ways to be more generous in our company. One of our corporate values is to air on the side of generosity. If we’re faced with a decision and we’re not really sure you know, what to do. We try to always air on the side of generosity. I encourage everyone to do the same because you know… Generosity can really transform our world and transform our companies. It’s an exciting endeavor and it’s a wonderful journey.
Josh: Tim, man. Thanks so much for sharing this message, your story, your passions, and even where the future of your work is going and the work that you’re doing to really transform an industry, the nonprofit industry, and actually the world, to be more generous. So, I appreciate your work there and it’s always fun to go to your nonprofit summits, ya know, focus on innovation and optimization writing. Not to get too many people the inside view of it. But riding bulls and chasing armadillos and doing some incredible work in the nonprofit world and having fun so… Tim you’re a rock star and I appreciate your friendship and what you’re doing
Tim: Awesome Josh. Thanks for having me man.
Josh: Yeah! If people want to know more about you and how to find you. Where could people go?
Tim: They could go to our website at NextAfter.com and check us out. Check out our research and our experiments and our online courses.
Josh: Excellent. For those listening in the audience, if you’re interested in the world of nonprofit optimization or maybe you run a nonprofit and you’re interested in learning how could you grow your business and partnerships with your donors go take a look at NextAfter.com This is a very inspired plug for me because I love what my friend Tim’s doing. So, go check it out the links are in the show notes and how to connect with Tim on LinkedIn and other places so do that. Thank you, audience, for listening in to the Bet the Jockey show. I appreciate what you all are doing being entrepreneurs and building that future for yourself and we will talk with you all on the next episode. Bye everyone, bye Tim.