The Power of Transformational Experiences: Donor and Recipient Experiences
with Hospitality Expert Tony Bodoh

We are moving from the Experience Economy into the Transformation Economy. People are now seeking much more than just a positive, memorable experience. They want a new self-identity. They want to be transformed. This is a significant opportunity for nonprofits to up-level how they communicate the transformational stories of those they serve. It also means that donors and volunteers are seeking to be transformed through their acts of giving. To meet this need, nonprofit leaders can apply discoveries made through customer experience research in the for-profit sector.

Tony Bodoh

Tony Bodoh

Tony Bodoh is the CEO of Tony Bodoh International, a customer experience consultancy. TBI’s focus is on applying the science of human experience to deepen the customer relationships that build brands and grow businesses. In 2018, Tony was named one of the “Top Customer Service Movers and Shakers You Follow.”

Tony is also a co-founder of three other businesses, including Pinstripe Entertainment, which runs Pinstripe.TV and BZNS. Tony describes Pinstripe.TV as “Netflix meets Amazon Prime Video for businesspeople.” The platform provides live-streaming and curated on-demand shows, documentaries, and courses for business leaders. BZNS is an all-business broadcast channel launching in 2020.

Tony is a speaker, podcaster, and co-author of three #1 best-selling books, including ProphetAbility – The Revealing Story of Why Companies Succeed, Fail or Bounce Back; Leverage – How to Achieve a Lot with the Little You’ve Got; and The Complete Experience – Unlocking the Secrets of Online Reviews that Drive Customer Loyalty. Tony lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife and two daughters, and spends his free time between volunteering in the community with his family and binge-watching historical documentaries.


Read the Interview

Hugh Ballou: Hey, it’s Hugh Ballou again on another episode of The Nonprofit Exchange. We’re six and a half years into this project of interviewing leaders, gathering wisdom, learning from their experience and expertise, figuring out how to install sound business principles into the tax-exempt organizations we lead. Some people call them nonprofits. It’s not a for-profit; it’s a for-purpose venture. Philanthropy, love of humankind.

My guest today is a long-time friend, Tony Bodoh. It’s been 14 or 15 years since we first met in LA at an event. We have touched base over the years. Recently I was on your show. Welcome!

Tony Bodoh: Thank you very much.

Hugh: Tell people a little bit about you and why you are doing your own thing now. What is your passion?

Tony: I started my career 27 years ago as an analyst in the marketing analytics world, trying to understand why customers made the decisions they made. I started in direct marketing. After a few years in that space, I moved into the hospitality industry, where I had worked in high school. Instead of cleaning rooms, I was in the corporate offices, doing marketing and sales analytics for them. Built their intelligence systems.

In that process, one of the things they said was, “We really need to understand our customers better. You’ve built all of these analytical systems. We love what you’ve done over there. We’re going to give you customer experience.” This was January of 2007. I was in just one of my weekly meetings. I wasn’t really paying attention until my name came up. I paused and looked around because I didn’t realize they were talking to me. At that point, I went into panic mode because I had never written a survey in my life. I had avoided as many psychology classes as I could going through my undergraduate and graduate programs because I was the numbers guy. I wanted numbers you could prove, not the soft psychology stuff. It was a foreign world to me.

I went back to my office after that meeting and looked out the window. I remember thinking, I have no idea what I’m going to do. But I know two things: I know I know how to learn. I can learn pretty much anything I want to. The second thing was I knew that Google had more information than I had. I learned all about customer experience and customer service and surveys. That brought me down a rabbit hole of psychology.

It was within that year that we actually met because of the path I was on and what was happening in my life. I worked with the hotel company, which is now operated by Marriott, the Gaylord brand. I was there when it was still an independent brand in a massive building phase there. I ran customer satisfaction programs and guest satisfaction programs. The company as a whole had about 50 different businesses. Massive hotels with retail shops and restaurants and golf courses and live entertainment venues. I had to understand all these different types of experiences and how they influenced one another. It was like jumping out of the fry pan into the fire and learning on the fly. But it was a great experience; I was there for five years.

I finally decided in the last recession that there was no better time to start a business than during a recession. I started consulting in 2009. Little bit of humor there. The downturn happened, and I decided it was time to leave the company. Since then, I have been doing a lot of work in customer experience, employee experience, leader experience. If it’s related to human experience, I probably have my fingers on it somehow.

My passion really is, I recognize that every moment of human experience has within it this power to make a decision. That power contains the potential to change the trajectory of human history. That is what drives me every day.

Hugh: That is a fascinating journey. We met way back in 2007. Wow. I wasn’t old then.

Tony: I wasn’t either.

Hugh: Thank God we’re still here. Tony, our topic today is “The Power of Transformational Experiences.” It’s about a customer relationship piece, but we have donors. I see statistics that 70-80% of most nonprofit budgets are supported by donors. How is that related to the work that you do with Gaylord and hospitality?

Tony: When I look at this, I see three different types of experiences we have to be aware of. You have the donor for sure because they provide the funding for nonprofits. You have also the recipient experience, the person receiving the benefit from the nonprofit. You also have the volunteer experience. That could be like an employee experience, but not really because they are there to give but also to receive something back in return. You have those three. I might bounce around between those three as we talk today because they have different influences and impacts.

How it all relates to hospitality is that what we know in this world is that it’s not just about positive emotions. We lived from 2007 up until COVID in March of 2020 in an era that had been defined by the experience economy. That is not my term; that goes back to a book written by Joe Pine and James Gilmore back in 1999 where they went through this history of the commodity economy, buying the coffee beans; then the product economy, where we put those coffee beans in a container and put them on a grocery store shelf and created branding around it; then from there, you have the service economy, where you pour the coffee at the diner or go to the gas station and get the cup of coffee as you’re headed to work in the morning. It’s the service orientation.

In 1999, they said we are moving into this new era of the experience economy. They pointed to Starbucks as an example. You go to this third place. You pay $5-8 for a cup of coffee. You meet your friends, your colleagues. It was a response in a sense to he saw how the third places, the place that people used to go like the general store or the church, were on the decline. The coffee shop stepped in through Starbucks to do that.

At the very end of their book, as they talk about how to build an experience economy company, they ask, “What’s next?” There’s just a few paragraphs on this. It’s called the transformation economy. I have spent the last seven or eight years going deep into this because I knew that’s where we were headed. I would posit that with COVID we have hit an accelerator for this transformation economy.

Hugh: Say more about how transformation and economy fit together. Those don’t fit to me.

Tony: Exactly. In the experience economy, you’re staging experiences so that people have good, positive feelings and memories. The next time they want to do something like that, they say, “I had a good feeling when I went to this place. I will go back there again.” The transformation economy goes beyond that. It is focused on helping the customer—or the donor, the recipient, or the volunteer—to achieve the aspirations and goals they have in their life. To do that, it’s not just about staging one experience. You have to create a series of experiences that move them and change them where they change their self-identity. They change who they are and how they show up in the world. Their perspective. That’s a transformation that happens for them. At the outcome, if they reach the outcome, they have become a different person in the process.

I think you can look at different nonprofits and say they have been kind of doing that work already. There is truth to that. But that is how the whole economy will be expanding over the next 10-15 years.

Hugh: That is the intent of some organizations, like the work of Christian churches is supposed to be a transformational journey. It sadly has not been in many cases. I live in Lynchburg, Virginia. We have the highest amount of population living under the poverty line in the Commonwealth of Virginia. We have services that help house and feed and provide medical assistance for those people who really need it. However, there is no transformation of their lives and their mindsets. There is a mindset of poverty. There is temporarily being broke. How are we then in our work transforming people’s lives? That is how we measure the effectiveness of our work as nonprofits, the impact. We can say we fed a lot of people, but have we really transformed their experience into something new or empowered them to do something better? Is that what you’re talking about?

Tony: If you use that example, a lot of nonprofits will talk about how many people we fed last year. They will have those numbers. It is good work; I am not denying that. But they are not looking at how many people we helped so that they can now feed themselves. How many people are out of the poverty cycle?

An example I had as I was preparing for this is there are a lot of organizations that raise money to relieve hunger in Africa, which is very good work. However, there are only a few organizations, including one that I have donated to, the Unstoppable Foundation. They go into the villages and create a thriving village. They build a school so that the kids can go to school. They train the parents to have skills for an economic engine. They teach them how to raise their own food if they don’t have that in the village already. They provide a well so they can get fresh drinking water so they don’t have to walk miles to do this, which a lot of the girls do so they can’t get educated. That’s their role in the family. Then they also provide health care and medical. They create a sustainable village so they don’t need to continue to receive funds for the education and food long-term.

Hugh: That should be the bottom-line goal of any organization, shouldn’t it?

Tony: You would think. We have a hurricane that is heading toward the Gulf Coast right now. There is a place and a time for emergency reaction. There is a place and a time for helping people in the immediate need to get food, shelter, and clothing. Oftentimes, we don’t have organizations who come in afterward who help rebuild and provide sustainability. It was 15 years ago this weekend that Katrina hit New Orleans. I know that because it hit on my daughter’s second birthday, and her name is Katrina as well. We look at Katrina, and the effects of that hurricane are still present in New Orleans. It has not been rebuilt, no matter what organizations have gone in down there.

Hugh: We have identified a problem. We feed people, but we don’t help them elevate themselves out of poverty. I have said to the leaders in my city, “We have bridges out of poverty. We have poverty initiatives. Why are we talking about what we don’t want? We don’t want poverty. Why don’t we talk about self-sufficiency? Why don’t we talk about prosperity?” We can use all kinds of excuses. This holds me back or that holds me back. There are brilliant examples of how people have overcome their situations to achieve excellence when they are committed to breaking out of their cycle.

You have a number of books you have listed. Is there a particular book you have written that would provide some secrets? What is the answer to this? What do people need to learn? We are talking to nonprofits and clergy and community organizations. We are talking about people who do philanthropic work.

Tony: Of my books, the one that would be the best would be Prophetability. It’s written for for-profit companies. In there, we talk about the ability to listen unfiltered. The top-level executives have to be listening to the customers. If we translate this into a nonprofit environment, the executives and board have to be listening to the recipients, the volunteers, the donors. It’s about building a vision for the future, three to five years out. What will they need then, not just today? The organizations at the leadership level have to change their mindset to say how are we building an organization that is growing these individuals so we are sustaining them and helping them today and three to five years in the future? If we change our mindset to do that, the questions change. In other words, instead of figuring out how to help so-and-so feed their family today, which may be an immediate need I still have to help with. We can also say things like, “Why is it they haven’t received a higher level of skills? Why is it they can’t get a better job, or a job at all? Why is it they refuse to get health care they could receive? Why is it they refuse to take advantage of the benefits that are available to them in the status they are in right now?” All of that comes back to mindset. There is something they believe as an individual or their families believed for generations.

You live in the Appalachian region. You know there are a lot of people in that region who don’t trust the government. They won’t take handouts from the government, be it the local government or the federal government. That’s a mindset issue. I won’t make them right or wrong on that; that’s an understanding they have from their history, the past, the stories they’ve heard that support that belief system for them. We have to change their hearts and minds in order to help them see that there might be a better way.

Pride is another thing that holds a lot of people back. I don’t mean this in the negative sense of pride, but it almost goes too far. The pride that I know I’m self-sufficient. I can raise my children and build a life. In redneck country, places around the country where it’s the backwoods. These people are so ingenious that they keep cars running for 30 or 40 years. So many people after two years are like, “I have to turn in the lease because I can’t stand it anymore.” They have these strengths and geniuses that are not applied in a way that benefits them for sustainability, or let’s go beyond sustainability, thriving in the long term as human beings, not just economically.

Hugh: Those are people who during Prohibition learned to be entrepreneurs by having stills and selling moonshine. I am in Appalachia. I live in a region that doesn’t trust the government called America. There is a high level of distrust. We do tend to want to trust nonprofits, but we don’t really regard them as professional institutions. It’s the third biggest work force in America. It has a huge economic impact and a social impact in the communities. We put on this dumb down hat, scarcity thinking, when we use the word nonprofit, which is a lie. It’s not an official nomenclature of the IRS: it’s a tax-exempt corporation. We do have a lot more rules, but we are called to a higher purpose.

At SynerVision, our work is under the umbrella of capacity building, enabling leaders to lead better, enabling organizations to step up to the challenge, boards to function as boards, understanding how they function. Having a strategy so people really know how I can be engaged. What am I supposed to do? When am I supposed to do it?

You are pointing out a big blind spot of how we measure the transformational experience of what we’re doing. Yes, we’ve fed so many people. Yes, we’ve packaged so many meals. Yes, we’ve housed so many people. But what have we done to transform their lives and impact their thinking? That is commonly left out, isn’t it?

Tony: Yes, it is. I’ll add another example here. Universities or schools. My daughter goes to a nonprofit school here, and I was on the gala committee, helping raise money. It was interesting to be a part of that. I have been a part of those organizations for a while now as my girls have grown up.

Last year, as I observed what was going on, and I received a solicitation for my undergraduate college recently. They are asking the same things again: “We have a budget shortfall. We need money. We want to help these people through.” There is a mission orientation to the language. Whether it’s a public or private university, the messaging is about the same. “We have young adults we are trying to get educated so they can go out there and change the world.” But almost never do I see an appeal come through that is masked as a story about a person from five years ago who came through this college who is now changing the world through winning a court case or starting an organization.

Most of these schools and universities, even grade schools and high schools, don’t talk about the kids they helped transform years before and how they are changing the world today. I as a donor would love to see them say, “Remember those people you helped ten years ago? Let’s update you on some of their stories. Let’s give you some real examples of how their lives have changed and how they have changed the world.”

The daughter who goes to the private school here in Nashville, that school has been around for over 100 years since 1865. It was founded by the religious order of the Dominicans here in Nashville. They have four generations of girls who have gone through this school. There is a lot of pride there. Being able to say how we have changed the face of Nashville, Tennessee, the world. Tennessee was the 36th state to ratify the women’s suffrage act for approval. How many of them were involved with something like that? How have they transformed the world? How have the people we fed transformed the world? How have the people we preached to gone out and transformed the world?

Hugh: That is such a profound statement. *Sponsored by Wordsprint*

Tony, in doing assessments, surveys, questions, getting some feedback from your people, it’s a real art in being able to ask the right questions. Say a little bit about how you define which questions you want to ask. Sometimes, we have a little prejudice that gives benefit to ourselves, and we’re afraid to ask some things. We’re a little bit skewed in that we want to know something but not everything.

Tony: You have to understand the purpose of your request for feedback. I’ll leave it generic. It could mean getting people to go to a social media network or review site, like TripAdvisor in hospitality. It could also be surveys. It could be emails or letters from people. if you are going to solicit a request for feedback, there are two big categories I look at in the for-profit world, and I think these apply to nonprofits as well.

The first type of feedback is how are we doing? In other words, is there something we need to fix? Do we have a blind spot we are not filling? What is going on out there that we’re not doing? That’s how you typically think of a survey in the business world.

But there is another form of survey, which is designed to solicit feedback around the stories and messaging. What is going to drive the greatest return on your marketing dollar? That is understanding 1) what do the people you are soliciting see that they are gaining? 2) What is of highest utility to them? There are different ways to word those questions, but those are the essences. The third thing is you want them to tell their story in a way that demonstrates this.

The high utility and high gains are because there is a ton of research out there. What we discover by looking at the reviews and surveys that come back in is when someone ranks you high on the utilities side, like how useful your thing is, and when they rank you also very highly on the gains side—it saved me time, it saved me money, it improved my reputation, etc.—when they give you a 5/5 on both questions, what they tell you in the story about their experience is gold from a marketing perspective. They start telling you about how amazing your organization is, how amazing the people are.

If you can trigger them feeling like they have had high utility and high gains, if they fill that in, they will tell you stories that evoke four types of emotions. These are critical for anyone in marketing, and I will explain why in a moment: admiration of goodness, admiration of skill, awe, and gratitude. Those are four unique emotions.

Psychologists have discovered that these are the only four emotions humans feel that are classified as other praising emotions. When we feel admiration of skill, admiration of goodness, awe, or gratitude, instead of focusing on ourselves, we go out into the world and tell the world how amazing this person or organization is. And we find ways to transform ourselves so we can become more like them. We try to be better if we have admiration of goodness. If it’s admiration of skill, we try to find a way to master something in our own lives or businesses. If it’s awe, we feel connected with something so much greater than ourselves that we feel as if we are a part of a movement. With gratitude, we feel as if someone has really listened and given us something that with no agenda. We want to turn around and reciprocate by giving to other people. These four emotions are triggered when someone has received high utility and high gains at the same time. They will tell you about it in that story.

Some version of that is what I like to ask. You can turn all of that into your marketing messaging. It also triggers people to use word of mouth marketing, which is still the most influential form of marketing out there. People want to tell stories about that organization, this person, that brand. They can’t stop themselves. They feel this compulsion to be out there talking about you.

Hugh: What is the value of getting those on video? This is how the work of this particular organization has transformed my life.

Tony: It does not have to be professionally produced. I will caveat it with that. It can be shot on an iPhone. What is most important actually is the expression of the person who is giving the feedback. If they’re not emotive or engaged, that could do you far more harm. That would be better as a written quote on your website or in your donor mailings. If the person is engaging, if they have the expressions and emotional, social connection through the camera, use those.

What happens when we experience the social, emotional connection with another person through video or audio, or if we’re reading a story, what happens is we as the reader or viewer or listener take in- We have these neurons called mirror neurons in our brain. They allow us to replicate what we are reading or hearing and cause us to feel the same thing we believe the character in the story is feeling. When we feel that way, we begin to think like they think. If they are talking about how amazing it was that they gave this donation and this is how it transformed their life to be a donor, what happens is people are like, “I want to feel that way. I want to give money because I want to be that person.” They buy into the idea, and they will make the donation.

Hugh: You learned a lot from those psychologists you tried to avoid. Part of the work of Ryan Levesque in the book Ask is sometimes people aren’t aware of the things they need to be aware of. We impact people’s lives.

I’m thinking as you’re talking, we’re concentrating on donors, people who are outside the organization. I would like to point out the same items are true for inside because how many board members do we have who don’t want to bother their friends about money? They don’t want to talk to people about supporting an organization. They feel embarrassed to share the message of what is going on. There is an internal mindset or empowerment that is just as important as the external.

Tony: I think that’s a great insight. In the corporate world, what we often recommend is that, and I have done this recently—with COVID, we have had to restructure how we do it. We run these trainings where we take the stories that we got from feedback, whether it’s surveys or social reviews. We teach the individuals who work for the organization what to listen for. If you teach them what to listen for as the customer is going through the organization, then they say, “Gee, that sounds like that would be a three-star review or a five-star review or a one-star review.” They can take action immediately to rectify the situation. That’s an immediate application. You can do this in a nonprofit as well. You’d have to train your volunteers potentially to know what to listen for.

But there is a bigger picture that goes to the executive level. They don’t have to ask for money. What they have to do is tell stories about the good work that’s being done. I just heard this story the other day about this person who was below the poverty line. She was a mom with three kids. They don’t have to mention the nonprofit organization until the end. This is one of the people we supported at XYZ nonprofit. You tell the story that you hear. You get really good at storytelling. People will be so pulled in by that story that they will want to be part of it. You tell them, “This is what we do here.” If you’re asking about money, you are asking the wrong question. You have to ask the question, but it’s the wrong time. As a sequence coach, you understand this. You can’t ask for the money on the front end. You tell that story, but then the climax is when you drop in the question, “Do you want to be part of this?”

Hugh: Absolutely. We don’t make a really good case for it. Then we show up with this poverty/scarcity mentality. “We’re in trouble; would you give money?” The universities should know better. That’s not the point. The point is we are transforming people’s lives, and this is how we’re going to use your money. I throw those letters away because I am not convinced that my money is going to be usefully spent.

Tony: Absolutely. One of the greatest tools we have in this storytelling process is the hero’s journey. It’s important for any executive within an organization to understand this. The organization itself is not the hero. This is where a lot of organizations get this wrong. In fact, the organization is the guide that is helping someone who is a reluctant, average person become the hero of their own story. That is part one. If you can begin to understand how the hero’s journey works, study Joseph Campbell. Story brand is an example of a good framework to use for this. If you understand the external problem, the internal problem, what is philosophically wrong with this, why shouldn’t this situation be, and show them the pathway, it’s amazing what can happen for people. The organization is the guide.

The donor or the volunteer or the recipient are actually the heroes. They are the ones who are the heroes. If you progress over time, you will find that you eventually have donors and volunteers and recipients who have gone through their own hero’s journey. They can now become the guide for the next generation. They recycle around. They are now the guides for the next generation of heroes who become the guide to the next generation of heroes. No one talks about that in marketing how at the end of the hero’s journey, it’s about becoming a guide.

Hugh: You are a hero for heroes, training the trainers. That is a profound paradigm shift for me. We’re thinking about, “Oh, we’re heroes because we have helped all these people.” That is the wrong message. That is the ego talking. That is not a humble catalyst for transformation. Catalysts don’t participate. We are the agents that make it happen. People often say to me, “Because of you, we’re a lot better organization.” I say, “No, you did it. I was just the catalyst for transformation. I gave you the belief that you could do it and the system to operate in and the space to rise above the mediocrity that you thought was the norm before.”

Sometimes, Tony, we create our own limitations. Bob Proctor talks about how people couldn’t escape from Alcatraz. They were trying to escape, but other people are invited to escape from the middle prison they are in, but they don’t even try. We put our own lives and thinking inside this mental trap. The whole culture of the nonprofit sector, which would include churches and education, is the trap of thinking in scarcity terms and not in abundance terms. We have been blessed with abundance all over the place.

If you go back to my guest Don Green, who used Napoleon Hill’s principles as a banker, and now he is the legacy builder for the Napoleon Hill Foundation down the street from me in Wise, Virginia, Napoleon Hill’s principles are universal principles. He said, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe can be achieved.” The belief part gets in the way sometimes. What you’re talking about is creating a compelling- It’s like projecting the end, and it brings you toward the vision for the possible. That’s what these leaders did. They had a clear vision and clear ultimate purpose. That’s what drove them to success because they could see success.

Tony: Absolutely. I think that an element of it, and this is a nuance, so not everyone may pick this up—is there is a difference between the vision of success and projecting that vision. There is a difference between being in the moment successful.

I will use an example from the for-profit world. We discovered that if you ask certain questions on a survey prior to the offer being made—it could be four weeks prior—people who had the self-identity of using whatever it is we were going to sell, four weeks before, there was a 90+% chance they were going to be a buyer. If they did not use language that identified them as a user, like “I am XYZ,” or “I think XYZ,” or “I am a person who could see themselves using XYZ,” if they didn’t have this identity in advance of the offer being made, they would not purchase. It’s an understanding that that’s buying.

If you think about buying into an idea, a concept, a mission, it’s not just about there is a vision for- You ask me about the vision 2020. It’s like 2030 or 2050. We have to be talking about as if it’s in the present. We are working vision 2030 right now. We have to be in the present moment.

We have discovered the number of personal pronouns—I, me, we—versus the number of other pronouns a person uses is an indicator of that self-identity they are expressing. If that I, me, and we is used to express the vision, then they are more likely to be a person who has bought in and is willing to support and donate. If the I, me, and we is not present, and you are trying to get them to donate, they are not engaged because they don’t see themselves as that type of person. It’s important to recognize if they are talking about themselves in that role or if they just think it’s a good idea. Are they saying, “I love that idea,” or “It’s a really good idea”? Very different. That nuance is significant in the purchasing or buying into of an idea.

Hugh: We are unaware of that. There is a common party game when you give people five beans when you walk into a door. You tell people to refrain from using I, me, or we. If you catch someone else using one of those, you get one of their beans. Typically, I say, “I caught you,” and we exchange beans. We are unaware. Someone loses their beans in a matter of seconds because we are so unaware of how often we are thinking about self. This is all of us; I am as guilty as anyone. I am an expert on the subject of leadership because I made all of the mistakes many times. We call those learning opportunities. That’s a self-awareness piece that is so strong.

I want to go back to something you talked about earlier that I am still trying to get my head around. Can you give some examples from the for-profit sector of the experience economy business versus the transformational economy business? I want to get some more clarity on the contrasts of those.

Tony: Let me use coffee as an example since I started down that path earlier. Coffee, from an experience perspective, we would look at Starbucks. That is the typical example everyone out there is going to use. You’re staging experiences at Starbucks. Everyone wants to come back. You are paying a premium for this experience.

A company called Change Please started out with a coffee business. This is a social business, not a nonprofit. It’s a for-profit, but it’s socially oriented. It was originally based out of London. They have these small coffee carts, a three-wheel motorbike with a trunk, that they drive to specific locations. The owner realized that at the growth rate people were drinking coffee, London would need 100,000 baristas over time. He noticed we don’t have the work force for this. There is a homeless population on the streets. He puts two and two together and realized that he could put together a socially responsible business that focused on training these people who are homeless to be baristas. They get paid. We put them into shared housing. Eventually, they make enough to move into their own flat. They develop skillsets and move out of being a homeless person into an active member of society.

There is a number of elements of transformation that take place here. One is the transformation of the homeless person into an employee to a barista to a renter at least.

The other side to this is equally important. This is where the nonprofit sector has to pay attention. It’s not just about the transformation of the individuals. The people who are walking up who could say, “I could buy a Starbucks coffee,” what does that say? “I can afford a $6 cup of coffee. I am feeling good.” I am not knocking them. There is an ego or narcissism going on there. I drink a lot of Starbucks, so I am in that category.

I could also go to Change Please coffee on the corner, pay the same amount, get the same quality of coffee. It’s not that the product itself is any better, but I am walking down the street with a Change Please logo. What that says about me is I am a philanthropist. I just helped a homeless person get a job, and they are living in a flat somewhere. It has transformed that purchase and the purchaser from being someone who is buying their coffee to show what they can do to a person buying exactly the same product but having a very different transformation. They have become a person who transforms the world around them.

Hugh: Would you like to hear questions from the listeners?

Tony: I would love to.

Bob Hopkins: This is a very interesting topic. I’ll ask a question that you may have answered already since I missed the beginning. I was interested in this Change Please, a social business that is not a nonprofit, yet it does what nonprofits do, which is help people. When they say it’s for-profit, the social thing is getting people to transform who they are as people. is that correct?

Tony: It transforms both the individuals who work for the organization—the homeless people who now have a job and a place to live—and it transforms the customers. They can purchase a cup of coffee and know they have made a difference in the world. They have become a giver instead of a consumer.

Hugh: Bob has written a book called Philanthropy Misunderstood. You are talking about philanthropy in business. We often think we have to have a nonprofit, but it’s really about the triple bottom line: people, planet, and profit. We should have the same triple bottom line with nonprofits. We have to have money left over because we have to invest it in the infrastructure, marketing, salaries. We have the same factors.

Starbucks and Change Please, Starbucks changed the business model. That was the transformation they made. Change Please is changing people’s lives. We are delivering a commodity, but one was about the experience, and the other is about the transformation. I know that when I am paying extra money for coffee, it’s not just coffee, it’s a fundamental vote for humankind. Even though I am buying coffee, it’s me loving people. it’s a for-profit. It’s what a nonprofit ought to be doing. How do these things apply to the nonprofit sector?

Tony: The nonprofit sector is already there in a sense from the perspective that their mission is to transform lives. If you go back through our conversation, I think what nonprofits can really do better is recognizing that they’re not the hero, they are the guide. Their role is to understand does a particular donor want to be a hero or a guide? Does a particular volunteer want to be a hero or a guide?

I say that because there are donors and volunteers who are at a point in their lives where for them to become a hero, to know they did something good for other people, that makes them feel good about themselves. It raises their confidence. The nonprofit is transforming those lives as well as the recipients of their services.

If you understand there are donors and volunteers who want to be the guides, they don’t have a need to feel like a hero anymore. They want to guide others through their lives. Those are the potential leaders in your organization. The donors who want to lead, to be the guide, not just the hero, will recruit other donors so that you have a greater foundation. The volunteers who want to be the guides will be volunteering for leadership roles and getting other volunteers to come on board. Not everyone wants to be a hero. Some want to be a guide. Make sure you are addressing them correctly.

That element is critical. Understanding that journey that people are on. If we look at many nonprofits, they think it’s about relieving a pain. It could be a spiritual pain, an emotional pain, a physical pain, a mental pain. That is the equivalent of living in the experience economy. Only when there is a mindset shift where they say, “We’re actually here not just to relieve the pain, but to go beyond that and help these people transform into a thriving individual, someone who not just can eat today, but maybe they learn how to grow their own food, or maybe they learn a skill that can get them a job.” Those are the types of things nonprofits switching from the experience economy to the transformation economy will have to do.

As a cautionary warning, you will see more social businesses rise up because nonprofits don’t step in.

Hugh: Whoa. That’s an emphatic sound bite. This is a cycle. Richard Rohr, who is a Franciscan and writes a daily devotion, is an inspiration for my wife and me. One of his quotes I refer to often is, “Transformed people transform people.” It doesn’t take a lot of words. “Wounded people wound people.” How many organizations are just working toward brick and mortar and self-sustaining what they have going rather than transforming people’s lives? This is a huge paradigm shift.

Your book is Prophetability. You also have Leverage: Achieve a Lot with the Little You’ve Got and The Complete Experience: Unlocking the Secrets of Online Reviews that Drive Customer Loyalty and The Brave Leadership Mastery Journal. These are all found at You also have a podcast on there to help think about the transformation journey.

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Tony Bodoh, this has been a transformational journey talking to you today. What would you like to leave people with?

Tony: My challenge would be to study the hero’s journey. Understand it. Relentlessly look at the messaging in your own organization to determine if you are trying to be the hero or the guide. If you do that work, you will be ready for the next step.

Hugh: Tony, it’s been really great. We need to talk more often. Thank you for being our guest today.

Tony: Thank you so much for having me, Hugh.


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