The Critical Thing Nobody Ever Told You About Values
People’s lack of values clarity is contributing to so many of the problems we are faced with, including the incredible polarity in politics, business, and media. Discovering one’s highest values can be confusing and complicated and rarely creates implementable and lasting results. We eliminate the complexity and confusion by dividing values into two distinct categories, making it easy for people to discover, remember, and live in alignment with what is most important to them.
Robert MacPhee is the creator of the “Excellent Decisions” values-based leadership program and the author of “Living a Values Based Life”. He is the former Director of Training for the Canfield Training Group, (having worked closely for many years with Jack Canfield, the co-creator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul Book series and the author of The Success Principles). Robert is a Founding Member and former Executive Director of the Transformational Leadership Council, a Co-Founder of the Southern California Association of Transformational Leaders, and a former Executive Board Member of the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of Conscious Capitalism. Robert is a knowledgeable, fun, and engaging speaker and facilitator. He is an expert in experiential learning, peak performance, values clarification, and leadership. He has spoken at corporate conferences, industry trade shows, government conferences, Colleges, Universities, and High Schools and has been a featured presenter at various corporate events and trainings. Robert lives in Sonoma California, is a committed father and former marathon runner, and has become an aspiring wine aficionado.
For more information – https://valuesbasedlife.com/
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0:02 – Hugh Ballou Welcome to the nonprofit exchange. This is Hugh Ballou back. This is My cohost, David Dunworth back from his, his trip to Africa doing some great stuff. And David’s a little bit without a voice today. So, he may not talk a lot, but David, welcome back to the US and our new guest, our new friend,. The amazing leader with a book, just launching as we speak. Whenever you hear this, whatever year it is, it’ll still be fresh ideas because it’s about values. And Robert McPhee, tell people a little bit about who you are and your background and why are you doing this work that you do.
0:45 – Robert MacPhee Well, first of all, it’s just so good to be with you. You and I had the opportunity to connect just recently, and I was so thrilled that we had the opportunity to do this. And as you said, the new book, which is focused on values, is launching, and this conversation is picking up momentum. It turns out there are a lot of people out there who understand the importance of values, but maybe aren’t clear on what their values are. My background that led me to do this work originally as an entrepreneur running a business, a friend of mine and I started a parking company just out of college, a couple of college kids who had no idea what they were doing turned it into a huge success.
1:23 – Robert MacPhee Looking back on it, largely because we were clear about our values and the attitude and the commitment that we brought to effectively running the business. Out of that opportunity, I was doing all the human resources and kind of training and development side of the business and got connected to Jack Canfield, who’s a mutual friend of both you and I and had the opportunity to learn a tremendous amount from Jack and work with Jack for about years. I was the director of training for his organization.
1:53 – Robert MacPhee I tell people I was working with Jack when my kids were very young, and that is my unfair advantage as a parent. For those of you who don’t know, Jack is the author of a book called The Success Principles. He’s also the creator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series. And he’s just an incredible man. He is the real deal. And he’s a true leader in the whole personal and professional development space. And working closely with him for all that time was just a tremendous opportunity.
2:23 – Robert MacPhee And eventually, I went out on my own. I have a company called Excellent Decisions, where we help people make decisions based on their vision and values, rather than all the external stress and pressure that we’re faced with in the world. And that then further refined down to really focusing on values, which is the new focus, because we realized that vision and values are both really important. But if you have a compelling vision, but it’s not aligned with your values, chances are it’s not going to get you where you want to go.
2:54 – Robert MacPhee So the big focus right now, the new book is called Living a Values-Based Life, and we’re working with people and organizations to help discover and clarify and live in alignment with their highest values, which is like the responses have been incredible so far. It’s actually unlike anything I’ve experienced professionally. Because again, people know how important values are. And most of them can’t articulate their own highest values.
3:24 – Hugh Ballou So you and I were chatting about this before we went live. And if you walk down the street and you ask people, what are their values? How many responses would you get?
3:36 – Robert MacPhee That know? I, with only I think if you asked you might get one. And I’ll tell you a funny story about that. When I first, I’ve been immersed in this for over a year now, narrowing down the conversation from business and values to just values and sharing it with people and seeing the response and then realizing, okay, if we’re going to do this on the scale that it’s capable of, we need to write a book. We created an online course. We have a virtual course.
4:05 – Robert MacPhee We’re going to be doing live events. We’re seeing this as something really big. And I was at a meeting of an organization that I’m a co-founder of called the Southern California Association of Transformational Leaders. It’s a bunch of speakers and authors and trainers and teachers. Jack was there. I was telling people how excited I was about this new work I’m doing and focusing on values and how everybody knows how important values are, but many people don’t. And I was getting these looks on their faces, like sheepish, kind of guilty.
4:37 – Robert MacPhee And I could just tell people were afraid That I was going to ask them what their highest values were and their teachers and their authors and their trainers their leaders in this transformational leadership space. And, you know, what if we asked them? I would say would be educated. Go how many of them could. Say, oh, my values are there. Again, just most people haven’t done the work. Or they’ve done the work. And this is where I think what we’re doing is different. They’ve done the work, but they’ve done the work in a way that has some confusion.
5:16 – Robert MacPhee It’s complicated. It’s difficult to remember. And it’s difficult to apply to our lives or our organization.
5:26 – Hugh Ballou It’s core thing that we do at SynerVision is help people build their strategic plans. And defining your core values is part of that. And then we have people connect with their values and there’s got to be a match. But when I get to that part and I ask people to name some values, I get all kind of responses from a run-on sentence to one word. So I think the first thing is clarifying, what do we mean when we talk about values? And people say they’re important, but why is that?
5:58 – Multiple Speakers Why are they important?
6:01 – Robert MacPhee Well, our values determine. So we use a model where what I call our self-image, which is pretty much the same thing as our values, actually in some ways determines the way we think, the decisions we make, the actions we take, and the results that we get in our lives. So if we’re not clear about our values, I think the biggest consequence is that we’re living in alignment with someone else’s values. And in the world that we live in today, that’s not difficult to do, because there is no shortage of sources that are trying to influence us and push us in the direction of thinking, making decisions, taking actions, and getting results that are good for them.
6:47 – Robert MacPhee We look at media, advertising, social media, and even the people in our lives, our boss, our co-workers, our family, and our friends. Everyone has some idea of what we should be doing and how we should be living our lives. And if we’re not clear, like really clear about what our values are, like what’s most important to us, to me, that’s the simplest definition of values. It’s what’s most important to us. If we’re not clear about what that is, then we become susceptible to all those other sources, all those other influences, because, again, they never go away.
7:20 – Robert MacPhee They’re nonstop. They just bombard us every single day. And I think, again, that’s a reason why this conversation is getting people’s attention because people are saying, well, I don’t want to live my life like that. I want to live my life in alignment with what’s most important to me. I want to make a conscious choice. About what’s going to drive the way I think, the decisions I make, the actions I take, and what kind of results I generate in my life. And that’s values.
7:50 – Robert MacPhee That’s a conscious decision. And this is the confession part of the story for me because, Hugh, when you were talking about that experience of sharing values as part of the strategic planning part, It’s confusing, right? It’s complicated. It’s confusing. People don’t understand exactly how it works and what’s a value and what’s not a value. And again, it’s confusing and complicated. And that was exactly my experience. It’s about years ago now. I was having the same experience.
8:20 – Robert MacPhee I knew how important it was to be clear about my values, but I was struggling. I was having a hard time. And I honestly don’t know why. No one taught me to do it. I don’t know kind of where the inspiration came from. But what I did was divide my values into two different categories to help clarify the confusion. And the categories that I divided them into were what’s important to me, like the things that are important to me, like my relationships with my children are important to me, my career and business success important to me, my health and well-being is important to me, contributing to the world.
8:57 – Robert MacPhee These are the things that are important to me. And then the second category was what I call ways of being. It’s how I want to show up. In the world. It’s the qualities and characteristics that I want to exhibit. And those are things like being humble and being caring and kind and being calm and peaceful. And one that I’m working on right now that recently got added to my list as I’m working on building this organization is courageous. That’s how I want to show up in the world. I want to be courageous.
9:29 – Robert MacPhee But you can see how the relationships with my children, which is important to me, which I value, is different than being courageous. They’re two different things. So I ended up with two different lists. One was the things that were important to me, and the other is how I want to show up in the world, these qualities and characteristics. And suddenly I could remember, and I could go back to those lists, and I could say, how am I doing? Am I putting my time and attention on the things that I’ve declared are most important to me?
9:58 – Robert MacPhee Or am I watching YouTube videos and rearranging my desk and whatever else I might get called into doing? And am I showing up in the world the way I’ve declared that I want to be, like how I want to show up? And I can self-assess and I can say, Yes, I’m doing well here. No, I’m not doing so well there. And I can put time and attention. I can make conscious changes to live my life more in alignment with the results I want to create, what’s important to me, and the qualities and characteristics of how I want to be in the world.
10:33 – Robert MacPhee And for me, it was like, voila, now it’s not so confusing. Now it’s usable. It’s applicable. I can remember it. I can put it in an app in my phone. I can remind myself. And again, I can self-assess and change. But you know what? That was years ago. And you would think since I’m a coach, and I’m a consultant, and I work with Jack Canfield, and I have all this experience and all these contacts, you would think, since it works so well for me, you would think I would have just shared that with everyone else right away.
11:03 – Robert MacPhee It took me until just this past year to really, and it was through an experience I was having with a nonprofit, ironically. I started a nonprofit in the social justice space, and we realized that to get people to respond to what we were inviting them to do, we needed to tap into their values. And a woman I was working with said, oh, well, if that’s what we need to do, no problem, Robert. You’re the vision and values guy. We should be able to do that, no problem, right? And I said, well, yeah, I guess so.
11:37 – Robert MacPhee And it forced me to look in and see what I had done and to realize that I hadn’t shared it with people to start sharing it with people. And the response, and I think it’s those people that you were talking about who are doing the work and it’s confusing and it’s complicated and not sure how to apply it. Maybe they’re an organization that did values work years ago and it’s in a drawer somewhere or it’s on the wall, but it’s not making a difference every single day. The idea of taking it and putting it in the form of two different categories, what’s important to us?
12:07 – Robert MacPhee For an organization, that means like, what do we do? What are the most important things we do? And also, how do we do them? Like, how do we show up? How do we interact with each other and with our stakeholders? That’s the way of being. And an organization can check in just like an individual can and say, how are we doing? Are we living our lives? Are we running our organization in alignment with what we’ve declared is most important to us or not?
12:36 – Hugh Ballou Or not yeah, so if you’re coming by on Facebook, you’re watching the nonprofit exchange. I’ve been right here every Tuesday for almost years. And we’re talking to Robert McPhee about values. And it’s sort of this invisible thing that we talk about, and we might go through the process of writing them down when we’re doing our strategic planning. And there’s a lot to learn here. And I’ve already been doing this, Robert. I’ve been doing this kind of work for years and do values with people all the time.
13:09 – Hugh Ballou I’ve never thought about dividing them into categories. The topic of today, the theme, and the title of today is the critical thing. Nobody ever told you about values. And it’s sort of it’s unfolding in this in this interview. So, Robert, we talked a little bit about the values and asked people if they knew them, and why don’t they know them.
13:35 – Robert MacPhee Well, I think the simple answer to that question is because no one is teaching it. Well, I would say no one’s teaching it, especially when we’re young. So this is not something that we would get in school generationally speaking. I feel like I’m part of a blessed generation. Kind of in the transition to this information age. You know, when I was in college, computer science meant these geek people that were running around with stacks of punch cards, right? And now we live in a world where, through the internet, we have access to every piece of information that’s ever been created.
14:10 – Robert MacPhee Like, we have access to everything. And so the… I’m sorry, I lost track of your question.
14:23 – Hugh Ballou You know, we talked about why people don’t know it.
14:25 – Robert MacPhee Oh, yeah. So now people have access to all of this information, and they still are not teaching in school what values are, how to discover your values, and how important values are. They’re not learning it in school. And the parents, where we learn so much from our parents, right? So much of who we are and how we show up in the world is based on what we got from our parents at a very young age. But how many parents, I told you, when I was working with Jack Canfield, that was my unfair advantage as a parent.
14:59 – Robert MacPhee And my three children grew up very clear about what their values are. And I’m very proud of them for living their lives in alignment with their values because that was just the norm. That was just, we didn’t have like a, PowerPoint and a flip start at the dinner table every night, but these conversations about values and taking personal responsibility and effective communication and leadership and all those kinds of things that were. That was just part of what was happening.
15:25 – Robert MacPhee That was what we talked about. But most people don’t have that. Most people don’t get it from their parents. They don’t get it from school. If they do get something about values, in my experience, they either got it from a mentor or they got it from a coach. So a lot of times in athletics, young people will get exposed to some of the work, the most effective foundational, fundamental kind of work that we see in the personal development world. But the real reason I think why people don’t have clarity about their values is nobody taught them.
15:58 – Robert MacPhee The other side of that is what we were talking about with the way values are traditionally taught, which oftentimes is looking at a list, seeking out the words on that list of possible values that resonate with you, and maybe circling some words on that list. And then narrowing it down to five words that resonate most with you. And voila, you have, your highest values. And, the truth is that there’s There’s some value in that conversation, like that degree of reflection and pausing your busy life to look at a list and see the things that aren’t as important to you and pick some things out that are important.
16:41 – Robert MacPhee That’s good. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. And I don’t think that’s going to be a life-changing, easy-to-implement, easy-to-remember, easy-to-apply kind of process. It just doesn’t have the juice. And so the process that we’re using, like to not only divide into two categories but to look at each category and do a discovery process. This is why I was able to create this book so quickly, it’s a process book where we take people through, starting with what we call your priorities.
17:15 – Robert MacPhee What is important to you? We tap into the different learning strategies of not just your head, but your heart. Pause your life and do a little visualization and really connect deeply to what’s most important to you and create a vision of your life just the way you want it to be and see who’s there and what you’re doing and what’s around you all those kinds of things like that kind of heart energy and also do some of the brainstorming the power of our own mind kind of work. And then narrow it down to the things, the what’s, the priorities that are most important to us.
17:50 – Robert MacPhee And do the same kind of thing with our ways of being, with those qualities and characteristics. Do a visualization, really tap into how you want to show up. What kind of relationships do you want to be having? With people? How do you want them to be responding to you? All those things. And then again, we use a list. I think a list is a really valuable part of the process, but I don’t think it’s a whole process. I think there’s a lot more. And most people, if they have done values work, part of the reason why on that street corner, they’re not going to be able to tell us what their values are, is they don’t remember.
18:22 – Hugh Ballou Well, I think a value of using the list is there’s an example. And people have to rethink now, what is value? And so what you’re doing is priming the pump. Now, I’ve led many, many strategy sessions. And people get highfalutin and proud of their values. And they write this great list. And we make a big list. I use storyboards. We can do all this stuff. And then we put them in groups. So that’s sort of like what you were talking about. But then we say, I think the big deal here is, Which of these, if it’s missing, then you’re out of here.
19:00 – Hugh Ballou You don’t want anything to do with it. So I think the accountability of living out the values is more important than creating them. But they’re both, you got to have it before you know how to uphold it. But sometimes I go into groups just to do the next session for strategy. They’ve had one, they’re updating it or creating a different one. And they’ve got values and they can’t articulate them. They wrote them and they disappeared. So how do you, what’s your remedy to that?
19:34 – Robert MacPhee Well, first of all, I want to I love what you said about like the highfalutin right like they get they think big and and they get really kind of grandiose and all that so I want to share a couple of examples just pulled it up on my phone talk about the technology we have available to I want to share a couple of examples for you. This will tie right into your question about how we get to that place of really applying and implementing what we do and not doing what these companies did.
19:59 – Robert MacPhee Because I want to read you two lists of company values in that kind of highfalutin, looks really good up on the wall kind of category. And then I’ll tell you which company it was. So the first company, their list of four highest values were communication, respect, integrity, and excellence. Doesn’t that sound great? Oh, it’s awesome. That’s a solid plaque on the wall, right? So communication, respect, integrity, and excellence. Do you know whose values those are?
20:34 – Multiple Speakers Hooters. I don’t know.
20:37 – Robert MacPhee Worse. It’s Enron.
20:39 – Hugh Ballou Oh my goodness.
20:42 – Robert MacPhee So they did the values work. They paid to have the plaque created. It was up on the wall and it was on the website and whatever, but that was Enron. And the problem was they were not living in alignment. They were not operating in alignment with those values. So great exercise, but not a great outcome. So I’ll give you one more that’s a little more current. They also had integrity, honesty, accountability, and passion. Solid list, right? Sounds good.
21:15 – Robert MacPhee Looks good on the wall. This is FTX. The Bitcoin company, the kid from Stanford started, and they were sponsoring all the sports teams and everything, and it turned out the whole house of cards collapsed, and what was it? Billion in losses for the people who had money in their company. Integrity, honesty, Accountability, I think they dropped the ball on that one and passion. We might give them passion. They might have had passion, but this is the problem of doing the exercise and coming up with a list.
21:52 – Robert MacPhee That sounds great. But, but not having. Like the mechanism in place to apply it, to implement it. And for me, this was the biggest benefit of that aha moment. I’ve been doing this work for years. I’ve only got three pieces of original content that I didn’t just learn directly from someone else and incorporate into my work. This dividing into two categories is one of those pieces of original content. We’ll do other episodes. I’ll do the other one, the other two for you.
22:24 – Robert MacPhee But the beauty of it, the biggest impact was dividing them into two categories and taking away the confusion and allowing me to remember them. Allowed me to live them on an ongoing basis, and also the ability to go through a process of self-assessing. I can look at my five highest values, and my five highest priorities, and I can look at the results I’m getting in all those areas. I have amazing, my number one priority is my relationships with my children. And I have amazing relationships with my children.
23:00 – Robert MacPhee My number two priority is contribution, making a difference in the world. And I’m very pleased with the work that I’m doing with this nonprofit that I started in the social justice space. I’m very pleased about the results I’m getting and the time and attention that I consistently put into making the world a better place. My number is my health and well-being, and I’m years old. I’m currently training with my son to run a marathon. I take good care of myself. I. Look at my spiritual and emotional well, being I do well in that area and I’m getting there.
23:31 – Robert MacPhee I’m not going to I’m not going to just make a long list for you because when we get to number That’s my financial and career area. And that’s where I want to grow. I love the work that I do, but I want to do it on a bigger level. I want to make a bigger impact. I’m going to make a bigger difference in the world. And that’s what I’m working on right now. Because I have these lists, I can self-assess and I can say, relationship with the kids, keep doing what you’re doing.
24:00 – Robert MacPhee Contribution, keep doing what you’re doing. Health and well-being, keep doing what you’re doing. Business and financial, let’s put some extra attention there. That’s the one. I can self-assess, identify the area, and then figure out, like, what am I going to do? That’s how this whole work came about. But the values thing is looking at that area, saying, how can I make a bigger difference? How can I impact more people’s lives? How can I work with individuals and with organizations to make a difference in both of those arenas?
24:31 – Robert MacPhee And this values work that we’re doing is showing up to be just that.
24:36 – Hugh Ballou Outstanding. We were coming to the close of our interview, but this is I mean, we can have a three-hour session and just scratch the surface. So we want to have the highest values to live life to our highest aspirations and leave our organization, a nonprofit, a church, a business to its highest potential. So, when we put all that together, how does that work? And what changes do people see in their lives?
25:13 – Robert MacPhee Well, four words come up most of the time in terms of the conversations we have about the impact of clarifying values. And the four words that come up consistently are, number one, productivity. So we can be one getting more done because we’re focusing our attention on what’s most important to us and we’re saying no to other things. And when we focus, we accomplish more, but we also are accomplishing more in an area that we know is important to us. So we’re not only getting more done, But we’re, we’re getting more done in the area that we’ve.
25:50 – Robert MacPhee We’ve identified as important to us, so it’s kind of a kind of a double on the on the productivity side with more accomplishment and more meaningful accomplishment as well. The 2nd, word that comes up all the time is satisfaction. Like, living a satisfied life. Like, at the end of your day, feeling like, that was a good day. Like, I really, did some good work here. Like, I was so excited to be in this conversation with all of you. And as we’re coming to the end of it, like, I’m feeling like, this is what I want to be doing.
26:18 – Robert MacPhee These are the conversations I want to be in. This is the difference I want to be making in the world. So there’s a sense of satisfaction. Like, feeling like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing here on the planet. And then the last two words are purpose and meaning. And I think we all want to live a life of purpose and meaning. We have things we need to do. We need to make some money, pay the bills, and take care of the family. There are things we need to do. But at the end of the day, at the end of our life, I think we also want to look back and say, I did something worthwhile.
26:48 – Robert MacPhee I had a purpose. And for me, when we have a powerful vision and it’s in alignment with our values, that’s what purpose means. So it starts with values. And going back to a problem we discussed earlier, If we don’t have clarity about our values, how can we have purpose? Our values define the purpose and meaning of our life. We have to have that. We have to know what our highest values are if we want to live a life of purpose and meaning because that’s how we define it.
27:23 – Robert MacPhee Otherwise, someone else is defining it, and chances are we’re fulfilling someone else’s purpose and meaning. But I say, let’s do yours.
27:33 – Hugh Ballou Let’s do yours so people can find you and I want to just spend a couple of minutes for we sign off here. People can find you by going to your website and I’m going to for people that are watching the video. I’ll share it with people who are listening or visually challenged. You go to values-based life dot com. Valuesbasedlife.com. And so what will people find when they get there, Robert?
28:04 – Robert MacPhee You’ll find a little bit more information. You’ll find some of the things that we’ve talked about here today. As Hugh mentioned, we are in the middle of launching this book and putting it out there to the world. We’re also working with five organizations right now on this values-based living approach to dividing the values into two different categories and putting them into a format that’s implementable and applicable. So for people who are interested in talking to us or taking a closer look at what we do with organizations, there’s a tab at the top of the website about that.
28:40 – Robert MacPhee And again, we’re also in the middle of this book launch. So it’s, what, February 6th as we’re recording this, between now and Valentine’s Day. And off the record, it might even trickle a little past Valentine’s Day, depending on how things are going. We’re offering a couple of pretty remarkable bonuses to people who purchase the book at this point. So if you’re looking at it on an individual basis, just a personal basis, listening to this conversation and saying, I want to get clearer about what my own personal highest values are, what my highest priorities are, and my most important ways of being.
29:18 – Robert MacPhee I would suggest the book as the best starting point for that. And once you get the book, you’ll end up in a conversation with us because you can probably tell from this conversation that we have a really strong commitment to follow-up. We don’t want you to be the Enron or the FTX of the world that creates a great list, but never really gets to the point of living in alignment with that list. So, a big part of what we do is, is get that process started with discovering your highest values, but also work with you to implement and apply and get to a place where, you know, on an ongoing basis that you’re living in alignment with those values.
29:54 – Hugh Ballou Awesome. We’re recording this in the beginning of So if you’re listening to a or after, It still applies to the different valentine’s day but there probably be some sort of incentive for you to come here and for people that that are listening on the audio people who recite challenge the name of the book is.
30:12 – Robert MacPhee Living a values-based life. And that’s the mission. My mission is that at some point, we talk about that street corner, that I do one of those interviews and someone says, well, you know what? Not only do I know my values, but I’ve got them divided into two categories. Let me tell you what my priorities are and let me tell you what my ways of being are. And the ones I’m working on right now are this one and that one. Boom, here we go, right?
30:38 – Hugh Ballou And we want to invite anybody who is working in the trenches with a nonprofit or faith-based organization, or any kind of community organization, to join us in SynerVision at thenonprofitcommunity.org. We meet, we help each other, and we talk about values, among other things. Nonprofitleadership.org. So as we end this helpful interview, Robert, what challenge or thought do you want to leave people with today?
31:08 – Robert MacPhee Well, you know, I think we’ve covered it pretty well, but what’s up for me is what you just shared about your commitment and the mission of this particular podcast being focused on nonprofits. And I told you, I started a nonprofit myself in and I have kind of a soft spot in my heart. So I would just say, For people who are running or starting nonprofits, just know that if this conversation has got your attention, we make an extra effort to do whatever we can to make it as easy as possible to work with nonprofits, to do this values clarification work because I think you’re like me.
31:45 – Robert MacPhee I think on your values list is that one about making a contribution, making the world a better place, and we really want to support you in doing that. And having values clarity, I think you’ll find, really will make it I don’t know about easier, but simpler. We’ll say simpler to stay clear and to stay on purpose and be doing the work that you’re most committed to, the work that’s most important to you. So, if you are a nonprofit, we want to support you in this work in any way we can.
32:15 – Hugh Ballou Well spoken. Robert, thank you for being our guest today on the Nonprofit Exchange.