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Little Things Everyone Can Do To Make A Big Impact In The World:
Interview with Amy & Scott Malin
One of the main reasons donors lapse is poor communication from the non-profit and a lack of meaningful ways to engage donors and get them excited about their mission. Most people experience donor burn-out from being bombarded with messages about the world’s biggest problems that need fixing. As a society, we’ve become desensitized when we see suffering around us. That is why we’re big believers in making your donors the hero of the story, and showcasing the measurable impact that is created when people come together to support your cause. Part of the secret to retaining donors and increasing their financial commitment is sharing the success stories of how your non-profit is making an impact in your community.
Married dynamic duo Amy and Scott Malin are Hollywood’s social impact experts. They are partners in the cause agency Trueheart, where they connect celebrities and purpose-driven brands with deserving non-profits to raise millions of dollars for deserving charities. Amy and Scott are also Co-Founders of the Trueheart social impact search engine, a new social good platform that allows people to change the world with every search.
You can start searching with Trueheart at https://trueheart.com and Follow @WeAreTrueheart on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to keep up with Amy & Scott’s social impact campaigns.
NPE Amy Malin
Hugh Ballou: Greetings, this is Hugh Ballou back with another episode of The Nonprofit Exchange. We exchange ideas; we share wisdom. Many of us have been around and have learned from the actual process of doing things that didn’t work. *audio issue*
Our guest today is going to share some of the exciting things she and her husband are doing. She was going to be here with her husband, but he is taking care of their child, which is important work, too. Amy Malin, would you share a little bit about who you are and what it is you bring to the world? Amy, tell us about yourself.
Amy Malin: Thanks, Hugh for having me on The Nonprofit Exchange today. I’m excited to be here with you and to get to connect with your wonderful audience of people who are so passionate about making a difference in the world. I think if I have two theme words for my life, they would be “love” and “service.” Those are important lessons I have learned in my life. One of my purposes for being here is to rally people around important causes and connect them in meaningful ways to make an impact in the world.
For me, that started with my role model, my Nema, my grandma who raised me. She was someone who always answered the call for help. She wasn’t a professional fundraiser, but she just had a huge heart, and she cared about the world. I watched Nema become the president of multiple local nonprofit chapters like City of Hope and ORT. She was always putting on these charity fashion shows and collecting items for live auctions and silent auctions and dialing for donations. She was super passionate about helping the community. I was just watching her as a little girl so inspired by who she was and how she led with her heart, and it left this amazing impression on me, that I wanted to grow up and be just like my Nema. She was just this amazing human being.
In addition to that, I had my own experiences where I really learned that the power of connecting with other human beings and giving back saved me. There were a few times in my life where I didn’t think I was going to live to see another day. That was as a survivor of domestic violence and sexual assault and human trafficking. Through those experiences, I made a promise to myself that if I did survive, and I made it out, I was going to dedicate my life to giving back and being in service to other people. I would find a way to take my pain and turn it into a powerful way to help others.
I learned that by volunteering, I wasn’t the only person who was in pain. Everyone has some sort of tragedy or trauma in their lives. Everyone has overcome obstacles. When I was in service to other people, I felt this deep bond and this connection. The more I focused on what other people were feeling, and what I could do to lend my time and talents and give my heart to making a difference in their lives, I was actually getting back so much more than I was giving. I felt this profound sense of joy. I learned that doing good really feels good.
I believe it’s why we’re here, to connect with each other in these profoundly beautiful and deep, positive ways. For me, my personal and professional lives are inextricably linked because of the things I have overcome in my personal life, I decided it would be the professional mission of my life to do as much good as I can on a daily basis and inspire other people to join me.
Hugh: Love it. The title that you gave me for today’s show is “Little Things Everyone Can Do to Make a Big Impact in the World.” Give us some illumination about that.
Amy: I believe that when we do these small random acts of kindness, it creates a ripple effect of goodness in the world. Sometimes we don’t realize the power of the things that we say or do and how they affect other people. sometimes just by calling to check on someone and ask them how they’re doing, and really paying attention to the answer, and offering them love and support, that could be the thing that they needed to hear. There was someone that cared about them on their lowest day. Just by you showing up and being for them, you could give them that lifeline of support to give them a reason to hold on and make it to the next day.
The pandemic has shown us that mental health issues are on the rise. It’s truly an epidemic in this country. Unfortunately, a lot more people have taken their lives over the course of this global pandemic. It’s because people have been feeling isolated and alone. It is so crucial that we are checking in on our family and friends and asking how they are doing and being there to offer support. It’s a free thing that we can all do, to show up with love and compassion for the people in our lives. We’ve got to do it.
I also think cultivating a sense of community in our neighborhoods is really important. One of my favorite comedians, Sebastian Maniscalco, has a hilarious skit where he talks about how people in the ‘50s and ‘60s would get so excited when company would come over to visit. They would have the company cake and special coffee. It would be a whole event, a big to-do. Now, when people ring our doorbells in 2021, a lot of people turn off the lights and hide and pretend they’re not home. We’re closing ourselves off from our neighbors and the people in our community.
If we foster this sense of community, what a beautiful thing to know that people in our neighborhood have our back. There are always people who are looking out for each other. We saw this in our lives when a few years ago, our son had a few surgeries at our local children’s hospital. Thankfully he is in good health now and doing great. That year, when he was having health issues, it was really terrifying for our family. Our neighbors showed up for us. They brought our son cards and cupcakes. They offered to do grocery shopping for us. They really made us feel like we were living in a community surrounded by friends who cared. We always tried to pay back the kindness as well. Being a good neighbor is a small thing you can do that makes a big impact.
Showing our veterans and active duty servicemen and women that we are grateful for their service and sacrifice is so important. What they do to enable us to have these freedoms that we enjoy in this country is absolutely incredible. It’s not just on days like Veterans’ Day or Memorial Day, but it’s every day that we should recognize what their service and sacrifice and what their families have given up for us mean for us. When they come back into our communities, be there as a support system to help them integrate. Offer veterans a job at your company. Be a business that proudly hires veterans and servicemen and women. Find ways to offer them support. Let their families know that while their loved ones are overseas serving, you’re people they can count on because they have given so much.
Fostering and rescuing animals is another small thing we can do to make a big difference. You get this rush, this release of serotonin that is so positive in your life as the human being. Dogs help you get more exercise. You’re out in nature and socializing. They reduce your stress and your risk of heart disease. You are saving the life of a beautiful animal who deserves a forever, loving home. When you rescue an animal, you’re bringing so much joy into your life and theirs.
I am a big believer in rescue. My rescue baby Roxy who passed away a few months ago after 14 years of being family, even though I technically rescued her, she was the one who rescued me. She brought me so much joy and unconditional love and support. I’m a big proponent of animal rescue.
Then I would also say when you see someone in your community who is living on the streets, offer a hand up. I have always been helping the homeless since I was a child. I was actually homeless myself twice, escaping situations of interpersonal violence. I know what it feels like to be in need, not have a place to live, not have enough food to eat. I always pay forward my blessings and buy a meal for someone in my community who is living on the streets. Take time to connect them to resources: food banks, shelters where they can get into transitional housing programs. I will provide a grocery store gift card so they can do some shopping and get some food for the next few days.
If we can view our fellow human beings as people who are all equal and worthy of love and support, that’s the way in which we are intended to see each other for who we are, our authentic, beautiful selves. Instead of looking down on someone because they might be living on the street and falling on hard times, what is a small thing you can do to make a difference?
Have some snack packs in your car. That’s something our family does. Socks are an item that homeless people desperately need. They do a lot of walking, so their feet are getting bruises or blisters. If you could include some socks in your snack pack with bottles of water and nonperishable food items, and you hand those out, we’re always doing that every week. It is so appreciated. It is a small thing that you can do to make a big difference.
If you really focus and put the intention and energy behind doing one good deed a day, you will see it makes your heart feel so good. You are starting to touch the lives of the people in your community. You will be part of creating that ripple effect of goodness.
Hugh: Wow. That’s a lot of great stuff. Thank you for sharing. Tell us about Trueheart. TrueHeart.com is the website. It says it’s a social impact search engine, a new social good platform that allows people to change the world with every search. That sounds great.
Amy: Thank you. After working at the intersection of Hollywood and philanthropy for the last two decades, Scott and I were always trying to figure out how we can help democratize philanthropy and make it more inclusive. We are big believers that there are billions of people in the world with big hearts who want to make a difference. Most people don’t have disposable income to donate to charity. Those people have largely been excluded from philanthropy. We wanted to find a way to make philanthropy more inclusive and invite all of those people to give back and transform the local communities.
We decided to use the power of tech for good. We created our own social impact search engine. We partnered with Microsoft Bing, so all of our searches are powered by then. When you search with us, we donate 80% of our net profits to six amazing charities that are working to help people, animals, and the planet. We are proud to support Variety Boys & Girls Club, 4 Paws for Ability, PFLAG National, Action Against Hunger, Global Green, and Smile Train. These organizations are working tirelessly every day to protect the planet, promote animal welfare, save lives, feed the hungry, support our youth, and fight for equality.
Now you can feel good just by doing something you’re doing every day anyway: searching the web on your phone, tablet, or computer. Now your searches are powering donations to these charities. It’s a way that you can take your power back. A lot of people don’t realize that the global search engine industry makes hundreds of billions of dollars every year. This is a way that we can redirect and redistribute some of that wealth to these amazing charities who are changing the world. Now your searches can make a social and environmental impact.
Something I’m excited to share with your audience exclusively because we just launched it this morning is that we started an incentive program. When you search with us at TrueHeart.com, all of your searches from now through the end of October, when you share Trueheart with your family and friends—it is easy to do with the click of a button—now you are entered into our incentive program. You can either win a $500, $250, or $100 Visa gift card. Not only are you now searching to change the world, but you could potentially win a great cash prize, and you get to see your name on the leaderboard. You can have fun doing it. It’s easy and it’s simple. It incentivizes you to share our mission and invite more people into our community.
Hugh: That’s what it’s about, sharing and working together. We don’t have nearly enough of that, I don’t think. Thank you for that. Define what your perspective means. You’ve mentioned you work with Hollywood social impact experts. In your world, define how social impact works.
Amy: Through our cause agency Trueheart that I started 24 years ago, we specialize at working at the intersection of Hollywood and philanthropy. We team up celebrities and purpose-driven brands who want to make a difference to connect and help raise millions of dollars for great causes. The way we do that is we create these global social impact campaigns that shine a massive spotlight on the noble mission of the nonprofits. We are driving hundreds of millions of media impressions across traditional media and social media. This is all earned media, meaning free press coverage.
What is really cool about the work we get to do is we will work with actors, athletes, musicians, reality stars, and influencers who want to use their platforms in a positive way to make a difference and will align with some of the biggest brands in the world who realize that instead of just asking and saying, “Buy my product or service,” these companies want to give back. They want to help transform local communities and have their values be aligned with their consumers’ values, which is especially important to millennials and members of Gen Z. They realize that they can use their purchases as power. We can all vote with our wallets. You don’t have to buy from any specific brand. You get to choose where you spend your dollars. If a brand’s values aren’t aligning with yours, then there are many other companies out there who are making great products and services who are actually putting the strength of their brand and financial resources into making a difference in local communities across the globe. We have been blessed over the last two decades to work with some amazing stars and incredible brands who really care about making a difference in the world.
Hugh: That is probably more important today than ever before in history. It’s always been important. In some of the thinking stuff that you gave me, you said, “One of the main reasons donors lapse is poor communication from a nonprofit and a lack of meaningful ways to engage donors and get them excited about their mission.” I cannot overemphasize how important it is to your donors—or the umbrella that we use is supporters, as they give their time, talent, and money, which is true philanthropy, the love of humankind. Talk about how to engage them, how to create this meaningful, purposeful work that people want to do but don’t know how. They feel disconnected.
Amy: Great question. We found in the work we do with our nonprofit clients that people are really desensitized to seeing these images of suffering. When you turn on the news now, the majority of the stories you’re hearing are unfortunately bad news stories. There is not a lot of positive news coverage that is making our airwaves, even though there are so many good things that are happening in communities all over the world on a daily basis.
People are tuning out to seeing the problems around them. What they are tuning into is seeing the solutions. If you focus your messaging as the nonprofit on the solutions that you’re creating in your community, and offering your supporters a way to lock arms with you and become a hero and help save lives or transform lives, that is something people are going to be excited about. Now they don’t feel powerless. You have actually empowered them. They feel like with a donation of their time, heart, energy, and/or financial resources, they can make a true difference.
One of the things we like to focus on at Trueheart with both our cause agency and our social impact search engine is rather than raise funds for a general fund, we raise funds for what we refer to as Fund a Dream projects. That could be our work with Global Green, where we just planted 150,000 trees in the Amazon Rainforest to fight climate change. Or providing ventilators for the NICU at our local children’s hospital. Or working with our friends at Variety Boys’ and Girls’ Club to sustain a meal program for friends living in poverty throughout the pandemic. These very specific programs and services that we’re able to fund and show a measurable impact.
That way, any time you ask your supporters for help, when you come back for campaign two, three, four, five, they are excited to join you in doing good and continually support because they have seen where every dollar goes to make a difference. They have seen the results of their giving. That transparency of giving, which is one of our core principles at Trueheart, is crucial to having your supporters be on board long-term and be a part of your mission in a meaningful way.
Hugh: Let’s have those four principles. We teach guiding principles are what every organization needs, so what are your four?
Amy: For us, the transparency of giving, as I was saying, is one of our core principles. We are showing where every dollar goes to make a difference. A lot of people have been disillusioned with philanthropy. They will donate and not know where their money is going. They wonder how they actually made a difference. Then they become frustrated. It’s really hard to get those people back once you’ve lost them.
If you can show them from moment one that the donation of their time, energy, or money actually went to some good and made a difference, then you’re following up and showing them with beautiful content—we always produce these impact videos where people can see where every dollar goes to make a difference. We can track the success of the programs. Now, people are a part of this story. They are a part of effecting change in their communities. That makes them feel so good.
As I said earlier, doing good feels good. The more good you do, the better you feel. It’s cyclical. You want to keep doing good because you want to keep feeling good. When you hook people in that way, where they can see, “Wow, through volunteering with this local Boys’ and Girls’ Club, and supporting their college scholarship program, I helped five talented, brilliant kids who otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance to get a higher education realize their full potential. Now I see those kids have come back to the community. They are paying forward their blessings.” That makes you feel so amazing as a supporter. You want to come back and support your local Boys’ and Girls’ Club and do it again and again and again.
It’s a very simple thing that nonprofits can do, which makes a massive difference in having supporters stay with them long-term.
Hugh: Love it. Such powerful words. This is a really good business model. You’re doing philanthropy as a business model. That’s quite amazing. We encourage nonprofits to realize you’re in the business of nonprofit, in the business of church, in the business of social impact. We need to have a business model to pay the bills. We tend to light pedal that, but we have to create revenue, not in and of itself because we don’t call it a for-profit. We reframe it as a for-purpose organization. If you had enough funding, could you fully achieve your mission and vision for this organization and impact more people’s lives?
Amy, we met virtually, and you agreed to be on here. You can find Amy and Scott’s work @WeAreTrueHeart on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. You can follow them on social media. You can go to TrueHeart.com and investigate all these things that Amy is talking about today.
We have people who are way on this side, others who are way on that side, about 15% on each side. They are criticizing the other side when there is about 70% that wish we wouldn’t do that that want to make a difference. What I see is you’re allowing that majority of 70% who really want to move forward and do something useful, you’re giving them a platform to be able to do that. I applaud you for that. We talk about little things that we can do, but you know what? Little things add up to be a whole lot.
You have started some things that are very important. Many people who start a business and certainly a nonprofit don’t think about succession or legacy. What do you want your legacy to be?
Amy: Scott and I want to leave this world better than we found it for our kids and every child out there. We want to raise our children to be good human beings. When I say good, I mean kind and compassionate and loving. People who are heart-centered and who will always answer the call for help.
I think kids are like sponges. They are always watching you and soaking up what they see around them. It’s really important to model that good behavior in front of your children because just like I said at the top of this wonderful chat, I was soaking up all of this inspiration from my Nema, who raised me. That was a guiding force in my life. It made me want to be like her, to live a life of love and service because I saw her doing it out in the community. She was able to make a difference in people’s lives. That stayed with me forever. Now I am in my mid-40s. I still think about that every day and the impression that my Nema left on my heart and how she changed my life.
That’s how my husband, Scott, who is my wonderful business partner, and I want to affect children. We want them to grow up and be changemakers. The exciting thing, Hugh, and I wonder if you have seen this in your work as well, is that I really feel that young people today don’t want to sit on the sidelines and wait for their parents and grandparents to hand them a better world. They are legitimate activists. They are willing to get their hands dirty, to do whatever it takes to affect change and create the world that they want to live in.
I am so fired up and inspired, especially when I see amazing young people like Greta Thunberg, who is a warrior for our planet and is doing everything in her power to speak truth to power and raise the voice and save our incredible earth. There are young people like Greta all over the world who are rising up and really answering the call to help. They are the ones who will be innovating and using the power of technology for good and creating these amazing solutions that will bring us together and unite us all and change the world. I am so fired up and inspired by these young people who I think are so amazing and give us so much hope.
Hugh: Isn’t that marvelous? Everybody can leave a legacy, correct?
Amy: Everybody can leave a legacy. It’s finding what you’re passionate about and how you want to make a difference. Each of us is unique. There is never going to be another one of us ever in the history of humanity. When we realize that we all have our own unique, special gifts and our own set of circumstances and experiences, we have to find what our hearts really connect to and then lean into that in order to make a difference.
For someone who maybe lost their mother or sister to breast cancer, maybe they will go out and create a scholarship program for a family going through that same circumstance. Maybe they will raise money to fund a clinical trial or breast cancer research, which is so desperately needed. Maybe for someone who served in our Armed Forces, they are going to help wounded veterans and service members dealing with mental health challenges. Or someone like myself who went through the experience of being homeless at two points in my life. I do so much to give back to the homeless population because that is really personal to me. It’s finding what’s personal to you and leaning into that and finding ways to leave a legacy of service and love in your community.
There are so many incredible nonprofits that are doing amazing work on a daily basis that as you said, Hugh, support is not just about writing a check. It’s also more importantly about giving your time, your heart, your passion. I’m a big believer that it’s the time, heart, and passion that makes the biggest difference in the world. We connect with human beings, and when we share both joy and pain together, that is when we create these unbreakable bonds and lift each other up out of suffering. That is when these miracles start to happen. We connect with each other and realize that is the purpose of why we’re all here. It’s our beautiful gift as human beings to be there for one another.
Hugh: Such a powerful thing. Amy, you had this idea. I want to close out with asking you about start-up. A lot of people have ideas. In my experience, out of every 100 people who have an idea, three people do something about it. Less than one of them, a very small percentage, actually succeed in achieving their mission. You have a really strong value proposition, but this didn’t happen overnight. It didn’t happen without some effort. You talked about your inspiration from your mentor, but the idea from conception to implementation to where you are now, speak a little bit about your conviction to see it through and how that worked.
Amy: As an entrepreneur, and as you said earlier, Hugh, and I completely agree, I love how you frame it as for-purpose because these nonprofits are in the business of having a beautiful purpose to change the world. You are absolutely correct that they have to be run as businesses in order to succeed and maximize the impact they want to make in the world.
When you are doing this beautiful social impact work, you have to treat it like a business. The same sort of professionalism and determination and grit. As someone who has been an entrepreneur for over two decades now, it’s a wild, crazy, beautiful rollercoaster ride with lots of highs and lows. On the tough days, because there will always be tough days, you always have to focus back on your purpose. Why are you doing this in the first place? When you remember that this is born out of wanting to give back and wanting to affect change and wanting to positively impact your community, then you will never give up.
That is one of the most important ingredients in being an entrepreneur, especially being a social entrepreneur. You have to be tenacious. You have to continually fight for your dreams on a daily basis. You’re here serving this greater good, even though you are going to come up against these challenges and obstacles. I always try to see the lesson in them. What can we learn from this hard day that we had? Focus on being solutions-oriented. Instead of letting the problem feel overwhelming, focus on, “Wow, this is a beautiful opportunity to show up, learn a lesson, maybe innovate and ideate in some new ways where we can grow together as a company.” Then also just focus back on being grateful that we are in a position to serve and help and keep our purpose and our mission to do good in the world top of mind. That is how you will achieve those dreams and become a success.
Hugh: Love it. I could have written that script we are so in tune. Actually, you wrote it a lot better than I would have written it. How can you be self-sufficient in a tax-exempt world rather than minimalist thinking? Think for-purpose, social benefit. There are lots of ways to reframe it that would empower you to impact the lives of more people.
Amy and her husband Scott, who is tending to one of their children who is not feeling well today, TrueHeart.com. You can follow them on social media @WeAreTrueHeart and see all the good that’s going on.
Amy, what do you want to leave people with today?
Amy: I think always show up with kindness. There is unfortunately a lot of pain and suffering in this world, but we all get to wake up every day and choose to be happy and choose to be kind. That is within our power. As I said at the top of this wonderful interview, when we check on each other and make sure that we are doing all right, it’s a free and easy thing that we can do to show up with love and compassion. It means so much to the people in our lives.
I would just ask everyone to take five minutes out of your day every day and check in on one person in your life. Ask them how they are doing and really pay attention to their answer. If you see them struggling, offer love and support. That might be the day where they don’t think that they want to go on, and they are feeling really overwhelmed and might be dealing with mental health issues and anxiety and depression. Knowing there is somebody in the world who loves them and is in their corner, that can make all the difference. Show up with kindness and love for the people in your life. It’s one of the most beautiful things that you can do.
Hugh: That is great inspiration. Amy Malin, thank you for being our guest today.
Amy: Thank you, Hugh. It was my pleasure. Thank you for the goodness you are putting out in the world with your beautiful show.