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Devin Mathias: business leader showcase

Self improvement often comes from studying other leaders and learning what has brought them to where they are. Today, we talk to a leader in the nonprofit world to learn what makes him tick.



The life of a nonprofit consultant

When we are pursuing self improvement, one of the fastest means of doing such is by studying how other successful people operate, how they tick, how they got to where they are, and by learning from them.

What is particularly fascinating is looking at people outside of our own industries when possible. We had a chance to talk with Devin Mathias, consultant at Marts & Lundy, the leading nonprofit fundraising consulting firm in the country.

Q: Tell us about yourself and your work

A: My work is focused on helping clients analyze, improve and develop strategies around broad-based fundraising campaigns (a.k.a. annual giving), marketing, the implementation of social media into the nonprofit communications plan, capital fundraising campaigns, constituent engagement, and generational marketing. I live in State College, Pennsylvania a few miles from Penn State. I’m a single father to three kids. I love traveling, live music and my friends.

Q: Walk us through a typical day in your life.

A: There’s no such thing. That’s the challenge and beauty of what I do. I am regularly engaged and excited by something new, but today I may be sitting in my home office catching up on client reports, submitting receipts and billing, while tomorrow I may be on four planes, in a train and a rental car off to see a client and conduct a number of interviews or presentations.

Q: Where were you raised? Where all have you lived?

A: Born in DC. And I love saying that, because it often makes people say “Oh, I’ve never met anyone actually born there.” Once I was filling out some online form and it asked for your birth state and DC wasn’t an option. Not cool.

I’ve lived in DC, Northern Virginia, the Eastern Shore of Maryland, York and Gettysburg, PA and three Baltimore suburbs. That gets us to fourth grade. We then returned to Gettysburg and I was there through high school. I did undergrad at Penn State, where I met my ex-wife. We married after undergrad and moved to Gainesville, Florida where she began graduate school at the University of Florida.

I became a fundraiser at UF and then completed my MBA and half of my Ph.D. before being recruited to work at the University of Michigan. We had two kids at that point and decided Ann Arbor was where we should head next, to be closer to family, etc. She also hated living in Florida. At Michigan I was the Director of Annual Giving – aka broad-based fundraising – for about four years. From there, I moved into the consulting world. And I love it.

Q: How did you get into your current career?

A: I found philanthropy / fundraising as a career in what I think is a unique fashion – I was chasing a woman. My freshman year at Penn State I was interested in a senior named Amy. She suggested I get involved in Penn State’s Dance Marathon and I was going to do anything she said. THON, as it’s called, is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. It raises money to support the Four Diamonds Fund, which helps pediatric cancer patients and their families.

There are not words to describe how impactful THON is on the lives it touches – from the families to the students. The closest I can come to explaining it without you attending is to direct you to this video, which was created this year in celebration of the event’s 40th anniversary.

This year THON raised more than $10M. All raised by students. THON 2013 should send the cumulative total raised by THON past the $100M mark. It is incredible.

That experience directed me to working with fundraising and alumni relations at Penn State and shaped my career. I joined a small alumni relations firm before the stops with Florida and Michigan mentioned above. Now I’m with Marts & Lundy, the leading nonprofit consulting firm in the country.

Q: What is something unique that you do to balance work and life?

A: This is a huge topic in my firm. We are a firm made up of over-achieving workaholics – mostly former vice presidents of development or presidents of an organization/university/etc. Most of us work from home when not on the road, which can be a challenge for the balance… It’s easy to work, when your work is always right in front of you.

I literally have to walk by my office when I wake in the morning or go to bed. I would love to say “I make myself go for a walk every day,” or “I remember to turn off my phone in the evening,” but I don’t. I love music and my friends… and I let both of those interrupt my day at times. It does help me stay sane.

Side note: A couple of questions after this one, I was put in my place by my 4 year-old daughter “Dad, are you having dinner?” (“Yes”) “Well, we’re at the table now.”

Q: What keeps you up at night?

A: Lately, The Walking Dead. Not because of nightmares, but because I was watching the first two seasons on Netflix and couldn’t stop.

Oh? Not what you were going for? What keeps me up at night professionally are the looming challenges for the philanthropic world – a tighter economy, potential shifts in the tax-deductibility of charitable giving, endless competition for the philanthropic dollar, etc. Oh… and did I mention I have three kids?

Q: Who would you swap places with?

Q: If you could spend one day in the life of another industry leader, who would it be? Why?

A: Sir Alex Ferguson. Manager of Manchester United. Because I love soccer, primarily, and also because he is respected as a leader and motivator (though the sarcastic & cynical side of me says FIFA chief Sepp Blatter so I could see all the corruption in the organization and bring it to light).

Q: What tools can you not live without?

A: I am attached to my iPhone. I won’t deny that. I would also say that, professionally and personally, there is a specific private punk Facebook group that keeps me sane and informed, even when I can’t participate as much as I like.

Q: At age 15, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A: I actually remember specifically being asked this before taking the PSATs. My buddy Jason and I put down “entrepreneur” because we thought it was cool, but I don’t think we knew exactly what it meant. He also put down professional golfer and I put down professional beach volleyball player. Now I do this and he’s in the FBI.

Q: What inspirational quote has stuck with you the longest?

A: When I was working at a summer camp around the age of 18, Pastor Hoover and I were leaning on the fence looking at the pool. His three daughters all worked at the camp at different points and were all friends of mine. He said to me, “Always tell girls they are beautiful more often than you think you need to… the world tells them they are worthless and ugly all the time. You need to remind them that’s not true.”

It has stuck with me forever and goes beyond simply telling women they are beautiful… but reminding those that are wonderful they are just that. At least I hope I do that.

The American Genius is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

Business News

Startup seeks to streamline your software shopping search

(BUSINESS) This startup with a waitlist wants to help you shop for software without having to tear your hair out, become an expert, or hire a consultant.



software shopping with testbox

Software shopping is, undoubtedly, one of the most crucial aspects of any successful business: Choose correctly, and you’ll find yourself seamlessly moving through daily operations, while a poor choice often results in a lack of efficiency. Unfortunately, the shopping aspect is anything but efficient, with demos and sales meetings lasting for unnecessarily long periods of time. That’s where TestBox comes into play.

TestBox is a tool born out of frustrated necessity. According to creator Sam Senior, “The inspiration for TestBox came from repeatedly hearing just how incredibly frustrating the software buying experience is…I heard similar stories where buyers felt that the process was all on the sales team’s terms, often taking many months, and without all the information and access they needed to be truly confident in their decision.”

It’s a tale as old as time: Sales teams effectively hold your time hostage, planning meetings and tech demos in controlled environments; you, in turn, receive a partial truth regarding the product you’re considering, and at the end of the process, you feel pressured into purchasing the product–if for no other reason than you’ve already dedicated a full workweek (or, heaven forbid, month) to it.

TestBox offers a simple, elegant solution to this problem: the ability to compare multiple tools that have been selected for your needs. One need only specify their software requirements in the TestBox menu to receive a list of software that fits those requirements, complete with “guided walkthroughs for each software and use case.”

There’s also a side-by-side comparison feature for different software types, allowing you to make a truly informed decision using your data and interfaces rather than relying on a scripted demo.

Finally, TestBox provides graphics to show pros and cons from an efficiency standpoint for each tool you test; once you make a decision, TestBox connects you with the software provider to complete your purchase.

It should be noted that TestBox is free to use. According to their website, their revenue comes via commission for facilitating a software purchase, and since that commission is fairly uniform rather than varying per tool, TestBox assures you that their presentation of each option is not swayed in the process.

TestBox also partners with ZenDesk, HubSpot, and FreshDesk, so make of that what you will.

Currently, TestBox has a waitlist for use. They plan on adding a variety of CRM and Customer Success options to their client list soon.

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Business News

Asking the wrong questions can ruin your job opportunity

(BUSINESS NEWS) An HR expert discusses the best (and worst) questions she’s experienced during candidate interviews. it’s best to learn from others mistakes.



interview candidates answers

When talking to hiring managers outside of an interview setting, I always find myself asking about their horror stories as they’re usually good for a laugh (and a crash course in what not to do in an interview). A good friend of mine has worked in HR for the last decade and has sat in on her fair share of interviews, so naturally I asked her what some of her most notable experiences were with candidates – the good and the bad, in her own words…

“Let’s see, I think the worst questions I’ve ever had are typically related to benefits or vacation as it demonstrates that their priorities are not focused on the actual job they will be performing. I’ve had candidates ask how much vacation time they’ll receive during an initial phone screen (as their only question!). I’ve also had them ask about benefits and make comparisons to me over the phone about how our benefits compare to their current employer.

I once had a candidate ask me about the age demographics of our office, which was very uncomfortable and inappropriate! They were trying to determine if the attorneys at our law firm were older than the ones they were currently supporting. It was quite strange!

I also once had a candidate ask me about the work environment, which was fine, but they then launched into a story about how they are in a terrible environment and are planning on suing their company. While I understand that candidates may have faced challenges in their previous roles or worked for companies that had toxic working environments, it is important that you do not disparage them.

In all honesty, the worst is when they do not have any questions at all. In my opinion, it shows that they are not really invested in the position or have not put enough thought into their decision to change jobs. Moving to a new company is not a decision that should be made lightly and it’s important for me as an employer to make sure I am hiring employees who are genuinely interesting in the work they will be doing.

The best questions that I’ve been asked typically demonstrate that they’re interested in the position and have a strong understanding of the work they would be doing if they were hired. My personal favorite question that I’ve been asked is if there are any hesitations or concerns that I may have based on the information they’ve provided that they can address on the spot. To me, this demonstrates that they care about the impression that they’ve made. I’ve asked this question in interviews and been able to clarify information that I did not properly explain when answering a question. It was really important to me that I was able to correct the misinformation as it may have stopped me from moving forward in the process!

Also, questions that demonstrate their knowledge base about the role in which they’re applying for is always a good sign. I particularly like when candidates reference items that I’ve touched on and weave them into a question.

A few other good questions:
• Asking about what it takes to succeed in the position
• Asking about what areas or issues may need to be addressed when first joining the company
• Asking about challenges that may be faced if you were to be hired
• Asking the employer what they enjoy most about the company
• I am also self-centered, so I always like when candidates ask about my background and how my current company compares to previous employers that I’ve worked for. Bonus points if they’ve actually looked me up on LinkedIn and reference specifics :)”

Think about the best and worst experiences you’ve had during an interview – and talk to others about the same topic – and see how that can help you with future interviews.

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Business News

How to stop reeking of desperation when you job hunt

(CAREER) Hunting for a job can come with infinite pressures and rejection, sometimes you just want it to be over – here’s how to avoid reeking of desperation.



desperation when job hunting

Whether you were one of the millions of people who quit their job this year in The Great Resignation or you’ve been unemployed since the pandemic began, when you’re looking for work, it can feel hopeless after a while. Just like that student in class who raises their hand at every question, you don’t want to come across as desperate, “pick me, pick me!” Money might be tight. You want to be eager, but you don’t want to be so anxious that you sabotage your job search.

Right now, job seekers have the upper hand, but you want to show off your skills and professionalism, not your neediness.

5 ways you come across as overly desperate for a job:

  1. Applying for multiple positions at the same company. Employers want you to be a fit for a particular job. Instead, tell the hiring manager that you’re open to other positions that might be a good fit.
  2. Checking in with the hiring manager too much. Follow up after an interview, but don’t keep checking in. If they have news, they’ll share it.
  3. Talking about how much you need a job. Don’t bring up your personal issues in an interview. Stay focused on why you are the best person for the job.
  4. Being willing to accept any offer. You should negotiate and go to bat for yourself when you get an offer. Explain why you’re worth more money because you probably are.
  5. Forgetting to ask questions about the bigger picture. You don’t want to be so eager to impress that you don’t think about the company culture and perks. You might be desperate, but getting into a job that doesn’t fit your needs and personality won’t help your situation.

Desperation can make you appear to be in the clearance bin at the store. Sure, you may get something for a great price, but will you actually be able to fully use it when you get it home? As a job seeker, you want to be the premium brand on the shelf. Maybe not every buyer (employer) can appreciate you or even afford you, but when the right one comes along, it’s a good fit.

Employers want team members who will be assets for their company. Your job search needs to start with a strong resume and impressive cover letter. Instead of going for quantity, choose job openings for quality, where you can bring something to the table for the company.

Ask a Manager’s Alison Green has some great resources for getting a job, including a free guide to preparing for interviews. Practice interviewing. Make a great first impression. Know that there is a job out there for you.

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