Series 13: For the Love of Giving | Episode 02
How to Help the Helpers: Pure Charity’s Mike Rusch and Legacy Collective’s Faitth Brooks
When Fred Rogers was a boy (stay with us here) and he would see scary things on the news, his mother would tell him, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Fret not, dear ones: Mr. Rogers’ mother is still right. For this episode in our For the Love of Giving series, we’re thrilled to bring you two people who are helping the helpers and fueling their dreams to change the world. Our first guest, Mike Rusch, is the CEO of Pure Charity, a nonprofit that provides software and strategy for more than a thousand organizations worldwide, including Bob Goff’s Love Does, Habitat for Humanity, Help One Now, and our own Legacy Collective. Mike tells us how Pure Charity puts the structure behind nonprofits’ missions to make a difference, why giving circles are impactful, and key advice for those who are looking to start their own nonprofit. We’re also thrilled to have Legacy Collective partner Faitth Brooks on the show! Jen and Faith talk about the unique way Legacy partners with people around the world, some of the life-giving projects Legacy has helped fund, and how you can get involved.
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Narrator: Hi everybody, my name is Remy. Welcome to the For the Love Podcast, with your host Jen Hatmaker, my mom. She writes books and speaks to crowds. But she mostly loves talking to amazing people, every week, on this podcast. Thanks for listening. We hope you enjoy the show.
Jen: Hey everybody, it’s Jen Hatmaker, your happy hostess on the For the Love Podcast. Welcome to the show. We’re in the middle of the For The Love of Giving series, and we have all kinds of guests and topics in store for you because ‘tis the season. And sometimes we need a little help figuring out where all of our generosity should go, right? And we care about that, that matters to us.
Last week, oh, I hope you tuned in last week. Brandon and I did our second annual Hatmaker Holiday Gift Guide. Shenanigans ensued, of course. We channeled our inner Oprah, and we cataloged for you all of our favorite things we’re giving away this year. All of them have these built-in charitable components to them, like, phenomenal products, phenomenal companies. If you need some hot tips, go check that episode out. It is not too late in the season, you still have plenty of time.
But this week, I’m so excited about, because this is a week where we get to discuss how to make our dreams come true in this space, in the space of giving, beyond the ideas, beyond the grit. We’re going to talk about how to turn your passion to help somebody else—to help other people, other groups, a need—into work on the ground, into a tangible group of people doing tangible work that helps you serve this world. You know I care about this. This is the stuff that makes my heart beat fast.
We’re going to talk to two guests today. We have a front half and a second half to this episode, some real powerhouses doing pretty amazing stuff in the nonprofit sector. One of them, well, they’re both very deeply connected to me. You’ll see.
First off, we’re going to talk to Mike Rusch. Mike is the CEO of Pure Charity. If you’ve been around me at all, you have definitely heard of Pure Charity. Essentially, they provide support to more than a thousand nonprofits worldwide. They support Bob Goff’s Love Does, they support Habitat for Humanity, Help One Now, Mercy House Global, it just goes on and on. What they provide is technology and strategy to help all these amazing organizations get their work done. A huge portion of what they do is providing software for nonprofits that help them fundraise, which is just huge, you guys. This is the engine behind so much nonprofit work.
Pure Charity provides all the support for the nonprofit I co-founded with Brandon, my husband, Legacy Collective. And we’re going to talk about that too. We would not be an existence without Pure Charity, it’s that simple.
In the second half of this show, we’ll talk a little bit about Legacy Collective and our heartbeat for this world and how we sort of started this org, this giving community and what it looks like. We’ll be talking to Faitth Brooks, who is our partner at Legacy Collective. And I cannot wait to introduce her to you. You’re going to love her in the second half of the show.
But back to Mike. Before his time at Pure Charity, he worked for just some little-known companies: Nickelodeon, Disney, Hershey, Walmart, if you will. He was a marine for four years also, he’s no joke. He and his wife Corrie live in Bentonville, Arkansas with their four kids. And he’s like a real guy’s guy. Like on the weekend, he’s a fly fishing type. So he’s got varied interests.
If you’ve ever had a dream to do something big for other people, but you had no idea where to start, this is your episode. Mike’s going to tell us how he and his team empower people and how they got started, and he has some pretty surprising advice for you if you are a dreamer. You’re going to want to stick around for that answer, for sure. It’s a fascinating discussion. And I can’t wait for you to hear it. First guest on today’s episode, please give a warm welcome to Pure Charity CEO and my really good friend, Mike Rusch.
Jen: Okay. Well, I am so happy to have my friend Mike Rusch on the For the Love Podcast. Hello and welcome.
Mike: Thank you. Pleasure to be here.
Jen: No, it’s mine. We have been friends now for years. We met in a small room in Haiti, and do you remember, it was so hot, and it never wasn’t? Like, there’s never, Well, the sun will go down and then we’ll breathe. We met in a hot room and Haiti, which is the first time I ever heard about Pure Charity. And I’m sure you’ll remember this, but you were sitting in a room of female influencers, and we’re all just staring at you like, Wait, that is so smart. And thus began a partnership between the Hatmakers and the Rusches, and Pure Charity and Legacy. And here we are.
Mike: Oh, it’s been a joy. And those are some amazing memories and amazing stories. And it’s been a joy to partner with you and with Brandon and so many other amazing organizations over the past many years to do some incredible things.
Jen: It’s true. You have a really cool job, and you work with some of the neatest people on Earth.
I’ve given our listeners kind of a brief snapshot of who you are, but I wonder if just for a minute you could tell us in your own words, just kind of the 35,000-foot view, about the work that Pure Charity does, what you do and who you serve. And then also how do you decide which orgs to partner with?
Mike: Sure. No, that’s great.
I mean, I think internally we use this term that we have the privilege and the honor of “walking behind giants.” And what I mean by that is that I think [Pure Charity’s] calling and our role in all of this work of justice and compassion and trying to make a dent in helping exploited people in the world is that we are passionately, intentionally walking behind people who are doing amazing work in this world, those visionaries, those people who are pushing ideas forward.
When we say this idea of “walking behind giants,” I literally mean that. It’s these giants of faith, these giants to our communities who have a desire and a bent towards solving what we would call some of the most difficult problems in the world.
Practically, we spend a lot of time working with fundraising strategy. We have a platform and a bunch of technology that’s used to implement those strategies. We spend a lot of time with nonprofit organizations, trying to understand what does it take to get things funded, what does it take to make things operate the way that they should. We have our platform, purecharity.com. that does that.
When you ask about who we’re partnering with, we literally are working with organizations that are working to solve the most difficult problems in the world. We, a long time ago, looked at the millennium development goals and we said, What’s the rest of the world working on to try to solve some of these most difficult problems? And if we can be experts there or try to be experts, to the extent anyone can be an expert, maybe that’s a win for the world and for the things we’re trying to accomplish.
It’s been a joy to work with innovators and nonprofit leaders, influencers, families, people all over the world who really want to make a difference in how their lives can benefit the under-resourced of the world, the vulnerable and the exploited.
Jen: Pure Charity without question is a win for the world. I mean, an absolute. You’re sort of this quiet engine behind the work.
I’m guessing that tons of the organizations that you sort of support and provide scaffolding for, the folks that they serve in the ground probably have no idea you are. They’ve never heard of Pure Charity. But they are like us in Legacy Collective, which you and I will talk about here in a minute, and Faitth and I will talk about in the second half of this episode. And this is just a fact—I am not exaggerating—we would never have gotten off the ground without Pure Charity ever.
Mike: Well, Jen, first of all, it’s overly kind.
Jen: It’s not, it’s facts.
Mike: We are walking behind giants, again, and just this idea that to the extent you can push those ideas forward and we can help make sure all the systems work together.
But yeah, over the past six years, we’ve had the privilege of serving about 1,500 different nonprofits around the world who are doing all kinds of things around social justice issues. We’ve learned a lot.
Jen: Exactly. It’s domestic, it’s international, it’s everywhere, right?
Mike: Yeah, all over the world. Issues of human trafficking and water and feeding and job creation and orphan care and adoptions, you name it. I feel like in those areas of the world’s most difficult problems, as they say in insurance, we know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two.
Jen: Exactly, right. You sure have.
However, you did not start out in the nonprofit world. You worked for some pretty big, talented organizations before you started the work that you’re doing now. Can you talk a little bit about your migration from Corporate America to Pure Charity?
Mike: Sure. Well, I spent about 15 years working with some of the biggest companies in the world, really learning things like strategy and operational execution and product development and collaboration and creativity, and I love that work. Organizations like The Walt Disney Company and Nickelodeon, Hershey Foods. But our heart and our soul, that of my family was really towards those who were vulnerable in this world. We felt like, can we take those skills from learning what we learned from these incredible companies about scale and about doing things in a way? You think about The Walt Disney Company, incredible movies, incredible creative things. But without the operational infrastructure and and the technology to make that happen, they just don’t exist.
So I thought, Hey, how can we do that in the nonprofit space? Can we solve that problem? Because the reality is nonprofits are not going to solve the most difficult problems in the world having to worry about that kind of issue.
Passion is one thing about leading an organization. I’ve learned that with some of the experience that we’ve had. But you’ve got to be able to execute for years and for decades, not just for months and days. This was about how do we help in the long term for as long as we’re able to do what we do.
Jen: I’m curious what Corrie said—listeners, that is Mike’s wife—when you’re like, “I think maybe I’m not going to work for these very powerful, wealthy companies anymore, where there’s lots of security and stability. I think I’m going to strike out in the nonprofit world, an area notable for its stability.”
I’m joking, sarcasm. She was all in, right?
Mike: Well, here’s what I would say about my beautiful wife. She always been fully behind whatever God is calling us to do.
Jen: She really has.
Mike: Now, how do we pay for that? That’s always been a different conversation. Those two things don’t always have to be aligned.
Jen: Don’t I know it, I married a pastor.
Mike: Yeah, exactly. It’s like, “Hey, here’s an opportunity we have to take maybe all of the work that we’ve been doing up until this point was so that we could go do this.”
Jen: That’s so good.
Mike: She just with her grace and her strength was able to weather through it probably better than I have in so many ways. She’s been a real sense of calm and just an anchor to help us go through dealing with the realities of a very harsh and terrible and brutal world at times.
Jen: That’s exactly right. I love that girl.
Several years ago, you and Brandon were on a bus together in Ethiopia. As I mentioned earlier, we have traveled the world with you since. You guys were on a bus in Ethiopia, and you started talking about both of you, your work, your vision that you shared, actually, for creating substantial and sustainable impact in this world.
I wonder if you could just go back for a moment to that bus, to that trip, to that conversation and sort of tell our listeners what that was and were the two of you doing on that bus in Ethiopia, and how that discussion evolved, which ultimately ended up birthing Legacy Collective?
Mike: Well, if I were to count the number of hours I’ve spent in a bus with one of the Hatmakers it would probably be thousands.
Jen: Thousands, and can we also mention that the roads are less than ideal.
Jen: Just less than ideal.
Mike: We have probably been in a bus for maybe eighty hours together, maybe we had run out of things to talk about, maybe our rear ends were finally numb so we can finally focus on something else.
But no, in actuality, I’ll never forget that. I think we were in Ethiopia because I think both of our families, we share a common story of adoption from Ethiopia. We were there to really understand the reality of what our mutual friend, Shiloh Habibi, was working on to really push forward what does it look like to care for the children of Ethiopia. We were there really to learn from him and to understand what could we do from far away to help provide funding or whatever was needed. Whatever he told us we needed to do, we were going to go do it.
Jen: Totally. Hear, hear.
Mike: It’s just the way it was. I think Brandon and I were talking about this, Brandon began actually talking about this idea of inviting people into giving communities for the purpose of funding kinds of solution that Shiloh was really talking about.
We began to compare notes, and we were talking about problems we’re trying to figure out from an online technology standpoint, online communities, how do people give and advocate together? And I think as Brandon unpacked your vision around Legacy Collective, I said, “We may actually have some tools that could help execute that.”
I think over the next 8 hours or 30 hours in that bus, we asked a lot of questions. And then we came back from that to really reshape the software that we have created into something that we could use to really explore this kind of old but really forgotten way of giving together and advocating in community.
Jen: I mean, it’s magic, is what it is, what you provide in structure and we’re able to provide sort of like in vision and community. It’s just really what we ended up with is this giving community that has changed a lot of lives.
Let’s talk about it for just a second. Let’s talk about the model of Legacy Collective. You helped us create this. I remember sitting across from you and you telling me this is actually kind of an old model of giving in that you used to see or at least know of it in Corporate America, like with big, big rich people, millionaires and billionaires. And this sort of idea was the seed of the way that at this point Legacy is structured.
I wonder if you could talk about that, about the idea of giving circles, which is sort of flipping this traditional giving narrative on its end so that instead of us always saying, “Here’s a new need. Let us explain it to you exhaustively, and then we hope we can do it in such a way to move you so that you’ll fund it.” And then we fund it, and then we have to start all over again on the next thing instead of now it’s, “We’re committed to funding good work, what problems can we solve?” It’s a really big difference.
I’d love to hear you talk about the model, sort of the seed of its idea and why it is so effective.
Mike: Yeah, it really is a flipping of the narrative. And I think it’s really important to understand that because this idea of giving circles has been around for a very long time, but it’s really been practiced mostly with, like you said, high capacity donors, people who have a lot of money to give where, “You take your $100,000 and I’ll take my $100,000, we’ll do it together. And through that, we’ll provide some influence and direction, but we’ll move the needle.”
The question that I think in this world today was, Well, how does my $10 or $25 or $100, how does that have that same impact? Well, it’s not a question of financial resources, it’s a question of kind of a common stream that we’re all going to be moving in. This idea of giving circles, which is groups of people getting together and then really collectively deciding how to deploy those resources for the greatest impact is something that we said, “Hey, this is what Legacy Collective wanted to do.”
But it’s more than that, and it’s more than that because I think we come from this idea of this history of this rugged American individualism where, I can do this and I can pull myself up by the bootstraps and I can accomplish. And while that is good and it moves ideas forward, there’s also in this world of giving and in this world of justice, there are some real challenges, real pitfalls that we can run into in this space.
I think in today’s world, giving circles have a real opportunity to take on some things like how does privilege lead to exploitation? I think privilege unchecked will lead to exploitation, whether it’s an individual or a community or perpetuated in our institutions, whether that’s intentional or unintentional. And I think privilege has this high degree of propensity to exploit. And we always have to be on the lookout for how do we stop that and to be aware of that and to keep it in check. I think when we stop kind of being aware of that, some things can kind of go wrong.
And the point is this, is that communities have the power and ability to hold and check privilege from continuing to exploit. It’s as simple as that. Individuals don’t always do that. But when we enter into a community of giving to give our resources, what we’re actually giving is our privilege or our opportunities, and we’re giving it to the community to hold it and check, to ensure that our privilege actually creates opportunities for those without. It’s profound.
And when we start messing with people’s money, I think there’s some words about this in a book somewhere.
Jen: I’ve heard.
Mike: About how our heart will follow. When we’re making decisions in community, we’re giving away a privilege, we’re giving away control in the hope that we can use that in the most impactful way. And really, it’s kind of one of those was never ours to begin with.
We all want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. We want to, we have to fight injustice together. We’re not all Bill Gates, so we don’t have unlimited resources. And we want to make an impact that really isn’t all about us.
And I think this is what Legacy Collective has really proven that a small group of dedicated people can change the world and have a huge impact. People giving $10, $25, $250 a month over the past few years, you guys have given $2 million away. And those are people who are saying, “I’m going to give that money up front, and now let’s go solve and move forward in a way that’s going to make the most good.”
Jen: It’s true.
Mike: There’s my soapbox on that.
Jen: I loved that soapbox so much. I mean, you were singing my song, of course.
And it is, it’s so powerful to have joined hands together and said, “Together we are . . . This is a long road in the same direction.”
And it’s exciting too, one thing I like about the work of Legacy is this is not monthly aid in that if we go belly up, then this whole host of people who have been counting on our monthly donation are going to be in trouble. We fund grants, we fund projects, we fund organizations with what we already have. It really helps them move the needle forward in their organizations and scale, and it’s exciting.
Let me ask you this, I’d love for you to speak about this for a couple of minutes because you are obviously, you’re a business thinker. You are a business mind, you are an entrepreneur. You have a vision for structure and scalability, and that’s your guest. I know that I have a lot of people listening who have big ideas. They have big burdens. There are people, there are places, there are issues that they care deeply about. This is the thing, this is the thing that’s been put on their heart. And they want to start, they want to start a nonprofit. They want to start some work in that direction. They want to get on the long road, but they don’t know how to begin.
As somebody who is a starter and a risk taker and an entrepreneur-developer type, how would you speak to them? If you could just give a little bit of front loading advice here.
Mike: Sure, we could talk for hours about this. Here’s what I would say, my response is never what anybody expects it. And my first response is that, yeah, I have a lot of people that come and ask about starting a nonprofit. And my first response is always to try to talk them out of it. “You don’t want to talk to me about this because I’m going to try to talk you out of this.” I say, “Go and find a place to partner and support the organizations that are probably already doing this right. And go do that, spend a year before you do anything, spend a year or six months or whatever it may be appropriate to go find those that are doing that. And then come back, and we’ll talk.”
And there’s some people that don’t ever come back, right? They’ve found somebody, they partnered and the world is a better place.
But those that come back because they can’t find one, what you find is that their mission is truly unique, maybe to a cause or to a geography or to a place. And that’s where it says, “Okay, let’s start working and digging into this.”
And I think it’s important that we have to understand what are the other organizations are in the space. These problems have been around a long time, there’s a lot of people working on them. Some things are working, some things aren’t. And the reality is, is that there’s gaps. There are gaps between services, there are gaps between geographies. And so how do we start to fill those gaps? And it takes collaboration, it takes an understanding of what we’re trying to do. There is enough need in the world to go around for everybody that wants to make a difference, right? You’re not going to show up in the place and not find that. You have to plan your organization in a way that as actually working towards solving the problem. And so these questions are like, what’s the plan for your organization to ultimately shut down? Which is a really weird question to ask somebody.
Jen: I love that, you know I love that.
Mike: Who’s asking questions about how do we start it. Because I think if you’re trying to solve a problem of what are you going to do if and when you actually solve it. If you’re not planning to solve the problem, then why are you starting this idea in the first place? And you have to be able to take risks, you can’t be afraid to fail. You have to be transparent.
I think there’s this misnomer in the nonprofit world that we have to be successful and every donation has to have had a huge life impact. And the reality is, is I think donors are entrusting you to try to solve problems that haven’t been solved. So go take a risk and do what you can’t or what they can’t.
But I think anybody who’s looking down this road, try to talk yourself out of it and understand what’s going on in that space because there’s a lot, and it’s complicated, and it’s hard. And go ask all the questions. And if at the end of the day you feel like this is still what you’ve got to go do it, come chat and we’ll try to push this idea forward as best we can. Because there’s a lot of need and there’s a lot of nuance, and the world is changing.
You’re needed. I want to be very clear, people are needed to meet the needs of this world in a way that works towards creating opportunities so that people can thrive. The trick is, and the difficulty is really finding the place where they can do that most effectively.
Jen: So good. That is such sound advice, which is really why we didn’t start a nonprofit. We started a giving community because we realized, We’re no experts on anything. What do we know? We don’t know anything. But what we can do, what we do have is influence. That’s what we have. We have the capacity to gather like-minded folks and lead us toward generosity and community. That’s the thing we held in our hand.
It’s funny because you, Pure Charity, you are a helper of helpers. That’s what you do, you help the helpers. And we also do, we help the helpers. That’s the end game of Legacy, we don’t reinvent a single wheel. You help us and we help them, it’s so great.
And we’re constantly working ourselves out of jobs. Like we fund a project, they’re like, “That’s all we got.”
We’re like, “Great, let’s move on to the next project! Let’s move onto another org.” And there’s no end of it.
I want to thank you for making Legacy Collective possible. And you’re more than just a silent, sort of structural partner. You’re way more than that. I want everybody to know that, Mike Rusch—
Mike: Don’t tell people that.
Jen: I’m telling them right now, you have been in the corner of Legacy Collective with such support across the board since day one. I honestly know that we would not be here without you, and that is just the living truth. We are so grateful for you. I mean, I will bang the drum for Mike Rusch and Pure Charity until I am dead in the ground.
Quick wrap up. This is a part of a series that we’re doing on the podcast on giving. We’re asking every guest in the series these three questions, here’s the first one. What’s the greatest gift you’ve ever been given?
Mike: That’s such a hard question.
Jen: Isn’t it?
Mike: I mean, it’s just not a fair question.
Jen: It’s not fair.
Mike: And not to be cliche, but I mean, it truly is my family and my wife and my children. I mean, they love me, I don’t know why sometimes. And so that to me is just a gift that I will . . . How’s that? Can I say that?
Jen: You can. I love your family so much. You have such a good one, such a good one.
Okay, how about this. This is maybe easier. What’s the greatest gift you’ve ever given to someone?
Mike: I’m so bad at gifts, I really am. That’s not my any Enneagram strength. I should get a pass on that.
But maybe I remember very clearly, maybe for my wife’s 40th—I mean, her 29th—birthday party, it was a laughter bash, and I just invited everyone that I knew. And I asked them to come and share stories of the times that my wife had made them laugh. And we had so many people and my back hurt so bad from the laughter. But to me, I felt like I did that one well, I guess. I don’t know if it’s the greatest gift, but it was—
Jen: Are you kidding me? That’s the best thing I’ve ever heard, a laughter bash. Did you invent that?
Mike: Well, sure. Yeah, trademarked it now too.
Jen: That is amazing, that is so fun.
Mike: It was so much fun. And to her, that gift of laughter is I think what she needs from the world.
Jen: Oh, my gosh, I cannot believe that what you said to me first was, “I’m a bad gift giver,” and then you bring out the laughter bash. I’m never going to believe you again.
Mike: Getting it right one time out of 40 years is not fair.
Jen: Oh, my gosh, so unfair.
Here’s the last one. And this can be as serious or as small or as silly as you want it to be. And it’s Barbara Brown Taylor, who we love. And this is her question: what saving your life right now?
Mike: Oh, my. I mean, let’s be real for a moment, it could be wine, honestly, or maybe that’s just more of a preservative of some sort, I guess.
I think if you were to kind of step back from just that, I would say that it’s right now in this stage of life, I just, I refuse to give up on this idea that all things are being made new. And I feel like we look at the world around us, and we can really move towards despair pretty quickly. I mean, if this truth is that all things are being made new, I think that changes everything about how we see ourselves, which may be the hardest person to convince, but our families and our community and our world. And so to me, I’m holding onto that. I feel like that idea and that promise for dear life, and I think it’s a worthy one.
Jen: I literally grabbed my pen and wrote a note about all things being made new as you were saying that because I’m writing a book and I’m going to put that in there and I may or may not give you credit. I’m just want to tell you that right now.
Mike: I didn’t write that, I didn’t say those words.
Jen: They’re borrowed but they’re good. And I love it, that’s the perfect way to close it out.
You are one of my favorite brothers on earth, and I’m just so glad and lucky that we met each other in that hot room in Haiti, and that literally we started a friendship and a partnership in which we are doing some of the greatest work that is the most fulfilling and exciting thing I’ve ever been a part of. And so, lucky me. Thank you. Thanks for being a good friend to us.
Mike: Yeah. And the feeling is mutual. You guys have been a blessing and a gift to me, to Pure Charity, to my family. And it’s been a joy to walk alongside roads in Ethiopia with you and Haiti. And you guys have been a gift to us in ways you will have never known.
And so just thank you for who you are. Thank you for doing what you do. The world is a better place because of you and your family.
Jen: Same to you. Here’s to the next decade. Let’s just keep going.
Mike: Oh, my gosh, that sounds like a long time.
Jen: It does, it does, oh, my gosh. That’s why you mentioned the wine. Thanks for being on today, friend.
Mike: You bet, Jen, thank you. Godspeed.
Jen: Hey everybody. Welcome back to the second half of the show. This episode we’re talking about how we go from an idea to do good in the world, to actually coming together, working out the logistics and making change happen because this really is possible, you guys. Honestly, when we pull it together, together, it’s possible to affect change, to help people near and far who need it, to empower leaders, to build new spaces that are important.
Let me tell you a little story: over the years, Brandon and I realized that we had the opportunity to partner with so many great organizations doing just phenomenal work. We have just been able to meet some of the most amazing people we’ve ever met, both domestically and abroad.
Each project that we discovered, each leader or organization came with a whole new group of people equally as amazing as the last. You know that we value people and we value community, but we couldn’t help but feel like over the years, with so many options out there and so many new partnerships and so many new organizations, that we’d kind of lost the opportunity to deepen those relationships—and at the same time, strengthen our efforts, really shore them up, really make a dent instead of just being like a mile wide and an inch deep. And so every single time a project was over and we raised money for it and we rallied our troops and then we kind of landed the plane and then we would partner with a new organization, it felt like we had to start over from scratch every time—because we did.
We started to ask ourselves about three years ago, How do we build on these relationships—you, our community, and these partners and organizations—to do more? How can we keep going instead of starting over every time?
And so then we were just brainstorming, What if we created a new kind of giving community where we didn’t have to start from scratch every time? What if collectively we each made a monthly commitment, which would pool together and make an ongoing difference so we didn’t have to convince anybody every time, “This is worth your investment, this is worth your donation.” But everybody was already bought in, so what would that look like? And that is literally how Legacy Collective was born.
We thought, I think we can rally enough members of our community, ordinary people. We’re not talking about rich people with tons of excess money, like, ordinary people and ordinary amounts, but that we just say as a community, “We’re pitching in every single month. We’ll pile it all up in one pile, and we will give it away.” Thus, Legacy Collective.
Speaking of Legacy, and we’re about to unpack it all, I have had the most delightful privilege of working with my next guest through Legacy, but we knew her before. She is delightful, she is fierce. If you know her, you already know this. I can’t wait for you to meet the very wonderful Faitth Brooks.
Faitth has worked with Brandon and I at Legacy Collective almost from the beginning. She is the communications and programming director, but she is stepping into new roles because, well, she’s just amazing. And her capacity is really high, and we realized that she’s such an asset to our giving community that we want her to step into a lane and just run. We’ll talk about that a little bit.
Earlier this year, Faitth moved to Greenville, South Carolina, from Houston, and she just graduated with her master’s degree in social work. She is just so smart and so knowledgeable about so much of the work that we do. She’s a brave, smart cookie, heart of gold, and we need 1 million more of her yesterday.
Faitth and I are going to talk a little bit about Legacy Collective, what it is we do and how we do it and how you can get involved because we want you here. We want you in this, and you’re going to want to be in this because you are people who want to do good things with other good people. That’s literally what we are.
We’ll talk through how we took our idea and made it reality. And I am so delighted to introduce you to Legacy Collective, and even more so to Faitth Brooks. Welcome her to the show.
Hi Faitth, I’m so happy you’re on.
Faitth: I’m so happy to be here.
Jen: You know how I feel about you. And your so dear to me, and you’re so important to the work of Legacy, and I just love you. Thank you for your amazing time today, and all the time, actually, you give the work that we do together.
Listen, I’ve given our listeners kind of a snapshot of who you are. But if you would, before we dial into it all, will you just tell them a little bit more about yourself: who you are, and what you do at Legacy and outside of it, and why sort of this kind of work is important to you?
Faitth: At Legacy Collective, I have the privilege of being the communication and programming director. That’s kind of shifting, which is super exciting. Now, I get to focus, which is awesome, on strategic projects that really are going to make a difference in this world.
Jen: I’m pumped about that because sometimes when you start an org like Legacy Collective, it’s scrappy. You know what I mean?
It was just scrappy. It was me and Brandon and Mike.
When you onboarded, it was literally and precisely, “What do you want me to do for Legacy?”
“All the things.”
Will you just tell everybody a little bit—because Legacy is a little bit different than what people are accustomed to, the way we run this operation, and how we work in the world. Will you tell everyone how we choose the organizations that Legacy partners with?
Faitth: Yes. The great thing about Legacy Collective is that you, the people, are the ones that make the decision. So I love that. And that means that if there’s a project or an organization that you’re familiar with that’s near and dear to your heart, then you get to present it to the community and say, “Hey, I think we should fund this initiative that this organization is launching, and I think we can help them.”
It really puts people in a position to make change simply by putting all of your dollars together with other people, and then you get to fund all of these cool things locally and globally. And for a young person like me, it’s super great because you can just put in a little bit of money and then you see it turn into a whole lot of money when you give a grant away.
Our partners and our investors, they nominate organizations. We have a team that looks at it and makes sure all the organizations are credible and in good standing. And then from there, we get to give them money out of the investors’ vote.
Jen: That’s what we do. If you want the short answer, what does Legacy do? We give people money. We’re a funding organization, it’s so exciting. There’s a diverse—we partner with a wide array of organizations and local leaders, and sometimes the grants that we give are very project based.
What’s one of the projects we’ve funded recently?
Faitth: We actually helped fund a project for women called She Is Able. And they use basically being outdoors, hiking as a form of therapy to help women who have experienced trauma, which is phenomenal.
Jen: Yes, it is phenomenal. There’s just so much good going on in the world, and it’s exciting to be able to have an organization that together can pool enough to fund entire projects or to fund entire new staff positions. We really are able to help some of these orgs scale up and move the needle forward on what they are able to accomplish and how wide their reach is.
You mentioned it, can you talk a little bit about how we collect and distribute funds? Because this to me is one of our best distinctives. Why is there so much value in pooling resources together through a foundation? And then can you also talk a little bit about the makeup of our donors and partners? Because it’s a really interesting swath of people.
Faitth: Yeah. Basically, you are giving whatever you can towards this giving circle. Members give $35 or more, Partners give $100 or more. And then Investors give $250 or more each month. With that, we create these really awesome pools of funds that we get to use each year or quarterly to give away funds.
Jen: Exactly. For example, talk about some of the types of people that are involved with Legacy, we’ve got college kids.
Faitth: College people, you have single people, married people. You have people from all different walks of life with different socioeconomic statuses. And really everybody has a heart to see the work of justice and love and compassion and caring through your giving really push forward in meaningful initiatives that are going to impact the world. And not just fleeting initiatives, but we focus on initiatives that provide a sustainable solution to systemic issue. This is providing longstanding change.
Jen: Exactly. That’s one of my favorite parts of what we’re able to do together. That is part of our vetting process, which is this is a long-term problem and we’re looking for long-term solutions that focus on dignity and financial independence and stability. We’re not really an aid organization, although that has its place, and we’re so grateful for the orgs that do that work. This is a long game. Legacy is in it for the long game and the long haul.
For you, because you’ve been with us since virtually the beginning, what has been the most memorable project that you’ve worked or an organization that you’ve worked with at Legacy thus far?
Faitth: I think the most meaningful thing was when we as a community rallied to raise money outside of our normal giving to support people from Hurricane Harvey for the relief. We aren’t a relief organization, but the community was talking to one another and saying, “Hey, we need to do something.” And that’s what they did. And since I was in Houston at the time on the ground running relief efforts, it was so meaningful just to see people come together. And that’s what Legacy is.
Jen: I really like that you mentioned that because what is so phenomenal about an org like Legacy Collective is because we are a donor-advised fund. This is not me, you and Brandon telling everybody what’s happening all the time. We are a giving community, and we have agency over what we do and how we do it. And so we are flexible enough to be able to say exactly what you just said, like, “This is not our normal thing. We are not an aid org. However, collectively as community, we’re so burdened for the needs happening that we’re going to choose, and here again, flexibility.” Some of them said, “We want our monthly donation this month to go to aid.” Some of them said, “We want our next three months to go to that.” And there’s this flexible space where we can sort of move as we want to. I love that.
Let me ask you this because you are not just helping to lead this work from kind of an administration and leadership place, but you’re also on the ground. You have been a part of the work of Legacy—which by the way, if we didn’t mention—it’s both international and national. We have funded plenty of whatever seems obvious at this point. We’ve funded plenty of work here in the United States and certainly all around the world.
What would you say to folks listening, why is it so important to keep our eyes and our ears open to the needs of our neighbors and our brothers and sisters? And specifically, why is proximity to the hard things— and we confront a lot of hard things with Legacy, people suffering from systemic poverty or injustice—why is staying close to those places, to those folks, so important in doing this kind of work?
Faitth: Yeah. It’s so easy to look outside and think, Oh, yeah, we can help with that or that, than to focus inward and say, Oh, wait, that’s in my backyard. I can help with that right now. I think we’re kind of trained to, maybe sometimes it feels good. We know we can go do something in another place or overseas and we’re going to be seen as a hero. And you do something locally, and you’re just a neighbor. You’re just a nice person doing a nice thing.
What I love about Legacy Collective is that we are supporting the heroes. We’re supporting the people doing the work. We’re not going to come in and take over and sweep in and you can pat us all on the back because we’ve done this great work. The best part about seeing someone is helping them and not having to get any credit for it.
Jen: So good. In fact, wouldn’t you agree that should you go to any of the people that are served by the organizations that we have given grants to, they would literally have no idea who Legacy Collective was, right?
Jen: Yeah, they don’t know. That’s not what we’re in it for.
And to your very good point, we’re not interested in reinventing the wheel. That’s absurd. Why on earth would we think we know what’s best for a rural community in Peru? One piece of the Legacy puzzle is that we absolutely work with some of the best local leaders that we’ve ever met. And that is key, absolutely key. As Mr. Rogers said, we look for the helpers, so we help the helpers. That is Legacy, we help the helpers.
I wonder if you could talk for just a minute because this matters to us so much. This is very much built into the DNA of how we operate, what it kind of looks like and why it matters to meet people where they are with dignity and with respect and how those things are sort of built into our model, and giving them hope and help but within this framework that it’s respectful and it is dignifying to the people on that side of it?
Faitth: I like to think of how I’d like to be treated, if I was just down and out and I had to ask for help. A lot of us sometimes we really don’t want to ask for help, it’s hard. And when you do, you hope that you’re met with respect and with love and compassion and that somebody is not just looking at the past or your rap sheet or all of your mistakes.
I think the best way to think of how we would approach people that are different from us—whether that be your race, your socioeconomic status, what side of town you live on—is, How would I want somebody to treat me? Am I putting out the same thing I’d like to receive? And if I’m not, then why am I trying to do good? Because it seems like at that point it’s just about me and not about the person who needs help the most.
Jen: Amen. And if that is an equation that we have gotten wrong for quite some time in this world of giving, we’ve done that really poorly historically. And so that matters to us a lot.
If you are listening and this is a community that you are interested in knowing more about, just know that that is a key value to us. And we positively know that we are not the fixers or the solvers or the knowers of all the things. We are simply a group of ordinary people who pool our money together and help the helpers. And it’s so exciting.
Can you list a couple—maybe three, four, five, whatever—of our projects that we’ve done just to sort of give the listeners the idea of the scope of this types of work that we fund?
Faitth: Yes. I already mentioned She Is Able, and I really love that organization. I really hope you guys are taking notes and look up that organization. We’ve also supported Help One Now. We have supported building classrooms, funding salaries for teachers, which is super exciting. We’ve given to the A21 Campaign to help with fighting human trafficking.
Jen: Specifically, was that initiative in Greece, wasn’t it?
Jen: For all the sort of the refugee crisis in Greece, yep.
Faitth: Which is awesome. And we’ve also worked with CCAI, and they have a really cool summer internship program for former foster kids who lobby on Capitol Hill for basically just change within the foster care system, which I love that so much.
Jen: Me too, and I love those kids that we get to help to send up there. They are phenomenal world changers.
Faitth: Absolutely. Those are some of my favorites just off of the top of my head. And we’ve done so much more, and it’s an amazing work to be a part of. And each and every person that gives, you are a part of that.
Jen: And it is just so, so exciting, and it matters. We’re just over two years old, we’re young. Do you know this, do you know how many grants we’ve given?
Faitth: We’ve given, I believe it’s around 60.
Jen: That’s what I thought. I’m sorry I’m asking you these things like you have this information on the top of your head, maybe you do. What’s the range of the amount of grants we give? You know what I mean, the grant has been this amount all the way up to this amount.
Faitth: Yeah. I want to say between we’d given $10,000 up to $60,000. I could be wrong, but that’s pretty close.
Jen: Yeah. Some of these are massive, massive grants. What our grant recipients have told us is, “This is a game changer for us. This is absolutely a game changer. We staffed up because of this grant, we built out because of this grant. We finished our project because of this grant.” That’s what we’re trying to do, we’re kind of looking for, not entirely, but kind of the little guys, the ones who don’t necessarily draw the eye of some of the big orgs, but their work is so effective.
Can you imagine doing this all the time? It was so fun. When we roll out the nominees and then we vote together as a community and then we start seeing the results come in and their leaders, it’s just, I don’t even know. It’s just the best thing we do.
Let me ask you this real quick. You mentioned this at the top.
You have recently transitioned into a new role with Legacy Collective. And you were with me on the Moxie Matters Tour this fall, which you know I love—love, love, love. Can you tell everybody a little bit about the new initiative that you just launched in partnership with the tour and what that looks like? Because I’m sure we’ve got a lot of folks listening right now who came out, they were at the tour somewhere, they spent an evening with you and I and all of our team, recently got to meet you. What updates can you give those people listening and how someone who maybe didn’t get to attend the show still get involved with what we’re doing there?
Faitth: Yeah. I’m super excited about this initiative. We launched the Moxie Tour Giving Circle, which is a great opportunity for all of the women on the tour to be a part of launching 200 women in Ethiopia into businesses, sustainable businesses that they can lead and own and it’s theirs, and they’re providing for their kids and their families.
Jen: It’s just too good. I don’t even know what to say. I mean, this is my jam right here. What I want everybody to know is this is not a handout, it’s not something that they have to count on every month.
This was business capital for 200 women to start their businesses and become financially independent. And I want everybody to know that we’ve done this work previously in partnership with another organization, the same one that we’re working with on the ground there. And our success rate with the women who complete that program is almost 100%. I mean, it is one of the most effective programs we’ve ever seen. Yeah, women over here supporting business development for women over there is pretty much my favorite thing that ever lived.
If somebody is listening—and by the way, that’s all under the Legacy Collective umbrella, that’s the beauty of giving circles is that we can create sort of niche circles should we ever want to say, “This community is the way we want to pool our money and spend it.” And that’s what the Moxie Tour is. If somebody is interested in joining the Moxie Giving Circle, what would they do?
Faitth: You are going to go to Legacycollective.org/moxie. And then there’s this whole page with a bunch of information, and it’ll show you how you can sign up.
Jen: It’s that easy, and it really is easy. This is a really easy front door.
And then let’s just say somebody else is listening and they’re like, “I want to be a part of Legacy Collective at large. I’m interested in the diversity of projects, I’m interested in being a part of this sort of founding community.” How do they find out more and get involved?
Faitth: It’s going to be the same way except you’re just going to go to Legacycollective.org, and then there’s a tab on there where it says Join. And you’re going to click that, and you’re going to fill out the information. And just like that, you’re a part of the community.
Jen: That is it. And you’ll be automatically directed to, we have pretty robust private Facebook groups for each circle. That’s where we discuss our projects. That’s where a lot of us have meetups, a lot of our investors and members and partners have connected, of course, outside of our giving community.
And just FYI, every single year, Brandon and I invite our Legacy Collective investors to our house for a party. So that’s fun. It’s a blast every single time. If you are interested in being an investor, you also have that fun thing to look forward to in which my mom and my dad tend to the bar. And I just want you to know that that’s hilarious. I don’t know how to explain that to you except that you would just have to bear witness.
Let me ask you three quick questions. This is obviously a series For The Love of Giving, which is just this is our heartbeat and this is what we love and this is also the time of year. We’re asking all of our guests in the giving series these questions.
Here’s the first one: what’s the greatest gift you’ve ever been given?
Faitth: The greatest gift I’ve ever been given is my nephew.
Jen: I knew you were going to say that, and I get it. You know, I get it now.
Faitth: Yes. He’s just the most precious little baby. And he came into my life when I was in the midst of a hard season. I always say, he is the best gift that I’ve been given.
Jen: And he’s such a piece of pumpkin pie. It’s too much to look at him directly, I almost need to look sideways at him. I can’t handle his cute power, it’s too much.
What is the greatest gift you’ve ever given to someone?
Faitth: The greatest gift I’ve ever given . . . I am going to say I threw a baby shower for a teen mom who could not afford any of her baby stuff for her, and then she was 16. She got all the things that she needed, everybody rallied, and it was one of the most special things I’ve done.
Jen: That’s my favorite thing. I love that story.
Last, this is a BBT question that we ask everybody, every series: what is saving your life right now?
Faitth: What is saving my life right now? I’m going to say my body because I have been automatically waking up around 4:00 or 5:00 AM. And while I do not appreciate waking up that early, I have a lot to get done. Therefore, I’m kind of thankful/not thankful that I’m waking up and being productive. There’s that.
Jen: I like it. Your body is like, You know what, if you’re not going to set the alarm, we’ll just wake you up. We have things to do.
That’s phenomenal. I love you so much. Will you tell everybody how they can find you because you are absolutely worth following and paying attention to, and people will be so delighted by your work, by your advocacy because you don’t just work with Legacy. You have a really deep well of just compassion, and your justice meter is really high. And I learn from you, and I love following you. I would love for everybody listening to do the same. Where do they get you?
Faitth: You can follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook at @FaitthB, and I spell my name with two Ts.
Jen: Thank you, I was going to say it if you didn’t. The only time I ever write your name anywhere, somebody tries to correct me, every time. I guess that’s your whole life, and now I know how you feel.
Faitth: Yeah, thanks.
Jen: I love you so much. It’s just mine and Brandon’s just delight to work with you and to partner with you, and you have done so much for Legacy Collective. I literally cannot imagine where we would be without your hard work and your commitment. Just thank you, sister. You’re so good at what you do, and you have made such a difference. It’s fun to think about the ripple effects that are heading outward because of the work of your hands, the things that you do day in and day out impacts such lives. I love you, and I’m proud of you. And thanks for being on the show today.
Faitth: Thanks for having me.
Jen: Guys, these are the types of high-level, high-capacity outstanding human beings that we work with on a daily basis. When I talked to Mike and when I talked to Faitth, this is when I kind of hang up the phone and go, “We do not deserve this. We do not deserve these partners. We are so lucky to get to do this work together.” I just feel like this is my favorite stuff, and these are my favorite people and this is my favorite work. And so I am delighted to bring all of this to you today.
If you’re interested in partnering with us at Legacy Collective, we want you. You may be specifically interested in the Moxie Circle, we want you. Come join us, come join us. You can literally jump in at any level you want, whatever level makes sense for your life, for your stage, for your family.
And it doesn’t matter because together, it turns into an enormous amount of money that we are able to use to fund some of the very best work and organizations and projects and leaders in the entire world. There is zero downside here. It is an amazing, amazing community of givers.
I am so proud of Legacy Collective. I’m so proud of our partners and members and investors. And there is room for you, that’s a fact. This can scale, it can scale endlessly. We will give away as much money as we have.
So come join us. This is a good place for your dollars to go to serious work, and we’re incredibly transparent. You will never, ever wonder where your money goes or what your money is doing. This is the delightful work of our hearts, and we literally named it “Legacy Collective” because Brandon and I feel like of anything, this is what we want to be our legacy on this earth. Come join us.
And thanks for listening to this giving series. It’s so powerful. I mean, talk about some good humans in the world, you guys, be so encouraged. I am. I feel so hopeful to be reminded of the good people out there just using their lives in extraordinary ways. And it is just a joy. Thanks for listening.
More amazing guest next week, and more great places to jump in. And I’m just thrilled to bring in these folks.
Guys, have a fabulous week, and I’ll see you next time.
Narrator: That’s it for today’s show. Hope you enjoyed this chat. Be sure to subscribe to my mom’s podcast and give it a “thumbs up” rating if you like it. From the whole Hatmaker family, hope you have a great week and see you next time!