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In this episode of The People Catalysts Podcast we’ll discuss “The Business of Giving Back” with guest, Freddie Silveria. Freddie launched his career as a public speaker shortly after graduating college. He has spoken to schools all around the country regarding leadership with the program “Breaking Down The Walls”. Freddie has spoken at Georgetown University in Washington D.C., Harvard University at the National Student Leadership Conference and many others.
In addition to his speaking and training, he is a Benefit Fundraising Strategist & Auctioneer. He partners with non-profits, schools, corporations, and organizations. Freddie has always had a desire to use his skills in order to ‘give back’. In his short time as a benefit auctioneer, he has helped fund-raise over a million dollars and even walked a mile in high heels for charity!
You can reach out to Freddie on your favorite venue…
THE BUSINESS OF GIVING BACK
Karla Nelson:..And welcome to the People Catalysts Podcast. Freddie.
Freddie Silveria:..Hi, there. Appreciate, Karla. Thanks for having me.
Karla Nelson:..Yeah. Oh my gosh, we’re just sitting here chattin’ for a little bit, realizing we know so many people in common. You’re a national speaker, and your mentor was one of my mentors, so this is really a lot of fun.
Freddie Silveria:..Small world. I’m happy to be here.
Karla Nelson:..Yep. Gets smaller and smaller. Happy to have you here. So, Freddie, you’ve got to share a little bit about your story. I mean, you’re a young kid, and you’re speaking all over. You’re speaking at Harvard and then you’ve also developed this auction business on the side. We’re gonna talk a little bit about giving back and how that overlays with business, but first, what’s your story?
Freddie Silveria:..Yeah. Well, Karla, basically the story is, is that I’ve wanted to do something where I was making a difference and helping folks. I graduated college and wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do, and so a family friend got me a job at Pepsi. I did sales for Pepsi for about two or three years or so. I approached a mentor, who it sounds like he was a mentor for both of us. He’s an amazing gentleman. Approached a mentor, Phil Boyte, and said, “Hey, can you kind of guide me and help me?” At the time, I thought I wanted to be a life coach and one thing led to another, and I started speaking for Phil Boyte’s company Learning for Living. I’ve been a presenter now for his school culture program called Breaking Down the Walls. Been working on school culture in high schools and middle schools for about the last five years and absolutely love it. It’s phenomenal work. It’s built around creating communities of care and creating the type of school that no one wants to leave. So it’s a pretty cool thing that we do. I’ve been blessed to have some amazing mentors in that space and just learn a lot about life and leadership from a lot of great mentors with the Learning for Living team.
And so what happened is, I was doing that, and all the sudden I was speaking one time, and these folks said, “Hey, would you mind doing our auction for us?” And I said, “Sure, why not.” You know why, you know what I mean. When you’re young, and you’re a “yes” man or “yes” woman, you just say yes.
Karla Nelson:..You got it. That is a secret to success by the way. You just learn how to say yes. You’ll kill yourself every once, and a while, but you’ll learn a lot down the road.
Freddie Silveria:..Yeah, so here I am. I do my first auction and did really well. So then I said, “I wonder if there’s a business here.” And I thought it was a really cool thing to be able to give back with fundraisers, and helping schools, and non-profits, and corporations, and organizations. So I actually went to auctioneers school. There’s a college for it back in Iowa. The Worldwide College of Auctioneering and I got a professional degree in auctioneering. I’ve been a professional benefit fundraising auctioneer and strategist now for about two or three years and it’s really become the heartbeat of my business, Freddie Silveria Auctions. I love doing the work that we do.
I just did an auction last week. I did two fundraisers last week and was able to have a really cool moment when we were fundraising for adults with cancer, and their loved ones to be able to experience basically just a three-day retreat from cancer. A speaker came up before we did the Fund-A-Need, and at the end of the event, that speaker came up to me and in my arms was crying when she found out that her talk led to the Fund-A-Need, which I helped facilitate. It paid for half of the camp. The camp cost almost $90,000 and her talk brought us in about $45 grand. She was just bawling in tears, in terms of jumping for joy that what she said was able to reach the hearts or wallets of the donors in the room.
That’s the kind of work that I’m able to do. The impact, whether it’s with auctions or speaking with youth, obviously the Breaking Down the Walls. And then I do a program in the summer called National Student Leadership Conference, where I’m a leadership facilitator for teens from all over the world at Harvard University in Cambridge and we’re just talking about leadership, talking about personal, professional, moving forward in life. So that’s a little bit about me. If I gave you some fun facts-
Karla Nelson:..Just a little there, Freddie. Geez Louise, that’s awesome. Well, see, what I love and one of the timely, I think, of this interview is really to stop and think about giving back, and a lot of people on the People Catalysts Podcast were consistently talking about leadership. Of course, our training focuses on the four primary individuals: the Mover, Shaker, Prover, Maker. It’s all about getting things done. We’re in a room, culture’s fantastic, the potluck on Friday is great, but we’re all sitting in a room because we want to get things done.
And I love how you intersected the giving back piece and then also the business piece, and we talk about making a difference. Some of the most incredible people I’ve met, I’ve met sitting in those rooms. You’ve, I know helped raise money for school, and scholarship, and Big Brother and Big Sisters, and pancreatic cancer, and diabetes, and the arts, and all sorts of stuff. I’ve always said … and it’s not just me, I had a really great friend and mentor that we both would … He worked for a huge non-profit. I’ve always been on the for-profit side, and I’ve always said that for-profit companies should look a lot more like non-profit, and non-profits need to look more like for-profits.
And I loved how you partner with who you’re working with to bring the business aspect of having a successful event as well. So can you share some of the tips that your work ’cause I know you work on the before, during, and after to build these relationships across the spectrum of working with the team and then also working with the current donors or attendees of the meeting as well. And then, even sponsors I saw you help ’em find, geez.
Freddie Silveria:..Right. No, yeah, that’s exactly it. I mean, the idea there is exactly what you said. I loved how you said that in terms of a profit should look like a non-profit, and a non-profit should look like a profit. Because that’s really true, that’s a reality. We’re in a space specifically with my fellow millennials, where we like to work with profit corporations where there’s a giving back piece. That’s a big piece, that’s common thread. When we look at the non-profit space, what I do is, I’m looking at a non-profit as a business. I’m looking at … I help them with about six different areas. It’s not just auctioneering, 80% of what I do is strategy, 20% of what I do is actually the talking fast and selling stuff, what people think auctioneers are. But I’m a lot more in terms of, I’m looking at sponsorships. I just worked with a non-profit, and we almost doubled sponsorships just simply by raising the level of how we were looking at them and how we were going about approaching them.
I think the beginning thing is … Covey says it best with one of the habits. I don’t know if it’s the second or third or fourth habit, but, “Begin with the end in mind.” And with what I do, is I’m always looking at, if you look at a non-profit, you look at an auction, you begin with the end in mind. The end in mind is, how did the guest have a positive experience and want to bring donors back next year to be able to continuously fund for your cause? That’s the end in mind. Then end of the mind is how is the donor and guest gonna leave your experience wanting to come back year after, year after year?
How does that look? What I do is I’m looking at guest experience from start to finish in terms of, how are we starting now? Let’s say, we’re doing an auction or benefit fundraiser here in 10 months from now. What I would start doing is, how are we educating our donors, how we’ve been good stewards of their funds from prior year? And that looks different for a lot of different non-profits. Some non-profits, it’s via email, sometimes it’s face-to-face meetings, social media, but the ideas is, educating them.
So one of the other non-profits I’ve been partnering with now … I did their auction last year, I’m doing it again this spring … is they’ve started to revamp their donor education model. What they’re doing is doing one to two minute, short video testimonials of students and people that are partnering with the non-profit, and they’re sharing these videos virally with their communities, and show them how they’ve been good stewards of the fund. So that’s one approach, is donor development prior to the event. Because the challenge is, if we’re to educating our donors how we’ve been good stewards of their funds, they’re not feeling as connected to the cause and-
Karla Nelson:..You’ve got it.
Freddie Silveria:….. it’s just another marketing tool throughout the year. So that’s part of it, sponsorships is part of it, item procurement is part of it. I do some special things around, how to get the right items in the room. ‘Cause the challenge is, if you’re doing an auction, and you’ve got somebody in the room that has the capacity to give over $10,000; well, if it’s courtside tickets to your local sporting even, they can probably afford those, or they have friends, or they even have those. The challenge is how do you make that a next-level, unbelievable experience.
An idea would be … I’m a big basketball guy, I love basketball. Let’s just say it’s the Lakers and Lebron ’cause everybody knows about them going on right now or it’s the Warriors, whatever you want to call it. But you think about it as, how do you give somebody that has the capacity to give over $10,000 or more and opportunity of a lifetime. And so what I do, is I coach the non-profits on the business side of looking at their mindset, and their mindset is, hey I want access to one of the players. So maybe it’s a shoot-around practice for 20, you either market it as a birthday package for kids or a corporate sporting event for team building, and it’s a shoot-around with, let’s just say ideally, it’s Lebron James. I’ll shoot for the stars here, and that’s the other thing with a non-profit is you always coach ’em and say, “Hey, let’s dream big. Go big. Be big. Be bold.” So you just make an experience that’s awesome.
Karla Nelson:..That’s awesome. Well, I love that and I also love, we had the opportunity of interviewing Sean Covey, Stephen Covey’s son, as we know Stephen passed away a couple years ago, and I love that, “Start with the end in mind.” There’s another thing a mentor has said before and I … Gosh, you could probably speak to this really well, Freddie, considering you’ve been hard at it with your head down … Is that, “You can dramatically overestimate what you can accomplish in a year, and dramatically underestimate what you can accomplish in a decade.” I think leadership is like that, that you’re teaching in training, regardless of if it’s in the for-profit side or in if it’s in the non-profit side, which that’s what you’re doing really.
In every aspect of that, you’re working with your client and that team, so they become your team, and you’re teaching them how to lead in certain ways, right; and communicating that with a really powerful “why’ is absolutely critical. I think it’s becoming even more critical for for-profits now. Non-profits that do it well, really … I mean, I was just at the large Make-A-Wish event, I swear there was like 1,000 people there and not a dry eye in that place. Why? Because these kids are going on to defeat their cancer and are raising money now and helping other kids. I really think that the for-profit should look a lot more like that and it seems like … What are some of the tips that you use, and teach, and work with them to have the non-profit, first realize that if they don’t generate revenue, they’re gonna go away, so that’s not a good option, right. And then, also … Go ahead.
Freddie Silveria:..No, no, you’re spot on. And what were you gonna say, Karla?
Karla Nelson:..Oh, and then also, how do you get them to wrap that “why” and then be comfortable and confident with … They never want to use the word “sell”, but at the end of the day, I don’t know why that’s a bad word. Because if you’re bringing something of value, and that person wants to be a part of that “why”, and they have the means to be able to get it; it’s just the communication. I wish they would just use the word “communicate” instead of “sell”, right? We’ve all had that one salesperson that’s like, why does that ruin it for everybody else? But that’s one of the biggest challenges you see in non-profits, is that they’re shy about the, “Oh, we don’t want to talk money”, almost. You know what I mean, it’s like, wait a second. That should probably be even more important than a for-profit because you’re selling something, so it’s a trade. You can see the trade a little bit easier, right, then, “Hey, you can write it off on your taxes.” That ones not gonna inspire very many people.
Freddie Silveria:..Right, and what you’re speaking to is mission and vision. The idea is a non-profit or a profit, however you want to look at it, has to always be communicating and educating folks how we’re being connected to our mission and how we’re connected to our vision. I’ll give you a concrete example in terms of how I’ve done that and worked, and partnered, and strategized with a non-profit, specifically in the auction space. What we do in a benefit fundraiser, you’ve seen a lot of these before, is called a Fund-A-Need or special appeal, where we basically ask the donors in the room to be able to give back in the cause for no … You don’t get anything back, it’s not like a live auction item, where you get an item. You just give to the cause because you care and you want to give to the cause.
Well, something that a lot of non-profits do in that specific space is they just at a couple levels and they say, “All right, who in the room wants to give $10,000? Who wants to give $5,000? Who wants to give $2500, $1000?” And they just go on and on and on about who wants to give at these levels. The idea is, specifically your point, is you want to speak mission and vision. What I did is, I was able to double the Fund-A-Need over this last week at an auction I did because of some strategy that we did ahead of time. What we did is, we looked at each level in the Fund-A-Need and what it fundraised for.
For example, we were funding for families to be able to attend a camp, a camp for cancer. At $5000, we found out that that fund raised for two families. So you communicate the message live in an auction to folks that says, “Hey, who wants to give $5000?” That sounds a lot different then funding $5000 funds for two families.
I’ll give you a metaphor that I think a lot of folks o the podcast can relate to, and that is Girl Scout cookies. For example, if somebody comes to your door and says, “Hey, wanna buy some cookies?” You’re gonna probably buy a box or two of cookies. But if a Girl Scout or somebody else comes to your day and says, “Hey, wanna buy a box of cookies. I’ve got these Thin Mints and we’re fundraising to go to XYZ conference or camp.” You buy 10 boxes of cookies. You’re not gonna eat all 10 boxes of cookies, but if the messaging is right and the mission is there, you’re connected to the vision, you buy a lot more. If somebody says, buy a box of cookies to buy a box of cookies, you buy one. But buy a box of cookies with the right messaging, you buy 10. That’s the concept when you’re looking at benefit fundraiser is all about the messaging.
So we looked at families, and then we got down to final level of $100. Who in the room wants to give $100? Well, what we did was, we did the math and we said, “Hey, if 20 people in the room gave $100 that would fundraise for two families to be able to go to camp.” Giving people an actual number approach to a level, there’s a lot more power in that because people can then start to work together. And in the spirit of Christmas and non-profits and the holidays, the idea is when people understand how they can work together, they can make a big difference.
Now here one more final piece. The final piece is, I live in Northern California, and as a lot of know across the states and the world, we just had camp fire. And the camp fire was up there on Paradise, and actually, I was speaking with Breaking Down the Walls at Paradise High School just less than a month before the fire devastated that entire community. And the-
Karla Nelson:..I had four or five people I know lose their homes or family lose their homes. It was devastating, for sure.
Freddie Silveria:….. Yeah. And the power is, in this time that we’re in, just call it the holidays, call it whatever you wanna call it, just the spirit of giving. I think we’re always in the spirit of giving, but right now more so because we’re in the holidays, it’s on people’s minds more. The idea was with the camp fires, people came together to be able to help a lot of these families, and that’s the idea of being mission and vision driven. If you think about that Fund-A-Need with the $100 level, coming together, we can accomplish a lot.
And that’s the same concept with a lot of the work that you and I both do around leadership, and Breaking Down the Walls, and our mentor, you know that we have a mutual mentor; and the concept is we’re better together. And that’s what I would leave us with, in terms of non-profits and leadership, is recognizing how can we work together to make a big different, as opposed to individually we can do a little, but together can do so much.
Karla Nelson:..I love that. That’s completely speaking to our work. We always say, “Everyone’s a leader, they’re just a leader at a different time.” And understanding what your core nature of work, and then, here you go, there’s the magic thing, what’s the “why”.
Karla Nelson:..I think Simon Sinek, his TED Talk is incredible about “Start With Why” and it’s a great analysis. We got to interview the co-founder of Start With Why, as well, and they just came out with a book here recently. Incredible interview and one of the things is that it’s really important to understand why so that you can attract the earlier adopters soon and then you want to get across the breadth of the later adopters too, right. You don’t just want to stay there, you wanna … As Geoffrey Moore, says “Cross the chasm to get that buy-in.”
And I love how you say, “You’re better together.” Because it’s a fact, it’s a scientific, 100% fact if you’re talking about a team or if you’re talking about clients. But getting anything accomplished, if you can get the blood and sweat and tear of the individuals and give them a big purpose, they will do whatever it takes to make it happen.
Freddie Silveria:..Exactly, you’re spot on. It’s all about coming together, starting with “why”. What is your “why” and when you’re clear on your why, you’re unstoppable. For me, my “why” is always been my mom. My mom was suffering in pain and sick for a long time, and she passed away a couple years ago from cancer. My “why” has always been, I wanna do something where I’m helping people. And every single day when I’m able to help folks, I just remember my mom and the positivity that she had. When you’re clear on your “why” nothing will get in our way, whether it’s leadership, whether it’s a non-profit.
Our challenge in the non-profit I just worked with at the auction last week, our goal was to fundraise over $100,000. The year before it’d only done about $60,000 or $70,000. It was a whole $25,000-$30,000 more that we wanted to do. But when we were clear on our “why”, our “why” was, we want to fund two camps, not one camp but two. And we exceeded the goal by tens of thousands of dollars, but it was understanding our “why”. Specifically, like we just shared, when everybody comes together and understands their “why”, that’s when the real magic happens.
Karla Nelson:..Powerful, powerful. I’m so sorry to hear about your mom. I’m not sure if you had a chance to see my TED X Talk that I was actually nominated by a local community, the entrepreneurs in the community, and my husband passed which will be two days after Christmas, seven years ago. I think a twofold thing here with when you come together, it’s magic, and the difference that you make for those people that you’re helping is crazy. The entire business community came together through this huge event, and wrote a big check that I was able to put for my kids’ trust fund for college or I had a five-week old and I had a two and a half year old when he passed away, I tell you what, it impacts the other person’s “why” just as well.
It’s like the team and the magic that happens. And then, the camp fire was horrible, but the only thing that you could do to put something beautiful in the midst of something tragic is something like that too, that just continuously fuels this ability to give the nature order of things. Give, ask, and receive. I think that-
Freddie Silveria:..Karla, you’re awesome. You’re pretty cool. You’re pretty cool.
Karla Nelson:..Well, right back at you, Freddie. I can’t believe we got a brief chance to meet at The Disrupt HR event that I was speaking at and you were emceeing, but this has been awesome. We definitely need to spend more time together ’cause I love your “why”, I love your purpose, I love what you’re up to. And then make sure before we sign off here, let our listeners know how they can get a hold of you.
Freddie Silveria:..Yeah, of course. I am at freddieSilveria.com. That’s F-R-E-D-D-I-E. Silveria, S as in Sam, I-L, V as in Victor, E-R-I-A.com. That’s freddieSilveria.com. All my social media channels are all @freddieSilveria and my email is freddieSilveria@gmail.com. So find me there.
Karla Nelson:..Awesome. Absolutely fantastic.
Freddie Silveria:..And I just appreciate it.
Karla Nelson:..Yeah, thanks so much for being on the show, Freddie. Really appreciate that, and you keep on making that difference out there in the world.
Freddie Silveria:..Appreciate it, Karla. Take good care.
Karla Nelson:..You too.