Looped In: with special guest, Bo Goliber

In this episode, Lisa Munter talks with Bo Goliber, Chief Development and Communications officer for AIM Services.

looped in podcast


Lisa Munter: Okay, I was beyond excited to have Bo Goliber from AIM Services be my very first guest on Looped in With Knitt. Bo has always been a connector in our community on both the nonprofit and business side of philanthropy, and she understands the importance of the relationships behind the connections. So tune in to hear Bo and I talk about community connections and find out what surprising facts she shared with us about herself. I'm so excited for today. It's my very first podcast, Looped In With Knitt, and my guest I'm really excited is here, it is Bo Goliber. She is from AIM Services and her title is the Chief Development and Communications Officer. Thank you so much for being here today. I wanted to share with everybody how we met each other. I think it was five years ago and at the time, you were working at Fingerpaint Marketing and you were the community relations development guru and everybody knew and loved you in the community and what you did for nonprofits. I remember wanting to have a meeting with you because I was just starting my journey with Knitt and I was like, "If anybody could give me some insight from a donor perspective, it will be Bo." And you agreed to meet with me and I remember we met at Palette Cafe and you just stood across from me and you stood up and you applauded and I had tears in my eyes because I'm like, "Oh my gosh, I just got validated by somebody I look up to and respect with so much," and you actually think what I'm doing is going to be making a difference in this space. So welcome, Bo.

Bo Goliber: Thank you so much for having me. You weren't supposed to make me cry in the first 40 seconds of your intro, so thank you. I'm truly honored to be your first guest and I'm really excited for your journey, so I'm happy to be here.

Lisa Munter: Thank you. For me, it's all about connections and the people that you meet. And from the very beginning I was always connected to you and you've always been a cheerleader and a support and a mentor for my journey and what I've been doing with Knitt. So I thought it was very appropriate to start off today with you.

Bo Goliber: Thank you. I'm so glad to be here.

Lisa Munter: I'm so excited with your journey with AIM Services, so exciting. Tell me, why is it important for a nonprofit like AIM to be connected to the community?

Bo Goliber: It's funny that you're asking this. Tomorrow is actually my two- year anniversary at AIM, which is wild because it feels like it's been 10 years and two years all at once. It's been a really wild ride to be able to see how connections have really, in the past two years, helped put us in a completely different place. When I started with AIM, obviously I was very familiar with the work that the organization did and the amazing ways that it helped support people with disabilities and our community. But I guess I was really excited to help take it to the next level. And really the way that we've done that is by building connections and actually, spoiler alert, but March 1st, we're launching our 2023 campaign for the year and it's actually all based around connection, so I think that for any nonprofit, it's really, really important.
For us in particular, it's incredibly important because the people we support often can be marginalized and a lot of people don't necessarily have personal connections to people with disabilities. And so us bringing the folks that we support out into our community to build those connections is what helps people get excited about investing in our success and investing in the opportunities to enrich the lives of the people we serve. It's literally everything that we're built on and it's really wonderful to watch it pan out.

Lisa Munter: I absolutely love that. I am on the board for the Dake Foundation for Children who also supports some of the... We actually have some crossover with the population, so I understand that as well. Tell me, AIM is always unique in what they do, what specifically do they do to connect with the community in order to bring awareness of your mission?

Bo Goliber: I think there's a multitude of ways that we connect. I think we have different audiences that we reach depending on what our role is within the organization. I think first and foremost at the heart of it all is obviously the people we serve. So when you take the mission out into the community, it's everything from patronizing local businesses and helping them get to know the people that we serve. It's actually partnering with local businesses on the employment side, making sure that the people that we support actually have access to employment opportunities. It's sharing in community-based connections and fun activities that the arts, for example, are something that's hugely connected to the work that we do and has built some really special connections with such a rich arts organization community. We have so many. That's an area where we've built some really strong connections. I think similarly as a workplace and for a workforce retention standpoint, we have built some really great connections with people in the community who are looking for work and recruited some really great players on our administrative team as well as on the direct support professional side because the way that we provide support is so unique and builds such a rich connection with the individuals. I think that that makes it a really desirable place to work. And then from my perspective and from the team that I support the fundraising and development team, obviously we're bringing the community members and the businesses and the partners into the mission so that they can support us and help us go above and beyond to meet the dreams and the wishes of the people we serve. Really the connections are so multifaceted and you realize in a community like Saratoga Springs, there's so much overlap. Even this past year for example, we're partnering with organizations like Wesley on new information around dementia care and people with disabilities and on the mental health side of things. I mean, we utilize Wellspring and some of the organizations that provide resources for people who are underserved or underprivileged. It's really amazing how collectively we're all working together and there's so much overlap. It's never been more important for us to collaborate than it is now.

Lisa Munter: I think you hit the nail on the head. It really is about collaborations really do help spread awareness. I think sometimes nonprofits get a little nervous about that because they feel like, "No, I don't want to share resources in case if that decreases our opportunity for funding." But really, especially after the pandemic, I think that we're seeing a total shift in that we're working smarter, not harder. When we do collaborate, I think we're able to get more donor awareness and involvement than if we're just working alone.

Bo Goliber: I agree completely. I think it was required. I mean, prior to my role on the corporate philanthropy side, I was in the nonprofit side, and if I were to compare where things are now to where they were then, the amount of collaboration has increased significantly. I think it's made a real difference in all of our ability to put our mission at the forefront. I mean, the reality of it is, our mission isn't to raise money; our mission is to support the people we serve, whoever your people are. And so whatever that looks like in terms of partnering with other organizations that have a similar mission, that's going... You know me, I always say, "Intent is everything." So if your intent is to raise the most money, it's not going to create the same outcome as collaborating for your mission.

Lisa Munter: Absolutely. It's all about the sustainability and it's the relationship behind that. I mean, any nonprofit is never going to disregard a donation, but the goal is to understand the why that donation happened in the first place.

Bo Goliber: Exactly.

Lisa Munter: So then that way, maybe that donation, once you get to know the person behind that, maybe it'll double or triple or even better yet, they're so impacted by what you're doing that they want to get involved in other ways by volunteering or they're bringing in their coworkers and their friends. And that's how sustainability with the nonprofit will help move us forward.

Bo Goliber: I agree. I think we've seen a really nice enhancement around the opportunity to build more, I call them, multifaceted partnerships. Really digging into the donor, figuring out what makes them tick, why they're interested, what's their personal connection. I'm actually fascinated by how many folks I meet that support us, even on a corporate level where they have a sibling that had disability or I've met random strangers who we connected over the fact that they had a sibling that lived in a facility and now they would love to get back into supporting an organization who supports people with disabilities. It's been really interesting to see that unfold and have it evolve and build those deeper connections.

Lisa Munter: Yes. So speaking of donors, how can they connect to AIM? I think that there's also this whole idea that, "I can't donate because I don't have a thousand dollars or a hundred dollars." And I don't think that people who want to give back, that it doesn't have to be, we're not looking for a certain dollar amount. So how does AIM want donors to connect to them? Is it just funding? Is there other opportunities for them to be involved with you other than just making a donation?

Bo Goliber: That's a great question. One of the things I've wanted to put a lot of energy into is finding those ways to help bring people into our mission. Obviously when we're out in the community and there's opportunities to invite the community at large, we always try to make those experiences happen. It's not always super possible. I think one of the things we've tried to do, especially around raising awareness and helping to spread a really important message of inclusion. I think particularly, especially for young people who have access to social media and who have networks, one of the ways that they can support an organization like AIM is we have a really robust marketing team that has some really great marketing. The way that people can help us with that is to share those messages when we launch our campaign, buy our hoodie, that's going to launch and March, which is super cool this year. I'm really excited about it. And it says, "AIM for connection," so it's right on brand. Yes. We're really excited about that. Those opportunities around the people that we serve, I think being open- minded and inclusive and sort of wanting to shift the perspective that has been previously created around people with intellectual developmental disabilities, that's a huge hurdle that we still have to overcome. We've obviously come a really long way, but I feel like that's where young people can help shift the perspective. People, nowadays, young people should not be using the R word, ever. Back when we were young, we heard it all the time. You watch old movies, it was thrown around like nothing. That's not okay, and shifting those perspectives is ways that young people can make a difference even if they don't have the financial ability. I would say that's one way. Our events, I know we try to keep them priced accordingly. Events are not obviously the be all end all of fundraising, but for us, they're a great way to get people excited, especially because our two main events, Carnival and Croquet, are both really unique. So I feel like even if someone gets brought in just because it sounds like a fun event, I have no doubt that by the time they leave, they'll know more about our mission and they'll feel compelled to come back. That's a great way to bring people in. I guess that is still financial, but it doesn't have to be a large contribution to make an impact. The other thing that people can do is if you're a local business or someone who provides a local service, especially that is experiential in some nature, opening up an opportunity for partnership to give the people we serve access to your business or your experiences, especially in the arts or martial arts or there are spaces that have inclusive social spaces for people that we support that could be really accessible and that would be great. Just building bridges with us would be great. We want to open doors and make sure that people that we serve can be part of the community.

Lisa Munter: One thing that I always hear over and over in my journey in the last five years with Knitt and meeting with various donors and nonprofits, but more particular donors, they're always in awe, like when we talk about a nonprofit and they're like, "We had no idea that they did this, this, and this. We only thought that they did that." And it's always amazing to me because being in the nonprofit space myself, we are all very well versed in what we do. But sometimes I think it's understanding that businesses and donors are busy doing their thing and they know that they want to be philanthropic, but they don't have time to really sit down and digest all the things that encompasses a nonprofit. And sometimes that's a reason why they either don't give or maybe they would want to give knowing that. So for AIM Services, especially as vast as it is, what is something that you would want people to know about AIM and all the different things that fall under your umbrella title?

Bo Goliber: I think that one of the things that surprises people the most is when people think about an organization like ours, they know about residences where people live, so the group homes that essentially were the thing of history. They know that we have 23 residences locally in Warren, Washington, and Saratoga counties, but a lot of people don't realize that we have a whole breadth. Actually, the bulk of our services are actually community-based services, and we serve people and children of all ages. We have an afterschool program, we have a summer program, we have recreation and respite, we have community-based weekend programs with teens and adults. We have arts programs, we have music therapy. We have a whole bunch of things that we provide in the community and also to people in the community that the people that we serve don't just necessarily live in our residences. I think that that's one of the things that surprises people. They don't necessarily know the breadth of services. And we also, while our local services are Saratoga, Warren, and Washington counties, we also have our self-direction program, which serves 2,500 people as far south as Long Island. And that's a program that's designed for people to have the maximum amount of independence. And we are a provider of self-direction as well. I think those are things that surprise people. They don't know how wide the net is of the services that we provide.

Lisa Munter: That's amazing. And talk about impact, because you have all these services that encompass so many areas. If somebody wanted to give a donation to you, it could just go to so many different things other than what they thought initially as maybe just being in the residence. Right?

Bo Goliber: Exactly. The reach is a lot wider than I think a lot of people think.

Lisa Munter: And that kind of brings me to my next question because there's a lot of discussion around restricted donations versus unrestrictive. Can you just talk a little bit about your experience with that and what that means to you and to AIM?

Bo Goliber: I think it's an ever-evolving topic that all organizations have to consider based on what works best for them and with their fiscal team and how that all looks. For us, we try to, I call, everything goes into a bucket. So all of our programs are a bucket, essentially, and the things that we provide, support for, are each in their own bucket. So when we try to build a relationship with a donor or around an event, we try to have it at least tie back to those buckets without it being so restrictive that it puts us in a position where we can't spend it if we need to. We might say, "We're raising funds at Croquet for our children's programs." That allows us to be able to basically use those funds for anything that would serve the people in our children's programs. Same thing with Carnival. We started that program purposefully because we had been utilizing so many grant dollars on arts experiences and performances. So we kind of say, "Arts programming with the intention of any of the dollars that come in through Carnival are going to go back into exposure to life enriching arts programs," without it having to be so specific that it has to be for acting or has to be for dancing. I think the benefit to having at least it tied back to a connection or a cause, allows the donor to feel the direct impact. So I do think that that piece is important for the storytelling and the narrative, but I do think it's important to where possible, not restricted so tightly that then you're stuck sitting on dollars and you might have a deficit somewhere else and not be able to touch something. I know it's also donor specific too. So really it comes down to building the relationship.

Lisa Munter: Wonderful, thank you. And really in closing, because we learned a lot about AIM, but you are one of the driving forces of many people within that organization. What is one thing that people are generally surprised to find out about you?

Bo Goliber: I think that, I mean, people don't know that I'm a singer, so that's fun.

Lisa Munter: Really?

Bo Goliber: See? You didn't know.

Lisa Munter: I did not know.

Bo Goliber: That's always a fun thing to share. And it's been fun because I've gotten to incorporate some of that into my job, which is fun. I've gotten to share my voice with some of the people we serve and performed at events. So that's fun. I think that's a fun, best kept secret.

Lisa Munter: I love that. If you ever need a duet partner, let me know.

Bo Goliber: Okay. Sweet.

Lisa Munter: Well, thank you so much, Bo. I greatly appreciate you being here today.

Bo Goliber: Thank you so much for having me, and good luck. I can't wait to see Knitt evolve.

Lisa Munter: Thank you.