Kris Lindahl: Is your life about making money or making an impact?
INTRO: Welcome to the “Behind The Billboard” podcast: a living, breathing, interactive conversation about getting better as a leader, a team, and as a person. We believe that success is all about people, and we’re on a mission to help you grow. Here’s your host, Kris Lindahl.
KL: We went a different direction with this interview, where I wanted to focus on a nonprofit and someone who’s making a massive impact in this world. His name’s Brady Forseth. He was the executive director of Starkey Foundation, where they have raised over $10 million dollars in one night. He’s now transitioned over to African Community & Conservation Foundation. Brady has principles that I believe could help every single business leader, whether you’re an emerging business leader of a successful business leader. I hope you enjoy this interview. I took so much from it. Hey Brady!
Brady Forseth: How’s it going, bro?
KL: Good, man. I’m super excited to have you here. It’s really intriguing and it’s really exciting what you’re doing. You have a lot to share today. Tell me a bit about your story and when you started.
BF: First of all, thanks so much for having me on the show. Big fan of yours and it’s been really great to get to know you. I know there are so many great things ahead together. Impact has been my life, bro. From the very beginning, it has to do with what you were taught at a young age. I’m a son of a preacher. Those are the ones you go to be scared about. At the end of the day, father founded a church here in Saint Paul, Minnesota. I was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota and about eight months into my life, I moved to Seattle. When I was about eight years old, moved to Long Island, New York. It’s like one word: Long-Island. How you doin’? Ba-da-bing-ba-da-bang! By the way, I can go chameleon on you.
KL: I love it! I love it.
BF: I can go East Coast, West Coast, Minnesotan. Anyway, they are influencers in my life. I believe people are in your life, they pave the way for your future from a very young age. I’m actually one of five kids, four boys and a girl, in the middle. Middle child syndrome.
KL: Oh, watch out.
BF: But when I was about four and a half years old, I almost died. I had spinal meningitis.
BF: They said, if your son lives, he’ll be quadriplegic if he’s lucky to live. That didn’t happen, obviously, I’m here today to tell you. What happened was my father, just one of those things, he said, “I hope my son’s used to make a difference in the world.” From the very beginning, through the education I had had, through the people who were influencers in my life — it’s not a spiritual thing, but my father was someone who really cared. That caring and that dignity and respect and caring and sharing love to people, no matter what — whether it’s helping the homeless, people didn’t have someone to be there by their side, whatever — that was ingrained into me at a young age. I always felt at a young age, I’d love to give back when I get older. I’ve been doing that ever since. I was actually drafted out of high school to play baseball. I played some college baseball down in Florida. Best thing that ever happened to me is I hurt my arm because I got to come back up to New York and ultimately meet my wife and kids and all, but, who I have today. But I’ve been blessed with that. But I was a history major, of all things. History major? What does that have to do with development and nonprofit work? It has everything to do with it if you believe in doing the right thing. So I started working at a small, private school in Long Island, New York. Very reputable school. I was teaching phys-ed, doing some subbing for history, coaching football and baseball. I get called into the principal’s office even though I work for the guy. I’m like, “Why am I being called to the principal’s office?” Anyway, the principal sat me down and said, “We’d like you to be the director of development.” I said, “What’s that?” He said, “Well, let me explain what it’s about.” When he explained what it was about, I was like, that’s a no-brainer. If you believe in education or if you believe — I spent eight and a half years being a lead advocate for autistic children and adults out in Long Island who wouldn’t have been able to have advocates for themselves. Did that for eight and a half years, higher education when I first moved here to Minnesota. In 2009, I went to work for the Starkey Hearing Foundation where I’ve been up until recently for almost nine and a half years working for the founders, Bill and Tani Austin. So whether it’s hearing, autism, developmental disabilities, and/or now what I’m doing with the circle of life on conservation and community projects in Africa, it’s about the caring, sharing, the dignity and the respect. For me, my life has to have passion and a purpose, and I want to make an impact. I’ve been very blessed in that whole arena.
KL: So one of the things about that is there’s something deeper to that, right? Obviously, you’ve run some really successful organizations that are making a massive impact and, quite honestly, an impact that most people will never even have an opportunity to achieve. You are doing things that are really high-level. But let’s go layers deep of why you’re actually doing that. I meet so many people that say, “Well, I’m a people person.” Or, “I want to be successful. I want to make money.” But there are so many layers that are deeper than that. When you started, what were those things that are really deep to your core, what are those things that you stand for?
BF: For me, the core of what I stand for is being able to give back to the people so they can make an impact on their own lives. You can teach someone to fish and feed ’em for a lifetime. I’ve never been into one of these types of deals where you give them the fish and feed them a day. For me, I’ve always wanted to help people so they can have sustainability in their life: whether it’s on the education side of things, ’cause ultimately these people are going to grow up to get a good job, provide for their families, and by the way, not just in America, but in Africa and around the world. When it comes to what I was doing with autism and developmental disabilities, someone needed to be their advocate. For that, I took that very seriously. When you’re doing development work — I don’t look at the type of work that I was doing: fundraising? It’s not fundraising. It’s friend-raising, at the end of the day. It’s about relationships. It’s about trust. It’s about showing people the respect they deserve. People want to get engaged with something that you’re passionate about and purposeful about. For many, many years now, over my 25-year career in development, I’ve always been very intentional and purposeful with how you do that, strategic with how you do that. Strategic, intentional, purposeful. I believe that’s a big part of success when it comes to the development side of things. And you know, I’m not a wealthy guy, But I feel very wealthy in the relationships that I’ve built over the years, and I’ve considered, they’re not just donors, they’re actually friends. People come to you and say, “Hey, listen, what are the next things we can be doing as we’re moving forward in these areas. That’s been very important in my life and being able to work together. It takes a team to do what you can do. I’ve learned from Bill and Tani Austin over at the Starkey Foundation, they say it perfectly. Bill Austin coined the phrase that I heard. “Alone, you can only do so much. Together, you can make a difference in the world.” I’m a firm believer in that. It’s one of these things where I really lead with my heart. I’ve always led with my heart. When I went from higher education to Bill Austin, I was over at Northwestern, formally the College of Chiropractic. There for seven and a half years. I never thought I’d leave there. My best friend was running the college there. I was going to be there for the next twenty. I was doing all the alumni development relations and on the other hand, I was doing some business development with the CDI work and all that. And life was good. But at the same time, there was a different higher calling in my life. And that’s when I met Bill and Tani Austin, and that really became something where he became a mentor to me. He was able to shape and mold my life and holding onto his coattails is a fun ride, I gotta be honest with you because him and Tani Austin’s really do some amazing things. I remember when I first joined them back in 2009, they were doing 30 to 40 thousand hearing aids a year. That’s amazing. That grew to 50 thousand hearing aids in one year’s time.
BF: And then there was a commitment to action that was made to do 100 thousand hearing aids annually. Through this decade. And by the way, by 2020 a million hearing aids, they did that over six months ago.
BF: But you have to build the right team. You have to put the right players around you. It’s about putting the right players in the orchestra around you. You know, we’re only spokes in the wheel. I felt like I was one of these catalysts, if not a platform to help build that brand. Find the people who can come in. Architect a good team of players and just be a team member. At the end of the day, it’s not about me. It’s about what the mission and the purpose and the vision’s really about. Now I’m on the whole thing with the Circle of Life in Africa.
KL: Couple of huge takeaways there: you’re not a fundraiser. You’re a friend-raiser. I think whether you’re in a for-profit or a non-profit business, I think too many people are focused on being a fundraiser rather than a friend-raiser and building those connections. I love your point about wealthy in relationships. That’s amazing. Because it’s about more than just money and it’s about making that impact. Something that came up consistently as you were just talking there, and I think it’s really important to a lot of listeners, is the team aspect. I had talked about, a couple episodes ago, the difference between top-down leadership and bottom-up. In so many organizations you have some CEO or executive director that’s barking orders and nothing gets done in that sort of environment. Talk to me about the teams that you’ve been a part of, because you have a ton of humility and I love your bottom-up approach to leading an organization. Tell me what those teams looked like.
BF: It’s amazing because I’ve been involved in a lot of grass-roots type sort of things. Even though they’re big organizations like some of the higher ed and autism and all, they’re big organizations but they had no fundraising programs whatsoever. I love those types of programs because from there it’s the ground up. You can only build from there. I’m the type of guy, I’m going take a call, I don’t care if I need to clean the office, whatever it takes to get the job done. But you have to be purposeful with the people you surround yourself with. You find those that have the same passion and purpose who want to make that same impact as well. I think a lot of it has to do with the communication you have with those team members, making sure that they understand the mission, the purpose, the values, the ethos of what it’s about and they’re onboard with that because it’s going to spill over. I can only do so much. I’m only one person, right? Back to that point of, alone you can only do so much. Finding the right team players. Just an example, again, I’ll go back to the Starkey Hearing Foundation because I was there up until July 15th, we were taking calls all the time of new opportunities that were out there. It’s one thing to say, “Can you come to Ethiopia or can you do something in the West Bank and do a mission of peace and understanding,” but at the same time you have to find the right players to do that. It took a lot of team players on our team to make that happen. Lot of different roles and responsibilities there. I can never take the credit for that because we had a really strong team over at the Starkey Foundation and all the other organization’s I’ve been with. Advocacy is a big part of that. I believe that you get those people on point who all have different roles and responsibilities. I a lot of times what I’d do is — not spiritualizing it — become that preacher behind the pulpit, tell the story, find new opportunities, development’s not just fundraising, it’s developing opportunities. There’re awareness opportunities. No offense to celebrities, but I’m not too interested in celebrities. But if you’re a celebrity, what are you doing? The big thing about Starkey, they’re very purposeful, the type of celebrities they’d gotten involved. Ashton Kutcher, what do you do off the film screen with your work with trafficking and son on? He’s changing the world. Elton John, what’re you doing with your work with the AIDS Foundation, the Elton John AIDS Foundation? He’s changing the world. Richard Branson, off the business stage with his Virgin Unite Program, it was very strategic, intentionally, and purposeful with who we got involved with. That’s the beauty of what it’s about because they also provided their platforms to help build that. So not just the people that you work with, but the ones that you’re working together with that can provide that platforms that take things to a whole different level. It’s a combination of not just fundraising and development. It’s social media, it’s awareness, it’s branding, it’s getting that message of caring, sharing, dignity and respect. The end result, my friend? It’s hope.
KL: You know what? There’s so much to unpack there. But I love the part about the celebrity and the platform. I’ve been hearing a lot more about this platform that people have. And obviously I don’t have the platform the size of a —
BF: You are an A-list celebrity, my friend.
KL: Thank you. But I’m just trying to make a small difference with the platform that I have, and it’s why I put together this podcast, to give back. And I think there are so many people that are listening right now that have a platform, including myself, where we think our platform’s not big enough to make an impact. And every person that you impact is more of a difference than if you didn’t do anything.
BF: Thousand percent agree. By the way, I use the example of celebrity. It’s not about the celebrity. To me, anyone’s a celebrity for that matter. I’m talking about the young boy in Howard Lake who feels so strongly about what we’re doing with the foundation, who’s actually gone out of his way over the last fifteen years — I won’t mention the name — but the kid’s already raised over $40 thousand dollars.
BF: That, to me, is a celebrity.
FL: That’s right.
BF: And by the way, it’s not about how much you can give. Time is just as valuable as money.
KL: For sure.
BF: I’m talking about people who volunteer hours because ultimately, these people who all come together in this orchestra, this chamber orchestra that’s now become a philharmonic if you will, where they come together and they all have a different role and responsibility. That’s the way I work when I go to these different organizations. I haven’t done it much. I usually tend to stay places a long time and with my new role and as we’re building the team and architecting the team and the army to really make a difference for good, everyone plays a big part in it in a variety of different ways.
KL: You said something that really hit home for me. You said, “It’s not just about giving money.” I talked about this, I’ve talked about this so many times and I always say, “We have time, treasures, and talents. It’s to around our core values — it’s “be generous” at our company — and it’s to give back any of those. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s just giving money. I think people are too confused that they think they’re making a difference by writing a check. But for some people with the right platform, a check is the least significant thing they can actually do to make a difference. I love the “alone, you can only do so much.” It makes me think so much about the team in my company and how the incredible people that we have and we wouldn’t be where we are without all of those people.
BF: I’ll say something about you. First of all, I love your shirt. I want one of those. It says, “Be generous.” Guys, you need to order one of those. I need one of those. But you’re building your company on that philosophy. That’s what Bill Austin did. He built Starkey for that very reason. He didn’t build it to make money, just so you know. He built that so he could help people who maybe wouldn’t be able — the ones who can afford it, they could buy the hearing devices and the hearing technology and that’s the best you’re going to get. But the ones who can’t afford it from the very beginning, he’s been giving those away for many, many years and today that runs true and that company was built on that premise from a CSR module, the Corporate Social Responsibility of giving back. I believe, what you’ve done with your company, that’s why I believe the more you give the more you receive. I don’t care what religion you believe in. It’s about giving back and being generous. It comes back and then some.
KL: That’s right. You’ve obviously made a big impact in your life up to this point. There’s also been some people who’ve made a huge impact in your life and I’m curious — you’ve had the opportunity to travel all over the world and make an impact for so many — do you have a story about someplace you traveled where it made a significant impact in your life?
BF: Yeah. I mean, it all depends on if you’re talking about actual moments in my life where, on the road in Africa or wherever it may be or if it’s actually working with some person who I consider a mentor. Let me give you some examples.
BF: Yeah. I jokingly blame Garth Brooks for this one: Garth Brooks is a big fan of Bill Austin and the Starkey Foundation and Tani and the work they’re doing and they’ve been supportive of each other and that’s the beauty of Bill. Not only what he’s doing with the foundation, he supports other good causes, but Garth had talked about some work we wanted to do in Israel. There’s the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv and Tel HaShomer. It’s a hospital known without boundaries, right? He does these zones. Actually, Kyle Rudolph is involved with one of the zones here at the children’s hospital. They do these zones throughout the U.S. It’s really good because it’s a place where a kid can be a kid. There’re no needles, nothing like that. It’s just the medicine of family, the medicine of understanding how a kid can be a kid when they’re going through a rough time. He had said, “We should do some work in Israel.” Bill Austin sent me over there back in 2011, around that range, just before then. I went over there, met with the hospital and all and, again, knowing them as a hospital without boundaries, helping people in the West Bank and throughout Africa and that region. It’s sort of the Mayo, if you will, for the area. So they talked about a lot — I was doing a mission there and it was great. Met with all the key players: the CEO and everything else. Flew all the way back to Minnesota and there was Bill Austin, as he always is when he’s not on a mission, right there in the corner, working on the hearing aids, working on the molds. He’s there until 2, 3 in the morning every night.
BF: This guy is a machine.
BF: You know, I jokingly call him Gandalf the White Wizard. He’s like a father to me. He’s like — true mentor in my life. He said, “How did it go?” I said, “It was great. We’re going to do some missions and help some of the people in Israel there, some of the bedouins who maybe wouldn’t be able to get the help there” and so on and so forth. And you know what he said to me? He looks at me and he goes, “What about the Palestinians?” I’m like, “Good point.” I flew all the way back. I go all, I get on a plane. I get back and we sat down, and I said, “You know, you guys are a hospital known as a hospital without boundaries, about peace and understanding. We’re happy to help the folks here in Israel, but what about your neighbors next door.” And it was at that time where the Arab Spring broke out, back in 2011, you remember that? It was a hot bed out there. The clouds were encroaching in that area and Bill Austin really felt strongly about the clouds of darkness. Let’s shine some light. That began our first Mission of Peace and Understanding ever. We actually worked with the former president, Shimon Peres’ son-in-law, Raphael Waldon who did a lot of work in the West Bank and the — so here were Americans, Palestinians, and Israelis who came together, Starkey Foundation and these two other groups came together, and you could have cut the tension with the knife when we first went to that gate going into the West Bank. Matter of fact, the Israelis who were with us had to sign a waiver saying if they’re taken, killed, or whatever it’s not Israel’s responsibility. They’re not allowed there. It was the first of its kinds and here’s Bill Austin, through the gift of hearing, had helped to architect peace and understanding. There are memories like that that stand in my mind and I have thousands of those, bro. I’m talking about in the Western bush of Kenya where families were walking 20, 30 hours and it’s a family of four boys and this one kid had never heard because he was born with malaria. You know, there are certain strains of malaria that cause hearing loss or, “Here, take this quinine, it’s going to cure your malaria. By the way, it’s going to wipe out your hearing.” So when you have malaria and those types of diseases in developing world countries, sometimes you’re sort of shunned and isolated from society. And here they come all the way, walking 20, 30 hours and there’s a little pressure when they’re sitting down on your chair and you’re going to give them the gift of hearing, you’re hoping and praying to God it’s going to happen. And you see the eyes light up — it’s almost like they won mega-millions. They don’t need the mega millions, 1.6 billion. That, to them, was the life-changing experience. Same thing with my whole career. Helping these children who now have an opportunity to get a job with autism and development disabilities, and now the work that I’m doing in Africa with Mr. Paul Tudor Jones, with our African Community and Conservation Foundation, giving people a chance, teaching them how to fish, you know, protecting the wildlife that’s there and so on and so forth. For me, it’s about those types of experiences in life that are making true impact.
KL: Through the Starkey Foundation and through the different nonprofits that you’ve been through, you’ve met a lot of people.
KL: And you’ve met some really high-profile people. Who made the biggest impact on you throughout the years?
BF: I would say, and not to go political on it because I can go both sides of the aisle, I would say two people: President George W. Bush and President Clinton.
BF: And by the way, they’re very close. They get along quite well. They’ve been on some of the Starkey galas and so forth. But they don’t just talk about the work. They do the work. They’re both really entrenched into the world, but also Africa’s been a big part and a big focus for their life. To see them do what they do, what President Bush did with PEPFAR, helping to sort of bring AIDS down to a different level. It’s not as bad as it was in Africa. It’s still bad. But because of what he’d done there. President Clinton, with this whole Clinton Global Initiative, so many different things he’s done for the world. I’ve been able to see them in action. I’ve been that true caring and sharing spirit in their eyes, the compassion that they have for the people. It wasn’t a PR move, a PR stunt and wag the dog type thing. They were there for the right reasons and we actually got to see the work they were doing. I would say those are two incredible individuals, but the list is long.
KL: Yeah, of course.
BF: I can go athletes on you to entertainers.
KL: Of course.
BF: They’re all doing some great work.
KL: That’s the beautiful thing about those two individuals. There is true passion and just doing good. And I think our world needs more of that. Whatever your views are, let’s all come together and make an impact and it’s been fun to watch both sides of that and the impact that they’ve made. When we first met, I did a ton of research on Starkey. I looked on Twitter. I see all these posts. I see all these things. I looked at all of the people that went out of their way to wish happy birthday to Bill Austin. That says something in itself. I mean, these are the highest profile people in the entire world.
BF: And that’s a good point. That’s why he is my hero. There is three heroes in my life: my father, I respected Billy Graham, just a man who was a simpleton who really cared about people, and Bill Austin. Those are the people I’ve respected in life. But again, it’s a testament to who he is. The guy is there 24/7. He’s been to more than 103 countries, changing the world. It’s never once been about him. It’s been about that caring and that sharing message. He has created a viral movement that has changed the world. His platform and his art is hearing. OK? And there are so many others, like the guy I’m working for, Paul Tudor Jones. Same thing. He’s very much a Bill-Austin-type person where he’s doing that in Africa, where he’s protecting the wildlife but he’s helping the people in all different areas: health, education, small business enterprise, and so on and so forth. But you’re right, to the point that people understand that Bill Austin’s always been about doing the right thing for the right reasons, and that’s why people get engaged and get involved. I think that’s an important thing that says a lot about the man.
KL: A lot of people in your position would have never left the environment you were in. I mean, you were making an impact at the highest level. You planned, maybe, to be at Northwestern College for the rest of your career and then the Starkey opportunity showed up, and now ACCF. So what made you decide to make this change?
BF: Well, it’s interesting how things come about in life and I believe that things happen for the right reasons in life. It was one of these things where Mr. Paul Tudor Jones, who’s the patron of the ACCF, which is the African Community and Conservation Foundation, and the team had learned about some of the work I’d done with the Starkey Foundation and just really more about my development career. They’d approached me awhile back about, you know, here’s some of the work that they’re doing. Knowing where Starkey’s at today, there is true sustainability. I mean, five continents. 103 countries. 66 of those countries now have sustainable programs that will go on for a lifetime. There is a machine that’s going on there. It’s become a world hearing healthcare plan. The team is strong there. When this opportunity presented itself, I’m a big believer in conservation, anti-poaching and wildlife management. I will write out a nice check for that and I believe in it. I would never leave the Starkey Hearing Foundation for that. OK? Now, where you’ve got my interest is when you add the circle of life into that. It’s never been done in the world. There’re a lot of great organizations out there that are working in wildlife management, anti-poaching and conservation. None of them are doing human impact as well. That’s the circle of life for me, my friend. I’ve been doing human impact work for the last 25 years. Education, higher education, autism, developmental disabilities, hearing and so on and so forth. So for me to now be able to say, “I can actually go to parts of Africa where they’ve got these properties.” And surrounding these properties, where they’re 95 thousand people or 50 thousand or 18, 20 thousand people in villages where there is nothing. I’m talking water that’s in front of you right now — it’s dirty. It’s water-born illness. It can cause death. OK? When you talk about the true needs assessments in parts of Africa, whether it’s AIDS, malaria, all different types of health initiatives that have gone wrong, the education side of these things where these kids wouldn’t have an opportunity otherwise, you know? Now there’s technology. There’re schools that could be built. The education side is a whole different animal of opportunity there. You know, you talk about empowerment programs. You talk about business development and small business enterprise, you know. You have an opportunity to get a job. We don’t want them to have to keep poaching and going after the elephants and the rhinos. It’s getting to the point of extinction, and unfortunately some people in different countries are paying these people to do that and they’re taking a chance and risking their lives. They don’t want to poach. OK? So how can wildlife and humanity work together in coexistence? To me, that’s very intriguing to me. It’s an opportunity to really get that message out and they have a lot of influencers and people have been involved. Mr. Paul Tudor Jones founded organizations like the Robin Hood Foundation — you’ve heard about them, I mean. They’re knocking out homelessness and poverty in New York City. I mean, they’re raising millions and millions of dollars to make a true impact in people’s lives. The Everglade’s Foundation or the other organizations he’s working on, and now there’s an opportunity to bless the rains in Africa on the circle of life of programs? I’m really excited about it and already we’re laser-focused in Tanzania. Our work will go into Rwanda, Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and also in South Africa. I jokingly say I’m part African because over the last 10 years I’ve probably been to Africa 10, 20 times a year.
KL: Wow. Yeah. Amazing.
BF: So it’s sort of like a second hand to me. I know it quite well. Already, we’re building that orchestra to come together on this. It’s going viral. We’re really excited about it and I can’t wait to see what the future looks like.
KL: You mentioned sustainability and I’ve heard this from other friends too who’ve done a lot of nonprofit work, and earlier you said, “We’re going to teach them to fish, not give them the fish.”
KL: And I think that that’s the mistake that’s been made so often in the world is that we give something to someone, but we don’t teach them how to be sustainable. And you left Starkey and you mentioned that it’s going to be sustainable and they’re at a point where they’re going to be just fine. And I’ve watched so many times where — I mean, we give them the fish and we don’t teach them how to fish and it’s temporary and it’s the short game and it’s not the long game. Tell me more about the sustainability of everything that you’ve tried to do in your life.
BF: Yeah, and really everything I’ve tried to do has really been the team effort going back to that. But on the Starkey side of things, that’s the beauty of who Bill and Tani Austin are about. Like Tani, when she really looked at what sustainability looks like for the Starkey Foundation, it was not just relying on friends in these countries or groups to say, “I want to volunteer my time. I want to help with the aftercare.” That can’t happen now, right? Because it’s not the person’s fault that they maybe got a new job, someone in the family passed away or something changed in that environment.
BF: We had to build a program that Tani Austin really took the lead with Bill’s leadership and the Foundation came together and said, “We need to have people on the group who’ll be able to do that.” That’s where the sustainability came into play to the point where, over the last three, four years, she spent nearly 250 to 270 days a year going there to empower these people to be able to understand the model at the Starkey Foundation, the four-phase model they worked on. That’s the way it works with all different types of programs that are successful. They way we’re going to be working at it with ACCF is we’re bringing in other nonprofits that I’ve vetted out, that I’ve worked together with over my long career who are coming in to help with water. You know? It’s not just a one-off deal. We don’t want to do the one-off projects where you gave them the handoff but next thing you know, a year later, whatever happened with that program? So we’re looking to bring in programs that have a strong record that we’ve score-carded out, like, “Hey listen, we want to make sure if you’re bringing in water it’s something that is sustainable and it’s something that could be scalable and it’s something that can expand in the area.” Same thing on the side of all different types of health initiatives. We’re bringing, we’re already working with a number of organizations throughout all of Africa and throughout all these areas that I was telling you about, and of course, in the education side, we’ve got it locked and loaded already in those areas so we’re going to be able to incorporate that into all those countries. On the wildlife conservation, anti-poaching side, we’ve been very, very fortunate — that’s a big thing there. What’s interesting about ACCF — if you get a chance, check out our website, it’s just AfricanCCF.org — many of the anti-poaching scouter units we have? They were poachers. OK? These are the guys who used to poach. Think about this: these are the ones who are now going out looking for the poachers. There’s no one better than that. They’ve got K9 unites, which many of these dogs would have been euthanized in Montana. They’re now over in Africa and they’re part of the K9 units working with the anti-poachers to find these poachers who are out there. And then, you know, God rest his soul, Paul Allen was a big part of our work in Tanzania. His Vulcan program, they had the drone programs where thermal-seeking, heat-seeking drones — they actually go out at night. That’s just at Tanzania. But then there’s all different types of anti-poaching units we have over there. So at the end of the day, it’s the empowerment of these people, making sure you vet out these organizations, and we’re going to look to bring in and plug and play the ones that are doing good work.
KL: I love that you’re getting other nonprofits involved. A lot of companies are focused on the short-gain wins just for that organization, where you totally understand the long-game of “I have to bring in other partners so we can make a bigger impact and make it sustainable.” Tell me about that, because most other organizations don’t think that way. They think about what can benefit that organization, and I’ve never seen a nonprofit where it’s like, “Let’s bring in other nonprofits that are maybe better at something that we don’t specialize in or where we can make a bigger impact.”
BF: Absolutely. I’ve learned over my career, collective impact is what it’s about. It’s not competition, it’s co-opetition. Collective impact. It’s something I learned with the whole Clinton Global Initiative but I learned it even before then, understanding how people can come together to make a difference. Again, coming back to that philosophy that alone, you can only do so much. You know, that really is important to me because what we’re doing with ACCF is we’re raising, we’re a platform to raise awareness and support for the circle of life, not just on the wildlife side, but on the human impact side of things. Community. Conservation. We’re bringing in good organizations like even locally here, Matters’ done a great job when it comes to hospital equipment, medical equipment. They do agriculture as well. And they’re also working on innovation in a hub with Apple. That’s a good organization, a natural fit where we can bring them in, they can work with us where they’re already overlapping. You don’t have to re-invent the wheel here. They’re already mapping out in areas like Zimbabwe and Mozambique and other parts of Tanzania where it makes sense. So my team and some of these other NGOs are coming together and that’s just one example of many, many. There are literally dozens of nonprofits I’ll be working together with. There are so many great organizations from the Matt Damon & Water.org to, you know, what the Pitt family’s doing with WorldServe and all that. There’re so many good organizations that come in and they bring a plethora and a sustainable model that works. We’ll be doing that with a variety, not just of the NGOs, but the right companies. How to mix and match that makes sense. You know, Cargill does a lot of that type of work with agriculture and all that sort of stuff where there’s a perfect fit here, or Land O’Lakes and so on and so forth, right in our own community, by the way. We’re partnering with good organizations, not just here domestically in the U.S., and companies, but also some that are doing global work as well.
KL: Amazing, my friend. Amazing. I think too many people think individually about what their gain is in their company or as a business leader and so many people are so focused on what benefits them that I’m proud of you and I think that so many of our listeners are going to gain so much from hearing that. So you start this new position —
BF: Three months!
KL: You’re really starting over, right? But you’re a fundraiser, or a friend-raiser, and you’ve got a lot of people, a lot of connections that are going to help you get this off the ground quite. So I’m interested to see, as you’ve thought through this, where do you start? What are the first things that you have to tackle in this new position?
BF: Three words: plan, plan, and plan. I’m literally just over three months into this and we have been putting all of our playbooks together. You have to have a strong business plan and you have to have good people around you. Been very fortunate. Even though we’re a small, nonprofit, startup with only three of us, we’re very fortunate in that we have offices in the East Coast as well as in Africa that are doing this sort of work and they’re coming together on our plan, executing what the marketing plan looks like, the PR plan, the social media plan, case in point, I told you Facebook earlier. Zero followers five months ago. Nearly 21,000 now. We want to expand that with your audience and so on and so forth so that people can learn more about it.
KL: What’s the — how do they look that up?
BF: Yeah, if you go to African Community & Conservation Foundation on Facebook, you can like us and follow us and learn more about it. Of course, our website went live just last week and it’s just www.AfricanCCF.org. It really takes a team to make that happen. We’ve really worked hard at architecting that plan because, ultimately, the social media, marketing, and PR come together, but the end result is the development side of it all, right? The awareness and the development go hand in hand. So already we’ve been — some low-hanging fruit where it’s there, we see the opportunity that’s there. When you’re starting a nonprofit like this, you’ve got to have a variety of multilateral channels of fundraising, right? They always used to say the old 80-20 rule? I beg to differ. I think it’s the 90-10 rule. 10% of the money comes from 90% of the people. If you think about millennials today, they have a whole different focus on the way they want to fundraise. They’re lots of different trends that show that and they’re lots of analytics that behind that. A lot of it has to do with social media, call to action. That’s why I’m going to be working really hard at getting the right influencers, the right people that some of these kids look up to that are engaged, they want to be a part of it. Listen, if they want to write a check out themselves, fine, I’ll take it. But more important to me is their platform. How do they use their platform for good? I don’t care if it’s someone who’s been successful, like yourself, in business and you’re using this beautiful platform already by doing that. You’re already doing that. That’s an important thing for the younger generation and people in the business community just to learn form, and kudos to you for that. But there’re a lot of good folks out there that are doing that sort of same thing and we’re going to get them engaged with that and also expose these people to some of the good work they’re involved with as well. It’s a good thing. It’s a two-way street and everyone’s trying to make a difference in this world. But a lot of this has had to do with the planning. Like I said, nonprofit startup? Risk-reduction at the beginning, right? As we bless the rains in Africa and it starts to rain in a good way, ’cause when it rains in Africa, that’s a good thing, by the way. It’s so dry over there. So when it rains, they dance. They’re in the streets and everything else. That’s what’s going to happen. Once it happens, you expand based on that. For me, the risk-reward is not how successful you are but the impact you’re actually going to be able to make and the metrics of that and being able to see the lives that are changed and the fact that we can protect these animals that are nearly on the verge of extinction if we don’t watch it.
KL: What’s happening right now in the world is things are changing are a very fast pace. You mentioned social media. You mentioned millennials, the younger generations and how they do things is significantly different. What is your plan in your organization to combat that? Because what I’m seeing is a lot of people that can directly make an impact to a story that pops up on their social media, the GoFundMe’s of the world and those types of websites that have significantly changed the way that certain generations give.
BF: Peer-to-peer fundraising’s a big, big deal, and like I tell you about this kid in Western Minnesota who raises 15, 20, 30 grand, you don’t have to have $500, $10,000 or $5,000 dollars to make an impact. You can actually reach out to your friends through social media now. We’ve actually created our own fundraising website. It’s through everdayhero. On our website you can learn all about that. Again, just AfricanCCF.org. But we already have people already working on that.
BF: Right now, we’re going into the schools. We’ve got partnership already with a lot of different leaders that are within thousands of schools that are wanting to learn more about not just the wildlife conversation and anti-poaching side of things, but also now this model of what true conservation and human impact looks like now. So we’re already going to be working with some of these influencers to getting into the schools because these kids want to be engaged, they want to be involved, and whether they want to come with us on a trip to Africa, on a Safari with a Purpose, or just help to make sure that we can protect humanity, protect Africa, because it is a jewel. Africa is trending in such a good direction. The density of the population’s gone on a whole different level. We have to address these areas so we can make sure that these people have livelihoods moving forward, a sustainable future, so that they can help provide for their own families for generations to come. You know, everything from the health to the education on that side of things, but also on the protection of the wildlife. We’re providing a lot of that. Social media is a big, big part of what we’re doing.
KL: You’ve mentioned multiple times that, alone you can only do so much. Our audience has grown significantly and we have people that are emerging business leaders and we have people that listen to this that are some of the most successful business leaders in the entire country.
KL: How can people that are listening at all those different levels, how can they get involved in what you’re doing in Africa?
BF: Well, I mean, there’s a variety of ways. If someone were to say, “Hey listen. I’d love to go on a meaningful, purposeful trip. I’ve never been to Africa. I’d love to see Africa. We are doing those. They’re called a Safari with a Purpose. We have them in Tanzania. We’ll be expanding into Rwanda, Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Already, there are groups of folks that are joining us, anywhere from 6 to 10 people that come over. It’s like any other thing that you’d see at a school or a university or a church or synagogue or a mosque where people raise money to go on a mission trip, if you will. We have volunteers who come, who give up their time. We’ll be doing these Safaris with a Purpose. You’ll get to see the beauty of the land. You get to see the beautiful Serengeti in the Western Corridor there. It’s sort of the Garden of Eden, bro. I can’t wait to bring you. I know we talked about that. You get to see the beauty. You get to see the Big Five. You get to see the animals. But you know what? Let’s have a little purpose while we’re here. So in the afternoon, let’s go follow the K9 unit, these dogs who would have been euthanized, and it’s almost like the show Cops. We’re going to look for poachers, you know? How cool is that? You get to see the money that you raised in action. Or, the next day after you’ve seen some of the animals, let’s go out and see the schools where these girls have homes, they have a new facility where they’re actually getting technology that’s not collecting dust and not working. It’s in good working order and it’s now giving these opportunities because these people are young. They need to be shaped and molded now for their future. We want people to be able to experience that, so we’re going on these trips. But at the same time, you know, on our website, just AfricanCCF.org, there’s a donate page there. People can get engaged in a variety of different levels. There’re are a variety of different levels that people can support at whatever level. I don’t care if it’s a dollar, $5 dollars, $500 or $5 thousand dollars. You know, everyone can be a part of that. You can make a difference in Africa. You don’t have to live in Africa to care about the people of Africa and the plight of Africa and what’s going to be happening with the extinction of the animals if we don’t address that. I don’t know if you knew that, but unfortunately there are countries that hire these poachers and they take the ivory from the elephants and the rhinos because of their ‘medicinal,’ ‘aphrodisiac’ or status jewelry, they’re slaughtering these animals. It’s a terrible things. We’ve counteracted that. It’s a safe haven on our properties. But then there’s an even bigger thing that’s going on these days and it’s the human-wildlife conflict that’s happening. Our animals know that this is the garden of Eden because it’s a safe place to be. If you go into the Serengeti National Park, there’s still a lot of poaching. It can be a scary place to be. They tend to stay in our areas. But there’s also 25 or 23 communities surrounding our areas. It’s not the elephant’s fault that they see the maze of the corn there in the distance and they maybe go in there and start eating — that’s like candy cane, right?
BF: Well, the villagers, that’s their livelihood. They come out and they might take the animal and kill it. We’re working on the community education on that side of things as well. You know there’s a trailer on our website that’s called the Edge of Existence. It’s something that’s going to be featured on a documentary on Netflix coming out and it’s address that human-wildlife conflict. There’s a variety of ways that people can get engaged. The nice thing about ACCF is, if you want to restrict it towards wildlife and anti-poaching — Peter Taunton from Snap Fitness. He’s done that Liberty by the Lake.
BF: Well, as you know, he’s got a great heart for safari and the anti-poaching movement that’s going on. He’s got property himself in Tanzania, a prop plane 10 minutes away from our property. Here he is, raising money for us.
KL: I love it.
BF: And the reason why? Because he believes in the anti-poaching movement. We don’t want to have the extinction of these animals. There’s an event there that’s going to be happening here, locally, even for those who maybe won’t want to get engaged. I hear it’s a great event. I’m really excited about it. I know Tim McGraw, for the last couple of years, has been the entertainment, and we’re working on some really big ones this year. It’ll be a part of that whole Twin Cities Summer Jam that weekend of July 20th. But they’re a variety of different ways and you can go to our website and learn all about it.
KL: We always share our podcast episodes on our Behind the Billboard Facebook page. So when we post this episode on the Facebook page — if you don’t follow it, go and follow Behind the Billboard. When we post this, the first thousand dollars in donations, we’re going to match at Kris Lindahl Real Estate. When you go to the page and you see Brady Forseth and you see our episode, just in the comments section below, just type in the amount that you donated and then the first thousand we’ll donate. We can raise $2,000 dollars.
BF: Thank you. Thank you so much. I’m a big believer in that. I love a compounding opportunity when you come together, you make a difference and you know, two is better than one, right? And you take it to a different level. The only other thing I’d say is in November, coming up, Giving Tuesday, November 27th, and people have the ability to do that there. But they’re just a variety of ways. Kris, I’m so grateful to you and I’m excited about taking you to Africa with me. I know it’ll be something where Tanzania might be your first rumble, but we’ll get you on board with Africa.
KL: I’m really excited about it. I’m excited to see what people I know or don’t know post in the comment section how much they donated to the cause? That’s what I’m always fascinated about because, as you know, social media and a platform.
BF: It can go viral.
KL: It can just connect with so many people and I love the relationships that I build through these platforms.
KL: So I’m excited to see who’s going to step up and do that. There’s something I wanted to ask you because you’re a super-busy guy. You’re always flying around. You’re on the phone. Every time I talk to you, it’s like boom-boom-boom. You’re constantly going. What does your day-to-day look like?
BF: You know, because I deal with Africa, it’s eight hours ahead, so it starts early, bro.
KL: No kidding.
BF: And it ends late.
KL: Do you sleep?
BF: I sleep a little bit. Sleep’s important but probably not the full eight, nine, ten hours that most people get. But that’s OK. You know, I learned one thing from Bill Austin and many others in my life, and not to spiritualize anything, but when your spiritual tank is full, you can keep going. Right? Whatever purpose-type of work you’re involved with, that’s what gets me going. But I probably get a good five, six hours a night. But for me, it’s a full day of calls, it’s meeting, it’s emails, it’s follow-through and follow-up. Over my last nine and a half years with Starkey, put a lot of miles on the planes, trains, and automobiles. I go to where there are people who want to make a difference and that’s what I pretty much do throughout the world. I’ve had the pleasure of being in nearly 80 countries over the last nine and a half years. I feel like I know Bill and Tani Austin are global activists and I feel like a global citizen of the world now. We’re seven billion brothers and sisters together in this world. We’ve got to make the world a better place.
KL: I totally agree.
BF: For me, you know, it’s connectivity because 70% of the people who go to Tanzania, to some of these destination get-aways, they’re from the U.S. anyways. I spend a lot of time in the U.S. now, traveling abroad in the U.S., not as much as I used to do with Starkey over in the Middle East or Latin America. But where I’m going to be going with some of these countries is where they’ve got a heart for this type of model on the wildlife, humanity side of things on the circle of life. So it goes non-stop. You know how it is. Spin 30 plates, 30 marbles on every plate and don’t let the marbles fall. But you also have to prioritize and reprioritize in life, as you know. You can’t always keep everything moving forward and you always have to stick with the best ideas that make the best sense and be laser-focused on that and stay to the course. Stay true to the mission, the purpose, and the authenticity and the genuine sincerity of what you’re doing in life and give people hope.
KL: Amazing. You mentioned spiritual tank full and after that you said your purpose, your mission, and there’s got to be a bigger purpose about why you’re doing what you’re doing. If you don’t have those other reasons why you’re doing this, if you don’t have direction that’s bigger than the vehicle of what you’re doing today, you end up burnt out. You know? I love that you say that because I think there’re so many people listening that can really take that and focus on what do they actually stand for. I was at a point in my life, early on in my career, where I had no idea why I was doing what I was doing. I was in real estate, I was selling house, I was a maniac, I was at the top level, and I had no purpose to anything that I was doing. I think that was one issue that a lot of people — when I look at organizations and I walk into organizations, I can feel it. You can feel if there’s a higher purpose to what they’re doing and so many organizations are just after that money and not after that impact or they don’t have that bigger purpose, so I’m so glad that you mentioned that. There’s another part to this that’s really, really is important for me and I think important for so many and I know you and that’s joy. There has to be some joy in what you do in life, whether it’s personal or professional. What brings you joy?
BF: Well, what brings me joy is to see a plan come together and see the true impact that it’s making on what I’m doing and obviously I’ve already seen, in less than three months in Africa. Seeing that there are now going to be schools employed in parts of Mozambique and literally, in less than three months, all of a sudden Apple’s getting involved and seeing that, I know that 300 kids are going to be able to go to this school on a daily basis when they have nothing. I’m talking kids that have a stick and are writing in the dirt and so on. There is nothing and now we’ve given them hope. To me, that gives me joy. To know that these people now in these communities are going to have a chance to get a job, be a farmer again instead of going out there and poaching. I can tell you, some parts of Africa, you poach, you’re either going to get shot or you’re going to be going into jail for life.
BF: They don’t want to do that.
BF: They just want to have a job. They just want to provide for their family. They want their kids to learn from them and help provide for their future families as well. For us to be able to get these young and impressionable kids at a young age? These kids can actually go back and educate their family and their parents and so on and so forth. So to me, that gives me joy. What’s given me joy over my career? Being an advocate for these kids who wouldn’t advocate for themselves. Helping to give someone hearing so they can reconnect with their family and that family becomes a part of the community and that community becomes a part of the world. To me, that’s what gives me joy. That’s what keeps me going. It has to be something where it gives you energy and that energy spills off to everyone else. It can’t be sucking your energy dry. I’m only involved in that sort of thing. For me, it’s not about the money. It’s never been about the money because I don’t have the money. At the end of the day, it’s really, where I’m wealthy is where I feel good about my spiritual tank. And again, it’s not a spiritual, Christian thing. It’s really about, in my heart, what feels good about giving back?
KL: You’ve mentioned that multiple times throughout this episode: lead with the heart. Connect with the heart. I think that’s one thing, for people listening, you have to make sure you have some connection with your heart to what you’re doing because if it’s just all, “Let me make more money,” or “Here’s what I’m trying to do,” and you don’t have that emotional connection to what you’re doing? At some point, you’re going to fall flat on your face and burn out. I just want to really thank you for being on the podcast. I’ve got one last question: we have people from brand-new, emerging business leaders like I said earlier, all the way to really successful business leaders. What would be final advice that you would give for people that would appeal to everyone trying to get to the next level? And next level doesn’t mean next level of success or net worth or any of those things. Just to that next level of making an impact of this world.
BF: Get engaged. Get involved because you’re hearing about great causes I’ve been a part of but they’re so many good organizations out there that are out there doing some great work. Sometimes I think there’s a lot of apathy for people who sit back and just think, “I’m into the usual daily thing. It’s time to go to work.” You come home, have dinner, go to bed. You got to think outside the box. You got to think about — by the way, maybe it’s thinking about your family, you know? Do more with the family. Get out there. Think about other ways you can get engaged, get involved, whether it’s with our organization or another NGO, nonprofit that’s making a difference in their community and the world. Engagement is important because that’s what’s going to move this country forward. It’s going to move this world forward together. That’s where you make a difference in the world. We can make the world a better place. We can shine our light. I think that’ll be important. That’s the biggest thing I think people — I see around the world, in the U.S., I’ve been in Africa and all these trips that I’ve done, and these kids, in a lot of cases, are more happy than the kids we see here in the United States. Why? Because we have so much, we have here in the U.S., whether it’s the technology or whatever it may be. I think for parents, being able to help your kids understand that there’s a big world out there, there’s a community around there and people who will need help, and I think that caring and sharing makes you feel better and you feel a lot more purpose in your life.
KL: Thank you for being here, Brady. If you love this episode, make sure to go and share it on social media. I think this could make a big impact. It’s not about doing this alone. It’s being together. Together is how we’re going to make a difference and this world needs togetherness more than ever right now. Go ahead and share this episode, leave a rating, leave a comment for Brady. I appreciate you being here. This was a unique opportunity to have you in the studio with me. Make sure to subscribe to our podcast and final thought: don’t forget, the first thousand dollars in donation, I’m going to match at the Behind the Billboard Facebook page. When you see this episode posted, you’ll see Brady. You’ll see his smiley face. We’re going to take a picture after this. You’ll see his face. Comment how much you donated and our company, Kris Lindahl Real Estate, will match the first thousand in donations. Brady, thank you so much for being here.
OUTRO: If you loved this episode, give us a great review, subscribe, and share us socially so we can spread the word and build the community of difference-makers. If there’s a leader who inspires you, send your suggestions for future guests to Kris’s team at BehindTheBillboard.com so we can get better.