To succeed in nonprofit market, get involved in nonprofits

Atlanta broker Ed Gillman says selling into nonprofits begins with getting to know their work and issues—and genuinely caring about what they do

Non-Profits & Charities


“We are problem solvers; that’s what we do. Nobody calls us just to say hi and let’s have lunch. Usually they have a problem they need fixed,” said Ed Gillman, chief problem solver at Gillman Insurance Problem Solvers in metro Atlanta.

The company, founded in 1993, gets a small but important part of its business from the approximately 100 nonprofit clients it works with.

He said the agency has built its nonprofit business the old fashioned way, by getting involved in nonprofits, creating relationships and understanding and caring about the work done by its nonprofit clients. When you do that, he said, word travels fast as nonprofit leaders rely on each other for advice on things like insurance.

“They talk, and when we become someone’s trusted advisor, they refer other organizations to us. I think that is much more likely to happen in the nonprofit world than say in healthcare or technology,” Gillman said.

“You have to pay your dues, and learn from the inside out, what the real deal is with the nonprofits you want to work with. What are they going through on a daily basis? What are their issues in managing risks? They don’t know they are managing risk but they are.

“If you love giving back and working in the community, then this is a great business. If you like helping people and having an impact, then you might be the kind of person who will do well selling insurance to nonprofits. If you don’t care about giving back to the community, if that doesn’t float your boat, then you are doing a disservice to them,” he said.

The challenge of selling to nonprofits, he said, is that many of them don’t have a lot of money and their primary focus is on the work they do.

“They know they should have insurance but they don’t have the resources. Their biggest focus is fulfilling their mission; that is their focus. The bigger they are, the more they are ready for insurance.  A lot of small players are one-armed paperhangers just trying to keep it up and running. Their intentions are the best,” he said, “but it is not always easy for them to write the check. A lot of them look at insurance as an expense not a savings,” he said.

In terms of trends in coverage, or emerging risks, he said, “Management liability and cyber liability are the big things in nonprofit coverage right now, but we are also seeing more in employment practices. EPL (employment practices liability) is coming up a lot as well.”

He said cyber coverage is an area people want to talk about and learn about. He said a lot of nonprofits work with government agencies and may need to show proof of cyber coverage to get those contracts.

“Cyber is a very worrisome issue, especially for nonprofits because they deal with such sensitive information,” Gillman said.

He said a lot of nonprofits are concerned about crime, especially theft of funds. He said that in the Atlanta area, there seems to be a story once a month or so about a volunteer or staff member stealing money from a nonprofit they work at. “Most of them don’t do audits very often so they don’t notice when smaller amounts are taken repeatedly over a period of time, but it adds up, and they are concerned and know they need coverage,” he said.

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