Bethenny Frankel is acutely aware that raising money can be a chore, even for the most successful fundraising efforts.
The podcast host and entrepreneur is leading a huge campaign for Ukrainian relief through her BStrong initiative in partnership with Global Empowerment Mission. She balances many things: getting the message out, asking for donations, informing people, but not overwhelming them or turning them off.
Frankel stated that Michael Capponi, my partner, was knee-deep in the matter. Frankel said, “He’s on ground in Poland and wants all day to post about it and what he sees. I have to temper that by saying, ‘We must give them a break.
Frankel sold Skinnygirl (the cocktail brand she founded) for $100 million in 2011. She still owns the brand and has expanded it to include everything, from sunglasses to popcorn to jeans to sunglasses. BStrong has raised $85 million, more than the $100 million target for Ukrainian aid. She claims it is her business knowledge that makes BStrong succeed.
Frankel stated, “I am good at marketing so I know when to hold them and when to fold them. That is part of the messaging.” Frankel added, “Also don’t make people feel bad about what’s happening in their lives… Give them hope. First, you tell them how awful it is. Next, you tell them how bad it is. Then, you explain that we are trying to help and then show results.
Representatives from BStrong, Global Empowerment Mission, and Global Empowerment Mission arrived within two days in Medyka (Poland) to distribute crisis kits to the refugees who had crossed the border. They also secured warehouses in Poland and Hungary to store supplies. They quickly discovered that many people needed assistance with travel, so they started booking cars, trains, and planes for them to get them there.
Over Zoom, Frankel explained how their initiative to pivot in Ukraine is different from other initiatives. She said that the dark circles under her eyes in Connecticut are now tattoos. This interview was edited to be more concise and clear.
Q: What is the difference between this effort and previous crises?
A: We are still cleaning up after the hurricane. Every day, the issues are changing. In the beginning, I wanted to send crisis kits to people crossing the border. They would be refugees who need blankets and chargers. It’s now about rescuing people from Ukraine. Our partners, Aerial Recovery Group are ex-Green Berets who were military and can help us get in with vans to extract those who are under siege.
Q: Does it happen often that you can pivot like this?
A: This is the difference between us & the big orgs. My friends who serve on boards of major foundations say that they can’t move as fast as you because they only have one model. We are all together. We have trucks. We also have forklifts. We also have warehouses. We have the military. We have travel organizations. We are very organized and have lots going on.
Q: Do the donations come mainly from celebrities or wealthy people, or are they made by everyday people who have smaller donations?
A: Every effort is unique. I received money from Ellen DeGeneres for planes and money from Steve Harvey to buy a plane. Celebrities donated money. It was 90% donated by average-salary Americans. This was a $50 effort. It’s amazing because $50 donations can bring you to $85,000,000. Billy and Alexis Joel, Matthew McConaughey, and David Tepper, owner of the Carolina Panthers are the only people well-known to have donated.
Q: What would you say about your role in this project?
A: I am like the CEO. If we do this, it is my decision. Because I don’t want to disappoint people, I approve what we’re saying. We’ve always exceeded our goals. I’m the producer, general contractor. This is the person who decides what will be done. Then, in real-time messaging, and being completely transparent about it all, that’s me. I am the one speaking with all the major partners and allocating the money. I am the head of the operation and have a partner in logistics and operations on the ground.
Q: You were up early recently to co-host Live! You were up early to co-host “Live! This spring, you have a podcast and a book about business. How can you find the time to do it all?
A: I am taking a lot off the board. I’m passionate about my podcast. It’s a place where I can rant about important things and less important ones. It’s not something I want to do, but I need it. I don’t like being silly about superficial things. My book I’m passionate about. But, I am saying “no” much more than I have ever before. I don’t wish to become a billionaire. I don’t want to be a billionaire. I want to live a happy life, have meaningful experiences in my life, but not all of it. I don’t wish to disappoint anyone or my partners, but I don’t want the world to be my dominion.