Constanza Roeder On How to Get Creative With Your Nonprofit’s Communications


If you want to get your donor’s attention, you have to get creative! 

The most effective way to communicate with your supporters is to find new ways to share your mission that demonstrates your impact while encompassing your organization’s personality. 

Constanza Roeder is the founder of Hearts Need Art, a nonprofit helping caregivers and patients heal using creativity. She joins us to share how her organization approaches their communications and share its mission with the world

Constanza’s Top Tips for Getting Creative

  1. Take time to explore your inner artist. Build the tools and the foundation to find healthy and creative ways to express yourself using the arts. It’s a powerful medium that can help you process what you are feeling. 
  2. Try to fill the gaps of knowledge you find in your industry. If you think a topic is worth exploring create your own space for it, start the conversation and make yourself a thought leader! 
  3. Never underestimate the art of storytelling in connecting with donors. At the heart of every good message is a story, so take your time to develop a great message to share your values. 

Favourite Quotes 

[03:40] It's really pretty incredible to see the shift that happens when you go into a person's room and really just connect with them on a human level, not having any relation to their diagnoses or their treatment. But just, hey, you know, what kind of music do you like to listen to?

[06:38] One of our goals is to really invite people deeper into their creativity into creative expression. It's one of our values, and we want to do that with everyone that encounters our organization. And we're kind of always talking about how can we live in our values and provide these really positive experiences for our donors, like not just our clients in the hospital, but also anyone that interacts with our organization. And so we'll do things like it affects how we design our fundraising activities.


Today we talk with Castanza Roeder on how your organization could be a little bit more creative.

Hello, and welcome to Driven's Fundraising Superheroes Podcasts. You know me. I'm your host Sabrina Sciscente and as an innovator in nonprofit technology, our team at Driven is determined to help you get the most from your data. You can unlock your true fundraising potential with us. So make sure you give us a visit at Trustdriven.Com to learn more.

There are so many ways to communicate what your organization is doing to the world, but how do you do it in a way that is meaningful that engages the people that you're speaking to and really showcases the work that you're doing?

Well, if you want to stand out, you're going to have to get creative. Constanza Roeder is an adolescent leukemia survivor who transformed her experience into a calling to create a world where everyone can experience moments of joy, self expression, and connection while facing life-altering health changes. She speaks, writes and empowers others to reframe and reclaim the healing power of their own creativity. Now she's the founder of Hearts Need Art, a nonprofit, helping caregivers and patients heal using creativity. She joins us to share how her organization approaches their communications and how they share their mission with the world, especially using their podcast.

So thank you Constanza for joining me.

Yeah. Happy to be here.

So can you begin by explaining the vision behind Hearts Need Art and your journey leading up to it?

Yeah. So my goal, I think as a person, I think the role I play is to champion people who are suffering alone from life-altering health challenges and to help them by humanizing health care through the arts. I am a leukemia survivor myself, and I was diagnosed when I was in high school, and I was fortunate in a lot of ways be treated in a pediatric facility where we still acknowledge that children need to be children, and we need to address the whole person when they're receiving treatment.

And then when I finished treatment, I went on and study music in school, and I started volunteering on an adult oncology unit, and I was like, It doesn't really feel like we treat these patients like humans with a full slate of not just physical but emotional, social, spiritual needs. And a lot of the patients that were on the unit had access to the top of the line care, but were struggling. Their caregivers were struggling with compliance issues. They were upset and they weren't wanting to take their medicine or they weren't wanting to take a shower or things that were essential for their physical wellbeing because they were so disregulated in their emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

And so I was like, okay, I know that the environment in healthcare space doesn't have to be this way. And so I the only thing that I really knew to do and that was just saying I just started going room to room and singing for patients. And it's really pretty incredible to see the shift that happens when you go into a person's room and really just connect with them on a human level, not having any relation to their diagnoses or their treatment. But just, hey, you know, what kind of music do you like to listen to?

Let's jam out for a little bit. And usually there's tears and laughter and just all of the emotions and those patients that I worked with often we're able to then make better decisions about their health care, and we're more compliant with their caregivers. And we're just generally in better moods and better states than we know that our moods affect how our bodies heal. So anyway, so it just seemed like a thing for me. The arts are an essential part of being human, and they should be an essential part of the places that we treat humans.

So in 2016, I incorporated Harten Art Creative Support for Patients and Caregivers as a nonprofit here in San Antonio, Texas, in an effort to identify and train up other creatives in our community to safely engage with patients and caregivers in health care settings. And now online as well. And we've been doing that. We're about to hit five years, which seems crazy. And we've worked with thousands and thousands of patients over the years and their caregivers, and it's just been the most incredible work.

Yeah, that's a really incredible journey. And Congratulations on five years.

Thank you! It's a big milestone.

Yes, it is for sure. So you yourself have been recognized for your work in healthcare. You've received the 2018 Reaching Dur Humanitarian Award. You're selected as one of the top 100 Health Care Visionaries by the International Forum of Advancements in Health Care for 2021. And as a thought leader, focusing on arts and healing, being so involved in arts and healing. How have you found that that creativity has helped you with your organization and expressing your vision and your thoughts to donors, stakeholders, all those people?

Yeah, that's a great question. So our stated vision as an organization is our vision is that everyone that there's universal access to arts and health so that everyone can feel, seen, heard, and loved while facing life altering health challenges. And we know that most adults in the United States don't really have a creative practice, even people that really resonate with our vision because they've had a loved one that experience cancer or their medical provider themselves or whatever the reason. Oftentimes they still tell us. But I'm not an artist or I can't do anything creative.

And one of our goals is to really invite people deeper into their creativity into creative expression. It's one of our values, and we want to do that with everyone that encounters our organization. And we're kind of always talking about how can we live in our values and provide these really positive experiences for our donors, like not just our clients in the hospital, but also anyone that interacts with our organization. And so we'll do things like it affects how we design our fundraising activities. Like this spring, we had a create-a-thon on which sort of a walkathon.

We had had people post with the hashtag something creative and expressive every day, and we made it really accessible. We have a workbook that they could just do little activities in or they could do really, whatever they want. And that was a really popular event. And even people that were like, I can't do are they still kind of did it and liked it from moments of delight and really beautiful artistic experiences in our other fundraising events, like yesterday, I was just in Houston because we were recording with a sand artist that is going to be part of a performance we're doing at our Night of 1000 Hearts fundraiser in September.

And it's going to be so magical and fantastic. And anyway, in whatever we do, we're trying to advance our mission because we also know that until people experience the power of expressing themselves in a creative way at just the right moment in their lives and they need it the most that's when they'll get it, that's when they'll understand what it is we're trying to do, because when you're just going about your everyday and things are kind of like normal, you're not necessarily always like, oh, my gosh, I really need to express myself in poetry or write a song or, you know, whatever.

But it's when we're in those extremes of life, extreme joy, extreme sorrow, that that innate need in us really comes out. And if we don't have the tools, if we don't build the tools and the foundation during those times, during the good times, during the lean times, we don't have what we need. So we're trying to encourage people to engage in the arts and incorporated as part of just their normal healthcare routines, which the science bears that out. Like people that regularly engage with arts and cultural activities have better health, health comes across their life, all other things being equal.

All that to say, we try to use creativity, storytelling, all of that in each part of each aspect of what we do.

Do you find that that has helped us to pursue more creative outlets with donors as well? Do you find that they're often engaging and getting interested in getting involved in activities?

Yeah. And sometimes they do it to their chagrin with some of our fundraising events, but then they might be reluctant at first, but then really enjoy themselves once they get into it, which is exactly what we see when we work with patients in the hospital. There's always like one person who is like well I don't know. And then they do it and they're like, wow, this is awesome. I want to do this every day. So yeah, it kind of crosses those lines and to donors, too. Yeah. For sure.

It's hard not to get involved when you see everyone else having fun.

Yeah. Exactly. It's like, okay. Well, I guess I'll do it. Let's see what this is about.

So we'll try it. That's fantastic. So you also host your own podcast, Arts for the Health of It, and show that you co-host with Richard Wilmore, where you discuss how and why arts impact health well-being in society. So what made you want to start that podcast? What was the process?

Yeah. There's a growing movement to advance the field of our arts and health and to incorporate arts and community health practices, public health, health care, all of these different aspects. But we still need more voices advocating and sharing the stories of transformation that come out of this work. And there are some people doing little pockets of arts and health related topics occasionally on their podcast. And when we were kind of like looking at what else is out there. But we were struggling to find anything that really targeted, highlighting the work in this field and encouraging and teaching people how to use the arts to promote their health and wellbeing.

And they're like, well, I guess we'll do it. And it aligns with our vision of just advancing the field as a whole. And we felt like that was a role that we were well equipped for. I was really fortunate early on in starting Hearts Need Art. And even before I was able to take some courses at Duarte, which is a design and communication firm in the Silicon Valley. And they specialize in helping people craft persuasive communications. They work with Apple and Google and Al Gore and Ted Talk.

A lot of presentations that you see actually are part of their work. So anyway, they, of course, is to teach people in their method and how they use storytelling to communicate and help people really resonate and understand the vision you're trying to cast. And that that art of storytelling that I learned date was hugely impactful in how I communicate with donors with, like, even on our podcast. And it's been like, the gift that keeps on giving. And then, of course, Richard Wilmore has on our staff, and he's had his own talk show for years.

And so he's used to being a host and like, okay, we're just going to combine these things. It makes sense. We're going to make a podcast. And it's been so fun to get to talk to some of my heroes in the field. And people doing just the most magical, awesome work. It's so cool.

Oh, definitely. Yeah. Podcasts are the best. I mean, obviously as a podcast or myself, so I know it's so much fun creating. And it's also great because you get to create a space where people can learn and you really become a taste maker in your field. You get to collect all these stories and become a really valuable resource. So have you found that there's a lot of benefits to having a podcast is a nonprofit?

Yeah. It's been really interesting on the one side on one of our goals of having the podcast and targeting different guests for podcast is we wanted to cover a whole breath of examples and types of people that are connected with the arts and how it's impacted their health and well being to be able to use that actually, for other people in our field, people use that as a resource. So let's say there's an arts organization that wants to partner with a hospital in, I don't know, Montana, and there's no arts and health and Montana, I actually don't know that maybe there is, but maybe the administrators that they're talking with don't have any concept of what it could look like.

Well, we talk to administrators on our podcast that have arts and health programs and talk about why they have arts and health programs and the benefit it brings to their hospital. Well, that person, that arts organization in Montana can then send that episode as part of their proposal package and use other people's stories to leverage and just to advance the field to use that as leverage to advance the field. So that was one of our goals. And we're excited that people are being able to use it for that and then also just exposing more people to the work that we do.

We haven't totally figured out all the bugs in our system because we've gotten applications from all over the country for people wanting to work with us. And there's so much enthusiasm building and we don't know what to do with them yet. So it's kind of created other problems that are good, but we're still working out the kinks in our system on that side. It's just a result we didn't think about. And then also, it's an interesting thing on the funder side. So far, we haven't seen a huge influx in individual donations from people listening to podcasts.

Like, some people have donated. Some people have enrolled in some of our programs because of the podcast, things like that. But for grant tours, like funders when we started our podcast and, like, kind of word got out that we had this podcast. It was interesting which foundations were interested in talking with us that hadn't been interested before. There is something about building and having that platform that then was really interesting to funders. Yeah.

Because I guess it almost proves that let you know what you're preaching because it gives you that space to be completely yours. Yeah. It's a good way to show your expertise and also all the work that you're doing. Have you found that it helps you to connect with volunteers at all, just increase your audience beyond Texas?

Yeah. I mean both of those things. Kind of like I mentioned artists and musicians reaching out to us wanting to work with us. Or how do I do this in my hometown and all of that. And it's even kind of shifted because of the type of response we received. It's kind of shifted some of the initiatives that we are working on for the future and our organization which I won't share yet, but we're kind of moving at the timetable on some of them because of that type of that response that we're getting, because our goal isn't necessarily to have heart seat art all over the country.

But how do we help? What role can we play to help activate other people and advance this field around the country? So this becomes tentative care. It's much less efficient for a central organization to kind of have a monopoly, but and it's less effective to anyway, for other reasons. But how do we activate people that understand the cultural context that they're in their health care system is in and the people that are served in that health care system, how do we activate them to do the work once they hear it?

And they're like, oh my gosh, I would love to do that. And we're not the only people thinking of how to do this. But there are some really great resources that even I had access to when I first started and universities that are starting certificate programs and arts and health and how to run arts and health, all that kind of stuff is starting to happen. So we're looking at what's our role in that in advancing the field before we go today.

I'd love to hear do you have any advice for other nonprofits? If they want to get creative, maybe try something new, like a podcast. What would you suggest to them?

Do an honest assessment of what your strengths are. And if you if you don't have someone that is really passionate about starting podcasts and has the skills, or at least can go get the skills to put together good interviews and communication. I don't feel the pressure to do that, but if you do have those things, don't put bears up in your own mind around not being able to do something like, don't get intimidated by it. Well, there's complications that everything is easier than you think it is and harder than you think it is like any new thing, right.

But there's so many resources out there. Google, how to start a podcast is a great place to start, find other people that have started podcasts and also see how you can incorporate creativity, which means nonprofit pretty much have to do this because of the constraints on budget and all those kind of things. But consider how you can get creative in the work that you're doing. If you have a fundraiser, that's kind of falling flat that you've done for the last 15 years.

Maybe it's time to shake it up and try an element of surprise. And don't be afraid to experiment. There are some things that like, for example, a couple of years ago, we had an activity at one of our gala. We had a hospital hot couture fashion show. We put a bag of items that you might find in a hospital room, like a plastic gown and toilet paper and a cup and just random things that you would find in a hostel room. And we put it in bags underneath each table.

And then halfway through the gala, we're like, okay, we're going to play a game and look under your table and pull out the bag. They had to create an outfit on one of their tablemates, and then they had to walk the catwalk habit. And this was a controversial activity because there are some of our donors that was like that was so outside of my comfort zone, I would never want to do that again. And other people like, this is the most amazing thing ever. But no matter what the reaction was, it was strong and people absolutely remembered us for it.

It stood out. So take risks, even if you are a little bit nervous, it's okay to try new things. The world is changing so fast that if we don't keep up in the nonprofit space, we're not going to be able to serve our clients as well. So that's what I'd say about that.

Yeah, I would remember that for sure. That would change my mind for a long time.

Yeah. The Mayor of the city judged the costumes. We have heads of hospitals that were dressed up. It was a riot. It was hilarious.

Oh, my God. That's awesome.

Thank you so much for coming on to the show with me before we head off can you let our listeners know how they can get in touch with you?

Sure. Yeah. So one of the best ways is to go to There's a contact tab on there. I get those messages directly. So if you have questions for me, feel free to reach out. You can also learn more about our podcast Arts for the health of it, you can also search it on all the platforms, Spotify Apple Music, all the things. So check that out. I would also say, if you're a patient, survivor, family caregiver or healthcare provider, we would love to find ways that we can serve you.

There are resources on our website. Our health care providers, especially, are really burned out right now. We have a Gratitude Grams program you should check out, which is just like, little messages of appreciation. We send you on a regular basis, and all of those people can also make appointments directly with our artists and work with them virtually through Zoom. So if you've never really doubled in of Arts, and you're feeling like, okay. I feel like I need something. You can go there and it's free of charge.

You can, of course, make a donation if you want, but I would just encourage you to go check out those resources, and we'd love to connect with you.

Thank you Constanza for joining us. As she mentioned, you can go to to get all that information and the podcast to get in contact with Constanza I'll make sure to link both the website and a direct link to the podcast in the show notes, you can get involved, get inspired and learn more about how arts can heal. And if you want to stay updated and everything. Fundraising Superheroes We have a ton of resources for you. Our website is full of amazing blog posts. You can listen to all past podcast episodes, and you can subscribe to our newsletter, so make sure to give us a visit at trust

And as always, thank you so much for listening, and we'll see you next time on the Fundraising Superheroes podcast.

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Podcast Sep 23, 2021, 12:00 AM

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