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How often do hard-working nonprofit staff members get to experience a “bubble bath for their minds?” We know, not often. But making time to discover, to embrace our fans, and to share invigorates us and keeps new ideas flowing into our organizations.

We are fortunate that award-winning marketing and communications professional Sam Davidson shared an insightful re-cap of the recent PINC.Sarasota event. As your year is winding down, consider how you can make some space for creativity.

 

Sam Davidson

Sam Davidson

It’s been a month since PINC made its American debut with PINC.Sarasota and it was, by far, the most inspiring day I’ve had in the “creative coast” since I arrived five years ago. Sixteen speakers from around the world told stories about their passions while the day was sprinkled with surprise after surprise. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the audience. Never had I seen such a wide range of people at one event in Sarasota. I saw retired corporate types talking with Ringling College students in one corner while explorers and photographers spoke with journalists and ad execs in another corner. It was a day to remember, but more importantly, it was a day we should learn from and use to push the needle forward in this dynamic community.

“PINC is like a bubble bath for your mind,” Nadja Schnetzler, speaker at PINC.Sarasota and Founder of BrainStore, said.

And wouldn’t we all like a nice bubble bath to clear our thoughts and get ready for the next day? Well, the next day is now and it’s safe to say that everyone who attended PINC is well prepared for whatever projects, both personally and professionally, that lie ahead.

For those who couldn’t attend, here are a few takeaways from PINC.Sarasota that stuck with me.

Never Stop Discovering

While PINC doesn’t technically have a theme, a common thread between many of the speakers was “discovery.” David Gallo spoke about discovering underwater Earth. Alexander Kumar charmed the audience with comedic anecdotes about his explorations in the Polar Regions.  Jon Jefferson left us amazed about his mid-life discovery of a new passion – forensic anthropology with a side of crime solving. And Rob Swan won the crowd over with his inspiring tale of becoming the world’s first person to walk to both the North and South Poles. All of these men have a “never stop discovering” attitude, and it’s paid off. Their lives have all found purpose at different ages, and they are all changing the way we see the world because of the way they are discovering it. One promise we have every day is that there is always something new we can discover. Whether it’s at an unknown part of the ocean or an unknown purpose of existence, for many of us, our greatest discoveries are still out there. By following the “never stop discovering” attitude, it’s only a matter of time before we find them.

You Don’t Have Consumers. You Have Fans.

For those looking for business lessons at PINC.Sarasota, speaker Alan Moore, author of No Straight Lines, resonated with me the most.  He told stories about innovative companies like Lego and Tesla. When speaking about how Lego redesigned their brand, he said, “They realized they didn’t have consumers. They had fans.” This struck a major chord with me. That statement is so appropriate when it comes to one of Sarasota’s top industries — our very own nonprofit community. Business partners and individuals who support nonprofits are not acting as consumers. Instead, they are simply fans of their favorite nonprofit. While sports fans have their favorite teams, and consumers have their favorite brands, philanthropists and volunteers have their favorite nonprofits. If the nonprofit community can find creative ways to tap into this fandom, they’ll find a connection that will thrive for years to come.

Share. Share. Share.

PINC is all about sharing. Speakers sharing stories. Audience members sharing conversations. And the PINC tradition of sharing a glass of champagne with a new friend at the end of the day. The concept of sharing has stuck with me the past three weeks, and it’s changed the way I converse with others – friends and strangers alike. Because of PINC, I have found myself starting conversations with strangers while waiting in line for a cup of coffee. This time of the day was usually reserved for checking my phone for new emails and keeping up-to-date on my Facebook newsfeed. Sharing with each other is very precious, and PINC reinforced the benefits of this lost art. There are hundreds of organizations trying to solve problems in this community – from the arts and animals to nature and children. Some will find great solutions this next year while others continue looking for new ideas. If we learn anything from PINC.Sarasota, let it be this: by sharing with each other, we will unlock the creative doors in our minds, look at problems in a new way, and eventually solve them quicker and more efficiently than if we kept our thoughts and ideas to ourselves.

Sarasota is poised for greatness, and because of PINC we are one step closer to reaching our full potential. Let’s see if we can use what we learned from the first PINC.Sarasota to discover new ideas, embrace our fans, and share our successes. With that, there’s a lot that will be accomplished before PINC comes back for round two in 2015.

-Sam Davidson

Sam Davidson is an award-winning marketing and communications professional. He has served on The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and has received numerous accolades like Sarasota’s Young Professional of the Year and Biz941’s People To Watch. He is currently traveling the globe and has recently launched The Wanderkiss Project where he interviews couples from around the world.

NOLA

Mayor of New Orleans Mitch Landrieu Talks About Building Community at the Southeast Council of Foundations Annual Conference

Our community is rich with opportunities for nonprofit leaders to connect with each other and learn from colleagues as well as local and national experts. Foundations convene many of these gatherings as a way to build the strength of the sector.

We’re all familiar with the big, recycled topics of conversation—fundraising, finding committed board members, managing program demand with limited resources, and balancing the needs and expectations of funders and donors.

But when foundations have the opportunity to meet with colleagues at fellow grant making organizations, what do we talk about?

Here’s a glimpse from our participation in the Southeast Council of Foundations annual conference in New Orleans last week. The gathering draws people from private, family, community and corporate foundations all over the southeastern United States to discuss the issues impacting our region.

It’s no surprise that we spend lots of time reflecting on the complexity of issues in our region and the deeply rooted economic and educational disparities in the South, all of which require a systemic approach involving other foundation, government and nonprofit partners.

Similar to the nonprofit collaborations we’re always encouraging you to explore, we experience how rewarding but tricky partnering with each other can be when we approach solutions with different expectations.

Though social issues are similar across our region and we strive to learn from each other, we also recognize that each community is different and requires different approaches, ideally shaped by the people who are closest to the issues we are seeking to address—meaning non-foundation human assets living in these communities. Yes, foundations do recognize this!

In Richmond, Virginia, community health workers raised in the public housing projects are now transforming health in their own communities. Citizens in Halifax County, North Carolina have co-designed community playground projects and other resources to improve the quality of life.  Work in both areas is made possible through foundations and their successful partnerships. (Read more about the work of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable trust here.)

A highlight for me was hearing from Susan Desmond-Hellmann, president and CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who discussed the organization’s annual strategic planning processes and their approaches to education work in the United States, deeply driven by building teacher excellence.

The programmatic aspects of the Gates Foundation’s work was fascinating. But perhaps what I enjoyed most was hearing Susan describe the kindness and sincerity with which Bill and Melinda approach their work and foundation philosophy–that all lives have equal value.

At the end of the day, those of us who are working most closely to improve the human condition should remember to maintain compassion for each other as we interact with foundation and nonprofit colleagues. Even the best of us can get lost in outcomes, reporting, impact and other mechanical aspects we commonly use as the currency of our work.

Wes Moore, Rhodes Scholar, decorated combat veteran, White House Fellow and author of The Other Wes Moore, (who also visit Sarasota for The Patterson Foundation’s Veterans Legacy Summit this weekend) left us with three very compelling thoughts that even the most academic of participants could be heard discussing in the hotel corridors:

  • Potential may be universal, but opportunities are not.
  • Who do you choose to advocate for when it isn’t easy? Be the champion for those who need you.
  • When it’s time for you to leave this planet, make sure it matters that you were ever even here.

Yes, we should always be the best human beings possible while serving in our privileged positions.

With every passing conference, we learn that there are no easy answers. There are seemingly infinite ways we could do better in our work, and just as many shining examples of incredible feats accomplished through philanthropy and our nonprofit partners.

Special thanks to the staff, board and volunteers of the Southeastern Council of Foundations for making this opportunity for learning and recharging possible. Our president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County Roxie Jerde is a proud trustee of SECF, representing our region.

And there you have it, nonprofit friends. We’re a lot like you.

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

We frequently receive calls from local nonprofits looking for new board members. Contacting your community foundation is a good idea–it’s one of many places organizations may wish to network when searching for a great board candidate.

But before you place that call or send that email, are you clear about who—or what—your organization is really looking for?

Very few people requesting our support in finding new board members have developed a document outlining their organization’s written board selection criteria—the values, characteristics, skills, talents and demographics that are important to the organization when recruiting for the board. (Approximately one-third of organizations with profiles in The Giving Partner have written board selection criteria.)

One of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County’s volunteer consultants, Sophia LaRusso, recently joined me to develop and lead a half-day session for eleven nonprofit boards called “Building the Board Dream Team.”

We spent a lot of time discussing how important it is to know the many facets of your current board team and what they’re doing well. (Even a simple board self-assessment every year or two can be incredibly beneficial.) Only then can you recruit strategically instead of scrambling to fill an empty board seat with someone who may not be the ideal volunteer leader for your needs.

If your are ready to start recruiting…

  • Your organization has a job description—in writingfor individual board members, sharing what your board expects in terms of attendance at board meetings, making a financial commitment to give, and participation in the organization outside of board meetings. Some boards transform this job description into an expectation sheet that board members sign annually to make sure each person is clear about what they are being asked to do serving on this board.

  • Your organization has identified the skills, talents, and demographics on your current board and knows the gaps it needs to fill, along what’s most critical to fill first. These can be traits such as “strategic thinker” or “negotiator,” representation from a certain geography like “South County resident,” a person who is a client or a potential client, or a specific professional background such as facilities management.

  • Your organization has a governance committee in place to identify and interview potential board members before presenting them to the full board for consideration. They will ask great questions of each candidate to learn more about their passion for the mission, the time they can dedicate to the board, and whether their values are in alignment with the values important to your organization. (Disclaimer: this involves knowing what values are important to your organization!)

Some board leaders remark that asking candidates to go through a process involving interviewing and signing expectation sheets is a bit much and may scare good people away.

But if this is the case, will those individuals have the sort of commitment you expect from the highest level of leadership at your organization? Think about it.

So! Here are some good resources:

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

I can’t speak for all foundations, but here at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, we do care if nonprofits have written fundraising plans.

Why? A written fundraising plan helps us feel assured that the generous donors who have entrusted us with their philanthropic dreams are not your organization’s only plan. A thoughtful document outlining diversified revenue sources shows that your leadership has a unified game plan for your programs and services to thrive. All of your team members–board and staff–can work from a common understanding about your fundraising goals, specific strategies for achieving these goals, and who is responsible for key milestones.

Today we concluded the classroom portion of a 4-part fund development plan series developed and facilitated by John Elbare, a fundraising consultant and seasoned expert in the field.

Five organizations serving our community–Big Cat Habitat Gulfcoast Sanctuary, Laurel Civic Association, Volunteer Community Connections, Visible Men Academy, and Sarasota Military Academy–committed teams of board and staff members to participate, developing meaningful plans together through trainings, peer-to-peer discussions, individual work and consulting support.  The organizations will review and discuss these plans at their upcoming board meetings with the support of the consultant.

Here are a few elements of good fundraising plans:

  • Fundraising goals with dollar amounts and specific strategies to achieve them, often focused on a 12-18 month time period
  • Milestone dates and responsible parties that clarify when goals should be met and by whom
  • Inclusion of board and staff roles
  • Diverse funding streams considering individual donors (annual giving, major gifts, planned giving), corporate support, foundation support, earned revenue, and in some cases, special events
  • Reference to adopted fundraising policies (or plans to create them, review them or revise them)

What a fundraising plan is NOT:

  • A list of special events
  • An “evergreen” document with general descriptions of funding sources
  • An organizational budget

Less than one-third of all nonprofits with profiles in The Giving Partner have written fundraising plans.

Developing a useful document does not have to be a laborious or complicated project. And if you’re an all-volunteer organization, you’re not off the hook–the document is just as important for you. Consider the impact of getting everyone on the same page about what you need to raise and how you are going to do it. The usefulness of such a plan is truly immeasurable.

In addition to the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, other foundations in our area including The Patterson Foundation and Gulf Coast Community Foundation commit time and dollars to capacity building efforts to move the needle for impact. Endless resources exist online. And supportive networks of nonprofit colleagues are accessible through the Southwest Florida Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and other groups.

Kudos to the organizations energizing their teams with unified and thoughtful approaches to fundraising!

Bryan Clontz Speaking at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County

Bryan Clontz Speaking at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County

Some people were reportedly shocked to have remained awake and energized during a two-hour presentation about the miracle of planned giving this morning. But if anyone could bring home the message of just how simple and important planned giving is, national speaker and consultant Bryan Clontz, CFP was our man.

The Community Foundation of Sarasota County and the Southwest Florida Planned Giving Council hosted a presentation with Clontz for a group of nearly 100 local nonprofit development professionals, executive directors and board members, and the overarching message was this: 90% of planned gifts are simply bequests.

With the enormous transfer of wealth we are seeing, imagine the possibilities if we simply did a better job of communicating to donors that it’s possible to continue the charitable work they are most passionate about through their wills and trusts.

Witty and no-nonsense, Clontz left us almost laughing at ourselves for not investing more time in planned giving. For every planned gift your organization expects to receive, he says, there are at least four planned gifts coming that you do not know about. Dedicating the time to create a pipeline for your nonprofit’s future can and will pay off.  If your organization never makes the time to do more than “keep the lights on,” your nonprofit may not have a future.

Here are some planned giving questions answered during this powerful presentation:

Why should we reconsider how we spend our time?
Let’s talk about corporate sponsors and partners for example. Consider the fact that 9% of all charitable giving comes from bequests and only 5.6% comes from corporations.  How much time are you spending seeking corporate support and sponsorship? Are you spending more time, less time or no time on planned giving? Does your answer make sense?

How do you get the board involved in planned giving?
Find a board champion who understands the importance of planned giving and who can influence your board members to step up. Just like all fundraising efforts, if your board members are not personally committed to leaving your organization in their wills, who will be? By arming your board and staff with the knowledge that your volunteer leaders have the confidence to leave your nonprofit in their estate plans, others will have confidence as well. According to Clontz, when two-thirds or more of your board members actively participate in your planned giving program, your efforts will not fail. When fewer than one-third participate, it is destined for failure. Great food for thought.

Will a planned giving program decrease annual giving?
To answer this question, Clontz asked us to put ourselves in the donors’ shoes. If we have personally committed the highest level of trust in a nonprofit by committing to a planned gift, is it likely that we will we be interested in what is currently happening at the organization? Probably. It just make sense. Annual gifts will continue to grow when planned giving programs are developed thoughtfully.

What is the average planned gift?
The average planned gift received (nationally) is $65,000, but the average amount that these donors give annually while living is $110. And the best planned giving prospects may not be your one-time $10,000 donors but those who give something every year–even if it’s less than $100.

Who are the most likely prospects for planned gifts?
Your organization’s founders, present board members and past board members are excellent prospects for planned giving. Are you almost positive that a certain donor has left your nonprofit in her will? Don’t be so sure. She is a prospect and should be treated as such unless she has confirmed otherwise. (This means having a meaningful one-on-one conversation about the possibilities.) Remember your loyal, consistent givers and always listen and learn from those you speak with regularly.

Work with your Community Foundation and the Southwest Florida Planned Giving Council to stay connected to the professional advisor community and planned giving resources.  Your Giving Partner profile is the link we share with donors and others in the community who could be your next major prospects. Keeping your profile updated and compelling, simple and clear, you can continue to share your story as a point of introduction for those who may be passionate about your mission.

Learn more about Bryan Clontz at http://charitablesolutionsllc.com/bryan-clontz/.

 

casTruly, you would have to be living in a cave to have been spared exposure to the Ice Bucket Challenge, the unbelievably successful awareness/fundraising campaign for the ALS Association. (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is frequently referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.”  It is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, eventually leading to the patient’s death.)

Why People Love the Challenge

  • It’s easy, social and daring. Who doesn’t love to see ice water dumped on someone you love, respect, hate or have seen in high heels at Michael’s on East?

  • You can make it a family event. We love the videos with parents, kids, and ice buckets…or better yet, kids challenging their parents.

  • It’s something anyone can do. (Except John Annis?)

  • Peer influence is an intrinsic part of the campaign. Drawing your colleagues, rivals, and friends into this—especially when you know they are trying to quietly hide from it all–is irresistible.

  • It’s impossible to argue that the Challenge is raising a LOT of awareness about ALS and a LOT of money for ALS.

Why People Criticize the Challenge

  • “How can socially conscious people waste water like this?”

  • “I don’t get the connection to the ALS mission.”

  •  “Some people are making the videos but aren’t donating. It’s not either/or.”

  •  “What’s the likelihood that new donors who have no connection to ALS will give again?”

What “The Giving Partner” Perspective Might Be 

  • We have loved seeing this campaign because it has garnered so much diverse participation: young people, old people, people of every ethnicity, famous people, eccentric people, “normal” people. And people have fun while they are doing it. That’s the viral appeal. Critics are lurking around the corner of every good and great effort, just because. Let’s enjoy the enormous success here!

  • ALS organizations everywhere are coming into sudden cash they couldn’t have imagined long ago. This is why building capacity from the ground up is so important. A committed board of directors, strong internal controls, sound policies, a strategic plan, and other financial, governance and planning ingredients are vital whether your organization is a baby or a giant. Things can change quickly. Be nimble and prepared for greatness with a stable, thoughtful underlying structure.

  • The question about whether new donors with no connection to ALS will give again is an interesting one. And it’s a question we ask after each Giving Challenge in relation to some of the socially inspired gifts that were made. Clearly some people are just participants in the fun. But for many others, the big answer will be generated by the organization itself. What will it do to engage the donor? Will the donor hear stories of hope and progress? Will she know how her dollars made a difference? Will she receive the right number and type of follow-up communications going forward?

  • Equally creative tactics have been locally deployedSnooty’s Lettuce Challenge at the South Florida Museum this summer generated some amazing buzz. An awareness and fundraising event rolled into one, the organization leveraged community leaders who participated in an unconventional food challenge that related to the mission. It created some powerful energy during a matching campaign–another notable model for us to reflect upon!

  • If we offer a Giving Challenge in 2015, we anticipate some extra creative campaigns that will no doubt be inspired by the Ice Bucket Challenge. The wheels are turning… But why wait? You could try your own version at any time using the best of what you observed.

Other Must-Read Pieces About It

-Susie Bowie, Director of Nonprofit Strategy
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

Short answer: it is.

The enthusiastic follow-up: yes, yes, yes.

Remember That Board Member Duty?

We cannot forget that charitable nonprofits exist for the public good and are not owned by an individual or group of individuals. Each nonprofit board member must exercise the “duty of loyalty,” placing the interests of the nonprofit before personal or professional concerns when serving, therefore avoiding potential conflicts of interest.

It’s Not that Complicated

We hear from all sorts of well-meaning folks who (unintentionally) complicate the concept of conflict of interest. In a basic example, it’s the kind of thing that should stop a board member from voting on an issue when there may be financial benefit to herself, her spouse, her family, her company or another organization where she may serve as a volunteer leader.

Who Wants to Know, Anyway?

When your organization files its IRS Form 990 each year, the Internal Revenue Service asks you to indicate whether or not your organization has a conflict of interest policy. You don’t have to say “yes.” But if you don’t, it looks a little shady, yes?

Local organizations in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and Desoto counties with a presence in The Giving Partner are also asked if they have conflict of interest policies right on their profiles.

Surprisingly, 32% of nonprofits with profiles indicate they do not have a conflict of interest policy.  We are pretty sure that some of them may have adopted a policy years ago, perhaps when founded, but current leadership does not remember or can’t find the document. In any case, we can do better than this.

A new development in the State of Florida will make conflict of interest junkies jump up and down. The recently approved changes to the Solicitation of Contributions Act require 501(c)(3) nonprofits to adopt a conflict of interest policy and to provide annual certification of compliance with the policy by all directors, officers, and trustees of the organization.

Two Simple Actions for Nonprofit Boards Everywhere

  • Adopt an organizational conflict of interest policy that is frequently reviewed by board members and staff members.
  • Require board and staff members to complete a simple disclosure form each year certifying that they have reviewed the conflict of interest policy and sharing conflicts and potential conflicts of interest.

It is very likely–especially in this community–that your board members may have conflicts from time to time. Many caring individuals and their businesses are deeply intertwined in the work of more than one charitable organization. The conflict of interest policy will provide the necessary guidance to ensure that board members disclose conflicts and potential conflicts and do not vote on related issues if they arise in the boardroom.

And Finally…

The best charitable organizations out there focus on what is best for the missions they are upholding every day. They protect the charitable intent of the donors and funders who make their missions possible. So upholding a good, trusty conflict of interest policy is just natural.  And to add to the glory of it all, it’s not rocket science.

The National Council of Nonprofits has an excellent set of conflict of interest resources, including sample policies and sample annual disclosure forms.

 

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