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.


Kevin Baird, a national leader in educational publishing and professional development, spoke at Sarasota County Technical Institute last night, energizing educators, nonprofit staff and funders who are innovating through EdExplore SRQ, an online platform connecting teachers to local community arts, cultural, historical, and science field-based organizations that provide opportunities to enrich the school curriculum.

Thanks to the generosity of The Patterson Foundation and Sue Meckler, Angela Hartvigsen and Brian Hersh of Sarasota County Schools, we tapped into creative approaches to bring Florida Standards to life in our public school system.

We explored ways to encourage students to make intelligent inferences instead of memorization, ways for teachers to expand their own perspectives and openness to new teaching methods, and ways organizations can deliver a newfound excitement and spark for subject matter to both teachers and students.

Making more connections to the “real world” in reading, writing, math and science are more important than ever before–not just because it constitutes life readiness (vs. college and career readiness alone) but because it is far more likely to engage students in relevant, lasting skill development.

What are the top four skills we’re trying to master?

  1. Critical thinking
  2. Complex problem solving
  3. Judgment and decision-making
  4. Active listening

I can’t imagine what skills could be more important to prepare young people for nonprofit careers.

Can you imagine how agile our social sector organizations could be if we appointed board members and hired staff based on their skill or promise in these four areas?  The complex issues we face on a daily basis require flexibility and decisiveness, thinking and action, and the ability to quiet ourselves as we absorb others’ experiences and points of view.

If you view your organization as a learning laboratory for solving a social or environmental issue, consider how well are you doing on these core questions:

  • Is your organization investing in developing critical thinking, complex problem solving, judgment, and active listening skills for individuals at every level?
  • Are board members given the space to practice critical thinking and complex problem solving to move your organization forward during board meetings?
  • Do your leaders model active listening with staff, donors and clients?
  • When interviewing new potential staff and board members, do you ask behavioral questions that help you understand an individual’s critical thinking skills?

Kevin challenged us to think about how we can “help the science lesson become the science lab.” In other words, how can we build interactive (and sometimes fun) solutions to our most persistent challenges to achieve more? Whether that occurs in the classroom, in the field, or behind our desks at local organizations, novel approaches are needed to move us out of status quo.

Thanks, as always, to The Patterson Foundation for stimulating more thought about new possibilities.


Kevin Baird serves in a variety of education related posts through EdLead, his education fund and support organization. He is a founder of the Center for College & Career Readiness and a regular speaker and consultant working with schools and districts to create effective school management systems and processes.

The 2014 Fundraisers Forum at State College of Florida's Lakewood Ranch Campus on Friday, July 11, 2014

The 2014 Fundraisers Forum at State College of Florida’s Lakewood Ranch Campus

At the center of every great story is the hero.

Our nonprofit work is made possible by those who invest in our missions, so at the heart of every success–every person, animal or place made better through our programs–is the donor.

On Friday, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and the Southwest Florida Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals welcomed 150 local nonprofit fundraising leaders to the tenth annual Fundraisers Forum.  We found a number of takeaways to help us position donors as our heroes for long-term, sustained relationships with our organizations.

Are you putting your donors in the superhero costumes they deserve? We bet you are if…

  1. You see your constituents three dimensionally. The focus of Andrea Berry’s keynote address was the “3D” aspect of our constituents, knowing that each donor is not just someone who gives, but a full person, complete with a unique personal situation, interests and capabilities.  Donors may also be patrons, volunteers, clients.  Coordinating  messages from your organization and speaking to each aspect of your donors helps them to see us as smart, caring institutions that want to involve them at the highest level.

  2. Your donor management system captures good information. If your organization is to survive transitions in staff and board members over time, having a good donor management system to track the history of donors’ interactions with your nonprofit—as well as their preferences and backgrounds—is essential. The continuity this provides allows your donors to always be front and center, weathering changes that are destined to occur at your organization.

  3. Special events are strategic and mission-focused, allowing donors to easily see themselves in a compelling position to help. Consider Neuro Challenge Foundation’s Cause for Fashion event. It’s not just another nonprofit fashion show. The models are Parkinson’s patients and donors, connecting the event to the mission, presenting each person as someone who is more than the disease.  At Girls Incorporated of Sarasota County’s annual luncheon, it’s the girls who run the show—serving as table ambassadors, making the speeches, greeting guests as they enter. Donors receive a first-hand experience of the difference their funding has made in building strong, smart, bold girls.

  4. Your written fundraising plan guides strategies to cultivate donors. Without a fundraising plan, each person on your board or staff may have a different idea about your fundraising goals for prospecting, annual giving, major gifts, planned giving. When you have a written plan with goals–and strategies and human resources assigned to them (whether those resources are board or staff members)–you can better focus on the true center of your development efforts: your donors themselves.

  5. Your relationships with donors include lots of one-on-one time. Strong personal connections are built with one-on-one conversations, meetings, and follow ups. The more interactions we have in which we are simply connecting, not asking, the more we cultivate possibilities for long-term support. And the hero in this kind of personal, continuous relationship is always the donor.


Special thanks to 2014 Fundraisers Forum keynote and breakout presenter Andrea Berry, director of development of Hardy Girls Healthy Women and former national training director for Idealware; and to breakout session leaders Janet Ginn, CFRE, senior vice president of development for the Community Foundation of Sarasota County; Lisa Intagliata, CFRE, director of philanthropic events of Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation; Carisa Campanella, care coordinator of Neuro Challenge Foundation; Kay Mathers, director of community relations of Girls Inc of Sarasota County; and Tom Melville, executive director of the Literacy Council of Sarasota County.


We have enjoyed some great content published over the last couple of years highlighting the importance of mission statements with eight words or less.  Speaking from a funder’s point of view, there is incredible value in getting right to the point.

Eight-word mission statements do not attempt to define every activity your organization carries out. They include action words. And, most importantly, they are short enough to remember.

As we get ready to embark on another partnership with Sarasota Magazine, the publisher of the annual Guide to Giving magazine listing local nonprofit organizations and sharing moving feature stories, we urge you to take a look at your organization’s mission statement in The Giving Partner.

We have discovered some thesis-style mission statements hiding there! These run-on missions are complicated and sometimes confusing. If you can’t articulate your mission in a simple sentence or phrase, you are asking yourself and others to remember too much. And you may be inadvertently asking someone else to slice and dice your mission for you during the editing process. (Don’t let your nonprofit fall victim!)

As you are re-visiting your mission statement, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. How many words are in your mission statement?
  2. Can your staff and board members recite the mission with ease?
  3. How can you cut right to the chase?

On Tuesday morning we issued a challenge on The Giving Partner’s Facebook page: in three words or less, describe your organization’s mission. It was met with enthusiasm by some talented nonprofit staff who had no trouble dipping into the heart of what they do without long-winded explanations.

Take a look at what some of your peers were able to do in boiling down their missions to three-word taglines. Bravo!



Can you do the same for your organization?

Visit our Facebook page to see the other great nonprofit responses. And don’t forget to check your profile online in The Giving Partner to tune up your mission statement.

Enjoy your Wednesday!



Did we love seeing our community raise more than $3,127,000 in 24 hours on May 6 and 7?  We absolutely loved it.  We are proud to live in a community with such inspiring causes, generous donors, and hardworking nonprofit board members, staff and volunteers.

As we look at our community’s great accomplishment in the 2014 Giving Challenge, here are a few things we loved watching–and they’re not about money.

    1. We became more knowledgeable about the world around us.
      Nature’s Academy is one of many organizations that used the Giving Challenge as a platform to educate the community about issues relating to its mission. Staff carefully planned a 30-day Facebook countdown to the Challenge featuring a different factoid about Southwest Florida’s environment or science education each day.  Donor thank you letters included support levels corresponding to marine species, complete with a short descriptions of the animals.  Kudos to Nature’s Academy and other nonprofits that infused learning in philanthropy all the way through.natures
    2. We watched community building in action.
      Charlotte County organizations came together—I mean really came together—for the Giving Challenge.  Connie Kantor dreamed up a collaborative effort to bring the community together, encouraging every organization in Charlotte County to showcase its programs and services at Charlotte Community Foundation during one hour of the campaign. We’re feeling grateful for the example she set.  Kudos to Tracy Hille (Charlotte County Homeless Coalition, Gabrielle Reineck (Charlotte County Habitat for Humanity) and Randy Dunn (Charlotte County Family YMCA) for their key roles in this partnership.

      AMIKids Build a Wall for Habitat for Humanity Charlotte County at the Community Foundation of Charlotte County During the Giving Challenge

      AMIKids Build a Wall for Habitat for Humanity Charlotte County at the Community Foundation of Charlotte County During the Giving Challenge

    3. We watched creativity emerge in unexpected ways.
      Some organizations exude creativity by nature–Realize Bradenton and the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County, for example. The Pines of Sarasota Foundation decided to depart from a more formal approach to messaging and produce some very creative videos (in-house) that shared the faces and services of The Pines in a way we haven’t seen before. The result was a super high-energy campaign that engaged residents, families of residents, board members, staff members, and volunteers in giving, sharing content and celebrating the feeling of community at The Pines.

There’s more. Stay tuned for our second list, and while you’re waiting, how about commenting on this post with some of the great things you noted during the Challenge?

They can be general observations about what you enjoyed seeing in our community or special “insider” information from your organization. We may publish them.

Enjoy your week!

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County


Sam Davidson, Marketing Director, Westfield Sarasota Square and Southgate

Sarasota is a tricky place to live. It’s a mosaic of generations coming together, multiple identities colliding, and thousands of businesses that all have different goals. But for a short period each Spring, we all seem to agree on one thing. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the tourism industry or an entrepreneur, real estate or advertising, healthcare or technology, retiree or student. During this time, Sarasota comes together, unifies its efforts, and celebrates our thriving and world-renown nonprofit industry.

This is The Giving Challenge.  For the past several days, my inbox has been flooded with every nonprofit in town explaining how they are going to raise money on May 6-7. For 24 hours, the most creative ideas in the gulf coast will be executed by the hundreds of organizations participating in this initiative. Last year, The Giving Challenge raised over $1.78 million for 287 local nonprofits. This year, more than 400 nonprofits will be participating.

During this initiative, local businesses are contacted and asked to be partners in the fundraising efforts.  And it’s more than just asking for a check. It’s “how we can use your business’ strengths to boost the campaign to the next level.” This is such a big part of The Giving Challenge that the best nonprofit/profit partnership will be rewarded with a $5,000 grant.

As a leader in the retail industry, Westfield has engrained in me how important it is to be a good partner in the communities we serve. Sarasota, in particular, is extremely rewarding to the businesses that give back to the community.  It’s more than just cause marketing or being socially responsible.  Giving back in Sarasota is part of the professional lifestyle, and The Giving Challenge is a gut check for local businesses to see where they’re at with forming valuable, lasting relationships with the nonprofit family.

At Westfield Sarasota Square and Southgate, we have teamed up with dozens of nonprofits over the past decade. We’ve hosted fundraising fashion shows for baby boomers and elementary students. We’ve painted our walls to raise awareness. We’ve brought record-breaking blood drives to our stores. It’s no secret that our best shoppers are also Sarasota’s best philanthropists, whether it’s with their financial means or their time volunteered. For us, it’s a no brainer to be an incredible community partner, and that’s part of the culture our employees bring to Sarasota Square and Southgate each day. That is why The Giving Challenge is such a fun time of year for us. This year, we have partnered with Community Youth Development (CYD) showcasing the “Pathway to STARs” at Westfield Sarasota Square near the food court and AMC Theatre.

From May 2-7, 162 stars will be featured on our mall floor – each star representing a current STAR student. A STAR student is a high school student who has completed CYD’s comprehensive, 75-hour STAR Leadership Training Program.  Students learn important skills such as team-building, communication, and leadership. After they complete the program, they are eligible to serve on a nonprofit board of directors, or on a city or county advisory board as a full voting member. To put it simply, STAR students are the best-of-the-best teenagers we have. To show off their names to 75,000+ shoppers this next week is the least we can do to recognize their achievements and commitment to our community.

Our CYD partnership is very important to us and hits home for one of our core shopper segments. The students who participate in CYD are the same teenagers who shop, eat, and socialize at Sarasota Square. Some of them even hold part-time jobs with our retailers. To honor this demographic with the “Pathway to STARs” is a privilege for us and I can’t think of a better location in town to get the word out about CYD and the STAR program.

Throughout the past few years, we have partnered with CYD on a number of projects, and every time, I am grateful for the opportunity. When you meet the STARs and see them in action, you instantly believe in CYD’s mission. What they are doing is working. I sit on the Sarasota Young Professionals Board of Directors with Samuel Winegar, who attends Pine View and is a STAR. Winegar doesn’t just sit in a quiet corner at the Board meetings.  Instead, he is a key contributor and often carries the conversation on certain issues we discuss. Whatever he was taught during his STAR training comes to life, and it’s extremely refreshing to see. I always seem to think, “I wish I had his confidence, public speaking talent, and cool composure when I was a teenager.” Through this experience, and so many more with CYD, I can emphatically state that supporting this program during The Giving Challenge (and into the future) will benefit an organization that is succeeding in developing thousands of young leaders in this community.

Through May 7, I encourage you to visit Westfield Sarasota Square and check out “The Pathway to STARs”. You will have the opportunity to learn more about the STAR Leadership Training Program and create your own star.  While you’re there, take a photo on the pathway and show your support by posting to your social media channels using the hashtag #BeASTAR”. Through this support, you can be assured that CYD is diligently working to develop students that the entire community can admire and respect.

Thank you, CYD, for partnering with Westfield during The Giving Challenge. You have provided us a simple opportunity to give back to the community which we love, and for that we are grateful.  Your students are ridiculously amazing. They represent your organization throughout the year with pride. The thank you notes the students send us are genuine, and their visits to our management office to personally thank us are always a pleasant reminder of why we support you.  We could not be more proud to team up with such an inspiring organization.  Good luck during The Giving Challenge, and we’ll see you at “The Pathway to STARs”.


We are grateful to Sam Davidson, marketing director of Westfield Sarasota Square and Southgate, for sharing his perspective on the Giving Challenge from the business world.


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