November 18, 2014
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.
Community Foundation of Sarasota County
October 28, 2014
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 writing—for 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:
- Blue Avocado has a great sample board expectation sheet.
- GuideStar has an excellent article called “What to Ask Every Prospective Board Candidate”.
- Local organizations that have provided written permission to share their board selection criteria include Sarasota Military Academy, Nature’s Academy and Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida. E-mail me at Susie@CFSarasota.org if you would like to see them for an example.
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!
September 30, 2014
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/.
August 26, 2014
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.
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?
- Critical thinking
- Complex problem solving
- Judgment and decision-making
- 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.