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.


Embracing Our Differences and Louie’s Modern are pairing up during the Giving Challenge, just one of the 28 nonprofit/business partnerships

We couldn’t be more thrilled to see the various ways in which local businesses are partnering with nonprofits to help them increase their exposure in the 2014 Giving Challenge. Hosting events, developing promotional materials, sharing the giving opportunity with their employees and customers, these businesses have stepped up to support nonprofits with missions they believe in.  Here is the eclectic list of business/nonprofit partnerships setting the stage for success in our community’s biggest day of online giving:

  1. Agape Flights and Tri-County Air Conditioning
  2. Girls Inc. of Sarasota County/ Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County and Nickel Media
  3. Community Youth Development and Westfield Mall, Sarasota Square
  4. Embracing Our Differences and Louie’s Modern
  5. Fuzion Dance Artists and Daniel Perales Studio
  6. Pines of Sarasota Foundation and Morton’s Market
  7. Take Stock in Children and Sarasota Architectural Salvage
  8. The ABA Academy and Jaco’s Boxing, MMA and Fitness Gym
  9. The Women’s Fund of Southwest Florida and Florida Community Bank
  10. Visual Arts Center and Red Hat Studio
  11. We Care Manatee and Grapevine Communications
  12. Learn to Fish and Gulf Coast Window Cleaning
  13. Goodwill Manasota, Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida and Children’s World, Short Giraffe and Dry Cleaning to Go
  14. Make A Wish of Central and Northern Florida and The Ritz-Carlton
  15. Sarasota Audubon Society and Johnson PhotoImaging
  16. Sarasota Crew and SunniBunni
  17. Marie Selby Botanical Gardens and Michael’s on East
  18. USF Sarasota-Manatee and Furniture Warehouse
  19. Vintage Paws Sanctuary and Cha Cha Coconuts
  20. Arts & Cultural Alliance of Sarasota and Whole Foods Market Sarasota
  21. Charlotte Local Education Foundation and Fawcett Memorial Hospital
  22. The Literacy Council of Sarasota and A. Parker’s Books
  23. Family Resource and Amerigroup/ Amerigroup Foundation
  24. Gulf Shore Animal League and Veterinary Emergency Center
  25. Lighthouse of Manasota and Gulfcoast Eye Center
  26. Fairy Tail Endings and Gorilla Kleen
  27. Cat Depot and Bayside Pet Resort & Spa
  28. Beyond the Spectrum and Penzeys Spices

A hotel, restaurants, a furniture store, a book store, a grocery store, a photography studio—even a pressure washing company—will be working to drive donations to their nonprofit partners during the 2014 Giving Challenge. Kudos to the nonprofits that will be building or expanding relationships with these businesses to increase the impact they make in our community. Be sure to learn more about each nonprofit organization online at www.thegivingpartner.org. When you think about your choices for dining, shopping, and local services, consider supporting these local establishments. And remember to stand behind the causes you care about on May 6 at noon through May 7 at noon on www.givingpartnerchallenge.org!


Armed with aligned vision, goals and messaging, these nonprofit teams have set out for success in the 2014 Giving Challenge by working together:


Dr. Sandra Hughes, one of our community’s favorite governance consultants, and Michael Corley, senior consultant at The Patterson Foundation, will be judging this competition and awarding a $5,000 grant to the winning team.

They will be looking for the overall impact of the partnership through the lens of the goals and strategies set forth by the participating organizations.

Regardless of the outcome, major cool points to all of these nonprofits and their leaders–way to work together for the greater good of our entire community!


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