Here at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, we enjoy meeting with nonprofits. By being accessible, we are freshly inspired by people who are on the ground making a difference in our community.

If you’re thinking of reaching out to request a meeting, ask these seven questions to make sure your time is used wisely:

  1. What is the purpose of the meeting?
    We receive quite a few emails that start and end like this: “I would like to meet with you. Are you available this week?” This mysterious approach is intriguing, but we love to know the purpose up front so that everyone’s time is used effectively. Another colleague at the Foundation may be the right person for a particular request. We may need to prepare something in advance of the meeting. In some cases, the Foundation is not the right resource.
  2. Are you meeting to ask for funding?
    Do you ever call funders asking to “pick their brain” about something when you really want to ask about a grant? It’s totally natural for you to ask for money or to have questions about a grant. You’re talking to a foundation, right? But if that is the purpose of your request, make it clear so that we can provide the best direction for you at the time. This may or may not involve a meeting. And it may or may not involve the person you originally contacted.
  3. Are you meeting to ask for a job lead?
    Come right out and let us know if you’re looking for a connection. We do like to help people network for the good of the community, but we also have limited time available for meetings that end up being job opportunity explorations in disguise. Be up front from the beginning about it. This can be very useful after you have landed that new job at a nonprofit and need to come back in to see us.
  4. Can we meet over the phone?
    We love to meet people in person so that we can get to know each other and establish a relationship. But you can often accomplish your meeting objectives by scheduling 15 minutes over the phone. In this community, we all know how much travel time can add to the day, and if you can avoid it, there’s more time for your mission, right? If you’re not sure about whether a phone meeting is the best choice, ask your foundation contact. She will appreciate your thoughtfulness.
  5. Who else needs to be involved?
    It can be frustrating to foundations to meet with members of nonprofits when decision-makers are not invited and information has to be repeated in subsequent conversations. It can also be frustrating when extra people show up that we were not expecting. Let us know how many people will be joining you so that we have the right space available.
  6. Do you really need to meet this week?
    I really appreciate it when someone gives me a time frame such as, “It would help if we could meet before mid-May.” If your meeting request is truly an “emergency,” it’s especially helpful to understand in advance what you hope the Foundation may provide for your situation. An in-person meeting will likely not change the outcome if we feel cannot help you with a last-minute request.
  7. Is your Giving Partner Profile updated?
    Trust me, we use your Giving Partner profiles a lot. Like every day. We will read your profile before you come in to meet with us too. If you want to share a new need, a new program, or a new accomplishment, it should already be in your profile (along with your current staff and board members) when we meet. Then the Foundation can do its job and be prepared for our meeting with you, already equipped with the latest and greatest about your impact.

Our team feels privileged to work with nonprofits in our community. Thank you for the time you give to us in person, helping us to understand more about the great things you are accomplishing for people, places and animals!

Now it’s your turn. What do you wish Foundations would ask before setting up a site visit at your nonprofit organization? We can learn from you, so let us know.

Susie Bowie
VP of Philanthropic Education & Marketing


Let’s say a treasured, long-time donor wants to give your organization a gorgeous piece of property. Or a car, a boat, a big pile of cash, a piece of art, or even a pet llama (it’s happened, we promise).

As a caring nonprofit professional who wants to heap the love on your thoughtful donor, of course you want to say yes. And as an advocate for anything that could deliver more resources for your organization’s important programs, of course you want to say yes.

On Wednesday, April 1, 2015 from 9 am to 11 am, we have an offer your fundraising committee chair, executive director, and development director should be all over. (It’s not an April Fool’s Day joke either.)

The Community Foundation of Sarasota County is joining forces with the Southwest Florida Planned Giving Council to offer “Llamas, Diamonds and Dollars, Oh My: The Gift Acceptance Policy Your Nonprofit Needs” to share some extremely important considerations that will keep your nonprofit out of a pickle when it comes to accepting gifts.

The session promises to be informative and interactive, but most of all, to save your organization a lot of heartache and headache. You will leave poised to think through the considerations your organization should make now so that when that unusual gift is offered, you will have an easy answer substantiated in writing. We will provide sample gift acceptance policies and other tools you can share with your whole team.

Our presenters will tell some real stories, how they were handled, and what you can and should be doing now to make sure your nonprofit and your relationships with donors stay in only the best graces.

Learn more and register, and spread the word to your other colleagues with profiles in The Giving Partner. There is no cost to attend.

“A good intention, with a bad approach, often leads to a poor result.” ― Thomas Edison

new home page


Today we’re happy to reveal a fresher look for The Giving Partner. Our technology partners at GuideStar are committed to making data a bit easier on the eyes, and they have been working with us to upgrade our site to “Donor Edge 4.0.”

Now you can search for nonprofits alphabetically, and it’s also easier to find nonprofits sorted by keyword using the advanced search criteria right on the home page of our site.

With more than 430 updated profiles for nonprofits serving Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and Desoto counties, The Giving Partner will be even more accessible for donors searching for meaningful information about local organizations to inform their giving.

Our new home page features images from three nonprofits representing some of the diverse missions donors support:

  • Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, our beautiful local botanical garden providing oasis of inspiration and tranquility while furthering the understanding and appreciation of plants, especially epiphytes.
  • The Friendship Centers, promoting health, dignity and quality of life throughout the journey of aging with services in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte, Desoto and Lee counties.
  • Links to Success, a largely volunteer-led organization providing resources, services, experiences and guidance to prepare youth in Desoto County for post secondary education and careers.

We thank each of them for embracing nonprofit transparency, always staying on top of updates and information to make their Giving Partner profiles reflect the current state of their leadership, financials, needs and programmatic impact.

We would love to share your stories of success as well. E-mail us at Susie@CFSarasota.org with your photos, and we may feature them on The Giving Partner home page, The Giving Partner blog or on our Facebook page.


Meditate on your many possibilities while you have plenty of time.

The Community Foundation of Sarasota County is thrilled to announce the dates for a 2015 Giving Challenge in Southwest Florida for nonprofit organizations serving Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and Desoto counties. In partnership with rock stars in philanthropy including The Patterson Foundation, we will offer a platform and incentives to encourage everyone to take part in giving.

The 2015 Giving Challenge is Tuesday, September 1 at noon through Wednesday, September 2 at noon.

This 24-hour online giving event has inspired citizen philanthropy for the last three years, raising more than $8 million for local organizations thanks to support from local foundations, tens of thousands of generous donors, media partners, and hardworking nonprofit staff and volunteers.

Once again, organizations eligible to participate will have an updated profile in The Giving Partner, showcasing their transparency.

We’ll share more information soon, but as you begin to think about your campaign, keep these ideas in mind:

  1. Think about the importance of effective messaging, telling compelling stories about the real results you’re achieving for people, animals or places in our community.
  2. Consider how you can involve your nonprofit’s biggest advocates (board members, volunteers and current donors) as ambassadors to inspire new people to give.
  3. Consider how you can integrate your Giving Challenge campaign into your organization’s current communication tools, existing events, and big picture goals.
  4. And think of ways you can work as a team at your organization—no matter how small your team may be—to structure a fun, engaging experience for everyone.

We can feel those wheels in motion already, and we can’t wait to see what the most creative community in the country will come up with this year to engage our giving population in philanthropy.

Ann Christiano

Ann Christiano

Telling stories like you mean it is one of Ann Christiano’s eight imperatives for social change communications.

In her workshop last week at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Ann talked about several stories to keep in your organization’s story bank.

The story of how we started, the story of how we’re making a difference, the story of our people, the story of what the world would look like if we succeed with our mission, and even the story of a defeat in our work–all of these are essential stories to keep close at hand to whip out when the situation is right.

Much like you, I know some of these stories about my organization, but I need to spend some time brainstorming with my colleagues to dig deep, exchange stories, and together, record them in a story bank. Then we need to make sure our entire staff and board have access to these treasures.

Stories keep us emotionally connected, and if well-told, are memorable.

Here are Ann’s other seven imperatives for social change communications:

  • Stop telling people what you do and tell them why you do it.
  • Become strategically empathetic. Empathy is the ability to share and understand feelings of another. In your communications, try evoking empathy for those you serve or empathy for your audience. Don’t forget about how you might inspire others’ empathy.
  • Communicate in pictures. Even when you can’t use photographs or video, you can use descriptive language to create a visual image. Remember MLK’s incredible speeches? They are filled with visualizations that made his words even more powerful.
  • Use the full palette of emotions as you communicate.  Have you considered evoking frustration? Using humor? What about surprise? Be deliberate with the use of emotion and experiment beyond the use of guilt as you are trying to stimulate action.
  • Create a call to action that is actionable and that advances your causes. “General awareness” is no good. What do you want people to do? Are you making it easy to understand the call to action? Will that call to action get you closer to your goal?
  • Make your messages portable and shareable because every person you communicate with is part of a larger network. Yes, just yes.
  • Stop obsessing about whether other people are as passionate about your mission as you are. Get used to it. Often people will act on your organization’s behalf without having the same level of passion or urgency as you do.

How many can you integrate into your existing messaging?

Ann Christiano is the Frank Karel Chair in Public Interest Communications at the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications. Her role is to develop a curriculum in the newly emerging discipline of public interest communications, which uses the tools of public relations and journalism to create positive social change.

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.


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


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