Just the thought of raising money can be a real challenge for many nonprofit board members. And it’s understandable when we frame “fundraising” in limited contexts.  But it’s easier when you think of your board as a team…and maybe even a fun team that is serious about helping your organization thrive. (Newsflash: your board is a team.)

I’m not your biggest sports fan, but I do know that on teams, each person plays a different role. On your board team, some people will feel comfortable making an “ask” while others will never feel comfortable doing so. It’s like asking a quarterback to be a wide receiver. You need both and wouldn’t expect one to perform the same role as the other.

With each Giving Challenge, we search for ways to help nonprofits raise dollars and build their strength. This year we have a new grant incentive, and it’s all about your board. Hint: how can you use the community excitement behind the Giving Challenge to rally your board’s enthusiasm for your mission?

Here are three ways your board can leap into the Challenge:

  1. Commit to 100% board participation in giving during the Challenge. If you’re asking the community to support you during this 24 hour period, it sends a powerful message when your board supports your organization too. Everyone can participate as a philanthropist in the Giving Challenge by donating $25. Last year, 74% of nonprofits indicated that some board members gave to them during the Challenge, and 19% indicated that everyone on the board gave. It would be exciting to see those percentages rise!

  2. Consider all of the ways your board members can be part of your fundraising team: hosting a gathering at their home; enlisting the support of their business; sharing their enthusiasm for your mission with their friends, family and colleagues via email, social media or a letter; thanking your donors. (Check out GuideStar’s recent blog post by Rachel Muir, CFRE for more.) Last year only 28% of board members participated in thanking Giving Challenge donors. That’s an opportunity for growth, and it’s actually fun and meaningful to thank donors.

  3. Evoke that team spirit! Anyone–not just board members–can be more open to fundraising when working together for the benefit of a cause near and dear to everyone on the team, right? Just look at the Westcoast Black Theatre Troope board in last year’s Giving Challenge. They do look like they were having fun. (The board challenged the community with their own match for dollars raised during the campaign.)


Can your board come together with a team spirit to help your nonprofit raise money, share excitement for your accomplishments in the community, and have a good time doing it?

You might just be the right nonprofit to earn one of two $1,000 grants that will be awarded for “Best Board Member Engagement” in the Giving Challenge.  With a positive experience in this campaign, the doors are wide open for a year of more board participation in fundraising.

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

inspirenewLast week we kicked off our series of five trainings to get local organizations ready for the 2015 Giving Challenge.

The Community Foundation of Sarasota County has enjoyed the enthusiasm and anticipation shared among our nonprofit friends as we explain the many opportunities available to engage new and existing supporters.

We talked about some pretty incredible news. The Patterson Foundation will support nonprofits in the 2015 Giving Challenge in two ways: with a 1:1 match for each new online donor’s contributions – up to $250 per donor, per organization–and with $35,000 in incentives for nonprofits that cultivate the highest totals of new online donors. (“New” donors are defined as those who didn’t give to your organization in last year’s Giving Challenge.)  There is no cap on the total dollars The Patterson Foundation will award.


Inspiring new donors to give isn’t light work.

So how can nonprofits make this incredible opportunity a success? Start by considering all of the reasons people might be moved to give and how you can leverage the excitement of the Giving Challenge to convert them to donors.

In our Giving Challenge trainings, we’ve spent some time talking about this great piece from Network for Good’s Fundraising123.org site. How many of the motivators in “The Secret to Getting People to Give: 15 Reasons Why People Donate” can your organization use to build alignment with your cause on September 1 and 2? Here are a few of our favorites:

  1. Someone I know asked me to give.
    Use the right people to share a personal appeal for the Giving Challenge with their circles of influence. If my best friend asks me to donate to her favorite cause, for instance, I’m much more likely to say yes than I would be if I received a random email solicitation from the organization.

  2. I feel emotionally moved by someone’s story.
    This is a tempting time to share the Giving Challenge logo with a “give to us” line.  That’s probably the least effective thing you can do. Consider the bank of inspiring stories you have about the difference your organization has made for one child, one veteran, one season ticket subscriber, one senior, one animal, etc. Use these stories!

  3. I want to change someone’s life.
    See #2. Tell a story about how your organization has changed a life–or can change a life–with the support of a donor. Evidence of the difference one donor can make is a big motivator.

  4. I believe supporting your cause is “in style.”
    Have you considered how your organization’s work relates to an important mission-centric issue that’s been in the news lately? Leverage that as you talk with people about how relevant it is to support what you’re accomplishing.

  5. I will have a good community image (or a good image for my business) if I give.
    This year we’re awarding grants to two nonprofits with the “Best Business Partnerships” in the Giving Challenge. What businesses in our community align with your organization’s values? Think of how they can expose your organization to new supporters AND how you can reinforce their brand positioning in the community as a great social steward.

  6. I want to be seen as a role model by giving.
    You can gain extra brownie points by encouraging people to use Facebook or Twitter to share that they made gifts to you during the Giving Challenge. It positions them as leaders and helps you reach entire circles of friends, family members, colleagues, neighbors, and others who are distinct from your nonprofit’s insiders.

  7. An emotion–like feeling fortunate or guilty or joy–has motivated me to give.
    When Ann Christiano visited us in January to talk about the power of stories, she also encouraged us to consider the full suite of emotions as we tell our stories. We’ve seen a lot of energy generated in past campaigns around humor, joy, inclusion, hope. How can you use these and other feelings to reach the soft side we all have that compels us to action?

Add to the list!

We’ll post more about this in the coming weeks and would love to add your thoughts and comments.

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

It has been exciting to see the registration of our all-star line up of Team Leaders, the ones who will navigate their nonprofits’ efforts in the 2015 Giving Challenge on September 1 and 2 from noon to noon.

We wanted to share highlights from Kevin Daum’s article, “Ten Traits of Great Leaders and Their Followers,” published in Inc., since we find it so relevant. An outstanding Giving Challenge Team Leader will bring a lot to the table to maximize the opportunity to engage donors, attract new supporters, and leverage attention that supports her organization’s goals.

  1. Ambition. Having passion, drive and determination will make every bit of difference in your Giving Challenge success. Your ambition becomes a contagious part of others’ outlook on the possibilities for success.

  2. Patience.  Let’s face it. A big project–and working with people in general–requires a lot of patience. Not everyone sees the world the same way, and bringing people along requires patience in carrying out your shared vision, especially true for a major undertaking like the Giving Challenge. (And as the Community Foundation works with more than 400 organizations, we appreciate your patience with us too.)

  3. Humility. Great leaders are not overly concerned with who gets the credit, focusing on helping each team member contribute in ways that prove valuable to the entire organization.

  4. Humor. Humor can put everyone at ease, helping us to be more productive, enjoying our work and those we work with. We have also seen that Giving Challenge campaigns that make use of humor have great success in engaging others. Your content becomes more sharable, more likeable.

  5. Vision. When teammates know what the big picture is, they are more motivated by their role in the grand scheme of things. Achieving great things begins with vision and communication of the vision.

  6. Compliance. With so many aspects of the Giving Challenge to manage–grant incentives, deadlines, communication expectations, updating your Giving Partner profile–it’s critical that leaders can comply with the guidelines set out for everyone.

  7. Tolerance. Working with team members who have different ideas, different ways of working, and different communication styles can be trying. It takes tolerance to lead a creative endeavor like the Giving Challenge.

  8. Courage. The Giving Challenge is all about trying out new approaches to attract donors and share your mission with those who want to get engaged. Courageous campaigns are led by courageous leaders who are willing to do step outside the comfort zone.

  9. Accountability.  At the end of the day, the results of each organization’s efforts are there for the team to enjoy and celebrate. Whether it’s a fundraising goal, communication goal, or strategic goal the nonprofit is hoping to achieve, the team leader’s accountability enables others to be accountable.

  10. Gratitude. Never ever underestimate the power of sharing appreciation with your team members and others who have helped to make success possible. Do it often and genuinely.

What’s missing on this list of star qualities?

We are so impressed each year with everyone who steps up and does tremendous work to bring their nonprofits into the spotlight. It’s a local spotlight we’re proud of, but other communities always ask about our local campaigns as well. They start with great leaders.

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County


Consider walking through the grocery store, reflecting on what seems like thousands of options in salad dressing.

Clever packaging may catch your eye, but I bet you’re also interested in the ingredients, the calories, the price, and of course, past experience tells you what tastes you have enjoyed or care to forget.  Although you may be grateful to Publix, Whole Foods or Trader Joes for carrying so many choices, you do not assume each is “good” simply because it is available.

People are different. Consumers are different. Donors are different. We make choices based on that perfect combination of what’s most important to us. Most of us look for a combination that addresses value, our personal taste, and our expectations—whether we’re talking about a salad dressing or a charitable donation.

Last week we published a post about nonprofit trust and transparency.

The Giving Partner allows nonprofits in Southwest Florida to share in-depth information about their financials, leadership, programmatic impact, needs and strategies.  But the availability of such rich data points and stories for hundreds of organizations is only part of the story. We have the power to make informed choices when we use the information to compare, ask, and get engaged before we give.

You’ll see a “Reviewed by Your Community Foundation” icon by each organization in The Giving Partner that has disclosed key information annually. The “Reviewed” icon is not an endorsement for the organization. It’s certainly not our role to rate nonprofits or to say who is “good” or “bad.”

Donors, businesses, the media and funders can make informed choices by doing a few things:

  1. Look to see if the nonprofit has an updated profile in The Giving Partner. Remember that the “Reviewed by Your Community Foundation” icon isn’t a seal of approval.

  2. Find out what is most important to you. Does the organization provide specific stories and data that demonstrate it is making an impact? Do its IRS Form 990s and audits indicate financial health? Is the board committed, showing up to board meetings and making personal donations to the organization? Can the nonprofit articulate its goals for the future? Are standard policies in place? These are just a few questions you can research in The Giving Partner.

  3. Ask questions. If there is something you want to learn more about, reach out to the organization and ask. Good organizations always have accessible and knowledgeable people who are happy to talk with you and provide more information.

It’s important that nonprofits and donors alike feel empowered to connect with each other about choices in philanthropy. It starts with information but doesn’t end there.  The Giving Partner is a launching point.

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County


It's a clear day for nonprofit transparency in Southwest Florida

It’s a clear day for nonprofit transparency in Southwest Florida

A few years ago, when we first introduced The Giving Partner to our community, we passionately shared the reason for our investment: to help donors and others make more informed decisions about their giving and to meet a growing demand from donors for transparency.

Now, equipped with three years worth of data and new efficiencies The Giving Partner has created for nonprofits and for those who make choices in philanthropy, we continue to keep the big picture in mind.

And the big picture goes back to one key word: trust.

  • Can you—as a donor, citizen philanthropist, funding institution, or business—trust that you have good knowledge of the local nonprofit marketplace before you decide where you will give your time, talent, or treasure?
  • Can you trust that the organizations you invest in are committed to disclosing information that should be available to the public?

A barrage of commentary recently emerged from a recent article about four national cancer charities accused of fraud.

When stories like this and the infamous Tampa Bay Times piece published in June 2013 called “America’s Worst Charities” are unveiled, donors begin to question our entire sector. Are other “bad players” close to home? How do we know?

An organization with a published profile in The Giving Partner is not “endorsed” by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. But each organization does answer key questions that help us understand how committed and engaged the board is, how healthy its financials are, what operational and strategic planning processes are in place, and whether or not it’s achieving real results that help our community.

The fact that organizations are providing these data points on a public platform moves our community one step above the rest in retaining the trust we need from donors in order to accomplish the good things philanthropy can do.

Sure, some local nonprofits only complete profiles in The Giving Partner so they can be eligible for grants, opportunities like the Giving Challenge, and access to pro bono consultants, but the number one reason strong nonprofits complete and update a profile leads back to that one word: trust. They know we all have a vital role in establishing and maintaining trust.

There are calls for the IRS to maintain better oversight over charities. There are calls for new watchdog groups to form. I’m grateful that in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and DeSoto counties, we’re making information available through our own efforts.

We’re on a path that distinguishes our community, thanks to more than 400 nonprofits committed to transparency; to media partners that spread the word including Sarasota Magazine, iHeart Media and Herald-Tribune Media Group; and to funders including Sarasota County Government, the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation, The Patterson Foundation, Manatee Community Foundation and others that insist on using The Giving Partner in their processes.

-Susie Bowie
VP of Philanthropic Education
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

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


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