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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.

NOLA

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

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 writingfor 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:

-Susie Bowie
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!

Bryan Clontz Speaking at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County

Bryan Clontz Speaking at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County

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/.

 

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