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

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.


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