Hats off to the nonprofit leaders who took the time to respond to a challenge from us–reflecting on Ambassador James Joseph’s leadership lessons from “Leadership As a Way of Being.”

We especially enjoyed the thoughtful response from John McCarthy, interim executive director of SCOPE and wanted to share some nuggets from his short essay with you.

“While Ambassador Joseph’s ‘Lessons Learned’ reflects his experience on a global level, his observations parallel the leadership philosophy and enduring practice of SCOPE here in Sarasota.  The idea of leadership as something that is shared – not controlled, is fundamental to the work of bridging differences in a way that respects all of the voices and perspectives of the community.

Whether the role is a US Ambassador mending relations between countries or citizen leaders mending fences in our own back yard, the philosophy that leadership is a shared commodity is fundamental to people working together to make conditions better for all.”

Here two of the Ambassador’s reflections that have deep meaning for us in our work with nonprofits and donors at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County:

  • Many ordinary people are quiet leaders who make extraordinary contributions.
    We see evidence of the work these quiet leaders do every day. They are the “unsung heroes” of the nonprofit world. Their names may not often be mentioned in the Community section of our local paper. We may not see them at the networking events. They often set the tone for excellence in their workplaces with patience, command of and expertise in their programs, and loving, compassionate hearts that inspire others.

    We have an opportunity to meet many donors who also follow this quiet leadership model. They give in ways that may go unrecognized by the masses, but each gift is a ripple that motivates others to do good work…or simply smile at the end of a long day and a difficult cause. You know these people too.

  • Leadership that seeks to elevate and empower others…engages the whole person in ways that satisfy higher and nobler needs.
    We often observe organizations and individuals leveraging philanthropy in this way–to empower others and reach them on a multitude of levels, levels that go beyond basic needs. How many nonprofit leaders in positions of power approach leadership in this way as well?

    A different sort of staff member and board member can emerge when a leader sincerely appreciates them and uses every opportunity to elevate and empower them. If you are fortunate enough to report to someone like this, you know it.  It makes all the difference.

We’re looking forward to seeing many of you in our precious two hours with Ambassador James Joseph tomorrow.

John McCarthy and company, we know you will enjoy lunch with the Ambassador after the workshop! Thank you for your thoughtful essay.

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County


Not too long ago, we were sharing a suggested vehicle for philanthropy in response to the Boston Marathon bombings.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Today Facebook, Twitter, online news, television and radio will no doubt continue to populate with images and stories that make our hearts long to help after yesterday’s tornado in Oklahoma.

Like The Boston Foundation, the Oklahoma City Community Foundation is also one of the sixteen GuideStar DonorEdge communities using its version of The Giving Partner, GiveSmartOKC, to inform donors about choices for giving.

We know you want to reach those who really need your help. We encourage you to thoroughly check out any organization before making a contribution. When emotions are running the show, it’s easy to forget that scams and ineffective programs are around.

At this time, the Oklahoma City Community Foundation recommends supporting American Red Cross, Central and Western Oklahoma Region or the Salvation Army of Central Oklahoma.

We know that giving is always very personal.

You may want to help a particular group such as displaced pets or emergency service volunteers. Perhaps you want to wait and see if special funds are set up in the near future. Whatever is near and dear to you, take some time to investigate before you give.

Now, we know what a caring community we live in. Our colleagues from the Oklahoma City Community Foundation will be here in Sarasota next week for the GuideStar DonorEdge annual conference. What can we do to give them an especially warm welcome?

higherpurposeGood nonprofit leaders are so much more than the titles assigned to them by virtue of their positions, yes?

So many books, articles and essays have been collected over hundreds of years about the qualities of good leaders. The arguments about whether leaders are born or made, leadership vs. management, etc. can be exhausting.

But the study of leadership really comes alive through the writings and experiences of Ambassador James Joseph, who served four U.S. Presidents, beginning with President Jimmy Carter who appointed him Deputy Secretary of the Department of Interior in 1978, and including President Bill Clinton who appointed him the United States Ambassador to South Africa in 1996.

This week Ambassador Joseph will visit the Community Foundation of Sarasota County to speak with nonprofit executive directors and board chairs about the role of context in leadership, leadership ethics and accountability, and rethinking civil society for changing demographics.

I had the opportunity to study the Ambassador’s “Leadership as a Way of Being” as part of our Hull Fellows retreat and found his reflections thought-provoking and inspiring.

As you begin another week, contemplating the possibilities for yourself and your organization, think about these two excerpts:

“Leadership is often a call to a higher purpose and a higher reason. Yet, that call is most compelling when it is expressed through example.”

“…the most effective leaders are those who can induce followers to transcend their self-interest for the sake of a higher purpose. They are more likely to use an inspirational style that transforms rather than a transactional style that bargains or manipulates.”

As we weave through the unfortunate realities of egos and politics, self-motivation and unnecessary competition, consider the higher purpose and higher reason for our work in philanthropy.

How are we inspiring our peers, other community leaders, colleagues, direct reports and fellow board members with our own example and by making conscious choices to do the most good?

More to come this week on Ambassador Joseph and leadership.

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

Picture1It’s kind of like a contest.

The challenge: with shorter attention spans and thousands of daily messages from every direction, how can you break through and urge your supporters to love your nonprofit more than any other?

If you take a tour of nonprofit profiles in The Giving Partner, you will see lots of words. Words that take time to read, a few jargony things, some acronyms here and there. Brevity is often not the first consideration.

Now put yourself in the shoes of prospective donors. Would you have time and interest to scroll through lots of heavy text that doesn’t get right to the heart of your messages and impact?

We’re forced to play with the idea of giving enough of the right information and stories about our organizations without overwhelming our readers. I don’t think it’s easy. But it is a good exercise.

Read about the Twitter campaign against Obamacare and the response from Obamacare supporters.  For the purposes of this blog, it’s not about the politics; it is about the vehicle and the message design. Each side is articulating the “why’s” in 3 words or less.

I love the concept.

Twitter is forcing all of us to be better writers.

Standford Social Innovation recently explored the 8-word mission statement—another jewel to read and digest.

(Remember when Maggie Osborne joined the Community Foundation of Sarasota County for the program outcomes workshop in the Fall and shared this 8-word concept with us? It was good stuff—some mentioned that it moved their organizations to redesign their mission statement.)

So here’s the action item for you: visit your nonprofit’s profile in The Giving Partner.  How would you whittle down the narrative portions to the essentials with concise and compelling stories, sprinkled with enough good facts?

Now check out that mission statement. Is it a looooong sentence? More than one sentence? More than one paragraph? Yikes! How in the world does your board and staff remember it?  Let’s see if you can take another look.

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

“Be sincere, Be brief, Be seated.”  ― Franklin D. Roosevelt


ohreallyThis is our third installment of “Oh Really?” We hope you have been enjoying the humor.

If you take some time to review the financial section of nonprofit profiles in The Giving Partner, you will notice that projected total revenues and projected total expenses are exactly equal for many organizations.

Many nonprofits deliberately work to establish this kind of budget each year under the pretense that it is more appealing to donors and funders.

Other organization leaders have long been growing the bottom line of their nonprofits in celebration of sustainability and making more mission possible over time.

As Peter Kramer of the Nonprofit Finance Fund so eloquently states, “Nonprofit is a tax status, not a way of operating: Positive operating results (unrestricted revenue consistently exceeding expenses) are an indicator of strong financial management.”

In his blog post Top Indicators of Nonprofit Financial Health, Peter talks about a few easy concepts that can reframe the way we consider our organization’s financial picture. Financially healthy nonprofits have…

  1. A track record of unrestricted dollars coming in year after year.
  2. Consistent surpluses year after year.
  3. Revenue projections that account for the whole picture–including depreciation, debt reduction, operating reserves and future opportunities.

Here’s a special challenge: take a look at your organization’s projected revenue vs. expenses in The Giving Partner. What steps can you take to ensure a model that allows your organization to serve the community to its fullest potential while starting to build some additional reserves?

Read Tom Kramer’s blog post here.  He’s the first to point out that one business model will not work for every organization, but financial health should be every organization’s priority.

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

When you really think about it, your nonprofit is as innovative, as productive, and as successful as the people who lead it and the people who carry out the program and administrative sides of your work.

Tensions between you and others on your team are inevitable. Different perspectives. Different backgrounds. Different approaches to solving problems. Different stresses outside of work that color your daily experiences.

The tensions around you—and between others—can either motivate or destroy your effectiveness in your role at your organization.

Sometimes you feel powerless to impact change at your organization because the forces around you will not allow you the space to speak or to be heard. Other times, the tensions may create a cascading scenario of conflict that does little to address the root issues.

How can you harvest these tensions to create a better organizational culture?

  • Use tension as a connector. We thrive on connections. Find ways to connect with the people who have points of view very different from your own. When you do this, you may not resolve philosophical differences, but you can build bridges on a personal level with your associates. This will help you appreciate each other even when you do not agree.

  • Realize that different perspectives make your organization stronger. As annoying and time-consuming as they can be, different perspectives on your staff and board add value to your organization. Our community is diverse and addressing the issues in our community requires diversity in thought. If you are a leader at your nonprofit, think about the culture you have established. Is it one that welcomes various points of view? Or makes people feel as if they cannot speak up?

  • Use tension to build your own leadership abilities. When you view tensions in your work as a personal challenge, you can only build your strengths as a leader. Consider a confidentiality buddy who can bring a balanced view of situations to help you understand tensions within the context of the larger picture. Sometimes viewing the world outside of your own lens is necessary. Then take an active role in recognizing and working through tensions instead of waiting for someone else to do it.

  • Understand the motivators. Are the tensions in your nonprofit work based on different approaches to the work itself, or based on personal insecurities and ego? Figuring out your role in making people feel comfortable can do a lot to harvest the positive aspects of tension. We all have strengths and weaknesses. Help bring out the best in people. It will bring out the best in yourself!

Within our work, we find many challenges—some driven by the complexity of the issues we are addressing, and some driven by people.

There are silver linings in the ways we choose to harvest tensions. What has worked well for you and your organization? I bet you have lots of ideas. Post a comment and share them.

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

Thanks to the Southeastern Council on Foundation’s Hull Fellows retreat for helping me think through some of these opportunities through my own lens and the lens of others.


Historic Banning Mills

Historic Banning Mills

This week I have spent my days in the woods at Historic Banning Mills with the 2013 class of the Southeastern Council of Foundation’s Hull Fellows.

The experience has been very meaningful for me, both within the context of the Southern philanthropy we are charged with stewarding and within the framework of personal leadership development.

Not a day goes by when I am not extremely grateful for the responsibilities with which I have been entrusted, as a caretaker of donor funds intended to make our community and nonprofits strong.

Many of our conversations at the retreat this week transcend the role of foundations in philanthropy and speak to you as well—as leaders, program staff and board members of nonprofit organizations and as donors supporting those organizations.

Here are some gems for your Friday, borrowed from conversations with Janine Lee, president and CEO of the Southeastern Council of Foundations and Alicia Philipp, president and CEO of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta:

  • Take your work very seriously; take yourself less seriously.
  • Learn something from everyone.
  • Surround yourself with smart people. Hire people smarter than you.
  • Be more than your job.
  • And my personal favorite…do something every month that makes you want to throw up.

Finally and most importantly, check in with your position at your organization (or the organization you support) from time to time.

  • Why me?
  • Why here?
  • Why now?

Do the answers to these questions affirm where you are and what you are doing? If not, remember these positions in philanthropy are privileged. Be good to yourself and to your organization. The day you stop loving your job is the day it’s time to move on to a new adventure.

Looking forward to coming home to Sarasota!

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County