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Kevin Baird, a national leader in educational publishing and professional development, spoke at Sarasota County Technical Institute last night, energizing educators, nonprofit staff and funders who are innovating through EdExplore SRQ, an online platform connecting teachers to local community arts, cultural, historical, and science field-based organizations that provide opportunities to enrich the school curriculum.

Thanks to the generosity of The Patterson Foundation and Sue Meckler, Angela Hartvigsen and Brian Hersh of Sarasota County Schools, we tapped into creative approaches to bring Florida Standards to life in our public school system.

We explored ways to encourage students to make intelligent inferences instead of memorization, ways for teachers to expand their own perspectives and openness to new teaching methods, and ways organizations can deliver a newfound excitement and spark for subject matter to both teachers and students.

Making more connections to the “real world” in reading, writing, math and science are more important than ever before–not just because it constitutes life readiness (vs. college and career readiness alone) but because it is far more likely to engage students in relevant, lasting skill development.

What are the top four skills we’re trying to master?

  1. Critical thinking
  2. Complex problem solving
  3. Judgment and decision-making
  4. Active listening

I can’t imagine what skills could be more important to prepare young people for nonprofit careers.

Can you imagine how agile our social sector organizations could be if we appointed board members and hired staff based on their skill or promise in these four areas?  The complex issues we face on a daily basis require flexibility and decisiveness, thinking and action, and the ability to quiet ourselves as we absorb others’ experiences and points of view.

If you view your organization as a learning laboratory for solving a social or environmental issue, consider how well are you doing on these core questions:

  • Is your organization investing in developing critical thinking, complex problem solving, judgment, and active listening skills for individuals at every level?
  • Are board members given the space to practice critical thinking and complex problem solving to move your organization forward during board meetings?
  • Do your leaders model active listening with staff, donors and clients?
  • When interviewing new potential staff and board members, do you ask behavioral questions that help you understand an individual’s critical thinking skills?

Kevin challenged us to think about how we can “help the science lesson become the science lab.” In other words, how can we build interactive (and sometimes fun) solutions to our most persistent challenges to achieve more? Whether that occurs in the classroom, in the field, or behind our desks at local organizations, novel approaches are needed to move us out of status quo.

Thanks, as always, to The Patterson Foundation for stimulating more thought about new possibilities.

 

Kevin Baird serves in a variety of education related posts through EdLead, his education fund and support organization. He is a founder of the Center for College & Career Readiness and a regular speaker and consultant working with schools and districts to create effective school management systems and processes.

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The 2014 Fundraisers Forum at State College of Florida's Lakewood Ranch Campus on Friday, July 11, 2014

The 2014 Fundraisers Forum at State College of Florida’s Lakewood Ranch Campus

At the center of every great story is the hero.

Our nonprofit work is made possible by those who invest in our missions, so at the heart of every success–every person, animal or place made better through our programs–is the donor.

On Friday, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and the Southwest Florida Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals welcomed 150 local nonprofit fundraising leaders to the tenth annual Fundraisers Forum.  We found a number of takeaways to help us position donors as our heroes for long-term, sustained relationships with our organizations.

Are you putting your donors in the superhero costumes they deserve? We bet you are if…

  1. You see your constituents three dimensionally. The focus of Andrea Berry’s keynote address was the “3D” aspect of our constituents, knowing that each donor is not just someone who gives, but a full person, complete with a unique personal situation, interests and capabilities.  Donors may also be patrons, volunteers, clients.  Coordinating  messages from your organization and speaking to each aspect of your donors helps them to see us as smart, caring institutions that want to involve them at the highest level.

  2. Your donor management system captures good information. If your organization is to survive transitions in staff and board members over time, having a good donor management system to track the history of donors’ interactions with your nonprofit—as well as their preferences and backgrounds—is essential. The continuity this provides allows your donors to always be front and center, weathering changes that are destined to occur at your organization.

  3. Special events are strategic and mission-focused, allowing donors to easily see themselves in a compelling position to help. Consider Neuro Challenge Foundation’s Cause for Fashion event. It’s not just another nonprofit fashion show. The models are Parkinson’s patients and donors, connecting the event to the mission, presenting each person as someone who is more than the disease.  At Girls Incorporated of Sarasota County’s annual luncheon, it’s the girls who run the show—serving as table ambassadors, making the speeches, greeting guests as they enter. Donors receive a first-hand experience of the difference their funding has made in building strong, smart, bold girls.

  4. Your written fundraising plan guides strategies to cultivate donors. Without a fundraising plan, each person on your board or staff may have a different idea about your fundraising goals for prospecting, annual giving, major gifts, planned giving. When you have a written plan with goals–and strategies and human resources assigned to them (whether those resources are board or staff members)–you can better focus on the true center of your development efforts: your donors themselves.

  5. Your relationships with donors include lots of one-on-one time. Strong personal connections are built with one-on-one conversations, meetings, and follow ups. The more interactions we have in which we are simply connecting, not asking, the more we cultivate possibilities for long-term support. And the hero in this kind of personal, continuous relationship is always the donor.

 

Special thanks to 2014 Fundraisers Forum keynote and breakout presenter Andrea Berry, director of development of Hardy Girls Healthy Women and former national training director for Idealware; and to breakout session leaders Janet Ginn, CFRE, senior vice president of development for the Community Foundation of Sarasota County; Lisa Intagliata, CFRE, director of philanthropic events of Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation; Carisa Campanella, care coordinator of Neuro Challenge Foundation; Kay Mathers, director of community relations of Girls Inc of Sarasota County; and Tom Melville, executive director of the Literacy Council of Sarasota County.