bert-ernie-rubber-duckyI just read a fun piece on Next Avenue called “5 Sesame Street Lessons We Need Again As Adults” by Bryce Kirchoff. Loved it. And of course I thought about our community’s online day of giving on September 1 and 2 from noon to noon.

Here are Kirchoff’s five big Sesame Street lessons with a little Giving Challenge commentary added. (Click here if you need some Sesame Street video time.)

1. Put down the ducky if you want to play the saxophone.
Kirchoff reminds us that on Sesame Street, Ernie actually has to put down his favorite rubber ducky if he wants to play the saxophone. It’s not always possible to do something new or to do something well until we make the space for it, right? Consider what you might need to put down in the next couple of weeks to promote a Giving Challenge campaign with the results you’re seeking. Better yet, can you combine it with an existing goal or effort to concentrate your success?

2. A sense of adventure never gets old.
Adventures cover new territory and give us new experiences. So put on your field boots and a hat. Bring your butterfly net. The Giving Challenge is a chance to be adventurous with philanthropy.  Plan thoughtfully but be flexible. Dress right for the occasion and lay the ground work, but build in a sense of excitement about the unknown!

3. Friends Matter.
Looking for new donors to give to your nonprofit for the $250 matching opportunity from The Patterson Foundation? Social campaigns are all about your friends and their friends. Your friends are your volunteers, board members, clients, vendors, family members, media partners. Reach out to them. Invite them to share your posts, host a gathering, follow the Leaderboard, make an appeal to 5 people they know, share, give, be a vital part of your campaign. When you let friends know how much they matter, they really want to help.

4. Celebrate Yourself.
September 1 and 2 is an AMAZING time to celebrate the good things your organization makes possible in this community. It’s not about what you do, but what impact you are making. To celebrate yourself, use your Giving Challenge messaging to tell stories about the lives you have improved and to share some data about positive changes resulting from your work.

5. When All Else Fails, Dance.
Think about movement and music. Consider how contagious they are. We’ve said it before, but when you have some fun with your campaign, and when everything is orchestrated with planning in mind, things flow. At the end of that 24-hour period on September 2 at noon, we hope you dance. Be thrilled with what you accomplished, whether it’s more funding, more Facebook fans, a more engaged board, a new partner, or a team effort that brought your volunteers together around your mission.

The 2015 Giving Challenge is made possible by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and The Patterson Foundation with support from the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Manatee Community Foundation, and the Herald-Tribune Media Group. Follow the Giving Challenge using #GivingChallenge15 and online at http://www.givingpartnerchallenge.org.




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


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

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/.


#InformedGiving Tuesday

December 3, 2013

INFORMEDGIVINGWe love the #GivingTuesday movement, encouraging everyone to find a way to give on Tuesday, December 3 and share their acts of giving with others.

And here in Southwest Florida, we have even more to love, since donors, funders and citizen philanthropists are empowered to make informed choices about their giving.

Thanks to GuideStar, the Community Foundation of Sarasota CountyThe Patterson Foundation, Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Manatee Community Foundation, and more than 350 nonprofit organizations serving Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and Desoto counties that have brought The Giving Partner to life, people who want to make a difference have access to in-depth knowledge about local organizations on one online platform.

Many times, giving is an emotional decision–a choice we make based on a connection to a story, to a trusted individual sharing a compelling story, or to an issue we have experienced first hand.

We may not know what other organizations are addressing the mission we want to support. We may not know the right questions to ask. And sometimes, we may not feel as if we are in a position to ask them.

The Giving Partner allows us to better understand what organizations are impacting the populations we care most deeply about while also discovering who is making the work happen, what success measures are in place, how the financial history is recorded, and what needs the organization has.

In philanthropy, we can give to feel good and give based on good information.

So on today’s special day, #GivingTuesday, we encourage you to visit www.thegivingpartner.orguse the advanced search feature, enter a keyword, and discover the nonprofits in our community addressing the specific missions important to you.

Click on one of the nonprofit profiles returned in your search results.  You can:

  • Access the organization’s website, Facebook page and Twitter feeds
  • Discover the organization’s top 5 needs
  • Understand the variety of programs & services offered, along with long and short-term successes
  • Find out who is leading the organization on the board and staff
  • Understand how engaged the board is through meeting attendance and personal giving
  • Discover how strategic the organization is with written, board-adopted plans and policies
  • Review the 3-year financial history of the organization

Don’t let your adventure end there. Use your new knowledge to engage with the organization and determine if it is a good fit for you.

Organizations that have taken the time to develop profiles in The Giving Partner have made an incredible investment in public awareness through transparency.

Accessing this tool, filled with so much rich information, donors will make an investment in what is most important to them.  Understanding all of the choices for giving, we become more empowered to make decisions that most closely reflect our personal values, commitments to excellence, and the ultimate good we would like to see with our charitable investments.

Happy #GivingTuesday!  Happy #InformedGiving Tuesday!

We remain grateful for so many excellent local nonprofits, working hard every day to make positive changes in our community.

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

sunriseDuring the week of Thanksgiving, we are more open in expressing gratitude for the greatest and smallest of good things.

While we may be vocal with our appreciation this time of year, we have so much to be thankful for every day.

  1. Generous donors.
    First and foremost, the work we are able to do to help our community is made possible through generous donors.  “Generous” donors are those who trust our nonprofits and foundations with their legacies, their major gifts, their recurring monthly donations, or their single contributions of $10 or $25.  Thanking them year-round by relaying stories of the positive difference we are making–made possible by them–is an important way to boost our organizational stability and reaffirm their commitment to it. We can also thank them by continuing to instill trust in the nonprofit sector as a whole and in our individual institutions.  Special thanks to the nonprofits demonstrating transparency, updating their profiles in The Giving Partner on a regular basis.

  2. Strong leaders.
    Organizational leaders are our board members and our executive staff. But they are also the program assistants, development associates, marketing directors, volunteer managers and others who lead with fortitude, determination and courage within their roles. We can express our gratitude by affording all of our team members opportunities for ongoing professional development.

  3. Daring and caring media partners.
    Southwest Florida is home to media partners who regularly showcase their generosity with many thousands of dollars of in-kind support for nonprofit organizations and foundation-led initiatives.  Make no mistake, space in publications is not “free” for our media friends. Additionally, reporters and editors frequently cover the stories our nonprofits and foundations address through philanthropy–homelessness, human trafficking, the arts, conservation, education, and many other issues.  Kudos to the Herald-Tribune Media Group, Clear Channel, Sarasota Magazine, The Observer Group, SNN Local News 6, the Venice Gondolier, Bradenton Herald, and all of the media partners who strengthen our voices for positive change.

  4. Dedicated volunteers. Volunteers sort food, answer telephones, transport homeless animals, teach adult literacy courses, mentor kids aging out of foster care, table events at the local farmer’s markets, evaluate scholarship applications, lead special events committees, serve on your board of directors. They deliver a full spectrum of services without receiving compensation for their time and talents. We could not deliver on the promises to those who depend on our organizations without them. What gratitude we owe volunteers! And many, yes many, are also donors.

  5. Investments in capacity building.
    The Council on Foundations, Southeastern Council of Foundations, Florida Philanthropic Network and other organizations deliver incredible resources to help foundations build their capacity, advocate, take care of their grantees, innovate in philanthropy. We are grateful for the contributions of their staff and boards. Locally, nonprofits have the gift of associations such as a strong local chapters of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Florida Public Relations Association. The Patterson Foundation, Gulf Coast Community Foundation, and the Community Foundation of Sarasota County are each heavily invested in helping nonprofits beyond the dollar–whether it’s facilitating collaborations, providing access to professional consultants, or offering free trainings and workshops.  Foundations and donors are grateful for the organizations who make excellence and continuing development a priority.

Let’s not be shy about expressing our gratitude throughout the year.

For many, hearing the simple message of “I appreciate you” provides the fuel to charge forth with renewed energy and commitment to the mission.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

A recent article in the New York Times by Wealth Matters columnist Paul Sullivan discussed how and why people are making their charitable giving decisions.

Sullivan’s perspective and highlights of the recent U.S. Trust report he cites shed even more light on the importance of tools like GuideStar‘s DonorEdge platform, implemented here in Southwest Florida as The Giving Partner.

Increasingly, donors are sharing that tax incentives and tools for giving may not be as important to them as understanding which organization(s) are the best matches for their passions and charitable goals.

While financial advisors may focus on the technical aspects of the donation vehicle when working with individuals and families, many donors wish to focus their conversations largely on their charitable interests as well as family goals, the U.S. Trust report says.

This is a common experience with our donor development team here at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. Vehicles for giving are important to donors, but many donors wish to talk more about maximizing their charitable investments by partnering with organizations that can address their aspirations for environmental preservation, better health care, access to human services and education, experiences in the arts, and a myriad of other “creating a better world” goals.

The U.S. Trust report shares that donors also wish to have a greater understanding of how their gifts are making a difference. We second that.

The Giving Partner is a tool to help donors make more informed decisions about giving, and the hefty program section of each nonprofit profile contains the long and short-term success measures of the organization’s programs and services, how success is measured, and examples of success.

For advisors who may have more knowledge about giving vehicles than knowledge about local organizations, The Giving Partner is a perfect aid to help them gain a better understanding of the nonprofit choices in our local market, and to also understand their financial history, management and governance structures–in addition to the priceless information about programmatic impact.

Donors can go directly to the tool to do the same.

As we move more deeply into an era where donors view themselves as charitable investors, community foundations and nonprofits share responsibility to equip them with current, in-depth knowledge about who is doing what and the difference it is making.

Special thanks to GuideStar for its vision in making this tool available and to the many nonprofits and donors in our local community who make The Giving Partner possible in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and Desoto counties.

The Giving Partner is a partnership among four foundations:  The Community Foundation of Sarasota County, The Patterson Foundation, Gulf Coast Community Foundation, and the Manatee Community Foundation.

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County