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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

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.

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/.

 

Short answer: it is.

The enthusiastic follow-up: yes, yes, yes.

Remember That Board Member Duty?

We cannot forget that charitable nonprofits exist for the public good and are not owned by an individual or group of individuals. Each nonprofit board member must exercise the “duty of loyalty,” placing the interests of the nonprofit before personal or professional concerns when serving, therefore avoiding potential conflicts of interest.

It’s Not that Complicated

We hear from all sorts of well-meaning folks who (unintentionally) complicate the concept of conflict of interest. In a basic example, it’s the kind of thing that should stop a board member from voting on an issue when there may be financial benefit to herself, her spouse, her family, her company or another organization where she may serve as a volunteer leader.

Who Wants to Know, Anyway?

When your organization files its IRS Form 990 each year, the Internal Revenue Service asks you to indicate whether or not your organization has a conflict of interest policy. You don’t have to say “yes.” But if you don’t, it looks a little shady, yes?

Local organizations in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and Desoto counties with a presence in The Giving Partner are also asked if they have conflict of interest policies right on their profiles.

Surprisingly, 32% of nonprofits with profiles indicate they do not have a conflict of interest policy.  We are pretty sure that some of them may have adopted a policy years ago, perhaps when founded, but current leadership does not remember or can’t find the document. In any case, we can do better than this.

A new development in the State of Florida will make conflict of interest junkies jump up and down. The recently approved changes to the Solicitation of Contributions Act require 501(c)(3) nonprofits to adopt a conflict of interest policy and to provide annual certification of compliance with the policy by all directors, officers, and trustees of the organization.

Two Simple Actions for Nonprofit Boards Everywhere

  • Adopt an organizational conflict of interest policy that is frequently reviewed by board members and staff members.
  • Require board and staff members to complete a simple disclosure form each year certifying that they have reviewed the conflict of interest policy and sharing conflicts and potential conflicts of interest.

It is very likely–especially in this community–that your board members may have conflicts from time to time. Many caring individuals and their businesses are deeply intertwined in the work of more than one charitable organization. The conflict of interest policy will provide the necessary guidance to ensure that board members disclose conflicts and potential conflicts and do not vote on related issues if they arise in the boardroom.

And Finally…

The best charitable organizations out there focus on what is best for the missions they are upholding every day. They protect the charitable intent of the donors and funders who make their missions possible. So upholding a good, trusty conflict of interest policy is just natural.  And to add to the glory of it all, it’s not rocket science.

The National Council of Nonprofits has an excellent set of conflict of interest resources, including sample policies and sample annual disclosure forms.

 

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.