Tag Archives: leadership

Please be our next board chair

By Molly Hansen, Vice President, The Alford Group

 

 

“Please be our next board chair. Joe, Sarah, and Ben have all turned us down and Andrew doesn’t want to stay on for another term.”

Has this ever happened to you or in your organization? With thoughtful planning and leadership development you can create a reality where begging for board officers and committee leaders just doesn’t happen.

In a 2015 BoardSource survey, only 49% of nonprofit CEOs agreed that their organizations had an effective process in place for officer succession. CEOs often navigate (survive?) multiple chair transitions, and cited building a board leadership pipeline as being among the most important area for board improvement.

A recent Board Effect blog post cites the report Succession Planning for the Non-profit Board Chair that finds:

“Most organizations can survive the successful election to the Board of an individual or two whose group participation skills and leadership attributes are less than stellar, as other stronger members of the Board will generally neutralize any adverse consequences to the organization. However, placing Board members into the organization’s highest leadership positions is a much higher-stakes proposition. Persons in elected leadership positions with mediocre leadership skills will, at best, do no harm, but might cause the association to miss strategic advantageous opportunities. Persons with poor leadership skills may create organization dysfunctions that may take years from which to recover, if ever.” Continue reading

Optics Matter: Avoiding Red Flags that Undermine Your Fundraising Efforts

By Amy Hines, Senior Vice President, The Alford Group

With the start of an unprecedented intergenerational wealth transfer, not-for-profits have a lot to gain by avoiding any inadvertent pitfalls that deter potential donors from contributing to their efforts. With access to the internet, donors do not have to rely on government scrutiny to avoid unscrupulous charities (Besides, government entities have limited authority as watchdogs). Donors can look for evidence themselves, vetting charities with a tap or a click.

Maintaining integrity is key—but ensuring that an organization’s optics convey that integrity is also essential.

A potential donor’s due diligence before opening her wallet, is likely to take place by heeding to the credo–“follow the money.” While that may in fact be just a line in a movie, it resonates in the philanthropic ether as a sound way to approach investigating an organization’s worthiness.

How do potential donors assess the money trail? There are several logical ways:

  1. Look at the organization’s website to see if financial information is being reported in a transparent way.
  2. Go online to GuideStar, the primary resource for accessing an organization’s IRS 990 and comparing similar organizations.
  3. Go online to Charity Navigator to see how the organization is rated.
  4. Go online to BBB Wise Giving, to check out whether they have been accredited as a trustworthy national organization.

 

It’s important for not-for-profits to manage the optics of their organizations in these four locations. Here’s how. Continue reading

women leading philanthropy

Diversity in Fundraising: Women Leading Philanthropy

The Diversity Session at the AFP International Conference this year focused on Women in Philanthropy. This was the first time the session had revolved around that aspect of diversity, and the session was very well attended.

The session was introduced by Brenda A. Asare, The Alford Group’s President & CEO. A panel offering insight into their own experience as female philanthropists and researchers in the field included:

  • Una Osili, Director of Research at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy
  • Sylvia Brown, Principal of Brown Capital Management, Inc.
  • Ann Allston Boyce, President of the board of The T. Rowe Price Associates Foundation

The trend our firm has seen, and that many researchers and practitioners have seen, over the past decade, is that women are becoming more influential in charitable giving and leveraging their power to influence philanthropic decision making. This trend guided the conversation for the panel, which focused its energy on helping attendees understand how women are changing the philanthropic landscape, how to shape strategy to effectively engage women philanthropists, and how to cultivate and steward women donors for maximum impact in their organizations.

In the past, most organizations focused their fundraising efforts on male donors, given the traditional assumption that women were not making philanthropic decisions for their households. As women have begun to increase their rates of college enrollment, women enter the workforce and into higher paying jobs, and as women increasingly outlive men, the philanthropic sector has begun to see an increase in the visibility of female participation as major donors. Whether by accumulated wealth through their own work, or inherited wealth from family or spouses, female donors are having a significant impact on philanthropic initiatives. And more frequently, couples are making philanthropic decisions together.

Women give in many ways. Researchers are finding that across income levels, there is a real interest in philanthropy among women. But it’s not just through treasure that women are looking to contribute – women are increasingly becoming involved through their time and talent. Women are present in leadership for philanthropic organizations, helping to lead fundraising campaigns, plan events, and offering their expertise on governing and auxiliary boards and as staff.

Dr. Una Osili, a member of the panel, oversees research into how and why gender matters is the Director or Research and Chair of the research council of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University.

“There are some really powerful examples of the dynamic role women are playing in philanthropy. A few examples include Women Moving Millions, the American Red Cross’ Tiffany Circle and Indiana University has a Women’s Philanthropy Council. In order to cultivate women donors, organizations have to think about how female donors might differ – how do they want to give, what do they want to give to, does being part of a network impact their giving?

“Establishing philanthropy through gender lines and understanding motivations is relatively under researched. As women play a more visible role, especially in leadership around the world, there is more interest in asking what are some things about my organization that can reduce barriers for women being involved? What is working elsewhere and how can I apply that to my own organization?”

The challenge of identifying how women want to engage in to the philanthropic landscape corresponds to the challenge of addressing diversity in philanthropy more broadly.

Dr. Osili says that “one size doesn’t fit all. When engaging with diverse communities, ethnically, religiously, multi-racial and multi-cultural donors, similar to female donors, you have to determine what are the barriers – how to ask, how to cultivate, what language and style is important to them. You have to use new approaches to bring new donors in – what worked in the past might not work for donors with different backgrounds, beliefs or cultures.”

She continues, “The broader message about women and diversity in philanthropy is that as the world become more connected and we interact much more with people of different backgrounds and characteristics, there are more opportunities to engage different types of donors – but you have to adapt to make your organization more inclusive of different types of donors.”

The Alford Group has been a sponsor of the Diversity Session and the Diversity Art Showcase at the AFP International Conference for 16 years. We hold a strong commitment to diversity as one of our core values, and continue to encourage conversation about diversity in the not-for-profit sector through many different lenses.

There are donors and then there are donors!!

This past week I was away from Seattle doing client work for a national organization with many programs around the country and the world.  They are doing incredibly good work for a large number of people and have significant volunteer and donor support.  Over the past four years they have seen a decline in their giving to one particular program and they are attempting to discover why—hence our firm’s involvement.

One of their affiliates arranged for two focus groups.  The first was comprised of people who did not support this particular program, the second was comprised of people who did.  It was a wonderful contrast of communication, style, personality, trust and values.

A common trait was that both groups are generous and both groups significantly give of their resources especially for local programs.  I find it very rewarding to be around generous people: they know who they are; they know what they value; they care about the community, their neighbors and people they may never know.  It was enjoyable to discuss the programs with both groups, who asked specific, well-stated questions.

Here are several things I discovered from these two groups:

  • Some people just need more information than others.  The donor group was trusting and required little information to respond to the need.  The non-donor group needed a lot of data and felt they were not getting it.
  • Some people judge an organization as a whole, while others are selective in their judgment.  The non-donor group had larger issues with the national organization and although those issues did not relate to the program being discussed, it kept them from responding to the financial need.  The donor group had the ability to put aside any issues they may have around other national policies or procedures and respond to this particular need.
  • “Connectivity” is different for different people.  The individuals in the non-donor group felt more connected locally and wondered why a national connection was necessary.  The donor group felt connections both locally and nationally.  They valued being connected nationally because they, as individuals, could do even more and have greater impact on people’s lives, than they ever could as an individual or local group.

After the time spent with both groups, I also discovered the importance of leadership around these three observations.  Leadership (staff and volunteer) needs to take the observations above to heart as they communicate with both donors and non-donors.  Why are these programs important?  Why must we respond to the need the programs are addressing?  What is the impact now?  What will be the impact in the future?  Will you join with me and the many others in our organization who financially support these programs in giving what you can?

As you reflect on the ideas and observations here, let me or the other readers know your thoughts or experiences around donors and non-donors.  I look forward to reading your comments.

All the best,

Tom