Growing up in Kentucky during segregation, Jimmie Alford – The Alford Group’s founder – attended an all-white school, and didn’t experience racial diversity until the age of nine when his parents moved to Chicago. The move, due to the closing of coal mines, placed Jimmie’s family in a small apartment in the Englewood community. Jimmie was one of three white students in his third grade class of 40 students.
Along with his classmates, he understood economic diversity and its impact on themselves, their families and their community while living in extreme poverty within a predominantly affluent nation. He also directly and personally saw and felt the impact of discrimination. He decided at a young age that the injustice of discrimination was something he would never allow to penetrate his life and that he would work his entire life to eradicate it in all forms. Like many who grow up marginalized in one way or another, Jimmie vowed to lift himself out of his circumstances, make a better life and never forget the important life lessons learned along the way. His commitment to this goal was unwavering and steadfast.
While Jimmie passed away suddenly in 2012, his spirit and leadership remain with us as the nation and world grapple with the opportunity afforded by the Black Lives Matter movement and a renewed call for equity and social justice. We share his unwavering optimism that better days lie ahead when we all work together.
Diversity is one of seven core values of The Alford Group, and one of Jimmie’s enduring “fingerprints” on the consulting firm he founded in 1979. One manifestation of this commitment is our 20+-year sponsorship of the Diversity Workshop and Diversity Art Showcase at the annual AFP International Conference. While our dedication to diversity and inclusiveness has remained resolute over the decades, the demographics of America – and thus the universe of donors and prospective donors – have changed dramatically. Lessons learned from diverse communities, and the shared values of diversity, equity and inclusiveness (DEI), are more relevant and more essential today than ever before. Continue reading “Diversity in Fundraising: Making a Long-Term Commitment”
It was Machiavelli who first advised “never waste a good crisis.” By that he meant one could look at the opportunities afforded by a crisis to change, to innovate and to improve.
To paraphrase Machiavelli, we advise “never waste a good pause.” Whether it’s a lull in activity or a forced rethinking of business-as-usual, most nonprofits are experiencing a “pandemic pause.” At minimum, everyone should take a moment to consider how to effectively navigate in the new normal. For those who are experiencing a pause, the silver lining is that we can utilize this time to strategically prepare for the future.
We can explore ways to embrace the pandemic pause to PAUSE:
Looking for a way to make your organization’s strategic planning exciting and more relatable? Having a difficult time explaining strategic planning terminology?
Fasten your seatbelt, Toto. We’re not in Kansas anymore.
At first glance, The Wizard of Oz—the widely beloved children’s book by Frank L. Baum, the 1939 film starring Judy Garland, and countless other adaptations for stage and screen—may seem to have little to do with strategic planning: the process through which organizations define their long-term vision and identify strategies and action steps to achieve that vision.
Although the two may seem to be unlikely companions, there is actually a lot we can glean from The Wizard of Oz about strategic planning.
On Wednesday, June 17, The Alford Group hosted a panel of national experts and funders to discuss Giving USA’s Annual Report on Philanthropy in 2019 in light of current realities, new opportunities and our future as non-profit staff, funders and philanthropists. The full discussion, along with The Alford Group’s Giving USA report, may be found here.
As Brenda Asare, The Alford Group’s President and CEO, noted as she opened the panel discussion, we all had high hopes for 2020 – momentum within the sector was strong and anticipated to continue at the close of 2019 and through 2020. Of course, no one knew what was coming nor how incredibly important that cushion would be to the survival of many nonprofits. As leaders representing funders and philanthropists across the country, Laura, Marguerite, Steve and Beth offered critical insights into philanthropy today and provided some hope as Brenda said “we must look up and ahead, as that is where we are all going.”
On Wednesday, June 17, The Alford Group’s Karen Rotko-Wynn, Executive Vice President, shared highlights, trends and key takeaways from Giving USA 2020: The Annual Report on Philanthropy in 2019. Karen’s full presentation, along with a panel discussion with national experts and funders discussing the next normal and the future of philanthropy may be found here.
To be at this moment – mid-June 2020, reflecting on last year’s philanthropy during these challenging and volatile times – well, it feels a bit disconnected. It is hard not to ask why these data points matter; it is difficult to receive this report without wondering what this year’s annual report on philanthropy will say.
However, as the longest running, most comprehensive and most authoritative report on charitable giving in the United States – representing 128 million households, 600,000 nonprofits and 80,000 foundations and businesses – the information reported through Giving USA is deeply relevant. As leaders and staff of nonprofits, it is important to understand data trends and to know where to focus efforts; it is important to know where your organization fits within this data; and it is important to understand this data in relation to navigating our current, very difficult year.
How long can you hold your breath without passing out? A man with strong willpower can hold his breath for two to three minutes. You don’t need me to tell you what happens after eight minutes and 46 seconds of someone holding his knee on your neck.
As people across the world decry the dehumanizing death of George Floyd, it is not lost on me that African Americans have been holding their breath for over 400 years.
Today organizations face new challenges posed by technology, economic trends and uncertain regulatory environments. How can nonprofit leadership rise to meet these demands? Just as the captain of a ship doesn’t look to the waves in order to navigate, your organization is well-steered by strategic thinking.
A strategic plan can transform your organization from surviving to thriving under the guiding star of a strategic plan. Without a clear vision or strategic objective, it will be difficult to generate volunteer enthusiasm and energy for the work necessary to make the weeks, months and years ahead a success.
Every organization is approaching and responding to COVID-19 differently, but regardless of the approach – certainly, all have been considering what fundraising will look like in the coming months and year. We know a rough road lies ahead and no one can predict what this recovery will look like; however, there is some good news.
The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy tracks giving during disasters, and what they’ve seen so far with COVID-19 is record levels of seven-figure gifts being made to organizations. America is being more generous than ever.
The initial shock and fear– or denial – of the Coronavirus outbreak has shifted into, “How long can this possibly go on?”
Just like every person, institution, business and organization, the nonprofit community has never been through anything like this. As a board member of a nonprofit organization, are you wondering how you can help during this time of crisis? Or perhaps you’ve already jumped into the deep end of daily tasks and are trying to help the staff do their jobs?
What does it mean to lead through crisis? Many CEOs are asking themselves this question as they navigate the uncertainty of a global pandemic and an economic Black Swan. We all have heard “let’s hope for the best, plan for the worst” along with “we will get through this.”
It is during times of crisis that leadership matters and the way that leadership shows up can make or break an organization. President of The Alford Group, Brenda B. Asare spent time with Dr. Lee Barker, President Emeritus of Meadville Lombard Theological School discussing leading an organization through challenging times.
“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.” – Mr.Fred Rogers
Our country is facing challenging times as never before due to COVID-19. Fortunately, our nonprofit sector is rising to the occasion by responding in innovative ways to meet unprecedented demand for services. Less visible, but no less critical, is the rapid adoption of technologies for delivering programs, and quickly pivoting fundraising strategies to mitigate revenue loses.
Many organizations are also engaged in major campaigns to address important needs in their communities. Some have hit – or are considering hitting – the pause button, while others are modifying campaign plans and moving forward in new and creative ways.
With the cancellation of traditional fundraising events and the elimination of in-person meetings due to COVID-19, nonprofits across the sector are elevating their donor engagement strategies and reaching their base of support in unparalleled ways during this critical time. In my conversations with clients, some are now challenged to think about how to build a more integrated approach to their current donor engagement strategies while using the systems they already have in place as they pivot to plan for the next fiscal year.