Tag Archives: blacks in philanthropy and fundraising

Church Giving Supports HBCUs

The United Methodist Church and HBCUs – behind the scenes at the Black College Fund…

The power of your church giving may be stronger than you know. For example, did you know that when you give to the United Methodist Church you are supporting eleven historically black colleges or universities in addition to supporting your congregation? That’s right. You are part of a long tradition that is now managed by the church’s Black College Fund under the leadership of Dr. Cynthia Bond Hopson.

As you may be aware, black colleges and universities have been transforming the lives of individuals, communities and our country since before the Civil War. Eleven of these 105 institutions are private-church related colleges founded by the United Methodist Church. In order to learn more about the relationship between these colleges and the church, we talked with Dr. Cynthia Bond Hopson and share our conversation with you.

Saad & Shaw:   Why did the church establish these colleges and why has it continued to support them?

Dr. Cynthia Bond Hopson:   The Methodist Church has always had a passion, tradition and belief in the power of knowledge and as the Civil War ended, it was painfully clear that the education that had long been denied to slaves would severely hamper their self sufficiency if not addressed. The people called Methodists (through the Freedmen’s Aid Society, founded during the 1860s) saw an urgent need and addressed it. This ministry to the educationally underserved remains and we see it as essential to empowerment and self determination. According to a history of the Black College Fund written by Dillard University President Emeritus Dr. Samuel DuBois Cook, “Without question, the UMC has no peer or competitor, either quantitatively or qualitatively, in terms of church support for its HBCU. No other mainline communion approaches the United Methodist level of generous and sustained financial support.” We believe in higher education and generously invest in it.

Saad & Shaw:   How does the church support these colleges? (Do you provide funding, conferences, technical assistance…)

Dr. Hopson:   All the above, but mainly the financial piece; our (mostly unrestricted) funding goes directly to the institutions to help keep their tuition and fees low, to enhance the infrastructure, to create new programming—whatever it takes to stay competitive. There is a capital projects designation and we also offer/share the United Methodist Connection of people, information and resources.

Saad & Shaw:   Why do you feel HBCUs are important today?

Dr. Hopson:  They are uniquely suited historically and otherwise to nurture, challenge and mentor their graduates to be instruments of change whether they’re running a school board, multi-national corporation or a university. These institutions attract the best and brightest in addition to those who have the potential to be great and they inspire them to “find a way or make one” as the Clark Atlanta University motto says. The small class sizes and low teacher/student ratios allow the faculty, staff and administration an opportunity to provide personalized attention and a family-like environment. Students can’t help but flourish and soar.

Saad & Shaw:   What role do these colleges play in the life of the church?

Dr. Hopson:    We get some of our most effective, committed, talented and innovative leaders from these institutions. Supporting leadership for life is not just a motto for us— we invest in it. The choirs tour and perform in local churches and our Project Athletic Ambassador program links congregations with the BCF basketball teams when they’re on the road for games. Also, in the Southeast, our institutions host the Youth Harambee, an annual gathering of youth groups from around the jurisdiction. Many of the schools were founded in local churches and that historic bond is a tremendous source of pride.

Saad & Shaw:   How do these church-related institutions work together? Do they engage in joint programming or joint fundraising?

Dr. Hopson:   The Council of Presidents (active presidents and retirees who have served more than ten years) help plan programming and promotion. Further, my office hosts a biennial continuing education event for public relations and advancement directors.

Saad & Shaw:   Is giving to these colleges a “black thing” or do all church members give?

Dr. Hopson:  Every United Methodist Church in the United States is assessed an amount to pay and many local churches and annual conferences (a group of geographically grouped churches) take enormous pride in paying their 100 percent share. We love those! We also receive memorial and estate gifts from supporters occasionally.

Saad & Shaw:   Has giving by churches to the Black College Fund increased or decreased during this economic downturn? (Whether increase or decrease, how has giving affected the fund and its work?)

Dr. Hopson:   I am delighted that our funding has held steady, and if anything, it has increased percentage wise. This year we received about 87 percent of $11 million, but our students’ needs continue to outpace the funding so we are constantly striving to reach potential new students and donors.”

Saad & Shaw:   Does the support of these church-related colleges and universities perpetuate segregated institutions?

Dr. Hopson:   Absolutely not! These schools are and have always been open to anybody with a hope and a dream, regardless of race, class, gender, ethnicity or national origin. They are our most diverse campuses with students and faculty from around the world.

Saad & Shaw:   What else would you like to share with our readers about the Black College Fund in specific or HBCUs in general?

Dr. Hopson:  Our 11 institutions come in all shapes and sizes and there’s bound to be one that fits your needs or interests. If you haven’t visited one of them, stop by and be impressed by the critical research, innovative programming and some of the best and brightest students anywhere on the planet! And, if you want to invest in excellence, the Black College Fund is a great choice. Our administrative costs are less than four percent and your contributions are tax deductible. We support leadership for life.

Saad & Shaw:   Any last words on the power of collective giving such as giving through one’s church?

Dr. Hopson:  Our schools are a great investment and together we can do so much more than any one of us individually could do. I continue to be amazed at what happens when everyone gives their best gifts—together we are a force to be reckoned with!

Saad & Shaw:   Thank you for your time!

To learn more about the UMC Black College Fund visit www.gbhem.org/bcf or call (615) 340-7378.


It’s a Family Affair – Reunions and Giving

Creating a History of Giving

Summer time is a time for family reunions. If you’ve been to one you know they are priceless; but they can also be expensive. Reunions bring families together across the generations to celebrate history, to take pride in accomplishments, and to pass down family history and traditions. It takes a lot of work to plan a reunion and a lot of attention to detail.

We recently learned of the family reunion planner published by the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau. What we found most interesting was the reasoning behind the publication – economic impact. Louisville annually hosts more than 40 family reunions, with an average of 100 people at each reunion and a total annual economic impact of $1.5 million.

That got us thinking – what could the philanthropic impact be if families committed to giving time and money as part of the family reunion experience?

With all the expenses related to a reunion we sometimes forget the power of our giving. Airline tickets, gas, hotels, food, decorations, excursions…. All of these add up. But one “expense” is usually missing…. contributing to a family legacy of good.

If you are responsible for planning your family reunion, you can help ensure the good feelings live on in between reunions. You can encourage a new tradition of giving: each family contributing a certain amount of money to an agreed upon charity or non-profit organization.

Businesses reap the economic impact of family reunions, but the organizations and institutions that have supported our families are often overlooked. Sure we talk about the summer camp, or school that made a difference. The hospital that saved a beloved family member. The church group who made sure we received gifts at Christmas. But what do we do to ensure other families will receive these benefits?

With all the storytelling, family reunions are an ideal time to put our money where our mouth is — and where our hearts are. Now it’s our turn to give back to the communities we come from and the communities where we gather to celebrate our reunions. In our giving we recognize our history and we create a new tradition for younger generations: a history of giving.

Where you give can become part of the reunion as well. Your family may want to set aside time to paint a community center or school, clean up a neighborhood, read to children, or visit a senior center. Whatever your family gives, be sure to give money as well as time or materials. Too many non-profits are stretched thin and just don’t have the funds to meet community needs. Reunion giving helps keep your family legacy alive and well in the organizations you care about.

Up next: Suggestions for Family Reunion Giving.

© Copyright Mel and Pearl Shaw. www.saadandshaw.com

National Fundraising — The Power and Impact of Local Volunteers

From time to time we seek to share what we have learned from Mel’s 25 years with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and his work developing and producing the Lou Rawls UNCF Telethon. In this column we focus on the impact that local volunteers – and local campaigns – have on the fundraising of national organizations.

Back in the day the Lou Rawls UNCF Telethon was the largest African American fundraising special event held on a single day anywhere in the world. Over the years, the telethon raised over $500 million dollars. Lou Rawls was certainly the star of the show, but the real stars were the thousands of volunteers who raised money in communities across the country during the six-to-nine months leading up to the telethon.

Mel Shaw, Lou Rawls & Jim Alston

While people continuously called into the show to pledge their gifts, 60 – 70% of the money was raised in advance from local communities. These local UNCF campaigns were led by volunteers who were respected at the grass roots level – and at the highest levels – in the communities where they lived and worked. UNCF volunteers raised funds from churches, civic organizations, local businesses, families and individuals. All gifts were recognized publicly during the telethon. Local TV and radio stations invited leaders and every-day folk to make their gifts on air. Some local gifts were announced on the national show. The anticipation of being publicly recognized and acknowledged in front friends, neighbors and co-workers helped stimulate giving and ongoing involvement.

The one-day telethon was the culmination of a year’s worth of planning, preparation, training and follow up. The fundraising was non-stop – and there was never be enough staff. We learned how to depend on and trust volunteers in local communities. We focused our efforts on training and preparing these volunteers, and made it a high priority to recognize and acknowledge their work.

Finding the right volunteers was at the heart of all our local campaigns. Cities such as San Antonio, Albuquerque, Kansas City, Phoenix, Portland (OR), and Omaha operated volunteer-led campaigns without the day-to-day support of local staff. All were successful in creating a buzz for UNCF and the telethon. San Antonio in particular extended that buzz beyond the black community and engaged large numbers of Hispanic volunteers and donors. Cities with a UNCF office such as New Orleans, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, and Miami had local and regional responsibilities. Staff were charged with managing the local production of the telethon as well as implementing the volunteer-led fundraising plan.

The number one thing that made a difference in the telethon’s success was the power and impact of qualified, committed and trained local volunteers – including those from Memphis. UNCF’s commitment to localized fundraising kept people giving, year-after-year.

© Copyright Mel and Pearl Shaw.
Mel and Pearl Shaw are the owners of Saad & Shaw. They help non-profit organizations and institutions rethink revenue sources. They are the authors of How to Solicit a Gift: Turning Prospects into Donors. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com or call (901) 522-8727.

THE ROLE OF THE BUSINESS PLAN: Benefits of Using a Business Plan

Part three of three

Dr. Jan Young

Dr. Jan Young

In our last two posts, we’ve shared with you the wisdom of Dr. Jan Young, executive director of the Assisi Foundation of Memphis, about the development of business plans for non-profits. Here, we asked her to provide examples of how a business plan can impact an organization’s success.

Jan told us the story of an organization that “was limited in spite of successful outcomes serving individuals with significant needs in a challenging environment. Although they have a charismatic leader, diligent board and a clear focus on their mission, it was difficult to inspire donors to make the substantial investments necessary for growth.”

Seed MoneySo, the group decided to create a business plan. “After completing their plan and being able to explain their various programs and services with greater clarity, they were able to get some seed funds for an ambitious effort to expand their services,” she said. “After demonstrating their ability to implement the initial phases of their business plan, they have successfully attracted other funders and have been able to leverage investments made in their collaborative partnerships.”

Jan also shared how the absence of a business plan contributed to the demise of another organization, which had “lost sight of its mission, started chasing money even when grant conditions conflicted and created costs beyond what the grants and fundraising would cover. Funds were inappropriately allocated, they lost credibility with funders, deceived board members, and they no longer exist,” she said.

“Although there were obviously things other than the absence of a business plan that led to this outcome, a review of the plan with the budget may have alerted board members earlier about the obvious discrepancies between what they were being told and what was actually happening at the organization,” she said.

Jan, who received a doctorate of nursing science from the University of Tennessee, has enjoyed a distinguished career in education, health care, the military and philanthropy, and she offers a unique perspective on some of the challenges facing non-profits. “One of the nuns I worked with in the past used to say, ‘No margin, no mission,’” she said.

In other words, “Passion and sheer force of will is rarely sustainable over time. Finite resources are a reality. Sometimes we must make tough choices about a priority. If something has value only to one person or a small group but is not perceived to have equivalent value by others or even the people being served, that becomes a situation of service to self rather than service to others,” she said.

Jan recommends several resources, including the Alliance for NonProfit Excellence, the National Council of Nonprofits,  the Free Management Library, and BridgeSpan.

To learn more about the Assisi Foundation of Memphis, visit www.assisifoundation.org.

© Copyright Mel and Pearl Shaw.
Mel and Pearl Shaw are the owners of Saad & Shaw. They help non-profit organizations and institutions rethink revenue sources. They are the authors of How to Solicit a Gift: Turning Prospects into Donors. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com or call (901) 522-8727.


Part two of three

Dr. Jan Young

Dr. Jan Young

Previously, Dr. Jan Young explained how creating a business plan can help non-profit organizations assess their capacity, strategy and potential funding sources. Here she discusses the basics of creating a plan.

In her role as executive director of the Assisi Foundation of Memphis, Jan oversees philanthropic activities, management, community relations, and strategic direction, and has reviewed countless grant applications. She revealed that one component of a successful application is a budget that matches with an organization’s objectives and capacity. A well-developed business plan can help organizations achieve such cohesion.

According to Jan, a business plan should be the work of an organization’s executive team and board. It should include input from internal stakeholders across the organization. The plan may cover any period of time the organization chooses, but “it should be reviewed on an ongoing basis and revised as necessary. Most cover three to five years. The plan should be a dynamic tool that informs and guides their work and progress,” she said.

We know that the process of creating a business plan can feel overwhelming in light of all the responsibilities an organization faces each day. The amount of time it takes for a non-profit to create a plan depends on how long it takes to complete an assessment of the organization’s ability to deliver services and raise funds, its current and future role in the community, and its overall goals.

“The number of pages depends on the scope and complexity of the organization’s mission,” said Jan. “Keep it simple. One size does not fit all. There are actually one-page templates that some have found helpful, and a book written on one-page business plans for non-profits. The length is less important than the quality. And the quality is sometimes less important than the conscious, deliberate use of the plan.”

We also wanted to learn Jan’s thoughts on the role of the board when it comes to implementation. For example, does the board take on a different role when an organization is working from a business plan?

“The board is accountable for governance, counsel, and has a key fundraising role. When operating from a business plan (properly written), they can more easily help the executive director and staff revise strategies and make the decisions necessary to assure the mission can be supported,” said Jan. “Sometimes the discussions can become more objective in nature. While passion for the work is important, emotional support alone cannot sustain the organization’s staff to effectively accomplish the mission.”

Next, Dr. Jan Young discusses the benefits of using a business plan.

© Copyright Mel and Pearl Shaw.
Mel and Pearl Shaw are the owners of Saad & Shaw. They help non-profit organizations and institutions rethink revenue sources. They are the authors of How to Solicit a Gift: Turning Prospects into Donors. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com or call (901) 522-8727.

THE ROLE OF THE BUSINESS PLAN: An Interview with Dr. Jan Young

Part one of three

Dr. Jan Young

One of the prerequisites for fundraising success is a fund development or fundraising plan that is tied to an organization’s strategic plan. While strategic planning has a long history within the non-profit sector, some organizations are now choosing to work from a business plan. Wanting to learn more, we reached out to Dr. Jan Young, executive director of the Assisi Foundation of Memphis, a health care legacy foundation that has awarded more than $150 million in grants.

A strong advocate of working from a business plan, Jan believes that “strategy without resources is a wish.” When reviewing grant applications, she has found many budgets incongruent with the goals, objectives or capacity of the organizations. “In basic terms, the math doesn’t work,” she said.

Working from a business plan can help an organization focus its resources, build toward sustainability and support successful fundraising. A business plan requires an organization to engage in the important task of assessing its capacity to deliver services (and raise funds!), as well as assessing the environment in which it works and the extent to which the services (or advocacy) it offers are needed.

But, we tend to hear more about strategic planning in the non-profit sector, and business planning for the private sector. Asked about the difference between the two, Jan explained, “Here’s what we typically see: Strategic plans have a greater focus on direction and tactics, and business plans have a greater focus on specific necessary resources, primarily sources and uses of funds, and sustainability.”

Over the years we have noticed that many strategic plans do not take into consideration where the money for the work will come from. Often we are brought in to help secure funds for priorities that have not been vetted by the appropriate individuals, foundations or granting agencies.

Jan recommended a correctly done assessment as one way to evaluate potential funding. Ask questions such as: What is the need? Who else is providing the same or similar services? What are the opportunities and challenges? To whom does it matter? (What is your value proposition?) If the non-profit ceased to exist tomorrow, would anyone notice?

Jan also suggested taking the time to address basic organizational questions. “In the simplest terms: Can the organization clearly state what it wants to do?” she asked. “What strategies does it wish to implement to achieve what it wants to do? Does it have the resources and assets such as people, time, facilities or equipment, partnerships and funding to implement the strategies? Can the organization define how it will know if it is making progress toward its goals? What will success look like?”

Next, Dr. Jan Young discusses how to create a business plan.

© Copyright Mel and Pearl Shaw.
Mel and Pearl Shaw are the owners of Saad & Shaw. They help non-profit organizations and institutions rethink revenue sources. They are the authors of How to Solicit a Gift: Turning Prospects into Donors. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com or call (901) 522-8727.

Meharry Medical College – Doing It Right!


Engaging your president and board is key to ensuring your institution’s fundraising success. Engaging faculty, staff and students is also important at colleges and universities. Engagement is a clear indicator of commitment, and commitment is a number-one prerequisite for fundraising success.

 We have long admired Robert S. Poole, Senior Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Meharry Medical College, for his success in leading a strong fundraising team. A seasoned advancement professional, Poole led Meharry through a historic $125 million campaign, and in 2010, the College reached a $100 million endowment milestone.

These successes are a result of strong philanthropic giving and prudent financial management. We recently turned to Poole for information about his strategies, and his insights to help impact fundraising at your college, university or non-profit.

A vital part of Meharry’s fundraising success has been the engagement of the College president, Wayne J. Riley. “As lead spokesman and vital leader/partner in every development discipline, the president is highly visible and engaged throughout the advancement program,” says Poole. “He’s involved in media (including op-ed features, video features, editorial board meetings, radio and TV interviews, health policy position statements, etc.), external affairs and government relations, donor prospect calls and campaign strategy, and alumni relations.”

Poole ensures the president is well prepared for these activities and has a clear vision of the College’s fundraising priorities. He discusses top prospects with the president and conducts briefing sessions before cultivation or solicitation visits. He also keeps him abreast of fundraising trends and best practices, as well as activities and progress at peer institutions. Poole says he works closely with the president to “develop and review new funding opportunities based on the College’s strategic plan and in conjunction with the deans and other campus executive leaders.”

 Board engagement is another key part of Meharry’s fundraising strategy. Poole updates the board’s advancement committee and chair about fundraising and marketing priorities and objectives. He gives prospect briefings to board members who participate in cultivation and solicitation calls. “We also involve board members in planning major fundraising initiatives, both as policy makers and potential donors,” says Poole.

Poole’s team also strives to engage staff, faculty and students in fundraising initiatives. “We encourage them to share their perspectives on the institutional needs and opportunities they would like to see addressed through philanthropy,” he says. “We provide education on how the fundraising process works and, where appropriate, involve them in fundraising cultivation, solicitation and stewardship.”

Students provide testimonies for solicitation appeals, write letters of thanks to scholarship donors and participate in donor recognition events. Poole’s team draws upon faculty members’ expertise when crafting fundraising proposals and projects. Faculty members and deans are also effective partners in donor visits, reports Poole. In fundraising there is a role for everyone – especially the president and board.

Keep People at the Core of Fundraising

Amidst the practical challenges of a fundraising campaign, it can be easy to lose sight of an organization’s greatest assets: its people. People are at the core of Meharry’s fundraising success, reports Poole: “Donors, staff and leadership … deliver the most value,” he says. “The vision and support of leaders provide us with the rationale and tools to engage fundraising. The staff and volunteers enable us to launch our plans, and the donors offer their financial capacity, which ultimately helps us realize our potential.”

Poole says he looks for several important traits in staff, including strong critical thinking skills. Successful staff members have exceptional communication (and listening) skills and a genuine interest in other people and their interests. Staff are also expected to have an outstanding work ethic and the self-discipline to see tasks through to their completion. Poole says his team carefully follows a fundraising plan, which is “reviewed constantly and updated periodically as circumstance warrant.”

Keeping people motivated over long periods of time can be a challenge, Poole acknowledges. “Another significant challenge is recalibrating priorities in an effort to keep pace with the demand for greater service to constituents and other stakeholders, patients and the general public as an academic health science institution,” he says.

Meharry College’s mission keeps Poole motivated. He takes pride in “aligning donors’ giving priorities and inclinations with the College’s aspirations” and in helping donors imagine fulfilling outcomes they may not have considered previously. Above all, Poole is motivated by “witnessing the great impacts — sometimes life-changing — of philanthropy on campus.”

Poole cites several role models who have inspired his career as a development professional, including his first boss, Nathaniel Smith, at Fisk University as well as Arthur Frantzreb, Jerrold Panas, and Alice Green Burnett.”

When asked what advice he would give those pursuing a leadership position in fundraising, Poole shared the following: “They should be aware of the time and mind share demands — often you are mentally ‘on call’ 24/7. One should have a natural curiosity about people and a range of topics. Because of time demands, people in these positions should develop strong ties and support systems with family and friends to maintain perspective away from the job. Additionally, as advancement leaders they must be decisive but not judgmental, and rely on evidence and data as well as instincts in decision making. Good and honest communication and the ability to set and execute priorities are essential.”

Tips For Fundraising Success: Engaging Your President, Board and Others

Robert Poole

Robert Poole

Engaging your president and board are key to ensuring your institution’s fundraising success. Engaging faculty, staff and students is also important. Engagement is a clear indicator of commitment, and commitment is a number one prerequisite for fundraising success. We have admired Robert S. Poole, Senior Vice President for Institutional Advancement, Meharry Medical College for his success in leading a strong fundraising team. A seasoned and successful advancement professional, Poole recently led Meharry through an historic $125 million campaign. In 2010 the College reach the $100 million endowment milestone. These successes are a result of strong philanthropic giving and prudent financial management, and one of the many reasons we admire Mr. Poole. We turned to Robert for specific information about how he engages the College’s board and president Dr. Wayne J. Riley . Our hope is that his tips and experience can help impact fundraising at your college, university, non-profit.

Saad & Shaw: How do you engage your president as a fundraiser?

Robert Poole: Here are five things we focus on at Meharry:

  • Developing and reviewing new funding opportunities with him based on the College’s strategic plan and in conjunction with the deans and other campus executive leaders.
  • Helping to maintain clarity regarding fundraising priorities.
  • Updating him on top prospects.
  • Conducting prospect briefing sessions before cultivation/solicitation visits.
  • Keeping him abreast of fundraising trends, best practices, and tracking and reporting on progress at peer institutions.

Saad & Shaw: How do you prepare and support your board in the area of fundraising?

Robert Poole: We communicate with the board’s advancement committee and its chairman regarding fundraising and marketing priorities and objectives. We provide prospect briefings for board members that participate in cultivation and solicitation calls as appropriate. We also involve board members in planning major fundraising initiatives both as policy makers and potential donors.

Saad & Shaw: How do you integrate the president into your fund development program?

Robert Poole: As lead spokesman and vital leader/partner in every development discipline the president is highly visible and engaged throughout the advancement program.  He’s involved in media (including op-ed features, video features, editorial board meetings, radio and TV interviews, health policy position statements, etc.), external affairs and government relations, donor prospect calls and campaign strategy, and alumni relations.

Saad & Shaw: How do you involve staff, faculty and students in your fundraising initiatives?

Robert Poole: We encourage them to share their perspectives on the institutional needs and opportunities that they would like to see addressed through philanthropy.   We provide education on how the fundraising process works and, where appropriate, involve them in fundraising cultivation, solicitation and stewardship.  For example, we’ve had great success in utilizing students during donor recognition and other events, students’ personal letters of thanks to scholarship donors have helped raise a lot of money as have their testimonies in solicitation appeals.  We work with faculty and other academic leaders to develop concepts that may ultimately become fundraising proposals or projects.  Additionally, faculty and deans have been very effective participants in donor visits.

Learn more – Read the full story.

Ruby Bright honored as leader in women’s funding movement

Ruby Bright

Ruby Bright

When women achieve economic security, they spread their success to their children, community and country.

When women help other women, everyone benefits.

These truths have only recently gained the international attention of economists and philanthropists, but members of the women’s funding movement have promoted them for many years.

One of these pioneers, Ruby Bright, was recently honored for her efforts to improve the lives of women and their children, both in the Memphis community and across the globe.

Bright received the Changing the Face of Philanthropy Award from the Women’s Funding Network on April 8 during the group’s annual conference in Brooklyn, N.Y. The award is presented annually to individuals, funds and foundations that have demonstrated a commitment to gender equity, diversity and social justice through philanthropy.

Bright has made “profound and influential contributions” to the women’s funding movement and “has been instrumental in bringing change to the Greater Memphis area and beyond,” wrote Ana Oliveira and Christine Grumm, board chair and president/CEO of the Women’s Funding Network, which represents more than 160 women’s funds across six continents.

As the executive director and chief administrative officer of the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis (WFGM), Bright has increased grant distribution by more than 300 percent over the last decade. Since 1995, the WFGM has awarded $5 million to 330 programs and 120 grantee agencies.

Starting in 2004, Bright has led a groundbreaking public-private partnership between the WFGM, the city of Memphis and the Memphis Housing Authority to support mixed-income housing and urban revitalization. Under Bright’s leadership, more than $7 million has been raised for the Memphis HOPE project, targeting 700 former public housing residents. The WFGM is the first women’s fund to lead such a program and now serves as a national model for success.

The WFGM’s mission is to encourage philanthropy, foster leadership among women and enable women and children to reach their full potential. Bright, who has more than 25 years of experience in nonprofit operations management, marketing and fund development, plays a vital role in spreading this mission to a broad audience and demonstrating the power of women helping women.

The core values promoted by Bright and the WFGM have universal applications, far beyond Memphis, or even the United States. “Collectively, economically secure women create secure nations and a more stable globe,” explained the Women’s Funding Network.

As an extension of her commitment to women’s empowerment, Bright is involved with numerous national and local civic organizations. From 2008 to 2010, she served as the board chair of the Women’s Funding Network. She is a founding member of the Black Women Donor Action Group and the Women’s Economic Security Campaign.

Bright has been honored by the Memphis Urban League, Girls Inc., Girl Scouts of the Mid-South, Leadership Memphis and many other groups. In 2006, the WFGM was named the MPACT Memphis Foundation of the Year.

Learn more about the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis and the Women’s Funding Network.

Stepping Up In time of Change

Managing Change
When its time for a change at the top…

 What would you do if your executive director unexpectedly left? Who would fill her shoes? Whether an executive transition is planned or unexpected, it is the role of an interim executive director to provide leadership.

Knowing that change is a constant in life, and in leadership, we talked with Chiquita Tuttle to learn more about the role of interim executive directors. Tuttle is an experienced interim executive director, so she knows all about change. She has worked with diverse organizations providing leadership and management during times of transition.

Saad & Shaw: What are some scenarios in which an organization needs to hire an interim executive director?

Chiquita Tuttle: Interim executive directors are usually called into an organization when there is some form of transition taking place. It may be the sudden loss of an executive director, the firing of an executive director, or an anticipated transition.

Saad & Shaw: What are typical key responsibilities of an interim executive director?

Chiquita Tuttle: Overall leadership and management of the organization; working with the management team; maintaining and rebuilding external relationships with funders; maintaining service delivery and client focus; and representing the agency in public forums are all key responsibilities.

Saad & Shaw: What is the role of the Board in working with an interim executive director?

Chiquita Tuttle: The Board has an absolute obligation to work with the interim executive director to assure that their expectations and the scope of work specified in the contract they have made are being met. Open communication and transparency are critical to a successful transition.

Saad & Shaw: What should a Board expect when working with an interim executive director?

Chiquita Tuttle: The Board can expect the interim executive director to be less involved in the daily political aspects of the agency. The interim executive director will be reviewing the operations and management with an external lens and making decisions based on his or her experience. The Board should be supportive of those decisions given the appropriate rationale and background. In some cases the interim executive director will tend to be a bit more assertive if he or she is there to implement a new direction for the agency.

Saad & Shaw:  How is an interim executive director evaluated?

Chiquita Tuttle: An interim executive director should be evaluated on the completion of the scope of work initially discussed and contracted for. In addition, the interim executive director should be evaluated on the relationship and respect developed among the staff as well as external clients such as funders, clients, partnerships, and collaborators.

Saad & Shaw: What have you noticed is the difference between a planned transition in executive leadership vs. a crisis transition? How does this affect the work of an interim executive director?

Chiquita Tuttle: Whether the interim executive director takes the role in a transition process or a crisis situation, the goals are the same. Management and leadership of the agency are primary. Being transparent and communicating with staff is critical. Working with the Board to keep them apprised of goals, objectives and decisions is paramount. Building trust and credibility will ensure a smooth transition in any circumstance. Also, this will determine how long the interim serves. Typically, interim executive director assignments range from 3 months to 18 months.

Saad & Shaw: We have noticed that some interim executive director’s fall into the “caretaker” model and some are brought in as “change agents.” Would you share your experience and perspective on these two different roles for an interim executive director and how a person serving as an interim executive director knows which role she is expected to fulfill?

Chiquita Tuttle: The caretaker role usually occurs when the current executive director has left the organization and the Board is engaged in a search for a permanent director. In this instance, the interim executive director is simply there to “hold down the fort” until that search is completed. That means working with existing staff, making sure the day to day operations are being enacted and clients are being served. Leadership, respect and managing are key elements where the interim executive director must take the lead.

If the interim executive director is hired to be a change agent, he or she will usually be charged with changing specific operations, policies, attitudes, expectations and/or accountability within the organization. This involves the participation and buy-in of the existing management team. In some instances, changes in the composition of the management team may have to be made. This kind of change is called for when systems and policies have not been working. Change agents are required when staff is not meeting goals, expectations and deliverables.

Then the interim becomes the enforcer of a new mind set and has the challenge of engaging staff to understand the rationale behind the change and acceptance of it. The interim executive director will need the assistance of change agents within the organization in making and taking the new direction. This process is often difficult, to say the least, because change is difficult. It can put staff in an uncomfortable situation; people may feel threatened and resist change.

When instituting change, it is always best to communicate the “situation at hand,” provide the rationale for the change and then implement the change. When staff fully understands the ramifications or consequences of not changing, they are oftentimes more accepting of change and will get on board. There will always be some resistance, but sometimes changes must be made.

Saad & Shaw: What are the ideal characteristics of an interim executive director?

Chiquita Tuttle: An ideal interim executive director is a good listener, an innovator, excellent leader, open to ideas, flexible, transparent, accountable, human, has superb relationship and management skills, understands how to deal with conflict, and knows how to build strong teams. They must be a good communicator because they are the messenger of good and bad news.

Most importantly the interim executive director understands that it is the staff that makes the agency’s culture and provides the service; therefore an ideal interim executive director should always acknowledge and thank the staff for their expertise and work.

Saad & Shaw: When hiring an interim executive director should an organization hire an experienced executive director who is currently between positions or should they look for someone experienced in serving as an interim executive director? In other words, how is an experienced interim executive director different from an experienced executive director?

Chiquita Tuttle: An interim executive director has the luxury, if you will, of having to “hit the ground running” in a variety of organizational types. Therefore, their advantage is their flexibility skill set.

An executive director in between jobs also comes to the table with a wealth of long standing experience that becomes valuable to any agency.

Experience in leadership, management and accountability are really what matters. Whether they got it in previous executive director jobs or as an interim executive director matters less.

Saad & Shaw: Have you noticed differences in the requirements of the executive director across organizational types – for example museums, vs. higher education vs. community organizations?

Chiquita Tuttle: Clearly, having expertise in an industry is a strong case, but in the non-profit world, being a generalist is also important. One can learn over time about an industry. It is the management skill set and the knowledge of the fund development process that non-profits look for. All organizations want to be led by someone who understands sustainability, financial viability, good stewardship, strong staffing and, at the end of the day, isproviding for the clients according to their mission statement and vision. Leadership and managerial skill sets are transferable.

Saad & Shaw: Any last thoughts or guidance for our readers?

Chiquita Tuttle: Being an interim executive director is a special niche. It is challenging and difficult at times to gain trust within the agency. We should not be viewed as the “hatchet” person, but should be accepted as vital leadership whose responsibility is to sustain the organization.

It is our responsibility to review current practices, question them and make recommendations for more effective delivery of services. It is always our goal to leave the agency in a healthier and more stable state than when we first arrived.

Chiquita Tuttle is a member of the Saad & Shaw team. She serves as the West Coast Director of Fund Development Services.