Top of Mind Issues from Non-Profits at Campbell's Community Networking Breakfast

Breakout Teams Identify Critical Issues Facing Nonprofits Today
Jan 23, 2012 8:35 AM ET
On Wednesday, January 18, 2012, the Campbell Soup Foundation hosted its 7th Annual Networking Breakfast.  More than 115 leaders from Camden-area nonprofits were in attendance.  We thought you might appreciate, and even learn by, seeing some of the notes from those sessions that identify the issues they face and how they are dealing with them.   With the help of Alisa Baratta, a facilitator from the Non Profit Center at La Salle University, participants divided into eleven groups and engaged in brainstorming discussions around some of the critical issues facing nonprofits today.   Through these discussions, it was clear that leaders from the Camden-area nonprofit community have demonstrated resilience and creativity in managing the challenges in nonprofit life.   A number of common treads ran through the brainstorming sessions: 
  • There is increased demand for services and programs in a time of major funding cutbacks.

  • The call to do more with fewer resources places greater stress on the nonprofit infrastructure, including staff and board members.

  • Nonprofit leaders must look for opportunities to leverage limited resources.  Groups have had successes in partnering and collaborating with colleague agencies, and with using outcome measurement to inform strategic planning, program development and fundraising.

  • Reaching donors – be it individual or institutional – begins with an organization’s ability to clearly and concisely communicate its’ mission, vision and values.

  • Groups who have had success in using social media, events and individual donor campaigns rely on internal structure and processes to plan, execute and evaluate effectiveness of these activities.

  • Succession planning – developing the next generation of leadership for executive, key management positions and board members helps to ensure organizational sustainability. 

Creating Your Elevator Pitch

1.     What is a compelling single sentence to describe your mission?

2.     What information differentiates your organization from others?

3.     What question will you use to engage your audience in your mission?

4.     What question will you use to move your audience to action? 

·       Appeal to prospect’s interest in being a part of the success – Illustrate the success of your mission

·       Focus/define sustainability for the organization

·       Quantify success/outcomes

·       Provide “shock stats” which show your organization’s success and point to the future (ask)

        o   Support by providing testimonies

·       Use real stories to illustrate your organization

·       Language of the message matters – investment, sustainable, structural change

  Collaborations and Partnership

1.     What trends and issues have moved your organization towards collaboration and partnerships?

·       Funding

·       More complex needs/issues

·       Access to clients

·       Partnering for expertise

·       Shifting dynamic to community with many organizations 

2.     What formal and informal mechanisms have you used to organize collaborations and partnerships with other organizations?

·       Funding

·       Network building

·       Building around an issue/project (wrap around services)

·       Affiliation agreement

·       Advisory boards

·       Working together/building relationships 

3.     What outcomes have you realized from collaborations and partnerships?

·       Resources

·       Credibility

·       Deeper community impact

·       Building capacity

·       Awareness

·       Increased success in reaching families 

4.     What are the biggest obstacles to effective collaboration?  What strategies have you used to overcome these obstacles?

·       Written contracts/plan

·       Need is increasing while funding is decreasing

·       Partnerships are critical to meeting needs

Managing Stress and Burn Out

1.     What are the key external trends/issues creating stress among your staff?

·       Limited staff

·       Limited funding

·       Increase in needs for services

·       Personal commitment (balancing home & work)

·       Organizational structure

·       Budget cuts

·       Expectations vs. reality

·       Generational differences between staff

·       Volunteer vs. staff responsibilities 

2.     What are some of the internal factors contributing to stress?

·       Above are internal and external 

3.     As a nonprofit manager with little access to financial rewards for staff, what are your most effective tools for combating stress and burnout among staff?

·       Promoting physical fitness: walks at lunch, extra time at lunch, breaks

·       Social events outside of work

·       Volunteerism as a team

·       Thank you’s /recognition

·       Pot-luck lunches

·       Rewarding with comp time

·       Interaction with staff of “all” levels 

4.     What have been your most innovative ways of recognizing and appreciating staff?

·       Small monetary incentive for reaching goals/going above & beyond

·       Creative raffles (senior management donated services with lunch w/cooked a meal – craft)

·       Tickets to theatre/sporting events (donated)

·       Giving more responsibility

·       Training


Succession Planning

1.     What trends or issues have driven your organization to look at succession planning?

·       Two types:  Immediate (emergency, family, issues, etc) and Long-term (retirement, another opportunity)

·       Idea:  Create succession planning as a strategy in long-term planning 

2.     Who has been (or should be) involved in planning for succession?  What is the role of the Board?  Executive?

·       Depends on the size of the board 

3.     What obstacles have you encountered in succession planning?  What strategies have you used to deal with those obstacles?

·       Not understanding duties of the position

·       Fear

·       It is not in the job description of the CEO.  Development of plan might depend on how the board understands its role.

·       Succession plans for for key employees/positions should be part of the agency’s plan

·       Lame duck 

4.     What practical steps has your organization put in place to manage an executive transition?

Identified 3 ways to successful succession:

·       Have the Executive Director or leader as the driver of the plan

·       Identifying a successor with the organization

·       Have an interim manager 

Strategic Planning

1.     Does your organization have a strategic plan?

·       Most yes but many at a standstill or not current 

2.     If yes, who was involved in developing the plan?   What makes the plan strategic?  What are the biggest benefits that your organization has realized as a result of the plan?

·       Whole team involved

·       Volunteers included

·       Utilization of consultant (if $)

·       Board has voice (sometimes)

·       Benefits:  Plan, purpose, ROI – know where everyone is and hear everyone’s ideas 

3.     If no, what are the biggest obstacles that you face in developing a plan? 


·       Rapidly changing “funding environment”

·       What you want to do vs. what you CAN do

·       Staff turnover

·       Change in client population

·       TIME!!

·       Resources ($, staff)

·       Lack of understanding 

4.     What strategies have been effective in helping your organization overcome resistance to planning?

·       Federal, state funders require SP!

·       Time now will benefit later 

Measuring Impact

1.     What types of program related data does your organization collect?

·       Plan for evaluation outcomes (baseline & post-test, follow-up years later) 

2.     How do you measure the long-term impact of services on your consumer base?

·       Intercommunication among groups with how to evaluate & outcomes 

3.     How do you measure the impact of your services of the wider community?

·       Participation/waiting list

·       Tests-children/learning outcomes/understanding of program impact on young children

·       BMI

·       Economic outcomes – family & community

·       Retention rate 

4.     How have you used the results of outcome evaluation to support fundraising and program development?

·       Journaling

·       Stories reveal programs

·       Need to share evaluation measures

·       Use survey monkey 

Designate a % (20%) of resources for evaluation data.  Need data on impact of evaluation/ outcomes for future fundraising.   Social Media

1.     How does your organization use social media?

·       Facebook, twitter, blogs

a.     Own accounts

b.     Assigned employees – youth hired

c.      PR firm expertise being utilized

d.     Links amongst different media accts

e.     Company training for employees 

2.     Who manages social media activities in your organization? Who contributes information?

·       Shared among employees, partners

·       Marketing

·       Admin staff

·       Exec. Director (has expertise)

·       Communications mgr/project staff

·       Development director

·       Interns

·       Anyone available 

3.     What policies and mechanisms are in place to oversee and evaluate use of social media?

·       Careful of what’s put out

·       Interns must know missions

·       “Code of Conduct” Company message

·       Photos signed off on 

4.     Do you use social media for fundraising purposes?  What has been your most effective social media-based fundraising campaign?

·       Holiday use


1.     What have been your most successful fundraising activities in the past 2-3 years? How do you measure the effectiveness of these efforts?

·       Collaboration on local/state funding oppurtunities. 

·       Robust partnerships, leveraging strengths. 

·       “ROI” (Return on Investment).    Track what is spent vs raised  to understand efficiency of fundraising activity. 

2.      What has been your experience with growing your base of individual donors?

 Donor acknowledgement & relationship building:  In-person, print, feeling “inside” the    work, thank you from child directly. 

3.      Does your organization use special events as part of its fundraising strategy?   Have events contributed to the growth of your individual donor base?

·        Inviting donator to client and/or events. 

·       Interact with those benefiting directly. 

·       Tours of facilities “hands on” 

·       Events make connections, not just fundraising. 

·       “Fundraising” mission – driven events.  

4.     Have you added any new fundraising activities recently?  How do these new fundraising activities measure up against your more traditional fundraising activities? 

·       Boy & Girls Club  is extending event to state level – network, efficient. 

·       Collaborative “asks”

·       fee for service

·       local church, galleries, and donations

  Building an Effective Board of Directors

1.     Does your board engage in skills-based board recruitment?   What are the biggest skills gaps on your board today? 

·       Beginning to recruit diverse candidates

·       Fundraising is heart & soul

·       (influence/workers/mission money) 

2.     What strategies and tools has your organization used to attract energetic and committed candidates?

·       Personal phone calls from board chair

·       Peer-to-peer

·       Advisory committee

·       Friend raiser – stretch gift – go to great board member & ask: do you have friends,  hold several events per year

·       Phone call

·       Empower board for FR 

3.     How does your board assess a board member’s strengths and contributions to the organization?   How have you managed board members who are not living up to expectations?

·       Formal tools to assess yearly

·       Adhere to by-laws

·       Board effect – board messaging/committee work

·       Governance committee to choose

·       Nominating committee 

4.     What does your board do to educate new members about their roles and responsibilities?

·       Orientation

·       Do Not Limit yourself!

·       Wallet card – mission/comm./speak about institute

Marketing and Communications

1.     What have you done to “brand” your organization?

·       Streamline

·       Social media

·       Positive stories (human interest)

·       Website design

·       Create strategy that promotes diverse portfolio while captureing core values

·       Logo centric (URL code’s)

·       Check ins, mobile documentaries

·       Consistent social media uploads 

2.     How do your marketing and communication efforts support your brand?

·       Focus on how to capture new audience

·       Find linkages between what is supported and what’s going to drive excitement across the brands 

3.     What has been you most effective marketing/communication campaign?

4.     What impact has marketing and communications had on your organization? (Examples: increased fundraising, new clients, increased media coverage, etc.)