“Get in the car and drive two miles and let’s help the kids on the other side of the city of Chicago. In addition to being a global city, let’s be a local city…Don and I have decided to focus our philanthropy right here at home. If other people want to give globally, that’s wonderful. We applaud that because we need it. We are Chicagoans first.”
Liz Thompson, president of Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education
Generally speaking, Americans believe philanthropy is giving money to help the needy. Period. I argue that there is so much more to philanthropy than donating money and Liz Thompson helps me make this case.
I met Liz earlier this month with the goal of her sharing her experience as a philanthropist. Hearing the master speak taught me that I have not met many philanthropists. Donors, yes. True philanthropists, not so much. Liz and her husband Don epitomize what it means to be philanthropists. Their humble beginnings and their ability to take advantage of opportunities paved the way for them to pay it forward. My hope is that you are wiser, empowered and more optimistic about our future after listening to my conversation with Liz.
Here are additional links to the podcast:
As Black Philanthropy Month 2017 concludes on August 31st, continue to support the organizations whose missions speak to you 365 days a year. Make financial contributions, volunteer your time, and share your expertise.
August 30, 2017
“True democracy is a project that’s much bigger than any one of us.”
Barack H. Obama, 44th President, United States of America
As Barack and Michelle Obama transition from their public roles as President and First Lady of the United States of America, they will continue their patriotic service in their private lives through the Obama Foundation. The couple will tirelessly work to create positive change locally (in Chicago), nationally and worldwide as they did in the White House.
As Michelle says in the video, “This will be your Presidential Center, as much yours as it is ours”. They want your ideas. They want to know what should be the Foundations’s critical focus areas. Watch this short video and hear them explain how you can help.
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Finding volunteers with the right attributes is like winning the trifecta – difficult to do, but worth making the effort to find the right mix for the organization. Every nonprofit should create a Board member job description, with detailed explanations of expectations and service commitments.
Defining Board member responsibilities can vary as widely as there are nonprofit organizations, but it would be a disservice to leave out any of these qualifiers. They are the 3Ts (Time, Talent and Treasure) or the 3Ws (Work, Wisdom and Wealth).
Members of a nonprofit Board give their time(work) to help the organization. They can do this by:
- helping to shape the future direction of the charity.
- creating new, modifying and/or approving the planning documents that guide the organization (mission and values statements, guiding principles, and strategic, operating and fundraising plans).
- attending regular and special Board meetings.
- serving on committees and subcommittees.
- attending events.
- encouraging others to learn more about the nonprofit’s great work.
Accomplished people are asked to join nonprofit Boards because of their expertise in certain areas. The charity needs their talent(wisdom) to improve the charity’s decision-making. Here are examples:
- You are an estate planning attorney and the charity wants to start a gift planning program.
- You are an executive for a construction firm and the charity is considering building a new facility to serve a different demographic.
- You are a doctor using innovative approaches to treat diabetes and the charity’s mission is to find a cure for juvenile diabetes.
- You are a vice president at a major consulting firm and the charity is looking for new opportunities to grow its services while cutting costs.
Nonprofit leaders tend to be comfortable asking Board members to volunteer time and asking for advice, but sometimes are hesitant to ask their Board members to give their treasure(wealth) annually. Why? In some cases,
- the charity doesn’t have a case for support.
- there is no clear plan to solicit Board members.
- Board members were never told of any expectation to make annual gifts at a specific level.
- Board members were told giving is optional.
- the charity’s leadership is uncomfortable asking for gifts, fearful of being told no and/or terrified of Board members becoming upset and resigning.
When vetting Board candidates, it is important for the nominating committee to give candidates good reasons why Board membership has to be a reciprocal fit. It is the charity’s responsibility to make sure all new and returning Board members have clear expectations of their roles before joining or accepting additional terms. Each party should understand and agree to:
- the time commitment.
- how a candidate’s or a returning member’s expertise will be used to improve the organization.
- an annual gift of at least the minimum required for the duration of the term of service.
- an annual Board member review with the CEO and the Board president.
The vetting process goes both ways. Both sides are looking for a good fit. Open and honest dialog is important. Candidates for Board membership should have a clear understanding of the mission, and know all the requirements for Board service, including time(work), talent(wisdom) and treasure(wealth).
Over time, increasing the number of Board members who actively give of their time(work), talent(wisdom, and treasure(wealth) will change the Board from being good to being great!
UP NEXT: My experience with Board member reviews.
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Take time out of your busy schedules today to support nonprofits with missions you care deeply about!