How to Get Gen Z to Care about Your Cause

Team NLC Tips

Close your eyes. Think about some of the most successful and iconic nonprofit programs and fundraising events of our time. Nationally televised telethons, global charity walks, giving phenomenons spurred by a single bucket of ice. Now open your eyes and come back to reality. Many of the strategies that have worked in the past are no longer relevant or sustainable. Finding fresh ways to deliver your mission, fundraise and inpsire audiences to engage is critical for nonprofits, yet successfully harnessing the idea of innovation and making it a foundtional part of doing business continues to be a struggle for many charitable organizations.

Research from the Bridgespan Group shows that most nonprofit leaders (80%) agree innovation is critical to advance their missions, yet only 40 percent believe their organizations are currently capable of such innovation. All too often, innovation is synonymous with technology, software or the latest app. However, innovation also lies in identifying the place where our audiences’ greatest needs intersect with our deepest organizational expertise. Thus, being relentlessly curious and understanding our audiences is more important than ever.

Enter the next generation of donors: Post-Millennials, often known as Generation Z or Gen Z, represent people born roughly between 1995 and 2010. As this generation begins to enter the workforce, understanding how to engage their time, treasure and talents is one way to think about innovating.

4 Ways Nonprofits Can Authentically Engage Gen Z

By 2020, Gen Z will represent a third of our world’s population. They’ve never known life without the Internet or social media. They’ve grown up witnessing acts of terrorism and school violence as a part of life. And they’re extremely entrepreneurial, interested in hands-on learning and being actively engaged in creating solutions.

So what do nonprofits need to know about Gen Z and how can you engage them authentically? Here are four things to keep in mind.

1. Offer transformational experiences, not transactional one-offs

Gen Z craves authentic and meaningful experiences. They like to share and co-create with peers, and they’re very entrepreneurial. In fact, more than one-third of Gen Z students currently own their own business or plan on having one in the future. With this desire to learn by doing, it’s no surprise that they’re interested in volunteering, with 26% reporting they volunteer regularly and 50% seeking nonprofit jobs. Issues affecting children, animals and health top their list of charitable giving priorities, and they like their social impact to reflect their personal interests.

Today’s nonprofits must think about how the experiences they deliver for employees, volunteers and donors can allow this audience to be actively and authentically involved. From being a meaningful part of helping manage a project to participating in real-world experiences that bring your mission to life, Gen Z wants to do more than just hit a donate button on your website. Consider ways they can see and feel how your mission works, meet the individuals and families you help and be at a planning table with you to help influence ideas or solutions.

2. Simplify and visualize your message across screens

Gen Z has never known a world without smart phones and social media. Although they appreciate and want personal interactions, they are digitally driven and prefer online channels to communicate and give. In fact, 82% of Gen Z is willing to give to nonprofits on their mobile device. With smaller screens and competing messages, today’s nonprofits must make their message as concise and compelling as possible. Keeping things simple, yet highly visual, is the best way to attract Gen Z. Tools like video and striking imagery to tell your story are musts to grab their attention while leaning into their desire for experiential and authentic alignment. Your website and donation tools must also be mobile friendly and easy to engage on the go.

3. Be intentional about demonstrating your impact

Gen Z is highly educated and takes the time to research brands. They have access to information at a moment’s notice and look to Google and social media for their information over other sources, including nonprofit websites and the news. Therefore, it’s critical for nonprofits to convey their impact with clarity and transparency. It’s not enough to talk about what you do, you must tangibly demonstrate why it matters with numbers and stories to prove your purpose. Investing in Search Engine Marketing and ensuring your content is optimized for search is also an important tactic given that’s where they’ll check on your organization and issue first.

4. Keep the bigger picture in mind

Although Gen Z will soon comprise one-third of the world’s population, they still represent the smallest generational segment of giving, with 9.3 million donors contributing $3.2 billion. Because the majority of young professionals don’t have the same kind of disposable income as their Millennial, Gen X and Boomer counterparts, engaging them in ways that align with their needs can create lifelong relationships and loyalty as they age. Today, that means giving them opportunities to grow their experience or portfolio, connecting them to other leaders to build their personal and professional network and giving them an opportunity to make the social impact they care about.

Smart growth is about thinking ahead for tomorrow while not forgetting where our greatest engagement and support come from today.

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  1. Is your nonprofit built for sustained innovation?, The Stanford Social Innovation Review
  2. 2018 Next Generation of Giving Study, Blackbaud
  3. Getting to Know Gen Z, Barnes & Noble College
  4. Gen Z: The Next Generation of Donors, Classy

5 Secrets for Nonprofit Career Success

Team NLC Tips

What advice would you give to individuals who want to pursue a successful career in the nonprofit sector? This is a question we’re asked often when we speak to students, new nonprofit professionals and emerging leaders. Nonprofit organizations are more important than ever for the future of our communities and our economy. With more than 83,000 nonprofits in Florida employing 6 percent of the state’s workforce and generating nearly $90 billion in annual revenue (according to the Florida Nonprofit Alliance), we need courageous, committed and highly competent nonprofit leaders to guide our sector into the future.

So what does it take to become a successful nonprofit leader or steer your new nonprofit professionals toward success? Here are five tips we’ve learned at NLC along our journey.

1. Be relentlessly curious. It’s okay to not know everything, but it’s never OK to stop asking questions or searching for ways to improve and innovate. Being a lifelong learner is one of the most important traits every great nonprofit leader possesses, irrespective of their years of experience. That means being a voracious reader who keeps up with the latest trends, industry research and case studies from other organizations. It means calling on colleagues and consultants to ask questions and brainstorm ideas. It means investing in ongoing professional and leadership development to hone current skills and build new ones. Being consistently curious prevents us from accepting the status quo, and it’s how we continue to learn and grow.


2. Invest in relationships. Connecting as a nonprofit leader is about more than accepting a LinkedIn request or swapping business cards at a monthly luncheon. Having a network of colleagues across industries, sectors and areas of expertise who you can call on for advice is critical to success. Strong, authentic and trusted professional relationships are also where some of the most intersting and impactful new opportunities originate. It’s easy to neglect your relationships in the day-to-day grind, but it’s also easy to keep them alive and thriving. Grabbing a quick coffee before work, sending an email with a relevant article to a colleague or mailing a hand-written note of thanks are all small gestures that deepen relationships … and relationships is what it’s all about.

3. Think about your nonprofit like a business. While nonprofits are in the business of changing and saving lives, our passion and commitment are not a substitute for a strategic business plan, focused programs and a strong internal culture. From the way you evenutally manage your board and run staff meetings, recruit and invest in employees and cultivate relationships with donors to communicating with stakeholders and evaluating success, the best nonprofit leaders lead with the business of their mission in mind so they can fuel its long-term sustainability and success.

4. Embrace other duties as assigned. Every seasoned nonprofit professional knows that the phrase “wearing many hats” is true for nonprofit organizations and leaders. The words “that isn’t my job” should never come out of your mouth. Those “other things,” big and small, demonstrate your commitment to your mission, to your colleagues and to a better future. Just know when to say your plate is full so that the quality of your work doesn’t suffer by taking on too much.


5. Believe in yourself. If you don’t know where you want to go, someone else will decide for you. Take time periodically to ask yourself how what you’re doing now will help take you to where you think you want to go in the future. Be confident in your skills and abilities, and don’t let others devalue them or decide what you’re good at.

Learning Opportunities for Nonprofit Leaders

Remember our first tip about curiousity being a key to success? Check out these upcoming learning opportunities to develop your skills and deepen your knowledge.

Half- and Full-Day Classes in Fundraising, Management, Finance, Leadership, Communications/Marketing and HR

Certificate in Nonprofit Management at the University of Tampa

Want to be the first to hear about new nonprofit trainings, classes and events at NLC? Sign up to receive our weekly NLC e-newsletter, chock-full of the latest resources, tips and tools to help you thrive personally and professionally.

Nonprofit Sector Trends That Affect Your Organization

Team NLC News

In our ever-changing world, shifts in charitable giving and donor engagement require our nonprofit sector to think differently to survive and thrive. Two recent studies highlight nonprofit sector trends that every leader should be considering as they plan and prepare for the future. Here’s what the latest data suggests and what your nonprofit should be thinking about to increase organizational productivity and longevity.

Nonprofit sector trends that affect every organization

Declines in Charitable Giving Require a Deeper Focus on Donor Engagement and Retention

The Giving USA Foundation just released its 2019 Giving USA report, which examines contributions by individuals, corporations and foundations for 2018. Results show that total giving declined 1.7% last year. Although giving by foundations and corporations experienced healthy growth, individual giving was down after a record-breaking year in 2017. Experts attribute the overall decline to a variety of possible factors, including the uncertain stock market at the end of 2018 and changes in federal tax policy.

Of the nine charitable service categories Giving USA analyzes — religion, education, human services, health, foundations, public-society benefit, arts/culture/humanities, international affairs and environment/animal — there was uneven growth across these sub-sectors. Specifically, international affairs and environment/animal organizations experienced substantial growth in giving in 2018, while giving to human services, health, and arts, culture and humanities remained flat. Organizations dedicated to public-society benefit, religion and education as well as foundations all experienced declines in giving after recent periods of previous growth.

For local nonprofits, this data underscores the critical importance of pursuing diverse strategies to deepen donor engagement and strengthen donor retention efforts. Upcoming trainings like NLC’s sustainability through annual giving and fund development basics can be helpful to identify opportunities to strengthen your current efforts.

Authentic Alignment with Corporate Partners is More Important than Ever

While “purpose” has become a buzz word in the corporate sector during the past decade, a recent study by Porter Novelli and Cone examined not just what consumers say they will do to support responsible brands, but also how they feel and physically react when exposed to purpose-driven messaging. The research combined online survey results of more than 1,000 American adults with biometrics testing that measured facial, heart rate and skin conductance upon viewing a randomized set of messages.

While it’s no surprise that nearly 9 in 10 (86%) consumers say they’d purchase products and services from a purpose-driven company whose values align with their own, findings revealed that purpose-driven companies are more likely to capture the physical and emotional attention of customers.

  • Nearly 3 in 4 Americans (73%) say that in today’s uncertain social and political times, they feel an urgency to support issues in every way they can, including through the brands they support.
  • 76% say supporting companies that are addressing social and environmental issues helps them feel they’re doing their part.
  • 75% want to support issues that are widely discussed in news and society.

As Americans prioritize brands that are solving today’s social issues and as individual giving has declined, local nonprofits should prioritize identifying and cultivating potential corporate partners that share authentic mission alignment and values.

Want to be the first to hear about new nonprofit trainings, classes and events at NLC? Sign up to receive our weekly NLC e-newsletter, chock-full of the latest resources, tips and tools to help you thrive personally and professionally.

6 Ideas for Improving Team Dynamics

Team NLC Tips

Did you know we spend about 1 in every 3 hours that we’re awake at work? As nonprofit leaders, this means our colleagues and supervisor are constantly present in our everyday life. No wonder the saying “culture eats strategy for breakfast” is true. Despite the correlation between culture and performance, many organizations don’t make the time to be intentional about improving team dynamics and ensuring every employee feels valued.

A recent Google study revealed that employees who are passionate about their organization’s mission enjoy greater job satisfaction and demonstrate improved performance. Additionally, they found talented teams believe what they’re doing is important and supports positive change.

As you invest in developing skills like fundraising, marketing, financial management and customer experience, don’t forget to prioritize culture and talent recognition. Here are six ideas for improving team dynamics within your organization to create a happier, healthier and more productive nonprofit culture.

How to Start Improving Team Dynamics at Your Nonprofit Organization

1. Take the time to say thank you.
Whether it’s consistently starting the coffee in the breakroom every morning or producing a high quality presentation that makes your team shine, let your coworkers and employees know how much you appreciate them. The same goes for volunteers. Most of the time, the little, everyday things make the biggest difference.

2. Spark curiosity and creativity.
Have you read an article recently that made you smile, was about a topic you know a colleague is passionate about or shares a tip your team could benefit from? Take a minute to send relevant content to a colleague that not only introduces new perspective to stimulate creativity, but also lets them know you’re thinking about them and are invested in their continued growth.

3. Listen, fully and completely.
As nonprofit leaders, we’re known for wearing a million hats and juggling mighty missions with limited resources. While time is a precious commodity for all of us, the people who make our mission possible are even more important. Be fully present with and for your team members. If someone comes to your desk to ask you a question, stop typing and reading emails and give them your undivided attention. This makes people feel valued. If you can’t give them that at the moment, let them know when you can. And for goodness sakes, put down your phone.

4. Ask questions.
Getting to know more about your colleagues’ lives helps build camaraderie and is helpful for improving team dynamics. Ask coworkers about their family, hobbies and weekends. Take a genuine interest in those around you. When we care about each other, we work harder for one another.

5. Take a coffee break.
If you sense that a colleague is having a tough day, take 15 minutes to invite them to grab a cup of coffee. Not only is it a way to show you care, it can help everyone be more productive and positive when they return to the office.

6. Be generous with compliments.
A kind word can go a long way toward improving team dynamics. Share something you admire about a colleague or volunteer — perhaps an idea they offered in a recent meeting, the way they handled a sensitive situation, even something they wore or a joke they told. Consistently share why you believe the people you work with are such important parts of your team and mission. You might think they know how you feel, but a positive and meaningful reminder can do wonders for motivation.


*The statistic about how much time we spend at work is based on someone who works 40 hours per week with five weeks of vacation/holiday time and sleeps 8 hours per night.

Want to be the first to hear about new nonprofit trainings, classes and events at NLC? Sign up to receive our weekly NLC e-newsletter, chock-full of the latest resources, tips and tools to help you thrive personally and professionally.

Dad’s Best Advice for Leadership & Life

Team NLC Stories

Running nonprofit organizations and leading a life of purpose require deep competence, courage, compassion and commitment. While we learn a great deal about what it means to lead with character and conviction through school, on-the-job training and continuing education, some of our greatest lessons about life and leadership started much earlier than that — at home.

In honor of Father’s Day, Team NLC is celebrating all the amazing dads out there and remembering those we have lost. To mark this special day, we’re sharing the most important lessons we’ve learned from our dads that have shaped how we lead and live.

1. Go Out of Your Way to Do the Right Thing

“One of the most important lessons I learned from my Daddy is that it’s worth it to go out of your way to do the right thing. One of my favorite memories is when my Daddy borrowed my mom’s stethoscope to find a poor squirrel that got stuck inside our walls. He had to figure out exactly where it was. When he finally found it, he drilled a big hole in the wall (that he had to patch later, of course), threaded a jump rope down into the hole, and coaxed the squirrel to use it as a ramp to run out. Daddy was waiting with a pillowcase to catch him and set him free outside. 

“No matter what my dad was doing, he always taught me that everyone, even wild animals, deserve mercy, compassion and a second chance at life. Thanks, Daddy.” 

Laurel Westmoreland, Education & Data Manager
Dad's best advice for leadership and life [Nonprofit Leadership Center]

2. Walk the Talk

“I’ve been thinking about my dad a lot recently. On June 9, I celebrated my 35th wedding anniversary where my dad walked me down the aisle. Three months later, he died of a heart attack on the way to work. He was the CEO of his own steel company in Pennsylvania and had his own quiet brand of leadership. He led by example and exhibited a deep commitment to responsibility, respectability and loyalty in everything he did. No big lecture, no quotable sayings — just walking the talk with a steadfast commitment to what is right. I strive to emulate him every day.”

Emily Benham, CEO
Dad's best advice for leadership and life [Nonprofit Leadership Center]

3. Work Hard & Show Compassion to Everyone

“My father taught me so many things — from being a hard worker to showing genuine love to all people. My dad has never met a stranger. He finds authentic joy in every new conversation he has with someone. My father has shaped the man I am.

“This Father’s Day will be my first celebrating as a dad myself. It’s still amazing to me how my life changed the moment my son entered the world. As I reflect on the best advice my dad ever gave me, I have so many lessons I want to share with my son one day. I want him to know that I’m here for him no matter what. I want him to know he is not the center of the universe but that he exists in connection with all life. And I want him to know that he has the capacity inside himself to choose to show compassion to every person no matter the situation.”

Andrew Rametta, Fellow in Fund Development
Dad's best advice for leadership and life [Nonprofit Leadership Center]

4. If It’s Worth Your Time, Do It Well

“One of the most important things I learned from my dad is that if something is worth your time to do, then it’s worth doing it well.

“I aspire to put myself wholeheartedly into things I do at work and at home, no matter the work to be done. My dad passed his strong work ethic down to me as a positive, strong role model and example. He was an inspiration to many and to all who knew him in his 90 years of life. He is well remembered for his honesty, keeping his word, and his love of God, family and country as he served in the Philippines on the front lines fighting for peace as the ultimate example of one of the greats in the greatest generation.”

Lorraine Hall Faithful, Operations Manager, in honor and loving memory of H. Douglas Hall

5. Don’t Forget to Have Fun

“The best advice my Dad gave me — and some of the hardest to put into practice when everything about life sometimes seems so very important — was to have a good time. Dad modeled it for me, too; he made life fun. He was a preacher, but he was never sanctimonious. He was a big man, but his grin let you know he was approachable. I have treasured memories of my Dad’s big booming laugh, of him teasing my friends and boyfriends, and making my Mom giggle like a schoolgirl. I have memories of my Dad dancing down the hall and scratching like a chicken in the kitchen. He understood the value of being silly and helping people have a good belly laugh.

“The older I get, the more easily I find the joy in small, everyday moments, and the more comfortable I am being silly. And I’m happier for it. Thanks, Dad.”

Jen Dodd, Director of Education and Communications
Dad's best advice for leadership and life [Nonprofit Leadership Center]

More Fatherly Advice from Tampa Bay Leaders

We asked leaders across Tampa Bay on social media to answer the same question we did: What’s the best advice your dad ever gave you about life and leadership? Here’s what you shared with us on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Dad's best advice for leadership and life [Nonprofit Leadership Center]
Dad's best advice for leadership and life [Nonprofit Leadership Center]

Want to be the first to hear about new nonprofit trainings, classes and events at NLC? Sign up to receive our weekly NLC e-newsletter, chock-full of the latest resources, tips and tools to help you thrive personally and professionally.

Operating Grant Application with Pinellas Community Foundation

Lorraine Faithful News

Pinellas-based 501(c)3 organizations are invited to apply for a Pinellas Community Foundation (PCF) Operating Grant. PCF is accepting applications until 11:59 p.m. on June 30, 2019. Accessing the grant application is easy through the Pinellas Community Foundation online grant portal.

The grant size is based on organizational operating budget size for service in Pinellas County and is not inclusive of major one-time or non-routine capital expenditures.

To be eligible for the grant, organizations must meet all the following requirements:

  • PCF must receive your application by 11:59 p.m. on June 30, 2019.
  • Applplicants must provide a current certified audit (organizations with budgets under $100,000 may provide a current 990).
  • Applicants must use the PCF budget sheet provided with the application.
  • Applicants must complete a new form requesting the racial and gender composition of your staff, governing board and clients. PCF wants to understand the current make-up of the organizations it supports regarding diversity, equity and inclusion to aid in helping resolve existing disparities and inequities.

The PCF Board of Governors will finalize grant decisions in December 2019. Announcements will immediately follow, and checks will be mailed in early January.


The application period for the PCF Capital Improvement and Equipment Grants will be July 1 through July 31, 2019. A separate announcement will be sent for this grant.

Become a Better Leader in Just 15 Minutes

Team NLC Tips

Is it really possible to become a better leader in just 15 minutes? According to Simon T. Bailey — author, life coach and keynote speaker at our recent Leadership Conference — the answer is yes. He says that by incorporating this 15-minute routine into your day, you’ll be on your way to long-term leadership success.

Become a Better Nonprofit Leader in Just 15 Minutes a Day

If you want to become a more successful leader, start by waking up 15 minutes earlier each day. Research shows the world’s most successful CEOs are morning people. Break this extra time into three, 5-minute segments to start daily habits that lead to a lifetime of success.

1. First 5 Minutes: Meditate/Mindfulness

To speed up, we must first slow down. Prior to reaching for your phone and tapping out emails before breakfast, spend the first five minutes of your day engaging in quiet meditation. Science shows that practicing daily meditation, just for a few minutes, can improve our focus, decision-making and sleep while reducing stress and anxiety. Apps like Headspace can help you learn how to practice mindfulness and prevent your brain from wandering away from the present.

2. Second 5 Minutes: Read/Listen

After you’ve spent some quiet time disconnecting from the day’s many tasks, spend a few minutes reading or listening to something that inspires you. Curiosity is one of the most critical tools for leadership success. Whether that’s reading the latest news articles, reviewing peer campaigns or listening to a podcast, we are more effective leaders when we look outside ourselves and our own organizations. Instaread is an app that allows you to read more than 800 non-fiction books in just a few minutes at a time. Looking for a great read for nonprofit leaders? We’re big fans of “The Sustainability Mindset,” co-authored by NLC trainer and partner Steve Zimmerman. It helps nonprofits create better strategic decision-making models to drive both impact and profitability.

3. Final 5 Minutes: Stretch/Move

Finally, spend the last five minutes of your new 15-minute routine stretching. This will help get your mind and body in alignment so you are mentally and physically ready for the day ahead. If you need a little help getting started, there are numerous stretching apps for your smartphone you can search for in the app store.

Are you ready to become a more successful nonprofit leader? Wake up 15 minutes earlier tomorrow and get started.

Get more tips and tools to become the best nonprofit leader you can be by signing up to receive our weekly NLC e-newsletter. It includes resources, learning opportunities and the latest NLC training events to help you thrive personally and professionally.

What does it mean to develop and connect nonprofit leaders?

Emily H. Benham, CEO Resources

About five years ago, my brother asked me a (seemingly) simple question: “What do you do?” Try as I might to come up with creative ways to explain the Nonprofit Leadership Center’s work, my role and the challenges facing our sector, my brother kept coming to the same conclusion: “So, NLC teaches, and you’re a teacher?” While teaching is an important part of what we do, he didn’t fully grasp the scope, depth and complexity of NLC’s work. Being his little sister, it was very important to me that he understood.

NLC CEO Emily H. Benham

It was during a strategic retreat last year when an image suddenly hit me that might help my brother, and anyone, understand the key principles and unique essence of NLC’s business. Wait for it … a robotic vacuum cleaner most of us know as the Roomba.

Now, stick with me here. Picture me explaining this to my brother:

  • The NLC develops and connects nonprofit leaders to strengthen organizations and our community.
  • We have two customers: 1) individuals and 2) organizations. We work with them to build internal strength to benefit our community. 
  • We have five areas of expertise: Board Governance, Fund Development, Financial Management, Leadership, and Marketing.
  • Our customers can receive resources in a number of different forms, choosing their own adventure.

Now, let’s take a spin around our “NLC Roomba,” lighting up the different opportunities for developing and connecting nonprofit leaders.

Nonprofit Leadership Center offerings

Our first light is CONFERENCE. We hold two conferences each year, our Leadership Conference in May (see highlights from our latest event here) and a Board and Senior Leadership Conference in the fall. These are tremendous opportunities for hundreds of nonprofit and business leaders to come together to learn and lift up our community together.

The second light is CLASSROOM. We offer more than 75 professional development classes annually at our training center in Tampa, and we’ve launched a new series in Pinellas County this year. From attracting new donors and better managing staff and boards to improving time management and communications skills, our expert trainers help nonprofit leaders strengthen their personal skills and organizational impact.

Next, CUSTOM SOLUTIONS is our largest area. This is where we bring tailored training directly to organizations. We have a highly regarded assessment tool we are certified to use to help organizations identify opportunities and overcome obstacles. New this year, we launched a Fast Forward Emerging Leadership Series to help rising stars grow within their organizations.

Finally, our COHORTS connect and engage networks of individuals and organizations in intimate, small-group settings where conversation and collaboration lead to innovation and impact. Currently, we have a group of professionals engaged in our Nonprofit Management Certificate program at the University of Tampa and two CEO Leadership Circles where more than 30 nonprofit CEOs come together regularly.

Our newest cohort is the 2019 JP Morgan Chase Nonprofit Sustainability cohort, which is a six-month process that helps organizations create and/or strengthen their strategic decision-making process. This year’s participants include: 211 Tampa Bay Cares, Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay, CASA, Champions for Children, Dawning Family Services, Feeding Tampa Bay, Gulf Coast Jewish Family & Community Services, Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas & West Pasco, Lighthouse Pinellas, and McDonald Training Center.

As you can see, there are many ways to access resources within NLC’s areas of excellence. The magic happens when organizations and individuals participate in several areas, lighting up multiple lights on the Roomba, illustrating true impact and sustainability.

So, there it is. The NLC Roomba. Best of all, my brother totally got it!

On behalf of all of us at NLC, we are honored to be your partner in this work, building internal strength and capacity so you can deliver your mission to the community. Your work inspires ours.

Want to be the first to hear about new nonprofit trainings, classes and events at NLC? Sign up to receive our weekly NLC e-newsletter, chock-full of the latest resources, tips and tools to help you thrive personally and professionally.

A Brilliant Day: Highlights from NLC’s 2019 Leadership Conference

Team NLC News

“Brilliance is living from the inside out and leading with purpose.”

These were the words brilliance expert Simon T. Bailey shared during his keynote address at our 2019 Leadership Conference. He told us that when we’re in alignment with our calling, our work isn’t a job — it’s an opportunity. He asked: What problem were you created to solve?

2019 NLC Leadership Conference
2019 NLC Leadership Conference

As we continue to soak in the education, conversation and inspiration from this incredible day, there’s one thing we know for sure: our Tampa Bay area nonprofits are truly brilliant — created to uplift our community and solve its greatest challenges.

2019 NLC Leadership Conference
2019 NLC Leadership Conference

In reflecting on what brilliance means for our nonprofit community in Tampa Bay, it isn’t about big wins or bold moves (although those certainly are amazing and brilliant). It’s about the small moments every day in which we’re creating positive change. It’s taking a second to say thank you or to send a donor a hand-written note. It’s going out of your way to help a constituent, colleague or corporate partner. It’s investing in a personal relationship by understanding what’s important to them. It’s asking questions, showing kindness and being relentlessly passionate about making our community a better place.

We witnessed brilliance at the 2019 Leadership Conference in each and every attendee and the organizations they represent. And speaking of brilliance, these six brilliant moments stood out to us from our time together with you.

6 Brilliant Moments from NLC’s 2019 Leadership Conference

1. Playing Simon Says

Remember the age-old game Simon Says? One player is dubbed “Simon” and instructs the other players to do something (like wave their hands in the air or turn in a circle), but only when they hear “Simon says” first. Those who follow directions without that prompt are eliminated from the game until a single winner remains.

At our 2019 Leadership Conference, we had a real-life Simon as our keynote speaker, but we plan to follow his instructions whether we hear “Simon says” or not for many days to come (his advice was that powerful.)

2019 NLC Leadership Conference

Simon T. Bailey reminded us that culture, commitment and connections spark our greatest growth. Here are a few of the insights he shared:

  • Brilliance is about bringing out the best in ourselves and others. It happens in environments where people are celebrated, not just tolerated.
  • Leaders must prioritize and build an organizational culture where everyone matters — hug people with your words.
  • Leadership is not about motivating people to do more; it’s about inviting people on a journey alongside you to discover the leader within themselves. It’s about making people feel valued, seen and appreciated.
  • It doesn’t matter if you’re a public success, if you’re a private failure. To lead with purpose, you must start at home with the people you love most. When you’re better at home, you’re better for your business.
  • Change is your friend, not your foe. It’s a brilliant opportunity to grow.
  • See and treat your customers/constituents as guests. Provide them such a phenomenal experience, they can’t forget it. Keep them loyal through acts of kindness.
2019 NLC Leadership Conference
2019 NLC Leadership Conference
2019 NLC Leadership Conference

We’ll share more from Simon’s talk here on the blog soon, but if you’re itching to learn more now, check out his book “Be the Spark.” A big thanks to Simon for giving free copies of his book to our attendees and signing them (with selfies brilliantly included).

2. Learning from Experts Who Lead by Example

We believe leadership development is about more than just learning; it’s about cultivating a culture of and commitment to excellence. This year’s Leadership Conference connected attendees to a phenomenal line-up of experts who lead by example — making each of us and our community better.

2019 NLC Leadership Conference
2019 NLC Leadership Conference
2019 NLC Leadership Conference
2019 NLC Leadership Conference

3. Authentic Engagement

Building strong relationships is key to nonprofit success. We believe the best relationships are built by spending time together, by learning together and by sharing common experiences. We saw that in action at the 2019 Leadership Conference — hallway conversations to exchange ideas, vulnerabilities shared during small-group discussions, advice and encouragement swapped over lunch. Beyond the education we all took away from the conference, it was the organic conversation and collaboration that will stick with us — and perhaps strengthen us — most.

2019 NLC Leadership Conference
2019 NLC Leadership Conference
2019 NLC Leadership Conference
2019 NLC Leadership Conference

4. Electric Energy

The amount of positive energy buzzing through the breakout rooms and hallways during this year’s Leadership Conference would keep the lights on at NLC for an entire year if we could bottle it up and use it to pay our electricity bill. But don’t just take it from us …

5. Generosity at Work

We were humbled and in awe of the generosity and selflessness of everyone who helped make this year’s NLC Leadership Conference possible. From Bank of America volunteers who stuffed swag bags and set up the ballroom to Florida Blue that provided lunch and our friends at Children’s Board of Hillsborough County who continue to invest in supporting our entire nonprofit community, we will never be able to say thank you enough to our generous sponsors and volunteers.

2019 NLC Leadership Conference

Please be sure to thank our sponsors on social media (give them a follow too!) and when you see them in person. This conference wouldn’t be possible without their support.

2019 NLC Leadership Conference

6. Chocolate Cake Too Big {and Too Good} Not to Mention

And no conference would be complete without a sweet ending. While living healthy is definitely something we prioritize at NLC (yes, we served grilled chicken salad for lunch), everything in moderation, right? Our attendees worked up a sweat after a morning of breakout sessions and networking, so a giant piece of chocolate cake was necessary (of course) to send our leaders off with the energy they need to return to their organizations ready to lead brilliantly. You can thank our friends at My Benefit Partners for their kindness (and the extra calories).

At NLC, we consider it a deep privilege and pleasure to champion nonprofit leaders and organizations as you change and save lives across the region we all call home. Thank you to everyone who attended, sponsored, volunteered, shared content and took an interest in our 2019 Leadership Conference. We look forward to seeing you soon at one of our upcoming trainings or events

2019 NLC Leadership Conference

Spend Another Day with Our 2019 Conference Speakers

If you missed this year’s conference — or you’re simply jonesing for more — join us for one of our upcoming classes facilitated by the experts who led our conference breakout sessions.  

Changing Habits to Improve Your Productivity with Margarita Sarmiento (June 4)

Optimize Your Optimism with Dr. John Loblack (June 25)

Perfect Your Pitch with Tammy Charles (July 9)

The Gift of Being Present with Rick Bennett (July 31)

Stop, Collaborate & Listen with Mandy Cloninger, Thomas Mantz, Jeff Darrey, Brian Butler and more (August 29)

Strengthen Your Core Values with Ellen Nastir (September 5)

Build Career Bridges with Gordon Gillette, Wendy Johnson, Jessica Muroff and Brian Butler (October 11)


Want to be the first to hear about new nonprofit trainings, classes and events at NLC? Sign up to receive our weekly NLC e-newsletter, chock-full of the latest events and resources, along with tips and tools to help you thrive personally and professionally.

New Classes from NLC’s 2019 Leadership Conference

Team NLC News

At the Nonprofit Leadership Center, our annual Leadership Conference is like the Super Bowl of our year. It’s a powerful time to gather with 700 nonprofit leaders across the Tampa Bay region for a day of intentional learning, networking and growth. But the connections and development opportunities don’t start and stop here. This year, we’ve taken the best of our conference and brought it directly to you through new leadership classes hosted by our conference speakers.

If you were unable to join us at this year’s conference or couldn’t participate in every breakout session you wanted to attend, we’re helping you overcome your FOMO (fear of missing out). These upcoming classes dig deeper into the content from our 2019 Leadership Conference, strengthening your focus and lead with purpose.

New Classes Led by NLC Leadership Conference Speakers

Optimize Your Optimism (June 25)
Learn how to harness the power of optimism to reframe obstacles as opportunities and make empowered choices to get to where you want to go. You’ll build self-leadership skills to take responsibility for your outcomes, set direction for your life and career, and better manage priorities.

Perfect Your Pitch (July 9)
Learn how to tie your story to your goals and use the power of persuasion to nail your pitch.

The Gift of Being Present (July 31)
Learn mindfulness tools and techniques to be present in awkward or tense situations and resilient in navigating them to grow personally and professionally.

Stop, Collaborate & Listen (August 29)
Hear from leaders at Feeding Tampa Bay, Trinity Café and Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County about the decision-making and step-by-step processes behind their mergers as case studies of collective impact and collaboration in the nonprofit sector.

Strengthen Your Core Values (September 5)
Deepen your self-awareness and isolate your core values to help you achieve your best life and bring your purpose, career and life into alignment.

Build Career Bridges (October 11)
Join local nonprofit executives who began their careers in the for-profit sector to explore the process for finding purpose and making a successful transition to the nonprofit sector.

Want to be the first to hear about new nonprofit trainings, classes and offerings at NLC? Sign up to receive our weekly NLC e-newsletter, chock-full of the latest events and resources, along with tips and tools to help you thrive personally and professionally.