Image of man providing customer service

Yes, Nonprofits Have Customers: How to Prioritize Mission-Driven Customer Service

Margarita Sarmiento, founder, ITK Consultants Tips

We’ve all been there. A sales associate starts explaining their return policy before you’ve even had a chance to speak. A service provider begins promoting the latest product without knowing what you need. Or a medical professional makes assumptions about your health before asking you how you feel.

Customer service is about four simple words: How can I help?

As nonprofit professionals, excellent customer service is the lifeblood of any organization. Whether you are working with internal customers (colleagues and partners who depend on you for information or resources) or external customers (your constituents/clients, donors, corporate and community partners, and volunteers), how you treat your customers directly impacts your ability to achieve goals and sustain success.

While your mission statement tells the community why you exist, how you act and communicate tells the community who you really are. Mission-driven customer service is understanding your mission and doing all you can to serve your community. It’s not just asking how you can help; it’s authentically acting on it.

Let’s explore the actions that nonprofit organizations take when they prioritize mission-driven customer service.

4 Traits of Nonprofits That Prioritize Mission-Driven Customer Service

1. Works continuously to create a climate of customer service
As an organization, you intentionally define what customer service looks like, both internally and externally. Then, you set behavioral expectations to uphold the defined culture, including performance goals and reviews.

2. Makes employees aware of the importance of customer service
Through onboarding, training and ongoing coaching, you support your team members in providing excellent customer service. That includes prioritizing clear, concise and timely feedback.

3. Listens to feedback from those they serve — past and present
Leading with a service mindset starts by understanding what your customers — from donors and constituents/clients to coworkers — need. A mission-driven customer service environment encourages and allows for following up with current customers, asking questions or interviewing them to understand their perspectives and needs. It also means creating systems to track and check in on past donors, volunteers or partners to improve and build on your work.

4. Hires with customer service in mind
Seek candidates who have a track record of prioritizing customers’ needs first and clearly articulate your expectation of having a customer service mindset throughout the hiring process.

Enhance Your Mission-Driven Customer Service

Join us on August 26 to learn how to better approach relationship-building through mission-driven customer service. In this four-hour interactive virtual class led by Margarita Sarmiento, you’ll build the necessary skills to enhance constituent relationships and communicate for impact, even in the most challenging circumstances.

Specifically, you will:

  • Learn the benefits of excellent customer service
  • Understand how the service you provide reflects on your organization’s mission
  • Identify who your customers are — internally and externally
  • Develop techniques for responding to specific customer behaviors
  • Learn how to diffuse angry and abusive customers
  • Learn to turn problems into opportunities for customer satisfaction
Register Now

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Margarita Sarmiento, founder of ITK Consultants, has more than 25 years of management, training and facilitation experience in professional development, team building, leadership, organizational planning, board development, cross-cultural communication and diversity. She has worked in corporate management and training with Progressive Companies, Busch Entertainment Corporation and the National Conference for Community & Justice — Tampa Bay. She’s also an active trainer and facilitator for NLC.

Side-by-side photos of professional development training formats

Survey Reveals Majority of Nonprofit Leaders Ready to Attend In-Person Professional Development in Fall 2021

Team NLC News

Now that many Americans are getting vaccinated, the Nonprofit Leadership Center (NLC) wanted to know how nonprofit leaders feel about participating in professional development training events in our post-pandemic environment. During May and June 2021, we invited NLC class participants from the past two years and active nonprofit CEOs to share their preferences and comfort level with in-person and virtual classes. Here’s what the survey revealed and what the Nonprofit Leadership Center plans to do next to support nonprofit leaders.

Survey Findings

  • The majority of respondents (82%) say they will be comfortable attending in-person professional development training by fall 2021. Only 8% said they are not comfortable with in-person classes and don’t know when they will be.
  • The majority of respondents (63%) say they prefer both in-person and virtual training formats and plan to participate in both. 18% said they prefer in-person over virtual, while 16% said they prefer virtual over in-person.
  • Overwhelmingly, nonprofit leaders say the most significant benefit to in-person professional development is networking and connecting with others in a more personal and collaborative way. They also cite the ability to focus better and stay engaged without distractions.

“In-person training offers the possibility for more engaging interactions with others and professional relationships that will continue after the event.”

“There is less temptation for distractions and an ability to focus on the training content.”

  • When it comes to attending virtual training events, respondents said the most significant benefits are convenience, accessibility and safety.

“Virtual events allows for flexibility in scheduling. Even on a busy day, I can fit in a two-hour virtual presentation because it doesn’t require a commute.”

“Lack of geographic limitation permits diverse participation and access to speakers and experts beyond local.”

“I am normally very shy to express my ideas in person. Virtual classes help me speak up, and the small breakout groups let me get to know participants.”

  • Of the 200 respondents who said they would attend an in-person training class during 2021, they expect measures to be in place to ensure their safety:
    • 61% expect tables/chairs to be arranged for social distancing
    • 50% expect a limited number of participants
    • One in 3 reported wanting masks to be required for all participants, while 15% would expect trainers to wear masks
  • Three in 4 respondents are comfortable participating in groups of at least 25 people. About 24% say they have no concerns with class size and are comfortable being in groups of 50 or more.
  • Of the 68% of respondents who cited at least one barrier to attending an in-person class before the end of 2021, cost (33%), the commute (31%) and job duties/time (30%) are what would most likely hold respondents back from participating in face-to-face training events. Other barriers noted in open-ended responses were a surge in COVID-19 cases and the uncertainty around who has or hasn’t been vaccinated.
  • When it comes to the training topics nonprofit leaders say they need now, the top five in priority order are:
    1. Diversity, equity and inclusion
    2. Improving/strengthening organizational culture
    3. How to lead more effectively
    4. Fundraising/fundraising innovation
    5. Demonstrating impact
  • When asked what they need most to succeed, leaders shared the following:
    • Self-care/balancing work and personal life
    • Communicating impact
    • Tools to combat pandemic fatigue; latest updates on COVID-19 guidelines and best practices
    • Strengthening culture and teams — team building and how to be a strong team
    • Managing remote workers
  • Respondents said the best time of day to participate in both in-person and virtual classes is the morning (8:30 a.m. to noon). However, 30% say they don’t have a preference when it comes to virtual training events and can participate anytime.

Implications & Next Steps

Based on these survey findings and to continue meeting nonprofit leaders where they are, the Nonprofit Leadership Center will take the following actions during 2021:

1. Test select in-person classroom training beginning in Q4, with socially distanced seating following current CDC guidelines, with up to 18 participants.

Available classes include:

2. Continue offering virtual events for select classes and certificate programs to support increased access to professional development for nonprofit leaders.

3. Offer increased training opportunities in the top areas identified by nonprofit leaders, including diversity, equity and inclusion; organizational culture; effective leadership; fundraising innovation; and demonstrating impact. NLC recently launched the Advancing Racial Equity on Nonprofit Boards Fellowship program as one way to improve DEI within nonprofit organizations and our communities while equipping and elevating more professionals of color to serve on nonprofit boards.

4. Publish more articles, downloadable resources and digital content in the areas that are of most interest to nonprofit leaders.

About the Survey

This online survey was fielded between May 27 and June 10, 2021. It was sent to nonprofit professionals who had taken a professional development class through the Nonprofit Leadership Center during the past two years and to nonprofit CEOs actively engaged with NLC. Questions explored the comfort level and preferences associated with in-person and virtual professional development training classes. There were 261 survey responses, with 220 fully completed surveys. Of all respondents, 92% live in the Tampa Bay area, with 58% in Hillsborough, 37% in Pinellas and 5% in Pasco or Polk Counties. Nearly half of respondents (44%) identified as human service organizations, followed by education and health care.

Explore Upcoming Training Classes

The Nonprofit Leadership Center offers nearly 100 professional development training classes and certificate programs for nonprofit leaders each year. Explore our event calendar and register for an upcoming class.

WATCH NEXT: 2020 State of the Nonprofit Sector Report from NLC CEO Emily H. Benham

To be the first to hear about events and resources for nonprofit leaders, sign up to receive our weekly NLC e-newsletter, and follow us on FacebookLinkedInTwitter and Instagram to join the conversation. 

Image featuring the 2021 Advancing Racial Equity on Nonprofit Boards Fellows

23 Leaders Selected for New Advancing Racial Equity on Nonprofit Boards Fellowship

Team NLC News

National research shows 84% of nonprofit board members are white, with 1 in 4 nonprofits lacking representation from any professionals of color on their boards (BoardSource, 2017). To address this disparity and foster more inclusive and equitable communities, the Nonprofit Leadership Center recently launched our new Advancing Racial Equity on Nonprofit Boards Fellowship. The program is designed to strengthen the board governance knowledge and skills of participating fellows while equipping local nonprofit organizations to be genuinely ready to welcome these new members onto their boards. 

“In working with hundreds of nonprofit leaders each year to provide board governance training, we consistently hear from nonprofit CEOs that they struggle with how to identify and recruit professionals of color to serve on their boards, with many admitting they don’t know where to start. Our new Advancing Racial Equity on Nonprofit Boards Fellowship is an important first step to help create more diverse, equitable and inclusive nonprofit organizations that are better prepared to serve and strengthen our communities.”

Emily H. Benham, FAHP, CFRE
CEO, Nonprofit Leadership Center

Today, we are thrilled to announce the 23 professionals of color who have been selected to participate in this inaugural fellowship after a competitive application process. Fellows will take part in six interactive virtual training sessions to learn how to serve as effective nonprofit board members. They will receive mentorship between sessions by other professionals of color who are experienced board members.

READ NEXT: Nonprofit Resources to Support Racial Equity

Meet the 2021 Fellows

As the first-ever Advancing Racial Equity on Nonprofit Boards Fellowship kicks off today, get to know the 23 outstanding professionals of color in the program. Learn a little bit about their perspectives on leadership and the lived experiences that motivate them. 

Image featuring the 2021 Advancing Racial Equity on Nonprofit Boards Fellows

1. Junior Ambeau, Associate, Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP

“Every action I take can have a broader impact on my community, including how people of color are perceived.”

2. Roxanne Bartley, CEO & Founder, Bartley Ventures, LLC

“By engaging expert stakeholders to provide diversity of thought and experience, brave and bold leaders create a wonderfully dynamic and inclusive environment, where failing fast and forward is our modus operandi.”

3. Maria Carrizosa, Medicare Community Event Manager, Florida Blue

“The racial imbalance within nonprofit boards is an opportunity to bring new, innovative ideas from other cultures and backgrounds to create a more holistic and broad perspective when addressing issues. I am excited to be part of that change.” 

4. Chiquita Clark, Engineering Design Associate — Outage Auditor, Duke Energy

“Being a professional of color has impacted my perspective on being a community leader by allowing me to meet and create opportunities for other people of color, to help identify disparities that may exist in community organizations, and build a legacy that others may follow.”

5. Paula Dang, Associate Director of Community Donations, Metropolitan Ministries

“As a Vietnamese and Asian American woman, life was challenging growing up because I was forced to conform to societal and cultural norms that came with many limitations. At a young age, I decided to take charge of my life and not be who everyone else labeled me to be. I immersed myself in growing my communications and professional skills. As I developed and grew in my career, I became a servant leader dedicated to using my skills, time and voice to fight for more opportunities, causes and equity for everyone. Today, I want to use my experiences to develop and empower others so everyone around me can have a better tomorrow.”

6. Treva Davis, Project Manager at Planned Systems International

“There are many minority women in our community who have a wealth of talent and resources to contribute to the nonprofit sector if given the tools. I would like to use what I learn from this fellowship to assist other African American women in serving on nonprofit boards and leading nonprofits while ensuring we have sustainable health equity in our community.”

7. Emily Diaz, Assistant Vice President, Citi

“Growing up, I saw almost no Hispanic women of color in positions of leadership. Today, I am often the only woman — let alone a Hispanic woman of color — in many business meetings. To change that reality, we must increase our presence as community leaders. As a young professional Hispanic woman of color, it is my duty and privilege to continue learning and using my knowledge to be the leader who can inspire young girls of diverse backgrounds while advancing the success of women and children who have been historically underserved.”

8. Huey Dunomes, Senior Director of Community-Based Programs, Metropolitan Ministries

“Being a professional of color has always made me proud. It has also made me question why there aren’t more like me. Becoming a part of this fellowship program allows me to set an example for the next generation of leaders and enact transformational change.”

9. Deonte Echols, Consumer and Small Business Market Leader, Bank of America

“It is still shocking to some young people to see a young Black man like myself representing my organization. I want to show them what’s possible and that they can do it in their own lives if they believe and work hard for it. I hope to add my voice to ensure diversity and inclusion continue to grow within major companies and that we unify in our efforts to make a difference across many communities and organizations.”

10. Demmeri Gallon, Community Relations Manager; VP, Bank of America

“Diversity of thought and experience is important for any group or organization to succeed. In many leadership circles I’ve been part of, there are very few people of color leading these groups, and even fewer who identify as Black. That can lead to feeling like we don’t have a voice or seat at the table. On the flip side, I’ve also seen how leaders who don’t reflect my background advocate and champion for me, while ensuring my voice can be heard. As an emerging leader, it is my responsibility to now use my voice and skills to uplift those around me who may feel silenced.”

11. LaTora Heath, Research Analyst, Vistra Communications

“A good leader is always learning and does not allow fear to guide their path, even when effecting change might be the unpopular opinion. Doing the right thing is not always easy, and change can indeed be intimidating. However, as one of my favorite quotes by Marianne Williamson goes, ‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us. And as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.’ This is the type of leader I strive to be.”

12. Kieva Kazek, Director of Insurance Sales and Service, USAA

“Being a professional of color has awakened my perspective on barriers that many people of color face, both directly and indirectly. It has motivated me to do the work to inspire change.”

13. Sheena Lofton-Huggins, Executive Director, Pasco Agents for Change

“There have been times I have not been able to access resources that would benefit the students and families my company serves. Through this fellowship, I hope to gain more experience serving and volunteering in the nonprofit sector.”

14. Reneé Long, Legislative Aid, City of St. Petersburg

Being a professional of color has impacted my perspective as a community leader by stressing values of inclusivity. A recent equity profile report of Pinellas County based on 2016 data estimated that without racial gaps in income, the county would be $3.6 billion stronger (Policy Link, 2019). The report notes that the county’s success and prosperity will rely on dismantling unjust barriers. As a community leader, it is vital to be aware and work to break down these barriers.”

15. Stephany Musino, Vice President, Relationship Manager, PNC Bank

“Without having people of color with a voice at the table, there are important needs that could be overlooked. I believe there is much more nonprofits could accomplish by including more professionals of color on their boards. I hope to gain an understanding of how I can prepare myself to be a successful board member and provide different insight as a Latin female.”

16. Esteban Orte, Lead Engineer, Duke Energy

“There is a need for more diverse representation in our professional environment at all levels. My experience has sparked my interest in helping create change for younger generations.”

17. Kiana Romeo, Government Affairs Manager, SHI International Corporation

“Inclusive representation positions nonprofit boards to engage the voices of the community stakeholders we seek to empower. Harnessing the power of diversity of thought and lived experience leads to a deeper understanding of the issues communities are facing and leads to stronger decisions and more effective outcomes.”

18. Julie Sills Molock, Chief Development Officer, EdFarm and The Propel Center

“Being a professional of color has enabled me to share a unique perspective and represent my community to others who may not be as familiar with the strengths and opportunities in these communities. I hope to contribute thought leadership in the areas of digital engagement, marketing, major giving strategies and donor retention for partner nonprofits.”

19. Gerald Thomas, Sales Manager — West Region, Florida Blue

“In some of my experiences, even though I worked incredibly hard for opportunities, I sometimes felt that others thought my presence was not legitimate. I’ve found myself having to prove why I was selected or ‘win over’ teams or clients with my industry knowledge and work ethic. This opportunity will allow people of color to further develop the necessary skills and knowledge to provide their guidance and diverse perspective that is often missing from important organizational decisions and situations.”

20. Jessica Vega-Eugene, Strategic Communications Specialist, Vistra Communications 

“Women of color like me often stand at the intersection of multiple barriers, experiencing the combined effects of racial, gender, ethnic and other forms of bias while navigating systems and institutional structures in which entrenched disparities remain the status quo. As a professional of color impacted every day by racial disparity, I must help reimagine a new way to support everyone. That is the only way a community leader can forge ahead, inspire others and shift perspectives to make way for change.”

21. Reginald Wallace, Development Manager, DeBartolo Development, LLC

“Leadership and bravery go hand in hand. I believe we all have the ability to lead bravely and take bold action for important goals that are worth pursuing.”

22. Andrea Williams, Communications Research Fellow, Diversity Action Alliance

“Leading bravely and acting boldly to me means standing in the gap for those who are oppressed. To utilize your platform, position and voice for change. Being a catalyst or an advocate is not for the faint of heart. Walking in bravery does not mean you don’t have fear; it means that fear has not been granted permission to stop your stance.”

23. Taylor Williams, Financial Center Manager, Officer, Fifth Third Bank

“I feel I have a duty to redefine the view of what it means to be a leader. As a professional of color, I’ve learned there are mounds of competitive advantages that come with diverse perspectives. A leader’s objective should be to allow this to continuously pour over and completely cultivate a community, bringing empowerment to the people.”

READ NEXT: Leaders Who Authentically Embrace Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Believe These 8 Things

Powered by Partnership

The Advancing Racial Equity on Nonprofit Boards Fellowship is possible thanks to the collective support and unwavering commitment of Allegany Franciscan Ministries, Bank of America, Citi, Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, Duke Energy, Florida Blue, the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg, United Way Suncoast and Vistra Communications.

Learn More About the Fellowship

Diversity among board members is crucial to ensuring nonprofit organizations have the broad perspectives necessary to be more effective, understand those they serve, meet strategic goals, and engage meaningful donors. The Advancing Racial Equity on Nonprofit Boards Fellowship will:

  • Advance racial and ethnic diversity, equity and inclusion on nonprofit boards throughout Tampa Bay
  • Deepen the board governance knowledge and skills of professionals of color
  • Equip select nonprofits to genuinely welcome participating board fellows and ensure their organizations are ready and committed to fostering more inclusive and equitable boards and cultures

Learn more about the program and how your organization can get involved.

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Man covering his ears trying to silence his inner judge

How to Silence Your Inner Judge: 4 Ways to Stop Negative Self-Talk

Ellen Nastir, M.Ed., PCC, BCC, CPCC Tips

Being the last person picked for team sports as a child was an excruciating experience. I still remember the anxiety waiting to hear my name called, watching my friends go to the right or left to join a team as I remained rooted in place. Never good enough. Never chosen. Unwanted.

In the small crevices of my young brain, the “Judge” inside my head was born. It grew louder and louder, telling me how uncoordinated I was, how I’d strike out if I got up to bat, and how the other kids would laugh at me no matter what. My inner voice became a series of negative statements on repeat. Over time, they became beliefs. These fears kept me from practicing or doing anything to succeed in the sports arena.

Although I discovered in first grade that my eyesight was poor and I needed glasses to correct my vision, the Judge had already taken over my life, damaging my self-confidence for years to come.

Facing Our Inner Judge

We all have a Judge within us. Sometimes this inner talker is merely a whisper; other times, its larger-than-life stature envelops our whole being. Typically, our Judges are happiest when they’re convincing us to believe old messages that are no longer true — if they ever were — or tempting us to replay the “wouldas, couldas and shouldas” of life. Our Judge is the force that wakes us up at 3 a.m. with anxiety, encourages us to make assumptions about or compare ourselves to others, and blame — oh, how our Judge loves it when we try to blame others for our challenges.

Negative self-talk and inner Judges don’t just affect our personal lives; they can wreak havoc on our mental state at work and in our career as well. Comparing ourselves to those around us makes us feel smaller instead of competent and deserving.

READ NEXT: 4 Ways to Strengthen Your Mental Fitness

If you’ve ever felt threatened when someone new is hired or felt secretly fearful that they will outshine or outperform you, that’s your Judge taking over, as much as we hate to acknowledge it. So let’s look at how we can banish our Judge and saboteurs to embrace our inner wisdom.

4 Tips to Quiet Your Inner Judge

1. Just breathe.

It may sound simple, but you must first calm your mind before you can combat your inner Judge. Pause. Take a breath — deep breaths. Calming your nervous system will prevent you from making quick, knee-jerk reactions that you could later regret.

2. Be ready with a response.

Have a few phrases prepared for difficult moments when negative self-talk is likely to creep in. Practice in front of the mirror, saying them out loud, repeatedly. That helps them roll off your tongue more easily when speaking. For example, you might say the following in response to difficult situations:

  • That’s interesting. Let me get back to you on that.
  • I need to check on a few things and will let you know.
  • I’m not sure that’s the best solution. Let’s talk again later today.  

3. Recognize and name your Judge when it appears.

Here are a few things you can say to it:

  • Hey, Judge, you are not needed here. I am perfectly capable of handling this conflict on my own.
  • Oh, there’s my Judge again telling me I should take the easy way out and not apply for this position.
  • Wow. I can’t believe how many times my Judge shows up in a day. It’s time I take control and kick it out of my life! I’ll start now.

4. Empty your mind with movement.

Find a repetitive motion you associate with calming yourself down to remove negative thoughts when they arise. That could be rubbing two fingers or the palms of your hands slowly together, rubbing your fingertips on your leg or arm slowly in an up/down motion or rubbing your index finger gently near your ear. The goal is to stop thinking cognitively and concentrate only on the movement you choose, emptying your mind. Be sure to breathe deeply while doing this.

These are just a few simple techniques to associate a movement with your breath. You can use your breath alone, as long as you can hold your concentration. The important thing to remember is to focus all your attention on the movement — to really feel it and clear your mind. That allows your inner wisdom the space to shine forward and place distance between you and your Judge.

You control how much power your inner Judge has. By minimizing your Judge and distancing it from your life, you’ll gain greater positive control over your thoughts, actions, beliefs and life.

READ NEXT: When It’s Not Good to Be a Great Storyteller How to Reject the Negative Stories in Your Head

Leave Your Inner Judge at Home at the 2021 Leadership Conference

Join us at our 11th Annual Leadership Conference to learn how to lead bravely and act boldly. With world-renowned keynote speakers and inspiring breakout sessions, you’re sure to walk away with new tips and tools to help strengthen your organization and communities. Learn more and register now!

Register Now

About Ellen Nastir

Working hand-in-hand with nonprofits and small businesses, Ellen Nastir, M.Ed., PCC, BCC, CPCC, helps clients create more positive, appreciative and cohesive work environments. Her company, Innovative Team Solutions, works to develop employees’ people-skills to complement their technical skills and abilities. With more than 14 years of experience in training, development and entrepreneurial sales, Ellen brings a unique perspective to resolving challenges and maximizing the potential of any team. She is a certified professional co-active coach, PeopleMap trainer, virtual trainer from the International Institute for Virtual Facilitation and is certified in Positive Psychology, Change and Tension Management and Conflict Dynamics. Finding the opportunity during quarantine, Ellen is most recently obtaining certification in Positive Intelligence. 

Be the first to hear about the latest nonprofit tips, resources and training classes at NLC. Sign up to receive our weekly NLC e-newsletter to help you thrive personally and professionally. 

How to engage corporate partners

Corporate Sponsorships & Partnerships: Funders Share Advice on How to Engage Corporate Partners

Team NLC Tips

Companies gave nearly $17 billion to charities during 2020 (Giving USA 2020), representing a critical revenue source and strategic partner for nonprofits. With 8 in 10 Americans expecting businesses to positively impact society (Cone/Porter Novelli, 2018), gone are the days of companies merely being satisfied with visibility and their name on an event T-shirt. Today, engaging corporate partners requires nonprofits to think differently about how they approach companies, identify opportunities, develop a corporate partnership strategy and measure impact.

To help nonprofits forge successful relationships with more companies, we asked two corporate social responsibility experts and funders for their advice. Here’s the guidance Michelle Hamilton, senior community investment manager at the Florida Blue Foundation, and Chris Johnson, senior social responsibility specialist at The Mosaic Company, shared to help you and your nonprofit successfully engage corporate partners.

What are the most common mistakes you see nonprofits make when it comes to corporate partnerships?

Michelle: Many organizations apply for funding without understanding our company’s mission or areas of focus. Or, they submit large funding requests before a funder has learned about their work or established a relationship. Don’t be afraid to ask a potential partner for an initial meeting. That preliminary outreach can help your nonprofit understand what opportunities to pursue, provide time-saving information and begin building a longer-term relationship.

Chris: We also get many funding requests from individuals and organizations we don’t know. Commit to cultivating relationships and communicating with company contacts — not just when you’re asking for money. Don’t forget that companies consist of your neighbors who care about the issues impacting your community. Find that common ground and establish a relationship before making significant fundraising asks.

What are you looking for in a nonprofit partner?

Chris and Michelle: There are five things we consistently look for in our nonprofit partners:

  1. Alignment with our company’s purpose and priorities — We seek partners who strategically connect the dots between our shared work and objectives. Take the time to be intentional in identifying where both the company and your nonprofit align.
  2. Collaboration — We prioritize nonprofits that work across the community with others and avoid duplicating efforts to ensure dollars stretch as far as possible.
  3. Regular communication — We love when nonprofits keep us informed about what’s happening within their organizations. The best relationships are with those who check in, not just when they need something, but who treat us as a strategic partner invested in their work.
  4. Proximity to where our employees live and work and the societal issues in those communities
  5. Being data-driven — We expect nonprofits to use data and insights when presenting funding needs and proposing solutions to address them through a partnership.

What do you expect from nonprofits when it comes to impact and your return on investment?

Michelle: When it comes to measurement, we look at two sides of the coin. Event activation is beneficial for educational opportunities, lead generation and brand visibility, while programmatic funding allows us to improve lives through issues like food security, mental well-being and health equity. Impact goals and reporting vary from partner to partner because every objective and program is different. There must be a dedicated collaboration between the nonprofit and corporate partner to determine how to measure success and define what is realistic for the nonprofit to capture.

READ NEXT: Measuring Your Nonprofit’s Effectiveness with the CCAT®

Chris: We seek both internal and external impact with our partners.

Internally, we care about building the capacity of our nonprofit partners, enhancing their sustainability and improving their ability to achieve their stated objectives. We don’t want our partners to create something to receive funding; we want to enhance what nonprofits are already doing well while identifying ways to improve or innovate it.

Externally, we want to solve community problems and address systemic and institutional issues that are impacting communities. This requires a robust approach. It’s much simpler for corporations and foundations to put their name on something or give money through an event sponsorship. On the flip side, it’s easier for nonprofits to host an event and raise money. It’s more challenging to address systemic and institutional issues because they entail data evaluation, cross-sector collaboration and a deeper investment of time and resources. We want to take a multi-faceted approach so we can fund emerging needs while also addressing the systemic issues that affect our communities.

Finally, the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are important at our company. There are five we focus on, and most of the nonprofit work we fund fits into or advances one of those areas. Understanding potential partners’ priorities is critical to achieving the greatest impact.

What practical advice would you give to nonprofit leaders who want to engage corporate partners more effectively?

Chris and Michelle:

  • Ensure you’ve done your homework on the company and understand what they do and if a partnership is a good fit.
  • Commit to building relationships outside of the fundraising process. Participate in your local chamber or other business groups. Genuinely get to know community leaders without an agenda.
  • Be transparent. As a funder, it’s essential to understand what’s working well along with the challenges. We have access to resources and expertise that can help you mitigate challenges when they arise. Don’t be afraid to share the bad with the good.
  • Engage your board of directors to assist you in opening doors, making introductions and asking for funding. It can take some of the pressure off your staff and create a shared leadership responsibility.
  • Follow current and potential funders or corporate partners on social media and engage in a dialogue with them. This allows you to stay apprised of both the big and small things happening within the company and open opportunities for your nonprofit to celebrate them.
  • Ask your corporate partners what you can do for them. Instead of only asking them for support, find out if there are ways you can support them in your daily activities such as sharing their good news or helping them connect to the community.

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Meet the 2021 Breakout Speakers

Speakers & Sessions Announced for 2021 Nonprofit Leadership Conference

Team NLC News

If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that nonprofit leaders must lead bravely and act boldly to move our communities forward. We’ll explore how to do just that at the Nonprofit Leadership Center’s 2021 Leadership Conference on October 13, presented by Bank of America. Experts in leadership, organizational culture, change management, communications, and diversity, equity and inclusion will help you develop the skills and confidence you and your team need to strengthen your organization and our communities.

In addition to this year’s highly anticipated keynote speakers Dr. Shirley Davis and Jon Acuff, conference attendees will have the opportunity to attend powerful breakout sessions.

Breakout Sessions & Speakers

During the 2021 Leadership Conference, attendees will have an opportunity to participate live in one of five dynamic breakout sessions and will receive exclusive access to all session recordings after the event. All breakout sessions focus on how nonprofit leaders can think differently, challenge the status quo, drive innovation, and lead for the future. You’ll walk away with ideas, tools, and strategies you and your team can immediately implement to address the most critical topics facing our sector and society.

Applying a Corporate Approach to Advance Racial Equity with Kimelyn Harris

Photo of Kimelyn Harris of Bank of America

Longstanding systemic inequities continue to prevent many people in historically underrepresented communities of color from accessing capital, growing wealth and passing assets on to families. Racial and economic disparities will continue to have compounding negative effects across generations unless we boldly come together across sectors — government, business and nonprofit — to take definitive steps to ensure that all people can participate fully in the economy.

During this session, we will discuss the significance of companies making commitments and developing action plans to advance racial equity. After attending, you will:

  • Gain an understanding of how organizations can implement economic justice initiatives to advance racial equity
  • Learn corporate funding and community building strategies to advance racial equity and how to translate them into local community impact
  • Identify how to activate the key drivers necessary to deepen your organization’s response and further its commitment to racial equity

This session will be facilitated by the Nonprofit Leadership Center’s Program Director Meriel Martínez.

Kimelyn L. Harris is the senior vice president of ESG and public policy at Bank of America. She is responsible for executing programming to support the bank’s $1.25 billion, five-year effort to advance economic opportunity, health care initiatives and racial equality for people and communities of color. Kimelyn drives business planning and integration for this companywide initiative while also working to identify and build partnerships with organizations, institutions and community leaders. Prior to this role, Kimelyn provided strategic, operational and programming support for employee giving and volunteering, social justice and economic mobility initiatives at Bank of America as well as change management, business integration and global risk management. Kimelyn supports her local community through nonprofit board service and ongoing volunteerism.

Bravely Prioritizing Self-Care in a Post-Pandemic World with Rick Bennett

Rick Bennett

Working from home and through our computer screens has radically changed the workplace and our lives. As the most significant shift in most of our lifetimes, it’s critical to understand what our changing world means for the future of our organizations, employees, volunteers, clients and selves.

What are the unintended consequences of “doing our best all the time” or expecting that from others? This session will take an honest approach to our new reality and explore what we can do together to avoid burnout, turnover, and exhaustion for long-term success.

After this breakout session, you will:

  • Have practical ways to take care of yourself and say No in a healthy manner
  • Know how to mobilize tools and advocates for self-care
  • Understand how to empower those around you to take care of themselves and to say No

Rick Bennett manages community development and education for Florida Blue’s West Region, located in Tampa, Florida. A native Floridian, Rick has served as a pastor, nonprofit leader and spiritual care director. His interest and leadership in mindfulness and meditation began in seminary and as he served as a pastor. While a spiritual care director for a local Hospice, Rick received formal training on mindfulness and the dying process. He then took these practices to the business and nonprofit world, leading seminars and trainings, including at Florida Blue. Rick is an active member of several nonprofit boards.

Creating Innovative Partnerships that Drive Greater Social Impact with Tammy Charles

Tammy Charles, MBA, trainer at the Nonprofit Leadership Center

To solve our communities’ most pressing issues, we must think differently about innovation and collaboration. In this session, we will discuss specific actions that nonprofits and businesses can take now to build, facilitate and reimagine cross-sector relationships to advance systemic change. You will learn about traditional and emerging models for effective social impact through partnerships, strategic alliances and other key social impact models.

After attending this breakout session, you will:

  • Know what social innovation means and how to make a stronger case for collaboration
  • Have tangible and practical steps your organization can take to forge stronger partnerships
  • Understand the partnership models that are changing the way organizations address social problems
  • Walk away with effective tools to manage and evaluate the effectiveness of your partnerships

Tammy Charles, MBA, is a nationally recognized and award-winning social change strategist and the founder and chief strategist at Inovo Strategic Consulting, a global consulting firm that helps purpose-driven leaders create innovative and profitable business models to pursue social change. Her passion for community impact and development has allowed her to train, consult and coach more than 1,000 nonprofits, social enterprises and companies around the world. She has raised more than $10 million to support economic empowerment, social justice, poverty alleviation, health equity, racial justice, social innovation, and more. Additionally, Tammy is a business management, social entrepreneurship and accounting professor at Hillsborough Community College, the University of Tampa and Ultimate Medical Academy.

Great Minds Don’t Think Alike: Nurturing a Culture of Cognitive Diversity with Andrea Cortissoz

Workplace diversity is about more than embracing our visible differences; it’s also about elevating the unique aspects that come from within us. Although cognitive diversity — encouraging all types of voices, experiences, approaches and perspectives — has directly and measurably contributed to the most successful companies on the planet, it is still overlooked by many organizations as they seek to become more diverse. 

During this session, you will learn how to act boldly by strengthening and leveraging the cognitive diversity of your people to fuel individual, team and organizational success.

After this breakout session, you will:

  • Understand what cognitive diversity is and why it matters
  • Be equipped with the latest research and data on cognitive diversity
  • Know what cognitive diversity looks like in action
  • Be able to develop and apply cognitive diversity efforts at your organization

Andrea Cortissoz, CHRL, is the managing partner and co-founder at HR Soul. She is a highly versatile HR business partner and consultant with decades of global, senior-level corporate and consulting experience that includes working with startups, managing business closures and leading organizations through transformation at every stage of the process. Andrea’s work spans countries, industries, organizational size and complexity. She is dedicated to creating cultures that ignite people with both personal and professional purpose that are engaging for all employees.

Reframing Impact to Act Boldly with Steve Zimmerman

Photo of Steve Zimmerman, principal at Spectrum Nonprofit ServicesWhat sets organizations that thrived during the pandemic apart from others? For many, it was having a clear understanding of their intended impact. To be adaptive in our ever-changing world, nonprofit leaders must understand the three essential elements of the organizational model — impact, revenue, and people. 

During this breakout session, you will learn how to use the organizational model to reframe your nonprofit’s long-term impact:

  • Understand each aspect of the organizational model — impact, revenue, and people — and how they work together
  • Discover the questions to ask to define each element at your organization
  • Learn how to articulate and begin to measure your organization’s intended impact
  • See how the organizational model aligns with your strategy processes

Steve Zimmerman is the principal of Spectrum Nonprofit Services, where he provides training and consulting for community-based organizations, foundations and government agencies throughout the country. Steve has written and presented extensively in the areas of strategy and finance. He is the co-author of two books on nonprofit sustainability, The Sustainability Mindset and the best-selling Nonprofit Sustainability. He also was a contributor on strategic planning for Nonprofit Management 101 published in 2019. Steve’s writing has appeared in Harvard Business Review, The Nonprofit Quarterly and various BoardSource publications, and he is a frequent keynote speaker at nonprofit conferences. 

Register Now to Lead Bravely & Act Boldly

The NLC Leadership Conference is the premier event for anyone who works for a nonprofit, wants to work for a nonprofit, serves as a nonprofit board leader or partners with nonprofits. Join hundreds of nonprofit and business leaders virtually on October 13, 2021, to learn from and connect with each other as we work to lead bravely and act boldly.

Button to register for the NLC 2021 Leadership Conference


Be the first to know about 2021 Leadership Conference news and other upcoming events for nonprofit leaders by signing up for our email list and following the Nonprofit Leadership Center on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter.

Introducing the Certificate in Nonprofit Management Class of 2022

Taking Leadership to the Next Level: 10 Nonprofit Leaders to Know

Team NLC News

The past year has been a critical time for nonprofits, as many have fought courageously to keep their communities safe while ensuring their own organizations survive and thrive. Despite the many challenges nonprofits have faced, the Nonprofit Leadership Center saw a 48% increase in professional development participation during 2020 from the previous year, reflecting the promise and power of lifelong learning to address critical issues facing the nonprofit sector and our communities. That momentum is especially apparent in the nonprofit leaders who choose to invest in our shared future as part of the Certificate in Nonprofit Management.

In collaboration with the University of Tampa, the Nonprofit Leadership Center offers a graduate-level Certificate in Nonprofit Management, in which candidates are immersed in a life-changing, 15-month educational experience that explores every aspect of nonprofit leadership while working collaboratively to solve real-world challenges. 

The 2021-22 Certificate in Nonprofit Management program recently launched at the University of Tampa, and we’re thrilled to introduce you to the 10 nonprofit leaders who have chosen to invest in themselves as part of this year’s program.

Meet the Certificate in Nonprofit Management Class of 2022

  • Kayla Boronell, marketing content producer, Metropolitan Ministries     
  • Mason Brady, executive director, Positive Coaching Alliance: Tampa Bay                  
  • Lorinda Gamson, COO, Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County    
  • Meredith Grau, director of clinical services, Crisis Center of Tampa Bay                  
  • Scarlett Haynes, lead agency distribution coordinator, Feeding Tampa Bay                  
  • Michael Maurino, director of transportation and planning, Westshore Alliance                  
  • Jamiel Maze, English instructor, Cristo Rey Tampa Salesian High School                  
  • Elizabeth Roman, mobile food market director, Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA                  
  • Jackie Swigler, membership and advocacy director, Tampa Bay Network to End Hunger                  
  • Bree Tramontana, manager of volunteer services, Ronald McDonald House                  

READ NEXT: A day-in-the-life of a student in the Certificate in Nonprofit Management program

Learn More about the Certificate in Nonprofit Management

Take the next step in your career and professional development by learning more about the graduate-level Certificate in Nonprofit Management at the University of Tampa and what other leaders are saying about the program.

READ NEXT: Is pursuing a graduate certificate in nonprofit management right for you?

Be the first to know about new events and news for nonprofit leaders by signing up for our email list and following us on FacebookLinkedInInstagram and Twitter.

Reimagining Your Workplace in a Post-Pandemic World

How to Reimagine Your Workplace in a Post-Pandemic World

Charlie Imbergamo | Director of Strategic Programs Resources

The way we work has changed significantly since the pandemic began. Working remotely has become the norm and left a strong impression on your people. The daunting question now is: Will you (or how will you) bring your employees back to the office after experiencing a different way to work for so long?

Watch our free webinar to answer this question and more.

During this video, you’ll hear about …

  • The new work landscape and potential options you should consider
  • What industry leaders are saying about the future of work and how you can prepare for it
  • The top 10 things to ask yourself when deciding if, how and when to bring people back to your physical location
  • Critical success factors to make it work for your organization

It will prepare you to …

  • Reimagine your workplace in a post-pandemic world
  • Decide if and when to bring people back to a physical office and prepare for their return
  • Set your organization up for success
  • Bring soul to this challenging transition

Download the presentation handout here.

About the Presenter

Andrea Cortissoz is the managing partner and co-founder at HR Soul. She is a highly versatile HR business partner and consultant with decades of global, senior-level corporate and consulting experience that includes working with startups, managing business closures and leading organizations through transformation at every stage of the process. Andrea’s work spans countries, industries, organizational size and complexity. She is dedicated to creating cultures that ignite people with both personal and professional purpose that are engaging for all employees.

See more free webinar replays here.

READ NEXT: 4 Critical HR Policies for Nonprofits

Be the first to hear about nonprofit training events and free resources from the Nonprofit Leadership Center by signing up to receive our weekly NLC e-newsletter, and follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram

Taghiyaha Wells

Developing & Connecting Tomorrow’s Leaders: Thank You, Taghiyana Wells

Team NLC News

Research shows that 3 in 4 youth are concerned about having the necessary skills to secure a job (i). Additionally, more than half of employers say candidates lack essential skills, like creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability and time management (ii). The Nonprofit Leadership Center is not only a place where nonprofit leaders and board members come to develop their skills and organizations; it’s also a lifelong learning lab for local youth.

As a member of Cristo Rey Tampa Salesian High School’s Corporate Work Study Program, NLC welcomes high school students — often from households with limited economic means — to gain real-world work experience that prepares them for a bright future.

"The opportunity to work at the Nonprofit Leadership Center for three years is something I will cherish for life." Taghiyana Wells

For the past three years, we’ve had the privilege of having Taghiyana “Taghi” Wells as a student intern at NLC. In her role, she has assisted with preparing for training classes, processing event evaluations, greeting office guests, attending weekly staff meetings and participating in professional development classes. As she prepares to graduate from high school in June, we are grateful to Taghi for her many contributions and are so proud of the bright future that’s ahead of her.

When Taghi is not in class or at work, she has a passion for art and enjoys working with kids to help them express themselves through art.

Taghi recently shared a little more about her experience at NLC and what she’ll be doing next.

What is one thing you’ve learned at NLC that you’ll carry with you?

NLC Trainer Dr. John Loblack once encouraged me to ask myself two questions every day:

1) What did I accomplish today that was better than yesterday?

2) What will I need to do to be better tomorrow?

Those questions have stuck with me.

What accomplishment are you most proud of from the past three years?

I have taken three dual enrollment courses in art as a high school student while juggling my studies and working at the Nonprofit Leadership Center. I’m proud of how I’ve grown.

What will you miss most about working at NLC?

The opportunity to work at the Nonprofit Leadership Center for three years is something I will cherish for life. I had never heard of a place that taught adults and organizations before working at NLC. To me, the classes and trainings NLC offers are beyond beneficial, even being as young as I was taking some of the classes.

I will miss the people who work at NLC most. I started missing them more than a year ago when we could not physically go to the office during the pandemic. I’ll miss seeing their smiling faces and waving at everyone who walked by.

What’s next for you?

This week, I started working at Metropolitan Ministries’ summer camp. I’ll be working with kids, and at the end of camp, I will receive a scholarship to attend St. Petersburg College. This summer, I also plan to create and sell more of my art.

Find Your Next Opportunity

Are you interested in learning about nonprofit jobs and open positions at NLC? Check out our job board, the premier employment destination for professionals of all levels who are interested in working in the nonprofit sector.

(i) Measure of America
(ii) Connecticut Business & Industry Association

Image of an employee handbook | 4 Critical HR Policies for Nonprofit Organizations

Four Critical HR Policies for Nonprofit Organizations

Corban OneSource, NLC Key Partner Tips

How you run your nonprofit organization determines its success, from the employees you hire to the policies and practices you adopt. When it comes to HR policies for nonprofit organizations, there are four human resource practices every nonprofit should have in place to operate ethically and with excellence. Even if your organization already has these HR policies in place, it’s essential to review them regularly to ensure they are up-to-date and effective.

1. Code of Ethics and Conflict of Interest Policies

Nonprofits are particularly at risk for conflicts of interest. What happens if you don’t agree with the business practices of a potential donor? What if a board member operates a business that could help your organization while they profit financially? Nonprofits must take any and every potential conflict of interest seriously. Provide each employee, board member and volunteer with training on your organization’s code of ethics and conflict of interest policies. Inform them about activities or actions that could harm your organization and issues to watch out for. Additionally, establish a process to assess potential conflicts of interest to determine if they are ethical or problematic. This will help your organization and its stakeholders avoid grey areas that could put your nonprofit at risk.

READ NEXT: Reducing Your Nonprofit’s Risk: Trends to Anticipate and How to Tackle Them

2. Staff Promotion and Compensation Policies

Every nonprofit should have a written policy for how its employees receive promotions and compensation that is clear, fair and transparent. Documenting your promotion policies will help you follow clear hiring guidelines when it is time to fill a position, and promotion and compensation HR policies for nonprofits help ensure you are creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace and organizational culture.

3. Employee Manual

Every nonprofit should have an employee manual, a guide that explains the various procedures and expectations your organization has for your staff. The manual should cover technical aspects related to probation and termination, along with elements like paid time off and dress code. Some employee manuals offer details about the organization’s culture and core values. An employee manual establishes consistent organizational policies and ensures no employee receives different treatment than others. Given the increase and necessity of remote working during the past year, adding your policies on remote working and telecommuting is important to include in your manual.

4. Hiring Best Practices

As a nonprofit, you may decide to hold yourself to higher ethical standards than the private sector. Consider how you hire new team members and genuinely assess any unconscious bias you may have. Without realizing it, you could be making assumptions based on candidates’ backgrounds or even their gender, race or name. There are many ways to remove bias in your hiring. You can implement software tools that objectively vet candidates or outsource your hiring to an objective third party. This allows you to hire the best candidates for the job while fostering an equitable and inclusive organization.

READ NEXT: Addressing Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

Regularly Review Your Nonprofit HR Policies

As you develop HR policies for your nonprofit organization, commit to reviewing them annually. Consider hiring an objective third-party expert to review your policies for gaps or potential risk. Strengthening your community through your nonprofit organization starts with having effective human resource policies.

This post was adapted from “Which HR Policies for Nonprofit Organizations Really Matter?” by Corbin OneSource

Corban OneSource is a Nonprofit Leadership Center Key Partner. Headquartered in the Tampa Bay area and with clients in 48 states and 13 countries, they have extensive experience in partnering with nonprofits and specialize in working with organizations that have between 15 to 6,000 employees. Their goal is to help nonprofit leaders and their teams focus on their mission instead of the burden of HR paperwork, payroll, benefits administration or compliance. They offer a discount for nonprofits and believe every dollar they save their client goes toward missions that matter most. Learn more about Corban OneSource on their website, or contact them at 1-844-4CORBAN or

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