WATCH: Re-Opening: Best Practices to Minimize the Spread of COVID-19 and Your Organization’s Liability

Charlie Imbergamo | Director of Strategic Programs Resources

Is your nonprofit being intentional about reducing the spread of COVID-19 and limiting your organization’s risk? As an employer, are you taking the right, legally required steps to provide a safe workplace for employees that is free from recognized hazards that could cause serious harm?

In this video, you’ll learn the best practices for handling safety and employee issues in the new era of COVID-19. After watching, you’ll have an understanding of:

  • The steps your organization should be taking to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and reduce your organizational risk
  • The importance of following federal, state and local guidance, including developing a COVID-19 plan, appointing a COVID-19 monitor and training employees
  • What the Families First Coronavirus Response Act means for your organization and employees

Download the presentation shared in the video here.

More About the Presenter

Karen M. Buesing is a partner at Akerman LLP, Tampa, with more than 35 years of experience counseling and representing management in workplace law matters. Karen is one of only about 200 lawyers who are Board Certified by The Florida Bar as a specialist in Labor & Employment Law. Her expertise includes representing employers in discrimination/harassment matters, hiring/firing/disciplinary matters, leave and accommodation matters, wage and hour matters, non-compete and trade secret litigation, whistleblower and retaliation claims, and all aspects of employment counseling and training. She is currently on the Akerman Return to Work Resource Guide Team, assisting employers in navigating re-opening during the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 Resources for Nonprofits

This video is part of the Nonprofit Leadership Center’s free webinar series to help nonprofit organizations not only survive the COVID-19 crisis but help support communities in emerging even stronger.

See all our webinars and watch for free here.

Interested in attending one of our upcoming virtual events? See our current program schedule.

For more information and assistance specific to nonprofits, check out our COVID-19 Nonprofit Resource Hub. To learn about all events and resources from the Nonprofit Leadership Center, sign up to receive our weekly NLC e-newsletter, and follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram

Reducing Your Nonprofit’s Risk: Trends to Anticipate & How to Tackle Them

Robin Moch, NLC Board Member & M.E. Wilson Partner Tips

For most nonprofit organizations, the cost of property and casualty insurance is among the top five expense items within already limited budgets. As the need for nonprofit services increases, resources shrink and the insurance marketplace becomes firmer, nonprofit leaders must take steps to reduce and control their organization’s risks and lower costs in the process.

Before we dive into risk management trends and strategies, it’s important to understand what we mean when we talk about risk management. For this communication’s purpose, we are talking about commercial insurance or property/casualty coverage. These lines of coverage include property (buildings and contents), general liability, auto, workers’ compensation, management liability (directors, officers and employment practices liability), professional, cyber insurance, and the list goes on. 

The insurance marketplace has recently experienced a hardening, meaning less capacity and higher pricing. COVID-19 has made the insurance marketplace even more unstable, especially for the already precarious nonprofit segment. Here are three trends nonprofit leaders should anticipate as we continue in the current environment.

Risk Management Trends

1. Insurance costs will increase.

When developing budgets for the coming year, nonprofit leaders should expect and plan for their insurance premiums to increase. This is especially true for automobile coverage (particularly if your organization provides transportation services) and for those involved with supporting children, as the market for sexual abuse and molestation coverage has become extremely challenging. Many nonprofits are struggling to obtain the same limits they’ve had in the past, and many carriers are simply not offering coverage in that segment any longer.

Since they follow the underlying policies and jury verdicts are on the rise, the excess/umbrella marketplace has hardened considerably. Likewise, we are seeing less capacity in the property market, especially for coastal locations. While your area may not have experienced a catastrophic loss, there have been many others worldwide that impact the entire marketplace. Lastly, the directors and officers line of coverage is also seeing firming for the first time in years.

2. Employment practices and workers’ comp claims may increase.

With many nonprofits and for-profit companies having had to lay-off or furlough employees in response to COVID-19’s impact, we expect employee claims around supervisor mistreatment and discrimination to increase. The renewed commitment to racial justice in America may also impact claims in this area.

Given the inherent nature of this industry segment, most nonprofits have not only continued working, but the need for their services has increased. Employees who become ill and allege their illness was work-related will increase workers’ compensation claims. Compensability will be in question. Only time will tell how this area is ultimately impacted.

3. Ignorance may be your worst enemy.

In working in nonprofit risk management for nearly 15 years, one of the most common issues I see is that leaders aren’t fully aware of their claims experience. Claims may be settled without the organization’s knowledge or input, and adjusters may settle or reopen claims from several years ago due to new activity. When it comes time for policy renewal, insurance companies can significantly increase rates because of claims that the organization doesn’t realize are an issue. You cannot shed your claims history. Nonprofit leaders must be vigilant about what is going on and understand what underwriters are looking at to determine their organization’s premiums.

Strategies to Reduce Nonprofit Risk

What can nonprofit leaders and organizations do to reduce their risk? Here are a few important places to start.

1. Do more than the minimum.

Implement and invest in risk-reducing practices that go beyond the bare minimum. For instance, nonprofits that provide services to children can and should do more than the legally required background checks. There are additional trainings and programs that can be put into place. For nonprofits that provide transportation services, adding policies that require regular vehicle inspections, training and address common risks in every staff meeting offer an extra layer of risk mitigation and raise awareness. The key is to ensure that safety policies and trainings aren’t simply tools that sit on a shelf and collect dust. Nonprofit leaders have a critical responsibility to integrate risk mitigation strategies and culture into everyday practice and conversations.

2. Cultivate the right culture.

The stronger your organizational culture is, the more successful your nonprofit will be, including when it comes to risk management. This starts at the top with the executive staff team and board of directors being engaged in risk management and authentically invested in why it’s important. Nonprofit CEOs should take the time to participate in safety meetings and understand loss trends to focus training.

When it comes to board leadership, seek a diverse group of professionals who represent both those you serve and those with the expertise to provide oversight and guidance. Most importantly, seek leaders who embrace a culture of curiosity and aren’t afraid to share their opinions or ask questions to avoid unintended risk.

3. Tell your story.

When nonprofits are seeking insurance coverage, it’s critical to help partners and insurers understand your mission and the steps you’re taking to mitigate risk. In addition to communicating how your organization is making an impact in the community, be sure to highlight the policies, procedures and training you have in place and how it is more than “check-the-box” online tutorials or posters hanging in a break room. What are your hiring practices? How are you onboarding? How are you training? Are there repercussions after an accident/incident? Tell the story about your commitment to risk management to insurers and partners. Applications are part of the process, and while they are not fun to complete, taking the time to be detailed will help. 

4. Look for a partner who puts your mission first.

Selecting an agency to partner with your nonprofit is a significant decision. When evaluating risk management partners, start by looking for a company that puts your purpose before its profits. Ask other nonprofits about their experiences. Consider an RFP (Request for Proposal) process for agent/broker selection so you can meet the team you would be working with and determine if there is a cultural fit. The services provided and the level of expertise vary greatly by agency.

Here are a few questions you should ask a current or potential risk management partner:

  • How do you help our organization improve our risk profile?
  • What other nonprofits do you work with and may I contact them?
  • What is your standing in the marketplace for nonprofits?
  • Are the carriers you represent all AM Best rated and protected by FIGA?
  • Are there other options outside the traditional insurance marketplace?

Robin Moch

Robin Moch, CIC, is a Nonprofit Leadership Center board member and partner at M.E. Wilson Company where she specializes in risk management for nonprofits and large commercial organizations.

The Best 10 Books on Nonprofit Fundraising and Governance

Alyce Lee Stansbury, CFRE Resources

When it comes to the best books about nonprofit fundraising and governance, these 10 resources stand the test of time and should be on every leader’s bookshelf or e-reader.

1. “Ten Responsibilities of a Nonprofit Board” by BoardSource

This short book outlines the primary responsibilities of nonprofit board service. In the most recent edition, the role of advocacy has been added. This list of 10 responsibilities should be the basis for all nonprofit board service. It can also be used to generate thoughtful discussions among board members about what it means to serve on a high-performing board and nurture a culture of engagement and meaningful participation.

2. “Asking: A 59-Minute Guide to Everything Board Members, Volunteers and Staff Must Know to Secure the Gift” by Jerold Panas

Written by a fundraising icon who passed away in 2018, this book is the quintessential guide to taking the fear out of asking, especially for larger gifts. This book recognizes and celebrates the joy of giving which should be at the heart of every ask and every gift.

READ NEXT: Getting to Yes: Build a Major Gift Plan that Works

3. “Mega Gifts” by Jerold Panas

In another of his best-selling books, Panas interviewed 50 people who each made a single gift of $1 million or more to one organization. These interviews reveal volumes about what donors care about most and how nonprofits can and must earn the right to ask. This book is helpful for fundraising staff and executive directors to help them understand donor motivations that inspire people to make big gifts. Hint: They do not include solving your organization’s need for money.

4. “Achieving Excellence in Fundraising (Second Edition)” by Henry “Hank” Rosso

Mr. Rosso, another icon and legend in the field, wrote my favorite definition of fundraising: “The gentle art of teaching people the joy of giving.” The second edition includes updates on various aspects of the fundraising process that are built on Rosso’s founding principles. As long as I have been in the fundraising business, I still return to this book for descriptions and explanations of the art and science of fundraising.

5. “Donor-Centered Fundraising (Second Edition)” by Penelope Burk

This book is the result of robust research conducted by Penelope Burk and her firm to learn what donors want and need from the charities they support. It is extremely valuable to hear this information from the donor’s point of view. I have met Penelope and heard her speak many times. I agree with Penelope’s assertion, supported by her research, that the better job nonprofits do of communicating with donors before asking again, the more likely they will be to continue to give.

6. “Good to Great for the Social Sector” by Jim Collins

As Jim says, the good-to-great concept is not about business but about what separates great from good. In this slim volume, he applies the principles to the nonprofit sector and includes examples and diagrams to make his points. This is a helpful read for staff and volunteer leaders alike.

7. “Conducting a Successful Fundraising Program” by Kent Dove

I used Dove’s book as the textbook for a graduate-level course in fundraising I taught for many years at Florida State University. The back section of the book is full of examples that demonstrate how to apply the principles outlined in the text. It is also a great reference for executive directors and experienced development staff for tried and true fundraising principles and techniques. This book is terrific for people who are new to fundraising.

8. “How to Write Fundraising Materials that Raise More Money” by Tom Ahern

I am a long-time fan of Tom Ahern who is a fabulous copywriter and communications guru. This easy-to-read book features short lessons for writing more effective fundraising communications. These lessons apply to the case for support, direct mail, email, newsletters and any other kind of donor communication.

READ NEXT: 7 Secrets to Successful Fundraising Appeals

9. “Endowment Building” by Diana S. Newman

To learn more about endowment fundraising, I always recommend this book which is part of the Association of Fundraising Professional’s Fund Development Series of Nonprofit Essentials. Before starting my consulting business, I spent three years in the community foundation field and learned so much about endowments. Diana’s book will help you and your organization learn how to establish, build, invest, manage and grow an endowment fund for long-term financial sustainability.

10. “Management Library” by Carter McNamara

This is a free online management library available at It is chock-full of templates, articles, checklists and documents addressing all areas of nonprofit management. Many of the authors above are included in this database of online resources.

READ NEXT: 11 Books Every Nonprofit Leader Should Read

Register for an Upcoming Nonprofit Fundraising or Governance Training

From grant writing and fundraising to board governance and leadership, the Nonprofit Leadership Center offers nearly 100 nonprofit training courses and learning opportunities each year, including virtual events. See our current program schedule and register for an upcoming event here.

Want to be the first to hear about the latest nonprofit events and resources? Sign up to receive our weekly NLC e-newsletter to help you thrive personally and professionally. 

Alyce Lee Stansbury | Nonprofit Leadership Center trainer

Alyce Lee Stansbury, CFRE, President of Stansbury Consulting, is a 25+ year fundraising veteran and expert in nonprofit governance. She is a Master Trainer in Fundraising and sought-after instructor and facilitator. Her firm provides support to nonprofits in Florida and the Southeast in the areas of fundraising, board governance and sustainability. Contact her at and follow her on Twitter at @StansburyCFRE

10 Questions with Tampa Bay Healthcare Collaborative’s Dr. Sheron Brown

Team NLC Stories

At the Nonprofit Leadership Center, we believe the best lessons in nonprofit leadership come from nonprofit leaders themselves. Our 10 Questions With Series celebrates and elevates nonprofit and business leaders across the Tampa Bay region who are making an enduring impact on our communities. Today, we’re pleased to introduce you to Dr. Sheron Brown, executive director of Tampa Bay Healthcare Collaborative (TBHC).

Dr. Sheron Brown, Executive Director of the Tampa Bay Healthcare Collaborative

Dr. Brown is a passionate community advocate who has dedicated her career to bringing individuals and organizations together to work collaboratively to achieve health equity. Prior to joining the Tampa Bay Healthcare Collaborative, Dr. Brown served as a wellness educator, consultant and coach to schools, school leaders and women of color who struggled with chronic disease. She also served as the national director of program quality for Teach Plus, a national program to empower excellent, experienced and diverse teachers to lead key policy and practice issues that advance equity, opportunity and student success. Dr. Brown holds her Ph.D. in professional studies in education from Capella University in Minneapolis, a master’s degree in education from the University of New Haven, and a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Howard University.

Here’s what Dr. Brown had to share about the power of collaboration, what it takes to advance systemic change, leading a nonprofit through COVID-19, and the inspiring story behind her name.

Q1: As the executive director of the Tampa Bay Healthcare Collaborative, tell us a little bit about your organization and what drew you to serve this nonprofit.

Dr. Brown: The Tampa Bay Healthcare Collaborative is a member-led nonprofit dedicated to promoting and advancing health equity for people of color and those in low-income communities. The organization was started in 2003 by leaders who wanted to work together to help ensure that our most vulnerable populations had access to quality health care. Even though they were focused on different areas — from homelessness and food insecurity to dental care or community heath — they believed they could help solve collective problems together. Today, the Tampa Bay Healthcare Collaborative is still about that: Bringing people who represent different organizations and areas of expertise together to solve the problem of inequities in health.

When I discovered the executive director role at TBHC, I knew immediately this was the seat where I was meant to be. I was interested in serving in a role where I brought my entire self to the opportunity. I wanted to bring people together and help them work through the process of solving some of our most intractable health problems. We cannot work in isolation to enact systems-level change. We must take a multi-sector solutions-oriented approach to transform the systems that are creating the inequities we see.

Quote from Dr. Sheron Brown: We cannot work in isolation to enact systems-level change. We have to take a multi-sector solutions-oriented approach to transform the systems that are creating the inequities we see.

Q2: Not only are you newer to your current executive director role and leading a nonprofit, but you’re doing so through COVID-19 and an unprecedented time in our history. What are the most important lessons you’ve learned about leading a nonprofit during this time of crisis?

Dr. Brown: The most important lesson is something we should already know — to always be focused on learning so you can be nimble and quick to pivot when necessary to offer value to those we serve.

READ NEXT: Pivoting Together: The Eye-Opening Impact of COVID-19 on Nonprofits

Because I’m new to my role as TBHC’s executive director, I was already in a learning phase — studying the organization and the community and listening to what members wanted. I was already thinking about what the future of TBHC should look like when COVID-19 came along, which proved to be important for figuring out how to bring people together who want to solve problems while everyone is locked in their homes.

Dr. Sheron Brown: Always focus on learning, so you can be nible and quick to pivot when necessary.

Q3: Is there anything positive that COVID-19 has brought to your leadership or organization? What, if anything, will you and your organization do differently as a result of COVID-19?

Dr. Brown: As horrible as COVID-19 has been for individuals, families and communities, it has affirmed the work we’re doing and the importance of focusing on health equity. When you look at the rates of African Americans who are dying as a result of COVID-19, they are higher than the white population. There are inequities in health care and there are systemic issues that we need to dig down into the roots of to create solutions. I don’t know if I feel comfortable calling that positive, but COVID-19 has affirmed the need for this work.

In terms of what we will change, I was already thinking about ways to incorporate technology to enhance our members’ value. When COVID-19 hit, everyone recognized the need to incorporate more technology into the services they offer to constituents.

READ NEXT: COVID-19 Resources for Nonprofit Leaders

Q4: Fostering community relationships is a significant part of your role. Many nonprofits tell us they struggle with moving their relationships beyond transactional engagements. What strategies do you feel are most critical to forge authentic partnerships that spark change?

Dr. Brown: I love this question because it gets at the heart of what I’m focused on: getting people to collaborate effectively.

When different people come together who represent different seats in the health space, they’re doing so to solve a common problem. The very first thing they must do to be effective is to agree on a collective goal. For example, if I’m coming from a health center and you’re coming from your own private practice, we clearly have different agendas. Our agendas color our lenses of what we think we want to do. We must first be willing to sit in the same room, knowing that we represent different agendas, yet agree to work on a collective goal that would address the needs of our clients or constituents despite our agendas. That takes time. That’s one thing that the Tampa Bay Healthcare Collaborative is here to do — to help those who sit in different seats and different organizations in healthcare arrive at a collective goal.

Secondly, effective partners must determine if they have the right people at the table. People’s egos often get in the way. We must decide what roles we will play and what responsibilities we will have. Sometimes, people want to hold a bigger role because they want their organization to be viewed as owning the initiative. That’s where collaboration can start to fall apart. But if we can come together on an aligned goal with the right people at the table, that’s where change happens. As individual partners, we must stay focused on the wicked problems we need to solve. By thinking about our skill sets and resources in a fair manner and removing ourselves from it, we can collectively have an impact together.

Of course, there are other important factors like deciding on a clear decision-making process — who’s facilitating us through our problem-solving? What is our roadmap to getting to where we’re going? How will we agree to hold each other accountable?

Q5: How will the need to do more business virtually affect community partnerships?

Dr. Brown: That is a good question because we must figure out how to be effective in meetings. A lot of the “doing” happens outside of meetings. I have been part of many in-person meetings that aren’t impactful, and it’s really easy to take our habits and bring them into a virtual space. Just as we had facilitators for in-person meetings, I believe the same has to happen virtually. Facilitators are still necessary. We also need a structure for what happens before, during and after meetings so that partners aren’t meeting just to meet; they need to go out and have impact.

Q6: You are a longtime community health advocate and have owned a company to help people achieve total wellness. For nonprofit leaders whose anxiety and workloads are higher than ever, what guidance would you share to ensure self-care is a priority?

Dr. Brown: First, you are not your job. You are not your role. Your identity is not the same as what you do. Oftentimes, we can confuse our identity with what we do and the role we have. That can cause people to work themselves into the ground. Identify your true identity, and that will help you work differently and be diligent about staying in touch with how you have come to serve humanity.

The second thing you can do to reduce your stress is meditation. You can’t get meditation wrong, even if you think you don’t know how to do it. There are so many YouTube videos, apps and classes, It allows you to slow down and clear all that junk in your head. You bring yourself into a calm, connected state. When you’re in that place, you can think more clearly. You make better decisions. You feel the presence of your purpose.

Q7: You’re currently participating in one of our Nonprofit Leadership Center CEO Circles. For nonprofit leaders who may not be familiar with this peer-based leadership group, tell us about your experience so far.

Dr. Brown: Through NLC’s CEO Circle program, leaders come together and share the problems they’re experiencing that they can’t share with their staff and won’t necessarily want to share with their boards. It’s an opportunity to sit in room (or via Zoom) with people who hold similar positions and may have had similar challenges and be able to receive guidance and support in a safe place.

Learning from the experiences of others in the group has been helpful to me, especially as it related to the Payroll Protection Program and how everyone was handling it with their boards, budgets and funders. It was a great learning experience, and I was able to take some of what they said and apply it to what I was doing. Recently, I had a challenge and turned to this group. Two members had a similar experience when they first started in their executive director roles and offered advice that I applied immediately. The pressure valve on that problem was released. I felt lighter.

We had a very profound conversation in our last meeting about everything that’s going on in the world today with protests and Black Lives Matter. It was a very vulnerable, honest conversation. I appreciated that moment very much.

Q8: What’s the best book on leadership or professional development you’ve read that you think every nonprofit leader should read?

“The Surrender Experiment” by Michael Singer. If I could get everybody in the world to read it, I would.

The author shares his journey through life of surrendering to fear and to whatever life put in front of him rather than resisting. He is incredibly successful today. The story of how he experienced life made me realize that if we surrender to the moment, be present, observe and listen with our ears and our hearts, we’ll be guided to the next thing. That has helped me with how I lead and how I live.

Q9: What are your favorite shows or movies you’ve watched during quarantine?

I love Self Made and She Did That on Netflix. I recently watched Just Mercy, which tells the story of the state of humanity as it has been since the founding of this country. I would recommend everybody watch that movie.

Q10: What is something interesting about you that most people don’t know?

Dr. Brown: Definitely the story behind my name and why it means so much to me.

My mother was born in Jamaica in the 1940s. Her grandmother wanted to name her Princess Mercedes. The hospital workers told her she couldn’t do that because she was not a princess. (Remember, Jamaica is connected to Great Britain, and so they were caught up on that.) So, my grandmother named my mother Mercedes Princess.

Fast forward to when I was born. I don’t know what my mother wanted to name me, but there was a name and my father disagreed. He picked my name: Sheron. They named me Sheron Mercedes.

Fast forward 30 years later. I’m at a professional development workshop. We’re standing in line for lunch and I start talking to the man in front of me. We exchanged names and when I told him my first name was Sheron, he said, “Do you know that the name Sheron means princess?” I had no clue. Essentially, my name is Princess Mercedes. Without my mother knowing it, I ended up getting the name that was intended for her. This is significant for me because I am my mother’s and grandmother’s legacy. My grandmother never went to school and my mother was only able to complete the sixth grade. I always knew I wanted to go as far as I could in education for their name’s sake. I always say my Ph.D. belongs to them. 

Would you or someone you know be a great leader to profile for an upcoming 10 Questions With Series article? Email us at with your recommendations.

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Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter to get more great advice from nonprofit leaders, along with the latest tips, tools and trainings for nonprofits.

Major Gift Fundraising: Build a Plan that Works

Jessica Dvoracsek, Fundraising & Mktg Fellow Tips

During economic downturns, data suggests that Americans typically give less to charity. As communities simultaneously navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, a recession and the social movement for racial justice, the need for nonprofit services continues to increase as inequities deepen. Understanding how to raise funds in times of uncertainty is critical to respond to some of the greatest challenges our communities and constituents have ever faced. With the largest source of charitable giving coming from individuals (Giving USA), major gift fundraising is an essential strategy within nonprofit fund development plans. These four reminders shared in a recent training from Nonprofit Leadership Center trainer and fundraising expert Alyce Lee Stansbury will help you get to a yes.

1. Everyone is responsible.

Every person within a nonprofit organization, including all staff and board members, are responsible for fundraising. Potential relationships with prospective donors can come from everyone. Continue to look at the relationships you have in your organization with individuals who possess the ability to provide a major gift. While an organization’s development leadership team and CEO will oversee major gift fundraising, relationships with prospective donors can bloom from anywhere.

2. Earn the right to ask.

Before you can ask a prospective donor to provide a significant gift to your organization, study their “LAI:”

  • L — Linkage: What is the prospective donor’s connection with your organization?
  • A — Ability: What is the prospective donor’s capacity for making a gift?
  • I — Interest: How interested are they in your organization? How do their values and desires authentically align with your mission and funding opportunities?
Major Gifts Fundraising: Making the Ask

3. Ask intentionally.

The best way to effectively ask for a gift is to think like an analytical and discerning donor. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • The right person should make the ask. When engaging in major gift fundraising, the “asker” should be someone the prospective donor knows and trusts.
  • Rehearse, rehearse and rehearse again. Prepare yourself not only for what you are going to say but what you might not say — meaning anticipate any question that may come up and be prepared to provide specifics, particularly as it relates to financial details and stewardship information.
  • After you make the ask, wait for the person to respond.
  • Before you leave, be sure to secure a commitment or agree to a next step, such as a second follow-up meeting or phone call.

4. Prioritize stewardship and relationship-building.

Major gift fundraising is a cycle. The vast majority of that cycle is about building relationships with your donors so they know you are as committed to them as they are to you. Treating them like partners in your mission is key through regular communications, one-on-one touchpoints, hand-written notes and more. Let them know how their contributions are making an impact and keep them apprised of new initiatives and powerful stories from those you serve. Additionally, seek their ongoing feedback and perspective.

Become a Nonprofit Fundraising Expert

From major gift fundraising to fund development fundamentals, the Nonprofit Leadership Center offers dozens of classes, certificate programs and virtual workshops to help you meet and exceed your nonprofit revenue goals. See the full schedule of upcoming nonprofit leadership learning events and join us for a class.

READ NEXT: How to Apply for a Grant

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For information and assistance to support your nonprofit organization through COVID-19 recovery, visit our COVID-19 Nonprofit Resource Hub. To learn about all events, nonprofit trainings and resources for nonprofit leaders from the Nonprofit Leadership Center, sign up to receive our weekly NLC e-newsletter, and follow us on FacebookLinkedInTwitter and Instagram

How to Host a Successful Virtual Fundraising Event: Girls on the Run Case Study

Jessica Dvoracsek, Fundraising & Mktg Fellow Stories, Tips

Like most nonprofits impacted by COVID-19, Girls on the Run Greater Tampa Bay faced a pivotal challenge — how to deliver a major fundraising event with significant revenue goals and in-person mission programming virtually, all in a matter of weeks. Girls on the Run is a developmental, life-skills program that inspires girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum that creatively integrates running. The program culminates in a Celebration 5K at the end of each season.

Executive Director Laura Moore has been with Girls on the Run Tampa since November of 2013 and has grown the organization’s 5K program from 200 participants to 2,000 runners and 1,500 additional attendees. I had the pleasure of interviewing Laura about her experience transitioning Girls on the Run Tampa’s annual 5K run into a virtual fundraising event during the COVID-19 quarantine. Laura shares how the nonprofit devised a completely new plan and recruited more than 1,200 people from 30 states, raising $20,000 in less than two months. As a Girls on the Run volunteer since 2014, my experience with this organization is one of the main reasons I’ve chosen a career in the nonprofit sector. I hope you’ll enjoy reading about how they hosted a successful virtual fundraising event as much as I enjoyed helping plan and participate in it.

Jess: What was the most challenging part of transitioning from an in-person 5K to a virtual event for more than 2,000 people?

Laura: Time. If we knew all along our 5K event would be virtual, we would have planned differently and been prepared. But everything changed in an instant, making timing an immense challenge. Our event was on May 2, so we had less than two months to pivot. Luckily, with closures and quarantine guidelines rolling out just before spring break, we had that week to think things through and not act on impulse. It was imperative for our team to create a master timeline. We took several days to develop one with the assignments each person would have, the dates they must be accomplished and how all the little things would tie together. Most importantly, we committed to that timeline. As we received more information, we knew there were things we could do differently, but we chose NOT to change any of our plans based on the new information. We knew the way to help our organization and audience move forward was to only change our plan one time, and then execute that plan.

You can watch the virtual event here.

Jess: What were the biggest lessons you learned from shifting so quickly to a virtual event?

Laura: First, something we teach our girls is to “Stop and take a breath.” This has been the best piece of advice for me during this crazy time. Give yourself a grace period or a few days to think through what you need to accomplish and then create a plan — one you can actually commit to and stick to. They say the best exercise is the workout you will actually do. The same applies to hosting a virtual event when that wasn’t what you planned.

Secondly, deliver on your mission. Our mission is to inspire girls to be joyful, healthy, and confident, and we did that. We still gave our girls an avenue that was reflective of our mission and core values. It looked very different than it has in the past, but we got all the girls everything they needed. Our audience embraced the changes, and the parent feedback was extremely positive.

Finally, STEWARD, STEWARD, STEWARD your partners. Talk to them at least once a month, even when there isn’t a global pandemic. That way, when crisis and chaos happen, you’ve already done the work. We were able to retain all of our partners because of the strong relationships we’ve developed with them. We came to them with our new plan and not one of them flinched — they actually thanked us for taking such good care of them.

READ NEXT: How to Fundraise in Uncertain Times

Jess: Speaking of partners, tell us how you handled communications with your event sponsors. How did you deliver on all their expectations through the changes?

Laura: We are extremely proud that we did not lose any major partners by shifting to a virtual event. In fact, we actually secured a new partner.

Stewarding our partners and making them feel connected to our mission and brand is something we’re very intentional about. We have goals for each of our partners, and the partnership works when both of our organizations achieve those goals. We made sure each partner knew exactly how we were delivering the virtual event, and they trusted us because we were transparent about how we were thinking through the event changes and their needs.

Another key to maintaining good relationships with our partners during these event changes was knowing why they chose to partner with us. Was their partnership decision about getting people in their door? Awareness? Education? Or were they more focused on the mission and wanted updates on how girls in the program are doing? Knowing each partner personally and what success means to them is the most important part of our successful stewardship.

Girls on the Run 5K materials | Pivoting to a virtual fundraising event on Nonprofit Leadership Center blog

Jess: Having volunteered on your race committee for nearly six years, I know Girls on the Run Tampa expects a polished and professional experience. How did you have to adjust your expectations with your new virtual event plan?

Laura: While there was a great deal of chaos, we stuck to our timeline and produced a smooth event. We asked ourselves what people and our partners do at our normal 5Ks and why they do it. Then, we determined how to transition that to a virtual format. For example, our warm-up partner usually performs a live warm-up before the event. We worked closely with that partner to bring a virtual warm-up to participants using Zoom and Facebook Live.

We were also highly intentional with how we utilized our 5K planning committee. Since we couldn’t use them in traditional ways on-site, we activated their thought leadership. We talked through what the experience would look like and discussed what we actually could do. Prior to COVID-19, we had honest conversations about the best ideas and howto best execute them for our audience. That didn’t change this season with our virtual event.

Girls on the Run Tampa Virtual 5K Coaches | Pivoting to a virtual fundraising event on Nonprofit Leadership Center blog
Girls on the Run Tampa Virtual 5K Coaches

Finally, we leaned on our board of directors hard to activate their networks. The result was 30 states represented at our virtual 5K! That is something we would not have accomplished without our board’s support. We gave them packets, a few ideas and they ran with it (pun intended!). Using our board and volunteer committee’s personal connections and networks to promote our event was a critical factor in our virtual event’s success.

READ NEXT: How to Host Successful Online Board Meetings

For information and assistance to support your nonprofit organization through COVID-19 recovery, visit our COVID-19 Nonprofit Resource Hub. To learn about all events, nonprofit trainings and resources for nonprofit leaders from the Nonprofit Leadership Center, sign up to receive our weekly NLC e-newsletter, and follow us on FacebookLinkedInTwitter and Instagram

It’s Time to Lead Courageously

Team NLC Stories

Before any of us ever heard the term COVID-19, we planned a little get together with 700 of our closest nonprofit and business leader friends to explore what it means to lead courageously. While today would have been the Nonprofit Leadership Center’s 10th Anniversary Leadership Conference in Downtown Tampa (now rescheduled for October 13), nonprofit leaders have been living this year’s conference theme — lead courageously — day in and day out through a global pandemic and the fight for racial equality, all while working to keep the lights on and our communities safe, healthy and strong.

As we reflect on what it means to lead courageously, what we shared in January is as critical as ever:

“Thinking differently and acting boldly requires courageous leadership — the kind of leadership that will define the best nonprofit leaders in our region and across the nation. Leading courageously is about adapting to our changing environment and resource constraints, moving from knowing to doing and growing from good to great. It means modeling the change we want to see in the world — from creating healthy workplace cultures, championing diversity, equity and inclusion and articulating our impact in terms of outcomes, not just outputs. Change and growth take courage.”

What Does Leading Courageously Mean to Nonprofit Leaders?

We recently asked nonprofit leaders in our Facebook community to share with us what leading courageously means to them.

Here’s what nonprofit leaders had to say.

Leading courageously means …

  • “Accepting criticism.” — Ignacio
  • “Being confident in your decisions, and when something doesn’t work out the way you want it to, share your experience, own your errors, learn and move forward. — Allison
  • “Embracing your weaknesses.” — KL
  • Acknowledging that success is a two-way road — it’s both what you accomplish and what you help others accomplish.” — Johanne
  • “Being OK with not being perfect and letting others lead sometimes.” — Mary
  • “Being open to your own vulnerability.” — Amanda
  • “Walking with integrity even when no one is watching.” — Tonja
  • “Having hard conversations.” — Kimberly
  • “Listening.” — Acai
  • “Doing what you know is right even if you know it won’t be popular. — Emily

What does leading courageously mean to you? Drop us a line and let us know on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram via @nlctb.

Become a More Courageous Leader

Do you want to become a more courageous leader? Join us for an upcoming training class. See the full schedule of upcoming nonprofit leadership courses and certificate programs here.

Be sure to sign up for our email list to learn more about upcoming events and our Lead Courageously Leadership Conference in October.

Addressing Unconscious Bias: Where Awareness and Understanding Begin

Margarita Sarmiento Tips

George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police has spurred protests and riots across our country. It has also caused many of us to stop and question what we define as our own truth and what we can and should do, considering such devastating circumstances and systemic challenges.

We each carry a different perspective into each interaction we have and each situation we are exposed to. In other words, my reality is not your reality. Our bias, or our tendency to see the world through a lens that favors our own reality, will always shape what we see. As we go through life understanding different realities, our own perspectives and opinions change. None of us see the world the same way we saw it last year or even last month. Our beliefs grow and change as we see that shared experiences do not always translate into shared outcomes.

Today, the need for us to come closer in our perceived realities is strong. While far from new, the happenings of the past few weeks have accelerated the need for us to challenge our perception and biases. They have also highlighted the stark truth that in some instances, personal experience is not enough. Because of this, it is crucial that we make a conscious effort to come together, seek out others with different perspectives and experiences, ask hard questions, and listen. In the workplace, this should be happening regularly, in one-on-one conversations as well as in group settings. An organization’s impact can only be as strong as the willingness of its people to take on the perspectives of others.

Change is a chance to do better | Facing Unconscious Bias | Nonprofit Leadership Center

These conversations can be uncomfortable and difficult to have because they often have more to do with emotion than fact. As we address topics of race, equality, justice, police brutality and other hard issues, discussions become especially difficult. Vulnerability and fear mix with anxiety, shame and anger. We need to be willing to take the first step, so these difficult conversations can become easier and we can begin moving toward long-lasting and impactful change.

3 Things to Remember During Difficult Conversations

Here are some ways to improve the outcome of uncomfortable conversations while respecting the concerns and opinions of your coworkers and constituents.

1. Control the one thing you can control: Yourself and your actions.

  • Commit to authenticity: Be willing to say “I’m sorry, I didn’t know or I never took the time to better understand …”
  • Identify and admit your own preconceptions and biases.
  • Adjust your speaking style when necessary. Beware of speaking in absolutes like “always” or “never.”

2. Prioritize relationships over being right.

  • Your reality is not someone else’s reality. Let go of the need to prove your point.
  • Accept what others share as their truth. Genuinely listen to the lived experiences of others.
  • Be willing to admit you were wrong and apologize if necessary. If on the receiving side, consider giving the benefit of the doubt, and focus on moving forward.

3. Focus on why these conversations are important.

  • Admit this is not easy; acknowledge concerns and stress the benefits.
  • Accept that no one has all the answers, and commit to strive for doing better/your best.
  • Approach conversations with a mindset to learn, and when you know better do better.

Tony Robbins once said, “To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world. We must use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” I would add that we must start from a place of humility, focusing more on what we hear, rather than what we are trying to say. Instead of dodging potentially controversial conversations, use them to increase awareness, mutual understanding, and personal growth. Not only will we become better human beings, but we will also increase the effectiveness and authenticity of our organizations and improve our world.

READ NEXT: 4 Ways to Improve Team Communication

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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.

WATCH: Creative Innovation for Visionary Leadership

Charlie Imbergamo | Director of Strategic Programs Resources

Some of the greatest organizations were built and grown in times of economic hardship. The difference between organizations that thrive and those that fail is how equipped leaders are to face adversity with creative innovation, organizational empathy and visionary thinking. In this video, Soul Media CEO Emily Ghosh Harris, MBA, and Arts Conservatory for Teens Co-Founder Dr. Alex Harris share the keys to fundraising, growing community partnerships and strategically positioning your organization for success during a time of heightened uncertainty. You’ll also receive tools and templates to implement in your organization immediately.

Topics you’ll hear about include:

  • How to respond to a quickly evolving landscape and lead with organizational awareness and empathy
  • Creating an organizational mindset that allows you to be attractive in a restrictive market
  • How to leverage community partnerships and creative marketing ideas to generate revenue 

Download the presentation shared in the video here.

About the Presenters

Dr. Alex Harris is an academician, humanitarian, singer/songwriter and is an Orchard/Cross the Line Music/SONY Music Entertainment recording artist. Beyond his billboard hits, four #1 singles and traveling the world, Dr. Harris is co-founder of the Arts Conservatory for Teens (ACT). ACT utilizes the performing visual arts and creative critical thinking to educate, empower and enrich the lives of youth and teens, especially disadvantaged and high-risk youth and teens.

Dr. Harris earned his Bachelor of Arts in Human Services and Psychology from LaGrange College. He then went on to receive his Master’s in Theology (MTS) and Social Work (MSW) from Boston University, an extended graduate study in Adolescent Counseling at Harvard University, and his doctoral degree in Organizational Leadership and Curriculum Development at Nova Southeastern University.

Dr. Harris firmly believes in an artist’s social responsibility; the accountability of empowering local communities to provide equitable and equal access to all people, that each has the opportunity to excel and
realize her or his dream regardless of the person’s circumstance at birth. For Alex, it is his ACT institution that provides the platform for that social responsibility. He has made it his duty to empower the youth of socioeconomically challenged communities worldwide.

Emily Ghosh Harris is the founder of Soul Media Global with an extensive digital media background, specializing in brand development and experiential marketing. She has spearheaded digital marketing campaigns and developed brand strategies for some of the largest media companies in the world, multi-billion dollar brands, startups and everything in between. Emily has dedicated her career to helping individuals and businesses of all sizes reach their highest potential. Emily is also the host of The Soul Collective podcast. 

More Resources for Nonprofits

COVID-19 Nonprofit Resource Hub

WATCH: Strategies for Working Remotely in Uncertain Times

WATCH: Managing Uncertainty Amid Crisis

WATCH: DOs and DON’Ts of Fundraising During a Crisis

WATCH: Grant Writing in Uncertain Times

WATCH: How to Cope with COVID-19 Anxiety

WATCH: Managing Mental and Emotional Exhaustion

WATCH: Position Your Nonprofit for Long-Term Success

For more information and assistance specific to nonprofits, check out our COVID-19 Nonprofit Resource Hub. To learn about all events and resources from the Nonprofit Leadership Center, sign up to receive our weekly NLC e-newsletter, and follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram

Responding to Racial Inequities with Outrage and Optimism

Emily H. Benham, FAHP, CFRE, CEO, NLC News

The past few months have been extraordinarily difficult for our community and our nation. While nonprofit organizations continue to show up and step up to help solve our greatest challenges, nonprofit leaders are hurting just as so many Americans are right now. Some of you may be processing your anger, frustration and sadness. Some of you may be grappling with how to fix problems that seem overwhelming. Some of you may be wondering why your peers and colleagues aren’t saying or doing more.

At the Nonprofit Leadership Center, we find ourselves both outraged and optimistic. Those two sentiments may not seem to go together, but we believe one must fuel the other.

First, we are absolutely outraged by the racial hatred, injustice and violence we’ve witnessed from the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and so many innocent men and women of color during the past weeks and decades. We stand with you and your families and with all the nonprofits and change-agents who are committed to enacting positive change in our communities.

And amidst this outrage, we still feel a sense of optimism. That’s because we see first-hand every day what’s possible when purposeful nonprofit leaders and passionate citizens come together to respond to our most pressing and painful issues. While our systems may be broken, we also have the power to fix them, together.

So, what do we do next? I encourage us all to listen, learn and speak up.

1. Listen

Listen to your colleagues, neighbors, friends and constituents. Ask them how they are doing and truly hear their perspectives and pain. If you are struggling to talk with your team or others about what is happening right now, I’ve found the tools and resources from the Council of Nonprofits on why diversity, equity and inclusion matter to nonprofits helpful, as well as Mandela SH Dixon’s article on talking about race with her white supervisor.

2. Learn

Learn from others by convening and connecting with leaders, community members and peers to strategize, organize and mobilize appropriate action. Take courses on topics that may feel out of your comfort zone and seek information on how to make personal and organizational changes that reflect the future we need to build. Community Tampa Bay and the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg both offer important resources to break cycles of inequity and cultivate inclusive leaders. As one of my favorite quotes reminds us: Change is the end result of all true learning (Leo Buscaglia).

3. Speak up

Good intentions are not the same as actions. Don’t stay silent on issues that are important. It’s hard to be wrong when you do what is right.

We don’t have all the answers today, and we certainly don’t yet have all the solutions. But I am confident that if we listen, learn and speak up together, we can turn our outrage into optimism and make the positive change we desperately need a reality.

Photo of Emily Benham, CEO of the Nonprofit Leadership Center

Emily H. Benham, FAHP, CFRE, is the CEO of the Nonprofit Leadership Center.

For the latest information, news and professional development opportunities for nonprofit leaders, sign up to receive the Nonprofit Leadership Center’s weekly email.