Meet the Newest Member of Team NLC

Emily H. Benham News

As a nonprofit that exists to support other nonprofits, the Nonprofit Leadership Center regularly assesses our offerings and operations to ensure we’re meeting the changing needs of the nonprofit sector. After completing our recent mid-year review and going through the hiring process for several open positions, we’re pleased to share some exciting announcements to deepen our collective impact.

Charlie Imbergamo will join Team NLC on September 30 as our new Director of Strategic Programs.

Charlie is a skilled leader known for his experience in mission advancement, building relationships, creating collaborative teams and establishing focused strategies in leadership and revenue development. Most recently, Charlie served as the President and CEO of Cristo Rey High School in Tampa Bay and has led several other learning institutions, including Incarnate Word Academy and Saint Joseph Academy in Texas. Charlie is an enthusiastic lifelong learner who has a deep dedication to community building. He has been active with NLC for years, currently serving as a member of CEO Circle #1 and is a past participant in our strategic decision-making cohort known as the Matrix Map.

In his role as Director of Strategic Programs, Charlie will oversee all four program areas within our mission offerings:

  1. Classroom learning opportunities (about 90 classes per year in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties focused on leadership development, board governance, financial management, fund development and communications/marketing)
  2. Custom solutions tailored to specific organization and team needs
  3. Conferences (annual Leadership Conference and fall Board & Senior Leadership Conference)
  4. Cohorts that bring together small groups of leaders to focus on specific topics or learning opportunities over a longer period of time (e.g., CEO Circles, emerging leaders, sustainability planning, etc.)

In the past, NLC staff leaders have been responsible for overseeing individual program divisions within our portfolio of offerings. We identified an opportunity to deepen integration and impact by shifting our open Director of Education and Communications position to this new Director of Strategic Programs. In this new role, Charlie will spend 60% of his time developing programs and facilitating trainings across the full spectrum of our learning opportunities. He will spend his remaining time working directly with nonprofit leaders to strengthen relationships and results. To support the operational aspects of this work, we have reallocated another open position to a Program Associate that will be posted on our job board in the coming weeks.

“I am thrilled to be joining the NLC team of lifelong learners. I look forward to working with nonprofit leaders to build capacity and to continue responding to the needs of our communities. The possibilities are endless when we work together!”

Charlie Imbergamo, Director of Strategic Programs at NLC

Charlie will be a regular contributor here on the NLC blog and will be spending a great deal of time out in the community with nonprofit leaders across the region. Charlie and our entire NLC team look forward to continuing to elevate the support we provide to our sector. You can contact Charlie at to share your ongoing feedback and ideas as we work together to develop and connect nonprofit leaders to strengthen organizations and our community.

5 Common Misconceptions about Organizational Culture

Margarita Sarmiento Tips

Your organizational culture impacts every aspect of your business, from employee productivity and engagement to donor retention and growth. Establishing a healthy environment for employee and organizational growth is crucial, and it can be costly if not taken seriously. Culture can help leaders achieve goals and objectives, but it can also create obstacles that prevent employees from doing their best work. Nonprofit organizations that minimize or fail to recognize culture’s important role will limit their ability to move their mission and organization forward.

Here are five common misconceptions about organizational culture to avoid at your organization.

5 Common Mistakes to Avoid about Organizational Culture from NLC

1. Only large organizations and companies need to worry about their company culture.
Organizational culture is your organization’s personality. Just as a baby exhibits its unique personality at a very young age, organizational culture can be seen in groups and organizations of all sizes — from five employees to 50,000. Culture serves as a driving force, connecting employees to one another and to your organization’s mission. It can also create confusion or lack of focus when not addressed.

2. Culture happens organically. Sometimes it works, and other times it doesn’t.
A strong organizational culture is not a random trait determined by fate. It’s something that can be learned and developed. In his best-selling book “The Culture Code,” Daniel Coyle shares that business leaders can learn to dial in to behaviors that create an extraordinarily effective culture. The first step is understanding that authentic relationships and transparency in leadership are foundational to strong, healthy organizational cultures. By thinking strategically and paying attention to what is happening in your organization, you can achieve closeness, trust and cohesion.  

3. Culture is a touchy-feely concept that doesn’t impact the bottom line significantly.
Evidence shows that groups working in a strong, positive environment will thrive, increasing efficiency and productivity and strengthening their sense of connection and organizational effectiveness. Conversely, an unhealthy or broken environment can destroy an organization. Detached employees lead to higher turnover, a lack of connection to customers and purpose and lower profits, which can negatively impact your bottom line. According to a Harvard study by J. Kotter and J. Heskett of more than 200 companies, a strong culture will increase a company’s net income 756% over 11 years. High organizational performance is accomplished when all the parts of an organization come together, performing at high levels.

4. Culture is simply about people getting along.
It’s true that one of the strongest indicators of your organizational culture is the health of the interpersonal relationships among your staff and between leadership and staff. But culture is so much more than how people interact. Culture, in its broadest sense, takes into account things like organizational structure, values and beliefs, unspoken behavioral norms, management and leadership practices, clarity of roles, effectiveness of meetings, group successes and outcomes, and commitment to mission and purpose … just to name a few. Culture drives employee performance. It’s the foundation of organizational norms and practices, and it can be seen in how people within an organization treat one another and their attitudes toward customers and constituents. Culture can even be tangibly reflected in the physical environment — from how work areas are set-up to the knick-knacks and pictures on desks.

5. Once a strong culture is in place, it will take care of itself.
Just as no organization remains static, culture will continue to evolve over time. Employees move and are promoted, customer needs change, mergers and acquisitions create a need for restructuring, leadership shifts, technological advances create demands for new processes and positions, and so on. The stronger and more grounded an organization is to its culture, the smoother its staff will weather change. A strong leadership team is in tune with cultural shifts and acknowledges the need to routinely assess and make appropriate adjustments when necessary.

Author Simon Sinek said it best: “Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” A strong culture creates a stronger sense of purpose and employee commitment, enhanced trust and cooperation, higher levels of respect around disagreements, and a stronger bottom-line for companies. The most successful organizations foster cultures that allow their employees to grow and thrive.

Enhance Your Nonprofit’s Organizational Culture and Climate

If your nonprofit organization needs support developing and retaining your best staff in an ever-changing workforce, join the Nonprofit Leadership Center and facilitator Margarita Sarmiento for an upcoming training class. See all upcoming classes and register HERE.

5 Common Misconceptions about Organizational Culture

Margarita Sarmiento 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.

15 Inspiring Quotes for Nonprofit Leaders

Team NLC Tips

Nonprofit leaders across our nation are working on the most challenging and important issues of our time. From hunger and homelessness to disease prevention and discrimination, the issues we tackle and the limited resources we do it with can be taxing. If you’re ever doubting yourself or your ability to realize your mission, here are 15 inspiring quotes to keep you motivated and your North Star shining.

15 inspiring quotes for nonprofit leaders from NLC

“Don’t tell us all the reasons this might not work. Tell us all the ways it could work.”

— John Wood

“Leaders become great not because of their power but, because of their ability to empower others.”

— John Maxwell

“Work for a cause, not for applause. Live life to express, not to impress. Don’t strive to make your presence noticed, just make your absence felt.”

— Unknown

“The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

— Socrates

“Everything is possible, even the impossible.”

— Mary Poppins

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

— Rob Siltanen

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

— Mark Twain

“Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”  

— William Pollard

“Fear will give us a reason not to try; hope will give us a reason not to listen.”

— Rob Goff

”Bite off more than you can chew, then chew it.”

— Ella Williams

“Believe in your heart that you’re meant to live a life full of passion, purpose, magic and miracles.” 

― Roy T. Bennett

“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.”

— Beverly Sills

“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.

— Tom Hanks in “A League of Their Own”

“Be stubborn about your goals and flexible about your methods.”

— Unknown

“Change is the end result of all true learning.”

—  Leo Buscaglia

“Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”

— Martin Luther King, Jr.

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10 Questions with Frameworks Board Chair Jennifer Garcia

Team NLC Stories

As a nonprofit that exists to support other nonprofits, 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 each month who are making an enduring impact on our communities. Today, we’re thrilled to introduce you to Jennifer Garcia, board chair of Frameworks.

10 Questions with Frameworks Board Chair Jennifer Garcia on NLC

Jennifer was a senior executive immunology specialist at Janssen Biotech, Inc./Johnson & Johnson where she was among the top 10% of sales leaders. After 21 years in the pharmaceutical/biotech industry, Jennifer started Whole Point Consulting, combining her corporate experience and development training to help individuals and organizations increase their probability of success, both personally and professionally. Early in her career, she made cold calls in advertising sales where 80% of the conversations ended in failure. Jenn credits this experience to building a resilience where she learned how to ask powerful questions and engage customers in unique ways to not only create strong relationships but also to change human behavior. As the board chair of Frameworks, Jenn brings her business experience and sales expertise to improve our nonprofit community and change lives.  

Here’s what Jenn had to say about how nonprofits can build more transformational relationships, better engage their boards and more.

Q1. What advice would you share with nonprofit leaders who want to more effectively deepen relationships that lead to loyal supporters/donors?

Jenn: In my opinion, this is where for-profit and nonprofit values align: knowing your supporters — essentially your customers — is crucial. In my corporate experience, we believed every meeting was an opportunity, and we needed to be open to all outcomes. This openness is part of entering a meeting in good faith. We want to believe in what each person may bring to the discussion. What I found to be the most successful tool in leading was the ability to develop emotional connections with each person I had the pleasure of meeting. Being able to recognize their needs and place them in the center of the conversation while balancing my own goals creates the space for the opportunity to arise and solutions to be discussed. It’s this magical space created between the leader and each supporter that is the alchemy that can turn supporters into long-term donors. 

Q2. As the chair of the board of directors for Frameworks, tell us a little bit about the organization’s mission and what drew you to serve this nonprofit.

Jenn: At Frameworks, we work closely with classroom teachers and school leadership to help reshape learning to ensure social, emotional and academic skills combined are an integral part of the school culture. Our mission is to empower educators and other youth services professionals with training, coaching and research-based resources to equip students with social and emotional skills.

My time as a college intern with the State Attorney’s Office Juvenile Division opened my eyes and my heart to the need for children to understand how their emotions drive their behaviors. When I learned that Frameworks gives our youth the tools to manage their emotions before their feelings take over, I knew that was the missing piece all those years ago when I was in the courtroom each day watching children struggle to explain their decision-making. 

Q3. How has serving on a nonprofit board made you a more effective business leader?

Jenn: Coming from the corporate world where there is pressure to fit everyone into a specific structure with defined business practices, I had to learn a more dynamic method of leadership, in which I could bring many different backgrounds and skill sets together to support our common cause. I view my Board of Directors as my clients, and they need to be heard, valued and deserve to feel internally rewarded for their devotion to our mission. I am constantly in awe of the expertise we have in the boardroom and have learned quite a bit from each of them. This collective wisdom has been such a gift in my journey of leadership.

Q4. What advice would you give to nonprofit CEOs and leaders on how to most effectively engage their board of directors? Anything they should avoid?

Jenn: One of the most effective ways leaders can engage their boards is through authentic and transparent dialogue during board meetings and committee meetings. Trust plays a vital role in this engagement; therefore, designing the relationship to hold this value up front is important. When we trust each other to be open, we can take advantage of creative solutions. When a CEO and their board engage, they are enabling the organization to have confidence in decision-making. This creative engagement strengthens that sense of unity and provides a foundation for all to feel secure in the shared direction and goals. Avoiding a space of rigidity is important, as is the usual first rule of business — no surprises.

Q5: What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to new professionals or emerging leaders?

Jenn: Know yourself, your strengths and your weaknesses. Hold the mirror up and work toward inner growth as much as you work toward outer solutions. The psychologist C.G. Jung called this “shadow-work,” and it enables you to be more accountable as a leader and a more authentic advocate for your people.  

Q6. At NLC, we’re huge advocates of lifelong learning. What’s the one area you still want to hone or learn more about?

Jenn: I love learning! I have many things I’m still interested in learning, one of which is how to connect the individual’s creativity with the group’s activity. There’s extremely rich material on the synergy between the individual who has something to contribute and the group that will ultimately deliver the goods. This dynamic interplay between the one and the many is of special interest to me. 


Q7. What’s the best book on leadership or professional development you think every nonprofit leader should read?

Jenn: I have three books to recommend. Dan Goleman’s “Primal Leadership,” Carol Pearson’s “Awakening the Heroes Within” and Simon Sinek’s “Start with WHY.” Dan Goleman, a keynote speaker at one of Frameworks’ Head & Heart luncheons, discusses the importance of emotional intelligence and why it’s a necessary skill for leaders. Carol Pearson shares the 12 archetypes that can aid inner development and help you understand how you’re showing up in the world. Simon Sinek popularized the notion of purpose and can help nonprofit leaders formulate their “why,” which is crucial in fundraising for their mission.

Q8. What’s something interesting about you that most people don’t know?

Jenn: I completed three triathlons, one of which I was last out of the water, but I finished! I think that’s interesting because, in my current life, no one would believe me if I told them that, especially my current workout partners. Haha!

Q9. What food could you not live without?

Jenn: Hands down, Pane Rustica’s green tea and margherita pizza. 

Q10. Speaking of food, if you could share a meal with anyone currently alive today, who would it be and why?

Jenn: There are many I would like to break bread with! I was fortunate to have dinner with Carol Pearson, the author referenced above and whose work I have come to value as I appreciate her Jungian perspective on organizations. As a consultant, these principles are especially valuable to transformative leadership, and therefore, a bit more time with Carol is high on the list.

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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Should You Pursue a Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management?

Team NLC Leadership

The number of students and professionals who have received a graduate certificate doubled from 2000 to 2014, according to Statista. In fact, research from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce reveals that certificates are the fastest growing form of postsecondary credentials in the nation. So how do you know if pursuing a graduate certificate in nonprofit management is right for you?

A graduate certificate in nonprofit management can be the gateway to career growth and impact for both new and seasoned nonprofit professionals. Here’s a look into what’s involved, the key benefits and first-hand experience from three recent graduates.

What can you expect from a nonprofit management graduate certificate program?

The Nonprofit Leadership Center offers a graduate certificate in nonprofit management in collaboration with the University of Tampa. The program is taught by Ph.D. faculty in partnership with leading nonprofit practitioners.

Why you should pursue a graduate certificate in nonprofit management via NLC

The courses are delivered as four intensive one-week seminars over 18 months, representing 12 credit hours of graduate-level instruction. Candidates must spend two weeks in a calendar year away from their offices for the seminars with their fellow program participants.  

Certificate candidates are immersed in a life-changing experience with other organizational leaders and future leaders. Students increase their knowledge of the local nonprofit sector, work alongside professionals from other organizations to solve real-world challenges and network with the brightest minds in the field. 

Why you should pursue a graduate certificate in nonprofit management via NLC

Students work in teams on real-world projects facing nonprofit organizations represented in the program. The journey culminates by each student group presenting their comprehensive plans to a panel of business and nonprofit professionals.

Why you should pursue a graduate certificate in nonprofit management via NLC

What are the benefits of pursuing a graduate certificate in nonprofit management?

Should you invest your time and money in a graduate certificate? Here are three benefits to consider.

1. Enhance Your Skills to Elevate Your Impact
For nonprofit leaders and those considering a career in the nonprofit sector, a graduate certificate in nonprofit management helps you take a big-picture approach to being strategic and efficient in our ever-changing world. Associate professor of management at the University of Tampa and the program director for our graduate certificate in nonprofit management Amy Beekman, Ph.D., says the program prepares the next generation of nonprofit leaders to build capacity that strengthens organizations and communities by sharpening skills in many different areas of management. Regardless of your area of focus, a graduate certificate in nonprofit management opens you up to every aspect of running a nonprofit successfully — from strategic planning and board governance to marketing communications, financial management and fundraising. The comprehensive approach ensures leaders are ready and able to make a lasting impact for their employees, volunteers, contituents and communities.

2. Expand Your Network
Being part of a graduate certificate program is a unique way to connect with other leaders and grow your professional network. Students and executives often forge relationships that lead not only to best practice sharing and problem-solving, but also to hiring fellow students or alumni. Graduates of the nonprofit management certificate program at the University of Tampa also enjoy alumni gatherings to expand networking opportunities and their ability to call on experts across the region for advice, collaborations and more.

3. Elevate Your Career Opportunities
In addition to the added credentials and expertise you gain from a graduate certificate in nonprofit management, a recent report from Forbes showed that those who’ve earned a graduate certificate receive an estimated 13% to 25% increase in salary. Your experience and earning potential can grow significantly through lifelong learning.

What are nonprofit leaders saying about their experience?

Wondering what your peers and colleagues think about their experience in NLC’s graduate certificate in nonprofit management program at UT? Was it worth the time and investment? Three recent graduates share their perspective on what they learned and if you should consider it.

Take the next step.

Take the next step in your career and personal development by learning more about the graduate certificate in nonprofit management at UT. Find upcoming info sessions, tuition costs and more here.

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How to Create Breakthrough Communications on a Budget

Jesica D'Avanza Tips

Picture this: You’re a nonprofit organization that does critical work to improve your community. You’ve identified a science-backed solution that will make a significant impact on countless individuals and families, but it requires parents, educators, business executives and community leaders to know about it and take action. It’s a big undertaking, but your team is up to the task. There’s just one problem … your annual communications budget is a meager 0.02% of your total annual budget — barely enough to get some brochures or signage printed.

This is a real-life example from a nonprofit I recently met with that epitomizes the age-old adage of marketing on a shoestring budget. For some nonprofits, their communications outlook is not so dire. But for most of us in the nonprofit sector, we consistently struggle with the need for more communications and marketing resources than our budgets allow. So, how do we create breakthrough communications on a budget in a world where the only messages that seem to rise to the top have paid advertising behind them?

A team of Nonprofit Leadership Center partners and leaders set out to answer this question at the recent 2019 Public Relations Society of America’s Sunshine Conference — the premier annual conference for communications professionals from across the state of Florida.

Nonprofit communications tips

Led by NLC’s board chair and Girl Scouts of West Central Florida CEO Jessica Muroff, NLC’s former director of education and communications Jennifer Dodd and yours truly (Jesica D’Avanza, founder and chief strategy officer at Round Square — a brand and communications consultancy for nonprofits), we offered practical tips and advice for nonprofit communicators on a budget. From our breakout room to your boardroom, here are the top 10 takeaways to help improve your nonprofit communications and break through on a budget.

1. Resist the urge to run toward tactics.

In our increasingly competitive giving environment, the sense of urgency to generate funds today often requires immediate action that can lead to tactical, transactional activities over thoughtful and targeted strategies. While social media campaigns, e-newsletters and community events are important, you’ll be most effective when you give yourself the time and space to understand your audiences, build and strengthen relationships with them and develop communications designed to tap into what will move them to action. The most powerful thing nonprofits can do to improve their communications is to focus. By honing in on what’s most important to achieve and most likely to generate results, you can focus your limited time and resources to drive strategic outcomes rather than sprinkling them across many different priorities with reduced impact.

2. Ask your audiences about themselves.

The key to effective communications is understanding what motivates or limits your audiences’ engagement. But you don’t need a robust market research budget to communicate with greater impact. Take time to sit down with a cross-section of your various stakeholders and ask them what their current perceptions are of your organization, what strengths and challenges they see with your programming, what would inspire them to get or stay involved and what would prevent them from engaging. Qualitative interviews with as few as 10 individuals who reflect your audience base can reveal important themes and insights to inform your messaging and communications strategies. Doing this on an annual basis ensures you are having a regular dialogue with those you serve and keeps a pulse on your ground-game.

3. Define and articulate impact.

This sounds like a no-brainer, but many nonprofits struggle to demonstrate their impact beyond counting numbers of individuals served or dollars invested. Sit down with your leadership team to define what impact truly looks like for your organization and how you can measure it. How are people benefiting from your services? How have their lives changed? How has your impact contributed to overall community improvements? Whose stories can you identify and elevate to make that impact real? Donors and supporters want to understand the impact they’re making. Make sure the way you’re measuring and messaging about it is a story that’s clear and compelling.

4. Think about communications beyond a department.

Communications is not just the responsibility of your communications and marketing department; every person that works at your organization is responsible for helping convey what you do, how you do it and why it matters. Likewise, your brand should be a guide for every decision your organization makes and every action it takes. Think about communications as much broader than a single individual or department. What can every staff member and volunteer do to contribute to your story?

5. Remember, it’s about them not us.

As hard as this may be to hear, few people really care about your organization — they care about how your organization benefits them, their families and their community. Today, people say they wouldn’t care if 77% of brands disappeared (Havas Group). As nonprofits, we must lead with our audiences and not ourselves. Tapping into universal truths that everyone can relate to and leading with your audiences’ needs is the first place to look to drive relevance and resonance.

6. Create a year-long road map.

One of the simplest things you can do to ensure a more effective communications approach is to create a strategic content calendar to guide all your communications efforts. This spreadsheet maps what’s happening in the world around you, popular moments in time, sector or service-related issues/opportunities, local community events and your organizational offerings. By mapping out a flow for content and messaging topics in advance, you can ensure the right mix of communications — from emerging news and organizational updates to community-curated content, questions that spark conversation and simple ways to “surprise and delight” your audiences. A strategic content calendar can help ensure your communications channels are telling a strategic story, week to week and month to month, and are not just a catch-all for everything you need to say and could possibly ever say.

7. Use other people’s megaphones.

Lean on community partners, business sponsors and other influencers to help you extend your messages in ways you would not be able to do on your own. From strategic collaborations with the business community to digital influencers who have a personal experience with your mission, identify authentic voices and companies that believe in your mission and can elevate your work without the added cost. Likewise, it’s imperative that you find ways to add value to your partners — from introducing them to new audiences and recognizing them on your channels to being a trusted thought leader for information and guidance in your area of expertise.

8. Don’t underestimate the power of a hand-written note.

What’s old is new again, and that’s certainly true when it comes to the power of human connection. The Girl Scouts of West Central Florida sends hand-written congratulatory notes to women who are honored throughout the year in the community. Finding ways to honor female leaders who are doing amazing things in the community is an authentic extension of the organization’s brand to develop strong girls who become strong women. Showing you care is a simple, yet powerful way for your senior leaders to build relationships with other community leaders and start conversations that can lead to collaboration and community change.

9. Start from within.

So often when it comes to communications, nonprofits think about how we’re communicating externally. But the best communications start from within our own teams. Nonprofit leaders must cultivate a culture that elevates customer experience, consistent communications and authenticity. When everyone is on the same page and they understand the power their role can play in your larger story, your internal stakeholders become your most powerful ambassadors. Make this an ongoing, regular part of the dialogue that extends from day one on-boarding to weekly and monthly team meetings and all-staff retreats.

10. Let go of what’s not serving you.

With limited time and resources, you can’t do everything. Focus on where you can have the deepest impact. Look at your online data and analytics and focus your efforts on the communications channels and content topics that are driving traffic and engagement. Consider de-prioritizing the ones that are not. Don’t just be on Instagram because everyone else is. Make sure you’re being intentional about the time and strategies you have and make every communication count.

Get nonprofit leadership tips and tools delivered to your inbox by joining our VIP list. You’ll receive our weekly NLC e-newsletter, which also includes the latest nonprofit trainings, classes and events at NLC to help you thrive personally and professionally.

Jesica D’Avanza, MPA, APR, is an award-winning communications leader who works at the intersection of brand and business strategy to make our world a better place. As owner and chief strategy officer at Round Square, she applies nearly two decades of experience in brand and communications strategy to help nonprofits and mission-driven organizations transform their communications for greater relevance, resonance and results. Her consultancy supports clients across health care, wellness, education, environmental and nonprofit arenas.

Jesica has served in a variety of national communications and marketing leadership roles for organizations like the American Cancer Society and Muscular Dystrophy Association. She holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from Florida State University and her Accreditation in Public Relations.

Grant Applications Now Being Accepted to Drive Census Participation

Team NLC News

Allegany Franciscan Ministries is now accepting grant applications from organizations working in targeted communities that have historically low rates of participation in the Census to drive 2020 outreach.

The next Census is scheduled to occur in April 2020. Partcipation is critical to determine how federal grant funding and assistance programs are allocated to states and local nonprofits to solve critical social needs facing individuals, families and our communities.

The Allegany Franciscan Ministries’ Tau Grants support nonprofit organizations in the Tampa Bay and Palm Beach regions with budgets of $2 million or less to reach communities that have historically low rates of participation in the Census to ensure as many households participate as possible. Strategies and community outreach efforts may include …

  • Convening community complete count groups or subcommittees
  • Conducting targeted communications efforts
  • Organizing events to promote participation
  • Providing organizational capacity to support Census 2020 work
  • Supporting collaborations between local community groups to engage in outreach
  • Establishing community sites to provide information and assistance

The deadline to apply for the first cycle of Tau Grant funding is Thursday, September 12, 2019, at noon ET.

Learn more about this funding opportunity, eligibility criteria and guidelines here, or contact Brittney Frazier at 727-507-9668 or

3 Ways to Increase Your Productivity at Work (without Working More)

Sara Leonard Tips

Being on a plane and disconnected from the Internet made me realize how out of practice I’ve gotten at staying totally focused. I found myself checking the email icon on my laptop regularly to see if I had any new messages, even though I wasn’t connected to the WiFi.

Did life as I know it cease to exist? Of course not. I was actually getting more done. There was a crying baby behind me and a guy snoring next to me, but I was more productive than usual. How? The distractions from my fellow passengers were more like white noise, while the distraction of email requires our brains to shift gears.

Research says we lose 15 minutes when we hop from task to task. I could have purchased internet access on that flight, but I was more productive by focusing on the tasks at hand.


So what can we all learn from my flight experience about increasing productivity at work and becoming a less distracted leader? Here are three suggestions for becoming a more present leader.

3 Ways to Increase Your Productivity at Work and Stay Focused

1. Close your door more.
While having an open-door policy is important for cultivating a strong culture, there are times when you need to minimize distractions, such as drop-by meetings and hallway conversations. Let your teammates know that you need some time to focus on an important task and when you’ll be available later that day. Consider scheduling some closed door time during regular intervals each week.

2. Work out of the office.
Literally removing yourself from the daily distractions of the workplace can help you focus. Whether you take a few hours to work at a coffee shop or public library during their slower times or take a day to work from home, working outside the office can help you be more productive from time to time. Need more proof? Check out this TED Talk: “Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work.”

3. Schedule the big things.
Determine the time of day when you’re most productive, and spend those hours on your most important tasks, like creating a major gift solicitation strategy or writing your annual appeal letter. Schedule “busy time” on your calendar for those periods to protect that time from other demands or focusing on the “small stuff.”

Our nonprofit work saves and changes lives. It’s worthy of your focus. Don’t let the daily distractions keep you from changing our community.

Get nonprofit leadership tips and tools delivered to your inbox by joining our VIP list. You’ll receive our weekly NLC e-newsletter, which also includes the latest nonprofit trainings, classes and events at NLC to help you thrive personally and professionally.

Sara Leonard, MBA, CFRE
, is a fundraising and board governance consultant. She created the Fund Development Academy at the Nonprofit Leadership Center of Tampa Bay, where she is still a trainer.

Her firm, the Sara Leonard Group, delivers professional guidance, education and facilitation to those responsible for fund development, including fundraising professionals, CEOs, CFOs, board members and other nonprofit staff.

10 Questions with Nonprofit Leadership Center CEO Emily Benham

Team NLC Stories

As a nonprofit that exists to support other nonprofits, our team at the Nonprofit Leadership Center believes that the best lessons come from nonprofit leaders themselves. Developing and connecting nonprofit leaders to strengthen organizations and our community starts with celebrating and elevating others who are doing exceptional work to improve lives, change outcomes and enhance our world.

We’re thrilled to launch our new 10 Questions With Series that profiles nonprofit and business leaders across the Tampa Bay region each month who are making an enduring impact on our communities. We thought it was only fitting to start with our own CEO Emily H. Benham before asking others to sit in the hot seat.

Emily has led the Nonprofit Leadership Center as CEO for the past five years. Prior to joining Team NLC, she spent more than 15 years at the Bayfront Health Foundation in development. She lives by the mantra “cultivate an attitude of gratitude — every day in all that you do.” When Emily is not at work, you can find her in the barn with her horse Current Affair.

Q1. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Emily: I wanted to be a doctor. I love science. I was going to go to medical school. In college, I was pre-med and a music major. My experiments blew up one time too many, and I retreated to the music building where I stayed.

Q2. What drew you to your current role as CEO of the Nonprofit Leadership Center?

Emily: My love of learning. I had an opportunity to make a career transition, and I stepped back and asked myself what I’ve always loved to do. I loved to learn. This was the perfect home for me. At NLC, we offer a variety of lifelong learning opportunities that develop and connect nonprofit leaders to strengthen organizations and communities.

Q3. What do you think is the most important factor to attract today’s donors in an ever-changing world?

Emily: More than anything, it’s an authentic connection. People are looking for that connection to a person, a cause and an institution. That comes with developing relationships over a period of time and stepping away from the transactional nature of fundraising to really focus on transformational relationships. It’s about knowing what your institution needs, knowing what your donor loves and putting those two things together.

Q4. Why do you think so many nonprofits struggle to get out of the transactional mode?

Emily: I think it’s a combination of things. It’s the everyday pressures of having payroll to meet, a budget to meet and getting money in the door today. Organizations aren’t necessarily taking the long-term view on needing to build a relationship with a donor to understand them and why they care or don’t care about their organization before actually making an ask. Our timeline is not necessarily our donor’s timeline, and I think we forget that.

Q5. What is the most important piece of advice you’d give to new professionals or emerging leaders?

Emily: Lift your heads up from your personal dashboards. They’re very important and serve as guideposts, but lift your heads up from that and listen, watch and connect to those around you. You’re going to learn the most from watching and connecting to others.

Additionally, I always coach emerging leaders to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. I once worked at an organization that received the largest gift in the institution’s history. We were obviously thrilled. This was going to have a huge impact on the organization and those we served. However, the top priority for one of my colleagues was whether or not he was going to have to change his business card. Although I was frustrated by his response, I realized that from his perspective, the gift was not going to make his job any easier and only meant that the name of his department was going to change. Putting myself in my colleague’s shoes allowed me to better understand his perspective and how to best respond.

Q6. As the CEO of NLC, we all know you’re a self-proclaimed lifelong learner. Although you’re a seasoned leader, what do you still want to learn more about?

Emily: Personally, I want to learn how to play the guitar. I want to learn how to decorate a cake, because I love baking. My other love is riding horses, and I have a now 17-year-old retired thoroughbred who I am always learning to do more with.

Professionally, I’d like to learn more about coaching. I’m exploring becoming certified in coaching because I see a lot of need in the field and I always want to be sure, while we do it informally every day, that I know everything I need to know to be able to help people excel. Additionally, I always think I can learn more about accounting, so I’m going to take some more accounting courses here at NLC.

Q7: What’s the best book you’ve read that every nonprofit leader should read?

Emily: I think Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh. Tony Hsieh is the CEO of Zappos. He’s an amazing leader who created a culture in his workplace of happiness. That comes out through every person you talk to on the phone of delighting the customer. We’ve modeled a lot of our practices here at NLC on him and his company, and I think that’s the way that businesses and nonprofits can really distinguish themselves.

Q8: What’s something interesting that most people wouldn’t know about you?

Emily: I play the cello and met my husband in our college orchestra.

Q9: Being a music major and meeting your husband in your college orchestra, you’re clearly a music buff. What’s on your current playlist?

Emily: Well, I just bought a pick-up truck and have a six-month subscription to satellite radio. I’m loving the symphony channel. Listening to classical symphony music brings me delight and happiness every time I drive my truck.

Q10: What food could you not live without?

Emily: Coffee. Is coffee a food? If coffee’s a food, then it’s coffee.

BONUS QUESTION: What’s your favorite class or series you’re currently offering at NLC that nonprofit leaders shouldn’t miss?

Emily: This question is way too hard. If I had to choose, it would be our upcoming Board & Senior Leadership Conference in November. The issue of organizational culture is so important for nonprofits to get their arms around, and this event will help attendees with steps they can take to either build a culture or change a culture. I’m really excited about that.

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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How to Get Gen Z to Care about Your Cause

Team NLC Tips

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

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

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

4 Ways Nonprofits Can Authentically Engage Gen Z

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

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

1. Offer transformational experiences, not transactional one-offs

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

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

2. Simplify and visualize your message across screens

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

3. Be intentional about demonstrating your impact

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

4. Keep the bigger picture in mind

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

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

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