Strengthening Our Nonprofit Community

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How Much Can You Do in an Hour?

February 27th, 2019

How Much Can You Do in an Hour? by Mary Moss, Partner

It turns out, a lot!

Have you ever been in a meeting and caught yourself yawning without opening your mouth where your nostrils expand, and you pray no one is watching? This is a dead give-away that the meeting has gone on too long.

I am a keen observer of how different leaders run meetings. Some people process aloud, some don’t say a word, and some insist that everyone say something.  Some prefer to set a time limit; others intentionally do not. Some prepare ahead of time and follow an agenda; others cannot be constrained to an agenda.

I have become a huge proponent of the one-hour meeting. Strong meeting management values other people’s time. For example, my Rotary runs a tight ship – meetings are one hour, although people can come earlier to eat and socialize. We begin and end on time every week. In addition, two leading surgeons who have chaired campaigns told me from the get-go that we had to have one-hour meetings due to their schedules. The former mayor of a leading Triangle city runs his meetings sharply for one hour. I have not perfected it, but I am practicing what I preach.

Five tips for the one-hour meeting:

  1. A one-hour meeting must be led by someone who is not afraid to take charge of the agenda.
  2. Prepare the agenda in advance with timed agenda topics and times written on the agenda. Have a discussion in advance with key participants about desired outcomes so that meaningful discussion can be aimed squarely at the agenda topic.
  3. Plan only what you can accomplish. Think carefully about what has to happen and what can be accomplished outside of the meeting in email or with a phone call.
  4. Begin the meeting exactly on time, even if everyone has not arrived yet. You have to train the group on your expectations, which include reading all materials sent in advance of the meeting.
  5. End the meeting on time, even if items have to be deferred.

Lessons learned from my experience:

  • By practicing the discipline of a one-hour meeting, you yourself will become a better leader, more sensitive to everyone’s time, as you hone your skills on time and meeting management.
  • Everyone leaves the meeting informed, invigorated, and ready to take on next steps. You will see fewer (hidden) yawns and time-checks. People will look forward to the next meeting because they were not exhausted from this one.
  • You and others have more time in the day to do your work.

Give this a try. I think you will like what you see. One of my favorite compliments is “You ran a good meeting,” and that never happens when the meeting is too long.

Making the Most of the Midpoint

February 27th, 2019

Making the Most of the Midpoint by Jeanne Murray, Senior Associate

In the fundraising world, beginnings and endings are cause for celebration: from kickoffs and launches, to end-of-year campaigns and recognition ceremonies. Yet significant work must also happen in the middle – whether that’s in mid-fiscal year, or in mid-campaign, as many of our clients are experiencing now.

Beware of just muddling through the middle! Take proactive steps that will inspire energy and passion among your volunteers, staff, board, and donors. Rekindle that burst of energy you felt at the outset of your year or campaign with these tips.

Six tips for midpoint action:

  1. Take stock. For an annual fund campaign, examine annual giving trends, and follow up with specific donors whose gifts traditionally came in during the first half of the year but aren’t in yet. For a capital campaign, go back to your campaign plan – are you doing what you planned you’d be doing at this point?
  2. Consider a re-boot. Particularly in campaigns, there’s often opportunity to look at a prospect pool in a new way. You can segment by interests, such as creating a women’s initiative, or by activity, such as developing a plan with a volunteer group. You can plan events to bring focus and attention to the project. On-site events for capital projects or small in-home gatherings can infuse energy, and piggy-backing campaign messages into your existing events can help people see the larger vision.
  3. Refresh the inspiration. When was the last time your board considered ways they can talk about the mission? At your next board meeting, spend 10 minutes in small groups discussing easy ways to start conversations with other people about your organization.
  4. Set mini-goals (and mini-deadlines). For an annual fund that closes June 30, what can you accomplish by May 1? For a capital campaign, can you create a challenge that will encourage donors to give? We’ve seen success with a wide range of giving challenges, for example, involving small groups of leadership donors to inspire first-time givers; time-bound challenges to motivate quick action; and volunteer-led challenges that focus on the goal of participation.
  5. Communicate what you’re doing. You’re accomplishing your mission each day. Stories abound! You don’t need a campaign launch or an end-of-year push to bring attention to the good work of your nonprofit. Tell your everyday stories in media as well as in informal settings, especially with your volunteers (who are your best word-of-mouth network.)
  6. Celebrate milestones. Similar to the point about communications, you don’t have to wait for major milestones to recognize the good work of your team. Whether it is effort by staff, contributions by volunteers, reaching a nice round number en route to your goal, or celebrating achievements of those you serve – look for ways to acknowledge accomplishments.

Let the mid-point serve as the accelerator to the finish line, not just a point in the middle of the continuum.

Double Digits

January 9th, 2019

Double Digits

by Susan Ross, Partner

Mary and I are thrilled that moss+ross is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month, and we just have to take a few minutes to reminisce about the journey.

Mary Moss and Susan Ross

Over 10 years we have helped build shelters, schools, cathedrals, synagogues and museums; stabilized reserve funds and helped nonprofits merge; conducted assessments and written strategic plans; launched new initiatives and helped others reboot; managed dozens and dozens of searches and placed many interim staff members along the way.  We have worked on campaigns from $600,000 to $4.2 billion, and we still get excited when our clients get a big gift or cut a ribbon or hit their goals.

moss+ross grew out of a shared vision to strengthen the capacity of our nonprofit community. We felt we could make a difference in this region with an expanded use of the skills honed as development professionals for respected educational institutions we loved.

Mary and I wanted to keep our hands in education, both higher ed and independent schools, but we also felt we could contribute to the growth of the community in which we’ve lived all our lives – specifically, the nonprofit and faith communities in Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, on whose boards and committees we had served over the years.  We understood how hard their staff and boards work, and how difficult it is to take on something bigger or different, particularly fundraising campaigns. And we knew how important it was to get it right.

Looking back, we had a nontraditional start. We had made the decision to go out on our own as an LLC just before the economy tanked in 2008. There we were: ready to run the campaigns that no one was conducting. However, we employed what would turn out to be our firm’s core values: creating opportunity, staying flexible and investing in each client’s success. We found other roles to play in strengthening the skills and operations of area nonprofits during those early years.

Along the way we built our team of 18 associates — talented professionals who have joined us from a variety of career paths and who share our commitment to creative and resourceful service to clients. Plus, we have had a lot of fun along the way! Over time, as the economy recovered and the pent-up need for funding meant the campaigns did eventually get underway, we were ready to roll with a larger team and broader consulting experience.

As we start our second decade, we have done our own strategic planning and will be rolling out our plans in future newsletters.  For now, we just want to say thank you to our 169 clients, our 18 associates (plus a handful that have retired or moved on), and the affiliate contractors involved in our newest venture, m+r interim solutions.  It has been a wonderful journey, with many more chapters to come.

“We are grateful for the ways the community has embraced us with a hug so strong

that we were inspired to grow and continue hiring our talented team of associates,

one by one, to meet the needs of the nonprofit sector.”  – Mary Moss

 

 

Take the Bored Out of Board Meetings

January 9th, 2019

Take the Bored Out of Board Meetings

by Anna White Hosea

Taylor Swift and Michael Scott were deep in conversation. Across the room, Buzz Lightyear and Frida Kahlo were having a spirited debate. Meanwhile, at the front of the room, two 90’s era game show hosts and Big Bird were watching the clock. Three… two… one… Buzzzzzz!

A Halloween party? A new game show on Bravo? No – a custom designed Board retreat for moss+ross client Marbles Kids Museum.

Anna White Hosea, Big Bird, Brooke Jenkins

Marbles is known for emphasizing play, fun and creativity. Mirroring their culture, Partner Mary Moss, Senior Associate Brooke Jenkins and I developed a creative costume/game show themed retreat. In one game, modeled after Family Feud, Board members and Senior Leadership laughed and learned about Marbles signature programs and community impact. During the Amazing [Marbles] Race, teams bonded while racing through the museum dressed in costume. During a “commercial break,” teams wrote and acted out commercials for museum audiences.

We were pleased to see how this “out of their chair” experience engaged everyone. Attendees reported that they felt “refreshed” and “energized,” that they learned more about museum programs, and that they felt inspired to “get under-the-hood of all that Marbles has to offer.” Board members also reported that they felt like they had strengthened their relationships with each other and senior staff.

Lest you think that this could only happen at Marbles, I recently worked with Linda Nunnallee, Executive Director of StepUp Ministry, to develop a “commercial break” for StepUp’s Board. Board members broke out into four groups and were asked to develop a commercial that would appeal to potential participants in StepUp’s employment and life skills programs.

One group wrote a radio ad and performed it so well that we were ready to purchase air time. Another group developed a social media post, hashtags and all, to target teenage participants. As at Marbles, we saw a Board that was turned on, highly engaged, refreshed and energized after their activity.

So, what can you do with your Board to keep them, well, not bored?

  • Know thy culture: Mirroring the culture of your organization is key. Some organizations are willing and able to get a little silly in the interest of board development, while others may need a more tailored approach.
  • Small groups work: Next time you have an issue that needs discussing, put your Board members into small groups. Everyone engages when the table gets smaller.
  • Make connections: Look for opportunities for Board members to engage with each other in ways that are meaningful and go beyond their title and board committee. Building relationships with one another strengthens their relationships with you.
  • Turn on their brains: If you and your staff are doing all the talking, your Board members brains are turned off. The one doing the talking is the one doing the learning. If you need Board members to learn about a new program you are launching, have them develop a skit or commercial to explain it to potential audiences. If you want them to better understand your physical space, send them on a scavenger hunt.
  • Have fun: We all need more play in our lives. Play can reduce stress, stimulate the brain and improve our relationships. Joy, silliness, and fun deserve a seat at the Board table, right next to strategic planning, balance sheets and fundraising plans.

Take a chance in 2019 and add some fun to your next Board meeting. And if you need a play partner, contact moss+ross to start a conversation about how to get your Board to turn-on and tune-in.

Anna White Hosea is an Associate with moss+ross. She is currently serving as the interim Director of Development for StepUp Ministry in Raleigh, NC.

 

Respect the Power of December

November 24th, 2018

Respect the Power of December

by Mary Moss

Beginning in late November, the temptation is to concede December as too busy and intrusive for fundraising.  We sometimes become tentative; we project what may not be true:  that December is a bad time to ask because we are invading personal space.

In fact, in my experience, the opposite is true.  Strong Decembers became a marker of my career.

Having worked in development for 37 years, I am very familiar with the pros and cons of this season as it relates to fundraising.

This off-schedule, nonworking time is in fact better for many families.  People are less rushed and have time to be thoughtful about what is important to them, including their giving.

As a general rule, I worked very hard leading up to the holidays and then again soon after they ended. I never got any real push-back because I always asked, “Is now a good time to talk?” and I was respectful and gave permission to say no, not now. Aside from people running from me at parties, I experienced a lot of success with this approach.

Nine tips for December:

  1. Make November count! Continue planting seeds by promoting your mission, making calls and sending personal emails and notes.  Promote year-end giving now.
  2. Create a list of donors who gave last November/December who have not yet given. Craft an “anniversary” note thanking them for their generous support at this time last year. Part of showing that you know them is understanding the traditional timing of their gift.
  3. Show appreciation to your donors and volunteers by sending special thank-you notes or calling them. Gratitude is important year round, and those who are thanked well become your strongest supporters.
  4. Connect with your key volunteers. If you know that they are likely to see their prospects over the holidays, find a way to mention how they are involved with the organization or campaign. You can keep it casual and not overstep, but if the timing is right it will remind them of your cause when they are making year-end gifts..
  5. Be positive and confident, remembering that many families will welcome a communication from you. By arranging a time that is convenient for them, you help them accomplish one of their own year-end tasks.
  6. Disseminate stock giving information in a timely fashion so people know how to do this when they are ready.
  7. Remember that someone will call the office on whatever day you finally give yourself a break. Have a plan for how you will receive gifts while your office is closed, and create explicit phone messages and written bounce-back email messages with instructions.
  8. Set up your January meetings now. Do not wait until the New Year arrives. Work now on your messaging for January 2019 (mid-year report, a year-end report, and an expression of gratitude).
  9. Recharge your own batteries, perhaps in early January. Remember that a  good December can make the year.

Enjoy the season, and make it count!

 

Tax Tips: Tax reform under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) affects individuals, businesses, tax exempt and government entities. This article looks at important elements of the new law that have an impact on individuals, and this series covers issues in more detail. (Thanks to our accountants at DMJ & Co., PLLC for permission to share their content.)

Our Role in the UNC Campaign

October 30th, 2018

by Susan Ross, Partner

Our region of North Carolina is filled with top-rated colleges and universities, all of which set high bars for development excellence.

Over the past eight years, moss+ross has worked on more than 20 engagements with UNC Chapel Hill and its various schools and programs.  We are particularly proud to be one of two named consulting partners for the $4.25 billion For All Kind campaign. Launched just over a year ago, the campaign has reached $2.3 billion in commitments.

moss+ross clients have included some of the biggest efforts on campus: the $1 billion UNC Medicine campaign, a $500 million Rams Club campaign, $400 million for the Kenan-Flagler Business School, and a $300 million focus for UNC Global.

We are also involved with schools and programs whose eight-figure goals present equally daunting challenges, such as the School of Law, the School of Media and Journalism, the School of Social Work, and The Graduate School (see complete list below).

Vice Chancellor David Routh has led a huge ramp-up in the Advancement Office at Carolina since his arrival. He and Associate Vice Chancellor Cynthia Butler have accompanied increased expectations with new funding for additional development staff, professional training, and improved infrastructure support.

Our knowledge of this fundraising environment and familiarity with the donor base and UNC team have been important differentiators, enabling moss+ross to provide the “local architect” services that have been needed across campus. Our partners and associates have the experience and credentials to take on anything, but we are also nimble enough and close enough to jump in where and when we are needed.

“moss+ross has delivered on its promise to provide tailored strategic counsel to many of our schools and units. Their deep bench of talented associates has helped us with campaign strategy and fundraising plans, strategic planning, and interim staffing. Mary and Susan have a deep understanding of our university and minds that are helping us achieve our vision.”
— David Routh, Vice Chancellor for University Development, UNC

 

UNC Client List (past and present)

University Development
The Rams Club
Kenan-Flagler Business School
Morehead Planetarium and Science Center
School of Education
School of Law
School of Media and Journalism
School of Social Work
Gillings School of Global Public Health
Eshelman School of Pharmacy
The Graduate School
Institute for the Arts & Humanities
Institute for the Environment
Kenan-Flagler Institute for Private Capital
Kenan Institute for Private Enterprise
Office of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid
School of Nursing
UNC Children’s Hospital
UNC Global
University Libraries
UNC Medicine

 

Staying True to Campaign Timelines

October 30th, 2018

by Brooke Jenkins, Senior Associate

One key question in campaign planning is: “What is the timeline for meeting goal?” There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Campaigns with goals of less than $1 million can require as much time as multi-million dollar efforts, depending on an organization’s prospect pool and available staff and volunteer leadership. Still most campaigns entail three key phases:

 

 

 

The Readiness Phase is a critical period that helps an organization define its strategic objectives and what will be needed to accomplish these objectives through a campaign. This phase often begins with organization-wide strategic planning and assessing the fundraising program’s capacity for campaign success (a.k.a. feasibility study). If deemed ready for a campaign, then it is time to: recruit staff and volunteer leadership who will help with campaign planning and solicitations, identify your most viable funding prospects, and create compelling messaging describing the need for support. These efforts culminate in the development of a plan spelling out the campaign’s goals, organization, key strategies, and policies for accepting, acknowledging, and recognizing gifts.

The Leadership Gifts Phase is a period focused on raising some of the most influential gifts in the campaign. During this earliest phase of solicitations, it is important to secure 100% support from the governing board and campaign leaders – you cannot expect the broader community to help meet your goals if your insiders have not demonstrated your project is worthy of support. This is also a period when efforts are focused on your largest gift prospects. You want to appeal to these prospects early because their gifts will move you closer to the goal in the shortest period of time and will motivate others to want to be a part of this success.

The Broad Appeal Phase (a.k.a. public phase) is when campaign outreach expands to prospects of all gift levels. While gifts during this phase tend to be smaller than in the Leadership Gifts Phase, this campaign period can require significant staff time issuing mass appeals by mail, email, and social media; planning fundraising and celebration events; and coordinating donor recognition displays.

Every campaign is unique and, inevitably, opportunities arise over the course of initiatives that shift the timing for planned strategies. Still, maintaining a detailed timeline throughout a campaign is crucial to creating a sense of urgency in meeting goals and keeping your organization on track for success.

 

 

Salute to the Helpers

September 21st, 2018

moss+ross is proud to work with nonprofit partners who are on the ground in Florence’s wake.

Our work with clients in the nonprofit sector inspires us every day, and never more so than in the past week as Hurricane Florence has affected our region. We appreciate the expertise and dedication of the agencies involved in relief efforts, and the compassion and caring of the staff and volunteers who step up in times of need.  As Mr. Rogers said, when you see scary things in the news, look for the helpers.

This special post highlights a few of our current clients who serve multiple counties in Eastern NC and are on the front lines of relief and support. We know many of our clients are marshalling resources, setting up collections and planning ways to provide ongoing support to the long term needs of recovery. We’ve seen the impact this past week – major events cancelled, services rerouted and volunteers deployed. We salute you all, and stand ready to help where we can.

Relief Efforts by Current Clients Serving Eastern NC

  1. The Episcopal Farmworker Ministry serves migrant and seasonal farmworkers in Eastern NC farm communities that have been heavily impacted by the storm. See the news article below for more details about their work and information about getting involved in their relief efforts.
  2. Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Raleigh provides services in the 54 most eastern counties in North Carolina, and serves people of all faiths or no faith tradition. They are working with families affected by the storm to meet their immediate needs and help them recover and rebuild their lives. See Catholic Charities Disaster Relief Services for information on how to help.
  3. SECU Family House at UNC Hospitals serves patients and families from throughout the state, with most guests coming from areas affected by the storm, as shown in this impact map. This client is serving families experiencing storm recovery on top of their serious illness, and support for their mission supports families throughout NC.
Our firm has made donations to these causes, and we know many other clients, particularly those in humanitarian and faith organizations, are coordinating collections, volunteers and fundraising efforts. We encourage you to support them in any way you can.
Recovery and Support for Eastern NC Farmworkers
by Lisa D’Amico, moss+ross interim solutions affiliate
On a typical day, the Episcopal Farmworker Ministry visits a number of camps in Eastern North Carolina where migrant farmworkers live and work harvesting crops and tobacco. Usually, the Ministry provides support in the form of clean clothing (free of pesticide exposure), heavy duty work gloves (to prevent Nicotine Sickness), and water bags to those too far in the field to access water. They provide ESL classes, immigration services, hold a Sunday worship service for the farmworker community, and much more.

But these aren’t typical days. Hurricane Florence has been here with her unprecedented amount of rainfall and flooding. The areas in Eastern North Carolina served by the Episcopal Farmworker Ministry were hit hardest and are surrounded by local rivers, now overflowing their banks.  The focus of the Ministry these days is that of recovery and support. Some camps are flooded and workers are stranded without food until the water subsides. Many workers are in shelters where they need food, water and sanitation supplies.

Residents in the area need direction and assistance with finding resources or applying for federal assistance (if they are legal residents), and the Ministry is helping to provide that information and support. The Executive Director is working to secure funding so the Ministry can not only assist in this disaster relief but also support its ongoing mission of ‘Serving Christ in the fields, on the farm, and at home.’

As the days and weeks go on and the area starts to recover from this devastating storm, the Ministry will go back to its usual day job – that of providing direct services to the farmworkers who help put the food on our tables.

If you would like to help this great work continue, please click on the donate button or send a check to the Episcopal Farmworker Ministry, P.O. Box 160, Newton Grove, NC 28366. If you would like to volunteer, please contact Lariza Garzon at lariza.garzon@gmail.com. Your donations are so appreciated year-round as the Ministry supports the farmworkers, but especially now! Thank you!

Second New Business Division Announced: m+r interim solutions

June 21st, 2018

by Mary Moss

Our firm’s goal is to strengthen nonprofit capacity in numerous ways. Last month, we announced the creation of a new business division focused on communities of faith. More than 30 representatives of this rich fabric of faith in the Triangle recently attended two different workshops to learn about our new services.  Attendees stuck around well after the presentation to brainstorm how they were going to use new ideas and knowledge gleaned about preparing for a capital campaign, and how we could help bring those ideas to life.

Today, just a little over a month later, Susan and I are delighted to unveil a second new business division for moss+ross.  After almost 10 years of serving more than 150 nonprofits, we are proud to introduce m+r interim solutions to this community.  Clients often call to ask if we can help with interim staffing to bridge a staff departure, work on a special project or fill a temporary need.  Over the years, we have answered the call, and a variety of clients to whom we have provided interim staffing is listed below.  Recognizing that interim staffing solutions are an ongoing need with our clients, with deliberate care and intention we have recruited some of this area’s most skilled professionals to serve as affiliate contractors. We stand ready to help you solve whatever staffing problems and opportunities come your way, planned or unplanned.

We have built our firm on integrity, listening well, and being responsive to community needs.  We believe m+r interim solutions will help you keep your momentum when the unexpected arises.  The article below outlines details and contact information to learn more about our services.

Current and Former Interim Clients (recent clients in italics)

Autoimmune Encephalitis Alliance

Boys and Girls Clubs of Wake County

Center for Child and Family Health

Duke School

Duke University Development

Durham Arts Council

East Durham Children’s Initiative

Episcopal Farmworker Ministry

Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University

North Carolina Opera

Public School Forum of NC

Ronald McDonald House of Durham

SECU Family House at UNC Hospitals

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church

Triangle Land Conservancy

UNC Global

UNC Institute for the Arts & Humanities

UNC School of Social Work

Urban Ministries of Durham

Wake Habitat

WakeEd Partnership

Wesley Foundation

 

m+r interim solutions: Personnel Services for Nonprofits

June 21st, 2018

by Lizzy Mottern, Director, and LisaCaitlin Perri, Co-Director, m+r interim solutions

Triangle-area nonprofits that need hands-on professional help with leadership, fundraising, grant writing, communications, database support, and more can now call on moss+ross for interim personnel services.

Our new service, m+r interim solutions, provides our clients with talented professionals on cost-effective, short-term contracts to:

  • Fill gaps due to planned and unplanned personnel absences
  • Support temporary project needs, or
  • Assist during peak workloads

moss+ross affiliate contractors are highly qualified, experienced nonprofit professionals who work as interim members of a client’s staff.  moss+ross develops the scope of work and contract with the client, manages the client relationship, and provides oversight to the affiliate’s work. Affiliates are guided by moss+ross best practices and understand moss+ross expectations for delivering high-value service to clients.

m+r interim solutions roles include:

  • Executive Director
  • Director of Development
  • Gift Officer
  • Development Associate
  • Database/Data Processing
  • Grant Writer
  • Communications/Marketing
  • Events Coordinator

moss+ross understand the needs, opportunities, and challenges of area nonprofits. The firm has often provided onsite interim services to clients, and the new m+r interim solutions business unit is a response to client requests for expanding this service.

moss+ross is accepting inquiries from clients who need interim personnel services, and also from potential affiliate contractors who are interested in working on short-term assignments for moss+ross clients. Please contact us through our website