Strengthening Our Nonprofit Community

Staffing

Recipe for Nonprofit Success: Three Essential Ingredients by Mary Moss

June 4th, 2019

Imagine your organization has stopped operation. Imagine funds have run out. Imagine the population your mission supports cannot be served. Everything stops. Imagine the despair.

For the leaders at Community Music School (CMS) in Raleigh, this was reality, not imagination, and on the front page of the News & Observer a few years ago.

Fast forward to today, where CMS is thriving, growing, adapting, and serving more students as it lives into its mission To Create Brighter Futures Through Music. Fundraising numbers are way up, teachers are being recognized in myriad ways, and more students than ever are clamoring to see their brand new facility located at Longleaf School of the Arts in Southeast Raleigh.

How did this extraordinary state of affairs turn around? CMS leaders concentrated on three key ingredients. This is a simple recipe, and just like in baking, all three ingredients matter in combination. If you lack flour, sugar, or butter, you cannot bake my mother’s excellent pound cake.

Three Essential Ingredients

1. Visionary Strategic Plan – moss+ross guided them through a strategic planning process that produced a new mission, vision, core values, goals, and strategies. Focused on a big vision – opening the doors of music to all underserved youth in Wake County – the strategic plan directed that the first actions steps were to hire an executive director and create a fundraising plan.

Lesson learned: If you envision it, plan it. There is no substitute for a visionary strategic plan.

2.Strong Passionate Leadership – Board Chair Carol Holland (Vice President, Client Relationship Manager of Paragon Bank), has driven a process to expand the Board with people who love the CMS mission. They have added two new community leaders, with more to come. The Board followed the strategic plan by securing funding for a new Executive Director, Dennis de Jong. moss+ross created the job description and helped define a funding path and a process. Dennis has changed the trajectory of CMS working in collaboration with the Board and other community partners, infusing new vision and energy into the organization in a very short amount of time. Dennis’s skills and experience are a perfect match for CMS’s needs.

Lesson learned: Get the right people in the right seats on the bus. There is no substitute for leadership.

3.Compelling Fundraising Plan – A dream is but a wish without a plan – specifically, an annual written fundraising plan. Without enough funds, CMS could not execute its strategic plan. moss+ross developed a fundraising plan with a case for support that shines the light on the big vision in the strategic plan. Big donors follow big vision. Our moss+ross Interim Solutions division quickly filled their start-up staffing need – and then all involved agreed that Sarah Himmelfarb should transition from moss+ross Interim Solutions to become the new Development Director.

Lesson learned: To live into your mission, you will have to fund it. There is no substitute for money.

If moss+ross can help you create your recipe for success, let us know. For more information on Community Music School, visit the CMS website. Read about their recent fundraising event at the Governor’s Mansion where First Lady Kristin Cooper addressed the audience.

Should You Hire a Search Firm? by Fred Stang

June 4th, 2019

When your organization needs to hire a senior-level leader, you may wonder about the value of hiring a search firm versus managing the search in-house.

Searches take a great deal of thought, energy, resources and time.

Do you have the time to manage a search on your own From start to finish, a well-run search takes an incredible amount of time to do well. From revising or creating the job description, to recruitment, screening, interviews and making a decision, each step needs to be done thoughtfully and in a timely manner.  When moss+ross takes on a search, we are committed to giving your search the time it needs at each and every stage of the process.  We are skilled at keeping the process moving and the search team engaged.

Do you have the time to recruit a strong pool of applicants Posting a job on myriad websites is one way to attract your next leader.  However, your next leader might not be looking for a new job.  That’s where recruitment is so important and where moss+ross excels.  Ours is a very assertive process of discovery and personal outreach.  Your next leader might not know he/she would be happier working for your nonprofit.

Do you have the time to screen your pool of applicants Applicants can look great on paper.  You won’t really know how great they are until you talk to them and dig deeper into their experience, skills and personalities.  It takes a skilled interviewer who listens, asks the right questions, listens more and balances inquiry with inspiration.  moss+ross doesn’t just find out about the applicants, we also find out what excites them about the opportunities within your organization.  We are working to find the person who has the experience, temperament and enthusiasm to take advantage of your organization’s strengths and also the determination and smarts to confront its challenges.

moss+ross can help you find the right leader for your organization. Give us a call!

Fred Stang is a Senior Associate with moss+ross.

Taking Time to Hire the Right Skill Set by Kim Glenn

April 11th, 2019

A familiar refrain in the nonprofit world is: The team is working at capacity and needs help. Even with the help of generous volunteers, the staff are stretched to raise enough dollars and to meet the ongoing demand for your services. Once you’re in the fortunate position of having a new position approved by your board of directors, everyone is thrilled.

But what begins as excitement can turn quickly into panic or disappointment without a good action plan. You’ve waited a long time for a new staff person so don’t rush – take the extra time to hire the right skill set.

According to the 2019 Nonprofit Employment Report, the Triangle is the nonprofit mecca of North Carolina, comprising 10 percent of the private workforce, compared to 8 percent for North Carolina as a whole. With a large and diverse pool of potential candidates, let this be a time for you to carefully evaluate your needs and consider what skills you most need to help further your mission.

Steps to Hiring the Right Skill Set:

  1. Start with your vision and mission – If your board has recently completed a strategic plan, use this as your roadmap to consider your needs. Although you and your team are in the trenches every day, think about the bigger, long-term vision and how this new staff person can help move you closer.
  2. Create a search team of key board members and staff – Engage a few key members of your board and staff to help you throughout the process. This is a big decision and their input will create a shared culture of excitement and responsibility for finding the best fit.
  3. Conduct a mini-assessment to identify your gaps – Invite the staff into this process to help you evaluate what activities can be streamlined, identify which areas need more support, and define the skills that are needed to support your efforts: fundraising, volunteer coordination, marketing, operations, or program management?
  4. Create a job description – Add an introduction to the list of roles and responsibilities to help potential candidates understand your organization, your vision, and your goals. Develop a method to evaluate candidates by identifying the five most important qualities/skills you are seeking in a candidate and rank them. Which ones are a must, and which ones are good to have? Keeping this list handy during your interviews will help you evaluate skills sets.
  5. Confirm the salary – Before posting the position, work with your board to confirm the salary and benefits package. What are your peers paying for similar positions, what’s competitive, what intangibles do you offer that could make up for a lower salary: comp/ flex time, vacation, health, or retirement. Being mission-oriented doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider competitive wages.
  6. Post the position – Post the position in familiar nonprofit outlets, but also through your board and staff networks. Be proactive about seeking referrals, keeping a focus on the skills you are seeking. Be sure to ask candidates for a cover letter and resume, and writing samples if the position requires strong communication skills. Review candidate qualifications carefully keeping in mind the five most important qualities/skills you outlined.
  7. Develop a consistent set of interview questions – Consider group interviews with the search team so that you have the benefit of multiple perspectives.
  8. Conduct reference checks – Ask for a list of references but be sure to conduct circular references as well. While you want to be very careful with candidates who are currently employed (so that you do not jeopardize their current employment), think about widening the reference checks.
  9. Consider interim help – Evaluate if your team needs help now. A successful search can take two to three months at a minimum. Consider hiring interim staffing to help bridge the gap.
  10. Hire a search firm – Think carefully if you have the time and resources to conduct a search, and if you find you are too stretched, engage a search firm to help you with leading the search and hiring the right skill set.

 

Our experiences with Executive Searches and Interim Solutions staffing services have honed our perspective on what’s most important in the hiring process. Please reach out if moss+ross can help you develop the right action plan for adding the right skill set to your nonprofit.

Kim Glenn is a Senior Associate with moss+ross.

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

Who Are Your People? Find out in eight easy steps.

April 10th, 2018

Who Are Your People? Find Out in Eight Easy Steps

Written by Mary Moss

When growing up, this was one of the most often heard questions coming from the generations above.  I can remember not having a good answer for it.  I didn’t have “people” that I thought were description-worthy.  Frankly, I had no idea who “my people” were:  they were just a sister, grandparents and some distant cousins, so why did people keep asking me “who were my people”?  A few times I answered “Criminals who came over from Ireland” to much laughter.  As it turns out, once I got older and more comfortable with this question, I realized that those asking just wanted to know more about me; the question was not meant to be intrusive but a friendly colloquialism that invited conversation and connection.  In a nostalgic moment now and then, I wish I knew my own people better.

Little did I know that I would spend a career that in one way or another explores this very same question.  In all aspects of advancement work, from direct fundraising to alumni affairs to grant writing, the very first questions we ask about any organization are (1) who is supporting you already; (2) who else might want to support you; and (3) who can connect the dots between your organization and this other group.  It sounds pretty simple, right?  Not!

Understandably, life is so busy in the nonprofit world that organizations develop routines that do not allow time and space to examine these questions.  Staff are multi-tasking and so busy going to meetings, worrying about the next event, or getting a mailing out the door that they have not stopped to ask the basic questions above:  Who are these people?  Who is coming to the party and how can we know them better?  Who is going to open this letter, and what would be memorable and motivating?  We find that many organizations take for granted their consistent supporters and do not thank them or steward them properly.  Current donors are not asked to move up in their investment for fear of losing the current one, and because it is easier and faster to keep doing work the same way.  The thought of getting new people engaged is overwhelming:  Creative thoughts become buried under deadlines and routines.

At moss+ross, we take you back to the basics to stimulate creativity and new approaches.  Whether through a feasibility study, campaign counsel, an assessment, an executive search, or a board retreat, we begin our work with you examining these basic questions.  Who are your people, and how can you know them better?  We encourage you to consider these eight steps to success, and we promise you will know your people better than you do now.

Eight Successful Steps to Know Your People

  1. Set aside staff and volunteer time to take a deep dive into your database.  “Put your creative on” when you are looking at names!  Be curious.  This is not boring work; it is essential and fun work.
  2. Consider wealth screening to know as much as you can about your people. moss+ross offers this service, and we would be happy to talk about prices.
  3. Segment who has been giving consistently for five years or more, and make a plan for them that involves personal outreach from staff and volunteers based on levels of giving and potential.  Ask them to lunch; get to know them; listen.  Tag them in your database.  When they come to the party, have a special plan for them.
  4. Develop a pool of people who dropped off your list six to ten years ago.  Create messages that will bring them up to date and encourage re-engagement.  Ask who knows them, and how they can reconnect?  Tag them in your database.  At the party, seat this group with seasoned supporters who can tell the story.
  5. Look at who has never given.  Why are they in your database?  Repeat the steps in number four and consider eliminating names based on sound reasoning (they were one-time memorial gifts, have not given in 10+ years or more, etc.).  Again, tag them in your database.
  6. Make an effort to add new names to your list.  Work with volunteers to see who is not in the database.  Plan targeted meetings that will stimulate thoughts, perhaps looking at Triangle Business Journal’s Book of Lists, or annual reports of other organizations.  Tag the new names in your database and make a plan for personal introductions.  Don’t just ask board members to submit names of their friends, because you will be met with a blank stare.
  7. Don’t forget to ask.  If you are going to do all this work getting to know them, you will need to know the right moment to ask for a new or increased gift.  In your mailings and conversations, discuss the mission, identify the need and raise the sights of your donors with an appropriate ask.  Use gift levels as motivations to increase support.
  8. Track your results.  Be bold and creative with your segmentation.  Test some different messages within these tiers just to see if one resonates better and pulls in more donors than another. It does no good to segment and create new messages if you do not track the results.  Have fun with it!  Once this type of activity becomes your new normal, you will see better results.

If you need help with this process, just let us know.  We enjoy spending our days doing just that.

 

Six Questions to Consider in Hiring a Nonprofit Consultant

April 25th, 2017

Six Questions to Consider in Hiring a Nonprofit Consultant

Advice from Senior Associate Kate Hearne

1. Do we need a consultant? Look at your strategic plan or annual fundraising plan. What are your goals and how do you plan to move the needle toward those goals? Will you just work longer and harder? Maybe. Or maybe some of those goals would benefit from the outside perspective, strategy, and accountability that a consultant can bring.

2. How can a consultant help?  If you are meeting your fundraising and operational goals, a consultant can help you reach goals above and beyond the day-to-day responsibilities like a capital campaign or launching a major gifts program. If you’re not reaching your targets, a consultant can recommend new strategies and give an unbiased assessment of how you can strengthen your program. The benefit of a consultant is the additional support, creative thinking and extensive experience that will add value to the good work you’re already doing.

3. What do we need help with? Consultants need to know what the work will entail. Think through the specifics of your project. What are your desired outcomes? What is the scope of work? How often will you want to meet with the consultant? What are your deadlines? Where do you need the extra support that a consultant can bring? Is it manpower? Is it strategy? Is it training or research? Defining your needs will drive the type of consultant you choose and help you get proposals you can compare.

Senior Associate Kate Hearne

4. What do we look for in a consultant? Look for a consultant with proven experience in projects like yours. Ask for a detailed scope of work and timeline for that work. Ask for references and check them. Ask to see samples of a similar deliverable. At moss+ross, our final reports (and other deliverables) are highly customized to a particular client and considered proprietary to that client; however, many times, we can share a similar deliverable in person.

5. Which consultant is right for our organization? Fundraising is about relationships, and that same sense of relationship should be considered when choosing a consultant. As much as possible, get to know your prospective consultant during the RFP process. Select a consultant with whom you feel comfortable and one with whom you enjoy working. Any consultant can deliver plans and processes but you want one who fits your office/nonprofit culture and encourages a working relationship of trust and honest feedback.

6. Can we afford a consultant? While most nonprofits could benefit from a consultant, not all nonprofits are financially ready to bear that expense. Carefully consider what you will gain from allocating resources to a consultant. If hiring a consultant means that you will end up with a more effective fundraising program, then maybe that expense is worth it. Just be careful not to view a consultant as a magic bullet. A consultant can organize your program, prepare materials, and train volunteers, but you and your Board must be ready and willing to implement a consultant’s recommendations. By having Board and staff own the implementation for a consultant’s recommendations, the organization will be stronger both in process and engagement.

UMD Board Announces New Executive Director

March 30th, 2016

UMD LogoDURHAM – Durham’s emergency homeless shelter and free meal provider has hired a new executive director with more than 20 years of experience leading human services agencies, the board announced Wednesday.

The Urban Ministries of Durham board unanimously selected Sheldon Mitchell, previously at Habitat for Humanity of Wake County. He will take charge March 14. Board Chair David Sotolongo said the seasoned nonprofit executive stood out among the dozens of qualified candidates attracted by the national search.

Mitchell succeeds outgoing Executive Director Patrice Nelson, who last summer announced that she would be ending her nearly 7-year tenure leading the nonprofit. UMD helps 6,000 homeless and poor residents of Durham each year using a cash and in-kind budget of $3 million.

Mitchell said that UMD’s core values of respect, accountability and collaboration speak to his own deep belief in treating everyone in a community as a valuable member deserving of dignity and respect.

“I feel optimistic and excited to see the work that’s already been done to provide services to those who are homeless or in need,” he said. “Going forward, I see opportunity in the collaborative way that UMD and other stakeholders are working together on a well-thought-out plan to make more progress on these issues as a community.”

Nelson said she shares that optimism for UMD’s future under Mitchell.

“He’s a manager looking very carefully at the plans and strategies we have in place and thinking about how to maximize the impact to the community,” Nelson said. “Sheldon has the personality of a great coach. He will be able to bring together the different players and ask the right questions. He is committed to the direction we’re headed.”

Under Nelson, that direction has sharpened dramatically. When she arrived near the beginning of the Great Recession, Urban Ministries of Durham was struggling to continue its basic services of providing meals in its Community Café, distributing donated groceries and clothing from its Food Pantry and Clothing Closet, and offering a night-by-night homeless shelter.

Nelson rallied the community to increase its support and involvement so UMD could stabilize and streamline those services. Then, she sought to raise the community’s sights, insisting that UMD not just shelter people but help them end their homelessness. While continuing its roster of emergency services, UMD now offers case management to every person who checks into the shelter. Last fiscal year, ending in June, it assisted 237 people in leaving homelessness for decent housing with the income to keep it, Nelson notes.

Two years ago, UMD hired its first clinical director and is focused now on adding licensed clinical social workers to its staff to help each homeless client focus on strengths, overcome barriers and challenges, and set and reach goals in an individual plan to end their homelessness.

Mitchell shares that passion for helping people permanently improve their circumstances, Sotolongo said.

“He brings deep compassion to the job,” said Sotolongo, who is also vice president of business and proposal development for RTI International. “He brings a lot of insights to what we are already trying to do.”

The firm of moss + ross managed the executive search on behalf of UMD. Nelson will remain at UMD to help orient Mitchell until the end of March, Sotolongo said.

A native of South Carolina, Mitchell and his wife, Shaw University Department of Mass Communications Chair Dr. Cassandra Mitchell, moved to the Triangle in 2012. In the Greenville-Spartanburg, SC, area, Mitchell worked 20-plus years in executive leadership positions for various organizations that included Miracle Hill Ministries, Urban League of the Upstate and New Foundations Children and Family Services. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and a dual master’s degree in management and human resources development.

“I’m excited,” Sotolongo said. “The board worked hard to make sure that the leader we selected was going to continue the fine work this team and the Durham community are part of to fight poverty and end homelessness in Durham.”

# # #
Press release courtesy of Urban Ministries of Durham
More about Urban Ministries of Durham: http://umdurham.org

 

Making the best of unexpected circumstances

November 19th, 2015

Perspectives on change and the unexpected from moss+ross co-founders and partners Mary Moss and Susan Ross…

Over the course of our consulting careers, we have worked intimately with more than 100 organizations. Some embrace change, planned or not, while others grit their teeth and hope they make it through. Our perspective is that change can be a wonderful catalyst for leaders to step back and rethink, reorganize and restructure operations for the best. And in the 21st century, change is a given in almost every environment.

An organization that is not changing is probably withering. Sometimes forced change offers opportunities that were not there before. Maybe you have an unspent salary to invest in strategic planning or an assessment you know you need. Perhaps you have been organizing your staff workload around a person’s strengths or weaknesses, and the change gives you a chance to rethink staff responsibilities in a more logical fashion. Or maybe the board has let itself become too dependent on a few key donors/members, and this is the time to let it bloom on its own.

moss+ross co-founders Susan Ross (L) and Mary Moss (R)

moss+ross co-founders Susan Ross (on left) and Mary Moss

We often joke that consultants are rarely hired when everything is going perfectly, so it is no surprise to find that our role includes some repair work. We nearly always find that the solutions are not as difficult as feared, and that an outside perspective can bring clarity so that the organization can move forward. Our approach is pretty straightforward:

  1. Get the lay of the land. We try not to offer opinions too early in the process.
  2. Seek input from multiple sources. An assessment always includes interviews with key stakeholders, because they tend to see the problem and have some solutions in mind, even if they have not shared them.
  3. Deal quickly with obvious problems. Seems simple, but it’s not. Letting a bad situation fester is not good for the organization.
  4. Evaluate solutions and move on. Every step you take at this point moves you down the path to a better future.
  5. Say thanks to those who helped. When there are problems, many staff at all levels have to jump in to keep the ship afloat. As Board members or managers, don’t take this extra effort for granted. Your people are the most important asset you have, and they will work harder if you show you appreciate their efforts.

 

New Search Announcement

November 17th, 2015

UPDATE: Applications are no longer being accepted for this position.

Urban Ministries of Durham is looking for a new Executive Director. moss+ross is honored to be conducting the search.

Urban Ministries of Durham is recognized as the community’s key, nonsectarian safety net for homeless individuals and families in Durham County. More than 6,000 people a year are served through its shelter, a café serving three meals a day to anyone in need, and a food pantry and clothing closet. UMD has a staff of 40 and a $1.85 million budget. During the last five years, UMD has transformed its services from providing basic needs to a dynamic system of support that moves its qualifying clients into more permanent housing as quickly as possible. The Board of Directors has opened the search for an Executive Director who will continue to keep the organization on the leading edge of service delivery and community collaboration. UMD’s next leader must have strong leadership and management skills, be an excellent planner, and a successful fundraiser with a passion for the work and the people it serves. Applications will be accepted through January 8, 2016. Click here for a more detailed job description with application instructions.

 

For more info about moss+ross searches, click here.