Leadership Raleigh focuses on community

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — On April 27 and 28, about 50 Wake County ninth-grade students will participate in a series of workshops, led by business leaders, as well as team-building activities, all aimed to helping them succeed in the workplace.

The day-and-a-half session, known as “High Climbers,” was created three years ago by a team of participants in Leadership Raleigh, a leadership-development program the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce launched in 1984-85.

Now, in an effort that began last year, Leadership Raleigh is working with its alumni association to provide opportunities for alumni to get involved in addressing community needs by working with local groups.

On April 14, at the offices of the Junior League of Raleigh, for example, Leadership Raleigh alumni will be doing volunteer work for Backpack Buddies, SAFEchild and Brentwood Boys & Girls Club.

And in September, the program will host “Leadership Raleigh Alumni Back on the Bus,” an effort to “take a deeper dive into new community issues and topics” that alumni can get involved in and support, says Greg McNamara, vice president of small business and member services at the Chamber.

Leadership Raleigh, which has over 1,000 alumni, includes an overnight retreat each fall, followed by a day-long session each month through June on local topics, including quality of life, law enforcement, human services, economy, education, health services, and media, and local and state government.

Development of the curriculum for each year’s program is the commencement project of the previous year’s graduating class, which in years past consisted of about 50 people, each paying $2,200, with their employers providing some or all of the tuition for most class members. This year, for the first time, the program has expanded to two classes totaling 96 people.

In addition to its monthly curriculum focus, each class typically subdivides into project teams of five to six people, with each team working with a local nonprofit or other organization on a need it has identified.

A team in the 2012-13 class, for example, created High Climbers in partnership with the Wake County Public School System to provide leadership-development opportunities for students. The project has become an annual event for Leadership Raleigh.

For perspective, Leadership Raleigh each month provides participants with educational meetings and discussions throughout the community designed to help them see first-hand the impact of the issue that is the focus of the curriculum that month.

Following the alumni bus tour this September, McNamara says, a reception will give alumni an opportunity to talk about how to address local needs that may have emerged since they participated in the program.

“We are a community of people interested in supporting each other and organizations we’re passionate about,” he says. “We’re building a community of leaders.”

While the Chamber does not offer a special program for nonprofits, he says, nonprofits represent about six percent of its more than 2,200 member organizations and represent one of the highest-rated searches on its online membership directory.

“Employers are very interested in having employees involved in the community,” he says. “It builds a sense of community engagement, ownership and empowerment for the employees to work for these community organizations.”

June 15 is the deadline for submitting applications for the Leadership Raleigh class that begins this fall.

‘Capacity’ a big challenge for nonprofits

By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — At a workshop at the O.Henry Hotel in Greensboro in October, 80 nonprofit representatives spent four hours learning how to use social media to tell and target their stories to supporters, constituents and partners.

The session, provided by the Guilford Nonprofit Consortium in collaboration with the Cone Health Foundation, reflects growing awareness of the need for nonprofits to strengthen their organizational “capacity.”

“The good quality of life we now have in Guilford County is at stake,” says Donna Newton, director of the Consortium, a program of the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro that works to help build the capacity of local nonprofits.

“Nonprofits change the world for the better,” she says. “To continue to do that in today’s environment, they have to become more efficient and effective.”

Capacity challenges

Organizational challenges facing nonprofit include developing their staff and board; their back-office, including technology and support for human resources, finance and accounting; their delivery of services and programs; and their fundraising and development of resources.

“If you increase a nonprofit’s capacity, you increase their sustainability, and their ability to weather change,” says Amy Lytle, executive director of HandsOn Northwest North Carolina, a Winston-Salem nonprofit that provides professional development and training, along with tools, resources and networking, for local nonprofits.

Leadership gap

National studies have forecast a looming exodus of nonprofit executives, fueled by the imminent retirement of Baby Boomers, along with widespread stress and burnout, often because of a lack of support from their boards and a lack of investment from funders.

Nonprofits “can’t fulfill their mission and serve their constituents without depth of leadership,” says Jeanie Duncan, president of Raven Consulting Group in Greensboro.

Leadership, along with the continuing need to develop resources and smart strategies, and execute the strategies, are the biggest challenges facing nonprofits, she says, and the ability to develop resources and strategy depend, in turn, on effective leaders.

The role of leaders

Duncan, former president and CEO of the United Arts Council of Greater Greensboro, says nonprofits’ ability to sustain their organizations is fragile, typically because of a lack of leadership, succession planning and leader development.

While many nonprofit leaders are well-prepared on their organization’s mission, product or service, they often lack skills to deal with fundamental leadership roles such as “influence, negotiation, conflict resolution,” she says.

“Management is more tactical,” focusing on tasks such as managing personnel matters, fundraising, marketing, conducting programs and outreach,” she says. “The problem I see is that leaders are more skilled on the management side than the leadership side.”

Developing leaders

Newton says an executive director of a nonprofit, particularly a smaller organization, “is the person who does everything,” particularly fundraising if the nonprofit cannot afford a staff member to handle fund development.

And to deal with all their other responsibilities, she says, executive directors lack the time required to work on fund development, as well as the support systems such as donor databases that are indispensable for effective fundraising.

And while they typically have experience at event fundraising, she says, executive directors often lack experience in raising money from individuals, who account for over 80 percent of charitable giving in the U.S.

The Guilford Nonprofit Consortium offers a range of workshops, roundtable discussions and other resources, including a Board Development Academy it launched a year ago.

Board relations

Duncan says the relationship between the executive director and board chair is the most critical relationship at a nonprofit.

“They have to be on the same page with the priorities of the organization overall, and together they have to ensure they have both the right staff and board leadership for where the organization is currently,” she says, and “for where it is headed.”

If the relationship is strategic, the most important role the executive director and board chair can play together is “recruiting the board leadership,” Duncan says.

Back-office support

A recent survey of its members by the Guilford Nonprofit Consortium found the top priorities for sharing services were financial services, information technology and human resources, Newton says.

Human resources, for example, is a huge issue for nonprofits, she says, mainly because many are small and lack the staffing keep up with HR rules and regulations, and deal with personnel issues.

The Consortium is considering offering a package, developed by the for-profit HR Group, to help nonprofits farm out their HR function at group rates, and also offers a lunch-and-learn series, plus a manual, presented by the HR Group.

And it offers a monthly IT roundtable lunch that looks at topics such as free online services or how to assess and plan for using technology, and it is considering ideas to help nonprofits outsource their technology needs.

Resources and strategy

Another key challenge for nonprofits is to diversify their revenue resources, Duncan says.

“If you’re over-reliant on any one or two sources of revenue, and they disappear, then your organization is left extremely vulnerable,” she says. “That goes back to leadership, being able to think creatively and strategically about how you uncover or develop revenue sources you may not have had previously.”

Equally important for nonprofits is the need to be “constantly thinking ahead,” she says.

“Thinking ahead is also about leadership,” she says. “What are you doing to develop your board and staff leadership into the future, and your programming.”

What works

With research showing investment in leaders is the most effective way to strengthen nonprofits, Lytle says, HandsOn Northwest North Carolina offers a broad range of leadership programs and workshops.

It offers a program for women who hold mid-level jobs at nonprofits, for example, providing an intensive two-day session on the essentials of leadership, followed by a course on nonprofit essentials that is offered for a half-day every month for 10 months.

“We made a strategic decision a couple of years ago to focus on leadership development and leadership capacity, both at the staff and board levels,” Lytle says. “Leadership provides the vision, and that often is what inspires your board and can inspire funders and can lead to innovation and efficiency.”

Duncan says leader development “must be part of your DNA as an organization,” with professional development built into the work of leaders and staff, she says.

That includes giving staff members projects to lead and “stretch” assignments, while also connecting them to peer networks and providing them with mentoring and coaching.

“All of those things are ways to bring leader development into your organization in a way that doesn’t cost a lot of money,” she says.

Investing in capacity

Investing in efforts to strengthen nonprofits is critical, says Lytle, whose organization receives most of its support from foundations.

“If you believe nonprofits are doing important work in building the fabric of our communities,” she says, “then you need to be able to invest in those institutions, and they need to be able to invest in themselves.”

Newton, whose organization receives support from eight local foundations, most of it from half of them, says the investment in capacity pays off.

“It sells itself to our funders,” she says, “because when they start dealing with our active members, they realize they are far more proficient at managing their organizations.”

Barsuhn quits as CEO of Greensboro United Way

By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Keith Barsuhn has resigned as president and CEO of United Way of Greater Greensboro, effective Jan. 31, and Michelle Gethers-Clark, a former American Express executive who the United Way board of directors hired in October as a consultant on an interim basis, has been named interim CEO and president.

Barsuhn, who has served as CEO since July 1, 2008, “told us he wants to pursue other things,” says Sue Cole, chair of United Way’s board and managing partner at Sage Leadership & Strategy.

Barsuhn says he “came here to rebuild this United Way and give it a new direction, and I’ve done that.”

He says he has “some really good opportunities I’m pursuing that I’m expecting to be imminent.”

John Cross, a former chair of United Way’s board and a lawyer at Brooks Pierce, will chair the search for a new CEO.

“We will take our time to find the right person,” Cole says.

Gethers-Clark, who is president of The Center for Service and Leadership and former senior vice president and general manager of card operations at American Express, has agreed to serve as interim president and CEO until a successor is found, Cole says.

Cole said at the time Gethers-Clark was hired as a consultant that changes needed to be made in the organization as a result of a new long-term strategy that involved shifting United Way’s focus to collaborative efforts to help boost academic performance and grade advancement for children, improve health literacy, and strengthen financial stability for individuals and families.

Since then, Cole says, Gethers-Clark has focused on processes inside United Way, while Barsuhn has focused on United Way’s fundraising.

“The best way to accomplish things is to divide and conquer,” Cole says. “We asked Michelle to focus on the people within the organization and the processes within the organization, and making sure we were being efficient and effective with everything we do.”

United Way’s annual fundraising campaign, which raised $10.3 million a year ago and set a goal of $11 million for the campaign that began last fall, is “tracking” last year’s effort, Cole says.

“I’m very optimistic we will meet it,” she says.

The position of vice president for resource development, formerly vice president for donor relations, has been open since last fall, she says.

Emphasizing she believes in “continuous improvement,” Cole says the biggest challenges facing United Way are to carry out its its collaborative community impact strategy, particularly by matching mentors with people they mentor, and training organizations that provide the mentoring; taking care of its volunteers, including leaders and board members; and develop[ing staff and making sure “they have the resources they need to do the jobs that need to be done in the community.”

Gethers-Clark’s focus has been on “processes,” Cole says.

That has included reviewing the process for hiring people and getting them in their jobs; for receiving contributions; for making board meetings and planning more efficient; and for the way staff members work.

Event planning, for example, has been assigned to a single staff member, who is planning events on March 22 and May 14, respectively, for its leadership groups for African-Americans and for women.

Outward Bound School growing

By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In January, roughly 70 employees of accounting firm Dixon Hughes Goodman will spend a day at Reedy Creek Park in Charlotte, teaming with one another in crews to solve problems in a course offered by the Asheville-based North Carolina Outward Bound School.

The School’s Charlotte office, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, provides courses that serve about 500 people a year, including students, professionals and military personnel or returning war veterans.

And with support from groups like the Duke Energy Foundation and John Belk Education Foundation, the office last year provided scholarships for its courses to 48 high school students, 24 local educators and school administrators, and 60 returning veterans.

The focus of the courses is discovery, says Josh Thomas, who joined the office in February as regional advancement coordinator after working for 17 years as a partner in communications firm Topics Education.

“Part of it is discovering the natural world around you,” says Thomas, who enrolled in an Outward Bound course five years ago. “And a big part is discovering your own potential.”

Celebrating its 45th anniversary this year, the Asheville-based North Carolina Outward Bound School is one of seven Outward Bound schools.

Outward Bound was co-founded in 1941 in Wales by Kurt Hahn, a German Jew who had escaped from the Nazis.

“Outward bound” is a nautical term that refers to a ship leaving a harbor, and the first school was designed to equip young seamen with the confidence and interpersonal skills they needed to survive.

With an annual budget of $5 million, the North Carolina Outward Bound School operates base camps in Linville Gorge and Pisgah National Forest in the North Carolina Mountains, on the North Carolina Outer Banks, in the Everglades in Florida, and in Patagonia, Argentina.

Students range from age 14 to people in their 70s, and the cost of classes varies but averages roughly $200 a day.

The North Carolina Outward Bound School sends roughly 6,500 participants on courses each year, including roughy 30 percent who participate with the support of scholarship dollars.

The local office partners with Myers Park, Vance, Butler and Phillip O. Berry high schools in Charlotte, and Cannon School in Concord, and works with groups like Communities in Schools of Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Right Moves for Youth to identify potential participants.

Each summer, it sends 12 to 24 teachers from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to courses through fully-paid scholarships.

It teams with companies like Dixon Hughes Goodman and Charlotte Pipe & Foundry to offer courses for employees and rising leaders.

In recent years it has offered roughly a dozen courses a year for military personnel or returning veterans to help them reintegrate into civilian life, Thomas says.

This year, the office is ahead of schedule to meet its goal of providing scholarships for 300 returning vets.

To meet its goal of raising $200,000 to $250,000 a year, the office for the past three years has sponsored a trail race series that this year attracted 1,800 participants and was sponsored by Merrily Lynch and Coca Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated.

The Charlotte office also plans to double — to 10 — the number of its local school partners.

“It’s our intent to grow our  presence in Charlotte,” Thomas says, “and to help more teens and adults discover their true potential.”

Change underway at Greensboro United Way

By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — As it begins its annual fundraising campaign, which aims to raise 3.5 percent more than it did last year, United Way of Greater Greensboro is undergoing changes in its strategy and top leadership.

In recent weeks, United Way has lost its vice president of donor relations, hired a new chief financial officer and brought in a former executive at American Express as a consultant on its new “community impact” strategy, says Sue Cole, chair of United Way’s board of directors.

Aiming to make an impact on some of the region’s toughest health and human services problems, United Way is shifting its focus to collaborative efforts to help boost academic performance and grade advancement for children, improve health literacy, and strengthen the financial stability for individuals and families.

“A lot of things have to be done differently” as a result of that new long-term strategy, says Cole, who is managing partner at Sage Leadership & Strategy.

Marci Peace, former vice president for finance at Greensboro College, has joined United Way as vice president for finance and administration.

And United Way’s board has hired Michelle Gethers-Clark, president at The Center for Service and Leadership and former senior vice president and general manager for card operations at American Express, as a consultant on an interim basic on the community impact strategy.

Cole says Gethers-Clark is “coaching and mentoring all of our employees about the processes and strategies related to the community impact model, as well as fundraising strategies.

“As we’re moving to this new model, we’re looking not only at how we impact the community, but also how we’re doing business inside the organization,” Cole says.

She says the campaign, which has a goal of $11 million and is chaired by Harold Martin, chancellor at N.C. A&T State University, is “going very well.”

An event earlier this month for women donors was attended by over 150 women and raised about $15,000, or triple what it raised at its inaugural event last year.

Keith Barsuhn, president and CEO of United Way, says Gethers-Clark is working to “help us align our internal processes and strategies and tactics” to the organization’s new strategic plan.

“That enables key people, including myself, to be laser-focused on the campaign,” he says.

The “transformational changes” at United Way, including the way it works externally with community partners and stakeholders, and internally among staff, have elicited a range of responses from employees, he says.

“For some people, it’s exciting,” he says. “For some people, change is concerning.”

In addition to the former chief financial officer, who left early last summer, Barsuhn says, United Way’s former marketing director left in the spring, and a development officer left at the same time for another job.

“I am excited about the success of our new direction,” he says. “I feel very confident about our ability to achieve the goal.”

United Way also has set a “stretch” goal of $11.25 million, representing an increase of 5.9 percent from the total raised last year.

That larger goal, Barsuhn says, is “in our sights, too.”

Fundraising mess a chance for true change at UNC

By Todd Cohen

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has an unprecedented opportunity to heal itself.

Wounded by a fundraising scandal that in a single week claimed the jobs of its chancellor and its vice chancellor for university advancement, UNC also has a rare chance bring to heel an over-indulged athletics program that for generations has held hostage the university’s culture of academic excellence.

The huge task facing the school’s board of trustees is to show, finally and decisively, the leadership it has for far too long lacked the vision and backbone to exercise.

It needs to hire a chancellor who understands that teaching, research and service to the state are the school’s core mission, not the fanatical and sometimes destructive pursuit of winning at all costs on the basketball court and football field.

And it needs to craft a vision for an institution geared to delivering education programs and services that increasingly will be needed to survive and thrive in a digital, networked and fiercely competitive global marketplace.

Then, and only then, can UNC resume its long-delayed plans for a campaign, which at last estimate was expected to try to raise $3 billion.

The scandal was triggered by disclosures that Matt Kupec, a  former star quarterback at UNC who last week resigned as vice chancellor for university advancement, had taken at least 25 private trips at university expense with Tami Hansbrough, a fundraiser at the school and the mother of former star basketball player Tyler Hansbrough.

She and  Kupec, both divorced, have been in a relationship, according to published reports.

Kupec had pushed for UNC to hire Hansbrough, who also quit last week.

And Holden Thorp, who reportedly knew about her hiring, Kupec’s role in it, and their relationship, and who accompanied the couple on some of those trips, announced Monday he would step down at chancellor at the end of the academic year and return to his job as a professor.

The institutional meltdown also has put on hold, yet again, plans for the fundraising campaign.

That campaign was set to begin its quiet phase four years ago, but the collapse of the capital markets sidelined those plans.

Thorp and Kupec last spring asked the trustees to okay plans to begin the quiet phase this summer, but the board reportedly told them they were not ready and needed to spend the year planning the campaign.

As Charlotte-based fundraising consultant Karla Williams told me, a campaign of that size is not about raising money, it is about transforming an institution.

Working to identify the needs of faculty, students, alumni, donors and other constituents, and engaging them in the process of setting a vision for the future, has the end result of raising money to make that vision a reality.

Because it is the board and the chancellor who must lead the effort to set that vision and raise that money, the board’s first job is to find a new chancellor who understands the increasingly more vital and complex role a public university must play in the 21st century.

The new chancellor, in turn, will need to find a new vice chancellor for university advancement.

As Durham-based consultant Carol O’Brien told me, the chief fundraising officer at a 21st century university must straddle a range of diverse and sometimes competing communities.

That fundraising executive must be skilled at engaging donors, academics and other constituents and addressing their diverse and subtle needs, while also managing the complex and myriad moving parts and systems, and supporting  the staff and volunteers, that together constitute a big fundraising operation.

The board of trustees at UNC-Chapel Hill has a chance to advance the school’s mission of providing education programs and services needed to help our state become a better place to live and work.

To do that, it needs to lead the institution, rather than enabling and groveling to its athletics boosters in return for posh seats and the chance to schmooze with celebrities and big shots in the Dean Dome or at Kenan Stadium.

The board must set its own vision, find the chancellor it wants, and work with that chancellor and with donors to build the university the state needs and deserves.