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Monday, October 21, 2013

Back to the Basics

During the six years I have spent working in nonprofits, I have been fortunate to be exposed to a number of different areas and functions. From program to development to budgeting, the exposure has made me a stronger team member and leader.

As thankful as I am for that exposure, I also recognize that dipping my toes into different areas and learning on the fly still leaves me with gaps in critical knowledge. In any organization, and specifically within lean nonprofits, having a solid understanding of every team's function is extremely important. While budgeting and fundraising may have not been included in any of my formal job descriptions, I have certainly been asked to do both in all of my different roles. More formal training in these areas will serve me in every role and in any nonprofit. For that reason, I was particularly pleased that we returned to the fundamentals in our most recent Emerging Leaders session.

In a very short period of time, our three guest speakers offered numerous useful tips on nonprofit finance and fundraising. In the morning, Ian Shuman, Partner at Gelman, Rosenbert & Freedman, gave us a refresher on nonprofit finance. Familiar terminology that had become cloudier for me over the years- such as assets and liabilities and cash verses accrual accounting-were made clear again. I walked away from the session feeling more financially literate and better equipped for budgeting and finance conversations.

In the afternoon we heard from Amy Nakamoto, Executive Director of DC Scores, and Dick Walker,  Managing Partner at Orr Associates. Amy and Dick spoke to us about fundraising basics and the importance of telling a compelling story. They outlined what to include in a strong "elevator pitch", including the need to appeal to both the heart and the head, and then modeled it for the group. We reviewed the reasons people give, strategies for building relationships with donors, creative ways to involve the entire board in fundraising, and more. This could not have been more timely, as I have recently transitioned into a role where I am responsible for a small component of development. I also left the session eager to try my hand at making asks, which I will get to do immediately as I reach out to others and seek financial support for the Emerging Leaders program!


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