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Sunday, 14 December 2014 10:36

Talent remains a key concern for nonprofit leaders

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Marjorie Kuipers speaks during the panel discussion as Travis Williams and Bridget Clark Whitney look on Marjorie Kuipers speaks during the panel discussion as Travis Williams and Bridget Clark Whitney look on PHOTO: Katy Batdorff

Across the board, nonprofits have a key concern that mirrors what keeps their for-profit colleagues up at night: sourcing high quality talent.

That was the assessment of executive directors from a range of nonprofits who participated in a recent panel discussion on best practices as part of the inaugural MiBiz Best-Managed Nonprofits Awards last week.

The winners included:

  • Kids’ Food Basket in the Fundraising category for the organization’s work with the Kids Helping Kids and the Nourish campaigns.

  • The Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway in the Board Governance & Executive Management category.

  • Grandville Avenue Arts and Humanities in the Programs & Services category for its Cook Library Scholars program.

The awards were created to elevate business-savvy nonprofit organizations and nonprofit leaders in West Michigan who pay attention to best practices and whose organizations are sustainable as a result.

According to the executives, sustainability results from strong fundraising activities, to be sure, but having the right talent is crucial.

“We want to find someone we can trust and invest in them. It comes down to the communication and trust process … and always having clear plans and being focused on the mission,” said Travis Williams, the executive director of the Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway.

At the Holland-based nonprofit that’s focused on conservation and nature-based education, the focus on employee autonomy is really an extension of how the board operates, he said.

“Our organization was one that was created with the mindset of finding a good executive to run the organization and not micromanaging,” Williams said.

Bridget Clark Whitney from Kids’ Food Basket said finding, retaining and supporting talent really helps the organization drive its mission of helping children around the region to access healthy foods. While that’s a seemingly never-ending mission, it’s important to strike a balance for employees so they’re able to be effective in their roles, she said.

“We don’t want to celebrate who works more hours,” she said. “We need to support each other’s work/life balance.”

Another key for Kids’ Food Basket was using social media to get the word out about the organization and to craft the nonprofit’s voice, Clark Whitney said.

“Social media is a powerful tool for engagement, to share impact and to show people they’re part of something bigger,” she said.

It’s also crucial to listen to clients, said Marjorie Kuipers, the executive director of Grandville Avenue Arts and Humanities. For Kuipers, that meant listening to the children the organization was helping to achieve academic achievement.

“We started to steal program ideas from our kids,” she said. “We started listening to what our kids wanted to see.”

The awards program, held at the Goei Center on Dec. 11, also honored Birgit Klohs, the president and CEO of The Right Place Inc., with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Klohs was the first woman executive at an economic development firm in Michigan and one of the first in the Midwest. In her 27 years leading The Right Place, she’s turned to her board of corporate CEOs in the region for advice and mentorship, borrowing many of their best practices along the way, she said.

She also praised the fact that nonprofits are starting to get more recognition for their role in the broader West Michigan economy.

“It’s inspiring to be thought of as a business,” she said.

Read 4080 times Last modified on Sunday, 14 December 2014 10:48

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