What We Learned — Part One.

I’m energized and exhausted all at the same time.

Five sponsors, four panelists, three poll questions, two forums with two hosts, and one national partner speaking to 512 in-person guests, plus countless more online and via broadcast.

The topics:

  • Measuring Fundraising Effectiveness and Your Development Plan; Why Cost of Fundraising and Number of Donors Isn’t Enough
  • State of Nonprofits: The State of the Board; Nonprofit Board Governance: What’s Working, What’s Not, and What We Do About It

What lessons were learned? Many, but here’s a start:

Knowledge Seeking

Each forum had highly engaged participants who were eager to learn how to work smarter. The programs were at capacity and everyone in the room — from board members to staff members — had good questions and thoughtful comments. It’s readily apparent that the nonprofit sector in Central Ohio is hungry for information, best practices, and insight. Operating a nonprofit is complex and leaders need sophisticated management and governance practices to help them make strategic decisions.

Power Sharing

Defining power and the role of power in nonprofit operations is a conversation worth having at the board level. Does the organization hold its power close or does it share it widely for the good of the community? Within the organization, does the power reside with the chief executive, the board, a major donor, a founder, or is there parity among leadership? While the answers may be different depending on the stage of an organization’s life cycle, the reality is that power centers exist. Understanding and acknowledging your organization’s power structure is essential.


So much of what was discussed comes down to intentionality — the five data points to measure fundraising effectiveness, for instance. We must be deliberate in our work, and that includes data analysis. Look for the story the numbers are telling you to make strategic decisions. Whether that’s the success of your fundraising strategies or the composition of your board, it’s imperative to be purposeful and honest in your organization’s assessments.


It is impossible to spend days talking about board governance and not consider the fact that nonprofit boards are whiter today than they were two decades ago. The sector needs to diversify, and each organization has a duty to determine how it will evolve the composition of its board and staff. Otherwise it will be the same old story decades from now. While diversity can, and should, be defined by many measures that include gender, age, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and more, we must start with race.

Our field can use more conversations like these forums to keep moving the sector forward. We owe it to the missions we all serve to continue to share knowledge with one another. When nonprofits are healthy, so, too, are families and communities.

If you attended one or both of the forums, leave your comments here. We’d love to hear your lessons learned. For those unable to attend the State of Nonprofits forum, the broadcast can be viewed here.

Thank you to my colleagues Michael Bongiorno of AECOM, Deborah Aubert Thomas of Philanthropy Ohio, and Andy Davis of BoardSource; and, to our hosts, the Columbus Metropolitan Club and The Columbus Foundation. It has been an honor to work with you.

Article by: Kerri Laubenthal Mollard, Founder & CEO

2020-01-16T19:45:28+00:00January 16th, 2020|