Clayton Gathering Draws Hometown Crowd
Featuring keynote speaker Bill Bolling of the Atlanta Community Food Bank and a series of interactive workshops on fundraising, board management, and grant opportunities, the day-long event provided a dynamic forum for nonprofit leaders working beyond the city center.
The crowd was welcomed with breakfast and opening remarks from Clayton State’s Dean of Libraries Gordon Baker and the Community Foundation’s Lesley Brady, who outlined the Foundation’s four long-term goals as well as their current foci: strong boards, strategic partnerships, and smart fund development.
In the arena of strong boards, the forum tapped Jack Beckford, affiliate consultant for GCN’s Nonprofit Consulting Group, to lead a discussion around building an effective board. Exploring the board development cycle—from identifying needs and recruiting talent to orienting, educating and evaluating members to regular rotation and replacement—Beckford provided tools for organizing a board member search, solutions to common obstacles, and ideas for getting the board involved, energized, and giving to their full potential.
Bill Bolling, in his lunchtime keynote, addressed the importance and value of strategic partnerships through the founding story of Atlanta Community Food Bank, which now counts 24 community organizations as members, and utilizes more than 1,800 volunteers a month. When it began, Bolling said, he showed up at the offices of grocery chain Big Star to ask for free food—and met instant rejection. He turned that rejection around by thinking in terms of a partnership: instead of “Will you donate?” he asked ”What can I do to get you to donate?” He encouraged the audience to be strategic, keeping the long-view perspective in mind, and to be patient, keeping both friends and enemies close: “Even the people who don’t like me, they also needed to know I wasn’t going away.”
Strategic coach LeAnn Pearson, director of ministry strategy at Development Services Group, was on hand to guide participants through effective fundraising, explaining seven habits nonprofit pros can use to instill “The Art of Donor Cultivation” in all levels of their organizations. Touting a “team” approach to fundraising, Pearson emphasized strong relationships and purposeful storytelling over flat appeals for money: “It’s not about dollars, it’s about why we got into this in the first place—we want to see change happen.” Inviting potential donors into a partnership, rather than listing needs, “earns the right” to ask for a contribution. “True donor cultivation is telling your story so well that they want to be a part of it,” said Pearson. “When they lean in and say, ‘That’s amazing—how can I get involved?’, that’s when you can make the ‘shameless ask.’”
Clayton Fund staffers Jasper Tanner and Erin Dreiling were also on hand to explain what the Fund looks for in its grantees, how nonprofits can maximize their chances for attaining funding, and what the future of The Community Foundation means for the areas it serves.
The Clayton Forum is part of GCN’s ongoing community outreach series, open to members and non-members, and featuring the expertise of GCN’s Nonprofit Consulting Group, Nonprofit University, and member organizations like The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.
Marc Schultz is Writer/Editor at the Georgia Center for Nonprofits.