As you know, the coming year will mark a significant transition for the Meyer Foundation as our board begins the search for the Foundation’s next president. The board’s search and transition committee has selected The McCormick Group, a leading local firm with national reach, to manage the search. Over the next six weeks, The McCormick Group will work with our board to finalize the position profile and other aspects of the search. We will provide another update in early December.
As part of our leadership transition, our board has reaffirmed our current mission and strategic framework, which will continue to guide our grantmaking through 2015. We are also encouraged that the Foundation’s assets have recovered and our grantmaking is increasing.
Last fall, we announced that we were taking a year to listen to the executive directors of our grantees to better understand how the Foundation can support their leadership. This Listening Project included a survey completed by nearly 80 executives and in-person interviews with an additional 20. We are grateful to everyone who took the time to participate.
From the survey and interviews, we heard that: • Executive directors continue to face major challenges to their professional and personal effectiveness. Mentioned most frequently were fundraising, managing human resources, and developing and educating the board. • Executive directors clearly recognize the link between their own leadership development, personal well-being, and the effectiveness of their organizations. • By an overwhelming margin, time—not money or mindset—was cited as the biggest obstacle to professional development and personal well-being.
We’ve created a graphic that summarizes what we heard and posted it on our website.
Over the coming year, we’re planning several responses to what we learned through the Listening Project.
Working with our colleagues at CompassPoint, we have designed an intensive two-day training and coaching program for early-tenure executive directors that addresses the most common challenges—fundraising, human resources, and board development—raised by Listening Project participants. We will offer this program this spring here at the Foundation.
We recognize that the fundraising challenges mentioned so frequently by nonprofit leaders are closely related to the need to raise more money from individual donors. From our experience helping grantees raise more than $2.4 million by implementing the Benevon fundraising model, we’ve learned that good storytelling is essential to successful fundraising from individuals—and an area in which many nonprofits struggle.
To build that capacity, we’ve partnered with the Center for Social Impact Communications at Georgetown University to conduct research on the storytelling practices of the organizations we support and to design a series of trainings to sharpen their skills as storytellers. You may have already received the initial survey for this project, and we appreciate your help. (The survey is still open for those interested in participating in this important research. You can access it here.)
Through the Listening Project, we heard loud and clear that executive directors are looking for purposeful, high-impact professional development experiences. Our new partnerships with CompassPoint and Georgetown will allow us to offer engaging, vetted learning opportunities that target significant challenges and needs.
The recent government shutdown and its impact on our region’s nonprofits has highlighted once again the importance of building financial sustainability and supporting nonprofit leaders through difficult times. To help grantees cope with the short-term economic consequences of the shutdown, we have expedited payment of our entire October grant round. Our board has also authorized the re-opening of Meyer’s emergency cash flow loan program, which we suspended in 2012.
This will allow us to make loans of up to $75,000 to grantees that continue to experience cash flow problems as a result of delayed government payments. For more information, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
While these measures will help some organizations, we also recognize the need to think and act more boldly. We remain engaged with our board, our funding colleagues, and our nonprofit partners about how we can address the chronic under-capitalization of our region’s nonprofits.
As we approach the Foundation’s 70th anniversary in 2014, our commitment to supporting nonprofit leaders has never been stronger. Every day, we are both inspired and humbled by the vision and dedication of our community’s nonprofits and their extraordinary leaders. We are honored to have the opportunity to support their work, and we look forward to learning with them over the coming year.
President and CEO
Chair, Board of Directors