Campaigns to build a better future.
One person’s dream can spark a great new organization.
By Ilene Denton
Barbara Richards, Project 180
“Why did I start this nonprofit? For 30,000 reasons.”
Barbara Richards has been working toward launching Project 180—a free, two-year residential program to help former prisoners re-entering the community with education, job training and abstinence support—since she saw the model in action 12 years ago in San Francisco. She was so moved by the plights of many prisoners that she quit her job as a restaurateur and moved to Tallahassee in 2004 to earn a master’s degree in criminal justice.
“Thirty thousand offenders are released from Florida prisons every year,” says Richards. “They’re at far greater risk for homelessness, unemployment and addiction, and for future criminal behavior, which means decreased public safety and increased spending.”
Richards plans to start small, with a second-year goal of serving 20 people. She’s already forged partnerships with the FSU College of Criminal Justice and the public defender of the 12th Judicial Circuit. But she needs to raise $300,000 to fund the first year of operations. “We’re praying every day that angel investors step up,” she says.
“Why did I start this nonprofit?” she asks. “There are 30,000 reasons why.”
Holly Dykema, Stroke Association of Florida
“We’re trying to touch as many people as possible.”
Holly Dykema founded the Stroke Association of Florida with her sister, Kim James, for the most personal reason: In 2006, Dykema’s 50-year-old husband had a debilitating stroke that changed both his and her life forever. Dykema volunteered with the Peninsula Stroke Association in Silicon Valley for six months to learn everything she could about managing a nonprofit. Since they offer resource referrals and education, not direct patient support, she and James work out of a home office. Operating funds come from grants, donations and sponsorships.
Each year, she, James and their 34 volunteers mount two free Victory Over Stroke symposia, one each in Sarasota and Manatee counties. (The next is Nov. 9.) “Our key message is 80 percent of strokes are preventable,” she says, “and 85 percent are treatable.” But people need to recognize what is happening, she adds: “Waiting to see if symptoms go away can mean the difference between getting out of the hospital fine and having a lifelong disability.”
Leymis Bolaños Wilmott, FuziÓn Dance Artists
“Dance found me.”
If it seems that Fuzion Dance Artists is everywhere all the time, that’s a testament to co-founder and artistic director Leymis Bolaños Wilmott. From demonstrations at Whole Foods to performances among the sculptures on the bayfront, Fuzion is widening the audience and appreciation for modern dance in a variety of forms, from jazz to hip-hop.
Small and scrappy, with a core company of 10, Fuzión operates on a budget of about $60,000. “One of my passions is collaboration,” says the ebullient Bolaños Wilmott. “Not having a building really forces us to be in the community, which I love.”
Bolaños Wilmott, 35, came to dance relatively late, through a junior high magnet program. She attended the New World School for the Arts in Miami, transferring to the University of Florida to earn UF’s first certificate in dance and healing, then went on to FSU for her master’s degree.
“Dance found me,” she says. “It’s been such a blessing in my life. It’s allowed me to be educated and to travel, and I’ve met such fantastic people.” She helped found Fuzión not only to spread her love of dance, she says, but “to empower people and find ways to communicate and feel good about themselves.”
He was Perfect for This
A new online tool for volunteers.
It seems appropriate that Donnie Morgan, a volunteer social media administrator for Charlotte County Habitat for Humanity, heard about Habitat’s volunteer needs through social media. “I was on Facebook,” says Morgan, 32, who is growing his own social media consulting business. “I wanted to find ways to volunteer, to gain social media experience while helping out.” When he clicked on a link calling for social media expertise, he was directed to YoudBePerfectForThis.org.
You’d Be Perfect For This (YBPFT) is an online initiative of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, built to match potential volunteers with a nonprofit organization. It collects information about volunteer openings, organizes those openings by category, specialty, location or schedule, and then hosts them on a website that is quick, easy to use and—it doesn’t hurt—fun to look at. Since the website offers functionality and display options many organizations cannot afford on their own, YBPFT is on its way to becoming the primary method local groups use to connect to potential volunteers.
After responding to the post on YBPFT, Morgan received an email from Habitat for Humanity and went in for a meeting. “It was a perfect fit,” says Morgan. Before long, in addition to running Habitat’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, he was producing videos and attending events. Morgan says he would enthusiastically recommend YBPFT to friends. “I know people who would love to get involved but don’t know where to start,” he says. And with the variety of volunteer opportunities available, from barbers giving homeless people haircuts to van drivers offering rides to the opera, there is truly something for everyone.
Don’t Go Private
Consider giving through a community foundation.
Generous donors often consider starting their own charitable foundation, but here are three compelling reasons to consider partnering with an established community foundation instead. (Thanks to Roxie Jerde, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.)
Finances Community foundations get larger tax deductions and are exempt from the excise taxes private foundations pay. And unlike community foundations, private foundations must spend 5 percent of their asset annually.
Resources A community foundation has already developed partners and connections and an experienced staff that can help guide your philanthropy.
Legacy Through a community foundation, donors can connect with each other and co-fund initiatives, accomplishing more over a longer period of time than they can individually. “That offers the confidence that your intentions are carried out for generations to come,” says Jerde.
Shop for a Cause
A sampling of not-for-profit stores.
Encore! & more
1439 Main St., Sarasota
Benefits: Women’s Resource Center of Sarasota County
Annual amount raised: $78,000-plus
What you’ll find: Used clothing, shoes, handbags and accessories.
Great finds: A gently worn Armani suit for $60
Habitat for Humanity ReStores
2095 17th St. and 4408 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota; Clearance Center 2055 17th St.
Benefits: Habitat for Humanity Sarasota
Annual amount raised: $525,400
What you’ll find: Household furnishings, appliances and construction materials, used clothing
Great finds: Newer stainless-steel Subzero refrigerator for $1,400
Historic Spanish Point Museum Store
337 N. Tamiami Trail, Osprey
Benefits: Historic Spanish Point
Annual amount raised: $25,000
What you’ll find: Books on history and nature, home-made jams and sauces, mugs, tea towels
Great finds: Old-fashioned children’s toys.
5831 Derek Ave., Sarasota
Benefits: Goodwill Industries Manasota
Annual amount raised: $70,000-plus
What you’ll find: Upscale and luxury apparel, paintings, signed prints, art glass
Great finds: Gucci and Coach handbags and shoes, Chanel scarves
Woman’s Exchange of Sarasota
539 S. Orange Ave., Sarasota
Benefits: 25-plus arts-related nonprofits and nearly 50 scholarships
Annual amount raised: $330,000
What you’ll find: Used furniture, clothing, jewelry, household items
Great finds: A hand-signed Italian glass bowl for $88 (lowest online price: $160)
Be a Better Board Member
Six tips from national nonprofit expert Sandra Hughes.
1 Focus on the mission. Treat questions of mission, vision and core values as crucially important to all board decisions. “Keep the mission front and center,” Hughes says. “Print it on the agenda, put it everywhere.”
2 Think strategically. “Board meetings should be 70 percent to 80 percent robust strategic discussion,” says Hughes. “I don’t join a board to hear a committee chair give a report that I could have read. That’s why you have a consent agenda.”
3 Ask tough questions. Resist the urge to be nice. Instead, seek more information, question assumptions (“Why have we always done it this way?”) and challenge conclusions. If something doesn’t feel right, speak up and say so.
4 Put loyalty to the organization first. It’s OK if you’re on other boards, but you’re not there to forge personal alliances or play politics. Put the interests of the organization above all else when you’re making decisions.
5 Keep learning. The best board members love to learn, and they embed continuous learning opportunities into the board meetings, says Hughes. “This even means doing research about what else the board could be doing that they haven’t thought of before,” she says.
6 Bring energy and humor. It’s hard work being an effective board member. A little levity can help make it all worthwhile.
How social media saved 263 suffering dogs.
When 263 filthy, sick, flea- and tick-infested dogs were found cramped in chicken coops in a Venice home earlier this year, Gulf Coast Community Foundation rallied the troops and issued a challenge on gulfcoastgives.org. Gulf Coast Gives is an online portal where local nonprofits post about a cause in need of funding, and individuals can donate in any amount. GCCF offered to match the first $21,000 donated, and the foundation and local animal rescue facilities shared the challenge on Facebook and Twitter.
More than 90 individuals and organizations donated by the end of the week; with GCCF’s matching grant, funds raised exceeded $42,000. The money was divided among 13 animal shelters throughout the state, where the dogs were fed, bathed, treated for infections and placed up for adoption. Kelly Romanoff, marketing manager for GCCF, says their success hinged on synergy between social and traditional media. On the last day of the challenge, a man walked in with a $10,000 check. He did not own a computer and had never heard of Gulf Coast Gives, but he read about the dogs in the paper and wanted to help. “The combination of social and traditional media is what got the home run,” says Romanoff. —Beau Denton