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Peer Roundtables: The Difference Between Success and Status Quo

July 10, 2019 Advisory

I’ve been working in the nonprofit sector for about 23 years, employed by two cultural organizations and as a consultant to myriad others. After serving on nonprofit boards in the 1990s, I felt called to pursue a career in the sector after seeing a need for the kind of skills, experience and commitment I had to offer.

These years have been a joy, helping improve the Richmond community and the nonprofit organizations that are making a difference here. Measuring success to me is trading high-fives with developmentally disabled adults working on a production line, witnessing thousands of people honoring our military veterans on Veterans Day, or reading that our point-in-time count of homeless individuals has fallen more than half in the last 10 years. All of these are examples of making a difference.

I’ve also learned firsthand that running a nonprofit – no matter the size of the organization – is extremely hard work. And like the business sector, it can be lonely at the top. That’s why I was so glad to meet members of the Virginia Council of CEOs (VACEOs), who, incidentally, share a space with Fahrenheit Advisors.

Harry Warner, Managing Director, Nonprofit Division, Fahrenheit Advisors

VACEOs serves CEOs of nonprofits and for-profits alike, connecting leaders for experience-sharing, learning and networking opportunities. One of the most popular benefits of VACEOs membership is participation in monthly roundtable events with peers who’ve had the same kinds of experiences. I know I could have used a group of peers like this to talk with about the challenges I faced as a nonprofit executive director!

Recently, Fahrenheit and VACEOs invited local nonprofit community CEO/executive director friends for a meetup to share information and gauge interest in starting an exclusive nonprofit organization roundtable. Here’s what we learned.

K Alferio, President at Glen Allen Cultural Arts Center, shares with nonprofit executives at Fahrenheit and VACEOs event why she values her roundtable.

PEER SHARING GROUPS OFFER AN INVALUABLE EXPERIENCE

“VACEOs comprises approximately 240 members representing all types of businesses, industries and nonprofits,” explained VACEOs executive director Scot McRoberts during the event.

“The most powerful way we serve these leaders is through placement in a confidential roundtable of peers. They can talk about anything within their roundtable group. It could be, ‘My board of directors is not stepping up,’ or ‘I don’t know how to manage this employee issue I’m dealing with’ or ‘My cash flow is a problem, and I don’t know what to do.’”

The secret sauce is the roundtable protocol training each member receives. VACEOs members learn the importance of communicating with their peers by sharing experiences and not giving advice. And, of course, everything shared remains confidential.

SPEND TIME WORKING ON YOUR NONPROFIT, NOT JUST IN IT

For VACEOs member Jennifer Boyden, the ability to work through challenges with input from other leaders has been invaluable. Boyden runs Heart Havens, a nonprofit that supports adults with disabilities.

“It’s almost like having your own personal board to go through things,” she says. “For me, it’s been absolutely fabulous. I love my roundtable. When you think about carving out that time (for monthly roundtable meetings), you think, ‘Ugh,’ and you think about carving out the time from your budget that’s also stressful, but this gives you the most value.”

“We spend so much time working IN our business on the day-to-day, but this is giving me the opportunity to step back from that and work ON the business so I can be a better leader,” Boyden adds. “It’s made me a better person and a better mother because there are times when I’m struggling in that space. So that processing has helped me through both personal and professional situations. I’m overall a stronger and better person.”

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SUCCESS AND STATUS QUO

Richmond community nonprofit CEOs/executive directors face more pressures than just meeting payroll or creating new programs. They must raise funds to ensure their organization’s long-term sustainability. And they must answer to a board of directors that may not always be on the same page when it comes to the best ways to fulfill on the organization’s mission. That’s where a confidential roundtable of peers can help. Having an outlet to discuss these challenges can be the difference between success and the status quo.

Ready to join a nonprofit roundtable of your own? We’re working with VA Council of CEOs to organize a peer-sharing group today. Contact me for more information, or visit vaceos.org to learn more about the organization and peer-to-peer sharing.

FURTHERING NONPROFITS: IT’S IN OUR DNA

Fahrenheit has a long history of helping nonprofits through client and board engagements and through employee volunteer activities. Now, with our current arsenal of consultants, Fahrenheit employees and newly recruited recently retired nonprofit executives, we are uniquely poised to leverage Fahrenheit’s proven business model for the nonprofit sector. Read “Nonprofit Services Launches with Presentation on Nonprofit Trends” to learn more, or contact me today for more information.

About the Author
Harry Warner, Managing Director, Nonprofit Division, brings 35 years’ professional experience in leadership, business development and managerial effectiveness in both the corporate business and nonprofit sectors to Fahrenheit Advisors. He has expert knowledge in nonprofit management, fundraising, human resources, strategic planning, marketing and financial administration. Harry is able to develop strong community relationships and build effective teams to successfully implement strategic and business plans, achieve fundraising goals (resulting in more than $50 million raised to date), and fulfill organizational missions. Contact Harry.

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