IN MY VIEW: Building the future of your non-profit

IN MY VIEW: Building the future of your non-profit

By Bob Phillips

“Après moi le deluge”
 (after me the flood) — the famous quote from King Louis XV of France should not be part of the mission statement of a nonprofit.

Yet very few agencies have prepared themselves for the flood of problems that will surely swamp them if they don’t have a plan on how to replace their leadership when the inevitable time of transition comes.

One of the less-known and even less-acknowledged facts about the leadership of nonprofits, especially in a retirement area like Southern Arizona, is that it is aging, rapidly. About two-thirds of all nonprofit leaders are planning to leave their jobs in the next five years. Informal interviews with a sample of Green Valley nonprofits suggests that the figure is conservative as most local leaders plan to be doing something else or nothing else five years from now.

In an area that relies on committed and talented volunteers to carry the bulk of the work of its nonprofit agencies, it must be noted that most of these volunteers and the staff members who depend on them are themselves older with a diminishing will and ability to carry the load of their agency’s programs. It is one thing to hire and/or recruited staff and volunteers in their 30s or 40s who will be around for a long time, and quite another when your labor pool is mostly stocked with folks in their 60s and 70s and beyond.

So – back to succession. How does a nonprofit recruit and retain its leadership and workforce in a retirement community? Some suggestions:

•Do not rely on too few for too much – breakdown and burnout are at the end of that path.

•Limit your program aspirations and agency goals to your available and renewable resources.

•When you are recruiting new board members, look for some that are new to the community (meaning that they haven’t already gotten involved in a lot of activities) have nonprofit management experience and look like they will be around for a while.

•Recruit and utilize interns from the high schools and colleges with community service programs of nearby communities like Sahuarita and Tucson. As those communities are a reasonable commute, perhaps they will provide your future leadership.

•If you have had an executive director who was the founder and/or has been with the agency for a long time, consider hiring a temporary executive director (who doesn’t want the permanent job) to help you figure out what you want in the future that will necessarily be different than the past.

•Consider sharing leadership positions by dividing up responsibilities so that one person doesn’t carry the whole load.

•Work with the Greater Green Valley Community Foundation’s Nonprofit Learning Institute to develop and adopt a succession plan that would contain the elements listed above.

At the end of the day, preparing for the future of your favorite cause is the best way of ensuring that it will have one.

For more info on NPLI and its training and nonprofit support programs and/or to make a comment or share an insight, contact: NPLI Director Bob Phillips, rtp1844@gmail.com / http://www.robertphillips-consulting.com/

More and more, answers coming from the South

More and more, answers coming from the South

By Bob Phillips May 14, 2017

Amid all the furor about the border, migration and national security, one fact remains constant, especially for Green Valley – the one thing that Mexico will never be is far away. With Mexico literally next door, would it not seem timely for Green Valley to examine its future through a cross-cultural, bi-national lens?

Some facts:

• Mexican shoppers spend $7 million to $8 million a day in Arizona, and outside of the White Elephant, very little of that is spent in Green Valley.

• There are 11 universities, 100 major manufacturing plants and over 400,000 inhabitants in Nogales, Mexico.

While Tucson, Phoenix, Nogales and other U.S. towns and cities market aggressively in Mexico and work to build civic and commercial connections with colleagues across the border, Green Valley is sorely lacking in such connections. The exception to this is the growing number of private citizens and nonprofit agencies, many times spearheaded by Green Valley churches, who have made contacts with Mexico, often through the unique cross-border tour program run for the last six or seven years by the Tubac-based Border Community Alliance and its Mexican partner, FESAC.

In the article I wrote in March on change coming to Green Valley, I suggested that if Green Valley was to attract new residents and progress it would have to adapt to the changes and lifestyles personified by the next cohort of retirees, the Baby Boomers – children of the 60s and 70s, America’s historically most disruptive generation. I suggested that nonprofits, those necessarily nimble organizations born out of innovation and schooled on surviving on scarce resources, could be the agents of change needed to build a sustainable future for Green Valley. The responses I received from the article were mostly a pushback against changes in Green Valley as it is now. To be expected and not where the conversation should end.

So, let me tie together the two parts of this discourse by suggesting that the future of Green Valley, at least part of it and perhaps the critical part, will depend on whether Green Valley and not just its social activist elements, embraces and exploits its proximity to Mexico. Baby Boomers, looking to stay socially engaged and intellectually stimulated, will be much more attracted to an active adult community that is substantially engaged with the exciting and rapidly growing country 45 minutes away rather than one that is not particularly diverse and lacks meaningful connections with its dynamic neighbor to the south.

Given the fact that the current educational offerings in Green Valley, with a few notable exceptions, are pretty much devoid of any reference to Mexico and could well be found in any Midwestern or Florida retirement haven, it seems that the one truly unique asset of Green Valley, its geography, lies largely fallow and underutilized. The beginnings of change in that orientation and of the creation of a unique and mutually advantageous relationship between Green Valley and its cross-border neighbor can be seen in the many Green Valley participants in cross-border tours and volunteers to Mexican migrant care centers and social service sites. In this time of toxic politics where our interdependent economic and social relationship with Mexico is imperiled by a flood of fake news and potentially perilous policies, the simple act of reaching out across the border as neighbors can provide a nonpartisan model of collaborative community building. Can Green Valley be the catalyst for that change? Does it want to be?

Nogales, Sonora, has a young and entrepreneurial population dealing with challenging social and economic development issues while Green Valley is a rich resource of mature life and professional experience and an irrepressible volunteer culture. Is there not a match here?

Take one of those cross-border tours with Border Community Alliance and/or connect with one of the local nonprofits or church groups already deeply engaged with counterparts in Mexico. Green Valley does not and cannot exist in isolation. When so much of its past has fixated on looking north, is it not now time to turn south? For more info on the Nonprofit Learning Institute of the Greater Green Valley Community Foundation and its training and service programs or to make a comment, contact: NPLI Director Bob Phillips via email.

HOAs, nonprofits must protect selves

HOAs, nonprofits must protect selves

HOAs, nonprofits must protect selves

By Bob Phillips

“Trust but verify”….. How nonprofits and other community agencies can protect their resources from theft and fraud.


Ronald Reagan’s famous admonition is as relevant to running a nonprofit as it was to guiding our international treaty commitments with the Soviet Union.

Critical to the success of any endeavor, especially those that rely almost completely on public support as do nonprofits, is establishing and maintaining public trust. Especially when it comes to responsibly and transparently managing contributions. Yet the sad fact and a largely unknown one is that embezzlement is a more common and bigger issue than we may think. In the for-profit sector, it’s estimated that 7 percent of gross revenue is lost to employee fraud (Association of Certified Fraud Examiners report) while according to a 2007 study by four university scholars of accounting — nonprofits lose 13 percent of the total they collect in donations each year to fraud (Chronicle of Philanthropy, Embezzlement Happens, 2011) – a frightening and mostly avoidable loss.

The Greater Green Valley Community Foundation created the Nonprofit Learning Institute (NPLI) to provide training on all aspects of creating programs and policies, including successfully managing finances and preventing fraud. The NPLI exists because most local nonprofits cannot afford quality professional training not only to improve performance but also on how to avoid the trust-damaging issues of embezzlement, fraud, and theft. Nonprofit executives and board members have a fiduciary duty to protect their nonprofits’ assets and preserve their ability to provide services. If nonprofit leaders don’t do enough, they have breached their duty and could be held liable.

Too often when fraud happens you hear explanations like these: “We had no idea,” “We needed a treasurer and had to take anyone who offered,” “The reports always seemed correct,” “We are a small organization,” “We are all friends,” “We can’t afford to pay for professional help.” The fact is there is a lot that even the smallest nonprofit can and must do.

Here are some good and simple steps to safeguard your nonprofit finances. If you have a one-person office, creating all the following controls may be impossible, but you should try to implement as many of them as possible:

  • Store checkbooks, savings passbooks, blank checks, financial records, and cash in a locked, secure place.
  • Regularly back up financial records that you keep on computers, and store a copy off-site in a safe location.
  • Assign to different people the separate functions of writing checks, signing checks, reconciling bank accounts and checking the canceled checks that return from the bank. If you can arrange for four different people to perform these tasks, that’s great. If not, maybe a board member can double-check canceled checks.
Look for accuracy and for anything that looks fishy, such as checks made out to vendors you don’t recognize, checks canceled by people or businesses other than those to whom they’re written, or canceled checks that are missing from bank statements. Embezzlement is rare but possible, and taking these steps is a way to detect it.
  • Require two signatures on checks or bank transfers over a certain amount. There is no standard amount for this practice: It depends on what qualifies as an unusually high transaction for your nonprofit. You can adopt this requirement as an internal policy and enforce it as a way of ensuring board oversight of large transactions.
Although your bank probably monitors large or unusual transactions and may contact your organization if it notices unusual activity on your account, these days few banks accept responsibility for enforcing a two-signature policy on customers’ checks.
  • Retain in organized files, subject to a document retention/destruction policy, all paperwork that backs up your banking documents. These documents may include personnel time sheets, box office or other records for tickets sold, receipts, and invoices. You may scan and retain them as electronic documents if you wish. If you do so, back up the files and carefully protecting passwords.
  • Keep an itemized list of any furniture or equipment you purchase or receive as donations (including computers), noting the date they were purchased or received and their value.

Most important, contact the Greater Green Valley Community Foundation and sign up for the trainings run by its NonProfit Learning Institute, or request one just for your agency. Knowledge and prevention are your best safeguards. Your clients will thank you and your community will trust and support you.

Bob Phillips
is the director of the NonProfit Learning Institute, a program of the Greater Green Valley Community Foundation. For more info on the NPLI and its training and service programs or to make a comment, contact Phillips via email at: rtp1844@gmail.com

Legacy a picture of your life

Legacy a picture of your life

Legacy a picture of your life

By Mark Davy

Recently, there was a statistic on the AARP website (www.aarp.org) that “more than 50 percent of Americans are living without the essential components of a good estate plan: a will or living trust and advance directives for healthcare and finances. Are you one of them?”


After reading this statistic it brought me back 35 years ago, to a groundbreaking I attended for a new student center. The keynote speaker, Rose Totino, who generously funded this new facility, shared an axiom: “You’ll never see a U-Haul behind a hearse.” Her words are timeless. We can’t take anything with us when we pass, but thankfully each individual has the ability to decide today how our wealth and possessions will be distributed.


Rose was an amazing person: an outstanding wife, mother, businesswoman and philanthropist. With a $1,500 loan from a bank, she and her husband, Jim, started one of the first pizza shops in Minneapolis. Together they made a great success of the restaurant and decided to attempt creating a pizza that could be frozen and baked at home. The Totinos were not the first to create frozen pizza, but their customers and industry leaders determined their crust was the most delicious. The couple successfully placed their pizzas in grocery stores around the country and eventually sold their business to Pillsbury for $22 million.


I don’t know if Rose was the first person to say, “You’ll never see a U- Haul behind a hearse,” but the local newspaper covered the groundbreaking and quoted her. Within a week the expression was picked up by wire services and used in newspapers across the country. From that day on, I have heard this powerful phrase utilized by public speakers, as well as in movies, plays, and songs.

The lesson to be learned is that no matter the size of your estate, all of us should have a plan to share with our children, relatives, friends and charities a legacy that represents who we are as an individual. The time has come for the other 50 percent, who have not created an estate plan, to begin thinking and planning where your possessions and finances are going to be directed. First, you should reflect on who and what you value most in this world. It is then important to discuss with an attorney, an accountant, or you may wish to attend an estate seminar, to determine how to allocate your assets to make the greatest impact.


As you consider what legacy to leave, please keep in mind the eloquent words of Rose Totino and the following anecdote. There is a small Southwest community where the richest man in town passed away and everyone wanted to know what he left. Two people finally got up the courage to ask the attorney. They never thought they would get an answer, but the attorney said, “I’ll be glad to tell you what he left… He left everything.”


Mark Davy is president of the Greater Green Valley Community Foundation.

Figuring out your life legacy

Figuring out your life legacy

By Dan Shearer, Editor, Green Valley News

It’s the kind of book you pick up and read for a few minutes then put down and think about. You’re not sure if you put it down because you needed to digest what you’ve just taken in or because it challenges you to your core, and you’re just not in the mood to feel uncomfortable. You never really come to a conclusion, but one thing is sure: You’ll pick it up again. Because you know it’s good for you, even if it hurts. That’s about the best way I know to describe “The Legacy Letters” by local author Carew Papritz. He published the book in 2013, and it hit a nerve. Years later, it’s still riding high — national awards, media interviews and lots of speaking engagements. It’s philosophy, common sense and passion dumped into a big bucket of good advice and hard truth. And don’t forget to throw in some forgiveness. The story is fiction, but you’ll forget that in the first few pages because you’ll figure out that you could have written it yourself. It’s the story of a man who divorces, finds out his ex-wife is pregnant with his twins, and decides to write his children letters about life after he learns he’s dying of cancer. His words are his legacy, and who doesn’t want to leave a legacy?

That’s the jumping off point — legacy. Not only what you’ll leave behind for those yet to come, but what you are doing now — a living legacy —that defines you. By now, most of us have figured out that career, wealth and name-dropping might make us more intriguing, but they don’t define us. Legacy goes a lot deeper, and often we don’t have it nailed down until we’re way beyond raising our kids, finished our careers and are deep into retirement. Papritz helps us figure it out because his message now comes with a simple assignment: Write a letter. He knows a lot of us are scared off by the prospect of putting pen to paper, so he lays it out clearly and succinctly. For example, with Valentine’s Day close at hand, Papritz helps us to write that most important of letters—a love letter. Take no more than five minutes to do it. Address it to a specific person — Dear “xxxxx.” List three things that your sweetheart does for you every day, and show gratefulness. Seeing words on a page prompts change. It’s gets us to thinking about what’s really important to us rather than just what’s expected of us. It speaks to who we are rather than who we’d like people to think we are. Sometimes it hints at who we want to be, and that’s not so bad, either. But words — words on paper — are important. So that’s your assignment. Get out a pen (not a computer) and think about your legacy. Not only in terms of death, but in terms of how you live now and what you want to do about it going forward.

Think about the things that have meaning in your life, and write them down. Maybe it’s music, animals, children, God. What are you passionate about? What holds your attention? What are you invested in because you wouldn’t be complete without it? What deserves your time and talent? Where does your money go? What do you care about?

Three things that say, “This is me.” Write them down. With honesty and clarity. Because this is the gift of what you believe and how you have lived to share with others. Your kids, grandkids, friends, relatives. Because words on paper are real. And you can hold them and pass them on to others. What’s ahead In coming months, we’ll be talking about legacy, future, and what you can give to your community in a series of columns by the Greater Green Valley Community Foundation. We’ll hear from Bob Phillips on Wednesday. He’s the director of the Non-Profit Learning Institute, and they think about legacy a lot. The goal is to get us thinking about what’s important to us and how we can support that now and in the future. The goal also is to drag us out of our comfort zones, see value in shaping the future, and making concrete and significant changes regarding our roles in and around Green Valley — and our responsibilities to others. So get cracking on the assignment, then read what Bob has to say Wednesday and in coming months as we all work toward the legacy of a better Green Valley.


Non-profits can help feed the soul

Non-profits can help feed the soul

EDITORIAL: Non-profits can help feed the soul By Bob Phillips
Jan 18, 2017

Who’s building the future? Or maybe the real question about the future for Green Valley is how long can anyone — you, me — pursue leisure or recreation without feeding your soul? An often-ignored fact is that the constantly sought after “active adult life” too often leads to depression, drinking, an emptiness. All of us are sustained, whether we acknowledge it or not, by our community. Thus we have an obligation to the place where we live. Ask yourself, what was your goal for coming here? How do you get real fulfillment from this time in your life? Our nonprofit organizations offer us the tools to find the answers.

In the past, helping a neighbor was the way we lived. Then we knew our neighbors as we had grown up together and shared triumphs and tragedies. That time is gone but the need is not. Into that void steps the nonprofit agency. They fill that critical human need to help others, to protect our children, our seniors, our environment, to be a meaningful part of our community, to make a difference.

How do we get involved with the plethora of local nonprofits in Green Valley? That’s easy. Figure out what it is that you have to give, what you are interested in, and what you want to learn, then call the Greater Green Valley Community Foundation at 520-625-4556 and ask which is the best  fit for you.

And while we consider how our nonprofits sustain us and our community, it is fair to ask how do we sustain them? Donors and funders of nonprofits always want to know if the nonprofit that they are helping with money or volunteer time can be sustainable once the money and the volunteer go away. May I suggest that one of the biggest myths about nonprofits concerns sustainability. The fact is that most funders to nonprofits want to give money for only one to two years, and demand that the recipient agency prove that it can become self-sufficient, i.e. not need more money from them, by the end of that period.

Myths are monsters best slain by facts that point out the obvious to the previously oblivious. While we all realize that a business becomes more successful (sustainable) when it sells more stuff or provides more services, we tend to overlook the fact that as a nonprofit becomes more successful in providing the services it was created to provide, its costs go up while its revenue stays the same because it isn’t making a profit. That’s why we call them nonprofits. Success equals more clients, more staff and more expenses without proportional increase in funding. Get the picture? So, once you  and the nonprofit that meets your need to serve, to be useful and fits your interests, stick with it for the long haul.

Once there are no more hungry or poor, no more lonely and sick, no more threats to our environment or schools that need supplies or teachers, then you can get back to that life of leisure and recreation, that active adult life that you thought you came here to get. I bet you’ll find another nonprofit to help.

Bob Phillips is director of the NonProfit Learning Institute of the Greater Green Valley Community Foundation.

For more information on its training and service programs or to make a comment, contact him via email at: rtp1844@gmail.com