Along with cooler temperatures, colorful leaves and pumpkin spice everything, the start of fall brings the countdown to the “giving season.”

It’s unfortunate that giving is perceived as seasonal, but we get it. Between the fall and winter holidays and year-end tax deductions, if there’s going to be a giving season, it’s the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be telling you about some of the worthy organizations ADG supports during the “giving season” and all year round. As a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise (WBE), we decided to celebrate our 25th anniversary by focusing this year’s efforts on organizations that serve female or majority-female populations.

Here is an overview of the groups you’ll be hearing more about.

WERC logoThe Capital District Women’s Employment & Resource Center (WERC) is a not-for-profit organization that works to advance women's success in the workplace by building their economic and personal independence. Since 1988, WERC has provided quality workforce development services to more than 9,000 women from New York’s Capital Region who have lost their source of support due to divorce, separation, or their spouse's job loss, disability or death. Single mothers or women who are facing the loss of public assistance benefits also qualify for WERC's training programs.

WERC staff and volunteers assist women with career exploration, preparing and posting resumes, computer literacy, communication, interview skills and other essential aspects of the job search process in one-on-one and group settings. Job placement assistance is provided to all participants during and after their training.

WERC is a participant in the New York State Displaced Homemaker Program (DHP), which has been providing workforce development training, resource assistance and job placement services to women in transition since 1978. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the DHP recently began Project PIVOT (Providing Interactive Virtual Office Training), in which women learn how to use Zoom, take part in a virtual interview and take advantage of home-based alternatives to Microsoft Office.

In 2020, The Women’s Fund of the Capital Region became a program of WERC. The Women’s Fund provides resources and support to financially insecure and nontraditional female students in the greater Capital Region by awarding scholarships and emergency funds and partnering with local organizations.
This new relationship benefits both organizations. WERC women may now apply for Women’s Fund scholarships, and scholarship recipients can access WERC job-seeking resources.

WERC serves about 300 women annually and proudly boasts that 90 percent of those employed through the organization keep their jobs. They also note that every dollar invested with them puts $14 back into the local economy.

Want to help? WERC offers multiple options for cash donations, with 100 percent of the funds donated directly benefiting the women it serves. You can also donate supplies, volunteer for a committee, or donate gently used business apparel to the GreatFinds Women’s Thrift Boutique, which partners with WERC and other nonprofits to provide women in need with affordable work wardrobes.

VHCC logoVeterans & Community Housing Coalition (VCHC) assists military veterans and their families in seven upstate New York counties who are homeless or in danger of becoming homeless. Services include transitional housing, permanent housing, support services and temporary financial assistance.

“But wait!” you’re probably thinking. “Didn’t you just say you were supporting organizations that serve mostly women? Aren’t most veterans men?”

Yes, but … We support VCHC because it’s one of the few veteran-centered charities offering services specifically for female veterans and their families.

Guardian House, a transitional residence for women, is the only supportive housing program for homeless female veterans in New York state, and one of just seven in the entire United States that is funded by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“Homeless women veterans face the same issues as the male veterans. In addition, a large percentage is living with the pain of military sexual trauma,” VCHC notes on its website. “With staff support (residents) work on their issues and when ready transition to a productive, independent life in our community.”

It gets better! VCHC’s latest initiative is a housing program for female veterans with children that will allow the mothers and kids to stay together while Mom gets the help she needs in transitioning to civilian life.

“There currently is not a single facility to house a Veteran Mom and her children together while she receives the services she has earned and deserves,” they write in a letter to potential supporters. “These moms are often separated from their children, or simply given a housing voucher and sent off to fend for themselves without the support they need if suffering from an addiction, recovering from PTSD, or in many cases, been victims of sexual trauma.”

Want to help? VCHC accepts donations of cash, goods and gift cards; learn more here. If you’re in New York's Capital Region, consider attending the 2021 Veterans Ball, scheduled for November 7 in Saratoga Springs. The evening includes dinner, dancing to live music, a silent auction and an honor ceremony, and an opportunity to learn more about VCHC and its work.

LifePath logoLifePath is the new name of Senior Services of Albany, which has been helping older adults remain independent and living in their communities since 1952. While not specifically a women’s organization, the majority of financially insecure seniors it serves are women, as are the majority of caregivers.

Nutrition plays a large role in LifePath’s mission; it offers community dining at locations around Albany County and a Meals on Wheels program that delivers more than 600 meals daily to homebound seniors. In addition, the PASST (Providing Assistance & Support to Seniors in Transition) assists those returning home from a hospital or rehabilitation center with meals, wellness checks and additional support services where needed. These services have been shown to improve healing time and reduce hospital readmissions.

It’s not all about food, though. Activities ranging from book clubs and bingo to crafts and swing dancing lessons are offered in person at senior centers around the county and, since COVID, via Zoom.

Seniors and their loved ones can also access educational programming and counseling on health insurance options, health and wellness, grieving, and other topics.

For 25 years, LifePath has presented the Third Age Achievement Awards, which celebrate those who have made significant contributions to the community after turning 60. For 30 years, it has produced the Capital Region Senior Expo, the largest gathering of aging service professionals under one roof in the area.

Supporting seniors means supporting those who care for them as well, and LifePath has a variety of programs for caregivers, including one-on-one counseling, seminars (in person and via telephone) and respite care.

Want to help? You can donate online to support LifePath’s overall mission, or make a dedicated donation to the Senior Hunger Relief Fund, which provides meals for seniors in crisis who do not meet the criteria for Meals on Wheels eligibility.

Need catering? Support Meals on Wheels by hiring the team to prepare and deliver food to your home or office. Proceeds go back to the program.

LifePath also has multiple volunteer opportunities available, whatever your skill set or schedule.

Those are the three organizations ADG has made a special commitment to this year, but they are not the only ones on our “giving list.” Here are a few more that we have been proud to support over the years:

In addition to supporting charitable endeavors with our dollars, ADG provides management services to several nonprofit charitable organizations, such as:

There’s strength in numbers, and that includes financial strength. Whether donating directly to a worthy cause, encouraging their members to support it, spreading the word about it or all of the above, professional trade associations are uniquely positioned to give back.

WIFS Pink Out receptionWomen in Insurance & Financial Services, for example, has held several events in 2021 to benefit Twisted Pink, which raises funds for research into metastatic breast cancer. At its 2021 National Conference alone, WIFS hosted a trunk show and jewelry pull in partnership with Kendra Scott, and a silent auction of goods donated by members, sponsors and exhibitors, with proceeds donated to Twisted Pink.

Members and friends of WIFS could also use a checkout code when making purchases online from Kendra Scott during the four days of Conference, even if they didn't attend, with a portion of their purchases donated to Twisted Pink.

Nearly $5,000 was raised for this great cause, and that's just from the jewelry pull and silent auction. We could see more once Kendra's contributions from the trunk show and online sales are factored in.

This post is not a boast. We wanted to tell you about the great work these organizations are doing and encourage you to support them if you can. If your association is interested in becoming more involved with charitable work but you aren’t sure how to start, don’t hesitate to ask us for some pointers.

Nonprofits that are fortunate enough to have extra money in the bank are often reluctant to part with it, especially if they’ve been through hard times recently – a recession, or the current pandemic – and income streams have dried up.

That’s normal. Nonprofits are run by humans, after all, and as humans we have been conditioned to save for a rainy day. Indeed, it’s good nonprofit stewardship to have enough in reserve to cover at least a year with little or no income.

If your organization is not investing the rest, however, those rainy days may come sooner rather than later. We’re not talking about investing in stocks, bonds or mutual funds; we’re talking about investing in overhead.

The O word is a loaded one, we know. Charities in particular can face public backlash if they are perceived as spending too much on overhead at the expense of their mission. Donors, especially individuals, want their gifts used to feed the children or fight the disease, not pay for an executive director’s salary, travel expenses or office rent. Many foundations have rules about what percentage of their grant money can be spent on overhead versus programs – and that percentage is often unrealistically low.

“You have to spend money to make money” is not just a saying. An organization needs to invest in infrastructure – staff salaries and training, facilities, equipment, fundraising – to achieve the best results from its programs, properly measure those results, and effectively communicate them to donors and prospective donors.

There’s a name for this: the Overhead Myth. In 2013 and 2014, the CEOs of America’s three leading sources of information about charities -- GuideStar, Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance -- published a pair of open letters, one addressed to donors and one to nonprofits, explaining why the overhead-to-mission funding ratio is not a reliable measure of an organization’s effectiveness.

“In fact, many charities should spend more on overhead,” they wrote in the donor letter. “These expenses allow a charity to sustain itself (the way a family has to pay the electric bill) or to improve itself (the way a family might invest in college tuition).

“When we focus solely or predominantly on overhead, we can create what the Stanford Social Innovation Review has called ‘The Nonprofit Starvation Cycle.’ We starve charities of the freedom they need to best serve the people and communities they are trying to serve.”

In the letter to nonprofits, the authors suggest three things organizations can do to dispel the Overhead Myth:

• Demonstrate ethical practice and share ethical data about performance.
• Manage toward results and understand their true costs.
• Help educate funders on the real cost of results.

“Too often nonprofits contribute to the Overhead Myth by highlighting financial ratios as their core accomplishment – especially in their fundraising materials,” they write. “Tragically, this can be at the expense of meaningful performance metrics and reinforces funders’ confusion. Funders need to understand the truth if they are to change their behavior.”

This applies equally to professional trade associations and other nonprofits that rely on member dues and sponsorships for their income. For these organizations, investing in overhead may take the form of hiring a lobbyist to beef up their advocacy work, a highly sought-after speaker to attract more conference attendees, or a consultant to assist with overhauling their education or certification programs. All these things add value to the member experience; without them, members and sponsors will desert the organization, taking their dollars with them.

Of course, these spending decisions are ultimately up to an organization’s board. We encourage association executives reading this to share the resources linked above with their treasurers, other officers and board members. If you need help convincing them of the importance of investing in the organization’s long-term health, give ADG a call.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it's the value of Zoom for connecting, sharing, educating and more.

Even when the world returns to normal, we expect keep using Zoom. Are you making the most of it to host your meetings, webinars and other events?

We’ve become no strangers to change since the COVID-19 pandemic began, but one change we may not have thought too much about recently is the change that comes with the aging of the nonprofit workforce. The oldest members of the Baby Boom generation are turning 75 this year, and the senior members of Generation X are only three years from their 60th birthdays.

The transition from the “old guard” of association leaders to the next generation is expected to come with lots of changes, and not just because millennials and Generation Z have different working styles from boomers and Gen X’ers.

For one thing, many members of the old guard are reluctant to retire or even step back, for a variety of reasons.

Fear of letting go. “Many boomers won’t discuss their plans to retire or slow down due to the fear they will be marginalized or passed over for meaningful work,” Tara Withington of Association Executive Director Inc. told Associations Now magazine in 2018. When it comes to retirement, many association executives are taking a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach.

Reluctance to let go. “Boomers don’t want to just hang on until they can’t work anymore,” Withington noted. “They want to make sure that they are mentoring and sharing their wisdom. And, quite honestly, I’ve heard from millennials that they’re not ready for the boomers to just walk out the door either. They rely on us for guidance and insight.”

Finances. It’s no secret that nonprofit salaries tend to be lower than those in the for-profit sector. While directors of large national or international associations may be making comfortable incomes, those running smaller local, state or regional organizations may have been unable to save much money – if any – for retirement. As one still-working senior puts it, “My retirement plan is ‘Hello, welcome to Walmart.’”

On a related note, many boomers 66 and older are using their Social Security benefits as a retirement savings plan while they continue to work. Those who start collecting Social Security at full retirement age – which ranges from 66 for workers born between 1943 and 1954 to 67 for those born in 1960 and later -- can earn unlimited income without reducing their benefit amount. People who choose this option can continue to live on their salaries while setting aside their Social Security checks for the future – or vice versa.

The good news is, the boomers aren’t going anywhere in a hurry. The bad news is, because of this, many associations aren’t planning for the inevitable time when they do.

Succession planning is a must, but it needs to acknowledge that the person who looks like the perfect choice to succeed Bob or Betty Boomer may not be around when the time comes. There’s no escaping the fact that younger workers don’t keep the same employer for long. Whether they move across town for better pay, across the country for a spouse’s or partner’s job, or out of the workforce altogether to care for children, we can’t put all our future eggs in one person’s basket, no matter how perfect a fit they are for that upcoming executive director opening.

Changing an association’s office culture is key to preparing for the next generation of leadership. Much has been written about what younger workers want from their jobs:

Flexibility, flexibility, flexibility. If we have learned anything from the pandemic, it is that associations can be managed remotely. In addition to accessing client associations’ emails from their home computers, ADG staff can also receive calls to clients’ lines on their cell phones, dial into the client line to check messages, and receive voicemail messages in clients’ email inboxes. Many of our members don’t even know we aren’t all in the office every day.

When the pandemic is behind us and the world fully reopens, many workers say they’re reluctant to go back to commuting five days a week – and not all of these workers are under 40. A culture of flexibility goes a long way toward attracting and retaining association leaders and future leaders of all ages.

A sense of purpose. Younger people want more from their jobs than a paycheck. They want to know the work they do is making a difference in the world. For associations, this is an easy sell. We are making a difference – but are we communicating that effectively to the next generation of association leaders?

Mentors, not managers. Ignore your curmudgeonly uncle’s rants on Facebook about “kids these days.” Younger people want to work. They just don’t want to submit to an authoritarian management model that, thankfully, appears to be going the way of the Walkman. As a wise person once said, “People work for managers. They follow leaders.” To grow a leader, be one.

Younger association leaders have their own thoughts on the challenges of stepping into an executive role, including resistance from older association members, board members and staff who doubt “that youngster” has what it takes to run the show. If the new, young executive is also female, and the membership is largely male, that pushback can intensify.

Three young executives, two women and one man, who ranged in age from 29 to 33 when they assumed their positions, told Associations Now in a 2017 article how they met those challenges. We won’t go into their stories here – you can read them on the magazine’s website – but here are a few key takeaways.

Listening and learning. Early in their tenure, they sat down and listened to as many stakeholders as they could: officers, directors, staff, sponsors and members – including the doubting Thomases and Theresas who had concerns about their leadership. They took notes, listened between the lines, and factored all that input into their action plans.

Showing them the numbers. After a few months or a year, they had quantifiable evidence to share with Tom, Terri et al. – increased membership numbers, increased event attendance, increased engagement on social media, increased website traffic and, above all, increased revenue. One of them had the opportunity to sit down with a retired member who had expressed doubts about her leadership at the beginning, and show him the growth the association had experienced since she came aboard.

“I said, ‘I understand that my leadership may be a little bit jarring for you, but realize that not only are we maintaining member services, but we’re growing them,’” she told Associations Now.

Thinking young. News flash: Not only are association executives getting older; so is the membership. Next-gen executives are using their perspective as young adults to identify what their fellow millennials and Gen Z’ers want from a professional association, develop those benefits, and reach out to prospective young members where they live.

ADG’s association management staff ranges in age from under 40 to over 60, and we have 25 years of experience assisting associations in transitioning to new leadership. If your organization needs guidance in planning for the next generation of leadership, give us a call. We’ve been there.