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20th Anniversary. 200 Guests. $60,000 in grants!


About 200 grantees, supporters, and guests gathered at Portland’s St Clements Castle on October 3 for Liberty Bank Foundation’s 20th Anniversary Conference and Celebration. The day was filled with plenty of opportunities for learning, networking, and reflecting on our joint successes. Oh, did we mention that three of our guest organizations went home with $20,000 grants? [And there was cake!!]

Before we go on to the recap of all the excitement, here’s a big shout-out of thanks to our two co-sponsors who helped bring so many great speakers to our program: James H. Napier Foundation and the Community Foundation of Middlesex County.

The morning kicked off with workshops on hot topics on interest. Speakers Catherine Bradshaw and Stewart Lanier [from TSNE MissionWorks] addressed the growing concern about who will replace today’s nonprofit leaders. Many organizations find that both executive directors and board members are getting near retirement age but have no immediately apparent successors. The duo offered their expertise on best practices for succession planning.

Sarah Lange‘s [New Era for Nonprofits] workshop was a big draw for those wishing to sharpen their fundraising skills. In this time of budget uncertainty, along with many unknowns regarding the level of federal and state support organizations can expect, this was essential information. Sarah brought heartening news by pointing out that 72 percent of nonprofit funding comes from individuals. It’s just a matter of redirecting efforts, outreach and messaging.

You change the world in ways big and small and your work gives me hope. Thank you.

Nonprofit leadership guru Joan Garry (whose motto is “nonprofits are messy”) held a workshop session to address the Dear Abby concerns of nonprofit leaders. There was no lack of questions, with Joan offering several important pieces of advice:

  • In tough economic times, it’s important to step back and reimagine your operation. Prioritize: Decide what you should continue to do that will allow you to sustain the quality of your service and have the maximum impact on the clients you serve.
  • Board members need to reframe the idea of fundraising. Their job is 1) to tell more about the organization they serve at every opportunity — educate people in their spheres of influence;  and 2) invite more:  get people excited about getting involved with the organization.
  • For board members to be effective, they must experience firsthand what the clients’ needs are and how the organization addresses them.
  • Power, money and egos can get in the way of sound decision making. The key criterion must always be what is best for the clients being served.

Joan was also the event’s keynote speaker, and brought much levity, encouragement, and plain old good advice to her talk. She began by touching on two words that nonprofits do not hear enough: “thank you” and “yes.” “You care about others in our society,” she said, “the homeless, the abused, the marginalized, and those on the lowest economic rung. You change the world in ways big and small and your work gives me hope. Thank you.”

Joan’s formula for a thriving nonprofit hinges on these five factors:

  • Having the right people on staff and on the board, who are committed and passionate.
  • Ensuring that money coming in is diverse and balanced (not overly dependent on one funder), and money going out is managed with great care.
  • Delivering programs that are mission-centric and deliver the highest quality to clients.
  • Emphasizing storytelling as a basis for connecting with potential board members, donors and volunteers. To be a good ambassador for an organization, it is imperative to continually talk about the good work the organization does (tell more) and use this as a basis to get others excited about the mission (invite more).
  • Formulating strategy jointly with board and staff members. “The most effective organizations are those where the executive director and the board chair respect each other and work as equals for the same goals.”

At the conclusion of her remarks, it was clear by the standing ovation that Joan touched many hearts and left the audience fired up to carry on with their vital missions.

Our foundation packs a bigger punch than our weight class would lead you to believe.

Liberty Bank Foundation Chairman of the Board Mike Helfgott recounted the foundation’s many achievement over the years, all in cooperation with organizations represented in the audience. “We see ourselves as players in a big orchestra, not as a soloist.” he said.  “The problems out there are too big.  So even though, as I like to say, our foundation packs a bigger punch than our weight class would lead you to believe, we are all about the partnerships.  So count on us to keep slugging away with you—and together, we will leave this little state of Connecticut better than we found it.”

Liberty Bank President and CEO Chandler J. Howard was on hand to announce the three winners of the foundation’s 20th anniversary grant competition. Each recipient was greeted with whoops of heartfelt support from the audience. Congratulations to these agencies that each won a grant for $20,000:

  • GROW Windham/Windham Regional Community Council
  • Windham Regional No Freeze Hospitality Center
  • Middlesex County Habitat for Humanity of CT

Thanks for being our friends and partners in making that difference.

Chandler told audience members: “I hope each of you is as proud as I am of what we’ve been able to achieve together over the past 20 years. Our victories aren’t always big ones.  But every child who starts school reading at grade level…every formerly homeless person who can sleep in his own apartment at night…every parent that can provide for their children because they have the skills they need to get a decent job…every one of them represents a small difference we made. Thanks for being our friends and partners in making that difference.”

Here’s one of the many messages we received from attendees following the conference:

“Absolutely terrific event. Beginning to end. Twenty years of informed giving. A very reflective board. And supportive CEO. Chandler Howard. I missed seeing past board members. Willard in particular. Great stories of  building the foundation. Boy Mike spared us no detail, right?  More later on  the results of the competition. What a venue. Saint Clements Castle. Good choice made nonprofits feel like they could fly in first class. At the end. After good byes  I drove down to the  marina of  St Clemens. On the shore of mighty Connecticut River. Shadow of a large bird was overhead. Followed it to the tree it roosted upon.  An oak tree no less. American Bald Eagle. Liberty for all.”

— Jeff Beadle, Windham Regional Community Council