10 Questions or Less is a feature here on the Forum’s Forum in which we get to know regional association staff members a little better—their work, what drives them, and more. This week, Tom Torretta, Director, Member Services and Communications at Arizona Grantmakers Forum. Tom was nominated for this profile by Lindsey Greenberg of Gateway Center for Giving. If you would like to suggest someone for a profile through10 Questions or Less, contact Dan Brady.
Your title is Director of Member Services and Communications. Sounds like you cover a lot of ground. What are some of your day-to-day responsibilities?
Marissa Theisen, President & CEO and I are the only full-time staff at Arizona Grantmakers Forum. I like to say I do everything Marissa doesn’t do. Marissa jokingly likes to say I do everything she doesn’t know how to do.
I handle all member services, recruitment and retention responsibilities; marketing; communications; programs; accounting; website design and maintenance; IT support including, customer relationship management database, PC/Server support, phone support; and, anything else I am asked to do (within reason).
You’ve already got a Masters degree in Computer Science, now you’re going for one in Nonprofit Studies. What are some of the most important skills you’ve learned for working at a regional association?
Most importantly, I have learned that relationship building and development are top priority. It is vital that you know your members in order to best serve them. While I was in IT, we had a tendency to “build it and hope they will come”. For me, that was a backward way of working. It is better for everyone if you work closely with your members, find out what they need and then provide those services, especially when you are a small organization. Trying to guess what your members want and then implementing it can be costly and often times doesn’t have the intended outcome.
What would you say is AGF’s most popular member program?
In general, AGF’s affinity groups have been the most popular offering. We have actually cut our monthly general programs from 12 to 6 this year, so we can add more affinity groups. Our members like specialized meetings with their peers as opposed to meetings presenting broad topics.
Is there anything you’re working on now that is particularly exciting?
These may not be exciting to most, but to me they are. I have been working to offload most of my administrative duties, so I can focus more on member recruitment and retention.
We have decided to stop offering our annual Art of Giving luncheon, so we need to find other revenue streams. So, I have recently started researching ways to raise money outside of membership dues and grants. For example, I am looking into grant opportunities to allow AGF to add staff and capacity. I believe with one more person on staff, the quality and quantity of services we offer our members would skyrocket. If any of you are aware of national foundations that fund capacity building grants, please let me know.
What’s one thing you do in your position that the Forum network can help with?
In my spare time, I am looking into streamlining our back-end systems to simplify the management of our members, websites and online social networking site. We use several different systems, which do not integrate with each other.
Luckily, I have 20 years of IT experience, so managing these disparate systems is not too bad. However, I want to implement a solution that can be easily managed by almost anyone. The hard part is finding this solution without breaking the bank. I would love to hear from some of you in regard to your ideas or solutions.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
I find working with our members to be most fulfilling. For example, matching our member(s) with an ongoing collaboration or nonprofit helps them succeed and also helps the community.
We do our best to be the “expert” resource for our members. We want our members to think of us as their go-to resource or conduit to their peers and the community. In order to be that expert, we need to constantly be building relationships and networking with others. I really like that part of the job. There are a lot of amazingly talented people who are more than happy to share their expertise.
Outside of work, what are you passionate about?
I love children and golf. My wife and I do not have children (unless you count our four dogs and cat), so I like to volunteer with the First Tee. For those who don’t know, the First Tee is an organization that teaches kids to golf, but at the same time, uses golf to teach life skills including honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment. It is great watching the participants grow and develop as they progress through the program. All this and I get to golf, too.
Anything else we should know?
I enjoy traveling with my wife, especially to Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA.
Feel free to contact me if you have ideas or questions for me. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a suggestion of someone in the network you’d like to see profiled through10 Questions or Less, contact Dan Brady.