Monthly Archives: January 2011

10 Questions or Less for Tom Torretta

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 ttorretta@azgrantmakers.org.

Have a suggestion of someone in the network you’d like to see profiled through10 Questions or Less, contact Dan Brady.

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New Site for San Diego Grantmakers

Computer_SDG homepageA quick follow up to last week’s awesome guest post on documenting your annual conference with video by Michelle Slingerland of San Diego Grantmakers. SDG has just launched its newly redesigned website!

They wanted to create a more vibrant, attractive site for their members, loaded with online resources, materials, and event information, that would be easy to navigate.

Success! Click on over and see what they have to offer.

Gateway Center for Giving Launches Blog

Two weeks ago, I quietly added a new link to our blogroll over on the right: The Gateway Center for Giving Blog. Now that the holidays are official behind us, I thought I’d highlight it here in the main page as well.

They’ve gotten off to a great start with member profiles, event recaps, information about St. Louis-area initiatives. The most recent post, a guest blog by the St. Louis Beacon‘s Margaret Wolf Freivogel, is particularly insightful, contrasting some important differences between the Beacon and the other nonprofit news organizations featured in the much-publicized Knight Foundation report, including a focus on regionalism and partnerships.

This is only the beginning of Gateway Center for Giving’s new online face. They are getting ready to roll out  a new website in the next month or so that promises to have even more exciting resources to offer. In the meantime, be sure to subscribe to their blog to follow the action.

Documenting Your Annual Conference on Video: One Regional’s Experience

by Michelle Slingerland, Director of Communications at San Diego Grantmakers

In order to heed our members’ feedback that the 2010 San Diego Grantmakers (SDG) Annual Conference should be shorter than previous years, we decided that in addition to the morning and afternoon plenary sessions, we’d offer only one round  of breakout workshops from which attendees could choose.

But just in case there was a major outcry from members who wanted to learn about both transparency and evaluation, we thought that if we filmed all the workshops, then our members would be able to later watch the ones the ones they couldn’t attend. Continue reading

FOTH Stipend Applications Due Friday!

This is a friendly reminder that the FOTH stipend applications are due this Friday, January 7. If you have not already done so, please encourage your respective members to apply soon.

Foundations on the Hill Stipend Opportunity – Application Deadline this Friday, January 7!  Continue reading

Ohio Gives

Ohio GivesWhat makes Ohio philanthropy distinctly Ohio-ish?

For more than two hundred years, Ohio has developed its sense of statehood as a loosely connected conglomeration of municipalities, each of which exercises extensive control over its operations. This distinctive home-rule structure is evidenced by its 88 counties, 938 municipalities, 614 school districts, 251 library districts and 1,215 fire departments.

Alongside this home-rule independence has grown a similarly-organized philanthropic landscape, with 3,277 foundations that are managed and give locally and 41,262 nonprofits operated and offering services locally.

Other trends that define the state – several large urban areas interspersed among a large rural landscape, the rise and fall of manufacturing, to name two – are also reflected in the scope and nature of Ohio’s philanthropy. Over 60 percent of the state’s foundations and over 30 percent of nonprofits are based in three urban counties: Cuyahoga, Franklin and Hamilton. Ohio’s philanthropic landscape is also unique in the number of community foundations (68, second highest number in the country) that serve nearly every part of the state.

These patterns and others are discussed in Ohio Grantmakers Forum’s state of philanthropy report. For the first time, this report includes information on the state’s nonprofit grantee segment of the sector as well as a first glimpse at data reflecting the impact of the Great Recession.

Download Ohio Gives.