Guest Contributors

IBM Impact Grants Help Leadership North Carolina Stay Competitive

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To survive in an era of diminishing resources, nonprofit organizations have to be managed as professionally as their for-profit counterparts. That’s why we at Leadership North Carolina (LNC) felt so fortunate to receive an IBM Impact Grant prior to developing our strategic plan for improved fund raising, recruitment and alumni outreach. Our alumnus Steve Pearson of IBM Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs facilitated the grant.


Two IBM consultants helped guide us through a review process prior to the presentation of our strategic plan to the Leadership North Carolina Board of Directors. Before arriving for the review session, IBM’s consultants conducted phone interviews with 16 LNC stakeholders – including our staff, many members of our Board of Directors and key alumni. During our two-day consultation with IBM, we reviewed our SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis, identified key focus areas, refined our vision statement, and charted a course to capture measurable impacts of the LNC program experience and engage our alumni more directly.

As part of our strategic planning, we collaborated with the Central Piedmont Community College Institutional Research and Planning Department to survey LNC alumni. The IBM consultants helped us craft survey questions that would generate responses we could use in an impact assessment of the LNC program. This approach was critical for us, as demonstrating program impact is essential to our organization’s ability to recruit members and partners, and pursue necessary financial support. We eventually were able to incorporate program impact statistics and alumni success stories into a dynamic presentation that showcased LNC’s value proposition.

IBM also helped us develop processes to engage with our alumni more effectively. For example, we launched a Lunch & Learn series and created our Red Thread Partnerships to help our alumni connect with each other and with meaningful opportunities for volunteer service. Both of these initiatives have helped strengthen the LNC community while raising awareness of our work and making our organization more sustainable.

Earlier this year, a second IBM Impact Grant enabled the LNC team to participate in a Social Media Strategies Workshop at IBM’s Research Triangle Park campus. This second workshop complemented our earlier work with IBM consultants by conveying effective strategies for using social media to connect with our alumni, current class members and other core audiences. As part of the workshop, the IBM team evaluated our existing social media presence and suggested a number of refinements. Following the IBM team’s recommendations, we developed a social media communications plan for our most recent LNC Forum and achieved our largest-ever attendance. Moving forward, we are developing
a longer-term calendar to coordinate our social media, newsletter, media advisory and
email communications.

The IBM Strategic Planning and Social Media Strategies workshops – enabled by two IBM Impact Grants – provided invaluable guidance to our organization. Collaborating with IBM consultants helped Leadership North Carolina focus our resources on enhancing the effectiveness and reach of our small staff, strengthening communications among our constituencies, and providing tangible benefits to our clients.

Brian Etheridge is President of Leadership North Carolina, an independent, nonpartisan nonprofit organization that engages current and emerging leaders from across the
state through the Leadership North Carolina Program and ongoing networking and
service opportunities.

Related Resources:

Made with IBM: How IBM’s Skills Made Our Non-Profit More Sustainable

Doing More With Less: Why Professional Management Is Essential for
Social Services Providers

Ensuring the Reliability of Vermont’s Nonprofit Safety Net

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