Her Voice Blog

    The PoweR of Strategic Charitable Giving: Mike McClamroch

    12.2.19 Ms-Interpreted_Title-Card_Ep12

    With the holiday season in full swing, Fletcher Marketing PR’s thoughts turn toward ways to give back, with the help of community foundation thought leader, East Tennessee Foundation. ETF President & CEO Mike McClamroch shares his decades of experience, helping both corporate and individual / family donors effectively focus their philanthropic intent toward significant community or even nationwide impact . . . among them: the Pat Summitt Foundation. Kelly and Mary Beth explore with Mike how the power of PR as a driver of strategic charitable giving delivers lasting legacies and authentic relationships.

    A Knoxville, Tennessee native, Mike McClamroch has been East Tennessee Foundation’s chief executive since 2001. With his constant emphasis on excellent stewardship of the resources entrusted to the Foundation and on top-notch constituent services, Mike has overseen dramatic growth in the asset size and grantmaking of ETF. 

    Prior to leading ETF, Mike practiced law and was an active volunteer with a variety of charitable organizations in the Knoxville area. In 2019, Mike received The Legacy Award for outstanding philanthropic leadership, presented by the Great Smoky Mountain Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. 

    In Episode 12, Kelly and Mary Beth welcome Mike, who talks about the combination of passion, focus and expertise community foundations like East Tennessee Foundation deliver to the fabrics of local communities nationwide.

    Mike discusses: 
    • How and why philanthropy is relevant… now more than ever 
    • Why it’s so important to merge what you’re passionate about with your vocation (and how he’s personally accomplished this outcome through his leadership career path with ETF) 
    • How Mike’s personal collaboration with the late Lady Vols Head Coach Pat Summitt resulted in a national legacy through creation of the Pat Summitt Foundation at ETFto help find a cure for Alzheimer’s 
    • How charitable organizations serve strategic needs in any community (and how public relations professionals can broker necessary relationships and programs to meet those needs) 
    • The types of nationwide community needs that philanthropic donors should consider when undertaking the task of investing dollars for local community impact 
    • What types of communications challenges community foundations encounter, in seeking to advance their missions 
    • Why careers in philanthropy are a direct path toward action-based impact… making the biggest differences to the most people 
    • Why measuring impact is essential 
    • Top mistakes that well-meaning philanthropists can easily make in the process of participating in charitable work / giving 
    • What “the new model” of charitable giving entails 
    • Why it’s important for employees of companies to be involved in the corporate giving process – such as by serving on a grant panel 
    • How the power of endowment works as a core function of ETF to generate permanent grant-making opportunities, with benefits to grantees, donors and communities 
    • How Millennials and women are helping drive philanthropy today 


      Announcer:  Welcome to Ms. InterPReted, her podcast of public relations and strategic communications demystified by Kelly Fletcher and Fletcher Marketing PR. 

      Kelly:  Welcome listeners to the Ms. InterPReted Podcast. I'm Kelly Fletcher, CEO of Fletcher Marketing PR and I'm here with my colleague, Fletcher senior strategist, Mary Best West. Recording today from the downtown Knoxville offices of East Tennessee Foundation. 

      Mary Beth:  And I love being here. Just down the street from the Fletcher PR offices and I feel like I'm kind of back home in a way. 

      Kelly:  Yes. You served on the board of East Tennessee Foundation, right? 

      Mary Beth:  Yes. Yes. Absolutely. And it stands as one of the best experiences I've had both personally and professionally in working with a philanthropic organization but just because of the scope of the work that they do, the people here are just great. 

      Kelly:  And their reputation is stellar. 

      Mary Beth:  Yeah. Yeah. 

      Kelly:  We're certainly going to find out why in a minute. Our topic today is the power of strategic, charitable giving. And when it comes to that topic, there may be no stronger thought leader than East Tennessee Foundation, which is also known as ETF. 

      Mary Beth:  Right. ETF is a nonprofit community foundation. Our guest today will be talking about what that means in just a few minutes. But at a high level, ETF, the thing that they do, they manage and invest charitable funds, established by... you know it could be individuals, could be families, businesses, other nonprofit organizations. So they put that money to work in the communities. 

      Kelly:  Yes. And I've been here several times for client meetings over the years and the big headline is its phenomenal growth. 

      Mary Beth:  Oh yeah. 

      Kelly:  Yes. ETF has grown its asset base of charitable funds under management from about 625K when it got started 

      Mary Beth:  Right. Right. 

      Kelly:  About 30 years ago to now some $450 million under management. 

      Mary Beth:  I mean, it's just outstanding. It's an outstanding growth trajectory for... especially for a community foundation. 

      Kelly:  I know. I did a double take when I saw that number. 

      Mary Beth:  Yeah. I almost did a spit take. But now that we're full on into holiday season, it is really a good time of thinking about how we can be giving to others in, you know in an effective way. And you know just an ideal time to think about giving with purpose. You know whether it's at an individual level or family level, corporate level. Certainly in the business that we're in, 

      Kelly:  Oh yeah. 

      Mary Beth:  You know trying to help companies be able to be just very... engage in thoughtful giving, I guess. 

      Kelly:  Yes. In PR that is really a lot of what we do. 

      Mary Beth:  Right. 

      Kelly:  So, we try to help our clients focus their charitable giving in a way that will build their community and public relationships. 

      Mary Beth:  Mmhm. 

      Kelly:  But also even looking to the bottom line of how philanthropy and business work together. So, it's particularly strategic when companies can integrate their donations to nonprofits with a real focus on core philanthropy. 

      Mary Beth:  Yeah. 

      Kelly:  Couple of examples of one's that we've worked on. Jewelry Television. We... 

      Mary Beth:  Right. 

      Kelly:  We brokered a partnership with the American Heart Association because heart disease is the number one killer of women. 

      Kelly:  So it made a lot of sense. And that's been a very successful partnership over the years. And then also Roland in Los Angeles. The musical instrument company. 

      Mary Beth:  Yeah... yeah... yeah. 

      Kelly:  You always see the keyboards with a Roland logo. We worked with them on a partnership with Girl Scouts of America to help draw attention to the fact that music education is so important in development and then partnering with Best Buy to give those girls free music lessons. So... 

      Mary Beth:  Well and it's in the partnering and the brokering of those partnerships that I think the power of what we do as an agency and what public relations firms in general can do just to help companies be successful. I mean, one of the best ways for companies to unlock, I think, the power of strategic charitable giving is to partner with a third-party philanthropic organization. And one with... you know that has a long track record of credibility and accomplishment tied to that. 

      Kelly:  Yeah. There's a lot that goes into that. I'm not sure people realize how much thought and contemplation goes into which are the right partnerships. That's why our visit today with East Tennessee Foundation is really timely, because ETF is a huge source of guidance to companies 

      Mary Beth:  Yeah. 

      Kelly:  And individuals about how to take a thoughtful, well-planned approach to their charitable giving. And not just during the holiday season or later in the coming year during tax season, but the whole year. 

      Mary Beth:  Yeah, right. I think that's exactly right, because philanthropy, you know just in my experience over the years, it may be one of the most underutilized and underestimated tools in public relations that build really authentic bridges to diverse communities. And I think that today's chat is going to help all of us understand that process a lot better from a- 

      Kelly:  I agree. 

      Mary Beth:  Real source of expertise. 

      Kelly:  Absolutely. I agree. Our guest today, Mike McClamroch, has served as president and chief executive of ETF for 18 years. Mike has a legal background, which has certainly helped ensure ETF's technical success. 

      Mary Beth:  Yeah. But I mean in addition to that, of course, that technical success has been a really big part of it. But the thing about Mike is, he has such a collaborative management style and an approach to building relationships that have been at least in my view in having seen his work over the years, it's the most central part of you know the value that he brings to ETF and just the culture here and the larger team success. I've served on his board this past decade over two separate terms. Mike helped me learn so much about doing charitable giving the right way. And I hesitate to say that there's a wrong way to do charitable giving. But- 

      Kelly:  Well, but there is a smart, effective way to go about it 

      Mary Beth:  Right. 

      Kelly:  In a way that's truly strategic. 

      Mary Beth:  Yeah. Without question. So to me, it's the difference between just writing a check and being done with it versus being truly knowledgeable and purposeful about where you want to invest those dollars for real and measurable impact, and that's what Mike and his team do so well. They promote philanthropy in general out in the community. I mean, you see them a lot out at community events and really engaging with local level community organizations. But then they also help individuals and families and corporations engage in it with purpose and just achieving that permanent impact through particularly endowment level giving. 

      Kelly:  So let's get the conversation started. Mike, welcome to Ms. InterPReted. 

      Mike:  It's good to be here. Thanks for having me. 

      Kelly:  Well, thank you. 

      Mary Beth:  Yeah. 

      Kelly:  And congratulations. We just found out that you won the Association of Fundraising Professional Legacy award recently. 

      Mary Beth:  Yeah. That's wonderful. 

      Kelly:  National Philanthropy Day, and you're only the third recipient. So congratulations. 

      Mike:  Yeah. It's a big honor for our whole organization. And while I get to hold it in my hands, it really is a reflection of our whole team's work. 

      Kelly:  Very true. 

      Mike:  So I was proud to be there. 

      Kelly:  Well, tell us a little bit more about yourself. You know what drove your decision 18 years ago to invest your career here with ETF? 

      Mike:  Well, I don't know if you know this, but I am technically a recovering lawyer. 

      Kelly:  I did know that. 

      Mike:  So I practiced law for a number of years, and I liked it, but practicing law or the law that I did was sort of always a means to an end. The real joy that I found was working on habitat houses on Saturdays. Almost every Saturday. Sometimes in the United States. Sometimes in Latin America. And I began to think, "There has to be a better way to merge what you're passionate about with your vocation." 

      Mary Beth:  Right. Mmhm. 

      Mike:  And that would tumble over and over in my head and kind of in my heart for a long, long time. And in that process, there were all kinds of things going on personally in my life. 

      Mike:  We were expecting our son who was a surprise. And a real challenge pregnancy. So, it was very, very high risk. And so we had a nurse that lived with us 24 hours a day 

      Mary Beth:  Wow. 

      Mike:  To sort of take care of him before he was born. And at the same time, my dad had quintuple bypass surgery. And right in the middle of that, I got a phone call seemingly out of the blue, although in retrospect I think of it in a different way. 

      Mary Beth:  Right. 

      Mike:  And someone said, "You know, we've been talking about the East Tennessee Foundation, Mike, and it just seems like a good match for you. Would you consider talking to us about being our new president?" 

      Mike:  And Kelly, I thought about it for a minute and I thought, "Well, I've reached the pinnacle of maturity. I am going to be able to just say no to them because I need to focus on the things that are going on in my life." 

      Mary Beth:  Yeah. Yeah. 

      Mike:  Those are my priorities. And so, I said no. 

      Mary Beth:  Mm. 

      Kelly:  Which made them want you even more. 

      Mary Beth:  Yes. Made yourself scarce. 

      Mike:  Well... And it was a strong, emphatic no, because I really thought that that was the right thing to do. And so I went home and I reported that to Kim, who was my wife then, and she had to lie on her left side for hours a day. 

      Mary Beth:  Mmhm. Oh. 

      Mike:  So I went to that side of the room and I reported to her and she propped herself up on one elbow and she looked at me and she just looked at me and she said, "Why?" 

      Mary Beth:  Hmm. 

      Mike:  And I was convicted right there, because it was everything that I had been thinking about and talking about and praying about. It was that mix of what I could be passionate about and also a vocation. And you know God is a God of second chances and I got to call them back the next day and say, "Okay. I have misspoken." 

      Kelly:  Serendipity. 

      Mary Beth:  Yeah. 

      Mike:  "I would like to talk to you about that." And then the conversation went from there. And you know there are a lot of... I had a lot of good counseling, or good counselors in my life. My father who recovered from heart surgery thought I was absolutely crazy- 

      Mary Beth:  I'll bet. Oh. 

      Mike:  To consider that. 

      Mary Beth:  Yeah. 

      Mike:  Because it was just so counterintuitive. But in my heart, I knew it was the right thing and I knew it was something that I wanted to pursue. And thank God, the foundation thought it was the right thing as well. And they, they picked me. 

      Kelly:  Well, clearly. It was meant to be. 

      Mary Beth:  Yeah. It was. Well first of all on my own behalf, thanks again for the opportunity that I had to serve on your board over the past decade. It really meant a lot to me and words can't express just how much I learned from that experience. Especially not only from you, but also from your team here. Certainly the board as well. You know part of the focus of the Ms. InterPReted podcast is to dispel myths and misunderstandings about certain subject matter. Things that are going on and whether it's in society or PR in marketing. And I remember over the years in working with you here at ETF, we talked a lot about public misunderstanding about what ETF does and like what the mission is and exactly how it works. 

      Mary Beth:  And you know charitable giving and community involvement are just such huge parts of PR for many companies. There's a big education task there, too. I mean, I think that we try to broker understanding about how powerful charitable giving and philanthropy can be at that level, too. It's far more than just writing a check and kind of being done with it. So one cornerstone question to this chat that I wanted to ask you is, first of all, what exactly is a community foundation? Because I think that's a real awareness foundational element for the community to know about and for really all of our listeners who live in communities that have community foundations to understand what they do. 

      Mike:  Well, I think, Mary Beth, with that question you've really put your finger on one of our largest PR challenges. 

      Mary Beth:  Mmhm. 

      Mike:  A community foundation's mission is so broad and so deep that it really is often very difficult to explain. 

      Mary Beth:  Mmhm. 

      Mike:  But I'm going to do my best. 

      Mary Beth:  Yes. Please do. 

      Mike:  We are a collection of charitable funds. And all of those charitable funds have a distinct charitable purpose. 

      Mary Beth:  Mmhm. 

      Mike:  So we receive assets. We invest those assets. And then we make grants from those assets to all sorts of different nonprofits that are out in our region doing the work. So that at the end of the day, we are providing resources for charitable organizations to change lives and make life better in East Tennessee. And that's kind of what it is in its essence. 

      Mary Beth:  Right. 

      Mike:  But there are lots of moving parts and a lot of expertise that goes into that formula. 

      Mary Beth:  Right. 

      Mike:  And it's a real challenge, sometimes, to be able to explain that to folks. 

      Kelly:  So Mike, what is- what is the biggest myth or misunderstanding that you think you and your team deal with in terms of public perception if someone doesn't get what a community foundation is? Is there a perception that they have? 

      Mike:  Often, they think that we're a nonprofit and we operate programs. 

      Mary Beth:  Mm. 

      Kelly:  Okay. 

      Mike:  So that's one of the biggest things that we find as a misunderstanding. We don't operate the program, but we support the organizations that do operate the program. So we don't have a particular area of expertise in housing. We don't have a particular area of expertise in, for example, running food banks or arts or education. But we do have the area of expertise in gathering up resources and making intentional, purposeful grants to support the work that our partners do in the region. 

      Kelly:  Great. So you know, we hear so many conversations these days about relevance. Where is philanthropy when it comes to relevance in society today? 

      Mike:  Well, Kelly, I have a really strong opinion about that and I'm glad- 

      Kelly:  I'm not surprised. 

      Mike:  That you asked that question. But we're at a time now in our society when lots of the organizations and lots of the institutions on which we traditionally would rely really have made themselves irrelevant. 

      Mary Beth:  Mmhm. 

      Mike:  And I think government is a big one. 

      Mary Beth:  Yeah. 

      Mike:  Our government nationally seems to be paralyzed. In fact, it's probably even... there's even a more negative interpretation. It's not just paralyzed but it's polarizing. 

      Kelly:  Right. 

      Mike:  Same thing at the state level. So, national institutions when, that we all learned to rely on as we were growing up are largely in a lot of ways nonfunctional right now. Well, the need is still there. People still need to be housed. They need to be clothed. They need to be educated. They need to be exposed to fine arts. Those needs are still there and they're more acute than ever. And that's the role of philanthropy, is to address those needs in a way that sidesteps or steps over institutions that are fumbling and are not very functional right now. 

      Mike:  So in my view, philanthropy is more relevant now than it has ever been. 

      Mary Beth:  Mm. 

      Mike:  Certainly in my lifetime and possibly in our history. 

      Kelly:  Wow. So interesting.

      Mary Beth:  That's a, that's a big strategic insight, I think, about philanthropic organizations serving a truly strategic role in communities and in society. And I think that... it would seem that that would be a very exciting career path for people to pursue. 

      Mike:  I think it is the perfect career path for somebody whose primary motivation is to make a real difference. 

      Mary Beth:  Mm-hmm (affirmative). Service. Yeah. 

      Mike:    Because it is a direct path. It is where someone can sort of think with their head and feel with their heart, 

      Mary Beth:  Mmhm. 

      Mike:  And then act and accomplish both at the same time. And that's kind of the way I think of my role at East Tennessee Foundation. 

      Mary Beth:  Yeah. And that's a perfect summary, I think too, of what the public relations profession is about. Because we serve in that kind of capacity in so many ways. It's about looking at the business objectives of what a client is trying to achieve, but realizing that giving back to society and our being, helping be brokers of those opportunities with the right partner, nonprofit organization or whatever that might be, I just see so much confluence of what you just said with... in relevance too, to the public relations profession, I think. 

      Kelly:  Absolutely. And now as brands are more cognizant of that they need to have some sort of philanthropy or charitable arm. 

      Mary Beth:  Yes. 

      Kelly:  So Mike, if a company came to you today and said, "We're celebrating a major milestone in our history and would like to make a major gift to this or that cause here in East Tennessee, can you help us?", What's your process? What are the first couple steps you go through? 

      Mike:  Well, my answer is going to be you bet, because that's what we do. 

      Mary Beth:  Mmhm. 

      Mike:  So we would sit down with them and we would talk about the this or that. The things that they are interested in. Where might philanthropy intersect with the work of that business. Then we have areas of expertise. At any given time we can tell you who is doing the best work in a particular area of philanthropy or in a particular area of charity in our region, and we could help them target that gift so that it makes the biggest difference for the most people. We also sort of on the back end of that, and sometimes on the front end, we'll figure out what measures need to be in place. What process needs to be in place so that they can measure the impact of that gift? 

      Mary Beth:  Oh, that's great. 

      Mike:  I think more and more that has to be part of that philanthropic equation and we do that at East Tennessee Foundation. 

      Mary Beth:  Mm-hmm (affirmative). 

      Kelly:  Yeah. The measurement part is essential. 

      Mary Beth:  Yeah. 

      Kelly:  I mean, it's not about getting your name on a flyer or a poster. I mean, there have got to be real metrics. 

      Mary Beth:  Yeah. It's real relationship building within the community. So I mean, I think that from a strategic charitable giving standpoint and what that could mean to a company with respect to its brand reputation and it's being known as a true community contributor, there are a lot of aspects to that, to you know have that come together in the right way. 

      Kelly:  Yes. 

      Mary Beth:  And there's... Tell me, Mike, what are some of the... I'm sure you work with a lot of companies and also families and individuals. They have their heart in the right place. They want to do the right thing. But what kind of mistakes do you often see well-meaning companies or individuals make in the process of approaching philanthropy? Like, things like missed opportunities or it could be a technical mistake. What are some of those things? 

      Mike:  Sure. I think there's some, some common mistakes that all of us make. Number one is, not committing the time and effort to philanthropy that they might commit to something else. So the old model might be that all those requests are handed over to the CEO and then the CEO is left with the challenge of who do we give to? We have limited resources. What gifts to make? And in a lot of ways, the CEO would give to things that might be strategic for the business. The new model is different. And the new model is really exciting. Because I think CEOs now recognize that they're in the position of being able to make those charitable gifts because of the hard work of their employees. And that all of their employees have causes, have things that they are involved in in their free time or things that they are passionate about. And they might want to have a say in the direction of those charitable gifts. 

      Mike:  So, we offer a way for companies to involve their employees. For example, to serve as a grants panel and to pick those organizations that best match what the company might be involved in, but certainly best match what the employees might be involved in or passionate about. And it's a much better model because there's lots of accountability built into that model at every level. Those employees might be volunteering their time at those different charities and they're going to know whether that grant is well-spent and is a good investment or not. So, we encourage that and we are seeing more companies avail themselves of that service that we provide and that opportunity to make purposeful, intentional grants that convey a message for the company, but also honor their employees who are responsible for them being in the position of being able to give back. 

      Mary Beth:  Yeah. And we often remind our clients that among all of their stakeholder groups, really their employees are probably their most important stakeholder group, because that's the front face of the brand. It's the front face of the company in every context. And in tight labor markets, you want to engage your employee base. So I think your points are so well taken on that. One of the most compelling ideas that ETF has promoted in recent years is a program called Give Where You Live. You all started that campaign some years ago because you help manage charitable funds in, I think 25 East Tennessee counties. I mean, it's a pretty large area. And I think many families and companies want to impact positive philanthropy in the local community where they live and work. 

      Mary Beth:  And Give Where You Live is that pathway for them to do that, and I'd love for you to tell us a little bit more about that. 

      Mike:  Give Where You Live is a really terrific program. And it's our model that we use for our regional affiliates. And it's based on the premise that those closest to the community are those with the best knowledge and those who are probably best able to direct grants. So, it's a model based on local philanthropy. So, Give Where You Live is where a local affiliate of East Tennessee Foundation would do its own local fundraising and its own local grant making. And our belief is that those folks that live in that community are going to have the best knowledge and know more about which charities are doing the best work and changing the most lives. 

      Mike:  So it's based on that premise. But it allows those regional affiliates to use all the tools that East Tennessee Foundation has that are available to them. And sometimes it's shocking the difference that that can make. 

      Mary Beth:  Right. 

      Mike:  For example, we can accept any asset of value and turn that into philanthropy and turn that into grants that can change people's lives. And lots of charities and lots of communities are unable to do that on their own. So, East Tennessee Foundation serves as the hub. And then each of those regional affiliates is a spoke and the idea is that they're doing their local fundraising. They're giving. And they're doing that in their communities where those charities that receive those grants are going to be accountable to them. 

      Mary Beth:  Talk about relevance. I mean- 

      Kelly:    That's a great model. 

      Mike:  It is absolutely relevant and it's a very efficient model, as well. 

      Mary Beth:  Right. 

      Kelly:  So, your communication team has done a great job with your website. It's, it's very clear what you do. You list three key things. ETF receives contributions from donors. You manage and invest assets. And then you give well-placed grants and scholarships. And that sounds really simple, but I'm sure there's a lot more that goes into it than that. So tell us more about your staff and the kinds of important work they do to be sure your grant making is done right and also in accordance with national standards. 

      Mike:  Well, Kelly, each of those areas that you pointed out, that advancement function, that receiving gifts, that stewardship function, our investment and then we call it program but that's the grant making function. We have teams organized around each of those core functions. Those teams work in concert together, but they have particular expertise in those particular areas. So, let's start with advancement. Our advancement team is led by a lawyer who works with professional advisors across the region to help donors or potential donors maximize the tax benefit of their gifts and then direct the gifts into the fund that best matches or most closely achieves their philanthropic goals. Our investment team, we have an entire financial team that manages those assets, and they're charged with a really important task. And that's the good stewardship of about half a billion dollars. $500 million. 

      Kelly:  Yeah. It's a lot of money. 

      Mike:  They're able to do that and benefit from economies of scale because the numbers are pretty large. They achieve a return on those investments. One that will make sure that that investment maintains its value against inflation, but provides enough for grant making. And our spending rate is about 4.5%. So, that is a core function of the foundation that is really, really important. And then, and this part, I think is probably what we're known for and probably the most fun. We get to make grants. 

      Kelly:  Get to give away the money. Yeah. 

      Mike:  It is really exciting. But to do that right requires a lot of work, a lot of due diligence and a lot of expertise. And we have a staff team organized around that. So they provide support for individual fund holders that might want to make grants. Families that might want to make grants. Corporations that might want to make grants out of their funds. But they also manage our competitive grants. And we have those set up in particular areas of interest. For example, education, youth at-risk, arts. We have competitive grant cycles in those areas and our staff using hundreds, literally hundreds of volunteers a year that serve on those grant panels. They go on site visits. They do the due diligence. They investigate. And then they make a recommendation on what organizations should receive those grants. 

      Mike:  So the foundation, all of those parts are vital and it's vital that they all work together in concert. 

      Kelly:  It's a true community partnership. 

      Mike:  It is. 

      Mary Beth:  Yeah. I would like to turn the conversation a little bit to one of the funds that you've managed for some time that has a lot of name recognition because it's named for the late legendary coach, Pat Summitt. One of our recent guests on Ms. InterPReted was Marshall Ramsey who is an extended family member of my husband's. He's a renowned editorial cartoonist. I know you know Marshall. He donated his memorial illustration of Pat Summitt to the foundation. Again, it's just one of the many scores of funds that you manage. But I wanted to just ask you about that one in particular because I know that that's a name that a lot of our listeners know quite well with regard to the legacy of Coach Summitt. And I wanted to just get your insights about what she meant and means today with regard to her memory and the memory of what she means to the East Tennessee Foundation and what it's meant to ETF to serve as a steward of such an important legacy fund. 

      Mike:  This one is really personal for me, Mary Beth. 

      Mary Beth:  Mmhm. 

      Mike:  I remember being invited out to Pat's house to meet with her. She had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, but she was doing well and we had a great conversation. And I sat at her kitchen table with her two Labrador Retrievers at my feet and she began to kind of tell her story about where she grew up and the things that she was proud of and the things that were important to her. And she leaned across the table and she said this to me, she said, "Mike, I am really proud of what we've been able to accomplish at the University of Tennessee." She said, "Do you know that 100% of my players achieve their degree?" And I didn't know that and I said, "Wow. That is really an accomplishment. And think of the difference you've made in those young women's lives." 

      Mary Beth:  Yeah. 

      Mike:  And she leaned in closer and she looked at me. 

      Mike:  And I don't know if you remember or you've- 

      Mary Beth:  Oh, yes. 

      Mike:  Ever heard this. But she had the most intense stare 

      Mary Beth:  Mmhm. 

      Mike:  And the most steely blue eyes and she looked at me and she said, "But Mike, what I want my legacy to be is to beat this disease. And I need your help." 

      Mary Beth:  Wow. 

      Mike:  And I was stunned. And she looked at me and then immediately she followed up with, "Will you help me?" 

      Mary Beth:  Wow. 

      Mike:  And there is no way that anybody in that situation is not going to look her right back directly in the eyes and say, "Yes. I will help. I will do everything I can." And as a result, the Pat Summitt Foundation came to East Tennessee Foundation. We are their back office. We do all those functions that we've mentioned earlier and we've had to kind of transform. This is a fund that requires a different kind of work than any of our other funds. Most of our other funds are not national or international in scope. We've had to do certain business functions that we have never had to do before, for other funds. For example, there are 38 states across the United States for which you have to apply for a solicitations permit in order to raise funds in their state. 

      Mary Beth:  Wow. Yeah. 

      Mike:  So, some of our fundraising appeals with the Pat Summit Foundation are national. So we have... it's been a steep learning curve. 

      Mary Beth:  Right. 

      Mike:  We've had to do lots of things differently. It's our most high profile fund by far, but it also is one of our most important. And we all work together. So there are two people whose primary objective is to advance the Pat Summit Foundation and do that work, and we're really proud of the Pat Summit Clinic at the University of Tennessee. And we're also proud of the grants that we make in the area of caregiver support. In the area of education about Alzheimer's. And then also research for a cure. We're really proud of that work. Its influence continues to grow across the country and we are remaining true to our commitment to Pat to help this, her foundation be her lasting legacy. 

      Kelly:  That's such an inspiring story. It's hard to go on after that. It's like we should just end right there. 

      Mary Beth:  Exactly. Exactly. 

      Kelly:  But you know we do know that behind every great nonprofit or charitable foundation, there must be three things. A dedicated staff, a visionary board and committed donors. And so without those three things, it's tough to realize an organization's full potential. You all are doing all three of those. Tell us about that trifecta and how it plays such an essential role for living the mission and vision of ETF in an authentic way. 

      Mike:  That trifecta is really, really important. And I think I probably should start with our board, because our board is involved in our region, in all kinds of different things. They bring different perspectives to the table. And they're charged with charting our course with developing the vision for the foundation on how we operate every day, and how we're going to move into the future and change with time. And I will tell you, they just do a terrific job. We put a lot of thought and effort into selecting our board and then training our board. It's, they have to go through board training. It's a lot of work. They have quizzes. We do all kinds of things so that they understand first of all, the power and importance of philanthropy. The way that a community foundation works. 

      Mike:  The things... For example, our regional nature that makes East Tennessee Foundation special among community foundations. And their important role as stewards of $500 million. So that's a big load, but they do a really terrific job. So, our board is broadly representative geographically of all 25 counties that we serve. So lots of them... it's a big time commitment. They have to come to Knoxville for meetings. They serve on committees. They serve on grants panels. But they've been chosen to be on our board because they are very involved in their communities and they bring that knowledge to the table and help chart the vision and chart the course for the foundation. So our board is absolutely terrific. 

      Mike:  Our board has 100% trust in our staff. And I think that is absolutely vital to any organization but especially to a community foundation and to a nonprofit. Our staff is present in board meetings. Our staff is encouraged to contact, to reach out and to answer board members questions directly. There's no channeling of questions. It's really important that our board know our staff by name and that they know what each person does. What their core function is. And we really try and facilitate that kind of open relationship. I can't say enough about our staff and my team. 

      Mary Beth:  Yeah. 

      Mike:  We are a nonprofit in every sense of the word, and all of us here know that our fellow staff members could be earning more in terms of compensation at another for-profit entity and possibly earning more at another nonprofit entity. But there is something about our core mission of going to work every day and having as our singular mission to make life better for people in East Tennessee. People whom we may never meet. 

      Mike:  There is something so compelling about that, that every member of our team has made some kind of personal sacrifice, or some kind of personal arrangement that allows them to come here and be part of our team and be part of that important work. And that serves as almost as a glue, sort of- 

      Kelly:  There's a lot of power in that. 

      Mike:  That holds us together. 

      Mary Beth:  It's a family. 

      Mike:  And it enables us to weather economic upturns and downturns, weather changes in tax legislation. All kinds of things. That cohesiveness, I think, holds us together. And as a result, our board and our staff, they have 100% trust in one another. And I just think that that is absolutely vital and terrific. 

      Kelly:  Purpose-filled work. 

      Mary Beth:  Yeah. Yeah. 

      Mike:  Right. 

      Mary Beth:  And wouldn't every company want to have that? 

      Kelly:  Yes. 

      Mary Beth:  And that's a culture thing. It really is. Mike, as a generation, I think the millennials are the Holy Grail these days in the consumer pipeline. Everyone knows that regardless of what business you're in or what kind of organization you have, whether it's nonprofit or what have you, it's going to be essential to build relationships with the up and coming generation, fully engage them. You know and let's face it, the oldest of the millennial cohort, they aren't exactly spring chickens these days. I mean, they're kind of hitting the 40 age range. And I mean I think the full age range in 2019 is 23 to 38. I think that's according to Pew Research. But statistics show that millennials are actually very philanthropically engaged as a generation and are more likely to give than other generations. So, my question is, what is ETF doing? Or what are some things that you're hoping to continue doing or looking to expand that outreach to millennials? 

      Mike:    Well, first of all, let me just say, I think millennials are broadly representative of people in general. 

      Mary Beth:  Mmhm. 

      Mike:  And if we are able to tell a story of changed lives where somehow philanthropy has transformed someone's life, it's going to reach a millennial just like it would a baby boomer. You know I think I'm considered the last year of the baby boomers or the first year of millennials or maybe I'm somewhere lost in between, so I'll speak for myself. But often, philanthropic decisions are, at first, led by your heart. What is different, we think, with millennials, is that they also apply their head. They also apply their knowledge to that equation. And so we need to be prepared to show them that their philanthropic gift, how it's made a difference and show them a measurable, if possible, a quantifiable result. 

      Mike:  And so there is a big movement among all charities. Certainly. But among community foundations especially to be able to bring those two together. So, the emotional side and then sort of the qualitative and quantitative side as well. And show them that committing time, committing effort, committing resources to philanthropy is a worthy endeavor. And that just like any other area in their lives where they have an accountant perhaps, or they have a lawyer, perhaps, it is appropriate to get good advice in the philanthropic area as well, if you want to make a difference. 

      Kelly:  So Mike, one of Fletcher PR's core areas of expertise is marketing to women. That is how we have built our business and that's really how we get most of our national business. I've read a lot about women in philanthropy and women in giving and how we drive philanthropy decisions. Probably to a point that maybe most people don't realize. I'm just wondering what your observations are about the role women play in philanthropic decisions and within families as part of a couple or as individual donors in their own right? 

      Mike:  Well, I think, traditionally, philanthropic decisions have been in families, certainly, and extended families have been led by women. I think that role is ever increasing. What is interesting now is that statistics show that also financial decisions are being shouldered by women as well. And I think it's terrific that the two are coming together. I think women are more likely than men and I think studies would reflect this, to ask for expertise or to ask for help so that they make wise decisions. We welcome that. And I think it makes that entire philanthropic equation better. It makes it more efficient. And it makes it better able to change more lives. So, we do a variety of things to reach women. And to reach professional advisors that women might be having help them make financial decisions. 

      Kelly:  Right. Well, Mike, thanks so much for joining us today. 

      Mary Beth:  Absolutely. We've just really appreciated the time. I do have one last question before we wrap up. Since we have a growing range of listeners nationwide and even overseas at this point, what is one universal message that you would want our audience to know about the power of philanthropy, power of charitable giving, particularly when it comes to building and sustaining meaningful community relationships? 

      Mike:  I love that question. Because my answer is probably going to be a little counterintuitive. We generally think of philanthropy as a donor taking their resources and working and choosing a charity and making a gift. And the end result hoping to improve someone's life. But what I'm going to challenge your listeners to do is the reverse of that. And that's for that donor to open themselves up to the possibility that being philanthropic and making a gift and giving of themselves will indeed change their life. That's where I think the real benefit can be. So, you're transforming someone's life on the receiving end, but at the same time, equally as important, perhaps more important, you're transforming the life on the person who is the giver as well. 

      Kelly:  And this is such important work and we can't thank you enough for everything East Tennessee Foundation does for our community Mike. And to our listeners, please be sure to follow East Tennessee Foundation on Twitter @ETfoundation or go to their website at easttennesseefoundation.org. And please follow us as well at Twitter handle @Fletcherpr. You can also follow me @Kdfletcher and Mary Beth @Marybethwest. 

      Mary Beth:  Yeah. We will respond to your questions and comments, so please post them using the hashtag, #MsInterPReted. And that's #M-S-interPReted. And for visibility sake, don't forget to capitalize the PR. 

      Kelly:  Thanks for joining us. Until next time. 

      Announcer:  Thanks for joining us on Ms. InterPReted Public Relations Demystified. You can keep up with the latest on the podcast at fletchermarketingpr.com, and on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play or wherever you listen to podcasts. We'll see you next time. 


    Philanthropy, Fletcher, Charitable Giving, public relations, Ms. Interpreted, ETFoundation

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    This is Her Voice, the Fletcher blog. Here you can find posts about marketing, public relations, recent news and other marketing-related topics. Our blog is written to help inform, advise and analyze.

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