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Area Nonprofit Leaders Gather for Summit

Hanover — A former president and CEO of the American Red Cross last week told nearly 60 nonprofit leaders from Vermont and New Hampshire that communicating what they do — and emphasizing more than just fundraising while they’re at it — will help them navigate the evolving challenges of the nonprofit sector.

“So many people know the names of nonprofits and nothing more,” Jack McGuire, a Woodstock resident who served as interim president and CEO of the Red Cross for two years, ending in 2007, said at the Nonprofit Leadership Summit, a networking event for nonprofit presidents, CEOs and executive directors held on Wednesday at the Hanover Inn.

McGuire, who was the keynote speaker at the daylong event, said he is seeing an increase in competition among nonprofit organizations for a shrinking pot of funds.

“There’s more groups entering the arena than groups giving money,” McGuire said.

A corporate turnaround specialist, McGuire advised the crowd to overcome their fundraising woes by reducing a “bombardment” of appeals for money and increasing the platforms used to reach the public, such as engaging on social media or creating online versions of their material.

“Clients expect these things because they see for-profit organizations doing it every day,” McGuire said.

In a session immediately following lunch, officials from Vermont Public Radio, the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation and Monadnock Community Hospital answered questions about fundraising in the 21st century.

“To the greatest extent, I believe fundraising is relationship building,” VPR President and CEO Robin Turnau said. Given the difficulty of raising money in a sluggish economy, Turnau said, it is vital for charities to update their websites and make online donating visible and simple.

“We didn’t see a downturn at all. We’ve actually been pretty strong,” she said.

Caleb Rick , adjunct professor at Vermont Law School, moderated the fundraising panel discussion. Rick is also a consultant at North Common Associates in Chelsea, and helped organize the event. He said many of the nonprofit leaders in attendance congregate at conferences for their own trades, but the need for a networking opportunity across a variety of disciplines motivated him to help the sponsors plan the summit.

“It’s fairly unusual for CEOs to come together and network, so this is a great opportunity,” Rick said. “It’s a lonely position, and by that I mean you manage up to your board and down to your clients. As a CEO there’s not a lot of people to talk to except other CEOs.”

Sponsored by “The Legacy Group Hanover, NH at Morgan Stanley” and Sentinel Investments, the nine-hour event included panel discussions about health care legislation and nonprofit management, governance and fundraising. Eric Werner, a financial adviser and vice president at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management in Lebanon, helped organize the event.

“We wanted to bring together some of the best nonprofit minds in the state,” Werner said.

Katie Mettler can be reached at kmettler@vnews.com or 603-727-3234.