St. Louis, Mo., August 30, 2012 – Creative ideas for charities often come from unconventional thinking — or responses to unexpected problems, speakers at the Better Business Bureau's (BBB) tenth annual Charity Symposium told a crowd of more than 100 Thursday at the Chase Park Plaza.
William Donius, former chief executive of Pulaski Bank, urged participants to try techniques such as writing with the non-dominant hand when faced with a problem or question. The difficulty of writing with the opposite hand can trigger unexpected ideas that can lead to creative solutions. He also urged charities to include a broad spectrum of employees in strategy sessions.
“You can use these processes to break through the obstacles” to creative thinking, said Donius, author of Thought Revolution: How to Unlock Your Inner Genius.
Kirby Burkholder, executive director of Missouri IFF, said the nonprofit originally planned to focus on lending to nonprofits creating housing and other real estate projects. However, the difficulties some nonprofits had with real estate development prompted IFF to add a consulting component to its services.
“It’s about being nimble,” Burkholder said.
Marilyn Gannon, board chair of Meds & Food For Kids, said the charity’s focus on helping under-nourished children in Haiti was hampered initially by the abject poverty of many Haitians. The charity has broadened its focus to include helping poor Haitian farmers grow peanuts — the main ingredient in a food for the children — as well as setting up a factory to produce the food.
“We’ve gone down a lot of blind alleys” before finding solutions that work, Gannon said. “Doing business in Haiti is like writing with your left hand all the time.”
Melanie Scheetz, executive director of the Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition, said the agency’s opening of a resale shop a year ago is an example of the need for review and revision of the charity’s goals. The shop originally was designed to appeal to teens and other shoppers in the same age group as many of the agency’s clients.
However, after the shop — named [Re]Fresh — opened, the charity found that shoppers of all ages were patronizing the store. The charity also has turned the shop into a training ground that helps prepare older foster children for employment, Scheetz said.
Denny O’Brien, chair of the BBB Charity Information Service advisory board, encouraged charities to try a new online evaluation tool for nonprofits aspiring to gain BBB Accredited Charity status. Charities can find out more by contacting the BBB at 314-645-0606 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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