On this week’s #whatworkedwednesday, I have events on my mind. It is that time of year when you cannot look at your inbox without seeing an invitation to something. Having planned and implemented many events of all shapes and sizes over my years of non-profit work, I have a few favorite tips/lessons learned to share with you.

you-are-invitedIn no particular order:

1. Never Dine Alone: When an event has food, especially when it is a buffet/unassigned seating, I ask that my team take their food last and be sure to find that one (or more) guests who are dining alone and sit with them. It is a great way to make someone feel welcome at your event, and also showcase the amazing talent in your organization.

2. Branding in the Bathroom?: This is not my tip, but one I recently heard that the Birthright Israel Foundation did at their gala, and I WISH I had thought of it. Using window decals, like the ones that stores use to temporarily advertise a sale or your alma mater has you place in your car window, create and hang them on the bathroom mirrors of an event venue to share your social media coordinates. Vistaprint makes high-quality, custom clings for a great price.

3. Less is More: I once had a gala, where the number one compliment from guests on the way out of the door was, “This event was amazing; so short and powerful.” Sure enough, rather than trying to pacfullsizeoutput_2627k into one evening more than a week’s worth of entertainment, honors, food, and glam, we went with simplicity. There were heavy hors d’oeuvres over an extended cocktail hour and then seated dessert. The program was short but powerful and guests were in out and in record time and seemed to really appreciate our respect for their time.

4. Save Their Place: I recently did an event where the gift for the guests was a book. In the past, I had done branded bookplates detailing the occasion and the mission of the client.  This time, my client had a great idea; branded bookmarks. I love what we ended up ordering! It felt high quality and would surely be re-used by our attendees.

5. Never Skip Dessert: At this same event, we had the most delicious buffet, centered around “build your own grain bowls.” It was healthy and filling and met the many dietary needs of the attendees. After that meal, we had a savory afternoon snack on a break in the programming. Somehow, in the menu planning stage, I had forgotten to add something sweet. Sure enough, during the last session of the conference, the complaint came in. “Where are the sweets? Is there chocolate?” The event had top notch speakers, a great venue, meaningful content, but it did not have sweets, and that would likely be something that the guests remembered, hopefully not the only thing! #sweettooth #lessonlearned

That’s all for this week. Hope these were helpful.  As always, please let me know #whatworkedwednesday topics you are thinking about and we can all share your experiences.

Pre-Fire Me!


What would you say to your Board of Directors if, when you were hired to be the executive director of a nonprofit, you already knew the date you were going to be fired?

Imagine the honesty, candor, and transparency you would exercise if you knew that your new job had a finite term, and your role was to assess the organization, get some quick wins, and leave it a better place than you found it, even on-boarding your replacement!

This is the job description of an Interim Executive Director (IED), a powerful tool for an organization whose leader has left abruptly, is retiring, or needs to be removed for some other reason. Many organizations are choosing to hire an IED to give the board breathing room to conduct a search to replace the executive, while also benefiting from the outsider perspective of their organization in transition. Recent studies have reported that the turnover rate of executive non-profit leaders is at an alarming level, with executive directors retiring or leaving their positions in great numbers.

Leaving the pipeline issue aside for another day, finding the next leader of a healthy non-profit takes time, with many board search committees unexperienced or simply lacking direction and urgency. Finding a leader for a non-profit under stress or worse, in crisis, takes even longer. This is where, even in an environment of true scarcity, the investment in hiring an IED may just be the saving grace.

I was trained by the Support Center , on whose board I serve as vice-chair, to serve as an IED to create stronger, more optimistic and financially sound organizations. Support Center | Partnership in Philanthropy’s Interim Executive Directors step into the Chief Executive position to offer strong, effective, and temporary leadership to an organization after its executive director has departed. The IED ensures that the organization remains stable and keeps moving in the right direction during the executive transition process.

As explained by the Support Center:


  • Assess and manage the current situation,
  • Oversee finances, program operations, and fundraising goals,
  • Address immediate or potential resource issues,
  • Support managers,
  • Meet the pressing needs of the Board.

An IED can attend to the fears and anxieties of the staff, funders, and agency supporters while working closely with the board to facilitate a successful transition. It is also typical for an IED to improve agency systems and generate new excitement for the organization’s future.

It is important to note that an IED is NOT a candidate for the permanent executive director position.


Groups that use an IED emerge from their executive transition stronger, more financially sound and more optimistic about the future impact of their organizations’ services.

Time – Your IED can be in place in a fraction of the time it would take to hire a new, suitable executive director. With a capable IED leading the organization, you can take the time needed to do a thorough search for the permanent executive director.

Assurance  – Interim executive management assures your funders, staff, constituents and Board members that your organization has an experienced, trained and skilled professional at the helm during the transition.

Experience – Support Center trained IEDs have extensive experience and are amply qualified for the positions they undertake. This allows them to be productive from the outset, have an immediate positive impact on your organization, and minimize the risk of things going wrong.

Objectivity – Unencumbered by any previous involvement in organization processes or staff relationships, IEDs provide a fresh and candid perspective to the Board and are free to concentrate on what’s best for your organization.

Accountability – Rather than taking on a purely advisory role, interim directors are responsible and accountable for managing your organization until it is time to hand it off to your newly hired executive director.

Staff Development – Employment of an IED allows your organization and your staff time to adjust before your next permanent executive director comes aboard. It also offers your employees a unique opportunity to step up as leaders during this transition process.

After over a decade of falling in love with the organizations that I have led, I now get to step into the freeing nature of a short-term romance with eyes open and an exit pre-planned.

So, go ahead,  pre-fire me!