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Roundtable Roundup: Storytelling

What’s your story? Or rather – what’s your organization’s story? Are you utilizing storytelling in your fundraising? If not, you’re missing an opportunity to help donors get closer to your organization and the people or causes you serve.

Here are a few simple strategies to consider to get started:

  1. What are the stories that could show – instead of telling – the impact of your organization in the community? Consider selecting stories that are relatable, timely, and that demonstrate how donor support is helping your organization fulfill your mission. Remember, stories help demystify the work you do.
  2. Consider another angle. Do you always focus on one aspect of your programming or one type of client success story? Stories can highlight lesser known elements of what you do which may appeal to new or broader audiences. The same is true in the medium you choose. A longer narrative in a direct mail appeal or newsletter may appeal more to some groups, while short videos or visual infographic may appeal to others. Our guests from Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation shared this video, connecting its viewers to the foundation’s mission of supporting schools and their students.
  3. Make storytelling a key part of your communications strategy and annual plan. Plan ahead to identify the types of stories you want to tell over the year and where you will tell them. Our guest, Kate Klemp from Cherry Health Foundation discussed how to plan out and gather stories – and you can see from their stories that it’s a routine part of their annual fund strategy!

Gathering stories in any nonprofit can be challenging. Try some of these tricks:

  1. Building relationships with the key storytellers of your organization will make an incredible difference.
  2. Offer an incentive for those who share a story.
  3. Have clear parameters of what type of story you are looking for.
  4. When taking a tour of your organization, ask program staff to share the story of what compels them to do their job.
  5. Incorporate mission moments into staff meetings; share these mission moments in board meetings to help engage your board.

While stories are important, leveraging your case for support is just as important. If you’re not using your case, it’s time to dust that off and put it to use! Think of your case as a pantry – you can pull what you need from it when you need it. It’s a good starting place when thinking about how to talk about your organization and the need you address, as well as a powerful training tool to help ensure your board and other stakeholders can do the same. Think event scripting, video talking points, training the board on their 30-second elevator pitch.

If you don’t have a case for support, or if you’re struggling to incorporate more meaningful stories into your annual communications, we’re here to help! Reach out via our contact form – we’d love to help you leverage your unique story for greater success.


Intern Spotlight

Meet Jared Schmatz! Jared is a Junior at Cornerstone University and is studying Business Management. He is looking forward to applying what he learned at Kennari to other student organizations he is involved with at Cornerstone.

5 Lessons I Learned From My Summer Internship at Kennari Consulting

Before starting my internship at Kennari Consulting, I didn’t have a lot of experience with fundraising. However, after my summer of working in the world of philanthropy, I have gained valuable knowledge and insight in this space. Here are 5 lessons I learned from working at Kennari Consulting:

1. Building relationships is vital. The most important lesson I learned from my internship is that fundraising cannot be done effectively without relationship building. In many of the meetings I shadowed, our consultants would go through prospect lists with our clients. They would help our clients create plans for cultivating the donors through various activities such as a building tour, lunch with a board member, or a house party. Our consultants helped our clients think about the relationships between board members, staff members, and donors, in order to create unique cultivation plans for each donor prospect. This is the most important lesson because it has challenged me to improve my relationship building skills. During this school year, I plan to focus much more on networking and building relationships with my fellow Cornerstone students and members of the nonprofit industry in West Michigan.

2. Data and research matter. Before starting my internship, I had no idea how important data and research were to fundraising. During the summer, I had two projects that focused heavily on data and research. I assisted our consultants by conducting donor research and preparing reports for our staff members. This information would help our clients and consultants make decisions about cultivation activities and potential gift capacity. Additionally, I prepared a summary of the Giving USA 2019 report, which is published by the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University. This report is trusted by nonprofit professionals across the country because it helps them make fundraising decisions. Overall, working with data this summer has been a great experience and I know it will serve me well in the future.

3. Fundraising is complex. I never realized how complex fundraising could be until I learned about this process at Kennari Consulting. For example, the campaign process includes work with pre-feasibility processes, feasibility studies, campaign implementation, and campaign completion. Another example is with grants and foundations – when you apply for a grant, many foundations want to see that your program has taken steps to develop a strong program model for developing goals and tracking data. Overall, this internship has given me a peek into the complex world of philanthropy.

4. Always have a plan. Another lesson that I learned is that having a plan for every step of fundraising is a tremendous asset. Whether it is applying for grants, launching a campaign, or planning an event, having a plan for your fundraising activities can help you stay organized and on task.

5. The nonprofit industry in West Michigan is growing. Lastly, this experience has shown me just how large the nonprofit industry is in West Michigan. I have been able to sit in on countless meetings with our clients and make connections with nonprofit leaders in our community. I have met with employees at the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, Cherry Health, ArtPrize, and many more. Overall, this experience has given me a passion to continue working in West Michigan because the philanthropy industry is strong and growing.

The Kennari Consulting internship experience has given me a ton of insight into this industry and has helped to prepare me for some projects I am working on currently. I am the president of a student organization at Cornerstone University called Enactus. We are a social entrepreneurship organization and I am currently working on a fundraising plan for this organization. I am using the principles that I learned from Kennari to help me lead this organization better. I am also in the process of starting a project in Guatemala that will focus on special needs education. I will most likely be leading a campaign to raise around $750,000 to build this school and I am looking forward to using my experience with Kennari to help me with this project.

I am incredibly thankful to Kennari Consulting for giving me the opportunity to learn and grow in this industry. I am also thankful to the entire staff for being so welcoming and friendly throughout the entire summer. Thank you for allowing me to participate in this internship and make a meaningful impact on my community; I know I picked the right organization to intern with this summer.

Jared was an outstanding addition to our office this semester! His eager attitude, sense of humor, and work ethic were appreciated every day. We are excited to see what Jared accomplishes at Cornerstone and beyond!

To learn more about Kennari Consulting’s internship program, please email Kim Kvorka at

Roundtable Round Up: Best Practices for Successful Year-End Appeals

It is still true that the month of December makes up the majority of your annual giving. In fact, according to the 2018 Blackbaud Charitable Giving Report and Charity Navigator, December and November combined bring in 25% of your annual gifts! Until we see a few more years of data trends, spending a good deal of time on your year-end appeal is key.

This means starting now – in August. Finding and crafting the story, pulling the mailing list, and then the piece that can be the most timely, the one you want to say “forget it” to because it seems hard, finding your major donors.

Focus on finding the ultimate story first. What are your donors looking for?

“When people empathize with a story, they have 47% higher oxytocin levels and oxytocin leads to greater giving. In fact, when we see vivid imagery in a narrative, our brain processes it as if it is a visual and motor experience – almost as though it happened to you.”

What story was significant to YOU this year? Is there a story that can be told from a fresh or different perspective? Your reader wants to be the hero of this story – make sure you recognize the significance of their support!

While having that great story is important, so is segmenting your donors and making sure your year-end appeal stands out. Two key segments are major donors and those who could be major donors.

When it comes to asking your major donors for a year-end gift, be sure it is their time to make a gift. This means reviewing each major donor (whether it’s the top 30 game changers or the top 100) and determining if it’s the right time to ask and, if it is, what to ask for. For those that could be major donors: again, review the list, determine the appropriate ask, and include the appropriate response device.

Some organizations may have multiple segments while others have two or three. Same rules still apply. In fact, we surveyed our clients and found some overwhelming trends. One, a well-defined mailing list optimizes results. You don’t have to (and shouldn’t!) send it to everyone in your database. An organization may have 3,000 memorial donors they mail to each year but only 20 of those ever made another gift. It’s okay to say goodbye to the remaining donors in this segment. Doesn’t that feel great!

Bottom line: check your past year’s data before assuming everyone needs a letter.

I love this case study from a Kennari client:

An organization with one staff member sent their first year-end appeal in 2018 to 159 people (of 400 in database). They had a 31% response rate, with an average gift of $218. They spent $230 to send it.

The other trend that stood out in our client survey was that tried and true still works! A traditional one-page letter with a compelling story that included an ask that let the reader know what would be accomplished with their gift had the most success. Personal handwritten notes from board members and other volunteers also made a significant difference.

Create your calendar of to-dos for your year-end, find your story, run that mailing list, and get started. You will be glad you got a head start when you did.

We would love to help your organization with your year-end communication strategies and crafting your message!

Giving USA 2019 – Summary and Analysis

Giving USA is the longest running annual philanthropy report published by the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University. This report is trusted by nonprofits across the country and helps them make decisions about fundraising for their organizations. It provides important statistical information about the economy, charitable dollars and trends in the nonprofit industry.

Where did the generosity come from?

First, total charitable giving reached $427.71 billion in 2018, a 0.7 percent increase in current dollars and a 1.7 percent decrease in inflation-adjusted dollars from 2018. Secondly, it is very important to understand where the fundraising dollars are coming from. Giving by individuals declined in 2018, comprising less than 70 percent of overall giving for the first time in at least 50 years. Giving by foundations grew by 7.3% and gave 18% of the total dollars. Giving by corporations grew 5.4% and held 5% of the total giving dollars. Lastly, giving by bequest did not change and held 9% of the giving dollars.

Where are all the charitable dollars going?

  • Religion – 29% of total giving and $124.52 billion
  • Education – 14% of total giving and $58.72 billion
  • Human Services – 12% of total giving and $51.54 billion
  • Foundations – 12% of total giving and $50.29 billion
  • Health – 10% of total giving and $40.78 billion
  • Public-Society Benefit – 7% of total giving and $31.21 billion
  • Arts, Culture and Humanities – 5% of total giving and $19.49 billion
  • International Affairs- 5% of total giving and $22.88 billion
  • Environment/Animals – 3% of total giving and $12.70 billion

Next Steps

The Giving USA 2019 report is a great guide for your organization as to what the fundraising trends are. It can help you prioritize your fundraising activities and explore new opportunities. Overall, this statistical information points to the fact that developing authentic relationships with donors and diversifying your fundraising streams are now more important than ever. Three areas where your organization could apply this data in a practical manner:

  1. Explore new ways to engage your existing donors
    a. Let them be a part of the action – identify new ways to share the story
    b. Utilize volunteers in their cultivation and engagement
    c. Implement/continue mission-centric fundraising events
    d. Donors who list an organization in their estate plans are more likely to also give a gift to the organization while living.
  2. Find new and younger donors – These next generations (Millennials and Gen Z) have a greater sense of urgency in their giving; they are using their resources to make a difference at earlier stages of life than their predecessors.  (p.85)
    a. Talk to the children of your major gift donors (if appropriate)
    b. Hire a fundraising employee focused on younger people
    c. Brainstorm ways to engage with younger donors – volunteer opportunities are an important element
  3. Pursue foundation giving
    a. Continue relationship building with local foundations – deepen the relationship with more than one representative where possible
    b. Identify new foundation prospects and utilize volunteers to initiate the conversation
    c. Foundations are increasingly open to making general operating support grants – identify ways to move restricted grant support to general operating support. Have conversations with funders about moving toward this model.
    d. Be transparent about your finances.  Make sure your funders understand the true cost of your work.  (p.103)

To purchase Giving USA 2019: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2018, visit this link.

Written by Kennari Intern, Jared Schmatz

Training Table Hosts to Maximize Event Potential

Table hosted events continue to prove they can be a meaningful piece of an annual development plan. They can be a powerful tool in bringing donors closer to your mission. A table hosted event is pretty much just how it sounds – several engaged volunteers or donors each host a table of guests (usually 7-9) at an event. It is a fundraiser, but there is no cost to attend. The intent is that those attending will be compelled to support the organization at the event. It can be a particularly effective tool in acquiring new donors.

However, just putting hosts in the room without training them is an event pitfall. The “training” can be informal and called something else (think “kickoff,” “handoff,” etc.), but it needs a few key elements to inspire your hosts. You want to share the vision, walk hosts through the tools, and help them brainstorm who they should bring!

If an organization does a host training for their event that incorporates the above, and you look at the event data by table – you could likely tell which hosts attended the training and which did not. This recently held true for a client who recognized a trend after analyzing data from their event – the tables with trained hosts had significantly higher revenue and attendance success. Even for an organization well versed in this style of event, it is still beneficial to gather hosts into a room to coach them on how to be the most effective hosts they can be for you.

Sheldon House, a clubhouse model program under the umbrella of Cherry Health, utilized Kennari’s approach to training their hosts. This was the third year of their event, but the first time they did a host kick-off.  It was held right at Sheldon House with a meal prepared by some  of their members. Very cool! Tara VanDyke, Club House Director, said that adding the host kick-off events were one of the key factors of their event’s growth and success. “The [kick-off] events gave us a chance to talk about why table hosts are connected and supportive to our program, in turn building a shared level of engagement and perhaps some increased awareness/support. It also prepared table hosts better than we had in the past and helped them think more broadly and strategically about who they could invite to their table.”

Want to know what their success looked like? In 2018, they had $1,600 in donations and 68 attendees. This year, over $13,000 was raised with 125 attendees in the room. Way to go Sheldon House!

For those of you who have tried to get hosts to a training but were not successful, here are some ways to keep it fresh and unique:

  • Hold it in someone’s home. Especially someone who has been a stellar table host in the past. Choose a home that has some panache.
  • Host it at a local brewery. Another Kennari client recently did just that for their kick-off host happy hour. Each host received one drink ticket on the house.
  • Encourage returning hosts to attend so they can share their experience on what worked for them.
  • Have a client share a testimonial.
  • Have a hands-on or interactive component to your mission at the beginning of the training. Maybe share a brief video.
  • For sure you should build in time for hosts to share what they love about your mission. You will be surprised to hear some of their answers, and it helps rekindle their love for your organization.

At your next event, watch your hosts closely. Did your “trained” hosts respond to the directions during the ask? Did they wait to pass out their pledge cards? Which hosts did not? You may find your own answers about your event’s success by looking at your data. Take the time to do a deep dive after the event and then make plans for next year right away! Need help creating a unique host kick-off celebration? We’d be happy to talk with you about it – just fill out our contact form.

Roundtable Round Up: Professional Development for You and Your Staff

Professional Development is a key part of success for organizations and their individual staff.  The primary reason employees leave organizations for other jobs is NOT because of pay.  Though compensation is important – and should be competitive – there are many other factors in job satisfaction.  One of those key factors is learning and growing professionally; professional development opportunities.  There are lots of local resources development professionals can take advantage of for in person training.  For example, AFP and IUPUI have multiple in person options and conferences.  It’s also important to subscribe to blogs and other experts to hear different views and perspective.  However, make sure to use critical thinking when participating in a training – How will this work for me?  What do I agree with?  What do I disagree with and why?  Remember that Kennari Consulting is working to help organizations build a model of philanthropy that focuses on building long-term relationships with individual donors.  Not every blog or expert in the field is working within that type of model so you must use that filter when learning new tips and tricks.

Suzanne Callahan from Davenport University’s Corporate Learning division walked round table attendees through a “speed” version of a course they offer: “Situational Leadership.”  She reminded us that we are all leaders – whether in a direct manager/employee relationship – or in an employee/volunteer/donor relationship.  It is important to focus on the task and what type of leadership is required for that specific task, not the person in general.  The 3 skills to develop to effectively use situational leadership are: Goal Setting, Diagnosing, Matching.

  1. Goal Setting – Getting alignment from all involved on what needs to be done, including specifying deadlines and metrics.
  2. Diagnosing – Collaboratively assessing an individual’s competence and commitment on a specific goal or task
  3. Matching – Using a variety of leadership styles to provide individuals with what they need for that specific task

A little more info about diagnosing….

  • Competence – The person has the knowledge/skills to complete the task
  • Commitment – The person has the motivation/confidence to complete the task

People are generally in one of the four following categories when it comes to different tasks.  And, it’s important that we move between them all depending on the task.  Being new or seasoned in a position doesn’t necessarily mean that we are in a certain category.  As you provide leadership to people, you need to identify and recognize which development level they are in and then provide the appropriate leadership for that specific level.

  • D1: Low competence/High Commitment
  • D2: Low to some Competence/Low Commitment
  • D3: Moderate to High Competence/Variable Commitment
  • D4: High Competence/High Commitment

The Situation Leadership approach is to identify the development level, and then adjust leadership in the following ways, based on the level the person is in.

  • Leaders role in D1: Directing
  • Leaders role in D2: Coaching
  • Leaders role in D3: Supporting
  • Leaders role in D4: Delegating

Tanya Horan from Davenport University also shared that there are resources available through Michigan Works to get funding for job training.  A list will be published in August of what trainings will meet the criteria for the funding.

The overall takeaway from the day is simple.  Though it can be difficult for non-profits to dedicate time and resources to professional development, they really can’t afford not to.  There are lots of resources out there – it’s time to make a plan and commit to implementing it over the next year!

Special thanks to Suzanne Callahan and Tanya Horan for joining us to enrich and inform our professional careers. Learn more about Davenport’s Professional Development programs and learn how you may receive funding for these on their website.

Roundtable Round Up: Your Community Foundation at Work

Your local community foundation is a tremendous resource for your organization. Specifically, in our last Roundtable, we had the privilege of hearing from Shaun Shira and Jonse Young who work at the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. In this blog post, we will answer some of the most popular questions about community foundations and donor advised funds.

Why are Community Foundations Important?

Community foundations bring together financial resources of individuals, families, and businesses to support effective nonprofits and they play a key role in identifying and solving community problems.

What does the Grand Rapids Community Foundation do?

Primarily, they provide grants for nonprofits in Kent County. Also, community foundations teach and promote philanthropy, act as an intermediary organization between nonprofit and donor, and increase the accountability and operating standards of nonprofits.

What is a Donor Advised Fund?

A donor-advised fund is a charitable investment account, for the sole purpose of supporting charitable organizations a donor cares about.

Why would a donor consider a donor advised fund?

First of all, they would consider a donor advised fund because as soon as the donation is made there is immediate eligibility for a tax deduction. Some other benefits are simplified record keeping, the ability to name the fund, having legacy planning and strategy, and it directly supports what the donors care about.

Why the Grand Rapids Community Foundation?

The Grand Rapids Community Foundation is almost 100 years old and was Michigan’s first community foundation. They have awarded over $200 Million in grants and they are a trusted steward of the community’s resources.

What types of funds does the foundation have?

The foundation has a primary fund called Fund for Community Good. They also have field of interest funds, nonprofit funds, scholarship funds, and donor advised funds.

What areas of interest does GRCF fund?

Grand Rapids Community Foundation funds organizations with a focus on education, health, neighborhoods, engagement, prosperity or the environment.

How would someone set up a Donor Advised Fund at GRCF?

First of all, they would meet with Community Foundation Staff to discuss the goals, the funding of the donor-advised fund, the investment pool options, and determine the ultimate purpose of the fund. Then they would create a fund agreement and begin an orientation period.

How does a Donor Advised Fund work at the GRCF?

Individuals, families or businesses recommend grants to the nonprofits they care about most. If desired, donors can design a family grantmaking plan that includes the next generation.

What is the difference between an Endowed Fund and a Non-Endowed Fund?

An endowed fund is a perpetual fund from which grants are given annually and a non-endowed fund is one in which grants are given throughout the year.

How does my nonprofit get access to these Donor Advised Funds?

Donor advised funds can be a great source of funding for your organization. First of all, you should ask your donors if they have a donor advised fund. You could also look at the list of donor advised funds on the community foundation annual report and connect with the community foundation philanthropic services team. Lastly, you could consider adding a donor advised fund option on your fundraising cards, letters, etc.

Learn more about the Grand Rapids Community Foundation on their website!

Roundtable Round-Up: Best Practices in Developing Evaluation Plans

Now more than ever, grantmakers are focused on ensuring that every grant dollar has the greatest impact possible on people and communities. This means that the most competitive grant applications should incorporate strong evaluation plans, complete with goals, objectives, outcomes, and methods of measurement. For many nonprofits, developing an evaluation plan can seem daunting. However, with the right tools, you can develop a plan that is clear, realistic, and actionable – and impressive to funders! With a few evaluation basics, you can transform your big picture vision and mission into evaluation plans that grantmakers will love.

To cover first things first, however, you should understand why evaluation is important in seeking grants. Almost all proposals these days require an organization to state the outcomes they plan on achieving – and then to report on those outcomes in a progress or final report. A strong evaluation plan with clearly articulated outcomes will make your proposal more competitive. What’s more, if you actually follow your plan, and can show evidence of your success, grantmakers will be more likely to give you funding in the future.

Understandably, nonprofits can get frustrated when it seems like they must develop a new evaluation plan with new outcomes every time they apply for funding. And it’s true, funders will have different requirements for what they expect out of an evaluation. However, if you do the work to develop a strong framework for your organization or program’s evaluation plan, you should only have to tweak it slightly to fit with different funder requirements. Which gets us to our first big recommendation…

Build a Strong Foundation

With certain pieces in place, your organization will have fully developed, strong, and strategic framework for why it does what it does to achieve its intended impacts. These pieces include:

Theory of Change: a comprehensive description and illustration of how and why a desired change is expected to happen in a particular context; includes information on the need, target population, core program components, outcomes, supporting research, and hypothesis. For more information, visit:

Research and Evidence-Based Models: evidence to show that the work you are doing will have its intended impact. This may include a literature review, which is a comprehensive overview of knowledge available on a topic, or utilization of an evidence-based model, where you can identify clear components that have shown to be effective through research or evaluation.

Program Model: to be able to evaluate your program, you need to know exactly what your program is. Make sure you have the key components of a program model clearly defined: goals and objectives, target population, services provided, dosage of services, staff required, resources required, and timelines.

Logic Model: A systematic and visual way to present your understanding of the relationships among the resources you have to operate your program, the activities you plan, and the changes or results you hope to achieve. Some grantmakers require you to submit a logic model with an application. For more information, visit:


Now that you have a strong foundation in place, you are ready to get into the specifics of your evaluation plan. For this, it’s important for you to understand some basic principles of data collection and evaluation design…

Basic Data Collection and Evaluation Design

Funders will ask you to describe your evaluation plan. To do this, you will need to know types of data collection methods and purpose – how will you collect data to measure your outcomes? You will also need to know different types of evaluation design – how do you plan to implement your evaluation?

There are many ways to collect data. Surveys, interviews, focus groups, and observation are all options. You will want to consider many factors in deciding on what method(s) to use. Do you need a large sample size? Will statistics suffice, or will you need more detailed narrative that can only come from actually speaking to another human being? How much time do you have to collect data – and how much money? Ultimately, the biggest factor is what type of data collection method will best measure your intended outcomes. For more information, visit:

As for evaluation design, this is about when you collect your data. A few basic examples include:

  • Post-only: data collection occurs once, after an intervention occurs.
  • Pre/Post: data collection happens before and after the intervention. This can help show the change that occurred as a result of the intervention.
  • Longitudinal: data collection occurs at multiple points over time. This can help show the impact over a longer period, as well as trends.

For more information, visit:


Finally, you can now put all this information together to create your evaluation plan! Remember, different funders will require different pieces of information for an evaluation plan, so you should always pay attention to what those are. However, as a general rule, a strong evaluation plan will have certain things in place…

Putting it All Together

  • Introduction: Overview of problem and program model, prior research on this program or similar programs, purpose of current evaluation, scope of current evaluation
  • Description of Intervention: planned work (resources, activities), description of expected results, outputs, outcomes, impact
  • Evaluation Methods: questions the evaluation will address, evaluation study design, data collection methods, data analysis plan
  • Timeline: How long will it take you to accomplish the following: planning, sampling identification, data collection, analysis, report writing
  • Dissemination: How will you report evaluation results? How will you disseminate evaluation results? How will you engage stakeholders in understanding/interpreting evaluation results?
  • Budget: Staffing, supplies, equipment, travel for each major evaluation component

Using Your Executive Committee to Improve Board Engagement

Many nonprofit organizations strive to have healthy board engagement. An active and involved board often means strong fundraising support, mission-connectedness, and productive and meaningful board meetings. Unfortunately, as consultants, we regularly hear that board engagement is not where everyone would like it to be, and often, the solution to better engagement can be found within the role of the executive committee.

So many times we hear officers say “The rest of the board just rubber stamps everything – there is hardly any discussion!” –  only to have another conversation with a director who says “It seems like everything is already decided when we get to the board meeting. I don’t feel comfortable asking questions.” Executive committees that meet as often or more frequently than the full board are contributing to this never-ending cycle. This mis-alignment is especially true when the executive committee numbers more than one-third of the total board. The good news is – it’s an easy fix!

A nonprofit board’s executive committee should be charged with only two main responsibilities: 1) Evaluate the CEO and 2) Oversee strategic plan alignment, facilitating necessary strategic conversations within the full board meetings. When the executive committee stays focused on these two tasks, the rest of the board is included in all other discussions, and the executive committee isn’t re-living the same meeting twice each month.

After changing the role of their executive committee last fall, CASA of Kent County Board Chair Heidi Hendricks saw significant change within their board: “The CASA board culture has changed a lot since we eliminated our monthly Executive Committee. Our full board is now engaged, empowered, and valued, which means we can better serve the kids, which is what we all want to do!”

The limited role of the executive committee also supports the CEO in a more productive way. The CEO has an opportunity to keep the board discussions at a strategic level, and they are not required to spend hours putting together similar, but not exactly the same, sets of reports each month. Additionally, executive committee members aren’t repeating conversations each month, and the full board is able to benefit from and participate in the discussion and reasoning behind decisions, making everyone feel more engaged. Occasionally, there is still a need for an executive committee discussion about a specific topic – often one that is of a more urgent or private matter. These additional conversations can certainly be up to the discretion of the CEO and/or Board Chair.

As with any new strategy, you want to be sure that this move is right for your organization. The best next step is to review what the executive committee is accomplishing and engage with staff leadership and the full board to determine if changes should be made. A healthy and engaged board serves the community best!

Catching Up With Kennari Internship Graduates

Kennari Consulting’s Internship Program is designed to inspire the next generation of nonprofit development professionals, by engaging participants in various steps of the nonprofit fundraising process. Main tasks involve directly shadowing our consultants as they work within various components of client development departments, planning educational Roundtable Events for Kennari clients, and providing essential support to the Kennari team and our clients.

The program seeks a diverse student pool from a variety of local colleges and programs, who indicate interest in developing an understanding of the nonprofit sector. Participants leave the program feeling empowered about their personal career journeys, and excited to actively engage with the community.

After welcoming more than a dozen interns to our program, we thought we would check in with a few past interns to see where they are now and what advice they have for future applicants. Quinn Kendra, Sarah Mariuz, Daniel Rivera, and Hanna Werner are all graduates of the Kennari Internship Program and offered the following insight into their experiences.

When did you intern at Kennari?

QK: Fall 2018

SM: Summer and Fall 2015

DR: Summer 2018

HW: Fall 2017


What made you decide to participate in the Kennari Consulting Internship Program?

QK: I wanted to participate in the Internship Program because I was curious about careers in consulting, and nonprofit/community-focused organizations are areas that I am passionate about. Reading through the description of the internship further intrigued me and, after meeting some of the team and interviewing, I knew that Kennari would be a place that I could learn a lot.

SM: I met Kennari Consulting when I was a Junior at Grand Valley State University. Kirstin and Laura (Kennari consultants) came to talk to one of my nonprofit classes. One message was clear: Kennari Consulting was very well-involved in the nonprofit sector. In fact, Kirstin and Laura encouraged us to intern with one of their clients. Like any student, I needed an internship, but I liked the idea of working from their angle. So, I approached both ladies after class and asked, “how can I intern with YOU?” I ended up applying for their internship that spring and by summer I was interning at Kennari Consulting (back in my day – Parrish Consulting).

DR: I decided to participate in the Kennari Internship program because I was struggling with the idea of what kind of career I wanted to pursue. I’m an advocate for the Latinx community, so giving back to my community has always been ingrained in my mind. Therefore, when I found the opportunity at Kennari, I knew that it would be the perfect exposure for not only building my social capital but also to see what kind of opportunities are available for individuals who want to give back and make a career out of it.


How has Kennari helped shape your work?

QK: Interning at Kennari has taught me to be self-motivated. The team trusted me with tasks that I could complete independently and in a method that complements my work style. I have gained confidence in myself that has allowed me to work with less direction than before, making me much more confident to eventually immerse myself in the workforce.

SM: This internship solidified my passion to work in the nonprofit field. Formerly an Accounting major, I switched my major half way through college to Public and Nonprofit Administration. You never know what you truly want to be when you grow up though, until you experience it. Experiencing a nonprofit world through my Kennari Consulting internship was just want I needed to feel confident going out into the “real world.”

HW: One thing that I learned while interning with Kennari is how every nonprofit organization is unique and there is no “one-size fits all” solution. Yes, there are best practices and solutions that have worked for others that you can learn from, but ultimately, it takes a combination of big picture data, knowing your donors, and knowing your industry to talk through the best solution for your organization.


What was your favorite thing about the program?

QK: My favorite aspect of the internship program was the shadowing experience. I loved being able to understand and witness workplace interactions between different positions while also networking with directors of multiple organizations.

SM: What was great about working with Kennari Consulting was that they knew the barriers nonprofits faced – which is often more than one. Their job is to educate and encourage their clients to make changes that allow them to advance their missions. I was able to see the inside challenges and opportunities nonprofits faced and work closely on several internal campaigns, such as a capital campaign, gala, table-hosted event, and the day-to-day work of development professionals.

DR: I enjoyed the staff the most. One thing that greatly helped me during my time at Kennari was the team. Every day was a joy working with them and they were very open and willing to help with any questions I had. I learned a great amount from the team members and they gave me insight into the world of fundraising.


Where are you in your career now?

QK: I just graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Public and Nonprofit Administration from Grand Valley State University! I plan to continue my studies in graduate school at Michigan State University as a part of their Urban and Regional Planning program.

SM: For the past 3+ years I have continued my journey in the nonprofit sector. I now work as a Community Development Manager for the American Cancer Society (ACS). I have the privilege of working with countless volunteers on events that are making a difference in the lives of those battling cancer. Together, volunteers and myself, are hosting successful Relay For Life events, as well as other fundraisers that raise needed dollars to support the fight against cancer.

DR: I am currently finishing my undergraduate degrees at Ferris State University. I plan to complete my undergrad experience in the Fall of 2019. This summer, I will be studying abroad in Costa Rica and, upon my return, I will be working at the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Through this office, I will be working for the Building Bridges through Education Program, which helps bridge the gap between Latinx college students and employers to connect them with internships, employment, and professional networks.

HW: Right now, I am still in the beginning stages of my career. I was able to land a full-time position as a Development Coordinator right after graduation and am working daily on fundraising initiatives and strategies, as well as marketing. I get to write, plan and be a part of events, and work on various communications such as email marketing and printed materials.


What would you say to someone who is thinking about applying for the Internship Program?

QK: I would tell anyone who is interested to apply for an internship at Kennari! I truly think that all types of workers and learners could thrive at an organization like Kennari. If one were to apply, I would advise them to be open, honest, and humble themselves. Applicants do not need to know everything about nonprofits, consulting, or fundraising when applying or interviewing for an internship at Kennari. It is a learning experience!

SM: Even four years after my internship, I can still say that I consider those at Kennari Consulting friends and mentors. I truly feel that my internship all those years ago shaped me into the development professional I am today.

DR: Be open to new ideas. In this position, you will be able to meet several people, research many organizations, and do unique work. Coming into the office with an open mind is the best tip to make the best out of this experience.

HW: Stay connected. One of the most valuable things I have found is to stay connected with people along your journey – internship supervisors, professors, bosses, etc. Build relationships and leave great impressions. These connections provide mentorship, network, and various opportunities (and a great reference)!


To learn more about internships at Kennari Consulting, contact our internship supervisor, Kim Kvorka, at or check out our page on Handshake.