The transitions taking place in behavioral health go well beyond the Affordable Care Act, integration and partnership with primary care. Like the industry in which it works, Sound Mental Health’s Development Department is changing its approach to philanthropy, communications and community development.
This is in part due to the arrival of Tresa Thomas Massiongale, SMH’s new Chief Development Officer, in April 2015. A Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE), she brings a fresh philosophy and distinctively different approach to fundraising, partner development, philanthropy and the role of the nonprofit in the larger community equation. Beyond tactical fundraisers, CFREs take a strategic, long-term view of an organization’s philanthropic activity. Their objective is to create a sustainable fund development model that promotes a diverse portfolio including individual donors and the business community, philanthropic advisors, wealth managers and others who can partner with nonprofits to address complex and entrenched social issues. As SMH enters its 50th anniversary faced with system change and significant community mental health issues, collaborating with a various community partners is more crucial than ever.
Change in Mindset
The changes emerging in the department are not only tactical but also cultural and philosophical. “It is important that we define ourselves as a social enterprise, both internally and externally, but not exclusively,” says Thomas Massiongale. “One of the most effective strategies in contemporary fund development is learning the many different languages spoken by different sectors of society. We then cast a wide net in terms of developing diverse opportunities for support: political support, community support, ideological support and financial support.” A social enterprise is an entity (typically, but not always a nonprofit) that employs business or commercial strategies to serve its mission. “The term social enterprise and the language of the finance sector takes what we’ve done for the past 50 years and sees it through a new lens. It’s not the only lens—we’re still going to see things through other lenses—but it gives us a way to articulate what we do to the many sectors that partner with us. Our business acumen makes sense to wealth advisors and the finance sector. We run a great business with a documentable return on investment.”
“Great nonprofits are often defined by how they transform beyond their mission to changing the world. High impact nonprofits are vocal and robust participants in policy and advocacy. They are at the table with legislators, philanthropic entities, finance, and business, crafting the look and direction of their community.” – Tresa Thomas Massiongale, SMH Chief Development Officer
The Development Department’s mission certainly will not change, nor will its services. Its approach, however, should allow it to connect with new partners. “We’ve strengthened our existing partnership,” says Thomas Massiongale. “And we are seeking new ones in the business community, in philanthropic circles and in the wealth advisor networks. We can engage these partners in community-based problem solving with the right relationships and effective communication about our strategy.”
As part of evolving its philosophy, the department will on enhance existing initiatives and implementing new ones to nurture and cultivate its donor, business and philanthropic partners. Thomas Massiongale plans on refining and enhancing individual donations and appeal campaigns and— leveraging SMH’s already high visibility in the business community—strengthen corporate sponsorships. She will evaluate the organization’s legacy campaigns and estate giving efforts and refine them to better leverage SMH’s equity among the philanthropically inclined. The department has modernized its web site to a WordPress platform, enabling the organization to both reduce costs and enhance the SMH brand with customers and partners. It has begun the process of deepening relationships with its existing and emerging business partners through strategic co-marketing initiatives, contributed articles and other thought leadership communications. The business community, in recent years becoming important SMH partners, will continue to factor significantly in the future of the organization.
“Corporate partners can also lead us to think in new and exciting ways that give birth to a whole new level of creativity on the clinical side,” she explains. “Greater independent funding enables us to create programs or address issues that more directly correspond with the needs of our clients. When we have a more diverse portfolio of sources for revenue, this allows us more creative responses to pressing community issues.”
Thomas Massiongale is quick to point out that, according to best research in nonprofit performance, the most effective fund development is linked to targeted policy and advocacy efforts across multiple stakeholder organizations. For SMH and its partners, linking these efforts will help better frame the community’s crucial mental health issues and have an influence beyond the organization’s walls. “Program related investments, impact investing, the retooling of the behavioral health administration in Washington, the Affordable Care Act, in different ways these trends and their stewards are joining in the conversation about striving to do better and do more,” she says. “Sound Mental Health is definitely positioned to participate in these conversations, influencing the future of mental health care, not only for our clients but for all people.