Sue McEntee, chief operating officer of the Charitable Giving Resource Center.
Sue McEntee, chief operating officer of the Charitable Giving Resource Center.

The Charitable Giving Resource Center in West Des Moines has a knack for giving … to organizations that receive charitable gifts.

Sue McEntee, who has been the center’s chief operating officer for seven years, said the need for such an operation was first recognized 10 years ago when a partner with its parent company, financial planning firm Syverson Strege & Co. Inc., was working on the details of a client’s financial plan.

The client remarked that he was on the board of nonprofit organization that could benefit from some structure in its goals and strategy.

As it turned out, many nonprofit organizations need direction.

Those organizations, focused as they are on raising funds and providing services for causes ranging from rescuing animals to feeding the hungry, can tend to let more practical matters slide. And they can be overwhelmed by the task of competing for charitable dollars.

McEntee came to the Charitable Giving Resource Center after working more than a quarter century for a variety of nonprofit groups, including serving as development director for the Iowa Health Foundation, Sacred Heart Parish and Drake University. She now leads an organization that provides several levels of training for nonprofits and can help them find the best way to structure charitable gifts.

“Nonprofit professionals want affirmation that they are doing the right thing,” McEntee said.

Doing the right thing involves a range of activities, including board training, drafting cause statements, governance, succession planning and talking about planned gifts.

Succession planning is a key element to operating a successful nonprofit organization, and it is one that can be overlooked.

The Charitable Giving Resource Center recently offered a webinar on the subject. Such webinars frequently are a charity’s first introduction to the business.

“There is a belief that young staffers would stay longer if they know the charity has a succession plan in place,” McEntee said. “Donors appreciate that a plan is in place to keep the organization going.

“You can do a lot of good with a good succession plan. Relationships with a nonprofit are no different from those of a family; they’re pretty close.”

The lead-up to J. Barry Griswell’s retirement in July as CEO of the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines is an example of well-thought-out succession plan. Griswell became CEO in 2011 after serving as president since 2008. Kristi Knous, who had been with the foundation since 2002, was named president to succeed Griswell.

McEntee said the orderly transition “lets people know services are going to be around long-term.”

Another key to a successful nonprofit organization is to have an executive board that remains fresh.

Board terms should expire after a set amount of time to bring new people and ideas into the organization, McEntee said.

“It can be done, but members will have to understand that their roles will change,” she said.

The Charitable Giving Resource Center started out with a local focus, but now has clients across the country.