Client Spotlight: First Baptist Church of Raleigh

In early 2015, Dr. Dumas Harshaw, Jr. began to to realize that his church’s congregation was changing. The pastor of First Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina knew that his church needed a new plan for the future.

“I could see the generation that had been so strong in sustaining the church begin to die out,” remembers Harshaw. “As that was happening, I saw we were also not bringing in people at the same level as earlier years.”

But the church had no process in place for navigating such an uncertain future. After receiving a recommendation from a friend, Harshaw contacted The INS Group to create a plan that would allow the pastor and congregation to work together in finding a solution.

Over the next year and a half, The INS Group led First Baptist through significant strategic and leadership planning designed to facilitate communication and buy-in among members of the congregation.

“It was really well organized,” says Harshaw. “Ruth outlined the path ahead and put together timelines and desired results. There was constant communication, understanding, and debriefing.”

The INS Group also took steps to ensure that members of First Baptist’s congregation were actively involved and informed throughout the process. Today, members of the congregation remain highly engaged. “So many people have participated in surveys and expressed their opinions in group meetings and signed up to be part of the implementation process,” observes Harshaw. “New energy is beginning to emerge, and that’s exciting. We have meetings every week.”

Harshaw recommends that other churches struggling with change consider strategic and leadership planning. “All churches go through historical and spiritual processes. There will come a time when there will be changing of guard,” he says. “Now we live in the atmosphere of a secular society, and it’s reflected in church as well. Your church may need to go back to the table and ask, Why are we here? What are we doing? What message do we want to give to others? To stay vibrant and engaged and aware, you have to have someone from outside come in and raise some questions.”

How does Dr. Harshaw feel about First Baptist’s future today? “It’s like a miracle to me. Where we are, it’s simply an answer to a prayer,” he shares. “We have longtime and newer members as well as members who have been here a while but were never involved. It’s intergenerational and diverse.” Today, Harshaw regularly recommends The INS Group’s services to other churches. “Ruth brings a lot of professionalism and a high level of skills and resources. It was a blessing to find and work with her.”

Is your faith-based organization considering a new plan in the face of change? Contact The INS Group to learn how we can help.

Posted in Capacity Building, Communications, Donors, Marketing/Public Relations, Nonprofit Management, Strategic Planning

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Managing Organizational Growth: A Success Story

The Inter-Faith Food Shuttle launched in 1989 with a simple observation: edible food was being thrown out by food vendors instead of making it to the hands of the hungry. Twenty-eight years later, the Food Shuttle has evolved into into a thriving nonprofit that recovers over six million pounds of food a year across seven counties in North Carolina, with various programs designed to break the cycle of hunger.

How did the Food Shuttle grow from a grassroots effort to an inventive powerhouse tackling hunger across the state? The INS Group sat down with Executive Director Dave Koch to learn more.

“When Jill Staton Bullard and Maxine Solomon founded the Food Shuttle in 1989, the focus was around the recovery of food being thrown out from local restaurants and grocery stores,” says Koch, who joined the organization in January 2016. Today, the organization feeds 60,000 people a month and offers a number of educational and community food programs designed to “feed, teach, and grow.”

Key partnerships and strategic planning helped fuel the Food Shuttle’s growth over time, says Koch. After joining Feeding America, a national network of more than 200 food banks, the Food Shuttle was able to benefit from relationships with Walmart and other grocery store chains to recover large amounts of perishable food. “That enabled a lot of growth in terms of volume collection,” notes Koch.

However, former CEO and co-founder Jill Staton Bullard made sure to create other pathways for growth during her 26 years at the Food Shuttle—primarily through the creation of inventive programs designed to meet community needs. Today, the Food Shuttle’s Culinary Job Training Program offers 11 weeks of classroom learning and hands-on kitchen experience for participants, 70% of whom find a related job within 18 months. Meanwhile, Catering for a Cause provides affordable catering services to nonprofits, and the Food Shuttle regularly prepares meals for soup shelters, summer camps, and other programs. “We are a nontraditional food bank,” observes Koch.

Koch hopes that the Food Shuttle will increase its impact in the coming years by expanding programs within all seven counties it serves. (Currently, 80% of its services are in Wake and Durham Counties.) He would also like to expand programs targeting two vulnerable populations: children and seniors. “Our most impactful service is child hunger programming—Backpack Buddies and school pantries,” says Koch. “We deliver 2,300 backpacks each week during the school year, but there’s such a tremendous need. We could easily double, triple the number of backpacks we deliver.”

After 34 years in the corporate and nonprofit sectors, Koch is well accustomed to watching organizations change over time—and he has plenty of advice for nonprofit leaders. “Financial stability is always the key to an organization’s stability,” he observes. “Too many nonprofits get dependent on grants that are time limited and potentially take them places they shouldn’t be.” Koch also argues that it is critical for nonprofits to develop long-term strategic and funding plans. “Nonprofits, to be really viable, need to have a source of revenue generation that supports their mission,” he says.

Is your organization ready to plan for the future? Contact The INS Group to learn more about our strategic planning services.

Posted in Capacity Building, Communications, Nonprofit Management, Strategic Planning

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Why Staff Buy-In Matters

The process of organizational change can be daunting: How will staff be onboarded? Has leadership made the right decision? Will the organization thrive?

Like many corporations, nonprofits often make decisions from the top down. However, incorporating staff into the decision making process can have tremendous benefits for organizations—and make change easier in the long run. Here are three advantages to seeking out staff buy-in:

1. It gives everyone a chance to understand the change.When staff members are not involved in decision making, the motivation for change can be difficult to understand or support. Introducing your staff at an early point can help them understand the strategy behind the change and observe the organization from a 30,000-foot view.

2. It gives leadership the opportunity to see change from another perspective. Change driven from the top can be difficult for people on the ground to implement if leadership doesn’t understand the nuances of the day-to-day work involved. Staff can offer valuable insight into small details that could cause larger problems down the road if implemented incorrectly. A broadly informed decision-making process can help organizations anticipate challenges and course-correct quickly as change unfolds.

3. It helps leadership direct how change is implemented. The earlier staff are involved in decision making, the more opportunities leadership has to shape how they are engaged. Create teams who are tasked with solving different problems. If research is required, find data hounds who enjoy searching out information. If you aren’t sure how to implement a certain change, seek out your practical, on-the-ground employees who are adept at logistics. Make use of energetic new blood and wise veterans alike by matching employees’ unique skill sets to the problems you need solved.

Does your organization need guidance with change management or leadership development? Contact The INS Group to learn how our team’s expertise can help.

Posted in Capacity Building, Communications, Donors

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5 Tips for Hiring Your Next Executive Director

For nearly two decades, Band Together has carried out a unique mission: using live music to raise funds and awareness for local nonprofits. Since 2001, the organization has helped its Triangle-area nonprofit partners fundraise nearly $8 million, in the process transforming itself into what it calls a “philanthropic machine.”

Earlier this year, Band Together’s longtime Executive Director resigned, leaving the organization without a leader. Below, Robert Ramseur, Jr., President of Band Together’s Board of Directions, describes five steps that helped the organization find the right fit.

1. Create a formal succession plan or take foundational steps for long-term planning. Band Together’s Board of Directors didn’t have a succession plan in place when their ED gave notice—but they had already taken early steps in planning for the future. “Several years ago, we created a strategic planning committee within the Board that looked at who we were as an organization and compiled information from partners and stakeholders,” remembers Ramseur. “That information helped steer the hiring process.”

2. Examine your organization’s mission and priorities. “Define the mission of the organization first, perhaps even conduct a long-range planning session with the Board,” suggests Ramseur. “We made sure we had a really good handle on our mission and where we wanted to go as an organization before we started looking for our new leader.”

3. Have the Board take ownership of the hiring process. Band Together’s Board of Directors split into three subcommittees: one to create the job description, another to review résumés, and and a third to conduct interviews. “We had the job description for our first ED, but after reading through it, we realized it needed to change,” says Ramseur. “We took a lot of time to examine the role of the ED and think about what we wanted in somebody. It was a pretty interesting process because we found out we were looking for something different than what we originally thought.”

4. Take advantage of outside resources and expertise. Before starting interviews, the Board consulted with an HR professional who gave a seminar on the interview process. “That was really valuable because what we ended up doing was defining the questions we were going to ask,” says Ramseur. “We honed in on who we are as a organization, what we were looking to do, and who fit our mission.” Ramseur also attended a nonprofit board governance course at Harvard Business School. “I came back ready to charge ahead because the Board had had all these discussions about succession planning but we just didn’t have anything formal,” remembers Ramseur. “By the time I got back, we got the announcement that the ED was leaving.”

5. Take your time. “It was very lucky we did not fall into the trap of moving too quickly to hire someone and ending up with wrong person,” reflects Ramseur. “Prior to doing that soul searching exercise, we had identified a number of candidates we thought would be a perfect fit for us. But after we put the hiring process into motion, we realized we were looking for someone different.” Ramseur recommends that, when possible, organizations not set deadlines around making a hire. “The only deadline we had was a résumé cutoff so we could get people off the fence,” he says. “We wanted to find the right person and it didn’t matter to us how long it would take. We ended up hiring our new Executive Director in less time than I expected.”

Is your organization looking for resources related to succession planning? Contact The INS Group to learn how we can help.

Posted in Capacity Building, Communications, Donors, Fundraising, Nonprofit Management, Strategic Planning

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4 Tips for Developing Strong In-Kind Relationships—from an Expert

Michael McLawhorn, an In-Kind Senior Manager for TROSA in Durham, NC, is responsible for sourcing nearly $4 million of in-kind donations each year for his organization’s residential substance abuse program. Here, he shares four strategies for increasing in-kind giving and making the most effective ask.

1. Before making an ask, consider everything your organization needs—from supplies to professional training. McLawhorn works with a team of 8-10 individuals to source a wide variety of donations for his organization. “We reach out to companies and corporations to solicit products for our residents—toilet paper, water, food, clothing, business and vocational training, lawn care, servicing for vehicles, tools,” he says. “Sometimes people come in and do things like leadership courses for residents. We also have great relationships with dentists and hygiene providers.”

2. Give donors space between requests unless they indicate otherwise. “With a lot of companies, it works out where we’re asking once a year. Some companies say, ‘OK, you can call me every 3-4 months,’ while some donors say, ‘Call me when you need something,” observes McLawhorn. “Every relationship is an individual relationship.”

3. Be sincere.“Tenacity is important, but the way you feel about your organization is everything,” says McLawhorn, who graduated from the TROSA program years ago. Today, many of his direct reports are graduates or current residents. “A lot of my guys have no experience, but they are very eager and they have skills that we can develop,” he explains. “So they’ll stumble and fumble on phone, but if they’re sincere and driven, it works out.”

4. Do your research. “Start talking with folks in May. The more you know about business and fiscal cycles, the better,” advises McLawhorn. “You should know the product as much as possible, know the person as much as possible… you want to know as much as you can.”

In-kind donations are an important part of a comprehensive, multi-tiered fundraising strategy. Looking to improve in-kind giving or other fundraising efforts at your organization? Send The INS Group a note today.

Posted in Capacity Building, Communications, Donors, Fundraising, Nonprofit Management, Strategic Planning

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Client Spotlight: YWCA Lower Cape Fear

In 2015, the YWCA Lower Cape Fear realized it needed to develop a new strategic plan.

“There had not been one for at least six years,” says Jenni Harris, President of YWCA’s Board of Directors. “We were in a position where we needed guidance on how to grow into a strong, functioning organization.”

YWCA contracted The INS Group to coordinate a strategic planning process that began with a comprehensive organizational assessment, including a Board and staff self-assessment, as well as interviews and focus groups with Board members, staff, clients, and community stakeholders. Board members and staff leadership then examined the recurring themes stemming from the organizational assessment, which led to a series of strategic planning meetings facilitated by The INS Group.

“It was amazing to realize the bonds and newly found passion that resulted from the efforts of the Board and staff coming together to talk through challenges and successes,” Harris reflects. “Ruth has a very calm presence that allows her to engage an entire group of people without conflict. That is a gift!”

Soon after this process, the YWCA decided to continue its partnership with The INS Group by targeting organizational fundraising. “Ruth helped us create a fund development plan that included a 120-day plan and multiple levels of fundraising that had not been done in the past,” says Harris. “Now we have a lot of ideas for short- and long-term fundraising efforts that will accomplish a number of strategic goals toward greater awareness of our services in the community.”

Today, the YWCA has a renewed perspective and strategic direction. “We have been able to move forward in hiring a new Executive Director with experience in external relations, and we hired a communications manager to assist us with public relations, member relations, and fundraising support,” says Harris. “It has been so much easier to share thoughts and ideas among Board and staff when everyone knows the end game.”

Would the YWCA consider working with The INS Group again? “Ruth was able to help us focus on our successes and assets and guide us in a direction that brought awareness to our programs without allowing mission creep,” shares Harris. “Today, the Board has a more focused emphasis on program accountability with measurable outcomes. We are huge fans of The INS Group!” Does your organization need additional support around fundraising, strategic planning, or Board management?

Contact The INS Group today to see how we can help!

Posted in Capacity Building, Communications, Fund Development, Fundraising, Nonprofit Management, Strategic Planning

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Storytelling for Nontraditional Outcomes

Many nonprofits have impact that is difficult to quantify. For example, how does an organization offering experiential learning programs for urban youth share the transformation and wonder that occurs when children learn outdoors? Or what about a nonprofit that puts incarcerated individuals and graduate students in the same classroom so they can learn from one another?

These stories deserve to be told—and they are essential for organizations seeking to fundraise and share their mission. In this article, Christy Burkey, Director of Marketing and Communications for Hope Reins in Raleigh, NC, shares some approaches her nonprofit takes when it comes to sharing their unique stories and programs.

1. Consider multiple viewpoints when telling a story.
Hope Reins is a 33-acre ranch that pairs hurting kids with horses to help them find hope and healing. The organization offers individual and group sessions with horses and session leaders, as well as summer camps, mentorship programs, and ranch fellowships.

“There are so many viewpoints you can cover,” says Burkey. “A lot of times our session leaders will tell the story from their perspective. First person is great for storytelling, but so is the third person.”

Hope Reins also shares their horses’ stories, which can end up being an important part of clients’ healing. “What happens is kids come out, and they’ve been abused, and we introduce them to a horse that was locked away for months without food. You tell the child about Freddy’s experience. You show how Freddy now trusts and loves people even though he was starved and abused, and they connect with that,” Burkey observes. “The child’s story becomes the horse’s story.”

2. Let stories bubble up. “Families will seek us out and tell us what a difference Hope Reins has made for them, and they advocate for us,” shares Burkey. One young client wrote a heartfelt letter to the organization about what the ranch had meant to him. But Burkey works to ensure that clients’ confidentiality is protected at all times. “You have to get creative,” she says. “Sometimes it’s hard for kids to talk about their perspectives.”

3. Encourage people to visit and experience your organization. “It’s hard to know us until you come out to the ranch and meet some of the horses,” Burkey notes. “We show visitors how we act, why we are here. We’re here to serve and help clients get better. Are we therapists? No. We just welcome kids and facilitate a relationship between the horse and child. It’s a platform for healing.”

Click to learn more about The INS Group’s marketing and communications services for nonprofit and faith-based organizations.

Posted in Capacity Building, Communications, Marketing/Public Relations, Nonprofit Management

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Is Going Cloud-Based Right for Your Organization? A Quiz

There are lots of reasons for organizations to move their operations to cloud computing—or Internet-based computing—including significant cost savings and increased collaboration. Take this quiz to find out if your organization is ready!

A answers are worth 1 point, B answers 2 points, and C answers 3 points. Add your points to find your results at the end of the quiz. 


1. Does your organization pay for IT staff or consultants? 
A. No, our IT services are donated
B. We pay a consultant for a set number of hours each month, but it’s expensive 
C. We have a full-time IT staff person 

2. Is your organization’s server located in a safe, air-conditioned room?
A. Not sure
B. Yes, but the room is also used for other things
C. Yes, the server has a safe, dedicated space

3. Does your organization currently use any cloud-based software, such as Google Docs, Salesforce, or Basecamp?
A. Not sure
B. We use some
C. Yes, our staff is very comfortable with cloud-based applications

4. Does your staff work remotely or collaborate digitally on projects with other organizations?
A. Not often
B. Sometimes
C. Yes

5. Do your staff have regular access to a reliable Internet connection while they work?
A. Not often
B. Sometimes
C. Most of the time

6. Do your staff use special software or programs (e.g. databases, design programs) that require a desktop computer or laptop?
A. Not sure
B. More than 25% of staff do
C. Less than 25% of staff do


What’s your score?

6-10 points: Your organization isn’t ready for the cloud—yet. It’s time to take a thorough look at your organization’s IT and computer needs. Going cloud based can provide significant savings, but if most of your services and equipment are donated in-kind, then there’s time to wait as your organization grows.

11-14 points: Look ahead to the future. In many ways, your organized is primed for the cloud—you may already use some cloud-based applications or have a staff that is accustomed to working on complex projects with individuals in other locations. Some questions to consider: Will your organization continue to grow at its current rate? Does your organization have special software needs that can’t be accommodated in the cloud at this time? Work with leadership to determine whether switching to the cloud might be an advantage for your organization in the near future.

15-18 points: Switch to the cloud! Your organization is ready. Your staff is digitally savvy and you need a safe place to protect your information. Have fun exploring the many cloud options out there!

Want to learn more organizational development strategies? Join The INS Group’s “Unleash the ‘Inner Fundraiser’ in Your Board of Directors” webinar on November 8, 2017 (2 – 3 pm ET). Click here to register.

Posted in Capacity Building, Communications, Nonprofit Management, Strategic Planning

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3 Nonprofits that Successfully Rebranded — and How They Did It

There are many reasons why organizations choose to rebrand themselves. Outdated logos, mergers, and misperceptions of an organization’s mission are all compelling reasons to reinvent a nonprofit’s image.

Here are three nonprofits that survived the rebranding process thanks to planning, strategy, and forward thinking.

1. YMCA of the USA

 In 2010, the YMCA underwent a huge branding rehaul, launching a new logo and framework focused on youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.  

Why they did it: The YMCA was seen in many communities as a cost-effective place to exercise–but not much else. Organization leadership wanted people to “better understand the benefits of engaging with the Y,” says Kate Coleman, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of YMCA of the USA. “We [simplified] how we describe the programs we offer so that it is immediately apparent that everything we do is designed to nurture the potential of children and teens, improve health and well-being, and support our neighbors and the larger community.”

How they did it: The YMCA launched a new logo–its first redesign in 43 years– with bright colors intended to reflect the diversity of its communities and activities. The YMCA also started calling itself the “Y,” echoing how the organization is often referred to publicly. Finally, the Y’s new framework demonstrates the organization’s broader programmatic focus for individuals, families, and communities.

Why it was successful: By tapping into its nickname, the “Y,” the YMCA affirmed itself as a cultural institution that is here to stay. It also refreshed the public perception of its mission and programs with a framework that engages a new generation of members: kids. The YMCA spent two years conducting analysis and research for its rebranding effort–which clearly paid off.

2. Families Moving Forward

In 2015, two organizations serving homeless families in Durham, NC realized they had shared goals–so they decided to merge and combine their areas of expertise. Genesis Home and the Durham Interfaith Hospitality Network (DIHN) are now Families Moving Forward.

Why they did it: Genesis Home, an emergency shelter, wanted to move families more quickly into permanent housing. DIHN, a network of faith-based institutions, sought a site to conduct its work and leverage its strong volunteer base. Their new organization, Families Moving Forward, now has greater capacity to serve families’ needs while they stay in the shelter and to provide aftercare that helps families from becoming homeless again.

How they did it: Both organizations spent several months discussing and finalizing the merger. When Families Moving Forward launched in late 2015, the organization unveiled its new name, logo, mission, and website via a press release, newsletters, and strategic communications to volunteers, donors, and the public.

Why it was successful: Both Genesis Home and DIHN were well-established organizations that had served the community for decades, so reminding people about the Families Moving Forward merger is still an act in progress. “It’s really hard when you have two organizations that have been operating for 20-25 years and everyone knows those names,” says Aubrey Thorlakson, Development Associate for Families Moving Forward. The organization knows that it must continually communicate its new mission and name–for as long as it takes. “We’re doing different things, including a special new dinner event, to get our name out to volunteers, donors, and the greater Durham community,” she says.

3. Pledge 1% Colorado

 In 2014, the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado co-founded Pledge 1%, a global platform designed to inspire early-stage corporate philanthropy. Two years later, the Foundation rebranded itself as Pledge 1% Colorado to better align with its well-known platform.

Why they did it: Rebranding allowed the Foundation to strategically coordinate with the Pledge 1% platform and simultaneously unveil new programmatic offerings.

How they did it: The Foundation sent announcements via email, social media, newsletters, and its website to the hundreds of companies participating in its network.

Why it was successful: The new Pledge 1% Colorado logo and website perfectly mimic the branding of Pledge 1%, tying the two together visually. Because the rebranding took place only two years after the launch of Pledge 1%, there was sufficient time for both brands to grow together and for participants and the public to begin associating the two.

To further increase your organizational capacity, join The INS Group’s “Unleash the ‘Inner Fundraiser’ in Your Board of Directors” webinar on November 8, 2017 (2 – 3 pm). Click here to register.

Posted in Capacity Building, Communications, Marketing/Public Relations, Nonprofit Management, Strategic Planning

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What Are the True Costs of Burnout for Nonprofits?

Burnout occurs in every sector, but it has a special reputation among nonprofits. Google “nonprofit burnout” and you’ll find a book-length list of articles dedicated to preventing or managing this all-too-common occurrence.

Yet while the human costs of burnout have been well explored–low morale, health-damaging stress, job dissatisfaction—many nonprofits do not consider the significant cultural and financial costs that accompany burnout. If nonprofits want to recruit and retain the best changemakers, why do we continue to allow burnout to be the unaddressed elephant in the room?

Below are some fascinating facts about burnout and how it affects organizations—as well as tools that organizational leaders can use to address it (instead of expecting employees to manage their stress away).

Burnout costs nonprofits thousands of dollars in lost staff each year. When an employee leaves, it takes an estimated six to nine months of that worker’s salary for the organization to find, train, and hire a replacement. But burnout becomes doubly expensive the more experience, training, and skills that an employee has. For example, a CEO making $100,000 a year costs $213,000 to replace (213% of the employee’s original salary). Given this reality, it makes sense for nonprofits to invest significant efforts in retaining their senior-level staff so that vital knowledge and skillsets are not lost.

But keep in mind: even the youngest, most enthusiastic staff members suffer from burnout, too. Work with your staff to devise strategies for keeping all levels of staff engaged, balanced, and feeling appreciated–and then give them the autonomy to carry out those ideas.

Burnout “sickens” an office’s culture. People notice when their coworkers become unhappy and change their outputs. The Wall Street Journal reports that “bad behavior, such as anger, laziness, and incompetence, is remarkably contagious.” In addition,  a study of nurses working in intensive care found that those who heard their colleagues complain about burnout were significantly more likely to experience it themselves.

Work with your staff, particularly managers, to identify signs of burnout and create a formal plan for addressing it. Psychology Today notes that burnout is “a state of chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism and detachment, feelings of ineffectiveness, and lack of accomplishment.” While not all burnout is caused exclusively by professional stress, naming and acknowledging it can be a powerful first step in letting employees know they are supported. Organizations that work to mitigate burnout early on can reduce turnover and maintain a healthy office culture. 

3 Tools for Nipping Burnout in the Bud

  • Incorporating this stress-performance curve into weekly supervision meetings is a useful way to visualize, quantify, and discuss employees’ needs and workloads.
  • This mobile app allows employees to capture their work demands, office environment, and job satisfaction–and then create a customized action plan to share with supervisors.
  • This burnout self-test can help employees gauge how close they are to becoming burned out. 

    Your nonprofit, faith-based organization, or government agency can achieve greater capacity when you participate in The INS Group webinars. Visit our website for the latest lineup.

Posted in Capacity Building, Communications, Marketing/Public Relations, Nonprofit Management, Strategic Planning

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