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Sold-Out Hats Off Nonprofit Awards Celebrate 113 Nominees and 9 Award Recipients

Posted By Charlotte Gill, Monday, October 7, 2019

West Palm Beach, FL - The third annual “Hats Off Nonprofit Awards” hosted by Nonprofits First, Inc. honored 113 nominees representing 90 local nonprofit organizations and community partners from Palm Beach County at the Harriet Himmel Theatre in downtown West Palm Beach. Over 400 guests were in attendance at this unique hat-themed cocktail reception to support and take their “hats off” to the nominees.


A blue-ribbon panel of 45 community leaders from the public and private sectors determined the winners. Honorees in the nine categories were not announced until the awards program, contributing to the anticipation and excitement of this celebratory event that kicks off the event season in Palm Beach County.


Nine honorees were announced by Emcees Suzanne Boyd and Eric Roby. Presenting the awards were Nonprofits First CEO, Jessica Cecere, and Board President, Deana Pizzo (I.T. Solutions of South Florida.)


A special honor was bestowed upon John Foley of Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County in recognition of his work assisting the nonprofit sector and the community with legal expertise. Nonprofit of the Year was awarded to Forgotten Soldiers Outreach (Small), CROS Ministries (Medium), and The Arc of Palm Beach County (Large). The Lifetime Achievement Award went to Tenna Wiles for her work with the Palm Beach Medical Society. Theresa Lepore was honored as the Nonprofit Volunteer of the Year for her work with YWCA of Palm Beach County. Nonprofit Professional of the Year went to Center for Child Counseling’s Lauren Scirrotto. Travis Suit from Piper’s Angels Foundation received the Nonprofit Executive of the Year Award. Nonprofit MVP went to Wilbert Jean-Baptiste of Digital Vibez. The Community Collaborators Award recognized Best Foot Forward Foundation, ChildNet, and AT&T for their partnership.


Four hundred attendees voted on the 2019 Nonprofit People’s Choice Award leading to another proud moment for Piper’s Angels Foundation. Valerie Staggs, a Nonprofit Executive of the Year nominee from Pandora’s Kids, won the Best Hat Award for her hand-made Pandora’s Box hat.


“The Hats Off Nonprofit Awards will have lasting impact and reward the nonprofit community for their dedication to service and the business of doing good. Nonprofits are an economic driver in Palm Beach County, providing over 30,000 jobs. It’s time we give them the recognition they deserve and Nonprofits First is proud to do it,” said CEO of Nonprofits First, Jessica Cecere.


Proceeds raised from this unique event benefit Nonprofits First Education Programs. These programs focus on the professional development, leadership, and training the nonprofit community volunteers and employees need to lead and succeed.


Since 2005, Nonprofits First, Inc. has been the leading resource for strengthening the administrative and operational capacity of nonprofit organizations in the community. Comprised of experienced professionals, consultants and volunteers, the vision of Nonprofits First is a community in which all nonprofits achieve their highest level of success.



Tags:  Charities  Hats Off Nonprofit Awards  Network  Nonprofit Philanthropy  Nonprofits First  Volunteer 

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Palm Beach County Nonprofits Involved In Bahamas Relief

Posted By Charlotte Gill, Friday, September 27, 2019
Updated: Sunday, September 29, 2019

Right after Hurricane Dorian’s powerful winds and torrential rain cut a devastating path through parts of the Bahamas, the nonprofit sector in Palm Beach County quickly sprang into action to help thousands of people whose lives were suddenly upended by the storm. Many nonprofit staff and volunteers worked through Labor Day weekend to gather food, water, belongings, clothing, medical supplies, diapers and other items, and then fly and ship them over to the hardest hit communities. Much of those relief efforts continue today – and so we want to spotlight the extraordinary nonprofits who stepped up over the past few weeks to help those in desperate need. Here are a few of their stories.


Within days of Dorian’s passage, the staff at our member organization, Lake Worth West Resident Planning Group, began gathering dozens of bags of toiletries and food destined for the Bahamas. Right away, Lake Worth West residents joined in to donate their own food to the relief effort. Those residents know all about starting over. Many of them are new immigrants who arrived in the community with barely anything and often relied on the generosity of others until they managed to find work and earn money. “Our residents wanted to give back and help out,” said Ronda Rogers, executive director of Lake Worth West. The donated bags quickly made their way to the most ravaged areas of the islands.


As soon as the first images of destruction surfaced from the Bahamas, another one of our members, Clinics Can Help, got busy. CEO Owen O’Neill knew there would be significant medical needs following the storm, and so his staff began preparing medical gloves, hygienic supplies, crutches, and other equipment. The center accepts used and unwrapped medical equipment and supplies, and gives them to children and adults who can’t afford them for their physical recovery. They have a warehouse filled with hundreds of donated medical items. O’Neill, a nurse, told WPTV that he wanted to help because he had been in emergency situations earlier in life when there wasn’t sufficient medical equipment and he wanted to do his part in preventing that from happening in the Bahamas.


Palm Beach County Medical Society also started collecting medical supplies from the public, encouraging people to drop off at their office everything from ace bandages and walkers to syringes/needles and nebulizers. Then, the organization’s physician leaders helped arrange for other doctors and healthcare professionals to volunteer for the Bahamas Celebration Humanitarian Cruise. The group spent several days treating injured patients and delivering medicine to the sick. Physicians saved many lives, including arranging a middle-of-the-night airlift to Jackson Memorial of a Bahamian hurricane victim who was initially heading to West Palm Beach.


Nonprofits aren’t the only organizations that got involved in helping the people of the Bahamas. Plenty of restaurants, stores, shops and other businesses raised money and collected items, too, and they should be commended as well. But it’s the nonprofits that are likely to continue on with the relief efforts in the long-run, especially once the collective attention moves onto something else. And, for that, we should all be thankful.


If you know a great story about a local nonprofit, please share it with Charlotte Gill, Nonprofits First’s director of development and business strategies. Her email is:

Tags:  Charities  Collaborations  Emergency Aid  Leadership  Nonprofit  Volunteer 

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Member Spotlight: War on Hunger Collaborative

Posted By Charlotte Gill, Tuesday, October 30, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Spotlight on Feeding Palm Beach County’s Hungry Residents


People often say that nonprofits work in silos and don’t work well together. This year, the “War on Hunger” collaborative in Palm Beach County proved them wrong.


The massive food distribution effort won the 2018 Community Collaboration Award during our Hats Off Nonprofits Awards event in October.


So it’s only fitting that we highlight the collaborative in our monthly spotlight on the extraordinary work of nonprofits.


Here is the story of how the group reached hundreds of thousands of hunger residents in our community.



The task was enormous: hand-delivering 3,864,168 snacks, in 214,676 “white boxes,” to nearly 215,000 Palm Beach County residents struggling with poverty and hunger, in a two-month period.


It was a job for the military or another big government agency, right?


No, this was done locally by a collaboration of 19 key public, private, and nonprofit organizations with the clear goal of feeding every hungry child, adult and senior in Palm Beach County during the spring of 2018.


The massive outreach effort started when Farm Share alerted Living Hungry, a West Palm Beach-based group fighting hunger, to the fact that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was looking for agencies to accept 100 truckloads of expiring “hurricane-shelter snack boxes.” If the food was accepted, it would need to be distributed fast to avoid the expiration date of July.


“We are going to need more partners, more people!” Maura Plante, founder of Living Hungry, said at the time.


And so, Plante contacted Palm Beach County School Board Member Erica Whitfield, along with other public sector organizations including Houston Tate and Ruth Morguillansky from the Palm Beach County Office of Community Revitalization who recruited the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. Together, with Michael Farver, South Florida Hunger Coalition they followed a creative, strategic planning process and set out to build an outreach collaborative, with each partner playing a specific, mission-critical role.


The “War on Hunger” collaborative, as it became known, also involved: Nonprofits First, Sysco Southeast Florida, Restoration Bridge, Daughters of the American Revolution, The Palm Beach Post, Cox Media, The Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida, Glades Initiative, and ARC of the Glades, as well as other organizations from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors with support from the Everglades Trust. Additionally, many municipalities helped out with logistics and distribution, including City of Riviera Beach, City of Delray Beach, and cities of Belle Glade, South Bay and Pahokee.


Together, they engaged dozens of local charities, churches, agencies, businesses, girl scout troops, civic groups, service providers, organizations, school principals, teachers, coaches, police officers, and neighbors to get the food out. The Palm Beach County Office of Community Revitalization distributed 2.2 million meals in just 9 days with the cities and hundreds of partners.


One of the many areas of target: filling the hunger gap for 33,000 students over the 10-day Spring Break holiday in March.


The PBC School District School Food Service team asked all principals to pick up pallets in vans, trucks, and SUVs. In just three days, close to 600,000 snacks were handed out at 87 schools at the start of the weeklong break. One student said to a collaborative team member: “Without these snack boxes, we would not have had much to eat.”


The collaborative had many other powerful stories, like getting nearly 1,555 Girl Scouts involved in the effort. They learned about hunger and earned a “Drive the Food” badge for feeding 28,000 people people they each researched and chose who to feed locally with 505,000 snacks. One of the troop leaders said: A hungry man “shocked the girls when he sat right down on the spot and cracked open the can of ravioli to eat.”


In all, a small army of workers and volunteers from more than 170 organizations answered the call to help and distributed the boxes of food to tens of thousands of hungry residents from across Palm Beach County.


It’s another extraordinary example of what happens when nonprofits take the lead in addressing our community’s toughest challenges.


If your nonprofit has a great story to tell, contact Charlotte Gill at Nonprofits First: (561) 910-3891 or

Tags:  Charities  Network  Poverty  Storytelling  Volunteer 

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7 Super Steps to Recruit Volunteers

Posted By Josh Hirsch, Wednesday, January 4, 2017

How can a nonprofit recruit the right volunteer? In The Seven Deadly Sins of Recruiting Volunteers, Volunteer Power provides seven tips to recruit volunteers.

Just Ask. People liked being asked to volunteer. Announce why and when your organization needs volunteer help, but invite your best leads personally.

Team. Work with your employees or board to create a list of individuals you feel work best for you, and then ask them to volunteer. Ask them what they enjoy doing.

Lifetime volunteers. Create a relationship with new and old volunteers that will make them want to come back. When managing volunteers, treat them as if they are an employee of your organization. Manage them with respect, provide feedback and empower them to have a rewarding experience.

No is not never. Start recruiting volunteers as early as possible. If you ask an individual to volunteer and they say no, don’t take that as a rejection. Their schedule may not permit or they may feel that it is not a position they’ll enjoy. Continue your contact and awareness raising- Your volunteers will sign on at different phases of their yearly schedule and their life circumstances.

Leave seats empty. It is important for organizations to screen volunteers to make sure that they are the “right fit” for the job. Sometimes a volunteer spot is better left empty then filled with a person who is just there to fill the spot.

People Driven. Recruit individuals who want to be a part of your team and not a seat.

Position title. Individuals are looking at the title of the position as if it was an employment opportunity. Provide as much detail as possible so the volunteer knows what they are signing up for. Even “retirees” like to be recognized with a named role as they often bring substantial career experience through their work for you.

How does your organization begin to find the right volunteers? At the grassroots level, networking in your community with organizations whose members volunteer in groups or individually is worthwhile. The Rotary, women’s organizations, houses of worship, and college student and alumni organizations are just a few examples of the kinds of groups that like to pitch in to make a difference.

The National Council of Nonprofits provides resources for any organization with their volunteer tools and resource center.

VolunteerMatch allows organizations to post needed volunteer positions and allows volunteers to search for events in their area.

VolunteerHub is software that helps organizations recruit and manage many volunteers.

Linkedin and social media are both amazing tools to recruit volunteers. Linkedin allows organizations to post volunteer descriptions and accept resumes from interested candidates.

And remember to spread the word of needing volunteers through various social media outlets with tweets, a Facebook event for volunteering, news of volunteer recognition, and more.

Original post can be found here.

Tags:  Volunteer 

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Develop Your Own Self

Posted By Shari Jennings, Monday, July 11, 2016
Updated: Thursday, July 7, 2016

Finding funds for professional development can be a challenge in nonprofit organizations.  We often work with limited resources to accomplish a seemingly unlimited number of tasks.  For the mid-level professional, this becomes a barrier to getting the professional development needed to move to the next level.  This is why you need to develop yourself.  One way to do this is to volunteer.  Nonprofits like FREE anything, but especially free labor.  Seek volunteer opportunities outside of your organization.  Volunteering and doing a good job demonstrates your leadership skills and makes you more marketable.

Volunteering is a form of networking, which is also important when developing yourself.  Join professional groups and organizations, become a board member, and/or join a peer networking group.  Seek opportunities to form relationships with likeminded professionals.  Develop genuine relationships where information is shared.  Don’t just reach out to people when you need something.  Share information, send an article.  These relationships create connections, increase confidence, and generate referrals.  

Remember that you are responsible for your career.  Sometimes the opportunity to grow comes knocking at your door, but when it does not, you have to develop your own self!

Here at Nonprofits First, we offer development opportunities to new and experienced professionals who have that desire to move to the next level in their career. For more information, visit our Education & Professional Development page.

Tags:  Network  Professional Development  Volunteer 

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