What Matters Most – Nonprofit Conversation with Denise Phelps

Today we talk with Denise Phelps, Market President serving Berkeley County, WV about her involvement in nonprofits and a great resource, a Lunch & Learn series, that is now available online due to the pandemic, and available in the Berkeley County market for nonprofits. Learn more at https://MyBank.com/lunchandlearn and learn of some of the great Uncommon Stories about nonprofits mentioned in the episode at https://MyBank.com/stories


Announcer: Welcome to the “What Matters Most” podcast, presented by First United Bank & Trust. That’s my bank. Visit us today at mybank.com.

Eric: Hello, and welcome to “What Matters Most,” the podcast all about finances, community, savings, and security for you, your family, and your business. This podcast is brought to you by the helpful folks at my bank, First United Bank & Trust. I’m your host, Eric Nutter, and in today’s community episode, what matters most are nonprofits. And for this discussion, I’m thankful to be joined remotely today by Denise Phelps, First United market president serving Berkeley County in West Virginia. Good morning, Denise. How are you?

Denise: Good morning, Eric. I’m great. How are you?

Eric: I’m doing very well. I’m doing very well. Thanks for joining me today.

Denise: My pleasure.

Eric: I appreciate having you on. And today, you know, these community episodes are a little different than some of our normal stuff, you know. But today, I think we do have a specific thing we’ll kind of want to touch on in relation to nonprofits. But to start us off, you know, since we’re talking about nonprofits, you’re very familiar in that space so can you give us a little history lesson about Denise, tell us what’s your involvement in the nonprofit space.

Denise: Sure. Absolutely. So I’ve been involved through the bank mainly with nonprofits over the last 20 years because I started when I was 5. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to serve many organizations, all different kinds. I’ve served with Civitan, who focuses on people with developmental disabilities, Rotary, you know, general, and international, and local communities, Maryland School for the Deaf Foundation, currently serving on the Blue Ridge Community and Technical College board. They’re lots of different service organizations doing lots of different work.

And I’ll be honest with you, you know, all of those experiences while serving very different groups or different communities truly have a core, you know, tenet that carries through all of the organizations and that is a mission of making the world, you know, a stronger and better community. So, really excited with all the works that I’ve been able to do and the experiences that I’ve had, lots of fundraising, strategic planning, coming up with new projects to address the community needs, and nonprofits are lucky enough to be in a space where they can get support from the community at large and have the ability through grants to be able to try new things, to come up with new ways to address the needs of their community as they change. So, really exciting to be part of a nonprofit, especially when you know that the outcome and the mission of the organization is making a difference in the lives of many in our community.

Eric: Absolutely. First United, as a whole, has always kind of had a soft spot for the community in general. I mean, we, obviously, always are trying to help out as much as possible. But then a lot of folks internally are involved in a lot of different boards and on nonprofits and just helping the community in general. In fact, in your neck of the woods, we have just recently, an episode of our Uncommon Stories that was related to a nonprofit. Which one was that? Tell us a little bit about that.

Denise: Actually, we did two, Eric. We had one for the Community Foundation in the Eastern Panhandle, West Virginia and that was with Michael Whalton. He and his team support almost all of the nonprofits in that Eastern Panhandle community through different grants, opportunities, and, you know, different support that they provide, so really a great organization that affects many.

And then we also featured Panhandle Home Health, who is a home health nonprofit that allows people that aren’t able to get out to access health care in the community, to have the health care brought to them. And because they’re a nonprofit, they’re able to serve a lot of those that don’t have the means to be able to provide, to get those services through insurance and different things like that. So really two great organizations that do very different things but, again, have the mission of serving people and serving the community and do a great job of that.

Eric: Yeah, absolutely. One, those stories are always so touching. Two, I love that whole series. So for those listening, if you haven’t checked out the Uncommon Stories video series, you can check that out at mybank.com/stories to see those that Denise mentioned as well as other episodes as well in that continuing series. But continuing on the nonprofit side of things, Denise, you’ve actually been working to put together a special program, a Lunch and Learn series that you work with local nonprofits to help out. So tell us a little bit about that program and how that works.

Denise: Sure. Absolutely. So I started this series in the Frederick market and then when I transferred over to the Berkeley County market, I bought the series with me. So the gist of it is, you know, we kind of looked at our donations budget and, you know, as a community bank, we want to truly make the biggest impact to all of the nonprofits in our community. But, you know, there’s always limited dollars in donations and many needs, right. So what we did is I took a look to see what were some of the common needs of the nonprofits and was there a way that we could deliver some resources to all of them and not, you know, limited to only the ones that we could serve financially. So we put together a series after surveying the local nonprofits as to what their biggest needs were, whether that be fundraising, whether it be, you know, board involvement, whether it be community engagement, whether it be volunteer management, whether it be financial management. There are a lot of different topics that we were able to, you know, put together on a nonprofit Lunch and Learn series that would feature some subject matter experts in all of those specific areas. And so, we delivered the content to them and pre-COVID, it was all in person so that there was a lot of networking opportunities with the nonprofits that we were able to bring together in the room.

And so it kind of served multiple purposes. Number one, it gave them information to address a need that their organization currently had. It gave them access to an expert in that field if they, you know, needed to get more information. And it allowed them the opportunity to work with other nonprofits in the community that had some of the same issues to be able to work through some solutions, and, you know, that they could take back to their organizations and implement right away and start to see some improvement in the organizations. So we’ve done it, you know, kind of quarterly, and you know, we had one scheduled in Berkeley County in April, actually. And as we all know, COVID kind of hit and we had to, you know, try to figure out was it going to be something that we just needed to hold tight, push pause for a couple of months or we needed to totally change how we deliver the content.

And I worked with a great group of presenters this year. Prior to this year, we’ve picked, you know, different ones. This year, we started with a series of two presenters, Meg Kinghorn and Jeff Feldman, who are experts in the nonprofit world. Meg does a lot of work with international NGOs and nonprofits and then just as a lot with leadership development in the nonprofit space. So two really, really key people that were able to provide, you know, some really valuable content to our nonprofits. But they were willing to work with us through COVID and figure out how to deliver that content to our nonprofit in a virtual way.

So we quickly pivoted and figured out that, ironically, the April session was around how to hold effective meetings, so we figured out how to hold effective meetings virtually, and, again, just incredibly relevant to the nonprofits at the time. And so we offered that, I believe it was in July, and had an amazing response, really, really great participation from the nonprofits. You could tell there was definitely a varied level of experience in going virtual, and they were able to work together and kind of brainstorm and talk about some of those initial tenets and why it’s important to hold effective meetings, whether they be, you know, employee volunteer, board, client meeting. But, you know, what are some of the key tenets of having effective meetings but then adding in the piece of how do you then deliver that and make sure that you’re accomplishing that virtually. So it was a really great session. And so we realized that we could deliver the content feedback from the nonprofits was, you know, very positive, and they were able to get a lot of value out of it.

So we moved onto the next topic in our series and was able to deliver that also virtually, which was around board member, board member engagement, and how to do that even, again, in a virtual world. So really, you know, exciting information that we were able to share with the nonprofits and, you know, they’re able to take what we’re sharing with them and take it back to their organizations immediately and start to see some improvement or some result from that. In addition to that, because these are virtual versus the in person that we had in the past, our marketing department was just gracious enough to work with us to be able to create an online portal for that information to be able to be shared. And we’ve seen nonprofits that participated in the sessions or maybe couldn’t participate in the sessions actually come back to that portal on our webpage and pull that information, sharing it with their board, sharing it with their fellow coworkers, volunteers, and, you know, get a much wider reach of this valuable content out to the organizations, so really exciting stuff. The webpage for that is www.mybank.com/lunchandlearn.

Eric: Yeah, lunch and learn, all spelled out, all one word, no spaces. It’s really cool. And on those pages, you can see those last two that are out there. You can see the videos. You can watch the presentation. You can download the slide decks. You can read more about the presenters. You can even click to read the meeting chats, so you can kind of see how the conversation was progressing during the meeting, which is really fascinating. So it’s really cool stuff that you’re putting out there. Do you expect to continue that, Lord willing, the pandemic will end, and we can have in-person meetings again? Do you think you’ll continue to put these sessions available electronically so people can get them later?

Denise: Great question, Eric. And the answer is yes. What that actually looks like is still to be determined. We do have one coming up. For those of you that may be interested in a couple of weeks, on November 16th or 18th, whatever that Wednesday is, we have our next session coming up and that’s more around effective leadership in a nonprofit, so definitely want to key in on that if you can. But, in addition, I think what most people, as you know, the world is kind of figuring out what will a post-COVID environment look like, whether it be work, school, nonprofit, you know, how are we gonna kind of proceed and the next generation because, you know, our world has been forever changed. And there’s a lot of great efficiencies that have been realized, and, you know, a lot of technology that we’ve been able to utilize to get content out or to, you know, work more effectively with teams that are maybe a little more spread out. So I think what we’ll probably do, Eric, is we’ll try to come up with a hybrid model and, you know, it would probably be some in person, once it’s safe to do so, but still being able to record it for those of you that can attend or could only attend virtually. So it’s really exciting to see what we’re gonna come up with but, again, it’s all about being flexible. It’s all about focusing on what’s our core mission, which is delivering valuable content to our local nonprofits so that they can continue to build and make our community strong.

Eric: Awesome. And so that next session is the 18th, Wednesday, the 18th, so it’s just about 2 weeks away. If someone wants to get involved in that or attend that, is there a way that they can reach out? Is there somebody they could reach out to find out more?

Denise: Absolutely. So the RSVPs come into me, Denise Phelps. And that’s dphelps@mybank.com and d as in Denise and Phelps, P-H-E-L-P-S, like the swimmer.

Eric: Awesome. Let me put that email address and all these links in the show notes so people can find us pretty easily so. Cool. Thanks so much for talking about this. Denise, you know, the thing that I kind of want to just ask you one last question, obviously, through all of this, it’s very clear you have a passion for helping nonprofits. I’m curious. Where did that passion come from? What drives you to want to be a part of all of these?

Denise: Yeah, thank you for asking that. So, basically, the passion for nonprofits, I think was an interesting intersection of life experience and an opportunity through my career. So I grew up with two deaf parents and certainly saw how, you know, nonprofits [inaudible 00:14:34]. They both were educators at Maryland School for the Deaf in Frederick and saw the difference that they made in the community helping educate people that didn’t have access necessarily to a mainstream education and the difference they can make in those students’ lives. In addition, I have some folks in my family who have developmental disabilities so, certainly, have seen organizations in my community help support them through different work experiences, health needs, all of that kind of stuff, so really, growing up seeing how nonprofits have supported people that just need a little extra help to be successful in life.

And then when I came to First United, almost 24 years ago now, I was put into a leadership position. And, Eric, as you’ve mentioned earlier, it’s really important for us in First United to support the community because we realize that we can only be as strong as our community is. And so it’s really critical for us to be part of that. And so, it was offered that I needed to look for opportunities to give back and to support our community through nonprofit involvement, whether it be board engagement or volunteerism. And so, the first organization was actually a client of ours, Civitan in Martinsburg, ironically, the Civitan Club. And that was my first organization that I joined. From there, you know, it just really catapulted into looking for opportunities to share my gifts with organizations. And, you know, I’ve done different things like fundraising. Obviously, that’s the banker in the room, the one that has to lead the fundraising or to be the treasurer, so I’ve certainly done that. But some of the interesting things that I’ve been able to do is the strategic planning and combining kind of some of those skills that I learned at First United in different leadership roles and applying them and sharing them with the nonprofits to be able to help them in times that maybe they don’t have budgets to be able to bring in a facilitator for a strategic planning process or don’t necessarily have the ability to hire a director of development. And so just kind of finding ways to take my experience, you know, through my career and applying it to a nonprofit to help them, you know, grow and achieve their mission.

Eric: That’s awesome. I think that’s a fantastic effort that you’ve put in. And like I said, it’s clear that your passion for nonprofits in the community at large is very clear and so, thank you for all that you do.

Denise: Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to share it today and hopefully, everyone will get a chance to check out our nonprofit series and join us at one of our future events.

Eric: Yeah. Well, actually, speaking of that, you know, like I said, thank you but if anyone has a question or they want to learn more about any of the things we’ve talked about here today, what’s the best way they can get the support they need?

Denise: So I would start with heading over to our Lunch and Learn webpage to see some of our resources that we have there available. And for any follow-up questions or any additional needs, reach out to me directly. I’d be happy to help in any way I can.

Eric: Awesome. Denise, thanks again. I really appreciate having you on today.

Denise: Absolutely. Thank you for the opportunity, Eric, and thanks for your own series, very valuable.

Eric: Awesome.

Denise: Appreciate it.

Eric: Well, that brings us to the end of our show. You can always find more episodes by visiting mybank.com/podcast or find us on your favorite podcast app. And the good news is we’re on basically every podcast app there is, so find us on there. Subscribe and give us a five-star review. That helps other people find our content and lets other people find this helpful information that folks like Denise are providing. You can also always leave feedback, ask questions, or request a topic for us to discuss by sending an email to podcast@mybank.com. Thanks again for listening. We’ll be back next week with more helpful content but until then, we wish you the best in focusing on what matters most to you.

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