BBB Charity Symposium Sparks Creative Thinking

Speakers at Thursday's BBB Charity Symposium focused on tapping creativity by using the right brain.

If you were going to be an animal, what would it be?

According to Bill Donius, former Pulaski Bank CEO and bestselling author, the answer could depend on whether you're writing with your left or right hand.

Donius, the keynote speaker at Thursday's BBB Charity Symposium at the Chase Park Plaza, says that exercises like writing with your nondominant hand can be the key to tapping the creativity of your right brain. He encouraged the 100 charities at the symposium to reach deep into their organizations when doing strategic planning. A lower-level manager or employee may have insights overlooked by upper management.

"You can use these processes to break through the obstacles" to creative thinking, said Donius, author of Thought Revolution: How to Unlock Your Inner Genius.

Other speakers at the symposium talked about how learning from mistakes or problems led to creative solutions.

Kirby Burkholder, executive director of Missouri IFF, said the nonprofit originally planned to focus on lending to nonprofits creating housing and other real estate projects. However, the difficulties some nonprofits had with real estate development prompted IFF to add a consulting component to its services.

“It’s about being nimble,” Burkholder said.

Marilyn Gannon, board chair of Meds & Food For Kids, said the charity’s focus on helping under-nourished children in Haiti was hampered initially by the abject poverty of many Haitians. The charity has broadened its focus to include helping poor Haitian farmers grow peanuts — the main ingredient in a food for the children — as well as setting up a factory to produce the food.

“We’ve gone down a lot of blind alleys” before finding solutions that work, Gannon said. “Doing business in Haiti is like writing with your left hand all the time.”

Melanie Scheetz, executive director of the Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition, said the agency’s opening of a resale shop a year ago is an example of the need for review and revision of the charity’s goals. The shop originally was designed to appeal to teens and other shoppers in the same age group as many of the agency’s clients.

However, after the shop — named [Re]Fresh — opened, the charity found that shoppers of all ages were patronizing the store. The charity also has turned the shop into a training ground that helps prepare older foster children for employment, Scheetz said.

Denny O’Brien, chair of the BBB Charity Information Service advisory board, encouraged charities to try a new online evaluation tool for nonprofits aspiring to gain BBB Accredited Charity status. Charities can find out more by contacting the BBB at 314-645-0606 or by emailing charity@stlouisbbb.org.

For more information about charities or to get a BBB Business Review or BBB Charity Review, contact the BBB at www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.

Follow the BBB on Facebook or on Twitter @stlouisbbbeditor.

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