Thursday, January 29, 2009

Top 3 Weekly Blog Posts for Nonprofit Workers

1. How a non-profit can use Twitter: A real-life example by NetSquared (Tech Soup)

2. Tips for Giving Social Media Projects to Interns by Kivi's Nonprofit Communications Blog

3. How to Create a Blogging Plan and Actually Reach Your Goals This Year by ProBlogger

Monday, January 26, 2009

Budget Preparation Schedule

Now that the new year has started and you are about a month into your budget, it is time to start thinking about next years budget schedule. Here is a great suggested schedule from Jay Kiedrowski at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs and the Nonprofit Assistance Fund:

July/August Step 1: Planning the Process - Executive Director meets with financial staff and finance committee to plan budgeting process and set timelines.

September Step 2: Communicating about the Process - Staff meeting held to communicate process, responsibilities and deadlines to all participants.

Step 3: Programmatic Goal Setting - Board and committees review strategic goals and identify priorities; Staff meet within programs/departments to brainstorm and plan for programmatic goals for next year.

September/October Step 4: Information Gathering - Managers draft program or department budgets based on plans and assumptions.

November Step 5: Compilation and Revision - Coordinator compiles information to prepare an organizational budget draft. Managers review and revise initial draft.

Step 6: Committee Review - Finance committee meets to review budget draft and assumptions and make recommendations.

December Step 7: Final Approval - Board meeting held and budget proposal and programmatic and fundraising assumptions are presented for approval.

December/January Step 8: Implementation and Management - Staff meeting held to discuss budget, program goals and timelines for new year.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Top 3 Weekly Blog Posts for Nonprofit Workers

1. Gift Acceptance Policies by Nonprofit Law Blog

2. Philanthropic Equity by Tactical Philanthropy

3. Five Tips for Writing a Four-Page Nonprofit Annual Report by Kivi's Nonprofit Communications Blog

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Guest Post: Sweat the Fundamentals

Thank you to Rich Cowles, Executive Director at the Charities Review Council for providing this week's guest post!

Sweat the Fundamentals

When you read or hear about an organization in an embarrassing situation, it generally stems from inattention to seemingly small stuff. A couple of examples:

-A respected human service organization sent a year-end fundraising appeal with an emotional message that included this line: "While you will be receiving many appeals for funds this time of year, this one is the most important." While the message was heartfelt, it likely turned off some of the organization's supporters who may not have shared the same pecking order of importance. The nonprofit forgot a basic tenet of ethical fundraising--tell your story but don't cross the line toward manipulation. Honor the voluntary nature of giving, and leave the decision to the donor.

-A successful, large nonprofit that had taken pains to demonstrate accountability--including putting its conflict of interest policy on its Website--found itself in newspapers uncomfortably explaining why it had bought property from a relative of a board member who participated in the discussion and vote. No one had remembered to invoke their conflict of interest policy.

The Charities Review Council has a number of model policies that can be tailored to your use, including a conflict of interest policy that can help keep it alive. It requires annual disclosure of potential conflicts by all board and key staff. Sweating the small stuff can keep you out of an uncomfortable spotlight that threatens to undo all the good work you've done to be transparent and accountable.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Having interns, paid or unpaid, is complicated.

The NonProfit Times recently featured an article titled "The Cost Of Unpaid Interns-How to navigate the wage and hour law maze", which looked at the issue of unpaid interns and whether it is legal for nonprofit organizations to have interns that are not compensated for their work.

It mainly comes down to whether the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) are applicable to your organization. Determining this can be complicated, and it in part deals with whether the intern could be considered a "trainee" which means the FLSA doesn't apply to them and they do not need to be paid. The article lists a six-part test to determine whether your unpaid intern could be considered a "trainee", to read the article and learn more about the test click here.

So, maybe after reading this you have decided your intern needs to be paid. Or maybe your interns are already paid. Regardless, having paid interns brings up another dilemma- how is their income taxed? Well, every organization does this differently. Some treat interns like regular employees and tax their income as such, others treat interns like independent contractors and mail them 1099s. There are also some nonprofits that do neither- they just hand them a check and shirk any responsibility with the IRS and that intern's taxes (which is a mistake). It's hard to say what the best way to do this is, and the IRS doesn't seem to care much about how your intern is classified as long as taxes are paid on their stipend or wages. So I would just recommend that you pick a way and document why you chose to pay interns the way you do.

I also would like to add that having interns is not only extremely useful for your organization, but it is also very helpful for the intern. It is a win-win situation, the intern gains valuable experience and you gain an unpaid (or very underpaid) worker. So, don't let this complexity discourage you from hiring interns.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Nonprofit Irony

Nonprofit organizations should do their best to avoid embarrassing and hypocritical situations. I recently heard about a nonprofit organization that focuses on women's issues and women's rights, yet it has no paid parental leave for its staff. Many have also read or heard about ACORN, which works to get better wages for the poor, yet doesn't want to pay its own employees minimum wage. ACORN has justified this by saying "A person paid limited sums of money will be in a better position to empathize with and relate to the low and moderate membership and constituency of ACORN." These are just two examples of the irony we see in some nonprofit organizations.

These sorts of issues are very important because to the public, it conveys a mixed message. For example, if your organization is an environmental nonprofit, yet you don't use recycled paper, how can you expect others to do so? Same thing goes for a GLBT nonprofit that doesn't provide domestic partner benefits. This can also relate to board members and fundraising- how can you ask others to give to your organization, when you yourself are not a donor? Nonprofit organizations should make sure that they are living their mission in their everyday work.

If anyone knows of any nonprofit ironies, please feel free to post them in the comment section.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What nonprofit expenses can or should be passed on to staff?

I used to work at a nonprofit organization where all staff were expected to volunteer at a big, annual event. This event needed hundreds of volunteers, which is why staff were required to volunteer. Now, the problem wasn't that the staff were expected to "volunteer" their time, the issue was that in order for staff to volunteer at this event, they had to pay for parking at the event and for a ticket to get into the event (they had to have a ticket to get in to volunteer), neither of which were reimbursed by the nonprofit. So, what nonprofit expenses can or should be passed on to staff?

Well, pretty much none.

Nonprofit workers are typically paid much less that their for-profit counterparts (who get everything reimbursed), so they often cannot afford to shoulder additional expenses on behalf of their workplace. Now, that's not to say a staff member can't volunteer to pay for their own parking or ticket. In fact, many do. But, passing expenses off onto workers is detrimental to both the staff and the organization.

Staff may end up feeling slighted that they have to use their already small salaries to pay for expenses like parking and tickets so they can volunteer their personal time at an event. Also, the nonprofit may end up depending on staff to shoulder these and other expenses so often they forget that these expenses exist. And then a time will come when they hire new staff that won't pay for these expenses. If staff are required to do something as part of their job, then they should not have to use their personal time or money to do it.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Guest Post: Tips for Nonprofits on Being More Transparent

Thank you to Rich Cowles, Executive Director at the Charities Review Council for providing this week's guest post!

Tips for nonprofits on being more transparent

Your fundraising can use a leg-up in this economy. Taking pains to be transparent is one way to do so—including straight talk about how you’re dealing with the economy. Donors appreciate openness and straight talk.

You might even use an analogy to a household budget as a way of personalizing your organizational budget concerns. Just as families are having to make tough decisions and are cutting back, your organization can’t spend money it doesn’t have… show some of the tough decision making going on in your shop, and the implications in terms of program services that various cuts would have.

Donors also care about realizing a measurable return on their social investment—what difference are you making with their contributions? Frame your accomplishments in terms of mission-related impact on the community, not simply activities.

Take a look at Nonprofit Assistance Fund’s blog, Nonprofit Harvest. It has great tips on financial management and transparency.

Top 3 Weekly Blog Posts for Nonprofit Workers

1. When HR Should Act To Save Money by the Evil HR Lady

2. Preach to the choir - then get them singing your tune outside church by Katya's Nonprofit Marketing Blog

3. Limits on Exec Compensation in Grant Applications by 79 Grant Writing Resources

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

3 things you should do to start 2009 on the right foot

1. Review your fundraising plan
Since many nonprofits have had to cut staff and focus resources, it is particularly important that nonprofits go over their fundraising plan with a fine tooth comb. It should include taking a good look at who your donors are, particularly at their age. If you have a lot of young donors then you should have things like starting a blog, using more social media, etc. in your plan. If you have older donors, then this is the year to really focus and glean your planned giving operation. It also should be realistic and have numbers to back up projected revenue.

2. Get organized and be more efficient with your time
This is extremely important. Don’t let your desk stay cluttered, don’t let your to-do lists grow and grow, don’t let those great new ideas keep moving down on your priorities. Here, here, and here are a few good posts and websites to help you get started get organized and be more efficient with your time.

3. Embrace social media
This year's presidential campaign has demonstrated the power of social media. Many forms of social media (blogs, twitter, etc) are free. They can help your organization raise money, get new supporters, and raise awareness about your cause. This is the year to make sure your organization takes advantage of social media. To get you started, here are a few tips from ProBlogger on nonprofit blogging, here is a blog that is all about how nonprofits can use social media, and here are 9 Steps to Prioritize Nonprofit Social Media Training and Experimentation.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Top 3 Weekly Blog Posts for Nonprofit Workers

One of the new additions for 2009 is the weekly top 3 blog posts for nonprofit workers. Here is this weeks top blog posts:

  1. Stop talking about what's trendy in Philanthropy and listen to the little people! from Nonprofit Leadership 601
  2. Graphic standards do not create a brand from Donor Power Blog
  3. Best of the Blog 2008 & Your Suggestions for 2009? from Kivi's Nonprofit Communications Blog