Friday, October 12, 2007

Canning SPAM Right Now

Although much of the recent legislation regarding email concerns for-profit businesses, nonprofits would do well to be aware of these regulations, as well as of other considerations.

Senny Boone, executive director of the Direct Marketing Association Nonprofit Federation, offers a checklist to follow for email communication:
  • If you send a commercial email make sure to communicate that the email is an "offer" to the recipient.
  • Provide a valid postal address.
  • Provide an honest subject line.
  • Provide an Internet-based removal system that is easy to use.
  • If you are using a service provider, have a written procedure and a contract.
  • If a recipient removes him/herself from a marketing list via an email service provider, that address does not have to be removed from all future campaigns.
  • There should be no surreptitious acquisition of email addresses via automated mechanism without the consumer's awareness.
  • The FROM line should not be ambiguous and should be a valid email return address.
  • "Remove" means remove.
  • Lists must not be sold or provided to unrelated third parties unless the owner of the list has provided notice and the ability to be removed.
  • A commercial email should contain the sender's privacy policy, either within the email or via a link.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A strategy for adding a vital revenue stream

The Ronald McDonald House of New York, Inc. has a monthly giving program, the Get Well Club. The operation of the Get Well Club was outlined during a recent direct response fundraising conference.

The plan has eight basic elements:

  • Strategy: Upgrade donors who give less than $100 and offer monthly contributions.
  • Goal: Demonstrate that gifts are vital to the organization's mission.
  • Package Format: A closed face 6 x 9 package; a personalized letter; a reply envelope; a personalized 8.5 x 11 form; a photo card of the family.
  • The Offer: Connect with the cost to house a family for one night. The ask is to facilitate them in joining. The typical monthly giving offer starts in the $10-$15 range.
  • Thank-you Gift: A successful technique is to offer a gift to new monthly donors. Recommended gifts include a Club pin and a personalized certificate of membership.
  • Pledge Payment Options: Offer electronic funds transfer or credit card. Do not offer a choice of having their debit take place on the first or 15th of the month. McDonald House contracts with an outside firm to set up a monthly electronic transaction.
  • Donor Segmentation: Divide the effort by new donors who have given a contribution of less than $100 and multi-giver donors who have given two or more gifts less than $100 during the past 18 months.
  • Additional Communications: Quarterly communications, newsletters, a small premium product, and a yearly tax statement in January or February.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Planning Staff Retirements

Any organization wants to think of what its employees will do while they are on the job, but the fact is that all organizations, nonprofit as well as for-profit, must look ahead to the time when employees retire. With that in mind, retirement programs that will offer employees a nest egg when their working days have ended are essential both to attracting good employees and to retaining them once they are hired.
With new tax laws being passed on a routine basis, there are always changes of which an organization must be aware, but there are several standard programs that help employees provide for retirement security.

Among these:
  • Tax-deferred retirement savings programs. These are IRA accounts, with contributions paid by the employee while working. With traditional IRA programs, employers are not allowed to match employee contributions.
  • Defined benefit pension programs. These traditional pension plans are becoming more and more rare because they guarantee a set payout upon retirement.
  • Defined contribution pension plans. These are set up by employers and funded by employees. Employers may provide matching amounts. These are the standard 401 accounts.
  • Cash balance pension plans. Employers establish an account containing a percentage of a worker’s salary plus interest each year. Upon separation from the organization, employees receive either lump-sum or annuity payments.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2007

4 Tips For Considering New Technology

"I'm in finance, so why do I have to worry about technology, too? Technology, software, and even phone systems -- what do these have to do with accounting?"

Everyone knows that nonprofit professionals -- especially finance staff -- wear many hats. The executive director must spend a majority of time "facing out" from the organization, typically working closely with the board, donors, and program officers.

Therefore, management of daily operations usually falls to the finance/accounting folks, whether they like it or not. They are left to wrestle with accounting and investing, as well as running day-to-day operations, which often includes making technology decisions.

According to Liz Marenakos, product line manager, Financial and Business Solutions at Blackbaud, Inc. in Charleston, S.C., the big questions -- what to buy, how much to buy, which providers to work with -- need thoughtful, careful answers. It's easy to recall technology mistakes because they leave a lasting impression. For a nonprofit chief financial officer, one of the most difficult decisions is whether to make a significant investment in technology. But the reality is that an organization cannot achieve long-term financial growth without investing in technology, she said.

Here are four things Marenakos suggests:

  1. If new technology for your organization requires more staff time than it saves, don't use it.
  2. Training is critical to using technology effectively. Many nonprofits have powerful tools they can't use because of insufficient training.
  3. Don't forget to evaluate the vendor's customer service and technical support services, which can set one vendor above the rest. Seek out the top experts -- not the "discounted" service. (Nobody talks about finding "the hospital's cheapest surgeon.")
  4. Investigate how long the technology vendor has been in business. Many software suppliers don't stay in business for long. The longer the company has been in business, the better the odds it will still be around in 10 years.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Make sure your database is secure

Database security becomes more complicated and more necessary each day.

Tom Gaffny, executive vice president of fundraising and database firm Epsilon in Wakefield, Mass., suggests eight database security questions that those responsible for security in an organization should ask themselves.

They are:
  • Are we only storing the data we need for our business use? Storing unnecessary data is both expensive and just one more potential security breach
  • Do we have an ultimate data owner for each system we support? Having two or more people who share ownership for a database system invites chaos.
  • Do we have documented audit trails surrounding our data access? Such a trail should specify who granted access to whom, for what data and at what level. It should also clearly specify who is allowed to do what with data.
  • Have we developed a data classification scheme, and why? Classifying data helped in determining how long different types of data should be retained on backup tapes.
  • Do we encrypt everything that leaves the secure data center? The most secure organizations encrypt everything, even laptops.
  • Have we recently undergone a security audit by an independent authority. An independent party can help identify weaknesses that are overlooked.
  • Do we back up our data often enough, and are encrypted files or tapes stored at a remote location? It's common sense.
  • Have we kept our employees completely informed about policies and procedures they need to follow to protect our assets?