Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Wishing everybody a happy holidays!  I also wanted to note that there will be no blogging during the next week.  We will return as scheduled after the New Years.

Status Update Ideas For Facebook

Facebook, Facebook, Facebook.  It's what all the cool kids are talking about these days.  Anybody who's anybody has one.

In all seriousness, having a social media presence is pretty important these days, especially for nonprofits.  Not only can you find new supporters you might not have otherwise reached, it also is a place where your followers can converse, and get the latest updates on your mission.  Since Facebook is the big kahuna of social networking sites, it's important that it provides maximum engagement for your supporters.  One of the best ways to do this is to write great status updates.  In her book Social Media For Good, Heather Mansfield provides five ideas for status updates:
  • Success Stories: Supporters like to know that the dollars they are contributing are going towards successful causes.  Fill them in on how their contributions are helping to fund successful programs.
  • Photos: We live in a visual culture.  Post photos directly to Facebook of your organization's latest events or just show people what your office looks like.
  • Videos: Videos are also an effective visual tool for your Facebook.  Try sharing a new one at least two or three times a month.
  • Breaking News: The great thing about social media is it allows you to communicate with your followers instantly.  When something big happens, take advantage of this by letting people know.  The news can be summarized in a few sentences for your status update.
  • Call To Action: Have a fundraising campaign coming up?  Use your Facebook status to get your followers to participate.  You can also do this for petitions or other special events.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

National Philanthropic Trust: Donor-Advised Contributions Up

The Great Recession impacted nonprofits in a number of ways, no more so than donor-advised contributions.  According to a new report, recovery on that front is underway.

The NonProfit Times reported yesterday that The National Philanthropic Trust released its annual Donor-Advised Fund Report and it contained some great news.  According to the report, contributions to donor-advised funds increased by 25.5 percent in 2010, to a total of $7.7 billion.  Total assets from these funds accounted for $29.96 billion, which was a 12.3-percent increase over the $26.67 billion in 2009.  It was also closer to the pre-recession high of $30.2 billion.

The numbers look much better than they did during the height of the recession, from 2007-2009.  While the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell sharply from 2007-2009, it didn't affect donor-advised funds until 2008 and 2009.  There were some declines noted in the report.  For instance, the number of donor-advised funds decreased about 0.05 percent from 161,967 in 2009 to 161,873 last year.  A slight decline, but a decline nonetheless.  On the bright side, the average size of the funds exceeded $185,000, marking a sharp recovery from the $164,663 average in 2009.  It still remained lower than the $192,547 average in 2008 and $202,851 in 2007.

To read more on this story, check out NPT's website.

49ers Wide Receiver Gives Back

In 2005, Braylon Edwards, then a rookie wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns, gave a challenge to 100 local eighth-graders: If they could graduate high school with a 2.5 GPA and 15 hours of community service, they would each get $10,000 scholarships.  Years later, Edwards is still offering this chance to college students.

In 2007 Edwards, who now plays for the San Francisco 49ers, started the Advance 100 Program through the Braylon Edwards Foundation (BEF).  It's a continuation of the promise he made to those Cleveland-area kids, 79 of whom met the original criteria, according to Yahoo! Sports.  The program was developed by Edwards and his mother as a way to use their good fortunes to help others.  Even though they didn't expect many students to fit the criteria (only half of Cleveland public school students graduate), they went through with their commitment anyway.

Those 79 original students were provided with laptops and other supplies to help them once they arrived in college.  Edwards is paid a $1 million base salary for the year, which is about half what he'll pay the Advance 100 students to get through college.

Edwards is certainly not the only athlete to help those who are less fortunate.  A look at Pros Give Back, a site which tracks good deeds from athletes all over the sports world, will show many other acts of generosity like Edwards'.  We've also seen similar philanthropy from athletes like Jonathan Vilma and Craig Breslow.  In an age where we see athletes and owners squabbling over millions of dollars, it's good to read stories like the one coming out of the Advance 100 Program.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Eliminate Charitable Deduction?

Should charitable deduction be eliminated?  One former foundation president thinks so.

Jack Shakely, who ran the California Community Foundation for 25 years, recently wrote an opinion piece in The Los Angeles Times that is sure to cause some controversy in the nonprofit sector.  He proposes that the best way to reduce the national debt is to completely scrap the charitable-giving tax deduction.  If you've been following politics lately, you already know that capping charitable giving at 28% for the nation's highest earners has been a priority of the Obama administration.  They have tried it four times already, most recently in the American Jobs Act.  Each time it has failed after major backlash from nonprofits. 

Yet even with the administration's proposal, charitable deduction would remain in place.  If Shakely's suggestion was to be put into place, the deduction would completely disappear.  His reasoning comes down to this: After nearly a century of existence, nobody can say for sure whether it truly stimulates giving.  The argument has been put out there, most recently by Brian Gallagher of United Way of America, that capping charitable deduction for high earners at 28% would cause donors to "withhold the difference to cover the tax."  But is that really the case?

Shakely argues that it isn't.  He cites what happened when the cap on deductions for the top tax brackets was reduced in the past.  In 1980, it went from 70 percent to 50 percent, and then from 39 percent to the current 35 percent in 2003.  If stood to reason that giving should have declined as the cost of giving increased.  But according to the Giving USA Foundation, charitable donations over the last 25 years have remained consistent, staying around 1.7-percent and 1.95-percent of personal income.  If giving didn't decrease then, he argues, why would it decrease now?

All these examples are when the deduction was reduced.  Shakely's suggestion, however, is to get rid of it entirely.  Would that have any significant impact on giving?  It's hard to say because, as he argues, it's hard to pinpoint how much it really stimulates giving.  Regardless, the article is a great read, and we suggest you check it out if you have the time.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Creating A Start-Up Nonprofit Isn't Easy

If you were ever thinking of starting your own nonprofit, take a step back: It's not as easy as it sounds.

In a piece written for The Huffington Post, Marty Zwilling, a start-up expert, explains the complications of starting your own nonprofit.  He explains that although most people looking to create a start-up company see nonprofits as the easy route to success, there's a lot that goes into the process.  This includes a healthy business model, which was recently outlined in an article on The NonProfit Times website.  A nonprofit still has to make money on everything it sells in order to maintain its operating expenses.  This is true even if it relies totally on donations.

All this is not to say that you shouldn't try to make your own nonprofit.  You just need to be aware of some of the challenges that come with it.  Zwelling listed five reasons creating a start-up nonprofit can be a challenge.  Here are a few I found most compelling:
  • You know that 501(c) form you have to fill out to become tax-exempt?  It requires a lot more than just filling out a form, and it can take a long time to be approved.  The form has to be accompanied with a $850 fee, and it can take as long as two years to completely finish.
  • Start-ups require willing investors, and it can be a challenge to get them interested in a nonprofit since it will be hard to guarantee an excellent return on investment.
  • Private start-up companies don't have to disclose their salaries or spending practices to anyone other than the IRS.  Nonprofits, on the otherhand, undergo trememndous public scrutiny.
Make sure to read the rest of Zwelling's points on The Huffington Post.

World Giving Index Ranks U.S. Number One

People often claim that the United States is the most charitable country in the world.  Now there is some hard data to back that claim up.

The World Giving Index (WGI), a yearly report released by the United Kingdom-based Charities Aid Foundation, ranked the U.S. first overall for the first time, with an overall score of 60 percent.  It's quite a turnaround from last year, when it ranked behind Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and Canada.  Here are the top 10 countries from this year's report:
  • United States
  • Ireland
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • United Kingdom
  • Netherlands
  • Canada
  • Sri Lanka
  • Thailand
  • Laos
And here are some highlights from the report:
  • The percentage giving money for the U.S. was 65 percent, tied for 10th with Malta.  Thailand was first with 85 percent.
  • 43 percent of respondents in the U.S. said they volunteered.
  • 73 percent of Americans said they helped a stranger this year, up from 65 percent last year.
  • Ireland increased its overall score from 56 percent to 59 percent.
The news from WGI is very consistent with what we learned from Giving USA's data for 2010.  Given the number of natural disasters that have happened over the past year, it isn't entirely surprising that Americans are giving more, even during this time of economic uncertainty.  To read the rest of the data from the report, check out our article on The NonProfit Times.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Should You Use A Prospect Database?

Looking for fundraising prospects is a lot like looking for gold: It's better to have a systematic process in place to find it rather than just hoping you find it where you look.

Part of that systematic process involves using something called a prospect database.  This technology is a virtual warehouse in which data is linked and aggregated to help enhance your campaign.  It contains an organization's own donor data, compiled data, transactional data, prior mail history and response lists in their entirety  Not all nonprofits use them, but the ones that do have experienced success. 

One of these organizations is Smile Train, a children's charity based in New York City.  Priscilla Ma, executive director of the organization, spoke about their use of the prospect database at the DMA Nonprofit Federation conference.  The NonProfit Times recorded her suggestions on what types of organizations should use a prospect database.  You should consider using one if:
  • You’re a high-volume mailer, and your costs are increasing.
  • You want to be a high-volume mailer and you need to cut your costs to get there.
  • Direct mail drives your revenue. 
  • You use a wide variety of lists.
You can read the rest of Ma's suggestions on our website.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Writing A Great Nonprofit Job Description

Is your nonprofit interested in posting a job with our online career center?  Great!  But before you get started, you must know how to write a nonprofit job description that will attract potential candidates.

Some employers make the mistake of believing that describing a job is as simple as saying what the position entails.  That's part of the equation, but the best job descriptions offer a lot more than that.  If you are going to attract the top job seekers, you are going to have to get way more in-depth about your job.  Before you start writing, gather some employees in the organization who are familiar with the position in question.  They will be able to best tell you the kinds of characteristics that an ideal candidate should possess.  The biggest mistake you can make is assuming the applicant knows the kind of personality they need to possess for the job.  Information like this should go in the "requirements" section of your job posting.

Finally, there is the issue of length.  How long is too long?  It's a hard question to answer, but it's a balance you are going to have to strike.  If you submit a job posting that is too long, you run the risk of job seekers missing important information.  Your description must be concise and easy to read.  Consider using bullet points to highlight the most important information, or bolding important words.  Whatever you do, avoid what I like to call "walls of text."  You've probably seen what I'm referring to: It's those really long paragraphs that never seem to have any breaks.  Make sure you are including paragraph breaks in your posting!

To view samples of typical nonprofit job posting, visit our job search page and see what other organizations have done.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Online Giving On The Rise

Large nonprofit organizations led the way as online giving saw a significant surge, according to findings from The Blackbaud Index.

The Index, which is updated on the 15th of each month, showed that online giving was up more than 10 percent for the quarter ending in October while overall charitable giving increased more than 2 percent, all noticeable increases from the same three-month period in 2010.  Larger nonprofits were the clear winners, as they saw a 16.6-percent surge in online giving.  Let's give some love to the smaller nonprofits, though; they weren't too far behind with a 15.9-percent increase.

The only organizations to report declines of any kind were those in the environmental/animal welfare and healthcare sectors.  Those two groups reported declines in overall giving of 4.2 and 2.3 percent, respectively.  Environmental/animal welfare did see an increase in online giving, of 6.2 percent.  Make sure to read the other findings over at The NonProfit Times

Nonprofit Mailers Ask USPS To Drop Rate Increase

The United States Postal Service (USPS) submitted another request to the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) last month for a 5.6-percent exigent postal rate increase after its initial appeal was rejected.  Nonprofit mailers have a message for the USPS: Give it up.

In the latest update on this issue from The NonProfit Times, we learn that four nonprofit mailing organizations have sent a letter to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe requesting that they drop their continued appeal for an exigent rate increase.  Postal officials have publicly stated that they do not want an increase, and the mailers want them to act on those words.  "If you do not want an exigent increase and you do not want mailers to plan for one," they wrote, "withdraw the case. Actions speak louder than words.”  They also argue that even the possibility that mailers may face an above-Consumer Price Index increase has cast "a pall of uncertainty" over the industry, making budgeting and mailing plans difficult.

The letter was signed by Jerry Cerasale, senior vice president of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA); Tony Conway, executive director of the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers; Jim Cregan, executive vice president, government affairs, for The Association of Magazine Media, and Gene Del Polito, president of the Association for Postal Commerce.  To read the full story, head over to NPT's website.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ideas For Your Major Gift Ask

Every nonprofit fundraiser's dream is to have a conversation with a major donor that goes so well, that the person writes you a check immediately.  Too bad it's rarely that easy.

Yes, the major gift ask is one of those things that gets even experienced fundraisers a little antsy.  It's all too easy for nerves to lead you to a critical error that can ruin the whole process.  And then there's the second guessing.  Did you ask too much?  Too little?  You'll drive yourself crazy if you allow these thoughts to take control.  The reality is it's totally natural to have a little fear before prospecting for a major gift.

According to Rachel Muir, client strategy executive at Austin, Texas-based Convio, how you handle that fear will determine your success.  She let The NonProfit Times in on some tips on how to better prepare for major gift asks:

  • Make sure the prospect in question has been properly cultivated before asking for a major commitment.  Think of it this way: You could ask someone to marry you on the first date, but it would be creepy and desperate.  The same applies with your donors.  You should be stewarding your donors with seven unique touches annually: a visit, a tour, prompt thank you’s, personal stories about your successes, newsletter, annual report, personal calls, etc.  It's all about the courtship!
  • Find out everything you can about your prospects.  What are their interests?  Where did they go to school?  What are their giving patterns?
  • Re-connect with your organization's mission.  Why are you asking for money in the first place?  Having a strong passion and commitment for your cause is a major selling point for donors.
  • Consider doing your asks in pairs.  Two is better than one, right?
  • When it's time to make the ask, make sure it's in a setting where there will be minimal interruptions.  You will want 20 to 30 minutes of the prospect's undivided attention.  Suggestions for meetings spots could be their office or somewhere at your organization.  Whatever you do, do not ask at a restaurant.  This will guarantee you multiple interruptions.
  • Describe the impact of your organization through the use of personal anecdotes.  Focus on the benefit, impact, and vision.
  • Do not use acronyms.
  • Here's the most important thing to remember: After you make your ask, be silent.  Give the prospect time to think.  Continuing to talk after making your ask is a great way to talk yourself out of a gift.
What happens next is hard to say.  They'll either say yes, no, or ask for more time to think.  If that's the case, make sure you make a return appointment, and thank them for their time.  If they say yes, make sure to thank them for their generosity.  If they say no, ask if it is the amount of the gift or the timing. You can offer to stretch their gift out over time. If that doesn’t work ask them if they will renew at their current gift level.

We hope you have found these tips useful for your organization's prospecting efforts.  Head to The NonProfit Times for more articles like this.

Holiday Giving A Challenge For Some Nonprofits

It may be the season of giving, but that doesn't mean nonprofits will be seeing a lot of that this year.

The holidays have traditionally been a major source of revenue for organizations and, in recent years, holiday giving has actually done fairly well.  Yet giving suffered during the summer according to the most recent Blackbaud Index of Giving and, The Durango Herald, many La Planta County, Colorado nonprofits are already facing major challenges for the winter holidays.

Many of the nonprofits in this county make a big portion of their budget during this time of the year.  Their success during the holidays could determine a years worth of work.  And with donors' wallets shrinking because of the economic downturn, nonprofits in the area are competing for dollars.   The situation has grown even more dire as the demand for the services of these organizations have increased.  For example, the Southwest Chapter of the American Red Cross has seen holiday giving decrease significantly during the last few years.  This is despite the fact that house fires erupt more frequently during the holidays due to candles and other lightings.

Despite all of this turmoil, some charities have collaborated.  For example, Music in the Mountains raffled off 25-year ski passes to Durango Mountain Resort.  So while it looks like this holiday season may be tough for some Colorado nonprofits, they are hopeful they will be able to get through the season intact.  Make sure to read the full article on this subject in The Durango Herald.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Five Important Hiring Tips

Cross Posted From The Nonprofit Job Seeker

Although jobs may be scarce in this economy, this doesn't mean that job candidates are going to take the first position that is offered to them. This economy could make people more picky than normal. Because times are tough, they are going to not only want a position that pays well, but also one in which they feel comfortable. If you are going to attract the best candidates for your nonprofit job, you would do well to follow these five hiring tips:

  • As I have mentioned in the past, make sure the description in your job listing is informative yet concise. This is a hard balance to strike, but it can be done. The key to reaching this balance is to use specifics. The more the applicant knows about the position, the less chance you will get resumes from unqualified candidates.
  • When you conduct an interview, make sure you allow time for the person to say what they want out of the position. It's all well and good to explain what you are looking for in an ideal employee, but you should make sure that the candidate can express their expectations as well. This is helpful because it establishes that this will be a job where the employee's views are important. And that is an important factor when people decide where they want to work.
  • Just because someone performs well in an interview doesn't mean they will be the right fit for your organization. Test your applicant's skills to see if they are up to the task. How you do this depends on the type of job you are looking to fill. If you are looking to hire a web content editor, for example, you can have them take a writing test after the interview. If you mention that you will be performing writing tests in your application, this has the added benefit of weeding out less serious candidates.
  • Your office should be tidy at all times, but make sure it is especially presentable during the interview. And I'm not just referring to your desk; the entire office should look as impressive as possible. A relaxing workplace makes for a better working environment, and that will be on the top of the list of things top candidates will be looking for.
Interviews can be very tiresome, especially if you have already been through many that day. Still, you are going to have to find some way to remain engaging to your prospective employee. There is no bigger turn off than an interviewer who seems uninterested. So even if you have to take an extra shot of coffee, make sure you are friendly and lively when you interview a job candidate.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Zurich Webinar Highlights

UPDATE 12/12/2011: The slides and recording are now online.  You can see them in our online library.

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Thanks to everyone who attended today's webinar on risk assessment and designing internal controls.  We once again send our thanks to Zurich, as they were instrumental in getting this webinar done.  We also want to send special thanks to our three speakers, Peg Jackson, Tom McLaughlin, and Susan Ellis.  They were all fabulous today.  If you were not able to attend the webinar, here are some of the things that participants learned:
  • Boards must review Form 990 before it is submitted to the IRS.
  • All boards should have an audit committee.
  • The most functional board size is no more than 15 individuals.
  • CEOs shouldn't receive compensation that is 25 percent more than the next highest paid executive at the nonprofit.
  • If a volunteer does something seriously wrong--something that could put the organization at risk--it is within the rights of an organization to remove them.
  • Make sure a volunteer can perform all tasks necessary before hiring.  They should be able to back up the skills they claim to have.
We will also be posting the slides and audio of the webinar on our online library within the next 24 hours.  Stay tuned.

Student Philanthropists

How's this for a homework assignment: Find a way to give away $100,000.  If you were a student at University of Pennsylvania, it's not too outlandish of a proposal.

According to a report on NewsWorks.org, UPenn students who took a course covering the economics of the nonprofit sector in Philadelphia were given quite a shock when they were asked to distribute $100,000 given to the class by an anonymous donor.  And this was only 10 days before the class even started. 

Here's how it worked: The 30 students in the class were split into groups of five, each given $20,000.  They students then had to create a mission statement, seek out local organizations that fit with the mission, and vet them as potential recipients.  One organization that was considered by some of the students was Play On! Philly, an after-school music program.  They were rejected by one of the student groups because they didn't think the organization had sufficient community engagement.  On the other hand, one of the other groups gave them the money because they felt the nonprofit proved it had educational influence beyond music.

The decisions the students had to make highlight the challenges that nonprofits face raising money, especially during the Great Recession.  NewsWorks notes that Greg Goldman, who has taught nonprofit economics at UPenn for 14 years, said that the recent economic downturn has affected nonprofits like no other recession has before.  That doesn't mean it's impossible--especially when it comes to capital campaigns--but people do have to be more careful with money these days.  And UPenn students learned that first hand during their philanthropic exercise.

Make sure to read the full article over on NewsWorks and let us know your reactions to it.

Donor Acquisition Strategies

What separated the nonprofits that had their fiscal house in order during the recession from those that didn't?  More often than not it was one thing: A solid donor acquisition strategy.

Acquiring new donors is key to keeping a steady stream of revenue coming into your organization.  But you can't go donor prospecting on the fly; you need a plan first.  During the 2011 National Catholic Development Conference (NCDC), Bryan Terpstra, VP of fundraising, and Robin Riggs, chief creative officer at LW Robbins, discussed some ways nonprofits could update their acquisition programs.  The NonProfit Times was there to hear these tips, and they are:
  • Brand Positioning: Make sure your mission is described clearly through your direct mail.  Donors who are hearing from you for the first time might have no idea what your organization is trying to accomplish.  Never assume that someone has done research beforehand.
  • Brand Awareness: Once you have defined your mission it's time to make sure it's promoted in as many channels as possible.  Remember that potential donors use many different forms of media, so don't be afraid of diversity.
  • Identify Your Best Prospects: Make use of lists to see which donors contribute to similar organizations.  These will be some of the best prosepcts for your nonprofit.
Want to learn even more about topics like this?  Check out our management tips page for advice on a wide array of nonprofit topics.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Busy Employees Are Happy Employees

If you sat a few employees down in a room and told them that they would be doing less work but receiving the same pay, what do you think their reaction would be?  Jumping for joy, right?  Wrong.

In an article on The Nonprofit Jobseeker, NPT's home for nonprofit jobs, we learn that employees are most happy when they are busy.  This is according to a recent report by Sirota Survey Intelligence, a Purchase, N.Y.-based research company.  This flies in the face of what some bosses might think.  Wouldn't employees like having less stress on a daily basis?  It turns out that most workers would prefer to accomplish as much as possible during a given day, rather than just getting by on their job.

This makes all the sense in the world, especially when you apply it to nonprofit organizations.  One of the big attractions of working at an NPO is getting the chance to do work that can make a difference for a cause.  Why wouldn't a nonprofit employee want to be accomplishing more for a cause they presumably care about?  The survey results indicate that "Overworked people, in a sense, are getting feedback from the organization that their contributions are important.”

The results also make sense from a practical standpoint.  What would you rather be doing during a long workday?  Having a lot to do, or sitting on your hands doing nothing?  Make sure to read the full article on the Nonprofit Jobseeker.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Nonprofit Jobs: New Jersey Nonprofit To Create 800 New Jobs

Cross-Posted From NPT Jobs

On the heels of the good job news from last month, one New Jersey nonprofit expects to create twice the number of jobs as originally expected.

According to a report in The Asbury Park Press, the New Jersey Technology Solutions Center estimates it will be able to create 800-1,000 new jobs over the next five years. That's a far cry from the 200 to 300 positions the center was originally expected to create when it launched last year. It's also a dose of good news for an organization that had an uncertain future after earmarks--a major source of funding for the center--were discontinued by Congress earlier this year.

The new jobs are expected to arrive once the nonprofit receives contracts in a number of areas, including engineering, software development, management, and business development. If all of these new jobs are created as predicted, it will go along way towards making up for the loss of 5,000 high-technology jobs when Fort Monmouth, one of the army's installations in Monmouth County, closed earlier this fall. These jobs will not only get people much needed employment, but are also expected to pour millions of dollars into the local economy by 2017.

Read The Asbury Park Press story for more information. You should also be sure to check out our career center for other New Jersey nonprofit jobs.

Nonprofits Facing Fiscal Stress

The latest fundraising survey by The Nonprofit Research Collaborative (NRC) was a mixed bag for nonprofits.

The survey, which was released yesterday, showed that 41 percent of organizations reported increased charitable receipts for the first nine months of the year.  On the other hand, there were signs that a significant number of organizations were feeling increased fiscal stress.  Among signs of fiscal stress, the primary concern was flat or declining contributions, cited by 52 percent of organizations, followed by 48 percent each who said low cash reserves and limited number of funders. Nearly as many, 46 percent, said flat or declining non-contribution revenue was a concern.

These problems are of even greater concern to smaller organizations.  While NRC reports that only 8 percent of NPOs fear they are in danger of closing because of financial reasons, that number increases to 20 percent for organizations with less than $3 million in expenditures.

But let's get to some good news, shall we?  Aside from the increased charitable receipts--up from 36 percent last year--half of responding organizations saw an increase of new donors.  This included new corporate funders (37 percent) and foundations grantors (16 percent).  Still, prospects look bleak for 2012.  All organizations expect they will start 2012 with reduced revenue from multiple sources.

What is your reaction to these numbers?  Has your organization experienced any of the fiscal problems mentioned?  Be sure to read the full report on the survey on The NonProfit Times.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Changes To First Class Mail Coming?

UPDATE, 4:00 PM EST: We have updated the story with more reactions from nonprofits.

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In a story that we posted on our website this morning, the USPS announced plans to close half of its processing facilities in an effort to shift First Class mail to a two- to three-day standard for destinations in the continental United States. 

The Postal Service says this change will allow them to save $2 billion, which will help in their efforts to reduce operating costs by $20 billion by 2015.  Despite it being the most profitable category of mail, First Class mail is on the decline.  Volume was down to 78 billion pieces last year, with projections of 53 billion in 2016 and 39 billion by 2020.  They insist that the changes to First Class mail, which is also scheduled to receive a postage increase in January 2012, will have only a small impact on the "average postal customer." 

Most nonprofits use Standard Nonprofit mail for their direct mail solicitations, so it's unclear what the response will be from the nonprofit community.  Tony Conway, executive director of the Association of Nonprofit Mailers (ANM), said the USPS has “all these plants to handle all this mail that’s declining every year."  He went on to say: “They need to downsize the network. That drove the whole decision.”  We are continuing to check the pulse of nonprofits, and will update our story when we get more reaction.  Stay tuned.  In the mean time, let us know what you think of this news.

Nonprofit And For-Profit Newsrooms Working Together

Nonprofit organizations partnering with for-profit corporations is nothing new but in recent years they've become more commonplace.  When there is a common goal, these partnerships can be very fruitful.  And now, for-profit and nonprofit newsrooms are discovering they need each other.

The PBS website MediaShift, in conjunction with the Investigative Reporting Program, conducted a roundtable discussion with local media experts on this subject.  With budgets tightening at newsrooms across the country, established media outlets are finding they don't have the resources for extensive investigative reports.  Spending six months on a story isn't exactly the best way to make money.  That's where nonprofit news organizations come in. 

Sites like the Voice of San Diego and the St. Louis Beacon have been popping up, filling the gap in investigative journalism.  Major news outlets, not wanting to lose this area of reporting entirely, have found that working with these nonprofit news sites makes for a partnership that benefits both sides.  This benefit can be seen in a recent project by Frontline, an investigation show hosted on PBS.  They worked with PBS, The Guardian, and CBC on a project, and found that they were able to accomplish a lot more by sharing resources.

It's not all roses and sunshine, though.  Mary Walter-Brown, who works at the Voice of San Diego, spoke to the roundtable discussion about her experience partnering with a local NBC affiliate.  They would often have people from the Voice as experts, but Brown says they still have trouble getting them to explain their mission to viewers. It seems some fledgling news organizations seeking nonprofit status also are having difficulty explaining their mission to the IRS.

We recommend that you read the rest of the roundtable discussion on PBS's website.  What do you think of the stories they shared there?  Has your organization had similar experiences in their partnerships with for-profits?

Monday, December 5, 2011

MBA Programs Pair Students With Nonprofit Boards

Nonprofit boards are trying to get an influx of youth.  That goal may be within reach thanks to help from MBA programs.

According to an article in Bloomberg Business Week, schools with MBA programs in nonprofit management are teaming up with local nonprofit boards.  The article cites the example of Columbia Business School's Nonprofit Leadership Program, which pairs 30 MBA students with a local nonprofit board each year.  Ryan Bell, who attended the school in the Fall of 2010, was assigned to the board of Friends of the Children of New York.

Bell didn't just attend meetings while serving as a Board Fellow; he also assisted the board's fundraising committee by analyzing the organization's five-year strategic plan.  His assistance played a key role in developing a new evaluation system for students, which ultimately resulting in $275,000 in additional funding.  All this was done at the end of his one-year term.

Programs like the one at Columbia are becoming more popular as nonprofit boards are seeing it as an opportunity to connect with a younger audience.  We had written an article a couple of years back that showed that only 2 percent of nonprofit boards have members younger than 30.  Make sure to check that out to get a better sense of the age disparity at nonprofit boards.

If you want to read the full article on Board Fellow programs, check out the Bloomberg Business Week website.

Accommodating Your Youth Volunteers

The job market is proving difficult for everybody, and college students are no exception.  That's why the amount of time they volunteered increased from 2009 to 2010, according to USA Today.  Volunteering remains a popular way for young people to keep themselves busy while they are looking for work.  It also looks great to nonprofits on a resume.  With the number of youth volunteers increasing, nonprofits need to come up with ways to accommodate them.

In his book The Complete Idiot's Guide to Recruiting and Managing Volunteers, John L. Lipp offered some ways that nonprofits can accomplish this goal:

  • It all starts with flexibility.  If the volunteer is still taking classes, it might be tough for them to commit more than two hours.  This is especially the case near the end of the semester, when work loads typically increase.
  • Lipp says that most young people like working together, so pair up students to promote teamwork skills.
  • Keep your volunteers engaged by making mundane tasks more fun.  For example, have an envelope stuffing party with pizza and videos.
  • Involving youth volunteers not only addresses short-term needs of an organization, but also long-term needs. Try to engage these volunteers as best as possible so they will turn to your organization in the future when they have disposable income.
Make sure to read the full article on this subject over on our website.  This is a very valuable subject in this day and age.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Bowling Green Raps About Big Donors

Who knew that you could make a great rap about donors?

If you are subscribed to our Instant Fundraising newsletter, you probably read about Bowling Green State University's rap tribute to the donors to its new athletic facility, The Stroh Center.  Here are some of the highlights from the rap, which proves that you can make decent rhymes in the name of philanthropy:


In the case of Miles, he “gave cash in piles/Sportin Charles Taylors, rockin’ argyles/He knows the game ya’ll, he ain’t no amateur/back in the 50s he was the student manager.”

Frack “made cash in stacks – snap – he’s given some back/2 cold million. Mad Falcon support!/He’s laying it down for the Bill Frack Court.”
If you are like me, you probably wondered what the rap sounded like.  It's one thing to read the lyrics, it's another to hear them in action.  Well luckily for you, the video was posted on YouTube.  We now present it to you in all its glory.  Enjoy!
 

The Second Mile Settles Lawsuit

We posted an article yesterday about a civil lawsuit filed against The Second Mile, the charity founded by former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky.  It's the first civil lawsuit filed in the Penn State child sex abuse scandal, initiated by St. Paul, Minn.-based Anderson & Associates on behalf of an alleged victim who is not one of the eight mentioned in the state Attorney General's grand jury report.  While that suit is ongoing, it was reported last night by MyFox Philly that the beleaguered charity has settled another lawsuit by an alleged victim of Sandusky.

The suit, which was filed by "Victim Four" in the grand jury report that laid out the charges against Sandusky, had sought to freeze Second Mile's assets in anticipation of a civil suit.  The settlement that was reached Thursday states that the charity must get court approval if it wants to transfer assets or shutdown.  The plaintiff also must be informed before any movement of funds.  The Second Mile has about $9 million in assets as of Aug. 2010, as we reported in our story yesterday.

You can read additional details about the settlement on MyFox Philly's website.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Jacksonville Jaguars Owners Stay, To Relief Of Charities

When does the sale of a football team rock the nonprofit world?  When the owners of said football team are major philanthropic figures in the community.

If you are a fan of the NFL, you are probably aware that the Jacksonville Jaguars sold the franchise yesterday.  You might not be as aware that the owners of the team, Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver, are the most visible and active philanthropists in Jacksonville.  In an article published yesterday in The Florida Times-Union, nonprofits reacted with relief that, despite the sale, the Weavers will be staying in Jacksonville.

Words like "Thank God" were thrown around by various nonprofit executives when The Florida Times-Union approached them with the news.  And it's not just because of the money they donated ($55 million to local causes since the mid-90's) that has Florida charities thankful; the Weavers changed philanthropy in the city of Jacksonville.  The couple donated $27 million to The Community Foundation in 2007, most of which went to agencies in need, but $11 million of it was used to create endowments for 22 local nonprofits.  Until the Weaver's gift, few Jacksonville nonprofits were endowed.

It's because of stories like that why nonprofits were excited to learn the Weavers will continue to be active in Jacksonville philanthropy through the Weaver Family Foundation.  Time will tell if the new ownership of the Jaguars will be able to turn the team back into contenders.  But with all this uncertainty, at least nonprofits know that their favorite football owners are staying where they are.

Make sure to read the full article on the Weavers at The Florida Times-Union.

The Future Of National Service

As you are probably aware, the Dec. 1 issue of The NonProfit Times was just released the other day.  Included in that issue was a special report entitled "2012: The End Of The World Or Nonprofit Renaissance?"  This report features six columns by major nonprofit personalities like Adrian Sargeant of the Center on Philanthropy and Ben Duda of AmeriCorps Alums. 

Duda, who works as executive director at the organization, wrote a piece about national service and volunteerism.  And sticking with the end of the world theme, he discussed what place they have in America in the future.  He argues that they will endure as long as citizens demand that they do.

AmeriCorps was kind enough to blog about the piece he wrote for us, which we are very grateful for.  You can read the entire article in his blog post, but here's an excerpt from it to whet your appetite:

I’m not buying the “end-of-days” hype. I’m fully confident the Mayan Calendar will join the list of dubious doom predictions, alongside Harold Camping’s end of the world timing in 1994 or May 21, 2011, no, wait, Oct. 21, 2011, the hysteria of the Y2K computer failures, and those classic National Enquirer cover stories from the supermarket checkout line. But since we’re talking predictions, here’s where I think we’re going as a sector and as a country.


There’s a new wave of critics on the value of national service, as the (Mayan) calendar turns to 2012, with some in the House of Representatives advancing a zero budget going forward for AmeriCorps. That is not a very good idea. Its not very good for our country, especially for a generation of young Americans who want to serve their nation, and who will one day lead this country.


Is it the end of the world? No, although it certainly feels like a re-run of a bad sitcom. National service will endure and we’ll be thankful it does as a generation of nonprofit leaders, elected officials, and entrepreneurs ascend with a common career arc that is rooted in volunteerism and defined by national service.


More than 700,000 Americans have served in AmeriCorps since 1994. For 1,700 hours in service to the country this year, a member gets $5,550 toward loan repayment or future education. That’s a good investment in our future workforce and future leaders. Best of all, it represents a $2.01 return in essential services for every federal dollar, nearly unmatched when analyzing government spending.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Gleason Gras Tackles ALS

Five years ago, Steve Gleason experienced one of the high points of his football life.

The former New Orleans Saints safety participated in one of the most dramatic moments in the NFL on September 25, 2006.  His blocked punt against the Atlanta Falcons highlighted the re-opening of the Louisiana Superdome, which had been closed since Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005.  Five years after that memorable game, Gleason announced that he had been diagnosed with ALS (or Lou Gehrig's disease), a fatal disease that damages the nerves that control muscle movement.  There is currently no cure, but that hasn't stopped Gleason from trying to raise awareness.

A day before the Saints' 49-24 win over the New York Giants on Monday Night Football, The Louisiana Hospitality Foundation hosted the first annual Gleason Gras, an all day festival featuring music, games, food, and other entertainment.  WWLTV covered the event, which raised $200,000.  That money will go to the Gleason Family Trust to help offset the costs of living with ALS.

Yet for Gleason, this was just the opening act.  He told WWLTV that the ultimate goal is to raise global and national awareness about ALS.  That's a big part of why he founded his own nonprofit, Team Gleason.  That organization has multiple arms, including the Gleason Initiative Foundation, which works to help other patients struggling with Lou Gherig's Disease.

History tells us that Steve Gleason will lose his battle with ALS, as many have done before him.  But maybe, just maybe, his efforts can pave the way toward a cure in the future.  To read more about Gleason Gras and Team Gleason, head on over to WWLTV.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Facts About Fundraising Staff

Cross-Posted From The Nonprofit Jobseeker

Staff turnover is a fact of life for any nonprofit manager. A very costly fact of life. This is even more of an issue when it comes to fundraising staff. Not only is the work they do very valuable, but finding a replacement can be very difficult and expensive. And to add insult to injury, the time spent finding a replacement can be a prime period for fundraising opportunities. That's why it's so important to improve the retention of your fundraisers.

The NonProfit Times attended this year's Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) International Conference on Fundraising where Penelope Burk, president of Cygnus Applied Research, Inc., spoke on the topic of staff turnover. She said the key to retaining great fundraisers lies in knowing more about them. She shared some facts gathered through a survey of fundraising employees of nonprofits:
  • Why they chose a fundraising career. Most fundraisers entered the profession “accidentally” (i.e., through other work they were hired to do), rather than intentionally. Some take an opportunistic view, coming into the field as leverage to other jobs in the sector.
  • The profile of a loyal fundraiser (one who intends to stay). Key characteristics include a belief in the mission, having personal/family needs accommodated, being included/respected as an active participant in planning, creative discussion, working with a team.
  • Why fundraisers left their last position. Salary or increase in salary is always the primary reason why fundraisers left their last jobs or intend to leave the current one. Flexibility on salary plus offering benefits that fit the times is a first practical step to lengthening their tenure.

Private Donations For Public Schools

Most cities or towns have multiple public schools in their district.  So is it right for one public school to receive an influx of private donations while others don't get as much?

That is the question raised in a recent article in The Los Angeles Times.  The idea itself doesn't seem too controversial.  If a group of parents want their students to enjoy higher quality learning, why shouldn't they donate money so they can buy things like new computers?  The situation becomes fuzzier when you consider that there are schools in the same district that lack many of these same amenities.

The Times piece offers the case of the Santa Monica-Malibu United School District as the poster child for this discussion.  PTA donations add up to more than $2,100 per student at Point Dume Marine Science Elementary School in Malibu.  McKinley Elementary in Santa Monica, on the other hand, gets only an average $96 per student in donations.  Only 2% of the students at Point Dume are poor, and the school uses the money for, among other things, classroom aides, a reading program, and choral music.  About 46% of the student population at McKinley is considered poor.

The drastic difference in donations between the two schools has sparked a debate in the district, where the school board is considering some changes.  This includes creating a district-wide nonprofit that would collect donations for personnel and distribute them evenly amongst the schools.  Donations for supplies would stay with individual schools.  Under this system, half of the donations to Point Dume would be in the hands of the nonprofit.

Parents of children at wealthier schools argue that it's their money, and they should be able to do what they want with it.  But, as the article mentions, California courts have continuously ruled that there must be an equal distribution to all public schools. 

Read the full article in The Los Angeles Times, and chime in with your thoughts on the topic.  For additional reading, check out this article from NPT about public school foundations.

The NonProfit Times' Dec. 1 Issue Is Out!

Now that's Thanksgiving is over we can begin the countdown to Christmas.  Although it's not quite December yet, The NonProfit Times has an early present for everybody: The Dec. 1 issue has now been posted online!  In fact, you may have already received it in the mail.  But if you haven't, you can now have a peek at what's in the latest edition:

Special Report:
Articles:
Column:
  • Pick One: Nonprofit volunteers are often put in positions where their own personal safety can be endangered or where they could pose a threat to others.  Learn how to manage these risks in this column by guest authors Ronald Taylor, Jeff Tenenbaum, and Thomas Strong.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just wanted to wish everybody a Happy Thanksgiving!  Since we will all be busy stuffing our faces with turkey and other great food, there will be no new blog posts until Monday of next week.  Enjoy the holiday!

Black Friday Activity Attracts Charities

Black Friday is one of the busiest shopping days of the year because of the huge sales available.  People all over the country wake up early so they can be the first to get in stores.  And now, as detailed in a story we just posted on The NonProfit Times website, charities are getting in on the action.

Many of the organizations getting involved this year are taking a technology-based route to their Black Friday activities.  For example, for every user that "checks in" using foursquare, a location-based social network for mobile devices, JC Penney will pledge $25 to The Salvation Army, up to $100,000.  The Alexandria, Va.-based organization will also allow donors to give money to their annual Red Kettle Campaign, which kicks off during halftime of tomorrow's Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving Day game, via on-site smart phones in select cities.

JC Penney will also pledge $50 to The Salvation Army for every angel "adopted" via the Angel Giving Tree Online, where donors can be matched with items needed by those less fortunate.  The store, now in its third year, already has had 100,000 angels adopted.

The USO is taking a slightly different approach to Black Friday.  "The USO Wishbook," launched in conjunction with the holiday season, sells items for soldiers and their families on their website.  According to Kelli Seely, the organization's chief development officer, it's their first attempt at an alternative giving catalog.  The gifts available on the website range from the simple to the remarkable.  You can make a $25 phone call from a soldier or purchase $5,000 total entertainment system.  The USO plans to keep the Wishbook online throughout the year, adapting it for other holidays.

Given the popularity of Black Friday, it seems likely these programs will be met with a lot of success.  But we'll have to wait a couple of days to see their real impact.  Make sure to read the full story on this topic over on our website.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Nonprofit Jobs By State

Cross-Posted From NPT Jobs Blog

There are so many factors that go into finding great nonprofit jobs. Aside from the starting salary and relevance to your career skills, one of the most important of those factors is proximity to your current residence. Most job seekers would have a lot of hesitation working for an organization that requires them to travel long distances; even if it's the job of their dreams. Using The Nonprofit Jobseeker's Jobs By State Page, users can see the latest jobs in their area with only a click of their mouse.

Let's say you want to find a New York nonprofit job. All you have to do is go to our dedicated NY nonprofit job page and you will see all of the most recent positions posted in that state. The page is automatically updated with the latest jobs, so you can be sure you will be seeing a new job the second it is posted.

If our jobs by state page doesn't offer enough customization for you, the Nonprofit Jobseeker also allows users to filter search results by state. This will show you all jobs in that area, including ones that might not be as recent. Job hunters can also enter their zip code to make their search more specific.

We hope that you will enjoy using these features. Feel free to leave any feedback.

Free Webinar: Performing Risk Assessment And Designing Internal Controls

The NonProfit Times and Zurich are putting on another free webinar on Thursday, Dec. 8 at 01:00 PM.  The topic will be performing risk assessment and designing internal controls.  Being prepared with written policies and procedures to minimize risk is a vital part of a non-profit organization. Budget constraints may mean that an organization may not retain the highly experienced human and legal resources needed to manage their risk and compete with the ever-changing risk landscape.

This webinar will help you learn to recognize and identify risks your company may or could potentially be facing. We'll examine internal controls you can implement to mitigate risk and build solutions to manage them effectively.

Speakers include:

Peg Jackson is an author, consultant and nationally-recognized lecturer in risk management, business continuity planning and Sarbanes-Oxley compliance. She earned a doctorate in public administration (DPA) from Golden Gate University in San Francisco and holds the professional designation of Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriter (CPCU). She is also a Principal with Adjunct LLC in San Francisco, Calif.

Susan J. Ellis is President of Energize, Inc., a training, consulting, and publishing firm that specializes in volunteer management. She founded the Philadelphia-based company in 1977 and since that time has assisted clients throughout North America (48 states and 6 provinces), Europe (10 countries), Asia (4 countries), Latin America (2 countries), Australasia (2 countries), and Israel to create or strengthen their volunteer corps.

Tom McLaughlin joined CCR in 2011 after 19 years as a nonprofit consulting specialist with two national accounting and consulting firms. Tom has more than 35 years of nonprofit experience as a nonprofit manager, trade association executive, and management consultant. Among his previous positions, Tom served as an executive with two major Massachusetts social service agencies and as Associate Director of the Massachusetts Council of Human Service Providers.

Register today!

Sierra Club Chairman Carl Pope Resigns

Michael Brune has spent his career organizing small activist groups.  He now has a bigger challenge ahead of him: Reversing membership declines and changing the entire philosophy of San Francisco, Calif.-based Sierra Club.

Carl Pope, Sierra Club chairman, resigned over growing discontent with the direction of the organization according to a report in The Los Angeles Times.  He was replaced by Brune, who has pledged to focus on grass-roots recruiting of new members.  Pope, 66, had been a member of the organization for over 40 years before becoming chairman in 2010.  He had previously served as executive director for 17 years.

Although he played a huge role in the environmental nonprofit, Pope made decisions that angered some in the organization.  His multi-million dollar deal in 2008 to put the Sierra Club logo on Clorox's brand of "green" products comes to mind.  Pope described himself as a "big-tent guy" to The Times, saying that the Club wouldn't be able to accomplish its goals if it only worked with those who agreed with them.  He insists that Sierra Club board agreed that it was worth losing some flexibility to gain a major increase in clout.

There were also some in the organization who thought Pope had reduced the role of chapter experts in favor of paid staffers and attorneys.  They were also turned off by his work not only with corporations, but big labor and manufacturers.

Yet for all the controversy, Pope leaves behind some major accomplishments.  He led the Club's efforts to protect 10 million acres of wildlife, such as the Giant Sequoia National Monument in California.  He bought the organization closer to large donors, leading to major donations from powerful groups.  For example, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg's charitable organization donated $50 million over four years to the club's campaign to shut down coal-fired power plants.  This was part of Pope's larger philosophy of shifting the Club's focus towards fighting climate change, and away from smaller campaigns to protect the wild.

It was the growing push to refocus on grass-roots campaigns that caused Pope to step down.  Under the new leadership of Michael Brune, the nonprofit plans to cut ties with Clorox and other corporations, and refocus its efforts on adding an "army" of new volunteers.  This will be music to the ears of those who were discontent with Pope's leadership.  These individuals believed he was abandoning them, though Pope  insists it is the Sierra Club is straying from the core principles of its founder, evangelist John Muir

It remains to be seen how the end of the Pope era will affect the future of the Sierra Club.  One thing's for sure, though: Brune has some big shoes to fill.

You can read more about this story over at The Los Angeles TimesIn addition, you can read more about issues of governance on The NonProfit Times.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Using Celebrities For Breast Cancer Awareness

It's not uncommon to see nonprofit organizations enlist the help of celebrities to generate buzz.  When they a cause is paired together with big names, it is often a recipe for success.  That has certainly been the case with the Los Angeles, Calif.-based Noreen Fraser Foundation's campaign for breast cancer awareness.

An article in last week's edition of The Times of Northwest Indiana highlighted how the organization has used celebrities in their recent Men For Women Now (M4WN) campaign, which provides a forum for men to support each other while helping their loved ones fight breast cancer.  The campaign has already garnered some big names in show-biz, like Russel Brand, Neil Patrick Harris, Zach Galifianakis, and Jack Black.

The campaign is notable for bringing some comic relief to a painful subject.  For example, Black appeared in an ad for M4WN to encourage women to get mammograms:

"All of us guys, dudes, and bro–imgos are getting off our lazy butts and making appointments for our beloved ladies to meet with this bad boy."
The campaign also partnered with Chicago, Ill.-based Threadless to create a t-shirt creation contest.  Artists were encouraged to submit their designs for a shirt that would raise awareness towards breast cancer using humor.  25 percent of the proceeds from the shirt, which will be sold by Threadless, would go to the Noreen Fraser Foundation in an effort to conduct more research on breast cancer.  The creator of the winning design is set to receive $750 in cash, a $250 Threadless gift card, and an iPad 2 prize pack.  Not a bad haul for a little bit of creativity.

Make sure to read the full article on M4WN on NWI.com.

NPT Jobs: Improving Fundraiser Retention

Cross-Posted From The Nonprofit Jobseeker

It's increasingly rare these days to find people who are not only successful at fundraising, but also have enthusiasm for it. That's why, if you hired someone with those traits, it's so important to do everything in your power to keep them. How do you go about improving fundraiser retention? It's a difficult task, no doubt, but it can be done.

The NonProfit Times attended this year's AFP International Conference on Fundraising. Speaking at that conference was Penelope Burke, president of Cygnus Applied Research, Inc. She had some ideas on how you can best go about keeping your most valuable fundraisers:
  • Be flexible on your salary and benefits. If they are that good at what they do, they deserve to be rewarded. Doing this also means you can be even more insistent on bottom-line results.
  • Allow your fundraisers to work independently. You should check in on them from time to time get updates on their progress, but make sure you are not breathing down their necks.
  • Value their input. Taking a suggestion to heart is one of the best things a nonprofit manager can do to show your employees that they are being listened to. It's also a great way to make them want to continue to work for you.
  • On a related note, make sure to publicly credit staff when they come up with a good idea.
  • Looking for a new senior fundraiser? Consider promoting from within rather than hiring a brand new employee. This will improve employee morale and eliminates the need for extensive orientation periods.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Planned Giving Tips: Principles For Effective Stewardship

Baby boomers are aging and as a result, planned giving campaigns have picked up.  An important part of these campaigns is stewardship.  Nonprofits must know how to effectively steward baby boomer donors and their gifts. 

During the 2011 Association For Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP) international conference in Boston, Mass., Katherine Swank, senior consultant at Target Analytics, offered her own principles for effective leadership based off of Kay Sprinkle Grace’s book Beyond Fundraising.  The NonProfit Times was there to record her tips, and here are some of them:
  • Engage the donor immediately
  • Don’t mix messages like sending a thank you with a gift ask
  • Carve out a budget for stewardship
  • Keep your stewardship in line with organizational image
  • Determine what kind of involvement your planned donors want outside of making a donation
  • Use current legacy donors to convey messages to potential legacy donors
You can read the rest of the tips on our website.

An Unfortunate Case Of Branding

File this one under unfortunate cases of branding.

You probably know by now that Jerry Sandusky, the central figure in the Penn State child sex abuse scandal, founded a charity called The Second Mile.  It's stated mission is "helping young people achieve their potential as individuals and as community members and providing education and support for their parents and youth service professionals."  Worthy goals, no doubt, but that mission has now been tainted by the charges against Sandusky.  As a result, a lot of people don't view The Second Mile in a very positive light.

In a recent article on The Huffington Post, we learn about the unfortunate effect the Penn State scandal has had on a Philadelphia-based organization called The Second Mile Center, a nonprofit thrift shop that helps ex-cons get back on their feet.  Although it shares a similar name to Sandusky's organization, they are in no way connected.  But given the similarity in the two names, people have confused the store with the scandal plagued charity.  Since the charges against Sandusky became public, The Second Mile Center has experienced a 30 percent drop in sales. 

Ron Lucas, who sits on the board of the nonprofit, told Weeklyxpress.com that they have received countless angry phone calls from people, most of whom hang up before they can explain that they have no connection to The Second Mile.  They have even put up signs on its door, one of which reads:
"We are not in any way connected to the Second Mile of the Penn State scandal. We are the Second Mile Center."
The Second Mile Center has been in existence for 30 years, while The Second Mile was formed in 1977.  It would be a shame if the negative attention towards that organization bought down this Philadelphia thrift shop.  In the mean time, Lucas and everyone else at The Second Mile Center can only hope people will start to learn the truth.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What Do The Occupy Wall Street Protesters Want?

In light of the eviction of the Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park in NYC, I thought I would bump up this post.

****

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past month or so, you are probably aware of the "Occupy Wall Street" protests that have been going on around the world.  You probably have at least a vague idea of what sparked the protests: Anger over a perceived unfair financial system.  A system that a few years ago led to the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, a crisis from which the country is still recovering.  Given the bailout of big banks, and huge bonuses paid out to their executives, it's easy to understand why people are angry.  Who wouldn't be?

Yes, it's pretty clear what these large masses are lashing out against.  What's not as clear is what the end game is for the protesters.  We recently posted a column by editor in chief Paul Clolery, set to appear in our Nov. 1 issue, that articulates this question.  It tackles some interesting contradictions of the protest, like how Occupy Wall Street supporters rail against unfair bank practices while embracing Russell Simmons, who sells pre-paid bank cards with monthly fees to poor communities.  That's a practice that is at least as bad as the questionable practices of banks.

The column's biggest issue with the protest is its lack of organization.  All of the social change movements in the past had a clear goal in mind.  The civil rights movement wanted equal rights for all.  The protests against the Vietnam War wanted an end to a conflict that had no end in sight.  How do the Occupy Wall Street protesters hope to get the change they seek?  These protesters need help from the charitable sector and seasoned protesters to help make a real impact on important issues like wealth disparity.  Right now, as the column opines, "it’s just an opportunity to post to YouTube."

Conflict Of Interest With Sandusky Judge?

The Penn State child sex abuse scandal is already one of the biggest stories in the news these days.  And now another layer of intrigue has been added thanks to a potential case of conflict of interest.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported yesterday that the state attorney general's office, which has charged former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky with 40 counts of sex abuse involving eight children, had sought bond of $500,000 and electronic monitoring.  This request was not granted by Judge Leslie Dutchot, who set bond at $100,000 unsecured, which Sandusky later met.  Why is this of note?  It turns out that Judge Dutchot volunteers for Sandusky's charity, The Second Mile

According to the Post-Gazette article, this information was listed on the website of the State College law firm Goodell & Yurchak.  Judge Dutchot would make no comment on the apparent conflict of interest.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Challenges In A Merger

For all the benefits of a potential nonprofit merger, it brings along as many risks and challenges.  How will existing departments function under the new management?  What will be the fate of current employees?  How will the merger be announced to the public?  These are all questions that can cause lots of headaches for nonprofit managements.  It's enough to make you reconsider going through with the merger.  Luckily, there's help on the horizon.

During the 2011 Risk Management and Finance Summit for Nonprofits, Eileen Morgan Johnson of Whiteford, Taylor & Preston LLP discussed the risks of nonprofit mergers and separations.  The NonProfit Times was in attendance for their tips, which included the following:
  • Periodically review governing documents.
  • If a potential conflict can't be avoided, make sure it is disclosed.
  • Don't be afraid to request a legal opinion when the issue warrants it.
  • Seek the advice of independent experts.
  • Insist on thorough documentation. This includes board minutes showing discussion and reports, memoranda and other documents considered in decision making.
  • Keep your employees informed of all new merger developments and provide ample opportunity for their feedback.  Nobody likes being kept in the dark.
  • Make sure that your fellow directors get copies of all proposed agreements or summaries.
  • Demand that board minutes accurately reflect votes.
Want to read the rest of the tips?  Read the full article over at The NonProfit Times.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Paterno, Penn State President Out

UPDATE, 11/14/2011: It was announced this morning that The Second Mile board of directors have accepted the resignation of Jack Raykovitz.  He had been CEO of the organization for 28 years.  Read more about this breaking story on our website.

***

No doubt you have heard of the shocking child sex abuse scandal that has come out of Penn State.  Although it was former defensive coordinator, and founder of the charity The Second Mile, Jerry Sandusky who has been charged with allegations of sexually abusing children, much of the discussion has centered around top Penn State officials.  Two officials, Athletic Director Tim Curley and Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz, have already been charged with perjury and failing to report suspected child abuse.  But much of the questioning has been directed towards legendary football coach Joe Paterno and Penn State President Graham Spanier.  And late last night, those two men became the first two to take the fall in this scandal, as the Board of Trustees at Penn State voted unanimously to relieve them of their duties.

The news broke late last night, only hours after Paterno announced he would retire at the end of the season.  The man affectionately known as "Joe Pa" said he was "devastated" by the developments and urged the Board "not to spend a single minute discussing my status."  Apparently they didn't take too kindly to that suggestion.

For Paterno, it's an unfortunate ending to a career that spanned 61 years.  He is the winningest coach in major college football history, leading Penn State since 1966 and turning it not only into a successful football team but an iconic brand in the sports world.  Even if you aren't too familiar with college sports, you probably have heard about Joe Paterno

All of this discussion about Paterno, Spanier, and other Penn State officials obscures the serious crimes for which Sandusky is being accused.  Reading the Grand Jury testimony (WARNING: Contains graphic descriptions) from wide-receiver coach Mike McQueary, who alleges to have witnessed Sandusky molesting a young boy, is chilling.  What's even more disturbing is that because this went unreported to the police, Sandusky wasn't barred from activities with children at his charity until 2008.  That's when he informed them he was under investigation.  And even then, he didn't officially leave the organization until he retired in 2010. 

In yesterday's report on The NonProfit Times, we reported on The Second Mile's tax filings and annual report.  They indicated that the organization experienced a $228,000 operating deficit last year.  In addition, revenue fell to $2.1 million, from $4.1 million in 2008.  The 12-page annual report cited overall giving to charities being down 11 percent last year as the organization’s board used a “rainy day fund to provide needed services” as it “received more requests to help children and teens than ever.”  With these revelations about Sandusky's alleged crimes now coming to light, it's unclear how much longer the charity will be able to operate.

This story will undoubtedly continue to evolve over the coming weeks and months.  Stay tuned to The NonProfit Times for any new information that comes out on the case or the future of Second Mile.

Veteran's Day

Hope that everybody had a great Veteran's Day Weekend!  In honor of the just passed holiday, I would like to direct our readers to an article we recently posted about the number of unemployed veterans.  Here is an excerpt from that piece:

As 39,500 Iraqi troops are scheduled to make their return this December, nonprofits have begun the charge of increasing service programs, while trying to fundraise more for the sudden influx of new clients.


“The key is getting to soldiers as soon as possible,” said Stephen Nardizzi, president and CEO of Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) in Jacksonville, Fla.. “A lot are returning to isolated communities, which is different from what you’ve seen in past conflicts.”


The unemployment rate for veterans stands at 12 percent, 3 points higher than the national average. In October alone, 240,000 new veterans were looking for jobs. In addition, one in five soldiers is reportedly suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Nardizzi estimated 300,000 to 600,000 soldiers are dealing with a traumatic brain injury. More than 1 million Americans have served in Iraq, and 39,500 troops will return by year’s end.


Nardizzi sees traumatic brain injuries and PTSD as the biggest issues veterans face, but realizes a full integration in today’s society means using a combination of therapies. “It’s a lot like the legs of a table. They all impact each other. We will have programs that will engage soldiers in team-building activities, but we also have counseling services,” he said.


For WWP, the expectation for increased services has been planned. The organization has experienced “incredible growth” during the past five years, from $40 million 2010 to $68 million this year, and a goal of reaching $90 million next year.


“We took that next step in fundraising about two years ago, when we saw depressed numbers coming back and invested in our direct response services,” said Nardizzi. “We’ve been trying to attract online donors, but this year we also heavily invested in direct response television. We had a very similar approach to television to what we’ve done in direct mail.”

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tax Credit For Michigan Nonprofits Set To Expire

Michigan nonprofits are urging donors to take advantage of a soon-to-expire tax credit, according to an article in The Detroit News.

The tax deduction, called the Credit for Charitable Gifts, raised $100 million last year for Michigan charities, and gave taxpayers over $40 million in write-offs on their state returns.  It has been law since 1967, but Governor Rick Snyder and the state Legislature decided that to end it starting Jan. 1.  The primary reason for this was because it cost the state $43 million for nearly $100 million in donations.  Groups that opposed the repeal of the credit attempted to defend it by saying that it provided a lot of government support for community and cultural groups.  Those protests were not enough to save the credit, though there have been rumors that the Snyder administration will add an appropriation for a tax credit in the annual budget.

Charitable deduction has been a big subject in the national news lately.  The Obama administration has repeatedly tried to cap deductions at 28 percent for those earning more than $200,000.  The most recent attempt at this was in the White House's proposed American Jobs Act, but the provision was removed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Product Reviews For The Online Store

Have you purchased a product from on our online store? Let us know what you thought of it! You can now submit a review for any of the products available in our online store. We greatly value your feedback and would love to hear from you.

Google+ Now Open For Business For Nonprofits

When Google+, the search engine giant's venture into the social networking world, launched earlier this Summer, nonprofits might have had two reactions:

"Oh great, another social networking site.  Just what we needed."

OR

"Another social networking site?  Great!  That's just what we needed!"
There was only one problem: Google+ only allowed users to make pages for themselves, not for businesses.  So if a nonprofit was hoping to use it to further promote their services, it seemed they were out of luck.

That all changed on Monday when Google announced it would allow users to make pages for their business or organization.  Known as Google+ Pages, it will allow nonprofits to have yet another presence in the growing world of social media.  Yet for all those that are excited about this, there are those that might be more skeptical.  Does your nonprofit really need another social networking page?

The NonProfit Times doesn't have a Google+ page, so we can't say with certainty whether it's necessary.  But from reading Google's blog post on the subject, it does seem to have some handy features.  For example, people interested in your organization can add a "+" before the name of your nonprofit in a Google search.  This will instantly connect them to your Google+ page. 

Interactivity is another selling point.  There's a feature called Google+ Hangouts, which allows users to interact with you via video.  I can see this as a great way for a nonprofit to have a discussions with supporters.  If you are interested in seeing how this feature works, you can check out a recent hangout that happened on the Google+ page for The Muppets Movie.  It should give you a good idea of what you can do with it (and it's kind of funny to watch).

So should your nonprofit create a Google+ page?  That's up to you ultimately, but it does seem like it offers some features that at least make it worthwhile to try.  Besides, there's no harm in having more of a presence online.

National Christian Foundation Hits Grant Milestone

The National Christian Foundation (NCF), a grant-making network based in Atlanta, Ga., announced today that it awarded its 3 billionth dollar since the founding in 1982.  The organization announced the news in a press release, and have also released a short video to thank their supporters.  NCF National President David Wills had this to say about the news:

"We’re grateful to be able to offer givers a foundation which helps simplify giving and multiply the impact. This is just the latest milestone in the modern-day Christian generosity movement, and we're excited to play a part in this historic time of giving."
CityTeam Ministries, a Christian nonprofit in San Jose, Calif., was the lucky recipient of the historic grant.  They got it after being recommended for a $300,000 grant by Hugh Maclellan of the Maclellan Foundation in Chattanooga, TN. 

This is not the first major news that recently has come out of NCF.  Earlier this year, they announced a nationwide expansion with their 25 affiliates.  They also developed a new brand and updated their website.  Visitors to the site can follow a nationwide giving blog, which gives them the opportunity to connect with givers and other experts from across the country.  Make sure to visit their site to find out more about the organization.