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.


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, 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.