Friday, May 25, 2012

The Second Mile To Cease Operations

The nonprofit for at-risk youth founded by former Penn State Football coach Jerry Sandusky -- who is charged with sexual abuse of children from the organization -- plans to cease operations, citing a decrease in fundraising and volunteers.

According to a report in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Second Mile Foundation filed papers today in Centre County, Pa. to shut down the organization and transfer all of its assets to Houston, Tex.-based Arrow Child & Family Ministries. If approved, Arrow would receive nearly $2 million in cash and other assets which would allow the organization to continue running youth programs in Pennsylvania. Current Second Mile camps and other programs would continue during court oversight of the transfer.

The Second Mile experienced a huge drop in fundraising in the wake of the Sandusky scandal. The NonProfit Times reported earlier that the organization had already been experiencing diminished revenue in the years prior to the news about Sandusky. The charity reported contributions of $1.227 million, a combination of donations and special events revenue, which was down from $3.282 million and $2.272 million, respectively. The already weak support only got worse after Sandusky was charged with abusing 10 boys, all of whom were being helped by the Second Mile.

Second Mile's board chairman, David Woodle, said in a statement that there is "overwhelming support for the programs, but that there would not be adequate support, including financial, from donors, volunteers and referring social service agencies to continue the Second Mile as its own entity."

Should the transfer take place, Arrow will continue to offer Second Mile's programs for at-risk youth and families. The programs are a natural fit for the organization, which helps children after they are placed in foster homes. The Second Mile's programs would allow it to reach out to children prior to going to foster homes.

Arrow Ministries was founded by Mark Tennant, who is originally from Washington, Pa. He relates to the mission of the Second Mile as he was abused as a child. He said in a statement that he "Felt the need to turn my heart home and be a part of the healing process."

You can read the full story in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

How To Use Flickr For Your Nonprofit

When a nonprofit wants to share photos from a recent event, they tend to turn to Facebook and other social media resources. There's another site out there, however, that can be just as useful for photo sharing.

The site that we are talking about is called Flickr. It has gained popularity in recent years for creating an easy-to-use platform to store all of your photos. It also provides tools that allow you to share these photos with all your followers with just the click of the mouse. Sounds good, but how can you make it work for your nonprofit?

In “Nonprofit Management 101,” Beth Kanter, CEO of Zoetica, listed three examples of how you can use Flickr to tell your story:
  • An international organization sends volunteer doctors to developing countries to perform medical services. The impact of their work is documented with photos, which are uploaded to the nonprofit’s private Flickr group. This allows volunteers to exchange photos and related stories and provides an image bank for use on the organization’s website and blog.
  • An environmental organization that supports organic farmers had thousands of amazing photographs documenting organic farming techniques. The organization uploaded the photos to Flickr, then enlisted volunteers and members to help organize and share the photos.
  • Volunteers and photographers at an animal shelter had taken beautiful photos of the dogs and cats at the facility. The organization uploaded the photos to Flickr and created thank-you cards featuring the pets for their donors.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Thanking Your Volunteers

Volunteers are an incredibly precious resource for nonprofits. That's why it's so important to make sure they never feel like their hard work is not going unappreciated. So when it comes to thanking your volunteers, here's a rule you should follow: Don't wait until the end.

When a volunteer feels appreciated, it increases their morale. Whether someone has high or low morale can be the difference between someone who is productive and someone who is not. In his book "The Idiot's Guide to Recruiting and Managing Volunteers," John L. Lipp wrote that it is important to make your volunteers feel welcomed from the beginning. Waiting until they leave to say "thanks" won't do you much good.

With this in mind, Lipp suggested 10 easy ways to integrate volunteer recognition activities into your organization:

  • Get name badges for your office volunteers.
  • Have an annual "Design the Volunteer T-Shirt" contest and use the winning design as that year's shirt for special events. Long-term volunteers will be able to wear their t-shirts from past years.
  • Have a small budget? Ask a local company to pay for having volunteer t-shirts printed in exchange for having their logo tastefully printed on the shirt.
  • Have a "Volunteer of the Month" and post his or her personal story on your web page.
  • Ask a volunteer if he or she would like to take a 15-minute coffee or snack break with you.
  • Create holidays in honor of your long-term office volunteers.
  • Name rooms or office equipment after outstanding volunteers.
  • Schedule a monthly drop-in potluck for volunteers who work in the field but would like to get to know one another in a social setting.
  • Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper making a statement of gratitude to all of your volunteers.
  • If you send a regular newsletter to your volunteers, include an "Above and Beyond" section where you publicly acknowledge individual volunteers for specific actions.

Senate To Investigate Veterans Charity

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)
The U.S. Senate Finance Committee will investigate whether a charity for disabled veterans deserves to keep its tax-exempt status after giving millions of dollars to a direct mail company, and not spending enough money on aid to veterans.

CNN reported that committee Chairman Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) announced the investigation of Washington, D.C.-based Disabled Veterans National Foundation (DVNF) on Wednesday. He said that the investigation will determine whether the organization will be able to keep its tax-exempt status.

"The tax exemption for charities exists to promote worthwhile causes like assistance to veterans, not to provide tax loopholes to abuse," Baucus said in a Wednesday news release. "DVNF has a responsibility to show it's genuinely helping veterans and playing by the rules."

A two-year investigation by CNN's "Keeping Them Honest" series found that very little of the $56 million raised by DVNF over the last three years went to direct aid for disabled veterans. Instead, the nonprofit has paid almost $61 million to Quadriga Art and its subsidiaries, according to IRS 990 forms. Quadriga Art is one of the nation's largest direct mail providers to charities and nonprofits.

The investigation also found that DVNF supplied unnecessary contributions to veterans aid groups, such as candy, hand sanitizer, and dress shoes -- all surplus items that the charity gets for free.

DVNF President Precilla Wilkewitz said in a statement that her organization will "will happily answer the questions posed by the United States Senate Finance Committee and provide it with information that others have sadly, chosen to ignore."

You can read more about this story on CNN.

Webinar: Cloud Financials For Nonprofits

UPDATE: Thanks to everyone who attended the webinar yesterday. If you were not able to attend, the recording/slides are now available on our website. Enjoy!

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Intacct Corporation and The NonProfit Times are teaming up yet again for a webinar on cloud financials for nonprofits.

Join us on May 23 at 2:00 PM EST for Advice From The Trenches -- Cloud Financials For Nonprofits. This free webinar will feature insight from nonprofit technology and business expert Jacqueline Tiso, Denise Salzman, controller of St. Peter-St. Joseph's Children's Home, and Stacie Porter, director of finance for Grace Fellowship Church.

This event will be in the form of a panel discussion and will include the following topics:

  • Why thousands of nonprofits are moving their financials to the cloud.
  • How nonprofits are using cloud computing to provide real-time organizational visibility to management, board members, auditors, ensure proper stewardship of funds, and comply with federal reporting requirements.
  • What was the cost/benefit for their business -- did they really see return on investment from the cloud?
  • Would they do it again?
  • What would they do differently?
  • What are they doing next?
Register today to participate in what should be a fascinating discussion on a hot topic in the technology world.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Five Re-Branding Tips

There comes a point in the life of most nonprofits when its previously healthy brand becomes stale. Whether it's become of some external controversy or a normal change in attitudes, organizations sometimes have to consider re-branding.

This was the case with the organization formerly known as Gifts In Kind International (GIKI). The Alexandria, Va.-based nonprofits changed its name to Good360 a year ago, part of a re-branding effort to refresh their image after 30 years. Good360 also completely revamped its business model as part of that effort.

Re-branding doesn't always have to be that extreme but, whatever form it takes, the results won't come instantly. As Nick Saul wrote in his book "Five Good Ideas: Practical Strategies for Non-Profit Success," change takes time. If you are one of those nonprofits that is considering fundamental change to your brand, Saul suggested five things you can do to re-imagine your organization:

  • Listen. It sounds obvious but it’s not just a matter of “sending out feelers” every few years. It must be habitual, part of your organizational DNA.
  • Create a plan, but don’t always stick to it. A plan is always a work in progress so don’t get so caught up making it that you stall before taking action. “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.”
  • Embrace your inner entrepreneur. Nonprofits need to be as nimble and opportunistic as possible. Your landscape of service delivery can shift quickly and unforeseen opportunities will arise. You must be willing to be bold and think big.
  • It’s competitive out there. You must be able to differentiate yourself from others. Be clear about the difference your organization is making and why you have no equals in the pursuit of your mission.
  • Contribute to public policy conversations. Advocacy doesn’t turn people off -- it makes you relevant.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Building A Donor Base

Come one, come all! Special events can reap benefits by raising the profile of an organization or, well, bringing in money.

Speaking during a recent international conference, however, Amy Scerba Karazsia, director of individual giving at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, said that an event can also help an organization build its donor base.

 How can it do that? Step right up.

  • It can engage new prospects. It offers a chance to reach out to major gifts prospects, brings the mission to life, displays the need for funding in a way that opens the door for a future solicitation, builds a sense of community around the project or event theme and creates a path for follow-up. 
  •  It can engage current leadership. It has the potential to deeply engage current board members, current major donors and volunteers in the content that is the event's theme, cultivate those people to become an organization's greatest champions and allow them to “bring in” their network and open doors without having to make a solicitation. 
  •  It has advantages over 1:1 cultivation. It provides less pressure than a 1:1 meeting, it offers more incentive to attend, creates a unique and memorable experience for prospects, allows prospects to more fully engage with content, exposes prospects to a funding need and makes the need real, builds bonds with the organization and with a community of like-minded people and might yield better return on investment by reaching several prospects at once.

Monday, May 21, 2012

What's In Your Fundraising Toolkit?

When you think of the word "toolkit," hard-hat jobs are the first things that usually come to mind. The last thing you would think of would be fundraising.

You don't need hammers or wrenches to raise money but, according to Kay Sprinkel Grace in "Nonprofit Management 101," it's important to have a metaphorical toolkit on hand. These contain all the tools that fundraising novices, such as volunteers, need to be successful. It's important that they have these tools on hand, as they probably won't be comfortable soliciting donors in the beginning.

Sprinkel Grace suggested stuffing your volunteers' toolkit with the following items to help them spread the word about the organization:

  • Stories of your impact to add a personal touch to your role in the community;
  • The elevator speech (and the elevator question – what do you say after you’ve said the speech to ensure that the conversation is just the beginning?);
  • Facts about the organization (i.e., number of people served, before and after statistics, etc.);
  • Analysis of the organization’s impact measured against the needs of the community;
  • Most commonly heard questions and objections to giving and the recommended response;
  • Highlights from the strategic plan that may be relevant to some potential donors; and,
  • Full financial information, presented in an understandable format.
Have you already given out fundraising kits to your volunteers? If so, what other items not listed here would you suggest including?