Friday, June 22, 2012

Advocacy: Five Ways To Highlight Your Mission

It's easy for nonprofit managers to lose focus of their mission with the day-to-day concerns of running an organization, but that doesn't mean it's alright for advocacy to be thrown aside.

The truth of the matter is that it is crucial that constituents, donors, and anybody else you meet are constantly aware of what your mission is. Thanks to things like social media (and the Internet in general), there are many different sources organizations can use you promote their cause.

So now that you have the means to get the word out, what's the best way to go about doing it? Dalya F. Massachi wrote in her book, "Writing to Make a Difference," that nonprofits shouldn't be afraid to repeatedly highlight their mission to an audience. She provided the following five tips to do just that:

  • Highlight the outstanding strengths of your mission, not of the organization, of the mission. Continually remind people of what is innovative about your mission. Show that you play a special and essential role in your field.
  • Describe how your work embodies your guiding principles. Back away from practical specifics and take a bit of a philosophical approach. Ask yourself what fundamental values or concerns lead your readers to your organization and its mission.
  • Evoke a vision of what your community will be like once your organization has fulfilled its mission. Mission is not only about short-term results. It is also about your long-term vision.
  • Connect the dots over time. Show donors how they create an ongoing story for accomplishing your mission.
  • Use your mission and vision as overarching themes. Over time, organizations often develop programs, products and services that can be quite diverse. If this describes your organization, help readers keep track of how your mission and vision provide the unifying theme for your various projects.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Why Us: Three Questions About Your Brand

A common question donors or potential funders usually ask when approached for money by a nonprofit is "Why should I give to you?" According to two fundraising experts, that question can be answered by asking questions about your brand.

At the Association of Fundraising Professionals' (AFP) 49th International Conference on Fundraising, Bobi Bellows of Bobi Bellows Consulting and Todd W. Ruopp of Unleashing Performance Inc., said that nonprofits shouldn't expect people to know what they do just by looking at their name. To build a case of support for the organization, leaders must come up with answers to these three main questions:

Why Us?

  • Are we really worth investing in?
  • What is our special promise?
  • What makes us unique?
  • What opportunities are unfolding?
  • What problem(s) do we solve.
  • What miracle(s) do we deliver?
  • What are we doing to change the world?
  • What have we accomplished that someone other than staff and board would think worthwhile?
Why Now?
  • What’s the hurry?
  • Why can’t we wait?
  • If funding were delayed, what bad things would happen and what opportunities would be lost?
Why the Donor?
  • How will donors benefit emotionally?
  • Why will this make them feel better?
  • What do they hope for?
  • How is heir fear or anger eased?
  • How is something that they care about either healed, preserved or improved?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Executive Director Arrested For Alleged Embezzlement

The executive director at a Myrtle Beach, S.C. nonprofit was arrested on charges of embezzlement after a state investigation into whether the organization misused federal funds.

JoAnne Patterson, executive director of Citizens Against Spousal Abuse (CASA), was charged with embezzlement of public funds greater than $5,000 according to a report in The Sun News. Patterson denies the allegations, and CASA board chairwoman Sissy Rutherford told The Sun News that, while the $32,000 grant wasn't used for its expressed purpose (purchasing vans to transport victims), there was nothing criminal about the organization's actions. She explained that the money was used so they could pay employees and keep the organization running. Rutherford blamed the organization's problems on the financial downturn.

Former assistant director Alicia Rahiem disagreed with that assessment, saying that employees at CASA had been concerned for a while about how money was being spent. She accused board members of not paying enough attention. CASA eventually purchased the vans after officials began questioning, and Rahiem said she was told to lie about how long they had owned them when asked by investigators.

While the state investigation continues, many of CASA's largest contributors are withholding funding until the the matter is resolved. That includes the city of Myrtle Beach, which had given the organization between $40,000 and $50,000 per year since 2007. The City Council said in a statement that no more money would be given until new board members were elected. Most of the current board has already made plans to step aside to make room for a replacement organization that would fill the gap in services left by CASA.

To read the full story, head on over to The Sun News' website.

Bike Nonprofit To Oppose Potential NYPD Fees

The CEO of Bike New York, an organization that runs New York City's annual TD Boro Bike Tour, is expected to speak out against a proposed $930,000 fee by the New York Police Department (NYPD).

Kenneth Podziba is scheduled to make the announcement at a hearing on the issue today at 1 Police Plaza, NYPD's headquarters, according to a report in Crain's New York Business. He will make the case that the fee will have a negative impact on the nonprofit which, aside from the Bike Tour, provides free education programs to children and adults in parks and schools.

The fee is the result of a proposed amendment to a rule that the NYPD adopted last year. It would pay for police coverage of the Bike Tour and would also apply to other big events and parades. Podziba is expected to say that the fee, if approved, would put many of its programs at risk, including bike education for NYC's new bike share program.

You can read the full story in Crain's New York Business.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Nonprofits, Not Super PACs, Spent More In 2010 Election

So-called Super PACs (Political Action Committees) have received a lot of attention in today's politics. The 2010 Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, opened the door for these groups to splurge on political campaigns. But according to a new study, nonprofit groups actually spent more than Super PACs, at least during the 2010 elections.

An investigation released yesterday by the Center for Public Integrity and the Center for Responsive Politics showed that nonprofit groups spent $3 for every $2 spent by Super PACs, according to CBS News. These groups actually have a bit of an advantage over the PACs, as they are not required to release the names of their donors as outlined by section 501(c)(4) of the U.S. tax code.

In total, nonprofit "social welfare" organizations spent a total of $95 million during the 2010 midterm elections, compared to $65 million by Super PACs. Much of the spending by nonprofits came from conservative groups, outspending their liberal counterparts $78 million to $16 million. Given the results of that election, those numbers aren't too surprising.

Things are a little different so far in the 2012 election season. The report states that Super PACs are currently outspending nonprofits, though it noted there is a possibility that could change now that there are clearly defined candidates for both the presidency and Congress.

You can read the full story on CBS News' website.

Giving USA Numbers A Cause For Optimism

For more than 50 years Giving USA has given what amounts to an annual state of the nonprofit sector. With the uncertain economy we have been living through, the 2012 report was even more anticipated. It was with great relief, then, that giving numbers were found to be pretty healthy last year.

The NonProfit Times analyzed the numbers in this year's report in an exclusive piece online. According to the piece, giving in the U.S. reached an estimated $298.42 billion in 2011, an increase of around 4 percent from 2010 (when giving was estimated at around $290 billion). Individual giving represented the biggest contributions, at 73 percent or $217.79 billion?

The smallest contributors? Corporations. Corporate giving represented just 5 percent of total giving in the country, or $14.55 billion. This shouldn't come as too big of a surprise, as a report by the Council on Foundations last month showed that corporate philanthropy had fallen among large companies like Starbucks, Dove, and Cisco.

Of the different sub-sectors of giving, human services and religious giving came out on top. In fact, religiong retained its spot from last year as the largest recipient of giving, at 32 percent or $95.88 billion. Yet, interestingly enough, that number was actually a decline of 1.7 percent when measured in current dollars.

“Viewed another way, giving to religion, along with membership in certain mainline Protestant denominations, is declining, while the American population grows, on average, 1.0 percent every year,” said Thomas W. Mesaros, CFRE, Chair, The Giving Institute and president and CEO, The Alford Group.

Here is the complete breakdown of giving to each sector:
  • Religion, $95.88 billion or 32 percent;
  • Education, $38.87 billion or 13 percent;
  • Human Services, $35.39 billion or 12 percent;
  • Foundations, $25.83 billion or 9 percent;
  • Health, $24.75 billion or 8 percent;
  • International Affairs, $22.68 billion or 8 percent;
  • Public-Benefit Society, $21.37 billion or 7 percent;
  • Arts, Culture and Humanities, $13.12 billion or 4 percent;
  • Environment/animals, $7.81 billion or 3 percent;
  • Individuals, $3.75 billion or 1 percent;
  • Unallocated giving was $8.97 billion or 3 percent.
Want to read more about the Giving USA numbers for 2012? Head on over to our website for more analysis, and be sure to keep an eye out for our July 1 issue for even more details on this important report.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Spring 2012 Edition Of Exempt Magazine

Every quarter, we release a new issue of the sister publication of The NonProfit Times. It's called Exempt Magazine and it focuses on nonprofit finance issues. Now that we are about to enter into summer, we have released the Spring 2012 edition of Exempt.

Here are the articles you will find in this new issue:


  • Bankrupt But Endowed: Nonprofits rarely file for bankruptcy, but there are some exceptions. Read about some of these in this piece by our staff writer, Patrick Sullivan.
  • 10 Things To Ask Your Banker Right NowThere are lots of banks with cash. You shouldn’t just walk into any old savings and loan. Find out the tops things you should ask your banks from contributing editor Michele Donohue.
  • Telecommuting Employees: Jeff Tenenbaum, chair of the Nonprofit Organizations Practice Group at Venable LLP, writes about the pros and cons of telecommuting to your place of employment.
  • Inspiration Zone: Melanie Lockwood Herman of the Nonprofit Risk Management Center writes about the keys to promoting a risk-aware culture at your nonprofit.

Head on over to our website to view all of the articles in the Spring 2012 edition of Exempt.

$6.1 Million Damage Awarded In Defamation Case

A Texas District Court judge ruled that a former intern defamed a bat sanctuary nonprofit and its president, and awarded the organization $6.1 million in damages.

After a four-day trial, Judge William Brigham found that Mary Cummins had committed defamation against Bat World Sanctuary president Amanda Lollar and breached her internship contract with the organization. She was ordered to pay $3.0 million in punitive damages, $10,000 for her breach of contract, and $176,000 in attorney’s fees.

Cummins was accepted for an internship at the Mineral Wells, Texas, organization in 2010, but left early after becoming dissatisfied with the program. Lollar and her attorneys then claim she went back to her home in California posted allegations of animal cruelty against her and the organization on the Internet.

“This judgment sends a powerful message to cyber-stalkers and others who use the Internet to harass people or to harm their reputations,” said Randy Turner, Lollar’s attorney. “Innocent victims like Amanda Lollar often don’t have the resources, expertise, or ability to defend themselves against such vicious Internet attacks. Hopefully this judgment will make someone think twice before engaging in an Internet smear campaign.”

Among many allegations, Cummins accused Lollar of performing surgeries on bats without anesthesia, possessing and distributing controlled substances without a license, and throwing dead bats in the trash. Along with posting these complaints on the Internet, she also filed numerous complaints with animal cruelty organizations, including a foundation that had been funding Bat World Sanctuary but stopped doing so after receiving the complaints. Every agency that Cummins filed complaints with eventually found them to be without merit after further investigation.

“I would like to thank everyone who stood by us during this ordeal and never, ever lost faith in us,” Lollar said via a statement. “Mr. Turner and his paralegal, Kelly Bozeman, worked tirelessly for us and we couldn’t have won without them. I will be forever grateful.”

Cummins is the president of Animal Advocates, a nonprofit based in Los Angeles, Calif. that works to prevent cruelty to animals. She plans to appeal the ruling, claiming a conflict of interest.

On one hand I'm shocked because Plaintiffs did not show the essential elements for a claim of defamation or breach of contract. On the other hand I'm not really that shocked. Before one hearing Plaintiffs' attorney Randy Turner of Bailey & Galyen told me that he's known this Judge for years. He insinuated that the Judge will automatically rule in his favor, and it appears that he has. I believe there was a conflict of interest and a new trial by a new Judge is in order.”

On her website,, Cummins posted information documenting other complaints made against Lollar. Judge Brigham ordered her to remove that information, a ruling that she also plans to challenge on the basis of the Freedom of Information Act.