Friday, July 13, 2012

8 Leadership Dos And Don'ts

A nonprofit is unlikely to have any success without effective leadership. Everyone’s definition of a leader is different but there are some common threads, according to Emmet D. Carson, CEO and President of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

In “Nonprofit Management 101,” Carson laid out the qualities that all leaders should and should not have. The direction of your organization will ultimately determine the specific characteristics you should express, but Carson wrote that the following eight factors shouldn’t be ignored, regardless of the situation:

  • DO lead consistently with passion and explicitly stated organizational values to inspire those around you.
  • DO insist on a comprehensive annual evaluation.
  • DO learn equally from outstanding and mediocre leaders.
  • DO cultivate the art of active listening.
  • DON’T ever surprise your board.
  • DON’T avoid confronting the –isms of racism, sexism, and ageism in your organization.
  • DON’T confuse delegating with managing.
  • DON’T rely on a one-size-fits-all leadership style.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

8 General Human Resources Policies

Everyone knows about those major human resources policies that employees must follow. It’s basically a no-brainer that it’s unethical to steal office equipment, or something like that. Yet sometimes it’s the little things that can really get you in trouble.

So much for not sweating the small stuff.

In his book “Managing a Nonprofit Organization,” Thomas Wolf wrote that the little details relating to day-to-day work life should be properly spelled out to employees. Some of these relate specifically to in-office procedures, while some are more general.

Wolf listed eight examples of these policies that you should include in your employee conduct manual:

  • Specific rules about how the staff is authorized to make purchases.
  • Guidelines governing travel (such as per-diem limits, times when air travel is permitted, and mileage reimbursement rates).
  • Controls on personal use of the office telephone.
  • Rules governing the use and care of office equipment.
  • Limits placed on the organization’s liability for personal property left on the premises.
  • Guidelines governing outside work, such as whether the employer has first refusal on publications and whether the organization permits leaves of absences to do outside jobs.
  • Intellectual property and confidentiality issues.
  • Policies regarding working hours and conditions that address regular office working hours, flextime or overtime arrangements, and overtime compensation.

Law Would Shine Light On Nonprofit Finances

The financial records of North Carolina nonprofits receiving state aid would be subject to public access, should a recently ratified law be signed by Gov. Bev Perdue.

The Accountability for Nonprofits Act is one of 59 bills awaiting the signature of the governor, according to The Triangle Business Journal. It requires nonprofits that receive more than $5,000 in grants or loans from the state, local, or federal level to provide their annual financial statements should a member of the public request them. Organizations would also be required to provide copies of their most recent IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ or a document providing confirmation of the submission of tax forms from the IRS.

The bill allows nonprofits to comply with these requirements by posting the forms and reports on their website. If signed by Perdue, the bill would become law on Oct. 1.

While proponents of the bill argue this is necessary considering the amount of money going into local nonprofits (about $600 million annually according to the North Carolina Auditor's Office), Dave Heinen of the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits told The Triangle Business Journal that organizations have already been providing their Form 990s for inspection. He said that nonprofits can fulfill the Accountability for Nonprofits Act by continuing to provide their tax forms to online databases such as GuideStar.

Heinen said that the only real new wrinkle in this law is the insistence that nonprofits disclose how they use public money. However, he said even that is something that most groups already do when filling out various state or federal reports.

You can read the full story in The Triangle Business Journal.

Santa Cruz County Fair Considers Nonprofit Status

In the face of continuing financial struggles, the Santa Cruz Fairgrounds is considering pursuing nonprofit status as one option in an effort to stay operational.

As reported in The Mercury News, the home of the California city's annual County Fair and Ocean Speedway announced that its revenue is about $200,000 behind the $1.2 million projected for this year. Dave Kegebein, the head of the volunteer team that took control of the fairgrounds in January, told a gathering of 75 people that the fair will be bankrupt by the end of the first quarter of 2013 if something isn't done.

The Santa Cruz Fairgrounds has always received funding from the state government, but with Sacramento struggling with budget deficits, that support ended, costing the fair $140,000. Kegebein said that another problem was spending $500,000 in excess of revenue last year.

Becoming an independent nonprofit is one consideration to saving the fair, Kegebin said, as it would free it from state regulations and enable operations to be run more efficiently. This decision has not been set in stone, however, and the fair is still considering all of its options. In the meantime, an organization called Friends of the Fair is appealing for donations from citizens to fund the fairgrounds in the short-term.

You can read the full story in The Mercury News.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Webinar: Is It Time For A New Accounting Software?

Accounting plays a big role in the day-to-day operations of a nonprofit. If you are finding your methods of this important practice are a little behind on the times, it may be time to consider a new accounting software for your organization.

Join The NonProfit Times and Intacct Corporation on July 19 at 2:00 PM EDT for a free webinar on how to select accounting systems. Attendees will hear from two experts in this field: Taylor Macdonald of Intacct and Bob Blake, founder of Xanergy. With their years of experience in the accounting software industry and the nonprofit sector, Macdonald and Blake will show you how to simplify the process for your organization. Here are some of the topics they will discuss:

  • How to determine what you need from a new accounting system.
  • Best practices for finding the right vendor.
  • Making sure the system you select maximizes financial transparency and accountability to the board.
  • New options made available by cloud computing.
  • Calculating the return on investment (ROI) you can expect from a new cloud financial management and accounting system.
We encourage everyone who wants to attend this webinar to register today. Hope to see you there on July 19!

6 Items To Include In An Executive Summary

On its surface, the executive summary of a grant proposal sounds an awful lot like a cover letter. It’s true that they have their similarities but if you think writing a great cover letter will send you on your way to a grant, you’d be wrong.

Waddy Thompson, author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Grant Writing,” wrote that whereas the goal of a cover letter was to connect with the reader on a personal level, executive summaries present your proposal in a more formal manner. It also should highlight all of the reasons your organization deserves funding, rather than just the key reasons.

Thompson stressed that your executive summary should summarize your entire proposal. He wrote that you must include the following six items if your summary is to be successful:

  • A one-sentence statement about the program for which you are applying and the grant amount you seek.
  • Mention of any grant history with the funder.
  • A highly condensed context paragraph pointing out your charity’s qualifications for carrying out this program.
  • A one-paragraph description of the program, including its main activities, goals, who will run it, and anticipated beginning and end dates.
  • A reference to the budget, noting areas of greatest expense to be covered by the grant and if any other funder has already committed to the program.
  • A moving closing paragraph stating the difference the grant will make to your constituents and to the community.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

6 Ways To Improve Your Volunteer Recruitment

Nonprofits are always looking for new ways to improve their volunteer recruitment. The best way to do this, according to Susan J. Ellis, is to put yourself in the shoes of the volunteer.

Ellis, president of Philadelphia, Pa.-based Energize, Inc., suggested visiting online registry sites to look for volunteer opportunities, putting you in the position of a volunteer looking for unpaid work. Doing this can reveal some very important information, such as:
  • What's your local competition? (Like it or not, other organizations are doing this too.);
  • Conversely, what organizations do you know that want volunteers but are not listed online? Is this to your advantage or not?;
  • What are organizations like yours asking volunteers to do? Might such tasks be valuable to your operation, too?;
  • How flexible are the other assignments in terms of schedule, place(s) where the work has to be done, etc.?;
  • How attractive does each position sound? How much detail does each listing provide?; and,
  • Study the descriptions you're posting or preparing to post. How do they compare? Will you be able to compete successfully?
All of this information will help you to better form your own volunteer recruitment program so that it accurately matches what applicants want.

The Global Fund Tries New Method Of Solicitation

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria (GFATM) is taking a new approach to solicitations by pitching its case directly to financiers.

After having difficulty in recent years raising money, The New York Times reported that the charity's new general manager, Gabriel Jaramillo, made a spirited pitch to finance ministers from participating nations. In a meeting in Tunisia, Jaramillo urged them to invest in GFATM now because "the out-years will be much cheaper as your number of cases goes down."

Jaramillo cited Nambia as an example of cost-efficiency. The African desert country spends $120 million a year on AIDS treatment, with half of that money coming from the Global Fund. These efforts helped Nambia free 9,200 hospital beds per year and saved the lives of 1,000 health workers and 550 teachers. In addition, the AIDS deaths in the country dropped from 2,700 to 56 over five years.

The Global Fund, founded in 2002, is almost entirely funded by the largest development nations and its taxpayers. Its largest private contributor is the Gates Foundation, which recently committed $750 million to GFATM. The global financial crisis had a huge impact on the organization, and the drop in financing has left it short of its goals. In May 2011, GFATM stated it was $1.3 billion short of its needs for 2011 through 2013. As a result, the organization has asked many of the countries it helps to make less ambitious plans and to cover more of its own costs.

You can read the full story in The New York Times.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Businesses Using Nonprofits To Hide Political Donations

When the United States Supreme Court ruled in the landmark Citizens United case two years ago, it opened the door for an influx of corporate money into elections. Most thought this would manifest itself in the form of so-called super PACs (Political Action Committees). 

While this has happened in some instances, a report in The New York Times indicates that many corporations are funneling their political donations through nonprofits so they are not subject to normal disclosure requirements. This allows businesses to push for a political agenda without being held accountable for it.

In its review of corporate governance reports, tax returns of nonprofits, and regulatory filings, The New York Times uncovered many previously undisclosed donations to political nonprofits from corporations. For example, health insurance giant Aetna donated over $3 million last year to the American Action Network (AAN), a Republican-leaning organization that has spent millions of dollars attacking President Barack Obama's health care law. This donation comes despite Aetna's president publicly backing the legislation.

Most of corporations' donations went to organizations like AAN, which fall under Section 501(c)(4) of the tax code as "social welfare" organizations. Since they are not technically political organizations, they don't have to disclose their donors to the Federal Election Committee (FEC), which makes them attractive to businesses. As scrutinized as super PAC spending is, they were outspent by 501(c)(4)s in the 2010 midterm elections.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has already revoked the tax-exempt status of one political nonprofit this year, leading to speculation as to whether the agency will act on some of the bigger groups such as AAN or the Democratic-leaning Priorities USA. Until such action is taken, however, it appears corporations will continue to use nonprofits to shield their donations.

You can read the full story in The New York Times.

7 Ways To Engage Religious Donors

Religious donors are anything but a one-trick pony. As a study by The NonProfit Times and InfoGroup last year showed, these individuals will also give to a select number of secular groups as well as their favorite religious groups. In fact, they are almost three times as likely to donate to other groups than those who do not give to religious institutions.

As with any strategy to reach new donors, one marketing strategy doesn't fit all. This is especially true with religious donors. It's one thing to just reach out to them; it's another thing entirely to convince them that your cause aligns with their morals.

In “Nonprofit Management 101,” Jennie Winton and Zach Hochstadt, two partners at Mission Minded, identified seven tactics you can follow to get religious groups to appeal on your behalf:
  • Tactic 1: Identify local religious organizations;
  • Tactic 2: Create a brochure that explains the benefits of supporting your nonprofit;
  • Tactic 3: Mail an introductory letter and brochure about the nonprofit to each group;
  • Tactic 4: Schedule and make follow-up phone calls;
  • Tactic 5: Create introductory packets for organizations that agree to raise money for the nonprofit;
  • Tactic 6: Create fundraising templates for religious institutions that agree to appeal for money on your behalf; and,
  • Tactic 7: Follow up with all partners monthly.