Friday, July 20, 2012

Brand Promises Are Worth Keeping

A brand has many elements that contribute to its success. One of the most important of these is what is known as the brand promise.

A brand promise is a short yet inspiring statement that will provide the focus an organization needs to make use of its distinctive resources to make a difference. There are many examples of promises, the most famous probably being Smokey the Bear's "Only you can prevent forest fires" tagline.

It's definitely critical for these statements to be catchy but, according to David McNally and Karl D. Speak in "Be Your Own Brand," the most important thing that they reflect is what an organization is and how it wants to engage with others.

McNally and Speak offered the following tips on making a brand promise effective:
  • Make it short -- five to eight words.
  • Give it a voice that is direct and action-oriented, even exciting and inspirational.
  • Orient people directly or indirectly to how the brand pays off for them.
  • Base it on the organization’s brand ethos.
  • Reflect how the brand provides value to others.
  • Fine-tune it through many iterations. Don’t be reluctant to tinker and revise.
  • Eventually, get it to be extremely strong. Don’t settle too soon. Go for a great personal brand promise that will keep everyone motivated and focused on the organization’s brand strengths.
  • Test it with close friends or family – if their eyes light up and they immediately sense how the promise can help connect with others, it passes the test.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Things Not To Do On Facebook

Creating a great Facebook page is a lot harder than it sounds. It's easy enough to create an account and keep supporters up-to-date about your organization's mission, but there's more to it than that. To create a truly effective social media presence on Facebook, you should look to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

HSUS has more than 100 pages on its Facebook network, with six full-time staffers and a social media intern dedicated to keeping them updated. If that sounds like a lot of work, it's because it is. That's the kind of effort you need to be successful with the popular social network.

During a session at the annual Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC), titled “Why I Don’t ‘Like’ You,” Carie Lewis, director of emerging media at HSUS, offered some suggestions about nonprofit should not do on Facebook:
  • Post too much or too little.
  • Only talk about yourself. Constituents can see right through it if all you’re doing is self-promotion.
  • Post nothing but text, with little or no video or images.
  • Sell, sell, sell. If all you do is push your products or ask for donations, it could feel like a used card lot.
  • Ignore questions or disable comments. If constituents just wanted to read, they’d go to your website; social networks are social.
  • Automate posts. Facebook users might not be on Twitter, so talk to them like Facebook users, sans hashtags.
  • Not link to social media from your website.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Mission Statements And Your Belief Systems

Everyone involved with nonprofits know that mission statements are essential for an organization's existence, but do they know exactly what needs to be included?

In his book "Protecting Donor Intent," Jeffrey J. Cain wrote that the best statements go above and beyond what is required. They describe the principles and beliefs that inspire your philanthropy in addition to the main goal of the organization. Whether you think it's fair or not, your belief systems play an important role in how people perceive your organization.

Cain wrote that it's not enough to simply state the beliefs that are behind your goals. You must explain them so that those carrying out your mission can consider them. He recommended asking the following eight questions about your beliefs when crafting a mission statement:

  • Are you religious? Do you want your faith to be reflected in your philanthropy? If so, how?
  • What are the ideas, traditions, persons, events, and circumstances that shaped you as a person?
  • Why are you establishing a philanthropic entity? What are your motivations?
  • What would be the worst thing that could happen to the assets you’ve dedicated to the charity?
  • What good are you trying to achieve?
  • How important is family involvement to you?
  • Over time your values might come into conflict with each other, with your heirs, or with your society’s changing mores. How should such matters be resolved?
  • What parts of your foundation’s mission and grant-making would you like to remain constant over time? What aspects are nonnegotiable?

Breast Cancer Nonprofit's Mysterious End Prompts Calls For Investigation

After the abrupt shutdown of a Chicago, Ill.-based breast cancer nonprofit, State Senator Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago) is calling for the state attorney general to investigate the organization.

Y-Me, which operated a nationwide hotline for breast cancer patients, caused a shock last Thursday when it suddenly fired its staff and shutdown its offices, according to a report in The Chicago Sun-Times. Sen. Silverstein was one of more than 20,000 people who helped the organization raise more than $2 million by participating in its May 13 race and walk.

The office of Attorney General Lisa Madigan said that it would review Y-Me's finances, but didn't accuse the charity of any wrongdoing.

Sharon Green, the charity's first executive director and a current board member, said that economics were the only cause for the shutdown. She told The Sun-Times that Y-Me's finances will be revealed when the organization files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy later this week. She also said that the money raised by the May 13 race was used to keep the charity's hotline open as long as possible.

Public records from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) indicate that the breast cancer charity saw a big drop in donations over the last five years. Contributions dropped from a high of $16.7 million in 2007 to just $5.2 million in 2010. In addition, an audit released by Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office on Monday revealed that the worth of Y-Me's investments also plummeted. They carried a value of $1.5 million in 2010, but fell sharply to $803,204 as of June 30, 2011. This would indicate either investment losses or that the money was used to pay expenses.

While Green blamed economics as the reason for Y-Me's downfall, a former volunteer and founder of the group's fundraising race, Margaret Harte, said over the weekend that "incompetence and mismanagement" was to blame. She put added blame on the leadership of former CEO Margaret Kirk, who ended her tenure at the end of 2009.

You can read the full story in The Chicago Sun-Times.

Defining Your Accounting System Requirements

Yesterday, we posted a preview from our upcoming webinar showing how inefficiencies in accounting systems can lead to a lack of focus in business leadership. We have one final preview from the presentation today, which documents one of the important decisions nonprofits have to make when choosing new software: Your requirements.

Just as a job seeker wouldn't settle for the first opportunity that came his way, organizations should have pretty high standards about what they want from an accounting system. While every nonprofit is going to make different decisions, Bob Blake, founder of Xanergy, and Taylor MacDonald, vice president of channels at Intacct, recommend some requirements to keep in mind:

  • Document the issues with your current system.
  • What do you want to achieve with your new system?
  • What type of information does management need to make better organizational decisions?
  • What is the impact to the organization?
  • Which processes do you want to automate?
  • Tap into outside experts and your peers.
  • Document expected improvements and return on investment and total cost of ownership.
  • Use a third-party expert to help.
To learn more about the decisions you will have to make if you decide to choose a new accounting system, attend our free webinar tomorrow at 2:00 PM EDT.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Accounting System Inefficiencies Can Hurt Focus On Leadership

In two days, Intacct Corporation and The NonProfit Times will be holding a free webinar on accounting systems for nonprofits. We'd like to take this time to give readers a sneak peek at some of the content in the presentation.

The right accounting system for your nonprofit should work smoothly so that the organization's focus remains on the important issue of business leadership. Unfortunately, too many accounting programs are inefficient, which means more time is spent on them. In the upcoming webinar, the top issues CFO organizations are facing:

  • Managing cash and budget: 24 percent.
  • Improving information provided to managers in the organization: 23 percent.
  • Improving operational business processes: 23 percent.
  • Improving finance and accounting business processes: 15 percent.
  • Improving controls and compliance: 8 percent.
  • Managing investments: 3 percent.
  • Implementing a new ERP system: 2 percent.
The top bottlenecks these same organizations face in the monthly close process are also discussed. They are:
  • Manual processes rather than automated: 26 percent.
  • Systems not integrated: 24 percent.
  • Staff shortage: 12 percent.
  • Inadequate data: 10 percent.
  • Processes not followed: 9 percent.
  • Staff lack of skills: 8 percent.
  • Processes undefined: 7 percent.
As you can see, organizations are facing a host of problems with their accounting systems. If you want to find out how to better tackle these issues, we encourage you to attend our free webinar on July 19th at 2:00 PM EDT.

Stay tuned tomorrow for another preview of the webinar!

Bronx Nonprofit Director Accused Of Bribery

An employee at a Bronx, N.Y. nonprofit that manages apartments for poor people, was arrested yesterday on charges of bribery, according to federal authorities.

Satnarine Seebachan, the program director of Bronx Shepherds Restoration Corp., is accused of accepting $100,000 from contractors doing business with the nonprofit. The money was allegedly used to make numerous improvements to his home in Glen Cove, Long Island, according to The New York Daily News.

The indictment presented by federal authorities quotes Saeebachan as allegedly telling one contractor that he would "make it worth his while" by giving out Bronx Shepherds contracts if he performed the free work on his home. The work done on the house included installing marble floors in the foyer, bathroom, and kitchen in 2006 and 2010.

Seebachan pleaded not guilty in a Manhattan Federal Court Monday  and was released on $50,000 bond. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison.

You can read the full story in The New York Daily News.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Nonprofit Farms Feeling The Heat As Drought Continues

The current heatwave affecting most of the country hasn't just been hard on the average Joe trying to beat the heat. It's also forced nonprofit farms to improvise as rain continues to be scarce.

One of these farms is Harvestland Farm West of Anerson, Ind., where the state is enduring the longest drought in nearly a century, according to The Herald Bulletin. The nonprofit farm has been forced to tap a pond in the center of its property to keep crops alive.

Another farm, Growing Places Indy, is faring a little because two of its three gardens have in-ground sprinkler systems. However, the organization's executive director -- Laura Henderson -- said that while the crops are growing, they are not surviving as long as they would given better conditions. She estimates that crop yields will fall 10 to 20 percent if the drought doesn't end soon.

This doesn't necessarily mean nonprofits will see a big hit to its revenue. Henderson said that crop sales account for less than 10 percent of the organization's budget. At the farm run by the mental health group Aspire Indiana, crops generate less than half of the group's budget. This is because the nonprofit uses farming for vocational rehab, not as a revenue generator.

You can read the full story in The Herald Bulletin.

Ethical Decision-Making For Nonprofits

Ethical choices are not always so obvious. Day-to-day pressures at nonprofits can have a big impact on the decisions managers or employees make. Suddenly these individuals find themselves in the middle of situations they didn't anticipate, leading them to make spur-of-the-moment decisions.

So with ethical decisions being anything than clear-cut, how are you supposed to make the "correct" decision?

Speaking during the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) 49th International Conference on Fundraising, Barbara R. Levy of Organization & Fundraising Counsel acknowledged the difficulties nonprofit employees face when making tough decisions. To help make the right decisions for your organization, Levy offered five questions to ask when trying to determine the more ethical path:

  • What are the critical facts of the situation?
  • What are the key, perhaps competing, values and ethics at stake?
  • Who are the players and stakeholders in the decision?
  • What are the driving forces in the situation?
  • What is the worst case scenario and the effects or impact on all the players who are stakeholders?