Friday, January 25, 2013

5 Tips For Communicating With The Media

People love to hate the media. Whether it's one of the countless athletes who criticize the press after being "taken out of context," or a politician blasting the "mainstream media" to score political points, journalists are hardly the most popular people in the room.

Yes, you may not want to talk to a reporter, but the media still remains one of the most effective ways of getting your message to the public.

This is especially true for nonprofits that are trying to spread the word about a project or an upcoming special event. In the book “Five Good Ideas,” Carol Goar acknowledged that the media can do a poor job of covering the sector, but that doesn't mean it’s all on them. Goar listed five things nonprofit employees should remember when talking to the media to ensure there are no slip-ups:
  • Before you make a phone call or send an email to a member of the press, ask yourself: Why does my message matter to the public?
  • Don’t confuse journalists with publicity agents. If your objective is just to sell tickets to one of your events or promote your brand, you aren't going to get a very favorable story.
  • Get to know who in the local or national media covers the nonprofit sector. Read the publication or listen to the broadcast you intend to approach.
  • When telling your story to the media, talk about the difference you’re making in people’s lives, not about who you are or how your organization functions.
  • Remember that reporters ask probing questions, they delve into areas that you might not want to talk about, and they don’t follow anybody’s script.

Moody's: Outlook Not Good For Nonprofit Hospitals

Originally Posted on The NonProfit Times


Moody's Investor's Service announced Tuesday that the outlook for nonprofit hospitals in 2013 continues to be negative, despite revenue growth remaining positive.

The negative outlook means it will be harder for these organizations to access the capital market.

Moody's, the bond credit rating business of New York City-based Moody's Corporation, declared that a variety of outside pressures continue to restrict growth of hospitals, including federal cuts to medical spending and limited reimbursement increases from insurers. All of these factors lead the credit agency to continue its negative assessment of the industry.

"Our sector outlook has been negative since 2008, reflecting the lasting impact of the recession on patient volumes, significant challenges facing the industry resulting from changes in how hospitals are paid, and heightened pressure from businesses and all levels of government to lower the cost of healthcare services," said Daniel Steingart, a Moody's Assistant Vice President -- Analyst and lead author of the report entitled "US Not-for-Profit Healthcare Outlook Remains Negative for 2013."

The report also explained that the nonprofit hospital industry is already facing more than $300 billion in reductions to Medicare payments through 2019 as part of the Affordable Care Act. While the recent fiscal cliff deal did not include any major spending cuts to healthcare, the upcoming budget negotiations in Washington are likely to focus on those, as both Congress and the White House believe something needs to be done to address the rising costs of healthcare.

While the overall outlook is negative, the report indicates it could have been worse if not for some positive developments. The most notable of these has been the fact that hospital performance, including revenue growth, has remained optimal.

"Operating margins and leverage metrics have not deteriorated in recent years, despite negative headwinds, because management teams have successfully managed expenses in light of weak patient volumes and less robust revenue growth," said Steingart.

Moody's noted that their outlook expresses the expectation for credit conditions over the next 12 to 18 months. You can read the full report on their website.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Nonprofit CEO Faces Fraud Charges

The CEO of a nonprofit that aids disadvantaged youth and families in Cincinnati, OH, was indicted by a federal grand jury today on charges of tax and mortgage loan fraud.

Regina Shields, who is the head of Free Truth Enterprises (FTE), faces, among other charges, four counts of filing false claims for federal income tax refunds, and one count of wire fraud, according to a report in The Business Courier. She is currently free having been released on bond.

According to court documents, Shields allegedly filed federal income tax returns claiming that she received significant W-2 wages and witholdings from FTE. As a result of those deductions, Shields was paid $61,315 in salary from 2007-2010. The indictment goes on to allege that FTE did not have significant receipts or engage in charitable activity.

Shields also faces charges regarding an alleged mortgage fraud scheme involving a property at the address 2985 Timbercrest Drive. The indictment states that she allegedly wrote a $164,000 check through the name Property Negotiation Group for the property during a sheriff's sale. That check was subsequently returned after the bank account it belonged to was revealed to have insufficient funds.

You can read the full story in The Business Courier.

Special Event Planning Rules

The concept of a special event is great: A night of fun and celebration partnered together with increased publicity and revenue for your organization. What's not to like? Nothing, really, except for the fact that it takes a lot of work just to plan the event.

This might not be a problem if your nonprofit already has a large number of volunteers at its disposal, but this isn't the case for all organizations. As Thomas Wolf wrote in his book, "Managing a Nonprofit Organization," agencies that fall into this category must come up with new plans to ensure their event runs as smoothly as possible.

Wolf laid out nine rules that will help make things more practical:

  • Set a dollar goal early and stick to it. Too many event planners get off course by confusing public relations functions with fundraising;
  • The secret of success is net income, not gross income. What counts is how much the organization has left over after all the expenses for the event have been paid;
  • Plan an event that people will enjoy. It is easier to get people to participate if the event itself is a drawing card as well as the organization sponsoring it;
  • Establish a committee with a strong chairperson to work on the event. The chair (or co-chairs) often determines the success of an event;
  • Exaggerate the number of volunteers and dollars you will need to make the event a success. It’s better to have too much help rather than too little;
  • Allow plenty of planning time. Things always seem to take longer than expected, and there should be plenty of margin for error;
  • Build in plenty of ancillary ways to pick up money in conjunction with the event;
  • Involve local merchants; and,
  • Attempt to find a type of event that works for the organization and stick to it for several years.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Education Grants -- Elmer’s Teacher Grant Program

Education is a big topic of discussion in today's society. The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) rated our country as "below average" in science and math compared to other developing countries, and programs like No Child Left Behind have been criticized for being too punitive and putting too much of an emphasis on test scores, and less on growth and progress for students and teachers.

It can be tough being a teacher in America, which is why the Kids in Need Foundation will be starting its third annual teacher grant program on Feb. 14. Sponsored by Elmer's Products Inc., the program will award 270-300 grants, ranging from $100-$500, to teachers across the nation. The money will help teachers conduct classroom projects from the Kids in Need Guide to Award Winning Projects, a catalog of project plans previously funded by the Foundation.

To be eligible for these grants, applicants must:
  • Be a certified K-12 teacher;
  • Apply for the Elmer’s Teacher Club; and,
  • Use the Kids in Need Guide to Award Winning Projects as a basis for their teaching plans.
Grant award totals will be based on financial needs and how well the chosen projects meet the educational needs of the applicants’ students. Special priority will be given to first-year teachers.

You can find out more information about the project starting Feb. 14 at

If you are interested in finding more grants, visit our Grant Finder page.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

7 Ideas For Website Content

One of the age old battles of the Internet is whether a website with bad design but great content is better than one with amazing design but weak content. This battle is still raging on with no clear end in sight, but one thing is clear: You do need some content on your page to remain relevant.

The textbook definition of a great website is one that the user wants to come back to every day. For that to happen, the site has to have constantly updated content, and not just anything will do the trick. As Robbin Zeff explained in “The Nonprofit Guide to the Internet,” your content needs to be interesting, relevant and, most importantly, new.

There are many different forms of content, and it’s up to you and your webmaster to determine what needs to be on your site. Zeff suggested starting off with the following 7 ideas:

  • Identity: Who you are – your mission statement, a listing or profiles of staff;
  • Programs and Services: What you do – your programs, projects, meetings, seminars, conferences, etc.;
  • Contact Information: How you can be reached – address, e-mail, telephone numbers, office, hours, etc. If you have chapters or member organizations, list how they can be reached;
  • Available Resources: What material you have for free or for sale – newsletters, magazines, publications, t-shirts, posters, etc.;
  • Current activities: What information you want to highlight – press releases, news reports, etc.;
  • Links to related sites; and,
  • Help requests: What your needs are – donations of time, information, or money.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Recognizing Your Board Members

Nonprofits often honor their volunteers and for good reason. There is good reason for this -- after all, they play an important role in the successes of an organization. Yet too often, the hard work of board members is left unrecognized.

The fact of the matter is that board members are volunteers as well and, as such, deserve to have their accomplishments honored. In his book “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Recruiting and Managing Volunteers,” John L. Lipp listed 10 unique ways you can recognize the hard work your board members do for your organization:

  • Write a short feature story about individual board members in your eNewsletters.
  • Provide board members with nametags they can wear to special events that indicate their role on the board.
  • At board meetings, take the time to recognize individual members who have a birthday that month or are celebrating other personal milestones.
  • At special events, take the time to publicly introduce any board members who are in attendance.
  • Consider giving out an annual Outstanding Board Member award.
  • Nominate outstanding board members for leadership awards.
  • Start each board meeting by going around the room and acknowledging one special thing that each member has done that month to support your cause.
  • Put framed pictures of your board members in the lobby of your organization or in the board room.
  • Publish brief bios of your board members on the “About Us” page of your web site.
  • Serve snacks at board meetings.

Featured Nonprofit Job: Director Of Major Gifts And Planned Giving

Two of the more important sources of fundraising for organizations are major gifts and planned giving. These jobs are usually headed by separate individuals but this is not the case with our latest featured nonprofit job.

Disabled American Veterans (DAV) is looking to hire a Director of Major Gifts and Planned Giving. This individual is responsible for developing and implementing a major and planned gifts development plan, building a high-performing team, to achieve fundraising goals, managing a portfolio of donors, and serving as the primary liaison with financial advisors, attorneys, and other partners in the promotion and acquisition of gifts.

This job requires exceptional relationship-building skills, excellent organizational and communication skills, knowledge of nonprofit fundraising, excellent understanding of estate and gift planning, and proficiency with Microsoft Office Suite products. Applicants should also have at least a Bachelor's Degree and a minimum of five years experience in planned giving, major giving, or related financial planning work.

It is not required, but a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) is greatly preferred.

You can find out more information by visiting our career center.

Obama Launches Advocacy Nonprofit

This article was featured in the latest edition of NPT Weekly. Sign-up for this free eNewsletter by visiting our subscription page.

The organization behind President Barack Obama’s two successful election campaigns will become a nonprofit, using its massive database of supporters to advocate for the president’s agenda.

Jim Messina, head of what was once called Obama for America, wrote in an email to supporters that the organization will transform into a nonprofit called Organizing for Action (OFA). It will be a 501(c)(4), meaning it is tax exempt as long as it does not directly involve itself in election activities. OFA will immediately begin advocating for the president’s second-term agenda, with issues such as gun control and immigration set to be discussed.

“If we can take the enthusiasm and passion that people showed throughout the campaign and channel it into the work ahead of us, we will be unstoppable,” said Messina, who will be OFA’s national chairman, in the email to supporters.

Jon Carson, director of the Office of Public Engagement at the White House, will leave the administration to become OFA’s executive director, according to a report by The Associated Press. The organization’s board of directors will include several former White House and campaign aides, including former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, and top campaign officials Stephanie Cutter, Jennifer O’Malley-Dillon and Julianna Smoot.

Supporters of the organization hope that this incarnation of Obama for America will see more use than the post-2008 election version. The organization renamed itself Organizing for America when Obama first took office, but remained a part of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The organization did play a big role in the fight to pass what would become the Affordable Care Act (ACA). According to an article dated Oct. 20, 2009 on The Huffington Post, OFA exceeded its goal of 100,000 calls to lawmakers to encourage them to support health care reform that day, eventually reaching 300,000 calls.

Yet aside from that effort, the administration made little use of OFA’s extensive database of supporters. For instance, OFA remained largely silent in 2010 during the debate over whether Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy should be extended; many on the left believed rates on the wealthy should return to Clinton-era levels. All of the rates were eventually extended for another two years. Rates did return to those levels for those making more than $400,000 following the recent fiscal cliff deal.

Messina and the rest of OFA believe things will be different this time around, as he pledged the organization would be driven by supporters, and would follow the Obama campaign’s principles of “respect, empower, and include.” Since the organization will be a nonprofit, it will no longer be associated with the DNC.

“We'll continue to support the President in creating jobs and growing the economy from the middle out, and in fighting for issues like immigration reform, climate change, balanced deficit reduction, and reducing gun violence,” said Messina.

The switch to a 501(c)(4) organization puts OFA in the same category as conservative organizations such as Republican operative Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS. The President and Democrats have routinely criticized those organizations for refusing to disclose its donors. In the announcement, it was revealed that OFA will accept financial contributions from individuals and corporations, but will refuse donations from lobbyists or political action committees (PACs).

A call to OFA to find out whether they plan to release the names of their highest contributing donors was not immediately returned.

Since the election ended in November, the OFA campaign list has been used to rally supporters around the president’s original “fiscal cliff” plan, which called for increases in tax rates for the wealthiest Americans, and a “balanced” deficit reduction plan that included a mix of spending cuts and revenue raisers. The campaign included a Twitter campaign to pressure lawmakers to extend Bush-era tax cuts on individuals and families making $250,000 or less, using the hashtag #My2k to inform lawmakers why the tax cut was important to them.

When OFA was first created for the presidential election 2008, it was a groundbreaking development in grassroots organizing. It collected information from its many backers and, for the first time, linked supporters together through the Internet. It helped produce record turnouts for the election, using the data they collected to identify new voters and ensure they showed up on Election Day.