Posts made in November, 2011

How You Do What You Do! (Three P’s to future proofing your success)

Posted by on Nov 30, 2011 | 0 comments

Do you ever have trouble remembering how you did something? Wouldn’t it be great to have the instructions in just the right place as a reminder?

Regardless of the business you’re in, knowing how it is you do what you do is one of the most powerful tools you have.  Yet many small organizations remain dependent upon team members’ memories as a source for their processes.  In time this method will likely fail either because the person who knows it is unavailable or the method will simply become obsolete or stagnant due to changes in the business environment.

Documenting your Processes, Procedures, and Policies will provide a clear repeatable course for your entire organization.

Processes:

We have all heard about the value of process re-engineering; the concept of improving the “how” of what you do.  But it is difficult to re-engineer a process if there is no clear understanding of the current process.

To begin the process of understanding, take the time to create a flow chart that illustrates the order in which you currently perform tasks.  Be as detailed as you can; leave nothing out – no matter how small or insignificant it might seem.  If there is a chance that something could be part of your process only under unique circumstances, you still need to include it!  Often this mapping process and the building of a flow chart, reveals inefficiencies that can immediately be addressed and improved.

It is important however to remember that processes are fluid.  They will and should change to fit the intended need.  An example is the need to involve regulatory requirements in your process even though they do not directly contribute to the end goal.  When a regulation changes (and it WILL change) make sure to include it in your process flow chart.

Procedures:

Think about the last time you tried to learn a new computer skill.  Maybe it was creating a website, or automating an online form.  You searched the web for help and found a step-by-step procedure that worked!  Then your colleague asked you how you did it.  Hopefully your response was to send them the procedure that you used or at least the URL of where you found it.  If not your time was more likely spent re-searching what you had already researched.

Procedures are developed from your mapped processes and provide repeatable steps that are easily handed to others to follow. In this instance, your results (the URL or instructions) could have been stored on a shared drive for easy access of others on your team.

Policies:

Then there’s the situation where you have a new employee that has learned a skill in another organization, but approaches it from a different methodology than commonly used in your organization.

The practice may work great for the new employee, but because they are the only one that understands their previously learned approach, it’s difficult for anyone in your organization to use or maintain.  Both approaches work – yours and theirs – but without consistency in your organization, maintaining order is difficult at best.

That’s where policies can make a difference.

Policies are developed from the processes and procedures you document.  They are the human instruction for your organization to follow.  They are generally governed by the values or goals of your organization., and they are the why, how, and when of how things are done.

The great part of the concept of the three P’s is that when issues or inefficiencies arise it is far easier to determine their cause.  Applying the three “P’s” to your organization can provide consistent repeatable efforts toward your organizational goals.

COMPLIMENTS TO OUR GUEST BLOGGER: Today’s post is compliments of guest blogger Hal Krisle, my personal partner in crime (husband), part-time business partner, and one of the best process detail guys you’ll ever meet (just ask him to review a contract for you, or build a flow chart!). Seriously, if you need contract review support, or 3P support, Hal’s your guy. You can reach him at hal@safethought.com.

Thanks to Hal for this critical reminder that effectively running a business – nonprofit or for profit – requires standardized, well-communicated business practices. 

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10 Business Tips to Keep Your Nonprofit on the Road to Success

Posted by on Nov 29, 2011 | 0 comments

It’s true. Nonprofit organizations are unique.

It’s also true that nonprofit organizations are still businesses.

That said, I remember working for several nonprofit organizations who had forgotten that they were a business, responsible to the staff, the donors, the board and their target audience. This is a recipe for failure.

Success, however, is just around the corner IF you follow simple business practices.

Here are 10 business tips to keep your nonprofit on the road to success:

  1. Define your mission and stick to it. Measure every action against your mission statement.
  2. Identify your target audience. Focus your efforts in their direction and for their benefit.
  3. Discover your uniqueness and market it.
  4. Make certain your finances are in order. Manage your cash flow carefully.
  5. Value, manage and empower your staff – your team.
  6. Manage expectations. This applies to your staff, your donors, your partners, your target audience.
  7. Set realistic goals and create a plan to reach them.
  8. Tell your story, often and everywhere. Where you’ve been, what you’re doing, where you’re going as an organization.
  9. Stick with it. Take the downs with the ups.
  10. Be honest in your relationships and endeavors. Integrity is the most important attribute you can have.
Cheers!
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Why is Charity Navigator so Important? (a must read for all nonprofits)

Posted by on Nov 29, 2011 | 1 comment

It’s tough to be an outsider looking in. And typically I’m not one to judge, but when Charity Navigator posted their 10 Celebrity-Related Charities list, I was both pleased and disappointed.

As the pre-list content spells out on the Charity Navigator webpage: Celebrity endorsements help charities increase awareness of their endeavors and thus stimulate more donations. However, just because your favorite super-star supports a charity doesn’t mean the charity is well-run and worthy of a contribution from you.

Hear, hear.

At the top of this year’s 10 Celebrity-Related Charities list at #1 is Michael J. Fox’s Foundation for Parkinson’s Research receiving four stars, the highest score possible. Kudos to their team! They have audited financials, an appropriately involved board of directors, transparency, and appropriate funding to programs – a donor must.

The mission of the Michael J. Fox Foundation is to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease through an aggressively funded research agenda and to ensure the development of improved therapies for those living with Parkinson’s today. You can make a donation to this foundation here.

At the #9 spot (out of 10) on the same list is Andre Agassi’s Foundation for Education, with a dismal and disappointing one star rating.  Not so impressive. This caught my attention for several reasons:

  1. Location – the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy is headquartered in my neck o-the woods: Las Vegas, Nevada.
  2. Salary to Effectiveness ratio – with COO compensation nearing $200K, it seems that someone would be on top of their charity navigator rating. But “someone” is not.
  3. Financials – with net assets of over $71,000,000 the organization’s financial rating at Charity Navigator was below 50%. In my book (and any teacher’s book), that’s a FAIL. They don’t have audited financials (scary in any nonprofit situation), etc. And their overall rating was 37.5%.
  4. Celebrity – both Andre Agasi and Sir Elton John are tied to this foundation.
  5. Minimal transparency.
Their stated mission on their official website is “The Andre Agassi Foundation for Education is an educational organization dedicated to transforming U.S. public education for underserved youth. The Foundation drives reform by engaging in practice, policy and partnerships that provide quality education and enrichment opportunities.” So they have a worthy, respectable mission. So what’s up? They’re missing the boat when their Charity Navigator rating is so low.
Why is the Charity Navigator rating so important? The nonprofit world is filled with wonderful, giving people who dedicate their lives to a passion. Unfortunately, the same nonprofit world attracts those who are not so dedicated, and sometimes not so honest either. Charities have long been a sometimes easy target for the less than above board. Admission, donations, raffles, ticket sales and other cash transactions, if not properly documented, are considered fair game by those who embezzle.
From the Charity Navigator website home page: Charity Navigator, America’s premiere independent charity evaluator, works to advance a more efficient and responsive philanthropic marketplace by evaluating the Financial Health and Accountability and Transparency of America’s largest charities. Charity Navigator was recently selected as the Best Charity Review Site in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine’s “The Best List 2011“. 
The good news? Often charities are more lazy than illicit and a low rating will  (hopefully) inspire action causing the organization to correct the negative issues in their review and gain a higher rating. It’s often a matter of bookkeeping, not dishonesty or mismanagement. I hope that’s the case for the Agassi group. They have a valiant and critical mission, and I’ve always liked Agassi. And Sir Elton John too, for that matter.
But a poor rating is not something I can overlook simply because I like the mission and the people involved. Nor should you. Nor should they. Let’s hope the get it together soon.
If your organization is not paying attention to Charity Navigator, you need to. Check out their site today.
For more information on How To Choose a Charity, click here.
For the Top 10 Lists on Charity Navigator, click here.
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Why Fundraisers Come and Go

Posted by on Nov 28, 2011 | 0 comments

I’ve been in several fundraising positions prior to launching myself into the consultant role. I joined, and I left these positions for a myriad of reasons (some best not repeated here).

But in general when discussing why fundraisers come and go there are some definite constants: an amazing mission and what appears to be a positive corporate culture combined with appropriate compensation attract fundraisers to an organization, while poor leadership, the absence of real collaboration, minimal support from management, and insufficient compensation are key factors that lead to development professionals moving on.

Having laid the foundation I will now send you off to Facts About Fundraising Stuff, a post on the nonprofit job seeker website for corroboration of my personal experience and views.

Managers, take note because this is a key (though often undervalued) position in your organization.

Job seekers, maintain your high standards because you’re worth it.

And as for consulting, it has its benefits and its challenges, just like a full time position. It’s not for everyone, but for some of us it’s perfect.

Happy hunting!

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Make It Easy for Your Donors to Give

Posted by on Nov 22, 2011 | 0 comments

I remember a casual conversation of several years ago with a donor. We were talking about what motivates him to give to certain organizations.

He commented that a long-standing favorite charity had recently sent him a direct mail fundraising letter. Since this was a charity he gave to annually, he pulled out his checkbook to write – wait for it – a $5,000 check.  However, as he scanned back through the letter, checked for a BRE (business reply envelope) and looked over the letterhead, there was no mailing address – ANYWHERE.

NO BRE. The letter had been produced on a unique letterhead which did not include any contact information. And there was no contact information in the letter content.

He thought for a minute and tore up the already written check. His exact words, “If they can’t make it easy for me to give and be professional while they do it, I’m not going to give.” And he didn’t. He chose not to give to this charity because of their failure to meet basic fundraising standards.

He was disappointed in the charity, and I am certain the charity was disappointed when this donor’s anticipated annual donation didn’t arrive.

As you approach your EOY efforts (and all year round), please remember to include accurate, concise information in your outreach, including current contact information – whether it is on your website, in a personal meeting, an eAsk or a direct mail.

Step-by-Step Fundraising.com recently posted a fundraising letter template. Take a look and consider using the itemized list of 12 Items to Include in Donation Letters as a checklist.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Are You An OverTweeter?

Posted by on Nov 18, 2011 | 1 comment

I’ve considered starting an OverTweeter’s Anonymous organization. Would you like to join? We could have online meetings and share our struggles: My name is <fill in the blank> and I am an OverTweeter.

Or not. But there’s no question that some Tweeters are a bit overzealous.

Today’s WordsDoneWrite blog post lists 9 Tweets that should be banned, locked up, forgotten.

Give those tweetin’ fingers a rest and take a look at the blog post, then check the ‘9 tweets you need to stop sending” against your own tweeting habits. Many of us should rethink our purpose, reduce auto-tweets, refine our focus, and better manage our tweeting. Because let’s face it, we’re not going to quit, so let’s moderate.

Remember, you are what you tweet. And for some of us the image is not flattering.

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12 Steps to More Successful EOY Fundraising

Posted by on Nov 15, 2011 | 0 comments

It’s that time again, the New Year approaches and the EOY rush begins!

December outreach that targets online givers is a source of funding we cannot afford to miss considering 40% of online givers donate in December. EOY (end of the year) fundraising plans should be nearing completion, assuming they aren’t already drafted and ready to go.

Here are 12 simple steps for a more successful 2011 EOY effort:

 

  1. Send more than one email in December. Send several. And send a series in the last week of the month (holiday gift, tax deduction reminder, last chance to give this year).
  2. Remember that Matching Gift requests tend to get a better response, so make sure you highlight your Matching Gift Opportunity in your email.
  3. Share your progress with your donors, let them know how much you’ve raised so far and how much more you need to raise to meet your goal.
  4. Post your fundraising deadline, often and everywhere.
  5. Create a unique DONATE button for December. Make sure it’s placed in a prominent place.
  6. Make the effort easy for your donors. Test it out yourself with a $5 donation; experience how your donation process works. Fix the kinks and simplify!
  7. Add a special EOY Landing Page to your site for the month of December, or part of the month.
  8. Be positive. Negative is so 90’s. Donors are looking for positive results, positive effort, positive stories.
  9. Use social media. Add links and embed video in your email. Consider using a compelling image as part of your storytelling.
  10. Keep your email simple, short, and to the point.
  11. Touch your house file in late November or early December (maybe a “tis the season” note), then follow up with your EOY series.
  12. Don’t forget a clear, concise call to action!
Good luck and Happy Fundraising!
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There’s Never Enough Time (or how making lists can change your life)

Posted by on Nov 9, 2011 | 0 comments

It wouldn’t matter if you were an eight-armed, right-left brain perfectly balanced humanoid working triple-time, the clock would not stop ticking right past deadlines.

Daily duties and weekly goals can seem overwhelming when we don’t take the time to prioritize, and the best way to prioritize is by making a list and then to actually follow the list we’ve created.

Effective, diligent listmaking will take your personal or professional efforts to a new level of efficiency. They help your mind to focus on one thing at a time, even though there are 25 items on the list before you. They provide order in a world of craziness. And they remind you of what’s most important so that you don’t waste your time on minutiae when you should be saving the world.

And as always, there’s someone who has said it better than I ever could. Please take a minute to check out this MindTools article; it walks you through the easy steps to effective list making and greater efficiency, and even provides a template.

Personalize your lists, use a template that works for you. Maybe MindTools has the perfect model, or maybe you’re better using a smartphone application, or maybe, like my father-in-law, you tuck a small spiral notebook  or 3X5 cards in your pocket and work from that.

As for me, I’m officially checking this blog post off my list of things to do today!

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Event Planning in Review

Posted by on Nov 1, 2011 | 0 comments

If you missed October’s best blog posts on event planning, never fear! Someone (not me) is on top of this for those of us who slacked last month.

Take a look at this post by Julius Solaris from the Event Manager Blog! He includes links to posts about event apps, social media strategy for events, event marketing, and etc.

It’s officially the holiday season (it IS November 1st!), hope everyone’s ready!

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