LETTERS TO LEIGH
Stephanie and Leigh – It’s time for some gratitude. Last summer, I joined Leigh’s regular Non Profit Networking Zoom calls. And through those calls, I met Stephanie. And through Stephanie I got involved with Budget Buddies.
Last July I started as a financial literacy coach. I participated in two different sessions and I found it so fulfilling. Today I got a call and on Monday I’ll be facilitating a 13 week program as a program lead. A different role that will challenge me in new ways.
I’m grateful to have found Leigh in the spring of 2019 – that is when I joined my first in person Non Profit Networking group high above the ground near the State House building. I remember meeting John Huycke at that morning event as well. I thought I was so out of place as a sector switcher. What a welcoming group indeed.
Thank you again for all the networking, introductions, and encouragement.
From Bored 2 Board (FB2B) is an extension of the Nonprofit Executives networking group.
“Too many people are not sharing their expertise, business intelligence and resources with the communities most in need. FB2B is here to help.”
FB2B will serve to bring together:
- Those individuals who want to find a Board of Director’s role that meets their interests and qualifications and
- Organizations seeking the opportunity to meet with new, prospective Board Members. Both Individuals and Organizations will be able to post their qualifications/needs on the site, to help facilitate outreach and connection.
Leigh in his role as an invested Nonprofit Consultant and avid networker, beyond just NPE, is consistently asked for recommendations by both individuals and Organizations. FB2B will allow him to help make introductions.
LETTERS TO LEIGH
I wanted to share my good news with you. I am going to be part-time Interim ED at Helping Hands Monkey Helpers in Boston. In the breakout session at the last nonprofit executive meeting, you suggested I position myself as an interim. And through CCT, I found that this group had this transition going on, so I offered my services as interim. And yesterday I was hired!
I am very thankful to you for making this suggestion. I had actually done this 22 years ago when I was pregnant with my first child. I suggested to the company to bring me in for 3 months while they searched for their perfect person, knowing that I had another big “project” coming up. But somehow, I forgot that. And I am in gratitude to you for reminding me!
Looking forward to next week’s session.
I recently signed up for an online panel discussion on the effects of the pandemic on nonprofits and their funders.
For some reason I just assumed it was a Zoom or similar video chat. When I realized it was audio only, to my surprise, I was disappointed. I have come to appreciate seeing faces of people that I know, while also meeting new people. If these new contacts say something interesting, I can jot down their name and look them up on LinkedIn, and perhaps reach out and try to initiate a conversation. I also love to be able to go through the participant list and, for those I know, send a brief but sincere “Hello” to them.
As the former CFO of a conference calling company, it makes me wonder if the audio-only aspect of communicating is going away, or will at least stay significantly reduced.
In these times of work-from-home, with online video meetings replacing in-person meetings, we do run the risk of “Zoom fatigue”, but is changing the format of meetings from face-to-face to audio-only worth removing the chance to build new or solidify existing relationships and networks?
Send me your thoughts! I’d love to hear from you.
You may have heard that I recently attended the taping of the 10th day of 12 Days of Giveaways of The Ellen Show – the show aired on Friday What you might not know is that I had the UNBELIEVABLE opportunity to participate in the Ellen Show dance off….which I took advantage of to the Nth degree. (Click here to see what happened.)
So this has gone a bit viral. @TheEllenShow posted my “gift of dance” on Twitter and we are now over 270K views!
As it is The Giving Season, I am creating a campaign using the @TheEllenShow tag line of “I give you this gift of dance.” I want to direct the traffic to the nonprofit organizations that I work with and encourage visitors to make donations.
Support these Nonprofit Organizations Today!
Bread of Life – Food for the body…Nurture for the soul
Community Catalyst – Because we all should have a say in decisions that affect our health.
Discovery Museum Great play is what every kid needs and every kid deserves. The cost to provide it is very low. The cost of not having it is very, very high.
Father Bill’s and MainSpring – Nobody Should be Homeless
Fenway Health – Health care should be a right, not a privilege.
Goodwill – Giving makes you feel good.
Hildebrand Family Self-Help Center, Inc. – Breaking the Cycle of Homelessness
Housing Families – Because every family deserves place to call a home.
Invest in Girls – We believe every girl should feel financially empowered.
JALSA – Devoted to engaging the community in promoting civil rights, protecting civil liberties and achieving social, economic, environmental, and racial justice.
Jane Doe, Inc. – We work to amplify the voices of all who are impacted by sexual and domestic violence and to undo the social injustices that perpetuate an abuse of power.
Just-A-Start Corporation – Celebrate the Power of a Caring Community
Keshet – Works for the full equality of all LGBTQ Jews and our families in Jewish life.
Our Daily Bread – Taunton Soup Kitchen – Food and Resource Center
The Price Center – Empower individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to thrive!
Samaritans Inc. – Preventing Suicide, Providing Hope
SAVE – Suicide Awareness Voices of Education.
Seeding Labs – We believe that unleashing the full potential of scientists worldwide is our best hope for fighting global diseases, feeding our growing population, and protecting our planet.
SCI Social Capital – Strengthen communities by connecting diverse individuals and organizations through civic engagement initiatives.
Science Club for Girls – Celebrating STEM collaboration, dialogue, and opportunity in our communities.
Second Chances – Clothing Connecting Community
Sumaira Foundation – Generating global awareness of neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD), fundraising to help find a cure, and creating a community of support for patients + their caregivers.
Uncornered – Committed to moving proven-risk young people from the corners to college, while uncornering minds about their full potential.
Uprise Circus – We create a community of supporters for underserved kids and teach them skills for dealing with challenging situations.
The Theater Offensive – To present liberating art by, for, and about queer and trans people of color that transcends artistic boundaries, celebrates cultural abundance, and dismantles oppression.
WBUR – Boston’s NPR News Station
YW Boston – Eliminating Racism Empowering Women
Zumix – A place where every kid and teenager can express themselves through art and learn how to be successful in life doing what they most enjoy.
If you are interested in participating, and have a direct link on your website for where people can donate, please send it to me here. We will add your link to our blog post. Once we get your organization set up, we will ask if you can share the link ‒ help keep the buzz growing! We will even provide a draft for you to post to your twitter and LinkedIN accounts.
I look forward to hearing back from you!
Leigh, “The Dancing CPA”
In the nonprofit world, when you think about the list of things that impact your organization’s financial health, what normally comes to mind are things like grants, donations, operational expenses, and employee salaries. But there is another, less obvious variable that can have a strong impact on how your brand, and ultimately, your bottom line. It’s your tagline—a few small words that make all the difference in how your nonprofit is perceived by the public.
According to The Nonprofit Tagline Report from GettingAttention.org, the majority of nonprofits don’t even have a tagline, or they are dissatisfied with the ones they currently have. In the report, only 41 percent of the organizations that had taglines rated them as effective.
Why is this important? Because as any good marketer will tell you, your tagline is a powerful extension of your brand name. It identifies who you are, what you do, and why you are different from everyone else. Second only to your nonprofit’s name, your tagline is the most frequently used marketing message you use. And that directly translates to how you are perceived by grant-giving organizations, donors, volunteers, and the public.
The Nonprofit Tagline Report is an excellent resource that offers an extensive list of dos and don’ts for developing a strong tagline. Carve out some time to with your staff, volunteers and other stakeholders to evaluate your existing tagline, or to create a new one from scratch. Use this as an exercise to unify your team on your mission and your elevator pitch.
Here are some highlights from the report to get you started. Your tagline:
- Must be eight words or less
- Must convey your nonprofit’s impact or value
- Must be authentic
- Must make an emotional connection
- Must be specific to your organization
As you work through the process, check out the Nonprofit Tagline Database for some creative inspiration and to make sure that your new tagline isn’t already in use. Your bottom line will thank you!
For most Americans, the date June 30 represents the early days of summer and the promise of warmer weather. But for many nonprofit organizations, it marks the end of the fiscal year. Like fireworks in July or turkey in November, this milestone also comes with its own set of traditions—most of them financial in nature.
Here is a partial fiscal year end checklist:
- complete next year’s budget
- process expense reports
- make sure that all payments are out and all receivables are in
- complete and print grant forms and financial statements
- prepare your form 990
But before you completely turn the page on your fiscal year, there is one more item you’ll need to check off your list—your annual report.
Unlike the other year-end responsibilities, your annual report allows you the opportunity to break from the routine and get more creative. It is, in reality, a marketing piece, loaded with enormous potential to inspire your donors, volunteers and employees. It is where you describe all that you achieved during the year and illustrate exactly why your mission matters. So why not create a report that really shines?
Here are four tips to help you take this year’s annual report to a new level:
- Write an engaging, executive message. In 300 to 400 words, start with the overall focus of the year. Perhaps you had a theme that tied all of your accomplishments together. Use a conversational tone that is to the point, easy to read, and grabs the reader’s attention. Express gratitude for the people who helped you reach your goals, and briefly describe your aspirations for the coming year. Include a clear and compelling call to action.
- Consider an alternative format. You don’t have to stick with the standard PDF file on your website. Instead, a short video may be a more effective medium for sharing success stories and communicating with your constituents. Click here for an example of a video report from VolutneerMatch.com that really demonstrates all they are doing to build a stronger community. Videos take more time and effort to produce, but are more likely to be seen than traditional formats. You could also condense your report into a postcard (example) or expand it into its own microsite (example) depending on the needs and preferences of your audience.
- Use dynamic visuals. Colorful graphs and charts will more effectively convey the data than running text. Where your revenue comes from, where it is spent, and information from your financial statements are all good topics to communicate with visuals. In fact, your entire report can be delivered as an infographic. A quick search on Pinterest reveals a number of examples that demonstrate how—in the hands of a skilled graphic designer—your annual report can really come to life. Click here to see.
- Tell stories. Nothing is more inspiring than the real-life stories of the people and the communities you have served. Their faces, their words, their experiences are the most powerful tools for engaging donors and showing the impact that your organization is having. In this report from the Girls Inc. national office, participants describe how the program has positively changed their lives, giving donors a clear view of what their contributions mean to people in their community.
If you need more inspiration, here are some additional examples that might spark your imagination:
In today’s nonprofit landscape, charitable organizations are under tremendous pressure to maintain a high level of transparency in their operations. By sharing information, a nonprofit is perceived to be more trustworthy, more accountable to its constituents, and hopefully, more deserving of donations.
Also part of the landscape, are organizations like GuideStar and the Foundation Center that collect detailed information about nonprofits and offer their findings to the public at no cost. Their goal is to collect and present detailed information about nonprofits in an organized way so that donors can make informed decisions and comparisons to guide their giving. So for the nonprofit, there is a lot at stake when it comes to building a reputation of openness and transparency.
But how do you ensure that you are providing enough information to the public without going too far? How do you ensure your transparency doesn’t backfire? Where is the balance? Here are some basic guidelines that can help:
DO: Post a complete and accurate Form 990 on your website. Besides being a legal requirement, your Form 990 is the single most important tool for building trust and confidence among your constituents.
DON’T: Publicize the names of the donors that are listed on your Form 990—this information is confidential. Your donors have the right to remain anonymous until you have their express permission to share their identities.
DO: Share your Form 1023 that states your organization’s mission. It also lists the name, title, address and compensation of your officers, directors, trustees, employees, or contractors that receive greater than $50,000 per year.
DON’T: Provide the private street address for the individuals you list on your Form 1023. The IRS now allows the use of a mailing address in lieu of a street address in order to protect the privacy of employees.
DO: Disclose the minutes of board meetings as well as meeting notices if your organization operates in a state that has sunshine laws.
DON’T: Share the minutes of your executive meetings as these sessions often include discussions about confidential matters.
DO: Provide all audited financial statements per your state requirements.
DON’T: Disclose your organization’s financial budgets. A budget is merely a plan—a projection for the future that may or may not come to fruition. It is more important to share your year-end financial statements that reflect how your nonprofit ACTUALLY performed.
“I find that when you open the door toward openness and transparency, a lot of people will follow you through.” Kirsten Gillibrand, US Senator
“It is one of the beautiful compensations of life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” This quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson eloquently highlights the internal reward that we naturally experience as a consequence of helping others. Perhaps this internal reward is the reason that more than ever, people are looking for opportunities to be engaged on a deeper, more meaningful level with the issues that matter to them. And perhaps it also explains the rising popularity of giving circles over the last decade, particularly among minority donors.
What are giving circles?
Giving circles are a relatively new form of philanthropy where groups of people pool their financial resources together in order to have a greater impact on a specific cause such as education, environmental protection, or women’s health. Collectively, the members decide how the money will be distributed to best achieve their goals. More so than other types of philanthropy, giving circles focus on providing members with a rewarding, hands-on, communal experience through collective decision making and educational activities. This personalized approach to philanthropy appeals to many donors who want to do more than write a check. These donors wish to actively participate in the circle’s grant making functions and build social networks of like-minded individuals.
How do giving circles fit into the nonprofit landscape?
Giving circles may be large or small, formal or informal, and are typically hosted by a nonprofit foundation. For a fee, the host organization provides support such as administrative resources, operational guidance, and instant credibility within the community. More importantly, the host organization lends its 501(c) status, thereby eliminating the need for the giving circle to establish its own nonprofit structure with the IRS. This contribution alone significantly reduces the administrative burden on the members of the giving circle, allowing them to focus more on more fulfilling, mission-related activities.
Should my nonprofit host a giving circle?
Giving circles have the potential to bring value to the nonprofit in a number of ways including: access to new volunteers, a renewed sense of enthusiasm and awareness in the community, and the ability to have a broader impact in its mission. In an article by Angela M. Eikenberry, nonprofit professionals reported that beyond financial contributions, the members of the giving circles and their connections to more qualified leads can improve the overall caliber of the host organization. (Source)
There are however, a number of issues that nonprofit boards need to consider to ensure that hosting a circle is a positive, mutually beneficial experience. Here are some important questions nonprofit leaders should raise:
- Does this align with our mission?
Every nonprofit has an official mission statement that appears on their Form 1023, a document that is submitted to the IRS to achieve nonprofit status. In order to maintain nonprofit status, the organization’s activities must align with its stated mission. Activities that fall outside the scope of the mission (no matter how noble the intention) can put the nonprofit at risk with the IRS with penalties that can range from unexpected taxes to loss of exempt status. In addition, engaging in activities unrelated to the mission statement can jeopardize a nonprofit’s good standing among its constituents.
- What is the full nature of the commitment?
It is important for the leaders of the nonprofit and giving circle to clearly communicate the agreed upon level of support in terms of resources, data management, communication, and decision making authority. Documenting the roles and responsibilities will go a long way to ensure the success of the relationship.
- What are the financial implications?
While many host organizations collect an administrative fee, these typically do not fully cover operating expenses of hosting a circle. In addition, some hosts offer matching funds to either seed a new giving circle or to support a circle on an ongoing basis. These and any other financial commitments should be clearly defined for the benefit of both groups.
The good news for the philanthropic community is that there is a trove of people who are looking for more meaningful giving experiences in the context of their 21st century lives. Giving circles, when supported by host organizations, provide a unique outlet that benefits the donor, the nonprofit, and the community—a win-win-win all around.
- Growing Philanthropy Through Giving Circles: Lessons Learned from Start-Up to Grantmaking, The Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers
- Giving 2.O: Getting Together to Give, The Stanford Social Innovation Review