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What are your non-profit’s board meetings actually like? Do they run smoothly, and does your board get a lot accomplished when they gather? Does your board get easily sidetracked instead, or, perhaps worse, do things get destructive and descend into utter chaos soon after the meeting begins?

Most boards have a great deal of business that they need to discuss and take action on when they meet. With so many personalities and points of view involved, disagreements, misunderstandings and even a simple need to be heard can all cause meetings to drag on much longer than they need to.

Planning and sound design, as well as top facilitation by the chairman or another moderator, are necessary to keep things on track and running smoothly.

The following is a list of suggestions to help your NFP host more organised and efficient board meetings.

The Benefits of Using an Agenda

One way to help your board get through all of the items it needs to discuss is to prepare an outline of what events will occur during the meeting, and what topics will be addressed. This framework, or schedule of events, is typically referred to as the agenda. Ideally, you will create a formal agenda and present it to your board members well in advance of the meeting. In this way, board members can acquaint themselves with what issues they need to familiarise themselves with before they meet.

Once the meeting occurs, when discussions begin to turn lengthy, the chairperson, executive director or another facilitator can refer members back to the Agenda and its remaining items to help them stay organised and working towards a successful conclusion of the meeting.

Help Your Board Members to Prepare Well-Before the Actual Meeting

In addition to giving board members a copy of the agenda well before the meeting, they should also be provided with copies of all reports and other materials that they need to read and study. They especially need materials that relate to the items that will come up for discussion or votes at the next meeting.

By ensuring that your board members have the materials that they need to be informed before the meeting occurs, valuable time is saved that might otherwise be spent discussing information and concerns that are already covered in these materials.

Keep Detailed Minutes

Keeping a detailed record of what occurs at the meeting is an integral part of improving transparency and fulfilling the board’s responsibilities and duties. When minutes of the meeting are kept, if there is any question about what was, and was not discussed at a prior meeting, there is a record of all votes and other actions taken by the board. This can help to resolve disputes and disagreements faster, as well as help to refresh everyone’s memory so that old business that has been concluded need not be brought up again, wasting everyone’s time.

Keeping Members on Topic

Make a point to schedule time for your board members to meet and socialise at least a few minutes before the formal meeting starts so that folks can catch up with one another and not waste valuable meeting time getting reacquainted with one another.

If the meeting will be overly long, schedule breaks and place them on the agenda, and provide light refreshments and snacks to help keep energy levels, and spirits, high.

If some members have a propensity to be long-winded and prone to speech meeting, schedule time for the chair or other facilitator to meet with them before the start of the meeting. This way they will feel that their concerns are heard and they will be less likely to disrupt the actual meeting with a speech or other display.

Understand that Silence Implies Consent

Just as it’s important for the chair or other facilitator to help keep members on track and focused on the business at hand, it is also imperative that you don’t rush through items. Constructive dialogue and thoughtful discussion does have an essential place in meetings.

Facilitators should ask probing questions and encourage others to voice their opinions. If members find that they disagree with the apparent status quo of the majority of board opinion, the chair or facilitator should make it clear that these members have a duty to speak up. Otherwise they run the risk of the question being called and a vote occurring.

Before the meeting adjourns, the facilitator or chair should thank attendees for coming to the meeting. Members should use this time to agree on when the next meeting should occur, as well as create a starting list of items to be carried forward or otherwise discussed at the next meeting.

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Is your nonprofit’s website drowning in a sea of obscurity? The following seven tips can help you stand out from the crowd and increase awareness about your cause.

Focus on Creating Shareable Content

While it’s hard to predict which posts will go viral, and therefore dramatically increase interest in your NFP’s mission, creating engaging content that’s fun to consume and easy to share will encourage your supporters to share it with their contacts, thereby raising awareness and interest in your cause. Be sure to include an easy to follow link directly back to your NFP site on all content that you post on social media.

Make Your Website the Destination to Go for the Latest News About Your Cause

If you want more traffic sent to your website, then you have to make it a destination worth travelling to. Are you using your site to tell short, engaging human interest stories that illustrate the impact made by your NFP and connect with viewers on an emotional level? Are you mixing it up when it comes to length and types of posts? Have you customised your content so that it appeals to each segment of your supporters?

Are you including a clear image with each post? Are you sharing breaking news on your site?

What about your site’s overall design and loading times? Is your NFP website easy to access, search, scroll and otherwise use from both stationary and mobile platforms?

If your answer is “no,” to any of the above questions, then it’s past time to update and otherwise refresh your website.

Include a Link to Your NFP Website in Your Branding and Messaging

Include your website address in your brand’s logo and add it to the rest of your messaging so that visitors automatically associate your website address with your nonprofit and its mission! If you have a short, catchy tagline that describes what your NFP is all about, use this brief phrase as your domain address so that everyone can find your website by typing your slogan in the search bar.

Is it Easy for Visitors to Subscribe and Sign Up for Alerts?

Call attention to your RSS feed by placing it above the fold. Use a third party to provide automatic RSS feeds, and signups for email updates and text alerts so that your supporters are automatically notified when you make a new post.

Targeted Ads

Another way to increase awareness about your cause and drive more traffic to your site is by placing targeted ads on Facebook and other social media.

You can also create posts on social media, and tag your volunteers and other supporters to pique the interest of their contacts so that they can click back to your site to learn more about your nonprofit and the good work that you are doing in your community.

The more likes and shares you receive on Facebook and other social media the more likely that your posts will appear in Facebook’s newsfeed or become recommended posts on other social media channels.

#ThePoweroftheHumbleHashtag#

Don’t forget to include hashtags that relate to your nonprofit in all of your social media posts. This makes it easier for folks to find content by keyword or topic, and can bring completely new visitors to your site.

Don’t be Afraid to Reshare Older Content

Reposting older stories can help establish your credibility in the nonprofit space, and remind supporters and their contacts that your NFP is well-established, and has been making an impact in your community for a long time. So, if you have an older story with an emotional appeal that perfectly illustrates the type of great work that your nonprofit is doing, repost it! Not only does this build trust and respect, but it also increases curiosity about what new projects your NFP is currently involved in, which can bump up your traffic numbers as visitors travel to your site to learn more.

It is difficult to track your time, especially when you have so many interruptions, telephone calls and meetings. How do you know how long you spent on a particular task without a quality tracker by your side? Technology is improving rapidly, and it is hard to know which tracker is best. Here we will run through some of the quality tracker apps for use within your NFP on the market today.

Toggl

If you are looking to track your time using a simple tool, then Toggl is highly recommended. You can opt for their basic package or upgrade to their pro package. With just one click of a button, you can start tracking. It even allows you to input your hours after the fact.

Hours

Hours allows you to do away with your timesheets and track your time as you go with real-time reports. It can be used on multiple devices giving you the freedom to switch between timers with one tap.

Paydirt

Paydirt is a great option for those who are always forgetting to set their timers. You can keep on top of your workload with the built-in timer and improve your productivity. It also provides a helpful overview of where you spend your time.

Timely

If you rely on calendars heavily to plan your day, then Timely can integrate seamlessly into your workflow. Highlight the project, start the timer and get down to work. It converts your schedule into your timer, quickly and smoothly.

Freckle

Rather than guesstimate where you spend the majority of your time, Freckle can help you narrow down those minutes and hours into useful charts and reports. It is particularly beneficial for those nonprofits wanting to streamline their processes and better their effectiveness.

Harvest

Spend less time tracking and more time doing with Harvest, an excellent app for those looking to track a variety of projects simultaneously. It also allows you to connect your favourite tools and track your expenses.

Top Tracker

TopTracker is a standalone app to help you track via timers, screenshots and webcam shots. It offers full productivity reports and can be used on all devices. And the best part, it’s free, making it a perfect choice for NFPs!

Social media marketing is a relatively new thing, but before that, NFPs had to rely on Public Relations (PR) to get the word out about their mission and latest fundraising efforts. But, PR still has a place in the nonprofit world, so let’s address some great ways to give your organisation a PR boost.

Develop relationships with journalists and reporters

If you have good relationships with journalists and those responsible for getting your story out there, then you have more chances of being successful. Know the media outlets and make sure you reach out to the right individual, depending on your PR requirements. Make sure you also supply lots of high-quality photographs to capture their interest.

Keep up with current trends

Try to connect your stories with the latest trend topics or times of the year. If you are doing something special at Christmas time, then you can promote that in December. If you are joining forces with something that is happening locally to support a wider issue, then let the outlets know. Stay current with what is going on in social media, on television and in the newspaper. That way you have more chance of being successful with your pitch.

Let your supporters speak

Your PR efforts don’t have to be concentrated from just your organisation. Your supporters can also be central to your press releases, and you can write them in conjunction with them and distribute them in the same way. Think about what your supporters can offer in the way of a good narrative and then see if they would be of assistance in helping you get extra publicity.

Demonstrate your results

Use the media for more than just opportunities to promote your latest fundraiser. Come up with some great stories – from your point of view or from someone who was assisted by your charity. People love to read stories of hope, particularly with a strong human interest element. It makes it real and will resonate with potential volunteers and donors.

Show your particular expertise

Depending on how well your relationships are with individual reporters and journalists, get them to consider you every time an article is required on your particular niche. You can provide quick quotes on health or women’s issues, or whatever your mainstay focus is. This will make sure you are always seen as an expert in your industry rather than just an NFP trying to raise money.

Nearly every profession has its own mythology, or urban legends, that develop around it and its operations. While a few of these notions may work to bolster the reputation of a certain occupation, some false beliefs can cause others to shy away from a given field, and prevent those who work in it from getting the credit and recognition that they deserve.

The following list reveals the truth about some of the most popular fallacies surrounding the nonprofit sector.

Nonprofit Work is Easy; it’s the Perfect Career if You Can’t Get a “Real” Job

During the recent global economic downturn, a lot of individuals turned to the nonprofit sector to volunteer their time and efforts while they were awaiting an opportunity to return to employment at a for-profit company. While volunteering is a great way to network and keep your skills sharp, the sector is still a demanding one that benefits from the skills and experiences that top talent can bring to their organisations.

While many people who work in the nonprofit sector do so for altruistic and philanthropic reasons, this does not mean that the pace is not a busy and demanding one, or that everyone that works for a nonprofit does so for free. Most NFPs are facing a host of unique challenges and demands, and the work that needs to get done is often demanding, and schedules and deadlines can be inflexible and stressful.

While some NFPs operate on a shoestring budget, a growing number of nonprofit boards and directors are becoming more aware of the need to recruit and retain the very best people for their NFPs. Many are offering salaries to match the roles and responsibilities that come along with a nonprofit career, and that are comparable to the salary and demands of a similar position in the for-profit world.

All Not-for-Profits Do Basically the Same Thing, and They Don’t Make Any Money

Nonprofits provide a host of services to their communities and the world at large.  The work that is involved in providing these services is as varied as the number and types of charities and associations that exist.

Because of their tax status, many people automatically assume that not-for-profits are banned from earning revenue, when this is simply not the case. All NFPs rely on income generated from at least one source. Examples of types of income that can flow into nonprofits include endowments and grants, donations, fees for services, rents, royalties and interest payments, just to name a few. Without income of some sort, it would be impossible for NFPs to advance their mission, serve their communities and achieve their goals.

As statistics demonstrate, the income generated by the nonprofit sector makes a significant contribution to Australian GDP each year. According to key statistics about Australian volunteering provided by Volunteering Australia, the work performed by volunteers contributed over $25 billion to the Australian economy in 2010.  A recent study on Australian Giving by Swinburne University of Technology reports that 80% of Australians donate to nonprofits each year, with annual contributions now totaling over $12.5 billion.

All Work in the Nonprofit Sector is In Person and Very Hands On

While the staff and volunteers of many nonprofits do provide a lot of hands-on, direct services to recipients, many others offer opportunities to serve others that don’t require a lot of face-to-face contact. Some work can be completed online, from remote locations. Other opportunities are short term, or involve micro-volunteering and may include activities that range from helping out on a project for just a few hours one day, or even for just a few minutes!

The important thing to remember about the nonprofit sector is that there are countless ways that supporters can help nonprofits to advance their mission. Even if you don’t see an opportunity that fits your schedule or capabilities, when you share the values and concerns of a nonprofit, it’s always worth the time and effort to connect with them and ask how you can help them achieve their goals.

An increasing number of nonprofits have started placing their donation button above the fold on their websites. What this means is that the donate now button is prominently displayed at the top of every page. Items above the fold also remain at the top of the page, no matter how far down you happen to scroll, making it easy for visitors to click to give at any time.

With the growing popularity of this practice, it might seem redundant to include a separate donation page in your site’s navigation. While it might look like a bit of overkill if you have a donate button above the fold, including a donation page on your site is still an important part of fulfilling your visitor’s expectations. It also gives you another opportunity to explain the impact of one-time and reoccurring contributions.

The following are a few best practices to help you design a donation page that encourages visitors to get involved and make a difference.

Keep Your Donation Page Clear and Concise

Avoid the temptation to bombard donors with too much information on your donation form, as this can lead to frustration and make them tempted to click away. Avoid using Flash, or overly large images, that can slow down page loading. Use responsive design to optimise your site for mobile visitors.

Simplify your donation form so that it has only a few fields, and is quick and easy to fill out.

Make your call to action clear. Include descriptions of the impact of giving at different levels. Make certain that it is easy for donors to choose to make a one-time gift, or a regularly reoccurring contribution. Use tools that make it easy for potential donors to contribute at levels that qualify for matching funds.

Emphasise Security to Reassure Potential Donors

Some potential contributors are reluctant to donate online. Reassure them that your site is safe by using PCI compliant processors for all of your payments. Be certain to include their security logos on your donation page.

Use Your Thank You Page to Simplify Your Donation Page

Since you want to make donating as simple and straightforward as possible, some of the information that you might be tempted to include on the donation page is best moved to the thank you page.

Once the donation is complete, your site should take your donor directly to the thank you page, where it’s a good idea to include information on other ways that donors can help your cause, such as volunteering and advocacy.

The thank you page is also a good time to remind donors to stay connected with your nonprofit and keep up-to-date on the latest developments. Include buttons that make it easy for them to sign up for your newsletter and alerts about upcoming events.

A volunteer treasurer’s role can be both varied and challenging, and while your position can be as unique as the company you work for, all volunteer treasurer positions have one particular thing in common. It is important that you are organised and stay on top of your workload at all times.

While there are many positions where it is okay to fall behind or to have a week’s backlog of work sitting in the in-tray, a volunteer treasurer’s work can suffer if that happens on a regular basis. People look to the treasurer to be able to provide accurate information, and if there are a pile of receipts or invoices to be processed, the work will be far from accurate. As the position can be stressful, falling behind can only serve to heighten any anxiety, particularly if there are deadlines to meet.

As a volunteer treasurer, the transfer of money coming in and money going out is your responsibility. If there are any discrepancies, the blame will fall on you. You must be vigilant when it comes to the deposits and withdrawals and confirm that everything is as it should be.

Paperwork should always be filed before completion dates, and as NFPs rely on grants and are offered special dispensations by the government, everything must be done in a timely fashion. Falling behind on important deadlines can have huge repercussions.

Management will rely on your budget as a guide. If your actual budget is not accurate, then poor financial decisions may be made.

Failure to stay up to date, particularly when your tenure is at an end, will be a nightmare for the next person who takes over the volunteer treasurer office. Everything will need to be up to date to enable a smooth transition.

A volunteer treasurer plays an important part in sustaining the future of the nonprofit and ensuring it meets its goal and mission. There is no room for disorganisation anywhere in the skill list.