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Accountability can mean different things to many people. While the dictionary meaning denotes responsibility, being accountable means understanding the need to be open and honest to the volunteers, the staff and the general public. So how can you ensure this occurs within your NFP?

Deal with things as they occur

There is no truer test of an organisation than when trouble occurs. And the strength comes from being able to face any issue head on without fear or compromise. This will demonstrate your total commitment to identifying and solving potential problems whatever they happen to be.

Maintain a positive public perception

As board members are the public persona of the company, they need to be held accountable at all times. They should be measured to the highest standard of conduct and reprimanded when they do not meet these levels. There are no favourites when it comes to poor conduct within the board of directors or other staff members.

Share NFP finances openly

What do you have to hide? Audited financial statements should be shared among the board members and made available online to comply with best practices. Investors will be particularly keen to see that the non-profit is open about the way they do business and follow action plans to a “T”.

Set clear guidelines and adhere to them

NFPs must stick to a set of clearly laid out guidelines to ensure that they are operating within the rules. If the rules are not specified in detail, then it is hard to determine whether the charity is working fully within its parameters. Clarify your guidelines for ease now to avoid problems in the future.

Donors, individuals and volunteers want to see the integrity of your NFP. When they notice the self-policing that goes on within the internal structure of your charity to meet the above issues, then they are more likely to trust you. Trust and commitment are paramount when it comes to forming relationships with potential donors and gaining their long-term attention.

thank-you-2011012_640When it comes to receiving donations, saying thank you should be high on your priority list. In an interesting study carried out by Parachute Digital Marketing last year, they discovered that most charities were not taking the time to say thank you.

Their longitudinal study also showed that less than 20% of thank you pages were personalised with the donor’s names and 10% of NFPs were still manually processing payments and sending out the receipts via the postal system.

Thank you may be just two words, but it can make the difference between how someon views your charity. These two little words are what stands between your one-time donors become repeat donors. Spend a little time crafting your thank you so it comes from the heart, yet remains on a professional level to reflect your charity. Show your gratitude to demonstrate how much you truly value your donors and their contributions. Explain how the money will be used clearly and concisely.

With a non-profit, your gratitude should go above and beyond a simple thank you. Acknowledge their kindness and caring nature and thank them for taking action to support your cause. While the majority of your donors may only give once, many will have it in the back of their mind to give in the future. Nonprofit Hub claims that 13% of donors stop giving to a non-profit purely on the fact that they did not say thank you. It may only be 13%, but every donation is important.

Your website should be set up to immediately thank the donors for giving. Following the donation, an email should be sent to acknowledge the donor’s kind nature. It might be prudent to send out a secondary email part way through the project to demonstrate the progress or a series of emails depending on the length of the project. It is this attention to detail that will entice them to give again in the future. You can also go so far as to thank them on your website or your social media pages. It is actions like these that will encourage others to follow suit.

There are many ways you can say thank you. If you feel like mixing it up, you might want to consider recording a custom made video message or sending a greeting card or personalised postcard.

Showing your gratitude is one of the most important things your NFP can do. Whether it is coming from a volunteer or the board, always remember the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously.” Wise words to live by!

approved-29149_640With only a limited number of grants available, most nonprofits face significant competition in getting their grant applications approved. Limited funding is not the only reason why some nonprofits are declined when they apply for grants and other sources of public money.

Sometimes, organisations themselves may be their own worst enemy when it comes to getting their request approved. The following checklist can help your nonprofit increase the likelihood that their application for funding will win approval.

Does Your NFP Follow the Rules?

Most organisations and institutions that offer grants and endowments have a list of instructions for the applications, as well as specific reporting requirements and deadlines. A surprising number of NFPs fail to take the time to read, understand and then comply with these instructions which can frustrate program advisers, grant committee members and others involved with the approval process.

Even something as simple as failing to reply to a request for additional information, to complete a survey, or to provide other feedback can decrease the likelihood that your grant application will be approved or renewed, so be certain to follow all of the rules and instructions and submit all materials in a timely fashion.

Did You Use All Prior Funds Before Applying for a Renewal?

Since available funds are indeed, limited, your nonprofit is less likely to be approved for a renewal of funding if your organisation has not already used all of the funds from your last grant before you apply for renewal. It’s also important for nonprofits to be able to show in their application how any funds from other grants have been spent, and how these funds directly impact their ability to deliver services and fulfil their mission.

Do You Take time to Build Relationships with Program Advisors?

Most organisations that offer grants, endowments and other similar types of funding provide a program advisor or officer that acts as a liaison between the grant bearing entity and nonprofits that apply for grants. Make certain that your nonprofit promptly responds to any requests for information from the program advisor on a timely basis, and always follow up with the designated advisor whenever you have questions about the grant process.

It’s also a good idea for nonprofit’s to follow up with their advisor throughout the year to strengthen their bonds as well as to ensure that they stay abreast of any upcoming changes to the grant making process.

Do You Proofread and Provide Complete, Accurate and Honest Information in Applications?

Finally, it’s always a good idea to go back over your application, as well as any other supplementary information that you provide, before you submit your nonprofit’s application. Take the time to proofread to check your spelling and grammar for mistakes. Make certain to check that all of the facts, data and other information that you have included in your application are complete, relevant, and correct! It’s very important that your organisation be honest in the application and give honest, fair opinions, evaluations and details about the nature of your nonprofit, the challenges that your nonprofit faces, and your specific plans for the money if funds are granted.

Before submitting the application go back over the requirements provided by the entity that is accepting applications and make certain that this grant, and the organisation that is providing the grant, are a good fit for your nonprofit. Also, it’s a good idea not to wait until the last minute to file, but try to submit your grant proposal and application as early as possible to show that your organisation is responsible, and is planning ahead.

conference-1886025_640Having a successful board meeting involves a bit more planning and effort than simply setting a date and time, crossing your fingers and hoping that everyone shows up.

The following are a few steps to take to ensure that your board’s next meeting is a successful one.

Use the Agenda to Determine Length and Location

While some planners begin their preparations by deciding on the venue, or actual duration of the meeting first, it might be a better idea to allow the agenda itself to be the starting point.

An agenda is simply a formal, written list of the activities that are planned to occur at your board’s meeting. Most agendas will start with a call to order, or roll call, and will end with the formal adjournment. In between this, the specific items of business that the board plans to discuss and act upon are listed.

Sometimes, if there are a large number of items to get through, some boards adopt a consent agenda, so that important items that have already been discussed can be approved with one vote.

The number of items on your board’s agenda, and the amount of time that each is expected to take, usually determines the actual length of your board’s meeting. Sometimes, the planned length of your session will also affect your board’s choice of location for the meeting. For example, if your board only meets a handful of times a year, it may be better for your meeting to be set to occur over a few days. It could even be held in conjunction with a hotel, so that board members can be certain of having a place to stay and rest. Choosing a location that is centrally located for most of your members is usually the best option when the meeting is scheduled to last several hours or more than one day.

Other boards may meet on a monthly basis, and discuss items frequently, so these meetings may only need to last an hour or so to cover all of the topics that need to be considered and acted upon. In these cases the meeting could reasonably be held on site at your nonprofit’s main offices. This is especially a good choice if your nonprofit has the resources to make teleconferencing available to board members that might live some distance away from the meeting’s location.

By allowing the length of the agenda to be a guiding factor when planning your board’s next meeting, you can choose a length and place for the meeting that will be more convenient for your board members. This increases the chances that more of your members will show up for the meeting and enjoy their service on the board.

Remember that Board Members are Only Human

When planning your board’s next meeting, it’s important to keep in mind that your NFP’s board members have needs. It’s also a good idea to offer and serve the appropriate meals when meetings are scheduled to occur over several hours or days. Even when it is expected to last just an hour or two, offering light refreshments is a good way to help members maintain their energy and attention levels during the meeting.

In addition to meals and snacks, it’s also important to schedule time for board members to meet and socialise before and during the meeting if it is expected to last for several hours or days. This way, your members get a chance to know one another as individuals, which reduces the chances of misunderstandings and other conflicts and increases their ability to cooperate and collaborate with one another.

Allow the NFP’s Chair to Set the Pace

Regardless of the number of items on your board’s agenda, or the length and location of the meeting, it’s important that your NFP’s chairperson is ready to set and control the pace of the meeting. This needs to happen so that board members don’t get bogged down in too many details. This will also ensure that the meeting doesn’t drag out too long, and the work that needs to be done is accomplished.

While you want your chair to encourage open discussion, your chair needs to be able to facilitate communication while also controlling its flow and length. If your chairperson is new to the role, it may be a good idea for your chair to attend training on how to conduct and preside over board meetings. This will help them understand actions that they can take to ensure that members stay on task and that the meeting flows smoothly.

Help Board Members to Prepare for the Meeting

One important way that you can ensure that progress is made during your board’s meetings is to make sure that all of your members are well-prepared. Make certain that you provide board members with the reports and other materials that they need well before the meeting is scheduled to take place, and encourage them to do their homework on the issues before the meeting occurs.

social mediaNearly 7% of all of the donations that nonprofits receive comes from online sources, but harnessing the power of the Internet and Social Media tends to be less about collecting money and more about increasing interest in your NFP.

While social media is a great way to share stories about your nonprofit and strengthen supporters’ connection to your cause, there are downfalls to using the platform. The following is a list of some common pitfalls that nonprofit’s experience when they rely too heavily on social media channels to spread their message.

It’s Expensive

Advertising on social media isn’t free, and even though Facebook and other social media platforms sometimes offer discounts, click-thru ads, sponsored posts and other marketing campaigns, it can be still extremely expensive.

NFPs must control costs by using tools that allow them to test messages, manage start and kill dates for ads, and set budgets to keep an eye on ad costs to make social media campaigns worthwhile.

Many Social Media Channels Offer Low ROI

It would be easier to justify expensive advertising on social media if these campaigns at least generated high returns on this investment. But, the truth of the matter is that they simply don’t. Facebook offers the ability to connect, like and share with nonprofits, as well as the capacity to donate directly, and yet only provides a 3% increase in reach.

Other social media platforms, such as Instagram, make it easy to like photos and gain followers, who seldom, if ever, react to direct calls to action made on the platform. Snapchat’s ROI is even worse, as it doesn’t allow online donations directly from its app and nonprofits can’t even share a link to their website.

Despite the low returns on the time and money invested in social media, it’s still a great way to increase awareness about the good work that nonprofit accomplish. You can start conversations with others about the difference specific nonprofits are making in their communities, as an example.

NFPs should keep their objectives in mind, use targeting and segmentation to make certain that they are reaching the correct audience with their messages and set realistic goals when creating their social media marketing campaigns.

Focusing on Social Media Makes it Easy to Forget about Other Ways to Connect with Supporters

While social media seems to be all the rage these days, direct appeals and calls to action made on a nonprofit’s website, as well as in emails, newsletters and direct mail cost less to create and still generate most of the donations that are received by nonprofits.

NFPs that focus exclusively on social media marketing are likely missing out on ways to connect and raise funds that are less expensive and that offer a much higher return on the cost that is invested.

Trolls and Depressing News can Damage Social Media Marketing Efforts

Not every visitor to your nonprofit’s social media accounts is there to connect and share with you in a positive, meaningful manner. There are individuals who surf the Internet looking to join in on conversations with the deliberate intention to create as much chaos and ill will as possible.

Sometimes in the comments section and elsewhere, visitors may share depressing news or memes that feature disturbing text or images. NFPs must take care to monitor and moderate their social media accounts to protect the reputation of the NFP. Care must also be taken when responding to potentially negative or offensive posts to avoid encouraging or “feeding” trolls.

Social media is a great way to increase awareness about your NFP’s mission. The high cost of social media marketing campaigns, and the low returns that they offer, means that most non-profits should continue to include other more traditional methods of communication and fundraising in their strategic marketing plans in addition to their social media marketing efforts.

apple-desk-laptop-workingContinual learning and education are important regardless of what your role entails. It enables you to push and motivate yourself so you can engage more fully in your position, non-profit or otherwise.

Education, in any form, is vital to both your personal and professional life and can help in your future success stories. Showing an eagerness to learn and ability to increase your knowledge is very exciting to many employees and NFPs.

Did you know that there are many free educational opportunities out there? And did you know many of these are suitable for volunteer treasurers and NFPs?

Each year, NFP advocates and individuals offer free webinars on subjects specifically relevant to charities and not for profits. They can be a valuable source of information, particularly when they impart knowledge that can have enormous benefits to your organisation.

Learning from others who have gone before you is a great asset to your career path. Why make mistakes which can affect your fundraising ability or cost your NFP money when you can follow the advice of other fundraisers and charity workers? And as much of the work you do is relevant only to the NFP niche, it makes it even more advantageous to take advantage of these offers when they appear.

So what’s in store for January? Here are a handful of exciting webinars to get you started. Bear in mind that many webinars are offered live rather than as a recording, so you may need to set a reminder in order that you don’t miss these and other similar events.

The 7 Fundamentals of a Monthly Giving Program – January 12, 2017

In this 30 minute webinar, you will learn how to recognise monthly donors, how to set your ask amounts, how to present results and how to plan for growth.

10 Signs Your NGO Excels at Social Media – January 18, 2017

This live webinar will show real case examples of how to use images and video to increase engagement, how to inspire your donors to give as a result of social media and how to format online news and blog content for maximum effectiveness.

Finding New Donors for 2017 – January 18, 2017

This webinar will take you through new places to find donors, how to build your email list, cultivation tips to keep your existing donors and fast ways to thank your donors.

As technology changes and develops, so does the demands of fundraising and financial management. Keeping up to date with this ever-changing technology is more important than you think, especially since many of the areas are becoming more mobile in their capabilities.

New information is always relevant to fulfilling your role adequately. Familiarise yourself with NFP-related websites and mark your calendar with the many relevant webinars which will come your way in 2017 and beyond.

pexels-photo-261577Working or volunteering at an NFP can be a time-consuming task. It can feel like there are not enough hours in the day to get through the to-do list, let alone come up with creative ideas for fundraising activities. So what can you do to make the most of your volunteer hours?

Create a workable system

You will need to come up with a system so you can use the time you have to the best of your advantage. Organise everything so you can find it quickly; make lists, create folders, manage a diary – whatever works for your particular job or project. The better organised you are, the easier it will be to manage your time effectively.

Stop procrastinating

Often when things get busy, it is easy to spend time worrying about the mountain of paperwork or the number of items on the to-do list. The trick is to tackle them one at a time. Cross an item off the list and move on to the next one. Don’t spend your energy worrying about things – just do what needs to be done when you have the time.

Work from home where necessary

Sometimes working from home is in your best interests when you have a long or complex task to do. It can mean you can work on it in your own time without interruption, reporting back to the office as necessary. It may not work for all projects, but it could help when you are time limited and could save on much travel time between locations.

Break projects down into mini-tasks

If you are overseeing a big project, then it is often easier to bring things down into workable chunks. Plan your day so you can work on one project to completion. Then move onto something else and repeat. This will take much of the stress and overwhelm out of the work day and minimise time wastage from switching from task to task.

Avoid checking emails and messages first thing

Emails and messages can cut into your day. Try to get out of the habit of checking your emails as soon as you arrive at the office. Start working on your to-do list and save the message checking until mid-morning or mid-afternoon when you feel like you need a break. Add an automatic reply which states you will respond within a 24 hour period, so you don’t feel rushed to answer immediately.

Give yourself a break

You are only human, and you cannot do it all TODAY. Burnout will be no good for you or the NFP you are volunteering for. Do what you can, when you can and be happy with that. And if the NFP is struggling to get through the tasks set, then it may be time for them to look for an extra pair of hands to help you out. While challenging work is good for the soul, self-sacrifice will do you no good at all.