fashion-person-woman-handAs more of our lives involves using digital means to accomplish our daily tasks, things get faster and easier. We can order meals, groceries, take classes, and pay the bill for it all online. However all this easy access can also open the door to unwanted hackers and scammers.

Personal habits are often the key to protecting data, and by taking a few simple steps you can make it much harder for anyone to break into your digital life or that of your Non-Profit Organisation.

Step 1: Take Passwords Seriously

Having a strong password is one of the most basic steps in protecting information, but it is frequently overlooked. Last names, birthdays, children’s names; all personal information is off limits. It is easily found online, especially if you do not have tight security on social media accounts such as Facebook.

Writing a password down is another classic but common mistake. No sticky notes on your desk or the back of the keyboard. If you must write them down, leave the note at your house as a backup.

Use a password that you can remember, maybe a phrase or reminder of a goal. Include capital letters, punctuation and numbers to make it more secure. Don’t share it with anyone, and change it regularly. A good recommendation is every 30 days.

Step 2: Disguise Your Data

Encryption is just a fancy way of saying that the data is scrambled so that it can’t be read without a key. It can be more secure to encode data in this way than to delete it because deleted files can still be pulled off the hard drive.

Setting up encryption is not hard, but it’s not something you may have thought to check. Apple and Windows both have the option to turn on auto encryption of the hard drive, or you can buy a third-party encryption program. If you do business on your phone, you can turn on encryption in the settings on most models.

Be careful what programs you use to communicate as well. Make sure your email is encrypted. Signal and Whatsapp are texting programs that automatically encrypt instant messages, while Facebook Messenger and Google’s Allo have it as an option that will need to be turned on.

Step 3: Stranger Danger

We are taught as children not to trust people we don’t know, and that is a good rule of thumb for the digital world as well. Emails from someone you don’t know are suspicious, and links or instructions that seem strange are a big red flag. Don’t click on flashy links that may take you to a site that secretly accesses your computer.

If it seems out of place or just doesn’t feel right, seek advice. It is always best to be cautious when the security of your NFP’s information is at risk.

light-sign-typography-lightingPro Bono has just called for nominations for Pro Bono Australia’s 2016 Impact 25 awards.

These awards are designed to recognise this year’s most influential people working to make the world a better place.

In our world, there are many dedicated people who work really hard for the benefit of their charity or NFP, usually for little to no recognition. Others have a higher profile, but work diligently, day in and day out, for their cause.

One of the 2015 Impact 25 Awards winners was Rosie Batty, tireless campaigner against domestic violence. There were more than 280 people nominated from a diverse range of professions and 13,000 votes were cast to select the winner.

To win, the nominee must embody the four core values sought: integrity, initiative, foresight and collaboration.

Who will you nominate?

Take a good look around at the people working with you. Consider your paid staff but also remember your volunteers. Rarely will any of these people be considered for an award despite their achievements. Impact 25 is the award that wants to change that; to bring attention to the people who deserve recognition.

You may nominate up to three people and be sure to include your reasons for the nomination.

Nominations close 14 November.

You can find out more about the awards here and make your nominations here.

business-card-contact-business-cards-business-42260I have visited quite a few contact us pages in my time, and I always find them lacking somehow. They should, in reality, be more than just a name, address and a contact form. But somehow it seems to be the one page that gets thrown together at the last minute before the site gets published. Or at least it comes across that way.

Shouldn’t the contact page be the icing on the cake; that last page that they see before they effectively sign up or decide to take the next step and contact you? Then in my mind, it should be more than a form – rather a wonderful continuation of the rest of the website.

So, what can you add to make your contact us page more effective?

An Introduction

It sounds so easy, yet surprisingly this is the one thing that seems to be left off the page. Add a couple of sentences to show them how much you cherish their business and would appreciate the opportunity to connect with them. Simple words can do wonders.

Full Business Name and Postal Address

To assist in clarity, your full business name and address aids in allowing people to contact you via the postal system (yes, it is still used on the odd occasion) and can assist your business when it comes to appearing in Google local searches.

Business Phone Number

Make sure your contact number is clear and legible. If you have various phone numbers, then specify for each department to avoid confusion.

Email Address

If you do intend to add your email address alongside your contact form, then it is best to replace the “.com.au” with “dot com dot au” to avoid it being used for spam purposes.

Opening Hours

If you don’t want to be contacted at all hours of the day or night or only respond to emails during certain hours, then let people know all the facts. This will ensure your soon-to-be clients that you will respond to their queries as soon as you possibly can.

Google Map

If you operate from a brick and mortar address, then Google makes it easy to add your address to your website. Clients can check the maps for directions and not bother you with questions about how to find your business.

Contact Form

Contact pages are a necessity and makes connecting with other companies a breeze. Keep it as simple as possible with as few fields as necessary: name, email address and message should generally suffice in the first instance.

For more information on this topic, read Ingrid Cliff’s post on “How To Write A Contact Us Page That Gets Results”. She is a valuable resource on this subject and her business contact us page is a testament to her knowledge.

pexels-photo-191830The media is your best friend when it comes to spreading the word about your charity – and in today’s NFP world, the power of public relations is often underestimated. It comes as an afterthought rather than a focused strategy to forge the charity ahead.

This is such a shame as public relations has a fundamental role in the success of your marketing and fundraising.

You have something important to say or a message to spread so what’s stopping you from contacting them directly? Pitching a story can be difficult for those who have yet to do it. However, once you have mastered the pitching strategy, then it does become easier and even enjoyable if your story breaks. A good PR pitch can do wonders for your fundraising capabilities as well.

Some of the steps you need to know in order to be successful include:

  • Know your objectives
  • Compile a list of relevant media
  • Search for a story
  • Prepare a killer media release
  • Get your story to the media
  • Work with the journalist to finalise the story

But how do you know you have a good media or press release? Check it first for conciseness and avoid rambling. Start with the news and add some relevant quotes with accurate attribution. Of course, it needs to be interesting too as well as topical. If you have managed to cover those without too much trouble, then you are well on the way.

Here is a great example. If your NFP supports a children’s sports team and the media is currently full of childhood obesity stories, you can build on those and angle your story to catch the attention of the same journalists.

One thing that stops many NFPs in their tracks is the cost of public relations. But don’t panic – there are some low-cost options available. And if all else fails, negotiating the final price can help.

However, what happens when things don’t work out in your favour, and you develop some bad press? Initially, try to identify the impact of the negative publicity and be open and honest about the situation. Remaining in denial or looking like it does not affect you at all, can make the situation worse.

Are you still a bit afraid about where to start – why not try contacting your local newspaper to see what they can do for you? Create a relationship with your local reporter and learn the PR ropes from the inside out. Start small and build up your promotions and stories as your confidence grows. As always, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

hand-814694_640Most of us face an incredible amount of pressure each day. The deadlines, demanding schedules, and other frustrations that we deal with can wreak havoc on our physical and mental health. The impact of stress on our brain, however, is particularly significant.

Strain and tension lead to the rise of cortisol, adrenaline and other hormones in the body, which can shorten one’s attention span, lead to impaired memory, alter our mood and even interfere with our ability to sleep. The following tips will help you to be able to better cope with the effects of stress and keep your brain healthy!

Use it or Lose it

One of the best ways to preserve your brain function is to use it! When our brains are actively engaged in learning something new, it takes the focus of our attention away from what is causing us to feel stressed out. So, keep your mind actively engaged in something new, and meaningful, to help you beat the effects of stress on the mind. Sign up for a class in a new language, join a book club, or volunteer for a worthy cause to help keep your mind active and increase your resiliency to stress.

Work it Out

Activities that really get our hearts to pumping and increase the circulation of our oxygen rich blood to our brains can also help us beat the effects of stress. Look for ways to increase your physical activity level each day to improve both your cardiovascular health and the health of your brain. Take a short, but brisk, 15 to 20 minute walk during your lunch break, take up dancing, or even consider riding a bicycle to work are all easy ways to increase your activity level each day.

Fill Up on the Right Fuel

If we want our bodies, including our brain, to be able to perform at their peak level, it’s important that we provide them with the right fuel. Look for ways to increase your overall health to make certain that your brain has the right stuff to operate at a high level.

Skip foods that are high in sugar, fat and salt and eat a balanced diet that includes more nutritious foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, and lean, heart healthy proteins such as baked, steamed or poached fish to provide your brain with the fuel that it needs to beat the effects of stress. Other habits that are good fuel for your brain include getting a good night’s rest on a daily basis and getting regular checkups with your doctor to monitor the condition of your overall health and well-being.

Take Breaks and Learn to Focus

Most of us have so much on our daily plate that we feel constantly pulled in a dozen different directions. It’s tempting to try to multi-task in an attempt to try to get more done, but, some research now suggests that being distracted as we work on a task increases our stress and frustration and actually makes a less productive. If you find that you really aren’t getting a lot done during your day, consider setting aside small blocks of time for each of your tasks and truly focus on one task at a time before you move on to your next assignment. Don’t forget to take frequent breaks throughout your day to help relieve some of the pressure and help your mind to be more alert and active.

Less is More so Lighten Your Load

According to an article published earlier this year at ABC News, research conducted at the University of Melbourne indicates that working more hours can actually increases our stress levels and decreases our productivity levels. This is especially true for workers over the age of 40. So, you can decrease your level of stress, and increase your effectiveness by looking for ways to work smarter rather than harder and longer.

Consider decreasing the hours that you work each week, and look for ways to get others on board with helping you complete your tasks. Look for ways to increase camaraderie and trust as well as cooperation and collaboration in your office. By working together and helping one another out, it’s likely that you and your team will accomplish more, and have a more enjoyable and less stressful time accomplishing the work.

It’s impossible to avoid all stress in our daily life, and, some studies indicate that small doses of stress can actually increase our brain’s ability to process information and complete tasks. Taking steps to reduce the amount of stress that you deal with on a daily basis, and increase your brain’s endurance and resilience to pressure will help reduce the negative effects of stress on your brain and improve your sense of well-being.

pexels-photo-29210If not careful, it is too easy to become stuck in a rut with our creativity and our businesses. You need to find ways to grow new ideas and look for ways to enhance current business practices. Sometimes it is easier said than done. Here are some ways to help you come up with some ideas to take your business to the next level.

Breakfast brainstorming

There is no better way to get the brain juices than to brainstorm. Order in the coffee and croissants and see what happens. Make it fun and spontaneous with no pressure. Mixing up routines can lead to great suggestions.

Take the brainstorming session outdoors

Sometimes a stale office environment fails to help creative suggestions. Take the team for a walk around the park or get them outdoors. Exercise can do wonders for our creativity and allows us to come up with ideas that we may not have thought of in a traditional setting.

Let the noise in

You might feel you want to shut your door to concentrate, but ambient noise and chatter can actually promote creativity. So open those windows and doors and let the outside activity come in.

Put a deadline on it

If you want the team to come up with some new ideas, then put a deadline on it. It is amazing what our brains can do when we know we are close to a meeting looming in the distance. We often come up with the best ideas at the last minute.

Minimise distractions

If you are consistently checking the emails or looking at your phone, then your creativity will be lost among the myriad of distractions presented to us in an office situation. If you want time to focus then switch them off and turn your attention to the task at hand.

Opt for regular breaks

If you are feeling overworked, then it might be time to take a break. Schedule a long lunch or go for a quick walk around the office to clear your head. Stretch, recharge and grab some water to ensure you are feeling hydrated. Short breaks during the day do our brain a lot of good.

Take time off

Often we need a change of environment to get our minds thinking outside of the box. An extended weekend or even a mini holiday to lift some weight off your shoulders and get back into creativity mode can do wonders. Overstressing and overworking are two major hindrances to our natural creative successes.

You never know when the creativity surges will come. Keep a notepad and pen in your bag and jot down any ideas that come your way whether you are exercising or relaxing by the beach. Allow those singular creative moments to grow and inspire many more to come.

linkedin-400850_640The fifth edition of ‘Enhancing Not-for-Profit Annual and Financial Reporting’ has been released over at CharteredAccountants.com.au.

This is a valuable resource for NFPs, covering best practice guidance in their reporting and recent regulatory changes, including information for ACNC registered charities.

The guide incorporates the current requirements of the ACNC and other state-based regulators. It also places a focus on transparent reporting, which is a big issue with stakeholders and supporters.  As you know, the Admin Bandit software has been designed to encourage and support transparency of accounts.

Over the last three to four years, the sector has seen some significant regulatory changes that impact the nature and extent of NFP financial reporting. The changes in this edition include:

  • the introduction of the Australian Charities and Notfor-profits Commission (ACNC) from 3 December 2012, impacting reporting obligations for charities from 1 July 2013
  • changes to the financial reporting and audit requirements of incorporated associations legislation and regulations in some states and territories, including the anticipated introduction of the new Associations Incorporation Act 2015 (WA) from 1 July 2016
  • the introduction of the new-format audit report for financial years ending on or after 15 December 2016.

These events have been reflected in the guidance provided in this publication to the extent possible.

The guide is free and can be downloaded here.