Archive for the ‘Business tools’ Category

The problems that you are trying to solve, and the work that your NFP does in your community, defines why your organisation exists. Your organisation’s values, what you stand for, believe in, and are passionate about, define who you are. When creating your NFP’s mission, you should take elements from both to create a statement that inspires you, your team, and your other supporters to make a positive difference.

The following suggestions can help you create a mission statement that motivates your stakeholders and community to work with your organisation for the good of everyone! Additional tips are included to help you use your new mission statement for the best effect.

Develop Your Mission

When creating your mission, you should think about both your values and your vision for your organisation. To do this, you need to first clearly define the problems or issues that your NFP wants to solve, along with the steps that you will take to achieve your mission.

Don’t just talk about what you want to do but think about the way that you want to accomplish your objectives. What actions are in keeping with your values, and which aren’t? How do you expect to treat your supporters and others in your community? Define the lines that you won’t cross.

Both Vision and Values Influence the Mission

Once you have your NFP’s value and vision clearly in focus, you can then begin to write your mission statement. If you are still having a hard time connecting with what it is that you do, and why your organisation and its work matters, consider surveying your service beneficiaries, along with your staff, volunteers, donors, and other stakeholders. Find out from them what they think of when they hear your organisation’s name.

Start a Fire with Your Mission

Choose your words carefully when defining your mission. As you read over your statement, you should find that it stirs your emotions and makes you, and others, want to get to work addressing the issues that you want to solve. It should serve as a rallying point for everyone connected to your organisation.

If your statement doesn’t move you and  compel you to act, it’s missing something. This something is likely connected to your vision and values, so think of ways to let this shine through more clearly when you rewrite your statement.

Revise, Review and Ask for Feedback

Before you release your new mission statement to the world, review it for any mistakes or contradictions. Go back and talk with some of the stakeholders that you initially surveyed and ask them if it captures the heart and soul of what your NFP is all about. Be open to suggestions and make revisions as necessary.

Align Your Team with Your Mission

Once you have written an inspiring mission statement, it’s time to put it to good use. You will want to publish your mission statement in your “about” section of your blog, and, include it in the appropriate, designated sections of your essential publications, documents, and grant applications.

It’s also important to take steps to get your staff, volunteers and other supporters to align with your mission. When others are in alignment with your NFP’s mission, it means that everyone is focusing their efforts and working together towards a common objective.

Failing to align your team with your mission leads to a lot of wasted time, effort and other resources, making it much harder to achieve any of your goals.

Alignment is the Result of Effective Leadership

Aligning your team with your mission comes down to how effective your organisation’s leadership is, at every level. Just like culture, the mission statement is defined by leadership. It is up to your leaders to model your NFP’s vision and values, making sure that their talk matches their actions and is true to the mission statement. Leaders then can speak to others from a position of authenticity and honesty, which is especially important when they hold others accountable to achieving the mission.

Communication is the Key to Alignment

Leadership should communicate your mission to the rest of the team, so that your staff, volunteers and other stakeholders know what’s at stake, and how their work specifically contributes to advancing the mission forward.

Conduct periodic surveys with your staff, volunteers and other stakeholders to see what they think about the mission statement and whether it is an accurate reflection of how they experience their connection with your organisation. If there’s a disconnect there, it’s a good idea to ask questions to learn what areas your NFP needs to address to bring the organisation, and its culture, in closer alignment with the mission.

Keep Your Core Mission Top of Mind

As time goes on and the number and types of services that you offer grows, it’s easy for leadership and other stakeholders to become distracted. Take steps to help everyone keep the mission at the forefront of their thoughts and actions.

Make Your Mission Measurable, and Meaningful on a Personal Level

Hold periodic meetings to remind your team of the mission. Tie in goals and the evaluation of your team’s group and individual performance to advancing the mission. Show how important your mission is by tying compensation, bonuses, recognition and perks to how well your team members advance the mission.

Distractions from Your Core Mission Weaken Performance

Reduce distractions by using your mission as the yardstick by which you measure proposals. If a program or service isn’t really advancing your purpose, it’s probably something that you want to at least think about reducing, eliminating, or perhaps partnering with a third party to provide. Keep the spotlight on your core mission and increase your efficiency and effectiveness in the process.


Read Full Post »

One way that nonprofits are very similar to traditional for-profit companies is that both types of organisations need creative approaches and new solutions to old problems. This might be an even more pressing need for NFPs since many already operate on very lean budgets. Encouraging open communications, and, hosting brainstorming sessions with staff members and other stakeholders are two ways for your nonprofit to come up with the innovations and advances that it must have to make real progress on your mission and goals.

The following tips will help your brainstorming sessions be more productive.

Select an Issue or Goal that’s Open Ended

Not every problem can be solved by brainstorming. Sometimes the nature of an issue requires immediate, and decisive action, even if that action might not be the most optimal solution. Before you call a meeting and solicit suggestions, make sure that the subject is one that needs a unique, “out-of-the-box” solution and keep in mind that the best sessions and ideas will come forward when you can have a no limits, no holds barred type of discussion.

Forewarn Your Participants

Once you’ve decided on an issue to tackle, come up with a list of participants. Let them know the topic well in advance of the day and time it will be discussed. This allows your group to begin thinking of potential solutions even before you gather, and in effect, “primes the pump” of inspiration, making it more likely that you will receive one or more great ideas. Ask each participant to think about the problem and to bring at least 3 or 4 good ideas to the meeting. Choose a quiet room free of distractions and one that offers privacy so that everyone will feel free to talk out loud and say what’s on their mind. Make sure the room is a cozy temperature, has comfortable seats arranged around a sturdy table so it will be easier for your members to contribute in a meaningful way.

Getting Started

Once you and your participants have assembled for the session, appoint a facilitator to lead the group if you will not be doing so. It’s also a good idea to select a second person to write down everyone’s ideas, preferably using a computer and projector, or on a simple “whiteboard” with dry erase markers. Whatever visual tool that you decide to use for your list of ideas, make sure each member can easily see all of the ideas as they are suggested. Provide your members with their own writing and list making tools.

Ask and You Will Receive

You could ask for members to get things rolling by volunteering their suggestions, or, you could go round-robin around the room asking each person to contribute one or more ideas. Whatever you do, don’t critique any one idea at the point. Just encourage everyone to make suggestions even if it seems a little “out there” – try not to overthink it! Often, ideas that are first aired are impractical, but they spark a conversation that leads to an approach that can really work wonders and solve the issue.

Hit a Pause? Use Prompts to Restart

At some point, you will notice that the flow of ideas and conversations will start to die off. Have the leader restart the session by using prompts to encourage additional creativity. Some ideas for prompts include using a single keyword as a trigger. Then have everyone suggest an idea that somehow relates to the trigger word. You could also ask for one more idea from someone in the group, and then go around the room having each member contribute their take on this suggestion, such as how it could be improved and made even better. A third type of prompt is to add a little role playing to the mix to get participants to look at the problem from a different perspective. This will enable them to consider how they might approach the issue if they had a different background or job.

Narrow Your List

Once you’ve got a lengthy list of possible solutions, have your participants to vote on their favourite ones. Discuss the ideas that they selected in more depth, coming up with a list of pros and cons for each along with suggestions that will make the solutions better and more practical to implement. Take a final vote to discover the top two or three ideas and go back through the process to further refine each one until you come up with workable solutions for the task.

Wrap it Up

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a brainstorming session and allow it to go on too long. Extended sessions are tiresome for most folks, so be sure to bring your discussion to a close within an hour or so. If you’ve come up with too many suggestions and it will take longer than the original hour to narrow your list down, simply split your session and host a second one to be able to give plenty of time to shortening your list and improving your ideas without exhausting your participants.

Read Full Post »

Being successful at garnering positive media coverage of your nonprofit and its events can play a critical role in getting the word out about your cause. It also provides a tremendous boost to your campaigns, making it easier to reach your fundraising goals.

The following tips will show you how to attract media support and use it to your NFP’s best advantage.

Research Your Target Audience to Discover Where They Get Their News

Recruiting media takes a lot of research and preparation. Ideally, you want to try to attract coverage from those journalists, bloggers and news outlets that your existing audience is already reading and watching.

Once you know where your audience is getting their news, you can begin to target specific publications, channels and reporters. Subscribe to the publications where your audience is consuming their news to get a feel for the types of stories that they enjoy, as well as the topics specific journalists and publications prefer to cover.

You can save money by searching for free, online versions of many newspapers, magazines and periodicals. Using a media database is also another way that you can stay informed about the issues and stories that interest your audience and learn more about the writers and publishers that produce the news.

Create Compelling, Newsworthy Stories

Once you know what types of stories will interest both your audience and the media you will target, you can get to work creating stories that will resonate with your supporters. This will encourage media to begin following your work and covering your events and other significant news that impacts your NFP and its community.

When crafting your stories to release to the media, try to view your subject matter objectively, and write with a professional, unbiased viewpoint. Rather than focusing on trying to convince your audience to take a specific action, emphasise the information that you are relaying to your audience. Rather than selling, you are informing.

Include a catchy headline and use a dateline at the beginning to let the reader know the location of the event. Use the “pyramid” method of telling a story to craft your news item. This means that the most important details are placed at the beginning, in the lead paragraph of the story, while less important details are placed at the end, or left out altogether. Include a link to your NFP’s website, along with a clear image, or video if possible, that supports the information in your story.

Once you’ve created a press release, use a third-party newswire service to automatically distribute it to hundreds to thousands of news outlets in your local and regional area.

Develop Your NFP’s Spokespersons

Keep in mind that you aren’t confined to simply writing stories about your latest events and campaigns. You can also help key influencers in your organisation to develop their voice and use it to spread awareness about your cause. These influencers might be your NFP’s director, a board member, or even a volunteer that is closely involved with your organisation’s activities.

You can help them to establish their authority in a given area by allowing them to create some of the posts on your blog. Allowing the media to interview these influencers is also a great way to establish their connection to your organisation and their credibility as a spokesperson. Going forward, your in-house experts can then be called upon to publicly comment on any number of news stories that relate to your organisation, and the work that it does in your community.

Monitor Your NFP’s Reputation in the News

Not all of your media coverage will be proactive, or positive. To stay up-to-date on news items that affect your NFP and its work, take steps to monitor the news for reports involving your NFP. Use an RSS service to enter keywords that relate to your nonprofit, so that you receive alerts any time that your organisation’s name, or tagline, appear in the various news outlets. Well before you are caught unawares, create a media response plan so that everyone in your organisation knows what to say, and who to contact, should a reporter ask them for a comment on a story.

Read Full Post »

The relationship between many NFPs and their funders is in a state of transition. Competition for government grants, endowments from both public and private sources and even individual donations is growing. It’s becoming more difficult to secure all the monies needed to fund projects and services and build capacity to serve as Federal budgets have been slashed and all donors expect more transparency and accountability from nonprofits as they push for them to provide greater value with less.

If your nonprofit is feeling the pinch, you might be dealing with increased pushback and reluctant on the part of your board, and supporters, to spend money on updating your software and other IT infrastructure.  Cutting back on IT spending might save some money in your NFP’s budget, but it can be a very shortsighted strategy. This is especially true if the outdated technology is causing money to “disappear” in the cracks of your processes and if errors are made due to faulty software and other IT issues.

The following three reasons can help you make a case for investing in IT to your board and other interested parties.

Big Data Relies on Updated Tech

Demographic and other data is critical for tracking and measuring the impact made by the programs and services that your NFP offers. This information is also used in fundraising activities and other critical areas of your nonprofit.

Being able to accurately capture, organise, and later import this data for analysis requires the latest IT hardware and software. If you’re using the outdated technology, you’re missing out on opportunities to capture information that can help you to improve the services that you provide your community, as well as being able to paint an accurate picture of the work that your organisation is doing to improve the lives of others.

Even activities that seemingly don’t require IT, such as fundraising depend on updated tech. Using current hardware and software enables you to improve the message of your fundraising campaigns, measure effectiveness so adjustments can be made to improve results, and allow mobile payment processing so that its easier for supporters to contribute via their preferred payment method.

IT is the Key to Streamlining Your Recruiting and Training Programs

Many nonprofits have difficulty recruiting enough staff and volunteers. Apps can help you simplify the process of applying for a position with your NFP. Technology makes it easy for you to list your openings online and makes it possible for others to apply using mobile platforms via apps. Current IT also makes it easier for your NFP to train its staff and volunteers, communicate and perform other work from remote locations. It also helps to level the field for diverse populations so that those with limitations such as physical disabilities, or language barriers can still participate in your programs and both provide and gain assistance.

Securing Sensitive Information and Other Assets is Your NFP’s Responsibility

When we think of NFP assets, we  think of physical property, actual cash, or other tangible belongings. However,  your nonprofit’s financial records, and private, confidential information are types of intangible, or intellectual property, that your NFP has a duty to take reasonable steps to protect from theft, loss or other unintentional release. Using outdated technology increases the risk that any and all of your assets can be compromised, whether they are physical or intangible. Updating your software and hardware is the easiest and most effective way to increase the security of your information and other assets.

It’s been estimated that around half of all nonprofits currently have IT components that don’t work well for them. With so much at stake, investing in updated technology to increase the efficiency, effectiveness and security of your processes is one of the wisest decisions your board can make, especially in times of reduced funding.

Read Full Post »

Being stressed out seems to be an all too common occurrence in the workplace today. The side effects of it are genuinely terrible. Along with raising our heart rate and blood pressure, stress saps our motivation and productivity levels so getting a handle on it should be a priority for everyone.

The following seven tips can help you relieve the pressure so that you will feel better and be able to get more done during your workday.

Cut the Clutter

When our workspace is unorganised and piled up with unfiled paperwork and misplaced objects, it is visually distracting and can add to our stress levels. An easy way to beat the stress and feel more in control during your day is to take a few moments to clear off your desk, and organise the items in your workspace.

Place the items that you most frequently use within hands reach, and store items that you rarely use away in a closet, filing cabinet or other storage area. Before you leave each day, take a few moments to tidy your space so that you start the next day off with the proverbial clean slate.

Turn Up the Lights

How is the lighting in your workspace? If you spend lots of time in front of your computer, pouring over transactions and other financial information, having adequate lighting is important to prevent eyestrain as well as lift your mood.

Ensure that your workspace has adequate overhead lighting and consider adding lamps or changing the type of bulbs that you use. If you can, position your desk close to a source of natural light to help your body regulate its internal clock so that you feel more awake during daylight hours.

Add a Personal Touch

Add a few decorative plants to your workspace to soften your environment and make it more warm and relaxing. Place a framed picture of your loved ones, or another image that brings a smile to your face, on your desk to add a personal touch to your space and to remind you of why your work matters.

Consider Updating Your Accountancy Software

Old, out of date systems are frustrating to work with. Lighten your load by upgrading your nonprofits accounting software to a fully automated one, such as Admin Bandit’s so that it’s faster and easier to stay on top of your NFP’s finances.

Put the Kibosh on Interruptions

Few things are as frustrating as having your full concentration unexpectedly interrupted. Beat the stress by putting an end to interruptions. Learn to set boundaries with co-workers and others so that they know not to swing by for a chat when you are fully engaged in working on something important. Set the right expectations when it comes to answering phone calls and emails, and only send replies during set times of the day rather than reading and replying to messages and calls throughout the day.

Walk it Out

Don’t forget to take frequent breaks during your day and get up from your desk and walk around your facility. Doing so will help you to mentally switch gears. It also stretches your muscles and increases your intake of fresh air, which are all good to relive the tension and stress that you are unconsciously carrying in your body.

Practice Good Self Care at Home

When our minds and bodies are healthy, they are more resilient to the effects of stress. Take good care of yourself both in and outside of the office. Eat healthy foods, get plenty of water and good night’s rest to support optimal health and nutrition so that you are mentally and physically prepared to give your best at work.

Read Full Post »

There’s a reason why it’s typically difficult for nonprofits to find candidates to fulfil the role of treasurer in their organisation. The responsibilities that come with the job can truly be daunting since there are so many duties that you must perform well and on time.

The following guide is a brief overview of five of the most essential tasks and duties new treasurers should perform when they take on the position.

Meet with the Previous Treasurer

It’s beneficial to the new treasurer when the prior one is available to go over the accounts with them and answer crucial questions, such as the reasoning behind specific actions that they may have taken. If the previous treasurer is unable to meet with you personally, ask them to at least provide you with a list of the essential details that you will need to perform your job well, such as your NFP’s passwords.

Realise That You Are Much More Than a Bookkeeper and Gatekeeper

While it is your responsibility to see that accurate and secure records of your NFP’s transactions are made and maintained, this doesn’t mean that you must do all of the tasks yourself. Delegating these duties to a staff member, or outsourcing them is perfectly fine, and is typically necessary for medium to large-sized NFPs. Software suites such as Admin Bandit also automate many of these processes, including many of the budgeting processes and reports that you will need to produce.

While oversight is a crucial function of your role in helping your NFP manage its finances, you should not forget that another critical responsibility is to act as a full partner and adviser with the other members of your board. You should always be on the lookout for ways to provide them with pertinent, actionable information that they can easily understand.

Establish Good Internal Financial Practices and Controls

Establish a practice of meeting with your board at least monthly, so that they are current and fully informed about the status of your NFP’s finances. In addition to advising the board of upcoming revenues and expenses at the meeting, make it a practice for the board to discuss planned expenditures before they occur, and establish controls so that purchases must be approved by you prior to disbursal of the funds.

Keep in mind that you should always have documentation on hand to support any disbursements that you make from your NFP’s funds, so always ask for invoices and receipts to justify your nonprofits purchases and other expenses.

Begin Budget Planning Early

While you should take the prior year’s budget into account when planning your next annual budget, keep in mind that needs, funding and other factors frequently change. Be aware that it can take several weeks to a few months to round up all of the data that you need to create a realistic model and forecast of your NFP’s budget for the coming year. Therefore, begin budget planning early, and ideally at least three months before the the start of your next fiscal year.

Don’t Forget About Annual Reports, Taxes and Other Legal Obligations

From VAT to GST, there are many tax filings and payments that your NFP is responsible for each year to meet its legal obligations and maintain its designation as an NFP, Charity or other status. Create a calendar and set alerts and reminders to help you keep important dates at the top of your mind.

Other key activities that you will need to complete before the end of the year include an annual report to your NFP board, and usually an audit by an independent third party. Make sure that you include these events on your calendar and schedule plenty of time to ensure that they are accurate when completed and filed promptly.

Read Full Post »

The famous words, “there is no such thing as bad publicity,” is a saying that’s accredited to circus owner and showman P.T. Barnum. Today, it’s widely quoted by public relations professionals to calm their anxious clients. While it’s a well-meaning adage, it’s also a complete myth.

The reputations of both for-profits and NFPs can suffer irreparable damage as the result of a scandal or other crisis. To lower the risk of harm, nonprofits need to be proactive and have a crisis management plan in place, before unexpected events occur, to help protect their standing in the community.

The following tips can help your nonprofit prepare to better weather the next storm.

Plan Ahead

Create a research committee to help your organisation think about what types of crisis can happen, and what steps can be taken ahead of time, to get things back on track and reduce the harm that occurs. When drafting a crisis management plan, it’s important that your NFP realises that disasters can come in many forms.

Examples of such events include an accident that removes a key member of your NFP from your team, weather events that damage your facilities or hidden fraud that suddenly comes to light. Internal and external events like these can put your mission in jeopardy unless you are proactive and plan ahead.

The goal of your plan is to make your organisation more aware of potential pitfalls that can occur, make changes in policies and procedures to reduce the risk of such events happening, and, to have steps in place to help your organisation deal with the aftermath should such an event befall you.

Create a Contact List

Ideally, you plan will include logistics and communications. Designate who your people should contact, both internally and externally, when various types of events occur. Assign point people that can lead others during these events. Decide on who will speak for your organisation, internally and externally.

For example, if something happens that affects the physical safety of others, pre-designate which members of your team will contact the fire department or police for help. Assign leaders that will oversee an evacuation of your facilities should the need arise.

Training and Drills

Does everyone know what they should do if a fire occurs, or, if an armed assailant were to break in? Do your people know how to respond if they are contacted by a member of the press and asked for comments about the work your organisation does or how they feel about a specific event? Train and drill your team on how to respond to potential threats as well as questions from the media.

Talk to the Press, but Do So on Your Own Terms

As part of your strategy, create a process that will increase transparency, while helping your NFP to get your side of the story out to media. Assign someone to gather information and facts about the event. Pre-designate a team that will handle the press and media inquiries. Have someone in place to monitor your social media accounts and to respond appropriately when questions and comments come in about the news. Train your management team so that each is prepared to be a good spokesperson for your organisation. Once you have a handle on what has occurred, and what steps your organisation is taking to remedy the situation, talk to the press, and tell your story on your website, and across your social media accounts. Be proactive and provide regular updates to show that your NFP is actively working on a solution to the crisis and what others can do to help support your NFP and its cause during this time.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »