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Posts Tagged ‘not-for-profit organisation’

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.

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Some people find it hard to ask other people for money, even when it’s not for personal gain, but when it comes to not for profit organisations, the responsibility to stay financially viable partially rests on the shoulders of the board.  There are however creative ways to create income without ‘fundraising’.

Neil Edgington from Social Velocity has practical and nonthreatening suggestions on his article 9 Ways Board Members Can Raise Money Without Fundraising.

Edgington strongly recommends using the personal networks of board members in a variety of ways.  Well connected members may have access to information that can add weight to a submission, tender or contract, or be in a position to arrange a meeting with a contact in a targeted business partner or customer.

Board members who are business leaders or entrepreneurs are also of great value in accessing extra income, as they may be able to help create or assess a business plan in relation to an earned income venture, highlighting opportunities and strengths, as well as potential risks.

Also discussed by the author and according to Penelope Burk’s annual donor survey, 84% of donors would “give again if they were thanked in a timely manner”.  A personal visit by a board member, and an explanation of why they are committed to the organisation might be just the catalyst the donor needs to dig deeper, or recommend a donation to another potential benefactor.

Another avenue worth considering but not discussed by Edgington, is whether your organisation has underutilised infrastructure or skills that are worth a premium to other parties.  For example, you may own buses or offices that can be used out of hours on a fee for service basis, or be able to offer consultancy, advice or audit type services in your area of specialty to organisations starting out or experiencing a period of change or review.

In an uncertain and less buoyant financial climate than one seen for many years, the responsibility of boards to assist in maintaining financial stability for their organisation is stronger than ever, but need not be confrontational or uncomfortable.  You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

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