What Would Nonprofit Network Do?

  • Friday, April 29, 2016 11:22 AM | Carrie Heider Grant (Administrator)


    We have been teaching Bridges Out of Poverty for two yearsthat's over 13 organizations and over one thousand individualsand the feedback is overwhelmingly positive.  Participants leave with a fresh perspective and a series of concepts that they can readily implemented in their daily work.  After our training with Community Action Agency, the "front-line" is now equipped to build stronger relationships with the families they serve and improve the success of their programs by taking small steps. One participant's plan had been incredibly straightforward and doesn't cost CAA a penny: "develop relationships before approaching with paperwork/forms." 


    That's the thing that makes Bridges such a powerful programthe resulting "next steps" are simple and actionable, but have the potential to revolutionize your program's outcomes and success. Nonprofit Network is able to customize this program to meet the needs of any organization, ranging from country hospitals to city police departments to grassroots programs and organizations.  Here's a a glimpse of the organizations we've trained in Bridges Out of Poverty in the past two years: 

    • Jackson Community Foundation
    • Barry Eaton Health Plan
    • Henry Ford Allegiance Health
    • Center for Family Health
    • SouthCentral Michigan Works
    • Compassionate Ministries
    • Community Action Agency
    • Jackson County Substance Abuse
    • Michigan Community Reinvestment Act 
    • City of Jackson Police Department
    • Felician Sisters
    • Building Michigan Communities Conference
    • Lenawee ISD

    If you'd like to learn more about the Bridges concepts, please join us on June 14 in Ann Arbor for an introduction to Bridges Out of Poverty.  This morning seminar is a great way to "get your feet wet" in the Bridges materialyour only regret will be that you didn't attend sooner. In the meanwhile, please reach out with any questions you have about the value and the content of Bridges.  We can bring this training to you in a variety of ways and will customize it to meet your needs.  Nonprofit Network exists to serve you.  


    Want more? Click here to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and announcements about training opportunities.  We promise to respect your time and will not flood your inbox.  We only send one or two e-mails each week. 


  • Friday, April 08, 2016 12:43 PM | Regina Pinney (Administrator)

    Last week, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette distributed a report indicating that on average, when a paid fundraiser is involved, fewer than 33% of the funds raised go to the nonprofit.


    This is scary on many levels:

    • Nonprofits (as a sector and for our individual missions) rely on a trusting relationship with our donors
    • We could have really used that extra 67%
    • The report didn’t qualify how the paid fundraiser was soliciting the donations (we all know the first gift a donor makes is the most expensive to secure as nonprofits – so were these fundraisers just acquiring first gifts?)
    • The report didn’t describe the trap that many nonprofits fall into when using unethical fundraisers who hold the donors information hostage

    But – I totally get it. You need money. You don’t have time. You don’t have enough volunteers to help. Your old tactics aren’t working. Calling in a professional seems like a good idea, and receiving some of more money is better than receiving none. That bottom line number (whatever the 33% is) is more than you have today and you might just be able to serve more people. There are many things that nonprofits can outsource to save money, manage time and be more productive – building relationships with donors isn’t one of them.


    If you are going to work with a professional fundraiser, make sure you maintain control of your donor list. Make sure the relationship with the donor is with you, the nonprofit – not with the fundraiser. Donors should be leery of high pressure tactics or if the check needs to be made out to someone other than the charity – ask who will show up on the donor's credit card receipt – the nonprofit or another name.  Donors should also use caution if the caller wants to pick up the donation immediately – most organizations are happy to wait for the donation to arrive in the mail. 


    On April 20, I am teaching Mission Driven Fundraising: Lead and Advance Your Fund Development Program. If you are struggling to generate the money you need, this full-day class will help. Together, we will problem solve how you recruit the people you need to implement the fund development plan that will advance your mission. You will still need to find time, but I promise that we will work on efficient strategies and practices that makes the time you do have more productive. 


  • Thursday, March 17, 2016 11:20 AM | Tom Williams (Administrator)

    The word is printed on our money, in political ads, blazoned across product advertisements and blaring from our media sources. We use the word often. TRUST.  It is often misunderstood and sometimes “trust” seems like an evasive concept. In the nonprofit world, this idea about building trust is crucial to our donors, clients, stakeholders and partners. But I’m not sure we truly focus on building and safeguarding trust. We need to better understand and keep on the front burner as we make decisions as staff and board members in our organizations.

    Some might say that trust is primarily about one's character. But in reality, there is a formula for building and maintaining trust: competence, respect and integrity. You can have complete confidence in someone's character, but if you don't know that he or she has the ability and the willingness to follow through and a willingness to listen—in short, that the person is able to accomplish the task—then trust is absent.

    Trust not a soft concept, but rather a hard and clear element that is critical in all relationships, especially those between nonprofit and the community, nonprofit staff and boards and among colleagues. When trust is in low supply, things move slower and opportunities (think resources!) get missed. I encourage you to look at your professional relationships--with your board, with your executive director, with your staff and with your community and intentionally work to build, reinforce and, if necessary, repair trust.



    Nonprofit Network has resources and tools available to help you build trust within and around your organization and to strengthen your team. Contact Tom today or call us at 517-796-4750 to have a conversation about how we might facilitate that process for you.

  • Thursday, September 04, 2014 11:15 AM | Regina Pinney (Administrator)

    Evaluating the Executive Director
    How to make it a valuable use of everyone’s time and a useful tool for moving forward


    Conducting a performance evaluation is typically not one of the reasons a board

    member serves a nonprofit. 


    But one of the most important jobs a board does is choosing, supporting and evaluating the chief executive. 


    An effective and ongoing performance evaluation is one of those tasks when - done well - can “build” a great organization. Evaluating the executive director has a critical role in the overall success of an organization.  It should be regarded as one of the most important functions of the board.


    I often say that good leadership is the one crucial element of success for every nonprofit.  A great board creates a great executive director – and a great executive director creates a great board.  Neither can happen in isolation or without deliberateness. 


    The evaluation process is one of those deliberate acts.  Performance evaluations are an opportunity to address unclear expectations and poor communication. 
    Evaluations should be an ongoing process – not a task that is ever completed.  The ongoing feedback should serve as a guide for the executive director and a source of professional support. 


    But possibly more important, evaluating the executive director is part of the natural flow of the organization and should be incorporated into the annual strategic planning process. 


    The ED starts with evaluating the staff and an assessment of the internal needs of the organization.   The Board evaluates the ED and assesses how the strengths of the Executive Director can move the organization forward and the barriers to success or issues that slow progress.  The Board should also evaluate themselves and their own effectiveness.


    These results are then taken into account as the organization creates a strategic plan – what does the organization need to accomplish goals more efficiently and effectively.  Once the strategic plan has been developed, the budget process begins and supports the strategic plan.


    While the process should be customized to fit your organization, here are a few possible questions that could be answered by the entire board:
    o Name the director’s three greatest strengths.
    o Has s/he helped strengthen the board? How/In what ways?
    o Have organizational systems improved? How/In what ways?
    o Has staff productivity and morale improved? How/In what ways?
    o Has s/he helped advance the quality of our programs? How/In what ways?
    o Has funding increased?  How did this occur?

    o Has the public’s interest in the organization increased?
    o How can s/he become an even more effective leader? 


    Nonprofit Network offers assistance in the area of performance evaluations.  We   provide comprehensive tools and will help evaluate results.  If you need help, just call. 

     

  • Thursday, July 17, 2014 12:40 PM | Deleted user

    Are You Inclusive? Here's a Test 
    by Regina Funkhouser - Executive Director

     

    If the demographics of your donors, board members, staff and clients don’t reflect the average make up of your community, your recruiting, hiring and fundraising practices may not be geared to include everyone.  Nonprofits can sometimes fall into a homogeneous trap.  Board members look and think the same.  Staff looks and thinks the same.  Donors look and think the same. And sometimes – without intention – the design of our services exclude rather than include. 


    Being an inclusive organization that values diversity doesn’t “just happen”.  Like every other best practice, organizations must be committed and diligent to have good habits.  If you are intentionally an inclusive organization, you will naturally attract donations from a diverse population, your board will be diverse in skill set, education, race, income and culture and when you post positions, you will have a diverse set of applicants to interview.  If you don’t attract diversity, I suggest you examine your practices for any that may be exclusive. 


    Nonprofit Network strives to be a model of inclusion.  We believe that bringing diverse individuals together is essential to effectively address the issues that face current and prospective partners. 



  • Wednesday, July 09, 2014 12:30 PM | Deleted user

    Top 10 Technology Takeaways

    (A Recap of the Nonprofit Network’s Tech Expo)

    By Rebecca Caulkins, Public Relations and Technology Manager, Experience Jackson


    The Nonprofit Network’s Inaugural Tech Expo was quite a success. Everyone walked away with something valuable, whether that was something they’d like to start doing, something they’d like to stop doing or something they would start doing differently.


    Speakers from Bloomerang, Data Driven Detroit, Courtland Consulting, RjM and Highway T presented on a variety of technology related topics including: making advocacy maps with Google Fusion Tables, social media for nonprofits, Microsoft 365, Google AdWords, and cloud security and ethics.


    Unique to this event were the short tech talks that gave 15 minute snippets of each topic. These optional previews gave attendees the opportunity to choose the sessions on their top priority list or spend that time interacting with vendors.


    My Top 10 Technology Takeaways:


    1.  Use interactive Google Maps and Google Fusion Tables to spend time with data and have  an important visual for grant writing.


    2.      Of 9000 small to medium nonprofits surveyed, 20% spend less than an hour on social media and 40% spend 1-2 hours on social media. 


    3.      45% find social media very valuable, yet 65% have no strategies for social media marketing. 


    4.      Create a separate Google UTM code for each media to track data in Google Analytics. (UTM codes are little snippets of text added to the end of your URL to help you track the clicks of your ads on the web.) 


    5.      Learn how to harness online advocates offline by engaging with your online champions individually and in other avenues.


    6.      Three types of nonprofit social media posts are: appreciation, advocacy and appeals. 


    7.      Donor retention rate is a very important statistic. After first donation the rate is 22. 9%, but after second donation the rate raises to 60%. Acknowledge that first gift within 7 days.


    8.      Follow the “You Test” when writing appeals: Always have more “You” statements than “I” or “We”.


    9.      Google Ad Grants are available to nonprofits for up to $2 Cost Per Click and up to $10,000 a month.


    10.   Use action verbs when writing you ads. For example, “Click here for…” 

     

    Rebecca Calkins, Public Relations and Technology Manager for Experience Jackson manages the social media on Facebook /ExperienceJackson and Twitter @ExperienceJxn as well as a monthly eNewsletter. Rebecca grew up in Jackson and returned after attending college at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. When not working, she enjoys cooking and traveling and is always looking for the "next culinary or cultural adventure." 

  • Monday, July 07, 2014 1:32 PM | Deleted user

    Planning For an Engaged Board

    By Regina Funkhouser, Executive Director

     

    Are you struggling with a less than fully functioning board?  Do you find your board meetings lasting way too long and filled with conversations that produce no decisions and no action?  Are your meetings filled with committee chairs rambling on about committee details?  Do you have board members that consistently don’t show up?  Do you struggle to get on the same page?

    A fully engaged, active board doesn’t happen organically.  It takes deliberate acts, concentrated efforts, planning and lots of behind the scenes work to create a board that understands their role and takes governance seriously. 

     

    Steps to engaging your board:

    1)      Recruit board members with a plan – and share the plan with the candidates  Starting off your board development meetings with a statement that resembles “I know someone that may say yes” is a clear signal that all you are doing is filling the seats with beating hearts.   Developing an engaged board member starts (and sometimes ends) with the recruitment process.  Board members want to be part of an exclusive team and are honored and impressed that a board made every effort to be sure of a good fit, rather than simply seeking a beating heart that said yes. The recruitment process sets the expectations – any minimization of the legal duties, fundraising responsibilities or time commitment will eventually have a new board member asking if they have been tricked into making a commitment.  If the recruitment process is done poorly and without deliberateness – you will have a board member that shows up to three meetings and then disappears, rarely speaks or worse yet – micromanages (micromanagers are not “bad” board members, but board members who are seeking their role – guessing what, exactly, they should be doing.)  Set the bar high and lay out clear expectations of attendance, participation, donating, fundraising and leadership. 

     

     

    2)      Recognize that board orientation is not a task – it is a process Handing a new board member a 3 inch binder with every policy, procedure, itemized budget and marketing piece from the last five years and going through it page by page is not orientation, it’s torture.  I’m not saying never provide these items, I’m just saying that especially in the beginning, less is more and quality before quantity. Even if a new board member read every ream of paper you gave them, they cannot possibly retain or apply the knowledge. This practice will only overwhelm a new board member.  It may take 18 months before a board member has been through a complete cycle of your budget process, your planning process, your evaluation process and committee process.  Recognize that ongoing training to apply knowledge is critical to the ability to participate fully as a board member.  If we continue to expect a new board member to “get it” after three months, we create a group of people who collectively think “I must be the only one who doesn’t understand this because I’m new, so I will remain mute and allow others to make decisions.”

    3)      Even the best board members need hand holding, follow up and reminders We choose board members based on their ability to get things done.  Regardless of their passion for our mission – they have a job, a family, a life and other commitments that keep them very busy.  Of course they want to donate – but don’t expect them to remember it’s been a year since their last donation.  Don’t send them committee meeting notes a day before the next meeting – or worse – hand them out at the meeting – and expect a board member to remember what they volunteered to do.  Board members need and appreciate reminders.  Send an email to say “our next meeting is in two weeks, at our last meeting we agreed to ….”. 

    4)      Create a mutually beneficial relationship  If we expect Board Members to come prepared, rise to the occasion, work diligently as a group and expect to be intellectually taxed by complex and consequential questions then by golly we better deliver that opportunity.  Allow your agenda to create this environment.  If there is no discussion required, put the report: financial, committees, Executive Director’s, on the consent agenda.  Don’t allow anyone to “read” to your board or for your board.  They are big girls and boys and can do it themselves.  Fill your board meetings with engaging and interesting governance conversations.  I recommend creating an annual board calendar with these conversations scheduled.  These could include budget planning conversations (are our staffing levels appropriate – will we need to figure out how to hire more next year or should we add or eliminate a program), strategic planning review sessions, possibly even committee training sessions, for example the finance committee could do an annual reminder about what happens at the committee level, what the reports that are given to the board mean and what philosophies they are using to manage money.

     

    5)      Work the locker room Sometimes, the Board Chair and/or the Executive Director needs to spend some time in the locker room.  The intent of these locker room conversations may be to simply check in to make sure the board member is feeling heard, has any concerns or if the organization/board is living up to their end of the bargain in the mutually beneficial relationship department.  When is the last time your board members have been asked if they think time at the board meeting is well spent, if meetings are run efficiently or if decisions are being thoroughly vetted?  Asking the question is as valuable as the answer. 

     

    6)      Define and Measure The fastest way to kill momentum is to fail to define and measure.  We all agree that board members need to participate in fundraising and raise more money. But if we don’t take a moment to collectively define and share a vision for what “participate” means or what “more” means, we will never agree on what success looks like.  One board member will donate a check and think they did their part, while another board member is organizing house parties, meeting with possible donors, writing thank you notes and selling raffle tickets.  Both efforts may be fine, but if we never discussed the expectations and the shared definition –one may look across the board table and wonder why they are doing all the work while the other does nothing.  Without a common language and shared definition, when will we know it’s time to celebrate a win?

    Create an environment that breeds success – not failure – around your board table.  Make sure everyone has the right tools, clear expectations and the training required.  And most importantly, repeat frequently. 

  • Tuesday, July 01, 2014 1:31 PM | Deleted user

    By Regina Funkhouser


    A fully engaged, active board doesn’t happen organically.  It takes deliberate acts, concentrated efforts, planning and lots of behind the scenes work to create a board that understands their role and takes governance seriously.  


    Recognize that board orientation is not a task – it is a process Handing a new board member a 3 inch binder with every policy, procedure, itemized budget and marketing piece from the last five years and going through it page by page is not orientation, it’s torture.  I’m not saying never provide these items, I’m just saying that especially in the beginning, less is more and quality before quantity. Even if a new board member read every ream of paper you gave them, they cannot possibly retain or apply the knowledge. This practice will only overwhelm a new board member.  It may take 18 months before a board member has been through a complete cycle of your budget process, your planning process, your evaluation process and committee process.  Recognize that ongoing training to apply knowledge is critical to the ability to participate fully as a board member.  If we continue to expect a new board member to “get it” after three months, we create a group of people who collectively think “I must be the only one who doesn't understand this because I’m new, so I will remain mute and allow others to make decisions.”
  • Thursday, June 05, 2014 2:39 PM | Deleted user

     

    Recently, Brian Philson, President and CEO of Highfields, Inc was a guest facilitator at a recent Nonprofit Network Executive Director Morning Networking event. He noted some practical tips about how to navigate an effective relationship with your Board Chair.

    The Board Chair and Executive Director relationship can either help the nonprofit "thrive in tits mission" or severely hinder the nonprofit's growth and success. When it goes "south" it can cause long - term damage to the nonprofit. When it is in perfect harmony, the agency will thrive and experience success.

    From my experience and training I believe there are some important keys to making this relationship "highly effective" and allow the nonprofit to thrive in its mission. There are three keys to cultivating a successful relationship:

    Good Communication I believe a monthly face to face meeting is important. In addition, setting agendas together and a "dress rehearsal" prior to each board meeting is a good idea, even if by phone or email. There should be no surprises!

    Role Clarification Having a good understanding of what the Board Chair and Executive Director roles are is very important. There are some basic roles that should not overlap, but depending on the organization and the personalities, these may be unique in each and every situation. In some cases, the roles may even overlap, underscoring the importance of “good communication”.

    Decide where you (might) put these roles:

    ·         Fundraising

    ·         Fundraising - Board Member involvement
    ·         Daily personnel and budgetary issues
    ·         Sharing the long-term vision of the nonprofit 

    Good Chemistry With a High Level of Trust This is pretty critical in my opinion and having an ability to be candid and open with one another is important. There are time when you need to talk about sensitive information and strategize on how to move forward. Examples might be about staff, donors, board members, finances, etc. This takes work based on time and investment.

    Brian D. Philson, LMSW, ACSW President/ CEO
    Bphilson@highfields.org

    Brian started with Highfields in July, 2006 as the director of residential services. He was promoted to vice president of programming before being promoted to President/CEO in August 2008. Brian earned his master’s degree in social work at Michigan State University and bachelor’s degree in social work at Spring Arbor College, where he later became an instructor. He is a member of the National Partnership for Juvenile Services, a Board Member of the Michigan Federation for Children and Families and a member of the National Association of Social Workers.

  • Monday, March 17, 2014 2:06 PM | Regina Pinney (Administrator)

    We all agree that board members need to participate in fundraising and raise more money. But if we don’t take a moment to collectively define and share a vision for what “participate” means or what “more” means, we will never agree on what success looks like.  One board member will donate a check and think they did their part, while another board member is organizing house parties, meeting with possible donors, writing thank you notes and selling raffle tickets. 

     

    Both efforts may be fine, but if we never discuss the expectation or define what participation looks like–one may look across the board table and wonder why they are doing all the work while the other does nothing.  Without a common language and shared definition, when will we know it’s time to celebrate a win.

     

    Create an environment that breeds success – not failure – around your board table.  Make sure everyone has the right tools, clear expectations and the training required.  And most importantly, repeat frequently. 

     

    More about how to engage your board in fundraising

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