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  • Wednesday, December 19, 2018 1:43 PM | Sharon Castle (Administrator)




    Sharon Castle

    Capacity Builder

    Sharon@nonprofnetwork.org

    “One of the things we often miss in succession planning is that it should be gradual and thoughtful, with lots of sharing of information and knowledge and perspective, so that it’s almost a non-event when it happens.”

    -Anne M. Mulcahy, Former CEO and Chairwoman, Xerox

    As we enter a new year, it seems all but impossible to not think about ways in which we hope to improve over the past and establish good habits. The challenge, of course, is sticking to our resolutions and embedding them into our lives so a year from now we can look back with the pride of knowing at least one of our resolutions stuck. 

    Here’s a resolution challenge for 2018: succession planning.

    Succession planning doesn’t just happen, but (and this is a big BUT) it doesn’t have to, and frankly, shouldn’t be a separate organizational activity. Upon realizing we are all dispensable and “things” happen, one habit I developed many years ago, was to always do my work so that anyone could take over at any time. Not only was a succession planning mindset great for the organization, but it also benefited me personally. 

    Think about the planning you have to do before going on vacation, taking maternity/paternity leave or caring for an ill child or parent. If you create succession habits regularly, anyone should be able to pick up the mantle of your job.

    Throughout my career. folks who took over positions from which I moved on have gone out of their way to thank me for “leaving a trail that was easy to follow.” How did I do it? It was easy once I approached my job with a succession planning mindset. In this digital age, it is easier than ever to insure that our successors have every advantage at succeeding.

    So, how do we embed succession planning in our daily work lives?

    • Establish a well-ordered, simple filing system for digital and manual files
    • Create a (insert your title here) “how to” manual file and include:
      • Updated job description for your position 
      • Updated job description for any position reporting to you
      • Updated organizational chart
      • Annual goals and objectives for your areas of responsibility—Review/update these goals and objectives quarterly
    • Create and maintain project folders and “next step” notes on ongoing projects
    • When starting a task, ask yourself, “If I had never done this before, what would I need to know?” and document the steps to complete the task for inclusion in your “how to” manual file
    • Develop KISS (keep it simple stupid!) systems that are easily followed
    • Don’t reinvent the wheel; create templates for all documents used on a fairly regular basis
    • Communicate regularly with co-workers about important projects
    • Mentor a colleague
    • Give continuous/helpful feedback to staff under your supervision
    • When attending a webinar, reading an article or joining a professional organization, include a brief summary of why the particular activity was helpful to your professional development


    Need help getting started? We can assist you with establishing good succession planning habits in your day-to-day operations or with developing a succession plan.





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  • Friday, September 28, 2018 10:14 AM | Regina Pinney (Administrator)

        

    We know that working together as a group to get better is time well spent.  In the long run, it also saves time, resources and reduces disengagements and frustration. But getting people in the same room to devote the time might be the biggest challenge. Professional development is so important, but scheduling more time together is often difficult to coordinate as a group.

    Nonprofit Network has developed a solution: Fundamental Conversations for Nonprofit Boards. Our team of experts have created this 7-part video course that prepares and frames your crucial conversations around board governance.

    You can now offer your board professional development when it is most convenient for you. Each of the 7 videos is just 10 minutes or fewer and comes with a corresponding Discussion Guide.

    Individuals can watch on their own before a meeting to discuss as a group during a meeting, or you can view each video as a group over the course of several months—or even all at once in a retreat setting.  

    This course frames and directs each conversation, allowing you to focus on whats most important for your organization. 

    The course is $50 for members and $75 for nonmembers. 

    Click here for more details: Online Store

     


  • Thursday, September 13, 2018 8:47 AM | Regina Pinney (Administrator)

    Today, if nonprofits had all the money in the world, they still wouldn't be able to scale their missions to make true and lasting difference.

    The Stanford Survey on Leadership and Management in the Nonprofit Sector (2017) found that four of five nonprofits struggle with leadership and management and only 11% are prepared to scale for optimal impact.

    Most nonprofits are struggling with weak board governance, fundraising and impact evaluation and, as a result, are not ready or able to scale to increase their impact.

    We can all do better.

    Simple strategies, effective tools and sometimes even an “easy button” can transform your organization and help you scale for optimal impact.

    Nonprofit Network’s mission is to help you address these issues without taking your eye off what matters most to you.

    For 20 years, we have existed as a direct result of the expressed needs of the community. Nonprofits, funders and leaders know that organizations need technical assistance, expert advice and assistance so that investments are leveraged and missions are impactful.

    And we are scaling up our impact.

    Nonprofit Network provides professional development opportunities, a broad range of consulting services and on-demand tools, resources, advice and coaching.

    Our expert facilitators, coaches and trainers provide trusted guidance and assessment for your specific needs. From strategic planning services to “quick questions,” we can help you be stronger.

    We meet you where you are and provide you with a selection of affordable and relevant services, including:

    • In-depth organizational assistance
    • Trusted information and referrals
    • Ongoing nonprofit board and management essentials

    We can help prepare you for optimal impact through strategic planning, leadership development and improved fundraising strategies.

    Each organization is unique. Nonprofit Network customizes services that take your available resources into consideration—like time, money, energy—to create a process that will work for your specific needs.



  • Friday, September 07, 2018 12:08 PM | Deleted user



    Sharon Castle
    Capacity Builder
    Sharon@nonprofnetwork.org



    Question:  On a scale of 1 – 10, how important is a nonprofit board of directors?

    Answer:  10+

    If building a strong board is tantamount to running a healthy, vibrant and successful nonprofit organization, how do we build a dynamic board? 

    While the answer is complex, there are strategies you can use to enhance your success.

    1) Identify your organization’s needs. Look for a tool or establish a method that will help in the evaluation of the board’s make-up as it relates to the Board structure and organizational needs.  Some of the areas of focus will likely be finance, fundraising, marketing, human resources, program participants or folks who utilize your organization’s services. 

    2. Evaluate your current board to see if they fulfill these criteria and if not, identify the gaps.

    Now that you’ve identified gaps where do you look for potential Board Members?

    3. Review donor lists.  Someone who is giving financial support to your organization clearly has a passion for the work you do and having a passion for the work is essential for Board members.  If someone is a donor and has the skills you are looking for, you may have a great recruit.

    4. Utilize the web.  LinkedIn has a great tool you can use to “search for a skill” or “experience you need” for your nonprofit.  You can also post your volunteer opportunity. 

    5. Don’t necessarily look at someone who serves on many boards. Do look to see who has been an effective leader on a board.

    6. Develop job descriptions that identify clear expectations.  No one likes surprises or wasting time.  Does your board have a policies on board giving and board meeting attendance?  Are Board members expected to serve on committees?  Be up front with recruits.  I would rather have someone say “no” to serving on the board then say “yes” and not have a clue about what they are getting into.

    7. Consistently provide Board members with organizational information and choose a section to review at periodic Board meetings.  Information should include your mission (I am always impressed – and not in a good way – when Board members don’t know an organization’s mission), copy of current budget, most recent strategic plan, annual Board and development calendars.

    Now you’ve got them, how do you keep them engaged? 

    8. Adhere to the Board calendar. Remembering Board meetings should not just be comprised of a report from the E.D.  Boards should be setting the organization’s vision, asking questions about the budget and other financial issues, and discussing how they are going to assist in garnering the financial resources to meet the mission.

    9. Invite a donor to share why they support your organization or a recipient of services to share their experience to periodic board meetings.  This would be the first item on the agenda and after the visitor leaves, engage in a conversation about why the donor gives and possibly, who might also like to give (prospecting) or how could your programs be better, friendlier or easier to access.

    Take your time and don’t just fill vacancies; get the right people.


    Ready to take your board engagement strategies to the next level?  Enroll your board in the Foundational Conversations: Guided Video Discussion Course today.


  • Friday, September 07, 2018 9:49 AM | Deleted user


     

    Katena Cain
    Nonprofit Management Consultant
    Katena@nonprofnetwork.org


    Starting a nonprofit organization is an exciting way to make an impact in your community.  Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this community of do-gooders? Well, with over 1.8 million nonprofits in the United States and roughly 43,000 in Michigan, ensuring the sustainability and longevity of a nonprofit are not easy tasks. It takes a solid foundation, a strong board of directors, a willing group of volunteers, and lots of dedication. Resources can be scares, and receiving your tax exemption status is just the beginning of the work that lies ahead. Here are three things to consider when starting a nonprofit organization.


    1) Research, research, research!

    With almost 2 million nonprofits out there, your vision and ideas may not be unique. Therefore, when considering to start a nonprofit begin by asking yourself the following questions:

    • Is there any organization out there doing similar work and would it make sense to partner instead of duplicating what is already being done?
    • Is my vision truly unique?
    • What is the intended purpose of the organization?
    • Do I have enough resources (i.e. time and financial) for filing fees, licenses, infrastructure, supplies, costs to deliver services, and operations space?
    • What is my timeline?
    • What nonprofit status makes sense for the work that I am trying to accomplish?

    Once you have completed your research and still want to start a nonprofit, begin the process of documenting your idea, mission, and vision as well as the formation path in a detailed business plan.

     

    2) Incorporate and Establish

    After documenting your plan, mission and vision, your next step is to complete all of the necessary paperwork and steps that are required to obtain your nonprofit status. Some of these things include, determining a unique business name, obtaining your EIN number, filing your Articles of Incorporation, completing charitable licensing paperwork, completing your bylaws and filing for your nonprofit status (IRS form 1023 for 501c3 and IRS form 1024 for 501c4).

    Another critical piece of this process is to establish a Board of Directors of no less than 3 individuals. This group is very important and requires a large commitment from them because they will be legally responsible to help your organization meet its mission and vision.

    Draft your bylaws with your Board of Directors' guidance. This will be your operator’s manual for your nonprofit. You will need to have a copy of these for filing your Articles of Incorporation and will need to submit these when applying for your federal tax-exemption. Your board will also be critical in assisting you with policy formation and financial development planning.

     

    3) Work Your Mission and Stay Compliant

    Once your nonprofit status is approved, your goal is now to ensure its success and sustainability. To do this, you will need to work your mission, develop policies, build a strong board, maintain a solid financial plan, and file your IRS 990 tax form annually to keep your tax-exempt status.


    Starting a nonprofit takes a lot of work.  Nonprofit Network is here to help you along the way. 

    Attend Starting a Nonprofit and we'll take you through the process and provide you with a copy of our Guide to Starting a Nonprofit.


  • Friday, August 03, 2018 10:41 AM | Deleted user

    Leading a nonprofit organization is a lot like training for an athletic competition.  It requires consistent training, practice, and a plan to succeed.  An athlete never gets to check the box off next to a basic skill. It doesn't matter how many time she's run that drill—she still reviews, practices, adapts when necessary, and keeps training.  

    In the same way, a board of directors is never past the need for board governance training.  Seasons, needs, rosters, and experiences are just some of the variables that change the environment in which a nonprofit lives. All board members benefit from regular governance training.  So let's talk about what some of those benefits include:

    1)  Ongoing, cyclical orientation.  Just because you’ve been on this board awhile doesn’t mean you know everything. Asking naive questions helps strengthens the board as individuals and as a whole. Making governance training and conversations a regular part of your conversation helps to ensure that all board members—both new and old alike—are on the same page.
    2)  All nonprofits have a lifecycle, which means that no two organizations need the same board—you need to be equipped to give your organization the most relevant skills, perspective, and leadership based on where it is and what it needs.  No two boards are alike.  If you’ve served on a board, then you’ve served on one board. Know where your organization is in its life cycle and seek deep understanding on what your board needs to provide.
    3) You are legally liable for the organization. When you know what you’re liable for, you will make informed, responsible decisions.  Board training can inform that process and may provide you with the information that will protect you.
    4)  More efficient meetings, more effective decisions. When a board is well-trained and each member knows their role, things run more smoothly. Meetings become more engaging and decisions are more thoughtful and strategic. Who doesn’t want that?
    5)  Increased impact.  A board made of trained and informed experts is one that advocates for its organization and inspires action. Staff are motivated to perform and the community sees the mission work accomplished.
    6)  More funding. There are over 42,000 nonprofits in the state of Michigan alone.  Your organization literally cannot afford to operate with a mediocre, meets-expectations board.  There are tens of thousands of organizations seeking the same donors, seeking the same funding—if you want rise above the rest, you need to be on top of your game.


    At the end of the day, it's up to the board to make sure that a nonprofit is fulfilling its purpose—that it is advancing its mission and making true, lasting impact on the community.  Board governance training plays a crucial role in that success.


    Join us in Battle Creek on Wednesday, August 15 for Foundations of Board Governance




    Want more? Click here to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and announcements.  Each week you'll get a link to the most recent blog post. We promise to respect your time and will not flood your inbox.



  • Tuesday, July 17, 2018 9:48 AM | Deleted user

    Victoria Reese
    Capacity Builder

    Victoria@nonprofnetwork.org


    Grant reviewers have to quickly sift through numerous applications to narrow the pool to those most promising. The proliferation of nonprofit organizations and increased competition for resources calls on organizations to write stellar grant proposals to secure funding.

    How do you set your organization apart from the competition when several of you are vying for the same dollars?

    Don’t let a poorly written proposal finds its way into the “no” pile because you didn’t give adequate time and thought to the process. Awareness of successful strategies may be all you need to get the jump on the competition.

    Here are 6 strategies to make Your grant application stand out in a competitive world:

    1. Research! Research! Research!

    Find a funder that fits. Don’t just chase the dollars. Make sure the funder and opportunity aligns with your mission and values.

    2. Do your homework.

    Provide a creative/compelling solution to a community problem in the narrative. Be succinct. Tell who is going to benefit, how, and why it’s important. Your narrative should support your niche and be backed by trends and data. This is your chance to gloat.

    3. Demonstrate competence.

    Provide a clear understanding of your experiences, expertise, and resources that qualifies your organization to be best suited to carry out the work.

    4. Collaborate.

    Many organizations cringe at the thought of this however, collaborative efforts often see wider impact. Sometimes, the most unlikely partners will allow us to meet our consumer’s needs in ways not previously thought so think outside the proverbial box.

    5. Outcome evaluation.

    As you consider sustainability it is important to ensure that you can meet your deliverables and tell the story of what has changed for your participants, community, or families as a result of your program. Being able to do so is critical in receiving future funding from the grantor.

    6. Give careful thought to your budget.

    It should reflect the story told in the narrative and provide a clear connection to the goals you want to establish. The budget provides the framework and an inflated or unrealistic budget can ruin a solid grant proposal.

    Unfortunately, all grant applications are not funded but denial is not failure. Use these opportunities to reassess, ask for feedback, and make adjustments moving forward.


    Looking for more help?  Attend Grant Writing's Optimum Role In Your Organization.



    Want more? Click here to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and announcements.  Each week you'll get a link to the most recent blog post. We promise to respect your time and will not flood your inbox. We only send one or two e-mails each week.

  • Friday, June 29, 2018 10:51 AM | Deleted user


    Sharon Castle
    Capacity Builder
    Sharon@nonprofnetwork.org



    “The fitting Board of Directors is less about physical strength, more about mental toughness, with fitting minds and fresh eyes.” ― Pearl ZhuDigitizing Boardroom: The Multifaceted Aspects of Digital Ready Boards

    With more than 30 years of nonprofit experience, board governance and development is part of my “muscle memory”, a term I encountered while learning the wonderful game of tennis (that’s another story for another blog post) but essentially it’s when you’ve done something repetitively, you do it without actually thinking about it.

    Teaching it, however, is another matter. My first assignment with Nonprofit Network was presenting a full-day "Accelerating Board Performance:  Better Conversations, Discussions, and Decisions” workshop at a state-wide organization’s annual conference.  Now to give you some background, the workshop had been scheduled prior to my joining NN and the outline/proposal submitted by a colleague.and needless to say, I was a bit nervous to present to nearly 100 nonprofit board members and executives on something as boring (my words!) as board development. 

    About thirty minutes into the session, with attendees asking questions, sharing challenges, solutions, and thoughts, I was quickly reminded of the extreme importance of good governance and what it means to maintain a healthy and vibrant nonprofit, regardless of where it is in its life cycle, who is serving on the board or the talents of its executive leadership.  

    In fact, to my delight, I became engaged and excited about the topic! 

    So, here are my takeaways and thoughts about why every board member and nonprofit executive should regularly brush up on good governance:

    1. No matter how many boards you have served or currently serve, each organization is at a different stage in its life cycle and you may not have experience in all stages. 
    2. Dedicating intentional time to attend a workshop or bringing in a consultant to facilitate a board governance session keeps best practices at the forefront of leadership
    3. Governance training provides an opportunity to have productive conversations at the board level and to identify organizational strengths and challenges, including board recruitment and orientation, working with the Executive Director, member’s individual and collective board responsibilities


    If you want to keep your board members’ minds fit and eyes fresh, check out these upcoming sessions: 

    July 17: Foundations of Board Governance

    July 27: Accelerating Board Performance: Better Conversations, Discussions, and Decisions.


  • Friday, June 22, 2018 12:00 PM | Deleted user




    Carrie Heider Grant

    Program Coordinator

    Carrie@nonprofnetwork.org




    The day has arrived!  As of right now, Nonprofit Network's website is officially under construction. We are completely overhauling the structure to make it a more useful and relevant tool for you. 


    The new site will be available to you in a couple weeks--we're looking at a mid-July launch date--but there is still plenty of content available to you while you wait. 


    Here are 5 things you can do while our site is under construction:


    1) Workshops 

    Our workshops are up and running!  We've got some great, brand new sessions coming up.  Looking for fund development? Grant Writing's Optimum Role in Your Organization (And Processes to Fully Realize This)  Leverage Your Story: Building a Case for Support, and Moving Your Organization from Fundraising to Philanthropy.


    Need a deep dive into governance? Accelerating Board Performance: Better Conversations, Discussions, and Decisions is the training for you!  


    Check out the full training calendar to make sure you get the training you need to fulfill your organization's mission.


    2) Bridges Out of Poverty

    We know that organizations who employ equitable policies and programs are more sustainable and successful. Bridges Out of Poverty is a powerful framework that can help you be more successful and effective as an employer and as a service provider.  Join us at the next Bridges Out of Poverty: Community Session.


    3) Blog

    Our team of nonprofit experts publishes content here every week and that will continue during this website construction phase. As a nonprofit professional and volunteer, we know that time is short and your to-do list is long.  This blog is one way we work to provide tools, insights, and perspectives that equip you to succeed.


    4) Membership

    Membership is not affected by the website renovation.  You can still login to receive workshop discounts and to manage your account.  Not a member but are interested in learning more?  Join today or contact Membership@nonprofnetwork.org to find out Nonprofit Network can build your resourcefulness and ability to fulfill your mission.


    5) Team of Experts

    Our staff of nonprofit experts is always available to answer your questions and explore solutions.  Each Capacity Building Consultant is certified in Adaptive Schools facilitation and familiar with all aspects of nonprofit governance and management.  Don't hesitate to reach out to us via phone or email.  We are here to serve you.




    You can expect our new website to be live in mid-July.  In the meanwhile, know that we are still available to serve you and connect you with the resources and information you need.  Whether it's professional development, articles, coaching, or customized services---we have you covered.




  • Wednesday, June 13, 2018 12:27 PM | Tom Williams (Administrator)



    Tom Williams
    Capacity Builder
    Tom@nonprofnetwork.org


    Did you know that humans are hard-wired to relate to stories? Neuroscientists tell us that the brains of people listening to well-told stories fire on the same neuralpath as if they were experiencing the circumstance themselves. Likewise, if you and I are hearing the same story, our brains will fire in similar areas. There is quite a bit of science in people connecting with one another. Add to this that humankind has been sitting around ancient fires or watering holes relating guidance and requests verbally as stories for eons. (Interesting sources here and here.)

    Humans like stories.

    Stories have been ways to educate, inspire, and motivate for ages and today’s technological advances haven’t changed that one bit. In fact, we can now share stories so much faster with technology that our storytelling skills are needed more now than ever before. The great news is that storytelling is a skill that can be learned.

    I can think of many reasons a nonprofit organization would want to enhance its storytelling skills. A couple off the top of my head include:

    • Storytelling is about persuasion. Isn’t persuasion our reason for being? We want to persuade people to choose our cause. We want to persuade them that we are a priority for the use of their funds. We want to persuade them to invest their precious time being engaged with us.
    • Storytelling reinforces your data. Data about your cause can make your point and demonstrate you know what you are doing. Communicating that data in a story can assist you in connecting with the listener in ways that dumping raw facts on them just won’t
    • Storytelling fights burnout. A good story can be a shot in the arm to reinvigorate your staff, board or even donors that may be experiencing some fatigue in the cause. It’s another way of reminding us “why” we do this.
    • Stories are repeatable. This simple fact makes them gold to a nonprofit organization. A repeatable story about your cause, your successes, your needs or your vision for the community is the tool to engage those people you haven’t met yet.

    In our nonprofit world there are at least five different categories of stories every organization would benefit from adding to their pool of stories. Give some consideration to stories you may have about:

    1. Founding. How your organization got its start…what motivated that effort?
    2. Focus. Stories can serve as a great way to get across exactly the cause you address
    3. Impact. Stories about how you make a difference
    4. People. It's about sharing real people experiences that real people have
    5. Strength. Stories can be a cool and very sociably acceptable way to toot your own horn on successes.

    Tips to become a better storyteller:
    • Keep it short. Long stories lose the listener
    • Keep it simple. Ultra-complex stories cause listener to mentally check out
    • Highlight people, not programs
    • Consider your audience. It’s YOUR story, but it won’t get heard if you misread your audience.
    • When you get to the end of the story, STOP. Continuing past the end, buries the point you wanted to make with the listener.
    • Practice your story telling by writing “mini-sagas.” These are stories with a character in pursuit of a goal in the face of an obstacle, written in exactly 50 words.



    Want to talk more about how you can use your story to retain  and upgrade donors?  Attend Leverage Your Story: The Retention Power of the Thank You



    Learn more about this workshop


    Want more? Click here to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and announcements.  Each week you'll get a link to the most recent blog post. We promise to respect your time and will not flood your inbox. We only send one or two e-mails each week.

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