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


    Katena Cain
    Nonprofit Management Consultant

    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


    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

    “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


    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, May 30, 2018 9:30 AM | Deleted user

    Victoria Reese
    Capacity Builder

    Businesses are essential in the fight against poverty. Not only are businesses consistently interacting with consumers who are living in poverty, some of their employees are facing the same dynamics. Good business sense calls on businesses to create internal policies that support employees and consumers living in poverty, as well as advocating to influence public policies that systemically have adverse effects on people in poverty.

    Acknowledging the benefits of tackling social issues appears to be a stretch for many businesses however. Communities riddled with high poverty rates impact their bottom-line. People in poverty have little or no discretionary income which impacts what products they purchase and from where. The business sector is often constrained by a shortage of skilled human capital and low-income communities offer a potentially valuable labor market. However, hiring low-income workers without considering the necessary supports that help them be successful is a disservice to them and the community. 

    The Bridges Out Of Poverty workshop offered by Nonprofit Network positions businesses to think about their role in alleviating poverty, holds up examples of best practices, and provides strategies for out-of-the-box engagement with people in poverty.

    In the city of Jackson. 36.3% of its residents live in povertyover half of those living in poverty are children under the age of 18and 75% of the population have attained less than an associate’s degree.

    Nonprofit safety nets and government assistance are critical but insufficient alone in addressing the generational and systemic poverty that transcends the personal choices of people living in poverty. Harnessing the prowess of the business industry is necessary in alleviating the pain of historical legacies and eradicating discriminatory policies and practices that burden low-income families.

    Join us in the fight against poverty! The first step is attending a Bridges Out of Poverty workshop to gain better insight on the causes of poverty, explore solutions and begin planning for institutional change.

    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.

  • Tuesday, May 08, 2018 4:25 PM | Deleted user

    Sharon Castle

    Capacity Builder


    I’m not going to sugarcoat it; fundraising is tough. Been there, done that, and I continue to do it. Let’s face it, there’s a reason many of us describe fundraising as “the oldest profession.” It has been around a long time and not going to go away anytime soon.  I have great respect for Executive Directors, Development Directors, Board members, Staff and Volunteers who understand and actively engage in fundraising for their nonprofit organizations.

    Alas, each of us has a responsibility to play a role in philanthropy: acting as an ambassador and sharing positive aspects of how the community is benefiting from the organization’s activities with friends, relatives and coworkers; being part of a team of solicitors and participating in well developed “asks”; making the public feel welcome at events or when they making an on-site visit; or making a personal gift, something we all should be doing at least once annually. 

    We are all capable and responsible for supporting the development and sustainability of philanthropy within the organizations in which we choose to be involved.  

    Embracing John D. Rockefeller’s philosophy is an excellent start:

    “Never think you need to apologize for asking someone to give to a worthy objective, any more than as though you were giving him an opportunity to participate in high-grade investment. The duty of giving is as much his as the duty of asking yours. Whether or not he should give to that particular enterprise, and if so, how much, it is for him alone to decide.” – John D. Rockefeller

    Before you are able to execute Rockefeller’s advice to “ask”, you need to craft a well thought-out strategy. While each organization has unique strengths and challenges to overcome or draw upon, the fundamentals of fundraising remain consistent. 

    Your fund development plan should cover all the bases, including:

    1. Supports the overall organizational strategic plan
    2. Developing and knowing how to articulate a strong case for support
    3. Writing effective direct mail appeals
    4. Adding new prospective donors and stewarding current donors
    5. Capturing motivational stories to share about your organization’s impact (or feeding the soul as I like to say)
    6. Identifying priority donors
    7. Evaluating special events (are you fundraising, friend raising, or both)
    8. Involving program staff in the development process

    Indeed, these are all necessary parts in pieces of not only a strong development program, but a strong organization as well.  

    To that end, there are a multitude of opportunities and trainings to help you learn best practices and sharpen your tools when it comes to fundraising.  Take advantage of these activities to learn from folks who have been in the field. Use the time out of the office and among colleagues to stretch your mind by sharing and listening to others’ fundraising successes and failures - Yes, we’ve all had failures and, hopefully, we learn from our mistakes. And when you can, role play and practice solicitations regularly to stay on top of your game.

    Look for professional development that will truly make you and your organziation better?  Register for Moving Your Organization from Fundraising to Philanthropy.

    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.

  • Wednesday, May 02, 2018 2:41 PM | Deleted user

    Katena Cain

    Nonprofit Management Consultant


    There is a growing body of research regarding the benefits of diverse teams in the areas of organizational performance and problem-solving. In addition, there are some powerful examples of leading nonprofit organizations which successfully utilized diversity to help generate innovative initiatives and services that delivered tangible benefits to their organizations, employees, and communities.

    While many of the documented examples of diversity initiatives focus on race and gender, the concept of diversity is broader and encompasses factors including age, culture, personality, skill, training, educational background and life experience. The influence of a variety of perspectives and viewpoints can contribute to flexibility and creativity within organizations, which can help it thrive.

    This is where the Nonprofit Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Assessment comes into play.

    Nonprofit Network has collaborated with Michigan Nonprofit Association and NEW: Solutions for Nonprofits designed a survey instrument to gauge the perspectives of board and key leadership staff regarding the best practices for diversity, inclusion and equity that the organization has implemented.

    Nonprofit Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Assessment is designed to help nonprofit organizations assess their capacity and progress in demonstrating best practices in diversity, inclusion and equity. The underlying assumption of this assessment is that all organizations will move back and forth along a continuum of effectively implementing best practices. Best practices, organizational capacity, diversity, inclusion and equity are complex concepts sensitive to local conditions and subject to multiple interpretations.

    The assessment is in two forms: one for board members and one for executives and staff.

    The assessment may be used by nonprofit managers, staff, board members, external capacity builders and funders in the following ways:
    • To identify those areas of capacity relative to diversity, inclusion and equity that are strongest and those that need further advancement, which could inform the development of a diversity and inclusion action plan for organizational improvement in this area.
    • To measure changes in an organization's progress towards effectively building and sustaining diversity, cultivating inclusive environments and creating social equity. 
    • To serve as a starting point for discussions among those in the organization by drawing out different views regarding diversity, inclusion and equity. Different responses to the grid among staff, board members and funders, for example, can be a valuable discussion-starter within an organization.

    The discussion around Diversity, equity and inclusion is complex, which is why Nonprofit Network is available to facilitate conversations for your board and staff. 

    Are you interested in taking the next step? 

    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.

  • Monday, April 23, 2018 10:04 AM | Deleted user

    Tom Williams

    Capacity Builder


    Mediocre performers are busy with the best intentions, but the wrong conversations. To separate your organization from the crowd of mediocre performers you must make the best decisions possible. Great decisions only occur in a culture that creates space and time for crucial conversations, and these conversations cannot take place in “unsafe” environments. A room doesn’t have to hostile to be unsafe. In fact, most unsafe conversations are not hostile--they're often the result of an error of omission. Those in the “room” or meeting have not intentionally created and maintained an environment that nurtures free exchange of genuine opinions.

    Two things need to be present in order for a conversation to be safe, and if you can establish these elements, then you've created the space for those conversations that will take your board from mediocrity to excellence:  1) Mutual Purpose and 2) Mutual Respect.

    Mutual purpose is all about being clear about the intent of the conversation. We often dive headfirst into meetings without pausing at the very beginning to clarify the purpose of what we hope to accomplish with the discussion. How many conversations have you been in where you're asking, "what is the point?" 

    People who are unclear about the conversation's purpose (is it to inform, decide, criticize, change, congratulate?) will very often sit on the sidelines and may even check out entirely. Being intentional about speaking the purpose of the conversation puts all of the parties, whether that's 2 people or 29 people, on the same page. The more people in the room, the more  divergent the focus will be when the purpose is left to the audience to figure out.

    Mutual respect involves having a trusting environment. Leaders probably don’t verbalize enough the respect they already have for their staff. Likewise, the front line staff don’t provide feedback on the respect they hold for their leaders. Creating an environment where mutual respect can be openly affirmed goes a long way to assuring all parties. If the mutual respect is lacking, some serious work needs to be done. Its hard work (see mention of crucial conversations above). However take note that this trusting environment leading to mutual respect is possible to build.

    Ask yourself these two questions to get this process underway : Am I viewed as a person of integrity? Am I viewed as a person that is highly competent in my role?

    Making it safe

    We’ve heard it before. “I didn’t feel safe saying that” or “I would have brought that up with him, but the room wasn’t safe”. Is being “safe” a cop out for not having the courage to speak up? Is it some undefinable excuse to cast the blame for poor communication onto others?

    No. It’s actually a real thing. And it’s your job to make it happen.

    Leaders of meetings will find that when these elements are present, participation is increased and the quality of conversation is enriched. While the meeting leader is not solely responsible for these two elements being present, in their position of authority they can be a significant influence as well as motivator the other participants to keep the room safe. A key leadership practice is to model the way. Teams that operate in safe environments are much more impactful than those who spend their time navigating landmines.

    I've written previously about the required skills to conduct crucial conversations. Mastering them can be a real game changer for organizations that have not been hitting the marks they desire. Leaders who master the skill of facilitating these hard conversations will see a difference in the performance of their board and the organization. I guarantee it.

    I have a lot of respect for the work you are doing in your community. If you want to have a conversation about getting better at creating a safe room, give me a call. 

    If you want some hands-on training, consider attending Accelerating Board Performance: Better Conversations, Discussions, and Decisions on June 20th. 

    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.

  • Tuesday, April 10, 2018 12:41 PM | Deleted user

     Carrie Heider Grant
    Program Coordinator

    April 10th is Equal Pay Day, which symbolizes how far into the year (on average) a woman has to work to be paid the same amount as a male counterpart in the prior year.

    Imagine what you could do with 20% more income than you are currently paid. It’s not hard for me to answer: That money would go to student loans, health-care, long-term savings, and charitable contributions. And of course I'd seek out some lesser services like doggy day-carethe luxury of sparing my home the daily trauma of these two anxious doggos would be worth every penny. 

     Good, anxious doggos.

    My point is that 20% is a huge amount of money. 

    And that gap is even wider when you break it down by race: Black women are paid 38% less than white men, while Latinas are paid 46% less. 

    Source: www.leanin.org 

    Those numbers are staggering.

    Meanwhile, in the nonprofit sector, we’re working on making sure the elderly have safe housing, that children are fed, that rivers are clean, and so much more—how can we possibly take on another issue with no apparent solution? 

    I’ve got good news and bad news.

    Bad news: this is already a nonprofit issue. Michigan Nonprofit Association’s 2017-2018 Compensation and Benefit Report illustrates the average salary for a full-time executive director of a Michigan nonprofit—

    Men: $123,648

    Women: $88,727

    That’s a whopping 28% average decrease in pay for Michigan women!

    Feeling a little less smitten with the mitten state? 

    Here’s the good news: the nonprofit sector is a powerful force that drives the nation’s economy. In Michigan alone, nonprofits are responsible for employing 11% of the working population (Source: MNA). We have the potential to impact our communities in meaningful, lasting ways.

    Think the gender pay gap doesn’t exist at your organization? Back that up with data by conducting an audit on your hiring and promotion practices. Compare compensation, qualifications/experience, and gender. That audit is the first step for anyone who genuinely seeks to achieve their nonprofit mission—we cannot address poverty and its effects if we are actively contributing to poverty by sustaining inequitable wage practices.

    Let’s roll up our sleeves, and seek solutions with humility—we all have to do better if we want our communities to be better.

    Here are some great resources if you’re looking for more information and data:

    Want to talk about where to start?

    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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