Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Build Trust to Boost Your Donations

The more that your supporters trust you to keep your promises to put their contributions to good use, the more likely they are to donate to your cause. Donations from both individuals and businesses are critical to helping your nonprofit grow sustainably, as this type of funding typically doesn’t come with pre-conditions on how it is to be spent. When your NFP receives donations, you usually just need to ensure that they are used for a charitable purpose that advances your mission. The following three strategies will help you develop stronger relationships and greater trust with your donors and encourage greater giving.  

Use Consistent Messaging to Eliminate Confusion and Strengthen Your Brand

Do your supporters know what your organisation stands for? What images come to mind when they hear your name and tagline or see your logo? Are your messages consistent with your values and does it bring your mission into sharp focus? Use consistent messages across all your communication channels to create a strong brand identity for your nonprofit that will increase your NFP’s reputation.

Increase Transparency

One trend that nonprofits must stay on top of is donors’ growing desire for detailed information about NFP finances and activities. One way to increase understanding about your nonprofit’s position is to publish your financial results frequently. 

Release the minutes of your board meetings and hold your meetings in public so that your supporters have ample opportunity to review your NFP’s decision-making processes. Show your donors exactly how their contribution impacts your organisation, and how their donation will specifically be used to advance your mission forward!

Develop Relationships and Avoid the Hard Sell

Most of us are more likely to give to causes that resonate with us and because we have some personal connection to the mission.  Focus on open communication and building strong relationships with your current donors and prospects. Take the time to connect with them and learn what makes them “tick” as individuals so that you can show them how contributing to your NFP helps them as well as others. Reach out to your supporters on a regular basis to keep them updated on your activities and the progress that you are making.

Segment your donor lists and adjust your approach based on the frequency and size of individual donations. If someone declines to give a gift, thank them for supporting your nonprofit and ask them to continue their support in other forms. For example, just because someone can’t or won’t donate right now doesn’t mean that they are unwilling to advocate on your behalf or volunteer. Look for ways to streamline and simplify the donation process so that transactions are fast, secure and simple.

Finally, don’t forget to show your gratitude to your donors and other supporters. Automatically thank your online contributors, and follow up with a more personalised, handwritten thank you note. Or, if you prefer, you can pick up the phone and call them to show your heartfelt thanks! 

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

When Was the Last Time You Reviewed Your Volunteer Program?

Are you putting your volunteer’s talents to their best use? If you do not see the value you expect from your volunteer program, it’s probably time for a complete assessment. Once you know what parts of your program are working well, and which aren’t, you can act to improve the program for both your participants as well as your nonprofit! The following steps will help you dig deep into your processes so that you can identify areas for improvement and increase your results!

Build a Process to Review Your Program

If this is the first time that you’ve put serious effort and energy into reviewing your program, you will need to create a process for review. Break the program down into vital areas. What are your basic expectations for all volunteers? Are there positions that require specific skills and abilities? How does this impact your expectations?

Divide your expectations into categories, typically along the lines of exceeds expectations, meets requirements, and needs additional improvement. Once you have outlined your expectations, and benchmarks, create a template that you will use to review the work of your volunteers.

Create a Review Template

In this template, you will want to designate areas where you will measure items important to your nonprofit such as basic skills, punctuality and individual goals. When evaluating an individual volunteer with the template, you will then measure their performance for each category.

In addition to deciding whether they meet or exceed requirements, demonstrate their success with specific examples of how well they are doing. Another area that you may want to include in your template is one where you can gather feedback from individual volunteers about what they like about the program, and their suggestions for improvement. Use these suggestions to help you uncover ways that you can improve the program to make it better for your volunteers and the people they assist.

Increase the Frequency that You Offer Feedback

Once you have a process to evaluate the performance of your individual volunteers, decide how frequently you will offer feedback. Usually, it’s a good idea to decide on a probationary period for your newest volunteers as they are just beginning to become acquainted with your organisation and their role within it.

Once they are past this hurdle, quarterly or even monthly reviews aren’t a bad idea, although some nonprofits only conduct an annual review. The more frequently that you survey your volunteers, the sooner that you can help them take corrective action to improve their performance, as well as gain insight on how they feel about their work, and ways that you could improve your program.

Don’t Forget to Survey Your Stakeholders

Speaking with your volunteers about their work for your organisation is just part of the process. Review your program with your NFP’s stakeholders, including your donors, members and other service recipients, and any third-party partners you may have. What have they experienced in their encounters with your organisation’s volunteers? Are their needs being met? What are their suggestions to improve its benefits?

Analyse Feedback from Volunteers and Stakeholders and Act

Once you’ve evaluated the performance of your volunteers, received their suggestions for improvement and surveyed your stakeholders about your work, look at the information that you’ve received and translate it into data that can assist you in locating areas that need improvement. For example, you might be receiving a lot of feedback from volunteers that have a hard time using your existing software to capture member information. This could mean that your volunteers need more training on how to use your programs, or, it could also mean that your existing software needs an upgrade to something that’s faster and easier to use.

Your first action would be to investigate further to pinpoint the source of the problem, and once found, your goal would be to take the next action that best remedies the problem. You could decide to retrain your staff on the use of the software and then set a goal of reducing complaints by 50%. If after re-training the goal was met, you would know that your solution is on the right track. If, however, retraining did little to reduce the problem, then you would know that you would need to attempt another solution, such as upgrading.

Benefits of Reviewing Your Volunteer Program

Talking with your volunteers and stakeholders is the best way to gain valuable insight into which of your policies, practices and procedures are working well. It’s also the best way to give your volunteers the coaching and guidance that they need to learn more about your organisation’s work, how to fit in with the culture and how to stay focused and in alignment with your mission as they complete their daily tasks and fulfil their duties. Creating a formal review process for both individual volunteers and the program overall helps you to ensure that you are using the same standards during evaluations which increases fairness and transparency and decreases bias, improving the quality of the information that you receive so that you can set more realistic goals and better action plans to increase your results.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Indicators of NFP Success

Do you know the true impact, and value, of your nonprofit’s work? How far have you been able to advance your mission? Do your staff and volunteers produce work efficiently? Are you making the best use of all your resources, and are you able to leverage them to make a lasting difference in your community?

These are just a few of the questions that your donors and other supporters are likely to ask about your nonprofit before they contribute. After all, most of us want to feel that our gifts are being put to good use.

Each of these questions points to a larger one that can be difficult to clearly define: is your NFP successful?

Using Metrics to Gauge Success

There are many metrics that you can use to try to measure and quantify your progress. For example, the per cent of the funding that you spend on programs vs. overhead costs, and how much your membership rolls have grown over last year’s numbers do provide some insight into whether you are managing your finances well, and, if your organisation is growing.

These numbers, however, can be a bit deceptive because they don’t provide a complete picture. Statistics like these are primarily focused on your nonprofit’s management of two factors: it’s inputs and outputs.

Inputs look at the relationship between the number of resources that were used for specific activities, whereas outputs look at the services, programs and other activities performed by the nonprofit. The problem is that neither of these categories provides any insight into whether your program participants, or society as a whole, actually benefit from your nonprofit’s work. Regardless of how well you manage your organisation’s finances and how solid your bottom line appears, are you really successful if you aren’t making a meaningful, positive difference in your community?

A better measurement of success, which usually isn’t revealed by the metrics presented in financial statements or their notes and supplements, is to look at the outcomes that are a direct result of your nonprofit’s work.

Measuring Outcomes

In its simplest form, using outcomes to determine success is an attempt to measure whether your nonprofit is working towards its purpose. Measuring outcomes isn’t about counting up the amount of resources that you’ve used, or the number of services you’ve offered in your community. To determine whether you are making real progress towards solving the issue, you must tie your metrics to the actual mission.

Break your mission down into the steps that need to be taken to achieve it. Customise your metrics to measure just how well you are achieving these performance-driven goals.

While it’s tempting to oversimply your mission at this point,  nonprofits should be careful to set goals and take action that actually gets at the heart of the social problem they are trying to solve and not just treat its symptoms. Choose metrics and benchmarks that illustrate the impact made by your activities. Who benefits from them, and how much have they benefited from your work?

When attempting to measure how successful your outcomes are, it’s essential to examine impact through both a short, and long-term lens. Measure the progress being made towards solving the problem by looking at performance throughout your organisation. Are you setting your organisation up for long-term success and sustainability, or, are you shortchanging the future and jeopardising your NFP’s ability to drive change in the long term by failing to build capacity and neglecting the need to invest in, and develop, your people?

Is your nonprofit genuinely successful? The answer is hard to quantify, but, if you are making a real difference in the lives of your service recipients while investing in your infrastructure, you are well on our way to creating a strong, vibrant NFP capable of making a positive difference that’s sustainable and poised for long-term success! 

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Survival Tips for NFPs for the 2018-2019 Financial Year

A new fiscal year has just begun for most nonprofits! The following strategies can help your NFP ensure its survival and growth in the coming year!

Know Thy Self

Do you and your board fully understand your core mission, and, does your strategic planning and other decisions consider whether an activity or expenditure is in direct support of it? There is an increasing push for organisations to offer more programs and services, often at the expense of taking the steps that are necessary to strengthen the NFP and position it for sustainable growth. Keeping your eyes “on the prize” by focusing efforts on achieving your core mission will help prevent resource draining mission creep and help you build a strong, resilient nonprofit.

Know Your Audience

Do you know, and understand, the different segments of your audience? Do you know their tastes and preferences, age, education level, occupation and other demographics? The more that you can learn about the key groups that comprise your audience, the easier it is to create content that is relevant to them, increasing your authority in your specific area of expertise, and making you the go-to source for information in your niche. This makes it easier to create meaningful content that will be consumed, enjoyed and shared by your supporters, which increases the reach of your messages and makes it easier to raise funds, reach recruiting targets, and make a genuine, lasting difference in your community.

Develop Your Board and Staff

To make wise decisions, each member of your board needs to be fully engaged with your NFP and its work. Focusing on your core mission can free up funds that can be spent on training and other development projects that increase the knowledge of all your board members, improving their ability to take wise action to advance your cause. It also allows you to invest in your key people, including staff and volunteers, so that they have what they need to perform their tasks well and actively engage with service beneficiaries and other key stakeholders in your community.

Make inclusion, diversity and equality a priority for your organisation and the people that you attract to it. By diversifying the backgrounds and experiences of your supporters, you increase your ability to create relevant services, in addition to useful content, improving your decision-making capability, as well as your performance in other areas, in the long term.

Build Your Brand and Choose Your Channels

Another key focus of thriving nonprofits is that they invest in building and developing their brand. Use the information that you learn about your audience to reach supporters using the means of communication that they prefer. Build a stronger brand image by focusing on your NFPs values and vision and keeping your messages on target. Choose specific social media, and other communication channels to reach key segments of your target audience to improve your fundraising performance and other metrics.

Don’t Remain Silent

Have figures from your nonprofit, such as your executive director, board members, volunteers and other supporters speak out on the social issues that affect your nonprofit’s community. Encourage all your supporters to share your posts, as well as get involved on their local level to speak up about your cause and the work that your nonprofit is doing to make things better. Encourage advocacy at every level of your organisation and help your people to build their connections with diverse groups of individuals and institutions to increase support for your work.

Make Strategic Planning a Priority

While no one has a crystal ball that allows them to create plans for every possible contingency those organisations that can respond rapidly to dramatic change are the ones that fare best. Make planning a priority for your board, as well as other key leaders in your nonprofit. Don’t just have one backup plan. Try to anticipate upcoming changes that may drastically alter support for your organisation and its work. Create plans that will enable your nonprofit to continue its work despite what happens with Government budgets, the overall economy, political upheaval and other changes that can harm weaker organisations that have failed to prepare for change.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Finetune Your Networking Introduction

The old saying that you never get a second chance to make a great first impression is very true, and introductions are critical because they have the power to define one’s relationship with others forever. The following tips will help you improve your introductions so that you make a good first impression and start things out on a positive note!

Selling Your Brand to Others

Regardless of the work that any of us do, we are all engaged in a type of “selling” when we meet others. When we are introduced to someone, we typically want them to like us and trust us, so we are literally pitching them our personal brand.

Similarly, when we introduce our nonprofit to others, we also want to make a good first impression. We want others to care about our cause and become willing to help us advance it forward. We are, in effect, selling our NFP’s brand.

In a great introduction, we display confidence and make it easy for others to want to connect with us and our organisation.

Focus on Impact, Rather than Activities

When introducing ourselves to others, most of us focus on the activities that we do. We’ll typically greet someone with a hello, and then state our name, our employer’s name and our job title. While this is a very common practice, it does little to tell others about what it is that we really do. It doesn’t convey anything that tells our audience why our work is important, or why they should trust us and help us.

A better way to introduce ourselves and our organisation, is to focus on the impact made by our work. When creating your introduction, think of a way to explain in just a couple of sentences, what it is that you are doing to help others. This simple technique encourages greater interest in your cause and connects you with others in a more meaningful way.

Keep it Short and Sweet

While you want to help others connect with your work on a human and emotional level, keep in mind that your introduction is not the time to go into a full, detail-heavy analysis of what you and your organisation do for others. It should only be two to three short sentences and take about half a minute.

Ideally, your introduction should be easy to remember and say. It should also be interesting and capture your audience’s attention and make them want to learn more. It should summarise what you have to offer to others in a clear, concise, succinct way.

Practice Makes Perfect

Once you’ve distilled the essence of your work into two to three short, snappy sentences, you should practice saying your introduction so that it comes naturally to you. Practice helps you to relax during introductions so that you appear more at ease and confident. This, in turn, will help others to relax and gain greater trust and confidence in you, and your nonprofit! Don’t forget to customise your introduction to better fit the circumstances of specific events and your audience.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Your Team is the Best Resource You Have

Whether your nonprofit is staffed solely by volunteers, or positions at least partially paid, your people are your organisation’s most valuable asset. Your staff is the creative engine for identifying problems and finding new solutions to hard questions as well as accomplishing all of the hard work that benefits your service community. Without them, it’s impossible to create meaningful impact.

Despite their importance to achieving your goals, many nonprofit’s neglect their staff’s needs, and the results show up as a loss of worker productivity, donor engagement and your beneficiaries’ satisfaction.

To keep your staff on task and fully engaged, you must look after them, and find ways to increase the enjoyment that they experience working with your organisation. The following strategies can boost your team’s morale and keep them motivated to help your NFP meet its objectives and goals.

Spruce up the Workspace

The environment that we work in can have a direct, immediate impact on our energy levels, mood and sense of well-being. Give your team a boost by investing in quality lighting, including natural sources of light, and ensuring that they have the tools, material and equipment that they need to perform their work well.

This means investing in quality, ergonomically designed desks, chairs, computers and other hardware for office workers, and providing laptops and other mobile devices for workers that telecommute or otherwise work off-site. Invest in current software and other upgrades to ensure that your best people don’t become frustrated by hanging apps and lost data that sap willpower and decrease productivity.

Do Something Different, Exciting, and Fun as a Team

Team building exercises are great for increasing comradery and morale and helping your people learn how to cooperate and collaborate with one another. You could do something simple, such as hosting an office party or have a potluck at work, where everyone contributes a dish to a group meal, but why not make this event something to truly remember by hosting an offsite event.

If you have the budget, schedule your staff to take a joint field trip to a local amusement park, enjoy a picnic together on the beach. Whatever activity you choose, take steps to ensure that it is something that most of your staff will enjoy.

Perks and Rewards Have Their Place

While they should never take the place of just compensation that is due to your staff, partnering with third parties to offer meaningful rewards for exceptional service and dedication can help you show your staff that you do truly appreciate their effort and hard work.

To make sure that your rewards program is hitting the mark, conduct a survey to find out what types of rewards most appeal, and then work on incorporating as many of these ideas as possible into your program.

Be Flexible with Time Commitments

Another way to show your team that you understand their needs and value them for the unique people that they are is to offer schedules and time commitments that take into consideration real-world needs. Look for ways to allow team members to trade shifts and tasks to help them be able to meet their commitments to your nonprofit and their personal lives. Try to allow as many of your staff as possible to work remotely and offer multiple shifts and ranges of time for your people to have as many opportunities to work helping out at your NFP into their other obligations.

Provide Praise and Public Recognition

Everyone likes to have their hard work acknowledged and an appropriate level of gratitude expressed for their effort. Use your social media channels to give shout-outs to your team, host awards ceremonies, and otherwise publish notifications of your staff’s dedication to your organisation. In addition to these larger, more public efforts, never neglect an opportunity to “catch” your people doing something right and offer them praise on the spot.

Whether it’s a firm handshake and a heartfelt thank you spoken out loud or sending thanks in an email on a daily basis, let your team know how much their work means to you and your nonprofit! The more you can express your gratitude to your people, the more likely they will be thankful for the opportunities that your organisation offers them to help your service community!

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

How Volunteering Can Help Your Career

Many individuals consider volunteering because they want to give something back to their communities. They sometimes hold back and resist taking the plunge because they worry they won’t have the time and energy to commit to volunteering and working in a paid position as well. When it comes to filling the post of volunteer treasurer, many of the duties that need to be performed can seem so overwhelming that it makes folks reluctant to take on the role.

If you have a good bookkeeping software to help back you and your processes up, so that its quick and easy to keep your accounts updated, serving as a volunteer treasurer offers several benefits that far outweigh any concerns that might be holding you back from volunteering.

This is especially true if you want to move up in the current organisation where you work, or enter a new field completely as volunteering at a nonprofit offers the following benefits for your career prospects.

Improve Your Job Performance by Improving Your Health

Many nonprofit volunteers report that the work that they do to help others improves their self-esteem, personal satisfaction and confidence. They also report feeling calmer, less stressed and more at ease. This boost to your mental health makes you more resistant to the effects of stress and can boost overall immunity.

When our minds and bodies are healthy, and our immunity and mood are high, it’s easier for us to resist common colds and other bugs as they make the rounds in the workplace. This provides an indirect benefit to our careers since being healthy and resistant to stress reduces absenteeism and makes it easier to achieve peak performance so that we get noticed and promoted at work!

Increase Your Flexibility

Volunteering can be a great way to practice your existing skills, as well as pick up new ones if the volunteer work that you perform involves tasks and duties outside of your previous background. This makes volunteering the ideal way to keep your existing skills current as well as pick up new ones.

Prospective employers that see your volunteer work on your resume, and become aware of all of the tasks and duties that you fulfilled in your role are more likely to see you as the flexible and motivated employee that they need. It can also increase your chances of promotion and other forms of advancement.

Meet New People

As a volunteer, it’s likely that you will have the opportunity to meet and talk with people you would never have otherwise. Not only will you work with other volunteers, but you’ll also probably meet some of the beneficiaries of your nonprofit’s services. You may also come into close contact with donors, staff, board members, other volunteers and advocates.

Each time that you meet and interact with someone new, you are being given an opportunity to connect with people from diverse backgrounds who share your interests and values. When it comes time to find a new position, your new connections may well be the ones that help you locate your next paying position!

Spur Your Creativity, Cooperation and Critical Thinking Abilities

Most volunteers wear many hats in their organisations. Working with different groups of people, completing tasks and searching for solutions on the fly are all activities that you will likely perform as a volunteer. Activities like these boost your creativity, as well as improve your ability to cooperate and collaborate on shared projects and improve your ability to analyse information and reach logical, well thought out conclusions.

So, what’s so great about improving your ability to create, get along with others and make good decisions? These characteristics just happen to be some of the top traits shared by the world’s most successful leaders. Serving as treasurer or other volunteer gives you a chance to polish your leadership and gives you a head start on how to lead yourself and your team to greater levels of success!