Archive for January, 2010

What Corporate Volunteer Programs Want from Nonprofits

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

volunteers1Nonprofit volunteer managers are sometimes inundated with offers from corporations—especially around volunteer “holidays” like The National Day of Service and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. While no NPOs we know would turn down volunteers who are willing and qualified to help, sometimes too much of a good thing can make for headaches.

Every volunteer manager has had unusual requests from corporations. From custom-designing a volunteer opportunity just for them, to dictating who will show up and when, and what their employees will and will not do, companies can be “overeager” with their requests.

Some companies want only group activities—are they working on their team-building? What if you have more tasks that require only one person or two-people teams to complete?

Other companies want opportunities that will teach their employees a skill, or enhance their existing skills. What if your needs do not match this desire?

NPO managers are not required to satisfy their corporate volunteer programs’ needs. NPOs do not have to invest tasks and projects to meet their requirements. If you have work that matches what a company wants for their employee volunteers, then great. Let them go get it done! If not, offer an alternative.

You’re in charge—there’s no need to fill someone’s made-to-order volunteer desires. Ask for their help in getting your goals met. Offer alternatives that might make both sides happy. Break up large projects into smaller ones that can work over a longer term. Alternatively, group smaller projects into a work day that a corporate team can attend together.

Finding ways to fulfill both sides’ needs is important when corporate volunteer programs come calling. NPOs can’t alienate supporters, but they also shouldn’t let them dictate the terms of engagement.

Alternative Income Streams for Non Profits

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

pile-of-money on volunteer screening blogBudget cuts at the state and local levels are having a huge adverse effect on nonprofits all over the country. Couple budget cuts with the reality that grant makers expect to give fewer grants in 2010, and you have a recipe for another difficult year for nonprofits.

Fundraisers and nonprofit directors need to look at alternative income streams to replace traditional sources operating funds like grants, individual donations, and state funding.

Here are a few ideas for alternative income sources:

1. Earned revenue. The profits from a product or service that people will pay for is a great way to raise needed funds.  A separate, for-profit company is sometimes needed to do this. Some nonprofits open coffee or ice cream shops. Arts organizations set up historic-area or architecture tours in their cities to earn tourist dollars. Others publish books, print t-shirts and mugs, or open thrift stores. The possibilities are endless, with a little imagination.

2. Major gifts. Developing relationships with philanthropic organizations or community groups is crucial. Find out who has money to give and make sure they know your organization’s mission and needs.

3. Rent out empty space. If there are empty offices in your building, offer them to entrepreneurs, other nonprofits, or professionals.

4. Sell assets. Are there assets you own that are not increasing in value or earning a return? If your NPO has not already done its spring cleaning, it may be time to look at what assets you can sell. Vehicles, parking lots, vacant lots, buildings–they should all be considered.

5. Diversifying your outreach. Social media is the answer to getting your organization’s message out to the masses. Smart phones are the new information delivery system, but consumers will only let in information they want or trust. Make friends and fans by setting up Facebook and Twitter accounts, and gather your supporters’ cell phone numbers as a way of mobilizing them when you need to.

6. Diversify your fundraising. Try sponsoring a fun run, a 5K or even a long-distance run. Get a booth at a community event and sell something: t-shirts, hand-crafted items, or food (cupcakes, candy, brownies, or ice cream.)

Creativity and diversifying will be the keys to increasing your nonprofit’s income in  2010!

Count on for your volunteer prescreening services. Protect your staff, clients, and your community with background checks.

For Nonprofits, Collaboration, Merger are the New Realities

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

shaking-handsThe recession has been extremely difficult on charitable organizations, and many have not survived. To avoid shutting their doors, many are opening their minds to new possibilities—also known as “survival tactics.” Reports show that increasingly, nonprofits around the country are turning to collaborations, partnerships, and mergers.

One California program that helps special needs individuals through horseback riding thrived for fifteen years—until the economy tanked. Instead of shutting down, they found a sister organization the works with children and adults with disabilities, and after many, many hours of talking and planning, they merged into one new streamlined organization.

In Washington State, a youth-services organization faced extreme cuts in state funding that threatened to close its doors forever. The outlook was dire for the young people who counted on the services it provided, including a homeless youth shelter, foster program, and family counseling services. Luckily, a financially stable family-service organization stepped in. By taking over half of the youth service organization’s programs, the cash-strapped organization bought some time to reorganize and survive—without loss of services.

Whether it’s to improve finances, gain a wider range of services or additional expertise, mergers can be an ideal solution for nonprofit organizations. But mergers take a great deal of focus, planning, and dedication on the part of board members, staff, management, and volunteers.

Nonprofits collaborate in other money-saving ways these days—like sharing space. As budgets are slashed, personnel is often the first area targeting when cutting expenses. Fewer staff means less space needed. And that extra space is being filled by sister organizations.

Sharing rent, utility bills and administrative staff is a great way for nonprofits to reduce expenses. Plus, there’s the spark of new energy and ideas, a broadening of service offerings, and one-stop shopping for clients needing more services that make collaboration a great way to survive the down economy for nonprofits.

Screening Tips for Volunteer Managers

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Recruiting VolunteersPre-screening volunteers is vital to the safety of non profit organizations’ (NPOs) finances, clients, staff, and volunteer base. How can NPOs make screening volunteers a regular practice?  It’s simple: think like a for-profit company, and “hire” your volunteers as if you were hiring a paid employee.

First, write a job description for each volunteer position. Clarifying expectations and duties is highly beneficial for both the organization and volunteers.

Don’t hesitate to let potential volunteers know that the organization requires volunteer screening, and to what extent. Send a clear signal to clients, supporters, volunteers, and the community that you are serious about safety and professionalism.

If you don’t already, create a volunteer application, along with an authorization to conduct background screening. Have the potential volunteer sign and date both.

Interview volunteers. Formal interviews will increase the quality of your volunteers, enable you to place them in the ideal position, and determine if the NPO and volunteer are a good fit for each other.

Ask for—and follow up on—references. Just as when hiring an employee, you can learn a great deal—good or bad—about an applicant’s character, work habits, and personality by speaking to their references.

Once the volunteer has passed all of these steps, submit their information to a qualified, professional background screening service provider.

After the volunteer comes aboard, institute a probationary time, when both you and the volunteer observe and learn about each other. Provide adequate training on duties, expectations, policies, and procedures. Help your volunteers succeed!

Conduct feedback sessions. Just as you would do performance checks with employees, check in with volunteers to see how they are doing, what they need to perform their job well, and what suggestions they have.

Recruiting volunteers is like hiring employees. Do your homework and proceed with caution prior to bringing them on. Then show them appreciation and give constructive advice, and they will thrive in your organization.