Archive for February, 2010

Save Money with Online Tools

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Whether you have a big, volunteer-heavy fundraising event coming up, or just want to handle your regular supporter outreach duties more efficiently, you can save money and time by using easy-to use, free online tools.

1. Email is a friendly, most-often acceptable method of staying in touch with volunteers and supporters. Sure, some folks do not want unwanted emails clogging their inboxes—that’s why you always want to include an opt-out option in every email. You might be surprised how often a well-written, informative email from your organization will be opened by most of your email list. More important, emails are easy to forward and share—so you get more bang for your effort!

Make sure you capture emails from interested donors, supporters, and volunteers at every opportunity to build a solid email list.

2. Re-think expensive printing projects. Do you need to pay for the design, printing, and mailing of event announcements? If you wish to impress recipients with a nicely-done invitation to a big event, then consider skipping additional mailings. Will an email blast do for a save-the-date request and RSVP reminders?

3. Avoid another expensive mailing project next time you want to solicit donations for a special project or year-end campaign by allowing donors to give through your website. Replace the typical mailed letter and response envelope with a nicely-designed email containing a link to an online “Donate Now” button. There are dozens of online donation services available to nonprofits and charities. Just do a Google search and get started!

4. Promote it yourself! Garner support for your cause across town, throughout your region, and even around the world through online media and social networking sites. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and GroupMembersOnly are fantastic ways to create a buzz while creating community and informing potential supporters, donors, volunteers and clients who may not know about your organization. All are user-friendly, easy to set up and maintain, and not as time consuming as you may have heard. The effort you put towards social network promotion may surprise you!

Using free online tools to promote your event or fundraise for your nonprofit organization can save you time and tons of money!

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

Volunteer Management Best Practices: Part II

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

As promised, we continue to offer some best practices tips for volunteer managers. Increase efficiency and stay organized with tips from both the for-profit business sector and other nonprofit organizations.

1. Develop a Volunteer Acquisition Plan: Plans help you keep on goal; your volunteer recruitment efforts will be much more effective if you plan carefully. First, determine how many volunteers you need for each project, ongoing tasks, and events you have in a typical period—one month, six months, one year. Then decide the level of experience you need from your volunteers. Do you need special training, like food service, catering, accounting, truck driving, or traffic control? Or is the project something that is suitable for a family with small children?

Next, make a list of former volunteers, current supporters, and even your friends and business contacts who possess the desired training or expertise. Contact them and ask for their help. Be sure to clearly define your needs, expectations, and their time commitment.

2. Protect your Organization from Legal Harm: As a volunteer manager, you must be as aware of employment laws as any human resource manager. If you lack training in this area, research training opportunities or enlist the help of an HR Law professional for guidance. Some of the applicable federal land state laws are the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (which covers volunteer background screening and credit checks), and anti-discrimination legislation like Equal Employment Opportunity.

Keep staff, served populations and other volunteers safe and your organization out of legal trouble by carefully screening all volunteers. Review insurance policies annually to be sure volunteers are covered when working for your organization. Don’t wait until after a volunteer suffers an injury to find out you are under-insured.

3. Keep Excellent Records: Many organizations are required to track volunteer time. If you are not required, it is still a good idea to do so. Whether you obtain specialized computer software to help, or use simple spreadsheets, it’s vital to keep track of volunteer contact information, interests and abilities, projects assigned and completed, and notes regarding successes and challenges. These notes  will come in handy when conducting evaluations or when your organization is required to report to state or federal officials. If you are challenged for time to track volunteer activity, assign the task to a volunteer.

4. Be Flexible: The ability to switch hats, courses of action, and gears is a valuable one for volunteer managers. If a volunteer is having trouble with a project, losing interest in the organization, or not working out as well as you’d hoped, be ready to communicate, evaluate, and act accordingly. If your volunteer recruitment plan isn’t working as well as you need it to, double your efforts, ask a mentor for help, or simply change your approach. Try spreading the word with social media or free online ads like Craigslist.

Borrowing good management practices from others is an easy way to implement procedures that really work—and can save you valuable time!

Volunteer Management Best Practices: Part I

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Sometimes it’s easier to follow established procedures, rather than starting your own. This is especially true if you’re a newer nonprofit volunteer manager. If you’ve inherited your role, or if the volunteer manager job begins with you, increase efficiency and stay organized by adopting procedures that are already proven effective.

Some of these tips come from the for-profit business sector, while others are unique to nonprofit organizations. Gather them into your own handbook and your organization will be better for it.

1. Establish Clear Communication with your Volunteers: Good communication begins the day your volunteers inquire about offering their services. Know whether or not you are currently accepting volunteer applicants. If so, let people know exactly what positions you have open, whether they are short- or long-term, and how many hours per week they require. Ask your volunteer applicant appropriate questions to guage both their areas of interest and their skill sets.

Make sure your applications are clearly written, detailing what is expected of all volunteers, as well as how the volunteer’s personal information will be used. If your charity requires volunteers to undergo background screening, state it on your application; you’ll need the person’s permission to start the process.

2. Provide proper training, if required. In a perfect volunteer situation, the skills you need are perfectly suited to a particular voluntneer, who jumps in with both feet. In the real world, you’ll at least need to orient each volunteer to your organization’s way of operating, your mission and goals, and the details of their position. Proper training will lead to a much more successful relationship with your volunteers. They’ll be happier, and more enthusiastic to return to help you again.

3. Feedback and Evaluations: Whether a new or long-serving volunteer, take a cue from employers and provide regular, formal feedback. Semi-annual or annual evaluations can be a great way to set aside time for one-on-one discussions. Since it’s a volunteer position, you as manager might provide feedback more like a coach, rather than an employer. Ask your volunteers to evaluate the organization—and you.

4. Manage Projects According to Volunteer Abilities: It only makes sense to avoid placing new volunteers in leadership positions—at least until you’ve been able to observe them performing assigned tasks. If you have a natural leader or experienced business owner or manager among your new volunteer recruits, they may be more ready to assume responsibility. Ask your longer-term volunteers if they’re ready to take on a leadership role in training or leading other groups of volunteers. They could make your job much easier!

Look for Volunteer Management Best Practices: Part II right here next week.

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

Title: Tax Changes Could Affect Wealthy Donors’ Giving

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

asking for donationsAs if charities needed another one, a change in the estate tax could prove to be a possible roadblock to fundraising.

Here’s why: the estate tax meant that wealthy Americans, upon their demise, could leave their money to their children or to charity. When left to their heirs, the US Government took 45% and the heirs got 55%. If left to charity, the full amount of their pretax estate could be donated.

As of January 1, 2010, the estate tax is repealed for a full year. Now, that giving to heirs choice looks better—because the 45% tax has vanished—disappeared—poof!  Whether or not wealthy will continue to give, it’s clear that a reason for them to do so has been eliminated.

The impact on nonprofit organizations might depend on a philosophical question: is philanthropy based in goodness, or in tax savings?

The opportunity for charities is to make a real connection with their donors—all of them, but especially the wealthy. Give donors a reason to feel that the money is secondary to the benefits they will receive. Help them feel a part of your organization, of something bigger than themselves.

But how?

  • Stay in touch with well-written newsletters.
  • Produce a simple video and post in on your website. Feature clients if possible. Show, rather than tell, what good your organization is doing.
  • Show the video at your next fundraising event.
  • Introduce donors to the people your organization serves, and tell the success stories they are helping to make happen.

Stay tuned for updates on this issue; Congress can decide to reinstate the estate tax and make it retroactive to January 1. We’ll keep you posted!